The Philosophy of the Act

Essay 2 The Limits of the Problematic

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IT HAS long been a subject of comment, both within and without philosophic circles, that epistemology, the problem of knowledge, has excited not the slightest interest among scientists, whose profession is that of discovering what has been unknown. If there is a problem of knowledge, the knower par excellence has not had it obtruded upon him among the other research problems with which he is occupied. Even the psychologist, within whose immediate domain lie the data and processes that are traditionally involved in that problem, has dismissed the problem from his field, in so far as he has naturalized himself among the experimental scientists.

There have indeed been experimental scientists who have recognized certain phases of the problem, notably those such as Helmholtz, whose investigations included the physical processes involved in sense perception. To Helmholtz the sign character of so-called sensations in perception was of distinct importance, and the interpretations which he placed on various of the physical and physiological situations which he was studying were implicated in his theory of perception as an interpretation of signs.

There have been studies of the nervous system which have been quite bound up with theories of the functions of the elements of the nervous system in the processes of a so-called consciousness, while current causal theories of thinking call upon neurology to present neural data which are involved in thought. While such presentations and hypotheses of science have their direct bearing upon the epistemological problem, if there is such a problem, no one would suppose that the actual research problem of the physicist, or physiologist, in the form

(27) in which he was pursuing its solution, could itself possibly be the epistemological problem.

The kernel of the epistemological problem is found in the assumption that the immediate object of knowledge is in such a sense an effect produced in the percipient individual that he is after all unable to know the world that he guesses to produce these effects in him, but can know only the effects themselves. He can only pass by an unverifiable inference from what must be called his own experience to the world external to that experience, but which he assumes is the condition of the experience from which he is unable to escape.

There are those in the various philosophic camps who still find absorbing interest in the intricacies which the attempted unraveling of this problem discovers. There are those who, while they are too tender of entities to make use of the razor of Occam, do not hesitate to ply the sword of Alexander in cutting the Gordian knot. They say that knowledge, instead of being an experiencing of an effect produced in the experiencer by something outside the experience, is but a relation existing between a mind and an object. There is no problem so far as the awareness of immediate data is concerned. There is still the difficulty in getting over from these immediate data to scientific objects which, by definition, never can be given in this immediate awareness.

It is not to these intricacies that I would invite attention but to the fact already noted that neither as a problem of getting from an experienced effect to a world that is responsible for the effect, nor as a difficulty in relating our immediate perceptual world with an atomic and subatomic world that is not and cannot be immediately perceptual, does this epistemological problem exist for the scientist, whose business it is to discover the unknown.

There are various standpoints from which this fact may be regarded-this fact that to the experimental scientist, whose undertaking it is to know the unknown, the problem involved in assuming the object of knowledge to be an effect produced in

(28) the knower does not exist. The logical incidence of this problem in experimental science would be found in the validity which the experiment is supposed to give to the scientists' hypothetical account of the unknown. The experiment seems to be a hand stretched out into the dark unknown cleverly grasping reality and bringing it into the sharp light of knowledge, but, according to the effect doctrine of knowledge, this is a lying metaphor: knowledge grasps nothing. It has no hands, not even a prehensile tail. It is just one blind experience after another matched by unverifiable guesses as to the causes of these experiences, if there be any causes.

To the experimental scientist knowledge is evidently no such thing. It is a connection of objects formerly unconnected, an analysis and reconstruction of things, all to the end of extending a viable trustworthy world at a point where its structure proved faulty. If his identification of knowledge with discovery is legitimate, it has no common part with a doctrine that extends it, or dreams of extending it, beyond the world to what can never appear within it. If we abandon the effect theory of knowledge, we may define knowledge as an ultimate relation between a mind and the elements of the world, so-called sensory data, relations, and universals. Or we may confine this relation, which connects the mind with something outside it, to essences which can more easily be thought of as inhabiting both minds and things, while sensory data are treated as if they were effects in experience.

It would be difficult to find entities in which the research scientist would be less interested than these essences, unless one were to turn back in the theory of knowledge to medieval scholasticism and take down from the shelves and dust off the forms and quiddities of the Schoolmen. For this is the suggestion that I am making -- that there must be some point or points at which a theory of knowing that is both competent and germane to its period will be of technical interest to its scientists, i.e., to those whose business and profession it is so to analyze and criticize its objects that they may become the data

(29) of knowledge, and to so organize these data that that which is unknown may become known. Nor will their interest be excited in a doctrine that knowledge is a simple unanalyzable relation of awareness existing between the object or datum and the mind. This is a doctrine that may have dialectical interest. It can hardly have practical interest to the scientist. Nor have the logics, deductive and inductive, furnished the experimental scientists with techniques for stating their problems, for fashioning their hypotheses, or for suggesting the experiments by which they could be tested. Whatever explanation is offered for it, all who are familiar with the history of modern science will admit that none of its discoveries has been made because of a technique which logical theory formulated and inculcated.

There are, however, two aspects of the nature with which experimental science is occupied--aspects which are assumed in its researches and essential to its results, and which it cannot itself establish. The one assumption is of the systematic and uniform character of natural processes. The other assumption is of the integral part which those individual experiences, within which appear the problems of science and their hypothetical solutions, occupy in nature.

The scientist does not formulate this first assumption in the immediate presence of his problem and the formation and testing of his hypothesis. His attitude may be said to involve the assumption of the uniformity and systematic character of the world, but it does not appear as a part of his apparatus. The world as uniform and systematic is simply there for analysis and experiment. But it is part of his attitude that he is ready, upon the appearance of any other problem, to question this structure of the accepted world at that point. So far as this attitude is essential to the recognition of the continually shifting character of his problems, it does involve the inexhaustibleness of the field of the knowledge process and its openness to discovery, that is, the essential relatedness of things. The world is simply there, over against the problematic area, within which analysis and discovery take place, but the invasion of this world by the

(30) problematic area produces in him the attitude of readiness to look for this relatedness of things wherever the problem carries his investigation. But it must not be forgotten that, however wide a diameter the problematic area assumes, it is always surrounded by a universe that is simply there and therefore to be used for experimental testing of hypotheses. Scientific technique is not interested in establishing the rational character of the world as the precondition of its operation. It is interested solely in locating its problem within the world that is there and in bringing this world to bear upon its attempted solutions. This interest extends to the development of the problem, as its area enlarges and the data which have arisen from its earlier analysis are brought into relation with the data arising from the analysis consequent upon the problem's wider scope; but, however wide the scope, there is always a world there that passes magisterially upon its observations and its hypotheses. The scientist asks himself not whether the world will be rational and law-abiding but whether this observation will be confirmed and whether experiment will pronounce in favor of this hypothesis.

This locates the whole field of probability within that of the problem, as the area of the problem, by the processes of so-called abstraction and generalization, widens until the solution fits into and becomes a part of an entire system of attitudes or responses toward nature. What happens, happens and, under one of its senses, may be characterized by the ambiguous term "necessary," but whether it is probable that in certain cities there will be next year in the months of November and February influenza epidemics is a question simply of the degree to which the therapeutic treatment of influenza during successive years fits into and becomes a part of the general therapeutic theory and practice over against infectious diseases. If this has become an essential part of the medical attitude, we say that it is in the highest degree probable that such recurrences of the infection will take place. In all cases of mere probability there are conflicting tendencies to respond to a certain part of a situa-

(31) -tion, and the degree to which one of these alternative responses fits into the organized response to the whole situation, which has been inhibited by this conflict, is the measure of its probability. Where the event justifies the guess, we are likely uncritically to speak of the event as in some sense constrained by the probability, while what has taken place is that we are confirmed in a certain type of organized response to a certain type of situation, and a certain type of object has arisen in our experience which was not certainly there before. The numerical expression of probability belongs to those situations in which the stimuli which call out the conflicting responses can be reduced to quantities in unit form, and thus the exact relative amount which will call out one response rather than another can be stated.

It is the fundamental distinction between the world that confirms observations and tests hypotheses, and the problematic areas of data of observation (their hypothetical elements of analysis together with the hypothetical reconstructions of thought) that I am emphasizing, together with the categories whose implications belong to the one but do not belong to the other. Thus, as I have just indicated, in the world of immediate experience events simply occur. In the problematic field of thought they are probable in varying degrees. In much the same fashion, in the world of immediate experience the world of things is there. Trees grow, day follows night, and death supervenes upon life. One may not say that relations here are external or even internal. They are not relations at all. They are lost in the indiscerptibility of things and events, which are what they are. This world which is the test of all observation and all scientific hypothetical reconstruction has in itself no system that can he isolated as a structure of laws, or uniformities, though all laws and formulations of uniformities must be brought to its court for its imprimatur. The boundary of the problematic area divides this world from the field within which science is at work. However, as 1 have noted, this boundary, while definite for the test of observation and hypothesis, is by no means a permanent boundary, so that science occupies dual

(32) attitudes toward it. For the purposes of its immediate investigation, it is there for proof and confirmation. But the very territory which is the seat of this authority may itself become problematic.

As possibly problematic the world is subject to analysis, is a conceivable structure of relations, of laws and uniformities. It can, however, appear as such only in so far as a nonproblematic world is there of which it is an area, and can serve as the touchstone of its reality. It is this that sets a limit to analysis; not a limit in the sense that a problem may not break out at any point in the universe but in the sense that a problem does not arise except over against that which is not problematic. It is especially important to recognize that in the operation of the experimental technique, that which serves as the ultimate touchstone of observation and working hypothesis is not of the nature of abstract law or postulate, either of physical nature or of so-called mind, or a subsistent world of universals. On the contrary the ultimate touchstone of reality is a piece of experience found in an unanalyzed world. The approach to the crucial experiment may be by a process of torturing analysis, in which things are physically and mentally torn to shreds, so that we seem to be viewing the dissected tissues of objects in ghostly dance before us, but the actual objects in the experimental experience are the common things of which we say that seeing is believing, and of whose reality we convince ourselves by handling. We extravagantly advertise the photograph of the path of an electron, but in fact we could never have given as much reality to the electrical particle as does now inhabit it, if the photograph had been of aught else than glistening water vapor. Thus we can never retreat behind immediate experience to analyzed elements that constitute the ultimate reality of all immediate experience, for whatever breath of reality these elements possess has been breathed into them by some unanalyzed experience.

It is true that these objects in experience have become different objects through this analysis and reconstruction, and

(33) that, in so far as the structure of things is still merely that of working hypotheses, we seem to see and feel through their immediate surfaces the Imagined elements Into which reflective science has dissolved them. We thus reach the distinction between the world of our immediate conduct and that of the so-called data of science. For most intelligent people of the day it may be fairly said that the earth turning on its axis is a fact of immediate experience. The passage of the sun from its rising to the going-down thereof has become a revolution of the earth in the contrary direction. Yellow fever, instead of being an infection carried directly from the sick to the well, has become the life-process of a parasite that passes its period of existence in part in the mosquito and in part in its human host.

It has become common subject matter of popularizing science and philosophy, this almost bewildering passage of one world upon the heels of another in the last two or three centuries of the history of reflective thought. In the sharp and rhetorical contrast which is drawn between the old and the new, the emotive historian neglects that world of direct experience (which belongs neither to the old nor to the new) within which the scientific observations and experiments have taken place, while the phenomenonalist has either impoverished it by its apparent abstractions in contrasting it with the old, or in contrasting it with the new, and, though recognizing its concrete nature, has condemned it epistemologically as particular and subjective.

There is only one way of locating this world of observation and experiment, and that is by its position within the field of conduct, reflective conduct, within which it appears. The problem inevitably appears in the experience of some individual, for it is the nature of that which is problematic to be, in so far as it is problematic, at variance with the world which is common to us all; and of that which in any way, however slight, has not its place in the public world, the individual who hears, sees, or feels it can only say that he has heard, seen, and felt it. A question, actual or implied, as to any happening carries it back at once to the experience of the individual who reports it, and its ac-

(34) -tuality is reduced to his experience. And the individual in any experience which is in any sense exceptional finds himself formulating what is exceptional as his own, while the setting and surroundings are there as the world of all. This is as true of thinking as of observation. The so-called commonly accepted truths appear in thought as there for all, over against which stand out the individual's objections, exceptions, and vaguer opposed feelings which are his own. Of course, the onward movement tends to take them out of this situation and give them universal validity. What I am insisting upon is that their actuality as experiences of the individual does not consist merely in the fact that he is the one that happens to be in their presence and so to see or hear or think them. It is the phase of the experience which is so peculiar that its reality has no other ground than that A. B. saw. heard, or thought it, which forces it upon the biography of the man. None of us assumes that the reality of the forest is dependent upon its being observed by those who pass through it, but for considerable periods such exact observations as Darwin's upon the fertilization of orchids rested for their reality in his having had those experiences. It should be repeated that such experiences exist, necessarily, only in the midst of the world of common reality.

If the common world within which the individual experiences are located disappeared, the individual experiences as such would disappear also. Not only would the basis of distinction between the two be lost but the individual would have no ground for recognizing them as his own. The self to which these experiences are referred is an object in this common world, and in particular the credibility of the scientist stands as guaranty of the actuality of the observation because the scientist belongs to the unquestioned world, along with Ills admitted characteristics of equipment, accuracy, and impartiality. The individual belongs to the common world, but the individual's experiences of what can have no place for the time being in that common world have a logical position that lies betwixt and between the old reality invalidated by the exceptional experience and the

(35) new reality which is yet to arise and within which these experiences will not be exceptional, and will therefore not be beholden to the biographies of any observer for their local habitation and their name.

If we remain within the field and implications of scientific technique, it is palpably illegitimate to resolve all reality into such terms of individual experience, after the fashion of the phenomenalist or positivist, since the very definition and distinctive characters of the individual's experience are dependent upon its peculiar relation to a world which may not be stated in such terms, which is not analyzed but is simply there. This is most strikingly evidenced in the psychological laboratory, that externalization of so-called introspection, where we find the conditions under which may be rendered specific the experiences which are individual. The whole paraphernalia of experimental science stands there as the condition of the full exploitation of what is private. It is a mistake to emphasize the artificiality of this experimental apparatus and technique of the psychological laboratory. As in the case of the laboratories of the physical and biological sciences, the building of its apparatus and its technique is but rendering specific, exact, and hence formally universal, the instruments and behavior of untechnical conduct. They refer to and render definite a certain type of conduct and the objects in the experience, and the reference and definition are related to their function.

The logical locus of this field of experience has been indicated as that of objects and occurrences which have such opposing values for the individual that his responses are inhibited, or inhibit one another. Answering to this situation the objects that were there have disappeared. Such a situation in its simplest form would be found in the case of the dog offered meat by a stranger. The attack upon the stranger is inhibited by the movement toward the meat, while the hostile attitude toward the stranger checks the rush toward the food. There is present, then, neither an enemy to be attacked nor food to be seized. The dog is nonplussed. There are, of course, plenty of objects

(36) present surrounding the center of interest, and in that center there will be for a time an object which maintains itself momentarily and is evidenced by a rush forward to attack; and now the other object will indicate its presence by the incipient movement toward the meat, but these actions are not completed. If a final compromise is effected and the dog advances growling with bristling back, seizes the meat, and rushes off, it is reached by what has been termed the trial-and-error method, and was represented by no transient objects which could exist in the dog's experience as both dangerous and attractive.

As in the psychological laboratory, then, the data of individual experience stand dated and causally related to the unanalyzed world, and yet endowed with an existence which is distinguished from the frame within which they are set. They can be identified only as the experiences of a specific A. B. or X. Y., or in the scientific journal as of John Smith or of James Brown, who must have a specific reality in order that these observations or experiments may be of importance.

Their first outstanding characteristic is that in some degree they have lost their realities as objects, otherwise no one would obtrude his personal reading of the events in the place of an unquestioned fact. Something in the events is sufficiently unusual, sufficiently checks his onward conduct, to justify the transfer of them from the landscape and environment of action to the mental or physical notebook of his biography. This must not be confused with an instantaneous appearance of another object in the place of the original object. In this case the data of individual experience do not appear at all, or, if they can be identified, they occupy so slight a place that they fail to maintain themselves in the record. Again later events, or an indirect criticism, may show that the object was not there, and we interpolate these individual data in a post mortem analysis of the events. It is wise, in this account of the actual procedure of reflective experience, to insist again that nothing in this procedure justifies the extension of this actual dissolution of ob-

(37) -jects into the data of individual experience to the surrounding field of objects within which these biographical data appear. If this is done after the fashion of the modern inheritors of Hume's analysis, all the import of the data disappears, and, by the same mark, the whole technique of experimental psychology is abandoned.

It is one of the instances of this transfer of analysis of the object into elements of individual experience over to the world of objects that supports the individual and is independent of him, that one should introduce Hume's skeptical thesis under the heading of the egocentric predicament. It is entirely true and accepted of all men that what may not be placed or found or allowed to exist in the great public world is in the predicament that its dismembered parts must appear in the experiences of individuals. It is the predicament of the object, but the glory of the individual, the foundation of his fame, and the theory of copyrights. On the other hand, the moment that the transfer is made of this predicament to the rest of the world, the very people who are most intensely interested in its application in the field of discovery, invention, and property rights in ideas are terribly bored by this wholesale addition to their territory and individual estates. It is a case in which a fraction of a loaf is worth infinitely more than the whole. It is a philosophical application of the doctrine presented in the rhetorical question, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" For to gain the whole world epistemologically is to lose the import and character of the experiences that constitute the self. In the problematic situation these shattered fragments of things are the building materials first of the mind and second of the repaired world, but they would have as little value without a world independent of them as would a million bricks and a carload of Portland cement at some unoccupied point in starry space.

Another standpoint from which to view this situation is found in the personal character of error, as well as of sin. The ambi-

(38) -guity of truth has been responsible for more metaphorical hand-washing than that of Pontius Pilate.

The same sort of ambiguity does not obtain with reference to error. An error must be somebody's error. If the term is used of what is not a self, the use is itself an error or is metaphorical. A belief whether true or false is an attitude of a self, but while the content of the true belief, its referent in the world, is there and an object independent of the self that believes in it, the error is a belief in that which is not there. It is objected that in fact the reference is to a context which excludes the object believed in. This takes care of the situation when the error has been recognized; it does not place the erroneously accepted object of the belief. The man that was seen is now placed as a swaying tree, but while this swaying tree is the object of reference of the attitude of the believer when he has identified it as such, and corrected his error, the actual content of the man seen is still to be located. As the content of an erroneous belief it is placed in the mind of the one who is in error. A particular philosophic creed may demand that there subsist an erroneous object to which this erroneous mental content refers. This demand, if it exists, arises entirely from a supersensitive logical conscience. The attitude of the scientist that is of interest here is quite satisfied with locating the mistaken content in the mind of the man at fault. He may point out the curious likeness of the tree at a distance to the human form and the verisimilitude of the movement of the branches to the bending of its body, but these still omit the man that was seen, however closely they approach him in their likenesses. As one recalls with surprise the memory of the event, the form of the man stands out sharp and clear, over against the deceptive foliage.

The logical structure of the erroneous content is not to be distinguished from that of the hypothesis. They are both located in the mind. In one case the structure has been intentionally raised, while in the other case the elements have fallen together, answering to the response of the human organism.

(39) But the erroneous content is not in the mind until it is recognized or is on the way to being recognized as erroneous. I am here not referring to mind as a metaphysical habitat but as the locus of what are, in common parlance, termed "Ideas," "imagery" in so far as it enters into the texture of memory, "reverie," "creative imagination," and "thought," and I am attempting to accomodate it to that untortured usage in which the objects of a vivid dream remain outside the mind until one undertakes to explain it. The sphere of the heavens was evidently not in the minds of those that saw it revolving in its diurnal course. But its crystalline fabric is placed there now as an erroneous picture of the structure of the physical universe.

However, science does not assume that it has secured an accurate picture of the universe into which every new discovery must fit if it is to be recognized as true. It is eagerly at work reconstructing itself not simply in details but as fundamentally as possible. The doctrines of science, its findings up to date, are essentially working hypotheses, which are not only subject to change but in which change is expected. On the other hand, every acceptable hypothesis which supersedes another must take up into itself not only the so-called facts which the earlier hypothesis accounted for, but it must also account for the superseded hypothesis itself and, as a discarded hypothesis, make it a part of its universe. The Copernican hypothesis was called upon not only to account more satisfactorily for the anomalies of the heavens than its predecessor but also to give its natural place to the Ptolemaic doctrine as an appropriate explanation for these same anomalies, by minds operating in their earlier experience. The world of science is an evolving world whose later forms arise out of the earlier and justify themselves not only by mediating successful conduct but also in justifying the earlier forms by their conquest of them. They have died, these earlier worlds, and have passed into the heaven of the mind as ideas. We can give no adequate evidence of a mistake except in showing how and why the mistake was made.

(40) Thus as we look back the same world was there existing for a narrower experience, in a form which to wider experience possesses reality only for that narrower experience, from our standpoint only as idea. But the identity of the two worlds is found only in the common observations made by Hipparchus and Tycho Brahe. It is in the so-called facts of science, the observations in which all uniformities appear, that is found the bedrock upon which all hypothesis rests, and these facts are imbedded in actual or assumed experiences of individuals. In the passage from one doctrine to another, in the assimilation of the old to the new, we come back to a field of reality which can exist for the time being without incarnation in a public object, only because it can be stated in terms of what happened in the biographies of individuals.

It is true that observations require confirmation, but their confirmation is not a deduction from accepted impersonal premises but the appearance in the experience of another individual of the same observation. It is in the mouth of two witnesses at least that it must be confirmed. It was in the growing dependence of science upon this living identical material in changing theories that modern empiricism found its assurance and lost that skepticism that inevitably attached to empiricism in ancient thought.

These observations have two aspects. They are isolated not only by an abstractive attention but also from their natural responses by the inhibition that inaugurates the reflective attitude. As such they stand as experiences of individuals as above described. Their impersonal character is lost by the inhibition of the universal response-that which identifies them as objects for any and everyone in the same situation. A further analysis of this, of course, is necessary. I wish, for the time being, merely to call attention to this distinction which appears abstractly in the psychological analysis of conduct, the distinction between the values of the stimulus and the response, when through inhibition of the response the stimulus remains for the

(41) time being without its functional import. In this situation experience in so far as it appears as stimulus, in other words as "sensation," especially as this is used by those who are following the Humean tradition, has its existence inevitably in the so-called consciousness of the individual, while the response belongs in the outside public world, which has been cut off by the inhibition. It can appear, then, only as sensation, the innervation of muscular responses that have been checked, have lost their full value. To deny this fulfilment, to identify the object with the sensations of muscular reactions and with the imaged experience drawn from the past, is to present its reality in what by this Humean tradition is termed "idea" or "sensation." This identification has its great importance in directing conduct, but it is only the source of ultimate skepticism if it substitutes for the reality in the world outside the organism to which the conduct leads, the experiences within that organism when that conduct has been inhibited. The logical importance of experimental psychology is found in the fact that it makes no such substitution but tests its findings of individual experience by a world which is not individual.

It is well to elaborate this somewhat further. Experimental psychology undertakes to give as exact an account as possible of the conditions under which sensations and ideas appear. The account is given in terms of the organism and the findings of the laboratory. These organic conditions, specifically those of the nervous system, and the apparatus and happenings of the laboratory, are, then, presuppositions of the sensations and ideas. They are there in advance of the sensations and ideas, and they will be there when these have passed. It is, then, quite impossible for the scientist, in this case the experimental psychologist, to translate these objects into sensations and ideas without at the same time implying organisms and the physical world of which the laboratory is but a part, as the conditions of the sensations and ideas into which he is translating these objects. It is not amiss to emphasize the fact that this world is a whole

(42) and that it is inadmissible to give a privileged position to the organism or its central nervous system. It is only fair to the scientist to say that he has no inclination to so exempt the brain and its connections from the implications above indicated. But there are those sufficiently uncritical to speak of that which is going on in the brain as the condition of experiences which are only sensations, colors, sounds, feels, and odors or tastes, and then to affirm that the objects, whose characters these are, are in reality nothing but congeries of these sensations. There is perhaps a peculiar temptation to slip into this position anent the distance characters of things, especially those of vision. This is largely due to the physical theory of color, which resolves it into processes involving physical particles that, by the theory of color, could not themselves be colored, but whose matter can be thought of without contradiction as minute parts of the matter of contact experience. The extended character of an object crumbled in the hand is indefinitely divisible. Given an organism minute enough, and the smallest subdivision would be there in its experience as extended matter, but the length of a light wave sets the limit to what may be colored. And what is true of color is true more evidently of the other characters that belong to objects at a distance. It is then possible, in an uncritical moment, to island the organism as an extended palpable thing surrounded with sensations of colors, sounds, tastes, and odors that are but signs of palpable objects, and to locate these characters in the sense organs or the nervous system. This was indeed the position of Locke, with his theory of the primary and secondary qualities and his assumption that the extension of the primary sensations and of the outer world was identical.

But the experimental psychologist, who is examining the experiences of an individual qua individual, is conducting this examination in an impersonal world that is the presupposition of this individual. In this common world things are what they are where they are and must be such if by means of them the scientist is to isolate the anomalies of individual experiences. To a color-blind eye a certain shade of yellow is a sign of green,

(43) but only in a world that has in it green objects. By a pardonable extension of this explanation of color-blindness, we may say that certain shadings are signs of the form which we will feel when we handle the object, and by the same mark a symbol conveyed by word of mouth, by radio, or in any one of a thousand different ways, could be a sign of the same form, as it appears in contact experience. No one of these latter signs, however, is by any possibility the object existing there at a distance, while that is exactly what the so-called visual experience is. Objects existing at various distances are something more than notifications that other objects will exist under other conditions. When we speak of perception as a reading of signs, after the manner of Helmholtz, there is considerable danger of confusing the undoubted significance of distance characters, in respect of contact characters, with the relation between an object and an individual, in what is called "perception." The analysis of these relations in reflection presupposes not only the objects existing in a world of like objects but also the continued existence of this world as the seat of its operations and the test of its results. It is in terms of colored disks and yarns that we justify our color theories. The man who corrects his perception of a mirror image of objects on the other side of the room must still inhabit a world of objects that are what they are where they are as a basis for his correction.

We can reject, then, the epistemological interpretation maintained at times by the positivist and the psychological philosopher that the experimental method carries with it the implication that the resolution of problematic areas into experiences of individuals allows us to regard the results of this analysis as the elements of all the reality with which science deals. On the contrary, such an analysis only takes place within a world that is not subject to it, and which in its unanalyzed state must serve to test the observations and hypotheses which formulate and undertake to solve the problems of science.

These, then, are the two points at which the scientific procedure of discovery, or knowing, raises questions which it does not

(44) itself answer, but in the answer to which the scientist is bound to be himself interested:

What is the implication of experience which is at every point subject to the possible appearance of problems, the test of whose solutions is to be found in experience?

How can the incongruity of the incidental, not to say accidental, position of man and his mind in nature, and the fact that the problem always appears in an individual human experience and finds its solution there, be removed? What is the relation of human reflective intelligence to the world with which science is occupied?


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