Knowledge and experience in the philosophy of F. H. Bradley

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Knowledge and experience in the philosophy of F. H. Bradley

KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIE~CE in the philosophy of F. H. Bradley By T. S. ELIOT verse COLLECTED POEMS, 1909-1952 FOUR QUA

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KNOWLEDGE AND

EXPERIE~CE

in the philosophy of F. H. Bradley

By T. S. ELIOT verse COLLECTED POEMS, 1909-1952 FOUR QUARTETS THE CULTIVATION OF CHRIgT)1AS TREES

selected verse SELECTED POEMS THE WASTE LAND

chzldren's verse OLD POSSUM'S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS

plays COLLECTED PLAYS MURDER D; THE CATHEDRAL THE FAMILY REUNION THE COCKTAIL PARTY THE CONFIDENTIAL CLERK THE ELDER STATESMAN

ltterar!J crztzclsm SELECTED ESSAYS THE USE OF POETRY AND THE USE OF CRITICISM ON POETRY AND POETS

soczal crzticzsm THE IDEA OF A CHRISTIAN SOCIETY NOTES TOWARDS THE DEFINITION OF CULTURE

phzlosoph!J KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE

in the phIlosophy of F. H. Bradley selected prose (wIth Pengum Books Ltd.)

SELECTED PROSE

film script THE FILM OF MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL

ANABASIS

translatzon a poem by St.-John Perse

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A!'. D

",J

W LED G.

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E:rpERIE~JCE

in the philosophy of F. H. Bradley by

T. S. ELIOT

FABER AND FABER 24 Russell Square London

First published in mcml:civ by Faber and Faber Limited ~4 Russell Square London W.C.1 Printed in Great Britain by R. MacLeltose and Company Limited The University Press Glasgow All rigMs reserved

© 1964 by T. S. Eliot

TO l\1Y vVIFE who urged me to publish this essay

Preface From October 1911 until June 1914 I was a student in the Harvard Graduate School as a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Tills degree was to be attained in three stages. at the end of the second year by Preliminary Examinations in which one was tested in all the branches of philosophy which one had studied, and in the abilIty to translate French and German philosophical work into English; later by the presentation of a dls· sertation on a subject approved by the heads of the department; and :finally a viva, in which the aspirant defended his thesis and was again tested for his command of logic, psychology and the history of philosophy. The dissertation which is here published for the first time, was prepared during those years and during a year in which, thanks to the award of a Sheldon Travelling Fellowship by Harvard University, I was at Merton College as a pupil of Harold Joachim, the disciple of Bradley who was closest to the master. To Harold Joachim I owe a great deal: the dIscipline of a close study of the Greek text of the Posterior Analytics, and, through his criticism of my weekly papers, an understandmg of what I wanted to say and of how to say it. On going down from Oxford in 1915 I made the decision to stay in England, and had to seek a source oflivelihood. From the autumn of 1915 until the end of 1916 I earned my living as a schoolmaster. I did not, however, abandon immediately the intention of fulfilling the conditions for the doctor's degree. Harvard had made it possible for me to go to Oxford for a year; and this return at least I owed to Harvard. So, amongst my other labours, I completed the :first draft of my dissertation, and despatched it across the Atlantic for the judgment of the Han"ard Department of Philosophy. In April 1916, when this w"ork was completed, I was a JUlllor master at the Highgate JUIllor School. 9

Preface So much for the origins of this study ofthe theory of knowledge according to the philosophy of Francis Herbert Bradley. I dId not return to Harvard to complete the requirements for the doctor's degree, and I did not see that University again for seventeen years after I had left it. Nor dId I give any further thought to this dissertation after learning that it had been offiCIally approved. A few years ago Professor Hugh Kenner of California In hIS book The Invisible Poet drew attention to it in a chapter on my debt to Bradley. My cunosity, however, was :first stimulated by a visit from Professor Anne Bolgan of the University of Alaska, who had read the script in the Harvard Umversity archives, and had obtained, with my permission, a photostatic copy. She had also seen there the carbon copy of a letter to me from Professor J. H. Woods wntten shortly after my dissertation had been presented, in which he said that J osiah Royce, the doyen of American philosophers, had spoken of it 'as the work of an expert'. Mr Wllliam Jackson, curator of the Houghton Library at Harvard, supplied me with a photostatIc copy of the text (the original typescript being, of course, the property of the University). To Professor Bolgan, who has made a close study of this essay, I am deeply indebted She has read the present text and made important corrections and suggestions; she has most pamstakingly edited the text. We have endeavoured, however, only to remove such errors and blemishes as appear to have been due to carelessness or haste. She has also checked my references (as far as is now possible) and has prepared a select bIbliography, the index, and valuable notes. I wish also to thank Mr Peter Heath of the University of St Andrews, for translating the passages quoted from German authors. Forty-six years after my academic prulosophizing came to an end, I find myself unable to think in the terminology ofthis essay. Indeed, I do not pretend to understand It. As phllosophizmg, it may appear to most modern philosophers to be quaintly antiquated. I can present this book only as a curiOSIty of bIOgraphical interest, which shows, as my wife observed at once, how closely 10

Preface my own prose style was formed on that of Bradley and how little It has changed III all these years. It was she who urged me to publish it; and to her I dedicate it. There is evidently a page or so missing from chapter VI. the gap occurs after the last sentence of the paragraph wIDch here ends at the top of page 146. What may at first appear more serious is the loss of one or several pages of the conclusion of the essay. The last page of the typescript ends with an unfinished sentence: For if all objectivity and all knowledge is relative . ... I have omitted this exasperating clause it is suitable that a dIssertation on the work ofFranclS Herbert Bradley should end with the words 'the Absolute'. Mr. Jackson tells me that these pages were missing when the scrrpt came into his care This does not seem to me to matter. the argument, for what it is worth, is there. But at Professor Bolgan's suggestion I have appended, as partIal compensation for the loss of the concluding page or pages, two essays which I wrote In 1916, and which appeared III The Monist, a philosophlCal penodlCal published in Crucago. It was Philip Jourdain, the Brihsh correspondent of that journal (to whom, I remember, I had been introduced by Bertrand Russell) who kindly commIssioned these articles. They appeared in a number devoted to the celebration of the bl-centenary of the death of Lelbmz. The original title of this dissertation was Experience and the Objects of Knowledge in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley with the sub-title A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements jar candidates jor the doctorate oj ph·ilosophy in philosophy at Harvard University.

T.S.E.

11

Contents page 9

PREFACE

Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy oJ F. H. Bradley ON OUR KNOWLEDGE OF brMEDIA TE EXPERIENCE

15

ON THE DISTINCTION OF 'REAL' AND 'IDEAL'

g~

Ill.

THE PSYCHOLOGIST'S TREATMENT OF KNOWLEDGE

57

IV.

THE EPISTEMOLOGIST'S THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

84

V.

THE EPISTEMOLOGIST'S THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

1. Il.

11~

(continued)

VI.

VII.

SOLIPSISM,

141

CONCLUSION

153

NOTES

170

ApPENDIX

1. 'The Development ofLelbniz'

J\i[onadism.'

177

ApPENDIX II. 'Lelbniz' Monadlsm and Bradley's Finite

198

Centres.' SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

~08

INDEX OF NAJl.rES

~14

IS

CHAPTER I

On Our Knowledge of Imlnediate Experience ~

-t is not my mtention in the present paper to cover the whole field of epistemology, or even to hint at the existence of many ~'- questions of which my subject seems to demand some discussion. The formatIOn of general ideas, the theory of judgment and inference, probabllity and the validity of knowledge, fall outside the scope of my attempt. And the problem of error will seem to recelve very slight treatment. In the present chapter I wish to take up Bradley's doctrine of 'll111nediate experience' as the starting point oflmowledge. Then the rest of the essay will occupy itself Wlth the development of subject and object out of immediate experience, with the question of independence, and with the precise meaning of the term 'objectivity'. v'Bradley uses the term 'experience' and the term 'feeling' almost interchangeably, both in Appearance and in the essay 'On Our Knowledge ofImmediate Expenence '* which is the most important locus for my present chapter. In the use pf these terms wc must observe the greatest caution. 'Ve must be on guard> in the firstl place, against identifying experience with consciousness, or' against considering experience as the adjective of a subject. Vie must not confuse immediate experience with sensation, we must, not think of it as a sort of panorama passing before a reviewer'i and we must avoid thinking of it as the content or substance of a • mind. And 'feeling' we must remember, is a term of very wide application, so that in some of its quite legitimate uses it is cer-

* In Essays on Truth and Realtty (referred to as Truth and Realtty in subsequent notes). 15

On Our Knowledge oj Immediate Experience tainly not identical with "experience'. We must accustom ourselves to 'feeling' which is not the feeling of psychologists~ though it is in a way continuous with psychological feeling. And when we are told (Appearance, p. 406) that feeling is 'the immediate unity of a finite psychical centre' we are not to understand that feeling is merely the feeling of a mind or consciousness. 'It means for me~ first, the general condition before distinctions and relations have been developed, and where as yet neither any subject nor object exists. And it means, in the second place, anytlung which is present at any stage of mental life, in so far as that is only present and simply is. In this latter sense we may say that everything actual, no matter what, must be felt; but we do not call it feeling except so far as we take it as faihng to be more.' (Appearance, pp. 406-7.) Keeping these quotations in mind, we turn at once to the words /~th which the whole theory is summed up in the essay to which I have referred. Experience, we are told, 'is not a stage whlCh shows Itself at the beginning and then disappears, but It remains at the bottom throughout as fundamental. And further, remaining, it contains in itself every development which in a sense transcends it. Nor does it merely contam all developments, but in its own way it acts as their j udge.'l In these words we have expressed the whole difference between Bradley's view of experience and those of certain other contemporary philosophers. For, in the first place, immediate experience is not at any stage of consciousness merely a presentation which can be isolated from other elements also present or subsequent in consciousness. It ~s ;not 'sense-Q.ata' ~ sensations, it is not a str~am of feeling which, ~s merely felt,. IS an attribute of the subject side only and must in some way_be 'related' to an external worlq. And it is not, lastly, more pure or more immediate in the animal or the infant mind than in the mind of the mathematician engaged upon a problem. Whether there is a stage at ~hich experience is ~er~ly i~ediat~:· Bradley s~ys, we have agreed to leave doubtful. But here, I feel sure, he has understated his case, and we may assert positively that there is indeed no such stage. This point is worthy of some elucidation. 16

On Our Knowledge of Immediate Experience We are forced, in building up our theory of knowledge, to postulate something given upon w:hich knowledge is founded. And we are forced to a certain extent to consider this construction as something which takes place in time. We think, on the one hand, .i of material presented to our n~tice at every moment, and of the whole situation in knowing as a complex with this datum as one of the constituents. And we think also of the development of conSCIOusness in biological evolution as a development of know-u ledge. And if there is any problem of knowledge at all, neither of these points of view is Irrelevant. But we are apt to confuse the two: from the genetic point of view, all of the stages are actualities, whereas the various steps in knowing described in an actual piece of knowing in the mind of an adult man are abstractions, not known as separate objects of attention. They ~ll exist at the same time; there is no priority in our expenence of one element or another. When we turn to inspect a lower stage of mind, chIld or animal, or our own when it is least active, we do not find one or another of these elements into which we analyse the developed consciousness, but we find them all at a lower stage. We do not find feeling without thought, or presentation without refiectlOn; we find both feeling and thought, presentation, redintegration and abstraction, all at a lower stage. And if this is the case, such study of primitive consciousness seems futile; for we find in our own knowing exactly the same constituents, in a clearer and more apprehensible form. But on the other hand, i~he .!'a.~~onstitJ1ents were present in eve!:'J _ca~e ~f ~nowing, if none were omitted in error, or if none h~d any tempor~l precedence over another, all analyses of knowmg '\ would be equally tenable. Th~ewould be no practical difference: for when there are no bones, anybody can carve a goose. If we did n~t think that at some moments our consciousness is nearer to "pure' experience than at others, if we did not think of 'sense-datum' as prior to "object" if we did not feel that 'act' or 'content" or 'immanent' and "transcendent' object were not as independent of each other, as capable of entering into different contexts as a table and a chair, the fact of their difference would be a perfect B 17 E.K.E.

On OUT Knowledge of Immediate E{tpeTience example of useless knowledge: In the philosophy of Bradley we shall find this difficulty m an aggravated form, although a form no more fatal, I think, than the form which it may take in any other philosophy. There is immediate experience, contrasted with ideal construction; which is prior, and in some sense, certainly, prior in time, to the ideal construction... But we go on to find that no actual experience could be merely immediate, for If it were, we should certainly know nothmg about It; and also that the line between the experienced, or the given, and the constructed can nowhere be clearly drawn. Then we discover that the difference in no instance holds good outside of a relative and fiuctuatmg point of view. ExperIence alone is real, but everything can be experIenced. And although i~mediate experience is the foundation and the goal of our knowmg, yet no experience is only immediate. T~:~Js_nQ.aJ:>~liect ~r~