A Pluralistic Universe
Part 4 out of 4
negations, to restore the fluent sense of life again, and let
redemption take the place of innocence. The perfection with which any
philosophy may do this is the measure of its human success and of its
importance in philosophic history. In an article entitled 'A world of
pure experience, I tried my own hand sketchily at
[Footnote 1: Reprinted from the _Journal of Philosophy, Psychology,
and Scientific Methods_, vol. ii, New York, 1905, with slight verbal
[Footnote 2: _Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific
Methods_, vol. i, No. 20, p. 566.]
the problem, resisting certain first steps of dialectics by insisting
in a general way that the immediately experienced conjunctive
relations are as real as anything else. If my sketch is not to appear
too _naeif_, I must come closer to details, and in the present essay I
propose to do so.
'Pure experience' is the name which I gave to the immediate flux of
life which furnishes the material to our later reflection with its
conceptual categories. Only new-born babes, or men in semi-coma
from sleep, drugs, illnesses, or blows, may be assumed to have an
experience pure in the literal sense of a _that_ which is not yet any
definite _what_, tho ready to be all sorts of whats; full both of
oneness and of manyness, but in respects that don't appear; changing
throughout, yet so confusedly that its phases interpenetrate and no
points, either of distinction or of identity, can be caught. Pure
experience in this state is but another name for feeling or sensation.
But the flux of it no sooner comes than it tends to fill itself with
emphases, and these salient parts become identified and fixed and
abstracted; so that experience now flows as if shot through with
adjectives and nouns and prepositions and conjunctions. Its purity is
only a relative term, meaning the proportional amount of unverbalized
sensation which it still embodies.
Far back as we go, the flux, both as a whole and in its parts, is that
of things conjunct and separated. The great continua of time, space,
and the self envelop everything, betwixt them, and flow together
without interfering. The things that they envelop come as separate in
some ways and as continuous in others. Some sensations coalesce with
some ideas, and others are irreconcilable. Qualities compenetrate one
space, or exclude each other from it. They cling together persistently
in groups that move as units, or else they separate. Their changes are
abrupt or discontinuous; and their kinds resemble or differ; and, as
they do so, they fall into either even or irregular series.
In all this the continuities and the discontinuities are absolutely
co-ordinate matters of immediate feeling. The conjunctions are
as primordial elements of 'fact' as are the distinctions and
disjunctions. In the same act by which I feel that this passing minute
is a new pulse of my life, I feel that the old life continues into it,
and the feeling of continuance in no wise jars upon the simultaneous
feeling of a novelty. They, too, compenetrate harmoniously.
Prepositions, copulas, and conjunctions, 'is,' 'isn't,' 'then,'
'before,' 'in,' 'on,' 'beside,' 'between,' 'next,' 'like,' 'unlike,'
'as,' 'but,' flower out of the stream of pure experience, the stream
of concretes or the sensational stream, as naturally as nouns and
adjectives do, and they melt into it again as fluidly when we apply
them to a new portion of the stream.
If now we ask why we must translate experience from a more concrete
or pure into a more intellectualized form, filling it with ever more
abounding conceptual distinctions, rationalism and naturalism give
The rationalistic answer is that the theoretic life is absolute and
its interests imperative; that to understand is simply the duty of
man; and that who questions this need not be argued with, for by the
fact of arguing he gives away his case.
The naturalist answer is that the environment kills as well as
sustains us, and that the tendency of raw experience to extinguish the
experient himself is lessened just in the degree in which the elements
in it that have a practical bearing upon life are analyzed out of the
continuum and verbally fixed and coupled together, so that we may know
what is in the wind for us and get ready to react in time. Had pure
experience, the naturalist says, been always perfectly healthy, there
would never have arisen the necessity of isolating or verbalizing
any of its terms. We should just have experienced inarticulately and
unintellectually enjoyed. This leaning on 'reaction' in the naturalist
account implies that, whenever we intellectualize a relatively pure
experience, we ought to do so for the sake of redescending to the
purer or more concrete level again; and that if an intellect stays
aloft among its abstract terms and generalized relations, and does not
reinsert itself with its conclusions into some particular point of
the immediate stream of life, it fails to finish out its function and
leaves its normal race unrun.
Most rationalists nowadays will agree that naturalism gives a true
enough account of the way in which our intellect arose at first, but
they will deny these latter implications. The case, they will say,
resembles that of sexual love. Originating in the animal need
of getting another generation born, this passion has developed
secondarily such imperious spiritual needs that, if you ask why
another generation ought to be born at all, the answer is: 'Chiefly
that love may go on.' Just so with our intellect: it originated as a
practical means of serving life; but it has developed incidentally the
function of understanding absolute truth; and life itself now seems to
be given chiefly as a means by which that function may be prosecuted.
But truth and the understanding of it lie among the abstracts and
universals, so the intellect now carries on its higher business wholly
in this region, without any need of redescending into pure experience
If the contrasted tendencies which I thus designate as naturalistic
and rationalistic are not recognized by the reader, perhaps an example
will make them more concrete. Mr. Bradley, for instance, is an
ultra-rationalist. He admits that our intellect is primarily
practical, but says that, for philosophers, the practical need is
simply Truth. Truth, moreover, must be assumed 'consistent.'
Immediate experience has to be broken into subjects and qualities,
terms and relations, to be understood as truth at all. Yet when
so broken it is less consistent than ever. Taken raw, it is all
undistinguished. Intellectualized, it is all distinction without
oneness. 'Such an arrangement may _work_, but the theoretic problem is
not solved' (p. 23). The question is, '_How_ the diversity can exist
in harmony with the oneness' (p. 118). To go back to pure experience
is unavailing. 'Mere feeling gives no answer to our riddle' (p. 104).
Even if your intuition is a fact, it is not an _understanding_. 'It is
a mere experience, and furnishes no consistent view' (pp. 108-109).
The experiences offered as facts or truths 'I find that my intellect
rejects because they contradict themselves. They offer a complex of
diversities conjoined in a way which it feels is not its way and which
it cannot repeat as its own.... For to be satisfied, my intellect must
understand, and it cannot understand by taking a congeries in
the lump' (p. 570). So Mr. Bradley, in the sole interests of
'understanding' (as he conceives that function), turns his back on
[Footnote 1: _Appearance and Reality_, pp. 152-133.]
experience forever. Truth must lie in the opposite direction,
the direction of the absolute; and this kind of rationalism and
naturalism, or (as I will now call it) pragmatism, walk thenceforward
upon opposite paths. For the one, those intellectual products are most
true which, turning their face towards the absolute, come nearest to
symbolizing its ways of uniting the many and the one. For the other,
those are most true which most successfully dip back into the finite
stream of feeling and grow most easily confluent with some particular
wave or wavelet. Such confluence not only proves the intellectual
operation to have been true (as an addition may 'prove' that a
subtraction is already rightly performed), but it constitutes,
according to pragmatism, all that we mean by calling it true. Only in
so far as they lead us, successfully or unsuccessfully, into sensible
experience again, are our abstracts and universals true or false at
In Section the 6th of my article, 'A world of pure experience,' I
adopted in a general way the common-sense belief that one and the same
world is cognized by our different minds; but I left undiscussed the
dialectical arguments which maintain that this is logically absurd.
The usual reason given for its being absurd is that it assumes one
object (to wit, the world) to stand in two relations at once; to my
mind, namely, and again to yours; whereas a term taken in a second
relation cannot logically be the same term which it was at first.
I have heard this reason urged so often in discussing with
absolutists, and it would destroy my radical empiricism so utterly,
if it were valid, that I am bound to give it an attentive ear, and
seriously to search its strength.
For instance, let the matter in dispute be a term _M_, asserted to be
on the one hand related to _L_, and on the other to _N_; and let the
two cases of relation be symbolized by _L--M_ and _M--N_ respectively.
When, now, I assume that the experience may immediately come and be
given in the shape _L--M--N_, with no trace of doubling or internal
fission in the _M_, I am told that this is all a popular delusion;
that _L--M--N_ logically means two different experiences, _L--M_ and
_M--N_, namely; and that although the absolute may, and indeed must,
from its superior point of view, read its own kind of unity into _M_'s
two editions, yet as elements in finite experience the two _M_'s
lie irretrievably asunder, and the world between them is broken and
In arguing this dialectic thesis, one must avoid slipping from the
logical into the physical point of view. It would be easy, in taking
a concrete example to fix one's ideas by, to choose one in which the
letter _M_ should stand for a collective noun of some sort, which
noun, being related to _L_ by one of its parts and to _N_ by another,
would inwardly be two things when it stood outwardly in both
relations. Thus, one might say: 'David Hume, who weighed so many stone
by his body, influences posterity by his doctrine.' The body and the
doctrine are two things, between which our finite minds can discover
no real sameness, though the same name covers both of them. And then,
one might continue: 'Only an absolute is capable of uniting such a
non-identity.' We must, I say, avoid this sort of example; for the
dialectic insight, if true at all, must apply to terms and relations
universally. It must be true of abstract units as well as of nouns
collective; and if we prove it by concrete examples, we must take the
simplest, so as to avoid irrelevant material suggestions.
Taken thus in all its generality, the absolutist contention seems
to use as its major premise Hume's notion 'that all our distinct
perceptions are distinct existences, and that the mind never perceives
any real connexion among distinct existences.' Undoubtedly, since we
use two phrases in talking first about '_M_'s relation to _L_' and
then again about '_M_'s relation to _N_,' we must be having, or must
have had, two distinct perceptions;--and the rest would then seem to
follow duly. But the starting-point of the reasoning here seems to be
the fact of the two _phrases_; and this suggests that the argument
may be merely verbal. Can it be that the whole dialectic achievement
consists in attributing to the experience talked-about a constitution
similar to that of the language in which we describe it? Must we
assert the objective doubleness of the _M_ merely because we have to
name it twice over when we name its two relations?
Candidly, I can think of no other reason than this for the dialectic
conclusion! for, if we think, not of our words, but of any simple
concrete matter which they may be held to signify, the experience
itself belies the paradox asserted. We use indeed two separate
concepts in analyzing our object, but we know them all the while to be
but substitutional, and that the _M_ in _L--M_ and the _M_ in _M--N_
_mean_ (_i.e._, are capable of leading to and terminating in) one
self-same piece, _M_, of sensible experience. This persistent identity
of certain units, or emphases, or points, or objects, or members--call
them what you will--of the experience-continuum, is just one of
those conjunctive features of it, on which I am obliged to insist so
emphatically. For samenesses are parts of experience's indefeasible
structure. When I hear a bell-stroke and, as life flows on, its
after-image dies away, I still hark back to it as 'that same
[Footnote 1: Technically, it seems classable as a 'fallacy of
composition.' A duality, predicable of the two wholes, _L--M_ and
_M--N_, is forthwith predicated of one of their parts, _M_.]
bell-stroke.' When I see a thing _M_, with _L_ to the left of it and
_N_ to the right of it, I see it _as_ one _M_; and if you tell me I
have had to 'take' it twice, I reply that if I 'took' it a thousand
times, I should still _see_ it as a unit. Its unity is aboriginal,
just as the multiplicity of my successive takings is aboriginal. It
comes unbroken as _that M_, as a singular which I encounter; they come
broken, as _those_ takings, as my plurality of operations. The unity
and the separateness are strictly co-ordinate. I do not easily fathom
why my opponents should find the separateness so much more easily
understandable that they must needs infect the whole of finite
experience with it, and relegate the unity (now taken as a bare
postulate and no longer as a thing positively perceivable) to the
region of the absolute's mysteries. I do not easily fathom this, I
say, for the said opponents are above mere verbal quibbling; yet all
that I can catch in their talk is the substitution of what is true of
certain words for what is true of what they signify. They stay with
the words,--not returning to the stream of life whence all the meaning
of them came, and which is always ready to reabsorb them.
[Footnote 1: I may perhaps refer here to my _Principles of
Psychology_, vol. i, pp. 459 ff. It really seems 'weird' to have to
argue (as I am forced now to do) for the notion that it is one sheet
of paper (with its two surfaces and all that lies between) which is
both under my pen and on the table while I write--the 'claim' that it
is two sheets seems so brazen. Yet I sometimes suspect the absolutists
For aught this argument proves, then, we may continue to believe that
one thing can be known by many knowers. But the denial of one thing in
many relations is but one application of a still profounder dialectic
difficulty. Man can't be good, said the sophists, for man is _man_ and
_good_ is good; and Hegel and Herbart in their day, more recently H.
Spir, and most recently and elaborately of all, Mr. Bradley, inform us
that a term can logically only be a punctiform unit, and that not one
of the conjunctive relations between things, which experience seems to
yield, is rationally possible.
Of course, if true, this cuts off radical empiricism without even a
shilling. Radical empiricism takes conjunctive relations at their
face-value, holding them to be as real as the terms united by them.
The world it represents as a collection, some parts of which are
conjunctively and others disjunctively related. Two parts, themselves
disjoined, may nevertheless hang together by intermediaries with which
they are severally connected, and the whole world eventually may hang
together similarly, inasmuch as _some_ path of conjunctive transition
by which to pass from one of its parts to another may always be
discernible. Such determinately various hanging-together may be called
_concatenated_ union, to distinguish it from the 'through-and-through'
type of union, 'each in all and all in each' (union of _total
conflux_, as one might call it), which monistic systems hold to obtain
when things are taken in their absolute reality. In a concatenated
world a partial conflux often is experienced. Our concepts and our
sensations are confluent; successive states of the same ego, and
feelings of the same body are confluent. Where the experience is not
of conflux, it may be of conterminousness (things with but one thing
between); or of contiguousness (nothing between); or of likeness; or
of nearness; or of simultaneousness; or of in-ness; or of on-ness; or
of for-ness; or of simple with-ness; or even of mere and-ness, which
last relation would make of however disjointed a world otherwise, at
any rate for that occasion a universe 'of discourse.' Now Mr. Bradley
tells us that none of these relations, as we actually experience them,
can possibly be real. My next duty, accordingly, must be to rescue
radical empiricism from Mr. Bradley. Fortunately, as it seems to me,
his general contention, that the very notion of relation is
[Footnote 1: Here again the reader must beware of slipping from
logical into phenomenal considerations. It may well be that we
_attribute_ a certain relation falsely, because the circumstances of
the case, being complex, have deceived us. At a railway station we
may take our own train, and not the one that fills our window, to be
moving. We here put motion in the wrong place in the world, but in its
original place the motion is a part of reality. What Mr. Bradley
means is nothing like this, but rather that such things as motion
are nowhere real, and that, even in their aboriginal and empirically
incorrigible seats, relations are impossible of comprehension.]
unthinkable clearly, has been successfully met by many critics.
It is a burden to the flesh, and an injustice both to readers and to
the previous writers, to repeat good arguments already printed. So,
in noticing Mr. Bradley, I will confine myself to the interests of
radical empiricism solely.
The first duty of radical empiricism, taking given conjunctions at
their face-value, is to class some of them as more intimate and some
as more external. When two terms are _similar_, their very natures
enter into the relation. Being _what_ they are, no matter where or
when, the likeness never can be denied, if asserted. It continues
predicable as long as the terms continue. Other relations, the _where_
and the _when_, for example, seem adventitious. The sheet of paper
may be 'off' or 'on' the table, for example; and in either case the
relation involves only the outside of its terms. Having an outside,
both of them, they contribute by it to the relation. It is external:
the term's inner nature is irrelevant to it. Any
[Footnote 1: Particularly so by Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison, in his
_Man and the Cosmos_; by L.T. Hobhouse, in chapter xii (the Validity
of Judgment) of his _Theory of Knowledge_; and by F.C.S. Schiller,
in his _Humanism_, Essay XI. Other fatal reviews (in my opinion) are
Hodder's, in the _Psychological Review_, vol. i, 307; Stout's, in
the _Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society_, 1901-02, p. 1; and
MacLennan's, in the _Journal of Philosophy_, etc., vol. i, 403.]
book, any table, may fall into the relation, which is created _pro hac
vice_, not by their existence, but by their casual situation. It
is just because so many of the conjunctions of experience seem so
external that a philosophy of pure experience must tend to pluralism
in its ontology. So far as things have space-relations, for example,
we are free to imagine them with different origins even. If they could
get to _be_, and get into space at all, then they may have done so
separately. Once there, however, they are _additives_ to one another,
and, with no prejudice to their natures, all sorts of space-relations
may supervene between them. The question of how things could come
to be, anyhow, is wholly different from the question what their
relations, once the being accomplished, may consist in.
Mr. Bradley now affirms that such external relations as the
space-relations which we here talk of must hold of entirely different
subjects from those of which the absence of such relations might
a moment previously have been plausibly asserted. Not only is the
_situation_ different when the book is on the table, but the _book
itself_ is different as a book, from what it was when it was off the
table. He admits that 'such external relations
[Footnote 1: Once more, don't slip from logical into physical
situations. Of course, if the table be wet, it will moisten the book,
or if it be slight enough and the book heavy enough, the book will
break it down. But such collateral phenomena are not the point at
issue. The point is whether the successive relations 'on' and 'not-on'
can rationally (not physically) hold of the same constant terms,
abstractly taken. Professor A.E. Taylor drops from logical into
material considerations when he instances color-contrast as a proof
that _A_, 'as contra-distinguished from _B_, is not the same thing as
mere _A_ not in any way affected' (_Elements of Metaphysics_, 1903, p.
145). Note the substitution, for 'related,' of the word 'affected,'
which begs the whole question.]
seem possible and even existing.... That you do not alter what you
compare or rearrange in space seems to common sense quite obvious,
and that on the other side there are as obvious difficulties does not
occur to common sense at all. And I will begin by pointing out these
difficulties.... There is a relation in the result, and this relation,
we hear, is to make no difference in its terms. But, if so, to what
does it make a difference? [_doesn't it make a difference to us
onlookers, at least?_] and what is the meaning and sense of qualifying
the terms by it? [_Surely the meaning is to tell the truth about their
relative position_.] If, in short, it is external to the terms, how
can it possibly be true _of_ them? [_Is it the 'intimacy' suggested by
the little word 'of,' here, which I have underscored, that is the root
of Mr. Bradley's trouble?_].... If the terms from their inner nature
do not enter into the relation, then, so far as they are concerned,
they seem related for no reason at all.... Things are spatially
related, first in one way, and then become related in another way, and
yet in no way themselves
[Footnote 1: But 'is there any sense,' asks Mr. Bradley, peevishly,
on p. 579, 'and if so, what sense, in truth that is only outside and
"about" things?' Surely such a question may be left unanswered.]
are altered; for the relations, it is said, are but external. But I
reply that, if so, I cannot _understand_ the leaving by the terms of
one set of relations and their adoption of another fresh set. The
process and its result to the terms, if they contribute nothing to it
[_surely they contribute to it all there is 'of' it!_] seem irrational
throughout. [_If 'irrational' here means simply 'non-rational,'
or non-deducible from the essence of either term singly, it is no
reproach; if it means 'contradicting' such essence, Mr. Bradley should
show wherein and how_.] But, if they contribute anything, they must
surely be affected internally. [_Why so, if they contribute only their
surface? In such relations as 'on,' 'a foot away,' 'between,' 'next,'
etc., only surfaces are in question_.] ... If the terms contribute
anything whatever, then the terms are affected [_inwardly altered?_]
by the arrangement.... That for working purposes we treat, and do well
to treat, some relations as external merely, I do not deny, and that
of course is not the question at issue here. That question is ...
whether in the end and in principle a mere external relation [_i.e.,
a relation which can change without forcing its terms to change their
nature simultaneously_] is possible and forced on us by the facts.'
Mr. Bradley next reverts to the antinomies of space, which, according
to him, prove it to be unreal, although it appears as so prolific a
medium of external relations;
[Footnote 1: _Appearance and Reality_, 2d edition, pp. 575-576.]
and he then concludes that 'Irrationality and externality cannot be
the last truth about things. Somewhere there must be a reason why this
and that appear together. And this reason and reality must reside in
the whole from which terms and relations are abstractions, a whole in
which their internal connexion must lie, and out of which from the
background appear those fresh results which never could have come
from the premises' (p. 577). And he adds that 'Where the whole is
different, the terms that qualify and contribute to it must so far be
different.... They are altered so far only [_how far? farther than
externally, yet not through and through?_], but still they are
altered.... I must insist that in each case the terms are qualified by
their whole [_qualified how?--do their external relations, situations,
dates, etc., changed as these are in the new whole, fail to qualify
them 'far' enough?_], and that in the second case there is a whole
which differs both logically and psychologically from the first whole;
and I urge that in contributing to the change the terms so far are
altered' (p. 579).
Not merely the relations, then, but the terms are altered: _und
zwar_ 'so far.' But just _how_ far is the whole problem; and
'through-and-through' would seem (in spite of Mr. Bradley's somewhat
[Footnote 1: I say 'undecided,' because, apart from the 'so far,'
which sounds terribly half-hearted, there are passages in these very
pages in which Mr. Bradley admits the pluralistic thesis. Read, for
example, what he says, on p. 578, of a billiard ball keeping its
'character' unchanged, though, in its change of place, its 'existence'
gets altered; or what he says, on p. 579, of the possibility that
an abstract quality A, B, or C, in a thing, 'may throughout remain
unchanged' although the thing be altered; or his admission that in
red-hairedness, both as analyzed out of a man and when given with
the rest of him, there may be 'no change' (p. 580). Why does he
immediately add that for the pluralist to plead the non-mutation of
such abstractions would be an _ignoratio elenchi_? It is impossible to
admit it to be such. The entire _elenchus_ and inquest is just as to
whether parts which you can abstract from existing wholes can also
contribute to other wholes without changing their inner nature. If
they can thus mould various wholes into new _gestalt-qualitaeten_,
then it follows that the same elements are logically able to exist in
different wholes [whether physically able would depend on
additional hypotheses]; that partial changes are thinkable, and
through-and-through change not a dialectic necessity; that monism is
only an hypothesis; and that an additively constituted universe is
a rationally respectable hypothesis also. All the theses of radical
empiricism, in short, follow.]
to be the full bradleyan answer. The 'whole' which he here treats as
primary and determinative of each part's manner of 'contributing,'
simply _must_, when it alters, alter in its entirety. There _must_
be total conflux of its parts, each into and through each other. The
'must' appears here as a _Machtspruch_, as an _ipse dixit_ of Mr.
Bradley's absolutistically tempered 'understanding,' for he candidly
confesses that how the parts _do_ differ as they contribute to
different wholes, is unknown to him (p. 578).
Although I have every wish to comprehend the authority by which Mr.
Bradley's understanding speaks, his words leave me wholly unconverted.
'External relations' stand with their withers all unwrung, and remain,
for aught he proves to the contrary, not only practically workable,
but also perfectly intelligible factors of reality.
Mr. Bradley's understanding shows the most extraordinary power of
perceiving separations and the most extraordinary impotence in
comprehending conjunctions. One would naturally say 'neither or both,'
but not so Mr. Bradley. When a common man analyzes certain _whats_
from out the stream of experience, he understands their distinctness
_as thus isolated_. But this does not prevent him from equally well
understanding their combination with each other as _originally
experienced in the concrete_, or their confluence with new sensible
experiences in which they recur as 'the same.' Returning into the
stream of sensible presentation, nouns and adjectives, and _thats_ and
abstract _whats_, grow confluent again, and the word 'is' names
all these experiences of conjunction. Mr. Bradley understands the
isolation of the abstracts, but to understand the combination is to
him impossible. 'To understand a complex _AB_,' he
[Footnote 1: So far as I catch his state of mind, it is somewhat like
this: 'Book,' 'table,' 'on'--how does the existence of these three
abstract elements result in _this_ book being livingly on _this_
table? Why isn't the table on the book? Or why doesn't the 'on'
connect itself with another book, or something that is not a table?
Mustn't something _in_ each of the three elements already determine
the two others to _it_, so that they do not settle elsewhere or float
vaguely? Mustn't the whole fact be _prefigured in each part_, and
exist _de jure_ before it can exist _de facto_? But, if so, in what
can the jural existence consist, if not in a spiritual miniature of
the whole fact's constitution actuating; every partial factor as its
purpose? But is this anything but the old metaphysical fallacy of
looking behind a fact _in esse_ for the ground of the fact, and
finding it in the shape of the very same fact _in posse_? Somewhere we
must leave off with a _constitution_ behind which there is nothing.]
says, 'I must begin with _A_ or _B_. And beginning, say with _A_, if
I then merely find _B_, I have either lost _A_, or I have got beside
_A_, [_the word 'beside' seems here vital, as meaning a conjunction
'external' and therefore unintelligible_] something else, and in
neither case have I understood. For my intellect cannot simply
unite a diversity, nor has it in itself any form or way of
togetherness, and you gain nothing if, beside _A_ and _B_, you offer
me their conjunction in fact. For to my intellect that is no more
than another external element. And "facts," once for all, are for my
intellect not true unless they satisfy it.... The intellect has in its
nature no principle of mere togetherness' (pp. 570, 572).
Of course Mr. Bradley has a right to define 'intellect' as the power
by which we perceive separations but not unions--provided he give
due notice to the reader. But why then claim that such a maimed and
amputated power must reign supreme in philosophy, and accuse on its
behoof the whole empirical world of irrationality? It is true that he
elsewhere (p. 568) attributes to the intellect a _proprius motus_ of
transition, but says that
[Footnote 1: Apply this to the case of 'book-on-table'! W.J.]
when he looks for _these_ transitions in the detail of living
experience, he 'is unable to verify such a solution' (p. 569).
Yet he never explains what the intellectual transitions would be like
in case we had them. He only defines them negatively--they are not
spatial, temporal, predicative, or causal; or qualitatively or
otherwise serial; or in any way relational as we naively trace
relations, for relations _separate_ terms, and need themselves to be
hooked on _ad infinitum_. The nearest approach he makes to describing
a truly intellectual transition is where he speaks of _A_ and _B_
as being 'united, each from its own nature, in a whole which is the
nature of both alike' (p. 570). But this (which, _pace_ Mr. Bradley,
seems exquisitely analogous to 'taking a congeries in a lump,' if
not to 'swamping') suggests nothing but that _conflux_ which pure
experience so abundantly offers, as when 'space,' 'white,' and 'sweet'
are confluent in a 'lump of sugar,' or kinesthetic, dermal, and
optical sensations confluent in 'my hand.' All that I can verify
in the transitions which Mr. Bradley's intellect desiderates as
its _proprius motus_ is a reminiscence of these and other sensible
conjunctions (especially space-conjunctions),
[Footnote 1: How meaningless is the contention that in such wholes
(or in 'book-on-table,' 'watch-in-pocket,' etc.) the relation is an
additional entity _between_ the terms, needing itself to be related
again to each! Both Bradley (_Appearance and Reality_, pp. 32-33) and
Royce (_The World and the Individual_, i, 128) lovingly repeat this
piece of profundity.]
but a reminiscence so vague that its originals are not recognized.
Bradley, in short, repeats the fable of the dog, the bone, and its
image in the water. With a world of particulars, given in loveliest
union, in conjunction definitely various, and variously definite,
the 'how' of which you 'understand' as soon as you see the fact of
them, for there is no how except the constitution of the fact as
given; with all this given him, I say, in pure experience, he asks for
some ineffable union in the abstract instead, which, if he gained
it, would only be a duplicate of what he has already in his full
possession. Surely he abuses the privilege which society grants to all
of us philosophers, of being puzzle-headed.
Polemic writing like this is odious; but with absolutism in possession
in so many quarters, omission to defend my radical empiricism against
its best known champion would count as either superficiality or
inability. I have to conclude that its dialectic has not invalidated
in the least degree the usual conjunctions by which the world, as
experienced, hangs so variously together. In particular it leaves an
empirical theory of knowledge intact, and lets us continue to believe
with common sense that one object _may_ be known, if we have any
ground for thinking that it _is_ known, to many knowers.
[Footnote 1: The 'why' and the 'whence' are entirely other questions,
not under discussion, as I understand Mr. Bradley. Not how experience
gets itself born, but how it can be what it is after it is born, is
THE EXPERIENCE OF ACTIVITY
... Mr. Bradley calls the question of activity a scandal to
philosophy, and if one turns to the current literature of the
subject--his own writings included--one easily gathers what he means.
The opponents cannot even understand one another. Mr. Bradley says to
Mr. Ward: 'I do not care what your oracle is, and your preposterous
psychology may here be gospel if you please; ... but if the revelation
does contain a meaning, I will commit myself to this: either the
oracle is so confused that its signification is not discoverable,
or, upon the other hand, if it can be pinned down to any definite
statement, then that statement will be false.' Mr. Ward in turn
says of Mr. Bradley: 'I cannot even imagine the state of mind to which
his description applies.... It reads like an unintentional travesty of
Herbartian Psychology by one who has tried to improve upon it without
being at the pains to master it.' Muensterberg excludes a view opposed
to his own by saying that with any one who holds it a _verstaendigung_
with him is '_grundsaetzlich ausgeschlossen_'; and Royce,
[Footnote 1: President's Address before the American Psychological
Association, December, 1904. Reprinted from the _Psychological
Review_, vol. xii, 1905, with slight verbal revision.]
[Footnote 2: _Appearance and Reality_, p. 117. Obviously written _at_
Ward, though Ward's name is not mentioned.]
in a review of Stout, hauls him over the coals at great length for
defending 'efficacy' in a way which I, for one, never gathered from
reading him, and which I have heard Stout himself say was quite
foreign to the intention of his text.
In these discussions distinct questions are habitually jumbled and
different points of view are talked of _durcheinander_.
(1) There is a psychological question: Have we perceptions of
activity? and if so, what are they like, and when and where do we have
(2) There is a metaphysical question: Is there a _fact_ of activity?
and if so, what idea must we frame of it? What is it like? and what
does it do, if it does anything? And finally there is a logical
(3) Whence do we _know_ activity? By our own feelings of it solely? or
by some other source of information? Throughout page after page of the
literature one knows not which of these questions is before one; and
mere description of the surface-show of experience is proffered as if
it implicitly answered every one of them. No one of the disputants,
moreover, tries to show what pragmatic consequences his own view
would carry, or what assignable particular differences in any one's
experience it would make if his adversary's were triumphant.
[Footnote 1: _Mind_, N.S., VI, 379.]
It seems to me that if radical empiricism be good for anything, it
ought, with its pragmatic method and its principle of pure experience,
to be able to avoid such tangles, or at least to simplify them
somewhat. The pragmatic method starts from the postulate that there
is no difference of truth that doesn't make a difference of fact
somewhere; and it seeks to determine the meaning of all differences of
opinion by making the discussion hinge as soon as possible upon some
practical or particular issue. The principle of pure experience is
also a methodical postulate. Nothing shall be admitted as fact, it
says, except what can be experienced at some definite time by some
experient; and for every feature of fact ever so experienced, a
definite place must be found somewhere in the final system of reality.
In other words: Everything real must be experienceable somewhere, and
every kind of thing experienced must somewhere be real.
Armed with these rules of method, let us see what face the problems of
activity present to us.
By the principle of pure experience, either the word 'activity' must
have no meaning at all, or else the original type and model of what
it means must lie in some concrete kind of experience that can be
definitely pointed out. Whatever ulterior judgments we may eventually
come to make regarding activity, _that sort_ of thing will be what the
judgments are about. The first step to take, then, is to ask where in
the stream of experience we seem to find what we speak of as activity.
What we are to think of the activity thus found will be a later
Now it is obvious that we are tempted to affirm activity wherever
we find anything _going on_. Taken in the broadest sense, any
apprehension of something _doing_, is an experience of activity. Were
our world describable only by the words 'nothing happening,' 'nothing
changing,' 'nothing doing,' we should unquestionably call it an
'inactive' world. Bare activity, then, as we may call it, means the
bare fact of event or change. 'Change taking place' is a unique
content of experience, one of those 'conjunctive' objects which
radical empiricism seeks so earnestly to rehabilitate and preserve.
The sense of activity is thus in the broadest and vaguest way
synonymous with the sense of 'life.' We should feel our own subjective
life at least, even in noticing and proclaiming an otherwise inactive
world. Our own reaction on its monotony would be the one thing
experienced there in the form of something coming to pass.
This seems to be what certain writers have in mind when they insist
that for an experient to be at all is to be active. It seems to
justify, or at any rate to explain, Mr. Ward's expression that we
_are_ only as we are active,
[Footnote 1: _Naturalism and Agnosticism_, vol. ii, p. 245. One thinks
naturally of the peripatetic _actus primus_ and _actus secundus_
for we _are_ only as experients; and it rules out Mr. Bradley's
contention that 'there is no original experience of anything like
activity.' What we ought to say about activities thus simply given,
whose they are, what they effect, or whether indeed they effect
anything at all--these are later questions, to be answered only when
the field of experience is enlarged.
Bare activity would thus be predicable, though there were no definite
direction, no actor, and no aim. Mere restless zigzag movement, or a
wild _ideenflucht_, or _rhapsodie der wahrnehmungen_, as Kant would
say, would constitute an active as distinguished from an inactive
But in this actual world of ours, as it is given, a part at least of
the activity comes with definite direction; it comes with desire
and sense of goal; it comes complicated with resistances which it
overcomes or succumbs to, and with the efforts which the feeling of
resistance so often provokes; and it is in complex experiences like
these that the notions of distinct agents, and of passivity as opposed
to activity arise. Here also the notion of causal efficacy comes
to birth. Perhaps the most elaborate work ever done in descriptive
psychology has been the analysis by various recent writers of the more
complex activity-situations. In their descriptions, exquisitely subtle
some of them, the activity appears as the _gestalt-qualitaet_
[Footnote 1: Their existence forms a curious commentary on Professor
Munsterberg's dogma that will-attitudes are not describable. He
himself has contributed in a superior way to their description, both
in his _Willenshandlung_, and in his _Grundzuege_, Part II, chap, ix, Sec.
or the _fundirte inhalt_ (or as whatever else you may please to call
the conjunctive form) which the content falls into when we experience
it in the ways which the describers set forth. Those factors in those
relations are what we _mean_ by activity-situations; and to the
possible enumeration and accumulation of their circumstances and
ingredients there would seem to be no natural bound. Every hour of
human life could contribute to the picture gallery; and this is the
only fault that one can find with such descriptive industry--where is
it going to stop? Ought we to listen forever to verbal pictures of
what we have already in concrete form in our own breasts?
They never take us off the superficial plane. We knew the facts
already--less spread out and separated, to be sure--but we knew them
still. We always felt our own activity, for example, as 'the expansion
of an idea with which our Self is identified, against an obstacle';
and the following out of such a definition through a multitude of
cases elaborates the obvious so as to be little more than an exercise
in synonymic speech.
All the descriptions have to trace familiar outlines, and to use
familiar terms. The activity is, for example,
[Footnote 1: I ought myself to cry _peccavi_, having been a voluminous
sinner in my own chapter on the will.]
attributed either to a physical or to a mental agent, and is either
aimless or directed. If directed, it shows tendency. The tendency may
or may not be resisted. If not, we call the activity immanent, as when
a body moves in empty space by its momentum, or our thoughts wander at
their own sweet will. If resistance is met, _its_ agent complicates
the situation. If now, in spite of resistance, the original tendency
continues, effort makes its appearance, and along with effort, strain
or squeeze. Will, in the narrower sense of the word, then comes upon
the scene, whenever, along with the tendency, the strain and squeeze
are sustained. But the resistance may be great enough to check the
tendency, or even to reverse its path. In that case, we (if 'we' were
the original agents or subjects of the tendency) are overpowered.
The phenomenon turns into one of tension simply, or of necessity
succumbed--to, according as the opposing power is only equal, or is
superior to ourselves.
Whosoever describes an experience in such terms as these, describes an
experience _of_ activity. If the word have any meaning, it must denote
what there is found. _There_ is complete activity in its original and
first intention. What it is 'known-as' is what there appears. The
experiencer of such a situation possesses all that the idea contains.
He feels the tendency, the obstacle, the will, the strain, the
triumph, or the passive giving up, just as he feels the time, the
space, the swiftness or intensity, the movement, the weight and
color, the pain and pleasure, the complexity, or whatever remaining
characters the situation may involve. He goes through all that ever
can be imagined where activity is supposed. If we suppose activities
to go on outside of our experience, it is in forms like these that we
must suppose them, or else give them some other name; for the word
'activity' has no imaginable content whatever save these experiences
of process, obstruction, striving, strain, or release, ultimate
_qualia_ as they are of the life given us to be known.
Were this the end of the matter, one might think that whenever we had
successfully lived through an activity-situation we should have to be
permitted, without provoking contradiction, to say that we had
been really active, that we had met real resistance and had really
prevailed. Lotze somewhere says that to be an entity all that is
necessary is to _gelten_ as an entity, to operate, or be felt,
experienced, recognized, or in any way realized, as such. In our
activity-experiences the activity assuredly fulfils Lotze's demand.
It makes itself _gelten_. It is witnessed at its work. No matter what
activities there may really be in this extraordinary universe of ours,
it is impossible for us to conceive of any one of them being either
lived through or authentically known otherwise than in this dramatic
shape of something sustaining a felt purpose against felt obstacles
and overcoming or being overcome. What 'sustaining' means here is
clear to any one who has lived through the experience, but to no one
else; just as 'loud,' 'red,' 'sweet,' mean something only to beings
with ears, eyes, and tongues. The _percipi_ in these originals of
experience is the _esse_; the curtain is the picture. If there is
anything hiding in the background, it ought not to be called activity,
but should get itself another name.
This seems so obviously true that one might well experience
astonishment at finding so many of the ablest writers on the subject
flatly denying that the activity we live through in these situations
is real. Merely to feel active is not to be active, in their sight.
The agents that appear in the experience are not real agents, the
resistances do not really resist, the effects that appear are not
really effects at all. It is evident from this that
[Footnote 1: _Verborum gratia_:'The feeling of activity is not able,
qua feeling, to tell us anything about activity' (Loveday: _Mind_,
N.S., X., 403); 'A sensation or feeling or sense of activity ... is
not, looked at in another way, a feeling of activity at all. It is a
mere sensation shut up within which you could by no reflection get the
idea of activity.... Whether this experience is or is not later on a
character essential to our perception and our idea of activity, it, as
it comes first, is not in itself an experience of activity at all. It,
as it comes first, is only so for extraneous reasons and only so for
an outside observer' (Bradley, _Appearance and Reality_, 2d edition,
p. 605); 'In dem taetigkeitsgefuehle leigt an sich nicht der
geringste beweis fuer das vorhandensein einer psychischen taetigkeit'
(Muensterberg: _Grundzuege_, etc., p. 67). I could multiply similar
quotations, and would have introduced some of them into my text to
make it more concrete, save that the mingling of different points of
view in most of these author's discussions (not in Muensterberg's) make
it impossible to disentangle exactly what they mean. I am sure in any
case to be accused of misrepresenting them totally, even in this note,
by omission of the context, so the less I name names and the more
I stick to abstract characterization of a merely possible style of
opinion, the safer it will be. And apropos of misunderstandings, I may
add to this note a complaint on my own account. Professor Stout, in
the excellent chapter on 'Mental Activity,' in vol. i of his _Analytic
Psychology_, takes me to task for identifying spiritual activity with
certain muscular feelings, and gives quotations to bear him out. They
are from certain paragraphs on 'the Self,' in which my attempt was to
show what the central nucleus of the activities that we call 'ours'
is. I found it in certain intracephalic movements which we habitually
oppose, as 'subjective,' to the activities of the transcorporeal
world. I sought to show that there is no direct evidence that we feel
the activity of an inner spiritual agent as such (I should now say the
activity of 'consciousness' as such, see my paper 'Does consciousness
exist?' in the _Journal of Philosophy_, vol. i, p. 477). There are, in
fact, three distinguishable 'activities' in the field of discussion:
the elementary activity involved in the mere _that_ of experience, in
the fact that _something_ is going on, and the farther specification
of this _something_ into two _whats_, an activity felt as 'ours,' and
an activity ascribed to objects. Stout, as I apprehend him, identifies
'our' activity with that of the total experience-process, and when I
circumscribe it as a part thereof, accuses me of treating it as a sort
of external appendage to itself (pp. 162-163), as if I 'separated the
activity from the process which is active.' But all the processes in
question are active, and their activity is inseparable from their
being. My book raised only the question of _which_ activity deserved
the name of 'ours.' So far as we are 'persons,' and contrasted and
opposed to an 'environment,' movements in our body figure as our
activities; and I am unable to find any other activities that are ours
in this strictly personal sense. There is a wider sense in which
the whole 'choir of heaven and furniture of the earth,' and their
activities, are ours, for they are our 'objects.' But 'we' are here
only another name for the total process of experience, another name
for all that is, in fact; and I was dealing with the personal and
individualized self exclusively in the passages with which Professor
Stout finds fault.
The individualized self, which I believe to be the only thing properly
called self, is a part of the content of the world experienced. The
world experienced (otherwise called the 'field of consciousness')
comes at all times with our body as its centre, centre of vision,
centre of action, centre of interest. Where the body is is 'here';
when the body acts is 'now'; what the body touches is 'this'; all
other things are 'there' and 'then' and 'that.' These words of
emphasized position imply a systematization of things with reference
to a focus of action and interest which lies in the body; and the
systematization is now so instinctive (was it ever not so?) that no
developed or active experience exists for us at all except in that
ordered form. So far as 'thoughts' and 'feelings' can be active, their
activity terminates in the activity of the body, and only through
first arousing its activities can they begin to change those of
the rest of the world. The body is the storm centre, the origin
of co-ordinates, the constant place of stress in all that
experience-train. Everything circles round it, and is felt from its
point of view. The word 'I,' then, is primarily a noun of position,
just like 'this' and 'here.' Activities attached to 'this' position
have prerogative emphasis, and, if activities have feelings, must be
felt in a peculiar way. The word 'my' designates the kind of emphasis.
I see no inconsistency whatever in defending, on the one hand, 'my'
activities as unique and opposed to those of outer nature, and, on the
other hand, in affirming, after introspection, that they consist in
movements in the head. The 'my' of them is the emphasis, the feeling
of perspective-interest in which they are dyed.]
mere descriptive analysis of any one of our activity-experiences is
not the whole story, that there is something still to tell _about_
them that has led such able writers to conceive of a _Simon-pure_
activity, of an activity _an sich_, that does, and doesn't merely
appear to us to do, and compared with whose real doing all this
phenomenal activity is but a specious sham.
The metaphysical question opens here; and I think that the state of
mind of one possessed by it is often something like this: 'It is
all very well,' we may imagine him saying, 'to talk about certain
experience-series taking on the form of feelings of activity, just as
they might take on musical or geometric forms. Suppose that they do
so; suppose that what we feel is a will to stand a strain. Does our
feeling do more than _record_ the fact that the strain is sustained?
The _real_ activity, meanwhile, is the _doing_ of the fact; and what
is the doing made of before the record is made? What in the will
_enables_ it to act thus? And these trains of experience themselves,
in which activities appear, what makes them _go_ at all? Does the
activity in one bit of experience bring the next bit into being? As an
empiricist you cannot say so, for you have just declared activity
to be only a kind of synthetic object, or conjunctive relation
experienced between bits of experience already made. But what made
them at all? What propels experience _ueberhaupt_ into being? _There_
is the activity that _operates_; the activity _felt_ is only its
To the metaphysical question, popped upon us in this way, I must pay
serious attention ere I end my remarks, but, before doing so, let me
show that without leaving the immediate reticulations of experience,
or asking what makes activity itself act, we still find the
distinction between less real and more real activities forced upon us,
and are driven to much soul-searching on the purely phenomenal plane.
We must not forget, namely, in talking of the ultimate character of
our activity-experiences, that each of them is but a portion of a
wider world, one link in the vast chain of processes of experience
out of which history is made. Each partial process, to him who lives
through it, defines itself by its origin and its goal; but to an
observer with a wider mind-span who should live outside of it,
that goal would appear but as a provisional halting-place, and the
subjectively felt activity would be seen to continue into objective
activities that led far beyond. We thus acquire a habit, in discussing
activity-experiences, of defining them by their relation to something
more. If an experience be one of narrow span, it will be mistaken as
to what activity it is and whose. You think that _you_ are acting
while you are only obeying some one's push. You think you are doing
_this_, but you are doing something of which you do not dream. For
instance, you think you are but drinking this glass; but you are
really creating the liver-cirrhosis that will end your days. You think
you are just driving this bargain, but, as Stevenson says somewhere,
you are laying down a link in the policy of mankind.
Generally speaking, the onlooker, with his wider field of vision,
regards the _ultimate outcome_ of an activity as what it is more
really doing; and _the most previous agent_ ascertainable, being the
first source of action, he regards as the most real agent in the
field. The others but transmit that agent's impulse; on him we put
responsibility; we name him when one asks us, 'Who's to blame?'
But the most previous agents ascertainable, instead of being of longer
span, are often of much shorter span than the activity in view.
Brain-cells are our best example. My brain-cells are believed to
excite each other from next to next (by contiguous transmission of
katabolic alteration, let us say), and to have been doing so long
before this present stretch of lecturing-activity on my part began.
If any one cell-group stops its activity, the lecturing will cease or
show disorder of form. _Cessante causa, cessat et effectus_--does not
this look as if the short-span brain activities were the more real
activities, and the lecturing activities on my part only their
effects? Moreover, as Hume so clearly pointed out, in my mental
activity-situation the words physically to be uttered are represented
as the activity's immediate goal. These words, however, cannot be
uttered without intermediate physical processes in the bulb and vagi
nerves, which processes nevertheless fail to figure in the mental
activity-series at all. That series, therefore, since it leaves out
vitally real steps of action, cannot represent the real activities. It
is something purely subjective; the _facts_ of activity are elsewhere.
They are something far more interstitial, so to speak, than what my
The _real_ facts of activity that have in point of fact been
systematically pleaded for by philosophers have, so far as my
information goes, been of three principal types.
The first type takes a consciousness of wider time-span than ours to
be the vehicle of the more real activity. Its will is the agent, and
its purpose is the action done.
The second type assumes that 'ideas' struggling with one another are
the agents, and that the prevalence of one set of them is the action.
The third type believes that nerve-cells are the agents, and that
resultant motor discharges are the acts achieved.
Now if we must de-realize our immediately felt activity-situations for
the benefit of either of these types of substitute, we ought to know
what the substitution practically involves. _What practical difference
ought it to make if_, instead of saying naively that 'I' am active now
in delivering this address, I say that _a wider thinker is active_,
or that _certain ideas are active_, or that _certain nerve-cells are
active_, in producing the result?
This would be the pragmatic meaning of the three hypotheses. Let us
take them in succession in seeking a reply.
If we assume a wider thinker, it is evident that his purposes envelop
mine. I am really lecturing _for_ him; and altho I cannot surely know
to what end, yet if I take him religiously, I can trust it to be a
good end, and willingly connive. I can be happy in thinking that my
activity transmits his impulse, and that his ends prolong my own. So
long as I take him religiously, in short, he does not de-realize my
activities. He tends rather to corroborate the reality of them, so
long as I believe both them and him to be good.
When now we turn to ideas, the case is different, inasmuch as ideas
are supposed by the association psychology to influence each other
only from next to next. The 'span' of an idea, or pair of ideas, is
assumed to be much smaller instead of being larger than that of my
total conscious field. The same results may get worked out in both
cases, for this address is being given anyhow. But the ideas supposed
to 'really' work it out had no prevision of the whole of it; and if
I was lecturing for an absolute thinker in the former case, so,
by similar reasoning, are my ideas now lecturing for me, that is,
accomplishing unwittingly a result which I approve and adopt. But,
when this passing lecture is over, there is nothing in the bare notion
that ideas have been its agents that would seem to guarantee that my
present purposes in lecturing will be prolonged. _I_ may have ulterior
developments in view; but there is no certainty that my ideas as such
will wish to, or be able to, work them out.
The like is true if nerve-cells be the agents. The activity of a
nerve-cell must be conceived of as a tendency of exceedingly short
reach, an 'impulse' barely spanning the way to the next cell--for
surely that amount of actual 'process' must be 'experienced' by the
cells if what happens between them is to deserve the name of activity
at all. But here again the gross resultant, as _I_ perceive it, is
indifferent to the agents, and neither wished or willed or foreseen.
Their being agents now congruous with my will gives me no guarantee
that like results will recur again from their activity. In point of
fact, all sorts of other results do occur. My mistakes, impotencies,
perversions, mental obstructions, and frustrations generally, are also
results of the activity of cells. Altho these are letting me lecture
now, on other occasions they make me do things that I would willingly
The question _Whose is the real activity?_ is thus tantamount to the
question _What will be the actual results?_ Its interest is dramatic;
how will things work out? If the agents are of one sort, one way; if
of another sort, they may work out very differently. The pragmatic
meaning of the various alternatives, in short, is great. It makes more
than a merely verbal difference which opinion we take up.
You see it is the old dispute come back! Materialism and teleology;
elementary short-span actions summing themselves 'blindly,' or far
foreseen ideals coming with effort into act.
Naively we believe, and humanly and dramatically we like to believe,
that activities both of wider and of narrower span are at work in life
together, that both are real, and that the long-span tendencies yoke
the others in their service, encouraging them in the right direction,
and damping them when they tend in other ways. But how to represent
clearly the _modus operandi_ of such steering of small tendencies
by large ones is a problem which metaphysical thinkers will have to
ruminate upon for many years to come. Even if such control should
eventually grow clearly picturable, the question how far it is
successfully exerted in this actual world can be answered only by
investigating the details of fact. No philosophic knowledge of the
general nature and constitution of tendencies, or of the relation
of larger to smaller ones, can help us to predict which of all the
various competing tendencies that interest us in this universe are
likeliest to prevail. We know as an empirical fact that far-seeing
tendencies often carry out their purpose, but we know also that they
are often defeated by the failure of some contemptibly small process
on which success depends. A little thrombus in a statesman's meningeal
artery will throw an empire out of gear. Therefore I cannot even hint
at any solution of the pragmatic issue. I have only wished to show you
that that issue is what gives the real interest to all inquiries into
what kinds of activity may be real. Are the forces that really act in
the world more foreseeing or more blind? As between 'our' activities
as 'we' experience them, and those of our ideas, or of our
brain-cells, the issue is well defined.
I said awhile back (p. 381) that I should return to the 'metaphysical'
question before ending; so, with a few words about that, I will now
close my remarks.
In whatever form we hear this question propounded, I think that it
always arises from two things, a belief that _causality_ must be
exerted in activity, and a wonder as to how causality is made. If we
take an activity-situation at its face-value, it seems as if we caught
_in flagrante delicto_ the very power that makes facts come and be. I
now am eagerly striving, for example, to get this truth which I seem
half to perceive, into words which shall make it show more clearly. If
the words come, it will seem as if the striving itself had drawn or
pulled them into actuality out from the state of merely possible being
in which they were. How is this feat performed? How does the pulling
_pull_? How do I get my hold on words not yet existent, and when they
come, by what means have I _made_ them come? Really it is the problem
of creation; for in the end the question is: How do I make them _be?_
Real activities are those that really make things be, without which
the things are not, and with which they are there. Activity, so far as
we merely feel it, on the other hand, is only an impression of ours,
it may be maintained; and an impression is, for all this way of
thinking, only a shadow of another fact.
Arrived at this point, I can do little more than indicate the
principles on which, as it seems to me, a radically empirical
philosophy is obliged to rely in handling such a dispute.
If there _be_ real creative activities in being, radical empiricism
must say, somewhere they must be immediately lived. Somewhere the
_that_ of efficacious causing and the _what_ of it must be experienced
in one, just as the what and the that of 'cold' are experienced in one
whenever a man has the sensation of cold here and now. It boots not to
say that our sensations are fallible. They are indeed; but to see the
thermometer contradict us when we say 'it is cold' does not abolish
cold as a specific nature from the universe. Cold is in the arctic
circle if not here. Even so, to feel that our train is moving when the
train beside our window moves, to see the moon through a telescope
come twice as near, or to see two pictures as one solid when we look
through a stereoscope at them, leaves motion, nearness, and solidity
still in being--if not here, yet each in its proper seat elsewhere.
And wherever the seat of real causality _is_, as ultimately known 'for
true' (in nerve-processes, if you will, that cause our feelings of
activity as well as the movements which these seem to prompt), a
philosophy of pure experience can consider the real causation as no
other _nature_ of thing than that which even in our most erroneous
experiences appears to be at work. Exactly what appears there is what
we _mean_ by working, tho we may later come to learn that working was
not exactly _there_. Sustaining, persevering, striving, paying with
effort as we go, hanging on, and finally achieving our intention--this
_is_ action, this _is_ effectuation in the only shape in which, by
a pure experience-philosophy, the whereabouts of it anywhere can be
discussed. Here is creation in its first intention, here is causality
at work. To treat this offhand as the bare illusory
[Footnote 1: Let me not be told that this contradicts a former article
of mine, 'Does consciousness exist?' in the _Journal of Philosophy_
for September 1, 1904 (see especially page 489), in which it was said
that while 'thoughts' and 'things' have the same natures, the natures
work 'energetically' on each other in the things (fire burns, water
wets, etc.), but not in the thoughts. Mental activity-trains are
composed of thoughts, yet their members do work on each other: they
check, sustain, and introduce. They do so when the activity is merely
associational as well as when effort is there. But, and this is my
reply, they do so by other parts of their nature than those that
energize physically. One thought in every developed activity-series is
a desire or thought of purpose, and all the other thoughts acquire a
feeling tone from their relation of harmony or oppugnancy to this.
The interplay of these secondary tones (among which 'interest,'
'difficulty,' and 'effort' figure) runs the drama in the mental
series. In what we term the physical drama these qualities play
absolutely no part. The subject needs careful working out; but I can
see no inconsistency.]
surface of a world whose real causality is an unimaginable ontological
principle hidden in the cubic deeps, is, for the more empirical way of
thinking, only animism in another shape. You explain your given fact
by your 'principle,' but the principle itself, when you look clearly
at it, turns out to be nothing but a previous little spiritual copy
of the fact. Away from that one and only kind of fact your mind,
considering causality, can never get.
[Footnote 1: I have found myself more than once accused in print of
being the assertor of a metaphysical principle of activity. Since
literary misunderstandings retard the settlement of problems, I should
like to say that such an interpretation of the pages I have published
on effort and on will is absolutely foreign to what I meant to
express. I owe all my doctrines on this subject to Renouvier; and
Renouvier, as I understand him, is (or at any rate then was) an out
and out phenomenist, a denier of 'forces' in the most strenuous
sense. Single clauses in my writing, or sentences read out of their
connexion, may possibly have been compatible with a transphenomenal
principle of energy; but I defy any one to show a single sentence
which, taken with its context, should be naturally held to advocate
that view. The misinterpretation probably arose at first from my
having defended (after Renouvier) the indeterminism of our efforts.
'Free will' was supposed by my critics to involve a supernatural
agent. As a matter of plain history, the only 'free will' I have
ever thought of defending is the character of novelty in fresh
activity-situations. If an activity-process is the form of a whole
'field of consciousness,' and if each field of consciousness is not
only in its totality unique (as is now commonly admitted), but has
its elements unique (since in that situation they are all dyed in
the total), then novelty is perpetually entering the world and what
happens there is not pure _repetition_, as the dogma of the literal
uniformity of nature requires. Activity-situations come, in short,
each with an original touch. A 'principle' of free will, if there were
one, would doubtless manifest itself in such phenomena, but I never
saw, nor do I now see, what the principle could do except rehearse the
phenomenon beforehand, or why it ever should be invoked.]
I conclude, then, that real effectual causation as an ultimate nature,
as a 'category,' if you like, of reality, is _just what we feel it
to be_, just that kind of conjunction which our own activity-series
reveal. We have the whole butt and being of it in our hands; and the
healthy thing for philosophy is to leave off grubbing underground for
what effects effectuation, or what makes action act, and to try to
solve the concrete questions of where effectuation in this world is
located, of which things are the true causal agents there, and of what
the more remote effects consist.
From this point of view the greater sublimity traditionally attributed
to the metaphysical inquiry, the grubbing inquiry, entirely
disappears. If we could know what causation really and
transcendentally is in itself, the only _use_ of the knowledge would
be to help us to recognize an actual cause when we had one, and so to
track the future course of operations more intelligently out. The mere
abstract inquiry into causation's hidden nature is not more sublime
than any other inquiry equally abstract. Causation inhabits no more
sublime level than anything else. It lives, apparently, in the dirt of
the world as well as in the absolute, or in man's unconquerable mind.
The worth and interest of the world consists not in its elements,
be these elements things, or be they the conjunctions of things; it
exists rather in the dramatic outcome of the whole process, and in the
meaning of the succession stages which the elements work out.
My colleague and master, Josiah Royce, in a page of his review of
Stout's _Analytic Psychology_, in _Mind_ for 1897, has some fine words
on this point with which I cordially agree. I cannot agree with his
separating the notion of efficacy from that of activity altogether
(this I understand to be one contention of his), for activities are
efficacious whenever they are real activities at all. But the inner
nature both of efficacy and of activity are superficial problems, I
understand Royce to say; and the only point for us in solving them
would be their possible use in helping us to solve the far deeper
problem of the course and meaning of the world of life. Life, says
our colleague, is full of significance, of meaning, of success and of
defeat, of hoping and of striving, of longing, of desire, and of inner
value. It is a total presence that embodies worth. To live our own
lives better in this presence is the true reason why we wish to know
the elements of things; so even we psychologists must end on this
The urgent problems of activity are thus more concrete. They all
are problems of the true relation of longer-span to shorter-span
activities. When, for example, a number of 'ideas' (to use the name
traditional in psychology) grow confluent in a larger field of
consciousness, do the smaller activities still coexist with the wider
activities then experienced by the conscious subject? And, if so, do
the wide activities accompany the narrow ones inertly, or do they
exert control? Or do they perhaps utterly supplant and replace them
and short-circuit their effects? Again, when a mental activity-process
and a brain-cell series of activities both terminate in the same
muscular movement, does the mental process steer the neural processes
or not? Or, on the other hand, does it independently short-circuit
their effects? Such are the questions that we must begin with. But so
far am I from suggesting any definitive answer to such questions,
that I hardly yet can put them clearly. They lead, however, into that
region of panpsychic and ontologic speculation of which Professors
Bergson and Strong have lately enlarged the literature in so able and
interesting a way. The results of these authors seem in many respects
dissimilar, and I understand them as yet but imperfectly; but I cannot
help suspecting that the direction of their work is very promising,
and that they have the hunter's instinct for the fruitful trails.
ON THE NOTION OF REALITY AS CHANGING
In my _Principles of Psychology_ (vol. ii, p. 646) I gave the name of
the 'axiom of skipped intermediaries and transferred relations' to a
serial principle of which the foundation of logic, the _dictum de omni
et nullo_ (or, as I expressed it, the rule that what is of a kind is
of that kind's kind), is the most familiar instance. More than the
more is more than the less, equals of equals are equal, sames of the
same are the same, the cause of a cause is the cause of its effects,
are other examples of this serial law. Altho it applies infallibly
and without restriction throughout certain abstract series, where the
'sames,' 'causes,' etc., spoken of, are 'pure,' and have no properties
save their sameness, causality, etc., it cannot be applied offhand to
concrete objects with numerous properties and relations, for it is
hard to trace a straight line of sameness, causation, or whatever it
may be, through a series of such objects without swerving into some
'respect' where the relation, as pursued originally, no longer holds:
the objects have so many 'aspects' that we are constantly deflected
from our original direction, and find, we know not why, that we are
following something different from what we started with. Thus a cat is
in a sense the same as a mouse-trap, and a mouse-trap the same as a
bird-cage; but in no valuable or easily intelligible sense is a cat
the same as a bird-cage. Commodore Perry was in a sense the cause
of the new regime in Japan, and the new regime was the cause of the
russian Douma; but it would hardly profit us to insist on holding to
Perry as the cause of the Douma: the terms have grown too remote to
have any real or practical relation to each other. In every series of
real terms, not only do the terms themselves and their associates
and environments change, but we change, and their _meaning_ for
us changes, so that new kinds of sameness and types of causation
continually come into view and appeal to our interest. Our earlier
lines, having grown irrelevant, are then dropped. The old terms can no
longer be substituted nor the relations 'transferred,' because of so
many new dimensions into which experience has opened. Instead of a
straight line, it now follows a zigzag; and to keep it straight, one
must do violence to its spontaneous development. Not that one might
not possibly, by careful seeking (tho I doubt it), _find_ some line in
nature along which terms literally the same, or causes causal in the
same way, might be serially strung without limit, if one's interest
lay in such finding. Within such lines our axioms might hold, causes
might cause their effect's effects, etc.; but such lines themselves
would, if found, only be partial members of a vast natural network,
within the other lines of which you could not say, in any sense that
a wise man or a sane man would ever think of, in any sense that would
not be concretely _silly_, that the principle of skipt intermediaries
still held good. In the _practical_ world, the world whose
significances we follow, sames of the same are certainly not sames of
one another; and things constantly cause other things without being
held responsible for everything of which those other things are
Professor Bergson, believing as he does in a heraclitean 'devenir
reel,' ought, if I rightly understand him, positively to deny that in
the actual world the logical axioms hold good without qualification.
Not only, according to him, do terms change, so that after a certain
time the very elements of things are no longer what they were, but
relations also change, so as no longer to obtain in the same identical
way between the new things that have succeeded upon the old ones. If
this were really so, then however indefinitely sames might still
be substituted for sames in the logical world of nothing but pure
sameness, in the world of real operations every line of sameness
actually started and followed up would eventually give out, and cease
to be traceable any farther. Sames of the same, in such a world, will
not always (or rather, in a strict sense will never) be the same
as one another, for in such a world there _is_ no literal or ideal
sameness among numerical differents. Nor in such a world will it be
true that the cause of the cause is unreservedly the cause of
the effect; for if we follow lines of real causation, instead of
contenting ourselves with Hume's and Kant's eviscerated schematism, we
find that remoter effects are seldom aimed at by causal intentions,
that no one kind of causal activity continues indefinitely, and that
the principle of skipt intermediaries can be talked of only _in
Volumes i, ii, and iii of the _Monist_ (1890-1893) contain a number of
articles by Mr. Charles S. Peirce, articles the originality of which
has apparently prevented their making an immediate impression, but
which, if I mistake not, will prove a gold-mine of ideas for thinkers
of the coming generation. Mr. Peirce's views, tho reached so
differently, are altogether congruous with Bergson's. Both
philosophers believe that the appearance of novelty in things is
genuine. To an observer standing outside of its generating causes,
novelty can appear only as so much 'chance'; to one who stands inside
it is the expression of 'free creative activity.' Peirce's 'tychism'
is thus practically synonymous with Bergson's 'devenir reel.' The
common objection to admitting novelties is that by jumping abruptly
in, _ex nihilo_, they shatter the world's rational continuity. Peirce
meets this objection by combining his tychism
[Footnote 1: Compare the douma with what Perry aimed at.]
[Footnote 2: Compare Appendix B, as to what I mean here by 'real'
with an express doctrine of 'synechism' or continuity, the two
doctrines merging into the higher synthesis on which he bestows the
name of 'agapasticism (_loc. cit._, iii, 188), which means exactly the
same thing as Bergson's 'evolution creatrice.' Novelty, as empirically
found, doesn't arrive by jumps and jolts, it leaks in insensibly, for
adjacents in experience are always interfused, the smallest real datum
being both a coming and a going, and even numerical distinctness being
realized effectively only after a concrete interval has passed. The
intervals also deflect us from the original paths of direction, and
all the old identities at last give out, for the fatally continuous
infiltration of otherness warps things out of every original rut.
Just so, in a curve, the same direction is _never_ followed, and the
conception of it as a myriad-sided polygon falsifies it by
supposing it to do so for however short a time. Peirce speaks of an
'infinitesimal' tendency to diversification. The mathematical notion
of an infinitesimal contains, in truth, the whole paradox of the same
and yet the nascent other, of an identity that won't _keep_ except so
far as it keeps _failing_, that won't _transfer_, any more than the
serial relations in question transfer, when you apply them to reality
instead of applying them to concepts alone.
A friend of mine has an idea, which illustrates on such a magnified
scale the impossibility of tracing the same line through reality, that
I will mention it here. He thinks that nothing more is needed to make
history 'scientific' than to get the content of any two epochs (say
the end of the thirteenth and the end of the nineteenth century)
accurately defined, then accurately to define the direction of the
change that led from the one epoch into the other, and finally to
prolong the line of that direction into the future. So prolonging the
line, he thinks, we ought to be able to define the actual state
of things at any future date we please. We all feel the essential
unreality of such a conception of 'history' as this; but if such a
synechistic pluralism as Peirce, Bergson, and I believe in, be what
really exists, every phenomenon of development, even the simplest,
would prove equally rebellious to our science should the latter
pretend to give us literally accurate instead of approximate, or
statistically generalized, pictures of the development of reality.
I can give no further account of Mr. Peirce's ideas in this note, but
I earnestly advise all students of Bergson to compare them with those
of the french philosopher.
INDEX TO THE LECTURES
Absolute, the, 49, 108-109, 114 ff., 173, 175, 190 ff., 203, 271, 292 ff.,
311; not the same as God, 111, 134; its rationality, 114 f.; its
irrationality, 117-129; difficulty of conceiving it, 195.
Absolutism, 34, 38, 40, 54, 72 f, 79, 122, 310. See Monism.
Achilles and tortoise, 228, 255.
All-form, the, 34, 324.
Analogy, 8, 151 f.
Antinomies, 231, 239.
BAILEY, S., 5.
BERGSON, H., Lecture VI, _passim_. His characteristics, 226 f, 266.
Block-universe, 310, 328.
BRADLEY, F.H., 46, 69, 79, 211, 220, 296.
CAIRD, E., 89, 95, 137.
Causation, 258. See Influence.
Change, 231, 253.
CHESTERTON, 203, 303.
Compounding of mental states, 168, 173, 186 f., 268, 281, 284, 292, 296.
Concepts, 217, 234 f.
Conceptual method, 243 f., 246, 253.
Concrete reality, 283, 286.
Consciousness, superhuman, 156, 310 f.; its compound nature, 168, 173,
186 f., 289.
Continuity, 256 f., 325.
Contradiction, in Hegel, 89 f.
Creation, 29, 119.
Dialectic method, 89.
Difference, 257 f.
Diminutive epithets, 12, 24.
Discreteness of change, 231.
'Each-form,' the, 34, 325.
Earth, the, in Fechner's philosophy, 156; is an angel, 164.
Earth-soul, 152 f.
Elan vital, 262.
Empiricism, 264, 277; and religion, 314; defined, 7.
Epithets. See Diminutive.
Experience, 312; religious, 307.
Extremes, 67, 74.
'Fall,' the, 119, 310.
FECHNER, Lecture IV, _passim._ His life, 145-150; he reasons by analogy,
151; his genius, 154; compared with Royce, 173, 207; not a genuine
monist, 293; his God; and religious experience, 308.
FERRIER, Jas., 13.
Finite experience, 39, 48, 182, 192-193.
Finiteness, of God, 111, 124, 294.
German manner of philosophizing, 17.
GOD, 24 f., 111, 124, 193, 240, 294.
GREEN, T.H., 6, 24, 137, 278.
HALDANE, R.B., 138.
HEGEL, Lecture III, _passim_, 11, 85, 207, 211, 219, 296. His vision,
88, 98 f., 104; his use of double negation, 102; his vicious
intellectualism 106; Haldane on, 138; McTaggart on, 140; Royce on, 143.
HODGSON, S.H., 282.
HUME, 19, 267.
Idealism, 36. See Absolutism.
Immortality, Fechner's view of, 171.
'Independent' beings, 55, 58.
Influence, 258, 561.
Intellect, its function is practical, 247 f., 252.
Intellectualism, vicious, 60, 218.
Intellectualist logic, 216, 259, 261.
Intellectualist method, 291.
Irrationality, 81; of the absolute, 117-129.
JACKS, L.P., 35.
JOACHIM, H., 121, 141.
JONES, H., 52.
KANT, 19, 199, 238, 240.
Logic, 92, 211; Intellectualist, 217, 242.
LOTZE, 55, 120.
McTAGGART, 51, 74 f., 120, 140 f., 183.
Manyness in oneness, 322. See Compounding.
Mental chemistry, 185.
MILL, J.S., 242, 260.
Mind, dust theory, 189.
Mind, the eternal, 137. See Absolute.
Monism, 36, 117, 125, 201, 313, 321 f.; Fechner's, 153. See Absolutism.
Motion, 233, 238, 254; Zeno on, 228.
MYERS, F.W.H., 315.
Nature, 21, 286.
Negation, 93 f.; double, 102.
Other, 95, 312; 'its own other,' 108 f., 282.
Oxford, _3_, 313, 331.
Pantheism, 24, 28.
PAULSEN, 18, 22.
Personality, divided, 298.
Philosophers, their method, 9; their common desire, 11 f.; they must
Philosophies, their types, 23, 31.
Plant-soul, 165 f.
Pluralism, 45, 76, 79, 311, 319, 321 f.
Practical reason, 329.
Psychic synthesis, 185. See Compounding.
Psychical research, 299.
'Qua,' 39, 47, 267, 270.
'Quatenus,' 47, 267.
Rationalism defined, 7, 98; its thinness, 144, 237.
Rationality, 81, 112 f., 319 f.
Reality, 262 f., 264, 283 f.
Reason, 286, 312.
Relations, 70, 278 ff.; 'external,' 80.
Religious experiences, 305 f.
ROYCE, 61 f., 115, 173, 182 f., 197, 207, 212, 265, 296.
Same, 269, 281.
Savage philosophy, 21.
Soul, 199, 209.
Spiritualistic philosophy, 23.
Sugar, 220, 232.
Synthesis, psychic. See Compounding.
TAYLOR, A.E., 76, 139, 212.
Thick, the, 136.
'Thickness' of Fechner's philosophy, 144.
Thin, the, 136.
Thinness of the current transcendentalism, 144, 174 f.
Units of reality, 287.
Vision, in philosophy, 20.
WELLS, H.G., 78.
Will to believe, 328.
Witnesses, as implied in experience, 200.
WUNDT, W., 185.
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