Rationalism is a kind of builder's bias which the impartial public cannot share; for the dead walls and glass screens which may have no function in supporting the roof are yet as needful as the roof itself to shelter and beauty. So the incidental filling of experience which remains unclassified under logical categories retains all its primary reality and importance. The outlines of it emphasised by logic, though they may be the essential vehicle of our most soaring thoughts, are only a method and a style of architecture. They neither absorb the whole material of life nor monopolise its values. And as each material imposes upon the builder's ingenuity a different type of construction, and stone, wood, and iron must be treated on different structural principles, so logical methods of comprehension, spontaneous though they be in their mental origin, must prove themselves fitted to the natural order and affinity of the facts.[B] Nor is there in this necessity any violence to the spontaneity of reason: for reason also has manifold forms, and the accidents of experience are more than matched in variety by the multiplicity of categories. Here one principle of order and there another shoots into the mind, which breeds more genera and species than the most fertile terrestrial slime can breed individuals.
[Sidenote: Complementary character of essence and existence.]
Language, then, with the logic imbedded in it, is a repository of terms formed by identifying successive perceptions, as the external world is a repository of objects conceived by superposing perceptions that exist together. Being formed on different principles these two orders of conception—the logical and the physical—do not coincide, and the attempt to fuse them into one system of demonstrable reality or moral physics is doomed to failure by the very nature of the terms compared. When the Eleatics proved the impossibility—i.e., the inexpressibility—of motion, or when Kant and his followers proved the unreal character of all objects of experience and of all natural knowledge, their task was made easy by the native diversity between the concretions in existence which were the object of their thought and the concretions in discourse which were its measure. The two do not fit; and intrenched as these philosophers were in the forms of logic they compelled themselves to reject as unthinkable everything not fully expressible in those particular forms. Thus they took their revenge upon the vulgar who, being busy chiefly with material things and dwelling in an atmosphere of sensuous images, call unreal and abstract every product of logical construction or reflective analysis. These logical products, however, are not really abstract, but, as we have seen, concretions arrived at by a different method than that which results in material conceptions. Whereas the conception of a thing is a local conglomerate of several simultaneous sensations, logical entity is a homogeneous revival in memory of similar sensations temporally distinct.
Thus the many armed with prejudice and the few armed with logic fight an eternal battle, the logician charging the physical world with unintelligibility and the man of common-sense charging the logical world with abstractness and unreality. The former view is the more profound, since association by similarity is the more elementary and gives constancy to meanings; while the latter view is the more practical, since association by contiguity alone informs the mind about the mechanical sequence of its own experience. Neither principle can be dispensed with, and each errs only in denouncing the other and wishing to be omnivorous, as if on the one hand logic could make anybody understand the history of events and the conjunction of objects, or on the other hand as if cognitive and moral processes could have any other terms than constant and ideal natures. The namable essence of things or the standard of values must always be an ideal figment; existence must always be an empirical fact. The former remains always remote from natural existence and the latter irreducible to a logical principle.[C]
[Footnote A: This distinction, in one sense, is Platonic: but Plato's Reason was distinguished from understanding (which dealt with phenomenal experience) because it was a moral faculty defining those values and meanings which in Platonic nomenclature took the title of reality. The German Reason was only imagination, substituting a dialectical or poetic history of the world for its natural development. German idealism, accordingly, was not, like Plato's, a moral philosophy hypostasised but a false physics adored.]
[Footnote B: This natural order and affinity is something imputed to the ultimate object of thought—the reality—by the last act of judgment assuming its own truth. It is, of course, not observable by consciousness before the first experiment in comprehension has been made; the act of comprehension which first imposes on the sensuous material some subjective category is the first to arrive at the notion of an objective order. The historian, however, has a well-tried and mature conception of the natural order arrived at after many such experiments in comprehension. From the vantage-ground of this latest hypothesis, he surveys the attempts others have made to understand events and compares them with the objective order which he believes himself to have discovered. This observation is made here lest the reader should confuse the natural order, imagined to exist before any application of human categories, with the last conception of that order attained by the philosopher. The latter is but faith, the former is faith's ideal object.]
[Footnote C: For the sake of simplicity only such ideas as precede conceptions of things have been mentioned here. After things are discovered, however, they may be used as terms in a second ideal synthesis and a concretion in discourse on a higher plane may be composed out of sustained concretions in existence. Proper names are such secondary concretions in discourse. "Venice" is a term covering many successive aspects and conditions, not distinguished in fancy, belonging to an object existing continuously in space and time. Each of these states of Venice constitutes a natural object, a concretion in existence, and is again analysable into a mass of fused but recognisable qualities—light, motion, beauty—each of which was an original concretion in discourse, a primordial term in experience. A quality is recognised by its own idea or permanent nature, a thing by its constituent qualities, and an embodied spirit by fusion into an ideal essence of the constant characters possessed by a thing. To raise natural objects into historic entities it is necessary to repeat upon a higher plane that concretion in discourse by which sensations were raised to ideas. When familiar objects attain this ideal character they have become poetical and achieved a sort of personality. They then possess a spiritual status. Thus sensuous experience is solidified into logical terms, these into ideas of things, and these, recast and smelted again in imagination, into forms of spirit.]
CHAPTER VIII—ON THE RELATIVE VALUE OF THINGS AND IDEAS
[Sidenote: Moral tone of opinions derived from their logical principle.]
Those who look back upon the history of opinion for many centuries commonly feel, by a vague but profound instinct, that certain consecrated doctrines have an inherent dignity and spirituality, while other speculative tendencies and other vocabularies seem wedded to all that is ignoble and shallow. So fundamental is this moral tone in philosophy that people are usually more firmly convinced that their opinions are precious than that they are true. They may avow, in reflective moments, that they may be in error, seeing that thinkers of no less repute have maintained opposite opinions, but they are commonly absolutely sure that if their own views could be generally accepted, it would be a boon to mankind, that in fact the moral interests of the race are bound up, not with discovering what may chance to be true, but with discovering the truth to have a particular complexion. This predominant trust in moral judgments is in some cases conscious and avowed, so that philosophers invite the world to embrace tenets for which no evidence is offered but that they chime in with current aspirations or traditional bias. Thus the substance of things hoped for becomes, even in philosophy, the evidence of things not seen.
Such faith is indeed profoundly human and has accompanied the mind in all its gropings and discoveries; preference being the primary principle of discrimination and attention. Reason in her earliest manifestations already discovered her affinities and incapacities, and loaded the ideas she framed with friendliness or hostility. It is not strange that her latest constructions should inherit this relation to the will; and we shall see that the moral tone and affinity of metaphysical systems corresponds exactly with the primary function belonging to that type of idea on which they are based. Idealistic systems, still cultivating concretions in discourse, study the first conditions of knowledge and the last interests of life; materialistic systems, still emphasising concretions in existence, describe causal relations, and the habits of nature. Thus the spiritual value of various philosophies rests in the last instance on the kind of good which originally attached the mind to that habit and plane of ideation.
[Sidenote: Concretions in discourse express instinctive reactions.]
We have said that perceptions must be recognised before they can be associated by contiguity, and that consequently the fusion of temporally diffused experiences must precede their local fusion into material objects. It might be urged in opposition to this statement that concrete objects can be recognised in practice before their general qualities have been distinguished in discourse. Recognition may be instinctive, that is, based on the repetition of a felt reaction or emotion, rather than on any memory of a former occasion on which the same perception occurred. Such an objection seems to be well grounded, for it is instinctive adjustments and suggested action that give cognitive value to sensation and endow it with that transitive force which makes it consciously representative of what is past, future, or absent. If practical instinct did not stretch what is given into what is meant, reason could never recognise the datum for a copy of an ideal object.
[Sidenote: Idealism rudimentary.]
This description of the case involves an application or extension of our theory rather than an argument against it. For where recognition is instinctive and a familiar action is performed with absent-minded confidence and without attending to the indications that justify that action, there is in an eminent degree a qualitative concretion in experience. Present impressions are merged so completely in structural survivals of the past that instead of arousing any ideas distinct enough to be objectified they merely stimulate the inner sense, remain imbedded in the general feeling of motion or life, and constitute in fact a heightened sentiment of pure vitality and freedom. For the lowest and vaguest of concretions in discourse are the ideas of self and of an embosoming external being, with the felt continuity of both; what Fichte would call the Ego, the Non-Ego, and Life. Where no particular events are recognised there is still a feeling of continuous existence. We trail after us from our whole past some sense of the continuous energy and movement both of our passionate fancies and of the phantasmagoria capriciously at work beyond. An ignorant mind believes itself omniscient and omnipotent; those impulses in itself which really represent the inertia and unspent momentum of its last dream it regards as the creative forces of nature.
The first lines of cleavage and the first recognisable bulks at which attention is arrested are in truth those shadowy Fichtean divisions: such are the rude beginnings of logical architecture. In its inability to descry anything definite and fixed, for want of an acquired empirical background and a distinct memory, the mind flounders forward in a dream full of prophecies and wayward identifications. The world possesses as yet in its regard only the superficial forms that appear in revery, it has no hidden machinery, no third dimension in which unobserved and perpetual operations are going on. Its only terms, in a word, are concretions in discourse, ideas combined in their aesthetic and logical harmonies, not in their habitual and efficacious conjunctions. The disorder of such experience is still a spontaneous disorder; it has not discovered how calculable are its unpremeditated shocks. The cataclysms that occur seem to have only ideal grounds and only dramatic meaning. Though the dream may have its terrors and degenerate at moments into a nightmare, it has still infinite plasticity and buoyancy. What perceptions are retained merge in those haunting and friendly presences, they have an intelligible and congenial character because they appear as parts and effluences of an inner fiction, evolving according to the barbaric prosody of an almost infant mind.
This is the fairy-land of idealism where only the miraculous seems a matter of course and every hint of what is purely natural is disregarded, for the truly natural still seems artificial, dead, and remote. New and disconcerting facts, which intrude themselves inopportunely into the story, chill the currents of spontaneous imagination and are rejected as long as possible for being alien and perverse. Perceptions, on the contrary, which can be attached to the old presences as confirmations or corollaries, become at once parts of the warp and woof of what we call ourselves. They seem of the very substance of spirit, obeying a vital momentum and flowing from the inmost principle of being; and they are so much akin to human presumptions that they pass for manifestations of necessary truth. Thus the demonstrations of geometry being but the intent explication of a long-consolidated ideal concretion which we call space, are welcomed by the mind as in a sense familiar and as revelations of a truth implicit in the soul, so that Plato could plausibly take them for recollections of prenatal wisdom. But a rocket that bursts into sparks of a dozen colours, even if expected, is expected with anxiety and observed with surprise; it assaults the senses at an incalculable moment with a sensation individual and new. The exciting tension and lively stimulus may please in their way, yet the badge of the accidental and unmeaning adheres to the thing. It is a trivial experience and one quickly forgotten. The shock is superficial and were it repeated would soon fatigue. We should retire with relief into darkness and silence, to our permanent and rational thoughts.
[Sidenote: Naturalism sad.]
It is a remarkable fact, which may easily be misinterpreted, that while all the benefits and pleasures of life seem to be associated with external things, and all certain knowledge seems to describe material laws, yet a deified nature has generally inspired a religion of melancholy. Why should the only intelligible philosophy seem to defeat reason and the chief means of benefiting mankind seem to blast our best hopes? Whence this profound aversion to so beautiful and fruitful a universe? Whence this persistent search for invisible regions and powers and for metaphysical explanations that can explain nothing, while nature's voice without and within man cries aloud to him to look, act, and enjoy? And when someone, in protest against such senseless oracular prejudices, has actually embraced the life and faith of nature and taught others to look to the natural world for all motives and sanctions, expecting thus to refresh and marvellously to invigorate human life, why have those innocent hopes failed so miserably? Why is that sensuous optimism we may call Greek, or that industrial optimism we may call American, such a thin disguise for despair? Why does each melt away and become a mockery at the first approach of reflection? Why has man's conscience in the end invariably rebelled against naturalism and reverted in some form or other to a cultus of the unseen?
[Sidenote: The soul akin to the eternal and ideal.]
We may answer in the words of Saint Paul: because things seen are temporal and things not seen are eternal. And we may add, remembering our analysis of the objects inhabiting the mind, that the eternal is the truly human, that which is akin to the first indispensable products of intelligence, which arise by the fusion of successive images in discourse, and transcend the particular in time, peopling the mind with permanent and recognisable objects, and strengthening it with a synthetic, dramatic apprehension of itself and its own experience. Concretion in existence, on the contrary, yields essentially detached and empirical unities, foreign to mind in spite of their order, and unintelligible in spite of their clearness. Reason fails to assimilate in them precisely that which makes them real, namely, their presence here and now, in this order and number. The form and quality of them we can retain, domesticate, and weave into the texture of reflection, but their existence and individuality remain a datum of sense needing to be verified anew at every moment and actually receiving continual verification or disproof while we live in this world.
"This world" we call it, not without justifiable pathos, for many other worlds are conceivable and if discovered might prove more rational and intelligible and more akin to the soul than this strange universe which man has hitherto always looked upon with increasing astonishment. The materials of experience are no sooner in hand than they are transformed by intelligence, reduced to those permanent presences, those natures and relations, which alone can live in discourse. Those materials, rearranged into the abstract summaries we call history or science, or pieced out into the reconstructions and extensions we call poetry or religion, furnish us with ideas of as many dream-worlds as we please, all nearer to reason's ideal than is the actual chaos of perceptual experience, and some nearer to the heart's desire. When an empirical philosophy, therefore, calls us back from the irresponsible flights of imagination to the shock of sense and tries to remind us that in this alone we touch existence and come upon fact, we feel dispossessed of our nature and cramped in our life. The actuality possessed by external experience cannot make up for its instability, nor the applicability of scientific principles for their hypothetical character. The dependence upon sense, which we are reduced to when we consider the world of existences, becomes a too plain hint of our essential impotence and mortality, while the play of logical fancy, though it remain inevitable, is saddened by a consciousness of its own insignificance.
[Sidenote: Her inexperience.]
That dignity, then, which inheres in logical ideas and their affinity to moral enthusiasm, springs from their congruity with the primary habits of intelligence and idealisation. The soul or self or personality, which in sophisticated social life is so much the centre of passion and concern, is itself an idea, a concretion in discourse; and the level on which it swims comes to be, by association and affinity, the region of all the more vivid and massive human interests. The pleasures which lie beneath it are ignored, and the ideals which lie above it are not perceived. Aversion to an empirical or naturalistic philosophy accordingly expresses a sort of logical patriotism and attachment to homespun ideas. The actual is too remote and unfriendly to the dreamer; to understand it he has to learn a foreign tongue, which his native prejudice imagines to be unmeaning and unpoetical. The truth is, however, that nature's language is too rich for man; and the discomfort he feels when he is compelled to use it merely marks his lack of education. There is nothing cheaper than idealism. It can be had by merely not observing the ineptitude of our chance prejudices, and by declaring that the first rhymes that have struck our ear are the eternal and necessary harmonies of the world.
[Sidenote: Platonism spontaneous.]
The thinker's bias is naturally favourable to logical ideas. The man of reflection will attribute, as far as possible, validity and reality to these alone. Platonism remains the classic instance of this way of thinking. Living in an age of rhetoric, with an education that dealt with nothing but ideal entities, verbal, moral, or mathematical, Plato saw in concretions in discourse the true elements of being. Definable meanings, being the terms of thought, must also, he fancied, be the constituents of reality. And with that directness and audacity which was possible to the ancients, and of which Pythagoreans and Eleatics had already given brilliant examples, he set up these terms of discourse, like the Pythagorean numbers, for absolute and eternal entities, existing before all things, revealed in all things, giving the cosmic artificer his models and the creature his goal. By some inexplicable necessity the creation had taken place. The ideas had multiplied themselves in a flux of innumerable images which could be recognised by their resemblance to their originals, but were at once cancelled and expunged by virtue of their essential inadequacy. What sounds are to words and words to thoughts, that was a thing to its idea.
[Sidenote: Its essential fidelity to the ideal.]
Plato, however, retained the moral and significant essence of his ideas, and while he made them ideal absolutes, fixed meanings antecedent to their changing expressions, never dreamed that they could be natural existences, or psychological beings. In an original thinker, in one who really thinks and does not merely argue, to call a thing supernatural, or spiritual, or intelligible is to declare that it is no thing at all, no existence actual or possible, but a value, a term of thought, a merely ideal principle; and the more its reality in such a sense is insisted on the more its incommensurability with brute existence is asserted. To express this ideal reality myth is the natural vehicle; a vehicle Plato could avail himself of all the more freely that he inherited a religion still plastic and conscious of its poetic essence, and did not have to struggle, like his modern disciples, with the arrested childishness of minds that for a hundred generations have learned their metaphysics in the cradle. His ideas, although their natural basis was ignored, were accordingly always ideal; they always represented meanings and functions and were never degraded from the moral to the physical sphere. The counterpart of this genuine ideality was that the theory retained its moral force and did not degenerate into a bewildered and idolatrous pantheism. Plato conceived the soul's destiny to be her emancipation from those material things which in this illogical apparition were so alien to her essence. She should return, after her baffling and stupefying intercourse with the world of sense and accident, into the native heaven of her ideas. For animal desires were no less illusory, and yet no less significant, than sensuous perceptions. They engaged man in the pursuit of the good and taught him, through disappointment, to look for it only in those satisfactions which can be permanent and perfect. Love, like intelligence, must rise from appearance to reality, and rest in that divine world which is the fulfilment of the human.
[Sidenote: Equal rights of empiricism.]
A geometrician does a good service when he declares and explicates the nature of the triangle, an object suggested by many casual and recurring sensations. His service is not less real, even if less obvious, when he arrests some fundamental concretion in discourse, and formulates the first principles of logic. Mastering such definitions, sinking into the dry life of such forms, he may spin out and develop indefinitely, in the freedom of his irresponsible logic, their implications and congruous extensions, opening by his demonstration a depth of knowledge which we should otherwise never have discovered in ourselves. But if the geometer had a fanatical zeal and forbade us to consider space and the triangles it contains otherwise than as his own ideal science considers them: forbade us, for instance, to inquire how we came to perceive those triangles or that space; what organs and senses conspired in furnishing the idea of them; what material objects show that character, and how they came to offer themselves to our observation—then surely the geometer would qualify his service with a distinct injury and while he opened our eyes to one fascinating vista would tend to blind them to others no less tempting and beautiful. For the naturalist and psychologist have also their rights and can tell us things well worth knowing; nor will any theory they may possibly propose concerning the origin of spatial ideas and their material embodiments ever invalidate the demonstrations of geometry. These, in their hypothetical sphere, are perfectly autonomous and self-generating, and their applicability to experience will hold so long as the initial images they are applied to continue to abound in perception.
If we awoke to-morrow in a world containing nothing but music, geometry would indeed lose its relevance to our future experience; but it would keep its ideal cogency, and become again a living language if any spatial objects should ever reappear in sense.
The history of such reappearances—natural history—is meantime a good subject for observation and experiment. Chronicler and critic can always approach experience with a method complementary to the deductive methods pursued in mathematics and logic: instead of developing the import of a definition, he can investigate its origin and describe its relation to other disparate phenomena. The mathematician develops the import of given ideas; the psychologist investigates their origin and describes their relation to the rest of human experience. So the prophet develops the import of his trance, and the theologian the import of the prophecy: which prevents not the historian from coming later and showing the origin, the growth, and the possible function of that maniacal sort of wisdom. True, the theologian commonly dreads a critic more than does the geometer, but this happens only because the theologian has probably not developed the import of his facts with any austerity or clearness, but has distorted that ideal interpretation with all sorts of concessions and side-glances at other tenets to which he is already pledged, so that he justly fears, when his methods are exposed, that the religious heart will be alienated from him and his conclusions be left with no foothold in human nature. If he had not been guilty of such misrepresentation, no history or criticism that reviewed his construction would do anything but recommend it to all those who found in themselves the primary religious facts and religious faculties which that construction had faithfully interpreted in its ideal deductions and extensions. All who perceived the facts would thus learn their import; and theology would reveal to the soul her natural religion, just as Euclid reveals to architects and navigators the structure of natural space, so that they value his demonstrations not only for their hypothetical cogency but for their practical relevance and truth.
[Sidenote: Logic dependent on fact for its importance,]
Now, like the geometer and ingenuous theologian that he was, Plato developed the import of moral and logical experience. Even his followers, though they might give rein to narrower and more fantastic enthusiasms, often unveiled secrets, hidden in the oracular intent of the heart, which might never have been disclosed but for their lessons. But with a zeal unbecoming so well grounded a philosophy they turned their backs upon the rest of wisdom, they disparaged the evidence of sense, they grew hot against the ultimate practical sanctions furnished by impulse and pleasure, they proscribed beauty in art (where Plato had proscribed chiefly what to a fine sensibility is meretricious ugliness), and in a word they sought to abolish all human activities other than the one pre-eminent in themselves. In revenge for their hostility the great world has never given them more than a distrustful admiration and, confronted daily by the evident truths they denied, has encouraged itself to forget the truths they asserted. For they had the bias of reflection and man is born to do more than reflect; they attributed reality and validity only to logical ideas, and man finds other objects continually thrusting themselves before his eyes, claiming his affection and controlling his fortunes.
The most legitimate constructions of reason soon become merely speculative, soon pass, I mean, beyond the sphere of practical application; and the man of affairs, adjusting himself at every turn to the opaque brutality of fact, loses his respect for the higher reaches of logic and forgets that his recognition of facts themselves is an application of logical principles. In his youth, perhaps, he pursued metaphysics, which are the love-affairs of the understanding; now he is wedded to convention and seeks in the passion he calls business or in the habit he calls duty some substitute for natural happiness. He fears to question the value of his life, having found that such questioning adds nothing to his powers; and he thinks the mariner would die of old age in port who should wait for reason to justify his voyage. Reason is indeed like the sad Iphigenia whom her royal father, the Will, must sacrifice before any wind can fill his sails. The emanation of all things from the One involves not only the incarnation but the crucifixion of the Logos. Reason must be eclipsed by its supposed expressions, and can only shine in a darkness which does not comprehend it. For reason is essentially hypothetical and subsidiary, and can never constitute what it expresses in man, nor what it recognises in nature.
[Sidenote: and for its subsistence.]
If logic should refuse to make this initial self-sacrifice and to subordinate itself to impulse and fact, it would immediately become irrational and forfeit its own justification. For it exists by virtue of a human impulse and in answer to a human need. To ask a man, in the satisfaction of a metaphysical passion, to forego every other good is to render him fanatical and to shut his eyes daily to the sun in order that he may see better by the star-light. The radical fault of rationalism is not any incidental error committed in its deductions, although such necessarily abound in every human system. Its great original sin is its denial of its own basis and its refusal to occupy its due place in the world, an ignorant fear of being invalidated by its history and dishonoured, as it were, if its ancestry is hinted at. Only bastards should fear that fate, and criticism would indeed be fatal to a bastard philosophy, to one that does not spring from practical reason and has no roots in life. But those products of reason which arise by reflection on fact, and those spontaneous and demonstrable systems of ideas which can be verified in experience, and thus serve to render the facts calculable and articulate, will lose nothing of their lustre by discovering their lineage. So the idea of nature remains true after psychology has analysed its origin, and not only true, but beautiful and beneficent. For unlike many negligible products of speculative fancy it is woven out of recurrent perceptions into a hypothetical cause from which further perceptions can be deduced as they are actually experienced.
Such a mechanism once discovered confirms itself at every breath we draw, and surrounds every object in history and nature with infinite and true suggestions, making it doubly interesting, fruitful, and potent over the mind. The naturalist accordingly welcomes criticism because his constructions, though no less hypothetical and speculative than the idealist's dreams, are such legitimate and fruitful fictions that they are obvious truths. For truth, at the intelligible level where it arises, means not sensible fact, but valid ideation, verified hypothesis, and inevitable, stable inference. If the idealist fears and deprecates any theory of his own origin and function, he is only obeying the instinct of self-preservation; for he knows very well that his past will not bear examination. He is heir to every superstition and by profession an apologist; his deepest vocation is to rescue, by some logical tour de force, what spontaneously he himself would have taken for a consecrated error. Now history and criticism would involve, as he instinctively perceives, the reduction of his doctrines to their pragmatic value, to their ideal significance for real life. But he detests any admission of relativity in his doctrines, all the more because he cannot avow his reasons for detesting it; and zeal, here as in so many cases, becomes the cover and evidence of a bad conscience. Bigotry and craft, with a rhetorical vilification of enemies, then come to reinforce in the prophet that natural limitation of his interests which turns his face away from history and criticism; until his system, in its monstrous unreality and disingenuousness, becomes intolerable, and provokes a general revolt in which too often the truth of it is buried with the error in a common oblivion.
[Sidenote: Reason and docility.]
If idealism is intrenched in the very structure of human reason, empiricism represents all those energies of the external universe which, as Spinoza says, must infinitely exceed the energies of man. If meditation breeds science, wisdom comes by disillusion, even on the subject of science itself. Docility to the facts makes the sanity of science. Reason is only half grown and not really distinguishable from imagination so long as she cannot check and recast her own processes wherever they render the moulds of thought unfit for their subject-matter. Docility is, as we have seen, the deepest condition of reason's existence; for if a form of mental synthesis were by chance developed which was incapable of appropriating the data of sense, these data could not be remembered or introduced at all into a growing and cumulative experience. Sensations would leave no memorial; while logical thoughts would play idly, like so many parasites in the mind, and ultimately languish and die of inanition. To be nourished and employed, intelligence must have developed such structure and habits as will enable it to assimilate what food comes in its way; so that the persistence of any intellectual habit is a proof that it has some applicability, however partial, to the facts of sentience.
[Sidenote: Applicable thought and clarified experience.]
This applicability, the prerequisite of significant thought, is also its eventual test; and the gathering of new experiences, the consciousness of more and more facts crowding into the memory and demanding co-ordination, is at once the presentation to reason of her legitimate problem and a proof that she is already at work. It is a presentation of her problem, because reason is not a faculty of dreams but a method in living; and by facing the flux of sensations and impulses that constitute mortal life with the gift of ideal construction and the aspiration toward eternal goods, she is only doing her duty and manifesting what she is. To accumulate facts, moreover, is in itself to prove that rational activity is already awakened, because a consciousness of multitudinous accidents diversifying experience involves a wide scope in memory, good methods of classification, and keen senses, so that all working together they may collect many observations. Memory and all its instruments are embodiments, on a modest scale, of rational activities which in theory and speculation reappear upon a higher level. The expansion of the mind in point of retentiveness and wealth of images is as much an advance in knowledge as is its development in point of organisation. The structure may be widened at the base as well as raised toward its ideal summit, and while a mass of information imperfectly digested leaves something still for intelligence to do, it shows at the same time how much intelligence has done already.
The function of reason is to dominate experience; and obviously openness to new impressions is no less necessary to that end than is the possession of principles by which new impressions may be interpreted.
CHAPTER IX—HOW THOUGHT IS PRACTICAL
[Sidenote: Functional relations of mind and body.]
Nothing is more natural or more congruous with all the analogies of experience than that animals should feel and think. The relation of mind to body, of reason to nature, seems to be actually this: when bodies have reached a certain complexity and vital equilibrium, a sense begins to inhabit them which is focussed upon the preservation of that body and on its reproduction. This sense, as it becomes reflective and expressive of physical welfare, points more and more to its own persistence and harmony, and generates the Life of Reason. Nature is reason's basis and theme; reason is nature's consciousness; and, from the point of view of that consciousness when it has arisen, reason is also nature's justification and goal.
To separate things so closely bound together as are mind and body, reason and nature, is consequently a violent and artificial divorce, and a man of judgment will instinctively discredit any philosophy in which it is decreed. But to avoid divorce it is well first to avoid unnatural unions, and not to attribute to our two elements, which must be partners for life, relations repugnant to their respective natures and offices. Now the body is an instrument, the mind its function, the witness and reward of its operation. Mind is the body's entelechy, a value which accrues to the body when it has reached a certain perfection, of which it would be a pity, so to speak, that it should remain unconscious; so that while the body feeds the mind the mind perfects the body, lifting it and all its natural relations and impulses into the moral world, into the sphere of interests and ideas.
No connection could be closer than this reciprocal involution, as nature and life reveal it; but the connection is natural, not dialectical. The union will be denaturalised and, so far as philosophy goes, actually destroyed, if we seek to carry it on into logical equivalence. If we isolate the terms mind and body and study the inward implications of each apart, we shall never discover the other. That matter cannot, by transposition of its particles, become what we call consciousness, is an admitted truth; that mind cannot become its own occasions or determine its own march, though it be a truth not recognised by all philosophers, is in itself no less obvious. Matter, dialectically studied, makes consciousness seem a superfluous and unaccountable addendum; mind, studied in the same way, makes nature an embarrassing idea, a figment which ought to be subservient to conscious aims and perfectly transparent, but which remains opaque and overwhelming. In order to escape these sophistications, it suffices to revert to immediate observation and state the question in its proper terms: nature lives, and perception is a private echo and response to ambient motions. The soul is the voice of the body's interests; in watching them a man defines the world that sustains him and that conditions all his satisfactions. In discerning his origin he christens Nature by the eloquent name of mother, under which title she enters the universe of discourse. Simultaneously he discerns his own existence and marks off the inner region of his dreams. And it behooves him not to obliterate these discoveries. By trying to give his mind false points of attachment in nature he would disfigure not only nature but also that reason which is so much the essence of his life.
[Sidenote: They form one natural life.]
Consciousness, then, is the expression of bodily life and the seat of all its values. Its place in the natural world is like that of its own ideal products, art, religion, or science; it translates natural relations into synthetic and ideal symbols by which things are interpreted with reference to the interests of consciousness itself. This representation is also an existence and has its place along with all other existences in the bosom of nature. In this sense its connection with its organs, and with all that affects the body or that the body affects, is a natural connection. If the word cause did not suggest dialectical bonds we might innocently say that thought was a link in the chain of natural causes. It is at least a link in the chain of natural events; for it has determinate antecedents in the brain and senses and determinate consequents in actions and words. But this dependence and this efficacy have nothing logical about them; they are habitual collocations in the world, like lightning and thunder. A more minute inspection of psycho-physical processes, were it practicable, would doubtless disclose undreamed of complexities and harmonies in them; the mathematical and dynamic relations of stimulus and sensation might perhaps be formulated with precision. But the terms used in the equation, their quality and inward habit, would always remain data which the naturalist would have to assume after having learned them by inspection. Movement could never be deduced dialectically or graphically from thought nor thought from movement. Indeed no natural relation is in a different case. Neither gravity, nor chemical reaction, nor life and reproduction, nor time, space, and motion themselves are logically deducible, nor intelligible in terms of their limits. The phenomena have to be accepted at their face value and allowed to retain a certain empirical complexity; otherwise the seed of all science is sterilised and calculation cannot proceed for want of discernible and pregnant elements.
How fine nature's habits may be, where repetition begins, and down to what depth a mathematical treatment can penetrate, is a question for the natural sciences to solve. Whether consciousness, for instance, accompanies vegetative life, or even all motion, is a point to be decided solely by empirical analogy. When the exact physical conditions of thought are discovered in man, we may infer how far thought is diffused through the universe, for it will be coextensive with the conditions it will have been shown to have. Now, in a very rough way, we know already what these conditions are. They are first the existence of an organic body and then its possession of adaptable instincts, of instincts that can be modified by experience. This capacity is what an observer calls intelligence; docility is the observable half of reason. When an animal winces at a blow and readjusts his pose, we say he feels; and we say he thinks when we see him brooding over his impressions, and find him launching into a new course of action after a silent decoction of his potential impulses. Conversely, when observation covers both the mental and the physical process, that is, in our own experience, we find that felt impulses, the conceived objects for which they make, and the values they determine are all correlated with animal instincts and external impressions. A desire is the inward sign of a physical proclivity to act, an image in sense is the sign in most cases of some material object in the environment and always, we may presume, of some cerebral change. The brain seems to simmer like a caldron in which all sorts of matters are perpetually transforming themselves into all sorts of shapes. When this cerebral reorganisation is pertinent to the external situation and renders the man, when he resumes action, more a master of his world, the accompanying thought is said to be practical; for it brings a consciousness of power and an earnest of success.
Cerebral processes are of course largely hypothetical. Theory suggests their existence, and experience can verify that theory only in an indirect and imperfect manner. The addition of a physical substratum to all thinking is only a scientific expedient, a hypothesis expressing the faith that nature is mechanically intelligible even beyond the reaches of minute verification. The accompanying consciousness, on the other hand, is something intimately felt by each man in his own person; it is a portion of crude and immediate experience. That it accompanies changes in his body and in the world is not an inference for him but a datum. But when crude experience is somewhat refined and the soul, at first mingled with every image, finds that it inhabits only her private body, to whose fortunes hers are altogether wedded, we begin to imagine that we know the cosmos at large better than the spirit; for beyond the narrow limits of our own person only the material phase of things is open to our observation. To add a mental phase to every part and motion of the cosmos is then seen to be an audacious fancy. It violates all empirical analogy, for the phenomenon which feeling accompanies in crude experience is not mere material existence, but reactive organisation and docility.
[Sidenote: Artifices involved in separating them.]
The limits set to observation, however, render the mental and material spheres far from coincident, and even in a rough way mutually supplementary, so that human reflection has fallen into a habit of interlarding them. The world, instead of being a living body, a natural system with moral functions, has seemed to be a bisectible hybrid, half material and half mental, the clumsy conjunction of an automaton with a ghost. These phases, taken in their abstraction, as they first forced themselves on human attention, have been taken for independent and separable facts. Experience, remaining in both provinces quite sensuous and superficial, has accordingly been allowed to link this purely mental event with that purely mechanical one. The linkage is practically not deceptive, because mental transformations are indeed signs of changes in bodies; and so long as a cause is defined merely as a sign, mental and physical changes may truly be said to cause one another. But so soon as this form of augury tries to overcome its crude empiricism and to establish phenomenal laws, the mental factor has to fall out of the efficient process and be represented there by what, upon accurate examination, it is seen to be really the sign of—I mean by some physiological event.
If philosophers of the Cartesian school had taken to heart, as the German transcendentalists did, the cogito ergo sum of their master, and had considered that a physical world is, for knowledge, nothing but an instrument to explain sensations and their order, they might have expected this collapse of half their metaphysics at the approach of their positive science: for if mental existence was to be kept standing only by its supposed causal efficacy nothing could prevent the whole world from becoming presently a bete-machine. Psychic events have no links save through their organs and their objects; the function of the material world is, indeed, precisely to supply their linkage. The internal relations of ideas, on the other hand, are dialectical; their realm is eternal and absolutely irrelevant to the march of events. If we must speak, therefore, of causal relations between mind and body, we should say that matter is the pervasive cause of mind's distribution, and mind the pervasive cause of matter's discovery and value. To ask for an efficient cause, to trace back a force or investigate origins, is to have already turned one's face in the direction of matter and mechanical laws: no success in that undertaking can fail to be a triumph for materialism. To ask for a justification, on the other hand, is to turn no less resolutely in the direction of ideal results and actualities from which instrumentality and further use have been eliminated. Spirit is useless, being the end of things: but it is not vain, since it alone rescues all else from vanity. It is called practical when it is prophetic of its own better fulfilments, which is the case whenever forces are being turned to good uses, whenever an organism is exploring its relations and putting forth new tentacles with which to grasp the world.
[Sidenote: Consciousness expresses vital equilibrium and docility.]
We saw in the beginning that the exigences of bodily life gave consciousness its first articulation. A bodily feat, like nutrition or reproduction, is celebrated by a festival in the mind, and consciousness is a sort of ritual solemnising by prayer, jubilation, or mourning, the chief episodes in the body's fortunes. The organs, by their structure, select the impressions possible to them from the divers influences abroad in the world, all of which, if animal organisms had learned to feed upon them, might plausibly have offered a basis for sensation. Every instinct or habitual impulse further selects from the passing bodily affections those that are pertinent to its own operation and which consequently adhere to it and modify its reactive machinery. Prevalent and notable sensations are therefore signs, presumably marking the presence of objects important for the body's welfare or for the execution of its predestined offices. So that not only are the soul's aims transcripts of the body's tendencies, but all ideas are grafted upon the interplay of these tendencies with environing forces. Early images hover about primary wants as highest conceptions do about ultimate achievements.
[Sidenote: Its worthlessness as a cause and value as an expression]
Thought is essentially practical in the sense that but for thought no motion would be an action, no change a progress; but thought is in no way instrumental or servile; it is an experience realised, not a force to be used. That same spontaneity in nature which has suggested a good must be trusted to fulfil it. If we look fairly at the actual resources of our minds we perceive that we are as little informed concerning the means and processes of action as concerning the reason why our motives move us. To execute the simplest intention we must rely on fate: our own acts are mysteries to us. Do I know how I open my eyes or how I walk down stairs? Is it the supervising wisdom of consciousness that guides me in these acts? Is it the mind that controls the bewildered body and points out the way to physical habits uncertain of their affinities? Or is it not much rather automatic inward machinery that executes the marvellous work, while the mind catches here and there some glimpse of the operation, now with delight and adhesion, now with impotent rebellion? When impulses work themselves out unimpeded we say we act; when they are thwarted we say we are acted upon; but in neither case do we in the least understand the natural history of what is occurring. The mind at best vaguely forecasts the result of action: a schematic verbal sense of the end to be accomplished possibly hovers in consciousness while the act is being performed; but this premonition is itself the sense of a process already present and betrays the tendency at work; it can obviously give no aid or direction to the unknown mechanical process that produced it and that must realise its own prophecy, if that prophecy is to be realised at all.
That such an unknown mechanism exists, and is adequate to explain every so-called decision, is indeed a hypothesis far outrunning detailed verification, although conceived by legitimate analogy with whatever is known about natural processes; but that the mind is not the source of itself or its own transformations is a matter of present experience; for the world is an unaccountable datum, in its existence, in its laws, and in its incidents. The highest hopes of science and morality look only to discovering those laws and bringing one set of incidents—facts of perception—into harmony with another set—facts of preference. This hoped-for issue, if it comes, must come about in the mind; but the mind cannot be its cause since, by hypothesis, it does not possess the ideas it seeks nor has power to realise the harmonies it desiderates. These have to be waited for and begged of destiny; human will, not controlling its basis, cannot possibly control its effects. Its existence and its efforts have at best the value of a good omen. They show in what direction natural forces are moving in so far as they are embodied in given men.
[Sidenote: Thought's march automatic and thereby implicated in events.]
Men, like all things else in the world, are products and vehicles of natural energy, and their operation counts. But their conscious will, in its moral assertiveness, is merely a sign of that energy and of that will's eventual fortunes. Dramatic terror and dramatic humour both depend on contrasting the natural pregnancy of a passion with its conscious intent. Everything in human life is ominous, even the voluntary acts. We cannot, by taking thought, add a cubit to our stature, but we may build up a world without meaning it. Man is as full of potentiality as he is of impotence. A will that represents many active forces, and is skilful in divination and augury, may long boast to be almighty without being contradicted by the event.
[Sidenote: Contemplative essence of action.]
That thought is not self-directive appears best in the most immaterial processes. In strife against external forces men, being ignorant of their deeper selves, attribute the obvious effects of their action to their chance ideas; but when the process is wholly internal the real factors are more evenly represented in consciousness and the magical, involuntary nature of life is better perceived. My hand, guided by I know not what machinery, is at this moment adding syllable to syllable upon this paper, to the general fulfilment, perhaps, of my felt intent, yet giving that intent an articulation wholly unforeseen, and often disappointing. The thoughts to be expressed simmer half-consciously in my brain. I feel their burden and tendency without seeing their form, until the mechanical train of impulsive association, started by the perusal of what precedes or by the accidental emergence of some new idea, lights the fuse and precipitates the phrases. If this happens in the most reflective and deliberate of activities, like this of composition, how much more does it happen in positive action, "The die is cast," said Caesar, feeling a decision in himself of which he could neither count nor weigh the multitudinous causes; and so says every strong and clear intellect, every well-formed character, seizing at the same moment with comprehensive instinct both its purposes and the means by which they shall be attained. Only the fool, whose will signifies nothing, boasts to have created it himself.
We must not seek the function of thought, then, in any supposed power to discover either ends not suggested by natural impulse or means to the accomplishment of those irrational ends. Attention is utterly powerless to change or create its objects in either respect; it rather registers without surprise—for it expects nothing in particular—and watches eagerly the images bubbling up in the living mind and the processes evolving there. These processes are themselves full of potency and promise; will and reflection are no more inconsequential than any other processes bound by natural links to the rest of the world. Even if an atomic mechanism suffices to mark the concatenation of everything in nature, including the mind, it cannot rob what it abstracts from of its natural weight and reality: a thread that may suffice to hold the pearls together is not the whole cause of the necklace. But this pregnancy and implication of thought in relation to its natural environment is purely empirical. Since natural connection is merely a principle of arrangement by which the contiguities of things may be described and inferred, there is no difficulty in admitting consciousness and all its works into the web and woof of nature. Each psychic episode would be heralded by its material antecedents; its transformations would be subject to mechanical laws, which would also preside over the further transition from thought into its material expression.
[Sidenote: Mechanical efficacy alien to thought's essence.]
This inclusion of mind in nature, however, is as far as possible from constituting the mind's function and value, or its efficacy in a moral and rational sense. To have prepared changes in matter would give no rationality to mind unless those changes in turn paved the way to some better mental existence. The worth of natural efficacy is therefore always derivative; the utility of mind would be no more precious than the utility of matter; both borrow all their worth from the part they may play empirically in introducing those moral values which are intrinsic and self-sufficing. In so far as thought is instrumental it is not worth having, any more than matter, except for its promise; it must terminate in something truly profitable and ultimate which, being good in itself, may lend value to all that led up to it. But this ultimate good is itself consciousness, thought, rational activity; so that what instrumental mentality may have preceded might be abolished without loss, if matter suffices to sustain reason in being; or if that instrumental mentality is worth retaining, it is so only because it already contains some premonition and image of its own fulfilment. In a word, the value of thought is ideal. The material efficacy which may be attributed to it is the proper efficacy of matter—an efficacy which matter would doubtless claim if we knew enough of its secret mechanism. And when that imputed and incongruous utility was subtracted from ideas they would appear in their proper form of expressions, realisations, ultimate fruits.
[Sidenote: Consciousness transcendental.]
The incongruity of making thought, in its moral and logical essence, an instrument in the natural world will appear from a different point of view if we shift the discussion for a moment to a transcendental level. Since the material world is an object for thought, and potential in relation to immediate experience, it can hardly lie in the same plane of reality with the thought to which it appears. The spectator on this side of the foot-lights, while surely regarded by the play as a whole, cannot expect to figure in its mechanism or to see himself strutting among the actors on the boards. He listens and is served, being at once impotent and supreme. It has been well said that
Only the free divine the laws, The causeless only know the cause.
Conversely, what in such a transcendental sense is causeless and free will evidently not be causal or determinant, being something altogether universal and notional, without inherent determinations or specific affinities. The objects figuring in consciousness will have implications and will require causes; not so the consciousness itself. The Ego to which all things appear equally, whatever their form or history, is the ground of nothing incidental: no specific characters or order found in the world can be attributed to its efficacy. The march of experience is not determined by the mere fact that experience exists. Another experience, differently logical, might be equally real. Consciousness is not itself dynamic, for it has no body, no idiosyncrasy or particular locus, to be the point of origin for definite relationships. It is merely an abstract name for the actuality of its random objects. All force, implication, or direction inhere in the constitution of specific objects and live in their interplay. Logic is revealed to thought no less than nature is, and even what we call invention or fancy is generated not by thought itself but by the chance fertility of nebulous objects, floating and breeding in the primeval chaos. Where the natural order lapses, if it ever does, not mind or will or reason can possibly intervene to fill the chasm—for these are parcels and expressions of the natural order—but only nothingness and pure chance.
[Sidenote: and transcendent.]
Thought is thus an expression of natural relations, as will is of natural affinities; yet consciousness of an object's value, while it declares the blind disposition to pursue that object, constitutes its entire worth. Apart from the pains and satisfactions involved, an impulse and its execution would be alike destitute of importance. It would matter nothing how chaotic or how orderly the world became, or what animal bodies arose or perished there; any tendencies afoot in nature, whatever they might construct or dissolve, would involve no progress or disaster, since no preferences would exist to pronounce one eventual state of things better than another. These preferences are in themselves, if the dynamic order alone be considered, works of supererogation, expressing force but not producing it, like a statue of Hercules; but the principle of such preferences, the force they express and depend upon, is some mechanical impulse itself involved in the causal process. Expression gives value to power, and the strength of Hercules would have no virtue in it had it contributed nothing to art and civilisation. That conceived basis of all life which we call matter would be a mere potentiality, an inferred instrument deprived of its function, if it did not actually issue in life and consciousness. What gives the material world a legitimate status and perpetual pertinence in human discourse is the conscious life it supports and carries in its own direction, as a ship carries its passengers or rather as a passion carries its hopes. Conscious interests first justify and moralise the mechanisms they express. Eventual satisfactions, while their form and possibility must be determined by animal tendencies, alone render these tendencies vehicles of the good. The direction in which benefit shall lie must be determined by irrational impulse, but the attainment of benefit consists in crowning that impulse with its ideal achievement. Nature dictates what men shall seek and prompts them to seek it; a possibility of happiness is thus generated and only its fulfilment would justify nature and man in their common venture.
[Sidenote: It is the seat of value.]
Satisfaction is the touchstone of value; without reference to it all talk about good and evil, progress or decay, is merely confused verbiage, pure sophistry in which the juggler adroitly withdraws attention from what works the wonder—namely, that human and moral colouring to which the terms he plays with owe whatever efficacy they have. Metaphysicians sometimes so define the good as to make it a matter of no importance; not seldom they give that name to the sum of all evils. A good, absolute in the sense of being divorced from all natural demand and all possible satisfaction, would be as remote as possible from goodness: to call it good is mere disloyalty to morals, brought about by some fantastic or dialectical passion. In excellence there is an essential bias, an opposition to the possible opposite; this bias expresses a mechanical impulse, a situation that has stirred the senses and the will. Impulse makes value possible; and the value becomes actual when the impulse issues in processes that give it satisfaction and have a conscious worth. Character is the basis of happiness and happiness the sanction of character.[D]
That thought is nature's concomitant expression or entelechy, never one of her instruments, is a truth long ago divined by the more judicious thinkers, like Aristotle and Spinoza; but it has not met with general acceptance or even consideration. It is obstructed by superficial empiricism, which associates the better-known aspects of events directly together, without considering what mechanical bonds may secretly unite them; it is obstructed also by the traditional mythical idealism, intent as this philosophy is on proving nature to be the expression of something ulterior and non-natural and on hugging the fatal misconception that ideals and eventual goods are creative and miraculous forces, without perceiving that it thereby renders goods and ideals perfectly senseless; for how can anything be a good at all to which some existing nature is not already directed? It may therefore be worth while, before leaving this phase of the subject, to consider one or two prejudices which might make it sound paradoxical to say, as we propose, that ideals are ideal and nature natural.
[Sidenote: Apparent utility of pain]
[Sidenote: Its real impotence.]
Of all forms of consciousness the one apparently most useful is pain, which is also the one most immersed in matter and most opposite to ideality and excellence. Its utility lies in the warning it gives: in trying to escape pain we escape destruction. That we desire to escape pain is certain; its very definition can hardly go beyond the statement that pain is that element of feeling which we seek to abolish on account of its intrinsic quality. That this desire, however, should know how to initiate remedial action is a notion contrary to experience and in itself unthinkable. If pain could have cured us we should long ago have been saved. The bitterest quintessence of pain is its helplessness, and our incapacity to abolish it. The most intolerable torments are those we feel gaining upon us, intensifying and prolonging themselves indefinitely. This baffling quality, so conspicuous in extreme agony, is present in all pain and is perhaps its essence. If we sought to describe by a circumlocution what is of course a primary sensation, we might scarcely do better than to say that pain is consciousness at once intense and empty, fixing attention on what contains no character, and arrests all satisfactions without offering anything in exchange. The horror of pain lies in its intolerable intensity and its intolerable tedium. It can accordingly be cured either by sleep or by entertainment. In itself it has no resource; its violence is quite helpless and its vacancy offers no expedients by which it might be unknotted and relieved.
Pain is not only impotent in itself but is a sign of impotence in the sufferer. Its appearance, far from constituting its own remedy, is like all other organic phenomena subject to the law of inertia and tends only to its own continuance. A man's hatred of his own condition no more helps to improve it than hatred of other people tends to improve them. If we allowed ourselves to speak in such a case of efficacy at all, we should say that pain perpetuates and propagates itself in various ways, now by weakening the system, now by prompting convulsive efforts, now by spreading to other beings through the contagion of sympathy or vengeance. In fact, however, it merely betrays a maladjustment which has more or less natural stability. It may be instantaneous only; by its lack of equilibrium it may involve the immediate destruction of one of its factors. In that case we fabulously say that the pain has instinctively removed its own cause. Pain is here apparently useful because it expresses an incipient tension which the self-preserving forces in the organism are sufficient to remove. Pain's appearance is then the sign for its instant disappearance; not indeed by virtue of its inner nature or of any art it can initiate, but merely by virtue of mechanical associations between its cause and its remedy. The burned child dreads the fire and, reading only the surface of his life, fancies that the pain once felt and still remembered is the ground of his new prudence. Punishments, however, are not always efficacious, as everyone knows who has tried to govern children or cities by the rod; suffering does not bring wisdom nor even memory, unless intelligence and docility are already there; that is, unless the friction which the pain betrayed sufficed to obliterate permanently one of the impulses in conflict. This readjustment, on which real improvement hangs and which alone makes "experience" useful, does not correspond to the intensity or repetition of the pains endured; it corresponds rather to such a plasticity in the organism that the painful conflict is no longer produced.
[Sidenote: Preformations involved.]
Threatened destruction would not involve pain unless that threatened destruction were being resisted; so that the reaction which pain is supposed to cause must already be taking place before pain can be felt. A will without direction cannot be thwarted; so that inhibition cannot be the primary source of any effort or of any ideal. Determinate impulses must exist already for their inhibition to have taken place or for the pain to arise which is the sign of that inhibition. The child's dread of the fire marks the acceleration of that impulse which, when he was burned, originally enabled him to withdraw his hand; and if he did not now shrink in anticipation he would not remember the pain nor know to what to attach his terror. Sight now suffices to awaken the reaction which touch at first was needed to produce; the will has extended its line of battle and thrown out its scouts farther afield; and pain has been driven back to the frontiers of the spirit. The conflicting reactions are now peripheral and feeble; the pain involved in aversion is nothing to that once involved in the burn. Had this aversion to fire been innate, as many aversions are, no pain would have been caused, because no profound maladjustment would have occurred. The surviving attraction, checked by fear, is a remnant of the old disorganisation in the brain which was the seat of conflicting reactions.
[Sidenote: Its untoward significance.]
To say that this conflict is the guide to its own issue is to talk without thinking. The conflict is the sign of inadequate organisation, or of non-adaptation in the given organism to the various stimuli which irritate it. The reconstruction which follows this conflict, when it indeed follows, is of course a new and better adaptation; so that what involves the pain may often be a process of training which directs reaction into new and smoother channels. But the pain is present whether a permanent adaptation is being attained or not. It is present in progressive dissolution and in hopeless and exhausting struggles far more than in education or in profitable correction. Toothache and sea-sickness, birth-pangs and melancholia are not useful ills. The intenser the pain the more probable its uselessness. Only in vanishing is it a sign of progress; in occurring it is an omen of defeat, just as disease is an omen of death, although, for those diseased already, medicine and convalescence may be approaches to health again. Where a man's nature is out of gear and his instincts are inordinate, suffering may be a sign that a dangerous peace, in which impulse was carrying him ignorantly into paths without issue, is giving place to a peace with security in which his reconstructed character may respond without friction to the world, and enable him to gather a clearer experience and enjoy a purer vitality. The utility of pain is thus apparent only, and due to empirical haste in collating events that have no regular nor inward relation; and even this imputed utility pain has only in proportion to the worthlessness of those who need it.
[Sidenote: Perfect function no unconscious.]
A second current prejudice which may deserve notice suggests that an organ, when its function is perfect, becomes unconscious, so that if adaptation were complete life would disappear. The well-learned routine of any mechanical art passes into habit, and habit into unconscious operation. The virtuoso is not aware how he manipulates his instrument; what was conscious labour in the beginning has become instinct and miracle in the end. Thus it might appear that to eliminate friction and difficulty would be to eliminate consciousness, and therefore value, from the world. Life would thus be involved in a contradiction and moral effort in an absurdity; for while the constant aim of practice is perfection and that of labour ease, and both are without meaning or standard unless directed to the attainment of these ends, yet such attainment, if it were actual, would be worthless, so that what alone justifies effort would lack justification and would in fact be incapable of existence. The good musician must strive to play perfectly, but, alas, we are told, if he succeeded he would have become an automaton. The good man must aspire to holiness, but, alas, if he reached holiness his moral life would have evaporated.
These melodramatic prophecies, however, need not alarm us. They are founded on nothing but rhetoric and small allegiance to any genuine good. When we attain perfection of function we lose consciousness of the medium, to become more clearly conscious of the result. The eye that does its duty gives no report of itself and has no sense of muscular tension or weariness; but it gives all the brighter and steadier image of the object seen. Consciousness is not lost when focussed, and the labour of vision is abolished in its fruition. So the musician, could he play so divinely as to be unconscious of his body, his instrument, and the very lapse of time, would be only the more absorbed in the harmony, more completely master of its unities and beauty. At such moments the body's long labour at last brings forth the soul. Life from its inception is simply some partial natural harmony raising its voice and bearing witness to its own existence; to perfect that harmony is to round out and intensify that life. This is the very secret of power, of joy, of intelligence. Not to have understood it is to have passed through life without understanding anything.
The analogy extends to morals, where also the means may be advantageously forgotten when the end has been secured. That leisure to which work is directed and that perfection in which virtue would be fulfilled are so far from being apathetic that they are states of pure activity, by containing which other acts are rescued from utter passivity and unconsciousness. Impure feeling ranges between two extremes: absolute want and complete satisfaction. The former limit is reached in anguish, madness, or the agony of death, when the accidental flux of things in contradiction has reached its maximum or vanishing point, so that the contradiction and the flux themselves disappear by diremption. Such feeling denotes inward disorganisation and a hopeless conflict of reflex actions tending toward dissolution. The second limit is reached in contemplation, when anything is loved, understood, or enjoyed. Synthetic power is then at its height; the mind can survey its experience and correlate all the motions it suggests. Power in the mind is exactly proportionate to representative scope, and representative scope to rational activity. A steady vision of all things in their true order and worth results from perfection of function and is its index; it secures the greatest distinctness in thought together with the greatest decision, wisdom, and ease in action, as the lightning is brilliant and quick. It also secures, so far as human energies avail, its own perpetuity, since what is perfectly adjusted within and without lasts long and goes far.
[Sidenote: Inchoate ethics.]
To confuse means with ends and mistake disorder for vitality is not unnatural to minds that hear the hum of mighty workings but can imagine neither the cause nor the fruits of that portentous commotion. All functions, in such chaotic lives, seem instrumental functions. It is then supposed that what serves no further purpose can have no value, and that he who suffers no offuscation can have no feeling and no life. To attain an ideal seems to destroy its worth. Moral life, at that low level, is a fantastic game only, not having come in sight of humane and liberal interests. The barbarian's intensity is without seriousness and his passion without joy. His philosophy, which means to glorify all experience and to digest all vice, is in truth an expression of pathetic innocence. It betrays a rudimentary impulse to follow every beckoning hand, to assume that no adventure and no bewitchment can be anything but glorious. Such an attitude is intelligible in one who has never seen anything worth seeing nor loved anything worth loving. Immaturity could go no farther than to acknowledge no limits defining will and happiness. When such limits, however, are gradually discovered and an authoritative ideal is born of the marriage of human nature with experience, happiness becomes at once definite and attainable; for adjustment is possible to a world that has a fruitful and intelligible structure.
Such incoherences, which might well arise in ages without traditions, may be preserved and fostered by superstition. Perpetual servile employments and subjection to an irrational society may render people incapable even of conceiving a liberal life. They may come to think their happiness no longer separable from their misery and to fear the large emptiness, as they deem it, of a happy world. Like the prisoner of Chillon, after so long a captivity, they would regain their freedom with a sigh. The wholesome influences of nature, however, would soon revive their wills, contorted by unnatural oppression, and a vision of perfection would arise within them upon breathing a purer air. Freedom and perfection are synonymous with life. The peace they bring is one
whose names are also rapture, power, Clear sight, and love; for these are parts of peace.
[Sidenote: Thought the entelechy of being.]
Thought belongs to the sphere of ultimate results. What, indeed, could be more fitting than that consciousness, which is self-revealing and transcendentally primary, should be its own excuse for being and should contain its own total value, together with the total value of everything else? What could be more proper than that the whole worth of ideas should be ideal? To make an idea instrumental would be to prostitute what, being self-existent, should be self-justifying. That continual absoluteness which consciousness possesses, since in it alone all heaven and earth are at any moment revealed, ought to convince any radical and heart-searching philosopher that all values should be continually integrated and realised there, where all energies are being momently focussed. Thought is a fulfilment; its function is to lend utility to its causes and to make actual those conceived and subterranean processes which find in it their ultimate expression. Thought is nature represented; it is potential energy producing life and becoming an actual appearance.
[Sidenote: Its exuberance.]
The conditions of consciousness, however, are far from being its only theme. As consciousness bears a transcendent relation to the dynamic world (for it is actual and spiritual, while the dynamic is potential and material) so it may be exuberant and irresponsibly rich. Although its elements, in point of distribution and derivation, are grounded in matter, as music is in vibrations, yet in point of character the result may be infinitely redundant. The complete musician would devote but a small part of his attention to the basis of music, its mechanism, psychology, or history. Long before he had represented to his mind the causes of his art, he would have proceeded to practise and enjoy it. So sense and imagination, passion and reason, may enrich the soil that breeds them and cover it with a maze of flowers.
The theme of consciousness is accordingly far more than the material world which constitutes its basis, though this also is one of its themes; thought is no less at home in various expressions and embroideries with which the material world can be overlaid in imagination. The material world is conceived by digging beneath experience to find its cause; it is the efficacious structure and skeleton of things. This is the subject of scientific retrospect and calculation. The forces disclosed by physical studies are of course not directed to producing a mind that might merely describe them. A force is expressed in many other ways than by being defined; it may be felt, resisted, embodied, transformed, or symbolised. Forces work; they are not, like mathematical concepts, exhausted in description. From that matter which might be describable in mechanical formulae there issue notwithstanding all manner of forms and harmonies, visible, audible, imaginable, and passionately prized. Every phase of the ideal world emanates from the natural and loudly proclaims its origin by the interest it takes in natural existences, of which it gives a rational interpretation. Sense, art, religion, society, express nature exuberantly and in symbols long before science is added to represent, by a different abstraction, the mechanism which nature contains.
[Footnote D: Aristippus asked Socrates "whether he knew anything good, so that if he answered by naming food or drink or money or health or strength or valour or anything of that sort, he might at once show that it was sometimes an evil. Socrates, however, knew very well that if anything troubles us what we demand is its cure, and he replied in the most pertinent fashion. 'Are you asking me,' he said, 'if I know anything good for a fever?' 'Oh, no,' said the other. 'Or for sore eyes?' 'Not that, either.' 'Or for hunger?' 'No, not for hunger.' 'Well, then,' said he, 'if you ask me whether I know a good that is good for nothing, I neither know it nor want to know it'"—Xenophon, Memorabilia, iii., 8.]
CHAPTER X—THE MEASURE OF VALUES IN REFLECTION
[Sidenote: Honesty in hedonism.]
To put value in pleasure and pain, regarding a given quantity of pain as balancing a given quantity of pleasure, is to bring to practical ethics a worthy intention to be clear and, what is more precious, an undoubted honesty not always found in those moralists who maintain the opposite opinion and care more for edification than for truth. For in spite of all logical and psychological scruples, conduct that should not justify itself somehow by the satisfactions secured and the pains avoided would not justify itself at all. The most instinctive and unavoidable desire is forthwith chilled if you discover that its ultimate end is to be a preponderance of suffering; and what arrests this desire is not fear or weakness but conscience in its most categorical and sacred guise. Who would not be ashamed to acknowledge or to propose so inhuman an action?
By sad experience rooted impulses may be transformed or even obliterated. And quite intelligibly: for the idea of pain is already the sign and the beginning of a certain stoppage. To imagine failure is to interpret ideally a felt inhibition. To prophesy a check would be impossible but for an incipient movement already meeting an incipient arrest. Intensified, this prophecy becomes its own fulfilment and totally inhibits the opposed tendency. Therefore a mind that foresees pain to be the ultimate result of action cannot continue unreservedly to act, seeing that its foresight is the conscious transcript of a recoil already occurring. Conversely, the mind that surrenders itself wholly to any impulse must think that its execution would be delightful. A perfectly wise and representative will, therefore, would aim only at what, in its attainment, could continue to be aimed at and approved; and this is another way of saying that its aim would secure the maximum of satisfaction eventually possible.
[Sidenote: Necessary qualifications.]
In spite, however, of this involution of pain and pleasure in all deliberate forecast and volition, pain and pleasure are not the ultimate sources of value. A correct psychology and logic cannot allow that an eventual and, in strictness, unpresentable feeling, can determine any act or volition, but must insist that, on the contrary, all beliefs about future experience, with all premonition of its emotional quality, is based on actual impulse and feeling; so that the source of value is nothing but the inner fountain of life and imagination, and the object of pursuit nothing but the ideal object, counterpart of the present demand. Abstract satisfaction is not pursued, but, if the will and the environment are constant, satisfaction will necessarily be felt in achieving the object desired. A rejection of hedonistic psychology, therefore, by no means involves any opposition to eudaemonism in ethics. Eudaemonism is another name for wisdom: there is no other moral morality. Any system that, for some sinister reason, should absolve itself from good-will toward all creatures, and make it somehow a duty to secure their misery, would be clearly disloyal to reason, humanity, and justice. Nor would it be hard, in that case, to point out what superstition, what fantastic obsession, or what private fury, had made those persons blind to prudence and kindness in so plain a matter. Happiness is the only sanction of life; where happiness fails, existence remains a mad and lamentable experiment. The question, however, what happiness shall consist in, its complexion if it should once arise, can only be determined by reference to natural demands and capacities; so that while satisfaction by the attainment of ends can alone justify their pursuit, this pursuit itself must exist first and be spontaneous, thereby fixing the goals of endeavour and distinguishing the states in which satisfaction might be found. Natural disposition, therefore, is the principle of preference and makes morality and happiness possible.