The Philosophy of the Act
Essay 4 Consciousness and the Unquestioned
IT IS not surprising that in our reflective experience the world should present itself as an object of knowledge, for it is there primarily as the locus of a problem; and, when the problem is solved, if it is solved, it will be a different world from that which preceded the appearance of the problem. That part of the world that is there, upon which our interest is intensively occupied, is an organized group of data. From one standpoint these data are simply there are brute facts-but from another standpoint they are the conditions of the discovery which constitutes knowledge. They are, in fact, the statement of the problem. And the analysis which has isolated them as data runs back and forth in the construction of hypotheses through the world that is there, and hypotheses are the very stuff of our knowing. The return from the hypothesis to the world that is there is by way of an experiment or observation, and these are elaborately constructed situations, devised to exactly engage the elaborate structure of the hypothesis. The world that is there, as well as the hypotheses, is there as the sum of the conditions of knowledge, and the scientific imagination sets no limits to the analysis except its possible usefulness in providing material for hypothetical reconstruction. The whole world as the locus of the problem and as providing the means and conditions of its solution is dedicated to knowledge. The very assurance and solidity of the world that is there we realize in the inevitability of the problem and in the finality of the appeal to it in terms of experiment. It is but natural that we should say that we advance from the unknown to the known, meaning thereby that the unknown will cease to be unknown when it has proved itself a part of the world that is there. If that which we are engaged in discovering is unknown, what is there and needs not
(64) to be discovered is by a Platonic dichotomy the known. It is the not-unknown.
This is peculiarly the case in regard to that which occurs only in the experience of the individual. Here belong the first appearance of the problem, the hypothesis, and the observation and experiment. It is not a vain repetition to insist that this distinction is a logical one. To everyone the world that is there is in varying degrees different from that which is there for every other, because of each one's location and perspective. But it is the location and perspective that are responsible for this. One still looks upon it with a universal eye, and especially its contacts are those of all men. Now the familiar analysis of this situation starts with this common world and then proceeds to give every man his own position within it, and thus assigns to him his perspective; and then too often turns about and, ignoring the field that was there as the pre-existent condition of these assignments, neatly joins them one to the other and presents the whole thus secured as the original demesne, gathered, of a truth, out of the private experiences of men, none of whom may ever traverse the boundary of his own allotment.
In the interest of the world that is there I protest against this suppressio veri. When the psychologist abandoned the armchair and habilitated in the laboratory and the dissecting room, by implication he forsook this ideology and all its works. Unfortunately he slips back, betimes, into Hume's study, and there in his armchair, by essences, credences, and acknowledgments, builds up an insubstantial pageant to supersede the solid world where alone his experimental science is at home.
The fundamental assumptions involved in the account of knowledge that I am presenting are: that it is a process of finding something that is to take its place in a world that is there,---which world that is there is the presupposition of the undertaking that we call "knowledge": that the world that is there is a temporal world, i.e., that it is continually passing, or is a world of events; that the world is therefore continually ceasing to be as it passes into the world of the following moment, but that passage can
(65) be distinguished from change, for we can by abstraction indicate passage in which there is no change: that things are events in which there is no change, or in which no change is indicated: that the ceasing to exist does not take place instantly but continuously and that there is a span within which the world while passing does not cease to exist, though this span cannot be exactly indicated but is taken as relative to what the psychologist calls the specious present-this specification recognizes the human individual experience as a part of the world, and also a distinction between what the individual indicates to himself and the process of indication. This process of indication, as has been already stated, is primarily a piece of behavior toward another individual which the human individual comes to use toward himself. It is conduct which places him in the position of an object to himself. He indicates what his own organism and self are doing. Thus there is not only the flight of a bird before the individual but also the marking to the individual of the separate positions of the bird within his so-called apperceptive grasp. Such a set of indications to himself, which marked the limits of the immediate change in his experience, is the so-called specious present. It defines the limits of the span within which temporal passage does not transcend existence for this individual's experience. The limits of this span are uncertain because it so connects with the coming experience that there is no break in the temporal continuity, and because the passing experience goes over into memory imagery so imperceptibly that with difficulty he draws the line between them. The functional reason for this lack of definition in the span of temporal existence is that as a datum it never plays a part in conduct. The unit of existence is the act, not the moment. And the act stretches beyond the stimulus to the response. While most of our acts stretch into the world that does not yet exist, they inevitably include immediate steps which lie within the existent world, and the synchronizing, with recorded elements in some uniform process of change, of attitudes in the act by means of the indication of these to the self, affords the only
(66) approach to the definition of the span of existence. If we wish to determine this span, we take attention from what is about to take place, the natural attitude of conduct, and fasten it upon some organic process such as pressing a telegraphic key, which we indicate to ourselves by means of a symbol, a word, or an anticipatory image, and which can be synchronized with a record of some uniform change, such as the rotation of a drum, thus fixing one end of the span. We then report to ourselves what we can grasp of a movement all the elements of which are within the experience. If the attention were simply upon the change before the eye, it would pass ceaselessly on with the change, but by noting our reactions by self-recording symbols, we cut out the so-called specious presents within which in our experience changes have persisted. These vary with different individuals and within the experience of the same individual. The relation of these to one another, and to an assumed absolute span of existence and to the spatial phase of extension, would seem to be the central problem of relativity, consideration of which must be, for the time being, postponed. It is of first importance to stretch this span out into past and future. In the first place, these are given in the successive phases which are there in the span of existence. Memory and anticipation build on at both ends. They do not create the passage. In the second place, the unit of existence in human experience is the act, within which nothing is there that does not involve successive phases. There are no static elements. There are things that do not change although they pass. These are but two sides of the same situation, at least in the world that is there. There is no thing that does not change, except in so far as it passes, and there is no passage, except over against that which does not change. Motion, or change of position, is a change of that which in certain respects remains without change, while change of quality involves that whose substantial character remains unchanged but neither takes place except in passage. Abstractive thought isolates these phases of the world that is there. In this abstraction there is pure passage, or temporal extension, and what
(67) passes is an event which has no other character except that it passes and may be the seat of a contingent quality as well as of a timeless object which does not pass. In experience in the world that is there these abstractions are emphases of attentive thought (or reference, or indication). What takes place in that world involves all these phases. All are essential to what takes place in the world that is there. These emphases take place in the experience of the individual and belong to his conduct, and may certainly be considered from that standpoint.
It has been perhaps sufficiently emphasized that the world that is there is a presupposition of knowledge, but it may not be amiss to orient the experience of the individual with reference to this world, following out the implications of experimental science. Observation, hypothesis, and experiment lie, as we have seen, in the biographies of the individual, and, as has been just indicated, so do the emphases of attention which mark analysis and the process of so-called logical thinking. In all of these, however, there is material which is there, irrespective of its appearance in the experience of the individual. It is the assumption of experimental science that that which is there in the experience of the individual alone is due to his perspective, or to the emphasis which his attention isolates, as distinguished from hypothetical objects and the process of their construction, a process which includes both imagination and thinking, in the ordinary connotation of these terms. The thought which isolates the characters of things is felt to be operating in the world that is there, but the Bohr atom as an object is felt to have its habitat in the mind of Bohr, and in those minds which utilize it as a working hypothesis. The same habitat would be assigned to the Daltonian atom, together with the Ptolemaic world, and an electrical fluid. The attitude of the experimental scientist, unless he has become obsessed with epistemological and metaphysical problems, undoubtedly finds the hypothetical or erroneous character of mental contents, in so far as he distinguishes them from the world that is there, in their actual or implied future reference. I am for the time being postponing
(68) the consideration of imagery. I do not imply that the experimental scientist would consider the future and the past mental. As we have seen, they are involved in the succession of events which fall within the span of experience, but uncertainty attaches to what is built both on to the future and on to the past that is there, in greater degree to the future than to the past. I do not mean that he is uncertain of there having been a past or of there being a future, but any anticipated events and any remembered or recorded events are infected with varying degrees of dubiety, and, whatever mind is, its important function for him is that of directing intelligent conduct with reference to what is uncertain or problematic.
In so far, then, as the act reaches out beyond the future that is there and employs a revived past, it passes into a realm that is uncertain. Action that employs the past, acquired or inherited, in reducing that uncertainty from the standpoint of the result toward which the act moves, we call "intelligent" in the most general sense of that word. Such intelligence, which is almost coextensive with life, far exceeds the domain of mind, but it marks the field within which mind operates. Nor is all of human intelligence mental. Not only do our inherited and acquired habits exhibit manners which do not disclose mental operations but a great deal of direct inference lies outside of the processes ordinarily termed "thinking." This may run foul of some logical doctrine. I am not, however, formulating a logical classification but indicating the gradual passage of intelligence from its more universal form into that of reflective thinking. Mind does imply a process that lies in the conduct of an individual. It deals further with things and characters whose indications the individual refers to himself. That is, it is essential to the process that he should be thinking of them. Mental processes imply not only mind but that somebody is minding and that the objects of these processes are dependent upon the emphases and selections of this individual.
It has been customary to recognize the gestures or symbols by which the characters of things are analyzed in mental processes
(69) as individual. The study of them is the office of psychology. The characters which are indicated by these symbols (and so abstracted, lying in the mental process) have, by psychological philosophers, been placed also in mind as a habitat. If the treatment is psychological, that is, is a statement of what goes on in the experience of an individual in abstraction from the social and physical nexus of which he is a part, these characters, abstracted by attention and indication, are termed---concepts," and following the fashion of the particular school of psychological philosophers will be stated in terms of association or of organization of response or habit. If that which is indicated, as well as the mechanism and process of indication, is placed in the individual, the world in so far as it is significant has been moved into the individual, and a solipsism is the metaphysical outcome. If the individual is generalized to answer to the universal character of these objects, an idealism results.
The experimental scientist in the practical pursuit of knowledge is not interested in the metaphysical result of taking what is indicated by means of a psychological mechanism out of the world that is there and naturalizing it in the individual. He is very much concerned with the individual processes of emphasis of attention and of concentration of interest, and with the operation of the mechanism of symbolization, but he has no preoccupation or prejudice which leads him to locate the characters of things, which his analysis has isolated, inside of himself instead of in the things where his analysis found them.
The scene changes, however, when he is dealing with the actual solution of his problem. Here he has before him the old object, which has been discredited in the field of observation by the exceptional instance, and the tentative object, which he is constructing in hypothesis to take its place. Reverting to the earlier illustration, he has before him the discredited object yellow fever spread by contagion and yellow fever spread by a hypothetical parasite. The experimental scientist would unhesitatingly say that both these are ideas and exist in his mind. One is an idea because it has been proved false by experimental
(70) evidence, and the other is an idea until it has been proved true by experimental evidence.
As mental objects these are referred to worlds in which they were not mental, or will not be mental. The discredited object did exist in the past, and the hypothetical object must exist, if it is to exist, in the future. They do not exist in the world that is there. Ideas, then, in so far as they are typified by these illustrations, constitute the form in which past objects and future objects, which are not objects in the world that is there, may exist in the minds of individuals. The condition for their existing as ideas in the minds of individuals seems to be that the mechanism of conduct in which they did function or in which they will function exists in these individuals, which logically is as much as to say that these objects are significant.
If these objects are not things in the world that is there but are ideas in men's mind, what in simple truth are they? Yellow fever as an infectious disease in the world that is there calls out, or tends to call out, the response of quarantine. This protective reaction is, however, inhibited by the responses which numerous observations have aroused. These inhibitions are as yet located only in the individuals who have made or have had access to these observations. Yellow fever as a contagious disease is an idea in the mind of the man who has, on the one hand, an organized response of quarantine and, on the other, responses, called out by observation, toward the disease which inhibit the quarantine response. As an object to which there exist these conflicting responses, it is not in the world that is there, at least in so far as this includes the individuals who have made these observations. For the time being it is confined to the experience of these individuals. It is not in the social or so-called common world. Because he does not react to the disease by quarantine, the scientist calls its contagious character an idea, though the group of characters which calls out this response are there in the world that is there. It is in his mind in so far as in his particular organism the quarantine response and the inhibiting responses are present. The grouping of the characters answering to the
(71) quarantine response is mental because one does not act upon it, not because they are of mental stuff or have a habitat in an unextended mind. The same type of analysis applies to the hypothetical object, until the characters of things are so organized that the scientist reacts to them in experiment.
The mental character of the idea has, then, two aspects: one, a group of characters of things that are there which call out a response, and, on the other hand, a response that is inhibited in the individual by other responses which other groups of characters call out. It is the particular grouping that is mental rather than the characters themselves. The cleaning-up of Havana and the quarantining of those who contracted yellow fever were responses which answered to a certain grouping of characters which yellow fever possessed in common with other so-called contagious diseases. When these measures failed to arrest the epidemic, other ways of reacting to the disease inhibited these ineffective precautions. There are, then, in nature objects which represent the adaptation of organisms to their environments, and which cease to be such objects when that adaptation ceases. Yellow fever was a contagious disease when the medical response to it was that of quarantining. This, at that time, was not due to a mental attitude. It expressed an actual situation. There was, to be sure, no such thing as food when there were no organisms capable of ingesting, digesting, and assimilating it. It is equally true that there is no food when in the presence of such organisms there is no nutriment present. Food as an object exists in a certain biological situation, in which are found both the organic forms and the environment in adaptation to each other. Nor is the dependence of objects upon situations confined to biological objects. Mass or electricity as objects in experience only exist in virtue of systems within which they become recognizable masses and electrical charges. When these situations change, new objects arise and old objects disappear. The development in certain animals of a digestive tract rich in ferments turns cellulose-covered plant protoplasm into a food, while the absence of such a digestive apparatus excludes these
(72) plants as food objects from the dietary of other animals. What takes place in the processes of biological evolution occurs more swiftly in the adaptation of human individuals and their surroundings. What was a contagious disease disappears, and an other disease that is to be fought by the elimination of a certain mosquito instead of by quarantine appears in its place.
What we denominate as "mental" in such a situation is the inhibited response together with the imagery of the result of the response, in so far as these are indicated to the self or others by the use of language symbols.
The inhibited response, however, must not be taken apart from the situation within which it exists. It implies a set of things and characters of things to which the scientific medical man reacts in a certain sort of a manner. The relation between this reaction and the thing and its characters is quite the same as the relation already pointed out between the nutritive process of an animal and food objects. It is objectionable to speak of the food process in the animal as constituting the food object. They are certainly relative to each other. With any essential change in the situation which involves them both, each changes. There are elements in each which we refer to the other, as the analysis shifts. I am considering now the world that is there. From one standpoint we place the nutritious character of the food in the object, and again we locate it in what goes on in the animal's nutritive system. From the latter standpoint it lies in the capacity of the animal to free the protoplasm from its cellulose covering. If change invades the situation from the outside, we think of the animal as remaining without the appropriate object, and evolution may take place by a gradual adaptation of its apparatus to the new situation. Or a variation in the apparatus of the animal may lead to the evolution of a new object of food value in the environment. So, following Professor Alexander, the various so-called sense qualities of things may emerge with the development of sense apparatus, while the possibility of their appearance is equally dependent upon the so-called physical conditions in the situation. And this holds
(73) for what goes to constitute experience as well. Whatever has passed from past conduct into the situation belongs to the situation as a whole. The acquired skill of the animal is definitely seen in the new objects that appear. Imagery so far as it passes into objects belongs to them as objects as genuinely as their visual and tactual characters. The thing that one sees as hard has this hard content in it as genuinely as it has in it the color whose nuances we speak of as responsible in some sense for this character of hardness. There may be tactual imagery, as this term is ordinarily used in psychological analysis, or this analysis may find motor imagery alone. I am at present only insisting that this character is in the same sense in the object as that in which we identify the color and feel of the object as characters of the object. An ideological analysis may locate all these characters in the mind or consciousness of the individual who is said to perceive the object, but it may not locate the imagery in the individual while it leaves the color and feel out there in the thing. On the assumption already made of these characters emerging with the situation, we must also recognize the emergence of this so-called imagery as a part of the same situation.
It is not unlikely that the comment may be made that what is here referred to as the appearance of a situation is in reality the appearance of consciousness and that consciousness is something more than a situation. There may be consciousness of a situation, but surely consciousness is not a situation. At this point I can do no more than summarily state my position and leave the further support of it to later discussion.
"Consciousness" as currently used has two imports. It is used in the sense of awareness, a consciousness of. It is also used as constituting a certain content which attaches to the experience of the individual. There are two disparate motives that have operated in the determination of this latter sense of consciousness. One is found in the distinction between the primary and secondary qualities.
The color, sound, taste, odor, and temperature of an object are characters which are not simply there. Some of them may
(74) be regarded as distance stimuli which control our conduct with reference to possible contact experiences. The value of this relation is of primary importance in all conduct. A translation of this is found in the affirmation that the object is what the outcome of the act reveals it as being, while the distance characters of the object are regarded as appearances of this ultimate experience. The book viewed from a distance seems to be there. It is there if the act which vision initiates ends in grasping the tangible volume. This position is generalized and systematized by the findings of physical science, which states all characters of extended things in terms of the motions of physical particles, whose essential being is an extended resistance, and which could without contradiction be imagined as there for a sufficiently refined contact sensibility. If the organism were so reduced in size that it could find itself in the perceptual relation with the whorl of atoms or electrons even that make up physical things, these particles could not subtend a ray of light or be individually responsible for the experience of any other distance character, while such a minimized organism would still be in the perceptual relation of impact with these ultimate elements of things. We can freely imagine an indefinite division of extended resistant matter, while all other characters which imply relations at a distance from these particles would inevitably disappear with continuous subdivision. If, then, the reality of things is to be found in these ultimate elements, these other characters must be lodged somewhere else than in the things. They have been placed in consciousness. Consciousness becomes our experience of things not as they are but as they impress us from a distance which we can never overcome except in imagination.
Consciousness becomes identified with the content of objects as appearance when that content is defined as those distance characters which invite us to the action which leads to or avoids contact, though we must recognize that these distance characters include those immediate contact characters which stimu- late us to that crumbling analysis which advances toward the finer elements of things. It is evident that this import of con-
(75) -sciousness as appearance carries with it the
implication of "appearance of," which is one of the connotations of what has been already referred to as awareness. The other import of "consciousness" is found in those contents in experience which belong to the self, whether the self is regarded as physical or social, or, as is usual, as both. 1 have already pointed out that the self appears in the social act and is a derivative of the gesture, that is, the indication by one individual in a co-operative act to another of some thing or character which is of mutual interest. When, as is the case in the human individual, he can address himself as he addresses another, and so take both attitudes, that of the one who indicates and that of the one who is indicated to, the one, who is indicated to, becomes a social object on the same plane with the others. When the memory of the indication associates itself with this object, the self has appeared. Now the most common reference of consciousness is to the peculiar character of this self as distinguished from other objects. Thus we refer to consciousness in general as the capacity of distinguishing things, i.e., pointing them out to ourself, and so speak of losing and gaining consciousness. Here is found the basis for awareness. What the individual indicates to himself, he is aware of, though this latter is the relation of the self to the object after he has so indicated it. Furthermore, in the process of conduct in which he observes himself acting over against other things and persons, what belongs peculiarly to the agent, who has thus been brought into the field of experience as an object, will be called ---conscious." His attitudes, their stresses and strains, and affective tones, he is conscious of while he sees and hears what goes on about him. Finally, the inner conversation of significant symbols, which we call "thought," and the flow of imagery in reverie, the one involving the self in its double capacity and the other attaching to the self as its past history, constitute a central core of what is called consciousness.
There seems to be no community between these two imports of "consciousness" -- that of appearance and that which belongs to the self-except that the second, the experience that attaches
(76) to the self, has provided a field within which a certain philosophic doctrine has placed what has been termed "appearance." Locke placed the secondary qualities in consciousness, while the primary qualities were supposed to belong to the nature of things. Subsequent ideology found itself obliged to transfer the primary qualities to the same field but postulated possible nonmental things to which they answered, while uncritical scientific thought has remained much in the position of Locke.
The position which I have sketched recognizes these two uses of "consciousness" as entirely disparate. The thing at a distance is there as genuinely as that which the hand grasps or the physical particles into which it may be crumbled. It is there, but it is there as a distant thing. As a distant thing it is the promise or threat of possible contact experience, but this promise or threat of contact experience neither abrogates its distance characters nor transfers them to a mind to become states of consciousness, though the final contact is the experimental evidence of the reality of the promise which the object at a distance carried. In so far as imagery of past experience has passed into the perceptual object, this object may be denominated a collapsed act, but both elements are there in the object. Doubt or question transforms the contact value into a hypothesis, to be tested in actual conduct. In so far, the contact value becomes mental, but this does not render the distance values mental or justify the reference of them to a self as states of consciousness. What seems to justify this reference is the substitution of the material particles with a content of contact experience for the distance experience in the physical theory of the perceptual situation. Physical theory states its objects in the ultimate form which the experimental test implies, but when it places underneath the color the whorl of molecules, atoms of electrons, which imagined experience would reach if it came into contact with the structure of the thing, it no more abrogates the color at a distance than the feel of the red book deprives it of its redness. We recur to the situation as illustrated in terms of food. As grass is food in the situation constituted by its relation
(77) to the ox and is not food in the situation constituted by the tiger, so the distant object is colored In the perceptual situation constituted by its relation to an individual with our visual apparatus but is not colored over against an angleworm.
The only identity of this situation with consciousness Is found in the hypothesis in the mind of the scientist that motions of physical particles are the contact representatives of the color, in case the imagined perceptual responses could be all carried out. This hypothesis is mental, and in the current use may be termed "conscious," but this hypothesis in no sense nullifies the thereness of the color at a distance in the perceptual situation, nor do we in our use of the scientific theory assume this except in so far as we have entangled ourselves in epistemological subtleties.
Experimental science, then, recognizes objects as existing, and arising, in situations, and a situation may be defined as things in such a relationship with one another that they maintain or tend to maintain that relationship. When a new situation arises, new objects arise. Because science, in seeking experimental evidence, analyzes objects into elements which abstract from this situation, and states these objects in terms of these elements, it does not imply that the objects are not there, or that they are there only as appearances existing in another medium such as a consciousness. Such a situation is that which falls under the summary expression of life, and such new objects are the species and individual's that appear there. Because science analyzes living objects into inorganic elements, it does not assume that animals and plants are in reality nothing but complexes of physical particles or that the more than these particles and their relations as particles are to be located in mind or consciousness. Among the objects that so arise in the perceptual situation are things with so-called sense qualities, but these are not placed in the head or in a conscious epiphenomenal stream that parallels the dance of molecules in the central nervous system because physical and physiological science chooses to isolate these molecules in its observational and experimental
(78) formulation of what takes place in this situation. If plesiosauri and rhododendra can arise in the organic situation, surely all the colors of the spectrum may arise, and all the odors of Araby.
Science also recognizes that, in so far as the effects of past conduct of any individual form remain in increased facilities of response and greater sensitivities to stimulation and (in more complex organisms) in the presence of imagery, this may lead to the appearance of a new situation, with new objects, and that this situation and its objects are as genuinely there as that from which it arose, or any analysis into more abstract elements. Nor is it, as experimental science, called upon to find in invention and discovery anything more than a singular speeding-up of this history. What renders it singular is that the social human individual, has, thanks to his apparatus of social conduct, become an object to himself, so that he is able to indicate to himself characters and things as stimuli, and inhibited responses to them, by means of significant symbols, and thus organize possible situations with their objects. These are there as selections and organization of stimuli and symbolized responses only in his own situation and dependent for their achievement upon the situation's maintaining itself in individual and social conduct. Through the rising of a new situation in the selection and organization of stimuli and their inhibited responses in the conduct of a socialized individual, I have sought to trace what is peculiar to the individual in the mental process of knowledge as discovery.