But if this is so, then Error proper, which we saw to have as its distinctive mark the claim to absolute finality, is a judgment of the very type of the contradictory. How then can it be supposed to contribute to the harmonious self-expression of Reason? Put bluntly, the problem which Idealism has to face is that of showing how the 'spirit of Logic' can manifest itself in its own negation, logical contradiction. And this problem seems quite insoluble unless a meaning is given to Mind or Reason or Logic in the Absolute which is frankly discordant with the meaning that these terms possess in the analysis of finite cognitive experience: which would, of course, be tantamount to giving up the whole Idealist position.
But at this point a difficulty arises in connection with the distinction which, following Mr Joachim, we provisionally admitted between the two forms of Error. B's confident judgment, I have just been saying, turns out to be of the very type of the contradictory. 'But,' it might be rejoined, 'if you are right about the essence of contradiction, a fuller analysis of A's condition may show that you will have to say precisely the same thing about A. For if A is judging at all, he is claiming finality by that very act for what he asserts. The psychical condition of "doubt" does not imply that A is not claiming finality, but simply that that for which he claims finality is something different. A's judgment, made in the acute consciousness of his scientific limitations, may be expressed in some such way as this: "That the sun travels round the earth appears to me, in my present defective state of knowledge, to be the fact." Now there is still a certain claim to finality here. What happens is just that instead of final truth being claimed for the "sun-earth" connection, final truth is claimed for another connection. Instead of affirming as finally true that the sun travels round the earth, A is affirming as finally true that this sun-earth relation is an hypothesis provisionally entertained by him. But if this interpretation is admitted, then A's judgment seems to be just as good a self-contradiction as B's. In it, too, we have the claim to final truth which has been held to be the essence of contradiction'.
This criticism would, I think, be substantially just. I should accept without demur this revised version of the distinction between A's judgment and B's judgment. A's judgment does claim finality, and we must, on our previous reasoning, hold that it too is self-contradictory. But I want now to point out a very important distinction between the contradiction in A's judgment and that in B's. The connection of differences which A affirms, although not grounded in a way which offers a final satisfaction for thought, is grounded in a way which thought can see to be final for thought. It is a connection, that is, which can be observed to be definitely incapable of being more fully grounded without transcending the very conditions of experience itself. It is, in a word, an 'intellectually incorrigible' connection. And such a connection, even if formally contradictory, must clearly be accorded a quite different status from the type of connection affirmed by B, whose ground is not ultimate even for finite intelligence.
We are introduced here to a difficult problem, the relation of the 'intellectually incorrigible' to 'ultimate Truth.' The chapter on 'Noumenal and Phenomenal Truth' will endeavour to make the issues clear and to offer a solution. At the present juncture I cannot attempt to do more than explain my reasons for holding that the connection affirmed in A's judgment is 'intellectually incorrigible'.
To see this most clearly, consider the different nature of the grounding in A's and B's judgment respectively. The ground of B's judgment, 'the sun travels round the earth,' is an objective system whose character is, not only at B's level of thinking, but at any level, inadequately comprehended. And this means that B's judgment must be recognised as indefinitely modifiable with the progressive deepening of the ground. But the ground of A's judgment is not an objective system capable of more and more complete articulation. A is affirming that this sun-earth relation appears to him, in his present defective state of knowledge, to be the fact. That is, what A affirms as final is just that he does really entertain a belief which he is conscious of entertaining. And the ground of this affirmation is none other than the testimony of the subject's own self-consciousness, which he can no more call in question significantly than he can dispute the actuality of experience itself. It is a ground which not only seems indisputable to A now, but must always continue to seem indisputable under the conditions of finite intelligence. There is accordingly no 'growing system' here whose development might be supposed to necessitate a modification of the connection of differences affirmed. We seem entitled to say, therefore, that the 'ground' here is one whose finality (since no one can ever suppose that he does not have an experience which his self-awareness tells him he has), for human experience, cannot be transcended.
I am not, be it noted, contending that the intellect is here confronted with differences connected in an intrinsically satisfying manner. On the contrary the intellect recognises that there is still here a problem. It does not understand this 'self-awareness' which seems to be a condition of experience, nor how it is related to the universe at large. But - and this is the point - it can see that while intellect remains itself it must accept self-awareness as a sheer datum. It can see that the process of deeper experience can never have the effect of throwing doubt upon that which is a condition even of the deeper experience itself. And this, although not ultimate Truth, is intellectual incorrigibility.
We are threatening to encroach, however, upon the matter of the chapter just referred to (Chapter III (Noumenal And Phenomenal Truth. Section 1. Absolute Idealism'S Rejection Of Correspondence Notion Of Truth).) and must bring our present discussion to an end. Whatever one may have to say about the type of judgment illustrated by the case of A, no point, at all events, has been raised which places in jeopardy the contention that B's judgment cannot find a place within the Rational Absolute. Idealism, if it is to reconcile Error with its philosophy, must ignore just that aspect of Error which has been found to be its distinctive mark, its confident self-assertion. Dr Bosanquet ignores it, and it is thus that he is able to pronounce Error to be one in principle with Truth, differing from Truth only in 'systematic distinction and completeness.' 1 It is easy to solve the metaphysical problem of Error if we abstract from the very feature of it which sets us the problem. Whether or not it must remain for Idealism (as I hold) an insoluble problem, it may now be left to the reader to decide.
1 The Value and Destiny of the Individual) p. 214.