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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter begins with an illustration of Bradley’s conception of metaphysics as an attempt to satisfy the rational as well as the religious side of human nature and then goes on to reconstruct the central stages of his speculative journey. Bradley’s first major conclusion is that reality is a single unified whole. The argument in support of this view is analyzed in some detail and defended from the ungenerous but historically very successful criticisms of the early analytic thinkers Russell and Moore. Bradley’s monism is shown not to depend upon any such thing as an “axiom” of internal relations, but is interpreted as a reasoned attempt at coming to terms with serious and still widely debated ontological problems concerning relations’ alleged unifiying power. Bradley’s other major claim is the idealist one that reality is a harmonious whole of experience. Interestingly, Bradley holds that absolute experience manifests itself within what he terms “finite centres”; since these are monads-like entities, his overall view turns out to be, surprisingly enough, closer to Leibniz’s pluralism than to Hegel’s panlogism or Berkeley’s subjective idealism. Finally, the discussion is brought to a close by an examination of Bradley’s last major claim that the one reality cannot be known. This view is shown to be based upon the notion that truth requires full identity between thought and the reality it is about. At this point, skepticism threatens. But it is precisely here that the synthesis of rationalism and mysticism that is so typical of Bradley’s metaphysics emerges most clearly – the philosopher’s quest for ultimate Truth is nothing but the quest for dissolution into the larger One.

Keywords: Monism, Internal Relations, External Relations, Absolute Idealism, Immediate Experience, finite centres, Truth, Identity theory, Herbart, Hegel, Leibniz, Russell, Moore

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