(c) Sic et Non - Forum for Philosophy and Culture - http://www.cogito.de/sicetnon/artikel/historie/bradley.htm (1997)
|This article examines
the role of the identity thesis in the thought of F.H.Bradley. It mainly
seeks to provide a wider context understanding of the historical genesis
of that principle in idealist thought and to show how it was relevant to
Bradley's conception of ethics and the state. For one thing, the establishment
of such a broad context might correct the impression, too easily obtained,
that this seemingly peculiar identity thesis was one derived by Bradley
from German Romantic thought, particularly that of Hegel. The suggestion
is here that it was not at all, but is really to be understood in the context
of the idealist legacy. This is the main concern. Accordingly no attempt
is made here to deal with the various criticism of so called 'identity
thinking', of which Bradley is nonetheless a preeminent exemplar, which
is provided variously by Neomarxist, Feminist and Post-modernist thinkers.
Bradley was one of the pivotal philosophers in the much denounced late nineteenth century school of British Idealism, sometimes termed, misleadingly, 'Neo-Hegelianism'. The idiosyncratic and frequently misunderstood identity thesis performed, as will be seen, a central role in his theories and particularly in his political and moral theories. As such it has often appeared a mystification, if not an abuse, both of the common and the accepted philosophical senses of identity to employ it as what is often rendered as "identity in difference"; that is, as the claim that identity is found only in difference. Its alleged peculiarities have served as a focal point of criticism by other writers. To Russell, for example, the idealist usage involved a complete misunderstanding of the notion of identity as a unity or sameness.(1) It could not be a principle which would logically involve, as idealism claims, as sense of unity which is compatible with difference, because these are diametrically opposed, or mutually exclusive categories. Criticisms such as this have often assumed a particular potency when attention is directed to the employment of identity in German idealist philosophy, often itself termed 'identity philosophy', and possibly in anything which might be regarded as a metaphysical theory of politics.(2)
As a more general phenomenon, the philosophy of the British Idealists has appeared puzzling and paradoxical to many writers. One area is in respect of the extent of its debt to Germanic philosophy, particularly that of Hegel. As we shall see, however, there are significant differences. The identity thesis indicates, in fact, a significant distance between the two. It is not that of Hegel, and there seems no reason why is should have been taken as such. The disposition towards such a thesis is not itself a feature which is unique to Hegel's philosophy, as will be indicated below. Unfortunately, it has been something of a convenience on the part of the critics of British idealism, such as Hobhouse, to lump together the Germanic and British schools in order to show a common philosophical disposition towards nascent authoritarianism, and this itself might have marred some of the significant points of departure between the two.(3)
However, the often proclaimed disposition to Germanophilia is merely one of the paradoxical features of British idealism. Other curiosities have appeared in attempts to understand both the period in which the British idealists held sway and the ideas which the period itself produced. For example, on some issues liberal and idealist opponents, such as Hobhouse and Bosanquet respectively, appear to have shared political attitudes and, sometimes, to have changed sides.(4) Additionally, the idealist philosophical principle of community has been seen, by some contemporary political historians, as lending some degree of legitimation to the emergent welfare state rather than to the proper consequences of an otherwise rather conservative body of theory.(5) As will be seen, this notion of community is largely dependent on the 'curious' principle of identity employed in idealist philosophy; a principle which purported, in one context at least, a redefinition of the political relationship.
One point might be clarified regarding the Germanic influence, and particularly that of Hegel. With figures such as Green, F.H. Bradley and Bosanquet, the relationship of their own philosophy to that of Hegel was somewhat guarded.(6) Manser has argued that Bradley's position is not at all like Hegel's, and this seems to be correct.(7) Both Bradley and Bosanquet, for example, adopted a position which is rather negative in its approach to the metaphysical Absolute, especially when contrasted with Hegel's position. The Absolute is certainly not an absolute identity in any sense, such as is evident with respect to Hegel's principle.(8) The principle of identity-in-difference as employed by Bradley and Bosanquet, although it is intellective, is not of the essence of an absolute philosophical Idea, such as is Hegel's notion of a "differentiating unification".(9) On Bradley's position, for instance, this would be an admission of relativism, for the reasons suggested below. Additionally the Absolute, as decidedly absolute experience in Bradley's thought, is perhaps a product of the attempt to remedy what he claimed to be the orthodoxy of empirical experience in British thought itself. This recalls, however, Hegel's rejection of those who "attempted to elevate experience into an absolute", a position which would seem, again, to render the two positions incompatible.(10) What seems to have been adopted by Bradley is, in many ways, an 'Ideal-ism', a progressive realisation of an absolute unity as possibility, rather than an Hegelian philosophical 'Idea-ism'. That is to say, the philosophy of the British school appears to license an infinite struggle or progress towards the realisation of, or approximation to, the Absolute in terms which Hegel might well have dubbed, in line with his frequent charge against Kant, a form of subjective idealism.
The principle of identity employed by Bradley is, however, like that of Hegel, related to the development of a notion of concrete universality. Indeed, it is intrinsic to it. Furthermore, it seems to have expressed in another context the idea of political community as the basis for a co-operative notion of the State espoused by idealist writers. It this regard was to stand as a corrective as to what was perceived as an orthodoxy of empiricism and relativism taken to derive largely from Hobbes, Locke and Hume, and particularly from the latter.(11) Thus it would rectify, so Bradley and Bosanquet thought, the atomism, pluralism and artificial forms of political association , such as sovereignty theory, which seem to follow from this dominant body of theory. Bosanquet, for instance, claimed that the main body of sociological theory, influenced by this orthodoxy, was based on a logic which, he claimed, separated identity from difference and which failed to understand a logic which suggests that an "identical structure [ie. of a State or political association] can include differences". What such a position fails to understand, he argued, is the idea of a "co-operative structure [which] is never characterised by repetition but always by identity and difference. It is the relation not of the screw to the exactly similar screw but of the screw to the nut which it fastens."(12)
Whilst this may have been so, the identity principle was not itself an absolute thesis in that Bosanquet claimed, along with Bradley, that, "in the end, the identity-in-difference thesis must give way".(13) It implied some sense of relativism when contrasted with the ideal unity of the Absolute. There may be no more stark contrast than this between Bradley and Bosanquet, on the one hand, and Hegel, on the other. With Hegel, the principle of identity is an absolute; it is the particular process which ultimately gives expression to the philosophical Idea. The Philosophy of Right sees the scientific application of this philosophical Idea to development of the State.(14) With the British theorists, it is a principle of understanding the immediate world, but it is a relativistic principle which cannot itself be taken up into the Absolute or, indeed, stand as a philosophical Absolute. In a primitive sense, it expresses the basic notion of the relativism of the practical, temporal or quotidian world itself. This is true even if, as was held to be the case, it points ultimately in the direction of the Absolute because of the unity which it manifests. In other words, a unity in difference, which Bradley so often takes as the implication of his notion of identity, must be an indication of a higher and complete metaphysical unity. In other words, it must point beyond itself to a systematic perfection of its own limitations.
Just why the British idealists should have adopted such a thesis as identity as a unity-in-difference has been an elusive problem. Certainly, it has been found thus. Perhaps the explanation of J.H. Muirhead, which grounded both British and German absolute idealism in Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophy deserves reconsideration, although it has not been widely accepted.(15) What one finds is that there is a tendency in this tradition to accord identity a particular, and perhaps specialised, sense; that of a unity surely, but one which is appropriate to, or qualified by, difference. This is the sense in which we might speak of identity as the identity of several (different) things. In that way it is of a wholly different import from the concept as understood by the critics of idealism where identity implies, to them, mere oneness of a single thing. Hence the dispute between idealists and their critics resolves itself into one which is focused at the level of meaning of identity itself.(16)
There is indeed a connection, then, between the Neoplatonic tradition of philosophical idealism and the employment of identity in a sense which is not entirely dissimilar from that in which it is put to use by Bradley and his fellow British idealists. For both Bradley and the Neoplatonists the principle is central to their metaphysical systems. It is from that tradition that one can also draw connections between the principle of identity thus understood and some of the other themes in Bradley's writings; the connection between identity and eternity as transcending but incorporating the imperfections of the temporal world and mere discursive reason, the sense that identity is not of itself complete but pointing beyond itself to a higher, more perfect unity of the Absolute, the claim that identity operates centrally as a higher intellective principle, as well as specific links with the notion of concrete universality itself.
The recounting of that tradition is beyond the scope of the present article. However, it begins with Plotinus in the third century AD for whom identity (tautotes) had a distinctive sense. It was the principle underlying his second hypostasis or graded reality and it was employed in the sense of that unity or sameness which necessarily co-exists with difference.(17) It implied a unity but in this specifically qualified sense.(18) As such it formed the basis of the so-called circularity of the intellective principle or nous,(19) which was also taken to be the universal and eternal principle(20) representing the commonness or sameness (despite difference) of the humanity.(21) In this regard it appears that Plotinus drew to some extent on the use of identity in the Hermetic writings with some of which he was familiar.(22) Hence it provided what we might call a thesis of human identity of a cosmopolitan dimension.
From this one can discern its usage in later Neoplatonism where, as has been said, the identity principle came to be accepted as that which characterised universal humanity and fellowship, a sort of unification of the specific or differential features of human nature and the human world. This was frequently applied to Plato's vision of humanly love in the Symposium for example and thereby associated with what we could call 'the divine-human ideal' of late Greek philosophy.(23) This was its dominant usage when it was first taken into Latin, probably via the translations of the works of Plotinus into Latin by Marius Victorinus, a convert to Christianity.(24) It was then that the Greek term tautotes became rendered as the Latin as identitas. In particular, the principle of identity became that sense of unity applied to the Christian Trinity and subject to a range of disputations as to the possibility of a unity-in difference in that otherworldly sense. From this, one could say, there are a number of relatively direct leaps. One is to Cambridge Neoplatonism. The other significant one to Leibniz, Boehme, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and especially German Romanticism more braodly speaking, partly through the rediscovery of the "beloved Plotinus"(25) and partly through an absorption, in the case of the last of these, with the speculative re-examination of failures of the tradition of Christian philosophy.(26) Similarly, we can come to grips with the rather austere sense in which Coleridge employed this notion of identity as integral to his metaphysical view of Church and State.(27)
In short, and without diverging into other forms of idealism which are the outpourings of this tradition, it is suggested that there was strong reason for British idealism, and Bradley no less, to engage such a curious yet, to Bradley at least, ubiquitous, principle of identity as at least a unity-in-difference. It needs to be recognised that such a principle provides, for idealist thought the central link in the chain of idealist metaphysics. It that which, to Bradley as much as to Plotinus, provides and essential connection between the practical world of human affairs, which are determined under the category of difference and temporality, and the Absolute, which is characterised as a form of timeless and absolute unity. Without such a link absolutist unitarian metaphysics is simply impossible, except at the risk of defeating its own assumptions, which rest on the plausibility of drawing together the practical and the eternal into a comprehensive system.(28)
From this perspective we can also understand why identity became the yardstick whereby idealism purported to differentiate itself from a variety of alternative political philosophies which were taken to be an incomplete or immature, especially because they denied the force and the meaning of the idealist principle of identity. The particular enemy was that which was taken to involve the hegemony of empiricism; the alleged orthodoxy of British philosophy by the end of the nineteenth century.(29) Hence to idealists the identity thesis reinforced the basis for their rejection of the competing philosophical tradition deriving largely from Hobbes, Locke and Hume and others such as J.S.Mill.(30)
In some ways, rejection is the wrong term here. What is employed by Bradley is the common idealist tactic of treating these alternative modes of thought, including scepticism, materialism and empiricism, as immature or incomplete philosophical positions when measured against absolute philosophical idealism. To idealism, this competing tradition of immature thought utterly misunderstood and misrepresented the principle of identity as something which was a mere unity; a unity simpliciter. This was so in respect of any of the contexts in which identity might be applied, whether as to personal identity or the identity of things or the identity of political communities or social groups. Indeed this was taken to be consistent with a world view which either rejected metaphysics entirely, metaphysics in its relationship to politics or which laboured an incomplete and uncorrected metaphysics of difference.
The same charge of immaturity and incompleteness of opposing ideologies can be found in Kant, Hegel and Schelling, as much as in Coleridge or Bradley. To Coleridge, for example, the Idea as power (or dunamis noera), conceived in terms of an esoteric rendering of this notion of identity and difference, constitutes its own reality as antecedent to things in the natural world. As such, and in its application to the State, it was claimed to stand as a corrective, variously, to Hobbes' materialism, the theory of original contract, Locke's theory of consciousness (with its rejection of innate ideas) and to Hume's 'sceptical' notion of necessity grounded in customary experience.(31) These, of course, are not the only thinkers which Coleridge sought to reject on similar grounds. Clarke, Hartley, Priestly and Condillac are all charged with the reduction of the phenomena of association to the law of contemporaneity, amongst other things. And against Locke he wrote, ''Tis a strange assertion that the Essence of Identity lies in recollective Consciousness - 'twere scarcely less ridiculous to affirm the 8 miles from Stowey to Bridgewater consists in the 8 mile stones."(32) The absolute principle of identity, it was thought, reveals this inadequacy. It is from identity, which is the ground of the Idea, that there proceeds all points of differences "by perpetual irradiation."(33) It is, so to speak, the root of the tree of knowledge.(34)
It is quite true to say that, perhaps with Hobbes and certainly later with Locke and Hume, we come across the employment of the concept of identity as if it were indicative of a simple unity. It is employed in such a way which is consistent with the category of difference or diversity which tends to underscore their conception of the natural world or their individualist view of the humanity in the state of nature. Theirs is a cosmos which is essentially particularistic and which denies any systematisation of the world in terms of a unifying metaphysics. The same is true politically, where the assumption of a diversified, if also egalitarian state of nature, provides us with the premise upon which to reject any thesis of a naturally occurring or naturally unified community of beings.
If nature is postulated as particularistic or determined under the category of diversity, and our (scientific) knowledge of it assumes as much, then two things might be said about any unity gathered from it. Firstly, such unity as occurs naturally, must be consistent with diversity. It must be particularistic, such as is the sense of unity simpliciter. It is a unity which is consistent, in other words with the existence only of individuals. Secondly, any sense of collective or, perhaps, universal unity, such as we might speak of several things as apparently one, must be treated to some extent as mystifications. Unities of any such kind are created artificially, as the products of human action or reason rather than as a natural phenomenon. When we speak of human associations, political or otherwise, as unities of the diverse, they are essentially artificial unities imposed from above. They clearly could not be naturally occurring group entities or shared identities because that would seem, for one thing, to reify that which exists in relations between individuals (although not reduced to a relation itself); in other words, to concede the existence of a social or political reality which transcends and therefore devalues the individual. These positions are clearly held by Hobbes, by Locke and by Hume, although by derivation from late medieval thinkers. Each of them, not coincidentally, treat identity as a mere unity. Each of them adopts a position which denies the possibility of what we could term a shared or collective identity.
Frequently in idealist thought we find that identity is taken to represent some implicit connection between humanity and the divine; admitting that the latter might be conceived in humanist terms as in classical Neoplatonist philosophy. As a unity in diversity it forges the link between the particular and the universal and therefore raised humankind up from mere existence to participation in a larger order of things. To Bradley, it should be said, it was not exactly identity which formed the relationship between the Christian God and humanity. Sometimes his discussion of God, or the soi-disant 'God of Religion', seems to have suggested that any talk of God whatsoever involves the, philosophically impoverished, religious consciousness.(35) But this is not quite so. Certainly there is no identification between God and man as separate wills. That is to say, there is no relation of identity between them but this is simply because identity, at least in its primary sense, is not a relation at all. In some sense, it may be spoken of as a "thought relation" or, in Bradley's sense, an ideal relation. However, in the context of his metaphysics, a thought relation should not be confused with what is a principle underlying thought itself. Nor is identity a principle of logic in the sense of a formal principle.
For Bradley, however, the principle of identity, as that which underlies thought itself, must imply some degree relativism. Even so, it indicated, at the same time, a solution of the problem of relativism itself. This underscored the overall importance of the identity thesis. It did not accept relativism as an absolute, as might have been the case with the empiricism, but indicated a solution to it. This is because identity in all of its contexts is to be apprehended as a unity which pointed beyond or outside itself. Identity, almost by definition, was a type of incomplete unity; a unity qualified always by difference. As it was incomplete, it directed attention to a higher, more encompassing unity and, indeed, to a more absolute sense of unity. Nothing could be left, as far as Bradley was concerned, as mere relativism because it largely begged the question, 'relative to what?'.
The incompleteness of an unresolved relativism and of relations theory was, in fact, that which Bradley denounced as the characteristic of the 'School of Experience'. The philosophical position of one of its principal protagonists, J.S.Mill, whose theory of relations of resemblance, itself regarded as a poor substitute for identity, appeared to have been derived from Locke and Hume. It was therefore the object of repeated scorn and vilification from Bradley on this issue. Furthermore, Bradley's claim that all thought relations are relativistic was the ground on which he claimed to distance his own position from that of Hegel. In fact, his final position on this score appears, in some ways, much closer to Plotinus, although the Plotinian Absolute or One is not absolute experience itself as was the case with Bradley. For Plotinus, the One is beyond anything which could be called experience. However, because of this, it is no surprise that Bradley took it to be the 'sin of Hegel' and orthodox Hegeleanism, to have attempted to elevate intellection, and therefore identity, into an absolute.(36) On Bradley's terms, this would make the Absolute itself defeasible or relative.
For both Bradley and Bosanquet, then, identity must be found in, or must presuppose, difference. One corollary of this is that theories of personal identity, with any implication of personal immortality, were held largely useless as tools of theoretical or philosophical understanding. They merely undertake a theoretical evaluation of what is, strictly, mere appearance. Neither the person, nor the theory of mind can provide any escape from the incompleteness of relativism. In such a context, things are taken as identical or different, depending upon which way they are viewed. Identity and difference will always be seen as mutually exclusive. This is true of all attempts to define personality or the self by utilising the notion of personal identity.(37) It could be said that Bradley's theories as to the conflict of the divided selves, one (the bad self) representing all of the ills of individualism, the other (the good self) an altruistic community spirit, seems to fit the pattern of his higher metaphysical doctrine. This conflict between different and divided selves indicates the possible realisation of the good self as a higher communitarian being but, whilst this is of some ethical moment, it is still restrained by the limitations of the individual.
From the point of view of metaphysics, he says, the self as such manifests no reality; it has no essence, and, accordingly, "has no power to defend itself from mortal objections".(38) The difficulty according to Bradley (and the reason for the rejection of the self-ultimate reality) was that, whichever way it is looked at, the self manifests a puzzle of a particular sort: "It is the old puzzle as to the connection of diversity with unity."(39) Whilst individual selves indubitably exist, the self as a metaphysical principle merely portrays the context of appearance and cannot stand as the basis of any metaphysical system which will utlimately furnish an explanation of the universe. The appropriate principle to be employed in grappling with this metaphysical notion was that of the philosophical consciousness, that of synaesthesis.(40) This directly reintroduces a principle employed first of all by Plotinus. Its use is justified, according to Bradley, because of significance as a principle which gather unity and diversity together. In metaphysics, he says:
"a principle, if it is to stand at all, must stand absolutely by itself ... the diversity and the unity must be brought to life and the principle must be seen to comprehend these. It must not carry us away into a maze of relations, relations that lead to illusory terms, and terms disappearing into endless relations".(41)
There are five general points that can be established directly in respect of the identity-in-difference thesis adopted by Bradley and Bosanquet. First of all, that it is central to their philosophy needs hardly be said. Its emphasis has been taken by many to imply some form of reductionism.(42) On Bradley's own terms it is the "indispensable basis of all reasoning",(43) the logical basis of judgement and meaning,(44) and the issue which divides genuine idealist philosophy from that of its opponents, the pluralists and the 'School of Experience'.(45) The shibboleth-like status of identity is, for Bradley as for Hegel, such as would distinguish philosophy proper from bogus philosophy.
Secondly, it directly underlies Bradley's and Bosanquet's political theories. In Bradley this is especially explicit. Politics, he says, as contrasted with metaphysics, may be a relative affair, but its relativity is to be seen against the metaphysical unity of Absolute Experience. In ethics and political morality, the identity in difference thesis provides, as again with Hegel, a rebuttal of individualist theories of the state and the assumed corollaries of collectivity based upon force, collusion, contract, aggregation and state power. These are all focused, in Bradley's view, upon a wholly untenable notion of the metaphysical individual.(46) Theories such as this assert the "'fact' that the one individual is the one reality and communities mere collections".(47) What underlies individualism and its inadequate notions of collectivity and community was, according to Bradley, a false philosophical and metaphysical doctrine which, in his view, approached dogma. Its falsity was in its reliance upon resemblance, similarities, 'partial identities', and the omnipresence of difference.(48)
Relations between discrete individuals or selves are, according to Bradley, a product of merely formal intelligence, an intelligence which denies political and ethical content. According to Bosanquet,(49) "even if it were true that every different, finite individual has a single and separate work or function in society, which collaborates so to speak, the distinctness of his formal self, we are still in the presence of identity in diversity". The appropriate conception of morality was the ideal of self-realisation. This lends greater content to the idea of membership of a community. The individual could be seen as the participant in the larger whole. This larger whole was to be taken as constituted not merely as to a sum or aggregation of its parts, but that which incorporates and lends greater significance to its constituent partial realities.(50) The anticipations which are characteristic of Bradley's writings on ethics and logic, and it seems largely adopted by Bosanquet are brought together in his Appearance and Reality.(51) In this context, identity-in-difference appears as the central problem of Bradley's metaphysics. It makes explicit sense in which reality or the totality is a systematic whole lending a certain unconnectedness to the participant elements or lower manifestations. In order to have content, indications of the totality had to be found in inexperience or in the given. In other words, that which was implicit at all lower levels of human experience could be raised up into a higher level of reality. This required, to Bradley, a proper theory of a metaphysical individual or the concrete universal and the identity-in-difference thesis is central to it.
On this approach, all partial realities are to be brought under a supervening positive or qualitative totality as the final principle of reality. This is the Absolute as the final encapsulation of all partiality and finitude. Indeed, in Bradley's view, the Absolute simple was a totalisation or systemisation of experience itself. In other words, it was not to be the given aggregated content of experience, but a final transformation of it. It was to be that which transcends all conditional knowledge. In this way, it was held both to contain or incorporate individual experience and was yet, as system, nothing but experience itself. As Bradley conceived it:
"That Reality is one system which contains in itself all experience, and, again, that this system itself is experienced that so far we may be able to know absolutely and unconditionally."(52)
The reality of the Absolute, if it was to be systematic, had to be one; it had to manifest unity and be capable of containing diversity, but not in any numerical sense. It had to own diversity, but stand above it as a unity. According to this construction, unity itself was not to be taken in its ordinary meaning as 'contra-distinguished from plurality'. The logic here is nothing if not Neoplatonic. Unity is not that which opposed plurality. It must be shown to incorporate or to 'own' it. This extraordinary sense of unity was such that the unity of the ultimate reality, as a positive idea, could be taken as that which stood above and yet incorporated plurality itself. It was not a unity which was the negation of plurality. The positive stood above, and yet incorporated, the negative. It owns plurality whilst it is not itself plural.(53)
Thirdly, the metaphysical writings of both Bradley and Bosanquet made it quite obvious that it is the identity-in-difference thesis that serves to direct all lower manifestations of reason and intellection (all lower forms of reality be they political, religious, philosophical, aesthetic or otherwise) towards the final reality of the Absolute. Identity-in-difference entails that unity which is implicit in these lower spheres of finitude or imperfection. These spheres, as intellective, are tainted by multiplicity. The principle of identity was itself qualified, and so tainted, because it was only appropriate to multiplicity. It was only found in difference as such. Yet, as has been said, it pointed beyond itself to a greater realisation of the divine-human ideal. The 'Divine Mind' as it was sometimes called, was realisable through the agency of the concrete universal; that "universality (which is) sameness by means of the other' or which asserts itself 'to the full through identity and through difference together ..."(54)
Fourthly, to Bradley especially, the focal point of his philosophical criticism, as the substantial perpetrator or originator of false metaphysical orthodoxy, were the theories of Hume, although those of Mill, Hobbes, Locke and Kant are often selected for equally trenchant criticism. The doctrinal falsity of these theories consisted, he claimed, in the reliance placed on reflective judgement, resemblance theory and difference. The political consequences of these doctrines were the moral and ethical absurdities of hedonism, utilitarianism and the like, with their stress upon self-seeking, pleasure, self-indulgence or sensuous particularity. These theories, according to Bradley, perpetrate a variety of fictions. They recognise, he claimed, neither universality nor identity as a proper criterion of connection. They rely on a variety of 'fictitious substitutes', such as similarity, likeness, resemblance, chance association, contiguity, familiarity and mere circumstance.(55) Their identities are spuriously formal and 'content-less'. Collectivities are achieved only as the products of multiplication or aggregation or discrete units.(56) It is, he thought, epistemology masquerading as metaphysics.
It may be that Bradley's attempt to correct Hume and the School of Experience explains why the Absolute is necessarily Absolute Experience.(57) Yet, as to Hume's treatment of identity, the rejection is complete and total. Hume's reflective judgement implies fictitious relations which, in turn, portray a commitment to difference, plurality, diversity and the transitory features of the mortal world. From Bradley's perspective, Hume and others have a commitment to the metaphysics of mere diffusion and to a differentially constituted world. More importantly however, and so far as Bradley is concerned, the attempt to establish this very position of the 'School of Experience' contains a fatal admission. There is, he alleged, an admission that they have attempted to establish a merely partial truth or partial reality as a universal thesis. In this way, theorists such as Hume demand, if not beg, their accommodation to a higher order or higher reality. Hume, for instance, asserted that identity is a fiction. However, to Bradley, he also admitted that it is not a fiction because he conceded that judgements of identity are made. The result, in Bradley's view, was that the attempt to elevate the category of difference to a supreme metaphysical principle is therefore both a failure and an admission of incompleteness. It is a failure because difference without identity is nothing; it acknowledges mere chaos and diffusion.
However, in typical idealist fashion, Bradley and Bosanquet asserted that the failure of the empiricists was not to be completely dismissed. Partial realities, once recognised as such, must stand like all particularities or differential moments and appearances to be accorded their place within a higher totality; the all-incorporative totality of the absolute. This is because the idealist position allegedly does not deny the fact of particularity of experience or of finite relativity. It is merely one of the imperfections to be judged according to higher criteria under a higher order. As thought, it is immature thought and, in this way, the relativity which it espouses is explained.
From the idealist perspective, the importance of all this is that even at the hands of these empirical theorists we see in experience that identity occurs in the midst of difference. Such an assumption could even be found in Hume despite his fictionalising efforts. Thus Bradley claimed that Hume's later doubts about the dismissal of identity as a fiction merely provided evidence of the need to recognise that identity can be seen in difference.(58) Moreover, Hume's initial error was simply something which was learned by rote and repeated ever after such that it had passed into dogmatic acceptance by subsequent empirical philosophers.(59) However, neither resemblance or similarity could ever pass for identity. Nor could one ever, as a part of a proper philosophy, accept that identity and difference were simply mutually exclusive categories.(60) Hume's theories simply translated into a failure to see "that identity and diversity, sameness and difference, imply one another, and depend for their meaning on one another; that mere diversity is nonsense just as mere identity is nonsense..."(61)
Finally, as has been indicated, the spheres of morality, ethics, religion, aesthetics, science and philosophy are relative spheres. Their reality is partly due to the fact that they operate within, and sometimes struggle against, their own constitutive limitations. Even philosophy itself is subservient to the more persuasive metaphysical system. Likewise with truth and falsity which are dichotomous and therefore relative. The Absolute is beyond all such dichotomies. It is beyond intellection, which is also relative. The Absolute cannot, under any circumstances, contain identity and difference. Identity in difference or identity as such is a unity which merely points beyond itself as a type of limited unity.(62) Identity is, in that sense, a unity which is appropriate only to finitude and plurality. It is, perhaps, for that very reason that Bradley holds that a comprehensive philosophy would investigate all types of identity. It would investigate them because of its centrality to the degrees of reality doctrine; that by virtue of which all partial manifestations of experience are linked to the higher totality.(63)
In the sphere of morality, no less than elsewhere, we are presented by Bradley with a philosophical investigation of the identity-in-difference notion. It is, of course, one of the relative spheres in the sense just described. It is perhaps less perfect or complete than religion for a variety of reasons which need not concern us here. The principles of individual morality are, however, self-realisation and duty for duty's sake. What is rejected are a variety of moral doctrines based on self-seeking and individualism. These involve, according to Bradley, 'an everlasting incompleteness'.(64) Also rejected are certain other inadequate doctrines, such as those based on the general will, the formal will and the autonomous or free will as well as the Greek conception of a common good. These, Bradley contended, all tend towards formalism or abstraction.(65) A genuine theory of morality would require the employment of the notion of the concrete universal so as to recapture the content of morality, along with the idea of moral development and progress towards an ideal of perfection.
To say as much is, again, to admit the fundamental principle of identity-in-difference as the basis of morality. In this vein, Bradley stated: "'realise' asserts the concrete identity of matter and form which the 'formal will' denies..."(66) Morality cannot operate according to "the identity which excludes diversity".(67) This is because content cannot be excluded from a genuine theory of morality. However, there must remain a sense in which reality approximates a higher ideal of unity; that is, within the predefined limits of morality itself. The content in morality is what Bradley regards, generally, as the product of a process of 'socialisation'. That is, socialisation is a sense of being inducted into, or more accurately, being born as a member of the 'individual social organism'.(68) In this, there is a latent 'sameness with others',(69) which settles the effective bond of union:
"In the children of our race there is a certain identity, a developed or undeveloped national type which may be hard to recognise"(70) such that ''the individual apart from community is an abstraction''.(71)
The final details of this process of socialisation, that takes effect in terms of the good or submissive self in opposition to the bad or individualist self, cannot be dealt with in any detail here.(72) At times, Bradley appears to have been claiming that the dual selves latent in the individual could be the very basis of the moral order itself. The moral order might have an appropriate degree of permanence which is achievable only by the good self submitting to authority; for example, to that of the parents.(73)
In the bad self, there is, according to Bradley, a disposition to mere chaos and disharmony. This is apparent in the characteristic of self-indulgence. For it there is "no one end, no identity, no bond of union in the main except in the affirmative self-feeling which under difference is the same throughout".(74) What, in effect resolves the dilemma of the dual selves is volition or conscience which is the agency for the realisation of the good self over the bad.(75) The realisation of the good self, therefore, will produce always a degree of perfection; the realisation of the bad, on the other hand, an anarchical degeneracy.(76) On a higher plane again, the political and moral community (that of 'external morality') is to be seen in evolutionary terms as an immanent development of civilisation from the lower to the higher. It is also relative, but nonetheless progressive.
This external morality provides the content of the individual self. Identification with, or submission to, its organic content is the means wherein lies the resolution of the 'is' and 'ought' dichotomy, developing a sense of unity which is superior to the particular person.(77) Human beings are social beings whose reality is social determined.(78) Therefore, he claimed, 'humanity is physei politicos, who ... apart from the community .. is theos e therion, no man at all'.(79) The suspicion of individual members to the 'is' of community thereby enable them to participate in the gradual realisation of the perfection inherent in the historical process, that is as members of a higher order of human life. Self-realisation is, in that sense, a form of 'self-sacrifice'.(80) Self-realisation, he says, infinitises the 'is' as a 'to be' which is perhaps one original sense of essence.(81)
From such a position, Bradley suggested that any attempt to consider the state as a sophistical construct, or as a conventional nomological artifice must be mere fable. The role of political philosophy is "to understand what is". It has "not to play tricks with the state..."(82) The state is, he contended, a part of external morality. Its identity, so to speak, is an intrinsic aspect of an organic reality, itself relative as part of the ceaseless process of human history's realisation of the perfection of the Absolute. Although morality, like religion and philosophy, is limited, by containing separation as its precondition, it is necessarily a part of the greater whole. The identity underlying morality, politics and the state, and yielding their reality as communal entities is, in that way, a relative thing which has its moment in the grander scheme of things.
Russell B. Descriptions, in Weitz M. Twentieth Century Philosophy: The
Analytic Tradition, The Free Press, New York, 1966, pp. 144-155 at p. 153.
The criticism of idealist identity, perhaps with reference to German idealism,
is also implicit in the writings of J.S.Mill in a different context. Mill
J.S. The Science of Logic, Longman Green, London, 1932, p. 50.