Methodology and Metaphysics
IT is almost inevitable that anyone schooled in contemporary Anglo- American philosophy will feel a not inconsiderable sense of dislocation should they turn to consider such a topic as the metaphysical theories of F. H. Bradley. For, notwithstanding the possibility that a deeper understanding of his thought may yield significant similarities with modern approaches, the initial impression at least is one of a great difference. His way of tackling questions seems quite alien to anything we usually encounter, his concepts obscure, and his jargon out of date; while his subject-matter, metaphysics, even if it is no longer something to dismiss out of court, is a subject that, to this day, we rarely encounter undertaken in such a bold and speculative fashion. The net result is that, although only one hundred years old, his chief metaphysical work, Appearance and Reality, seems more distant to those unfamiliar with it than numerous works many times its age.
It is therefore of the utmost importance, before embarking on any study of Bradleian metaphysics, to spend some time familiarizing ourselves with the nature of the project and the method of its execution, in order that we may approach it in the right spirit. Although this familiarization carries with it the danger of producing an over-sympathetic and uncritical response, unless we can see through Bradley's eyes there can be no real understanding, and thus no possibility of genuine criticism at all, sympathetic or otherwise. Moreover, a high degree of familiarity is necessary in order for us fully to recognize the differences and similarities between his thought and our own. Under the pressure of placing him in the context of their narrative, brief entries in histories of philosophy tend either to obscure or to exaggerate these comparisons. That we should familiarize ourselves with the project and approach is no mere platitude, for the task is a difficult one, and, as will become apparent, too much previous criticism has simply failed to achieve this, thus missing the mark entirely.
Before we begin this introductory investigation, some brief