« AnteriorContinuar »
constituted. The relation is, however, manifested in a different way: it is not an apprehension of the manifold of impression into the unity of consciousness, but the externalisation of self-consciousness in realising a conceived end or idea. Now, in so far as physical and psychical facts are phenomena of experience—and they have no other existence, at least none that can have any intelligible meaning given to it—they presuppose self-consciousness; for it is only in relation to it that experience is possible. That is to say, their existence logically implies a reference to a subject whose active externalising manifestation is the determination of means and end which constitutes moral (as distinguished from merely natural) action. So far, therefore, from our being able to trace the development of moral action from the simpler phenomena of natural action, we find that these, in their most rudimentary form, by virtue of their being phenomena of experience, imply and receive their reality from the self-consciousness which is the ^differentiating quality both of knowledge and of moral action. 5. The unity From this it follows that, although, empirically, aoioranTM': the change from the point of view of science to that of morality is a transition to a different order of facts, yet the passage may be possible transcenden(o) as mak- tally through self-consciousness. For in self-conthe transi- sciousness we reach the element of identity between uon from knowledge and action. It is, therefore, of importance to understand the nature of this self-conscious knowledge activity in relation to knowledge and to action. If t0 moraht5 the fundamental characteristic of knowledge is the bringing into relation to consciousness, then all conscious action has this characteristic; for it determines self towards some particular line of activity—that is to say, towards an object or end which is thereby related to consciousness. Action therefore, we may say, is knowledge. And in the same way, on the other hand, since the relating to consciousness which constitutes knowledge can only be regarded as originated by the subject, it follows, conversely, that knowledge is action.1 "We act," says Spinoza, "only in so far as we know or understand." Action is but one aspect or manifestation of that which, in another aspect or manifestation, is knowledge. But the aspect of self-consciousness we call knowledge and that we call action are different from one another. In the former the relating to consciousness in the definite forms of thought and perception is the prominent thing. In the latter it is the realising energy of the self-conscious
1 From "action" in this its ultimate meaning as equivalent to origination by the subject, it is necessary to distinguish "action " as a phenomenon in the external world. The latter is one of the modes in which the relation of objects is known to us, the former a characteristic of knowing. The active nature of knowledge is worked out in an interesting way in Professor S. S. Laurie's 'Metaphysica nova et vetusta,' by "Scotus Novanticus" (1884).
subject. The ordinary distinction between knowledge and action is therefore correct, if not pushed to the extent of making an absolute separation between them: in the former we idealise the real, in the latter we realise the ideal. But they are at one in this, that both involve self-conscious activity.
The self-consciousness which in one relation is knowledge, in another action, is thus the fundamental fact of human nature; and on it, therefore, the ethical end must be based, if that end can be disclosed by the nature of man, and is to express what is most fundamental in his nature. Now, as knowledge finds its completion when all things are connected with one another and the subject in a definite system of relations, the end of completed selfconscious activity cannot be different. In their final perfection, as in their fundamental nature, the two are at one. As Kant puts it,1 the speculative and the practical reason are reconciled in the notion of end. However virtue may differ from knowledge in the processes of ordinary experience, the distinction only belongs to their finite realisation. An intuitive understanding, or understanding which, in knowing, creates the objects of knowledge, is the highest conception of reason. Yet the very notion of a finite self implies that neither such knowledge nor such activity belongs to it. In knowledge and action, as properties of the ultimate
1 Werke, iii. 538; of. Adamson, Philosophy of Kant, p. 138.
self-consciousness, human beings only participate. It is only by means of the laborious methods of observation and inference that they approach the intuition of all things as a unity in which perfect knowledge consists; and, in the same way, it is only by the gradual volitional adaptation of means to end that they are able, in some measure, to contribute to the realisation of self-consciousness in the world.
An end can only be made our own when con- as seif-reaii
1 » T . T ,• sation,
ceived as necessary tor realising or completing our idea of self. Conscious volition only follows a conceived want, or recognition that the self as imagined—the ideal self—is not realised in the actual self. The action is towards a fuller working out of the idea of self; and the end may therefore, in all cases of conscious action, be said to be selfrealisation, though the nature of this end differs according to each man's conception of self. This may be expressed, as Green expresses it, by saying that "self-satisfaction is the form of every object willed; but ... it is on the specific difference of the objects willed under the general form of self-satisfaction that the quality of the will must depend."1 It appears to me, however, that this statement requires to be guarded by an explanation. The self-satisfaction sought must not be looked upon as a feeling,—for if it is, it can only be
1 Prolegomena to Ethics, p. 161.
interpreted psychologically as pleasure — but as simply conscious self-realisation. And this selfrealisation is the objective consciousness of an attained end, which is accompanied by, but is not the same as, the feeling of pleasure. Self-realisation is the end, not the pleasurable feeling which follows it; self-satisfaction, not the "pleasure of self-satisfaction." In this way, the common experience "that the objects with which we seek to satisfy ourselves do not turn out capable of satisfying us," 1 might be expressed by saying that the method adopted for the realisation of self is often found in its result to lead to incomplete, or even to illusory, self-realisation.
The question thus arises, What is the true self that is to be realised, and what is meant by the realisation of it? The will that wills itself is as bare a notion in ethics, as the thought that thinks itself is in metaphysics. The "good will," which Kant rightly held to be the only ultimate good, never altogether escaped this formality in Kant's own treatment of it. His idea of humanity as a realm of ends was limited by his formal conception of the function of reason, though it suggests the way by which the mere tautology of will may be transcended. It is of the essence of a finite will that its end is different from the realisation of the end. But the rationality of the will implies that it 1 Prolegomena to Ethics, p. 165.