CHAPTER V—NATURE UNIFIED AND MIND DISCERNED
[Sidenote: Man's feeble grasp of nature.]
When the mind has learned to distinguish external objects and to attribute to them a constant size, shape, and potency, in spite of the variety and intermittence ruling in direct experience, there yet remains a great work to do before attaining a clear, even if superficial, view of the world. An animal's customary habitat may have constant features and their relations in space may be learned by continuous exploration; but probably many other landscapes are also within the range of memory and fancy that stand in no visible relation to the place in which we find ourselves at a given moment. It is true that, at this day, we take it for granted that all real places, as we call them, lie in one space, in which they hold definite geometric relations to one another; and if we have glimpses of any region for which no room can be found in the single map of the universe which astronomy has drawn, we unhesitatingly relegate that region to the land of dreams. Since the Elysian Fields and the Coast of Bohemia have no assignable latitude and longitude, we call these places imaginary, even if in some dream we remember to have visited them and dwelt there with no less sense of reality than in this single and geometrical world of commerce. It belongs to sanity and common-sense, as men now possess them, to admit no countries unknown to geography and filling no part of the conventional space in three dimensions. All our waking experience is understood to go on in some part of this space, and no court of law would admit evidence relating to events in some other sphere.
This principle, axiomatic as it has become, is in no way primitive, since primitive experience is sporadic and introduces us to detached scenes separated by lapses in our senses and attention. These scenes do not hang together in any local contiguity. To construct a chart of the world is a difficult feat of synthetic imagination, not to be performed without speculative boldness and a heroic insensibility to the claims of fancy. Even now most people live without topographical ideas and have no clear conception of the spatial relations that keep together the world in which they move. They feel their daily way about like animals, following a habitual scent, without dominating the range of their instinctive wanderings. Reality is rather a story to them than a system of objects and forces, nor would they think themselves mad if at any time their experience should wander into a fourth dimension. Vague dramatic and moral laws, when they find any casual application, seem to such dreaming minds more notable truths, deeper revelations of efficacious reality, than the mechanical necessities of the case, which they scarcely conceive of; and in this primordial prejudice they are confirmed by superstitious affinities often surviving in their religion and philosophy. In the midst of cities and affairs they are like landsmen at sea, incapable of an intellectual conception of their position: nor have they any complete confidence in their principles of navigation. They know the logarithms by rote merely, and if they reflect are reduced to a stupid wonder and only half believe they are in a known universe or will ever reach an earthly port. It would not require superhuman eloquence in some prophetic passenger to persuade them to throw compass and quadrant overboard and steer enthusiastically for El Dorado. The theory of navigation is essentially as speculative as that of salvation, only it has survived more experiences of the judgment and repeatedly brought those who trust in it to their promised land.
[Sidenote: Its unity ideal and discoverable only by steady thought.]
The theory that all real objects and places lie together in one even and homogeneous space, conceived as similar in its constitution to the parts of extension of which we have immediate intuition, is a theory of the greatest practical importance and validity. By its light we carry on all our affairs, and the success of our action while we rely upon it is the best proof of its truth. The imaginative parsimony and discipline which such a theory involves are balanced by the immense extension and certitude it gives to knowledge. It is at once an act of allegiance to nature and a Magna Charta which mind imposes on the tyrannous world, which in turn pledges itself before the assembled faculties of man not to exceed its constitutional privilege and to harbour no magic monsters in unattainable lairs from which they might issue to disturb human labours. Yet that spontaneous intelligence which first enabled men to make this genial discovery and take so fundamental a step toward taming experience should not be laid by after this first victory; it is a weapon needed in many subsequent conflicts. To conceive that all nature makes one system is only a beginning: the articulation of natural life has still to be discovered in detail and, what is more, a similar articulation has to be given to the psychic world which now, by the very act that constitutes Nature and makes her consistent, appears at her side or rather in her bosom.
That the unification of nature is eventual and theoretical is a point useful to remember: else the relation of the natural world to poetry, metaphysics, and religion will never become intelligible. Lalande, or whoever it was, who searched the heavens with his telescope and could find no God, would not have found the human mind if he had searched the brain with a microscope. Yet God existed in man's apprehension long before mathematics or even, perhaps, before the vault of heaven; for the objectification of the whole mind, with its passions and motives, naturally precedes that abstraction by which the idea of a material world is drawn from the chaos of experience, an abstraction which culminates in such atomic and astronomical theories as science is now familiar with. The sense for life in things, be they small or great, is not derived from the abstract idea of their bodies but is an ancient concomitant to that idea, inseparable from it until it became abstract. Truth and materiality, mechanism and ideal interests, are collateral projections from one rolling experience, which shows up one aspect or the other as it develops various functions and dominates itself to various ends. When one ore is abstracted and purified, the residuum subsists in that primeval quarry in which it originally lay. The failure to find God among the stars, or even the attempt to find him there, does not indicate that human experience affords no avenue to the idea of God—for history proves the contrary—but indicates rather the atrophy in this particular man of the imaginative faculty by which his race had attained to that idea. Such an atrophy might indeed become general, and God would in that case disappear from human experience as music would disappear if universal deafness attacked the race. Such an event is made conceivable by the loss of allied imaginative habits, which is observable in historic times. Yet possible variations in human faculty do not involve the illegitimacy of such faculties as actually subsist; and the abstract world known to science, unless it dries up the ancient fountains of ideation by its habitual presence in thought, does not remove those parallel dramatisations or abstractions which experience may have suggested to men.
What enables men to perceive the unity of nature is the unification of their own wills. A man half-asleep, without fixed purposes, without intellectual keenness or joy in recognition, might graze about like an animal, forgetting each satisfaction in the next and banishing from his frivolous mind the memory of every sorrow; what had just failed to kill him would leave him as thoughtless and unconcerned as if it had never crossed his path. Such irrational elasticity and innocent improvidence would never put two and two together. Every morning there would be a new world with the same fool to live in it. But let some sobering passion, some serious interest, lend perspective to the mind, and a point of reference will immediately be given for protracted observation; then the laws of nature will begin to dawn upon thought. Every experiment will become a lesson, every event will be remembered as favourable or unfavourable to the master-passion. At first, indeed, this keen observation will probably be animistic and the laws discovered will be chiefly habits, human or divine, special favours or envious punishments and warnings. But the same constancy of aim which discovers the dramatic conflicts composing society, and tries to read nature in terms of passion, will, if it be long sustained, discover behind this glorious chaos a deeper mechanical order. Men's thoughts, like the weather, are not so arbitrary as they seem and the true master in observation, the man guided by a steadfast and superior purpose, will see them revolving about their centres in obedience to quite calculable instincts, and the principle of all their flutterings will not be hidden from his eyes. Belief in indeterminism is a sign of indetermination. No commanding or steady intellect flirts with so miserable a possibility, which in so far as it actually prevailed would make virtue impotent and experience, in its pregnant sense, impossible.
[Sidenote: Mind the erratic residue of existence.]
We have said that those objects which cannot be incorporated into the one space which the understanding envisages are relegated to another sphere called imagination. We reach here a most important corollary. As material objects, making a single system which fills space and evolves in time, are conceived by abstraction from the flux of sensuous experience, so, pari passu, the rest of experience, with all its other outgrowths and concretions, falls out with the physical world and forms the sphere of mind, the sphere of memory, fancy, and the passions. We have in this discrimination the genesis of mind, not of course in the transcendental sense in which the word mind is extended to mean the sum total and mere fact of existence—for mind, so taken, can have no origin and indeed no specific meaning—but the genesis of mind as a determinate form of being, a distinguishable part of the universe known to experience and discourse, the mind that unravels itself in meditation, inhabits animal bodies, and is studied in psychology.
Mind, in this proper sense of the word, is the residue of existence, the leavings, so to speak, and parings of experience when the material world has been cut out of the whole cloth. Reflection underlines in the chaotic continuum of sense and longing those aspects that have practical significance; it selects the efficacious ingredients in the world. The trustworthy object which is thus retained in thought, the complex of connected events, is nature, and though so intelligible an object is not soon nor vulgarly recognised, because human reflection is perturbed and halting, yet every forward step in scientific and practical knowledge is a step toward its clearer definition. At first much parasitic matter clings to that dynamic skeleton. Nature is drawn like a sponge heavy and dripping from the waters of sentience. It is soaked with inefficacious passions and overlaid with idle accretions. Nature, in a word, is at first conceived mythically, dramatically, and retains much of the unintelligible, sporadic habit of animal experience itself. But as attention awakes and discrimination, practically inspired, grows firm and stable, irrelevant qualities are stripped off, and the mechanical process, the efficacious infallible order, is clearly disclosed beneath. Meantime the incidental effects, the "secondary qualities," are relegated to a personal inconsequential region; they constitute the realm of appearance, the realm of mind.
[Sidenote: Ghostly character of mind.]
Mind is therefore sometimes identified with the unreal. We oppose, in an antithesis natural to thought and language, the imaginary to the true, fancy to fact, idea to thing. But this thing, fact, or external reality is, as we have seen, a completion and hypostasis of certain portions of experience, packed into such shapes as prove cogent in thought and practice. The stuff of external reality, the matter out of which its idea is made, is therefore continuous with the stuff and matter of our own minds. Their common substance is the immediate flux. This living worm has propagated by fission, and the two halves into which it has divided its life are mind and nature. Mind has kept and clarified the crude appearance, the dream, the purpose that seethed in the mass; nature has appropriated the order, the constant conditions, the causal substructure, disclosed in reflection, by which the immediate flux is explained and controlled. The chemistry of thought has precipitated these contrasted terms, each maintaining a recognisable identity and having the function of a point of reference for memory and will. Some of these terms or objects of thought we call things and marshal in all their ideal stability—for there is constancy in their motions and transformations—to make the intelligible external world of practice and science. Whatever stuff has not been absorbed in this construction, whatever facts of sensation, ideation, or will, do not coalesce with the newest conception of reality, we then call the mind.
Raw experience, then, lies at the basis of the idea of nature and approves its reality; while an equal reality belongs to the residue of experience, not taken up, as yet, into that idea. But this residual sensuous reality often seems comparatively unreal because what it presents is entirely without practical force apart from its mechanical associates. This inconsequential character of what remains over follows of itself from the concretion of whatever is constant and efficacious into the external world. If this fact is ever called in question, it is only because the external world is vaguely conceived, and loose wills and ideas are thought to govern it by magic. Yet in many ways falling short of absolute precision people recognise that thought is not dynamic or, as they call it, not real. The idea of the physical world is the first flower or thick cream of practical thinking. Being skimmed off first and proving so nutritious, it leaves the liquid below somewhat thin and unsavoury. Especially does this result appear when science is still unpruned and mythical, so that what passes into the idea of material nature is much more than the truly causal network of forces, and includes many spiritual and moral functions.
The material world, as conceived in the first instance, had not that clear abstractness, nor the spiritual world that wealth and interest, which they have acquired for modern minds. The complex reactions of man's soul had been objectified together with those visual and tactile sensations which, reduced to a mathematical baldness, now furnish terms to natural science. Mind then dwelt in the world, not only in the warmth and beauty with which it literally clothed material objects, as it still does in poetic perception, but in a literal animistic way; for human passion and reflection were attributed to every object and made a fairy-land of the world. Poetry and religion discerned life in those very places in which sense and understanding perceived body; and when so much of the burden of experience took wing into space, and the soul herself floated almost visibly among the forms of nature, it is no marvel that the poor remnant, a mass of merely personal troubles, an uninteresting distortion of things in individual minds, should have seemed a sad and unsubstantial accident. The inner world was all the more ghostly because the outer world was so much alive.
[Sidenote: Hypostasis and criticism both need control.]
This movement of thought, which clothed external objects in all the wealth of undeciphered dreams, has long lost its momentum and yielded to a contrary tendency. Just as the hypostasis of some terms in experience is sanctioned by reason, when the objects so fixed and externalised can serve as causes and explanations for the order of events, so the criticism which tends to retract that hypostasis is sanctioned by reason when the hypostasis has exceeded its function and the external object conceived is loaded with useless ornament. The transcendental and functional secret of such hypostases, however, is seldom appreciated by the headlong mind; so that the ebb no less than the flow of objectification goes on blindly and impulsively, and is carried to absurd extremes. An age of mythology yields to an age of subjectivity; reason being equally neglected and exceeded in both. The reaction against imagination has left the external world, as represented in many minds, stark and bare. All the interesting and vital qualities which matter had once been endowed with have been attributed instead to an irresponsible sensibility in man. And as habits of ideation change slowly and yield only piecemeal to criticism or to fresh intuitions, such a revolution has not been carried out consistently, but instead of a thorough renaming of things and a new organisation of thought it has produced chiefly distress and confusion. Some phases of this confusion may perhaps repay a moment's attention; they may enable us, when seen in their logical sequence, to understand somewhat better the hypostasising intellect that is trying to assert itself and come to the light through all these gropings.
[Sidenote: Comparative constancy in objects and in ideas]
What helps in the first place to disclose a permanent object is a permanent sensation. There is a vast and clear difference between a floating and a fixed feeling; the latter, in normal circumstances, is present only when continuous stimulation renews it at every moment. Attention may wander, but the objects in the environment do not cease to radiate their influences on the body, which is thereby not allowed to lose the modification which those influences provoke. The consequent perception is therefore always at hand and in its repetitions substantially identical. Perceptions not renewed in this way by continuous stimulation come and go with cerebral currents; they are rare visitors, instead of being, like external objects, members of the household. Intelligence is most at home in the ultimate, which is the object of intent. Those realities which it can trust and continually recover are its familiar and beloved companions. The mists that may originally have divided it from them, and which psychologists call the mind, are gladly forgotten so soon as intelligence avails to pierce them, and as friendly communication can be established with the real world. Moreover, perceptions not sustained by a constant external stimulus are apt to be greatly changed when they reappear, and to be changed unaccountably, whereas external things show some method and proportion in their variations. Even when not much changed in themselves, mere ideas fall into a new setting, whereas things, unless something else has intervened to move them, reappear in their old places. Finally things are acted upon by other men, but thoughts are hidden from them by divine miracle.
Existence reveals reality when the flux discloses something permanent that dominates it. What is thus dominated, though it is the primary existence itself, is thereby degraded to appearance. Perceptions caused by external objects are, as we have just seen, long sustained in comparison with thoughts and fancies; but the objects are themselves in flux and a man's relation to them may be even more variable; so that very often a memory or a sentiment will recur, almost unchanged in character, long after the perception that first aroused it has become impossible. The brain, though mobile, is subject to habit; its formations, while they lapse instantly, return again and again. These ideal objects may accordingly be in a way more real and enduring than things external. Hence no primitive mind puts all reality, or what is most real in reality, in an abstract material universe. It finds, rather, ideal points of reference by which material mutation itself seems to be controlled. An ideal world is recognised from the beginning and placed, not in the immediate foreground, nearer than material things, but much farther off. It has greater substantiality and independence than material objects are credited with. It is divine.
When agriculture, commerce, or manual crafts have given men some knowledge of nature, the world thus recognised and dominated is far from seeming ultimate. It is thought to lie between two others, both now often called mental, but in their original quality altogether disparate: the world of spiritual forces and that of sensuous appearance. The notions of permanence and independence by which material objects are conceived apply also, of course, to everything spiritual; and while the dominion exercised by spirits may be somewhat precarious, they are as remote as possible from immediacy and sensation. They come and go; they govern nature or, if they neglect to do so, it is from aversion or high indifference; they visit man with obsessions and diseases; they hasten to extricate him from difficulties; and they dwell in him, constituting his powers of conscience and invention. Sense, on the other hand, is a mere effect, either of body or spirit or of both in conjunction. It gives a vitiated personal view of these realities. Its pleasures are dangerous and unintelligent, and it perishes as it goes.
[Sidenote: Spirit and sense defined by their relation to nature.]
Such are, for primitive apperception, the three great realms of being: nature, sense, and spirit. Their frontiers, however, always remain uncertain. Sense, because it is insignificant when made an object, is long neglected by reflection. No attempt is made to describe its processes or ally them systematically to natural changes. Its illusions, when noticed, are regarded as scandals calculated to foster scepticism. The spiritual world is, on the other hand, a constant theme for poetry and speculation. In the absence of ideal science, it can be conceived only in myths, which are naturally as shifting and self-contradictory as they are persistent. They acquire no fixed character until, in dogmatic religion, they are defined with reference to natural events, foretold or reported. Nature is what first acquires a form and then imparts form to the other spheres. Sense admits definition and distribution only as an effect of nature and spirit only as its principle.
[Sidenote: Vague notions of nature involve vague notions of spirit.]
The form nature acquires is, however, itself vague and uncertain and can ill serve, for long ages, to define the other realms which depend on it for definition. Hence it has been common, for instance, to treat the spiritual as a remote or finer form of the natural. Beyond the moon everything seemed permanent; it was therefore called divine and declared to preside over the rest. The breath that escaped from the lips at death, since it took away with it the spiritual control and miraculous life that had quickened the flesh, was itself the spirit. On the other hand, natural processes have been persistently attributed to spiritual causes, for it was not matter that moved itself but intent that moved it. Thus spirit was barbarously taken for a natural substance and a natural force. It was identified with everything in which it was manifested, so long as no natural causes could be assigned for that operation.
[Sidenote: Sense and spirit the life of nature, which science redistributes but does not deny.]
If the unification of nature were complete sense would evidently fall within it; it is to subtend and sustain the sensible flux that intelligence acknowledges first stray material objects and then their general system. The elements of experience not taken up into the constitution of objects remain attached to them as their life. In the end the dynamic skeleton, without losing its articulation, would be clothed again with its flesh. Suppose my notions of astronomy allowed me to believe that the sun, sinking into the sea, was extinguished every evening, and that what appeared the next morning was his younger brother, hatched in a sun-producing nest to be found in the Eastern regions. My theory would have robbed yesterday's sun of its life and brightness; it would have asserted that during the night no sun existed anywhere; but it would have added the sun's qualities afresh to a matter that did not previously possess them, namely, to the imagined egg that would produce a sun for to-morrow. Suppose we substitute for that astronomy the one that now prevails: we have deprived the single sun—which now exists and spreads its influences without interruption—of its humanity and even of its metaphysical unity. It has become a congeries of chemical substances. The facts revealed to perception have partly changed their locus and been differently deployed throughout nature. Some have become attached to operations in the human brain. Nature has not thereby lost any quality she had ever manifested; these have merely been redistributed so as to secure a more systematic connection between them all. They are the materials of the system, which has been conceived by making existences continuous, whenever this extension of their being was needful to render their recurrences intelligible. Sense, which was formerly regarded as a sad distortion of its objects, now becomes an original and congruent part of nature, from which, as from any other part, the rest of nature might be scientifically inferred.
Spirit is not less closely attached to nature, although in a different manner. Taken existentially it is a part of sense; taken ideally it is the form or value which nature acquires when viewed from the vantage-ground of any interest. Individual objects are recognisable for a time not because the flux is materially arrested but because it somewhere circulates in a fashion which awakens an interest and brings different parts of the surrounding process into definable and prolonged relations with that interest. Particular objects may perish yet others may continue, like the series of suns imagined by Heraclitus, to perform the same office. The function will outlast the particular organ. That interest in reference to which the function is defined will essentially determine a perfect world of responsive extensions and conditions. These ideals will be a spiritual reality; and they will be expressed in nature in so far as nature supports that regulative interest. Many a perfect and eternal realm, merely potential in existence but definite in constitution, will thus subtend nature and be what a rational philosophy might call the ideal. What is called spirit would be the ideal in so far as it obtained expression in nature; and the power attributed to spirit would be the part of nature's fertility by which such expression was secured.
CHAPTER VI—DISCOVERY OF FELLOW-MINDS
[Sidenote: Another background for current experience may be found in alien minds.]
When a ghostly sphere, containing memory and all ideas, has been distinguished from the material world, it tends to grow at the expense of the latter, until nature is finally reduced to a mathematical skeleton. This skeleton itself, but for the need of a bridge to connect calculably episode with episode in experience, might be transferred to mind and identified with the scientific thought in which it is represented. But a scientific theory inhabiting a few scattered moments of life cannot connect those episodes among which it is itself the last and the least substantial; nor would such a notion have occurred even to the most reckless sceptic, had the world not possessed another sort of reputed reality—the minds of others—which could serve, even after the supposed extinction of the physical world, to constitute an independent order and to absorb the potentialities of being when immediate consciousness nodded. But other men's minds, being themselves precarious and ineffectual, would never have seemed a possible substitute for nature, to be in her stead the background and intelligible object of experience. Something constant, omnipresent, infinitely fertile is needed to support and connect the given chaos. Just these properties, however, are actually attributed to one of the minds supposed to confront the thinker, namely, the mind of God. The divine mind has therefore always constituted in philosophy either the alternative to nature or her other name: it is par excellence the seat of all potentiality and, as Spinoza said, the refuge of all ignorance.
Speculative problems would be greatly clarified, and what is genuine in them would be more easily distinguished from what is artificial, if we could gather together again the original sources for the belief in separate minds and compare these sources with those we have already assigned to the conception of nature. But speculative problems are not alone concerned, for in all social life we envisage fellow-creatures conceived to share the same thoughts and passions and to be similarly affected by events. What is the basis of this conviction? What are the forms it takes, and in what sense is it a part or an expression of reason?
This question is difficult, and in broaching it we cannot expect much aid from what philosophers have hitherto said on the subject. For the most part, indeed, they have said nothing, as by nature's kindly disposition most questions which it is beyond a man's power to answer do not occur to him at all. The suggestions which have actually been made in the matter may be reduced to two: first, that we conceive other men's minds by projecting into their bodies those feelings which we immediately perceive to accompany similar operations in ourselves, that is, we infer alien minds by analogy; and second, that we are immediately aware of them and feel them to be friendly or hostile counterparts of our own thinking and effort, that is, we evoke them by dramatic imagination.
[Sidenote: Two usual accounts of this conception criticised:]
[Sidenote: analogy between bodies,]
The first suggestion has the advantage that it escapes solipsism by a reasonable argument, provided the existence of the material world has already been granted. But if the material world is called back into the private mind, it is evident that every soul supposed to inhabit it or to be expressed in it must follow it thither, as inevitably as the characters and forces in an imagined story must remain with it in the inventor's imagination. When, on the contrary, nature is left standing, it is reasonable to suppose that animals having a similar origin and similar physical powers should have similar minds, if any of them was to have a mind at all. The theory, however, is not satisfactory on other grounds. We do not in reality associate our own grimaces with the feelings that accompany them and subsequently, on recognising similar grimaces in another, proceed to attribute emotions to him like those we formerly experienced. Our own grimaces are not easily perceived, and other men's actions often reveal passions which we have never had, at least with anything like their suggested colouring and intensity. This first view is strangely artificial and mistakes for the natural origin of the belief in question what may be perhaps its ultimate test.
[Sidenote: and dramatic dialogue in the soul.]
The second suggestion, on the other in hand, takes us into a mystic region. That we evoke the felt souls of our fellows by dramatic imagination is doubtless true; but this does not explain how we come to do so, under what stimulus and in what circumstances. Nor does it avoid solipsism; for the felt counterparts of my own will are echoes within me, while if other minds actually exist they cannot have for their essence to play a game with me in my own fancy. Such society would be mythical, and while the sense for society may well be mythical in its origin, it must acquire some other character if it is to have practical and moral validity. But practical and moral validity is above all what society seems to have. This second theory, therefore, while its feeling for psychological reality is keener, does not make the recognition of other minds intelligible and leaves our faith in them without justification.
[Sidenote: Subject and object empirical, not transcendental, terms.]
In approaching the subject afresh we should do well to remember that crude experience knows nothing of the distinction between subject and object. This distinction is a division in things, a contrast established between masses of images which show different characteristics in their modes of existence and relation. If this truth is overlooked, if subject and object are made conditions of experience instead of being, like body and mind, its contrasted parts, the revenge of fate is quick and ironical; either subject or object must immediately collapse and evaporate altogether. All objects must become modifications of the subject or all subjects aspects or fragments of the object.
[Sidenote: Objects originally soaked in secondary and tertiary qualities.]
Now the fact that crude experience is innocent of modern philosophy has this important consequence: that for crude experience all data whatever lie originally side by side in the same field; extension is passionate, desire moves bodies, thought broods in space and is constituted by a visible metamorphosis of its subject matter. Animism or mythology is therefore no artifice. Passions naturally reside in the object they agitate—our own body, if that be the felt seat of some pang, the stars, if the pang can find no nearer resting-place. Only a long and still unfinished education has taught men to separate emotions from things and ideas from their objects. This education was needed because crude experience is a chaos, and the qualities it jumbles together do not march together in time. Reflection must accordingly separate them, if knowledge (that is, ideas with eventual application and practical transcendence) is to exist at all. In other words, action must be adjusted to certain elements of experience and not to others, and those chiefly regarded must have a certain interpretation put upon them by trained apperception. The rest must be treated as moonshine and taken no account of except perhaps in idle and poetic revery. In this way crude experience grows reasonable and appearance becomes knowledge of reality.
The fundamental reason, then, why we attribute consciousness to natural bodies is that those bodies, before they are conceived to be merely material, are conceived to possess all the qualities which our own consciousness possesses when we behold them. Such a supposition is far from being a paradox, since only this principle justifies us to this day in believing in whatever we may decide to believe in. The qualities attributed to reality must be qualities found in experience, and if we deny their presence in ourselves (e.g., in the case of omniscience), that is only because the idea of self, like that of matter, has already become special and the region of ideals (in which omniscience lies) has been formed into a third sphere. But before the idea of self is well constituted and before the category of ideals has been conceived at all, every ingredient ultimately assigned to those two regions is attracted into the perceptual vortex for which such qualities as pressure and motion supply a nucleus. The moving image is therefore impregnated not only with secondary qualities—colour, heat, etc.—but with qualities which we may call tertiary, such as pain, fear, joy, malice, feebleness, expectancy. Sometimes these tertiary qualities are attributed to the object in their fulness and just as they are felt. Thus the sun is not only bright and warm in the same way as he is round, but by the same right he is also happy, arrogant, ever-young, and all-seeing; for a suggestion of these tertiary qualities runs through us when we look at him, just as immediately as do his warmth and light. The fact that these imaginative suggestions are not constant does not impede the instant perception that they are actual, and for crude experience whatever a thing possesses in appearance it possesses indeed, no matter how soon that quality may be lost again. The moment when things have most numerous and best defined tertiary qualities is accordingly, for crude experience, the moment when they are most adequately manifested and when their inner essence is best revealed; for it is then that they appear in experience most splendidly arrayed and best equipped for their eventual functions. The sun is a better expression of all his ulterior effects when he is conceived to be an arrogant and all-seeing spirit than when he is stupidly felt to be merely hot; so that the attentive and devout observer, to whom those tertiary qualities are revealed, stands in the same relation to an ordinary sensualist, who can feel only the sun's material attributes, as the sensualist in turn stands in to one born blind, who cannot add the sun's brightness to its warmth except by faith in some happier man's reported intuition. The mythologist or poet, before science exists, is accordingly the man of truest and most adequate vision. His persuasion that he knows the heart and soul of things is no fancy reached by artificial inference or analogy but is a direct report of his own experience and honest contemplation.
[Sidenote: Tertiary qualities transposed.]
More often, however, tertiary qualities are somewhat transposed in projection, as sound in being lodged in the bell is soon translated into sonority, made, that is, into its own potentiality. In the same way painfulness is translated into malice or wickedness, terror into hate, and every felt tertiary quality into whatever tertiary quality is in experience its more quiescent or potential form. So religion, which remains for the most part on the level of crude experience, attributes to the gods not only happiness—the object's direct tertiary quality—but goodness—its tertiary quality transposed and made potential; for goodness is that disposition which is fruitful in happiness throughout imagined experience. The devil, in like manner, is cruel and wicked as well as tormented. Uncritical science still attributes these transposed tertiary qualities to nature; the mythical notion of force, for instance, being a transposed sensation of effort. In this case we may distinguish two stages or degrees in the transposition: first, before we think of our own pulling, we say the object itself pulls; in the first transposition we say it pulls against us, its pull is the counterpart or rival of ours but it is still conceived in the same direct terms of effort; and in the second transposition this intermittent effort is made potential or slumbering in what we call strength or force.
[Sidenote: Imputed mind consists of the tertiary qualities of perceived body.]
It is obvious that the feelings attributed to other men are nothing but the tertiary qualities of their bodies. In beings of the same species, however, these qualities are naturally exceedingly numerous, variable, and precise. Nature has made man man's constant study. His thought, from infancy to the drawing up of his last will and testament, is busy about his neighbour. A smile makes a child happy; a caress, a moment's sympathetic attention, wins a heart and gives the friend's presence a voluminous and poignant value. In youth all seems lost in losing a friend. For the tertiary values, the emotions attached to a given image, the moral effluence emanating from it, pervade the whole present world. The sense of union, though momentary, is the same that later returns to the lover or the mystic, when he feels he has plucked the heart of life's mystery and penetrated to the peaceful centre of things. What the mystic beholds in his ecstasy and loses in his moments of dryness, what the lover pursues and adores, what the child cries for when left alone, is much more a spirit, a person, a haunting mind, than a set of visual sensations; yet the visual sensations are connected inextricably with that spirit, else the spirit would not withdraw when the sensations failed. We are not dealing with an articulate mind whose possessions are discriminated and distributed into a mastered world where everything has its department, its special relations, its limited importance; we are dealing with a mind all pulp, all confusion, keenly sensitive to passing influences and reacting on them massively and without reserve.
This mind is feeble, passionate, and ignorant. Its sense for present spirit is no miracle of intelligence or of analogical reasoning; on the contrary, it betrays a vagueness natural to rudimentary consciousness. Those visual sensations suddenly cut off cannot there be recognised for what they are. The consequences which their present disappearance may have for subsequent experience are in no wise foreseen or estimated, much less are any inexperienced feelings invented and attached to that retreating figure, otherwise a mere puppet. What happens is that by the loss of an absorbing stimulus the whole chaotic mind is thrown out of gear; the child cries, the lover faints, the mystic feels hell opening before him. All this is a present sensuous commotion, a derangement in an actual dream. Yet just at this lowest plunge of experience, in this drunkenness of the soul, does the overwhelming reality and externality of the other mind dawn upon us. Then we feel that we are surrounded not by a blue sky or an earth known to geographers but by unutterable and most personal hatreds and loves. For then we allow the half-deciphered images of sense to drag behind them every emotion they have awakened. We endow each overmastering stimulus with all its diffuse effects; and any dramatic potentiality that our dream acts out under that high pressure—and crude experience is rich in dreams—becomes our notion of the life going on before us. We cannot regard it as our own life, because it is not felt to be a passion in our own body, but attaches itself rather to images we see moving about in the world; it is consequently, without hesitation, called the life of those images, or those creatures' souls.
[Sidenote: "Pathetic fallacy" normal yet ordinarily fallacious.]
The pathetic fallacy is accordingly what originally peoples the imagined world. All the feelings aroused by perceived things are merged in those things and made to figure as the spiritual and invisible part of their essence, a part, moreover, quite as well known and as directly perceived as their motions. To ask why such feelings are objectified would be to betray a wholly sophisticated view of experience and its articulation. They do not need to be objectified, seeing they were objective from the beginning, inasmuch as they pertain to objects and have never, any more than those objects, been "subjectified" or localised in the thinker's body, nor included in that train of images which as a whole is known to have in that body its seat and thermometer. The thermometer for these passions is, on the contrary, the body of another; and the little dream in us, the quick dramatic suggestion which goes with our perception of his motions, is our perception of his thoughts.
A sense for alien thought is accordingly at its inception a complete illusion. The thought is one's own, it is associated with an image moving in space, and is uncritically supposed to be a hidden part of that image, a metaphysical signification attached to its motion and actually existing behind the scenes in the form of an unheard soliloquy. A complete illusion this sense remains in mythology, in animism, in the poetic forms of love and religion. A better mastery of experience will in such cases dispel those hasty conceits by showing the fundamental divergence which at once manifests itself between the course of phenomena and the feelings associated with them. It will appear beyond question that those feelings were private fancies merged with observation in an undigested experience. They indicated nothing in the object but its power of arousing emotional and playful reverberations in the mind. Criticism will tend to clear the world of such poetic distortion; and what vestiges of it may linger will be avowed fables, metaphors employed merely in conventional expression. In the end even poetic power will forsake a discredited falsehood: the poet himself will soon prefer to describe nature in natural terms and to represent human emotions in their pathetic humility, not extended beyond their actual sphere nor fantastically uprooted from their necessary soil and occasions. He will sing the power of nature over the soul, the joys of the soul in the bosom of nature, the beauty visible in things, and the steady march of natural processes, so rich in momentous incidents and collocations. The precision of such a picture will accentuate its majesty, as precision does in the poems of Lucretius and Dante, while its pathos and dramatic interest will be redoubled by its truth.
[Sidenote: Case where it is not a fallacy.]
A primary habit producing widespread illusions may in certain cases become the source of rational knowledge. This possibility will surprise no one who has studied nature and life to any purpose. Nature and life are tentative in all their processes, so that there is nothing exceptional in the fact that, since in crude experience image and emotion are inevitably regarded as constituting a single event, this habit should usually lead to childish absurdities, but also, under special circumstances, to rational insight and morality. There is evidently one case in which the pathetic fallacy is not fallacious, the case in which the object observed happens to be an animal similar to the observer and similarly affected, as for instance when a flock or herd are swayed by panic fear. The emotion which each, as he runs, attributes to the others is, as usual, the emotion he feels himself; but this emotion, fear, is the same which in fact the others are then feeling. Their aspect thus becomes the recognised expression for the feeling which really accompanies it. So in hand-to-hand fighting: the intention and passion which each imputes to the other is what he himself feels; but the imputation is probably just, since pugnacity is a remarkably contagious and monotonous passion. It is awakened by the slightest hostile suggestion and is greatly intensified by example and emulation; those we fight against and those we fight with arouse it concurrently and the universal battle-cry that fills the air, and that each man instinctively emits, is an adequate and exact symbol for what is passing in all their souls.
Whenever, then, feeling is attributed to an animal similar to the percipient and similarly employed the attribution is mutual and correct. Contagion and imitation are great causes of feeling, but in so far as they are its causes and set the pathetic fallacy to work they forestall and correct what is fallacious in that fallacy and turn it into a vehicle of true and, as it were, miraculous insight.
[Sidenote: Knowledge succeeds only by accident.]
Let the reader meditate for a moment upon the following point: to know reality is, in a way, an impossible pretension, because knowledge means significant representation, discourse about an existence not contained in the knowing thought, and different in duration or locus from the ideas which represent it. But if knowledge does not possess its object how can it intend it? And if knowledge possesses its object, how can it be knowledge or have any practical, prophetic, or retrospective value? Consciousness is not knowledge unless it indicates or signifies what actually it is not. This transcendence is what gives knowledge its cognitive and useful essence, its transitive function and validity. In knowledge, therefore, there must be some such thing as a justified illusion, an irrational pretension by chance fulfilled, a chance shot hitting the mark. For dead logic would stick at solipsism; yet irrational life, as it stumbles along from moment to moment, and multiplies itself in a thousand centres, is somehow amenable to logic and finds uses for the reason it breeds.
Now, in the relation of a natural being to similar beings in the same habitat there is just the occasion we require for introducing a miraculous transcendence in knowledge, a leap out of solipsism which, though not prompted by reason, will find in reason a continual justification. For tertiary qualities are imputed to objects by psychological or pathological necessity. Something not visible in the object, something not possibly revealed by any future examination of that object, is thus united with it, felt to be its core, its metaphysical truth. Tertiary qualities are emotions or thoughts present in the observer and in his rudimentary consciousness not yet connected with their proper concomitants and antecedents, not yet relegated to his private mind, nor explained by his personal endowment and situation. To take these private feelings for the substance of other beings is evidently a gross blunder; yet this blunder, without ceasing to be one in point of method, ceases to be one in point of fact when the other being happens to be similar in nature and situation to the mythologist himself and therefore actually possesses the very emotions and thoughts which lie in the mythologist's bosom and are attributed by him to his fellow. Thus an imaginary self-transcendence, a rash pretension to grasp an independent reality and to know the unknowable, may find itself accidentally rewarded. Imagination will have drawn a prize in its lottery and the pathological accidents of thought will have begotten knowledge and right reason. The inner and unattainable core of other beings will have been revealed to private intuition.
[Sidenote: Limits of insight]
This miracle of insight, as it must seem to those who have not understood its natural and accidental origin, extends only so far as does the analogy between the object and the instrument of perception. The gift of intuition fails in proportion as the observer's bodily habit differs from the habit and body observed. Misunderstanding begins with constitutional divergence and deteriorates rapidly into false imputations and absurd myths. The limits of mutual understanding coincide with the limits of similar structure and common occupation, so that the distortion of insight begins very near home. It is hard to understand the minds of children unless we retain unusual plasticity and capacity to play; men and women do not really understand each other, what rules between them being not so much sympathy as habitual trust, idealisation, or satire; foreigners' minds are pure enigmas, and those attributed to animals are a grotesque compound of AEsop and physiology. When we come to religion the ineptitude of all the feelings attributed to nature or the gods is so egregious that a sober critic can look to such fables only for a pathetic expression of human sentiment and need; while, even apart from the gods, each religion itself is quite unintelligible to infidels who have never followed its worship sympathetically or learned by contagion the human meaning of its sanctions and formulas. Hence the stupidity and want of insight commonly shown in what calls itself the history of religions. We hear, for instance, that Greek religion was frivolous, because its mystic awe and momentous practical and poetic truths escape the Christian historian accustomed to a catechism and a religious morality; and similarly Catholic piety seems to the Protestant an aesthetic indulgence, a religion appealing to sense, because such is the only emotion its externals can awaken in him, unused as he is to a supernatural economy reaching down into the incidents and affections of daily life.
Language is an artificial means of establishing unanimity and transferring thought from one mind to another. Every symbol or phrase, like every gesture, throws the observer into an attitude to which a certain idea corresponded in the speaker; to fall exactly into the speaker's attitude is exactly to understand. Every impediment to contagion and imitation in expression is an impediment to comprehension. For this reason language, like all art, becomes pale with years; words and figures of speech lose their contagious and suggestive power; the feeling they once expressed can no longer be restored by their repetition. Even the most inspired verse, which boasts not without a relative justification to be immortal, becomes in the course of ages a scarcely legible hieroglyphic; the language it was written in dies, a learned education and an imaginative effort are requisite to catch even a vestige of its original force. Nothing is so irrevocable as mind.
Unsure the ebb and flood of thought, The moon comes back, the spirit not.
[Sidenote: Perception of character]
There is, however, a wholly different and far more positive method of reading the mind, or what in a metaphorical sense is called by that name. This method is to read character. Any object with which we are familiar teaches us to divine its habits; slight indications, which we should be at a loss to enumerate separately, betray what changes are going on and what promptings are simmering in the organism. Hence the expression of a face or figure; hence the traces of habit and passion visible in a man and that indescribable something about him which inspires confidence or mistrust. The gift of reading character is partly instinctive, partly a result of experience; it may amount to foresight and is directed not upon consciousness but upon past or eventual action. Habits and passions, however, have metaphorical psychic names, names indicating dispositions rather than particular acts (a disposition being mythically represented as a sort of wakeful and haunting genius waiting to whisper suggestions in a man's ear). We may accordingly delude ourselves into imagining that a pose or a manner which really indicates habit indicates feeling instead. In truth the feeling involved, if conceived at all, is conceived most vaguely, and is only a sort of reverberation or penumbra surrounding the pictured activities.
[Sidenote: Conduct divined, consciousness ignored.]
It is a mark of the connoisseur to be able to read character and habit and to divine at a glance all a creature's potentialities. This sort of penetration characterises the man with an eye for horse-flesh, the dog-fancier, and men and women of the world. It guides the born leader in the judgments he instinctively passes on his subordinates and enemies; it distinguishes every good judge of human affairs or of natural phenomena, who is quick to detect small but telling indications of events past or brewing. As the weather-prophet reads the heavens so the man of experience reads other men. Nothing concerns him less than their consciousness; he can allow that to run itself off when he is sure of their temper and habits. A great master of affairs is usually unsympathetic. His observation is not in the least dramatic or dreamful, he does not yield himself to animal contagion or re-enact other people's inward experience. He is too busy for that, and too intent on his own purposes. His observation, on the contrary, is straight calculation and inference, and it sometimes reaches truths about people's character and destiny which they themselves are very far from divining. Such apprehension is masterful and odious to weaklings, who think they know themselves because they indulge in copious soliloquy (which is the discourse of brutes and madmen), but who really know nothing of their own capacity, situation, or fate.
If Rousseau, for instance, after writing those Confessions in which candour and ignorance of self are equally conspicuous, had heard some intelligent friend, like Hume, draw up in a few words an account of their author's true and contemptible character, he would have been loud in protestations that no such ignoble characteristics existed in his eloquent consciousness; and they might not have existed there, because his consciousness was a histrionic thing, and as imperfect an expression of his own nature as of man's. When the mind is irrational no practical purpose is served by stopping to understand it, because such a mind is irrelevant to practice, and the principles that guide the man's practice can be as well understood by eliminating his mind altogether. So a wise governor ignores his subjects' religion or concerns himself only with its economic and temperamental aspects; if the real forces that control life are understood, the symbols that represent those forces in the mind may be disregarded. But such a government, like that of the British in India, is more practical than sympathetic. While wise men may endure it for the sake of their material interests, they will never love it for itself. There is nothing sweeter than to be sympathised with, while nothing requires a rarer intellectual heroism than willingness to see one's equation written out.
[Sidenote: Consciousness untrustworthy.]
Nevertheless this same algebraic sense for character plays a large part in human friendship. A chief element in friendship is trust, and trust is not to be acquired by reproducing consciousness but only by penetrating to the constitutional instincts which, in determining action and habit, determine consciousness as well. Fidelity is not a property of ideas. It is a virtue possessed pre-eminently by nature, from the animals to the seasons and the stars. But fidelity gives friendship its deepest sanctity, and the respect we have for a man, for his force, ability, constancy, and dignity, is no sentiment evoked by his floating thoughts but an assurance founded on our own observation that his conduct and character are to be counted upon. Smartness and vivacity, much emotion and many conceits, are obstacles both to fidelity and to merit. There is a high worth in rightly constituted natures independent of incidental consciousness. It consists in that ingrained virtue which under given circumstances would insure the noblest action and with that action, of course, the noblest sentiments and ideas; ideas which would arise spontaneously and would make more account of their objects than of themselves.
[Sidenote: Metaphorical mind.]
The expression of habit in psychic metaphors is a procedure known also to theology. Whenever natural or moral law is declared to reveal the divine mind, this mind is a set of formal or ethical principles rather than an imagined consciousness, re-enacted dramatically. What is conceived is the god's operation, not his emotions. In this way God's goodness becomes a symbol for the advantages of life, his wrath a symbol for its dangers, his commandments a symbol for its laws. The deity spoken of by the Stoics had exclusively this symbolic character; it could be called a city—dear City of Zeus—as readily as an intelligence. And that intelligence which ancient and ingenuous philosophers said they saw in the world was always intelligence in this algebraic sense, it was intelligible order. Nor did the Hebrew prophets, in their emphatic political philosophy, seem to mean much more by Jehovah than a moral order, a principle giving vice and virtue their appropriate fruits.
True society, then, is limited to similar beings living similar lives and enabled by the contagion of their common habits and arts to attribute to one another, each out of his own experience, what the other actually endures. A fresh thought may be communicated to one who has never had it before, but only when the speaker so dominates the auditor's mind by the instrumentalities he brings to bear upon it that he compels that mind to reproduce his experience. Analogy between actions and bodies is accordingly the only test of valid inference regarding the existence or character of conceived minds; but this eventual test is far from being the source of such a conception. Its source is not inference at all but direct emotion and the pathetic fallacy. In the beginning, as in the end, what is attributed to others is something directly felt, a dream dreamed through and dramatically enacted, but uncritically attributed to the object by whose motions it is suggested and controlled. In a single case, however, tertiary qualities happen to correspond to an experience actually animating the object to which they are assigned. This is the case in which the object is a body similar in structure and action to the percipient himself, who assigns to that body a passion he has caught by contagion from it and by imitation of its actual attitude. Such are the conditions of intelligible expression and true communion; beyond these limits nothing is possible save myth and metaphor, or the algebraic designation of observed habits under the name of moral dispositions.
CHAPTER VII—CONCRETIONS IN DISCOURSE AND IN EXISTENCE
[Sidenote: So-called abstract qualities primary.]
Ideas of material objects ordinarily absorb the human mind, and their prevalence has led to the rash supposition that ideas of all other kinds are posterior to physical ideas and drawn from the latter by a process of abstraction. The table, people said, was a particular and single reality; its colour, form, and material were parts of its integral nature, qualities which might be attended to separately, perhaps, but which actually existed only in the table itself. Colour, form, and material were therefore abstract elements. They might come before the mind separately and be contrasted objects of attention, but they were incapable of existing in nature except together, in the concrete reality called a particular thing. Moreover, as the same colour, shape, or substance might be found in various tables, these abstract qualities were thought to be general qualities as well; they were universal terms which might be predicated of many individual things. A contrast could then be drawn between these qualities or ideas, which the mind may envisage, and the concrete reality existing beyond. Thus philosophy could reach the familiar maxim of Aristotle that the particular alone exists in nature and the general alone in the mind.
[Sidenote: General qualities prior to particular things.]
Such language expresses correctly enough a secondary conventional stage of conception, but it ignores the primary fictions on which convention itself must rest. Individual physical objects must be discovered before abstractions can be made from their conceived nature; the bird must be caught before it is plucked. To discover a physical object is to pack in the same part of space, and fuse in one complex body, primary data like coloured form and tangible surface. Intelligence, observing these sensible qualities to evolve together, and to be controlled at once by external forces, or by one's own voluntary motions, identifies them in their operation although they remain for ever distinct in their sensible character. A physical object is accordingly conceived by fusing or interlacing spatial qualities, in a manner helpful to practical intelligence. It is a far higher and remoter thing than the elements it is compacted of and that suggest it; what habits of appearance and disappearance the latter may have, the object reduces to permanent and calculable principles. It is altogether erroneous, therefore, to view an object's sensible qualities as abstractions from it, seeing they are its original and component elements; nor can the sensible qualities be viewed as generic notions arising by comparison of several concrete objects, seeing that these concretions would never have been made or thought to be permanent, did they not express observed variations and recurrences in the sensible qualities immediately perceived and already recognised in their recurrence. These are themselves the true particulars. They are the first objects discriminated in attention and projected against the background of consciousness.
The immediate continuum may be traversed and mapped by two different methods. The prior one, because it is so very primitive and rudimentary, and so much a condition of all mental discourse, is usually ignored in psychology. The secondary method, by which external things are discovered, has received more attention. The latter consists in the fact that when several disparate sensations, having become recognisable in their repetitions, are observed to come and go together, or in fixed relation to some voluntary operation on the observer's part, they may be associated by contiguity and merged in one portion of perceived space. Those having, like sensations of touch and sight, an essentially spatial character, may easily be superposed; the surface I see and that I touch may be identified by being presented together and being found to undergo simultaneous variations and to maintain common relations to other perceptions. Thus I may come to attribute to a single object, the term of an intellectual synthesis and ideal intention, my experiences through all the senses within a certain field of association, defined by its practical relations. That ideal object is thereby endowed with as many qualities and powers as I had associable sensations of which to make it up. This object is a concretion of my perceptions in space, so that the redness, hardness, sweetness, and roundness of the apple are all fused together in my practical regard and given one local habitation and one name.
[Sidenote: Universals are concretions in discourse.]
This kind of synthesis, this superposition and mixture of images into notions of physical objects, is not, however, the only kind to which perceptions are subject. They fall together by virtue of their qualitative identity even before their spatial superposition; for in order to be known as repeatedly simultaneous, and associable by contiguity, they must be associated by similarity and known as individually repeated. The various recurrences of a sensation must be recognised as recurrences, and this implies the collection of sensations into classes of similars and the apperception of a common nature in several data. Now the more frequent a perception is the harder it will be to discriminate in memory its past occurrences from one another, and yet the more readily will its present recurrence be recognised as familiar. The perception in sense will consequently be received as a repetition not of any single earlier sensation but of a familiar and generic experience. This experience, a spontaneous reconstruction based on all previous sensations of that kind, will be the one habitual idea with which recurring sensations will be henceforth identified. Such a living concretion of similars succeeding one another in time, is the idea of a nature or quality, the universal falsely supposed to be an abstraction from physical objects, which in truth are conceived by putting together these very ideas into a spatial and permanent system.
Here we have, if I am not mistaken, the origin of the two terms most prominent in human knowledge, ideas and things. Two methods of conception divide our attention in common life; science and philosophy develop both, although often with an unjustifiable bias in favour of one or the other. They are nothing but the old principles of Aristotelian psychology, association by similarity and association by contiguity. Only now, after logicians have exhausted their ingenuity in criticising them and psychologists in applying them, we may go back of the traditional position and apply the ancient principles at a deeper stage of mental life.
[Sidenote: Similar reactions, merged in one habit of reproduction, yield an idea.]
Association by similarity is a fusion of impressions merging what is common in them, interchanging what is peculiar, and cancelling in the end what is incompatible; so that any excitement reaching that centre revives one generic reaction which yields the idea. These concrete generalities are actual feelings, the first terms in mental discourse, the first distinguishable particulars in knowledge, and the first bearers of names. Intellectual dominion of the conscious stream begins with the act of recognising these pervasive entities, which having character and ideal permanence can furnish common points of reference for different moments of discourse. Save for ideas no perception could have significance, or acquire that indicative force which we call knowledge. For it would refer to nothing to which another perception might also have referred; and so long as perceptions have no common reference, so long as successive moments do not enrich by their contributions the same object of thought, evidently experience, in the pregnant sense of the word, is impossible. No fund of valid ideas, no wisdom, could in that case be acquired by living.
[Sidenote: Ideas are ideal.]
Ideas, although their material is of course sensuous, are not sensations nor perceptions nor objects of any possible immediate experience: they are creatures of intelligence, goals of thought, ideal terms which cogitation and action circle about. As the centre of mass is a body, while it may by chance coincide with one or another of its atoms, is no atom itself and no material constituent of the bulk that obeys its motion, so an idea, the centre of mass of a certain mental system, is no material fragment of that system, but an ideal term of reference and signification by allegiance to which the details of consciousness first become parts of a system and of a thought. An idea is an ideal. It represents a functional relation in the diffuse existences to which it gives a name and a rational value. An idea is an expression of life, and shares with life that transitive and elusive nature which defies definition by mere enumeration of its materials. The peculiarity of life is that it lives; and thought also, when living, passes out of itself and directs itself on the ideal, on the eventual. It is an activity. Activity does not consist in velocity of change but in constancy of purpose; in the conspiracy of many moments and many processes toward one ideal harmony and one concomitant ideal result. The most rudimentary apperception, recognition, or expectation, is already a case of representative cognition, of transitive thought resting in a permanent essence. Memory is an obvious case of the same thing; for the past, in its truth, is a system of experiences in relation, a system now non-existent and never, as a system, itself experienced, yet confronted in retrospect and made the ideal object and standard for all historical thinking.
[Sidenote: So-called abstractions complete facts.]
These arrested and recognisable ideas, concretions of similars succeeding one another in time, are not abstractions; but they may come to be regarded as such after the other kind of concretions in experience, concretions of superposed perceptions in space, have become the leading objects of attention. The sensuous material for both concretions is the same; the perception which, recurring in different objects otherwise not retained in memory gives the idea of roundness, is the same perception which helps to constitute the spatial concretion called the sun. Roundness may therefore be carelessly called an abstraction from the real object "sun"; whereas the peculiar optical and muscular feelings by which the sense of roundness is constituted—probably feelings of gyration and perpetual unbroken movement—are much earlier than any solar observations; they are a self-sufficing element in experience which, by repetition in various accidental contests, has come to be recognised and named, and to be a characteristic by virtue of which more complex objects can be distinguished and defined. The idea of the sun is a much later product, and the real sun is so far from being an original datum from which roundness is abstracted, that it is an ulterior and quite ideal construction, a spatial concretion into which the logical concretion roundness enters as a prior and independent factor. Roundness may be felt in the dark, by a mere suggestion of motion, and is a complete experience in itself. When this recognisable experience happens to be associated by contiguity with other recognisable experiences of heat, light, height, and yellowness, and these various independent objects are projected into the same portion of a real space; then a concretion occurs, and these ideas being recognised in that region and finding a momentary embodiment there, become the qualities of a thing.
A conceived thing is doubly a product of mind, more a product of mind, if you will, than an idea, since ideas arise, so to speak, by the mind's inertia and conceptions of things by its activity.
[Sidenote: Things concretions of concretions.]
Ideas are mental sediment; conceived things are mental growths. A concretion in discourse occurs by repetition and mere emphasis on a datum, but a concretion in existence requires a synthesis of disparate elements and relations. An idea is nothing but a sensation apperceived and rendered cognitive, so that it envisages its own recognised character as its object and ideal: yellowness is only some sensation of yellow raised to the cognitive power and employed as the symbol for its own specific essence. It is consequently capable of entering as a term into rational discourse and of becoming the subject or predicate of propositions eternally valid. A thing, on the contrary, is discovered only when the order and grouping of such recurring essences can be observed, and when various themes and strains of experience are woven together into elaborate progressive harmonies. When consciousness first becomes cognitive it frames ideas; but when it becomes cognitive of causes, that is, when it becomes practical, it perceives things.
[Sidenote: Ideas prior in the order of knowledge, things in the order of nature.]
Concretions of qualities recurrent in time and concretions of qualities associated in existence are alike involved in daily life and inextricably ingrown into the structure of reason. In consciousness and for logic, association by similarity, with its aggregations and identifications of recurrences in time, is fundamental rather than association by contiguity and its existential syntheses; for recognition identifies similars perceived in succession, and without recognition of similars there could be no known persistence of phenomena. But physiologically and for the observer association by contiguity comes first. All instinct—without which there would be no fixity or recurrence in ideation—makes movement follow impression in an immediate way which for consciousness becomes a mere juxtaposition of sensations, a juxtaposition which it can neither explain nor avoid. Yet this juxtaposition, in which pleasure, pain, and striving are prominent factors, is the chief stimulus to attention and spreads before the mind that moving and variegated field in which it learns to make its first observations. Facts—the burdens of successive moments—are all associated by contiguity, from the first facts of perception and passion to the last facts of fate and conscience. We undergo events, we grow into character, by the subterraneous working of irrational forces that make their incalculable irruptions into life none the less wonderfully in the revelations of a man's heart to himself than in the cataclysms of the world around him. Nature's placid procedure, to which we yield so willingly in times of prosperity, is a concatenation of states which can only be understood when it is made its own standard and law. A sort of philosophy without wisdom may seek to subjugate this natural life, this blind budding of existence, to some logical or moral necessity; but this very attempt remains, perhaps, the most striking monument to that irrational fatality that rules affairs, a monument which reason itself is compelled to raise with unsuspected irony.
[Sidenote: Aristotle's compromise.]
Reliance on external perception, constant appeals to concrete fact and physical sanctions, have always led the mass of reasonable men to magnify concretions in existence and belittle concretions in discourse. They are too clever, as they feel, to mistake words for things. The most authoritative thinker on this subject, because the most mature, Aristotle himself, taught that things had reality, individuality, independence, and were the outer cause of perception, while general ideas, products of association by similarity, existed only in the mind. The public, pleased at its ability to understand this doctrine and overlooking the more incisive part of the philosopher's teaching, could go home comforted and believing that material things were primary and perfect entities, while ideas were only abstractions, effects those realities produced on our incapable minds. Aristotle, however, had a juster view of general concepts and made in the end the whole material universe gravitate around them and feel their influence, though in a metaphysical and magic fashion to which a more advanced natural science need no longer appeal. While in the shock of life man was always coming upon the accidental, in the quiet of reflection he could not but recast everything in ideal moulds and retain nothing but eternal natures and intelligible relations. Aristotle conceived that while the origin of knowledge lay in the impact of matter upon sense its goal was the comprehension of essences, and that while man was involved by his animal nature in the accidents of experience he was also by virtue of his rationality a participator in eternal truth. A substantial justice was thus done both to the conditions and to the functions of human life, although, for want of a natural history inspired by mechanical ideas, this dualism remained somewhat baffling and incomprehensible in its basis. Aristotle, being a true philosopher and pupil of experience, preferred incoherence to partiality.
[Sidenote: Empirical bias in favour of contiguity.]
Active life and the philosophy that borrows its concepts from practice has thus laid a great emphasis on association by contiguity. Hobbes and Locke made knowledge of this kind the only knowledge of reality, while recognising it to be quite empirical, tentative, and problematical. It was a kind of acquaintance with fact that increased with years and brought the mind into harmony with something initially alien to it. Besides this practical knowledge or prudence there was a sort of verbal and merely ideal knowledge, a knowledge of the meaning and relation of abstract terms. In mathematics and logic we might carry out long trains of abstracted thought and analyse and develop our imaginations ad infinitum. These speculations, however, were in the air or—what for these philosophers is much the same thing—in the mind; their applicability and their relevance to practical life and to objects given in perception remained quite problematical. A self-developing science, a synthetic science a priori, had a value entirely hypothetical and provisional; its practical truth depended on the verification of its results in some eventual sensible experience. Association was invoked to explain the adjustment of ideation to the order of external perception. Association, by which association by contiguity was generally understood, thus became the battle-cry of empiricism; if association by similarity had been equally in mind, the philosophy of pregnant reason could also have adopted the principle for its own. But logicians and mathematicians naturally neglect the psychology of their own processes and, accustomed as they are to an irresponsible and constructive use of the intellect, regard as a confused and uninspired intruder the critic who, by a retrospective and naturalistic method, tries to give them a little knowledge of themselves.
[Sidenote: Artificial divorce of logic from practice.]
Rational ideas must arise somehow in the mind, and since they are not meant to be without application to the world of experience, it is interesting to discover the point of contact between the two and the nature of their interdependence. This would have been found in the mind's initial capacity to frame objects of two sorts, those compacted of sensations that are persistently similar, and those compacted of sensations that are momentarily fused. In empirical philosophy the applicability of logic and mathematics remains a miracle or becomes a misinterpretation: a miracle if the process of nature independently follows the inward elaboration of human ideas; a misinterpretation if the bias of intelligence imposes a priori upon reality a character and order not inherent in it. The mistake of empiricists—among which Kant is in this respect to be numbered—which enabled them to disregard this difficulty, was that they admitted, beside rational thinking, another instinctive kind of wisdom by which men could live, a wisdom the Englishmen called experience and the Germans practical reason, spirit, or will. The intellectual sciences could be allowed to spin themselves out in abstracted liberty while man practised his illogical and inspired art of life.
Here we observe a certain elementary crudity or barbarism which the human spirit often betrays when it is deeply stirred. Not only are chance and divination welcomed into the world but they are reverenced all the more, like the wind and fire of idolaters, precisely for not being amenable to the petty rules of human reason. In truth, however, the English duality between prudence and science is no more fundamental than the German duality between reason and understanding.[A] The true contrast is between impulse and reflection, instinct and intelligence. When men feel the primordial authority of the animal in them and have little respect for a glimmering reason which they suspect to be secondary but cannot discern to be ultimate, they readily imagine they are appealing to something higher than intelligence when in reality they are falling back on something deeper and lower. The rudimentary seems to them at such moments divine; and if they conceive a Life of Reason at all they despise it as a mass of artifices and conventions. Reason is indeed not indispensable to life, nor needful if living anyhow be the sole and indeterminate aim; as the existence of animals and of most men sufficiently proves. In so far as man is not a rational being and does not live in and by the mind, in so far as his chance volitions and dreamful ideas roll by without mutual representation or adjustment, in so far as his body takes the lead and even his galvanised action is a form of passivity, we may truly say that his life is not intellectual and not dependent on the application of general concepts to experience; for he lives by instinct.
[Sidenote: Their mutual involution.]
The Life of Reason, the comprehension of causes and pursuit of aims, begins precisely where instinctive operation ceases to be merely such by becoming conscious of its purposes and representative of its conditions. Logical forms of thought impregnate and constitute practical intellect. The shock of experience can indeed correct, disappoint, or inhibit rational expectation, but it cannot take its place. The very first lesson that experience should again teach us after our disappointment would be a rebirth of reason in the soul. Reason has the indomitable persistence of all natural tendencies; it returns to the attack as waves beat on the shore. To observe its defeat is already to give it a new embodiment. Prudence itself is a vague science, and science, when it contains real knowledge, is but a clarified prudence, a description of experience and a guide to life. Speculative reason, if it is not also practical, is not reason at all. Propositions irrelevant to experience may be correct in form, the method they are reached by may parody scientific method, but they cannot be true in substance, because they refer to nothing. Like music, they have no object. They merely flow, and please those whose unattached sensibility they somehow flatter.
Hume, in this respect more radical and satisfactory than Kant himself, saw with perfect clearness that reason was an ideal expression of instinct, and that consequently no rational spheres could exist other than the mathematical and the empirical, and that what is not a datum must certainly be a construction. In establishing his "tendencies to feign" at the basis of intelligence, and in confessing that he yielded to them himself no less in his criticism of human nature than in his practical life, he admitted the involution of reason—that unintelligible instinct—in all the observations and maxims vouchsafed to an empiricist or to a man. He veiled his doctrine, however, in a somewhat unfair and satirical nomenclature, and he has paid the price of that indulgence in personal humour by incurring the immortal hatred of sentimentalists who are too much scandalised by his tone ever to understand his principles.
[Sidenote: Rationalistic suicide.]
If the common mistake in empiricism is not to see the omnipresence of reason in thought, the mistake of rationalism is not to admit its variability and dependence, not to understand its natural life. Parmenides was the Adam of that race, and first tasted the deceptive kind of knowledge which, promising to make man God, banishes him from the paradise of experience. His sin has been transmitted to his descendants, though hardly in its magnificent and simple enormity. "The whole is one," Xenophanes had cried, gazing into heaven; and that same sense of a permeating identity, translated into rigid and logical terms, brought his sublime disciple to the conviction that an indistinguishable immutable substance was omnipresent in the world. Parmenides carried association by similarity to such lengths that he arrived at the idea of what alone is similar in everything, viz., the fact that it is. Being exists, and nothing else does; whereby every relation and variation in experience is reduced to a negligible illusion, and reason loses its function at the moment of asserting its absolute authority. Notable lesson, taught us like so many others by the first experiments of the Greek mind, in its freedom and insight, a mind led quickly by noble self-confidence to the ultimate goals of thought.
Such a pitch of heroism and abstraction has not been reached by any rationalist since. No one else has been willing to ignore entirely all the data and constructions of experience, save the highest concept reached by assimilations in that experience; no one else has been willing to demolish all the scaffolding and all the stones of his edifice, hoping still to retain the sublime symbol which he had planted on the summit. Yet all rationalists have longed to demolish or to degrade some part of the substructure, like those Gothic architects who wished to hang the vaults of their churches upon the slenderest possible supports, abolishing and turning into painted crystal all the dead walls of the building. So experience and its crowning conceptions were to rest wholly on a skeleton of general natures, physical forces being assimilated to logical terms, and concepts gained by identification of similars taking the place of those gained by grouping disparate things in their historical conjunctions. These contiguous sensations, which occasionally exemplify the logical contrasts in ideas and give them incidental existence, were either ignored altogether and dismissed as unmeaning, or admitted merely as illusions. The eye was to be trained to pass from that parti-coloured chaos to the firm lines and permanent divisions that were supposed to sustain it and frame it in.