The value and destiny of the individual
The general title of the two courses was "The Value and Destiny of the Individual." The first course, " The Principle of Individuality and Value," delivered last year, attempted to show how the reality and value of all things in the universe depended on the degree of their embodiment of the principle of individuality — the completeness, coherence, or self-contentedness of the universe. This second course, with the title,
" The Value and Destiny of the Individual," is an attempt to apply the principle developed in the first course to finite beings, that is, in effect, to human souls. It discusses in what way the so-called " individual " or human soul works out its destiny and achieves its worth, by and through its membership of the universe, the only real and ultimate individual.
The present lecture, on " Finiteness and Self-Transcendence," was intended to give an outline of the course, showing how its sub-divisions are connected with different sides of the nature of finite beings as our principle requires us to analyse it.
The human soul has sometimes been thought of as a celestial spark of divinity, sometimes as a crystallisation out of unconscious Nature, or out of a hardly conscious tribal collectivity, sharing the nature of a suffering deity who represents that collectivity.
This latter idea goes to meet modern philosophy from the historical side; and these two ideas, even apart, but better if taken together illustrate our view of the soul as a link or focus, through which the striving of the universe unites the multitude of things and persons in the absolute whole. This conception determines the treatment of the soul in these lectures.
We shall first consider, in the following lecture, how the distinctness of particular persons, though practically a fact, shows indications of an underlying unity not generally recognised. After that, we shall consider the soul and its destiny under three principal heads. First, the idea of " soul-making " as the work of the universe, borrowed from Keats, will lead us to speak of the moulding of souls by the natural and social selection, and of their self-creation through the miracle of will. Secondly, the life of the finite self in apparent self-completeness and independence will show itself to be one of suffering and adventure.
And, thirdly, as far as through such adventure the soul is driven to self-recognition, or knowledge of its own true nature and dependence in the religious consciousness, the secret of stability and security, even for the finite self, will be revealed. This consciousness is closely akin to the best things in knowledge; but philosophy depends on it rather than vice versa^ and it is natural to the healthy mind, as Spinoza says.
The aim of this lecture is to prepare us for a freer dealing with the distinction between different persons than is commonly held permissible. No one wants to deny it is a fact, but it is important to recognise what sort of fact it is and that it presents indications of not being ultimate and irreducible.
The common conviction is that the most " personal " part of us is the least capable of being shared or communicated. I am I and not you because you cannot have my feelings just as I have them, especially my bodily feelings can not " enter into " each other's minds in their immediate 1 quality — each other's sensations, for instance.
To realise our personality is to absorb ourselves in our exclusiveness. This amounts to the facts it relies on, and no more. I, cannot have your pleasure as you have it. This is true. ji But, further, there are all sorts of really great things which ' seem to belong to the man himself, and to no other man, ' €.£-. his religion, in which, some say, he is alone with God. These things are called "personal," and set to the credit of what is peculiar and unsharable in the " person." So, for example, with philosophy or art. But this is just confusion.
What is above, or includes the social relation, is being confounded with what is below, or has not reached it. The maximum is being confused with the minimum of experience. All these great things are above " altruism," and rest on man's universal nature.
They in no way support the exclusiveness of personality. It, in fact, is " personality " in the worst sense; what we try to avoid. The most real personal feeling is the most universal, like tragic emotion. When we come to consider the material, so to speak, of persons, the objects of their attention and achievements, we see how much they have in common, and how little, from the point of view of what is great in the world, their distinctness seems to matter. Take the development of Christianity, or of the drama, or of the British Constitution, or of mechanical invention.
You can distinguish the phases and values in each; you cannot distinguish what individuals contributed. Their ' contents " overlap irregularly; the clear structure is that of the object. But yet it is these objects which are their life and value. No doubt the relation of each person to them is different, but his achievement blends with that of others, and his distinctness from them shows as merely external and superficial.
There is no rule as to how far " persons " can overlap in their contents. Often a little change of quality in feeling, it seems, would all but bring them into one. It is impotence, and no mysterious limitation, that keeps them apart. At their strongest, they become, confluent, and we see how they might be wholly so.
This lecture treats, as will also the next, of " The Moulding of Souls." The expression " soul-making " is borrowed from a letter of Keats, in which he condemns the phrase " a vale of tears," and proposes rather consider the world as " a vale of soul-making," in which pain and trouble are essential. Keats's suggestion is expressed so as to imply the pre-existence of something to be developed into souls, and the survival of souls in a further life after being moulded in this world.
Accepting the conservation of all values in the absolute, I do not think these special assumptions are necessary. But the view that the moulding of souls is the main work of the universe as finite seems to contain an unquestionable truth. To begin with, I may recall my account of the development of life under natural selection. Its line of evolution, we held, was a summary of the significance of the world, as acting through and upon each living centre under special conditions. It was only as thus regarded that life gives any clue to the nature of the universe.
The formation of the soul is in the beginning, for our knowledge, indistinguishable from that of living centres, and has been compared to condensation of, e.g.^ tribal peculiarities of life; which as consciousness and intelligence emerge, continues as an analogous process, guided by what in the large sense must be regarded as natural selection, i.e, the requirement, in every case, of being " equal to the situation " on pain of extinction.
How such principles as those of life and mind can apparatus of consciousness but constructs the whole framework of logic, e.g. laws of causation, etc., which have no apparent place in the environment, under the pressure of the need for interpreting situations.
licit special and individual structures from special environments may be illustrated by the case of knowledge, which is an example of a similar process at a higher level. It begins with no detailedthe book details :
Download 18.3 MB