Skip to main content

Full text of "Metaphysic in three books : ontology, cosmology and psychology"

See other formats





VOL. r t 
















[ All rights reserved ] 


^-* - 



THE publication of this second volume has been delayed 
by a variety of hindrances, which caused a lengthened inter 
ruption of its passage through the press. In the meantime 
several works have appeared which I should have been glad 
to notice ; but it was impossible, for the above reason, to 
comment upon them in the appropriate parts of my book ; 
and I therefore reserve what I have to say about them. 

I can promise nothing in respect of the third volume but 
that, should I have strength to finish it, it will be confined 
to a discussion of the main problems of Practical Philosophy, 
Aesthetic, and the Philosophy of Religion. I shall treat 
each of these separately, and without the lengthiness which 
was unavoidable in the present volume owing to a diver 
gence from prevalent views. 


GOTTINGEN: December 23, 1878. 


THE Translation of the Metaphysic has been executed, like 
that of the Logic, by several hands. The whole of Book I 
(Ontology) and the chapter * Of Time (Book II, ch. iii) were 
translated by the late Mr. T. H. Green, Whyte s Professor 
of Moral Philosophy at Oxford ; chapters i, ii, and iv, of 
Book II by Mr. B. Bosanquet, Fellow of University College, 
Oxford ; chapters v-viii (inclusive) of Book II by the Rev. 
C. A. Whittuck, Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford ; and 
the whole of Book III by Mr. A. C. Bradley, Fellow of Balliol 
College, Oxford. The Index and Table of Contents were 
added by the Editor. 

The entire translation has been revised by the Editor, who 
is responsible in every case for the rendering finally adopted. 
The Editor has to thank Mr. J. C. Wilson, of Oriel College, 
Oxford, for ample and ready assistance when consulted on 
passages involving the technical language of Mathematics 
or Physics ; if the Author s meaning in such places has been 
intelligibly conveyed, this result is wholly due to Mr. Wilson s 

In conveying his assent to the proposal of an English 
translation, the Author expressed a wish to work out Book III 
of the Metaphysic (the Psychology) more fully, but had not 
time to carry out his intention. For the third volume 
of the Author s System of Philosophy, alluded to in the 
Preface, no materials were found after his death sufficiently 
advanced for publication, excepting a paper subsequently 
published in Nord und Slid (June 1882), under the title 
| Die Principien der Ethik. The Author s views on the sub 
jects reserved for the volume in question may be gathered in 
part from his earlier work Mikrokosmus, which will soon, 
it may be hoped, be made accessible to English readers, and 
more fully from his lectures recently published under the 
titles Grundfiige der Aesthetik, der Praktischen Philosophic, 
and der Religionsphilosophie. 



On the Connexion of Things. 


Section I. Reality, including Change, the subject of Metaphysic . . . i 
II. Origin of expectations which conflict with experience ... 2 
III. The foundation of experience . . ....--. . .2 

IV. Consistent and inconsistent scepticism . " 3 

V. Probability depends on the assumption of connexion according to 

Law 4 

* VI. Relation of Metaphysic to experience 6 

VII. The method of Metaphysic not that of Natural Science ... 7 
VIII. In what sense the Essence of Things is unknowable ... 9 
IX. Metaphysic the foundation of Psychology, not vice versa . .11 
X. Idea of Law and of Plan. Metaphysic must start from the former 14 
XI. No clue to be found in the Dialectic Method . . . . 16 
XII. No clue to be found in the forms of Judgment . , . .17 

XIII. Divisions of the subject .20 

XIV. The natural conception of the universe . . . . . .21 



1. Real and unreal 23 

2. Sensation the only evidence of Reality? . 24 

3. Sensation gives assurance of nothing beyond itself . . . . -24 

4. Being of Things apart from Consciousness. Their action on each other . 25 

5. Questions of the origin and the natiire of reality distinguished . 27 

6. Objective relations presuppose the Being of Things 28 

7. Being apart from relations meaningless 29 

8-9. Pure Being a legitimate abstraction, but not applicable to Reality . . 30 

10. Position and Affirmation meaningless apart from relations . . 31 

11. Position appears to involve the difficulties attaching to creative action . 33 

12. Herbart s irrevocable Position 35 

13. Herbart s indifference of Things to relations, inconsistent with their en 

tering into relations 36 

14. The isolation of Things a mere abstraction 38 

viii Table of Contents. 




15. The essence of Things 4 

16. A Thing is taken to be more than its qualities 41 

17. Herbart s conception of the essence of a Thing as a simple Quality . 42 

18. A Quality need not be abstract nor dependent on a subject . . -44 

19. How can what is simple have varying states ? 46 

20. The common element in sensations of colour 48 

21. Things only vary within certain limits 50 

22. The movement of consciousness not analogous to the variations of a 

simple Quality 1 51 

23. Simple Qualities represented by compound expressions (Herbart) . 52 

24. If there are Things, they must be capable of change, as the soul is . . 53 



25. Things not of the nature of simple Qualities ..... 57 

26. Things commonly described by their states . . . . . -57 

27. A complete conception would include past and future history of Thing . 59 

28. Matter as imparting reality to Qualities 60 

29. Matter which has no Qualities can receive none 61 

30. Matter explains nothing if it is mere Position 62 

31. Real is a predicative conception, not a subject 64 

32. A Thing as a Law 67 

33. A Law need not be General ? 68 

34. What is that which conforms to the Law? 70 

36. Danger of the antithesis between the world of Ideas and Reality . . 72 

36. Difficulty of expressing the notion of a Law or Idea which is naturally 

real 74 



37. Substance a mode of behaviour of Things, not a mysterious nucleus . 76 

38. How is change subject to certain limits, to be conceived? . . 77 

39. Law of Identity does not even prove the continuous existence of Things . 7$ 

40. Resolution of all permanence into Becoming 80 

41. Svvapis and tvepyfia in two senses .... , 81 

42. Why are consequences realised ? ... ,82 

43. The Things must be such realisations ........ 84 

44. This would only explain development, not causation . . . .86 
). In transeunt action changes in the agent must be noticed by the patient 87 

46. Immanent action usually assumed as obvious 87 

47. Notion of Becoming compared with notion of -tfates of a persistent Thing 88 

48. Quantitative comparability of factors in every effect . . . .90 

49. Degrees of Intensity of Being 9I 

Table of Contents. ix 




50. No effect due to a single active cause 93 

51. -Cause, Reason, and the Relation which initiates action .... 95 

52. Modification of Causes and Relation by effect . . .96 

53. Occasional Causes and Stimuli . . . ... -97 

54. Must the relation which initiates action be contact? . . 99 

55. A causa transiens is only preliminary to action toi 

56. Difficulty of conceiving the passage of a force or state from A to B . 103 

57. Origin of erroneous idea that cause and effect must be equal and like . 104 

58. Relation of consequence to ground may be synthetic as well as analytic . 106 

59. How far must Things be homogeneous in order to react upon each other? 107 

60. Desire to explain all processes as of one kind. Like known only by like 109 

61. Attempt to dispense with transeunt action. Occasionalism . . no 

62. Neither mere Law nor mere relation can explain interaction of two 

Things . .in 

63. Leibnitz s Pre-established Harmony . .. .. .. . . . 113 

64. What his completely determined world gains by realisation . . .115 

65. Complete determinism incredible n6 

66. Corresponding states of different Monads. Illustration of the two clocks 118 

67. Operation according to general laws necessary for active causation . I 20 



68. What is involved in the idea of transeunt operation . . . .123 

69. Pluralism and Monism , . . . . * . . . .124 

70. Separate Things not really independent of each other . . \. .126 

71. Unity of Things analytically involved in reciprocal action . . .127 

72. How their unity is consistent with apparent degrees of independence . 128 

73. The relation of the One to the Many cannot be exhibited to Perception . 129 

74. Alleged contradiction of regarding the One as the Many . . .130 

75. The Logical copula inadequate to the relation between the One and the 

Many 131 

76. Reality subject to Law of Identity in form but not in fact . . . 134 

77. The One and the Many illustrated by Herbart s accidental views . 135 

78. Herbart admits multiplicity in the nature of individual Things . . 137 

79. Leibnitz world, when ceasing to be immanent in God, has no unity . 138 

80. Relations between the contents of ideas can only exist for Thought . 140 

81. Variable Relations between Things must be modifications in the things . 142 



82. Real Relations are the reciprocal actions of Things conditioned by the 

unity which includes them 145 

83. We have not to account for the origin of Motion 146 

x Table of Contents. 


84. The assumption of Motion is not the same thing as the assumption of 

Life (as spiritual existence) . . . . . . . .149 

85. The dominant principles of any real world are prescribed by its nature 

and are not prior to it 149 

86. The reference to any real world, other than that which exists, is 

imaginary and illustrative . -151 

87. Consistency of causation has no meaning apart from the comparison of 

cases within the actual world 152 

88. Hegel, Schelling, Weisse, Necessity and Freedom . . . .154 

89. Necessity as an appearance produced within reality. Idealism and 

Realism 157 

90. The Idea must have a concrete content . . . . . .157 

91. The Phases of the Idea must be causally connected . . . .158 

92. The Idea generates a mechanical system by which it is realised . . 161 

93. Realism recognises the necessity of regressive interpretation . .163 

94. Subjectivity in relation to the possibility of Knowledge . . .165 

95. Fichte on the world of Spirits and the world of Things . . .166 

96. A spiritual nature seems necessary for Things //"they are to be subjects 

of states 167 

97. Need Things exist at all ? 169 

98. As mere media of effects, they can hardly be said to exist . . .171 





99. The genesis of our idea of Space no test of its validity . . . 1 74 

100. Euclidean Space is what we have to discuss 175 

101. Space is not a Thing, Property, or Relation . . . . . 176 

102. Space not merely a Genus-concept 177 

103. Kant on empty Space 170 

104. Kant on Space as given 180 

105. Why Kant denied the reality of Space 181 

106. Finiteness or Infinity of World do not decide the question . . .182 

107. Nor does Infinite divisibility of real elements, or the reverse . . 184 

108. Real difficulties. What is Space, and how are things in it ? . . 186 

109. Reality of Space does not explain its properties 186 

110. Do the points of real Space act upon each other? . . . .187 

11. Constructions of Space out of active points 190 

12. Constructions of real Space and hypothesis of subjective Space . . 191 
113. Nothing gained by the independent reality of Space .... 194 

14. Things in Space ; on hypothesis of its being subjective . . .195 

15. Things in an independently existing Space 197 

16. Relations between things and reactions 0/ things 198 

117. The movability of things 200 

Table of Contents. xi 




118. Spinoza on Consciousness and Extension . . . . , , 202 

119. Schelling on the two factors in Nature and Mind . . . . 203 

120. Limit of what can be done by speculative construction. Hegel and 

Weisse . 204 

121. Deductions of the three dimensions . . . . ." . . 205 

122. Three questions involved in Psychological Deductions of Space . 206 

123. Alternatives suggested by idea of subjective Space .... 209 

124. Can any Space represent what our Space will not ? . . . .210 

125. Symbolical spatial arrangements, of sounds, etc. . . . . .211 

126. No Space will represent disparate qualities 212 

127. Other Spaces than common Space in what sense possible . . .214 

128. Geometry dependent on its data 215 

129. All constructions presuppose the Space-perception . . . .217 

130. Constructions of straight line, plane, etc. presuppose them . . .218 

131. The sum of the angles of a triangle . . . . . . .220 

132. Helmholtz on the possible ignorance of a third dimension . ; .222 

133. Dwellers on a sphere-surface and parallel lines 225 

134. Analogy from ignorance of third dimension to ignorance of fourth . 226 

135. There cannot be four series perpendicular to each other . . .229 

136. Extension must be homogeneous . . 232 

137. Riemann s multiplicities are not Space unless uniform . , . 235 



138. Spatial representations of Time 238 

139. The conception of empty Time 239 

140. The connexion of Time with events in it 241 

141. Kant s view of Time as subjective 242 

142. Kant s proof that the world has a beginning in Time . . . .242 

143. The endlessness of Time not self-contradictory ..... 243 

144. The past need not be finite because each event is finished . . . 245 

145. An infinite series may be given . . . . ... 247 

146. Time as a mode of our apprehension 248 

147. Empty Time not even a condition of Becoming . . . . .250 

148. Time as an abstraction from occurrence . . . . . .252 

149. Time as an infinite whole is Subjective 253 

150. No mere systematic relation explains Present and Past . . . 254 

151. Indication of Present to a Subject 255 

152. Subjective Time need not make the Past still exist . . . .258 

153. Absence of real succession conceivable by approximation . . . 260 

154. Even thought cannot consist of a mere succession .... 261 

155. But Future cannot become Present without succession .... -263 

156. Empty Time Subjective, but succession inseparable from Reality . 265 

157. Existence of Past and Future 268 

xii Table of Contents. 




158. Law of Continuity 2 7 

159. Continuity essential to Becoming 2 7* 

160. Grounds for the Law of Persistence 2 73 

161. The Persistence of Rest 2 75 

162. The Persistence of Motion 2 ?6 

163. Motion inconceivable without Law of Persistence . . . .278 

164. Possibility of absolute Motion, on doctrine of real Space . . . 279 

165. Possibility of absolute Rotation 2Sl 

166. Amount and direction of Motion to be accepted like any constant . 282 

167. Difficulty of alleged indifference of Things to change of place . . 283 

168. On view of phenomenal Space percipient subject with organism is essen 

tial to occurrence of Motion 285 

169. Solitary Motion possible, if observer is granted 288 

170. State corresponding to a Persistent Motion ..... 289 

171. Motion is not the same as the Measure of Motion .... 290 

172. Parallelogram of Motions akin to Law of Persistence . . . .291 

173. Parallelogram necessarily true if only motions are considered . . 293 



174. Matter homogeneous, or heterogeneous with common properties? . 296 

175. Limitation of the problem 297 

176. Descartes and Spinoza on Consciousness and Extension . . . 298 

177. Schelling and Hegel ; problems attempted by the latter . . . 301 

178. Kant does not connect his views of Matter and of Space . . . 302 

179. Why Kant explained Matter by Force 304 

180. Force involves relation between things 306 

181. Force as a property of one element a figure of speech . . . 308 

182. Kant rightly implies activity on the part of Things, not mere sequence 

according to Law 311 

183. Kant s two forces a mere analysis of the position of a thing . . . 313 

184. Still a mechanical system offerees essential, and several may attach to 

each element 315 

185. Force can only act at a distance 316 

186. Idea of communication of Motion 318 

187. Space no self-evident hindrance to action 321 



88. Prima facie grounds in favour of Atomism 324 

189. Lucretius, differences in the Atoms 326 

190. Consequences of the Unity of an extended Atom 328 

Table of Contents. xiii 


191. Notion of unextended Atoms Herbart 331 

192. Herbart s view modified the Atoms not independent of each other . 333 

193. Is Matter homogeneous or of several kinds ? . ... . . 335 

194. Homogeneous Matter not proved by constancy of Mass . . . 337 

195. Connexion of the elements with each other in a systematic unity . . 339 

196. Plurality in space of identical elements merely phenomenal . . . 340 

197. Self-multiplication of Atomic centres conceivable .... 343 



198. The square of the distance, difficulties in the radiation of Force . 345 

199. No mechanical deduction of a primary Force 348 

200. Alleged infinite attraction at no distance 348 

201. Herbart s view of the Satisfaction of Force, not conclusive . . 350 

202. Philosophy desires one primary law of action . . . . K . 352 

203. Affinity would naturally correspond to the Distance itself . . . 353 

204. Attempt to account for Square of Distance 355 

205. Can Force depend on motions of acting elements ? .... 357 

206. Does Force require time to take effect at a distance ? . ... 358 

207. Causation and Time Reciprocal action .... . 360 

208. Idealism admits no special Laws as absolute ..... 362 

209. Conservation of Mass 363 

210. Constancy of the Sum of Motions 364 

211. Absorption of Cause in Effect 366 

212. Not self-evident that there can be no gain in physical action . . 366 

213. Equality and Equivalence distinguished 369 

214. Equivalence does not justify reduction to one process .... 371 

215. Compensation in interaction of Body and Soul 372 

216. The Principle of Parsimony 373 



217. Deductions of the forms of reality impossible 378 

218. Possibility of explaining natural processes in detail on the view of 

subjective Space 380 

219. Success the test of the methods of physical science .... 381 

220. Mechanism the action of combined elements according to general laws 383 

221. Mechanism as a distinct mode of natural activity a fiction . . . 385 

222. The planetary system, light and sound 388 

223. Electricity and Chemistry should not be sharply opposed to Mechanism 390 

224. Motives for forming the conception of a Vital Force .... 392 

225. Vital Force could not be one for all Organisms 393 

226. Difference between organic and inorganic substances proves nothing 

about Vital Force 394 

227. A Life-principle would have to operate mechanically . . . 395 

228. Mechanical aspect of Organisms 397 

229. Mechroiical view indispensable but not exhaustive .... 399 

xiv Table of Contents. 


230. Purpose implies a subject God, the soul 400 

231. Von Baer on purpose in Nature 402 

232. Unity of world determines all modes of action 404 

233. The mechanical order need not exclude progress 405 

234. Is there a fixed number of Natural Kinds ? 408 

235. Criticism of the question Is real existence finite or infinite? . . 409 

236. Development of the Cosmos only its general principles a question for 

Metaphysic 414 

237. Actual development of life a question for Natural History. Conclusion 415 





Introductory. Rational and Empirical Psychology . . . .418 

238. Reasons for the belief in a Soul/ i. Freedom is no reason . . 420 

239. 2. Mental and physical processes disparate 421 

240. Disparateness no proof of separate psychical substance . . . 422 

241. 3. Unity of Consciousness 423 

242. Unity of the conscious Subject 424 

243. The subject in what sense called substance 426 

244. Kant on the Substantiality of the Soul 427 

245. What the Soul is; and the question of its immortality . . . 430 

246. Origin of the Soul may be gradual * . 432 

247. Ideas of psychical and psycho-physical mechanism .... 435 

248. Interaction between Body and Soul 436 

249. Idea of a bond between Body and Soul 438 

250. The Soul not a resultant of physical actions 439 

251. Meaning of explaining the Soul as a peculiar form of combination 

between elements 441 

252. Consciousness and Motion in Fechner s Psycho-Physik . . . 442 



253. The physical stimulus of sensation 445 

254. The physiological stimulus of sensation 446 

255. The conscious sensation 448 

256. Adequate and inadequate stimuli of sense 450 

257. The connexion of various classes of sensation 451 

258. Weber s Law 453 

259. Hypotheses as to the reason of Weber s Law 455 

260. The so-called chemistry of ideas 456 

Table of Contents. xv 


261. The disappearance of ideas from consciousness. The checking of ideas 459 

262. The strength of ideas . . . . . . . . .460 

263. Dim ideas , . , , . . 462 

264. The more interesting idea conquers . . . -. , - . 463 

265. Association of ideas v - , ... . . 465 

266. Herbart s theory respecting the reproduction of a successive series of 

ideas , . 467 



267. Simple ideas and their relations 470 

268. The necessary distinction between them 471 

269. Psycho-physical attempts to explain ideas of relation .... 472 

270. Herbart s theory of the psychical mechanism ..... 474 

271. The truer view respecting simple ideas and ideas of relation expressed 

in Herbartian language 476 

272. The referring activity as producing universal conceptions . . -477 

273. Attention as an activity of reference 478 

274. Attention and the interest possessed by ideas 479 



275. The subjectivity of our perception of Space 481 

276. How is the perception of spatial relations possible ? .... 482 

277. Distinctions depending on Space cannot be preserved as such in the Soul 484 

278. A clue needed for the arrangement of impressions by the Soul . . 485 

279. The extra- impression as a clue or local sign"* ..... 486 

280. Does the local sign arise in the same nerve-fibre as the main impression? 488 

281. Local signs must be not merely different but comparable . . . 490 

282. Local signs must be conscious sensations 491 

283-7. On the local signs connected with visual sensations .... 493 

288-9. Local signs connected with the sense of touch ..... 503 

290. How these feelings are associated with movement .... 506 



291. The seat of the Soul 509 

292. The Soul not omnipresent within the body ...... 510 

293. No reason to suppose that it has an action graduated according to dis 

tance 511 

294. No suitable place can be found for it on the hypothesis that it acts by 

contact only 512 

295. It must act directly and independently of Space, but only at certain 

necessary points 513 

xvi Table of Contents. 


296. Which these points are is determined from time to time by the activities 

which go on in them -515 

297. Our ignorance of the special functions of the central nervous organs . 517 

298. Ideas of a Sensorium commune and Motorium commune . .518 

299. The organ of language 519 

300. How the soul initiates action 521 

301. Reproduction of the right concomitant feeling . -. . . -. 522 

302. Application of this view to the organ of language . . . . 523 

303. Phrenology . . 524 

304. The connexion of Consciousness with bodily states .... 526 

305. Does memory depend on physical traces left in the brain ? . . .529 

306. Loss of memory 531 

307. Existence of the soul during unconsciousness . . . , . . 533 
Conclusion 535 






I. REAL is a term which we apply to things that are in opposition 
to those that are not ; to events that happen in distinction from those 
that do not happen ; to actually existing relations in contrast with 
those that do not exist. To this usage of speech I have already had 
occasion to appeal. I recall it now in order to give a summary 
indication of the object of the following enquiries. It is not the 
world of the thinkable, with the inexhaustible multiplicity of its inner 
relations relations which are eternally valid that here occupies us. 
Our considerations are expressly directed to this other region, of 
which the less palpable connexion with that realm of ideas, ever 
since the attention of Plato was first fastened upon it, has remained 
( the constantly recurring question of Philosophy. It is a region that 
has been described in opposite terms. It has been called a world 
of appearance, of mere phenomena and that in a depreciatory sense 
by men who contrasted the variable multiplicity of its contents with 
the imperturbable repose and clearness of the world of ideas. To c 
others it presented itself as the true reality. In its unfailing move 
ment, and in the innumerable activities pervading it, they deemed 
themselves to have a more valuable possession than could be found 
in the solemn shadow-land of unchangeable ideas. This diversity 
of appellation rests on a deep antithesis of conception, which will 
attract our notice throughout all philosophy. My only reason for 
mentioning it here is that the two views, while wholly different in their 
estimates of value, serve equally to bring to light Jhe centre round 
which metaphysical enquiries, so far as their essence is concerned, 
will always move ; i. e. the fact of change. While predicable only by ! 
metaphor of anything that is merely object of thought, change coin- 

** VOL. I. B 

2 Introduction. [BOOK i. 

pletely dominates the whole range of reality. Its various forms- 
becoming and decay, action and suffering, motion and development 
are, as a matter of fact and history, the constant occasions of those 
enquiries which, as forming a doctrine of the flux of things in 
opposition to the permanent being of ideas, have from antiquity been 
united under the name of Metaphysic. 

II. It is not that which explains itself but that which perplexes us 
that moves to enquiry. Metaphysic would never have come into 
being if the course of events, in that form in which it was presented 
by immediate perception, had not conflicted with expectations, the 
fulfilment of which men deemed themselves entitled to demand from 
whatever was to be reckoned as truly existing or truly taking place. 
These expectations might be accounted for in various ways. They 
might be held to be innate to the intelligent spirit. If that were true 
of them, it would follow that, in the form of necessary assumptions 
as to the mode of existence and connexion of anything that can 
possibly be or happen, they determine our judgment upon every 
occurrence with which observation presents us. Or they might be 
taken to consist in requirements arising in the heart out of its needs, 
hopes, and wishes; in which case their fulfilment by the external 
world, as soon as attention was recalled to it, would be no less 
strongly demanded. Or finally it might be held that, without carrying 
any intellectual necessity in their own right, they had arisen out of the 
de facto constitution of experience as confirmed habits of apprehension, 
suggesting that in every later perception the same features were to be 
met with as had been found in the earlier. The history of philosophy 
may convince us of the equally strong vivacity and assurance, with 
which these different views have asserted themselves. The tendency 
of the present day, however, is to deny the possession of innate cog 
nition, to refuse to the demands of the heart every title to a share in 
the determination of truth, to seek in experience alone the source of 

j that certain knowledge which we would fain acquire in regard to the 
connexion of things. 

III. Philosophy has been too painfully taught by the course of its 
history how the neglect of experience avenges itself, for any fresh 
reminder of its indispensableness to be required. Taken by itself, 
however, and apart from every presupposition not furnished by itself, 
experience is not competent to yield the knowledge which we seek. 
For our wish is not merely to enumerate and describe what has 
happened or is happening. We also want to be able to predict what 
under definite circumstances will happen. But experience cannot 


Experience and Knowledge. 

show us the future ; and cannot even help us to conjecture what it 
will be unless we are certain beforehand that the course of the world is 
bound to follow consistently, beyond the limits of previous observation, 
the plan of which the beginning is presented to us within those limits. 
An assurance, however, of the validity of this supposition is what 
experience cannot afford us. Grant as much as you please that 
observation in its ceaseless progress had up to a certain moment only 
lighted on cases of conformity to the rules which we had inferred from 
a careful use of earlier perceptions : still the proposition that this 
accumulation of confirmatory instances, which has so far gone on with 
out any exception being met with, has increased the probability of a 
like confirmation in the future, is one that can only be maintained on 
the strength of a previous tacit admission of the assumption, that the 
same order which governed the past course of the world will also 
determine the shape to be taken by its future. This_one supposition, 3 
accordingly, of there being a universal inner connexion of all reality 
as such which alone enables us to argue from the structure of any 
one section of reality to that o? the rest, is tlieTTbundation of every 
attempt to arrive at knowledge by means of experience, and is not 
derivable from experience itself. Whoever casts doubt on the suppo- 
sition, not only loses the prospect of being able to calculate anything 
future with certainty, but robs himself at the same time of the only fe 
basis on which to found the more modest hope of being able under 
definite circumstances to consider the occurrence of one event as 
more probable than that of another. 

IV. There have been philosophers of sceptical tendency who have^ ftv**** 
shown themselves well aware of this. Having once given up the 
claim to be possessors of any such innate truth as would also be the 
truth of things, they have also consistently disclaimed any pretension 
from a given reality to infer a continuation of that reality which was 
not given with it. Nothing in fact was left, according to them, in the 
way of knowledge but the processes of pure Mathematics, in which 
ideas are connected without any claim being made that they hold good 
of reality, or history and the description of what is or has been. A 
science of nature, which should undertake from the facts of the present 
to predict the necessity of a future result, they held to be impossible. 
j It was only in practical life that those who so thought relied with as 
! much confidence as their opponents on the trustworthiness of those 
physical principles, which within the school they maintained to be 
quite without justification. The present professors of natural science, 
who by their noisy glorification of experience compel every meta- 

B 2 

4 Introduction. [BOOK i. 

physical enquiry at the outset to this preliminary self-defence, appear 
to be only saved by a happy inconsistency from the necessity of a like 
disclaimer. With laudable modesty they question in many individual 
cases whether they have yet discovered the true law which governs 
some group of processes under investigation : but they have no doubt 
[in the abstract as to the presence of laws which connect all parts of 
the world s course in such a way that, if once complete knowledge had 
Ibeen attained, infallible inferences might be made from one to the 
other. Now experience, even if it be granted that in its nature it is 
capable of ever proving the correctness of this assumption, certainly 
cannot be held to have yet done so. There still lie before us vast 
regions of nature, as to which, since we know nothing of any con 
nexion of their events according to law, the assertion that they are 
throughout pervaded by a continuous system of law cannot rest on 

ithe evidence of experience, but must be ventured on the ground of a 
conviction which makes the systematic connexion of all reality a 
primary certainty. 

V. There are various ways of trying to compromise the difficulty. 
Sometimes the admission is made that the science of nature is only 
an experiment in which we try how far we can go with the arbitrary 
assumption of a law regulating the course of things ; that only the 
favourable result which experience yields to the experiment convinces 
us of the correctness of the assumption made. Upon this we can in 
fact only repeat the remark already made, and perhaps it will not be 
useless actually to repeat it. If a question is raised as to the nature 
of the connexion between two processes, of which the mutual de 
pendence is not deducible from any previously known truth, it is 
usual no doubt to arrive at the required law by help of an hypothesis, 
of which the proof lies in the fact that no exception can be found to 
its application. But in truth an hypothesis thus accredited is intrin 
sically after all nothing more than a formula of thought in which we 
have found a short expression for the common procedure which has 
been observable in ail instances, hitherto noticed, of the connexion in 
question. The character of a law is only imparted to this expression 
by the further thought, which experience cannot add, but which we 
add the thought that in the future members of this endless series of 
instances the same relation will hold good which, as a matter of ex 
perience, we have only found to hold good between the past members 
of the series. 

It is again only by a repetition of what I have already said that I 
can reply to the further expansion of the view referred to. It may 

BOOK i.) Probability and the Idea of Law. 5 

readily be allowed that the observation of the same connexion between 
two occurrences, when constantly repeated without an instance to the 
contrary, gives an ever increasing probability to the assumption of a 
law connecting them and renders their coincidence explicable only 
on this assumption. But on what after all does the growing power of 
this surmise rest? If to begin with we left it an open question 
whether there is any such thing as law at all in the course of things, 
we should no longer be entitled to wish to find an explanation for a 
succession of events, and in consequence to favour the assumption 
Avhich makes it explicable. For every explanation-is in the last resort) /^ 
( notmn g but the reduction of a mere coincidence between two facts toV/*P* 
\an inner relation of mutual dependence according to a universal law. 
Every need of explanation, therefore, and the right to demand it, rests 
on the primary certainty of conviction that nothing can in truth be 
or happen which has not the ground of its possibility in a connected 
universe of things, and the ground of its necessary realisation at a definite 
place and time in particular facts of this universe. If we once drop this 
primary conviction, nothing any longer requires explanation and nothing 
admits of it ; for that mutual dependence would no longer exist which 
the explanation consists in pointing out. Or, to employ a different 
expression : if we did not start from the assumption that the course of 
things was bound by a chain of law, then and for that reason it would 
not be a whit more improbable that the same processes should always 
occur in a uniform, and yet perfectly accidental, connexion, than that 
there should be the wildest variety of the most manifold combinations. 
And just because of this the mere fact of a constantly repeated coin 
cidence would be no proof of the presence of a universal law, by the 
help of which a further forecast might become possible as to the yet 
unobserved cases that lie in the future. It is not till the connexion of 
manifold facts according to law is established as a universal principle 
that any standard can exist for distinguishing a possible from an impos 
sible, a probability from an improbability. Not till then can the one 
case which has been observed to occur, to the exclusion of the multi 
tude of equally possible cases, warrant us in assuming the persistency 
of a special relation, which in accordance with the universal reign of 
law yields this one result and excludes other results that are in them 
selves equally possible. 

All experience accordingly, so far as it believes itself to discover a 
relation of mutual dependence between things according to law, is in 
this only confirming the supposition, previously admitted as correct, 
of there being such a relation. Ifjhe_supposition is still left in doubt, 


6 Introduction. [BOOK i. 

experience can never prove it. And the actual procedure of physical 
enquiry is in complete harmony with this slate of the case Even 
where the processes observed seem to contradict every thought of a 
uniting law, the investigator never takes himself to have found in 
these experiences a disproof of the supposition stated, such as would 
render further effort useless. He merely laments that a confirmation 
of it is not forthcoming, but never despairs of arriving at such a con 
firmation by further research. 

VI. If then we enquire not so much into ostensible principles, which 
are generally drawn up for contentious purposes, as into those which 
without being put into words are continually affirmed by practice, we 
may take the prevalent spirit of the natural sciences to be represented 
1 by the confession that the certainty of there being a relation of mutual 
dependence between things according to law is independent of expe- 
: rience. Nay, it is common in these sciences to take that relation for 
granted in the particular form of a relation according to universal law 
with an exclusiveness which philosophy cannot accept off-hand. But 
Cm this admission that there are laws the investigator of nature still 
^n believes that all he has done has been to admit a general point of 
^view. The question what the laws of reality are, which in fact includes 
i; every object of further enquiry, he reserves as one that is to be dealt 
with exclusively by the elaboration of experience. He denies the 
necessity or possibility of any metaphysical enquiry which in this region 
might aspire to add anything to the results that experience may give. 
/ Against such claims the only adequate defence of Metaphysic would 
consist in the complete execution of its aims ; for it would only be in 
detail that it could be made intelligible how the manipulation, which 
experience must undergo in order to yield any result, is impossible, 
unless by the aid of various definite intermediary ideas, which contain 
much that does not arise out of the mere general idea of conformity 
to law, as such, and of which, on the other hand, the certainty cannot 
in turn be founded on empirical evidence. 

For the present this brief hint on the subject may be taken to suffice 

the more so as it is to be immediately followed by a comprehensive 

concession to our opponents. In our view Metaphysic ought not to 

repeat the attempt, which by its inevitable failure has brought the 

^A i science into disrepute. It is not its business to undertake a demon- 

W stration of the special laws which the course of things in its various 

^directions actually follows. On the contrary, while confining itself 

to an enquiry into the universal conditions, which everything that 

is to be counted as existing or happening #t all must, according to it, 

BOOK L] Metaphysic and Natural Science. 7 

be expected to fulfil, it must allow that what does in reality exist or 
happen is a thing which it cannot know of itself but can only come to 
know by experience. But it is only from this final knowledge of fact 
that those determinate laws of procedure could be derived, by which 
this particular reality satisfies those most general requirements which 

/ hold good for every conceivable reality. Metaphysic accordingly will 

( only be able to unfold certain ideal forms (if that expression may be 
allowed), to which the relations between the elements of everything 

(l real must conform. It can supply none of those definite proportions, 
constant or variable, by the assignment of which it might give to 
those forms the special mathematical construction necessary to their 
applicability to a real world that is throughout determined in respect 
of quality, magnitude, number, and sequence. All this Metaphysic 
leaves to experience. It will still, however, continue to demand that 
the results at which experience arrives should admit of being so inter 
preted as to fit these ideal forms and to be intelligible as cases of their 
application ; and to treat as fictions or as unexplained facts those 
which remain in contradiction with them. 

-, VII. There would be nothing then to forbid us from identifying 
Metaphysic with the final elaboration of the facts with which the 
sciences of experiment and observation make it acquainted but an 
elaboration distinguished from such sciences by the pursuit of other 
aims than those towards which they are directed with such laudable 
and unremitting energy. Natural science, while employing the con-"\ 
ceptions of certain elements and forces most effectually for the acqui- / 
sition of knowledge, foregoes the attempt to penetrate to the properf 
nature of those elements and forces. In a few cases important dis 
coveries, leading to rapid progress in further insight, have been made 
by application of the calculus to certain assumed processes, at any 
possible construction of which science itself has been unable to 
arrive. We therefore do no t injustice to science in taking its object 
to consist in a practical command over phenomena ; in other words, 
the capability, however acquired, of inferring from given conditions of 
the present to that which either will follow them, or must have pre 
ceded them, or must take place contemporaneously with them in parts 
of the universe inaccessible to observation. That for the acquisition 
of such command, merely supposing a mutual dependence of pheno 
mena according to some law or other, the careful comparison of 
phenomena should to a great extent suffice, without any acquaintance 
with the true nature of what underlies them, is a state of thirfgs intel- 

t ligible in itself and of which the history of science gives ample evidence. 


8 Introduction. 


That the same process should always suffice for the purpose is not so 
easy to believe. On the contrary, it seems likely that after reaching a 
certain limit in the extent and depth of its enquiries, natural science 
will feel the need, in order to the possibility of further progress, of 
reverting to the task of denning exhaustively those centres of rela 
tion, to which it had previously been able to attach its calculations 
while leaving their nature undetermined. ^ In that case it will either 
originate a new Metaphysic of its own or it will adopt some existing 
system. So far as I can judge, it is now very actively engaged in 
doing the former. Its efforts in that direction we observe with great 
interest but with mixed feelings. The enviable advantage of having 
acquired by many-sided investigation an original knowledge of facts, 
for which no appropriation of other men s knowledge can form a per 
fect substitute, secures a favourable judgment in advance for the^s 
experiments of naturalists: and there is the more reason that this 
should be so, since the philosophical instinct, which is able to ensure 
their success, is not the special property of a caste, but an impulse of 
the human spirit which finds expression for itself with equal intensity 
and inventiveness among those of every scientific and practical calling. 
! But there is a drawback even here. It arises from the involuntary 
limitation of the range of thought to the horizon of the accustomed 
i occupation, to external nature, and from the unhesitating transference 
I of methods which served the primary ends of natural science correctly 
enough, to the treatment of questions bearing on the ulterior relations 
of the facts of which mastery has been obtained, and on their less 
palpable dependence upon principles to which reference has been 
studiously avoided in the ascertainment of the facts themselves. 

Of course it is not my intention to indicate here the several points 
at which, as it seems to me, these dangers have not been avoided. I 
content myself with referring on the one hand to the inconsiderate 
habit of not merely regarding the whole spiritual life from the same 
ultimate points of view as the processes of external nature, but of 
applying to it the same special analogies as have determined our con 
ception of those processes ; and secondly to the inclination to count 
any chance hypothesis of which the object is one that admits of being 
presented to the mind, or, failing of this, of being merely indicated in 
words, good enough to serve as a foundation for a wholly new and 
paradoxical theory of the world. I do not ignore the many valuable 
results that are due to this mobility of imagination. I know that man 
must make trial of many thoughts in order to reach the truth, and that 
a happy conjecture is apt to carry us further and more quickly on our 

BOOK i.] Method of the Treatise. 9 

way than the slow step of methodical consideration. Still there can be 
no advantage in making attempts of which the intrinsic impossibility 
and absurdity would be apparent if, instead of looking solely at the 
single problem of which the solution is being undertaken, we carried 
our view to the entire complex of questions to which the required 
solution must be equally applicable. I do not therefore deny that the 
metaphysical enterprises of recent physical investigators, along with 
the great interest which they are undoubtedly calculated to excite, 
make pretty much the same impression on me, though with a some 
what different colouring, as was made on the votaries of exact science 
,by the philosophy of nature current in a not very remote past. 

Our business, however, is not with such individual impressions. I 
only gave a passing expression to them in order to throw light on the 
purpose of the following dissertation. The qualification of being 
conducted according to the method of natural science, by which it is 
now the fashion for every enquiry to recommend itself, is one which 
I purposely disclaim for my treatise. Its object is indeed among 
other things to contribute what it can to the solution of the difficult 
problem of providing a philosophical foundation for natural science ; 
but this is not its only object. It is rather meant to respond to the 
interest which the thinking spirit takes, not merely in the calculations 
by which the sequence of phenomena on phenomena may be foretold, 
but in ascertaining the impalpable real basis of the possibility of all 
phenomena, and of the necessity of their concatenation. This interest, 
reaching beyond the region on which natural science spends its 
labour, must necessarily take its departure from other points of view 
than those with which natural science is familiar, nor would I disguise 
the fact that the ultimate points of view to which in the sequel it will 
lead us will not be in direct harmony with the accustomed views of 
natural science. 

VIII. There is a reproach, however, to which we lay ourselves 
open in thus stating the problem of Metaphysic. It is not merely that 
experience is vaunted as the single actual source of our ascertained 
knowledge. Everything which cannot be learnt from it is held to be 
completely unknowable : everything which in opposition to the ob 
servable succession of phenomena we are apt to cover by that com 
prehensive designation, the essence of things. The efforts, therefore, 
to which we propose to devote ourselves will be followed with the 
pitying repudiation bestowed on all attempts at desirable but im 
practicable undertakings. Beyond the general confidence that there 
is such a thing as a connexion of things according to law, the human 

io Introduction. 

spirit, it is held, has no source of knowledge, which might serve the 
purpose of completing or correcting experience. It would be a mere 
eccentricity to refuse to admit- that a confession of the inscrutability 
of the essence of things, in a certain sense, must at last be elicited from 
every philosophy; but what if the more exact determination of this 

1 sense, and the justification of the whole assertion of such inscrutability, 
should be just the problem of Metaphysic, which only promises to 
enquire, but does not fix beforehand the limits within which its 
enquiry may be successful? And it is clear that the assertion in 
question, if prefixed to all enquiry, is one that to a certain extent con- 

tradicts itself. So long as it speaks of an essence of things, it speaks 
of something and presupposes the reality of something as to the 
existence of which according to its own showing experience can teach 
nothing. As soon as it maintains the unknowability of this essence, 
it implies a conviction as to the position in which the thinking spirit 
stands to the essence, which, since it cannot be the result of experience, 
must be derived from a previously recognized certainty in regard to 
that which the nature of our thought compels us to oppose, as the 
essence of things, to the series of phenomena. But it is just these 
tacit presuppositions, which retain their power over us all the time that 
we are disputing our capacity for knowledge, that stand in need of that 
explanation, criticism, and limitation, which Metaphysic deems its 
proper business. Nor have we any right to take for granted that the 
business is a very easy one, and that it may be properly discharged by 
some remarks well-accredited in general opinion, to be prefixed by 
way of introduction to those interpretations of experience from which 
alone a profitable result is looked for. When we assume nothing but 
conformity to law in the course of things, this expression, simple 
itself, seems simple in its signification : but the notions attached to it 
turn out to be various and far-reaching enough, as soon as it has to 
be employed in precisely that interpretation of experience which is 
opposed to Metaphysic. 

I will not enlarge on the point that every physical enquiry employs 
the logical principles of Identity and Excluded Middle for the attain 
ment of its results : both are reckoned as a matter (tf course among 
the methods which every investigation follows. But meanwhile it is 
forgotten that these principles could not be valid for the connected 
series of phenomena without holding good also of the completely un 
known basis from which the phenomena issue. Yet many facts give 
sufficient occasion for the surmise that they apply to things themselves 
and their states in some different sense from that in which they apply 

BOOK L] Assumptions of Natural Science. TI 

to the judgments which are suggested to us in thinking about these 
states. We show as little scruple in availing ourselves of mathematical 
truths, in order to advance from deduction to deduction. It is tacitly 
assumed that the unknown essence of things, for one manifestation of 
which we borrow from experience a definite numerical value, will 
never out of its residuary and still unknown nature supply to the con 
sequence which is to be looked for under some condition an in 
calculable coefficient, which would prevent the correspondence of our 
mathematical prediction with the actual course of events. 

Nor is this all. Besides these presumptions which are at any rate 
general in their character and which are all that can be noticed at the 
outset, in the actual interpretation of experience there are implied 
many unproven judgments of a more special sort, which can only be 
noticed in the sequel. For logical laws hold good primarily of 
nothing but the thinkable content of conceptions, mathematical laws 
of nothing but pure quantities. If both are to be applied to that 
which moves and changes, works and suffers, in space and time, they 
stand in constant need of fresh ideas as to the nature of the real, 
which as connecting links make it possible to subordinate to the 
terms of those laws this new region of their application. It is vainl 
for us therefore to speak of a science founded on experience that J 
shall be perfectly free from presuppositions. While this science 
thinks scorn of seeking support from Metaphysic and disclaims all 
knowledge of the essence of things, it is everywhere penetrated by 
unmethodised assumptions in regard to this very essence, and is in 
the habit of improvising developments, as each separate question sug 
gests them, of those principles which it does not deem it worth while 
to subject to any systematic consideration. 

IX. In making these remarks I have no object in view but such as 
may properly be served by an introduction. I wish to prepossess 
that natural feeling of probability, which in the last instance is the 
judge of all our philosophical undertakings, in favour of the project of 
putting together in a systematic way the propositions in regard to the 
nature and connexion of what is real, which, independently of ex 
perience and in answer to the questions with which experience chal 
lenges us, we believe ourselves to have no option but to maintain. 
I expressly disclaim, however, the desire to justify this belief, from 
which as a matter of fact we are none of us exempt, by an antecedent 
theory of cognition. I am convinced that too much labour is at 
present spent in this direction, with results proportionate to the 
groundlessness of the claims which;, such theories make. There is 


Introduction. [BOOK i. 

something convenient and seductive in the plan of withdrawing at 
tention from the solution of definite questions and applying oneself to 
general questions in regard to cognitive capacities, of which any one 
could avail himself who set seriously about it. In fact, however, the 
history of science shows that those who resolutely set themselves to 
mastering certain problems generally found that their cognisance of 
the available appliances and of the use of them grew keener in the 
process; while on the other hand the pretentious occupation with 
theories of cognition has seldom led to any solid result. It has not 
itself created those methods which it entertains itself with exhibiting 
but not employing. On the contrary, it is the actual problems that 
have compelled the discovery of the methods by which they may be 
solved. The constant whetting of the knife is tedious, if it is not 
proposed to cut anything with it. 

I know that such an expression of opinion is in unheard-of opposi 
tion to the tendency of our time. I could not, however, repress the 
conviction that there is an intrinsic^ unsoundness in the efforts made 
to found a Metaphysic on a psychological analysis of our cognition. 
The numerous dissertations directed to this end may be compared to 
the tuning of instruments before a concert, only that they are not so 
necessary or useful. In the one case it is known what the harmony 
is which it is sought to produce: in the other case the mental 
activities which are believed to have been discovered are compared 
with a canon which the discoverers profess that they have still to 
find out. In the last resort, however, every one allows that as to the 
truth of our cognition and its capability of truth no verdict can be 
compassed which is independent of that cognition itself. It must 
, itself determine the limits of its competence. In order to be able to 
: do this in order to decide how far it may trust itself to judge of the 
\ nature of the real, it must first arrive at a clear notion of the proposi- 
I tions which it is properly obliged obliged in thorough agreement 
with itself to assert of this real. It is by these assumptions, which 
are simply necessary to Reason, that the conception of the real which 
is supposed to be in question is determined ; and it is only their con 
tent that can justify Reason, when the question is raised, in forming 
any judgment with regard to its further relation to this its object 
either that is in maintaining the unknowability of its concrete na 
ture, or in coming to the conclusion as the only one compatible with 
the reconciliation of all its thoughts, that the conception of things 
which it generates has no independent object, or in persistently re 
taining a belief in such an object in some sense which reason itself 

Metaphy sic and Psychology. 13 

determines a belief which, because of such a nature, neither requires 
nor admits further proof. On the other hand it strikes me as quite 
unjustifiable to treat the most obscure of all questions, that of the 
psychological origin of knowledge and the play of conditions which 
co-operate in producing it, as a preliminary question to be easily dealt 
with, of which the issue might settle decisively the validity or invalidity 
collectively or severally of the utterances of reason. On the contrary 
the psychological history of the origin of an error only conveys a 
proof that it is an error on supposition that we are previously ac 
quainted with the truth and can thus be sure that the originating 
condition of the error involved a necessary aberration from that 

Thus the doctrine which I would allege rests not on any conviction 
which has previously to be admitted as to the psychological roots of 
j our knowledge, but simply on an easily recognisable fact, of which 
: the admission is implied by the very act of disputing it. Every one, 
evade it as he will, must in the last instance judge of every proposi 
tion submitted to him and of every fact with which experience pre- 
! sents him upon grounds of which the constraining force presses itself 
upon him witbLaa. jmmediate assurance. I say, in the last instance,^ 
for even when he undertakes to examine this self-evidence, his final 
affirmation or denial of it must always rest on the like self-evidence as 
belonging to his collected reasons for deciding on the matter. In 
regard to that which this self-supported reason must affirm, now that 
by the space of centuries it has, in sequence on experience, reflected 
on itself, a comprehensive consciousness may be obtained or at least 
sought. But how all this takes place in us, and how it comes about 
that those fundamental truths which are necessities of our thought ac- ^ 
quire their self-evidence these are points on which enlightenment, if 
possible at all, can only be looked for in a remote future. But when 
ever it may come, it can only come after the first question has been 
j answered. The process of our cognition and its relations to objects 
\must, whether we like it or no, be subject to those judgments which A 
lour reason passes as necessities of thought upon every real process 
and on the effect of every element of reality upon every other. These 
declarations are not in the least at war with the high interest which 
we take in psychology as a proper region of enquiry. They only 
amoun! to a repetition of the assertion which every speculative 
philosophy must uphold, that while Psychology cannot be the founda 
tion of Metaphysic, Metaphysic must be the foundation of Psy 

1 4 Introduction. tsooKi. 

X. It is time, however, for some more precise statements as to the 
line which it is proposed to take in the following enquiry. In re 
ferring to the supposition of a universal relation of mutual dependence 
between all things real as the common foundation of all scientific 
investigation, I at the same time indicated a doubt with reference to 
the exclusive form to which in the present stage of scientific culture 
it is the fashion to reduce this relation the form of conformity to 
universal law. This form is neither the only one nor the oldest 
under which the human spirit has presented to itself the connexion 
of things. It was emphatically not as instances of a universal rule 
but as parts of a whole that men first conceived things : as related to 
each other not primarily by permanent laws but by the unchangeable 
purport of a plan, of which the realisation required from the several 
elements not always and everywhere an identical procedure, but a 
changeable one. In this conviction originated the dazzling forms of 
the idealistic constructions of the universe. Starting from a supreme 
idea, into the depths of which they claimed to have penetrated by im 
mediate intuition, the authors of these schemes thought to deduce the 
manifold variety of phenomena in that order in which the phenomena 
were to contribute to the realisation of the supposed plan. It was 
not the discovery of laws that was their object, but the establishment 
of the several ends which the development of things had gradually to 
attain and of which each determined all habits of existence and be 
haviour within the limits of that section of the universe which it 
governed. The barrenness of these schemes is easily accounted for. 
They failed in that in which men always will fail, in the exact and ex 
haustive definition of that supreme thought, which they held in 
honour. Now any shortcoming in this outset of the theory must be 
a source of constantly increasing defect in its development, as it 
descends to particulars. If ever a happy instinct led it to results 
that could be accepted, it was only an aesthetic satisfaction that such 
guesses yielded, not any certainty that could meet doubt by proof. 
Yet the general conviction from which the speculations in question 
set out does not yield in any way, either as less certain or as less 
admissible, to the supposition of universal conformity to law, which 
in our time is deemed alone worthy of acceptance. For my part 
therefore and I wish there to be no uncertainty on the point I 
should reckon this theory of the universe, if it could be carried out in 
detail, as the completion of philosophy; and though I cannot but 
deem it incapable of being thus carried out, I yet do not scruple to 
allow to the conviction, that its fundamental thought is virtually cor- 

BOOK u Idealism and notion of Law. 1 5 

rect, all the influence which it is still possible for it to retain on the 
formation of my views. 

But from among the objects of the enquiry before us, this theory, at 
least as carrying any immediate certainty, remains excluded. For w( 
are not to employ ourselves upon the world of ideas itself, with its 
constituents arranged in an order that holds good eternally and is 
eternally complete, but upon the given world, in which the process of/ 
realisation of the ideas is supposed to be visible. Now it is not once 
for all nor in a systematic order that this real world unfolds ectypes of 
the ideas. In that case it would scarcely be possible to say in what 
respect the series of the ectypes is distinguishable from that of the 
archetypes. But the world of reality presents innumerable things and 
occurrences distributed in space and time. It is by shifting relations 
of these that the content of the ideas is realised in manifold instances 
and with degrees of completeness or incompleteness is so realised 
only again to disappear. However then we may think on the obscure 
question of the position in which the ideas stand to the world of 
phenomena and of the regulation of this world by them, it is certain 
that as soon as their realisation becomes dependent on the changing 
connexion between a number of points brought into relation, there 
must arise a system of universal laws, in accordance with which in all 
like cases of recurrence a like result necessarily follows, in unlike 
cases an unlike result, and a certain end is attained in one case, 
missed in another. Accordingly, even the idealistic theory of the 
world, which believes reality to be governed by ends that belong to a 
plan, if it would render the process of realisation of these ends in 
telligible, necessarily generates the conception of a universal con 
nexion of things according to law as a derived principle, though it 
may refuse it the dignity of an ultimate principle. It will find no 
difficulty in admitting further that the human spirit does not possess 
any immediate revelation as to an end and direction of the collective 
movement of the universe, in which according to its own supposition 
that spirit is a vanishing point. Having for its vocation, however, to 
work at its limited place in the service of the whole according to the 
same universal laws which hold good for all the several elements of 
the whole, the human spirit will more easily possess an immediate 
consciousness of this necessity by which it like everything else is de 

Considerations of this sort settle nothing objectively: but they 
suffice to justify the abstract limitation of our present problem. 
Metaphysic has merely to show what the universal conditions are 

1 6 Introduction. 


which must be satisfied by anything of which we can say without 
contradicting ourselves that it is or that it happens. The question 
remains open whether these laws, which we hope to master, form the 
ultimate object which our knowledge can reach, or whether we may 
succeed in deducing them from a highest thought, as conditions of its 
realisation which this thought imposes on itself. 

XI. In order to the discovery of the truths we are in search of it 
would be desirable to be in possession of a clue that could be relied 
on. The remarks we have just made at once prevent us from avail 
ing ourselves of a resource in which confidence was placed by the 
philosophers of a still recent period. The followers of the idealistic 
systems to which I last referred imagined that in their dialectic 
method they had security for the completeness and certainty of the 
formulae in which they unfolded the true content of the universe. 
They directed their attention but slightly to the riddles of experience. 
To a much greater degree they had allowed themselves to be affected 
by the concentrated impression of all the imperfections by which the 
world outrages at once our knowledge our moral judgment, and the 
wishes of our hearts. In opposition to that impression there arose in 
their minds with great vivacity but, as was not denied, in complete 
obscurity the forecast of a true being, which was to be free from these 
shortcomings and at the same time to solve the difficult problem of 
rendering the presence of the shortcomings intelligible. This fore 
cast, into which they had gathered all the needs and aspirations of 
the human spirit, they sought by the application of their method to 
unfold into its complete content. In their own language they sought 
to raise that into conception l which at the outset had been appre 
hended only in the incomplete form of imagination 2 . 

I do not propose to revert to the criticism of this method, on the 
logical peculiarity of which I have enlarged elsewhere. It is enough 
here to remark that in accordance with the spirit of the theories in 
which it was turned to account, it has led only to the assignment of 
certain universal forms of appearance which cannot be absent in a 
world that is to be a complete ectype of the supreme idea. It has 
not led to the discovery of any principles available for the solution of 
questions relating to the mutual qualification of the several elements, 
by which in any case the realisation of those forms is completely or 
incompletely attained. The method might conceivably be trans 
formed so as to serve this other end, for its essential tendency, which 
is to clear up obscure ideas, will give occasion everywhere for its use. 
1 [Begriff.] a [Vorstellung.] 

BO K i.] The Dialectic Method. 1 7 

But in this transformation it would lose the most potent part of that 
which formerly gave it its peculiar charm. Its attraction consisted in 
this, that it sought in a series of intuitions, which it unfolded one out 
of the other, to convey an immediate insight into the very inner 
movement which forms the life of the universe, excluding that labour 
of discursive thought which seeks to arrive at certainty in roundabout 
ways and by use of the most various subsidiary methods of proof. 
As making such claims, the method can at bottom only be a form of 
that process of exhibiting already discovered truths which unfolds 
them in the order which after much labour of thought in other direc 
tions comes to be recognised as the proper and natural system of 
those truths. If however the method is to be employed at the same 
time as a form of discovering truth, the -process, questionable at best, 
only admits of being in some measure carried out in relation to those 
universal and stable forms of events and phenomena, which we have 
reason for regarding as an objective development of the world s 
content or of its idea. In regard to the universal laws, by which 
the realisation of all these forms is uniformly governed, we certainly 
cannot assume that they constitute a system in which an indisputable 
principle opens out into a continuous series of developments. We 
cannot in this case ascribe the development to the reality 1 as ob 
jective, but only to our thoughts about the reality 1 as subjective. 
The Dialectic method would therefore have to submit to conversion 
into that simpler dialectic, or, to speak more plainly, into that mere 
process of consideration in which the elementary thoughts that we 
entertain as to the nature and interconnection of the real are com 
pared with each other and with all the conditions which warrant a 
judgment as to their correctness, and in which it is sought to replace 
the contradictions and shortcomings that thereupon appear by better 
definitions. Nothing is more natural and familiar than this mode of 
procedure, but it is also obvious that it does not of itself determine 
beforehand either the point of departure for the considerations of 
which it consists or in detail the kind of progress which shall be 
made in it. 

XII. Other attempts at the discovery of a clue have started from 

1 [ Sache in this work means whatever a name can stand for, is coextensive with 
Vorstellbarer Inhalt (a content which can be presented in an idea), Logic, sect. 
342, and therefore has objectivity (Objectivitat), Logic, sect. 3 ; on the other 
hand it is much wider than Ding (a thing), which has not only * Objectivitat but 
also Wirklichkeit (concrete external reality); cp. Logic, sect. 3. There is no 
exact English equivalent for Sache in this sense.] 

VOL. I. C 

1 8 Introduction. 

[ BOOK I. 

a conception of classification. There lies a natural charm in the as 
sumption that not only will the content of the universe be found to 
form an ordered and rounded whole according to some symmetrical 
method, but also that the reason, of which it is the vocation to know 
it, possesses for this purpose innate modes of conception in organised 
and completed array. The latter part of this notion, at any rate, was 
the source of Kant s attempt by a completion of Aristotle s doctrine 
of Categories to find the sum of truths that are necessities of our 
thought. In the sense which Aristotle himself attached to his Cate 
gories, as a collection of the most universal predicates, under which 
every term that we can employ of intelligible import may be sub 
sumed, they have never admitted of serious philosophical application. 
At most they have served to recall the points of view from which 
questions may be put in regard to the objects of enquiry that present 
themselves. The answers to those questions always lay elsewhere 
not in conceptions at all, but in fundamental judgments directing the 
application of the conception in this way or that. Kant s reformed 
table of Categories suffers primarily from the same defect ; but he 
sought to get rid of it by passing in fact from it to the principles of 
Understanding which, as he held, were merely contracted in the 
Categories into the shape of conceptions and could therefore be again 
elicited from them. The attempt is a work of genius, but against the 
reasoning on which it is founded and the consequences drawn from 
it many scruples suggest themselves. Kant found fault with Aristotle 
for having set up his Categories without a principle to warrant their 
completeness. On the other hand, plenty of people have been forth 
coming to point out the excellence of the principles of division which 
Aristotle is supposed to have followed. I do not look for any result 
from the controversy on this point. Given a plurality of unknown 
extent, if it is proposed to resolve it not merely by way of dichotomy 
into M and non-J/ but ultimately into members of a purely positive 
sort, M, N, 0, P, <2, there can be no security in the way of method 
for the completeness of this disjunctive process. From the nature of 
the case we must always go on to think of a residuary member R, of 
which nothing is known but that it is different from all the preceding 
members. Any one who boasts of the completeness of the division 
is merely saying that for his part he cannot add a fresh member R. 
Whoever denies the completeness affirms that a further member R 
has occurred to him which with equal right belongs to the series. 
Aristotle may have had the most admirable principles of division ; but 
they do not prove that he has noticed all the members which properly 

BOOK i.] The method of Classification. 19 

fall under them. But the same remark holds equally good against 
Kant. It may be conceded to him that it is only in the form of the 
judgment that the acts of thought are performed by means of which 
we affirm anything of the real. If it is admitted further as a con 
sequence of this that there will be as many different primary pro 
positions of this kind as there are essentially different logical forms of 
judgment, still the admission that these different forms of judgment 
have been exhaustively discovered cannot be insisted on as a matter, 
properly speaking, of methodological necessity. The admission will 
be made as soon as we feel ourselves satisfied and have nothing to 
add to the classification ; and if this agreement were universal, the 
matter would be practically settled, for every inventory must be 
taken as complete, if those who are interested in its completeness 
can find nothing more to add to it. But that kind of theoretical 
security for an unconditional completeness, which Kant was in quest 
of, is something intrinsically impossible. 

These however are logical considerations, which are not very 
decisive here. It is more important to point out that the very 
admission from which we started is one that cannot be made. The 
logical forms of judgment are applied to every possible subject- 
matter, to the merely thinkable as well as to the real, to the doubt- ! 
ful and the impossible as well as to the certain and the possible. 
We cannot therefore be the least sure that all the different forms, 
which are indispensable to thought for this its wide-reaching em 
ployment, are also of equal importance for its more limited ap 
plication to the real. So far however as their significance in fact 
extends also to this latter region, it is a significance which could 
not be gathered in its full determination from that general form in 
which it was equally applicable to the non-real. The categorical 
form of judgment leaves it quite an open question, whether the 
subject of the judgment to which it adds a predicate is a simple 
nominal essence * remaining identical with itself, or a whole which 
possesses each of its parts, or a substance capable of experiencing a 
succession of states. The hypothetical form of judgment does not 
distinguish whether the condition contained in its antecedent clause is 
the reason of a consequence, or the cause of an effect, or the de 
termining end from which the fact stated in the consequent proceeds 
as a necessary condition of its fulfilment. But these different con 
ceptions, which are here presented in a like form, are of different im 
portance for the treatment of the real. The metaphysical significance 
1 [ Einfacher Denkinhalt. ] 
C 2 

2O Introduction. 

[ BOOK I. 

of the Categories is, therefore, even according to Kant s view, only 
a matter of happy conjecture, and rests upon material considerations, 
which are unconnected with the forms of judgment, and to which 
the systematisation of those logical forms has merely given external 
occasion. It is only these incidentally suggested thoughts that have 
given to the Categories in Kant s hands a semblance of importance 
and productiveness, which these playthings of philosophy, the object 
of so much curiosity, cannot properly claim. This roundabout road 
of first establishing a formal method affords us no better security 
than we should have if we set straight to work at the thing at the 
matter of our enquiry. 

XIII. We are encouraged to this direct course by the recollection 
that it is not a case of taking possession for the first time of an 
unknown land. Thanks to the zealous efforts of centuries the objects 
we have to deal with have long been set forth in distinct order, and 
the questions about them collected which need an answer. Nor had 
the philosophy which has prepared the way for us itself to break 
wholly new ground. In regard to the main divisions of our subject 
it had little to do but to repeat what everyone learns anew from his 
own experience of the world. Nature and spirit are two regions so 
different as at first sight to admit of no comparison, and demanding 
two separate modes of treatment, each devoted to the essential 
character by which the two regions are alike self-involved and sepa 
rate from each other. But on the other hand they are destined to 
such constant action upon each other as parts of one universe, that 
they constrain us at the same time to the quest for those universal 
forms of an order of things which they both have to satisfy alike in 
themselves and in the connexion with each other. It might seem as 
if this last-mentioned branch of its enquiry must be the one to which 
early science would be last brought. As a matter of history, however, 
it has taken it in hand as soon as the other two branches, and has 
long devoted itself to it with greater particularity than, considering 
the small progress made in the other branches, it could find conducive 
to success. But whatever may be the case historically, now at least 
when we try to weigh the amount of tenable result which has been 
won from such protracted labour, we are justified in beginning with 
that which is first in the order of things though not in the order 
of our knowledge ; I mean with Ontology, which, as a doctrine 
of the being and relations of all reality, had precedence given to 
it over Cosmology and Psychology the two branches of enquiry 
which follow the reality into its opposite distinctive forms. It is 

BOOK i.] The divisions of Metaphysic. 2 1 

to this division of the subject that with slight additions or omissions, 
Metaphysic under every form of treatment has to all intents and 
purposes returned. The variety in the choice of terms occasioned 
by peculiar points of view adopted antecedently to the consideration 
of the natural division of the subject, has indeed been very great. 
But to take any further account of these variations of terminology, 
before entering on the real matter in hand, seems to me as useless as 
the attempt to determine more exactly that limitation of the problems 
before us which metaphysicians have had before them in promising 
to treat only of rational cosmology and psychology, as opposed in a 
very intelligible manner to the further knowledge which only ex 
perience can convey. 

XIV. No period of human life is conceivable in which man did 
not yet feel himself in opposition to an external world around him. 
Long in doubt about himself, he found around him a multitude of 
perceptibly divided objects, and he could not live long without 
having many impressions forced upon him as to their nature and 
connexion. For none of the every-day business that is undertaken 
for the satisfaction of wants could go on without the unspoken con 
viction that our wishes and thoughts have not by themselves the 
power to make any alteration in the state of the outer world, but that 
this world consists in a system of mutually determinable things, in 
which any alteration of one part that we may succeed in effecting is 
sure of a definite propagation of effects on other parts. Moreover 
no such undertaking could be carried out without coming on some 
resistance, and thus giving rise to the recognition of an unaccountable 
independence exercised by things in withstanding a change of state. 
I All these thoughts as well as those which might readily be added on 
/ a continuation of these reflections, were primarily present only in the 
I form of unconsciously determining principles which regulated actions 
and expectations in real life. It is in the same form that with almost 
identical repetition they still arise in each individual, constituting the 
natural Ontology with which we all in real life meet the demand for 
judgments on events. The reflective attempt to form these assump 
tions into conscious principles only ensued when attention was called 
to the need of escaping contradictions with which they became em 
barrassed when they came to be applied without care for the con 
sequences to a wider range of knowledge. 

It was thus that Philosophy, with its ontological enquiries, arose. 
In the order of their development these enquiries have not indeed 
been independent of the natural order in which one question suggests 

22 Introduction. 

another. Still owing to accidental circumstances they have often 
drifted into devious tracks ; have assumed and again given up 
very various tendencies. There is no need, however, in a treatise 
which aims at gathering the product of these labours, to repeat this 
chequered history. It may fasten directly on the natural conception 
of the universe which we noticed just now that conception which 
finds the course of the world only intelligible of a multiplicity of per 
sistent things, of variable relations between them, and of events 
arising out of these changes of mutual relation. For it is just this 
view of the universe, of which the essential purport may be thus sum 
marised, which renews itself with constant identity in every age. 
Outside the schools we all accommodate ourselves to it. Not to us 
merely, but to all past labourers in the field of philosophy, it has 
presented itself as the point of departure, as that which had either to 
be confirmed or controverted. Unlike the divergent theories of spe 
culative men, therefore, it deserves to be reckoned as itself one of the 
natural phenomena which, in the character of regular elements of 
the universe, enchain the attention of philosophy. For the present 
however all that we need to borrow from history is the general con 
viction that of the simple thoughts which make up this view there is 
none that is exempt from the need of having its actual and possible 
import scientifically ascertained in order to its being harmonised with 
all the rest in a tenable whole. No lengthy prolegomena are needed 
to determine the course which must be entered on for this purpose. 
We cannot speak of occurrences in relations without previously think 
ing of the things between which they are supposed to take place or to 
subsist. Of these things, however manifold and unlike as we take 
them to be we at the same time affirm, along with a distinction in 
the individual being of each, a likeness in respect of that form of 
reality which makes them things. It is with the simple idea of this 
being that we have to begin. The line to be followed in the sequel may 
be left for the present unfixed. Everything cannot be said at once. 
That natural view of the world from which we take our departure, 
simple as it seems at first sight, yet contains various interwoven 
threads ; and no one of these can be pursued without at the same time 
touching others which there is not time at the outset to follow out on 
their own account and which must be reserved to a more convenient 
season. For our earlier considerations, therefore, we must ask the 
indulgence of not being disturbed by objections of which due account 
shall be taken in the sequel. 


On the Being of Things. 

1. ONE of the oldest thoughts in Philosophy is that of the oppo 
sition between true being and untrue being. Illusions of the senses, 
causing what is unreal to be taken for what is real, led to a perception 
of the distinction between that which only appears to us and that 
which is independent of us. The observation of things taught men 
to recognise a conditional existence or a result of combination in that 
which to begin with seemed simple and self-dependent. Continuous 
becoming was found where only unmoving persistent identity had 
been thought visible. Thus there was occasioned a clear conscious 
ness of that which had been understood by true being/ and which 
was found wanting in the objects of these observations. Independ 
ence not only of us but of everything other than itself, simplicity and 
unchanging persistence in its own nature, had always been reckoned 
its signs. Its signs, we say, but still only its signs ; for these charac 
teristics, though they suffice to exclude that of which they are not 
predicable from the region of true being, do not define that being 
itself. Independence of our own impressions in regard to it is what 
we ascribe to every truth. It holds good in itself, though no one \ 
thinks it. Independence of everything beside itself we affirm not 
indeed of every truth, but of many truths which neither need nor 
admit of proof. Simplicity exclusive of all combination belongs to 
every single sensation of sweetness or redness ; and motionless self- 
subsistence, inaccessible to any change, is the proper character of 
that world of ideas which we oppose to reality on the ground that 
while we can say of the ideas that they eternally hold good we cannot 
say that they are. It follows that in the characteristics stated of Being 
not only is something wanting which has been thought though not 
expressed but the missing something is the most essential element of 
that which we are in quest of. We still want to know what exactly * 
that Being itself is to which those terms may be applied by way of j 

24 On the Being of Things. [BOOK i. 

distinguishing the true Being from the apparent, or what that reality 
consists in by which an independent simple and persistent Being 
distinguishes itself from the unreal image in thought of the same 
independent simple and persistent content. 

2. To this question a very simple answer may be attempted. It 
seems quite a matter of course that the thinking faculty should not be 
able by any of its own resources, by any thought, to penetrate and 
exhaust the essential property of real Being, in which thought of itself 
recognises an opposition to all merely intelligible existence. The r 
most that we can claim, it will be said, is that real Being yields us a 
living experience of itself in a manner quite different from thinking, 
and such experiences being once given, a ground of cognition with 
reference to them thereupon admits of being stated, which is necessary 
not indeed for the purpose of inferring that presence of real Being 
which is matter of immediate experience but for maintaining the truth 
of this experience against every doubt. Upon this view no pretence 
is made of explaining by means of conceptions the difference of real 
Being from the conception of the same, but immediate^ sensaiiori 1 
has always been looked upon as the ground of cognition which is our \ 
warrant for the presence of real Being. Even after the habit has 
been formed of putting trust in proofs and credible communications, 
we shall still seek to set aside any doubt that may have arisen by 
rousing ourselves to see and hear whether the things exist and the 
occurrences take place of which information has been given us ; nor 
does any proof prove the reality of its conclusion unless, apart from 
the correctness of its logical concatenation, not merely the truth of 
its original premisses, as matter of thought, but the reality of its 
content is established a reality which in the last resort is given only 
by sensuous perception. It may be that even sensation sometimes 
deceives and presents us with what is unreal instead of with what is 
real. Still in those cases where it does not deceive, it is the only 
possible evidence of reality. It may in like manner be questioned 
whether sensation gives us insight into the real as it is. Still of the 

fact that something which really is underlies it, sensation does not 
seem to allow a doubt. 

3. The two objections just noticed to the value of sensation cannot 
here be discussed in full, but with the second there is a difficulty con 
nected which we have to consider at once. The content of simple 
sensations cannot be so separated from the sensitive act as that 
detached images of the two, complete in themselves, should remain 

1 [ Sinnlichen Empfindung. J 

CHAPTER i.] Being and Sensation. 25 

after the separation. We can neither present redness, sweetness, 
and warmth to ourselves as they would be if they were not felt, nor 
the feeling of them as it would be if it were not a feeling of any 
of these particular qualities. The variety, however, of the sensible 
qualities, and the definiteness of each single quality as presented to the 
mind s eye, facilitate the attempt which we all make to separate in 
thought what is really indivisible. The particular matter which we 
feel, at any rate, appears to us independent of our feeling, as if it 
were something of which the self-existent nature was only recognised 
and discovered by the act of feeling. 

But we do not succeed so easily in detaching the other element 
that real being, of which, as the being of this sensible content, it was 
the business of actual sensation in opposition to the mere recollection 
or idea of it to give us assurance. It cannot be already given in this 
simplest affirmation or position which we ascribed to the sensible con 
tents, and by which each of them is what it is and distinguishes itself 
from other contents. Through this affirmation that which is affirmed 
only comes to hold good as an element in the world of the thinkable. 
It is not real merely because it is in this sense something, as opposed 
to nothing void of all determination. In virtue of such affirmation 
Red is eternally Red and allied to Yellow, not allied to what is warm 
or sweet. But this identity with itself and difference from something 
else holds good of the Red of which there is no actual sensation as of 
that of which there is actual sensation. Yet it is only in the case of 
the latter that sensation is supposed to testify to real existence. Apart 
from that simplest affirmation, however, the various sensible qualities 
in abstraction from the sensitive act which apprehends them have 
nothing in common. If therefore we assert of them, so far as they 
are felt, a real Being different from this affirmation, this Being is not 
anything which as attaching to the nature of the felt quality would 
merely be recognised and discovered by the sensitive act. On the 
contrary, it lies wholly in the simple fact of being felt, which forms 
the sole distinction between the actual sensation of the quality that 
is present to sense and the mere idea of quality which is not so 
present. Thus it would appear that the notion with which we started \ 
must be given up ; for sensation is not a mere ground of cognition 
of a real Being which is still something different from it and of which 
the proper nature has still to be stated ; and the being which on the 
evidence of sensation we ascribe to things consists in absolutely ( 
nothing else than the fact of their being felt 

4. This assertion, however, can only be hazarded when certain 

26 On the Being of Things. [BOOK i. 

points of advanced speculation have been reached, which we shall 
arrive at later. The primary conception of the world is quite remote 
from any such inference. According to it sensation is certainly the 
only causa cognoscendi which convinces us of Being, and just 
because it is the only one, there easily arises the mistake of supposing 
that what it alone can show consists only of it ; whereas in fact Being 
is, notwithstanding, independent of our recognition of it, and all 
things, of which we learn the reality, it is true, only from sensation, 
will continue to be, though our attention is diverted from them and 
they vanish from our consciousness. Nothing indeed appears more 
self-evident than this doctrine. We all do homage to it. Yet the 
question must recur, what remains to be understood by the Being of 
things, when we have got rid of the sole condition under which it is 
cognisable by us. It was as objects of our feeling that things were 
presented to us. In this alone consisted as far as we could see 
what we called their Being. What can be left of Being when we 
abstract from our feeling ? What exactly is it that we suppose our 
selves to have predicated of things, in saying that they are without 
being felt ? Or what is it that for the things themselves, by way of 
proof, confirmation, and significance of their being, takes the place of 
that sensation which for us formed the proof, confirmation, and signi 
ficance of their being. 

The proper meaning of these questions will become clearer, if I 
pass to the answers which the natural theory of the world gives to 
them ; for it must not be supposed that this theory makes no effort to 
remedy the shortcoming which we have noticed. Its simplest way 
of doing so consists in the reflection that on the disappearance of our 
own sensation that of others takes its place. The men whom we 
leave behind will remain in intercourse with others. Places and 
objects, from which we are removed, will be seen by others as 
hitherto by us. This constitutes their persistency in Being, while 
they have vanished from our senses. Everyone, I think, will find 
traces in himself of this primary way of presenting the case. Yet it 
helps us rather to put off the question than to answer it. It is sure 
to repeat itself at once in another form. Being was said to be\ 
independent of any consciousness on the part of a sentient subject.! 
What then if consciousness is extinguished out of the entire universe 
and there is no longer any one who could have cognisance of the 
things that are supposed to exist ? In that case, we answer, they will 
continue to stand in those relations to each other in which they stood 
when they were objects of perception. Each will have its place in 

CHAPTER i.] Being as real relations. 27 

space or will change it. Each will continue to exercise influences on 
others or to be affected by their influence. These reciprocal agencies 
will constitute that in which the things possess their being indepen 
dently of all observation. Beyond this view of the matter the natural 
theory of things scarcely ever goes. In what respect it is unsatisfac 
tory and in what it is right we have now to attempt to consider. 

5. There is one point on which it is held to be defective, but un 
fairly, because its defect consists merely in its inability to answer an 
improper question, which we have simply to get out of the habit of 
putting. The question arises in this way. All those relations, in 
which we just now supposed the reality of things to consist, may be 
thought of equally as real and as unreal. But they must be actually 
real and not merely thought of as real, if they are to form the Being 
of things and not merely the idea of this Being. In what then, we 
ask, consists this reality of that which is in itself merely thinkable, 
and how does it arise? That this question is unanswerable and self- 
contradictory needs no elaborate proof. In what properly consists 
the fact how it comes about or is made that there is something 
and not nothing, that something and not nothing takes place ; this it 
is eternally impossible to say. For in fact, whatever the form of the 
question in which this curiosity might find expression, it is clear that 
we should always presuppose in it as antecedent to that reality of 
which we seek an explanation, a prior connected reality, in which 
from definite principles definite consequences necessarily flow, and 
among them the reality that has to be explained. And the origin of 
this latter reality would not be like that of a truth which arises as a 
consequence out of other truths but which yet always subsisted along 
with them in eternal validity. The origin in question would be ex 
pressly one in which a reality, that was previously itself unreal, arises 
out of another reality. Everything accordingly which we find in the 
given reality the occurrence of events, the change in the action of 
things upon each other, the existence of centres of relation between 
which such action may take place all this we must assume to begin 
with in order to render the origin of reality intelligible. 

This obvious circle has been avoided by the common view. Nor 
can it be charged with having itself fallen into another circle in re 
ducing the real Being of things to the reality of those relations the 
maintenance of which it supposed to constitute what was meant by 
this Being. For it could not be intended to analyse this most general 
conception of reality, of which the significance can only be conveyed 
in the living experience of feeling. All that could be meant by 

28 On the Being of Things. [BOOK i. 

definitions of Being in the common theory was an indication of that 
which within this given miracle of reality is to be understood as the 
Being of the Things in distinction from other instances of the same 
reality, from the existence of the relations themselves and from the 
occurrence of events. Whether the common theory has succeeded 
in this latter object is what remains to be asked. 

6. Philosophy has been very unanimous in denying that it has. 
How, it is asked, are we to understand those relations, in the sub 
sistence of which we would fain find the Being of the Things ? If 
they are merely a result of arbitrary combinations in which we 
present things to our minds, we should equally fail in our object 
whether the things ordered themselves according to this caprice of 
ours or whether they did not. In the former case we should not find 
the Being independent of ourselves which we were in search of. If 
the latter were the true state of the case, it would make it still more 
plain that there must be something involved in the Being of things 
which our definition of this Being failed to include the something in 
virtue of which they are qualified to exist on their own account, not 
changing with and because of our changeable conception of their 
Being. We cannot be satisfied therefore without supposing that the 
relations, of which we assume the existence, exist between the things 
themselves, so as to be discoverable by our thought but not created 
by or dependent on it. The more, however, we insist on this ob 
jective reality of relations, the more unmistakeable we make the 
dependence of the Being of everything on the Being of everything 
else. No thing can have" its place among the other things, if these 
are not there to receive it among them. None can work or suffer, 
before the others are there to exchange impressions with it. To put 
the matter generally; in order to there being such a thing as an action 
of one thing upon another, it would seem that the centres of relation 
between which it is to take place must be established in independent 
/ reality. A Being in things, resting wholly on itself and in virtue of 
/ this independence rendering the relations possible by which things 
are to be connpcted, must precede in thought every relation that is to 
be taken for real. This is the pure Being, of which Philosophy has 
so often gone in quest. It is opposed by Philosophy, as being of 
the same significance for a^J things, to the empirical Being which, 
originating in the various relations that have come into play between 
things, is different for every second thing from what it is for the third, 
and which Philosophy hopes somehow to deduce as a supervening 
result from the pure Being. 

CHAPTER i.] Pure Being strictly meaningless. 


7. I propose to show that expectation directed to this metaphysical 
use of the conception of pure Being is a delusion, and that the, A 
natural theory of the world, in which nothing is heard of it, is on this^ 
point nearer the truth than this first notion of Speculation. Every 
conception, which is to admit of any profitable application, must 
allow of a clear distinction between that which is meant by it and that 
which is not meant by it. So long as we looked for the Being of 
things in the reality of relations in which the things stand to each 
other, we possessed in these relations something by the affirmation of 
which the Being of that which is, distinguishes itself from the non- 
Being of that which is not. The more we remove from the concep 
tion of Being every thought of a relation, in the affirmation of which 
it might consist, the more completely the possibility of this distinc 
tion disappears. For not to be at any place, not to have any posi 
tion in the complex of other things, not to undergo any operation 
from anything nor to display itself by the exercise of any activity 
upon anything ; to be thus void of relation is just that in which we 
should find the nonentity of a thing if it was our purpose to define it. 
It is not to the purpose to object that it was not this nonentity but 
Being that was meant by the definition. It is not doubted that the 
latter was the object of our definition, but the object is not attained, 
so long as the same definition includes the opposite of that which we 
intended to include in it. 

No doubt an effort will be made to rebut this objection in its turn. 
It will be urged that if, starting from the comparison of the multiform 
Being of experience, we omit all the relations on which its distinction 
rests, that which remains as pure Being is not the mere privation of 
relations but that of which this very unrelatedness serves only as a 
predicate, and which, resting on itself and independent, is distin 
guished by this hardly to be indicated but still positive trait from that 
which is not. Now it is true that our usage is not to employ these 
and like expressions of that which is not or of the nothing, but the 
usage is not strictly justifiable so long as we apply the expressions to 
this pure Being. They only Jiave an intelligible sense because we 
already live in the thought of manifold relations, and within the 
sphere of these the true Being has opportunity of showing by a 
definite order of procedure what is the meaning of its independence 
and self-subsistence. Once drop this implication, and all the above 
expressions, in the complete emptiness of meaning to which they 
thereupon sink, are unquestionably as applicable to Nothing as they 
are to Being, for in fact independence of everything else, self-sub- 

3<D On the Being of Things. t BOOK i. 

sistence and complete absence of relation are not less predicable of 
the one than of the other. 

8. We may expect here the impatient rejoinder There still re 
mains the eternal difference that the unrelated Being is while the 
unrelated non-Being is not : all that comes of your super-subtle 
^ investigation is a contradiction of your own previous admission. 
For the meaning of Being, in the sense of reality and in opposition 
to not-being, is as you say undefinable and only to be learnt by actual 
living. The cognition thus gained necessarily and rightfully pre 
supposes the conception of pure Being, as the positive element in 
the experienced Being. We have not therefore the problem of dis 
tinguishing Being from not-Being any longer before us. That is 
settled for us in the experience of life. Our problem merely is 
within real Being by negation of all relations to isolate the pure 
Being, which must be there to begin with in order to the possibility 
of entrance into any relations whatever. In forming this conception 
of pure Being therefore, Thought is quite within its right, although 
for that which it looks upon as the positive import of the conception 
it can only offer a name, of which the intelligibility may be fairly 
reckoned on, not a description. 

Now by way of reply to these objections I must remind the reader 
that what I disputed was not at all the legitimacy of the formation of 
^ the idea in question but only the allowability of the metaphysical use 
which it is sought to make of it. The point of this distinction I will 
endeavour first to illustrate by examples. Bodies move in space with 
various velocities and in various directions. No doubt we are justi 
fied as a matter of thought in fixing arbitrarily and one-sidedly now 
on one common element, now on another, in these various instances, 
and thus in forming the conception of direction without reference to 
velocity, that of velocity apart from direction, that of motion as the 
conception of a change of place, which leaves direction and velocity 
unnoticed. There is nothing whatever illegitimate in the formation 
of any of these abstractions. Nor is it incompatible with the nature 
of the abstractions that instances of each of them should be so con 
nected in thought as to yield further knowledge. None of them, 
however, immediately and by itself allows of an application to reality 
Vithout being first restored to combination with the rest from which 
our Thought, in arbitrary exercise of its right of abstraction, had 
detached them. There will never be a velocity without direction; 
never a direction ab in the proper sense of the term without a velocity 
leading from a to b, not from b to a. There will never be a motion 

CHAPTER i.] Pure Being by itself unreal. 3 1 

that is a mere change of place, as yet without direction and velocity 
and waiting to assume these two qualifications later on. That which 
we are here seeking to convey is essentially, if not altogether, the 
familiar truth that general ideas are not applicable to the real world 
in their generality, but only become so applicable when each of their 
marks, that has been left undetermined, has been limited to a com 
pletely individual determinateness, or, to use an expression more 
suited to the case before us, when to each partial conception neces 
sary to the complete definition there has been again supplied in case 
it expresses a relation, the element to which the relation attaches. 

9. We take the case to be just the same with the conception of 
pure Being. It is an abstraction formed in a perfectly legitimate - 
way, which aims at embracing the common element that is to be 
found in many cases of Being and that distinguishes them from not- 
Being. We do not value this abstraction the less because the sim 
plicity of what it contains is such that a verbal indication of this 
common element, as distinct from any systematic construction of it, 
is all that is possible. Still, like those to which we compared it, it 
does not admit, as it stands, of application to anything real. Just as 
an abstract motion cannot take place, just as it never occurs but in 
the form of velocity in a definite direction, so pure Being cannot in 
reality be an antecedent or substance of such a kind as that empirical 
existence with its manifold determinations should be in any sort a 
secondary emanation from it, either as its consequence or as its 
modification. It has no reality except as latent in these particular 
cases of it, in each of these definite forms of existence. It is merely 
in the system of our conceptions that these supervene upon it as 
subsequent and subordinate kinds. There was a correct feeling of 
this in what I call the natural theory of the world. It was quite 
aware of the intellectual possibility of detaching the affirmation that 
is the ^me in all cases from the differences of the manifold relations 
which are affirmed by it in the different cases of Being, just as the 
uniform idea of quantity can be detached from the different numbers 
and spaces which are subordinate to it. But it rightly held to the 
view that the pure Being thus constituted has not reality as pure but 
only in the various instances in which it is a latent element ; just as 
is the case with quantity, which never occurs as pure Quantity but 
only as this or that definite Quantum of something. 

10. The length of this enquiry, which leads to a result seemingly 
so simple, must be justified by the sequel. It may be useful, I think, \ 
to repeat the same thought once again in another form. There are 

32 On the Being of Things. 

other terms which have been applied to pure Being, in the desire to 
make that which admits of no explanatory analysis at least more 
intelligible by a variety of signs.Jj^Thus it is usual to speak of it as an 
I unconditional and irrevocable Position l or Putting. It will be readily 
4- noticed that as so applied, each of these terms is used with an ex 
tension of meaning in which it ceases to represent any complete 
thought. They alike tend to give a sensuous expression to the idea 
in question by recalling the import in which they are properly used ; 
and when that on which their proper meaning rests has again to 
be expressly denied the result is obscurity and confusion. We 
cannot speak of a putting or Position in the proper sense of the 
term without stating what it is that is put. And not only so, this 
must be put somewhere, in some place, in some situation which is 
the result of the putting and distinguishes the putting that has taken 
place from one that has not taken place. Any one who applied this 
term to pure Being would therefore very soon find himself pushed 
back again to a statement of relations, in order to give to this Posi 
tion or pure Being the meaning necessary to its distinction from the 
not-putting, the pure non-Being. The notion which it is commonly 
attempted to substitute for this that of an act of placing pure and 
simple, which leaves out of sight every relation constituted by the act 
remains an abstraction which expresses only the purpose of the 
person thinking to think of Being and not of not-Being, while on the 
other hand it carefully obliterates the conditions under which this 
purpose can attain its end and not the precise opposite of this end. 
Nor would it be of any avail to be always reverting to the proposition 
that after all it is by this act of putting that there is constituted the 
very intelligible though not further analysable idea of an objectivity 
which can be ascribed only to that which is, not to nothing. For, 
apart from every other consideration, if we in fact not merely per 
formed the act of mere putting, as such, but by it put a definite 
content, without however adding what sort of procedure or what 
relations were to result to the object from this act of putting, the 
consequence would merely be that the thing put would be presented 
to our consciousness as an essence which signifies something and 
distinguishes itself from something else, but not as one that is in 
opposition to that which is not. Real Being, as distinct from the 
mere truth of the thinkable, can never be arrived at by this bare act 

1 [ Position oder Setzung. It seems unavoidable that the English word Posi 
tion should be used, though it has of course no active meaning such as belongs to 
Position and Setzung. ] 

CHAPTER i.j Being as Position or Affirmation. 33 

of putting, but only by the addition in thought of those relations, 
to be placed in which forms just the prerogative which reality has 
over cogitability. 

The other general signification, which the expressions Position 
and putting have assumed, illustrates the same state of the case. 
We cannot affirm simply something, we can only affirm a proposition) jj 
not a subject, but only a predicate as belonging to a subject. Now 
it is psychologically very intelligible that from every act of affirmation 
we should look for a result, which stands objectively and permanently 
before thought, while all negation implies the opposite expectation, 
that something will vanish which previously thus stood before it. It 
is quite natural therefore that we should fall into the delusion of 
imagining that in the purpose and good will to affirm there lies a 
creative force, which if it is directed to no definite predicate but 
exercised in abstraction would create that universal and pure Being 
which underlies all determinate Being. In fact however the affirma 
tion does not bring into Being the predicate which forms its object, 
and it could just as well, though for psychological reasons not so 
naturally, assert the not-Being of things as their Being. The Being 
of things, therefore, which is in question, cannot be found in the 
1 affirmation of them merely as such but only in the affirmation of 
their Being. We are thus brought back to the necessity of first ^ 
determining the sense of this Being in order totiie presence of a 
possible object of the affirmation, and this determination we have, so 
far at least, found no means of carrying out except by presupposition 
of relations, in the reality of which the Being of that which is consists 
in antithesis to the not-Being of that which is not. 

11. There is a further reason for avoiding the expression which 
I have just been examining. Position and putting forth are alike 
according to their verbal form terms for actions 1 . Now it may seem 
trifling, but I count it important all the same, to exercise a precaution 
in the choice of philosophical expressions and not to employ words 
which almost unavoidably carry with them an association which has a 
disturbing influence on the treatment of the matter expressed. In the 
case before us the prejudicial effects apprehended have not remained 
in abeyance. It has not indeed been believed possible to achieve 
a putting forth which should create Being : but there was always 
associated with the application of the word the notion that it has been 
by a corresponding act, from whomsoever proceeding, that this Being 
so unaccountably presented to us has originated and that we then 
1 [v. note on p. 32.] 

VOL. I. D 

34 Of the Being of Things. [BOOK i. 

penetrate to its true idea when we repeat in thought this history of its 
origin. We shall find the importance of this error, if we revert to the 
reproach brought against the natural theory of the world. It is 
j objected that in looking for the Being of every thing in its relations to 
l other things, it leaves no unconditioned element of reality none 
that would not have others for its presupposition. If a can only 
exist in relation to b, then, it is said, b must be there beforehand ; 
if b exists only in relation to <r, then c must be its antecedent. And if 
perchance there were a last element z dependent not on any further 
elements but on the first a, this, it will be urged, would only make 
still more apparent the untenability of a construction of reality which 
after all has to make the being of a itself the presupposition of this 
Being. But this whole embarrassment could only be incurred by one, 
whose problem it was to make a world ; nor would he incur it, unless 
a limitation on his mode of operation interfered with the making of 
many things at the same time and compelled him to let an interval of 
time elapse in passing from the establishment of the one element to 
that of the other : for undoubtedly, if Being consists only in the reality 
of relations, a could not stand by itself and therefore could not exist 
till the creating hand had completed the condition of its being by the 
after-creation of b. But what could justify us in importing into the 
notion of this productive activity this habit of our own thinking faculty, 
which does, it is true, in presenting relations to itself pass from one 
point of relation to another ? Why should we not rather assume that 
the things as well as the relations between them were made in a 
single act, so that none of them needed to wait, as it were hung in 
the air during a certain interval, for the supplementary fulfilment of the 
conditions of its reality? We will not attempt however further to 
depict a process, which cannot be held to be among the objects of 
possible investigation. It is not our business to discover in what way 
/ the reality of things has been brought about, but only to show what it 
is that it must be thought of and recognised as being when once in 
some way that we cannot conceive it has come to be. We have not 
to make a world but so to order our conceptions as that they may 
correspond without contradiction to the state of the given world as 
it stands. Such a contradiction we may be inclined to think is 
involved in the thought of a creative Position, which could only put 
forth things that really are under the condition of their being mutually 
related, yet on the other hand could only put them forth one after 
the other. But there is no contradiction in the recognition of a 
present world of reality, of which the collective elements are as a 


CHAPTER i.j Meaning of irrevocable Position 35 

matter of fact so conditioned by the tension of mutual relatedness 
that only in this can the meaning of their Being and its distinction ^ 
from not-Being be recognised. 

12. The foregoing remarks contain an objection to the metaphysi 
cal doctrine of Herbart, which requires some further explanation. It 
need not be said that Herbart never entertained the unphilosophical 
notion that the irrevocable position, in which he found the true 
Being of things, was an activity still to be exercised. He too looked 
on it as a fact to be recognised. As to how the fact came to be so it 
was in his eyes the more certain that nothing could be said as, being 
unconditioned and unchangeable according to his understanding of 
those terms, it excluded every question in regard to origin and source. 
But a certain ambiguity seems to me to lie in the usage of this ex 
pression of an irrevocable position. 

There are two demands which may no doubt be insisted on. In 
the first place, assuming that we are in undoubted possession of the 
true conception of Being, we should be bound to be on our guard in 
its application against attaching it to qualities which on more exact 
consideration would be found to contradict it. Nothing can then 
compel us on this assumption to revoke the affirmation or position/ 
as an act performed by ourselves, by which we recognised the 
presence in some particular case of that position, not to be per 
formed by us, in which true Being consists. If on the other hand 
instead of being in possession of the correct conception of Being, we 
are only just endeavouring to form it, intending at a later stage to look 
about for cases of its application, in that case we have so to construct 
it as to express completely what we meant, and necessarily meant, to 
convey by it. Nothing therefore ought to be able to compel us again 
to revoke the recognition that in the characteristics found by us there 
is apprehended the true nature of that position which we have not to 
make but to accept as the Being presented to us. Here are two sorts 
of requirement or necessity, but in neither case have we to do with 
anything except an obligation incumbent on our procedure in think 
ing. The proposition Being consists in so and so, and the proposi- / 
tion this is a case of Being, ought alike to be so formed as that we I 
shall not have to revoke either as premature or incorrect. But as to / 
the nature of Being itself nothing whatever is settled by either require 
ment and it is not self-evident that the position which constitutes 
Being and which is not one that waits to be performed by us, 
is in itself as irrevocable as our thoughts about it should be. The 
common view of the world does not as a matter of fact, at least at the 

D 2 

36 Of the Being of Things. [BOOK i. 

beginning, make this claim for Being. The fixedness of Being, which 
it ascribes to things, only amounts to this, that they serve as relatively 
persistent points on which phenomena fasten and from which occur 
rences issue. But according to this view if once reason had been 
found to say of a thing, It has been, it would in spite of this revoca 
tion of its further persistence still be held that, so long as it has been, 
it -has had full enjoyment of the genuine and true Being, beside 
which there is no other specifically different Being. 

The question whether such a view is right or wrong I reserve for 
the present. Herbart decided completely against it. True Being 
according to him is only conceived with irrevocable correctness, if it 
is apprehended as itself a wholly irrevocable position. This necessary 
requirement, however, with him involved the other the requirement 
that every relation of the one thing to another, which could be held 
necessary to the Being of the Thing, should be excluded, and that 
what we call the true Being should be found only in the pure position, 
void of relation, which we have not to exercise but to recognise. No 
doubt it is our duty to seek such a cognition of the real as will not 
have again to be given up. But. I cannot draw the deduction that 
the object of that cognition must itself be permanent, and therefore 
I cannot ascribe self-evident truth to this conviction of Herbart s. 
It is a Metaphysical doctrine in regard to which I shall have more 
frequent opportunity later on of expressing agreement and hesitation, 
and which I would now only subject to consideration with reference 
to the one point, with which we are specially occupied. In order to 
preserve the connexion of our thoughts, I once again recall the point 
that the conception of a pure, completely unrelated Being turned out 
to be correctly formed indeed, but perfectly inapplicable. We were 
able to accept it only as an expression or indication of that most 
general affirmation, which is certainly present in every Being, and 
distinguishes it from not-Being. But we maintained that it is never 
merely by itself, but only as having definite relations for its object, that 
this affirmation constitutes the Being of the real ; that thus pure Being 
neither itself is, nor as naked Position of an unrelated content forms the 
reality of that content, nor is rightly entitled to the name of Being at all. 

13. On the question how determinate or empirical Being issues 
from pure Being, the earlier theories, which started from the indepen 
dence of pure Being, pronounced in a merely figurative and incomplete 
manner. The wished for clearness we find in Herbart. According to 
his doctrine pure Being does not lie behind in a mythical past. Each 
individual thing enjoys it continuously, for each thing is in virtue of a 

CHAPTER i.] Her fyart on Being and Relations. 3 7 

position which is alien to all relations and needs them not. It is just 
the complete indifference of things to all relations, and it alone, that 
makes it possible for them to enter into various relations towards each 
other, of which in consequence of this indifference none can in any 
way add to or detract from the Being of the things. From this com 
merce between them, which does not touch their essence, arises the 
chequered variety of the course of the given world. 

I cannot persuade myself that this is an admissible way of pre 
senting the case. Granting that there really is such a thing as an 
element a in the enjoyment of this unrelated Position of being 
unaffected by others and not reacting upon them, it does not indeed 
contradict the conception of this Being that ideas of relation should 
afterwards be connected with it. But in reality it is impossible for 
that to enter into relations which was previously unrelated. For a 
could not enter into relations in general. At each moment it could 
only enter into the definite relation m towards the definite element , 
to the exclusion of every other relation /u towards the same element. 
There must therefore be some reason in operation which in each 
individual case allows and brings about the realisation only of m, not 
that of a chance /*. But since a is indifferent towards every relation, 
there cannot be contained in its own nature^either the reason for this 
definite m, nor even the reason why it should enter into a relation, 
that did not previously obtain, with b and not rather with c. That 
which decided the point can therefore only be looked for in some 
earlier relation /, which however indifferent it might be to a and <5, in 
fact subsisted between them. If a and b had been persistently 
confined each to its own pure Being, without as yet belonging at all A 
to this empirical reality and its thousandfold order of relations, they 
would never have issued from their ontological seclusion and been 
wrought into the web of this universe. For this entry could only have 
taken place into some region in space, at some point of time, and in 
a direction somewhither ; and all this would imply a determinate 
place outside the world, which the things must have left in a deter 
minate direction. Therefore, while thus seemingly put outside the 
world into the void of pure Being, the Things would have already 
stood, not outside all relations to the world, but only in other and 
looser relations instead of in the closer ones, which are supposed to 
be established later. And just as it would be impossible for them to | 
enter into relations if previously unrelated, so it would be -impossible 
for them wholly to escape again from the web of relations in which 
they had once become involved. 

38 Of the Being of Things. [BOOK i. 

It may indeed be urged with some plausibility that, since we take 
the relations of things to be manifold and variable, Being can attach 
to no single one of them, and therefore to none at all : that therefore 
it cannot be Being which the Thing loses, if we suppose all its rela 
tions successively to disappear. But this argument would only be a 
repetition of the confusion between the constancy of a general idea 
and the reality of its individual instances. Colour, for instance, is not 
necessarily green or red, but it is no colour at all if it is none of these 
different kinds. Were it conceivably possible that all relations of a 
thing should disappear without in their disappearance giving rise to 
new ones a point of which I reserve the consideration we could not 
look upon this as the return of the thing into its pure Being, but only 
as its lapse into nonentity. A transition, therefore, from a state of un- 
relatedness into relation, or vice versa, is unintelligible to us. All that 
is intelligible is a transition from one form of relation to another. 
And an assumption which would find the true Being of Things in 
their being put forth without relations, seems at the same time to make 
the conception of these things unavailable for the Metaphysical ex 
planation of the universe, while it was only to render such explanation 
possible that the supposition that there are Things was made at all. 

14. There is yet one way out of the difficulty to be considered. In 
itself/ it may be said, * pure Being is foreign to all relations, and no 
Thing, in order to be, has any need whatever of relations. But just 
because everything is indifferent to them, there is nothing to prevent 
the assumption that the entry of all things into relations has long 
ago taken effect. No thing has been left actually to enjoy its pure 
Being without these relations that are indifferent to it, and it is in this 
shape of relatedness that the sum of things forms the basis of the 
world s changeable course. Or, to adopt what is surely a more 
correct statement It has not been at any particular time in the past 
that this entry into relations has taken place, which, as we pointed 
out, is unthinkable. Every thing has stood in relations from eternity. 
None has ever enjoyed the pure Being which would have been possible 
for its nature. In this latter transformation, however, the thought 
would essentially coincide with that which we alleged in opposition to 
it. It would amount simply to this, that there might be a pure Being, 
in which Things, isolated and each resting on itself, without any 
mutual relation, would yet be ; that there is no such Being, however, 
but in its stead only that manifoldly determined empirical Being, in 
each several form of which pure Being is latently- present. Between 
the view thus put and our own there would no longer be any 

CHAPTER i.] Can Things enter into Relations ? 39 

difference, except the first part of the statement, supposing it to be 
adhered to. A Being, which might be but is not, would for us be no 
Being at all. The conception of it would only purport to be that of a 
possibility of thought, not the conception of that reality of which alone 
Metaphysic professes to treat. We should certainly persist in denying 
that this pure Being so much as could be elsewhere than in our 
thoughts. We take the notion of such Being to be merely an abstrac 
tion which in the process of thinking, and in it only, separates the 
common affirmation of whatever is real from the particular forms of 
reality, as applied to which alone the affirmation is itself a reality. 


Of the Qitality of Things. 

15. ACCORDING to the natural theory of the world, as we have so 
far followed it, the Being of Things is only to be found in the reality 
\ of certain relations between one and another. There are two directions 
therefore in which we are impelled to further enquiry. We may ask 
in the first place, what is the peculiar nature of these relations, in the 
affirmation of which Being is supposed to lie ? In that case its defi 
nition would assign a number of conditions, which whatever is to be a 
Thing must satisfy. We feel, secondly, with equal strength the need 
(of trying to find first in the conception of the Thing the subject which 
would be capable of entering into the presupposed relations. The 
order of these questions does not seem to me other than interchange 
able, nor is it indeed possible to keep the answers to them entirely 
apart. It may be taken as a pardonable liberty of treatment if I give 
precedence to the second of the mutually implied forms of the problem. 
It too admits of a double signification. For if we speak of the essence 
of Things, we mean this expression to convey sometimes that by 
which Things are distinguished and each is what it is, sometimes that 
in virtue of which they all are Things in opposition to that which is 
not a Thing. These two questions again are obviously very closely 
connected, and it might seem that the mention of the first was for us 
superfluous. For it cannot be the business of ontology to describe 
the peculiar qualities by which the manifold Things that exist are really 
distinguished from each other. It could only have to indicate generally 
what that is on the possible varieties of which it may be possible for 
distinctions of Things to rest. But this function it seems to fulfil in 
investigating the common structure of that which constitutes a Thing 
as such ; for this necessarily includes the idea and nature of that by 
particularisation of which every individual Thing is able to be what it 
is and to draw limits between itself and other Things. The sequel of 
our discussion may however justify our procedure in allowing ourselves 

Things as Subjects of Predicates. 41 

to be driven to undertake an answer to this second question by a pre 
liminary attempt at answering the first. 

16. What the occasions may be which psychologically give rise in 
us to the idea of the Thing, is a question by which the objects of our 
present enquiry are wholly unaffected. The idea having once arisen, . 
and it being impossible for us in our natural view of the world to get 
rid of it, all that concerns us is to know what we mean by it, and. 
whether we have reason, taking it as it is, for retaining it or for giving 
it up. As we have seen, sensation is our only wammj for the 
certainty that something is. It no doubt at the same time warrants 
the certainty of our own Being as well as that of something other than 
ourselves. It is necessary, however, in this preliminary consideration 
to forget the reference to the feeling subject, just as the natural view 
of the world at first forgets it likewise and loses itself completely in 
the sensible qualities, of which the revelation before our eyes is at the 
supposed stage of that view accepted by it as a self-evident fact. It is 
only in sensation therefore that it can look, whether for the certainty 
of there being something, or, beyond this, for the qualities of that 
which is. Yet from its very earliest stage it is far from taking these 
sensible qualities as identical with that which it regards as the true 
Being in them. Not till a later stage of reflection is it attempted to 
maintain that what we take to be the perception of a thing is never 
more than a plurality of contemporary sensations, held together byjj i 
nothing but the identity of the place at which they are presented toj\ 
us, and the unity of our consciousness which binds them together i 
its intuition. The natural theory of the world never so judges. Un 
doubtedly it takes a thing to be sweet, red, and warm, but not to be 
sweetness, redness, and warmth alone. Although it is in these sensible 
qualities that we find all that we experience of its essence, still this 
essence does not admit of being exhaustively analysed into them. In 
order to convey what is in our minds when we predicate such qualities 
of a Thing, the terms which connote them must, in grammatical 
language, be construed into objects of that *>, understood in a tran 
sitive sense, which according to the usage of language is only intran- j 
sitive. The other ways of putting the same proposition, such as the 
thing tastes sweet, or * it looks red/ help to show how in the midst 
of these predicates, as their subject or their active point of departure, 
the Thing is thought of and its unity not identified with their 
multiplicity. This idea, however far it may be from being wrought 
out into clear consciousness, in every case lies at the bottom of our 
practical procedure where we act aggressively upon the external world, 

42 Of the Quality of Things. 

seeking to get a hold on things, to fashion them, to overcome their 
resistance according to our purposes. 

I need not dwell on the occasions readily suggesting themselves 
to the reader which confirm us in this conception, while at the same 
time they urgently demand a transformation of it which will make 
good its defects. Such are the change in the properties in which the 
nature of a determinate thing previously seemed to consist, and the 
observation that none belongs to the thing absolutely, but each only 
under conditions, with the removal of which it disappears. The more 
necessary the distinction in consequence becomes between the thing 
itself and its changeable modes of appearance, the more pressing 
becomes the question, what it is that constitutes the thing itself, in 
abstraction from its properties. But I do not propose to dwell on the 
more obvious answers to this question any more than on the occa 
sions which suggest it. Such are the statements that the Thing itself 
is that which is permanent in the change of these properties, that it is 
the uniting bond of their multiplicity, the fixed point to which changing 
states attach themselves and from which effects issue. All this is no 
doubt really involved in our ordinary conception of the Thing, but all 
this tells us merely how the true Thing behaves, not what it is. All 
that these propositions do is to formulate the functions obligatory on 
that which claims to be recognised as a Thing. They do not state 
i what we want to know, viz. what the Thing must be in order 
I to be able to perform these required functions. I reserve here the 
question whether and how far we may perhaps in the sequel be com 
pelled, by lack of success in our attempts, to content ourselves with 
this statement of postulates. The object of ontological thinking 
is in the first instance to make the discovery on which the possi 
bility of fulfilling the ontological problem depends to discover the 
nature of that to which the required unity, permanence, and stability 

17. It is admitted that sensation is the single source from which 
we not only derive assurance of the reality of some Being, but which 
by the multiplicity of its distinguishable phenomena, homogeneous and 
heterogeneous, first suggests and gives clearness to the idea of a par 
ticular essence * which distinguishes itself from some other particular 
essence. It is quite inevitable therefore that we should attempt to 
think of the required essence 2 of things after the analogy of this sen 
sible material, so far at any rate as is compatible with the simultaneous 

1 [ Die Vorstellung eines Was, das von einem andern Was sich unterscheidet. ] 

2 [ Was. ] 

CHAPTER ii.] Herbart s Simple Qualities 43 

problem of avoiding everything which would disqualify sensations for 
adequately expressing this essence *. 

This attempt has been resolutely made in the ontology of Herbaria 
To insist on the mere unity, stability, and permanence of Things, was 
a common-place with every philosophy which spoke of Things at all. 
It was then left to the imagination to add in thought some content to 
which these formal characteristics might be applicable. Herbart - 
defines the content. A perfectly simple and positive quality, he holds, 
is the essence of every single thing, i. e. of every single one among 
those real essences, to the combinations of which in endless variety 
we are compelled by a chain of thought, of which the reader can 
easily supply the missing links, to reduce the seemingly independent 
Things of ordinary perception. Now if Herbart allows that these 
simple qualities of Things remain completely unknown to us ; that 
nothing comes to our knowledge but appearances flowing from them 
as a remote consequence, then any advantage that might otherwise be 
derived from his view would disappear unless we ventured to look for 
it in this, that his unknown by being brought under the conception 
and general character of quality would at least obtain an ontological 
qualification, by which it would be distinguished from a mere postu 
late, as being a concrete fulfilment of such postulate. 

If however we try to interpret to ourselves what is gained by this 
subordination, we must certainly confess that Quality in its proper 
sense is presented to us exclusively in sensations, and in no other 
instances. Everything else which in a looser way of speaking we so 
call consists in determinate relations, which we gather up, it is true, in 
adjectival expressions and treat as properties of their subjects, but of 
which the proper sense can only be apprehended by a discursive 
comparison of manifold related elements, not in an intuition. There 
would be nothing in this, however, to prevent us from generalising 
the conception of Quality in the manner at which, to meet Herbart s 
view, we should have to aim. Our own senses offer us impressions 
which do not admit of comparison. The colour we see is completely 
heterogeneous to the sound we hear or the flavour we taste. Just as 
with us, then, the sensations of the eye form a world of their own, 
into which those of the ear have no entry, so we are prepared to hold 
of the whole series of our senses that it is not a finished one, and to 
ascribe to other spirits sensations which remain eternally unknown to 
us, but of which, notwithstanding, we imagine that to those who are 
capable of them they would exhibit themselves with the same 

1 [ Wesen. ] 

44 Of the Quality of Things. t BOOK i. 

character of being vividly and definitely pictured, with which to 
us the sensations of colour, for instance, appear as revelations of 

It is always difficult in the case of the simplest ideas by the help of 
words about them to represent the characteristic trait, scarcely ex 
pressible but by the ideas themselves, in virtue of which they satisfy 
certain strongly felt needs of thought. Still I trust to be sufficiently 
intelligible if I find in the character, just mentioned, of being present 
able as a mental picture or image immediately without the help of a 
discursive process, the reason of our preference for apprehending 
the essence of a thing under the form of a simple quality. Just as 
the colour red stands before our consciousness, caring, so to speak, to 
exhibit nothing but itself, pointing to nothing beyond itself as the 
condition of its being understood, not constituting a demand that 
something should exist which has still to be found out, but a complete 
fulfilment ; so it is thought that the super-sensible Quality of the 
Thing, simple and self-contained, would reveal its essence, not as 
something still to be sought for further back, but as finally found and 
present. And even when further reflection might be supposed to 
have shaken our faith in the possibility of satisfying this craving for 
an intuitive knowledge and limited us to laying down mere forms of 
thinking which determine what the essence of things is not ; even 
then we constantly revert to this longing for the immediate present- 
ability of this essence, which after all can only be satisfied with the 
likeness of the quaesitum to a sensible quality. We may have to 
forego intuition ; but we feel its absence as an abiding imperfection of 
our knowledge. 

18. That the demand in question must really be abandoned is not 
in dispute. Whatever eternal simple and super-sensible Quality We 
may choose to think of as the essence of the Thing, it will be said 
that, as a Quality, it always remains in need of a subject, -to which it 
may belong. It may form a How, but not the What of the Thing. It 
will be something which the Thing has, not which it is. 

This objection, familiar as it is to us all, with the new relation which 
it asserts between Subject and Quality, rests meanwhile on two 
grounds of which the first does not suffice to render impossible - the 
previously assumed identity of the Thing with its simple quality. In 
our thought and in its verbal expression, the Qualities red, sweet, 
w r arm appear as generalities, which await many more precise deter 
minations, in the way of shade, of intensity, of extension, and of form, 
from something which belongs to the nature of the individual case in 

CHAPTER iL] A Quality need not be general. 45 

which they are sensible, and thus not to the qualities themselves. We 
thus present them to ourselves in an adjectival form, as not themselves 
amounting to reality but as capable of being employed by the real, 
which lies outside them, through special adjustment to clothe its 
essence ; as a store of predicable materials, from which each thing 
may choose those suitable to the expression of its peculiar nature. 
Then of course the question is renewed as to the actual essence which 
with this nature of its own lies behind this surface of Quality. 

But we must be on our guard against repeating in this connexion a 
question which in another form we have already disclaimed. We gave 
up all pretension of being able to find out how things are made and 
we confessed that the peculiar affirmation or position, by which the 
real is eternally distinguishable from the thinkable, may indeed be 
indicated by us but that we cannot follow its construction as a 
process that is taking place. But it is precisely this objection that 
may now be brought up against us, that we are illegitimately attempt 
ing to construe that idea of the Thing, which must comprehend the 
simple supra-sensible Quality along with its reality, into the history of 
a process by which the two constituent ideas which make up the idea 
of the Thing or rather the objects of these ideas have come to 
coincide. For if we maintain the above objection in its full force 
[the objection founded on the distinction between the Quality of the 
Thing and the Thing itself] and refuse to keep reverting to the sup 
position that some still more subtle quality constitutes the Thing 
itself, while a quality of the kind just objected to merely serves as a 
predicate of the Thing, the result will be that we shall have on the one 
side a Quality still only generally conceived, unlimited, and unformed, 
as it presents itself merely in thought and therefore still unreal ; on 
the other side a position which is still without any content, a reality 
which is as yet no one s reality. It would be a hopeless enterprise to 
try to show how these two such a quality and such a position 
combine, not in our thought to produce an idea of the Thing, but in 
reality to produce the Thing itself. 

This however was not what was meant by the view, which sought to 
identify the essence of the Thing with its simple supra-sensible Quality. 
It was emphatically not in the form of a still undetermined generality 
not as the redness or sweetness which we think of, but obviously 
only in that complete determination, in which red or sweet can be the 
object of an actually present sensation it was only in this form that 
the Quality, united with the position spoken of, was thought of as 
identical with the essential Being (the TI e<m) of Things. It was not 

46 Of the Quality of Things. t BOOK i. 

supposed that there had ever been a process by which the realities 
signified by these two constituent ideas had come to be united, or by 
which the complete determinateness of the Quality as forming the 
essential Being of the Thing, had been elaborated as a secondary 
modification out of the previous indeterminateness of a general 
Quality. It is true, that in our usage of terms there unavoidably 
attaches to the word Quality a notion of dependence, of its requiring 
the support of a subject beyond it ; and it is this notion which occa 
sions Quality to be treated as synonymous with the German 
Eigenschaft V But in truth this impression of its dependence issues 
only from the general abstraction of Quality, which we form in 
thought, and is improperly transferred to those completely determined 
qualities, which form the content of real feelings and constitute the 
occasions of these abstractions. 

19. But, true as this defence of the view referred to may be, we 
still gain nothing by it. Undoubtedly, if a quality in the complete 
determinateness which we supposed, simple and unblended with any 
thing else, formed an unchangeable object of our perception, we should 
have no reason to look for anything else behind it, for a subject to 
which it attached. But if we just now took this in the sense that this 
quality might in that case pass directly for the Thing itself, we must 
now subjoin the counter-remark that in that case, if nothing else were 
given, we should have no occasion at all to form the conception of a 
Thing and to identify that quality with it. For the impulse to form 
the conception and the second of the reasons which forbid the identi 
fication of the simple quality with the Thing, lie in the given change. 

"he fact that those qualities which form the immediate objects of our 
perception, neither persist without change nor change without a prin- 
iciple of change, but always in their transition follow some law of 
consecutiveness, has led to the attempt to think of the Thing as the 
persistent subject of this change and of the felt qualities merely as 
predicates of which one gives place to the other. Whether this 
"attempt is justified at all whether an entirely different interpretation 
of the facts of experience ought not to be substituted for it is a 
question which we reserve as premature. For the present our business 
is only to consider in what more definite form this assumption of 
Things, in case it is to be retained, must be presented to thought, if 
it is to render that service to our cognition for the sake of which it is 

made; if, i.e., it is to make the fact of change thinkable without 


1 [lit. Property. ] 

CHAPTER ii.] The Thing and its ( states 47 

And in regard to this point I can only maintain that speculative philo 
sophy, while trying to find a unity of essence under change, was wrong 
in believing that this unity was to be found in a simplicity, which in 
its nature is incapable of being a unity or of forming the persistent 
essence of the changeable. Change of a thing is only to be found 
where an essence a, which previously was in the state a 1 , remains 
identical with itself while passing into the state a 2 . In this connexion I 
still leave quite on one side the difficulties which lie in the conception, 
apparently so simple, of a state. For the present it may suffice to 
remark that we are obliged by the notion we attach to the term state 
to say not that the essence is identically like 1 itself, but only that it is 
identical with itself, in its various states. For no one will deny that a, 
if it finds itself in the state a 1 , cannot be taken to be exactly like a 2 , 
without again cancelling the difference of the states, which has been 
assumed. All that we gain by the distinction, however, is, to begin 
with, two words. For the question still remains : In what sense can 
that at different moments remain identical with itself, which yet in one 
of these moments is not identically like itself as it was in the other ?- 
It is scarcely necessary to remark how entirely unprofitable the 
answers are which in the ordinary course of thought are commonly 
given to this question; such as, The essence always remains the 
same with itself, only the phenomenon changes ; the matter remains 
the same, the form alters ; essential properties persist, but many un 
essential ones come and go ; the Thing itself abides, only its states 
are variable. All these expressions presuppose what we want to 
know. We have here pairs of related points, of which one term cor 
responds in each case to the Thing a, the other is one of its states 
a 1 , a 2 . How can the first member a of these pairs be identical with 
itself, if the several second members are not identical with each 
other, and if, notwithstanding, the relation between the two members 
of each pair is to be maintained, in the sense that the second member, 
which is the Form, the Phenomenon, the State, is to be Form, Phe 
nomenon, or State of the first member ? 

So long as we are dealing with the compounded visible things of 

1 [ Gleichheit, used here, and in 59 and 268, with a strict insistance on all 
that is involved in its meaning of equality; viz. on the qualitative likeness, without 
which comparison by measurement is impossible. Thus in the places referred to 
the terms which are gleich are a and a, and neither equal nor like translates 
gleich adequately; it includes both. Identity was used in Logic, 335 ff., 
but will not do here, because of the contrast with the continued identity, Identitat, 
imputed to a " 

48 Of the Quality of Things. t BOOK i. 

common perception, the pressure of this difficulty is but slight. In 
such cases we look upon a connected plurality of Predicates pqr, as 
the essence of a thing. This coherent stock may not only assume 
and again cast off variable additions, s and /, but it may in itself by 
the internal transposition of its components in qrp, rpq,prq, experience 
something which we might call its own alteration in opposition to the 
mere variation of those external relations. Or finally it may be the form 
of combination that remains the same, while the elements themselves, 
p q and r, vary within certain limits. In these cases the imagination 
still finds the two sides of its object before it, and can ascribe to one 
of them the identity 1 , to the other the difference 2 . What justifies it 
in understanding the fluctuations of that which does not remain 
exactly like itself as a series of states of the Identical, is a question 
which is left to take care of itself. The difficulty involved in it comes 
plainly into view if we pass from the apparent things of perception 
to those which we might in truth regard as independent elements in 
the order of the Universe, and we think of each of these as deter 
mined by a simple quality, a. The simple, if it alters at all, alters 
altogether, and in the transition from a to <5, there remains nothing 
over to which the essence would withdraw, as to the kernel that 
remains the same in the process of change. Only a succession, abc, 
of different essences one passing away, the other coming into 
being would be left, and with this disappearance of all conti 
nuity between the different appearances there would disappear the 
only reason which led us to regard them as resting on subject 

20. This inference cannot be invalidated by an objection which 
readily suggests itself and which I have here other reasons for 
noticing. It is to the instance of sensations that we must constantly 
revert, if we would explain to ourselves what supra-sensible Qualities 
really mean to us when we combine them with sensations under the 
common idea of Quality. Let us then take a simple Red colour, a, 
in which we find no mixture with other colours, still less a combination 
of other colours, as representing the manner in which the simple 
quality, a, of an essence would appear to us, if it were perceivable by 
the senses. It will then be argued as follow : If this Red passes into 
an equally simple Yellow, there still undoubtedly remains a common 
element, which we feel in both colours, though it is inseparable from 
a and <5, the universal C of colour. Neither the redness in the red, 
nor that which makes the yellow what it is, has any existence either in 
1 [ Identitat. ] 3 [ Ungleichheit. ] 

CHAPTER ii.] The common element in sensations. 49 

fact or in thought apart from the luminous appearance in which the 
nature of colour consists, nor has this appearance any existence of its 
own other than in the redness or yellowness. On the contrary its whole 
nature shows itself now in one colour, now in the other. In the same 
way the essence of the thing will now be the perfectly simple a, now 
the equally simple b, without this implying a disappearance of the com 
mon C, the presence of which entitles us to regard a and b merely as 
its varying states or predicates. It would be idle to meet this argument 
by saying that the common element C of colour is only a product of 1 
our intellectual process of comparison ; nay, not even such a product, I 
but merely the name for the demand, simply unrealisable, which we 
make upon our intellect to possess itself of this common element 
presumed to be present in red and yellow, in detachment from both 
colours. For the fact, it might be replied, would still remain that we 
should not make this impracticable demand, if it were not felt in the 
perception of red and yellow, There is something there, which we 
look for though we do not find it as anything perceivable or separate, 
this common C, for which we have made the name colour. 

Now since we readily forego the pretension of apprehending the 
essence of things in the way of actual intuition, and confine ourselves 
to enquiring for the form of thought under which we have to conceive 
its unknown nature, we might certainly continue to look upon the 
comparison just stated as conveying the true image of the matter in 
hand, i.e. the image of that relation, in which the simple essence 
stands to its changeable states. We might at the same time regard 
this analogy of our sensations as a proof of the fact that the demand 
which we make upon the nature of things for an identity within the 
difference does not, as such, transgress the limits of the actually 
possible. In more detail the case might be put thus : What may be 
the look of that persistent C, which maintains itself in the change of 
the simple qualities of the Thing, of this it is true we have no know 
ledge, and we as little expect to know it as we insist on seeing the 
general colour C, which maintains itself in the transition from Red 
to Yellow. The mere fact, however, that in order to render this 
transition possible the continuous existence of this universal is not 
merely demanded without evidence by our thought, but is immediately 
testified to by sensation as plainly present though not separable from 
particular sensible objects this proves to us that the continuance of a 
common element in a series of different and absolutely simple members 
is at any rate something possible, and not a combination of words to 
which no real instance could correspond. 

VOL. r. E 

50 Of the Quality of Things. 

21. The above will, I hope, have made plain the meaning of this 
rejoinder. I should wish ultimately to show that it is inapplicable, 
but before I attempt this, I may be allowed to avail myself of it for 
the purpose of more exactly defining certain points so as to save the 
necessity of enlarged explanations further on. When in our com 
parison we chose to pass from the simple quality red to another 
equally simple, to point to yellow as this second quality seemed a 
selection which might be made without hesitation. But sour or sweet 
might equally have presented themselves. It was only the former 
transition, however, (from red to yellow) which left something actually 
in common between the different members ; while the second on the 
contrary (from red to sweet) would have left no other community than 
that which belongs to our subjective feeling as directed to those 
members. Our selection therefore was natural, for we knew what 
I the point was at which we wished to arrive and allowed ourselves to 
/ be directed by this reference. The fact however that the other order 
of procedure is one which we can equally present to ourselves reminds 
us that the transition from one simple quality to another is not in 
every case possible without loss of the common element C. This 
however is no valid objection. It will be at once replied that in 
speaking of change it has always been understood that its course was 
thus limited to certain definite directions. No one who takes the 
essence of a thing to admit of change can think of it as changeable 
without measure and without principle. To do so would be again to 
abolish the very reason that compelled us to assign the succession of 
varying phenomena to a real subject in the Thing ; for that reason 
lay merely in the consecutiveness with which definite transitions take 
place while others remain excluded. The only sense therefore that 
r has ever attached to the conception of change, the only sense in 
\ which it will be the object of our further consideration, is that in 
*y which it indicates transformations or movements of a thing within a 
/ limited sphere of qualities. Beyond this will be another equally 
v limited sphere of qualities, forming the range within which another 
essence undergoes change, but it is understood that in change the 
thing never passes over from one sphere into the other. As regards 
the more precise definition of these spheres, our comparison with 
colours can only serve as a figure or illustration. As colour shifts to 
and fro from one of its hues to another, without ever approximating 
to sounds or passing into them, it serves well as a sensible image of 
that limitation of range which we have in view. But this does not 
settle the question whether the various forms a 1 a 2 a 3 ..., into which 

CHAPTER ii.] Things must be changeable 5 1 

the essence a might change now and again, are kinds of a common 
C only in the same sense in which the colours are so, or whether 
they are really connected with each other in some different form, 
which logical subordination under the same generic idea does not 
adequately symbolise. 

22. It is time, however, to show the unsatisfactoriness of this 
attempt to justify a belief in the capacity for change on the part of 
a Thing, of which the essence was confined to a perfectly simple 
Quality. If our imagination ranges through the multiplicity of sen 
sible qualities, it finds certain groups of these within which it succeeds 
in arresting a common element C, while beyond them it fails to do so. 
This was the point of departure of our previous argument. Passing 
from this consideration of an intellectual process to consideration of 
the Thing, we said; z/"the essence of a thing changes, the limitation 
within itself of such a sphere of states affords it the possibility of 
completing its change within the sphere without loss of its abiding 
nature C. Only if it passed beyond these limits would all continuity 
disappear and a new essence take its place. Very well ; but what 
correspondence is there between these two if V which we allowed to 
follow each other as if completely homogeneous ? The former refers 
to a movement of our intellect. Meanwhile the object presented to the 
intellect stands before it completely unmoved. The general colour, 
of which we think, is not sometimes Red, sometimes Yellow, but is 
always simultaneously present in each of these colours and in each of 
the other hues, which we class together as equally external primary 
species of colour. In the Thing, however, the supposed C cannot 
be made so simply to stand towards the manifold a 1 a 2 a 3 in the rela 
tion of a universal kind to its species. Even were it the case that in 
respect of their nature a 1 a 2 a 3 admit of being regarded as species of C, 
still, if the thing changes, they are not contained in it, as in a uni 
versal C, with the eternal simultaneity of species that exist one along 
with the other. They succeed each other, and the essence a, if it is 
a 1 , for that reason excludes from itself a 2 and a 3 . Thus it is just this 
that remains to be asked, how that second z/~can be understood ; how^ 
we are to conceive the state of the case by which it comes about that 
the thing moves moves, if you like, within a circumscribed sphere of 
qualities a 1 a 2 a 3 . . ., but still within it does move, and so passes from 
one to the other of the qualities as that, being in the one, it excludes 
the others ; how it is that it so moves while yet these qualities are the 
species of a universal C, eternally simultaneous and only differing as 
parts of a system. And, be it observed, we are at present not enquiring 


52 Of the Quality of Things. 

for a cause which produces this motion, but only how the essence a is 
to be thought of, in case the motion, takes place. This question we 
\ || cannot answer without coming to the conclusion that the change is 
not reconcilable with the assumption of a simple quality, constituting 
this essence. At the moment when a has the form a 1 and in conse 
quence excludes the forms a 2 and a 3 , it cannot without reservation be 
identified with a C, which includes a 1 a 2 a 3 equally in itself. It would 
have to be C l in order to be a 1 , C 2 in order to be a 2 , and the same 
course of changes which we wished to combine with a persistent 
simple quality would find its way backwards into this quality itself. 

23. I could not avoid the appearance of idle subtlety if I pursued 

this course of thought without having shown that it is forced upon us. 

Why, it will be asked, do we trouble ourselves, out of obstinate 

partiality for the common view, to give a shape to the idea of the 

Thing in which it may include the capacity of change ? Why do we 

f not follow the enlightened view of men of science which finds no 

\ difficulty in explaining the multiplicity of phenomena by the help of 

/ changeable relations between unchangeable elements ? There is the 

/ more reason for the question since this supposition not only forms 

/ the basis of the actual procedure of natural science but is precisely 

that for which Herbart has enforced respect on the part of every 

V metaphysical enquirer. 

Let us pursue it then in the definite form which this philosopher 
has given to it. According to him, not only as a matter of fact do 
elements, which undergo no change in the course of nature, underlie 
phenomena, but according to their idea the real essences, the true 
things which we have to substitute for the apparent things of percep 
tion, are unchangeably identical with themselves, each resting on 
itself, standing in need of no relation to each other in order to their 
Being, but for that reason the more capable of entering into every 
kind of relation to each other. Of their simple qualities we have no 
knowledge, but undoubtedly we are entitled to think of them as 
different from each other and even as opposed in various degrees 
without being obliged in consequence to transfer any such predicates, 
supposing them to be found by our comparison, to the qualities 
themselves as belonging to their essence ; as if, that is, some of the 
qualities were actively negated by others, and some were presupposed 
by and because of others. This admission made, let us suppose that 
two essences, A and B, come into that relation M to each other 
which Herbart describes as their being together. I postpone my 
remarks about the proper sense of this together. All that we now 

CHAPTER ii.] Herbarf s self -maintenance of Things! 53 

know of it is that it is the condition under which what Herbart con 
siders to be the indifference of essences towards each other ceases. 
Supposing them then to be together] it might happen that A and B 
without detriment to their simplicity might yet be representable by the 
compound equivalent expressions a + y and /3 y. In that case the 
continuance of this state of being together would require the simul 
taneous subsistence of +y and y; i.e. the continuance of two 
opposites, which if we put them together in thought, seem necessarily 
to cancel each other. But they cannot really do so. Neither are the 
simple essences A and B according to their nature accessible to a 
change, nor are the opposite elements which our Thought, in its 
comparing process, might distinguish in them, actually separable from 
the rest, in combination with which they belong to two absolutely 
simple and indivisible Qualities. 

* But, if this be so, nothing happens at all and everything remains 
as it is ! This is the exclamation which Herbart expects to hear, 
but he adds that we only use such language because we are in full 
sail for the abyss which should have been avoided. I must however 
repeat it. What has taken place has been this. We, the thinkers, 
have imagined that from the contact of opposites there arose some 
dangerVor the continuance of the real essences.. We have then re 
minded ourselves that their nature is inaccessible to this danger. 
Thus it has been we who have maintained the conception of the real 
essence in its integrity against the falsification which would have 
invaded it in every attempt to account its object capable of being 
affected by any disturbance from without. This has taken place in 
our thought, but in the essence itself nothing has in fact happened. 
The name of self-maintenance, which Herbart gives to this behaviour 
on the part of the Things, can at this stage of his theory as yet mean 
nothing but the completely undisturbed continuance of that which in 
its nature is inaccessible to every disturbance that might threaten it. 
An activity issuing from the essences, a function exercised by them, 
it indicates as little as a real event which might occur to them. And 
just for this reason the multiplicity of kinds and modes, in which 
Herbart would have it that this self-maintenance takes effect, cannot 
really exist for it. The undisturbed continuance is always the same,/ 
and except the variation of the external relations, through which the 
so-called being together of the essences is brought about and again 
annulled, nothing new whatever in consequence of this being to 
gether happens in the universe. 

24. Quite different from this sense of self-maintenance, which 

54 Of the Quality of Things. 

Herbart himself expressly allows in the Metaphysic, is that other 
sense in which he applies the same conception in the Psychology. 
Only the investigator of Nature could have satisfied himself with the 
conclusion just referred to. For him the only concern is to ascertain 
the external processes, on which for us the change in the qualita 
tively different properties of things as a matter of fact depends. It 
is no part of his task to enquire in what way these processes, sup 
posing them to take place, bring it about that there is such a thing as 
an appearance to us. If it is the belief of the students of Natural 
Science that the theory, which regards all those processes as mere 
changes in the relations of elements themselves unchangeable, is 
adequate for its purpose though in the sequel I shall have to deny 
that according to this way of presenting the case any but an incom 
plete view even of the course of external nature is possible yet for 
the present I am ready to allow that there may be apparent success 
upon this method in the attempt to eliminate all changes on the part 
of the real itself from the course of the outer world. 

But this only renders the admission of change a yet more in 
evitable necessity, if we bear in mind that the entire order of the 
universe which forms the object of Metaphysical enquiry includes the 
origin of the phenomenon in us no less than the external processes 
which are its de facto conditions. Thus, if the physical investigator 
explains the qualitative change of things as mere appearance, the 
metaphysician has to consider how an appearance is possible. Her 
bart is quite right and I do not for the present trouble myself with 
the reproaches which might be brought against this point of his 
doctrine in assuming the simple real essence of the soul as the in 
dispensable subject, for which alone an appearance can arise. 
Whereas in regard to no other real essence do we know in what 
its self-maintenance consists, this, according to him, is clear in regard 
to the soul. Each of its primary acts of self-maintenance, he holds, 
has the form of an idea, i. e. of a simple sensation. Between these 
aboriginal processes there take place a multitude of actions and 
reactions, from which is supposed to result, in a manner which we 
need not here pursue in detail, the varied whole of the inner life. 
These acts of self-maintenance on the part of the soul, however con 
sisting at one time in a sensation, at another in the hearing of a 
sound ; now in the perception of a flavour, now in that of warmth 
are manifestly no longer simple continuations of the imperturbable 
essence of the soul. Taking a direction in kind and form according 
to the kind and form of the threatening disturbance, they are func- 

CHAPTER ii.] Change in the soul indispensable. 55 

tions, activities, or reactions of the soul, which are not possible to an 
unchangeable but only to a changeable Being. For it is not in a 
merely threatened disturbance but only in one which has actually 
taken effect that the ground can lie of the definite reaction, which 
ensues at every moment to the exclusion of many others that, as far 
as the nature of the soul goes, are equally possible for it. In order 
to be able to meet the threatened disturbance a by an act of self- 
maintenance a, the other disturbance b by another act , the soul 
must take some note of the fact that at the given moment it is a 
and not b, or b and not a, that demands the exercise of its activity. 
It must therefore itself suffer in both cases, and differently in one case 
from the other. This change on its own part I say change, for it 
would be useless to seek to deny that various kinds of suffering are 
inconceivable without various kinds of change on the part of the 
subject suffering cannot be replaced by the mere change in the 
relations between the soul unchanged in itself, and other elements. 
Any such relation would only be a fact for a second observer, which 
might awaken in him the appearance of a change taking place in the 
observed soul, which in reality does not take place : but even for this 
observer the appearance could only arise, if he on his own part at 
least actually possessed that capability of change which in the ob 
served soul he holds to be a mere appearance. 

It is therefore quite impossible entirely to banish the inner liability 
to change on the part of the real from an explanation of the course 
of the universe. If it were feasible to exclude it from a theory of the 
outer world, it would belong the more inevitably to the essence of 
that real Being, for which this outer world is an object of perception. 
But, once admitted in this position, it cannot be a self-evident im 
possibility for the real elements, which we regard as the vehicles of 
natural operations. That, on the contrary, it is a necessity even for 
these, we shall try to show later on. 

Our consideration of the question, however, so far rests on a cer 
tain supposition ; on the necessity, in order to render the fact of , 
appearance intelligible, of conceiving a simple real subject, the soul, j l 
There is no need for me here to justify this assumption against the 
objections which are specially directed against it. It is no object 
of our enquiry, so far, to decide whether the conception of Things is 
tenable at all; whether it does not require to be superseded by 
another conception. I repeat ; it is only in case Things are to be 
taken to exist and to serve to make the v/orld intelligible, that we 
then enquire in what way they must be thought of. And to that 

56 Of the Quality of Things. 

question we have given the answer that Essence, Thing or Substance, 
can only be that which admits of Change. Only the predicates of 
Things are unchangeable. They vary indeed in their applicability to 
Things, but each of them remains eternally the same with itself. It 
is only the Things that change, as they admit of and reject now one 
predicate, now another. This thought indeed is not new. It has 
already been expressly stated by Aristotle. For us, however, it neces 
sarily raises at once questions that are new. 


Of the Real and Reality. 

25. THE changes which we see going on, and the consecutiveness 
which we believe to be discoverable in them, compelled us to assume 
the existence of Things, as the sustainers or causes of this continuity. ; 
The next step was, if possible, to ascend from that which needs ex-j a 
planation to the unconditioned, in regard to which only recognition is 
possible. For this purpose we tried to think of the Thing as un 
changeably the same with itself, and, impressed with the need of 
assimilating the idea of it as much as possible to what is contained in 
sensation, since sensation alone actually gives us an independent 
something instead of merely requiring it, we took its nature to consist 
in a simple quality. We convinced ourselves, however, that an un 
changeable and simple quality is not thinkable as a subject of change 
able states or appearances, and thus we are compelled to give up the 
claim to any such immediate cognition as might reveal the essence of 
Things to us in a simple perception. I do not mean to imply by 
this that we should have hoped really to attain this perception. But 
we indulged the thought that, for such a spirit as might be capable of 
it, there would be nothing in the essence of Things incompatible 
with their being thus apprehended. This conviction in its turn we 
have now to abandon. In its very nature that which is to be a Thing 

in the sense of being a subject of change would repel the possibility y 
of being presented as an unmoving object of any intuition. A new / 
form has therefore to be sought for that which is to be accounted the/ 
essence of any Thing; and in order to find it we again take our\ 
departure from that natural theory of the world which without doubt \ 
has tried answers of its own to all these questions that are constantly \ 
reasserting themselves with fresh insistance. J 

26. In regard to the common objects of perception we answer the 
question, What are they? in two ways, of which one soon reduces 
itself to the other. Products of art, which exhibit a purpose on the 

58 Of the Real and Reality. [BOOK i. 

part of a maker, we denote by reference to the end for which they are 
intended, setting aside the variety of forms in which they fulfil that 
end. The changeable products of nature, in the structure of which a 
governing purpose is more or less obscure to us, we characterise 
according to the kind and order of phenomena into which they 
develope of themselves or which could be elicited from them by 
external conditions. In both cases by the essence of the thing 
that we are in quest of we understand the properties and modes of 
procedure, by which the Thing is distinguished from other things. 
The other series of answers, on the contrary, exhibits as this essence 
the material out of which the things are made, overlooking the various 
kinds of behaviour and existence to which in the case of each thing 
the particular formation of this material gives rise. Yet after all this 
second mode of answering the question ultimately passes over into 
the former. It satisfies only so long as it consists in a reduction of a 
compound to more simple components. Supposing us to have dis 
covered this simple matter, how then do we answer the question, 
What after all is the simple matter itself? What for instance is the 
Quicksilver, of which we will suppose ourselves to have discovered 
that something else consists of it ? So long as our concern was to 
reduce this other thing to it, it was taken for something simple. But 
itself in its simplicity, what is it ? We find it fluid at our ordinary 
temperatures, fixed at lower temperatures, vaporous at higher ones ; 
but we could not say what it is in itself, supposing it not to be acted 
on by any of these external conditions or by any of the other con 
ditions, under which its phenomenal properties change in yet other 

We can in fact only answer, that it is in itself the unassignable 
something, which under one condition appears as a 1 , under another 
as a 2 , under a third as a 3 , and of which we assume that, if these con 
ditions succeed each other in reverse order, it will pass again from a 3 
into a 2 and a 1 , without ever being converted into /3 1 , /3 2 or /3 3 forms 
which in a like mutual connexion exhibit the various phenomena of 
/"another thing, say Silver. Thus, it may be stated as a general truth, 
/ that our idea of that which makes a Thing what it is consists only in 
\ the thought of a certain regularity with which it changes to and fro 
\ within a limited circle of states whether spontaneously or under 
j visible external conditions, without passing out of this circle, and 
/ without ever having an existence on its own account and apart from 
L/any one of the forms which within this circle it can assume. This 
way of presenting the case, while fully sufficient for the needs of 

CHAPTER III.] Marks dud L(lW. 59 

ordinary judgment, has given occasion to various further metaphysical 

27. If attention is directed to the qualities by which one Thing 
distinguishes itself from another, its essence in this sense cannot any 
longer be thought of as object of a simple perception, but only in the 
logical form of a conception, which expresses the permanently uni 
form observance of law in the succession of various states or in the 
combination of manifold predicates. From this point a very natural 
course of thought leads us to two ways of apprehending the Thing. 
We may define it first by the collective marks, which at a given mo 
ment it exhibits, in their de facto condition. This gives us a state 
ment of what the essence is, TO ri eon according to Aristotle s ex 
pression. But it would be conceivable that, like two curves which 
have an infinitely small part of their course in common, so two 
different things, A and B, should coincide in the momentary con 
dition of their marks, but should afterwards diverge into paths of 
development as different as were the paths that brought them to the 
state of coincidence. In that case the essence of each will be held 
only to be correctly apprehended, if the given condition of each is 
interpreted as the result of that which it previously was, and at the 
same time as the germ of that which it will be. This seems the 
natural point of departure from which Aristotle arrived at the for 
mula TI TIV clvai. He did not complete it by the other equally valuable 
T/ eVrai dvai, though the notion that might have been so expressed 
was not alien to his way of thinking. In practice, it must be ad 
mitted, these determinations of the idea of the Thing, which theoreti 
cally are of interest, cannot be carried through. Even the actual 
present condition of a Thing would not admit of exhaustive analysis, 
without our thinking of the mutual connexion between the manifold 
phenomena which it exhibits, as already specifically ordered according 
to the same law which would appear still more plainly upon a con 
sideration of the various states, past and to be expected, of the 
Thing. The second formula therefore only gives general expression 
to the intention of constantly gaining a deeper view of the essence of 
the Things, in a progression which admits of indefinite continuance, 
while a fuller regard is for ever being paid to the multiplicity of the 
different ways, in which the Thing behaves under different conditions, 
to its connexion with the rest of the world, and lastly according 
to a direction of enquiry very natural, though still out of place in this 
part of Metaphysics to the final purpose of which the fulfilment is 
the Thing s vocation in the universe. As a means of setting aside the 

60 Of the Real and Reality. [ BOOK i. 

difficulties, which beset us at this point, the expressions referred to 
have not in fact been used, nor do they seem at all available for the 

28. We proceed to particularise some of these. Had we succeeded 
in making the essential idea of a thing so completely our own, that 
all modes of procedure of the thing under all conditions would flow 
from the idea self-evidently as its necessary consequences, we 
\ should after all in so doing have only attained an intellectual image 
of that by which as by its essentia the Thing is distinguished from 
everything else. The old question would repeat itself, what it is 
which makes the thing itself more than this its image in thought, or 
what makes the object of our idea of the thing more than thinkable, 
and gives it a place as a real thing in the world. Just as the Quality 
demanded a Subject to which it might attach, so still more does the 
idea, less independent than the quality, seem to require a fixed kernel 
to give its matter that reality which, as the material contained in an 
idea, it does not possess. If we have once forbidden ourselves to 
look for the essence of the Thing in a simple uniform quality that 
may be grasped in perception ; if we resolved rather to find an ex 
pression for it in the law which governs the succession of its pheno 
mena ; then that which we are in quest of has to fulfil for all things 
the same indistinguishable function. Itself without constituent quali 
ties it has to give reality to the varying qualities constituent of things. 
We are thus brought to the notion of a material of reality, a Real 
pure and simple, which in itself is neither this nor that, but the prin 
ciple of reality for everything. 

The history of Philosophy might recount numerous forms under 
which this notion has been renewed ; but it is needless to treat them 
here in detail. The natural requirements of the case have always led, 
when once this path has been entered on, to the same general deter 
minations as Plato assigned to this vXrj. The consideration that ob 
servation presents us with an indefinite number of mutually independent 
Things, permanent or transitory, caused this primary matter of all 
things to be regarded by the imagination as divisible, in order that 
there might be a piece of it in each single thing, sufficient to stiffen 
the thing s ideal content into reality. But this conception of divisi 
bility in its turn had to be to a certain extent withdrawn. For it would 
imply that before its division the matter has possessed a continuity, 
and this would be unthinkable without the assumption of its having 
properties of some kind, by which it would have been possible for 
this material of reality to be distinguished from other thinkable mate- 

CHAPTER in.] Matter as the Real. 61 

rials. But thus understood, as already definitely qualified, it would 
not have disposed of the metaphysical question which it was meant to 
solve. For the question was not, what quality of primary matter as a , 
matter-of-fact formed the basis of the individual things that fashion 
themselves out of it, but what it is that is needed to help any and 
every thinkable quality to be more than thinkable, to be real. If! 
therefore the imagination did notwithstanding, as we do not doubt 
that it did, present this ultimate Real to itself mainly as a continuous 
and divisible substance, this delineation of it, occasioned by reference 
to the observation of natural objects, strictly speaking went beyond 
that which in this connexion it was intended to postulate. All that 
had to be supposed was the presence in every single thing, however 
many things there might be, of such a kernel of reality, wholly void 
of properties. There were therefore according to this notion an 
indefinite number of instances of this conception of the real, but they 
did not stand in any connexion with each other any more than in any 
other case many instances of a general idea, merely because they are 
all subordinate to that idea, stand in any actual connexion with each 
other. But I will not continue this line of remark ; for the obscurity 
of this whole conception is not to be got rid of by criticism, but 
by pointing out its entire uselessness. 

29. It is manifest that a representation which has its value in the, 
treatment of ordinary objects of experience, has been applied to a ^ 
metaphysical question, which it is wholly insufficient to answer. In 
sensuous perception we are presented with materials, which assume 
under our hands such forms as we will, or are transformed by ope 
rations of nature into things of the most various appearance. But 
a little attention informs us that they are but relatively formless and 
undetermined. The possibility of assuming new forms and of manifold 
transmutation they all owe to the perfectly determinate properties 
which they possess, and by which they offer definite points of contact 
to the conditions operating on them. The wax, which to the ancients 
represented the primary matter on which the ideas were supposed to 
be impressed in order to their realisation, would not take this im 
pression, and would not retain the form impressed on it but for the 
peculiar unelastic ductility and the cohesion of its minute parts, and 
any finer material which we might be inclined to substitute for it, 
though it might possess a still more many-sided plasticity, would at 
the same time be still less capable of preserving the form communi 
cated to it. 

It is therefore a complete delusion to hope by this way of ascent b 

62 Of the Real and Reality. [BOOK i. 

\to arrive at something which, without any qualification on its own 
/part, should still bear this character of pure receptivity, necessary to 
) the Real we are in quest of. After all we should only arrive at a 
barren matter R, which would be equally incapable of receiving a 
definite shape, and of duly retaining it when received. For that which 
was without any nature of its own different from everything else, could 
not be acted on by any condition p at all, nor by any condition p 
otherwise than by another q. No position of circumstances therefore 
would ever occur under which that indeterminate subject R could be 
any more compelled or entitled to assume a certain form TT rather 
than any other we like, K. If we supposed however this unthinkable 
event to come about and R to be brought into the form TT, there would 
be nothing to move it to the retention of this form to the exclusion of 
any other, K, since every other would be equally possible and equally 
indifferent to it. In this absence of any resistance, which could only 
rest on some nature of R s own, every possibility of an ordered course 
of the world would disappear. In every moment of time everything 
that was thinkable at all would have an equal claim to reality, and 
there would be none of that predominance of one condition over 
another which is indispensable to account for any one state of things 
or to bring about a determinate change of any state of things. But 
not only would any origin or preservation of individual forms be re 
duced to nothing by the complete absence of qualities on the part of 
the Real. The relation itself, which at each moment must be sup 
posed to obtain between it and the content to which it gives reality, 
would from a metaphysical point of view be unmeaning. Words no 
doubt may be found by which to indicate it metaphorically. We 
speak of the properties which constitute the whole essence of a Thing, 
as inhering in the unqualified substance of the Real, or as attaching 
to it, or as sustained by it. But all these figurative expressions with 
the use of which language cannot dispense, are in contradiction with 
the presupposed emptiness and formlessness of the matter. Nothing 
can sustain anything, or allow it to attach to or depend upon itself, 
which does not by its own form and powers afford this other points 
of contact and support. Or, to speak without a figure, it is impos 
sible to see what inner relation could be meant, if we ascribed to a 
certain Real a property n or a group of properties TT as its own. 
R would be as void of relation to the property or group of properties, 
as alien to it, as any other R 1 . 

30. These shortcomings on the part of the conception of the Real 
would make themselves acutely felt as soon as an attempt was made, 

CHAPTER in.] Matter by itself is nothing. 63 

not merely to set it up in isolated abstraction, but to turn it to account 
for the actual explanation of the course of things. It would then 
become evident that nothing could be built on it which had any 
likeness to a Static or Mechanic of change. But it will be objected 
that we are fighting here against ghosts raised by ourselves, so long 
as we speak of processes by which the connexion of the real with the 
qualities it contains is supposed for the first time to have crfme about. 
This, however, it will be said, is what has never been meant. Even 
the ancients, who originated the conception of matter in question, we 
find were aware that at no place or time did the naked and unformed 
matter exist by itself. It had existed from eternity in union with the 
Forms, by means of which the different Things, now this, now that, 
had been fashioned out of it. In the plainest way it was stated that, 
taken by itself, it was rather without being, a ^ w, and that Being 
first arose out of its indefeasible union with the qualitative content 
supplied by the Ideas. This may be fairly urged, and in this ex 
planation we might perfectly acquiesce, if it were one that really 
admitted of being taken at its word. If it were so taken, it would 
amount simply to a confession that what the theory understood and 
looked for under the designation of the Real is nothing more than 
the * Position, throughout inseparable from the constituent qualities 
of Being, by which these qualities not merely are thought of but are ; 
and that consequently it would be improper for this Position/ which 
only in thought can be detached as the uniform mode of putting 
forth from that which is put forth by it, to be regarded in a sub 
stantive character as itself a something, a Real, the truly existing 
Thing ; improper that, compared with it, everything which on other 
grounds we took to form the essence of the Thing, should be forced 
into the secondary position of an unessential appendage. 

The doctrines, however, which speak of the real material of Being, 
are far from conveying this unreserved admission even in the ex 
planation adduced. On the contrary, they continue to interpret the 
distinction between the principle that gives reality and the real itself 
as if it represented something actual. When they ascribe to the 
matter, which has no independent existence, successive changes of 
form, they do not merely mean by this that the inexplicable Position 
passes from the content IT to the other content K. In that case all 
that would be attained would be a succession, regulated or unregu 
lated, of states of fact without inner connexion. Their object rather 
is to be able to treat the matter R as the really permanent connecting 
member which experiences TT and *, or exchanges the one for the 

64 Of the Real and Reality. \ BOOK i. 

other, as states of itself, and which, in virtue of its own nature, forbids 
the assumption of other phenomena </> and \^, or the realisation of 
another order of succession. Without this last addition the conception 
of the Real R would not, upon this view any more than upon other, 
have any value. For I repeat, it is only under the obligation of ex 
plaining a particular consecutiveness in the course of the world, 
which does not allow any and every thinkable variation in the 
state of facts, that we are constrained, instead of resting in the 
phenomena, to look for something behind them under the name 
of the Real, however that is to be conceived. A flux of absolute 
becoming without any principle, once allowed, demands no explana 
tion and needs no assumption to be made which could lead to such an 
explanation, intrinsically impossible, as the one given. The doctrines 
in question, therefore, under the guidance of this natural need which 
they think to satisfy by the supposition of the Real pure and simple, 
do not in fact make the admission which they seem to make. Al 
though their matter R nowhere exists in its nakedness, this is, so to 
speak, only a fact in the world s history, which need not follow from 
the idea of R. Although as a matter of fact everywhere imprisoned 
in variously qualified forms, still in all those forms R continues to 
exist as the single self-subsistent independent Being and imparts its 
own reality to the content which changes in dependence on it. Thus 
the matter, considered by itself and in detachment from the forms in 
which it appears, is still not properly, as it is called, a ^ 6v, but 
according to the proper sense even of the doctrines which so designate 
it, merely an OVK ov, if weight may be laid on the selection of these 
expressions. And against this permanent residuum of the doctrine of 
the vXr; the objections already made retain their force. It is impossible 
to transfer the responsibility of providing for the reality of the deter 
minate content to a Real without content, understood in a substantive 
sense, for none of the connecting thoughts are possible which would 
be needed in order to bring this Real into the desired relation with 
the qualities assigned to it. 

31. I cannot therefore believe that interpreters, as they went deeper 
into this ancient notion of an empty Real as such, of an existing 
nothing which yet purports to be the ground of reality to all definite 
Being, would find in it a proportionately deeper truth. To us it is 
only an example of an error of thought, which is made too often and 
too easily not to deserve an often-repeated notice. If we ask whence 
the colour of a body proceeds, we usually think at first of a pigment 
which we suppose to communicate the colour to it. And in this we 

CHAPTER in.] The communication of Reality. 65 

are often right ; for in compound things it may easily be that a pro 
perty, which seems to be spread over the whole of them, attaches 
only to a single constituent. But we are wrong already in as far as 
our phrase implies that the pigment communicates its colour to the 
whole body. Nothing of the sort really happens, but a combination 
of physical effects brings it about that in our sensation the impression 
of colour produced by the pigment completely disguises the other 
impression, which would have been produced by the other constituents 
of the body, that have throughout remained colourless. But when we 
repeat our question, it appears that the same answer cannot always 
be repeated. The pigment cannot owe its colour to a new pigment. 
Sooner or later the colouring must be admitted as the immediate 
result of the properties which a body possesses on its own account 
as its proper nature, and does not borrow from anything else. 

Our procedure has been just the same with reference to the things 
and their reality. We desired to know whence their common pro 
perty of reality is derived, and in imagination introduced into each of 
them a grain of the stuff of reality which we supposed to communi 
cate to the properties gathered about it the fixedness and consistency 
of a Thing. What actual behaviour, however, or what process this 
expression of communication so easily used, is to signify, remained 
more than we could say. In fact, just as little as a pigment would 
really convey its colouring to anything else, could the mere presence 
of the Real convey the reality, which is emphatically held to be 
peculiar to it, to an essence in the way of qualities, which, we are to 
suppose, have somehow grouped themselves around it. Indeed, the 
metaphysical representation is in much worse case than that which 
we made use of in the example just instanced. For of the pigment 
we did not dream that it was itself not merely colourless, but in its 
nature completely indifferent to the various colours that may be 
thought of, and that it proceeded to assume one of them as if the 
colours, before they were properties of a thing, already possessed a 
reality which enabled them to enter into a relation to bodies and to 
let themselves be assumed by bodies. In this case we were aware 
that the Redness, which we ascribe to the pigment, is the immediate 
result of its own nature under definite circumstances ; that it could 
not exist, that nothing could have it, until these circumstances acted 
on this nature, and that it would change if the body, instead of being 
what it is, were another equally determinate body. But in our meta 
physical language, when we spoke of the properties in opposition to 
the real essence of things, we in fact spoke as if the thinkable quali- 

VOL. i. F 

66 Of the Real and Reality. [BOOK i. 

ties, by which one thing is distinguished from another, before they 
really existed as qualities of a Thing might already possess a reality 
which should enable them to enter into a definite relation to an empty 
Real a relation by which, without having any foundation more than 
all other qualities in the nature of this Real, it was possible for them 
to become its properties. 

I leave this comparison, however, to be pursued on another occa 
sion. Apart from figure, our mistake was this. We demanded to 
know what it is on which that Being of Things which makes them 
Things rests. By way of answer we invented the Substantive con 
ception of the Real pure and simple, and believed that by it we had 
represented a real object, or rather the ultimate Real itself. In fact 
however real is an adjectival or predicative conception, a title belong^ 
ing to everything that in some manner .not yet explained behaves as a 
Thing changes, that is to say, in a regular order, remains identical 
with itself in its various states, acts and suffers ; for it is this that we 
assumed to be the case with Things, supposing that there are Things. 
The question was, on what ground this actual behaviour rests. It is 
a question that cannot be settled by thinking of our whole require 
ment as satisfied in general by the assumption of a Real as such, of 
which after all, as has been shown, we could not point out how in 
each single case it explains the reality which itself is never presented 
to us as universal and homogeneous, but only as a sum of innumer 
able different individual cases. 

The conception of the Real therefore is liable to a criticism similar 
to though somewhat different from that which is called for by the con 
ception of pure Being. This latter we found correctly formed, but 
inapplicable, so long as the definite relations are not made good 
again, which had been suppressed in it by the process of abstraction. 

, Of the conception of the Real on the contrary it may be maintained 
that it is untruly formed. That which is conceived in this conception 
everywhere presupposes the subject to which it may belong, and 
cannot itself be subject. For this reason it cannot be spoken of in 
substantive form as the Real, but only applied adjectivally to all that 
; is real. It would be well if the usage of language favoured this way 
of speaking, more lengthy though it is, in order to keep the thought 
constantly alive that it is not through the presence of a Real in them 
that Things become or are real, but that primarily they are only called 

x real if they exhibit that mode of behaviour which we denominate 
reality. In regard to this we have stated what we mean by it. The 
mode under which it may be thinkable has still to be ascertained. 

CHAPTER in.] The Thing as a Law. 67 

32. With a view to answering the above question we are naturally ^ 
led to the opposite path to that hitherto pursued. Let us see how \ 
far it will take us. The two incomplete ideas, by the union of which 
we form the conception of the Thing that of the content by which it 
is distinguished from other things and that of its reality cannot be any 
longer taken to represent two actually separable elements of its Being. 
The Reality must simply be the form in which the content actually exists, 
and can be nothing apart from it. But the requirement that this should 
be so meets at once with a serious objection. So long as we could 
answer the question What the Thing is by calling it a simple quality, we 
had a uniform content, apprehensible in intuition, before us, to which 
it seemed, to begin with at least, that the Position of reality might 
be applied without contradiction. We have now decided that this 
essence is only to be found in a law, according to which the changeable 
states, properties or phenomena, a 1 a 2 a 3 of the thing, are connected 
with each other. But how could a law be that which, if simply endowed 
with reality, would constitute a thing ? How could it be gifted with 
those modes of behaviour which we demand of whatever claims to be 
a Thing ? 

This question involves real difficulty, but it also expresses doubts 
which merely arise from a scarcely avoidable imperfection in our 
linguistic usage. The first of these doubts is analogous to that 
which we raised against the simple Quality as essence of the Thing, 
and which we found to have no justification. As long as we thought 
of the Quality in the way presented to us in language by adjectives, 
as a generality abstracted from many instances, distinct indeed from 
other qualities but undetermined in respect of intensity, extent and 
limitation ; . so long it could not be accepted as the essence of a 
Thing. After all the determinateness still lacking to it had been made 
good, it might have been so accepted, if the necessary requirement of v 
capability of change had not prevented this. In like manner the con 
ception of law is at the outset understood in a similar general sense. 
Abstracted from a comparison between the modes of behaviour of 
different things, it represents primarily the rule, according to which 
from a definite general class of conditions a definite class of results 
is derived. The rule indeed is such that there is a permanent propor 
tion according to which definite changes in the results correspond to 
definite changes in the conditions ; but the cases in which the law will 
hold good, and the determined values of the conditions which give rise 
in each of these cases to equally determined values on the part of 
the effects these are not contained in the law itself or contained in 

F 2 

68 Of the Real and Reality. [BOOK i. 

it only as possibilities which are thought of along with it, but of 
\vhich it asserts none as a fact. In this shape a law cannot be that of 
which the immediate reality, even if it were thinkable, would form a 
Thing. But this is not what is meant by the theories which employ 
such an expression [which identify thing and law]. What they have in 
["view, to put it shortly, is no a general law but an instance of its 
application. This latter expression, however, needs further explana 
tion and limitation. 

33. If in the ordinary general expression of a law. for all quantities 
left indefinite, we substitute definite values, it is not our habit, it is 
true, to call the individual instance thus obtained any longer a law at 
all, because unless we revert to the general form of which it is an 
application it is no longer fitted to serve as a ground of judgment 
upon other like cases, and this assistance in reasoning is the chief 
service which in ordinary thinking we expect from a law. Intrin 
sically, however, there is no such real difference between the in 
dividual instance and the universal as would forbid us from sub 
suming the former under the name of Law. On the contrary, it is 
itself what it is in respect of its whole nature only in consequence of 
the law, and conversely the law has no other reality but in the case of 
its application. It is therefore a legitimate extension of the usage of 
terms, if we apply the name of a law to the definite state of facts 
itself, which includes a plurality of relations between elements which 
are combined according to the dictates of the general law. It may 
be the general law of a series of quantities that each sequent member 
is the w th power of the preceding one. It is not, however, in this 
general form that the law forms a series. We have no series 
till we introduce in place of n a definite value, and at the same 
time to give to some one of the members, say the first, a definite 
quantitative value. Applying this to our present case, the general law 
would correspond only to the abstract conception of a Thing as such; 
the actual series on the other hand, which this laws governs, to the 
conception of some individual Thing. And it is only in this latter 
sense as corresponding to the actual series that it can be intended to 
represent a law as being the essence to which Position as a Thing 

Upon this illustration two remarks have to be added. In our 
parallel the definite series appears as an example of a general law, 
of which innumerable other examples are equally possible. It may 
turn out in the sequel that this thought has an equally necessary place 
in the metaphysical treatment of things ; but at this point it is still 

CHAPTER in.] A law need not be general. 69 

foreign to our enquiry. It does not belong to that essence of a thing 
of which we are here in quest, that the law which orders its content should 
apply also to the content of other things. On the contrary, it is 
completely individual and single of its kind, distinguishing this thing 
from all other things. On this point we are often in error, misled by 
the universal tendency to construct reality out of the abstractions, 
which the reality itself has alone enabled us to form. The course, 
which investigation cannot avoid taking, thoroughly accustoms us to 
look on general laws as the Pn us, to which the manifold facts of the 
real world must afterwards, as a matter of course, subordinate them 
selves as instances. We might, however, easily remind ourselves that 
as a matter of fact all general laws arise in our minds from the com 
parison of individual cases. These are the real Prius, and the I 
general law which we develope from them is primarily only a product l 
of our thought. Its validity in reference to many cases is established 
by the experiences from the comparison of which it has arisen, and 
is established just so far as these confirm it. Had our comparison, 
instead of being between one thing and other things, been a com 
parison of a thing with itself in various states and that is the sort 
of comparison to which alone our present course of enquiry would 
properly lead then it would by no means have been self-evident that 
the consecutiveness and conformity to law, which we had found to 
obtain between the successive states of the one thing, must be trans 
ferable to the relations between any other elements whatever they 
might be, and thus to the states and nature of another thing. We 
should have no right therefore to regard the essence of the Thing as 
an instance of a universal law to which it was subject. At the same 
time it is obvious that this law of the succession of states in a single 
thing, wholly individual as it is, if it were apprehended in thought, 
would continue logically to present itself to us as an idea, of which 
there might be many precisely similar copies. It is quite possible to 
attempt to make plurals even of the idea of the universe and of the 
supreme Being. It is considerations in a different region, not logical 
but material, that alone exclude the possibility of there being such 
plurals; and it is these alone which in our Metaphysic can in the 
sequel decide for or against the multiplicity of precisely similar things, 
for or against the validity of universal laws which they have to obey. 
To make my meaning clearer, I will supplement the previous illus 
tration of a numerical series by another. We may compare the 
essence of a thing to a melody. It is not disputed that the successive 
sounds of a melody are governed by a law of aesthetic consecutive- 

70 Of the Real and Reality. [Bo oic i. 

ness, but this law is at the same lime recognised as one perfectly 
individual. There is no sense in regarding a particular melody as a 
kind, or instance of the application, of a general melody. Leaving 
to the reader s reflection the task, which might be a long one, of 
making good the shortcomings from which this illustration, like the 
previous one, suffers, I proceed to the second supplementary remark 
\vhich I have to make. 

If we develope a general law from the comparison of different 
things under different circumstances, two points are left undeter 
minedone, the specific nature of the things, the other, the par 
ticular character of the conditions under which the things will behave 
in one way or in another. Let both points be determined, and we 
arrive at that result, identical with itself and unchangeable, which we 
represented by comparison with a definite series of quantities, but 
\ which cannot answer our purpose the purpose of apprehending that 
I essence of the Thing which remains uniform in change. We have 
^ therefore, as already remarked, only to carry out the comparison of a 
thing with itself in its various states. The consecutiveness and con 
formity to law, that would thus appear, would be the individual-law or 
essence of the Thing in opposition to the changeable conditions that 
have now to be left undetermined. One more misunderstanding I 
should like to get rid of in conclusion. It is no part of our present 
question whether and how this comparison and the discovery of the 
abiding law is possible for us with reference to any particular thing. 
j Our problem merely is to find the form of thought in which its 
} essence could be adequately apprehended supposing there to be no 
hindrance in the nature of our cognition and in its position towards 
Things to the performance of the process. The same reserve is made 
by every other metaphysical view. Even the man who looks for the 
essence of the Thing in a simple Quality does not expect to know 
that Quality and therefore satisfies himself with establishing the 
general form in which it would appear to him, but denies himself 
the prospect of ever looking on this appearance. 

34. So much for those objections to the notion of a law as con 
stituting the essence of the Thing, which admit of being set aside by 
an explanation of our meaning. In fact, if we thought of the 
Position which conveys reality as lighting upon this individual law, 
it would form just that permanent yet changeable essence 1 of a Thing 
which we are in search of. The reader, however, will find little satis 
faction in all this. The question keeps recurring whether after all 
1 [ Das bestandige und dennoch veranderliche Was. ] 


Conformity to Law. 71 

that Position of reality, applied to this content, can in fact ex 
haustively constitute the essence of a real Thing ; whether we have 
not constantly to search afresh for the something which, while fol 
lowing this law, would convey to it convey to what is in itself a 
merely thinkable mode of procedure reality ? In presence of this 
constantly recurring doubt I have no course but to repeat the answer 
which I believe to be certainly true. Let us, in the first place, recall 
the fact that in what we are now asking for there is something in 
trinsically unthinkable. We are not satisfied with the doctrine that 
the Thing is an individual law. We believe that we gain something 
by assuming of it that in its own nature it is something more and 
other than this, and that its conformity to this law, by which it dis 
tinguishes itself from everything else, is merely its mode of procedure. 
Can we however form any notion of what constitutes the process 
which we indicate by this familiar name of conformity to law? If 
this nucleus of reality, which we deem it necessary to seek for, pos 
sessed a definite nature, alien to that which the law enjoins, how 
could it nevertheless come to adjust itself to the law ? And if we 
would assume that there are sundry conditions of which the operation 
upon it might compel it to such obedience, would this compulsion be 
itself intelligible, unless its own nature gave it the law that upon these 
conditions supervening it should obey that other law supposed to be 
quite alien to its nature ? In any case that which we call conformity 
to law on the part of a Thing would be nothing else than the proper 
being and behaviour of the Thing itself. On the other side : What 
exactly are we to take the laws to be before they are conformed to ? 
What sort of reality, other than that of the Things, could belong to 
them, such as they must certainly have if it is to be possible for a 
nature of Things, assumed hitherto to lie beyond them, to adjust 
itself to them ? There is only one answer possible to these questions. 
It is not the case that the things follow a mode of procedure which . p 
would in any possible form be actually separable from them. Their ^ 
procedure is whatever it may be, and by it they yield the result which 
we afterwards, upon reflective comparison, conceive as their mode of 
procedure and thereupon endow in our thought with priority to the 
Things themselves, as if it were the pattern after which they had 
guided themselves. If we would avoid this conclusion by denying to 
the required nucleus of the Thing any nature of its own, we should 
be brought back to that conception of the absolute Real, R, which 
we have already found so useless. Even if this real Nothing were 
itself thinkable, it would certainly not be capable of distributing the 

72 Of the Real and Reality. [BOOK i. 

reality, which it is supposed to have of its own, over the content 
which forms the essence of a determinate Thing. It could not there 
fore represent our quaesitum, the something of which we require a 
so-called conformity to a determinate mode of procedure. There is 
therefore, it is clear, nothing left for us but to attempt to defend the 
- proposition, that the real Thing is nothing but the realised individual 
law of its procedure. 

35. I shall be less wearisome if I connect my further reflections on 
the subject with an historical antithesis of theories. Idealism and 
Realism have always been looked upon as two opposite poles of the 
movement of philosophical thought, each having different though 
closely connected significations, according as the enquiry into what 
really is, or the reference to that which is to be valued and striven 
after in life, was the more prominent. The opposition was in the 
first instance occasioned by the question which now occupies us. In 
the inexhaustible multiplicity of perceivable phenomena Plato noticed 
the recurrence of certain uniform Predicates, forming the permanent 
store from which, in endless variety of combination, all things derive 
their particular essence or the nature by which one distinguishes itself 
from the other and each is what it is. And just as the simple elements, 
so the real combinations of these which the course of nature ex 
hibited, were no multiplicity without a Principle, but were subject on 
their own part to permanent types, within which they moved. 
Further, the series of relations, into which the different things might 
enter with each other ultimately even the multiplicity of that world 
which our own action might and should institute testified no less to 
this inner order of all reality. The case was not such as the Sophists, 
his predecessors in philosophy, had tried to make it out to be. It 
was not the case that a stream of Becoming, with no check upon its 
waves, flowed on into ever new forms, unheard of before, without 
obligation to return again to a state the same with or like to that 
from which it set out. On the contrary, everything which it was to 
be possible for Reality to bring about was confined within fixed 
limits. Only an immeasurable multiplicity of places, of times, and of 
combinations remained open to it, in which it repeated with variations 
this content of the Ideal world. 

The full value of this metaphysical conception I shall have to bring 
out later. For the present I wish to call attention to the misleading 
path, never actually avoided, into which it has drawn men astray. It 
was just the multiplicity in space and time of scattered successive and 
intersecting phenomena the course of things that properly consti- 

CHAPTER in.] Ideas are subsequent to Reality. 73 

tuted the true reality, the primary object given us to be perceived and 
known. That world of Ideas, on the other hand, which compre 
hended the permanent element in this changing multiplicity and the 
recurrent forms in the transmutation of the manifold, was in contrast 
with it something secondary, having had its origin in the comparisons 
instituted by our thought, and, so far as of this origin, neither real 
nor calculated to produce in turn any reality out of itself. However 
great the value of the observation that Reality is such as to enable us 
by the connexion of those ideas of ours to arrive at a correspondence 
with its course ; still it was wrong to take this world of ideas for any 
thing else than a system of abstractions or intellectual forms, which 
only have reality so far as they can be considered the modes of pro 
cedure of the things themselves, but which could in no sense be 
opposed to the course of things as a Prius to which this course 
adjusts itself, completely or incompletely, as something secondary. 

In order to make my meaning quite clear, I must emphasize the 
proposition that the only reality given us, the true reality, includes as 
an inseparable part of itself this varying flow of phenomena in space 
and time, this course of Things that happen. This ceaselessly ad 
vancing melody of event it and nothing else is the metaphysical 
place in which the connectedness of the world of Ideas, the multi 
plicity of its harmonious relations, not only is found by us but alone 
has its reality. Within this reality single products and single occur 
rences might be legitimately regarded as transitory instances, upon 
which the world of ideas impressed itself and from which it again 
withdrew : for before and after and beside them the living Idea re 
mained active and present in innumerable other instances, and while 
changing its forms never disappeared from reality. But the whole of 
reality, the whole of this world, known and unknown together, could 
not properly be separated from the world of Ideas as though it were 
possible for the latter to exist and hold good on its own account 
before realising itself in the given world, and as though there might 
have been innumerable equivalent instances innumerable other 
worlds besides this, in which the antecedent system of pure Ideas 
might equally have realised itself. Just as the truth about the in 
dividual Thing is not that there is first the conception of the Thing 
which ordains how it is to be, and that afterwards there comes the 
mere unintelligible fact, which obeys this conception, but that the 
conception is nothing more than the life of the real itself; so none 
of the Ideas is an antecedent pattern, to be imitated by what is. 
Rather, each Idea is the imitation essayed by Thought of one of the 

74 Of the Real and Reality. [BOOK i. 

traits in which the eternally real expresses itself. If the individual 
Ideas appear to us as generalities, to which innumerable instances 
correspond, we have to ascribe this also to the nature of that supreme 
Idea, into which we gather the individual Ideas. The very meaning 
of there being such an Idea is that a stream of phenomena does not 
whirl on into the immeasurable with no identity in successive 
moments, without ever returning to what it was before and without 
relationship between its manifold elements. The generality of the 
Ideas therefore is implied in the systematic character of what fills 
the universe, in the inner design of the pattern, of which the un 
broken reality and realisation constitute the world. It is completely 
misinterpreted as an outline-sketch of what might be in impeachment 
of what is of a possibility which, in order to arrive at reality, would 
require the help of a second Cosmos, of a real and of movements of 
the real that are no part of itself. 

36. I shall have frequent opportunity in the sequel of dwelling 
again on this system of thought ; nor in fact can I hope to make it 
perfectly clear till I shall have handled in detail the manifold diffi 
culties which oppose a return to it. I say expressly a return to it ; 
for to me it seems the simplest and most primary truth, while to re 
presentatives of the present intricate phase of scientific opinion it 
usually appears a rash and obscure imagination. Psychologically it 
is almost an unavoidable necessity that the general laws, which we 
have obtained from comparison of phenomena, should present them 
selves to us as an independent and ordaining Prms, which precedes 
the cases of its application. For in relation to the movement of our 
cognition they are really so. But if by their help we calculate a future 
result beforehand from the given present conditions, we forget that 
what comes first in our reflection as a major premiss is yet only the 
expression of the past and of that nature of its own which Reality in 
the past revealed to us. So accustomed are we to this misunder 
standing, so mastered by the habit of first setting what is in truth the 
essence of the Real over against the Real, as an external ideal for it 
to strive after, and of then fruitlessly seeking for means to unite what 
has been improperly separated, that every assertion of the original 
unity of that which has been thus sundered appears detrimental to the 
scientific accuracy to which we aspire. True, the need of blending 
Ideal and Real, as the phrase is, has at all times been keenly felt; 
but it seems to me that the attempts to fulfil this problem have some 
times promoted the error which they combated. In demanding a 
special act of speculation in order to achieve this great result, they 

CHAPTER in.] T/ic Law real, no t realised. 75 

maintain the belief in a gulf, not really there, which it needs a bold 
leap to pass. 

For the present, however, I propose to drop these general con 
siderations, and, if possible, to get rid of the obscurity and apparent 
inadmissibility of the result just arrived at. One improvement is 
directly suggested by what has been said. We cannot express our 
Thesis, as we did just now, in the form : The Thing is the realised ^ 
individual law of its behaviour/ This expression, if we weigh its 
terms, would contain all the false notions against which we were 
anxious to guard. Instead of the realised law it would clearly be 
better to speak of the law never realised, but that always has been real. 
But no verbal expression that we could find would serve the purpose 
of excluding the suggested notion which we wish to be expressly 
excluded. For in speaking of a law, we did not mean one which, 
though real as a law, had still to wait to be followed, but one followed 
eternally ; and so followed that the law with the following of it was 
not a mere fact or an event that takes place, but a self-completing 
activity. And this activity, once more, we look upon not in the nature > 
of a behaviour separable from the essence which so behaves, but as 
forming the essence itself the essence not being a dead point behind , 
the activity, but identical with it. But however fain we might be to I ; 
speak of a real Law, of a living active Idea, in order the better to 
express our thought, language would always compel us to put two 
words together, on which the ordinary course of thinking has stamped 
two incompatible and contradictory meanings. We therefore have 
to give up the pretension of remaining in complete accord with the 
usage of speech. 


c_ Of Becoming and Change. o 

37. WHEN I first ventured, many years ago, on a statement of 
metaphysical convictions, I gathered up the essence of the thoughts, 
with which we were just then occupied, in the following proposition : 
1 It is not in virtue of a substance contained in them that Things are ; 
they are, when they are qualified to produce an appearance of there 
being a substance in them. I was found fault with at the time on two 
grounds. It was said that the proposition was materially untrue, and 
that in respect of form the two members of the proposition appeared 
not to correspond as antitheses. The latter objection would have 
been unimportant, if true : but I have not been able to convince 
myself of its truth, or of the material incorrectness of my expression. 
^According to a very common usage the name Substance was 
employed to indicate a rigid real nucleus, which was taken, as a 
self-evident truth, to possess the stability of Reality a stability which 
could not be admitted as belonging to the things that change and 
differ from each other without special justification being demanded of 
its possibility. From such nuclei the Reality was supposed to spread 
itself over the different properties by which one thing distinguishes 
itself from another. It was thus by its means, as if it was a coagu- 
lative agent, which served to set what was in itself the unstable 
fluid of the qualitative content, that this content was supposed to 
acquire the form and steadfastness that belong to the Thing. It was 
matter of indifference whether this peculiar crystallisation was thought 
of as an occurrence that had once taken place and had given an 
origin in time to Things, or whether the solidifying operation of the 
substance was regarded as an eternal process, carried on in things 
equally eternal and without origin in time as an essential characteristic 
of their nature. In either case the causal relation remained the same. 
It was by means of a substance empty in itself that Reality, with its 
fixedness in the course of changes, was supposed to be lent to the 
determinate content. 

The appearance of substance. 


I believe myself to have shown that no one of the thoughts involved 
in this view is possible. In going on, however, to supplement the 
conclusion that it is not in virtue of a substance that Things are, by 
the further proposition that, if they are qualified to produce an 
appearance of the substance being in them, then they are, I did not 
intend any correspondence between this and the other member of the 
antithesis in the sense of opposing to the rejected construction of that 
which makes a Thing a Thing another like construction. What I in 
tended was to substitute for every such construction (which is an im 
possibility) that which alone is possible, the definition of what constitutes 
the Thing. The notion which it was sought to convey could only be 
this, that when we speak of something that makes a Thing, as such 
( die Dingheit ), we mean the form of real existence belonging to a 
content, of which the behaviour presents to us the appearance of a 
substance being present in it; the truth being that the holding- 
ground which under this designation of substance we suppose to be 
supplied to Things is merely the manner of holding itself exhibited by 
that which we seek to support in this impossible way. 

38. There was no great difficulty in showing the unthinkableness of 
the supposed real-in-itself. The denial is easy, but is the affirmation 
of a tenable view equally easy? Setting aside the auxiliary conception 
just excluded, have we other and better means are we left with 
means that still satisfy us of explaining the functions which we 
cannot but continue still to expect of Things, if the assumption of 
their existence is to satisfy the demands for the sake of which it was 
made? On this question doubts will arise even for a man who 
resolves to adopt by way of experiment the result of the previous 
considerations. I repeat : A world of unmoved ideal contents, if it 
were thinkable without presupposing motion at least on the part of 
him to whom it was object of observation, would contain nothing to 
occasion a quest for Things behind this given multiplicity. Nor is it 
the mere variety of these phenomena, but only the regularity of some 
kind perceived or surmised in it, that compels us to the assumption of! 
persistent principles by which the manifold is connected. 

Common opinion, under a mistake soon refuted, had thought to 
find these subjects of change in the Things perceivable by the senses. 
For these we substituted supra-sensible essences of perfectly simple 
quality. But the very simplicity of these would have made any 
alternative but Being or not-Being impossible for them, and would 
thus have excluded change. Yet change must really take place 
somewhere, if only to render possible the appearance of change some- 

7 8 Of Becoming and Change. 

where else. Then we gave up seeking the permanent element of 
Things in a state of facts always identical with itself, and credited 
ourselves with finding it in the very heart of change, as the uniform 
import of a Law, which connects a multiplicity of states into one 
rounded whole. Even thus, however, it seemed that only an ex 
pression had been gained for that in virtue of which each Thing is 
what it is, and distinguishes itself from what it is not. As to the 
question how an essence so constituted can partake of existence in 
the form of a Thing, there remained a doubt which, being insufficiently 
silenced, evoked the attempt to represent the real-in-itself as the un 
yielding stem to which all qualities, with their variation, were related 
as the changeable foliage. The attempt has failed, and leaves us still 
in presence of the same doubt. The first point to be met is this : If 
we think of change as taking place, then the law which comprehends 
its various phases as members of the same series will serve to 
represent the constant character of the Thing which persists through 
out the change ; but how can we think the change itself, which we 
thus presuppose ? How think its limitation to these connected 
members of a series ? And then we shall have to ask : Would the 
regularity in the succession of the several states a 1 , a 2 , a 3 ... really 
amount to that which, conceived as persistence of a Thing, we believe 
it necessary to seek for in order to the explanation of phenomena ? 
These questions will be the object of our next consideration. 

39. Under the name change, in the first place, there lurks a 
difficulty, which we must bring into view. It conveys the notion that 
the new real, as other than something else, is only the continuation of 
a previous reality. It tends to avoid the notion of a naked coming 
into being, which would irrfply the origin of something real out of a 
complete absence of reality. Yet after all it is only the distinctive 
nature of the new that can anyhow be thought of as contained in the 
previously existing. The reality of the new, on the other hand, is not 
contained in the reality of the old. It presupposes the removal of that 
reality as the beginning of its own. It thus beyond a doubt becomes 
(comes into being) in that sense of the term which it is sought to 
avoid. It is just this that constitutes the distinction between the 
object of Metaphysic and that world of ideas, in which the content of 
a truth a is indeed founded on that of another b t but, far from arising 
out of the annihilation of b, holds good along with it in eternal 

If now we enquire, how this becoming, involved in every change, is 
to be thought of, what we want to know, as we naturally suppose, is 

CHAPTER iv.] Becoming and the Law of Identity. 79 

not a process by which it comes about. The necessity would be too 
obvious of again assuming the unintelligible becoming in this process 
by which we would make it intelligible. Nor can even the notion of 
becoming be represented as made up of simpler notions without the 
same mistake. In each of its forms, origination and decay, it is easy 
to find a unity of Being and not-Being. But the precise sense in 
which the wide-reaching term Unity would have in this connexion 
to be taken, would not be that of coincidence, but only that of 
transition from the one to the other, and thus would already include 
the essential character of becoming. There is no alternative but to 
give up the attempt at definition of the notion as well as at construc 
tion of the thing, and to recognise Becoming, like Being, as a given 
perceivable fact of the cosmos. 

Only on one side is it more than object of barren curiosity. It may 
appear to contain a contradiction of the law of Identity, or at least of 
the deductions thought to be derivable from this law. No doubt this 
law in the abstract sense, which I previously stated , holds good of 
every object that can be presented to thought, a will never cease to 
= a till it ceases to be. That which is, never is anything that is not, 
so long as it is at all. On the same principle that which becomes, 
originates, passes away, is only something that becomes so long as it 
is becoming, only something that originates so long as it originates, 
only something that passes away so long as it passes away. There 
does not therefore follow from the law of Identity anything whatever 
in regard to the reality of any m. Let m be what it will, it will be = m, 
in case it is and so long as it is. But whether it is, and whether, once 
being, it must always be, is a point on which the principle of Identity 
does not directly decide at all. Yet such an inference from it is 
attempted. Because the conception of Being, like every other 
conception, has an unchangeable import, it is thought that the reality, 
which the conception indicates, must belong as unchangeably to that 
to which it once belongs. The doctrines of the irremoveability and 
indiscerptibility of everything that truly is are thus constantly re 
current products of the movement of metaphysical thought. 

But this inference is limited without clear justification to the sub 
sistence of the Things on which the course of nature is supposed to 
rest. That relations and states of Things come into Being and pass 
away is admitted without scruple as a self-evident truth. It is true 
that without this admission the content of our experience could not 
be presented to the mind at all. If, however, it were the principle of 
1 [Logic, 55.] 

8o Of Becoming and Change. [BOOK i. 

Identity that required the indestructibility of Things, the same 
principle would also require the unchangeableness of all relations 
and states. For of everything, not merely of the special form of 
reality, it demands permanent equality with itself. This consideration 
might lead us to repeat the old attempts at a denial of all Be 
coming, or since it cannot be denied to undertake the self-contra 
dictory task of explaining at least the becoming of the appearance of 
an unreal becoming. But if we refuse to draw this inference from the 
principle of Identity, then that persistency in the Being of Things, 
which we hitherto tacitly presupposed, needs in its turn to be 
established on special metaphysical grounds, and the question arises 
whether the difficult task of reconciling it with the undeniable fact of 
change cannot be altogether avoided by adopting an entirely opposite 
point of view. 

40. This question has in fact already been often enough answered 
in the affirmative. Theories have been advanced in the history of 
Thought, which would allow of no fixed Being and reduced everything 
to ceaseless Becoming. They issued, however, as the enthusiasm 
with which they were generally propounded was enough to suggest 
from more complex motives than we can here examine. We must 
limit ourselves to following the more restricted range of thoughts 
within which we have so far moved. Still, we too have seen reason to 
hold that it is an impossible division of labour to refer the maintenance 
of the unity which we seek for in succession to the rigid unalterable- 
ness of real elements, and the production of succession merely to the 
fluctuation of external relations between these elements. Change 
\ must find its way to the inside of Being. We therefore agree with 
the last-mentioned theorists in thinking it worth while to attempt the 
resolution of all Being into Becoming, and in the interpretation of its 
permanence, wherever it appears, as merely a particular form of 
Becoming ; as a constantly repeated origination and decay of Things 
exactly alike, not as a continuance of the same Thing unmoved. But 
it would be useless to speak of Becoming without at the same time 
adding a more precise definition. Neither do we find in experience 
an origination without limit of everything from everything, nor, if we 
did find it, would its nature permit it to be the object of scientific 
enquiry, or serve as a principle of any explanation. Even those 
theorists who found enthusiastic delight in the sense of the un 
restrained mobility enjoyed by the Becoming which they held in 
honour as contrasted with the lifeless rigidity of Being even they, 
though they have set such value on the inexhaustible variety of 

CHAPTER iv.] Becoming must have its Laws. 8 1 

Becoming, and on its marvellous complications, have yet never held 
its eternal flux to be accidental or without direction. Even in 
Heraclitus \ve meet with plain reference to inexorable laws which 
govern it. It is only, then, as involving this representation of a 
definite tendency that the conception of Becoming merits further 
metaphysical examination. 

41. The thought just stated first had clear expression given it by 
Aristotle in his antithesis of dvvafjus and eWpya. The undirected 
stream of event he encloses, so to speak, within banks, and determines 
what is possible and what is impossible in it. For what he wishes to 
convey is not merely the modest truth, that anything which is to be 
real must be possible. It is of this possibility rather that he maintains 
that it cannot be understood as a mere possibility of thought, but must 
itself be understood as a reality. A Thing exists 8uwi/i when the 
conditions are really formed beforehand for its admission as an 
element of reality at some later period, while that alone can exist 
(vepydq, of which a dvvapis is contained in something else already 
existing eWpya. Thus all Becoming is characterised throughout by? , ; 
a fixed law, which only allows the origination of real from real, nay 
more, of the determinate from the determinate. We have here the 
first form of a principle of Sufficient Reason, transferred from the con 
nected world of Ideas to the world of events. The first conscious 
assertion of a truth, which human thought has made unconscious use 
of from the beginning, is always to be looked on with respect as a 
philosophical achievement, even if it does not offer the further fruits 
which one would fain gather from it. Barren in detail, however, 
these two Aristotelian conceptions certainly are, however valuable the 
general principle which they indicate. They would only be applicable 
on two conditions ; if they were followed by some specific rule as to 
what sequent can be contained dwd^i in what antecedent, and if it 
could be shown what is that C which must supervene in order to give 
reality to the possible transition from dvvapis into eVe pyeia. 

To find a solution of the first problem has been the effort of 
centuries, and it is still unfound. On the second point a clearer 
explanation might have been wished for. The examples of which 
Aristotle avails himself include two cases which it is worth while to 
distinguish. If the stones lying about are dvpd/m the house, or the 
block of marble Swapti the statue, both stones and marble await the 
exertion of activity from without, to make that out of them eWpyeta 
which indeed admits of being made out of them but into which they 
do not develope themselves. They are possibilities of something 

VOL. I. G 

82 Of Becoming and Change. IB<X>KI. 

future because they are available for that something if made use of by 
a form-giving motion. On the other hand, if the soul is the activity 
of the living body, it is in another sense that the body is dwd^i the 
soul. It does not wait to have the end to which it is to shape itself 
determined from without, as the stone waits for external handling to 
be worked into a house or into a statue. On the contrary it involves 
in itself the necessary C, the active impulse which presses forward to 
the realisation of that single end, of which the conditions are involved 
in it to the exclusion of all other ends. Each case is metaphysically 
important. The first is in point where we have to deal with the 
connexion between different elements of which one acts on the other 
and with the conveyance of a motion to something which as yet is 
without the motion. The second case apart from anything else 
involves the question, on which we propose to employ ourselves in the 
immediate sequel : granted that a thing a, instead of awaiting from 
without the determination of that which it is to become, contains in 
its own nature the principle of a and the principle of exclusion of 
every /3, how comes it about that this is not the end of the matter but 
that the a of which the principle is present proceeds to come into 
actual being, and ceases to exist merely in principle ? 

42. I shall most easily explain at once the meaning of this question 
and the reason for propounding it, by adducing a simple answer, 
which we might be tempted to employ by way of setting the question 
aside as superfluous. It is self-evident, we might say, that a proceeds 
from a because a conditions this a and nothing but this o, not any /3. 
Now it is obvious that this answer is only a repetition of the question 
able supposition which we just made. The very point we wanted to 
ascertain was, what process it is in the thing that in reality compels 
the conditioned to issue from that which conditions it, as necessarily as 
in our thought the consciousness of the truth of the proposition which 
asserts the condition carries with it the certainty of the truth of that 
which asserts the conditioned. We do not in this case any more 
than elsewhere cherish the unreasonable object of finding out the 
means by which in any case a realised condition succeeds further in 
realising its consequence. But to point to it as a self-evident truth 
that one fact should in reality call another into being, if to the eye of 
thought they are related as reason and consequence, is no settlement 
of our question. I reserve for the present the enquiry into the manner 
in which we think in any case of the intelligible nature of a conse 
quence F as contained in the nature of its reason G 1 . Whatever 
1 [G and F refer to the German words used here Grund and Folge. ] 

CHAPTER iv.] Reason and Consequent. 83 

this relation may be, the mere fact that it obtains does not suffice to 
make the idea of F arise out of G even in our consciousness. Were 
it so, every truth would be immediately apparent to us. No round 
about road of enquiry would be needed for its discovery, nor should 
we even have a motive to seek for it. The universe of all truths 
connected in the way of reason and consequent would stand before 
our consciousness, so long as we thought at all, in constant clearness. 
But this is not the case. Even in us the idea of the consequence F 
arises out of that of its reason G only because the nature of our soul, 
with the peculiar unity which characterises it, is so conditioned by 
particular accompanying circumstances, />, that it cannot rest in the 
idea of G and, supposing no other circumstances, q, to condition it 
otherwise, cannot but pass on account of its own essence to the idea 
of F to that and no other. In the absence of those accompanying 
conditions, /, which consist in the whole situation of our soul for the 
moment, the impulse to this movement is absent likewise; and for 
that reason innumerable ideas pass away in our consciousness without 
evoking images of the innumerable consequences, F t of which the 
content is in principle involved in what these ideas contain. If 
instead of the conditions, />, those other circumstances, q, are present 
consisting equally in the general situation of the soul for the 
moment then the movement may indeed arise but it does not 
necessarily issue in the idea of F. It may at any moment experience 
a diversion from this goal. This is the usual reason of the distraction 
and wandering of our thoughts. It is never directly by the logical 
affinity and concatenation of their thinkable objects that their course 
is determined but by the psychological connexion of our ideas, so 
far as these are the momentary states of our own nature. Of the 
connexion of reason and consequence in Things we never recognise 
more than just so much as the like connexion on the part of our own 
states enables us to see of it. 

It is not enough therefore to appeal to the principle, that the 
content of G in itself, logically or necessarily, conditions that of F, 
and that therefore in reality also F will ensue upon G. The question 
rather is why the Things trouble themselves about this connexion 
between necessities of thought ; why they do not allow the principle 
G which they contain to be for ever a barren principle, but actually 
procure for it the consequence F which it requires ; in other words, 
what addition of a complementary C must be supposed in order that 
the Things in their real being may pass from G to F just as our 

G 2 

84 Of Becoming and Change. [BOOK i. 

thought not always or unconditionally passes from the knowledge 
of G to the knowledge of F. 

43. We are thus brought back to a proposition which I shall often 
in the sequel have occasion to repeat : namely that the error lies just 
in this, in first setting up in thought an abstract series of principles 
and consequences as a law-giving power, to which it is supposed that 
every world that may possibly be created must be subject, and in then 
adding that, as a matter of self-evidence, the real process of becoming 
can and must in concrete strike only into those paths which that ab 
stract system of law has marked out beforehand. It will never be 
"intelligible whence the conformity of Things to rules of intellectual 
[necessity should arise, unless their own nature itself consists in such 
conformity. Or, to put the matter more correctly, as I stated in 
detail above (34) ; it is just this real nature of things that is the First 
in Being nay the only Being. Those necessary laws are images in 
thought of this nature, secondary repetitions of its original procedure. 
It is only for our cognition that they appear as antecedent patterns 
which the Things resemble. It is therefore of no avail to appeal to 
the indefeasible necessity, by which Heraclitus thought the waves of 
Becoming to be directed. Standing outside the range of Becoming, 
this AvdyKT) would have had no control over its course. It became 
inevitable that Becoming should be recognised as containing the 
principle of its direction in itself, as soon as we admitted the necessity 
of substituting its mobility for the stationariness of things. Now if 
we attempt to find the necessity in the Becoming, one thing is clear. 
Between the extinction of the reality of m and the origin of the new 
reality of /A, no gap, no completely void chasm can be fixed. For the 
mere removal of m would in itself be exactly equivalent to the removal 
of anything else, / or q, that we like to imagine. Any other new 
reality therefore, ?r or K, would have just as much or as little right to 
follow on the abolished m, as that p ; and it would be impossible that 
definite consequents should flow from definite antecedents. It is 
impossible therefore that the course of nature should consist in 
successive abolitions of one and originations of another reality. Every 
effort to conceive the order of events in nature as a mere succession 
of phenomena according to law, can only be justified on the ground 
that it may be temporarily desirable for methodological reasons to 
forego the search for an inner connexion. As a theory of the true 
constitution of reality it is impossible. 

But the theory of Becoming might with perfect justification admit 
all this and only complain of a misinterpretation of its meaning. 

CHAPTER iv.] Becoming may include Persistence. 85 

Just as motion, it will be said, cannot be generated by stringing 
together moments of rest in the places a, b, c, so Becoming cannot be 
apprehended by supposing a succession of realities a, b, c, of which each 
is .detached from the rest and looked upon as a self-contained and 
for however brief an interval motionless Being. On the contrary, to 
each single one of these members the same conception of Becoming 
must be applied as to the series, and just as the definitely directed 
velocity, with which the moving object without stopping traverses its 
momentary place a, necessarily carries it over into the place b and 
again through it into another, so the inner Becoming of the real #, 
as rightly apprehended, is the principle of its transition into b and into b 
only. For this is self-evident : that, just as it is not Being that is, 
but Things that are, so it is not Becoming that becomes, but the 
particular becoming thing ; and that consequently there is no lack of 
variety in the qualities a,&,c, which at each moment mark out in advance 
the direction in which the Becoming is to be continued. 

I do not doubt that this defence would have expressed the mind of 
Heraclitus, with whose more living thought that modern invention of 
the schools which explains Becoming as a mere succession of pheno 
mena stands in unfavourable contrast. And we might go further in 
the same spirit. You, we might say, who treat a motionless content 
as existing, have certainly no occasion to contemplate its change ; but 
for all that we have nothing but your own assurance for it that the 
"Position" by which you suppose a to have been once constituted will 
endure for ever. In reality you can assign no reason why such should 
be the case with it, unless you look upon the a of one moment as the 
condition of a in the next moment and thus after all make a become 
a. But in the nature of reality there may be contained the springs of 
movement which are lacking to mere thought. If we think of an <z, 
of which the essence consists only in the motion to b, we are indeed 
as little able to state how this a and its efflux is made, as you would 
be to state how your a and its rest is made. But your conception has 
no advantage over ours. For the motion, which (as extended to 
Things themselves) you find fault with, you after all have to allow in 
regard to the external relations of your Things, where you are as little 
able to construct it as in the inner nature of Things. To us, however,; 
if admitted (within Things) as a characteristic of the real, it affords r 
the possibility of explaining not merely the manifold changes in the 
course of nature but also as a special case that persistency in it which 
you are fond of putting in the foreground, without going into particu 
lars, as something intelligible of itself, but which at bottom you present 

86 Of Becoming and Change. [B OOK I. 

to yourselves merely as an obstruction to your own thoughts. Your 
law of Identity, moreover, would be equally suited by our assumption. 
We could not indeed suppose a to become b and c in three successive 
moments, unless it were precisely b in the second moment and c .in 
the third thus at each moment exactly what it is. More than this 
more than the equality with itself of each of these momentary forms - 
cannot be required by the law of Identity. That the reality of the 
one moment should be the same as that of the other, could not be 
more properly demanded as a consequence of this law than could the 
exact opposite of its meaning; namely that everything should be 
simply identical with everything else/ 

44. If the view just stated were the true meaning of the theories 
\vhich maintained the sole reality of Becoming, their fundamental 
thought would not be exactly expressed either by this conception of 
Becoming or by that of Change. It would not be expressed by the 
former, because when in connexion with such speculations we oppose 
Becoming to Being we do not commonly associate with it in thought 
any such continuity as has been described ; a continuity according to 
which every later phase in the becoming, instead of merely coming 
into being after the earlier, issues out of it. It would not be expressed 
by the conception of change, because in it the later does in fact arise 
out of the complete extinction of the earlier; because b is conse 
quently another than a and, apart from that constancy of connexion, 
there is no thought of a permanent residuum of a which would have 
undergone a change in adopting b as its state. 

We may go on to remark that, however much of the interpretation 
given we may take to be of use, it is at once apparent that the theory 
is insufficient to explain everything which we believe to be presented 
to us in experience. It would be convincingly applicable only to the 
case of a development which, without any disturbance from without, 
gradually exhibited the phases 3, c, d, lying in the direction of *the 
moving a. In reality, however, we find no unmistakeable instance of 
such development. None but an artificial view, which we must 
notice later, has attempted to explain away what seems to be an 
obvious fact the mutual influence of several such developments on 
each other, or the change that proceeds from the reciprocal action of 
different things. The next point for our consideration will therefore 
be, what we have to think in order to apprehend this mutual influence, 
taking it for the present to be matter of indifference how we judge of 
the metaphysical nature of the Things between which the influence is 

CHAPTER iv.] * Transeunt Action. 87 

45. In the first instance we only find occasion for assuming the 
exercise of an influence by one element a over another b in a change 
to /3 which occurs in b when a having been constantly present incurs 
a change into a. It is not merely supposed that the contents of a and #, 
as they exist for thought, stand to each other once for all in the rela 
tion of reason and consequence ; but that a sometimes is, sometimes 
is not, and that in accordance with this changeable major premiss the 
change from b into /3 sometimes will ensue, sometimes will not. 

Now we know that it might be ordained by a law external to a and 
b that b should direct its course according to these different circum 
stances : but it would only obey this ordinance if it were superfluous 
and if its own nature moved it to carry out what the ordinance con 
tains. In order to the possibility of this that difference of conditions, 
consisting in the fact that at one time a is, at another is not, must 
make a difference for b itself, not merely for an observer reflecting on 
the two. b must be in a different state, must be otherwise affected, 
must experience something different in itself, when a is and when a 
is not : or, to put it in a short and general form ; if Things are to take 
a different course according to different conditions, they must take note 
whether those conditions exist or no. Two thoughts thus unite here.i 
In order that a may be followed by not by /3 1 or j3 2 , a and /3 must/ 
stand in the relation of principle or ratio sufficiens and consequence.^ 
But in order that /3 may actually come into being and not remain the 
for ever vainly postulated consequence of a, the ratio sufficiens musti 
become causa cfficiens, the foundation in reason must become a pro-) 
ductive agency : for the general descriptive conception of the agency of. 
one thing on another consists in this that the actual states of one essence 
draw after them actual states of another, which previously did not exist. 
Now how it can come about that an occurrence happening to the one 
thing a can be the occasion of a new occurrence in the thing b, is just 
what constitutes the mystery of this interference or transeunt action, 
with which we shall shortly be further occupied. We introduce it 
here, to begin with, only as a demand, which there must in some way 
be a possibility of satisfying, if an order of events dependent on con 
ditions is to be possible between individual things. 

46. Supposing us however to assume that this unintelligible act has 
taken place, from the impression which b has experienced as its own 
inner state we look for after effects within itself; a continuation of its 
Being or of its Becoming different from what it would have been 
without that excitement. To determine in outline the form of this 
continuation is a task which we leave to the sequel. As regards the 

88 Of Becoming and Change. 

question of its origin, we are apt to look on our difficulties as got rid 
of when this point is reached. This immanent operation, which de 
velops state out of state within one and the same essential Being, we 
treat as a matter of fact, which calls for no further effort of thought. 
That this operation in turn remains completely incomprehensible in 
respect of the manner in which it comes about, we are meanwhile 
very well aware. For how a state a 1 of a thing a begins to bring 
about a consequent state, a 2 , in the same thing, we do not understand 
at all better than how the same a 1 sets about producing the con 
sequence /3 1 in another being b. It is only that the unity of the 
essence, in which the unintelligible process in this case goes on, 
makes it seem superfluous to us to enquire after conditions of its 
possibility. We acquiesce therefore in the notion of immanent opera 
tion, not as though we had any insight into its genesis, but because 
we feel no hindrance to recognising it without question as a given 
fact. Conditions of the same subject, we fancy, must necessarily 
have influence on each other : and in fact if we refused to be guided 
by this fundamental thought, there would be no hope left of finding 
means of explanation for any occurrence whatever. 

47. Towards these notions the two theories as to the essence of 
things, which we have hitherto pursued, stand in different relations. 
On the preliminary question how it comes about that the inwardly 
moving a attains an influence over the equally passing b the doctrine 
of Becoming must like every other admit ignorance for the present. 
But supposing this to have come about, it will look for the operation 
of this influence only in an altered form of Becoming, which a strives 
to impress on b. The next-following phase of b will consequently 
not be /3, but a resultant compounded of /3 and the tendency imparted 
from without. Henceforth this new form would determine the pro 
gressive Becoming of that original b, if it continued to be left to 
itself: but every new influence of a c would alter its direction anew. 
If each of these succeeding phases is called a Thing, on the ground 
that it is certainly capable of receiving influences from without and 
of exerting them on its likes, then Thing will follow Thing and in its 
turn pass away, but it will be impossible to speak of the unity of a Thing 
which maintains itself under change. It is possible that the residuary 
effects of an original b in all members of the series may far outweigh 
the influence of action from without. In that case they would all, 
like different members of a single pedigree, bear a common family 
characteristic in spite of the admixture of foreign blood, but they 
would be no more one than are such members. It is another possible 

CHAPTER iv.j Continuity explained by Essence ? 89 

case that b without disturbance from without should develope itself 
into its series b, /3 1 , /3 2 . Its members would then be comparable to 
the successive generations of an unmixed people, but again would 
form a real unity as little as do these. Even if b reproduced itself 
without change, each member of the series b b b would indeed be as 
like the preceding one as one day is like another, but would as little 
be the preceding one as to-day is yesterday. 

This lack of unity will afford matter of censure and complaint to 
the theory which treats the Thing as persistent; but it is time to 
notice that this theory has itself no unquestionable claim to the pos 
session of such unity. Those who profess the theory rightly reject 
the notion which would represent the vanishing reality of one thing 
as simply followed by the incipient reality of the other without con 
necting the two by any inward tie ; but they think scorn of recog 
nising this continuity in an actual, though unintelligible, becoming of 
the one outofihz other and hope to make it intelligible by the inter 
polation of the persistent Essence. But this implies that they are in 
fact reduced simply to the impossibility, on which we have already 
touched, of attaining the manifold of change by a merely outward tie 
to the unchangeable stock of the Thing. This is merely disguised 
from them by the power of a word, the use of which we have found 
it impossible to avoid but are here called upon to rectify. When we 
called a 1 , a 2 , a 3 states of a, we could reckon only too well on the 
prospect that this expression would remain unchallenged and would 
be thought to contain the fulfilment of a demand, for which it merely 
supplies a name. Quite of itself this expression gives rise incidentally 
to the representation of an essence which is of a kind to sustain these 
states, to cherish them as its own and thus to maintain itself as 
against them. But what does this mean, and how can that be, which 
under the impression that we are saying something that explains 
itself we call the state of an essence? And in what does that 
relation consist a relation at once of inseparableness and difference 
which we indicate by the innocent-seeming possessive pronoun ? 
So long as we maintain the position that a as in the state a 1 is some 
thing other than what it is as in the state a 2 ; so long again as we 
forego the assumption that there is present an identical residuum 
of a in a 1 and a 2 , on which both alike might have a merely external 
dependence ; so long as we thus represent a as passing in complete 
integrity into both states while this is so, the expressions referred to 
convey merely the wish or demand, that there should be something 
which would admit of being adequately expressed by them, or which 

90 Of Becoming and Change. [BOOK i. 

would satisfy this longing after identity in difference, after perma 
nence in change. They do not convey the conception of anything 
which would be in condition to satisfy this demand. 

In saying this I must not be understood to take it as settled that 
this Postulate cannot be fulfilled, only as unproven that it can be. 
Reality is richer than Thought, nor can Thought make Reality after 
it. The fact of Becoming was enough to convince us that there is 
such a thing as a union of Being and not-Being, which we even when 
it lies before us are not able to reconstruct in thought, much less 
could have guessed at if it had not been presented to us. It is 
possible that we may one day find a form of reality which may teach 
us by its act how those unreconcilable demands are fulfilled, and prove, 
in doing so, that in their nature they are capable of fulfilment, and that 
the relation, seemingly so clear, between Thing and state is other than 
an empty combination of words, to which nothing in reality corre 
sponds. It will not be till a very late stage in these enquiries that we 
shall have opportunity of raising this question again. For the present 
we take the real permanent unity of the Thing under change of states 
to be a doubtful notion, which is of no value for the immediate objects 
of our consideration. 

48. If a or a is to act on <$, b must in all cases be differently 
affected by the existence of a and by its non-existence. The tran- 
seunt action of a on b would thus lead back to an operation imma 
nent in b. The proximate condition which brings about the change 
of b, must have lain in b itself. We usually distinguish it as an impres 
sion from the reaction a usage of speech on which we may have to 
dwell below. For the present we satisfy ourselves with the reflection 
that anything which b is to experience through the action of a must 
result from the conflux of two principles of motion ; from that which 
a ordains or strives to bring about and from that which b, either in 
self-maintenance or in self-transformation, would seek to produce, if 
a were not. Two principles are thus present in b, of which in general 
the one conditions something else than what the other conditions. 
Neither of these two commands therefore could realise itself, if each 
of them were absolute. For neither the one nor the other of 
them would have any prerogative, both being, to revert to the old 
phrase, states of the same essence, b. A determinate result is 
only possible on supposition that not only a third general form of 
consequence is thinkable, into which both impulses may be blended, 
but that also the two principles have comparable quantitative values. 
In the investigations of natural science it is not doubted that the deter- 

CHAPTER iv.] Intensities of Being. 9 1 

mination of a result from various coincident conditions always pre 
supposes, over and above the assignment of that which each condition 
demands, the measure of the vivacity with which it demands it. It is not 
merely in nature, however, but in all reality that something goes on 
which has no place in the syllogistic system formed by the combina 
tion of our thoughts. In the latter, of two opposite judgments only 
one can be valid. In reality different or opposite premisses confront 
each other with equal claim to validity and both ask to be satisfied on 
the ground of a common right. I am therefore only filling a gap 
which has hitherto been left unfilled in Metaphysic, when I seek to 
bring out the necessity of this mathematical element in all our judg 
ments of reality, leaving its further examination to the sequel. 

49. Quo plus realitatis aut esse unaquaeque res habet, eo plura 
attributa ei competunt. So says Spinoza 1 ; and nothing seems to 
forbid the converse proposition, that a greater or less measure of 
Being or of reality belongs to things according to the degree of their 
perfection. I cannot share the disapproval which this notion of there 
being various degrees of strength of Being has often incurred. It is 
no doubt quite correct to say that the general conception of Being, 
identical with itself, is applicable in the same sense wherever it is 
applicable at all, and that a large thing has no more Being in being 
of large size than a little thing in being of small size. I do not find 
any reason, however, for emphasizing in Metaphysic this logical equality 
of the conception of Being with itself, since Metaphysic is concerned 
with this conception not as it is by itself but in its application to 
its content to the things that are. But in this application it should 
not, as it seems to me, be looked upon as if the Position which it 
expresses remained completely unaffected by the quantity of that 
on which the Position falls. In the same way motions, the slowest 
as well as the quickest, all enjoy the same reality. We cannot say 
that they are, but they all fake place, one as much as another. Neither 
in their case does this reality admit of increase or diminution for any 
single one of them. The motion with the velocity C cannot, while 
retaining this velocity, be taking place either more or less. But for 
all that the velocity is not matter of indifference in relation to the 
motion. When it is reduced to nothing the motion ceases ; and con 
versely no motion passes out of reality into unreality otherwise than 
by the gradual reduction of velocity. 

Now that which we admit in the case of the extreme limit the 
connexion of Being, or in this case of taking place, with that which is 
1 [Eth. i. Prop, ix.] 

9 2 Of Becoming and Change. 

or happens why should we not allow to hold good within that 
interval, in which this quantity still has a real value ? Why should we 
look on the velocity as a secondary property, only accidentally attach 
ing to that character of the motion which consists in its being some 
thing that occurs, when aftei all it is just so far as this property 
vanishes that the motion continuously approximates to the rest in 
which nothing occurs ? The fact is that the velocity is just the degree 
of intensity with which the motion corresponds to its own Idea, and 
the occurrence of the quicker motion is the more intensive occur 
rence. If now we apply the term Being/ as is proper in Metaphysic, 
not to the empty Position which might fall upon a certain content, 
but to the filled and perfectly determinate reality as already including 
that on which the Position has actually fallen, I should in that case 
have no scruple about speaking of different quantities or intensities of 
the Being of Things, according to the measure of the power with 
which each thing actively exerts itself in the course of change and 
resists other impulses. Nor in this argument am I by any means 
merely interested in rescuing a form of expression that has been 
assailed. I should seriously prefer this expression for the reason that 
it helps to keep more clearly in mind what I take to be the correct 
view; viz. that Being is really a continuous energy, an activity or 
function of things, not a doom thrust upon them of passive posi 
tion 1 . The constant reminder of this would be a more effectual 
security against shallow attempts to deduce the Real from the co 
incidence of a still unreal essence with a Position supposed to be 
foreign to this content and the same for all Things indifferently. 

1 [ Passivischer Gesetzheit. ] 


Of the Nature of Physical Action. 

OUR concern so far has been to give to the conception of Becoming 
a form in which it admits of being applied to the Real. In seeking 
to do so we were led to think that the connexion between a cause 
and its effects must be more than a conditioning of the one by the 
other ; that it must consist in an action on the part of the cause, 
or require such an action for its completion. Only thus could it be 
come intelligible that effects, which in a world of ideas are conse 
quences that follow eternally from their premisses premisses no less 
eternally thinkable, should in the world of reality sometimes occur, 
sometimes not. Many and various have been the views, as the history 
of Philosophy shows, which have been successively called forth by 
the need of supplying this complement to the idea of cause and by 
the difficulty of doing so without contradiction. Many of them, how 
ever, are for us already excluded, now that it becomes our turn to 
make the same attempt, by the preceding considerations. 

50. In the first place we meet at times with a disposition no 
longer indeed admitted among men of science but still prevalent in 
the untutored thoughts of mankind to ascribe the nature and reality 
of a consequent wholly and exclusively to some one being, which is 
supposed to be the cause, the single cause, of the newly appearing 
event. The unreasonableness of this view is easily evinced. It con 
denses all productive activity into a single element of reality, while at 
the same time it deems it necessary that the results of the activity 
should be exhibited in certain other elements, which stand to the 
exclusively causal element in the relation of empty receptacles for 
effects with the form and amount of which they have nothing to do. 
As we have already seen, everything which we can properly call a 
receptivity consists, not in an absence of any nature of a thing s own, 
but in the active presence of determinate properties, which alone 
make it possible for the receptive element to take up into itself the 

94 <y th e Nature of Physical Action. [BOOK- i. 

impressions tendered to it and to convert them into states of its own. 
Deprived of these qualities or condemned to a constant inability of 
asserting them, the elements in which the ordinance of the active 
cause is supposed to fulfil itself, would contribute no more to its 
realisation by their existence than by their non-existence. Instead of 
something being wrought by the cause, it would rather be created by 
it in that peculiar sense in which, according to a common but singular 
usage, we talk of a creation out of nothing. I call it a singular usage 
because we should properly speak simply of creation, to which we 
might add, merely in the way of negation, that the creation does not 
take place out of anything in particular. Trained by experience, 
however, to look upon new states merely as changes of what is 
already in existence, our imagination in this case gives an affirmative 
meaning even to the nothing as the given material out of which 
something previously unreal is fashioned. 

The same extraordinary process is repeated in that manner of con 
ceiving the action of a cause of which I have just spoken. The sup 
position is allowed to stand of things which the active cause requires 
in order to fulfil its active impulse in them : but as these according 
to the conception in question contribute nothing to the nature of the 
new event, they are in fact merely empty images which serve to meet 
the requirements of our mental vision. They represent imaginary 
scenes upon which an act, wholly unconditioned by these scenes of 
its exhibition, originates, out of nothing and in nothing, some new 
reality. I reserve the question whether this conception of creation 
admits any application at all and, if so, in what case. It is certainly 
inapplicable in studying the course of the already existing universe ; 
inapplicable when the fact that requires explanation is this, that indi 
vidual things in their changing states determine each other s be 
haviour. Were it possible for one of these finite elements, A or B> to . 
realise its will, a or /3, in other elements after this creative manner, 
without furtherance or hindrance from the co-operation of any nature 
which these other elements have of their own, there would be nothing 
to decide upon the conflicting claims which any one of these omni 
potent beings might make on any other. The ordinances, a or or y, 
would be realised, with equal independence of all conditions, in all 
beings C, D, E. This notion, if it were possible to carry it out in 
thought, would at any rate not lead to the image of an ordered course 
of the universe, in which under definite conditions different elements 
are liable to different incidents, while other incidents remain impos 
sible to them. Any assumption that A or B can only give reality to 

CHAPTER V.] CdltSC CUld RcdSOH. 95 

its command upon C or D, not upon E or F, would force us back 
upon the conception that C or D are not only different from E and F, 
but that in virtue of their own nature they are joint conditions of the 
character and reality of the new occurrence, which we previously 
regarded as due to a manifestation of power on one side only, to a 
single active cause. 

51. Natural science, so long as it maintains its scientific character, 
is constrained by experience to recognise this state of the case. It 
has reduced it to the formula that every natural action is a reciprocal 
action between a plurality of elements. It was apt to be thought, 
however, that the proposition in this form expressed a peculiarity of 
natural processes, and it was a service rendered by Herbart to point 
out its universal validity as a principle of Metaphysics in his doctrine 
that every action is due to several causes. Though these things are 
ultimately self-evident, the mere establishment of a more exact 
phraseology calls for some enquiry. In the first place Reasons * and 
Causes 2 will have to be distinguished more precisely than is done in 
ordinary speech. By causes, consistently with the etymology of the 
German term Ursache, we understood all those real things of which 
the connexion with each other a connexion that remains to be 
brought about leads to the occurrence of facts that were not pre 
viously present. The complex of these new facts we call the effect, 
in German Wirkung an ambiguous term which we shall employ 
to indicate not the productive process but only the result produced. 
Wherever it shall appear necessary and admissible to take notice of 
this distinction, we shall reserve the infinitive Wirken to express the 
former meaning. The * Reason on the other hand is neither a thing 
nor a single fact 3 , but the complex of all relations obtaining between 
things and their natures ; relations from which the character of the 
supervening effect is deducible as a logically necessary consequence. 

Now just because we do not think of the new event as issuing from 
a creative activity independent of conditions, the explanation of any 
effect would require us, besides assigning the causes (Ursachen) to show 
the reason (Grund) which entitles the causes to be causes of just this 
effect and no other. Further, just because several constituents of this 
reason (Grund) are not merely given as possible in thought, but are 
embodied or realised in the^form of real properties of real things and 
of actually subsisting relations between them, the consequence does 
not merely remain one logically necessary which we should be en 
titled to postulate, but becomes a postulate fulfilled, an actual effect 

1 [ Griinde. ] 2 [ Ursache. ] 3 [ Nicht Ding noch Sache. ] 

96 Of the Nature of Physical Action. [BOOK i. 

instead of an unreal necessity of thought. Finally, observation con 
vinces us that things, without changing their nature, yet sometimes do, 
sometimes do not, exercise their influence on each other. It appears 
therefore that it is not the relations of similarity * or contrast between 
the things relations which upon comparison of their natures would 
always be found the same that qualify them to display their pro 
ductive activity, but that, as a condition of this activity, there must 
besides supervene a variable relation, C. I reserve the question 
whether we are right in thinking of this relation as other than one of 
those included in what we meant to be understood by the complete 
Reason (Grund) of the effect. A doubt being possible on this point, 
which will demand its own special investigation, we will provisionally 
conform to the ordinary way of looking at the matter and speak of C 
as the condition of the actual production of the effect a condition 
which is something over and above the Reason (Grund) that deter 
mines the form of the ensuing effect. 

52. According to this usage of terms the causes (Ursachen) of a 
gunpowder-explosion are two things or facts, viz. the powder A and 
the heated body which forms the spark B. The condition, C, of their 
action upon each other is presented to us in this case as their 
approximation or contact in space. The reason (Grund) of the effect 
lies in this, that the heightened temperature and the expansiveness of 
the gaseous elements condensed in the powder are the two premisses 
from which there arises for these elements a necessity of increase in 
their volume as effect. The final question, how in this case the 
efficient act takes place, we do not profess to be able to answer. Of 
whatever conjecture as to the nature of heat we may avail ourselves 
for the purpose, we find it impossible in the last resort to state how it 
is that the heightened temperature operates in bringing about in the 
expansive materials the movement of dilatation which they actually 
undergo. It is only the effect, the result brought about, which in this 
case is not a motionless state but itself a movement, that is open to 
our observation. 

In one respect this instance is unsatisfactory. In the case supposed 
we have no experience as to what becomes of the spark which was 
supposed to form one of the two causes of the total event. If on the 
other hand we throw a red-hot body, B, into some water, A, we 
notice, over and above the sudden conversion of water into steam, 
which in this instance corresponds to the explosion of the powder in 
the other, the change which B has undergone. Lowered in its tem- 
1 [ Aehnlichkeit. ] 

CH AFTER v.i Contributory Causes. 97 

perature, perhaps with its structure shattered, or itself dissolved in what 
is left of the water, there remains what was previously the heated body. 
Thus even the effect in this case consists of several different changes 
which are shared by the different concrete causes (Ursachen) that have 
been brought into contact. Finally, since the evaporating water dis 
sipates itself in the air, leaving behind it the cooled motionless body, 
that contact between the two which previously formed the condition 
of their effect upon each other, has changed into a new relation in 
space between the altered bodies. Combining all these circumstances, 
we may say that, where a definite relation, C, gives occasion to an 
exercise of reciprocal action between the things A and J5, A passes 
into a, B into ft and C into y. 

53. The particular forms and values which these transitions A a, 
B ft C 7, take in individual cases, can only be determined by so 
many special investigations, and these would be beyond the province 
of Metaphysics. Even the task of merely showing that all kinds of 
causation adjust themselves in general to the formula just given would 
be one of inordinate length, and must be left to be completed by the 
attentive reader. The only point which I would bring into relief is 
this, that alike the contributions which the several causes (Ursachen) 
make to the form of the effect, and the changes which they themselves 
undergo through the process of producing it, admit of variation in a 
very high degree. In view of this variety the usage of speech has 
created many expressions for states of the case, of which the distinc 
tion is well-founded and valuable for the collective estimate of the 
importance of what takes place but which do not exhibit any distinc 
tions that are fundamental in an ontological sense. If elastic bodies, 
meeting, exchange their motions with each other wholly or in part, 
we have no doubt about the necessity of regarding both as meta 
physically equivalent causes of this result. They both contribute 
alike, though in different measure, to determine the form of the result, 
and the effect produced visibly divides itself between the two. 

It is otherwise in the instance of the exploding powder. Here 
everything that conditions the form of the result appears to lie on one 
side, viz. in the powder, in the capability of expansion possessed by 
the elements condensed in it. The spark contributes nothing but an 
ultimate complementary condition the high temperature, namely, 
which is the occasion of an actual outburst on the part of the pre 
viously existing impulse to expansion, but which woulcf not be qualified 
to supply the absence of that impulse. For this reason we look upon 
these two causes of the effect in different lights. It is not indeed as 

VOL. i. H 

98 Of the Nature of Physical Action. [BOOK i. 

if, in accordance with the reason given, we assigned the designation 
cause par excellence to the powder. On the contrary this designation 
is assigned by ordinary usage rather to the spark, which alone pre 
sents itself to our sensuous apprehension as the actively supervening 
element in contrast with the expectant attitude of the powder. But 
this usage at least we are ready to modify when we enter upon a more 
scientific consideration of the case ; we then treat the spark as merely 
an occasional cause which helps an occurrence, for which the prelimi 
naries were otherwise prepared, actually to happen. Though it is 
undoubtedly important, however, to note that peculiarity of the case 
which is indicated by the expression occasional cause, yet from the 
ontological point of view the spark, even in its character as occasional 
cause, falls completely under the same conception of cause under 
? which we subordinate the powder. For whatever tendency to expan 
sion we may ascribe to the elements united in the powder, taken by 
itself this merely suffices to maintain the present state of things. It 
is only the introduction of a heightened temperature that produces 
the necessity of explosion. The occasional cause therefore brings 
about this result, not in the sense of giving to an event, for which the 
reason (Grund) was completely constituted, but which still delayed to 
happen, the impulse which projected it into reality, but in the sense 
of being the last step in the completion of that * reason of the event 
which was incompletely constituted before. Similar reflections will 
have to be made in all those cases where one cause seems only to 
remove a hindrance which impedes the other causes in actually bring 
ing about an effect for which the preliminary conditions are completely 
provided by them. The setting aside of an obstruction can only be 
understood as the positive completion of that which the obstruction 
served to cancel in the complete Reason/ 

Phenomena such as occur in the processes of life call for still 
further distinctions of this kind. The same occasional causes, Light, 
Warmth, and Moisture, excite the seeds of different plants to quite 
different developments. In whatever amounts we combine these ex 
ternal forces, though we may easily succeed in destroying the power of 
germination in any given seeds, we never succeed in eliciting different 
kinds of plants from them. The same remark applies to the behaviour 
of living things at a later stage, when fully formed. The form of 
action which they exhibit, upon occasion being given from without, is 
completely determined by their own organization, and we look upon 
the occasional causes in this case as mere stimuli, necessary and fitted 
to excite or check reactions of which the prior conditions are present 
within the organism, but with no further influence on the form which 

CHAPTER v.] Occasional Causes, and StimnH. 99 

the reactions take. I do not pause to correct any inexactness that 
may be found in this last expression, nor do I repeat remarks which I 
have previously made and which would be applicable here. It is 
enough to say that, in a natural history of the various forms which 
the process of causation may assume, all those that have been just 
referred to, as well as many others, fully deserve to be distinguished 
by designations of their own and to have their peculiarity exhibited in 
full relief. It is the office of ontology, on the contrary, to hold fast 
the general outline of the relation of reciprocal action, in respect of 
which none of these forms contain any essential difference. In the 
view of ontology all causes of an effect are just as necessary to its pro 
duction the one as the other. However great or small the share may 
be which each of them has in determining the form of the effect, no 
one of them will be wholly without such a share. Each of them is a 
contribution without which the complete reason (Grund) of the 
actual effect cannot be constituted. No one of them serves as a mere 
means of converting into fact a possibility already, without it, com 
pletely determined in kind and quantity. It is exclusively with this 
ontological equivalence of the manifold causes of a fact that we are 
here concerned. It will only be at a later stage that it will become 
necessary to refer to those other characteristics of the causal relation 
of which the existence might even at this stage easily be established 
by the farther consideration of the instances already given. Such 
would be the fact that the effect produced does not attach itself ex 
clusively to any one of the co-operative causes but rather distributes 
itself among them all, and, finally, the change, after the resulting action 
has been exerted, of the relation which served to initiate it. 

54. After all these remarks, however, the proper object of enquiry 
has still been left untouched. How is this relation C, of which the 
establishment was necessary to elicit the effect, to be understood 
metaphysically? The need in which this question stands of special 
consideration is most readily apprehended if we transfer ourselves 
to the ontological position of Herbart. His theory started expressly 
from the supposition of a complete mutual independence on the part 
of the real Beings, of their being unconcerned with any Relation. 
If it allows the possibility of their falling into relations with each 
other, the readiness to make this admission rests simply on the sup 
position that they remain unaffected by so doing. At the same time 
this metaphysical theory recognises a relation, under the name of the 
coexistence * of the real Beings, which does away with their complete 
1 [ Zusammen, lit. together. ] 
H 2 

TOO Of the Nature of Physical Action. [BOOK i. 

indifference towards each other, and compels them to acts of mutual 
disturbance and of self-maintenance. 

In what, however, does this coexistence/ so pregnant with con 
sequences, consist? So long as we confine ourselves to purely 
ontological considerations, we can find in this expression merely that 
indication of a postulate, not the indication of that by which this 
postulate is fulfilled. The coexistence is so far nothing but that 
relation, as yet completely unknown, of two real Beings, upon the 
entry of which their simple qualities can no longer remain unaffected 
by each other but are compelled to assert an active reciprocal in 
fluence. Thus understood, let us call the coexistence r. The 
term coexistence/ however, with its spatial associations, having once 
been chosen for this Quaestlum, appears to have been the only source 
of Herbart s cosmological conviction that, as a self-evident truth, the 
only form in which the ontological coexistence r, the condition of 
efficient causation, can occur in the world, is that of coincidence in 
space. At least I do not find any further proof of the title to hold 
that the abstract metaphysical postulate r admits of realisation in 
this and in no other imaginable x form. I shall have occasion below 
to express an opinion against the material truth of this assumption ; 
against the importance thus attached to contact in space as a con 
dition of the exertion of physical action. Here we may very well 
concede the point to the common opinion, if appeal is made to 
the many instances in which, as a matter of fact, the approximation 
of bodies to each other presents itself to us as a necessary pre 
liminary to their action upon each other. Assuming, then, that con 
tact can be shown universally to be an indispensable preliminary 
condition of physical action, even then we should only have dis 
covered or conjectured the empirical form C under which as a matter 
of fact that metaphysical r, the true ground of all physical action, 
presents itself in the world. The question would remain as to the 
law which entitles this connexion in space to make that possible 
and necessary which would not occur without it. 

We are all at times liable to the temptation of taking that in the last 
resort to explain itself, of which continued observation has presented 
us with frequent instances. It cannot, therefore, be matter of surprise 
to me if younger and consequently keener intellects undertake to 
teach me that in this case I do not understand myself. Whatever my 
error may be, I cannot get rid of it. I must repeat that, so far as 
I can see, there is no such inner connexion between the conception 
1 [ Anschaulich. ] 

CHAPTER V.] Contact the COndltlOH of aCtlOU ? IOI 

of contact in space and that of mutual action as to make it self- 
evident that one involves the other. Granted that two Beings, A and 
JB, are so independent of each other, so far removed from any mutual 
relation that each could maintain its complete existence without regard 
to the other, as it were in a world of its own ; then, though it may be 
easy to picture the two as coexisting in the same point of a space, 
it seems to me impossible to show that for this reason alone the 
indifference to each other must disappear. The external union of 
their situations which we present to our mind s eye must remain for 
them as unessential as previously every other relation was. Inwardly 
their several natures continue alien to each other, unless it can be 
shown that this coexistence in space, C, is more than a coex 
istence in space, that it includes precisely that metaphysical co 
existence, which renders the Beings that would otherwise be self- 
sufficing, susceptible and receptive towards each other. Not believing 
myself in the correctness, as a matter of fact, of this theory of contact, 
I have naturally no reason to attempt such a proof, which, moreover, 
would carry us prematurely beyond the province of ontology. As a" 
question of ontology, it only remains to ask what the r is, i. e. what 
is the condition which we must suppose fulfilled, if in any relation C, 
whether it be out of contact in space or of some wholly different 
form, we suppose things previously indifferent to each other to 
become subject to the necessity of having respect to each other and 
of each ordering its states according to the states of the other. This" 7 
question is the starting-point of the various views that have been held 
on the problem, how one thing comes to act on another. None of 
them could avoid enquiring for a mode of transition of some sort or 
other from the state which is not one of coexistence to one that is so. 
It is according as they claim to have discovered the mode of transi 
tion or to be entitled to deny that there is any such transition, that they 
have resulted in notably divergent conceptions of the course of the 

55. The transfer of an influence, E, is the process by which accord 
ing to the common view it is sought to explain the excitement of 
Things, previously unaffected by each other, to the exercise of their 
active force : and the process is generally conceived in a one 
sided way as an emanation proceeding from an active Being only, 
and directed upon a passive Being. That this representation only 
serves to indicate the fact of which an explanation is sought, becomes 
at once apparent if we attempt to define the proper meaning and 
nature of that to which, under the figurative name of influence, we 

IO2 Of the Natiire of Physical Action. [BOOK i. 

ascribe that transition from the one Being to the other. Only one 
supposition would make the matter perfectly clear ; the supposition, 
namely, that this E which makes the transition is a Thing, capable of 
independent reality, which detaches itself from its former connexion 
with A and enters into a similar or different connexion with some 
thing else B. But precisely in this case unless something further 
supervened, there would be no implication of that action of one thing on 
another, which it is sought to render intelligible. If a moist body A, 
becoming dry itself, makes a dry body B, moist, it is the palpable water 
E which here effects this transition. If, however, what we under 
stood by moisture was merely the presence of this water, at the end 
of the transition neither A nor B would have undergone a change of 
its own nature, such a change as it was our object to bring under the 
conception of an effect attained by an active cause. The transition 
itself is all that has taken place. 

True, the withdrawal of the water alters the drying body, its ac 
cession alters the body that becomes moist. The connexion between 
the minutest particles changes as the liquid forces its way among 
them. As they are forced asunder, they form a larger volume and 
the connexion between them becomes tougher, while the drying 
body becomes more brittle as it shrinks in extent. These are effects 
of the kind which we wish to understand, but the supposed transition 
of the water does not suffice for their explanation. After the water 
has reached its new position in the. second body B, the question 
arises completely anew what the influence is which, so placed, it is 
able to exercise an influence such that the constituents of B are 
compelled to alter their relative positions. In like manner the ques 
tion would arise how the removal of the water from A could become 
for this body a reason for the reversal of its properties. This illus 
tration will be found universally applicable. Wherever an element E, 
capable of independent motion, passes from A to B thus in all 
cases where we observe what can properly be called a causa transiens 
there universally this transition is only preliminary to the action * of 
one body on another. This action follows the transition, beginning 
in a manner wholly unexplained only when the transition is com 
pleted. Nor would it be of the slightest help if, following a common 
tendency of the imagination, we tried to sublimate the transeunt ele 
ment into something more subtle than a thing. Whatever spiritual 
entity we might suppose to radiate from A to B, at the end of its 
journey it would indeed be in B, but the question how, being there, 

1 [ Wirkung. J 

CHAPTER v.] The transeunt element. 103 

it might begin to exert its action upon constituents different from it, 
would recur wholly unanswered. 

56. This difficulty suggests the next transformation of the com 
mon view. Instead of the causative thing (Ursache), we suppose a 
force, an action, or a state, E, to pass from A to B. We may sup 
pose these various expressions, which are to some extent ambiguous, 
to have so far a clear notion attached to them that they denote some 
thing else than a thing. They thus avoid the question how the 
thing acts on other things after its transition has been effected. But 
in that case they are liable to the objection, familiar to the old Meta- 
physic : attributa non separantur a substantiis. No state, E, can so 
far detach itself from the Thing A, of which it was a state, as to subsist 
even for an infinitesimal moment between A and B, as a state of 
neither, and then to unite itself with B in order to become its state. 

The same remark would apply if that which passed from A to B 
were supposed, by a change of expression, to be an action, and thus 
not a state but an event. No event can detach itself from the A, 
in a change of which it consists, and leave this A unchanged behind 
it in order to make its way independently to B. According to this 
conception of it, so far as it is a possible conception at all, the action 
thus supposed to transfer itself would simply be the whole process of 
efficient causation which it is the problem to explain, not a con 
dition, in itself intelligible, which would account for the result being 
brought about. 

And after all these inadmissible representations would not even 
bring the advantage they were meant to bring. As in regard to the 
transition of independent causative things, so in regard to the transi 
tion of the state or event E from A to B the old question would 
recur. Granting that E could separate itself from A, what gave it its 
direction at the particular moment to B, rather than to C ? If we as 
sume that A has given it this direction, we presuppose the same 
process of causative action as taking place between A and E for 
which we have not yet found an intelligible account as taking place 
between A and B. Nor is this all. Since it will not be merely on 
B and C, but presumably on many other Beings that A will put 
forth its activity, we shall have to ask the further question what it is 
that at a given moment determines A to impart to E the direction 
towards B and not towards C, or towards C and not towards B. An 
answer to this question could only be found in the assumption that 
already at this moment A is subject to some action of B, and not at 
the same time to any action of C, and that there thus arises in it the 

IO4 Of the Nature of Physical Action. [B OOK i. 

counter-action, in the exercise of which it now enjoins upon E the 
transition to B and not to C. Thus for the second time we should 
have to presuppose an action which we do not understand before we 
could present to ourselves so much as the possibility of that con 
dition which is no more than the preliminary to a determinate action. 

Finally it is important to realise how completely impossible is the 
innocent assumption that the transferred E will all of a sudden be 
come a state of B, when once it has completed its journey to B. 
Had this homeless state once arrived at the metaphysical place which 
B occupies, it would indeed be there, but what would follow from 
that ? Not even that it would remain there. It might continue its 
mysterious journey to infinity and, as it was once a no-man s state, so 
remain. For the mere purpose of keeping it in its course, we must 
make the yet further supposition of an arresting action of B upon it. 
And given this singular notion, it would still be a long way to the 
consequence that E, being an independent state, not belonging to 
anything in particular, should not only somehow attach itself to the 
equally independent being B> but should become a state of this B 
itself, an affection or change of B. These accumulated difficulties 
make it clear that the coming to pass of a causative action can never 
be explained by the transfer of any influence, but that what we call 
such a transfer is nothing but a designation of that which has taken 
place in the still unexplained process of causation or which may be 
regarded as its result. 

57. Apart from its being wholly unfruitful, the view of which we 
have been speaking has become positively mischievous through pre 
judices which very naturally attach themselves to it. It treats the 
transmitted effect E as one ready-made, and merely notices the 
change on the part of the things of which incidentally it becomes a 
state. No doubt there is a tacit expectation that, upon its being 
carried over to B, many further incidents will there follow in its train 
of which no more explicit account is taken. But in order that the 
view may have any sort of clearness, it must in any case assume that 
B will afford to ^on its arrival the same possibility of reception and of 
existence in it which was offered it by A. There thus arise jointly the 
notions that the effect must be the precise counterpart of its cause or at 
least resemble 1 it, and that all beings, between which a reciprocal action 
is to be possible, must be qualified for it by homogeneity of nature. 

1 [ Gleich oder doch ahnlich sein miisse. Cp. note on Gleichheit, 19 supra. 
Sect 59 makes it clear that the term gleich does not merely refer to the alleged 
equality of cause and effect.] 

CHAPTER v.] Are Causes and Effect equal f 105 

Our previous considerations compel us to contradict these views at 
every point. No thing is passive or receptive in the sense of its being 
possible for it to take to itself any ready-made state from without 
as an accession to its nature. For everything which is supposed to 
arise in it as a state, there is some essential and indispensable co 
operating condition in its own nature. It is only jointly with this 
condition that an external impact can form the sufficient reason which 
determines the kind and form of the resulting change. So long as 
there is speaking generally a certain justification, owing to that pecu 
liarity of the cases contemplated which we mentioned above, for 
treating one thing A par excellence as the cause, a second B as the 
sustainer of the effect or as the scene of its manifestation, in such 
cases we shall even find that the form of the effect produced by A 
depends in quite a preponderating degree on the nature of the B, 
which suffers it. It is only to forms of occurrence which are pos 
sible and appropriate to this its nature that B allows itself to be con 
strained by external influences. It is little more than the deter 
mination of the degrees in which these occurrences are to present 
themselves that is dependent on corresponding varieties in the ex 
ternal exciting causes. This is the case not only with living beings, 
but with inanimate bodies. Upon one and the same blow one 
changes its form yieldingly, another splits into fragments, a third falls 
into continuous vibrations, some explode. What each does is the 
consequence of its completely determinate structure and constitution 
upon occasion of the outward excitement. 

This being so, if it is improper to speak of a transmission of a 
ready-made effect, it is still more so to speak of a universal identity 
in kind and degree 1 of cause with effect. It would in itself be an 
inexactness, to begin with, to try to establish an equation between the 
cause (Ursache), which is a Thing, and the effect which is a state 
or an occurrence. All that could be attempted would be to maintain 
that what takes place in the one cause considered as active is 
identical with that which will take place in the other considered as 
passive; or, to put the proposition more correctly, considering the 
number of objects which are equally entitled to be causes, each 
will produce in the other the same state in which it was itself. Ex 
pressed in this form, we might easily be misled into looking upon it 
as in fact a universal truth. The science of mechanics, at least, in 
the distribution of motions from one body to another, puts a number 
of instances at command which would admit of being reduced to this 
1 [ Gleichheit, v. note on p. 104.] 

io6 Of the Nature of Physical Action. [BOOK i. 

point of view and which might awaken the conjecture that other 
occurrences of a different kind would upon investigation be found 
explicable in the same way. Against this delusion I must recall the 
previous expression of my conviction ; that even in cases where as a 
matter of fact a perfectly identical reciprocal action, Z, is exercised 
between A and B> it yet cannot arise in the way of a transmission of 
a ready-made state,. Z\ that what takes place in A and B is even in 
these cases always the production anew of a Z, conformably with the 
necessity with which Z under the action of B arises out of the nature 
of A, and under the action of A arises out of the nature of B\ that, 
while it is a possible case, which our theory by no means excludes, 
that these two actions should be the same ; their equality is not a 
universal condition which we are to consider in the abstract as essen 
tial to the occurrence of any reciprocal action. 

58. The fatal error, on which we have been dwelling, is not one to 
be lightly passed over. The conviction must be established that of 
the alleged identity between cause and effect nothing is left but the 
more general truth with which we are familiar. This truth is that 
the natures of the Things which act on each other, the inner states in 
which for the moment they happen to be and the exact relation 
which prevails between them that all this forms the complete 
reason from which the resulting effect as a whole issues. Even 
that this consequence is contained in its reason is more than we should 
be entitled to say, unless we at least conceive as immediately involved 
in the nature of the things and already in living operation those 
highest grounds of determination, according to which it is decided 
what consequence shall follow from what reason in the actual world. 
And this tacit completion of our thought would emphatically not lead 
back to the view which we are here combating. For of what is con 
tained in those highest conditions which determine what shall 
emanate from what, in the actual world, as consequent from cause or 
reason, we have not in fact the knowledge which we might here be 
inclined to claim. There is nothing to warrant the assurance that it 
is exclusively by general laws, the same in innumerable instances of 
their application, that to each state of facts, as it may at any time 
stand, the new state, which is to be its consequence, is adjusted. It 
is an assurance in which the wish is father to the thought. It 
naturally arises out of our craving for knowledge, for it is doubtless 
only upon this supposition that any consequence can be derived 
analytically from its reason or be understood as an instance of a 
general characteristic. 

CHAPTER v.] Ultimate Laws Synthetic. 107 

But what is there to exclude in limine the other possibility; that 
some one plan, which in the complex of reality only once completes 
itself and nowhere hovers as a universal law over an indefinite 
number of instances, should assign to each state of facts that con 
sequence which belongs to it as a further step in the realisation of 
this one history so belongs to it, however, but once at this definite 
point of the whole, never again at any other point ? On that suppo 
sition indeed our knowledge would no longer confront reality with 
the proud feeling that it can easily assign its place to everything that 
occurs in it, as a known instance of general laws, and can prede 
termine analytically the consequence which must attach to it. The 
series of events would unfold itself for us synthetically; an object of 
wondering contemplation and experience, but not an object of actual 
understanding till we should have apprehended the meaning of the 
whole, as distinguished from that which repeats itself within the whole 
as a general mode of connexion between its several members. 

59. We will not, however, pursue these ultimate thoughts. I 
merely hint at them here in order to dislodge certain widely-spread 
prejudices from their resting-place, but cannot now work them out. 
We will take it for granted that every effect in the world admits of 
being apprehended in accordance with the requirements of know 
ledge as the conclusion of a syllogism, in which the collective data of 
a special case serve as minor premiss to a major premiss formed by 
a general law. Even on this supposition it would still be an un 
warrantable undertaking to seek to limit the content of that general 
law itself and that relation between its constituent members which is 
supposed to serve as a model for the connexion between the facts 
given in the minor premiss. Supposing this content of the law to be 
symbolised by a + =/; we are not to go on for ever attempting to 
deduce the title of a + /3 to be accepted as the reason of/ from higher 
and more general laws. Each of these higher laws which we might 
have reached would repeat the same form ^.+ ^=7; and would com 
pel us at last to the confession that while undoubtedly a conception 
of the individual admits of being derived analytically from the general, 
the most general laws are given synthetic relations of reason and con 
sequent, which we have simply to recognise without in turn making 
their recognition dependent on the fulfilment of any conditions 
whatever. No doubt, in the plan of the world as a whole these given 
relations are not isolated, unconnected, data. Any one who was able 
to apprehend and express this highest idea would find them bound 
together, not indeed necessarily by a logical connexion ; but by an 

io3 Of the Nature of Physical Action. [BOOK r. 

aesthetic necessity and justice. From finite knowledge this actual 
system of reality is hidden. It has no standard at command for 
deciding with what combination a + /3 this system associates a con 
sequence /, to what other combination a x + /3 X it forbids every con 
sequence. In judging of particular phenomena the natural sciences 
conform to this sound principle. It is to experience alone that they 
look for enlightenment as to all those simplest and most primary 
modes of action of bodies upon each other, to which by way of ex 
planation they reduce the individual characteristics of the given cases. 

This makes us wonder the more at the general inclination to ven 
ture recklessly, just at this most decisive point, upon an a priori 
proposition of a kind from which science would shrink if it were a 
question of the primary laws of matter and motion, and to make the 
possibility of any reciprocal action depend on identity of kind and 
degree \ comparability or likeness on the part of the agents between 
which it is to take place. Where this identity really exists, it does 
not help to explain anything neither the nature of the effect nor the 
manner in which it is brought about. For our minds, no doubt, a 
and a upon coming together form the sum 2a, but how they would 
behave in reality whether one would add itself to the other, whether 
they would fuse with each other, would cancel, or in some way alter 
each other is what no one can conjecture on the ground of this 
precise likeness between them. As little can we conjecture why 
they should act upon each other at all and not remain completely 
indifferent. In spite of this likeness they were, on the supposition, 
two mutually independent things before they came together. Why 
their likeness 1 should compel them to become susceptible to each 
other s influence is far less immediately intelligible than it would be 
that difference and opposition should have this effect. These at 
least imply a demand for an adjustment to be effected by a new event, 
whereas from an existing likeness the absence of any reciprocal 
action would seem the thing to be naturally looked for. Such con 
siderations however simply settle nothing. All that we can be certain 
of is the complete groundlessness of every proposition which connects 
the possibility of reciprocal action, between things with any other 
homogeneity on the part of the things than that which is guaranteed 
by the fact of this reciprocal action. To connect the reciprocal action 
with this homogeneity is an identical proposition. If the things act 
upon, and are affected by, each other, they have just this in common 
that they fall under the conception of substance, of which the essence 

1 [ Gleichheit, v. note on 57. Equality would not suit the argument here.] 

CHAPTER v.] A ssumption of Homogeneity. 1 09 

is determined merely by these two predicates. But there is no other 
obligation to any further uniformity on their part in order to their 
admitting of subsumption under this conception of substance. 

60. There have been two directions in which the mischievous 
influence of the prejudices we have been combating has chiefly 
asserted itself. One of its natural consequences was the effort to 
reduce whatever happens to a single common denomination, to 
discover perhaps in spatial motion, at present, for instance, in the 
favourite form of vibration, not one kind of event, but that in which 
all events, as such, consist ; the primary process, variations of which 
none of them being more than variations in quantity had not only 
to afford to all other events, differing in kind and form, the occasions 
for their occurrence, but to produce them as far as possible entirely 
out of themselves, as an accession to their own being, though indeed 
an unintelligible one. This impoverishment of the universe, by re 
duction of its whole many-coloured course to a mere distribution of 
a process of occurrence which is always identical, was in fact scarcely 
avoidable if every effect in respect of all that it contained was to be 
the analytical consequence, of its presuppositions. It is enough here 
to have raised this preliminary protest against the ontological prin 
ciples on which this reduction is founded. There will be occasions 
later for enlarging further upon the objections to it. 

The other equally natural consequence of the prejudice in question 
was the offence taken at the manifold variety in the natures of things. 
This has been at the bottom of views now prevalent on many ques 
tions, and especially on that of the reciprocal action between soul and 
body. On this point ancient philosophy was already under the in 
fluence of the misleading view. That * like can only be known by 
like was an established superstition to which utterance had been given 
before the relation of causality and reciprocal action became an object 
of enquiry in its more general aspect. What truth there may be in 
this ancient view is one of the questions that must be deferred for 
special investigation ; but I can scarcely pass it over at once, for do 
I not already hear the appeal, * If the eye were not of the nature of 
the sun, how could it behold the light 2 ? But the finest verses do * 
not settle any metaphysical question, and this greatly misapplied 
utterance of Goethe s is not an exception. To the logical analyst, in 
search for clearness, it conveys another impression than to the sensi- 

1 [ Gleich. ] 

a [ War nicht das Auge sonnenhaft 

Wie konnte es das Licht erblicken? Zahme Xenien IV.] 

T T o Of the Nature of Physical A ction. [BOOK i. 

bility that demands to be excited. It is not the eye at all that sees 
the sun : the soul sees it. Nor is it the sun that shines, but the seen 
image *, present only in the soul, that yields to the soul the beautiful 
impression of illumination. Light in that sense in which it really 
issues from the sun the systematic vibratory motions of the ether 
we do not see at all, but there supervenes upon it owing to the nature 
of our soul the new phenomenon, wholly incomparable with it, of 
luminous clearness. What confirmation then could there be in Goethe s 
inspired lines for the assumption that like can only be known by like, 
kin by kin ? To the poet it is no reproach that he should have seized 
and expressed a general truth of great interest in a beautiful form, 
though the persuasive force of that form of expression lies less in its 
exactness than in the seductive presentation to the mind s eye of a 
fascinating image. Perhaps this poet s privilege has been somewhat 
too freely used in these charming verses, of which the matter is false 
in every single fibre ; but we must candidly confess what we all feel, 
that at all events they express forcibly and convincingly the pregnant 
thought of a universal mutual relativity which connects all things in 
the world, and among them the knowing spirit with the object of its 
knowledge, and which is neither less real nor less important if it is 
not present in the limited and one-sided form of a homogeneity of 
essence. The truth on the contrary is that there is no limit to the 
possible number and variety of the ties constituted by this relativity, 
by the mutual susceptibility and reciprocal action of things. The 
metaphysician, who stands up for this wealth of variety against every 
levelling prejudice which would attenuate it without reason, is cer 
tainly in deeper sympathy with the spirit of the great poet than are 
those who use this utterance, itself open to some objection, as a 
witness in favour of a wholly objectionable scientific mistake. 

61. So much by way of digression. Let us return to the object 
before us. It was impossible, we found, in the case of two causes 
operating on each other, to represent anything as passing from each 
to the other which would explain their reciprocal influence. Yet 
it appeared to be only under this condition that the conception of 
causal action was applicable. The only alternative left, therefore, is 
to render the course of the universe explicable, without presupposing 
this impossible action. 

The first attempt in this direction is the doctrine of Occasionalism 

1 [I know of no other word than image by which Bild can here be rendered, 
but it must be understood that no meaning of likeness attaches to the word in 
this connexion.] 

CHAPTER v.] Occasionalism not a complete theory. \ 1 1 

the doctrine which would treat a relation C arising between A and B 
only as the occasion upon which in A and B, without any mutual 
influence of the two upon each other, those changes take place into 
a and /3, which we commonly ascribe to reciprocal action between 
them. In this simple form there would be little in the doctrine to 
excite our attention. It is easy to see that an occasion which cannot 
be used is no occasion. But in order to be used, it must be observable 
by those who are to make use of it. If A and B, upon an occasion C, 
are to behave otherwise than they would have done upon an occasion 
y, they must already in case C be otherwise affected than they would 
have been in case y. That this should be so is only thinkable on 
supposition that some action, wherever it may have come from, has 
already taken effect upon them. The occasion, accordingly, which 
was to make it possible for the active process to be dispensed with, 
presupposes it on the contrary as having already taken place. Other 
wise the occasion could not serve as an occasion for a further reaction. 
Occasionalism therefore cannot be accepted as a metaphysical theory. 
The notion that it can is one that has only been ascribed to me by a 
misinterpretation which I wish expressly to guard against. As I re 
marked above, I can only regard Occasionalism as a precept of 
Methodology, which for the purpose of definite enquiries excludes an 
insoluble question one at any rate which does not press for a solu 
tion in order to concentrate effort upon the only attainable, or only 
desirable, end. If it is a question of the reciprocal action between 
soul and body, it is of importance to investigate the particular spiritual 
processes that are in fact so associated with particular bodily ones 
according to general rules that the manifold and complex occurrences, 
presented to us by our inner experience, become reducible to simple 
fundamental relations, and thus an approximate forecast of the future 
becomes possible. On the other hand, it is for this purpose a matter 
of indifference to know what are the ultimate means by which the 
connexion between the two series of events is brought about. Thus 
for this question as to body and soul and it was this that, as a mat 
ter of history, the doctrine of Occasionalism was framed to meet it 
may be as serviceable as for Physics, which itself is content to enquire 
in the first instance into the different modes of connexion between 
different things, not into the way in which the connexion is brought 
about. Metaphysics, however, having this latter problem for its ex 
press object, cannot be satisfied with passing it over, but must seek 
its solution. 

62. Meanwhile I may mention a special expression of this view, 

1 1 2 Of the Nat^ire of Physical Action. [BOOK i. 

which is not without some plausibility. Why, it will be asked, if it 
is once allowed that the relation C between A and B is the complete 
reason of a definite consequent F, do we go on to seek for some 
thing further by which the sequence of this consequent is to be con 
ditioned ? What power in the world could there be which would be 
able to hinder the fulfilment of a universal law of nature, if all con 
ditions are fulfilled to the realisation of which the law itself attaches 
the realisation of its consequent? Such is the argument that will be 
used, and it may be supplemented by a previous admission of our 
own, that whenever there is an^ appearance as if the occurrence of 
a consequent, of which all the conditions are present, were yet de 
layed, pending a final impulse of realisation, it will always be found 
on closer observation that in fact the sum of conditions was not com 
pleted and that it was for its completion, not for the mere realisation 
of something of which the cause was already completely given, that 
the missing detail required to be added *. 

This argument, however, is only a new form of an old error, and 
our rejoinder can do no more than repeat what is familiar. The 
assertion that there obtains a general law, which not only connects 
necessary truths with each other but reality with reality, is simply an 
expression of the recollection, observation, and expectation that in all 
cases where the condition forming the hypothesis of the law has been, 
is, or will be realised, the event forming its conclusion has occurred, 
is occurring, or will occur. We are therefore not entitled to treat the 
validity of the law as an independently thinkable fact, to which its 
supervening fulfilment attaches itself as a necessary consequence. 
Rather it is simply the observed or expected fulfilment itself, and we 
should have to fall back on the barren proposition that wherever the 
law fulfils itself it does fulfil itself, while the question how this result 
comes about would remain wholly unanswered. Or, to express the 
same error in another way ; were we really to conceive the law to be 
valid merely as a law, it would follow that it was only hypothetically 
valid, and was not in a state of constant fulfilment : for in the latter 
case it would be no law, but an eternal fact. Even on this supposition 
it will only fulfil itself when the conditions involved in its antecedent, 
which form the sole legitimation of its conclusion, have been actually 
realised. If then the force compelling the realisation proceeded from 
the law, this must be incited to the manifestation of its force by the 
given case of its application, which implies that it must itself be 
otherwise affected in that case than in the case where it is not 

1 [Cp. 53-] 

CHAPTER V.] A Lo,W* U0t d CaUSC. II* 

applicable. We should thus be clearly presupposing an action exer 
cised upon the law itself in order, by help of the power of the law, to 
dispense with the action of the things upon each other. 

If, then, we decide to give up these peculiar views in which the law 
is treated as a thing that can act and suffer ; if we allow that, whatever 
be the ordinance of the law, it must always be the things that take 
upon themselves to execute it, then A and , at the moment when 
they find themselves in the relation C, must be in some way aware of 
this fact and must be affected by it otherwise than they would be by 
any other relation y, not at present obtaining. The upshot of these, 
considerations is that neither the validity of a general law nor the 
mere subsistence of a relation between two things is enough to ex 
plain the new result thereupon arising without the mediation of some 
action. On the contrary, what we call in this connexion the action 
supervening in consequence of the relation, is in fact only the reaction 
upon another action that precedes it and to which the things had 
already been subject from each other. It was our mistake to look 
upon this as a relation merely subsisting but not yet operative, a 
relation merely introducing and conditioning the causative action. 
The recognition of this truth is of fundamental importance. We 
shall be often occupied in the sequel with its further exposition. 
This preliminary statement of it may serve to throw light on the 
complete untenableness of Occasionalism even in this refined form 
and to show that it can as little dispense as can any other theory with 
the problematical process of causative action, by help of which alone 
it can explain how it is that a law is alternately fulfilled and not 
fulfilled according as its conditions are fulfilled or no. 

63. Another series of kindred attempts may be grouped under the 
name given by Leibnitz to the most elaborate of them, that of the 
Pre-established Harmony. In laying down the principle that the 
Monads are without windows, Leibnitz starts from the supposition of 
a relation of complete mutual exclusion between the simple essences 
on which he builds his universe. The expression is one that I cannot 
admire, because I can find no reason for it, while it summarily excludes 
a possibility as to which- at any rate a question still remained to be 
asked. That Monads, the powers of which the world consists, are 
not empty spaces which become penetrated by ready-made states 
through openings that are left in them, was a truth that did not need 
explanation, but this proved nothing against the possibility of a less 
palpable commerce between them, to which the name reciprocal 
action might have been fitly applied. It would not therefore have 

VOL. i. i 

1 1 4 Of the Nature of Physical Action. [BOOK i. 

caused me any surprise if Leibnitz had employed the same figure in 
an exactly opposite way and had taught that the Monads had windows, 
through which their inner states were communicated to each other. 
There would not have been less reason, perhaps there would have 
been more, for this assertion than for that which he preferred. To 
let that pass, however, when once reciprocal action had been rejected, 
theje was nothing left for explanation of the de facto correspondence 
which takes place between the states of things but an appeal to a 
higher all-encompassing bond, to the deity which had designed their 
developments. Before the understanding of God there hover innu 
merable images of possible worlds : each of them so ordered in the 
multitude of its details as is required with consistent necessity by 
certain eternal laws of truth, binding for God himself and not alter 
able at his pleasure. In this inner arrangement of each world God 
can alter nothing. If in the various worlds his wisdom finds 
various degrees of perfection, he yet cannot unite their scattered 
superiorities into one wholly perfect world. His will can only grant 
for that one which is relatively most perfect, just as it is, admission 
to reality. 

The further elaboration of the doctrine might be looked for in 
either of two different directions. It might have been expected either 
to take the line of confining the original determination to the general 
laws governing the world that has been called into existence, as 
distinct from the sum of the cases in which these laws may be applied, 
or that of supposing these cases of their application also to have been 
once for all irrevocably determined. The first assumption would only 
have led back to the embarrassments of Occasionalism just noticed. 
Leibnitz decided unhesitatingly for the second. Just as in our first 
parents the whole series of descendants is contained, with all details 
of their individuality, with their acts and destinies, so is every natural 
occurrence, down to the direction which the falling rain-drop takes 
to-day in the storm, completely predetermined. But this is not to be 
understood as if the manifold constituent agents of the world by their 
co-operation at each moment brought about what is contained in the 
next moment of the world s existence. For each single constituent 
the series of all its states is established from the beginning, and the 
inner developments of all take place after the manner of a parallel 
independent course, without interference with each other. The cor 
respondence which is nevertheless maintained between them is the 
unavoidable consequence of their first arrangement, if we consider the 
world as a creation of the divine design, or simply their de facto 

CHAPTER v.j Determinism of Leibnitz. 1 1 5 

character, if we consider it merely as an unalterable object of the 
divine intellect. 

64. This notable theory impresses us in different ways, according 
as one or other of its features is put in clearer relief. The doctrine 
of a thorough mutual relation between all elements of the universe, 
and the other doctrine of the independence of those elements, are in 
it alike carried to a degree of exaggeration at which both conceptions 
seem to approach the unintelligible. The whole content of the 
Universe and of its history is supposed to be present to the divine 
understanding at one and the same time as a system of elements 
mutually and unalterably conditioned in manifold ways, so that what 
appears in time as following an antecedent is not less the condition of 
that antecedent than is any antecedent the condition of that which it 
precedes. Thus Leibnitz could say that not merely do wind and 
waves impel the ship but the motion of the ship is the condition of the 
motion of wind and waves.. The immediate consequence of thus 
substituting the connexion of a system of consistent ideas for a 
connexion in the way of active causation is to take away all intelli 
gible meaning from the Reality which God is supposed to have vouch 
safed to this world, while he denied it to the other imaginary worlds 
which were present to his intellect as consistent articulations of what 
was contained in other ideas. The development in time adds nothing 
to the eternally predetermined order. It merely presents it as a 
succession. What new relation then is constituted for God or the 
world by this reality, so that it should count for something more and 
better than the previous presentation of the idea of a world to the 
mind of God? It is of no avail to say that then the world was 
merely thought of, whereas now it is. It is not open to us con 
sistently with the system of Leibnitz, as it might be elsewhere, simply 
to recognise this antithesis as one that is given, however hard to define. 
When the supposition is that of a wise will, which had the alternative 
of allowing reality to an idea or of refusing it, the question, what new 
Good could arise merely by the realisation of what previously was 
present to Thought, must be plainly answered. 

If the artist is not satisfied with the completed image of the work, 
which hovers before his mind s eye, but wishes to see it in bodily form 
with the bodily eye ; or if the hearer of a tale betrays his interest by 
enquiring whether it is true ; what is the source of the craving for 
reality in these two cases, which we may compare with the case in 
question ? In the first case, I think, it is simply this, that there is a 
tacit expectation of some growth in the content of the work of art 

I 2 

1 1 6 Of the Nature of Physical Action. [BOOK i. 

arising from its realisation. To walk about in the building as actually 
built is something different from the range of imagination through the 
details of the plan. Not only the materials of the building, but the 
world outside it, among the influences of which influences subject to 
incalculable change the work, when realised, is placed, create a 
multitude of new impressions, which the inventive fancy might indeed 
hope for but without being able to create the impressions themselves. 
This advantage of realisation is one that Leibnitz could not have had 
in view since his theory of the Pre-establishment of all that is con 
tained in the world had excluded the possibility of anything new as 
well as the reciprocal action from which alone anything new could 
have issued. The other wish the wish that a story heard may be 
true or (in other cases) that it may not be true, arises from the interest 
which the heart feels in the depicted relations of the figures brought 
on the scene. It is not enough that every happy moment of spiritual 
life should merely be a thought of the Poet and an enjoyment im 
parted to the hearer, of which the exhibition of unreal forms is the 
medium. We wish these forms themselves to live, in order that it 
might be possible for them also to enjoy the good which delights us 
in the imaginary tale. In like manner we console ourselves with the 
unreality of what we hear or read, if we are distressed by the images 
presented to us of unhappiness or wrong. 

This line of thought was not excluded by the conception with which 
Leibnitz began, but it could only be worked out on one supposition. 
To give reality to an idea of a world was only worth doing if the sum 
of the Good was increased by the sum of those who might become 
independent centres of its enjoyment ; if, instead of that which was 
the object of God s approval remaining simply His thought, the 
beings, of whom the image and conception were included in the 
approved plan of a world, were enabled themselves to think it and 
have experience of it in their lives. I reserve the question how far 
this view corresponds with Leibnitz theory. Alien to him it was not. 
Something at least analogous to spiritual life was accepted by him, for 
whatever reason, as the concrete import of the being which his 
Monads possessed. 

65. This line of thought, however, which alone seems to me to 
correspond to the notion of an admission to reality of a world other 
wise only present in idea to God, is scarcely consistent with the com 
plete pre-establishment of all events. When we turn to the implications 
of natural science, we find that it too, if it allows no limits to its 
principle of causality and denies the possibility of any new starting- 

CHAPTER v.] Determinism how far implied in Science. 1 1 7 

point for events, cannot avoid the conclusion that every detail in the 
established course of the universe is a necessary consequence of the 
past, and ultimately, though this regress can never be completed, of 
some state of the universe which it decides to regard as the primary 
state. But it does not take this doctrine to mean that the sum of all 
these consequences has been fixed in some primary providential 
computation. The consequences are supposed really to come into 
being for the first time, and the validity of universal laws is taken to 
be sufficient to account for their realisation without any such pre- 
arrangement. These laws are enough to provide for limitation to a 
definite direction in the development of the new out of the old. In 
their ultimate consequences the two doctrines coincide so far as this, 
that they lead to the belief in an irrevocable arrangement of all events. 
Yet in the actual pursuit of physical investigations something else 
seems to me to be implied. We shrink from surrendering ourselves 
to this last deduction from the causal nexus. No natural law, as 
expressed by a universal hypothetical judgment, indicates by itself the 
cases in which it comes to be applied. It waits for the requisite 
points of application to be supplied from some other quarter. 

We know, of course, that upon supposition of the universal 
validity of the causal nexus neither accident nor freedom is admis 
sible ; that accordingly what remains undetermined in our conception 
of the law cannot be really undetermined ; that thus every later point 
of application of a law is itself only a product of earlier applications. 
This is admitted without qualification in reference to every limited 
section of reality, since behind it one still uninvestigated may be con 
ceived in the past, as to which silence may be kept. But with every 
inclination to treat the spiritual life in its turn according to like 
principles, we shrink from pronouncing flatly that the whole of 
reality, including the history of spirits, is only the successive unfold 
ing of consequences absolutely predetermined. That in the real 
passage of events something should really come to pass, something 
new which previously was not ; that history should be something more 
than a translation into time of the eternally complete content of an 
ordered world ; this is a deep and irrepressible demand of our spirit, 
under the influence of which we all act in life. Without its satis- 
faction the world would be, not indeed unthinkable and self-contradic- 
tory, but unmeaning and incredible. When we admit the universal 
validity of laws, it is at bottom only in the tacit hope that, among the 
changing points of application which are presented to those la\\ s in 
the course of events, there may turn out to be new ones introduced 

1 1 8 Of the Nature of Physical A ction. [BOOK i. 

from which the consequences of the laws may take directions not 
previously determined. Natural sympathy, therefore, is what the 
Pre-established Harmony does not command. Even if it fulfilled its 
metaphysical purpose, this hypothesis of Leibnitz would have an 
artificiality which would prevent it from commending itself to our 
sense of probability. I admit that this repugnance rests more upon 
feeling than upon theoretical reasons ; more at any rate than upon 
such reasons as fall within the proper domain of Metaphysics. It 
remains, therefore, for us to enquire how far this view serves the pur 
pose of a theoretical explanation of the universe. 

66. In each single Monad, according to Leibnitz, state follows 
upon state through an immanent action, which is accepted as a fact, 
unintelligible indeed but free from contradiction. It was only 
transeunt action of which the assumption was to be avoided. If 
this exclusion of transeunt action is to accord with the facts, the two 
states a and /3 of the Monads A and B, which observation exhibits 
to us as apparent products of a reciprocal action, must occur in the 
separate courses of development of the two beings at the same 
moment. If we had a right to assume that a was separated from a 
previous state a of A by as many intervening phases as /3 from 
a state b corresponding to a, we should not need to ascribe anything 
but an equal velocity to the progress of the development of all 
Monads. But since a may be removed from a by a larger number 
of phases than /3 from , we should be obliged to attribute to every 
single Monad its special velocity of development in order to under 
stand the coincidence of the corresponding states. This assumption 
does not seem to me in contradiction with the fundamental view 
which governs the theory in question. As was above remarked, the 
thought of Leibnitz approximates to that interpretation of becoming 
which we conceived to be the pre-supposition of Heraclitus : once 
grant that the being of every Thing, if the name Thing is to be 
accepted for a closed cycle of phases, consists in a constant effort to 
pass from one state to another, then it is natural that different things 
should be distinguished from each other not merely by the direction 
but also by the velocity of their becoming, i.e. by an intensity of their 
being or reality which, if it is to express itself subject to the form of 
time, will appear partly at least as velocity. 

I cannot recall any explanation given by Leibnitz on this point. 
He might have refused any answer. He might have said that the 
hidden rationality, without which no image of a world would have 
been possible at all, had provided for this correspondence of all 


Monads and Clocks. 1 19 

occurrences that go together. Only in that case it would be difficult 
to say how the whole doctrine was distinguished from the modest 
explanation, that everything is from the beginning so arranged that 
the universe must be exactly what it is. The feeling which Leibnitz 
had of the necessity of accounting in some way for the correspond 
ence is betrayed, I think, by his reference to the example, borrowed 
from Geulinx, of the two clocks which keep the same time ; for it 
was scarcely required as a mere illustration of the meaning of his 
assertion, which is simple enough. As an explanation, however, this 
comparison is of no avail. Mutual influence, it is true, the two clocks 
do not exercise. But in order that they should at every moment 
point to the same time, it was not enough that the artificer ordered it 
so to be. And on the other hand the mechanism, which he had to 
impart to them with a view to this end, is according to its idea pre 
cisely not transferable to the Monads, shut up in themselves as they 
are supposed to be. Each of the two clocks, A and B, is a system 
of different, mutually connected parts. The materials of which they 
are constructed, as well as the movements which may be imparted to 
these, are subject to general mechanical laws, which apply to one as 
much as to the other. From them it follows that with reference to a 
time, which is measurable according to the same standard for the rate 
of motion of A and B, different quantities of matter can be so 
arranged that the entire systems, A and B, can pass at the same 
moments into constantly corresponding positions, a and b, a. and ft. 
But that which in this case carries out the corresponding transition is 
nothing but the transeunt action, which one element by communi 
cation of its force and motion exercises on the other. The independ 
ence of mutual influence on the part of the two clocks is compen 
sated by the carefully pre-arranged influence which the elements of 
each of them exercise upon each other. It is merely the placed 
therefore, of the transeunt action that is shifted by this comparison./ 
It is not shown that it can be dispensed with in accounting for they 
correspondence of the events. 

All this indeed is of little importance. For it must certainly be 
admitted that in this case of the clocks, as much as in any other, 
Leibnitz would deny the transeunt action which appears to us to be 
discoverable in it. It is not, he would say, that one wheel of the 
clock acts motively on the other ; it is of its own impulse that the 
latter wheel puts itself in motion the motion which according to our 
ordinary apprehension is the effect of the former wheel. Upon this 
it may be remarked that comparisons are usually employed in order 

1 20 Of the Nature of Physical Action. [BOOK i. 

that some process which, as described generally, seems improbable 
or cannot be brought before the mind s eye, may be illustrated by an 
instance in which it is presented with a clearness that allows of no 
contradiction. The cases therefore which one selects for comparison 
are not such as, before they can supply the desired demonstration, 
require, like Leibnitz clocks, to be rendered by an effort of thought 
into instances of the process of which a sensible illustration is sought. 
Granting all this, however, our enquiry will have shown no more 
than what was well known without it, that Leibnitz was never very 
happy in his comparisons. The possibility in itself of what he main 
tains must nevertheless be allowed. 

67. For the complete reconciliation of theory and experience one 
thing more is needed. That the connexion of occurrences accord 
ing to general laws is intelligible, we may, at least with reference to 
all natural events, regard as a fact. It is a fact however which, like 
any other, would demand its explanation not indeed an explanation 
of how it comes about, for that would be pre-established like every 
thing else, but an explanation of the meaning which its pre-establish- 
ment would have in the Leibnitzian theory of the universe taken as a 
whole. Images of possible worlds, to which God might vouchsafe 
reality, we found distinguished from impossible ones, which must 
always remain without reality. The advantage of consistency, which 
distinguishes the former sort, we might suppose to lie in this, that 
they not merely combine their manifold elements according to a 
plan, but that at the same time the elements which, in so doing, they 
bring together are such as are really connected with each other 
according to general laws. It is obvious, that is to say, that every 
imaginary world must appear as a whole, and its development in time 
as the realisation of a preconceived plan, in which for all phases of 
the internally moved Monads for a 1 , a 2 , a 3 ... and /3 1 , /3 2 , /3 3 , as for 
the several pieces of a mosaic, their sequence and their coincidence 
are prescribed. But there was no necessity for any single one of 
these phases to occur more than once in this whole. It was accord 
ingly no self-evident necessity that there should be general laws 
laws connecting the repetitions of a with repetitions of /3. Without 
any such repetition, these series of events might still be constantly 
carrying out a predetermined plan. It is a somewhat arbitrary inter 
pretation which I take leave to adopt, since Leibnitz himself gives us 
no light on the matter, when I understand that rationality, which 
distinguishes the realisable images of worlds from the unrealisable, to 
imply not merely an agreement with logical truths of thought, but 

CHAPTER v.] Why assume General Laws ? 121 

this definite character of conformity to general laws, which in itself 
is no necessity of thought : in other words, the fact that the demands 
made by the realisation of the world-plan are met by help of a multi 
plicity of comparable elements, which fall under common generic 
conceptions, and by repetitions of comparable events, which fall 
under general laws. 

But neither with this interpretation nor without it are we properly 
satisfied. If in the last resort it is the greatest perfection which de 
termines the divine choice between different rational images of 
worlds, is it then self-evident that among the indispensable pre 
conditions of the perfection is to be reckoned above all this con 
formity to universal law, and that anything which lacked it was not 
even open to choice ? For the coherence of our scientific efforts this 
conformity to law, which is the sole foundation for our knowledge of \ 
things, has indeed attained such overpowering importance, that its 
own independent value seems to us almost unquestionable. Yet, 
after all, is it certain that intrinsically a greater good is attained, if 
every a is always followed by the same ft, than if it were followed 
sometimes by ft, sometimes by y, sometimes by 6, just as was at each 
moment required by the constantly changing residue of the plan still 
to be fulfilled ? Might there not be as good reason to find fault 
with those general laws as at bottom vexatious hindrances, cutting 
short a multitude of beautiful developments which but for their 
troublesome intervention might have made the system of the most 
perfect world still more perfect ? If we pursue this thought, it be 
comes clear what is for us the source of confidence in the necessary 
validity of universal laws. In a dream, which needs no fulfilment, 
we find a succession possible of the most beautiful events, connected 
only by the coherence of their import : and the case would be the 
same if a realisation of this dream could come about through the 
instantaneous spell of its admission as a whole to reality, without the 
requirement by each successive constituent of a labour of production 
on the part of the previous ones. 

If, on the other hand, we follow our ordinary conception of the 
world which finds this labour necessary, the state of the case is differ 
ent. Supposing that in the moment / an element a of the world 
happened to be in the state a, and supposing it to be indispensable 
that, in order to the completion of the plan of the world or to the 
restoration of its equilibrium or to consecutiveness in its development, 
at the same moment /, b also should pass into the state ft, then the 
fact z of this necessity, i.e. the present state of the remaining 

122 Of the Nature of Physical A ction. 

elements, R, of the world together with the change of a into a, must 
exert an action upon b. But in order that only and not any other 
consequence may arise in b, z and /3 therefore also a and /3 must 
merely in respect of their content, without reference to the phase of 
development of the universe as a whole, belong together as members 
that condition each other : and for that reason in every case of the 
repetition of a the same consequence /3 will occur, so far as it is not 
impeded by other relations that condition the state of the case for the 
moment. Upon this supposition, therefore, which is habitual to us, 
that the course of the world is a gradual becoming produced by 
active causation, its connexion according to general laws appears to 
us to be necessary. But this way of thinking is not reconcileable 
with the views of Leibnitz. He looks upon the whole sum of reality 
as predetermined in all the details of its course and as coming into 
being all at once through that mysterious admission to existence 
which he has unhappily done so little to define. No work is left to 
be gradually done within it. But if this supposition is granted him, 
the limitation of readability to such projected worlds as have their 
elements connected according to general laws is an arbitrary assump 
tion. Any combination whatever of manifold occurrences any 
dream might in this way have just as well obtained a footing in 
reality. We have here therefore an inconsistency in Leibnitz doc 
trine. If the necessity of general laws was to be saved from dis 
appearing, there were only, it would seem, two ways of doing it. He 
should either have exhibited them as a condition of that perfection 
of the world which renders it worthy of existence and it is not 
improbable that he would have decided for this alternative or we 
should have given up the attempt to substitute for the unintelligible 
action of one thing on another an even more unintelligible pre- 
establishment of all things. 


The Unity of Things. 

68. THERE is only one condition, as we have found, under which 
the conception of a transeunt operation can be banished from our 
view of the world and replaced by that of a harmony between indepen 
dent inner developments of Things. The condition is that we make 
up our minds to a thoroughly consistent Determinism, which regards 
all that the world contains as collectively predetermined to its minutest 
details. So long, however, as we shrink from this conclusion, and 
cling to the hope, for which we have in the meantime no justification 
but which is still insuppressible, that the course of Things in which we 
live admits of events being initiated, which are not the necessary con 
sequence of previous development so long as this is the case the 
assumption of transeunt operation cannot be dispensed with by 
help either of the theory of a predetermined sympathetic connexion, 
or by that of an unconditioned validity of universal laws. Our final 
persuasion, therefore, might seem to depend on the choice we make 
between the two above-mentioned pre-suppositions (that of complete 
determinism, and that which allows of new beginnings) a choice 
which theoretical reasons are no longer sufficient to decide. But if 
this were really the case a point which I reserve for later investiga 
tion the option left open to us would be a justification for developing, 
in the first place hypothetically, the further conceptions which we 
should have to form as to transeunt operation if having adopted the 
second of the suppositions stated we maintained the necessity of 
assumingvsuch operation. I cannot however apply myself to this 
task without once again repeating, in order to prevent misunder 
standings, a warning that has already been often given. 

My purpose cannot be to give such a description of the process by 
which every operation comes about as may enable the reader to 
present it to his mind s eye, and thus by demonstrating how it happens 
to give the most convincing proof that it can happen. The object in 

!24 The Unity of Things. [BOOK i. 

view is merely to get rid of the difficulties which make the conception 
of a transeunt operation obscure to us while, although in fact under 
standing just as little how an immanent operation comes about, we 
make no scruple about accepting it as a given fact. How in any case 
a condition, if realised, begins in turn to give reality to its effect, or 
how it sets about uprooting a present state of anything and planting 
another state in the real world of that no account can be given. 
Every description that might be attempted would have to depict 
processes and modes of action which necessarily presuppose the very 
operation that has to be explained as already taking place many times 
over between the several elements which are summoned to perform 
it. Indeed the source of many of the obscurities attaching to our 
notion of operation lies in our persistent effort to explain it by images 
derived from complex applications of the notion itself, which for that 
reason lead necessarily to absurdity if supposed to have any bearing 
on its simplest sense. If we avoid these unprofitable attempts, and 
confine ourselves to stating that which operation actually consists 
in, we must state it simply thus : that the reality of one state is the 
condition of the realisation of another. This mysterious connexion 
we allow so long as its product is merely the development of one and 
the same Being within the unity of that Being s nature. What seems 
unthinkable is how it can be that something which occurs to one 
Being, A, can be the source of change in another, B. 

69. After so many failures in the attempt to bridge a gulf of which 
we have no clear vision, in the precise mode demanded by imagina 
tion, we can only hope for a better result if we make the point clear 
in which the cause of our difficulty lies. In the course of our con- 
jsideration of the world we were led, at the outset, to the notion of a 
plurality of Things. Their multiplicity seemed to offer the most con 
venient explanation for the equally great multiplicity of appearances, 
i Then the impulse to become acquainted with the unconditioned 
Being which must lie at the foundation of this process of the con 
ditioned was the occasion of our ascribing this unconditioned Being 
without suspicion to the very multiplicity of elements which we found 
to exist. If we stopped short of assigning to every reality a pure 
Being that could dispense with all relations to other Beings, yet even 
\ while allowing relations we did not give up the independence of 
Things as against each other which we assumed to begin with. It 
was as so many independent unities that we supposed them to enter 
into such peculiar relations to each other as compelled their self- 
sufficing natures to act and react upon each other. But it was im- 

CHAPTER vi.] A ssumptwti of Independent Things. 1 2 5 

possible to state in what this transition from a state of isolation to 
metaphysical combination might consist, and it remained a standing 
contradiction that Things having no dependence on each other should 
yet enter into such a relation of dependence as each to concern itself 
with the other, and to conform itself in its own states to those of the 
other. This prejudice must be given up. There cannot be a multi* 
plicity of independent Things, but all elements, if reciprocal action is 
to be possible between them, must be regarded as parts of a single 
and real Being. The Pluralism with which our view of the world 
began has to give place to a Monism, through which the transeunt 
operation, always unintelligible, passes into an * immanent operation. 

A first suggestion of the impossibility of that unlimited pluralism 
was, strictly speaking, afforded as soon as we felt the necessity of 
apprehending the events which form the course of the world, as 
Consequents that can be known from Antecedents. If no elements 
of the world admitted of comparison any more than do our feelings of 
sweet and red, it would be impossible that with the union of the two 
A and B in a certain relation C there should be connected a con 
sequence F, to the exclusion of all other consequences. For in that 
case the relation of A to B, which alone could justify this connexion, 
would be the same the two elements being completely incomparable 
and alien to each other as that between any two other elements, A 
and M, B and N, M and N. There would accordingly be no 
legitimate ground for connecting the consequence with one rather 
than another pair of related elements, or indeed for any definite con 
nexion whatever. Hence it appears that the independent elements of 
the world, the many real essences which we supposed that there were, ( 
could by no means have had unlimited licence of being what they 
liked as soon as each single one by simplicity of its quality had 
satisfied the conditions under which its position was possible. 
Between their qualities there would have had to be throughout a com- 
mensurability of some kind which rendered them, not indeed members 
of a single series, but members of a system in which various series are 
in some way related to each other. All however that this primary 
unity necessarily implied on the part of the elements of the world was 
simply this commensurability. Their origin from a single root, or 
their permanent immanence in one Being, it only rendered probable. 
It is not till we come to the consideration of cause and effect that wet* 
find any necessity to adopt this further view to hold that Things can 7 
only exist as parts of a single Being, separate relatively to our appro- J 
hension, but not actually independent. 

126 The Unity of Things. [BOOK i. 

70. This conclusion of our considerations requires so much to be 
added in the way of justification and defence that to begin with my 
only concern is to explain it. Let M be the single truly existing sub 
stance, A, B, and R the single Things into which, relatively to our 
faculties of presentation and observation, the unity of M somehow 
resolves itself A and B being those upon the destinies of which our 
attention has to be employed, R the sum of all the other things to 
which has to be applied, by help of analogy, all that we lay down 
about A and B. Then by the formula M<^(ABR] we express the 
thought that a certain definite connexion of A B and R> indicated by 
<f), exhibits the whole nature of M. 

If we allow ourselves further to assume that one of the individual 
elements has undergone a transition from A into a however the 
excitement to this transition may have arisen then the former 
equation between < (a B R] and M will no longer hold. It would only 
be re-established by a corresponding change on the part of the other 
members of the group, and <$>(abR v ) = M would anew express the 
whole nature of M. Let us now admit the supposition that the 
susceptibility, which we had to recognise in every finite Being a sus 
ceptibility in virtue of which it does not experience changes without 
maintaining itself against them by reaction that this belongs also to 
the one, the truly existing M ; then the production of the new states 
b and R x in B and R will be the necessary consequence of the change 
to a that has occurred in A. But this change a was throughout not 
merely a change of the one element A, for such a change would have 
needed some medium to extend its consequences to B and R. It was 
at the same time, without having to wait to become so, a change of 
M, in which alone, in respect of Being and content, A has its reality 
and subsistence. In like manner this change of.M does not need to 
travel, in order as by transition into a domain not its own, to make its 
sign in B and R. It too, without having to become so by such means, 
is already a change of B and R, which in respect of what they 
contain and are, equally have reality and subsistence only in M. Or 
if we prefer another expression, in which we start from the apparent 
independence of A B and R the only mediation which causes the 
changes of B and R to follow on those of A consists in the identity 
of M with itself, and in its susceptibility which does not admit a 
change a without again restoring the same nature ^by production of 
the compensatory change b and R 1 . To our observation a presents 
itself as an event which takes place in the isolated element A ; b as a 
second event which befalls the equally isolated B. In accordance 

CHAPTER vi.] Transeunt reduced to immanent" operation. 127 

with this appearance we call that a transeunt operation of A upon / 
B, which in truth is only an immanent operation of M upon M. A ? 
process thus seems to us to be requisite to bring the elements A and 
B) originally indifferent towards each other, into a relation of mutual 
sympathy. In truth they always stand in that relation, for at every 
moment the reality which they simultaneously possess has its con 
nexion in the import of M, and A or a is the complement to B and R, 
or to b and R l (as the case may be), required by M in order to the 
maintenance of its equality with itself, just as B or b is the comple 
ment required to A and R or to a and R*. 

Our earlier idea, therefore, of manifold original essences, un 
conditionally existing and of independent content, which only came 
afterwards to fall together into variable actions and reactions upon 
each other, passes into a different idea, that of manifold elements, 
of which the existence and content is throughout conditioned by the 
nature and reality of the one existence of which they are organic 
members ; whose maintenance of itself places them all in a constant 
relation of dependence on each other as on it ; according to whose 
command, without possibility of offering resistance or of rendering any 
help which should be due to their own independent reality, they so 
order themselves at every moment that the sum of Things presents a 
new identical expression of the same meaning, a harmony not pre- 
established, but which at each moment reproduces itself through the 
power of the one existence. 

71. Before passing to details, let me remark that I would not have 
these statements regarded as meant to describe a process which 
needed to be hit upon by conjecture, and did not naturally follow 
from the metaphysical demand which it was its purpose to satisfy. 
Or, to use another expression, I do not imagine myself to have 
stated what we have to think in order to render reciprocal action 
intelligible, but what we in fact do think as soon as we explain to 
ourselves what we mean by it. If we suppose a certain Being A to 
conform itself to the state b of another Being B and to fall into the 
state a, this thought directly implies the other, that the change b which 
at first seemed only to befall B is also a change for the other Being, 
A. There may be required investigation of the mode in which b is a 
change also for A , but there can be no doubt that it has to be brought 
under the same formal conception of a state of A which we at first 
only applied to a. But the idea that the states of a Being B are at 
the same time states of another Being A, involves the direct negation 
of the proposition that A and B are two separate and independent 

128 The Unity of Things. 

Beings : for a unity of the exclusive kind by which each would set a 
barrier between itself and the other, if it is to be more than verbally 
maintained if it is to be measured according to what may be called 
its practical value can only consist in complete impenetrability on 
the part of the one against all conditions of the other. 

Thus it was not necessary that the unity of all individual Beings 
hould be conjectured or discovered as an hypothesis enabling us to 
set aside certain difficulties that are in our way. It is, as it seems to 
me, a thought which by mere analysis can be shown to be involved in 
;he conception of reciprocal action. If we fancy it possible to main 
tain that Things are to begin with separate and mutually independent 
Unities, but that there afterwards arises between them a relation of 
Union in operation, we are describing, not an actual state of Things 
or a real process, but merely the movement of thought which begins 
with a false supposition and afterwards, under the pressure of problems 
which it has itself raised, seeks in imperfect fashion to restore the 
correct view which it should have had to start with. 

72. Moreover, in the logical requisites of a theory, this view of the 
original unity of all Things in M is by no means inferior to the other 
view of their changeable combinations. It might be urged indeed 
that our view represents all Things too indiscriminately as compre 
hended once for all in the unity of Jlf t and thus has no place for 
the gradations that exist in the intimacy of their relations to each 
other ; that the opposite view, by recognising on the one hand the 
progress from a complete absence of relation to an ever greater close 
ness of relation, and on the other the relaxation of relations that 
previously existed, alone admits of due adjustment to experience, 
which testifies in one case to a lively action and reaction of Things 
upon each other, in another to their mutual indifference. In truth the 
reverse seems to me to be the case. So far we regard J/as expressing 
only the formal thought of the one all comprehensive Being. As to 
the concrete content of that which is to occupy this supreme position 
of M we know nothing, and therefore can settle nothing as to the 
form cp, in which according to its nature it at each moment compre 
hends the sum of finite realities. There is nothing, however, against 
our assuming the possibility of the various equations ; M $(AB R\ 
M= <j>(Ar P ), M= <j>(Ap R^\ M (a R). Of these equations 
the second would express the possibility of a change in the sum of the 
members R into r a change which is balanced by a second p, and 
therefore does not require a compensatory change on the part of A 
and B. This being so, the two latter would appear unaffected by the 

CHAPTER vi.] Degrees of Interaction. 129 

alteration of the rest of the world in which they are included. Of the 
third equation the meaning would be that another change of 7?, viz. 
into R\ only requires a change ft in B, to which A would appear in 
different ; while the fourth would represent a reciprocal action which 
exhausts itself between A and B, leaving the rest of the world un 

It thus appears that our view is not irreconcileable with any of the 
gradations which the mutual excitability of the world s elements in 
fact exhibits. There would be nothing to prevent us even from 
ascribing to the unity, in which they are all comprehended, at various 
moments various degrees of closeness down to the extreme cases in 
which two elements, having no effect whatever on each other, have 
all the appearance of being two independent entities ; or in which, on 
the other hand, limited to mutual operation, they detach themselves 
from all other constituents of the world as a pair of which each 
belongs to the other. But the source of these gradations would not 
be that elements originally independent were drawn together by 
variable relations ranging in intensity from nought to any degree we 
like to imagine. Their source would be that the plan of that unity 
which holds things permanently together, obliges them at every 
moment either to new reciprocal action of definite kind and degree 
or to the maintenance of their previous state, which involves the 
appearance of deficient reciprocal action. Thus the reason why 
things take the appearance of independence as against each other is 
not that the Unity M, in which they are always comprehended, 
is sometimes more, sometimes less, real, or even altogether ceases to 
be, but that the offices which ^/"imposes on them vary: so that every 
degree of relative independence which things exhibit as against each 
other is itself the consequence of their entire want of independence 
as against M, which never leaves them outside its unity. That rela 
tions, on the other hand, which did not previously subsist between 
independent things, can never begin to subsist, I have already pointed 
out, nor is it necessary to revert to this impossible notion. 

73. The next question to be expected is, not indeed what M con 
sists in but how, even as a mere matter of logical relation, the 
connexion assumed between it, the One, and the multiplicity of 
elements dependent on it is to be thought of. We have contented 
ourselves with describing these elements as parts of the infjnite M. 
We should find no lack of other designations if we cared to notice 
all the theories .which the history of philosophy records as having on 
various grounds arrived at a similar Monism. We might read of 

VOL. i. K 

1 30 The Unity of Things. [BOOK i. 

modifications of the infinite substance, of its developments and dif 
ferentiations, of emanations and radiations from it. Much discussion 
and enthusiasm has gathered round these terms. Their variety serves 
in some measure to illustrate the variety of the needs by which men 
were led to the same persuasion. Stripped of their figurative clothing 
a clothing merely intended to serve the unattainable purpose of 
presenting to the mind s eye the process by which the assumed rela 
tion between the one and the multitude of finite beings is brought 
about all that they collectively contain in regard to the import of 
this relation amounts merely to a negation. They all deny the inde 
pendent reality of finite things, but they cannot determine positively 
the nature of the bond which unites them. 

This inability by itself would not to my mind form any ground of 
objection to the view stated. The exact determination of a postulate, 
whether effected by means of affirmations or by means of negations, 
may claim to be a philosophic result even when it is impossible to 
present anything to the mind s eye by which the postulate is fulfilled. 
An intuition, however a presentation to the mind s eye of that 
which according to its very idea is the source of all possibility of 
intuition is what we shall not look for. Neither the One, before its 
production of the manifold capable of arrangement in various out 
lines, nor the metaphysical process, so to speak, by which that pro 
duction is brought about, can be described by help of any figure, for 
the possibility of presentation as a figure depends on the previous ex 
istence of the manifold, and the origin of the manifold world in the 
case before us is just the point at issue. But it does not follow that 
there is no meaning in the conception of that relation of dependence 
of the many upon the one. Though unable to state what constitutes 
the persistent force of the bond which connects individual things in 
reality, we can yet seek out the complex modes in which its un 
imaginable activity conditions the form of their connexion : and the 
general ideas, which I have already indicated on the subject, in their 
application to our given experience, warrant the hope, on this side, 
of an unlimited growth of our knowledge. 

74. In saying this however I do not overcome the objection which 
our view excites. It will readily be allowed that the relation of the 
One being to the many does not admit of being exhibited in any 
positive way. It will be urged however that it ought not to involve 
a contradiction if it is to be admitted even as a postulate ; yet how is 
it to be conceived that what is one should not only qmse a manifold 
to issue out of itself, but should continue to be this manifold ? This 

CHAPTER VI.] T/IC OnC Mid the Matty . 1 3 I 

question has at all times formed one of the difficulties of philosophy 
for the reason that in fact, whatever may have been the point of 
departure, a thousand ways lead back to it. I need not go further 
back than the latest past of German philosophy. For the idealistic 
systems, which ended in Hegel, not merely the relativity of everything 
finite, but also the inner vitality of the infinite which projects the full 
ness of the manifold out of its unity, was a primary certainty which 
forced itself on the spirit with an aesthetic necessity and determined 
every other conviction accordingly. It must be allowed that this 
prerogative of the so-called reason in the treatment of things, as 
against the claims made by the understanding on behalf of an 
adherence to its law of identity, has been rather vigorously asserted 
than clearly defended against the attacks made on it in the interest 
of this law. In the bold paradox, that it is just in contradiction that 
there rests the deepest truth, that which had originally been con 
ceived as the mystery of things came to be transferred in a very 
questionable way to our methods of thought. There ensued in the 
philosophy of Herbart a vigorous self-defence on the part of formal 
logic against this attack a defence which no doubt had its use as 
restoring the forms of investigation that had disappeared during the 
rush and hurry of dialectical development, but which in the last 
resort, as it seems to me, can only succeed by presupposing at the 
decisive points the actual existence, in some remote distance, of that 
unity of the one and the many, which in its metaphysic it was so shy 
of admitting. On this whole question, unless I am mistaken, there is 
not much else to be said than what is objected by the young Socrates 
in the Parmenides to the assertions of Zeno. Is there not one 
idea of likeness and another of unlikeness ? And are we not called 
like or unlike according as we partake in one or the other? Now 
if something partook in each of the opposed ideas, and then had to 
be called like and unlike at the same time, what would there be to 
surprise us in that ? No doubt if a man tried to make out likeness 
as such to be equivalent to unlikeness as such, that would be in 
credible. But that something should partake in both ideas and in 
consequence should be both like and unlike, that I deem as little 
absurd as it is to call everything one on account of its participation 
in the idea of unity and at the same time many on account of its 
equal participation in the idea of multiplicity. The only thing that 
we may not do is to take unity for multiplicity, or multiplicity for 
75. It may seem at first sight as if Socrates had only pushed the 

K 2 

132 The Unity of Things. [BOOKI. 

difficulty a step further back. The possibility, it may be said, of 
simultaneous participation in those two ideas is just what the laws of 
thought forbid to every subject. With this objection I cannot agree. 
I have previously pointed out the merely formal significance of the 
principle of identity. All that it says is that A=A; that one is one 
and that many are many; that the real is real and the impossible 
impossible ; in short, that every predicate is equivalent to itself, and 
every subject no less so. By itself it says nothing as to the possibility 
of attaching several predicates simultaneously, or even only one, to 
a single subject. For that which we properly mean by connecting 
two thinkable contents S and P, as subject and predicate the meta 
physical copula subsisting between S and P which justifies this mode 
of logical expression is what cannot itself be expressed or con 
structed by means of any logical form. The only logical obligation 
is when once the connexion has been supposed or recognised, to be 
consistent with ourselves in regard to it. Therefore the law of 

if excluded middle in its unambiguous form asserts this, and only this ; 

that of two judgments which severally affirm and deny of the same 
subject 6" the same predicate P only one can be true. For even that 
-metaphysical copula, which unites S and P, whatever it may consist 
in, must be equivalent to itself. If it is V, it cannot be non-F; 
if non- V, it cannot be V. Thus the propositions, S is P, and -5" is 
not P, are irreconcileable with each other ; but the propositions, S is 
P, and S is non-P, are reconcileable until it is established as a 
matter of fact that there is no non-P=Q which can be connected 
with S by a copula, W, that is reconcileable with V. No one there 
fore disputes the simultaneous validity of the propositions, the body 
6" is extended PJ and S has weight Q. Logic finds them com 
patible. It could not however state the reason of their compatibility, 
for the metaphysical copula, V, between S and P i. e. the real be 
haviour on the part of the body which constitutes its extension, or the 
mode in which extension attaches to its essence is as unknown as 
the copula W the behaviour which makes it heavy. Still less could 
we show positively how it is possible for V and W to subsist un 
disturbed along with each other. That is and remains a mystery on 
the part of the thing. 

Let us now apply these considerations to the matter in hand. If 
M is one, then it is untrue that it is not this unity, P. If it is many, 
then it is impossible that it should not be this multiplicity, Q. If it 
is at once unity and multiplicity, then it is impossible that either 
should be untrue of it. But from the truth of one determination 

CHAPTER vi.] Lciiv of Identity merely formal. 133 

there is no inference to the untruth of the other. This would only 
be the case if it could be shown that the concrete nature of M is 
incapable of uniting the two modes of behaviour in virtue of which 
severally it would be unity and multiplicity. On the contrary, it might 
be held that their reconcileability is logically shown by pointing out 
that the apparently conflicting predicates are not applicable to the 
same subject, since it was not the one M that we took to be equi 
valent to many M, but the one unconditioned M that we took to be 
equivalent to the many conditioned ??i. But, although this is correct, 
yet the material content of our proposition is inconsistent with this 
logical justification. For M was supposed to be neither outside the 
many m nor to represent their sum. It was supposed to possess the 
same essential being, that of a real existence, which belongs to every 
m. Not even the activity which renders it one would, upon our view, 
be other than that which renders it many. On the contrary, by the 
very same act by which it constitutes the multiplicity, it opposes itself 
to this as unity, and by the same act by which it constitutes the unity 
it opposes itself to this as multiplicity. Thus here, if anywhere, we 
expressly presuppose the essential unity of the subject to which we 
ascribe at once unity and multiplicity. 

At the same time that other consideration must be insisted on; 
that it is quite unallowable to leave out of sight the peculiar significance 
of the whole procedure which our theory ascribes to M, and to gene 
rate a contradiction by thinking of unity and multiplicity as united 
with Mm that meaningless way which the logical schemata of judg 
ment express by the bald copula, is. If this word is to have an 
unambiguous logical meaning of its own, it can only be the meaning 
of an identity between the content of two ideas as such. The various 
meanings of the metaphysical copula, on the contrary, it never 
expresses that copula which, as subsisting between one content and 
another, justifies us in connecting them, by no means always in the 
same sense, but in very various senses, as subject and predicate. While 
it cannot be denied, then, that the one is the many, if we must needs 
so express ourselves, still in this colourless expression it is impossible 
to recognise what we mean to convey. The one is by no means the 
many in the same neutral sense in which we might say that it is the 
one. It is the many rather in the active sense of bringing it forth 
and being present in it. This definite concrete import of our pro 
positionthe assertion that such procedure is really possible is 
what should have been disputed. There is no meaning whatever in 
objections derived from the treatment of unity and multiplicity, in 

134 The Unity of Things. [BOOK i. 

abstracto, apart from their actual points of relation, as opposite con 
ceptions. That they are, and cannot but be so opposed, is self* 
evident. Every one allows it the moment he speaks of a unity of 
the manifold. For there would be no meaning in what he says if he 
did not satisfy the principle of identity by continuing to understand 
, unity merely as unity, multiplicity merely as multiplicity. Neither 
this principle, then, nor that of excluded middle, is violated by our 
^doctrine. On the other hand, they are alike quite insufficient to 
decide the possibility of a relation, of which the full meaning cannot 
be brought under these abstract formulae. In applying them we fall 
into an error already noticed. From the laws which our thought has 
to observe in connecting its ideas as to the nature of things, we deem 
ourselves able immediately to infer limitations upon what is possible 
in this nature of things. 

76. I must dwell for a moment longer on this point, which I 
previously touched upon. Reality is infinitely richer than thought. 
It is not merely the case that the complex material with which reality 
is thronged can only be presented by perception, not produced by 
thought. Even the universal relations between the manifold do not 
admit of being constructed out of the logical connexions of our ideas. 
The principle of identity inexorably bids us think of every A as = A. 
If we followed this principle alone and looked upon it as an ultimate 
limit of that which the nature of reality can yield, we should never 
arrive at the thought of there being something which we call Be 
coming. Having recognised, however, the reality of becoming, we 
persuade ourselves that it at every moment satisfies the principle of 
Identity, though in a manner which outrages it in the total result, 
and that its proper nature can be comprehended by no connexion, 
which Logic allows, of elements identical or not-identical. For 
certainly if a passes through the stages a 1 a 2 a 3 into b, it is true that 
at each moment a = a, a 1 =a\ 2 = 2 , a s = a 3 , b = b, and the principle 
of Identity is satisfied ; but, for all that, it remains the fact that the 
same a which was real is now unreal, and the b which was unreal is 
real. How this comes about how it is that the reality detaches 
itself from one thing, to which it did belong, and attaches itself to 
another from which it was absent this remains for ever inexplicable 
by thought, and even the appeal to the lapse of time does not make 
the riddle clearer. It is true that between the extremities, a and b, of 
that chain, our perception traverses the intermediate links, a 1 , a 2 , and 
so on. But each of these passes in an indivisible moment into its suc 
cessor. If we thought of a 2 as broken up into the new chain o a a 2 o s , 

CHAPTER vi.] Reality in what sense contradictory. 135 

each of these links in turn would be identical with itself, so long as it 
remained in existence, and even if the immediately sequent a 4 were 
separated by an interval of empty time from a 3 , still the transition of 
a 3 from being into not-being would have to be thought of as taking 
place in one and the same moment, and could not be expanded into 
a new series of transitions. 

Undoubtedly therefore, if we want to think of Becoming, we have 
to face the requirement of looking upon being and not-being as fused 
with each other. This, however, does not imply that the import of 
either idea is apprehended otherwise than as identical with itself and 
different from the other. How the fusion is to be effected we know 
not. Even the intuition of Time only presents us with the de facto 
solution of the problem without informing us how it is solved. But 
we know that in fact the nature of reality yields a result to us un 
thinkable. It teaches us that being and not-being are -not, as we 
could not help thinking them to be, contradictory predicates of every 
subject, but that there is an alternative between them, arising out of a 
union of the two which we cannot construct in thought. This ex 
plains how the extravagant utterance could be ventured upon, that it 
is just contradiction which constitutes the truth of the real. Those 
who used it regarded that as contradictory which was in fact superior 
to logical laws which does not indeed abrogate them in their 
legitimate application, but as to which no sort of positive conjecture 
could possibly be formed as a result of such application. 

77. The like over-estimate of logical principles, the habit of re 
garding them as limitations of what is really possible, would oblige us 
to treat as inadmissible the most important assumptions on which our 
conception of the world is founded. All ideas of conditioning, of 
cause and effect, of activity, require us to presuppose connexions of 
things, which no thought can succeed in constructing. For thought 
occupies itself with the eternally subsisting relations of that which 
forms the content of the knowable, not with real existence and with 
that which renders this existence for ever something more than the 
world of thoughts. In regard, however, to all the rest of these 
assumptions the imaginings of speculation have been busied, though 
in our eyes ineffectually, in banishing them from our theory of the 
world. It was only Becoming itself that it could not deny, even 
after reducing professedly every activity to a relation of cause and 
effect, and every such relation to a mere succession of phenomena. 
Even if in the outer world it substituted for the actual succession 
of events a mere appearance of such succession, it could not but 

136 The Unity of Things. [BOOK i. 

recognise a real Becoming and succession of events at least in those 
beings in and for which the supposed appearance unfolded itself. 
It is to this one instance, therefore, of Becoming, that we confine 
ourselves in order to convey the impression of how much may exist 
in reality without possibility of being reproduced by a logical con 
nexion of our thoughts. One admission indeed must be made. Of 
the fact of Becoming at any rate immediate perception convinced us. 
It cannot similarly convince us that the connexion which we assumed 
between the one unconditioned real and the multiplicity of its con 
ditioned forms, is more than a postulate of our reflection, that it is a 
problem eternally solved in a fashion as mysterious as is Becoming 

This makes it of the more interest to see how this requirement of 
the unity of the manifold, in one form or another, is always pressing 
itself upon us anew. Even the metaphysic of Herbart, though so 
unfavourably disposed to it, has to admit it among those accidental 
ways of looking at things, by which it sought to make the perfectly 
simple qualities, a and b, of real beings, so far comparable with each 
other as to explain the possibility of a reciprocal action taking place 
between them. If the simple a was taken to =p-\-x, the no less 
simple b to q x, these substitutions were to be called accidental 
only for the reason that the preference of these to others depended 
on the use to which it was intended to put them, not on the nature 
of the things. If the object had been the explanation of another 
process, a might just as well have been taken to r^-y in order to 
be rendered comparable with (say) c=s -y. However unaffected, 
therefore, by these accidental modes of treatment the essence of 
things might be held to be, their application always involves the pre 
supposition that the perfect simplicity of quality, from which any 
sort of composition is held to be excluded, may in respect of its con 
tent be treated as absolutely equivalent not merely to some one but 
to a great number of connected multiplicities. 

The ease with which, in mathematics, a complex expression can 
be shown to be equivalent to a simple one, has made the application 
of this view to the essence of things seem less questionable than it is. 
For that which is indicated by those simple mathematical expressions 
makes no sort of claim to an indissoluble metaphysical unity of con 
tent as do the real essences. On the contrary, the possibility of in 
numerable equivalents being substituted for a rests in this case on 
the admitted infinite divisibility of a, which allows of its being broken 
up, and the fragments recompounded, in any number of forms ; or 

CHAPTER vi.] Herbcirt admits Multiplicity. 157 

else, in geometry, on the fact that a is included in a system of re 
lations of position, which implies the possibility in any given case of 
bringing into view those external relations of a to other elements of 
space by which it may contribute to the solution of a problem pro 
posed without there being any necessity for an alteration in the con 
ception of the content of a itself. The essence of things cannot be 
thought of in either of these ways. The introduction of mathe 
matical analogies could only serve to illustrate, not to justify, this 
metaphysical use of accidental points of view. Whoever counts 
it admissible maintains, in so doing, the new and independent pro 
position that the unity of the uncompounded quality, by which one 
real essence is distinguished from another, is identical with many 
mutually connected multiplicities. 

78. A further step must be taken. The accidental views are 
not merely complex expressions, by which our thought according to 
a way of its own contrives to present to itself one and the same 
simple essence ; not merely our different ways of arriving at the 
same end. The course of events itself corresponds to them. In the 
presentation of a as =p + x and of b as =g x there was more than 
a mere view of ours. In the opposition that we assumed to take 
place between + x and x, which would destroy each other if they 
could, lay the active determining cause of an effort of self-mainten 
ance on the part of each being, which was not elicited by the 
mutually indifferent elements, p and q. Now whether we do or do 
not share Herbart s views as to the real or apparent happening of 
what happens and as to the meaning of self-maintenance, this in any 
case amounts to an admission that not merely the content of the 
simple qualities is at once unity and multiplicity, but also that the 
things, so far as they are things, in their doing and suffering are at 
once one and many. It is only with that element x of its essence 
that a asserts itself and becomes operative, which finds an opposite 
element in b. But for all that x remains no less in indissoluble con 
nexion with p, which for the present has no occasion for activity, and 
which would come into play if in another being d it met with a 
tendency, />, opposed to it. 

For reasons to be mentioned presently I cannot adopt this way of 
thinking. I have only pursued it so far in order to show that it 
asserts the unity of the manifold, and that in regard to the real, 
though in a different place from that in which it seemed to me 
necessary. That which in it is taken to be true of every real essence 
is what in our theory is required of the one Real; except that with 

138 The Unity of Things. 

Herbart that abrupt isolation of individual beings continues in which 
we find a standing hindrance to the real exphnation of the course of 
the world. Herbart was undoubtedly right in holding that an un 
conditioned was implied in the changes of the conditioned. But there 
was no necessity to seek this unconditioned straightway in the mani 
fold of the elements which no doubt have to be presupposed as 
proximate principles of explanation for the course of events. The 
experiment is not made of admitting this multiplicity, but only as a 
multiplicity that is conditioned and comprehended in the unity of a 
single truly real Being. Yet it is only avoided at the cost of admit 
ting in the individual real a multiplicity so conditioning itself as to 
become one, of the very same kind as that which is ostensibly de 
nied to the Real as a whole. 

79. I return once more to Leibnitz. He too conceives manifold 
mutually-independent Monads as the elements of the world, in an 
tithesis, however, to the unity of God, by whose understanding, ac 
cording to Leibnitz, is determined the content of what takes place in 
the world, even as its reality is determined by his will. If we can 
make up our minds to abstain from at once dismissing the supports 
drawn from a philosophy of religion, which Leibnitz has given to 
his theory, there is nothing to prevent us from going back still 
further to an eternally mobile Phantasy on the part of God, the 
creative source of those images of worlds which hover before His 
understanding. Those of the images which by the rationality of their 
connexion justify themselves to this understanding are the possible 
worlds the best among which His will renders real. Now so long 
as we think of a world-image, A, as exposed to this testing inspec 
tion on the part of the divine Being, so long we can understand what 
is meant by that truth, rationality or consistency, on which the possi 
bility of its realisation is held to depend. It is the state of living 
satisfaction on the part of God, which arises out of the felt frictionless 
harmony between this image as unfolding itself in God s conscious 
ness and the eternal habits of his thought. In this active divine 
intelligence which thinks and enjoys every feature of the world image 
in its connexions with other features in it which knows how to 
hold everything together the several lines of the image are com 
bined and form not a scattered multiplicity but the active totality 
of a world which is possible because it forms such a complete whole. 
I have previously noticed the difficulty of assigning any further deter 
mination which accrues to this world, already thought of as possible, 
if it is not merely thought but by God s will called into reality. How- 

CHAPTER vi.] Leibnitz destroys Unity. 139 

soever this may be, it could only enjoy this further something which 
reality yielded under one of two conditions. It must either continue 
within the inner life of God as an eternal activity of his Being, or 
enter on an existence of its own, as a product which detaches itself 
from him, in an independence scarcely to be defined. 

The first of these suppositions that of the world s Immanence in 
God we do not further pursue. It will lead directly back to our 
view that every single thing and event can only be thought as an 
activity, constant or transitory, of the one Existence, its reality 
and substance as the mode of being and substance of this one Exist 
ence, its nature and form as a consistent phase in the unfolding of 
the same. 

If, on the other hand, we follow Leibnitz in preferring the other 
supposition that the real world is constituted By a sum of develop 
ments of isolated Monads developments merely parallel and not inter 
fering with each other, in what precise form has this world preserved 
the very property on which rested its claim to be called into reality ? 
I mean that truth, consistency, or rationality, which rendered it 
superior to the unrealisable dreams of the divine Phantasy? What 
would be gained by saying that in this world, while none of its members 
condition each other, everything goes on as if they all did so ; that 
accordingly, while it does not really form a whole, yet to an intelli 
gence directed to it, it will have the appearance of doing so ; that, in 
one word, its reality consists in a hollow and delusive imitation of 
that inner consistency which was pronounced to be, as such, the 
ultimate reason why its realisation was possible ? I can anticipate an 
objection that will here be made ; doubtless, it will be said, between 
the elements of this world there exist reciprocal conditions, though 
it may not follow that the elements actually operate on each other in 
accordance with these conditions ; they exist in the form of a sum of 
actually present relations of all elements to all, but the presence of 
these relations does not imply an Intelligence that comprehends 
them ; like any truth, they continue to hold though no one thinks of 

The substance of what I have to say against the admissibility of 
such views I postpone for a moment. Here I would only remind the 
reader that all this might equally be said of the unrealised world- 
image A as supposed to be slill hovering before the divine under 
standing. At the same time something more might be said of it. 
For in this living thought of God it was not merely the case that a 
part a of this image stood to another part b in a certain relation, 

140 The Unity of Things. [BOOKI. 

which might have been discovered by the attention of a mind directed 
to it. For in fact this consciousness actually was constantly directed 
to it, and in this consciousness, in its relating activity, these relations 
had their being. The presentation of a was in fact in such an in 
stance the efficient cause which brought the presentation of b into 
the divine consciousness, or if this is held to be the office of the 
Phantasy which at any rate retained it in consciousness and re 
cognised it as the consistent complement to a. The active condition 
ing of b by a is absent from the elements of reality and is expressly 
replaced, according to the theory in question, by the mere coexist 
ence, without any active operation of one on the other, of things the 
same in content with the presentations of the divine consciousness. 
Thus, to say the least, the realised world, so far from being richer, 
is poorer in consequence of its supposed independent existence as 
detached from the Divine Being in consequence of its course re 
sulting no longer from the living presence of God but only from an 
order of relations established by him. The requirement that God 
and the world should not be so blended as to leave no opposition 
between them is in itself perfectly justified. But the right way to 
satisfy it would have been not by this unintelligible second act of 
constitution, by the realisation of what was previously an image of a 
merely possible world, but by the recognition that what in this theory 
is presented as a mere possibility and preliminary suggestion (to the 
mind of God) is in fact the full reality, but that nevertheless the one 
remains different from all the manifold, which only exists in and 
through the one. 

80. I now return to the thesis, of which I just now postponed 
the statement for an instant. It at once forms the conclusion of a 
course of thought previously entered on and has a decisive bearing 
on all that I have to say in the sequel. At the outset of this dis 
cussion we came to the conclusion that the proposition, things 
exist/ has no intelligible meanirig except that they stand in relations 
to each other. But these relations we left for the present without a 
name, and contented ourselves, by way of a first interpretation of our 
thought, with reference to various relations in the way of space, time, 
and of cause and effect, of which the subsistence between things 
constituted for our every-day apprehension that which we call the 
real existence of the world. But between the constituents of the 
world of ideas constituents merely thinkable as opposed to real 
we found a complex of relations no less rich. Nay, our mobile 
thought, it seemed, had merely to will it, and the number of these 

CHAPTER vi.] What are objective relations? 141 

relations might be indefinitely increased by transitions in the way of 
comparison between points selected at pleasure. This consideration 
could not but elicit the demand that the relations on which the being 
of things rests should be sought only among those which obtain 
objectively between them, not among such as our subjective process 
of thinking can by arbitrary comparisons establish between them. 

This distinction however is untenable. I repeat- in regard to it 
what I have already in my Logic 1 had opportunity of explaining in 
detail. In the passage referred to I started with considering how 
a representation of relations between two matters of consciousness, a 
and b, is possible. The condition of its possibility I could not find 
either in the mere succession or in the simultaneity of the two several 
presentations, a and b, in consciousness, but only in a relating activity, 
which directs itself from one to the other, holding the two together. 
1 He who finds red and yellow to a certain extent different yet akin, 
becomes conscious, no doubt, of these two relations only by help of 
the changes which he, as a subject of ideas, experiences in the trans 
ition from the idea of red to that of yellow; but, I added, he will 
not in this transition entertain any apprehension lest the relation of 
red to yellow may in itself be something different from that of the 
affections which they severally occasion in him ; lest in itself red 
should be like yellow and only appear different from it to us, or lest 
in reality there should be a greater difference between them than we 
know, which only appears to us to involve nevertheless a certain 
affinity. Doubts like these might be entertained as to the external 
causes, to us still unknown, of our feelings. But so long as it is not 
these causes but only our own ideas, after they have been excited in 
us, that form the object of our comparison, we do not doubt that the 
likenesses 2 , differences, and relations which these exhibit on the part of 
our presentative susceptibility indicate at the same time a real relation 
on the part of what is represented to us. Yet how exactly is this 
possible ? How can the propositions, a is the same as a, and, a is dif 
ferent from <5, express an objective relation, which, as objective, would 
subsist independently of our thought and only be discovered or 
recognised by it ? Some one may perhaps still suppose himself to 
know what he means by a self-existent identity 3 of a with a; but 
what will he make of a self-existent distinction between a and ? 
and what objective relation will correspond to this between, to which 
we only attach a meaning, so long as it suggests to us the distance in 

1 [ 337, 338.] 2 [ Gleichheiten. ] 

3 [ Gleichheit. gleich, v. note on 19.] 

142 The Unity of Things. 

space which we, in comparing a and , metaphorically interpolated 
for the purpose of holding the two apart, and at the same time as a 
connecting path on which our mind s eye might be able to travel from 
one to the other ? Or to put the case otherwise since difference, 
like any other relation, is neither a predicate of a taken by itself nor of 
b taken by itself, of what is it a predicate ? And if it only has a 
meaning when a and b have been brought into relation to each other, 
what objective connexion exists between a and b in the supposed case 
where the relating activity, by which we connected the two in con 
sciousness, is not being exercised ? 

The only possible answer to these questions we found to be the 
following. If a and b, as we have so far taken to be the case, are not 
things belonging to a reality outside and independent of our thought, 
but simply contents of possible ideas like red and yellow, straight and 
curved, then a relation between them exists only so far as we think it 
and by the act of our thinking it. But our soul is so constituted, and 
we suppose every other soul which inwardly resembles our own to be 
so constituted, that the same a and b, how often and by whomsoever 
they may be thought, will always produce in thought the same rela 
tion a relation that has its being only in thought and by means of 
thought. Therefore this relation is independent of the individual 
thinking subject, and independent of the several phases of that sub 
ject s thought. This is all that we mean when we regard it as having 
an existence in itself between a and b and believe it to be discoverable 
by our thought as an object which has a permanence of its own. It 
really has this permanence, but only in the sense of being an occur 
rence which will always repeat itself in our thinking in the same way 
under the same conditions. So long therefore as the question concerns 
an a and b, of which the content is given merely by impressions and 
ideas, the distinction of objective relations obtaining between them, 
from subjective relations established between them by our thought, is 
wholly unmeaning. All relations which can be discovered between 
the two are predicable of them on exactly the same footing ; all, that 
is to say, as inferences which their own constant nature allows to our 
thought and enjoins upon it ; none as something which had an exist 
ence of its own between them prior to this inferential activity on our 
part. The relation 1 of a to b in such cases means, conformably to the 
etymological form of the term, our act of reference 2 . 

81. We now pass to the other case, which concerns us here as 

1 [ Beziehung. ] 
a [ Unsere Handlung des Beziehens. ] 

CHAPTER vi.] Relations of Qualities and of Things. 143 

dealing no longer with logic but with metaphysics. Let a and b indi 
cate expressly Realities, Entities, or Things. The groups, a and b, of 
sensible or imaginable qualities, by which these things are distinguished 
from each other, we can still submit with the same result as before 
to our arbitrary acts of comparison, and every relation which by so 
doing we find between the qualities will have a significance for the 
two things a and b equally essential or unessential, objective or non- 
objective. No relation between them could be discovered if it were 
not founded on the nature of each, but none is found before it is 

But it is not these relations that we have in view if, in order to 
render intelligible a connexion of the things a and b which experience 
forces on our notice, we appeal to a relation C, which sometimes does, 
sometimes does not, obtain between a and b ; which is thus not one 
that belongs to the constant natures, a and b, of the two things, but a 
relation into which the things, as already constituted independently of 
it, do or do not enter. In this case the conclusion is unavoidable 
that this objective relation C, to which we appeal, cannot be anything 
that takes place between a and b, and that just for that reason it is not 
a relation in the ordinary sense of the term, but more than this. For 
it is only in our thought, while it passes from the mental image or 
presentation of a to that of b, that there arises, as a perception imme 
diately intelligible to thought, that which we here call a between. It 
would be quite futile to try, on the contrary, to assign to this betiveen, 
at once connecting and separating a and b, which is a mere memorial 
of an act of thought achieved solely by means of the unity of our con 
sciousness, a real validity in the sense of its having an independent 
existence of its own apart from the consciousness which thinks it. 
We are all, it is true, accustomed to think of things in their multipli 
city as scattered over a space, through the void of which stretch the 
threads of their connecting relations ; whether we insist on this way of 
thinking and consider the existence of things to be only possible in 
the space which we see around us, or whether we are disposed with 
more or less clearness, as against the notion of a sensible space, to 
prefer that of an intelligible space which would afford the web com 
posed of those threads of relation equal convenience of expansion. But 
even if we cannot rid ourselves of these figures, we must at least allow 
that that part of the thread of relation which lies in the void between 
a and b, can contribute nothing to the union of the two immediately 
but only through its attachment to a and b respectively. Nor does 
its mere contact with a and b suffice to yield this result. It must 

144 The Unity of Things. 

communicate to both a definite tension, prevalent throughout its own 
length, so that they are in a different condition from that in which 
they would be if this tension were of a different degree or took a dif 
ferent direction. 

It is on these modifications of their inner state, which a and b sus 
tain from each other on these alone that the result of the relation 
between them depends ; and these are obviously independent of the 
length and of the existence of the imagined thread of relation. The 
termini a and b can produce immediately in each other these reciprocal 
modifications, which they in the last resort must produce even on 
supposition that they communicated their tension to each other by 
means of the thread of relation ; since no one would so far misuse 
the figure as to make the thread, which was ostensibly only an adapta 
tion to sense of the relation between the termini, into a new real 
material, capable of causing a tension, that has arisen in itself from 
the reciprocal action of its own elements, to act on inert things, a and 
b, attached to it. Let us discard, then, this easy, but useless and con 
fusing, figure. Let us admit that there is no such thing as this interval 
between things, in which, as its various possible modifications, we 
sought a place for those relations, C, that we supposed to form the 
ground of the changing action of things upon each other. That 
which we sought under this name of an objective relation between 
things can only subsist if it is more than mere relation, and if it sub 
sists not between things but immediately in them as the mutual action 
which they exercise on each other and the mutual effects which they 
sustain from e.ach other. It is not till we direct our thought in the 
way of comparison to the various forms of this action that we come 
to form this abstract conception of a ?nere relation, not yet amounting 
to action but preceding the action which really takes place as its 
ground or condition. 



82. WE may now attempt by way of summary to determine how 
many of the ontological questions, so far proposed, admit of a final 
answer. In the first place, to stand in relations appeared to us at 
the beginning of our discussion to be the only intelligible import of 
the being of things. These relations are nothing else than the im 
mediate internal reciprocal actions themselves which the things un 
remittingly exchange. Beside the things and that which goes on in 
them there is nothing in reality. Everything which we regard as 
mere relation all those relations which seem to extend through the 
complete void of a * leiween-things] so that the real might enter into 
them subsist solely as images which our presentative faculty on 
its own account makes for itself. They originate in it and for it, as 
in its restless activity it compares the likeness, difference, and se 
quence of the impressions which the operation of A, B, C upon us 
brings into being this operation at each moment corresponding to 
the changeable inner states a, <5, c, which A, JB, C experience through 
their action on each other. To pursue this Thesis further is the problem 
of Cosmology, which deals with things and events as resting or pass 
ing in the seemingly pre-existent forms of space and time, and which 
will have to show how all relations of space and time, which we are 
accustomed to regard as prior conditions of an operation yet to 
ensue, are only expressions and consequences of one already taking 

We find an answer further to the enquiry as to that metaphysical 
C 5 that relation which it seems necessary should supervene, in order 
that things, which without it would have remained indifferent to each 
other, might be placed under the necessity, and become capable, of 
operation on each other. The question is answered to the effect that 
such a thing as a non-C 1 , a separation which would have left the things 
indifferent to each other, is not to be met with in reality and that 
therefore the question as to the transition from this state into that of 

VOL. I. L 

1 46 Conclusion. [BOOK i. 

combination is a question concerning nothing. The unity of M is 
this eternally present condition of an interchange of action, unremit 
ting but varying to the highest degree of complexity. For neither 
does this unity ever really exist in the general form indicated by this 
conception and name of unity and by this sign M. It really exists at 
each moment only as a case, having a definite value, of the equation 
for which I gave the formula *, and in such form it is at the same time 
the efficient cause of the actuality of the state next-ensuing as well as 
the conditioning ground of what this state contains. Thus the stream of 
this self-contained operation propagates itself out of itself from phase 
to phase. If a sensible image is needed to help us to apprehend it, 
we should not think of a wide-spread net of relations, in the meshes 
of which things lie scattered, so that tightening of the threads, now at 
this point, now at that, may draw them together and force them to 
share each other s states. We should rather recall the many simul 
taneous Parts of a piece of polyphonic music, which without being in 
place are external to each other in so far as they are distinguished by 
their pitch and tone, and of which first one and then another, rising 
or falling, swelling or dying away, compels all the rest to vary cor 
respondingly in harmony with itself and one another, forming a series 
of movements that result in the unity of a melody which is consistent 
and complete in itself. 

83. Our last considerations started from the supposition that in a 
certain element A of M a new state a has somehow been introduced. 
It is natural that now a further question should be raised as to the 
possibility of this primary change, from the real occurrence of which 
follows the course of reactions depicted. This question as to the 
beginning of motion has been a recognised one since the time of 
Aristotle, but it has been gradually discovered that the answer to it 
cannot be derived from the unmoved, which seemed to Aristotle the 
ultimate thing in the world. The most various beliefs as to the 
nature and structure of reality agree upon this, that out of a con 
dition of perfect rest a beginning of motion can never arise. Not 
merely a multiplicity of originally given real elements, but also given 
motions between them, are presupposed in all the theories in which 
professors of the natural sciences, no less than others, strive to explain 
the origin of the actual course of the world out of its simplest prin 
ciples. To us, with that hunger for explanation which characterises 
our thought, it looks like an act of despair to deny the derivability 
from anything else of some general fact, when in regard to its 

1 [Cp. 70-] 

CHAPTER vi i.] Might the wor Id have been different? 147 

individual forms one is accustomed to enquire for the conditions of their 
real existence. We experience this feeling of despair if we find our 
selves compelled to trace back the multiplicity of changeable bodies 
to a number of unchangeable elements. Yet the question, why it 
is just these elements and no others that enjoy the prerogative of 
original reality, does not force itself upon us. Our fancy does not 
avail, beyond the elements given by experience, to produce images of 
others, which might have existed but were in some unintelligible way 
cheated of their equal claim to reality. Of the motions, on the con 
trary, of which these elements, once given, are capable, we see first 
one and then another take place in reality according as their changing 
conditions bring them about. None of them appears to us so 
superior to the rest that it exclusively, and without depending in its 
turn on similar conditions, should claim to be regarded as the first 
actual motion of the real. 

These considerations lead on the one side to an endless regress in 
time. It is not necessary however at this point to complicate our 
enquiry by reference to the difficulties connected with occurrence in 
time. Our effort will be to exclude them for the present. But, no 
matter whether we believe ourselves to reach a really first beginning 
or whether we prolong the chain of occurrence in endless retrogres 
sion, the established course of the world is anyhow a single reality in 
contrast with the innumerable possibilities, which would have been 
realised if either the primary motion had been different, as it might 
have been, or if, which is equally thinkable, the endless progression, 
as a whole, had taken a different direction. For whether in reality it 
be finite or infinite, in either case its internal arrangement admits of 
permutations which, as it is, are not real. 

All these doubts, however, are only different off-shoots of a general 
confusion in our way of thinking and a complete misunderstanding 
of the problems which a metaphysical enquiry has to solve. The 
world once for all is, and we are in it. It is constituted in a particu 
lar way, and in us for that reason there lives a Thought, which is able 
to distinguish different cases of a universal. Now that all this is so, 
there may arise in us the images and conceptions of possibilities 
which in reality are not ; and then we imagine that we, with this 
Thought of ours, are there before all reality and have the business of 
deciding what reality should arise out of these empty possibilities, 
which are yet all alike only thinkable because there is a reality 
from which this Thought springs. When once, in this Thought, 
affirmation and denial of the same content have become possible, we 

L 2 

148 Conclusion. [BOOKI^ 

can propose all those perverted questions against which we have so 
often protested Why there is a world at all, when it is thinkable that 
there should be none ? Why, as there is a world, its content is M 
and not some other drawn from the far-reaching domain of the 
non-J/? Given the real world as M, why is it not in rest but in 
motion ? Given motion, why is it motion in the direction X and not 
in the equally thinkable direction Z? To all these questions there is 
only one answer. It is not the business of the metaphysician to 
>make reality but to recognise it ; to investigate the inward order of 
what is given, not to deduce the given from what is not given. In 
order to fulfil this office, he has to guard against the mistake of 
regarding abstractions, by means of which he fixes single determina 
tions of the real for his use, as constructive and independent elements 
which he can employ, by help of his own resources, to build up the 

In this mistake we have often seen metaphysicians entangled. 
They have formed the idea of a pure being and given to this a 
significance apart from all relations, in the affirmation of which and 
not otherwise it indicates reality. They have petrified that reality 
which can only attach to something completely determined, into a 
real-in-itself destitute of all properties. They have spoken of laws 
as a controlling power between or beyond the things and events in 
which such laws had their only real validity. In like manner we 
are inclined to think at the outset of the truly existing M, the complex 
of all things, as a motionless object of our contemplation ; and we are 
right in doing so as long as in conceiving it we think merely of the 
function, constantly identical with itself, which it signifies to us. From 
this function, it is true, simply as conceived, no motion follows. But 
we forget meantime that it is not this conception of this function that 
is the real, but that which at each moment the function executes, and 
of which the concrete nature may contain a kind of fulfilment of the 
function, which does not follow from that conception of it. In what 
way that one all embracing M solves its problem whether by main 
taining a constant equality of content, or by a succession of innu 
merable different instances, of which each satisfies the general equa 
tion prescribed by its plan that is its own affair. Between these two 
thinkable possibilities it is not for us to choose as we will. Our 
business is to recognise whichever of them is given as reality. Now 
what is given to us is the fact of Becoming. No denial of ours can 
banish it from the world. It is not therefore as a stationary identity 
with itself but only as an eternally self-sustained motion that we have 

CHAPTER vii.] Must a spiritual Being be assumed? 149 

to recognise the given being of that which truly is. And as given 
with it we have also to recognise the direction which its motion 

84. I have referred to the theories which agree with my own in 
being Monistic. In all of them motion is at the same time regarded 
as an eternal attribute of the supposed ultimate ground of the world. 
This motion, however, was generally represented as a ceaseless 
activity, on the opposition of which, as living and animating, to the un 
intelligible conception of a stark and dead reality the writers referred 
to loved to dwell. Such language shows that the metaphysical reasons 
for believing in the Unity of Being have been reinforced by aesthetic 
inclinations which have yielded a certain prejudice as to the nature 
of the Being that is to be counted supreme. It was not the mere 
characteristic of life and activity but their worth and the happiness 
found in the enjoyment of them which it was felt must belong in 
some supreme measure to that in which all things have their cause and 
reason. Such a proposition is more than at this stage of our enquiry 
we are entitled to maintain. Life and Activity only carry the special 
meaning thus associated with them on supposition of the spirituality 
of the Being of which they are predicated. The only necessary 
inference, however, from the reasoning which has so far guided us is 
to an immanent operation, through which each new state of what Is 
becomes the productive occasion of a second sequent upon it, but 
which for anything we have yet seen to the contrary may be a blind 
operation. I would not indeed conceal my conviction that there is 
justification, notwithstanding, for a belief in the Life of that which is 
the ground of the world, but it is a justification of which I must post 
pone the statement. I would only ask, subject to this proviso, to be 
allowed the use of expressions, for the sake of brevity, of which the 
full meaning is indeed only intelligible upon a supposition, as we have 
seen, still to be made good, but which will give a more vivid meaning 
to the propositions we have yet to advance than the constant repeti 
tion of more abstract terms could do. 

85. So long as all we know of M is the function which it is 
required to fulfil that, namely, of being the Unity which renders all 
that the world contains what it is so long we can derive nothing 
from this thought but a series of general and abstract deductions. 
Every single being which exists, exists in virtue not of any being of 
its own but of the commission given it, so to speak, by the one M; 
and it exists just so long as its particular being is required for the 
fulfilment of the equation M= M. Again, it is what it is not abso- 

150 Conclusion. [BOOK i. 

lutely and in immemorial independence of anything else ; it is that 
which the one M charges it to be. One thing, finally, operates on 
another not by means of any force of its own, but in virtue of the 
One present in it, and the mode and amount of its operation at each 
moment is that prescribed it by M for the re-establishment of the 
equation just spoken of. 

To the further interpretation of these propositions in detail I return 
presently. That which is implied in all of them is a denial of any 
knowledge antecedent to all experience a denial which goes much 
deeper, and indeed bears quite another meaning than is understood by 
those who are so fond of insisting on this renunciation of a priori 
knowledge. It is not in philosophy merely, but in the propositions 
on which scientific men venture that we trace the influence of the 
prejudice that, independently of the content realised in this world, 
M =. M, there are certain universal modes of procedure, certain rights 
and duties, which self-evidently belong to all elements, as such, that 
are to be united in any possible world, and which would be just as 
valid for a wholly different world, N = TV, as for that in which we 
actually live. There has thus arisen in philosophy a series of propo 
sitions which purport to set forth the properties and prerogatives of 
substances as such independently of that course of the world in which 
they are inwoven. They obviously rest on the impression that every 
other order of a universe, whatever it might be, that could ever come 
into Being, would have to respect these properties and prerogatives 
and could exact no function from Things other than what, in virtue of 
a nature belonging to them antecedently to the existence of a world, 
they were fitted and necessitated to render. And no less in the 
procedure of the physical sciences, however many laws they may 
treat as obtaining merely in the way of matter of fact, there is yet 
implied the notion of there being a certain more limited number of 
mechanical principles, to which every possible nature, however hetero 
geneous from nature as it is, would nevertheless have to conform. 
The philosophers, it is true, have imagined that the knowledge of the 
prerogatives of Substance was to be attained by pure thinking, while 
the men of science maintain that the knowledge of ultimate laws is 
only to be arrived at by experience. But as to the metaphysical value 
of that which they suppose to be discovered in these different ways 
they are both at one. They take it as the sum of pre-mundane truth, 
which different worlds, M= yJ/and N= N, do but exhibit in different 
cases of its application. 

This is the notion which I seek to controvert. Prior to the world, 

CHAPTER vi i.] Nothing more primary than Rea lily. 151 

or prior to the first thing that was real, there was no pre-mundane or 
pre-real reality, in which it would have been possible to make out what 
would be the rights which, in the event of there coming to be a reality, 
each element to be employed in its construction could urge for its 
protection against anything incompatible with its right as a substance, 
or to which every force might appeal as a justification for refusing 
functions not imposed on it by the terms of its original charter. 
There is really neither primary being nor primary law, but the 
original reality, M or N. Given M or N, there follows from the one 
M for its world, M= M, the series of laws and truths, which hold 
good for this world. If not M but N were the original reality, then 
for the world N = ^V there would follow the other series of regulated 
processes which would hold good for this other world. There is 
nothing which could oppose to these ordinances MQT. TV any claim of 
its own to preservation or respect. 

86. Here the objector will interpose : Granting this, are you not 
liable to the charge of having here in your turn given utterance to one 
of those pre-mundane truths, of which you refuse to admit the validity? 
Have you not of your own accord expressly alleged the case of two 
worlds, M and N, which you suppose would both be obliged to 
conform to the general rule stated? Now I have purposely chosen 
these expressions in order to make my view, which certainly stands in 
need of justification against the above objection, perfectly clear. In 
the first place, as regards the world N, which I placed in opposition 
to the real world M, I have to repeat what I have already more than 
once pointed out. The world M is, and we, thinking spirits, are in 
it, holding a position which M in virtue of its nature as M could not 
but assign to us. To this position are adjusted those general processes 
of our Thought, by which we are to arrive at what we call a know 
ledge of the rest of the world. Among these is that very important 
one, no doubt corresponding to the plan on which the world M is 
ordered, which enables us not only to form general ideas as such, but 
to subsume any given manifold under any one of its marks, of which 
a general idea has been formed, as a species or instance thereof. 
This intellectual capability, once given, does not subject itself to any 
limits in its exercise. Even that which, when we consider it meta 
physically, we recognise as in reality the all-containing and uncon 
ditioned, we may as a matter of logic take for one of the various 
instances admitting of subsumption under the general idea of the un 
conditioned. Hence, while it is only of particular things that we 
assert multiplicity as a matter of reality, we attempt on the other 

152 Conclusion . [BOOKI. 

hand to form a plural of the conception Universe/ and oppose the 
real M to many other possible Universes. 

But the capacity of doing this we owe not to the knowledge of a 
law to which M and N alike are subject, but only to that which 
actually takes place in M, and to a certain tendency transferred from 
it to us as constituents of M: the tendency to think of everything 
real as an instance of a kind, of which the conception is derived by 
abstraction from that thing, and thus at last to think even of the 
primary all-embracing Real, M itself, as an instance representing the 
idea we form of it, and so to dream of other instances existing along 
with it. Thus arises the notion of that world N 9 a perfectly empty 
fiction of thought to which we ascribe no manner of reality, and of 
no value, except, like other imaginary formulae, to illustrate the other 
conception M, which is not imaginary. And I employed TV exclusively 
for this purpose. Further, when we said that, if N existed, the laws 
valid for N would flow from the equation N = N in just the same 
way as those valid for M flow from the equation M = M, this was 
not a conclusion drawn from knowledge of an obligation binding on 
both of them. On the contrary, it was an analogy in which what was 
true of the real M was transferred to the imaginary N. In reality we 
have no title to make this transfer, for to put it simply who can tell 
what would be and would happen if everything were other than it is ? 
But if we do oppose this imaginary case to the real one in order to 
explain the latter, we must treat it after the type of the real. Other 
wise, as wholly disparate, it would not even serve the purpose of illus 
trating the real by contrast with it the only purpose for which it is 

87. Yet a third objection remains to be noticed. The statement 
that from M follows the series of laws that hold good for this world 
M, obviously does not mean merely that these laws proceed anyhow 
from M-, it means that they are the proper consequences of its 
nature. But what is meant by a proper consequence when it can 
no longer be distinguished from an improper consequence as corre 
sponding to some rule to which the improper consequence does not 
correspond? .Have we not after all to presuppose some law of the 
necessity or possibility of thought, absolutely prior to the world and 
reality, which determines, in regard to every reality that may come to 
be, what development of its particular nature can follow consistently 
from the nature of the primary real, M or N, in distinction from such 
a development as would be inconsistent ? 

This variation of the old error can only be met by a variation of the 

CHAPTER vi i.] * Consistency requires Comparison. 153 

old answer. At first sight it seems a pleonasm to demand that actual 
consequences should not be inconsequent. Still the expression has 
a certain meaning. Hitherto we have taken the idea of reason and 
consequent to be merely this, that from a determinate something there 
flows another determinate something. The question, what determinate 
something admits of being connected with what other, by coherence 
of this sort, has been left aside. The idea of reason and consequent, as 
above stated, would be satisfied, if with the various reasons g^ g* g* the 
completely determinate consequences p q r were as a matter of fact 
associated, without there being any affinity between p q and r corre 
sponding to that between g l g*g*. We shall find that our knowledge 
of reality is in fact ultimately arrested by such pairs of cohering 
occurrences. For instance, between the external stimuli on which the 
sensations of sight and hearing depend, we are able to point out 
affinities which make it possible to present those several modes of 
stimulation as kinds, g l and g- 2 , of one process of vibration, g. But 
between sounds and colours we are quite unable to discover the same 
affinity, or to prove that, if sensations of sound follow upon^ 1 , sensa 
tions of colour must in consistency present themselves on occasion 

This example illustrates the meaning of that consistency of conse 
quence which, in our view as stated above, can within certain limits 
be actually discovered and demonstrated in the real world, but beyond 
those limits is assumed to obtain universally in some form or other. 
The Unity of Being, without which there would be no possibility of 
the reciprocal action within a world of the seemingly though not really 
separate elements of that world, excludes the notion of a multiplicity 
of isolated and fatalistic ordinances, which without reference to each 
other should bind together so many single pairs of events. There 
must be some rule or other according to which the connexion of the 
members of each single pair, g * and_/^ with each other determines that 
of all the other pairs, ^ m and/" m . It is only in reference to the com 
parison of various cases with each other, which thus becomes possible, 
that there is any meaning in speaking as we did of consistency. 
The expression has no meaning in relation to any single pair, g and 
y, which we might have made the point of departure for our pre 
liminary consideration of the rest. The coherence between two 
members would at the outset be an independent fact of which 
nothing could be known but simply that it was the fact. For 

1 [ g and P stand for Grand and Folge* here, as on p. 83. Cp. also p. 96 
where Grand (Reason) is distinguished from Ursache (Cause).] 

154 Conclusion. 


supposing we chose to think of their adjustment to each other as 
connected with the fulfilment of a supreme condition Z requiring 
consistency, they would still only correspond to this condition. The 
actual concrete mode in which they satisfied it, the content in virtue 
of which they subordinated themselves to it, would be something 
which it would be impossible to suppose determined by Z itself; the 
more so in proportion as Z was more expressly taken to be an or 
dinance that would have to be fulfilled indifferently in innumerable 
cases, nay even in the most various worlds. Supposing Z to be 
neither the determining ground of the content of^- and/; nor the pro 
ductive cause of their real existence, the proposition that a connexion 
between the two ensues in accordance with Z, cannot be a statement 
of a real metaphysical order of supremacy and subordination : but is 
just the reverse of the real order. The primary independent fact of 
the connexion between ^ and/" 1 is of such a character that the com 
parison of it with g* and / 2 , g* and / 3 , enables us first to apprehend 
a universal mode of procedure on the part of the various connexions 
of events in the world a concrete procedure, peculiar to this world 
M and then, upon continued abstraction, to generate the conception 
of a condition Z, which would hold good for the organization of any 
world, N, so long as the mental image of N was formed after the 
pattern of the given reality, M. 

88. At the present day few will understand the reasons for the per- 
^ sistency with which I dwell on these considerations and so often 
/ return to them. We live quickly, and have forgotten, without settling, 
a controversy which forty years ago was still a matter of the liveliest 
interest among the philosophers of Germany. The difficulties involved 
in Hegel s system of thought were then beginning to make themselves 
felt even by those who looked with favour on his enterprise of 
repeating in thought by a constructive process the actual development 
of the world from the ground of the absolute. It was not after 
Hegel s mind to begin by determining the subjective forms of 
thought, under which alone we can apprehend the concrete nature 
of this ground of the Universe a nature perhaps to us inaccessible. 
From the outset he looked on the motion of our thought in its effort 
to gain a clear idea of this still obscure goal of our aspiration as the 
proper inward development of the absolute itself, which only needed 
to be pursued consistently, in order gradually to bring into conscious 
ness all that the universe contains. 

Thus the most abstract of objects came to be thought of as the 
root of the most concrete a way of thinking which it was soon found 

CHAPTER VII.] CoHStrUCtlOHS of t/16 WOT Id. 155 

impossible to carry out. Even in dealing with the phenomena of 
nature, though they were forced into categories and classifications 
without sufficient knowledge, it had to be supposed that the process 
of development, once begun, was carried on with a superabundance 
in the multiplication of forms for which no explanation was to be 
found in the generalities which preceded the theory of nature. All 
that these could do was to make us anticipate some such saltus\ for the 
transition of one determination into its opposite, or at any rate into 
an otherness, had been one of the supposed characteristics of the 
motion which was held to generate the world. The same difficulty 
might have been felt when the turn came for the construction of the 
spiritual and historical world, into which nature was supposed to pass 
over. There are many reasons, however, even in actual life, for not 
being content with the derivation of our ideas of the beautiful and the 
good from the living feeling which in fact alone completely appre 
hends their value, but for giving them greater precision by requiring 
them to satisfy certain general formal determinations. It is true that 
they too undergo a sensible degradation if they are looked on merely 
as instances of abstract relations of thought, but this was taken almost 
less notice of than the same fact in regard to the phenomena of nature, 
for owing to the latter being objects of perception, it could not be 
ignored how much more they were than the abstract problems which 
according to the Hegelian philosophy they had to fulfil. 

Hegel himself was quite aware of the error involved in this way of 
representing the world s course of development. He repeatedly insists 
that what appears in it as the third and last member of the dialectical 
movement described is in truth rather the first. And assuredly this 
remark is not to be looked upon as an after-thought of which no 
further application is made, but expresses the true intention of this 
bold Monism, which undertook far more than human powers can 
achieve, but of which the leading idea by no means loses its value 
through the great defects in its execution. From the errors noticed 
Schelling thought to save us. It was time, he told us, that the higher, 
the only proper, antithesis should be brought into view the antithesis 
between freedom and necessity, in apprehending which, and not other 
wise, we reach the inmost centre of philosophy. I will not dwell on 
the manner in which he himself workecf out this view in its application 
to the philosophy of religion. It was Weisse who first sought to 
develope it systematically. That which Hegel had taken for true 
Being, he looked upon merely as the sum of prior conditions without 
which such Being would be unthinkable and could not be, but which 

156 Conclusion. [BOOKI. 

themselves have not being. Thus understood, they formed in his 
view the object of a certain part of philosophy, and that comparatively 
speaking a negative part, namely Metaphysic. It was for experience 
on the other hand the experience of the senses and that of the moral 
and religious consciousness as a positive revelation to give us know 
ledge of the reality built on that abstract foundation. 

Such expressions might easily be explained in a sense with 
which we could agree. It would be a different sense, however, 
from that which they were intended to convey. According to that 
original sense the general thoughts, which it was the business of 
Metaphysic to unfold, were more than those forms of apprehending 
true Being without which we cannot think. They were understood 
indeed to be this, but also something more. In their sum they were 
held to constitute an absolutely necessary matter for which it was 
impossible either not to be or to be other than it is, but which, not 
withstanding this necessity, notwithstanding this unconditional being, 
was after all a nothing, without essence and without reality; while 
over against it stood the true Being, for which according to this 
theory, it is possible not to be or to be other than it is, thus being 
constituted not by necessity but by freedom. I shall not spend time 
in discussing this usage of the terms, freedom and necessity. I would 
merely point out that the latter term, if not confined to a necessity of 
thought on our part, but extended to that which is expressly held to 
be the unconditioned condition of all that is conditioned, would have 
simply no assignable meaning and would have to be replaced by the 
notion of a de facto universal validity. The adoption of the term 
Freedom to indicate the other sort of reality expressly recognised as 
merely de facto the reality of that which might just as well not be 
is to be explained by the influence of ideas derived from another 
sphere of philosophy the philosophy of religion which cannot be 
further noticed here. Taken as a whole, the theory is the explicit 
and systematic expression of that Dualism which I find wholly un 
thinkable, and against which my discussions have so far been directed. 
In this form at any rate it cannot be true. It is impossible that there 
should first be an absolute Prius consisting in a system of forms that 
carry necessity with them and constitute a sort of unaccountable Fate, 
and that then there should come to be a world, however created, 
which should submit itself to the constraint of these laws for the 
realisation of just so much as these limits will allow. The real alone 
is and it is the real which by its Being brings about the appearance 
of there being a necessity antecedent to it, just as it is the living body 

CHAPTER vii.] Idealism and Realism. 157 

that forms within itself the skeleton around which it has the appear 
ance of having grown. / t " 

89. We have not the least knowledge how it is that the seemingly . 
homogeneous content of a germ- vesicle deposits those fixed elements 
of form, around which the vital movements are carried on. Still 
less shall we succeed in deducing from the simple original character, 
M, of a world, the organization of the necessity which prevails in it. 
There are two general ways, however, of understanding the matter, 
alike admissible consistently with our assumption of the unity of the 
world, which remain to be noticed here. I will indicate them 
symbolically by means of our previous formulae, M$\ABK\, 
and the converse $ [A B K\ M. By the former I mean to convey 
that M is to be considered the form-giving Prius, of which the 
activity, whether in the way of self-maintenance or development, 
at every moment conditions the state of the world s elements and the 
form of their combination, both being variable between the limits 
which their harmony with M fixes for them. In the second formula 
M is presented as the variable resulting form, which the world at 
each moment assumes through the reciprocal effects of its elements 
this form again being confined within limits which the necessity, 
persistently and equally prevalent in these effects, imposes. I might 
at once designate these views as severally Idealism and Realism, 
were it not that the familiar but at the same time somewhat indefinite 
meaning of these terms makes a closer investigation necessary. 

90. Availing ourselves once again, for explanatory purposes, of 
the opposition between two worlds, M and N, we might designate 
the form in which, according to the sense of the former view, we 
should conceive the different characters of the two worlds to be alike 
comprehended, so that of an Idea * or, Germanice, as that of 
a Thought 2 . It is thus that in ^Esthetic criticism we are accustomed 
to speak of the Idea or Thought of a work of Art, in the sense of 
the principle which determines its form in opposition to the particular 
outlines in which indeed the principle is manifested but to which it is 
not so absolutely tied that other kindred means, even means wholly 
different, might not be combined to express it. So again in active 
life we speak of a project as an Idea or Thought, when we mean to 
censure it for including no selection between the manifold points 
capable of being related by the combination of which it might be 
carried out. If now we drop the imaginary world N, we cannot 
thereupon suppose that the real world M lacks that concrete character 

1 [ Idee. ] 2 [ Gcdanke. ] 

158 Conclusion. 



by which we distinguished it from N, although that character would 
no longer be needed for the purpose of distinguishing it from some 
thing else now that it is understood that there is nothing external 
to it. It would therefore be incorrect to call the Idea, simply as the 
Idea, the supreme principle of the world. Even the absolute idea, 
although, in opposition to the partial ideas which it itself conditions 
as constituents of its meaning, it might fitly be called unlimited, would 
not on that account be free from a definitely concrete content, with 
which it fills the general form of the Idea. 

In other cases it is more easy to avoid this logical error of putting 
an abstract designation of essence, as conceived by us, in place of the 
subject to which the essence belongs. We are more liable to it in 
the present case, where the reality, being absolutely single, can only 
be compared with imaginary instances of the same conception. We 
are then apt to think that every determinate quality which we might 
leave to this reality would rest on a denial of the other determinate 
qualities which we excluded from it, and which, in order to the 
possibility of such exclusion, must at the same time be classed with 
that which excludes them as coordinate instances of a still higher 
reality. This reality can then only be reached by an extinction of 
all content whatever. Thus the tendency, which so often recurs in 
the history of philosophy, spins out its thread the tendency to look 
on the supreme creative principle of the world not merely as un- 
definable by any predicates within our reach but as in itself empty 
and indefinite. These ways of thinking are only justifiable so far as 
they imply a refusal to ascribe to the supreme M, as a sort of pre 
supposition of its being, a multitude of ready-made predicates, from 
which as from a given store it was to collect its proper nature. It is 
no such doctrine that we mean to convey in asserting that the supreme 
principle of reality is to be found in a definitely concrete Idea, M, 
and not in the Idea merely as an Idea. The truth is rather this. 
M being in existence, or in consequence of its existence, it becomes 
possible for our Thought, as included in it, to apprehend that which 
M is in the form of a summum genus to which M admits of being 
subordinated and as a negation of the non-3/. It is not every deter 
mination that rests on negation. On the contrary, there is an original 
Position without which it would be impossible for us to apprehend 
the content of that Position as a determination and to explain it by 
the negation of something else. 

91. The mode of development/ accordingly, which is imposed on 
the world by the Idea of which it is the expression, would depend on 

CHAPTER vii.] The Idea and its phases. 159 

the content of the Idea itself, and could only be set forth by one who 
had previously made himself master of this content. So to make 
himself master of it must be the main business of the Idealist as much 
as of any one else. The only preliminary enlightenment which he 
would. have to seek would relate to that characteristic of the cosmic 
order in the way of mere form which is implied in the fact that, 
according to him, it is in the form of a governing Idea that the con 
tent just spoken of, whatever it may be, constitutes the basis of this 
order. For him M means simply a persistent Thought, of which the 
import remains the same, whatever and how great soever in each 
instance of its realisation may be the collection of elements combined 
to this end. The world therefore would not be bound by M either 
to the constant maintenance of the same elements or to the main 
tenance of an identical form in their connexion. Not only would 
ABR admit of replacement by abr and afip, but also their mode of 
connexion $ by x or ^, if it was only in these new forms that those 
altered elements admitted of being combined into identity with M. 
It would be idle to seek universally binding conditions which in each 
single form of M s realisation the coherent elements would have to 
satisfy simply in order to be coherent. What each requires on the 
part of the other in these special cases is not ascertainable from any 
source whatever either by computation or by syllogism. We have 
no other analogy to guide us in judging of this connexion than that 
often noticed above of aesthetic fitness which, when once we have 
become acquainted with the fact of a combination between manifold 
elements, convinces us that there is a perfect compatibility, a deep- 
seated mutual understanding, between them, without enabling us to 
perceive any general rule in consequence of which this result might 
have come about. The relation, however, of the Idea M to the 
various forms, thus constituted, of its expression tj>[Al?JZ], x[0r], 
^[a$p] is not that of a genus to its species. It passes from one into 
the other not indifferently from any one into any other, but in de 
finite series from <f> through x into +. No Idealism at any rate has 
yet failed to insist on the supposition a supposition which experience 
bears out that it is not merely in any section of the world which 
might be made at any given moment, but also in the succession of its 
phases, that the unity of the Idea will assert itself. 

The question may indeed be repeated, What are the conditions 
which </> and x have to satisfy in order to the possibility of sequence 
upon each other, while it is impossible for ^ to arise directly out of 
< ? Of all theories Idealism is most completely debarred from an 

160 Conclusion, 

appeal to a supra-mundane mechanism, which makes the one suc 
cession necessary, the other impossible. In consistency it must 
place the maintenance of this order as unconditionally as the forma 
tion of its successive members in the hands of the Idea itself which 
is directed by nothing but its own nature. On this nature will de 
pend the adoption of one or other of certain courses ; or rather it 
will consist in one or other of them. It will require either a per 
fectly unchanged self-maintenance, or the preservation, along with 
more or less considerable variations, of the same idea and outline 
in the totality of phenomena ; either a progress to constantly new 
forms which never returns upon itself or a repetition of the same 
periods. It is only the first of these modes of procedure which 
observation contradicts in the case of the given world. Of the others 
we find instances in detail ; but if we were called to say which of 
them bears the stamp of reality as a whole, our collective expe 
rience would afford no guide to an answer. All that we know is 
that the several phases of the cosmic order, whatever the nature of the 
coherent chain formed by their series as a whole, are made up of 
combinations of comparable elements, that is, as we are in the habit 
of supposing, of states and changes of persistent things. This is 
the justification of our way of employing the equivalent letters of 
different alphabets to indicate the constituents which in different 
sections of the cosmic order seem to replace each other. If we 
V allow ourselves then to pursue this mode of representation and con 
cede to Idealism that the Idea M determines the series of its forms 
without being in any way conditioned by anything alien to itself, 
still by this very act of determination it makes each preceding phase, 
with its content, the condition of the realisation of that which follows. 
It is no detached existence, however, that we can ascribe to the 
Idea, as if it were an as yet unformed M apart from all the several 
forms of its possible realisation. We may not present it to our 
selves as constantly dipping afresh into such a repertory of forms, 
with a definite series in view, for the purpose, after discarding the 
prior phase, of clothing itself in the new one which might be next in 
the series. At each moment the Idea is real only in one of these 
forms. It is only as having at this particular time arrived at this parti 
cular expression of its meaning, that it can be the determining ground 
for the surrender of this momentary form and for the realisation of 
the next succeeding one. The aesthetic or, if that term is preferred, 
the dialectic connexion between such phases of reality as stand in a 
definite order of succession, which was implied in their being re- 

CHAPTER vi i.] The Idea and its Mechanism. 161 

garded as an expression of one Idea, must pass over into a causal 
connexion, in which the content and organization of the world at 
each moment is dependent on its content and organization at the 
previous moment. 

92. The difficulties involved in this doctrine have been too much 
ignored by Idealism, in the forms which it has so far taken. In 
seeking to throw light on them, I propose to confine myself to the 
succession of two phases of the simple form </> \ABK\ and </> \ab R\, 
which were treated in 72 as possible cases. This determinate 
succession can never become thinkable, if each of these phases is 
represented as an inert combination of inert elements : for in that 
case each is an equivalent expression for M and the transition from 
each into each of the innumerable other expressions or phases of M 
is equally possible and equally unnecessary. Either the included 
elements must be considered to be in a definitely directed process of 
becoming, or the common form of combination, <, must be con 
sidered a motion which distributes itself upon them in various definite 
quantities. This assumption is not inconsistent either with the prin 
ciples previously laid down, according to which a stationary being 
of things could not be held to be anything but a self-mainte 
nance of that which is in constant process of becoming, or with 
the spirit of Idealism ; for Idealism includes in its conception of 
every form of being the dialectical negativity, which drives the being 
out of one given form of its reality into another. For these two 
unmoving members therefore we should have at once to substitute 
the one independent fact of a process by which A passes into a and 
B into b, while R remains the same. Now this fact is an equivalent 
expression of that form of becoming which at this moment con 
stitutes the reality of M. A-a and B-b, accordingly, are two occur 
rences of which, in the expression of the idea which constitutes M, 
one cannot take place without the other. Taken by themselves, 
indeed, they would have no such mutual connexion. The con 
nexion does not represent any supra-mundane law, holding good 
for the world N as well as for the real M. It is only in this real 
M which means for us in fact unconditionally that they belong 
together as each the condition of the other, so long as there is no 
change on the part of the remaining member R to affect the pure 
operation of the two on each other. 

Supposing it, now, to come about in the course of this world M t 
that certain preceding phases once again gave rise to the occurrence 
A-a and along with it to an unchanged R or an R changed only 

VOL. i. M 

1 62 Conclusion. 


in respect of internal modifications without external effect, then we 
should infer that in this case of repetition of A-a, the occurrence 
B-b must also reappear as its consequence required by the nature 
of M. If, however, the preceding phases necessitated along with 
A-a a transition of R to r, then the tendency of the former occur 
rence to produce B-b, while continuing, would not be able to 
realise itself purely. What would really take place would be a re 
sulting occurrence, the issue of those two impulses, determined by a 
relation of mutual implication in M just in the same way as, in the 
case of the indifference of R> B-b is determined by A-a. Or 
to express the same generally the transition of the one phase $ into 
the other x ls brought about by the combination of the reciprocal 
effects, which the several movements contained in < once for all exer 
cise in virtue of their nature, independently of the phase in which 
they happen to be combined or of the point in the world s course at 
which they from time to time appear. 

We thus come to believe in the necessity of a mechanical system, 
according to which each momentary realisation of the Idea is that 
which the preceding states of fact according to certain laws of their 
operation had the power to bring about. Nor is it, in any fatalistic 
way, as an alien necessity imposing itself on the Idea, that this 
mechanism is thought of, but as an analytical consequence of our 
conception of the Idea of the supposition that it enjoins upon 
itself a certain order in its manifold possible modes of manifestation 
and by so doing makes the one an antecedent condition of that 
which follows. So long, however, as Idealism continues to regard 
the import of the Idea as the metaphysical Prius which determines 
the succession of events, so long there lies a difficulty in this twofold 
demand the demand that what is conditioned by the Idea a fronte 
should be always identical with that to which this mechanism of its re 
alisation impels a lergo. At a later stage of my enquiry I shall have 
occasion to return to this question. It will be at the point, to which 
the reader will have been long looking forward, where the appear 
ance within nature of living beings brings home to us with special 
cogency the thought of relation to an end as governing the course of 
things, or of an ideal whole preceding the real parts and their com 
bination. The question can then be discussed on more definite 
premisses. In the region of generality to which I at present confine 
myself Idealism could scarcely answer otherwise than by the mere 
assertion ; Such is the fact : such is the nature of the concrete 
Idea, and such the manner of its realisation at every moment, that 

CHAPTER VII.] LlMltS of Idealism. 163 

everything which it ordains in virtue of its own import must issue as 
a necessary result in ordered succession from the blind co-operation 
of all the several movements into which it distributes itself, and 
according to the general laws which it has imposed on itself. 

93. It is not every problem that admits of a solution, nor every 
goal, however necessarily we present it to ourselves, that can be 
reached. We shall never be able to state the full import of that Idea 
M, which we take to be the animating soul of the Cosmos. Not the 
fragmentary observation, which is alone at our command, but only 
that complete view of the whole which is denied, could teach us 
what that full import is. Nay, not even an unlimited extension of 
observation would serve the purpose. To know it, we must live it 
with all the organs of our soul. And even if by some kind of com 
munication we had been put in possession of it, all forms of thought 
would be lacking to us, by which the simple fulness of what was 
given to us in vision could be unfolded into a doctrine, scientifically 
articulated and connected. The renunciation of such hopes has 
been prescribed to us by the conclusion to which we were brought 
in treating of Pure Logic. It remains, as we had there to admit 1 , an 
unrealisable ideal of thought to follow the process by which the 
supreme Idea draws from no other source but itself those minor 
Premisses by means of which its import, while for ever the same, is 
led up to the development of a reality that consists in a manifold 
change. Here, however, as there we can maintain the conviction 
that in reality that is possible which our thoughts are inadequate 
to reproduce 2 . It is not any construction of the world out of the 
idea of which the possibility is thus implied, but merely a regressive 
interpretation, which attempts to trace back the connexion of what 
is given us in experience, as we gradually become acquainted with it, 
to its ineffable source. 

To this actual limitation upon our possibilities of knowledge the 
second of the views above 3 distinguished Realism adjusts itself 
better than Idealism, though it has not at bottom any other or more 
satisfactory answer to give to the questions just raised. Realism does 
not enquire how the course of the world came to be determined as it 
is. It contents itself with treating the collective structure of the world at 
any moment as the inevitable product of the forces of the past operating 
according to general laws. On one point, however, I think the ordinary 
notion entertained by those who hold this view has already been 
corrected. They commonly start from the assumption of an indefinite 
1 Logic, 151. a Logic, loc. cit. 3 [ 89.] 

M 2 

1 64 Conclusion. [BOOK i. 

number of mutually independent elements, which are only brought 
even into combination by the force of laws. That this is impossible 
and that for this Pluralism there must be substituted a Monism is what 
I have tried to show and need not repeat. It is not thus, from the 
nature of objects 1 , but from the nature of the one object 2 , that we must, 
even in Realism, derive the course of things. In fact, the distinction 
between the two views would reduce itself to this, that while the 
Idealist conceives his one principle as a restlessly active Idea, the 
Realist conceives his as something objective 3 , which merely suffers the 
consequences of an original disintegration into a multitude of elements 
that have to be combined according to law a disintegration which 
belongs to the de facto constitution of its nature, as given before 
knowledge begins. The mode of their combinations may become 
known to us through the elaboration of experience : and this know 
ledge gives us as much power of anticipating the future as satisfies 
the requirements of active life. An understanding of the universe is 
not what this method will help us to attain. The general laws, to 
which the reciprocal operations of things conform in the first in 
stance special to each group of phenomena are presented as limita 
tions coeval with knowledge, imposed by Reality on itself and within 
which it is, as a matter of fact, compelled to restrain the multiplicity of 
its products. The overpowering impression, however, which is made 
by the irrefragability of these limits, is not justified -by any value which 
in respect of their content they possess for our understanding. 

They would thus only satisfy him who could content himself with 
the mere recognition of a state of things as unconditional matter of 
fact. But even within the range of realistic views the invincible 
spiritual assurance asserts itself that the world not merely is but has 
a meaning. To succeed in giving to the laws, that are found as a 
matter of fact to obtain, such an expression as makes the reason in 
them, the ratio legis, matter of direct apprehension, is everywhere 
reckoned one of the finest achievements of science. Nor can the 
realistic method of enquiry resist the admission that the ends to which 
events contribute cannot always be credibly explained as mere pro 
ducts of aimless operation. It is not merely organic structures to 
which this remark applies. Even the planetary system exhibits forms 
of self-maintenance in its periodic changes, which have the appearance 
of being particular cases especially selected out of innumerable 
equally possible, or more easily possible, results of such operations. It 
is true that our observation is unable to settle the question whether 
1 [ Sachen. ] 2 [ Sache. ] 3 [ Sache. ] 

CHAPTER vii.] Realism and Teleology. 165 

these cases of adaptation to ends are to be thought of as single 
islands floating in a boundless sea of aimless becoming, or whether 
we should ascribe a like order in its changes to the collective universe. 
Realism can find an explanation of these special forms only in the 
assumption of an arrangement of all operative elements, which, for all 
that depends on the general laws,might just as well have been another, 
but which, being what it is and not another, necessarily leads in 
accordance with those laws to the given ends. It thus appeals on its 
part to the co-operation, as a matter of fact, of two principles inde 
pendent of each other which it knows not how to unite ; on the one 
hand the general laws, on the other hand the given special arrange 
ment of their points of application. In this respect Realism can 
claim no superiority over Idealism. At the same time it is only enquiries 
conducted in the spirit of Realism that will satisfy the wishes of Idealism. 
They will indeed never unveil the full meaning of the Idea. But there 
is nothing but recognition of the de facto relations of things that can 
make our thoughts at least converge towards this centre of the universe. 

94. The conception of a Thing which we adopt has been exposed 
to many transformations, hitherto without decisive issue. Doubts have 
at last been raised whether the union of oneness of essential being 
with multiplicity of so-called states has any meaning at all and is any 
thing better than an empty juxtaposition of words. In approaching 
our conclusion on this point we must take a roundabout road. The 
misgiving just expressed reaches further. In all the arguments 
which we ultimately adduced, and in which we passed naif judgments 
on the innermost essence of the real, on what is possible and impos 
sible for it, according to principles unavoidable for our thought, what 
warranted the assurance that the nature of things must correspond to 
our subjective necessities of thought ? Can such reasonings amount 
to more than a human view of things, bearing perhaps no sort of like 
ness to that which it is credited with representing ? 

This general doubt I meet with an equally general confession, 
which it may be well to make as against too aspiring an estimate of 
what Philosophy can undertake. I readily admit that I take Philo 
sophy to be throughout merely an inner movement of the human 
spirit. In the history of that spirit alone has Philosophy its history. 
It is an effort, within the presupposed limits, even to ourselves abso 
lutely unknown, which our earthly existence imposes on us, to gain a 
consistent view of the world an effort which carries us to something 
beyond the satisfaction of the wants of life, teaching us to set before 
ourselves and to attain worthy objects in living. An absolute truth, 

1 66 Conclusion. [BOOK i. 

such as the archangels in heaven would have to accept, is not its 
object, nor does the failure to realise such an object make our efforts 
bootless. We admit therefore the completely human subjectivity of 
all our knowledge with the less ambiguity, because we see clearly 
moreover that it is unavoidable and that, although we may forego 
the claim to all knowledge whatever, we could put no other knowledge 
in the place of that on which doubt is thrown, that would not be open 
to the same reproach. For in whatever mind anything may present 
itself which may be brought under the idea of knowledge, it will 
always be self-evident that this mind can never gain a view of the 
objects of its knowledge as they would seem if it did not see them, 
but only as they seem if it sees them, and in relation to it the seeing 
mind. It is quite superfluous to make this simple truth still more 
plain by a delineation of all the several steps in our knowledge, each 
monotonously followed by a proof that we everywhere remain within 
the limits of our subjectivity and that every judgment, in the way of 
recognition or correction, which we pass from one of the higher of 
these steps upon one of the lower, is still no more than a necessity of 
thought for us. At most it is worth the trouble to add that still, of 
course, according to our way of thinking this is no specially preju 
dicial lot of the human spirit, but must recur in every being which 
stands in relation to anything beyond it. 

Just for this reason this universal character of subjectivity, belong 
ing to all knowledge, can settle nothing as to its truth or untruth. 
In putting trust in one component of ostensible knowledge while 
we take another to be erroneous we can be justified only by a con 
sideration of the import of the two components. We have to reject 
and alter all the notions, which we began by forming but which 
cannot be maintained without contradiction when our thoughts are 
systematized, while they can without contradiction be replaced by 
others. As regards the ultimate principles, however, which we follow 
in this criticism of our thoughts, it is quite true that we are left with 
nothing but the confidence of Reason in itself, or the certainty of belief 
in the general truth that there is a meaning in the world, and that the 
nature of that reality, which includes us in itself, has given our spirit 
only such necessities of thought as harmonise with it. 

95. Of the various forms in which the scepticism in question 
reappears the last is that of a doubt not as to the general capacity for 
truth on the part of our cognition, but as to the truth of one of its 
utterances a determinate though very comprehensive one. It relates 
to that whole world of things which so far, in conformity with the 

CHAPTER VII.] FicktC OH TklHgS dud Spirits. 1 67 

usual way of thinking, we have taken for granted. After the admirable 
exposition which Fichte has given us of the subject in his Vocation 
of Man, I need not show over again how everything which informs 
us as to the existence of a world without us, consists in the last resort 
merely in affections of our own ego, or to use language more free 
from assumption in forms which hover before our consciousness, 
and from the manifold variations and combinations of which there 
arises the idea and always as our idea of something present with 
out us, of a world of things. Now we have a right to enquire what 
validity this idea, irrespectively of its proximate origin, may claim in 
the whole of our thoughts ; but it would have been a simple fallacy 
merely on account of the subjectivity of all the elements out of which 
it has been formed, to deny its truth and to pronounce the outer world 
to be merely a creation of our imagination. For the state of the case 
could be no other, were there things without us or no. Our know 
ledge in the one case, our imagination in the other, could alike only 
consist in states or activities of our own being in what we call im 
pressions made on our nature, supposing these to be things, but on 
no supposition in anything other than a subjective property of ours. 

As is well known, Fichte did not draw the primary inference which 
offensive as it is would be logically involved in the error noticed, 
the inference, namely, that the single subject, adopting such a philo 
sophy, would have to consider itself the sole reality, which in its own 
inner world generated the appearance of a companion Universe. In 
regard to Spirits he followed the conviction which I just now stated. 
It is only by means of subjective effects produced upon him, like 
those which mislead him into believing in things, that any one can 
know of the existence of other Spirits ; but just because this must 
equally be the case if there really are Spirits, this fact proved nothing 
against their existence. If therefore Fichte allowed the exist 
ence of a world of Spirits, while he inexorably denied that of 
a world of Things, the ground of his decision would only lie in the 
judgment which he passed on the several conceptions in respect 
simply of their content in the fact that he found the conception of 
Spirit not only admissible but indispensable in the entirety of his view 
of the world, that of the Thing on the contrary as inadmissible as 
superfluous. To this conviction he was constant. To have no longer 
an eye for mere things was in his eyes a requirement to be made of 
every true philosophy. 

06. I proceed to connect this brief historical retrospect with the 
\ ^difficulties which, as we saw, have still to be dealt with. We found 

1 68 Conclusion. 

it impossible for that to be unchangeable which we treated as a thing, 
a. It did not even admit of being determined by varying persist 
encies on the part of different qualities *. We were forced to think 
of it as in continuous becoming, either unfolding itself into the one 
series, a 1 , a 2 , a 3 , or maintaining itself, in the other, a, a, a, by constantly 
new production. Each of these momentary phases, however, we saw 
must be exactly like itself, but a 1 = a 1 is different from every other. 
Even the exactly similar members of the latter series, though exactly 
similar, were not one and the same. For all that we asserted that in 
this change the Unity of a thing maintained itself. We could not but 
assert this if we were to conceive the mutual succession of the several 
forms, which could not arise out of nothing but only out of each 
other. We were not in a condition, however, to say what it was that 
remained identical with itself in this process of becoming. We took 
advantage of the term * states 2 , which we applied to the changing forms, 
but we came to the conclusion that in so doing we were only express 
ing our mental demand without satisfying it. We saw that an im 
mediate perception was needed to show us this relation of a subject 
to its states as actually under our hands and thereby convince us of 
its possibility. 

Perhaps the reader then cherished the hope that there would be no 
difficulty in adducing many such instances in case of need. Now, on 
returning to this question, we only find one being, from the special 
nature of which the possibility of that relation seems inseparable. 
This is the spiritual subject, which exercises the wonderful function 
not merely of distinguishing sensations, ideas, feelings from itself but 
at the same time of knowing them as its own,, as its states, and which 
by means of its own unity connects the series of successive events 
in the compass of memory. I should be misunderstood if this state 
ment were interpreted to mean that the Spirit understands how to 
bring itself and its inner life in the way of logical subsumption under 
the relation of a subject to its states or to recognise itself as an 
instance of this subordination. It experiences the fact of there being 
this relation at the very moment when it lives through the process of 
its own action. It is only its later reflection on itself which thereupon 
generates for it in its thinking capacity the general conception of this 
relation a relation in which it stands quite alone without possibility 
of another homogeneous instance being found. It is only in the 
sensitive act, which at once repels the matter of sense from us as 
something that exists for itself and reveals it to us as our own, that 
1 [ M ff-] 2 [ 47-] 

CHAPTER vii.] How can Things be Subjects? 169 

we become aware what is meant by the apprehension of a certain a 
as a state of a subject A. It is only through the fact that our atten 
tion, bringing events into relation, comprehends past and present in 
memory, while at the same time there arises the idea of the persistent 
Ego to which both past and present belong, that we become aware 
what is meant by Unity of Being throughout a change of manifold 
states, and that such unity is possible. In short it is through our 
ability to appear to ourselves as such unities that we are unities. Thus 
the proximate conclusion to which we are forced would be this. If 
there are to be things with the properties we demand of things, they 
must be more than things. Only by sharing this character of the 
spiritual nature can they fulfil the general requirements which must 
be fulfilled in order to constitute a Thing. They can only be distinct 
from their states if they distinguish themselves from their states. 
They can only be unities if they oppose themselves, as such, to the 
multiplicity of their states. 

97. The notion that things have souls has always been a favourite 
one with many and there has been some extravagance in the imagina 
tive expression of it. The reasoning which has here led us up to it does 
not warrant us in demanding anything more than that there should 
belong to things in some form or other that existence as an object 
for itself which distinguishes all spiritual life from what is only an 
object for something else. The mere capacity of feeling pain or 
pleasure, without any higher range of spiritual activity, would suffice 
to fulfil this requirement. There is the less reason to expect that this 
psychical life of things will ever force itself on our observation with 
the clearness of a fact. The assumption of its existence will always 
be looked on as an imagination, which can be allowed no influence 
in the decision of particular questions, and which we can only indulge 
when it is a question, in which no practical consequences are involved, 
of making the most general theories apprehensible. 

It is therefore natural to enquire whether after all it is necessary to 
retain in any form that idea of an existence of Things which forced 
this assumption upon us. There are two points indeed which I 
should maintain as essential : one, the existence of spiritual beings 
like ourselves which, in feeling their states and opposing themselves 
to those states as the unity that feels, satisfy the idea of a permanent 
subject 1 : the other, the unity of that Being, in which these subjects 
in turn have the ground of their existence, the source of their peculiar 
nature, and which is the true activity at work in them. But why over 
1 [ Eines Wesens. J 

1 70 Conclusion. [BOOK i. 

and above this should there be a world of things, which themselves 
gain nothing by existing, but would only serve as a system of occa 
sions or means for producing in spiritual subjects representations 
which after all would have no likeness to their productive causes? 
Could not the creative power dispense with this roundabout way and 
give rise directly in spirits to the phenomena which it was intended 
to present to them ? Could it not present that form of a world which 
was to be seen without the intervention of an unseen world which 
could never be seen as it would be if unseen ? And this power being 
in all spirits one and the same, why should there not in fact be a 
correspondence between the several activities which it exerts in those 
spirits of such a kind that while it would not be the same world- 
image that was presented to all spirits but different images to dif 
ferent spirits, the different presentations should yet fit into each other, 
so that all spirits should believe themselves planted at different posi 
tions of the same world and should be able to adjust themselves in it, 
each to each, in the way of harmonious action ? As to the effects 
again which Things interchange with each other and which according 
to our habitual notions appear to be the strongest proof of their 
independent existence why should we not substitute for them a 
reciprocal conditionedness on the part of innumerable actions, which 
cross and modify each other within the life of the one Being that 
truly is ? If so, the changes which our world-image undergoes would 
at each moment issue directly from the collision of these activities 
which takes effect also in us, not from the presence of many inde 
pendent sources of operation bringing these changes about externally 
to us. 

In fact, if the question was merely one of rendering the world, as 
phenomenally given to us, intelligible, we could dispense with the con 
ception of a real operative atom, which we regard only as a point of 
union for forces and resistances that proceed from it, standing in 
definite relations to other like atoms and only changing according to 
fixed laws through their effect upon it. We could everywhere substitute 
for this idea of the atom that of an elementary action on the part of 
the one Being an action which in like manner would stand in 
definite relations to others like it, and would through them undergo a 
no less orderly change. The assumption of real things would have no 
advantage but such as consists in facility of expression. Even this we 
could secure if, while retaining the term things/ we simply established 
this definition of it.; that things may be accepted in the course of 
our enquiry as secondary fixed points, but for all that are not real 

CHAPTER vi LI Thing s as merely existing! 171 

existences in the metaphysical sense, but elementary actions of the 
one Being which forms the ground of the world, connected with each 
other according to the same laws of reciprocal action which we com 
monly take to apply to the supposed independent things. 

98. For the prosecution of our further enquiries it is of little im 
portance to decide between the two views delineated. But a third 
remains to be noticed which denies the necessity of this alternative, 
and undertakes to justify the common notion of a Thing without a 
Self. When we set about constructing a Being which in the change 
of its states should remain one, it was the experience of spiritual life, 
it will be said, which came to our aid, and by an unexpected actual 
solution of the problem convinced us that it was soluble. What 
entitles us, however, to reckon this solution the only one ? Why might 
there not just as well be another, of which we can form no mental 
picture only for the reason that we have had no experience of it as 
our own mode of existence ? Why may not the thing be a Being 
of its own particular kind, defined for us only by the functions which 
it fulfils, but not bound in the execution of these to maintain any such 
resemblance to our Spirit as, with the easy presumption of an anthro 
pomorphic imagination, we force upon it ? 

This counter- view is one that I cannot accept. So long as what we 
propose to ourselves is to give shape to that conception of the world 
which is necessary to us, we allow ourselves to fill up the gaps in our 
knowledge by an appeal to the unknown object, to which our thoughts 
converge without being able to attain it ; but we may not assume an 
unknown object of such a kind as would without reason conflict with 
the inferences which we cannot avoid. Now it seems to me that the 
suggestions just noticed imply a resort to the unknown of this un 
warrantable kind. In the first place it is not easy to see why the 
conception of the Thing, in the face of the duly justified objections to 
it, needs to be maintained at the cost of an appeal to what is after all 
a wholly unknown possibility of its being true. Secondly, while 
readily allowing that anything which really exists may have its own 
mode of existence, and is not to be treated as if it followed the type 
of an existence alien to it, we must point out that where such 
peculiarity of existence is asserted the further predicates assigned to 
it must correspond. What manner of being, however, could we con 
sistently predicate of that from which we had expressly excluded the 
universal characteristics of animate existence, every active relation to 
itself, every active distinction from anything else ? Of that which had 
no consciousness of its own nature and qualities, no feeling of its 

172 Conclusion. 

states, which in no way possessed itself as a Self ? Of that of which 
the whole function consisted in serving as a medium to convey effects, 
from which it suffered nothing itself, to other things like itself, just as 
little affected by those effects, till at last by their propagation to 
animate Beings there should arise in these, and not before, a compre 
hensive image of the whole series of facts. If we maintain that in fact 
such a thing cannot be said to be, it is not that we suppose ourselves 
to be expressing an inference, which would still have to be made 
good as arising out of the notion of such a thing : it is that we find 
directly in the description of such a thing the definition of a mere 
operation, which, in taking place, presupposes a real Being from 
which it proceeds and another in which it ends, but is not, itself, as a 
third outside the two. That our imagination will nevertheless cling 
to the presentation of independent and blindly-operating individual 
things, we do not dispute nor do we seek to make it otherwise ; but 
in. the effort to find a metaphysical truth in this mode of expression 
we cannot share. It is not enough to try to give a being to these 
things outside their immanence in the one Real, unless it is possible 
to show that in their nature there is that which can give a real 
meaning to the figure of speech conveyed in this outside. 

As to the source of our efforts in this direction and their fruitless- 
ness, I may be allowed in conclusion to repeat some remarks which in 
a previous work * I have made at greater length. We do not gain the 
least additional meaning for Things without self and without conscious 
ness by ascribing to them a being outside the one Real. All the 
stability and energy which they ensure as conditioning and motive 
forces in the changes of the world we see, they possess in precisely 
the same definiteness and fulness when considered as mere activities 
of the Infinite. Nay it is only through their common immanence in 
the Infinite, as we have seen, that they have this capability of mutual 
influence, which would not belong to them as isolated beings detached 
from that substantial basis. Thus for the purpose of any being or 
function that we would ascribe to things as related to and connected 
with each other, we gain nothing by getting rid of their immanence. 
It is true however that things, so long as they are only states of the 
infinite, are nothing in relation to themselves : it is in order to make 
them something in this relation or on their own account that we insist 
on their existence outside the Infinite. But this genuine true reality, 
which consists in relation to self whether in being something as 
related to self or in that relation simply as such is not acquired by 
1 Mikrokosmus, iii. 530. 

CHAPTER VIM Immanence and Transcendence 173 

things through a detachment from the one Infinite, as though this 
Transcendence, to which in the supposed case it would be impossible 
to assign any proper meaning, were the antecedent condition on which 
the required relation to self depended as a consequence. On the 
contrary, it is in so far as something is an object to itself, relates itself 
to itself, distinguishes itself from something else, that by this act of its 
own it detaches itself from the Infinite. In so doing, however, it 
does not acquire but possesses, in the only manner to which we give 
any meaning in our thoughts, that self-dependence of true Being, 
which by a very inappropriate metaphor from space we represent as 
arising from the impossible act of Transcendence/ It is not that the 
opposition between a being in the Infinite and a being outside it is 
obviously intelligible as explaining why self-dependence should belong 
to the one sort of being while it is permanently denied to another. It 
is the nature of the two sorts of being and the functions of which they 
are capable that make the one or the other of these figurative ex 
pressions applicable to them. Whatever is in condition to feel and 
assert itself as a Self, that is entitled to be described as detached from 
the universal all-comprehensive basis of being, as outside it : whatever 
has not this capability will always be included as immanent within 
it, however much and for whatever reasons we may be inclined to 
make a separation and opposition between the two. 




Of the Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. 

IN the course of our ontological discussion it was impossible not to 
mention the forms of Space and Time ; within which, and not other 
wise, the multiplicity of finite things and the succession of their states 
are presented to perceptive cognition. But our treatment did not 
start from the first questions that induce enquiry, rather it pre 
supposed the universal points of view which have already been re 
vealed in the history of philosophy. We were able therefore to deal 
with abstract ontological ideas apart from these two forms which are 
the conditions of perception. Any further difficulties must look for 
a solution to the Cosmological discussions on which we are now 
entering. Among the subjects belonging to Cosmology it may seem 
that Time should come first in our treatment ; seeing that we substi 
tuted the idea of a continual Becoming for that of Being as unmoved 
position 1 . Accessory reasons however induce us to speak first of 
Space, which indeed is as directly connected with our second require 
ment, that we should be able in every moment of time to conceive 
the real world as a coherent unity of the manifold. 

99. In proposing to speak of the metaphysical value of Space, I 
entirely exclude at present various questions which, with considerable 
interest of their own, have none for this immediate purpose. At present 
we only want to know what kind of reality we are to ascribe to space 
as we have to picture it, and with what relation to it we are to credit 
the real things which it appears to put in our way. No answer to 
this, nor materials for one, can be got from psychological discussions 
1 [v. Bk. I. 38.] 

Origin and Validity distinct. 175 

as to the origin or no-origin of our spatial perception. To designate 
it as an a priori or innate possession of the mind is to say nothing 
decisive, and indeed, nothing more than a truism ; of course it is 
innate, in the only sense the expression can bear *, and in this sense 
colours and sounds are innate too. As surely as we could see no 
colours, unless the nature of our soul included a faculty which could 
be stimulated to that kind of sensation, so surely could we represent 
to ourselves no images in space without an equally inborn faculty for 
such combination of the manifold. But again, as surely as we should 
not see colours, if there were no stimulus independent of our own 
being to excite us to the manifestation of our innate faculty, so surely 
we should not have the perception of space without being induced to 
exert our faculty by conditions which do not belong to it. 

On the other hand, one who should regard our spatial perception 
as an abstraction from facts of experience, could have nothing before 
him, as direct experience out of which to abstract, beyond the arrange 
ment and the succession of the sense-images in his own mind. He 
might be able to show how, out of such images, either as an un 
explained matter of fact, or by laws of association of ideas which he 
professed to know, there gradually arose the space -perception, as a 
perception in our minds. He might perhaps show too, how there 
originated in us the notion of a world of things outside our conscious 
ness as the cause of these spatial appearances. We shall find this a 
hard enough problem, later on; but granting it completely solved, 
still the mere development-history of our ideas of space would be in 
no way decisive of their validity as representing the postulated world 
of things, nor of the admissibility of this postulate itself. As was 
said above, the way in which a mode of mental representation grows 
up can be decisive of its truth or untruth, only in cases where a prior 
knowledge of the object to which it should relate convinces us that its 
way of growth must necessarily lead whether to approximation or to 
divergence. Therefore, for this latter view, as well as for the former 
which maintains the a priori nature of the space-perception, there is 
only one sense in which the question of its objective validity is answer 
able : namely, whether such a perception as we in fact possess and 
cannot get rid of, however it arose, is consistent with our notions of 
what a reality apart from our consciousness must be ; or whether, 
directly or in its results, it is incompatible with them. 

100. A further introductory remark is called for by recent investiga 
tions. We admitted that our ideas of Space are conditioned by the 

1 Logic, 324. 

1 76 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. [BOOK n. 

stimuli which are furnished to our faculty for forming them It is 
conceivable that these stimuli do not come to all minds with equal 
completeness, and that hence the space-perception of. one mind nee< 
not include all that is contained in that of another. But this indefinite- 
ness in the object of our question is easily removed. Modes 
mental presentation which are susceptible of such differences ( 
development may have their simplest phases still in agreement with 
the object to which they relate, while their consistent evolution evokes 
germs of contradiction latent before. Therefore when their truth is 
in question, we have only to consider their most highly evolved form ; 
in which all possibility of further self-transformation is exhausted, and 
their relation to the entirety of their object is completed. 

We all live, to begin with, under the impression of a finite extension, 
which is presented to our senses as surrounding us, though with un 
determined or unregarded limits ; it is our subsequent reflection that 
can find no ground in the nature of this extension for its ceasing at 
any point, and brings the picture to completion in the idea of infinite 
space. This then, the inevitable result of our mode of mental por 
trayal when once set in motion, is the matter whose truth and validity 
are in question. But scepticism has gone further. It is no longer 
held certain and self-evident that the final idea of a space uniform and 
homogeneous in all directions, at which men have in fact arrived, and 
which geometry had hitherto supported, is the only possible and 
consistent form of combination for simple perceptions of things beside 
one another. Some hold that other final forms are conceivable, 
though impossible for men; some credit even mankind with the 
capacity to amend their customary perception of space by a better 
guided habituation of their representative powers. This last hope we 
may simply neglect, till the moment when it shall be crowned with 
success ; the former suggestion, in itself an object of lively interest, we 
are also justified in disregarding for the present : for all the other 
forms of space whose conceivability these speculations undertake to 
demonstrate, would share the properties on which our decision depends 
with the only form which we now presuppose ; that, namely, whose 
nature the current geometry has unfolded. 

101. The kind of reality which we ought to ascribe to the content 
of an idea must agree with what such a content claims to be ; we 
could not ascribe the reality of an immutable existence to what we 
thought of as an occurrence ; nor endow what seemed to be a 
property with the substantive persistence which would only suit its 
substratum. Therefore we first try to define what space as represented 

CHAPTER i.] Space not Thing, Property, or Concept. 177 

in our minds claims to be ; or, to find an acknowledged category of 
established existence under which if extended to it, it could fairly be 
said to fall. 

Some difficulty will be found in the attempt. The only point 
which is clear and conceded is that we do not regard it as a thing but 
distinguish it from the things which are moveable in it; and that 
though many determinations which are possible in space are properties 
of things, space itself is never such a property. Further ; the defini 
tions actually attempted are untenable ; space is not a limit of things, 
but every such limit is a figure in space; and space itself extends 
without interruption over any spot to which we remove the things. It 
is neither form, arrangement, nor relation of things, but the peculiar 
principle which is essential to the possibility of countless different 
forms, arrangements, and relations of things ; and, as their abso 
lutely unchangeable background, is unaffected by the alternation and 
transition of these determinations one into another. Even if we 
called it form in another sense, like a vessel which enclosed things 
within it, \ve should only be explaining it by itself; for it is only in 
and by means of Space that there can be vessels which enclose their 
contents but are not identical with them. These unsuccessful attempts 
show that there is no known general concept to which we can sub 
ordinate space ; it is sui generis, and the question of what kind its 
reality is, can only be decided according to the claims of this its 
distinctive position. 

102. As the condition of possibility for countless forms, relations, 
and arrangements of things, though not itself any definite one of 
them, it might seem that Space should be on a level with every 
universal genus-concept, and as such, merit no further validity. Like 
it, a genus- concept wears none of the definite forms, which belong to 
its subordinate species ; but contains the rule which governs the 
manifold groupings of marks in them, allows a choice between certain 
combinations as possible, and excludes others as impossible. 

Just such is the position of Space. Although formless in comparison 
with every outline which may be sketched in it, yet it is no passive 
background which will let any chance thing be painted on it ; but it 
contains between its points unchangeable relations, which determine 
the possibility of any drawing that we may wish to make in it. It is 
not essential to find an exhaustive expression for these relations at 
this moment ; we may content ourselves, leaving much undetermined, 
with defining them thus far : that any point may be placed with any 
other point in a connexion homogeneous with that in which any 

VOL. i. N 

j 78 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. [BOOK n. 

third point may be placed with any fourth ; that this connexion is 
capable of measurable degrees of proximity and that its measure 
between any two points is defined by their relations to others. No 
matter, as I said, what more accurate expression may be substituted 
for that given, in as far as our perception of space contains such a 
legislative rule we might regard every group of manifold elements, 
which satisfied this rule, as subordinate to the universal concept of 
Space. But we should feel at once, that such a designation was 
unsuitable ; such a group might be called a combination of multiplicity 
in space, but not an instance of space, in the sense in which we regard 
every animal whose structure follows the laws of his genus as a species 
or instance of that genus. The peculiarities of what we indicated 
above as the law of space in general * create other relations between 
the different cases of its application, than obtain between the species 
of natural Genera. Each of the latter requires indeed that its rule of 
the grouping of marks shall be observed in each of its species ; but it 
puts the different species which do this in no reciprocal connexion. 
They are therefore subordinate to it; but when we call them, as 
species of the same genus, co-ordinate with one another, we really 
mean nothing by this co-ordination but the uniformity of their lot in 
that subordination. Supposing we unite birds, fishes, and other 
creatures under the universal concept animal, all we find is that the 
common features of organization demanded by the concept occur in 
all of them ; this tells us nothing of the reciprocal attitude and be 
haviour of these classes ; the most we can do is, conversely, to attempt 
afterwards a closer systematic union, by the formation of narrower 
genera, between those which we have ascertained from other sources 
of experience to possess reciprocal connexions. 

On the other hand, the character of Space in general \ requiring 
every point to be connected with others, forbids us to regard the 
various particular figures which may satisfy its requirements as isolated 
instances ; it compels us to connect them with each other under the 
same conditions under which points are connected with points within 
the figures themselves. If we conceive this demand satisfied, as far 
as the addition of fresh elements brings a constantly recurring possi 
bility and necessity of satisfying it, the result which we obtain is 
Space" 2 : the single and entire picture, that is not only present by the 
uniformity of its nature in every limited part of extension, but at the 
same time contains them all as its parts, though of course it is not, 
as a whole, to be embraced in a single view : it is like an integral 
1 [ Raumlichkeit. ] 2 [ der Raran. ] 

CHAPTER i.] Empty Space Conceivable ? 1 79 

obtained by extending the relation which connects two points, to the in 
finite number of possible points. The only parallel to this condition, 
is in our habit of representing to ourselves the countless multitudes of 
mankind not merely as instances of their genus, but as parts united 
with the whole of Humanity ; in the case of animals the peculiar 
ethical reasons which bring this about are wanting, and we are not in 
the habit of speaking in the same sense of animality. 

103. Of course, in the above remarks, I owe to the guidance of 
Kant all that I have here said in agreement with his account in Sect. 2 
of the Transcendental Aesthetic ; as regards what I have not men 
tioned here, I avoid for the moment expressing assent or dissent, ex 
cepting on two points which lie in the track of my discussion. It is 
impossible/ Kant says \ to represent to one s self that there is no 
space, though it is possible to conceive that no objects should be met 
with in space. Unnecessary objections have been raised against the 
second part of this assertion, by requiring of the thought of empty 
space, which Kant considers possible, the vividness of an actual per 
ception, or of an image in the memory recalling all the accessory 
conditions of the perception. Then, of course, it is quite right to 
pronounce that a complete vacuum could not be represented to the 
mind, without at least reserving a place in it for ourself ; for what 
ever place, outside the vacuum which we were observing, we might 
attempt, as observer, to assign ourself, we should unavoidably con 
nect that place in its turn, by spatial relations, with the imagined 
extension. We should have the same right to assert that we could 
not conceive space without colour and temperature ; an absolutely 
invisible extension is obviously not perceptible or reproducible as an 
image in memory : it must be one which is recognised by the eye 
at least as darkness, and in which the observer would include the 
thought of himself with some state of skin-sensation, which, like colour, 
he transfers as a property to his surroundings. But the question is 
not in the least about such impossible attempts ; the admitted mobility 
of things is by itself a sufficient proof that we imply the idea of com 
pletely empty space, as possible in its own nature, even while we are 
actually considering it as filled with something real. This is most 
simply self-evident for atomistic views ; if the atoms move, every point 
of the space they move in must be successively empty and full ; but 
motion would mean nothing and be impossible, unless the abandoned 
empty places retained the same reciprocal positions and distances 
which they had when occupied ; the empty totality of space is there- 

1 [Trans. Aesth. 2. (2).] 
N 2 

180 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. 

fore unavoidably conceived as the independent background, for which 
the occupation by real matter is a not unvarying destiny. 

To prefer the dynamical view of continuously filled space leads to 
the same result. Degrees of density could mean absolutely nothing, 
and would be impossible, unless the same volume could be con 
tinuously occupied by different quantities of real matter ; but this too 
implies that the limits of the volume possess and preserve their 
geometrical relations independently of the actual thing of which they 
are the place ; and they would continue to possess them, if we sup 
posed the density to decrease without limit and to approach an 
absolute vacuum. Therefore it is certain that we cannot imagine 
objects in space without conceiving its empty extension as a back 
ground present to begin with ; although no remembered image of a 
perception of it is possible without a remembrance of the objects 
which made it perceptible to sense. 

104. With this interpretation we may also admit the first part of the 
Kantian assertion. It is true that we cannot represent to ourselves the 
non-existence of space as something that can be experienced, and 
re-experienced in memory. It is however not inconceivable to us abso 
lutely; but only under the condition that an aggregate of actual exist 
ence, capable of combination, in short a real world, is to be given, and 
that the subjects which have to bring it before them are our minds. 
Now this real world is given us ; metaphysic rests entirely on this fact, 
and only investigates its inner uniformity without indulging in con 
templation of the unreal : it is enough then for her to consider space to 
be given, as the universal, unchangeable, and ever present environment 
of things, just as much as things and their qualities are recognised to 
be given as changeable and alternating. 

In this sense I may couple Kant s assertion with another saying 
of his; space is imagined as an infinite given magnitude 1 / It has 
been objected against this too, that an infinite magnitude cannot be 
imagined as given; but no one knew this better than Kant. A 
reasonable exposition can only take his expression to mean, that 
space is above all things given, and is not like a universal of which 
there can be a doubt whether it applies to anything or not ; and that 
further, in every actual limited perception space is given, as a mag 
nitude whose nature demands and permits, that, as extending 
uniformly beyond every limit, it should be pursued to infinity. Hence, 
the infinity of space clearly is given ; for there is no limit such that 
progress beyond it, although conceivable, yet would not be real in 
1 [Trans. Aesth. 2. (4).] 

CHAPTER i.] Grounds of Kant s Doctrine. 181 

the same sense as the interval left behind ; every increment of exten 
sion, as it is progressively imagined, must be added to the former 
quantity as equally a given magnitude. 

Finally, all these observations strictly speaking do nothing but 
repeat and depict the impression under which we all are in every-day 
life. The moment we exert our senses, nothing seems surer to us 
than that we are environed by Space, as a reality in whose depths the 
actual world may lose itself to our sight, but from which it can never 
escape ; therefore while every particular sense-perception readily falls 
under suspicion of being a purely subjective excitement in us, to doubt 
the objectivity of Space has always seemed to the common appre 
hension an unintelligible paradox of speculation. 

105. The motives to such a startling transformation of the ordinary 
view were found by Kant not in the nature of space itself, but in con 
tradictions which seemed to result from its presupposed relation to the 
real world. The attempt of the Transcendental Aesthetic, to demon 
strate our mental picture of space to be an a priori possession of our 
mind, does not in itself run counter to common opinion. For 
suppose a single space to extend all round us and to contain within 
it ourselves and all things ; precisely in that case it is of course im 
possible that the several visions of it, existing in several thinking 
beings, could be the space itself; they could not be more than sub 
jective representations of it in those beings : so whether they belong 
to us originally, or arise in us by action from without, there is no 
prima facie hindrance to their being, qua images belonging to cog 
nition, similar to a space which exists in fact. 

Nothing short of the antinomies in which we become entangled, if 
we attempt to unite our ideas of the entirety of the world or of its 
ultimate constituent parts with this presupposition of an actual Space, 
decided Kant for his assumption that the space-perception was 
nothing but a subjective form of apprehension with which the nature 
of the real world that had to be presupposed had nothing in common. 
With this indirect establishment of his doctrine I cannot agree ; 
because the purely phenomenal nature of space does not properly 
speaking remove any of the difficulties on account of which Kant felt 
compelled to assert it. It is quite inadmissible, after the fashion 
especially of popular treatises of the Kantian school which exulted in 
this notion, to treat Things in themselves as utterly foreign to the 
forms under which they were nevertheless to appear to us ; there must 
be determinations in the realm of things in themselves prescribing the 
definite places, forms, or motions, which we observe the appearances 

1 8 2 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. 

in space to occupy, sustain, or execute, without the power of changing 
them at our pleasure. If Things are not themselves of spatial form 
and do not stand in space-relations to one another, then they must be 
in some network of changeable intelligible relations with one another ; 
to each of these, translated by us into the language of spatial images, 
there must correspond one definite space-relation to the exclusion of 
every other. How we are in a position to apply our innate and con 
sequently uniform perception of space, which we are said to bring to 
our experiences ready made, so that particular apparent things find 
their definite places in it, is a question the whole of which Kant has 
left unanswered; the results of this omission, as I think it worth while 
to show briefly, encumber even his decision upon the antinomy of 


106. The real world, it is said, cannot be infinite in space, because 
infinity can only be conceived as unlimited succession, and not as 
simultaneous. Now how is our position bettered by denying all 
extension to the real world, while forced, with Kant, to admit that in 
all our experience space is the one persistently valid form under 
which that world appears ? I cannot persuade myself that this so- 
called empirical reality of space is reconcilable with the grounds 
which cause the rejection of its transcendental validity for the world 
of Things in themselves. 

In this world, the world of experience, if we proceed onwards in a 
straight line, we shall, admittedly, never come to the end of the line ; 
but how do we suppose that our perceptions would behave during 
our infinite linear progress? Would there always be something to 
perceive, however far we advanced ? And if there was, would there 
be some point after which it would be always the same or would it 
keep changing all through ? In both of these cases there must be 
precisely as many distinguishable elements in the world of things in 
themselves as there are different points of space in this world of per 
ception ; for all the things that appear in different places, whether 
like or unlike, must be somehow different in order to have the power 
of so appearing, and so must at least consist in a number of similar 
elements, corresponding to the number of their distinguishable places. 
Consequently, on this assumption, space could only possess its em 
pirical reality if there were conceded to the real world that very 
countlessness or infinity the impossibility of admitting which was the 
reason for restricting space to an empirical reality. I trust that it 
will not be attempted to object that in fact the infinite rectilinear 
progression can never be completed. Most certainly it cannot, and 

CHAPTER i.] The World Limited in Space ? 183 

doubtless we are secure against advancing so far in space as to give 
practical urgency to the question how our perceptions will behave: 
but in treating of the formation of our idea of the world, we must 
consider the distances which we know we shall never reach as in 
their nature simultaneously existent, just as much as those which 
we have actually traversed are held simultaneously persistent ; it is 
impossible for us to assume that the former are not there till our 
perception arrives at them, and that the latter cease to be, when we 
no longer perceive them. 

Now, one would think, the other assumption remains ; suppose at 
a definite point reached in our advance, the world of perception came 
to an end, and with it, all transmission of perceptions arising from the 
actually existing contents of the distances previously traversed. This 
would give the image of a finite actual world-volume floating in the 
infinite extension of empty space. Kant thinks it impossible ; his idea 
is that in such a case we should have not merely a relation of things 
in space, but also one of things to space ; but as the world is a 
whole, and outside it there is no object of perception with which 
it can stand in the alleged relation, the world s relation to empty 
space would be a relation of it to no object. The note * which Kant 
subjoins here, shows clearly what his only reason is for scrupling to 
admit this relation of a limitation of the real world by space : he 
starts with his own assumption that space is only a form to be 
attached to possible things, and not an object which can limit other 
objects. But the popular view, which he ought not to disregard as 
up to this point 2 he has not explicitly disputed it, apprehends space to 
be a self-existent form such as to include possible things, but clearly 
in treating it thus by no means takes it for a form which can only 
exist in attachment to things as one of their qualities, or for a simple 
non-entity. Rather it is held to be a something of its own enigmatic 
kind, not indeed an object like other objects, but with its peculiar 
sort of reality, and such therefore as could not be known without 
proof to be incapable of forming the boundary of the real world. 
But in any case we should have no occasion to expect of empty space 
a restricting energy, which should actively set limits to the world, as 
if it were obvious that in default of such resistance the world must 
extend into infinity. The fact is rather that the world must stop at 
its limit, because there is no more of it ; we may call this a relation 
of the world to no object, but such a relation is at least nothing 

1 [Kritik d. r.V. p. 307, Hartenstein s ed. 1868. Footnote, der Raum 1st bios 
die Form, etc ] 3 [Cp. 105.] 

1 84 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. [BOOK u. 

mysterious or suspicious ; moreover, it would have to remain true 
even of our unspatial world of things in themselves ; this also, the 
totality of existence, would be in the same way bounded by Nothing. 
So if in our progression through the world of experience, the coherent 
whole of our observations convinced us that at any point the real 
world came to an end, this fact alone would not cause us the difficulty 
by which Kant was impelled to overthrow the common idea ; were 
it but clear what is meant by saying of things that they are in space, 
\ve should not be disturbed at their not being everywhere. 

On the other hand it cannot be denied, that this boundedness of 
the world in space would also be reconcilable with Kant s doctrine, 
if this were once accepted, and supplemented in the way I suggest. 
If the world of things in themselves were a completed whole ; if they 
all stood to each other in graduated intelligible relations, which our 
perception had to transform into spatial ones ; then the pheno 
menal image of such a world would be complete when all these 
actually existing relations of its elements had found their spatial 
expression in our apprehension. But beyond this bounded world- 
picture there would appear to extend an unbounded empty space; 
all conceivable but unrealised continuations or higher intensities of 
those intelligible conditions would like them enter into our percep 
tion, but only as empty possibilities. To indicate it briefly; every 
pair of converging lines a b and c d whose extremities we found 
attached to impressions of real things, would require their point of 
intersection to be in the infinite void, supposing them not to find it 
within the picture of the real world. The boundedness of the real 
world is therefore admissible both on Kant s view of space and on 
the popular view, and so the choice between them is undetermined ; 
it is equally undetermined if we assume the unboundedness of the 
world, as neither of the views in question by itself removes the 
difficulties which are found in the conception of the infinity of exist 
ing things. 

107. I intend merely to subjoin in a few words the corresponding 
observations on the infinite divisibility, or the indivisibleness, of the 
ultimate elements of real existence. If we abide strictly by the em 
pirical reality of space, then in thinking of the subdivision of extended 
objects as continued beyond the limits attainable in practice, we must 
come to one of two conclusions about the result ; either we must 
arrive at ultimate actual shapes, indivisible not only by our methods 
but in their nature ; or else the divisibility really continues to- infinity. 

If real things were infinitely divisible the difficulty which we should 

CHAPTER i.] Infinite Divisibility. 185 

see in the fact would be no more removed by assuming space to be 
purely phenomenal, than was the similar difficulty in the idea of 
infinite extension : every real Thing, which presented itself pheno 
menally to our perception as something single and finite occupy 
ing space, would have to be itself infinitely divisible into unspatial 
multiplicities ; for every part of the divisible space-image, must, as it 
appears in a different point of space from every other part, be de 
pendent on a real element which has an existence of its own and in 
its unspatial fashion is distinct, somehow, from all other points. 

If on the contrary we arrived at the conviction, that definite 
minimurn volumes of real things were indivisible, while the space they 
occupied of course retained its infinite geometrical divisibility, we 
might still think it obscure what could be meant at all by saying that 
real things occupy space : but if we assume this as intelligible, we 
should not be astonished that in virtue of its nature as a particular 
kind of unit, each real thing should occupy just this volume and no 
other, and allow no subdivision of it. Here once more the obscure 
point remarked upon is made no clearer by the assumption that space is 
merely phenomenal. We should have to represent to ourselves that 
every Thing in itself, though in itself unspatial, yet bore in its in 
telligible nature the reason why it is forced to present itself as a 
limited extension to any perception which translates it into spatial 
appearance. This idea involves another ; that the real Thing, though 
indivisibly one, is yet equivalent to an indissolubly combined unity of 
moments, however to be conceived ; every point of its small pheno 
menal volume, in order to distinguish itself from every other and 
form an extension with their help, presupposes a cause of its pheno- 
menality in the Thing-in-itself, distinct from the corresponding cause 
of every other point, and yet indissolubly bound up with those causes. 

How to satisfy these postulates we do not yet know; common opinion, 
which says that the Thing is actually extended in an actual space, 
probably thinks that it is no less wise, and much more clear, about 
the fact of the matter than the view of the unreality of space, which 
common opinion holds to be at all events not more successful in com 
prehending it. 

Here, as in the last section, I dismiss the objection that there is a 
practical limit ; that we can never get so far in the actual subdivision 
of what is extended, as to be enabled to assert either infinite divisi 
bility or the existence of indivisible volumes. One of the two must 
necessarily be thought of as taking place as long as the empirical 
reality of space is allowed universal validity; that is as long as we 

1 86 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. [BOOK n. 

assume that however far we go in dividing the objects of our direct 
experience, spatial ideas will find necessary application to all the 
products of this subdivision ; that there would never be a moment 
when the disruption of what is in space would suddenly present us 
with non-spatial elements. 

108. The foregoing discussions have brought me to the conviction 
that the difficulties which Kant discovers by his treatment of the Anti 
nomies, neither suffice to refute the ordinary view of the objectivity 
of space, nor would be got rid of by its opposite ; but that other 
motives are forthcoming, though less noticed by Kant, which never 
theless force us to agree with him. 

The want of objective validity in the spatial perception is revealed 
before we come to apply it to the universe or to its ultimate elements. 
We have only to ask two other and more general questions ; how can 
space, such as it is and must be conceived whether occupied or not, 
have ascribed to it a reality of its own, in virtue of which it exists 
before its possible content ? And how can what we call the exist 
ence of things in space be conceived, whether such occupation by 
real things concerns its entire infinite extent, or only a finite part of it? 

The first of our questions, more especially, but the second as well, 
require a further introductory remark. We must give up all attempt 
to pave the way for answering the two questions by assigning to space 
a different nature from that which we found for it in our former de 
scription. There is obvious temptation to do so in order to make the 
substantive existence of space, and its limiting action on real things, 
seem more intelligible. Thus we are inclined to supply to space, 
which at first we took for a mere tissue of relations, some substratum 
of properties, undefinable of course, but still such as to serve for 
a substantive support to these relations. We gain nothing by doing 
so ; we do not so much corrupt the conception of space, as merely 
throw the difficulty back, and that quite uselessly. For the second of 
our questions was, how real things can at all stand in relation to 
space. Precisely the same question will be raised over again by the 
new substratum in which space is somehow to inhere. Therefore 
we must abide by this ; there is simply nothing behind that tissue of 
relations which at starting we represented to ourselves as space ; if 
we ask questions about its existence, all that we do or can want to 
know is, what kind of reality can belong to a thing so represented, to 
this empty and unsubstantial space. 

109. No doubt, when so stated, the question is already decided in 
my own conviction by what I said above concerning the nature of all 

CHAPTERI.] How is Space Real ? 187 

relations 1 : that they only exist either as ideas in a consciousness 
which imposes them, or as inner states, within the real elements 
of existence, which according to our ordinary phrase stand in the 

Still I do not wish to answer the present question merely by a 
deduction from this previous assertion of mine ; but should think it 
more advantageous if I could succeed in arriving at the same result 
by an independent treatment. But I do not hide from myself how liable 
such an attempt is to fail ; it is a hard achievement to expound by 
discursive considerations the essential absurdity of an idea which 
appears to be justly formed because it is every moment forming itself 
anew under the overpowering impression of a direct perception ; an 
idea too, which never defines precisely what it means, and which 
therefore escapes, impalpably, all attempts at refutation. 

This is our present case. It is an impression which we all share 
that space extends before our contemplating vision, not merely as an 
example of external being independent of us, but as the one thing 
necessary to making credible to us the possibility and import of 
any such being. The idea that it would still remain there, even if 
there were no vision for it to extend before, is an inference hard to 
refute ; for it does not explain in what the alleged being of that space 
would any longer consist if it is to be neither the existence of a thing 
which can act, nor the mere validity of a truth, nor a mental repre 
sentation in us. It is vain to repeat, that space itself teaches us with 
dazzling clearness that there are other and peculiar kinds of reality 
besides these ; this is only to repeat the confusion of the given per 
ception with the inference drawn from it ; the former does find space 
appearing in its marvellous form of existence ; but perception cannot 
go outside itself and vouch that there corresponds to this reality which 
is an object of perception a similar reality which is not ; this notion 
can only be subjoined by our thought, and is prima facie a question 
able supposition. 

I now wish to attempt to show how little this hypothesis does to 
make those properties intelligible, which we can easily understand to 
be true of space if we conceive it merely as an image created by our 
perceptive power, and forthcoming for it only. 

110. Every point p of empty space must be credited with the same 
reality, whatever that may be, which belongs to space as a whole ; 
for whether we regard this latter as a sum of points, or as a product 
of their continuous confluence with one another, in any case it could 

1 [ Si, end.] 

1 88 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. [BOOK n. 

not exist, unless they existed. Again, we find every point p exactly 
like every other q or r, and no change would be made if we thought 
of/ as replaced by q or by r. At the same time such an interchange 
is quite impossible, only real elements can change their relations 
(which we are not now discussing), to empty space-points ; but these 
latter themselves stand immovable in fixed relations, which are dif 
ferent for any one pair and for any other. 

Of course, no one even who holds space to be real, regards its 
empty points as things like other things, acting on each other by 
means of physical forces. Nevertheless, when we say Space exists, 
it is only the shortness of the phrase that gives a semblance of settling 
the matter by help of a simple position 1 or act of presenting itself, 
easily assigned or thought of as assigned to this totality, which we 
comprehend under the name of space. But, in fact, for space to 
exist, everything that we have alluded to must occur ; every point 
must exist, and the existence of each, though it is like every other, 
must consist in distinguishing itself from every other, and determining 
an unalterable position for itself compared with all, and for all com 
pared with it. Hence the fabric of space, if it is to exist, will have to 
rest on an effectual reciprocal determination of its empty points ; this 
can in any case be brought under the idea of action and reaction, 
whatever distinction may be found between it and the operation of 
physical force, or between empty points and real atoms. 

This requirement cannot be parried by the objection that as we 
have not to make space, but only to consider it as existing, we have 
no occasion to construct its fabric, but may accept it, and therefore 
the position of all its points, as given. True, we do not want to 
make space, as if it had not existed before, but this very act, the 
recognition of it as given, means presupposing that precise action and 
reaction of its points which I described. No points or elements, 
unless thought of as distributed in an already existing space, could 
conceivably be asserted simply to be in particular places, without being 
responsible for it themselves, and to share in the relation subsisting 
between these places ; but the points of empty space cannot be taken 
as localised in turn in a previous space, so as to have their reciprocal 
relations derived from their situation in it ; it must be iii consequence 
of what they themselves are or do, that they have these relations, and 
by their means constitute space as a whole. Hence, if the two points 
p and q exist, their distance pq is something which would not be there 
without them, and which they must make for themselves. 
1 [ Position/ v. 10.] 

CHAPTER i.] T/ie Relations between Spatial Points. 189 

I can imagine the former objection being here repeated in another 
shape ; that we did not conceive the spatial relations as prior, in 
order to place the points in them afterwards ; and so now, we are 
not to assume the points first, so that they have to create the relations 
afterwards ; the two together, thought in complete cohesion, the 
points in these relations, put before us, at once and complete, the 
datum which we call existing space. Granting then, that I could 
attach any meaning to points being in relations simply as a fact, 
without either creating or sustaining them by anything in themselves ; 
still I should have to insist on the circumstance that every reality, 
which is merely given in fact, admits of being done away and its 
non-existence assumed at least in thought. Now not only does no 
one attempt to make an actual hole in actual empty space ; but even 
in thought it is vain to try to displace one of the empty space-points 
out of that relation to others which we are told is a mere datum of 
fact ; the lacuna which we try to create is at once filled up by space 
as good as that suppressed. Now of course I cannot suppose that 
anyone who affirms the reality of space will set down this invulner 
ability only to his subjective perception of it, and not to existing 
space itself; obviously this miraculous property would have to be 
ascribed to real extension as well. 

This property is very easily intelligible on the view of the purely 
phenomenal nature of space. If a consciousness which recollects its 
own different acts or states, experiences a number n of impressions 
of any kind in a succession which it cannot alter at pleasure ; if, 
in the transition from each impression to the next, it experiences 
alterations, sensibly homogeneous and equal, of its own feeling; if, 
again, it is compelled to contemplate these differences not merely as 
feelings, but owing to a reason in its own nature, as magnitudes 
of a space whose parts are beside each other ; and if, finally, 
after frequently experiencing the same kind of progression, it ab 
stracts from the various qualities of the impressions received and 
only calls to mind the form under which they cohered; then, for 
their consciousness, and this only, there will arise before the mind s 
eye the picture of an orderly series or system of series, in each of 
which between the terms m i and m+i it is impossible for m to 
be missing. If there were no impression to occupy the place m, 
still the image of the empty place in the series would be at once 
supplied by help of the images of the two contiguous places and 
by means of the single self-identical activity of the representing con 

i go Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. 

All is different if we require an existing space, and conceive the 
absence of this consciousness, which combines its images, evokes 
some to join others, and never passes from one to the others without 
also representing the difference which divides them. Then, the 
empty points of space would have to take upon themselves what the 
active consciousness did ; they would have to prescribe their places 
to each other by attraction and repulsion, and to exert of themselves 
the extraordinary reproductive power by which space healed its 
mutilations. And in spite of all we should at once get into fresh 

111. For, the relation or interval p q, which the two existing points 
p and q would be bound according to their nature to establish between 
them, ought at the same time to be different from every other similar 
relation which p and r or q and r for similar reasons would set up 
between them* But the complete similarity of all empty points in 
volves, on the contrary, an impossibility of / and q determining any 
other relation between themselves, than any other pair of points 
could between themselves ; even N, a number of connected points, 
conceived with determinate relations already existing between them, 
could assign no place in particular to another point s which we might 
suppose thrown in, because any other, / or u, would have as good a 
right to the same place. 

It is easy to foresee the answer that will at once be made ; that it 
is quite indifferent, whether the point is designated by s or / or u ; it 
is in itself a yet undefined, and therefore, in strictness, a nameless 
point ; it is only after N has assigned it a particular place that it 
becomes the point s, which is now distinct from the points / and tt, 
which are differently localised by N. But this observation, though 
quite correct in itself, is out of place here. It would only apply if we 
were regarding s as the mere idea of an extreme term belonging to 
a series N begun in our consciousness ; such an idea of s would be 
created by our consciousness, in the act of requiring it, in the par 
ticular relations to N which belonged to it ; there would be no in 
ducement to the production of any other image which had not these 
relations. Or again ; our consciousness may not restrict itself to its 
immediate problem, but recalling previous experiences may first form 
the idea of an extreme term, e.g. for two series which converge, without 
being aware what place it will hold in a system of other independent 
terms which is to serve as the measure of its position ; then we have 
a term x, which has as yet no name, and which is not particularised 
as s, /, or u, till we come accurately to consider the law according to 

CHAPTER i.] A re Spatial Points Active f 191 

which each series progresses, and so the simultaneous determining 
equations are both solved. 

Such a productive process of determination, realising what it aims 
at, is explained in this case by the nature of our single consciousness, 
which connects with each other all the particular imagined points of 
its content ; but if instead of mental images of empty points we are 
to speak of actual empty points, then we should really be compelled 
to assume, either that every existing number of points N is constantly 
creating new points, which by the act of their production enter into 
the relations appropriate to them ; or that by exerting a determining 
activity N imposes these relations on points already existing whose 
own nature is indifferent to them. Obviously we should not conceive 
either of these constructions as a history of something that had once 
taken place, but only as a description of the continually present 
unmoving tension of activities which sustains in every moment the 
apparently inactive nature of space. Having once got so far into 
this region of interesting fancies I wish to pursue the former of these 
hypotheses one step further; the second, my readers will gladly 
excuse me from considering. 

112. We cannot seriously mean to regard a particular ready-made 
volume N as the core round which the rest of space crystallises. Not 
merely any N whatever, but ultimately every individual empty point, 
would have the same right to possess this power of propagation, and 
we should arrive at the idea of a radiant point in space, fundament 
ally in the same sense in which it is known to geometry. Then, the 
radiant point p would produce all the points with which its nature 
makes a geometrical relation possible, and each of them in the precise 
relation which belongs to it in respect of p ; among others the point 
q, which is determined by the distance and direction p q. All this is 
just as true of any other empty point ; it would still hold good if 
among them was a q, and then among the innumerable points which 
q would create there would be one standing to q in the relation q p, 
the same which was above designated, in a different order, by p q. 
And now it might be supposed that we had done what we wanted, 
and obtained a construction of space corresponding to its actual 
nature; for it seems obvious that p q and qp indicate the same dis 
tance between the same points, and that thus the radiant activities of 
all points coincide in their results, so as to produce ordinary exten 
sion with its geometrical structure. 

But this expectation is founded on a subreption. Before we com 
pleted our construction we knew nothing more of the empty points 

1 92 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. [ROOK I T 

from which it was to start, than that they are all similar to one 
another, and that the same reality attaches to all of them ; but beyond 
this they had no community with each other. It is therefore by no 
means self-evident, that the pencil of rays which starts from the 
existing point p will ever meet the other, emitted by the independent 
point q ; both of them may, instead of meeting, extend as if into two 
different worlds, and remain ever strange to each other, even more 
naturally than two lines in space which not being in the same plane, 
neither intersect nor are parallel. The point q, generated by the 
radiant point /, is not obviously the same q, with that which, as given 
independently, we expected to generate p ; the second / generated 
by the given q need not coincide with the first />, nor the line qp with 
the previous line p q ; in a word, what is generated is not a single 
space, in which all empty points would be arranged in a system, but 
as many reciprocally independent spaces, as we assumed radiant 
points ; and from one of these spaces there would be absolutely no 
transition into another. Our anticipation of finding that only a single 
space is generated, started with the tacit assumption that space was 
present as the common all-comprehending background, in which the 
radiations from the points could not help meeting. 

Still, if all the resources of a disputatious fancy are to be exerted 
in defence of the attempted construction ; there might be this escape. 
Suppose there are countless different spaces, it might be said ; still, just 
because they do not concern each other, for that very reason they do 
not concern us ; excepting that particular one in which we and all our 
experiences are comprehended, and with which alone, as the others 
never come in contact with us at all, Metaphysic has to do. Then let 
us confine ourselves to the space which is generated by the radiant 
point p. The point q which it creates, has equal reality with /, and 
so shares its radiant power ; it must, in its turn, determine a point 
towards which it imposes on itself the relation q p ; and this point /> 
will certainly be no other than, but the same with, that which first 
imposed on itself towards q the relation/?; therefore the lines qp 
and p q will certainly coincide. 

But even this does not give us the result aimed at. As we cannoc 
regard a particular point p exclusively, but are able to regard any 
whatever, as the starting-point of this genesis of space, the result of 
our representation translated from the past tense of construction into 
the present of definition, is simply this; that it is the fact that in 
existing space every point has its particular place, and that a line/*? 
of determinate direction and magnitude, taken in the opposite direc- 

CHAPTER i.] Genesis of Space, actual or intellectual? 193 

tion qp, returns to its starting-point. No doubt this is correct; but 
no one will affirm that this last construction fulfils its purpose of 
explaining such a condition of things ; there is something too extra 
ordinary- in the notion that an existing point generates out of itself an 
infinite number of points with equally real existence, and some 
thing too strange in the result that every existing empty point has as 
it were an infinite density, being created and put in its place by every 
other point, not merely by one; and finally, the whole idea is too 
empty a fiction, with its radiant power which if it is not to lead to a 
purely intensive multiplication of being into itself, but to an Extension, 
must in any case presuppose a space, in which its effect may assume 
this very character of radiation. 

Nevertheless all these incredibilities appear to me to be un 
avoidable, as long as we persist in thinking of empty space with 
its geometrical structure as actually existing ; but the doctrine of 
its purely phenomenal nature avoids them from the beginning; 
and it is hardly requisite to prove this by a protraction of this long 

One can understand how, for a consciousness which remembers its 
previous progression through the terms pqr, there arises the expecta 
tion of a homogeneous continuance of this series in both directions, 
which implies an apparent power of radiation, as above, in those 
points ; only what takes place here is not a self-multiplication of some 
thing existent, but a generation of ideas out of ideas, i.e. of fresh states 
of a single subject out of its former states, in accordance with the laws 
of its faculty of ideas and the movement of its activities which was in 
progress before. It is on this hypothesis equally easy to understand, 
that the converse march of the movement returns from q to the same 
/>, i.e. reproduces the identical image p from which it started ; for the 
image q has only such radiant power as it derives from representing 
to the mind the purport of the series ; so that q by itself, as long as it 
is represented as a term in the series, can never induce a divergence 
from the direction of that series. 

On the other hand, starting with a qualitatively determined impres 
sion TT, which fills the geometrical place of the term p, there may be 
an advance to other impressions K and p, such that the differences 
TT - c, K p, may be comparable with each other, though not com 
parable with the difference of the series p, q, r. Then we have the 
case which we mentioned above ; ?r radiates too, but, so to speak, 
into another world, and the series TT, *, p, finds in fact no place in 
space-perception, and in respect to its relations within itself can only 

VOL. i. o 

194 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. 

be metaphorically or symbolically represented by constructions in 
space, but cannot be shown to have a spatial situation. 

113. I am sure that the whole of this account of the matter has 
only convinced those who were convinced before, and will not have 
done much to shake the preference for an existing space. Let us 
therefore ask once more where in strictness the difference of the two 
views lies ; and what important advantage there is that can only be 
secured by the assumption of this enigmatic existence, so constantly 
reaffirmed, of an empty extension, and that must be lost by con 
ceding that its import is purely phenomenal? The clearness and 
self-evidence, with which our perception sees space extended around 
us, is equally great for both views ; we do not in the least traverse 
this perception, which is endowed with such self-evidence ; but only 
the allegation of a being that underlies it, which must be inaccessible 
to perception and so cannot share its self-evidence. No doubt for 
common opinion every perception carries a revelation of the reality of 
what is perceived ; but in the world of philosophy Idealism claims the 
first hearing, with its proof that what is perceived, in this case, space, 
is given to begin with merely as the subjective perception of our 
minds. Now of course in common life we do not need to go through 
the long toil of inference from perception before attaining the idea 
that what is perceived is real ; but in the world of philosophy this 
investigation is essential, to decide whether we may retain this idea; 
for I repeat that in this region it is not the primary datum, but re 
mains problematic till it is proved to be necessary. 

Such a proof, in strictness, has never been attempted ; the burden 
of disproof has been thrown on the opposite view, and its opponents 
have taken their stand on the probability of their own opinion as im 
porting a valid presumption of its truth. The probability seems to rest 
on this ; that a space, which exists by itself with all the properties 
ascribed to it by our perception, makes the origin of this perception 
seem much more natural than does our more artificial doctrine; 
according to which it arises from a combination of inner states of 
our consciousness wholly dissimilar to it. But the artificiality here 
objected to must be admitted, even if space were as real as could be 
wished. The pictures which are made of it in the countless minds 
which are all held to be within space, could not be more than 
pictures of it, they could not be it , and as pictures they could only 
have arisen by means of operations on the mind which could not be 
extensions, but could only be inner states corresponding to the nature 
of the subject operated upon. In every case our mental representa- 

CHAPTER i.] Space as ttul* as any Perception. 195 

tion of space must arise in this way ; we cannot get it more cheaply, 
whether we imagine beneath the picture presented to our mind an 
existence like it outside us, or one entirely disparate. 

What can be gained then by maintaining the view which we 
oppose ? Men will go on repeating the retort ; that it is impossible 
to doubt the reality of space, which is so clearly brought home to us 
by immediate perception. But are we denying this reality ? Ought 
not people at length to get tired of repeating this confusion of ideas, 
which sees reality in nothing but external existence, and yet is ready 
to ascribe it to absolute vacuity ? Is pain merely a deceitful appear 
ance, and unreal, because it subsists only for the moment in which it 
is felt ? Are we to deny the reality of colours and tones because we 
admit that they only shine and sound while they are seen and heard ? 
Or is their reality less loud and bright because it only consists in being 
felt and not in a self-sustained being independent of all consciousness ? 
So then space would lose nothing of its convincing reality for our 
perception if we admitted that it possesses it only in t)ur perception. 

We long ago rejected the careless exaggeration which attaches to 
this idea ; space is not a mere semblance in us, to which nothing i 
the real world corresponds ; rather every particular feature of our spatial 
perceptions corresponds to a ground which there is for it in the world 
of things ; only, space cannot retain the properties which it has in our 
consciousness, in a substantive existence apart from thought and" 
perception. In fact, there is only one distinction forthcoming, and 
that of course remains as between the two views ; for our view all 
spatial determinations are secondary qualities, which the real relations 
put on for our minds only; for the opposite view space as the 
existing background which comprehends things is not merely secondary 
but primary as a totality of determining laws and limits, which the 
Being and action of things has to obey, so that the things and ourselves 
are in space ; while our view maintains that space is in us. This brings 
us naturally to the second of the questions, which were proposed x 

114. When I want to know what precisely we mean by saying that 
things are in space, I can only expect to meet with astonishment, and 
wonder what there is in the matter that is open to question ; nothing, 
it will be said, is plainer. And in fact this spatial relation i& given so 
clearly to our perception, that we find all other relations, m them 
selves not of the spatial kind, expressed in language by designations 
borrowed from space. We even meet with philosophical views which 

1 [Sect. 108.] 

196 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. [BOOK n. 

not only demand constructions in space by way of sensuous elucidation 
of abstract thought, but prefer to regard the problem of cognition as 
unsolved till such constructions are found. I have no hope of 
making clear the import of my question to such a scientific mind. 
But the assumption of a purely phenomenal space has little difficulty 
in answering it. 

Only I feel compelled to repeat the warning, that this assumption 
does not any more than the other aim at denying or modifying the 
directness of the overwhelming impression which makes space appear 
to us to include things in it ; it only propounds reflections on the true 
state of the facts, which makes this impression possible ; and we 
expressly admit of our reflections that they are utterly foreign to the 
common consciousness. The power of our senses to see colours and 
forms or to hear sounds, seems to us quite as simple ; we need, we 
think, only to be present, and it is a matter of course that sensations 
are formed in us, which apprehend and repeat the external world as it 
really is; the natural consciousness never has an inkling of the 
manifold intermediate processes required to produce these feelings ; 
and one who has gained scientific insight into their necessity does 
not feel them a whit more noticeable in the moment of actual 

It is the task of psychology to ascertain these intermediate pro 
cesses for the case in hand ; its solution will not point to an image of 
empty space, formed prior to all perceptions, into which the mind had 
subsequently to transplant its impressions ; it is rather the series of 
peculiar concomitant feelings of homogeneous change of its condition, 
experienced in the transition from the impression p to the other 
impression q, that is felt by it as the distance p q\ and from the 
comparison of many such experiences there arises, as I indicated just 
now, by help of abstraction from the content of the various im 
pressions, the picture of empty extension. After it has arisen, to 
localise an impression q in a particular point of this space simply 
means: taking an impression p as the initial state from which the 
movement of consciousness starts, to contemplate the magnitude of 
the change which consciousness felt or must feel in order to reach q, 
under the form of a distance p q. 

These different concomitant feelings, which distinguish the im 
pressions p and g, are independent of the qualitative difference of 
their content, and may attach to like as well as to unlike impressions. 
Therefore metaphysic can only derive the feelings from a difference 
in the effects produced on the soul by the real elements which corre- 

CHAPTER i.] Space and the things in it. 197 

spond to them, in conformity with a difference of actual relations in 
which the realities stand to the soul, and consequently, with a deter 
minate actual relation in which they stand to each other. I reserve for 
a moment my further explanations concerning these intelligible rela 
tions, as we may call them, of the realities, which we regard as causes 
of our perceived relations of space ; I only emphasise here the fact 
that they consist in actual relations of thing and thing, not of things 
and space ; and that it is not they, as merely subsisting between the 
things, but the concentration in the unity of our consciousness of 
effects of the things varying in conformity with them, that is the 
proximate active cause of our spatial idea in which we picture their 
locality, and their distance from each other. 

115. From this point we may obtain a conspectus of the difficulties 
which spring from the opposite view, that space has an existence of 
its own, and that things are in it. If space exists, and consequently 
the point p exists, what is meant by saying that a real element IT is in 
the point p ? Even if p itself is not to be taken to be a real thing, 
still, between it as something existent, and the reality TT, some 
reciprocal operation must be conceivable by the subsistence of which 
the presence of TT in p is distinguished from its not being present in p. 
But as regards TT we do not believe that its place does anything to it ; 
on the contrary, it remains the same in whatever place it may be ; 
therefore there is nothing which takes place in it by which its being in 
p is distinguishable from its being in q ; the two cases would only be 
distinguishable to an observer, who had reason on the one hand to 
distinguish p from q, and on the other to associate the image of rr in 
the moment of perception only with / and not with q. 

If we go on to ask what happens to the point p when TT is in it, we 
should suppose that the nature of p would be just as little changed as 
that of TT ; but no doubt the answer will be : the very fact that / is 
occupied by TT distinguishes it from q, which is now not the place 
occupied by ir. Against this answer I am defenceless. It is indeed 
unassailable if we can once conceive, and accept as a satisfactory 
solution, that between two realities, the point p and the actual element 
TT, there should be a relation as to which neither of the related points 
takes note of anything except that it, the relation, subsists, while in 
every other respect the two things are exactly as they would be if it did 
not subsist. I might add, that p would not be permanently filled by TT, 
but, in turn, by other real elements K or p ; surely the one case ought 
somehow to distinguish itself from the other, and the point p to be 
different when occupied by TT from what it is when occupied by K. 

198 Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. 

But this would be unavailing; I should be answered with the same 
acuteness : that in all these cases / remains just the same in every 
other respect, and the distinction between them is constituted by the 
simple fact, that the occupation of/, which does not affect it in itself, 
is carried out by TT in one case and by K in another. As all this more 
over is as true of q as of />, I can only meet this reassertion by reas 
serting the opposite notion ; that the whole state of things alleged is 
inconceivable to me as in real existence, and only conceivable as in 
the thought of an observer, who, as I indicated, has reason to dis 
tinguish p from q and, at the moment, to combine either TT or K with 
p or q to make one combination and not another. 

Finally, taking p q as the distance between the real elements TT and 
which occupy the points p and q, we do not in fact treat this localisation 
as unimportant in our further investigation of things ; for we believe 
the intensity of reciprocal action between TT and K to be conditioned 
according to the magnitude of the distance. But their action cannot 
be guided by this changeable distance unless it is somehow brought 
home to them ; how are we to suppose this to be done ? The distance 
p q is not in the points p and q but between them ; if we suppose the 
empty point q represented at / by some effect produced by q on />, 
which makes the distance p q always present to /, and consequently, 
though I can see no reason for the inference, present also to the 
element n in p and determining its behaviour, still this would hold 
equally good of any other empty point r or s. All of them would be 
represented at />, consequently they would all have an equal right to 
determine the behaviour of the element TT at p ; the pre-eminence of 
q which is at the moment occupied by the real element K, could only 
depend on the latter, and would have to be accounted for thus : the 
empty point q must undergo a change of state by becoming filled, 
must transmit the change to / through qp and there transfer it to the 
element ?r; a reaction between real existence and the void, which 
would be as inevitable as it is inexplicable. The argument might be 
pursued farther, but I conclude here, hoping that the mass of ex 
travagances in which we should be involved has persuaded us of the 
inconceivability of the apparently simple assumption that space has 
independent existence and that things have their being in space. 

116. The opposite view which I am now maintaining leads to a 
series of problems which I will not undertake to treat at present ; it 
is enough to characterise their import as far as is requisite to establish 
the general admissibility of the doctrine. We may begin by ex 
pressing ourselves thus ; that we regard a system of relations between 

CHAPTER i.] Reality expressed by spatial relations. 1 99 

the realities, unspatial, inaccessible to perception, and purely in 
telligible, as the fact which lies at the root of our spatial perceptions. 
When these objective relations are translated into the subjective lan 
guage of our consciousness, each of them finds its counterpart in one 
definite spatial image to the exclusion of all others. I should avoid 
calling this system of relations an intelligible space and discussing 
whether it is like or unlike the space which we represent to ourselves 
by help of our senses. I start from the opposite conviction, that 
there exists no resemblance between the two ; for it would transfer 
to the reality of the new condition of things all the difficulties which 
we found in the reality of empty space. 

However, it is not worth while to keep up the idea of such a 
system of relations, which was only of use as a brief preliminary ex 
pression of the fact ; we now return to the conviction expressed above ; 
it is not relations, whether spatial or intelligible, between the things, but" 
only direct reactions which the things are subject to from each other,! 
and experience as inner states of themselves, which constitute the real 
fact whose perception we spin out into a semblance of extension. 
Let P and Q be two real elements thought of as unrelated ; let P K and 
QTT indicate them when in the states of themselves which are set up 
by a momentary mutual reaction ; these states of theirs contain the 
reason why P and Q, or at the moment P K and QTT, appear in our 
perception in the places p and q, separated by the interval p q. It 
need hardly be observed that the mere fact of the reaction subsisting 
between P and Q cannot by itself set up our perception ; but can only 
do so by means of an action of P and Q upon us, conformable to 
their momentary states K and TT ; and therefore other than it would 
have been in the moment of a different mutual reaction. The 
meeting of these two actions in our consciousness causes, first, in 
virtue of its unity, the possibility of a comparison and reciprocal 
reference of the two ; secondly, in virtue of its peculiar nature the 
necessity that the result of this comparison should assume the form 
of distance in space to our perception ; and finally, the magnitude of 
the difference which is felt between the two actions on us, determines, 
to put it shortly, the visual angle by which we separate the im 
pressions of the two elements. 

Thus the theory attaches itself to a more general point of view, 
which I adopt in opposition to a predominant tendency of the 
philosophic spirit of the age ; holding that thought should always go 
back to the living activities of things, which activities are to be 
considered as the efficient cause of all that we regard as external 

2OO Subjectivity of our Perception of Space. [BOOK n. 

relation between things. For in calling these latter relations we are 
in fact using a mere name ; we cannot seriously conceive them to be 
real and to subsist apart from thought. I regret that there is an in 
creasingly widespread inclination in the opposite direction, namely, to 
apprehend everything that takes place as the product of pre-existing 
and varying relations ; overlooking the circumstance that ultimately, 
even supposing that such relations could exist by themselves, nothing 
but the vital susceptibility and energy which is in Things could 
utilise them, or attach to any one of them a result different from that 
attaching to the others. 

117. As an elucidation, and more or less as a caution, I add what 
follows. If the arrangement of perceivable objects in space were 
always the same, we might think of them as the image of a sys 
tematic order in which every element had a right to its particular 
place, in virtue of the essential idea of its nature. It would not be 
necessary that the elements which presented a greater resemblance of 
nature should occur in closer contiguity in space, or that dissimilar 
things should be more widely separated; the entire scheme of M, 
which realises itself in the simultaneously combined manifold of 
things, might easily necessitate a multitude of crossing relations or 
reactions between them, of such a kind that similar elements should 
repeatedly occur as necessary centres of relation at very different 
parts of the whole system, while very dissimilar ones would have to 
stand side by side, as immediately conditioning each other. 

The movability of things makes it superfluous to go deeper into 
this notion; the ground of localisation is clearly not in the nature of 
the things alone, but in some variable incident which occurs to them, 
[compatible with their nature, but not determined by it alone. This 
might lead to the idea, that it was simply the intensity of the subsist 
ing reaction between them which dictated the apparent situation of 
things in space; whether we presume that in all things what takes 
place is the same in kind and varies only in degree; or, that the 
inner states produced in things by their reactions are different in 
kind, but so far comparable that their external effects are calculable as 
degrees of one and the same activity. 

It would be no objection to this that it is observed that there often 
are elements contiguous in space which seem quite indifferent to each 
other, while distant ones betray a lively reciprocal action. No 
element must be torn from its connexion with all others, and none of 
its states from their cohesion with previous ones ; contiguous elements 
which are indifferent are together not because they demand one 

CHAPTER i.] Interaction and nearness in space. 201 

another, but because their relations to all others deny them every 
other place, and only leave them this one undisputed ; the remote 
elements in question act powerfully on one another, because the 
ceaseless stream of occurrence has produced counteractions, which 
hinder the two elements from attaining the state towards which they 
are now striving. 

However, it is not my intention to continue the subject now, or to 
show by what general line of thought my view of space might be 
reconciled with the particular facts of Nature. The following sections 
will compel us to make this attempt, but they would entirely dis 
appoint many expectations unless I began by confessing that the 
theory of a phenomenal space when applied to the explanation of the 
most general relations of nature will by no means distinguish itself 
for facility and simplicity in comparison with the common view. 
On the contrary; the latter is a gift which our mental nature gives 
us as a means to clearness and vivid realisation. But I insist upon 
it that my view is not propounded for its practical utility, but simply 
because it is necessary in itself, however much it might ultimately 
embarrass a detailed enquiry were we bound to keep it explicitly 
before us at every step. We shall see that we are not obliged to do 
so; but at present I maintain with a philosopher s obstinacy, that 
above all things that must hold good which we find to be in its 
nature a necessary result of thought, though all else bend or break. 
In no case may we regard other hypotheses as definitive truth (con 
venient as they may be for use and therefore to be admitted in use), 
if they are in themselves as unthinkable as the indefinite species of 
reality, which the ordinary view attributes to empty space. 


Deductions of Space. 

118. AMONG the commonest undertakings of modern philosophy 
are to be found attempted deductions of Space ; and they have been 
essayed with different purposes. Adherents of idealistic views, con 
vinced that nothing could be or happen without being required by 
the highest thought which governs reality, had a natural interest in 
showing that Space was constrained to be what it is, or to be re 
presented as it is represented to us, because it could not otherwise 
fulfil its assigned purpose. Self-evident as the belief fundamentally is, 
that everything in the world belongs to a rational whole, there are 
obvious reasons why it should be equally unfruitful in the actual de 
monstration of this connexion in a whole ; and even the deduction 
of Space has hardly given results which it is necessary to dwell on. 

The solidarity of the whole content of the universe was maintained, 
in the dawn of modern philosophy, by Spinoza ; but in a way which 
rather excluded than favoured the deduction of Space. The reason 
lay in an enthusiasm, somewhat deficient in clearness, for the idea of 
Infinity, and for everything great and unutterable that formal logical 
acumen combined with an imagination bent on things of price could 
concentrate in that expression. Hence he spoke of infinitely nume 
rous attributes of his one infinite substance, and represented it as 
manifesting its eternal nature by means of modifications of each of 
them. Our human experience, indeed, was restricted to two only of 
them, consciousness and extension, the two clear fundamental notions 
under which Descartes had distributed the total content of the 
universe; and the further progress of the Spinozistic philosophy 
takes account of these two only. But it adheres to the principle 
laid down at its starting about all attributes ; each of them rests 
wholly on itself, and can be understood by us only by means of 
itself ; we find it expressly subjoined, that though it is one and the 
same substance which expresses its essence as well in forms of 

Consciousness and Extension. 203 

extension as in forms of thought ; yet the shape which it assumes in 
one of these attributes can never be derived from that which it has 
assumed in the other. This prohibits any attempt to deduce the 
attributes of Space from what is not Space ; but at the same time 
Consciousness and Extension are considered to be as manifestations 
of the absolute quite on the same level; in assuming the shape of 
extension, it does a positive act as much as in giving existence to 
forms of consciousness ; neither of these is the mere result or sem 
blance of the other. 

119. These notions influenced Schelling. After Kant had des 
troyed all rational cohesion between things-in-themselves and spatial 
phenomena, it was natural to make the attempt to restore Space to 
some kind of objective validity. If we may here eliminate the many 
slight alterations which Schelling s views underwent, the following 
will be found a pretty constant series of thoughts in him. Empty 
Space is for him too only the subjectively represented image, which 
remains to our pictorial imagination when it disregards the definite 
forms of real existence in Space, that is, of matter ; it is not a prior 
creation of the absolute which goes before the production of the 
things to be realised in it, but matter itself is this first production, and 
spatial extension is only real in. matter, but in it is actually real and 
rot a mere subjective mode of the spectator s apprehension. How 
he represents the creation of matter as coming to pass, we need not 
describe here; but in general it is easy to see how the desire to 
explain by one and the same root the distinction which experience 
presents between the material and spiritual world might lead to 
denying the primary presence of the characteristic predicates of these 
two worlds in the Absolute, the root required ; while conceiving, in 
the complete indefmiteness thus obtained of this absolute Identity, 
two eternally co-existent impulses, tendencies, or factors, out of 
which the distinction that had been cancelled might again arise. 
Some interest attaches to the different expressions which Schelling 
employs to designate them ; he opposes to the real objective producing 
factor, which embodies the infinite in forms of the finite, the ideal 
subjective defining factor which re-moulds the finite into the in 
finite ; it is the former whose predominance creates Nature, the 
latter that creates the world of Mind ; though the two are so in 
separably united that neither can produce its result without the co 
operation, and participation as a determining factor, of the other. 

This account admits of no idea of a deduction proper of Space ; 
still I think that the equal rank assigned to the above designations 

2O4 Deductions of Space. [BOOK n. 

contains an indication of the reason which made the space-generating 
activity of the absolute appear indispensable to the idea of it. It became 
obvious not only that nothing could be generated out of the void of 
absolute Identity, but it was also impossible for the determinations 
which might have been held to be included in it as merely ideal, to 
be more than unrealisable problems failing one condition ; that 
something should be forthcoming, given, with content, and for per 
ception ; such as the ideal forms could never create, and as applied 
to which, qua forms of its relations, and so only, they would possess 
reality. Thus, not without a reminiscence of Kant s construction of 
matter out of expanding and contracting forces, Schelling makes the 
one, that is the productive factor, provide above all things for the 
creation of that which the ideal factor has only to form and to deter 
mine ; it is only by the activity of the first that results are made raz/, 
which for all the second could do, would never be more than a 
postulate, that is, an idea. Even the actual form which the creation 
assumes is determined by the character of the productive factor; for 
it is only this character that can, though under the control and 
guidance of the other factor, create such shapes of reality as are 
within its range. 

120. The indefiniteness of the absolute Identity has disappeared 
in Hegel, and the position of the two factors has altered ; the com 
prehensive system of notions which forms his Logic may be regarded 
as the interpretation of what the ideal factor, now the proximate and 
primary expression of the Absolute, demands ; the consciousness, 
how strongly all these determinations involve and postulate that as 
determinations of which they must be presented in order to be real, 
appears as the urgency of the ideal factor or hitherto purely logical 
idea, to pass over into its form of otherness ; that is, into a shape 
capable of direct or pictorial presentation, such as can only exist in the 
forms by which a multiplicity whose parts are outside one another is 
connected into a whole. Therefore the logical idea, doing away its 
own character as logical, produces Space as the abstract universality 
of its being outside itself 1 / Hegel says on this point 2 , As our pro 
cedure is, after establishing the thought which is necessitated by the 
notion 3 , to ask, what it looks like in our sensuous idea 4 of it ; we go 
on to assert, that what corresponds in direct presentation to the 
thought of pure externality is Space. Even if we are wrong in this, 

1 [ Die abstracte Allgemeinheit ihres Aussersichseins. ] 

2 Naturphilosophie. Sammtliche Werke, Bd. VII. 47. 

3 [ Begriff. ] * [ Vorstellung. 1 ] 

CHAPTER in The idea and its ot/iemessj 205 

that will not interfere with the truth of our thought. I refer to this 
remarkable passage in order to indicate the limits which such specula 
tive constructions of Space as this is can never overstep. They may 
of course derive in a general way, from the thought in which they 
conceive themselves to express the supreme purpose of the world, a 
certain postulate which must be fulfilled if the end is to be fulfilled ; 
but they are not in a position to infer along with the postulate what 
appearance would be presented by that which should satisfy it. In 
the passage quoted Hegel admits this ; in pronouncing Space to be 
the desired principle of externality he professes to have answered a 
riddle by free conjecture; the solution might be wrong, but the 
problem, he asserts, would still be there. 

Just in the same way Weisse says * That primary quality of what 
exists, the idea of which arises from quantitative infinity being 
specified and made qualitative by the specific character of triplicity 
is Space ; only that he, although in this sentence expressly separating 
enigma and answer by a mark of interruption, yet regards the latter 
as a continuous deduction of the space which is present to perception 
from his abstract and obscure postulate. It can never be otherwise ; 
after, on the one hand, we feel justified in making certain abstract 
demands which reality is to satisfy, and after, on the other hand, we 
have become acquainted with Space, then it is possible to put the two 
together and to show that Space, being such as it is, satisfies these 
demands. But it is impossible to demonstrate that only it, and no 
other form, can satisfy them ; we are confined to a speculative inter 
pretation of space, and any deduction of it is an impossibility on this 
track. One would think that the opinion Hegel expresses could not 
but incline him prima facie to the view of the mere phenomenality of 
the sensuous idea of space; but what he adds on the subject can 
make no one any wiser as to his true meaning ; as a rule the 
views of his school have adhered to extension as a real activity of 
the Absolute. 

121. Philosophical constructions, it was held, were under the further 
obligation, to demonstrate not merely of Space as a whole, but further 
of each and every property by which geometry characterises it, that it 
is a necessary consequence of ideal requirements. Attempts have 
been made on obvious and natural grounds to conceive the infinite 
divisibility and the homogeneousness of an infinite extension, as 
antecedent conditions of that which the idea sets itself to realise 
within space ; but the most numerous and least fortunate endeavours 
1 Metaphysik, p. 317. 

206 Deductions of Space. [BOOK n. 

have been devoted to the three dimensions. There are two points 
in these innumerable attempts that have always been incompre 
hensible to me. 

The first is, the entire neglect of the circumstance that space 
contains innumerable directions starting from every one of its 
points, and that the limitation of their number to three is only ad 
missible under the further condition that each must be perpendicular 
to the two others. Accessory reasons, which are self-evident in the 
case of geometry and mechanics, have no doubt led to the habit of 
tacitly understanding, by dimensions of space, such par excellence as 
fulfil this condition ; but the philosophical deductions proceed as if 
the only point was to secure a triplicity, and as if it was unnecessary 
to find among the abstract presuppositions from which space is to be 
deduced, a special reason why the dimensions which are to correspond 
to three distinct ideal moments (however these may be distinguished), 
should be at right angles to one another. 

The second point which I cannot understand is the fastidiousness 
with which every demonstration partaking of mathematical form, that 
a fourth perpendicular dimension must necessarily coincide with one 
of the other three, is always rejected as an external and unphilosophical 
process of proof. I think, on the contrary, that if we once supposed 
ourselves to have deduced that certain relations which we postulated 
in an abstract form must take the shape of lines and angles between 
them, then the correct philosophical progress would consist in the 
demonstration that these elementary forms of space being once 
obtained were completely decisive of its whole possible structure. 
As a whole subject to law it can have no properties but those 
constituted in it by the relations of its parts ; if its properties are 
to correspond besides to certain ideal relations then it ought to have 
been shown that this correspondence demanded just those primary 
spatial relations from which the properties must proceed as inevitable 
result. However, it is not worth while to go at greater length into 
these unsuccessful undertakings, which are not to the taste of the 
present time, and, we may hope, will not be renewed. 

122. Our attention will be much longer detained by other investi 
gations which are sometimes wrongly comprehended under the name 
of Psychological Deductions of Space. In virtue of the title Psycho 
logical they would not claim mention till later ; but they treat in 
detail or touch in passing three distinct questions, the complete 
separation of which seems to me indispensable. 

i. The first, were it capable of being solved, would really belong 

CHAPTER ii.] * Psychological* questions about space. 207 

to Psychology: it is this: what is the reason that the soul, receiving 
from things manifold impressions which can only be to begin with 
unextended states of its own receptive nature, is obliged to envisage 
them at all under the form of a space with parts outside each other ? 
The cause of this marvellous transfiguration could only be found in 
the peculiar nature of the soul, but it never will be found ; the question 
is just as unanswerable as how it comes to pass that the soul brings 
before consciousness in the form of brightness and sound the effects 
which it can only experience by means of light and sound vibra 
tions transmitted through the senses. It is important to make clear 
to ourselves that these two questions are precisely alike in nature ; and 
that to answer the first is neither more essential nor more possible 
than to answer the second, which every one has long desisted from 
attempting. All endeavours to derive this elementary and universal 
character of ideas of space, this externality, which appears to us in the 
shape of an extended line, from any possible abstract relations, which 
are still unspatial, between psychical affections, have invariably led to 
nothing but fallacies of subreption ; by which space, as it could not be 
made in this way, was brought in at some step of the deduction as an 
unjustified addition. 

2. On the other hand, if we postulate as given the capacity and 
obligation of the soul to apprehend an unspatial multiplicity as in 
space, then there arises the second problem, which I hold to be 
capable of being solved though a long way from being so ; What sort 
of multiplicity does the soul present in this peculiar form of its appre 
hension ? for there are some which it does not treat thus. And 
under what conditions, by what means, and following what clue, 
does it combine its occasional particular impressions in the definite 
situation in space in which they are to us the express image 
of external objects ? As no perception of this variable manifold can 
take place but by the instrumentality of the senses, the solution of this 
question concerning the localisation of sensations belongs wholly to 
that part of psychology which investigates the connexion of sensa 
tions, and the associations of these remembered images ; which latter 
are partly caused by the conjoint action of nervous stimuli, partly by 
the activity of consciousness in creating relations. 

3. There remains a third question, that of the geometrical structure 
of extension which arises if we develope all the consequences that the 
given character of the original externality necessitates or admits ; and 
which is wanted to complete the totality of the Space-image in whose 
uniformly present environment we are obliged to set in array the 

208 Deductions of Space. 

various impressions of sensation. This investigation, which has fallen 
to the share of Mathematics, has hitherto been conducted by that 
science in a purely logical spirit ; it took no account of the play of 
psychical activities, which bring about in the individual apprehending 
subject a perception of the truth of its successive propositions, a play 
of which in these days we think we know a great deal, and really know 
nothing ; it attached the convincingness of their truth purely to the 
objective l necessity of thought with which given premisses demand 
their conclusions. But the premisses themselves, as well as that 
combination of them on which the conclusion has to rest, were 
simply accepted by Mathematics from what it called Direct or In 
tuitional Perception 2 . Nor could the word perception 2 be held to 
designate any psychical activity, which could be shown to possess a 
peculiar and definite mode of procedure ; every impartial attempt to 
say what perception 2 does, must end with the admission that it really 
does nothing, that there is no visible working or process at all as a 
means to the production of its content ; but that on the contrary it is 
nothing but a direct receptivity, with an entirely unknown psychical 
basis, which merely becomes aware of its object and the peculiar 
nature of that object. Obviously, an investigation cannot begin before 
the matter is given to which it is to refer ; but again, it will only 
consist, even when the matter is forthcoming, in presenting one by 
one to this receptivity all the details which do not fall at once in the 
line of our mental vision ; and defining their differences or similarities 
by help of marks which make it possible to transfer from one to the 
other of these features the judgments about them made by direct per 
ception, and to connect all such features systematically together. 

I shall return later on to what it is indispensable to say on this 
head; I will only add now that it was possible for the Euclidean 
geometry, which arose in the above way, to remain unassailed as long 
as no doubt was raised of the objective validity of space ; while it was 
believed, that is, that we had in it if not a real thing, at least the 
actual and peculiar form attaching to real things. It was not indeed 
solely, as we shall see, but chiefly, the modern notion which sees in it 
only a subjective mode of perception, that disturbed this unsuspicious 
security and raised such questions as these ; of how much that is 
true about the world can we properly be said to get experience by 
help of this form of apprehension ; could there not be other species 
of perception that might teach us the same truth about Things better, 
or other truths quite unknown ; and finally, may not the whole fabric 
1 [ Sachliche. ] * [ Anschauung. ] 

CHAPTER 1 1.] Inferences from Subjectivity of Space. 209 

of our spatial perceptions be incomplete, perhaps charged with inner 
contradictions which escape our notice for want of the empirical 
stimuli which would bring them to light ? The diversity of opinions 
propounded in relation to the above matters compels me in my meta- 
physic to enter upon the essential nature of space in its geometrical 
aspect ; and I begin my task by a very frank confession. I am quite 
unable to persuade myself that all those among my fellow-students of 
philosophy, who accept the new theories with applause, can really 
understand with such ease what is quite incomprehensible to me ; I 
fear, that from over- modesty they do not discharge their office, and 
fail, on this borderland between mathematics and philosophy, to 
vindicate their full weight for the grave doubts which they should 
have raised in the name of the latter against many mathematical 
speculations of the present day. I shall not imitate this procedure; 
but while on the contrary I plainly say that the whole of this specu 
lation seems to me one huge coherent error, I am quite happy to risk 
being censured for a complete misapprehension, in case my remarks 
should have the good fortune to provoke a thorough and decisive 

123. I begin with the first inference suggested by the doctrine that 
space is only the subjective form of apprehension which is evolved 
from the nature of our souls, though not deducible by us. Then, there 
is nothing to interfere with our thinking of beings endowed with mental 
images as differing in nature within very wide limits ; or with our 
assigning to each of these kinds a mode of apprehension of its own, 
which, as is commonly said, it holds in readiness to apply to its future 
perceptions. Meantime we have convinced ourselves how little use 
such forms could be to these minds, if they were only a subjective 
manner of behaviour and destitute of all comparability with the things. 
In short, things would not be caught in nets whose meshes did not 
fit them ; far less could there be in purely subjective forms any 
ground of distinction which could compel things to prefer one 
place to appear in rather than another. We must therefore neces 
sarily give a share in our consideration to the connexion in which 
the forms of apprehension are bound to stand with the objects 
which they are to grasp. The following cases will have to be 

Let X and Z be two of those modes of perception, different from 
our space S, which we arbitrarily assign to two kinds of beings 
endowed with mental images, and organized differently from us. 
This assumption would cause us no difficulty as long as, (i.) we sup- 

VOL. I. P 

2 1 o Deductions of Space. i BOOK IL 

posed the worlds which are to be perceived by their means, to differ 
from the world M accessible to our experience, but to be such as to 
admit of apprehension in the forms X and Z as easily as the world 
M lends itself to our apprehension in the form of our space S. Only, 
this assumption would not interest us much ; though free from in 
ternal contradiction, in fact, strictly, a mere tautology, it has no 
connexion whatever with the object of our doubt ; the interest of our 
question depends entirely on a different presupposition ; (ii.) that this 
same world M, which we represent to ourselves as enclosed in the 
frame of Euclidean space S, appears to other intellectual beings in 
the utterly heterogeneous systematic forms X or Z. On this sup 
position also there are two cases to be kept separate. The actions 
and reactions which the things of this world M reciprocate with each 
other may be extremely various ; it is neither necessary nor credible 
that they only consist in such activities as cause us to localise the 
things in spatial relations in accordance with them ; on the contrary, 
much may go on within the things that is not able to find expression 
in their appearance in space, even with the help of motion. Therefore 
there is still this alternative ; either, (a.) the forms of perception X and 
Z reproduce relations of things which cannot be represented in our 
space 5 and do not occur in it ; about this assumption we can have 
no decisive judgment, but only a conjecture, which I will state 
presently ; or (/3.) we assert that the same relations of things which 
appear to us as relations in space 5* are accessible to other beings 
under the deviating modes of perception X or Z ; and on this point 
we shall have something more definite to say. 

124. Let us begin with the former alternative (ii. a). We are 
justified in subordinating the idea of space -S 1 to the more universal 
conception of a system of arrangement of empty places, within which 
the reciprocal position of any two terms is fully determined by a 
number of relations of the two to others. And there is nothing to 
prevent us, as long as no other requirements are annexed, from con 
ceiving many other species of this genus, in which the reciprocal 
definition of the terms might be effected by other rules than those 
valid for the space S, or might require a greater or smaller number of 
conditions than are required in it. Still, it seems to me unfruitful to 
refer for further illustration of such ideas to the well-known attempts 
to arrange in a spatial conspectus either the whole multiplicity of 
sensations of musical sound, with reference to strength, pitch, quality, 
and harmonic affinity; or the colours in all their variety on similar 
grounds. Nothing indeed is more certain than that (i) we here have 

CHAPTER ii.] Symbolic representations in Space. 2 1 j 

before us relations of the terms to be arranged for the adequate 
representation of which our space S is unfitted ; but at the same time 
I think nothing can be more doubtful than the implied idea by which, 
whether furtively or explicitly, we console ourselves, that (2) there 
may be other modes of perception X or Z which permit to beings of 
different organization the feat which we cannot perform. I must 
speak more fully of both parts of my assertion. 

125. (i) We may arrange musical notes in a straight line according 
to their rise of pitch ; but as there appears to be an increasing diver 
gence from the character of the keynote up to the middle of the 
octave, and from that point again an increasing approximation to it, 
having regard to this we may represent the notes still more clearly, by 
arranging them as Drobisch does in a spiral, which after every circuit 
corresponding to an octave returns to a point vertically above the 
starting-point. But in doing so we should bear in mind that all this, 
like any other appropriate device which might be added to the scheme, 
is still a symbolical construction ; the notes are not in the space in 
which we localise them for the convenience of our perception, nor is 
the increment-element A/ of the pitch p really the element As of a 
line in space s, to which, for the purpose of our perception, we treat 
it as equivalent. No one refuses this concession; but it is not pre 
cisely in this that the ground of my difficulty lies. Seeing that I have 
asserted the phenomenal nature of space there is no longer any mean 
ing for me in distinguishing Things as in space, from sounds as only 
to be projected into it by way of symbolism. When Things appear 
to us in space, what we do to them is just the same as the treatment 
to which we submit the ideas of notes in the above constructions ; 
like them, things have neither place nor figure in space, nor spatial 
relations ; it is only within our combining consciousness and only to 
its vision that the living reactions which Things interchange with each 
other and with us expand into the system of extension, in which 
every phenomenal element finds its completely definite place. So if 
the innumerable mental representations of sounds compelled us as 
unambiguously to place each of them in definite spatial relations to 
others, I should not be able to see how such an arrangement must be 
less legitimate for them than for things, for which also it remains a 
subjective apprehension in our minds. 

It will further be observed, and quite correctly, that Things are 
movable in space, and their place at any time only expresses the sum 
of relations in which they stand to other things, which subsists at the 
moment but is essentially variable ; it tells nothing of the Thing s own 

p 2 

212 Deductions of Space. , 

nature ; whereas such constructions of the realms of colour or sound 
aim at a completely different result ; they attempt to assign to each 
one of these sensations conformably with the peculiar combination 
in which each unites definite values of the universal predicates of 
colour and sound, a systematic position between all others which it 
can never exchange for another place. No doubt this difference is 
important as regards the nature of the elements which it is proposed 
to systematise in the two cases ; still there is no essential obstacle to 
copying the eternal and permanent articulation of a system of con 
tents 1 fixed in the shape of ideas by means of the same mode of per 
ception which is used to represent the variable arrangement of real 
Things. In fact, for every single indivisible moment the existing 
arrangement of real things in space would be precisely the total ex 
pression of the complete systematic localisation appropriate to the 
individual things in virtue of the actions which intersected each other 
in them at that moment. The circumstance that within things there 
is motion, which will not admit of being represented for ever by the 
same fixed system, is a fact with its own importance, but not a proof 
that the space form is inadequate to express systematic relations. 
Therefore the felt inadequacy of the space-form S can only rest on the 
fact that its articulation, though fitted for what we perceive in it, is 
not fitted for such matter as these sensations which we project into it. 
126. Things then obviously do not arrange themselves in space 
according to a constant affinity of their natures, but according to 
some variable occurrence within them, consisting of the reactions 
which they interchange. We are not justified in assuming an en 
tirely homogeneous form of event as produced in all of them by 
these actions ; but we cannot help regarding as homogeneous all that 
part of such events which has its effect in fixing their place in space ; 
in designating it by the name of mechanical relations of things we 
approach the common view of physical science, which considers that 
in every moment the place which a body occupies abandons or tends 
to, is determined by the joint action of entirely comparable forces and 

Now it is just this comparability which is wanting to the musical 
properties of sounds ; that is, the felt properties, for we are only 
speaking of them, not of the comparable physical conditions of their 
production. The graduated series of loudness 2 i and of pitch p may 

1 [ Inhaltsystem. ] 

2 [ Tonstarken. I have retained the / because it probably stands for Intensitat * 

CHAPTER IT.] Space-perception and disparate qualities. 213 

no doubt be formed, each separately, by addition of homogeneous 
increments ; but when we come to the series of qualities q we find it 
cannot be exhibited in this way; and in any case A*, A/, and kq 
would remain quite incomparable with each other. The lines i,p, and q, 
though we might suppose that each could be constructed by itself, 
yet would diverge from any point in which they were united, as it 
were into different worlds ; and if one of them were arbitrarily fixed 
in space still there would be nothing to determine the angles at which 
the others would cross it or part from it. 

It will of course be said that this as well as the difficulties raised in 
the last section, was known long ago ; but that no one can be sure 
that (2) beings different from us have not at command forms of 
apprehension X or Z, which attach themselves to the content to be 
arranged just as unambiguously and perfectly, as our space S does to 
its matter, the mechanical relations of things. Yet I cannot see how 
this should be supposed possible as long as we ascribe to those beings 
the same achievement as that in which we fail. If instead of the 
qualitatively different colours and tones which we see and hear, they 
perceived only uniform physical or psychical actions, from a mixture 
of which those sensations arose in us, I do not dispute that in that 
case they might have for such actions an adequate perceptive form X 
or Z\ but the relations which they would have to arrange would again 
be purely mechanical, only mechanical in a different way from those 
which we reproduce in our space S. 

On the other hand, if those beings are supposed to feel the same dif 
ference between red and blue as we do, or to feel the pitch of a note as 
independently of loudness and quality as we feel it, then the different 
progressions i, p, q, would be as incomparable for them as for us ; 
though they might arbitrarily reduce the relations of tones and colours 
to the forms X and Z by way of symbolism, with the same sort of 
approximation as we obtain in our space S. But I hold that a special 
colour-space X or tone-space Z is an impossibility ; an impossibility 
that is, as an endowment of the supposed beings with two faculties of 
the nature of empty forms of apprehension, prior to all content and 
so having none of their own, but able to dictate particular situations 
to disparate elements subsequently received into them, solely in 
virtue of the rules of connexion between individual places which 
they contain. No form of perception X, be it what it may, can 
enable elements which remain disparate even for it to pre 
scribe their places in it definitely and unambiguously to each other. 
And conversely; there may no doubt be rules of criticism for variously 

214 Deductions of Space. 

combined values of disparate predicates, which, being based on an 
estimate of the efficient causes which produce such combinations, 
show how to exclude impossible terms and to arrange possible 
ones in series according to their various aspects ; but a form of 
perception X such as to unite all these different series of ideas about 
the material into a single image of the material seems to me impos 

I cannot see how we lose much if we admit this ; the many-sided 
affinities, resemblances, and contrasts of colours and tones are not 
lost to us because we cannot satisfactorily symbolise them in space ; 
we have the enjoyment of all of them when we compare the impressions 
with each other. Now it seems to me that no being can get beyond 
this discursive knowledge in respect of elements which in their sum of 
predicates combine different properties that remain disparate even for 
that being ; a form of perception, in the sense of an ordered system 
of empty places, can only exist for such relations of elements as are 
completely comparable, and each of which is separated from a second 
by a difference of the same kind as separates this second from any 
third or fourth. It is possible that things contain some system of 
uniform occurrences which escape us, but form the object of percep 
tion for other beings, and are in fact apprehended by them in forms 
of perception which differ from our space-form S and adapt them 
selves to the peculiar articulation of the occurrences ; but this idea 
being motived by no definite suggestion need not be pursued further, 
at least for the moment. 

127. We are much more interested in the other of the cases dis 
tinguished above (ii. /3) l . If the same relations of things which are 
imaged by us as in space were supposed to meet with forms of a 
different kind in other beings ; at least we know that there is nothing 
in the nature of these relations to make them intractable to combina 
tion before the mind s eye into one entire image ; such an X or Z 
undoubtedly might bear the character of perceptive forms. They 
would not need to be in the least like our space S; the difference 
between two places of the system which appears to us in our space as 
the line s, would represent itself in them in the form x or z ; both 
of which would be as disparate from s as the interval between two 
notes from the distance between two points. As long as we maintain 
these postulates, we have no reason to deny the possibility of these 
perceptions X and Z ; but as we do not possess them their assump 
tion remains an empty idea, and we know absolutely nothing further 

1 [123, end.] 

CHAPTER ii.] Common elements of alleged Spaces 215 

of how things present themselves and what they look like under those 
forms. Only we must not require more of them than our own space- 
apprehension can achieve ; not, therefore, that the beings which enjoy 
them shall be enabled by them in each individual perception to appre 
hend the true relations of what is perceived. This is more than even 
our space 6" does for us ; for instance we have to assign ourselves a 
place in it, with the change of which the whole constellation of our 
impressions is displaced ; even to us, owing to the laws of the optical 
impressions made on us, parallel lines inevitably appear to converge 
at a distance, magnitudes to diminish, and the horizon of the sea to 
rise above the level of the shore. As we require the comparison of 
many experiences to enable us to apprehend the true relations in 
despite of the persistent semblance of the false, no more than this 
ought to be demanded of the nature of X and Z ; that is, that com 
bined experiences should give criteria for the elimination of the con 
tradictions and mistakes of isolated ones. We may say then, subject 
to such conditions, that the same relations of things as appear to us 
in space admit of other kinds of perception completely unknown to 
us but leading to equally true cognition. Still even this is by no 
means what is as a rule in people s minds ; it is expressly other space- 
perceptions than ours that it is hoped to make conceivable in this 
way. It is to be taken as settled that the relation of two elements 
presented to perception is given by perception the shape of the ex 
tended line s, and the relation of two such relations that of the angle a ; 
and still even so there is to be a possibility that by help of other com 
binations this s and a may form not our space but a different one 
S* 1 or -S 2 , like ours in respect of the character of its elements s and a 
as pictured to the mind, but unlike in the fabric of the whole which 
they generate. Perhaps it will not be too painful to the feelings of 
philologists if I propose for these forms -S" 1 or S* the name of Rau- 
moids 1 [ quasi-spaces ]. I know no shorter way of expressing the 
difference between these forms and our previous forms X and Z\ and 
as I mean to maintain that there cannot be Raumoids, their name 
will soon disappear again supposing I am right ; if I am wrong, I 
make a present of it to my antagonists as the only thing I can do for 
their cause. For I shall hardly myself be brought to surrender my 
conviction that to accept s and a as elements of space is to decide its 
total form and inner structure, fully, unambiguously, and quite in the 
sense of the geometry which has hitherto prevailed. 

128. I hold it, strictly speaking, unreasonable to require any other 

1 [From Raum, Space. ] 

216 Deductions of Space. 

proof of this than that which lies in the development of the science 
down to the present time. That assuming the elements s and a they 
admit of other modes of combination than can be presented in our 
space S ] and that these other combinations do not remain mere 
abstract names, but lead to kinds of perception S l and S 2 ; all this 
could only be proved by the actual discovery of the perceptions in 
question. But it is admitted that our human mode of representation 
cannot discover S 1 and -S" 2 ; nothing but can be evolved out of it ; 
therefore if the logical sequence of this evolution were established, 
and we still believed in other beings who could form divergent per 
ceptions out of the same elements s and a, we should have to credit 
them with other laws of thought than those on which the truth of 
knowledge rests for us. Such an assumption would destroy our 
interest in the question ; though no doubt it would not in the least 
run counter to the taste of an age whose tendency is so indulgent as 
to take anything for possible, which cannot be at a moment s notice 
demonstrated impossible. 

But there is a point at which our geometry has long been thought 
deficient in consecutiveness of deduction ; that is in the doctrine of 
parallel lines and of the sum of the angles of a triangle. Still it 
appears to me as if philosophical logic could neither advance nor 
properly speaking admit the peculiar claims to strictness of procedure 
made at this point by the logic of mathematics. After all, discursive 
proof cannot make truth, but only finds it ; the perception of space 
with the variety of its inner relations faces us as the given object of 
inner experience ; one which, if not so given, we should never be 
able to construct by a logical combination of unspatial elements, or 
even of those elements of space which we assumed ; all demonstrations 
can but serve to discover certain definite relations between a number 
of arbitrarily chosen points to be implied in the nature of the whole. 
For such discovery perfect strictness of reasoning is indispensable ; 
and elegance of representation may also require that the multiplicity 
of relations shall be reduced to the minimum number of directly 
evident and fundamental ones ; but it will always be fruitless to 
assume fewer independent principles than the nature of the facts 
requires, and always erroneous to presuppose that it does not require 
a considerable number. We convinced ourselves in the Logic that 
all our cognition of facts rests on our application of synthetic judg 
ments ; the law of Identity will never tell us more than that every A 
is the same as itself; there is no formal maxim which gives us any 
help about the relation of A to B, except the one law which simply 

CHAPTER ii.] Constructions presuppose Space-perception. 217 

disjoins them because they are not the same ; every positive relation 
which we assert between A and B can only express a content which 
is given us, a synthesis ; such as could be derived neither from A nor 
from B, nor from any other relation between them which was not 
itself in turn given to us in the same way. It is impossible to pursue 
this here in its general sense, but it will be useful to elucidate it in 
relation to space in particular. 

129. The first consequence of what has been referred to is that a 
case is possible in which we are unable to give adequate definitions 
either of A or of B without involving the relation C in which they are 
given to us, and equally so to define this relation apart from A and B. 
It would be impossible to say what a point of space is and how 
distinguished from a point of time, unless we include in our thought 
the extension in which it is, and treat it, for instance, as Euclid does, 
as the extremity of a line ; no more could we construct this line out 
of points without a like presupposition. Two precisely similar and 
co-existent points may have innumerable different relations of the kind 
which we know as their greater or less distances from one another ; 
but how could we guess or understand this unless the space in which 
they are distributed, being present to the mind s eye, taught us at 
once that the problem is soluble and what the solution looks like ? 
Just as little can a line be generated by motion ; it can only be 
followed ; for we could not set about to describe the track left behind 
us without the idea of a space in general which furnishes the place 
for it ; again any definite line could only be generated in space if in 
every point which we pass through the further direction which we 
mean to take were already present to our imagination. 

Again, in any line when we compare it with others we shall be able 
to distinguish its length from its direction ; but we cannot make the 
simplest assertions about either property without learning them from 
perception. That the addition of two lines of the length a gives a 
line of the length 2 a seems a simple application of an arithmetical 
principle ; but strictly arithmetic teaches only that such an addition 
results in the sum of two lines of the length a, just as putting together 
two apples weighing half an ounce each gives only the sum of these 
two, not one apple twice the weight. The possibility of uniting the 
one line with the extremity of the other so that it becomes its un 
broken continuation and the two lengths add up into one only follows 
from the mental portrayal of a space within which the junction can 
be effected. I say expressly, of a space \ for not even the considera 
tion that the things to be united are two lines is sufficient; on the 

2i8 Deductions of Space. 

contrary, we know that a thousand lines 1 , if thought of as between 
the same extremities, will form no more than one and the same line ; 
they must be put together lengthways, and to do this the image of 
the surrounding space which gives the necessary room is indispensable. 
Geometry only expresses the same thing in another form, when it says 
that every line is capable of being produced to infinity. 

As regards direction, it is easily seen that it is a delusion to suppose 
that we have a conception of it to which straightness and curvedness 
can be subordinated as co-ordinate species ; its conception is only 
intelligible as completely coinciding with that of the straight line 
which is called from another point of view, in relation to its extremi 
ties, the distance between them ; every idea of a curve includes that 
of a deviation from the straight direction of the tangents and can only 
be fixed in the particular case by the measurement of this deviation. 
Thus we can it is true assign a criterion for any extended line which 
is security for its straightness ; the distance between its extremities 
must be equal to the sum of the distances between all pairs of points 
by which we may choose to divide the line ; but of course we do not 
by this get rid of the conception of straightness in principle ; the 
distance between the extremities and each of these intermediate 
distances can only be conceived under that conception. So in fact it 
is not proper to say that the straight line is the shortest distance 
between two points ; it is rather the distance itself; the different circuits 
that may be made in going from a to b have nothing to do with 
this distance which is always one and the same ; but their possibility 
calls our attention to the circumstance that perception is in that fact 
telling us something more than would follow from its teaching up to 
that point taken alone. 

130. If a straight line can be drawn between a and b and another 
between a and c, it does not in the least follow from these isolated 
premisses that the same thing can or must take place between b and 
c ; the two lines might diverge from a as if into different worlds, and 
their extensions have no relation to each other. But they have one ; 
our spatial perception and nothing else reveals to us the angle a, and 
shows us that space extends between the two lines and allows a 
connexion between the points b and c by means of a straight line be 
of the same kind as ab and ac\ it teaches us at the same time that 
there is this possibility for all points of ab and ac, and so creates the 
third element of our idea of space, the plane p. This, after having so 
discovered it, we are able to define as the figure in space any point of 

1 [ Straight lines of course.] 

CHAPTER ii.] Litie, Angle, Plane, data of Perception. 219 

which may be connected with any other point by a straight line lying 
wholly in that figure. This definition however, though I should think 
it a sufficient one, contains no rule for construction according to 
which we could produce for ourselves the plane p without having had 
it before ; for what is really meant by requiring all connecting lines to 
be contained in the spatial figure which is to be drawn is only made 
clear by the spatial perception of the plane. Now I will not deny 
that it may be of use in the course of scientific investigations to 
demonstrate even simple conceptions as the result of complicated 
constructions ; in cases, that is to say, in which it is our object to 
show that the complicated conditions present in a problem must have 
precisely this simple consequence; but I cannot comprehend the 
acumen which seeks as the basis of geometry to obtain the most 
elementary perceptions by help of presuppositions, which not only 
contain of necessity the actual elements in question but also more 
besides them. 

It is possible to regard the straight line as a limiting case in a 
series of curves ; but it would not be possible to form the series of 
these curves without in some way employing for their determination 
and measurement the mental presentation of the straight line from 
which they show a measurable deviation. Whoever should give it as 
a complete designation of a straight line, that it was the line which 
being rotated between its extremities did not change its place, would 
plunge us into silent reflexion as to how he conceived the axis of that 
rotation ; and by what, without supposing a straight line somewhere, 
he would measure the change of place which the curve experienced in 
such a rotation. 

I hold it quite as useless to construct the plane p over again, after 
it has once been given by perceptive cognition ; no doubt it is also 
the surface in which two spheres intersect, and reappears as the 
result of countless constructions of the kind ; but every fair judge will 
think that it is the perception of the plane which elucidates the idea of 
the intersection and not vice versa. 

And now, if we may let alone these attempts to clear up what is 
clear already, we are invited to a more serious defence of the rights of 
universal Logic by the dazzling play of ambiguities which endeavours 
to controvert and threatens to falsify the perception itself. A finite arc 
of a circle of course becomes perpetually more like a straight line as 
the radius of the circle to which it belongs is increased ; but the whole 
circle never comes to be like one. However infinitely great we may 
conceive the radius as being, nothing can prevent us from conceiving 

22O Deductions of Space. 

it to complete its rotation round the centre ; and till such rotation is 
completed we have no right to apply the conception of a circle to the 
figure which is generated; discourse about a straight line which, 
being in secret a circle of infinite diameter, returns into itself, is not a 
portion of an esoteric science but a proof of logical barbarism. Just 
the same is shown by phrases about parallel lines which are supposed 
to cut each other at an infinite distance ; they do not cut each other at 
any finite distance, and as every distance when conceived as attained, 
would become finite again, there simply is no distance at which they 
do so ; it is utterly inadmissible to pervert this negation into the posi 
tive assertion, that in infinite distance there is a point at which inter 
section occurs. Here again, however, I am not denying that in the 
context of a calculation good service may be rendered within certain 
limits by modes of designation which rest on assumptions like these ; 
so much the more useful would be a precise investigation within what 
limits they may be employed in every case, without commending to 
notice absolute nonsense by help of pretentious calculation. 

131. It is obvious that according to the above general discussion, 
I cannot propose to solve the dispute about parallels by the de 
monstrative method commonly desiderated ; I am content with ex 
pressing my conviction by saying that in presence of direct perception 
I can see no reason whatever for raising the dispute. We call parallel 
the two straight lines a and b which have the same direction in space, 
and we test the identity of their direction by the criterion that with a 
third straight line c in the same plane p, the straight lines a and b 
form on the same side of them s, the same angle a. In saying this 
I do not hesitate to presuppose the plane p and side s as perfectly 
clear data of perception ; still they might both be eliminated by the 
following expression ; a and b are parallel if the extremities a and /3 
of any equal lengths a a and b $ taken on the two straight lines from 
their starting points a and b, are always at the same distance from one 
another. It follows from this as a mere verbal definition, that a b will 
also be parallel to a/3; and at the same time from the matter of the 
definition, that a and b, as long as they are straight lines, must remain 
at the same distance from each other, measured as above; every 
question whether to produce them to infinity would make any change 
in this is otiose, and contradicts the presupposition which conceives 
identity of direction to infinity as involved in the direction of a finite 
portion of a straight line. That the sum of the interior angles which 
a a and b & make with a b or with a /3 is equal to two right angles, 
only requires the familiar elucidation. 

CHAPTER ii.] Mathematical Perception v. Measurement. 221 

Now if a triangle is to be made between a a and b /3 both the lines 
must change their position, or one of them its position relatively to 
the other. If we suppose a a to turn about the point a so that the 
angle which it forms with a b is diminished, our spatial perception 
shows us that the interval between its intersection with a and the 
extremity 8 of that line must also diminish; if the turning is continued 
this interval is necessarily reduced to zero, and then ab, aft, and /3, 
enclose the required triangle. When this has been done the line a # 
and the line of its former position a a. make an angle, which is now ex 
cluded from the sum of the angles which were before the interior angles 
between the parallels a a. and b /3 ; but the vertical angle opposite to 
this angle, and therefore the angle itself, is equal to the new angle which 
a /3 produces by its convergence with b /3 ; the latter forms a part of 
the sum of the angles of the triangle which is being made, which sum 
as it loses and gains equally, remains the same as it was in the open 
space between the parallels; that is, in every triangle, whatever its 
shape may be, it is equal to two right angles. If this simple connexion 
between the two cases will not serve, still we could attach no import 
ance to any attempt to postulate a different sum for the angles of 
a triangle, except on one condition ; that it should not only proceed 
by strictly coherent calculations but should also be able to present the 
purely mathematical perception of the cases which corresponded to 
its assumption with equal obviousness and lucidity. For in fact it is 
not obvious, why, if the sum of the angles of a triangle were generally 
or in particular cases different from what we made it, this state of 
things should never be discovered to exist or be demonstrated to be 
necessary. But here we plainly have misunderstandings between 
philosophy and mathematics which go much deeper. Philosophy 
can never come to an understanding with the attempt which it must 
always find utterly incomprehensible, to decide upon the validity of 
one or the other assumption by external observations of nature. So 
far these observations have agreed with the Euclidean geometry ; but 
if it should happen that astronomical measurements of great distances, 
after exclusion of all errors of observation, revealed a less sum for the 
angle of a triangle, what then ? Then we should only suppose that 
we had discovered a new and very strange kind of refraction, which 
had diverted the rays of light which served to determine the direction ; 
that is, we should infer a peculiar condition of physical realities in 
space, but certainly not a real condition of space itself which would 
contradict all our perceptive presentations and be vouched for by no 
exceptional presentation of its own. 

222 Deductions of Space. 

132. However all this is the special concern of geometry, without 
essential importance for metaphysic. There is another set of ideas 
in which the latter has a greater interest. I admitted above that a 
being endowed with ideas would not evolve forms of space-perception 
which no occasion was given him to produce. Others have connected 
with such an idea the conjecture of a possibility that even our 
geometry may admit of extensions the stimulus to which in human 
experience is either absent or as yet unnoticed. 

Helmholtz (Popular Scientific Lectures, III) in his first example 
supposes the case of intelligent beings living in an infinite plane, and 
incapable of perceiving anything outside the plane, but capable of having 
perceptions like ours within the extension of the plane, in which they 
can move freely. It will be admitted that these beings would establish 
precisely the same geometry which is contained in our Planimetry ; 
but their ideas would not include the third dimension of space. 

Not quite so obvious, I think, are the inferences drawn from a 
second case, in which intelligent beings with the same free power of 
movement and the same incapacity of receiving impressions from 
without their dwelling-space, are supposed to live on the surface of 
a sphere. At least, I suppose I ought to interpret as I did in the last 
sentence the expression that they l have not the power of perceiving 
anything outside this surface ; the other interpretation that even if 
impressions came to them from without the surface, they nevertheless 
are unable to project them outside it, would give the appearance of 
an innate defect in the intelligence of these beings to what according 
to the import of such descriptions ought only to result from the lack 
of appropriate stimuli. Under such conditions the direct perceptions 
of these beings would certainly lead in the first place to the ideas which 
Helmholtz ascribes to them ; but I cannot persuade myself that the 
matter would end there, supposing we assume that the mental nature 
of such beings has the tendency with which our own is inspired, to 
combine single perceptions into a whole as a self-consistent and 
complete image of all that we perceive. 

For shortness sake I take two points N and -S 1 as the North and 
Souih poles of the surface of the sphere, and suppose the whole net 
of geographical circles to be drawn upon it. Suppose first that 
a being B moves from a point a along the meridian of this point. 
We must assume then that B is not only capable of receiving quali- 

1 [ Popular Lectures on Scientific Subjects; Atkinson s translation, 2nd series, 
P- 34-] 

CHAPTER 1 1.] The sphere-dweller s perceptions. 223 

tatively different or similar impressions from East and West ; it must 
be informed by some feeling, by whatever means produced, of the 
fact of its own motion, and at the same time have capacity to interpret 
this feeling into the fact of its motion, that is, into the change of its 
relation to objects which for the time at least are fixed ; it must 
finally have equally direct feelings which enable it to distinguish the 
persistent and similar continuance of this motion or change from 
a change of direction or a return in the same direction. However 
these postulates may be satisfied in the being B, it is certain that if 
we are to count upon any definite combination of the impressions it 
receives, it can experience no change of its feeling of direction in its 
continuous journey along the meridian ; for by the hypothesis it is 
insensible to the concavity of its path towards the centre of the 
sphere. So if having started from a it passes through N and and 
returns to a, keeping to this path, such a fact admits of the following 
interpretations for its intelligence. 

As long as a only distinguishes itself from b or c by the quality of 
the impression it makes on B it will remain unestablished that the 
a which has recurred is that from which its movement started ; it 
may be a second, like the first but not identical with it. On the 
other hand, the feelings which arise in B from its actual movement may 
prove to it a change in its own relation to objects, but as long as this 
is all it is not self-evident that the feelings can only indicate a change 
of spatial Delation to them ; the feelings are simply a regular series of 
states, the repeated passage through which is always combined with 
the recurrence of one and the same sensation a ; very much, though 
not exactly, like running up the musical scale, when we feel a con 
tinuous increase in the same direction of our exertion of the vocal 
organs, which brings us back in certain periods not indeed to the 
same note, but to its octave which resembles it. 

If B can feel no more than this, no space-perception can be gene 
rated ; in order that it should be, a further separate postulate is 
required ; B must be forced by the peculiar nature of its intelligence 
to represent to itself every difference between two of its felt states as 
a distance in space between two places or points. Under this new 
condition the interpretation of the experience gained is still doubtful, 
until the identity of the two <? s is determined ; as B does not 
experience a deviation to East or West, and by the hypothesis does 
not feel the curvature of its path inwards, it might suppose itself to 
have moved along an infinitely extended straight line, furnished at 
definite equal intervals with similar objects a. 

224 Deductions of Space. 

But it is not worth while to spend time on this hypothesis ; let us 
suppose at once that B moves freely on the surface and is able to 
compare in its consciousness innumerable experiences acquired in 
succession ; then it will find means to establish not only the exact 
resemblance l but the identity of the two a s. If this has taken place 
its journey along the meridian from a by N and back to a will 
appear to it to establish the fact that by following a rectilinear move 
ment in space, without change of direction or turning back, it has 
returned to its starting-point. At least I do not know how its path 
could appear to it other than rectilinear ; as it can measure the whole 
distance from a to a by nothing but the length of the journey accom 
plished, it is of course equal to the sum of all the intermediate dis 
tances from point to point of this journey and so falls under the 
conception of straightness which was determined above ; and on the 
other hand we cannot assume that B would detect in every element 
that made part of his journey, therefore in each of the minimum 
distances from point to point, the character of the arc of a circle ; 
it would then possess the power denied to it of perceiving convexity 
in terms of the third dimension ; and therein it would at once have 
a basis for the complete development of the idea of that dimension, 
its possession of which is disputed. 

But such an idea must undoubtedly arise in its mind, not on 
grounds of direct perception, but by reason of the intolerable con 
tradiction which would be involved in this straight line returning into 
itself, if this apparent result of experience were allowed to pass as an 
actual fact. For a power of mental portrayal which has got so far as 
to imagine manifold points ranged beside each other in a spatial 
order the content of the experience which has been acquired is 
nothing but the definition of a curve, and indeed, all things con 
sidered, of the uniform curve of the circle; but as it cannot turn 
either East or West, there must necessarily be a third dimension, out 
of which immediate impressions never come, and which cannot 
therefore be the object of a sense-perception for the being B in 
the same way as the two other dimensions ; but which neverthe 
less would be mentally represented by B with the same certainty 
with which we can imagine the interior of a physical body although 
hidden by its surface. As soon as this conception of the third 
dimension is established the being B would evolve from the com 
parison of all its experiences according to the most universal laws 
of logic and mathematics precisely the same geometry that we acquire 

) [ Gleichheit. ] 

CHAPTER ii.] The sphere-dweller and parallel lines. 225 

more easily, not having to call to our aid a dimension which for 
our sensuous perception is imaginary, to reduce things to order ; the 
being B would by this time understand its dwelling-space to be what 
it is, a figure in space which is extended in three dimensions ; and 
would be in a position to explain the extraordinary phenomena which 
its experience of motion had presented to it by help of this form of 

133. Parallel lines, Helmholtz continues, would be quite unknown 
to the inhabitants of the sphere ; they would assert that any two lines, 
the straightest possible, would if sufficiently produced, cut one another 
not merely in one point but in two. It depends somewhat on the 
definition of parallelism and on the interpretation of the assumptions 
which are made whether we are forced to agree to the former asser 
tion. Movements along the meridians could of course not lead to the 
idea of parallel lines; but still, in case of free power to move, B 
might traverse successively two circles of the same north and south 
latitude ; it would find that these circles have equal lengths to their 
return to the starting-point, that they never either cut or touch each 
other ; but that counting from the same meridian the extremities of 
equal segments of the two have always the same distance from each 
other. This seems to me sufficient ground for calling them parallel, 
and in fact we use the term parallel of the circumferences of similarly- 
directed sections of a cylinder, which in this case the two circles 
would really be. 

But that would be, as I said, merely a question of names; I 
mention these movements here for a different reason. The tan 
gential planes of the successive points of the southern circle cut 
each other in straight lines which converge to the south; the cor 
responding sections for the northern circle do the same to the north ; 
the question is whether the being B would be aware of this difference 
or not. If it were not, then B would really suppose itself to traverse 
two paths of precisely the same direction, which would in fact be 
parallel in the same sense as the above cylinder-sections ; and then 
it might, as long as no other experiences contradicted the idea, con 
ceive both paths to be in one plane as circles, the centres of which 
are joined by a straight line greater than the sum of their radii. 

This would not be so in the other case, which we must anyhow 
regard as the more probable hypothesis. Of course it is hard to 
obtain a perfectly clear idea of what we mean by calling B sensitive 
only to impressions in the surface of the sphere ; but we may assume 
that it would become aware of the slope of the tangential planes to 

VOL. I. Q 

226 Deductions of Space. 

North and South from the fact that the meridians, known to it from 
other experiences, make smaller angles with its path on the side on 
which the plane inclines to the pole, and greater on the opposite side. 
However this might produce its further effect on Fs feelings of 
motion, the only credible result would be that it would think its path 
along the southern parallel concave to the south ; and that along the 
northern parallel concave to the north; in other respects it would 
take them for circles, returning into themselves. These two im 
pressions given by this second case would not be capable of being 
reconciled with the experience above mentioned of the constant dis 
tance maintained between equal segments of the two paths, taking 
these latter as transferred into a plane ; and this case also would 
necessitate, in order to reconcile the contradiction it involves, the 
invention of the third dimension though not directly perceptible. 

134. This result must guide us in forming our opinion on the 
vexed question of the fourth dimension of space. I omit all reference 
to fancies which choose to recommend to notice either time, or the 
density of real things in space, or anything else as being this fourth 
dimension ; if we do not intend an unmeaning play upon words we 
must take it for granted at least that any new dimension is fully 
homogeneous and interchangeable with those to the number of which 
it is added ; moreover if it is to be a dimension of space > it must as 
the fourth be perpendicular to the three others, just as each of them 
is to the remaining two. 

It is conceded that for our perception this condition cannot be 
fulfilled ; but the attempt is made to invalidate this objection by re 
ferring to the beings which have been depicted, whose knowledge 
stops short even of the third dimension of space because perception 
affords them no stimulus to represent it to their minds. Therefore, 
it is argued, a further development of our receptivity might perhaps 
permit to us an insight into a fourth dimension, now unknown to us 
from lack of incitement to construct it. The possibility that some 
beings content themselves with a part of the space-perception attain 
able can of course be no proof by itself that this form of perception 
is not in itself a whole with certain limits ; or that it admits of per 
petual additions even beyond the boundary we have reached ; but we 
must admit that for the moment the appeal to these imaginary cases 
at least obscures the limit at which we may suppose the mental image 
to have reached such a degree of completeness as forbids any further 
additions. This makes it all the more necessary to see what that 
appeal can really claim. The imaginary beings which could only 

CHAPTER no The fourth dimension. 227 

receive perceptions from a single plane, would have been in the most 
favourable situation, supposing changed life-conditions to bring them 
impressions from outside it, for the utilisation of such new percep 
tions ; they would have been able to add the geometry of the newly 
discovered direction to the Planimetry which they possessed without 
having to change anything in their previous perceptions. 

When we came to the beings on the sphere-surface, we at once 
found a different situation ; they were forced to devise the third di 
mension by the contradictions in which the combination of their 
immediate perceptions entangled them ; but yet they never found a 
direct presentation of it given, and could not do so without re 
modelling all their initial ideas of space. 

If we mean to use this analogy to support the possibility in our own 
case of a similar extension of our perceptive capacity, I hope that atten 
tion will be given to the differences which exist between our position 
and that of those imaginary beings. In particular ; they were com 
pelled precisely by the contradictions in their observations to postu 
late the new dimension ; we have no contradiction present to us, of 
a kind to force us as in their case to regard our space-image as in 
complete, and to add a fourth to its three dimensions. At the same 
time we are not, at all events just now, in the position of the beings 
in the plane, who were unsuspectingly content with their Planimetry 
and never even conjectured the third dimension, which we know; 
for the idea of a fourth dimension which is now mooted on all sides 
is so far a substitute for the absent incitements of experience that it 
does not leave us quite unsuspicious of the enlargement of our space- 
perception which may be possible, but draws our attention to it, more 
seriously than in fact is worth while. If such an enlargement were 
possible, things would have to go on very strangely for the examina 
tion of space as we picture it to ourselves not to reveal it to us 
even without suggestions on the part of observation; on the other 
hand if the required observations came to us, without the possibility 
of remoulding our space-image so as to reconcile their contradic 
tions, we should simply have to acquiesce in the contradictions. 
Now the following difference subsists; the beings on the sphere- 
surface were no doubt compelled by observations to alter their initial 
geometrical images, but then they found the alteration practicable; 
we are not in any way compelled to make the attempt, and besides, 
we find it utterly impracticable ; in our space S it is admittedly im 
possible to construct a fourth dimension perpendicular to the other 
three and coincident with none of them. This seems to me to settle 

Q 2 

228 Deductions of Space. 

the matter ; for no one should appeal to the possibility that the space 
S, without itself becoming different, may still admit of a different 
apprehension, exhibiting a fourth dimension in it. As long as the 
condition is maintained that the dimensions must be at right angles 
to each other, such an apprehension is impossible ; if it is dropped, 
what we obtain is no novelty; for in order to adapt our formulae to 
peculiar relations of what exists or can be constructed in space it has 
long been the practice to select a peculiar and appropriate system of 
axes. Nothing would prevent us from assigning to the plane alone 
three dimensions cutting each other at angles of 60 ; which would 
give a more convenient conspectus of many relations of points dis 
tributed in space than two dimensions at right angles. 

Therefore only the other question remains provisionally ad 
missible ; whether there can be another form of apprehension X or 
Z, unlike the space S, which presents four or more dimensions, 
perfectly homogeneous, interchangeable, and having that impartial 
relation to each other which appears in the property of being 
at right angles as known in the space S. I shall return to it 
directly ; meantime I must insist upon the logical objection for which 
I have been censured; it is absolutely unallowable to transfer the 
name and conception of a space S to formations which would only 
be co-ordinate with it under the common title of a system of arrange 
ment capable of direct presentation to the mind ; but whose special 
properties are entirely incompatible with the characteristic differentia 
of the space S, that is with the line s, the plane />, the angle a, and the 
relations which subsist between these elements. It is this dangerous 
use of language that produces the consequences which we have before 
us ; such as the supposition that the space -S in which we live really 
has a fourth dimension over and above its three, only is malicious 
enough not to let us find it out ; but that perhaps in the future we 
may succeed in getting a glimpse of it ; then by its help we should 
be able to make equal and similar bodies coincide, as we now can 
equal and similar plane figures. This last reason for the probability 
of the fourth dimension is moreover one which I fail to understand ; 
what good would it do us to be occupied with folding over each other 
bodies of the same size and shape, and what do we lose now by 
being unable to do it ? and further ; must everything be true which 
would be a fine thing if it were ? No doubt it would be convenient if 
the circumference of the circle or any root with index raised to any 
power in the case of any number could be expressed rationally ; but 
no one hopes for an extension of arithmetic which would make this 

CHAPTER 1 1.] Three dimensions in the abstract. 229 

possible. What have we come to? Has the exercise of ingenuity 
killed all our sense of probability ? The anticipation of such trans 
figurations of our most fundamental kinds of perception can only 
remind us of the dreams of the Fourierists, who expected from the 
social advance of man a corresponding regeneration of nature, ex 
tending to the taming of all savageness and ferocity in its creatures. 
But perhaps the two processes may help each other; it will be a fine 
thing when we can ride on tame whales through the fourth dimension 
of the eau sucre sea. 

135. To return to the above question; I am convinced, certainly, 
that the triplicity of perpendicular dimensions is no special property 
of our space S; but the necessary property of every perception R 
which presents, however differently from our space, a background or 
comprehending form for all the systematic relations of a co-existent 
multiplicity. Still I could wish that I had a stronger argument to 
sustain my conviction than what I am now going to add. To avoid 
all confusion with ideas taken from existing space which of course 
press upon us as the most obvious symbols to adopt, let us con 
ceive a series of terms X, between which, putting out of sight their 
qualitative character which we treat therefore as wholly uniform, there 
are such relations, homogeneous in nature but now not otherwise 
known, that every term is separated from its two next neighbours by 
a difference x. How in such a system of arrangement R this differ 
ence x would be imagined, or pictured to the mind, we leave quite 
out of the question ; it is merely a form or value of an unknown r, 
and corresponds to what appears in our space-perception as the 
straight line s or as the distance in space between two points. Now 
let be the term of the series X from which we start; then the 
differences between its place in the series and that of any other 
term, that is the differences between the particular elements of the re 
quired perception R itself measured in the unknown form r, will be 
of the form + mx, where m is to be replaced by the numbers of the 
natural series. Now may be at the same time a term of another 
series Y of precisely similar formation, whose terms we will designate 
by + my so that each my is not merely like in kind but also equal to 

There are two conditions which these two series X and J would have 
to satisfy in order to stand in a relation corresponding to that of two 
lines in space at right angles to each other. First, progression in the 
series Y t however far continued, should bring no increment of one-sided 
resemblance in the terms my so arising to + mx or mx, but every 

230 Deductions of Space. [BOOKII. 

my should have its difference from -f mx equally great with that from 
mx in whatever such difference consists. Secondly, this difference 
should not consist in any chance quality, but should be comparable 
both in kind and in magnitude both with x and withjy. This second 
condition must be remarked; obviously countless series like J^can be 
conceived, starting from a term O common to it and X and extend 
ing, so to speak, into different worlds, whose terms would approach 
neither + x nor x because quite incomparable with either ; but 
such suppositions would have nothing to do with our subject. In our 
space 6" the difference between my and mx is a line s, just as mx and 
my themselves are lines of the kind s ; in the other system of places 
JR which we are here supposing this difference is of the otherwise 
unknown kind r, just as mx and my are comparable forms or values 
of r. 

From this point we might proceed in different ways. We might 
attempt to form the idea, still problematic, of several series Y, all of 
which satisfy these conditions ; but against this suggestion it is rightly 
urged, that as long as we are without the conception of a space whose 
plainly presented differences of direction would show us how to keep 
asunder these several -Ps, so long they are all in their relation to 
X, (and so far they are defined by nothing else), to be considered as 
one single series ; they would not be many, till the same difference 
should subsist between them, as between them and X, and that 
without interfering with their common difference from X. Now let us 
consider one of these F s as given ; the others, which, in the abstract 
sense which we explained, are as well as the given ^perpendicular 
to the series X, may have the most diverse relations to the former ; 
their progressive terms may approximate more or less to the + my 
or my of the first given series ; but among all these series there can 
conceivably be only one which we will call Z, whose successive terms 
mz though commensurable with + my still have equally great differ 
ences from the positive and from the negative branch of Y. It is true 
too of this third series Z as long as it is defined by nothing but its 
relation to Y, that it is only to be regarded as one ; but of it too we 
may form the problematic idea that it is forthcoming in a number of 
instances, all of which stand in the same relation of being perpen 
dicular to Y. If we now choose one of these many Z s, then the rest 
may stand to it again in the most diverse relations ; but again only 
one, which we will call V, could be such that its progressive terms 
mv would have always equal differences from the + mz and the 
- mz of that one determinate Z. Observations of this kind might be 

CHAPTER ii.] Four series perpendicular to each other. 231 

continued for ever; but there is an absolutely essential and decisive 
point which as they stand, they just omit. 

We have so far only supposed the F s perpendicular to X, the Z s 
to F, and the Vs to Z, but have not decided the question, how far 
the relation of at right angles to .Fbrings this Zinto a necessarily 
deducible relation with X, or that of V to Z has a similar effect upon 
V as regards Y or X. If we really added nothing further this would 
be a case of what I have more than once expressed in metaphor; the 
Z s would no doubt have the same relation to the F s that the F s 
have to the *Y s; only the relation of the Z s as perpendicular to Y 
would as it were point into another world from that of the F s as 
perpendicular to X ; and though we should be able to have a per 
ception of each particular one of these relations, that of the F s 
to the X s and that of the Z s to the F s, yet we should not bring 
together these two instances of one and the same relation into any 
definite mental picture at all, in spite of the common starting- 
point 0. 

Therefore in this way we shall never obtain the collective percep 
tion R, which we were looking for and within which we hoped to 
distribute in determinate places all the points we met with in its 
alleged n dimensions; only the accustomed perception of space S, 
which we introduce unawares, misleads us into the subreption that 
it is self-evident that these successive perpendicular branchings of 
the X s from F, of the F s from Z, and of the Z s from V take 
place in a common intuitional form R. But in fact, to secure this, 
the particular condition must be added to which I drew attention 
above. A Z which is perpendicular to a J 7 ", or deviates in a measur 
able degree from the perpendicular to it, must by this circumstance 
enter also into a perfectly definite relation with X, to which that Y is 
perpendicular. At present we have only to do with one of these 
various relations ; which is this ; among the Z s perpendicular to F, 
that one which is also to be perpendicular to X must necessarily be 
one among the many F s, as they included all the series that had this 
relation to X ; therefore even this third dimension cannot exist in K 
without its coinciding with one, and taking X as given, with a par 
ticular one of the many instances of the second dimension all perpen 
dicular to X ; still less can there be a fourth dimension F, at once 
perpendicular to X } F, and Z, and yet distinct from the one par 
ticular Z which stands alone in answering to the two conditions of 
being perpendicular to X and at the same time to F. I maintain 
therefore that in no intuitional form R, however unlike our space 

232 Deductions of Space. 

$*, provided that it really is to have the character of a comprehensive 
intuitional form for all co-existing relations of the content arranged 
in it, can there be more than three dimensions perpendicular to each 
other; taking the designation perpendicular in the abstract meaning 
which I assigned it, and which refers not only to lines s and angles a 
but to every element r, however constituted, in such a form of per 
ception JR. Of course this whole account of the matter is, and 
in view of the facts can be, nothing but a sort of retranslation 
from the concrete of geometry into the abstract of logic ; perhaps 
others may succeed better in what I have attempted. I believe that 
I am in agreement with Schmitz-Dumont on this question as well as 
on some of the points already discussed, but I find it hard to 
adopt the point of view required by the whole context of his ex 

136. Among the properties which our common apprehension 
believes most indispensable to Space is the absolute homogeneous- 
ness of its infinite extension. The real elements which occupy it or 
move in it may, we think, have different densities of their aggrega 
tion and different rules for their relative positions at different points ; 
space itself, on the other hand, as the impartial theatre of all these 
events, cannot possess local differences of its own nature which might 
interfere with the liberty of everything that is or happens at one of its 
points to repeat itself without alteration at any other. Now if we 
conceive a number of real elements either united in a system at rest, 
or set in motion, by the reactions which their nature makes them 
exert on one another, then there arise surfaces and lines, which can 
be drawn in space, but are not a part of its own structure ; they 
unite points in a selection which is solely dependent on the laws of 
the forces which act between the real things. Mathematics can 
abstract from the recollection of these causes of special figures in 
space and need not retain more than the supposition of a law, 
(disregarding its origin,) according to which definite connected series 
of points present themselves to our perception out of the infinite 
uniformity of extension as figures, lines, or surfaces. 

So far ordinary ideas have no difficulty in following the endeavours 
of geometry when in obedience to the law of combination of a multi 
plicity given in an equation it searches for the spatial outlines which 
unite in themselves the particular set of spatial points that correspond 
to this law. But in the most recent speculations we meet with a 
notion, or at least imagine we meet with it, which we cannot under 
stand and do not know how to justify. It is possible that the diffi- 

CHAPTER ii.] Spaces , and figures in Space. 233 

culties which I am going to state are based on a misconception of the 
purposes aimed at by the analytically conducted investigations of this 
subject ; but then it is at least necessary to point out plainly where 
the need exists for intelligibility and explanation which has not been 
in the least met by the expositions hitherto given. 

To put it shortly, I am alluding to the notion that not only may 
there be in infinite uniform extension innumerable surfaces and lines 
whose structure within the particular extent of each is very far from 
uniform, that is, variously formed figures in space; but that also there 
may be spaces of a peculiar structure, such that uniformity of their 
entire extension is excluded. It is clear to us what we are to think 
of as a spherical or pseudo-spherical surface, but not clear what can 
be meant by a spherical or pseudo-spherical space; designations 
which we meet with in the discussion of these subjects without any 
help being given to us in comprehending their meaning. In the 
following remarks I shall only employ the former of these designa 
tions ; the mention of pseudo-spherical space, which is harder to 
present definitely to the mind, could only reinforce our impression of 
mysteriousness, without contributing to the explanation of the matter 
any more than the allusion to the familiar spherical figure. The idea 
of a spherical surface, being that of a figure in space, presupposes the 
common perception of space; the situation of its points is determined, 
at least has been hitherto, by some system of co-ordinates which 
measures their distance and the direction of that distance from an 
assumed point of origin according to the rules which hold for a 
uniform space. To pass from the spherical surface to a spherical 
space, one of two assertions seems to me to be needed; either 
this surface is the whole space which exists, really or to the mind s 
eye ; or this totality of space arises out of the spherical surface by 
making the co-ordinates pass continuously through the whole series of 
values compatible with the law of their combination. If we do the 
latter there arises by the unbroken attachment of each spherical sur 
face to the previous one, the familiar image of a spherical Volume, 
which we may either limit arbitrarily at a particular point or conceive 
as growing to infinity, as the equation of the surface remains capable 
of construction for all values of the radius ; in this way we attain to 
nothing more than the admissible but purely incidental aspect, that 
the infinite uniform extension of space is capable of a complete 
secondary construction, if from any given point of origin we sup 
posed a minimum spherical surface to expand in all directions con 
formably to its equation. But in the interior of this spherical volume 

234 Deductions of Space. 

there is no further structure revealed than that of uniform space, on 
the basis of which the co-ordinates of the boundary-surface at each 
particular moment had been determined : the interior does not 
consist permanently and exclusively of the separate spherical shells 
out of which in this case our representing faculty created its repre 
sentation ; the passage from point to point is not in any way bound 
to respect this mode of creation of the whole, as though such a 
passage could take place better or more easily in one of the spherical 
surfaces than in the direction of a chord which should unite any 
places in the interior. The conception of a measure of curvature 
has its proper and familiar import for each of the surfaces, distinguish 
able in this space by thought, but wholly obliterated in the space 
itself; but it is impossible to conceive a property of space itself to 
which it could apply. 

In the case of the sphere its law of formation permitted the con 
tinuous attachment of surface to surface ; but equations are con 
ceivable which if constructed as a system of positions in space would 
produce either a series of discrete points or one of discrete surfaces, 
perhaps partially connected or perhaps not at all. We know such 
constructions primarily as figures in space and nothing else, and 
conceive their production as conditioned by equations between co 
ordinates whose power of being reciprocally defined by each other 
corresponds to the nature of uniform space, now known as Euclidean 
space ; but let us assume that we had escaped from that postulate 
and had employed co-ordinates which themselves partook of the 
special nature of the variously formed space which is to be obtained. 
It may then be difficult to project an image of these strange figures 
within our accustomed modes of space-perception; I attach more 
weight to another difficulty, that of determining what we properly 
mean when we speak of them as spaces. Let us assume that the 
fundamental law, being capable of algebraical expression, which pre 
vails in a system of related points not yet explicitly apprehended as 
spatial, conditions a systematic order of them which could only be 
represented in our space S by a number of curved sheets not wholly 
attached to one another ; then the fact, form, and degree of their 
divergence could only be observed by us through the medium of 
distance measured according to the nature of the space S, as existing 
between particular points in the different sheets. 

However, let us even put out of the question all idea of a space S 
as the neutral background on which the figure X was constructed, and 
attempt to regard this X as the sole represented space; still the 

CHAPTER ii.] Space which is not uniform. 235 

different sheets of it could not possibly extend as if into different 
worlds, so as to prevent there being any measurable transition from one 
to another ; just as little could that which separates them and makes 
them diverge be a mere nothingness when compared to the space X 
itself, and capable of no -measurable degrees whatever; even in this 
case that which gave the reason for their being separate could not 
but be a spatial magnitude or distance, uniform and commensurable 
with the magnitudes which formed the actual space A". Thus our 
attempt would be a failure ; we should not be able to regard that AT 
as space, but only as a structure in a space; we might no doubt 
assume, for the moment, of this space that in each of its minutest 
parts it had a structure other than that of our space S, but we should 
have to admit at once that it formed a continuous whole witji the 
same inner structure in every one of its parts. For, provided that 
this tentatively assumed space X is not to be regarded as something 
real, but as the empty form of a system for the reception of possible 
realities, there can be no difference of reality or value between the 
points contained in those sheets and the*other points by the interposi 
tion of which their divergence arises ; they would all accordingly have 
equal claims to be starting-points of the construction in question, 
and from the intersection of all these constructions there would once 
more be formed the idea of a space uniform through an infinite ex 
tension, and indifferent to the structure of the fabrics designed in it. 
Not even a break in the otherwise uniform extension is possible ; 
such a break is only conceivable if in the first place there is a some 
thing between Lhe terms which keeps them asunder, and if moreover 
that something is comparable in kind and magnitude with what it 
bounds on both sides of itself; hence space cannot consist of an 
infinite number of intersecting lines which leave meshes of \vhat is 
not space between them ; it uncontrollably becomes again the con 
tinuous and uniform extension which we supposed it to be at first ; 
and the manifold configurations of the kind X are conceivable in it 
only as bounded structures, not as themselves forms of space. 

137. I feel myself obliged to maintain the convictions which I have 
expressed even against Riemann s investigations into a multiplicity ex 
tended in n directions. My objections are on the whole directed to the 
point, that here again the confusion which seems to me to darken the 
whole question has not been avoided ; the confusion of the universal 
localisation- system of empty places presented to the mind, a system in 
which structures of any shape or any extent can be arranged, with the 
structure and articulation belonging to that which has to be arranged 

236 Deductions of Space. 

in this system ; or to repeat the expression employed above, the con 
fusion of space with structures in space. In II. 4 of his treatise on 
the hypotheses which lie at the foundation of Geometry, Riemann 
expresses himself as follows : Multiplicities whose measure of curva 
ture is everywhere zero, may be treated as a particular case of multi 
plicities whose measure of curvature is everywhere constant. The 
common character of multiplicities whose degree of curvature is 
constant may be expressed by saying that all figures can be moved 
in them without stretching. For, obviously, figures could not be made 
to slide or rotate in them at pleasure, unless the degree of curvature 
were constant. On the other hand, by means of the constant de 
gree of curvature the relations of measurement of the multiplicity in 
question are completely determined; accordingly in all directions 
about one point the relations of measurement are exactly the same 
as about another, and therefore the same constructions are practic 
able starting from the one as from the other and consequently in 
multiplicities with a constant measure of curvature figures can be 
given any position/ 

Now I have no doubt at all that by analytical treatment of more 
universal formulae the properties of space indicated may be deduced 
as a special case ; but I must adhere to my assertion that it is only 
with these special properties that such an extended multiplicity is 
a space, or corresponds to the idea of a system of arrangement for 
perception ; all formulae which do not contain so much as these de 
terminations, or which contain others opposed to them, mean either 
nothing, or only something which as a special or peculiar formation 
may be fittingly or unfittingly reduced to order in that universal frame. 
A system of places which was otherwise formed in any one of its 
parts than in another, would contradict its own conception, and 
would not be what it ought to be, the neutral background for the 
manifold relations of what was to be arranged in it ; it would be 
itself a special formation, a multiplicity extended in n directions 
instead of being the ^-dimensional multiplicity of extension, about 
which the question really was. 

I cannot believe that any skill in analysis can compensate for this 
misconception in the ideas ; alleged spaces of such structure that in 
one part of them they would not be able to receive, without stretch 
ing or change of size, a figure which they could so receive in another, 
can only be conceived as real shells or walls, endowed with such 
forces of resistance as to hinder the entrance of an approaching real 
figure, but inevitably doomed to be shattered by its more violent im- 

CHAPTER ii.] Uniform Space implied in all other Spaces. 237 

pact. I trust that on this point philosophy will not allow itself to be 
imposed upon by mathematics ; space of absolutely uniform fabric 
will always seem to philosophy the one standard by the assumption of 
which all these other figures become intelligible to it. This may be 
illustrated by the analogy of arithmetic. The natural series of numbers 
with its constant difference i, and its direct progression, according to 
which the difference of any two terms is the sum of the differences of 
all intermediate terms, may be treated as a special case of a more 
general form of series just as much as can uniform space. But, by 
whatever universal term it might be attempted to express the law of 
formation of this series, it could have no possible meaning without 
presupposing the series of numbers. Every exponent or every co 
efficient w r hich this universal formula contained, would be of unassign 
able import unless it had either a constant value in the natural series 
of numbers, or else a variable one, depending in particular cases on 
the value, measurable only in this series of numbers, of the magnitudes 
whose function it might be. Every other arithmetical series only 
states in its law of formation how it deviates from the progression of 
terms of equal rank which forms in the series of numbers ; no other 
standard can be substituted for this, without standing in need in its 
turn of the simple series of numbers to make it intelligible. Precisely 
the same seems to me to be the case in the matter of space ; and I 
cannot persuade myself that so much as the idea of multiform space 
or of a variable measure of curvature in space could be formed and 
defined, without presupposing the elements of uniform space, recti 
linear tangents and tangential planes, in fact uniform space in its 
entirety, as the one intelligible and indispensable standard, from which 
the formation of the oilier, if it could be pictured to the mind at all, 
would present definite deviations. 


Of Time. 

THE Psychologist may if he pleases make the gradual development 
of our ideas of Time the object of his enquiry, though, beyond some 
obvious considerations which lead to nothing, there is no hope of his 
arriving at any important result. The Metaphysician has to assume 
that this development has been so far completed that the Time in 
which, as a matter of fact, we all live is conceived as one comprehen 
sive form in which all that takes place between things as well as our 
own actions are comprehended. The only question which he has to 
ask is how far Time, thus conceived, has any application to the Real 
or admits of being predicated of it with any significance. 

138. In regard to the conception I must in the first place protest 
against the habit, which since the time of Kant has been prevalent 
with us, of speaking of a direct perception of Time, co-ordinate with 
that of space and with it forming a connected pair of primary forms 
of our presentative faculty. On the contrary we have no primary and 
proper perception of it at all. The character of direct perception 
attaching to our idea of Time is only obtained by images which are 
borrowed from Space and which, as soon as we follow them out, 
prove incapable of exhibiting the characteristics necessary to the 
thought of Time. We speak of Time as a line, but however large 
the abstraction which we believe ourselves able to make from the 
properties of a line in space in order to the subsumption of Time 
under the more general conception of the line, it must certainly be 
admitted that the conception of a line involves that of a reality be 
longing equally to all its elements. Time however does not cor 
respond to this requirement. Thought of as a line, it would only 
possess one real point, namely, the present. From it would issue two 
endless but imaginary arms, each having a peculiar distinction from 
each other and from simple nullity, viz. Past and Future. The dis 
tinction between these would not be adequately expressed by the 

No pictorial perception of Time. 239 

opposition of directions in space. Nor can we stop here. Even 
though we leave out of sight the relation in which empty Time stands 
to the occurrences which fall within it, still even in itself it cannot be 
thought of as at rest. The single real point which the Present con 
stitutes is in a state of change and is ceaselessly passing over to the 
imaginary points of the Past while its place is taken by the realisation 
of the next point in the Future. 

Hence arises the familiar repfesentation of Time as a stream. All 
however that in this representation can be mentally pictured originates 
in recollections of space and leads only to contradictions. We cannot 
speak of a stream without thinking of a bed of the stream : and in 
fact, whenever we speak of the stream of Time, there always hovers 
before us the image of a plain which the stream traverses, but which 
admits of no further definition. In one point of it we plant ourselves 
and call it the Present. On one side we represent to ourselves the 
Future as emerging out of the distance and flowing away into the 
Past, or conversely to make the ambiguity of this imagery more 
manifest we think of the stream as issuing from the Past and 
running on into an endless Future. In neither case does the image 
correspond to the thought. For this never-ending stream is and 
remains of equal reality throughout, whether as it already flows on the 
side where we place the future or as it is still flowing on that which 
stands for the past ; and the same reality belongs to it at the moment 
of its crossing the Present. Nor is it this alone that disturbs us in 
the use of the image. Even the movement of the stream cannot be 
presented to the mind s eye except as having a definite celerity, which 
would compel us to suppose a second Time, in which the former 
(imaged as a stream) might traverse longer or shorter distances of 
that unintelligible background. 

139. Suppose then that we try to dispense with this inappropriate 
imagery, and consider what empty time must be supposed to be, when 
it is merely thought of, without the help of images presented to the 
mind s eye. Nothing is gained by substituting the more abstract con 
ception of a series for the unavailable image of a line. It would 
only be the order of the single moments of Time in relation to each 
other that this conception would determine. It is, no doubt, involved 
in the conception of Time that there is a fixed order of its constituents 
and that the moment m has its place between ??i+ i and m i : also 
that its advance is uniform and that the interval between two of its 
members is the sum of the intervals between all the intervening mem 
bers. Thus we might say that if Time is to be compared with a line 

240 Of Time. 

at all, it could only be with a straight line. Time itself could not be 
spoken of as running a circular course. There may be a recurrence 
of events in it, but this would not be a recurrence if the points of 
Time, at which what is intrinsically the same event occurs, were not 
themselves different. So far the conception of a series serves to 
explain what Time is, but it does so no further. Time does not 
consist merely in such an order as has been described. That is an 
order in virtue of which the momenf m would have its place eternally 
between m + i and m i. The characteristic of Time is that this 
order is traversed and that the vanishing m is constantly replaced by 
/ + i, never by m i. Our thoughts thus turn to that motion of our 
consciousness in which it ranges backwards and forwards at pleasure 
over a series which is in itself at rest. If Time were itself a real 
existence, it would correspond to this motion, with the qualification of 
being a process directed only one way, in which the reality of every 
stage would be the offspring of the vanished or vanishing reality of 
the preceding one and itself in turn the cause of its own cessation 
and of the commencing reality of the next stage. We might fairly 
acquiesce in an impossibility of learning what the moments properly 
are at which these occurrences take place and what are the means by 
which existence is transferred from one to the other. In the first 
place it would be maintained that Time is something sui generis, not 
to be defined by conceptions proper to other realities : and secondly 
we know that the demand for explanation must have its limit and may 
not insist on making a simplest possible occurrence intelligible by 
constructions which would presuppose one more complex. But with 
out wanting to know how Time is made, it would still be the fact that 
we were bringing it under the conception of a process and we should 
have to ask whether to such a conception of it any complete and 
consistent sense could be given. 

We cannot think of a process as occurring in which nothing pro 
ceeds, in which the continuation would be indistinguishable from the 
beginning, the result produced from the condition producing it. This 
however would be the case with empty Time. Every moment in it 
would be exactly like every other. While one passed away, another 
would take its place, without differing from it in anything but its 
position in the series. This position however it would not itself indi 
cate by a special nature, incompatible with its occupying another. It 
would only be the consciousness of an observer, who counted the 
whole series, that would have occasion to distinguish it by the number 
of places counted before it was reached from other moments with 

CHAPTER 1 1 1.] Can empty Time act on Reality f 241 

which it might be compared. But if so, there would not in Time itself 
be any stream, bringing the new into the place of the old. Nor can 
appeal be made to the view previously stated, according to which 
even the unchanged duration of a certain state is to be regarded as 
the product of a process of self-maintenance in constant exercise and 
thus as a permanent event, though there would be no outward change 
to make this visible. If this view were applied to Time, it would only 
help us to the idea of a Time for ever stationary, not flowing at all. 
A distinction of earlier and later moments in it would only be possible 
on the basis of the presentation to thought of a second Time, in which 
we should be compelled to measure the extent in a definite direction 
of the first Time, the Time supposed to be at rest. 

140. Such is the obscurity which attaches to the notion of a stream 
of empty Time, when taken by itself. The same obscurity meets us 
when we enquire into the relation of Time to the things and events 
which are said to exist and take place in it. Here too the convenient 
preposition only disguises the unintelligibleness of the relation which 
it has the appearance of enabling us to picture to the mind. There 
would be no meaning in the statement that things exist in Time if 
they did not incur some modification by so existing which they would 
not incur if they were not in Time. What is this ? To say that~the 
stream of Time carries them along with it would be a faulty image. 
Not only would it be impossible to understand how empty Time could 
exercise such a force as to compel what is not empty but real to a 
motion not its own. The result too would be something impossible 
to state. For even supposing the real to be thus carried along by the 
stream of Time, it would be in just the same condition as before, and 
thus our expression would contradict what we meant it to convey. 
For it is not a mere change in the place of something which through 
out retains its reality, but an annihilation of one reality and an 
origination of another, that we mean to signify by the power at once 
destructive and creative of the stream of Time. But, so understood, 
this power would involve a greater riddle still. Its work of destruc 
tion would be unintelligible in itself, nor would it be possible to con 
ceive the relation between it and that vital power of things to which 
must be ascribed the greater or less resistance which they offer to 
their annihilation. Empty Time would be the last thing that could 
afford an explanation of the selection which we should have to sup 
pose it to exercise in calling events, with all their variety, into existence 
in a definite order of succession. 

But if, aware of this impossibility, we transfer the motive causes of 

VOL. I. R 

242 Of Time. [BOOKII. 

this variety of events to that to which they really belong, viz. to the 
nature and inner connexion of things, what are we then to make of the 
independent efflux of empty Time, with which the development of 
things would have to coincide without any internal necessity of doing 
so? There would be nothing on this supposition to exclude the 
adventurous thought that the course of events runs counter to time 
and brings the cause into reality after the effect. In short, whichever 
way we look at the matter, we see the impossibility of this first familiar 
view, according to which an empty Time has an existence of its own, 
either as something permanent or in the way of continual flux, in 
cluding the sum of events within its bounds, as a power prior to all 
reality and governed by laws of its own. But the certainty with 
which we reject this view does not help us to the affirmation of any 

141. Doubts have indeed been constantly entertained in regard to 
the reality which is commonly ascribed to Time and many attempts 
have been made, in the interests of a philosophy of religion, to 
establish the real existence of a Timeless Being as against changeable 
phenomena. A more metaphysical basis was first given to this 
exceptional view by the labours of Kant. He was led by the contra 
dictions, which the supposition of the reality of Time seemed to intro 
duce even into a purely speculative theory of the world, to regard it 
equally with space as a merely subjective form of our apprehension. 
This is not the line which I have myself taken. It seemed to me a 
safer course to show that Time in itself, as we understand it and as 
we cannot cease to understand it without a complete transformation 
of the common view, excludes every attribute which would have 
to be supposed to belong to it if it had an independent existence 
prior to other existence. On the other hand I cannot find in the 
assumption of its merely phenomenal reality a summary solution of 
difficulties, which only seem to arise out of the application of Time to 
the Real but in truth are inseparable from the intrinsic nature of the 
Real. On this subject I may be allowed to interpose some remarks. 

142. Were it intrinsically conceivable that an independent existence 
of any kind should belong to Time, and were it further possible to 
conceive any way in which the course of the world could enter into 
relation to it, then the difficulties which Kant found in the endlessness 
of time would cause me no special disturbance. That the world has 
of necessity a beginning in Time, is the Thesis of his antinomy, and 
this according to the method of diraytayfi he seeks to prove by dis- 
proving the antithesis. It may be noticed in passing that for those 

CHAPTER in.] Kant on the endlessness of Time. 243 

who do not, to begin with, find something unthinkable in empty Time 
as having an existence of its own, the reference to the world which 
fills Time is even here really superfluous. The Thesis might just as 
well assert of Time itself that it must have a beginning, and then 
proceed as it does. For 1 on supposition that Time has no beginning, 
before any given moment of Time there must have elapsed an eternity, 
an endless series of successive moments. Now the endlessness of a 
series consists in this, that it can never be completed by successive 
synthesis. An endless past lapse of Time is therefore impossible and 
a beginning of it necessary/ 

I confess to having always found something questionable in the 
relative position which Kant here assigns to the thought of the end 
lessness of Time on the one hand, and that of the impossibility of 
completing the endless series by synthesis on the other. He thinks 
it obvious that the latter constitutes a reason against the former, 
whereas one might be tempted on the contrary to consider it merely 
an obvious but unimportant consequence of this thesis. For un 
doubtedly, in contemplating an endless lapse of time, we suppose that 
a regress from the present into the past would never come to an end, 
and that accordingly we could not exhaust the elapsed time by a 
successive synthesis of the steps taken in this regress. The two 
thoughts are thus perfectly consistent, and the endlessness of the past 
would not be found to involve any contradiction until we could 
succeed in discovering a last stage in the regress. Presumably indeed 
Kant merely meant by the second thought to exhibit more clearly an 
absurdity already implicit in the first. But it is just on this point that 
I cannot accord him an unqualified assent. 

143. To begin with, I propose to put my objection in the following 
general form: the right and duty to admit that something is or 
happens does not depend on our ability by combining acts of thought 
to make it in that fashion in which we should have to present it to 
ourselves as being or happening, z/~it were to be or to happen. It is 
enough that the admission is not rendered impossible by any inner 
contradiction, and is rendered necessary by the bidding of experience. 
By no effort of thought can we learn how the world of Being is made ; 
but there was no contradiction in the conception of it, and experience 
compelled us to adopt the conception. We have had no experience 
how the world of Becoming is made, on the contrary, the attempt to 
construct it in thought constantly brings us to the edge of inner con- 

1 [Altered from Kant s Kritik d. r. Vernunft, p. 304 (Hartenstein s ed.). The 
words in italics are Lotze s alterations.] 

R 2 


tB OK 

tradictions, and it is only experience that has shown us that there may 
happen in reality what we cannot recreate in thought. We cannot 
make out how the operation of one thing on another is brought about, 
and in this case we found it impossible to overcome the inner contra 
diction implied in the supposition that independent elements, in no 
way concerned with each other, should yet concern themselves with 
each other so far that the movement of one should be regulated by 
that of the other. This conception of operation, accordingly, we 
could not admit without discarding the supposition of the obstructive 
independence of things, and so rendering possible that mutual regu 
lation of their motions, which experience shows to be a fact. Could 
the ascription to empty space of an existence of its own, independent 
of our consciousness,*be carried out without contradiction, the infinite 
extension, inseparable from its nature, would not have withheld us 
from recognising its reality, although we were aware that we could 
never exhaust this infinity by a successive addition of its points or of 
the steps taken by us in traversing it. It was no business of ours to 
make Space. It is the concern of Space itself how it brings that to 
pass which the activity of our imagination cannot compass. Certainly, 
if a self-sustained existence, it was not bound to be small enough for 
us to be able to find its limits. In its infinity no contradiction was 
involved. From every limit, at which we might halt for the moment, 
progress to another limit was possible, which means that such progress 
was always possible. A contradiction would only have arisen upon a 
point being found beyond which a further progress would not have 
been allowed, without any reason for the stoppage being afforded by 
the law which has governed the process through the stages previously 
traversed, and against the requirement of that law. From this infinity 
of Space the impossibility of exhausting it by successive synthesis 
would have followed as a necessary, but at the same time, unimportant 
consequence : unimportant, because the essence of Space, as a com 
plex of simultaneous not successive elements, would have been quite 
unaffected by the question whether a mode of origination, which is 
certainly not that of Space, is possible. 

In this respect the case is undoubtedly quite different in regard to 
Time. It is by the succession of moments that every section of Time 
comes into being. Therefore no wrong is done it by the question 
whether its infinity is attainable by the method of successive synthesis, 
which ceases in this case to be merely the subjective method followed 
by our thought. But even here the impossibility of coming to an end 
cannot be regarded as disproving the endlessness of Time. Kant 

CHAPTER in.] The successive syntJiesis is in Time. 245 

speaks expressly of a successive synthesis, and of the certainty that the 
infinite series can never be exhausted by it. If we insist on these 
expressions, it is clear that the course of Time, the infinity of which is 
alone ostensibly impugned, is itself already regarded as a real condition 
antecedent of that activity of imagination, which attempts the synthesis 
said to be fruitless. The several steps of this activity follow each 
other. Now whatever the celerity with which this task of adding 
moment to moment may be supposed to be carried on, no one will 
maintain that it is achieved more quickly than the lapse of the 
moments which it counts. The mental reconstruction of Time in 
time by means of the successive synthesis of its moments will take as 
much time as Time itself takes for its own construction ; therefore an 
endless Time, if Time is endless. And this is in fact, as it seems to 
me, the real meaning of the word never in the above connexion. It 
cannot have the mere force of negation, not. It only asserts what is 
in itself intelligible, that no succession in Time, neither that of our 
mental representation of Time nor that of Time itself, can measure 
an infinite Time in a finite Time. But no inner contradiction lies in 
this progress from point to point. This is the more apparent from the 
consideration that the progress must be supposed really to take place 
if we are to conceive the possibility of the successive synthesis, by 
which we are said to learn that it continues so endlessly as never to be 
completed. It is not with itself therefore that the endlessness of Time 
is in contradiction, but only with our effort to include its infinite 
progress in a finite one of the same kind. 

144. In writing thus, I am not unaware of the possible objection 
that this view admits of unforced application only to the Future, which 
no one would seriously doubt to be without limits. It may be said 
that the Future, as we conceive it, contains that which is coming to be 
but has not yet taken shape, and the endlessness of its progression 
agrees with this conception : whereas the Past (if Infinity is to be 
ascribed to it) would compel us to assume a finished and ready-made 
Infinity. I cannot help thinking, however, that we have here a con 
fusion of ideas. 

In the first place, I would dispose of the difficulty which may be 
suggested by Kant s expression, that up io any moment of the present 
an infinite series of Time must have elapsed. It seems to me im 
proper to represent the Present as the end of this series. It is not the 
stream of Time of which the direction can be described by saying 
that it flows out of the Past, through the Present, into the future. It 
is only that which fills Time the concrete course of the world ;hat 

246 Of Time. IBOOKII. 

conditions what is contained in the later by what is contained in the 
earlier. Empty Time itself, if there were such a thing, would take the 
opposite direction. The Future would pass unceasingly into the 
Present and this into the Past. In presenting it to ourselves we 
should have no occasion to seek the source of this stream in 
the past. 

This correction, however, only alters the form of the above objec 
tion, which might be repeated thus : If the Past is held to be 
infinite, then there must be considered to have elapsed an infinite 
repetition of that mysterious process, by which every moment of 
the empty Future becomes the Present, and again pushes the Present 
before it as a Past. The true ground, however, of the misunder 
standing is as follows. Future and Past alike are not; but the manner 
of their not-being is not the same. It is true that in regard to empty 
Time, though we would fain make this distinction, we cannot show 
that it obtains, for one point of the elapsed void is exactly like every 
point of the void that has still to come. But if we think of that course 
of the world which fills Time, then the Future presents itself to us as 
that which, for us at any rate, is shapeless, dubious, still to be made, 
while the Past alone is definitely formed and ready-made. Only the 
Past which indeed is not, but still has known what Being is we 
take as given, and as in a certain way belonging to reality. For every 
moment of what has been the series of conditions is finished the 
conditions which must have been thought or must have been active in 
order to make it the definite object which it is. This character of 
what has been, since it belongs to every moment of the past, is 
shared by the whole past of the world s history, and is transferred by 
us to empty Time. Thus, as a matter of course, when we speak of 
an endless Past, we take it to be the same thing as saying that this 
endless Past * has been *. But it is quite a different notion that Kant 
conveys by his expression gone by 2 . This is the term used of a 
stream, of which it is already known or assumed that it has an end 
and exhausts itself in its lapse. But there is nothing in the essential 
character of the Past to justify this assumption. Nothing is finished 
but the sum of conditions which made each single moment what it 
has been. To say, however, that this determination is in each case 
finished is quite a different thing from saying that the series of repe 
titions of this process is itself closed, and must be held to be given as 
a closed series or to have gone by, if it is to be equivalent to the series 
of what has been. The latter is indeed the assertion of Kant, but the 
1 [ Seigewesen. ] 2 [ Verflossen. ] 

CHAPTER in.] Reality of an infinite series. 247 

thought so expressed is not one necessarily involved in the conception 
of that which has been, so as to be alleged as a disproof of the 
assumption of an infinite past. All that can be said is that whoever 
thinks of an infinite past, thinks of an infinite that has been. Why he 
should not think this does not appear. He will simply deny that the 
conception of what has been contains a presumption of its being finite. 
But that, on supposition of an infinite past, we should never come to 
an end in an attempt to reconstruct the past by the successive syn 
thesis of a process of imagination, is not anything to surprise us. It 
is the natural result of our assumption. A contradiction would only 
arise if the infinity asserted broke off anywhere. 

145. The doctrine that our imagination can only approach the 
infinitely great by a progress which can be continued beyond every 
limit that may be fixed for the moment may be met with elsewhere 
than in Kant. I do not dispute the correctness of this doctrine. But 
if it is meant to convey a definition of the infinite I must object, that 
it would be a definition of the object only by one of its consequences 
which may serve as a mark of it, not by the proper nature from which 
these consequences flow. For that the progress in question admits of 
being continued beyond every limit is something that cannot have 
been learned by any actual experiment. Any such experiment must 
necessarily have stopped at some finite limit without any certainty that 
the next step in advance, which had unfortunately not been taken, 
might not have exhausted the infinite. Rather we derive this certainty, 
that the imagination with its posterior constructions will not exhaust 
it, from a prior conception which does exhaust it, were it only the 
simple recognition that the infinite has not an end, and that therefore, 
as a matter of course, such an end cannot be found. 

The above definition by consequences may, notwithstanding, have 
its use. What must, on the contrary, be disputed is the conclusion 
connected with it, that in the range of our thoughts about the real a 
case can never occur in which we might recognise the infinite as 
actually present and given ; or, to put it otherwise, that an infinite 
can never possess the same reality which we ascribe to finite magni 
tudes of the same kind. If we continue the series of numbers by the 
addition of units, the infinite cannot, it is true, be found as a number. 
To require that it should be so found would be to contradict our 
definition of it. But to every further number admitted beyond the last 
which we presented to ourselves, we have to ascribe the same validity 
as to this last. The series does not so break off where o,ur synthesis 
comes to an end as that the further continuation should be in any way 

248 Of Time. 


distinguishable from the piece already counted, as the merely possible 
or imaginary from something real or given. On the contrary, to our 
conception the series has undiminished validity as an infinite one, 
although on the method of addition of units it could never be begotten 
for our imagination. The Tangent of an angle increases with the 
increase of the angle. Not only, however, do we continuously ap 
proximate to the case in which its value becomes infinite ; we actually 
arrive at it if the angle is a right angle and the Tangent parallel to the 
Secant. This infinite length remains throughout unmeasurable by 
successive synthesis of finite lengths : but we are at the same time 
forced to admit that as the concluding member of a series of finite 
Tangent-values, which admit of being stated, this infinite inexhaustible 
Tangent presents itself with just the same validity as those that are 
exhaustible. We say with equal validity, and that is all that we can 
say, for none of these lines are realities, but only images which we 
present to the mind s eye. But I find nothing to prove that in the 
conception of reality, as such, there is anything to hinder us from 
recognising, beside finite values which we are forced to admit, the 
reality of the infinite, as soon as the necessary connexion of our 
thoughts compels us to do so. 

Now for those who consider a stream of empty Time, as such, 
possible, such a necessity lies not merely in the fact that no moment 
of this time has any better title than another to form the beginning. 
On the contrary, try as we may, an independent stream of Time 
cannot be regarded as anything but a process, in which every smallest 
part has the condition of its reality in a previous one. There thus 
arises the necessity of an infinite progression a necessity equally un 
avoidable if, on the other hand, we look merely to the real process of 
events and regard this as producing in some way the illusion of there 
being an empty Time. It is impossible to think of any first state of 
the world, which contains the first germ of all the motion that takes 
place in the world in the form of a still motionless existence, and yet 
more impossible to suppose a transition out of nothing, by means of 
which all reality, together with the motive impulses contained in it, 
first came into being. 

146. All these remarks, however, have only been made on suppo 
sition that a stream of empty Time is in itself possible. Since we 
found it impossible, we will try how far we are helped by the opposite 
view, that Time is merely a subjective way of apprehending what is 
not in Time. A difficulty is here obvious, which had not to be en 
countered by the analogous view of Space. Ideas, ex parte nostra, do 

CHAPTER in.] Time as purely subjective. 249 

not generally admit of that which forms their content being predicated 
of them. The idea of Red is not itself red, nor that of choler choleric, 
nor that of a curve curved. These instances make that clear and 
credible to us which in itself, notwithstanding, is most strange ; the 
nature, namely, of every intellectual presentation, not itself to be that 
which is presented in it. It may indeed be difficult for the imagination, 
when the expanse of Space spreading before our perception announces 
itself so convincingly as present outside us, to regard it as a product, 
only present for us, of an activity working in us which is itself to no 
conditions of Space. Still, in the conception of an activity there is 
nothing to make us look for extension in Space on the part of the 
activity itself as a condition of its activity. On the contrary, had we 
believed that the impressions of Space in our inner man could them 
selves have position in Space, we should have been obliged to seek 
out a new activity of observation which had converted this inner con 
dition into a knowledge of it, and to look to this activity for that 
strange apprehension of what is in Space which must do its work 
without being in Space itself. 

If, on the other hand, we try to speak in a similar way of a timeless 
presentation of what is in time, the attempt seems to break down. 
The thought that Time is only a form or product of our presenta- 
tive susceptibility, cannot take away from the presentation itself the 
character of an activity or at least of an event, and an event seems 
inconceivable without presupposition of a lapse of time, of which the 
end is distinguishable from the beginning. Thus Time, unlike Space, 
is not merely a product of the soul s activity, but at the same time the 
condition of the exercise of the activity by which Time itself as a pro 
duct is said to have been obtained, and the presentation to conscious 
ness of any change seems impossible without the corresponding real 
change on the part of the presenting mind. Now it must be borne in 
mind that in no case could Time be a subjective form of apprehension 
in such a sense as that the process of events, which we present to our 
selves in it, should be itself opposed to the form of apprehension as 
being of a completely alien nature. Whatever basis in the way of 
timeless reality we may be disposed to supply to phenomena in 
Time, it must at any rate be such that its own nature and constitution 
remain translateable into forms of Time. To this hidden timeless 
reality, it may be suggested, that activity of thought would itself belong, 
of which the product in our consciousness would be that course of 
occurrences and of our ideas which is seemingly in Time. Of it, and 
by consequence of every activity as such, it must be sought to show, 

250 Of Time. 


according to the view which takes Time to be merely our form of 
apprehension, that while not itself running a course in a time already 
present, it may yet present itself to sense in its products as running 
such a course. Let us pursue the consideration by which it may be 
attempted to vindicate this paradoxical notion. 

147. No one will maintain that the stream of empty Time brings 
forth events in the sense of being that which determines their cha 
racter and the succession of the various series of them. It would be 
admitted that all this is decided by the actual inner connexion of 
things. But although that which happens at one moment contains 
the ground G of that which at the next is to appear as consequence 
F t it may be fancied that the lapse of Time is a conditio sine qua non 
which must be fulfilled if the grounded consequence is really to follow 
from its ground. A reference to the general remarks previously 
made, upon the several kinds of cause distinguished in common 
parlance, may meanwhile suffice to convince us that what we call a 
conditio sine qua non can stand in no other relation to the effect result 
ing than does every other co-operative cause. The mere presence of 
that which in each case is so called is never sufficient to draw a 
distinct event in the way of consequence after it. The case rather is 
that the presence of such a complementary condition must always 
manifest itself by an effect exercised on the other real elements 
which without it would not have sufficed for the production of the 
consequence F. 

Now if upon such a supposition we assume first that at a certain 
moment a state of things, G, is really given which forms the complete 
ground of a necessary consequence, F, there is no conceivable respect 
in which the lapse of an empty Time, T, should be necessary, or 
could contribute, to bring about the production of F by G. Granted 
that, during the time T, G has continued without change, neither 
producing F nor a more immediate consequence, / preliminary to 
the other, then at the end of the interval T everything will be just as 
at the beginning, and the lapse of time T will have been perfectly 
barren. If, on the other hand, during the same interval G has passed 

into the series of consequences/, / 2 , / 3 , each related to the next 

following as ground to consequence, the same remark is applicable to 
any two proximately related members of this series. If / 2 is the sole 
ground of/ 3 , then the lapse of the smaller interval of empty Time / 3 / 2 
can be neither contributory nor essential to the production by/ of its 
effect/. It will no doubt be objected that the flaw of our argu 
ment consists in this, that we fix a certain momentary state of things, 

CHAPTER in.] Empty Time does not cause Becoming. 251 

G, and consider this fixed state of things, in complete identity with 
itself, to act as the operative cause of an effect ; whereas in fact G 
only becomes such a cause through a lapse of Time during which it is 
itself in continuous process of becoming. For this reason, it will be 
said, the series of determinate causes and effects unfolds itself as a 
process of events, while on our supposition it remains out of Time 
and just for that reason cannot form more than a system of members 
which stand to each other eternally in graduated relations of depend 
ence without ever moving in these relations. It must be admitted 
that whoever puts this objection strikes a most essential point. He is 
perfectly right in insisting upon ceaseless motion or uninterrupted 
becoming as constituents of the real. For undoubtedly, if once the 
perfectly unchanging fact G were recognised as given, then the con 
sequent F, of which it contains the sufficient reason, would as specu- 
latively valid truth, subsist permanently along with G, while considered 
as reality it would either always exist along with it or never come 
into being out of it. For then the addition of the lapse of an empty 
Time / would not produce the motion absent from G at all, at any 
rate not produce it more or less than would the lapse of o . / or oo . /. 
This shall be more fully considered below. For the present my 
concern is to show that for the very process of Becoming in question 
the mere lapse of Time can afford no means, any possible appli 
cation of which could be necessary to bringing it about. The proof 
of this, however, I hold to be involved in what has been already said. 
For here it comes to the same thing in effect whether we only speak 
of a series of distinct causes which produce their several effects, so to 
speak, by jumps, or whether taking the case of continuity we understand 
by f r f v f z constituents of a continuous stream of causation con 
stituents which are only arbitrarily fixed in thought but of which 
really each in turn moves. On the latter supposition it would be just 
as impossible that the internal motion, which results in the emission 
ofy^ from/g, should be dependent on the lapse of the empty time 
/ 3 / 2 in such a way as that it could not take place unless this lapse 
of time preceded. Such an influence is unintelligible unless we sup 
pose that the lapse of empty time can announce itself toy^ nay that 
the completion of the period / 3 / a makes itself felt as different from 
that of the longer period / 4 t v in order that in the former there may 
be occasion for the advance of the process of becoming from/ 2 only 
tof y in the latter to/~ 4 . But the ends of the two periods are com 
pletely like each other and like every other moment of empty time. 
The entry of the one has no such distinction from that of the other 

252 Of Time. 

as can give to/" 2 the signal for this or that amount of advance. For 
that reason the sum of the continuously flowing moments, which forms 
the duration of each period, cannot make itself felt by the operative 
powery^ as a measure of the work which it has to do in the way of pro 
duction of Becoming. On the contrary, it will only be in the same 
way in which we measure a period of Time for purposes of our know 
ledge that the length of this period can announce itself to/ 2 so as to 
determine the magnitude of the change which f^ has to undergo. 
This is by the enumeration of the repetitions of a similar process, 
which at the end of some period of Time exhibits a different state of 
reality from what it did at the beginning. So far as our knowledge 
is concerned, the perception of the different positions which a 
pendulum, for instance, occupies at the beginning and at the end of 
its vibration, would suffice for the purpose. For a reality, which was 
to take account of the lapse of Time in order to direct its becoming 
accordingly, there would be needed the constant summing of the 
impressions received by it from another real process, by means of 
which it itself or its own condition had been so changed as to be 
able to serve as indicator of the length of Time elapsed. The con 
clusion plainly is that a process of becoming, B, which required a 
lapse of time in order to come about, must have already traversed in 
itself a succession of different stages, in order to feel in that succes 
sion the lengths of the periods according to which it is supposed to 
direct itself, and which it is supposed to employ for the purpose of 
effecting the transition from one stage to another. 

148. These considerations do not lead us at once to the end of 
our task. For the present I may put their result, which I shall not 
again discuss, as follows. It is quite unallowable to put the system of 
definite causes and effects, which gives its character to any occurrence, 
on one side and on the other side to suppose a stream of empty 
Time, and then to throw the definitely characterised event into the 
stream in expectation that its fabric of simultaneous conditions will 
in the fluidity of this stream melt into a succession, in which each of 
the graduated relations of dependence will find its appropriate point 
of time and the period of its manifestation. It is only in the actual 
content of what happens, not in a form present outside it into which 
it may fall, that the reason can be found for its elements being related 
to each other in an order of succession, and at the same time for the 
times at which they succeed each other. 

The other view therefore begins to press itself upon us the view 
that it is not Time that precedes the process of Becoming and 

CHAPTER 1 1 1.] Becoming* produces Time. 253 

Activity, but this that precedes Time and brings forth from itself 
either the real course of Time or the appearance in us of there being 
such a thing. The constant contradiction to this reversal of the 
habitual way of looking at the matter which our imagination would 
present, we could no more get rid of than we could of the habit of 
saying that the sun rises and sets. What we might hope to do would 
be to understand one illusion as well as the other. It is also our 
habit to speak of general laws, standing outside things and oc 
currences and regulating their course ; yet we have been forced to 
the conviction that these have no reality except in the various par 
ticular cases of their application. Only that which happens and 
acts in determinate forms is the real. The general law is the 
product of our comparison of the various cases. After we have 
discovered it, it appears to us as the first, and the realities, out of 
the consideration of which it arose, as dependent on its antecedence. 
In just the same way, after the manifold web of occurrence has 
in countless instances assumed for us forms of succession in 
Time, we misunderstand the general character of these forms, which 
results from our comparison of them the empty flowing Time and 
take it for a condition antecedent, to which the occurrence of events 
must adjust itself in order to be possible. That we are mistaken in 
so doing and that the operation of such a condition is unthinkable 
this reductio ad impossibile, which I have sought to make out, is, it 
must be admitted, the only thing which can be opposed to this 
unavoidable habit of our mental vision. 

149. The positive view, which we found emerging in place of the 
illusion rejected, is still ambiguous. Is it a real Time that the pro 
cess of events, in its process, produces or only the appearance of 
Time in us? In answering this question we cannot simply affirm 
either of the alternatives. One thing is certainly clear, that the 
production of Time must be a production sut generis. Time does 
not remain as a realised product behind the process that produces it. 
As little does it lie before that process as a material out of which 
the process can constantly complete itself. Past and Future are not^ 
and the representation of them both as dimensions of Time is in fact 
but an artificial projection, which takes place only for our mind s eye, 
of the unreal upon the plane which we think of as containing the 
world s real state of existence. 

Undoubtedly therefore Time, conceived as an infinite whole with\ 
its two opposite extensions, is but a subjective presentation to oun 
mind s eye ; or rather it is an attempt, by means of images borrowed 


254 Of Time. IBOOKII. 

from space, to render so presentable a thought which we entertain as 
to the inner dependence of the individual constituents of that which 
happens. What we call Past, we regard primarily as the condition 
sine qua non of the Present, and in the Present we see the necessary 
condition of the Future. This one-sided relation of dependence, 
abstracted from the content so related and extended over all cases 
which it in its nature admits of, leads to the idea of an infinite Time, 
in which every point of the Past forms the point of transition to 
Present and Future, but no point of Present or Future forms a point 
of transition to the Past. That this process must appear infinite 
scarcely needs to be pointed out. The condition of that which has 
a definite character can never lie in a complete absence of such 
character. Every state of facts, accordingly, of which we might think 
for a moment as the beginning of reality, would immediately appear 
to us either as a continuation of a previous like state of facts, or as a 
product of one unlike ; and in like manner every state of facts 
momentarily assumed to be an end would appear as the condition of 
the continuance of the same state of facts, or in turn as the beginning 
of a new one. If finally the course of the world were thought of as 
a history, which really had a beginning and end, still beyond both 
alike we should present to ourselves the infinite void of a Past and 
Future, just as two straight lines in space which cut each other at the 
limit of the real, still demand an empty extension beyond in which 
they may again diverge. 

150. It will be felt, however, that we have not yet reached the end 
of our doubts. It will be maintained that though the process of Be 
coming does indeed make no abiding Time, it yet does really bring 
into being or include the course of Time, by means of which the 
various parts of the content of what happens, standing to each other 
in the relation of dependence described above, having been at first only 
something future, acquire seriatim the character of the Present and 
the Past. If we chose to confine ourselves simply to highly deve 
loped thought, and to regard the dimensions of Time merely as 
expressions for conditioned-ness or the power of conditioning, then 
the whole content of the world would again change into a motionless 
systematic whole, and everything would depend on the position which 
a consciousness capable of viewing the whole might please to take up 
facing, so to speak, some one part of it, m. From this point of departure, 
m, the contemplator would reckon everything as belonging to the Past, 
m i, in which he had recognised the conditions that make the con 
tent of m what it is, while he would assign to the Future, m+i 9 all the 

CHAPTER in.] Past, Present^ and Future, without Time. 255 

consequences which the necessities of thought compelled him to draw 
from it : and this assignment of names would change according as m 
or n might be made the point of departure for this judgment. This 
however does not represent the real state of the case. This capa 
city of tracing out the connexion of occurrences in both directions 
forwards and backwards would only be possible to a consciousness 
standing outside the completed course of the world. It belongs to us 
only in relation to the past, so far as the past has become known to 
us through tradition. Immediate experience is confined to a definite 
range, and neither does the recollection of the past reproduce for 
experience its actual duration, nor does the sure foresight of the 
future, in the few cases where it is possible, take the place for ex 
perience of the real occurrence of the foreseen event. 

What then is the proper meaning of the Reality, which in this 
connexion of thought we ascribe only to the Present ? Or con 
versely, what constitutes this character of the present, which we 
suppose to belong successively in unalterable series to the events of 
which each has its cause in the other, and to be equivalent to reality ? 
I will not attempt to prepare the way for an answer to this question, 
or to lead up to it as a discovery. I will merely state what seems to 
me the only possible answer to it. It is not the mere fact that they 
happen which attaches this character to the content of events. On 
the contrary the import of the statement that they happen is only 
explained by the expression the Present, in which Language aptly 
makes us aware of the necessity of a subject, in relation to which 
alone the thinkable content of the world s course can be distinguished 
either as merely thinkable and absent on the one hand, or on the 
other as real and present. To explain this, however, I am obliged 
to go into detail to an extent for which I must ask indulgence and 

151. Let us consider one of the finite spiritual beings like our 
selves, which shall be called S. In the collective content of the 
world, 7J/, which to begin with we will think of as we did before, 
merely as a regularly arranged whole of causes and effects, S has its 
proper place in the system at m between a past JH I, which con 
tains its conditions, and a future m+i, of which it is itself a joint 
condition. We will first assume that the place m, which S holds in 
M, is without extension. By this I mean that it is only in this single 
plane of a section m through the manifold interlacing series of causes 
and effects which forms the content of M not in any other m i or 
m -f i that there lie the conditions of S : while at the same time 

256 Of Time. t BOOK 1 1 . 

every element of M S among others may be supposed to have 
knowledge, immediately and not by gradual acquisition, as to the whole 
structure and content of M. All that would be implied in this sup 
position would be that S would no longer be able at its pleasure to 
seek out positions indifferent as concerned itself for its survey of the 
whole of M. Being only able to plant itself in the position /, every 
thing in which it recognises a joint condition of its own being will 
appear to belong to a different branch, mi, of the world s content, 
from that in which it finds reactions from its own existence that 
existence which is confined to m. At the same time this knowledge 
on the part of S, that it is merely co-ordinated in this entire system 
of conditions with the other parts of the world s content that are in 
cluded in m, would remain a mere speculative insight, which would 
excite in -S 1 no stronger interest in this m, and one of no other nature, 
than the interest in the fact of the dependence of m upon m i and 
of m + i upon m. Thus, although S would distinguish according to 
their import the two branches of the system of conditions that have 
their point of departure in m, it would yet have no occasion to 
oppose them both to m as what is unreal and absent to what is real 
and present. And this would still be the case, though we so far 
altered our assumption as to suppose 6" to be not only contained in 
the one section-plane m of J/, but also to be co-ordinated with the 
contents of other planes m a and mi- a, without undergoing any 
change in itself. To us indeed, who are accustomed to the idea of 
Time, this position of S in a system would present itself as a duration, 
as the filling by S of the period of time, 2 a : but to S itself, if S 
continued to possess the immediate knowledge supposed, it could 
only convey the speculative impression that S is interwoven in an 
extended section of M, while -S" would still have no occasion to 
oppose this section as present to others as absent. 

All this would be changed on one supposition only, which indeed 
for other reasons must be made ; the supposition, namely, that the 
place of 5 in the system contains not only the conditions of its exist 
ence but those of its knowledge. In this is implied that only those 
elements of m i can be an object of its knowledge which not only 
systematically precede it as conditions but of which the consequences 
are contained in m, and only as far as their consequences are so con 
tained. Of m+ i on the contrary all that will be knowable will be the 
impulse, already present in m, which is the condition of m+ i. Even 
the entire content of m will not, merely as such, form an object of 
knowledge to S. Even the fact of belonging to m is for each element 

CHAPTER in.] The indication of 7^ime to the Subject. 257 

of it only the condition of a more special relation to S, which we may 
call its effect on 6" in the way of producing knowledge. If now we 
return to our supposition that m is a place without extension, then 
the knowledge possessed by S will be an unchangeable presentation 
to consciousness, without there being any occasion for the distinction 
of Present from Future in it. If on the contrary found itself con 
tained in the whole extended section 2 a of M, then it would follow 
since we are now supposing its knowledge to rest upon the effect 
produced in it by the content of this section that S is no longer 
identical with itself in all points of 2 a, but has to be defined by 
s v s v s z> corresponding to the various conditions to which it is 
subject in the various points of 2 a. But thus S would fall asunder 
into a multiplicity of finite beings, unless something supervened to 
justify us in adhering to the unity asserted of it, and this justification, 
if it is not merely to establish an accidental view about s in us 
but to constitute an essential unity on the part of s, can only consist 
in an action of its own on the part of s by which it unites the 
several s s. 

This requirement however is not satisfied by the assumption of an 
S having unity, which distinguishes the several j s in itself as its 
states. S as thus constituted would still never live through any 
experience. The whole content of its being would be presented to it 
just in the same way as on our previous supposition. There would 
indeed be a clear insight into the plan upon which the elements 
are formed into a connected whole, but the whole would be pre 
sented simultaneously, just as is the frame-work of theoretic pro 
positions which appear to us not as arising out of each other in a 
course of time but as always holding good at the same time, although 
we understand their dependence on each other. Only one of the 
j s can in any case be the knowing subject, but in it in J 3 , let us 
say the content of j a must not only be contained by its conse 
quences, through which it helps to constitute the nature of s s , but 
this content as presented to consciousness must be distinguishable 
in the form of a recollection from that which belongs to s 3 as its 
own feeling or perception. On this condition only is it possible for 
s 3 to distinguish this latter experience as present from that repre 
sented content as absent, and on the same condition, since the same 
reproduction of s l in J 2 has already taken place, the whole series of 
these mutually dependent contents, as represented in consciousness, 
while preserving its inner order, will be pushed back to various dis 
tances of absence. The question indeed as to the foundation of this 

VOL. i. s 

258 Of Time. 

faculty of distinguishing a represented absent object from one ex 
perienced as present is a question upon which any psychological 
or physiological explanation may be thankfully accepted in its place. 
Here however it would be useless. What we are now concerned 
with is merely the fact itself, that we are able to make this distinction 
and to represent to ourselves what we have experienced without 
experiencing it again. This alone renders it possible for ideas of 
a proper succession to be developed in us, in which the member n 
has a different kind of reality from n+ i. It would have been more 
convenient to arrive at this result otherwise than by this tedious pro 
cess of development. I thought the process indispensable, however, 
because it leads to some peculiar deductions, which require further 
patient consideration. 

152. For instance ; what has been said will be found very in 
telligible not to say, obvious if only we allow ourselves to inter 
polate the thought that s z ceases to exist when it has produced s 3 ; 
that thus there is a time in which those section-planes of M or of 2 a 
succeed each other. But it will be thought to be as impossible after 
our discussion as it was before it, to look upon the content of the 
world as out of time, a whole of which the members are related 
systematically but not successively, while yet there arises in parts of 
it the appearance of there being a lapse of time on the part of the 
periods which those parts observe. For if there is no successive 
alternation of Being and not-Being, then, it will be said, every stage 
of development, s v which a subject, s 3 , believes itself to have ex 
perienced in the past, will possess, as a ground of J 3 , the same 
reality as the consequence s 3 itself. Accordingly we should be com 
pelled, it would seem, to think of all that is past all histories, actions, 
and states of an earlier time as still existing and happening ; and 
every individual being J B , would have alongside of itself as many 
doubles, s v s v s 3 , completing themselves one after another, as it counts 
various moments in the existence which it seems to have lived through. 

Against this objection, however, we must maintain that such pecu 
liar views would not be the logical consequence of our denial of the 
lapse of Time, but on the contrary of the inconsistency of allowing 
the succession that has been denied again to mix itself with our 
thoughts. For only this habituation of our imagination to the idea of 
Time could mislead us into treating the elements of the world, 
which are of equal value all, that is to say, equally indispensable to 
the whole as if they must be contemporaneous unless they are to 
be successive, whan all the while our purpose was to show that every 

CHAPTER 1 1 1.] Developed view of Subjective Time. 259 

determination in the way of time is inapplicable to them, as such. 
We shall never succeed in ridding ourselves of this habit of fantasy. 
Only in thinking shall we be able to convince ourselves, in standing 
conflict with our demand for images presentable to the mind s eye, 
that adherence to the assumption of timelessness does not lead to the 
consequences in which we have just found a stumbling-block. 
There would not indeed on our view be that kind of past into which 
the conditioning stage of development would be supposed to vanish 
instead of illegitimately continuing in the present alongside of the 
consequence conditioned by it that consequence to which it ought 
to have transferred the exclusive possession of the quality of being 
present. The histories of the past would not continue to live in this 
present, petrified in each of their phases, alongside of that which 
further proceeded to happen in the course of things. It would not 
be the case that s l really existed earlier than J 2 and strangely con 
tinued along with it, but rather that it had reality only so far as it was 
contained in s 2 and was presented by the latter to itself as earlier. 
It will be with Time as with Space. As we saw, there is no such 
thing as a Space in which things are supposed to take their places. 
The case rather is that in spiritual beings there is formed the idea of 
an extension, in which they themselves seem to have their lot and in 
which they spatially present to themselves their non-spatial relations 
to each other. In like manner there is no real Time in which occur 
rences run their course, but in the single elements of the Universe 
which are capable of a limited knowledge there developes itself the idea 
of a Time in which they assign themselves their position in relation to 
their more remote or nearer conditions as to what is more or less 
long past, and in relation to their more remote or nearer conse 
quences as to a future that is to be looked for more or less late. 

It is not out of wantonness that I have gone so far in delineating 
this paradoxical way of looking at things. It is what we must come 
to if we wish to put clearly before us the view of the merely subjective 
validity of Time in relation to a timeless reality. It is vexatious to 
listen to the mere asseveration of this antithesis without the question 
being asked whether, when adopted, it intrinsically admits of being in 
any way carried out, and whether it would be a sufficient guide to the 
understanding of that experience from which we all start. The de 
scription which has been given will be enough to raise a doubt whether 
the latter is the case. The reasons for this doubt however are not 
all of equal value. In regard to them again, while passing to the con 
sideration of this contradiction, I must ask to be allowed some detail. 

s 2 

260 Of Time. 

153. In order to find a point of departure in what is familiar, I 
will first repeat the objection which will always recur. Pointing to 
the external world the objector will enquire Is it not then the case 
that something is for ever happening ? Do not things change ? 
Do they not operate on each other ? And is all this imaginable 
without a lapse of time ? Imaginable it certainly is not, and we 
have never maintained that it is so. But in what relation do the 
lapse of Time and this happening stand to each other, which might 
enable us to maintain the correctness of this imagination of ours ? 
That it is only in what is contained in a sufficient cause, G, that 
there lies a necessity for the consequence, F that the necessity, if 
otherwise lacking, could not supervene through lapse of a time, T 
this we found obviously true. It was admitted also that, G being 
given, it would neither be intelligible where the hindrance should 
come from which should retard its transition into F, nor how the 
lapse of empty Time could overcome that hindrance. Thus con 
strained to confess that our habit of thinking the effect as after the 
cause does not point to anything which in the things themselves con 
tributes to the production of the effect, what other conclusion can we 
draw than this, that succession in Time is something which our mode 
of apprehension alone introduces into things introduces in a way 
absolutely inevitable for us, so that our thought about things remains 
constantly in contradiction with our habit of presenting them to the 
mind s eye ? 

One may attempt to make this thought clear to oneself by gradual 
approximation. To a definite period of Time it is our habit in 
common apprehension to ascribe a certain absolute quantity. If we 
ask ourselves, however, how long a century or an hour properly lasts, 
we at once recollect that the time filled by one series of events we 
always measure simply according to its relation to another series, 
with the ends of which those of the first series do or do not coincide. 
Our ordinary impression of the duration of periods of time is itself 
the uncertain result of such a comparison, in which we are not clearly 
conscious of the standard of our measurement. Hence the same 
period may appear long or short in memory. The multiplicity of 
the events contained in it gives it greater extent for the imagination. 
Poverty of events makes it shrink into nothing. It has itself no 
extensive quantity which is properly its own. Therefore no hindrance 
meets us in the attempt to suppose as short a time as we will for the 
collective course of events. However small we think it, still it is not 
in it but in the dependence of events on each other that the reason 

CHAPTER in.] Succession essential to Reality f 261 

lies of the order in which events occur ; and the entire history which 
fills centuries admits of being presented in a similar image, as con 
densed into an infinitely small space of Time through proportional 
diminution of all dimensions. 

With this admission however it will be thought necessary to come 
to a stop. However small, it will be said, still this differential of 
Time must contain a distinction of before and after, and thus a lapse, 
though one infinitely small. But we want to know exactly why. 
Undoubtedly the transition to a moment completely without extension 
would deprive History of the character of succession in Time ; but 
then our question is just this, whether the real needed this succession 
on its own part in order to its appearance as successive to us. And 
in regard to this we must constantly repeat what has been already 
said ; that neither could the order of events be constituted by Time, 
if it were not determined by the inner connexion of things, nor is it 
intelligible how Time should begin to bring that which already has a 
sufficient cause to reality, if that reality is still lacking to it. On the 
other hand, we believe that we do understand how a presentative 
faculty such as to derive from its own nature the habit of viewing the 
world as in time, should find occasion in the inner connexion between 
the constituents of that world, as conditioning and conditioned by 
each other, to treat its parts as following each other in a definite 
order and as assuming lengths definite in relation to each other but, 
apart from such relation, quite arbitrary of this imagined Time. 
Thus even upon this method, by help of the idea of an infinitely 
small moment, we should have mastered the thought of a complete 
timelessness on the part of what fills the world. For in that case we 
should certainly not go out of our way to think of that extension of 
time, within which this moment would seem of a vanishing smallness, 
and so bring on the world the reproach of a short and fleeting 
existence, as compared with the duration which expansion into in 
finite Time would have promised it. 

154. After all, it will be objected, we have not yet touched the 
proper difficulty. If all that we had to take account of were an 
external course of the world, then it would indeed cost us little effort 
to regard all that it contains as timeless, and to hold that it is only in 
relation to our way of looking at it that it unfolds itself into a succes 
sion. But the motion, which we should thus have excluded from the 
outer world, would so much the more surely have been transferred 
into our Thought, which, on the given supposition, must itself pass 
from one of the elements which constitute the world to another, in 

262 Of Time. 

order to make them successive for its contemplation. For the un 
folding, by which what is in itself timeless comes to be in time, cannot 
take place in us without a real lapse of Time ; the appearance of succes 
sion cannot take place without a succession of images in conscious 
ness, nor an apparent transition of a into b without the real transition 
which we should in such a case effect from the image of a to that of b. 
But convincing as these assertions are, they are as far from con 
taining the whole truth. On the contrary, without the addition of 
something further, the doctrine which they allege would be fatal to 
the possibility of that which it is sought to establish. If the idea of 
the later b in fact merely followed on that of the earlier a, then a 
change of ideas would indeed take place, but there would still be no 
idea of this change. There would be a lapse of time, but not an 
appearance of such change to any one. In order to a comparison in 
which b shall be known as the later it is necessary in turn that the 
two presentations of a and b should be objects, throughout simul 
taneous, of a relating knowledge, which, itself completely indivisible, 
holds them together in a single indivisible act. If there is a belief 
on the part of this knowledge that it passes from one of its related 
points to another, it will not itself form this idea of its transition 
through the mere fact of the transition taking place. In order that 
the idea may be possible, the points with which its course severally 
begins and ends, being separate in time, must again be apprehended 
in a single picture by the mind as the limits between which that 
course lies. All ideas of a course, a distance, a transition all, in 
short, which contain a comparison of several elements and the re 
lation between them can as such only be thought of as products of 
a timelessly comprehending knowledge. They would all be im 
possible, if the presentative act itself were wholly reducible to that 
succession in Time which it regards as the peculiarity of the objects 
presented by it. Nay if we go further and make the provisional 
admission that we really had the idea of a before we had that of b, 
still a can only be known as the earlier on being held together with b in 
an indivisible act of comparison. It is at this moment, at which a is 
no longer the earlier nor b the later, that for knowledge a appears as 
the earlier and b as the later. In assigning these determinate places, 
however, to the two, the soul can only be guided by some sort of 
qualitative differences in their content by temporal signs, if we like 
to say so, corresponding to the local signs in accordance with which 
the 0;z-spatial consciousness expands its impressions into a system of 
spatial juxtaposition. 

CHAPTER HI.] Time-distinctions and Temporal signs . 263 

Such could not but be the state of the case even if there were a 
lapse of Time in which our ideas successively formed themselves. 
The real lapse of Time would not, immediately as such, be a sufficient 
cause to that which combines and knows of the succession in Time 
which it presents to itself. It would be so only mediately through 
signs derived by each constituent element of the world from that 
place in the order of Time into which it had fallen. But such various 
signs could not be stamped on the various elements by empty time, 
even though it elapsed, since one of its elements is exactly like every 
other. They could only be derived from the peculiar manner in 
which each element is inwoven into the texture of conditions which 
determine the content of the world. But just for that reason there 
was no need of a real sequence in Time to annex them to our ideas 
as characteristic incidental distinctions. Thus it would certainly be 
possible for a presentative consciousness, without any need of Time, 
to be led by means of temporal signs, which in their turn need not 
have their origin in Time, to arrange its several objects in an apparent 
succession in the way of Time. 

155. I am painfully aware that my reader s patience must be 
nearly exhausted. Granted, he will say, that in every single case in 
which a relation or comparison is instituted this timeless faculty of 
knowing is active: it remains none the less true that numberless 
repetitions of such action really succeed each other. Yesterday our 
timeless faculty of knowledge was employed in presenting the suc 
cession of a and b, to-day it presents that from c to d. There are 
thus, it would seem, many instances of Timeless occurrence which 
really succeed each other in Time. I venture, however, once again 
to ask, Whence are we to know that this is so ? And if it were*so, 
in what way could we know of it? That consciousness, to which 
the comparison made yesterday appears as earlier than that made 
to-day, must yet be the consciousness which we have to-day, not 
that which may have been yesterday and have vanished in the course 
of Time. That which appears to us as of yesterday cannot so 
appear to us because it is not in our consciousness, but because it 
is in it ; while at the same time it is somehow so qualitatively deter 
mined, that our mental vision can assign it its place only in the past 
branch of apparent Time. 

I will allow, however, that this last reply yields no result. The 
Past indeed, of which we believe ourselves already to have had living 
experience, one may try to exhibit as a system of things which has 
never run a course in Time, and which only consciousness, for its 

264 Of Time. 

own benefit, expands into a preceding history in Time. But how then 
would the case stand with the Future, which we suppose ourselves 
still on the way to meet? Let J 3 , according to the symbols pre 
viously used, stand for this Ego, which J 2 and j x never really preceded 
but always seem to have preceded, what then is J 4 which s s in turn 
will thus seem to have preceded ? What could prevent s 3 from being 
conscious also of J 4 , its own future, if the temporal signs which teach 
us to assign to single impressions their position in Time, depended 
only on the systematic position which belongs to their causes in the 
complex of conditions of a timeless universe ? It may be that the 
content of J 4 , which follows systematically upon J 3 , is not determined 
merely by the conditions, which are contained in s 3 and previously in 
J 2 and j,, but jointly by others, resting on the states of other beings 
which do not cross those of S till a later stage of the system. For 
that reason J 4 might be obscure to s 3 and this might constitute the 
temporal character which gives it in the consciousness of s 3 the stamp 
of something future. But if this were the case, the process would 
have to stop at this point. It would only be for another being s 4 that 
what was Future to s 3 could, owing to its later place in the system, be 
present. On the other hand in a timeless system there would be no 
possibility of the change by means of which s 3 would be moved out 
of its place into that of s : yet this would be necessary if to one and 
the same consciousness that is to become Present which was pre 
viously Future to it. If one and the same timeless being by its time 
less activity of intellectual presentation gives to one constituent of its 
existence the Past character of a recollection, to another the signi 
ficance of the Present, to a third unknown element that of the Future, 
it could never, if it is to be really timeless, change this distribution 
of characters. The recollection could never have been Present, 
the Present could never become Past and the Future would have to 
remain without change the same unknown obscurity. But if there is 
a change in this distribution of light ; if it is the case that the in 
definite burden of the Future gradually enters the presence of living 
experience and passes through it into the other absence of the Past ; 
and finally if it is impossible for the activity of intellectual presenta 
tion to alter this order of sequence ; then it follows necessarily that 
not merely this activity, but the content of the reality which it pre 
sents to itself, is involved in a succession of determinate direction. 

This being so, we must finally decide as follows : Time, as a 
whole, is without doubt merely a creation of our presentative intellect. 
It neither is permanent nor does it elapse. It is but the fantastic 

CHAPTER in.] Succession inseparable f rom Reality. 265 

image which we seek, rather than are able, to project before the 
mind s eye, when we think of the lapse of time as extended to all the 
points of relation which it admits of ad infinitum, and at the same 
time make abstraction of the content of these points of relation. But 
the lapse of events in time we do not eliminate from reality, and we 
reckon it a perfectly hopeless undertaking to regard even the idea of 
this lapse as an a priori merely subjective form of apprehension, 
which developes itself within a timeless reality, in the consciousness of 
spiritual beings. 

153. Thus, at the end of a long and troublesome journey, we come 
back, as it will certainly appear, to complete agreement with the 
ordinary view. I fear however that remnants of an error still survive 
which call for a special attack remnants of an error with which we 
are already familiar and which have here needed to be dealt with only 
in a new form, viz. the disintegration of the real into its content and 
its reality. We are unavoidably led by our comparison of the mani 
fold facts given to us to the separation of that on the one hand which 
distinguishes one real object from another its peculiar content which 
our thought can fix in abstraction from its existence and on the 
other hand of that in which every thing real resembles every other 
the reality itself which, as we fancy, has been imparted to it. For this 
is just what we go on to imagine that this separation, achieved in our 
thoughts, represents a metaphysical history ; I do not mean a history 
which has been completed once for all, but one which perpetually 
completes itself; a real relation, that is to say, of such a kind that 
that content, apart from its reality, is something to which this reality 
comes to belong. The prevalence of this error is evidenced by the 
abundant use which philosophy, not least since the time of Kant, has 
made of the conception of a Position/ which meeting with the 
thinkable content establishes its reality. In an earlier part of this 
work we declared ourselves against this mistake. We were con 
vinced that it was simply unmeaning to speak of being as a kind of 
placing which may simply supervene upon that intelligible content of 
a thing, without changing anything in that content or essence or 
entering as a condition into its completeness. As separate from the 
energy of action and passion, in which we found the real being of the 
thing to consist, it was impossible even to think of that essence, im 
possible to think of it as that to which this reality of action and 
passion comes from without, as if it had been already, in complete 
rest, the same essence which it is under this motion. 

It is the same impossible separation that we have here once again, 

266 Of Time. 

in consideration of the prevalence of the misunderstanding, carefully 
pursued to its consequences in the form of the severance of the 
thing which happens from its happening. It was thus that we were 
led to the experiment of seeking the essence 1 of what happens that 
by which the actual history of the world is distinguished from another 
which might happen but does not in a complex system of relations 
of dependence on the part of a timeless content of thought ; while 
the motion in this system, which alone constitutes the process of be 
coming and happening, was regarded as a mode of setting it forth which 
might simply be imposed on this essential matter, or on the other 
hand, might be wanting to it without changing the distinctive character 
of the essence. We could not help noticing, indeed, the great differ 
ence between reality and that system of intelligible contents. In the 
latter the reason includes its consequence as eternally coexisting with 
it. In the former the earlier state of things ceases to be in causing 
the later. Then began the attempts to understand this succession, 
which imposes itself like an alien fate on the system in its articula 
tion. They were all in vain. When once the lapse of empty time 
and the timeless content had been detached from each other, nothing 
could enable the set nature of the latter to resolve itself into a con 
stant flux in the former. It was clear that in this separation we had 
forgotten something which forced that content involving as it did, 
if it moved, the basis of an order of time to pass in fact into such a 
state of motion. I will not suppose that crudest attempt to be made 
at supplying the necessary complement the reference to a power 
standing outside the world which laid hold on the eternal content 
of things, as on a store of material, in order to dispose its elements 
in Time in such a way as their inner order, to which it looked 
as a pattern, directed it to do. Let us rather adopt the view that 
in the content itself lies the impulse after realisation which makes 
its manifold members issue from each other. Still, even on that view 
it would be a mistake, as I hold, to think of the measure and kind of 
that timeless conditionedness, which might obtain between two ele 
ments of the world s content, as the antecedent cause which com 
manded or forbade that operative impulse to elicit the one element 
from the other. What I am here advancing is only a further appli- 

1 [This is still the content that which distinguishes one real object from 
another. A verbal difficulty is caused by the distinction being here, per accidens, 
between the actual world and an imaginary world, so that but for the context we 
might take essence to be used in just the opposite sense to that of p. 265, and 
to refer to that which distinguishes what is real from what is unreal.] 

CHAPTER in.] Time as a Whole subjective. 267 

cation of a thought which I have previously expressed. Every rela 
tion, I have said, exists only in the spirit of the person instituting the 
relation and for him. When we believe that we find it in things them 
selves, it is in every case more than a mere relation : it is itself already 
an efficient process instead of being merely preliminary to effects. 

On the same principle we say It is not the case that there is first 
a relation of unchanging conditionedness between the elements of 
the world, and that afterwards in accordance with this relation the 
productive operation, even though it may not come from without but 
may lie in the things themselves, has to direct itself in order to give 
reality to legitimate consequences and avoid those that are illegiti 
mate. On the contrary first and alone is there this full living opera 
tion itself. Then, when we compare its acts, we are able in thought 
and abstraction to present to ourselves the constant modus agendi, 
self-determined, which in all its manifestations has remained the same. 
This abstraction made, we can subordinate each single product of the 
operation, as we look backward, to this mode of procedure as to an 
ordaining prius and regard it as determined by conditions which are 
in truth only the ordinary habit of this operation itself. This process 
of comparison and abstraction leads us in one direction to the idea 
of general laws of nature, which are first valid and to which there 
then comes a world, which submits itself to them. In another di 
rection it leads to the supposition of an empty Time, in which the 
series of occurrences succeed each other and which, in the character 
of an antecedent conditio sine qua non, makes all operation possible. But 
this last way of looking at the matter we have found as untenable 
as would be the attempt to represent velocities as prior to motions 
(somewhat as if each motion had to choose an existing velocity), and 
to interpret the common expression, according to which the motion 
of a body assumes this or that velocity, as signifying an actual fact ; 
whereas in truth the motion is nothing but the velocity as following a 
definite direction. 

In this sense we may find more correctness in the expressions that 
may be often heard, according to which it is not Time that is the 
condition of the operation of things, but this operation that produces 
Time. Only what it brings forth, while it takes its course, is not an 
actually existing Time as an abiding product, somehow existing or 
flowing or influencing things, but only the so-called vision of this 
Time in the comparing consciousness. Of this the empty total 
image of that order in which we place events as a series- it is thus 
true that it is only a subjective form of apprehension ; while of the 

268 Of Time. 

succession belonging to that operation itself, which makes this 
arrangement of events possible, the reverse is true, namely that it is 
the most proper nature of the real. 

157. I should not be surprised if the view which I thus put forward 
met with an invincible resistance from the imagination. The un 
conquerable habit, which will see nothing wonderful in the primary 
grounds of things but insists on explaining them after the pattern of 
the latest effects which they alone render possible, must here at last 
confess to being confronted by a riddle which cannot be thought out. 
What exactly happens such is the question which this habit will 
prompt when the operation is at work or when the succession takes 
place, which is said to be characteristic of the operative process ? 
How does it come to pass what makes it come to pass that the 
reality of one state of things ceases, and that of another begins? 
What process is it that constitutes what we call perishing, or transition 
into not-being, and in what other different process consists origin or 
becoming ? 

That these questions are unanswerable that they arise out of the 
wish to supply a prius to what is first in the world this I need not 
now repeat : but in this connexion they have a much more serious 
background than elsewhere, for here they are ever anew excited by 
the obscure pressure of an unintelligibility, which in ordinary thinking 
we are apt somewhat carelessly to overlook. We lightly repeat the 
words bygones are bygones ; are we quite conscious of their 
gravity ? The teeming Past, has it really ceased to be at all ? Is it 
quite broken off from connexion with the world and in no way 
preserved for it? The history of the world, is it reduced to the 
infinitely thin, for ever changing, strip of light which forms the 
Present, wavering between a darkness of the Past, which is done with 
and no longer anything at all, and a darkness of the Future, which is 
also nothing ? Even in thus expressing these questions, I am ever 
again yielding to that imaginative tendency, which seeks to soften the 
1 monstrum infandum which they contain. For these two abysses of 
obscurity, however formless and empty, would still be there. They 
would always form an environment which in its unknown within 
would still afford a kind of local habitation for the not-being, into 
which it might have disappeared or from which it might come forth. 
But let any one try to dispense with these images and to banish from 
thought even the two voids, which limit being : he will then feel how 
impossible it is to get along with the naked antithesis of being and 
not-being, and how unconquerable is the demand to be able to think 

CHAPTER in.] Reality of Past and Fiiture. 269 

even of that which is not as some unaccountable constituent of the 

Therefore it is that we speak of distances of the Past and of the 
Future, covering under this spatial image the need of letting nothing 
slip completely from the larger whole of reality, though it belong not 
to the more limited reality of the Present. For the same reason even 
those unanswerable questions as to the origin of Becoming had their 
meaning. So long as the abyss from which reality draws its continu 
ation, and that other abyss into which it lets the precedent pass away, 
shut in that which is on each side, so long there may still be a certain 
law, valid for the whole realm of this heterogeneous system, according 
to the determinations of which that change takes place, which on the 
other hand becomes unthinkable to us, if it is a change from nothing 
to being and from being to nothing. Therefore, though we were 
obliged to give up the hopeless attempt to regard the course of events 
in Time merely as an appearance, which forms itself within a system 
of timeless reality, we yet understand the motives of the efforts which 
are ever being renewed to include the real process of becoming within 
the compass of an abiding reality. They will not, however, attain 
their object, unless the reality, which is greater than our thought, 
vouchsafes us a Perception, which, by showing us the mode of solu 
tion, at the same time persuades us of the solubility of this riddle. I 
abstain at present from saying more on the subject. The ground 
afforded by the philosophy of religion, on which efforts of this kind 
have commonly begun, is also that on which alone it is possible for 
them to be continued. 


Of Motion. 

THE perceived facts of motion are a particularly favourable subject 
matter for numerical calculation ; but our present interest is not in 
the manifold results obtained by the mathematical treatment of accepted 
relations of proportion between intervals of space and of time ; but 
solely in the question which phoronomic and mechanical investigations 
are able to disregard for their immediate purpose ; the question what 
motion implies as taking place in the things that move. 

158. Common apprehension takes motion, while it lasts, to be the 
traversing of an interval of space ; and its result at every moment in 
which we conceive it as arrested to be a change of place on the part 
of the thing moved. We shall be obliged for the moment to invert 
this order of our ideas, in order to remain in agreement with our view 
of the merely phenomenal validity of space. Things cannot actually 
traverse a space which does not actually extend around them, and 
whose only extension is in our consciousness and for its perception ; 
what happens is rather that just as the sum -S" of all the intelligible 
relations in which an element e at a given moment stands to all others 
assigns it a place p in our spatial image ; exactly in the same way any 
change of that sum of relations S into 2 will demand the new place TT 
for the impression which is to us the expression, image, or indication 
of e. Therefore change of place is the first conception to which we 
are led in this connexion ; and from that point we do not arrive quite 
directly at the notion that a journey through space is essential to the 
change ; even an apparent journey, that is, for we no longer think a 
real one possible. 

It only follows from what was said just now that in every moment 
the thing s situation p or TT in apparent space is determined by the 
then forthcoming sum 6" or 2 of its intelligible relations ; it is still 
undecided in what way the transition takes place from one situation to 
another. However, it only happens in fairy-tales that a thing dis- 

The L aw of Continuity. 271 

appears in one place and suddenly reappears in another, without 
having traversed a path leading in space from the one place to the 
other; all observation of nature assumes as self-evident that the 
moving object remains in all successive moments an object of possible 
perception in some point of a straight or curved path, which unites 
its former and subsequent position without breach of continuity. We 
have no intention of doubting the validity of this assumption ; it 
involves for us the further one, that in like manner the sum S of 
intelligible relations does not pass into another 2 without traversing 
all intermediate values that can be intercalated, without break though 
not necessarily with uniform speed. And this is what we really think 
of all variable states which are in things, as far as our modern habit 
of referring every event to an alteration of external relations will allow 
us to speak of such states at all. We do not believe that a sensation 
comes suddenly into being with its full intensity ; nor that a body at a 
temperature ^ passes to another / 2 , without successively assuming all 
intermediate temperatures ; nor that from a position of rest it acquires 
the velocity v, without acquiring in unbroken series all degrees of it 
between o and v. Thus we speak of a Law of Continuity to which 
we believe that all natural processes are subject ; yet however familiar 
the idea may be to us, and however irresistible in most cases to which 
it is applied, still its necessity is not so self-evident to thought that all 
consideration of the ground and limits of its validity is wasted. 

159. Of course the application of the law of Continuity is not 
attempted where disparateness between two extremes excludes all 
possibility of a path leading from one to the other in the same 
medium. No one conceives a musical note as changing continuously 
into colour ; a transition between the two could only be effected by 
annihilation of the one and creation of the other anew ; but that 
negation of the note would not have the import of a definite zero in a 
series such as could not but expand into colours on the other side of 
it ; it would be a pure nothing, of which taken by itself nothing can 
come, but after which anything may follow, that we choose to say is to 
follow. On the other hand, in what relation to each other are Being 
and not-Being, the actual transition between which is put before us in 
every instance of change ? Are we to assume that because this transi 
tion takes place it too must come to pass by continuous traversing of 
intermediate values between Being and not-Being? We unhesitatingly 
negative this suggestion, if it is to require for one and the same 
content a a gradation of existence such as without changing a itself to 
remove it by degrees from reality to unreality or vice versa ; we could 

272 Of Motion. [BOOK ii. 

attach no meaning to the assertion of a varying intensity of being 
which should make a permanent unvarying l a partake of reality in 
a greater or less degree. We should on the other hand assent to 
this ; that the content of a itself could not disappear and could not 
come into being without traversing all the values intermediate be 
tween o and a, which its nature made possible ; the not-being of a 
is always in the first place the being of an a, which is continuous 
with a as the value immediately above or below it. Therefore the 
transition from being to not-being of the same content is no con 
tinuous one, but instantaneous ; still, no value a of a natural process 
or state arises thus instantaneously out of absolute nothingness, but 
always out of a reality of its own kind, whose value a is the proximate 
increase or diminution of its own. 

The case is different with the increase or decrease which property, 
for instance, is exposed to in games of chance or in commerce. A 
sum of money which we have staked on a cast of the dice becomes 
ours or not ours in its whole amount at once, and is whichever it is 
immediately in the fullest sense. It was no one s property as long as 
the game was undecided; our hopes of calling it our own are a 
matter of degree, and no doubt might rise per saltus, though not 
continuously, as one die after another came to rest ; but neither this 
nor any other intermediate process, even if some of them were 
continuous, can alter the essential state of the facts ; on the one hand 
our complete right of ownership begins instantaneously on the aggre 
gate result of the throw becoming quite certain, and so far from 
existing to a less degree the moment before, had then no existence at 
all. On the other hand, this suddenly created right applies at once 
to the whole sum in question, without extending by degrees over more 
and more of it. In this instance and in innumerable similar ones 
presented by human intercourse based on contract, a perfectly arbi 
trary ordinance has attached to an absolutely peculiar case S a con 
sequence F of which is not the obvious producing cause ; therefore 
by an equally arbitrary ordinance all the cases s l s^ s s which naturally 
belong to the same series as S may be made completely ineffectual ; 
and all equally so, irrespective of their greater or less approximation 
to the favourable condition S. Such relations can only occur in 
artificial institutions, in which a covenant, quite foreign to the nature 
of the thing, attaches anything we please to anything else, and at the 
same time our loyalty to the covenant is the only pledge for the 
execution of what was agreed on ; as it will not execute itself. 
1 [v. note on 19, supra.] 

CHAPTER iv.] Continuity and Succession. 273 

In all natural processes on the contrary the S to which a result F 
is supposed to correspond is the actual and appropriate ground G of 
this consequent F] such as not only demands the result in question 
but brings it .about by itself and unaided by any ordinance of ours ; 
hence the cases s l s 2 s s which we have a right to regard as other 
quantitative values of the same condition S cannot be without effect, 
but must in like manner, produce the consequents/"^/^ proportional 
to their own magnitudes and of the same kind with F. Hence arises 
the possibility of regarding the amount of a natural phenomenon ob 
tained under a condition F as the sum of the individual consequents 
produced in succession by the successive increments of the condition. 
But this possibility is at the same time in a certain sense a necessity. 
We are not here concerned with a relation of dependence, valid irre 
spective of time, between the ideal content of F and that of G its 
sufficient reason, but with the genesis of an effect / which did not 
exist before ; so that the condition S in like manner cannot be 
an eternally subsisting relation, but can only be a fact which did not 
exist before and has now come into being. 

Now, if we chose to assume that S arose all at once with its 
highest quantitative value, no doubt it would seem that F as the 
consequence of this cause could not but enter upon its reality all at 
once ; but in fact it would not still have to enter upon its reality, for 
it would be in existence simultaneously with S ] nothing could con 
ceivably have the power to interpose an interval of time, vacant as in 
that case it would be, between cause and consequence. The same 
would hold good regressively ; if S arose all at once, the cause of its 
reality too must have arisen all at once, and therefore, strictly speak 
ing, have existed contemporaneously with rather than arisen before it. 
Thus we find that it is impossible to regard the course of the world 
as a series of sudden discrete states conditioning each other without 
completely re-transforming it into a mere system of elements which 
all have their validity or existence simultaneously ; quite unlike reality, 
the terms of which are successive because mutually exclusive. I shall 
not prolong this investigation ; it was only meant to show that con 
tinuity of transition is not a formal predicate of still problematic 
validity, which we might assign to Becoming after some hesitation as 
true in fact; its validity is rather an indispensable presupposition 
without which the reality of Becoming in general is inconceivable. 

160. I have now to give a somewhat different form to the ideas 
with which I began. In the artificial arrangements which we men 
tioned, the conscious deliberation of the parties to the agreement had 

VOL. I. T 

274 Of Motion. [BOOK ii. 

previously determined the result which was to follow from a par 
ticular occurrence in the future; and in the same way in all our 
actions the representation in our minds of an aim that is not yet 
realised, of a goal that has yet to be reached, may itself be present 
and effectual among the conditions of the activities which are set in 
motion to attain our purpose. We should be wrong in transferring 
this analogy to our present subject-matter, by choosing to regard the 
altered sum of relations 2 which by itself would be the cause of the 
quiescence of the element e at the point TT, as being at the same time 
the cause of its seeking and rinding this new place. There cannot be 
an inner state q of any thing such as to be for that thing the condition 
of its being in another particular state r. Our reflexion might antici 
pate with certainty that this state r would contain no reason for 
further change ; but the thing itself could not feel that it was so until 
the state began, and turned out to be the condition of a more perfect 
or quite perfect equilibrium. 

Thus in our instance ; the sum 2 of a thing s relations, if it had 
always existed, would have corresponded to the place TT ; but when 
something new has to arise out of the transition from S to 2, its 
action cannot consist in assigning to the thing a new particular 
place TT, as one which would suit the thing better, if it once were 
there ; it can only consist in expelling the thing from the place p 
where its nature and conditions no longer hold it in equilibrium. 
But in the real world the negation of an existing state can only be 
the affirmation of another ; besides, there can be no such thing as 
want of equilibrium in general, but only between specific points in re 
lation, and between them only with a specific degree of vivacity. 
Therefore, the power of negation exerted by a state which is to act 
as the condition of a fresh occurrence can only consist in displacing 
the element in question from its present intelligible relations in a 
specific direction, which we have still in the first place to conceive as 
unspatial, and with a specific intensity. The spatial phenomenon 
corresponding to this process would be a specific velocity with which 
the element departs from its place p in a specific direction, impelled 
therefore a tergo without a predetermined goal but not attracted a 
fronle by the new place TT ; this latter cannot act either by retaining 
or by impelling, till it is reached. So what takes place in the things 
themselves, and what we might call, of course in quite a different 
sense from that recognised in mechanics, the v is viva of their motion, 
is this velocity, with which in the intelligible system of realities they 
leave the place where they were out of equilibrium, or, to our percep- 

CHAPTER iv.] The Law of Persistence. 275 

tion, appear to leave a situation in space ; what length of space they 
may traverse, whether with uniform or varying motion, whether in 
straight lines or in curves, is the result of the existing circumstances ; 
that is, of the new positions into which they are brought by the actual 
motion which takes place, which positions react on that motion as 
modifying factors. 

161. In this way we have arrived directly at the law of Persistence, 
the first principle of the doctrines of mechanics, according to which 
every element maintains its state of rest or motion unaltered as long 
as it does not come in contact with the modifying influence of ex 
ternal causes. The first part of the law, the persistence of rest, has 
seldom caused any difliculty ; for it can hardly be urged as a serious 
objection that the nature of an actual element e is quite inaccessible 
to us and that element may contain inner reasons unknown to us for 
setting itself in motion. Whatever unconjecturable states the inner 
being of a thing may experience, still they can only set up a motion 
which did not exist before by beginning at a particular moment to 
manifest themselves as reasons for that motion. In that case they 
presuppose a previous history of a Becoming within the thing ; but if 
there had once been a moment of complete rest, in which all states 
of things were in equilibrium with each other, and there was no 
velocity inherited from an antecedent process of Becoming with 
which they might have made their way through the position of 
equilibrium, such quiescence could never have given rise to a 
beginning of change. Our ignorance of the real nature of things 
only justifies us in assuming as a possibility that such a succession of 
states remains for a time a movement within the thing, neither con 
ditioned by influences from without, nor capable of altering the 
relations of the thing to external related points ; and that, as a result 
of this hidden labour, a reason sufficient to alter even those external 
relations whether to other things or to surrounding space, may be 
generated as a new factor at one particular moment. But even then 
the movement in space would not be produced out of a state of rest, 
but out of a hidden movement which was not of the same kind with 
it ; as is the case with animated bodies which initiate their changes of 
place by independent impulse. In the first place, however, even 
these owe the activity within them which generates their resolutions 
to the stimuli of the outer world ; and in the second place their reso 
lutions can only give rise to movement in space by a precontrived 
connexion of several parts which are accessible to the action of the 
mind and under its influence move in the directions prescribed to 

T 2 

276 Of Motion. [BOOK ii. 

them by their permanent position in the plan of the organic structure 
and their situation at the moment in external space. 

This analogy is not transferable to a solitary element, to be con 
ceived as setting itself in motion in empty space. In animated beings 
the element which is charged with the unspatial work within does not 
set itself in motion, but only other elements with which it is in 
interaction; and it does so by destroying the equilibrium of the 
forces operative between them, and leaving the want of equilibrium 
which results to determine the amount and direction of the motion to 
be generated. The solitary element has none of these determining 
reasons ; it could not move without taking a definite direction 
through the point z of empty space to the exclusion of all others; 
to secure this it would not be enough that the direction e z should be 
geometrically distinct from any other; the distinction would have to 
be brought to the cognisance of /s inner nature, that is, z would 
have to act on e differently from any other point in space. But as 
an empty point it is in no way distinguished from all the other 
points ; it could only be given pre-eminence before all the others by 
the presence of a real element occupying it. So even if we admit an 
abundance of inner life in every thing, still we cannot derive the 
initiation of a movement in space from that life, but only from ex 
ternal determining conditions. 

Still, this is an expression which we shall do well to modify. 
Whatever attractive or repulsive force we conceive to proceed from 0; 
it cannot determine e to motion by reason of its own starting from z, 
but only by reason of its arrival at e, or rather through the alteration 
which it effects in the inner states of <?. It is therefore, in fact, this 
state of inner want of equilibrium which hinders e from remaining at 
rest ; only this state cannot have arisen in a way to determine the 
line of motion, unless e is conceived as part of a universe which by 
the configuration of its other parts at any moment helps to determine 
that of e s inner being. 

162. The other part of the law, the continuance of every motion 
that has once begun, remains a paradox even when we are convinced 
of it. If we separate the requirements which we may attempt to 
satisfy ; in the first place the certainty of the law, or its validity in 
point of fact, is vouched for both by the results of experiment and by 
its place in the system of science. The better we succeed in ex 
cluding the resistances we are aware of as interfering with a motion 
that has been imparted, the longer and more uniformly it continues ; 
we rightly conclude that it would continue unvaryingly for ever, if it 

CHAPTER iv.] Contimiance of Motion. 277 

were permanently left to itself without any counteraction. And on 
the other hand, however a motion that is going on may be modified 
at every moment by the influence of fresh conditions, still we know 
that our only way of arriving at the actual process in calculation is to 
estimate the velocity attained in every moment as continuing, in order 
to combine it with the effect of the next succeeding force. 

If we go on to ask whether this doctrine being certain in point of 
fact has also any justification as conceivable and rational, we can at 
least see the futility of the assumptions which prevailed in antiquity, 
when, under the influence of inappropriate analogies, men held that 
the gradual slackening of all motion was the behaviour more naturally 
to be expected. If they had said that all motion is wholly extin 
guished in the very moment in which the condition that produces it 
ceases to act, the idea put forward would at least have been an in 
telligible one in itself; but by treating the motion as becoming 
gradually weaker they actually admitted the law of persistence for 
as much of the motion as at any given moment had not disappeared. 
Still, the more definitely we assume the ordinary ideas of motion, the 
more remarkable does the law of persistence appear; if motion is 
nothing but an alteration of external relations by which the inner 
being of the moving object is in no way affected, and which in no 
way proceeds from any impulse belonging to that object, why should 
such an alteration continue when the condition which compelled it 
has ceased ? 

We look in vain for more general principles which might decide the 
question. I said above in the Logic ( 261) that the law Cessante 
causa cessat effectus cannot safely be held to mean more than that 
after the cessation of a cause we do not find the effect which the 
cause would have had if it had continued ; but that it remains doubtful 
whether the effect which is already produced requires a preserving 
cause for its continuance. It appeared to me then that every state 
which had in reality once been produced would continue to exist, if it 
were neither in contradiction with the nature of the subject to which 
it occurs, nor \vith the totality of the conditions under which that 
subject stands towards other things. But even this formula is useless ; 
for there is still this very question, whether motion which has been 
generated in a thing not by its own nature, but only by means of 
external conditions, is to count among the states which are conceivable 
as going on to infinity without contradicting that nature and those rela 
tions. On the other hand, it has been suggested that the reason for 
the persistence of states of motion in things must in every case lie in 

278 Of Motion. ( BOOK ii. 

the actual nature of the things ; I am convinced that no explanation 
is to be found in this direction ; we should only be obliged, after 
executing some useless circuits, to assert the principle of Persistence 
about some motion or other within real things, with no more success 
in deducing it than if we had taken the shorter way of granting its 
validity at once for motion in space. Instead of a direct demonstration 
of the law, I believe that nothing more is possible than an indirect 
treatment, which I subjoin. 

163. Let C^ be the condition which sets in motion an element e 
with definite velocity and direction so as to traverse the distance doc 
in the time dt. Let us suppose that the activity and effect of C 
continue through the duration of dt, but cease when at the end of that 
interval e has traversed the short distance dx, has thus changed its 
position, and has for this reason come under the influence of the new 
condition C 2 . This again, if operative during an equal time dt, will 
make another equal journey dx possible for e, and will cease when e 
has traversed it. It is plain that as long as we treat d x as a real 
distance however small, the element e, acted upon by this series of 
successively annihilated influences, will pass through a finite length of 
space in the time /. 

But our assumptions, as we made them just now, have to be 
modified. C l must cease to act not when, but before, e has arrived at 
the extreme point of the first distance dx; by the time e has accom 
plished the smallest portion of that short distance its position would 
be changed, and would no longer be that which acted upon it as the 
motive impulse C^ ; if in spite of this we suppose e to traverse the 
whole distance dx in consequence of the impulse C\, the only possible 
reason for its doing so will be the postulated validity of the law of 
persistence ; the motion produced by C l will have lasted after C^ itself 
had ceased to exist or act. But if we do not regard this law as valid, 
then not even the smallest portion of the short journey in question will 
really be achieved ; the moment that C x so much as threatens to 
change the place of e, and so transform itself into C 2 , the determining- 
force with which it purposed to produce this result must disappear at 
once, and the matter will never get as far as the entrance into action 
of the fresh condition C 2 which could maintain the motion ; for the 
motion never begins. If y is a function of x, there may be a finite 
integral of the formula ydx as long as we regard dx as a real magni 
tude ; and the calculation would be more exact as this interval is less 
for which we take a value of_>> as constant; but the whole integral 
becomes o, if we regard d x as vanishing entirely. 

CHAPTER iv.] * Persistence indispensable to Action. 279 

In the present case we should apply this common mode of repre 
sentation as follows ; if y is the velocity generated by C v or existing 
along with some initial value of x, according to the law of Persistence 
this y will hold good for the whole interval for which the integral is 
required. The succeeding condition C 2 will be partly satisfied, in 
respect of what it has in common with C v by the motion y which 
already takes place in consequence of C l ; only that in which C 2 
deviates from C l is a fresh active condition whose consequence dy, a 
positive or negative increment of velocity, continues in like manner 
from that moment through the entire interval of the integration. It is 
the summation of the initial value y, and of these continuously suc 
ceeding increases or decreases, that gives the total of the result 
obtained between the limits in question. 

The tendency of all this is obvious ; of course it cannot tell us how, 
strictly speaking, it comes to pass that motion when once generated 
maintains itself; but still we can see that the law of Persistence is not 
a marvellous novelty of which it might be questioned whether it would 
or would not be true of a given natural motion ; in fact its truth is an 
integral part of our idea of motion. Either there is no such thing 
as motion, or, if and as there is, it necessarily obeys the law of Per 
sistence, and could not come to pass at all if really and strictly the 
effect produced had to end with the cause that produced it. For the 
law holds good not merely as applied to motion, but with this more 
general significance. No condition can act without having a result 
which is, speaking generally, a modification of the state of things that 
contained the stimulus or impulse to action ; and therefore apart from 
the principle of Persistence no result could ever be reached ; the exci 
tation would begin to be inactive at the moment in which it began 
to act. 

164. If two elements change their distance from one another in 
space, real motion must in any case have occurred ; but it remains 
doubtful which of the two moved or whether both did so, and in the 
latter case the same new position may have been brought about either 
by opposite motions of the two, or by motions in the same direction 
but of different amount. This possibility of interpreting what to our 
perception is the same result by different constructions continues to 
exist most obviously as long as we look exclusively to the reciprocal 
relations of two elements without regard to their common environ 
ment ; nor does it cease when we consider the latter also ; only in 
that case the possible constructions will not all seem equally appro 
priate. We should prefer to regard as in motion the element which 

280 Of Motion. . [BOOK ii. 

is alone in altering its position relatively to many which retain their 
reciprocal situations ; still there is nothing to prevent us from con 
ceiving that one as at rest, and the whole system of the numerous 
others as moving in the opposite direction. I need not pursue the 
advantages which we gain in practice from this plasticity of our ideas; 
but the casuistic difficulties which metaphysic attaches to this Rela 
tivity of motion, seem to me to rest on mere misapprehensions. 

Let us conceive to begin with a solitary element in a perfectly void 
world of space ; is there any meaning in saying that it moves, and 
that in a particular direction ? Again, in what can its motion consist, 
seeing that the element cannot by moving alter its relations to related 
points, as there are none, while we should not even be able to dis 
tinguish the direction in which it would move from the other directions 
in which it would not move ? I think we must answer without 
hesitation : as long as we adhere to ordinary ideas by speaking of 
real space, and by setting down the traversing of it under whatever 
condition as a possible occurrence, there is no reason against re 
garding the motion of this solitary element as one which actually takes 
place, and none therefore against recognising so-called absolute 
motion as a reality. If perfectly empty space is wholly devoid of 
related points for purposes of comparison, even of distinctions between 
the quarters of the heavens, still this does not plunge the motion itself 
into any such ambiguity or indefiniteness of nature as to prohibit it 
from actually occurring ; only we lose all possibility of designating 
what occurs. However little we may be in a position to distinguish 
intelligibly between the point z which is in the direction of the moving 
object e and other points which are not, still it would be distinct from 
all others as long as we regard as real the extension of space which 
by its definite position towards all other points it helps to constitute. 
And however little we could distinguish the direction e z in which e 
moves from other directions, before we had a given line in a par 
ticular plane which would define the position of e z by help of the 
angle formed between them, still ez would be in itself a perfectly 
definite direction ; for such an angle would not be capable of being 
ever ascertained and determined, unless the position of ez were 
already unambiguously fixed at the moment when we applied our 
standard of comparison in order to define it. 

So the assertion that a motion is real is certainly not dependent for ad- 
missibility on the implication of a change of relations in which the real 
element in motion stands to others like it. Indeed, during every moment 
for which we conceive a previously attained velocity to continue ac- 

CHAPTER iv.] Relativity of Motion. 281 

cording to the law of persistence, the moving element moves with 
precisely the kind of reality which is held in the above case to be of 
doubtful possibility. True, in this case we are in a position to assign 
the direction of the motion, within a world in which it took place, by 
relations to other realities and to the space which they divide and 
indicate. Still all these relations in this case only enter into considera 
tion as interfering or modifying causes ; the persistent velocity of the 
element, which we must not leave out of our calculation, is in itself, in 
fact, simply such a motion of a solitary element that takes no account 
of anything else. Thus, so far from being a doubtful case, it is truer 
to say that absolute motion is an occurrence which is really contained 
in all motion that takes place, only latent under other accretions. On 
the other hand, if we intended to acknowledge no motion but what is 
relative, in what way should we suppose it to take place? If we under 
stand by it one which involves a real and assignable change of relative 
position on the part of the elements, how can this change have arisen 
unless one or several of the elements in order to approach or to 
separate from each other had actually traversed the lengths of space 
which form the interval that distinguishes their new place from their 
old ? But suppose we understood by relative motion one which was 
merely apparent, in which the real distances between pairs of elements 
underwent no change. Still it is clear that such an appearance could 
not itself be produced apart from motion really occurring somewhere, 
such that the subject to whom the appearance is presented changes 
its position towards one or more of the elements in question. 

165. Our conclusion would naturally be just the same about the 
other case which is often adduced ; the rotation of a solitary sphere 
in empty space. No doubt it would be absolutely undefinable till a 
given system of co-ordinates should determine directions of axes, with 
which its axis could be compared. But there is also no doubt that 
the specific direction of the rotation is not made by these axes which 
serve to designate it ; the rotation must begin by being thoroughly 
definite in itself, and different from all others, that it may be capable 
of being unambiguously reduced to a system of co-ordinates. All that 
such a reduction is wanted for, is to make it definable; but what 
happens happens, whether we can define it or not ; of course a 
capacity for being known demands plenty of auxiliary conditions, 
whose absence no one would conceive as destroying the possibility of 
the occurrence itself. Suppose we had the clearest possible system 
of co-ordinates at our disposal, and saw a sphere in a particular place 
of that system ; still we should fail to ascertain whether it was turning 

282 Of Motion. [ BOOK ii. 

or not, or in what direction, if it consisted of perfectly similar parts a 
distinguished to our eye neither by colouring nor by variable reflex 
ions of light. At every moment we should observe the similar 
appearance a in the same point of space ; we should have no means 
of distinguishing one instance of the impression from another ; are we 
to infer from this that a sphere of uniform colour cannot turn round 
in space, but only a chequered one ; and even this only with a limited 
velocity, for fear the different impressions of colour should blend into 
an undistinguishable mixture to our eyes ? 

Hence we may be sure that such absolute rotation about an axis is 
perfectly conceivable ; in fact it is not in the least a problematic case, 
but is continually going on. We have no proof of any action of the 
heaven of the fixed stars on the motions within our planetary system, 
nor is it required to explain those motions ; both it and the influences 
of the other planets can never claim to be regarded as more than 
disturbing causes when we are considering the revolution of the earth 
and sun round their common centre of gravity; these two bodies 
therefore actually move as a solitary pair in universal space. And 
again, the earth, by itself, continues its existing rotation about its axis 
without help or hindrance in it from its relation to the sun. So in fact, 
rotation of this kind, the possibility of which is doubted, really occurs, 
only concealed by accessory circumstances which have no influence 
on it ; indeed the instance of a spinning top which maintains its 
plane of rotation and opposes resistance to any change of it, presents 
it strikingly to our senses. The idea of the reality of an infinite 
empty space and the other of an absolute motion of real elements in 
space are thus most naturally united and are equally justifiable; nor 
will it ever be feasible to substitute for this mode of representation 
another which could form as clear a picture in the mind. 

166. As we have surrendered the former of these ideas, we have 
now to reconcile the latter with the contrary notion which we adopt. 
Our observations up to this point could not do more than prove that 
the absolute motion of an element in empty space was conceivable as 
a process already in action; what still appeared impossible was its 
beginning and the choice of a direction and velocity out of the infinite 
number of equally possible ones. This alone would give no de 
cisive argument against an existing space and an actual motion 
through it ; whatever inner development we choose to substitute for 
this apparent state of facts as the real and true occurrence, the im 
possibility of a first beginning will always recur. We should have to 
be satisfied with setting down the fact of motion with its direction and 

CHAPTER iv.i Relative is not Indefinite! 283 

velocity along with the other original realities which we have to look 
on as simply given, and which we cannot deduce from a yet unde 
cided choice between different possibilities. In fact, every permanent 
property of things, the degree of every force, and all physical con 
stants whatever, might give rise in infinite recuirence to the same 
question ; why are they of this specific amount and no other, out of 
the innumerable amounts conceivable ? 

I need only mention in passing once more, that the unavoidable 
relativity of all our designations of such constants is not to seduce us 
into the mistake of considering the constants themselves as indefinite. 
The units to which we refer the measurement of a certain force g, 
and in which we express it, are arbitrarily chosen ; but after they are 
chosen it results from the peculiar and definite intensity of the force 
that according to this standard its measurement must be g and can 
not be ng. A semicircular movement which goes from right to left 
when looked at from the zenith, will go from left to right when 
looked at from the nadir of its axis. This does not prove that its 
direction is only determined relatively to our position, but just the 
reverse ; that it is definite in itself independently of that position, and 
therefore to suit the observer s different points of view must be ex 
pressed by different definitions relating to those points. 

Undoubtedly therefore, the real world is full of such constants, 
perfectly definite, yet taken by themselves incapable of being desig 
nated ; they must be set down as definite even while they vary in 
value according to a law, under varying conditions ; for, to adhere to 
the example of the force above mentioned, its intensity under a new 
and definite condition will always be measured by a function of g, 
and never by the same function of ng. It is, as has been observed 
more than once already, only by application of our movable thought, 
with its comparisons of different real things, that there can arise 
either the idea of countless possibilities, which might equally well 
have existed but do not ; or the strange habit of looking on what is 
real as existent to some extent before it exists, and as then proceed 
ing to acquire complete existence by a selection from among possi 
bilities. Therefore, if we recognise that the first genesis of real 
things is altogether incapable of being brought before our minds by 
us, though we find their continuance intelligible, we may accept 
absolute motion in space and its direction as one of the immemorial 
data from which our further considerations must start. 

167. But it cannot be denied that one thorny question is left. 
We admit all constants which, speaking generally, form the essence 

284 Of Motion. [BOOK ii. 

of the thing whose further behaviour is to be accounted for ; but here 
we have on one side an empty space which is absolutely indifferent 
to all real things and could exist without them, and on the other side 
a world of real things which, even supposing it to seem to us in need 
of a spatial extension of its own, is yet expressly conceived as wholly 
indifferent to the place which it occupies, and therefore just as in 
different to the change of that place, and incapable of determining 
by its own resources the direction of any motion to be initiated, 
although actually engaged in one motion out of infinitely many. 
Sensuous perception may find no difficulty in such a fundamental 
incoherence between determinations which nevertheless do cohere 
together; but thought must pronounce it quite incredible; for the 
endeavours of thought will always be directed to deriving the causes 
which determine the destiny of existing things from the nature of the 
things themselves. To say that motion is the natural state of things 
is utterly worthless as a philosophical idea ; nothing is natural to a 
thing but to be what it is ; states of it may be called matter of fact, 
but cannot be called natural ; they must always have their conditions 
either in the things or without them. Each particular thing, on the other 
hand, cannot be in motion merely in general, but its motion must have 
a certain direction and velocity; further, the whole assumption of 
original motion is only of use by ascribing different directions and 
velocities to different elements ; but as, at the same time, it persists 
in regarding the elements as uniform, it is all the less able to conceive 
such differences as natural states, and is compelled to treat them simply 
as matter of fact, and indeed as alien to the nature of the thing. 

In reality it was this causelessness that was the principal obstacle 
to the recognition of absolute motion; for what, strictly speaking, 
does happen if the advancing element e traverses one empty space- 
point after another, without being in itself at all different when it 
reaches the third from what it was when in the first or second ? or, 
fruitless as the transition is, without so much as receiving an indica 
tion of the fact of its fruitless occurrence : finally, without making it 
possible for even an observer from without, were it only by help of 
relations to other objects, so much as to give a bare designation of 
the supposed proceeding ? And are we to suppose that a process so 
unreal as this, a becoming which brings nothing to pass, must of 
necessity last for ever when once stimulated to action, though to 
begin with incapable of originating without external stimulus ? These 
inconceivabilities have at all times led to some rebellion against the 
view adopted by mechanics (though it yields so clear a mental picture 

CHAPTER iv.] Relative Motion and Apparent Space. 285 

and is so indispensable in practice), which makes the moving ele 
ment merely the substratum of the motion, without any peculiar 
nature which is affected by the motion or generates it by being 
affected. It is objected that motion cannot consist in the mere 
change of external relations, but must in every moment be a true 
inner state of the moving body in which it is other than it would be 
in a moment of rest or of different movement. Then can the view 
which concedes to space no more than a phenomenal validity offer 
anything satisfactory by way of a resolution of this doubt ? 

168. Let us suppose a real element e to be in inner states which 
we will sum up in the expression p. Then the question for us could 
not be whether e p would produce a motion in space, but only 
whether e p could form the ground of an apparent motion of e within 
space for a consciousness which should possess the perception of 
such space. We will begin by making the same assumption as we 
made in the discussion of time 1 ; that the consciousness in question 
is an absolutely immediate knowledge of everything, including there 
fore e p ; and is not based on the acquisition of impressions by means 
of any effect produced by e p on the knowing subject ; and therefore 
does not compel us to attribute to this subject any specific and 
assignable relation to e p . 

Then, I think, we may consistently conclude as follows. Such a 
consciousness has no more ground for ascribing a particular spot in 
the space of which it has a mental picture, or motion in a particular 
direction, to the e p of which it is aware, than e p has power in an 
actual empty space to prefer one place to another as its abode, or one 
direction to others for its motion which has to be initiated. If we 
want to bring before ourselves in sensuous form what appears the 
reasonable result under such imaginary conditions, we can only 
think of a musical note, to which we do no doubt ascribe reality in 
space, but localise it most imperfectly, and then only in respect of 
its origin : or we must think of a succession of notes, which we do 
not exactly take to sound outside space, but which still remains 
a purely intensive succession, and has definite direction only in the 
realm of sound, and not in space. 

I should not adduce such utterly fictitious circumstances, were they 
not about on a par with what is usually put forward by popular 
accounts of the Kantian view ; a ready-made innate perception of 
space, without any definite relations between the subject which has it, 
and the objects which that subject has to apprehend under it. But 
1 [Cp. p. 256 sup.] 

286 Of Motion. t BOOK n. 

in reality we find the consciousness in question invariably attached to 
a definite individual being c, and in place of immediate knowledge 
we find a cognition which is always confined to the operations of 
e on f. Besides this postulate, however, something more is required 
for the genesis of phenomena of motion in the experience of e. 
Whatever the inner state p within e may be, and in whatever way it 
may alter into q and its effect TT on e into K, still, for an e that is simple 
and undifferentiated in itself all this could only be the ground for a 
perception of successive contents, not for their localisation in space 
and for their apparent motion. More is required than even a plurality 
of elements, e p) e q) e r , in different states of excitation, operating 
simultaneously on a simple e. No doubt, the felt differences of their 
action might furnish *, supposing it able and obliged to apprehend 
them by spatial perception, with a clue to the determination of the 
relative positions which their images would have to occupy in space. 
And alterations of their action would then lead to the perception of 
the relative motions by which these images changed their apparent 
places as compared with each other. But the whole of the collective 
mental picture which had thus arisen, whether at rest or in motion, 
would still be without any definite situation relatively to the subject 
which perceived it. The complete homogeneousness of this latter 
would make it analogous to a uniform sphere, so that it could turn 
round within the multiplicity which it pictured to itself without ex 
periencing, in doing so, any alteration in the actions to which it is 
subjected, or any, therefore, in its own perceptions. To make one 
arrangement of phenomena a b c distinguishable from another ar 
rangement c b a or a downward motion to the right from its counter 
part in an upward motion to the left, it is essential that the directions 
in question should be unmistakably distinguished in the space-image 
for e itself by a qualitative mark ; then e will be able to refer every 
action or modification of an element to that direction to which it 
belongs according to the qualitative nature of the impression made or 
of the modification of that impression. 

The result of the argument comes to this, after the insertion of 
some intermediate ideas which I reserve for the psychology. It is 
true that a simple atom, endowed with a perception of space, might 
find occasion in the qualitative differences of the impressions received 
from innumerable others to project a spatial picture of phenomena 
with a definite configuration of its own. But for this same atom there 
would be no meaning in the question what place or direction in 
absolute space such images or their motions occupied or pursued. 

CHAPTER iv.] Position in Apparent Space. 287 

What could be meant by such an expression in general would not 
become intelligible to it till it had ceased to be an isolated atom 
endowed with knowledge, and had come into permanent union with 
a plurality of other elements, we may say at once, with an Organism ; 
such that its systematic fabric, though still to be conceived as itself un- 
spatial, should supply polar contrasts between the qualitatively de 
finite impressions conducted from its different limbs to the conscious 
centre. The directions along which consciousness distributes these 
impressions as they reach it, in its picture of space, and in which it 
disposes such images as appear to it of its own bodily organism, 
would alone furnish consciousness with a primary and unam 
biguous system of co-ordinates, to which further all impressions 
would have to be reduced which might arise from variable intercourse 
with other elements, e the subject of perception may then gain 
further experiences in this intercourse, such as prove to it that per 
manent relations exist between the other elements towards the totality 
of which can give itself and its body varying positions ; and then 
the inducement arises to look in the spatially presented picture of the 
outer world for a fresh system of co-ordinates belonging to that 
world, to which both its permanent relations and e s varying positions 
shall be most readily reducible. 

But it will again be essential to any such fresh system that it should 
be defined by a qualitative distinction between the perceptions 
which are assigned to the opposite extremities of one of its axes * ; 
though on the other hand what place this whole system with its inner 
articulation holds in absolute space, or in what direction of absolute 
space this or that of its axes extends, are questions which on our view 
would cease to have any assignable meaning at all. For this is just 
what does not exist, an absolute space in which it is possible for the 
subject of spatial perception with all the objects of its perception, to 
be contained over again, and occupy a place here or there. Space 
only exists within such subjects, as a mental image for them ; and is 
so articulated for them by the qualitative difference of their impres 
sions, that they are able to assign the appearances of other elements 
their definite places in it ; and finally, it is the thorough coherence of 
all reality which brings about that each of these subjects also presents 
itself in the space pictured by every other in a station appropriate to 
the totality of its relations with the rest of what the world contains ; 
and thus it happens that each of them can regard the space which is 

1 [This alludes to the distinction of up and down furnished by the feeling of 
resistance to the force of gravity. Cp. 287.} 

288 Of Motion. 

in its own perception as a stage common to all, on which it can itself 
meet with other percipient subjects than itself, and can be in relations 
which agree with theirs, to yet another set of subjects. 

169. But it is still necessary to return expressly to the two cases 
given above, in order to insist on the points in them which remain 
obscure. We saw that they present no special difficulties on the 
common view ; if we have once decided to accept empty space as a 
real extension, and motion as an actual passage through it, then 
rectilinear progress and rotation of a solitary element might be 
accepted into the bargain as processes no less real although unde- 
finable. But we should now have to substitute for both of them an 
internal condition of e, say /, whose action TT on an e endowed with 
perception produces in this latter the spectacle of a motion of e through 
the space mentally represented by e. Now according to the common 
view the absolute motion of e, whether progressive or rotatory, though 
it really took place, yet was undefinable. The reason was that the 
observing consciousness which had to define it was treated only as an 
omnipresent immediate knowledge, possessing itself no peculiar relation 
with its object which helped to define its perception ; therefore the de 
signation of the actual occurrence would have been effected in this case 
by co-ordinates independent of the observer ; and as none such were 
found in empty space the problem of designating this occurrence re 
mained insoluble, though its reality was not thereby made less real. 

For us the case is different. What we want to explain is not a real 
movement outside us, but the semblance of one, which does not take 
place outside, within us ; therefore for us the presence of the observing 
subject e for whom the semblance is supposed to be forthcoming, and 
the definite relation of < to the external efficient cause of this semblance, 
is not merely the condition of a possible designation and definition of 
the apparent motion, but is at the same time the condition of its 
occurrence, as apparent. So we too, within the phenomenal world 
which we represent to our minds, may accept the progress or rotation 
of a solitary e for a real occurrence, if we do not forget to include 
ourselves in the conception as the observer e, in whose mind alone 
there can be a semblance at all. For then there must in any case 
be a reaction and a varying one between e and e as elements in one 
and the same world, and it is the way in which the action of e on us 
changes from TT to K while e is itself undergoing an inner modification, 
that will define the direction of the apparent motion in question with 
reference to some system of co-ordinates with which we must imagine 
the space-perceiving e to be equipped from the first if its universal 

CHAPTER iv.] States corresponding to Motion. 289 

perception is to admit of any method of application to particular 

170. Still I feel that these doctrines are inadequate, as strongly as I 
am persuaded that they are correct ; they leave in obscurity a particular 
point on which I will not pretend to see more clearly than others. It 
concerns that transition of e from one inner state to another which in 
acting on us produces for us the semblance of a motion of e. It must of 
course be conceived as going on at times when it does not act on us, or 
before it begins to act on us ; and at those times it can be nothing but an 
inner unspatial occurrence which has a capacity of appearing at some 
later time as motion in space by means of that action upon us which it 
is for the moment without. Here we are obstructed by an inconvenience 
of our doctrine which I regret, but cannot remove ; we have no life 
like idea of inner states of things. We are forced to assume them in 
order to give a possibility of fulfilling certain postulates of cognition 
which were discussed above ; but we cannot portray them ; and any 
one who absolutely scorns to conceive them as even analogous to the 
mental states which we experience in ourselves, has no possible image 
or illustration of the constitution by help of which they accomplish this 
fulfilment of essential requirements. 

This lack of pictorial realisation would not in itself be a hindrance 
to a metaphysical enquiry; but it becomes one in this particular case 
where we are dealing with the conceivability of the motions in question. 
When the element e traverses an apparent path in our perception it is 
true that the beginning of the series of inner states, whose successive 
action on us causes this phenomenon, must be looked for not in e itself, 
but in the influence of other elements ; but still the undeniable validity 
of the law of persistence compels us to the assumption that an impulse 
to motion when it has once arisen in e becomes to our perception 
independently of any further influences the cause of an apparent 
change of place of the sense-image, with uniform continuance. The 
same assumption is forced on us by another instance, that of two 
similar elements e which unceasingly traverse the same circle, being at 
the opposite extremities of its diameter. 

We can easily employ the ordinary ideas of mechanics to help out 
our view so far as to assume an inner reaction between the two 
elements, which, if left to itself, would shorten the distance between 
their sense-images in our perception ; then there would still remain 
to be explained the rectilinear tangential motion, which, continuing 
in consequence of the Law of Persistence, would counteract this 
attraction to the amount needed to form the phenomenal circle. 

VOL. i. u 

290 Of Motion. [BOOK ii. 

Now what inner constitution can we conceive e to possess, capable of 
producing in our eyes the phenomenon of this inertia of motion? 
Considered as a quiescent state it could never condition anything but 
a permanent station of e in our space ; considered as a process it still 
ought not to change e p into e q in such a way that the new momentary 
state q should remove the reason for the continuance of the same 
process which took place during e p ; we should have to suppose an 
event that never ceases occurring, like a river that flows on ever the 
same without stopping, or an unresting endeavour, a process which 
the result that it generates neither hinders nor prohibits from con 
tinuing to produce it afresh. This conception appears extraordinary 
enough, and justifies a mistrust which objects to admitting it before 
it is proved by an example to signify something that does happen, 
and not to be a mere creation of the brain. 

It is certainly my belief, though I will not attempt a more definite 
proof, that mental life would present instances of such a self- 
perpetuating process, which would correspond in their own way to 
the idea, extraordinary as it is though not foreign to mechanics, of 
a state of motion. Perhaps there may even be someone who cares to 
devote himself to pursuing these thoughts further ; after we have been 
so long occupied with the unattainable purpose of reducing all true 
occurrence to mere change of external relations between substrata 
which are in themselves unmoved, even fashion might require a 
transition to an attempt at a comprehensive system of mechanics of 
inner states; then we should perhaps find out what species are 
admitted as possible or excluded as impossible by this conception of 
a state as such, which has hitherto been as a rule rather carelessly 
handled. Till then, our notions on the subject have not the clear 
ness that might be desired, and the law of persistence remains a 
paradox for us as for others ; I will only add that it presents no more 
enigmas on our view than on the common one. The fact of such an 
eternal continuance of one and the same process is actually ad 
mitted by mechanics ; the strangeness of the fact is what it ignores 
by help of the convenient expression which I have quoted, State of 

171. I may expect to be met with the question whether it would 
not be more advisable to abstain from such fruitless considerations ; 
it is not, however, merely the peculiarity of the presuppositions that 
we happen to have made which occasions them. Poisson, in 112 
of his Mechanics, in speaking of uniform motion according to the 
law of persistence, observes ; the space traversed in a unit of time 

CHAPTER IV.] MotlOH and the MeaSUTB of MotlOH. 2QI 

is only the measure of velocity, not the velocity itself; the velocity of 
a material point which is in motion, is something which resides in 
that point, moves it, and distinguishes it from a material point which 
is at rest ; and he adds that it is incapable of detailed explanation. 
I am better pleased that the illustrious teacher should have expressed 
himself somewhat cavalierly on a difficult problem, the solution of 
which was not demanded by his immediate purpose, than if he had 
philosophised about it out of season. He, however, is not open to the 
charge of taking a mere formula of measurement furnished by our 
comparing cognition for a reality in things; on the contrary, he 
justly censures the common notion as overlooking a reality to which 
that formula should only serve as measure. Velocity and accelera 
tion are not merely the first and second differential quotients of 
space and time ; in that case they would only have a real value in as 
far as a length of space was actually traversed; but it is not only 
within an infinitely short distance, but in every indivisible moment 
that the moving body is distinguished from one not moving ; although 
if the time is zero, that which distinguishes them has no opportunity 
to make itself cognisable by the body describing a path in space and 
by the ratio of that interval to the time expended. 

It is impossible to deny this while we speak of the law of per 
sistence. If an element in motion, that passes through a point, were 
even in the unextended moment of passing precisely like another 
which merely is in the point, its condition of rest would according to 
that law last for ever. Therefore, we shall not indeed conclude with 
Zeno that the flying arrow is always at rest, because it is at rest in 
every point of its course. But we shall maintain that it would have 
to remain at rest for ever if it were at rest in a single point, and that 
so it would never be able to reach the other places in which, accord 
ing to Zeno s sophism (which rather forgets itself at this point), the 
same state of rest is to be assigned to it. Now if that in which this 
essence of motion consists cannot exist in an indivisible moment as 
velocity, i.e. as a relation of space and time, but nevertheless must 
exist with full reality in such a moment, then of course nothing 
remains but to regard it as an inner state or impulse of the moving 
object which is in existence prior to its result. We may admit too 
that this impulse moves the element ; for however it may itself have 
arisen by the action of external forces, still Poisson and we were only 
speaking of the impulse which has arisen, in as far as it is for the 
future the cause of the persistence of the motion. 

172. The parallelogram of motions teaches us the result of the 

U 2 

292 Of Motion. i BOOK n. 

meeting of two impulses in the same movable material point. Its 
validity is so certain that all proofs which only aim at establishing its 
certainty have merely logical interest ; we should here be exclusively 
concerned with any which might adduce at the same time the mean 
ing of the doctrine, or the ratio legis which finds in this proposition 
its mathematical expression as applicable to facts. 

If a subject S has a predicate p attributed to it under a condition TT 
this same S as determined by TT could possess no other predicate q ; 
for every condition can be the ground of one consequent only and of 
no other. Thus, the two propositions $ is />, and S K is q, each of 
which may be correct in itself, speak of two different cases or two 
different subjects; mere logical consideration gives no determining 
principle to decide for what predicate ground would be given by the 
coexistence of the two conditions TT and K in the same case or in the 
same subject. The real world is constantly presenting this problem ; 
different conditions may seize upon an element, which they can deter 
mine, not merely in succession, but at once; and as long as no 
special presuppositions are made no one of them can be postponed 
or preferred to the others. Just as little can the conflict of their 
claims remain undecided; in every case a result must be generated 
which is determined by the two conditions together. 

I thought this characteristic of the real world worth a few words of 
express notice ; it is generally presupposed as self-evident and atten 
tion turned at once to determining the form of such a result. If we 
are to attempt this in an absolutely general way, we shall first have to 
reflect on the possibility that the conditioning force of the two may 
depend on their priority in time, and consequently there may be a 
different result if K follows TT and if TT follows K. In the case of 
motion this doubt is solved by the law of persistence. The element 
moved by the condition TT is at every moment in the exact state of 
motion into which it was thrown at the moment in which the motion 
was first imparted. Therefore at whatever moment the second con 
dition K begins to act all the relations are just the same as if TT was 
only beginning to exert its influence simultaneously with K, and so the 
order of the two conditions in time is indifferent. But even so it 
remains doubtful whether K will endeavour to give an element e acted 
on at the same time by the condition TT the same new movement 
q which it would have imparted to it in the absence of IF. If we con 
ceived p as the motion produced first by TT alone, then the motion 
resulting from the two conditions might possibly be not merely p 4- q or 
p q, but also (p + q) (i 8) or p q (i 5) ; if, first, q had been produced 

CHAPTER iv.] Parallelogram of Motions. 293 

alone by K, the addition of TT would turn it into qp (ie) or (p + q) 
(i + *). It is obviously indifferent which of the two formulae we 
choose ; the only function of the mathematical symbol is to designate 
p and q as absolutely equal in rank ; the result which is produced is 
strictly speaking neither sum nor product. Now as the order in 
time of the conditions is indifferent, p q (i + 8) must = p q (i + f) ; and 
this equation is satisfied by either of two assumptions ; that d = e, or 
that both = o. I do not think it possible to decide on general grounds 
for one or other of these assumptions with reference to the joint 
action of any two conceivable conditions however constituted ; on the 
contrary, I am convinced that the first has its sphere of application as 
well as the other ; therefore though it is a familiar fact that the second 
holds good for motions and their combinations, I can only regard 
it, in its place in my treatment of the subject, as a fact of the real 
world, such as is easily interpreted when established on other evidence, 
but such as in default of that confirmation could not be reliably proved 
a priori. The meaning of this fact then is, that n simultaneous 
motions produce in the element e in a unit of time the same change 
of place which they would have produced in n units of time if they had 
acted on e successively, each beginning at the place which e had 
already reached. It is unnecessary to observe how the final place of e 
and also, as the same relations hold good for every infinitely small 
portion of time, the path of e as well, determine themselves by this 
principle in accordance with the parallelogram of forces. 

This behaviour of things is akin in significance to the law of per 
sistence ; just as by the latter a motion once in existence is never lost 
if left to itself, so too in its composition with others none of it is lost, 
in so far as the collective result completely includes the result of each 
separate motion. Only, the process by which this collective conse 
quence is attained must be single at every moment and cannot contain 
the multiplicity of impulses as a persistent multiplicity; it is the resultant, 
which blends them. The expression p + q would correspond to the 
former idea by indicating the two motions which may be allowed to 
succeed one another with a view to obtaining the same result ; the 
other, p q, would express the latter, the process by which this result is 
reached ; namely that the motion in the direction p would be con 
tinuously displaced parallel to itself through the condition q. 

173. In declining the problem of a deduction of the law of the 
parallelogram I expressly said that I only did so in its place in my 
discussion. But if we make the ordinary assumptions of mechanics I 
believe that the restriction of it to mere empirical validity is quite 

2Q4 Of Motion. c BOOK n. 

baseless. I find it maintained that all attempts to prove it as a neces 
sary truth of the understanding have to meet the argument that there 
is nothing in our reason to compel us to assume precisely this arrange 
ment to exist in nature. There would be, it is said, no contradiction 
to the nature of our reason in such an assumption as that the physical 
or chemical quality of the material points and the mode of generation 
of the forces brought into play had an influence on the amount and 
direction of the resultant. For instance, forces of electric origin 
might influence degree and direction of the resultant differently from 
forces of gravitation, or attractive forces differently from repulsive ; it 
is admitted that this is not the case, but alleged that it is only expe 
rience that tells us so. As against this argument I must remind my 
readers that the general science of mechanics treats of forces only 
in as far as they are causes of perfectly homogeneous motions, dis 
tinguished by nothing but direction, velocity, and intensity, and not 
with reference to other and secret properties. The law of the paral 
lelogram applies directly to none but the above motions, and to them 
only as already imparted and so brought under the uniform law of 
persistence ; and this application excludes all reference to the history 
of what precedes their origin. In the same way the movable elements 
are taken to be simply and solely substrata of motion, and perfectly 
indifferent to it. That component, with respect to which they are 
purely homogeneous masses possessing a quantitatively measurable 
influence on the course of their motions only by the resistance of 
inertia, is conceived as standing out separately to begin with from the 
rest of their qualitative nature. 

Granting these postulates our reason has no longer a number of 
possible cases before it ; on the contrary, it is certain that two motions 
which are nothing but changes of place, and have no force behind them 
which can influence their persistence, can produce no more than their 
sum if they are similar, or their difference if they are opposed. This 
determines the maximum and minimum of the change, because no 
increase or diminution of what exists can take place without a reason. 
But supposing that there are other relations between two motions 
besides complete agreement and complete opposition, it is equally 
certain that if the nature of the case admits of both impulses being 
obeyed at once both will have to be satisfied as far as it admits; 
for again, nothing can be subtracted from their complete satisfaction 
unless the new phenomenon of subtraction has a compelling cause 
that hinders the complete continuance of what already exists. Now 
it is the nature of space which in virtue of the infinite variety of 


directions possible in it admits of these relations of imperfect oppo 
sition between motions. And this same nature of space, by permitting 
the different directions to be combined, and compensated by each 
other, makes possible the complete and simultaneous fulfilment of the 
different impulses ; and therefore the determination of the result in 
accordance with the law of the parallelogram is of course a necessity 
and there is no alternative which Can be treated as equally possible. 
This was the proper occasion to notice the objection just refuted ; for 
as long as the question was how the inner movements of things modify 
each other it was possible for the total result of two simultaneous 
impulses to be an increase or diminution of the phenomenon in 
question dependent on the qualitative peculiarities of the impulse 
itself. But when it comes to be decided that their results in the e 
which is acted on are nothing but two homogeneous motions, and when 
these motions come to be regarded as already produced or as commu 
nicated to e, then the further composition of the motions can only 
result according to a simple law that regards what they are at the 
moment and not the utterly extinct history of their past. 


The theoretical construction of Materiality. 

174. THE elements of Real Existence have hitherto been spoken 
of only in so far as regards the positions occupied by them in Space 
and the changes in those positions ; as regards the form and nature 
of that which takes up and changes its positions, we have been silent. 
This latter question, which at the point we have now reached we 
shall be called on to consider, is usually stated as the theoretical con 
struction of Matter. If I were to give this name to the following 
investigations, it could only be with the reservation that I under 
stand the philosophical problem which is commonly designated by 
it in a changed sense. For this Matter, the construction of which 
is required, is not a ready-made fact open to observation. Real 
Existence as known to us in Space consists merely of an in 
definite number of individual objects variously distinguished by 
inherent differences in their sensible qualities. At the same time, 
however, we learn by observation and comparison of these objects to 
perceive a number of common properties in which they all, to a 
greater or less extent, participate. They are all alike extended in 
space ; all alike show a certain tendency to maintain their positions 
against any attempt to change them ; they all oppose a certain vis 
inertiae to any efforts to move them. These common properties of 
things, which are consistent also with the most manifold differences, 
may be classed together under the generic name Materiality, and 
Matter would then be a general term standing for anything which 
participated, to whatever extent, in the above-mentioned modes of 
behaviour. The problem of philosophy would be to determine what 
is the subject of which these are the attributes, and under what con 
ditions there arise in their successive grades the forms of existence 
and of action which we comprehend under the name of Materiality/ 

A general consideration of these questions must have regard to two 
possible modes of answering them. Conceivably the Real Existence 
which appears to us under forms of action so homogeneous, may be 

fs Matter a homogeneous reality ? 297 

not merely of like, but of quite identical nature throughout, and may 
owe the differences which characterise it to subsequent accessory con 
ditions. But it is equally conceivable, that Beings originally distinct, 
and such as cannot be comprehended in the totality of their nature 
under any one notion, should yet be bound by the plan of the world, 
in which they are all included, to express their own inmost and hetero 
geneous Being, where they come into mutual relations, in a language 
of common currency, i. e. by means of the properties of matter. 

175. I shall not now attempt to determine, whether the present 
age with its more extended knowledge of nature has discovered 
grounds decisively favouring the first of these suppositions what is 
certain is, that the ancients, who first propounded this view, proceeded 
on no such sufficient grounds. The conception of an attribute 
admitting of being applied to things differing from each other, they 
hastily transformed into the conception of a real identical subject 
underlying the varieties of phenomena. This example has unfortunately 
been very generally followed by Philosophy in subsequent times, and 
the days are still quite recent when the most strenuous attempts were 
made to construct this universal substratum, though even if it had 
been shown to exist, it would have been most difficult, if not altogether 
impossible, to deduce from it the different material bodies to the 
explanation of which it was supposed to be necessary. In any case, 
this universal matter could not have been adequately determined by 
reference to those predicates which constitute its materiality. For, all of 
them, extension, reaction, vis mer/iae, denote merely the manner or mode 
in which a thing behaves or is related. They do not in any way touch 
the nature of that to which these changes of behaviour are attributed. 

There are two ways in which it may be attempted to get the better 
of this difficulty. As we are under no obligation to lay claim to 
universal knowledge, so it may simply be granted, that Matter is a 
real determinate thing, but known to us and intelligible only in respect 
of its behaviour. This is roughly the point of view which is adopted 
by Physical Science. Science distinguishes that which is extended 
and operative in space from the empty environment in which it 
appears. But it leaves the original nature of this substratum unde 
fined, or ascribes to it only such general characteristics as are forced 
upon it by the analysis of individual objects. By so doing, Science 
gives up the attempt to construct a theory of a universal matter, pre 
ferring rather to examine into the nature of phenomena singly, whilst 
assuming the existence of a common basis underlying them. On the 
other method, if we attempt to deduce the general properties of 

298 The theoretical construction of Materiality. 

matter from the nature of the real thing of which they are predicates, 
we are met by a well-known difficulty. We convinced ourselves, 
when treating of ontology, that to look for the essence of a thing in a 
fixed quality and then to represent the modes of its activity as con 
sequences derivative from this, was a method which could never be 
successful *. We saw, that all those forms of insight which seemed 
to explain the inner nature of things were only possible because they 
were nothing but forms of vision, appearances such as a consciousness 
may present to itself. What lay at the bottom of such perceptions, in 
external reality, always converted itself into some kind of activity 
or process or mode of relation. And however strong may be the 
impulse to attribute these living processes to some subject, we had to 
give up the attempt to explain the marvellous fact of active being, by 
representing its activity as the mere predicate of an inactive subject. 
Similarly, in the present case, it would be labour mis-spent to attempt 
to describe the reality underlying the forms of material existence pre 
vious to and independent of these its manifestations. There does 
however still remain something to be done, viz. to determine the place 
which this inaccessible substratum occupies in the sum-total of exist 
ence. At any rate we must be clear as to whether we mean to regard 
it as something absolutely original and specific, standing in no con 
nexion with other forms of reality, or as itself, no less than its pro 
perties, an intelligible part of the order of the universe. The attempt 
to explain the origin of matter mechanically is now regarded as im 
possible ; no theory of a universal matter can show how the existence 
of matter first became possible and then actual. All that can be 
done is to indicate the manner of its existence and its place in the 
order of the world. Not until the nature of matter had been thus 
explained, and so could be taken for granted, could the attempt be 
renewed to derive individual phenomena by mechanical laws from the 
universal fact of matter. 

176. There has never been a dearth of such attempts ; I shall con 
tent myself with a brief mention of only a few ; confining myself to 
those which stand in the closest relation to existing opinions on the 
same subject. According to Descartes, extension and conscious 
ness constituted together the two ultimate facts of perception, both 
being equally clear and neither admitting of being merged in the other. 
Having made this discovery, Descartes proceeded with a light heart 
to treat also the res extensa and the res cogitans as equally simple 
and clear. He considered that these were the two original elements 
1 [Cp. Bk. I. Chap. 2, 22.] 

CHAPTER v.] Descartes and Spinoza. 299 

of the world, and he maintained that they had no further community 
of nature than such as followed from their having both sprung from 
the will of the creator, and being involved in a relation of cause and 
effect, which the same will had established. Doubtless, an advance 
was made upon this view by Spinoza, in so far as he conceived of 
conscious life and material existence not merely as springing from the 
arbitrary will of the creator, but as two parallel lines of development, 
into which, by reason of its two essential attributes, the one absolute 
substance separated itself. At any rate, it was established that the 
material world does not proceed from any principle peculiar to itself, 
and of undemonstrable origin : the Reality underlying the forms and 
relations of matter in space is the same as the Reality, which in the 
intelligible world assumes the form of Thought. 

But I cannot convince myself that Spinoza got further than this 
point towards a solution of the questions now before us. Though 
insisting on the necessary concatenation of all things, even to the 
extent of denying every kind of freedom, he hindered the development 
of his view, by introducing barren logical conceptions of relation, the 
metaphysical value of which remained obscure. A logical expression 
may often be found for the content of a conception by enumerc ting a 
number of attributes co-ordinated in it. All that this really means is 
that every such determination a is imposed upon the single object 
in question by the given condition p, with the same immediate neces 
sity with which in another case the determination b would follow upon 
the occurrence of q. But we cannot tell in what consists the unity of 
a substance, which apart from all such conditions exhibits. two original 
disparate sets of attributes, leaving it open as to whether these are 
eternal forms of Being (essentia), and as such help to constitute the 
nature of the substance, or whether we are to understand by them 
merely two modes in which the nature of this substance is apprehended 
by us. The fact that in respect to the infinite substance every influ 
ence of external conditions must be denied, makes it all the more 
necessary that the inner relations which are contained in its essential 
unity, issuing as they do in such very different modes of manifestation, 
should be explained and harmonised. The striking peculiarity of the 
circumstance that Thought and Extension should be the attributes 
thus colligated, is not explained away, it is only hidden from view by 
the suggestion that besides these attributes, there are an infinite 
number of others, which though inaccessible to our knowledge are 
yet co-ordinated together in the nature of the absolute after the same 
incomprehensible fashion. 

300 The theoretical construction of Materiality. 

Again, every individual existence in the material world may be 
logically subsumed under the universal attribute which is called by the 
not very appropriate name extension, as species or subspecies ; but, 
in the merely formal conception of absolute substance, there is nothing 
whatever to determine why out of the infinitude of possible modifica 
tions of the absolute substance which are logically conceivable, one 
should exist in reality and another should not or, supposing it to be 
held that in the infinite unexplored totality of existence all these 
numberless possibilities as a matter of fact are realised, there must still 
be some reason why the events within the limits of our own experience 
take place in the order in which they do and not in another. Those 
two attributes of the infinite substance would, if left to themselves, be 
able to develope merely the system of all possible consequences 
derivable from them ; but such is not the reality which we find before 
us ; in order to arrive at that we need either a plurality of underived 
existences, or a simple plan capable] of being the reason why of the 
possible consequences of those principles some occur often, others 
but rarely, and all in such infinitely various combinations. 

Once more, it is true that no modification of the one attribute can 
be derived out of a modification of the other, and therefore thought 
cannot be derived from extension nor extension from thought. But 
the logical impossibility of deriving one from the other analytically 
cannot invalidate the possibility of their synthetic combination in 
actual reality, except on a view which treats logical subordination as if 
it were the same with dependence in fact, and confuses a condition 
with a cause. The necessary admission that in Being there are 
elements which cohere and mutually affect each other, though in 
thought they are incommensurable, cannot be replaced by the weari 
some repetition of the assertion, ordo et connexio rerum idem est 
atque ordo et connexio idearum. Whatever reference this proposition 
may be supposed to have, whether to the parallelism of the forms of 
Being in the totality of the world, or to the combination of physical 
and psychical functions in the life of each individual, as long as 
consciousness and extension have admittedly no common term, there 
can be no common term between the order and connexion of their 
respective modifications. Their alleged identity can only be under 
stood in the restricted sense that always and in every case the modifi 
cation b of the attribute B corresponds with the modification a of the 
attribute A, and that the change of a into a is followed always by a 
corresponding change of b into /3. But there is no proof that the 
correspondence which is exhibited as a matter of fact between a a 

CHAPTERV.] SckelHng and Hegel. 3OI 

and b /3 rests on any identity of nature ; or, in other words, that the 
transition between two modifications of the one attribute is or expresses 
or repeats the same thing in a different form as the corresponding 
transition in the other. I cannot, therefore, discover that Spinoza has 
advanced the explanation of the material world in its relation to the 
spiritual. Instead of a metaphysical theory, what he gives is scarcely 
more than a logical classification. According to this, material and 
spiritual existences may be ranked under two disparate categories, 
which, both as real determinations in the nature of the absolute, and 
in all that is produced from it, are, not indeed by any inner necessity, 
but always as a matter of fact, combined. It is quite possible that we 
may not be able to make any advance worth speaking of beyond this 
point ; but, in that case, we must admit that we have arrived at a 
result which is worth almost nothing, and we shall not feel bound to 
make any profession of enthusiasm on account of such a trifling 
addition to our knowledge. 

177. I shall touch only briefly on the kindred speculations which 
our own idealist philosophy has developed more recently. Schelling 
contented himself at first, as Spinoza had done, with the recognition 
of that Law of Polarity, which as a fact constrains the absolute to 
develope itself under the twofold form of Ideality and Reality. He 
interested himself more, however, in showing the constant presence of 
these two elements in every phenomenon, and explained the manifold 
differences of things as arising from the preponderance of one or other 
of them. But it soon became evident (as would have appeared even 
more clearly if his demonstration had been successful) that he intended 
to regard this duality not as a mere fact, but as a necessary process 
of differentiation involved in the original nature of the Absolute. At a 
later period, he was dominated, as was Hegel, by the thought of a 
development within which the material world appears as an anticipa 
tion of the higher life of the Spirit. Of this development Hegel 
believed himself to have discovered the law. 

It would be impossible, without going to extreme length, to give a 
representation of the governing purpose of Hegel s account, which 
should be at once faithful to the original, and at the same time 
adapted to our present habits of thought. I shall confine myself, 
therefore, to attempting to show that he has confused two classes cf 
questions which ought to be kept distinct. After satisfying oneself 
that the purpose of the world is the realisation of some one all- 
comprehensive idea, and after being further assured that the arrange 
ment of the forms of existence and activity in a fixed system is re- 

302 The theoretical construction of Materiality. 

quired as a means to this realisation, one may proceed to ask, what is 
the place of matter in such a system ? what necessary and peculiar 
function is served by it ? It would then be natural to speak first of 
matter in its most universal form, i. e. materiality as such ; and we 
might hope to find that the same inner process of development, 
following which the original idea of matter breaks itself up into 
certain definite postulates of existence, necessitated by the corre 
spondence of the idea with the whole sphere of reality, would be 
followed in like manner by the concrete forms which different objects 
assume in filling in the common outline, and that these would be 
similarly developed. No one now believes in the pleasant dream that 
this project is realisable, still less that it has been realised. Still, there 
is nothing unintelligible in the notion itself. What troubles us is the 
obscurity of the connexion between this project and the second of the 
problems I alluded to, that of showing how the postulates dictated by 
the Idea are satisfied both in existence as a whole, and in the complex 
course of actual events in particular. As regards the former point, it 
may be sufficient to bear in mind that the self-developing idea is no 
mere system of conceivable possibilities of thought, but itself living 
reality. The same reflexion cannot, however, as often it is wrongly 
made to do, serve the place of a system of mechanics, determining in 
reference to each concrete existence in Space and Time why precisely 
here and now this rather than some other manifestation of the idea 
should necessarily be realised. 

178. More in accordance with the scientific views at present held 
is the teaching of Kant. I can remember how a few decades ago the 
student used to hear it said that of all Kant s epoch-making works 
the deepest were those which treated of the Metaphysical basis of 
Natural Science. While admitting the worth of what Kant has written 
on this subject, I cannot value it quite so highly. I lament, in the first 
place, the gap which separates the results of these speculations from 
those of the Critique of the Reason. The ideal nature of space which 
is asserted in the Critique is here left almost out of account ; the con 
struction of matter is attempted exclusively from the ordinary point of 
view, according to which there is a real extension, and there must be 
activities adapted to fill it. I lament no less what has previously been 
observed by Hegel, viz. that there should remain such uncertainty as 
to the subject to which the activities thus manifesting themselves in 
Space, and so constituting matter, are to be attributed. That this 
subject is what moves in Space, and that it is the reality which under 
lies our sensations, these seem to be the only determinations of it 

CHAPTER v.] Kant on Matter and Extension. 303 

which are not derived from what the properties of matter show them 
selves to be by their subsequent effects. Who or what this is that is 
thus movable or real remains unexplained. Taking into considera 
tion the fact that Kant used to speak of things in themselves in the 
plural, it seems probable that his thoughts on this subject did not pass 
beyond the conception of an indefinite multiplicity of real elements, 
an obvious hypothesis, which was likely to recommend itself to him 
for the purposes of Physical Science. This view is confirmed by his 
mode of deriving the differences of individual existences from com 
binations of the two * primary forces in varying degrees of intensity, 
which is his invariable explanation of matter as a phenomenon. Now 
these differences of combination would have nothing to stand upon if 
they are not based on specific differences of nature in the real elements 
which they combine. Although, therefore, it is not explicitly laid down 
that the Real elements are originally distinct, still this interpretation is 
quite as little excluded, and it may be admitted that what Kant is 
endeavouring to explain is not a universal matter, but rather the 
universal form of materiality, together with the special manifestations 
which are developed within this form in consequence of the character 
istic nature of the Reality which the form contains. But, supposing 
this to be admitted, we should still be at a loss to explain how this 
real existence is related to Space, in which it thus makes its ap 
pearance. If we refer back to the Critique of the Reason, we find one 
thing settled, but only in the negative. True Being can neither be 
itself extended, nor can the relations in which it is expressed be other 
than purely intelligible ones. The problem would then have been to 
show how the elements of Real existence are able to present them 
selves to our consciousness 2 in which alone space is contained in 
such a way that they not merely take up definite positions, but also 
have the appearance of being extended in Space. Kant never really 
handled this question. The forces of attraction and repulsion which he 
mentions can only be understood on the supposition of certain definite 
points from which they are put in operation by the ultimate elements. 
Moreover, if Space which is continuous is to be continuously filled with 
matter, differing indeed in degrees of density, but still such that no 
smallest particle of it can be absolutely driven out of Space even by the 
greatest pressure, and if matter is to an unlimited extent divisible into 
parts which still remain matter, there seems to be nothing left for our 
imagination but to conceive of extension in Space and impenetrability 
as original and fixed characteristics of the real substratum, which 
1 [I.e. attraction and repulsion.] a [ Anschauung. ] 

304 The theoretical constriction of Materiality. [B OOK IL 

thus becomes the basis of further enquiry. But in that case, what we 
should have would be neither a universal matter nor the universal 
form of materiality. The latter would be merely assumed as the 
common characteristic in real elements otherwise diverse, in order 
that it might serve as a basis for investigation into the relations 
subsisting between different material existences. This result would 
not be very unlike that which is soon reached by the ordinary 
reflexion upon Nature. Different kinds of unknown elements are 
assumed, which owing to causes also unknown we come upon, each 
of them in numerous specimens, at different points in Space. At 
these different points each fills a certain volume with its presence ; 
their presence is manifested by the changes of position which they 
originate, and by the resistance which they offer to any attempts 
coming from without to remove them from their occupancy or to 
lessen its extent. In other words, we think that there are many 
different kinds of matter which are distinguished for us by the different 
coefficients which we are compelled to assign in each of them to 
the action of certain forces or inherent tendencies common to 

them all. 

179. The application of this conception of force in order to 
explain the fundamental qualities of matter has always been regarded 
as the most valuable advance of Kant s Philosophy of Nature, though 
to some it has seemed to go further than experience would warrant. 
Kant himself does not appear to me to have allowed the motive 
clearly enough to emerge which led him to this view, though there can 
be no doubt as to what it was, and we may trace it thus. He mentions l 
Lambert s account of Solidity as a necessary property of all material 
existence. According to Lambert, it follows from the very concep 
tion of Reality, or, in other words, it is a consequence of the Law of 
Contradiction, that the mere fact of the presence of a thing in Space 
makes it impossible that any other thing should occupy the same 
position at the same time. Against this it was contended by Kant 
that the Law of Contradiction could not by itself keep back any part 
of matter from approaching and making its way into a position 
already occupied by some other part. This objection is not quite 
fair. We should not expect the physical impossibility referred to 
to be produced by the Principle of Contradiction, but only in ac 
cordance with that principle and by the fact of solidity which for 
practical purposes, we assume as an attribute of Real Existence. And 

1 [Kant. Metaphysische Anfangsgriinde der Naturwiss. Dynamik. Lehrsatz I. 

CHAPTER v.] Why assume expansive force ? 305 

why should we not make this assumption if there is nothing at variance 
with it in experience ? It is no sufficient reason against doing so to 
urge, as Kant does in the course of his Proof of this Precept No. i 
of his Dynamic, that to make way into a position is a motion; and that 
in order for there to be a decrease or cessation of motion there must be 
a motion proceeding from an opposite quarter, or rather a something 
which can produce such a motion, a moiive force. For the view of 
atomism according to which the smallest particles of matter are pos 
sessed of solidity, though it would admit that motion makes its way 
up to the surface of a body, would not admit that it makes its way 
into the body ; yet, according to this view, the effects of the impact 
communicated would not vanish without producing an effect at the 
surface of the solid matter, but would be distributed from one atom 
to another, or to several atoms, and so become imperceptible. 
Whatever difficulties may attend the explanation of the phenomena 
by this method, at any rate a closer investigation than has been 
entered on by Kant would have been required in order to exhibit 

Again, what Kant adds in his note is not to me convincing. He 
admits that in constructing a conception it is allowable to assume any 
datum to start with, e.g. solidity, without attempting to explain what 
the datum itself is. This, however, he says, gives us no right to affirm 
that the hypothesis is altogether incapable of being explained by 
mathematics. It seems to him that such a view would only hinder us 
in the attempt to penetrate to the first principles of science. But 
supposing we were willing to go so far with Kant as to assume the 
force of expansion, to which he gives precedence, would this be more 
than a datum, which could be used certainly to explain subsequent 
manifestations, but was itself taken for granted and would not admit 
of being deduced from the nature of real existence as such ? The 
point at which a man will declare himself satisfied in this matter really 
depends in each case on his individual taste. There could be no real 
necessity to follow Kant in assuming something more than solidity as 
a fact pure and simple, unless it could be shown that solidity itself 
is either impossible or inadequate. Now the question whether it is 
impossible must for the present be left out of account ; inadequate, 
however, it certainly is. The fact that no visible body is of unvary 
ing extension, but all are susceptible of compression or expansion, 
would, it is true, apart from Kant s assumption of a continuous 
plenum in space, form no immediate disproof of the solidity in 
question, though this obviously implies the allegation of unvary- 

VOL. I. X 

306 The theoretical construction of Materiality. [BOOK n. 

ing volume. The atomic theory, postulating empty spaces between 
its solid elements, would have a different explanation for the varying 
size of substances. But all the phenomena of elasticity, in which 
bodies resume their former shapes so soon as the external agencies 
which determined them to change have ceased to operate, prove 
beyond question that there must lie in the very nature of real exist 
ence conditions capable of producing states of Being which as yet 
are not. The form and extension, consequently, which an object of 
sensible perception assumes, cannot attach to it as an original and 
fixed property, but are rather a varying state of its existence, determined 
by inner conditions inherent in its Being. Sometimes, the object is 
permitted to appear in its true form, sometimes it is hindered from 
doing so ; in the latter case, however, i. e. where the inner states of 
Being are prevented from giving themselves expression, they make 
known their existence by the resistance which they offer to the adverse 
influences. These inner determinations may be spoken of as forces, 
in order to distinguish them from properties. It will then be seen not 
to be enough to ascribe solidity, as a property, though it were only to 
the smallest particles of matter. The atoms themselves must have 
certain moving forces attaching to them, in order to make the ever- 
changing volume even of composite bodies intelligible. 

Thus we may say provisionally that Kant regarded as fundamental 
in this problem of Science that principle which we cannot dis 
pense with even though we prefer the other principle ; but which may 
very well help to explain that other principle. This solid matter was 
not a fact open to observation ; it was not so even as applied to the 
smallest particles ; it was an hypothesis. Hence, it could be denied, 
and every occupation of space not merely by large visible bodies, but 
by their smallest elements, could be regarded as a perpetually changing 
state produced by the force of expansion, according as its action was 
free or impeded. Stated in a few words the case stands thus. If 
every material existence, remaining always indivisible, occupied the 
same space at one time as at another, solidity might be predicated of 
it as an original quality which it must not be attempted further to ex 
plain. But, now, inasmuch as extension, though a character indelebilis, 
is not a character mvan abilis of matter, the extension which a thing 
has at any moment is the result of conditions which though present 
at that moment may vary at other moments ; one of these conditions 
lies in matter itself, and offers a resistance, though not an insuperable 
one, to those which come from without. 

180. I wish to dwell for a moment longer on the difference to 

CHAPTER v.] Force and Quality. 307 

which I have referred between a fixed quality and a force. We have 
been long convinced that what we ordinarily call properties of things 
are really only modes which they assume, or manifestations which 
become known to us as the result of their interaction. Things do 
not have colour except as seen by us, and at the moment when in 
combination with waves of light they stimulate the eye. They are 
not hard, except in relation to the hand which attempts to move or 
pierce them. As a matter of fact, then, we should be at a loss to 
point to an indubitable instance of what we mean by a quality of a 
thing. All we can say is, that we are clear ourselves as to what 
we mean. By a quality is meant that which a thing is for itself and 
independently of any of its relations to other things. Hence, in order 
to exist, a quality neither requires these other things, nor is interfered 
with by them. A force, on the other hand, is not, like a quality, 
something belonging to things as such. In order, therefore, for a 
thing to be what it is, we do not attribute to it any force of being ; 
though we do speak of its having a force of self-conservation, in 
opposition to certain conditions which we assume to be capable of 
changing it. Our conception of a force, therefore, involves the thought 
that the character of a thing is neither unchanging, nor yet on the 
other hand determinable to an unlimited extent from without. Rather, 
it implies that when the two things meet, they both undergo a real 
change, the change of the one depending on the nature of the other, 
but each at the same time by its own nature forbidding a change 
without limits or one which would amount to a surrender of its essen 
tial Being. If qualities attach to things in their isolation, forces can 
only belong to them in consideration of their relation to each other ; 
they are, in fact, conditions which enable one thing to affect another 
and to place itself to it in different relations. It is in this sense that 
Kant speaks of the forces which fill space ; they belong to the separate 
parts of matter, and are brought into activity by these parts in their 
mutual relations ; their appropriate effects they either succeed in pro 
ducing, or else show to be present by the resistance which they offer 
to other forces tending to hinder them. Here, however, it may be 
objected that Kant did not confine himself to the exposition of 
this process, but that taking this for granted as a universally pre 
supposed fact, he imported into the discussion considerations of quite 
a different order, attaching to the term Force, which he selected. 
I do not believe that Kant himself is liable to the charge here made 
against him ; but the popular view of nature which was suggested by 

X 2 

308 The theoretical construction of Materiality. 

his doctrines, has given rise to a number of false opinions, and these 
therefore we shall now proceed to examine more at length. 

181. It is no doubt most useful to be able to express the import 
of an intricate relation between several connected points, by means 
of a single word ; at the same time, there is danger in doing 
this. After the word has been called into existence, not only are we 
able to combine it with other words, but we are led to suppose that 
every such grammatical combination has something real correspond 
ing with it in fact. Thus, we speak first of all of force, and then of 
the force of matter. The use of the genitive in this instance, implying 
as it does that matter is possessed of force, or, that force is exercised 
by matter, has suggested these interminable questions concerning the 
nature of force as such, and its relation to matter of which it is a 
function. Such questions cannot be easily answered at once, when 
stated in this form. To understand, however, the applications of 
which this conception of force admits, we have only to observe the 
ordinary usage of Physical Science. Physics makes no mention of 
Force in itself, but only of its effects, i. e. of the changes to which it 
gives rise, or which it hinders. It is moreover against the Law of 
Persistence that an element should of itself modify its own states ; the 
impulse to change must come from some other element. Thus, an 
element a is not possessed of a force p until a second element b is 
presented to it on which it may take effect. The force is really pro 
duced in a by the relation to b ; and it changes to q or r if either the 
nature of the second element or the relation of a to it is changed. 
Now, observation shows that there is nothing impossible in the 
attempt to determine the nature of the elements, the relations in which 
they may stand to each other, and the changes which they un 
dergo in consequence of these relations. We can understand how, 
when elements containing specific amounts of generic properties enter 
into specific forms of some general relation, there are general effects 
which follow and vary proportionally according to definite laws. The 
proposition, a is possessed of the force/, when all that it implies is 
fully stated, in the first instance merely conveys the assurance that 
whenever a is brought into a specific relation m with a given element 
I, changes of state will be experienced both by a and by b which will 
go together to form the new occurrence, of fixed character and 
amount, TT. Having arrived at this result we may then go on lo 
speak of this fixed determinate force in another way, as if, i. e. it were 
present in a in an ineffective and indeterminate form, its definite effect 
being supposed to depend on subsequent conditioning circumstances, 

CHAPTER v.] Idea of dormant Force. 309 

e. g. the nature of the elements b or c which come into contact with a, 
the peculiarity of the relation m or n into which a is brought, the pre 
sence or absence of some third circumstance. To all these causes 
the actual realisation of the result TT or AC might be ascribed. Even 
this mode of statement, however, expresses no more than a presump 
tion as to what will necessarily happen in a given supposed case. It 
follows in accordance with the general law which connects the changes 
of things with one another, that the circumstances being such as they 
are, no other result could have happened. Each of the elements, in 
virtue of its own nature, contributes to this result, and it is an allow 
able mode of statement first of all to represent them as containing 
severally and individually all the required conditions, and then to 
rectify the error of such an assumption by adding that the force 
potentially inherent in each element cannot become active until 
the element enters into some specially determined relation. As 
a matter of fact, it is this special relation which gives rise to the 
force. If we desire a definition of force, we may say that it is 
that quantitatively and qualitatively determined result, which may or 
must ensue, whenever anyone element enters into a specific relation with 
any other. It is only for convenience of speech that this future result, 
which under given conditions we are justified in expecting, is ante 
dated as a property already present though inoperative in the element. 
This being understood, there can be no harm in thus speaking of a 
force as being asleep and awaiting the moment of its awakenment, 
according as the conditions, which together with the specific nature 
of the element constitute all that is necessary to produce the result, 
are present or absent. We shall perhaps make the matter clearer, if 
we adduce other instances besides those of physical forces with 
which we are more immediately concerned. Thus, it is the same 
conception of force which we have in view, when we speak of the 
powers of the mind, the revenue-yielding power of a country, or the 
purchasing power of money. In this last case, no one seriously 
believes that the current coin contains some latent property which 
gives it its value. The possibility of obtaining a given quantity of 
goods in exchange for so much money depends on highly com 
plex relations which men enter into for purposes of traffic ; and the 
value of the money changes not owing to any change in the substance 
of the metal, but to a change in some one of the conditions by which 
the value of the money is for the time being determined. There would 
be no power of purchase in money if there were no market in which 
to exchange it. Similarly we are quite justified in speaking of the 

310 The theoretical construction of Materiality. 

Power of Judgment as a property of mind. When we make an asser 
tion in regard to any given matter before us, which is what properly 
constitutes a judgment, it is certainly our intellectual nature that is 
called into exercise ; at the same time, however, it would be nonsense 
to speak of a power of judgment, which belonged to us before we 
came to make use of it, or one which was constantly being exercised 
without reference to any distinct object-matter. It is impossible to 
say more than that we are constituted by nature in such a way that 
the mind, when it is acted upon by impressions from without, not only 
receives the impressions singly, but reacts upon them in that way of 
comparison of their different contents which we call judgment. It is 
only at the moment when it is exercised that the Power of Judgment 
is living and present, and this applies not only to the reality of the 
activity, but also to its nature and content ; these likewise being 
dependent on the conditions which bring them into existence for the 
time being. We may say the same as regards the conception of force 
which obtains in Mechanics. Thus when we speak of centrifugal force, 
we do not mean that this force is possessed by Bodies as such, when they 
are at rest. We at once see that we are speaking of effects which may 
or must take place when bodies are rotating or being swung round. 
If we distinguish from these forces certain others, such viz. as the 
attraction which bodies exercise upon each other, and call the latter 
primary forces inherent in the bodies as such, all that we mean is that 
the conditions under which such forces arise are extremely simple and 
always fulfilled. In order for two elements to be drawn to each other 
by the force of attraction, all that is required is that they should exist 
at the same time in the same world of space. This one condition, 
however, is indispensable ; it would have no meaning to say that an 
element gravitated, if there were no second element to determine the 
direction of its motion. 

We shall not, therefore, attempt to determine what actual relation 
subsists between forces and the bodies which are their substrata, be 
lieving as we do that the problem itself results from a misunderstand 
ing. No such relation exists in the sense that a force can in any 
way be separated from the body which we call its substratum. Its 
name force is only a substantive-name employed to express a pro 
position, the sense of which is, that certain consequences follow upon 
certain conditions. What it signifies is neither a thing, nor any exist 
ing property of a thing, nor again is it a means of which a thing could 
avail itself in order to produce any given result. It merely affirms the 
certainty that a given result will happen in a given case, supposing all 

CHAPTER V.] FoTCC IH Physical SciCHCC. 311 

the necessary conditions to be complied with. Nor can we ourselves 
attach any meaning to those hastily-conceived maxims, which are 
popularly held to express the truth on this subject, such e. g. as that 
there can be no force without matter ; and, no matter without force. 
These equally stale propositions merely add a small grain of truth to 
the old error in a more perverted form. It is rather true that there is 
no force inherent in any matter, and no matter which by itself has or 
brings with it any kind of force. Every force attaches to some 
specific relation between at least two elements. On the other hand 
no opinion is here expressed with regard to the question as to whether 
it is possible for two elements thus to be brought in relation without 
some force being engendered. It is dangerous to attempt to lay 
down propositions by the way with regard to matters of fact, merely 
for the sake of making a verbal antithesis. 

182. If these considerations are regarded as conclusive, the term 
force will be understood, not indeed in the sense in which it is 
sometimes used, viz. as a Law according to which things take place, 
but as an assertion in regard to each single case to which the term is 
applied that we have in that case an instance of the operation of 
the Law. Thus understood, the term will not suggest any meta 
physical explanation as to why the particular facts must fall under 
the general Law. 

It is this sense which Physical science is content to adopt when 
making use of the term. For the practical aim of science, that of 
connecting events in such a way as will enable us on the basis of 
present facts to predict the Future or unriddle the Past, it is found 
amply sufficient to know the general law of the succession of pheno 
mena and by inserting the special modifications of its conditions 
which occasion prescribes to determine the nature of the result. 
Science can afford to be indifferent as to the inner connexion by 
which results are made to follow antecedents. It cannot be main 
tained that this was all that Kant intended to be understood by his 
conception of force. He everywhere speaks as if he meant to ex 
plain extension not as a simple consequence of the existence of 
matter, but rather as due to the action of a force. This is a very 
different conception of force from that according to which it is 
regarded simply as the connexion of phenomena in accordance with 
Law. Clearly he means by Force something which is active in the 
strict sense of the word, something which, he believes, will produce 
real changes of state ; whereas, the counter-theory, confining itself 
within narrower limits, asserts only that they follow each other in 

312 The theoretical construction of Materiality. [BOOK n. 

orderly succession. The popular view of nature which based itself 
on Kant s doctrine imported into the idea of physical force all those 
associations which are suggested by reflexion on our own conscious 
activity. In order for this doctrine not to seem to be at variance 
with the observed facts of the outer world, it had to be toned down, 
and, in spite of the manifold contradictions which the idea involved, 
the activity was regarded as Will or Impulse unconscious of itself. 
These latter-day developments of Kant s view I shall for the present 
leave to take care of themselves. It will, however, be understood 
after what I have urged in the ontological portion of my work 
as regards the relation of cause and effect, that this view which has 
been made to bear so heavily on Kant, is one in which I fully agree 
with him I agree with him in the general recognition of an inner 
process and activity, in virtue of which things are able to be that 
which, according to the frequent expression of Physicists, it alone 
belongs to them of right to be, viz. interconnected points serving as 
the basis of ever-varying combinations, centres from which forces 
proceed and to which they return, points of intersection at which 
different converging processes meet and cross each other in fixed 
succession. I do not regret that Kant should have refused to put 
this view on one side. I regret rather that he should not have 
brought us to closer quarters with it. The general position for which 
I have already contended does not require to be further elaborated 
in reference to this special case of Physical causation. An element a 
cannot produce the effect p merely because there is a general law Z, 
which prescribes that when a stands in the relation m to b, the result 
p shall follow. No doubt this result does follow in the given case, 
i. e. we who are the spectators see and know that it does so. But, in 
order for the change itself to take place, in order for a to give birth 
to an activity under these new conditions which it did not previously 
produce, it must undergo an experience through being placed in the 
relation m which otherwise it would not have undergone, and, 
similarly, the effect p could never be brought home to b, merely 
because the relation m existed between b and a. The existence of 
the relation m must have been felt by b before it could have been 
acted on. Hence, the results which arise in each case are not con 
sequences of mere relations which subsist between a and b. These 
relations, as we call them, are really inner states of Being, which 
things experience as the result of their mutual activity. It is not to be 
expected that this theory of an unceasing activity of the inner life of 
things will be of much real assistance in the explanation of each 

CHAPTER V.] Attraction (111(1 RepulsiOll. 313 

separate fact of nature. It is a supposition, however, which it is 
necessary for us to entertain if we are to cease to regard the world 
from a point of view, which however useful it may be for practical 
purposes is full of inconceivabilities, the view, viz. that the elements 
of existence are without individuality and without life, endowed with 
reality merely because a network of relations is established between 
them by the agency of general laws. The usefulness of this latter 
point of view, if considered merely as a half statement of the 
truth, I shall not dispute, whilst at the same time I shall point out 
how far it is applicable and justifiable, and when and where it is 
necessary to recur to what actually takes place in the nature of 

183. Out of the multitude of opinions which offer themselves for 
consideration at this point I shall make mention, first, of Kant s view, 
according to which there are two forces necessary to every material 
existence, the force of attraction, by which things are made to cohere, 
and the force of repulsion by which they are expanded; the two 
together forming a standing element in the countless attempts at 
explanation which have been made since Kant s time. I must confess 
myself that I do not feel much interest in these two forces. When 
the point is raised as to how it can be that a given matter has 
definitely fixed limits of extension, it is easy to see that there must be 
some reason why it is what it is neither more nor less i. e. there 
must be an attraction of the parts, which if it were allowed to work 
alone would reduce the extension to nil, and there must also be 
repulsion, which similarly, if it were the only principle at work, would 
make the extension infinite. This is simply a logical analysis which 
might be applied to the conception of any real existence which has 
a definite magnitude in space. The enquiry does not become meta 
physical until it deals with two further questions ; how, that is, these 
two mutually opposed forces are possible, both attaching as they do 
to the same subject ; and what that is which produces and main 
tains them in such varying proportions as are required in order to 
give rise to the manifold differences of material things in point of 

The first of these two questions has been made a subject of in 
vestigation by Physics. It was considered that to ascribe to matter 
two equally original opposed forces would involve a contradiction in 
terms. The attempt was therefore made to assign the two forces to 
different subjects. The mutual attraction of the parts proceeded from 
the ponderable elements, the repulsion was regarded as confined to 

3 1 4 The theoretical construction of Materiality. \ BOOK n. 

particles of imponderable ether ; and thirdly, an interchange of ac 
tivities between the two classes of elements was admitted, in order to 
explain those varying states of equilibrium between attraction and 
repulsion which the facts required. Whether this last result was 
secured by the hypotheses is for our present purpose indifferent. It 
may be admitted that the reasoning is logically sound, though the 
conclusion is only necessary, if, in compliance with the usage of 
language, both forces are conceived as original and essential attributes 
of the subjects to which they attach. How the whole matter may be 
regarded from a different point of view, for which the course of my 
argument will already have prepared the way, I shall now proceed 
gradually to unfold, ignoring provisionally arguments derived from the 
alleged ideality of space. Even if we adopted the ordinary view of 
the nature of space, it would not really become any less difficult to 
explain, why the mutual relation between two elements, belonging to 
the same world, should be one of absolute repulsion, when this fact 
would seem rather to show that the world to which they belonged 
was not the same; nor would it be less wonderful that two other 
elements, both of them, similarly, supposed to belong to one and the 
same world of extended matter, should be drawn towards each other 
by such an absolute force of attraction, as that if there were no 
counteracting principle, the whole possibility of their extension 
would be annihilated. Once grant that the world is a single 
whole, and not a mere confused aggregate of existences, and it 
will follow that its component elements cannot be governed by 
any abstract principles of attraction or repulsion, driving them 
continually out of or into one another, but must aim at the conserva 
tion of the whole order, which, in accordance with the intention of 
the whole, assigns to each one of them its place at each moment of 
time. The force which proceeds from the collective mass of the 
elements, is one which determines the position of those elements and 
which, while it seems to reside in each individual element, really sets 
itself against any deviation from the law imposed on all. It sets 
limits to the nearness or remoteness of objects as regards each other, 
appearing in the one case as the force of repulsion, in the other, as 
that of attraction ; in both cases acting as a corrective wherever there 
is a tendency in the object to oppose the requirements of the whole. 
I wish to see the order of our thoughts on this subject reversed. 
We are accustomed to regard the position of a thing as the result of 
certain forces acting upon it. The first consideration, as I think, on 
the contrary, is precisely the position which a thing occupies, as deter- 

CHAPTER V.] ThingS and their PoSltlOHS. 3 I 5 

mined by its nature and character, in the world-system, and the first 
and only function which a thing as an individual has to perform, 
seems to me to be to retain this position ; while attraction and re 
pulsion we may represent to ourselves as the two elements into which 
this self- conservation of things admits logically of being analysed. 
In reality however what happens is that the self-conservation assumes 
one or other of these forms according as the needs of the moment 
give occasion to it. We must postpone the consideration of the 
question, as to what takes place in the inner nature of things when 
the place in which they find themselves at any given moment is out of 
harmony with the place marked out for them. As a phenomenon in 
space, the tendency to return to an equilibrium must necessarily appear 
in its simplest form, either as the approximation or as the separation of 
two elements. Hence it is possible to refer all physical processes to 
motive forces consisting of attraction or repulsion. But it is not the case 
that on all other occasions things are empty of content, and that 
these forces attach to them merely for the time being. Rather, like 
the gestures of living beings, the forces are merely the outward ex 
pression of what is going on within. 

184. Thus far, no doubt, the statement of our views has conveyed 
the impression that we regarded the world like a picture having fixed 
outlines, within which every single point invariably occupies the same 
position and clings to it with equal tenacity. Such a picture would 
be little in accordance with the facts. We have long known that the 
world is never at rest and that the picture which it presents is for 
ever changing. Yet, the whole case is not stated even when we have 
grasped this truth. Admitting that the picture of reality is what it is 
at any given moment in virtue of its essential connexion with the 
arrangement that prevailed the moment before and that which is to 
prevail the moment after, the forces emanating from the different 
points of space must still derive their power to act on each separate 
occasion from the law which pervades the whole. The connexion 
between the whole and the part is peculiar to each case, and is very 
different from a mere instance of the operation of law in general, 
such as is known to us by observation and makes it possible to us 
to apprehend the process of the world as the result of innumerable 
individual forces working by invariable rules. I have, however, 
already * endeavoured to show that this plan or idea cannot be made 
real in this off-hand way of itself and without means ; rather indeed 
that it presupposes uniformity of action on the part of the elements, 

1 [E.g. 67.] 

3 1 6 The theoretical construction of Materiality. [ BOOK n. 

so that under like conditions like consequences flow from them, quite 
independently of the place which each occupies in the universal plan. 
Hence, even assuming that the world is ceaselessly in a state of flux, 
our view that the permanent tendency of each thing is to maintain 
the place which belongs to it in the system of the universe, and that 
this is what gives to it its force, does not exclude the opposite or 
physical view according to which the course of events in the world is 
explained as due to varying combinations of constant forces. I 
may add that the supposition of a number of forces attaching to the 
same elements at the same time, but acting in different directions, 
does not seem to me to be liable to any of the objections which are 
commonly urged against it. No doubt, it would be unintelligible as 
applied to two elements working in isolation, but it is not so as 
applied to elements between which a connexion has been established 
owing to their belonging to one and the same world. We may learn 
to comprehend this by the experience of our own lives. Our actions 
are conditioned by many different systems of motives, which operate 
on us at the same time. The satisfaction of our physical wants may 
e. g. be inconsistent with the social good. What family-affection 
requires of us may conflict with our duty as citizens, and within this 
last sphere we find ourselves parts of many different institutions whose 
claims it is not always easy to harmonise. A like interpretation 
must be given of the world in which we live. When we speak of a 
systematic connexion between things, we do not mean a single uni 
form classification in which we could find any given member by 
following out one principle of division. Rather, there are many 
cross-purposes at work, each of which requires that the elements 
should be distributed exclusively with reference to its own satisfaction. 
Each element may be stationed at the intersecting point of several 
different tendencies which unite and divide the world. As long, 
therefore, as two elements are considered as belonging to such a 
world, there is no reason why their mutual activities should not be 
regarded as the result of a plurality of forces acting simultaneously, 
and differing entirely in the effects they produce in response to each 
change in the circumstances of the environment ; owing to the 
different points of view under which they bring the same set of cir 
cumstances, and to the consequent variety of the reactions set up. 

185. There still remains to be considered the question as to 
whether it is allowable to speak of forces which take effect from 
a distance, or whether those are not right who regard the possibility 
of a thing s acting where it is not as inconceivable. I cannot help 

CHAPTER V.] ActlOH at a distance. 3 I 7 

adding to the two conflicting views which are held on this question, 
a third one of my own. It seems to me that motion can only be an 
effect of forces acting at a distance; to speak of action when the 
elements are in close contact, I regard as a contradiction. Let us 
suppose two spherical bodies of equal diameter and density to be 
placed so as exactly to contain each other. If, then, the nature of 
the materials of which the bodies are composed is such as to admit 
of their reciprocal action, and if we are to disregard all possibility of 
effects taking place at a distance, it will follow that every point a 
of the one body will produce an effect on the point b of the other body, 
with which it coincides. Now, I do not dispute that the two elements 
may be affected in a very real way by reason of this coincidence at 
the same geometrical point. But, whether the effects thus produced 
are such as to intensify or such as to diminish the condition in 
which the elements find themselves, i. e. whether they tend to at 
traction or repulsion, in no case can these inner occurrences result in 
motion, a and b being already stationed at the same point of space 
cannot by any attraction be brought nearer ; nor could any force of 
mutual repulsion, however actively manifested in other ways, avail to 
part them asunder, there being no reason why the initial movement 
tending to separate them should take any one direction rather than 

Nor need we confine ourselves to bodies perfectly coincident in 
extension. No matter what form the two bodies assume, they would 
never be able to affect each other s motions, if there were no distance 
intervening between them ; for those parts of the two bodies which 
were coincident would admit only of being affected internally by their 
mutual action, and thus there would be no external motion. It makes 
no difference as regards this conclusion, that effects are spoken of as 
taking place between contiguous bodies, and that the ambiguity to 
which this mathematical conception so easily lends itself, is made to 
yield a perplexing solution of a difficulty which is one of fact. If we 
confine ourselves to the case in which the two bodies are spheres, 
their volumes can only meet at one point. Now, we must be 
sure that what we have in view is a real contact of the bodies in 
question, and we must banish from our minds all thought of there 
being any distance, even an infinitesimal one, intervening between 
them. As long as we have any such idea we have in principle 
admitted the action of force at a distance, though without any reason 
restricting the distance to an infinitesimally small one ; a conception 
which, besides other difficulties, it is, to say the least, not easy to 

3 1 8 The theoretical construction of Materiality, t BOOK n. 

explain on physical principles. It is equally inadmissible to substitute 
for a point of contact an infinitely small surface, or, supposing the 
contact to be between flat surfaces, to imagine that the layers which 
are in contact and which thus produce the effect, can have any, even 
the smallest conceivable degree of thickness. It must be taken as 
settled that the bodies which are in contact have their boundaries 
common or coincident, in the first case, in a point without extension, 
in the second, in a surface without thickness. Whatever way we may 
try to turn these ideas, the fact will always remain, that real elements 
which occupy the same position in Space will exercise no effect as 
regards the production of motion, and such effect as does take place 
will spring only from those parts of the bodies which are really 
separated from each other by intervals of Space. As for a contact 
which does not involve either separation or coincidence at the same 
point in Space, the idea is intelligible enough as applied to the whole 
volume of each of the two bodies brought into contact, but it has no 
meaning as applied to a possible interaction of single points such as 
we have been here considering. 

This same observation holds good as regards the attempt to 
substitute, instead of forces operating between different elements, a 
reflexive power of expansion or contraction, in virtue of which a thing 
assigns to itself a greater or less space of its own accord. If the 
thing here spoken of is understood as a material existence extended 
and divisible, this power of self-extension belonging to the whole must 
in every case be capable of being finally referred to the reciprocal 
repulsion of the parts, these being already distinguished in Space. If, 
on the other hand, the thing is held to be endowed with this power 
in consequence of a real metaphysical unity prior to its multiplication 
in Space, we shall then have to face another enquiry, which is for the 
most part overlooked in these attempts to construct a theory of 
matter, viz. this, How did this reality first get form and extension in 
Space that form and extension which are always presupposed, in 
order that forces of the kind mentioned above may be furnished with 
points to which to attach themselves ? This question we propose to 
consider in the next chapter. 

186. All that the above demonstration proves is that mere contact 
of elements cannot produce motion. If, however, it should be found 
to be equally inconceivable that effects should take place at a distance, 
we shall be compelled to deny that motion is a result of force in any 
shape whatever, and our task will then be limited to the attempt to 
conceive of physical effects as taking place owing to the supply of 

CHAPTER v.] Communication of Motion. 319 

motion already in existence being perpetuated. But it soon appears that 
the expression, communication or distribution of motion , though enabling 
us to picture to ourselves results which are constantly passing before 
our eyes, does not give any tenable conception of the process to which 
the results in question are due. Take, e.g. the familiar instance 
of the effects of impact on inelastic bodies. Suppose b to be a body 
in motion and a a body at rest, then, when b strikes against a, we say 
that it communicates to it a certain part of its own motion, and this, 
no doubt, is an extremely convenient way of signalising the new fact 
which has taken place, in consequence of the two bodies having been 
brought together. We cannot, however, seriously suppose that the 
motion produced the result by changing its place. If we may repeat 
what has before been said *, it is for ever impossible to conceive that a 
state q, by which a real thing b is affected, should loose itself from b, 
and pass over to a ; yet this is such a case ; before the motion could 
transfer itself from the limits of b to a, it would have to traverse, no 
matter in how short a time, a certain space intermediate between the 
two, and during this* time it would be a state which was the state of 
nothing. The absurdity of this notion is here even further increased 
by the fact that it is only by a free use of language that we are able to 
speak of motion as a state at all. Motion, in fact, is not a quality 
permanently attaching to anything ; it is an occurrence merely, or a 
change which the thing moved undergoes. Hence, the very concep 
tion of a motion, which is itself set in motion in order to pass from 
one thing to another, is ipso facto impossible. But what should we 
have gained, supposing that this inconceivability were a fact ? If the 
motion has passed over to a, it is now where a is, but that would not 
make it a state of a, nor would it explain why it should ever move a. 
Inasmuch as it was possible for the motion to become detached from 
b, either wholly or in part, why should it not continue on its course 
according to the same law of Persistence which it followed whilst on 
the way from b to a ? Why should it not leave a at rest, and again 
become a motion belonging to no one as before, and so on ad infini- 
tum ? It results, therefore, that this theory fails to give any reason for 
the motion of the body which receives the impulse, and it gives only 
an obscure reason for the decreased motion of the body from which 
the impulse proceeds. Of course, it will be argued that both these 
facts are due to the impenetrable nature of bodies, which makes it 
impossible for one of them to find a passage for itself through the 
space occupied by the other. But this impossibility taken by 

1 [ 56.] 

32O The theoretical construction of Materiality. [BOOKII. 

itself rather suggests a dilemma than furnishes us with a solution 

If two bodies cannot both occupy the same position in Space, and 
if nevertheless it is this at which one of them aims, the question arises 
as to how these two conflicting propositions are to be reconciled. 
How they are reconciled as a matter of fact we see before us ; we see 
motion originated in the one case, and a corresponding decrease of 
motion in the other. But we cannot suppose that this happy solution 
comes to pass of its own accord because it is an ingenious idea ; it 
must rather be the necessary consequence of what the bodies are in 
themselves, and of what they pass through at the time. If, further, we 
bear in mind that in order adequately to estimate the result, account 
must be taken of the mass of the two bodies, we shall be led back to 
the conclusion that this impenetrability, which the communication of 
motion requires, is an effect produced by the conflicting tendencies of 
various forces, which thus give rise to motions in opposite directions, 
so that bodies at rest are supplied with motion which before they were 
without, whilst the bodies set in motion lose some of their velocity 
owing to the resistance of the bodies at rest. But it is impossible to 
represent such a repulsion as arising when the bodies are in contact, 
and not before. For, if at the point of contact there is no inter- 
penetration of the two surfaces, the contact instead of being a real one 
becomes a mere geometrical relation ; it can have no influence on the 
bodies themselves, but only on the limits by which they are bounded. 
If, however, we suppose that the bodies do interpenetrate each other 
at the point of contact, it will follow from our previous conclusions 
that the forces proceeding from the two bodies can only affect each 
other s motions at those points which are still separated by an interval 
of space. Nor can it be said that the motion q, which is communi 
cated to a body at rest a by a body in motion b, determines what 
would otherwise be undetermined, viz. the direction of the two 
bodies at the moment of their divergence. For, from the mere fact 
that the mutual repulsion takes place at the moment that the body b, 
whilst tending in the direction q t comes into immediate contact with 
0, it could only be argued, in opposition to all experience, that b would 
pass through a in its former direction q with accelerated speed, whilst 
a would begin to move in the direction q. It seems to me, therefore, 
that under these circumstances we cannot but conclude that even the 
communication of motion is ah effect dependent on the action of 
moving forces, and that, in this case as in all others, forces can only 
produce motion when the bodies are removed from each other, while, 

CHAPTER v.] A thing can only act where it is? 321 

contrariwise, they are powerless to produce it when the bodies are 
in contact. 

187. All this reasoning would be to no purpose, if there was really 
any insuperable difficulty in conceiving of forces as taking effect at a 
distance. But I must say for myself that it quite passes my compre 
hension to understand on what grounds it can be maintained to be the 
most self-evident of facts that a thing can only act where it is. What, 
we may ask, is the meaning of the assertion, a is at the point a ? Can 
there ever be any other evidence or manifestation of a thing s Being, 
than by means of the effects which are transmitted from a to the point 
p, where we ourselves are ? Of course, it will be instantly objected : 
1 No doubt, the effects of a and the directions which these follow in 
the course of their transmission to us, are the only sources of the 
knowledge which justifies us in concluding that a is at the point a ; the 
fact itself, however, is independent of the means by which we come 
to know it. But what conception can be formed of this fact itself, if 
we abstract all the effects which the given form of existence a emits 
from the point a, where it is stationed ? Is the existence of a in 
general a conception which has anything definite corresponding with 
it ? and how can the limitation of a to the point a be understood, if it 
does not give rise to any effects at that point distinguishing that point 
from all other similar points of Space, where a is not present ? It is 
an illusion to believe that the mere being at a certain place can give a 
thing any determinate character, and that it acquires subsequently to 
this the capacity to produce the effects which seem to be diffused 
around that point. We ought rather to say, on the contrary : Be 
cause, in the disposition and systematic arrangement of the world as 
a whole, and in the world of Space which is its counterpart, a is a 
meeting point for relations of the most various kinds, and acts upon 
the other elements as these relations prescribe, for this reason and for 
no other, it has its fixed place amongst them ; or more correctly it 
is this which justifies us in making use of the common forms of 
speech, a is at the point a and acts from thence. 

This, however, will form the subject of further investigations. 
Putting this question as to the relation between real existence and 
Space for the present aside, we shall make use of a very simple idea 
to expose the fallacy of the doctrine here referred to. Let us suppose 
that at the commencement of their existence things were stationed 
each at some one point of Space, e.g. a and /3 : what reason would 
there be why the interval a# between them should prevent them 
from mutually affecting each other ? It is obvious and self-evident 

VOL. I. Y 

322 7*he theoretical construction of Materiality, t BOOK H. 

that it would do so ; it will be replied, the body set in motion does 
not feel the impulse to move, until the impelling body reaches it. 
There can be no sense of vision until the nerves have been touched by 
the moving particles of the ether. That which is incapable of trans 
mission has no effect, and is for us as if it had no existence/ These 
instances, however, may be met by others. The stone falls without 
requiring first to be impelled ; an electric repulsion takes place to all 
appearance quite independently of any connecting medium. If any 
one wishes to refer these phenomena to the communication of motion 
already in existence, he may do so ; but he will be appealing not to 
observed facts, but to his own hypotheses ; he will be employing 
without any just reason the particular form which one class of effects 
assumes, as if it were the universal form which must necessarily be 
assumed by all other effects. And yet even these hypotheses, which 
aim at the avoidance of all distant effects in the case of large bodies, 
cannot help interposing Spaces between the infinitesimal particles of 
the media which are held to explain the transmission of the impulse. 
There could be no presumption in favour of the above interpretation 
unless it could be shown that contact in Space was as obviously a con 
dition favourable to the action of force, as separation in Space is 
maintained to be unfavourable to it. But this is not true with regard 
to contact in Space. For, it cannot be concluded that anything must 
of necessity happen from the mere fact that two elements touch at the 
same limit, or are stationed at the same point of Space ; nothing can 
come of the contact of the elements if they are not fitted by Nature 
mutually to affect each other, and when this condition is wanting, 
spatial contact cannot produce it. As for the assertion that elements 
which have this capacity to affect each other, require contact in Space 
in order to make its exercise possible, it rests on that arbitrary selec 
tion of instances mentioned above ; with those in whom it has become 
a cherished prejudice it is ineradicable, but it is not in itself neces 
sary, nor capable of being shown by the evidence of undoubted facts 
to hold good universally. We ourselves, it is true, are not endowed 
with any capacity for producing effects at a distance. The objects 
on which we attempt to bring our activity to bear, we, no doubt, set 
in motion by means of a continuous succession of intermediate effects, 
which serve to bring us and them together. But this is not enough to 
make us conclude that two elements, between which there is an 
interval of Space, belong, as it were, to two different worlds separated 
by a gulf which nothing can bridge over. We are compelled, in order 
to understand their subsequent effects, to conceive of them both as 

CHAPTER v.] Affinity independent of Space. 323 

subject to the same laws ; a fact which we are accustomed to consider 
as self-evident, without enquiring into the presuppositions which it 
involves. This fact obliges us to regard, without exception, all things 
throughout Space as interconnected parts of one world, and as united 
together by a bond of sympathy to which separation in Space acts as 
no hindrance. It is only because the elements of the world are not 
all of the same kind, and, instead of being simply co-ordinated, are 
related in the most various ways, that this unfailing sympathetic 
rapport, by means of which all things act on each other at a distance, 
is not in all cases equally apparent, but differs in degree of intensity, 
being in some cases widely diffused, in others contracting itself within 
narrow and scarcely perceptible limits. 

Y 2 


The Simple Elements of Matter. 

THE confused notions which the different theoretical constructions 
showed to exist in regard to the true nature of Matter, led us in the 
first place to examine into the conception of the forces, the operation 
of which gives rise to the changing qualities of material things. There 
remains now to be considered the question as to the form in which 
the real thing, from which these forces themselves emanate, takes up 
its position in Space. The subject to which we shall be introduced 
by this question is the antithesis between atomism and the theory of 
a continuous extension in Space. 

188. What appears to be the evidence of immediate perception on 
this point must not be misrepresented at starting by a slovenly mode 
of statement. Of a single continuously extended Matter it tells us 
nothing ; all that it presents to us is a vast variety of different material 
objects which for the most part are separated from each other by 
clearly defined limits and are but rarely blended and confused together. 
This multiplicity of things is all that can be affirmed at starting- 
many, however, even of these things the naked eye at once perceives 
to be composed of parts existing side by side, but differing in kind. 
Others, which appear to be extended in Space with unbroken con 
tinuity, are seen by means of the microscope to fall asunder into a 
distinguishable variety of divergent elements. It is not proved by 
this, but it is made probable, that the apparent continuity of the rest 
merely conceals a juxtaposition of discrete elements. But, what is 
proved for everyone who has eyes to see is, that substances composed 
of atoms may produce on the senses the impression of perfect con- 
*tinuity of extension. The frequently -urged objection, that a com 
bination of discrete parts would never account for the coherent surface 
and the solid interior structure of material bodies, does not really 
require any metaphysical refutation. The sharp edge of a knife, 
when placed beneath a microscope, appears to be notched like a saw, 

Natural grounds of Atomism. 325 

and the surface, which feels quite smooth, becomes a region of moun 
tains. Spots of colour again, even if seen only from a short distance, 
take the form of a continuous line. These recognised facts are a 
sufficient proof that the nature of our sensible organs makes con 
sciousness of what intervenes between successive vivid impressions 
impossible for us, when the intervals are either empty of all content, 
or such that they only faintly affect us. Though, therefore, the 
appearance of continuous extension, no doubt, may correspond with 
a real fact, it arises none the less certainly and inevitably from a suf 
ficiently close approximation of discrete parts. Now, what induces 
us to adopt this last hypothesis in explanation of the whole is this, 
that even substances which seem to be continuous admit of being 
divided, to an apparently unlimited extent. For, as the parts which 
spring from this division retain unimpaired the same material qualities 
which belonged to the undivided whole, it would seem that they cannot 
owe their origin simply to the division of this whole ; but that they 
existed before it, and formed it by their combination. Later on, I 
shall give reasons for suspecting the soundness of this conclusion ; 
but, at first sight, it is convincing enough, and in all ages it has given 
rise to attempts to exhibit the parts of Matter as elements whose 
metaphysical unity of nature expressed itself in terms of Space as 

I shall offer some remarks not intended to be historically ex 
haustive on the forms of Atomism which thus arose. Two points I 
shall mention here in advance. First, let it be remembered that this 
hypothesis of a multitude of interconnected points admitting of change 
able and precisely determinable relations and interactions, is the only 
practical means of satisfactorily explaining the extremely complex 
phenomena for which an explanation is sought ; and that in contrast 
with this explanation, the bare general supposition of the uniformity 
of Matter, not less than the special one of its continuity in Space, has 
never led to any fruitful solution of the facts given in experience. To 
prove this would be only to repeat what has been so clearly and con 
vincingly stated by Fechner (cp. his * Doctrine of Atoms ). Taking it 
then for granted that the real world of nature is presented to us pri 
marily under the form of an infinite number of discrete centres of 
activity, I shall confine myself merely to a metaphysical investigation 
into the nature of these centres. This is a question which Physics is 
not practically called upon to decide, nor is her certainty about it at 
all equal to the ingenuity with which -she avails herself of the advant 
ages which the hypothesis offers to her. Again, I am entirely at one 

326 The simple elements of Matter. 

with Fechner in regard to his second conclusion. I believe with him 
that the atomic view of the Physical world is peculiarly adapted to sa 
tisfy the aesthetic needs of the mind. For what we long to see exhibited 
everywhere and in the smallest particulars, is precisely this, organiza 
tion, symmetric and harmonious relations, order visible throughout the 
whole, and a clear view of the possible transitions from one definite 
form into another. The demonstration of this point I likewise do not 
repeat. I wish only to say that I have never been able to compre 
hend the reason of that tendency, which for a long time past our 
German Philosophy has shown, to look down upon atomic theories as 
of an inferior and superficial character ; whilst the theory of a con 
tinuous matter was opposed to them as quite incontrovertibly a truth 
of a higher kind. If there were proofs at hand to establish the neces 
sity of this latter conclusion, they should have been set forth in a more 
convincing form than they have yet received. There is, however, 
really nothing to admire in the theory of continuity, either when con 
sidered in itself, or in regard to the results which have been derived from 
it. It seems as if a mystical power of attraction had been given to it 
merely owing to the mathematical difficulties in which the whole con 
ception is involved. 

189. The following are the chief characteristics of general interest 
which distinguished the atomism of antiquity, as represented by 
Lucretius. Theoretic knowledge of the changes of things would be 
impossible for us, if we were restricted to observation of the co-exist 
ence of qualities, and the modes of their succession ; there being no 
fixed standard, by which to estimate their relationship, opposition, and 
quantitative difference. We cannot be in a position to deduce from 
such conditions any conclusion of real value, unless we are able to 
exhibit the states which succeed each other as comparable forms of a 
homogeneous existence and occurrence, or unless, at any rate, we 
can show how effects disparate in themselves can yet be annexed to 
comparable relations of comparable elements. The conviction that 
this was what had to be shown, led by steps of reasoning which can 
easily be supplied to the attempt to refer the varieties of sensible 
phenomena to differences of shape, size, combination, and motion, in 
certain absolutely homogeneous and unchangeable elements. The 
working out of the theory in detail was extremely defective and rudi 
mentary. It was not so much that it was left unexplained how the 
sensible appearances which attach to these mathematical groupings 
can arise out of them, but the impossible assertion was made that the 
sensible qualities are nothing but these very mathematical determina- 

CHAPTER VI.] A lOMlSm of LuCretiuS. 

tions themselves. Setting aside, however, these imperfections, the 
general conception of Atomism is one of the few Philosophical 
Speculations of antiquity which have hands and feet belonging to them, 
and which, therefore, live on and lead to ever fresh results, whilst 
other theories, with perhaps more head, find a place now only in the 
History of Ideas. The hard and fast line of distinction that was 
drawn between the equality of the several parts of Being, as opposed 
to the inequality of their relations, excluded all original differences 
from the ultimate elements themselves ; these latter, however, if they 
had been so completely equal, could never have served as a basis for 
the manifold appearances which spring out of them ; they had, there 
fore, at any rate to be assumed to differ in size and shape. 

But this admission was no sooner made than it was seen to be in 
consistent with the uniform oneness of all existing things. Hence, these 
differences were held to obtain merely as facts, which in the order of 
nature as it now exists cannot be reversed, but which are not in them 
selves original, having come into Being only at the commencement of 
the present age of the world s history. At any rate, I think I have 
shown that Lucretius distinguishes between the multiform atoms, 
which are the unchanging causes of the present order of phenomena 
in the world, and those infinitesimal and essentially uniform particles, 
from the combination of which the atoms are themselves ultimately 
formed. He supposes that there are different ages of the world, 
during each of which the combination of the atoms for the time being 
is dissolved by the stream of change. It is only the combination of 
the atoms which is dissolved ; the atoms themselves do not change, 
but are combined afresh. At the end, however, of each age the atoms 
likewise are reduced back to their homogeneous, first elements, and 
these latter being again united so as to form new atoms, are what 
constitute the material substances out of which are met the demands 
for the phenomena of the next succeeding age. We see here a recog 
nition of the metaphysical difficulty mentioned above, though not a 
solution of it ; it still remains that the form which the atoms are to 
assume is determined by an arbitrary cause. 

The further elaboration of the system presents little that can 
interest us. The common nature of what is real, which was declared 
to be the true substantive existence contained in all the countless 
atoms, might, one would have thought, have suggested the hypothesis 
of an inner relation existing between them, and from this might have 
been developed the conception of forces by which they mutually affect 
each other ; forces, which would assume different modes of operation, 

328 The simple elements of Matter. [BOOK IT. 

according as the ultimate component particles of the atoms were 
differently combined. But no use was made of this thought. The 
communication of motion by impact remained as the sole form in 
which things affect each other; and the resistance which they oppose 
to the falling asunder of their parts was no less inadequately explained 
than the invincible tendency of the ultimate elements to combine in the 
form of an atom. 

190. Passing over the various forms which Atomism assumed after 
it had been revived by Physical Science, I shall mention only the last 
of them. As long as extension and shape were ascribed to the atoms, 
no matter whether all were supposed to be the same in these respects, 
or, some to be different from others, it could not but appear that a 
question was being solved in reference to the larger bodies by the 
assumption of the smaller ones which was left unsolved as regarded 
those smaller ones. It was impossible to go on for ever deriving each 
atom from atoms still smaller ; some point of space must at last be 
reached which is continuously filled by the Real thing. But here a 
doubt suggested itself. How can the continuous substratum be indi 
visible, if the space which it occupies is infinitely divisible ? That a 
portion of space should be held intact against all attempts to encroach 
upon it, would seem to be conceivable only as the combined effect 
of activities proceeding from points external to each other, and 
prescribing to each its fixed position in relation to the rest. Such 
active points, however, would inevitably come again to be regarded as 
so many discrete elements, from which the whole is formed only by 
aggregation. It seems to me that the regression into infinity which 
would thus result, could not be escaped from by any appeal to the 
metaphysical unity of the essence which forms the real content of an 
atom, and which preserves it from the division of its appearance in 
Space. This distinction between the real essence and its appearance 
in Space would be a meaningless rhetorical phrase if it did not suggest 
questions far deeper than any of those with which Atomism is con 
cerned and quite indifferent to it. 

Atomism considers extended and tangible matter as reality pure 
and simple, not as a mode in which Reality manifests itself, and 
which requires a process of intermediation to connect it with Reality. 
Now it is most difficult for many reasons to apply to this extended 
Real thing the conception of unity. I do not mean to maintain that 
the question is at once decided by the fact that in order for a form of 
matter to remain unaffected by all external forces, it would have to be 
credited with a simply unlimited power of resistance, such as would 

CHAPTER VI.] Utllty of tJlC Atom. 

be very little in harmony with the first principles of our knowledge of 
mechanics. I do not say this ; for in the last resort there would be no 
thing to prevent us from conceiving of the atoms as elastic ; and then 
each atom would really undergo a change of form proportioned to 
the force acting upon it ; only that there would be an accompanying 
reaction, sufficient to restore to the atom its original outline, and pre 
serve it from disintegration. No doubt, in a sense it is true that the 
atom would require to have an unlimited power of cohesion in order 
to admit of this process. But there is nothing in it inconsistent with 
what we know about mechanics in other respects. The force inherent 
in an atom would not be indifferent to all external influences ; rather, 
it would react with a degree of intensity precisely corresponding with 
the original stimulus. 

But another requisition must be complied with if the metaphysical 
unity of an extended real thing is to make itself felt as an actual fact 
and not be a mere name. Essential unity of nature cannot contain 
parts, which are affected by experiences peculiar to themselves, and 
not shared by the rest. Every impression by which the point a of 
any such unity A is affected, must at once be a state or impression of 
the whole A, without any process of intercommunication being re 
quired, to transmit the impression from a to b, or to the other points 
contained in the volume. At all events, if the parts of A are so dif 
ferent that what each experiences has to be transmitted to the rest, I 
fail to see in what would consist its essential unity, or how, since a 
system of discrete elements would necessarily proceed in precisely the 
same way, there can be any difference between the two. Before pro 
ceeding further, I must guard these statements against ft possible 
misunderstanding. I cannot find that there is anything incompatible 
between the essential unity of A and the existence at the same time 
of different modes of its Being a /3 y, which are necessitated by different 
influences acting upon A simultaneously : I only wish to maintain 
that both a and are equally states of the whole A, and therefore 
that they are neither of them produced by influences which merely 
affect themselves, but are both modified by the fact of their contem 
poraneous existence in the same essential unity. Let us suppose a 
and # to be motive stimuli affecting two points a and b in the same 
atom. The result would not be two separate movements of these two 
points, which at some later period merged in a common result ; but 
in the point a, which was the part affected by a, the whole Real thing 
would be present in the same complete fulness as in the point b, 
which is affected by . The immediate effects of both impulses 

330 The simple elements of Matter. 

would be felt equally at both points, and the resultant p would be but 
one motion which would at once lay hold of the whole extended sub 
stance. Further, since every change requires for its occurrence a cer 
tain space of time, and according to the law of Persistence, leaves a 
trace of itself behind, it is quite intelligible that a primary stimulus 
a should not till after some interval show itself as the condition of the 
next stimulus /3 ; and that a new impression of the kind a should make 
itself felt in modifying the states connected with it before it modifies 
those that are connected with /3. When this happens, we are accus 
tomed to say : only one side of the whole Being of the thing was 
affected ; the other remained untouched/ But by the use of this figure 
derived from Space, we express most inappropriately our better and 
truer meaning. At each moment, the whole essential Being is both 
acting and being acted upon ; only it belongs to the nature of this 
indivisible unity that the several activities which external conditions 
elicit from it should, as they succeed each other, exhibit the most 
various degrees of mutual dependence, and should be some more and 
some less closely associated together. 

Let us apply these legitimate ideas to the case before us. What we 
should be entitled to say would be, not that the atom A responds 
so immediately to the stimulus a by producing the result a that 
there is absolutely no intervening interval of time, but rather that the 
reaction in it does always follow upon the stimulus, at however in- 
fmitesimally small an interval of time ; so that what takes place here 
too is that A is first affected on its receptive side, and only after 
wards and in consequence of this on its side of reaction. This 
imagined splitting up of the substance into parts has nothing in 
common with the false notion of there being in fad any such separa 
tion between them, as would be the case, if we meant that an im 
pression a produced upon an atom is confined to a point a, from 
which point it does not pass on to the remaining points b and c, until 
after some lapse of time. In such a case, there would, as I have 
before remarked, be nothing left to distinguish the pretended unity of 
this A from the communication of effects which takes place in every 
assemblage of discrete and independent elements when brought into 
active contact. If we are serious in supposing this unity to exist, we 
must assert that every motion communicated to a point a in an atom, 
is also literally a motion of the point a" at the other end of a diameter 
of the atom. The motion, consequently, would have to be trans 
mitted all along the intervening line a a 1 in absolutely no time at all ; 
and the ordinary rule according to which the intensity of a force varies 

CHAPTER VI.] AtOMS which are not extended. 33! 

with its distance, would have in this case to be suspended ; the effect 
produced upon the remoter point a 1 must be as strong as that pro 
duced upon a. These consequences which, as it appears to me, 
are inevitable, cannot be reconciled with the ordinary principles of 
Mechanics. But if they are to be avoided, either the unity of the atom 
or its extension must be given up. 

191. Physical theories in favour of the latter of these two alterna 
tives have assumed a variety of forms. Though they have not 
been expressly based on the above-mentioned arguments, which have 
led me to infer that extension is not a predicate of a simple or single 
substance, but the appearance assumed by many different elements 
when combined, they have originated in a general feeling that the very 
thing which it was intended to explain in composite bodies by means 
of the atoms, could not be consistently assumed as already existing in 
the atoms. The extension of the simple elements was not a fact given 
in experience ; nor was there any necessity for assuming it. All that 
was required was, certain points in space, from which forces of 
attraction and repulsion could operate with a certain intensity. The 
unextended atoms, as the vehicles of these forces, served quite as well 
to explain phenomena, as they would have done on the almost 
inconceivable hypothesis of their extension. Hence, since all that 
was needed was a working hypothesis, it became the custom for 
Physicists to describe the atoms simply as centres, to and from which 
Forces and Operations are transmitted, leaving it unexplained how 
these real points are distinguished from the empty points of space 
which they fill. This omission may easily be supplied. A real thing 
could never by being extended in space produce an effect which it 
was not in virtue of its nature capable of producing when in relation 
with the other thing in question. At most, the space which it occu 
pies could only prescribe the sphere of operation, within which 
capacities due not to extension but to the inherent nature of what the 
thing is, are exercised. If, further, it is impossible to conceive of 
motion as produced under conditions of actual contact and if 
distance is necessary to the operation of force, actual reality becomes 
independent of extension in space, and the elements, though they 
have indeed positions in space, are without either volume or shape. 

This point of view grew up not merely as a conclusion arrived at 
by Physics ; it is an ancient possession of Philosophy. Herbart refers 
back to Leibnitz ; for myself, I prefer his own definite exposition to 
the doctrines of his forerunner, which can only be arrived at by a 
somewhat dubious interpretation. Herbart s ontology starts from the 

332 The simple elements of Matter. IBOOKII. 

\ assumption of countless simple substances without parts or extension, 
which form the elements of the world. His construction of matter 
could, therefore, only lead to Atomism : and, he tells us quite clearly 
what are the original subjects from which the activities formative of 
matter proceed, and as to which we found Kant s explanation un 
satisfactory. Herbart distinguishes his own theory from the theories 
of the Physicists, by calling it Qualitative Atomism. He gives it 
Z^ this name, not only to show that his simple substances owing to their 
qualitative differences are endowed with distinct concrete natures, 
and not merely substantiated abstractions of a single homogeneous 
reality ; he uses the term in a far more important signification than 
this to imply that from the inner experiences to which these differ 
ences of nature give rise, all these Forces and Laws of relation are 
\ derived, which the common modes of speaking and thinking in 
Physical Science represent, without any further attempt at explana 
tion, as predicates inherently attaching to the ultimate elements. 
Being, as I am, quite at one with Herbart in regard to this general 
conception, I regret that owing to a certain ontological doctrine, 
which I do not myself share with him, he should have been 
deprived of the fruits of these conclusions in constructing his theory 
of matter. 

The entire independence which he ascribed to each of the essential 
elements prevented him from holding the doctrine of a pervading 
connexion, in virtue of which the states by which one is affected 
become the immediate condition for what is experienced by the rest. 
Another of his assumptions, the origin of which I am ignorant of, led 
him to regard contact in space as the only cause capable of disturb 
ing the mutual indifference of the elements and forcing them into 
active relationship. As, on this view, it was impossible for the 
essential elements to act on each other from a distance, Herbart 
became involved in the hopeless attempt to show how points un- 
extended, though real, are brought into contact in order that they 
may act upon each other, but yet not absolutely into contact, in order 
that their combined effects may endow a multiplicity with an extension 
which attaches to no single one of its component parts. It is a view 
which requires to be changed only in a single point, though this no 
doubt is a vital one. The simple elements of reality, on which the 
\ constitution of the world primarily depends, must be regarded as con- 
<> \ ditioned, not independent, and therefore as in unceasing relation to 
) each other. By making forces which act at a distance emanate from 
the simple elements, elements not empty but of a definite internal 

CHAPTER vi.] A toms and Phenomenal Extension. 333 

character, we can frame an intelligible picture of the forms of matter, 
as systems of real unextended points, limited in space, and endowed 
with forces of cohesion and resistance in very various degrees. 

192. Now, at this point we might stop, if it were not for another 
assumption which these theories commonly contain, that viz. of an 
actually extended space, in which the real elements take up their 
positions. The contrary conviction, in support of which I have con 
tended, compels me to introduce some further modifications into the 
view which I have first stated in order to arrive gradually at the idea 
which I wish ultimately to establish. I continue for the present to 
make the assumption of an indefinite number of individual existences; 
an assumption from which the explanation of the variety of pheno 
mena must always make its first start. Not much need be added to 
what has been already said as to the general relation of these exist 
ences to space. These simple elements, having as such no connexion | 
with space, stand to each other in a vast variety of relations, which 
only for our modes of apprehension assume the forms of position and 
distance in space. It is for Psychology to supplement the suggestions 
which have been already made by telling us how this mode of appre 
hension is originated ; here, we are only concerned with the ideas which 
we must form of the nature of Real existence, in order to make in 
telligible the particular mode in which it presents itself to our sub 
jective consciousness. 

In the first place, then, to repeat what I have already mentioned, it 
is requisite that we should reverse one of our ordinary ways of think 
ing. When a certain element a is in a certain position a, we think of 
this fact as if it was something in itself, as if it was in virtue of this 
that the element had the power to produce effects on other things in 
certain definite ways. But, according to all the results at which we 
have so far arrived, we ought contrariwise to say : That the element 
a is in the position a, can only mean for it, that it has received so 
many and such impressions from all the other elements which belong 
to the same world to which it belongs, that, if we regard the whole 
mass of existing facts of that world under the form of space no place 
except a corresponds to that which is assigned to a in the universal 
order. Hence, the position which an element occupies must always 
be regarded by us as the result of the forces that determine it, and in 
so determining it, are in a state of equilibrium. This conclusion the 
Science of Mechanics only half admits. It admits, no doubt, that 
during every moment that an element remains at rest, the forces 
working upon it must be in a state of equilibrium. But the con- 

334 The simple elements of Matter. [BOOKII. 

ception still remains possible that an element might occupy a position 
in space without any action of force whatever, and that forces arising 
subsequently might find it there and act upon it. 

Further, I have abundantly shown that by this systematised arrange 
ment of unextended points, which I believe to be what constitutes the 
world as a whole, I understand not the order of a rigid classification, 
but an order which, incessant as is the movement of things, and 
manifold and various as are the forms which the sum of conditions 
at each moment assumes, maintains throughout a continuous and 
unchanging purpose. The position, therefore, which an element 
assumes, when it appears in space, does not simply indicate the 
place which it occupies from all eternity in a classification of the 
world s contents, but, rather, the place which, at that moment, was the 
only point at which the changing conditions to which it is subject 
came to a changeable equilibrium. It would be too simple an ex 
planation of what takes place, to suppose that when two elements 
a and b make their appearance at two points of space in close prox 
imity, a and 0, they have been accredited to these positions owing to 
the special sympathy of their natures or the intimacy of their inter 
action. Rather they may have been quite indifferent to each other, and 
yet have been forced into this juxtaposition, simply because the 
demands made by all the rest of the elements and their motions 
can find no better satisfaction than in the momentary proximity of 
these two elements, though it may not answer to any vital con 
nexion between the elements themselves. Reflexion upon this 
constant motion of the world will cause us to modify our previous 
view, or, at all events, to define it more accurately. The position a 
of an element a, though always no doubt it expresses the balance of 
the several forces for the time being affecting a, may also at the same 
time be the expression of an unavoidable want of equilibrium between 
the present state of a, and that state to which its nature gives it a 
claim in the totality of existence ; an expression, therefore, of a dis 
cordant Tension, which remains until, in the course of events, the 
causes which occasioned it again disappear. 

I make these remarks, in order to give an idea of the complex 
kinds of relations which here present themselves, and in order to 
remove the impression that there is any correspondence between the 
appearance of the world in space at any given moment and an intel 
ligible order of things, in which the position of each element would 
correspond with the conception which permanently represents its 
nature. But I hasten to add that this reference to a disproportion of 

CHAPTER vi.] Is Matter homogeneous ? 335 

states, in the above-mentioned sense, must not be mixed up with any 
secondary associations of * that which ought not to be, that which is 
out of place/ or * which contradicts the purpose of the whole. 
Whether anything of this kind ever happens, whether, i. e. there is 
anything in the world s course which can be compared with discords 
in a musical progression, we shall not here enquire. The dispro 
portion of which we have been speaking is primarily nothing but the 
impulse to a change of state which is suggested by the course of 
events, and which tends to or accomplishes the transition to posi 
tions according as it is impeded or unimpeded. Turning now from 
these general considerations, we will apply ourselves to the solution 
of certain* special questions, which acquire from our present point of 
view either the whole of their significance or a different significance 
from that which is- commonly assigned to them. 

193. Let us start as before from the supposition of a given plurality 
of active elements; remembering at the same time how frequently 
it happens, as has been proved by experiments, that apparently 
different properties are really only the result of different combina 
tions of a single homogeneous substance. The question will, then, 
obviously be, must we, in order to explain the facts, assume the exist 
ence of a multiplicity of originally distinct materials ? or, shall we 
explain even the characteristic differences between the chemical Ele 
ments as mere modifications of a single homogeneous matter ? The 
eagerness which is now shown in favour of the attempt to explain 
away these differences seems to me to be based to some extent on a 
false principle of method. For practical purposes Science is, of 
course,. always interested in reducing the number of independent 
principles upon which to base its explanations, and in making calcu 
lable the course of events by subordinating the complex derivative 
premisses to a few primary ones. But not less certain is it that 
Science cannot desire any more complete unity than actually exists, 
and until the point is decided by experience, a unity which remains 
still unknown must not be presupposed as certainly existing except 
in cases in which without it a contradiction would be introduced 
into the nature of the subject-matter. 

Now, our idea of Nature implies three things, (i) A system of 
universal laws, which determine the sequence of cause and conse 
quence. (2) A multitude of concrete points to which these laws may 
attach and so find their application. (3) Lastly, a purpose to realise 
which these actual existences are combined together. Every theory of 
Science admits the two first of these postulates ; the last is, no doubt, 

336 The simple elements of Matter. [BOOK ir. 

the subject of conflicting opinions. But wherever the thought of a 
purpose in nature is cherished, it stands to reason that there can be 
but one, and that all seemingly independent tendencies must be really 
subordinate to this unity and appear as moments in its Being. Not 
less necessary is the unity of the supreme laws which govern the 
connexion of events. These consist not so much in the rules to 
which various forces variously conform, as in the universal truths of 
mathematics, to which any self-consistent world, even though it were 
quite otherwise constituted than the existing one, would always have 
to submit throughout its whole extent alike. It is impossible to con 
ceive an order of nature, unless it can be determined according to the 
same rules of measurement in every instance what results may be 
deduced from the presence of active elements in given proportions, 
and from their reciprocal interactions in calculable degrees of in 
tensity. On the other hand, the actual existence, which has to 
furnish these laws with cases in which they will apply, has to fulfil no 
requirement but the primary one of being manifold. Nor is there the 
slightest reason why a theory which takes no exception to the doctrine 
of an original plurality of homogeneous atoms should regard with 
suspicion the hypotheses of original differences of quality. No further 
likeness of nature need be attributed to the atoms than such as is 
required to enable them to combine together in the same order of 
things. It must be possible in so far as they affect each other by way 
of interaction, to exhibit their natures as combining in definite degrees 
of intensity certain universal modes of activity. But there appears to 
me to be no necessity for regarding the group of specific coefficients 
which these general modes of action .are found to take in any par 
ticular element, as attached to a substance of like nature through 
out, or, more strictly, as attached to what is merely the substantiated 
abstraction of reality. The group may equally well be regarded 
as the expression of a specific quality, so far as such expression 
is allowed by the mutual intercourse of the various forms of 

Practically the importance of the difference between these two 
views would consist in this, that the latter would altogether exclude 
the possibility of one chemical element passing into another, whilst, 
according to the former view, this would be at any rate conceivable. 
It would indeed be more than conceivable. It would rather be in 
explicable that throughout the endless process of combination, dis 
solution and transformation to which the parts of matter are subject, 
no element should ever lose its identity or merge its own individuality 

CHAPTER vi.j 77ie Conception of Mass! 337 

in that of some other. If the essential character of each element 
depends merely on a peculiar arrangement of homogeneous particles, 
it may be conjectured that the same course of events which gave 
birth to one of the forms thus composed, might again produce the 
conditions which would lead to its being either dissolved or trans 
formed into some other shape. But if it was meant that it could 
be shown that there are certain forms of combination which having 
once originated can never by any possible conjunction of forces 
be dissolved, it would still be open to ask, Why at any rate there 
is not, through a further composition of the simpler structures, a 
constant increase in the number of these irrevocable combinations ? 
Finally, if it is to be regarded as an eternal fact that these com 
binations are all alike indestructible and at the same time incapable 
of further development, it would be difficult to say in what would 
consist the difference between this view and that which assumes an 
original difference between the elements. As regards the practical 
explanation of nature there would be no difference between the two 
ideas ; it would be a difference merely of theoretical view. The 
probability of all reality being homogeneous in essence, unless con 
firmed by future experience, could only be maintained upon con 
siderations of a different and more indirect kind. 

194. To this class of considerations belong the views commonly 
held in regard to the mass of matter, its constancy, and its influence 
in determining the character of different kinds of effects. It is now 
quite superfluous to recur to what was once a mistake of frequent 
occurrence in philosophy, by pointing out that the idea of mass is 
not exclusively associated with that of weight and heaviness ; but, that, 
as applied to the reciprocal action of any two material bodies, the 
term expresses the intensity of the force which each contributes to 
the common result. Let us suppose that we have formed two bodies 
from m and p. numbers of units of the same matter, and have ob 
served their behaviour to a third bodyV in regard to a certain effect of 
the kind /. If having observed this, we then find that two other 
bodies, both demonstrably formed from the same material, behave 
in the same way towards c as the two first in respect of the same 
effect />, we rightly conclude that they also contain m and p. number of 
units of the same matter. Suppose, however, these two latter bodies 
exhibited divergent properties, so that their consisting of the same 
matter was open to doubt, and yet that, in regard to p, they were 
affected towards c precisely as those two substances had been which 
we had ourselves formed from a demonstrably common matter, it 

VOL. i. z 

338 The simple elements of Matter. 

would no doubt be a natural and obvious conjecture that their 
behaviour was also due to the presence of m and /* units of a homo 
geneous substance, though this likeness was hidden in their case by 
secondary differences of quality. At the same time, this conjecture 
would go beyond the facts. All that the facts teach is that in respect 
of the effect /, the two bodies in question are equivalent to m and jx 
numbers of the before-mentioned matter ; not that they actually 
consist 0/"them. There is nothing to prevent them from being in all 
oiher respects different in original quality from each other, and from 
c, and yet being capable of a special interaction of the kind p 
between them and c, in which their contribution to the common result 
admits of a numerical expression m and /z, as identical or comparable 
with that of the two bodies first considered. If now, assuming them 
to have the above specific quality, we proceed to consider their inter 
action with a fresh body d resulting in a different kind of effect q, we 
shall not be justified in assuming that the proportion in which they 
contribute to this result is the same, viz. m : p, as that in which they 
contributed to produce /. Rather, it is conceivable that in their new 
relation to d, bringing into play as it would new forces, they would be 
like where they had before been unlike, and unlike where they had 
been like ; or, in a word, that in regard to the effect q, they would 
assume the quantities m l and ^, different from the previous quantities 
m and p. In point of fact, at any rate at first sight, this is how the 
several effects/, q, r, produced by the reciprocal action of the bodies 
in question, are related, and it is never certain that a which in regard 
to/ is greater in quantity than b, will still remain so in regard to q. 

Whether these differences can be intelligibly explained on the 
hypothesis of a homogeneous matter, as secondary effects due to 
different modes of combination, must here be left undecided. Owing 
to the extreme variety of the phenomena to be taken into account, 
such a conclusion could only be established, if at all, in the distant 
future. On the other hand, it is of course always possible to express 
each of the new quantitative determinations that arise, e.g. m l and p lt 
by means of the old ones, i.e. by k m and K /u, and so by, assigning for 
each kind of special effect a specific coefficient to bring the fiction of 
a homogeneous mass into harmony with the given facts. In a meta 
physical point of view this would decide nothing. The possible 
qualitative difference between the parts of matter is as little made to 
disappear by this reduction, as corn and meat cease to be two 
different things after their value has been expressed in the common 
term- of money. The doctrine then which I am maintaining is not 

CHAPTER vi.] Unity which is not Homogeneous. 339 

open to any general objection on these grounds, though it cannot be 
applied to explain the particular facts. It, at any rate, does not oblige 
us to think of the different elements as differing without any principle. 
Belonging as they would to one and the same world, their qualities 
would be mutually related members of a single interconnected system, 
within which they would be combined in different directions, in dif 
ferent senses, and with various degrees of intimacy. Stationed at the 
meeting-point of many opposing tendencies, an element might on 
one of its sides display a greater degree of force than its neighbour, on 
another an equal degree, whilst on a third side its force might be 
less ; and, if we knew the purpose of the whole system, which we do 
not know, we should be able to deduce from the mass which an 
element exhibited in the production of the effect /, the specific co 
efficients which belong to it for the actions q, r, &c., and to exhibit 
those coefficients as a series of mutually dependent functions. 

195. I have made these observations, still proceeding on the as 
sumption that a plurality of individual elements is what forms the ulti 
mate constituents of the world. We shall see, however, that they have 
equal force, if viewed in connexion with a result established by our 
ontological investigations, according to which these multitudinous 
elements are but modifications of one and the same Being 1 . To 
hold this latter opinion, seems at first to be equivalent to repeating 
the very view against which we have been contending. It appears as 
if we could have no real interest in establishing the fact of difference 
amongst the elements, if this is not to be regarded as ultimate and 
irremovable. But the doctrine here maintained, is essentially dis 
tinguished from the doctrine of Physics. I understand by this abso 
lute Being, not a Real existence infinite in quantity and of like 
nature throughout, which has no other inherent capacity than that of 
falling into countless homogeneous parts, and which only is in a 
secondary sense, by means of the various possible combinations of 
those parts, the ground of a diversity existing in the content of the 
world. I conceive it rather as a living idea, the import of which, 
inaccessible in its essence to any quantitative measurement, is no 
mere homogeneous aggregate of ideas, but a self-articulated whole 
of variously interwoven parts ; each one of these parts, as well as the 
several elements which compose it, acquiring a determinate quantity 
according to its value and position in the whole. 

Let us give an illustration. If this idea could be expressed in terms 
of our thought, it could only be so by means of a number of propo- 
1 [Cp. Chapters vi. and vii. of Book I.] 
Z 2 

340 The simple elements of Matter. 

sitions which would be towards one another in those extremely 
various modes of dependence in which the different parts of a 
scientific system are connected together. But these principles would 
be meaningless, if they were not again composed of words words of 
which the meanings while different and unchangeably fixed, are still 
not immeasurably different, but so precisely determined in relation to 
each other that they admit of being joined together in very various 
syntactical combinations, to serve as vehicles by which the Idea is 
articulated into its parts. With these words I compare the ele 
mentary materials of nature. In themselves they are nothing ; they 
are merely forms of a common principle underlying the world, 
a principle, however, which maintains them as constantly uniform 
activities, so that in every case in which they occur and enter into 
mutual relations they observe the same laws of behaviour. But, 
although thus involved from all eternity in a network of relations, 
they still remain different as regards each other, and incapable of 
being referred to mere division and re-combination of a uniform 
substratum. The mathematical mode of regarding the question 
which favours this latter view, and which has very extensive rights in 
the treatment of nature, is still not the only way of conceiving its 
unity, nor does it penetrate to the ultimate ground of things- 
Merely, within the limits of our observation, this mathematical con 
nexion of things, secondary though it is, presents itself first. That 
whole world of quantitative and numerical determinations is itself 
based on an order of things, the synthetic connexions of which we 
could never have arrived at by any logical analysis. We have called 
this order systematic, and now we may replace this imperfect ex 
pression by another, that of the esthetic unity of purpose in the 
world, which, as in some work of art, combines with convincing 
justice things which in their isolation would seem incoherent and 
scarcely to stand in any relation to one another at all. Or, lastly, we 
might prefer to use the term dialectical unity/ in memory of a late 
phase of our German Philosophy, which was thoroughly alive to the 
truth of this doctrine, but failed, as it seems to me, because it be 
lieved itself able to apply to details of fact principles which can only 
in a rough way prescribe a general direction to our thoughts. 

196. This transformation of our views introduces us to a further 
question, which to Physical Atomism appears to be no question at all. 
It is assumed that a countless number of individual atoms fill the 
world. Now, be they the same or be they different in kind, whence 
comes their plurality ? If they are regarded as starting-points to be 


Plurality of Identicals. 


assumed, beyond which we cannot go in thought, no doubt their 
dispersion throughout space can also be included in the number 
of facts to be taken for granted, which we must recognise without 
attempting to explain. But, to us, who have conceived every qualita 
tively distinct element as one of a connected series of acts emanating 
from the supreme principle of the universe, it is necessarily perplexing 
to find that the instances in which each element occurs are scattered 
over a countless number of different points in space. Nor is this an 
enigma merely from our point of view. We can, no doubt, by an 
act of thought easily represent to ourselves the same content a 
a thousand times over, and we can distinguish the thousand creations 
of our imagination, by localising them at different points of space, 
or by enumerating them according to the different moments of time 
when they first suggested themselves to us. But how, strictly speak 
ing, can it be conceived that, in actual fact, the same a occurs several 
times over? Must not the mere fact that there are several, make it 
necessary that a should be in one case something different from what 
it is in another, though it ought in every case to be the same ? ^JVVhai 
constitutes the objective difference between them, which makes a truih 
of fact of the logical assumption that they are so many like instances 
of a general notion or a common nature ? We remember what a 
stumbling-block this question was to Leibnitz. It seemed to him to 
be impossible that two things should actually occur, unless their duality 
was based on a difference of nature between them. He would not 
even allow that two leaves of a tree could be exactly alike. This 
difficulty scarcely attracts any attention now. I must say, however, 
that it seems to me to have been somewhat too hastily passed over 
by those who have followed in the footsteps of Kant. What Thought 
could not achieve, was held to be made possible by spatial per 
ception. It was in and through space that it was clearly shown 
how things could be at once like and manifold ; they might differ 
in position, but be perfectly identical in the nature which occupies 
the position. 

Certainly, this is clear enough ; but I cannot see in this clearness a 
solution of the difficulty. All that it does is to bring the problem itself 
vividly before us ; but for this phenomenon, indeed, the difficulty 
would scarcely have been suggested. Now, if science admitted to an 
unlimited extent the possibility of things acting upon each other at a 
distance, it might no doubt be granted that one atom is never subject 
to precisely the same sum of external influences as another. And, 
if it were further granted that the atoms experience changes of inner 

34 2 The simple elements of Matter. [BOOK H. 

state corresponding with these external influences, it would follow 
that an atom a would be in some way different at each moment of 
its existence from a second and otherwise similar atom, since its 
internal states at any moment are not an extraneous appendage to 
its nature, but an actual constituent of what it is at that moment. 
But this mode of statement would still involve the latent supposition, 
that though the states by which an atom is affected change, yet 
through all this change the atom itself remains as a constant 
quantity, which would have maintained itself in its position even if 
there had been no forces acting on it, and which only becomes 
distinguished from other atoms of the same kind as itself owing to 
external influences which might not have been operative. Thus we 
are brought back to the question, What does it really mean that an 
element occupies a point in space? and how can it be that in virtue 
of its position it is distinguished from other elements, seeing that all 
points of space, both in themselves and in their effects on the 
elements, are precisely alike ? I have tried to give an answer to this 
question. Its very terms are meaningless from the point of view 
which regards space as something actually existing by reference to 
which things are determined. Things do not first find themselves in 
certain positions, and then become enabled to take effect, but it is 
the kind and degree of the effects which they already exercise upon 
each other that makes them occupy those positions for the per 
ceptive consciousness, which seem to us to be those which originally 
belong to them. 

This answer, however, does not at once remove our present dif 
ficulty. In order to find a reason why these qualitatively-distinguished 
elements should assume the form of a scattered multitude of in 
dividual atoms, it seems as if we should be compelled to suppose 
that in the intelligible world, which reflects itself in space, that action 
or thought which we designated as the nature of an element, must 
repeat itself as often as its phenomenon. Is such a repetition less 
unaccountable than the easy hypothesis of a plurality of atoms with 
which Physics is content? I feel myself able to answer in the 
affirmative. It is merely owing to the effect of constant association 
with the forms of space, that when we come to represent to ourselves 
these repeated actions, we conceive them as falling into a number 
of disconnected groups separated from one another by empty intervals 
just as the parts of space are separated by their lines of distance. 
There is really no such relation between them. Just as in our own 
inner experience the self-same principle or the same conception recurs 

CHAPTER vi.] Divisibility of Atomic Centres. 343 

in the most various connexions, and exercises a limiting or deter 
mining influence of many different kinds on any other of our thoughts 
with which it happens to be associated, just so the idea, which deter 
mines the qualitative nature of an element of matter, serves in the 
order of the universe as a point of intersection for the different 
tendencies which make that universe into a connected whole ; con 
nected, as I must again insist, not merely as a rigidly classified system, 
but as an eternally progressive history. We are, therefore, not called 
upon, nor are we interested to maintain that there are distinct special 
existences corresponding in number with the functions which the 
same idea must fulfil when thus associated with others in these 
various combinations. The number of scattered atoms is merely the 
number of the separate appearances which an element assumes to 
our perception of space owing to the manifold relations in which it is 
involved with other elements. 

197. The extremely paradoxical nature of this conclusion shall not 
prevent me from mentioning also a certain corollary which follows 
from it. We have now arrived at a point of view from which the 
atomic theory can no longer satisfy us, not even after that transforma 
tion of its fundamental idea, to which it seemed not to be disinclined. 
So long as the unextended points, from and to which forces proceed, 
points which have indeed positions in space but no volume, were con 
ceived as having, not less than the extended atoms had previously 
been conceived as having, an obstinately indestructible nature, there 
could of course be no mention of a further division into parts ; since 
that which was to be divided was, as its very name implied, indivisible. 
This mode of representation no longer holds good. If the single real 
idea which determines the nature of a qualitative element necessarily 
manifests itself under a number of distinct forms, and if there is no 
limit to the multiplication of the relations which it may assume towards 
other ideas, why should it be specially attached to just those points in 
space where it happens to be active at any given moment ? Why should 
not the positions which it may occupy also admit of being multiplied 
indefinitely, seeing that none of the manifestations of the element 
have any other claim to a separate existence except such as depends 
on the mandate of the whole order which assigns to them this and no 
other position ? 

Not that I have any desire to return to the notion of a continuously 
extended, infinitely divisible matter, nor to that other notion, accord 
ing to which the real atom, at least in its spatial phenomenon, is 
quite continuous in the sense that it is equally present at every point 

344 The simple elements of Matter. 

within its own narrow volume. I would rather not in any way de 
part from the results of Atomism most recently arrived at, according 
to which an atom is conceived as developing its activity from a 
geometric point. But I can see no reason for regarding the amount 
of force which is thus diffused a force which is now no longer in 
any sense an indestructible metaphysical unity as eternally attached 
to this one point. Rather, it would admit of partition in space, just 
as it is itself only a partial manifestation of a single identical function 
of the whole. In proportion as new combinations of phenomena 
were required to exist by the course of the world, each centre of 
activities would have the power of breaking itself up into several 
centres, which would then assume different positions in space ac 
cording as the new conditions to which they were subject prescribed. 
These conditions may be very different. Their effect may be not 
merely to compel the new centres of activity to combine with atoms 
belonging to other elements, but also to cause an increase in the 
volume of any particular atom by forcing its constituent elements to 
expand and fall asunder. There would thus come to be differences 
in the density of the atoms. Owing to this constant process of inner 
dissolution, new points of departure for effects would be multiplied, 
and there would arise the appearances which were formerly believed 
to be only capable of being explained on the hypothesis of a con 
tinuous and real extension in space, and which are only accounted 
for at the cost of a permanent improbability by those who believe, 
with ordinary atomism, that all things are ultimately analysable into 
real existence and empty space. In this way we should be brought 
to the idea of an infinite dynamic divisibility of unextended atoms, 
an idea which, it is to be hoped, will seem less frightful than the 
barbarous name by which, in order to distinguish it from the tra 
ditional theories, I believe that it may most briefly be described. It 
will no doubt have been taken for granted that the degree of intensity, 
or, to put it shortly, the mass of each of the parts will be diminished, 
while the sum of these masses remains the same. I have nothing to 
say against this addition, but the principle on which it is made will 
require further discussion in our next chapter. 


The Laws of the Activities of Things. 

OF the inner movements of things we know nothing. Still less do 
we know what are the constant modes of co-operation which the 
order of the Universe requires them to assume. Hence, experience 
alone can discover to us the motive forces into which the course of 
natural events can be analysed and the law according to which each 
of these several forces may be conceived as taking effect. But a 
sufficiently careful and comprehensive observation has long since 
established certain general results, which deserve, by way of supple 
ment at any rate, to receive an interpretation in connexion with 
metaphysical views, and which suggest the question whether they 
are really nothing but the expression of what has been observed to 
take place, and not rather of necessities of thought to which ex 
perience has directed our attention only subsequently? I shall 
attempt to investigate this point, though well- knowing beforehand 
that my labours are not likely to produce any considerable result. 
They will serve merely to draw attention to the ambiguity of those 
speculations, philosophical no less than scientific, which will never 
cease to be directed to this unpromising subject. 

198. In the first place, it is universally admitted that the intensity 
of the effects which a force produces at a distance, is dependent on 
the interval between the elements between which it operates. And 
to this conclusion the doctrine which is here maintained must also 
lead, though it remains to be seen later by what steps. If the 
positions of things in space are merely expressions of the forces 
which are already acting upon them, a fortiori every impulse to 
further activity will depend upon these interactions between the ele 
ments and on the distances in which those interactions manifest 
themselves. This merely general characterisation is not, however, 
enough to determine precisely the nature of the connexion between 
forces and the distances of elements. But the other assumption, 

346 The Laws of the Activities of Things. [BOOK n. 

which is asserted with almost as much assurance as the last, viz. 
that the intensity of the effect is in an inverse ratio to the distance, 
has nothing to recommend it if we exclude the familiar instances 
furnished by experience, except the inadmissible idea that space acts 
as an obstacle which cannot be overcome except by a partial sacrifice 
of force. 

Other preconceived notions combine with this one to produce an 
impression that this decrease of force is a fixed law, holding good in 
all cases in which forces act at a distance. That a force, emanating 
from a certain starting-point, diffuses itself through space, is not 
merely our mode of expressing the fact that its effects differ in degree 
at different distances. Unfortunately, we believe ourselves to be 
describing not only a fact but an actual process by which the neces 
sity of this difference is explained. As the force is transmitted to 
larger and larger spherical shells it seems as if its tenuity must 
increase in the same ratio as the area which it occupies, the ratio of 
the square of the distance from its starting-point. This coincidence 
of a simple geometric relation with a general law which we see illus 
trated in the effects produced at a distance by gravitation and by 
electric and magnetic agencies, is too tempting not to invite often- 
repeated attempts to establish the closest connexion between them. 
None of the assumptions, however, which are required as links in the 
connexion can be admitted. A force cannot be supposed to proceed 
from a point c, without at once being regarded as an independent 
fluid medium. That its tenuity should increase with its increasing 
extension, would no doubt not be altogether inconceivable. But still 
we should have to discover to what the motion of the fluid was due. 
This could only ultimately arise from a new force, a force of repul 
sion, exerted upon the fluid by the thing present at c. We should 
have also to show what becomes of the force thus diffused, if it 
meets with no object on which to take effect, and further from what 
source the constant supply of force at c is derived. These questions 
cannot be evaded by supposing that the force does not diffuse itself 
around c, but is, as it were, a permanent atmosphere already diffused 
around it. To deny the fact of the movement of radiation, would be 
to take away the only justification for the principle that the density 
decreases with increase of distance, whilst it would contribute 
nothing towards the explanation of the effect eventually produced. 
Let us, then, suppose that a given force whilst proceeding from c, 
meets in the point / with an object which it is to act on. How is 
this action possible? and how can the force impart to the body 

CHAPTER vii.] Difficulties of Radiation of Force. 347 

motion in any particular direction? All that concluded 
from the arrival of the force at />, would be that it was now present at 
that point not, that a body situated at that point must, owing to the 
action of the force, be set in motion. But, even granting that it were 
thus set in motion, what direction could the motion take? The 
motion as such could stand in no relation to the point c ; for, if the 
activity of the force is made to depend on this process of its diffusion, 
it follows that it only acts at p just as far as it is there ; it makes no 
difference whether it was there always or whence it came there. 
Supposing it then to coincide exactly at p with some real element, 
it could not impart any motion to that element, for there would be 
no reason why it should prefer one direction to another *. If, on the 
other hand, we suppose that at the first moment of its beginning to 
exercise its activity, the force is separated from the element by ever 
so small an interval, we are making action at a slight distance serve 
as an explanation of action at any and every distance, though we 
cannot bring the former under any definite law, and must therefore 
fail in the attempt to deduce the law of the latter. 

Even if these difficulties could be got rid of, it would still remain a 
question whether the resulting motion will take the direction cp t or the 
opposite one p c. For this process of radiation would be just the same 
for an attractive and for a repulsive force. Each smallest particle of 
the fluid would, in such a case, still have to exert attraction or repulsion 
upon whatever it might meet with at the point to which it had come, 
as a property peculiar to itself and not admitting of further explana 
tion. But, if that were so, there would be no longer any occasion for 
confining these effects to the parts of the force which come before p 
in the line c p ; the parts on the other side of />, which lay in the 
course of this line when produced, or which had come there, would 
exercise an influence on the element at />, of the same kind thougli 
in a contrary direction. The ensuing motion would then be. the 
result of these different impulses ; at any rate it could not correspond 
with the simple law which it was hoped could be deduced from it. 
Finally, the attempt may be made to get rid of these difficulties, by 
supposing that the radiating force imparts its own motion to the 
element which it lights upon, and determines by its own direction 
that which the element in its turn is to take. Putting aside, however, 
that this is a transition from one idea, that of a force acting at a 
distance, to another, the idea of communication of already existing 
motion, all that would be explained by this method would be the 

1 [C P . 185.] 

348 The Laws of the Activities of Things. [BOOK IT. 

centrifugal effects of repulsion ; every case of attraction would require 
a centripetal pressure, such as has, indeed, often been assumed, but 
has not hitherto had any intelligible explanation given of it. 

199. On these grounds I not only hold that these attempted de 
ductions have failed to establish their own special conclusions, but the 
spirit in which they have been undertaken seems to me to be incon 
sistent with itself. Of course, many of the occurrences which take 
place in the world are of a compound character, and arise from 
mechanical combination of others. It is possible that gravitation 
and other similar phenomena which seem to us to be the expressions 
of the simplest primary forces, may really be compound results pro 
duced by forces still more simple. An elaboration of experience so 
advanced as to show this to be the case would really have succeeded 
in furnishing us with a genetic theory of the Law of Gravitation. If, 
on the other hand, these and all effects of a like kind are regarded as 
the expression of simple and primary forces, we must not attempt, as 
is done by these theories, to give a mechanical explanation of their 
origin, by referring them to a diffusion and attenuation of force. 
The only proof that can be expected of these elementary processes 
and their Laws is the speculative one, that they have a necessary 
place in the rational order of things. The Ratio legis might be given, 
but not the machinery by which it is carried into effect. The treat 
ment, then, of this problem belongs, without doubt, to Philosophy, 
nor do I complain that there should have been such innumerable 
attempts to solve it, though unfortunately I know of none that has 
been successful. I do not therefore continue my own investigation 
with any hope of arriving at a result that can be final, but merely in 
order to bring out more clearly some of the distinctive features of my 
general view. 

200. Owing to the doctrine which I have already expounded in 
regard to the nature of forces, I do not feel touched by an objection 
which Physicists have urged against the absolute validity of the Law 
of Gravitation, an objection which, if it held good, would render un 
tenable the whole of this doctrine which speculation so obstinately 
attempts to deduce a priori ; where the distance o, the attracting 
force must according to this law, it is said, be infinite. I will not 
now stop to enquire whether this result is altogether inadmissible. 
It would be open for those who maintain the ordinary hypothesis of 
a continuously extended matter to urge that contact takes place only 
between points, lines, or surfaces without thickness, and consequently 
that the masses whose distance = o, must in every case themselves = o 

CHAPTER vii.] Attraction at no Distance. 349 

also. If the hypothesis of unextended atoms conceived as points be 
preferred, we should certainly have to ascribe to them an infinite 
power of resisting separation, in case they had once got united in the 
same point by attraction. But all that would be necessary would be 
to take care that such a case never arose. It would be easy indeed 
so to alter the formula of the law, that in case of all observable dis 
tances, even the smallest, it should correspond as nearly as possible 
with the results of observation, while in the case of vanishing dis 
tances it should still not imply the infinity of the force of attraction. 
But, I think we can achieve the same end, without introducing a 
modification of the law such as would be purely arbitrary and in 
capable of ever being proved. All the several forces which Physics 
is led by experience to assume, stand in our view merely for the 
various components into which the single power of interaction in 
herent in the nature of things admits of being analysed. It is not 
therefore at all surprising that a law which expresses with perfect pre 
cision the operation of one out of this number of components should 
nevertheless yield infinite degrees of intensity or other inapplicable 
values if the component is supposed to continue its operation isolated 
and uncontrolled. These cases of isolated action are precisely those 
which are never met with; they express merely what would occur 
under certain imagined conditions, but what under existing con 
ditions, never does occur. Hence it is not necessary to modify the 
formula of the well-known law of gravitation, considered as simply 
claiming to indicate the variations of the attractive action; in this 
sense the formula may be perfectly precise; only the limiting case 
never occurs for which alone it would yield such problematical values. 
In proportion as the elements which are attracted approach each 
other more nearly the tendency to repulsion will be found to grow 
even more rapidly, and if any one of the proposed modifications of 
the law could be shown to hold good in actual experience it would 
not be a more correct expression of the attraction taken by itself so 
much as of the total effect in which attraction and repulsion are 
already united. Moreover, it is easy to see that without this sup 
position this partial law expressing mere attraction would yield results 
which would be not so much inconceivable as merely inapplicable in 
our view of nature. Let us suppose two elements a and b between 
which there is attraction but never repulsion, to approach the point 
c from opposite sides. They would then at the moment of meeting 
have not only an infinite attraction g, but also infinite though 
opposite velocities v. Now as the velocity last reached, v, has 

350 The Laws of the Activities of Things. \ BOOK n. 

arisen by the summation of all the accelerations which have been 
increasing infinitely up to the value g, we cannot but regard the 
infinite quantity v as greater than the infinite quantity g. Hence, if 
there were no repulsion, g could not prevent the two elements from 
passing with opposite velocities through each other s midst and thus 
distance would be restored between them and the amount of their 
attraction would become finite again. 

201. A special objection to the received views has been urged by 
Herbart. He will not himself admit the operation of forces at a dis 
tance ; but for those who do admit it, he holds that the only legitimate 
assumption is this, that the intensity of each force is diminished in 
proportion as it is satisfied by the attainment of its result. That a 
repulsion, therefore, should decrease with the distance which it has 
produced, requires no explanation. On the other hand, the force 
of attraction, which becomes always more intense in proportion as it 
has drawn its object nearer, remains a paradox for him. This 
objection is plausible enough if .the object is to explain the observed 
effects of the law by reference to its inner meaning ; but I cannot 
think that the particular psychological analogy, to which it owes its 
conclusiveness, will admit of this general application. I entirely agree 
with Herbart that there are inner processes in things, from which the 
forces moving them are derived, and I will concede to him that in 
both the cases which are here brought together psychical endeavour 
and physical motion the impulse to what is done lies in a differ 
ence between a thing s actual state of- being and some other state, 
which, if it could be realised, would be more in correspondence with 
its nature. But I dispute the conclusion which is so hastily drawn 
from these premisses. Herbart shows himself in this matter to be 
influenced by his main conception, according to which each changing 
state of a thing is a disturbance of its original nature, so that 
the only manifestation of activity which can fairly be attributed to 
real existence, is that of self-conservation or recurrence to the 
status quo ante. In that case, no doubt, supposing M to be this 
permanently fixed aim, and q the state which is a departure from it, 
the result to be achieved at each instant would correspond to this 
difference M- q. Strictly speaking, it does not at once follow from 
this, that the intensity of the force which exerts itself to recover the 
former state, must vary directly as the amount of divergence repre 
sented by q, and inversely as the result already obtained. All that would 
be measured by M q is the extent of what is required in order to 
attain the given end. But there would be nothing to prevent the 

CHAPTER vii.] The satisfaction of Force. 351 

force from continuing to operate with unvarying intensity until this 
difference had been made to disappear, just as a labourer in filling up 
a pit does not at first work more rapidly and afterwards with less 
energy, because the space to be heaped in was at the beginning 
larger and has since become smaller, but he works throughout at 
the same pace. 

Even, however, admitting this assumption, insufficiently proved as 
it is, I doubt the relevancy of the analogy which would make the 
occurrence of a physical effect correspond with the satisfaction of a 
psychical impulse. If, taking an imaginary case, we compare a supposed 
quantity M, of which we have an idea, with a smaller given quantity g, 
no doubt we know that Mq expresses the amount which must be 
added to ^, in order to make it = M. In this case, M t though not 
present before us in external reality, was as adequately represented by 
its idea as q was, and the estimation of the difference between them 
was thus made possible. If, however, we experienced a state q, and this 
were merely a manner or mode of our consciousness, some form 
perhaps of feeling, this feeling would not be able by itself to produce 
in our minds the idea of the absent M. Knowledge of the character 
and extent of the difference between q and M could only arise if we 
had had a real experience of M as well, and it were to enter into our 
consciousness in the form of a feeling or the remembrance of a feel 
ing similar in kind to q. Although, therefore, the disturbed state of 
our feelings may depend upon the difference Mq,yz\. this difference 
only exists primarily for the comparing mind of an onlooker; it is 
not a real element in the experience of the being who is affected by 
the state q, at any rate not unless there is some remembrance of the 
state M. It cannot therefore be the obvious standard by which such 
a being, with a sort of preference for what is reasonable and just, 
determines the intensity of the effort which it has to make. However 
far, then, we may go in assimilating the inner states of things to 
processes of mind, so long as we do not believe that the physical 
operations of things are regulated like acts of our own by rules drawn 
from experience, as long as we believe rather that there is a necessity 
imposed on them to come to pass as they do, the difference between 
an actual and a better state of things cannot be the determining reason 
by which Physical effects are regulated. 

On the other hand, there is no reason, we at least can see none, 
why the order of the universe which prescribes to all things their 
nature and mode of working, should not have attached to q a blind 
and unpurposed activity, which was as a matter of fact measured by 

352 The Laws of the Activities of Things. 

the difference Mq, though the individual thing which was affected 
by the difference was itself unconscious of it. But, as there is nothing 
to hinder this supposition, so there is nothing to make it necessary ; 
it remains a possible though but an arbitrary assumption that the 
course of things is nothing but a constant effort to attain to an 
equilibrium and to reproduce a state M, which can only be effected by 
getting rid of their present state. There is equally nothing to prevent 
us from admitting the claims, though not the exclusive claims, 
of the opposite view, according to which the attainment of a state 
q means a change in the condition of things, which tends to reproduce 
itself in a more emphatic and intensified form. That other theory, 
the watchword of which is disturbance, has thought only of pain ; 
and then it seems quite natural that the self-conservative activity 
directed to the removal of pain, should decrease in proportion as it 
succeeds. It has taken no account of pleasure, which just as 
naturally creates a stimulus to the intensification of the state which 
was desired and is pleasant. For it is not true, except in those 
cases in which the source of enjoyment lies partly in the .body, that 
pleasure is dulled with satisfaction. The body, no doubt, is forbidden 
by the habits of its action from contributing to the intensification of 
feeling, and interrupts it by weariness and satiety. It will not, however, 
be maintained that the pursuit of knowledge and its results, or the 
aspiration after beauty and goodness, is lessened by approximation 
to the ideal. 

But we will leave these analogies, which decide nothing. The 
general conclusion to which we come is this : there is a blind 
tendency in each thing, owing to its place in the all-embracing order 
of the world, whenever it is in any given state q, to produce an 
effect. The character and extent of this effect are not regulated by 
any law inherent in the nature of substance or force, and binding 
things without regard to the purport of this universal order. It is 
this order and this alone, which, in accordance with its own aims, 
connects reason and consequent, and it is as able to determine that 
the force of reaction should increase with the attainment of results, 
as that it should diminish in proportion as they are attained. 

202. It is easy to see the consequences that follow from this 
conviction. As we do not know the idea which is endeavouring 
to realise itself in the world, it is from experience only, as I have 
before remarked, that we can derive our knowledge of the recurrent 
operations of things according to general laws. We cannot, therefore, 
take it amiss that Physics, following the lead of observation, should 

CHAPTER vii.] A Primary Law of Force and Distance? 353 

assign to the different forces, the assumption of which is found to 
be necessary, laws of action of the most various kinds. These Laws 
Physics regards merely as expressions of the facts, without attempting 
any metaphysical interpretation of them, and every idea of this kind, 
serving to clear up a group of interconnected phenomena, and enabling 
us to infer the future from the present, deserves respect, as an enlarge 
ment of our knowledge. Philosophy is altogether in the wrong, when 
she depreciates results obtained in this way, merely because they do not 
penetrate to the ultimate truth ; but she is certainly within her right, 
when, starting from her own point of view she attempts to supply the 
interpretation which is still lacking to those results. Whatever may be 
thought of space and of existence in space, if once the intensity of inter 
action between two elements is made to depend on the distance sepa 
rating them, and just so far as it is made to depend only on this, it seems 
to be impossible that different forces could be determined by this cause 
to act in different ways; the same distance, it would seem, could 
only make itself felt by the elements and determine all their reciprocal 
effects in the same way. It is this which has prepossessed philo 
sophers in favour of the view that the different modes of action which 
Physics assumes, when it makes different forces dependent on dif 
ferent powers of the distance, cannot have a primary right of existence, 
but that there must be one fundamental law for the relation of action 
to distance, and the deviations from it which experience compels us 
to admit must be due merely to the complexity of the circumstances. 
By an easily understood transition, this fundamental law then came 
to be identified with the Law of Gravitation, this being a Law which 
is obeyed by many familiar effects, differing from each other and 
occurring under apparently very simple circumstances. I cannot 
myself share this prepossession, except with great reservations. It is 
necessary first of all that a certain assumption from which all such 
attempted explanations start, should be clearly stated. That assumption 
is made by thinkers, by whom perhaps in their ultimate essence all 
things are mysteriously merged in the unity of an infinite substance 
and a single creative plan, when they afterwards leave out of sight 
the continuous operation of this single principle, and explain the 
whole course of the world merely from the permanent qualities 
and the changing relations of individual existences, and the con 
sequences which, by common logic, seem to follow from these two 

203. Upon this assumption we are not justified, according to all 
that has preceded, in regarding the interval of distance itself as that 

VOL. i. A a 

354 The Laws of the Activities of Things. t BOOK n. 

which determines the amount offeree exercised between two elements, 
a and b. This is due only to the inner states of the elements which 
correspond to the distances between them. Every mode of treating 
the question must admit so much as this. Even if we adopt the 
ordinary view of space as objectively existing, the distance of things 
will still only be distance between them ; the distance and its measure 
is, therefore, a reality prima facie only for an observer who is able to 
represent to himself the space which must be traversed in order to 
pass from a to b. If a and b are to be guided by it in what they do, 
it must be possible for them and not for an observer only to take 
note that the distance between them is in one case d and in another 
case 8 ; thus in order to act they must first be acted upon by the very 
same condition which is to regulate their activity. This would lead 
us supposing the merely phenomenal character of space to be 
assumed to the conclusion, that every actual distance between a 
and b is nothing but the manifestation in space of the sum of the 
effects which they experience at the moment from one another and 
from the whole, and which are also the cause of their effect upon us. 
The universal order is, however, neither according to our view, nor 
according to the ordinary view, a rigidly classified system, such that 
each element persistently occupies the place which corresponds 
with its conception. Such a system no doubt exists, but its parts 
which are in a constant state of chaotic flux, are every moment 
falling into relative positions which do not correspond to the per 
manent affinities of their natures. 

We know what this means in terms of ordinary spatial perception ; 
it is not the elements which are by their nature most fitted for active 
intercourse which are always the nearest neighbours ; the action of 
some third or fourth element may separate those which are coherent, 
or bring together those which are indifferent. It is indeed impos 
sible to give a picture of what things undergo or experience in their 
inner nature when they enter into those changing intelligible relations 
with which we are familiar in spatial perception as distances of 
greater or less extent. As objects of such perception, i. e. as dis 
tances, these relations seem to us obviously to imply a greater or less 
amount of estrangement or of sympathy in the things, and upon this 
the degree of their reciprocal action is naturally supposed to depend. 
Yet our previous investigations have shown that we cannot account 
for the manner and degree in which things act upon each other from 
the mere fact of their being outside one another ; it is only from 
what they get or experience from this fact, or from the way in which 

CHAPTER vii.] Affinity marked by the Distance. 355 

it connects them, that we can do so. We cannot, therefore, say that the 
distance between things itself exercises an influence on the intensity of 
their force ; it is merely the mode in which the greater or less degree 
of their metaphysical affinity is manifested to us, varying as this does 
with the different combinations into which they are brought by the 
course of events. Throughout this process the things remain what 
they are, and continue to act upon each other conformably to their 
natures. At the same time, the different degrees to which they are 
temporarily displaced from their position in the system, cannot but 
have some influence on their behaviour ; a change in the closeness 
of their metaphysical affinity involves a corresponding change in the 
amount i of the intensity/* with which they stimulate those mutual 
actions for which their nature has fitted them. If these very 
abstract considerations have so far inspired any confidence, we now 
stand before a conclusion which seems certain, and before an alter 
native which we are quite unable to decide. No reason can be any 
where discovered why this metaphysical affinity should correspond to 
any but the first power of the distance, which is the distance itself. On 
the other hand, after what has been said above, it seems quite as 
possible that the effect of this affinity should vary directly as that it 
should vary inversely, with the distance. The two formulae 

i = pd and i = P. 

would be the only formulae in which this point of view could result, 
and they would be of equal validity. 

204. In making use of these expressions, I wish it to be borne in 
mind that as I understand them they have not the same meaning as 
any of those quantities to which the ordinary mechanical view of 
Physics leads us. We do not use i to designate any kind or degree 
of outward performance, but merely the intensity of the stimulus with 
which, in virtue of the relation at the time being subsisting between 
two elements, one of them excites and is excited by the other to any 
or all of those possible forms of reciprocal activity which spring from 
their affinity, their difference, or generally their respective places in the 
system. As regards what follows from the stimulus a fresh and specific 
determination is required to decide whether it is to be attraction or 
repulsion, and yet another to decide its amount. The first require 
ment, however, may perhaps be assumed to be already fulfilled by the 
coefficient p. For though we have hitherto spoken of this merely as a 
quantity, it is dependent on the nature of the interacting elements, 
and therefore, strictly speaking, could only be a concrete number. 

A a 2 

356 The Laws of the Activities of Things. [BOOK n. 

On the other hand, as regards the amount of the initial motion, 
I can see no reason why it should not be considered as simply pro 
portionate to the stimulus z , which is its motive cause. I shall 
not, therefore, make any further comparison between the formula 
i = pd, which would indicate a sort of metaphysical elasticity, and 
what we meet with under the same name, though generally under 
highly complicated conditions, in the sphere of Physics. As re 
gards the second formula, I do not see how the desired result, 
viz. dependence upon the square of the distance, could be shown 
necessarily to follow from it. 

I will however mention the assumption which would have to be 
made in order to bring this law into ultimate harmony with the other 
or metaphysical view. I cannot esteem as of any value for such a 
purpose the appeal to the reciprocity of all effects, which some 
distinguished authorities have introduced into the discussion. If 

/ = - is the intensity with which one element is attracted by another 

and at the same time tends of itself towards it, I cannot see any 
reason for supposing the result to equal the product of the two 
activities ; like every other resultant, it would be the sum of them ; 
it is only the intensity of the effect, not the function of the distance 
upon which it depends, that would be affected. Perhaps, how 
ever, it will be urged, that the effect of a force depends not merely 
on what the force intends to do, but also on how much it is 
able to do, i. e. in the case before us, not merely on the amount 
of mutual excitation, but also on the conditions which promote or 
check the satisfaction of the demands. To put the matter shortly 
and clearly ; the distance d between a and b indicates a degree of 
estrangement between them, and their willingness to act upon each 
other is therefore inversely proportional to that distance. But, the 
weaker will is not only weaker, but has opposed to it the greater 
obstacle, in the shape of the greater distance which weakened it. The 
active force, therefore, which can be exerted, is found by multiplying 
the effort by the reciprocal of the resistance to be overcome ; and 
accordingly is inversely proportional to the square of the distance. 
Such a mode of expression could indeed only serve to indicate briefly 
the essence of the idea ; in real truth, the distance d even if it were 
a really extended space between a and b, could not be regarded as an 
obstacle to the effect. According to the view which we have main 
tained, it could not actively condition the incipient process, except in so 
far as it was represented within the elements a and b by means of that 

CHAPTER vii.] Rationale of Sqicare of Distance. 357 

hidden state of excitation which we found ourselves obliged to assume 
in all cases. But perhaps it is precisely to this inner state of things 
that an argument of this kind may seem to be most rigorously 
applicable. It may perhaps seem incredible that when two elements 
a and b are separated by the distances d or 5, they should in both 
cases alike, though not excited to action to the