An Introduction to Bradley's Metaphysics

By W. J. Mander | Go to book overview

7
The Absolute
and its Appearances

WITH characteristic understatement Bradley commences the second part of Appearance and Reality with the words, 'The result of our First Book has been mainly negative' ( AR119). In this he is certainly not wrong, for, as we have seen, Bradley's philosophical system involves the condemnation of the entire world of common-sense experience and reflection.1 Things and their properties, terms and their relations, space, and time, and the whole host of things whose analysis involves these notions are all claimed to belong, not to reality, but to the realm of appearance. This is a strange and counter-intuitive position which has not as yet been fully elucidated. We have already examined Bradley's reasons for denying the ultimate reality of these things, but what precisely does he mean by calling them 'appearance'?

The concept of 'appearance' plays a very important role in Bradley's thought; however, his use of the term is somewhat technical and idiosyncratic. None the less, we may begin in a relatively simple fashion by clearing up two potential confusions. First, it might be thought that appearances require the existence of some person or mind for them to appear to. Appearance, no less than perception, seems to be a kind of mental presentation to a conscious self. But this is problematic, for, as we have already seen, on account of the fact that they essentially involve relations, Bradley denies the reality of any such conscious selves. But in that case, what sense then can there be in talking of 'appearances'?

Secondly, it might be argued that in its original meaning the term 'appearance' applies to perception, and primarily to visual perception. For something to appear is for it to present itself (although not necessarily as it truly is) to our senses, and especially

____________________
1
Not everyone has agreed with this. In so far as it takes everyday knowledge to possess a limited validity, Bradley's position has been described as 'fundamentally a philosophy of common sense' ( Eliot ( 1975), 203).

-135-

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An Introduction to Bradley's Metaphysics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations viii
  • 1- Methodology and Metaphysics 1
  • 2- Identity and Contradiction 28
  • 3- Subject and Predicate 57
  • 4- Terms and Relations 84
  • 5- Space and Time 112
  • 6- Idealism and the Absolute 124
  • 7- The Absolute And Its Appearances 135
  • 8- System and Scepticism 156
  • References 166
  • Index 173
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