Book I: Metaphysics of Knowledge.

Chapter I: The Spiritual Principle in Knowledge and Nature.

§ 26.

Let us consider now how we stand. We have rejected the question, What constitutes the real? as intrinsically unmeaning, because it could only be answered by a distinction which would imply that there was something unreal. The question arises, we have seen, out of an abstraction from our constant enquiry into the real nature of this or that particular appearance or event—an enquiry in which we always seek for an unchanging relation between the appearance and its conditions, or again for an unchanging relation between these and certain other conditions. The complete determination of an event it may be impossible for our intelligence to arrive at. There may always remain unascertained conditions which may render the relation between an appearance and such conditions of it as we know, liable to change. But that there is an unalterable order of relations, if we could only find it out, is the presupposition of all our enquiry into the real nature of appearances; and such unalterableness implies their inclusion in one system which leaves nothing outside itself. Are we then entitled to ask—and if so, are we able to answer—the further question, What is implied in there being such a single, all-inclusive, system of relations? or, What is the condition of its possibility? If this question can be answered, the condition ascertained will be the condition of there being a nature and of anything being real, in the only intelligible sense that we can attach to the words nature and real. It would no doubt still be open to the sceptic, should this result be attained, to suggest that the validity of our conclusion, on our own showing, depends upon there really being such an order of nature as our quest of knowledge supposes there to be, which remains unproven. But as the sceptic, in order to give his language a meaning, must necessarily make the same supposition—as he can give no meaning to reality but the one explained—his suggestion that there really may not be such an order of nature is one that conveys nothing at all. (§ 26 ¶ 1)