The Philosophy of the Act

Essay 16  Ontological Assumptions

Table of Contents | Next | Previous


THE distinction between mind and matter and that between consciousness and the physiological organism is a distinction which is drawn between contents which may appear on either side of the line, if we draw the line within the field of immediate experience. The objects about us which belong to the world of things, as distinguished from that of our thought, have meaning--in other words, just the content which on occasion we make the object of our thought, our ideas of things. The imagery that furnishes the mind in our presentation of what we will undertake, the results of future conduct, the past experiences that come before memory-all have their place in our perceptions of the objects in our surroundings. There is no object of vision or sound or any distance perception which does not carry some image of contact experience, and other imagery in varying degrees enters in to fill out and organize that which we see. On the other hand, any object of the world of experience which lies outside the field of thought may as regards its content be an object of thought. The possibility of considering even extension in visual and contact experience as a state of consciousness, whatever the justification for the assumptions that accompany the consideration, at least makes it evident that the stuff of things in experience lying outside of mind can pass into mind under appropriate conditions, for here we have not merely significant reference but the stuff itself of things. The same assertion can be made in reference to consciousness and the physiological system. The muscles, bones, nerves, and other tissues of the physiological system appear in immediate experience as stuff that must, when recognized as perception,

(272) also take on the nature of consciousness. And per contra the pleasures and pains and emotions may in immediate experience appear as parts of the objects. The tooth aches, the fruit is delicious, the landscape is beautiful, and the play is intensely interesting. Remaining within immediate experience, there is no content that may not be in mind or in the world that for the time being we distinguish from mind, nor which may not be in consciousness as distinguished from that which for the time being we regard as the condition of consciousness, or in the physical and biological world that is regarded as the cause of our conscious experience. There remain objects which lie beyond the range of experience, and indeed many which by definition lie beyond the range of any possible experience, since they make up in theory the mechanism of experience itself and could not give rise to the physical processes which register themselves in sense perception. Here lies a world about us which we can think about, but whose stuff cannot enter into the experience itself. A world of electrons, for example, is made up of elements which by their size are beyond the range of a vision which had any conceived degree of magnification. For the electron is too small to subtend a ray of light. The elements of the molecular structure of the nerve ends of the sense of touch could not themselves be felt. If we take into account only the meanings of these objects, their uniformities of change, and the relations of the elements to one another, it would appear that these contents could be both in the mind and in the world. Their contents as actually occupying any sort of a space, whether that of a distance experience or that of a contact experience, would lie by definition beyond any possible experience. They would be conceptual objects but not perceptual objects, as defined. We make significant reference to them, but as things part of them at least cannot be in the mind as they are supposed to be in the world. But this world, of course, is not the world of immediate experience. How far this is an entirely justifiable account of this situation will be the subject of later discussion, but, proceeding on this assumption, we find also a different distribution of contents in

(273) the fields of consciousness and of the physical and physiological mechanisms that are considered the conditions of consciousness. Here, also, the laws and relations of the physical and chemical changes which the elements of the organism undergo can be in the mind, but their stuff as that of possible perception cannot be said to be in consciousness. If this world of elements which by definition lies beyond the range of a possible perception is the real world, then it cannot be in consciousness, though certain characters such as its uniformities and relations can be in both. It is such a real world that by definition lies beyond the range of experience that constitutes, on the one hand, the problem of epistemology and, on the other, that of parallelism, the problem of mind and body, of consciousness and the physiological organism.

In considering the content of these objects that lie beyond the range of possible experience, it is proper to remark that the attitude of the individual who assumes them still leaves them objects with both a distance and a contact value. These are involved even in a conceptual space which is assumed to be different in its character from the sensuous space of immediate experience. A physical object of any sort always implies a relationship of the object to the observer at a distance and a contact experience which sets up a one to one relationship between the points of the one experience and those of the other. It is the fact that the contact extension may be conceived of as placed at a distance, and vice versa, that gives rise to the process of magnifying the indefinite division. While, therefore, the actual vision cannot be carried even in imagination beyond the range of the mechanism of vision, an abstract conception of some distance perception with the like relation to a contact experience remains, and even in the space of mathematics determines the development of conceptual space. In his most abstract analysis the mathematical physicist is still operating in a field where he has objects which in their essential structure are objects of an experience that logically fits into that of our immediate experience.



The problem of the cause of perception lies in the assumption that the determination of the conditions under which the perceptual object appears can be regarded as the cause of the so-called states of consciousness, which have been identified with the perceptual object. All the conditions determining the appearance of a colored object at a distance will include those which are the conditions of the vibrations of electrons, of radiations, of photochemical processes in the retina, and of the processes which take place in the central nervous system. Those processes which take place in the physiological organism are generally conceived of as the immediate causal factors of the experiences which appear as the sensuous characters of the perceptual object -- especially those within the central nervous system. There is, however, no ground for the separation of the series of events which precede the organic processes from these processes. The whole situation is of a single piece. A mechanical statement of this situation must be carried throughout, and the physical organism occupies no peculiar position. It is a physical object on the same level with the objects that are spoken of as exciting it. What lies back of this separation is the mutually determining character of the organism and the environment. If this is overlooked, from the standpoint of the idealist either the environment is regarded as dependent upon the mind of the individual or the so-called mental processes are made dependent upon the physical processes.

The scientific view of the universe demands a reality which is independent of the individual and his environment, and it has achieved and maintained such a universe by lodging what is peculiar to the environment of the individual in his consciousness. Each new scientific hypothesis in regard to the structure of the universe is an individual achievement and belongs to the environment of that scientist, in so far as he brings it into harmony with the scientific world of discourse, with its experimental test, i.e., in so far as the scientist takes the role of the generalized other. Back of his achievement lies the assumption

(275) that this hypothesis may be set aside by a later hypothesis. Science, it is true, does not assume an actually given universe which is independent of the individuals and their environments or environment. But science does assume the existence of such a universe which is never actually given but which is the presupposition of those that are given, and it assumes that the characters which appear in the given universes of scientific hypotheses will with different interpretations appear in every new hypothesis. Science does not assume a transcendental universe of things in themselves which cannot appear in experience; its existent real universe is assumed to consist of things that appear in experience.

What are the logical implications of this scientific assumption of a real universe which is independent of individuals and their environments? There are two clearly distinct phases of this reality in the scientific assumption. One is that the hypothesis, when properly formulated, must be universal in its application -the assumption of the uniformity of nature. It is the assumption upon which rationalism has always built. The other is the assumption upon which empiricism has rested: that it is possible to so state a hypothesis that it can be tested for its applicability by experiment or observation. There is an obvious relation between the two. It is only upon the assumption of the uniformity of nature that one can advance to the reliability of a hypothesis from the results of observation and experiment.

We can conceive of a nature that would not be uniform. A world that is not there we cannot conceive of. The individuals and their worlds are the presupposition of all thinking. The uniformity appears in experience. The character of universality arises out of the social attitude of the individual toward the world. In so far as the individual takes the attitude of the generalized other toward the object there emerges an object that is universal. Whether this generalized character persists and maintains itself depends upon experience, but any other character which replaces that which experience substitutes will be in its nature a universal object. The actual uniformity of nature

(276) is the experienced translatibility of one object into another object, i.e., the continued restatement of objects in the form of new hypotheses on the basis of uniformities which enables us to conceive of them as made up of molecules, atoms, or electrons. The new statement enables us to present the older object in terms of the later hypothesis. We can take up the Ptolemaic world into a statement of the Copernican.

There are, then, two characters of the objects and the worlds that they imply which belong to the successive hypothetical structures within which they appear. For example, animal species under the pre-Darwinian zoology were classified in many respects as they are at present. The conception of fixed species, however, has been given an entirely new character under the doctrine of evolution. The apparent finality of the species that we meet can be explained by the same hypotheses which account for the origin of species. All that the earlier biologist brought under the conception of the fixed nature of species takes its place otherwise interpreted under the doctrine of evolution. In the second place, perceptual objects remain the same. The seen and felt form of the animal is identical whether we assume that the form was created as it appears at present or whether we assume that it has developed out of the vital processes as they took place in changing environments. Of course, there are changes even in these characters. We discover new facts which eliminate series of happenings and introduce others, and our perceptual objects themselves change as we come to understand the implications of their characters. We see more than we could with less knowledge, but these changes are not so considerable as those which take place in our interpretation of the history of animal forms. But, in so far as observation has been careful and controlled, there will always remain whole sets of events which remain the same under any theory, however different the account we give to ourselves of the grounds for these events. It seems to be true that these series of events are only identical as they are stated in terms of perceptual observation. Thus the identities in the positions of the planet Mars,

(277) whether these are presented under a Ptolemaic or Copernican theory, are stated in the actual observations of the astronomers of the planet. The experimental results of chemical doctrine will be the same under any theory only in so far as they can be stated in terms of the scientist's observation. All else in the different interpretations may be changed. The actual weights as found on the scales, the actual readings on the electroscopes, and the positions of stars on the photographic plates remain unaffected by the hypothesis adopted in explanation.

These data of immediate experience, however, which in observation and experiment remain unaffected by the hypothesis, are neither the perceptual objects nor the objects of scientific theory. They are certain abstracted agreements and disagreements of certain characters, certain successions of such characters. The perceptual objects which are the carriers of these characters would vary with the individuals and the period by which and in which they were perceived, and the scientific objects which embody the hypotheses of science vary with the development of science. In the intelligible uniformity of nature we imply the translatability of these objects from one world into another. That is, we can always explain why objects in one world are different from what they are in another. The data of observation and experiment do not constitute a world of reality which is independent of men and mankind. Such an extreme positivism does not answer to this implication of an independent world which we are discussing. We imply a universe with just the contents which our perception and scientific theory supply.

The question then becomes, "What meaning, if any, attaches to the assumption that there must be some such universe which we never reach in our perception or theories, which is independent of all the worlds of perception and scientific theory, that would explain all of them and yet would not transcend them in the sense of being of a nature which could not appear in perception or scientific theory, and would be independent of

(278) observation and perception and thought and yet would itself include these? Is such a universe implied?"

In the first place, the logic of scientific method applies to the solution of some immediate problem in which the test of experience as given in observation and experiment refers not to such an ultimate universe but to the world of experience in so far as this is not involved in the actual problem with which the scientist is occupied. The experimental test can never be in terms of a universe which is and will be subject to no reconstructions. What is approached in observation and experiment is such an abstraction from the perceptual object and its world that it will be translatable into any hypothetical universe. Thus we determine the velocity of oil drops under carefully supervised conditions. Their velocities, proving to be multiples of one unit velocity, support the assumption that they have secured as many electrons. But the observation under experimental conditions is as far as possible so made and formulated that it would remain an established ratio, no matter what world of scientific theory might obtain. Thus it was possible for the Greek astronomers to take over the tables of observations of the Mesopotamian astrologers and magicians and make them the basis of their mathematical astronomy, since the statements of the relative positions of the planetary bodies with reference to one another were sufficiently abstracted from the magical world in which the Magi made their observations to allow of their being translated into the world of Alexandrian mathematical astronomy, and they can, through the medium of the Greek tradition, be translated into a modern world of astrophysics.

The experimental datum, its scientific form, on the one hand, and its factual location, its imbeddedness, in the different perceptual worlds in which it is or may be realized, on the other, constitute the real problem disguised in the assumption of a perceptual universe which is ultimate and independent of the perceiving individual. Its ultimate character is expressed in the assured reference to a world of experience that is not questioned in the immediate problem with which the scientist is occupied.

(279) Its independent character is expressed in its universality which implies its applicability to any hypothetical situation and abstracts from any specified perceptual world.

I will restate the problem in the form in which it appears in scientific practice. An event such as that of the disintegration of a chemical element in radiation appears to be in contradiction to the character of elements. The experimental facts, or data, are carefully determined and repeated by a number of competent scientists. While the problem goes very deep into the doctrine of chemical elements, it does not affect the greater portion of the definitions of the elements. Elements can still be distinguished in their fundamental characters. Whatever hypothesis in explanation of this disintegration is advanced, there is a body of undisputed facts, i.e., objects appearing in the investigations of physicists and chemists, embodying interpretations of accepted doctrine, by which it is possible to test any theory explanatory of the new facts. This is the body of unquestioned facts or objects embodying chemical and physical doctrine which is not disputed in the real world of the scientist, and by which he is justified in trying out any new hypothesis.

However, it is within just this field of at present undisputed fact that some new problem will appear tomorrow, and the facts ascertained today and legitimized by their agreement with the world that in some essential point is now called into question will be disintegrated. The real world by which the test is made is not an ultimate reality, nor does the scientist assume that it is. On the contrary, as a research scientist he is eagerly looking forward to discovering discrepancies therein which will involve its reconstruction in new hypotheses. How exceedingly fundamental are changes in the real world of science, by which the scientist tests new doctrines, the history of discovery in the field of the physical sciences during the last half-century strikingly exhibits.

The idealist interprets this as the gradual approach to truth, or the reality that is constantly implied in the partially real constructions of scientific thought. If, however, the idealist's

(280) position were correct, there would be no justification in the experimental method, for there could be no assurance in a reference of a hypothesis to a world of reality which is unreal.

The assumption of the experimental method is that the test is being made with reference to a world that is called in question only at the point at which the problem has arisen and that the conduct which the new hypothesis contemplates will take place within that world so reconstructed, if the test of experiment sustains the hypothesis. We are testing the hypothesis not by a world of ultimate reality but by a world within which we are living and acting successfully except at the point which has become problematic. With this corrected, successful conduct can proceed until new problems arise. If we questioned the faith of the scientist in his experimental method, pointing out to him that he was testing his hypothesis by a world which he expected to reconstruct tomorrow, his reply would be not that he had gotten hold of a body of data which he was confident did belong to a world of ultimate reality, for he is not confident of this, but that as long as he can act intelligently in his world, prophesying what will happen, cognizant of its laws, he can test his hypotheses by this world competently enough to continue his scientific conduct. The rational anticipation of results is his statement of the reality of his world.

This seems to me to be the point at which the pragmatic assumption that-the perceptual world is there not as a cognizing experience but exists in advance of learning something about the world through cognition, comes together with the implication of relativity, as presented by Professor Whitehead, that the consentient set is there in so far as it is selected by the percipient event. The perceptual world is there in distance experience, dominantly visual. As such it is a series of invitations to conduct, by responses in which we have confidence. Stated in its lowest terms, we expect to feel what we see if we carry out the reactions which the vision tends to call out. But what we see is there where we see it and when we see it. That is the value of the experience, its import. What we see is spatiotemporally

(281) away from us, and its thereness involves this spatiotemporal distance. If there arises a question as to its reality, we carry out the reaction and cognitively assure ourselves of what we then call its reality. If there is no such question, it is simply there.

The ultimate experience of contact is not subject to the divergencies of distance experience. It is that into which every perspective can be translated. The round solid coin in the hand is the ultimate fact of every oval of vision. It is a translation when a problem arises respecting the coin. Barring such a problem, it is the identical coin as we walk about it, and it opens from a straight line through all the ellipses into the circle of frontal vision. Evidently perspectives are there and are determined by the relation of the perceiver to the perceived. It is a falsification not only of immediate experience but also of optics to regard them as subjective. If the reality of them as distant objects in their relation to the perceiver is the contact object, then it becomes necessary to place them as symbols in another medium than that in which they abide as realities. In Berkeley's conception they are merely a language by which we read the reality of contact experience. But the world about us is not in contact with us. It is perceptually there where it is perceived, and the objective fact of its outline depends upon the percipient event. The perspective emerges out of the relation of the percipient and the perceived and is as objectively there as anything can be.

The same affirmation may be made of the secondary qualities of color, sound, taste, odor, temperature, and, under the assumption of analysis into more ultimate contact elements such a-, the physical particles, of science, of contact experience. These characters emerge out of the relation of the sentient organism to its environment. They may, in the analysis of cognition, all be translated into the ultimate physical elements of an assumed ultimate contact experience. That is, we state these characters in terms of the physical processes and the physical objects and physical organism when we conceive of these in terms of atoms

(282) or electrons. Stated in these terms all these characters disappear. There remain only the mass and occupation of space of the physical particle.

This seems to determine a fundamental difference between the visual perspective and these distance characters. In the case of the visual perspective the peculiar character that attaches to the environment because of its relation to the perceiver is one which not only remains when stated in terms of optics but finds its demonstrative theory in that science. In the case of the distance qualities of the environment, the characters of color, odor, and the like, when stated in terms of physics, chemistry, and physiology, evaporate as color, odor, and the like, to reappear as the redistributions of physical energy, which are in no sense dependent upon their relations to the perceiver. The physical vibrations of electrons are in no sense dependent upon an eye and its neural attachments, though color may be dependent upon the existence of a retina, or at least upon an organism endowed with vision.

The cases when so stated are not entirely parallel. The scientific statement of the perspective is in terms of the ocular experience which it presents in the formulas of projective geometry. The parallel lines that meet at the horizon are the visual lines in immediate experience. The color of immediate experience does not enter into the physicist's account of the vibrations of electrons and their radiation. The perspective is a distance character of the field and remains such in the scientist's account. The color as stated by the physicist is no longer in distance terms. It is stated in terms of physical particles and their energies as exhibited in motions, which in the scientific imagination are contact experiences.

When we give a geometric account of the perspective, we are still in the distance phase of the act. We have not completed the act and entered into contact with the object seen. When we give a physical account of color, we have come into contact, at least in imagination, with the colored object and analyzed it into constituent elements whose vibrations are the so-called

(283) causes of the experience of color, which belongs to the distance phase of the act. In doing this, we have surrendered the determining character of the perceiver to his environment, so far as the distance character is concerned. If we took the same attitude in dealing with the perspective, we should place ourselves at the horizon, having passed over the distance involved, and would find the lines at exactly the same distance from one another as that which we determine at the locus standi.

The object seen is a distant object, even when we view it in the hands. The felt object is not colored as felt. It is true that in perceptions we see objects with characters that belong to our contact experience of them. We see things as hard or soft, as smooth or rough, but we do not the less distinguish between the characters that belong to them as at a distance from us and those that belong to them in our manipulation of them. just as an object at a distance has a perspective value which is dependent on the relation of the eye to which the lines of light converge, just as there emerges an objective character in the seen object that is the resultant of the situation which includes the observer as well as the observed, so the so-called sensuous quality of the object seen at a distance emerges as the result of its relation to the organism that is sensitive to the object, and this character is as objective as is perspectivity, i.e., belongs to the object, but to the object at a distance.

The difficulties involved in such a statement appear when we identify the object at a distance with the object of scientific theory. This object occupies the space of contact experience, i.e., a Euclidean, homologous space, and its only content is a mass which is proportionate to the extent of space that is occupied, or to its inertia, or to some other form of energy such as electricity. by a crumbling analysis of manipulation we commence this analysis, reaching the smallest particles of immediate experience, and then we proceed by the indirect methods of scientific analysis. These involve the imagination which places the contact object at a distance and sets up a new imagined contact as the field in which the elements of the object are to be

(284) found. But the ultimate content of the object is some form of energy occupying space, and an energy which offers resistance, or has inertia. It is a content of contact experience. Such a statement of the nature of the object abandons the so-called distance characters of the object, for when they are stated in these terms they have no longer the distance characters.

The distance character of the object either becomes a content of consciousness projected into the object or else becomes a character which is fortuitously there when the physical and physiological conditions are given. It is conditioned by the physical and physiological situation but not caused by them in the sense in which "causation" is used in the description of the physical and physiological situation.

There is a further discrepancy between these distance characters and those which physical science assumes in the object. In the perhaps uncritical scientific view of the world, that which is presented in our historical account of the earth, we present a congery of physical particles which, as occupying space and offering resistance and in motion, can appear in actual or imagined experience; and yet this world is conceived as independent of perceiving individuals. The distance characters are dependent upon the appearance of sensitive organisms; those of color upon the appearance of a very highly organized animal form. The physical and physiological conditions belong to the scientific account which is independent of these perceiving individuals. We only know that, when these conditions appear, these distance characters arise in the experiences of these organisms. The temptation to consider them as subjective is very strong, but if we yield to it we find that the contact characters must follow into the same category, for the conditions of the appearance of the distance characters as subjective would not be distinguishable from those which attend the appearance of the contact characters of things, and the physical object as such disappears in states of consciousness and the bare assumption of a thing-in-itself which cannot appear in experience at all. However, current scientific views of the world do assume physical

(285) objects, which are stated in terms of mass and energy occupying space and possessing inertia (terms of contact experience), but which are conceived of as entirely independent of perceiving individuals, while these views find no place in their account of their objects for the distance factors in their qualitative content, and they recognize these characters as dependent upon their relation to the organisms that are sensitive to them.

I have called this current, and perhaps I should add, popular scientific view of the world, "uncritical." Its uncritical character is evident in its unwarranted discrimination between the so-called secondary and primary qualities of matter, in the way of their objectivity. If color and sound and the rest of these qualities are subjective, the effective occupation of space through resistance to contact is in the same boat. The secondary qualities cannot be proved to be subjective by substituting for them the motions and structure of congeries of physical particles, nor can their subjectivity be proved by their relativity to the sensitivity of the organism, unless the same relativity obtains for the so-called primary qualities. If color is for this reason to be called a state of consciousness, then resistance must be also a state of consciousness, for this experience also is conditioned by the normal functioning of the physiological organism.

It is, however, worth while pursuing this discrimination back to its grounds, which are not fairly presented in this division of experience into matter and consciousness. That we should consider that part of our experience of nature objective which appears as the effective occupation of space through resistance is a natural assumption, since the reality of what affects us from a distance is found in experience by coming into contact with it. We are but completing the conduct with reference to it, to which the object at a distance has given occasion. The experience in contact is what the object at a distance has promised. The felt object is, however, still colored, odorous, and sounding; but, if we pursue the crumbling analysis, which seems to carry us nearer to its material reality, by indirect scientific measures,

(286) we reach points at which the elements of the material object can under our physical theories no longer possess these qualities. We reach objects so minute that they could not subtend a light vibration. There is no contradiction, however, in conceiving these particles, however minute, as still occupying space and exercising resistance. In imagination the extended resistant matter of our experience may be indefinitely subdivided without losing the character which it has in experience.

The import of these implicit judgments is obscured, however far we push our analyses, by the hypothetical models which we present to our scientific imaginations in the form of distance experience. We present to ourselves the ordered system of protons and electrons constituting an atom in the same fashion that we present a galaxy of stellar bodies. This, however, only disguises the fact that we conceive ourselves to have reached in these electrical particles the ultimate reality of matter in terms of resistant extended energy. While this energy exhibits itself in and is exactly defined by motions which relate themselves to perception in some form of distance experience, the "what the particle is" shows itself by the resistance which it offers from within its spatial boundaries.

Neo-Kantian as well as other critical thought makes out of the systematic exhibitions of energy and the definitions they furnish the objective nature of the physical object, but this does not reflect the current and perhaps more naive view of the world which I am trying to bring out and to free from the Cartesian interpretation into which it so naturally falls. It belongs to this view to recognize the distance character as belonging to the object at a distance and not to assume that these characters can be replaced by contact characters, however essential conditions for the appearance of the distance characters the ultimate masses and energies of physical thing may be. Furthermore, it is no offence to this naive view to recognize that the distance characters are dependent upon the situation in which the percipient individual is an essential element. We recognize readily enough that to the color-blind individual the

(287) red object is yellow, and its yellowness belongs to the object. The fact that we can state this in terms of a defect in the retina does not relegate the color to consciousness for such a view. But what the object is for this view is what we can actually or imaginatively handle, and the justification for this lies in the completion of the act which the distance character initiates-nor does this in any sense annihilate the objectivity of the character at a distance.

This brings us to the situation within which the contact values of objects arise. That which appears in contact experience is matter. As pointed out above, all the distance qualities of things are referred to it, at least in the sense that they invite or avoid contact. The field of matter is also the field of congruence -- the congruence of that which is seen at a distance with that which is felt when the act is completed, and the still more fundamental congruence in spatiotemporal extension of the thing with itself. The other congruences, such as the anticipated flavor with that on the palate, the sight and grasp of the hand of a friend with the sound of his voice, or the odor of a flower with the form and color of a rose, are in their agreements and discrepancies referred to the material result of the acts which these distance experiences initiate. It provides the reliable things with which we operate.

Is the material aspect of things as it appears in ultimate contact experience as subject to the influence of the perspective as are the distance aspects? We have already seen that, if we interpret perspectives as owing to the dependence of experience on physiological conditions, the material aspect of things will become as subjective as the distance aspects. But in this view this is not the case. The final content of spatially located resistant energy which the physical sciences. recognize in the ultimate physical particle is that constant character into which the other characters may be translated, but which is itself uniform. Another way of expressing this is to say that, while the other characters may await the appearance of individuals with certain sensory equipment, matter effectively occupying space

(288) is the presupposition of individuals and Is regarded as independent of them and the situations which they in some sense determine.

There are two ways of maintaining this independence of matter and still placing the contact experience in the same position as that of the distance characters of things. One way is that of Mill, who defines matter as the permanent possibility of sensation, relegates it to a faith in a something that cannot come into experience and yet may be regarded as the condition of experience. The other way is that of the critical philosopher of science who defines matter in terms of permanent relations of what appears and in the laws of the motions. Neither of these answers to the attitude which I have presented as that of a somewhat nave physical science which but carries the attitude of common sense into the region of the imaginary structure of matter which scientific analysis and hypothesis suggest and make use of in their models.

It belongs to the matter of experience not only to embody that to which distance experience refers but also to embody that which, as effectively occupying space, is uniform in the experience of all who are involved in the experience. The distance experiences of different individuals belong to so many different perspectives. They can all be translated into a common contact experience, but in themselves they are in varying degrees discrepant. Because they are perceived in terms of the outcome of the acts they incite, they are perceived by different individuals as the same objects, but the contents of these objects at a distance vary with the different distances, the different sense apparatus involved, and the individual peculiarities of these sense apparatuses. The contact experiences can be in a common field whose spatiotemporal structure is identical. It is possible to define the spatial boundaries of things by congruence so as to attain identity of measure, and on the basis of the laws of motion to establish a correspondence between weight and mass, so that the individual perspectives of contact cancel out. Mat-

(289) -ter is experientially and experimentally identical to those who belong to the same consentient set.

It has remained for the theory of relativity to introduce perspectives even into this field of what may be called temporal perspectives. The perspective turns upon the difference in simultaneity. Within a consentient set all objects at rest are occupying events which are simultaneous at any moment. Such objects continue to occupy events which have the relation of "there" in reference to the "here" of the percipient event, which relationship determines the consentient set. The event-particles that are occupied by these objects are point-tracks, and in the permanent space of this consentient set they are points. Other objects, i.e., those which are in motion, in their passage occupy events which do not have the same continued value of "there" in reference to the "here" of the percipient event, i.e., the route of such an object cuts through the point-tracks of the consentient set, or, in the permanent space of that set, it passes through the points of that space. A permanent space is one in which the persistent relations of "here" and "there" from the standpoint of a percipient event convert point-tracks into points. Objects which occupy these points are at rest though they are passing, or at least the events they occupy are passing. The route of a physical particle, or other object, which occupies successively different points, or cuts different point-tracks, is the route of an object in motion.

The meaning of simultaneity is reached by the conception of the universe at an instant, i.e., the universe in which the temporal extension has been restricted so that from the standpoint of a percipient event the values of "here" and "there" of all objects approach the limit of not varying, i.e., of a universe in which there is no motion. If there were an absolute space-time, the world at an instant would be identical for all percipient events; there would be but one simultaneity, only one universe at an instant. There being no absolute space-time, it is conceivable that events which are simultaneous in one consentient set may not be simultaneous in another.


In the universe of any one consentient set which is common to a group of individuals, the spatial perspectives of different individuals, and of the same individual at different moments, are all translated into the congruent objects of the contact field. The man whom I am approaching from a distance does not remain congruent with himself as a visual experience, but the man of contact experience whom I see in these different visual experiences does remain congruent with himself from moment to moment, and it is this man into whose dimensions are translated the different perspectives of distance experience.

In two different consentient sets, such as those of a man on the earth and a man on the planet Mars, the distance perspective is not translated into an identical contact field.

The contact experience in each case, to which the distance experience is referred in the actual perception, can appear in the perception of the other only as a distance content. As a distance content it will be perceived in terms of the contact field of the percipient event. What is a point for one percipient event, or perceiving individual, which is localized in the analysis of the contact field, is a line for another perceiving individual, for whom the consentient set of the first individual is in motion.

If two fields are moving with reference to each other, and an object is seen in one of them, both by an observer in the field in which the object is at rest and by an observer in the other field for whom the object is moving, then the object will be seen by both as an object of contact experience. This means that the object occupies certain portions of space-time which we call "events," which are determined by their relation of "there" to the "here" of the percipient events. This exact location is therefore always with reference to a set of objects which are at rest, that is, occupy point-tracks. In the case of the moving body it is necessary to take the world at an instant to exactly locate the object, a world in which there is no motion. To recapture motion as a fact of experience, we fuse together the series of moments in a permanent space, which is the space of the percipient event's "here," i.e., his contact experience extended into

(291) the "there" that corresponds to this "here." As the string of event-particles in point-tracks are fused into points, which are occupied by the objects, the permanence of the objects overshadows the passage of the object through the series of events which are fused in the point of permanent space. It is the same object whatever event in the point-track or point it occupies, It is possible, therefore, for the same object for the two observers, say, on the earth and on Mars, to be occupying different events, when each observer from his own consentient set observes the moving object and its consentient set. At a certain moment, i.e., the world at an instant for the man on the earth, he locates all the "theres" of his field and includes in this Mars and the observer on Mars. The "theres" are events occupied by objects, at this instant, which are succeeded by events occupied by the same objects. If the objects are in motion, as are Mars and its observer, from the standpoint of the earth observer they will not occupy point-tracks in the consentient set of the earth observer, but their spatial routes will cut across the point-tracks of his set, or his permanent space, If we shift the standpoint, Mars and its observer will be at rest, i.e., its objects occupying point-tracks, while the earth and its observer will be describing spatial routes in the Martian's consentient set.



The whole tendency of the natural sciences, as exhibited especially in physics and chemistry, is to replace the objects of immediate experience by hypothetical objects which lie beyond the range of possible experience. As I have pointed out above, an experimental science must bring any theory to the test of an experience which is immediate, which lies within the "now." It is, in my opinion, a legitimate doctrine which I will not now develop that it must be possible to regard the hypothetical subexperiential objects as the statements of the methods and formulas for the control of objects in the world of actual experience, in other words, that so-called objects which lie beyond

(292) the range of possible experience are in reality complex procedures in the control of actual experience.

In the immediate "now" it is impossible to draw the customary line between conscious experience and physical objects. What the epistemologist calls the meanings of things, the universals, the concepts, what is ascribed to the sensuous experience of the individual, is found in the objects themselves. Even the pleasurable and painful experiences are experiences of pleasurable and painful objects which cannot be made private experiences except by the ascription of parts of the biological organism, such as the pleased palate and the aching tooth, to a self, or soul, or mind, while the mind or self is found in immediate experience to involve other social individuals as preconditions for its existence. The physical object is found to be that object to which there is no social response which calls out again a social response in the individual. The objects with which we cannot carry on social intercourse are the physical objects of the world.

Consciousness implies, then, nothing but the presence of other social objects in experience, that is, social objects with whom we enter into experience, and whose existence is involved in our own existence as selves. Thought, on the other hand, is a social intercourse with the self in which reference arises to things not in the immediate "now." This reference to social or physical objects is termed also "consciousness" of the objects and involves the analysis and apprehension which has been earlier discussed, but this does not involve the distinction between a conscious being and one without consciousness. That distinction appears when one says of one who has died, "There is no speculation in those eyes." An individual of the group that is essential to our self-consciousness has ceased to exist as a social being. The apparatus of the social intercourse is in a measure there, but it fails to function.

Imagine, now, the nerves and muscles of the face, the arms and whole body, and even those of the organs of articulation, brought into action by cunning mechanical devices, and we are

(293) back again with the Cartesian hypothesis of mechanical unconscious animals. And this raises again the question of the relation of the nervous system and consciousness. It is not the individual speaking, moving in the midst of his conduct, that suggests this distinction between the body and consciousness. Especially in the midst of an emotional experience, with its expressive play of the features and the attitudes of the body, is the distinction between the consciousness and the biological organism out of the question. It is, of course, true that the actor mimics nature and presents the form of emotion without the substance; the expression can be there without that which it is supposed to express. The field of error is as wide and long here as it is anywhere in human experience, but that does not carry with it the existence of a content that is, because it is subject to error, also separable from the objects in the experience which are not In error. Admitting for the sake of argument that the Cartesian hypothesis could be extended to man, and that one man found himself among a group of others all of whose gestures and attitudes were mechanically produced but so perfectly that he was deceived into accepting them as men, and we would have a case of illusion carried to the extreme limit, but no proof of a consciousness separable from a biological organism. Consciousness as the experience of social objects has as an integral part of itself contents which the parallelist considers constituents of the biological organism, as purely physical in their nature. An individual without a tone of voice, without an expression of countenance, in a word, without a gesture, even a vocal gesture, would be a nothing, less than a vox et praeterea nihil.

The distinction in immediate experience is between a social being and a being that is not a social being, and this is a distinction which cuts across that created by the physical sciences in isolating and defining their field of objects. It is true that every purely physical object, in the sense of the physical sciences, is a nonsocial object, but the proposition is not convertible. Every nonsocial object is not a physical object.


The line of division that, first of all, ran through the nonsocial objects, with the waning of sympathetic magic and the development of the reflective technique, was the metaphysical line, that which I have already remarked upon, drawn authoritatively by Aristotle. The distinction was between a form or nature and matter. The nature of the object tended to develop to its full perfection, and the matter was conceived of as the possibility of the form or nature, though it was also recognized as offering a certain resistance to this development. The aim of the reflective process was that of identification of the nature of the object, that which it really was, and its subsumptive relationship to genera above and below it. Without discussing the content of the nature of the object, to characters of which I have already referred, I wish here to point out that this metaphysical line of division left a matter and a physical object which are defined in terms of the absence of, and resistance to, the full development of the form or nature of the object. Full realization of the nature of the object, full reality in other words, involved the disappearance of the physical object in so far as this arose out of this metaphysical distinction.

It should be noted, of course, that the doctrine of Democritus called for a metaphysical physical object, defined in terms of its nature of weight, size, and physical form, and introduced the conception of the secondary nature of the other sensuous characters of objects. As stated, this definition of the Democritean atom is metaphysical. It is not a hypothetical conception based upon actual mathematical relations of the multiple proportions in which substances combine, nor upon the measurement of motions which take place within the seemingly static substances, or those which serve to explain electrical phenomena, though it presupposes an atomic structure of matter which would account for the presence in experience of other characters of matter beside those of geometrical form, weight, and direction and velocity of motion. In this sense a conception was offered which later became valuable as a hypothetical object when observations were made in the study of actual physical

(295) and chemical problems which could be offered as bases for the determination of the atom and the molecule in terms of definite measurable experiences.

The speculative thought of the ancient world found in the Democritean atom only a subject for metaphysical discussion of the nature of matter, its divisibility, and the nature of sensuous experience. It is worth while noting that no group of thinkers in the ancient world, apart from the Epicureans, found in the atomic doctrine a welcome conception and that its import for them was found in its effectiveness in fighting the superstitions of popular religion and custom. The atomic doctrine swept away the meaning of the world as it had existed in the minds of the ancients and with it all the remains of sympathetic magic which obscured men's minds and degraded their intelligent reaction to the world about them. Democritean atomism was a spiritual cathartic, not a working hypothesis. It also presented a metaphysical instead of a logical basis for the distinction between the so-called primary and secondary sense qualities. The primary experience was assumed to be of the real nature of matter, its weight, form, and motion; while the other sensuous characters were assumed to be subjective private experiences of the individual. This introduces two metaphysical contents: that of extended heavy moving matter and that of a soul affected by changes of the first order. This second substance, that of the soul, Democritus did not introduce, but his doctrine opened the way for its appearance. Out of it comes the dualism of Cartesianism and of Locke and his followers, but the later analysis inevitably deprived both of these substances of direct experience: body and mind both became metaphysical substances, and objects in experience became phenomenal.

There is an obvious distinction between the character of objects as extended and occupying space, as possessed of inertia and movability, and that of objects as colored, sounding, sapid, odorous, warm or cold, heavy or light, painful or pleasant -- not to mention a host of other characters that spring from combinations of these. The distinction lies in the facts that our con

(296) -duct is always with reference to objects at a distance, while the goal of this conduct is found in ultimate contacts or the avoidance of such contacts, and that into the perception of these objects there enters imagery of past contacts which represents the end which the act seeks. In other words, we are always *stating distance experiences in terms of anticipated contact experiences. Ultimate contact experience, as 1 have indicated above, is that of manipulation, and connotes extension, the occupation of space, and motion. Intelligence in conduct in the perceptual world shows itself in the continual translation of distance experience into that of contact. The corpuscular theory of nature has its ground in the fact that the hand naturally breaks things up into parts which can be rolled between the thumb and finger. Whatever can be seen, heard, smelled, or tasted must logically be tactually experienced to be realized, to reach the ultimate form that our perceptual attitudes anticipate.

It is to be further noted that the experience of the object at a distance is of an object which continually changes its size, while contact experience is of an invariable; and the invariable contact experience is continually entering into the varying distance experiences in the form of imagery, giving us our bases of estimation. It is in this relationship between the distance and contact experiences of the same object that lies the rationale of the telescope and the microscope. It is important to distinguish between the ultimate corpuscular experience and the changes which are induced by the projection of it-the ultimate corpuscular experience -- to a distance. The statement of the infinite divisibility of extension always implies the translation of the ultimate contact element into terms of distance experience -that of vision-and giving to it, therefore, variable dimensions which depend solely on the distance at which the imagination places the object of tactual experience. Thus there are certain characters of the object which appear in experience as ultimate, while others shift and vary as the relative positions of the object and the individual change. Tactual extension, occupation of space, and motion are primary and fundamental; all the other qualities of objects have functional references to contact ex-

periences which they imply. A Democritean world, therefore, made up of atoms which are conceived in terms of tactual experience, is a world of ultimates.

The question arises, What is the import of this relationship of primary and secondary qualities? What is so far given is this: The carrying-out of implications of the act leads to contact experiences which answer to the other characters of the object sensed at a distance, there being a type of ultimate experience in which all the other qualities of the object are lost. To affirm color, sound, odor, taste, or temperature of an object is to invite conduct which will lead to contact experiences which will not be of the sort which called out the act. There is a further point to be noted. The body which is spatially seen, with its extent and content and distance, is translated into tactual spatial experience in a one to one relation. We can identify point for point what the eye sees with that which the hand feels. What we see is made up of things that we do or conceivably can feel. Between the two we have, metaphysically speaking, a phenomenal and noumenal relationship. The doctrine of the subjective nature of the secondary sensuous qualities is the carrying still further of this metaphysical interpretation. The qualities must be put somewhere. They cannot be placed in the tactual object, as can be the extension of vision. The fact that tactual characters are found to be conditions of the experience of the secondary qualities-as evidenced in the physical theories of light, sound, heat, etc. -- lends a superficial justification to the undertaking, for these theories detail the specific physical stimuli which are responsible for the seeming effects on the soul. These qualities, then, are located as separable entities in an inner world.

As I have indicated, the tint of distinction here is metaphysical but should be logical, that is, the reason for the distinction between the two types of sensuous qualities is to be found in the relation of contents to each other, a relation which arises out of the form and structure of the act. We find, then, over against the social object two nonsocial objects; those of immediate experience, colored, sounding, sapid, odorous, warm

(298) and hot, pleasant or unpleasant, beautiful or ugly, replete with meaning, but without social response; and the objects of the physical sciences, having only contact values, occupying space to the exclusion of other objects, possessed of inertia, and capable of motion and rest, but without other so-called sensuous characters. That these physical objects are without these characters is logically necessary, for it is through the changes which they undergo that modern science has undertaken to explain these characters. The physical theories of light, heat, sound, electricity, of taste and odor, presuppose a world of physical things which have none of these characters, except in so far as they arise in individuals through the operation of physical and chemical causes upon the biological organism, and a biological organism which can conceivably be stated in the same terms. It is important to recognize that this physical object and the sense data of an epistemological psychology go together. Each implies the other. It is also important to recognize that both imply the world of immediate experience and that they are logical abstractions from this world, not metaphysical entities. The evidence for this position is found in the fact already adduced, that the test of any scientific doctrine is found in an experiment which must take place in the field of immediate experience. This field is that of reality in scientific technique. Neither the abstractions of a science which has undertaken to explain secondary sense qualities in terms of primary sense qualities nor those of an epistemological psychology can be actually brought within the scene of the experimental showdown. The further evidence of this can be secured by following the reasoning of those who undertake to build up a world either on the basis of the abstractions of the physical, mathematical, and recent logical sciences or on those of an intellectualistic psychology.

These theorists in their explanation of the secondary sense qualities in terms of the primary must admit that the illusory character ascribed to the experience of the secondary qualities attaches itself to the primary qualities as well, unless there is present some ground for accepting these which does not hold for experience of the primary qualities-the problem Hume pre-

(299)-sented in summary fashion. The difference between the position of Hume and that of the modern philosophically minded scientist is found in the shift of interest. With Hume the problem was the old epistemological one-how can one get from an experience that is but a state of mind to an object outside the mind to which it refers? With modern science the problem has become that of getting a hypothesis that will work within the field of immediate experience, thus attaining the security which attaches to unquestioned immediate experience. For modern science the uncertainty of knowledge extends only as far as the boundaries of the particular problem with which science is occupied. Furthermore, the security it seeks is not sought in a theory of knowledge but in the success of the hypothesis in predicting events in the field of unquestioned immediate experience. It goes without saying that, however abstract the definition of the subexperiential objects may be, they can be presented as real in the imagination only as having both distance and contact contents, and these values are inevitably those of our own experience. In the abstraction which is made from the characters of objects of immediate experience (except those of contact) the organism and the objects that affect it are stated so far as possible in terms of contact experience. The undertaking is to state in contact terms the other characters, or, in other words, what contact conditions are essential for bringing about these experiences. That is, physical science is reversing the attitude involved in perception, which endows the distance experiences with contact values in the sense of giving solidity and contact extension to what is seen and heard, while science substitutes for these distance contents contact contents.

The test of the experimental method is found in making the hypothesis such an essential part of the field of experience that on the basis of the hypothesis later events can be predicted. The later event is of the nature of the contact experience anticipated in a distance experience, in our perceptions. Such contact experiences are experimental proofs of the validity of what sight, or sound, or odor initiated. Such experimental proof, however, does not substitute the contact experience for the dis-

(300) -tance experience. Color and sound and odor remain color and sound and odor. They have been given the assured body which the stimulation promised. The undertaking of the physical science which sets up a physical object as ultimate-a physical object that has only contact values-is to replace the distance contents with contact contents, to replace color with surfaces reflecting certain vibrations while they absorb others, to replace sound by vibrations of air, odor by chemical changes, etc. It is evident that in terms of perception an ultimate in this sense cannot be found, for perception is a compound of distance and contact experiences. The ultimate particle, whatever it might be, must be conceived in that which invites action and tests it by contact experience-but that which invites action from a possible distance is a secondary quality in the terminology of the textbooks. Admit that the ultimate object is too minute to subtend a ray of light, that a fortiori it can have none of the secondary qualities and yet that its existence is demonstrated by the deductions from experimental science, and still that object if it is to be a possible object in a perceptual field implies some other secondary quality, at least one by which it calls out the action which contact experience fulfils. It is this requirement which physical science undertakes to meet by stating distance contents in terms of contact contents. The body has no color but it has a surface which reflects and absorbs light rays. It has no sound but its particles vibrate. Now while these accounts of the structure of the objects as far as they go are correct, this account of the secondary quality-that quality which acts at a distance-does not serve to present an object as an ultimate reality without secondary qualities, i.e., without characters which reveal the object at a distance and arouse the response that brings with it the test of ultimate reality. We are still assuming something in this ultimate object which is more than the occupation of a contact space, of mobility, and inertia. This other something is what would be involved in its being a part of a field of immediate experience--part of the structure of the field of experience.


No notes

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2