Francis Herbert Bradley
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304 ] Francis Herbert Bradley1 It is unusual that a book so famous and so influential should remain out of print so long as Bradley’s Ethical Studies. The one edition appeared in 1876: Bradley’srefusaltoreprintitneverwavered.In1893,inafootnoteinAppear­ ance and Reality, and in words characteristic of the man, he wrote: “I feel that the appearance of other books, as well as the decay of those superstitions against which largely it was directed, has left me free to consult my own pleasure in this matter.”2 The dates of his three books, the Ethical Studies in 1876, the Principles of Logic in 1883, and Appearance and Reality in 1893, leave us in no doubt that his pleasure was the singular one of thinking rather than the common one of writing books. And Bradley always assumed, with what will remain for those who did not know him a curious blend of humility and irony, an attitude of extreme diffidence about his own work. His Ethical Studies, he told us (or told our fathers), did not aim at “the construction of a system of Moral Philosophy” [v]. The first words of the preface to his Principles of Logic are: “The following work makes no claim to supply any systematic treatment of logic.”3 He begins the preface to Appearance and Reality with the words: “I have described the following work as an essay in metaphysics. Neither in form nor extent does it carry out the idea of a system” [xi]. The phrase for each book is almost the same. And many readers, having in mind Bradley’s polemical irony and his obvious zest in using it, his habit of discomfiting an opponent with a sudden confession of ignorance, of inability to understand, or of incapacity for abstruse thought, have concluded that this is all a mere pose – and even a somewhat unscrupulous one. But deeper study of Bradley’s mind convinces us that the modesty is real, and his irony the weapon of a modest and highly sensitive man. Indeed, if this had been a pose it would never have worn so well as it has. We have to consider, then, what is the nature of Bradley’s influence and why his writings and his personality fascinate those whom they do fascinate; and what are his claims to permanence. Certainly one of the reasons for the power he still exerts, as well as an indubitable claim to permanence, is his great gift of style. It is for his purposes – and his purposes are more varied than is usually supposed – a perfect style. Its perfection has prevented it from cutting any great figure in [ 305 Francis Herbert Bradley prose anthologies and literature manuals, for it is perfectly welded with the matter. Ruskin’s works are extremely readable in snippets even for many who take not a particle of interest in the things in which Ruskin was so passionately interested. Hence he survives in anthologies, while his books have fallen into undue neglect. Bradley’s books can never fall into this neglect because they will never rise to this notoriety; they come to the hands only of those who are qualified to treat them with respect. But perhaps a profounder difference between a style like Bradley’s and a style like Ruskin’s is a greater purity and concentration of purpose. One feels that the emotional intensity of Ruskin is partly a deflection of something that was baffled in life, whereas Bradley, like Newman, is directly and wholly that which he is. For the secret of Bradley’s style, like that of Bergson – whom he resembles in this if in nothing else – is the intense addiction to an intellectual passion. The nearest resemblance in style, however, is not Ruskin but Matthew Arnold. It has not been sufficiently observed that Bradley makes use of the same means as Arnold, and for similar ends. To take first the most patent resemblance, we find in Bradley the same type of fun as that which Arnold has with his young friend Arminius.4 In The Principles of Logic there is a celebrated passage in which Bradley is attacking the theory of association of ideas according to Professor Bain,5 and explains how on this principle an infant comes to recognize a lump of sugar: A young child, or one of the lower animals, is given on Monday a round piece of sugar, eats it and finds it sweet. On Tuesday it sees a square piece of sugar, and proceeds to...


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