Arthur J. Balfour

Arthur Balfour

1848-1930. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. Devoted himself to philosophical studies for many years. First went to Parliament in 1876. Published "A Defense of Philosophic Doubt" in 1879, pleading for individual freedom of thought as against the increasing dogmatism of science. Through his sister, the wife of Prof. Henry Sidgwick, the first president of the SPR, he became interested in psychic phenomena and the question of survival in 1882. In 1894 he occupied the presidential chair of the SPR and in 1893 he became President. Eleven years later he became President of the British Association. Served as the British Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905. His paper on the Ear of Dionysuis cross correspondence (attributed to the discarnate minds of Prof. Butcher and Prof. Verrall) which he read before the SPR in November, 1916, is a most constructive presentation of an excellent piece of evidence for survival.

M. Bergson

 - Arthur Balfour -

           WITH THE arguments of Foundations of Belief I do not propose to trouble the reader. But it may make clearer what I have to say about L'Evolution creatrice if I mention that (among other conclusions) I arrive at the conviction that in accepting science, as we all do, we are moved by 'values' not by logic. That if we examine fearlessly the grounds on which judgments about the material world are founded, we shall find that they rest on postulates about which it is equally impossible to say that we can theoretically regard them as self-evident, or practically treat them as doubtful. We can neither prove them nor give them up. 'Concede' (I argued) the same philosophic weight to values in departments of speculation which look beyond the material world, and naturalism will have to be abandoned. But the philosophy of science would not lose thereby. On the contrary, an extension of view beyond phenomena diminishes rather than increases the theoretical difficulties with which bare naturalism is beset. It is not by a mere reduction in the area of our beliefs that, in the present state of our knowledge, certainty and consistency are to be reached. Such a reduction could not be justified by philosophy. But, justifiable or not, it would be quite impracticable. 'Values' refuse to be ignored.

A scheme of thought so obviously provisional has no claim to be a system, and the question therefore arises - at least, it arises for me - whether the fruitful philosophic labours of the last twenty years have found answers to the problem which I find most perplexing? I cannot pretend to have followed as closely as I should have desired the recent developments of speculation in Britain and America - still less in Germany, France, or Italy. Even were it otherwise, I could not profitably discuss them within the compass of an article. But the invitation to consider from this point of view a work so important as L'Evolution creatrice, by an author so distinguished as M. Bergson, I have found irresistible.

There cannot be a topic which provides a more fitting text for what I have to say in this connection than Freedom. To the idealist, Absolute spirit is free; though when we come to the individual soul I am not sure that its share of freedom amounts (in most systems) to very much. To the naturalistic thinker there is, of course, no Absolute, and no soul. Psychic phenomena are a function of the nervous system. The nervous system is material, and obeys the laws of matter. Its behaviour is as rigidly determined as the planetary orbits, and might be accurately deduced by a being sufficiently endowed with powers of calculation, from the distribution of matter, motion, and force, when the solar system was still nebular. To me, who am neither idealist nor naturalist, freedom is a reality; partly because, on ethical grounds, I am not prepared to give it up; partly because any theory which, like 'naturalism,' requires reason to be mechanically determined, is (I believe) essentially incoherent; and if we abandon mechanical determinism in the case of reason, it seems absurd to retain it in the case of will; partly because it seems impossible to find room for the self and its psychic states in the interstices of a rigid sequence of material causes and effects. Yet the material sequence is there; the self and its states are there; and I do not pretend to have arrived at a satisfactory view of their reciprocal relations. I keep them both, conscious of their incompatibilities.

A bolder line is taken by M. Bergson, and his point of view, be it right or wrong, is certainly far more interesting. He is not content with refusing to allow mechanical or any other form of determinism to dominate life. He makes freedom the very corner-stone of his system - freedom in its most aggressive shape. Life is free, life is spontaneous, life is incalculable. It is not indeed out of relation to matter, for matter clogs and hampers it. But not by matter is its direction wholly determined, not from matter is its forward impulse derived.

As we know it upon this earth, organic life resembles some great river system, pouring in many channels across the plain. One stream dies away sluggishly in the sand, another loses itself in some inland lake, while a third, more powerful or more fortunate, drives its tortuous and arbitrary windings further and yet further from the snows that gave it birth.

M. Bergson objects to teleology only less than to mechanical determinism. And, if I understand him aright, the vital impulse has no goal more definite than that of acquiring an ever fuller volume of free creative activity.

But what in M. Bergson's theory corresponds to the sources of these multitudinous streams of life? Whence come they? The life we see - the life of plants, of animals, of men - have their origin in the single life which he calls super-consciousness, above matter and beyond it; which divides, like the snow-fields of our simile, into various lines of flow, corresponding to the lines of organic development, described by evolutionary biology. But as the original source of organic life is free, indeterminate, and incalculable, so this quality never utterly disappears from its derivative streams, entangled and thwarted though they be by matter. Life, even the humblest life, does not wholly lose its original birthright, nor does it succumb completely to its mechanical environment.

Now it is evident that if the ultimate reality is this free creative activity, time must occupy a position in M. Bergson's philosophy quite other than that which it holds in any of the great metaphysical systems. For in these, time and temporal relation are but elements within an Absolute, itself conceived as timeless; whereas M. Bergson's Absolute almost resolves itself into time-evolving, as it were by a free effort, new forms at each instant of a continuous flow. A true account of the Absolute would therefore take the form of history. It would tell us of the Absolute that has been and is, the Absolute 'up to date'. Of the Absolute that is to be, no account can be given; its essential contingency puts its future beyond the reach of any Powers of calculation, even were those powers infinite in their grasp.

Now this view of reality, expounded by its author with a wealth of scientific as well as of philosophical knowledge which must make his writings fascinating and instructive to those who least agree with them, suggests far more questions than it would be possible merely to catalogue, much less to discuss, within the limits of this paper. But there is one aspect of the theory from my point of view of fundamental interest, on which something must be said - I mean the relation of M. Bergson's free creative consciousness to organised life and to unorganised matter - to that physical Universe with which biology, chemistry, and physics are concerned.

M. Bergson, while denying that life-will-consciousness, as we know them on this earth of ours, are mere functions of the material organism, does not, as we have seen, deny that they, in a sense, depend on it. They depend on it as a workman depends on a tool. It limits him, though he uses it.

Now the way in which life uses the organism in which it is embodied is by releasing at will the energy which the organism has obtained directly or indirectly from the sun-directly in the cage of plants, indirectly in the case of animals. The plants hoard much but use little. The animals appropriate their savings.

To M. Bergson, therefore, organised life essentially shows itself in the sudden and quasi-explosive release of these accumulations. Indeed he carries this idea so far as to suggest that any material system which should store energy by arresting its degradation to some lower level(1),and should produce effects by its sudden liberation, would exhibit something in the nature of life. But this is surely going too far. There are plenty of machines used for manufacturing or domestic purposes which do just this; while in the realm of nature there seems no essential physical distinction between (on the one hand) the storing up of solar radiation by plants and its discharge in muscular action, and (on the other) the slow production of aqueous vapour, and its discharge during a thunderstorm in torrential rain. Yet all would admit that the first is life, while the second is but mechanism.

(1) This refers to the second law of thermo-dynamics. It is interesting to observe that M. Bergson regards this as philosophically more important than the first law.

It is rash to suggest that a thinker like M. Bergson has wrongly emphasised his own doctrines. Yet I venture, with great diffidence, to suggest that the really important point in this part of his theory, the point where his philosophy breaks finally with 'mechanism,' the point where freedom and indeterminism are really introduced into the world of space and matter, is only indirectly connected with the bare fact that in organic life accumulated energy is released. What is really essential is the manner of its release. If the release be effected by pure mechanism, fate still reigns supreme. If, on the other hand, there be anything in the mode of release, however trifling, which could not be exhaustively accounted for by the laws of matter and motion, then freedom gains a foothold in the very citadel of necessity. Make the hair trigger which is to cause the discharge as delicate as you please, yet if it be pulled by forces dependent wholly upon the configuration and energy of the material universe at the moment, you are nothing advanced. Determinism still holds you firmly in its grip. But if there be introduced into the system a new force - in other words, a new creation - though it be far too minute for any instrument to register, then if it either pull the trigger or direct the explosion, the reality of contingency is established, and our whole conception of the physical world is radically transformed.

This, I conceive, must be M. Bergson's view. But his theory of the relation between life-freedom-will, on the one side, and matter on the other, goes much further than the mere assertion that there is in fact an element of contingency in the movements of living organisms. For he regards this both as a consequence and as a sign of an effort made by creative will to bring mechanism more and more under the control of freedom. Such efforts have, as biology tells us, often proved abortive. Some successes that have been won have had again to be surrendered. Advance, as in the case of many parasites, has been followed by retrogression. By comparing the molluscs, whose torpid lives have been repeating themselves without sensible variation through all our geological records, with man, in whom is embodied the best we know of consciousness and will, we may measure the success which has so far attended the efforts of super-consciousness in this portion of the Universe.

I say, in this portion of the Universe, because M. Bergson thinks it not only possible but probable that elsewhere in space the struggle between freedom and necessity, between life and matter, may be carried on through the sudden liberation of other forms of energy than those which plants accumulate by forcibly divorcing the oxygen and the carbon atoms combined in our atmosphere. The speculation is interesting, though, from the point of view of science, somewhat hazardous. From the point of view of M. Bergson's metaphysic, however, it is almost a necessity. For his metaphysic, like every metaphysic, aims at embracing all reality; and as the relation between life and matter is an essential part of it, the matter with which he deals cannot be restricted to that which constitutes our negligible fraction of the physical world.

But what, according to his metaphysic, is the relation of life, consciousness, in general, to matter in general? His theory of organic life cannot stand alone. For it does not get us beyond individual living things, struggling freely, but separately, with their own organisms, with each other, and with the inert mass of the physical world which lies around them. But what the history of all this may be, whence comes individual life, and whence comes matter, and what may be the fundamental relation between the two, this has still to be explained.

And, frankly, the task of explanation for any one less gifted than M. Bergson himself is not an easy one. The first stage, indeed, whether easy or not, is at least familiar. M. Bergson thinks, with other great masters of speculation, that consciousness, life, spirit is the prius of all that is, be it physical or mental. But let me repeat that the prius is, in his view, no all-inclusive absolute, of which our world, the world evolving in time, is but an aspect or phase. His theory, whatever its subsequent difficulties may be, is less remote from common-sense. For duration with him is, as we have seen, something pre-eminently real. It is not to be separated from the creative consciousness. It is no abstract emptiness, filled up by successive happenings, placed (as it were) end to end. It must rather be regarded as an agent in that continuous process of free creation which is life itself,

Since, then, consciousness and matter are not to be regarded as entities of independent origin, ranged against one another from eternity, like the good and evil principles of Zoroaster, what is the relation between them? If I understand M. Bergson aright, matter must be regarded as a by-product of the evolutionary process. The primordial consciousness falls, as it were, asunder. On the one side it rises to an ever fuller measure of creative freedom; on the other, it lapses into matter, determinism, mechanical adjustment, space. Space with him, therefore, is not, as with most other philosophers, a correlative of Time. It has not the same rank (whatever that may be) in the hierarchy of being. For, while Time is of the essential of primordial activity, Space is but the limiting term of those material elements which are no more than its backwash.

I do not, of course, for a moment delude myself into the belief that I have made these high speculations clear and easy. The reader, justly incensed by my rendering of M. Bergson's doctrine, must find his remedy in M. Bergson's own admirable exposition. I may, however, have done enough to enable me to make intelligible certain difficulties which press upon me, and may, perhaps, press also upon others.

M. Bergson holds that events which, because they are contingent, even infinite powers of calculation could not foresee, may yet be accounted for, even by our very modest powers of thought, after they have occurred. I own this somewhat surprises me. And my difficulty is increased by the reflection that free consciousness pursues no final end, it follows no predetermined design. It struggles, it expends itself in effort, it stretches ever towards completer freedom, but it has no plans.

Of primordial consciousness, however, we know neither the objects nor the opportunities. It follows no designs, it obeys no laws. The sort of explanation, therefore, which satisfies us when we are dealing with one of its organic embodiments, seems hard of attainment in the case of primordial consciousness itself. I cannot, at least, persuade myself that M. Bergson has attained it. Why should free consciousness first produce, and then, as it were, shed, mechanically determined matter? Why, having done so, should it set to work to permeate this same matter with contingency? Why should it allow itself to be split up by matter into separate individualities? Why, in short, should it ever have engaged in that long and doubtful battle between freedom and necessity which we call organic evolution?

Yet fully granting that, in the present state of our knowledge, every metaphysic must be defective, we cannot accept any particular metaphysic without some grounds of belief, be they speculative, empirical, or practical; and the question therefore arises - On what grounds are we asked to accept the metaphysic of M. Bergson?

This brings us to what is perhaps the most suggestive, and is certainly the most difficult, portion of his whole doctrine - I mean his theory of knowledge. The magnitude of that difficulty will be at once realised when I say that in M. Bergson's view not reason, but instinct, brings us into the closest touch, the directest relation, with what is most real in the Universe. For reason is at home, not with life and freedom, but with matter, mechanism, and space - the waste products of the creative impulse. We need not wonder, then, that reason should feel at home in the realm of matter; that it should successfully cut up the undivided flow of material change into particular sequences which are repeated, or are capable of repetition, and which exemplify 'natural laws'; that it should manipulate long trains of abstract mathematical inference, and find that their remotest conclusion fits closely to observed fact. For matter and reason own, according to M. Bergson, a common origin; and the second was evolved in order that we might cope successfully with the first.

Instinct, which finds its greatest development among bees and ants, though incomparably inferior to reason in its range, is yet in touch with a higher order of truth, for it is in touch with life itself. In the perennial struggle between freedom and necessity which began when life first sought to introduce contingency into matter, everything, it seems, could not be carried along the same line of advance. Super-consciousness was like an army suddenly involved in a new and difficult country. If the infantry took one route, the artillery must travel by another. The powers of creation would have been overtasked had it been attempted to develop the instinct of the bee along the same evolutionary track as the reason of the man. But man is not, therefore, wholly without instinct, nor does he completely lack the powers of directly apprehending life. In rare moments of tension, when his whole being is wound up for action, when memory seems fused with will and desire into a single impulse to do, - then he knows freedom, then he touches reality, then he consciously sweeps along with the advancing wave of Time, which, as it moves, creates.

However obscure to reflective thought such mystic utterances may seem, many will read them with a secret sympathy. But, from the point of view occupied by M. Bergson's own philosophy, do they not suggest questions of difficulty? How comes it that if instinct be the appropriate organ for apprehending free reality, bees and ants, whose range of freedom is so small, should have so much of it? How comes it that man, the freest animal of them all, should specially delight himself in the exercise of reason, the faculty brought into existence to deal with matter and necessity? M. Bergson is quite aware of the paradox, but does he anywhere fully explain it?

This is, however, comparatively speaking, a small matter. The difficulties which many will find in the system, as I have just described it, lie deeper. Their first inclination will be to regard it as a fantastic construction, in many parts difficult of comprehension, in no part capable of proof. They will attach no evidential value to the unverified visions attributed to the Hymenoptera, and little to the flashes of illumination enjoyed by man. The whole scheme will seem to them arbitrary and unreal, owing more to poetical imagination than to scientific knowledge or philosophic insight.

Such a judgment would certainly be wrong; and if made at all, will, I fear, be due in no small measure to my imperfect summary. The difficulties of such a summary are indeed very great, not through the defects but the merits of the author summarised. The original picture is so rich in suggestive detail that adequate reproduction on a smaller scale is barely possible. Moreover, M. Bergson's Evolution Creatrice is not merely a philosophic treatise, it has all the charms and all the audacities of a work of Art, and as such defies adequate reproduction. Yet let no man regard it as an unsubstantial vision. One of its peculiarities is the intimate, and, at first sight, the singular, mingling of minute scientific statement with the boldest metaphysical speculation. This is not accidental; it is of the essence of M. Bergson's method. For his metaphysic may, in a sense, be called empirical. It is no a priori construction, any more than it is a branch of physics or biology. It is a philosophy, but a philosophy which never wearies in its appeals to concrete science.

Even the most abstruse and subtle parts of his system make appeal to natural science. Consider, for example, the sharp distinction which he draws between the operations of mechanism and reason on the one side, creation and instinct on the other. Reason, analysing some very complex organ like the eye and its complementary nervous structure, perceives that it is compounded of innumerable minute elements, each of which requires the nicest adjustment if it is to serve its purpose, and all of which are mutually interdependent. It tries to imagine external and mechanical methods by which this intricate puzzle could have been put together - e.g. selection out of chance variations. In M. Bergson's opinion, all such theories - true, no doubt, as far as they go - are inadequate. He supplements or replaces them by quite a different view. From the external and mechanical standpoint necessarily adopted by reason, the complexity seems infinite, the task of co-ordination impossible. But looked at from the inside, from the position which creation occupies and instinct comprehends, there is no such complexity and no such difficulty. Observe how certain kinds of wasp, when paralysing their victim, show a knowledge of anatomy which no morphologist could surpass, and a skill which few surgeons could equal. Are we to suppose these dexterities to be the result of innumerable experiments somehow bred into the race? Or are we to suppose it the result, e.g., of natural selection working upon minute variation? Or are we to suppose it due to some important mutation? No, says M. Bergson; none of these explanations, nor any like them, are admissible. If the problem was one of mechanism, if it were as complicated as reason, contemplating it from without, necessarily supposes, then it would be insoluble. But to the wasp it is not insoluble; for the wasp looks at it from within, and is in touch, through instinct, with life itself.

This enumeration is far from exhausting the biological arguments which M. Bergson draws from his ample stores in favour of his views on the beginnings of organic life. Yet I cannot feel that even he succeeds in quarrying out of natural science foundations strong enough to support the full weight of his metaphysic. Even if it be granted (and by naturalistic thinkers it will not be granted) that life always carries with it a trace of freedom or contingency, and that this grows greater as organisms develop, why should we therefore suppose that life existed before its first humble beginnings on this earth, why should we call in super-consciousness? M. Bergson regards matter as the dam which keeps back the rush of life. Organise it a little (as in the Protozoa) - i.e. slightly raise the sluice - and a little life will squeeze through. Organise it elaborately (as in man) - i.e. raise the sluice a good deal - and much life will squeeze through. Now this maybe a very plausible opinion if the flood of life be really there, beating against matter till it forces an entry through the narrow slit of undifferentiated protoplasm. But is it there? Science, modestly professing ignorance, can stumble along without it; and I question whether philosophy, with only scientific data to work upon, can establish its reality.

In truth, when we consider the manner in which M. Bergson uses his science to support his metaphysic, we are reminded of the familiar theistic argument from design, save that most of the design is left out.

What has happened before may happen again. The apparently inexplicable may find an explanation within the narrowest limits of natural science. Mechanism may be equal to playing the part which a spiritual philosophy had assigned to consciousness. When, therefore, M. Bergson tells us that the appearance of an organ so peculiar as the eye in lines of evolution so widely separated as the molluscs and the vertebrates implies not only a common ancestral origin, but a common pre-ancestral origin; or when he points out how hard it is to account for certain most complicated cases of adaptation by any known theory of heredity, we may admit the difficulty, yet hesitate to accept the solution. We feel the peril of basing our beliefs upon a kind of ignorance which may at any moment be diminished or removed.

Now, I do not suggest that M. Bergson's system, looked at as a whole, suffers from this kind of weakness. On the contrary, I think that if the implications of his system be carefully studied, it will be seen that he draws support from sources of a very different kind, and in particular from two which must be drawn upon (as I think) if the inadequacy of naturalism is to be fully revealed.

The first is the theory of knowledge. If naturalism be accepted, then our whole apparatus for arriving at truth, all the beliefs in which that truth is embodied, reason, instinct, and their legitimate results, are the product of irrational forces. If they are the product of irrational forces, whence comes their authority? If to this it be replied that the principles of evolution, which naturalism accepts from science, would tend to produce faculties adapted to the discovery of truth, I reply, in the first place, that this is no solution of the difficulty, and wholly fails to extricate us from the logical circle. I reply, in the second place, that the only faculties which evolution, acting through natural selection, would tend to produce, are those which enable individuals, or herds, or, societies to survive. Speculative capacity - the capacity, for example, to frame a naturalistic theory of the Universe - if we have it at all, must be a by-product. What nature is really, concerned with is that we should eat, breed, and bring up our young. The rest is accident.

Now M. Bergson does not directly interest himself in this negative argument, on which I have dwelt elsewhere. But I think his whole constructive theory of reason and instinct is really based on the impossibility of accepting blind mechanism as the source the efficient cause - of all our knowledge of reality. His theory is difficult. I am not sure that I am competent either to explain or to criticise it. But it seems to me clear that, great as is the width of scientific detail with which it is illustrated and enforced, its foundations lie far deeper than the natural sciences can dig.

But it is not only in his theory of knowledge that he shows himself to be moved by considerations with which science has nothing to do. Though the point is not explicitly pressed, it is plain that he takes account of 'values,' and is content with no philosophy which wholly ignores them. Were it otherwise, could he speak as he does of 'freedom,' of 'creative will,' of the 'joy' (as distinguished from the pleasure) which fittingly accompanies it? Could he represent the Universe as the battle-ground between the opposing forces of freedom and necessity? Could he look on matter as 'the enemy'? Could he regard mechanism, determinateness, all that matter stands for as not merely in process of subjugation but as things that ought to be subdued by the penetrating energies of free consciousness?

This quasi-ethical ideal is infinitely removed from pure naturalism. It is almost as far removed from any ideal which could be manufactured out of empirical science alone, even granting what naturalism refuses to grant, that organised life exhibits traces of contingency. M. Bergson, if I correctly read his mind, refuses - I think, rightly refuses - to tolerate conceptions so ruinous to 'values' as these must inevitably prove. But can his own conception of the universe stand where he has placed it? By introducing creative will behind development, he has no doubt profoundly modified the whole evolutionary drama. Matter and mechanism have lost their pride of place. Consciousness has replaced them. The change seems great; nay, it is great. But if things remain exactly where M. Bergson leaves them, is the substantial difference so important as we might at first suppose? What is it that consciousness strives for? What does it accomplish? It strives to penetrate matter with contingency. Why, I do not know. But concede the worth of the enterprise. What measure of success can it possibly attain? A certain number of organic molecules develop into more or less plastic instruments of consciousness and will; consciousness and will, thus armed, inflict a few trifling scratches on the outer crust of our world, and perhaps of worlds elsewhere, but the huge mass of matter remains and must remain what it has always been - the undisputed realm of lifeless determinism. Freedom, when all has happened that can happen, creeps humbly on its fringe.

I suggest, with great respect, that in so far as M. Bergson has devised his imposing scheme of metaphysic in order to avoid the impotent conclusions of Naturalism, he has done well. As the reader knows, I most earnestly insist that no philosophy can at present be other than provisional; and that, in framing a provisional philosophy, 'values' may be, and must be, taken into account. My complaint, if I have one, is not that M. Bergson goes too far in this direction, but that he does not go far enough. He somewhat mars his scheme by what is, from this point of view, too hesitating and uncertain a treatment.

It is true that he has left naturalism far behind. His theory of a primordial super-consciousness, not less than his theory of freedom, separates him from this school of thought as decisively as his theory of duration, with its corollary of an ever-growing and developing reality, divides him from the great idealists. It is true also that, according to my view, his metaphysic is religious: since I deem the important philosophic distinction between religious and non-religious metaphysic to be that God, or whatever in the system corresponds to God, does in the former take sides in a moving drama, while, with more consistency, but far less truth, he is, in the non-religious system, represented as indifferently related to all the multiplicity of which he constitutes the unity.

Now, M. Bergson's super-consciousness does certainly take sides, and, as we have seen, his system suffers to the full from the familiar difficulty to which, in one shape or another, all religious systems (as defined) are liable, namely, that the evils or the defects against which the Creator is waging war are evils and defects in a world of His own creating. But as M. Bergson has gone thus far in opposition both to naturalistic and to metaphysical orthodoxies, would not his scheme gain if he went yet further? Are there no other values' which he would do well to consider? His superconsciousness has already some quasi-aesthetic and quasi-moral qualities. We must attribute to it joy in full creative effort, and a corresponding alienation from those branches of the evolutionary stem which, preferring case to risk and effort, have remained stationary, or even descended in the organic scale. It may be that other values are difficult to include in his scheme, especially if he too rigorously banishes teleology. But why should he banish teleology? In his philosophy super-consciousness is so indeterminate that it is not permitted to hamper itself with any purpose more definite than that of self-augmentation. It is ignorant not only of its course, but of its goal; and for the sufficient reason that in M. Bergson's view, these things are not only unknown, but unknowable. But is there not a certain incongruity between the substance of such a philosophy and the sentiments associated with it by its author? Creation, freedom, will - these doubtless are great things; but we cannot lastingly admire them unless we know their drift. We cannot, I submit, rest satisfied with what differs so little from the haphazard; joy is no fitting consequent of efforts which are so nearly aimless. If values are to be taken into account, it is surely better to invoke God with a purpose, than supra-consciousness with none.

Yet these deficiencies, if deficiencies they be, do little to diminish the debt of gratitude we owe to M. Bergson. Apart altogether from his admirable criticisms, his psychological insight, his charms of style, there is permanent value in his theories. And those who, like myself, find little satisfaction in the all-inclusive unification of the idealist systems; who cannot, either on rational or any other grounds, accept naturalism as a creed, will always turn with interest and admiration to this brilliant experiment in philosophic construction, so far removed from both.


The article above was taken from "Arthur James Balfour As Philosopher and Thinker: A Collection of the More Important and Interesting Passages in his Non-Political Writings, Speeches, and Addresses, 1897-1912" (Longmans, Green and Co., 1912) by Wilfred M. Short.


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