Skip to main content

Full text of "Scepticism and animal faith : introduction to a system of philosophy"

See other formats


SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 



BOOKS BT THE S4ME AUTHOR. 

SOLILOQUIES IN ENGLAND AND LATER 
SOLILOQUIES. 

CHARACTER AND OPINION IN THE 

UNITED STATES. With Reminiscences 

of William James and Josiah Royce and 

Academic Life in America. 

LITTLE ESSAYS DRAWN FROM THE 

WRITINGS OF GEORGE SANTAYANA. 

Edited by LOGAN PEARSALL SMITH. 

INTERPRETATIONS OF POETRY AND 
RELIGION. 

THE LIFE OF REASON. Five Volumes. 

THE SENSE OF BEAUTY. 

POEMS. 



SCEPTICISM 
AND ANIMAL FAITH 

INTRODUCTION TO 
A SYSTEM OF PHILOSOPHY 

BY 

GEORGE SANTAYANA 



NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER S SONS 
1923 



First published 1933 



Printed in Great Britain by R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinburgh. 



PREFACE 

HERE is one more system of philosophy. If the reader 
is tempted to smile, I can assure him that I smile with 
him, and that my system to which this volume is 
a critical introduction differs widely in spirit and 
pretensions from what usually goes by that name. 
In the first place, my system is not mine, nor new. I 
am merely attempting to express for the reader the 
principles to which he appeals when he smiles. There 
are convictions in the depths of his soul, beneath all 
his overt parrot beliefs, on which I would build our 
friendship. I have a great respect for orthodoxy ; 
not for those orthodoxies which prevail in particular 
schools or nations, and which vary from age to age, 
but for a certain shrewd orthodoxy which the senti 
ment and practice of laymen maintain everywhere. I 
think that common sense, in a rough dogged way, is 
technically sounder than the special schools of philo 
sophy, each of which squints and overlooks half the 
facts and half the difficulties in its eagerness to find 
in some detail the key to the whole. I am animated 
by distrust of all high guesses, and by sympathy with 
the old prejudices and workaday opinions of man 
kind : they are ill expressed, but they are well grounded. 
What novelty my version of things may possess is 
meant simply to obviate occasions for sophistry by 
giving to everyday beliefs a more accurate and circum 
spect form. I do not pretend to place myself at the 



vi SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

heart of the universe nor at its origin, nor to draw its 
periphery. I would lay siege to the truth only as 
animal exploration and fancy may do so, first from 
one quarter and then from another, expecting the 
reality to be not simpler than my experience of it, 
but far more extensive and complex. I stand in 
philosophy exactly where I stand, in daily life ; I 
should not be honest otherwise. ^-J accept the same 
miscellaneous witnesses, bow to the same obvious 
facts, make conjectures no less instinctively, and admit 
the same encircling ignorance^) 

My system, accordingly, is no system of the universe. 
The Realms of Being of which I speak are not parts 
of a cosmos, nor one great cosmos together : they are 
only kinds or categories of things which I find con 
spicuously different and worth distinguishing, at least 
in my own thoughts. I do not know how many 
things in the universe at large may fall under each of 
these classes, nor what other Realms of Being may 
not exist, to which I have no approach or which I 
have not happened to distinguish in my personal 
observation of the world. Logic, like language, is 
partly a free construction and partly a means of 
symbolising and harnessing in expression the existing 
diversities of things ; and whilst some languages, 
given a man s constitution and habits, may seem more 
beautiful and convenient to him than others, it is a 
foolish heat in a patriot to insist that only his native 
language is intelligible or right. No language or logic 
is right in the sense of being identical with the facts 
it is used to express, but each may be right by being 
faithful to these facts, as a translation may be faithful. 
My endeavour is to think straight in such terms as 
are offered to me, to clear my mind of cant and free 
it from the cramp of artificial traditions ; but I do 
not ask any one to think in my terms if he prefers 
others. Let him clean better, if he can, the windows 



PREFACE vii 

of his soul, that the variety and beauty of the prospect 
may spread more brightly before him. 

Moreover, my system, save in the mocking literary 
sense of the word, is not metaphysical. It contains 
much criticism of metaphysics, and some refinements 
in speculation, like the doctrine of essence, which are 
not familiar to the public ; and I do not disclaim 
being metaphysical because I at all dislike dialectic 
or disdain immaterial things : indeed, it is of im 
material things, essence, truth, and spirit that I speak 
chiefly. But logic and mathematics and literary 
psychology (when frankly literary) are not meta 
physical, although their subject-matter is immaterial, 
and their application to existing things is often 
questionable. Metaphysics, in the proper sense of 
the word, is dialectical physics, or an attempt to 
determine matters of fact by means of logical or moral 
or rhetorical constructions. It arises by a confusion 
of those Realms of Being which it is my special care 
to distinguish. It is neither physical speculation nor 
pure logic nor honest literature, but (as in the treatise 
of Aristotle first called by that name) a hybrid of the 
three, materialising ideal entities, turning harmonies 
into forces, and dissolving natural things into terms 
of discourse. Speculations about the natural world, 
such as those of the Ionian philosophers, are not 
metaphysics, but simply cosmology or natural philo 
sophy. Now in natural philosophy I am a decided 
materialist apparently the only one living ; and I am 
well aware that idealists are fond of calling materialism, 
too, metaphysics, in rather an angry tone, so as to 
cast discredit upon it by assimilating it to their own 
systems. But my materialism, for all that, is not 
metaphysical. I do not profess to know what matter 
is in itself, and feel no confidence in the divination of 
those esprits forts who, leading a life of vice, thought 
the universe must be composed of nothing but dice 



viii SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

and billiard-balls. I wait for the men of science to 
tell me what matter is, in so far as they can discover 
it, and am not at all surprised or troubled at the 
abstractness and vagueness of their ultimate concep 
tions : how should our notions of things so remote 
from the scale and scope of our senses be anything 
but schematic ? But whatever matter may be, I call 
it matter boldly, as I call my acquaintances Smith 
and Jones without knowing their secrets : whatever it 
may be, it must present the aspects and undergo the 
motions of the gross objects that fill the world : and 
if belief in the existence of hidden parts and movements 
in nature be metaphysics, then the kitchen-maid is a 
metaphysician whenever she peels a potato. 

My system, finally, though, of course, formed under 
the fire of contemporary discussions, is no phase of 
any current movement. I cannot take at all seriously 
the present flutter of the image-lovers against in 
telligence. I love images as much as they do, but 
images must be discounted in our waking life, when 
we come to business. I also appreciate the other 
reforms and rebellions that have made up the history 
of philosophy. I prize their sharp criticism of one 
another and their several discoveries ; the trouble is 
that each in turn has denied or forgotten a much 
more important truth than it has asserted. The first 
philosophers, the original observers of life and nature, 
were the best ; and I think only the Indians and the 
Greek naturalists, together with Spinoza, have been 
right on the chief issue, the relation of man and of his 
spirit to the universe. It is not unwillingness to be 
a disciple that prompts me to look beyond the modern 
scramble of philosophies : I should gladly learn of 
them all, if they had learned more of one another. 
Even as it is, I endeavour to retain the positive insight 
of each, reducing it to the scale of nature and keeping 
it in its place ; thus I am a Platonist in logic and 



PREFACE ix 

morals, and a transcendentalist in romantic soliloquy, 
when I choose to indulge in it. Nor is it necessary, 
in being teachable by any master, to become eclectic. 
All these vistas give glimpses of the same wood, and 
a fair and true map of it must be drawn to a single 
scale, by one method of projection, and in one style 
of calligraphy. All known truth can be rendered in 
any language, although the accent and poetry of 
each may be incommunicable ; and as I am content 
to write in English, although it was not my mother- 
tongue, and although in speculative matters I have 
not much sympathy with the English mind, so I am 
content to follow the European tradition in philosophy, 
little as I respect its rhetorical metaphysics, its human 
ism, and its worldliness. 

There is one point, indeed, in which I am truly 
sorry not to be able to profit by the guidance of my 
contemporaries. There is now a great ferment in 
natural and mathematical philosophy and the times 
seem ripe for a new system of nature, at once ingenuous 
and comprehensive, such as has not appeared since 
the earlier days of Greece. We may soon be all 
believing in an honest cosmology, comparable with 
that of Heraclitus, Pythagoras, or Democritus. I 
wish such scientific systems joy, and if I were com 
petent to follow or to forecast their procedure, I 
should gladly avail myself of their results, which are 
bound to be no less picturesque than instructive. 
But what exists to-day is so tentative, obscure, and 
confused by bad philosophy, that there is no knowing 
what parts may be sound and what parts merely 
personal and scatter-brained. If I were a mathe 
matician I should no doubt regale myself, if not the 
reader, with an electric or logistic system of the 
universe expressed in algebraic symbols. For good 
or ill, I am an ignorant man, almost a poet, and 
I can only spread a feast of what everybody knows. 



x SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

Fortunately exact science and the books of the learned 
are not necessary to establish my essential doctrine, 
nor can any of them claim a higher warrant than it 
has in itself : for it rests on public experience. It 
needs, to prove it, only the stars, the seasons, the 
swarm of animals, the spectacle of birth and death, 
of cities and wars. My philosophy is justified, and 
has been justified in all ages and countries, by the 
facts before every man s eyes ; and no great wit is 
requisite to discover it, only (what is rarer than wit) 
candour and courage. Learning does not liberate 
men from superstition when their souls are cowed or 
perplexed ; and, without learning, clear eyes and 
honest reflection can discern the hang of the world, 
and distinguish the edge of truth from the might of 
imagination. In the past or in the future, my language 
and my borrowed knowledge would have been different, 
but under whatever sky I had been born, since it is 
the same sky, I should have had the same philosophy. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

PREFACE ...... v 

CHAP. - 

I. THERE is NO FIRST PRINCIPLE OF CRITICISM . . I ~X/ 

II. DOGMA AND DOUBT . . . . .6 

III. WAYWARD SCEPTICISM . . . . .11 

IV. DOUBTS ABOUT SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS . . .21 
V. DOUBTS ABOUT CHANGE . . . .27 

VI. ULTIMATE SCEPTICISM . . . . -33 

VII. NOTHING GIVEN EXISTS .... 42 " 

VIII. SOME AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION . . 49 

IX. THE DISCOVERY OF ESSENCE . . . .67 

X. SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY . . -77 

XI. THE WATERSHED OF CRITICISM . . .99 

XII. IDENTITY AND DURATION ATTRIBUTED TO ESSENCES . 109 

XIII. BELIEF IN DEMONSTRATION . . . .116 

XIV. ESSENCE AND INTUITION . . . .125 
XV. BELIEF IN EXPERIENCE . . . .134 

XVI. BELIEF IN THE SELF . . . . .14.5 

XVII. THE COGNITIVE CLAIMS OF MEMORY . . .150 

XVIII. KNOWLEDGE is FAITH MEDIATED BY SYMBOLS . .164 

XIX. BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE . . . . .182 

XX. ON SOME OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE . 192 

xi 



xii SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

CHAP. PAGE 

XXI. SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH . . .214 

XXII. BELIEF IN NATURE ..... 233 

XXIII. EVIDENCES OF ANIMATION IN NATURE . . . 240 

XXIV. LITERARY PSYCHOLOGY . . . .252 
XXV. THE IMPLIED BEING OF TRUTH . . . 262 

XXVI. DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT .... 272 

XXVII. COMPARISON WITH OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE . 289 

INDEX . . . . .311 



CHAPTER I 

THERE IS NO FIRST PRINCIPLE OF CRITICISM 

A PHILOSOPHER is compelled to follow the maxim of 
epic poets and to plunge in medias res. The origin 
of things, if things have an origin, cannot be revealed 
to me, if revealed at all, until I have travelled very 
far from it, and many revolutions of the sun must 
precede my first dawn. The light as it appears hides 
the candle. Perhaps there is no source of things at 
all, no simpler form from which they are evolved, but 
only an endless succession of different complexities. 
In that case nothing would be lost by joining the 
procession wherever one happens to come upon it, 
and following it as long as one s legs hold out. Every 
one might still observe a typical bit of it ; he would 
not have understood anything better if he had seen 
more things ; he would only have had more to explain. 
The very notion of understanding or explaining any 
thing would then be absurd ; yet this notion is drawn 
from a current presumption or experience to the effect 
that in some directions at least things do grow out of 
simpler things : bread can be baked, and dough and 
fire and an oven are conjoined in baking it. Such an 
episode is enough to establish the notion of origins and 
explanations, without at all implying that the dough 
and the hot oven are themselves primary facts. A 
philosopher may accordingly perfectly well undertake 
to find episodes of evolution in the world : parents 

i B 



2 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

with children, storms with shipwrecks, passions with 
tragedies. If he begins in the middle he will still begin 
at the beginning of something, and perhaps as much 
at the beginning of things as he could possibly begin. 

On the other hand, this whole supposition may be 
wrong. Things may have had some simpler origin, 
or may contain simpler elements. In that case it will 
be incumbent on the philosopher to prove this fact ; 
that is, to find in the complex present objects 
evidence of their composition out of simples. But 
in this proof also he would be beginning in the middle ; 
and he would reach origins or elements only at the 
end of his analysis. 

The case is similar with respect to first principles 
of discourse. They can never be discovered, if 
discovered at all, until they have been long taken for 
granted, and employed in the very investigation which 
reveals them. The more cogent a logic is, the fewer 
and simpler its first principles will turn out to have 
been ; but in discovering them, and deducing the rest 
from them, they must first be employed unawares, if 
they are the principles lending cogency to actual dis 
course ; so that the mind must trust current pre 
sumptions no less in discovering that they are logical 
that is, justified by more general unquestioned pre 
sumptions than in discovering that they are arbitrary 
and merely instinctive. 

It is true that, quite apart from living discourse, a 
set of axioms and postulates, as simple as we like, may 
be posited in the air, and deductions drawn from them 
ad libitum ; but such pure logic is otiose, unless we 
find or assume that discourse or nature actually follows 
it ; and it is not by deduction from first principles, 
arbitrarily chosen, that human reasoning actually 
proceeds, but by loose habits of mental evocation 
which such principles at best may exhibit afterwards 
in an idealised form. Moreover, if we could strip our 



NO FIRST PRINCIPLE OF CRITICISM 3 

thought for the arena of a perfect logic, we should 
be performing, perhaps, a remarkable dialectical feat ; 
but this feat would be a mere addition to the com 
plexities of nature, and no simplification. This motley 
world, besides its other antics, would then contain 
logicians and their sports. If by chance, on turning 
to the flowing facts, we found by analysis that they 
obeyed that ideal logic, we should again be beginning 
with things as we find them in the gross, and not with 
first principles. 

It may be observed in passing that no logic to 
which empire over nature or over human discourse 
has ever been ascribed has been a cogent logic ; it has 
been, in proportion to its exemplification in existence, 
a mere description, psychological or historical, of an 
actual procedure ; whereas pure logic, when at last, 
quite recently, it was clearly conceived, turned out 
instantly to have no necessary application to anything, 
and to be merely a parabolic excursion into the realm 
of essence. 

In the tangle of human beliefs, as conventionally 
expressed in talk and in literature, it is easy to dis 
tinguish a compulsory factor called facts or things 
from a more optional and argumentative factor called 
suggestion or interpretation ; not that what we call 
facts are at all indubitable, or composed of immediate 
data, but that in the direction of fact we come much 
sooner to a stand, and feel that we are safe from 
criticism. To reduce conventional beliefs to the facts 
they rest on however questionable those facts 
themselves may be in other ways is to clear our intel 
lectual conscience of voluntary or avoidable delusion. 
If what we call a fact still deceives us, we feel we are 
not to blame ; we should not call it a fact.did we see 
any way of eluding the recognition of it. C"To reduce 
conventional belief to the recognition of matters of 
fact is empirical criticism of knowledge, i 



4 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

The more drastic this criticism is, and the more 
revolutionary the view to which it reduces me, the 
clearer will be the contrast between what I find I 
know and what I thought I knew. But if these plain 
facts were all I had to go on, how did I reach those 
strange conclusions ? What principles of interpreta 
tion, what tendencies to feign, what habits of inference 
were at work in me ? For if nothing in the facts 
justified my beliefs, something in me must have 
suggested them. To disentangle and formulate these 
subjective principles of interpretation is transcend 
ental criticism of knowledge. 

Transcendental criticism in the hands of Kant 
and his followers was a sceptical instrument used 
by persons who were not sceptics. They accordingly 
imported into their argument many uncritical assump 
tions, such as that these tendencies to feign must be 
the same in everybody, that the notions of nature, 
history, or mind which they led people to adopt were 
the right or standard notions on these subjects, and 
that it was glorious, rather than ignominious or 
sophistical, to build on these principles an encyclo 
paedia of false sciences and to call it knowledge. A 
true sceptic will begin by throwing over all those 
academic conventions as so much confessed fiction ; 
and he will ask rather if, when all that these arbitrary 
tendencies to feign import into experience has been 
removed, any factual element remains at all. The 
only critical function of transcendentalism is to drive 
empiricism home, and challenge it to produce any 
knowledge of fact whatsoever. And empirical criti 
cism will not be able to do so. Just as inattention 
leads ordinary people to assume as part of the given 
facts all that their unconscious transcendental logic 
has added to them, so inattention, at a deeper level, 
leads the empiricist to assume an existence in his 
radical facts which does not belong to them. In 



NO FIRST PRINCIPLE OF CRITICISM 5 

standing helpless and resigned before them he is, for 
all his assurance, obeying his illusion rather than their 
evidence. Thus transcendental criticism, used by a 
thorough sceptic, may compel empirical criticism to 
show its hand. It had mistaken its cards, and was 
bluffing without knowing it. 



CHAPTER II 

DOGMA AND DOUBT 

CUSTOM does not breed understanding, but takes its 
place, teaching people to make their way contentedly 
through the world without knowing what the world is, 
nor what they think of it, nor what they are. When 
their attention is attracted to some remarkable thing, 
say to the rainbow, this thing is not analysed nor 
examined from various points of view, but all the 
casual resources of the fancy are called forth in con 
ceiving it, and this total reaction of the mind pre 
cipitates a dogma ; the rainbow is taken for an omen 
of fair weather, or for a trace left in the sky by the 
passage of some beautiful and elusive goddess. Such 
a dogma, far from being an interpenetration or 
identification of thought with the truth of the object, 
is a fresh and additional object in itself. The original 
passive perception remains unchanged ; the thing 
remains unfathomed ; and as its diffuse influence has 
by chance bred one dogma to-day, it may breed a 
different dogma to-morrow. We have therefore, as 
we progress in our acquaintance with the world, an 
always greater confusion. Besides the original fantastic 
inadequacy of our perceptions, we have now rival 
clarifications of them, and a new uncertainty as to 
whether these dogmas are relevant to the original 
object, or are themselves really clear, or if so, which 
of them is true. 



DOGMA AND DOUBT 7 

A prosperous dogmatism is indeed not impossible. 
We may have such determinate minds that the 
suggestions of experience always issue there in the 
same dogmas ; and these orthodox dogmas, perpetually 
revived by the stimulus of things, may become our 
dominant or even our sole apprehension of them. 
We shall really have moved to another level of mental 
discourse ; we shall be living on ideas. In the 
gardens of Seville I once heard, coming through the 
tangle of palms and orange trees, the treble voice 
of a pupil in the theological seminary, crying to his 
playmate : * You booby ! of course angels have a 
more perfect nature than men." With his black and 
red cassock that child had put on dialectic ; he was 
playing the game of dogma and dreaming in words, 
and was insensible to the scent of violets that filled 
the air. How long would that last ? Hardly, I 
suspect, until the next spring ; and the troubled 
awakening which puberty would presently bring to 
that little dogmatist, sooner or later overtakes all 
elder dogmatists in the press of the world. The 
more perfect the dogmatism, the more insecure. A 
great high topsail that can never be reefed nor furled 
is the first carried away by the gale. 

To me the opinions of mankind, taken without any 
contrary prejudice (since I have no rival opinions to 
propose) but simply contrasted with the course of 
nature, seem surprising fictions ; and the marvel is 
how they can be maintained. What strange religions, 
what ferocious moralities, what slavish fashions, what 
sham interests ! I can explain it all only by saying 
to myself that intelligence is naturally forthright ; it 
forges ahead ; it piles fiction on fiction ; and the fact 
that the dogmatic structure, for the time being, stands 
and grows, passes for a proof of its rightness. Right 
indeed it is in one sense, as vegetation is right ; it is 
vital ; it has plasticity and warmth, and a certain 



8 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

indirect correspondence with its soil and climate. 
Many obviously fabulous dogmas, like those of religion, 
might for ever dominate the most active minds, except 
for one circumstance. In the jungle one tree strangles 
another, and luxuriance itself is murderous. So is 
luxuriance in the human mind. What kills spon 
taneous fictions, what recalls the impassioned fancy 
from its improvisation, is the angry voice of some 
contrary fancy. Nature, silently making fools of us 
all our lives, never would bring us to our senses ; but 
the maddest assertions of the mind may do so, when 
they challenge one another. Criticism arises out of 
the conflict of dogmas. 

May I escape this predicament and criticise without 
a dogmatic criterion ? Hardly ; for though the criti 
cism may be expressed hypothetically, as for instance 
in saying that if any child knew his own father he 
would be a wise child, yet the point on which doubt 
is thrown is a point of fact, and that there are fathers 
and children is assumed dogmatically. If not, how 
ever obscure the essential relation between fathers 
and children might be ideally, no one could be wise 
or foolish in assigning it in any particular instance, 
since no such terms would exist in nature at all. 
Scepticism is a suspicion of error about facts, and to 
suspect error about facts is to share the enterprise 
of knowledge, in which facts are presupposed and 
error is possible. The sceptic thinks himself shrewd, 
and often is so ; his intellect, like the intellect he 
criticises, may have some inkling of the true hang 
and connection of things ; he may have pierced to a 
truth of nature behind current illusions. Since his 
criticism may thus be true and his doubt well grounded, 
they are certainly assertions ; and if he is sincerely 
a sceptic, they are assertions which he is ready to 
maintain stoutly. Scepticism is accordingly a form 
of belief. Dogma cannot be abandoned ; it can only 



DOGMA AND DOUBT 9 

be revised in view of some more elementary dogma 
which it has not yet occurred to the sceptic to doubt ; 
and he may be right in every point of his criticism, 
except in fancying that his criticism is radical and 
that he is altogether a sceptic. 

This vital compulsion to posit and to believe 
something, even in the act of doubting, would never 
theless be ignominious, if the beliefs which life and 
intelligence forced upon me were always false. I 
should then be obliged to honour the sceptic for his 
heroic though hopeless effort to eschew belief, and I 
should despise the dogmatist for his willing subservi 
ence to illusion. The sequel will show, I trust, that 
this is not the case ; that intelligence fc by nature 
vridical, and that its ambition to reach the truth is 
sane and capable of satisfaction, even if each of its 
efforts actually fails. To convince me of this fact, 
however, I must first justify my faith in many sub 
sidiary beliefs concerning animal economy and the 
human mind and the world they flourish in. 

That scepticism should intervene in philosophy at 
all is an accident of human history, due to much 
unhappy experience of perplexity and error. If all 
had gone well, assertions would be made spontaneously 
in dogmatic innocence, and the very notion of a right 
to make them would seem as gratuitous as in fact it 
is ; because all the realms of being lie open to a spirit 
plastic enough to conceive them, and those that have 
ears to hear, may hear. Nevertheless, in the con 
fused state of human speculation this embarrassment 
obtrudes itself automatically, and a philosopher to-day 
would be ridiculous and negligible who had not 
strained his dogmas through the utmost rigours of 
scepticism, and who did not approach every opinion, 
whatever his own ultimate faith, with the courtesy 
and smile of the sceptic. ^ 

The brute necessity of believing something so long 



io SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

as life lasts does not justify any belief in particular j* 
nor does it assure me that not to live would not, for 
this very reason, be far safer and saner. To be dead 
and have no opinions would certainly not be to discover 
the truth ; but if all opinions are necessarily false, it 
would at least be not to sin against intellectual honour. 
Let me then push scepticism as far as I logically can, 
and endeavour to clear my mind of illusion, even at 
the price of intellectual suicide. 



CHAPTER III 

WAYWARD SCEPTICISM 

CRITICISM surprises the soul in the arms of convention. 
Children insensibly accept all the suggestions of sense 
and language, the only initiative they show being a 
certain wilfulness in the extension of these notions, 
a certain impulse towards private superstition. This 
is soon corrected by education or broken off rudely, 
like the nails of a tender hand, by hard contact with 
custom, fact, or derision. Belief then settles down in 
sullenness and apathy to a narrow circle of vague 
assumptions, to none of which the mind need have 
any deep affinity, none of which it need really 
understand, but which nevertheless it clings to for 
lack of other footing. The philosophy of the common 
man is an old wife that gives him no pleasure, yet he 
cannot live without her, and resents any aspersions 
that strangers may cast on her character. 

Of this homely philosophy the tender cuticle is 
religious belief ; really the least vital and most 
arbitrary part of human opinion, the outer ring, as 
it were, of the fortifications of prejudice, but for that 
very reason the most jealously defended ; since it is 
on being attacked there, at the least defensible point, 
that rage and alarm at being attacked at all are first 
aroused in the citadel. People are not naturally 
sceptics, wondering if a single one of their intel 
lectual habits can be reasonably preserved ; they are 



12 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

dogmatists angrily confident of maintaining them all. 
Integral minds, pupils of a single coherent tradition, 
regard their religion, whatever it may be, as certain, 
as sublime, and as the only rational basis of morality 
and policy. Yet in fact religious belief is terribly 
precarious, partly because it is arbitrary, so that in. 
the next tribe or in the next century it will wear quite 
a different form ; and partly because, when genuine, 
it is spontaneous and continually remodelled, like 
poetry, in the heart that gives it birth. A man of 
the world soon learns to discredit established religions 
on account of their variety and absurdity, although 
he may good-naturedly continue to conform to his 
own ; and a mystic before long begins fervently to 
condemn current dogmas, on account of his own 
different inspiration. LJWithout philosophical criticism, 
therefore, mere experience and good sense suggest 
that all positive religions are false, or at least (which 
is enough for my present purpose) that they are all 
fantastic and insecure^ 

Closely allied with religious beliefs there are usually 
legends and histories, dramatic if not miraculous ; 
and a man who knows anything of literature and has 
observed how histories are written, even in the most 
enlightened times, needs no satirist to remind him 
that all histories, in so far as they contain a system, 
a drama, or a moral, are so much literary fiction, 
and probably disingenuous. Common sense, however, 
will still admit that there are recorded facts not to be 
doubted, as it will admit that there are obvious physical 
facts ; and it is here, when popular philosophy has 
been reduced to a kind of positivism, that the specula 
tive critic may well step upon the scene. 

Criticism, I have said, has no first principle, and 
its desultory character may be clearly exhibited at 
this point by asking whether the evidence of science 
or that of history should be questioned first. I might 



WAYWARD SCEPTICISM 13 

impugn the belief in physical facts reported by the 
senses and by natural science, such as the existence 
of a ring of Saturn, reducing them to appearances, 
which are facts reported by personal remembrance ; 
this is actually _the choice^made by British_and 
critics of Knowledge, whoy-relying orTmemory 
have denied the eidatgnce 



.but experienced Yet the opposite procedure would" 
seenTlnTJrtrjrrdicious ; knowledge of the facts reported 
by history is mediated by documents which are 
physical facts ; and these documents must first be 
discovered and believed to have subsisted unknown 
and to have had a more or less remote origin in time 
and place, before they can be taken as evidence for 
any mental events ; for if I did not believe that there 
had been any men in Athens I should not imagine 
they had had any thoughts. Even personal memory, 
when it professes to record any distant experience, can 
recognise and place this experience only by first 
reconstructing the material scene in which it occurred. 
Memory records moral events in terms of their physical 
occasions ; and if the latter are merely imaginary, the 
former must be doubly so, like the thoughts of a per 
sonage in a novel. My remembrance of the past is a 
novel I am constantly recomposing ; and it would not 
be a historical novel, but sheer fiction, if the material 
events which mark and ballast my career had not their 
public dates and characters scientifically discoverable. 
Romantic solipsism, in which the self making up 
the universe is a moral person endowed with memory 
and vanity, is accordingly untenable. Not that it is 
unthinkable or self - contradictory ; because all the 
complementary objects which might be requisite to 
give point and body to the idea of oneself might be 
only ideas and not facts ; and a solitary deity imagin 
ing a world or remembering his own past constitutes 
a perfectly conceivable universe. But this imagination 



i 4 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

would have no truth and this remembrance no control ; 
so that the fond belief of such a deity that he knew 
his own past would be the most groundless of dogmas ; 
and while by chance the dogma might be true, that 
deity would have no reason to think it so. At the 
first touch of criticism he would be obliged to confess 
that his alleged past was merely a picture now before 
him, and that he had no reason to suppose that this 
picture had had any constancy in successive moments, 
or that he had lived through previous moments at all ; 
nor could any new experience ever lend any colour or 
corroboration to such a pathological conviction. This is 
obvious ; so that romantic solipsism, although perhaps 
an interesting state of mind, is not a position capable of 
defence ; and any solipsism which is not a solipsism 
of the present moment is logically contemptible. 

The postulates on which empirical knowledge and 
inductive science are based namely, thaf L tl^ere has 
been a past, that it was sucR alTltis now thought 
" iat there wilL be a future and that it must, 



for some inconceivable reason, resemble the past and 
obey the same laws these are all gratuitous dogmas. 
The sceptic in his honest retreat knows nothing of 
a future, and has no need of such an unwarrantable 
idea. He may perhaps have images before him of 
scenes somehow not in the foreground, with a sense 
of before and after running through the texture of 
them ; and he may call this background of his sentiency 
the past ; but the relative obscurity and evanescence 
of these phantoms will not prompt him to suppose 
that they have retreated to obscurity from the light 
of day. They will be to him simply what he experi 
ences them as being, denizens of the twilight. It 
would be a vain fancy to imagine that these ghosts 
had once been men ; they are simply nether gods, 
native to the Erebus they inhabit. The world present 
to the sceptic may continue to fade into these opposite 



WAYWARD SCEPTICISM 15 

abysses, the past and the future ; but having renounced 
all prejudice and checked all customary faith, he will 
regard both as painted abysses only, like the opposite 
exits to the country and to the city on the ancient 
stage. He will see the masked actors (and he will 
invent a reason) rushing frantically out on one side 
and in at the other ; but he knows that the moment 
they are out of sight the play is over for them ; those 
outlying regions and those reported events which the 
messengers narrate so impressively are pure fancy ; 
and there is nothing for him but to sit in his seat and 
lend his mind to the tragic illusion. 

The solipsist thus becomes an incredulous spectator 
of his own romance, thinks his own adventures fictions, 
and accepts a solipsism of the present moment. This 
is an honest position, and certain attempts to refute it 
as self-contradictory are based on a misunderstanding. 
For example, it is irrelevant to urge that the present 
moment cannot comprise the whole of existence 
because the phrase " a present moment " implies a 
chain of moments ; or that the mind that calls any 
moment the present moment virtually transcends it 
and posits a past and a future beyond it. These 
arguments confuse the convictions of the solipsist 
with those of a spectator describing him from outside. 
The sceptic is not committed to the implications of 
other men s language ; nor can he be convicted out 
of his own mouth by the names he is obliged to bestow 
on the details of his momentary vision. There may 
be long vistas in it ; there may be many figures of 
men and beasts, many legends and apocalypses depicted 
on his canvas ; there may even be a shadowy frame 
about it, or the suggestion of a gigantic ghostly some 
thing on the hither side of it which he may call him 
self. All this wealth of objects is not inconsistent with 
solipsism, although the implication of the conventional 
terms in which those objects are described may render 



16 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

it difficult for the solipsist always to remember his 
solitude. Yet when he reflects, he perceives it ; and 
all his heroic efforts are concentrated on not asserting 

O 

and not implying anything, but simply noticing what 
he finds. Scepticism is not concerned to abolish 
ideas ; it can relish the variety and order of a pictured 
world, or of any number of them in succession, 
without any of the qualms and exclusions proper to 
dogmatism. Its case is simply not to credit these 
ideas, not to posit any of these fancied worlds, nor 
this ghostly mind imagined as viewing them. The 
attitude of the sceptic is not inconsistent ; it is merely 
difficult, because it is hard for the greedy intellect 
to keep its cake without eating it. Very voracious 
dogmatists like Spinoza even assert that it is impossible, 
but the impossibility is only psychological, and due to 
their voracity ; they no doubt speak truly for them 
selves when they say that the idea of a horse, if not 
contradicted by some other idea, is a belief that the 
horse exists ; but this would not be the case if they 
felt no impulse to ride that imagined horse, or to get 
out of its way. Ideas become beliefs only when by 
precipitating tendencies to action they persuade me 
that they are signs of things ; and these things are 
not those ideas simply hypostatised, but are believed 
to be compacted of many parts, and full of ambushed 
powers, entirely absent from the ideas. The belief 
is imposed on me surreptitiously by a latent mechanical 
reaction of my body on the object producing the idea ; 
it is by no means implied in any qualities obvious in 
that idea. Such a latent reaction, being mechanical, 
can hardly be avoided, but it may be discounted in 
reflection, if a man has experience and the poise of a 
philosopher ; and scepticism is not the less honourable 
for being difficult, when it is inspired by a firm 
determination to probe this confused and terrible 
apparition of life to the bottom. 



WAYWARD SCEPTICISM 17 

So far is solipsism of the present moment from 
being self-contradictory that it might, under other 
circumstances, be the normal and invincible attitude 
of the spirit ; and I suspect it may be that of many 
animals. The difficulties I find in maintaining it 
consistently come from the social and laborious 
character of human life. A creature whose whole 
existence was passed under a hard shell, or was spent 
in a free flight, might find nothing paradoxical or 
acrobatic in solipsism ; nor would he feel the anguish 
which men feel in doubt, because doubt leaves them 
defenceless and undecided in the presence of on 
coming events. A creature whose actions were pre 
determined might have a clearer mind. He might 
keenly enjoy the momentary scene, never conceiving 
himself as a separate body or as anything but the 
unity of that scene, nor his enjoyment as anything but 
its beauty : nor would he harbour the least suspicion 
that it would change or perish, nor any objection to 
its doing so if it chose. Solipsism would then be 
selflessness and scepticism simplicity. They would 
not be open to disruption from within. The ephemeral 
insect would accept the evidence of his ephemeral 
object, whatever quality this might chance to have ; 
he would not suppose, as Descartes did, that in think 
ing anything his own existence was involved. Being 
new-born himself, with only this one innate (and also 
experimental) idea, he would bring to his single 
experience no extraneous habits of interpretation or 
inference ; and he would not be troubled by doubts, 
because he would believe nothing. 

For men, however, who are long-lived and teachable 
animals, solipsism of the present moment is a violent 
pose, permitted only to the young philosopher, in his 
first intellectual despair ; and even he often cheats 
himself when he thinks he assumes it, and professing 
to stand on his head really, like a clumsy acrobat, rests 

c 



i8 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

on his hands also. The very terms " solipsism " and 
" present moment " betray this impurity. An actual 
intuition, which by hypothesis is fresh, absolute, and 
not to be repeated, is called and is perhaps conceived 
as an ipse, a self-same man. But identity (as I shall 
have occasion to observe in discussing identity in 
essences) implies two moments, two instances, or two 
intuitions, between which it obtains. Similarly, a 
" present moment " suggests other moments, and an 
adventitious limitation either in duration or in scope ; 
but the solipsist and his world (which are not dis 
tinguishable) have by hypothesis no- environment 
whatsoever, and nothing limits them save the fact 
that there is nothing more. These irrelevances and 
side glances are imported into the mind of the sceptic 
because in fact he is retreating into solipsism from a 
far more ambitious philosophy. A thought naturally 
momentary would be immune from them. 

A perfect solipsist, therefore, hardly is found 
amongst men ; but some men are zealous in bringing 
their criticism down to solipsism of the present moment 
just because this attitude enables them to cast away 
everything that is not present in their prevalent mood, 
or in their deepest thought, and to set up this chosen 
object as the absolute. Such a compensatory dogma 
is itself not critical ; but criticism may help to raise 
it to a specious eminence by lopping off everything 
else. What remains will be different in different 
persons : some say it is Brahma, some that it is Pure 
Being, some that it is the Idea or Law of the moral 
world. Each of these absolutes is the sacred residuum 
which the temperament of different philosophers or 
of different nations clings to, and will not criticise, 
and in each case it is contrasted with the world in 
which the vulgar believe, as something deeper, simpler, 
and more real. Perhaps when solipsism of the present 
moment is reached by a philosopher trained in abstrac- 



WAYWARD SCEPTICISM 19 

tion and inclined to ecstasy, his experience, at this 
depth of concentration, will be that of an extreme 
tension which is also liberty, an emptiness which is 
intensest light ; and his denial of all natural facts and 
events, which he will call illusions, will culminate in 
the fervent assertion that all is One, and that One is 
Brahma, or the breath of life. On the other hand, a 
scientific observer and reasoner, who has pried into 
substance, and has learned that all the aspects of 
nature are relative and variable, may still not deny the 
existence of matter in every object ; and this element 
of mere intensity, drawn from the sense of mere 
actuality in himself, may lead him to assert that pure 
Being is, and everything else is not. Finally, a second 
ary mind fed on books may drop the natural emphasis 
which objects of sense have for the living animal, and 
may retain, as the sole filling of its present moment, 
nothing but the sciences. The philosopher will then 
balance his denial of material facts by asserting the 
absolute reality of his knowledge of them. This 
reality, however, will extend no farther than his 
information, as some intensest moment of recollection 
may gather it together ; and his personal idea of the 
world, so composed and so limited, will seem to him 
the sole existence. His universe will be the after 
image of his learning. 

^We may notice that in these three instances scepti 
cism has not suspended affirmation but has rather 
intensified it, pouring it all on the cfevotecT head of 
one chosen object. ~j There is a tireless and deafening 
vehemence about these sceptical prophets ; it betrays 
the poor old human Psyche labouring desperately 
within them in the shipwreck of her native hopes, and 
refusing to die. Her sacrifice, she believes, will be 
her salvation, and she passionately identifies what 
remains to her with all she has lost and by an audacious 
falsehood persuades herself she has lost nothing. 



20 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

Thus the temper of these sceptics is not at all sceptical. 
They take their revenge on the world, which eluded 
them when they tried to prove its existence, by assert 
ing the existence of the remnant which they have still 
by them, insisting that this, and this only, is the true 
and perfect world, and a much better one than that 
false world in which the heathen trust. Such in 
fatuation in the solipsist, however, is not inevitable ; 
no such exorbitant credit need be given to the object, 
perhaps a miserable one, which still fills the sceptical 
mind, and a more dispassionate scepticism, while 
contemplating that object, may disallow it. 



CHAPTER IV 

DOUBTS ABOUT SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS 

Do I know, can I know, anything ? Would not 
knowledge be an impossible inclusion of what lies 
outside ? May I not rather renounce all beliefs ? If 
only I could, what peace would descend into my 
perturbed conscience ! The spectacle of other men s 
folly continually reawakens in me the suspicion that 
I too am surely fooled ; and the character of the 
beliefs which force themselves upon me the fan 
tasticality of space and time, the grotesque medley of 
nature, the cruel mockery called religion, the sorry 
history and absurd passions of mankind all invite me 
to disown them and to say to what I call the world, 
" Come now ; how do you expect me to believe in 
you ? " At the same time this very incredulity and 
wonder in me are baseless and without credentials. 
What right have I to any presumptions as to what 
would be natural and proper ? Is not the most 
extravagant fact as plausible as any other ? Is not the 
most obvious axiom a wanton dogma ? Yet turn 
whichever way I will, and refine as I may, the pressure 
of existence, of tyrannical absolute present being, 
seems to confront me. Something is evidently going 
on, at least in myself. I feel an instant complex strain 
of existence, forcing me to say that I think and that I 
am. Certainly the words I use in such reflection bring 
many images with them which may possess no truth. 

21 



22 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

Thus when I say " I," the term suggests a man, one 
of many living in a world contrasted with his thinking, 
yet partly surveyed by it. These suggestions of the 
word " I " might well be false. This thinking might 
not belong to a member of the human family, and no 
such race as this mankind that I am thinking of might 
ever have existed. The natural world in which I 
fancy that race living, among other races of animals, 
might also be imaginary. Yet, in that case, what is 
imagination ? Banish myself and my world as much 
as I will, the present act of banishing them subsists 
and is manifest ; and it was this act, now unrolling 
itself consciously through various phases, not any 
particular person in any environment, that I meant 
when I said, " I find that I think and am." 

In like manner the terms thinking and finding, 
which I use for want of anything better, imply con 
trasts and antecedents which I may disregard. It is 
not a particular process called thinking, nor a par 
ticular conjunction called finding, that I need assert 
to exist, but merely this passing unrest, whatever you 
choose to call it : these pulsations and phantoms which 
to deny is to produce and to strive to banish is to 
redouble. 

It might seem for a moment as if this pressing 
actuality of experience implied a relation between 
subject and object, so that an indescribable being 
called the ego or self was given with and involved in 
any actual fact. This analysis, however, is merely 
grammatical, and if pressed issues in mythical notions. 
Analysis can never find in the object what, by hypo 
thesis, is not there ; and the object, by definition, is 
all that is found. But there is a biological truth, 
discovered much later, under this alleged analytic 
necessity : the truth that animal experience is a 
product of two factors, antecedent to the experience 
and not parts of it, namely, organ and stimulus, body 



DOUBTS ABOUT SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS 23 

and environment, person and situation. These two 
natural conditions must normally come together, like 
flint and steel, before the spark of experience will fly. 
But scepticism requires me to take the spark itself as 
my point of departure, since it alone lives morally and 
lights up with its vital flame the scene I seem to 
discover. This spark is single, though changeful. 
Experience has no conditions for a critic of knowledge 
who proceeds transcendentally, that is, from the 
vantage-ground of experience itself. To urge, there 
fore, that a self or ego is presupposed in experience, 
or even must have created experience by its absolute 
fiat, is curiously to fail in critical thinking, and to 
renounce the transcendental method. All transcend 
ental system - makers are in fact false to the very 
principle by which they criticise dogmatism ; a 
principle which _admits of no system, tolerates no 
belief, but recalls the universe qt every moment jptn 
thf atv Kilntr frnpfiripnrr whirh posits it here and now 

This backsliding of transcendentalism, when it 
forgets itself so far as to assign conditions to experience, 
might have no serious consequences., jf transcend 
entalism were clearly recognised to he simply a 

romantic episode JllTpflprtirm, a SOtt O f pnetir madnps^ 

and~no necessary step in the life of reason. That its 
"proTessed scepticism should so soon turn into mythology 
would then seem appropriate in such a disease of genius. 
But the delusion becomes troublesome to the serious 
critic of knowledge when it perhaps inclines him to 
imagine that, in asserting that experience is a product, 
and has two terms, he is describing the inner nature 
of experience, and not merely its external conditions, 
as natural history reports them. He may then be 
tempted to assign a metaphysical status and logical 
necessity to a merely material fact. Instead of the 
body, which is the true "subject" in experience, he 
may think he finds an absolute ego, and instead of the 



24 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

natural environment of the body, which is the true 
"object," he may think he finds an illimitable reality ; 
and, to make things simpler, he may proceed to declare 
that these two are one ; but all this is myth. 

The fact of experience, then, is single and, from 
its own point of view, absolutely unconditioned and 
groundless, impossible to explain and impossible to 
exorcise. Yet just as it comes unbidden, so it may 
fade and lapse of its own accord. It constantly seems 
to do so ; and my hold on existence is not so firm 
that non-existence does not seem always at hand and, 
as it were, always something deeper, vaster, and more 
natural than existence. Yet this apprehension of an 
imminent non-existence an apprehension which is 
itself an existing fact cannot be trusted to penetrate 
to a real nothingness yawning about me unless I assert 
something not at all involved in the present being, 
and something most remarkable, namely, that I know 
and can survey the movement of my existence, and 
that it can actually have lapsed from one state into 
another, as I conceive it to have lapsed. 

Thus the sense of a complex strain of existence, 
the conviction that I am and that I am thinking, 
involve a sense of at least possible change. I should 
not speak of complexity nor of strain, if various opposed 
developments into the not-given were not, to my 
feeling, striving to take place. Doors are about to 
open, cords to snap, blows to fall, pulsations to repeat 
themselves. The flux and perspectives of being seem 
to be open within me to my own intuition. 

Caution is requisite here. All this may be simply 
a present obsession, destitute of all prophetic or 
retrospective truth, and carrying me no further, if I 
wish to be honest, than a bare confession of how I 
feel. Anything given in intuition is, by definition, an 
appearance and nothing but an appearance. . Of course, 
if I am a thorough sceptic, I may discredit the existence 



DOUBTS ABOUT SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS 25 

of anything else, so that this appearance will stand in 
my philosophy as the only reality. But, then, I must 
not enlarge nor interpret nor hypostatise it : I must 
keep it as the mere picture it is, and revert to solipsism 
of the present moment. One thing is the feeling that 
something is happening, an intuition which finds 
what it finds and cannot be made to find anything else. 
Another thing is the belief that what is found is a 
report or description of events that have happened 
already, in such a manner that the earlier phases of 
the flux I am aware of existed first, before the later 
phases and without them ; whereas in my intuition 
now the earlier phases are merely the first part of the 
given whole, exist only together with the later phases, 
and are earlier only in a perspective, not in a flux of 
successive events. If anything had an actual beginning, 
that first phase must have occurred out of relation 
to the subsequent phases which had not yet arisen, 
and only became manifest in the sequel : as the Old 
Testament, if really earlier than the New Testament, 
must have existed alone first, when it could not be 
called old. If it had existed only in the Christian 
Bible, under that perspective which renders and calls 
it old, it would be old only speciously and for Christian 
intuition, and all revelation would have been really 
simultaneous. In a word, specious change is not 
actual change. The unity of apperception which 
yields the sense of change renders change specious, by 
relating the terms and directions of change together in 
a single perspective, as respectively receding, passing, 
or arriving. In so uniting and viewing these terms, 
intuition of change excludes actual change in the given 
object. If change has been actual, it must have been 
prior to, and independent of, the intuition of that 
change. 

Doubtless, as a matter of fact, this intuition of 
change is itself lapsing, and yielding its place in 



26 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

physical time to vacancy or to the intuition of change- 
lessness ; and this lapse of the intuition in physical 
time is an actual change. Evidently, however, it is 
not a given change, since neither vacancy nor the 
intuition of changelessness can reveal it. It is revealed, 
if revealed at all, by a further intuition of specious 
change taken as a report. Actual change, if it is to 
be known at all, must be known by belief and not 
by intuition. Doubt is accordingly always possible 
regarding the existence of actual change. Having 
renounced my faith in nature, I must not weakly 
retain faith in experience. This intuition of change 
might be false ; it might be the only fact in the uni 
verse, and perfectly changeless. I should then be that 
intuition, but it would not bring me any true knowledge 
of anything actual. On the contrary, it would be an 
illusion, presenting a false object, since it would 
present nothing but change, when the only actual 
reality, namely its own, was unchanging. On the 
other hand, if this intuition of change was no illusion, 
but a change was actually occurring and the universe 
had passed into its present state out of a previous 
state which was different (if, for instance, this very 
intuition of change had grown more articulate or more 
complex), I should then be right in hazarding a very 
bold assertion, namely, that it is known to me that 
what now is was not always, that there are things not 
given, that there is genesis in nature, and that time 
is real. 



CHAPTER V 

DOUBTS ABOUT CHANGE 

As I watch a sensible object the evidence of variation 
is often irresistible. This flag is flapping. This 
flame is dancing. How shall I deny that almost every 
thing, in nature and in fancy, like the Ghost in Hamlet, 
is here, is there, is gone ? Of course I witness these 
appearances and disappearances. The intuition of 
change is more direct and more imperious than any 
other. But belief in change, as I found just now, 
asserts that before this intuition of change arose the 
first term of that change had occurred separately. 
This no intuition of change can prove. The belief is 
irresistible in animal perception, for reasons which 
biology can plausibly assign ; and it cannot be long 
suspended in actual thinking ; but it may be suspended 
for a moment theoretically, in the interests of a thorough 
criticism. The criticism too may prove persuasive. 
Many solemn if not serious philosophers have actually 
maintained that this irresistible assertion is false, and 
that all diversity and change are illusion. In denying 
time, multiplicity, and motion, their theory has harked 
back and it is no mean feat of concentration almost 
to the infancy of thought, and reversed the whole life 
of reason. This mystical retraction of all the beliefs 
necessary to life, and suspension, almost, of life itself, 
have been sometimes defended by dialectical arguments, 
to the effect that change is impossible, because the 

27 



28 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

idea of it is incoherent or self-contradictory. Such 
arguments, however, are worthless for a critic of 
knowledge, because they involve an assumption much 
grosser than that which they discard. They assume 
that if a thing is dialectically unintelligible, as change 
is, or inexpressible in terms other than its own, it 
cannot be true ; whereas, on the contrary, only when 
dialectic passes its own frontiers and, fortified by a 
passport countersigned by experience, enters the realm 
of brute fact, has dialectic itself any claim to truth 
or any relevance to the facts. Dialectical difficulties, 
therefore, are irrelevant to valid knowledge, the terms 
of which are irrational, no less than is their juxta 
position in existence. 

Th^denial of p^ange may reston more_jcerjdcal 
grounds^ and may have a deeper ancl mo?e tragic 
character. It may come from insight into the temerity 
of asserting change. Why, indeed, do men believe in 
it ? Because they see and feel it : but this fact is 
not denied. They may see and feel all the changes 
they like : what reason is that for believing that over 
and above this actual intuition, with the specious 
change it regards, one state of the universe has given 
place to another, or different intuitions have existed ? 
You feel you have changed ; you feel things changing ? 
Granted. Does this fact help you to feel an earlier 
state which you do not feel, which is not an integral 
part of what is now before you, but a state from which 
you are supposed to have passed into the state in 
which you now are ? If you feel that earlier state 
now, there is no change involved. That datum, 
which you now designate as the past, and which exists 
only in this perspective, is merely a term in your 
present feeling. It was never anything else. It was 
never given otherwise than as it is given now, when it 
is given as past. Therefore, if things are such only 
as intuition makes them, every suggestion of a past 



DOUBTS ABOUT CHANGE 29 

is false. For if the event now called past was ever 
actual and in its day a present event, then it is not 
merely a term in the specious change now given in 
intuition. Thus the feeling of movement, on which 
you so trustfully rely, cannot vouch for the reality of 
movement, I mean, for the existence of an actual 
past, once present, and not identical with the specious 
past now falling within the compass of intuition. By 
a curious fatality, the more you insist on the sense of 
change the more you hedge yourself in in the change 
less and the immediate. There is no avenue to the 
past or future, there is no room or breath for pro 
gressive life, except through faith in the intellect and 
in the reality of things not seen. 

I think that if the sense of change, primordial and 
continual as it is, were ever pure, this fact that in 
itself it is changeless would not seem strange or 
confusing : for evidently the idea of pure change 
would be always the same, and changeless ;O* could 
change only by yielding to the idea of rest or of 
identity r*^ .Butin animalsjjf ja human_complexitythe 
sense 6T" change^ia^neYgr pure : larger terms are 
r> he permanent, and the change 
these or the other ^ 
jsyt^ut 

jKtTpicture . ^These lire matters of animal sensibility, 
to be decideTd empirically that is, never to be decided 
at all. Every new animal is free to feel in a new way. 
The gnat may begin with a sense of flux, like Heraclitus, 
and only diffidently and sceptically ask himself what 
it is that is rushing by ; and the barnacle may begin, 
like Parmenides, with a sense of the unshakable 
foundations of being, and never quite reconcile him 
self to the thought that reality could ever move from 
its solid bottom, or exchange one adhesion for another. 
But, after all, the mind of Heraclitus, seeing nothing 
but flux, would be as constant a mind as that of 




30 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

Parmenides, seeing nothing but rest ; and if the 
philosophy of Heraclitus were the only one in the 
world, there would be no change in the world of 
philosophy. 

Accordingly, when I have removed the instinctive 
belief in an environment beyond the given scene, and 
in a past and future beyond the specious present, the 
lapse in this specious present itself and the sensible 
events within it lose all the urgency of actual motions. 
They become pictures of motions and ideas of events : 
I no longer seem to live in a changing world, but an 
illusion of change seems to play idly before me, and 
to be contained in my changelessness. This pictured 
change is a particular quality of being, as is pain or 
a sustained note, not a passage from one quality of 
being to another, since the part called earlier never 
disappears and the part called later is given from the 
first. Events, and the reality of change they involve, 
may therefore be always illusions. The sceptic can 
ultimately penetrate to the vision of a reality from 
which they should be excluded. All he need do, in 
order to attain to this immunity from illusion, is to 
extirpate from his own nature every vestige of anxiety, 
not to regret nor to fear nor to attempt anything. If 
he can accomplish this he has exorcised belief in 
change. 

Moreover, the animal compulsion to believe in 
change may not only be erroneous, but it may not 
operate at all times. I may remain alive, and be 
actually changing, and yet this change in me, remain 
ing unabated, may be undiscerned. Very quick 
complete changes, cutting up existence into discrete 
instants, the inner order of which would not be trans 
mitted from one to the other, would presumably 
exclude memory. There would be no intuition of 
change, and therefore not even a possible belief in it. 
A certain actual persistence is requisite to perceive 



DOUBTS ABOUT CHANGE 31 

a flux, and an absolute flux, in which nothing was 
carried over from moment to moment, would yield, 
in each of these moments, nothing but an intuition 
of permanence. So far is the actual instability of 
things, even if I admit it, from involving a sense of 
it, or excluding a sense of its opposite. I may, there 
fore, occasionally deny it ; and nothing can persuade 
me, during those moments, that my insight then is 
not truer than at other times, when I perceive and 
believe in change. The mystic must confess that he 
spends most of his life in the teeming valleys of 
illusion : but he may still maintain that truth and reality 
are disclosed to him only on those almost inaccessible 
mountain tops, where only the One and Changeless 
is visible. That the believer in nature perceives 
that this mystical conviction is itself a natural event, 
and a very ticklish and unstable illusion, does not 
alter that conviction while it lasts, nor enter into 
its deliverance : so that under its sway the mystic 
may disallow all change and multiplicity, either 
virtually by forgetting it, or actually by demonstrating 
it to be false and impossible. Being without irrational 
expectation (and all expectation is irrational) and 
without belief in memory (which is a sort of expectation 
reversed), he will lack altogether that sagacity which 
makes the animal believe in latent events and latent 
substances, on which his eventual action might operate ; 
and his dialectic not being rebuked by any contrary 
buffets of experience, he will prove to his heart s 
content that change is unthinkable. For if discrete 
altogether, without a continuous substance or medium, 
events will not follow one another, but each will 
simply exist absolutely ; and if a substance or medium 
be posited, no relation can be conceived to obtain 
between it and the events said to diversify it : for in 
so far as the substance or medium permeates the 
events nothing will happen or change ; and in so far 



32 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

as the events really occur and are not merely specious 
changes given in one intuition, they will be discrete 
altogether, without foothold in that medium or sub 
stance postulated in vain to sustain them. Thus the 
mystic, on the wings of a free dialectic, will be wafted 
home to his ancient and comforting assurance that all 
is One, that Being is, and that Non-Being is not. 



CHAPTER VI 

ULTIMATE SCEPTICISM 

WHY should the mystic, in proportion as he dismisses 
the miscellany of experience as so much illusion, feel 
that he becomes one with reality and attains to absolute 
existence ? I think that the same survival of vulgar 
presumptions which leads the romantic solipsist to 
retain his belief in his personal history and destiny, 
leads the mystic to retain, and fondly to embrace, the 
feeling of existence. His speculation is indeed inspired 
by the love of security : his grand objection to the 
natural world, and to mortal life, is that they are 
deceptive, that they cheat the soul that loves them, 
and prove to be illusions : the assumption apparently 
bf ing -that reality, must J^^^~^^^__^^ thatHFvp 
who hashold on reality is sate fnr"ever. In this the 
mystic, who so hates illusions, is the victim of an 
illusion himself : for the reality he has hold of is but 
the burden of a single moment, which in its solipsism 
thinks itself absolute. What is reality ? As I should 
like to use the term, reality is being of any sort. If it 
means character or essence, illusions have it as much 
as substance, and more richly. If it means substance, 
then sceptical concentration upon inner experience, 
or ecstatic abstraction, seems to me the last place in 
which we should look for it. The immediate and the 
visionary are at the opposite pole from substance ; 
they are on the surface or, if you like, at the top ; 

33 D 



34 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

whereas substance if it is anywhere is at the bottom. 
The realm of immediate illusion is as real as any other, 
and very attractive ; many would wish it to be the 
only reality, and hate substance ; but if substance 
exists (which I am not yet ready to assert) they have 
no reason to hate it, since it is the basis of those 
immediate feelings which fill them with satisfaction. 
Finally, if reality means existence, certainly the mystic 
and his meditation may exist, but not more truly 
than any other natural fact ; and what w r ould exist 
in them would be a pulse of animal being, kindling 
that momentary ecstasy, as animal life at certain 
intensities is wont to do. The theme of that meditation, 
its visionary object, need not exist at all ; it may be 
incapable of existing if it is essentially timeless and 
dialectical. The animal mind treats its data as facts, 
or as signs of facts, but the animal mind is full of the 
rashest presumptions, positing time, change, a parti 
cular station in the midst of events yielding a particular 
perspective of those events, and the flux of all nature 
precipitating that experience at that place. None of 
these posited objects is a datum in which a sceptic 
could rest. Indeed, existence or fact, in the sense 
which I give to these words, cannot be a datum at all, 
because existence involves external relations and actual 
(not merely specious) flux : whereas, however complex 
a datum may be, with no matter what perspectives 
opening within it, it must be embraced in a single 
stroke of apperception, and nothing outside it can 
belong to it at all. The datum is a pure image ; it is 
essentially illusory and unsubstantial, however thunder 
ous its sound or keen its edge, or how r ever normal 
and significant its presence may be. When the 
mystic asserts enthusiastically the existence of his 
immediate, ideal, unutterable object, Absolute Being, 
he is peculiarly unfortunate in his faith : it would be 
impossible to choose an image less relevant to the 



ULTIMATE SCEPTICISM 35 

agencies that actually bring that image before him. 
The burden and glow of existence which he is conscious 
of come entirely from himself ; his object is eminently 
empty, impotent, non-existent ; but the heat and 
labour of his own soul suffuse that emptiness with 
light, and the very hum of change within him, ac 
celerated almost beyond endurance and quite beyond 
discrimination, sounds that piercing note. 

The last step in scepticism is now before me. It 
will lead me to deny existence to any datum, whatever 
it may be ; and as the datum, by hypothesis, is the 
whole of what solicits my attention at any moment, I 
shall deny the existence of everything, and abolish 
that category of thought altogether. If I could not 
do this, I should be a tyro in scepticism. Belief in 
the existence of anything, including myself, is some 
thing radically incapable of proof, and resting, like 
all belief, on some irrational persuasion or prompting 
of life. Certainly, as a matter of fact, when I deny 
existence I exist ; but doubtless many of the other 
facts I have been denying, because I found no evidence 
for them, were true also. To bring me evidence of 
their existence is no duty imposed on facts, nor a 
habit of theirs : I must employ private detectives. 
The point is, in this task of criticism, to discard every 
belief that is a belief merely ; and the belief in existence, 
in the nature of the case, can be a belief only. The 
datum is an idea, a description ; I may contemplate 
it without belief ; but when I assert that such a thing 
exists I am hypostatising this datum, placing it in 
presumptive relations which are not internal to it, 
and worshipping it as an idol or thing. Neither its 
existence nor mine nor that of my belief can be given 
in any datum. These things are incidents involved 
in that order of nature which I have thrown over ; 
they are no part of what remains before me. 

Assurance of existence expresses animal watchful- 



36 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

ness : it posits, within me and round me, hidden and 
imminent events. The sceptic can easily cast a doubt 
on the remoter objects of this belief ; and nothing but 
a certain obduracy and want of agility prevents him 
from doubting present existence itself. For what could 
present existence mean, if the imminent events for 
which animal sense is watching failed altogether, 
failed at the very roots, so to speak, of the tree of 
intuition, and left nothing but its branches flowering 
in vacuo ? Expectation is admittedly the most hazard 
ous of beliefs : yet what is watchfulness but expecta 
tion ? Memory is notoriously full of illusion ; yet 
what would experience of the present be if the veracity 
of primary memory were denied, and if I no longer 
believed that anything had just happened, or that I 
had ever been in the state from which I suppose 
myself to have passed into this my present condition ? 
It will not do for the sceptic to take refuge in the 
confused notion that expectation possesses the future, 
or memory the past. As a matter of fact, expectation 
is like hunger ; it opens its mouth, and something 
probably drops into it, more or less, very often, the 
sort of thing it expected ; but sometimes a surprise 
comes, and sometimes nothing. Life involves ex 
pectation, but does not prevent death : and expectation 
is never so thoroughly stultified as when it is not 
undeceived, but cancelled. The open mouth does 
not then so much as close upon nothing. It is buried 
open. Nor is memory in a better case. As the 
whole world might collapse and cease at any moment, 
nullifying all expectation, so it might at any moment 
have sprung out of nothing : for it is thoroughly 
contingent, and might have begun to-day, with this 
degree of complexity and illusive memory, as well as 
long ago, with whatever energy or momentum it was 
first endowed with. The backward perspective of 
time is perhaps really an inverted expectation ; but 



ULTIMATE SCEPTICISM 37 

for the momentum of life forward, we might not be 
able to space the elements active in the present so as 
to assign to them a longer or a shorter history ; for 
we should not attempt to discriminate amongst these 
elements such as we could still count on in the im 
mediate future, and such as we might safely ignore : 
so that our conception of the past implies, perhaps, a 
distinction between the living and the dead. This 
distinction is itself practical, and looks to the future. 
In the absolute present all is specious ; and to pure 
intuition the living are as ghostly as the dead, and the 
dead as present as the living. 

In the sense of existence there is accordingly 
something more than the obvious character of that 
which is alleged to exist. What is this complement ? 
It cannot be a feature in the datum, since the datum 
by definition is the whole of what is found. Nor can 
it be, in my sense at least of the word existence, the 
intrinsic constitution or specific being of this object, 
since existence comports external relations, variable, 
contingent, and not discoverable in a given being 
when taken alone : for there is nothing that may not 
lose its existence, or the existence of which might not 
be conceivably denied. The complement added to 
the datum when it is alleged to exist seems, then, to 
be added by me ; it is the finding, the occurrence, the 
assault, the impact of that being here and now ; it is 
the experience of it. But what can experience be, 
if I take away from it the whole of what is experienced ? 
And what meaning can I give to such words as impact, 
assault, occurrence, or finding, when I have banished 
and denied my body, my past, my residual present 
being, and everything except the datum which I find ? 
The sense of existence evidently belongs to the 
intoxication, to the Rausch, of existence itself ; it is 
the strain of life within me, prior to all intuition, that 
in its precipitation and terror, passing as it continually 



38 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

must from one untenable condition to another, stretches 
my attention absurdly over what is not given, over 
the lost and the unattained, the before and after 
which are wrapped in darkness, and confuses my 
breathless apprehension of the clear presence of all I 
can ever truly behold. 

Indeed, so much am I a creature of movement, 
and of the ceaseless metabolism of matter, that I 
should never catch even these glimpses of the light, 
if there were not rhythms, pauses, repetitions, and 
nodes in my physical progress, to absorb and reflect 
it here and there : as the traveller, hurried in a cloud 
of smoke and dust through tunnel after tunnel in the 
Italian Riviera, catches and loses momentary visions 
of blue sea and sky, which he would like to arrest, 
but cannot ; yet if he had not been rushed and whistled 
along these particular tunnels, even those snatches, in 
the form in which they come to him, would have been 
denied him. So it is the rush of life that, at its open 
moments, floods me with intuitions, partial and 
confused, but still revelations ; the landscape is 
wrapped in the smoke of my little engine, and turned 
into a tantalising incident of my hot journey. What 
appears (\vhich is an ideal object and not an event) 
is thus confused with the event of its appearance ; 
the picture is identified with the kindling or distraction 
of my attention falling by chance upon it ; and the 
strain of my material existence, battling with material 
accidents, turns the ideal object too into a temporal 
fact, and makes it seem substantial. But this fugitive 
existence which I egotistically attach to it, as if its 
fate was that of my glimpses of it, is no part of its 
true being, as even my intuition discerns it ; it is a 
practical dignity or potency attributed to it by the 
irrelevant momentum of my animal life. Animals, 
being by nature hounded and hungry creatures, spy 
out and take alarm at any datum of sense or fancy, 



ULTIMATE SCEPTICISM 39 

supposing that there is something substantial there, 
something that will count and work in the world. 
The notion of a moving world is brought implicitly 
with them ; they fetch it out of the depths of their 
vegetating psyche, which is a small dark cosmos, 
silently revolving within. By being noticed, and 
treated as a signal for I know not what material op 
portunity or danger, the given image is taken up into 
the business world, and puts on the garment of 
existence. Remove this frame, strip off all suggestion 
of a time when this image was not yet present, or a, 
time when it shall be past, and the very notion of 
existence is removed. The datum ceases to be an 
appearance, in the proper and pregnant sense of this 
word, since it ceases to imply any substance that 
appears or any mind to which it appears. It is an 
appearance only in the sense that its nature is wholly 
manifest, that it is a specific being, which may be 
mentioned, thought of, seen, or defined, if any one 
has the wit to do so. But its own nature says nothing 
of any hidden circumstances that shall bring it to 
light, or any adventitious mind that shall discover it. 
It lies simply in its own category. If a colour, it is 
just this colour ; if a pain, just this pain. Its appear 
ance is not an event : its presence is not an experience ; 
for there is no surrounding world in which it can 
arise, and no watchful spirit to appropriate it. ^The 
sreptjc frag herfr withdrawn into the intuition of_JL 
form r without roots, without origin or environ 
ment, without a seat or alocus 
immaterial absolute theme, rejoicing merely in its own 
quality. This theme, being out of all adventitious 
relations and not in the least threatened with not 
being the theme it is, has not the contingency nor the 
fortunes proper to an existence ; it is simply that 
which it inherently, logically, and unchangeably is. 
Existence, then, not being included in any 



40 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

immediate datum, is a fact always open to doubt. I 
call it a fact notwithstanding, because in talking about 
the sceptic I am positing his existence. If he has any 
intuition, however little the theme of that intuition 
may have to do with any actual w r orld, certainly I who 
think of his intuition, or he himself thinking of it 
afterwards, see that this intuition of his must have 
been an event, and his existence at that time a fact ; 
but like all facts and events, this one can be known 
only by an affirmation which posits it, which may be 
suspended or reversed, and which is subject to error. 
Hence all this business of intuition may perfectly well 
be doubted by the sceptic : the existence of his own 
doubt (however confidently I may assert it for him) 
is not given to him then : all that is given is some 
ambiguity or contradiction in images ; and if after 
wards he is sure that he has doubted, the sole cogent 
evidence which that fact can claim lies in the psycho 
logical impossibility that, so long as he believes he has 
doubted, he should not believe it. But he may be 
wrong in harbouring this belief, and he may rescind 
it. For all an ultimate scepticism can see, therefore, 
there may be no facts at all, and perhaps nothing has 
ever existed. 

Scepticism may thus be carried to the point of 
denying change and memory, and the reality of all 
facts. Such a sceptical dogma would certainly be 
false, because this dogma itself would have to be 
entertained, and that event would be a fact and an 
existence : and the sceptic in framing that dogma 
discourses, vacillates, and lives in the act of contrasting 
one assertion with another all of which is to exist 
with a vengeance. Yet this false dogma that nothing 
exists is tenable intuitively and, while it prevails, is 
irrefutable. fThere are certain motives (to be dis 
cussed later) which render ultimate scepticism precious 
to a spiritual mind, as a sanctuary from grosser illusions. 



ULTIMATE SCEPTICISM 41 

|in regards it as no truer, 



w 



ome utility : it 

accustoms him to discard the dogma wfncTTaurtfitro- 
spective critic might be tempted to think self-evident, 
namely, that he himself lives and thinks. That he 
does so is true ; but to establish that truth he must 
appeal to animal faith. If he is too proud for that, 
and simply stares at the datum, the last thing he will 
see is himself. 



CHAPTER VII 

NOTHING GIVEN EXISTS 

SCEPTICISM is not sleep, and in casting a doubt on 
any belief, or proving the absurdity of any idea, the 
sceptic is by no means losing his sense of what is 
proposed. He is merely doubting or denying the 
existence of any such object. In scepticism, therefore, 
everything turns on the meaning of the word existence, 
and it will be worth while to stop a moment here to 
consider it further. 

I have already indicated roughly how I am using 
the word existence, namely, to designate such being 
as is in flux, determined by external relations, and 
jostled by irrelevant events. Of course this is no 
definition. The term existence is only a name. In 
using it I am merely pointing out to the reader, as if 
by a gesture, what this word designates in my habits 
of speech, as if in saying Caesar I pointed to my dog, 
lest some one should suppose I meant the Roman 
emperor. The Roman emperor, the dog, and the 
sound Caesar are all indefinable ; but they might be 
described more particularly, by using other indicative 
and indefinable names, to mark their characteristics 
or the events in which they figured. So the whole 
realm of being which I point to when I say existence 
might be described more fully ; the description of it 
would be physics or perhaps psychology ; but the 

42 



NOTHING GIVEN EXISTS 43 

exploration of that realm, which is open only to 
animal faith, would not concern the sceptic. 

The sceptic turns from such indefinite confusing 
objects to the immediate, to the datum ; and perhaps 
for a moment he may fancy he has found true existence 
there ; but if he is a good sceptic he will soon be 
undeceived. Certainly in the immediate he will find 
freedom from the struggle of assertion and counter- 
assertion : no report there, no hypothesis, no ghostly 
reduplication of the obvious, no ghostly imminence 
of the not-given. Is not the obvious, he might ask, 
the truly existent ? Yet the obvious is only the 
apparent ; and this in both senses of this ambiguous 
word. The datum is apparent in the sense of being 
self-evident and luminous ; and it is apparent also in 
the sense of merely appearing and being unsubstantial. 
In this latter sense, the apparent threatens to become 
the non-existent. Does not the existent profess to 
be more than apparent : to be not so much the self- 
evident as that which I am seeking evidence for, in 
the sense of testimony ? Is not the existent, then 
(which from its own point of view, or physically, is 
more than the apparent), cognitively and from my 
point of view less than the apparent ? Does it not 
need witnesses to bear testimony to its being ? And 
what can recommend those witnesses to me except 
their intrinsic eloquence ? I shall prove no sceptic 
if I do not immediately transfer all my trust from the 
existence reported to the appearance reporting it, and 
substitute the evidence of my senses for all lawyer s 
evidence. I shall forget the murders and embroglios 
talked about in the court, and gaze at the judge in his 
scarlet and ermine, with the pale features of an old 
fox under his grey wig ; at the jury in their stolidity ; 
at the witness stammering ; at the counsel, officially 
insolent, not thinking of what he is saying mechanic 
ally, but whispering something that really interests 



44 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

him in an aside, almost yawning, and looking at the 
clock to see if it is time for luncheon ; and at the flood 
of hazy light falling aslant on the whole scene from the 
high windows. Is not the floating picture, in my 
waking trance, the actual reality, and the whole world 
of existence and business but a perpetual fable, which 
this trance sustains ? 

The theory that the universe is nothing but a flux 
of appearances is plausible to the sceptic ; he thinks 
he is not believing much in believing it. Yet the 
residuum of dogma is very remarkable in this view ; 
and the question at once will assail him how many 
appearances he shall assert to exist, of what sort, and 
in what order, if in any, he shall assert them to arise ; 
and the various hypotheses that may be suggested 
concerning the character and distribution of appear 
ances will become fresh data in his thought ; and he 
will find it impossible to decide whether any such 
appearances, beyond the one now passing before him, 
are ever actual, or whether any of the suggested 
systems of appearances actually exists. Thus existence 
will loom again before him, as something problematical, 
at a distance from that immediacy into which he 
thought he had fled. 

Existence thus seems to re-establish itself in the 
very world of appearances, so soon as these are regarded 
as facts and events occurring side by side or one after 
the other. In each datum taken separately there would 
be no occasion to speak of existence. It would be 
an obvious appearance ; whatever appeared there 
would be simply and wholly apparent, and the fact 
that it appeared (which would be the only fact in 
volved) would not appear in it at all. This fact, the 
existence of the intuition, would not be asserted until 
the appearance ceased to be actual, and was viewed 
from the outside, as something that presumably had 
occurred, or would occur, or was occurring elsewhere. 



NOTHING GIVEN EXISTS 45 

In such an external view there might be truth or error ; 
not so in each appearance taken in itself, because in 
itself and as a whole each is a pure appearance and 
bears witness to nothing further. Nevertheless, when 
some term within this given appearance comes to be 
regarded as a sign of some other appearance not now 
given, the question is pertinent whether that other 
appearance exists or not. Thus existence and non- 
existence seem to be relevant to appearances in so far 
as they are problematical and posited from outside, 
not in so far as they are certain and given. 

Hence an important conclusion which at first 
seems paradoxical but which reflection will support ; 
namely, that the notion that the datum exists is un 
meaning, and if insisted upon is false. That which 
exists is the fact that the datum is given at that parti 
cular moment and crisis in the universe ; the intuition, 
not the datum, is the fact which occurs ; and this fact, 
if known at all, must be asserted at some other moment 
by an adventurous belief which may be true or false. 
That which is certain and given, on the contrary, is 
something of which existence cannot be predicated, 
and which, until it is used as a description of some 
thing else, cannot be either false or true. 

I see here how halting is the scepticism of those 
modern philosophers who have supposed that to 
exist is to be an idea in the mind, or an object of 
consciousness, or a fact of experience, if by these 
phrases no more is meant than to be a datum of 
intuition. If there is any existence at all, presence to 
consciousness is neither necessary nor sufficient to 
render it an existence. Imagine a novelist whose 
entire life was spent in conceiving a novel, or a deity 
whose only function was to think a world. That 
world would not exist, any more than the novel 
would comprise the feelings and actions of existing 
persons. If that novelist, in the heat of invention, 



46 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

believed his personages real, he would be deceived : 
and so would that deity if he supposed his world to 
exist merely because he thought of it. Before the 
creation could be actual, or the novel historical, it 
would have to be enacted elsewhere than in the mind 
of its author. And if it was so enacted, it would 
evidently not be requisite to its existence that any 
imaginative person, falsely conceiving himself to be 
its author, should form an image of it in his mind. If 
he did so, that remarkable clairvoyance would be a 
fact requiring explanation ; but it would be an added 
harmony in the world, not the ground of its existence. 
If for the sake of argument I accept the notion 
that presence to intuition is existence, I may easily 
disprove it by a reductio ad absurdum. If nothing not 
given in intuition can exist, then all those beliefs in 
existing facts beyond my intuition, by which thought 
is diversified when it is intelligent, would be necessarily 
false, and all intelligence would be illusion. This 
implication might be welcome to me, if I wished not 
to entertain any opinions which might conceivably be 
wrong. But the next implication is more disconcert 
ing, namely, that the intuitions in which such illusion 
appears can have no existence themselves : for being 
instances of intuition they could not be data for any 
intuition. At one moment I may believe that there 
are or have been or will be other moments ; but 
evidently they would not be other moments, if they 
were data to me now, and nothing more. If presence 
to intuition were necessary to existence, intuition itself 
would not exist ; that is, no other intuition would be 
right in positing it ; and as this absence of tran 
scendence would be mutual, nothing would exist at 
all. And yet, since presence to intuition would be 
sufficient for existence, everything mentionable would 
exist without question, the non-existent could never 
be thought of, to deny anything (if I knew what I was 



NOTHING GIVEN EXISTS 47 

denying) would be impossible, and there would be 
no such thing as fancy, hallucination, illusion, or 
error. 

I think it is evidently necessary to revise a vocabulary 
which lends itself to such equivocation, and if I keep 
the words existence and intuition at all, to lend them 
meanings which can apply to something possible and 
credible. I therefore propose to use the word exist 
ence (in a way consonant, on the whole, with ordinary 
usage) to designate not data of intuition but facts or 
events believed to occur in nature. These facts or 
events will include, first, intuitions themselves, or 
instances of consciousness, like pains and pleasures 
and all remembered experiences and mental discourse ; 
and second, physical things and events, having a 
transcendent relation to the data of intuition which, in 
belief, may be used as signs for them ; the same 
transcendent relation which objects of desire have to 
desire, or objects of pursuit to pursuit ; for example, 
such a relation as the fact of my birth (which I cannot 
even remember) has to my present persuasion that I 
was once born, or the event of my death (which I 
conceive only abstractly) to my present expectation of 
some day dying. If an angel visits me, I may in 
telligibly debate the question whether he exists or not. 
On the one hand, I may affirm that he came in through 
the door, that is, that he existed before I saw him ; 
and I may continue in perception, memory, theory, 
and expectation to assert that he was a fact of nature : 
in that case I believe in his existence. On the other 
hand, I may suspect that he was only an event in me, 
called a dream ; an event not at all included in the 
angel as I saw him, nor at all like an angel in the 
conditions of its existence ; and in this case I disbelieve 
in my vision : for visiting angels cannot honestly be 
said to exist if I entertain them only in idea. 

Existences, then, from the point of view of know- 



48 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

ledge, are facts or events affirmed, not images seen or 
topics merely entertained. Existence is accordingly 
not only doubtful to the sceptic, but odious to the 
logician. To him it seems a truly monstrous 
excrescence and superfluity in being, since anything 
existent is more than the description of it, having 
suffered an unintelligible emphasis or materialisation 
to fall upon it, which is logically inane and morally 
comic. At the same time, existence suffers from 
defect of being and obscuration ; any ideal nature, 
such as might be exhaustively given in intuition, when 
it is materialised loses the intangibility and eternity 
proper to it in its own sphere ; so that existence 
doubly injures the forms of being it embodies, by 
ravishing them first and betraying them afterwards. 

Such is existence as approached by belief and 
affirmed in animal experience ; but I shall find in the 
sequel that considered physically, as it is unrolled 
amidst the other realms of being, existence is a con 
junction of natures in adventitious and variable 
relations. According to this definition, it is evident 
that existence can never be given in intuition ; since 
no matter how complex a datum may be, and no 
matter how many specious changes it may picture, its 
specious order and unity are just what they are : 
they can neither suffer mutation nor acquire new 
relations : which is another way of saying that they 
cannot exist. If this whole evolving world were 
merely given in idea, and were not an external object 
posited in belief and in action, it could not exist nor 
evolve. In order to exist it must enact itself ignorantly 
and^successively, and carry down all ideas of it in its 
own current. 



CHAPTER VIII 

SOME AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION 

THE ultimate position of the sceptic, that nothing 
given exists, may be tortiried by the authority of many 
renowned philosophers who jy_accoimted orthodox..: 
and it will be worth while to stopror a moment to 
invoke their support, since the scepticism I am defend 
ing is not meant to be merely provisional ; its just 
conclusions will remain fixed, to remind me perpetually 
that all alleged knowled ^ pf ^attfira of fact is faith 
pnlv,jmd that an existing world, whatever form it may 
choose to wear, is intrinsically a questionable and 
arbitrary thing. It is true that many who have 
defended this view, in the form that all appearance is 
illusion, have done so in order to insist all the more 
stoutly on the existence of something occult which 
they call reality ; but as the existence of this reality is 
far easier to doubt than the existence of the obvious, 
I may here disregard that compensatory dogma. I 
shall soon introduce compensatory dogmas of my own, 
more credible, I think, than theirs ; and I shall 
attribute existence to a flux of natural events which 
can never be data of intuition, but only objects of a 
belief which men and animals, caught in that flux 
themselves, hazard instinctively. Although a sceptic 
may doubt all existence, none being involved in any 
indubitable datum, yet I think good human reasons, 
apart from irresistible impulse, can be found for 

49 E 



50 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

positing existing intuitions to which data appear, no 
less than other existing events and things, which the 
intuited data report or describe. For the moment, 
however, I am concerned to justify further the con 
tention of the sceptic that, if we refuse to bow to the 
yoke of animal faith, we can find in pure intuition no 
evidence of any existence whatsoever. 

There is notably one tenet, namely, that all change 
is illusion, proper to many deep-voiced philosophers, 
which of itself suffices to abolish all existence, in the 
sense which I give to this word. Instead of change 
they probably posit changeless substance or pure 
Being ; but if substance were not subject to change, 
at least in its distribution, it would not be the substance 
of anything found in the world or happening in the 
mind ; it would, therefore, have no more lodgement 
in existence than has pure Being, which is evidently 
only a logical term. Pure Being, as far as it goes, is 
no doubt a true description of everything, whether 
existent or non-existent ; so that if anything exists, 
pure Being will exist in it ; but it will exist merely as 
pure colour does in all colours, or pure space in all 
spaces, and not separately nor exclusively. These 
philosophers, in denying change, accordingly deny all 
existence. But though many of them have prized 
this doctrine, few have lived up to it, or rather none 
have ; so that I may pass over the fact that in denying 
change they have inadvertently denied existence, even 
to substance and pure Being, because they have 
inadvertently retained both existence and change. 
The reality they attributed with so much unction and 
conviction to the absolute was not that proper to this 
idea one of the least impressive which it is possible 
to contemplate but was obviously due to the strain 
of existence and movement within themselves, and to 
the vast rumble, which hypnotised them, of universal 
mutation. 



AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION 51 

It is the Indians who have insisted most sincerely 
and intrepidly on the non-existence of everything 
given, even adjusting their moral regimen to this 
insight. Life is a dream, they say : and all experienced 
events are illusions. In dreaming of nature and of 
ourselves we are deceived, even in imagining that we 
exist and are deceived and dreaming. Some aver, 
indeed, that there is a universal dreamer, Brahma, 
slumbering and breathing deeply in all of us, who is 
the reality of our dreams, and the negation of them. 
But as Brahma is emphatically not qualified by any 
of the forms of illusory existence, but annuls them all, 
there is no need, for my purpose, of distinguishing 
him from the reported state of redeemed souls (where 
many souls are admitted) nor from the Nirvana into 
which lives flow when they happily cease, becoming 
at last aware, as it were, that neither they nor anything 
else has ever existed. 

It would be rash, across the chasm of language 
and tradition that separates me from the Indians, to 
accuse their formidable systems of self-contradiction. 
Truth and reality are words which, in the mouths of 
prophets, have often a eulogistic rather than a scientific 
force ; and if it is better to elude the importunities of 
existence and to find a sanctuary of intense safety and 
repose in the notion of pure Being, there may be a 
dramatic propriety in saying that the view of the 
saved, from which all memory of the path to salvation 
is excluded, is the true view, and their condition the 
only reality ; so that they are right in thinking that 
they have never existed, and we wrong in thinking 
that we now exist. 

Here is an egotism of the redeemed with which, 
as with other egotisms, I confess I have little sympathy. 
The blessed, in giving out that I do not exist in my 
sins, because they cannot distinguish me, appear to 
me to be deceived. The intrinsic blessedness of their 



52 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

condition cannot turn into a truth this small oversight 
on their part, however excusable. I suspect, or I like 
to imagine, that what the Indians mean is rather that 
the principle of my existence, and of my persuasion 
that I exist, is an evil principle. It is sin, guilt, 
passion, and mad will, the natural and universal source 
of illusion very much what I am here calling animal 
faith ; and since this assertiveness in me (according 
to the Indians) is wrong morally, and since its influence 
alone leads me to posit existence in myself or in 
anything else, if I were healed morally I should cease 
to assert existence ; and I should, in fact, have ceased 
to exist. 

Now in this doctrine, so stated, lies a great con 
firmation of my thesis that nothing given exists ; 
because it is only a dark principle, transcendental in 
respect to the datum (that is, on the hither side of the 
footlights) that calls up this datum at all, or leads me 
to posit its existence. It is this sorry self of mine 
sitting here in the dark, one in this serried pack of 
open-mouthed fools, hungry for illusion, that is 
responsible for the spectacle ; for if a foolish instinct 
had not brought me to the playhouse, and if avid eyes 
and an idealising understanding had not watched the 
performance, no part of it would have abused me : 
and if no one came to the theatre, the actors would 
soon flit away like ghosts, the poets would starve, the 
scenery would topple over and become rubbish, and 
the very walls would disappear. Every part of ex 
perience, as it comes, is illusion ; and the source of 
this illusion is my animal nature, blindly labouring in 
a blind world. 

Such is the ancient lesson of experience itself, 
when we reflect upon experience and turn its illusions 
into instruction : a lesson which a bird-witted empiri 
cism can never learn, though it is daily repeated. But 
the Indian with a rare sensitiveness joined a rare 



AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION 53 

recollection. He lived : a religious love, a childish 
absorption in appearances as they come (which busy 
empiricists do not share), led him to remember them 
truly, in all their beauty, and therefore to perceive 
that they were illusions. The poet, the disinterested 
philosopher, the lover of things distilled into purity, 
frees himself from belief. This infinite chaos of cruel 
and lovely forms, he cries, is all deceptive, all un 
substantial, substituted at will for nothing, and soon 
found to sink into nothing again, and to be nothing 
in truth. 

I will disregard the vehemence with which these 
saintly scholastics denounce the world and the sinful 
nature that attaches me to it. I like the theatre, not 
because I cannot perceive that the play is a fiction, 
but because I do perceive it ; if I thought the thing a 
fact, I should detest it : anxiety would rob me of all 
my imaginative pleasure. Even as it is, I often wish 
the spectacle were less barbarous ; but I am not 
angry because each scene does not last for ever, and 
is likely to be followed by a thousand others which 
I shall not witness. Such is the nature of endless 
comedy, and of experience. But I wish to retain the 
valuable testimony of the Indians to the non-existence 
of the obvious. This testimony is the more valuable 
because the spectacle present to their eyes was tropical ; 
harder, therefore, to master and to smile at than are 
the political and romantic medleys which fill the mind 
of Europe. Yet amidst the serpents and hyaenas, the 
monkeys and parrots of their mental jungle, those 
sages could sit unmoved, too holily incredulous for 
fear. How infinite, how helpless, how deserving of 
forgiveness creative error becomes to the eye of under 
standing, that loves only in pity, and has no con 
cupiscence for what it loves ! How like unhappy 
animals western philosophers seem in comparison, 
with their fact-worship, their thrift, their moral 



54 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

intolerance, their imaginative poverty, their political 
zeal, and their subservience to intellectual fashion ! 

It makes no difference for my purposes if the 
cosmology of the Indians was fanciful. It could 
hardly be more extraordinary than the constitution 
of the material world is in fact, nor more decidedly 
out of scale with human data ; truth and fancy in this 
matter equally convict the human senses of illusion. 
Nor am I out of sympathy with their hope of escaping 
from the universal hurly-burly into some haven of 
peace. A philosopher has a haven in himself, of 
which I suspect the fabled bliss to follow in other 
lives, or after total emancipation from living, is only 
a poetic symbol : he has pleasure in truth, and an 
equal readiness to enjoy the scene or to quit it. Libera 
tion is never complete while life lasts, and is nothing 
afterwards ; but it flows in a measure from this very 
conviction that all experience is illusion, when this 
conviction is morally effective, as it was with the 
Indians. Their belief in transmigration or in Karma 
is superfluous in this regard, since a later experience 
could only change the illusion without perfecting the 
liberation. Yet the mention of some ulterior refuge 
or substance is indispensable to the doctrine of illusion, 
and though it may be expressed mythically must be 
taken to heart too. It points to other realms of being 
such as those which I call the realms of matter, 
truth, and spirit which by nature cannot be data of 
intuition but must be posited (if recognised by man 
at all) by an instinctive faith expressed in action. 
Whether these ulterior realms exist or not is their 
own affair : existence may be proper to some, like 
matter or spirit, and not to others, like truth. But as 
to the data of intuition, their non-existent and illusory 
character is implied in the fact that they are given. 
A datum is by definition a theme of attention, a term 
in passing thought, a visioned universal. The realm 



AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION 55 

in which it lies, and in which flying intuition discloses 
it for a moment, is the very realm of non-existence, 
of inert or ideal being. The Indians, in asserting the 
non-existence of every term in possible experience, 
not only free the spirit from idolatry, but free the realm 
of spirit (which is that of intuition) from limitation ; 
because if nothing that appears exists, anything may 
appear without the labour and expense of existing ; 
and fancy is invited to range innocently fancies not 
murdering other fancies as an existence must murder 
other existences. While life lasts, the field is thus 
cleared for innocent poetry and infinite hypothesis, 
without suffering the judgement to be deceived nor 
the heart enslaved. 

European philosophers, even when called idealists, 
have seldom reconciled themselves to regarding ex 
perience as a creature of fancy. Instead of looking 
beneath illusion for some principle that might call it 
forth or perhaps dispel it, as they would if endeavour 
ing to interpret a dream, they have treated it as dreams 
are treated by the superstitious ; that is, they have 
supposed that the images they saw were themselves 
substances, or powers, or at least imperfect visions of 
originals resembling them. In other words, they have 
been empiricists, regarding appearances as constituents 
of substance. There have been exceptions, but some 
of them only prove the rule. Parmenides and Demo- 
critus certainly did not admit that the data of sense or 
imagination existed otherwise than as illusions or 
conventional signs : but their whole interest, for this 
reason, skipped over them, and settled heavily on 
" Being," or on the atoms and the void, which they 
severally supposed underlay appearance. Appearance 
itself thereby acquired a certain vicarious solidity, 
since it was thought to be the garment of substance ; 
somehow within the visionary datum, or beneath it, 
the most unobjectionable substance was always to be 



56 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

found. Parmenides could not have admitted, and 
Democritus had not discovered, that the sole basis of 
appearances was some event in the brain, in no way 
resembling them ; and that the relation of data to 
the external events they indicated was that of a 
spontaneous symbol, like an exclamatory word, and 
not that of a copy or emanation. The simple ancients 
supposed (as some of my contemporaries do also) that 
perception stripped material things of their surface 
properties, or was actually these surface properties 
peeled off and lodged in the observer s head. Accord 
ingly the denial of existence to sensibles and to intelli- 
gibles was never hearty until substance was denied 
also, and nothing existent was any longer supposed 
to lurk within these appearances or behind them. 

All modern idealists have perceived that an actual 
appearance cannot be a part of a substance that does 
not appear ; the given image has only the given 
relations ; if I assign other relations to it (which I do 
if I attribute existence to it) I substitute for the pure 
datum one of two other things : either a substance 
possessing the same form as that datum, but created 
and dissolved in its own medium, at its own periods, 
apart from all observation ; or else, a perception of 
my own, a moment in my experience, carrying the 
vision of such an image. The former choice simply 
puts me back at the beginning of physics, when a 
merely pictorial knowledge of the material world 
existed, and nothing of its true mechanism and history 
had been discovered. The latter choice posits human 
discourse, or as these philosophers call it, experience : 
and it is certain that the status of a datum in discourse 
or experience is that of a mere appearance, fluctuating, 
intermittent, never twice the same, and dependent for 
its specious actuality on the movement of attention 
and the shuffling of confused images in the fancy. 
In other words, what exists that is, what is carried 



AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION 57 

on through the flux and has changing and external 
relations is a life, discourse itself, the voluminous 
adventures of the mind in its wholeness. This is also 
what novelists and literary psychologists endeavour 
to record or to imagine ; and the particular data, 
hardly distinguishable by the aid of a word clapped on 
to them, are only salient sparks or abstract points of 
reference for an observer intent on ulterior events. 
It is ulterior events, the whole of human experience 
and history as conventionally reported, that is the 
object of belief in this school, and the true existence. 

Ostensibly empiricists seek to reduce this un 
manageable object to particular data, and to attribute 
existence to each scintilla taken separately ; but in 
reality all the relations of these intuitions (which are 
not relations between the data), their temporal order, 
subordination to habit and passion, associations, mean 
ing, and embosoming intelligence, are interpolated as 
if they were matters of course ; and indeed they are, 
because these are the tides of animal life on which 
the datum sparkles for a moment. Empiricists are 
interested in practice, and wish to work with as light 
an intellectual equipment as possible ; they therefore 
attribute existence to " ideas " meaning intuitions 
but professing to mean data. If they were interested 
in these data for their own sake, they would perceive 
that they are only symbols, like words, used to mark 
or express the crises in their practical career ; and 
becoming fervid materialists again in their beliefs, as 
they have always been in their allegiances, they might 
soon go so far as to deny that there is intuition of data 
at all : which is a radical way of denying their existence. 
Discourse and experience would thus drop out of sight 
altogether, and instead of data of intuition there would 
be only the pictorial elements of physics the other 
possible form in which anything given may be asserted 
to exist. 



58 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

If anything, therefore, exists at all when an appear 
ance arises, this existence is not the unit that appears, 
but either a material fact presenting such an appear 
ance, though constituted by many other relations, or 
else an actual intuition evoking, creating, or dreaming 
that non-existent unit. Idealists, if they are thorough, 
will deny both ; for neither a material thing nor an 
actual intuition has its being in being perceived : both, 
by definition, exist on their own account, by virtue of 
their internal energy and natural relations. There 
fore either existence apart from givenness is admitted, 
inconsistently with idealism, or existence is denied 
altogether. It is allowed, and in fact urged, by all 
complete idealists that appearance, far from involving 
the existence of what appears, positively excludes it. 
Esse est percipi was a maxim recalled by an intelligible 
literary impulse, as Faust said, Gefiihl ist Alles ! Yet 
that maxim was uttered without reflection, because 
what those who uttered it really meant was the exact 
opposite, namely, that only spirits, or perhaps one 
spirit, existed, which were beings perfectly imper 
ceptible. It was the beautiful and profound part of 
such a sentiment that whatever is pictorial is non 
existent. Data could be only forms assumed by 
animal sensibility, like the camel and the weasel seen 
by Hamlet in a cloud ; as these curious creatures 
could have no zoological existence in that nebula, so 
the units of human apperception have no existence 
anywhere. 

When idealists say, therefore, that ideas are the 
only objects of human knowledge and that they exist 
only in the mind, their language is incoherent, because 
knowledge of ideas is not knowledge, and presence 
to intuition is not existence. But this incoherence 
enables two different philosophies to use the same 
formula, to the extreme confusion both of doctrine 
and feeling. One philosophy under the name idea 



AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION 59 

conceives of a fact or phenomenon, a phase in the 
flux of fortune or experience, existing at a given 
moment, and known at other moments to have existed 
there : in other words, its ideas are recollected events 
in nature, the subject-matter of psychology and 
physics. This philosophy, when carried out, becomes 
materialism ; its psychology turns into a record of 
behaviour and its phenomenalistic view of nature into 
a mathematical calculus of invisible processes. The 
other philosophy (which alone concerns me here) 
under the name idea understands the terms of sen 
sation and thought, and their pictorial or rhetorical 
synthesis. Since these themes of intuition are called 
upon to absorb all reality, and no belief is accepted 
as more than a fresh datum in thought, this philo 
sophy denies the transcendence of knowledge and the 
existence of anything. 

^Although the temper n f absolute idealists is often 
Dj^frnm^rrptirnT7 thoir rjggjj^ffig scepticism itself?" 
as appears not only in their criticism of all dogma, buT 
in the reasons they give for their own views. What 
are these reasons ? That the criticism of knowledge 
proves that actual thinking is the only reality ; that 
the objects of knowledge can live, move, and have 
their being only within it ; that existence is something 
merely imputed ; and that truth is coherence among 
views having themselves no objects. A fact, these 
critics say, is a concept. This statement might seem 
absurd, since a concept means at most the idea or 
supposition of a fact ; but if the statement is taken 
sympathetically, for what the malicious criticism of 
knowledge means by it, it amounts to this : that there 
are no facts, but that what we call facts, and believe 
to be such, are really only conventional fictions, imagina 
tions of what facts would be if facts were possible at 
all. That facts are ideals, impossible to realise, is 
clear on transcendental principles, since a fact would 



60 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

be an event or existence which knowledge would have 
to approach and lay siege to somehow from the out 
side, so that for knowledge (the only reality on this 
system) they would always remain phantoms, creatures 
of a superstitious instinct, terms for ever posited but 
never possessed, and therefore perpetually unreal. If 
fact or truth had any separate being it could not be 
an integral part of knowledge ; what modicum of 
reality facts or truths can possess they must borrow 
from knowledge, in which they perforce remain ideals 
only ; so that it is only as unreal that they are real at 
all. Transcendentalists are sure that knowledge is 
everything, not because they presume that everything 
is known, but precisely because they see that there is 
nothing to know. If anything existed actually, or if 
there was any independent truth, it would be un 
knowable, as these voracious thinkers conceive know 
ledge. The glorious thing about knowledge, in their 
eyes, is that, as there is nothing to know, knowledge 
is a free and a sure creation, new and self-grounded 
for ever. 

Transcendentalism, when it is thorough, accordingly 
agrees with the Indian systems in maintaining that 
the illusion that given objects exist has itself no 
existence. Any actual sensation, any instance of 
thinking, would be a self-existing fact ; but facts are 
only concepts, that is, inert terms in absolute thought : 
if illusions occurred actually, they would not be con 
cepts but events, and though their visionary objects 
might be non-existent, the vision of them would exist ; 
and they would be the sort of independent facts which 
transcendental logic excludes as impossible. Acts of 
judging or positing or imagining cannot be admitted 
on this system until they in their turn have been 
posited in another judgement ; that is, until they 
cease to hide their heads in the obscurity of self- 
existence, and become purely ideal themes of actual 



AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION 61 

intuition. When they have thus become pheno 
menal, intent and judgement may posit them and 
depute them to exist ; but the belief that they exist 
otherwise than as present postulates is always false. 
Imputed existence is the only existence possible, but 
must always be imputed falsely. For example, the 
much-talked-of opinions of ancient philosophers, if 
they had existed at all, would have had to exist before 
they became objects of intuition to the historian, or 
to the reader of history, who judges them to have 
existed ; but such self-existence is repugnant to tran 
scendental logic : it is a ghost cut off from knowledge 
and from the breath of life in me here and now. 
Therefore the opinions of philosophers exist only in 
history, history exists only in the historian, and the 
historian only in the reader ; and the reader himself 
exists only for his self -consciousness, which is not 
really his own, but absolute consciousness thinking 
about him or about all things from his point of view. 
Thus everything exists only ideally, by being falsely 
supposed to exist. The only knowable reality is 
unreal because specious, and all other reality is un 
real because unknowable. 

Transcendentalists are thus driven, like Parmenides 
and the Vedanta philosophy, to withdraw into a dark 
interior yet omnipresent principle, the unfathomable 
force that sets all this illusion going, and at the same 
time rebukes and annuls the illusion. I am here 
concerned, let me repeat, with scepticism, not with 
compensatory dogmas ; but for the transcendentalist, 
who fundamentally abhors substance, the compen 
satory dogma itself is one more denial of existence. 
For what, in his system, is this transcendental seat of 
all illusion, this agent in all judgements and positings ? 
Not an existing spirit, if such a phrase could have a 
meaning. Absolute thought cannot exist first, before 
it imputes existence to other things or to itself. If it 



62 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

needed to possess existence before imputing it, as the 
inexpert in logic might suppose, the whole principle 
of transcendental criticism would be abandoned and 
disproved, and nothing would any longer prevent the 
existence of intuitions or of material things before 
any one posited them. But if non-existent, what can 
absolute spirit be ? Just a principle, a logic to be 
embodied, a self-creating programme or duty, assert 
ing itself without any previous instrument, ground, or 
occasion. Existence is something utterly unworthy 
of such a transcendental spirit, and repugnant to it. 
Spirit is here only a name for absolute law, for the 
fatality or chance that one set of appearances instead 
of another insists upon arising. No doubt this 
fatality is welcome to the enthusiast in whom this 
spirit is awake, and its very groundlessness takes on 
the form of freedom and creative power to his appre 
hension : but this sympathy with life, being expressly 
without any natural basis, is itself a happy accident, 
and precarious : and sometimes conscience may 
suddenly turn against it, and call it vain, mad, and 
criminal. Fichte once said that he who truly wills 
anything must will that very thing for ever ; and 
this saying may be interpreted consistently with tran 
scendentalism, if it is understood to mean that, since 
transcendental will is dateless and creates its own 
universe wherever it exerts itself, the character of this 
will is unalterable in that phase of it, producing just 
that vision and that world, which being out of time 
cannot be devoured by time. But perhaps even 
Fichte was not free from human weakness, and he 
may also have meant, or half-meant, that a thorough 
education, such as Prussia was called to create, could 
fix the will of mankind and turn it into an unalterable 
habit ; and that a philosopher could pledge the absolute 
always to posit the same set of objects. So understood, 
the maxim would be contrary to transcendentalism 



AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION 63 

and to the fervent conviction of Fichte himself, which 
demanded "new worlds for ever." Even if he meant 
only that the principle of perpetual novelty at least 
was safe and could never be betrayed by the event, 
he would have contradicted the absolute freedom of 
" Life " to be what it willed, and his own occasional 
fears that, somewhere and some day, Life might grow 
weary, and might consent to be hypnotised and en 
slaved by the vision of matter which it had created. 

But the frailty even of the greatest idealists is 
nothing against idealism, and the principle that 
existence is something always imputed, and never 
found, is not less cogent if idealists, for the sake of 
courtesy, sometimes say that when existence is im 
puted necessarily it is imputed truly ; and it makes 
no difference for my object whether they call fiction 
truth because it is legal, or call legality illusion because 
it is false. In any case, I can invoke the authority of 
this whole school, in which consciousness has been 
studied and described with admirable sincerity, for 
the thesis I have at heart. They deny with one voice 
that anything given can exist on its own account, or 
can be anything but a theme chosen by the spirit, a 
theme which no substantial thing or event existing 
outside could ever force the spirit to conceive or to 
copy. Nothing existent can appear, and nothing 
specious can exist. An apparition is a thought, its 
whole life is but mine in thinking it ; and whatever 
monition or significance I may attribute to its presence, 
it can never be anything but the specious thing it is. 
In the routine of animal life, an appearance may be 
normal or abnormal, and animal faith or practical 
intellect may interpret it in a way practically right or 
wrong ; but in itself every appearance, just because 
it is an appearance, is an illusion. 

Confirmation of this thesis may also be found in 
an entirely different quarter, in natural history. The 



64 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

sensibility of animals, as judged by their motions and 
behaviour, is due to their own structure. The sur 
rounding facts and forces are like the sun shining and 
the rain falling on the just and the unjust ; they con 
dition the existence of the animal and reward any apt 
habits which he may acquire ; but he survives mainly 
by insensibility, and by a sort of pervasive immunity 
to most of the vibrations that run through him. It is 
only in very special directions, to very special occasional 
stimulations, that he develops instinctive responses in 
special organs : and his intuitions, if he has them, 
express these reactions. If the stimulus is cut off, 
the material sources of it may continue to be what 
they were, but they will not be perceived. If the 
stimulus, or anything equivalent to it, reaches the 
brain from any source, as in dreams, the same intuition 
will appear, in the absence of the material object. 
The feelings of animals express their bodily habit ; 
they do not express directly either the existence or 
the character of any external thing. The intent to 
react on these external things is independent of any 
presumptive data of intuition and antecedent to their 
appearance : it is an animal endeavour in pursuit or 
avoidance, or an animal expectation ; but the signals 
by which intuition may mark the crises of this animal 
watch or animal struggle are the. same signals as 
appear in a dream, when nothing is afoot. The 
immediate visionary datum is never the intended 
object, but always a pathological symptom, a term in 
discourse, a description proffered at that moment by 
that feeling for that object, different for each channel 
of sense, translating digestibility into taste, salubrity 
into freshness, distance into size, refraction into colour, 
attitude into outline, distribution into perspective, and 
immersing everything in a moral medium, where it 
becomes a good or an evil, as it cannot be save to 
animal sympathy. 



AUTHORITIES FOR THIS CONCLUSION 65 

All these transcripts, however original in character, 
remain symbols in function, because they arise in the 
act of focussing animal sensibility or animal endeavour 
upon some external influence. In a healthy life they 
become the familiar and unmistakable masks of 
nature, lending to everything in the environment its 
appropriate aspect in human discourse, its nick 
name in the human family. For this reason, when 
imagination works in a void (as it can do in dreams or 
under the influence of violent passion) it becomes 
illusion in the bad sense of this word ; that is, it is 
still taken for a symbol, when it is the symbol of 
nothing. All these data, if by a suspension of practical 
reference they came to be regarded in themselves, 
would cease to be illusions cognitively, since no 
existence would be suggested by any of them ; but 
a practical man might still call them illusions for that 
very reason, because although free from error they 
would be devoid of truth. In order to reach existences 
intent must transcend intuition, and take data for 
what they mean, not for what they are ; it must credit 
them, as understanding credits words, accepting the 
passing vision as a warrant for something that once 
was, or that will be, or that lies in an entirely different 
medium, that of material being, or of discourse else 
where. Intuition cannot reveal or discriminate any 
fact ; it is pure fancy ; and the more I sink into it, 
and the more absolute I make it, the more fanciful it 
becomes. If ever it ceases to mean anything at all, it 
becomes pure poetry if placid, and mere delirium if 
intense. So a pain, when it is not sorrow at some 
event or the sign of some injury or crisis in bodily 
life, becomes sheer horror, and a sort of wanton little 
hell, existing absolutely ; because the rending of the 
organism has raised intuition to an extreme intensity 
without giving it direction upon anything to be found 
or done in the world, or contemplated in the fancy ; 

F 



66 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

and pain, when it reaches distraction, may be said to 
be that moral monster, intuition devouring itself, or 
wasted in agony upon nothing. 

Thus scientific psychology confirms the criticism 
of knowledge and the experience of life which proclaim 
that the immediate objects of intuition are mere 
appearances and that nothing given exists as it is 
given. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE DISCOVERY OF ESSENCE 

THE loss of faith, as I have already observed, has no 
tendency to banish ideas ; on the contrary, since 
doubt arises on reflection, it tends to keep the imagina 
tion on the stretch, and lends to the whole spectacle 
of things a certain immediacy, suavity, and humour. 
All that is sordid or tragic falls away, and everything 
acquires a lyric purity, as if the die had not yet been 
cast and the ominous choice of creation had not been 
made. Often the richest philosophies are the most 
sceptical ; the mind is not then tethered in its home 
paddock, but ranges at will over the wilderness of 
being. The Indians, who deny the existence of the 
world, have a keen sense for its infinity and its varie 
gated colours ; they play with the monstrous and 
miraculous in the grand manner, as in the Arabian 
Nights. No critic has had a sharper eye for the out 
lines of ideas than Hume, who found it impossible 
seriously to believe that they revealed anything. In 
the critic, as in the painter, suspension of belief and 
of practical understanding is favourable to vision ; 
the arrested eye renders every image limpid and un 
equivocal. And this is not merely an effect of physio 
logical compensation, in that perhaps the nervous 
energy withdrawn from preparations for action is 
allowed to intensify the process of mere sensation. 
There ensues a logical clarification as well ; because 

6 7 



68 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

so long as belief, interpretation, and significance 
entered in, the object in hand was ambiguous ; in 
seeking the fact the mind overlooked or confused the 
datum. Yet each element in this eager investigation 
including its very eagerness is precisely what it is ; 
and if I renounce for the moment all transitive in 
telligence, and give to each of these elements its due 
definition, I shall have a much richer as well as clearer 
collection of terms and relations before me, than when 
I was clumsily attempting to make up my mind. 
Living beings dwell in their expectations rather than 
in their senses. If they are ever to see what they see, 
they must first in a manner stop living ; they must 
suspend the will, as Schopenhauer put it ; they must 
photograph the idea that is flying past, veiled in its 
very swiftness. This swiftness is not its own fault, 
but that of my haste and inattention ; my hold is 
loose on it, as in a dream ; or else perhaps those veils 
and that swiftness are the truth of the picture ; and 
it is they that the true artist should be concerned to 
catch and to eternalise, restoring to all that the practical 
intellect calls vague its own specious definition. 
Nothing is vague in itself, or other than just what it 
is. Symbols are vague only in respect to their signifi 
cation, when this remains ambiguous. 

It is accordingly an inapt criticism often passed 
upon Berkeley and Hume that they overlooked vague 
ness in ideas, although almost every human idea is 
scandalously vague. No, their intuition of ideas, at 
least initially, was quite direct and honest. The 
ambiguity they overlooked lay in the relation of ideas 
to physical things, which they wished to reduce to 
groups or series of these pellucid ideas a chimerical 
physics. Had they abstained altogether from identify 
ing ideas with objects of natural knowledge (which are 
events and facts), and from trying to construct material 
things out of optical and tactile images, they might 



THE DISCOVERY OF ESSENCE 69 

have much enriched the philosophy of specious reality, 
and discerned the innocent realm of ideas as directly 
as Plato did, but more accurately. In this they need 
not have confused or undermined faith in natural 
things. Perception is faith ; more perception may 
extend this faith or reform It, but can never recant it 
except by sophistry. These virgin philosophers were 
like the cubists or futurists in the painting of to-day. 
They might have brought to light curious and neglected 
forms of direct intuition. They could not justly have 
been charged with absurdity for seeing what they 
actually saw. But they lapse into absurdity, and that 
irremediably, if they pretend to be the first and only 
masters of anatomy and topography. 

Far from being vague or abstract the obvious ideas 
remaining to a complete sceptic may prove too absorb 
ing, too multitudinous, or too sweet. A moral repro 
bation of them is no less intelligible than is the scientific 
criticism which rejects them as illusions and as no 
constituents of the existing world. Conscience no 
less than business may blame the sceptic for a sort 
of luxurious idleness ; he may call himself a lotus- 
eater, may heave a sigh of fatigue at doing nothing, 
and may even feel a touch of the vertigo and wish to 
close the eyes on all these images that entertain him 
to no purpose. But scepticism is an exercise, not a 
life ; it is a discipline fit to purify the mind of prejudice 
and render it all the more apt, when the time comes, 
to believe and to act wisely ; and meantime the pure 
sceptic need take no offence at the multiplicity of 
images that crowd upon him, if he is scrupulous not 
to trust them and to assert nothing at their prompting. 
Scepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is 
shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer : 
there is nobility in preserving it coolly and proudly 
through a long youth, until at last, in the ripeness of 
instinct and discretion, it can be safely exchanged for 



yo SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

fidelity and happiness. But the philosopher, when he 
is speculative only, is a sort of perpetual celibate ; he 
is bent on not being betrayed, rather than on being 
annexed or inspired ; and although if he is at all wise 
he must see that the true marriage of the mind is with 
nature and science and the practical arts, yet in his 
special theoretic vocation, it will be a boon to him to 
view all experience simply, in the precision and distinct 
ness which all its parts acquire when not referred to any 
substance which they might present confusedly, nor to 
any hypothesis or action which they might suggest. 

The sceptic, then, as a consequence of carrying his 
scepticism to the greatest lengths, finds himself in the 
presence of more luminous and less equivocal objects 
than does the working and believing mind ; only these 
objects are without meaning, they are only what they 
are obviously, all surface. They show him every 
thing thinkable with the greatest clearness and force ; 
but he can no longer imagine that he sees in these 
objects anything save their instant presence and their 
face- value. Scepticism therefore suspends all know 
ledge worthy of the name, all that transitive and pre 
sumptive knowledge of facts which is a form of belief ; 
and instead it bestows intuition of ideas, contemplative, 
aesthetic, dialectical, arbitrary. But whereas transitive 
knowledge, though important if true, may always be 
challenged, intuition, on the contrary, which neither 
has nor professes to have any ulterior object or truth, 
runs no risks of error, because it claims no jurisdiction 
over anything alien or eventual. 

In this lucidity and calmness of intuition there is 
something preternatural. Imagine a child accustomed 
to see clothes only on living persons and hardly dis 
tinguishing them from the magical strong bodies that 
agitate them, and suddenly carry this child into a 
costumer s shop, where he will see all sorts of garments 
hung in rows upon manikins, with hollow breasts all 



THE DISCOVERY OF ESSENCE 71 

of visible wire, and little wooden nobs instead of heads : 
he might be seriously shocked or even frightened. 
How should it be possible for clothes standing up like 
this not to be people ? Such abstractions, he might 
say to himself, are metaphysically impossible. Either 
these figures must be secretly alive and ready, when he 
least expects it, to begin to dance, or else they are not 
real at all, and he can only fancy that he sees them. 
Just as the spectacle of all these gaunt clothes without 
bodies might make the child cry, so later might the 
whole spectacle of nature, if ever he became a sceptic. 
The little word is has its tragedies ; it marries and 
identifies different things with the greatest innocence ; 
and yet no two are ever identical, and if therein lies the 
charm of wedding them and calling them one, therein 
too lies the danger. Whenever I use the word is, 
except in sheer tautology, I deeply misuse it ; and 
when I discover my error, the world seems to fall 
asunder and the members of my family no longer 
know one another. Existence is the strong body and 
familiar motion which the young mind expects to find 
in every dummy. The oldest of us are sometimes no 
less recalcitrant to the spectacle of the garments of 
existence which is all we ever saw of it when the 
existence is taken away. Yet it is to these actual and 
familiar, but now disembowelled objects, that scepti 
cism introduces us, as if to a strange world ; a vast 
costumer s gallery of ideas where all sorts of patterns 
and models are on exhibition, without bodies to wear 
them, and where no human habits of motion distract 
the eye from the curious cut and precise embroideries of 
every article. This display, so complete in its spec 
tacular reality, not a button nor a feather wanting or 
unobserved, is not the living crowd that it ought to 
be, but a mockery of it, like the palace of the Sleeping 
Beauty. To my conventional mind, clothes without 
bodies are no less improper than bodies without 



72 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

clothes ; yet the conjunction of these things is but 
human. All nature runs about naked, and quite 
happy ; and I am not so remote from nature as not to 
revert on occasion to that nakedness which is un 
consciousness with profound relief. But ideas with 
out things and apparel without wearers seem to me a 
stranger condition ; I think the garments were made 
to fit the limbs, and should collapse without them. 
Yet, like the fig leaves of Eden, they are not garments 
essentially. They become such by accident, when one 
or another of them is appropriatea by the providential 
buyer not necessarily human whose instinct may 
choose it ; or else it is perfectly content to miss its 
chance, and to lie stacked for ever among its motley 
neighbours in this great store of neglected finery. 

It was the fear of illusion that originally disquieted 
the honest mind, congenitally dogmatic, and drove it 
in the direction of scepticism ; and it may find three 
ways, not equally satisfying to its honesty, in which 
that fear of illusion may be dispelled. One is death, 
in which illusion vanishes and is forgotten ; but 
although anxiety about error, and even positive error, 
are thus destroyed, no solution is offered to the previous 
doubt : no explanation of what could have called forth 
that illusion or what could have dissipated it. Another 
way out is by correcting the error, and substituting a 
new belief for it : but while in animal life this is the 
satisfying solution, and the old habit of dogmatism 
may be resumed in consequence without practical 
inconvenience, speculatively the case is not at all 
advanced ; because no criterion of truth is afforded 
except custom, comfort, and the accidental absence of 
doubt ; and what i&- absent by chance may return at 
any time unbidden \_ The third way, at which I have 
now arrived, is to entertain the illusion without suc 
cumbing to it, accepting it openly as an illusion, and 
forbidding it to claim any sort of being but that which 



THE DISCOVERY OF ESSENCE 73 

it obviously has ; and then, whether it profits me or 
not, it will not deceive me. What will remain of this 
non-deceptive illusion will then be a truth, and a 
truth the being of which requires no explanation, since 
it is utterly impossible that it should have been other 
wise. Of course I may still ask why the identity of 
this particular thing with itself should have occurred 
to me ; a question which could only be answered by 
plunging into a realm of existence and natural history 
every part and principle of which would be just as 
contingent, just as uncalled-for, and just as inexplic 
able as this accident of my being ; but that this 
particular thing, or any other which might have 
occurred to me instead, should be constituted as it is 
raises no problem ; for how could it have been con 
stituted otherwise ? Nor is there any moral offence 
any longer in the contingency of my view of it, since 
my view of it involves no error. The error came 
from a wild belief about it ; and the possibility of 
error came from a wild propensity to belief. Relieve 
now the pressure of that animal haste and that hungry 
presumption ; the error is washed out of the illusion ; 
it is no illusion now, but an idea. Just as food would 
cease to be food, and poison poison, if you removed 
the stomach and the blood that they might nourish 
or infect ; and just as beautiful things would cease to 
be beautiful if you removed the wonder and the 
welcome of living souls, so if you eliminate your 
anxiety, deceit itself becomes entertainment, and 
every illusion but so much added acquaintance with 
the realm of form. For the unintelligible accident of 
existence will cease to appear to lurk in this manifest 
being, weighting and crowding it, and threatening it 
with being swallowed up by nondescript neighbours. 
It will appear dwelling in its own world, and shining 
by its own light, however brief may be my glimpse of 
it : for no date will be written on it, no frame of full 



74 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

or of empty time will shut it in ; nothing in it will 
be addressed to me, nor suggestive of any spectator. 
It will seem an event in no world, an incident in no 
experience. The quality of it will have ceased to 
exist : it will be merely the quality which it inherently, 
logically, and inalienably is. It will be an ESSENCE. 

Retrenchment has its rewards. When by a difficult 
suspension of judgement I have deprived a given image 
of all adventitious significance, when it is taken neither 
for the manifestation of a substance nor for an idea in 
a mind nor for an event in a world, but simply if a 
colour for that colour and if music for that music, and 
if a face for that face, then an immense cognitive 
certitude comes to compensate me for so much cognitive 
abstention. My scepticism at last has touched bottom, 
and my doubt has found honourable rest in the 
absolutely indubitable. Whatever essence I find and 
note, that essence and no other is established before 
me. I cannot be mistaken about it, since I now have 
no object of intent other than the object of intuition. 
If for some private reason I am dissatisfied, and wish 
to change my entertainment, nothing prevents ; but 
the change leaves the thing I first saw possessed of all 
its quality, for the sake of which I perhaps disliked or 
disowned it. That, while one essence is before me, 
some one else may be talking of another, which he calls 
by the same name, is nothing to the purpose ; and if 
I myself change and correct myself, choosing a new 
essence in place of the old, my life indeed may have 
shifted its visions and its interests, but the characters 
they had when I harboured them are theirs without 
change . Indeed , only because each essence is the essence 
defined by instant apprehension can I truly be said to 
have changed my mind ; for I can have discarded any 
one of them only by substituting something different. 
This new essence could not be different from the 
former one, if each was not unchangeably itself. 



THE DISCOVERY OF ESSENCE 75 

There is, then, a sort of play with the non-existent, 
or game of thought, which intervenes in all alleged 
knowledge of matters of fact, and survives that know 
ledge, if this is ever questioned or disproved. To this 
mirage of the non-existent, or intuition of essence, the 
pure sceptic is confined ; and confined is hardly the 
word ; because though without faith and risk he can 
never leave that thin and bodiless plane of being, this 
plane in its tenuity is infinite ; and there is nothing 
possible elsewhere that, as a shadow and a pattern, is 
not prefigured there. To consider an essence is, from 
a spiritual point of view, to enlarge acquaintance with 
true being ; but it is not even to broach knowledge of 
fact ; and the ideal object so defined may have no 
natural significance, though it has aesthetic immediacy 
and logical definition. The modest scope of this 
speculative acquaintance with essence renders it in 
fallible, whilst the logical and aesthetic ideality of its 
object renders that object eternal. Thus the most 
radical sceptic may be consoled, without being rebuked 
nor refuted ; he may leap at one bound over the whole 
human tangle of beliefs and dogmatic claims, elude 
human incapacity and bias, and take hold of the quite 
sufficient assurance that any essence or ideal quality 
of being which he may be intuiting has just the char 
acters he is finding in it, and has them eternally. 

This is no idle assurance. After all, the only thing 
that can ultimately interest me in other men s experi 
ence or, apart from animal egotism, in my own, is just 
this character of the essences which at any time have 
swum into our ken ; not at all the length of time 
through which we may have beheld them, nor the 
circumstances that produced that vision ; unless these 
circumstances in turn, when considered, place before 
the mind the essences which it delights to entertain. 
Of course, the choice and the interest of essences come 
entirely from the bent of the animal that elicits the 



76 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

vision of them from his own soul and its adventures ; 
and nothing but affinity with my animal life lends the 
essences I am able to discern their moral colour, so 
that to my mind they are beautiful, horrible, trivial, or 
vulgar. The good essences are such as accompany 
and express a good life. In them, whether good or 
bad, that life has its eternity. Certainly when I cease 
to exist and to think, I shall lose hold on this assurance ; 
but the theme in which for a moment I found the 
fulfilment of my expressive impulses will remain, as 
it always was, a theme fit for consideration, even if no 
one else should consider it, and I should never con 
sider it again. 

Nor is this all. Not only is the character of each 
essence inalienable, and, so long as it is open to 
intuition, indubitable, but the realm of essences is 
infinite. Since any essence I happen to have hit 
upon is independent of me and would possess its 
precise character if I had never been born, or had 
never been led by the circumstances of my life and 
temperament to apprehend that particular essence, 
evidently all other essences, which I have not been 
led to think of, rejoice in the same sort of impalpable 
being impalpable, yet the only sort of being that the 
most rugged experience can ever actually find. Thus 
a mind enlightened by scepticism and cured of noisy 
dogma, a mind discounting all reports, and free from 
all tormenting anxiety about its own fortunes or 
existence, finds in the wilderness of essence a very 
sweet and marvellous solitude. The ultimate reaches 
of doubt and renunciation open out for it, by an easy 
transition, into fields of endless variety and peace, as 
if through the gorges of death it had passed into a 
paradise where all things are crystallised into the 
image of themselves, and have lost their urgency and 
their venom. 



CHAPTER X 

SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 

THERE is some danger in pointing out the obvious. 
Quick wits, perceiving at once how obvious the obvious 
is (though they may never have noticed it before), will 
say it is futile and silly to dwell upon it. Pugnacious 
people will assume that you mean more than you say, 
and are attempting to smuggle in some objectionable 
dogma under your truisms. Finally, docile minds, 
pleased to think you are delivering an oracle for their 
edification, will bow before your plain words as before 
some sacred mystery. The discernment of essence is 
subject, I know, to all these misunderstandings, and 
before going further I will endeavour to remove them. 
In the first place, a warning to tender idealists. 
This recognition that the data of experience are 
essences is Platonic, but it is a corrective to all that is 
sentimental in Platonism, curing it as it were homceo- 
pathically. The realm of essence is not peopled 
by choice forms or magic powers. It is simply the 
unwritten catalogue, prosaic and infinite, of all the 
characters possessed by such things as happen to exist, 
together with the characters which all different things 
would possess if they existed. It is the sum of mention- 
able objects, of terms about which, or in which, some 
thing might be said. Thus although essences have 
the texture and ontological status of Platonic ideas, 
they can lay claim to none of the cosmological, meta- 

77 



78 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

physical, or moral prerogatives attributed to those 
ideas. They are infinite in number and neutral in 
value. Greek minds had rhetorical habits ; what told 
in debate seemed to them final ; and Socrates thought 
it important to define in disputation the common 
natures designated by various words. Plato, who was 
initially a poet, had a warmer intuition of his ideas ; 
but it was still grammar and moral prejudice that led 
him to select and to deify them. The quality or 
function that makes all shepherds shepherds or all 
goods good is an essence ; but so are all the remaining 
qualities which make each shepherd and each good 
distinguishable from every other. Far from gathering 
up the fluidity of existence into a few norms for 
human language and thought to be focussed upon, 
the realm of essence infinitely multiplies that multi 
plicity, and adds every undiscriminated shade and 
mode of beinsr to those which man has discriminated 

O 

or which nature contains. Essence is not something 
invented or instituted for a purpose ; it is something 
passive, anything that might be found, every quality 
of being ; it therefore has not the function of reducing 
plurality to unity for the convenience of our poor 
wits or economy of language. It is far more garrulous 
than nature, herself not laconic. 

Nor have essences a metaphysical status, so as to 
exercise a non-natural control over nature. My 
doctrine lends no countenance to the human pre 
sumption that whatsoever man notices or names or 
loves ought to be more deeply seated in reality or more 
permanent than what he ignores or despises. The 
good is a great magnet over discourse and imagination, 
and therefore rightly rules the Platonic world, which 
is that of moral philosophy only ; but this good is 
itself defined and chosen by the humble animal nature 
of man, demanding to eat and live and love. In the 
realm of essence this human good has no pre-eminence, 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 79 

and being an essence it has no power. The Platonic 
notion that ideas were models which things imper 
fectly imitated expresses admirably the moral nature 
of man attaining to self-knowledge and proclaiming 
clearly his instinctive demands ; or possibly (if the 
moralist is also a poet plastic to the wider influences 
of nature) defining also the demands which non- 
human creatures would make on themselves or on us 
if they had life and thought. Platonic ideas, in their 
widest range, express sympathy with universal life ; 
they are anagrams of moral insight. Hence their 
nobility, and constant appeal to minds struggling after 
perfection, whether in art or in self-discipline. The 
spirit, by expressing itself in them, is fortified, as the 
artist is by his work taking shape before his eyes and 
revealing to him his own hidden intentions and judge 
ments never expressed. But the realm of essence is 
no more limited to these few ideals chosen and pro 
jected heavenwards by the aspiration of living creatures, 
than the celestial galaxy is limited to the north star. 
Excellence is relative to the accidental life of nature 
which selects now one essence and now another to be 
the goal of some thought or endeavour. In the realm 
of essence no emphasis falls on these favourite forms 
which does not fall equally on every other member 
of that infinite continuum. Every bad thing bad 
because false to the ideal which its own nature may 
propose to it illustrates an essence quite as accurately 
as if it had been good. No essence, except temporarily 
and by accident, is the goal of any natural process, 
much less its motive power. 

Thus the discernment of essence, while confirming 
Platonic logic in the ideal status which it assigns to 
the terms of discourse (and discourse includes all that 
is mental in sensation and perception), destroys the 
illusions of Platonism, because it shows that essences, 
being non-existent and omnimodal, can exercise no 



8o SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

domination over matter, but themselves come to light 
in nature or in thought only as material exigencies may 
call them forth and select them. The realm of essence 
is a perfect democracy, where everything that is or 
might be has a right of citizenship ; so that only some 
arbitrary existential principle call it the predis 
positions in matter or the blindness of absolute will- 
can be rendered responsible, in a verbal metaphysics, 
for things being as they are, causing them to fall now 
into this form and now into that, or to choose one 
essence rather than another to be their type and ideal. 
These chosen types are surrounded in the realm of 
essence by every monster, every unexampled being, 
and every vice ; no more vicious there, no more 
anomalous or monstrous than any other nature. Seen 
against that infinite background even the star-dust 
of modern astronomy, with its strange rhythms and 
laws, and its strange fertility, seems the most curious 
of accidents : what a choice for existence to make, 
when it might have been anything else ! And as to 
the snug universe which the ancients, and most men 
in their daily thoughts, have imagined about them, 
presided over by its Olympian deities, or its Jewish 
God, or its German Will, it is not only the figment of 
the most laughable egotism, but even if by chance it 
were the actual world, it would be utterly contingent 
and ephemeral. 

This is one hygienic effect of the discovery of 
essence : it is a shower-bath for the dreamy moralist, 
and clears Platonism of superstition. 

On the other hand, the discernment of essence 
reinstates the Socratic analysis of knowledge, by 
showing that essences are indispensable terms in the 
perception of matters of fact, and render transitive 
knowledge possible. If there were no purely ideal 
characters present to intuition yet not existentially a 
part either of the mind or of the environment, nothing 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 81 

ulterior could ever be imagined, much less truly 
conceived. Every supposed instance of knowledge 
would be either a bit of sentience without an object, 
or an existing entity unrelated to any mind. But an 
essence given in intuition, being non-existent in itself 
and by no means the object at that moment intended by 
the animal in his alertness or pursuit, may become a 
description of that object. If there is to be intelligence 
at all, the immediate must be vehicular. It is so 
when animal fancy is turned to the description of 
things ; for then passive sensibility supplies terms 
which are in themselves volatile and homeless, and 
these terms may be dispersed as names, to christen 
the things that receive them, carrying intelligence by 
its intent to its objects (objects already selected by 
animal endeavour) and reporting the objects to the 
animal mind by their appearance. What is given 
becomes in this manner a sign for what is sought, 
and a conventional description of it ; and the object 
originally posited by faith and intent in the act of 
living may be ultimately more and more accurately 
revealed to belief and to thought. Essences are ideal 
terms at the command of fancy and of the senses 
(whose data are fancies) as words are at the command 
of a ready tongue. If thought arises at all, it must 
think something after some fashion ; and the essences 
it evokes in intuition enable it to imagine, to assert, 
and perhaps truly to know something about what is 
not itself nor its own condition : some existing thing 
or removed event which would otherwise run on 
blindly in its own medium, at best overtaking the 
animal unawares, or confronting him to no purpose. 
But when the animate body responds to circumstances 
and is sensitive, in various unprecedented ways, to 
their variations, it acquires a whole sensuous vocabulary 
in which to describe them, colours, sounds, shapes, 
sizes, excellences, and defects being the parts of 

G 



82 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

speech in its grammar. It feels hot or cold according 
to the season ; so that cold and heat become signs of 
the seasons for the spirit, the homely poetry in which 
the senses render the large facts and the chief influences 
of nature. Perhaps even the vegetative soul has her 
dreams, but in the animal these floating visions are 
clarified by watchfulness and can be compared and 
contrasted in their character as well as in their occasions; 
and they lend intelligence terms in which to think and 
judge. The toys of sense become the currency of com 
merce ; ideas, which were only echoes of facts, serve 
as symbols for them. Thus intuition of essences first 
enables the mind to say something about anything, 
to think of what is not given, and to be a mind at all. 

A great use of the discovery of essence, then, is to 
justify the notions of intelligence and knowledge, other 
wise self-contradictory, and to show how such trans 
cendence of the actual is possible for the animal mind. 

The notion of essence is also useful in dismissing 
and handing over to physical science, where it belongs, 
the mooted question concerning the primary and 
secondary qualities of matter. There is a profound 
but genuine problem here which no logical discrimina 
tion and no psychological analysis can affect, namely : 
What are the elements of matter, and by what arrange 
ment or motion of these elements do gross bodies 
acquire their various properties ? The physical philo 
sophers must tell us, if they can, how matter is com 
posed : and as they are compelled, like the rest of us, 
to begin by studying the aspects and behaviour of 
obvious bodies, on the scale of human perception, it 
is but fair to give them time, or even eternity, in 
which to come to a conclusion. But the question of 
primary and secondary qualities, as mooted in modern 
philosophy, is a false problem. It rests on the pre 
sumption that the data of sense can be and should 
be constituents of the object in nature, or at least 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 83 

exactly like its constituents. The object in nature is, 
for example, bread I am eating : and the presumption 
of modern psychologists is that this object is, or 
ought to be, composed of my sensations of contact, 
colour, temperature, movement, and pleasure in eating 
it. The pleasure and the colour, however, soon prove 
to be reversible according to the accidents of appetite 
or jaundice in me, without any change in the object 
itself. In the act of eating (overlooked by these 
psychologists) I have my radical assurance of that 
object, know its place, and continue to testify to its 
identity. The bread, for animal faith, is this thing 
I am eating, and causing to disappear to my substantial 
advantage ; and although language is clumsy in 
expressing this assurance, which runs much deeper 
than language, I may paraphrase it by saying that 
bread is this substance I can eat and turn into my 
own substance ; in seizing and biting it I determine 
its identity and its place in nature, and in transforming 
it I prove its existence. If the psychological critics 
of experience overlooked this animal faith in fact as 
they do in theory, their theory itself would have no 
point of application, and they would not know what 
they were talking about, and would not really be 
talking about anything. Their data would have no 
places and no context. As it is, they continue 
illegitimately to posit the bread, as an animal would, 
and then, in their human wisdom, proceed to remove 
from the description of it the colour and the pleasure 
concerned, as being mere effects on themselves, while 
they identify the bread itself with the remainder of 
their description hypostatised : shape, weight, and 
hardness. But how should some data, when posited, 
produce others entirely different, but contemporary, 
or perhaps earlier ? Evidently these so-called primary 
qualities are simply those essences which custom or 
science continues to use in its description of things : 



84 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

but meantime the things have evaporated, and the 
description of them, in no matter what terms, ought 
to be idle and useless. All knowledge of nature and 
history has become a game of thought, a laborious 
dream in which a dim superstition makes me believe 
that some trains of images are more prosperous than 
others. 

It is because essences are not discerned that philo 
sophers in so many ways labour the hopeless notion 
that there is nothing in sense which is not first in 
things. Either perception and knowledge (which are 
animal faith) are deputed to be intuition, so that 
things have to be composed pictorially, out of the 
elements of human discourse, as if their substance 
consisted of images pressed together like a pack of 
cards ; or else ideas must be explained as imports 
from the outer w r orld, prolonging the qualities of 
things, as if the organs of sense were only holes in 
the skin, through which emanations of things could 
pass ready-made into the heart or head, and perhaps 
in those dark caverns could breed unnaturally together, 
producing a monstrous brood of dreams and errors. 
But, as a matter of fact, elaborate bodily mechanisms 
are just as requisite for seeing as for thinking, and 
the landscape, as a man sees it, is no less human than 
the universe as his philosophy constructs it and we 
know how human that is. Evidences soon accumulate 
to prove that no quality in the object is like any datum 
of sense. Nothing given exists. Consider, for in 
stance, the water which seems cold to one hand and 
warm to the other. Shall the water be called hot or 
cold ? Both, certainly, if a full description of it, in 
all its relations and appearances, is what is sought. 
But if what is sought is the substance of the water, 
properties shown to be relative to my organs of sense 
cannot be " real " qualities of that substance. Their 
original (for they were still expected to have originals) 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 85 

^k 

was accordingly placed elsewhere. Perhaps the " real " 
cold might be in the warm hand, and the " real " 
warmth in the cold one ; or in cold and hot tracts of 
the brain respectively ; or else " in the mind " a 
substance which might endure heat and cold simultane 
ously in different parts of itself. Or perhaps the mind 
was simply the heat and the cold existing successively, 
each a feeling absolute in itself : but in this case a 
second mind would be required to observe, remember, 
and appropriate those existing feelings, and how 
should reflection reach those feelings or know at all 
what they were ? If they are past, how should 
intuition possess them now ? And if they are only 
the present data of intuition, need they ever have 
existed before, or in any form but that in which I 
feel them now, when I feel them no longer ? 

The notion that knowledge is intuition, that it 
must either penetrate to the inner quality of its object 
or else have no object but the overt datum, has not 
been carried out with rigour : if it had, it might have 
been sooner abandoned. Rudimentary vital feelings, 
such as pleasure or hunger, are not supposed even by 
the most mythological philosophers to be drawn from 
external sources of the same quality. Plato in one 
place says of intelligence that there must surely be 
floods of it in the vast heavens, as there are floods 
of light there, whence puny man may draw his 
dribblet. He neglects, however, to extend this prin 
ciple to pain, pleasure, or hunger. He does not argue 
that my paltry pains and pleasures can be but drops 
sucked in from some vast cosmic reservoir of these 
feelings, nor that my momentary hunger could never 
have improvised its own quality, but must be only a 
bit, transferred to my mortal stomach, of a divine 
hunger eternally gnawing the whole sky. Yet this 
is the principle on which many a candid idolater has 
supposed, and still supposes, that light, space, music, 



86 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

and reason, as his intuition renders them, must 
permeate the universe. 

The illusion is childish, and when we have once 
discerned essence, it seems strangely idolatrous. The 
essences given in intuition are fetched from no original. 
The reason, music, space, and light of my imagination 
are essences existing nowhere : the intuition of them 
is quite as spiritual and quite as personal as my pain, 
pleasure, or hunger, and quite as little likely to be 
drawn from an imaginary store of similar substances 
in the world at large. They are dream-lights kindled 
by my fancy, like all the terms of discourse ; they do 
not need to be previously resident either in the object 
or in the organ of sense. Not existing at all, they 
cannot be the causes of their own appearance ; nor 
would introducing an existing triangle under the skin, 
or making the brain triangular, in the least help to 
display the triangle to intuition. But if some material 
thing called a triangle is placed before me at a suitable 
distance, my eyes and brain will do the rest, and the 
essence dear to Euclid will arise in my mind s eye. 
No essence would ever appear simply because many 
hypostatic instances of it existed in the world : a 
living body must create the intuition and blossom into 
it, evoking some spontaneous image. Sense is a 
faculty of calling names under provocation ; all 
perception and thought are cries and comments 
elicited from the heart of some living creature. They 
are original, though not novel, like the feelings of 
lovers : normal phases of animation in animals, whose 
life carries this inner flux of pictures and currents in 
the fancy, mixed with little and great emotions and 
dull bodily feelings : nothing in all this discourse 
being a passive copy of existences elsewhere. 

On the other hand, if the so-called primary qualities, 
taken pictorially, are just as symbolic as the secondary 
ones, the secondary, taken indicatively, are just as true 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 87 

as the primary. They too report some particularity 
in the object which, being relative to me, may be of 
the highest importance, and being also relative to 
something in the constitution of the object, may be a 
valuable indication of its nature, like greenness in 
grapes. The qualities most obviously relative and 
reversible, like pleasant and unpleasant, good and bad, 
are truly qualities of things in some of their relations. 
They can all, by judicious criticism and redistribution, 
become true expressions of the life of nature. They 
have their exits and their entrances at appointed 
times, and they supply a perspective view, or caricature, 
of the world no less interesting and pungent for being 
purely egotistical. Artists have their place, and the 
animal mind is one of them. 

That like knows like is a proverb, and after the 
manner of proverbs it is applicable on occasion, but 
its opposite is so too. Similar minds can understand 
the same things, and in that sense can understand 
each other : they can share and divine one another s 
thoughts. This is because similar organs under 
similar stimulation will yield similar intuitions, reveal 
ing the same essence : like knows like by dramatic 
sympathy and ideal unanimity. But in sensuous 
perception the unlike knows the unlike. Here the 
organ is not adjusted to a similar organ, like instru 
ments tuned up to the same key : the adjustment is 
rather to heterogeneous events in the environment or 
remote facts on quite a different scale ; and the images 
that mediate this knowledge are quite unlike the events 
they signify. It would be grotesque to expect a 
flower to imitate or to resemble the soil, climate, 
moisture, and light, or even the seed and sap, that 
preside over its budding : but the flower presupposes 
all these agencies and is an index to them ; an index 
which may become a sign and a vehicle of knowledge 
when it is used as an index by some discursive observer. 



88 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

Any given essence is normally a true sign for the 
object or event which occupies animal attention when 
that essence appears : as it is true of arsenic that it is 
poisonous and of pepper that it is hot, although the 
quality of being hot or poisonous cannot possibly be 
a material constituent of those substances, nor a copy 
of such a constituent. The environment determines 
the occasions on which intuitions arise, the psyche 
the inherited organisation of the animal determines 
their form, and ancient conditions of life on earth no 
doubt determined which psyches should arise and 
prosper ; and probably many forms of intuition, 
unthinkable to man, express the facts and the rhythms 
of nature to other animal minds. Yet all these various 
symbolisms and sensuous dialects may be truly 
significant, composing most relevant complications in 
nature, by which she comments on herself. To 
suppose that some of these comments are poetical 
and others literal is gratuitous. They are all presum 
ably poetical in form (intuition being poetry in act) 
and all expressive in function, and addressed to the 
facts of nature in some human and moral perspective, 
as poetry is too. 

The absurdity of wishing to have intuitions of 
things reaches its climax when we ask whether things, 
if nobody looked at them, would still look as they do. 
Of course they would still be what they are : but 
whether their intrinsic essence, whether they are 
looked at or not, resembles such essences as eyes of one 
sort or another might gather by looking at them, is an 
idle question. It is not resemblance but relevance 
and closeness of adaptation that render a language 
expressive or an expression true. We read nature as 
the English used to read Latin, pronouncing it like 
English, but understanding it very well. If all other 
traditions of Latin euphony had been lost, there would 
have been no means of discovering in what respect 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 89 

the English pronunciation was a distortion, although 
the judicious would have suspected that the Romans 
could not have had an Oxonian accent. So each 
tribe of animals, each sense, each stage of experience 
and science, reads the book of nature according to a 
phonetic system of its own, with no possibility of 
exchanging it for the native sounds : but this situation, 
though hopeless in one sense, is not unsatisfactory 
practically, and is innocently humorous. It adds to 
the variety, if not to the gaiety, of experience ; and 
perhaps a homely accent in knowledge, as in Latin, 
renders learning more savoury and familiar, and makes 
us more willing to read. 

It is just because the images given in sense are so 
very original and fantastic that understanding can 
enlarge knowledge by correcting, combining, and 
discounting those appearances. Sensible qualities, 
like pet names, do very well at home, when no con 
sistent or exact description of things is required, but 
only some familiar signal. When it comes to public 
business, however, more serious and legal designations 
have to be used, and these are what we call science. 
The description is not less symbolic but more accurate 
and minute. It may also involve as in optics and 
psychology a discovery of the images of sense as 
distinct from their original uses as living visions of 
things ; and we may then learn that our immediate 
experience was but a diving-board, on which we 
hardly knew we were standing in plunging into the 
world. It was indeed essentially a theoretic eminence, 
a place of outlook, intended to fortify and prepare us 
for the plunge. Accordingly the symbols of sense are 
most relevant to their object at the remove and on the 
scale on which our daily action encounters it. In 
science, analogies and hypotheses, if not microscopes 
and telescopes, supply ideas of things more immediate 
or more remote. Thus the warmth and the cold felt 



9 o SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

at once in the same water inform me more directly 
about the water in relation to my two hands, than 
about my temperature, my brain, or my intuitions ; 
and yet these things too are involved in that event 
and may be discovered in it by science. But science 
and sense, though differing in their scope, are exactly 
alike in their truth ; and the views taken by science, 
though more penetrating and extensive, are still views : 
ground plans, elevations, and geometric projections 
taking the place of snapshots. All intuitions, whether 
in sense or thought, are theoretic : all are appropriate 
renderings, on some method and on some scale, of 
the circumstances in which they arise, and may serve 
to describe those circumstances truly : but experience 
and tact are requisite, as in the use of any language 
or technique of art, in distributing our stock symbols, 
and fitting the image to the occasion and the word to 
the fact. 

The notion of essence also relieves the weary 
philosopher of several other problems, even more 
scholastic and artificial, concerning sensations and 
ideas, particulars and universals, the abstract and the 
concrete. There are no such differences in essences 
as they are given : all are equally immediate and 
equally unsubstantial, equally ideal and equally com 
plete. Nothing could be more actual and specific 
than some unpleasant inner feeling or sentiment, as 
it colours the passing moment ; yet nothing could be 
less descriptive of anything further, or vaguer in its 
significance, or more ephemeral an index to processes 
and events which it does not disclose but which are 
all its substance. And the clearest idea say a geo 
metrical sphere and the most remote from sense 
(if we mean by sense the images actually supplied 
by the outer organs) is just such a floating presence, 
caught and lost again, an essence that in itself tells 
me nothing of its validity, nor of a world of fact to 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 91 

which it might apply. All these current distinctions 
are extraneous to essences, which are the only data 
of experience. The distinctions are borrowed from 
various ulterior existential relations subsisting between 
facts, some mental and some material, but none of 
them ever given in intuition. The mental facts, 
namely the intuitions to which the essences appear, 
may be confused by psychologists with those essences, 
as the material things supposed to possess those 
essences as qualities may be confused with them by 
the practical intellect, and both may be called by the 
same names ; a double equivocation which later 
enables the metaphysician, by a double hypostasis of 
the datum, to say that the material thing and the 
mental event are one and the same given fact. We 
may innocently speak of given facts, meaning those 
posited in previous perceptions or referred to in 
previous discourse : but no fact can be a given fact 
in the sense of being a datum of intuition. And it is 
entirely on relations between facts not given that 
those current distinctions rest. They may often 
express truly the relative scope of intuitions, or the 
manner in which they take place amongst the general 
events in nature or arise in the animal body : but in 
respect to essences, which are the only terms of actual 
thought, they are perfectly unmeaning. 

Suppose, for instance, that I see yellow, that my 
eyes are open, and that there is a buttercup before 
me ; my intuition (not properly the essence " yellow " 
which is the datum) is then called a sensation. If 
again I see yellow with my eyes closed, the intuition 
is called an idea or a dream although often in what 
is called an idea no yellow appears, but only words. 
If yet again I see yellow with my eyes open, but there 
is no buttercup, the intuition is called a hallucination. 
These various situations are curious, and worth dis 
tinguishing in optics and in medical psychology, but 



92 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

for the sceptical scrutiny of experience they make no 
difference. What can inform me, when I see yellow 
simply, whether my eyes are open or shut, or whether 
I am awake or dreaming, or what functions material 
buttercups may have in psycho-physical correlation, 
or whether there is anything physical or anything 
psychical in the world, or any world at all ? These 
notions are merely conventional, imported knowledge 
or imported delusion. Such extraneous circumstances, 
whether true or false, cannot alter in the least the 
essence which I have before me, nor its sort of reality, 
nor its status in respect to my intuition of it. 

Suppose again that I am at sea and feel the ship 
rocking. This feeling is called external perception ; 
but if I feel nausea, my feeling is called internal 
sensation, or emotion, or introspection ; and there 
are sad psychologists to conclude thence that while 
the ship rocking is something physical, and a mere 
appearance, nausea is something psychical, and an 
absolute reality. Why this partiality in distributing 
metaphysical dignities amongst things equally obvious ? 
Each essence that appears appears just as it is, because 
its appearance defines it, and determines the whole 
being that it is or has. Nothing given is either 
physical or mental, in the sense of being intrinsically 
a thing or a thought ; it is just a quality of being. 
Essences (like " rocking ") which serve eventually to 
describe material facts are given in intuitions which 
are just as mental as those which supply psychological 
terms for describing mental discourse. On the other 
hand, essences (like " nausea ") used first perhaps for 
describing discourse, mark crises in the flux of matter 
just as precisely as those which are used to describe 
material facts directly ; because discourse goes on in 
animals subject to material influences. But in neither 
case can the intuitions which constitute discourse 
and the mental sphere be ever given in intuition. 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 93 

They are posited in memory, expectation, and dramatic 
psychology. The rocking I feel is called physical, 
because the essence before me say coloured planes 
crossing serves to report and designate very much 
more complicated and prolonged movements in the 
ship and the waves ; and the nausea I also feel is 
called psychical, because it reports nothing (unless 
my medical imagination intervenes) but is endured 
pathetically, with a preponderating sense of time, 
change, and danger, as it largely consists in feeling 
how long this lasts, how upset I am, and how sick I 
am about to be. 

Again, if I see yellow once, my experience is called 
a particular impression, and its object, yellow, is 
supposed to exist and to be a particular too ; but if 
I see yellow again, yellow has mysteriously become a 
universal, a general idea, and an abstraction. Yet the 
datum for intuition is throughout precisely the same. 
No essence is abstract, yet none is a particular thing 
or event, none is an object of belief, perception, or 
pursuit, having a particular position in the context of 
nature. Even the intuition, though it is an event, 
cannot become an object of pursuit or perception ; 
and its conventional place in history, when it has been 
posited and is believed to have occurred, is assigned 
to it only by courtesy, at the place and time of its 
physical support, as a wife in some countries takes 
her husband s name. Not the data of intuition, but 
the objects of animal faith, are the particulars perceived : 
they alone are the existing things or events to which 
the animal is reacting and to which he is attributing 
the essences which arise, as he does so, before his 
fancy. These data of intuition are universals ; they 
form the elements of such a description of the object 
as is at that time possible ; they are never that object 
itself, nor any part of it. Essences are not drawn out 
or abstracted from things ; they are given before the 



94 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

thing can be clearly perceived, since they are the 
terms used in perception ; but they are not given 
until attention is stretched upon the thing, which is 
posited blindly in action ; and they come as revelations, 
or oracles, delivered by that thing to the mind, and 
symbolising it there. In itself, as suspended under 
standing may suffer us to recognise it in reflection, 
each essence is a positive and complete theme : it is 
impossible that for experience anything should be more 
concrete or individual than is this exact and total 
appearance before me. Having never been parts of 
any perceived object, it is impossible that given 
essences should be abstracted from it. Being obvious 
and immediate data they cannot even have that 
congenital imperfection, that limp, which we might 
feel in a broken arch, or in the half of anything already 
familiar as a whole. But given essences are indeed 
visionary, they are unsubstantial ; and in that respect 
they seem strange and unearthly to an animal expecting 
to work amongst things without realising their appear 
ance. Yet ghostly as his instinct may deem them, 
they are perfect pictures, with nothing abstract or 
abstruse in their specious nature. The abstract is a 
category posterior to intuition, and applicable only to 
terms, such as numbers and other symbols of mathe 
matics, which have been intentionally substituted for 
other essences given earlier, by which they were 
suggested ; but even these technical terms are abstract 
only by accident and in function ; they have a concrete 
essence of their own, and are constitutive elements of 
perfectly definite structures in their own plane of 
being, forming patterns and running into scales there, 
like so much music. 

Similarly, nothing given in sensation or thought is 
in the least vague in itself. Vagueness is an adven 
titious quality, which a given appearance may be said 
to possess in relation to an object presumed to have 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 95 

other determinations : as the cloud in Hamlet is but 
a vague camel or a vague weasel, but for the landscape- 
painter a perfectly definite cloud. The vague is 
merely the too vague for some assumed purpose ; and 
philosophers with a mania for accuracy, who find all 
discourse vague that is discourse about anything in 
the world of practice, are like critics of painting who 
should find all colours and forms vague, when they 
had been touched by aerial perspective, or made 
poetical by the rich dyes of fancy and expression. 
That sort of vagueness is perfection of artistic form, 
as the other sort of vagueness may be perfection of 
judgement : for knowledge lies in thinking aptly about 
things, not in becoming like them. If the standard 
of articulation in science were the articulation of 
existence, science would be impossible for an animal 
mind, and if it were possible would be useless : 
because nothing would be gained for thought by 
reproducing a mechanism without any adaptation of 
its scale and perspective to the nature of the thinker. 

If the instincts of man were well adapted to his 
conditions, his thoughts, without being more accurate, 
would not seem confused. As it is, intuition is most 
vivid in the act of hunting or taking alarm, just when 
mistakes are probable : and any obvious essence is 
then precipitated upon the object, and quarrelled with 
and dismissed if the object does not sustain it. An 
essence, however evident, may even be declared 
absent and inconceivable, if it cannot be attributed 
absolutely to the substance of the object being chased 
or eaten. The hungry nominalist may well say to 
himself : "If the hues of the pheasant are no part of 
the bird, whence should he have fetched them ? Am 
I not looking at the very creature I am pursuing and 
hoping presently to devour ? And as my teeth and 
hands cannot possibly add anything to the substance 
they will seize upon, how should my eyes do so now ? 



96 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

If therefore any alleged image can be proved to be 
no part of my object, I must be mistaken in supposing 
that I see such an image at all." This is also the 
argument of the primitive painter, who knowing that 
men have two eyes and their hands five fingers, will 
not admit that their image might be less complete. 
In this way the wand of that Queen Mab, intuition, 
is assimilated by a too materialistic philosophy to a 
tongue or an antenna, and required to reach out to the 
object and stir it up, exploring its intrinsic quality and 
structure. But it is a magic wand, and calls up only 
wild and ignorant visions, mischievous and gaily 
invented ; and if ever a philosopher dreams he has 
fathomed the thing before him in action, that wand is 
tickling his nose. Intuition cheats in enriching him, 
and nature who whispers all these tales in his ear is 
laughing at him and fondling him at the same time. 
It is a kindly fiction ; because the dreams she inspires 
are very much to his mind, and the lies she invents 
for his benefit are her poetic masterpiece. Practical 
men despise the poetry of poets, but they are well 
pleased with their own. They would be ashamed of 
amusements which might defeat their purposes, or 
mislead them about the issue of events ; but they 
embrace heartily the ingenuous fictions of the senses 
which they almost recognise to be fictions, and even 
the early myths and religions of mankind. These 
they find true enough for practical and moral purposes ; 
their playfulness is a convenient compendium for facts 
too hard to understand ; they are the normal poetry 
of observation and policy. Fancy disorganises conduct 
only when it expresses vice ; and then it is the vice 
that does the mischief, and not the fancy. 

Even philosophers, when they wish to be very 
plain and economical, sometimes fall to denying the 
immediate. Fact-worship, which is an idolatry of 
prudence, prejudices them against their own senses, 



SOME USES OF THIS DISCOVERY 97 

and against the mind, which is what prudence serves, 
if it serves anything ; and perhaps they declare them 
selves incapable of framing images with fewer deter 
minations than they believe material things to possess. 
If a material triangle must have a perfectly defined 
shape (although at close quarters matter might elude 
such confines), or if a material house must have a 
particular number of bricks and a particular shade of 
colour at each point of its surface, a professed em 
piricist like Berkeley may be tempted to deny that he 
can have an idea of a triangle, et cetera, without such 
determinations ; whereas, however clear his visual 
images may have been, it is certain he never could 
have had, even in direct perception, an image specify 
ing all the bricks or all the tints of any house, nor 
the exact measure of any angle. Berkeley himself, 
I suspect, was secretly intent upon essence, which in 
every degree of conventional determination is its own 
standard of completeness. But given essences have 
any degree of vagueness in respect to the material or 
mathematical objects which they may symbolise, and 
to which Berkeley in his hasty nominalism wished to 
assimilate them. He almost turned given essences 
into substances, to take the place of those material 
things which he had denied. Each essence is certainly 
not two contradictory essences at once ; but the 
definitions which render each precisely what it is lie 
in the realm of essence, an infinite continuum of 
discrete forms, not in the realm of existence. Essences, 
in order to appear, do not need to beg leave of what 
happens to exist, or to draw its portrait ; yet here the 
trooping essences are, in such gradations and numbers 
as intuition may lend them. It is not by hypostatising 
them as they come that their roots in matter or their 
scope in knowledge can be discovered. 

Thus the discrimination of essence has a happy 
tendency to liberalise philosophy, freeing it at once 

H 



98 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

from literalness and from scepticism. If all data are 
symbols and all experience comes in poetic terms, it 
follows that the human mind, both in its existence and 
in its quality, is a free development out of nature, a 
language or music the terms of which are arbitrary, 
like the rules and counters of a game. It follows also 
that the mind has no capacity and no obligation to 
copy the world of matter nor to survey it impartially. 
At the same time, it follows that the mind affords a 
true expression of the world, rendered in vital per 
spectives and in human terms, since this mind arises 
and changes symptomatically at certain foci of animal 
life ; foci which are a part of nature in dynamic corre 
spondence with other parts, diffused widely about 
them ; so that, for instance, alternative systems of 
religion or science, if not taken literally, may equally 
well express the actual operation of things measured 
by different organs or from different centres. 



CHAPTER XI 

THE WATERSHED OF CRITICISM 

I HAVE now reached the culminating point of my 
survey of evidence, and the entanglements I have left 
behind me and the habitable regions I am looking for 
lie spread out before me like opposite valleys. On the 
one hand I see now a sweeping reason for scepticism, 
over and above all particular contradictions or fanciful- 
ness of dogma. Nothing is ever present to me except 
some essence ; so that nothing that I possess in 
intuition, or actually see, is ever there ; it can never 
exist bodily, nor lie in that place or exert that power 
which belongs to the objects encountered in action. 
Therefore, if I regard my intuitions as knowledge of 
facts, all my experience is illusion, and life is a dream. 
At the same time I am now able to give a clearer 
meaning to this old adage ; for life would not be a 
dream, and all experience would not be illusion, if 
I abstained from believing in them. The evidence 
of data is only obviousness ; they give no evidence of 
anything else ; they are not witnesses. If I am content 
to recognise them for pure essences, they cannot 
deceive me ; they will be like works of literary fiction, 
more or less coherent, but without any claim to exist 
on their own account. If I hypostatise an essence 
into a fact, instinctively placing it in relations which 
are not given within it, I am putting my trust in 
animal faith, not in any evidence or implication of my 

99 



ioo SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

actual experience. I turn to an assumed world about 
me, because I have organs for turning, just as I expect 
a future to reel itself out without interruption because 
I am wound up to go on myself. To such ulterior 
things no manifest essence can bear any testimony. 
They must justify themselves. If the ulterior fact is 
some intuition elsewhere, its existence, if it happens to 
exist, will justify that belief ; but the fulfilment of my 
prophecy, in taking my present dream for testimony 
to that ulterior experience, will be found only in the 
realm of truth a realm which is itself an object of 
belief, never by any possibility of intuition, human or 
divine. So too when the supposed fact is thought 
of as a substance, its existence, if it is found in the 
realm of nature, will justify that supposition ; but the 
realm of nature is of course only another object of 
belief, more remote if possible from intuition than 
even the realm of truth. Intuition of essence, to which 
positive experience and certitude are confined, is there 
fore always illusion, if we allow our hypostatising 
impulse to take it for evidence of anything else. 

In adopting this conclusion of so many great 
philosophers, that all is illusion, I do so, however, with 
two qualifications. One is emotional and moral only, 
in that I do not mourn over this fatality, but on the 
contrary rather prefer speculation in the realm of 
essence if it can be indulged without practical in 
convenience to alleged information about hard facts. 
It does not seem to me ignominious to be a poet, if 
nature has made one a poet unexpectedly. Un 
expectedly nature lent us existence, and if she has 
made it a condition that we should be poets, she has 
not forbidden us to enjoy that art, or even to be proud 
of it. The other qualification is more austere : it 
consists in not allowing exceptions. I cannot admit 
that some particular essence water, fire, being, atoms, 
or Brahma is the intrinsic essence of all things, so 



THE WATERSHED OF CRITICISM 101 

that if I narrow my imagination to that one intuition 
I shall have intuited the heart and the whole of 
existence. Of course I do not deny that there is 
water and that there is being, the former in most 
things on earth, and the latter in everything anywhere ; 
but these images or words of mine are not the things 
they designate, but only names for them. Desultory 
and partial propriety these names may have, but no 
metaphysical privilege. No more has the expedient 
of some modern critics who would take illusion as a 
whole and call it the universe ; for in the first place 
they are probably reverting to belief in discourse, as 
conventionally conceived, so that their scepticism is 
halting ; and in the second place, even if human 
experience could be admitted as known and vouched 
for, there would be an incredible arrogance in positing 
it as the whole of being, or as itself confined to the 
forms and limits which the critic assigns to it. The 
life of reason as I conceive it is a mere romance, and 
the life of nature a mere fable ; such pictures have 
no metaphysical value, even if as sympathetic fictions 
they had some psychological truth. 

The doctrine of essence thus renders my scepticism 
invincible and complete, while reconciling me with 
it emotionally. 

If now I turn my face in the other direction and 
consider the prospect open to animal faith, I see that 
all this insecurity and inadequacy of alleged knowledge 
are almost irrelevant to the natural effort of the mind 
to describe natural things . The discouragement we may 
feel in science does not come from failure ; it comes 
from a false conception of what would be success. 
Our worst difficulties arise from the assumption that 
knowledge of existences ought to be literal, whereas 
knowledge of existences has no need, no propensity, 
and no fitness to be literal. It is symbolic initially, 
when a sound, a smell, an indescribable feeling are 



SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

signals to the animal of his dangers or chances ; and 
it fulfils its function perfectly I mean its moral 
function of enlightening us about our natural good 
if it remains symbolic to the end. Can anything be 
more evident than that religion, language, patriotism, 
love, science itself speak in symbols ? Given essences 
unify for intuition, in entirely adventitious human 
terms, the diffuse processes of nature ; the aesthetic 
image the sound, the colour, the expanse of space, 
the scent, taste, and sweet or cruel pressure of bodies 
wears an aspect altogether unlike the mechanisms 
it stands for. Sensation and thought (between which 
there is no essential difference) work in a conventional 
medium, as do literature and music. The experience 
of essence is direct ; the expression of natural facts 
through that medium is indirect. But this indirection 
is no obstacle to expression, rather its condition ; and 
this vehicular manifestation of things may be know 
ledge of them, which intuition of essence is not. The 
theatre, for all its artifices, depicts life in a sense more 
truly than history, because the medium has a kindred 
movement to that of real life, though an artificial 
setting and form ; and much in the same way the 
human medium of knowledge can perform its pertinent 
synthesis and make its pertinent report all the better 
when it frankly abandons the plane of its object and 
expresses in symbols what we need to know of it. 
The arts of expression would be impossible if they 
were not extensions of normal human perception. 
The Greeks recognised that astronomy and history 
were presided over by Muses, sisters of those of tragic 
and comic poetry ; had they been as psychological 
as modern reflection has become, they might have had 
Muses of sight, hearing, and speech. I think they 
honoured, if they did not express, this complementary 
fact also, that all the Muses, even the most playful, 
are witnesses to the nature of things. The arts are 



THE WATERSHED OF CRITICISM 103 

evidences of wisdom, and sources of it ; they include 
science. No Muse would be a humane influence, 
nor worthy of honour, if she did not studiously express 
the truth of nature with the liberty and grace appro 
priate to her special genius. 

Philosophers would not have overlooked the fact 
that knowledge is, and ought to be, symbolical, if 
intuition did not exist also, giving them a taste of 
something which perhaps they think higher and more 
satisfying. Intuition, when it is placid and masterful 
enough to stand alone, free from anxiety or delusion 
about matters of fact, is a delightful exercise, like 
play ; it employs our imaginative faculty without 
warping it, and lets us live without responsibility. 
The playful and godlike mind of philosophers has 
always been fascinated by intuition ; philosophers I 
mean the great ones are the infant prodigies of 
reflection. They often take intuition of essence for 
their single ideal, and wish to impose it on the worka 
day thoughts of men ; they make a play-world for 
themselves which it is glorious to dominate, much as 
other men of genius, prolonging the masterfulness of 
childhood, continue to play at this or at that in their 
politics and their religion. But knowledge of existence 
has an entirely different method and an entirely 
different ideal. It is playful too, because its terms 
are intuitive and its grammar or logic often very 
subjective. Perception, theory, hypothesis are rapid, 
pregnant, often humorous ; they seize a fact by its 
skirts from some unexpected quarter, and give it a 
nickname which it might be surprised to hear, such 
as the rainbow or the Great Bear. Yet in the investiga 
tion of facts all this play of mind is merely instru 
mental and indicative : the intent is practical, the 
watchfulness earnest, the spirit humble. The mind 
here knows that it is at school ; and even its fancies are 
docile. Its nicknames for things and for their odd 



104 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

ways of behaving are like those which country people 
give to flowers ; they often pointedly describe how 
things look or what they do to us. The ideas we have 
of things are not fair portraits ; they are political 
caricatures made in the human interest ; but in their 
partial way they may be masterpieces of characterisa 
tion and insight. Above all, they are obtained by 
labour, by investigating what is not given, and by 
correcting one impression by another, drawn from the 
same object a thing impossible in the intuition of 
essences. They therefore conduce to wisdom, and 
in their perpetual tentativeness have a cumulative 
truth. 

Consider the reason why, instead of cultivating 
congenial intuitions, a man may be drawn to the study 
of nature at all. It is because things, by their impact, 
startle him into attention and a new thought. Such 
external objects interest him for what they do, not for 
what they are ; and knowledge of them is significant, 
not for the essence it displays to intuition (beautiful 
as this may be) but for the events it expresses or 
foreshadows. It matters little therefore to the per 
tinent knowledge of nature that the substance of 
things should remain recondite or unintelligible, if 
their movement and operation can be rightly deter 
mined on the plane of human perception. It matters 
little if their very existence is vouched for only by 
animal faith and presumption, so long as this faith 
posits existence where existence is, and this presump 
tion expresses a prophetic preadaptation of animal 
instincts to the forces of the environment. The 
function of perception and natural science is, not to 
flatter the sense of omniscience in an absolute mind, 
but to dignify animal life by harmonising it, in action 
and in thought, with its conditions. It matters little 
if the news these methods can bring us of the world 
is fragmentary and is expressed rhetorically ; what 



THE WATERSHED OF CRITICISM 105 

matters is that science should be integrated with art, 
and that the arts should substitute the dominion of 
man over circumstances, as far as this is possible, for 
the dominion of chance. In this there is no sacrifice 
of truth to utility ; there is rather a wise direction of 
curiosity upon things on the human scale, and within 
the range of art. Speculation beyond those limits 
cannot be controlled, and is irresponsible ; and the 
symbolic terms in which it must be carried on, even 
at close quarters, are the best possible indications for 
the facts in question. All these inadequacies and 
imperfections are proper to perfect signs, which should 
be brief and sharply distinguished. 

Complete scepticism is accordingly not inconsistent 
with animal faith ; the admission that nothing given 
exists is not incompatible with belief in things not 
given. I may yield to the suasion of instinct, and 
practise the arts with a humble confidence, without 
in the least disavowing the most rigorous criticism of 
knowledge or hypostatising any of the data of sense 
or fancy. And I need not do this with a bad conscience, 
as Parmenides and Plato and the Indians seem to have 
done, when they admitted illusion or opinion as an 
epilogue to their tight metaphysics, on the ground 
that otherwise they would miss their way home. It 
is precisely by not yielding to opinion and illusion, 
and by not delegating any favourite essences to be the 
substance of things, that I aspire to keep my cognitive 
conscience pure and my practical judgement sane ; 
because in order to find my way home I am by no 
means compelled to yield ignominiously to any animal 
illusion ; what guides me there is not illusion but 
habit ; and the intuitions which accompany habit are 
normal signs for the circle of objects and forces by 
which that habit is sustained. The images of sense 
and science will not delude me if instead of hypostatis 
ing them, as those philosophers did the terms of their 



106 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

dialectic, I regard them as graphic symbols for home 
and for the way there. That such external things 
exist, that I exist myself, and live more or less pros 
perously in the midst of them, is a faith not founded 
on reason but precipitated in action, and in that intent, 
which is virtual action, involved in perception. This 
faith, which it would be dishonest not to confess that 
I share, does no violence to a sceptical analysis of 
experience ; on the contrary, it takes advantage of 
that analysis to interpret this volatile experience as all 
animals do and must, as a set of symbols for existences 
that cannot enter experience, and which, since they 
are not elements in knowledge, no analysis of know 
ledge can touch they are in another realm of being. 

I propose now to consider what objects animal 
faith requires me to posit, and in what order ; without 
for a moment forgetting that my assurance of their 
existence is only instinctive, and my description of 
their nature only symbolic. I may know them by 
intent, based on bodily reaction ; I know them initially 
as whatever confronts me, whatever it may turn out 
to be, just as I know the future initially as whatever 
is coming, without knowing what will come. That 
something confronts me here, now, and from a specific 
quarter, is in itself a momentous discovery. The 
aspect this thing wears, as it first attracts my attention, 
though it may deceive me in some particulars, can 
hardly fail to be, in some respects, a telling indication 
of its nature in its relation to me. Signs identify 
their objects for discourse, and show us where to look 
for their undiscovered qualities. Further signs, catch 
ing other aspects of the same object, may help me to 
lay siege to it from all sides ; but signs will never lead 
me into the citadel, and if its inner chambers are ever 
opened to me, it must be through sympathetic imagina 
tion. I might, by some happy unison between my 
imagination and its generative principles, intuit the 



THE WATERSHED OF CRITICISM 107 

essence which is actually the essence of that thing. 
In that case (which may often occur when the object 
is a sympathetic mind) knowledge of existence, without 
ceasing to be instinctive faith, will be as complete and 
adequate as knowledge can possibly be. The given 
essence will be the essence of the object meant ; but 
knowledge will remain a claim, since the intuition is 
not satisfied to observe the given essence passively 
as a disembodied essence, but instinctively affirms it 
to be the essence of an existence confronting me, 
and beyond the range of my possible apprehension. 
Therefore the most perfect knowledge of fact is perfect 
only pictorially, not evidentially, and remains subject 
to the end to the insecurity inseparable from animal 
faith, and from life itself. 

Animal faith being a sort of expectation and open- 
mouthedness, is earlier than intuition ; intuitions 
come to help it out and lend it something to posit. 
It is more than ready to swallow any suggestion of 
sense or fancy ; and perhaps primitive credulity, as 
in a dream, makes no bones of any contradiction or 
incongruity in successive convictions, but yields its 
whole soul to every image. Faith then hangs like a 
pendulum at rest ; but when perplexity has caused 
that pendulum to swing more and more madly, it 
may for a moment stop quivering at a point of unstable 
equilibrium at the top ; and this vertical station may 
be likened to universal scepticism. It is a more 
wonderful and a more promising equilibrium than 
the other, because it cannot be maintained ; but 
before declining from the zenith and desisting from 
pointing vertically at zero, the pendulum of faith may 
hesitate for an instant which way to fall, if at that 
uncomfortable height it has really lost all animal 
momentum and all ancient prejudice. Before giving 
my reasons which are but prejudices and human 
for believing in events, in substances, and in the 



io8 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

variegated truths which they involve, it may be well 
to have halted for breath at the apex of scepticism, 
and felt all the negative privileges of that position. 
The mere possibility of it in its purity is full of instruc 
tion ; and although I have, for my own part, dwelt 
upon it only ironically, by a scruple of method, and 
intending presently to abandon it for common sense, 
many a greater philosopher has sought to maintain 
himself acrobatically at that altitude. They have not 
succeeded ; but an impossible dwelling-place may 
afford, like a mountain-top, a good point of view in 
clear weather from which to map the land and choose 
a habitation. 



CHAPTER XII 

IDENTITY AND DURATION ATTRIBUTED TO ESSENCES 

HUMAN beliefs and ideas (which in modern philosophy 
are called human knowledge) may be arranged system 
atically in various different series or orders. One is 
the order of genesis. The origin of beliefs and ideas, 
as of all events, is natural. All origins lie in the realm 
of matter, even when the being that is so generated is 
immaterial, because this creation or intrusion of the 
immaterial follows on material occasions and at the 
promptings of circumstance. It is safe to say this, 
although it may sound dogmatical, since an immaterial 
being not grafted in this way upon material events 
would be undiscoverable ; no place, time, or other 
relations in nature could be assigned to it, and even if 
by chance it existed it would have to exist only for its 
own benefit, unreported to any one else. It is accord 
ingly in the realm of matter, in the order of events in 
animal life, that I must distribute human beliefs and 
ideas if I wish to arrange them in the order of their 
genesis. 

Beliefs and ideas might also be surveyed in the 
order of discovery, as within the field of human grammar 
and thought they come to be discriminated. Such a 
survey would be a biography of reason, in which I 
should neglect the external occasions on which ideas 
and beliefs arise and study only the changing patterns 
which they form in the eye of thought, as in a kaleido- 

109 



no SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

scope. What would probably come first in the order 
of discovery would be goods and evils ; or a romantic 
metaphysician might turn this experience into a fable, 
referring goods and evils to a transcendental will 
which should pronounce them (for no reason) to be 
such respectively. Will or moral bias is actually the 
background on which images of objects are gradually 
deciphered by an awakening intellect ; they all appear 
initially loaded with moral values and assigned to rival 
camps and quarters in the field of action. Discovery 
is essentially romantic ; there is less clearness in the 
objects that appear than there is vehemence in the 
assertion and choice of them. The life of reason is 
accordingly a subject to be treated imaginatively, and 
interpreted afresh by every historian with legitimate 
variations ; and if no theme lies nearer to the heart 
of man, since it is the history of his heart, none is 
more hopelessly the sport of apperception and of 
dramatic bias in the telling. 

Finally, beliefs and ideas may be marshalled in the 
order of evidence ; and this is the only method that 
concerns me here. At any juncture in the life of 
reason a man may ask himself, as I am doing in this 
book, what he is most certain of, and what he believes 
only on hearsay or by some sort of suggestion or 
impulse of his own, which might be suspended or 
reversed. Alternative logics and creeds might thus 
suggest themselves, raised in different styles of archi 
tecture upon the bed-rock, if there is a bed-rock, of 
perfect certitude. I have already discovered what 
this bed-rock of perfect certitude is ; somewhat dis 
concertingly, it turns out to be in the regions of the 
rarest ether. I have absolute assurance of nothing 
save of the character of some given essence ; the rest 
is arbitrary belief or interpretation added by my 
animal impulse. The obvious leaves me helpless ; for 
among objects in the realm of essence I can establish 



IDENTITY AND DURATION in 

none of the distinctions which I am most concerned 
to establish in daily life, such as that between true and 
false, far or near, just now and long ago, once upon a 
time, and in five minutes. All these terms of course 
are found there, else I could not mention them, but 
they are found only as pictures ; each is present only 
in essence, without any reason for choosing, asserting, 
or making it effective. The very opposite terms, if 
I am only willing to think of them, lie sleeping side 
by side with these which I happen first to have 
come upon. All essences and combinations of essences 
are brother-shapes in an eternal landscape ; and the 
more I range in that wilderness, the less reason I find 
for stopping at anything, or for following any par 
ticular path. Willingly or regretfully, if I wish to live, 
I must rouse myself from this open-eyed trance into 
which utter scepticism has thrown me. I must allow 
subterranean forces within me to burst forth and to 
shatter that vision. I must consent to be an animal 
or a child, and to chase the fragments as if they were 
things of moment. But which fragment, and rolling 
in what direction ? I am resigned to being a dog 
matist ; but at what point shall my dogmatism begin, 
and by what first solicitation of nature ? 

Starting, as here I should, from absolute certitude 
that is, from the obvious character of some essence 
the first object of belief suggested by that assurance 
is the identity of this essence in various instances and 
in various contexts. This identity in divers cases is 
not tautological, as identity would be if I spoke of 
the identity of any essence with itself. Identity, to be 
significant, must be problematical. I must pick up 
my pebble twice, so that a juggler might without my 
knowledge have substituted another pebble for it in 
the interval ; and when I say confidently, the same 
pebble, I may always be deceived. My own thought 
is not at all unlikely to play this trick on me ; it is 



ii2 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

good at legerdemain. In attending a second time to 
what I call the same essence, I may really summon a 
different essence before me ; my memory need not 
retain the first intuition so precisely that its disparity 
from the present one can be sensible to me now. 
Identity of essences given at different times evidently 
presupposes time an immense postulate ; and besides, 
it presupposes ability in thought to traverse time 
without confusion, so that having lived through two 
intuitions I may correctly distinguish them as events, 
whilst correctly identifying their common object. 
These are ambitious and highly questionable dogmas. 
Yet there is a circumstance in pure intuition of any 
essence which can insensibly lead me to those elaborate 
conclusions, and can lead me at the same time to posit 
the natural existence of myself, the possible dupe, 
having those intuitions and surviving them, and even 
the existence of my natural object, the persisting 
pebble, which those intuitions described unanimously. 
This circumstance is closely connected with the 
property of essence which is most ideal and remote 
from existence, namely, its eternity. Eternity, taken 
intrinsically, has nothing to do with time, but is a 
form of being which time cannot usher in nor destroy ; 
it is always equally real, silent, and indestructible, no 
matter what time may do, or what time it may be. 
But intuition peruses eternal being in time ; con 
sequently, so long as I am attending to an essence, 
this essence seems to me to endure ; and when, after 
an interval, I revert to it or to any feature of it, this 
feature seems to me to be identical with what it was. 
This identity and this duration are not properly pre 
dicated of essence in its own realm ; they are super 
fluous epithets essentially, and almost insults, because 
they substitute a questionable for an unquestionable 
subsistence in the essence. Yet the epithets are well 
meant, and indicate fairly enough the aspect which 



IDENTITY AND DURATION 113 

essences present to moving thought when it plays upon 
them. Intuition finds essence by watching, by exert 
ing animal attention. Now when he watches, an 
animal thinks that what he watches is watching him 
with the same intensity and variability of attention 
which he is exerting ; for attention is fundamentally 
an animal uneasiness, fostered by the exigences of 
life amid other material beings that can change and 
jump. Stillness or constancy in any object accordingly 
does not seem to an animal eternity in an essence ; it 
seems rather a suspension of motion in a thing, a 
pause for breath, an ominous and awful silence. He 
is superstitious about the eternity of essences, as about 
all their other properties. This breathless and ghostly 
duration which he attributes to essences, treating them 
like living things, is his confused temporal translation 
of their eternity, mixing it with existence, which is 
the negation of eternity. Thus he assimilates it to 
the quasi-permanence in himself which is transfused 
with change ; for of course he is far from perceiving 
that if essences were not natively eternal and non 
existent, it would be impossible for crawling existence 
to change from one form to another. This illusion is 
inevitable. The dubious and iterative duration proper 
to animal life, when the lungs breathe and the mind is 
appetitive, seems to this mind a pulsation in all being. 
Moreover, in watching any image, it is often 
possible to observe one feature in it persisting while 
another disappears. The man not only says to him 
self, " This, and still this," but he ventures to say, 
This, and again this with a variation." A variation 
in this ? Here, from the point of view of essence, is 
a sheer absurdity. This cannot change its nature, 
though what we have before us a moment later may be 
something but slightly different from this ; and of 
course the essence now brought to view can be slightly 
different from the one formerly in evidence only 

I 



n 4 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

because each is eternally itself, so that the least variant 
from it marks and constitutes a different essence. 
Material categories such as existence, substance, and 
change, none of which are applicable to pure data, are 
thus insinuated by the animal intellect into contempla 
tion. They transform intuition into belief ; and this 
belief, as if it would reinforce essences when they 
appear and annul them when they disappear, ultimately 
posits an imaginary shuffling of sensible existences 
hypostatised essences dancing about us as we watch 
the scene. Even if this hypostasis is retracted after 
wards by the critic, the postulate remains that he is 
steadily perusing the same essence, or returning to 
reconsider it. Without this postulate it would be 
impossible to say or think anything on any subject. 
No essence could be recognised, and therefore no 
change could be specified. Yet this necessary belief 
is one impossible to prove or even to defend by 
argument, since all argument presupposes it. It must 
be accepted as a rule of the game, if you think the 
game worth playing. 

What shall I say of the probable truth of such 
fundamental assumptions ? Shall I think them false, 
because groundless, and shall I say that they invalidate 
the whole edifice of natural faith which is raised upon 
them ? Or shall I say that the experienced security 
of this edifice justifies them and implies their truth ? 
Neither ; because the happy results and fertility of 
an assumption do not prove it true literally, but only 
prove it to be suitable, to be worth cultivating as an 
art and repeating as a good myth. The axioms of 
sanity and art must correspond somehow to truth, but 
the correspondence may be very loose and very partial. 
Moreover, the circumstance that even this symbolic 
Tightness is vouched for only by an experience which 
would be false in all its records and memories if this 
assumption were false, robs such experimental tests of 



IDENTITY AND DURATION 115 

all logical force. Corroboration is no new argument ; 
if I am deceived once, I may all the more readily be 
deceived again. In the perspectives of experience I 
cannot, except in these very perspectives, reach the 
terms which they posit as self-existent, in order to see 
whether my perspectives were rightly drawn. I am 
in the region of belief mediated by symbols, in the 
region of animal faith. 



CHAPTER XIII 

BELIEF IN DEMONSTRATION 

THE essence which is the object of intuition is probably 
not simple. Perhaps nothing that has a character 
recognisable in reflection can be utterly simple. The 
datum may seem purely qualitative, like a smell or 
like absolute Being, and yet some plurality may lurk 
in its very diffuseness or continuity, giving a foothold 
for discrimination of different moments or parts 
within it. Usually this inward complexity of given 
essences is very marked, and a chief element in their 
nature ; but it is not at all incompatible with the 
aesthetic and logical individuality which makes them 
terms for possible recognition and discourse. Essences, 
like things, may be perfectly unambiguous objects to 
name or to point to, and may be counted as units, 
without prejudice to their internal complexity. My 
dog is one and the same dog unmistakably, without 
prejudice to the possibly infinite complexity of his 
organism or the interpenetration of his qualities. In 
the same way Euclidean space is a single and definite 
essence ; yet its character is subject to analysis. I 
may say it has three dimensions, is necessarily infinite, 
without scale, etc. These implications, which I may 
enumerate successively, lie in the essence together, 
and lie there from the beginning, even if my intuition is 
slow to disentangle them, or never does so at all. The 
simplicity of the essence given at first was a pregnant 

116 



BELIEF IN DEMONSTRATION 117 

simplicity ; it had enough character to be identified 
with the total and unitary aspect of another essence 
Euclidean space analysed which may appear later. 

Intuition therefore is a view of essence, attention 
fixed upon it, and not that essence itself. When I 
say Euclidean space has three dimensions, I am 
counting them ; I am proceeding from one specious 
plane, or felt direction of motion, to another, and 
perhaps back again, for the sake of verification. If 
this operation is to be a valid survey of the essence 
proposed, the plane or directions specified must, so 
to speak, stay in their places. Each must remain 
itself, so that in passing from it to another, as I do in 
counting, I may pass to something truly different, and 
may be able to revert from this to the original element, 
and find it still there, identical with its former self. 
But, as I have already discovered, this self - identity 
of a term to which I revert cannot be given either in 
the first intuition of it, nor in the second. All that 
either intuition can yield while it endures is the 
nature of the datum there, with the terms and relations 
which are displayed there within it. Intuition can 
never yield the relation of its total datum to anything 
not given. It cannot refer to the latent at all, since 
its object, by definition, is just what is given im 
mediately. To take the leap from one intuition to 
another, and assert that they view the same essence, 
or have the same intent, I must take my life in my 
hands and trust to animal faith. Otherwise all dia 
lectic would be arrested. 

Let me assume in the first place that I may steadily 
peruse the same essence, and may revert to it on 
occasion. Let me assume further that in so doing I 
may turn passive intuition into analysis, and analysis 
into some fresh synthesis of the elements identified 
and distinguished in the given essence. Intuition 
will thus pick up and group together, in various ways, 



n8 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

terms which by hypothesis are identical in these 
various settings. It will scrutinise essences piece 
meal and successively, although in their own realm 
they compose a simultaneous and eternal manifold. 
Suppose, for instance, I have reached the conclusion 
of a calculation, and the final equation is before me : 
the inner relations between its terms are parts of a 
given essence. Intuition, not demonstration, syn- 
thesises this manifold. This synthetic essence is 
therefore no conclusion ; it is not an answer nor a 
deduction ; it is not true. It is simply the pattern 
of terms which it is ; no one of these terms, for aught 
I know, having ever figured in any other equation. 
Thus any survey which is analytic, so that it gives 
foothold for demonstration, or any definition follow 
ing upon such analysis, presupposes the repetition of 
the same essences in different contexts. This pre 
supposition cannot be justified by the intuition occupy 
ing the mind at any one time. No more can the 
assurance that a term remains the same in two successive 
instances and in two different contexts, nor that what 
is asserted by a predicate is asserted of the very subject 
which before had been intuited without that predicate. 
Explication is a process, a deduction is an event ; and 
although the force of logical analysis or synthesis does 
not depend on assuming that fact, but rather on 
ignoring it, this fact may be deduced from faith in 
the validity of demonstration, which would lapse if this 
fact were denied. The validity of demonstration is 
accordingly a matter of faith only, depending on the 
assumption of matters of fact incapable of demonstra 
tion. I must believe that I noted the terms of the 
argument separately and successively if I am to assert 
anything in identifying them or pronouncing them 
equivalent, or if the conclusion in which they appear 
now is to be relevant in any way to the premises in 
which they appeared originally. 



BELIEF IN DEMONSTRATION 119 

The force of dialectic, then, lies in identifying 
terms in isolation with the same terms in relation ; so 
that even an analytic judgement is synthetic. To say, 
for instance, that in " extended colour " " extension " 
is involved is analysis ; yet to identify the element of 
extension abstracted from the first essence with the 
second essence as a whole, is synthesis ; and it is far 
from inconceivable that this synthesis should be 
erroneous. In the identification of an essence given 
in one intuition with something given in another 
intuition in a superadded context, there is a postulate 
that in transcendent intent I am hitting a hidden 
target. It is not two similar intuitions taken existenti- 
ally that are identified ; they are not only admittedly 
distinct numerically and as events in the world, but 
they have, by hypothesis, different total data before 
them. It is mind, a spiritual counterpart of attitude 
and action, that intends in both cases to consider the 
same essence. There is repetition posited ; and 
repetition, if actual, involves adventitious differences 
accruing to a term that remains individually identical. 
There is a difference in the setting of the same essence 
here and its setting there. In judgement, accordingly, 
there is more than intuition ; there is assumed dis 
course, involving time, transcendent reference, and 
various adventitious surveys of identical objects. 
Thus if I wish to believe that any demonstration 
whatsoever is significant or correct, I must assume 
(what I can never demonstrate) that there is an active 
intelligence at work, capable of reverting to an old 
idea like the dog returning to his vomit : an operation 
utterly extraneous to the timeless identity of each 
element recovered. 

In other words, demonstration is an event, even 
when the thing demonstrated is not an event. Without 
adventitious choice of some starting-point, without 
selective and cumulative advance, and without re- 



120 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

capitulation, there would be no dialectic. Premises 
and conclusions would all be static and separate 
terms ; the dialectical nerve of their relation would 
not be laid bare and brought to intuition. I should 
know nothing about essence, in the sense of possessing 
such sciences of it as mathematics or rhetoric, if the 
argument were not adventitious to the subject-matter, 
casting the light of intuition now along this path and 
now along that in a field posited as static, so as to 
enlarge and confirm my apprehension of it ; for if I 
lost at one end all that I gained at the other, my 
progress would not enrich apprehension, nor ever 
twice mean the same thing. Dialectic therefore is a 
two-edged sword : on the one hand, if valid, it involves 
a realm of essence, independent of it, over which it 
may range ; and on the other hand it involves its own 
temporal and progressive existence ; since it is a 
name for the fact that some part of that realm of 
essence has been chosen for perusal, considered at 
leisure, folded upon itself, as it were, and recognised 
as having this or that articulation. Even pure in 
tuition shares (as I shall try to show presently) this 
spiritual existence, distinct from the logical or aesthetic 
being proper to the essences it apprehends ; intuition 
itself can hardly be prolonged without winking or 
re-survey. But this coming and going of attention, in 
flashes and in varied assaults, is even more conspicuous 
in dialectic ; and the validity and advance of insight 
in such cases depends on the essences in hand being 
constant, in spite of the pulsations of attention upon 
them and the variety of relations disclosed successively. 
Thus belief in the existence of mental discourse 
(which is a sort of experience), whilst of course not 
demonstrable in itself, is involved in the validity of 
any demonstration ; and I come to the interesting 
insight that dialectic would lose all its force if I 
renounced my instinctive faith in my ability to pick 



BELIEF IN DEMONSTRATION 121 

up old meanings, to think consecutively, to correct 
myself without changing my subject-matter, and in 
fine to discourse and to live rationally. Challenge 
this faith, and demonstration collapses into the illusion 
that a demonstration has been made. If I confine 
myself to the given essence without admitting discourse 
about it, I exclude all analysis of that essence, or even 
examination of it. I must simply stare at it, in a 
blank and timeless aesthetic trance. If this does not 
happen, the reason is not dialectical. No logic could 
drive me from the obvious, unless I read omens in 
it which are not there. The reason for my proclivity 
to play with ideas, to lose them and catch them, and 
pride myself on my ability to keep them circling 
without confusion in the air, is a vital reason. This 
logic is a fly-wheel in my puffing engine ; it is not 
logic at all. The animal life which underlies discourse 
is concerned to discharge its predetermined responses, 
which are but few, whenever an occasion presents 
itself which will at all do ; and all such occasions it 
calls the same. It claps some recurrent name on 
different objects, which is one source of error or of 
perpetual inaccuracy in its knowledge of things ; but 
even before that, in identifying the various instances 
of that name, alleging the essence present now to be 
the same present before, it runs a risk of error and 
may slip into self-contradiction. Is the round square 
an essence ? Certainly ; but not in the geometry 
of Euclid, because in his geometry the square is 
one essence and the circle another, definitely and 
irreparably distinct from it. The round square is an 
essence of comic discourse, actualised when, having 
confused names, definitions and ideas, a fumbling or 
an impudent mind sets about to identify two incom- 
patibles ; and this attempt is no more impossible to 
a mind which is subject to animal vapours than 
it is impossible for such a mind to look for a lost 



122 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

word. The psyche has the lost word in store, as it 
has the intuitions of the circle and the square ; but 
the loss of memory or the confusion of ideas may arise 
notwithstanding, because the movement in discourse 
which should culminate in those intuitions may be 
intercepted mechanically, and arrested at a stage 
where the name is not yet recovered, or where the 
words circle and square have fused their associations 
and are striving to terminate in the intuition of both 
as one. Such stammerings and contradictions make 
evident the physical basis of thought and the remote 
level from which it turns to its ideal object, like the 
moth to the star ; but this physical basis is really just 
as requisite for correcting a logical error as for falling 
into it. Thus dialectic, which in intent and deliverance 
does not trespass beyond the realm of essence, but 
only defines some fragment of the same, yet in fact, 
if it is to be cogent, must presuppose time, change, 
and the persistence of meanings in progressive dis 
course. 

Belief in demonstration, when it is admitted, has 
inversely some steadying influence on belief in matters 
of fact. When poetic idealists cry that life is a dream, 
they are indulging in a hyperbole, if they still venture 
to compare one illusion with another in beauty or in 
duration. Poetry, like demonstration, would not be 
possible if intuition of essences could not be sustained 
and repeated in various contexts. The poet could 
not otherwise express cumulative passions nor develop 
particular themes. But life is no dream, if it justifies 
dialectic ; because dialectic explores various parts of 
the realm of essence where everything is steadfast, 
distinct, and imperishable with a continuous and 
coherent intent, and reaches valid insight into their 
structure ; and this amount of wakefulness and sanity 
the dialectical or poetic mind would have in any case, 
even in the absence of a material world, of all moral 



BELIEF IN DEMONSTRATION 123 

interests, and of any life except the life of discourse 
itself. 

Nevertheless, if discourse were always a pellucid 
apprehension of essential relations, its existence would 
be little noted ; only a very scrupulous philosopher 
would insist on it, in view of the selective order and 
direction of survey which discourse adds to its subject- 
matter. There is, however, a much louder witness to 
the fact that discourse exists and is no part of essence, 
but rather a function of animal life ; and this witness 
is error. Thought becomes obvious when things 
betray it ; as they cannot have been false, something 
else must have been so, and this something else, 
which we call thought, must have existed and must 
have had a different status from that of the thing it 
falsified. Error thus awakens even the laziest philo 
sophy from the dream of supposing that its own 
meanderings are nothing but strands in the texture of 
its object. 

I have now, by the mere consideration of the way 
in which essence presents itself, managed to snatch 
from the jaws of scepticism one belief familiar to me 
before I encountered that romantic dragon ; namely, 
belief in the existence of discourse, or of mind think 
ing. But be it observed that I have so far seen reason 
for reinstating this belief only in a very attenuated 
form. Thought here means nothing more than the 
fact that some essence is contemplated, and discourse 
means only that this essence is approached and surveyed 
repeatedly or piecemeal, with partiality, succession, 
and possible confusion in describing it. Save for 
this distinction of intuition from the essence intuited, 
I have as yet no object before me that claims existence 
or solicits belief. The whole datum is still simply 
an essence ; but by the mere study of that datum, 
when this study is reflected upon and admitted, I 
have reintroduced a belief which relieves me of what 



i2 4 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

was most obnoxious to the flesh in my radical scepti 
cism. I have found that even when no change is 
perceived in the image before me, my discourse changes 
its phases and makes progress in surveying it ; so 
that in discourse I now admit a sphere of events in 
which real variations are occurring. I may now assert, 
when I perceive a motion, that this intuition of change 
is true ; that is, that it has actually followed upon the 
intuition of a static first term, from which my attention 
has passed to this intuition of change ; and this I 
may now assert without confusing the essences given 
successively, or trying, like animal perception, to 
knead one concrete thing out of their incompatible 
natures. The existence of changing things or events 
in nature I may still deny or doubt or ignore ; in the 
object I shall, with perfect clearness, see only an 
essence, and if this happens to be the essence of 
change, and to present the image of some motion, 
that theme will seem to me as determinate, as ideal 
and as unchanging as any other, and as little prone 
to lapse into any different theme. Any motion seen 
will be but a fixed image of motion. Actual flux 
and actual existence will have their appropriate and 
sufficient seat in my thought ; I shall conceive and 
believe, when I reflect on my rapt contemplations, 
that I have been ruminating, and passing from one to 
another ; but these objects will be only the several 
essences, the several images or tunes or stories, each 
always itself, which my mind picks up or invents or 
reconsiders. 



CHAPTER XIV 

ESSENCE AND INTUITION 

To believe nothing and live immersed in intuition 
might be the privilege of a disembodied spirit ; and 
if a man could share it he would not only be relieved 
from doubt but would, in one dimension, lose nothing 
in the scope of his experience, since the realm of 
essence, which w r ould still be open to him, is absolutely 
infinite, and contains images of all the events that any 
existing world could enact, or that all possible worlds 
could enact together. Yet all this variety and richness 
would form a mosaic, a marble effigy of life, or chronicle 
of ancient wars. The pangs and horrors would be 
there, as well as the beauties, but each would burn in 
its eternal place, balancing all the rest, and no anxious 
eye would glance hurriedly from one to the other, 
wondering what the next might be. The spirit that 
actually breathes in man is an animal spirit, transitive 
like the material endeavours which it expresses ; it 
has a material station and accidental point of view, 
and a fevered preference for one alternative issue over 
another. It thirsts for news ; and this curiosity, 
which it borrows of course from the insecurity and 
instinctive anxiety of the animal whose spirit it is, 
is strangely self-contradictory ; because the further it 
ranges in the service of animal will, the more the 
spectacle it discloses rebukes that animal will and 
tends to neutralise it. It would indeed not be spirit 

125 



i 2 6 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

at all if it did not essentially tend to discount its 
accidental point of view, and to exchange the material 
station to which it finds itself unaccountably attached 
in its birth. In so far as it is spirit, and is not called 
back by its animal allegiance to pleasures and ambitions 
which pure spirit could not share (since they imply 
ignorance), it accordingly tends to withdraw from 
preoccupation with animal life, from the bias of time 
and place, and from all thought of existence. In so 
doing, far from perishing, it seems to acquire a more 
intense, luminous, and placid being. Since the roots 
of spirit, at least in man, are in matter, this would 
seem to be an illusion ; yet the experience is normal, 
and no illusion need attach to it, if once the nature 
of intuition is understood. 

At the vanishing-point of scepticism, which is also 
the acme of life, intuition is absorbed in its object. 
For this reason, philosophers capable of intense con 
templation Aristotle, for instance, at those points 
where his thought becomes, as it were, internal to 
spirit have generally asserted that in the end essence 
and the contemplation of essence are identical. Cer 
tainly the intuition of essence is oblivious of itself, 
and cognisant of essence only, to which it adds nothing 
whatever internally, either in character or in intensity ; 
because the intensity of a thunder-clap is the chief 
part of its essence, and so the peculiar intolerableness 
of each sort of pain, or transitiveness of each sort of 
pleasure. If in fact when any such essence is given 
there had been nothing prior to this intuition, nothing 
beside it existentially, and nothing to follow upon it, 
this obliviousness to the intuition itself, as distinct 
from the given essence, would not be an oversight ; 
it would be rather an absence of illusion. For it 
would then have been an illusion to suppose, as I 
should in calling the presence of that essence an 
intuition of it, that a soul with a history and with 



ESSENCE AND INTUITION 127 

other adventitious qualities had come to contemplate 
that essence at one moment in its career. There 
would really be the essence only, with no relations 
other than those perfectly irreversible internal ones 
to other essences which define it in its own realm. 
Those very high numbers, for instance, which nobody 
has ever thought of specifically, have no other relations 
than those which they have eternally in the series of 
whole numbers ; they have no place in any man s life. 
So too those many forms of torment for which nature 
does not provide the requisite instrument, and which 
even hell has neglected to exemplify ; they remain 
essences only, of which fortunately there is no intuition. 
Evidently the being of such numbers or such torments 
is constituted by their essence only, and has not 
attained to existence. Yet it is this essential being 
alone that, if there was intuition of those numbers or 
those torments, would be revealed in intuition ; for 
no external adventitious relations, such as the intuition 
has in the life of some soul, would be presented 
within it, if (as I assume) nothing but these essences 
was then given. 

It is therefore inevitable that minds singly absorbed 
in the contemplation of any essence should attribute 
the presence and force of that essence to its own 
nature, which alone is visible, and not to their intuition, 
which is invisible. Thought as it sinks into its object 
rises in its deliverance out of the sphere of contingency 
and change, and loses itself in that object, sublimated 
into an essence. This sublimation is no loss ; it is 
merely absence of distraction. It is the perfect 
fruition and fulfilment of that experience. In this 
manner I can understand why Aristotle could call the 
realm of essence, or that part of it which he had 
considered, a deity, and could declare sublimely that 
its inalienable being was an eternal life. More strictly, 
it would have been an eternal actualisation of cognitive 



128 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

life only ; animal life would have ceased, because 
animal life requires us to pick up and drop the essences 
we consider, and to attribute temporal as well as 
eternal relations to them ; in other words, to regard 
them not as essences but as things. But though 
cognitive life begins with this attention to practical 
exigences and is kindled by them, yet its ideal is 
sacrificial ; it aspires to see each thing clearly and to 
see all things together, that is to say, under the form 
of eternity, and as sheer essences given in intuition. 
To cease to live temporally is intellectually to be 
saved ; it is (Wavari&iv, to fade or to brighten into 
the truth, and to become eternal. It is the inmost 
aim and highest achievement of cognition to cease 
to be knowledge for a self, to abolish the bias and 
transcend the point of view by which knowledge 
establishes its perspectives, so that all things may be 
present equally, and the truth may be all in all. 

All this comes about, however, only subjectively, 
in that vital and poetic effort of the mind to under 
stand which begins with a candid self-forgetfulness 
and ends in a passionate self -surrender. Seen from 
outside, as it takes place psychologically, the matter 
wears an entirely different aspect. In reality, essence 
and the intuition of essence can never be identical. 
If all animal predicaments were resolved, there would 
be no organ and no occasion for intuition ; and 
intuition ceasing, no essences would appear. Certainly 
they would not be abolished by that accident in their 
own sphere, and each would be what it would have 
seemed if intuition of it had arisen ; but they would 
all be merely logical or aesthetic themes unrehearsed, 
as remote as possible from life or from the intense 
splendour of divinity. Essence without intuition 
would be not merely non-existent (as it always is), but 
what is worse, it would be the object of no contempla 
tion, the goal of no effort, the secret or implicit ideal 



ESSENCE AND INTUITION 129 

of no life. It would be valueless. All that joy and 
sense of liberation which pure objectivity brings to 
the mind would be entirely absent ; and essence 
would lose all its dignity if life lost its precarious 
existence. 

I believe that Aristotle, and even more mystical 
spokesmen of the spirit, would not have ignored this 
circumstance if they had not taken so narrow a view 
of essence. They see it only through some peep-hole 
of morals, grammar, or physics ; the small part of 
that infinite realm which thus becomes visible they 
take for the whole ; or if they feel some uneasiness at 
the obvious partiality of this survey, they rather blot 
out and blur the part before them, lest it seem arbitrary, 
instead of imagining it filled out with all the rest that, 
in the realm of essence, cannot help surrounding it. 
Even Spinoza, who so clearly defines the realm of 
essence as an infinite number of kinds of being, each 
having an infinite number of variations, calls this 
infinity of being substance ; as if at once to weight 
it all with existence (a horrible possibility) and to 
obliterate its internal distinctions ; but distinction, 
infinitely minute and indelible distinction of every 
thing from everything else, is what essence means. 
Yet people suppose that whatever is non-existent is 
nothing a stupid positivism, like that of saying that 
the past is nothing, or the future nothing, or every 
thing nothing of which I happen to be ignorant. If 
people reflected that the non-existent, as Leibniz says, 
is infinite, that it is everything, that it is the realm of 
essence, they would be more cautious in regarding 
essence as something selected, superior in itself, and 
worthy of eternal contemplation. They would not 
conceive it as the power or worth in things actual, but 
rather as the form of everything and anything. 

Value accrues to any part of the realm of essence 
by virtue of the interest which somebody takes in it, 

K 



1 30 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

as being the part relevant to his own life. If the 
organ of this life comes to perfect operation, it will 
reach intuition of that relevant part of essence. This 
intuition will be vital in the highest degree. It will 
be absorbed in its object. It will be unmindful of any 
possibility of lapse in that object, or defection on its 
own part ; it will not be aware of itself, of time, or 
of circumstances. But this intuition will continue to 
exist, and to exist in time, and the pulsations of its 
existence will hardly go on without some oscillation, 
and probably a quick evanescence. So the intuition 
will be an utterly different thing from the essence 
intuited : it will be something existent and probably 
momentary ; it will glow and fade ; it will be perhaps 
delightful ; that is, no essences will appear to it which 
are not suffused with a general tint of interest and 
beauty. The life of the psyche, which rises to this 
intuition, determines all the characters of the essence 
evoked, and among them its moral quality. But as 
pure intuition is life at its best, when there is least 
rasping and thumping in its music, a prejudice or 
presumption arises that any essence is beautiful and 
life-enhancing. This platonic adoration of essence is 
undeserved. The realm of essence is dead, and the 
intuition of far the greater part of it would be deadly 
to any living creature. 

The contemplation of so much of essence as is 
relevant to a particular life is what Aristotle called 
the entelechy or perfect fruition of that life. If the 
cosmos were a single animal, as the ancients supposed, 
and had an aim and a life which, like human life, 
could be fulfilled in the contemplation of certain 
essences, then a life like that of Aristotle s God would 
be involved in the perfection of nature, if this per 
fection was ever attained. Or if, with Aristotle, we 
suppose that the cosmos has always been in perfect 
equilibrium, then a happy intuition of all relevant 



ESSENCE AND INTUITION 131 

essence on the part of the cosmos would actually exist 
and would be that sustained, ecstatic, divine life which 
Aristotle speaks of. Yet even then the cosmic intuition 
of essence would not be the essence it beheld. The 
intuition would be a natural fact, by accident per 
petual and necessarily selective ; because the cosmos 
might stop turning at any moment, and certainly the 
music of those spheres, even while they rolled well, 
would not be every sort and any sort of noise, nor 
even of music. A different cosmos would have had, 
or might elsewhere be having, a different happiness. 
Each, however, would be a divine life, as the ancients 
conceived divinity. It would have such a natural 
basis as any life must have, and the consequent warmth 
and moral colour ; for natural operations lend these 
values to the visions in which they rest. The love of 
certain special essences which animates existence is 
an expression of the direction which the movement 
of existence happens to have. If the cosmos were a 
perfect animal and in its unknown secular pulsations 
it may possibly be one the cosmic intellect in act 
would not be the whole of the realm of essence, nor 
any part of it. It would be the intuition of so much 
of essence as that cosmos had for its goal. 

The external and naturalistic point of view from 
which all this appears is one I have not yet justified 
critically : I have anticipated it for the sake of render 
ing the conception of essence perfectly unambiguous. 
But if we start from the realm of essence, which 
demands no belief, we may at once find conclusive 
reasons for believing that sundry intuitions of parts 
of it exist in fact. One reason is the selectiveness of 
discourse. All essences are always at hand, ready to 
be thought of, if any one has the wit to do so. But my 
discourse takes something up first, and then, even if 
it is purely dialectical, passes to some implication or 
complement of that idea ; and it never exhausts its 



1 32 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

themes. It traverses the realm of essence as, in a 
mosque, some ray of light from some high aperture 
might shoot across the sombre carpets : it is a brief, 
narrow, shifting, oblique illumination of something 
vast and rich. The fact that intuition has a direction 
is an added proof of its existential character, and of 
its complete diversity in nature from the essences it 
lights up. Life begins unaccountably and moves 
irreversably : when it is prosperous and intelligent, 
it accumulates its experience of things in a personal 
perspective, largely alien to the things themselves. 
When the objects surveyed are essences, no one can 
be prior to any other in their own sphere : they do 
not arise at all, and lie in no order of precedence. 
When one essence includes another as number two 
includes number one, it is as easy and as proper to 
reach one by dividing two as to reach two by repeating 
one. In themselves essences have no genesis ; and 
to repeat one would be impossible if duality were not 
begged at the start, as well as unity, to institute the 
possibility of repetition. In seizing upon any par 
ticular essence first, discourse is guided by an irrational 
fatality. Some chance bit is what first occurs to the 
mind : I run up against this or that, for no logical 
reason. This arbitrary assault of intuition upon 
essence is evidence that something not essence, which 
I call intuition, has come into play. Thus all dis 
course, even if it traces ideal implications, is itself 
contingent to them, and in its existence irrational. 
Animal life is involved in the perusal of essence, just 
as animal faith is involved in the trust I put in demon 
stration. If I aspired to be a disembodied spirit, I 
ought to envisage all essences equally and at once a 
monstrous requirement. If I aspire instead to dwell 
in the presence only of the pertinent, the beautiful, 
and the good, I confess that I am but a natural creature, 
directed on a small circle of interests and perfections ; 



ESSENCE AND INTUITION 133 

and that my intuition in particular exercises an adven 
titious choice, and has a private method, in its survey 
of essence. 

The first existence, then, of which a sceptic who 
finds himself in the presence of random essences may 
gather reasonable proof, is the existence of the intuition 
to which those essences are manifest. This is of 
course not the object which the animal mind first 
posits and believes in. The existence of things is 
assumed by animals in action and expectation before 
intuition supplies any description of what the thing 
is that confronts them in a certain quarter. But 
animals are not sceptics, and a long experience must 
intervene before the problem arises which I am here 
considering, namely, whether anything need be posited 
and believed in at all. And I reply that it is not 
inevitable, if I am willing and able to look passively 
on the essences that may happen to be given : but 
that if I consider what they are, and how they appear, 
I see that this appearance is an accident to them ; 
that the principle of it is a contribution from my 
side, which I call intuition. The difference between 
essence and intuition, though men may have discovered 
it late, then seems to me profound and certain. They 
belong to two different realms of being. 



CHAPTER XV 

BELIEF IN EXPERIENCE 

I HAVE now agreed to believe that discourse is a con 
tingent survey of essence, partial, recurrent, and 
personal, with an arbitrary starting-point and an 
arbitrary direction of progress. It picks up this 
essence or that for no reason that it can assign. How 
ever dialectical the structure of the theme considered 
may be, so that its various parts seem to imply one 
another, the fact that this theme rather than any 
other is being considered is a brute fact : and my 
discourse as a whole is a sheer accident, initiated, if 
initiated at all, by some ambushed power, not only 
in its existence, but in its duration, direction, and 
scope. 

Nevertheless this fatality does not raise any problem 
in that discourse itself, because it occasions no surprise. 
Problems are created after discourse is in full swing, 
by contradictory presumptions or aching voids arising 
within it. There are no problems in nature, and 
none in the realm of essence. Existence the most 
inexplicable of surds is itself no problem in its own 
eyes : it takes itself blandly for granted, so long as it 
is prosperous. This is a healthy dulness on its part, 
because if there is no reason why a particular fact 
should exist rather than any other, or none at all, there 
is also no reason why it should not exist. The philo 
sopher who has learned to make nature the standard 

134 



BELIEF IN EXPERIENCE 135 

of naturalness will not wonder at it. He will repeat 
on a large scale that act of ready submission to fate 
which every new - born intuition performs spon 
taneously. It does not protest against its sudden 
existence. It is not surprised at the undeserved 
favour that has fallen to its share. It modestly and 
wisely forgets itself and notes only the obvious, 
profoundly self-justified essence which appears before 
it. That this essence might just as well, or might 
far better, have been replaced by some other is not 
a suggestion to be possibly gathered from that essence 
itself. Nor is the psyche (the ambushed power from 
which the intuition actually comes) less self-satisfied* 
and at peace. The psyche, too, takes her own idio 
syncrasy for granted, singular and highly determinate 
as this is, and extraordinarily censorious concerning 
all other things. Her nature seems to her by right 
everlasting, and that to which it is the obvious duty 
of all other things to adjust themselves. God, too, 
if we refer these agreeable fatalities ultimately to his 
decrees, is conceived in like manner never to wonder 
why he exists although evidently nothing could have 
previously demanded his existence, or prepared the 
way for it, or made it intelligible. Nevertheless the 
mortal psyche perhaps thinks she sees the secret even 
of that, because it was necessary that God should 
exist in order to make her own existence perfectly 
safe, legitimate, and happy for ever. This assurance 
is needed, because there are unfortunately some cir 
cumstances that might suggest the opposite. 

Before turning to these circumstances, it may be 
well to observe that actual discourse, as distinguished 
from the internal dialectic of essences, may have any 
degree of looseness ; that is, the terms which it takes 
up in succession may have nothing to do with one 
another essentially. There is no added paradox in 
this : what is groundless and irrational in its inception 



136 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

may well be groundless and irrational in its pro 
cedure, and an appearance that has no reason for 
arising has no reason for not yielding to any other 
appearance, or to vacancy. And yet sometimes the 
course of appearances does produce wonder and 
discontent. How can this be ? If I am not sur 
prised at beginning to exist, or at finding something 
before me, since present being cannot contain any 
presumption or contradiction against itself, so it would 
seem that I should not be surprised at any changes 
in existence, however radical and complete. Often, 
indeed, I am not surprised, but follow the development 
of discourse, as in a dream, with perfect acquiescence, 
or even with a distinct premonition of what is coming, 
and eagerness that it should come. If I were a pure 
spirit, or even an open mind, this ought to be always 
the case. However different essences may be, they 
cannot in their own realm exclude or contradict one 
another ; there, infinite diversity provokes no conflict 
and imposes no alternatives, and the being of anything, 
far from impeding that of other things, seems positively 
to invite and to require it, somewhat as every part of 
Euclidean space, far from denying the other parts, 
implies them. Irrelevance is, as it were, mere distance ; 
and there is nothing strange or evil in quickness of 
thought, that should jump from one essence to another 
altogether dissimilar to it, or even contrary. 

And yet I cannot prolong or intensify discourse 
without soon coming upon what I call interruption, 
confusion, doubt, or contradiction. An impulse to 
select, to pursue, and to reject specific essences in 
sinuates itself into discourse. Why this animosity or 
this impatience ? I do not disparage, nor subordinate, 
nor remove the circle from the realm of essence, when 
I think of the square and say it is no circle. Why 
then should I be angry if I find the one rather than 
the other ? Evidently my discourse here is not pure 



BELIEF IN EXPERIENCE 137 

contemplation. Of course, no essence is any other 
essence ; but a clear spirit would not call any two 
essences incompatible. Their diversity is part of their 
being ; they are because, each being eternally itself, 
the two are eternally different. If they are in 
compatible, I must ask : Incompatible for what 
purpose ? Even in calling them contradictory, I am 
surreptitiously speaking for some hidden interest, 
which cannot put up with them both. There is an 
inertia or prior direction somewhere, in the region of 
what I call myself, that demands one of them, and 
rejects the other for the innocent crime of not being 
that one. The incongruous essence appearing offends 
me because I am wedded to an old one, and to its 
close relations. I will tolerate nothing but what I 
meant should come, what fills my niche, and falls in 
with my undertaking. 

Irrelevance, incongruity, and contradiction are ac 
cordingly possible in discourse only because discourse 
is not a play of essences but a play of attention upon 
them ; which attention is no impartial exercise of 
spirit but a manifestation of interest, intent, preference, 
and preoccupation. A hidden life is at work. If I 
deny this, because my scepticism eschews everything 
hidden, I must consistently abandon all dialectic and 
revert to undirected dreaming, without comments on 
my dream intended to be veridical : because if the 
least comment on my dreams were veridical I must 
begin at once to reject, in my comments, all the 
essences suggesting themselves which deviate from 
that particular dream I mean to describe. Meaning, 
which is my guide in discriminating one suggestion 
from another as being the right one, springs from 
beneath the surface ; it is a nether influence. It is a 
witness to my psychic life going on beneath, which 
can be disturbed by the intrusion of one event, or 
furthered by another ; and this subterranean impulse 



138 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

breaks out into judgements about the Tightness and 
wrongness of essences utterly absurd and unmeaning 
judgements if the essences were considered simply in 
themselves. If I feel that they clash, if I make a 
stumbling-block of their irrelevance or diversity, I 
prove that I am discoursing about them for an ulterior 
purpose, in the service of some alien interest. I am 
stringing my pearls ; therefore I require them to be 
of a particular quality. I am a collector, not a poet ; 
and what concerns me, even in the purest dialectic 
or the most desultory dream, is not to explore essence, 
but to gather experience. The psyche below is busy 
selecting her food, fortifying her cave, and discriminat 
ing her friends from her enemies ; and in these 
meanderings of mine over the realm of essence, in 
spite of myself, I am only her scout. 

By experience I understand a fund of wisdom 
gathered by living. I call it a fund of wisdom, rather 
than merely memory or discursive ideation, because 
experience accrues precisely when discrimination 
amongst given essences is keenest, when only the 
relevant is retained or perhaps noticed, and when the 
psyche sagaciously interprets data as omens favourable 
or unfavourable to her interests, as perilous or inviting, 
and, if she goes wrong, allows the event to correct 
her interpretation. I think it mere mockery to use 
the word experience for what is not learning or gather 
ing knowledge of facts ; if experience taught me 
nothing it would not be experience, but reverie. 
Experience accordingly presupposes intent and in 
telligence, and it also implies, as will appear presently, 
a natural world in which it is possible to learn to live 
better by practising the arts. 

Intuition is an event, although it reveals only an 
essence ; and in like manner discourse is an experience, 
even when its deliverance is mere dialectic. It is an 
experience for two reasons : first, because it is guided 



BELIEF IN EXPERIENCE 139 

unawares by the efforts of the psyche to explore, not 
the realm of essence, but the world that controls her 
fortunes ; and secondly, because the essences un 
rolled before it, apparently at random and for no reason, 
really convey knowledge ; in reality they are mani 
festations to the psyche of that surrounding world 
which it concerns her to react upon wisely. Discourse 
is hers ; and it is full of the names since images not 
auditory may be names also which she gives to her 
friends and enemies, and of her ingenious imagina 
tions concerning their ways. However original the 
terms of discourse may be, under the control of the 
psyche and her environment they fall into certain 
rhythms ; they run into familiar sequences ; they 
become virtual and available knowledge of things, 
persons, nature, and the gods. Imagination would be 
very insecure and inconstant in these constructions, and 
they would not become automatic habits in discourse, 
if instinct within and nature without did not control 
the process of discourse, and dictate its occasions. So 
controlled, discourse becomes experience. 

That discourse is secretly an experience, and may 
be turned into knowledge, becomes particularly evident 
when it is interrupted by shocks. Not only may an 
essence suddenly present itself which was not the 
essence I expected or should have welcomed, but the 
whole placid tenor of my thoughts may be arrested 
or overwhelmed. I may suffer a sort of momentary 
and conscious death, in that I survive to feel the 
extinction of all that made up my universe, and to 
face a blank, or a precipice. When in my placid 
discourse one thing seemed to contradict another, 
they were but rival images in the same field, and I 
had but to choose between them, and proceed with 
the argument. Shock contradicts nothing, but up 
roots the whole experience. The lights go out on 
the stage, and discourse loses its momentum. 



140 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

In the sense of contradiction there is probably 
some element of shock. The purest aesthetic or 
logical contemplation hardly goes on without a throb 
bing accompaniment of interest, haste, reversals, 
and satisfactions ; but these dramatic notes are merged 
in the counterpoint of the themes surveyed, and I 
think, prove, and enjoy without noticing that I do so. 
But when a clap of thunder deafens me, or a flash of 
lightning at once dazzles and blinds me, the fact that 
something has happened is far more obvious to me 
than just what it is that has occurred ; and there are 
perhaps shocks internal to the psyche in which the 
tension of the event reaches a maximum, whilst the 
nature of it remains so obscure that perhaps my only 
sense of it is a question, a gasp, or a recoil. The 
feeling present in such a case is, with but little further 
qualification, the sheer feeling of experience. 

Now experience of the most brutal and dumbest 
sort may be theoretically described, and described 
exhaustively, in terms of the successive intuition of 
essences ; for loudness, dazzlingness, pain, or terror 
are essences or elements of essences like any other 
data ; and when such essences are present, all is 
present that it is possible ever to feel in that direction, 
and with any degree of intensity. Utter blankness, 
intolerable strain, shrieking despair, are just the 
essences they are, and they are unrolled and revealed 
to intuition like any other essences. But such in 
tuitions, being those proper to the most brutal and 
rudimentary life, have a suasion in them out of all 
proportion to their articulation, or rather, we might 
almost say, inversely proportional to it ; as if the more 
an experience meant the less it cried out, and the more 
it cried out the less it meant. The purest discourse 
is (without noticing it) an experience, and the blindest 
experience (also without noticing it) is a discourse, 
since we should not call it experience if it contained 



BELIEF IN EXPERIENCE 141 

no sense of passage, no experiential perspective ; but 
in proportion as shock cancels discourse and obliter 
ates its own background, experience becomes mere 
experience, and inarticulate. 

In brute experience, or shock, I have not only a 
clear indication, for my ulterior reflection, that I 
exist, but a most imperious summons at that very 
moment to believe in my existence. Discourse, as I 
first disentangled the evidence for it from the pure 
intuition of essence, seemed to be a progressive 
observation of the permanent studious attention 
perusing and registering the essential mutual relations 
of given terms. But now, when shock interrupts me, 
discourse suffers violence. The subject-matter itself 
takes up arms ; one object leaves me in the lurch, 
while another, quite irrelevantly, assaults me. And 
since my discourse witnesses and records this revolu 
tion, I must now assert it to be a permanent knowledge 
of the changing. 

Shocks come : if they did not come, if I had not 
pre-existed, if I had never been anything more than 
the intuition of this shock, then this shock would not 
be a shock in fact, but only the illusion of a shock, 
only the essence of shock speciously persuading me 
that something had happened, when in fact nothing 
had occurred. If the sense of shock does not deceive 
me, I must have passed from a state in which the 
shock was not yet, into the state in which the shock 
first startled me ; and I must since have passed from 
that startled state into another, in which my intuition 
covers synthetically the coming, the nature, and the 
subsidence of that shock ; so that I am aware how 
startled I was, without being startled afresh now. A 
wonderful and ambiguous presence of the absent and 
persistence of the receding, which is called memory. 
My objects have receded, yet I continue to consider 
them. They are no longer essences, but facts, and 



142 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

my consideration is not intuition of something given 
but faith in something absent, and a persistent indica 
tion of it as still the same object, although my image 
of it is constantly changing, is perhaps intermittent, 
and probably grows fainter, vaguer, and more erroneous 
at every instant. 

Experience of shock, if not utterly delusive, ac 
cordingly establishes the validity of memory and of 
transitive knowledge. It establishes realism. If it be 
true that I have ever had any experience, I must not 
only have existed unawares in order to gather it, but 
I am justified in explicitly asserting a whole realm of 
existence, in which one event may contain realistic 
knowledge of another. Experience, even conceived 
most critically as a series of shocks overtaking one 
another and retained in memory, involves a world of 
independent existences deployed in an existing medium. 
Belief in experience is belief in nature, however 
vaguely nature may as yet be conceived, and every 
empiricist is a naturalist in principle, however hesitant 
his naturalism may be in practice. 

Nevertheless shock, like any other datum, in 
trinsically presents an essence only, and might be 
nothing more ; but in that case the dogmatic suasion 
of it (which alone lends interest to so blank an ex 
perience) would be an illusion. The intuition would 
be what it is, but it would be nobody s intuition, and 
it would mean nothing. For I should not be a self, 
if that intuition made up my whole being, so that it 
involved no change in my condition, but was perhaps 
itself the whole universe. Shock will not suffer me, 
while it lasts, to entertain any such hypothesis. It is 
itself the most positive, if the blindest, of beliefs ; it 
loudly proclaims an event ; so that if by chance the 
change which I feel were merely a feeling within the 
unity of apperception, shock would be an illusion, in 
the only sense in which this can be said of any intuition : 



BELIEF IN EXPERIENCE 143 

it would incite me to a false belief that something 
like the given essence existed. If the change has really 
occurred, and not merely been imagined, shock is not 
only intuition of change, but trouble in a process of 
change enveloping that intuition. I am right in 
positing a desultory experience in which this intuition 
is an incident. I am not a spectator watching this 
cataract, but a part of the water precipitated over the 
edge. Thus if being shocked was, as perhaps it 
ought to be, the first sensation in life, it proclaimed 
the existence of a previous state without sensation. 
Unless it is an illusion, which I cannot admit while I 
feel it, it implies variation in a voluminous vegetative 
life in which the sense of surprise is a true indication 
of novelty. 

Before I had noticed shock, or consented to accept 
its witness, I had already admitted, on dialectical 
grounds, that discourse was a process ; but now that 
I observe how shocks, more or less violent, interrupt 
discourse at every moment, I can call discourse ex 
perience. For now I see that in endeavouring to 
trace dialectical relations discourse is not itself dia 
lectical. Sheer chance decides whether it shall pursue 
faithfully the theme it may have picked out, as sheer 
chance decided that it should pick up that theme in 
particular. In my theoretical bewilderment and help 
lessness before this absolute contingency of all themes 
and all data, I am steadied only by animal presump 
tions, habits, expectations, or omens, all of which 
my sceptical reflection must condemn as utterly 
arbitrary. I can only say that I am the sport of an 
unfathomable destiny ; that in these shocks that fall 
upon me thick and fast, and in the calmer stretches 
between them, miscellaneous essences are revealed to 
me, most of them gratuitous and mutually irrelevant ; 
and that if the current of them did not carry me, 
somewhat congenially, into a vortex of work and play, 



i 4 4 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

I should be condemned for ever to blank watching 
and to sheer wonder. The very belief in experience 
is a suggestion of instinct, not of experience itself. 
The steadfastness of my nature, doggedly retaining 
its prejudices and assuming its power, supplies and 
imposes a routine upon my experience which is far 
from existing in my direct intuitions, very shifty in 
their quality (even when signs of the same external 
object) and much mixed with dream. Even the 
naturalist has to make up by analogy and presumption 
(which perhaps he calls induction) the enormous 
spaces between and beyond his actual observations. 

Belief in experience is the beginning of that bold 
instinctive art, more plastic than the instinct of most 
animals, by which man has raised himself to his 
earthly eminence : it opens the gates of nature to him, 
both within him and without, and enables him to 
transmute his apprehension, at first merely aesthetic, 
into mathematical science. This is so great a step 
that most minds cannot take it. They stumble, and 
remain entangled in poetry and in gnomic wisdom. 
Science and reasonable virtue, which plunge their 
roots in the soil of nature, are to this day only partially 
welcome or understood. Although they bring freedom 
in the end, the approach to them seems sacrificial, 
and many prefer to live in the glamour of intuition, 
not having the courage to believe in experience. 



CHAPTER XVI 

BELIEF IN THE SELF 

EXPERIENCE, when the shocks that punctuate it are 
reacted upon instinctively, imposes belief in some 
thing far more recondite than mental discourse, namely, 
a person or self ; and not merely such a trans 
cendental ego as is requisite intrinsically for any 
intuition, nor such a flux of sentience as discourse itself 
constitutes, but a substantial being preceding all the 
vicissitudes of experience, and serving as an instru 
ment to produce them, or a soil out of which they 
grow. 

Shock is the great argument of common sense for 
the existence of material things, because common 
sense does not need to distinguish the order of evidence 
from the order of genesis. If I know already that a 
tile has fallen on my head, my sore head is a proof 
to me that the tile was real ; but if I start from the 
pain itself in all innocence, I cannot draw any inference 
from it about tiles or the laws of gravity. By common 
sense experience is conceived as the effect which the 
impact of external things makes on a man when he 
is able to retain and remember it. As a matter of 
fact, of course, shocks usually have an external origin, 
although in dreams, madness, apparitions, and in 
disease generally, their cause is sometimes internal. 
But all question concerning the source of a shock is 
vain for the sceptic ; he knows nothing of sources ; 



146 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

he is asking, not whence shocks come, but to what 
beliefs they should lead. In the criticism of know 
ledge the argumentum baculaneum is accordingly ridi 
culous, and fit only for the backs of those who use it. 
Why, if I am a spirit beholding essences, should 
I not feel shocks ? Why are not novelties and 
surprises as likely themes for my entertainment as the 
analysis or synthesis of some theorem or of some 
picture ? All essences are grist for the mill of intuition, 
and any order or disorder, any quality of noise or 
violence, is equally appropriate in an experience which, 
for all I know or as yet believe, is absolute and ground 
less. And I call it experience, not because it discloses 
anything about the environment which produced it, 
but because it is composed of a series of shocks, which 
I survey and remember. 

If, however, consenting to listen to the voice of 
nature, I ask myself what a shock can signify, and of 
what it brings me most unequivocal evidence, the least 
hazardous answer will be : evidence of preposses 
sions on my part. What shock proves, if it proves 
anything, is that I have a nature to which all events 
and all developments are not equally welcome. How 
could any apparition surprise or alarm me, or how 
could interruption of any sort overtake me, unless I 
was somehow running on in a certain direction, with 
a specific rhythm ? Had I not such a positive nature, 
the existence of material things and their most violent 
impact upon one another, shattering the world to 
atoms, would leave me a placid observer of their 
movement ; whereas a definite nature in me, even 
if disturbed only by cross-currents or by absolute 
accidents within my own being, would justify my 
sense of surprise and horror. A self, then, not a 
material world, is the first object which I should posit 
if I wish the experience of shock to enlarge my dogmas 
in the strict order of evidence. 



BELIEF IN THE SELF 147 

But what sort of a self ? In one sense, the existence 
of intuition is tantamount to that of a self, though of 
a merely formal and transparent one, pure spirit. A 
self somewhat more concrete is involved in discourse, 
when intuition has been deployed into a successive 
survey of constant ideal objects, since here the self 
not only sees, but adds an adventitious order to the 
themes it rehearses ; traversing them in various 
directions, with varying completeness, and suspending 
or picking up the consideration of them at will ; so 
that the self involved in discourse is a thinking mind. 
Now that I am consenting to build further dogmas on 
the sentiment of shock, and to treat it, not as an essence 
groundlessly revealed to me, but as signifying some 
thing pertinent to the alarm or surprise with which it 
fills me, I must thicken and substantialise the self I 
believe in, recognising in it a nature that accepts or 
rejects events, a nature having a movement of its own, 
far deeper, more continuous and more biassed than 
a discoursing mind : the self posited by the sense of 
shock is a living psyche. 

This is a most obscure subterraneous object ; I am 
venturing into the nether world. It is alarming and 
yet salutary to notice how near to radical scepticism 
are the gates of Hades. I shall have occasion later to 
consider what the psyche is physically, when I have 
learned more about the world in which she figures ; 
she has some stake in it, since she welcomes or strives 
against sundry events. So anxious a being must have 
but precarious conditions of existence, and yet some 
native adaptation to them, since she manages to exist 
at all. Here I need admit only this : that the pure 
spirit involved in any intuition of essence is in my 
case repeatedly and somewhat consecutively actualised 
in a running mental discourse ; that, further, it is 
employed in remembering, loving, and hating, so that 
it almost seems to spring like a wild beast upon its 



148 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

visions, as upon its prey, and to gnaw and digest them 
into its own substance. Spirit, as I shall soon find, is 
no substance, and has no interests ; all this absurd 
animal violence may still be nothing but a dream ; 
and the fact, now agreed upon, that discourse is going 
on, may suffice to dispose of these passionate move 
ments. Music, which is ethereal in its being and, in 
the objective direction, terminates in pure essence, 
nevertheless in its play with pure essence is full of 
trepidation, haste, terror, potentiality, and sweetness. 
If mere sound can carry such a load, why should not 
discourse do likewise, in which images of many other 
sorts come trooping across the field of intuition ? 
This is no idle doubt, since the whole Buddhist system 
is built on accepting it as a dogma ; and transcendental 
ism, though it talks much of the self, denies, or ought 
to deny, its existence, and the existence of anything ; 
the transcendental self is pure spirit, incoherently 
identified with the principle of change, preference, and 
destiny which this philosophy calls Will, but which 
in truth, as I shall find, is matter. The Buddhists 
too, in denying the self, are obliged to introduce an 
ambiguous equivalent in the heritage of guilt, ignorance, 
and illusion which they call Karma. These are 
ulterior mystifications, which I mention here only lest 
I should proceed to posit the natural psyche without 
a due sense of the risks I am taking. The natural 
psyche, being a habit of matter, is to be described 
and investigated from without, scientifically, by a be 
haviourist psychology ; but the critical approach to it 
from within, as a postulate of animal faith, is extremely 
difficult and fraught with danger. Literary psychology, 
to which I am here confined, is at home only in the 
sentiments and ideas of the adult mind, as language 

O O 

has expressed them : the deeper it tries to go, the 
vaguer its notions ; and it soon loses itself in the dark 
altogether. I cannot hope to discover, therefore, what 



BELIEF IN THE SELF 149 

precisely this psyche is, this self of mine, the existence 
of which is so indubitable to my active and passionate 
nature. The evidence for it in shock hardly goes 
beyond the instinctive assertion that I existed before, 
that I am a principle of steady life, welcoming or 
rejecting events, that I am a nucleus of active interests 
and passions. It will be easy to graft upon these 
passions and interests the mental discourse which I 
had previously asserted to be going on, and which 
made up, in this critical reconstruction of belief, my 
first notion of myself. And yet here is one of the 
dangers of my investigation, because mental discourse 
is not, and cannot be, a self nor a psyche. It is all 
surface ; it neither precedes, nor survives, nor guides, 
nor posits its data ; it merely notes and remembers 
them. Discourse is a most superficial function of 
the self ; and if by the self I was tempted to under 
stand a series of ideas, I should be merely reverting 
sceptically to that stage of philosophic denudation in 
which I found myself, before I had consented to accept 
the evidence of shock in favour of my own existence. 
I, if I exist, am not an idea, nor am I the fact that 
several ideas may exist, one of which remembers the 
other. If I exist, I am a living creature to whom 
ideas are incidents, like aeroplanes in the sky ; they 
pass over, more or less followed by the eye, more or 
less listened to, recognised, or remembered ; but the 
self slumbers and breathes below, a mysterious natural 
organism, full of dark yet definite potentialities ; so 
that different events will awake it to quite dispropor 
tionate activities. The self is a fountain of joy, folly, 
and sorrow, a waxing and waning, stupid and dream 
ing creature, in the midst of a vast natural world, 
of which it catches but a few transient and odd 
perspectives. 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE COGNITIVE CLAIMS OF MEMORY 

BELIEF in memory is implicit in the very rudiments of 
mind ; mind and memory are indeed names for almost 
the same thing, since memory furnishes most of the 
resources of a mind at all developed, and nothing is 
ever in the mind but may reappear in memory, if the 
psyche can fall again for a moment into her old paces. 
Mind and memory alike imply cognisance taken of 
outlying things, or knowledge. When the things 
known are events within the past experience of the 
psyche, spontaneously imagined, knowledge is called 
memory ; it is called mind or intelligence when they 
are past, present, or future events in the environment 
at large, no matter by what means they are suggested 
or reported. Memory itself must report facts or 
events in the natural world, if it is to be knowledge 
and to deserve the name of memory. An intuition by 
chance repeating an intuition that had occurred earlier 
would not be memory or knowledge of that earlier 
event. There must be belief in its previous occurrence, 
with some indication of its original locus. 

Intuition without memory must be assumed to 
have existed in the beginning, but such intuition 
regards essence only. Not being directed by memory 
upon the past, nor by animal faith upon the future 
or upon external things, pure intuition exercises no 
sagacity, no transitive intelligence, and does not think. 

150 



COGNITIVE CLAIMS OF MEMORY 151 

It is merely the light of awareness lending actuality 
to some essence. When identity and duration come 
to be attributed to this essence, memory begins to 
make its claims felt, although indirectly. When I call 
an essence identical I imply that I have considered it 
twice, and that I possess a true memory of my past 
intuition, since I know it presented this very essence. 
Similarly, when I call an essence the same, but without 
distinguishing my two intuitions of it, which may be 
continuous, I posit the truth of memory unawares ; 
for this sensation of living on, of having lived up to 
the present, is a primary memory. It sets up a 
temporal perspective, believing firmly in its recessional 
character ; parts of the specious present are inter 
preted as survivals of a receding present, a present 
that can never return, but the vision of which I have 
not wholly lost. The perspective is not taken to 
be specious only, but a true memorial of facts past 
and gone. 

Memory deploys all the items of its inventory at 
some distance, yet sees them directly, by a present 
glance. It makes no difference to the directness of 
this knowledge how great the distance of the object 
may be in the direction of the past. So also in fore 
sight : I foresee my death as directly as I do my dinner, 
not necessarily more vaguely, and far more certainly. 
Memory and prophecy do in time what perception 
does in space ; here too the given essence is projected 
upon an object remote from the living psyche which 
is the organ of the intuition and of the projection. 
The object is indeed not remote from the mind, if by 
mind I understand the intellectual energy of memory, 
prophecy, or perception reaching to that object, and 
positing it there in intent ; but it is remote from the 
psyche, from the material agent, from me here and 
now. A little less or a little more interval of time 
or space and there is always an interval does not 



152 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

render less ocular and immediate the description of 
a removed event by the essences it brings before me. 
I see a peewit in the sky as directly as I see the watch 
in my hand, and I hear his note as easily as I do the 
ticking of the watch against my ear. So I remember 
the Scotch kilt I wore when a child as directly as the 
umbrella I carried this morning. The difficulty in 
extending the range of knowledge is physical only ; 
I may be near-sighted ; and the mechanism of memory 
may break down, or may be choked with parasitic 
fancies as it grows old. 

In memory it is sometimes possible to reproduce 
almost exactly some earlier scene or experience. If 
the psyche happens to run through the same process 
twice and being material she is compacted of habits 
she will twice have exactly the same intuition ; but 
this precise repetition of the past, far from constituting 
a perfect memory, excludes memory. The sentiment 
of pastness, the receding perspective in which memory 
places its data, will be wanting ; and this perfect 
recovery of experience will not be remembrance. Nor 
is any fulness or precision in the image of the past 
necessary to the truth of memory. The nerve of 
recollection lies elsewhere, in the projection of the 
given essence which may be vague or purely verbal 
to a precise point or nucleus of relations in the natural 
past. Memory is genuine if the events it designates 
actually took place, and conformed to the description, 
however brief and abstract, which I give of them. 
Pictorial fulness and emotional reversion to the past 
are not important, and they are found most often at 
unimportant points. Healthy memory excludes them, 
and for two reasons. The bodily reaction to the old 
environment is now hardly possible, and certainly 
not appropriate ; and therefore, even if the neurogram 
in the psyche could spring again into perfect life, it 
would bring a dream into being, an interruption to 



COGNITIVE CLAIMS OF MEMORY 153 

life in the present, rather than a sober memory rilling 
the present appropriately with a long perspective. 
The second reason is that the neurogram is likely to 
have been modified by the accidents of nutrition and 
waste intervening, so that the old movement cannot 
really be repeated, and the essence called up will not 
really be the original one. That it may seem to be 
the original, in its very life, is nothing to the purpose. 
How, if vivid, should it not seem so, when no other 
memory exists to control it ? But if I can control it 
by circumstantial evidence, I usually find that this 
specious recovery of past experience is a cheap illusion. 
If the reversion to the past seems complete, it is not 
because the facts are remembered accurately, but 
because some subtle influence fills me with a sentiment 
wholly foreign to my present circumstances, and 
redolent of a remote past ; and that dramatic shift 
seems to lift all the details of the picture out of the 
perspective of memory into the foreground of the 
present. It is the fancy that comes forward, producing 
a waking dream, not the memory that sinks back into 
an old experience. The scent of a cedar chest in 
which old finery is kept may carry me back vividly 
to my earliest childhood ; but the images that now 
seem to live again will be creatures of my present 
sophisticated and literary fancy ; I shall see them 
romantically, not with the eyes of a child. I may 
truly recover knowledge of long-forgotten facts, but 
I shall not re-enact a long-past experience. And 
what need is there ? A miraculous identity may be 
felt emotionally even when the two descriptions of the 
identical thing differ in every sensible term, as happens 
in metaphors, in myths, in myself as body and as 
mind, in idolatry, or in the doctrine which expresses 
a mystical experience of transubstantiation. In such 
cases the vital reaction, the deeper readjustment of 
the psyche, to the two appearances is the same ; 



154 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

therefore I feel that the thing appearing in the two 
ways is identical, that the one is really the other, 
however diverse the two sets of symbols may be. 

I have already accepted the belief in memory ; 
indeed, without accepting it I could not have taken the 
first step forward from the most speechless scepticism. 
But since such acceptance is an act of faith, and 
asserts transitive or realistic knowledge, I will pause 
to consider somewhat more explicitly what the cognitive 
claims of memory are, on which all human beliefs 
are reared. 

The paradox of knowing the absent is posited in 
the past tenses of the verb ; it is the paradox of 
knowledge itself, since intuition of essence is not 
properly called knowledge ; it is imagination, since 
the only object present is then non-existent and the 
description of it, being creative, is infallible. The 
claim to knowledge everybody understands perfectly 
when he makes it, which he does whenever he perceives, 
remembers, or believes anything ; but if we wish to 
paraphrase this claim reflectively, we may perhaps 
say that in it attention professes to fall on an object 
explicitly at a distance, being framed by other nearer 
objects (though at some distance themselves) upon 
which attention falls only virtually. If this foreground 
or frame were absent altogether, I should live in the 
pictured past thinking it present ; memory would 
overleap its memorial office and become a dream. It 
would cease to be liable to error, being no longer a 
report about anything else ; but it would become an 
idle entertainment, which a moralist might call an 
illusion, on the ground that its images were irrelevant 
to the practice of rational life, and its emotions wasted. 
But it would not misrepresent anything, since in 
ceasing to be a memory it would have abandoned all 
cognitive claims. 

A frame or foreground is accordingly indispensable 



COGNITIVE CLAIMS OF MEMORY 155 

to the projection which renders a present image a 
vision of some past fact : I must stand here to point 
there. Yet if my present station were explicitly 
perceived, if the whole immediate datum were focussed 
equally in thought, the picture would seem flat and 
the perspective merely painted upon it, as upon a 
cheap drop-curtain in a theatre. It would destroy 
the claim and, if you like, the illusion of memory to 
remember that I am remembering ; for then I should 
be considering myself only, and only the present, 
whereas in living remembrance I am self- forgetful, 
and live in the present thinking only of the past, and 
observe the past without supposing that I am living 
in it. My recollections, my souvenirs, are only essences 
which I read as I should the characters on this page, 
not viewing them contemplatively in their own category 
as forms present in their entirety, but accepting them 
readily (as in all knowledge) as messengers, as signs 
for existences of which they furnish but an imperfect 
description, for which I am perhaps hopeful of sub 
stituting a better view. In lapsing into the past I 
seem to myself to be entering a realm of shadows ; 
and a chief part of my wakefulness, which prevents me 
from actually dreaming that I am living in that other 
world, is precisely this eagerness of mine to see better, 
to remember all, to recover the past as it really was ; 
and the elusive and treacherous character of such 
images as come to me troubles me seriously, as a 
mist distorting and shutting off the truth. My heart, 
as it were, is fixed on that removed reality, and I know 
that my eyes see it but imperfectly. Yet if my heart 
had intuition now of what that reality once was, 
recollection would be superfluous, since I should 
possess all it could bring me before it brought it ; 
and on the other hand, if my heart did not know the 
reality, how could I reject, criticise, or approve the 
images that professed to restore its forgotten aspects ? 



156 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

Obviously what I am calling the heart, which is the 
psyche, is blind in herself : imagination is her only 
light, her only language ; but she is a prior principle 
of choice and judgement and action in the dark ; so 
that when the light shines in that darkness, she 
comprehends it, and feels at once whether the ray 
falls on the object towards which she was groping, or 
on some irrelevant thing. The psyche, in the case 
of memory, contains all the seeds, all the involutions 
and latent habits, which the past left there in passing ; 
any one of these may be released freely, or only 
irritated and summoned to activity without being 
sufficiently fed, or only to be at once thwarted and 
contradicted ; and the sentiment of this prosperous or 
mutilated rendering of experience, when memory 
proffers its images, enables the psyche to judge these 
images to be true or false, adequate or inadequate, 
without possessing any other images with which to 
compare them. 

This felt imperfection of memory is no obstacle to 
the directness of such knowledge as it does afford. 
Memory, however vague, transports me to the intended 
scene ; I walk by its wavering light through those 
ancient chambers ; I see again (incorrectly, no doubt) 
what occurred there. But if many a detail once 
obvious is thereby lost or misplaced, memory may see 
the chief features of the past in a truer perspective 
than that in which experience placed them originally. 
The ghostliness of memory carries this compensation 
with it, comparable to the breadth of sympathy that 
compensates old age for the loss of vivaciousness ; 
memory is a reconstruction, not a relapse. The view 
which the opened chest creates in me now of my 
family history may be truer than any I had when a 
child. My perceptions when a child were themselves 
descriptions, naive, disjointed, limited. In reproduc 
ing my past perceptions, my dreaming memory does 



COGNITIVE CLAIMS OF MEMORY 157 

not regard those perceptions perceptions being 
spiritual facts, can become objects of intent only. 
Memory regards the same objects (essences or things) 
which the past perceptions regarded. But the soil 
in which these intuitions now grow has been tilled 
and watered, and, even if a little exhausted, it may 
yield a fairer description of those ancient incidents 
than existed before, more voluminous, better knit, 
more knowing. Memory has fundamentally the same 
function as history and science to review things 
more intelligently than they were ever viewed. Mind 
would never rise out of the most helpless animal 
routine if it could not forget in remembering, and 
could not substitute a moral perspective for the 
infinite flatness of physical experience. That much 
drops out is a blessing ; that something creeps in, by 
way of idealisation, hyperbole, and legend, is not an 
unmixed evil. In spite of this admixture of fiction, 
memory, legend, and science achieve a true intellectual 
dominion over the flux of events ; and they add a 
poetic life and rhythm of their own, like the senses. 

This possibility of dominion proves that the images 
and the apperception involved in remembering are 
fresh images and a fresh apperception. It shows also 
that the later station in time of the act of remembering 
in no way annuls the directness of the knowledge 
involved, nor cuts it off from its object ; on the 
contrary, the object being posited and chosen by the 
psyche before any images or any apperception arise, 
these are free to describe that object in any way 
they can, bringing all later resources of the mind to 
illustrate it, and thereby perhaps describing it far 
more truly than the senses revealed it when it was 
present. 

Here an important detail has come into view which 
at first sight might seem paradoxical, but only because 
the paucity of language obliges us often to use the 



158 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

same word for very different things. Thus it seems 
natural to say that a man may remember his own 
experience, and can remember nothing else ; and yet 
it is not his experience that he commonly remembers 
at all, but the usual object of his memory is the object 
of his former experience, the events or the situation 
in which his earlier experience occurred. Experience 
is intuition, it is discourse interspersed with shocks 
and recapitulated ; but intuition, actual experience, 
is not an object of any possible intuition or experi 
ence, being, as I have said above, a spiritual fact. Its 
existence can be discovered only by moral imagination, 
and posited dramatically, as the experience proper to 
spirit under certain real or imaginary circumstances. 
And this is true of my own past or future, no less than 
of the experience of others. When I remember I do 
not look at my past experience, any more than when 
I think of a friend s misfortunes I look at his thoughts. 
I imagine them ; or rather I imagine something of my 
own manufacture, as if I were writing a novel, and I 
attribute this intuited experience to myself in the past, 
or to the other person. Naturally, I can impute only 
such feelings as my present psyche can evoke ; and 
she, although creative, creates automatically and in 
accordance with patterns fixed by habit or instinct ; 
so that it is true, in a loose way, that I can remember 
or conceive only what I have experienced ; but this 
is not because my experience itself remains within me, 
and can be re-observed. Such a notion needs but to 
be made clear to be made ridiculous. Living intuition 
cannot be preserved ; and even while it lives, it cannot 
be found. It is spiritual. 

Recollection is accordingly incipient dreaming ; it 
views the same objects as the experience did which 
it rehearses, since the memory arises by a renewal of 
the very process in the psyche by which that experience 
was created originally. The psyche, in so far as she 



COGNITIVE CLAIMS OF MEMORY 159 

is occupied with that dream, does not know that it is 
a memory, nor that its objects are remote and perhaps 
no longer exist ; she posits them with all the con 
fidence of action, as in any other dream. Yet in 
normal memory the illusion is controlled and corrected, 
and the experience actually given, with all its posited 
objects, is relegated to the past ; because this time it 
is framed in another experience, with more obstinate 
objects and an environment to which the body is 
adjusted, incompatible with the remembered environ 
ment. Hence the shadowy, vaporous, unreal aspect 
of the remembered past : images chase one another 
through it, as they chase one another sometimes in a 
cinema, or as in a dream what was just now a white- 
capped wave may become a horse galloping. Mean 
time reason rides the storm of seething incipient 
fancies, anchored in the outer senses by the steady 
pull of the instincts which bind it to the present 
world. 

Experience cannot be remembered, a perception 
cannot be perceived nor re-perceived. This fact 
explains both the directness of memory (since it 
regards the same objects, the same environment, as 
the old experience, and repeats the same emotions), 
and also the ghostliness of memory and of all ima 
gination (since the beliefs and emotions evoked are 
irrelevant to the present world, and inhibited by 
peremptory present reactions). 

There is a great difference conventionally between 
memory and fancy, between history and fiction, and 
the two things diverge widely in their physical sig 
nificance, one regarding events in nature and the other 
imaginary scenes ; nevertheless psychologically they 
are clearly akin. It is only by an ulterior control that 
we can distinguish which sort of fancy is memory and 
which sort of fiction is historical. This control, for 
the immediate past, is exercised by habit and sensation. 



160 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

The immediate past is continuous with the present ; 
I believe that I remember, and do not merely imagine, 
the street in which I live, because I am ready to walk 
out into it confidently, and by raising my eyes can see 
it out of the window. It is an object continuous with 
the recurrent objects of my present faith. When the 
past is more remote, this control, while the same in 
principle, is less directly exercised ; it is mainly the 
habit of memory that testifies to the truth of memory. 
I believe I remember, and do not merely imagine, 
what I have always said I remembered ; just as we 
believe events to be historical and not invented, when 
historians have always repeated them. It is con 
sequently very easy for a fiction, once incorporated in 
what, because of our practical habits, we regard as 
real events, to pass for a fact for ever. Autobiographies 
and religions (even when not systematically recast by 
the fancy, as they usually are) contain many such 
involuntary confusions. Vice versa, a lively fiction 
spontaneously takes the form of a history or a memory. 
Although no junction with genuine memory or history 
may be attempted in Robinson Crusoe at the beginning 
or at the end, many a real fact may be woven into the 
narrative, to add to its verisimilitude, and absorb, as 
it were, the fancied details into the romantic medley 
of things commonly believed. " Once upon a time," 
says the story - teller, in order vaguely to graft his 
imaginary events on to the tree of memory ; and in 
the Thousand and One Nights we are transported to 
one of the cities amongst cities, or to an island amongst 
the isles of the sea ; whereby the fiction grows more 
arresting, or the real world more marvellous and 
large. 

Criticism of memory and history is a ticklish and 
often a comic matter, because only fancy can be 
employed to do it ; and we judge the authority of 
records and the reports of our past experience by the 



COGNITIVE CLAIMS OF MEMORY 161 

criterion of what, at the present moment, can exercise 
a decided suasion over our belief, and create a living 
illusion. But the principle by which we trust memory 
at all is always the same, and deeply paradoxical. 
How can a flux be observed at all ? If flux there be, 
the earlier part is gone when the latter part appears : 
how then can the relation, the passage, be observed ? 
And where is the observation ? If it occupies each 
instant in turn, how can it bridge them ? If it stands 
outside, how can it touch any of them ? In any case 
the observation would seem to be out of the flux 
which it imagines, but does not undergo : for if its 
being is instantaneous, there is no flux in it ; and if 
it is comprehensive, and contemporary with all the 
instants surveyed, again it endures no change. Indeed, 
analytically, it is obvious that a sense of change, falling 
necessarily under a unity of apperception, transcends 
that change, however changeful may be the conditions 
of its own genesis : mind, by its very character as 
mind, is timeless. Is time, then, merely a picture 
of time, and can it be nothing else ? And is flux, 
which is an essential quality of existence, only a mere 
appearance, and essentially incapable of existing in 
fact ? 

There is danger here of an enormous illusion, into 
which I think the most redoubtable metaphysicians 
have fallen. We must admit that spirit is not in time, 
that the perception of flux (or of anything else) is not 
a flux, but a synthetic glance and a single intuition of 
relation, of form, of quality. The seen is everywhere 
a universal, the seeing is everywhere supernatural. 
But this admission is far from involving a denial of 
flux a denial, that is, of the deliverance of this very 
spirit to which we are assigning such pompous pre 
rogatives. The one prerogative which we must assume 
spirit to possess because we claim it in exercising 
spirit at all is that it understands, that it tells truly 

M 



1 62 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

something about something. Its own conditions of 
being, that it must be immaterial, timeless, synthetic, 
intuitive, do not preclude it, if it is truly intelligent, 
from revealing things differently constituted from 
itself : much less can it prevent these non-spiritual 
things from existing. What madness is this, because 
we may at last discern the spirituality of spirit, to deny 
that there could ever have been anything for spirit to 
discern ? Why stultify the very faculty we are dis 
covering that we possess ? Why tumble in this way 
head over heels from our little eminence, and reduce 
ourselves to speechlessness in wonder at our capacity 
to speak ? This supernatural status and super- 
temporal scope of spirit are not prerogatives ; they 
are deprivations ; they are sacrificial conditions, from 
the point of view of natural existence, to which any 
faculty must submit, if it is to understand. Of course 
understanding is itself an achievement (though not all 
philosophers esteem it highly), but it must be bought 
at a price : at the price of escaping into a fourth 
dimension, of not being that which we understand. 
So when the flux, in its rumble and perpetual super 
position of movements, remembers that it flows, it is 
not arrested materially ; but the sense that what flows 
through it at this instant has come from afar, that it 
has taken a fresh shape, and is hurrying to new trans 
formations, has itself eluded that fate : for this sense, 
as distinguished from the psyche that exercises it, is 
tangential to the flux it surveys, neither instantaneous 
nor prolonged, but simply intelligent. How far into 
the past or future its glance may reach, is a matter of 
accident, and of the range of adjustments at that 
moment in the psyche. But spirit is virtually 
omniscient : barriers of space and time do not shut 
it in ; they are but the boundary-stones of field and 
field in its landscape. It is ready to survey all time 
and all existence if, by establishing some electric 



COGNITIVE CLAIMS OF MEMORY 163 

connection with its seat, time and existence will 
consent to report themselves to it. For spirit has 
no interests, no curiosity, no animal impatience ; and 
as it arises only when and where nature calls it forth, 
so it surveys only what nature happens to spread 
before it. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH MEDIATED BY SYMBOLS 

IN the claims of memory I have a typical instance of 
what is called knowledge. In remembering I believe 
that I am taking cognisance not of a given essence but 
of a remote existence, so that, being myself here and 
now, I can consider and describe something going 
on at another place and time. This leap, which 
renders knowledge essentially faith, may come to 
seem paradoxical or impossible like the leap of physical 
being from place to place or from form to form which 
is called motion or change, and which some philosophers 
deny, as they deny knowledge. Is there such a leap 
in knowing ? Am I really here and now when I 
apprehend some remote thing ? Certainly, if by 
myself I understand the psyche within my body, 
which directs my outer organs, reacts on external 
things, and shapes the history and character of the 
individual animal that bears my name. In this sense 
I am a physical being in the midst of nature, and my 
knowledge is a name for the effects which surrounding 
things have upon me, in so far as I am quickened by 
them, and readjusted to them. I am certainly confined 
at each moment to a limited space and time, but may 
be quickened by the influence of things at any distance, 
and may be readjusting myself to them. For the 
naturalist there is accordingly no paradox in the leap 

164 



KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH 165 

of knowledge other than the general marvel of material 
interaction and animal life. 

If by myself, however, I meant pure spirit, or 
the light of attention by which essences appear and 
intuitions are rendered actual, it would not be true 
that I am confined or even situated in a particular 
place and time, nor that in considering things remote 
from my body, my thoughts are taking any unnatural 
leap. The marvel, from the point of view of spirit, is 
rather that it should need to be planted at all in the 
sensorium of some living animal, and that, being 
rooted there, it should take that accidental station for 
its point of view in surveying all nature, and should 
dignify one momentary phase of that animal life with 
the titles of the Here and the Now. It is only spirit, 
be it observed, that can do this. In themselves all 
the points of space-time are equally central and 
palpitating, and every phase of every psyche is a focus 
for actual readjustments to the whole universe. How 
then can the spirit, which would seem to be the 
principle of universality and justice, take up its station 
in each of these atoms and fight its battles for it, and 
prostitute its own light in the service of that desperate 
blindness ? Can reason do nothing better than supply 
the eloquence of prejudice ? Such are the puzzles 
which spirit might find, I will not say in the leap of 
knowledge, but in the fatality which links the spirit 
to a material organ so that, in order to reach other 
things, it is obliged to leap ; or rather can never reach 
other things, because it is tethered to its starting-point, 
except by its intent in leaping, and cannot even 
discover the stepping-stone on which it stands because 
its whole life is the act of leaping away from it. There 
is no reason, therefore, in so far as knowledge is an 
apanage of spirit, why knowledge should not bathe all 
time and all existence in an equal light, and see every 
thing as it is, with an equal sympathy and immediacy. 



i66 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

The problem for the spirit is how it could ever come 
to pick out one body or another for its cynosure and 
for its instrument, as if it could not see save through 
such a little eye-glass, and in such a violent perspective. 
This problem, 1 think, has a ready answer, but it is 
not one that spirit could ever find of itself, without a 
long and docile apprenticeship in the school of animal 
faith. This answer is that spirit, with knowledge and 
all its other prerogatives, is intrinsically and altogether 
a function of animal life ; so that if it were not lodged 
in some body and expressive of its rhythms and 
relations, spirit would not exist at all. But this 
solution, even when spirit is humble enough to accept 
it, always seems to it a little disappointing and satirical. 
Spirit, therefore, has no need to leap in order to 
know, because in its range as spirit it is omnipresent 
and omnimodal. Events which are past or future in 
relation to the phase of the psyche which spirit expresses 
in a particular instance, or events which are remote 
from that psyche in space, are not for that reason 
remote from spirit, or out of its cognitive range : they 
are merely hidden, or placed in a particular perspective 
for the moment, like the features of a landscape by 
the hedges and turns of a road. Just as all essences 
are equally near to spirit, and equally fit and easy 
to contemplate, if only a psyche with an affinity to 
those essences happens to arise ; so all existing things, 
past, future, or infinitely distant, are equally within 
the range of knowledge, if only a psyche happens to 
be directed upon them, and to choose terms, however 
poor or fantastic, in which to describe them. In 
choosing these terms the psyche creates spirit, for 
they are essences given in intuition ; and in directing 
her action or endeavour, backward or forward, upon 
those remote events, she creates intent in the spirit, 
so that the given essences become descriptions of the 
things with which the psyche is then busied. 



KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH 167 

But how, I may ask, can intent distinguish its 
hidden object, so that an image, distorted or faithful, 
may be truly or falsely projected there, or used to 
describe it ? How does the spirit divine that there is 
such an object, or where it lies ? And how can it 
appeal to a thing which is hidden, the object of mere 
intent, as to a touchstone or standard for its various 
descriptions of that object, and say to them, as they 
suggest themselves in turn : You are too vague, 
You are absurd, You are better, You are absolutely 
right ? 

I answer that it does so by animal presumption, 
positing whatsoever object instinct is materially pre 
disposed to cope with, as in hunger, love, fighting, or 
the expectation of a future. But before developing 
this reply, let me make one observation. Since in 
tuition of essence is not knowledge, knowledge can 
never lie in an overt comparison of one datum with 
another datum given at the same time ; even in pure 
dialectic, the comparison is with a datum believed to 
have been given formerly. If both terms were simply 
given they would compose a complex essence, without 
the least signification. Only when one of the terms 
is indicated by intent, without being given exhaust 
ively, can the other term serve to define the first 
more fully, or be linked with it in an assertion which 
is not mere tautology. An object of faith and know 
ledge is one species of faith can never, even in the 
most direct perception, come within the circle of 
intuition. Intuition of things is a contradiction in 
terms. If philosophers wish to abstain from faith, 
and reduce themselves to intuition of the obvious, 
they are free to do so, but they will thereby renounce 
all knowledge, and live on passive illusions. No fact, 
not even the fact that these illusions exist, would ever 
be, or would ever have been, anything but the false 
idea that they had existed. There would be nothing 



i68 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

but the realm of essence, without any intuition of any 
part of it, nor of the whole : so that we should be 
driven back to a nihilism which only silence and death 
could express consistently ; since the least actual 
assertion of it, by existing, would contradict it. 

Even such acquaintance with the realm of essence 
as constitutes some science or recognisable art like 
mathematics or music lies in intending and positing 
great stretches of essence not now given, so that the 
essences now given acquire significance and become 
pregnant, to my vital feeling, with a thousand things 
which they do not present actually, but which I know 
where to look for eventually, and how to await. 
Suppose a moment ago I heard a clap of thunder, loud 
and prolonged, but that the physical shock has sub 
sided and I am conscious of repose and silence. I 
may find some difficulty, although the thing was so 
recent, in rehearsing even now the exact volume, tone, 
and rumblings of that sound ; yet I know the theme 
perfectly, in the sense that when it thunders again, I 
can say with assurance whether the second crash was 
longer, louder, or differently modulated. In such a 
case I have no longer an intuition of the first thunder 
clap, but a memory of it which is knowledge ; and I 
can define on occasion, up to a certain point and not 
without some error, the essence given in that particular 
past intuition. Thus even pure essences can become 
objects of intent and of tentative knowledge when 
they are not present in intuition but are approached 
and posited indirectly, as the essences given on another 
particular occasion or signified by some particular word. 
The w r ord or the occasion are natural facts, and my 
knowledge is focussed upon them in the first instance 
by ordinary perception or conception of nature : and 
the essence I hope to recover is elicited gradually, 
imaginatively, perhaps incorrectly, at the suggestion 
of those assumed facts, according to my quickness of 



KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH 169 

wit, or my familiarity with the conventions of that 
art or science. In this way it becomes possible and 
necessary to learn about essences as if they were 
things, not initially by a spontaneous and complete 
intuition, but by coaxing the mind until possibly, at 
the end, it beholds them clearly. This is the sort 
of intuition which is mediated by language and by 
works of fine art ; also by logic and mathematics, as 
they are learned from teachers and out of books. It 
is not happy intuition of some casual datum : it is 
laborious recovery, up to a certain point, of the sort 
of essence somebody else may have intuited. Whereas 
intuition, which reveals an essence directly, is not 
knowledge, because it has no ulterior object, the 
designation of some essence by some sign does convey 
knowledge, to an intelligent pupil, of what that essence 
was. Obviously such divination of essences present 
elsewhere, so that they become present here also, in 
so far as it is knowledge, is trebly faith. Faith first 
in the document, as a genuine natural fact and not a 
vapid fancy of my own ; for instance, belief that 
there is a book called the Bible, really handed down 
from the ancient Jews and the early Christians, and 
that I have not merely dreamt of such a book. Faith 
then in the significance of that document, that it 
means some essence which it is not ; in this instance, 
belief that the sacred writers were not merely speaking 
with tongues but were signifying some intelligible 
points in history and philosophy. Faith finally in my 
success in interpreting that document correctly, so 
that the essences it suggests to me now are the very 
essences it expressed originally : in other words, the 
belief that when I read the Bible I understand it as 
it was meant, and not fantastically. 

I revert now to the question how it is possible to 
posit an object which is not a datum, and how without 
knowing positively what this object is I can make it 



i yo SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

the criterion of truth in my ideas. How can I test 
the accuracy of descriptions by referring them to a 
subject-matter which is not only out of view now but 
which probably has never been more than an object 
of intent, an event which even while it was occurring 
was described by me only in terms native to my fancy ? 
If I know a man only by reputation, how should I 
judge if the reputation is deserved ? If I know things 
only by representations, are not the representations 
the only things I know ? 

This challenge is fundamental, and so long as the 
assumptions which it makes are not challenged in 
turn, it drives critics of knowledge inexorably to 
scepticism of a dogmatic sort, I mean to the assertion 
that the very notion of knowledge is absurd. One 
assumption is that knowledge should be intuition : 
but I have already come to the conclusion that in 
tuition is not knowledge. So long as a knowledge is 
demanded that shall be intuition, the issue can only 
be laughter or despair ; for if I attain intuition, I 
have only a phantom object, and if I spurn that and 
turn to the facts, I have renounced intuition. This 
assumption alone suffices, therefore, to disprove the 
possibility of knowledge. But in case the force of 
this disproof escaped us, another assumption is at 
hand to despatch the business, namely, the assumption 
that in a true description if we grant knowledge by 
description the terms should be identical with the 
constituents of the object, so that the idea should 
look like the thing that it knows. This assumption 
is derived from the other, or is a timid form of it : for 
it is supposed that I know by intuiting my idea, and 
that unless that idea resembled the object I wish to 
know, I could not even by courtesy be said to have 
discovered the latter. But the intuition of an idea, 
let me repeat, is not knowledge ; and if a thing re 
sembling that idea happened to exist, my intuition 



KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH 171 

would still not be knowledge of it, but contemplation 
of the idea only. 

Plato and many other philosophers, being in love 
with intuition (for which alone they were perhaps 
designed by nature), have identified science with 
certitude, and consequently entirely condemned what 
I call knowledge (which is a form of animal faith) or 
relegated it to an inferior position, as something merely 
necessary for life. I myself have no passionate attach 
ment to existence, and value this world for the in 
tuitions it can suggest, rather than for the wilderness 
of facts that compose it. To turn away from it may 
be the deepest wisdom in the end. What better than 
to blow out the candle, and to bed ! But at noon this 
pleasure is premature. I can always hold it in reserve, 
and perhaps nihilism is a system the simplest of all 
on which we shall all agree in the end. But I seem 
to see very clearly now that in doing so we should all 
be missing the truth : not indeed by any false assertion, 
such as may separate us from the truth now, but by 
dumb ignorance a dumb ignorance which, when 
proposed as a solution to actual doubts, is the most 
radical of errors, since it ignores and virtually denies 
the pressure of those doubts, and their living presence. 
Accordingly, so long as I remain awake and the light 
burning, that total dogmatic scepticism is evidently an 
impossible attitude. It requires me to deny what I 
assert, not to mean what I mean, and (in the sense in 
which seeing is believing) not to believe what I see. 
If I wish, therefore, to formulate in any way my 
actual claim to knowledge a claim which life, and in 
particular memory, imposes upon me I must revise 
the premisses of this nihilism. For I have been led 
to it not by any accidental error, but by the logic of 
the assumption that knowledge should be intuition of 
fact. It is this presumption that must be revoked. 

Knowledge is no such thing. It is not intramental 



172 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

nor internal to experience. Not only does it not 
require me to compare two given terms and to find 
them similar or identical, but it positively excludes 
any intuitive possession of its object. Intuition sub 
sists beneath knowledge, as vegetative life subsists 
beneath animal life, and within it. Intuition may also 
supervene upon knowledge, when all I have learned of 
the universe, and all my concern for it, turn to a 
playful or a hypnotising phantom ; and any poet or 
philosopher, like any flower, is free to prefer intuition 
to knowledge. But in preferring intuition he prefers 
ignorance. Knowledge is knowledge because it has 
compulsory objects that pre-exist. It is incidental to 
the predicaments and labour of life : also to its 
masterful explorations and satirical moods. It is 
reflected from events as light is reflected from bodies. 
It expresses in discourse the modified habits of an 
active being, plastic to experience, and capable of 
readjusting its organic attitude to other things on the 
same material plane of being with itself. The place 
and the pertinent functions of these several things 
are indicated by the very attitude ot the animal who 
notices them ; this attitude, physical and practical, 
determines the object of intent, which discourse is 
about. 

When the proverbial child cries for the moon, is 
the object of his desire doubtful ? He points at it 
unmistakably ; yet the psychologist (not to speak of 
the child himself) would have some difficulty in re 
covering exactly the sensations and images, the gather 
ing demands and fumbling efforts, that traverse the 
child s mind while he points. Fortunately all this 
fluid sentience, even if it could be described, is ir 
relevant to the question ; for the child s sensuous 
experience is not his object. If it were, he would 
have attained it. What his object is, his fixed gaze 
and outstretched arm declare unequivocally. His 



KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH 173 

elders may say that he doesn t know what he wants, 
which is probably true of them also : that is, he has 
only a ridiculously false and inconstant idea of what 
the moon may be in itself. But his attention is 
arrested in a particular direction, his appetition flows 
the same way ; and if he may be said to know any 
thing, he knows there is something there which he 
would like to reach, which he would like to know 
better. He is a little philosopher ; and his knowledge, 
if less diversified and congealed, is exactly like science. 

The attitude of his body in pointing to the moon, 
and his tears, fill full his little mind, which not only 
reverberates to this physical passion, but probably 
observes it : and this felt attitude identifies the object 
of his desire and knowledge in the physical world. It 
determines what particular thing, in the same space 
and time with the child s body, was the object of that 
particular passion. If the object which the body is 
after is identified, that which the soul is after is 
identified too : no one, I suppose, would carry dualism 
so far as to assert that when the mouth waters at the 
sight of one particular plum, the soul may be yearning 
for quite another. 

The same bodily attitude of the child identifies the 
object in the discourse of an observer. In perceiving 
what his senses are excited by, and which way his 
endeavour is turned, I can see that the object of 
his desire is the moon, which I too am looking at. 
That I am looking at the same moon as he can be 
proved by a little triangulation : our glances converge 
upon it. If the child has reached the inquisitive age 
and asks " What is that ? " I understand what he 
means by " that " and am able to reply sapiently 
" That is the moon," only because our respective 
bodies, in one common space, are discoverably turned 
towards one material object, which is stimulating 
them simultaneously. Knowledge of discourse in 



174 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

other people, or of myself at other times, is what I 
call literary psychology. It is, or may be, in its 
texture, the most literal and adequate sort of knowledge 
of which a mind is capable. If I am a lover of children, 
and a good psycho-analyst, I may feel for a moment 
exactly as the child feels in looking at the moon : and 
I may know that I know his feeling, and very likely 
he too will know that I know it, and we shall become 
fast friends. But this rare adequacy of knowledge, 
attained by dramatic sympathy, goes out to an object 
which in its existence is known very indirectly : 
because poets and religious visionaries feel this sort 
of sympathy with all sorts of imaginary persons, of 
whose existence and thoughts they have only intuition, 
not knowledge. If I ask for evidence that such an 
object exists, and is not an alter ego of my private 
invention, I must appeal to my faith in nature, and 
to my conventional assumption that this child and I 
are animals of the same species, in the same habitat, 
looking at the same moon, and likely to have the same 
feelings : and finally the psychology of the tribe and 
the crowd may enable me half to understand how we 
know that we have the same feelings at once, when we 
actually share them. 

The attitude of the child s body also identifies the 
object for him, in his own subsequent discourse. He is 
not likely to forget a moon that he cried for. When in 
stretching his hand towards it he found he could not 
touch it, he learned that this bright good was not 
within his grasp, and he made a beginning in the 
experience of life. He also made a beginning in 
science, since he then added the absolutely true 
predicate " out of reach " to the rather questionable 
predicates " bright " and " good : (and perhaps 
" edible ") with which his first glimpse had supplied 
him. That active and mysterious thing, co-ordinate 
with himself, since it lay in the same world with his 



KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH 175 

body, and affected it the thing that attracted his 
hand, was evidently the very thing that eluded it. 
His failure would have had no meaning and would 
have taught him nothing that is, would not have 
corrected his instinctive reactions if the object he 
saw and the object he failed to reach had not been 
identical ; and certainly that object was not brightness 
nor goodness nor excitements in his brain or psyche, 
for these are not things he could ever have attempted 
or expected to touch. It is only things on the scale 
of the human senses and in the field of those instinctive 
reactions which sensation calls forth, that can be the 
primary objects of human knowledge : no other 
things can be discriminated at first by an animal 
mind, or can interest it, or can be meant and believed 
in by it. It is these instinctive reactions that select 
the objects of attention, designate their locus, and 
impose faith in their existence. But these reactions 
may be modified by experience, and the description 
the mind gives of the objects reacted upon can be 
revised, or the objects themselves discarded, and 
others discerned instead. Thus the child s instinct 
to touch the moon was as spontaneous and as confident 
at first as his instinct to look at it ; and the object of 
both efforts was the same, because the same external 
agency aroused them, and with them the very hetero 
geneous sensations of light and of disappointment. 
These various terms of sense or of discourse, by which 
the child described the object under whose attractions 
and rebuffs he was living, were merely symbols to him, 
like words. An animal naturally has as many signs 
for an object as he has sensations or emotions in its 
presence. These signs are miscellaneous essences 
sights, sounds, smells, contacts, tears, provocations 
and they are alternative or supplementary to one 
another, like words in different languages. The most 
diverse senses, such as smell and sight, if summoned 



176 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

to the same point in the environment, and guiding 
a single action, will report upon a single object. Even 
when one sense brings all the news I have, its reports 
will change from moment to moment with the distance, 
variation, or suspension of the connection between the 
object and my body : and this without any relevant 
change in the object itself. Nay, often the very 
transformation of the sensation bears witness that the 
object is unchanged ; as music and laughter, over 
heard as I pass a tavern, are felt and known to continue 
unabated, and to be no merriment of mine, just 
because they fade from my ears as I move away. 

The object of knowledge being that designated in 
this way by my bodily attitude, the aesthetic qualities 
I attribute to it will depend on the particular sense 
it happens to affect at the moment, or on the sweep 
and nature of the reaction which it then calls forth 
on my part. This diversity in signs and descriptions 
for a single thing is a normal diversity. Diversity, 
when it is not contradiction, irritates only unreasonably 
dogmatic people ; they are offended with nature for 
having a rich vocabulary, and sometimes speaking a 
language, or employing a syntax, which they never 
heard at home. It is an innocent prejudice, and it 
yields easily in a generous mind to pleasure at the 
wealth of alternatives which animal life affords. Even 
such contradictions as may arise in the description of 
things, and may truly demand a solution, reside in the 
implication of the terms, not in their sensuous or 
rhetorical diversity : they become contradictory only 
when they assign to the object contrary movements 
or contrary effects, not when they merely exhibit its 
various appearances. Looking at the moon, one man 
may call it simply a light in the sky ; another, prone 
to dreaming awake, may call it a virgin goddess ; a 
more observant person, remembering that this luminary 
is given to waxing and waning, may call it the crescent ; 



KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH 177 

and a fourth, a full-fledged astronomer, may say 
(taking the aesthetic essence before him merely for a 
sign) that it is an extinct and opaque spheroidal 
satellite of the earth, reflecting the light of the sun 
from a part of its surface. All these descriptions 
envisage the same object otherwise no relevance, 
conflict, or progress could obtain among them. What 
that object is in its complete constitution and history 
will never be known by man ; but that this object 
exists in a known space and time and has traceable 
physical relations with all other physical objects is a 
fact posited from the beginning ; it was posited by 
the child when he pointed, and by me when I saw 
him point. If it did not so exist and (as sometimes 
happens) he and I were suffering from a hallucination, 
in thinking we were pointing at the moon we should 
be discoverably pointing at vacancy : exploration 
would eventually satisfy us of that fact, and any by 
stander would vouch for it. But if in pointing at it 
we were pointing to it, its identity would be fixed 
without more ado ; disputes and discoveries concern 
ing it would be pertinent and soluble, no matter what 
diversity there might be in the ideal essences light, 
crescent, goddess, or satellite which we used as 
rival descriptions of it while we pointed. 

I find that the discrimination of essence brings a 
wonderful clearness into this subject. All data and 
descriptions light, crescent, goddess, or satellite- 
are equally essences, terms of human discourse, in- 
existent in themselves. What exists in any instance, 
besides the moon and our various reactions upon it, 
is some intuition, expressing those reactions, evoking 
that essence, and lending it a specious actuality. The 
terms of astronomy are essences no less human and 
visionary than those of mythology ; but they are the 
fruit of a better focussed, more chastened, and more 
prolonged attention turned upon what actually occurs ; 

N 



i 7 8 

that is, they are kept closer to animal faith, and freer 
from pictorial elements and the infusion of reverie. 
In myth, on the contrary, intuition wanders idly and 
uncontrolled ; it makes epicycles, as it were, upon the 
reflex arc of perception ; the moonbeams bewitch 
some sleeping Endymion, and he dreams of a swift 
huntress in heaven. Myth is nevertheless a relevant 
fancy, and genuinely expressive ; only instead of being 
guided by a perpetual fresh study of the object posited 
by animal faith and encountered in action, it runs into 
marginal comments, personal associations, and rhetori 
cal asides ; so that even if based originally on per 
ception, it is built upon principles internal to human 
discourse, as are grammar, rhyme, music, and morals. 
It may be admirable as an expression of these principles, 
and yet be egregiously false if asserted of the object, 
without discounting the human medium in which it 
has taken form. Diana is an exquisite symbol for the 
moon, and for one sort of human loveliness ; but she 
must not be credited with any existence over and above 
that of the moon, and of sundry short-skirted Dorian 
maidens. She is not other than they : she is an 
image of them, the best part of their essence distilled 
in a poet s mind. So with the description of the 
moon given by astronomers, which is not less fascinat 
ing ; this, too, is no added object, but only a new 
image for the moon known even to the child and me. 
The space, matter, gravitation, time, and laws of 
motion conceived by astronomers are essences only, 
and mere symbols for the use of animal faith, when 
very enlightened : I mean in so far as they are alleged 
to constitute knowledge of a world which I must bow 
to and encounter in action ; for if astronomy is content 
to be a mathematical exercise without any truth, an 
object of pure intuition, its terms and its laws will, of 
course, be ultimate realities, apart from what happens 
to exist : realities in the realm of essence. In the 



KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH 179 

description of the natural world, however, they are 
mere symbols, mediating animal faith. Science at 
any moment may recast or correct its conceptions (as 
it is doing now) giving them a different colour ; and 
the nerve of truth in them will be laid bare and made 
taut in proportion as the sensuous and rhetorical 
vesture of these notions is stripped off, and the dynamic 
relations of events, as found and posited by material 
exploration, are nakedly recorded. 

Knowledge accordingly is belief : belief in a world 
of events, and especially of those parts of it which are 
near the self, tempting or threatening it. This belief 
is native to animals, and precedes all deliberate use of 
intuitions as signs or descriptions of things ; as I turn 
my head to see who is there, before I see who it is. 
Furthermore, knowledge is true belief. It is such an 
enlightening of the self by intuitions arising there, 
that what the self imagines and asserts of the collateral 
thing, with which it wrestles in action, is actually 
true of that thing. Truth in such presumptions or 
conceptions does not imply adequacy, nor a pictorial 
identity between the essence in intuition and the 
constitution of the object. Discourse is a language, 
not a mirror. The images in sense are parts of dis 
course, not parts of nature : they are the babble of 
our innocent organs under the stimulus of things ; 
but these spontaneous images, like the sounds of the 
voice, may acquire the function of names ; they may 
become signs, if discourse is intelligent and can re 
capitulate its phases, for the things sought or en 
countered in the world. The truth which discourse 
can achieve is truth in its own terms, appropriate 
description : it is no incorporation or reproduction 
of the object in the mind. The mind notices and 
intends ; it cannot incorporate or reproduce anything 
not an intention or an intuition. Its objects are no 
part of itself even when they are essences, much less 



i8o SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

when they are things. It thinks the essences, with 
that sort of immediate and self-forgetful attention 
which I have been calling intuition ; and if it is 
animated, as it usually is, by some ulterior interest or 
pursuit, it takes the essences before it for messages, 
signs, or emanations sent forth to it from those objects 
of animal faith ; and they become its evidences and 
its description for those objects. Therefore any degree 
of inadequacy and originality is tolerable in discourse, 
or even requisite, when the constitution of the objects 
which the animal encounters is out of scale with his 
organs, or quite heterogeneous from his possible 
images. A sensation or a theory, no matter how 
arbitrary its terms (and all language is perfectly 
arbitrary), will be true of the object, if it expresses 
some true relation in which that object stands to the 
self, so that these terms are not misleading as signs, 
however poetical they may be as sounds or as pictures. 

Finally, knowledge is true belief grounded in 
experience, I mean, controlled by outer facts. It is 
not true by accident ; it is not shot into the air on the 
chance that there may be something it may hit. It 
arises by a movement of the self sympathetic or 
responsive to surrounding beings, so that these beings 
become its intended objects, and at the same time an 
appropriate correspondence tends to be established 
between these objects and the beliefs generated under 
their influence. 

In regard to the original articles of the animal 
creed that there is a world, that there is a future, 
that things sought can be found, and things seen can 
be eaten no guarantee can possibly be offered. I 
am sure these dogmas are often false ; and perhaps 
the event will some day falsify them all, and they will 
lapse altogether. But while life lasts, in one form or 
another this faith must endure. It is the initial 
expression of animal vitality in the sphere of mind, 



KNOWLEDGE IS FAITH 181 

the first announcement that anything is going on. 
It is involved in any pang of hunger, of fear, or of love. 
It launches the adventure of knowledge. The object 
of this tentative knowledge is things in general, what 
soever may be at work (as I am) to disturb me or 
awake my attention. The effort of knowledge is to 
discover what sort of world this disturbing world 
happens to be. Progress in knowledge lies open in 
various directions, now in the scope of its survey, now 
in its accuracy, now in its depth of local penetration. 
The ideal of knowledge is to become natural science : 
if it trespasses beyond that, it relapses into intuition, 
and ceases to be knowledge. 



CHAPTER XIX 

BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 

ALL knowledge, being faith in an object posited and 
partially described, is belief in substance, in the 
etymological sense of this word ; it is belief in a thing 
or event subsisting in its own plane, and waiting for 
the light of knowledge to explore it eventually, and 
perhaps name or define it. In this way my whole 
past lies waiting for memory to review it, if I have 
this faculty ; and the whole future of the world in 
the same manner is spread out for prophecy, scientific 
or visionary, to predict falsely or truly. Yet the 
future and the past are not ordinarily called sub 
stances ; probably because the same material substance 
is assumed to run through both. Nevertheless, from 
the point of view of knowledge, every event, even if 
wholly psychological or phenomenal, is a substance. 
It is a self-existing fact, open to description from the 
point of view of other events, if in the bosom of these 
other events there is such plasticity and intent as are 
requisite for perception, prophecy, or memory. 

When modern philosophers deny material sub 
stance, they make substances out of the sensations or 
ideas which they regard as ultimate facts. It is 
impossible to eliminate belief in substance so long as 
belief in existence is retained. A mistrust in existence, 
and therefore in substance, is not unphilosophical ; 
but modern philosophers have not given full expression 

182 



BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 183 

to this sceptical scruple. They have seldom been 
disinterested critics, but often advocates of some 
metaphysic that allured them, and whose rivals they 
wished to destroy. They deny substance in favour 
of phenomena, which are hypostatised essences, because 
phenomena are individually wholly open to intuition ; 
but they forget that no phenomenon can intuit another, 
and that if it contains knowledge of that other, it 
must be animated by intent, and besides existing itself 
substantially must recognise its object as another 
substance, indifferent in its own being to the cognisance 
which other substances may take of it. In other words, 
although each phenomenon in passing is an object of 
intuition, all absent phenomena, and all their relations, 
are objects of faith ; and this faith must be mediated 
by some feature in the present phenomenon which 
faith assumes to be a sign of the existence of other 
phenomena elsewhere, and of their order. So that 
in so far as the instinctive claims and transcendent 
scope of knowledge are concerned, phenomenalism fully 
retains the belief in substance. In order to get rid 
of this belief, which is certainly obnoxious to the 
sceptic, a disinterested critic would need to discard 
all claims to knowledge, and to deny his own existence 
and that of all absent phenomena. 

For my own part, having admitted discourse 
(which involves time and existences deployed in time, 
but synthesised in retrospect), and having admitted 
shocks that interrupt discourse and lead it to regard 
itself as an experience, and having even admitted that 
such experience involves a self beneath discourse, with 
an existence and movement of its own I need not 
be deterred by any a priori objections from believing 
in substance of any sort. For me it will be simply 
a question of good sense and circumstantial evidence 
how many substances I admit, and of what sort. 

In the genesis of human knowledge (which I am 



1 84 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

not attempting to trace here) the substance first posited 
is doubtless matter, some alluring or threatening or 
tormenting thing. The ego, as Fichte tells us, un 
aware of itself, posits a non-ego, and then by reflection 
posits itself as the agent in that positing, or as the 
patient which the activity posited in the non-ego posits 
in its turn. But all this positing \vould be mere folly, 
unless it was an intelligent discovery of antecedent 
facts. Why should a non-existent ego be troubled 
with the delirious duty of positing anything at all ? 
And, if nothing else exists, what difference could it 
make what sort of a world the ego posited, or whether 
it posited a thousand inconsequential worlds, at once 
or in succession ? Fichte, however, was far from 
sharing that absolute freedom in madness which he 
attributes to the creative ego ; he had a very tight 
tense mind, and posited a very tense tight world. 
His myths about the birth of knowledge (or rather of 
systematic imagination) out of unconscious egos, acts, 
and positings concealed some modest truths about 
nature. The actual datum has a background, and 
Fichte was too wise to ignore so tremendous a fact. 
Romantic philosophy, like romantic poetry, has its 
profound ways of recognising its own folly, and so 
turning it into tragic wisdom. As a matter of fact, 
the active ego is an animal living in a material world ; 
both the ego and the non-ego exist substantially before 
acquiring this relation of positing and being posited. 
The instinct and ability to posit objects, and the 
occasion for doing so, are incidents in the develop 
ment of animal life. Positing is a symptom of sensi 
bility in an organism to the presence of other sub 
stances in its environment. The sceptic, like the sick 
man, is intent on the symptom ; and positing is his 
name for felt plasticity in his animal responses. It is 
not a bad name ; because plasticity, though it may 
seem a passive thing, is really a spontaneous quality. 



BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 185 

If the substance of the ego were not alive, it would not 
leap to meet its opportunities, it would not develop 
new organs to serve its old necessities, and it would 
not kindle itself to intuition of essences, nor concern 
itself to regard those essences as appearances of the 
substances with which it was wrestling. The whole 
life of imagination and knowledge comes from within, 
from the restlessness, eagerness, curiosity, and terror 
of the animal bent on hunting, feeding, and breeding ; 
and the throb of being which he experiences at any 
moment is not proper to the datum in his mind s eye 
a purely fantastic essence but to himself. It is 
out of his organism or its central part, the psyche, 
that this datum has been bred. The living substance 
within him being bent, in the first instance, on pur 
suing or avoiding some agency in its environment, it 
projects whatever (in consequence of its reactions) 
reaches its consciousness into the locus whence it feels 
the stimulus to come, and it thus frames its description 
or knowledge of objects. In this way the ego really 
and sagaciously posits the non-ego : not absolutely, 
as Fichte imagined, nor by a gratuitous fiat, but on 
occasion and for the best of reasons, when the non- 
ego in its might shakes the ego out of its primitive 
somnolence. 

Belief in substance is accordingly identical with 
the claim to knowledge, and so fundamental that no 
evidence can be adduced for it which does not pre 
suppose it. In recognising any appearance as a witness 
to substance and in admitting (or even in rejecting) 
the validity of such testimony, I have already made a 
substance of the appearance ; and if I admit other 
phenomena as well, I have placed that substance in 
a world of substances having a substantial unity. It 
is not to external pressure, through evidence or 
argument, that faith in substance is due. If the 
sceptic cannot find it in himself, he will never find it. 



1 86 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

I for one will honour him in his sincerity and in his 
solitude. But I will not honour him, nor think him 
a philosopher, if he is a sceptic only histrionically, in 
the wretched controversies of the schools, and believes 
in substance again when off the stage. I am not 
concerned about make-believe philosophies, but about 
my actual beliefs. It is only out of his own mouth, 
or rather out of his own heart, that I should care to 
convince the sceptic. Scepticism, if it could be 
sincere, would be the best of philosophies. But I 
suspect that other sceptics, as well as I, always believe 
in substance, and that their denial of it is sheer sophistry 
and the weaving of verbal arguments in which their 
most familiar and massive convictions are ignored. 

It might seem ignominious to believe something on 
compulsion, because I can t help believing it ; when 
reason awakes in a man it asks for reasons for every 
thing. Yet this demand is unreasonable : there 
cannot be a reason for everything. It is mere auto 
matic habit in the philosopher to make this demand, 
as it is in the common man not to make it. When 
once I have admitted the facts of nature, and taken 
for granted the character of animal life, and the in 
carnation of spirit in this animal life, then indeed 
many excellent reasons for the belief in substance will 
appear ; and not only reasons for using the category 
of substance, and positing substance of some vague 
ambient sort, but reasons for believing in a substance 
rather elaborately defined and scientifically describable 
in many of its habits and properties. But I am not 
yet ready for that. Lest that investigation, when 
undertaken, should ignore its foundations or be 
impatient of its limits, I must insist here that trust in 
knowledge, and belief in anything to know, are merely 
instinctive and, in a manner, pathological. If philo 
sophy were something prior to convention rather 
than (as it is) only convention made consistent and 



BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 187 

deliberate, philosophy ought to reject belief in sub 
stance and in knowledge, and to entrench itself in the 
sheer confession and analysis of this belief, as of all 
others, without assenting to any of them. But I have 
found that criticism has no first principle, that analysis 
involves belief in discourse, and that belief in dis 
course involves belief in substance ; so that any pre 
tensions which criticism might set up to being more 
profound than common sense would be false pre 
tensions. Criticism is only an exercise of reflective 
fancy, on the plane of literary psychology, an after 
image of that faith in nature which it denies ; and in 
dwelling on criticism as if it were more than a sub 
jective perspective or play of logical optics, I should 
be renouncing all serious philosophy. Philosophy is 
nothing if not honest ; and the critical attitude, when 
it refuses to rest at some point upon vulgar faith, 
inhibits all belief, denies all claims to knowledge, and 
becomes dishonest ; because it itself claims to know. 

Does the process of experience, now that I trust 
my memory to report it truly, or does the existence of 
the self, now that I admit its substantial, dynamic, and 
obscure life underlying discourse, require me to posit 
any other substances ? Certainly it does. Experi 
ence, for animal faith, begins by reporting what is not 
experience ; and the life of the self, if I accept its 
endeavours as significant, implies an equally sub 
stantial, dynamic, ill-reported world around it, in 
whose movements it is implicated. In conveying this 
feeling, as in all else, experience might be pure illusion ; 
but if I reject this initial and fundamental suasion of 
my cognitive life, it will be hard to find anything 
better to put in its place. I am unwilling to do myself 
so much useless violence as to deny the validity of 
primary memory, and assert that I have never, in 
fact, had any experience at all ; and I should be doing 
myself even greater violence if I denied the validity 



1 88 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

of perception, and asserted that a thunder-clap, for 
instance, was only a musical chord, with no formidable 
event of any sort going on behind the sound. To be 
startled is to be aware that something sudden and 
mysterious has occurred not far from me in space. 
The thunder-clap is felt to be an event in the self and 
in the not-self, even before its nature as a sound its 
aesthetic quality for the self is recognised at all ; I 
first know I am shaken horribly, and then note how 
loud and rumbling is the voice of the god that shakes 
me. That first feeling of something violent and resist 
less happening in the world at large, is accompanied 
by a hardly less primitive sense of something gently 
seething within me, a smouldering life which that 
alien energy blows upon and causes to start into 
flame. 

If this be not the inmost texture of experience, I 
do not know what experience is. To me experience 
has not a string of sensations for its objects ; what it 
brings me is not at all a picture-gallery of clear images, 
with nothing before, behind, or between them. What 
such a ridiculous psychology (made apparently by 
studying the dictionary and not by studying the mind) 
calls hypotheses, intellectual fictions, or tendencies 
to feign, is the solid body of experience, on which 
what it calls sensations or ideas hang like flimsy 
garments or trinkets, or play like a shifting light 
and shade. Experience brings belief in substance 
(as alertness) before it brings intuition of essences ; it 
is appetition before it is description. Of course 
sensation would precede idea, if by sensation we 
understood contact with matter, and by idea pure 
reverie about ideal things ; but if idea means expecta 
tion, or consciousness having intent, and if sensation 
means aesthetic contemplation of data without belief, 
then idea precedes sensation : because an animal is 
aware that something is happening long before he 



BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 189 

can say to himself what that something is, or what it 
looks like. The ultimate datum to which a sceptic 
may retreat, when he suspends all life and opinion, 
some essence, pure and non-existent and out of all 
relation to minds, bodies, or events surely that is 
not the stuff out of which experience is woven : it is 
but the pattern or picture, the aesthetic image, which 
the tapestry may ultimately offer to the gazing eye, 
incurious of origins, and contemptuous of substance. 
The radical stuff of experience is much rather breath- 
lessness, or pulsation, or as Locke said (correcting 
himself) a certain uneasiness ; a lingering thrill, the 
resonance of that much-struck bell which I call my 
body, the continual assault of some masked enemy, 
masked perhaps in beauty, or of some strange sym 
pathetic influence, like the cries and motions of other 
creatures ; and also the hastening and rising of some 
impulse in me in response. Experience, at its very 
inception, is a revelation of things ; and these things, 
before they are otherwise distinguished, are dis 
tinguishable into a here and a there, a now and a then, 
nature and myself in the midst of nature. 

It is a mere prejudice of literary psychology, which 
uses the grammar of adult discourse, like a mythology, 
in which to render primitive experience it is a mere 
prejudice to suppose that experience has only such 
categories as colour, sound, touch, and smell. These 
essences are distinguished eventually because the 
senses that present them can be separated at will, the 
element each happens to furnish being thus flashed 
on or cut off, like an electric light : but far more 
primitive in animal experience are such dichotomies 
as good and bad, near and far, coming and going, fast 
and slow, just now and very soon. The first thing 
experience reports is the existence of something, 
merely as existence, the weight, strain, danger, and 
lapse of being. If any one should tell me that this 



1 9 o SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

is an abstraction, I should reply that it would seem 
an abstraction to a parrot, who used human words 
without having human experience, but it is no abstrac 
tion to a man, whose language utters imperfectly, 
and by a superadded articulation, the life within him. 
Aristotle, who so often seems merely grammatical, 
was not merely grammatical when he chose substance 
to be the first of his categories. He was far more 
profoundly psychological in this than the British and 
German psychologists who discard the notion of 
substance because it is not the datum of any separate 
sense. None of the separate data of sense, which are 
only essences, would figure at all in an experience, or 
would become terms in knowledge, if a prior interest 
and faith did not apprehend them. Animal watchful 
ness, lying in wait for the signals of the special senses, 
lends them their significance, sets them in their places, 
and retains them, as descriptions of things, and as 
symbols in its ow r n ulterior discourse. 

This animal watchfulness carries the category of 
substance with it, asserts existence most vehemently, 
and in apprehension seizes and throws on the dark 
screen of substance every essence it may descry. To 
grope, to blink, to dodge a blow, or to return it, is to 
have very radical and specific experiences, but probably 
without one assignable image of the outer senses. 
Yet a nameless essence, the sense of a moving existence, 
is there most intensely present ; and a man would be 
a shameless, because an insincere, sceptic, who should 
maintain that this experience exists in vacuo, and does 
not express, as it feels it does, the operation of a 
missile flying, and the reaction of a body threatened 
or hit : motions in substance anterior to the experience, 
and rich in properties and powers which no experience 
will ever fathom. 

Belief in substance, taken transcendentally, as a 
critic of knowledge must take it, is the most irrational, 



BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 191 

animal, and primitive of beliefs : it is the voice of 
hunger. But when, as I must, I have yielded to this 
presumption, and proceeded to explore the world, I 
shall find in its constitution the most beautiful justifica 
tion for my initial faith, and the proof of its secret 
rationality. This corroboration will not have any 
logical force, since it will be only pragmatic, based on 
begging the question, and perhaps only a bribe offered 
by fortune to confirm my illusions. The force of the 
corroboration will be merely moral, showing me how 
appropriate and harmonious with the nature of things 
such a blind belief was on my part. How else should 
the truth have been revealed to me at all ? Truth 
and blindness, in such a case, are correlatives, since 
I am a sensitive creature surrounded by a universe 
utterly out of scale with myself : I must, therefore, 
address it questioningly but trustfully, and it must 
reply to me in my own terms, in symbols and parables, 
that only gradually enlarge my childish perceptions. 
It is as if Substance said to Knowledge : My child, 
there is a great world for thee to conquer, but it is a 
vast, an ancient, and a recalcitrant world. It yields 
wonderful treasures to courage, when courage is 
guided by art and respects the limits set to it by 
nature. I should not have been so cruel as to give 
thee birth, if there had been nothing for thee to 
master ; but having first prepared the field, I set in 
thy heart the love of adventure. 



CHAPTER XX 

ON SOME OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 

ACCORDING to those philosophers who look for the 
foundations of the universe in their own minds, 
substance is but a dead and fantastic thing a ghost 
or abstracted shadow of many sensations, impossibly 
fused and objectified. These philosophers, in their 
intense introspection, try to catch thought alive, and 
the nearer they come to doing so, the more unstable 
and unsubstantial they find it to be. It exists only 
in the act of dominating or positing or meaning some 
thing ; and before this something can be specified 
exhaustively, something else has taken its place, the 
limits of vision having expanded or its centre shifted. 
Such self-observation may be profound, or at least 
sincere, although what is true of life in one animal or 
at one moment might well be false of life in another 
instance, and mere nonsense to a different mind. In 
myself, I find experience so volatile that no insistence 
on its unsubstantial flux, maniacally creative, seems to 
me exaggerated. But before such observations of life 
in the quick can be turned into arguments against the 
existence of substance, three assumptions must be 
made silently, all three of which are false : first, that 
thought observes itself ; secondly, that if thought is 
itself in flux it can observe nothing permanent ; and 
lastly, that if direct observation offered no illustration 

192 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 193 

of the permanent, nothing permanent could exist in 
fact, or could be reasonably believed to exist. 

In the first place, living thought is so far from 
observing itself, that some philosophers deny its 
existence, and the others find the greatest difficulty in 
distinguishing it from its various objects. The terms 
of pure thought, in which observation is couched and 
in which it rests, I have found to be not thoughts but 
essences ; and the objects of thought, when thought 
relapses into its animal form of belief, are again not 
thoughts but things. If later I contrast the order, 
rate, and natural locus of discourse with the move 
ment of events in general which discourse is consider 
ing, I may begin to understand what a curious thing 
discourse is, and to have assurance of its existence. 
The introspection into which I may ultimately plunge, 
when I seem to be creating the world as I think it, is a 
violently artificial exercise, in which the wheels of life 
are reversed ; and the knowledge I thus gain of my 
imaginative operations would itself be sheer raving, 
creating a dream about dreaming, unless these opera 
tions were domiciled in a natural being, and expressed 
his history and vulgar situation in the natural world ; 
so that my eventual description, or rather dramatic 
reconstruction, of my own experience, is one of the 
latest forms of my knowledge, and its object one 
of the most derivative and insecure. It is a theme 
for literary psychology, of which transcendental self- 
consciousness, or autobiography, is one variety. 

In the second place, permanence rather than change 
is native to the prime objects of thought. The only 
data observable directly are essences absolutely im 
mutable in their nature, even if the one observed 
happens to be the essence of change ; since even this, 
so long as it is present at all, presents change and 
nothing but change for ever. Attention of course is 
continually drawn from one essence to another ; but 

o 



i 9 4 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

this inconstancy in intuition could not be noticed, 
and could not actually exist, if the essence which drops 
out of view and that which succeeds it were not 
different, and each, therefore, always itself. Further 
more, granting that an animal mind is probably 
always changing in some respect, it by no means 
follows that no essence can be retained for more than 
one instant under the light of attention. On the 
contrary, change that was complete, and that sub 
stituted one totally new object for another totally 
destroyed, would afford no inkling of its own existence: 
only the permanent would ever appear to the mind. 
What happens is that some detail changes in a field 
that does not change, and for that reason the new 
element attracts attention, surprise, or joy. To hold 
something fast, to watch, to stare, to wait and lie low 
in the presence of a felt incubus, are primitive ex 
periences ; and the length of crawling time through 
which a strain endures is a conspicuous feature in 
sensation, especially in pain. This sense of duration 
doubtless involves the sense of something changing at 
the same time of something coming or continuing 
to come as it threatened or as it was demanded of 
some pulse of feeling recurring and mounting towards 
increased potency or increased fatigue. Yet in all this 
setting of cumulative change (which is but a per 
spective in the fancy) there often shines a fixed focus 
of interest ; and the sense of something which lasts, 
and which remains itself whether I approach or elude 
it, is one of the first and loudest notes of awareness. 
Perhaps, when my mood is clear and musical, there is 
some permanent essence clearly revealed that arouses 
my curiosity and wonder ; or when the stream runs 
thick and turbid, the obscure life of the psyche itself 
rises to the surface, and yields the primary criterion 
of happiness and naturalness in events. In either case 
in mastering, recognising, and positing what I find 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 195 

or what I want, I know the beginnings of speculative 
joy and of participation in eternity. The flux touches 
the eternal at the top of every wave. Whatever 
thwarts this achievement, or disturbs the deep rhythms 
of the life slumbering beneath, seems illegitimate ; and 
until acquisitive or sexual impulses are aroused, the 
dozing animal counts on a perpetual well-being, and 
any change seems to it as hateful as it is incredible. 

In this way change itself, when it is rhythmic and 
regular, wears to intuition the form of sustained being. 
The life of the body, by its latent operation, sets a 
measure and scale for the duration of any passing 
vision. There is an ever-present background felt as 
permanent, myself always myself ; and there is a 
large identity in the universe also, familiar and limited 
in spite of its agitation, like a cage full of birds. Every 
thing seems to be more or less prolonged ; comfort, 
digestive warmth, the past still simmering, the brood 
ing potentiality of things to come, shaping themselves 
in fancy before they have occurred. Both sleep and 
watchfulness are long drawn out, so is the very sense 
of movement. Though change be everywhere, it 
remains everywhere strange and radically unwelcome : 
for even when, as in destructive passion or impatience, 
it is imperatively sought, it is sought as an escape 
from an uncomfortable posture, in the hope of restor 
ing a steady life, and resting in safety. 

Thus the notion of permanence behind change 
which is a chief element in the notion of substance- 
is trebly rooted in experience ; because every essence 
that appears is eternally what it is ; because many 
congenial images and feelings appear lastingly ; and 
because whatever interrupts the even flow and luxurious 
monotony of organic life is odious to the primeval 
animal. 

In the third place, even if direct experience did 
not illustrate the permanent, the order of events when 



196 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

reflected on would suggest and impose a belief in it. 
I reserve for another occasion all discussion of the 
laws of nature or of the constant quantities of matter 
or energy : the most ordinary recognition of things 
being as they were, and remaining always at hand, 
posits their substantial nature. Suppose all intuition 
was instantaneous ; and in one sense it may be said 
always to be so, because specious durations have no 
common scale, and the most prolonged may be treated 
as a single moment, as the dome of St. Peter s may 
be seen through a keyhole. Instantaneous intuition, 
when suspended, may be suspended only for a moment, 
and instantly recovered, as when I blink. Such brief 
interruptions to perception are bridged over in primary 
memory, and do not break the specious identity and 
continuity of the object. It does not follow, however, 
that the interruption is not felt. On the contrary, it 
is felt and resented just because beneath it the object 
is sensibly continuous. There is a stock optical 
experiment in which a pencil is made to cross the field 
of vision between the eye and a book, without ever 
hiding any part of the page. What binocular vision 
does in that instance, the persistence of impressions 
does in the case of an intermittent stimulus. The 
interruption is startling and obvious, but the con 
tinuity of the object is obvious too. This experience 
may be repeated on a larger scale. The psyche, being 
surrounded by substances, is adapted to them, and 
does not suspend her adjustments or her beliefs when 
ever her sensations are interrupted. Children recog 
nise and identify things and persons more readily than 
they distinguish them. As intuition is addressed to 
terms in discourse which are eternal in their nature, 
though the intuition of them is desultory, so faith 
and art are addressed to habits in substance, which 
without arresting the perpetual and pervasive flux 
of experience (nor perhaps that of substance itself) 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 197 

manifest its dynamic permanence ; and, of course, it 
is on its dynamic side, not pictorially or intuitively, 
that substance is conceived, posited, measured, and 
trusted. 

Hence the discovery, big with scientific con 
sequences, that an existing thing may endure un 
changed, although my experience of it be intermittent. 
The object of these recurrent observations is not 
conceived, as a sophistical psychology would have it, 
by feigning that the observations are not discrete. 
Every one knows, when he shuts and opens his eyes, 
that his vision has been interrupted ; the interruption 
is the point of the game. The notion that the thing 
persists was there from the beginning ; until I blinked, 
I had found it persisting, and I find it persisting still 
after I open my eyes again. In considering the 
fortunes of the object posited, I simply discard the 
interruption, as voluntary and due to a change in 
myself which I can repeat at will. In spontaneous 
thought I never confuse the changes which the thing 
may undergo in its own being with the variations in 
niy attention nor (when I have a little experience) with 
shifts in my perspectives. I therefore recognise it to 
be permanent in relation to my intermittent glimpses 
of it ; and this without in the least confusing or fusing 
my different views, or supposing them to be other 
than discrete and perhaps instantaneous. 

On the same principle, as education advances, a 
thing which stimulates different senses at once or 
successively is easily recognised to be the same object ; 
and this, again, is done without in the least fusing or 
confusing colour with hardness or sound with shape. 
And with the growth of the arts and of experience of 
the world, the persisting and continuous engine of 
nature is clearly conceived as the common object 
which all my senses and all my theories describe in 
their special languages at their several awakenings. 



198 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

That the syllables are broken does not make their 
messages conflicting ; on the contrary, they supple 
ment one another s blindness, and correct one another s 
exuberance. Substance was their common object 
from the beginning, faith in substance not being a 
consequence of reasoning .about appearances, but an 
implication of action, and a conviction native to 
hunger, fear, feeding, and fighting ; as an aid and 
guide to which the organs of the outer senses are 
developed, and rapidly paint their various symbols in 
the mind. The euphony and syntax of sense, far from 
disproving the existence of substance, arise and change 
in the act of expressing its movement, and especially 
the responsive organisation of that part of it which is 
myself. 

So much for the objections to the belief in substance 
which may be raised from the point of view of self- 
consciousness, when this is regarded as the principle 
of knowledge or even of universal existence, neither 
of which it is. 

Objections to the belief in substance may also come 
from a different quarter (or one ostensibly different), 
in the name of critical sense and economy in the inter 
pretation of appearances. Suppose, the empiricist 
may say, that your substance exists : how does it help 
you to explain anything ? You never have seen, and 
you never will see, anything but appearances. If you 
trust your memory (as it is reasonable to do, since you 
must, if you are to play the game of discourse at all) 
you may assume that appearances have come in a 
certain order ; and if you trust expectation (for the 
same bad reason) you may assume that they will come 
in somewhat the same order in future. These assump 
tions are not founded on any proof or on any real 
probability, but it is intelligible that you should make 
them, because the mind can hardly be asked to dis 
credit its vistas, when it has nothing else by which 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 199 

to criticise them. But why should you interpolate 
amongst appearances, or posit behind them, some 
thing that you can never find ? That seems a gratuitous 
fiction, and at best a hypostasis of grammar and names. 
You want a substance because you use substantives, 
or because your verbal logic talks in subjects and 
predicates. 

But let us grant, the empiricist will go on, that 
your substance is possible, since everything is possible 
where ignorance is complete. In what terms can you 
conceive it, save in terms of appearance ? Or if you 
say it exists unconceived, or is inconceivable, it will 
simply encumber your philosophy with a metaphysical 
world, in addition to the given one, and with the 
hopeless problem of relating the two. 

These empirical objections to the belief in substance 
might in strictness be ruled out, since (in so far as 
they deny substance) they rest on the same romantic 
view of self-consciousness as the source of knowledge 
and being as do the transcendental objections just 
considered. Empiricism, however, has the advantage 
of being less resolute in folly. Such terms as appear 
ance, phenomenon, given fact (meaning given essence 
plus thing posited), and perception (meaning intuition 
plus belief) are all used sophistically to cover the 
muddles of introspection. They are not analysed 
critically, but are allowed to retain in solution many 
of the assumptions of common sense. The essence 
given is confused with the intuition of it which is 
not given, but which common sense knows is im 
plicated. This intuition is then confused with the 
belief, prompted by animal impulse and, for analysis, 
utterly gratuitous, that a thing or event exists definable 
by the essence given. This belief finally is confused 
with the existence of its object, which it merely posits 
and cannot witness. This object, in psychological 
idealism, is some ulterior intuition or (as it is called 



200 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

by common sense, which assumes a material object 
producing it) some ulterior perception. But it is 
utterly impossible that one perception should perceive 
another, and it is improper to call an intuition a per 
ception when it has no existing object. 

In consequence of this halting criticism of im 
mediate experience, empiricism admits the existence 
of many feelings or ideas deployed in time and referred 
to in memory and in social intercourse ; and in 
admitting this (let me repeat) it admits substance in 
principle. Such a flux of feelings or ideas is a per 
manent hidden substance for purposes of knowledge, 
even if each of them, being a momentary life, might 
not be called by that name. Each feeling or idea is 
substantial, however, in respect to any memory or 
theory, contained in some other moment, which may 
refer to it ; and this memory or theory is an appear 
ance of that substantial but remote fact. 

Let us suppose that David Hume, in spite of his 
corpulence, was nothing but a train of ideas. Some 
of these composed his philosophy, and I, when I 
endeavour to learn what it was, create in my own mind 
a fresh train of ideas which refer to those in the mind 
of Hume : and for me his opinions are a substance 
of which my apprehension is an appearance. My 
apprehension, in this case, is conceived to be an 
apprehension of a matter of fact, namely, the substance 
of Hume at some date ; and in studying his philosophy 
I am learning nothing but history. This is an im 
plication of empiricism, but is not true to the facts. 
For when I try to conceive the philosophy of Hume I 
am not considering any particular ideas which may 
have constituted Hume at one moment of his career ; 
I am considering an essence, his total system, as it 
would appear when the essences present in his various 
reflective moments are collated ; and, therefore, I am 
really studying and learning a system of philosophy, 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 201 

not the presumable condition of a dead man s mind 
at various historical moments. 

If empiricists were a little more sceptical, they 
would perceive that in admitting knowledge of historical 
facts they have admitted the principle that the beliefs 
they call ideas may report the existence of natural 
substances. If the substance of this world is a flux, 
and even a flux of feelings, it is none the less sub 
stantial, like the fire of Heraclitus, and the existing 
object of such ideas as may describe it. But this 
reasonable faith is obscured by the confusions I 
mentioned above. The empiricist forgets that he is 
asserting the existence of outlying facts, because he 
half identifies them with the living fact of his present 
belief in them : and, further, because he identifies 
this living fact, his belief now, with the essence which 
it is attributing to those remote existences. He thinks 
he believes only what he sees, but he is much better 
at believing than at seeing. 

Apart from this unconscious admission of the 
existence of substances, the empirical objections to 
substance in the singular express a distrust of meta 
physics with which I sympathise, and they show a 
love of home truths which deserves to be satisfied. 

In the first place, the substance in which I am 
proposing to believe is not metaphysical but physical 
substance. It is the varied stuff of the world which 
I meet in action the wood of this tree I am felling, 
the wind that is stirring its branches, the flesh and 
bones of the man who is jumping out of the way. 
Belief in substance is not imported into animal per 
ception by language or by philosophy, but is the soul 
of animal perception from the beginning, and the 
perpetual deliverance of animal experience. Later, as 
animal attention is clarified, and animal experience 
progresses, the description of these obvious substances 
may be refined : the tree, the wind, and the man may 



202 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

reveal their elements and genesis to more patient 
observation, and the first aspect they wore may be 
found to be a fused and composite appearance of 
many elaborate processes within them. But the more 
diffused substances in operation which I shall then 
come upon will be simply the constituents of the tree, 
the wind, and the man ; they will be just as truly 
(though more calculably) the realities I confront and 
may use in action. They will be just as open to 
perception, although instruments or hypotheses may 
be required to extend the accidental range of my 
senses in observing them ; and they will be just as 
much substances and not essences, that is, objects of 
belief posited in action, not images given in intuition. 
My notions of substance will therefore be subject to 
error, and capable of reform : I may arrive at the 
belief that earth, air, water, and fire are the substances 
in all things ; later I may discover that fire is not a 
substance, but a form of motion ; for earth, air, and 
water I may come to substitute the four or five score 
elements of chemistry, or more or less ; and I may 
remain in doubt whether light and space and ether 
are substances or not. But all these opinions would 
be equally fantastic, and equally devoid of truth or 
falsehood, if there were no substance before me in 
the first instance which I was attempting to describe. 

By a substance I understand what modern philo 
sophers often call an "independent object" a most 
unfortunate phrase, because precisely at the moment 
when a substance or an essence becomes my object, 
by becoming the theme of my discourse, it ceases to 
be independent of me in that capacity : and when this 
happens, before the cognitive relation between me 
and my object is established, a dynamic relation has 
probably arisen between the substance of that object 
and the substance of myself, causing me to make that 
intrusive substance the object of my attention. When 



a thing becomes my object it becomes dependent on 
me ideally, for being known, and I am probably, 
directly or indirectly, dependent on it materially, for 
having been led to know it. What is independent of 
knowledge is substance, in that it has a place, move 
ment, origin, and destiny of its own, no matter what 
I may think or fail to think about it. This self- 
existence is what the name object jeopardises, and 
what the name substance indicates and asserts. 

If abuses of language were not inevitable, I should 
be tempted to urge philosophers to revert to the 
etymological and scholastic sense of the words object 
and objective, making them refer to whatever is placed 
before the mind, as a target to be aimed at by attention. 
Objective would then mean present to imagination ; 
and things would become objects of thought in the 
same incidental way in which they become objects of 
desire. But I will content myself with returning in 
my own person to the correct use of the word substance 
for whatever is self-existent, and with bestowing the 
term object on occasion upon any substance, essence, 
event, or truth, when it becomes incidentally the theme 
of discourse. 

Substances are called things when found cut up 
into fragments which move together and are re 
cognisable individually ; and things are called sub 
stances when their diffuse and qualitative existence 
is thought of rather than their spatial limits. Flour 
is a substance and a loaf of bread is a thing ; but there 
is nothing metaphysical about flour, nor is there any 
difference of physical status between a thing and the 
substance of it. 

But is not the materia prima of Aristotle metaphysi 
cal ? Is not the substance of Spinoza metaphysical ? 
Are not souls and Platonic Ideas, which are also 
reputed to be substances, perfectly metaphysical ? 

Of course : and I shall have occasion, when 



204 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

surveying the realm of matter, to show that these and 
other metaphysical entities are only nominal essences, 
and cannot be the substance of anything. 

I think these explanations will suggest to the reader 
a sufficient answer to the other points raised by the 
empiricists against belief in substance. Substance 
does not reduplicate natural objects, but is identical 
with them. What it might be said to reduplicate (or 
rather to back up and to render significant) would 
be given essences. Certainly known substances, and 
other known objects, require to be posited by animal 
faith on occasion of intuitions, as that which these 
intuitions report. But there is hardly any reduplica 
tion here. Such representation as there is, is probably 
quite heterogeneous in aspect from its original, and 
even when as in memory or a historical romance 
some specious similarity is presumed, it is a highly 
selective and idealised reproduction, in a wholly 
different medium from the represented facts, and 
possessing utterly different functions and conditions 
of being. Nature in being discovered is not re 
produced, but acquires a new dimension, and is extra 
ordinarily enriched. Matters are ludicrously reversed 
if it is imagined that a pure spirit contemplating 
essences could invent a body and a world of matter 
surrounding it ; the body exists first, and in reacting 
on its environment kindles intuitions expressive of its 
vicissitudes ; and the commentary is like that which 
any language or chronicle or graphic art creates by 
existing. Substance is the speaker and substance is 
the theme ; intuition is only the act of speaking or 
hearing, and the given essence is the audible word. 
Substance is on the same plane of being as trees and 
houses, but, like trees and houses, it is on an entirely 
different plane of being from the immediate terms of 
experience (which are essences) and from experience 
itself (which is spirit thinking). 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 205 

As to the reproach that substance, because it is 
not an appearance presented exhaustively, must remain 
unconceived and inconceivable, it rests on a false 
ideal of human knowledge. Intuition of essence is 
not knowledge, but fancy and mental sport : and if 
logic and mathematics are called sciences, they are 
such only as expansions of given hypotheses according 
to given rules may be sciences, as there is a science 
of chess. They are not true nor human, except in 
the special form in which actual discourse and actual 
bodies happen to illustrate them. A preference for 
dialectic over knowledge of fact (which is knowledge 
of substance) may manifest a poetical and superior 
spirit, as might a preference for music over conversa 
tion ; but it would be vain and suicidal for human 
knowledge to transfer that ideal to the general inter 
pretation of experience. Substance being the object 
set before me in action, pursuit, and investigation 
cannot be antecedently in my possession, either 
materially or intellectually ; it confronts me as some 
thing challenging respect and demanding study ; and 
its intrinsic essence must remain always problematical, 
since I approach it only from the outside and ex 
perimentally. The essences by which it is revealed 
to me, and the hypotheses I frame about its nature, 
are so many provocations for me to manipulate and 
examine it, and to call it by various humorous names, 
expressive to me of its strange habits. My natural 
curiosity, if I am a healthy young animal, will prompt 
me to do this eagerly, and to turn my first luminous 
impressions into triumphant dogmas ; but to pure 
spirit, when that awakes, all this faith and knowingness 
will seem childish. 

To pure spirit substance and all its ways must 
remain always dark, alien, and impertinent. From 
the transcendental point of view, which is that of 
spirit, substance is an unattainable goal, or object-as- 



ao6 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

such, being posited, not possessed. Only essences 
please this jealous lover of light, and seem to it sufficient ; 
it hates faith, existence, doubt, anything ulterior. 
Substance and truth offend it by their unnecessary 
claims ; it would gladly brush them aside as super 
stitious obsessions. What ghostly thing, it says to 
itself, is this Speaker behind the voice, this Meaning 
behind the vision, this dark Substance behind the fair 
appearance ? Substance interrupts and besets the 
spirit in its innocence, and in its mad play ; one 
substance, which it calls the flesh, torments it from 
below, and a kindred substance, which it calls matter, 
prods, crushes, and threatens it from without. God 
also, another substance, looms before it, commanding 
and forbidding ; and he is terrible in his wrath and 
obscurity, until it learns his ways. Yet, as religion 
shows, it is possible for the spirit to be tamed and 
chastened. The fear of substance may be the begin 
ning of wisdom ; and accustomed to the steady 
dispensations of that power, the spirit may grow pious 
and modest, and happy to be incarnate. God will 
then become in its eyes a source of protection and 
comfort and daily bread, as all substance is to those 
who learn how to live with it. When the lessons of 
experience are thus accepted, and spirit is domesticated 
in the world, the belief in substance explains every 
thing ; because if substance exists, a perpetual de 
pendence in point of destiny, and a perpetual in 
adequacy in knowledge are clearly inevitable, and soon 
come to seem proper and even fortunate. 

As knowledge advances, my conception of substance 
becomes a map in which my body is one of the islets 
charted : the relations of myself to everything else 
may be expressed there in their true proportions, and 
I shall cease to be an egotist. In the symbolic terms 
which my map affords, I can then plan and test my 
actions (which otherwise I should perform without 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 207 

knowing it) and trace the course of other events ; but 
I am myself a substance, moving in the plane of 
universal substance, not on the plane of my map ; 
for neither I nor the rest of substance belong to the 
realm of pictures, nor exist on that scale and in that 
flat dimension. How we exist and what we are 
substantially must accordingly remain a problem to 
the end ; even if by chance I should ever hit upon the 
essence of substance, nothing could test or maintain 
that miraculous moment of clairvoyance. The only 
sphere in which clairvoyance is normal is the sphere 
of mental discourse, one part of which may survey 
another in the very terms in which the other unrolled 
itself in act ; as I may faithfully rehearse my own 
past or future thinkings, or those of men of my own 
mind. The probability of such clairvoyance diminishes 
as the similarity of structure and substance between 
me and the other creature diminishes ; and it vanishes 
altogether where life dies down ; so that in respect 
to inorganic substance I am indeed reduced to arbitrary 
symbols, at which that substance, if it could know 
them, would laugh. Yet for my purposes in studying 
inorganic substance (which is not interesting to me 
in itself) these symbols do very well : they arise on 
occasion of substantial events, and therefore appear 
in the same historical sequence ; so that in surveying 
the order of my symbols I learn the order of real 
events, though my pictures certainly are not portraits 
of their substance. Yet even the pictorial quality of 
these symbols expresses true variations and variety 
in the substance of myself : it falls and rises with 
my life. For this reason the map I draw of the 
universe in my fancy, when I grow studious, becomes 
a truer and truer map, rendering the movement of 
substance within and without me with increasing 
precision, though always in an original notation, 
native to my senses and intellect. 



208 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

False ideals of knowledge are also involved in the 
contention that the hypothesis of substance does not 
help to explain appearances, and even renders appear 
ances inexplicable. What is explanation ? In dia 
lectic it is the utterance, in further words or images, 
of relations and terms implied in a given essence : it 
is the explication of meanings. But facts have no 
meaning in that sense. Essences implied ideally in 
their essences need never become facts too : otherwise 
the whole realm of essence would have to exist in act, 
and it would be impossible so much as to begin the 
survey of that horrible infinitude, for lack of any 
principle of emphasis to give me a starting-point, and 
create a particular perspective. No : facts are surds, 
they exemplify fragments of the realm of essence 
chosen for no reason : for if a will or reason choosing 
anything (say the good) were admitted, that will or 
reason would itself be a groundless fact, and an absolute 
accident. Existence (as the least insight into essence 
shows) is necessarily irrational and inexplicable. It 
cannot, therefore, contain any principle of explanation 
a priori ; and substance, as I understand the term, 
being what exists in itself, it must be also (to borrow 
the rest of Spinoza s definition of it) what is under 
stood through itself, that is, by taking its own acci 
dental nature as the standard for all explanations. If 
substance were some metaphysical principle, some 
dialectical or moral force, it might be expected to 
" explain " existence as a whole ; but it ought not 
then to be called a substance ; at best it would be 
a harmony or music which things somehow made. 
Such a harmony would not exist in things bodily and 
individually, rendering their essences existential, but 
would supervene upon them and float through them, 
like those principles which certain moody meta 
physicians have dreamt of, as solving the riddle of the 
universe, and have called Sin, Will, Duty, the Good, 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 209 

or the Idea. Substance, as I understand the word, is 
nothing of that sort. It is not metaphysical, but 
simply whatever the physical substance may be which 
is found in things or between them. It therefore 
cannot "explain" these things, since they are its parts 
or instances, and it is simply their substance. They 
have one, since they may be cut up, ground into 
powder, dissolved into gases, or caused to condense 
again before our eyes ; and if they are living things, 
we may observe them devouring and generating one 
another, the flux of substance evidently running 
through them, and taking on recurrent forms. When 
these habits of nature are taken (as they should be 
taken) as the true principle of explanation, the belief 
in substance does become a great means of under 
standing events. It helps me to explain their place, 
date, quality, and quantity, so that I am able to expect 
or even to produce them, when the right substances 
are at hand. If they were detached facts, not forms 
regularly taken on by enduring and pervasive sub 
stances, there would be no knowing when, where, of 
what sort, or in what numbers they would not assault 
me ; and my life would not seem life in a tractable 
world, but an inexplicable nightmare. 

I shall be thought a silly philosopher to mention 
this, as if it were not obvious ; but why do so many 
wise philosophers ignore it, and defend systems which 
contradict it ? 

Finally, even if, in a moment of candour, the friend 
of phenomena was inclined to allow that substance, 
so understood, was neither metaphysical nor un- 
discoverable nor useless for explaining events, he 
might still urge that the belief in substance creates 
an insoluble difficulty, because opposite to substance 
appearance rises at once like a ghost ; and how shall 
this ghost be laid or what room shall be found for it 
in the world of substance which we have posited ? 

P 



210 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

In other words, substance, by hypothesis, is the source 
of appearances : but how, remaining substance, can 
it ever produce them ? 

Here again the objection arises out of false demands. 
As at first substance was condemned on the ground 
that knowledge should possess its object as intuition 
does its data (a demand which would rob knowledge 
of all transitive force), so now substance is condemned 
on the ground that causation should be dialectical and 
that reality should be uniform, so that if substance 
exists nothing should exist except substance. Whence 
these absurd postulates ? In the first place, reality 
(since it includes the realm of essence) is infinitely 
omnimodal ; and even when reduced to existence it 
may certainly take on as many dimensions and as 
many varieties as it likes. Substance is not more real 
than appearance, nor appearance more real than 
essence, but only differently real. When the word 
reality is used invidiously or eulogistically, it is merely 
in view of the special sort of reality which the speaker 
expects or desires to find in a particular instance. So 
when the starving gymnosophist takes a rope for a 
serpent, he misses the reality of that, which is lifeless 
matter ; when the tourist gazing at an Arabic scroll 
calls it a frieze, he misses the reality of that, which is 
a pious sentiment ; and when the millionaire buys a 
picture for its antiquity and its reputation, he misses 
the reality of that, which is a composition. W 7 hen 
substance is asserted, appearance is not denied ; its 
actuality is not diminished, but a significance is added 
to it which, as a bare datum, it could not have. 

In the second place, in so far as causation is not 
sheer magic imputed by laying a superstitious emphasis 
on those phases which interest me most in the flux of 
things, causation is the order of generation in nature : 
whatsoever grows out of a certain conjunction in things, 
and only out of that conjunction, may be said to be 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 211 

caused by it. Nothing that happens is groundless, 
since whatever antecedents it actually has are adequate 
to produce it. Yet all that happens is marvellous, 
because like existence itself it is unfathomable, and, if 
we abstract from our familiarity with it, almost in 
credible. But the antecedents, the consequents, and 
the connection between them are equally remarkable 
in this respect, and equally perspicuous. The school 
boy will be delighted to learn how the refraction of 
the sun s rays paints the rainbow on a shower, or on 
the spray of the waves ; the farmer will perfectly 
understand that chickens are hatched from eggs ; and 
I for one (though other philosophers are less fortunate) 
can perceive clearly that when animals react upon 
things in certain ways these things appear to them in 
certain forms ; and the fact that they appear does not 
seem to me (so simple am I) to militate against their 
substantial existence. 

Certainly neither the awakening of intuition, nor 
the character of the essences that appear, can be 
deduced dialectically from the state of the substance 
which produces them ; but dialectic traces the im 
plication of one essence in another and can never issue 
from the eternal world. It is perfectly impotent to 
express, much less to explain, any change or any 
existence. If dialectic ruled the world, all implica 
tions would always have been realised, no movement 
would have been possible, and the very discourse that 
pursues dialectic would have been congealed and 
identified from the beginning with the essence which 
it describes. Existence, change, life, appearance, 
must be understood to be unintelligible : on any other 
assumption the philosopher might as well tear his hair 
and go mad at once. But when that assumption has 
been duly made, and dialectic has been relegated to 
an innocuous dignity, the blossoming of substance 
into appearance becomes the most amiable of mysteries. 



212 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

If instead of admitting this evident and familiar 
kindling of mind in nature, which makes the charm 
of childhood, of morning, and of spring, I supposed 
that mind could animate no material body, and that 
the flame of spirit could rise from no natural hearth, 
I should not have a more intelligible world on my 
hands, but only a very miserable and ghostly one. I 
should be foolishly shutting myself up in myopic 
ignorance of that great world which is not mine nor 
like me, although I belong to it and feed on it un 
awares. Why should I think it philosophical to be 
so unintelligent, or to assert that appearances are the 
only possible realities, when these appearances them 
selves do their very best to inform me of the opposite ? 
For though the poor things can t be actually more than 
they are, they arrange themselves and troop together 
in such a manner that, if I make the least beginning 
in understanding them, I gather that they are voices 
of self-evolving things, on the same plane of reality 
as myself. Indeed, without such a background to 
lend them a subterranean influence over my own being, 
they w r ould be unmeaning creations, and every transi 
tion from one to another of them would be arbitrary. 
If I am told that appearances are but loosely and un 
intelligibly bound to substance, I may reply that 
without substance appearances would be far more 
loosely and unintelligibly bound to one another. 
Appearances are at least conventional transcripts of 
facts ; they are expressions of substance which may 
serve as signs of its movements ; but what relation, 
moral or habitual, would each appearance, if taken 
absolutely and not as significant of things, retain to 
the other appearances that in dreaming or waking 
might follow upon it ? None whatever : it is only 
in its organs and its objects that experience touches 
anything continuous or measurable and possesses a 
background on which to piece together the broken 



OBJECTIONS TO BELIEF IN SUBSTANCE 213 

segments of its own orbit. That substance should be 
capable of attaining to expression in appearance is a 
proof that substance is fertile, not that it is superfluous. 
On the contrary, it is certain that if I knew the essence 
of substance, and if I made nature the standard of 
natural necessity, the emergence of appearance in the 
form and on the occasions in which it emerges would 
seem to me necessary and inevitable. 



CHAPTER XXI 

SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 

ANIMAL faith, being an expression of hunger, pursuit, 
shock, or fear, is directed upon things ; that is, it 
assumes the existence of alien self-developing beings, 
independent of knowledge, but capable of being 
affected by action. While things are running on in 
the dark, they may be suddenly seized, appropriated, 
or destroyed. In other words, animal faith posits 
substances, and indicates their locus in the field of 
action of which the animal occupies the centre. Being 
faith in action and inspired by action, it logically pre 
supposes that the agent is a substance himself, that 
can act on other things and be affected by them ; 
although temporally the substantial existence of the 
self may not be posited until later, as one of the things 
in the world of things. Meantime in this animal 
faith, and even in the choice of one essence rather 
than another to be presented to intuition, spirit suffers 
violence, since spirit is inherently addressed to every 
thing impartially and is always, in its own principle, 
ready to be omniscient and just. For by spirit I 
understand simply the pure light or actuality of 
thought, common to all intuitions, in which essences 
are bathed if they are given. At first, as we see in 
children, spirit is carried away by the joy of doing or 
seeing anything ; it adopts any passion unquestion- 
ingly, not being a respecter of persons nor at all 

214 



SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 215 

squeamish ; it is innocently happy in accepting any 
task and watching any world, if the body welcomes it. 
Ultimately, however, the spirit may come to wonder 
why it regards all things from the point of view of one 
body in particular, which seems to have no pre 
rogative over the others in their common realm. 
Justice and charity will then seem to lie in rescinding 
this illegitimate pre-eminence of one s own body : and 
it may come to be an ideal of the spirit, not only to 
extend its view over all time and all existence, but to 
exchange its accidental point of view for every other, 
and adopt every insight and every interest : an effort 
which, by a curious irony, might end in abolishing 
all interests and all views. 

Such moral enlightenment is dangerous to animal 
life, and incidentally to the animal faith on which the 
recognition of existing things hangs in the first place. 
If the qualms and ambitions of spirit prevailed in any 
body altogether, as they tend to do in the saint and 
even in the philosopher, he would not be able to halt 
at the just sympathy by which, preserving animal 
faith, he would admit and respect the natural interests 
of others as he does his own. He would be hurried 
on to rebel against these natural interests in himself, 
would call them vain or sinful, since the spirit of itself 
could never justify them, and would initiate some 
discipline, mortifying the body and transfiguring the 
passions, so as to free himself from that ignominy and 
bondage. He would not succeed : but for speculative 
purposes I will suppose for a moment that he succeeded. 
What would occur ? He would be happier fasting 
than eating, freezing than loving. Not sharing the 
impulses of his body, he would regard it as a ridiculous 
mechanism ; and the bodies of others would be 
ridiculous mechanisms too, with which he could feel 
no sympathy. His sympathy, if it survived at all, 
would be sublimated into pity for the spirits chained 



216 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

to those bodies by their sin and ignorance, and perhaps 
not even struggling to be free, but suffering in those 
prisons perpetual pain and dishonour. He might 
aspire to save the spirit in others as in himself ; but 
hardened to his own animal vicissitudes he would be 
steeled to theirs (a result even easier to accomplish), 
and would be all scorn and lamentations for the life 
of the world. 

I suspend all consideration of this moral issue, and 
revert to the variations which animal faith may undergo 
during this long and always imperfect transformation. 

Things when they are posited are known to be 
substances. It would be impossible for a child to be 
frightened without implicitly believing in a substance 
at hand ; and it would be impossible for him to 
attempt to frighten other people (as children like to 
do in play) without implicitly assuming that he is a 
substance himself. But though his assurance of sub 
stance, in both cases, is complete, his knowledge of it 
is superficial. In conceiving his own nature especially, 
he begins building at the wrong end, from the weather 
cock down, not from the foundations up. Although 
in action he identifies himself with his body, as also 
in vanity and all the passions, yet when he asks him 
self deliberately what he is, he may be tempted to say 
that he is his thoughts. Or, less analytically, he may 
feel that he is a soul, a living spiritual power, a deep 
will at work in his body and in the world ; and though 
what he posits in other things is primarily their physical 
presence, he will conceive this substance of theirs, 
particularly when they are animals, in the same moral 
terms in which he conceives himself. He will imagine 
them to be souls, passionate powers, wills guiding 
events. He will not think people spirits to the ex 
clusion of their bodies, but will conceive their persons 
confusedly, as souls inhabiting and using bodies, or 
as bodies breaking out into some thought or passion 



SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 217 

which, once existing, agitates and governs the body 
that bred it. 

Such a thought or passion, while evidently animat 
ing the body and expressing its situation, does not 
exactly lie within the body ; to localise it there with 
any literalness or precision is absurd ; and a man feels 
in his own case that his thoughts and passions come 
into his heart, that they are influences visiting him, 
perhaps demons or obsessions. He thinks they may 
pass from one man to another, or perhaps exist sus 
pended and ambient, in the form of gods or mighty 
laws. Hence the notion of spiritual substances ; a 
self-contradictory notion at bottom, because substance 
is a material and spirit is an entelechy, or perfection 
of function realised ; so that (if I may parody Aristotle), 
if a candle were a living being, wax would be its sub 
stance and light its spirit. Nevertheless, in the history 
of philosophy, and even in current discourse, the 
notion of spiritual substance was unavoidable. In the 
haste of practical life, 1 count the lights without 
counting the candles. Feelings and thoughts pass for 
the principles of action ; I inevitably stop there, and 
conceive my enemy as an evil purpose, and my con 
tradictor as a false thought. And it is in these imagined 
thoughts and purposes that I lodge the power which, 
in action, I am contending with : although I should 
be truly contending with ghosts, and trying to drive 
essences out of the realm of essence (where each is 
immovable) if I did not oppose that power or defeat 
that purpose in the precise places and bodies in which 
it operates. The spirit can be confused with substance 
only when it is spirit incarnate. Animal faith could 
hardly light on such metaphysical objects unless it 
was called forth by a material influence, to which 
animal faith is the natural response ; but the mind has 
but vague notions of what a material influence can be, 
and therefore attributes the substantiality of which it 



2i8 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

is intimately aware to hybrid essences floating before 
it : hence superstition, myth, metaphysics, and the 
materialisation of words. 

It is a task for natural philosophy to remove these 
ghosts, by discovering the true movement of that 
living substance on which animal faith means to be 
directed, the substance on which the animal depends 
and on which he can act. But the human mind 
naturally breathes its own atmosphere of myth and 
dialectic, and evidence of fact pierces this atmosphere 
with difficulty, only after much experience of error. 
Gradually the wiser heads see that all substances fall 
together into one system called nature ; and then 
various metaphysical substances, which at first seem 
to inhabit or compose nature, are discovered to be 
modes of the single familiar substance called matter. 
The second Book of Realms of Being will be devoted 
to this subject ; meantime, I will here draw up a list 
of the chief false substances which human faith may 
rest on when the characteristic human veil of words 
and pictures hides the modes of matter which actually 
confront the human race in action, and which there 
fore, throughout, are the intended object of its faith. 

i. Souls. These are essentially moral forces, that 
is, passions or interests not necessarily self-conscious, 
conceived as magically ruling animal bodies and 
dictating their acts. 

This notion fuses three different things, belonging 
to three distinct realms of being. The first is a mode 
of matter, the inherited mechanism and life of the 
body, which I am calling the psyche. This is a true 
dynamic unit, forming and using the outer organs of 
the body, a system of habits relatively complete and 
self-centred ; but it is only the fine quick organisation 
within the material animal, and not a different thing. 
This is the original soul which savages conceive as 
leaving the body in sleep or death, itself a tenuous 



SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 219 

body of similar aspect and powers ; because they feel 
that bodily life and action have a principle which is 
not visible on the surface, and yet they have no means 
of conceiving this principle except as an image or 
ghost of that very body which it is needed to control. 
Were wandering souls and ghosts more often met with 
and studied, the question of the true souls of these 
creatures would present itself anew : for nothing 
would be found on the surface of a ghost to explain its 
words or its motions, and it would soon be observed 
to give up the ghost in its turn. Even in spirit-land 
the judicious would have recourse in the end to a 
behaviourist psychology. For at the other extreme 
of human philosophising, the material psyche re 
appears. Observation can trace back motions only 
to other motions, and outward actions to activities 
hidden within, but essentially no less observable ; so 
that the mechanism of the body and its habits are 
really the only conceivable mainspring of its behaviour. 
The soul again becomes a subtler body within the 
body : only that instead of a shadow of the whole 
man, even as in life he stood, it is a prodigious net 
work of nerves and tissues, growing in each generation 
out of a seed. 

Habit, though it is a mode of matter, has a unity 
or rhythm which reappears in many different in 
stances : it is a form not of matter but of behaviour. 
Matter makes a vortex which reproduces itself, and 
plays as a unit amongst the other vortices near it ; 
and the eye can follow the pleasing figures of the 
dance, without discerning the atoms or the laws 
that compose it. Now the habits of animals exercise 
a strong influence, sympathetic or antipathetic, over 
the kindred observer. He feels what those habits 
seek ; he reads them as purposes, as tendencies, as 
efforts hostile or friendly to the free play of his own 
habits. The soul agitating those bodies is therefore 



220 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

in his eyes more than another ghostly body, which 
might quit them ; it is a passion or a will which is 
expressed there. And this unit of discourse, which 
if actual belongs to the realm of truth, he regards 
superstitiously as a substance and a power. He 
fancies that he himself is a will and a power reacting 
upon other wills and powers : as if these habits or 
relations could be prior to the terms that compose 
them, or could create those terms. It is this element 
in the notion of souls that becomes predominant in the 
belief in gods and in devils. Something subjective 
and moral, the dramatic value which habits in nature 
have for the observer, is projected by him, and con 
ceived as a metaphysical power creating those habits. 
Passions, in men, are often arrested on words. They 
are often arrested, as in poetic love, upon images. 
And yet the magic of images and words is vicarious : 
they would be empty, did not subtle material influences 
flow through them, and hide behind them, rendering 
them exciting to the material soul of the observer, 
who in his poetic ecstasy may think he is living in a 
pure world of discourse. 

Finally, in the notion of souls there is a projection 
of mental discourse : this, when it really exists in 
animals, is a mode of spirit. Animal life sometimes 
reaches its entelechy in a stream of intuitions, ex 
pressive of its modifications by .the presence of other 
bodies, or by the ferments of its own blood. These 
modes of spirit are in themselves intangible, un- 
observable, volatile, and fugitive ; and if anything 
actual, about which truth and error may arise, may 
be called unsubstantial, they are as unsubstantial as 
possible. But as they arise in the operations of 
substance, and are read into these operations when a 
sympathetic being observes them, they seem to be a 
part of what is observed. But they are in quite 
another dimension of being, in the realm of spirit ; 



SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 221 

and spirit, or the intuitions in which it exists, is not 
a part of the substance on which animal faith is 
directed, nor a mode of it, nor a natural substance at 
all. It cannot by any possibility be met with in 
action, perceived, fought with, nor (if we consider it 
from within, in its own being) can it be lodged any 
where in space nor even in time. It belongs to nature 
only by its individual outlook and moral relevance : 
and we may say of it only by courtesy that it lodges 
in the place and time which its organ occupies and in 
the world which, by affecting that organ, enters into 
its specious perspectives. When a man believes in 
another man s thoughts and feelings, his faith is 
moral, not animal. Such a spiritual dimension in the 
substances on which he is reacting can be revealed 
to him only by dramatic imagination ; only his instant 
sympathy can shape, or can correct, his notion of 
them. In origin, these tertiary qualities of bodies, 
imputed to them by literary psychology (which is an 
exercise of dramatic insight) are as superstitious and 
mythical as the purposes and powers of magical 
metaphysics ; but the intuitions assigned to other 
people are possible existences, as those metaphysical 
chimeras are not ; and when the creature that imputes 
the intuitions and the one that has them are the same, 
or closely akin and close together, he may be absolutely 
clairvoyant in imputing them. The mind as conceived 
by literary psychology, or as represented by dramatic 
historians, is hypothetical discourse, composed of what 
this psychology calls sensations, ideas, and emotions. 
It may exist, or may have existed, very much as 
conceived ; it would be a substance if idealism were 
true ; but in fact it is a translation into moral terms, 
rapid, summary, and prophetic, of an animal life going 
on very laboriously and persistently in the dark ; and this 
animal life is itself no special substance, but a special 
mode or vortex in the general substance of nature. 



222 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

2. Master-types, or Platonic Ideas. This is an 
assimilation of substances to their names. Words 
and grammar are professedly notes indicating the 
identities and relations of things ; but in practice 
everything, in being expressed, is conventionalised. 
The terms of discourse mark only the forms which 
things wear on the average, or at their best, or ap 
proximately ; and in discourse these conventional 
terms soon acquire their own identity and relations, 
and form a pattern quite different from that of their 
objects. Philosophers, who necessarily employ lan 
guage, are like naturalists who should study zoology 
only in a farmyard : the jungle would disconcert 
them. An argumentative and dialectical mind trusts 
its verbal logic : but a logic, however cogent in itself, 
is always of problematical application to facts, since 
it describes only one possible world out of an infinite 
number, and (unless it is secretly founded on observa 
tion) is not likely to describe the actual one. The 
logicians themselves, when men of open mind, notice 
this fact and lament it ; and they bear the actual world 
a great grudge for showing so little fidelity to their 
principles. It is false, they are convinced, to its true 
nature, to the ideal it ought to realise, to the function 
which you see at every turn that it is endeavouring 
to fulfil. So that the dialectician can easily become 
an idealist of the Platonic type, by conceiving that the 
substance of things is not the moving matter that 
to-day is one thing and to-morrow another, and that 
never is anything perfectly, but that this matter is 
only what the voice is to a song, or a book to its 
message or spirit a treacherous and subordinate 
vehicle of expression ; whereas the true object to look 
for, the source of the applicability of words to facts 
at all, is the eternal nature which an actual thing may 
illustrate : so that the form of things and not their 
matter is their true substance or ova la. 



SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 223 

This substantiation of ideals, besides leaning on 
language, leans on a sort of pragmatism or utilitarian 
ism. Things are called beds if people may sleep 
well upon them, and bridles if they serve to rein in 
a horse : this function is their essence, in so far as 
they are beds or bridles at all, and they are excellent 
in proportion to the perfection with which they fulfil 
this function. And here an ascetic and supernatural- 
istic motive begins to play a part in Platonism. For 
since the substance and excellence of things lie 
merely in their moral essence, or in the fulfilment of 
the function designated by their names, all superfluous 
ornaments, all variations, all hybrid combinations are 
monstrous. Things should have only the barely 
necessary matter in them, and that wholly obedient 
to the mastering form. What am I saying ? Need 
things have any matter in them at all ? What could 
be more ideal than the idea itself, or more perfect than 
the function exercised by magic, and without an 
instrument ? Away, then, with all material embodi 
ments of ideas, even if these embodiments seem perfect 
for a moment. Being material, they will be treacherous 
and unstable : there will be some alloy of imperfection 
in them, some unreality. Fly, then, to the heaven of 
ideas, absolute and eternal, as the realm of essence 
contains them. There at last you will find the sub 
stance which in this world of phenomena you sought 
in vain. Things are only appearances ; in minding 
and loving them, and thinking they can wound us, we 
are befooled ; for the only bread that can feed the 
soul is celestial, and the only death that can overtake 
her is moral disintegration and the darkness of merely 
existing without loyalty to what she ought to be. 

This is good ethics : not because our ideal is our 
substance nor because our soul in heaven is our true 
self, but because life is a harmony in material motions, 
reproducing themselves, and happiness is a conscious- 



224 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

ness of this harmony ; so that substance would have 
no value and its formations no name but for the choice 
they make of some eternal essence to embody, and 
the purity with which they manifest it. But the 
flux of substance is by no means limited to producing 
but one type of perfection, or one circle of types. 
The infinite is open to all variations ; and any particular 
idea is so far from being the substance of things, that 
it acquires its ideal prerogative, as a goal of aspiration, 
only when substance has blindly chosen it as a practi 
cable harmony tending to establish itself and to recur 
in the local motions of that substance ; and nowhere 
else, and not for a moment longer, does any eternal 
essence possess any authority, express any aspiration, 
or even seem to exercise any power. 

3. Phenomena. When master-types were regarded 
as the true objects of knowledge, the instances of these 
types found in the natural world were called their 
appearances or phenomena ; but they were not con 
ceived to be unsubstantial images, thrown off by the 
celestial type impartially into all parts of space, like 
rays from a luminary. Phenomena were understood 
to be existences, confined to particular places and 
times ; indeed, in contrast to the superior sort of 
being possessed by the types in heaven, these pheno 
mena were existences par excellence : and it was to 
them that the philosophy of Heraclitus, that admirable 
description of existence, continued to apply. That 
phenomena appeared was therefore not the doing of 
the types alone : these, from their eternal seats, rained 
down influence and, as it were, a perpetual invitation 
to things to imitate and to mirror them ; but before 
this invitation could be accepted, or this influence 
gathered and obeyed, matter must exist variously distri 
buted and predisposed ; so that of all the Ideas, equally 
radiating virtue, here one and there another might find 
expression, and that imperfectly and for a time only. 



SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 225 

Phenomena, then, for Platonism, are simply things : 
and they are called appearances not because they are 
supposed not to exist except in the mind, but because 
they are believed to be copies of an original in heaven 
far more ideal and akin to the mind than themselves : 
and also perhaps because they are so unstable and 
indefinable, that they elude our exact knowledge and 
betray our affections. 

Phenomena, however, were supposed to be revealed 
to us by sense, whereas thought revealed their types : 
and this way of putting things has led to a shift in 
the meaning of the word phenomenon, so that in 
modern times it has been confused with what is called 
an idea in the mind. Sense would not reveal pheno 
mena in nature (where Plato supposed them to arise) 
if sense meant passive intuition. It would then reveal 
essences only : that is, just what Plato found thought 
to reveal : only that being merely aesthetic intuition, 
and not thought about nature and politics and moral 
life, the essences revealed would not be Platonic 
Ideas ; for these were only such essences as expressed 
the categories of Greek speech, the perfections of 
animals, or the other forms of the good. But sense, 
as opposed to dialectic, meant for the ancients animal 
perception and faith : it included understanding, 
sagacity, and a belief in matter : indeed, common 
speech identified immersion in sense with materialism. 
Modern philosophers have conceived sense passively, 
as mere sensation or feeling or vision of inert ideas : 
and the word phenomenon has sometimes been 
attracted into the same subjective vortex, and has 
come to mean a datum of intuition. So that pheno 
menalism suggests less a belief in the phenomena of 
nature than a disbelief in them, and a reduction of all 
natural events to images in particular minds. 

The other, and proper, meaning of phenomenon 
seems to be retained by the positivists, who deprecate 

Q 



226 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

metaphysics, and even literary psychology, and wish 
to be satisfied with the data of science. But why use 
the word phenomenon for an event or an existence 
that is substantial, and manifests nothing deeper ? Is 
it because another substance, not internal to those 
events and existences, is supposed to exist somewhere 
and to be unknowable ? Or is it because the laws 
of nature, raised to a magical authority, are made 
manifest or phenomenal in the facts ? Or is it because 
the positivists are at heart rather afraid of the psycho 
logical critics of knowledge, and by calling things and 
events phenomena think that they may pass for critics 
themselves, no less prudent and scientific than if they 
talked of immediate experience or of ideas in the 
mind ? If so, it is a sorry expedient and a poor 
defence. If phenomena are essences given in intuition 
they are not the objects nor the themes of science, 
nor the facts or events in nature : and essences, such 
as the absolutely unprejudiced and unpractical mind 
may behold them, are the last things on which a 
positivist should pin his faith. As to immediate 
experience, conceived as an existing process or life, 
and as to ideas in the mind, they are names for dis 
course the theme of just that literary psychology 
which the positivist disdains. And if phenomena 
are simply things, as they were to Plato, the positivist 
(who does not regard things as weak efforts of nature 
to realise divine Ideas) should not call them pheno 
mena, but substances ; unless indeed he is a meta 
physician without knowing it, and believes in some 
unknowable substance which is not in things. 

4. Truth. Memory presents many a scene which 
is not substantial, as is the world before me now : 
yet this now is fleeting, and the unsubstantiality which 
vitiates the past is in the act of invading the present. 
Is not the pre-eminence of the present, then, an 
illusion, and is not the reality that panorama which 



SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 227 

all those presents would present when equalised and 
seen under the form of eternity ? Is not the invidious 
actuality of any part of things a mere appearance, and 
is not the substance of them all merely their truth ? 

This suggestion of memory is reinforced by the 
suggestions of doubt, of disputation, and of information 
by hearsay. In our perplexities we seem always to 
be appealing to a metaphysical plenum or standard, 
which we call the truth : there all facts are not only 
evident, but judicial : they settle our quarrels : they 
correct our ignorance : they vindicate our faith. To 
the discoursing mind, therefore, present things and 
material forces may come to seem of little consequence, 
negligible and unsubstantial in comparison with the 
truth which remains immovable, while things pass 
before it like clouds across the constellations. 

This is legitimate tragedy : the truth is the realm 
of being to which the earnest intellect is addressed. 
The senses and passions may feed on matter, and 
fancy may sport in the wilderness of essence : to the 
earnest intellect the one exercise seems instrumental 
and the other wasteful : what concerns it is the truth. 
But why is mere experience though it may fall short 
of truth, relevant to truth, and helpful in discovering 
it ? And why is play of fancy, or definition of mere 
essences, not an avenue to truth ? Because the truth, 
if not a substance, is a luminous shadow or penumbra 
which substance, by its existence and movements, 
casts on the field of essence : so that unless a substance 
existed which was more physical than truth, truth 
itself would have no nucleus, and would fade into 
identity with the infinite essence of the non-existent. 
The truth, however nobly it may loom before the 
scientific intellect, is ontologically something secondary. 
Its eternity is but the wake of the ship of time, a furrow 
which matter must plough upon the face of essence. 
Truth must have a subject-matter, it must be the truth 



228 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

about something : and it is the character of this 
moving object, lending truth and definition to the 
truth itself, that is substantial and fundamental in 
the universe. A sign that truth is simply fact, though 
described under the form of eternity, is the heat 
and haste of men in asserting what they think true. 
It is an object of animal faith, not of pure contem 
plation. 

5. Fact. Those who appeal to fact with unction 
are philosophers justly dissatisfied with theory and 
discourse : they are looking in the direction of 
substance. Yet in the conception of fact there is an 
element of an opposite kind, for fact is supposed to be 
obvious as well as fundamental. Not substance, says 
the empirical philosopher, which indeed would be 
the fact if it existed, but immediate fact, however 
unsubstantial, if I can only be sure of it. Un 
fortunately, the immediate datum is not a fact at all, 
but an essence : and even the intuition of that essence, 
which he may say is the fact he means, is only a bit 
of discourse or theory : the very thing of which he 
was so distrustful, and from which his common sense 
was appealing to the facts. The love of fact indeed 
has its revenges, and the word comes sometimes to 
be used for inarticulate feeling or intuition of the 
unutterable a perfectly possible and rather common 
intuition. But at this point a triple confusion perhaps 
arises between the given essence of the unutterable, 
the incidental intuition of that essence, and the 
substance of the natural world which the philosopher 
is trying to discover. The unutterableness of the 
given essence is absurdly transferred to this substance, 
which would need to be no less articulate than appear 
ance, if appearance was to arise from it or express it 
at all. Such a formless substance is as far as possible 
from being the object of animal faith posited in action 
and described in perception spontaneously and more 



SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 229 

deliberately in theory and discourse. It is as far as 
possible from being a fact. And the intuition (which 
is a fact) will yield cold comfort to the philosopher 
who wanted " facts " rather than intuitions. The 
facts he wanted were things, and he has been looking 
for them in the wrong direction. 

More often, however, fact is a name for any 
pronounced and conspicuous feature of the natural 
world, or event assumed to occur in that physical 
medium ; so that such a fact may well be a mode of 
substance. It obviously could neither arise nor be 
discovered except in a context no less substantial than 
itself ; for if each fact was a detached existence it 
would form a universe by itself, and the eulogistic 
title of fact could not belong to it with any better 
right than to any intuition. Intuitions, discourse, 
theories too, taken bodily, are facts ; but if they had 
no locus in nature, they could convey no knowledge 
of fact, being insignificant sensations or isolated 
worlds, occurring at no assignable time. 

Fact, therefore, when honestly pointed to without 
metaphysical interpretation, means a thing or an 
event against which the speaker has indubitably run 
up : as it is a fact that the Atlantic Ocean separates 
Europe from America, or that men die. If under 
stood not to mean such natural facts, but rather the 
impressions or notions of the mind that notes them, 
facts become an impossible sublimation of things : 
either actual intuitions, revealing not facts but essences : 
or alleged intuitions postulated bv literary psychology 
(which assumes the natural world, without confessing 
it, as the field in which these intuitions are deployed) ; 
or finally an undiscoverable atom of sentience cut off 
from all relations in a metaphysical void. Such an 
atom, although it would be a substance in an absolute 
sense, if it existed, yet could neither act nor be acted 
upon, and therefore would not be the sort of substance 



230 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

that a practical mind, in love with facts, would be 
tempted to believe in. 

6. Events. Although things rather than events are 
the object of animal faith, ordinarily it is some event 
that calls attention to a thing : and it is intelligible 
that philosophers, reverting to the study of nature 
after their long quarantine in psychological scepticism, 
should dare to speak of events as constituting the woof 
of nature, before they dare to speak of them as things 
in flux or as modes of substance. Yet events can be 
nothing less. Events are changes, and change implies 
continuity and derivation of event from event : other 
wise there might be variety in existence, but there 
could be no variation, since the phases of the alleged 
changes would not follow one another. This con 
tinuity and derivation essential to events suffice to 
render them events in substance, or changes in things. 
Both the medium of events (requisite to render any 
two events successive or contiguous) and the quantita 
tive heritage of each (which it derives from the quantity 
of its antecedents) are substantial. Not so any event 
taken separately, and conceived merely as a passage 
of attention from one essence to another : for though 
the intuition spanning this transition would be a 
fact, neither it nor the terms it played with would be 
events. I can imagine an exception to this principle, 
if a total event exists including the whole process of 
creation. Such a total event (also any minute 
irreducible event if such existed) would be actually 
identical with a changing thing or a substance in flux. 
But every intermediate event would have arbitrary 
limits, being composed of minor events and embedded 
in greater ones. Perhaps there is no total and no 
rudimentary event : the men of science must decide 
that point if they can, although I am not confident, 
that after they had decided it on the best of evidence, 
their decision would prevent the flux of nature from 



SUBLIMATIONS OF ANIMAL FAITH 231 

stopping, if they said it must go on, or from going on, 
if they said it must stop. However, the mere possi 
bility that there should be no comprehensive and no 
least event shows on what slippery ground we stand 
if we attempt to make events the ultimate objects of 
belief. They are really only half of what changing 
existence implies : the other half is substance. 

In the effort to halt at events without positing 
things there is some vestige of the psychological 
confusion which identifies intuition with the essences 
present to it. An intuition may present a specious 
event : it does not follow that it is an event itself, or 
occurs in time. Intuitions would indeed not be 
events if they had no locus in physical time, and were 
not members of a series of events occurring in quite 
another realm of being from the visionary events 
which those intuitions might picture. In order to be 
events in physical time (even so to speak by marriage) 
intuitions must have organs which are parts of the 
moving substance of nature. Otherwise they would 
be pure spirits, out of time, and out of relation to one 
another. They are events only because a natural 
event, not an intuition, envelops them and lends them 
a natural status. Were they only specious events 
present to another intuition they would not be events 
at all, but eternal essences contemplated by an eternal 
mind. 

Nevertheless, the notion of events comes very near 
to that of things, as posited and required in action, 
and as analysed in physics. The substance of these 
things is, by definition, the ground of changing 
appearance and the agent in perpetual action : it is 
therefore essentially in flux. I cannot say whether 
this flux is pervasive, so that nothing whatever in 
substance remains for any time unchanged, the constant 
element in it being only a constant form or quantity 
of change : but on the level and scale of human 



232 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

experience, substance is everywhere the substance of 
events, not of things immutable. If Heraclitus and 
modern physics are right in telling us that the most 
stable of the Pyramids is but a mass of events, this 
truth about substance does not dissolve substance into 
events that happen nowhere and to nothing : that 
supposition, on the contrary, would paralyse the 
events. If an event is to have individual identity 
and a place amongst other events, it must be a change 
which substance undergoes in one of its parts. Other 
wise, like facts and truths taken hypostatically, events 
would be metaphysical abstractions, utterly incom 
patible with that natural status which must belong to 
the things posited by animal faith in the heat of action 
the only things in which there is any reason for 
believing. 



CHAPTER XXII 

BELIEF IN NATURE 

BELIEF in substance, I have seen, is inevitable. The 
hungry dog must believe that the bone before him is a 
substance, not an essence ; and when he is snapping 
at it or gnawing it, that belief rises into conviction, 
and he would be a very dishonest dog if, at that 
moment, he denied it. For me, too, while I am alive, 
it would be dishonest to deny the belief in substance ; 
and not merely dishonest, but foolish : because if I 
am observant, observation will bring me strong corro 
borative evidence for that belief. Observation itself, 
of course, assumes a belief in discourse and in experi 
ence ; it assumes that I can recognise essences, 
remembering their former apparitions and contexts 
and comparing the earlier with the present instance 
of them, or with the different essences which now 
appear instead. When I survey my experience in 
this way, the order of appearances, as memory or 
presumption sets it before me, will confirm the suasion 
which these appearances exercised singly, and will 
show me how very well grounded was the instinct 
which told me, when I saw some casual essence, that 
it was a sign of something happening in an independent, 
persisting, self-evolving, indefinitely vast world. If 
experience, undergone, imposes belief in substance, 
experience studied imposes belief in nature. 

The word nature is sometimes written with a 

233 



234 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

capital, as if nature were some sort of deity or person : 
and in ancient philosophy and common speech, powers 
and habits are attributed to nature which imply a 
certain moral idiosyncrasy in that personage. Poets 
also praise nature, and theologians rehearse her 
marvellous ways, in order to show that she could not 
have fallen into them of her own accord. All this 
mythology about nature is natural, and perhaps shows 
a better total appreciation of what nature is than 
would a precise physics. The precision of physics is 
mathematical ; it defines an essence ; and the attribu 
tion of this mathematical essence to nature, however 
legitimate, is sure to overlook many properties which 
belong to her just as truly, and appear in the realms 
of truth or of spirit. One such property, at least, is 
fundamental, and is better expressed by personifying 
nature than by describing her movements mathe 
matically, I mean, her constancy, the assumption that 
we may trust her to be true to herself. In science, 
some observed or some hypothetical process is studied 
and the method or law of it is ascertained : but there 
is nothing particularly scientific in the presumption 
that this process is all that is going on in the given 
case, or that it will recur in other cases. What is 
called the uniformity of nature is an assumption made, 
in respect to the future, without any evidence, and 
with proportionately scanty evidence about the past : 
where experience confirms it in some particular, the 
confirmation itself is good for those instances, up to 
that time : it tells me nothing of anything beyond, 
or of the future. The source of my confidence is 
animal faith, the same that inspires confidence in a 
child towards his parents, or towards pet animals ; and 
the whole monstrous growth of human religion is an 
extension of this sense that nature is a person, or a 
set of persons, with constant but malleable characters. 
As experience remodels my impulses, I assume that 



BELIEF IN NATURE 235 

the world will remain amenable to my new ways ; 
the convert feels he is saved ; the philosopher thinks 
he has found the key to happiness ; the astronomer 
tells you he has measured the infinite, and perhaps 
rolled it up upon itself, and put it in his pocket. 
They all express the infantile conviction that nature 
cannot be false to what they have already learned or 
instinctively affirmed of it : making nature a single 
and quasi - personal entity, bound tragically to its 
past, and pledged more or less wilfully to a particular 
future. It is this sense that the world, like a person, 
has a certain vital unity, and remains constant or at 
least consequential in its moral aspects, that is ex 
pressed by calling it nature. Like a being born of a 
seed, it has a determinate form, and a normal career, 
a nature, which it cannot change. 

What evidence is there for the existence of nature, 
in this sense of the word ? If I speak of the universe 
at large, there can be no evidence. Of course the 
universe must be what it is, it must have a character, 
it must exemplify an essence ; but taken as a whole, it 
may be a chaos, in which nothing is predeterminate, 
nor progressive, nor persistent, and in which the 
parts are self-centred and the events spontaneous. 
A philosopher who took his own life as a model for 
conceiving all other things, ought perhaps to incline 
to this view ; because he is himself, transcendentally 
speaking, an absolute centre, and being ignorant of 
the sources of his thoughts and actions, may presume 
that they have no sources. If under these circum 
stances he still has the weakness (for it would be a 
weakness) to believe in anything else, say in other 
monads, he would doubtless allow them an equal 
liberty ; so that in his universe of monads there would 
be no common space, no common time, no common 
type of character or development, no mutual influence 
or kindred destiny. I think the inner life of animals, 



236 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

if we treated each as a moral romance, apart from its 
physical setting and influence, would actually present 
such a chaos : especially if we imagine what may be 
the lives of creatures in other parts of the stellar 
universe, or out of any relation with ourselves at all. 
Such a loose universe could not properly be called 
nature. It would not have given us birth, it would 
not have nurtured us, it would not surround us with 
any constant influences or familiar aspects, it would 
not bring any seeds to maturity for our encouragement 
or warning. 

Evidences for the existence of nature must be 
sought elsewhere, in a region which a monadologist 
would regard as internal to each monad, in that the 
substances posited by me in obedience to my vital 
instincts seem to me to behave as if they were parts 
of nature. Nature is the great counterpart of art. 
What I tuck under my pillow at night, I find there in 
the morning. Economy increases my possessions. 
People all grow old. Accidents have discoverable 
causes. There is a possible distinction between 
wisdom and folly. But how should all this be, and 
how could experience, or the shocks that punctuate 
it, teach me anything to the purpose, or lend me any 
assurance in life not merely a reinforced blindness 
and madness on my part, unless substances standing 
and moving in ordered ways surrounded me, and I 
was living in the midst of nature ? Certainly a 
partial sceptic like Berkeley, closing one eye in the 
interests of a sentimental religion, may conceive that 
nature is not a system of evolving substances round 
him affecting his own growth, but a perpetual illusion, 
like a dream : a story told him in the dark, a con 
secutive miracle of grace or of punishment by which a 
divine spirit dazzles and conducts his spirit, without 
any medium or any occasion. But if this fairy-tale 
is to hold good, and to justify the arts of life and 



BELIEF IN NATURE 237 

maintain the distinction between vice and virtue, I 
must be able to discern the ways of Providence in 
their routine ; everything will happen exactly as if 
nature existed, and unrolled itself in a mechanical, 
inexorable, and often shocking way ; my idealism will 
merely allow me to admit miracles, and to hope that 
to-morrow everything will be well. If I regard the 
world of appearance as a mask which the deity wears 
inevitably, the very essence of the creator being to 
create such a world, the difference between belief in 
God and belief in nature will be merely verbal, and I 
may say with Spinoza, Deus sive natura. If on the con 
trary God is approachable in himself and would prove a 
better companion than nature and sweeter to commune 
with, why should he terrify me or delude me with 
this unworthy disguise ? Why should he have pre 
ferred to manifest himself by creating appearances 
rather than by creating substances ? What secret 
necessity could have compelled him to create anything 
at all, or whispered in his ear these irresponsible 
designs ? If nature behaves as nature would, is it 
not simply nature ? If God were there instead would 
he not behave like God ? Or if I say that I have no 
right to presume how God should behave, but that 
wisdom counsels me to learn his ways by experience, 
what difference remains between God and nature, 
and are they more than two names for the same thing ? 
If by calling nature God or the work of God, or 
the language in which God speaks to us, nothing is 
meant except that nature is wonderful, unfathomed, 
alive, the source of our being, the sanction of morality, 
and the dispenser of happiness and misery, there can 
be no objection to such alternative terms in the mouth 
of poets ; but I think a philosopher should avoid the 
ambiguities which a too poetical term often comports. 
The word nature is poetical enough : it suggests 
sufficiently the generative and controlling function, 



238 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

the endless vitality and changeful order of the world 
in which I live. 

Faith in nature restores in a comprehensive way 
that sense of the permanent which is dear to animal 
life. The world then becomes a home, and I can 
be a philosopher in it. Perhaps nature is not really 
constant, nor single ; unless indeed I so stretch and 
eviscerate the notions of unity and constancy as to 
apply them to the total aspect of nature, under the 
form of eternity, however incoherent and loose the 
structure of that totality may be. But in this aeon, 
in this portion or special plane of space, a sufficient 
constancy is discoverable : far greater than my scope 
can cover, or my interest require. It is inattention 
and prejudice in men, not inconstancy in nature, 
that keeps them so ignorant, and the art of government 
so chaotic. Whenever a little persistent study of 
nature is made (as recently in the interest of mechanical 
inventions) rapid progress at once follows in the arts : 
and art is the true discoverer, the unimpeachable 
witness to the reality of nature. The master of any 
art sees nature from the inside, and works with her, 
or she in him. Certainly he does not know how he 
operates, nor, at bottom, why he should : but no more 
does she. His mastery is a part of her innocence. 
It happens so, and within limits it prospers. To that 
extent he has assurance of power and of support. 
It is a faith congruous with his experience that if he 
could bend his faculties more accurately to their task, 
nature would prove indefinitely tractable : and if a 
given animal with special organs and a special form 
of imagination can progressively master the world, 
the fact proves that the world is con-natural with him. 
I do not mean that it favours his endeavours, much 
less that it is composed as his fancy pictures it ; I 
mean only that his endeavours express one of the for 
mations which nature has fallen into, for the time in 



BELIEF IN NATURE 239 

equilibrium with the surrounding formations ; and 
that his ideas too are in correspondence with the sphere 
of his motions, and express his real relations. The 
possibility of such correspondence and such equi 
librium proves that nature exists, and that the creature 
that sustains them is a part of nature. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

EVIDENCES OF ANIMATION IN NATURE 

THE sense that nature is animate, and in particular 
that men and brutes have feelings and thoughts, 
stands in greater need of criticism than of defence. I 
assume it before my notions of substance or of nature 
are clearly formed, and before I can distinguish 
animate from inanimate being. I assume it, not 
because it is at all evident or probable in itself, but 
because I fetch the materials for all my inchoate 
conceptions from my own sensibility : and in discourse 
(which I am busy with from the beginning) I un 
wittingly interweave the notion of animation in gather 
ing my experience of essences and of things. I 
attribute an existence to these essences which is 
proper only to the light of intuition travelling over 
them : and I attribute to these substances moral 
attributes and sensuous perspectives also borrowed 
from my running discourse. This subjective matrix 
and envelope of all my knowledge, though I may 
overlook it, underlies knowledge to the end ; so that 
I shall never cease to conceive nature as animate and 
brutes and men as walking thoughts and passions 
until I have advanced very far in scepticism. Even 
then, except in deliberate theory, my apprehension 
of nature will be fabulous and dramatic ; so that now 
that I have officially reinstated my faith in nature, 
faith in the animation of nature will tend to slip in 

240 



ANIMATION IN NATURE 241 

unannounced ; somewhat as when an exile is amnestied 
or a foreigner naturalised, his parasites (if any) are 
silently admitted too. Yet this is not, or need not 
be, the law ; and as it is legality in opinion that here 
occupies me, I will inquire whether evidence of anima 
tion (even supposing that nature is animate in fact) 
could by any possibility be found at all ; and having 
cleared up that point, I will inquire further under 
what control, and with what chances of truth, I may 
imaginatively attribute animation to nature in the 
absence of all evidence. 

Why do I attribute animation to myself, that is, 
to my body ? That my spirit discovers a world with 
my body in it, is not the question ; the why of that 
would be a metaphysical enigma obviously insoluble, 
arising out of a trick of thought and inapt application 
of categories. The point is why, when I feel a pain, 
I suppose that it is my back or my stomach that 
aches, and not simply my spirit. I think we may 
distinguish two reasons. One is that the pain is an 
element in the perception of my back or stomach ; it 
is instinct with the loudest and most urgent animal 
faith ; and it imperatively summons my attention to 
those obscure regions, and makes me wonder what is 
happening there. The other reason is that the pain 
may be associated with another observed event in 
which my body appears as an integral element, as 
when my back aches because I am being thrashed. 
My nobler thoughts are also known to animate my 
body for this external reason. It is my tongue or 
gesture that announces them, even to myself. Bad 
observers, who suppose themselves to see or to discourse 
without intervention of their eyes or larynx, imagine 
that they are essentially disembodied spirits, to whom 
all things are directly perspicuous, and that only a 
hateful invention of philosophers, called introjection 
or bifurcation, has put their minds inside their bodies. 

R 



242 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

Whether incarnation is or is not a hateful fatality to 
spirit, I will not discuss here ; but that spirit is 
incarnate, that it lodges in the body and looks forth 
from it on the world, is a fact easily ascertained by 
closing the eyes, taking a glass of wine, or blushing 
at having made a fool of oneself. 

Faith in memory (which is involved in dialectic 
and in perception) also reveals to me what animation 
means, and obliges me to assert its existence. In 
dialectic and in perception I assume that recurrent 
views are being taken by me of an object identical 
with itself if an essence, or continuous with itself if 
a substance. Such recurrent intuitions or mentions 
of the terms of discourse are posited in primary 
memory, as well as in reversion to the past after an 
interval of forgetfulness. This remembrance is remem 
brance of animation. It posits thought, cognitive, 
synthetic, immaterial ; but it posits it as having 
occurred in particular conjunctions at particular times, 
in the vicissitudes of a particular body, my own, in a 
material world. These alleged past intuitions could 
not be kept apart in memory, nor assumed to have 
been spaced at longer or shorter intervals of time, 
nor to have been enacted in a particular order, unless 
they were attributed to the past career of myself, 
an animal in the natural world, and grafted upon 
recognisable material situations and actions to which 
those intuitions were relevant. Nature is the canvas 
on which, in memory, I paint the perspective of my 
personal experience. Even a fictitious memory, or a 
false experience like that of a dream, is recognisable 
as having had a natural occasion and date, and as 
painting a particular incredible perspective of the 
same world. Otherwise, I should not think I was 
remembering my past thoughts, but I should be 
merely contemplating certain fresh essences. 

By animation, then, I understand material life 



ANIMATION IN NATURE 243 

quickened into intuitions, such as, if rehearsed and 
developed pertinently, make up a private experience. 
The question whether nature is animate does not 
regard its substance, but its moral individuation. In 
how many places is experience being gathered ? What 
evidence have I that nature thinks and feels, or that 
the men and animals think and feel who people 
nature ? 

I must discard at once, as incompatible with the 
least criticism, the notion that nature or certain parts 
of nature are known to be animate because they 
behave in certain ways. The only behaviour that can 
give proof of thinking is thinking itself. If I have ever 
conceived intuition or discourse at all, and obtained 
assurance of its existence, it has been in my own 
person, by knowing what I mean and am meaning, 
what I feel and have felt ; and this posited discourse 
of mine has assumed, in my estimation, the character 
of animation of my body, by virtue of two additional 
dogmas which I have accepted : first, the dogma that 
I am a substantial being far deeper than my discourse, 
a psyche or self ; and second, the dogma that this 
substantial being is in dynamic interplay with a whole 
environing system of substances on the same plane 
with itself. In this way I have come by my initial 
instance of animation in nature, on the model of 
which I am able to conceive animation in its other 
parts. 

Now it is obvious that in many parts of nature, 
and especially in the language and gestures of men of 
my own race, I find a setting for mental discourse 
exactly similar to the setting into which I have put 
my own intuitive experience ; so that their words and 
actions vividly suggest to me my own thoughts. Just 
as formerly I incorporated or introjected my thoughts 
into my own body, so now I incorporate or introject 
them into the bodies moving before me. Imitation 



244 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

contributes to this dramatic understanding, because 
I am not confined, when I watch other people, to 
remembering what I may have felt when I was in 
some such situation, or spoke some such words. 
Their attitude and language may be novel to me, and, 
as we say, a revelation : that is, they may by contagion 
arouse unprecedented intuitions in me now, which I 
unhesitatingly attribute to them, perhaps with indigna 
tion, swearing that such thoughts never could enter 
my head, and that I am utterly incapable of such 
feelings. Yet this is psychologically false ; because 
if I understand a thought, I have it ; though it may 
be present as an essence only, without carrying assent. 
The irony of the case is that very likely I alone have 
it, and not at all the man to whom I attribute it. Even 
the closest similarity in language or action is a very 
abstract similarity, and the concrete and full current 
of our two lives, on which the quality of intuitions 
depends, may be quite different. All dramatic under 
standing of which I am capable is, by hypothesis, my 
discourse. The most contagious feelings, the clearest 
thoughts, of others are clear or contagious only because 
I can readily make them my own. I cannot conceive 
deeper thoughts than my lead can plumb, nor feelings 
for which I lack the organ. 

Of course by an abuse of language the word 
animation might be used to designate certain kinds of 
behaviour ; as the ancients said the world was rational 
because orderly, or the stars intelligent because they 
kept going round in circles. So men or women 
might be said to think because they speak or because 
they write books ; but it does not follow. The inner 
patter of words which I sometimes hear in myself, 
and which mystics have called inspiration or (when 
explosive) speaking with tongues, is not thinking ; 
it is an object of perception that may suggest to me 
a subsequent thought, although often I see, when I 



ANIMATION IN NATURE 245 

try to frame this thought, that those words make 
nonsense. It is very true, as I shall find later, that 
the fountain of my thoughts, that is, the self who 
thinks them, is my psyche, and that movements 
there guide my thoughts and render them, as the 
case may be, intelligent, confused, rapid, or halting ; 
also supply my language, dictate my feelings, and 
determine when my thinking shall begin and where 
it shall end. But the light of thought is wanting 
there, which is the very thinking ; and no fine inspec 
tion of behaviour nor interweaving of objects will 
ever transmute behaviour into intuition nor objects 
into the attention which, falling upon them, turns 
them from substances or essences into objects of 
actual thought. By animation I understand the in 
carnation in nature, when it behaves in these ways, 
of a pure and absolute spirit, an imperceptible cognitive 
energy, whose essence is intuition. 

Animation being essentially imperceptible and not 
identical with any habit or act observable in nature, 
I see the justification of those philosophers who say 
that animals, in so far as science can study them, are 
machines ; the discoverable part of them is material 
only, just as is the rest of nature. But this conclu 
sion being implied only in my transcendental approach 
to nature and my knowledge of her, can in no way 
prejudge her real constitution, which may be as rich 
and superabundant as it likes, without asking my 
leave or reporting to me her domestic budget ; nor 
is anything thereby prejudged in respect to the nature 
or laws of matter, or the simplicity of its mechanism. 
Nature seems, at first blush, to have many levels of 
habit, irreducible to one another. As it was only the 
other day that a hint reached us that gravity and the 
first law of motion might be forms of a single principle, 
so it may be long before we hear from the biologists 
that chemical reaction and animal instinct are forms 



246 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

of the same habit in matter. Even if they are irre 
ducible to a common principle, they will be two 
habits of matter, and nothing more. There is a 
sense in which every different manifestation of a 
principle makes a different principle of it, as the 
language of the United States might be said not to 
be English ; but the alienation of form from form is 
not a departure from the habit of flux, complication, 
dissolution, and temporary arrest which runs through 
all language. So nature might be said to have as 
many irreducible habits as she has forms ; but she 
has an underlying ground of transformation as well, 
on which, I suspect, all those forms are grafted, no 
more wilfully diverse nor artificially identical than 
leaves upon a tree ; and when wiseacres, every day 
of every year, bring their ponderous proofs that life 
is not mechanical, that the human will, by exception, 
is free, and that a single disembodied purpose, by 
magic, makes all things dance contrarily to their own 
nature, nature and I wink at each other. 

The circumstance that animation, by its very 
essence, must be imperceptible, and not a link in 
any traceable process, renders disproof of animation 
anywhere as impossible as proof of it. Those senti 
mentalists are short - sighted who in their desire to 
show that mind is everywhere, introduce mental 
forces or interpolate mental links into their account 
of physical economy. If thought was discoverable 
only in the gaps between motions, no thoughts would 
be discoverable in nature at all. I do not presume to 
say that nature can make no leaps ; I leave her to her 
own paces ; but I do not conceive that, if she shows 
gaps (and what is a gap but a transition ?) I must 
hasten to fill them up for her with alleged intuitions. 
She may be made up of gaps ; they may be her steps ; 
and if her limbs have strength in them for leaping, let 
her leap. Her strides are their own measure ; it is 



ANIMATION IN NATURE 247 

only my ignorance or egotism that can regard any of 
her ways as abnormal. Thought in myself has not 
appeared when my system has broken down, but 
rather when it has established quick connections with 
things about it. Thought is not a substitute for 
physical force or physical life, but an expression of 
them when they are working at their best. If I may 
read animation into nature at all, it must be where 
her mechanisms are sustained, not where they are 
suspended. 

There are two stages in the criticism of myth, 
or dramatic fancy, or the sort of idealism that sees 
purposes and intentions and providential meanings 
in everything. The first stage treats them angrily 
as superstitions ; the second treats them smilingly as 
poetry. I think that most of the specific thoughts 
which men attribute to one another are proper only 
to the man who attributes them ; and the fabulous 
psychology of poets and theologians is easy to deride ; 
it has no specific justification, and the moral truth of 
it can be felt only by a poetic mind. Nevertheless, 
when I consider the inevitable egotism that presides 
over the understanding of mind in others, I fear that 
I am no less likely to sin through insensibility to the 
actual life of nature, because my tight little organs 
cannot vibrate to alien harmonies, than I am to sin 
through a childish anthropomorphism which makes 
not only the beasts but even the clouds and the gods 
discourse like myself. After all, in attributing human 
thoughts (with a difference) to non-human beings, I 
recognise their parity with myself ; my instinct is 
courteous or even humble ; and my incapacity to 
speak any moral language but my own is not only 
inevitable but healthy and manly. Sages and poets 
who have known no language but their own have a 
richer savour and a deeper wisdom than witlings full 
of miscellaneous accomplishments ; and when once 



248 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

I have renounced the pedantic demand that poetry 
should be prose, I can allow that myth may do the 
life of nature less injustice than would the only alter 
native open to me, which is silence. 

This may be said also about myth regarding myself, 
I mean the attempts of memory, self-justifying elo 
quence, or psycho-analysis to unfold the riches of my 
own mind. How much do I know about my own 
animation ? How much is too fluid to be caught in 
the sieve of memory, and to be officially assimilated 
in verbal soliloquy ? When any one asks me what I 
think of the weather or of the Prime Minister, does 
my answer report anything that I have previously 
thought ? Probably not ; my past impressions are 
lost, or obliterated by the very question put to me ; 
and I make bold to invent, on the spur of the moment, 
a myth about my sentiments on the subject. The 
present play of language and fancy may fairly bring to 
a head old impressions or ruling impulses ; or I may 
have occasion to amend my first expression, and 
obeying a fresh suggestion of my fancy I may say : 
No, no ; I meant rather this. Whereupon I may 
proceed laboriously to create and modulate my opinion, 
groping perhaps to a final epigram, which I say 
expresses just what I think, although I never thought 
it before. Such is my discourse when I am really 
thinking ; at other times it is but the echo of language 
which I remember to have formerly used, and there 
fore call my ideas. It is clear therefore that even 
in expressing my own mind when I conceive what 
I have felt, I have never really felt just that before. 
My report is an honest myth. 

The case is even worse as regards the emotions. 
What do I mean when I talk of my desires, my 
intentions, or the motives of others ? Unless these 
things have been actually expressed in words which 
I can recover, neither I nor my neighbours have ever 



ANIMATION IN NATURE 249 

had in mind anything like what I now impute. My 
desire, in fact, was only a certain alacrity in doing 
things which afterwards I see leading to a certain 
issue ; my intention (if actual at all) was a certain 
foresight of what the issue might be ; and the motives 
I assigned to others were but ulterior events imagined 
by me which, if they had actually occurred, I suppose 
would have pleased those people. The sensations 
or ideas which may really have accompanied their 
actions, or the words they may really have pronounced 
mentally, are not within my view ; if they were they 
would probably go a very little way towards preparing 
or covering the actions in question. These actions 
would turn out to have had subjectively a totally 
different complexion from that which I assign to 
them on seeing them performed. The very abundance 
and incessant dream-like prolixity of mental discourse 
render it elusive ; and the discourse I officially impute 
to myself or to others is a subsequent literary fiction, 
apt if it suggests the events which the discourse 
concerned, or excites the emotions which those events 
if witnessed would have produced on an observer of 
my disposition, but by no means a fiction patterned 
on any actual former experience in anybody. My 
sense of animation in nature, and all my notions of 
human experience, are dramatic poetry, and nothing 
else. 

There is therefore no direct evidence of animation 
in nature anywhere, but only a strong propensity in 
me to imagine nature discoursing as I discourse, 
because my apprehension of nature is embedded in 
my miscellaneous, serried, and private thoughts, and I 
can hardly clear it of the mental elements emotional, 
pictorial, or dramatic which encrust it there. On 
reflection, however, and by an indirect approach, I 
can see good reason for believing that some sort of 
animation (not at all such animation as my fancy 



250 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

attributes to it at first) pervades the organic world ; 
because my psyche is animate ; she is the source 
and seat, as I have learned to believe, of all my dis 
course ; yet she is not different, in any observable 
respect, from the psyches of other animals, nor is 
she composed of a different sort of substance from 
the common earth, light, and air out of which she 
has arisen, and by which she is fed ; she is but 
one in the countless generations of living creatures. 
Accordingly the analogy of nature would suggest that 
the other living creatures in the world are animate 
too, and discourse privately no less assiduously and 
absurdly than I do. It would even suggest that all 
the substance of nature is ready to think, if circum 
stances allow by presenting something to think about, 
and creating the appropriate organ. 

The character of this universal animation, or 
readiness to think, is inconceivable by me, in so far 
as its organs or objects differ from my own. The 
forms of it are doubtless as various as the forms of 
material being ; a stone will think like me, in so far 
as it lives like me. There are actually some men, a 
few, who do live like me ; these also think like me ; 
and we can truly understand one another and impute 
to one another the very thoughts we severally have. 
In such rare cases, human discourse in one man 
may bring perfect knowledge (though no evidence) 
of human discourse in another. In doing the same 
things and uttering the same words we have instant 
assurance of unanimity, in this case not deceptive ; 
especially when it is not the outer stimulus that is 
common to us, but the spontaneous reaction. For 
this reason gesture or poetry is a better index to 
feeling than are events or information coming to men 
from outside. What happens to people will never 
tell you how they feel ; the alien observer misunder 
stands everything ; only he understands a mind who 



ANIMATION IN NATURE 251 

can share its free and comic expression. For this 
reason too psychology is not a science unless it 
becomes the science of behaviour, when it ceases to 
be an account of mental discourse and traces only 
the material life of the psyche. In order to com 
municate thought it is necessary to impose it. 

Moral communication becomes surer in proportion 
as the discourse to be reproduced involves more 
articulation, more distinct turns by which fidelity in 
the rendering may be controlled. The form of 
thought is more easily transferable than its sensuous 
elements. Under the same sky, with the same animal 
instincts, with the same experience of love, labour, 
and war, one race or one age may be totally cut off 
from another in spirit. The same language, on the 
contrary, the same myths, legends, or histories, may 
be carried almost unchanged across seas and ages, 
and may unite the happier moments of distant peoples. 
The range of such moral unity is also easy to discover ; 
I may learn how far languages or religions are diffused ; 
they create recognisable moral communities. Indeed, 
they tyrannise over society, so social are they ; and 
they often render people who share the same spirit 
cruel to heretics of their own flesh and blood. The 
humanities may prove inhuman ; and the less articu 
late, more robust instincts of mankind may take their 
revenge by stamping the humanities out. Yet the 
barbarians, who are not divided by rival traditions, 
fight all the more incessantly for food and space. 
Peoples cannot love one another unless they love the 
same ideas. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

LITERARY PSYCHOLOGY 

SCIENTIFIC psychology is a part of physics, or the 
study of nature ; it is the record of how animals act. 
Literary psychology is the art of imagining how they 
feel and think. Yet this art and that science are 
practised together, because one characteristic habit of 
man, namely speech, yields the chief terms in which 
he can express his thoughts and feelings. Still it is 
not the words, any more than the action and attitude 
which accompany them, that are his understanding of 
the words, or his sense of his attitude and action. 
These can evidently be apprehended only dramatically, 
by imitative sympathy ; so that literary psychology, 
however far scientific psychology may push it back, 
always remains in possession of the moral field. 

When nature was still regarded as a single animal, 
this confusion extended to science as a whole, and 
tinctured the observation of nature with some sugges 
tion of how a being that so acts must be minded, and 
what thoughts and sentiments must animate it. Such 
myths cannot be true ; not because nature or its parts 
may not be animate in fact, but because there is no 
vital analogy between the cosmos and the human 
organism ; so that if nature is animate as a whole, or 
in her minute or gigantic cycles, animation there is 
sure not to resemble human discourse, which is all 
we can attribute to her. Myth and natural theology 

252 



LITERARY PSYCHOLOGY 253 

are accordingly fabulous essentially and irremediably. 
If literary psychology is to interpret the universe at 
large, it can be only very cautiously, after I have 
explored nature scientifically as far as I can, and am 
able to specify the degree of analogy and the process 
of concretion that connect my particular life with 
the universal flux. 

Myth is now extinct (which is a pity) and theology 
discredited ; but the same confusion subsists in the 
quarters where it is not fashionable to doubt. History, 
for instance, is partly a science, since it contains 
archaeological and antiquarian lore and a study of 
documents ; but it is also, in most historians, an 
essay in dramatic art, since it pretends to rehearse the 
ideas and feelings of dead men. These would not be 
recoverable even if the historian limited himself to 
quoting their recorded words, as he would if he was 
conscientious ; because even these words are hard to 
interpret afterwards, so as to recover the living senti 
ment they expressed. At least authentic phrases, like 
authentic relics, have an odour of antiquity about 
them which helps us to feel transported out of our 
selves, even if we are transported in fact only into a 
more romantic and visionary stratum of our own being. 
Classic historians, however, are not content with 
quoting recorded words : they compose speeches for 
their characters, under the avowed inspiration of Clio ; 
or less honestly, in modern times, they explain how 
their heroes felt, or what influences were at work in 
the spirit of the age, or what dialectic drove public 
opinion from one sentiment to another. All this is 
shameless fiction ; and the value of it, when it has a 
value, lies exclusively in the eloquence, wisdom, or 
incidental information found in the historian. Such 
history can with advantage be written in verse, or put 
upon the stage ; its virtue is not at all to be true, but 
to be well invented. 



254 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

Philosophy fell into the same snare when in 
modern times it ceased to be the art of thinking and 
tried to become that impossible thing, the science of 
thought. Thought can be found only by being enacted. 
I may therefore guide my thoughts according to some 
prudent rule, and appeal as often as I like to experience 
for a new starting-point or a controlling perception 
in my thinking ; but I cannot by any possibility make 
experience or mental discourse at large the object of 
investigation : it is invisible, it is past, it is nowhere. 
I can only surmise what it might have been, and 
rehearse it imaginatively in my own fancy. It is an 
object of literary psychology. The whole of British 
and German philosophy is only literature. In its 
deepest reaches it simply appeals to what a man says 
to himself when he surveys his adventures, re-pictures 
his perspectives, analyses his curious ideas, guesses at 
their origin, and imagines the varied experience which 
he would like to possess, cumulative and dramatically 
unified. The universe is a novel of which the ego 
is the hero ; and the sweep of the fiction (when 
the ego is learned and omnivorous) does not con 
tradict its poetic essence. The composition is perhaps 
pedantic, or jejune, or overloaded ; but on the other 
hand it is sometimes most honest and appealing, 
like the autobiography of a saint ; and taken as the 
confessions of a romantic scepticism trying to shake 
itself loose from the harness of convention and of 
words, it may have a great dramatic interest and 
profundity. But not one term, not one conclusion in 
it has the least scientific value, and it is only when 
this philosophy is good literature that it is good for 
anything. 

The literary character of such accounts of experi 
ence would perhaps have been more frankly avowed 
if the interest guiding them had been truly psycho 
logical, like that of pure dramatic poetry or fiction. 



LITERARY PSYCHOLOGY 255 

What kept philosophers at this task often quite 
unsuited to their powers was anxiety about the 
validity of knowledge in physics or in theology. They 
thought that by imagining how their ideas might have 
grown up they could confirm themselves in their faith 
or in their scepticism. Practising literary psychology 
with this motive, they did not practise it freely or 
sympathetically ; they missed, in particular, the decided 
dominance of the passions over the fancy, and the 
nebulous and volatile nature of fancy itself. For this 
reason the poets and novelists are often better psycho 
logists than the philosophers. But the most pertinent 
effect of this appeal of science to a romantic psycho 
logy was the hypostasis of an imagined experience, as if 
experience could go on in a void without any material 
organs or occasions, and as if its entire course could 
be known by miracle, as the experiences of the char 
acters in a novel are known to the author. 

Criticism of knowledge is thus based on the amazing 
assumption that a man can have an experience which 
is past, or which was never his own. Although criti 
cism can have no first principle, I have endeavoured in 
this book to show how, if genuinely and impartially 
sceptical, it may retreat to the actual datum and find 
there some obvious essence, necessarily without any 
given place, date, or inherence in any mind. But 
from such a datum it would not be easy to pass to 
belief in anything ; and if the leap was finally taken, 
it would be confessedly at the instance of animal 
faith, and in the direction of vulgar and materialistic 
convictions. Modern critics of knowledge have had 
more romantic prepossessions. Often they were not 
really critics, saying It seems, but rebels saying / 
find, I know, or empiricists saying Everybody finds, 
Everybody knows. Their alleged criticism of science 
is pure literary psychology, gossip, and story-telling. 
They are miraculously informed that there are many 



256 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

minds, and that these all have a conventional experi 
ence. What this experience contains, they think is 
easily stated. You have but to ask a friend, or make 
an experiment, or imagine how you would feel in 
another man s place. So confident is this social 
convention, that the natural world in which these 
experiences are reported to occur, and the assumed 
existence of which renders them imaginable, may be 
theoretically resolved into a picture contained in them. 
Thus the ground is removed which sustained all this 
literary psychology and suggested the existence of 
minds and their known experience at all ; yet the 
groundless belief in these minds, and in copious 
knowledge of their fortunes, is retained as obvious ; 
and this novelesque universe is called the region 
of facts, or of immediate experience, or of radical 
empiricism. Literary psychology thus becomes a 
metaphysics for novelists. It supplies one of the many 
thinkable systems of the universe, though a fantastic 
one ; and I shall return to it, under the name of 
psychologism, when considering the realm of matter. 
Here I am concerned only with the evidence that such 
masses of experience exist or are open to my inspection. 
No inspection is competent to discover anything 
but an essence ; what social intuition touches is 
therefore always a dramatic illusion of life in others 
or in myself, never the actual experience that may have 
unfolded itself elsewhere as a matter of fact. Yet this 
dramatic illusion, like any given essence, may be a true 
symbol for the material events upon which the psyche 
is then directed ; in this case, the life of other people, 
or my own past life, as scientific psychology might 
describe it. A good literary psychologist, who can 
read people s minds intuitively, is likely to anticipate 
their conduct correctly. His psychological imagina 
tion is not a link in this practical sagacity but a symptom 
of it, a poetic by-product of fineness in instinct and 



LITERARY PSYCHOLOGY 257 

in perception. Slight indications in the attitude or 
temper of the persons observed, much more than their 
words, will suggest to the sympathetic instinct of the 
observer what those persons are in the habit of doing, 
or are inclined to do ; and the stock idea assigned to 
them, or the stock passion attributed to them, will be 
but a sign in the observer s discourse for that true 
observation. I watch a pair of lovers ; and it requires 
no preternatural insight for me to see whether the 
love is genuine, whether it is mutual, whether it is 
waxing or waning, irritable or confident, sensual or 
friendly. I may make it the nucleus of a little novel 
in my own mind ; and it will be a question of my 
private fancy and literary gift whether I can evolve 
language and turns of sentiment capable of expressing 
all the latent dispositions which the behaviour of 
those lovers, unconscious of my observation, suggested 
to me. Have I read their minds ? Have I divined 
their fate ? It is not probable ; and yet it is infinitely 
probable that minds and fates were really evolving 
there, not genetically far removed from those which 
I have imagined. 

The only facts observable by the psychologist are 
physical facts, and the only events that can test the 
accuracy of his theories are material events ; he is 
therefore in those respects simply a scientific psy 
chologist, even if his studies are casual and desultory. 
Whence, then, his literary atmosphere ? For there is 
not only the medium of words which intervenes in 
any science, but the ulterior sympathetic echo of 
feelings truly felt and thoughts truly rehearsed and 
intended. I reply that whereas scientific psychology 
is addressed to the bodies and the material events 
composing the animate world, literary psychology 
restores the essences intervening in the perception 
of those material events, and re-echoes the intuitions 
aroused in those bodies. This visionary stratum is 

s 



258 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

the true immediate as well as the imagined ultimate. 
Even in the simplest perceptions on which scientific 
psychology, or any natural science, can be based, 
there is an essence present which only poetry can 
describe or sympathy conceive. Schoolroom experi 
ments in optics, for instance, are initially a play of 
intuitions, and exciting in that capacity ; I see, and 
am confident and pleased that others see with me, 
this colour of an after-image, this straight stick bent 
at the surface of the water, the spokes of this wheel 
vanishing as it turns. For science, these given essences 
are only stepping-stones to the conditions under 
which they arise, and their proper aesthetic nature, 
which is trivial in itself, is forgotten in the curious 
knowledge I may acquire concerning light and per 
spective and refraction and the structure of the eye. 
Yet in that vast, vibrating, merciless realm of matter 
I am, as it were, a stranger on his travels. The 
adventure is exhilarating, and may be profitable, but 
it is endless and, in a sense, disappointing ; it takes 
me far from home. I may seem to myself to have 
gained the whole world and lost my own soul. Of 
course I am still at liberty to revert in a lyrical moment 
to the immediate, to the intuitions of my childish 
senses ; yet for an intelligent being such a reversion 
is a sort of gran rifinto in the life of mind, a collapse 
into lotus-eating and dreaming. It is here that the 
Muses come to the rescue, with their dramatic and 
epic poetry, their constructive music, and their literary 
psychology. Knowledge of nature and experience of 
life are presupposed ; but as at first, in the beginnings 
of science, intuition was but a sign for material facts 
to be discovered, so now all material facts are but a 
pedestal for images of other intuitions. The poet 
feels the rush of emotion on the other side of the 
deployed events ; he wraps them in an atmosphere of 
immediacy, luminous or thunderous ; and his spirit, 



LITERARY PSYCHOLOGY 259 

that piped so thin a treble in its solitude, begins to 
sing in chorus. Literary psychology pierces to the 
light, to the shimmer of passion and fancy, behind the 
body of nature, like Dante issuing from the bowels of 
the earth at the antipodes, and again seeing the stars. 

Such a poetic interpretation of natural things has 
a double dignity not found in sensuous intuitions 
antecedent to any knowledge of the world. It has 
the dignity of virtual truth, because there are really 
intuitions in men and animals, varying with their 
fortunes, often much grander and sweeter than any 
that could come to me. The literary psychologist is 
like some antiquary rummaging in an old curiosity 
shop, who should find the score of some ancient 
composition, in its rude notation, and should sit down 
at a wheezy clavichord and spell out the melody, 
wondering at the depth of soul in that archaic art, so 
long buried, and now so feebly revealed. This curious 
music, he will say to himself, was mighty and glorious 
in its day ; this moonlight was once noon. There is 
no illusion in this belief in life long past or far distant ; 
on the contrary, the sentimentalist errs by defect of 
imagination, not by excess of it, and his pale water- 
colours do no justice to the rugged facts. The other 
merit that dignifies intuitions mediated by knowledge 
of things, is that they release capabilities in one s own 
soul which one s personal fortunes may have left 
undeveloped. This makes the mainspring of fiction, 
and its popular charm. The illusion of projecting 
one s own thoughts into remote or imaginary characters 
is only half an illusion : these thoughts were never 
there, but they were always here, or knocking at the 
gate ; and there is an indirect victory in reaching 
and positing elsewhere, in an explicit form, the life 
which accident denied me, and thereby enjoying it 
sub rosa in spite of fate. And there are many ex 
periences which are only tolerable in this dream-like 



260 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

form, when their consequences are negligible and 
their vehemence is relieved by the distance at which 
they appear, and by the show they make. Thus both 
the truth and the illusion of literary psychology are 
blessings : the truth by revealing the minds of others, 
and the illusion by expanding one s own mind. 

These imaginative blessings, however, are some 
times despised, and philosophers, when they suspect 
that they have no evidence for their psychological facts, 
or become aware of their literary flavour, sometimes 
turn away from this conventional miscellany of experi 
ence, and ask what is the substantial texture of ex 
perience beneath. Suppose I strain my introspection 
in the hope of discovering it ; the picture (for such 
a method can never yield anything but pictures) may 
be transformed in two ways, to which two schools of 
recent literary psychology are respectively wedded. 
One transformation turns experience, intensely gaped 
at, into a mere strain, a mere sense of duration or 
tension ; the other transformation unravels experience 
into an endless labyrinth of dreams. In the one case, 
experience loses its articulation to the extent of becom 
ing a dumb feeling ; and it is hard to see how, if one 
dumb undifferentiated feeling is the only reality, the 
illusion of many events and the intuition of many 
pictures could be grafted upon it. In the other 
case experience increases its articulation to the extent 
of becoming a chaos ; and the sensitive psychology 
that dips into these subterranean dreams needs, and 
easily invents, guiding principles by which to classify 
them. Especially it reverts to sexual and other animal 
instincts, thus grafting literary psychology (which in 
this field is called psycho-analysis) again on natural 
substance and the life of animals, as scientific psy 
chology may report it. 

This natural setting restores literary psychology 
to its normal status ; it is no longer a chimerical 



LITERARY PSYCHOLOGY 261 

metaphysics, but an imaginative version, like a historical 
novel, of the animation that nature, in some particular 
regions, may actually have possessed. The fineness 
and complexity of mental discourse within us may 
well be greater than we can easily remember or describe ; 
and there is piety as well as ingenuity in rescuing 
some part of it from oblivion. But here, as elsewhere, 
myth is at work. We make a romance of our inco 
herence, and compose new unities in the effort to 
disentangle those we are accustomed to, and find their 
elements. Discourse is not a chemical compound ; 
its past formations are not embedded in its present 
one. It is a life with much iteration in it, much 
recapitulation, as well as much hopeless loss and 
forgetfulness. As the loom shifts, or gets out of 
order, the woof is recomposed or destroyed. It is a 
living, a perpetual creation ; and the very fatality 
that forces me, in conceiving my own past or future, 
or the animation of nature at large, to imagine that 
object afresh, with my present vital resources and on 
the scale and in the style of my present discourse 
this very fatality, I say, reveals to me the nature of 
discourse everywhere, that it is poetry. But it is 
poetry about facts, or means to be ; and I need not 
fear to be too eloquent in expressing my forgotten 
sentiments, or the unknown sentiments of others. 
Very likely those sentiments, when living, were more 
eloquent than I am now. 



CHAPTER XXV 

THE IMPLIED BEING OF TRUTH 

FROM the beginning of discourse there is a subtle 
reality posited which is not a thing : I mean the truth. 
If intuition of essence exists anywhere without dis 
course, the being of truth need not be posited there, 
because intuition of itself is intransitive, and having 
no object other than the datum, can be neither true 
nor false. Every essence picked up by intuition is 
equally real in its own sphere ; and every degree of 
articulation reached in intuition defines one of a 
series of essences, each contained in or containing its 
neighbour, and each equally central in that infinite 
progression. The central one, for apprehension, is 
the one that happens to appear at that moment. 
Therefore in pure intuition there is no fear of picking 
up the wrong thing, as if the object were a designated 
existence in the natural world ; and therefore the 
being of truth is not broached in pure intuition. 

Truth is not broached even in pure dialectic, 
which is only the apprehension of a system of essences 
so complex and finely articulated, perhaps, as to tax 
human attention, or outrun it if unaided by some 
artifice of notation, but essentially only an essence 
like any other. Truth, therefore, is as irrelevant to 
dialectic as to merely aesthetic intuition. Logic and 
mathematics are not true inherently, however cogent 
or extensive. They are ideal constructions based on 

262 



THE IMPLIED BEING OF TRUTH 263 

ideal axioms ; and the question of truth or falsity 
does not arise in respect to them unless the dialectic 
is asserted to apply to the natural world, or perhaps 
when a dispute comes up as to the precise essence 
signified by some word, such as, for instance, infinity. 

When men first invented language and other 
symbols, or fixed in reflection the master-images of 
their dreams and thoughts, it seemed to them that 
they were discovering parts of nature, and that even 
in those developments they must be either right or 
wrong. There was a true name for every object, a 
part of its nature. There was a true logic, and a true 
ethics, and a true religion. Certainly in so far as 
these mixed disciplines were assertions about alleged 
facts, they were either right or wrong ; but in so far 
as they were systems of essences, woven together in 
fancy to express the instincts of the mind, they were 
only more or less expressive and fortunate and har 
monious, but not at all true or false. Dialectic, though 
so fine-spun and sustained, is really a more primitive, 
a more dream -like, exercise of intuition than are 
animal faith and natural science. It is more spon 
taneous and less responsible, less controlled by 
secondary considerations, as poetry is in contrast with 
prose. If only the animals had a language, or some 
other fixed symbols to develop in thought, I should 
be inclined to believe them the greatest of dialecticians 
and the greatest of poets. But as they seem not to 
speak, and there is no ground for supposing that they 
rehearse their feelings reflectively in discourse, I will 
suppose them to be very empty-headed when they 
are not very busy ; but I may be doing them an 
injustice. In any case their dreams would not 
suggest to them the being of truth ; and even their 
external experience may hardly do so. 

It might seem, perhaps, that truth must be en 
visaged even by the animals in action, when things 



264 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

are posited ; especially as uncertainty and change of 
tactics and purpose are often visible in their attitudes. 
Certainly truth is there, if the thing pursued is such 
as the animal presumes it to be ; and in searching 
for it in the right quarter and finding it, he enacts a 
true belief and a true perception, even if he does not 
realise them spiritually. What he realises spiritually, 
I suppose, is the pressure of the situation in which 
he finds himself, and the changes in his object ; but 
that his belief from moment to moment was right or 
wrong he probably never notices. Truth would then 
not come within his purview, nor be distinguished 
amongst his interests. He would want to be successful, 
not to be right. 

So in a man, intent experience, when not reflective, 
need not disclose the being of truth. Sometimes, in 
a vivid dream, objects suffer a transformation to 
which I eagerly adapt myself, changing my feelings 
and actions with complete confidence in the new 
facts ; and I never ask myself which view was true, 
and which action appropriate. I live on in perfect 
faith, never questioning the present circumstances as 
they appear, nor do I follow my present policy with 
less assurance than I did the opposite policy a moment 
before. This happens to me in dreams ; but politicians 
do the same thing in real life, when the lives of nations 
are at stake. In general I think that the impulse of 
action is translated into a belief in changed things 
long before it reproaches itself with having made any 
error about them. The recognition of a truth to be 
discerned may thus be avoided ; because although a 
belief in things must actually be either true or false, 
it is directed upon the present existence and character 
of these things, not upon its own truth. The active 
object posited alone interests the man of action ; if 
he were interested in the rightness of the action, he 
would not be a man of action but a philosopher. So 



THE IMPLIED BEING OF TRUTH 265 

long as things continue to be perceived in one form 
or another, and can be posited accordingly, the active 
impulse is released, and the machine runs on pros 
perously until some hitch comes, or some catastrophe. 
It is then always the things that are supposed to have 
changed, not the forms of folly. Even the most 
pungent disappointment, as when a man loses a bet, 
is not regarded otherwise than as a misfortune. It 
is all the fault of the dice ; they might and ought to 
have turned up differently. This, I say to myself, is 
an empirical world ; all is novelty in it, and it is luck 
and free will that are to blame. My bet was really 
right when I made it ; there was no error about the 
future then, for I acted according to the future my 
fancy painted, which was the only future there was. 
My act was a creative act of vitality and courage ; 
but afterwards things accountably went wrong, and 
betrayed their own promise. 

I am confirmed in this surmise about the psychology 
of action by the reasoning of empirical and romantic 
philosophers, who cling to this instinctive attitude 
and deny the being of truth. No substance exists, 
according to their view, but only things as they seem 
from moment to moment ; so that it is idle to contrast 
opinion with truth, seeing that there is nothing, not 
even things, except in opinion. They can easily 
extend this view to the future of opinion or of experi 
ence, and maintain that the future does not exist 
except in expectation ; and at a pinch, although the 
flesh may rebel against such heroic subjectivism, they 
may say that the past, too, exists only in memory, 
and that no other past can be thought of or talked 
about ; so that there is no truth, other than current 
opinion, even about the past. If an opinion about 
the past, they say, seems problematical when it stands 
alone, we need but corroborate it by another opinion 
about the past in order to make it true. In other 



266 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

words, though the word truth is familiar to these 
philosophers, the idea of it is unintelligible to them, 
and absent altogether from their apprehension of the 
world. 

The experience which perhaps makes even the 
empiricist awake to the being of truth, and brings it 
home to any energetic man, is the experience of other 
people lying. When I am falsely accused, or when 
I am represented as thinking what I do not think, I 
rebel against that contradiction to my evident self- 
knowledge ; and as the other man asserts that the 
liar is myself, and a third person might very well 
entertain that hypothesis and decide against me, I 
learn that a report may fly in the face of the facts. 
There is, I then see clearly, a comprehensive standard 
description for every fact, which those who report it 
as it happened repeat in part, whereas on the contrary 
liars contradict it in some particular. And a little 
further reflection may convince me that even the liar 
must recognise the fact to some extent, else it would 
not be that fact that he was misrepresenting ; and also 
that honest memory and belief, even when most un 
impeachable, are not exhaustive and not themselves 
the standard for belief or for memory, since they are 
now clearer and now vaguer, and subject to error and 
correction. That standard comprehensive description 
of any fact which neither I nor any man can ever 
wholly repeat, is the truth about it. 

The being of truth thus seems to be first clearly 
posited in disputation ; and a consequence of this 
accident (for it is an accident from the point of view 
of the truth itself under what circumstances men 
most easily acknowledge its authority) a consequence 
is that truth is often felt to be somehow inseparable 
from rival opinions ; so that people say that if there 
was no mind and consequently no error there could 
be no truth. They mean, I suppose, that nothing 



THE IMPLIED BEING OF TRUTH 267 

can be correct or incorrect except some proposition 
or judgement regarding some specific fact ; and that 
the same constitution of the fact which renders one 
description correct, renders any contradictory descrip 
tion erroneous. " Truth " is often used in this 
abstract sense for correctness, or the quality which 
all correct judgements have in common ; and another 
word, perhaps " fact " or " reality," would then have 
to be used for that standard comprehensive description 
of the object to which correct judgements conform. 
But a fact is not a description of itself ; and as to the 
I word " reality," if it is understood to mean existence, 
it too cannot designate a description, which is an 
essence only. Facts are transitory, and any part of 
existence to which a definite judgement is addressed 
is transitory too ; and when they have lapsed, it is 
only their essence that subsists and that, being partially 
recovered and assigned to them in a retrospective 
judgement, can render this judgement true. Opinions 
are true or false by repeating or contradicting some 
part of the truth about the facts which they envisage ; 
and this truth about the facts is the standard com 
prehensive description of them something in the 
realm of essence, but more than the essence of any 
fact present within the limits of time and space which 
that fact occupies ; for a comprehensive description 
includes also all the radiations of that fact I mean, 
all that perspective of the world of facts and of the 
realm of essence which is obtained by taking this 
fact as a centre and viewing everything else only in 
relation with it. The truth about any fact is therefore 
infinitely extended, although it grows thinner, so to 
speak, as you travel from it to further and further 
facts, or to less and less relevant ideas. It is the 
splash any fact makes, or the penumbra it spreads, 
by dropping through the realm of essence. Evidently 
no opinion can embrace it all, or identify itself with it ; 



268 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

nor can it be identified with the facts to which it 
relates, since they are in flux, and it is eternal. 

The word truth ought, I think, to be reserved 
for what everybody spontaneously means by it : the 
standard comprehensive description of any fact in all 
its relations. Truth is not an opinion, even an ideally 
true one ; because besides the limitation in scope 
which human opinions, at least, can never escape, 
even the most complete and accurate opinion would 
give precedence to some terms, and have a direction 
of survey ; and this direction might be changed or 
reversed without lapsing into error ; so that the truth 
is the field which various true opinions traverse in 
various directions, and no opinion itself. An even 
more impressive difference between truth and any 
true discourse is that discourse is an event ; it has a 
date not that of its subject-matter, even if the subject- 
matter be existential and roughly contemporary ; and 
in human beings it is conversant almost entirely with 
the past only, whereas truth is dateless and absolutely 
identical whether the opinions which seek to reproduce 
it arise before or after the event which the truth 
describes. 

The eternity of truth is inherent in it : all truths 
not a few grand ones are equally eternal. I am 
sorry that the word eternal should necessarily have 
an unction which prejudices dry minds against it, 
and leads fools to use it without understanding. This 
unction is not rhetorical, because the nature of truth 
is really sublime, and its name ought to mark its 
sublimity. Truth is one of the realities covered in 
the eclectic religion of our fathers by the idea of God. 
Awe very properly hangs about it, since it is the im 
movable standard and silent witness of all our memories 
and assertions ; and the past and the future, which 
in our anxious life are so differently interesting and 
so differently dark, are one seamless garment for the 



THE IMPLIED BEING OF TRUTH 269 

truth, shining like the sun. It is not necessary to 
offer any evidence for this eternity of truth, because 
truth is not an existence that asks to be believed in, 
and that may be denied. It is an essence involved 
in positing any fact, in remembering, expecting, or 
asserting anything ; and while no truth need be 
acknowledged if no existence is believed in, and none 
would obtain if there was no existence in fact, yet on 
the hypothesis that anything exists, truth has appeared, 
since this existence must have one character rather 
than another, so that only one description of it in 
terms of essence will be complete ; and this complete 
description, covering all its relations, will be the truth 
about it. No one who understands what is meant by 
this eternal being of truth can possibly deny it ; so 
that no argument is required to support it, but only 
enough intensity of attention to express what we 
already believe. 

Inspired people, who are too hot to think, often 
identify the truth with their own tenets, to signify by 
a bold hyperbole how certain they feel in their faith ; 
but the effect is rather that they lead foolish people, 
who may see that this faith may be false, to suppose 
that therefore the truth may be false also. Eternal 
truths, in the mouth of both parties, are then tenets 
which the remotest ancestors of man are reputed to 
have held, and which his remotest descendants are 
forbidden to abandon. Of course there are no eternal 
tenets : neither the opinions of men, nor mankind, 
nor anything existent can be eternal ; eternity is a 
property of essences only. Even if all the spirits in 
heaven and earth had been so far unanimous on any 
point of doctrine, there is no reason, except the 
monotony and inertia of nature, why their logic or 
religion or morals should not change to-morrow from 
top to bottom, if they all suddenly grew wiser or 
differently foolish. 



270 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

At the risk of being scholastic I will suggest the 
uses to which the word eternal and the terms akin 
to it might be confined if they were made exact. 

A thing that occupied but one point of physical time 
would be instantaneous. No essence is instantaneous, 
because none occupies any part of physical time or 
space ; and I doubt whether any existence is instantane 
ous either ; for if the mathematicians decide that the 
continuous or extended must be composed of an 
infinite number of inextended and non-contiguous 
units, in bowing to their authority I should retain a 
suspicion that nothing actual is confined to any of 
these units, but that the smallest event has duration 
and contains an infinite number of such units ; so 
that one event (though not one instant) can be con 
tiguous to another. 

A given essence containing no specious temporal 
progression or perspective between its parts would be 
timeless. Colour, for instance, or number, is timeless. 
The timeless often requires to be abstracted from the 
total datum, because round any essence as actually 
given there is an atmosphere of duration and persistence, 
suggesting the existential flux of nature behind the 
essence. Colour seems to shine, that is, to vibrate. 
Number seems to mount, and to be built up. The 
timeless is therefore better illustrated in objects like 
laws or equations or definitions, which though intent 
on things in time, select relations amongst them 
which are not temporal. 

A being that should have no external temporal 
relations and no locus in physical time would be 
dateless. Thus every given essence and every specious 
present is dateless, internally considered, and taken 
transcendentally, that is, as a station for viewing other 
things or a unit framing them in. Though dateless, 
the specious present is not timeless, and an instant, 
though timeless, is not dateless. 



THE IMPLIED BEING OF TRUTH 271 

Whatsoever, having once arisen, never perishes, 
would be immortal. I believe there is nothing im 
mortal. 

Whatsoever exists through a time infinite in both 
directions is everlasting. Matter, time, the life of God, 
souls as Plato conceived them, and the laws of nature 
are commonly believed to be everlasting. In the 
nature of the case this can be only a presumption. 

That which without existing is contemporary with 
all times is eternal. Truth is dateless and eternal, 
but not timeless, because, being descriptive of existence, 
it is a picture of change. It is frozen history. As 
Plato said that time was a moving image of eternity, 
we might say that eternity was a synthetic image of 
time. But it is much more than that, because, besides 
the description of all temporal things in their temporal 
relations, it contains everything that is not temporal 
at all ; in other words, the whole realm of essence, 
as well as the whole realm of truth. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT 

Is the existence of spirit evident to spirit, and involved 
in the presence of anything ? Is its nature simple and 
obvious ? I think there is something of which this 
may be said, but not of spirit ; for by spirit I under 
stand not only the passive intuition implied in any 
essences being given, but also the understanding and 
belief that may greet their presence. Even passive 
intuition is no datum ; there is nothing evident except 
the given essence itself. Yet, as I have seen above, 
the mere prolongation of this presence, the recognition 
of this essence as identical with itself, and the survey 
of its elements in various orders, very soon impose 
upon me a distinction between this essence and my 
intuition of it. This intuition is a fact and an event, 
as the essence cannot be ; so that even if spirit meant 
nothing but pure consciousness or the activity of a 
transcendental ego, it would need to be posited, in 
view of the felt continuity of discourse, and could 
not be an element in the given essences. If spirit 
were defined as the common quality of all appearances, 
distinguishing them from the rest of the realm of 
essence which does not appear, spirit would be reduced 
to an appearance itself. It would be like light, some 
thing seen, a luminousness in all objects, not what I 
understand by it, which is the seeing ; not the coloured 

272 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT 273 

lights I may observe, but the exercise of sight as 
distinguished from blindness. 

The common quality of all appearances is not 
spirit but mere Being ; that simple and always obvious 
element to which I referred just now as given in all 
essences without distinction, and which some philo 
sophers and saints have found so unutterably precious. 
This is all that is common to all possible appearances, 
considered in themselves ; but animal tension is not 
altogether absent even in this abstruse contemplation, 
and the sense that appearances are assaulting me thickens 
my intuition of their essence into an apprehension of 
existence, which existence, having no idea of myself, 
I of course attribute to them, or to the abstract common 
element in their essences, pure Being, which thus 
becomes in my eyes absolute existence. 

The present stimulus that awakens me out of my 
material lethargy and keeps my attention more or less 
taut is not spirit, although, of course, the birth of spirit 
is involved in my awakening. That stimulus is the 
strain and rumble of the universal flux, audible in my 
little sea-shell. It preserves the same ground-tone 
(that of a disturbance or a strain) no matter what 
image it may bring forth, or even if it brings forth no 
images but only a pervasive sense of swimming in 
safety and bliss. This budding sentiment of existence 
is a recognition not of spirit but of substance, of fact, 
of force, of an unfathomable mystery. 

By spirit I understand the light of discrimination 
that marks in that pure Being differences of essence, 
of time, of place, of value ; a living light ready to fall 
upon things, as they are spread out in their weight 
and motion and variety, ready to be lighted up. 
Spirit is a fountain of clearness, decidedly wind 
blown and spasmodic, and possessing at each moment 
the natural and historical actuality of an event, not 
the imputed or specious actuality of a datum. Spirit, 



274 

in a word, is no phenomenon, not sharing the aesthetic 
sort of reality proper to essences when given, nor 
that other sort proper to dynamic and material things ; 
its peculiar sort of reality is to be intelligence in act. 
Spirit, or the intuitions in which it is realised, ac 
cordingly forms a new realm of being, silently im 
plicated in the apparition of essences and in the felt 
pressure of nature, but requiring the existence of 
nature to create it, and to call up those essences before 
it. By spirit essences are transposed into appearances 
and things into objects of belief ; and (as if to com 
pensate them for that derogation from their native 
status) they are raised to a strange actuality in thought 
a moral actuality which in their logical being or 
their material flux they had never aspired to have : 
like those rustics and servants at an inn whom a 
travelling poet may take note of and afterwards, to 
their astonishment, may put upon the stage with 
applause. 

It is implied in these words, when taken as they 
are meant, that spirit is not a reality that can be 
observed ; it does not figure among the dramatis 
personce of the play it witnesses. As the author, 
nature, and the actors, things, do not emerge from 
the prompter s box, or remove their make-up so as 
to exhibit themselves to me in their unvarnished 
persons, but are satisfied that I should know them only 
as artists (and I for my part am perfectly willing to 
stop there in my acquaintance with them) ; so the 
spirit in me which their art serves is content not to 
be put on the stage ; that would be far from being a 
greater honour, or expressing a truer reality, than that 
which belongs to it as spectator, virtually addressed 
and consulted and required in everything that the 
theatre contrives. Spirit can never be observed as an 
essence is observed, nor encountered as a thing is 
encountered. It must be enacted ; and the essence 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT 275 

of it (for of course it has an essence) can be described 
only circumstantially, and suggested pregnantly. It 
is actualised in actualising something else, an image 
or a feeling or an intent or a belief ; and it can be 
discovered only by implication in all discourse, when 
discourse itself has been posited. The witnesses to 
the existence of spirit are therefore the same as those 
to the existence of discourse ; but when once discourse 
is admitted, the existence of spirit in it becomes 
self-evident ; because discourse is a perusal of essence, 
or its recurring presence to spirit. 

Now in discourse there is more than passive in 
tuition ; there is intent. This element also implies 
spirit, and in spirit as man possesses it intent or in 
telligence is almost always the dominant element. 
For this reason I shall find it impossible, when I come 
to consider the realm of spirit, to identify spirit with 
simple awareness, or with consciousness in the abstract 
sense of this abused word. Pure awareness or con 
sciousness suffices to exemplify spirit ; and there may 
be cold spirits somewhere that have merely that 
function ; but it is not the only function that only 
spirits could perform ; and the human spirit, having 
intent, expectation, belief, and eagerness, runs much 
thicker than that. Spirit is a category, not an in 
dividual being : and just as the realm of essence 
contains an infinite number of essences, each different 
from the rest, and each nothing but an essence, so 
the realm of spirit may contain any number of forms 
of spirit, each nothing but a spiritual fact. Spirit is 
a fruition, and there are naturally as many qualities 
of fruition as there are fruits to ripen. Spirit is 
accordingly qualified by the types of life it actualises, 
and is individuated by the occasions on which it 
actualises them. Each occasion generates an intuition 
numerically distinct, and brings to light an essence 
qualitatively different. 



276 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

Let me suppose, by way of illustration, that there 
was a disembodied spirit addressed to the realm of 
truth in general, and seeing all things under the form 
of eternity. This would be a very special kind of 
spirit, and many an essence would be excluded from 
its intuition ; for instance, the essence of surprise. 
No doubt it would congratulate itself on this incapacity, 
and say with Aristotle that there are things it is better 
not to know than to know, at least by experience. 
The essence of surprise involves ignorance of the 
future, and it could never be realised, or known by 
intuition, in a spirit to whom the future had always 
been known : and to know surprise by experience is 
the only way of knowing its essence. It might indeed 
be known by description, and defined as a feeling which 
animals have when they expect one thing and find 
another. Such a description may suggest the essence 
of surprise to me, who know by intuition what it is to 
expect and to find ; but it would never suggest that 
essence to a spirit that had only descriptions to go by, 
and who could reach a conception of " expecting " 
and of " finding " only in symbols that translated their 
transitive natures into synthetic pictures. Thus the 
essence of surprise would remain for ever excluded 
from intuition in a spirit that saw all things under the 
form of eternity. 

The occasions on which spirit arises in man are 
the vicissitudes of his animal life : that is why spirit 
in him runs so thick. In intent, in belief, in emotion 
a given essence takes on a value which to pure spirit 
it could not have. The essence then symbolises an 
object to which the animal is tentatively addressed, or 
an event through which he has just laboured, or which 
he is preparing to meet. This attitude of the animal 
may be confined to inner readjustments in the psyche, 
not open to gross external observation ; yet it may 
all the more directly be raised to consciousness in the 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT 277 

form of attention, expectation, deliberation, memory, 
or desire. These sentiments form a moving but 
habitual background for any particular essence con 
sidered ; they frame it in, not only pictorially in a 
sensuous perspective, but morally, by its ulterior 
suggestions, and by the way in which, in surveying 
the whole field of intuition, that particular feature in 
it is approached or attacked or rejected. In such 
settings given essences acquire their felt meanings ; 
and if they should be uprooted from that soil and 
exhibited in isolation, they would no longer mean 
the same thing to the spirit. Like a note in a melody, 
or a word in a sentence, they appeared in a field of 
essence greater than they ; they were never more 
than a term or a feature within it. For this reason 
I imagine that I see things and not essences ; the 
essences I see incidentally are embedded in the 
voluminous ever-present essences of the past, the 
world, myself, the future ; master-presences which 
express attitudes of mine appropriate not to an essence 
which is given but to a thing which though not 
given enlists all my conviction and concern. 

Thus intelligence in man, being the spiritual 
transcript of an animal life, is transitional and im 
passioned. It approaches its objects by a massive 
attack, groping for them and tentatively spying them 
before it discovers them unmistakably. It is energetic 
and creative, in the sense of slowly focussing its 
object within the field of intuition in the midst of felt 
currents with a felt direction, themselves the running 
expression of animal endeavours. All this intuition 
of turbulence and vitality, which a cold immortal 
spirit could never know, fills the spirit of man, and 
renders any contemplation of essences in their own 
realm only an interlude for him or a sublimation or 
an incapacity. It also renders him more conscious 
than a purer spirit would be of his own spirit. For 



278 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

just as I was able to find evidence of intuition in 
discourse, which in the motionless vision of essence 
would have eluded me, so in intent, expectation, belief, 
and emotion, the being of my thoughts rises up and 
almost hides the vision of my object. Although I 
myself am a substance in flux, on the same level as 
the material thing that confronts me, the essences 
that reveal my own being are dramatic and moral, 
whereas those that express the thing are sensuous ; and 
these dramatic and moral essences, although their 
presence involves spirit exactly in the same way, and 
no more deeply, than the presence of the sensuous 
essences does, yet seem to suggest its presence more 
directly and more voluminously. 

Hence the popular identification of spirit with the 
heart, the breath, the blood, or the brain ; and the 
notion that my substantial self and the spirit within 
me are identical. In fact, they are the opposite poles 
of my being, and I am neither the one nor the other 
exclusively. If I am spiritually proud and choose to 
identify myself with the spirit, I shall be compelled 
to regard my earthly person and my human thoughts 
as the most alien and the sorriest of accidents ; and 
my surprise and mortification will never cease at the 
way in which my body and its world monopolise my 
attention. If on the contrary I modestly plead guilty 
to being the biped that I seem, I shall be obliged to 
take the spirit within me for a divine stranger, in 
whose heaven it is not given me to live, but who 
miraculously walks in my garden in the cool of the 
evening. Yet in reality, incarnation is no anomaly, 
and the spirit is no intruder. It is as much at home 
in any animal as in any heaven. In me, it takes my 
point of view ; it is the voice of my humanity ; and 
what other mansions it may have need not trouble me. 
Each will provide a suitable shrine for its resident 
deity and its native oracle. It is a prejudice to suppose 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT 279 

that spirit is contaminated by the flesh ; it is generated 
there ; and the more varied its instruments and 
sources are, the more copiously it will be manifested, 
and the more unmistakably. 

Spiritual minds are the first to recognise the 
empire of the flesh over the spirit in the senses, the 
passions, and even in a too vivid imagination ; and 
they call these influences the snares of the adversary. 
I think they are right in condemning as vain or carnal 
any impulses which would disrupt the health of the 
soul, either directly in the individual body, or in 
directly by loosening such bonds with society as are 
requisite for human happiness. I also think, however, 
that moralists of this type overlook two considerations 
of the greatest moment, by which all the metaphysical 
background of their maxims is removed, and what is 
reasonable in them is put on a naturalistic basis. 
One consideration is that, on a small scale and in its 
own key, every impulse in man or beast bears its 
little flame of spirit. How much longing, how much 
laughter, how much perception, how much policy and 
art in those vices and crimes which the moralist 
thinks fatal to spirit ! They may render a finer thing 
impossible (which the moralist should bethink himself 
to depict more attractively), but in themselves they are 
full of life and light. For this reason crimes and 
vices, together with horrible adventures and the pomps 
and vanities of this wicked world, are the chosen 
theme of novelists and playwrights ; and the poor 
public, having hardly any other intellectual pleasure, 
gloats on these fictions, as an imaginative escape from 
the moral penury not only of their work, but of their 
religion. The poets are far more genuine lovers of 
spirit in this than their mentors, whose official morality 
is probably quite worldly, and insensible to any 
actually spiritual achievement, because such achieve 
ments are necessarily fugitive, invisible, and un- 



2 8o SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

productive. The devil was an angel essentially ; it 
was only in the complicated politics of this world 
that he missed his way, and became an enemy of the 
highest good. 

The other consideration that is overlooked is that 
the spirit which may discern this highest good is 
itself a natural passion, and not less an expression of 
the flesh though more justly and broadly than the 
random impulses it condemns. Consider, for instance, 
the earnestness with which evil is condemned. If 
this evil is pain, the objection to it could not be more 
instinctive. Why should pure spirit detest pain ? A 
material accident in the body here absorbs my attention, 
and strangely persuades me to be utterly rebellious 
and impatient at being so absorbed. The psyche, or 
the principle of bodily life, is somehow striving against 
the event or stimulus which produced the pain (a 
perfectly harmless essence to contemplate in itself), 
because the psyche is congenitally a system or cycle 
of habits which that obnoxious event interrupts. It 
is this material pressure and effort not to be stifled 
or rent in any of her operations that the psyche imposes 
on the spirit, commanding it to pronounce it a terrible 
evil that she should be rent or stifled. These strange 
and irrational pronouncements of spirit, calling events 
good or evil, are accordingly grounded on nothing 
but on a creeping or shrinking of the flesh. If the 
evil is moral the eventual defeat of some ideal I 
cherish for myself, my children, or my country 
what has fixed this ideal, or declared it to be a good ? 
Suppose this ideal is a life glorious and unending ; is 
it not obvious that nothing but the momentum of 
life, already accidentally working in myself, my 
children, or my country, could possibly demand life 
or determine what forms of life would be glorious 
for us ? I will not pursue this topic : if the reader 
does not understand, he probably never will. 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT 281 

Let me turn to the most intellectual powers of 
spirit attention, synthesis, perception. These too 
are voices loudly issuing from the heart of material 
existence, and proclaiming their origin there not only 
by their occasions and external connections, but by 
their inmost moral nature. Why does the spirit stop 
to collect or to recollect anything ? Why not range 
undisturbed and untrammelled over image after image, 
without referring one to another or attempting (always 
in vain) to preserve the design of vanished images, or 
the order of their appearance, even through the lapse 
of the sensible elements that filled them in ? Because 
the animal is forming habits. The psyche is plastic ; 
no impression can endure unchanged, as if it had been 
a substantial little thing in itself, and not a mode, a 
ripple, in an inherited, transmissible, ever rejuvenated 
substance. Scarcely is the impression received, but 
it merges in the general sensitiveness or responsiveness 
of the organ affected, modifying its previous way of 
reacting on some natural object, an object reported 
not by that impression alone, but by many others : 
so that the synthetic unity of apperception (that most 
radical of transcendental principles) obeys a compulsion 
peculiar to animal economy, which no pure spirit 
would need to share, the compulsion to use things as 
materials, to drop them and forge ahead, or to eat 
and to digest them : for the drinking in of light 
through the eyes, or of currents from other organs, 
thereby rearranging the habits of the nervous system, 
is very like the consumption of food, restoring the 
vegetative functions. Synthesis in thought, correlation, 
scope, or (as the phrase is) taking things in, is laborious 
piety on the spirit s part in subservience to the flesh. 
It is the mental fruit of training, of care : an inner 
possession rewarding an outer fidelity. 

Pure spirit would never need to apperceive at all ; 
this is an animal exigency that distracts it from 



282 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

intuition. There is unity in intuition too, of a nebulous 
sort, as there must be unity in the universe, since it is 
all there is, however loose its structure or unmarked 
its limits. Yet in intuition, as in cloud-land, the field 
is in the act of changing pervasively ; every part 
shifts more or less. Any feature you may distinguish 
fades and refashions itself irresponsibly ; and pure 
spirit would be perfectly content that it should do so. 
Perhaps, if it was a young spirit, it would positively 
whip up the hoop, or blow and distend the bubble, 
for the fun of seeing it run or burst more gloriously ; 
and it would be happy to think there was no harm 
done, and nothing left over. The scene would then 
be cleared for something utterly fresh. The synthetic 
unity of apperception is something imposed by things 
on animals, when these things exercise a seductive 
charm or threaten mischief. Attention cries halt, it 
reconnoitres, it takes note, it throws a lassoo over 
the horses of Poseidon, lord of the flux. And why ? 
Because the organs of spirit are structures ; they are 
mechanisms instituted in nature to keep doing certain 
things, roughly appropriate to the environment, itself 
roughly constant. It is to this approximate fixity of 
function and habit that spirit owes its distinct ideas, 
the names it gives to things, and its faith in things, 
which is a true revelation of their existence know 
ledge of them stored for use. 

Perception, too, would be a miracle and an im 
possibility to a spirit conceived as alien to matter. 
Perception is a stretching forth of intent beyond 
intuition ; it is an exercise of intelligence. Intelligence, 
the most ideal function of spirit, is precisely its point 
of closest intimacy with matter, of most evident sub 
servience to material modes of being. The life of 
matter (at least on the human scale, if not at every 
depth) is a flux, a passage from this to that, almost 
forbidding anything to be simply itself, by immediately 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT 283 

turning it, in some respect, into something different. 
If the psyche were a closed round of motions, the 
spirit it generated (if it generated spirit at all) would 
certainly not be perceptive or cognitive, but in some 
way emotional or musical the music of those spheres. 
But the round of motions which the psyche is actually 
wound up to make must be executed in a changeful 
and precarious environment, not to speak of changes 
in her own substance. She must hunt, fight, find a 
mate, protect the offspring, defend the den and 
the treasure. Perception, intelligence, knowledge 
accurately transcribe this mode of being, profoundly 
alien to repose in intuition or to drifting reverie. 
Perception points to what it does not, save by pointing, 
know to exist ; knowledge is only of the past or the 
future, both of which are absent ; and intelligence 
talks and talks to an interlocutor the mind of another 
man or god or an eventual self of one s own whom 
it can never see and whose replies, conveyed (if at all) 
through material channels, it is never sure exist 
morally, or could be understood if they did exist. 
There is no dilemma in the choice between animal 
faith and reason, because reason is only a form of 
animal faith, and utterly unintelligible dialectically, 
although full of a pleasant alacrity and confidence, 
like the chirping of birds. The suasion of sanity is 
physical : if you cut your animal traces, you run mad. 
It is impossible to say everything at once, and I 
have been contrasting intelligence with intuition, as if 
intuition were less subject than intelligence to physical 
inspiration, or had an independent source. This is 
not the case ; intuition is itself pathetically animal. 
Why should I have awaked at all ? Can anything, 
inwardly considered, be more gratuitous than con 
sciousness ? I am afraid I must be constituted 
differently from other people, at least in the reflective 
faculty, because it astonishes me to hear so many 



284 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

philosophers talking of spirit as if its existence ex 
plained itself, and denying the possibility of matter ; 
whereas to me it seems credible, though certainly 
unnecessary a priori, that matter should exist without 
being consulted, for it cannot help itself, suffers 
nothing, and has no reason to protest ; and its existence 
is antecedently just as plausible as its non-existence. 
But the existence of spirit really demands an explana 
tion ; it is a tremendous paradox to itself, not to say 
a crying scandal I mean from a scientific or logical 
point of view, because treated as a family secret the 
scandal is often delicious, and privately it is in this 
festive and poetic medium that I love to dwell. Spirit, 
since it can ask how it came to exist, has a right to 
put the question and to look for an answer. And it 
may perhaps find an answer of a sort, although not 
one which spirit, in all its moods, will think satis 
factory. 

Fact can never be explained, since only another 
fact could explain it : therefore the existence of a 
universe rather than no universe, or of one sort of 
universe rather than another, must be accepted without 
demur. In this very irrationality or contingency of 
existence, which is inevitable in any case, I find a 
clue to the strange presence of spirit in this world. 
Spirit, the wakefulness of attention, could not have 
arisen of its own accord ; it contains no bias, no 
principle of choice, but is an impartial readiness to 
know. It never could have preferred one thing to 
another, nor preferred existence for itself to non- 
existence, nor vice versa. Attention is not a principle 
that can select the themes that shall attract attention : 
to select them it must already have thought of them. 
As far as its own nature is concerned, attention is 
equally ready to fall on the just and on the unjust ; 
spirit is equally ready to speak any language, to quicken 
any body, and to adopt any interest. An instance of 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT 285 

spirit cannot be determined by spirit itself either in 
its occasion, its intensity, or the aesthetic character 
of the essence presented to it. Chance, matter, fate 
some non-spiritual principle or other must have 
determined what the spirit in me shall behold, and 
what it shall endure. Some internal fatality, their 
own brute existence and wilfulness, must be responsible 
for the fact that things are as they are, and not other 
wise. If any instance of spirit was to arise anywhere, 
the ground of it (if I speak of grounds at all) must 
have been irrational. Spirit has the innocence of a 
child ; it pleads not guilty ; at most it has become, 
without knowing how, an accomplice after the fact. 
It is astonished at everything. It is essentially, 
wherever it may be found, unsubstantial and ex 
pressive ; it is essentially secondary. Even if in fact 
some instance of spirit, some isolated intuition, sprang 
miraculously into being in an absolute void, and 
nothing else had ever existed or would exist, yet 
logically and in its own eyes that intuition would be 
secondary, since no principle internal to spirit, but 
only brute chance, would be expressed in the existence 
of that intuition, and in the arbitrary choice of the 
essence that happened to appear there. Spirit is 
therefore of its very nature and by its own confession 
the voice of something else : it speaks not of itself, 
but of the Father that sent it. I am accordingly 
prepared to find some arbitrary world or other in 
existence; and since this arbitrary world obviously 
has spirit in it, my problem is reduced to inquiring 
what features, in this arbitrary existing world, can 
have called spirit forth, and made it their living witness. 
I postpone the detail of this inquiry, but I have 
already indicated how the life of nature is expressed 
in the chief phases of spirit. Wakefulness, common 
to all these phases, is itself a witness to animal unrest, 
appetition, alarm, concern, preparation. It would be 



286 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

inane, as well as impossible, for me to open my eyes, 
if in looking I did not identify my spirit with my 
material person in its material predicaments, raising 
to an actual hypostasis in consciousness its material 
sensitiveness to outlying things. Electric influences 
issuing from these allow my organs to adjust themselves 
before grosser contact occurs ; and then intuition is a 
premonition of material fusion. Organic systems 
about to collide send forth this conscious cry or 
salutation. The current established may prevent a 
ruder shock, or may precipitate it, according to the 
prepared instinct of the receivers. The intuition 
expresses the initial fusion involved in the distant 
response, as if a ghostly messenger of oncoming 
things had rushed like a forerunner into the audience 
chamber, announcing their arrival. It is only mes 
sengers that reach the spirit, even in the thick of the 
fray ; but by lending credence to their hot reports, it 
can live through the battle, lost in its mists and passions, 
and thinking itself to give and to receive the blows. 

For a man, and especially for a philosopher, to 
suggest that spirit does not exist may accordingly pass 
for a delicious absurdity, and the best of unconscious 
comedy. If it had been some angel that denied it, 
because in his serenity and selflessness he could not 
discover that he was alive, we might regard the denial 
of spirit as the highest proof of spirituality : but in a 
material creature struggling to see and to think, and 
tossed from one illusion and passion to another, such 
a denial seems not only stupid, but ungracious ; for 
a man ought to be very proud of this dubious spark 
in his embers, and nurse it more tenderly than the 
life of a frail child. Nevertheless I think that those 
who deny the existence of spirit, although their 
language is rash and barbarous, are honestly facing 
the facts, and are on the trail of a truth. Spirit is 
too near them for them to stop at it in their eagerness 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRIT 287 

to count their visible possessions ; and when they 
hear the word used, it irritates them, because they 
suppose it means some sort of magical power or 
metaphysical caloric, alleged to keep bodies alive, 
and to impose purposes on nature ; purposes which 
such a prior spirit, being supernatural and immortal, 
could have had no reason for choosing. Such a 
dynamic spirit would indeed be nothing but an im 
material matter, a second physical substance dis 
tinguished from its grosser partner only in that we 
know nothing of it, but assign to its operation all 
those results which seem to us inexplicable. Belief 
in such a spirit is simply belief in magic ; innocent 
enough at first when it is merely verbal and childish, 
but becoming perverse when defended after it has 
ceased to be spontaneous. I am not concerned with 
spirit of that sort, nor with any kind of nether in 
fluences. The investigation of substance and of the 
laws of events is the province of physics, and I call 
everything that science may discover in that direction 
physical and not spiritual. Even if the substance of 
things should be sentiency, or a bevy of souls, or a 
single intense Absolute, it would be nothing but 
matter to what I call spirit. It would exercise only 
material functions in kindling the flame of actual 
intuition, and bearing my light thoughts like bubbles 
upon its infinite flood. I do not know what matter 
is in itself : but what metaphysical idealists call spirit, 
if it is understood to be responsible for what goes on 
in the world and in myself, and to be the " reality " 
of these appearances, is, in respect to my spiritual 
existence, precisely what I call matter ; and I find 
the description of this matter which the natural 
sciences supply much more interesting than that given 
by the idealists, much more beautiful, and much more 
likely to be true. That there is no spirit in the 
interstices of matter, where the magicians look for it, 



288 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

nor at the heart of matter, where many metaphysicians 
would place it, needs no proof to one who understands 
what spirit is ; because spirit is in another realm of 
being altogether, and needs the being and movement 
of matter, by its large sweeping harmonies, to generate 
it, and give it wings. It would be a pity to abandon 
this consecrated word to those who are grubbing for 
the atoms of substance, or speculating about a logic 
in history, or tabulating the capers of ghosts ; especially 
as there is the light of intuition, the principle of 
actuality in vision and feeling, to call by that name. 
The popular uses of the word spiritual support this 
definition of it ; because intuition, when it thoroughly 
dominates animal experience, transmutes it into pure 
flame, and renders it religious or poetical, which is 
what is commonly meant by spiritual. 



COMPARISON WITH OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 

DESCARTES was the first to begin a system of philosophy 
with universal doubt, intended to be only provisional 
and methodical ; but his mind was not plastic nor 
mystical enough to be profoundly sceptical, even 
histrionically. He could doubt any particular fact 
easily, with the shrewdness of a man of science who 
was also a man of the world ; but this doubt was only 
a more penetrating use of intelligence, a sense that 
the alleged fact might be explained away. Descartes 
could not lend himself to the disintegration of reason, 
and never doubted his principles of explanation. For 
instance, in order to raise a doubt about the applica 
bility of mathematics to existence (for their place in 
the realm of essence would remain the same in any 
case) he suggested that a malign demon might have 
been the adequate cause of our inability to doubt that 
science. He thus assumed the principle of sufficient 
reason, a principle for which there is no reason at all. 
If any idea or axiom were really a priori or spontaneous 
in the human mind, it would be infinitely improbable 
that it should apply to the facts of nature. Every 
genius, in this respect, is his own malign demon. 
Nor was this the worst ; for Descartes was not content 
to assume that reason governs the world a notion 
scandalously contrary to fact, and at bottom contrary 
to reason itself, which is but the grammar of human 

289 U 



290 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

discourse and aspiration linking mere essences. He 
set accidental limits to his scepticism even about 
facts. " I think, therefore I am," if taken as an 
inference is sound because analytical, only repeating 
in the conclusion, for the sake of emphasis, something 
assumed in the premise. If taken as an attestation 
of fact, as I suppose it was meant, it is honest and 
richly indicative, all its terms being heavy with empirical 
connotations. What is " thinking," what is " I," 
what is " therefore," and what is " existence " ? If 
there were no existence there would certainly be no 
persons and no thinking, and it may be doubted (as 
I have indicated above) that anything exists at all. 
That any being exists that may be called "I," so 
that I am not a mere essence, is a thousand times 
more doubtful, and is often denied by the keenest 
wits. The persuasion that in saying " I am " I have 
reached an indubitable fact, can only excite a smile 
in the genuine sceptic. No fact is self-evident ; and 
what sort of fact is this " I," and in what sense do I 
" exist " ? Existence does not belong to a mere 
datum, nor am I a datum to myself ; I am a somewhat 
remote and extremely obscure object of belief. Doubt 
less what I mean by myself is an existence and even 
a substance ; but the rudimentary phantoms that 
suggest that object, or that suggest the existence of 
anything, need to be trusted and followed out by a 
laborious empirical exploration, before I can make 
out at all what they signify. Variation alleged, strain 
endured, persistence assumed notions which when 
taken on faith lead to the assertion of existence and of 
substance, if they remained merely notions would 
prove nothing, disclose nothing, and assert nothing. 
Yet such, I suppose, are the notions actually before 
me when I say " I am." As to myself, when I proceed 
to distinguish that object in the midst of the moving 
world, I am roughly my body, or more accurately, 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 291 

its living centre, master of its organs and seat of its 
passions ; and this inner life of the body, I suspect, 
was the rock of vulgar belief which Descartes found 
at hand, easy to mount on, after his not very serious 
shipwreck. And the rock was well chosen ; not 
because the existence of my inner man is a simpler or 
a surer fact than any other ; to a true sceptic this 
alleged being so busily thinking and willing and 
fuming within my body is but a strange feature in 
the fantastic world that appears for the moment. Yet 
the choice of the inner man as the one certain existence 
was a happy one, because this sense of life within me 
is more constant than other perceptions, and not 
wholly to be shaken off except in profound contempla 
tion or in some strange forms of madness. It was a 
suitable first postulate for the romantic psychologist. 
On this stepping-stone to idealism the father of 
modern philosophy, like another Columbus, set his 
foot with elegance. His new world, however, would 
be but an unexplored islet in the world of the ancients 
if all he discovered was himself thinking. 

Thinking is another name for discourse ; and 
perhaps Descartes, in noting his own existence, was 
really less interested in the substance of himself, or 
in the fact that he was alive, than in the play of terms 
in discourse, which seemed to him obvious. Dis 
course truly involves spirit, with its intuition and 
intent, surveying those terms. And the definition of 
the soul, that its essence is to think, being a definition 
of spirit and not of a man s self, supports this inter 
pretation. But discourse, no less than the existence 
of a self, needs to be posited, and the readiness with 
which a philosopher may do so yields only a candid 
confession of personal credulity, not the proof of 
anything. The assumption that spirit discoursing 
exists, and is more evident than any other existence, 
leads by a slightly?dirTerent path to the same conclusion 






292 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

as the assumption of the self as the fundamental fact. 
In the one case discourse will soon swallow up all 
existence, and in the other this chosen existence, 
myself, will evaporate into discourse : but it will 
remain an insoluble problem whether I am a tran 
scendental spirit, not a substance, holding the whole 
imaginary universe in the frame of my thought, or 
whether I am an instance of thinking, a phase of that 
flux of sentience which will then be the substance of 
the world. It is only if we interpret and develop 
the Cartesian axiom in the former transcendental 
sense that it supplies an instrument for criticism. 
Understood in an empirical way, as the confident 
indication of a particular fact, it is merely a chance 
dogma, betraying the psychological bias of reflection 
in modern man, and suggesting a fantastic theory of 
the universe, conveniently called psychologism ; a 
theory which fuses the two disparate substances 
posited by Descartes, and maintains that while the 
inner essence of substance everywhere is to think, or 
at least to feel, its distribution, movement, and aspect, 
seen from without, are those of matter. 

In adopting the method of Descartes, I have sought 
to carry it further, suspending all conventional cate 
gories as well as all conventional beliefs ; so that not 
only the material world but all facts and all existences 
have lost their status, and become simply the themes 
or topics which intrinsically they are. Neither myself 
nor pure spirit is at all more real in that realm of 
essence than any other mentionable thing. When it 
comes to assertion (which is belief) I follow Descartes 
in choosing discourse and (as an implication of dis 
course) my substantial existence as the objects of 
faith least open to reasonable doubt ; not because 
they are the first objects asserted, nor because intrinsic 
ally they lend themselves to existence better than 
anything else, but simply because in taking note of 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 293 

anything whatever I find that I am assuming the 
validity of primary memory ; in other words, that 
the method and the fact of observation are adventi 
tious to the theme. But the fact that observation is 
involved in observing anything does not imply that 
observation is the only observed fact : yet in this gross 
sophism and insincerity the rest of psychologism is 
entangled. 

Hume and Kant seemed sceptics in their day and 
were certainly great enemies of common sense, not 
through any perversity of temper (for both were men 
of wise judgement) but through sophistical scruples 
and criticism halting at unfortunate places. They 
disintegrated belief on particular points of scholastic 
philosophy, which was but common sense applied to 
revelation ; and they made no attempt to build on 
the foundations so laid bare, but rather to comfort 
themselves with the assurance that what survived was 
practically sufficient, and far simpler, sounder, and 
purer than what they had demolished. After the 
manner of the eighteenth century, they felt that 
convention was a burden and an imposture, not 
because here and there it misinterpreted nature, but 
because it interpreted or defined nature at all ; and 
in their criticism they ran for a fall. They had 
nothing to offer in the place of what they criticised, 
except the same cheque dishonoured. All their philo 
sophy, where it was not simply a collapse into living 
without philosophy, was retrenchment ; and they 
retrenched in that hand-to-mouth fashion which 
Protestantism had introduced and which liberalism 
was to follow. They never touched bottom, and 
nothing could be more gratuitous or more helpless 
than their residual dogmas. These consisted in making 
metaphysics out of literary psychology ; not seeing 
that the discourse or experience to which they appealed 
was a social convention, roughly dramatising those 



294 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

very facts of the material world, and of animal life 
in it, which their criticism had denied. 

Hume seems to have assumed that every perception 
perceived itself. He assumed further that these per 
ceptions lay in time and formed certain sequences. 
Why a given perception belonged to one sequence 
rather than to another, and why all simultaneous 
perceptions were not in the same mind, he never 
considered ; the questions were unanswerable, so long 
as he ignored or denied the existence of bodies. He 
asserted also that these perceptions were repeated, 
and that the repetitions were always fainter than the 
originals two groundless assertions, unless the transi 
tive force of memory is admitted, and impressions 
are distinguished from ideas externally, by calling an 
intuition an impression when caused by a present 
object, visible to a third person, and calling it an idea 
when not so caused. Furthermore, he invoked an 
alleged habit of perceptions always to follow one 
another in the same order something flatly contrary 
to fact ; but the notion was made plausible by confusion 
with the habits of the physical world, where similar 
events recur when the conditions are similar. In 
tuitions no doubt follow r the same routine ; but the 
conditions for an intuition are not the previous 
intuitions, but the whole present state of the psyche 
and of the environment, something of which the 
previous intuitions were at best prophetic symptoms, 
symptoms often falsified by the event. 

All these haltings and incoherences arose in the 
attempt to conceive experience divorced from its 
physical ground and from its natural objects, as a 
dream going on in vacuo. So artificial an abstraction, 
however, is hard to maintain consistently, and Hume, 
by a happy exercise of worldly wit, often described 
the workings of the mind as our social imagination 
leads us all vaguely to conceive them. In these 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 295 

inspired moments he made those acute analyses of 
our notions of material things, of the soul, and of cause, 
which have given him his name as a sceptic. These 
analyses are bits of plausible literary psychology, 
essays on the origin of common sense. They are 
not accounts of what the notions analysed mean, much 
less scientific judgements of their truth. They are 
supposed, however, by Hume and by the whole 
modern school of idealists, to destroy both the meaning 
of these notions and the existence of their intended 
objects. Having explained how, perhaps, early man, 
or a hypothetical infant, might have reached his first 
glimmerings of knowledge that material things exist, 
or souls, or causes, we are supposed to have proved 
that no causes, no souls, and no material things can 
exist at all. We are not allowed to ask how, in that 
case, we have any evidence for the existence of early 
man, or of the hypothetical infant, or of any general 
characteristics of the human mind, and its tendencies 
to feign. The world of literature is sacred to these 
bookish minds ; only the world of nature and science 
arouses their suspicion and their dislike. They think 
that " experience," with the habits of thought and 
language prevalent in all nations, from Adam down, 
needs only to be imagined in order to be known truly. 
All but this imagined experience seems to them the 
work of imagination. While their method of criticism 
ought evidently to establish not merely solipsism, but 
a sort of solipsism of the present datum, yet they 
never stop to doubt the whole comedy of human 
intercourse, just as the most uncritical instinct and 
the most fanciful history represent it to be. How can 
such a mass of ill-attested and boldly dogmatic assump 
tions fail to make the critics of science uncomfortable 
in their own house ? Is it because the criticism of 
dogma in physics, without this dogma in psychology, 
could never so much as begin ? Is not their criticism 



296 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

at bottom a work of edification or of malice, not of 
philosophic sincerity, so that they reject the claim to 
knowledge only in respect to certain physical, meta 
physical, or religious objects which the modern mind 
has become suspicious of, and hopes to feel freer 
without ? Meantime, they keep their conventional 
social assumptions without a qualm, because they 
need them to justify their moral precepts and to lend 
a false air of adequacy to their view of the world. 
Thus we are invited to believe that our notions of 
material things do not mean what they assert, but 
being illusions in their deliverance, really signify only 
the series of perceptions that have preceded them, or 
that, for some unfathomable reason, may be expected 
to ensue. 

All this is sheer sophistry, and limping scepticism. 
Certainly the vulgar notions of nature, and even the 
scientific ones, are most questionable ; and they may 
have grown up in the way these critics suggest ; in 
any case they have grown up humanly. But they 
are not mere images ; they are beliefs ; and the truth 
of beliefs hangs on what they assert, not on their 
origin. The question is whether such an object as 
they describe lies in fact in the quarter where they 
assert it to lie ; the genealogy of these assertions in 
the mind of the believer, though interesting, is ir 
relevant. It is for science and further investigation of 
the object to pronounce on the truth of any belief. It 
will remain a mere belief to the end, no matter how 
much corroborated and corrected ; but the fact that 
it is a belief, far from proving that it must be false, 
renders it possibly true, as it could not be if it asserted 
nothing and had no object beyond itself which it 
pointed to and professed to describe. This whole 
school criticises knowledge, not by extending knowledge 
and testing it further, but by reviewing it maliciously, 
on the tacit assumption that knowledge is impossible. 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 297 

But in that case this review of knowledge and all this 
shrewd psychology are themselves worthless ; and we 
are reduced, as Hume was in his deeper moments of 
insight, to a speechless wonder. So that whilst all 
the animals trust their senses and live, philosophy 
would persuade man alone not to trust them and, if 
he was consistent, to stop living. 

This tragic conclusion might not have daunted a 
true philosopher, if like the Indians he had reached 
it by a massive moral experience rather than by 
incidental sophistries with no hold on the spirit. In 
that case the impossibility of knowledge would have 
seemed but one illustration of the vanity of life in 
general. That all is vanity was a theme sometimes 
developed by Christian preachers, and even in some 
late books of the Bible, with special reservations ; but 
it is an insight contrary to Hebraic religion, which 
invokes supernatural or moral agencies only in the 
hope of securing earthly life and prosperity for ever. 
The wisdom demanded could, therefore, not be negative 
or merely liberating ; and scepticism in Christian 
climes has always seemed demoralising. When it 
forced itself on the reluctant mind, people either 
dismissed it as a game not worth playing and sank 
back, like Hume, into common sense, though now 
with a bad conscience ; or else they sought some 
subterfuge or equivocation by which knowledge, ac 
knowledged to be worthless, was nevertheless officially 
countersigned and passed as legal tender, so that the 
earnest practice of orthodoxy, religious or worldly, 
or both at once, might go on without a qualm. Evi 
dently, to secure this result, it was necessary to set up 
some oracle, independent of natural knowledge, that 
should represent some deeper reality than natural 
knowledge could profess to reach ; and it was necessary 
that this oracle itself, by a pious or a wilful oversight, 
should escape criticism ; for otherwise all was lost. 



298 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

It escaped criticism by virtue of the dramatic illusion 
which always fills the sails of argument, and renders 
the passing conviction the indignant voice of omni 
science and justice. The principle invoked in criti 
cism, whatever it might be, could not be criticised. 
It did not need to be defended : its credentials were 
the havoc it wrought among more explicit conventions. 
And yet, by a mocking fatality, those discredited 
conventions had to be maintained in practice, since 
they are inevitable for mankind, and the basis, even 
by their weaknesses, of the appeal to that higher 
principle which, in theory, was to revise and reject 
them. This higher principle was no alternative view 
of the world, no revelation of further facts or destinies ; 
it was the thinking or dreaming spirit that posited 
those necessary conventions, and would itself die if 
it ceased to posit them. In discrediting the fictions 
of spirit we must, therefore, beware of suspending 
them. We are not asked to abolish our conception 
of the natural world, nor even, in our daily life, to 
cease to believe in it ; we are to be idealists only 
north-north-west, or transcendentally ; when the wind 
is southerly, we are to remain realists. The pronounce 
ments of animal faith have no doubt been reversed 
in a higher court, but with this singular proviso, that 
the police and the executioner, while reverently ac 
knowledging the authority of the higher tribunal, must 
unflinchingly carry out the original sentence passed 
by the lower. This escape from scepticism by 
ambiguity, and by introducing only cancelled dogmas, 
was chosen by German philosophy at the beginning 
of the nineteenth century, and by modernism and 
pragmatism at the end of it. 

Kant was thought a sceptic in his day, and called 
his philosophy criticism ; but his scepticism was very 
impure and his criticism, though laborious, was very 
uncritical. That he was regarded as a great philosopher 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 299 

in the nineteenth century is due to the same causes that 
made Locke seem a great philosopher in the eighteenth, 
not to any intrinsic greatness. He announced some 
revolutionary principles, which alarmed and excited 
the public, but he did not carry them out, so that the 
public was reassured. In his criticism of knowledge 
he assumed without question the Humian sequences 
of perceptions, although contrary to his doctrine of 
time ; and, more wisely than Hume, he never abandoned 
the general sense that these perceptions had organs 
and objects beneath and beyond them ; but having 
cut off, by his malicious criticism of knowledge, the 
organs and objects which perceptions notoriously have, 
he was forced to forge others, artificial and meta 
physical. Instead of the body, he posited a tran 
scendental ego, the categories of thought, and a 
disembodied law of duty ; instead of natural substances 
he posited the unknowable. I shall revert to these 
subjects in discussing the realm of matter, which is 
where they belong. Here I am concerned only with 
the analysis of knowledge, which in Kant was most 
conscientious, and valuable in spite of its rationalistic 
bias and its mythical solutions. 

Any intelligent mind comes upon data and takes 
them for signs of things. Empirical criticism consists 
in reverting from these objects of intent, the things of 
common sense and science, to the immediate data by 
which they are revealed. But since data are not 
vacantly stared at by an intelligent being, but are 
interpreted and combined, there is evidently a subtler 
element in knowledge of things than the data which 
empirical criticism reverts to : namely, the principles 
of interpretation, since the data are read and taken to 
be significant of existing objects, far richer and more 
persistent and more powerful than themselves. These 
principles I have summarily called animal faith, not 
being concerned to propose any analysis of them 



300 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

that should apply to all minds or to all objects ; for 
I conceive, for instance, that the future, in other 
animals, may be a more frequent and vivid object of 
animal faith than the past or the material environment 
posited by human beings. But Kant, assuming that 
mind everywhere must have a single grammar, in 
vestigated very ingeniously what he conceived to be 
its recondite categories, and schemata, and forms of 
intuition : all pompous titles for what Hume had 
satirically called tendencies to feign. But Kant, in 
dishonouring the intellect, at least studied it devotedly, 
like an alienist discovering the logic of madness ; and 
he gave it so elaborate an articulation, and imposed it 
so rigorously on all men for ever, that people supposed 
he was establishing the sciences on a solid foundation 
rather than prescribing for all men a gratuitous uni 
formity in error. Yet this was his true meaning : 
and in spite of its psychological prefaces and meta 
physical epilogues, and in spite of this pedantry about 
the necessary forms of all the sciences, the heart of 
the Kantian system was the most terrible negation. 
Among transcendental principles he placed space, 
time, and causality ; so that, if he had been consistent, 
he would have had to regard all multiple and successive 
existence as imagined only. Everything conceivable 
would have collapsed into the act of conceiving it, 
and this act itself would have lost its terms and its 
purpose, and evaporated into nothing. But not at 
all ; as if aware that all his conclusions were but 
curiosities in speculation and academic humours, he 
continued to think of experience as progressing in 
time, trifled most earnestly with astronomy and 
geography, and even comforted the pious with a 
postulate of immortality, as if time existed otherwise 
than in imagination. In fact, these backslidings were 
his amiable side : he always retained a certain humanity 
and wisdom, being much more thoroughly saturated 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 301 

with his conventional presuppositions than with his 
extravagant conclusions. 

A philosopher, however, must be taken at his best, 
or at his worst ; in any case, his pure doctrine must 
be freed as far as possible from its personal alloy : 
and the pure doctrine of Kant was that knowledge is 
impossible. Anything I could perceive or think was 
ipso facto a creature of my sense or thought. Nature, 
history, God and the other world, even a man s 
outspread experience, could be things imagined only. 
Thought for it was still assumed that there was 
thought was a bubble, self-inflated at every moment, 
in an infinite void. All else was imaginary ; no world 
could be anything but the iridescence of that empty 
sphere. And this transcendental thought, so rich in 
false perspectives, could it be said to exist anywhere, 
or at any time, or for any reason ? 

Here we touch one of those ambiguities and 
mystifications in which German philosophy takes 
refuge when pressed ; strong in the attack, it dissolves 
if driven to the defensive. Transcendentalism, in so 
far as it is critical, is a method only ; the principles by 
which data are interpreted come into play whenever 
intelligence is at work. The occasions for this exercise, 
as a matter of fact, are found in animal life ; and while 
every mind, at every moment, is the seat and measure 
of its own understanding, and creates its own know 
ledge (though, of course, not the objects on which 
animal life is directed and which it professes to know) 
yet the quality and degree of this intelligence may vary 
indefinitely from age to age and from animal to animal. 
Transcendental principles are accordingly only prin 
ciples of local perspective, the grammar of fancy in 
this or that natural being quickened to imagination, 
and striving to understand what it endures and to 
utter what it deeply wills. The study of transcendental 
logic ought, therefore, to be one of the most humane, 



302 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

tender, tentative of studies : nothing but sympathetic 
poetry and insight into the hang and rhythm of various 
thoughts. It should be the finer part of literary 
psychology. But such is not the transcendentalism 
of the absolute transcendentalists. For them the 
grammar of thought is single and compulsory. It is 
the method of the creative fiat by which not this or 
that idea of the universe, but the universe itself, 
comes into being. The universe has only a specious 
existence ; and the method by which specious existence 
is evoked in thought is divine and identical in all 
thinking. 

But why divine, and why always identical ? And 
why any thinking at all, or any process or variation 
in discourse, other than the given perspectives of the 
present vision ? At this point vertigo seizes the 
transcendentalist, and he no longer knows what he 
means. On the one hand, phenomena cannot be 
produced by an agency prior to them, for his first 
principle is that all existence is phenomenal and exists 
only in being posited or discovered. Will, Life, Duty, 
or whatever he calls this transcendental agency, by 
which the illusions of nature and history are summoned 
from the vasty deep, cannot be a fact, since all facts 
are created by its incantations. On the other hand 
phenomena cannot be substantial on their own account, 
for then they would not be phenomena but things, 
and no transcendental magician, himself non-existent 
and non-phenomenal, would be needed to produce 
them. 

Absolute transcendentalism the only radical form 
of a psychological criticism of knowledge is ac 
cordingly not a thinkable nor a stable doctrine. It is 
merely a habit of speaking ambiguously, with a just 
sense for the living movement of thought and a 
romantic contempt for its deliverance. Self-conscious 
ness cannot be, as this school strove to make it, a first 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 303 

principle of criticism : it is far too complex and 
derivative for that. But transcendentalism is a 
legitimate attitude for a poet in his dramatic reflections 
and romantic soliloquies ; it is the principle of per 
spective in thought, the scenic art of the mental theatre. 
The fully awakened soul, looking about it in this 
strange world, may well believe that it is dreaming. 
It may review its shifting memories, with a doubt 
whether they were ever anything in themselves. It 
may marshal all things in ideal perspectives about the 
present moment, and esteem them important and 
even real only in so far as they diversify the mental 
landscape. And to compensate it for the visionary 
character which the world takes on, it may cultivate 
the sense (by no means illusory) of some deep fountain 
of feeling and fancy within the self. Such wistful 
transcendentalism is akin to principles which in India 
long ago inspired very deep judgements upon life. 
It may be practised at will by any reflective person 
who is minded to treat the universe, for the time 
being, as so much furniture for his dreams. 

Yet this attitude, seeing that man is not a solitary 
god but an animal in a material and social world, 
must be continually abandoned. It must be abandoned 
precisely when a man does or thinks anything im 
portant. Its own profundity is dreamful, and, so to 
speak, digestive : action, virtue, and wisdom sound 
another note. It is therefore no worthy philosophy ; 
and in fact the Germans, whose philosophy it is, 
while so dutiful in their external discipline, are senti 
mental and immoral in their spiritual economy. If a 
learned and placid professor tells me he is creating 
the universe by positing it in his own mind according 
to eternal principles of logic and duty, I may smile 
and admire such an inimitable mixture of enthusiasm 
and pedantry, profundity and innocence. Yet there 
is something sinister in this transcendentalism, ap- 



304 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

parently so pure and blameless ; it really expresses 
and sanctions the absoluteness of a barbarous soul, 
stubborn in its illusions, vulgar in its passions, and 
cruel in its zeal cruel especially to itself, as barbarism 
always is, because it feeds and dilates its will as if its 
will were an absolute power, whereas it is nothing 
but a mass of foolish impulses and boasts ending in 
ignominy. Moreover, transcendentalism cannot even 
supply a thorough criticism of knowledge, which 
would demand that the ideas of self, of activity, and 
of consciousness should be disintegrated and reduced 
to the immediate. In the immediate, however, there 
is no transcendental force nor transcendental machinery, 
not even a set of perceptions nor an experience, but 
only some random essence, staring and groundless. 

I hope I have taken to heart what the schools of 
Hume and Kant have to offer by way of disintegrating 
criticism of knowledge, and that in positing afresh the 
notions of substance, soul, nature, and discourse, I 
have done so with my eyes open. These notions are 
all subject to doubt ; but so, also, are the notions 
proposed instead by psychological philosophers. None 
of these have reached the limit of possible doubt ; 
yet the dogmas they have retained, being romantic 
prejudices, are incoherent and incapable of serving 
as the basis for any reasonable system : and in a 
moral sense they are the very opposite of philosophy. 
When pressed, their negations end in solipsism and 
their affirmations in rhapsody. Far from purging the 
mind and strengthening it, that it might gain a clearer 
and more stable vision of the world, these critics have 
bewildered it with a multitude of methods and vistas, 
the expression of the confusion reigning in their day 
between natural science and religious faith, and 
between psychology and scepticism. 

My endeavour has been to restore these things to 
their natural places, without forgetting the assump- 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 305 

tions on which they rest. But the chief difference 
between my criticism of knowledge and theirs lies in 
the conception of knowledge itself. The Germans 
call knowledge Wissenschaft, as if it were something 
to be found in books, a catalogue of information, and 
an encyclopaedia of the sciences. But the question is 
whether all this Wissenschaft is knowledge or only 
learning. My criticism is criticism of myself : I am 
talking of what I believe in my active moments, as a 
living animal, when I am really believing something : 
for when I am reading books belief in me is at its 
lowest ebb ; and I lend myself to the suasion of 
eloquence with the same pleasure (when the book is 
well written) whether it be the Arabian Nights or the 
latest philosophy. My criticism is not essentially a 
learned pursuit, though habit may sometimes make my 
language scholastic ; it is not a choice between artificial 
theories ; it is the discipline of my daily thoughts 
and the account I actually give to myself from moment 
to moment of my own being and of the world around 
me. I should be ashamed to countenance opinions 
which, when not arguing, I did not believe. It would 
seem to me dishonest and cowardly to militate under 
other colours than those under which I live. Merely 
learned views are not philosophy ; and therefore no 
modern writer is altogether a philosopher in my eyes, 
except Spinoza ; and the critics of knowledge in 
particular seem to me as feeble morally as they are 
technically. 

I should like, therefore, to turn to the ancients 
and breathe again a clear atmosphere of frankness and 
honour ; but in the present business they are not 
very helpful. The Indians were poets and mystics ; 
and while they could easily throw off the conventions 
of vulgar reason, it was often only to surrender them 
selves to other conventions, far more misleading to a 
free spirit, such as the doctrine of transmigration of 

x 



3 o6 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

souls ; and when, as in Buddhism, they almost 
vanquished that illusion, together with every other, 
their emasculated intellect had nothing to put in its 
place. The Greeks on the contrary were rhetoricians ; 
they seldom or never reverted to the immediate for 
a foothold in thought, because the immediate lies 
below the level of language and of political convention. 
But they w r ere disputatious, and in that sense no 
opinion escaped their criticism. In this criticism they 
simply pitted one plausible opinion against another, 
supporting each in turn by all conceivable arguments, 
based on no matter what prejudices or presumptions. 
The result of this forensic method was naturally a 
suspense of rational judgement, favourable now to 
frivolity and now to superstition. The frivolity ap 
peared in the Sophists who, seeing that nothing was 
certain, impudently assumed as true whatever it was 
socially convenient to advocate. Protagoras seems to 
have reduced this bad habit to an honest system, when 
he taught that each occasion is, for itself, the ultimate 
judge of truth. This, taken psychologically, is evi 
dently the case : a mind cannot judge on other 
subjects nor on other evidences than are open to it 
when judging. But the judging moment need not 
judge truly ; and to maintain (as Protagoras does in 
Plato s Dialogue and as some pragmatists have done 
in our day) that all momentary opinions are equal in 
truth, though not equal in value, is to fail in radical 
scepticism : for it is to assume many moments, and 
knowledge (utterly inexplicable on these principles) 
of their several sequences and import ; and to assume 
something even more wanton, a single standard of 
value by which to judge them all. Such incoherence 
is not surprising in sophists whose avowed purpose 
in philosophising is to survive and succeed in this 
world, or perhaps in the next. Worldly people will 
readily admit that some ideas are better than others, 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 307 

even if both sets are equally false. The interest in 
truth for its own sake is not a worldly interest, but 
the human soul is capable of it ; and there might be 
spirits directed on the knowledge of truth as upon 
their only ultimate good, as there might be spirits 
addressed exclusively to music. Which arts and 
sciences are worth pursuing, and how far, is a question 
for the moralist, to be answered in each case in view 
of the faculties and genius of the persons concerned, 
and their opportunities. Socrates may humorously 
eschew all science that is useless to cobblers ; he 
thereby expresses his plebeian hard sense, and his 
Hellenic joy in discourse and in moral apologues ; 
but if he allows this pleasant prejudice to blind him 
to the possibility of physical discoveries, or of cogent 
mathematics, he becomes a simple sophist. The 
moralist needs true knowledge of nature even a little 
astronomy in order to practise the art of life in a 
becoming spirit ; and an agnosticism which was not 
merely personal, provisional, and humble would be 
the worst of dogmas. 

A sinking society, with its chaos of miscellaneous 
opinions, touches the bottom of scepticism in this 
sense, that it leaves no opinion unchallenged. But as 
a complete suspense of judgement is physically im 
possible in a living animal, every sceptic of the de 
cadence has to accept some opinion or other. Which 
opinions he accepts, will depend on his personal 
character or his casual associations. His philosophy 
therefore deserts him at the threshold of life, just 
when it might cease to be a verbal accomplishment ; 
in other words, he is at intervals a sophist, but at no 
time a philosopher. Nevertheless, among the Greek 
sceptics there were noble minds. They turned their 
scepticism into an expression of personal dignity and 
an argument for detachment. In such scepticism 
every one who practises philosophy must imitate 

X2 



308 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 

them ; for why should I pledge myself absolutely to 
what in fact is not certain ? Physics and theology, to 
which most philosophies are confined, are dubious in 
their first principles : which is not to say that nothing 
in them is credible. If we assert that one thing is 
more probable than another, as did the sceptics of the 
Academy, we have adopted a definite belief, we profess 
to have some hold on the nature of things at large, a 
law seems to us to rule events, and the lust of scepticism 
in us is chastened. This belief in nature, with a little 
experience and good sense to fill in the picture, is 
almost enough by way of belief. Nor can a man 
honestly believe less. An active mind never really 
loses the conviction that it is scenting the way of the 
world. 

Living when human faith is again in a state of 
dissolution, I have imitated the Greek sceptics in 
calling doubtful everything that, in spite of common 
sense, any one can possibly doubt. But since life 
and even discussion forces me to break away from a 
complete scepticism, I have determined not to do so 
surreptitiously nor at random, ignominiously taking 
cover now behind one prejudice and now behind 
another. Instead, I have frankly taken nature by the 
hand, accepting as a rule in my farthest speculations 
the animal faith I live by from day to day. There 
are many opinions which, though questionable, are 
inevitable to a thought attentive to appearance, and 
honestly expressive of action. These natural opinions 
are not miscellaneous, such as those which the Sophists 
embraced in disputation. They are superposed in a 
biological order, the stratification of the life of reason. 
In rising out of passive intuition, I pass, by a vital 
constitutional necessity, to belief in discourse, in 
experience, in substance, in truth, and in spirit. All 
these objects may conceivably be illusory. Belief in 
them, however, is not grounded on a prior probability, 



OTHER CRITICISMS OF KNOWLEDGE 309 

but all judgements of probability are grounded on 
them. They express a rational instinct or instinctive 
reason, the waxing faith of an animal living in a world 
which he can observe and sometimes remodel. 

This natural faith opens to me various Realms of 
Being, having very different kinds of reality in them 
selves and a different status in respect to my knowledge 
of them. I hope soon to invite the friendly reader 
to accompany me in a further excursion through those 
tempting fields. 



INDEX 



Analysis and synthesis, 117-119 
Animation, not behaviour, 244-246 ; 

an expression of mechanism, not 

a substitute, 246, 247 ; conceived 

dramatically, 248, 249 
Anthropomorphism excusable, 147, 

148 
Appearance, two senses of the word, 

39, 43 
Apperception, timeless, 24, 25, 28- 

30 ; its physical ground, 282 
Arabian Nights, 67, 160, 305 
Aristotle, his metaphysics, vii ; 
identifies essence with intuition, 
126-129 ; on God, 130, 131 ; on 
substance, 190 ; on entelechies, 
217 

Arts, creative like the senses, 87, 102 
Astronomy, good for moralists, 307 

Behaviour, theme of scientific psy 
chology, 243-246 

Belief, not implied in intuition, 16 ; 
enacted before it is asserted, 264 

Berkeley, alluded to, 58 ; his direct 
intuition, 68 ; his nominalism, 97 

Brahma, 18, 19, 51 

British and German philosophy 
criticises perception, not memory, 
13 ; only literature, 254 

Buddhism, 306 

Causation, 210 

Change, feeling of it not a change, 

25 ; known by faith only, 26 ; 

may be illusion, 30 ; fallacious 

disproofs of it, 31, 32 
Common sense, roughly sound, v 
Contingency of all existence, 134, 

135 

Contradiction an essence of dis 
course, 121, 137 



Criticism, empirical and transcen 
dental, 3,4; arises by conflict of 
dogmas, 8 ; depends on literary 
psychology, 187 ; should appeal 
to living beliefs, 305 

Data, non- existentials, 45; uni- 
versals, 54 ; their basis cerebral, 
56 

Dateless, defined, 270 

Democritus, ix, 55 

Demonstration, assumes discourse, 
115-119 

Descartes, 17 ; doubts facts only, 
289 ; cogito ergo sum, 290-293 

Dialectic, not true unless descrip 
tive, 28 ; involves belief in 
memory, 119, 120 

Discourse, an event, 119 ; involved 
in positing anything, 124 ; dis 
tinguished late, 193 

Dogma, how precipitated, 6 

Empiricism admits substance, 199- 
20 1 

Entelechy, 130, 217 

Error distinguishes discourse from 
its objects, 123 

Esse est percipi, 58 

Essences adumbrated, 35, 38, 39, 48 ; 
simile of the costumer s shop, 70- 
72 ; introduced, 73, 74 ; defined 
further, 75-78 ; necessary terms 
in knowledge, 80-82 ; of any 
complexity, 116, 262 ; infinitely 
comminuted, 129 ; without in 
herent values, 130 ; not limited to 
Platonic ideas, 225 

Eternal, defined, 271 

Eternity, 112 

Euclid, 86, 121 ; his space, 116, 117 

Events involve substance, 230-232 



3 i2 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 



Everlasting, defined, 271 
Evidence, two meanings, 43, 44, 99 
Existence, the sense of it, 24, 25, 187, 
188 ; not a datum, 34-38 ; pre 
sence to intuition neither sufficient 
for it nor necessary, 45-47 ; its 
physical definition, 48 ; odious to 
logic, 48, 206 ; name for an object 
of faith, 42 ; felt as pure Being 
posited, 273 

Expectation, irrational as hunger, 36 
Experience, use of the word, 138 ; 
naturally conditioned, transcen- 
dentally primary, 23, 24 ; con 
ceived as a life, 57 ; is discourse 
interrupted by shocks, 143 ; belief 
in it imposed by instinct, not by 
experience itself, 144 ; its primi 
tive texture, 188, 189 ; imagined 
experience hypostatised, 255, 256 ; 
reduced to blank feeling or ex 
tended to dreams, 260 
Explanation, 208 

Fact, 228, 229 ; never a datum, 91 ; 

denied if regarded as a concept, 60 
Faith prior to intuition, 107 
Fichte, 62, 63, 184, 185 
Future, an assumption, 36 ; rash 

notion of it, 235 

God assimilated to nature, 237 ; to 
truth, 268 ; to the spirit of a 
cosmos, 130, 131 

Hamlet, 27, 58, 95 

Heraclitus, ix, 29 

History, dependent for its validity 
on physics, 13 ; interfused with 
fiction, 1 60 ; partly literary psy 
chology, 253 

Hume, his sharp intuition, 67, 68 ; 
criticism by retrenchment, 293 ; 
residual assumptions, 294 ; analy 
sis of conventions, 295 ; sophis 
tical result, 296, 297 

Ideas not beliefs unless action is 
suggested, 16 ; Platonic ideas, 
222-224 

Identification an act of faith, 117, 119 

Identity felt under diverse appear 
ances, 153 

Illusion, three ways out of it, 72 

Immortal, defined, 271 

Indian philosophy, viii, 51-55, 67, 
35, 36 



Instantaneous, defined, 270 

Intelligence expresses animal ad 
justments, 281 

Intent, 100, 137, 166, 167 

Interpretation obscures the datum, 
67, 68 

Introjection, 241 

Intuition yields only appearance, 24 ; 
denied by sceptics, 58 ; an ex 
pression of animal wakefulness, 
133 ; does not think, 150 ; may 
exist behind observable facts, 258 ; 
divined by sympathy, 221, 250 ; 
most communicable when most 
articulate, 251 

Ionian physics, vii, viii 

Kant, 4, 97 ; his incoherence, 298 ; 
his analysis of knowledge, 299, 
300 ; destructive results, 301 

Karma, 54 

Knowledge, impossible with nothing 
to know, 60 ; is symbolical, 95, 
96, 98, 101 ; has a removed object, 
154 ; bridges the flux, 161 ; its 
animal basis, 164, 172 ; may 
recover essences given elsewhere, 
168, 169 ; not intuition, 170, 171 ; 
the object identified by bodily 
attitude (illustration of the moon), 
172-177 ; though symbolical pro 
gressive, 177-179 ; may be ade 
quate to discourse elsewhere, 207 ; 
when pictorially adequate it is 
still faith, 107 

Life of reason, 109, no 

Literary psychology, 174 ; possibly 
true, 259 ; turned into meta 
physics, 293, 294 

Logic, partly creative, partly de 
scriptive, vi ; not coercive over 
fact, ibid., 2, 3 ; studies essence, 
not truth, 262 

Memory, presence of the absent, 
141 ; is direct, 151 ; posits anima 
tion, 242 ; in a natural setting, 
150, 158 ; pictorial exactitude 
possible but worthless, 152, 153 ; 
stationed in the present, which 
frames the past, 154, 155 ; may be 
truer than experience, 156 ; should 
be selective, 157 ; criticised only 
by fancy, 160 

Metaphysics confuses different realms 
of being, vii, 203, 208, 209, 218 



INDEX 



Natural philosophy, vii ; present 
ferment in it, ix ; progresses in 
knowledge, 218 ; has a poetic side, 

234 

Nature, the total object of percep 
tion, 197, 198 ; connotations of 
the word, 234 ; uniformity of 
nature an assumption, ibid. ; 
tested and embodied in art, 236, 

239 
Nirvana, 51 

Object, use and misuse of the word, 

202, 203 
Order of genesis, of discovery, 109 ; 

of evidence, no 

Pain, 65, 66, 280 

Parmenides, 29, 55, 6 1 

Past, an object of faith, 29 ; may be 

illusory, 36, 37 
Perception, not intuition but faith 

expressing a bodily response, 282, 

283 
Permanence given in experience, 

193, 195 
Phenomena, in Platonism, 224 ; in 

modern philosophy, 225, 226 
Plato, 69, 78, 85, 225, 226, 306 
Platonic ideas, selected essences, 77 ; 

hypostatised, 222-224 
Positing, propriety of the term, 184 
Primary and secondary qualities, 

82-90 

Protagoras, 306 

Psyche, 19, 147, 156. Cf. Self 
Psychologism, 256, 292 
Psychology, scientific and literary, 

252 ; supports the non-existence 

of data, 63-66 
Pythagoras, ix 

Reality, meaning of the term, 33, 34 ; 

eulogistic use of it, 51, 210 
Reason, not a force, 186 ; principle 

of sufficient reason, 289 
Religious dogmas easily doubted, 1 1 , 



Scepticism, a conflict of dogmas, 8 ; 
an accident in philosophy, 9 ; 
rich in ideas, 67 ; a trance state, 
69 ; would be the best philosophy 
if tenable, too, 186 ; deprecated 
in Christian times, 297 

Sceptics in Greece, some sophists, 
307 ; some true philosophers, 308 



Schopenhauer, 68 

Self, evidence for its existence, 
146 ; may be denied, 148, 290 ; 
is obscure, 149 ; an almost per 
petual object, 291 

Sensations and ideas, ambiguous 
uses of the terms, 86-90, 188, 225 

Shock, distinguishes experience from 
pure discourse, 139, 141 ; 
prompts to belief in the self and 
in the object, 142 

Socrates, his favourite essences, 78 ; 
his utilitarianism in science, 307 

Solipsism, untenable if personal, 13 ; 
tenable if of the present moment, 
15, 16 

Sophists, 306 

Soul, genesis of the notion, 216 ; 
analysis of it, 218-221 

Spinoza, right on chief issue, viii ; 
thinks ideas beliefs, 16 ; defines 
the realm of essence, 129 ; a 
philosopher in the better sense, 
3.05 

Spirit, non-existential for transcen- 
dentalists, 62 ; at home in intui 
tion, 125, 126 ; implied in it, 147 ; 
ready to be omniscient, 116 ; 
timeless and supernatural in 
status, 161, 162 ; distrusts sub 
stance but lives by it, 147 ; is no 
datum, 272 ; often more than 
intuition, 273, 274 ; expresses 
animal life, 276-280 ; is not a 
substance, 286-288 

Spiritual substance, a contradiction, 
217 ; how suggested, ibid. 

Substance, posited by intent express 
ing animal reaction, 106 ; belief 
in it primordial, 185, 187 ; prior 
to intuition, 188 ; revealed on its 
dynamic side, not pictorially, 197 ; 
not metaphysical, 201, 202 ; the 
material in things, 203 ; not 
duplicated by them, 204 ; ex 
plains their genesis and distribu 
tion, 209 ; connects appearances, 

212 

Surprise, not occasioned by contin 
gency, 136 ; incompatible with 
omniscience, 276 

Timeless, defined, 270 

Transcendentalism, properly a 
method only, 23 ; its subject and 
object false, ibid. ; denies all 
existences, 59-63 ; its ambiguity, 



314 SCEPTICISM AND ANIMAL FAITH 



297, 298 ; a part of literary psy 
chology, 301 ; its metaphysical 
form, 302 ; must be abandoned in 
practice, 303 ; its latent bar 
barism, 304 

Truth, may be conveyed through 
symbols, 179-181 ; mistaken for 
substance, 226-228 ; possible in 
literary psychology, 259 ; not 
proper to names or values, 263 ; 
ignored by supposing things to 
change with the views of them, 
264-266 ; not an existence, not an 
opinion, not certitude, but the 
ultimate description of things in 



all their relations, 267, 268 ; the 
subjective seat of opinions does 
not jeopardise it, 306 ; may be 
loved for its own sake, 307 

Unity of apperception, 25 
Universals, data of intuition, 91, 93 
Universe, not known as a whole, vi ; 
may be a chaos, 235, 237 

Vagueness, relative, 94, 95 
Variation involves eternal essences, 

113, "4 
Vedanta, 61 



THE END 



Printed . Great Britain by R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinburgh, 



lantayana, G. 3 

945 , 

Scepticism and animal faith. .S23