In substance I agree with the Scholastic analysis, but need other terms, so as to state the matter without the Socratic-Aristotelian presuppositions in general philosophy which imply a conceptual structure in the world and a limited number of standard genera and species, and universals generally for the intellect to recognize. That is why "intuition", in my statements would take the place of both sense and intellect, in so far as these are actually realized in consciousness; while "intent" would take the place of I don't know exactly what assurance that the object faced not only exists but possesses in itself . . . the qualities given in perception. . . .
That is a complete misconception. No doubt when I wrote The Life of Reason I was taken up with rational ethics and interested (as I still am) in the theory of government and the pro's and con's of religious institutions. But I never thought of life in society, or of moral economy, as the obligatory or only worthy life. I am not a dogmatist in ethics. In so far as we legislate, and arrange things for mankind at large, of course we must do so rationally, with as fair a regard as possible for all the interests concerned. But these interests change and fade into infinity, and the art of government or education must, in practice, be rather empirical and haphazard. The best results, like the worst, will be unforeseen. Meantime actual life in each creature has its exquisite or terrible immediate reality. It is a spiritual life. It is spiritual in children as easily as in anchorites. This is not a substitute for the life of reason, but the cream or concomitant ultimate actuality of what the organized life of reason produces in consciousness. Of course, in so far as a man's thoughts are absorbed in instrumentalities, in business or politics or war or jollification, we do not call his experience spiritual: but those very actions might be food for a spiritual life if a recollected and mystical man performed them: so that the rationality of his life and its spirituality might be called two concomitant dimensions of it, the one lateral and the other vertical. The vertical or spiritual dimension is what inward religion has always added to life in the world, or in the cloister, which is a part of the world: that element may be more or less emphatic or genuine, according to a man's temperament or experience, but it is always an element, optional, private, like the love of music or like love at large. The legislator may salute it, he cannot contract to produce it.
When Descartes, for example, identified matter with extension, he substituted essence for substance . . . . . . . . When he imagined geometrical figures, indistinguishable in scale, parts, or quality, and bounded by merely ideal lines, nevertheless moving in reference to one another, he was substituting a possible pattern of nature for living nature herself. . . . The only substance remaining in his system—the only being self-existent in all its parts and in actual flux—was accordingly the discourse in which the material world might appear as a picture. Descartes thus became the father of psychologism against his will . . . .
Hence the earnestness and honesty with which the defenders of free-will assert at once two incompatible things: indetermination and power. They are expressing the life of matter, which is indeed not determined exactly to reproduce its previous forms, but tumbles forward to fresh collocations; and the power in it is truly internalnot a compelling magic exercised by any fixed form, energising either out of the past or out of the future, but indeed a potentiality or propensity within the substance concerned, a part of that blind impulse and need to shift which is native to existence; and as this universal dance was groundless in the beginning, so it remains groundless at every stage and in every factor, whether the figures of it be novel or habitual. This groundless pervasive power, with its tireless inner monotony and its occasional outward novelties, is matter thumping in the hearts of free-willists much more loudly than in those of their opponents. Believers in necessity have caught sight of some essencea law or habit or rule of some kindwhich they make haste to clap upon nature, as if nature had no further depth, and they had touched bottom with their proverbs; as knowing people are always incredulous of things not within their experience or their books. At some depth, and in terms not at all on the human scale, nature may very well be mechanicalI shall return to this question in its place; but each factor in that mechanism would remain perfectly spontaneous; for it is not the essence illustrated here than can produce the essence illustrated there. One configuration cannot even suggest another, save to an idle mind playing with the rhymes of appearance; but substance throughout continues groundlessly to shift its groundless arrangement. One inert essence after another is thereby embodied in thingsessences inwardly irrelevant, and associated even in thought only when thought has been tamed and canalised by custom. The method of this transformation may contain repetitions, and to that extent it will be mechanical; but it will never become anything but a perpetual genesis of the unwarrantable out of the contingent, mediated by a material continuity impartial towards those complications. So the common man feels that he is the source of his actions and words, though they spring up in him unbidden; and he weaves a sophisticated moral personage, all excuses, fictions, and verbal motives, to cover the unknown currents of his material life. Philosophers are not wanting to do the same for mankind at large, or even for the universe.
When Descartes, for example, identified matter with extension, he substituted essence for substance . . . . . . . . When he imagined geometrical figures, indistinguishable in scale, parts, or quality, and bounded by merely ideal lines, nevertheless moving in reference to one another, he was substituting a possible pattern of nature for living nature herself. . . . . The only substance remaining in his systemthe only being self-existent in all its parts and in actual flux—was accordingly the discourse in which the material world might appear as a picture. Descartes thus became the father of psychologism against his will . . . .
This analogy between Christian theology and my ontology must not be pressed: the one is a dogma, the other a language: a language based not on inspiration but on analysis, and meant only to render articulate the dumb experience of the soul. I am not concerned in these Realms of Being with alleged separate substances or independent regions. I am endeavouring only to distinguish the types of reality that I encounter; and the lines of cleavage that I discern are moral and logical, not physical chasms. Yet I find this language applicable, and in that sense true.
Certainly I do not exclude transcendental logic; but I admit it only in what I think its place, consistently with materialism; just as, consistently with materialism, I admit the authority of grammar over language when a particular language has developed a particular grammar, and thereby has become coherent internally and communicative. Yet a language, however organically developed, cannot impose its grammar on things or on other languages. Similarly transcendental logic serves to render articulate certain special perspectives necessarily confined to the subjective or poetic sphere. Whether it should have any validity or appropriateness in relation to further facts remains an open question.
The use of experience, to my mind, cannot be to prepare us for further experience; somewhere this experience must be self-rewarding, else all would be a democracy of unhappy tyrants making slaves of one another. There is a concomitant fruit to be gathered during this journey, experience at another level, the level of reflection, of spiritual self-possession, of poetry, of prayer. This is not a parasitic growth or expensive luxury that need not be added or that might exist elsewhere by itself. It could never exist elsewhere by itself, and the life here could never be complete naturally or spontaneously without it; not that it adds any energy or gives any new direction to the vital process, but that it is that vital process brought to a head and becoming a moral reality instead of a merely physical one. This moral reality or spiritual life will of course be peopled only with such images and sentiments as crude experience has elicited in each particular soul. I cannot transcend the scope of my faculties; but within these limits I am content to trace and to recast freely those special images and conceptions which the world or the arts happen to arouse in me. In the sphere of essence I lose nothing of my lessons learned from the facts, except precisely the wagers that at first I may have made about them. I can now smile at my losses, and at myself; but when the clock strikes, I instantly recover my dogmatic readiness in the requisite direction, and confidently skimming over all essence and appearances, I make my way back to school as directly, if not so fast, as any urchin. But I am no longer merely a distracted automaton; spirit in me has laid up some immaterial treasures in its own depths.
But how should conscience or reason arise in me or gain the least ascendancy over my heart, if I had no natural needs, interests, or affections? These with their truly categorical imperative might then lend reason and conscience some vital force to oppose to a no less natural madness or vice. Rational life could be nothing but natural life becoming harmonious. The principle of harmony itself, if disembodied, is as impotent as any other essence to govern existence or to manifest itself as a prescribed end to a mind not organically directed upon it.
In substance I agree with Scholastic analysis, but need other terms, so as to state the matter without the Socratic-Aristotelian presuppositions in general philosophy which imply a conceptual structure in the world and a limited number of standard genera and species, and universals generally for the intellect to recognize. That is why "intuition," in my statements would take the place of both sense and intellect, in so far as these are actually realised in consciousness; while "intent" would take the place of I don’t know exactly what assurance that the object faced not only exists but possesses in itself . . . the qualities given in perception. . . . I think all consciousness is intellectual: the sub-intellectual flux is purely material and only potentially conscious. . . .