But where it is a matter of planning for the distant future, the claims of 'theory' are not directly opposed, and consequently are not eclipsed, by the claims of the volitional consciousness, and Determinism forthwith assumes its baneful sway.
One further influence which has done much to obscure the real divergence between what the Idealist calls 'freedom' and the freedom in which the plain man is interested, must be adverted to before concluding this section. This influence is the ambiguity of the term 'freedom' in our actual common speech. There is one meaning of freedom in our common speech with which the Idealist doctrine is undoubtedly able to effect a rapprochement. It is characteristic of the Idealist doctrine to hold that freedom is a matter of 'degree,' being present in more or less fullness according (in part at least) to the intellectual enlightenment of the person concerned. Now there is much in our ordinary language which the Idealist can cite by way of testimony to the propriety of such an interpretation of freedom. We do all speak of the 'circumscribed' lives of the uneducated, and of the increasing 'freedom' or 'emancipation' which follows in the train of knowledge. The ordinary man is ready to recognise that the slum-dweller who may not be able to read or write is 'limited' by his ignorance, is debarred from enjoyment of a thousand activities which lie open to his more favoured brother. Furthermore, there is the obvious truth that the uneducated man, in that he has accepted his working ideas and ideals more or less uncritically, is a 'bondsman' to the forces of his environment in a sense which does not apply in comparable measure to the sage who permits no belief to gain an entry which does not approve itself before the bar of his own reason. All this is matter of general agreement: and it means that there is at least some currently employed sense of the word 'freedom' in which it is, as the Idealist tells us, a question of 'degree.' But will this entitle the Idealist to claim that his doctrine of freedom is not, after all, really different from that which the plain man means.
By freedom, and not, accordingly, incompatible with what the plain man means by moral responsibility?
It seems eminently clear that it will not. The freedom which depends upon enlightenment is one type of freedom, without doubt. But no one should be in the slightest danger of confusing this type of freedom with the freedom which is the presupposition of moral responsibility. So sharply distinguished are they in the ordinary man's mind that he would be conscious of no incongruity whatever in admitting that he enjoys only an insignificant measure of the freedom of 'enlightenment,' at the same time as he vigorously insists upon his absolute 'moral' freedom. The moral freedom, the freedom which is presupposed in all moral praise or blame, consists not in the possession of a comprehensive range of possible ends, nor in the extent to which rational reflection is responsible for the adoption of these ends, but solely in the capacity (of which every agent seems to himself to be directly aware) of identifying himself in act with any one of such ends as do present themselves before him in conative situations. If he does really possess this capacity, then (certain further simple conditions being fulfilled) he recognises that he may properly incur censure for identifying himself with an end which he knew, or believed, to be evil. But if he lacks this capacity, then emphatically not. Moral judgment, he will tell us - and who, that is not out to save a theory, will contradict him? - is, in the absence of such a capacity, the hollowest of mockeries.
The freedom of enlightenment is, in its different degrees, an acknowledged fact. Concerning it, there is no 'problem' of freedom at all. That in itself should be enough to make it evident that such is not the freedom about whose reality and unreality men have contended so long and so bitterly. What man has always been vitally concerned to know is whether sober and impersonal examination of the facts forces us to conclude, as it is claimed, that all of our acts - so-called 'good' and so-called 'bad' acts alike - 'could not have been otherwise than they were': or whether, perhaps, the 'nobler hypothesis' suggested by the testimony of our practical consciousness may not, after all, be capable of support on purely rational principles. This is the real 'problem of freedom,' for it is the problem upon whose settlement the tremendous issue of man's moral responsibility finally turns. To pretend that any positive support is lent to 'moral responsibility' by the demonstration that man possesses, in various degrees, the freedom of enlightenment, is either a disingenuous evasion of the issue, or an unwitting exploitation of the ambiguities of language.
At least the general character of the freedom I am to defend is now obvious enough, and its cardinal importance to human interests is, I hope, equally obvious. Roughly speaking, what I shall try to show is that the apparent testimony of the practical consciousness as to the reality of 'open possibilities' is no illusion, but veridical. Without further preamble let us address ourselves to this task.1
1 Before finally taking leave of the Idealist theory, I should like to emphasise - what the purpose of this section has tended to obscure - my substantial agreement with a very great deal of what Idealist moral philosophers have written on the topic of human freedom. While I absolutely decline to allow that the 'freedom' with which they are chiefly concerned is rightly to be called 'real' freedom (with the implication that the freedom of 'open possibilities 'is not freedom at all, or at best quite unimportant), there seems to me no ground for denying that it is a 'real' kind of freedom. To a self conscious of its potentialities of self-development, conscious of an 'ideal' self which is at the same time its most 'real' self, all obstacles to that development - ignorance, prejudices, tyrannical passions, etc. - are bound to present themselves as restrictions upon its self, 'shackles' which must be thrown off if 'freedom' is to be gained. Thus all advances in self-development, all advances towards realisation of the 'true self,' may fairly enough be said to be advances in the self's 'freedom.' Moreover, the Idealist is obviously right in urging that this freedom, the freedom which is one with self-expansion and self-realisation, is antithetic not to 'submission to law,' but to arbitrariness and caprice. The art of living has, in all of its branches and as a whole, its own inviolable laws. Only by recognition of, and willing submission to, these laws is any full measure of this freedom attainable. All this is, I think, true, and, as developed in the writings of Idealists from Plato onwards, fertile in valuable ethical implications. What I reject is simply the underlying assumption that the traditional 'problem of freedom' finds here a satisfactory solution. That problem, as I understand it, remains exactly where it was.