Book I: Metaphysics of Knowledge.

Chapter I: The Spiritual Principle in Knowledge and Nature.

§ 43.

The best hope of answering these questions lies in considering further how they arise. they are due to the abstraction of the matter from the form of experience. This abstraction we inevitably make in reflecting on the process by which we obtain such knowledge as we have, but it deceives us when we make it a ground for supposing a like separation of elements in the world of experience. It is true indeed, according to the doctrine previously stated, that the principle which enables us to know that there is a world, and to set about learning its nature, is identical with that which is the condition of there being a world; but it is not therefore to be imagined that all the distinctions and relations, which we present to ourselves--and necessarily present to ourselves--in the process of learning to know, have counterparts in the real world. Our presentation of them, as a part of our mental history, is a fact definitely related and conditioned in the reality of the world; but the distinctions presented may exist only for us, in whom the intellectual principle realises itself under special conditions, not in the world as it is in itself or for a perfect intelligence. (§ 43 ¶ 1)

The distinction between the form and matter of experience is a distinction of this kind. In reflecting on the process by which we have come to know anything, we find that, at any stage we may recall, it consists in a further qualification of a given material by the consideration of the material under relations hitherto unconsidered. Thus as constrasted with, and abstracted from, the further formation which upon continued observation and attention it may acquire, any perception, any piece of knowledge, may be regarded as an unformed matter. On the other hand, when we look at what the given perception or piece of knowledge is in itself, we find that it is already formed, in more complex than we can disentangle, by the synthesis of less determinate data. But there is a point at which the individual's retrospective analysis of the knowledge which he finds himself to possess necessarily stops. Antecedently to any of the formative intellectual processes which he can trace, it would seem that something must have been given for those processes to begin upon. This something is taken to be feeling, pure and simple. When all accretions of form, due to the intellectual establishment of relations, have been stripped off, there seem to remain the mere sensations without which the intellectual activity would have had nothing to deal with or operate upon. These then must be in an absolute sense the matter--the matter excluding all form--of experience. (§ 43 ¶ 2)