Criticism of it from (a) the Pluralist, and (b) the Supra-rationalist, Standpoint.

A rough statement of the doctrine of 'Degrees of Truth,' sufficient for our present purpose, may be given in comparatively small compass. For if the principle at its base be assented to, the doctrine is (apart from special refinements) simple and seemingly inevitable.

The principle at its base is simply that of the coherent unity of all Reality. Starting from the postulate that the real must be self-consistent, it is urged that self-consistency is not to be found in any finite content, that the finite points inevitably beyond itself for self-completion, and that therefore nothing short of the One Infinite Whole can claim to be fully real. Reality is one, a single all-inclusive harmonious system (to which Bradley, of course, would add 'of experience'). Reality being thus envisaged, it follows with apparent logical rigour that if we are to know the truth about any feature or aspect of Reality, it is in the end necessary to know the Whole. Torn from its context in the coherent Whole, no finite feature will present itself in its ultimate meaning. So far, then, as every judgment, while claiming to portray a genuine character of Reality, omits to take account of the universe in the totality of its self-expression, the content affirmed must be tinctured with falsity. Consideration of those aspects of Reality from which abstraction has been made must, if Reality is a unitary whole, modify to a greater or less extent the content in question. Every finite judgment, then, must fail to portray in its true being the aspect of Reality which it aims to reveal.

But, on the other hand, this inevitable falsity of the finite judgment is not the whole story. There is a positive side, which requires equal emphasis. Judgments are only 'partially' false. They possess also 'partial' truth. We have a criterion which enables us to determine the degree in which our judgments do express Reality as it ultimately is. For the character of Reality we know to be 'self-consistency.' And 'self-consistency' is a character which it is evident that we can, and constantly do, employ in appraising actual judgments. Accordingly it will be proper to say that judgments are true, i.e. adequately express the character of Reality, in the degree to which they attain self-consistency, i.e. (as it becomes when worked out in Idealist Logic) in the degree to which the connection asserted is informed by a system which is at once comprehensive and internally harmonious. The partial falsity of every judgment, then, may be said to reside in the fact that abstraction is always made from at least some features of the Real, this abstraction involving a defect in self-consistency and consequent failure to express the Real as it is. 'Only the whole truth can be wholly true.' The partial truth of every judgment lies in the fact that every judgment is, in however crude and inchoate a fashion, the exhibition of a unity in difference, and attains in some measure to the systematic coherence which is the character of Reality.

Now this doctrine of Degrees of Truth is, in my opinion, a valid implication, so far as its general lines are concerned, of any metaphysic which regards the Whole as an intelligible system. It does not even matter in this connection how it may be considered fit to conceive the central principle of this Whole. It is enough, for the point of the Idealist argument to hold good, that it be a Whole which is rationally continuous throughout its manifestations. If criticism of the doctrine is to be effective, it must, I think, be launched against the legitimacy of construing the Whole after this manner. And this criticism may emanate from two sharply contrasted standpoints. It may have its roots in Pluralism, or, on the other hand, in some form of Scepticism, such as the Supra-rational theory here advocated. Since it will serve to place in a clearer light that side of Idealist thought which I am myself prepared to endorse, I propose to say a few words first of all concerning the Pluralist's attack, passing on thereafter to urge, on my own behalf, the Supra-rationalist criticism.