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The Life of Reason
by George Santayana
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[Sidenote: but not pursued or remembered unless it suffuses an object.]

Pleasures differ sensibly in intensity; but the intensest pleasures are often the blindest, and it is hard to recall or estimate a feeling with which no definite and complex object is conjoined. The first step in making pleasure intelligible and capable of being pursued is to make it pleasure in something. The object it suffuses acquires a value, and gives the pleasure itself a place in rational life. The pleasure can now be named, its variations studied in reference to changes in its object, and its comings and goings foreseen in the order of events. The more articulate the world that produces emotion the more controllable and recoverable is the emotion itself. Therefore diversity and order in ideas makes the life of pleasure richer and easier to lead. A voluminous dumb pleasure might indeed outweigh the pleasure spread thin over a multitude of tame perceptions, if we could only weigh the two in one scale; but to do so is impossible, and in memory and prospect, if not in experience, diversified pleasure must needs carry the day.

[Sidenote: Subhuman delights.]

Here we come upon a crisis in human development which shows clearly how much the Life of Reason is a natural thing, a growth that a different course of events might well have excluded. Laplace is reported to have said on his death-bed that science was mere trifling and that nothing was real but love. Love, for such a man, doubtless involved objects and ideas: it was love of persons. The same revulsion of feeling may, however, be carried further. Lucretius says that passion is a torment because its pleasures are not pure, that is, because they are mingled with longing and entangled in vexatious things. Pure pleasure would be without ideas. Many a man has found in some moment of his life an unutterable joy which made all the rest of it seem a farce, as if a corpse should play it was living. Mystics habitually look beneath the Life of Reason for the substance and infinity of happiness. In all these revulsions, and many others, there is a certain justification, inasmuch as systematic living is after all an experiment, as is the formation of animal bodies, and the inorganic pulp out of which these growths have come may very likely have had its own incommunicable values, its absolute thrills, which we vainly try to remember and to which, in moments of dissolution, we may half revert. Protoplasmic pleasures and strains may be the substance of consciousness; and as matter seeks its own level, and as the sea and the flat waste to which all dust returns have a certain primordial life and a certain sublimity, so all passions and ideas, when spent, may rejoin the basal note of feeling, and enlarge their volume as they lose their form. This loss of form may not be unwelcome, if it is the formless that, by anticipation, speaks through what is surrendering its being. Though to acquire or impart form is delightful in art, in thought, in generation, in government, yet a euthanasia of finitude is also known. All is not affectation in the poet who says, "Now more than ever seems it rich to die"; and, without any poetry or affectation, men may love sleep, and opiates, and every luxurious escape from humanity.

The step by which pleasure and pain are attached to ideas, so as to be predictable and to become factors in action, is therefore by no means irrevocable. It is a step, however, in the direction of reason; and though reason's path is only one of innumerable courses perhaps open to existence, it is the only one that we are tracing here; the only one, obviously, which human discourse is competent to trace.

[Sidenote: Animal living.]

When consciousness begins to add diversity to its intensity, its value is no longer absolute and inexpressible. The felt variations in its tone are attached to the observed movement of its objects; in these objects its values are imbedded. A world loaded with dramatic values may thus arise in imagination; terrible and delightful presences may chase one another across the void; life will be a kind of music made by all the senses together. Many animals probably have this form of experience; they are not wholly submerged in a vegetative stupor; they can discern what they love or fear. Yet all this is still a disordered apparition that reels itself off amid sporadic movements, efforts, and agonies. Now gorgeous, now exciting, now indifferent, the landscape brightens and fades with the day. If a dog, while sniffing about contentedly, sees afar off his master arriving after long absence, the change in the animal's feeling is not merely in the quantity of pure pleasure; a new circle of sensations appears, with a new principle governing interest and desire; instead of waywardness subjection, instead of freedom love. But the poor brute asks for no reason why his master went, why he has come again, why he should be loved, or why presently while lying at his feet you forget him and begin to grunt and dream of the chase—all that is an utter mystery, utterly unconsidered. Such experience has variety, scenery, and a certain vital rhythm; its story might be told in dithyrambic verse. It moves wholly by inspiration; every event is providential, every act unpremeditated. Absolute freedom and absolute helplessness have met together: you depend wholly on divine favour, yet that unfathomable agency is not distinguishable from your own life. This is the condition to which some forms of piety invite men to return; and it lies in truth not far beneath the level of ordinary human consciousness.

[Sidenote: Causes at last discerned.]

The story which such animal experience contains, however, needs only to be better articulated in order to disclose its underlying machinery. The figures even of that disordered drama have their exits and their entrances; and their cues can be gradually discovered by a being capable of fixing his attention and retaining the order of events. Thereupon a third step is made in imaginative experience. As pleasures and pains were formerly distributed among objects, so objects are now marshalled into a world. Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas, said a poet who stood near enough to fundamental human needs and to the great answer which art and civilisation can make to them, to value the Life of Reason and think it sublime. To discern causes is to turn vision into knowledge and motion into action. It is to fix the associates of things, so that their respective transformations are collated, and they become significant of one another. In proportion as such understanding advances each moment of experience becomes consequential and prophetic of the rest. The calm places in life are filled with power and its spasms with resource. No emotion can overwhelm the mind, for of none is the basis or issue wholly hidden; no event can disconcert it altogether, because it sees beyond. Means can be looked for to escape from the worst predicament; and whereas each moment had been formerly filled with nothing but its own adventure and surprised emotion, each now makes room for the lesson of what went before and surmises what may be the plot of the whole.

At the threshold of reason there is a kind of choice. Not all impressions contribute equally to the new growth; many, in fact, which were formerly equal in rank to the best, now grow obscure. Attention ignores them, in its haste to arrive at what is significant of something more. Nor are the principles of synthesis, by which the aristocratic few establish their oligarchy, themselves unequivocal. The first principles of logic are like the senses, few but arbitrary. They might have been quite different and yet produced, by a now unthinkable method, a language no less significant than the one we speak. Twenty-six letters may suffice for a language, but they are a wretched minority among all possible sounds. So the forms of perception and the categories of thought, which a grammarian's philosophy might think primordial necessities, are no less casual than words or their syntactical order. Why, we may ask, did these forms assert themselves here? What principles of selection guide mental growth?

[Sidenote: Attention guided by bodily impulse.]

To give a logical ground for such a selection is evidently impossible, since it is logic itself that is to be accounted for. A natural ground is, in strictness, also irrelevant, since natural connections, where thought has not reduced them to a sort of equivalence and necessity, are mere data and juxtapositions. Yet it is not necessary to leave the question altogether unanswered. By using our senses we may discover, not indeed why each sense has its specific quality or exists at all, but what are its organs and occasions. In like manner we may, by developing the Life of Reason, come to understand its conditions. When consciousness awakes the body has, as we long afterward discover, a definite organisation. Without guidance from reflection bodily processes have been going on, and most precise affinities and reactions have been set up between its organs and the surrounding objects.

On these affinities and reactions sense and intellect are grafted. The plants are of different nature, yet growing together they bear excellent fruit. It is as the organs receive appropriate stimulations that attention is riveted on definite sensations. It is as the system exercises its natural activities that passion, will, and meditation possess the mind. No syllogism is needed to persuade us to eat, no prophecy of happiness to teach us to love. On the contrary, the living organism, caught in the act, informs us how to reason and what to enjoy. The soul adopts the body's aims; from the body and from its instincts she draws a first hint of the right means to those accepted purposes. Thus reason enters into partnership with the world and begins to be respected there; which it would never be if it were not expressive of the same mechanical forces that are to preside over events and render them fortunate or unfortunate for human interests. Reason is significant in action only because it has begun by taking, so to speak, the body's side; that sympathetic bias enables her to distinguish events pertinent to the chosen interests, to compare impulse with satisfaction, and, by representing a new and circular current in the system, to preside over the formation of better habits, habits expressing more instincts at once and responding to more opportunities.



CHAPTER III—THE DISCOVERY OF NATURAL OBJECTS

[Sidenote: Nature man's home.]

At first sight it might seem an idle observation that the first task of intelligence is to represent the environing reality, a reality actually represented in the notion, universally prevalent among men, of a cosmos in space and time, an animated material engine called nature. In trying to conceive nature the mind lisps its first lesson; natural phenomena are the mother tongue of imagination no less than of science and practical life. Men and gods are not conceivable otherwise than as inhabitants of nature. Early experience knows no mystery which is not somehow rooted in transformations of the natural world, and fancy can build no hope which would not be expressible there. But we are grown so accustomed to this ancient apparition that we may be no longer aware how difficult was the task of conjuring it up. We may even have forgotten the possibility that such a vision should never have arisen at all. A brief excursion into that much abused subject, the psychology of perception, may here serve to remind us of the great work which the budding intellect must long ago have accomplished unawares.

[Sidenote: Difficulties in conceiving nature.]

Consider how the shocks out of which the notion of material things is to be built first strike home into the soul. Eye and hand, if we may neglect the other senses, transmit their successive impressions, all varying with the position of outer objects and with the other material conditions. A chaos of multitudinous impressions rains in from all sides at all hours. Nor have the external or cognitive senses an original primacy. The taste, the smell, the alarming sounds of things are continually distracting attention. There are infinite reverberations in memory of all former impressions, together with fresh fancies created in the brain, things at first in no wise subordinated to external objects. All these incongruous elements are mingled like a witches' brew. And more: there are indications that inner sensations, such as those of digestion, have an overpowering influence on the primitive mind, which has not learned to articulate or distinguish permanent needs. So that to the whirl of outer sensations we must add, to reach some notion of what consciousness may contain before the advent of reason, interruptions and lethargies caused by wholly blind internal feelings; trances such as fall even on comparatively articulate minds in rage, lust, or madness. Against all these bewildering forces the new-born reason has to struggle; and we need not wonder that the costly experiments and disillusions of the past have not yet produced a complete enlightenment.

[Sidenote: Transcendental qualms.]

The onslaught made in the last century by the transcendental philosophy upon empirical traditions is familiar to everybody: it seemed a pertinent attack, yet in the end proved quite trifling and unavailing. Thought, we are told rightly enough, cannot be accounted for by enumerating its conditions. A number of detached sensations, being each its own little world, cannot add themselves together nor conjoin themselves in the void. Again, experiences having an alleged common cause would not have, merely for that reason, a common object. Nor would a series of successive perceptions, no matter how quick, logically involve a sense of time nor a notion of succession. Yet, in point of fact, when such a succession occurs and a living brain is there to acquire some structural modification by virtue of its own passing states, a memory of that succession and its terms may often supervene. It is quite true also that the simultaneous presence or association of images belonging to different senses does not carry with it by intrinsic necessity any fusion of such images nor any notion of an object having them for its qualities. Yet, in point of fact, such a group of sensations does often merge into a complex image; instead of the elements originally perceptible in isolation, there arises a familiar term, a sort of personal presence. To this felt presence, certain instinctive reactions are attached, and the sensations that may be involved in that apparition, when each for any reason becomes emphatic, are referred to it as its qualities or its effects.

Such complications of course involve the gift of memory, with capacity to survey at once vestiges of many perceptions, to feel their implication and absorption in the present object, and to be carried, by this sense of relation, to the thought that those perceptions have a representative function. And this is a great step. It manifests the mind's powers. It illustrates those transformations of consciousness the principle of which, when abstracted, we call intelligence. We must accordingly proceed with caution, for we are digging at the very roots of reason.

[Sidenote: Thought an aspect of life and transitive]

The chief perplexity, however, which besets this subject and makes discussions of it so often end in a cloud, is quite artificial. Thought is not a mechanical calculus, where the elements and the method exhaust the fact. Thought is a form of life, and should be conceived on the analogy of nutrition, generation, and art. Reason, as Hume said with profound truth, is an unintelligible instinct. It could not be otherwise if reason is to remain something transitive and existential; for transition is unintelligible, and yet is the deepest characteristic of existence. Philosophers, however, having perceived that the function of thought is to fix static terms and reveal eternal relations, have inadvertently transferred to the living act what is true only of its ideal object; and they have expected to find in the process, treated psychologically, that luminous deductive clearness which belongs to the ideal world it tends to reveal. The intelligible, however, lies at the periphery of experience, the surd at its core; and intelligence is but one centrifugal ray darting from the slime to the stars. Thought must execute a metamorphosis; and while this is of course mysterious, it is one of those familiar mysteries, like motion and will, which are more natural than dialectical lucidity itself; for dialectic grows cogent by fulfilling intent, but intent or meaning is itself vital and inexplicable.

[Sidenote: Perception cumulative and synthetic]

The process of counting is perhaps as simple an instance as can be found of a mental operation on sensible data. The clock, let us say, strikes two: if the sensorium were perfectly elastic and after receiving the first blow reverted exactly to its previous state, retaining absolutely no trace of that momentary oscillation and no altered habit, then it is certain that a sense for number or a faculty of counting could never arise. The second stroke would be responded to with the same reaction which had met the first. There would be no summation of effects, no complication. However numerous the successive impressions might come to be, each would remain fresh and pure, the last being identical in character with the first. One, one, one, would be the monotonous response for ever. Just so generations of ephemeral insects that succeeded one another without transmitting experience might repeat the same round of impressions—an everlasting progression without a shadow of progress. Such, too, is the idiot's life: his liquid brain transmits every impulse without resistance and retains the record of no impression.

Intelligence is accordingly conditioned by a modification of both structure and consciousness by dint of past events. To be aware that a second stroke is not itself the first, I must retain something of the old sensation. The first must reverberate still in my ears when the second arrives, so that this second, coming into a consciousness still filled by the first, is a different experience from the first, which fell into a mind perfectly empty and unprepared. Now the newcomer finds in the subsisting One a sponsor to christen it by the name of Two. The first stroke was a simple 1. The second is not simply another 1, a mere iteration of the first. It is 1^{1}, where the coefficient represents the reverberating first stroke, still persisting in the mind, and forming a background and perspective against which the new stroke may be distinguished. The meaning of "two," then, is "this after that" or "this again," where we have a simultaneous sense of two things which have been separately perceived but are identified as similar in their nature. Repetition must cease to be pure repetition and become cumulative before it can give rise to the consciousness of repetition.

The first condition of counting, then, is that the sensorium should retain something of the first impression while it receives the second, or (to state the corresponding mental fact) that the second sensation should be felt together with a survival of the first from which it is distinguished in point of existence and with which it is identified in point of character.

[Sidenote: No identical agent needed.]

Now, to secure this, it is not enough that the sensorium should be materially continuous, or that a "spiritual substance" or a "transcendental ego" should persist in time to receive the second sensation after having received and registered the first. A perfectly elastic sensorium, a wholly unchanging soul, or a quite absolute ego might remain perfectly identical with itself through various experiences without collating them. It would then remain, in fact, more truly and literally identical than if it were modified somewhat by those successive shocks. Yet a sensorium or a spirit thus unchanged would be incapable of memory, unfit to connect a past perception with one present or to become aware of their relation. It is not identity in the substance impressed, but growing complication in the phenomenon presented, that makes possible a sense of diversity and relation between things. The identity of substance or spirit, if it were absolute, would indeed prevent comparison, because it would exclude modifications, and it is the survival of past modifications within the present that makes comparisons possible. We may impress any number of forms successively on the same water, and the identity of the substance will not help those forms to survive and accumulate their effects. But if we have a surface that retains our successive stampings we may change the substance from wax to plaster and from plaster to bronze, and the effects of our labour will survive and be superimposed upon one another. It is the actual plastic form in both mind and body, not any unchanging substance or agent, that is efficacious in perpetuating thought and gathering experience.

[Sidenote: Example of the sun.]

Were not Nature and all her parts such models of patience and pertinacity, they never would have succeeded in impressing their existence on something so volatile and irresponsible as thought is. A sensation needs to be violent, like the sun's blinding light, to arrest attention, and keep it taut, as it were, long enough for the system to acquire a respectful attitude, and grow predisposed to resume it. A repetition of that sensation will thereafter meet with a prepared response which we call recognition; the concomitants of the old experience will form themselves afresh about the new one and by their convergence give it a sort of welcome and interpretation. The movement, for instance, by which the face was raised toward the heavens was perhaps one element which added to the first sensation, brightness, a concomitant sensation, height; the brightness was not bright merely, but high. Now when the brightness reappears the face will more quickly be lifted up; the place where the brightness shone will be looked for; the brightness will have acquired a claim to be placed somewhere. The heat which at the same moment may have burned the forehead will also be expected and, when felt, projected into the brightness, which will now be hot as well as high. So with whatever other sensations time may associate with this group. They will all adhere to the original impression, enriching it with an individuality which will render it before long a familiar complex in experience, and one easy to recognise and to complete in idea.

[Sidenote: His primitive divinity.]

In the case of so vivid a thing as the sun's brightness many other sensations beside those out of which science draws the qualities attributed to that heavenly body adhere in the primitive mind to the phenomenon. Before he is a substance the sun is a god. He is beneficent and necessary no less than bright and high; he rises upon all happy opportunities and sets upon all terrors. He is divine, since all life and fruitfulness hang upon his miraculous revolutions. His coming and going are life and death to the world. As the sensations of light and heat are projected upward together to become attributes of his body, so the feelings of pleasure, safety, and hope which he brings into the soul are projected into his spirit; and to this spirit, more than to anything else, energy, independence, and substantiality are originally attributed. The emotions felt in his presence being the ultimate issue and term of his effect in us, the counterpart or shadow of those emotions is regarded as the first and deepest factor in his causality. It is his divine life, more than aught else, that underlies his apparitions and explains the influences which he propagates. The substance or independent existence attributed to objects is therefore by no means only or primarily a physical notion. What is conceived to support the physical qualities is a pseudo-psychic or vital force. It is a moral and living object that we construct, building it up out of all the materials, emotional, intellectual, and sensuous, which lie at hand in our consciousness to be synthesised into the hybrid reality which we are to fancy confronting us. To discriminate and redistribute those miscellaneous physical and psychical elements, and to divorce the god from the material sun, is a much later problem, arising at a different and more reflective stage in the Life of Reason.

[Sidenote: Causes and essences contrasted.]

When reflection, turning to the comprehension of a chaotic experience, busies itself about recurrences, when it seeks to normalise in some way things coming and going, and to straighten out the causes of events, that reflection is inevitably turned toward something dynamic and independent, and can have no successful issue except in mechanical science. When on the other hand reflection stops to challenge and question the fleeting object, not so much to prepare for its possible return as to conceive its present nature, this reflection is turned no less unmistakably in the direction of ideas, and will terminate in logic or the morphology of being. We attribute independence to things in order to normalise their recurrence. We attribute essences to them in order to normalise their manifestations or constitution. Independence will ultimately turn out to be an assumed constancy in material processes, essence an assumed constancy in ideal meanings or points of reference in discourse. The one marks the systematic distribution of objects, the other their settled character.

[Sidenote: Voracity of intellect.]

We talk of recurrent perceptions, but materially considered no perception recurs. Each recurrence is one of a finite series and holds for ever its place and number in that series. Yet human attention, while it can survey several simultaneous impressions and find them similar, cannot keep them distinct if they grow too numerous. The mind has a native bias and inveterate preference for form and identification. Water does not run down hill more persistently than attention turns experience into constant terms. The several repetitions of one essence given in consciousness will tend at once to be neglected, and only the essence itself—the character shared by those sundry perceptions—will stand and become a term in mental discourse. After a few strokes of the clock, the reiterated impressions merge and cover one another; we lose count and perceive the quality and rhythm but not the number of the sounds. If this is true of so abstract and mathematical a perception as is counting, how emphatically true must it be of continuous and infinitely varied perceptions flowing in from the whole spatial world. Glimpses of the environment follow one another in quick succession, like a regiment of soldiers in uniform; only now and then does the stream take a new turn, catch a new ray of sunlight, or arrest our attention at some break.

The senses in their natural play revert constantly to familiar objects, gaining impressions which differ but slightly from one another. These slight differences are submerged in apperception, so that sensation comes to be not so much an addition of new items to consciousness as a reburnishing there of some imbedded device. Its character and relations are only slightly modified at each fresh rejuvenation. To catch the passing phenomenon in all its novelty and idiosyncrasy is a work of artifice and curiosity. Such an exercise does violence to intellectual instinct and involves an aesthetic power of diving bodily into the stream of sensation, having thrown overboard all rational ballast and escaped at once the inertia and the momentum of practical life. Normally every datum of sense is at once devoured by a hungry intellect and digested for the sake of its vital juices. The result is that what ordinarily remains in memory is no representative of particular moments or shocks—though sensation, as in dreams, may be incidentally recreated from within—but rather a logical possession, a sense of acquaintance with a certain field of reality, in a word, a consciousness of knowledge.

[Sidenote: Can the transcendent be known?]

But what, we may ask, is this reality, which we boast to know? May not the sceptic justly contend that nothing is so unknown and indeed unknowable as this pretended object of knowledge? The sensations which reason treats so cavalierly were at least something actual while they lasted and made good their momentary claim to our interest; but what is this new ideal figment, unseizable yet ever present, invisible but indispensable, unknowable yet alone interesting or important? Strange that the only possible object or theme of our knowledge should be something we cannot know.

[Sidenote: Can the immediate be meant?]

An answer these doubts will perhaps appear if we ask ourselves what sort of contact with reality would satisfy us, and in what terms we expect or desire to possess the subject-matter of our thoughts. Is it simply corroboration that we look for? Is it a verification of truth in sense? It would be unreasonable, in that case, after all the evidence we demand has been gathered, to complain that the ideal term thus concurrently suggested, the super-sensible substance, reality, or independent object, does not itself descend into the arena of immediate sensuous presentation. Knowledge is not eating, and we cannot expect to devour and possess what we mean. Knowledge is recognition of something absent; it is a salutation, not an embrace. It is an advance on sensation precisely because it is representative. The terms or goals of thought have for their function to subtend long tracts of sensuous experience, to be ideal links between fact and fact, invisible wires behind the scenes, threads along which inference may run in making phenomena intelligible and controllable. An idea that should become an image would cease to be ideal; a principle that is to remain a principle can never become a fact. A God that you could see with the eyes of the body, a heaven you might climb into by a ladder planted at Bethel, would be parts of this created and interpretable world, not terms in its interpretation nor objects in a spiritual sphere. Now external objects are thought to be principles and sources of experience; they are accordingly conceived realities on an ideal plane. We may look for all the evidence we choose before we declare our inference to be warranted; but we must not ask for something more than evidence, nor expect to know realities without inferring them anew. They are revealed only to understanding. We cannot cease to think and still continue to know.

[Sidenote: Is thought a bridge from sensation to sensation?]

It may be said, however, that principles and external objects are interesting only because they symbolise further sensations, that thought is an expedient of finite minds, and that representation is a ghostly process which we crave to materialise into bodily possession. We may grow sick of inferring truth and long rather to become reality. Intelligence is after all no compulsory possession; and while some of us would gladly have more of it, others find that they already have too much. The tension of thought distresses them and to represent what they cannot and would not be is not a natural function of their spirit. To such minds experience that should merely corroborate ideas would prolong dissatisfaction. The ideas must be realised; they must pass into immediacy. If reality (a word employed generally in a eulogistic sense) is to mean this desired immediacy, no ideal of thought can be real. All intelligible objects and the whole universe of mental discourse would then be an unreal and conventional structure, impinging ultimately on sense from which it would derive its sole validity.

There would be no need of quarrelling with such a philosophy, were not its use of words rather misleading. Call experience in its existential and immediate aspect, if you will, the sole reality; that will not prevent reality from having an ideal dimension. The intellectual world will continue to give beauty, meaning, and scope to those bubbles of consciousness on which it is painted. Reality would not be, in that case, what thought aspires to reach. Consciousness is the least ideal of things when reason is taken out of it. Reality would then need thought to give it all those human values of which, in its substance, it would have been wholly deprived; and the ideal would still be what lent music to throbs and significance to being.

[Sidenote: Mens naturaliter platonica.]

The equivocation favoured by such language at once begins to appear. Is not thought with all its products a part of experience? Must not sense, if it be the only reality, be sentient sometimes of the ideal? What the site is to a city that is immediate experience to the universe of discourse. The latter is all held materially within the limits defined by the former; but if immediate experience be the seat of the moral world, the moral world is the only interesting possession of immediate experience. When a waste is built on, however, it is a violent paradox to call it still a waste; and an immediate experience that represents the rest of sentience, with all manner of ideal harmonies read into the whole in the act of representing it, is an immediate experience raised to its highest power: it is the Life of Reason. In vain, then, will a philosophy of intellectual abstention limit so Platonic a term as reality to the immediate aspect of existence, when it is the ideal aspect that endows existence with character and value, together with representative scope and a certain lien upon eternity.

More legitimate, therefore, would be the assertion that knowledge reaches reality when it touches its ideal goal. Reality is known when, as in mathematics, a stable and unequivocal object is developed by thinking. The locus or material embodiment of such a reality is no longer in view; these questions seem to the logician irrelevant. If necessary ideas find no illustration in sense, he deems the fact an argument against the importance and validity of sensation, not in the least a disproof of his ideal knowledge. If no site be found on earth for the Platonic city, its constitution is none the less recorded and enshrined in heaven; nor is that the only true ideal that has not where to lay its head. What in the sensualistic or mystical system was called reality will now be termed appearance, and what there figured as an imaginary construction borne by the conscious moment will now appear to be a prototype for all existence and an eternal standard for its estimation.

It is this rationalistic or Platonic system (little as most men may suspect the fact) that finds a first expression in ordinary perception. When you distinguish your sensations from their cause and laugh at the idealist (as this kind of sceptic is called) who says that chairs and tables exist only in your mind, you are treating a figment of reason as a deeper and truer thing than the moments of life whose blind experience that reason has come to illumine. What you call the evidence of sense is pure confidence in reason. You will not be so idiotic as to make no inferences from your sensations; you will not pin your faith so unimaginatively on momentary appearance as to deny that the world exists when you stop thinking about it. You feel that your intellect has wider scope and has discovered many a thing that goes on behind the scenes, many a secret that would escape a stupid and gaping observation. It is the fool that looks to look and stops at the barely visible: you not only look but see; for you understand.

[Sidenote: Identity and independence predicated of things.]

Now the practical burden of such understanding, if you take the trouble to analyse it, will turn out to be what the sceptic says it is: assurance of eventual sensations. But as these sensations, in memory and expectation, are numerous and indefinitely variable, you are not able to hold them clearly before the mind; indeed, the realisation of all the potentialities which you vaguely feel to lie in the future is a task absolutely beyond imagination. Yet your present impressions, dependent as they are on your chance attitude and disposition and on a thousand trivial accidents, are far from representing adequately all that might be discovered or that is actually known about the object before you. This object, then, to your apprehension, is not identical with any of the sensations that reveal it, nor is it exhausted by all these sensations when they are added together; yet it contains nothing assignable but what they might conceivably reveal. As it lies in your fancy, then, this object, the reality, is a complex and elusive entity, the sum at once and the residuum of all particular impressions which, underlying the present one, have bequeathed to it their surviving linkage in discourse and consequently endowed it with a large part of its present character. With this hybrid object, sensuous in its materials and ideal in its locus, each particular glimpse is compared, and is recognised to be but a glimpse, an aspect which the object presents to a particular observer. Here are two identifications. In the first place various sensations and felt relations, which cannot be kept distinct in the mind, fall together into one term of discourse, represented by a sign, a word, or a more or less complete sensuous image. In the second place the new perception is referred to that ideal entity of which it is now called a manifestation and effect.

Such are the primary relations of reality and appearance. A reality is a term of discourse based on a psychic complex of memories, associations, and expectations, but constituted in its ideal independence by the assertive energy of thought. An appearance is a passing sensation, recognised as belonging to that group of which the object itself is the ideal representative, and accordingly regarded as a manifestation of that object.

Thus the notion of an independent and permanent world is an ideal term used to mark and as it were to justify the cohesion in space and the recurrence in time of recognisable groups of sensations. This coherence and recurrence force the intellect, if it would master experience at all or understand anything, to frame the idea of such a reality. If we wish to defend the use of such an idea and prove to ourselves its necessity, all we need do is to point to that coherence and recurrence in external phenomena. That brave effort and flight of intelligence which in the beginning raised man to the conception of reality, enabling him to discount and interpret appearance, will, if we retain our trust in reason, raise us continually anew to that same idea, by a no less spontaneous and victorious movement of thought.



CHAPTER IV—ON SOME CRITICS OF THIS DISCOVERY

[Sidenote: Psychology as a solvent.]

The English psychologists who first disintegrated the idea of substance, and whose traces we have in general followed in the above account, did not study the question wholly for its own sake or in the spirit of a science that aims at nothing but a historical analysis of mind. They had a more or less malicious purpose behind their psychology. They thought that if they could once show how metaphysical ideas are made they would discredit those ideas and banish them for ever from the world. If they retained confidence in any notion—as Hobbes in body, Locke in matter and in God, Berkeley in spirits, and Kant, the inheritor of this malicious psychology, in the thing-in-itself and in heaven—it was merely by inadvertence or want of courage. The principle of their reasoning, where they chose to apply it, was always this, that ideas whose materials could all be accounted for in consciousness and referred to sense or to the operations of mind were thereby exhausted and deprived of further validity. Only the unaccountable, or rather the uncriticised, could be true. Consequently the advance of psychology meant, in this school, the retreat of reason; for as one notion after another was clarified and reduced to its elements it was ipso facto deprived of its function.

So far were these philosophers from conceiving that validity and truth are ideal relations, accruing to ideas by virtue of dialectic and use, that while on the one hand they pointed out vital affinities and pragmatic sanctions in the mind's economy they confessed on the other that the outcome of their philosophy was sceptical; for no idea could be found in the mind which was not a phenomenon there, and no inference could be drawn from these phenomena not based on some inherent "tendency to feign." The analysis which was in truth legitimising and purifying knowledge seemed to them absolutely to blast it, and the closer they came to the bed-rock of experience the more incapable they felt of building up anything upon it. Self-knowledge meant, they fancied, self-detection; the representative value of thought decreased as thought grew in scope and elaboration. It became impossible to be at once quite serious and quite intelligent; for to use reason was to indulge in subjective fiction, while conscientiously to abstain from using it was to sink back upon inarticulate and brutish instinct.

In Hume this sophistication was frankly avowed. Philosophy discredited itself; but a man of parts, who loved intellectual games even better than backgammon, might take a hand with the wits and historians of his day, until the clock struck twelve and the party was over. Even in Kant, though the mood was more cramped and earnest, the mystical sophistication was quite the same. Kant, too, imagined that the bottom had been knocked out of the world; that in comparison with some unutterable sort of truth empirical truth was falsehood, and that validity for all possible experience was weak validity, in comparison with validity of some other and unmentionable sort. Since space and time could not repel the accusation of being the necessary forms of perception, space and time were not to be much thought of; and when the sad truth was disclosed that causality and the categories were instruments by which the idea of nature had to be constructed, if such an idea was to exist at all, then nature and causality shrivelled up and were dishonoured together; so that, the soul's occupation being gone, she must needs appeal to some mysterious oracle, some abstract and irrelevant omen within the breast, and muster up all the stern courage of an accepted despair to carry her through this world of mathematical illusion into some green and infantile paradise beyond.

[Sidenote: Misconceived role of intelligence.]

What idea, we may well ask ourselves, did these modern philosophers entertain regarding the pretensions of ancient and mediaeval metaphysics? What understanding had they of the spirit in which the natural organs of reason had been exercised and developed in those schools? Frankly, very little; for they accepted from ancient philosophy and from common-sense the distinction between reality and appearance, but they forgot the function of that distinction and dislocated its meaning, which was nothing but to translate the chaos of perception into the regular play of stable natures and objects congenial to discursive thought and valid in the art of living. Philosophy had been the natural science of perception raised to the reflective plane, the objects maintaining themselves on this higher plane being styled realities, and those still floundering below it being called appearances or mere ideas. The function of envisaging reality, ever since Parmenides and Heraclitus, had been universally attributed to the intellect. When the moderns, therefore, proved anew that it was the mind that framed that idea, and that what we call reality, substance, nature, or God, can be reached only by an operation of reason, they made no very novel or damaging discovery.

Of course, it is possible to disregard the suggestions of reason in any particular case and it is quite possible to believe, for instance, that the hypothesis of an external material world is an erroneous one. But that this hypothesis is erroneous does not follow from the fact that it is a hypothesis. To discard it on that ground would be to discard all reasoned knowledge and to deny altogether the validity of thought. If intelligence is assumed to be an organ of cognition and a vehicle for truth, a given hypothesis about the causes of perception can only be discarded when a better hypothesis on the same subject has been supplied. To be better such a hypothesis would have to meet the multiplicity of phenomena and their mutations with a more intelligible scheme of comprehension and a more useful instrument of control.

[Sidenote: All criticism dogmatic.]

Scepticism is always possible while it is partial. It will remain the privilege and resource of a free mind that has elasticity enough to disintegrate its own formations and to approach its experience from a variety of sides and with more than a single method. But the method chosen must be coherent in itself and the point of view assumed must be adhered to during that survey; so that whatever reconstruction the novel view may produce in science will be science still, and will involve assumptions and dogmas which must challenge comparison with the dogmas and assumptions they would supplant. People speak of dogmatism as if it were a method to be altogether outgrown and something for which some non-assertive philosophy could furnish a substitute. But dogmatism is merely a matter of degree. Some thinkers and some systems retreat further than others into the stratum beneath current conventions and make us more conscious of the complex machinery which, working silently in the soul, makes possible all the rapid and facile operations of reason. The deeper this retrospective glance the less dogmatic the philosophy. A primordial constitution or tendency, however, must always remain, having structure and involving a definite life; for if we thought to reach some wholly vacant and indeterminate point of origin, we should have reached something wholly impotent and indifferent, a blank pregnant with nothing that we wished to explain or that actual experience presented. When, starting with the inevitable preformation and constitutional bias, we sought to build up a simpler and nobler edifice of thought, to be a palace and fortress rather than a prison for experience, our critical philosophy would still be dogmatic, since it would be built upon inexplicable but actual data by a process of inference underived but inevitable.

[Sidenote: A choice of hypotheses.]

No doubt Aristotle and the scholastics were often uncritical. They were too intent on building up and buttressing their system on the broad human or religious foundations which they had chosen for it. They nursed the comfortable conviction that whatever their thought contained was eternal and objective truth, a copy of the divine intellect or of the world's intelligible structure. A sceptic may easily deride that confidence of theirs; their system may have been their system and nothing more. But the way to proceed if we wish to turn our shrewd suspicions and our sense of insecurity into an articulate conviction and to prove that they erred, is to build another system, a more modest one, perhaps, which will grow more spontaneously and inevitably in the mind out of the data of experience. Obviously the rival and critical theory will make the same tacit claim as the other to absolute validity. If all our ideas and perceptions conspire to reinforce the new hypothesis, this will become inevitable and necessary to us. We shall then condemn the other hypothesis, not indeed for having been a hypothesis, which is the common fate of all rational and interpretative thought, but for having been a hypothesis artificial, misleading, and false; one not following necessarily nor intelligibly out of the facts, nor leading to a satisfactory reaction upon them, either in contemplation or in practice.

[Sidenote: Critics disguised enthusiasts.]

Now this is in truth exactly the conviction which those malicious psychologists secretly harboured. Their critical scruples and transcendental qualms covered a robust rebellion against being fooled by authority. They rose to abate abuses among which, as Hobbes said, "the frequency of insignificant speech is one." Their psychology was not merely a cathartic, but a gospel. Their young criticism was sent into the world to make straight the path of a new positivism, as now, in its old age, it is invoked to keep open the door to superstition. Some of those reformers, like Hobbes and Locke, had at heart the interests of a physical and political mechanism, which they wished to substitute for the cumbrous and irritating constraints of tradition. Their criticism stopped at the frontiers of their practical discontent; they did not care to ask how the belief in matter, space, motion, God, or whatever else still retained their allegiance, could withstand the kind of psychology which, as they conceived, had done away with individual essences and nominal powers. Berkeley, whose interests lay in a different quarter, used the same critical method in support of a different dogmatism; armed with the traditional pietistic theory of Providence he undertook with a light heart to demolish the whole edifice which reason and science had built upon spatial perception. He wished the lay intellect to revert to a pious idiocy in the presence of Nature, lest consideration of her history and laws should breed "mathematical atheists"; and the outer world being thus reduced to a sensuous dream and to the blur of immediate feeling, intelligence and practical faith would be more unremittingly employed upon Christian mythology. Men would be bound to it by a necessary allegiance, there being no longer any rival object left for serious or intelligent consideration.

The psychological analysis on which these partial or total negations were founded was in a general way admirable; the necessary artifices to which it had recourse in distinguishing simple and complex ideas, principles of association and inference, were nothing but premonitions of what a physiological psychology would do in referring the mental process to its organic and external supports; for experience has no other divisions than those it creates in itself by distinguishing its objects and its organs. Reference to external conditions, though seldom explicit in these writers, who imagined they could appeal to an introspection not revealing the external world, was pervasive in them; as, for instance, where Hume made his fundamental distinction between impressions and ideas, where the discrimination was based nominally on relative vividness and priority in time, but really on causation respectively by outer objects or by spontaneous processes in the brain.

[Sidenote: Hume's gratuitous scepticism.]

Hume it was who carried this psychological analysis to its goal, giving it greater simplicity and universal scope; and he had also the further advantage of not nursing any metaphysical changeling of his own to substitute for the legitimate offspring of human understanding. His curiosity was purer and his scepticism more impartial, so that he laid bare the natural habits and necessary fictions of thought with singular lucidity, and sufficient accuracy for general purposes. But the malice of a psychology intended as a weapon against superstition here recoils on science itself. Hume, like Berkeley, was extremely young, scarce five-and-twenty, when he wrote his most incisive work; he was not ready to propose in theory that test of ideas by their utility which in practice he and the whole English school have instinctively adopted. An ulterior test of validity would not have seemed to him satisfactory, for though inclined to rebellion and positivism he was still the pupil of that mythical philosophy which attributed the value of things to their origin rather than to their uses, because it had first, in its parabolic way, erected the highest good into a First Cause. Still breathing, in spite of himself, this atmosphere of materialised Platonism, Hume could not discover the true origin of anything without imagining that he had destroyed its value. A natural child meant for him an illegitimate one; his philosophy had not yet reached the wisdom of that French lady who asked if all children were not natural. The outcome of his psychology and criticism seemed accordingly to be an inhibition of reason; he was left free to choose between the distractions of backgammon and "sitting down in a forlorn scepticism."

In his first youth, while disintegrating reflection still overpowered the active interests of his mind, Hume seems to have had some moments of genuine suspense and doubt: but with years and prosperity the normal habits of inference which he had so acutely analysed asserted themselves in his own person and he yielded to the "tendency to feign" so far at least as to believe languidly in the histories he wrote, the compliments he received, and the succulent dinners he devoured. There is a kind of courtesy in scepticism. It would be an offence against polite conventions to press our doubts too far and question the permanence of our estates, our neighbours' independent existence, or even the justification of a good bishop's faith and income. Against metaphysicians, and even against bishops, sarcasm was not without its savour; but the line must be drawn somewhere by a gentleman and a man of the world. Hume found no obstacle in his speculations to the adoption of all necessary and useful conceptions in the sphere to which he limited his mature interests. That he never extended this liberty to believe into more speculative and comprehensive regions was due simply to a voluntary superficiality in his thought. Had he been interested in the rationality of things he would have laboured to discover it, as he laboured to discover that historical truth or that political utility to which his interests happened to attach.

[Sidenote: Kant's substitute for knowledge.]

Kant, like Berkeley, had a private mysticism in reserve to raise upon the ruins of science and common-sense. Knowledge was to be removed to make way for faith. This task is ambiguous, and the equivocation involved in it is perhaps the deepest of those confusions with which German metaphysics has since struggled, and which have made it waver between the deepest introspection and the dreariest mythology. To substitute faith for knowledge might mean to teach the intellect humility, to make it aware of its theoretic and transitive function as a faculty for hypothesis and rational fiction, building a bridge of methodical inferences and ideal unities between fact and fact, between endeavour and satisfaction. It might be to remind us, sprinkling over us, as it were, the Lenten ashes of an intellectual contrition, that our thoughts are air even as our bodies are dust, momentary vehicles and products of an immortal vitality in God and in nature, which fosters and illumines us for a moment before it lapses into other forms.

Had Kant proposed to humble and concentrate into a practical faith the same natural ideas which had previously been taken for absolute knowledge, his intention would have been innocent, his conclusions wise, and his analysis free from venom and arriere-pensee. Man, because of his finite and propulsive nature and because he is a pilgrim and a traveller throughout his life, is obliged to have faith: the absent, the hidden, the eventual, is the necessary object of his concern. But what else shall his faith rest in except in what the necessary forms of his perception present to him and what the indispensable categories of his understanding help him to conceive? What possible objects are there for faith except objects of a possible experience? What else should a practical and moral philosophy concern itself with, except the governance and betterment of the real world? It is surely by using his only possible forms of perception and his inevitable categories of understanding that man may yet learn, as he has partly learned already, to live and prosper in the universe. Had Kant's criticism amounted simply to such a confession of the tentative, practical, and hypothetical nature of human reason, it would have been wholly acceptable to the wise; and its appeal to faith would have been nothing but an expression of natural vitality and courage, just as its criticism of knowledge would have been nothing but a better acquaintance with self. This faith would have called the forces of impulse and passion to reason's support, not to its betrayal. Faith would have meant faith in the intellect, a faith naturally expressing man's practical and ideal nature, and the only faith yet sanctioned by its fruits.

[Sidenote: False subjectivity attributed to reason.]

Side by side with this reinstatement of reason, however, which was not absent from Kant's system in its critical phase and in its application to science, there lurked in his substitution of faith for knowledge another and sinister intention. He wished to blast as insignificant, because "subjective," the whole structure of human intelligence, with all the lessons of experience and all the triumphs of human skill, and to attach absolute validity instead to certain echoes of his rigoristic religious education. These notions were surely just as subjective, and far more local and transitory, than the common machinery of thought; and it was actually proclaimed to be an evidence of their sublimity that they remained entirely without practical sanction in the form of success or of happiness. The "categorical imperative" was a shadow of the ten commandments; the postulates of practical reason were the minimal tenets of the most abstract Protestantism. These fossils, found unaccountably imbedded in the old man's mind, he regarded as the evidences of an inward but supernatural revelation.

[Sidenote: Chimerical reconstruction.]

Only the quaint severity of Kant's education and character can make intelligible to us the restraint he exercised in making supernatural postulates. All he asserted was his inscrutable moral imperative and a God to reward with the pleasures of the next world those who had been Puritans in this. But the same principle could obviously be applied to other cherished imaginations: there is no superstition which it might not justify in the eyes of men accustomed to see in that superstition the sanction of their morality. For the "practical" proofs of freedom, immortality, and Providence—of which all evidence in reason or experience had previously been denied—exceed in perfunctory sophistry anything that can be imagined. Yet this lamentable epilogue was in truth the guiding thought of the whole investigation. Nature had been proved a figment of human imagination so that, once rid of all but a mock allegiance to her facts and laws, we might be free to invent any world we chose and believe it to be absolutely real and independent of our nature. Strange prepossession, that while part of human life and mind was to be an avenue to reality and to put men in relation to external and eternal things, the whole of human life and mind should not be able to do so! Conceptions rooted in the very elements of our being, in our senses, intellect, and imagination, which had shaped themselves through many generations under a constant fire of observation and disillusion, these were to be called subjective, not only in the sense in which all knowledge must obviously be so, since it is knowledge that someone possesses and has gained, but subjective in a disparaging sense, and in contrast to some better form of knowledge. But what better form of knowledge is this? If it be a knowledge of things as they really are and not as they appear, we must remember that reality means what the intellect infers from the data of sense; and yet the principles of such inference, by which the distinction between appearance and reality is first instituted, are precisely the principles now to be discarded as subjective and of merely empirical validity.

"Merely empirical" is a vicious phrase: what is other than empirical is less than empirical, and what is not relative to eventual experience is something given only in present fancy. The gods of genuine religion, for instance, are terms in a continual experience: the pure in heart may see God. If the better and less subjective principle be said to be the moral law, we must remember that the moral law which has practical importance and true dignity deals with facts and forces of the natural world, that it expresses interests and aspirations in which man's fate in time and space, with his pains, pleasures, and all other empirical feelings, is concerned. This was not the moral law to which Kant appealed, for this is a part of the warp and woof of nature. His moral law was a personal superstition, irrelevant to the impulse and need of the world. His notions of the supernatural were those of his sect and generation, and did not pass to his more influential disciples: what was transmitted was simply the contempt for sense and understanding and the practice, authorised by his modest example, of building air-castles in the great clearing which the Critique was supposed to have made.

It is noticeable in the series of philosophers from Hobbes to Kant that as the metaphysical residuum diminished the critical and psychological machinery increased in volume and value. In Hobbes and Locke, with the beginnings of empirical psychology, there is mixed an abstract materialism; in Berkeley, with an extension of analytic criticism, a popular and childlike theology, entirely without rational development; in Hume, with a completed survey of human habits of ideation, a withdrawal into practical conventions; and in Kant, with the conception of the creative understanding firmly grasped and elaborately worked out, a flight from the natural world altogether.

[Sidenote: The Critique a word on mental architecture.]

The Critique, in spite of some artificialities and pedantries in arrangement, presented a conception never before attained of the rich architecture of reason. It revealed the intricate organisation, comparable to that of the body, possessed by that fine web of intentions and counter-intentions whose pulsations are our thoughts. The dynamic logic of intelligence was laid bare, and the hierarchy of ideas, if not always correctly traced, was at least manifested in its principle. It was as great an enlargement of Hume's work as Hume's had been of Locke's or Locke's of Hobbes's. And the very fact that the metaphysical residuum practically disappeared—for the weak reconstruction in the second Critique may be dismissed as irrelevant—renders the work essentially valid, essentially a description of something real. It is therefore a great source of instruction and a good compendium or store-house for the problems of mind. But the work has been much overestimated. It is the product of a confused though laborious mind. It contains contradictions not merely incidental, such as any great novel work must retain (since no man can at once remodel his whole vocabulary and opinions) but contradictions absolutely fundamental and inexcusable, like that between the transcendental function of intellect and its limited authority, or that between the efficacy of things-in-themselves and their unknowability. Kant's assumptions and his conclusions, his superstitions and his wisdom, alternate without neutralising each other.

[Sidenote: Incoherences.]

That experience is a product of two factors is an assumption made by Kant. It rests on a psychological analogy, namely on the fact that organ and stimulus are both necessary to sensation. That experience is the substance or matter of nature, which is a construction in thought, is Kant's conclusion, based on intrinsic logical analysis. Here experience is evidently viewed as something uncaused and without conditions, being itself the source and condition of all thinkable objects. The relation between the transcendental function of experience and its empirical causes Kant never understood. The transcendentalism which—if we have it at all—must be fundamental, he made derivative; and the realism, which must then be derivative, he made absolute. Therefore his metaphysics remained fabulous and his idealism sceptical or malicious.

Ask what can be meant by "conditions of experience" and Kant's bewildering puzzle solves itself at the word. Condition, like cause, is a term that covers a confusion between dialectical and natural connections. The conditions of experience, in the dialectical sense, are the characteristics a thing must have to deserve the name of experience; in other words, its conditions are its nominal essence. If experience be used in a loose sense to mean any given fact or consciousness in general, the condition of experience is merely immediacy. If it be used, as it often is in empirical writers, for the shock of sense, its conditions are two: a sensitive organ and an object capable of stimulating it. If finally experience be given its highest and most pregnant import and mean a fund of knowledge gathered by living, the condition of experience is intelligence. Taking the word in this last sense, Kant showed in a confused but essentially conclusive fashion that only by the application of categories to immediate data could knowledge of an ordered universe arise; or, in other language, that knowledge is a vista, that it has a perspective, since it is the presence to a given thought of a diffused and articulated landscape. The categories are the principles of interpretation by which the flat datum acquires this perspective in thought and becomes representative of a whole system of successive or collateral existences.

The circumstance that experience, in the second sense, is a term reserved for what has certain natural conditions, namely, for the spark flying from the contact of stimulus and organ, led Kant to shift his point of view, and to talk half the time about conditions in the sense of natural causes or needful antecedents. Intelligence is not an antecedent of thought and knowledge but their character and logical energy. Synthesis is not a natural but only a dialectical condition of pregnant experience; it does not introduce such experience but constitutes it. Nevertheless, the whole skeleton and dialectical mould of experience came to figure, in Kant's mythology, as machinery behind the scenes, as a system of non-natural efficient forces, as a partner in a marriage the issue of which was human thought. The idea could thus suggest itself—favoured also by remembering inopportunely the actual psychological situation—that all experience, in every sense of the word, had supernatural antecedents, and that the dialectical conditions of experience, in the highest sense, were efficient conditions of experience in the lowest.

[Sidenote: Nature the true system of conditions.]

It is hardly necessary to observe that absolute experience can have no natural conditions. Existence in the abstract can have no cause; for every real condition would have to be a factor in absolute experience, and every cause would be something existent. Of course there is a modest and non-exhaustive experience—that is, any particular sensation, thought, or life—which it would be preposterous to deny was subject to natural conditions. Saint Lawrence's experience of being roasted, for instance, had conditions; some of them were the fire, the decree of the court, and his own stalwart Christianity. But these conditions are other parts or objects of conceivable experience which, as we have learned, fall into a system with the part we say they condition. In our groping and inferential thought one part may become a ground for expecting or supposing the other. Nature is then the sum total of its own conditions; the whole object, the parts observed plus the parts interpolated, is the self-existent fact. The mind, in its empirical flux, is a part of this complex; to say it is its own condition or that of the other objects is a grotesque falsehood. A babe's casual sensation of light is a condition neither of his own existence nor of his mother's. The true conditions are those other parts of the world without which, as we find by experience, sensations of light do not appear.

Had Kant been trained in a better school of philosophy he might have felt that the phrase "subjective conditions" is a contradiction in terms. When we find ourselves compelled to go behind the actual and imagine something antecedent or latent to pave the way for it, we are ipso facto conceiving the potential, that is, the "objective" world. All antecedents, by transcendental necessity, are therefore objective and all conditions natural. An imagined potentiality that holds together the episodes which are actual in consciousness is the very definition of an object or thing. Nature is the sum total of things potentially observable, some observed actually, others interpolated hypothetically; and common-sense is right as against Kant's subjectivism in regarding nature as the condition of mind and not mind as the condition of nature. This is not to say that experience and feeling are not the only given existence, from which the material part of nature, something essentially dynamic and potential, must be intelligently inferred. But are not "conditions" inferred? Are they not, in their deepest essence, potentialities and powers? Kant's fabled conditions also are inferred; but they are inferred illegitimately since the "subjective" ones are dialectical characters turned into antecedents, while the thing-in-itself is a natural object without a natural function. Experience alone being given, it is the ground from which its conditions are inferred: its conditions, therefore, are empirical. The secondary position of nature goes with the secondary position of all causes, objects, conditions, and ideals. To have made the conditions of experience metaphysical, and prior in the order of knowledge to experience itself, was simply a piece of surviving Platonism. The form was hypostasised into an agent, and mythical machinery was imagined to impress that form on whatever happened to have it.

All this was opposed to Kant's own discovery and to his critical doctrine which showed that the world (which is the complex of those conditions which experience assigns to itself as it develops and progresses in knowledge) is not before experience in the order of knowledge, but after it. His fundamental oversight and contradiction lay in not seeing that the concept of a set of conditions was the precise and exact concept of nature, which he consequently reduplicated, having one nature before experience and another after. The first thus became mythical and the second illusory: for the first, said to condition experience, was a set of verbal ghosts, while the second, which alone could be observed or discovered scientifically, was declared fictitious. The truth is that the single nature or set of conditions for experience which the intellect constructs is the object of our thoughts and perceptions ideally completed. This is neither mythical nor illusory. It is, strictly speaking, in its system and in many of its parts, hypothetical; but the hypothesis is absolutely safe. At whatever point we test it, we find the experience we expect, and the inferences thence made by the intellect are verified in sense at every moment of existence.

[Sidenote: Artificial pathos in subjectivism.]

The ambiguity in Kant's doctrine makes him a confusing representative of that criticism of perception which malicious psychology has to offer. When the mind has made its great discovery; when it has recognised independent objects, and thus taken a first step in its rational life, we need to know unequivocally whether this step is a false or a true one. If it be false, reason is itself misleading, since a hypothesis indispensable in the intellectual mastery of experience is a false hypothesis and the detail of experience has no substructure. Now Kant's answer was that the discovery of objects was a true and valid discovery in the field of experience; there were, scientifically speaking, causes for perception which could be inferred from perception by thought. But this inference was not true absolutely or metaphysically because there was a real world beyond possible experience, and there were oracles, not intellectual, by which knowledge of that unrealisable world might be obtained. This mysticism undid the intellectualism which characterised Kant's system in its scientific and empirical application; so that the justification for the use of such categories as that of cause and substance (categories by which the idea of reality is constituted) was invalidated by the counter-assertion that empirical reality was not true reality but, being an object reached by inferential thought, was merely an idea. Nor was the true reality appearance itself in its crude immediacy, as sceptics would think; it was a realm of objects present to a supposed intuitive thought, that is, to a non-inferential inference or non-discursive discourse.

So that while Kant insisted on the point, which hardly needed pressing, that it is mind that discovers empirical reality by making inferences from the data of sense, he admitted at the same time that such use of understanding is legitimate and even necessary, and that the idea of nature so framed his empirical truth. There remained, however, a sense that this empirical truth was somehow insufficient and illusory. Understanding was a superficial faculty, and we might by other and oracular methods arrive at a reality that was not empirical. Why any reality—such as God, for instance—should not be just as empirical as the other side of the moon, if experience suggested it and reason discovered it, or why, if not suggested by experience and discovered by reason, anything should be called a reality at all or should hold for a moment a man's waking attention—that is what Kant never tells us and never himself knew.

Clearer upon this question of perception is the position of Berkeley; we may therefore take him as a fair representative of those critics who seek to invalidate the discovery of material objects.

[Sidenote: Berkeley's algebra of perception.]

Our ideas, said Berkeley, were in our minds; the material world was patched together out of our ideas; it therefore existed only in our minds. To the suggestion that the idea of the external world is of course in our minds, but that our minds have constructed it by treating sensations as effects of a permanent substance distributed in a permanent space, he would reply that this means nothing, because "substance," "permanence," and "space" are non-existent ideas, i.e., they are not images in sense. They might, however, be "notions" like that of "spirit," which Berkeley ingenuously admitted into his system, to be, mysteriously enough, that which has ideas. Or they might be (what would do just as well for our purpose) that which he elsewhere called them, algebraic signs used to facilitate the operations of thought. This is, indeed, what they are, if we take the word algebraic in a loose enough sense. They are like algebraic signs in being, in respect of their object or signification, not concrete images but terms in a mental process, elements in a method of inference. Why, then, denounce them? They could be used with all confidence to lead us back to the concrete values for which they stood and to the relations which they enabled us to state and discover. Experience would thus be furnished with an intelligible structure and articulation, and a psychological analysis would be made of knowledge into its sensuous material and its ideal objects. What, then, was Berkeley's objection to these algebraic methods of inference and to the notions of space, matter, independent existence, and efficient causality which these methods involve?

[Sidenote: Horror of physics.]

What he abhorred was the belief that such methods of interpreting experience were ultimate and truly valid, and that by thinking after the fashion of "mathematical atheists" we could understand experience as well as it can be understood. If the flux of ideas had no other key to it than that system of associations and algebraic substitutions which is called the natural world we should indeed know just as well what to expect in practice and should receive the same education in perception and reflection; but what difference would there be between such an idealist and the most pestilential materialist, save his even greater wariness and scepticism? Berkeley at this time—long before days of "Siris" and tar-water—was too ignorant and hasty to understand how inane all spiritual or poetic ideals would be did they not express man's tragic dependence on nature and his congruous development in her bosom. He lived in an age when the study and dominion of external things no longer served directly spiritual uses. The middle-men had appeared, those spirits in whom the pursuit of the true and the practical never leads to possession of the good, but loses itself, like a river in sand, amid irrational habits and passions. He was accordingly repelled by whatever philosophy was in him, no less than by his religious prejudices, from submergence in external interests, and he could see no better way of vindicating the supremacy of moral goods than to deny the reality of matter, the finality of science, and the constructive powers of reason altogether. With honest English empiricism he saw that science had nothing absolute or sacrosanct about it, and rightly placed the value of theory in its humane uses; but the complementary truth escaped him altogether that only the free and contemplative expression of reason, of which science is a chief part, can render anything else humane, useful, or practical. He was accordingly a party man in philosophy, where partisanship is treason, and opposed the work of reason in the theoretical field, hoping thus to advance it in the moral.

[Sidenote: Puerility in morals.]

Of the moral field he had, it need hardly be added, a quite childish and perfunctory conception. There the prayer-book and the catechism could solve every problem. He lacked the feeling, possessed by all large and mature minds, that there would be no intelligibility or value in things divine were they not interpretations and sublimations of things natural. To master the real world was an ancient and not too promising ambition: it suited his youthful radicalism better to exorcise or to cajole it. He sought to refresh the world with a water-spout of idealism, as if to change the names of things could change their values. Away with all arid investigation, away with the cold algebra of sense and reason, and let us have instead a direct conversation with heaven, an unclouded vision of the purposes and goodness of God; as if there were any other way of understanding the sources of human happiness than to study the ways of nature and man.

Converse with God has been the life of many a wiser and sadder philosopher than Berkeley; but they, like Plato, for instance, or Spinoza, have made experience the subject as well as the language of that intercourse, and have thus given the divine revelation some degree of pertinence and articulation. Berkeley in his positive doctrine was satisfied with the vaguest generalities; he made no effort to find out how the consciousness that God is the direct author of our incidental perceptions is to help us to deal with them; what other insights and principles are to be substituted for those that disclose the economy of nature; how the moral difficulties incident to an absolute providentialism are to be met, or how the existence and influence of fellow-minds is to be defended. So that to a piety inspired by conventional theology and a psychology that refused to pass, except grudgingly and unintelligently, beyond the sensuous stratum, Berkeley had nothing to add by way of philosophy. An insignificant repetition of the truism that ideas are all "in the mind" constituted his total wisdom. To be was to be perceived. That was the great maxim by virtue of which we were asked, if not to refrain from conceiving nature at all, which was perhaps impossible at so late a stage in human development, at least to refrain from regarding our necessary thoughts on nature as true or rational. Intelligence was but a false method of imagination by which God trained us in action and thought; for it was apparently impossible to endow us with a true method that would serve that end. And what shall we think of the critical acumen or practical wisdom of a philosopher who dreamed of some other criterion of truth than necessary implication in thought and action?

[Sidenote: Truism and sophism.]

In the melodramatic fashion so common in what is called philosophy we may delight ourselves with such flashes of lightning as this: esse est percipi. The truth of this paradox lies in the fact that through perception alone can we get at being—a modest and familiar notion which makes, as Plato's "Theaetetus" shows, not a bad point of departure for a serious theory of knowledge. The sophistical intent of it, however, is to deny our right to make a distinction which in fact we do make and which the speaker himself is making as he utters the phrase; for he would not be so proud of himself if he thought he was thundering a tautology. If a thing were never perceived, or inferred from perception, we should indeed never know that it existed; but once perceived or inferred it may be more conducive to comprehension and practical competence to regard it as existing independently of our perception; and our ability to make this supposition is registered in the difference between the two words to be and to be perceived—words which are by no means synonymous but designate two very different relations of things in thought. Such idealism at one fell swoop, through a collapse of assertive intellect and a withdrawal of reason into self-consciousness, has the puzzling character of any clever pun, that suspends the fancy between two incompatible but irresistible meanings. The art of such sophistry is to choose for an axiom some ambiguous phrase which taken in one sense is a truism and taken in another is an absurdity; and then, by showing the truth of that truism, to give out that the absurdity has also been proved. It is a truism to say that I am the only seat or locus of my ideas, and that whatever I know is known by me; it is an absurdity to say that I am the only object of my thought and perception.

[Sidenote: Reality is the practical made intelligible.]

To confuse the instrument with its function and the operation with its meaning has been a persistent foible in modern philosophy. It could thus come about that the function of intelligence should be altogether misconceived and in consequence denied, when it was discovered that figments of reason could never become elements of sense but must always remain, as of course they should, ideal and regulative objects, and therefore objects to which a practical and energetic intellect will tend to give the name of realities. Matter is a reality to the practical intellect because it is a necessary and ideal term in the mastery of experience; while negligible sensations, like dreams, are called illusions by the same authority because, though actual enough while they last, they have no sustained function and no right to practical dominion.

Let us imagine Berkeley addressing himself to that infant or animal consciousness which first used the category of substance and passed from its perceptions to the notion of an independent thing. "Beware, my child," he would have said, "you are taking a dangerous step, one which may hereafter produce a multitude of mathematical atheists, not to speak of cloisterfuls of scholastic triflers. Your ideas can exist only in your mind; if you suffer yourself to imagine them materialised in mid-air and subsisting when you do not perceive them, you will commit a great impiety. If you unthinkingly believe that when you shut your eyes the world continues to exist until you open them again, you will inevitably be hurried into an infinity of metaphysical quibbles about the discrete and the continuous, and you will be so bewildered and deafened by perpetual controversies that the clear light of the gospel will be extinguished in your soul." "But," that tender Peripatetic might answer, "I cannot forget the things about me when I shut my eyes: I know and almost feel their persistent presence, and I always find them again, upon trial, just as they were before, or just in that condition to which the operation of natural causes would have brought them in my absence. If I believe they remain and suffer steady and imperceptible transformation, I know what to expect, and the event does not deceive me; but if I had to resolve upon action before knowing whether the conditions for action were to exist or no, I should never understand what sort of a world I lived in."

"Ah, my child," the good Bishop would reply, "you misunderstand me. You may indeed, nay, you must, live and think as if everything remained independently real. That is part of your education for heaven, which God in his goodness provides for you in this life. He will send into your soul at every moment the impressions needed to verify your necessary hypotheses and support your humble and prudent expectations. Only you must not attribute that constancy to the things themselves which is due to steadfastness in the designs of Providence. Think and act as if a material world existed, but do not for a moment believe it to exist."

[Sidenote: Vain "realities" and trustworthy "fictions."]

With this advice, coming reassuringly from the combined forces of scepticism and religion, we may leave the embryonic mind to its own devices, satisfied that even according to the most malicious psychologists its first step toward the comprehension of experience is one it may congratulate itself on having taken and which, for the present at least, it is not called upon to retrace. The Life of Reason is not concerned with speculation about unthinkable and gratuitous "realities"; it seeks merely to attain those conceptions which are necessary and appropriate to man in his acting and thinking. The first among these, underlying all arts and philosophies alike, is the indispensable conception of permanent external objects, forming in their congeries, shifts, and secret animation the system and life of nature.

NOTE—There is a larger question raised by Berkeley's arguments which I have not attempted to discuss here, namely, whether knowledge is possible at all, and whether any mental representation can be supposed to inform us about anything. Berkeley of course assumed this power in that he continued to believe in God, in other spirits, in the continuity of experience, and in its discoverable laws. His objection to material objects, therefore, could not consistently be that they are objects of knowledge rather than absolute feelings, exhausted by their momentary possession in consciousness. It could only be that they are unthinkable and invalid objects, in which the materials of sense are given a mode of existence inconsistent with their nature. But if the only criticism to which material objects were obnoxious were a dialectical criticism, such as that contained in Kant's antinomies, the royal road to idealism coveted by Berkeley would be blocked; to be an idea in the mind would not involve lack of cognitive and representative value in that idea. The fact that material objects were represented or conceived would not of itself prove that they could not have a real existence. It would be necessary, to prove their unreality, to study their nature and function and to compare them with such conceptions as those of Providence and a spirit-world in order to determine their relative validity. Such a critical comparison would have augured ill for Berkeley's prejudices; what its result might have been we can see in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. In order to escape such evil omens and prevent the collapse of his mystical paradoxes, Berkeley keeps in reserve a much more insidious weapon, the sceptical doubt as to the representative character of anything mental, the possible illusiveness of all knowledge. This doubt he invokes in all those turns of thought and phrase in which he suggests that if an idea is in the mind it cannot have its counterpart elsewhere, and that a given cognition exhausts and contains its object. There are, then, two separate maxims in his philosophy, one held consistently, viz., that nothing can be known which is different in character or nature from the object present to the thinking mind; the other, held incidentally and inconsistently, since it is destructive of all predication and knowledge, viz., that nothing can exist beyond the mind which is similar in nature or character to the "ideas" within it; or, to put the same thing in other words, that nothing can be revealed by an idea which is different from that idea in point of existence. The first maxim does not contradict the existence of external objects in space; the second contradicts every conception that the human mind can ever form, the most airy no less than the grossest. No idealist can go so far as to deny that his memory represents his past experience by inward similarity and conscious intention, or, if he prefers this language, that the moments or aspects of the divine mind represent one another and their general system. Else the idealist's philosophy itself would be an insignificant and momentary illusion.

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