The Critique of Pure Feeling: Bradley, Whitehead, and the Anglo-Saxon Metaphysical Tradition
by James Bradley
James Bradley did his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, where he lectures and teaches in philosophy for the Faculties of Divinity and Philosophy. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 253-264, Vol. 14, Number 4, Winter, 1985. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
It has rarely been remarked that the very title of Whitehead’s major work contains a more or less explicit reference to that of F. H. Bradley’s: Bradley’s Appearance and Reality: A Metaphysical Essay (1893) becomes Whitehead’s Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929).1 Such an obvious and prominently placed allusion is perhaps already enough to suggest that in some important sense Whitehead’s thought can be seen as a critical reworking of Bradley’s. Moreover, Whitehead himself makes it quite clear where the site of this reworking is to be located: not in any secondary area, but in his massive elaboration and transformation of Bradley’s theory of feeling or immediate experience (PR xiii; AI 295ff.). It would thus seem that some understanding of the theory of feeling in Bradley’s work might prove to be, not merely a matter of antiquarian interest, but of use in determining the nature and status of Whitehead’s thought in the history of modern philosophy.
Bradley’s work, like that of his contemporaries, can be defined as an attempt to overcome what was generally regarded as the central problematic of the age: the dichotomy of nature and spirit, ‘poetry and fact’ (ETR 444).2 In this context it is not surprising that he and his generation turned to the reconciliatory absolutisms of the German Idealists, particularly Hegel. But what Bradley takes from Hegel, as he explicitly emphasizes (PL 515; AR 508n.; ETR 153) is his view of immediate experience as a nondiscrete continuum or whole of sense-contents. He begins, that is, not with Hegel’s logic but with his psychology. And contrary to the conventional reading of Bradley as a mere Anglo-Hegelian with no place in the native tradition stemming from Locke, this orientation is the product of contemporary developments in British philosophy. Indeed, the larger nature-spirit problematic in which Bradley elaborates his metaphysic here merges into the more specific philosophical problematic of his time: namely, the question of the nature of ‘feeling’ -- a term which both the Mills (themselves following Hartley3) employed as a synonym for ‘sensation’, and which as such did not merely denote pleasure, pain, or emotion.
It was J. S. Mill’s work which brought to a head the difficulties involved in the traditional atomistic conception of feeling. As a contemporary commentator noted as early as 1865, Mill’s anti-Hamiltonian view of feeling as a neutral stuff prior to the correlation of Ego and Non-Ego, and his confession that the continuity of feeling, though as real as the sequence, was a ‘final inexplicability’4 -- both positions impelled British philosophy in the direction of some kind of original unity.5 To this end, Bradley will conflate the ‘feeling’ of Hegel and of Mill in order to transform it from a psychological into a metaphysical category that can accomplish the reconciliation of nature and spirit.
The basic continuity is easy enough to see: what unites Hegel and Mill’s psychological, and Bradley’s metaphysical, feeling is that both enjoy a first-level posting as some kind of experiential starting-point, i.e., both are regarded as prior to the ideal or relational differentiation of subject and object. And here Bradley sides with Hegel over against Mill’s residual atomism: as prior to relational differentiation, Bradley maintains feeling to be nondiscrete or non-relational in nature. He can thus appropriate the idealist view that there is no such thing as immediate apprehension or direct knowledge of particulars and define the objective world as a product of our ideal activity.
But whereas for Hegel as for Mill feeling is actual in the sense that it is an event in the history of the mind, for the later Bradley feeling is not an event or occurrence of any kind. Rather, its actuality resides in the fact that it is the permanent background’ (AR 461; ETR 176, 178) or ‘condition’ (ETR 176) of identifiable events and as such does not itself occur or exist. Hence feeling is no longer for Bradley an empirical or mental or subjective entity; in his hands, the psychological category of immediate experience takes on the status of a metaphysical substratum, the common root of all the contents of the objective world. As such, it fulfills a number of important roles in Bradley’s work.
In the first place, substrative feeling operates in Bradley as a ‘critical’ principle 6 which exposes the inadequacy of the relational form of thought to the connectedness of things, or what Bradley calls their ‘experienced togetherness’ (ETR 200). For Bradley maintains that in the nature of the case the non-relational whole of feeling cannot be ‘reconstituted (ETR 231) by its ideal or relational differentiation. As a result, it remains outstanding and thus requires us ‘to postulate a higher form of unity’ (ETR 190) which includes both itself and the
differentiation of the relational form, and which as such is cognitively inaccessible. This reconciling unity is of course Bradley’s Reality or Absolute.
The critical role of Bradley’s substrative feeling is, in the second place, closely tied up with its twofold epistemic role. For while with the idealists Bradley holds that there is no such thing as direct knowledge, and hence that no clear line can be drawn between the given and the made, at the same time he denies one of the implications they draw from that: he maintains the irreducibly of the distinction between the non-relational whole of feeling and the relational form of thought. And this strategy brings with it a particular advantage. For nor by means of any surd-like particulars, but as the difference between the non-relational whole of feeling and the relational form of thought. And this strategy bring with it a particular advantage. For while on the one side Bradley can maintain the distinction of thought and sensation, and the cognitive inaccessibility of the Absolute, on the other he is able to eschew any form of epistemological dualism.
This second aspect of feeling’s epistemic role can best be brought out by reference to Bradley’s essay ‘What Is The Real Julius Caesar?’ (ETR 419ff.). which was written in answer to Russell’s well-known contention that Caesar himself ‘is not a constituent of any judgment which I can make’.7 Against Russell Bradley contends that ‘the real Caesar. . . must himself enter into my judgments and be a constituent of my knowledge’ (ETR 409). In Bradley’s view, all objects of knowledge are ideal constructions -- for all objects of knowledge are ideal constructions or differentiation out of substrative feeling. As such, however, all objects of knowledge are also real, for objects of knowledge have no status as objects apart from their ideal differentiation, i.e., whatever they may be as elements of the Absolute, they are not, as objects, anything external to or apart from their ideal objectification. Hence Bradley is able to define Caesar’s objective reality as extending ‘just so far as it works . . . his reality goes out as far as what we call his influence extends’ (ETR 425).
There is, finally, a third or ‘functional’ role which feeling plays in Bradley’s thought. For in a late essay (ETR 159ff.) he maintains that non-relational substrative feeling manifests itself at the relational level by means of the part it plays in the cognitive determination of objects. So Bradley’s substratum no longer just supplies the pre-relational ‘togetherness’ of things; it is the pre relational ‘togetherness’ of things in feeling which is a formative, enabling condition in the objectification of objects.
To be sure, the difficulty in Bradley’s theory of substrative feeling is obvious: if feeling is non-relational, how can it be known or described at all? But it is in answer to this question that Bradley develops the notion of the functional role of feeling. And on that basis he is prepared to endow feeling with a specific constitution of its own. Hence, as the manifest ‘togetherness’ of things, Bradley does not conceive substrative feeling as blank or featureless; as he puts it, ‘There are no distinctions in the proper sense, and yet there is a many felt in one’ (ETR 174). And so far as it is not lacking in ‘internal diversity’ Bradley is prepared to acknowledge in feeling not only what he terms ‘an undeveloped ideality’, but also ‘change . . . though not experienced properly as [relational] change’ (ETR 174). Moreover, Bradley does not leave these peculiar notions merely at the level of casual speculations, but develops them into the complex and difficult doctrine of ‘finite centers’ of feeling.
As Bradley defines it (and here his own words are best), a finite center
is an immediate experience of itself and of the Universe in one. . . . And it has properly no duration through which it lasts. It can contain a lapse and before and after, but these are subordinate. They are partial aspects that fall within the whole, and that, taken otherwise, do not qualify the whole itself. A finite center may indeed be called a duration in the sense of presence. But such a present is not any time which is opposed to past and future. It is temporal in the sense of being itself the positive and concrete negation of time. (ETR 410)
In Bradley’s view, therefore, a finite center ‘is not an object. It is a basis on and from which the world of objects is made’ (ETR 411). Now Bradley readily admits that the concept of finite centers is not ‘wholly intelligible’. Yet he sees them as having the status of ‘necessary ideas’ (ETR 412) in so far as they formulate ‘the nature of that which lies behind objects’ (ETR 411), i.e., in so far as they help to define the nature of substrative feeling as an ‘active unity’ (ETR 248) of finite center and Universe. Here as elsewhere Bradley is prepared to tolerate the paradoxes involved in the theory of substrative feeling because it is, in his view, ‘the one road to the solution of ultimate problems’ (ETR 160). With this, Whitehead was not wholly to disagree.
Whitehead’s connection with his idealist predecessors in the British tradition is easy enough to see, for he too defines his own problematic in the general terms of a nature-spirit dichotomy (SMW 119, 194). Hence it is not surprising that he acknowledges the importance of the idealists’ stress on continuity (Rel 5) and appropriates their key metaphor of ‘organism’. Unlike the idealists, however (SMW 79; FR 49), Whitehead is able to take advantage of contemporary scientific developments; he thus attempts to elaborate a redescription of ‘nature’ in terms of the mutual immanence of both poles of the traditional dichotomy.
Although in his early work Whitehead clearly has this possibility in mind, he insists that ‘such a synthesis is exactly what I am not attempting’ (CN 5) and restricts his program to the philosophy of science. Nevertheless, it is in this context that he addresses the more specifically philosophical problematic of his idealist predecessors -- the nature of sensation or feeling. To be sure, feeling -- for reasons which will emerge -- is not a term which Whitehead employs in his early works. Yet his indebtedness to Bradley’s theory there is clear. For Whitehead defines ‘nature’ as immediacy or ‘sense-awareness and interprets that in Bradley’s anti-atomistic terms as a whole or continuum (EPNK 7; CN 14) with ‘ragged edges’ (CN 50; cf. AR 156) which is ‘differentiated’ or ‘diversified’ by reflection (EPNK 59, 68f.; CN 49f.). Thus, by means of Bradley’s theory, Whitehead is able to install the notion of events and their overlap at the basis of experience. He can in this way realign philosophy with contemporary scientific theory, while at the same time providing the latter with a ‘ground’ in immediate experience which had been lacking in traditional empiricism, modeled as that was on corpuscular theories of nature.8 In his early work, Whitehead employs Bradley’s antiatomism within a classically empiricist framework; redefined as a continuum, sensation still plays its conventional role as a theory of ‘presentation’ (EPNK 60), the given foundation of the reflective process.9
Whitehead’s mature position is perhaps best characterized as a shift from ‘sense-awareness’ to ‘feeling’. For in the later work, where a full-scale ‘metaphysical synthesis’ is attempted, Bradley’s reconciling concept of feeling is now resorted to as an expression of the ‘togetherness of entities in the world, i.e., with Bradley, Whitehead does not see experience primarily as a matter of the cognition of objects. Yet feeling is redefined by Whitehead as ‘the basic generic operation of passing from the objectivity of the data to the subjectivity of the actual entity in question’ (PR 40). Just what significance does this redefinition have?
The most obvious feature of Whitehead’s redefinition is that it involves some kind of change in Bradley’s rendering of feeling as a substratum. For Whitehead sees Bradley’s theory as flawed because ‘he accepts the language which is developed from another point of view’ (ESP 117; cf. PR 167), i.e., he makes the ‘sensationalist assumption’ (PR 190) that feeling is only analyzable in terms of universals. Whitehead would be ready to admit that in his theory of feeling Bradley has attempted to resolve the problematic status of Locke’s substance, traditionally conceived as a substrate hidden behind experience, by turning experience itself into the substrate. But in Whitehead’s view Bradley still remains a prisoner of the substance-quality dichotomy: for feeling itself now takes on the mysterious character of a substance, about which all that can be known is its qualities. However, Whitehead’s readiness to exploit other aspects of Bradley’s theory is indicated by the way he goes about extricating feeling from its entanglement in substance-quality categories; for it is the functional role which Bradley accords to feeling in the objectification of objects that Whitehead takes up, transforming it into something far beyond the strictly-demarcated cognitive condition which it was for Bradley himself. When Whitehead defines feeling as ‘that functioning through which the concrescent actuality appropriates the datum so as to make it its own’ (PR 164), he is signaling a shift from a ‘substrative’ to a ‘functional’ concept of feeling, of a kind which will have to be closely assessed. Feeling itself is clearly no longer to be defined, in Bradley’s fashion, as the substratum; but exactly what status it has remains to be seen.
Some key features of the transformed functional role which Whitehead gives to feeling emerge in the context of his treatment of the distinction between subject and object, knower and known. With Bradley, he denies that the knower-known relation constitutes the basic structure of experience. Yet at the same time he rejects the idealist consequences which Bradley had drawn from this denial; with the realists, Whitehead wants to be able to distinguish between the experiencing subject and the object of experience in such a way that the latter can exist independently of the former. So, against Bradley, he sets out to disentangle the subject-object, from the knower-known, relation and to install ‘the subject-object relation as the fundamental structural pattern of experience... but not in the sense in which subject-object is identified with knower-known’ (AI 225).
Now of course for Bradley the subject-object distinction cannot be basic because it supervenes only at the cognitive or ideal level, i.e., only in the form of the knower-known relation. And as a differentiation of substrative feeling, the object cannot exist independently of the subject, for the object as such can be nothing else than its ideal construction. But having abandoned Bradley’s account of feeling as substratum, Whitehead is also able to abandon Bradley’s ‘levels’. By rendering feeling as the interactive function of dative and concrescent actual entities, he can maintain that the subject-object distinction does not merely supervene at any special cognitive level and hence need not be identified either with the difference or the identity of knower and known. Rather, the knower-known relation is a late sophistication upon a fundamental feature of the interaction of actual entities: that in any process of concrescence there are dative actual entities being ‘felt’ or objectified, and objectifying or ‘feeling’ actual entities on their way to subjective realization. Hence, what for Bradley is a distinction between thought and sensation, which as such can only be established as a distinction between levels of reality, is for Whitehead a distinction between past and present, dative and con-crescent actual entities.
In this light, the range and intent of Whitehead’s reworking of the functional role of feeling are evident. His crucial move is to render feeling as the process of objectification and concrescence of actual entities. In this way, for instance, value can now be established as an essential feature of the nature of things, in that from the subjective standpoint of a concrescing actual entity objectification is an evaluation of dative actual entities with a view to its own self-enjoyment and aim at satisfaction (RM 85, 101f.). By thus redefining the ‘vacuous actuality, devoid of subjective experience’ (PR 167) of Newtonian bits of matter in Bradley’s terms as contents of feeling (cf. PR xiii, Al 296), Whitehead is able to resolve the dualism of nature and spirit -- but without resort to Bradley’s monism or idealism. For the ‘internal diversity’ which Bradley could only place in feeling as one conflicting metaphor among others (cf. ETR 196), becomes in Whitehead the actual entities of which feeling is the ‘intermediary’ (PR 88); so conceived, Bradley’s ‘togetherness is appropriated within a pluralist framework. Similarly, the problematic ‘undeveloped ideality’ which, strictly speaking, could for Bradley only be a character of thought, can now be determinately specified as the process of objectification and concrescence itself. And this brings with it two particularly noteworthy advantages for Whitehead.
In the first place, Whitehead can secure his realism (cf. SMW 91) but without abandoning what he regards as Bradley’s insights -- for instance, in his treatment of the ‘real Julius Caesar’. With Bradley, Whitehead can maintain that Caesar’s objective reality extends ‘just so far as it works’; but objective reality need no longer be identified with ideal objectification. For all past actual entities have what Whitehead calls ‘objective immortality’ in that their ‘perishing’ allows them to be dative elements in a present concrescence of feeling. Thus their ‘reality’ is restricted neither to ‘direct acquaintance’ nor to ideal construction; it is involved in any objectification of them, cognitive or otherwise, and it is in this nonidealist sense that their reality extends ‘so far as it works’. It is evident that at least part of the meaning of one of Whitehead’s most important self-descriptions is to be understood in the context of his realist rendering of Bradley’s ‘Julius Caesar’: ‘Perishing’, he says, ‘is the one key thought around which PR is woven, and in many ways I find myself in complete agreement with Bradley’ (ESP 117).
In the second place, Whitehead’s translation of feeling into the process of objectification allows him to negotiate the Bradley-James10 debate on the relational nature of feeling in a significant way. To be sure, ‘thought’ is no longer in Whitehead the differentiation of a substrative level; but precisely as itself a complex form of the objectifying processes which it analyzes, it is, for Whitehead as for Bradley, a matter of abstraction and selection. Hence, with Bradley, Whitehead can render ‘change proper’ as a high-level conceptual abstraction from noncognitive processes of feeling. At the same time, however, just because it is conceived as a matter of objectification, Whitehead like James, can endow the process of feeling itself with the structural complexity that for Bradley could only be paradoxically expressed as ‘change, though not experienced properly as change’. And of course, so endowed, feeling becomes itself ‘analyzable’ (PR 221); it is now a matter of feelings, with a ‘complex constitution’ and differentiable according to their ‘variously special operations’ (PR 40f.). For Whitehead, the fact of the ‘togetherness’ of actual entities is indeed ultimate in the sense that it is not explicable by reference to anything else (cf. PR 21, 189); but this no longer means that ‘togetherness’ is Bradley’s unanalyzable substratum.
Perhaps, though, the most graphic picture of the transformation which he works on Bradley’s position is provided by Whitehead himself. ‘Reality’ is now conceived as the dative actual entities constituting the objective contents of the antecedent world, and ‘appearance as the transformation of that content by the concrescent actual occasions (AI 268ff.). In Whitehead’s hands, Bradley’s ‘vertical’ distinction between appearance and reality has become a horizontal, or, better, ‘vectorial’ distinction within the process of feeling itself.
At this point, however, it can be asked just how much of a transformation of Bradley’s substrative feeling Whitehead actually achieves. And the issue can best be approached by putting the question: if feeling is analyzable, of what exactly is it the analysis?
The usual answer is that the structure which Whitehead imputes to his functional feeling is ‘micrological’ in character, i.e., that feeling, as the function of actual entities, belongs to an impalpable subatomic realm lying at the basis of things. On the micrological view, in other words, Whitehead’s actual entities and their process of feeling are conceived as having the status of a substratum, out of which the empirical world derives. Now of course, if this were the case, the difference between Bradley’s substrative, and Whitehead’s functional, feeling would not be so very great. Although not itself the substratum, nevertheless Whitehead’s process of feeling, like Bradley’s, would still have a first-level posting or substrative status, and, like Bradley’s, it would be in that status that it fulfills its functional role. To be sure, Whitehead’s substratum does not involve any Bradleian ontological distinction between ‘levels’ of Reality. The empirical world is not a distorting ‘appearance’ of the substratum of concrescent actual entities, but rather realizes or embodies its foundational elements in ever more complex grades and formations, i.e., it is not a distortion but an instantiation of its basic constituents. Yet this said, Whitehead’s rendering of feeling as functional is clearly not taken to involve any alteration in its substrative status. The point is, rather, that by allowing him to do away with Bradley’s substance-quality and idealist preoccupations, Whitehead’s functional feeling enables him to elaborate a completely novel account of the nature of the substratum. On the micrological view, it is not the notion of a substratum which is at issue between Bradley and Whitehead, but the way in which the substratum is to be defined and characterized.
The interpretation of the relation between Bradley and Whitehead which the micrological view implies can be specified by brief references to three topics. For instance, defenders of the micrological view would presumably be ready to acknowledge the similarities between Bradley’s nontemporally durational finite centers and Whitehead’s epochal actual entities.11 The crucial difference would of course be that the latter are freed from the paradoxical entanglements of Bradley’s nonrelational whole of feeling. But on the micrological view, nevertheless, Whitehead’s actual entities, like Bradley’s finite centers, are to be seen as a basis ‘on and from which the world is made’.
Again, there would be no problem in acknowledging, on the micrological view, that Whitehead presents his concept of feeling as a descriptive generalization of (among other things) immediate experience. But at the same time, rightly enough, it would be insisted that Whitehead’s immediate experience cannot be conflated with Bradley’s; for in Whitehead, immediate experience operates as foundational only within the limited area of animal or human cognition and cannot, as in Bradley’s idealist metaphysic, be identified with the substratum itself. Rather, as Whitehead insists, immediate experience is itself in need of elucidation and analysis (PR 4,264; FR 53,63; SMW 55, 196). And on the micrological view it is the concept of a substrative process of feeling which provides the requisite elucidation, allowing immediate experience to be regarded, neither as atomic, nor as formless, but as a complex exemplification of the fundamental structurality of things. So while it would be admitted that Whitehead has redefined both Bradley’s feeling and his immediate experience by (so to speak) peeling them off from each other, nevertheless Whitehead’s redefined feeling would still be seen as endowed with the substrative status that in Bradley was accorded to immediacy.
Finally, Whitehead’s methodology of descriptive generalization would, on the micrological view, be seen as belonging within a particular tradition, i.e., as involving what might be called a ‘metaphysical reduction’ of the empirical world to some foundational and actual element, on the same methodological lines as Leibniz’s monads, Bradley’s substrative feeling, Alexander’s space-time matrix, or Heidegger’s Being.12 In other words, Whitehead’s actual entities are conceived as having a special kind of actuality of their own as the ground or foundation from which the empirical world derives. A qualification would, however, be added at this point: the concrescent process of feeling is not for Whitehead to be regarded as that kind of metaphysical ‘ground’ on which can be established an account of the nature of things that has unrestricted universality. Whitehead, rather, offers an ‘essay in cosmology’, not a ‘metaphysical essay, i.e., repudiating any such metaphysical ground, he restricts his philosophical account to the present epoch of the universe (PR 197-99; AI 270). Yet apart from this limitation, Whitehead would be seen as one of the company of ‘metaphysical reductionists’.
Such then is the micrological view of Whitehead. The very least that can be said for it is that it allows the novelties of Whitehead’s thought to be nicely balanced within a larger framework of philosophical tradition. It has, however, recently been challenged by an interpretation which convincingly argues that Whitehead’s concept of actual entities and their process of feeling constitutes an analysis of the nature and structure of ‘any concrete existent whatsoever’.13 And in the present context this means that actual entities and their process of feeling are not to be conceived as a substratum from which the empirical world is derived. Actual entities are not the basic constituents of things, which are embodied in ever more complex formations; they are not a special kind of existent, or indeed any kind of existent at all. The concept of actual entities and their process of feeling is not the concept of a substratum, or of anything else, that is in any way actual qua existent, but is a descriptive model of the generic features of any existent, from the simplest to the most complex. It is in this, and not in any foundational sense that the concept of actual entities and their feeling-structure represents for Whitehead the ‘ultimate’, ‘final’, ‘real’, or ‘actual’ nature of things.
The details of this interpretation cannot be debated here, but its consequences for any reading of Whitehead in the context of Bradley’s work, and for the issues that raises, are clearly decisive. Thus -- summarizing briefly in the light of the preceding discussion -- it now becomes evident that Whitehead has not merely separated out Bradley’s feeling from Bradley’s immediate experience, but completely purged the former of the substrative status given it by the latter. For Whitehead does not employ any metaphysical reduction procedure, nor does he discover any special kind of foundational existent. Unlike Bradley’s concept of finite centers as a base on and from which the world is made, Whitehead’s actual entities and their process of feeling have a very different status as a descriptional model of the nature of all existents. And so understood, it becomes apparent that Whitehead’s process of feeling involves a radical transformation as much in the status as in the role of Bradley’s theory. The shift from ‘metaphysics’ to ‘cosmology’ is not just a restriction on the unlimited universality of the former, but represents the abandonment of an entire methodology characteristic of post-Cartesian speculative philosophy.
Once seen in this light it becomes possible to define Whitehead’s philosophy as an essentially ‘modernist’ philosophy. Bradley is, in comparison, a Janus-like figure whose thought faces in two directions at once and inhabits both the centuries which his life spanned. For on the one hand, with his theory of feeling Bradley rejects atomistic sensationalism and moves from the ocular imagery of perception and representation to ‘function’. On the other hand, however, he retains the notion of a substratum -- albeit now formless, unspecifiable, and self-consciously problematic -- and attempts by means of that tenuously to ground the unity of an incomprehensible world. Yet if, so understood, Bradley’s work can be seen as the axis which, in the Anglo-Saxon world, turns nineteenth-century German Idealism and empiricist sensationalism into the twentieth century, it is Whitehead who firmly inhabits the new age, establishing the structural model of the process of feeling in the place of any attempt to provide an original or final Real, or a center or privileged locus for the nature of things.
Nevertheless, Whitehead’s work is not without its own ambivalence, as is suggested by his remark that in the final section of PR ‘the approximation to Bradley is evident’ (PR xiii). For another aspect of the ‘complete agreement’ with Bradley which Whitehead records on the subject of ‘perishing’ resides in his readiness to endorse Bradley’s view that there is a final ‘reality’ which contains the subjective immediacy of all feeling-centers without loss or diminution (PR 350f.; AR 212,404). Again, it cannot be overlooked that Whitehead’s descriptional model does appear to contain a specific kind of actuality characteristic of metaphysical reduction procedures more traditional even than Bradley’s -- namely God in God’s primordial nature. But to assess the significance -- regressive or otherwise -- of these features of Whitehead’s thought, much more than reference to Bradley is required. At the very least, the other twentieth-century fates of Bradley’s metaphysics of feeling need to be taken into account: Dewey s rendering of feeling as an indeterminate materials-source with no special constitution of its own, and Collingwood’s translation of both Bradley’s and Whitehead’s main doctrines into the framework of an historical-hermeneutical theory of ‘epochal’ presuppositions. Here the critique of pure feeling -- the distinguishing thread of the modern Anglo-Saxon tradition -- emerges as a debate on the ‘end of metaphysics’. In the context of the debate, the significance of Whitehead’s methodology -- his antisensationalist, antisubstrative descriptive model of feeling -- resides in the fact that it represents a self-conscious attempt to retain the level of generality characteristic of metaphysics, without the traditional appeal to any special metaphysical underpinnings.
cThe author wishes gratefully to acknowledge the generous support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation while writing this article.
1The standard editions and abbreviations will be employed when referring to Whitehead’s work. The editions and abbreviations used for Bradley’s works are as follows: The Principles of Logic, 2nd ad. (Oxford, 1922): PL; Appearance and Reality, 2nd ad., 9th impression (Oxford, 1930): AR; Essays on Truth and Reality, (Oxford, 1914): ETR.
2For a brief discussion, see my ‘F. H. Bradley’s Metaphysics of Feeling and its Place in the History of Philosophy’ in The Philosophy of F. H. Bradley, ed. A. Manser and G. Stock (Oxford, 1984), pp. 228-29.
3See D. W. Hamlyn, Sensation and Perception: A History of the Philosophy of Perception (London, 1961), Chapters 8 and 9.
4J. S. Mill, An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy, 6th ed. (London, 1865), pp. 248, 253.
5See David Masson, Recent British Philosophy (London, 1865; 3rd ed., 1877), p. 260. For a similar view of Mill, see G. Santayana, Soliloquies in England (London, 1922), p. 205. The same consequences were also expected from the side of scientific materialism; see the remarks of the reviewer of Spencer’s Principles of Biology in The Westminster Review, 28 (1865), 78, and James Ward’s comparison of Bradley and Tyndall, Critical Notice of AR, Mind, 8 (1894), 116.
6This is not to be confused with the limited ‘criteria1’ role given to feeling in certain special circumstances in ETR 178-81. I am here discussing the role of feeling in Bradley’s work as a whole.
7B. Russell, Mysticism and Logic (London, 1917), p. 221.
8See Gerd Buchdahl, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science (Oxford, 1969), Chapter 2.
9In terms of Bradley’s development, one can say that the early Whitehead stays close to the Bradley of PL where, in my view, the continuum of feeling enjoys precisely this traditional presentational status. See especially PL 52-55, 71.
10See W. James, Essays in Radical Empiricism (London, 1912), I and II; F. H. Bradley, ETR 149-58.
11I am not here suggesting that Whitehead’s concept is a straight ‘take’ from Bradley’s. Throughout this essay lam ignoring the influences which shape, determine, and filter Whitehead’s transformations and reworkings of Bradley.
12I take the notion of ‘metaphysical reduction’ from Gerd Buchdahl, ‘Reduction-Realization: a Key to the Structure of Kant’s Thought’, Philosophical Topics, vol. 12, 1981, pp.39-98. He is not of course responsible for the use I make of it here. I should add that the differences among the various thinkers mentioned would in any full discussion be as important as the methodological similarity on which I am concentrating.
13F. Bradford Wallack, The Epochal Nature of Process in Whitehead’s Metaphysics (New York, 1980) p. 7. See especially Chapter I. For what follows in the text, it should be noted that while I agree with Wallack that Whitehead’s concept of an actual entity refers to any concrete existent whatsoever, I do not accept that for Whitehead this means that any concrete existent is an actual entity. In my view, Whitehead’s ‘generic notion’ of ‘actual entities’ must be taken as that and nothing else, i.e., as a metaphysical description of the nature of real things, and not as involving any claim that actual entities are real things or the real constituents of things. In Whitehead’s philosophy, real things must be described as actual entities, but this does not mean that things are really actual entities or that actual entities are real. The point of Whitehead’s ‘cosmology’ -- as of any modern cosmology -- is that its generic concept (the concept of an actual entity) is a true descriptive model of the world, and is in that sense ‘actual’ or ‘real’; Whitehead is not maintaining that the world is full of descriptive models. The view of actual entities as real existents (whether microscopic, macroscopic, or ‘hypothetical’), rather than as descriptions of the real, has vitiated the understanding of Whitehead from the outset. In the present article I am concentrating on the shift Bradley’s feeling undergoes in Whitehead in order to bring out the contrast between the traditional ‘metaphysical’ (substrative or ‘actual’) and the Whiteheadian ‘cosmological’ (descriptive or modular) modes of speculative philosophy.