PRAGMATISM: A NEW NAME FOR SOME OLD WAYS OF THINKING
by William James
TO THE MEMORY OF JOHN STUART MILL
FROM WHOM I FIRST LEARNED THE
PRAGMATIC OPENNESS OF MIND
AND WHOM MY FANCY LIKES TO PICTURE AS
WERE HE ALIVE TODAY
The lectures that follow were delivered at the Lowell Institute in Boston inNovember and December1906and in January1907at Columbia UniversityinNew York. They are printed as deliveredwithout developments or notes. Thepragmatic movementso-called- I do not like the namebut apparently it is toolate to change it- seems to have rather suddenly precipitated itself out of theair. A number of tendencies that have always existed in philosophy have all atonce become conscious of themselves collectivelyand of their combined mission;and this has occurred in so many countriesand from so many different points ofview that much unconcerted statement has resulted. I have sought to unify thepicture as it presents itself to my own eyesdealing in broad strokesandavoiding minute controversy. Much futile controversy might have been avoidedIbelieveif our critics had been willing to wait until we got our message fairlyout.
If my lectures interest any reader in the general subjecthe will doubtlesswish to read farther. I therefore give him a few references.
In AmericaJOHN DEWEY's 'Studies in Logical Theory' are the foundation. Readalso by DEWEY the articles in the Philosophical Reviewvol. xvpp. 113 and465in Mindvol. xvp. 293and in the Journal of Philosophyvol. ivp.197.
Probably the best statements to begin with howeverare F. C. S. SCHILLER'sin his 'Studies in Humanism' especially the essays numbered ivviviixviii and xix. His previous essays and in general the polemic literature of thesubject are fully referred to in his footnotes.
Furthermoresee J. MILHAUD: le Rationnel1898and the fine articles by LEROY in the Revue de Metaphysiquevols. 78 and 9. Also articles by BLONDEL andDE SAILLY in the Annals de Philosophie Chretienne4me Serievols. 2 and 3.PAPINI announces a book on Pragmatismin the French languageto be publishedvery soon.
To avoid one misunderstanding at leastlet me say that there is no logicalconnexion between pragmatismas I understand itand a doctrine which I haverecently set forth as 'radical empiricism.' The latter stands on its own feet.One may entirely reject it and still be a pragmatist.
Lecture I: The Present Dilemma in Philosophy
IN the preface to that admirable collection of essays of his called 'Heretics'Mr. Chesterton writes these words: "There are some people- and I am one ofthem- who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is stillhis view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger itis important to know his incomebut still more important to know his philosophy.We think that for a general about to fight an enemy it is important to know theenemy's numbersbut still more important to know the enemy's philosophy. Wethink the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects mattersbutwhether in the long run anything else affects them."
I think with Mr. Chesterton in this matter. I know that youladies andgentlemenhave a philosophyeach and all of youand that the most interestingand important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspectivein your several worlds. You know the same of me. And yet I confess to a certaintremor at the audacity of the enterprise which I am about to begin. For thephilosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter; it isour more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means. It is onlypartly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling thetotal push and pressure of the cosmos. I have no right to assume that many ofyou are students of the cosmos in the classroom senseyet here I stand desirousof interesting you in a philosophy which to no small extent has to betechnically treated. I wish to fill you with sympathy with a contemporaneoustendency in which I profoundly believeand yet I have to talk like a professorto you who are not students. Whatever universe a professor believes in must atany rate be a universe that lends itself to lengthy discourse. A universedefinable in two sentences is something for which the professorial intellect hasno use. No faith in anything of that cheap kind! I have heard friends andcolleagues try to popularize philosophy in this very hallbut they soon grewdryand then technicaland the results were only partially encouraging. So myenterprise is a bold one. The founder of pragmatism himself recently gave acourse of lectures at the Lowell Institute with that very word in its title-flashes of brilliant light relieved against Cimmerian darkness! None of usIfancyunderstood all that he said- yet here I standmaking a very similarventure.
I risk it because the very lectures I speak of drew - they brought goodaudiences. There isit must be confesseda curious fascination in hearing deepthings talked abouteven though neither we nor the disputants understand them.We get the problematic thrillwe feel the
presence of the vastness. Let a controversy begin in a smoking-room anywhereabout free-will or God's omniscienceor good and eviland see how every one inthe place pricks up his ears. Philosophy's results concern us all most vitallyand philosophy's queerest arguments tickle agreeably our sense of subtlety andingenuity.
Believing in philosophy myself devoutlyand believing also that a kind ofnew dawn is breaking upon us philosophersI feel impelled
per fas aut nefasto try to impart to you some news of the situation.
Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits.It works in the minutest crannies and it opens out the widest vistas. It 'bakesno bread' as has been saidbut it can inspire our souls with courage; andrepugnant as its mannersits doubting and challengingits quibbling anddialecticsoften are to common peopleno one of us can get along without thefar-flashing beams of light it sends over the world's perspectives. Theseilluminations at leastand the contrast-effects of darkness and mystery thataccompany themgive to what it says an interest that is much more thanprofessional.
The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a certain clash ofhuman temperaments. Undignified as such a treatment may seem to some of mycolleaguesI shall have to take account of this clash and explain a good manyof the divergencies of philosophers by it. Of whatever temperament aprofessional philosopher ishe trieswhen philosophizingto sink the fact ofhis temperament. Temperament is no conventionally recognized reasonso he urgesimpersonal reasons only for his conclusions. Yet his temperament really giveshim a stronger bias than any of his more strictly objective premises. It loadsthe evidence for him one way or the othermaking for a more sentimental or amore hard-hearted view of the universejust as this fact or that principlewould. He trusts his temperament. Wanting a universe that suits ithe believesin any representation of the universe that does suit it. He feels men ofopposite temper to be out of key with the world's characterand in his heartconsiders them incompetent and 'not in it' in the philosophic businesseventhough they may far excel him in dialectical ability.
Yet in the forum he can make no claimon the bare ground of his temperamentto superior discernment or authority. There arises thus a certain insincerity inour philosophic discussions: the potentest of all our premises is nevermentioned. I am sure it would contribute to clearness if in these lectures weshould break this rule and mention itand I accordingly feel free to do so.
Of course I am talking here of very positively marked menmen of radicalidiosyncracywho have set their stamp and likeness on philosophy and figure inits history. PlatoLockeHegelSpencerare such temperamental thinkers. Mostof us haveof courseno very definite intellectual temperamentwe are amixture of opposite ingredientseach one present very moderately. We hardlyknow our own preferences in abstract matters; some of us are easily talked outof themand end by following the fashion or taking up with the beliefs of themost impressive philosopher in our neighborhoodwhoever he may be. But the onething that has counted so far in philosophy is that a man should see thingsseethem straight in his own peculiar wayand be dissatisfied with any opposite wayof seeing them. There is no reason to suppose that this strong temperamentalvision is from now onward to count no longer in the history of man's beliefs.
Now the particular difference of temperament that I have in mind in makingthese remarks is one that has counted in literatureartgovernmentandmanners as well as in philosophy. In manners we find formalists andfree-and-easy persons. In governmentauthoritarians and anarchists. Inliteraturepurists or academicalsand realists. In artclassics and romantics.You recognize these contrasts as familiar; wellin philosophy we have a verysimilar contrast expressed in the pair of terms 'rationalist' and 'empiricist''empiricist' meaning your lover of facts in all their crude variety'rationalist'meaning your devotee to abstract and eternal principles. No one can live an hourwithout both facts and principlesso it is a difference rather of emphasis; yetit breeds antipathies of the most pungent character between those who lay theemphasis differently; and we shall find it extraordinarily convenient to expressa certain contrast in men's ways of taking their universeby talking of the 'empiricist'and of the 'rationalist' temper. These terms make the contrast simple andmassive.
More simple and massive than are usually the men of whom the terms arepredicated. For every sort of permutation and combination is possible in humannature; and if I now proceed to define more fully what I have in mind when Ispeak of rationalists and empiricistsby adding to each of those titles somesecondary qualifying characteristicsI beg you to regard my conduct as to acertain extent arbitrary. I select types of combination that nature offers veryfrequentlybut by no means uniformlyand I select them solely for theirconvenience in helping me to my ulterior purpose of characterizing pragmatism.Historically we find the terms 'intellectualism' and 'sensationalism' used assynonyms of 'rationalism' and 'empiricism.' Wellnature seems to combine mostfrequently with intellectualism an idealistic and optimistic tendency.Empiricists on the other hand are not uncommonly materialisticand theiroptimism is apt to be decidedly conditional and tremulous. Rationalism is alwaysmonistic. It starts from wholes and universalsand makes much of the unity ofthings. Empiricism starts from the partsand makes of the whole a collection-is not averse therefore to calling itself pluralistic. Rationalism usuallyconsiders itself more religious than empiricismbut there is much to say aboutthis claimso I merely mention it. It is a true claim when the individualrationalist is what is called a man of feelingand when the individualempiricist prides himself on being hard-headed. In that case the rationalistwill usually also be in favor of what is called free-willand the empiricistwill be a fatalist- I use the terms most popularly current. The rationalistfinally will be of dogmatic temper in his affirmationswhile the empiricist maybe more sceptical and open to discussion.
I will write these traits down in two columns. I think you will practicallyrecognize the two types of mental make-up that I mean if I head the columns bythe titles 'tender-minded' and 'tough-minded' respectively.
THE TENDER-MINDED. THE TOUGH-MINDED.
Rationalistic (going by Empiricist (going by
Pray postpone for a moment the question whether the two contrasted mixtureswhich I have written down are each inwardly coherent and self- consistent ornot- I shall very soon have a good deal to say on that point. It suffices forour immediate purpose that tender-minded and tough-minded peoplecharacterizedas I have written them downdo both exist. Each of you probably knows somewell-marked example of each typeand you know what each example thinks of theexample on the other side of the line. They have a low opinion of each other.Their antagonismwhenever as individuals their temperaments have been intensehas formed in all ages a part of the philosophic atmosphere of the time. Itforms a part of the philosophic atmosphere to-day. The tough think of the tenderas sentimentalists and softheads. The tender feel the tough to be unrefinedcallousor brutal. Their mutual reaction is very much like that that takesplace when Bostonian tourists mingle with a population like that of CrippleCreek. Each type believes the other to be inferior to itself; but disdain in theone case is mingled with amusementin the other it has a dash of fear.
Nowas I have already insistedfew of us are tender-foot Bostonians pureand simpleand few are typical Rocky Mountain toughsin philosophy. Most of ushave a hankering for the good things on both sides of the line. Facts are goodof course- give us lots of facts. Principles are good- give us plenty ofprinciples. The world is indubitably one if you look at it in one waybut asindubitably is it manyif you look at it in another. It is both one and many-let us adopt a sort of pluralistic monism. Everything of course is necessarilydeterminedand yet of course our wills are free: a sort of free-willdeterminism is the true philosophy. The evil of the parts is undeniablebut thewhole can't be evil: so practical pessimism may be combined with metaphysicaloptimism. And so forth- your ordinary philosophic layman never being a radicalnever straightening out his systembut living vaguely in one plausiblecompartment of it or another to suit the temptations of successive hours.
But some of us are more than mere laymen in philosophy. We are worthy of thename of amateur athletesand are vexed by too much inconsistency andvacillation in our creed. We cannot preserve a good intellectual conscience solong as we keep mixing incompatibles from opposite sides of the line.
And now I come to the first positively important point which I wish to make.Never were as many men of a decidedly empiricist proclivity in existence asthere are at the present day. Our childrenone may sayare almost bornscientific. But our esteem for facts has not neutralized in us all religiousness.It is itself almost religious. Our scientific temper is devout. Now take a manof this typeand let him be also a philosophic amateurunwilling to mix ahodge-podge system after the fashion of a common laymanand what does he findhis situation to bein this blessed year of our Lord 1906? He wants facts; hewants science; but he also wants a religion. And being an amateur and not anindependent originator in philosophy he naturally looks for guidance to theexperts and professionals whom he finds already in the field. A very largenumber of you here presentpossibly a majority of youare amateurs of justthis sort.
Now what kinds of philosophy do you find actually offered to meet your need?You find an empirical philosophy that is not religious enoughand a religiousphilosophy that is not empirical enough for your purpose. If you look to thequarter where facts are most considered you find the whole tough-minded programin operationand the 'conflict between science and religion' in full blast.Either it is that Rocky Mountain tough of a Haeckel with his materialisticmonismhis ether-god and his jest at your God as a 'gaseous vertebrate'; or itis Spencer treating the world's history as a redistribution of matter and motionsolelyand bowing religion politely out at the front door:- she may indeedcontinue to existbut she must never show her face inside the temple.
For a hundred and fifty years past the progress of science has seemed to meanthe enlargement of the material universe and the diminution of man's importance.The result is what one may call the growth of naturalistic or positivisticfeeling. Man is no lawgiver to naturehe is an absorber. She it is who standsfirm; he it is who must accommodate himself. Let him record truthinhumanthough it beand submit to it! The romantic spontaneity and courage are gonethe vision is materialistic and depressing. Ideals appear as inert byproducts ofphysiology; what is higher is explained by what is lower and treated forever asa case of 'nothing but'- nothing but something else of a quite inferior sort.You getin shorta materialistic universein which only the tough-minded findthemselves congenially at home.
If nowon the other handyou turn to the religious quarter for consolationand take counsel of the tender-minded philosophieswhat do you find?
Religious philosophy in our day and generation isamong us English- readingpeopleof two main types. One of these is more radical and aggressivetheother has more the air of fighting a slow retreat. By the more radical wing ofreligious philosophy I mean the so-called transcendental idealism of theAnglo-Hegelian schoolthe philosophy of such men as Greenthe CairdsBosanquetand Royce. This philosophy has greatly influenced the more studiousmembers of our protestant ministry. It is pantheisticand undoubtedly it hasalready blunted the edge of the traditional theism in protestantism at large.
That theism remainshowever. It is the lineal descendantthrough one stageof concession after anotherof the dogmatic scholastic theism still taughtrigorously in the seminaries of the catholic church. For a long time it used tobe called among us the philosophy of the Scottish school. It is what I meant bythe philosophy that has the air of fighting a slow retreat. Between theencroachments of the hegelians and other philosophers of the 'Absolute' on theone handand those of the scientific evolutionists and agnosticson the otherthe men that give us this kind of a philosophyJames MartineauProfessorBowneProfessor Ladd and othersmust feel themselves rather tightly squeezed.Fair-minded and candid as you likethis philosophy is not radical in temper. Itis eclectica thing of compromisesthat seeks a modus vivendi above allthings. It accepts the facts of Darwinismthe facts of cerebral physiologybutit does nothing active or enthusiastic with them. It lacks the victorious andaggressive note. It lacks prestige in consequence; whereas absolutism has acertain prestige due to the more radical style of it.
These two systems are what you have to choose between if you turn to thetender-minded school. And if you are the lovers of facts I have supposed you tobeyou find the trail of the serpent of rationalismof intellectualismovereverything that lies on that side of the line. You escape indeed the materialismthat goes with the reigning empiricism; but you pay for your escape by losingcontact with the concrete parts of life. The more absolutistic philosophersdwell on so high a level of
abstraction that they never even try to come down. The absolute mind whichthey offer usthe mind that makes our universe by thinking itmightfor aughtthey show us to the contraryhave made any one of a million other universesjust as well as this. You can deduce no single actual particular from the notionof it. It is compatible with any state of things whatever being true here below.And the theistic God is almost as sterile a principle. You have to go to theworld which he has created to get any inkling of his actual character: he is thekind of god that has once for all made that kind of a world. The God of thetheistic writers lives on as purely abstract heights as does the Absolute.Absolutism has a certain sweep and dash about itwhile the usual theism is moreinsipidbut both are equally remote and vacuous. What you want is a philosophythat will not only exercise your powers of intellectual abstractionbut thatwill make some positive connexion with this actual world of finite human lives.
You want a system that will combine both thingsthe scientific loyalty tofacts and willingness to take account of themthe spirit of adaptation andaccommodationin shortbut also the old confidence in human values and theresultant spontaneitywhether of the religious or of the romantic type. Andthis is then your dilemma: you find the two parts of your quaesitum hopelesslyseparated. You find empiricism with inhumanism and irreligion; or else you finda rationalistic philosophy that indeed may call itself religiousbut that keepsout of all definite touch with concrete facts and joys and sorrows.
I am not sure how many of you live close enough to philosophy to realizefully what I mean by this last reproachso I will dwell a little longer on thatunreality in all rationalistic systems by which your serious believer in factsis so apt to feel repelled.
I wish that I had saved the first couple of pages of a thesis which a studenthanded me a year or two ago. They illustrated my point so clearly that I amsorry I can not read them to you now. This young manwho was a graduate of someWestern collegebegan by saying that he had always taken for granted that whenyou entered a philosophic classroom you had to open relations with a universeentirely distinct from the one you left behind you in the street. The two weresupposedhe saidto have so little to do with each otherthat you could notpossibly occupy your mind with them at the same time. The world of concretepersonal experiences to which the street belongs is multitudinous beyondimaginationtangledmuddypainful and perplexed. The world to which yourphilosophy-professor introduces you is simpleclean and noble. Thecontradictions of real life are absent from it. Its architecture is classic.Principles of reason trace its outlineslogical necessities cement its parts.Purity and dignity are what it most expresses. It is a kind of marble templeshining on a hill.
In point of fact it is far less an account of this actual world than a clearaddition built upon ita classic sanctuary in which the rationalist fancy maytake refuge from the intolerably confused and gothic character which mere factspresent. It is no explanation of our concrete universeit is another thingaltogethera substitute for ita remedya way of escape.
Its temperamentif I may use the word temperament hereis utterly alien tothe temperament of existence in the concrete. Refinement is what characterizesour intellectualist philosophies. They exquisitely satisfy that craving for arefined object of contemplation which is so powerful an appetite of the mind.But I ask you in all seriousness to look abroad on this colossal universe ofconcrete factson their awful bewildermentstheir surprises and crueltiesonthe wildness which they showand then to tell me whether 'refined' is the oneinevitable descriptive adjective that springs to your lips.
Refinement has its place in thingstrue enough. But a philosophy thatbreathes out nothing but refinement will never satisfy the empiricist temper ofmind. It will seem rather a monument of artificiality. So we find men of sciencepreferring to turn their backs on metaphysics as on something altogethercloistered and spectraland practical men shaking philosophy's dust off theirfeet and following the call of the wild.
Truly there is something a little ghastly in the satisfaction with which apure but unreal system will fill a rationalist mind. Leibnitz was a rationalistmindwith infinitely more interest in facts than most rationalist minds canshow. Yet if you wish for superficiality incarnateyou have only to read thatcharmingly written 'Theodicee' of hisin which he sought to justify the ways ofGod to manand to prove that the world we live in is the best of possibleworlds. Let me quote a specimen of what I mean.
Among other obstacles to his optimistic philosophyit falls to Leibnitz toconsider the number of the eternally damned. That it is infinitely greaterinour human casethan that of those savedhe assumes as a premise from thetheologiansand then proceeds to argue in this way. Even thenhe says:
"The evil will appear as almost nothing in comparison with the goodifwe once consider the real magnitude of the City of God. Coelius Secundus Curiohas written a little book'De Amplitudine Regni Coelestis' which was reprintednot long ago. But he failed to compass the extent of the kingdom of the heavens.The ancients had small ideas of the works of God.... It seemed to them that onlyour earth had inhabitantsand even the notion of our antipodes gave them pause.The rest of the world for them consisted of some shining globes and a fewcrystalline spheres. But to-daywhatever be the limits that we may grant orrefuse to the Universe we must recognize in it a countless number of globesasbig as ours or biggerwhich have just as much right as it has to supportrational inhabitantstho it does not follow that these need all be men. Ourearth is only one among the six principal satellites of our sun. As all thefixed stars are sunsone sees how small a place among visible things our earthtakes upsince it is only a satellite of one among them. Now all these suns maybe inhabited by none but happy creatures; and nothing obliges us to believe thatthe number of damned persons is very great; for a very few instances and samplessuffice for the utility which good draws from evil. Moreoversince there is noreason to suppose that there are stars everywheremay there not be a greatspace beyond the region of the stars? And this immense spacesurrounding allthis region... may be replete with happiness and glory.... What now becomes ofthe consideration of our Earth and of its denizens? Does it not dwindle tosomething incomparably less than a physical pointsince our Earth is but apoint compared with the distance of the fixed stars. Thus the part of theUniverse which we knowbeing almost lost in nothingness compared with thatwhich is unknown to usbut which we are yet obliged to admit; and all the evilsthat we know lying in this almost-nothing; it follows that the evils may bealmost-nothing in comparison with the goods that the Universe contains."
Leibnitz continues elsewhere:
here is a kind of justice which aims neither at the amendment of thecriminalnor at furnishing an example to othersnor at the reparation of theinjury. This justice is founded in pure fitnesswhich finds a certainsatisfaction in the expiation of a wicked deed. The Socinians and Hobbesobjected to this punitive justicewhich is properly vindictive justiceandwhich God has reserved for himself at many junctures.... It is always founded inthe fitness of thingsand satisfies not only the offended partybut all wiselookers-onevenas beautiful music or a fine piece of architecture satisfies awell- constituted mind. It is thus that the torments of the damned continueeven tho they serve no longer to turn any one away from sinand that therewards of the blest continueeven tho they confirm no one in good ways. Thedamned draw to themselves ever new penalties by their continuing sinsand theblest attract ever fresh joys by their unceasing progress in good. Both factsare founded on the principle of fitness... for God has made all thingsharmonious in perfection as I have already said."
Leibnitz's feeble grasp of reality is too obvious to need comment from me. Itis evident that no realistic image of the experience of a damned soul had everapproached the portals of his mind. Nor had it occurred to him that the smalleris the number of 'samples' of the genus 'lost-soul' whom God throws as a sop tothe eternal fitnessthe more unequitably grounded is the glory of the blest.What he gives us is a cold literary exercisewhose cheerful substance evenhell-fire does not warm.
And do not tell me that to show the shallowness of rationalist philosophizingI have had to go back to a shallow wigpated age. The optimism of present-dayrationalism sounds just as shallow to the fact- loving mind. The actual universeis a thing wide openbut rationalism makes systemsand systems must be closed.For men in practical life perfection is something far off and still in processof achievement. This for rationalism is but the illusion of the finite andrelative: the absolute ground of things is a perfection eternally complete.
I find a fine example of revolt against the airy and shallow optimism ofcurrent religious philosophy in a publication of that valiant anarchistic writerMorrison I. Swift. Mr. Swift's anarchism goes a little farther than mine doesbut I confess that I sympathize a good dealand some of youI knowwillsympathize heartily with his dissatisfaction with the idealistic optimisms nowin vogue. He begins his pamphlet on 'Human Submission' with a series of cityreporter's items from newspapers (suicidesdeaths from starvationand thelike) as specimens of our civilized regime. For instance:
"After trudging through the snow from one end of the city to the otherin the vain hope of securing employmentand with his wife and six childrenwithout food and ordered to leave their home in an upper east- sidetenement-house because of non-payment of rentJohn Corcorana clerkto-dayended his life by drinking carbolic acid. Corcoran lost his position three weeksago through illnessand during the period of idleness his scanty savingsdisappeared. Yesterday he obtained work with a gang of city snow-shovelersbuthe was too weak from illnessand was forced to quit after an hour's trial withthe shovel. Then the weary task of looking for employment was again resumed.Thoroughly discouragedCorcoran returned to his home last night to find hiswife and children without food and the notice of dispossession on the door. Onthe following morning he drank the poison.
"The records of many more such cases lie before me [Mr. Swift goes on];an encyclopedia might easily be filled with their kind. These few I cite as aninterpretation of the Universe. 'We are aware of the presence of God in hisworld' says a writer in a recent English review. [The very presence of ill inthe temporal order is the condition of the perfection of the eternal orderwrites Professor Royce (The World and the IndividualII385).] 'The Absoluteis the richer for every discord and for all the diversity which it embraces'says F. H. Bradley (Appearance and Reality204). He means that these slain menmake the universe richerand that is philosophy. But while Professors Royce andBradley and a whole host of guileless thoroughfed thinkers are unveiling Realityand the Absolute and explaining away evil and painthis is the condition of theonly beings known to us anywhere in the universe with a developed consciousnessof what the universe is. What these people experience is Reality. It gives us anabsolute phase of the universe. It is the personal experience of those bestqualified in our circle of knowledge to have experienceto tell us what is. Nowwhat does thinking about the experience of these persons come tocompared todirectly and personally feeling it as they feel it? The philosophers are dealingin shadeswhile those who live and feel know truth. And the mind of mankind-not yet the mind of philosophers and of the proprietary class- but of the greatmass of the silently thinking men and so feeling menis coming to this view.They are judging the universe as they have hitherto permitted the hierophants ofreligion and learning to judge them ....
"This Cleveland workingmankilling his children and himself [another ofthe cited cases] is one of the elemental stupendous facts of this modern worldand of this universe. It cannot be glozed over or minimized away by all thetreatises on Godand Loveand Beinghelplessly existing in their monumentalvacuity. This is one of the simple irreducible elements of this world's lifeafter millions of years of opportunity and twenty centuries of Christ. It is inthe mental world what atoms or sub-atoms are in the physicalprimaryindestructible. And what it blazons to man is the imposture of all philosophywhich does not see in such events the consummate factor of all consciousexperience. These facts invincibly prove religion a nullity. Man will not givereligion two thousand centuries or twenty centuries more to try itself and wastehuman time. Its time is up; its probation is ended; its own record ends it.Mankind has not aeons and eternities to spare for trying out discreditedsystems." *001
Such is the reaction of an empiricist mind upon the rationalist bill of fare.It is an absolute 'NoI thank you.' 'Religion' says Mr. Swift'is like asleep-walker to whom actual things are blank.' And suchtho possibly lesstensely charged with feelingis the verdict of every seriously inquiringamateur in philosophy to-day who turns to the philosophy-professors for thewherewithal to satisfy the fulness of his nature's needs. Empiricist writersgive him a materialismrationalists give him something religiousbut to thatreligion 'actual things are blank.' He becomes thus the judge of usphilosophers. Tender or toughhe finds us wanting. None of us may treat hisverdicts disdainfullyfor after allhis is the typically perfect mindthemind the sum of whose demands is greatestthe mind whose criticisms anddissatisfactions are fatal in the long run.
It is at this point that my own solution begins to appear. I offer theoddly-named thing pragmatism as a philosophy that can satisfy both kinds ofdemand. It can remain religious like the rationalismsbut at the same timelike the empiricismsit can preserve the richest intimacy with facts. I hope Imay be able to leave many of you with as favorable an opinion of it as Ipreserve myself. Yetas I am near the end of my
hourI will not introduce pragmatism bodily now. I will begin with it on thestroke of the clock next time. I prefer at the present moment to return a littleon what I have said.
If any of you here are professional philosophersand some of you I know tobe suchyou will doubtless have felt my discourse so far to have been crude inan unpardonablenayin an almost incredible degree. Tender-minded andtough-mindedwhat a barbaric disjunction! Andin generalwhen philosophy isall compacted of delicate intellectualities and subtleties and scrupulositiesand when every possible sort of combination and transition obtains within itsboundswhat a brutal caricature and reduction of highest things to the lowestpossible expression is it to represent its field of conflict as a sort of rough-and-tumble fight between two hostile temperaments! What a childishly externalview! And againhow stupid it is to treat the abstractness of rationalistsystems as a crimeand to damn them because they offer themselves assanctuaries and places of escaperather than as prolongations of the world offacts. Are not all our theories just remedies and places of escape? Andifphilosophy is to be religioushow can she be anything else than a place ofescape from the crassness of reality's surface? What better thing can she dothan raise us out of our animal senses and show us another and a nobler home forour minds in that great framework of ideal principles subtending all realitywhich the intellect divines? How can principles and general views ever beanything but abstract outlines? Was Cologne cathedral built without anarchitect's plan on paper? Is refinement in itself an abomination? Is concreterudeness the only thing that's true?
Believe meI feel the full force of the indictment. The picture I have givenis indeed monstrously over-simplified and rude. But like all abstractionsitwill prove to have its use. If philosophers can treat the life of the universeabstractlythey must not complain of an abstract treatment of the life ofphilosophy itself. In point of fact the picture I have given ishowever coarseand sketchyliterally true. Temperaments with their cravings and refusals dodetermine men in their philosophiesand always will. The details of systems maybe reasoned out piecemealand when the student is working at a systemhe mayoften forget the forest for the single tree. But when the labor is accomplishedthe mind always performs its big summarizing actand the system forthwithstands over against one like a living thingwith that strange simple note ofindividuality which haunts our memorylike the wraith of the manwhen a friendor enemy of ours is dead.
Not only Walt Whitman could write 'who touches this book touches a man.' Thebooks of all the great philosophers are like so many men. Our sense of anessential personal flavor in each one of themtypical but indescribableis thefinest fruit of our own accomplished philosophic education. What the systempretends to be is a picture of the great universe of God. What it is- and oh soflagrantly!- is the revelation of how intensely odd the personal flavor of somefellow creature is. Once reduced to these terms (and all our philosophies getreduced to them in minds made critical by learning) our commerce with thesystems reverts to the informalto the instinctive human reaction ofsatisfaction or dislike. We grow as peremptory in our rejection or admissionaswhen a person presents himself as a candidate for our favor; our verdicts arecouched in as simple adjectives of praise or dispraise. We measure the totalcharacter of the universe as we feel itagainst the flavor of the philosophyproffered usand one word is enough.
'Statt der lebendigen Natur' we say'da Gott die Menschen schuf hinein'-that nebulous concoctionthat woodenthat straight-laced thingthat crabbedartificialitythat musty schoolroom productthat sick man's dream! Away withit. Away with all of them! Impossible! Impossible!
Our work over the details of his system is indeed what gives us our resultantimpression of the philosopherbut it is on the resultant impression itself thatwe react. Expertness in philosophy is measured by the definiteness of oursummarizing reactionsby the immediate perceptive epithet with which the experthits such complex objects off. But great expertness is not necessary for theepithet to come. Few people have definitely articulated philosophies of theirown. But almost every one has his own peculiar sense of a certain totalcharacter in the universeand of the inadequacy fully to match it of thepeculiar systems that he knows. They don't just cover his world. One will be toodapperanother too pedantica third too much of a job-lot of opinionsafourth too morbidand a fifth too artificialor what not. At any rate he andwe know off-hand that such philosophies are out of plumb and out of key and outof 'whack' and have no business to speak up in the universe's name. PlatoLockeSpinozaMillCairdHegel- I prudently avoid names nearer home!- I amsure that to many of youmy hearersthese names are little more than remindersof as many curious personal ways of falling short. It would be an obviousabsurdity if such ways of taking the universe were actually true.
We philosophers have to reckon with such feelings on your part. In the lastresortI repeatit will be by them that all our philosophies shall ultimatelybe judged. The finally victorious way of looking at things will be the mostcompletely impressive way to the normal run of minds.
One word more- namely about philosophies necessarily being abstract outlines.There are outlines and outlinesoutlines of buildings that are fatconceivedin the cube by their plannerand outlines of buildings invented flat on paperwith the aid of ruler and compass. These remain skinny and emaciated even whenset up in stone and mortarand the outline already suggests that result. Anoutline in itself is meagretrulybut it does not necessarily suggest a meagrething. It is the essential meagreness of what is suggested by the usualrationalistic philosophies that moves empiricists to their gesture of rejection.The case of Herbert Spencer's system is much to the point here. Rationalistsfeel his fearful array of insufficiencies. His dry schoolmaster temperamentthehurdy-gurdy monotony of himhis preference for cheap makeshifts in argumenthis lack of education even in mechanical principlesand in general thevagueness of all his fundamental ideashis whole system woodenas if knockedtogether out of cracked hemlock boards- and yet the half of England wants tobury him in Westminster Abbey.
Why? Why does Spencer call out so much reverence in spite of his weakness inrationalistic eyes? Why should so many educated men who feel that weaknessyouand I perhapswish to see him in the Abbey notwithstanding?
Simply because we feel his heart to be in the right place philosophically.His principles may be all skin and bonebut at any rate his books try to mouldthemselves upon the particular shape of this particular world's carcase. Thenoise of facts resounds through all his chaptersthe citations of fact neverceasehe emphasizes factsturns his face towards their quarter; and that isenough. It means the right
kind of thing for the empiricist mind.
The pragmatistic philosophy of which I hope to begin talking in my nextlecture preserves as cordial a relation with factsandunlike Spencer'sphilosophyit neither begins nor ends by turning positive religiousconstructions out of doors- it treats them cordially as well.
I hope I may lead you to find it just the mediating way of thinking that yourequire.
Lecture II: What Pragmatism Means
SOME years agobeing with a camping party in the mountainsI returned froma solitary ramble to find every one engaged in a ferocious metaphysical dispute.The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel- a live squirrel supposed to beclinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over against the tree's oppositeside a human being was imagined to stand. This human witness tries to get sightof the squirrel by moving rapidly round the treebut no matter how fast hegoesthe squirrel moves as fast in the opposite directionand always keeps thetree between himself and the manso that never a glimpse of him is caught. Theresultant metaphysical problem now is this: Does the man go round the squirrelor not? He goes round the treesure enoughand the squirrel is on the tree;but does he go round the squirrel? In the unlimited leisure of the wildernessdiscussion had been worn threadbare. Everyone had taken sidesand wasobstinate; and the numbers on both sides were even. Each sidewhen I appearedtherefore appealed to me to make it a majority. Mindful of the scholastic adagethat whenever you meet a contradiction you must make a distinctionIimmediately sought and found oneas follows: "Which party is right"I said"depends on what you practically mean by 'going round' thesquirrel. Ifyou mean passing from the north of him to the eastthen to thesouththen to the westand then to the north of him againobviously the mandoes go round himfor he occupies these successive positions. But if on thecontrary you mean being first in front of himthen on the right of himthenbehind himthen on his leftand finally in front againit is quite as obviousthat the man fails to go round himfor by the compensating movements thesquirrel makeshe keeps his belly turned towards the man all the timeand hisback turned away. Make the distinctionand there is no occasion for any fartherdispute. You are both right and both wrong according as you conceive the verb'to go round' in one practical fashion or the other."
Although one or two of the hotter disputants called my speech a shufflingevasionsaying they wanted no quibbling or scholastic hair- splittingbutmeant just plain honest English 'round' the majority seemed to think that thedistinction had assuaged the dispute.
I tell this trivial anecdote because it is a peculiarly simple example ofwhat I wish now to speak of as the pragmatic method. The pragmatic method isprimarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might beinterminable. Is the world one or many?- fated or free?- material or spiritual?-here are notions either of which may or may not hold good of the world; anddisputes over such notions are unending. The pragmatic method in such cases isto try to interpret each notion by tracing its respective practicalconsequences. What difference would it practically make to any one if thisnotion rather than that notion were true? If no practical difference whatevercan be tracedthen the alternatives mean practically the same thingand alldispute is idle. Whenever a dispute is seriouswe ought to be able to show somepractical difference that must follow from one side or the other's being right.
A glance at the history of the idea will show you still better whatpragmatism means. The term is derived from the same Greek word
pragmameaning actionfrom which our words 'practice' and 'practical' come.It was first introduced into philosophy by Mr. Charles Peirce in 1878. In anarticle entitled 'How to Make Our Ideas Clear' in the 'Popular Science Monthly'for January of that year *002 Mr. Peirce; after pointing out that our beliefsare really rules for actionsaid thatto develop a thought's meaningwe needonly determine what conduct it is fitted to produce: that conduct is for us itssole significance. And the tangible fact at the root of all our thought-distinctionshowever subtleis that there is no one of them so fine as toconsist in anything but a possible difference of practice. To attain perfectclearness in our thoughts of an objectthenwe need only consider whatconceivable effects of a practical kind the object may involve- what sensationswe are to expect from itand what reactions we must prepare. Our conception ofthese effectswhether immediate or remoteis then for us the whole of ourconception of the objectso far as that conception has positive significance atall.
This is the principle of Peircethe principle of pragmatism. It lay entirelyunnoticed by any one for twenty yearsuntil Iin an address before ProfessorHowison's philosophical union at the university of Californiabrought itforward again and made a special application of it to religion. By that date(1898) the times seemed ripe for its reception. The word 'pragmatism' spreadand at present it fairly spots the pages of the philosophic journals. On allhands we find the 'pragmatic movement' spoken ofsometimes with respectsometimes with contumelyseldom with clear understanding. It is evident thatthe term applies itself conveniently to a number of tendencies that hithertohave lacked a collective nameand that it has 'come to stay.'
To take in the importance of Peirce's principleone must get accustomed toapplying it to concrete cases. I found a few years ago that Ostwaldtheillustrious Leipzig chemisthad been making perfectly distinct use of theprinciple of pragmatism in his lectures on the philosophy of sciencethough hehad not called it by that name.
"All realities influence our practice" he wrote me"and thatinfluence is their meaning for us. I am accustomed to put questions to myclasses in this way: In what respects would the world be different if thisalternative or that were true? If I can find nothing that would becomedifferentthen the alternative has no sense."
That isthe rival views mean practically the same thingand meaningotherthan practicalthere is for us alone. Ostwald in a published lecture gives thisexample of what he means. Chemists have long wrangled over the innerconstitution of certain bodies called 'tautomerous.' Their properties seemedequally consistent with the notion that an instable hydrogen atom oscillatesinside of themor that they are instable mixtures of two bodies. Controversyragedbut never was decided. "It would never have begun" saysOstwald"if the combatants had asked themselves what particularexperimental fact could have been made different by one or the other view beingcorrect. For it would then have appeared that no difference of fact couldpossibly ensue; and the quarrel was as unreal as iftheorizing in primitivetimes about the raising of dough by yeastone party should have invoked a'brownie'
while another insisted on an 'elf' as the true cause of the phenomenon."*003
It is astonishing to see how many philosophical disputes collapse intoinsignificance the moment you subject them to this simple test of tracing aconcrete consequence. There can be no difference anywhere that does n't make adifference elsewhere- no difference in abstract truth that does n't expressitself in a difference in concrete fact and in conduct consequent upon thatfactimposed on somebodysomehowsomewhereand somewhen. The whole functionof philosophy ought to be to find out what definite difference it will make toyou and meat definite instants of our lifeif this world-formula or thatworld- formula be the true one.
There is absolutely nothing new in the pragmatic method. Socrates was anadept at it. Aristotle used it methodically. LockeBerkeleyand Hume mademomentous contributions to truth by its means. Shadworth Hodgson keeps insistingthat realities are only what they are 'known as.' But these forerunners ofpragmatism used it in fragments: they were preluders only. Not until in our timehas it generalized itselfbecome conscious of a universal missionpretended toa conquering destiny. I believe in that destinyand I hope I may end byinspiring you with my belief.
Pragmatism represents a perfectly familiar attitude in philosophytheempiricist attitudebut it represents itas it seems to meboth in a moreradical and in a less objectionable form than it has ever yet assumed. Apragmatist turns his back resolutely and once for all upon a lot of inveteratehabits dear to professional philosophers. He turns away from abstraction andinsufficiencyfrom verbal solutionsfrom bad
a priori reasonsfrom fixed principlesclosed systemsand pretendedabsolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacytowardsfactstowards action and towards power. That means the empiricist temperregnant and the rationalist temper sincerely given up. It means the open air andpossibilities of natureas against dogmaartificialityand the pretence offinality in truth.
At the same time it does not stand for any special results. It is a methodonly. But the general triumph of that method would mean an enormous change inwhat I called in my last lecture the 'temperament' of philosophy. Teachers ofthe ultra-rationalistic type would be frozen outmuch as the courtier type isfrozen out in republicsas the ultramontane type of priest is frozen out inprotestant lands. Science and metaphysics would come much nearer togetherwouldin fact work absolutely hand in hand.
Metaphysics has usually followed a very primitive kind of quest. You know howmen have always hankered after unlawful magicand you know what a great part inmagic words have always played. If you have his nameor the formula ofincantation that binds himyou can control the spiritgenieafriteorwhatever the power may be. Solomon knew the names of all the spiritsand havingtheir nameshe held them subject to his will. So the universe has alwaysappeared to the natural mind as a kind of enigmaof which the key must besought in the shape of some illuminating or power-bringing word or name. Thatword names the universe's principleand to possess it is after a fashion topossess the universe itself. 'God' 'Matter' 'Reason' 'the Absolute''Energy' are so many solving names. You can rest when you have them. You are atthe end of your metaphysical quest.
But if you follow the pragmatic methodyou cannot look on any such word asclosing your quest. You must bring out of each word its practical cash-valueset it at work within the stream of your experience. It appears less as asolutionthenthan as a program for more workand more particularly as anindication of the ways in which existing realities may be changed.
Theories thus become instrumentsnot answers to enigmasin which we canrest. We don't lie back upon themwe move forwardandon occasionmakenature over again by their aid. Pragmatism unstiffens all our theorieslimbersthem up and sets each one at work. Being nothing essentially newit harmonizeswith many ancient philosophic tendencies. It agrees with nominalism forinstancein always appealing to particulars; with utilitarianism in emphasizingpractical aspects; with positivism in its disdain for verbal solutionsuselessquestions and metaphysical abstractions.
All theseyou seeare anti-intellectualist tendencies. Against rationalismas a pretension and a method pragmatism is fully armed and militant. Butat theoutsetat leastit stands for no particular results. It has no dogmasand nodoctrines save its method. As the young Italian pragmatist Papini has well saidit lies in the midst of our theorieslike a corridor in a hotel. Innumerablechambers open out of it. In one you may find a man writing an atheistic volume;in the next some one on his knees praying for faith and strength; in a third achemist investigating a body's properties. In a fourth a system of idealisticmetaphysics is being excogitated; in a fifth the impossibility of metaphysics isbeing shown. But they all own the corridorand all must pass through it if theywant a practicable way of getting into or out of their respective rooms.
No particular results thenso farbut only an attitude of orientationiswhat the pragmatic method means. The attitude of looking away from first thingsprinciples'categories' supposed necessities; and of looking towards lastthingsfruitsconsequencesfacts.
So much for the pragmatic method! You may say that I have been praising itrather than explaining it to youbut I shall presently explain it abundantlyenough by showing how it works on some familiar problems. Meanwhile the wordpragmatism has come to be used in a still wider senseas meaning also a certaintheory of truth. I mean to give a whole lecture to the statement of that theoryafter first paving the wayso I can be very brief now. But brevity is hard tofollowso I ask for your redoubled attention for a quarter of an hour. If muchremains obscureI hope to make it clearer in the later lectures.
One of the most successfully cultivated branches of philosophy in our time iswhat is called inductive logicthe study of the conditions under which oursciences have evolved. Writers on this subject have begun to show a singularunanimity as to what the laws of nature and elements of fact meanwhenformulated by mathematiciansphysicists and chemists. When the firstmathematicallogicaland natural uniformitiesthe first lawswerediscoveredmen were so carried away by the clearnessbeauty and simplificationthat resultedthat they believed themselves to have deciphered authenticallythe eternal thoughts of the Almighty. His mind also thundered and reverberatedin syllogisms. He also thought in conic sectionssquares and roots and ratiosand geometrized like Euclid. He made Kepler's laws for the planets to follow; hemade velocity increase proportionally to the time in falling bodies; he made thelaw of the sines for light to obey when refracted; he established the classesordersfamilies and genera of plants and animalsand fixed the distancesbetween them. He thought the archetypes of all thingsand devised theirvariations; and when we rediscover any one of these his wondrous institutionswe seize his mind in its very literal intention.
But as the sciences have developed farther the notion has gained ground thatmostperhaps allof our laws are only approximations. The laws themselvesmoreoverhave grown so numerous that there is no counting them; and so manyrival formulations are proposed in all the branches of science thatinvestigators have become accustomed to the notion that no theory is absolutelya transcript of realitybut that any one of them may from some point of view beuseful. Their great use is to summarize old facts and to lead to new ones. Theyare only a man- made languagea conceptual shorthandas some one calls themin which we write our reports of nature; and languagesas is well knowntolerate much choice of expression and many dialects.
Thus human arbitrariness has driven divine necessity from scientific logic.If I mention the names of SigwartMachOstwaldPearsonMilhaudPoincareDuhemRuyssenthose of you who are students will easily identify the tendencyI speak ofand will think of additional names.
Riding now on the front of this wave of scientific logic Messrs. Schiller andDewey appear with their pragmatistic account of what truth everywhere signifies.Everywherethese teachers say'truth' in our ideas and beliefs means the samething that it means in science. It meansthey saynothing but thisthat ideas(which themselves are but parts of our experience) become true just in so far asthey help us to get into satisfactory relation with other parts of ourexperienceto summarize them and get about among them by conceptual short-cutsinstead of following the interminable succession of particular phenomena. Anyidea upon which we can rideso to speak; any idea that will carry usprosperously from any one part of our experience to any other partlinkingthings satisfactorilyworking securelysimplifyingsaving labor; is true forjust so muchtrue in so far forthtrue instrumentally. This is the'instrumental' view of truth taught so successfully at Chicagothe view thattruth in our ideas means their power to 'work' promulgated so brilliantly atOxford.
Messrs. DeweySchiller and their alliesin reaching this general conceptionof all truthhave only followed the example of geologistsbiologists andphilologists. In the establishment of these other sciencesthe successfulstroke was always to take some simple process actually observable in operation-as denudation by weathersayor variation from parental typeor change ofdialect by incorporation of new words and pronunciations- and then to generalizeitmaking it apply to all timesand produce great results by summating itseffects through the ages.
The observable process which Schiller and Dewey particularly singled out forgeneralization is the familiar one by which any individual settles into newopinions. The process here is always the same. The individual has a stock of oldopinions alreadybut he meets a new experience that puts them to a strain.Somebody contradicts them; or in a reflective moment he discovers that theycontradict each other; or he hears of facts with which they are incompatible; ordesires arise in him which they cease to satisfy. The result is an inwardtrouble to which his mind till then had been a strangerand from which he seeksto escape by modifying his previous mass of opinions. He saves as much of it ashe canfor in this matter of belief we are all extreme conservatives. So hetries to change first this opinionand then that (for they resist change veryvariously)until at last some new idea comes up which he can graft upon theancient stock with a minimum of disturbance of the lattersome idea thatmediates between the stock and the new experience and runs them into one anothermost felicitously and expediently.
This new idea is then adopted as the true one. It preserves the older stockof truths with a minimum of modificationstretching them just enough to makethem admit the noveltybut conceiving that in ways as familiar as the caseleaves possible. An outree explanationviolating all our preconceptionswouldnever pass for a true account of a novelty. We should scratch roundindustriously till we found something less excentric. The most violentrevolutions in an individual's beliefs leave most of his old order standing.Time and spacecause and effectnature and historyand one's own biographyremain untouched. New truth is always a go-betweena smoother-over oftransitions. It marries old opinion to new fact so as ever to show a minimum ofjolta maximum of continuity. We hold a theory true just in proportion to itssuccess in solving this 'problem of maxima and minima.' But success in solvingthis problem is eminently a matter of approximation. We say this theory solvesit on the whole more satisfactorily than that theory; but that means moresatisfactorily to ourselvesand individuals will emphasize their points ofsatisfaction differently. To a certain degreethereforeeverything here isplastic.
The point I now urge you to observe particularly is the part played by theolder truths. Failure to take account of it is the source of much of the unjustcriticism levelled against pragmatism. Their influence is absolutelycontrolling. Loyalty to them is the first principle- in most cases it is theonly principle; for by far the most usual way of handling phenomena so novelthat they would make for a serious rearrangement of our preconception is toignore them altogetheror to abuse those who bear witness for them.
You doubtless wish examples of this process of truth's growthand the onlytrouble is their superabundance. The simplest case of new truth is of course themere numerical addition of new kinds of factsor of new single facts of oldkindsto our experience an addition that involves no alteration in the oldbeliefs. Day follows dayand its contents are simply added. The new contentsthemselves are not truethey simply
come and are. Truth is what we say about themand when we say that they havecometruth is satisfied by the plain additive formula.
But often the day's contents oblige a rearrangement. If I should now utterpiercing shrieks and act like a maniac on this platformit would make many ofyou revise your ideas as to the probable worth of my philosophy. 'Radium' camethe other day as part of the day's contentand seemed for a moment tocontradict our ideas of the whole order of naturethat order having come to beidentified with what is called the conservation of energy. The mere sight ofradium paying heat away indefinitely out of its own pocket seemed to violatethat conservation. What to think? If the radiations from it were nothing but anescape of unsuspected 'potential' energypre-existent inside of the atomstheprinciple of conservation would be saved. The discovery of 'helium' as theradiation's outcomeopened a way to this belief. So Ramsay's view is generallyheld to be truebecausealthough it extends our old ideas of energyit causesa minimum of alteration in their nature.
I need not multiply instances. A new opinion counts as 'true' just inproportion as it gratifies the individual's desire to assimilate the novel inhis experience to his beliefs in stock. It must both lean on old truth and graspnew fact; and its success (as I said a moment ago) in doing thisis a matterfor the individual's appreciation. When old truth growsthenby new truth'sadditionit is for subjective reasons. We are in the process and obey thereasons. That new idea is truest which performs most felicitously its functionof satisfying our double urgency. It makes itself truegets itself classed astrueby the way it works; grafting itself then upon the ancient body of truthwhich thus grows much as a tree grows by the activity of a new layer of cambium.
Now Dewey and Schiller proceed to generalize this observation and to apply itto the most ancient parts of truth. They also once were plastic. They also werecalled true for human reasons. They also mediated between still earlier truthsand what in those days were novel observations. Purely objective truthtruth inwhose establishment the function of giving human satisfaction in marryingprevious parts of experience with newer parts played no role whateverisnowhere to be found. The reasons why we call things true is the reason why theyare truefor 'to be true' means only to perform this marriage-function.
The trail of the human serpent is thus over everything. Truth independent;truth that we find merely; truth no longer malleable to human need; truthincorrigiblein a word; such truth exists indeed superabundantly- or issupposed to exist by rationalistically minded thinkers; but then it means onlythe dead heart of the living treeand its being there means only that truthalso has its paleontologyand its 'prescription' and may grow stiff with yearsof veteran service and petrified in men's regard by sheer antiquity. But howplastic even the oldest truths nevertheless really are has been vividly shown inour day by the transformation of logical and mathematical ideasatransformation which seems even to be invading physics. The ancient formulas arereinterpreted as special expressions of much wider principlesprinciples thatour ancestors never got a glimpse of in their present shape and formulation.
Mr. Schiller still gives to all this view of truth the name of 'Humanism'butfor this doctrine toothe name of pragmatism seems fairly to be in theascendantso I will treat it under the name of pragmatism in these lectures.
Such then would be the scope of pragmatism- firsta method; and secondagenetic theory of what is meant by truth. And these two things must be ourfuture topics.
What I have said of the theory of truth willI am surehave appearedobscure and unsatisfactory to most of you by reason of its brevity. I shall makeamends for that hereafter. In a lecture on 'common sense' I shall try to showwhat I mean by truths grown petrified by antiquity. In another lecture I shallexpatiate on the idea that our thoughts become true in proportion as theysuccessfully exert their go-between function. In a third I shall show how hardit is to discriminate subjective from objective factors in Truth's development.You may not follow me wholly in these lectures; and if you doyou may notwholly agree with me. But you willI knowregard me at least as seriousandtreat my effort with respectful consideration.
You will probably be surprised to learnthenthat Messrs. Schiller's andDewey's theories have suffered a hailstorm of contempt and ridicule. Allrationalism has risen against them. In influential quarters Mr. Schillerinparticularhas been treated like an impudent schoolboy who deserves a spanking.I should not mention thisbut for the fact that it throws so much sidelightupon that rationalistic temper to which I have opposed the temper of pragmatism.Pragmatism is uncomfortable away from facts. Rationalism is comfortable only inthe presence of abstractions. This pragmatist talk about truths in the pluralabout their utility and satisfactorinessabout the success with which they'work' etc.suggests to the typical intellectualist mind a sort of coarse lamesecond-rate makeshift article of truth. Such truths are not real truth. Suchtests are merely subjective. As against thisobjective truth must be somethingnon-utilitarianhaughtyrefinedremoteaugustexalted. It must be anabsolute correspondence of our thoughts with an equally absolute reality. Itmust be what we ought to think unconditionally. The conditioned ways in which wedo think are so much irrelevance and matter for psychology. Down withpsychologyup with logicin all this question!
See the exquisite contrast of the types of mind! The pragmatist clings tofacts and concretenessobserves truth at its work in particular casesandgeneralizes. Truthfor himbecomes a class-name for all sorts of definiteworking-values in experience. For the rationalist it remains a pure abstractionto the bare name of which we must defer. When the pragmatist undertakes to showin detail just why we must deferthe rationalist is unable to recognize theconcretes from which his own abstraction is taken. He accuses us of denyingtruth; whereas we have only sought to trace exactly why people follow it andalways ought to follow it. Your typical ultra-abstractionist fairly shudders atconcreteness: other things equalhe positively prefers the pale and spectral.If the two universes were offeredhe would always choose the skinny outlinerather than the rich thicket of reality. It is so much purerclearernobler.
I hope that as these lectures go onthe concreteness and closeness to factsof the pragmatism which they advocate may be what approves itself to you as itsmost satisfactory peculiarity. It only follows here the example of thesister-sciencesinterpreting the unobserved by the observed. It brings old andnew harmoniously together. It converts the absolutely empty notion of a staticrelation of 'correspondence' (what that may mean we must ask later) between ourminds and realityinto that of a rich and active commerce (that any one mayfollow in detail and understand) between particular thoughts of oursand thegreat universe of other experiences in which they play their parts and havetheir uses.
But enough of this at present? The justification of what I say must bepostponed. I wish now to add a word in further explanation of the claim I madeat our last meetingthat pragmatism may be a happy harmonizer of empiricistways of thinking with the more religious demands of human beings.
Men who are strongly of the fact-loving temperamentyou may remember me tohave saidare liable to be kept at a distance by the small sympathy with factswhich that philosophy from the present-day fashion of idealism offers them. Itis far too intellectualistic. Old fashioned theism was bad enoughwith itsnotion of God as an exalted monarchmade up of a lot of unintelligible orpreposterous 'attributes'; butso long as it held strongly by the argument fromdesignit kept some touch
with concrete realities. Sincehoweverdarwinism has once for all displaceddesign from the minds of the 'scientific' theism has lost that foothold; andsome kind of an immanent or pantheistic deity working
in things rather than above them isif anythe kind recommended to ourcontemporary imagination. Aspirants to a philosophic religion turnas a rulemore hopefully nowadays towards idealistic pantheism than towards the olderdualistic theismin spite of the fact that the latter still counts abledefenders.
Butas I said in my first lecturethe brand of pantheism offered is hardfor them to assimilate if they are lovers of factsor empirically minded. It isthe absolutistic brandspurning the dust and reared upon pure logic. It keepsno connexion whatever with concreteness. Affirming the Absolute Mindwhich isits substitute for Godto be the rational presupposition of all particulars offactwhatever they may beit remains supremely indifferent to what theparticular facts in our world actually are. Be they what they maythe Absolutewill father them. Like the sick lion in Aesop's fableall footprints lead intohis denbut
nulla vestigia retrorsum. You cannot redescend into the world of particularsby the Absolute's aidor deduce any necessary consequences of detail importantfor your life from your idea of his nature. He gives you indeed the assurancethat all is well with Himand for his eternal way of thinking; but thereupon heleaves you to be finitely saved by your own temporal devices.
Far be it from me to deny the majesty of this conceptionor its capacity toyield religious comfort to a most respectable class of minds. But from the humanpoint of viewno one can pretend that it does n't suffer from the faults ofremoteness and abstractness. It is eminently a product of what I have venturedto call the rationalistic temper. It disdains empiricism's needs. It substitutesa pallid outline for the real world's richness. It is dapperit is noble in thebad sensein the sense in which to be noble is to be inapt for humble service.In this real world of sweat and dirtit seems to me that when a view of thingsis 'noble' that ought to count as a presumption against its truthand as aphilosophic disqualification. The prince of darkness may be a gentlemanas weare told he isbut whatever the God of earth and heaven ishe can surely be nogentleman. His menial services are needed in the dust of our human trialsevenmore than his dignity is needed in the empyrean.
Now pragmatismdevoted though she be to factshas no such materialisticbias as ordinary empiricism labors under. Moreovershe has no objectionwhatever to the realizing of abstractionsso long as you get about amongparticulars with their aid and they actually carry you somewhere. Interested inno conclusions but those which our minds and our experiences work out togethershe has no a priori prejudices against theology. If theological ideas prove tohave a value for concrete lifethey will be truefor pragmatismin the senseof being good for so much. For how much more they are truewill depend entirelyon their relations to the other truths that also have to be acknowledged.
What I said just now about the Absoluteof transcendental idealismis acase in point. FirstI called it majestic and said it yielded religious comfortto a class of mindsand then I accused it of remoteness and sterility. But sofar as it affords such comfortit surely is not sterile; it has that amount ofvalue; it performs a concrete function. As a good pragmatistI myself ought tocall the Absolute true 'in so far forth' then; and I unhesitatingly now do so.
But what does true in so far forth mean in this case? To answerwe need onlyapply the pragmatic method. What do believers in the Absolute mean by sayingthat their belief affords them comfort? They mean that sincein the Absolutefinite evil is 'overruled' alreadywe maythereforewhenever we wishtreatthe temporal as if it were potentially the eternalbe sure that we can trustits outcomeandwithout sindismiss our fear and drop the worry of our finiteresponsibility. In shortthey mean that we have a right ever and anon to take amoral holidayto let the world wag in its own wayfeeling that its issues arein better hands than ours and are none of our business.
The universe is a system of which the individual members may relax theiranxieties occasionallyin which the don't-care mood is also right for menandmoral holidays in order- thatif I mistake notis partat leastof what theAbsolute is 'known-as' that is the great difference in our particularexperiences which his being true makesfor usthat is his cash-value when heis pragmatically interpreted. Farther than that the ordinary lay-reader inphilosophy who thinks favorably of absolute idealism does not venture to sharpenhis conceptions. He can use the Absolute for so muchand so much is veryprecious. He is pained at hearing you speak incredulously of the Absolutethereforeand disregards your criticisms because they deal with aspects of theconception that he fails to follow.
If the Absolute means thisand means no more than thiswho can possiblydeny the truth of it? To deny it would be to insist that men should never relaxand that holidays are never in order.
I am well aware how odd it must seem to some of you to hear me say that thatidea is 'true' so long as to believe it is profitable to our lives. That it isgoodfor as much as it profitsyou will gladly admit. If what we do by its aidis goodyou will allow the idea itself to be good in so far forthfor we arethe better for possessing it. But is it not a strange misuse of the word'truth' you will sayto call ideas also 'true' for this reason?
To answer this difficulty fully is impossible at this stage of my account.You touch here upon the very central point of Messrs. Schiller'sDewey's and myown doctrine of truthwhich I can not discuss with detail until my sixthlecture. Let me now say only thisthat truth is one species of goodand notas is usually supposeda category distinct from goodand co-ordinate with it.The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of beliefand goodtoofor definiteassignable reasons. Surely you must admit thisthat if there were no good for life in true ideasor if the knowledge of themwere positively disadvantageous and false ideas the only useful onesthen thecurrent notion that truth is divine and preciousand its pursuit a dutycouldnever have grown up or become a dogma. In a world like thatour duty would beto shun truthrather. But in this worldjust as certain foods are not onlyagreeable to our tastebut good for our teethour stomachand our tissues; socertain ideas are not only agreeable to think aboutor agreeable as supportingother ideas that we are fond ofbut they are also helpful in life's practicalstruggles. If there be any life that it is really better we should leadand ifthere be any idea whichif believed inwould help us to lead that lifethenit would be really better for us to believe in that ideaunlessindeedbeliefin it incidentally clashed with other greater vital benefits.
'What would be better for us to believe'! This sounds very like a definitionof truth. It comes very near to saying 'what we ought to believe': and in thatdefinition none of you would find any oddity. Ought we ever not to believe whatit is better for us to believe? And can we then keep the notion of what isbetter for usand what is true for uspermanently apart?
Pragmatism says noand I fully agree with her. Probably you also agreesofar as the abstract statement goesbut with a suspicion that if we practicallydid believe everything that made for good in our own personal liveswe shouldbe found indulging all kinds of fancies about this world's affairsand allkinds of sentimental superstitions about a world hereafter. Your suspicion hereis undoubtedly well foundedand it is evident that something happens when youpass from the abstract to the concrete that complicates the situation.
I said just now that what is better for us to believe is true
unless the belief incidentally clashes with some other vital benefit. Now inreal life what vital benefits is any particular belief of ours most liable toclash with? What indeed except the vital benefits yielded by other beliefs whenthese prove incompatible with the first ones? In other wordsthe greatest enemyof any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths. Truths have once for allthis desperate instinct of self-preservation and of desire to extinguishwhatever contradicts them. My belief in the Absolutebased on the good it doesmemust run the gauntlet of all my other beliefs. Grant that it may be true ingiving me a moral holiday. Neverthelessas I conceive it- and let me speak nowconfidentiallyas it wereand merely in my own private person- it clasheswith other truths of mine whose benefits I hate to give up on its account. Ithappens to be associated with a kind of logic of which I am the enemyI findthat it entangles me in metaphysical paradoxes that are inacceptableetc.etc.But as I have enough trouble in life already without adding the trouble ofcarrying these intellectual inconsistenciesI personally just give up theAbsolute. I just take my moral holidays; or else as a professional philosopherI try to justify them by some other principle.
If I could restrict my notion of the Absolute to its bare holiday- givingvalue'it would n't clash with my other truths. But we can not easily thusrestrict our hypotheses. They carry supernumerary featuresand these it is thatclash so. My disbelief in the Absolute means then disbelief in those othersupernumerary featuresfor I fully believe in the legitimacy of taking moralholidays.
You see by this what I meant when I called pragmatism a mediator andreconciler and saidborrowing the word from Papinithat she 'unstiffens' ourtheories. She has in fact no prejudices whateverno obstructive dogmasnorigid canons of what shall count as proof. She is completely genial. She willentertain any hypothesisshe will consider any evidence. It follows that in thereligious field she is at a great advantage both over positivistic empiricismwith its anti-theological biasand over religious rationalismwith itsexclusive interest in the remotethe noblethe simpleand the abstract in theway of conception.
In shortshe widens the field of search for God. Rationalism sticks to logicand the empyrean. Empiricism sticks to the external senses. Pragmatism iswilling to take anythingto follow either logic or the senses and to count thehumblest and most personal experiences. She will count mystical experiences ifthey have practical consequences. She will take a God who lives in the very dirtof private fact- if that should seem a likely place to find him.
Her only test of probable truth is what works best in the way of leading uswhat fits every part of life best and combines with the collectivity ofexperience's demandsnothing being omitted. If theological ideas should dothisif the notion of Godin particularshould prove to do ithow couldpragmatism possibly deny God's existence? She could see no meaning in treatingas 'not true' a notion that was pragmatically so successful. What other kind oftruth could there befor herthan all this agreement with concrete reality?
In my last lecture I shall return again to the relations of pragmatism withreligion. But you see already how democratic she is. Her manners are as variousand flexibleher resources as rich and endlessand her conclusions as friendlyas those of mother nature.
Lecture III: Some Metaphysical Problems Pragmatically Considered
I AM now to make the pragmatic method more familiar by giving you someillustrations of its application to particular problems. I will begin with whatis driestand the first thing I shall take will be the problem of Substance.Every one uses the old distinction between substance and attributeenshrined asit is in the very structure of human languagein the difference betweengrammatical subject and predicate. Here is a bit of blackboard crayon. Itsmodesattributespropertiesaccidentsor affections- use which term youwill- are whitenessfriabilitycylindrical shapeinsolubility in wateretc.etc. But the bearer of these attributes is so much chalkwhich thereuponis called the substance in which they inhere. So the attributes of this deskinhere in the substance 'wood' those of my coat in the substance 'wool' and soforth. Chalkwood and woolshow againin spite of their differencescommonpropertiesand in so far forth they are themselves counted as modes of a stillmore primal substance
matterthe attributes of which are space-occupancy and impenetrability.Similarly our thoughts and feelings are affections or properties of our severalsoulswhich are substancesbut again not wholly in their own rightfor theyare modes of the still deeper substance 'spirit.'
Now it was very early seen that all we know of the chalk is the whitenessfriabilityetc.all we know of the wood is the combustibility and fibrousstructure. A group of attributes is what each substance here is known-astheyform its sole cash-value for our actual experience. The substance is in everycase revealed through them; if we were cut off from them we should never suspectits existence; and if God should keep sending them to us in an unchanged ordermiraculously annihilating at a certain moment the substance that supported themwe never could detect the momentfor our experiences themselves would beunaltered. Nominalists accordingly adopt the opinion that substance is aspurious idea due to our inveterate human trick of turning names into things.Phenomena come in groups- the chalk-groupthe wood-groupetc.- and each groupgets its name. The name we then treat as in a way supporting the group ofphenomena. The low thermometer to-dayfor instanceis supposed to come fromsomething called the 'climate.' Climate is really only the name for a certaingroup of daysbut it is treated as if it lay behind the dayand in general weplace the nameas if it were a beingbehind the facts it is the name of. Butthe phenomenal properties of thingsnominalists saysurely do
not really inhere in namesand if not in names then they do not inhere inanything. They ad hereor co hereratherwith each otherand the notion of asubstance inaccessible to uswhich we think accounts for such cohesion bysupporting itas cement might support pieces of mosaicmust be abandoned. Thefact of the bare cohesion itself is all that the notion of the substancesignifies. Behind that fact is nothing.
Scholasticism has taken the notion of substance from common sense and made itvery technical and articulate. Few things would seem to have fewer pragmaticconsequences for us than substancescut off as we are from every contact withthem. Yet in one case scholasticism has proved the importance of thesubstance-idea by treating it pragmatically. I refer to certain disputes aboutthe mystery of the Eucharist. Substance here would appear to have momentouspragmatic value. Since the accidents of the wafer don't change in the Lord'ssupperand yet it has become the very body of Christit must be that thechange is in the substance solely. The bread-substance must have been withdrawnand the divine substance substituted miraculously without altering the immediatesensible properties. But tho these don't altera tremendous difference has beenmadeno less a one than thisthat we who take the sacramentnow feed upon thevery substance of divinity. The substance-notion breaks into lifethenwithtremendous effectif once you allow that substances can separate from theiraccidentsand exchange these latter.
This is the only pragmatic application of the substance-idea with which I amacquainted; and it is obvious that it will only be treated seriously by thosewho already believe in the 'real presence' on independent grounds.
Material substance was criticised by Berkeley with such telling effect thathis name has reverberated through all subsequent philosophy. Berkeley'streatment of the notion of matter is so well known as to need hardly more than amention. So far from denying the external world which we knowBerkeleycorroborated it. It was the scholastic notion of a material substanceunapproachable by usbehind the external worlddeeper and more real than itand needed to support itwhich Berkeley maintained to be the most effective ofall reducers of the external world to unreality. Abolish that substancehesaidbelieve that Godwhom you can understand and approachsends you thesensible world directlyand you confirm the latter and back it up by his divineauthority. Berkeley's criticism of 'matter' was consequently absolutelypragmatistic. Matter is known as our sensations of colourfigurehardness andthe like. They are the cash-value of the term. The difference matter makes to usby truly being is that we then get such sensations; by not beingis that welack them. These sensations then are its sole meaning. Berkeley does n't denymatterthen; he simply tells us what it consists of. It is a true name for justso much in the way of sensations.
Lockeand later Humeapplied a similar pragmatic criticism to the notion ofspiritual substance. I will only mention Locke's treatment of our 'personalidentity.' He immediately reduces this notion to its pragmatic value in terms ofexperience. It meanshe saysso much 'consciousness' namely the fact that atone moment of life we remember other momentsand feel them all as parts of oneand the same personal history. Rationalism had explained this practicalcontinuity in our life by the unity of our soul-substance. But Locke says:suppose that God should take away the consciousnessshould we be any the betterfor having still the soul-principle? Suppose he annexed the same consciousnessto different soulsshould weas we realize
ourselvesbe any the worse for that fact? In Locke's day the soul waschiefly a thing to be rewarded or punished. See how Lockediscussing it fromthis point of viewkeeps the question pragmatic:
"Suppose" he says"one to think himself to be the same soulthat once was Nestor or Thersites. Can he think their actions his own any morethan the actions of any other man that ever existed? But let him once findhimself conscious of any of the actions of Nestorhe then finds himself thesame person with Nestor... In this personal identity is founded all the rightand justice of reward and punishment. It may be reasonable to thinkno oneshall be made to answer for what he knows nothing ofbut shall receive hisdoomhis consciousness accusing or excusing. Supposing a man punished now forwhat he had done in another lifewhereof he could be made to have noconsciousness at allwhat difference is there between that punishment and beingcreated miserable?"
Our personal identitythenconsistsfor Lockesolely in pragmaticallydefinable particulars. Whetherapart from these verifiable factsit alsoinheres in a spiritual principleis a merely curious speculation. Lockecompromiser that he waspassively tolerated the belief in a substantial soulbehind our consciousness. But his successor Humeand most empiricalpsychologists after himhave denied the soulsave as the name for verifiablecohesions in our inner life. They redescend into the stream of experience withitand cash it into so much small-change value in the way of 'ideas' and theirpeculiar connexions with each other. As I said of Berkeley's matterthe soul isgood or 'true' for just so muchbut no more.
The mention of material substance naturally suggests the doctrine of'materialism' but philosophical materialism is not necessarily knit up withbelief in 'matter' as a metaphysical principle. One may deny matter in thatsenseas strongly as Berkeley didone may be a phenomenalist like Huxleyandyet one may still be a materialist in the wider senseof explaining higherphenomena by lower onesand leaving the destinies of the world at the mercy ofits blinder parts and forces. It is in this wider sense of the word thatmaterialism is opposed to spiritualism or theism. The laws of physical natureare what run thingsmaterialism says. The highest productions of human geniusmight be ciphered by one who had complete acquaintance with the factsout oftheir physiological conditionsregardless whether nature be there only for ourmindsas idealists contendor not. Our minds in any case would have to recordthe kind of nature it isand write it down as operating through blind laws ofphysics. This is the complexion of present day materialismwhich may better becalled naturalism. Over against it stands 'theism' or what in a wide sense maybe termed 'spiritualism.' Spiritualism says that mind not only witnesses andrecords thingsbut also runs and operates them: the world being thus guidednot by its lowerbut by its higher element.
Treated as it often isthis question becomes little more than a conflictbetween aesthetic preferences. Matter is grosscoarsecrassmuddy; spirit ispureelevatednoble; and since it is more consonant with the dignity of theuniverse to give the primacy in it to what appears superiorspirit must beaffirmed as the ruling principle. To treat abstract principles as finalitiesbefore which our intellects may come to rest in a state of admiringcontemplationis the great rationalist failing. Spiritualismas often heldmay be simply a state of admiration for one kindand of dislike for anotherkindof abstraction. I remember a worthy spiritualist professor who always
referred to materialism as the 'mud-philosophy' and deemed it therebyrefuted.
To such spiritualism as this there is an easy answerand Mr. Spencer makesit effectively. In some well-written pages at the end of the first volume of hisPsychology he shows us that a 'matter' so infinitely subtileand performingmotions as inconceivably quick and fine as those which modern science postulatesin her explanationshas no trace of grossness left. He shows that theconception of spiritas we mortals hitherto have framed itis itself too grossto cover the exquisite tenuity of nature's facts. Both termshe saysare butsymbolspointing to that one unknowable reality in which their oppositionscease.
To an abstract objection an abstract rejoinder suffices; and so far as one'sopposition to materialism springs from one's disdain of matter as something'crass' Mr. Spencer cuts the ground from under one. Matter is indeed infinitelyand incredibly refined. To any one who has ever looked on the face of a deadchild or parent the mere fact that matter
could have taken for a time that precious formought to make matter sacredever after. It makes no difference what the principle of life may bematerialor immaterialmatter at any rate co-operateslends itself to all life'spurposes. That beloved incarnation was among matter's possibilities.
But nowinstead of resting in principlesafter this stagnantintellectualist fashionlet us apply the pragmatic method to the question. Whatdo we mean by matter? What practical difference can it make now that the worldshould be run by matter or by spirit? I think we find that the problem takeswith this a rather differentcharacter.
And first of all I call your attention to a curious fact. It makes not asingle jot of difference so far as the past of the world goeswhether we deemit to have been the work of matter or whether we think a divine spirit was itsauthor.
Imaginein factthe entire contents of the world to be once for allirrevocably given. Imagine it to end this very momentand to have no future;and then let a theist and a materialist apply their rival explanations to itshistory. The theist shows how a God made it; the materialist showsand we willsuppose with equal successhow it resulted from blind physical forces. Then letthe pragmatist be asked to choose between their theories. How can he apply histest if a world is already completed? Concepts for him are things to come backinto experience withthings to make us look for differences. But by hypothesisthere is to be no more experience and no possible differences can now be lookedfor. Both theories have shown all their consequences andby the hypothesis weare adoptingthese are identical. The pragmatist must consequently say that thetwo theoriesin spite of their different-sounding namesmean exactly the samethingand that the dispute is purely verbal. [I am supposingof coursethatthe theories have been equally successful in their explanations of what is.]
For just consider the case sincerelyand say what would be the
worth of a God if he were therewith his work accomplished and his world rundown. He would be worth no more than just that world was worth. To that amountof resultwith its mixed merits and defectshis creative power could attainbut go no farther. And since there is to be no future; since the whole value andmeaning of the world has been already paid in and actualized in the feelingsthat went with it in the passingand now go with it in the ending; since itdraws no supplemental significance (such as our real world draws) from itsfunction of preparing something yet to come; why thenby it we take God'smeasureas it were. He is the Being who could once for all do
that; and for that much we are thankful to himbut for nothing more. Butnowon the contrary hypothesisnamelythat the bits of matter following theirlaws could make that world and do no lessshould we not be just as thankful tothem? Wherein should we suffer lossthenif we dropped God as an hypothesisand made the matter alone responsible? Where would any special deadnessorcrassnesscome in? And howexperience being what is once for allwould God'spresence in it make it any more living or richer?
Candidlyit is impossible to give any answer to this question. The actuallyexperienced world is supposed to be the same in its details on eitherhypothesis'the samefor our praise or blame' as Browning says. It standsthere indefeasibly: a gift which can't be taken back. Calling matter the causeof it retracts no single one of the items that have made it upnor does callingGod the cause augment them. They are the God or the atomsrespectivelyof justthat and no other world. The Godif therehas been doing just what atoms coulddo- appearing in the character of atomsso to speak- and earning such gratitudeas is due to atomsand no more. If his presence lends no different turn orissue to the performanceit surely can lend it no increase of dignity. Norwould indignity come to it were he absentand did the atoms remainthe onlyactors on the stage. When a play is once overand the curtain downyou reallymake it no better by claiming an illustrious genius for its authorjust as youmake it no worse by calling him a common hack.
Thus if no future detail of experience or conduct is to be deduced from ourhypothesisthe debate between materialism and theism becomes quite idle andinsignificant. Matter and God in that event mean exactly the same thing- thepowernamelyneither more nor lessthat could make just this completed world-and the wise man is he who in such a case would turn his back on such asupererogatory discussion. Accordinglymost men instinctivelyand positivistsand scientists deliberatelydo turn their backs on philosophical disputes fromwhich nothing in the line of definite future consequences can be seen to follow.The verbal and empty character of philosophy is surely a reproach with which weare but too familiar. If pragmatism be trueit is a perfectly sound reproachunless the theories under fire can be shown to have alternative practicaloutcomeshowever delicate and distant these may be. The common man and thescientist say they discover no such outcomesand if the metaphysician candiscern none eitherthe others certainly are in the right of itas againsthim. His science is then but pompous trifling; and the endowment of aprofessorship for such a being would be silly.
Accordinglyin every genuine metaphysical debate some practical issuehowever conjectural and remoteis involved. To realize thisrevert with me toour questionand place yourselves this time in the world we live inin theworld that has a futurethat is yet uncompleted whilst we speak. In thisunfinished world the alternative of 'materialism or theism?' is intenselypractical; and it is worth while for us to spend some minutes of our hour inseeing that it is so.
Howindeeddoes the program differ for usaccording as we consider thatthe facts of experience up to date are purposeless configurations of blind atomsmoving according to eternal lawsor that on the other
hand they are due to the providence of God? As far as the past facts goindeedthere is no difference. Those facts are inare baggedare captured;and the good that's in them is gainedbe the atoms or be the God their cause.There are accordingly many materialists about us to-day whoignoring altogetherthe future and practical aspects of the questionseek to eliminate the odiumattaching to the word materialismand even to eliminate the word itselfbyshowing thatif matter could give birth to all these gainswhy then matterfunctionally consideredis just as divine an entity as Godin fact coalesceswith Godis what you mean by God. Ceasethese persons advise usto use eitherof these termswith their outgrown opposition. Use a term free of the clericalconnotationson the one hand; of the suggestion of grossnesscoarsenessignobilityon the other. Talk of the primal mysteryof the unknowable energyof the one and only powerinstead of saying either God or matter. This is thecourse to which Mr. Spencer urges us; and if philosophy were purelyretrospectivehe would thereby proclaim himself an excellent pragmatist.
But philosophy is prospective alsoandafter finding what the world hasbeen and doneand yieldedstill asks the further question 'what does the worldpromise?' Give us a matter that promises successthat is bound by its laws tolead our world ever nearer to perfectionand any rational man will worship thatmatter as readily as Mr. Spencer worships his own so-called unknowable power. Itnot only has made for righteousness up to datebut it will make forrighteousness forever; and that is all we need. Doing practically all that a Godcan doit is equivalent to Godits function is a God's functionand in aworld in which a God would be superfluous; from such a world a God could neverlawfully be missed. 'Cosmic emotion' would here be the right name for religion.
But is the matter by which Mr. Spencer's process of cosmic evolution iscarried on any such principle of never-ending perfection as this? Indeed it isnotfor the future end of every cosmically evolved thing or system of things isforetold by science to be death tragedy; and Mr. Spencerin confining himselfto the aesthetic and ignoring the practical side of the controversyhas reallycontributed nothing serious to its relief. But apply now our principle ofpractical resultsand see what a vital significance the question of materialismor theism immediately acquires.
Theism and materialismso indifferent when taken retrospectivelypointwhen we take them prospectivelyto wholly different outlooks of experience.Foraccording to the theory of mechanical evolutionthe laws of redistributionof matter and motionthough they are certainly to thank for all the good hourswhich our organisms have ever yielded us and for all the ideals which our mindsnow frameare yet fatally certain to undo their work againand to redissolveeverything that they have once evolved. You all know the picture of the laststate of the universewhich evolutionary science foresees. I can not state itbetter than in Mr. Balfour's words: "The energies of our system will decaythe glory of the sun will be dimmedand the earthtideless and inertwill nolonger tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man willgo down into the pitand all his thoughts will perish. The uneasy consciousnesswhich in this obscure corner has for a brief space broken the contented silenceof the universewill be at rest. Matter will know itself no longer.'Imperishable monuments' and 'immortal deeds' death itselfand love strongerthan deathwill be as if they had not been. Nor will anything that isbebetter or worse for all that the laborgeniusdevotionand suffering of manhave striven through countless ages to effect." *004
That is the sting of itthat in the vast driftings of the cosmic weatherthough many a jewelled shore appearsand many an enchanted cloud-bank floatsawaylong lingering ere it be dissolved- even as our world now lingersfor ourjoy- yet when these transient products are gonenothingabsolutely nothingremainsto represent those particular qualitiesthose elements of preciousnesswhich they may have enshrined. Dead and gone are theygone utterly from thevery sphere and room of being. Without an echo; without a memory; without aninfluenceon aught that may come afterto make it care for similar ideals.This utter final wreck and tragedy is of the essence of scientific materialismas at present understood. The lower and not the higher forces are the eternalforcesor the last surviving forces within the only cycle of evolution which wecan definitely see. Mr. Spencer believes this as much as any one; so why shouldhe argue with us as if we were making silly aesthetic objections to the'grossness' of 'matter and motion' the principles of his philosophywhen whatreally dismays us is the disconsolateness of its ulterior practical results?
Nothe true objection to materialism is not positive but negative. It wouldbe farcical at this day to make complaint of it for what it isfor 'grossness.'Grossness is what grossness does - we now know
that. We make complaint of iton the contraryfor what it is
not - not a permanent warrant for our more ideal interestsnot a fulfillerof our remotest hopes.
The notion of Godon the other handhowever inferior it may be in clearnessto those mathematical notions so current in mechanical philosophyhas at leastthis practical superiority over themthat it guarantees an ideal order thatshall be permanently preserved. A world with a God in it to say the last wordmay indeed burn up or freezebut we then think of him as still mindful of theold ideals and sure to bring them elsewhere to fruition; so thatwhere he istragedy is only provisional and partialand shipwreck and dissolution not theabsolutely final things. This need of an eternal moral order is one of thedeepest needs of our breast. And those poetslike Dante and Wordsworthwholive on the conviction of such an orderowe to that fact the extraordinarytonic and consoling power of their verse. Here thenin these differentemotional and practical appealsin these adjustments of our concrete attitudesof hope and expectationand all the delicate consequences which theirdifferences entaillie the real meanings of materialism and spiritualism- notin hair-splitting abstractions about matter's inner essenceor about themetaphysical attributes of God. Materialism means simply the denial that themoral order is eternaland the cutting off of ultimate hopes; spiritualismmeans the affirmation of an eternal moral order and the letting loose of hope.Surely here is an issue genuine enoughfor any one who feels it; andas longas men are menit will yield matter for a serious philosophic debate.
But possibly some of you may still rally to their defence. Even whilstadmitting that spiritualism and materialism make different prophecies of theworld's futureyou may yourselves pooh-pooh the difference as something soinfinitely remote as to mean nothing for a sane mind. The essence of a sanemindyou may sayis to take shorter viewsand to feel no concern about suchchimeras as the latter end of the world. WellI can only say that if you saythisyou do injustice to human nature. Religious melancholy is not disposed ofby a simple flourish of the word insanity. The absolute thingsthe last thingsthe overlapping thingsare the truly philosophic concerns; all superior mindsfeel
seriously about themand the mind with the shortest views is simply the mindof the more shallow man.
The issues of fact at stake in the debate are of course vaguely enoughconceived by us at present. But spiritualistic faith in all its forms deals witha world of promisewhile materialism's sun sets in a sea of disappointment.Remember what I said of the Absolute: it grants us moral holidays. Any religiousview does this. It not only incites our more strenuous momentsbut it alsotakes our joyouscarelesstrustful momentsand it justifies them. It paintsthe grounds of justification vaguely enoughto be sure. The exact features ofthe saving future facts that our belief in God insureswill have to be cipheredout by the interminable methods of science: we can study our God only bystudying his Creation. But we can enjoy our Godif we have onein advance ofall that labor. I myself believe that the evidence for God lies primarily ininner personal experiences. When they have once given you your Godhis namemeans at least the benefit of the holiday. You remember what I said yesterdayabout the way in which truths clash and try to 'down' each other. The truth of'God' has to run the gauntlet of all our other truths. It is on trial by themand they on trial by it. Our final opinion about God can be settled only afterall the truths have straightened themselves out together. Let us hope that theyshall find a modus vivendi!
Let me pass to a very cognate philosophic problemthe question of design innature. God's existence has from time immemorial been held to be proved bycertain natural facts. Many facts appear as if expressly designed in view of oneanother. Thus the woodpecker's billtonguefeettailetc.fit himwondrously for a world of treeswith grubs hid in their bark to feed upon. Theparts of our eye fit the laws of light to perfectionleading its rays to asharp picture on our retina. Such mutual fitting of things diverse in originargued designit was held; and the designer was always treated as is man-lovingdeity.
The first step in these arguments was to prove that the design
existed. Nature was ransacked for results obtained through separate thingsbeing co-adapted. Our eyesfor instanceoriginate in intra- uterine darknessand the light originates in the sunyet see how they fit each other. They areevidently made for each other. Vision is the end designedlight and eyes theseparate means devised for its attainment.
It is strangeconsidering how unanimously our ancestors felt the force ofthis argumentto see how little it counts for since the triumph of theDarwinian theory. Darwin opened our minds to the power of chance-happenings tobring forth 'fit' results if only they have time to add themselves together. Heshowed the enormous waste of nature in producing results that get destroyedbecause of their unfitness. He also emphasized the number of adaptations whichif designedwould argue an evil rather than a good designer. Hereall dependsupon the point of view. To the grub under the bark the exquisite fitness of thewoodpecker's organism to extract him would certainly argue a diabolicaldesigner.
Theologians have by this time stretched their minds so as to embrace theDarwinian factsand yet to interpret them as still showing divine purpose. Itused to be a question of purpose against mechanismof one
or the other. It was as if one should say "My shoes are evidentlydesigned to fit my feethence it is impossible that they should have beenproduced by machinery." We know that they are both: they are made by amachinery itself designed to fit the feet with shoes. Theology need only stretchsimilarly the designs of God. As the aim of a football-team is not merely to getthe ball to a certain goal (if that were sothey would simply get up on somedark night and place it there)but to get it there by a fixed machinery ofconditions - the game's rules and the opposing players; so the aim of God is notmerelylet us sayto make men and to save thembut rather to get this donethrough the sole agency of nature's vast machinery. Without nature's stupendouslaws and counter-forcesman's creation and perfectionwe might supposewouldbe too insipid achievements for God to have proposed them.
This saves the form of the design-argument at the expense of its old easyhuman content. The designer is no longer the old man-like deity. His designshave grown so vast as to be incomprehensible to us humans. The what of them sooverwhelms us that to establish the mere
that of a designer for them becomes of very little consequence in comparison.We can with difficulty comprehend the character of a cosmic mind whose purposesare fully revealed by the strange mixture of goods and evils that we find inthis actual world's particulars. Or rather we cannot by any possibilitycomprehend it. The mere word 'design' by itself has no consequences and explainsnothing. It is the barrenest of principles. The old question of whether there isdesign is idle. The real question is what is the worldwhether or not it have adesigner- and that can be revealed only by the study of all nature'sparticulars.
Remember that no matter what nature may have produced or may be producingthe means must necessarily have been adequatemust have been
fitted to that production. The argument from fitness to design wouldconsequently always applywhatever were the product's character. The recentMont-Pelee eruptionfor examplerequired all previous history to produce thatexact combination of ruined houseshuman and animal corpsessunken shipsvolcanic ashesetc.in just that one hideous configuration of positions.France had to be a nation and colonize Martinique. Our country had to exist andsend our ships there. If God aimed at just that resultthe means by which thecenturies bent their influences towards itshowed exquisite intelligence. Andso of any state of things whatevereither in nature or in historywhich wefind actually realized. For the parts of things must always make
some definite resultantbe it chaotic or harmonious. When we look at whathas actually comethe conditions must always appear perfectly designed toensure it. We can always saythereforein any conceivable worldof anyconceivable characterthat the whole cosmic machinery
may have been designed to produce it.
Pragmaticallythenthe abstract word 'design' is a blank cartridge. Itcarries no consequencesit does no execution. What design? and
what designer? are the only serious questionsand the study of facts is theonly way of getting even approximate answers. Meanwhilepending the slow answerfrom factsany one who insists that there
is a designer and who is sure he is a divine onegets a certain pragmaticbenefit from the term- the samein factwhich we saw that the terms GodSpiritor the Absoluteyield us. 'Design' worthless tho it be as a mererationalistic principle set above or behind things for our admirationbecomesif our faith concretes it into something theistica term of promise. Returningwith it into experiencewe gain a more confiding outlook on the future. If nota blind force but a seeing force runs thingswe may reasonably expect betterissues. This vague confidence in the future is the sole pragmatic meaning atpresent discernible in the terms design and designer. But if cosmic confidenceis right not wrongbetter not worsethat is a most important meaning.
That much at least of possible 'truth' the terms will then have in them.
Let me take up another well-worn controversythe free-will problem. Mostpersons who believe in what is called their free-will do so after therationalistic fashion. It is a principlea positive faculty or virtue added tomanby which his dignity is enigmatically augmented. He ought to believe it forthis reason. Deterministswho deny itwho say that individual men originatenothingbut merely transmit to the future the whole push of the past cosmos ofwhich they are so small an expressiondiminish man. He is less admirablestripped of this creative principle. I imagine that more than half of you shareour instinctive belief in free-willand that admiration of it as a principle ofdignity has much to do with your fidelity.
But free-will has also been discussed pragmaticallyandstrangely enoughthe same pragmatic interpretation has been put upon it by both disputants. Youknow how large a part questions of accountability have played in ethicalcontroversy. To hear some personsone would suppose that all that ethics aimsat is a code of merits and demerits. Thus does the old legal and theologicalleaventhe interest in crime and sin and punishment abide with us. 'Who's toblame? whom can we punish? whom will God punish?'- these preoccupations hanglike a bad dream over man's religious history.
So both free-will and determinism have been inveighed against and calledabsurdbecause eachin the eyes of its enemieshas seemed to prevent the'imputability' of good or bad deeds to their authors. Queer antinomy this!Free-will means noveltythe grafting on to the past of something not involvedtherein. If our acts were predeterminedif we merely transmitted the push ofthe whole pastthe free-willists sayhow could we be praised or blamed foranything? We should be 'agents' onlynot 'principals' and where then would beour precious imputability and responsibility?
But where would it be if we had free-will? rejoin the determinists. If a'free' act be a sheer noveltythat comes not
from methe previous mebut ex nihiloand simply tacks itself on to mehow can Ithe previous Ibe responsible? How can I have any permanentcharacter that will stand still long enough for praise or blame to be awarded?The chaplet of my days tumbles into a cast of disconnected beads as soon as thethread of inner necessity is drawn out by the preposterous indeterministdoctrine. Messrs. Fullerton and McTaggart have recently laid about themdoughtily with this argument.
It may be good ad hominembut otherwise it is pitiful. For I ask youquiteapart from other reasonswhether any manwoman or childwith a sense forrealitiesought not to be ashamed to plead such principles as either dignity orimputability. Instinct and utility between them can safely be trusted to carryon the social business of punishment and praise. If a man does good acts weshall praise himif he does bad acts we shall punish him- anyhowand quiteapart from theories as to whether the acts result from what was previous in himor are novelties in a strict sense. To make our human ethics revolve about thequestion of 'merit' is a piteous unreality- God alone can know our meritsif wehave any. The real ground for supposing free-will is indeed pragmaticbut ithas nothing to do with this contemptible right to punish which has made such anoise in past discussions of the subject.
Free-will pragmatically means novelties in the worldthe right to expectthat in its deepest elements as well as in its surface phenomenathe future maynot identically repeat and imitate the past. That imitation en masse is therewho can deny? The general 'uniformity of nature' is presupposed by every lesserlaw. But nature may be only approximately uniform; and persons in whom knowledgeof the world's past has bred pessimism (or doubts as to the world's goodcharacterwhich become certainties if that character be supposed eternallyfixed) may naturally welcome free-will as a melioristic doctrine. It holds upimprovement as at least possible; whereas determinism assures us that our wholenotion of possibility is born of human ignoranceand that necessity andimpossibility between them rule the destinies of the world.
Free-will is thus a general cosmological theory of promisejust like theAbsoluteGodSpirit or Design. Taken abstractlyno one of these terms has anyinner contentnone of them gives us any pictureand no one of them wouldretain the least pragmatic value in a world whose character was obviouslyperfect from the start. Elation at mere existencepure cosmic emotion anddelightwouldit seems to mequench all interest in those speculationsifthe world were nothing but a lubberland of happiness already. Our interest inreligious metaphysics arises in the fact that our empirical future feels to usunsafeand needs some higher guarantee. If the past and present were purelygoodwho could wish that the future might possibly not resemble them? Who coulddesire free-will? Who would not saywith Huxley'let me be wound up every daylike a watchto go right fatallyand I ask no better freedom.' 'Freedom' in aworld already perfect could only mean freedom to be worseand who could be soinsane as to wish that? To be necessarily what it isto be impossibly aughtelsewould put the last touch of perfection upon optimism's universe. Surelythe only
possibility that one can rationally claim is the possibility that things maybe better. That possibilityI need hardly sayis one thatas the actual worldgoeswe have ample grounds for desiderating.
Free-will thus has no meaning unless it be a doctrine of relief. As suchittakes its place with other religious doctrines. Between themthey build up theold wastes and repair the former desolations. Our spiritshut within thiscourtyard of sense-experienceis always saying to the intellect upon the tower:'Watchmantell us of the nightif it aught of promise bear' and the intellectgives it then these terms of promise.
Other than this practical significancethe words Godfree-willdesignetc.have none. Yet dark tho they be in themselvesor intellectualisticallytakenwhen we bear them into life's thicket with us the darkness there growslight about us. If you stopin dealing with such wordswith their definitionthinking that to be an intellectual finalitywhere are you? Stupidly staring ata pretentious sham! "Deus est Ensa seextra et supra omne genusnecessariumunuminfinite perfectumsimpleximmutabileimmensumaeternumintelligens" etc.- wherein is such a definition really instructive? Itmeans less than nothingin its pompous robe of adjectives. Pragmatism alone canread a positive meaning into itand for that she turns her back upon theintellectualist point of view altogether. 'God's in his heaven; all's right withthe world!'- That's the real heart of your theologyand for that you need norationalist definitions.
Why should n't all of usrationalists as well as pragmatistsconfess this?Pragmatismso far from keeping her eyes bent on the immediate practicalforegroundas she is accused of doingdwells just as much upon the world'sremotest perspectives.
See then how all these ultimate questions turnas it wereupon theirhinges; and from looking backwards upon principlesupon an
erkenntnisstheoretische Icha Goda Kausalitatsprinzipa DesignaFree-willtaken in themselvesas something august and exalted above facts-seeI sayhow pragmatism shifts the emphasis and looks forward into factsthemselves. The really vital question for us all isWhat is this world going tobe? What is life eventually to make of itself? The centre of gravity ofphilosophy must therefore alter its place. The earth of thingslong thrown intoshadow by the glories of the upper ethermust resume its rights. To shift theemphasis in this way means that philosophic questions will fall to be treated byminds of a less abstractionist type than heretoforeminds more scientific andindividualistic in their tone yet not irreligious either. It will be analteration in 'the seat of authority' that reminds one almost of the protestantreformation. And asto papal mindsprotestantism has often seemed a mere messof anarchy and confusionsuchno doubtwill pragmatism often seem toultra-rationalist minds in philosophy. It will seem so much sheer trashphilosophically. But life wags onall the sameand compasses its endsinprotestant countries. I venture to think that philosophic protestantism willcompass a not dissimilar prosperity.
Lecture IV: The One and The Many
WE saw in the last lecture that the pragmatic methodin its dealings withcertain conceptsinstead of ending with admiring contemplationplunges forwardinto the river of experience with them and prolongs the perspective by theirmeans. Designfree-willthe absolute mindspirit instead of matterhave fortheir sole meaning a better promise as to this world's outcome. Be they false orbe they truethe meaning of them is this meliorism. I have sometimes thought ofthe phenomenon called 'total reflexion' in Optics as a good symbol of therelation between abstract ideas and concrete realitiesas pragmatism conceivesit. Hold a tumbler of water a little above your eyes and look up through thewater at its surface- or better still look similarly through the flat wall of anaquarium. You will then see an extraordinarily brilliant reflected image say ofa candle-flameor any other clear objectsituated on the opposite side of thevessel. No rayunder these circumstances gets beyond the water's surface: everyray is totally reflected back into the depths again. Now let the water representthe world of sensible factsand let the air above it represent the world ofabstract ideas. Both worlds are realof courseand interact; but they interactonly at their boundaryand the focus of everything that livesand happens tousso far as full experience goesis the water. We are like fishes swimming inthe sea of sensebounded above by the superior elementbut unable to breatheit pure or penetrate it. We get our oxygen from ithoweverwe touch itincessantlynow in this partnow in thatand every time we touch itwe turnback into the water with our course re-determined and re-energized. The abstractideas of which the air consists are indispensable for lifebut irrespirable bythemselvesas it wereand only active in their re-directing function. Allsimiles are haltingbut this one rather takes my fancy. It shows how somethingnot sufficient for life in itselfmay nevertheless be an effective determinantof life elsewhere.
In this present hour I wish to illustrate the pragmatic method by one moreapplication. I wish to turn its light upon the ancient problem of 'the one andthe many.' I suspect that in but few of you has this problem occasionedsleepless nightsand I should not be astonished if some of you told me it hadnever vexed you at all. I myself have comeby long brooding over ittoconsider it the most central of all philosophic problemscentral because sopregnant. I mean by this that if you know whether a man is a decided monist or adecided pluralistyou perhaps know more about the rest of his opinions than ifyou give him any other name ending in ist. To believe in the one or in the manythat is the classification with the maximum number of consequences. So bear withme for an hour while I try to inspire you with my own interest in this problem.
Philosophy has often been defined as the quest or the vision of the world'sunity. Few persons ever challenge this definitionwhich is true as far as itgoesfor philosophy has indeed manifested above all things its interest inunity. But how about the variety in things? Is that such an irrelevant matter?If instead of using the term philosophywe talk in general of our intellect andits needswe quickly see that unity is only one of them. Acquaintance with thedetails of fact is always reckonedalong with their reduction to systemas anindispensable mark of mental greatness. Your 'scholarly' mindof encyclopedicphilological typeyour man essentially of learninghas never lacked for praisealong with your philosopher. What our intellect really aims at is neithervariety nor unity taken singlybut
totality. *005 In thisacquaintance with reality's diversities is asimportant as understanding their connexion. Curiosity goes pari passu with thesystematizing passion.
In spite of this obvious fact the unity of things has always been consideredmore illustriousas it werethan their variety. When a young man firstconceives the notion that the whole world forms one great factwith all itsparts moving abreastas it wereand interlockedhe feels as if he wereenjoying a great insightand looks superciliously on all who still fall shortof this sublime conception. Taken thus abstractly as it first comes to onethemonistic insight is so vague as hardly to seem worth defending intellectually.Yet probably every one in this audience in some way cherishes it. A certainabstract monisma certain emotional response to the character of onenessas ifit were a feature of the world not co-ordinate with its manynessbut vastlymore excellent and eminentis so prevalent in educated circles that we mightalmost call it a part of philosophic common sense. Of
course the world is Onewe say. How else could it be a world at all?Empiricists as a ruleare as stout monists of this abstract kind asrationalists are.
The difference is that the empiricists are less dazzled. Unity doesn't blindthem to everything elsedoesn't quench their curiosity for special factswhereas there is a kind of rationalist who is sure to interpret abstract unitymystically and to forget everything elseto treat it as a principle; to admireand worship it; and thereupon to come to a full stop intellectually.
'The world is One!'- the formula may become a sort of number-worship. 'Three'and 'seven' haveit is truebeen reckoned sacred numbers; butabstractlytakenwhy is 'one' more excellent than 'forty-three' or than 'two million andten'? In this first vague conviction of the world's unitthere is so little totake hold of that we hardly know what we mean by it.
The only way to get forward with our notion is to treat it pragmatically.Granting the oneness to existwhat facts will be different in consequence? Whatwill the unity be known as? The world is One- yesbut how one. What is thepractical value of the oneness for us.
Asking such questionswe pass from the vague to the definitefrom theabstract to the concrete. Many distinct ways in which a oneness predicated ofthe universe might make a differencecome to view. I will note successively themore obvious of these ways.
1. Firstthe world is at least one subject of discourse. If its manynesswere so irremediable as to permit no union whatever of its partsnot even ourminds could 'mean' the whole of it at once: they would be like eyes trying tolook in opposite directions. But in point of fact we mean to cover the whole ofit by our abstract term 'world' or 'universe' which expressly intends that nopart shall be left out. Such unity of discourse carries obviously no farthermonistic specifications. A 'chaos' once so namedhas as much unity ofdiscourse as a cosmos. It is an odd fact that many monists consider a greatvictory scored for their side when pluralists say 'the universe is many.'"'The Universe'!" they chuckle- "his speech bewrayeth him. Hestands confessed of monism out of his own mouth." Welllet things be onein so far forth! You can then fling such a word as universe at the wholecollection of thembut what matters it? It still remains to be ascertainedwhether they are one in any further or more valuable sense.
2. Are theyfor examplecontinuous? Can you pass from one to anotherkeeping always in your one universe without any danger of falling out? In otherwordsdo the parts of our universe hang togetherinstead of being likedetached grains of sand?
Even grains of sand hang together through the space in which they areembeddedand if you can in any way move through such spaceyou can passcontinuously from number one of them to number two. Space and time are thusvehicles of continuity by which the world's parts hang together. The practicaldifference to usresultant from these forms of unionis immense. Our wholemotor life is based upon them.
3. There are innumerable other paths of practical continuity among things.Lines of influence can be traced by which they hang together. Following any suchline you pass from one thing to another till you may have covered a good part ofthe universe's extent. Gravity and heat-conduction are such all-unitinginfluencesso far as the physical world goes. Electricluminous and chemicalinfluences follow similar lines of influence. But opaque and inert bodiesinterrupt the continuity hereso that you have to step round themor changeyour mode of progress if you wish to get farther on that day. Practicallyyouhave then lost your universe's unityso far as it was constituted by thosefirst lines of influence.
There are innumerable kinds of connexion that special things have with otherspecial things; and the ensemble of any one of these connexions forms one sortof system by which things are conjoined. Thus men are conjoined in a vastnetwork of acquaintanceship. Brown knows JonesJones knows Robinsonetc.; andby choosing your farther intermediaries rightly you may carry a message fromJones to the Empress of Chinaor the Chief of the African Pigmiesor to anyone else in the inhabited world. But you are stopped shortas by a non-conductorwhen you choose one man wrong in this experiment. What may be calledlove-systems are grafted on the acquaintance-system. A loves (or hates) B; Bloves (or hates) Cetc. But these systems are smaller than the greatacquaintance-system that they presuppose.
Human efforts are daily unifying the world more and more in definitesystematic ways. We found colonialpostalconsularcommercial systemsallthe parts of which obey definite influences that propagate themselves within thesystem but not to facts outside of it. The result is innumerable littlehangings-together of the world's parts within the larger hangings-togetherlittle worldsnot only of discourse but of operationwithin the wideruniverse. Each system exemplifies one type or grade of unionits parts beingstrung on that peculiar kind of relationand the same part may figure in manydifferent systemsas a man may hold various offices and belong to severalclubs. From this 'systematic' point of viewthereforethe pragmatic value ofthe world's unity is that all these definite networks actually and practicallyexist. Some are more enveloping and extensivesome less so; they are superposedupon each other; and between them all they let no individual elementary part ofthe universe escape. Enormous as is the amount of disconnexion among things (forthese systematic influences and conjunctions follow rigidly exclusive paths)everything that exists is influenced in some way by something elseif you canonly pick the way out rightly. Loosely speakingand in generalit may be saidthat all things cohere and adhere to each other somehowand that the universeexists practically in reticulated or concatenated forms which make of it acontinuous or 'integrated' affair. Any kind of influence whatever helps to makethe world oneso far as you can follow it from next to next. You may then saythat 'the world is One'- meaning in these respectsnamelyand just so far asthey obtain. But just as definitely is it not Oneso far as they do not obtain;and there is no species of connexion which will not failifinstead ofchoosing conductors for it you choose non-conductors. You are then arrested atyour very first step and have to write the world down as a pure many from thatparticular point of view. If our intellect had been as much interested indisjunctive as it is in conjunctive relationsphilosophy would have equallysuccessfully celebrated the world's disunion.
The great point is to notice that the oneness and the manyness are absolutelyco-ordinate here. Neither is primordial or more essential or excellent than theother. Just as with spacewhose separating of things seems exactly on a parwith its uniting of thembut sometimes one function and sometimes the other iswhat comes home to us mostsoin our general dealings with the world ofinfluenceswe now need conductors and now need non-conductorsand wisdom liesin knowing which is which at the appropriate moment.
4. All these systems of influence or non-influence may be listed under thegeneral problem of the world's causal unity. If the minor causal influencesamong things should converge towards one common causal origin of them in thepastone great first cause for all that isone might then speak of theabsolute causal unity of the world. God's fiat on creation's day has figured intraditional philosophy as such an absolute cause and origin. TranscendentalIdealismtranslating 'creation' into 'thinking' (or 'willing to think') callsthe divine act 'eternal' rather than 'first'; but the union of the many here isabsolutejust the same- the many would not besave for the One. Against thisnotion of the unity of origin of all things there has always stood thepluralistic notion of an eternal self-existing many in the shape of atoms oreven of spiritual units of some sort. The alternative has doubtless a pragmaticmeaningbut perhapsas far as these lectures gowe had better leave thequestion of unity of origin unsettled.
5. The most important sort of union that obtains among things
pragmatically speakingis their generic unity. Things exist in kindsthereare many specimens in each kindand what the 'kind' implies for one specimenit implies also for every other specimen of that kind. We can easily conceivethat every fact in the world might be singularthat isunlike any other factand sole of its kind. In such a world of singulars our logic would be uselessfor logic works by predicating of the single instance what is true of all itskind. With no two things alike in the worldwe should be unable to reason fromour past experiences to our future ones. The existence of so much generic unityin things is thus perhaps the most momentous pragmatic specification of what itmay mean to say 'the world is One.'
Absolute generic unity would obtain if there were one summum genus underwhich all things without exception could be eventually subsumed. 'Beings''thinkables' 'experiences' would be candidates for this position. Whether thealternatives expressed by such words have any pragmatic significance or notisanother question which I prefer to leave unsettled just now.
6. Another specification of what the phrase 'the world is one' may mean isunity of purpose. An enormous number of things in the world subserve a commonpurpose. All the man-made systemsadministrativeindustrialmilitaryor whatnotexist each for its controlling purpose. Every living being pursues its ownpeculiar purposes. They co- operateaccording to the degree of theirdevelopmentin collective or tribal purposeslarger ends thus envelopinglesser onesuntil an absolutely singlefinal and climacteric purpose subservedby all things without exception might conceivably be reached. It is needless tosay that the appearances conflict with such a view. Any resultantas I said inmy third lecturemay have been purposed in advancebut none of the results weactually know in this world have in point of fact been purposed in advance inall their details. Men and nations start with a vague notion of being richorgreator good. Each step they make brings unforeseen chances into sightandshuts out older vistasand the specifications of the general purpose have to bedaily changed. What is reached in the end may be better or worse than what wasproposedbut it is always more complex and different.
Our different purposes also are at war with each other. Where one can't crushthe other outthey compromise; and the result is again different from what anyone distinctly proposed beforehand. Vaguely and generallymuch of what waspurposed may be gained; but everything makes strongly for the view that ourworld is incompletely unified teleologically and is still trying to get itsunification better organized.
Whoever claims absolute teleological unitysaying that there is one purposethat every detail of the universe subservesdogmatizes at his own risk.Theologians who dogmatize thus find it more and more impossibleas ouracquaintance with the warring interests of the world's parts grows moreconcreteto imagine what the one climacteric purpose may possibly be like. Wesee indeed that certain evils minister to ulterior goodsthat the bitter makesthe cocktail betterand that a bit of danger or hardship puts us agreeably toour trumps. We can vaguely generalize this into the doctrine that all the evilin the universe is but instrumental to its greater perfection. But the scale ofthe evil actually in sight defies all human tolerance; and transcendentalidealismin the pages of a Bradley or a Roycebrings us no farther than thebook of Job did- God's ways are not our waysso let us put our hands upon ourmouth. A God who can relish such superfluities of horror is no God for humanbeings to appeal to. His animal spirits are too high. In other words the'Absolute' with his one purposeis not the man-like God of common people.
7. Aesthetic union among things also obtainsand is very analogous toteleological union. Things tell a story. Their parts hang together so as to workout a climax. They play into each other's hands expressively. Retrospectivelywe can see that altho no definite purpose presided over a chain of eventsyetthe events fell into a dramatic formwith a starta middleand a finish. Inpoint of fact all stories end; and here again the point of view of a many is themore natural one to take. The world is full of partial stories that run parallelto one anotherbeginning and ending at odd times. They mutually interlace andinterfere at pointsbut we can not unify them completely in our minds. Infollowing your life-historyI must temporarily turn my attention from my own.Even a biographer of twins would have to press them alternately upon hisreader's attention.
It follows that whoever says that the whole world tells one story uttersanother of those monistic dogmas that a man believes at his risk. It is easy tosee the world's history pluralisticallyas a rope of which each fibre tells aseparate tale; but to conceive of each cross- section of the rope as anabsolutely single factand to sum the whole longitudinal series into one beingliving an undivided lifeis harder. We have indeed the analogy of embryology tohelp us. The microscopist makes a hundred flat cross-sections of a given embryoand mentally unites them into one solid whole. But the great world'singredientsso far as they are beingsseemlike the rope's fibresto bediscontinuouscross-wiseand to cohere only in the longitudinal direction.Followed in that direction they are many. Even the embryologistwhen he followsthe development of his objecthas to treat the history of each single organ inturn. Absolute aesthetic union is thus another barely abstract ideal. The worldappears as something more epic than dramatic.
So farthenwe see how the world is unified by its many systemskindspurposesand dramas. That there is more union in all these ways than openlyappears is certainly true. That there may be one sovereign purposesystemkindand storyis a legitimate hypothesis. All I say here is that it is rashto affirm this dogmatically without better evidence than we possess at present.
8. The great monistic denkmittel for a hundred years past has been the notionof the one Knower. The many exist only as objects for his thought- exist in hisdreamas it were; and as he knows themthey have one purposeform one systemtell one tale for him. This notion of an all enveloping noetic unity in thingsis the sublimest achievement of intellectualist philosophy. Those who believe inthe Absoluteas the all-knower is termedusually say that they do so forcoercive reasonswhich clear thinkers can not evade. The Absolute hasfar-reaching practical consequencesto some of which I drew attention in mysecond lecture. Many kinds of difference important to us would surely followfrom its being true. I can not here enter into all the logical proofs of such aBeing's existencefarther than to say that none of them seem to me sound. Imust therefore treat the notion of an All-Knower simply as an hypothesisexactly on a par logically with the pluralist notion that there is no point ofviewno focus of information extantfrom which the entire content of theuniverse is visible at once. "God's conscience" says Professor Royce*006 "forms in its wholeness one luminously transparent conscious moment"this is the type of noetic unity on which rationalism insists. Empiricismon the other hand is satisfied with the type of noetic unity that is humanly
familiar. Everything gets known by some knower along with something else; butthe knowers may in the end be irreducibly manyand the greatest knower of themall may yet not know the whole of everythingor even know what he does know atone single stroke:- he may be liable to forget. Whichever type obtainedtheworld would still be a universe noetically. Its parts would be conjoined byknowledgebut in the one case the knowledge would be absolutely unifiedin theother it would be strung along and overlapped.
The notion of one instantaneous or eternal Knower- either adjective heremeans the same thing- isas I saidthe great intellectualist achievement ofour time. It has practically driven out that conception of 'Substance' whichearlier philosophers set such store byand by which so much unifying work usedto be done- universal substance which alone has being in and from itselfand ofwhich all the particulars of experience are but forms to which it gives support.Substance has succumbed to the pragmatic criticisms of the English school. Itappears now only as another name for the fact that phenomena as they come areactually grouped and given in coherent formsthe very forms in which we finiteknowers experience or think them together. These forms of conjunction are asmuch parts of the tissue of experience as are the terms which they connect; andit is a great pragmatic achievement for recent idealism to have made the worldhang together in these directly representable ways instead of drawing its unityfrom the 'inherence' of its parts- whatever that may mean- in an unimaginableprinciple behind the scenes.
'The world is One' thereforejust so far as we experience it to beconcatenatedOne by as many definite conjunctions as appear. But then also notOne by just as many definite dis junctions as we find. The oneness and themanyness of it thus obtain in respects which can be separately named. It isneither a universe pure and simple nor a multiverse pure and simple. And itsvarious manners of being One suggestfor their accurate ascertainmentso manydistinct programs of scientific work. Thus the pragmatic question 'What is theoneness known as? What practical difference will it make?' saves us from allfeverish excitement over it as a principle of sublimity and carries us forwardinto the stream of experience with a cool head. The stream may indeed reveal farmore connexion and union than we now suspectbut we are not entitled onpragmatic principles to claim absolute oneness in any respect in advance.
It is so difficult to see definitely what absolute oneness can meanthatprobably the majority of you are satisfied with the sober attitude which we havereached. Nevertheless there are possibly some radically monistic souls among youwho are not content to have the one and the many on a par. Union of variousgradesunion of diverse typesunion that stops at non-conductorsunion thatmerely goes from next to nextand means in many cases outer nextness onlyandnot a more internal bondunion of concatenationin short; all that sort ofthing seems to you a halfway stage of thought. The oneness of thingssuperiorto their manynessyou think must also be more deeply truemust be the morereal aspect of the world. The pragmatic viewyou are suregives us a universeimperfectly rational. The real universe must form an unconditional unit ofbeingsomething consolidatedwith its parts co- implicated through andthrough. Only then could we consider our estate completely rational.
There is no doubt whatever that this ultra-monistic way of thinking means agreat deal to many minds. "One LifeOne Truthone Loveone PrincipleOne GoodOne God"- I quote from a Christian Science leaflet which theday's mail brings into my hands- beyond doubt such a confession of faith haspragmatically an emotional valueand beyond doubt the word 'one' contributes tothe value quite as much as the other words. But if we try to realizeintellectually what we can possibly
mean by such a glut of oneness we are thrown right back upon our pragmatisticdeterminations again. It means either the mere name Onethe universe ofdiscourse; or it means the sum total of all the ascertainable particularconjunctions and concatenations; orfinallyit means some one vehicle ofconjunction treated as all-inclusivelike one originone purposeor oneknower. In point of fact it always means one knower to those who take itintellectually to-day. The one knower involvesthey thinkthe other forms ofconjunction. His world must have all its parts co-implicated in the onelogical-aesthetical- teleological unit-picture which is his eternal dream.
The character of the absolute knower's picture is however so impossible forus to represent clearlythat we may fairly suppose that the authority whichabsolute monism undoubtedly possessesand probably always will possess oversome personsdraws its strength far less from intellectual than from mysticalgrounds. To interpret absolute monism worthilybe a mystic. Mystical states ofmind in every degree are shown by historyusually tho not alwaysto make forthe monistic view. This is no proper occasion to enter upon the general subjectof mysticismbut I will quote one mystical pronouncement to show just what Imean. The paragon of all monistic systems is the Vedanta philosophy ofHindostanand the paragon of Vedantist missionaries was the late SwamiVivekananda who visited our land some years ago. The method of Vedantism is themystical method. You do not reasonbut after going through a certain disciplineyou seeand having seenyou can report the truth. Vivekananda thus reports thetruth in one of his lectures here:
"Where is there any more misery for him who sees this Oneness in theuniversethis Oneness of lifeOneness of everything?... This separationbetween man and manman and womanman and childnation from nationearthfrom moonmoon from sunthis separation between atom and atom is the causereally of all the miseryand the Vedanta says this separation does not existit is not real. It is merely apparenton the surface. In the heart of thingsthere is unity still. If you go inside you find that unity between man and manwomen and childrenraces and raceshigh and lowrich and poorthe gods andmen: all are Oneand animals tooif you go deep enoughand he who hasattained to that has no more delusion.... Where is there any more delusion forhim? What can delude him? He knows the reality of everythingthe secret ofeverything. Where is there any more misery for him? What does he desire? He hastraced the reality of everything unto the Lordthat centrethat Unity ofeverythingand that is Eternal BlissEternal KnowledgeEternal Existence.Neither death nor disease nor sorrow nor misery nor discontent is There... Inthe Centrethe realitythere is no one to be mourned forno one to be sorryfor. He has penetrated everythingthe Pure Onethe Formlessthe BodilesstheStainlessHe the KnowerHe the great Poetthe Self-ExistentHe who is givingto every one what he deserves."
Observe how radical the character of the monism here is. Separation is notsimply overcome by the Oneit is denied to exist. There is no many. We are notparts of the One; it has no parts; and since in a sense we undeniably areitmust be that each of us is the Oneindivisibly and totally. An Absolute Oneand I that One- surely we have here a religion whichemotionally consideredhas a high pragmatic value; it imparts a perfect sumptuosity of security. As ourSwami says
in another place:
"When man has seen himself as One with the infinite Being of theuniversewhen all separateness has ceasedwhen all menall womenall angelsall godsall animalsall plantsthe whole universe has been melted into thatonenessthen all fear disappears. Whom to fear? Can I hurt myself? Can I killmyself? Can I injure myself? Do you fear yourself? Then will all sorrowdisappear. What can cause me sorrow? I am the One Existence of the universe.Then all jealousies will disappear; of whom to be jealous? Of myself? Then allbad feelings disappear. Against whom shall I have this bad feeling? Againstmyself? There is none in the universe but me... kill out this differentiationkill out this superstition that there are many. 'He whoin this world of manysees that One; he whoin this mass of insentiencysees that One SentientBeing; he who in this world of shadowcatches that Realityunto him belongseternal peaceunto none elseunto none else.'"
We all have some ear for this monistic music: it elevates and reassures. Weall have at least the germ of mysticism in us. And when our idealists recitetheir arguments for the Absolutesaying that the slightest union admittedanywhere carries logically absolute Oneness with itand that the slightestseparation admitted anywhere logically carries disunion remediless and completeI cannot help suspecting that the palpable weak places in the intellectualreasonings they use are protected from their own criticism by a mystical feelingthatlogic or no logicabsolute Oneness must somehow at any cost be true.Oneness overcomes moral separateness at any rate. In the passion of love we havethe mystic germ of what might mean a total union of all sentient life. Thismystical germ wakes up in us on hearing the monistic utterancesacknowledgestheir authorityand assigns to intellectual considerations a secondary place.
I will dwell no longer on these religious and moral aspects of the questionin this lecture. When I come to my final lecture there will be something more tosay.
Leave then out of consideration for the moment the authority which mysticalinsights may be conjectured eventually to possess; treat the problem of the Oneand the Many in a purely intellectual way; and we see clearly enough wherepragmatism stands. With her criterion of the practical differences that theoriesmakewe see that she must equally abjure absolute monism and absolutepluralism. The world is One just so far as its parts hang together by anydefinite connexion. It is many just so far as any definite connexion fails toobtain. And finally it is growing more and more unified by those systems ofconnexion at least which human energy keeps framing as time goes on.
It is possible to imagine alternative universes to the one we knowin whichthe most various grades and types of union should be embodied. Thus the lowestgrade of universe would be a world of mere withnessof which the parts wereonly strung together by the conjunction 'and.' Such a universe is even now thecollection of our several inner lives. The spaces and times of your imaginationthe objects and events of your day-dreams are not only more or less incoherentinter sebut are wholly out of definite relation with the similar contents ofany one else's mind. Our various reveries now as we sit here compenetrate eachother idly without influencing or interfering. They coexistbut in no order andin no receptaclebeing the nearest approach to an absolute 'many' that we canconceive. We can not even imagine any reason why they
should be known all togetherand we can imagine even lessif they wereknown togetherhow they could be known as one systematic whole.
But add our sensations and bodily actionsand the union mounts to a muchhigher grade. Our audita et visa and our acts fall into those receptacles oftime and space in which each event finds its date and place. They form 'things'and are of 'kinds' tooand can be classed. Yet we can imagine a world of thingsand of kinds in which the causal interactions with which we are so familiarshould not exist. Everything there might be inert towards everything elseandrefuse to propagate its influence. Or gross mechanical influences might passbut no chemical action. Such worlds would be far less unified than ours. Againthere might be complete physico-chemical interactionbut no minds; or mindsbut altogether private oneswith no social life; or social life limited toacquaintancebut no love; or lovebut no customs or institutions that shouldsystematize it. No one of these grades of universe would be absolutelyirrational or disintegratedinferior tho it might appear when looked at fromthe higher grades. For instanceif our minds should ever become'telepathically' connectedso that we knew immediatelyor could under certainconditions know immediatelyeach what the other was thinkingthe world we nowlive in would appear to the thinkers in that world to have been of an inferiorgrade.
With the whole of past eternity open for our conjectures to range init maybe lawful to wonder whether the various kinds of union now realized in theuniverse that we inhabit may not possibly have been successively evolved afterthe fashion in which we now see human systems evolving in consequence of humanneeds. If such an hypothesis were legitimatetotal oneness would appear at theend of things rather than at their origin. In other words the notion of the'Absolute' would have to be replaced by that of the 'Ultimate.' The two notionswould have the same content- the maximally unified content of factnamely- buttheir time-relations would be positively reversed. *007
After discussing the unity of the universe in this pragmatic wayyou oughtto see why I said in my second lectureborrowing the word from my friend G.Papinithat pragmatism tends to unstiffen all our theories. The world's onenesshas generally been affirmed abstractly onlyand as if any one who questioned itmust be an idiot. The temper of monists has been so vehementas almost at timesto be convulsive; and this way of holding a doctrine does not easily go withreasonable discussion and the drawing of distinctions. The theory of theAbsolutein particularhas had to be an article of faithaffirmeddogmatically and exclusively. The One and Allfirst in the order of being andof knowinglogically necessary itselfand uniting all lesser things in thebonds of mutual necessityhow could it allow of any mitigation of its innerrigidity? The slightest suspicion of pluralismthe minutest wiggle ofindependence of any one of its parts from the control of the totality would ruinit. Absolute unity brooks no degrees- as well might you claim absolute purityfor a glass of water because it contains but a single little cholera-germ. Theindependencehowever infinitesimalof a parthowever smallwould be to theAbsolute as fatal as a cholera- germ.
Pluralism on the other hand has no need of this dogmatic rigoristic temper.Provided you grant some separation among thingssome tremor of independencesome free play of parts on one anothersome real novelty or chancehoweverminuteshe is amply satisfiedand will allow you any amounthowever greatofreal union. How much of union there may be is a question that she thinks canonly be decided empirically. The amount may be enormouscolossal; but absolutemonism is shattered ifalong with all the unionthere has to be granted the
slightest modicumthe most incipient nascencyor the most residual traceof a separation that is not 'overcome.'
Pragmatismpending the final empirical ascertainment of just what thebalance of union and disunion among things may bemust obviously range herselfupon the pluralistic side. Some dayshe admitseven total unionwith oneknowerone originand a universe consolidated in every conceivable waymayturn out to be the most acceptable of all hypotheses. Meanwhile the oppositehypothesisof a world imperfectly unified stilland perhaps always to remainsomust be sincerely entertained. This latter hypothesis is pluralism'sdoctrine. Since absolute monism forbids its being even considered seriouslybranding it as irrational from the startit is clear that pragmatism must turnits back on absolute monismand follow pluralism's more empirical path.
This leaves us with the common-sense worldin which we find things partlyjoined and partly disjoined. 'Things' thenand their 'conjunctions'- what dosuch words meanpragmatically handled? In my next lectureI will apply thepragmatic method to the stage of philosophizing known as Common Sense.
Lecture V: Pragmatism and Common Sense
IN the last lecture we turned ourselves from the usual way of talking of theuniverse's oneness as a principlesublime in all its blanknesstowards a studyof the special kinds of union which the universe enfolds. We found many of theseto coexist with kinds of separation equally real. 'How far am I verified?' isthe question which each kind of union and each kind of separation asks us hereso as good pragmatists we have to turn our face towards experiencetowards"facts.'
Absolute oneness remainsbut only as an hypothesisand that hypothesis isreduced nowadays to that of an omniscient knower who sees all things withoutexception as forming one single systematic fact. But the knower in question maystill be conceived either as an Absolute or as an Ultimate; and over against thehypothesis of him in either form the counter-hypothesis that the widest field ofknowledge that ever was or will be still contains some ignorancemay belegitimately held. Some bits of information always may escape.
This is the hypothesis of noetic pluralismwhich monists consider so absurd.Since we are bound to treat it as respectfully as noetic monismuntil the factsshall have tipped the beamwe find that our pragmatismtho originally nothingbut a methodhas forced us to be friendly to the pluralistic view. It may bethat some parts of the world are connected so loosely with some other parts asto be strung along by nothing but the copula and. They might even come and gowithout those other parts suffering any internal change. This pluralistic viewof a world of additive constitutionis one that pragmatism is unable to ruleout from serious consideration. But this view leads one to the fartherhypothesis that the actual worldinstead of being complete 'eternally' as themonists assure usmay be eternally incompleteand at all times subject toaddition or liable to loss.
It is at any rate incomplete in one respectand flagrantly so. The very factthat we debate this question shows that our knowledge is incomplete at presentand subject to addition. In respect of the knowledge it contains the world doesgenuinely change and grow. Some general remarks on the way in which ourknowledge completes itself- when it does complete itself- will lead us veryconveniently into our subject for this lecturewhich is 'Common Sense.'
To begin withour knowledge grows in spots. The spots may be large or smallbut the knowledge never grows all over: some old knowledge always remains whatit was. Your knowledge of pragmatismlet us supposeis growing now. Lateritsgrowth may involve considerable modification of opinions which you previouslyheld to be true. But such modifications are apt to be gradual. To take thenearest possible exampleconsider these lectures of mine. What you first gainfrom them is probably a small amount of new informationa few new definitionsor distinctionsor points of view. But while these special ideas are beingaddedthe rest of your knowledge stands stilland only gradually will you'line up' your previous opinions with the novelties I am trying to instilandmodify to some slight degree their mass.
You listen to me nowI supposewith certain prepossessions as to mycompetencyand these affect your reception of what I saybut were I suddenlyto break off lecturingand to begin to sing 'We won't go home till morning' ina rich baritone voicenot only would that new fact be added to your stockbutit would oblige you to define me differentlyand that might alter your opinionof the pragmatic philosophyand in general bring about a rearrangement of anumber of your ideas. Your mind in such processes is strainedand sometimespainfully sobetween its older beliefs and the novelties which experiencebrings along.
Our minds thus grow in spots; and like grease-spotsthe spots spread. But welet them spread as little as possible; we keep unaltered as much of our oldknowledgeas many of our old prejudices and beliefsas we can. We patch andtinker more than we renew. The novelty soaks in; it stains the ancient mass; butit is also tinged by what absorbs it. Our past apperceives and co-operates; andin the new equilibrium in which each step forward in the process of learningterminatesit happens relatively seldom that the new fact is added raw. Moreusually it is embedded cookedas one might sayor stewed down in the sauce ofthe old.
New truths thus are resultants of new experiences and of old truths combinedand mutually modifying one another. And since this is the case in the changes ofopinion of todaythere is no reason to assume that it has not been so at alltimes. It follows that very ancient modes of thought may have survived throughall the later changes in men's opinions. The most primitive ways of thinking maynot yet be wholly expunged. Like our five fingersour ear-bonesourrudimentary caudal appendageor our other 'vestigial' peculiaritiesthey mayremain as indelible tokens of events in our race-history. Our ancestors may atcertain moments have struck into ways of thinking which they might conceivablynot have found. But once they did soand after the factthe inheritancecontinues. When you begin a piece of music in a certain keyyou must keep thekey to the end. You may alter your house ad libitumbut the ground-plan of thefirst architect persists- you can make great changesbut you can not change aGothic church into a Doric temple. You may rinse and rinse the bottlebut youcan't get the taste of the medicine or whiskey that first filled it wholly out.
My thesis now is thisthat our fundamental ways of thinking about things arediscoveries of exceedingly remote ancestorswhich have been able to preservethemselves throughout the experience of all subsequent time. They form one greatstage of equilibrium in the human mind's
developmentthe stage of common sense. Other stages have grafted themselvesupon this stagebut have never succeeded in displacing it. Let us consider thiscommon-sense stage firstas if it might be final.
In practical talka man's common sense means his good judgmenthis freedomfrom excentricityhis gumptionto use the vernacular word. In philosophy itmeans something entirely differentit means his use of certain intellectualforms or categories of thought. Were we lobstersor beesit might be that ourorganization would have led to our using quite different modes from these ofapprehending our experiences. It
might be too (we can not dogmatically deny this) that such categoriesunimaginable by us to-daywould have proved on the whole as serviceable forhandling our experiences mentally as those which we actually use.
If this sounds paradoxical to any onelet him think of analytical geometry.The identical figures which Euclid defined by intrinsic relations were definedby Descartes by the relations of their points. to adventitious co-ordinatestheresult being an absolutely different and vastly more potent way of handlingcurves. All our conceptions are what the Germans call Denkmittelmeans by whichwe handle facts by thinking them. Experience merely as such doesn't cometicketed and labelledwe have first to discover what it is. Kant speaks of itas being in its first intention a gewuhl der erscheinungena
rhapsodie der wahrnehmungena mere motley which we have to unify by ourwits. What we usually do is first to frame some system of concepts mentallyclassifiedserializedor connected in some intellectual wayand then to usethis as a tally by which we 'keep tab' on the impressions that presentthemselves. When each is referred to some possible place in the conceptualsystemit is thereby 'understood.' This notion of parallel 'manifolds' withtheir elements standing reciprocally in 'one-to-one relations' is proving soconvenient nowadays in mathematics and logic as to supersede more and more theolder classificatory conceptions. There are many conceptual systems of thissort; and the sense manifold is also such a system. Find a one-to- one relationfor your sense-impressions anywhere among the conceptsand in so far forth yourationalize the impressions. But obviously you can rationalize them by usingvarious conceptual systems.
The old common-sense way of rationalizing them is by a set of concepts ofwhich the most important are these:
The same or different;
Subjects and attributes;
We are now so familiar with the order that these notions have woven for usout of the everlasting weather of our perceptions that we find it hard torealize how little of a fixed routine the perceptions follow when taken bythemselves. The word weather is a good one to use here. In Bostonfor examplethe weather has almost no routinethe only law being that if you have had anyweather for two daysyou will probably but not certainly have another weatheron the third. Weather-experience as it thus comes to Boston is discontinuousand chaotic. In point of temperatureof windrain or sunshineit may changethree times a day. But the Washington weather-bureau intellectualizes thisdisorder by making each successive bit of Boston weather episodic. It refers itto its place and moment in a continental cycloneon the history of which thelocal changes everywhere are strung as beads are strung upon a cord.
Now it seems almost certain that young children and the inferior animals takeall their experiences very much as uninstructed Bostonians take their weather.They know no more of timeor spaceas world- receptaclesor of permanentsubjects and changing predicatesor of causesor kindsor thoughtsorthingsthan our common people know of continental cyclones. A baby's rattledrops out of his handbut the baby looks not for it. It has 'gone out' for himas a candle-flame goes out; and it comes backwhen you replace it in his handas the flame comes back when relit. The idea of its being a 'thing' whosepermanent existence by itself he might interpolate between its successiveapparitions has evidently not occurred to him. It is the same with dogs. Out ofsightout of mindwith them. It is pretty evident that they have no generaltendency to interpolate 'things.' Let me quote here a passage from my colleagueG. Santayana's book.
"If a dogwhile sniffing about contentedlysees his master arrivingafter a long absence... the poor brute asks for no reason why his master wentwhy he has come againwhy he should be lovedor why presently while lying athis feet you forget him and begin to grunt and dream of the chase- all that isan utter mysteryutterly unconsidered. Such experience has varietysceneryand a certain vital rhythm; its story might be told in dithy-rambic verse. Itmoves wholly by inspiration; every event is providentialevery actunpremeditated. Absolute freedom and absolute helplessness have met together:you depend wholly on divine favoryet that unfathomable agency is notdistinguishable from your own life.... [But] the figures even of that disordereddrama have their exits and their entrances; and their cues can be graduallydiscovered by a being capable of fixing his attention and retaining the order ofevents.... In proportion as such understanding advanceseach moment ofexperience becomes consequential and prophetic of the rest. The calm places inlife are filled with power and its spasms with resource. No emotion canoverwhelm the mindfor of none is the basis or issue wholly hidden; no eventcan disconcert it altogetherbecause it sees beyond. Means can be looked for toescape from the worst predicament; and whereas each moment had been formerlyfilled with nothing but its own adventures and surprised emotioneach now makesroom for the lesson of what went before and surmises what may be the plot of thewhole." *008
Even today science and philosophy are still laboriously trying to partfancies from realities in our experience; and in primitive times they made onlythe most incipient distinctions in this line. Men believed whatever they thoughtwith any livelinessand they mixed their dreams with their realitiesinextricably. The categories of 'thought' and 'things' are indispensable here-instead of being realities we now call certain experiences only 'thoughts.'There is not a categoryamong those enumeratedof which we may not imagine theuse to have thus originated historically and only gradually spread.
That one Time which we all believe in and in which each event has itsdefinite datethat one Space in which each thing has its positiontheseabstract notions unify the world incomparably; but in their finished shape asconcepts how different they are from the loose unordered time-and-spaceexperiences of natural men! Everything that happens to us brings its ownduration and extensionand both are
vaguely surrounded by a marginal 'more' that runs into the duration andextension of the next thing that comes. But we soon lose all our definitebearings; and not only do our children make no distinction between yesterday andthe day before yesterdaythe whole past being churned up togetherbut weadults still do so whenever the times are large. It is the same with spaces. Ona map I can distinctly see the relation of LondonConstantinopleand Pekin tothe place where I am; in reality I utterly fail to feel the facts which the mapsymbolizes. The directions and distances are vagueconfused and mixed. Cosmicspace and cosmic timeso far from being the intuitions that Kant said theywereare constructions as patently artificial as any that science can show. Thegreat majority of the human race never use these notionsbut live in pluraltimes and spacesinterpenetrant and
Permanent 'things' again; the 'same' thing and its various 'appearances' and'alterations'; the different 'kinds' of thing; with the 'kind' used finally as a'predicate' of which the thing remains the 'subject'- what a straightening ofthe tangle of our experience's immediate flux and sensible variety does thislist of terms suggest! And it is only the smallest part of his experience's fluxthat any one actually does straighten out by applying to it these conceptualinstruments. Out of them all our lowest ancestors probably used onlyand thenmost vaguely and inaccuratelythe notion of 'the same again.' But even then ifyou had asked them whether the same were a 'thing' that had endured throughoutthe unseen intervalthey would probably have been at a lossand would havesaid that they had never asked that questionor considered matters in thatlight.
Kindsand sameness of kind- what colossally useful denkmittel for findingour way among the many! The manyness might conceivably have been absolute.Experiences might have all been singularsno one of them occurring twice. Insuch a world logic would have had no application; for kind and sameness of kindare logic's only instruments. Once we know that whatever is of a kind is also ofthat kind's kindwe can travel through the universe as if with seven-leagueboots. Brutes surely never use these abstractionsand civilized men use them inmost various amounts.
Causal influenceagain! Thisif anythingseems to have been anantediluvian conception; for we find primitive men thinking that almosteverything is significant and can exert influence of some sort. The search forthe more definite influences seems to have started in the question: "Whoor whatis to blame?"- for any illnessnamelyor disasteror untowardthing. From this centre the search for causal influences has spread. Hume and'Science' together have tried to eliminate the whole notion of influencesubstituting the entirely different denkmittel of 'law.' But law is acomparatively recent inventionand influence reigns supreme in the older realmof common sense.
The 'possible' as something less than the actual and more than the whollyunrealis another of these magisterial notions of common sense. Criticise themas you maythey persist; and we fly back to them the moment critical pressureis relaxed. 'Self' 'body' in the substantial or metaphysical sense- no oneescapes subjection to those forms of thought. In practicethe common-sensedenkmittel are uniformly victorious. Every onehowever instructedstill thinksof a 'thing' in the common-sense wayas a permanent unit-subject that'supports' its attributes interchangeably. No one stably or sincerely uses themore critical notionof a group of sense-qualities united by a law. With thesecategories in our handwe make our plans and plot togetherand connect all theremoter parts of experience with what lies before our eyes. Our later and morecritical philosophies are mere fads and fancies compared with this naturalmother-tongue of thought.
Common sense appears thus as a perfectly definite stage in our understandingof thingsa stage that satisfies in an extraordinarily successful way thepurposes for which we think. 'Things' do existeven when we do not see them.Their 'kinds' also exist. Their 'qualities' are what they act byand are whatwe act on; and these also exist. These lamps shed their quality of light onevery object in this room. We intercept it on its way whenever we hold up anopaque screen. It is the very sound that my lips emit that travels into yourears. It is the sensible heat of the fire that migrates into the water in whichwe boil an egg; and we can change the heat into coolness by dropping in a lumpof ice. At this stage of philosophy all non-European men without exception haveremained. It suffices for all the necessary practical ends of life; andamongour race evenit is only the highly sophisticated specimensthe mindsdebauched by learningas Berkeley calls themwho have ever even suspectedcommon sense of not being absolutely true.
But when we look backand speculate as to how the common-sense categoriesmay have achieved their wonderful supremacyno reason appears why it may nothave been by a process just like that by which the conceptions due toDemocritusBerkeleyor Darwinachieved their similar triumphs in more recenttimes. In other wordsthey may have been successfully discovered by prehistoricgeniuses whose names the night of antiquity has covered up; they may have beenverified by the immediate facts of experience which they first fitted; and thenfrom fact to fact and from man to man they may have spreaduntil all languagerested on them and we are now incapable of thinking naturally in any otherterms. Such a view would only follow the rule that has proved elsewhere sofertileof assuming the vast and remote to conform to the laws of formationthat we can observe at work in the small and near.
For all utilitarian practical purposes these conceptions amply suffice; butthat they began at special points of discovery and only gradually spread fromone thing to anotherseems proved by the exceedingly dubious limits of theirapplication to-day. We assume for certain purposes one 'objective' Time thataequabiliter fluitbut we don't livingly believe in or realize any suchequally-flowing time. 'Space' is a less vague notion; but 'things' what arethey? Is a constellation properly a thing? or an army? or is an ens rationissuch as space or justice a thing? Is a knife whose handle and blade are changedthe 'same'? Is the 'changeling' whom Locke so seriously discussesof the human'kind'? Is 'telepathy' a 'fancy' or a 'fact'? The moment you pass beyond thepractical use of these categories (a use usually suggested sufficiently by thecircumstances of the special case) to a merely curious or speculative way ofthinkingyou find it impossible to say within just what limits of fact any oneof them shall apply.
The peripatetic philosophyobeying rationalist propensitieshas tried toeternalize the common-sense categories by treating them very technically andarticulately. A 'thing' for instance is a beingor
ens. An ens is a subject in which qualities 'inhere.' A subject is asubstance. Substances are of kindsand kinds are definite in numberanddiscrete. These distinctions are fundamental and eternal. As
terms of discourse they are indeed magnificently usefulbut what they meanapart from their use in steering our discourse to profitable issuesdoes notappear. If you ask a scholastic philosopher what a substance may be in itselfapart from its being the support of attributeshe simply says that yourintellect knows perfectly what the word means.
But what the intellect knows clearly is only the word itself and its steeringfunction. So it comes about that intellects sibi permissiintellects onlycurious and idlehave forsaken the common-sense level for what in general termsmay be called the 'critical' level of thought. Not merely such intellectseither- your Humes and Berkeleys and Hegels; but practical observers of factsyour GalileosDaltonsFaradayshave found it impossible to treat the naifssense-termini of common sense as ultimately real. As common sense interpolatesher constant 'things' between our intermittent sensationsso science
extra polates her world of 'primary' qualitiesher atomsher etherhermagnetic fieldsand the likebeyond the common-sense world. The 'things' arenow invisible impalpable things; and the old visible common-sense things aresupposed to result from the mixture of these invisibles. Or else the whole naifconception of thing gets supersededand a thing's name is interpreted asdenoting only the law or regel der verbindung by which certain of our sensationshabitually succeed or coexist.
Science and critical philosophy thus burst the bounds of common sense. Withscience naif realism ceases: 'Secondary' qualities become unreal; primary onesalone remain. With critical philosophyhavoc is made of everything. Thecommon-sense categories one and all cease to represent anything in the way ofbeing; they are but sublime tricks of human thoughtour ways of escapingbewilderment in the midst of sensation's irremediable flow.
But the scientific tendency in critical thoughttho inspired at first bypurely intellectual motiveshas opened an entirely unexpected range ofpractical utilities to our astonished view. Galileo gave us accurate clocks andaccurate artillery-practice; the chemists flood us with new medicines anddye-stuffs; Ampere and Faraday have endowed us with the New York subway and withMarconi telegrams. The hypothetical things that such men have inventeddefinedas they have defined themare showing an extraordinary fertility inconsequences verifiable by sense. Our logic can deduce from them a consequencedue under certain conditionswe can then bring about the conditionsandprestothe consequence is there before our eyes. The scope of the practicalcontrol of nature newly put into our hand by scientific ways of thinking vastlyexceeds the scope of the old control grounded on common sense. Its rate ofincrease accelerates so that no one can trace the limit; one may even fear thatthe being of man may be crushed by his own powersthat his fixed nature as anorganism may not prove adequate to stand the strain of the ever increasinglytremendous functionsalmost divine creative functionswhich his intellect willmore and more enable him to wield. He may drown in his wealth like a child in abath-tubwho has turned on the water and who can not turn it off.
The philosophic stage of criticismmuch more thorough in its negations thanthe scientific stageso far gives us no new range of practical power. LockeHumeBerkeleyKantHegelhave all been utterly sterileso far as sheddingany light on the details of nature goesand I can think of no invention ordiscovery that can be directly traced to anything in their peculiar thoughtforneither with Berkeley's tar-water nor with Kant's nebular hypothesis had theirrespective philosophic tenets anything to do. The satisfactions they yield totheir disciples are intellectualnot practical; and even then we have toconfess that there is a large minus-side to the account.
There are thus at least three well-characterized levelsstages or types ofthought about the world we live inand the notions of one stage have one kindof meritthose of another stage another kind. It is impossiblehoweverto saythat any stage as yet in sight is absolutely more true than any other. Commonsense is the more consolidated stagebecause it got its innings firstand madeall language into its ally. Whether it or science be the more august stage maybe left to private judgment. But neither consolidation nor augustness aredecisive marks of truth. If common sense were truewhy should science have hadto brand the secondary qualitiesto which our world owes all its livinginterestas falseand to invent an invisible world of points and curvesandmathematical equations instead? Why should it have needed to transform causesand activities into laws of 'functional variation'? Vainly did scholasticismcommon sense's college-trained younger sisterseek to stereotype the forms thehuman family had always talked withto make them definite and fix them foreternity. Substantial forms (in other words our secondary qualities) hardlyoutlasted the year of our Lord 1600. People were already tired of them then; andGalileoand Descarteswith his 'new philosophy' gave them only a little latertheir coup de grace.
But now if the new kinds of scientific 'thing' the corpuscular and ethericworldwere essentially more 'true' why should they have excited so muchcriticism within the body of science itself? Scientific logicians are saying onevery hand that these entities and their determinationshowever definitelyconceivedshould not be held for literally real. It is as if they existed; butin reality they are like co-ordinates or logarithmsonly artificial short-cutsfor taking us from one part to another of experience's flux. We can cipherfruitfully with them; they serve us wonderfully; but we must not be their dupes.
There is no ringing conclusion possible when we compare these types ofthinkingwith a view to telling which is the more absolutely true. Theirnaturalnesstheir intellectual economytheir fruitfulness for practiceallstart up as distinct tests of their veracityand as a result we get confused.Common sense is better for one sphere of lifescience for anotherphilosophiccriticism for a third; but whether either be truer absolutelyHeaven onlyknows. Just nowif I understand the matter rightlywe are witnessing a curiousreversion to the common sense way of looking at physical naturein thephilosophy of science favored by such men as MachOstwald and Duhem. Accordingto these teachers no hypothesis is truer than any other in the sense of being amore literal copy of reality. They are all but ways of talking on our parttobe compared solely from the point of view of their
use. The only literally true thing is reality; and the only reality we knowisfor these logicianssensible realitythe flux of our sensations andemotions as they pass. 'Energy' is the collective name (according to Ostwald)for the sensations just as they present themselves (the movementheatmagneticpullor lightor whatever it may be) when they are measured in certain ways.So measuring themwe are enabled to describe the correlated changes which theyshow usin formulas matchless for their simplicity and fruitfulness for humanuse. They are sovereign triumphs of economy in thought.
No one can fail to admire the 'energetic' philosophy. But the
hypersensible entitiesthe corpuscles and vibrationshold their own withmost physicists and chemistsin spite of its appeal. It seems too economical tobe all-sufficient. Profusionnot economymay after all be reality's key-note.
I am dealing here with highly technical mattershardly suitable for popularlecturing. and in which my own competence is small. All the better for myconclusionhoweverwhich at this point is this. The whole notion of truthwhich naturally and without reflexion we assume to mean the simple duplicationby the mind of a ready-made and given realityproves hard to understandclearly. There is no simple test available for adjudicating offhand between thedivers types of thought that claim to possess it. Common sensecommon scienceor corpuscular philosophyultra-critical scienceor energeticsand criticalor idealistic philosophyall seem insufficiently true in some regard and leavesome dissatisfaction. It is evident that the conflict of these so widelydiffering systems obliges us to overhaul the very idea of truthfor at presentwe have no definite notion of what the word may mean. I shall face that task inmy next lectureand will add but a few wordsin finishing the present one.
There are only two points that I wish you to retain from the present lecture.The first one relates to common sense. We have seen reason to suspect ittosuspect that in spite of their being so venerableof their being so universallyused and built into the very structure of languageits categories may after allbe only a collection of extraordinarily successful hypotheses (historicallydiscovered or invented by single menbut gradually communicatedand used byeverybody) by which our forefathers have from time immemorial unified andstraightened the discontinuity of their immediate experiencesand putthemselves into an equilibrium with the surface of nature so satisfactory forordinary practical purposes that it certainly would have lasted foreverbut forthe excessive intellectual vivacity of DemocritusArchimedesGalileoBerkeleyand of other excentric geniuses whom the example of such men inflamed.RetainI pray youthis suspicion about common sense.
The other point is this. Ought not the existence of the various types ofthinking which we have reviewedeach so splendid for certain purposesyet allconflicting stilland neither one of them able to support a claim of absoluteveracityto awaken a presumption favorable to the pragmatistic view that allour theories are instrumentalare mental modes of adaptation to realityratherthan revelations or gnostic answers to some divinely instituted world-enigma? Iexpressed this view as clearly as I could in the second of these lectures.Certainly the restlessness of the actual theoretic situationthe value for somepurposes of each thought-leveland the inability of either to expel the othersdecisivelysuggest this pragmatistic viewwhich I hope that the next lecturesmay soon make entirely convincing. May there not after all be a possibleambiguity in truth?
Lecture VI: Pragmatism's Conception of Truth
WHEN Clerk-Maxwell was a child it is written that he had a mania for havingeverything explained to himand that when people put him off with vague verbalaccounts of any phenomenon he would interrupt them impatiently by saying'Yes;but I want you to tell me the particular go of it!' Had his question been abouttruthonly a pragmatist could have told him the particular go of it. I believethat our contemporary pragmatistsespecially Messrs. Schiller and Deweyhavegiven the only tenable account of this subject. It is a very ticklish subjectsending subtle rootlets into all kinds of cranniesand hard to treat in thesketchy way that alone befits a public lecture. But the Schiller-Dewey view oftruth has been so ferociously attacked by rationalistic philosophersand soabominably misunderstoodthat hereif anywhereis the point where a clear andsimple statement should be made.
I fully expect to see the pragmatist view of truth run through the classicstages of a theory's career. Firstyou knowa new theory is attacked asabsurd; then it is admitted to be truebut obvious and insignificant; finallyit is seen to be so important that its adversaries claim that they themselvesdiscovered it. Our doctrine of truth is at present in the first of these threestageswith symptoms of the second stage having begun in certain quarters. Iwish that this lecture might help it beyond the first stage in the eyes of manyof you.
Truthas any dictionary will tell youis a property of certain of ourideas. It means their 'agreement' as falsity means their disagreementwith'reality.' Pragmatists and intellectualists both accept this definition as amatter of course. They begin to quarrel only after the question is raised as towhat may precisely be meant by the term 'agreement' and what by the term'reality' when reality is taken as something for our ideas to agree with.
In answering these questions the pragmatists are more analytic andpainstakingthe intellectualists more offhand and irreflective. The popularnotion is that a true idea must copy its reality. Like other popular viewsthisone follows the analogy of the most usual experience. Our true ideas of sensiblethings do indeed copy them. Shut your eyes and think of yonder clock on thewalland you get just such a true picture or copy of its dial. But your idea ofits 'works' (unless you are a clock-maker) is much less of a copyyet it passesmusterfor it in no way clashes with the reality. Even though it should shrinkto the mere word 'works' that word still serves you truly; and when you speakof the 'time-keeping function' of the clockor of its spring's 'elasticity' itis hard to see exactly what your ideas can copy.
You perceive that there is a problem here. Where our ideas cannot copydefinitely their objectwhat does agreement with that object mean? Someidealists seem to say that they are true whenever they are what God means thatwe ought to think about that object. Others hold the copy- view all throughandspeak as if our ideas possessed truth just in proportion as they approach tobeing copies of the Absolute's eternal way of thinking.
These viewsyou seeinvite pragmatistic discussion. But the greatassumption of the intellectualists is that truth means essentially an inertstatic relation. When you've got your true idea of anythingthere's an end ofthe matter. You're in possession; you know; you have fulfilled your thinkingdestiny. You are where you ought to be mentally; you have obeyed yourcategorical imperative; and nothing more need follow on that climax of yourrational destiny. Epistemologically you are in stable equilibrium.
Pragmatismon the other handasks its usual question. "Grant an ideaor belief to be true" it says"what concrete difference will itsbeing true make in any one's actual life? How will the truth be realized? Whatexperiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief werefalse? Whatin shortis the truth's cash-value in
The moment pragmatism asks this questionit sees the answer: True ideas arethose that we can assimilatevalidatecorroborateand verify. False ideas arethose that we can not. That is the practical difference it makes to us to havetrue ideas; thatthereforeis the meaning of truthfor it is all that truthis known-as.
This thesis is what I have to defend. The truth of an idea is not a stagnantproperty inherent in it. Truth happens to an idea. It
becomes trueis made true by events. Its verity is in fact an eventaprocess: the process namely of its verifying itselfits veri- fication. Itsvalidity is the process of its valid- ation.
But what do the words verification and validation themselves pragmaticallymean? They again signify certain practical consequences of the verified andvalidated idea. It is hard to find any one phrase that characterizes theseconsequences better than the ordinary agreement- formula- just such consequencesbeing what we have in mind whenever we say that out ideas 'agree' with reality.They lead usnamelythrough the acts and other ideas which they instigateinto or up toor towardsother parts of experience with which we feel all thewhile- such feeling being among our potentialities- that the original ideasremain in agreement. The connexions and transitions come to us from point topoint as being progressiveharmonioussatisfactory. This function of agreeableleading is what we mean by an idea's verification. Such an account is vague andit sounds at first quite trivialbut it has results which it will take the restof my hour to explain.
Let me begin by reminding you of the fact that the possession of truethoughts means everywhere the possession of invaluable instruments of action;and that our duty to gain truthso far from being a blank command from out ofthe blueor a 'stunt' self-imposed by our intellectcan account for itself byexcellent practical reasons.
The importance to human life of having true beliefs about matters of fact isa thing too notorious. We live in a world of realities that can be infinitelyuseful or infinitely harmful. Ideas that tell us which of them to expect countas the true ideas in all this primary sphere of verificationand the pursuit ofsuch ideas is a primary human duty. The possession of truthso far from beinghere an end in itselfis only a preliminary means towards other vitalsatisfactions. If I am lost in the woods and starvedand find what looks like acow-pathit is of the utmost importance that I should think of a humanhabitation at the end of itfor if I do so and follow itI save myself. Thetrue thought is useful here because the house which is its object is useful. Thepractical value of true ideas is thus primarily derived from the practicalimportance of their objects to us. Their objects areindeednot important atall times. I may on another occasion have no use for the house; and then my ideaof ithowever verifiablewill be practically irrelevantand had better remainlatent. Yet since almost any object may some day become temporarily importantthe advantage of having a general stock of extra truthsof ideas that shall betrue of merely possible situationsis obvious. We store such extra truths awayin our memoriesand with the overflow we fill our books of reference. Wheneversuch an extra truth becomes practically relevant to one of our emergenciesitpasses from cold-storage to do work in the world and our belief in it growsactive. You can say of it then either that 'it is useful because it is true' orthat 'it is true because it is useful.' Both these phrases mean exactly the samethingnamely that here is an idea that gets fulfilled and can be verified. Trueis the name for whatever idea starts the verification-processuseful is thename for its completed function in experience. True ideas would never have beensingled out as suchwould never have acquired a class-nameleast of all a namesuggesting valueunless they had been useful from the outset in this way.
From this simple cue pragmatism gets her general notion of truth as somethingessentially bound up with the way in which one moment in our experience may leadus towards other moments which it will be worth while to have been led to.Primarilyand on the common sense levelthe truth of a state of mind meansthis function of a leading that is worth while. When a moment in our experienceof any kind. whateverinspires us with a thought that is truethat means thatsooner or later we dip by that thought's guidance into the particulars ofexperience again and make advantageous connexion with them. This is a vagueenough statementbut I beg you to retain itfor it is essential.
Our experience meanwhile is all shot through with regularities. One bit of itcan warn us to get ready for another bitcan 'intend' or be 'significant of'that remoter object. The object's advent is the significance's verification.Truthin these casesmeaning nothing but eventual verificationis manifestlyincompatible with waywardness on our part. Woe to him whose beliefs play fastand loose with the order which realities follow in his experience; they willlead him nowhere or else make false connexions.
By 'realities' or 'objects' herewe mean either things of common sensesensibly presentor else common-sense relationssuch as datesplacesdistanceskindsactivities. Following our mental image of a house along thecow-pathwe actually come to see the house; we get the image's fullverification. Such simply and fully verified leadings are certainly theoriginals and prototypes of the truth-process. Experience offers indeed otherforms of truth-processbut they are all conceivable as being primaryverifications arrestedmultiplied or substituted one for another.
Takefor instanceyonder object on the wall. You and I consider it to be a'clock' altho no one of us has seen the hidden works that make it one. We letour notion pass for true without attempting to verify. If truths meanverification-process essentiallyought we then to call such unverified truthsas this abortive? Nofor they form the overwhelmingly large number of thetruths we live by. Indirect as well as direct verifications pass muster. Wherecircumstantial evidence is sufficientwe can go without eye-witnessing. Just aswe here assume Japan to exist without ever having been therebecause it worksto do soeverything we know conspiring with the beliefand nothinginterferingso we assume that thing to be a clock. We use it as a clockregulating the length of our lecture by it. The verification of the assumptionhere means its leading to no frustration or contradiction. Verifi ability ofwheels and weights and pendulum is as good as verification. For onetruth-process completed there are a million in our lives that function in thisstate of nascency. They turn us towards direct verification; lead us into thesurroundings of the objects they envisage; and thenif everything runs onharmoniouslywe are so sure that verification is possible that we omit itandare usually justified by all that happens.
Truth livesin factfor the most part on a credit system. Our thoughts andbeliefs 'pass' so long as nothing challenges themjust as bank-notes pass solong as nobody refuses them. But this all points to
direct face-to-face verifications somewherewithout which the fabric oftruth collapses like a financial system with no cash-basis whatever. You acceptmy verification of one thingI yours of another. We trade on each other'struth. But beliefs verified concretely by somebody are the posts of the wholesuperstructure.
Another great reason- beside economy of time- for waiving completeverification in the usual business of life is that all things exist in kinds andnot singly. Our world is found once for all to have that peculiarity. So thatwhen we have once directly verified our ideas about one specimen of a kindweconsider ourselves free to apply them to other specimens without verification. Amind that habitually discerns the kind of thing before itand acts by the lawof the kind immediatelywithout pausing to verifywill be a 'true' mind inninety- nine out of a hundred emergenciesproved so by its conduct fittingeverything it meetsand getting no refutation.
Indirectly or only potentially verifying processes may thus be true as wellas full verification-processes. They work as true processes would workgive usthe same advantagesand claim our recognition for the same reasons. All this onthe common-sense level of matters of factwhich we are alone considering.
But matters of fact are not our only stock in trade. Relations among purelymental ideas form another sphere where true and false beliefs obtainand herethe beliefs are absoluteor unconditional. When they are true they bear thename either of definitions or of principles. It is either a principle or adefinition that 1 and 1 make 2that 2 and 1 make 3and so on; that whitediffers less from gray than it does from black; that when the cause begins toact the effect also commences. Such propositions hold of all possible 'ones' ofall conceivable 'whites' and 'grays' and 'causes.' The objects here are mentalobjects. Their relations are perceptually obvious at a glanceand nosense-verification is necessary. Moreoveronce truealways trueof those samemental objects. Truth here has an 'eternal' character. If you can find aconcrete thing anywhere that is 'one' or 'white' or 'gray' or an 'effect' thenyour principles will everlastingly apply to it. It is but a case of ascertainingthe kindand then applying the law of its kind to the particular object. Youare sure to get truth if you can but name the kind rightlyfor your mentalrelations hold good of everything of that kind without exception. If you thenneverthelessfailed to get truth concretelyyou would say that you had classedyour real objects wrongly.
In this realm of mental relationstruth again is an affair of leading. Werelate one abstract idea with anotherframing in the end great systems oflogical and mathematical truthunder the respective terms of which the sensiblefacts of experience eventually arrange themselvesso that our eternal truthshold good of realities also. This marriage of fact and theory is endlesslyfertile. What we say is here already true in advance of special verificationifwe have subsumed our objects rightly. Our ready-made ideal framework for allsorts of possible objects follows from the very structure of our thinking. Wecan no more play fast and loose with these abstract relations than we can do sowith our sense-experiences. They coerce us; we must treat them consistentlywhether or not we like the results. The rules of addition apply to our debts asrigorously as to our assets. The hundredth decimal of pithe ratio of thecircumference to its diameteris predetermined ideally nowtho no one may havecomputed it. If we should ever need the figure in our dealings with an actualcircle we should need to have it given rightlycalculated by the usual rules;for it is the same kind of truth that those rules elsewhere calculate.
Between the coercions of the sensible order and those of the ideal orderourmind is thus wedged tightly. Our ideas must agree with realitiesbe suchrealities concrete or abstractbe they facts or be they principlesunderpenalty of endless inconsistency and frustration.
So farintellectualists can raise no protest. They can only say that we havebarely touched the skin of the matter.
Realities meantheneither concrete factsor abstract kinds of thing andrelations perceived intuitively between them. They furthermore and thirdly meanas things that new ideas of ours must no less take account ofthe whole body ofother truths already in our possession. But what now does 'agreement' with suchthreefold realities mean?- to use again the definition that is current
Here it is that pragmatism and intellectualism begin to part company.Primarilyno doubtto agree means to copybut we saw that the mere word'clock' would do instead of a mental picture of its worksand that of manyrealities our ideas can only be symbols and not copies. 'Past time' 'power''spontaneity'- how can our mind copy such realities?
To 'agree' in the widest sense with a reality can only mean to be guidedeither straight up to it or into its surroundingsor to be put into suchworking touch with it as to handle either it or something connected with itbetter than if we disagreed. Better either intellectually or practically! Andoften agreement will only mean the negative fact that nothing contradictory fromthe quarter of that reality comes to interfere with the way in which our ideasguide us elsewhere. To copy a reality isindeedone very important way ofagreeing with itbut it is far from being essential. The essential thing is theprocess of being guided. Any idea that helps us to
dealwhether practically or intellectuallywith either the reality or itsbelongingsthat doesn't entangle our progress in frustrationsthat fitsinfactand adapts our life to the reality's whole settingwill agreesufficiently to meet the requirement. It will hold true of that reality.
Thusnames are just as 'true' or 'false' as definite mental pictures are.They set up similar verification-processesand lead to fully equivalentpractical results.
All human thinking gets discursified; we exchange ideas; we lend and borrowverificationsget them from one another by means of social intercourse. Alltruth thus gets verbally built outstored upand made available for every one.Hencewe must talk consistently just as we must think consistently: for both intalk and thought we deal with kinds. Names are arbitrarybut once understoodthey must be kept to. We mustn't now call Abel 'Cain' or Cain 'Abel.' If we dowe ungear ourselves from the whole book of Genesisand from all its connexionswith the universe of speech and fact down to the present time. We throwourselves out of whatever truth that entire system of speech and fact mayembody.
The overwhelming majority of our true ideas admit of no direct orface-to-face verification- those of past historyfor exampleas of Cain andAbel. The stream of time can be remounted only verballyor verified indirectlyby the present prolongations or effects of what the past harbored. Yet if theyagree with these verbalities and effectswe
can know that our ideas of the past are true. As true as past time itselfwasso true was Julius Caesarso true were antediluvian monstersall in theirproper dates and settings. That past time itself wasis guaranteed by itscoherence with everything that's present. True as the present isthe past wasalso.
Agreement thus turns out to be essentially an affair of leading- leading thatis useful because it is into quarters that contain objects that are important.True ideas lead us into useful verbal and conceptual quarters as well asdirectly up to useful sensible termini. They lead to consistencystability andflowing human intercourse. They lead away from excentricity and isolationfromfoiled and barren thinking. The untrammelled flowing of the leading-processitsgeneral freedom from clash and contradictionpasses for its indirectverification; but all roads lead to Romeand in the end and eventuallyalltrue processes must lead to the face of directly verifying sensible experiences
somewherewhich somebody's ideas have copied.
Such is the large loose way in which the pragmatist interprets the wordagreement. He treats it altogether practically. He lets it cover any process ofconduction from a present idea to a future terminusprovided only it runprosperously. It is only thus that 'Scientific' ideasflying as they do beyondcommon sensecan be said to agree with their realities. It isas I havealready saidas if reality were made of etheratoms or electronsbut we mustn't think so literally. The term 'energy' does n't even pretend to stand foranything 'objective.' It is only a way of measuring the surface of phenomena soas to string their changes on a simple formula.
Yet in the choice of these man-made formulas we can not be capricious withimpunity any more than we can be capricious on the common-sense practical level.We must find a theory that will work; and that means something extremelydifficult; for our theory must mediate between all previous truths and certainnew experiences. It must derange common sense and previous belief as little aspossibleand it must lead to some sensible terminus or other that can beverified exactly. To 'work' means both these things; and the squeeze is so tightthat there is little loose play for any hypothesis. Our theories are wedged andcontrolled as nothing else is. Yet sometimes alternative theoretic formulas areequally compatible with all the truths we knowand then we choose between themfor subjective reasons. We choose the kind of theory to which we are alreadypartial; we follow 'elegance.' or 'economy.' Clerk-Maxwell somewhere says itwould be 'poor scientific taste' to choose the more complicated of two equallywell-evidenced conceptions; and you will all agree with him. Truth in science iswhat gives us the maximum possible sum of satisfactionstaste includedbutconsistency both with previous truth and with novel fact is always the mostimperious claimant.
I have led you through a very sandy desert. But nowif I may be allowed sovulgar an expressionwe begin to taste the milk in the cocoa-nut. Ourrationalist critics here discharge their batteries upon usand to reply to themwill take us out from all this dryness into full sight of a momentousphilosophical alternative.
Our account of truth is an account of truths in the pluralof processes ofleadingrealized in rebusand having only this quality in commonthat theypay. They pay by guiding us into or towards some part of a system that dips atnumerous points into sense- perceptswhich we may copy mentally or notbutwith which at any rate we are now in the kind of commerce vaguely designated asverification. Truth for us is simply a collective name for verificationprocessesjust as healthwealthstrengthetc.are names for other processesconnected with lifeand also pursued because it pays to pursue them. Truth ismadejust as healthwealth and strength are madein the course of experience.
Here rationalism is instantaneously up in arms against us. I can imagine arationalist to talk as follows:
"Truth is not made" he will say; "it absolutely obtainsbeing a unique relation that does not wait upon any processbut shoots straightover the head of experienceand hits its reality every time. Our belief thatyon thing on the wall is a clock is true alreadyaltho no one in the wholehistory of the world should verify it. The bare quality of standing in thattranscendent relation is what makes any thought true that possesses itwhetheror not there be verification. You pragmatists put the cart before the horse inmaking truth's being reside in verification-processes. These are merely signs ofits beingmerely our lame ways of ascertaining after the factwhich of ourideas already has possessed the wondrous quality. The quality itself istimelesslike all essences and natures. Thoughts partake of it directlyasthey partake of falsity or of irrelevancy. It can't be analyzed away intopragmatic consequences."
The whole plausibility of this rationalist tirade is due to the fact to whichwe have already paid so much attention. In our worldnamelyabounding as itdoes in things of similar kinds and similarly associatedone verificationserves for others of its kindand one great use of knowing things is to be lednot so much to them as to their associatesespecially to human talk about them.The quality of truthobtaining ante rempragmatically meansthenthe factthat in such a world innumerable ideas work better by their indirect or possiblethan by their direct and actual verification. Truth ante rem means onlyverifiabilitythen; or else it is a case of the stock rationalist trick oftreating the name of a concrete phenomenal reality as an independent priorentityand placing it behind the reality as its explanation. Professor Machquotes somewhere an epigram of Lessing's:
Sagt Hanschen Schlau zu Vetter Fritz
"Wie kommt esVetter Fritzen
Dass grad' die Reichsten in der Welt
Das meiste Geld besitzen?"
Hanschen Schlau here treats the principle 'wealth' as something distinct fromthe facts denoted by the man's being rich. It antedates them; the facts becomeonly a sort of secondary coincidence with the rich man's essential nature.
In the case of 'wealth' we all see the fallacy. We know that wealth is but aname for concrete processes that certain men's lives play a part inand not anatural excellence found in Messrs. Rockefeller and Carnegiebut not in therest of us.
Like wealthhealth also lives in rebus. It is a name for processesasdigestioncirculationsleepetc.that go on happilytho in this instance weare more inclined to think of it as a principle and to say the man digests andsleeps so well because he is so healthy.
With 'strength' we areI thinkmore rationalistic stilland decidedlyinclined to treat it as an excellence pre-existing in the man and explanatory ofthe Herculean performances of his muscles.
With 'truth' most people go over the border entirelyand treat therationalistic account as self-evident. But really all these words in
th are exactly similar. Truth exists ante rem just as much and as little asthe other things do.
The scholasticsfollowing Aristotlemade much of the distinction betweenhabit and act. Health in actu meansamong other thingsgood sleeping anddigesting. But a healthy man need not always be sleepingor always digestingany more than a wealthy man need be always handling moneyor a strong manalways lifting weights. All such qualities sink to the status of 'habits'between their times of exercise; and similarly truth becomes a habit of certainof our ideas and beliefs in their intervals of rest from their verifyingactivities. But those activities are the root of the whole matterand thecondition of there being any habit to exist in the intervals.
'The true' to put it very brieflyis only the expedient in the way of ourthinkingjust as 'the right' is only the expedient in the way of our behaving.Expedient in almost any fashion; and expedient in the long run and on the wholeof course; for what meets expediently all the experience in sight won'tnecessarily meet all farther experiences equally satisfactorily. Experienceaswe knowhas ways of boiling overand making us correct our present formulas.
The 'absolutely' truemeaning what no farther experience will ever alteristhat ideal vanishing-point towards which we imagine that all our temporarytruths will some day converge. It runs on all fours with the perfectly wise manand with the absolutely complete experience; andif these ideals are everrealizedthey will all be realized together. Meanwhile we have to live to-dayby what truth we can get to- dayand be ready to-morrow to call it falsehood.Ptolemaic astronomyEuclidean spaceAristotelian logicscholasticmetaphysicswere expedient for centuriesbut human experience has boiled overthose limitsand we now call these things only relatively trueor true withinthose borders of experience. 'Absolutely' they are false; for we know that thoselimits were casualand might have been transcended by past theorists just asthey are by present thinkers.
When new experiences lead to retrospective judgmentsusing the past tensewhat these judgments utter was trueeven tho no past thinker had been ledthere. We live forwardsa Danish thinker has saidbut we understand backwards.The present sheds a backward light on the world's previous processes. They mayhave been truth-processes for the actors in them. They are not so for one whoknows the later revelations of the story.
This regulative notion of a potential better truth to be established laterpossibly to be established some day absolutelyand having powers of retroactivelegislationturns its facelike all pragmatist notionstowards concretenessof factand towards the future. Like the half- truthsthe absolute truth willhave to be mademade as a relation incidental to the growth of a mass ofverification-experienceto which the half-true ideas are all along contributingtheir quota.
I have already insisted on the fact that truth is made largely out ofprevious truths. Men's beliefs at any time are so much experience
funded. But the beliefs are themselves parts of the sum total of the world'sexperienceand become matterthereforefor the next day's funding operations.So far as reality means experienceable realityboth it and the truths men gainabout it are everlastingly in process of mutation- mutation towards a definitegoalit may be- but still mutation.
Mathematicians can solve problems with two variables. On the Newtoniantheoryfor instanceacceleration varies with distancebut distance alsovaries with acceleration. In the realm of truth-processes facts comeindependently and determine our beliefs provisionally. But these beliefs make usactand as fast as they do sothey bring into sight or into existence newfacts which re-determine the beliefs accordingly. So the whole coil and ball oftruthas it rolls upis the product of a double influence. Truths emerge fromfacts; but they dip forward into facts again and add to them; which facts againcreate or reveal new truth (the word is indifferent) and so on indefinitely. The'facts' themselves meanwhile are not true. They simply are. Truth is thefunction of the beliefs that start and terminate among them.
The case is like a snowball's growthdue as it is to the distribution of thesnow on the one handand to the successive pushes of the boys on the otherwith these factors co-determining each other incessantly.
The most fateful point of difference between being a rationalist and being apragmatist is now fully in sight. Experience is in mutationand ourpsychological ascertainments of truth are in mutation- so much rationalism willallow; but never that either reality itself or truth itself is mutable. Realitystands complete and ready-made from all eternityrationalism insistsand theagreement of our ideas with it is that unique unanalyzable virtue in them ofwhich she has already told us. As that intrinsic excellencetheir truth hasnothing to do with our experiences. It adds nothing to the content ofexperience. It makes no difference to reality itself; it is supervenientinertstatica reflexion merely. It doesn't existit holds or obtainsit belongs toanother dimension from that of either facts or fact- relationsbelongsinshortto the epistemological dimension- and with that big word rationalismcloses the discussion.
Thusjust as pragmatism faces forward to the futureso does rationalismhere again face backward to a past eternity. True to her inveterate habitrationalism reverts to 'principles' and thinks that when an abstraction once isnamedwe own an oracular solution.
The tremendous pregnancy in the way of consequences for life of this radicaldifference of outlook will only become apparent in my later lectures. I wishmeanwhile to close this lecture by showing that rationalism's sublimity does notsave it from inanity.
Whennamelyyou ask rationalistsinstead of accusing pragmatism ofdesecrating the notion of truthto define it themselves by saying exactly whatthey understand by itthe only positive attempts I can think of are these two:
1. "Truth is the system of propositions which have an unconditionalclaim to be recognized as valid." *009
2. Truth is a name for all those judgments which we find ourselves underobligation to make by a kind of imperative duty. *010
The first thing that strikes one in such definitions is their unutterabletriviality. They are absolutely trueof coursebut
absolutely insignificant until you handle them pragmatically. What do youmean by 'claim' hereand what do you mean by 'duty'? As summary names for theconcrete reasons why thinking in true ways is overwhelmingly expedient and goodfor mortal menit is all right to talk of claims on reality's part to be agreedwithand of obligations on our part to agree. We feel both the claims and theobligationsand we feel them for just those reasons.
But the rationalists who talk of claim and obligation expressly say that theyhave nothing to do with our practical interests or personal reasons. Our reasonsfor agreeing are psychological factsthey sayrelative to each thinkerand tothe accidents of his life. They are his evidence merelythey are no part of thelife of truth itself. That life transacts itself in a purely logical orepistemologicalas distinguished from a psychologicaldimensionand itsclaims antedate and exceed all personal motivations whatsoever. Tho neither mannor God should ever ascertain truththe word would still have to be defined asthat which ought to be ascertained and recognized.
There never was a more exquisite example of an idea abstracted from theconcretes of experience and then used to oppose and negate what it wasabstracted from.
Philosophy and common life abound in similar instances. The 'sentimentalistfallacy' is to shed tears over abstract justice and generositybeautyetc.and never to know these qualities when you meet them in the streetbecause thecircumstances make them vulgar. Thus I read in the privately printed biographyof an eminently rationalistic mind: "It was strange that with suchadmiration for beauty in the abstractmy brother had no enthusiasm for finearchitecturefor beautiful paintingor for flowers." And in almost thelast philosophic work I have readI find such passages as the following:"Justice is idealsolely ideal. Reason conceives that it ought to existbut experience shows that it can not.... Truthwhich ought to becan notbe.... Reason is deformed by experience. As soon as reason enters experience itbecomes contrary to reason."
The rationalist's fallacy here is exactly like the sentimentalist's. Bothextract a quality from the muddy particulars of experienceand find it so purewhen extracted that they contrast it with each and all its muddy instances as anopposite and higher nature. All the while it is their nature. It is the natureof truths to be validatedverified. It pays for our ideas to be validated. Ourobligation to seek truth is part of our general obligation to do what pays. Thepayments true ideas bring are the sole why of our duty to follow them. Identicalwhys exist in the case of wealth and health.
Truth makes no other kind of claim and imposes no other kind of ought thanhealth and wealth do. All these claims are conditional; the concrete benefits wegain are what we mean by calling the pursuit a duty. In the case of truthuntrue beliefs work as perniciously in the long run as true beliefs workbeneficially. Talking abstractlythe quality 'true' may thus be said to growabsolutely precious and the quality 'untrue' absolutely damnable: the one may becalled goodthe other badunconditionally. We ought to think the trueweought to shun the falseimperatively.
But if we treat all this abstraction literally and oppose it to its mothersoil in experiencesee what a preposterous position we work ourselves into.
We can not then take a step forward in our actual thinking. When shall Iacknowledge this truth and when that? Shall the acknowledgment be loud?- orsilent? If sometimes loudsometimes silentwhich now? When may a truth go intocold-storage in the encyclopedia? and when shall it come out for battle? Must Iconstantly be repeating the truth 'twice two are four' because of its eternalclaim on recognition? or is it sometimes irrelevant? Must my thoughts dwellnight and day on my personal sins and blemishesbecause I truly have them?- ormay I sink and ignore them in order to be a decent social unitand not a massof morbid melancholy and apology?
It is quite evident that our obligation to acknowledge truthso far frombeing unconditionalis tremendously conditioned. Truth with a big Tand in thesingularclaims abstractly to be recognizedof course; but concrete truths inthe plural need be recognized only when their recognition is expedient. A truthmust always be preferred to a falsehood when both relate to the situation; butwhen neither doestruth is as little of a duty as falsehood. If you ask me whato'clock it is and I tell you that I live at 95 Irving Streetmy answer mayindeed be truebut you don't see why it is my duty to give it. A false addresswould be as much to the purpose.
With this admission that there are conditions that limit the application ofthe abstract imperativethe pragmatistic treatment of truth sweeps back upon usin its fulness. Our duty to agree with reality is seen to be grounded in aperfect jungle of concrete expediencies.
When Berkeley had explained what people meant by matterpeople thought thathe denied matter's existence. When Messrs. Schiller and Dewey now explain whatpeople mean by truththey are accused of denying
its existence. These pragmatists destroy all objective standardscriticssayand put foolishness and wisdom on one level. A favorite formula fordescribing Mr. Schiller's doctrines and mine is that we are persons who thinkthat by saying whatever you find it pleasant to say and calling it truth youfulfil every pragmatistic requirement.
I leave it to you to judge whether this be not an impudent slander. Pent inas the pragmatist more than any one else sees himself to bebetween the wholebody of funded truths squeezed from the past and the coercions of the world ofsense about himwho so well as he feels the immense pressure of objectivecontrol under which our minds perform their operations? If any one imagines thatthis law is laxlet him keep its commandment one daysays Emerson. We haveheard much of late of the uses of the imagination in science. It is high time tourge the use of a little imagination in philosophy. The unwillingness of some ofour critics to read any but the silliest of possible meanings into ourstatements is as discreditable to their imaginations as anything I know inrecent philosophic history. Schiller says the true is that which 'works.'Thereupon he is treated as one who limits verification to the lowest materialutilities. Dewey says truth is what gives 'satisfaction.' He is treated as onewho believes in calling everything true whichif it were truewould bepleasant.
Our critics certainly need more imagination of realities. I have honestlytried to stretch my own imagination and to read the best possible meaning intothe rationalist conceptionbut I have to confess that it still completelybaffles me. The notion of a reality calling on us to 'agree' with itand thatfor no reasonsbut simply because its claim is 'unconditional' or'transcendent' is one that I can make neither head nor tail of. I try toimagine myself as the sole reality in the worldand then to imagine what more Iwould 'claim' if I were allowed to. If you suggest the possibility of myclaiming that a mind should come into being from out of the void inane and standand copy meI can indeed imagine what the copying might meanbut I can conjureup no motive. What good it would do me to be copiedor what good it would dothat mind to copy meif further consequences are expressly and in principleruled out as motives for the claim (as they are by our rationalist authorities)I can not fathom. When the Irishman's admirers ran him along to the place ofbanquet in a sedan chair with no bottomhe said"Faithif it wasn't forthe honor of the thingI might as well have come on foot." So here: butfor the honor of the thingI might as well have remained uncopied. Copying isone genuine mode of knowing (which for some strange reason our contemporarytranscendentalists seem to be tumbling over each other to repudiate); but whenwe get beyond copyingand fall back on unnamed forms of agreeing that areexpressly denied to be either copyings or leadings or fittingsor any otherprocesses pragmatically definablethe what of the 'agreement' claimed becomesas unintelligible as the why of it. Neither content nor motive can be imaginedfor it. It is an absolutely meaningless abstraction. *011
Surely in this field of truth it is the pragmatists and not the rationalistswho are the more genuine defenders of the universe's rationality.
Lecture VII: Pragmatism and Humanism
WHAT hardens the heart of every one I approach with the view of truthsketched in my last lecture is that typical idol of the tribethe notion of theTruthconceived as the one answerdeterminate and completeto the one fixedenigma which the world is believed to propound. For popular traditionit is allthe better if the answer be oracularso as itself to awaken wonder as an enigmaof the second orderveiling rather than revealing what its profundities aresupposed to contain. All the great single-word answers to the world's riddlesuch as Godthe OneReasonLawSpiritMatterNaturePolaritytheDialectic Processthe Ideathe Selfthe Oversouldraw the admiration thatmen have lavished on them from this oracular role. By amateurs in philosophy andprofessionals alikethe universe is represented as a queer sort of petrifiedsphinx whose appeal to men consists in a monotonous challenge to his diviningpowers. The Truth: what a perfect idol of the rationalistic mind! I read in anold letter- from a gifted friend who died too young- these words: "Ineverythingin scienceartmorals and religionthere must be one system thatis right and every other wrong." How characteristic of the enthusiasm of acertain stage of youth! At twenty-one we rise to such a challenge and expect tofind the system. It never occurs to most of us even later that the question'what is the truth?' is no real question (being irrelative to all conditions)and that the whole notion of the truth is an abstraction from the fact of truthsin the plurala mere useful summarizing phrase like the Latin Language or theLaw.
Common-law judges sometimes talk about the lawand schoolmasters talk aboutthe Latin tonguein a way to make their hearers think they mean entitiespre-existent to the decisions or to the words and syntaxdetermining themunequivocally and requiring them to obey. But the slightest exercise ofreflexion makes us see thatinstead of being principles of this kindboth lawand Latin are results. Distinctions between the lawful and the unlawful inconductor between the correct and incorrect in speechhave grown upincidentally among the interactions of men's experiences in detail; and in noother way do distinctions between the true and the false in belief ever grow up.Truth grafts itself on previous truthmodifying it in the processjust asidiom grafts itself on previous idiomand law on previous law. Given previouslaw and a novel caseand the judge will twist them into fresh law. Previousidiom; new slang or metaphor or oddity that hits the public taste;- and prestoa new idiom is made. Previous truth; fresh facts:- and our mind finds a newtruth.
All the whilehoweverwe pretend that the eternal is unrollingthat theone previous justicegrammar or truth are simply fulgurating and not beingmade. But imagine a youth in the courtroom trying cases with his abstract notionof 'the' lawor a censor of speech let loose among the theatres with his ideaof 'the' mother-tongueor a professor setting up to lecture on the actualuniverse with his rationalistic notion of 'the Truth' with a big Tand whatprogress do they make? Truthlawand language fairly boil away from them atthe least touch of novel fact. These things make themselves as we go. Ourrightswrongsprohibitionspenaltieswordsformsidiomsbeliefsare somany new creations that add themselves as fast as history proceeds. Far frombeing antecedent principles that animate the processlawlanguagetruth arebut abstract names for its results.
Laws and languages at any rate are thus seen to be man-made things. Mr.Schiller applies the analogy to beliefsand proposes the name of 'Humanism' forthe doctrine that to an unascertainable extent our truths are man-made productstoo. Human motives sharpen all our questionshuman satisfactions lurk in allour answersall our formulas have a human twist. This element is soinextricable in the products that Mr. Schiller sometimes seems almost to leaveit an open question whether there be anything else. "The world" hesays"is essentially uleit is what we make it. It is fruitless to defineit by what it originally was or by what it is apart from us; it is what is madeof it. Hence... the world is plastic." *012 He adds that we can learn thelimits of the plasticity only by tryingand that we ought to start as if itwere wholly plasticacting methodically on that assumptionand stopping onlywhen we are decisively rebuked.
This is Mr. Schiller's butt-end-foremost statement of the humanist positionand it has exposed him to severe attack. I mean to defend the humanist positionin this lectureso I will insinuate a few remarks at this point.
Mr. Schiller admits as emphatically as any one the presence of resistingfactors in every actual experience of truth-makingof which the new-madespecial truth must take accountand with which it has perforce to 'agree.' Allour truths are beliefs about 'Reality'; and in any particular belief the realityacts as something independentas a thing foundnot manufactured. Let me hererecall a bit of my last lecture.
'Reality' is in general what truths have to take account of; *013 and thefirst part of reality from this point of view is the flux of our sensations.Sensations are forced upon uscoming we know not whence. Over their natureorder and quantity we have as good as no control. They are neither true norfalse; they simply are. It is only what we say about themonly the names wegive themour theories of their source and nature and remote relationsthatmay be true or
The second part of realityas something that our beliefs must alsoobediently take account of is the relations that obtain between our sensationsor between their copies in our minds. This part falls into two sub-parts: 1) therelations that are mutable and accidentalas those of date and place; and 2)those that are fixed and essential because they are grounded on the innernatures of their terms. Both sorts of relation are matters of immediateperception. Both are 'facts.' But it is the latter kind of fact that forms themore important sub-part of reality for our theories of knowledge. Innerrelations namely are 'eternal' are perceived whenever their sensible terms arecompared; and of them our thought- mathematical and logical thought so-called-must eternally take account.
The third part of realityadditional to these perceptions (tho largely basedupon them)is the previous truths of which every new inquiry takes account.This third part is a much less obdurately resisting factor: it often ends bygiving way. In speaking of these three portions of reality as at all timescontrolling our belief's formationI am only reminding you of what we heard inour last hour.
Now however fixed these elements of reality may bewe still have a certainfreedom in our dealings with them. Take our sensations. That they are isundoubtedly beyond our control; but which we attend tonoteand make emphaticin our conclusions depends on our own interests; andaccording as we lay theemphasis here or therequite different formulations of truth result. We readthe same facts differently. 'Waterloo' with the same fixed detailsspells a'victory' for an Englishman; for a Frenchman it spells a 'defeat.' Sofor anoptimist philosopher the universe spells victoryfor a pessimistdefeat.
What we say about reality thus depends on the perspective into which we throwit. The that of it is its own; but the what depends on the which; and the whichdepends on us. Both the sensational and the relational parts of reality aredumb; they say absolutely nothing about themselves. We it is who have to speakfor them. This dumbness of sensations has led such intellectualists as T. H.Green and Edward Caird to shove them almost beyond the pale of philosophicrecognitionbut pragmatists refuse to go so far. A sensation is rather like aclient who has given his case to a lawyer and then has passively to listen inthe courtroom to whatever account of his affairspleasant or unpleasantthelawyer finds it most expedient to give.
Henceeven in the field of sensationour minds exert a certain arbitrarychoice. By our inclusions and omissions we trace the field's extent; by ouremphasis we mark its foreground and its background; by our order we read it inthis direction or in that. We receive in short the block of marblebut we carvethe statue ourselves.
This applies to the 'eternal' parts of reality as well: we shuffle ourperceptions of intrinsic relation and arrange them just as freely. We read themin one serial order or anotherclass them in this way or in thattreat one orthe other as more fundamentaluntil our beliefs about them form those bodies oftruth known as logicsgeometricsor arithmeticsin each and all of which theform and order in which the whole is cast is flagrantly man-made.
Thusto say nothing of the new facts which men add to the matter of realityby the acts of their own livesthey have already impressed their mental formson that whole third of reality which I have called 'previous truths.' Every hourbrings its new perceptsits own facts of sensation and relationto be trulytaken account of; but the whole of our past dealings with such facts is alreadyfunded in the previous truths. It is therefore only the smallest and recentestfraction of the first two parts of reality that comes to us without the humantouchand that fraction has immediately to become humanized in the sense ofbeing squaredassimilatedor in some way adaptedto the humanized massalready there. As a matter of fact we can hardly take in an impression at allin the absence of a preconception of what impressions there may possibly be.
When we talk of reality 'independent' of human thinkingthenit seems athing very hard to find. It reduces to the notion of what is just entering intoexperience and yet to be namedor else to some imagined aboriginal presence inexperiencebefore any belief about the presence had arisenbefore any humanconception had been applied. It is what is absolutely dumb and evanescentthemerely ideal limit of our minds. We may glimpse itbut we never grasp it; whatwe grasp is always some substitute for it which previous human thinking haspeptonized and cooked for our consumption. If so vulgar an expression wereallowed uswe might say that wherever we find itit has been already faked.This is what Mr. Schiller has in mind when he calls independent reality a mereunresisting ule which is only to be made over by us.
That is Mr. Schiller's belief about the sensible core of reality. We'encounter' it (in Mr. Bradley's words) but don't possess it. Superficially thissounds like Kant's view; but between categories fulminated before nature beganand categories gradually forming themselves in nature's presencethe wholechasm between rationalism and empiricism yawns. To the genuine 'Kantianer'Schiller will always be to Kant as a satyr to Hyperion.
Other pragmatists may reach more positive beliefs about the sensible core ofreality. They may think to get at it in its independent natureby peeling offthe successive man-made wrappings. They may make theories that tell us where itcomes from and all about it; and if these theories work satisfactorily they willbe true. The transcendental idealists say there is no corethe finallycompleted wrapping being reality and truth in one. Scholasticism still teachesthat the core is 'matter.' Professor BergsonHeymansStrongand othersbelieve in the core and bravely try to define it. Messrs. Dewey and Schillertreat it as a 'limit.' Which is the truer of all these diverse accountsor ofothers comparable with themunless it be the one that finally proves the mostsatisfactory? On the one hand there will stand realityon the other an accountof it which it proves impossible to better or to alter. If the impossibilityprove permanentthe truth of the account will be absolute. Other content oftruth than this I can find nowhere. If the anti-pragmatists have any othermeaninglet them for heaven's sake reveal itlet them grant us access to it!
Not being realitybut only our belief about realityit will contain humanelementsbut these will know the non-human elementin the only sense in whichthere can be knowledge of anything. Does the river make its banksor do thebanks make the river? Does a man walk with his right leg or with his left legmore essentially? Just as impossible may it be to separate the real from thehuman factors in the growth of our cognitive experience.
Let this stand as a first brief indication of the humanistic position. Doesit seem paradoxical? If soI will try to make it plausible by a fewillustrationswhich will lead to a fuller acquaintance with the subject.
In many familiar objects every one will recognize the human element. Weconceive a given reality in this way or in thatto suit our purposeand thereality passively submits to the conception. You can take the number 27 as thecube of 3or as the product of 3 and 9or as 26
plus 1or 100 minus 73or in countless other waysof which one will bejust as true as another. You can take a chess-board as black squares on a whitegroundor as white squares on a black groundand neither conception is a falseone.
You can treat the adjoined figure (see illustration) as a staras two bigtriangles crossing each otheras a hexagon with legs set up on its anglesassix equal triangles hanging together by their tipsetc. All these treatmentsare true treatments- the sensible that upon the paper resists no one of them.You can say of a line that it runs eastor you can say that it runs westandthe line per se accepts both descriptions without rebelling at theinconsistency.
We carve out groups of stars in the heaven'sand call them constellationsand the stars patiently suffer us to do so- though if they knew what we weredoingsome of them might feel much surprised at the partners we had given them.We name the same constellation diverselyas Charles's Wainthe Great Bearorthe Dipper. None of the names will be falseand one will be as true as anotherfor all are applicable.
In all these cases we humanly make an addition to some sensible realityandthat reality tolerates the addition. All the additions 'agree' with the reality;they fit itwhile they build it out. No one of them is false. Which may betreated as the more truedepends altogether on the human use of it. If the 27is a number of dollars which I find in a drawer where I had left 28it is 28minus 1. If it is the number of inches in a board which I wish to insert as ashelf into a cupboard 26 inches wideit is 26 plus 1. If I wish to ennoble theheavens by the constellations I see there'Charles's Wain' would be more truethan 'Dipper.' My friend Frederick Myers was humorously indignant that thatprodigious star-group should remind us Americans of nothing but a culinaryutensil.
What shall we call a thing anyhow? It seems quite arbitraryfor we carve outeverythingjust as we carve out constellationsto suit our human purposes. Formethis whole 'audience' is one thingwhich grows now restlessnow attentive.I have no use at present for its individual unitsso I don't consider them. Soof an 'army' of a 'nation.' But in your own eyesladies and gentlemento callyou 'audience' is an accidental way of taking you. The permanently real thingsfor you are your individual persons. To an anatomistagainthose persons arebut organismsand the real things are the organs. Not the organsso much astheir constituent cellssay the histologists; not the cellsbut theirmoleculessay in turn the chemists.
We break the flux of sensible reality into thingsthenat our will. Wecreate the subjects of our true as well as of our false propositions.
We create the predicates also. Many of the predicates of things express onlythe relations of the things to us and to our feelings. Such predicates of courseare human additions. Caesar crossed the Rubiconand was a menace to Rome'sfreedom. He is also an American schoolroom pestmade into one by the reactionof our schoolboys on his writings. The added predicate is as true of him as theearlier ones.
You see how naturally one comes to the humanistic principle: you can't weedout the human contribution. Our nouns and adjectives are all humanizedheirloomsand in the theories we build them intothe inner order andarrangement is wholly dictated by human considerationsintellectual consistencybeing one of them. Mathematics and logic themselves are fermenting with humanrearrangements; physicsastronomy and biology follow massive cues ofpreference. We plunge forward into the field of fresh experience with thebeliefs our ancestors and we have made already; these determine what we notice;what we notice determines what we do; what we do again determines what weexperience; so from one thing to anotheraltho the stubborn fact remains thatthere is a sensible fluxwhat is true of it seems from first to last to belargely a matter of our own creation.
We build the flux out inevitably. The great question is: does itwith ouradditionsrise or fall in value? Are the additions worthy or unworthy? Supposea universe composed of seven starsand nothing else but three human witnessesand their critic. One witness names the stars 'Great Bear'; one calls them'Charles's Wain'; one calls them the 'Dipper.' Which human addition has made thebest universe of the given stellar material? If Frederick Myers were the critiche would have no hesitation in 'turning down' the American witness.
Lotze has in several places made a deep suggestion. We naively assumehesaysa relation between reality and our minds which may be just the opposite ofthe true one. Realitywe naturally thinkstands ready-made and completeandour intellects supervene with the one simple duty of describing it as it isalready. But may not our descriptionsLotze asksbe themselves importantadditions to reality? And may not previous reality itself be therefar less forthe purpose of reappearing unaltered in our knowledgethan for the very purposeof stimulating our minds to such additions as shall enhance the universe's totalvalue.
'Die erhohung des vorgefundenen daseins' is a phrase used by Professor Euckensomewherewhich reminds one of this suggestion by the great Lotze.
It is identically our pragmatistic conception. In our cognitive as well as inour active life we are creative. We addboth to the subject and to thepredicate part of reality. The world stands really malleablewaiting to receiveits final touches at our hands. Like the kingdom of heavenit suffers humanviolence willingly. Man
engenders truths upon it.
No one can deny that such a role would add both to our dignity and to ourresponsibility as thinkers. To some of us it proves a most inspiring notion.Signore Papinithe leader of Italian pragmatismgrows fairly dithyrambic overthe view that it opens of man's divinely creative functions.
The import of the difference between pragmatism and rationalism is now insight throughout its whole extent. The essential contrast is that
for rationalism reality is ready-made and complete from all eternitywhilefor pragmatism it is still in the makingand awaits part of its complexion fromthe future. On the one side the universe is absolutely secureon the other itis still pursuing its adventures.
We have got into rather deep water with this humanistic viewand it is nowonder that misunderstanding gathers round it. It is accused of being a doctrineof caprice. Mr. Bradleyfor examplesays that a humanist if he understood hisown doctrinewould have to 'hold any endhowever pervertedto be rationalifI insist on it personallyand any ideahowever madto be the truth if onlysome one is resolved that he will have it so.' The humanist view of 'reality'as something resistingyet malleablewhich controls our thinking as an energythat must be taken 'account' of incessantly (tho not necessarily merely
copied ) is evidently a difficult one to introduce to novices. The situationreminds me of one that I have personally gone through. I once wrote an essay onour right to believewhich I unluckily called the
Will to Believe. All the criticsneglecting the essaypounced upon thetitle. Psychologically it was impossiblemorally it was iniquitous. The 'willto deceive' the 'will to make-believe' were wittily proposed as substitutesfor it.
The alternative between pragmatism and rationalismin the shape in which wenow have it before usis no longer a question in the theory of knowledgeitconcerns the structure of the universe itself.
On the pragmatist side we have only one edition of the universeunfinishedgrowing in all sorts of placesespecially in the places where thinking beingsare at work.
On the rationalist side we have a universe in many editionsone real onethe infinite folioor edition de luxeeternally complete; and then the variousfinite editionsfull of false readingsdistorted and mutilated each in its ownway.
So the rival metaphysical hypotheses of pluralism and monism here come backupon us. I will develop their differences during the remainder of our hour.
And first let me say that it is impossible not to see a temperamentaldifference at work in the choice of sides. The rationalist mindradicallytakenis of a doctrinaire and authoritative complexion: the phrase 'must be' isever on its lips. The bellyband of its universe must be tight. A radicalpragmatist on the other hand is a happy-go- lucky anarchistic sort of creature.If he had to live in a tub like Diogenes he wouldn't mind at all if the hoopswere loose and the staves let in the sun.
Now the idea of this loose universe affects your typical rationalists in muchthe same way as 'freedom of the press' might affect a veteran official in theRussian bureau of censorship; or as 'simplified spelling' might affect anelderly schoolmistress. It affects him as the swarm of protestant sects affectsa papist onlooker. It appears as backboneless and devoid of principle as'opportunism' in politics appears to an old-fashioned French legitimistor to afanatical believer in the divine right of the people.
For pluralistic pragmatismtruth grows up inside of all the finiteexperiences. They lean on each otherbut the whole of themif such a wholethere beleans on nothing. All 'homes' are in finite experience; finiteexperience as such is homeless. Nothing outside of the flux secures the issue ofit. It can hope salvation only from its own intrinsic promises and potencies.
To rationalists this describes a tramp and vagrant worldadrift in spacewith neither elephant nor tortoise to plant the sole of its foot upon. It is aset of stars hurled into heaven without even a centre of gravity to pullagainst. In other spheres of life it is true that we have got used to living ina state of relative insecurity. The authority of 'the State' and that of anabsolute 'moral law' have resolved themselves into expedienciesand holychurch has resolved itself into 'meeting-houses.' Not so as yet within thephilosophic classrooms. A universe with such as us contributing to create itstrutha world delivered to our opportunisms and our private judgments!Home-rule for Ireland would be a millennium in comparison. We're no more fit forsuch a part than the Filipinos are 'fit for self-government.' Such a world wouldnot be respectable philosophically. It is a trunk without a taga dog without acollar in the eyes of most professors of philosophy.
What then would tighten this loose universeaccording to the professors?
Something to support the finite manyto tie it toto unify and anchor it.Something un exposed to accidentsomething eternal and unalterable. The mutablein experience must be founded on immutability. Behind our de facto worldourworld in actthere must be a de jure duplicate fixed and previouswith allthat can happen here already there in posseevery drop of bloodevery smallestitemappointed and providedstamped and brandedwithout chance of variation.The negatives that haunt our ideals here below must be themselves negated in theabsolutely Real. This alone makes the universe solid. This is the resting deep.We live upon the stormy surface; but with this our anchor holdsfor it grapplesrocky bottom. This is Wordsworth's 'eternal peace abiding at the heart ofendless agitation.' This is Vivekananda's mystic One of which I read to you.This is Reality with the big Rreality that makes the timeless claimrealityto which defeat can't happen. This is what the men of principlesand in generalall the men whom I called tender-minded in my first lecturethink themselvesobliged to postulate.
And thisexactly thisis what the tough-minded of that lecture findthemselves moved to call a piece of perverse abstraction-worship. Thetough-minded are the men whose alpha and omega are facts. Behind the barephenomenal factsas my tough-minded old friend Chauncey Wrightthe greatHarvard empiricist of my youthused to saythere is
nothing. When a rationalist insists that behind the facts there is the groundof the factsthe possibility of the factsthe tougher empiricists accuse himof taking the mere name and nature of a fact and clapping it behind the fact asa duplicate entity to make it possible. That such sham grounds are often invokedis notorious. At a surgical operation I once heard a bystander ask a doctor whythe patient breathed so deeply. 'Because ether is a respiratory stimulant' thedoctor answered. 'Ah!' said the questioneras if that were a good explanation.But this is like saying that cyanide of potassium kills because it is a'poison' or that it is so cold to-night because it is 'winter' or that we havefive fingers because we are 'pentadactyls.' These are but names for the factstaken from the factsand then treated as previous and explanatory. Thetender-minded notion of an absolute reality isaccording to the radicallytough-mindedframed on just this pattern. It is but our summarizing name forthe whole spread- out and strung-along mass of phenomenatreated as if it werea different entityboth one and previous.
You see how differently people take things. The world we live in existsdiffused and distributedin the form of an indefinitely numerous lot of eachescoherent in all sorts of ways and degrees; and the tough-minded are perfectlywilling to keep them at that valuation. They can stand that kind of worldtheirtemper being well adapted to its insecurity. Not so the tender-minded party.They must back the world we find ourselves born into by 'another and a better'world in which the eaches form an All and the All a One that logicallypresupposesco- implicatesand secures each each without exception.
Must we as pragmatists be radically tough-minded or can we treat the absoluteedition of the world as a legitimate hypothesis? It is certainly legitimateforit is thinkablewhether we take it in its abstract or in its concrete shape.
By taking it abstractly I mean placing it behind our finite life as we placethe word 'winter' behind to-night's cold weather. 'Winter' is only the name fora certain number of days which we find generally characterized by cold weatherbut it guarantees nothing in that linefor our thermometer to-morrow may soarinto the 70's. Nevertheless the word is a useful one to plunge forward with intothe stream of our experience. It cuts off certain probabilities and sets upothers. You can put away your straw hats; you can unpack your arctics. It is asummary of things to look for. It names a part of nature's habitsand gets youready for their continuation. It is a definite instrument abstracted fromexperiencea conceptual reality that you must take account ofand whichreflects you totally back into sensible realities. The pragmatist is the lastperson to deny the reality of such abstractions. They are so much pastexperience funded.
But taking the absolute edition of the world concretely means a differenthypothesis. Rationalists take it concretely and oppose it to the world's finiteeditions. They give it a particular nature. It is perfectfinished. Everythingknown there is known along with everything else; herewhere ignorance reignsfar otherwise. If there is want therethere also is the satisfaction provided.Here all is process; that world is timeless. Possibilities obtain in our world;in the absolute worldwhere all that is not is from eternity impossibleandall that is is necessarythe category of possibility has no application. Inthis world crimes and horrors are regrettable. In that totalized world regretobtains notfor 'the existence of ill in the temporal order is the verycondition of the perfection of the eternal order.'
Once moreeither hypothesis is legitimate in pragmatist eyesfor either hasits uses. Abstractlyor taken like the word winteras a memorandum of pastexperience that orients us towards the futurethe notion of the absolute worldis indispensable. Concretely takenit is also indispensableat least tocertain mindsfor it determines them religiouslybeing often a thing to changetheir lives byand by changing their livesto change whatever in the outerorder depends on them.
We can not therefore methodically join the tough minds in their rejection ofthe whole notion of a world beyond our finite experience. One misunderstandingof pragmatism is to identify it with positivistic tough-mindednessto supposethat it scorns every rationalistic notion as so much jabber and gesticulationthat it loves intellectual anarchy as such and prefers a sort of wolf-worldabsolutely unpent and wild and without a master or a collar to any philosophicclassroom product whatsoever. I have said so much in these lectures against theover- tender forms of rationalismthat I am prepared for some misunderstandingherebut I confess that the amount of it that I have found in this veryaudience surprises mefor I have simultaneously defended rationalistichypothesesso far as these re-direct you fruitfully into experience.
For instance I receive this morning this question on a post-card: "Is apragmatist necessarily a complete materialist and agnostic?" One of myoldest friendswho ought to know me betterwrites me a letter that accuses thepragmatism I am recommending of shutting out all wider metaphysical views andcondemning us to the most terre-a-terre naturalism. let me read you someextracts from it.
"It seems to me" my friend writes"that the pragmaticobjection to pragmatism lies in the fact that it might accentuate the narrownessof narrow minds.
"Your call to the rejection of the namby-pamby and the wishy-washy is ofcourse inspiring. But altho it is salutary and stimulating to be told that oneshould be responsible for the immediate issues and bearings of his words andthoughtsI decline to be deprived of the pleasure and profit of dwelling alsoon remoter bearings and issuesand it is the
tendency of pragmatism to refuse this privilege.
"In shortit seems to me that the limitationsor rather the dangersof the pragmatic tendencyare analogous to those which beset the unwaryfollowers of the 'natural sciences.' Chemistry and physics are eminentlypragmatic; and many of their devoteessmugly content with the data that theirweights and measures furnishfeel an infinite pityand disdain for allstudents of philosophy and metaphysics whomsoever. And of course everything canbe expressed- after a fashionand 'theoretically'- in terms of chemistry andphysicsthat iseverything except the vital principle of the wholeand thatthey saythere is no pragmatic use in trying to express; it has no bearings-for them. I for my part refuse to be persuaded that we can not look beyond theobvious pluralism of the naturalist and the pragmatist to a logical unity inwhich they take no interest."
How is such a conception of the pragmatism I am advocating possibleafter myfirst and second lectures? I have all along been offering it expressly as amediator between tough-mindedness and tender-mindedness. If the notion of aworld ante remwhether taken abstractly like the word winteror concretely asthe hypothesis of an Absolutecan be shown to have any consequences whateverfor our lifeit has a meaning. If the meaning worksit will have some truththat ought to be held to through all possible reformulationsfor pragmatism.
The absolutistic hypothesisthat perfection is eternalaboriginaland mostrealhas a perfectly definite meaningand it works religiously. To examinehowwill be the subject of my next and final lecture.
Lecture VIII: Pragmatism and Religion
AT the close of the last lecture I reminded you of the first onein which Ihad opposed tough-mindedness to tender-mindedness and recommended pragmatism astheir mediator. Tough-mindedness positively rejects tender-mindedness'shypothesis of an eternal perfect edition of the universe coexisting with ourfinite experience.
On pragmatic principles we can not reject any hypothesis if consequencesuseful to life flow from it. Universal conceptionsas things to take accountofmay be as real for pragmatism as particular sensations are. They haveindeedno meaning and no reality if they have no use. But if they have any usethey have that amount of meaning. And the meaning will be true if the usesquares well with life's other uses.
Wellthe use of the Absolute is proved by the whole course of men'sreligious history. The eternal arms are then beneath. Remember Vivekananda's useof the Atman- not indeed a scientific usefor we can make no particulardeductions from it. It is emotional and spiritual altogether.
It is always best to discuss things by the help of concrete examples. Let meread therefore some of those verses entitled 'To You' by Walt Whitman- 'You' ofcourse meaning the reader or hearer of the poem whosoever he or she may be.
Whoever you arenow I place my hand upon you that you be my
I whisper with my lips close to your ear
I have loved many men and women and menbut I love none better
O I have been dilatory and dumb;
I should have made my way to you long ago;
I should have blabbed nothing but youI should have chanted
nothing but you.
I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you;
None have understood youbut I understand you;
None have done justice to you- you have not done justice to
None but have found you imperfect- I only find no imperfection
O I could sing such glories and grandeurs about you;
You have not known what you are- you have slumbered upon yourself
all your life;
What you have done returns already in mockeries.
But the mockeries are not you;
Underneath them and within themI see you lurk;
I pursue you where none else has pursued you.
Silencethe deskthe flippant expressionthe nightthe
accustomed routineif these conceal you from othersor
from yourselfthey do not conceal you from me;
The shaved facethe unsteady eyethe impure complexionif
these balk othersthey do not balk me;
The pert apparelthe deformed attitudedrunkennessgreed
premature deathall then I part aside.
There is no endowment in man or woman that in not tallied in
There is no virtueno beautyin man or womanbut as good is
No pluck nor endurance in othersbut as good is in you;
No pleasure waiting for othersbut an equal pleasure waits for
Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard!
These shows of the east and west are tamecompared with you;
These immense meadows- these interminable rivers- you are immense
and interminable as they;
You are he or she who is master or mistress over them
Master or mistress in your own right over Natureelements
The hopples fall from your ankles- you find an unfailing
Old or youngmale or femalerudelowrejected by the rest
whatever you are promulges itself;
Through birthlifedeathburialthe means are provided
nothing is scanted;
Through angerslossesambitionignoranceennuiwhat you are
picks its way.
Verily a fine and moving poemin any casebut there are two ways of takingitboth useful.
One is the monistic waythe mystical way of pure cosmic emotion. The gloriesand grandeursthey are yours absolutelyeven in the midst of your defacements.Whatever may happen to youwhatever you may appear to beinwardly you aresafe. Look backlie backon your true principle of being! This is the famousway of quietismof indifferentism. Its enemies compare it to a spiritual opium.Yet pragmatism must respect this wayfor it has massive historic vindication.
But pragmatism sees another way to be respected alsothe pluralistic way ofinterpreting the poem. The you so glorifiedto which the hymn is sungmay meanyour better possibilities phenomenally takenor the specific redemptive effectseven of your failuresupon yourself or others. It may mean your loyalty to thepossibilities of others whom you admire and love so that you are willing toaccept your own poor lifefor it is that glory's partner. You can at leastappreciateapplaudfurnish the audienceof so brave a total world. Forget thelow in yourselfthenthink only of the high. Identify your life therewith;thenthrough angerslossesignoranceennuiwhatever you thus make yourselfwhatever you thus most deeply arepicks its way.
In either way of taking the poemit encourages fidelity to ourselves. Bothways satisfy; both sanctify the human flux. Both paint the portrait of the youon a gold background. But the background of the first way is the static Onewhile in the second way it means possibles in the pluralgenuine possiblesandit has all the restlessness of that conception.
Noble enough is either way of reading the poem; but plainly the pluralisticway agrees with the pragmatic temper bestfor it immediately suggests aninfinitely larger number of the details of future experience to our mind. Itsets definite activities in us at work. Altho this second way seems prosaic andearth-born in comparison with the first wayyet no one can accuse it oftough-mindedness in any brutal sense of the term. Yet ifas pragmatistsyoushould positively set up the second way against the first wayyou would verylikely be misunderstood. You would be accused of denying nobler conceptionsandof being an ally of tough-mindedness in the worst sense.
You remember the letter from a member of this audience from which I read someextracts at our previous meeting. Let me read you an additional extract now. Itshows a vagueness in realizing the alternatives before us which I think is verywidespread.
"I believe" writes my friend and correspondent"inpluralism; I believe that in our search for truth we leap from one floating cakeof ice to anotheron an infinite seaand that by each of our acts we make newtruths possible and old ones impossible; I believe that each man is responsiblefor making the universe betterand that if he does not do this it will be in sofar left undone.
"Yet at the same time I am willing to endure that my children should beincurably sick and suffering (as they are not) and I myself stupid and yet withbrains enough to see my stupidityonly on one conditionnamelythat throughthe constructionin imagination and by reasoningof a rational unity of allthingsI can conceive my acts and my thoughts and my troubles as supplementedby all the other phenomena of the worldand as forming- when thus supplemented-a scheme which I approve and adopt as my own; and for my part I refuse to bepersuaded that we can not look beyond the obvious pluralism of the naturalistand pragmatist to a logical unity in which they take no interest or stock."
Such a fine expression of personal faith warms the heart of the hearer. Buthow much does it clear his philosophic head? Does the writer consistently favorthe monisticor the pluralisticinterpretation of the world's poem? Histroubles become atoned for when thus supplementedhe sayssupplementedthatisby all the remedies that
the other phenomena may supply. Obviously here the writer faces forward intothe particulars of experiencewhich he interprets in a pluralistic-melioristicway.
But he believes himself to face backward. He speaks of what he calls therational unity of thingswhen all the while he really means their possibleempirical unification. He supposes at the same time that the pragmatistbecausehe criticises rationalism's abstract Oneis cut off from the consolation ofbelieving in the saving possibilities of the concrete many. He fails in short todistinguish between taking the world's perfection as a necessary principleandtaking it only as a possible terminus ad quem.
I regard the writer of the letter as a genuine pragmatistbut as apragmatist sans le savoir. He appears to me as one of that numerous class ofphilosophic amateurs whom I spoke of in my first lectureas wishing to have allthe good things goingwithout being too careful as to how they agree ordisagree. 'Rational unity of all things' is so inspiring a formulathat hebrandishes it off-handand abstractly accuses pluralism of conflicting with it(for the bare names do conflict)altho concretely he means by it just thepragmatistically unified and ameliorated world. Most of us remain in thisessential vaguenessand it is well that we should; but in the interest ofclearheadedness it is well that some of us should go fartherso I will try nowto focus a little more discriminatingly on this particular religious point.
Is then this you of yousthis absolutely real worldthis unity that yieldsthe moral inspiration and has the religious valueto be taken monistically orpluralistically? Is it ante rem or in rebus? Is it a principle or an endanabsolute or an ultimatea first or a last? Does it make you look forward or lieback? It is certainly worth while not to clump the two things togetherfor ifdiscriminatedthey have decidedly diverse meanings for life.
Please observe that the whole dilemma revolves pragmatically about the notionof the world's possibilities. Intellectuallyrationalism invokes its absoluteprinciple of unityas a ground of possibility for the many facts. Emotionallyit sees it as a container and limiter of possibilitiesa guarantee that theupshot shall be good. Taken in this waythe absolute makes all good thingscertainand all bad things impossible (in the eternalnamely)and may be saidto transmute the entire category of possibility into categories more secure. Onesees at this point that the great religious difference lies between the men whoinsist that the world must and shall beand those who are contented withbelieving that the world may besaved. The whole clash of rationalistic andempiricist religion is thus over the validity of possibility. It is necessarytherefore to begin by focusing upon that word. What may the word 'possible'definitely mean? To unreflecting men it means a sort of third estate of beingless real than existencemore real than non-existencea twilight realmahybrid statusa limbo into which and out of which realities ever and anon aremade to pass.
Such a conception is of course too vague and nondescript to satisfy us. Hereas elsewherethe only way to extract a term's meaning is to use the pragmaticmethod on it. When you say that a thing is possiblewhat difference does itmake? It makes at least this difference that if any one calls it impossible youcan contradict himif any one calls it actual you can contradict himand ifany one calls it necessary you can contradict him too.
But these privileges of contradiction don't amount to much. When you say athing is possibledoes not that make some farther difference in terms of actualfact?
It makes at least this negative difference that if the statement be trueitfollows that there is nothing extant capable of preventing the possible thing.The absence of real grounds of interference may thus be said to make things notimpossiblepossible therefore in the
bare or abstract sense.
But most possibles are not barethey are concretely groundedorwell-groundedas we say. What does this mean pragmatically? It means not onlythat there are no preventive conditions presentbut that some of the conditionsof production of the possible thing actually are here. Thus a concretelypossible chicken means: (1) that the idea of chicken contains no essentialself-contradiction; (2) that no boysskunksor other enemies are about; and(3) that at least an actual egg exists. Possible chicken means actual egg- plusactual sitting henor incubatoror what not. As the actual conditions approachcompleteness the chicken becomes a better-and-better-grounded possibility. Whenthe conditions are entirely completeit ceases to be a possibilityand turnsinto an actual fact.
Let us apply this notion to the salvation of the world. What does itpragmatically mean to say that this is possible? It means that some of theconditions of the world's deliverance do actually exist. The more of them thereare existentthe fewer preventing conditions you can findthe better-groundedis the salvation's possibilitythe more
probable does the fact of the deliverance become.
So much for our preliminary look at possibility.
Now it would contradict the very spirit of life to say that our minds must beindifferent and neutral in questions like that of the world's salvation. Anyonewho pretends to be neutral writes himself down here as a fool and a sham. We alldo wish to minimize the insecurity of the universe; we are and ought to beunhappy when we regard it as exposed to every enemy and open to everylife-destroying draft. Nevertheless there are unhappy men who think thesalvation of the world impossible. Theirs is the doctrine known as pessimism.
Optimism in turn would be the doctrine that thinks the world's salvationinevitable.
Midway between the two there stands what may be called the doctrine ofmeliorismtho it has hitherto figured less as a doctrine than as an attitude inhuman affairs. Optimism has always been the regnant
doctrine in European philosophy. Pessimism was only recently introduced bySchopenhauer and counts few systematic defenders as yet. Meliorism treatssalvation as neither necessary nor impossible. It treats it as a possibilitywhich becomes more and more of a probability the more numerous the actualconditions of salvation become.
It is clear that pragmatism must incline towards meliorism. Some conditionsof the world's salvation are actually extantand she can not possibly close hereyes to this fact and should the residual conditions comesalvation wouldbecome an accomplished reality. Naturally the terms I use here are exceedinglysummary. You may interpret the word 'salvation' in any way you likeand make itas diffuse and distributiveor as climacteric and integral a phenomenon as youplease.
Takefor exampleany one of us in this room with the ideals which hecherishes and is willing to live and work for. Every such ideal realized will beone moment in the world's salvation. But these particular ideals are not bareabstract possibilities. They are groundedthey are
live possibilitiesfor we are their live champions and pledgesand if thecomplementary conditions come and add themselvesour ideals will become actualthings. What now are the complementary conditions? They are first such a mixtureof things as will in the fulness of time give us a chancea gap that we canspring intoandfinallyour act.
Does our act then create the world's salvation so far as it makes room foritselfso far as it leaps into the gap? Does it createnot the whole world'ssalvation of coursebut just so much of this as itself covers of the world'sextent?
Here I take the bull by the hornsand in spite of the whole crew ofrationalists and monistsof whatever brand they beI ask why not? Our actsour turning-placeswhere we seem to ourselves to make ourselves and growarethe parts of the world to which we are closestthe parts of which our knowledgeis the most intimate and complete. Why should we not take them at theirface-value? Why may they not be the actual turning-places and growing-placeswhich they seem to beof the world- why not the workshop of beingwhere wecatch fact in the makingso that nowhere may the world grow in any other kindof way than this?
Irrational! we are told. How can new being come in local spots and patcheswhich add themselves or stay away at randomindependently of the rest? Theremust be a reason for our actsand where in the last resort can any reason belooked for save in the material pressure or the logical compulsion of the totalnature of the world? There can be but one real agent of growthor seeminggrowthanywhereand that agent is the integral world itself. It may growall-overif growth there bebut that single parts should grow per se isirrational.
But if one talks of rationality- and of reasons for thingsand insists thatthey can't just come in spotswhat kind of a reason can there ultimately be whyanything should come at all? Talk of logic and necessity and categories and theabsolute and the contents of the whole philosophical machine-shop as you willthe only real reason I can think of why anything should ever come is that someone wishes it to be here. It is demanded- demandedit may beto give reliefto no matter how small a fraction of the world's mass. This is living reasonand compared with it material causes and logical necessities are spectralthings.
In short the only fully rational world would be the world of wishing- capsthe world of telepathywhere every desire is fulfilled instanterwithouthaving to consider or placate surrounding or intermediate powers. This is theAbsolute's own world. He calls upon the phenomenal world to beand it isexactly as he calls for itno other condition being required. In our worldthewishes of the individual are only one condition. Other individuals are therewith other wishes and they must be propitiated first. So Being grows under allsorts of resistances in this world of the manyandfrom compromise tocompromiseonly gets organized gradually into what may be called secondarilyrational shape. We approach the wishing-cap type of organization only in a fewdepartments of life. We want water and we turn a faucet. We want a Kodak-pictureand we press a button. We want information and we telephone. We want to traveland we buy a ticket. In these and similar caseswe hardly need to do more thanthe wishing- the world is rationally organized to do the rest.
But this talk of rationality is a parenthesis and a digression. What we werediscussing was the idea of a world growing not integrally but piecemeal by thecontributions of its several parts. Take the hypothesis seriously and as a liveone. Suppose that the world's author put the case to you before creationsaying: "I am going to make a world not certain to be saveda world theperfection of which shall be conditional merelythe condition being that eachseveral agent does its own 'level best.' I offer you the chance of taking partin such a world. Its safetyyou seeis unwarranted. It is a real adventurewith real dangeryet it may win through. It is a social scheme of co-operativework genuinely to be done. Will you join the procession? Will you trust yourselfand trust the other agents enough to face the risk?"
Should you in all seriousnessif participation in such a world were proposedto youfeel bound to reject it as not safe enough? Would you say thatratherthan be part and parcel of so fundamentally pluralistic and irrational auniverseyou preferred to relapse into the slumber of nonentity from which youhad been momentarily aroused by the tempter's voice?
Of course if you are normally constitutedyou would do nothing of the sort.There is a healthy-minded buoyancy in most of us which such a universe wouldexactly fit. We would therefore accept the offer- "Top! und schlag aufschlag!" It would be just like the world we practically live in; andloyalty to our old nurse Nature would forbid us to say no. The world proposedwould seem 'rational' to us in the most living way.
Most of usI saywould therefore welcome the proposition and add our
fiat to the fiat of the creator. Yet perhaps some would not; for there aremorbid minds in every human collectionand to them the prospect of a universewith only a fighting chance of safety would
probably make no appeal. There are moments of discouragement in us allwhenwe are sick of self and tired of vainly striving. Our own life breaks downandwe fall into the attitude of the prodigal son. We mistrust the chances ofthings. We want a universe where we can just give upfall on our father's neckand be absorbed into the absolute life as a drop of water melts into the riveror the sea.
The peace and restthe security desiderated at such moments is securityagainst the bewildering accidents of so much finite experience. Nirvana meanssafety from this everlasting round of adventures of which the world of senseconsists. The hindoo and the buddhistfor this is essentially their attitudeare simply afraidafraid of more experienceafraid of life.
And to men of this complexionreligious monism comes with its consolingwords: "All is needed and essential- even you with your sick soul andheart. All are one with Godand with God all is well. The everlasting arms arebeneathwhether in the world of finite appearance you seem to fail or tosucceed." There can be no doubt that when men are reduced to their lastsick extremity absolutism is the only saving scheme. Pluralistic moralism simplymakes their teeth chatterit refrigerates the very heart within their breast.
So we see concretely two types of religion in sharp contrast. Using our oldterms of comparisonwe may say that the absolutistic scheme appeals to thetender-minded while the pluralistic scheme appeals to the tough. Many personswould refuse to call the pluralistic scheme religious at all. They would call itmoralisticand would apply the word religious to the monistic scheme alone.Religion in the sense of self-surrenderand moralism in the sense ofself-sufficingnesshave been pitted against each other as incompatiblesfrequently enough in the history of human thought.
We stand here before the final question of philosophy. I said in my fourthlecture that I believed the monistic-pluralistic alternative to be the deepestand most pregnant question that our minds can frame. Can it be that thedisjunction is a final one? that only one side can be true? Are a pluralism andmonism genuine incompatibles? So thatif the world were really pluralisticallyconstitutedif it really existed distributively and were made up of a lot ofeachesit could only be saved piecemeal and de facto as the result of theirbehaviorand its epic history in no wise short-circuited by some essentialoneness in which the severalness were already 'taken up' beforehand andeternally 'overcome'? If this were sowe should have to choose one philosophyor the other. We could not say 'yesyes' to both alternatives. There would haveto be a 'no' in our relations with the possible. We should confess an ultimatedisappointment: we could not remain healthy-minded and sick- minded in oneindivisible act.
Of course as human beings we can be healthy minds on one day and sick soulson the next; and as amateur dabblers in philosophy we may perhaps be allowed tocall ourselves monistic pluralistsor free-will deterministsor whatever elsemay occur to us of a reconciling kind. But as philosophers aiming at clearnessand consistencyand feeling the pragmatistic need of squaring truth with truththe question is forced upon us of frankly adopting either the tender or therobustious type of thought. In particular this query has always come home to me:May not the claims of tender-mindedness go too far? May not the notion of aworld already saved in toto anyhowbe too saccharine to stand? May notreligious optimism be too idyllic? Must all be saved? Is no price to be paid inthe work of salvation? Is the last word sweet? Is all 'yesyes' in theuniverse? Does n't the fact of 'no' stand at the very core of life? Does n't thevery 'seriousness' that we attribute to life mean that ineluctable noes andlosses form a part of itthat there are genuine sacrifices somewhereand thatsomething permanently drastic and bitter always remains at the bottom of itscup?
I can not speak officially as a pragmatist here; all I can say is that my ownpragmatism offers no objection to my taking sides with this more moralisticviewand giving up the claim of total reconciliation. The possibility of thisis involved in the pragmatistic willingness to treat pluralism as a serioushypothesis. In the end it is our faith and not our logic that decides suchquestionsand I deny the right of any pretended logic to veto my own faith. Ifind myself willing to take the universe to be really dangerous and adventurouswithout therefore backing out and crying 'no play.' I am willing to think thatthe prodigal-son attitudeopen to us as it is in many vicissitudesis not theright and final attitude towards the whole of life. I am willing that thereshould be real losses and real losersand no total preservation of all that is.I can believe in the ideal as an ultimatenot as an originand as an extractnot the whole. When the cup is poured offthe dregs are left behind for everbut the possibility of what is poured off is sweet enough to accept.
As a matter of fact countless human imaginations live in this moralistic andepic kind of a universeand find its disseminated and strung-along successessufficient for their rational needs. There is a finely translated epigram in theGreek anthology which admirably expresses this state of mindthis acceptance ofloss as unatoned foreven though the lost element might be one's self:
"A shipwrecked sailorburied on this coast
Bids you set sail.
Full many a gallant barkwhen we were lost
Weathered the gale."
Those puritans who answered 'yes' to the question: Are you willing to bedamned for God's glory? were in this objective and magnanimous condition ofmind. The way of escape from evil on this system is not by getting it'aufgehoben' or preserved in the whole as an element essential but 'overcome.'It is by dropping it out altogetherthrowing it overboard and getting beyondithelping to make a universe that shall forget its very place and name.
It is then perfectly possible to accept sincerely a drastic kind of auniverse from which the element of 'seriousness' is not to be expelled. Whosodoes so isit seems to mea genuine pragmatist. He is willing to live on ascheme of uncertified possibilities which he trusts; willing to pay with his ownpersonif need befor the realization of the ideals which he frames.
What now actually are the other forces which he trusts to co- operate withhimin a universe of such a type? They are at least his fellow menin thestage of being which our actual universe has reached. But are there notsuperhuman forces alsosuch as religious men of the pluralistic type we havebeen considering have always believed in? Their words may have sounded monisticwhen they said "there is no God but God"; but the original polytheismof mankind has only imperfectly and vaguely sublimated itself into monotheismand monotheism itselfso far as it was religious and not a scheme of classroominstruction for the metaphysicianshas always viewed God as but one helperprimus inter
paresin the midst of all the shapers of the great world's fate.
I fear that my previous lecturesconfined as they have been to human andhumanistic aspectsmay have left the impression on many of you that pragmatismmeans methodically to leave the superhuman out. I have shown small respectindeed for the Absoluteand I have until this moment spoken of no othersuperhuman hypothesis but that. But I trust that you see sufficiently that theAbsolute has nothing but its superhumanness in common with the theistic God. Onpragmatistic principlesif the hypothesis of God works satisfactorily in thewidest sense of the wordit is true. Now whatever its residual difficulties maybeexperience shows that it certainly does workand that the problem is tobuild it out and determine it so that it will combine satisfactorily with allthe other working truths. I can not start upon a whole theology at the end ofthis last lecture; but when I tell you that I have written a book on men'sreligious experiencewhich on the whole has been regarded as making for thereality of Godyou will perhaps exempt my own pragmatism from the charge ofbeing an atheistic system. I firmly disbelievemyselfthat our humanexperience is the highest form of experience extant in the universe. I believerather that we stand in much the same relation to the whole of the universe asour canine and feline pets do to the whole of human life. They inhabit ourdrawing-rooms and libraries. They take part in scenes of whose significance theyhave no inkling. They are merely tangent to curves of history the beginnings andends and forms of which pass wholly beyond their ken. So we are tangent to thewider life of things. Butjust as many of the dog's and cat's ideals coincidewith our idealsand the dogs and cats have daily living proof of the factsowe may well believeon the proofs that religious experience affordsthathigher powers exist and are at work to save the world on ideal lines similar toour own.
You see that pragmatism can be called religiousif you allow that religioncan be pluralistic or merely melioristic in type. But whether you will finallyput up with that type of religion or not is a question that only you yourselfcan decide. Pragmatism has to postpone dogmatic answerfor we do not yet knowcertainly which type of religion is going to work best in the long run. Thevarious overbeliefs of mentheir several faith-venturesare in fact what areneeded to bring the evidence in. You will probably make your own venturesseverally. If radically toughthe hurly-burly of the sensible facts of naturewill be enough for youand you will need no religion at all. If radicallytenderyou will take up with the more monistic form of religion: thepluralistic formwith its reliance on possibilities that are not necessitieswill not seem to afford you security enough.
But if you are neither tough nor tender in an extreme and radical sensebutmixed as most of us areit may seem to you that the type of pluralistic andmoralistic religion that I have offered is as good a religious synthesis as youare likely to find. Between the two extremes of crude naturalism on the one handand transcendental absolutism on the otheryou may find that what I take theliberty of calling the pragmatistic or melioristic type of theism is exactlywhat you require.
*001 Morrison I. SwiftHuman SubmissionPart SecondPhiladelphia LibertyPress1905pp. 4-10.
*002 Translated in the Revue Philosophique for January1879 (vol. vii).
*003 'Theorie und Praxis" Zeitsch. des Oesterreichischen Ingenieur u.Architecten-Vereines1905. Nr. 4 u. 6. I find a still more radical pragmatismthan Ostwald's in an address by Professor W. S. Franklin: "I think that thesickliest notion of physicseven if a student gets itis that it is 'thescience of massesmoleculesand the ether.' And I think that the healthiestnotioneven if a student does not wholly get itis that physics is the scienceof the ways of taking hold of bodies and pushing them!" ( ScienceJanuary21903.)
*004 The Foundations of Beliefp. 30.
*005 Compare A. Bellanger: Les concepts de Causeet l'activite intentionellede l'Esprit. ParisAlcan1905p. 79 ff.
*006 The Conception of GodNew York1897p. 292.
*007 Compare on the UltimateMr. Schiller's essay "Activity andSubstance" in his book entitled Humanismp. 204.
*008 The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense1905p. 59.
*009 A. E. TaylorPhilosophical Reviewvol. xivp. 288.
*010 H. RickertDer Gogenstand der Erkenntnisschapter on 'DieUrtheilsnothwendigkeit.'
*011 I am not forgetting that Professor Rickert long ago gave up the wholenotion of truth being founded on agreement with reality. Reality according tohimis whatever agrees with truthand truth is founded solely on our primalduty. This fantastic flighttogether with Mr. Joachim's candid confession offailure in his book The Nature of Truthseems to me to mark the bankruptcy ofrationalism when dealing with this subject. Rickert deals with part of thepragmatistic position under the head of what he calls 'Relativismus.' I can notdiscuss his text here. Suffice it to say that his argumentation in that chapteris so feeble as to seem almost incredible in so generally able a writer.
*012 Personal Idealismp. 60.
*013 Mr. Taylor in his Elements of Metaphysics uses this excellent pragmaticdefinition.