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The conclusion of the preceding chapter has been that reality as we may know it, the ultimate criterion which gives meaning to our judgments of existence, is so far as it appears at all, our experience, yet an experience which only to a certain extent–from a certain necessary but untenable point of view–is “ours.” As a development and in support of this conclusion, we are driven to question the status of those elements within experience which exist only by virtue of their reference to other elements which are, in that reference, real, and we shall come to the conclusion that the apparently fundamental separation between the real and the ideal is but tentative and provisional, a moment in a process. This conclusion is nothing new; it is no novelty even in the essay which I shall chiefly quote, that on “Floating Ideas and the Imaginary”; 1* it is familiar to students of Hegel. I can only plead that I seem to find it constantly neglected or misinterpreted. Accordingly, after a general statement of the theory, I shall attempt to make the position clearer by criticism of such systems as would do without this theory, and shall try to show its full importance in the thought of Mr. Bradley. Afterwards I shall attempt to point out some undeveloped consequences for the theory of objects, in regard to unreal and imaginary objects, “intended” objects, and process (act) as object. The whole discussion, needless to say, is bound up very closely with that of perception and judgment, which will immediately follow.

The theory, in its general terms, is stated in Appearance, chapter XXIV. 2

There is a view which takes, or attempts to take, sense-perception as the one known reality. And there is a view which endeavours, on the other side, to consider appearance in time as something indifferent. . . . We have seen that the separation of the real into idea and existence is a division admissible only within the world of appearance. . . . In order to be fact at all, each presentation must exhibit ideality. . . . But the union in all perception of thought with sense, the co-presence everywhere in all appearances of fact with ideality–this is the one foundation of truth” ( A&R377-79).

And further, “when an idea qualifies the universe, how can it be excluded from reality?” ( A&R395).

The ordinary view of the relation of real and ideal I take to be this. We are given in “experience” something called fact which is real because independent, and independent because real. This fact is not necessarily fact of sense perception, or of physical reality, but the fact may be itself an idea from an external point of view, an idea placed in reality. And the objection that a fact is always an objective, and not simply a that, does not in the popular view militate against its independence. The fact may appear with its fullest development of definition, with innumerable stipulations of relationship, yet we “apprehend” it as independent, and proceed to erect between it and its percipient an abstraction called thought, the existence of which is its reference to reality. And popular epistemology then asks us to accept the elaborated and sophisticated object as “real,” and yet to maintain the proviso that all the positive qualifications which make it just what it is are products of the “activity of thought.” In other words, the popular theory of knowledge, from which our philosophies spring, is realistic and nominalistic at the same time. That this is a just description, I think there will be little question; and whatever direction our solutions take, I doubt whether we ever wholly escape the crude antithesis.

Now there are several ways in which this difficulty is escaped or evaded. The simplest is that of sensation and thought, or, as in the Kantian philosophy, the distinction between an external reality from which we receive material, and the formative activity of consciousness. This distinction– ultimately that between activity and passivity–will serve to classify a...

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