But whether or not this is Bosanquet's more considered position, the thing of chief importance is to see that it is the only position logically consistent with the metaphysics of Absolute Idealism. For Idealism the bad will must, like the good will, be 'in the end' a manifestation of Perfection, of 'the principle of individuality and value': and the only way to save this 'in the end' from being a mere phrase, expressive of a blind faith, is to try to show (as Bosanquet here recognises) that the bad will is just as truly, though not as apparently, an instance of the 'nisus towards totality' as the good will. The return to the Socratic moral psychology is for Idealism not so much a matter of 'may' as of 'must.' 'There is nothing in evil,' says Bosanquet, 'which cannot be absorbed in good.' Yes, the obvious answer surely runs, except the evil will itself. It is perfectly true that each and all of the component impulses which are the material of the bad will could be conceived, if considered in abstraction from the act itself, as 'absorbed in good.' But the bad will as such, the component elements in the concrete effective unity of the spiritual act, can not; unless, accepting the Socratic psychology, we believe that the bad will is really one with the good will in 'direction' as well as in abstract components.
I submit, then, that for Absolute Idealism there can be no significant distinction between moral good and moral evil. And this is the virtual destruction of the category of moral value. I am not saying, so far, that Idealism is in error in thus discrediting the moral point of view. But I do insist that it must discredit it if it is not to play false to its own fundamental principles.
Now on the Supra-rationalist hypothesis there will at least not be this metaphysical necessity of exorcising moral value. But a difficulty of another kind has come into view. If the Socratic theory of willing to which the Idealist makes tentative return is a valid theory on its own account, as it may very well be for all that we have as yet said to the contrary, then our own more 'plastic' metaphysical principles will avail us nothing so far as the defence of morals is concerned. On this moral psychology - or so I at least should agree - morality is but a name. It seems obligatory upon us therefore to pause for a little and make some inquiry into the credentials of this theory which denies the possibility of man 'knowing the better and choosing the worse'.
1 Principle of Individuality and Value, p. 242. Observe thai in a footnote to his argument Bosanquet roundly identifies himself with the Socratic psychology.