Modes of Thought

Lecture Four: Perspective

Alfred North Whitehead

Table of Contents | Next | Previous

THERE IS REASON to believe that human genius reached its culmination in the twelve hundred years preceding and including the initiation of the Christian Epoch. Within that period the main concepts of aesthetic experience, of religion, of humane social relations, of political wisdom, of mathematical deduction, and of observational science, were developed and discussed. Of course, each one of these aspects of civilization has an immensely longer history, stretching back to the animals. But within that period, the achievements of mankind attained an amplitude of effectiveness. Also their relevance to the ideals of human life was consciously entertained. In the earlier stages of this period, the Homeric poems and various Confucian modes of thought emerged, and in the final stage, Virgil, the Gospel of St. John, and the political structure of the Roman Empire.

The techniques of life flourished. The initia-

( 90) -tion of each was earlier than this period. For example, the technique of writing gradually developed through many ages. But its facility of use so as to be a medium for the preservation of intimate thoughts of individual people belongs to this epoch. Antecedently to this period it recorded the orders of kings and the boasts of conquerors. Analogous considerations apply to the development of metals, of horses, of roads, of navigation: civilization was in its infancy. Within the period we find achievement. Of course, since then, there has been progress in knowledge and technique. But it has been along the path laid down by the activities of that golden age. The history of Europe during the past eighteen hundred years is the sequel.

One unfortunate result of this derivation from a brilliant past has been that defective insights of the earlier period have been rooted in language and literature. Also language dictates our unconscious presuppositions of thought.

For example, single words, each with its dictionary meaning, and single sentences, each bounded by full stops, suggest the possibility of complete abstraction from any environment. Thus the problem of philosophy is apt to be conceived as the understanding of the interconnections of things, each understandable, apart from reference to anything else.

( 91)

2. This presupposition is erroneous. Let us dismiss it, and assume that each entity, of whatever type, essentially involves its own connection with the universe of other things. This connection can be viewed as being what the universe is for that entity either in the way of accomplishment or in the way of potentiality. It can be termed the perspective of the universe for that entity. For example, these are the perspectives of the universe for the number three, and for the colour blue, and for any one definite occasion of realized fact.

Each perspective for any one qualitative abstraction such as a number, or a colour, involves an infinitude of alternative potentialities. On the other hand, the perspective for a factual occasion involves the elimination of alternatives in respect to the matter-of-fact realization involved in that present occasion, and the reduction of alternatives as to the future; since that occasion, as a member of its own contemporary world, is one of the factors conditioning the future beyond itself.

This question of the meanings of our current abstractions of all types of entities is more than a metaphysical puzzle for learned people. It is a question of practical good sense in our everyday judgments of affairs. Our danger is to take notions which are valid for one perspective of

( 92) the universe involved in one group of events and to apply them uncritically to other events involving some discrepancy of perspective. A correction is wanted, by reason of this discrepancy. In the three lectures of this second Part, I shall be discussing various applications of this doctrine of the perspective involved in every entity. Also it will be necessary to refer to the misconceptions which arise from its neglect.

This notion of perspectives of the universe is discussed in my Science and The Modern World, under the heading 'Relational Essence'. But in that discussion the perspectives of qualitative entities are alone considered. Here the notion has been broadened.

3. The most simple doctrine about types of being is that some extreme type exists independently of the rest of things. For example, Greek philosophers, and in particular Plato, seem to have held this doctrine in respect to qualitative abstractions, such as number, geometrical relations, moral characteristics, and the qualitative disclosures of the higher sense-perceptions. Namely, according to this tradition in so far as we abstract from our experience the brute particularity of happening here, and now, amid this environment, there remains a residue with self-identities, differences, and essential interconnections, which seems to have no essential reference

( 93) to the passage of events. According to this doctrine, as the result of this discard of the factor of transition we rivet our attention on the eternal realm of forms. In this imagined realm there is no passage, no loss, no gain. It is complete in itself. It is self-sustaining. It is therefore the realm of the 'completely real'.

This is the notion that has haunted philosophy. It was never far from Greek thought. Later, it transformed the Hebraic elements in Christian Theology.

We must admit that in some sense or other, we inevitably presuppose this realm of forms, in abstraction from passage, loss, and gain. For example, the multiplication table up to 'twelve-times-twelve' is a humble member of it. In all our thoughts of what has happened and can happen, we presuppose the multiplication table as essentially qualifying the course of history, whenever it is relevant. It is always at hand, and there is no escape. So far as our vision is clear, there is that element of certain knowledge. But. how clear is our vision?

This notion of the realm of timeless forms leads to rhetorical, question-begging phrases, such as 'self-sustaining', 'completely-real', 'perfection', 'certainty'.

Let us take these phrases in reverse order. We make mistakes in arithmetic. We can miscon-

( 94) -ceive the very meaning of number and of the interconnections of number. The great mathematicians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries misconceived the subject matter of their studies. For example, in respect to the notions of infinitesimals, of the necessary precautions in the use of infinite series, and the doctrine of complex numbers, their discoveries were suffused with error.

The notion of a sphere of human knowledge characterized by unalloyed truth is the pet delusion of dogmatists, whether they be theologians, scientists, or humanistic scholars.

Again, 'perfection' is a notion which haunts human imagination. It cannot be ignored. But its naīve attachment to the realm of forms is entirely without justification. How about the form of mud, and the forms of evil, and other forms of imperfection? In the house of forms, there are many mansions.

Finally, consider together the two notions, 'self-sustaining' and 'complete reality'. Every form in its very nature refers to some sort of realization. The numerical notions, such as 'five' and 'six', refer to concepts of things which may exemplify them. The notion of the numbers up to six, as existing in a vacuum is idiotic. The muddiness is referent to mud, and forms of evil require evil things, in some sense or other.

( 95)

Thus the forms are essentially referent beyond themselves. It is mere phantasy to impute to them any 'absolute reality', which is devoid of implications beyond itself. The realm of forms is the realm of potentiality, and the very notion of 'potentiality' has an external meaning. It refers to life and motion. It refers to inclusion and exclusion. It refers to hope, fear, and intention. Phrasing this statement more generally,—it refers to appetition. It refers to the development of actuality, which realizes form and is yet more than form. It refers to past, present and future.

Again everything is something, which in its own way is real. When you refer to something as unreal, you are merely conceiving a type of reality to which that 'something' does not belong. But to be real is not to be self-sustaining. Also modes of reality require each other. It is the task of philosophy to elucidate the relevance to each other of various types of existence. We cannot exhaust such types because there are an unending number of them. But we can start with two types which to us seem as extremes; and can then discern these types as requiring other types to express their mutual relevance to each other.

I do not affirm that these two types are fundamentally more ultimate, or more simple, than

( 96) other derivative types. But I do maintain that for human experience, they are natural starting-points for the understanding of types of existence.

The two types in question can be named respectively, The Type of Actuality, and The Type of pure Potentiality.

These types require each other, namely Actuality is the exemplification of Potentiality, and Potentiality is the characterization of Actuality, either in fact or in concept.

Also the interconnections of the two extreme types involve the introduction of other types, namely type upon type, each type expressing some mode of composition. I suggest to you that the traditions of linguistic expression are singularly naīve in the handling of modes of composition. Some blessed word, such as the word 'composition' itself, covers up all the perplexities that reflection discloses.

At this point we had better ask ourselves, What are we appealing to in the development of philosophic thought? Where is the evidence?

The answer is evidently human experience, as shared by civilized intercommunication. The expression of such evidence, so far as it is widely shared, is to be found in law, in moral and sociological habits, in literature and art as ministering to human satisfactions, in historical judgments on the rise and decay of social sys-

( 97) -tems, and in science. It is also diffused throughout the meanings of words and linguistic expressions.

Philosophy is a secondary activity. It meditates on this variety of expression. It finds types of things, each type exemplifying a mode of existence, with its own characteristic reality. Also all its sources of information express various aspects of the interfusion of things. Thus the task of philosophy is the understanding of the interfusion of modes of existence.

There is also one final consideration, namely that philosophy is limited in its sources to the world as disclosed in human experience.

4. With this interlude recalling our evidence, we return to the question, What is the meaning of Actuality conceived as the extreme contrast to Potentiality. We recur to the statement: Actuality and Potentiality require each other in the reciprocal roles of example and character. Thus in order to understand Actuality, we must ask, What is character, and What is it that has character?

To the latter half of this question many answers have been given, each answer referent to some important aspect of human experience. They can be grouped under three titles, namely, Substances, Happenings, The Absolute. But these titles refer to the discussions of the learned world

( 98) prolonged through centuries of civilization. They are important, though they are far from naīve experience.

Our more direct experience groups itself into two large divisions, each capable of further analysis. One division is formed by the sense of qualitative experience derived from antecedent fact, enjoyed in the personal unity of present fact, and conditioning future fact. In this division of experience, there are the sense of derivation from without, the sense of immediate enjoyment within, and the sense of transmission beyond. This complex sense of enjoyment involves the past, the present, the future. It is at once complex, vague, and imperative. It is the realization of our essential connection with the world without, and also of our own individual existence, now. It carries with it the placing of our immediate experience as a fact in history, derivative, actual, and effective. It also carries with it the sense of immediate experience as the essence of an individual fact with its own qualities. The main characteristic of such experience is complexity, vagueness, and compulsive intensity. In one respect the vagueness yields a comparatively sharp cut division, namely, the differentiation of the world into the animal body which is the region of intimate, intense, mutual expression, and the rest of nature where the intimacy and

( 99) intensity of feeling fails to penetrate. My brain, my heart, my bowels, my lungs, are mine, with an intimacy of mutual adjustment. The sunrise is a message from the world beyond such directness of relation. The behaviour-system of the body has an element of direct relationship with the transitions of quality in personal experience. This directness is lacking in the relationship of the external world to the flux of feeling. For this reason psychology and physiology are difficult to dissociate from each other, either for the purposes of abstract science or for the purposes of the medical practitioner. The behaviour-systems of the human body and of intimate experience are closely entangled.

5. The second division of human experience has a character very different from the first division of bodily feelings. It lacks the intimacy, the intensity, and the vagueness. It consists of the discrimination of forms as expressing external natural facts in their relationship to the body. Let this division be termed 'sense-perception'.

Now sense-perception belongs to the higher animals. We will consider it as we know it; that is to say, as in human experience. It is a sophisticated derivative from the more primitive bodily experience which constituted the division of experience first considered. But it has outgrown its origin, and has inverted every emphasis. Its pri-

( 100) -mary characteristic is clarity, distinctness, and indifference. Its emotional effects are secondary derivatives, achieved by awakening reactions other than itself. This is Hume's doctrine. Only Hume neglected the primary experiences of bodily intimacy; although he used these primary experiences in describing our reactions to sense-perceptions.

In sense-perception we discern the external world with its various parts characterized by form of quality, and interrelated by forms which express both separation and connection. These forms of quality are the sensa, such as shades of blue, and tones of sound. The forms expressing distinction and connection are the spatial and temporal forms. The world, as interpreted by exclusive attention to such forms of sense-perception, I will term 'Nature'.

These forms, qualitative and spatio-temporal, dominate this experience. They are indifferent to emotion, being just themselves, namely the vivid realization of things capable of abstraction from that instance of actuality with its cargo of emotion. Nature is devoid of impulse.

Sense-perception is the triumph of abstraction in animal experience. Such abstraction arises from the growth of selective emphasis. It endows human life with three gifts, namely, an approach to accuracy, a sense of the qualitative differentia-

( 101) -tion of external activities, a neglect of essential connections.

These three characters of the higher animal experience—namely, approximate accuracy, qualitative assignment, essential omission—together constitute the focus of consciousness, as in human experience.

Aristotelian logic is founded on this primary deliverance of abstractive consciousness, namely, 'that entity exemplifying this quality, apart from any reference to things beyond'.

Also scientific practice is founded upon the same characteristic of omission. In order to observe accurately, concentrate on that observation, dismissing from consciousness all irrelevant modes of experience. But there is no irrelevance. Thus the whole of science is based upon neglected modes of relevance, which nevertheless dominate the social group entertaining those scientific modes of thought. For this reason the progress of systematized knowledge has a double aspect. These is progress in the discovery of the intricacies of composition which that system admits. There is also progress in the discovery of the limitations of the system in its omission to indicate its dependence upon environmental co-ordinations of modes of existence which have essential relevance to the entities within the system. Since all things are connected, any sys-

( 102) -tem which omits some things must necessarily suffer from such limitations.

The emphasis upon the higher sense-percepta, such as sights and sounds, has damaged the philosophic development of the preceding two centuries. The question, What do we know?, has been transformed into the question, What can we know? This latter question has been dogmatically solved by the presupposition that all knowledge starts from the consciousness of spatio-temporal patterns of such sense-percepta.

6. The study of human knowledge should start with a survey of the vague variety, discernible in the transitions of human experience. It cannot safely base itself upon simple arbitrary assumptions, such as this assumption of spatiotemporal patterns of sensa as the source of all knowledge. There is something very special about such spatio-temporal patterns, and also about arithmetic patterns. Speaking from my own frame of mind, I revolt against this concentration upon the multiplication table and the regular solids: in other words, against the notion that topology, based upon numerical relations, contains in itself the one fundamental key to the understanding of the nature of things. Surely we should start from principles which are larger, more penetrating. Arithmetic and Topology are specialties.

( 103)

What are the general principles of division which dominate that creative process which we term our lives? We can only appeal to our direct insight—to what Descartes termed, our Inspectio. Our Judgment, that is, our Judicium to which Descartes also appealed, requires an Inspection to provide the material from which decision arises. The question therefore is as to those fundamental modes dominating experience. Such modes are modes of division, each division involving differences with essential contrasts.

I suggest to you as fundamental characterizations of our experience, three principles of division expressed by the three pairs of opposites—Clarity and Vagueness, Order and Disorder, The Good and the Bad. Our endeavour to understand Creation should start from these modes of experience.

There is a natural affinity between Order and Goodness. It is not usual to accuse people of 'orderly conduct'. Undoubtedly there are limits to the excellence of mere order. It can be overdone. But there can be no excellence except upon some basis of order. Mere disorder results in a nonentity of achievement. It is one purpose of this lecture to examine this affinity between Order and Goodness, and to note its limitations.

This is an ambitious aim, when we remember that the most famous lecture in the whole history

( 104) of European thought was devoted to this topic. It was delivered nearly two thousand three hundred years ago. The title of this lecture did not allude to Order. But we do know that the subject matter was largely concerned with mathematics. It is worth considering, from our own point of view today, why Plato naturally thought of mathematics when he sat down to write a lecture on The Good. We are not concerned with the precise mathematical doctrines which were enunciated in that lecture, nor even with the precise relation of mathematics to the Forms as conceived, or misconceived, by Plato. My topic is the relation of Order to The Good, and the relation of mathematics to the notion of Order.

At first sight, the notion of any important connection between the multiplication table and the moral beauty of the Sermon on the Mount is fantastic. And yet, consideration of the development of human clarity of experience from its foundation of confused animal satisfactions discloses mathematical understanding as the primary example of insight into the nature of The Good. Also we must remember that morals constitute only one aspect of The Good, an aspect often overstressed.

The animals enjoy structure. They can build nests and dams: they can follow the trail of scent through the forest. The concrete realized

( 105) facts, confused and intermixed, dominate animal life. Man understands structure. He abstracts its dominating principle from the welter of detail. He can imagine alternative illustration. He constructs distant objectives. He can compare the variety of issues. He can aim at the best. But the essence of this human control of purposes depends on the understanding of structure in its variety of applications.

To be human requires the study of structure. To be animal merely requires its enjoyment. An animal enjoys social relations; a human being has the capacity to know the exact number of individuals involved in such social relations, and also can conceive the exact relevance of number to enjoyment. In other words, in the passage from our lower type of animal experience to our higher type of human experience, we have acquired a selective emphasis whereby the finite occasions of experience receive clear definition.

This clarity of human vision both enhances the uniqueness of each individual occasion, and at the same time discloses its essential relationships to occasions other than itself. It emphasizes both finite individuality and also to relationship to other individualities.

Further, it discloses some analysis of the matter-of-fact in immediate realization. And yet, by this disclosure it brings into prominence the

( 106) potentialities for alternative realizations, in the past, in the future, in the present. It tells what may be, and what may have been. It lays bare diversities and analogies. Mankind enjoys a vision of the function of form within fact, and of the issue of value from this interplay. That day in the history of mankind when the vague appreciation of multitude was transformed into the exact observation of number, human beings made a long stride in the comprehension of that interweaving of form necessary for the higher life which is the disclosure of the Good.

I remember an incident proving that at least some squirrels have not crossed this borderline of civilization. We were in a charming camp situated amidst woodland bordering a Vermont lake. A squirrel had made its nest in our main sitting-room, placing it in a hole in brickwork around the fireplace. She came in and out to her young ones, ignoring the presence of the human family. One day, she decided that her family had grown up beyond the nursery stage. So, one by one, she carried them out to the edge of the woodland. As I remember across the years, there were three children. But when the mother had placed them on the rock outside, the family group looked to her very different from its grouping within the nest. She was vaguely disturbed, and ran backwards and forwards two or three

( 107) times to make quite sure that no young squirrel had been left behind. She was unable to count, nor had she identified them by christening them with names. All she knew was that the vague multitude on the rock seemed very unlike the vague multitude in the nest. Her family experiences lacked the perception of the exact limitation imposed by number. As a result she was mildly and vaguely disturbed. If the mother could have counted, she would have experienced the determinate satisfaction of a job well-done in the rearing of three children; or, in the case of loss, she would have suffered vivid pain from the absence of a determinate child. But she lacked adequate experience of any precise form of limitation.

Thus the rise in vivid experience of the Good and of the Bad depends upon the intuition of exact forms of limitation. Among such forms Number has a chief place.

7. In the discussion of our deeper experiences, religious and mystic, an unbalanced emphasis has been placed upon the mere sense of infinitude. Any being, overwhelmed with this sense, would rank lower than the squirrel. All forms of realization express some aspect of finitude. Such a form expresses its nature as being this, and not that. In other words, it expresses exclusion; and exclusion means finitude.

( 108)

The full solemnity of the world arises from the sense of positive achievement within the finite, combined with the sense of modes of infinitude stretching beyond each finite fact. This infinitude is required by each fact to express its necessary relevance beyond its own limitations. It expresses a perspective of the universe.

Importance arises from this fusion of the finite and the infinite. The cry, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die', expresses the triviality of the merely finite. The mystic, ineffective slumber expresses the vacuity of the merely infinite. Those theologians do religion a bad service, who emphasize infinitude at the expense of the finite transitions within history. With the foregoing discussion in mind, we recur to the three pairs of opposites: Clarity and Vagueness, Order and Disorder, The Good and the Bad. It is natural to associate Clarity and Order with the attainment of the Good; and to associate Vagueness and Disorder with the Bad. For example, in writing a testimonial, the phrase 'Her mind is clear and orderly' would be taken as praise; while the phrase 'Her mind is vague and disorderly' would be read as condemnation. The reason for such judgment is based upon the fact that clarity and orderliness enable the possessor to deal with foreseen situations. They are necessary foundations for the maintenance of existing social situa-

( 109) -tions. And yet they are not enough. Transcendence of mere clarity and order is necessary for dealing with the unforeseen, for progress, for excitement. Life degenerates when enclosed within the shackles of mere conformation. A power of incorporating vague and disorderly elements of experience is essential for the advance into novelty.

The understanding of the universe is rooted in the implications of this advance. Apart from it, Creation is meaningless, divorced from change. Time has then no application to the static nature of things. Existence is meaningless. The universe is reduced to static futility—devoid of life and motion.

In the history of European philosophic thought, in the history of great thinkers, a curious wavering can be detected on this question. The appeal to life and motion is interwoven with the presupposition of the supreme reality as devoid of change. Changeless order is conceived as the final perfection, with the result that the historic universe is degraded to a status of partial reality, issuing into the notion of mere appearance. The result has been that the most evident characteristic of our experience has been dismissed into a subordinate role in metaphysical construction. We live in a world of turmoil. Philosophy, and religion, as influenced by or-

( 110) -thodox philosophic thought, dismiss turmoil. Such dismissal is the outcome of tired decadence. We should beware of philosophies which express the dominant emotions of periods of slow social decay. Our inheritance of philosophic thought is infected with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and with the decadence of eastern civilizations. It expresses the exhaustion following upon the first three thousand years of advancing civilization. A better balance is required. For civilizations rise as well as fall. We require philosophy to explain the rise of types of order, the transitions from type to type, and the mixtures of good and bad involved in the universe as it stands self-evident in our experience. Such a universe is the locus of importance. A frozen, motionless universe can at most be the topic of pure knowledge, with the bare comment—That is so.

Emphasis limited to special aspects of things explicitly experienced has advanced science, and has hampered philosophy. Consider for example the effect on European thought of the rise of mathematical science, about four centuries before the Christian Era. Mathematics was concerned with notions which at that time introduced no sense either of transition or of creation. Numbers and Geometrical forms constituted the sole content of Greek mathematics.

( 111)

It is unnecessary to dwell on the importance of the science of these special mathematical forms. It has transformed civilization. But its effect on Greek thought was very mixed. As the Greeks understood that science, the notion of transition was in the background. Each number, each ratio, each geometric form exhibited a static attainment. The number 'twelve'(in their conception of it) had no reference to creation; neither had the ratio 'six to two'; neither had the geometric form of the circle. These ideal forms are for them motionless, impervious, and self-sufficient—each representing a perfection peculiar to itself. Such was the reaction of Greek thought to the fundamental notions of mathematics. The human mind was dazzled by this glimpse of eternity. The result of this revelation was that Greek philosophy —at least in its most influential school—conceived ultimate reality in the guise of static existences with time-less interrelations. Perfection was unrelated to transition. Creation, with its world in change, was an inferior avocation of a static Absolute.

8. The effect on subsequent European thought of this impulse from the golden age of Greece has been threefold. In the first place, the static Absolute has been passed over to philosophic theology, as a primary presupposition.

( 112)

In the second place, the abstractions of structure, such as mathematical notions and all notions involving ways of composition, have been endowed with an eminent reality, apart from individual compositions in which they occur.

In the third place, these abstractions of structure have been conceived as carrying, in their own natures, no reference to Creation. The process has been lost.

The final outcome has been that philosophy and theology have been saddled with the problem of deriving the historic world of change from a changeless world of ultimate reality. Our whole conception of knowledge has been vitiated. The final wisdom has been pictured as the changeless contemplation of changeless reality. Knowledge in abstraction from action has been exalted. Action is thereby conceived as being concerned with a world of shadows. Plato's lecture on the Good, with its emphasis on mathematics as then understood, is symbolic of this attitude which has haunted philosophy.

In those days, mathematics was the science of a static universe. Any transition was conceived as a transition of static forms. Today we conceive of forms of transition. The modern concept of an infinite series is the concept of a form of transition, namely, the character of the series as a whole is such a form. The notion of the

( 113) sum of such a series is the notion of a final issue indicated by this form of transition.

The distorted attitude of attention to static forms has haunted philosophy, but it has not exclusively dominated it. The outstanding figures in the philosophic tradition have not achieved eminence solely by their championship of systems peculiar to themselves. Systematic thought has clarified insights, and has directed attention to aspects of experience which exemplify special systems. But the universe stretches beyond our finite powers of understanding. The great thinkers from whom we derive inspiration enjoyed insights beyond their own systems. They made statements hard to reconcile with the neat little ways of thought which we pin on to their names. For example, the same philosopher who emphasized the changeless mathematical entities as characteristic components of. supreme reality, also elsewhere declared 'life and motion' to belong to the essential character of reality. He thus asked 'How do things function?' as a way of understanding how those things exist. Again, another philosopher who reduces the connection between the data of experience to mere succession of sense-data, also appeals to the fact of 'expectation'. This derivation of expectation from succession is an intelligible fact to Hume, although his own system provides no elucidation of it.

( 114)

We do not experience mere succession. We discern forms of succession; and the presupposition of such forms haunts philosophic thought and dominates our daily experience.

Plato and Hume illustrate that system is essential for rational thought. But they also illustrate that the closed system is the death of living understanding. In their explanations they wander beyond all system. They thus illustrate in their own procedures that our primary insight is a mixture of clarity and vagueness. The finite focus of clarity fades into an environment of vagueness stretching into the darkness of what is merely beyond. The partly comprehended forms of succession dimly illuminate this environment within experience.

9. We require to understand how the mere existence of unchanging form requires its own immersion in the creation of a changing historic world. There is a form of creation. We require to understand how the unity of the universe requires its multiplicity. We require to understand how infinitude requires the finite.

We require to understand how each immediately present existence requires its past, antecedent to itself; and requires its future, an essential factor in its own existence. There are thus three factors within immediate existence—namely, past, present, and future. In this way immediacy of

( 115) finite existence refuses to be deprived of that infinitude of extension which is its perspective.

Again we require to understand how mere matter-of-fact refuses to be deprived of its relevance to potentialities beyond its own actuality of realization. The very character of concrete realization—that is to say, of historic fact—is suffused with the potentialities which it excludes with varying types of relevance. In the present fact there are the various characteristics of the past, partly reproduced and partly excluded; there are the characteristics of concurrent facts in the present, partly shared in and partly excluded; there are the possibilities for the future, partly prepared for and partly excluded. The discussion of present fact apart from reference to past, to concurrent present, and to future, and from reference to the preservation or destruction of forms of creation is to rob the universe of essential importance. In the absence of perspective there is triviality.

For example, in some concert hall there is the immediate volume of sound in the immediate specious present. There is the symphonic form which is dominating the successive moments of experience. There is the sense of creative genius from which this realized example of symphonic form is derived. There is the sense of multiplicity of creative genius—the artists in the orchestra,

( 116) the conductor, the composer. There is the sense of the variety of static forms immediately realized: the forms of instruments, the spatial distribution of the orchestra, the mathematical analysis of each momentary sound, the musical score. In the end we are left with four main modes of characterizing experience. There are, in the first place, three main aspects within aesthetic experience: the sense of genius, the sense of disclosure, the sense of frustration. We also retain three aspects of matter of fact: namely, the experiences of unity, of multitude, of transition.

We discern three primary grounds of division, namely, Clarity and Vagueness, Order and Disorder, The Good and the Bad.

Finally, there are two ultimate types of existence implicated in the creative process, the eternal forms with their dual existence in potential appetition and in realized fact, and realized fact with its dual ways of existence as the past in the present and as the immediacy of the present. Also the immediacy of the present harbours an appetition towards the unrealized future. How the thinker deals with these four modes of experience determines the shape of philosophy, and the influence of thought upon the practice of life.


No notes

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2