Yet we must begin our criticism by pointing out that the 'leap of faith' earlier referred to is not to be disguised. Even if we grant Bradley's doctrine of the felt totality, it gives us no right to be certain that there is such resemblance between supra-relational immediate unity and sub-relational immediate unity as will warrant the ascription (by analogy) to the former of the term 'experience.' It should be clearly recognised that we are here, at best, in the region of highly precarious conjecture.
This criticism, however, I do not desire to stress; for the real criticism goes much farther back. It seems imperative to reject the basis of the analogy itself. In common with, I imagine, the large majority of Bradley's readers, I find myself quite unable to accept the view that in experience we start from (or, indeed, can even at any time possess) a 'felt unity,' a 'many felt in one.' One need by no means wish to dispute the view that 'feeling' is an essential element in all experience. Bradley seems to me entirely in the right in insisting that experience is never exhaustively described in terms of what is commonly meant by 'consciousness.' But that the feeling which is present can give us what is implied in the phrases 'felt totality,' 'felt unity,' etc., seems to me quite impossible.
1 Essays on Truth and Reality, p. 174. Ward (in the article referred to) substitutes 'as' for 'in' when quoting the passage containing these words. This wording somewhat sharpens the appearance of paradox in the doctrine, but Bradley could not, I think, demur to it as an expression of his meaning. Possibly in other contexts he has actually employed the expression.
Feeling may be in itself a unity, no doubt. But that is not to be a feeling of unity; and this is what is implied in the phrases just quoted, and in the argument as a whole. The whole point of the analogy is that in immediate feeling we are directly aware of a many as a one. But the difficulties in this view seem insuperable. How can feeling, as such, make us aware 'of' anything? Where there is, ex hypothesi, no distinction between the awareness and that of which it is aware, the objectivity implied by the word 'of' is incapable of justification. To be aware 'of,' or recognise an experience 'as,' something is possible only for a consciousness which distinguishes what is now before it from other aspects of its experience. Thus 'unity' has meaning for our apprehension only in distinction from, and relation to, 'plurality.' The appreciation or recognition of unity, in short, implies the activity of the mediating or 'relational' consciousness. There is no unity 'given' in feeling. Experience may start from the recognition of the One, but, if so, it can only be a One the purity of which is already 'vitiated' by the play of the relational consciousness.
The question of the source and nature of our recognition of the unity of the experienced world is extremely difficult. It seems to me that Bradley's doctrine is certainly right in what it denies. It denies that this unity can be established by thought. If thought started with the Many, it is argued, it never could proceed to the One. And this is, I think, true. In point of fact, unless the Many confronting thought were already recognised as somehow One, they could not even be apprehended as a Many. Manyness implies difference, and difference has no meaning for thought apart from a unity within which the differences fall. Cut out the recognition of unity and you find that you are left, not with many 'differents,' but with atomic unrelated particulars which simply fall apart.
It seems true enough, then, that the unity of our experienced world is not established by, but is presupposed in, thought.
But we are not entitled to conclude that because this unity is not established by thought it is therefore given in 'feeling.' That is to amend one error by making another no less fatal. We must be content with recognising, I think, that in our primary apprehension of Reality's unity both immediate and mediate factors are involved. Thinking presupposes that unity. And in this sense the unity is given, 'immediate.' But at once we have to add that to possess significance for us the unity thus 'given' must be distinguished from plurality, and thus 'interpreted' by thought. And in this sense the unity is 'mediate.' Reality comes to us neither as a merely 'felt' nor as a merely 'thought' unity. It is, perhaps, least misleading to say that its unity comes to us in an 'ideally interpreted feeling.' But if we use this expression we must keep clearly in mind that we do not first have a feeling, which we then proceed to interpret. Experience starts neither from the one nor the other, but from their concrete union.1 And if this conclusion is sound in substance, I submit that no ground remains for holding that immediate experience, in the form in which it enters into our apprehension of unity, is capable of furnishing a clue to the perfect unity which we must postulate as the character of Reality.
I pass on to inquire concerning the further characters which Bradley ascribes to Reality, in what sense, if any, that ascription is legitimate. Here, however, there is less need for detailed discussion. In asserting Reality to be 'self-consistent,' 'one,' and 'all-inclusive,' Bradley shows himself, for the most part, well aware of the modifications needful in the metaphysical application of these conceptions. In the case of Reality's 'oneness' Bradley does, in my opinion, as has just been explained, attach a more positive significance to the conception than the strict facts allow. But in the main (the chapter on 'Ultimate Doubts' makes this clear) he is fully alive to the inadequacy of each and all of these characters, even of 'unity.' Their application is, naturally, not taken to be meaningless. But Bradley would not, I think, dissent seriously from the view that the significance of their application lies rather in what they deny than in what they affirm. Let me say a word or two about each of them, indicating on the one hand their validity, and on the other hand their limitations.
1 Cp. Kemp Smith's Commentary on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, p. xxxviii. (2nd edit.). 'Knowledge starts... self-consciousness'.