Does Reality Possess Practical Character?


RECENTLY I have had an experience which, insignificant in itself, seems to mean something as an index-figure of the present philosophic situation. In a criticism of the neo-Kantian conception that a priori functions of thought are necessary to constitute knowledge, it became relevant to deny its underlying postulate: viz., the existence of anything properly called mental states or subjective impressions precedent to all objective recognitions, and requiring accordingly some transcendental function to order them into a world of stable and consistent reference. It was argued that such so-called original. mental data are in truth turning points of the readjustment, or making over, through a state of incompatibility and shock, of objective affairs. This doctrine was met by the cry of "subjectivism"! It had seemed to its author to be a criticism, on grounds at once naturalistic and ethical, of the ground proposition of subjectivism. Why this diversity of interpretations ? So

( 54) far as the writer can judge, it is due to the fact that certain things characteristic of practical life, such things as lack and need, conflict and clash, desire and effort, loss and satisfaction, had been frankly referred to reality; and to the further fact that the function and structure of knowing were systematically connected with these practical features. These conceptions are doubtless radical enough ; the latter was perhaps more or less revolutionary. The probability, the antecedent probability, was that hostile critics would have easy work in pointing out specific errors of fact and interpretation. But no : the simpler, the more effective method, was to dismiss the whole thing as anarchic subjectivism.

This was and remains food for thought. I have been able to find but one explanation : In current philosophy, everything of a practical nature is regarded as "merely" personal, and the "merely" has the force of denying legitimate standing in the court of cosmic jurisdiction. This conception seems to me the great and the ignored assumption in contemporary philosophy : many who might shrink from the doctrine if expressly formulated hang desperately to its implications. Yet surely as an underlying assumption, it is sheer prejudice, a culture-survival. If we suppose the traditions of philosophic discussion wiped out and philosophy starting afresh from the most active tendencies of to-day, — those striving in social life,

( 55) in science, in literature, and art, — one can hardly imagine any philosophic view springing up and gaining credence, which did not give large place, in its scheme of things, to the practical and personal, and to them without employing disparaging terms, such as phenomenal, merely subjective, and so on. Why, putting it mildly, should what gives tragedy, comedy, and poignancy to life, be excluded from things ? Doubtless, what we call life, what we take to be genuinely vital, is not all of things, but it is a part of things ; and is that part which counts most with the philosopher — unless he has quite parted with his ancient dignity of lover of wisdom. What becomes of philosophy so far as humane and liberal interests are concerned, if, in an age when the person and the personal loom large in politics, industry, religion, art, and science, it con-tents itself with this parrot cry of phenomenalism. whenever the personal comes into view? When science is carried by the idea of evolution into introducing into the world the principles of initiative, variation, struggle, and selection ; and. when social forces have driven into bankruptcy absolutistic and static dogmas as authorities for the conduct of life, it is trifling for philosophy to de-cline to look the situation in the face. The relegation, as matter of course, of need, of stress and strain, strife and satisfaction, to the merely personal and the merely personal to the limbo of something which is neither flesh, fowl, nor good

( 56) red herring, seems the thoughtless rehearsal of ancestral prejudice.

When we get beyond the echoing of tradition, the sticking point seems to be the relation of knowledge to the practical function of things. Let reality be in itself as "practical" as you please, but let not this practical character lay profane hands on the ark of truth. Every new mode of interpreting life — every, new gospel — is met with the charge of antinomianism. An imagination bound by custom apprehends the restrictions that are relaxed and the checks that are removed, but not the inevitable responsibilities 'and tests that the new idea brings in. And so the conception that knowledge makes a difference in and to things looks licentious to those who fail to see that the necessity of doing well this business, of making the right difference puts intelligence cinder bonds it never yet has known: most of all in philosophy, the most gayly irresponsible of the procedures, and the most irresponsively sullen, of the historic fruits of intelligence.

Why should the idea that knowledge makes a difference to and in things be antecedently objectionable? If one is already committed to a belief that Reality is neatly and finally tied up in a packet without loose ends, unfinished issues or new departures, one would object to knowledge making a. difference just as one would abject to any other impertinent obtruder. But if

( 57) one believes that the world itself is in transformation, why should the notion that knowledge is the most important mode of its modification and the only organ of its guidance be a priori. obnoxious

There is, I think, no answer save that the theory of knowledge has been systematically built up on the notion of a static universe, so that even. those who are perfectly free in accepting the lessons of physics and biology concerning moving energy and evolution, and of history concerning the constant transformation of man's affairs (science included). retain an unquestioning belief in a. theory of knowledge which is out of any possible harmony with their own theory of the matters to be known.. Modern epistemology, having erected the idea that the way to frame right conceptions is to analyze knowledge, has strengthened this view. For it at once leads to the view that realities must themselves have a, theoretic and intellectual complexion — not a practical one. This view as naturally congenial to idealists ; but that realists should so readily play into the hands of idealists by asserting what, on the basis of a formal theory of knowledge, realities must be, instead of accepting the guidance of things in divining what knowledge is, is an anomaly so striking as to support the view that the notion of static reality has taken its last stand in ideas about knowledge. Take, for example, the most striking, because the extreme case — knowledge of a, past event. It is

( 58) absurd to suppose that knowledge makes a difference to the final or appropriate content of knowledge : to the subject-matter which fulfils the requirements of knowing. In this case, it would get in its own way and trip itself up in endless regress. But it seems the very superstition of intellectualism to suppose that this fact about knowledge can decide what is the nature of that reference to the past which when rightly made is final. No doctrine about knowledge can hinder the belief — if there be sufficient specific evidence for it -- that what we know as past may be something which has irretrievably undergone just the difference which knowledge makes.

Now arguments against pragmatism — by which I mean the doctrine that reality possesses practical character and that this character is most efficaciously expressed in the function of intelligence[1] — seem to fall blandly into this fallacy. They assume that to hold that knowledge makes a difference in existences is equivalent to holding that it makes a difference in the object to be known, thus defeating its own purpose ; witless that the reality which is the appropriate object of knowledge in a given case

( 59) may be precisely a reality in which knowing has succeeded in making the needed difference. This question is not one to be settled by manipulation of the concept of knowledge, nor by dialectic discussion of its essence or nature. It is a question of facts, a question of what knowing exists as in the scheme of existence. If things undergo change without thereby ceasing to be real, there can be no

formal bar to knowing being one specific kind of change in things, nor to its test being found in the successful carrying into effect of the kind of change intended. If knowing be a change in a, reality, then the more knowing reveals this change, the more transparent, the more adequate, it is. And if all existences are in transition, then the knowledge which treats them as if they were something of which knowledge is a kodak fixation is just the kind of knowledge which refracts and perverts them. And by the same token a knowing which actively participates in a change in the way to effect it in the needed fashion would be the type of knowing which is valid. If reality be itself in transition — and this doctrine originated not with the objectionable pragmatist but with the physicist and naturalist and moral historian — then the doctrine that knowledge is reality making a particular and specified sort of change in itself seems to have the best chance at maintaining a theory of knowing which itself is in wholesome touch with the genuine and valid.

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If the ground be cleared of a priori objections, and if it be evident that pragmatism cannot be disposed of by any formal or dialectic manipulations of "knowledge" or "truth," but only by showing that some specific things are not of the sort claimed, we may consider some common sense affiliations of pragmatism. Common sense regards intelligence as having a purpose and knowledge as amounting to something. I once heard a physicist, quite innocent of the pragmatic controversy, remark that the knowledge of a mechanic or farmer was what the Yankee calls gumption — acknowledgment of things in their belongings and rises, and that to his mind natural science was only gumption on a larger scale: the convenient cataloguing and arranging of a whole lot of things with reference to their most efficacious services. Popularly, good judgment is judgment as to the relative values of things : good sense is horse sense, ability to take hold of things right end up, to fit an instrument to an obstacle, to select resources apt for a task. To be reasonable is to recognize things in their offices as obstacles and as resources. Intelligence, in its ordinary use, is a practical term ; ability to size up matters with respect to the needs and possibilities of the various situations in which one is called to do something; capacity to en-

( 61) -visage things in terms of the adjustments adaptations they make possible or hinder. Our objective test of the presence or absence of intelligence is influence upon behavior. No capacity to make adjustments means no intelligence ; conduct evincing management of complex and novel conditions means a high degree of reason. Such conditions at least suggest that a reality-to-be-known, a reality which is the appropriate subject-matter of knowledge is reality-of-use-and-in-use, direct or indirect, and that a reality which is not in any sort of use, or bearing upon use, may go hang, so far as knowledge is concerned.

No one, I suppose, would deny that all knowledge issues in some action which changes things to some extent — be the action only a more deliberate maintenance of a course of conduct already instinctively entered upon. When I see a sign on the street corner I can turn or go on, knowing what I am about. The perceptions of the scientist need have no such overt or utilitarian uses, but surely after them he behaves differently, as au inquirer if in no other way ; and the cumulative effect of such changes finally modifies the overt action of the ordinary man. That knowing, after the event, makes a difference of this sort, few I suppose would deny : if that were all pragmatism means, it would perhaps be accepted as a harmless truism. But there is a further question of fact just how is the "consequent" action

( 62) related to the "precedent" knowledge ? When is "after the event"? What degree of continuity exists? Is

the difference between knowing and acting intelligently one of kind or simply one of dominant quality ? How does a thing, if it is not already in change in the knowing, manage to issue at its term in action ? Moreover, do not the changes actively effected constitute the whole import of the knowledge, and hence its final measure and test of validity ? If it merely happens that knowing when it is done with passes into some action, by what miracle is the subsequent action so pat to the situation? Is it not rather true that the "knowledge" is instituted and framed in anticipation of the consequent issue, and, in the degree in which it is wise and prudent, is held open to revision during it? Certainly the moralist (one might quote, for example, Goethe, Carlyle, and Mazzini) and the common man often agree that full knowledge, adequate assurance, of reality is found only in the issue which fulfils ideas; that we have to do a doctrine to know its truth ; otherwise it is only dogma or doctrinaire programme. Experimental science is a recognition that no idea is entitled to be termed knowledge till it has passed into such overt manipulation of physical conditions as constructs the object to which the idea refers. If one could get rid of his traditional logical theories and set to work afresh to frame a theory of knowledge on the basis of the procedure of the

( 63) common man, the moralist and the experimentalist, would it be the forced or the natural procedure to say that the realities which we know, which we are sure of, are precisely those realities that have taken shape in and through the procedures of knowing ?

I turn to another type of consideration. Certainly one of the most genuine problems of modern life is the reconciliation of the scientific view of the universe with the claims of the moral life. Are judgments in terms of the redistribution of matter in motion (or some other closed formula)
alone valid? Or are accounts of the universe in terms of possibility and desirability, of initiative and responsibility, also valid? There is no occasion to expatiate on the importance of the moral life, nor upon the supreme importance of intelligence within the moral life. But there does seem to be occasion for asking how moral judgments — judgments of the would and should —relate themselves to the world of scientific knowledge. To frame a theory of knowledge which makes it necessary to deny the validity of moral ideas, or else to refer them to some other and separate kind of universe from that of common sense and science, is both provincial and arbitrary. The pragmatist has at least tried to face, and not to dodge, the question of how it is that moral and scientific "knowledge" can both hold of one and the same world. And whatever the difficulties in his proffered solution, the conception that scientific

( 64) judgments are to be assimilated to moral is closer to common sense than is the theory that validity is to be denied of moral judgments because they do not square with a preconceived theory of the nature of the world to which scientific judgments must refer. And all moral judgments are about changes to be made.


I turn to one affiliation of the pragmatic theory with the results of recent science. The necessity for the occurrence of an event in the way of knowledge, of an. organism which reacts or behaves in a specific way, would seem to be as well established as any scientific proposition. It is a peculiar fact, a fact fit to stir curiosity, that the rational function seems to be intercalated in a scheme of practical adjustments. The parts and members of the organism are certainly not there primarily for pure intellection or for theoretic contemplation. The brain, the last physical organ of thought, is a part of the same practical machinery for bringing about adaptation of the environment to the life requirements of the organism, to which belong legs and hand and eye. That the brain frees organic behavior from complete servitude to immediate physical conditions, that it makes possible the liberation of energy for remote and ever expanding ends is, indeed, a precious fact, but not

( 65) one which removes the brain from the category of organic devices of behavior.[2] That the organ of thinking, of knowledge, was at least originally an organ of conduct, few, I imagine, will deny. And even if we try to believe that the cognitive function has supervened as a different operation, it is difficult to believe that the transfiguration has been so radical that knowing has lost all traces of its connection with vital impulse. But unless we so assume, have we any alternative-,except to hold that this continual presence of vital impulse is a disturbing and refracting factor which forever prevents knowledge from reaching its own aim ; or else that a certain promoting, a certain carrying forward of the vital impulse, importing certain differences in things, is the aim of knowledge ?

The problem cannot be evaded — save ostrich wise — by saying that such considerations are "merely genetic" or "psychological," having to do only with the origin and natural history of knowing. For the point is that the organic reaction, the behavior of the organism, affects the content of awareness. The subject-matter of all awareness is thing-related-to-organism -- related as stimulus direct or indirect or as material of response, present or remote, ulterior or achieved.

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No one — so far as I know — denies this with respect to the perceptual field of awareness. Pains, pleasures, hunger, and thirst, all "secondary" qualities, involve inextricably the "interaction" of organism . and environment. The perceptual field is distributed and arranged as the possible field of selective reactions of the organism at its centre. Up and down, far and near, before and behind, right and left, hard and soft (as well as white and black, bass and alto), involve reference to a centre of behavior.

This material has so long been the stock in trade of both idealistic arguments and proclamations of the agnostic "relativity" of knowledge that philosophers have grown aweary of listening. But even this lethargy might he quickened by a moderate hospitality to the pragmatic interpretation. That red, or far and near. or hard and soft, or big and little, involve a relation between organism and environment, is no more an argument for idealism than is the fact that water involves a relation between hydrogen and oxygen.[3] It is, however, an argument for the ultimately practical value of these distinctions — that they are differences made in what things would have been without organic behavior — differences made not by "consciousness" or "mind," but by the organism as the active centre of a system of activities. Moreover, the whole agnostic sting of the doctrine

( 67) of "relativity" lies in the assumption that the ideal or aim of knowledge is to repeat or copy a prior existence — in which case, of course, the making of contemporaneous differences by the organism in the very fact of awareness would get in the way and forever hinder the knowledge function from the fulfilment of its proper end Knowledge, awareness, in this case suffers from an impediment which no surgery can better. But if the aim of knowing be precisely to make certain differences in an environment, to carry on to favorable issue, by the readjustment of the organism, certain changes going on indifferently in he environment, then the fact that the changes of the organism enter pervasively into the subject-matter of awareness is no restriction or perversion of knowledge, but part of the fulfilment of its end.

The only question would then be whether the proper reactions take place. The whole agnostic, positivistic controversy is flanked by a single move. The issue is no longer an ideally necessary but actually impossible copying, versus an improper but unavoidable modification of reality through organic inhibitions and stimulations : but it is the right, the economical, the effective, and, if once may venture, the useful and satisfactory reaction versus the wasteful, the enslaving, the misleading and the confusing reaction. The presence of organic responses, influencing and modifying every content, every subject-matter of awareness. is the

( 68) undoubted fact. But the significant thing is the way organic behavior enters in — the way it influences and modifies. We assign very different values to different types of "knowledge," — or subject-matters involving organic attitudes and operations. Some are only guesses, opinions, suspicious characters; others are "knowledge" in the honorific and eulogistic sense — science ; some turnout mistakes, blunders, errors. Whence and how this discrimination of character in what is taken at its own time to be good knowledge ? Why and how is the matter of some "knowledge" genuine-knowing and of other misknowing ? Awareness is itself a blanket term, covering, in the same bed, delusion, doubt, confusion, ambiguity, and definition, organization, logical conclusiveness assured by evidence and reason. Any naturalistic or realistic theory is committed to the idea that all of these terms bear impartially the same relation to things considered as sheer existences. What we must have in any case is the same existences — the same in kind — only differently arranged or linked up. But why then the tremendous difference in value? And if the unnaturalist, the non-realist, says the difference is one of existential kind, made by the working here malign, there benign, of "consciousness," "psychical" operations and states, upon the existences which are the direct subject-matter of knowledge, there is still the problem of discriminating the conditions and nature of the

( 69) respective beneficent and malicious interventions of the peculiar "existence" labeled consciouness.[4] The realness of error, ambiguity, doubt and guess poses a problem. It is a problem which has perplexed philosophy so long and has led to so many speculative adventures, that it would seem worth while, were it only for the sake of variety, to listen to the pragmatic solution. It is the business of that organic adaptation involved in all knowing to make a certain difference in reality, but not to make any old. difference, any casual. difference. The right, the true and good, difference is that which carries out satisfactorily the specific purpose for the sake of which knowing occurs. AP manufactures are the product of an activity, but it does not follow that all manufactures are equally good. And so all "knowledges" are differences. made in things by knowing, but some differences are not calculated or wanted in. the knowing, and hence are disturbers and interlopers when they come — while others fulfil the intent of the knowing, being in such harmony with the consistent. behavior of the organism as to reinforce and enlarge its functioning. A mistake is literally a mishandling ; a doubt is a temporary suspense and vacillation of reactions ; an ambiguity is the tension of alternative but incompatible mode of

( 70) responsive treatment; an inquiry is a tentative and retrievable (because intra-organic) mode of activity entered upon prior to launching upon a knowledge which is public, ineluctable -- without anchors to windward — because it has taken physical effect through overt action.

It is practically all one to say that the norm of honorable knowing is to make no difference in its object, and that its aim is to attain and buttress a specific kind of difference in reality. Knowing fails in its business if it makes a change in its own object -- that is a mistake; but its own object is none the less a. prior existence changed in a certain way. Nor is this a play upon the two senses -- end and subject-matter — of "object." The organism has its appropriate functions. To maintain, to expand adequate functioning is its business. This functioning does not occur in vacuo. It involves co-operative and readjusted changes in the cosmic medium. Hence the appropriate subject-matter of awareness is not reality at large, a metaphysical heaven to be mimeographed at many removes upon a badly constructed mental carbon paper which yields at best only fragmentary, blurred, and erroneous copies. Its proper and legitimate object is that relationship of organism and environment in which functioning is most amply and effectively attained; or by which, in case of obstruction and consequent needed experimentation, its later eventual free course is

( 71) most facilitated. As for the other reality, meta-physical reality at large, it may, so far as awareness is concerned, go to its own place.

For ordinary purposes, that is for practical purposes, the truth and the realness of things are synonymous. We are all children who say "really and truly A reality which is so taken. in organic response as to lead. to subsequent re-actions that are off the track and aside from the mark, while it is, existentially speaking, perfectly real, is not good reality. It lacks the hall-mark of value. Since it is a certain kind of object which we want, that which will be as favorable as possible to a. consistent and liberal or growing functioning, it is this kind, the true kind, which. for us monopolizes the title of reality. Pragmatically, teleologically, this identification of truth and "reality " is sound and reasonable: rationalistically, it leads to the notion of the duplicate versions of reality, one absolute and static because exhausted; the other phenomenal and kept continually on the jump because otherwise its own inherent nothingness would lead to its total annihilation. Since it is only genuine or sincere things, things which are good for what they pretend to in the way of consequences, that we want or are after, morally they alone are "real."

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So far we have been dealing with awareness as a fact — a fact there like any fact — and have been concerned to show that the subject-matter of awareness is, in any case, things in process of change ; and in such change that the knowing function takes a hand in trying to guide it or steer it, so that some (and not other) differences accrue. But what about the awareness itself? What happens when it is made the subject-matter of awareness? What sort of a thing is it? It is, I submit, mere sophistication (futile at that), to argue either that we cannot become aware of awareness without involving ourselves in an endless regress, or that whenever we are aware of anything we are thereby necessarily aware of awareness once for all, so that it has no character save this purely formal and empty one. Taken concretely, awareness is an event with certain specifiable conditions. We may indeed be aware of it formally, as a bare fact, just as we may he cognizant of an explosion without knowing anything of its nature. But we may also be aware of it in a curious and analytic spirit, under-taking to study it in detail. This inquiry, like any other inquiry, proceeds by determining conditions and consequences. Here awareness is a characteristic fact, presenting to inquiry its own

( 73) characteristic ear-marks ; and a valid knowledge of awareness is the same sort of thing as valid knowledge of the spectrum or of a trotting horse ; it proceeds generically in the same way and must satisfy the same generic tests.

What, then, is awareness found to be? The following answer, dogmatically summary in form, involves positive difficulties, and glides over many points where our ignorance is still too great. But it represents a general trend of scientific inquiry, carried on, I hardly need say, on its own merits without respect to the pragmatic controversy. Awareness means attention, and attention means a crisis of some sort in an existent situation ; a forking of the roads of some material, a tendency to go this way and that. It represents something the matter, something out of gear, or in some way menaced, insecure, problematical. and strained. This state of tension, of ambiguous indications, projects and tendencies, is not merely in the "mind," it is nothing merely emotional. It is in the facts of the situation as transitive facts ; the emotional or "subjective" disturbance is just a part of the larger disturbance. And if, employing the language of psychology, we say that attention is a phenomenon of conflicting habits, being the process of resolving this conflict by finding an act which functions all the factors concerned, this language does not make the facts "merely psychological"— whatever that

( 74) means.[5] The habits are as biologic as they are "personal," and as cosmic as they are biologic. They are the total order of things expressed in one way; just as a physical or chemical phenomenon is the same order expressed in another way-. The statement in terms of conflict and readjustment of habits is at most one way of locating the disturbance in things; it furnishes no substitute for, or rival of, reality, and no "psychical" duplication.

If this be true, then awareness, even in its most perplexed and confused state, a state of maximum doubt and precariousness of subject-matter, means things entering, via the particular thing known as organism, into a peculiar condition of differential — or additive — change. How can we re-fuse to raise and consider the question of how things in this condition are related to the prior state which emerges into it, and to the subsequent state of things into which it issues ? [6]

Suppose the case to be awareness of a, chair. Suppose that this awareness comes only when there is some problematic affair with which the

( 75) chair is in some way —in whatever degree o' remoteness — concerned. It may be a wonder whether that is a chair at all ; or whether it is strong enough to stand on; or where I shall put it; or whether it is worth what I paid for it; or, as not infrequently happens, the situation involved in uncertainty may be some philosophic matter in which the perception of the chair is cited as evidence or illustration. (Humorously enough, the awareness of it may even be cited in the course of a philosophic argument intended to show that awareness has nothing to do with situations of incompleteness and. ambiguity.) Now what of the change the chair undergoes in entering this way into a situation of perplexed inquiry ? Is this any part of the genuineness of that chair with which we are concerned ? If not, where is the change found ? In something totally different called " consciousness " ? In that case how can the operations of inquiry, of observation and memory and reflection, ever have any assurance of getting referred back to the right object ? Positively the presumption is that the chair-of-which-we-are-speaking is the chair of-which-we-are-speaking; it is the same thing that is out there which is involved also in the doubtful situation. Moreover, the reference to "consciousness” as the exclusive locus of the doubt only repeats the problem, for "consciousness," by the theory under consideration, means, after all, only the

( 76) chair as concerned in the problematical situation. The physical chair remains unchanged, you say. Surely, if as is altogether likely, what is meant by physical is precisely that part of the chair as object of total awareness which remains unaffected, for certain possible purposes, by entering for certain other actual purposes into the situation of awareness. But how can we segregate, antecedently to experimental inquiry, the "physical" chair from the chair which is now the object to be known ; into what contradictions do we fall when we attempt to define the object of one awareness not in its own terms, but in terms or a selected type of object which is the appropriate subject-matter of some other cognizance !

But awareness means inquiry as well as doubt —these are the negative and positive, the retrospective and the prospective relationships of the thing. This means a genuinely additive quale — one of readjustment in prior things.[7] I know the dialectic argument that nothing can assume a new relation, because in order to do so it must already be completely related — when it comes from an absolutist I can understand why he holds it, even if I cannot understand the idea itself, But apart from this conceptual reasoning we must follow the lead of our subject-matter; and when we find a thing assuming new relations

( 77) in the process of inquiry, must accept the fact and frame our theory of things and of knowing to include it, not assert that it is impossible because we already have a theory of knowledge which precludes it. In inquiry, the existence which has become doubtful always undergoes experimental reconstruction. This may be largely imaginative or "speculative." We may view certain things as if placed under varying conditions, and consider what then happens to them. But such differences are really transformative so far as they go, — and besides, such inquiries never reach conclusions finally justifiable. In important and persistent inquiry, we insist upon something in the way of actual physical making — be it only a diagram. In other words, science, or knowing in its honorific sense, is experimental, involving physical construction. We insist upon something being done about it, that we may see how the idea when carried into effect comports with the other things through which our activities are hedged in and released. To avoid this conclusion by saying that knowing makes no difference in the " truth," but merely is the preliminary exercise which discovers it, is that

old friend whose acquaintance we have repeatedly made in this discussion: the fallacy of confusing an existence anteceding knowing with the object which terminates and fulfils it. For knowing to make difference in its own final term is gross self-stultification; it is none the less so when

( 78) the aim of knowing is precisely to guide things straight up to this term. When " truth " means the accomplished introduction of certain new differences into conditions, why be foolish enough to make other and more differences, which are not wanted since they are irrelevant and misleading ?

Were it not for the teachings of sad experience, it would not be necessary to add that the change in environment made by knowing is not a total or miraculous change. Transformation, readjustment, reconstruction all imply prior existences : existences which have characters and behaviors of their own which must he accepted, consulted, humored, manipulated or made light of, in all kinds of differing ways in the different contexts of different problems. Making a difference in reality does not mean making any more difference than we find b experimentation can be made under the given conditions—even though we may still hope for different fortune another time under other circumstances. Still less does it mean making a thing into an unreality, though. the pragmatist is some-times criticised as if any change in reality must be a change into non-reality. There are difficulties indeed, both dialectic, and real or practical, in the fact of change — in the fact that only a permanent can change and that change is alteration of a permanent. But till we enjoin botanists and chemists from referring to changes and transformations in their subject-matter on the ground that for any-

( 79) -thing to change means for it. to part with its reality, we may as well permit the logicianto make similar references.


Sub specie aeternitatis ? or sub speciegenerationis ? I am susceptible to the aesthetic charm of the former ideal — who is not ? There are moments of relaxation: there are moments when the demand for peace, to be let alone and relieved from the continual claim of the world in which we live that we be up and doing something about it, seems irresistible ; when the responsibilities imposed by living in a moving universe seem intolerable. We contemplate with equal mind the thought of the eternal sleep. But, after all, this is a matter in which reality and not the philosopher is the court of final jurisdiction. Outside of philosophy the question seems fairly settled; in science, in poetry, in social organization, in religion — wherever religion is not hopelessly at the mercy of a Frankenstein philosophy which it originally called into being as its own slave. Under such circumstances there is danger that the philosophy which tries to escape the form of generation by taking refuge under the form of eternity will only come under the form of a by -gone generation. To try to escape from the snares and pitfalls of time by recourse to traditional problems and interests

( 80) — rather than that let the dead bury their own dead. Better it is for philosophy to err in active participation in the living struggles and issues of its own age and times than to maintain an immune monastic impeccability, without relevancy and bearing in the generating ideas of its contemporary present. In the one case, it will be respected, as we respect all virtue that attests its sincerity by sharing in the perplexities and failures, as well as in the joys and triumphs, of endeavor. In the other ease, it bids fair to share the fate of what-ever preserves its gentility. but not its activity, in descent from better days ; namely, to be snugly ensconced in the consciousness of its own respectability.


  1. This definition, in the present state of discussion, is an arbitrary or personal one. The text does not mean that "pragmatism" is currently used exclusively in this sense; obviously there are other senses. It does not mean it is the sense in which it ought to be used. I have no wish to legislate either for language or for philosophy. But it marks the sense in which it is used in this paper; and the pragmatic movement is still so loose and variable that I judge one has a right to fix his own meaning, provided he serves notice and adheres to it.
  2. It is interesting to note bow the metaphysical puzzle regarding "parallelism," "interaction," "automatism." the relation of "consciousness” to "body," evaporate when one ceases isolating the brain into a peculiar physical substrate of mind at large, and treats it simply as one portion of the body as the instrumentality of adaptive behavior.
  3. I owe this illustration to my colleague, Dr. Montague.
  4. Of course on the theory I am interested in expounding, the se-called action of "consciousness" means simply the organic releases in the way of behavior which are the conditions of awareness, and which also modify its content.
  5. What does it mean? Does the objectivity of fact disappear when the biologist gives it a biological statement? Why not object to his conclusions on the ground that they are "merely" biological?
  6. It is this question of the relation to one other of different successive states of things which the pragmatic method substitutes for the epistemological inquiry of how one sort of existence, purely mental, temporal but not spatial, immaterial, made up of sublimated gaseous consciousness, can get beyond itself and have valid reference to a totally different kind of existence — spatial and extended ; and how it can receive impressions from the latter, etc., -- all the questions which constitute that species of confirmed intellectual lock-jaw called epistemology.
  7. We have arrived here, upon a more analytic platform, at the point made earlier concerning the fact that knowing issues in action which changes things

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