Bradley Foretells the Coming of McDowell

Into the fullness of the problem raised by sensationalism, into the truth which underlies this ‘metaphor hardened into a dogma’, we are not prepared, nor indeed is it necessary, to enter here.  We will content ourselves on the general question with the remark, that in the act of perception, it is not doubt true to say that the mind is passive.  But to say this is to say one thing, and it is quite and altogether another thing to talk of sensations (in the signification of bare feelings) as though in themselves, and apart from the activity of the mind, they existed as objects of consciousness.  That is to assert that a mere feeling is sufficient to constitute by itself the minimum required for knowledge and reality; and the proof of this assertion has been, is, and ever will be wanting.  It cannot exist since the proof or even the assertion is a sheer self-contradiction; and it is a self-contradiction for the following reason.  An assertion, and much more so a proof, is intellectual; it is a judgment which implies the exercise of the understanding; and the term united by the judgment must therefore fall within the sphere of the understanding.  They must be objects for the intellect, and so, in a sense more or less entire, relative to the intellect; in a word, intelligible.  But the essence of mere sensation was the entire absence of the intellectual, and hence to make one single affirmation with respect to sensation, as sensation, is to treat as relative to the understanding that which is supposed to exclude the understanding; and this is a contradiction.

To pursue with the reason an object which when found is to be irrational, to think the opposite of thought while fixed as opposite, to comprehend the incomprehensible yet without transforming it–such is the task of that which calls itself the ‘philosophy of experience’.  It is the pursuit of a phantom for ever doomed to fade in our embrace, a mocking shadow beyond the horizon of our grasp, known to us as the unreality of all that we can hold, and whose existence must perish at the threshold of human possession.

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