The Philosophy of the Present

Chapter 4:  The Implications of the Self

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I have indicated the position which I assume over against the so-called epistemological problem, namely, that knowing is an undertaking that always takes place within a situation that is not itself involved in the ignorance or uncertainty that knowledge seeks to dissipate. Knowledge is not then to be identified with the presence of. content in experience. There is no conscious attitude that is as such cognitive. Knowledge is a process in conduct that so organizes the field of action that delayed and inhibited responses may take place. The test of the success of the process of knowledge, that is, the test of truth, is found in the discovery or construction of such objects as will mediate our conflicting and checked activities and allow conduct to proceed. Knowledge is inferential and always implies that a datum is involved in the inference. Reflection is the operation of inference in the field of ideation, i.e., the functioning as symbols of contents and characters of things, by means of which constructions of objects sought can be carried out.

Evidently ideation arises within what we term consciousness, and consciousness therefore calls for consideration. The lowest form of consciousness that we ascribe to living things is feeling. In general we do not judge that living forms without central nervous systems possess feeling, though there is difference of opinion on this. What naive judgment comes back to is the evidence that response is called forth by what is good or bad for the animal. We assume acceptance and rejection, and ascribe pleasure and displeasure

(69) respectively to these two attitudes. There is evidence of acceptance and rejection even in the behavior of some unicellular forms, and we accordingly find biologists and psychologists ascribing consciousness in this lowest form even to these organisms. Pleasures and displeasures come under what we call organic experiences, at least in the situations to which I am referring, and our instinctive tendency to couple them with acceptance and rejection indicates an assumption that states of an animal's own organism enter into its experience. At this lowest limit of what we may call the emergence of consciousness we assume that the organism reacts to conditions in its own life process. So general a statement as this doubtless brings many of the reactions of plants within its sweep. What keeps plants out of our customary generalization, however, is the fact that plants do not react as a whole in their acceptances and rejections.

Thus the first condition of consciousness is life, a process in which the individual by its action tends to maintain this process both in itself and in later generations, and one which extends beyond what goes on in the organism out into the surrounding world and defines so much of the world as is found within the sweep of these activities as the environment of the individual. The second condition is that the living form in its teleological process can react, as a whole, purposively, to conditions of its own organism. However, I have defined emergence as the presence of things in two or more different systems, in such a fashion that its presence in a later system changes its character in the earlier system or systems to which it belongs. Hence, when we say that the lowest form of consciousness is feeling, what is implied is that when living forms enter such a systematic process that they react purposively and as wholes to their own conditions, consciousness as feeling arises within life. I have assumed

(70) that a certain systematic physico-chemical process arises which so selects what it reacts upon as to maintain the process, and that this process, appearing within the physical world, emerges as life. Into this situation there now comes a form that not only lives but makes its own organic conditions, favorable or unfavorable to life, part of the field to which it reacts or within which it lives. A conscious form is one that can make phases of its own life-process parts of its environment. An animal that selects certain of its own living states, as the rootlets of a plant select water when the plant needs water, not only lives, as does the plant, but is also thirsty. Feeling is the term we use for this added element in life, when the animal enters in some degree into its own environment.

Now the biological mechanism by which this seems to take place is the nervous system, for this not only enables the animal to select appropriate stimuli, but also makes the functioning of such surfaces of its own body as come into contact with the selected food a part of the object to which the animal responds. He not only ingests food, he also tastes it. I have also called emergence an expression of sociality. The animal is a part not only of the inanimate but also of the animate world: the conscious animal not only selects objects, but senses them as well. Thus, he is on the way to becoming part of the world within which he lives. The earlier form of consciousness lies in the field of contact experience. Here the animal responds to the object and in so doing responds to himself not as a whole, but only to the functioning of the contact surfaces. Later distance-stimuli come to be involved in his responses to his organic conditions and enter into the conscious field. The animal thus becomes more and more intimately a part of the world of objects about him. But the great advance comes with the development of the encephalon. This is pri-

(71) -marily the nerve center of the important distance senses. As these become more powerful and refined in their discriminations, the contact experiences to which they respond are delayed, and possibilities of adjustment and of choice in response are thus increased. In the innervations of the attitudes that distant objects call out the animal feels the invitation or the threat they carry with them. He experiences his own repressed responses in his response to the distant stimulation. His responses to his own tendencies to act provide the control that organizes all his responses into a coordinated act, so that these inner feelings wax in importance in the development of the mechanism. Of equal importance is the separation, involved in the distance stimulation, between the content of the experience and the immediate response. It is here that we first meet the stuff of ideation. Of course in itself the distance stimulation is just that and nothing more. It is only as the organism gets itself into this distance stimulation that it comes into the field of so-called consciousness. It is from the awakening of delayed and mutually conflicting responses that the stuff for ideation is derived.

Let me state again the situation within which consciousness appears. Primarily living forms react to external stimulation in such fashion as to preserve the living process. The peculiar method that distinguishes their reactions from the motions of inanimate objects is that of selection. This selection is due to the sensitivity of the living form. Among inanimate processes the nearest approach to selection is catalysis. One may say that a living form is continually catalysing itself. Its own condition determines the objects and influences to which it will respond. The conscious animal carries selection into the field of its own response. It responds to the influence or effect the outer world has upon it. The immediate effect of food upon the animal is

(72) ingestion, and the peculiar character of life is exhausted in the animal's selection, through sensitization of the organism, of that substance to which it will respond-in other words, of its food. We can by mechanical devices sensitize a photographic plate. The structure of such a plate is maintained by mechanical forces. If a plate through the operation of these forces were to sensitize itself to light, it would be a living form. The operation of light upon an animal or plant is a photo-chemical process as mechanical as upon a kodak film. In the same manner the reaction of the form to the food-substance brought into contact with it is mechanical. As a living form it has selected what it will ingest, and mechanics takes care of the process of ingestion. But if in the process of ingestion the animal finds a stimulation to direct, to enhance or to inhibit this process, an activity of its own has become the object of its selection in maintaining the life process, that is in eating. In this case the animal has become conscious. The primary difficulty in dealing with these matters lies in our tendency to cut off life and consciousness at the boundaries of the organism. Selection undoubtedly lies in the living form, but such a form can only live in a physical environment of a definite sort. Living processes include active relationships with objects in an environment, and conscious living processes also include such objects. The response of the organism to its own response to food undoubtedly lies within the organism, but only as a part of a whole process of eating that includes also the food. To confine consciousness to the response of the organism to its food is not only to take it out of its setting but also to fail to recognize that it is only one phase of the eating. Conscious eating is tasting food, and to translate the tasting of food into other responses of the organism to its responeses toward things not only involves a hopeless snarl but deprives such responses of all

(73) meaning. Life becomes conscious at those points at which the organism's own responses enter as part of the objective field to which it reacts.

This brings us to the sensory characters of things. The animal's conscious pleasure in the flavor of food is the state by which his organism responds to his eating of a food with certain characters. The selection of those characters of the food is part of the life process, and may be quite peculiar to a particular individualize -- de gustibus non est disputandum. Is the flavor his in the same sense in which the pleasure is his? The animal senses the flavor as really as he senses his own pleasure. The conscious phase of this sensory process lies in his use of selective discrimination in sniffing the food, but while the smelling is his, evidently the smell is not. But so far as his own responses get into the odorous object, that is, so far as this object is something to be seized or rejected, it is evidently an affair of consciousness. If we go farther than this and ask whether the color, or odor, or warmth, or smoothness of the object, apart from any response of the organism in the way of sensing it, belongs to the animal, we are probably asking two questions. The one question-whether the odor belongs to the organism as the pleasure does-we have already answered in the negative. The status of the pleasure would come nearest to what we mean by the phrase, "state of consciousness." The other -- whether the so-called sensory quality apart from the sensing of it is a state of consciousness, as we have defined conciousness-- is already answered; but the further implication that the sensory character would not be there if the animal were not there, takes us into the relation of the form to its environment. As parallel lines meeting at the horizon would not exist apart from some sort of optical apparatus leading to the convergence of the lines, so we may say that color would not exist apart from the apparatus of a retina

(74) and the mechanism behind it. The comparison is unfortunate because we can construct an optical apparatus with reference to which parallel lines do converge, while we cannot construct a retina with reference to which the world takes on colors. But what really lies back in our minds is the idea that the real surface is made up of vibrating molecules, so that the color cannot be on the object, and must be put into consciousness for lack of any other habitat. That vibrating molecules are not yellow surfaces is true. But that vibrating molecules may not exist as colored surfaces for animals with certain retinal apparatuses is not rendered impossible by that fact. There may be what we may call sensory perspectives as well as spatial and temporal perspectives. In any case, it means nothing to call color a state of consciousness, in the sense in which I have used consciousness.

And yet perceptual objects, with their sensuous qualities, belong to the realm of consciousness; for distance-experience exists as the promise or threat of contact-experience, and the way in which this future gets into the object is through the response of the organism to its own responses. In the perceptual world the future that is already there in the moving present is built out through the purposive responses of conscious organisms. The distant object thus comes to be what we can do to it or with it or by way of it or what it can do to us. To say that it exists instantaneously as we perceive it is but to demand confirmation of what is given in the perception. These purposive responses are there in the organism both as tendencies and as the results of past responses, and the organism responds to them in its perception. We frequently call this latter response imagery. Certainly much of what we perceive is made up of such imagery. In so far as it is distinguishable imagery, it is evidently of the same sort as the sensuous material of things, and so is marked

(75) as belonging to the present, and is spoken of as in the mind and as put into things. In dreams and hallucinations it is the largest part of our objects. Its relation to the nervous system is very obscure. Its appearance is presumably dependent upon conditions in the central nervous system due to past experiences, but it can no more be placed within the brain than can percepts; and if we may refer to the "stuff" of images, it is of the same sort as that of percepts. Imagery belongs to the perspective of the individual. He alone has access to it, and, finally, it is always stuff that has appeared in earlier perception. It constitutes a most important part of the environment of the human individual. It is however generally so merged with the objects and attitudes with which it functions, and, especially in speech, with incipient muscular reactions, that it is difficult to define and isolate it in our actual experience. It functions largely in the building out of the past and the future.

Ideas are closely related to images. They also have been regarded as sure evidence of a substantial mind postulated in order to provide them with a habitat. Since the symbols with which we think are largely recognized as word images, ideas and images have a very close consanguinity. The relationship is of course the same as that between a spoken or written word and its meaning; but, since the auditory or visual image of a word seems to be in the mind where the idea is placed, it is not uncommon, when we desire to distinguish between the words we use in speech and the meanings which they connote, to identify the meaning with the inner words with which we carry on our thinking. In any case one part of the idea as it appears in experience is some perceptual symbol, whether it is of the type of so-called imagery or of something seen or heard. The other part of the idea -- the logician's and metaphysician's universal --- comes back to what I have referred to as attitudes or organized re-

(76) -sponses selecting characters of things when they can be detached from the situations within which they take place. Particularly do our habitual responses to familiar objects constitute for us the ideas of these objects. The definitions we give of them are the sure signs by which we can arouse identical or like attitudes in others. I am not interested in the logical or metaphysical problems they have called out, but in the fact that as organized responses of the organism they do enter into the experience we call conscious. That is, the organism responds to these organized attitudes in their relations to objects as it does to other parts of its world. And thus these become objects for the individual.

Now it is by these ideational processes that we get hold of the conditions of future conduct as these are found in the organized responses which we have formed, and so construct our pasts in anticipation of that future. The individual who can thus get hold of them can further organize them through the selection of the stimulations which call them out and can thus build up his plan of action. It is my contention that the past is always constructed in this fashion and therefore always with reference to the situation which calls out this deliberative attitude. I have been merely detailing the conditions in an emergent evolution which have made such deliberative situations possible.

In dealing with sociality I have laid stress upon the passage in emergence from the old system to the new, emphasizing the fact that in this passage the emergent lies in both, and is what it is because it carries the characters of both at once. Thus a moving body has an increase in mass over against the system within which it is moving, a living organism has a selective power in maintenance of the life process in the midst of inanimate things, and a conscious individual reacts to his own responses. Ile thus gains a new type of control in the maintenance of the living organism, and invests with

(77) values the objects of his environment. The other dimension of sociality, where this term expresses the determination of the nature of an object by the natures of other objects belonging to the same system, is evident in the conception of energy systems, in the development of multicellular forms in which the life of the whole system is the integrated life of the differentiated cells that make it up, in the social systems involved in the propagation of the species and in the integration of societies, from those in which at first balance is reached between reproduction and the consumption of one form by another, up to those in which a social process is mediated by differentiation of individuals. In all these the nature of the individual is in varying degrees the expression of the natures of other members of the system or society.

The difference between these two dimensions of sociality is temporal. A system can conceivably be taken at an instant, and the social character of the individual member would in that instant be what it is because of the mutual relationships of all members. On the other hand, an object can be a member of two divergent systems only in passage, in which its nature in one system leads to the transformation which its passing into another system carries with it. In the passage itself it can be in both. I have sufficiently illustrated this in the case of change of mass with increase in velocity. In the case of living forms we are as a rule presented with a fait accompli. The situation in which there exists a cell living its own life and finding itself commencing to live the life of a multicellular form must have arisen in the evolution of these forms, but the origin of such a situation we can only dimly trace in embryonic development where the higher rate of nutrition of certain cells in comparison with that of others appears to lead to differentiation. As a further example we may consider the instant at which the material we now know as the sun first took on its

(78) planetary nature, or that at which, under tidal and other influences, a double star appears.

The striking fact in relativity is that changes in spatiotemporal and energy dimensions are not starting-points of new structures. There must be some change in those systems in which a body increases in mass, but these are not incident to new orders. The differences, so to speak, are cancelled by corresponding changes in other systems. It is this situation that so strongly favors the assumption of a reality lying behind the different perspectives, to which the reality of experiences under different frames of reference belongs -- a Minkowski space-time with its events and intervals. There is, however, another possibility in the case of relativity with its different perspectives, viz., that of occupying in experience alternative systems. Whitehead for example refers to a double consciousness of cogredience, in which the observer identifies himself both with the space-time of a train and with that of the landscape through which the train is moving. Evidently relativity as a doctrine would have been impossible but for this type of consciousness. Einstein's doctrine has been called one of signals. It involves the realization of different meanings of the spatio-temporal order of events in different systems at the same time. Now I have presented consciousness as the response of an organism to its own responses, with the corresponding change which the environment undergoes in its meanings. The world is a different world to one man from what it is to another, as is illustrated by the fact that a dollar means one thing to one man and a different thing to another. The man who can take both points of view is able to order and price his goods successfully. Out of this capacity there arises an abstract value for the dollar as a means of exchange -- a value which it has in the worlds of all three. The Minkowski world should be such a meaning attaching to actual experiences of persons in

(79) different systems moving with reference to each other, but it does not so appear. It appears rather as a system of transformations and the constants that shake out of them, where these are made into symbols of entities that cannot enter into experience. In older views of relativity, differences in perspectives due to motion could be translated from one system to another with the same relative change in the position of the objects. There was no change in the character of the object in one because of its motion in the other. Usually there was a preferred system to which all others were transformed for common comprehension. So we could take the coordinates of the fixed stars as a basis for understanding the motions of the stars with reference to our system. What was common to all systems was the identical relative positions of the objects. Electro-magnetic relativity, on the other hand, has shown a difference in the spatiotemporal and energy dimensions of things in motion with reference to the system within which they move, so that we cannot simply translate from one to the other, and especially we cannot set up any common structure of the things in whatever system they may be. The mathematical apparatus for transformation becomes very complicated.

The metaphysical question is, can a thing with changing spatio-temporal and energy dimensions be the same thing with different dimensions, when we have seemingly only these dimensions by which to define the thing? It has seemed simpler to say that the real thing lies behind these experiences which are subjective and phenomenal. But let us instead accept passage as the character of reality, and recognize that in passage there is change in the structure of things, and that because of passage objects can occupy different systems. If we then recognize that there is a form of sociality within which we. can go from the one to the other by means of a system of transformations, and so occupy both systems,

(80) identifying the same objects in each, it becomes possible for passage to take place between alternative systems that are simultaneously mutually exclusive. The set of transformations and the mathematical structure built upon it are as much parts of nature as anything else. They are attitudes answering to meanings of things brought under our control by symbols. Passage from a system in motion to the same system at rest, while the rest of world passes from rest to motion, means passage from the one to the other in what we call a mind. These two aspects exist in nature, and the mind is also in nature. The mind passes from one to the other in its so-called consciousness, and the world is a different world from the standpoint of one attitude from what it is from another. We say the world cannot occupy both meanings, if they are mutually exclusive; but passage in a mind enables it to do so by means of transformations. All that we need to recognize is that the world had the one aspect from one point of view and that it now has the other aspect from another point of view, and that there has been the same passage in nature from the one to the other as has taken place in the mind, just as there is a passage from one price to another in stocks on the market because of the changing attitudes in men's minds.

The question at issue here is, what is there in nature that answers to the transformation in the mathematician's mind? If we accept mind as existing in nature and recognize that mind, by means of the temporal dimension in sociality, passes from one system to another, so that the objects to which the mathematician refers in one system appear in the other in different spatio-temporal and energy dimensions, by means of transformation formulae; and recognize also that the minded organism has the other dimension of sociality as well, so that what appears now as in one system and now within another, lies, since it has an identical character to

(81) the organism, in a system in the world answering to this character of the minded organism; th en we can assume that the reference of the constants in these different perspectives is not to entities outside possible experience but to this organized character of the world that appears in what we call mind. To state the matter less cumbrously, the relativist is able to hold on to two or more mutually exclusive systems within which the same object appears, by passing from one to the other. I have already referred to the experiential form of this passage in which the man in a train passes from the system of the movement of his train to that of the movement of a neighboring train. His train cannot be both moving and at rest, but the mind of the passenger can occupy in passage both systems, and hold the two attitudes in a comprehensible relationship to each other as representing the same occurrence from two different standpoints which, having a mind or being a mind, he can occupy. If he accepts the two mutually exclusive situations as both legitimate, it is because as a minded organism he can be in both.

It is to such an organization of perspectives that the constants in the mathematics of relativity may refer. We state this summarily, and with avoidance of philosophical complications, by saying that these mathematics give us a more accurate method of formulating and measuring the physical world; but this still leaves the seeming contradiction of an object possessing at the same time differing spatio-temporal and energy dimensions, when it is only by these that the object can be defined. There would be no difficulty if we could set up one definition as the correct one and refer others to illusory factors-we should then simply regard our own train as moving. We do the same sort of a thing when we say that the two systems are simply the structure which the objects have under different frames of reference. Both are then illusory. But in this case we must relegate the reality

(82) to a Minkowski world. My contention is that they are both real for a mind that can occupy in passage both systems. The other illustration which I have given is that of price in the economic world; but I have indicated the difference that both individuals in the different perspectives here come back to a common entity of price in terms of exchange, which, in the form of money, is an identical affair for each, while the two individuals in the systems moving with reference to each other cannot find such common realities in their experience. They get instead a set of transformation-formulae. What they come back to is what Russell refers to as a common logical pattern, and what I am maintaining is that two individuals in the systems which Einstein presents, connected with each other by light signals so that each individual places himself in the system of the other as well as in his own, are living in a common world, and that a reference to a Minkowski world is unnecessary. Individuals living together in such systems would soon carry with them constantly these two definitions of everything, just as we carry two systems of time when travelling. What would be impossible would be the reduction of this common world to an instant. The temporal dimension of sociality is essential to its existence. One cannot be in Chicago and Berkeley at the same instant even in thought; but even if we did not have the same earth under us, which can be the same at an instant, we could hold in our passing present in thought a common life. I have clung to this illustration because it presents an extreme example of the organization of perspectives which sociality accomplishes in both of its dimensions when they can appear in minded organisms.

The self by its reflexive form announces itself as a conscious organism which is what it is only so far as it can pass from its own -system into those of others, and can thus, in passing, occupy both its own system and that into which it is

(83) passing. That this should take place is evidently not the affair of a single organism. Shut up within his own world that which answers to his stimulations and responses-he would have no entrance into possibilities other than those which his own organized act involved. It is only as his activity is a part of a larger organized process that such a possibility can open. Nor is this the only prerequisite. The social organization of a multicellular form is one in which each cell in living its own life lives the life of the whole; but its differentiation restricts its expressions to the single function to which it has become adapted. Only in a process in which one organism can in some sense substitute for another could an individual find itself taking the attitude of another while still occupying its own. Its own differentiation must never be so complete as to restrict it to fulfilling a single function only. It is the high degree of physiological differentiation among insects that presumably precludes their highly organized communities from reaching self-consciousness.

There remains the mechanism by which the individual living his own life in that of the group is placed in the attitude of taking the role of another. That mechanism is, of course, that of communication. There may be a type of communication in which the condition of one organ stimulates others to their appropriate responses. There is in the physiological system such a system of communication carried out by the hormones. But this is only an elaboration of the interrelation of highly differentiated organs functioning in a common life-process. Communication as I shall use it always implies the conveyance of meaning; and this involves the arousal in one individual of the attitude of the other, and his response to these responses. The result is that the individual may be stimulated to play various parts in the common process in which all are engaged, and can there-

(84) -fore face the various futures which these different roles carry with them, in reaching finally the form that his own will take. Thus the life of the community to which he belongs becomes a part of his experience in a higher sense than would be possible for a differentiated organ within an organic whole. The final step in the development of communication is reached when the individual that has been aroused to take the roles of others addresses himself in their roles, and so acquires the mechanism of thinking, that of inward conversation. The genesis of mind in human society I will not here discuss. What I wish to bring out in the first place is that it is a natural development within the world of living organisms and their environment. Its first characteristic is consciousness, that emergent which arises when the animal passes from the system in which it formerly existed to an environment that arises through the selectiveness of its own sensitivity, and thus to a new system within which parts of its own organism and its reactions to these parts become parts of its environment. The next step is reached with the dominance of the distance senses and the delayed responses to these. The selection and organization of these responses, together with the characters of the objects which they have selected, now become objects within the environment of the organism. The animal comes to respond to an environment consisting largely of possible futures of its own delayed reactions, and this inevitably emphasizes its own past responses in the form of acquired habits. These pass into the environment as the conditions of his acts. These characters of the environment constitute the stuff out of which values and meanings later arise, when these characters can be isolated through gestures in communication. The systems to which I have referred are in all cases interrelations between the organism and the world that reveals itself as environment, determined by its relationship to the organism.

(85) Any essential change in the organism brings with it a corresponding change in the environment.

The passage, then, from one system into another is the occasion for an emergence both in the form and in the environment. The development in animal life has been steadily toward bringing more and more of the activity of the animal within the environment to which it responds, by the growth of a nervous system through which it could respond both to its sense processes and also to its responses to these, in its whole life activity. But the animal could never reach the goal of becoming an object to itself as a whole until it could enter into a larger system within which it could play various roles, so that in taking one role it could stimulate itself to play the other role which this first role called for. It is this development that a society whose life process is mediated by communication has made possible. It is here that mental life arises-with this continual passing from one system to another, with the occupation of both in passage and with the systematic structures that each involves. It is the realm of continual emergence.

I have wished to present mind as an evolution in nature, in which culminates that sociality which is the principle and the form of emergence. The emergence in nature of sensuous qualities is due to the fact that an organ can respond to nature in differing systematic attitudes and yet occupy both attitudes. The organism responds to itself as affected by the tree and at the same time to the tree as the field of its possible future reactions. The possibility of the organism being at once in three different systems, that of physical relation, of vital relation and of sensuous relation, is responsible for the appearance of the colored rough shaft and foliage of the tree emerging in the interrelation between the object and the organism. But mind in its highest sense involves the passage from one attitude to another with the

(86) consequent occupation of both. This also takes place in nature. It is the phase of change in which both states are found in the process. An acceleration in velocity is the out. standing illustration of this situation, and the whole development of our modern physical science has been dependent upon our isolation of this entity in change. But while this concurrent occupation of different situations at once occurs in nature, it has remained for mind to present a field within which the organism not only passes from one attitude to another and so occupies both, but also holds on to this common phase. One can pass from the situation within which a dog appears, to that in which a toad appears, and so on to an elephant, and be in all attitudes at once in so far as they all include the common attitude toward "an animal." Now this is the highest expression of sociality, because the organism not only so passes from one attitude to another, by means of a phase which is a part of all these attitudes, but also comes back on itself in the process and responds to this phase. It must get out of itself in the passage and react to this factor in the passage.

I have indicated the mechanism by which this is accomplished. It is that of a society of organisms which become selves, first of all taking the attitudes of others to themselves, and then using the gestures by which they have conversed with others to indicate to themselves what is of interest in their own attitudes. I will not spend time in discussing this fascinating field of mental development.[1] I wish to emphasize the fact that the appearance of mind is only the culmination of that sociality which is found throughout the universe, its culmination lying in the fact that the organism, by occupying the attitudes of others, can occupy its own attitude in the role of the other. A society is a

(87) systematic order of individuals in which each has a more or less differentiated activity. The structure is really there in nature, whether we find it in the society of bees or that of human beings. And it is in varying degrees reflected in each individual. But, as I have already stated, it can get into the separate individual only in so far as he can take the parts of others while he is taking his own part. It is due to the structural organization of society that the individual, in successively taking the roles of others in some organized activity, finds himself selecting what is common in their interrelated acts, and so assumes what I have called the role of the generalized other. This is the organization of those common attitudes which all assume in their varied responses. It may be that of a mere human being, that of the citizen of a definite community, that of the members of a club, or that of a logician in his "universe of discourse." A human organism does not become a rational being until he has achieved such an organized other in his field of social response. He then carries on that conversation with himself which we call thought, and thought, as distinct from perception and imagination, is occupied with indicating what is common in the passage from one attitude to another. Thus thought reaches what we call universals, and these, with the symbols by which they are indicated, constitute ideas.

Now this is possible only in the continual passage from attitude to attitude; but the fact that we do not remain simply in this passage is due to our coming back upon it in the r6le of the self and organizing the characters which we pick out into the patterns this social structure of the self puts at our disposal. The stretch of the present within which this self-consciousness finds itself is delimited by the particular social act in which we are engaged. But since this usually stretches beyond the immediate perceptual hori-

(88) -zon we fill it out with memories and imagination. In the whole undertaking these serve in place of perceptual stimulations to call out the appropriate responses. If one is going to meet an appointment, he indicates to himself the streets he must traverse by means of their memory images or the auditory images of their names. And this involves both the past and the future. In a sense his present takes in the whole undertaking, but it can accomplish this only by using symbolic imagery, and since the undertaking is a whole that stretches beyond the immediate specious presents, these slip into each other without any edges. A loud noise behind one's back picks out such a specious present. Its lack of relevance to what is going on leaves it nothing but the moment in which the sound vibrated within our ears. But our functional presents are always wider than the specious present, and may take in long stretches of an undertaking which absorbs unbroken concentrated attention. They have ideational margins of varying depth, and within these we are continually occupied in the testing and organizing process of thought. The functional boundaries of the present are those of its undertaking -- of what we are doing. The pasts and futures indicated by such activity belong to the present. They arise out of it and are criticized and tested by it. The undertakings belong, however, with varying degrees of intimacy, within larger activities, so that we seldom have the sense of a set of isolated presents.

I wish to make as emphatic as possible the reference of pasts and futures to the activity that is central to the present. Ideation extends spatially and temporally the field within which activity takes place. The presents, then, within which we live are provided with margins, and fitting them into a larger independent chronicle is again a matter of some more extended present which calls for a wider horizon. But the widest horizon belongs to some undertaking, whose past and

(89) future refer back to it. For instance, the present history of the sun is relevant to the undertaking of unravelling the atom and, given another analysis of the atom, the sun will have another history and the universe will be launched into a new future. The pasts and the futures are implications of what is being undertaken and carried out in our laboratories.

It is interesting to note the lack of historic significance in Aristotle's account of the universe. At most there were the pulses of reproduction or of the succession of the seasons. Its past had no other function than that of repetition. Even Plato's Day of judgment was a recurrent affair. In the highest reality-thought thinking itself-past and future fade out entirely, as they do in the contemplation of timeless reality in a Platonic heaven. St. Paul and Augustine ushered in the history of the world, which gave a defined cosmical horizon to the undertaking of every soul in its search for salvation from the wrath to come, or for the beatific vision. The Bible and the monuments of the church became the chronicle of Christendom, for in them men found the means of salvation. It was not until scientific research became an independent undertaking that it was possible to substitute another chronicle. But the import of the biblical history was found not only in the salvation of men's souls. The Church was the structure of Western society and the undertaking to conserve the values of this society found its essential past and future in the plan of salvation. It is this larger undertaking to which as social beings we are committed that provides to-day the horizons of our pasts and future. But this undertaking includes among its values the work of research science and the implications of that rational process which has freed us from the isolation of individual organisms and made us not only members of the Blessed Community but also citizens of the republic

(90) of all rational beings. But even in the sweep of these most universal undertakings, their pasts and their futures are still relative to the interests involved in the undertakings themselves. We determine what the world has been by the anxious search for the means of making it better, and we are substituting the goal of a society aware of its own values and minded intelligently to pursue them, for the city not built with hands eternal in the heavens.

This view then frees us from bondage either to past or future. We are neither creatures of the necessity of an irrevocable past, nor of any vision given in the Mount. Our history and our prognostications will be sympathetic with the undertakings within which we live and move and have our being. Our values lie in the present, and past and future give us only the schedule of the means, and the plans of campaign, for their realization.

We live always in a present whose past and whose future are the extension of the field within which its undertakings may be carried out. This present is the scene of that emergence which gives always new heavens and a new earth, and its sociality is the very structure of our minds. Since society has endowed us with self-consciousness, we can enter personally into the largest undertakings which the intercourse of rational selves extends before us. And because we can live with ourselves as well as with others, we can criticize ourselves, and make our own the values in which we are involved through those undertakings in which the community of all rational beings is engaged.


  1. Cf. pages 200 ff.

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