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Eliot was a student at Merton College, Oxford University, for three terms in 1914-15. For the 1914 Michaelmas term (5 Oct-5 Dec), he attended three sets of lectures: (1) John A. Smith, Logic; (2) R. G. Collingwood, Aristotle’s De anima; and (3) Harold H. Joachim, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. He also attended a weekly discussion class with Smith and a small reading class with Joachim, both on Aristotle. In addition, TSE had a weekly tutorial with Joachim that focused on Bradley and his critics, primarily Russell and the Neo-Realists, and required a weekly essay. In a letter t0 Harvard Dean L. B. R. Briggs, Eliot described his essays as “dealing with some of the questions considered in the thesis which I hope to present for the degree of Ph.D. at Harvard,” adding that he and Joachim discussed these essays “always in detail” ( L192). [Objects: Content, Objectivity, and Existence] is the first of six essays to have survived from this tutorial.

An object is anything which may be given a name, substantive, and enter into a proposition. It is anything upon which attention may be directed. This amounts to the same thing, for it is obvious that attention involves naming. Object is a wider term than either thing, term, proposition, fact; and among objects, thingis different from the others and is the type to which the others tend to assimilate themselves. The hypothetical characteristics of the thing are roughly perceptual existence in space and time, and independence of its relations, and of being known. Also externality: it is mechanical. Obviously these conditions are fulfilled in our experience only relatively; obviously every object which persists in space and time has in its identity an ideal element; and (as I claim) every ideal object has an element of reality as well; but nevertheless, some are ordinarily taken as more real than others. This is the case because the first objects we are aware of as such are objects of perception, which are perceived, let us say, through categories of the existence of which we are not at the time aware, but which may, by reflexion, themselves be made into objects–higher objects. Now from the ordinary point of view, it is possible to handle lower objects without being aware of the higher, but not vice versa; it is possible only to handle the higher as the extension of the lower. To the reflective mind, this complete induction is not possible; we become aware that we have at least as much to do with ideal as with real–that it is quite as real, and to certain types of consciousness, it is capable of appearing much more real–e.g. to the mystic. But within the span of the ordinary consciousness, the sense particulars never disappear; the real world is built up upon the moment of perception, and it is understood that real and ideal, perception and cognition, are abstractions, legitimate enough, but relative and unsubstantial.

There is a point of view from which it is said that the sciences are mutilated and imperfect parts of reality, the creations of a valuation which takes their objects out of their complete context in which alone they are wholly real. With this view I am largely in sympathy. But there is another point of view, obtained by standing this one upon its head, which I find equally necessary to insist upon. From this point of view, it may be suggested that the absolute is the one thing in the world which isn’t real. Reality is the one thing which doesn’t exist. The sciences present tenuated positions of reality; yet this presentation is an attempt and a partially successful attempt to constitute reality, and so far as they are true, so far their objects are real. The real, from this point of view, is found in mechanism: from the other point of view, it is found more nearly by feeling. The effect from this view point is to turn reality into sets of objects, and this effort...

Published By:   Johns Hopkins University Press