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[Finite Centres and Points of View] is the third of six surviving essays that Eliot wrote in the 1914 Michaelmas term for his tutorial with Joachim.

It was contended in the preceding paper that the object is what it turns out to be; 1 that it is only in a world of social intercourse that objects can come into being and maintain their existence; and that the real meaning of the object is dependent upon both feeling and action. The object is in a sense essentially public, and yet the way in which it appears to each consciousness is not indifferent to it. It has something not captured in any of the points of view from which it is recognised, and yet it seems to be nothing over and above its appearance at these points of view. On the one hand, it seems to be merely the converging of various points of view, and on the other, the points of view seem to be nothing but differently coloured sectors of the same object.

The finite centre, or the point of view (the difference in the use of the two terms will I hope transpire in the course of the paper), is a modified reincarnation of the monad. 2 It is true that the monads have no windows, that the finite centres, so long as they last, are impervious, but not that the finite centre is a soul, not that the whole of reality is simply the sum of these centres. They are not ultimate except in the sense that we cannot conceive of reality except as appearing through and to them. But their nature is best explained by disposing of certain possible misconceptions.

In the first place, we may say with conviction that there is nothing hidden or obscure about these points of view. They are not, certainly, mental in the sense in which the supposed subject matter of psychology is mental. Each point of view is itself a world, and in it there is no ingredient which can be set off and called mental; and on the other hand, the whole of it is mental through and through. The “mind” simply isits world, the world considered in its progress toward clearness and completion. The “point of view” is simply this particular set of terms and relations, and is no more hidden than a chair or table. Only, it is not the abstract object, the meaning of the name, though that is in a sense present too. It is the object set in a context which may be implicit as the state of the mind’s body, or explicit as memory. But the implicit is not to be conceived as the hidden or the “psychical”; it is merely the incomplete. So far as a point of view is a point of view, it will present an articulated world; so far as it remains on the level of feeling, it will be merely a concern of the biologist, and its existence for itself may be neglected. Not that this ideal is ever attained by the finite centre; in so doing, it would cease to be finite. But so far as it presents a world to itself, that world has nothing private about it. The private is only the unreal.

Why then is a finite centre exclusive? Not so far as it is mere feeling; for “mere feeling,” if there were such a thing, would not exist for itself at all. It is exclusive in the sense that each world, so far as it is, is the only world, and the others are imperfect appreciations of it. We must say that there cannot be two or more worlds. The different finite centres have identities of meaning; but the one world is not this bare identity, stripped of content; it is the identity with a supposititious complete content; and some seem to approach this ideal more closely than others. We do not get a world at all without the act of meaning, and we cannot mean ourworld, i...

Published By:   Johns Hopkins University Press