In reply to this defence we may certainly admit at once that there are 'two points of view' from which we may regard the status of judgments. I have just been engaged in indicating what they are - that of the 'noumenal' ideal, and that of the 'phenomenal' ideal, of self-consistency. But then what we want in a metaphysical treatise is the metaphysical point of view, and surely this is not 'double'? On the contrary, the point of view of metaphysics, if Bradley's doctrine of the Absolute be accepted, is singularly free from ambiguity; and it is to the effect that there is not the vestige of a justification for the attempt to grade thought-products according to the degree in which they approximate to ultimate reality. The other point of view, with its criterion of rational system, may be that which we naturally employ in grading judgments; but if we are to speak in terms of metaphysics we must say that any 'degrees' thus ascertained are not degrees of truth. Or, if we do call them degrees of 'truth,' we must confess that we are meaning by the term 'truth' something much less ambitious than is currently signified, something much less ambitious than 'the revelation of the character of ultimate reality'.
To repeat - the 'two points of view' correspond to the two forms of the ideal of self-consistency already discussed. If we could take the self-consistency of Reality, the 'noumenal' ideal, as intelligibly continuous with the 'phenomenal' ideal, then the doctrine of 'Degrees' might have some locus standi. But if not, if there is no intelligible continuity between the two - and that is certainly the issue of the Bradleian doctrine of knowledge - then 'Degrees of Truth' is meaningless.
I feel bound to conclude, therefore, that Bradley's defence is no defence at all; and that the doctrine of 'Degrees' with which his name is so closely associated is a contradiction of his fundamental principles. The unhappy consequences of his adoption of the doctrine in the way of diminishing the influence which his scepticism ought to have had upon the course of recent philosophy I have already alluded to at the beginning of the chapter. It has served to obscure under a veil of substantial similarity the real enormity of the gulf between the Bradleian metaphysic and that of Absolute Idealism. As a result very little serious attention has been given, even by Idealists, to the foundations of Bradley's Supra-rationalism - although they are in point of fact fatal to the Idealist construction of the universe. Had Bradley consistently followed out the implications of his Supra-rationalism, he would, I think, have been forced into presenting a philosophy whose opposition to Idealism is quite as deep-seated as the opposition offered by New Realism. It is a good deal more than arguable that the real 'Refutation of Idealism' is to be found, not in Mr Moore's Essays, but in Bradley's Appearance and Reality.
But if Bradley is claimed by Idealists as essentially one of themselves - as a brother whose occasional backslidings are indeed to be deplored but whose heart is in the right place - the fault must be imputed to Bradley himself in no small measure. Quite apart from the incriminating doctrine of 'Degrees of Truth,' Bradley has undoubtedly fallen into a mode of expression in certain passages which lends a great deal of colour to the notion that he is thinking along the lines of Idealist metaphysics. A particularly fruitful source of ambiguity, which it will be worth our while to consider for a few moments, is his use of the expression 'in detail' when alluding to our ignorance of the nature of the transmutation which every, even the highest, object of thought must undergo to become fully adequate to reality. Almost invariably he speaks as if we are ignorant only of 'how in detail' the feature in question must be modified in order to take its place in the Absolute. And the natural inference that the reader makes from this language is that we do know 'how in principle' the transformation is to be made. But if we know 'how in principle' finite objects are 'supplemented and re-arranged' so as to become fully self-consistent, then we must be supposed to know 'in principle' the character of Reality or the Absolute itself. The Absolute cannot be the closed book to thought which Bradley's term 'supra-relational' seemed to imply. If, then, this not unnatural construction is put upon Bradley's words, Bradley seems really to be speaking in these passages quite as a good Idealist should. For not even the most Idealistic Idealist would presume to insist, any more than Bradley himself, that we can know 'how in detail' finite apprehensions are to be transmuted in order to become adequate to ultimate reality.
Nevertheless, a closer study of the context of the thought in these passages should, I think, make it quite clear that Bradley is not intending to contrast the 'how in detail' with a 'how in principle,' in the usual meaning of these expressions. The real contrast which he has in mind is the contrast between 'knowing how' and 'knowing that.' 1 Bradley passes in review the various forms of finite experience, exhibits their inadequacy to the nature of the ultimately real, but urges that, on the view of ultimate reality which he sets forth, there is nothing in these experiences which offers positive opposition to their inclusion within the Absolute, although as to the 'how' of their inclusion we must rest in ignorance. We are entitled to say therefore, he urges, what on general grounds seems certain, that these experiences are somehow transmuted so as to take their place within the harmonising Reality. But how they are transmuted we do not know. It is, I agree, only by a loose use of words that a mere 'knowing that' can be verbally identified, as by Bradley, with ignorance only of the 'detail' of the transformations. Bradley must, I think, be deemed guilty of a laxity of language on this point. But that he is in his actual thought even violently opposed to the possibility of knowledge of the 'how,' even the 'how in principle,' must, I think, be granted upon any impartial study of the foundational elements in his philosophy.
1 This contrast comes out fairly clearly on p. 242 (Appearance and Reality) :
'We insisted... knowledge.' But even here failure to know 'how' is closely identified with a failure of mere 'detail'.
But perhaps the most conclusive evidence that Bradley does not really mean that we know the 'how in principle' is furnished by his treatment of the metaphysical significance of Error. Error in its full sense, Bradley points out, involves a positive discord which forbids it from taking its place as a constituent member of a harmonious system comparable to a relational world of knowledge. Only a harmony that is supra-relational can accept it as a contributory element. But, says Bradley, we do not know 'how' Error is thus accepted, for we cannot, 'even apart from detail, realise how the relational form is in general absorbed.' 1 Those who are tempted to claim Bradley for Idealism may fairly be invited to explain how this dictum is compatible with the doctrine that we can know Reality 'in principle'.