Turning now to more general matters, the problem of presentation has, I must confess, troubled me a good deal. As the very essence of my thesis lies in the peculiar relation of reciprocal support which, it is claimed, holds between different branches of philosophical inquiry, it has been necessary to try to comprehend here a much greater variety of fundamental issues than can conveniently be treated within the covers of a single volume. One result is that I have been able to give but scant space to the examination of competing theories. In the main, I have thought it best to concentrate upon the positive development of my own position, and to pause over competing theories only where these have gained so large a measure of authority that their neglect might be deemed inexcusable. In the case of 'theory of knowledge,' however, the prevailing anarchy makes a condensed treatment more than usually unsatisfactory, and it has only been possible to avoid giving to epistemology what I should regard as a quite undue predominance in the total argument by a largely dogmatic acquiescence in certain traditional presuppositions.« On that account no more can strictly be claimed for this phase of the argument than that, granted the general validity of the Idealist mode of approach to the problem of knowledge, a 'sceptical' solution is logically inevitable. To many this result will doubtless seem to be in itself a refutation of the Idealist approach. But if I am right in my contention that the evidence of other basic aspects of our experience conducts us to the same sceptical conclusion, then the terminus of the epistemological argument must appear in the light of a verification, rather than a refutation, of its premises.
It will be in place here to say a word about my general relationship to the Idealist (by which is meant, here as throughout, Absolute or Objective Idealist) philosophy. In a manner, the whole book is a sustained attack upon Idealist doctrine. I have defined my several positions, almost always, by contrast with the corresponding position in Idealism. On the other hand the very adoption of this method of presentation is in itself an earnest of my substantial adherence to the Idealist tradition in philosophy. I do not apologise for this adherence. The reaction in contemporary thought against Idealism seems to me to have passed beyond all reasonable bounds. To wipe the slate clean and start all over again - this ideal of 'modernism' may be picturesque, but it is of doubtful wisdom as a method of philosophy. The majority of Idealism's critics are surely in real danger of throwing away the baby with the bath-water - if the well-worn metaphor may be allowed. No doubt the critic will reply that there isn't any baby, and never has been, that it is all bath-water. Perhaps (though I am convinced of the contrary) this is so. But it seems fair to insist that something more than the very cursory glance which is commonly bestowed upon the scene is a sine qua non of the pronouncement of any opinion which deserves to be listened to.
If the reader of these pages finds in them more than he thinks proper about the Idealist philosophy, he will also, it is to be feared, find much less than he thinks proper about those startling developments in science which occupy the central place in so many recent philosophical works. He will find, indeed, almost literally nothing at all about them. Here again I am quite impenitent. I do not believe that on any single major issue raised in this book has the scientist any relevant comment to make. Philosophy's present preoccupation with, and humility before the claims of, physical science - part cause and part effect of the recoil from the too confident syntheses of Idealism - is, in my judgment, a disaster to philosophy; and perhaps, in encouraging the diversion of so much scientific energy into channels where progress is impossible by the methods of science, a minor disaster to science also. It is easy enough to understand why the scientist should have been temporarily intoxicated and the philosopher temporarily intimidated; but it is surely more than time now that philosophy reasserted its autonomy. The philosopher is not a kind of 'odd job man' in the field of knowledge. He has his own province, the province of the 'ultimate' - even though it should prove that it is but a 'human' ultimate of which he can gain positive knowledge. Into this demesne the scientist has, on the basis of a purely scientific culture, no right whatsoever to stray, whether in the interests of a materialistic or a spiritualistic view of life. It is an old story that the abstractness of science, and its dependence upon presuppositions which it is not its business to examine, preclude science from any legitimate claim to ulti-macy for its results. Why it should be supposed that recent advances in the findings of science - however exciting - should in any way mitigate the disqualifications intrinsic in the method of science, is a question which the 'scientific' philosopher seems to me never to face. Not, of course, that the philosopher will omit to utilise with gratitude the accredited results of scientific investigation in any comprehensive cosmic picture which he may eventually feel empowered to offer. But these 'results' as they come from the scientist are one thing: they may wear a very different guise indeed when apportioned to their place in the economy of a system which ignores no aspect of experience - not even that 'thinking' through which science itself comes to be.
I should like to append an apologetic word about my adoption of the title 'supra-rationalism' to stand for the metaphysical unity of this study. The pretentiousness of employing a private 'ism' appals me so much that only the intolerable character of the circumlocutions in which I found myself involved in the effort to avoid any such coinage has reconciled me to its practice. The term 'supra-relationalism' would have better satisfied my sense of indebtedness to Bradley. But this term, which would add a syllable to a word already plentifully endowed in that respect, has the disadvantage of suggesting a line of advance in Bradley's thought which, in view of the notorious ambiguity of the term 'relation,' I have been somewhat anxious to avoid.
I pass finally to the pleasant task of thanking those who have helped me with the composition of this book. My obligations are great indeed. The Master of Balliol and Dr H. J. W. Hetherington (both one-time occupants of the Chair of Moral Philosophy in this University) were kind enough to read, and to offer very valuable comments upon, an early draft of the book; and a like service has been performed by Professor A. A. Bowman, Professor of Moral Philosophy, and Professor H. J. Paton, Professor of Logic and Rhetoric, of this University. In its later stages the book has owed most to Mr W. F. R. Hardie, M.A., Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, whose sureness of insight into what I wanted to say - and, at times, into what I ought to be saying but didn't much want to say - has saved me from many pitfalls. Mr Hardie has also been good enough to share with Mr George Brown, M.A., Lecturer in Logic, and Mr A. L. Macfie, M.A., LL.B., Lecturer in Economics (both of this University), the tedious task of proof-reading. Finally, I am glad to have an opportunity of acknowledging my indebtedness to Messrs Allen and Unwin's Philosophical Reader, whose advice has led to the removal of many defects. To all of these gentlemen I offer my most grateful thanks.
It remains only to add that, in view of the character of the work, I have judged the interests of the reader to be better served by the provision of an analytical table of contents than by an index.