In this chapter I (The Epistemological Approach To The Supra-Rational Absolute. Section I. Introductory) purpose to consider how the view of Reality that has been expounded reacts upon the general theory of Truth, with special reference to a fundamental distinction which arises naturally out of our discussions - the distinction between Ultimate or Noumenal Truth, the kind of satisfaction which the intellect ideally wants, and what may be called (with the misgivings proper to so ambiguous a term) Phenomenal Truth, the kind of satisfaction at which in practice the intellect can alone significantly aim. The import of this distinction will best emerge if we turn our attention first of all to the doctrine of Truth sponsored by Absolute Idealism, observing carefully the points at which our own different metaphysical position compels modification.
For Absolute Idealism, Reality is a systematic whole, intelligibly continuous throughout. And just because it is intelligibly continuous throughout, there can be no barrier opposed in principle 1 to the effort of the intellect to apprehend it as it is. Since, again, there is thus absolutely no aspect of Reality which must perforce remain an 'other' over against thought, the proper goal and culmination of the thought-process, which is also the attainment of Truth, must be envisaged as a state in which the distinction of thought from Reality ceases to be. For so long as any such distinction remains, Reality is presenting an aspect of otherness or opposition to thought, and so far fails to be 'intelligible throughout' for the thinking subject. Truth, therefore, is to be found only in that thought which has become identical with Reality. And hence Idealists tend to speak almost indifferently of Truth or Reality. Such distinction as may be allowed is at most one of aspect. Truth is the character of 'the one significant whole.' When understood in its full and proper nature it is not, we are told, an attribute of judgments 'about' Reality, but just that perfect systematic coherence which is the character of Reality itself.
1 One is tempted to stress the qualification 'in principle'; for there would seem to be still some who would impute to Idealism the overweening claim that the finite intelligence can in fact comprehend the universe in its totality.
Thus it is that it comes to be maintained in the Idealist theory of Truth, that Coherence is not merely the test or criterion of Truth, but also its essence, meaning, or nature. And Idealism, I think, is bound to hold this. Given its premises as to the nature of Reality, the steps to the conclusion seem fully logical. The Idealist grants, of course, that his conclusion wears a paradoxical air. When we speak of the proposition 'Charles I. died on the scaffold' as a 'true' proposition, we certainly do not usually mean by its being 'true' that it is marked by systematic coherence. We mean, to use a rough expression at present, that what is affirmed corresponds with what did really take place. But this, the Idealist urges, is merely the illusion characteristic of an inadequate stage of thought's development. It is inevitable at the level at which there still remains an opposition between knowing mind and object to be known. But he has shown (he will proceed to tell us) that the search for truth at this dualistic level is not finally satisfied at this level, but attains what it aims at only in an experience in which the dualism breaks down in that fully coherent whole which is Truth and Reality in one. This Truth is, no doubt, Ideal Truth, never to be completely attained by man. But it is none the less the real nature of the Truth which you seek after in ordinary experience, the logical culmination of that search and strictly continuous with it. It expresses what you would attain were your search deepened and expanded to its ideal completion. Accordingly, while your view of Truth as 'correspondence' with Reality is natural at a certain level, you are bound to admit that at that level at which Truth 'comes into its own,' fulfilling its proper nature, there is nothing 'outside' for Truth to correspond with. Truth in its real meaning is one with Reality itself, and 'correspondence,' as an ultimate theory of its nature, must be frankly abandoned.
Now if 'one-ness with Reality' is indeed the logical termination of the advance of the intellect - a consummation genuinely continuous with the process - then there does seem to me no option but to reject outright the Correspondence view of the meaning of Truth. That view will not hold good of Truth even at the human level. For if Reality is intelligibly continuous, there is no room for any distinction of principle between 'human truth' and 'ultimate truth.' The one flows directly into the other.