The Determination of the Real


Creighton, J. E. “The Determination of the Real.” The Philosophical Review 21, no. 3 (1912): 303. https://doi.org/10.2307/2177713


THERE is one problem on which philosophers are commonly supposed to meditate that we should all probably agree in repudiating as not a genuine problem at all. That is the problem as to whether there exists a real objective world. Even the inquiry regarding the grounds of our belief in such a world probably seems to most of us at the present day, not merely superfluous, but based on a logical confusion of ideas. And, indeed, notwithstanding the appearance of occasional 'demonstrations' of reality, this is no new standpoint in philosophy. In spite of popular misconceptions, it remains true that the real existence of the world as an objective order has never been called in question by any serious thinker. The reality of the world is the assumption of philosophy, as it is of common sense and of the sciences; or rather, it is the 'situation' out of which and with reference to which, the life of thought and practice proceed. If not in explicit words, at least in spirit and method of procedure, all the great historical systems show their acceptance of the truth folate’s dictum that the world once for all is and we are a part of it. To explain how the world was made or to prove its existence are not genuine problems for philosophy or for any science. The real problem of thought in all fields is the determination of the real, the problem of making intelligible the nature of the world which our thought finds given along with the consciousness of itself.


Furthermore, that reality is knowable, at least in part, or income of its aspects, seems to be a presupposition of all modern methods of philosophizing. Even when the formal claim to a ‘knowledge’ of ultimate reality is denied, it is assumed that this is nevertheless accessible to some form of conscious experience which is capable of appreciating, and to some extent at least of expressing, its value and nature. Again, there appears also to be a basis of agreement in the appeal which all schools make to experience, and in the common assent which they give to the proposition that all of the forms and factors of experience must be taken into account, since all furnish data that are significant for the philosophical interpretation of the world.


On the other hand, serious differences of opinion exist both regarding the terms in which the nature of the real must finally be defined, and also in respect to the closely related question concerning the criteria and methods for arriving at truth through the different modes of experience. The initial difficulty in securing agreement arises in connection with the problem as to what facts experience offers to a natural and unperverted view. On its face, this problem seems to be a very simple one. If experience were a storehouse of facts, it would appear obvious that the one thing needful is to accept what it offers without question or theory. But, unfortunately, it is impossible to discover in experience any such a store of facts, lying, as it were, neatly arranged and labeled to our hand; in all cases what are called 'facts' are bound up with theories and conditioned by hypotheses. It appears, then, that any agreement regarding the standpoint of philosophy can be attained only through the strife of theories, and that injunctions to each other to lift up our eyes and recognize that experience presents such and such facts are not likely to produce much effect until some common understanding is reached regarding the conceptions to be employed in construing experience. Of course, I do not mean that the test of theory is independent of fact, or the process of testing theories does not involve a constant reference to and evaluation of facts. I am insisting here only that there are no immediate 'facts,' prior to theory, to which we can appeal to settle our disputes. If, accordingly, it is admitted that a theory of experience is involved in every attempt to read off the facts which it presents, the question arises how and where one may obtain a theory adequate to the purposes and procedure of experience. The sharply emphasized differences of the present day, seem to make more apparent the need of attempting to define anew the initial standpoint and distinctive procedure of philosophy.


This task, however, has fortunately not been undertaken from the first beginning. If we admit that there has been anything worthy of the name of philosophy in the past, it must be possible to obtain instruction and guidance from a critical study of its procedure and results. It is true that it is necessary to 'see through ‘the history of philosophy, as Professor Dewey says, before it can be of service to us; but to see through it is to recognize its positive achievements, as well as its failures and limitations. Even those who are inclined to attach little positive importance to the philosophizing of the past cannot fail to recognize the negative instruction or 'warnings' afforded by the presuppositions and logic of the history of philosophy. But it appears to me that it is only through the recognition that the efforts of the past have positive results which exhibit a genuine development that we have any basis for confidence in achieving anything ourselves, or any platform that can render cooperation and intelligent discussion possible. Verbal definitions are not sufficient for this purpose, though these may often be necessary and useful.


Modern philosophy begins, as it has often been pointed out, with Descartes' assertion of the priority of the principle of subjectivity in experience. And this doctrine remained the common presupposition of subsequent systems, down, at least, to its issuance in scepticism in the system of Hume. Our president of today has published an admirable and instructive paper in which he maintains that this subjectivism has continued to infect all modern philosophy. While I agree with many of the contentions of that paper, I am inclined to believe that it is truer to the logic of modern philosophy to say that it presents, as one of its main aspects, a process of development in which the one sidedness other subjective view is overcome by the recognition of the fact that objects are essential elements of experience. The course of development is indeed not always in a straight line and does not correspond with the temporal succession of systems. It should be noted that the problem is not simply to recognize the connection of experience with a world of real objects. The fact of that connection was maintained, inconsistently, indeed, but none the less openly and emphatically, by all the systems, excepting perhaps that of Berkeley. But it was essential also to develop a theory of experience that would make intelligible the relation of knowledge and a world of real objects: so long as that relation was regarded as external and mechanical the question seemed to be as to which of the two sides could most consistently be reduced to the other.


After Hume had exhibited the scepticism which was inherent in the empirical view of inner experience, Reid attempted to reclaim philosophy from ' the way of ideas ' and to set up a system of Natural Realism. Like many of the Realists of the present-day, however, he was unable to free himself entirely from the theory of ideas which he combated, and neither he nor his successors in the Scottish school succeeded in developing any unambiguous and satisfactory theory of the relation of the object to the mind, or any critical method for an objective philosophy. Nevertheless, Reid's doctrine that experiencing is no matter of ideas, but a direct dealing with objects must be considered an insight of great importance. Kant's so-called 'Copernican revolution' seems at first to be nothing more than a renewed assertion of the priority of inner experience. But fortunately, Kant's contributions to a theory of experience are more important than this misleading statement suggests. Although the presuppositions of his system prevented him from gaining a really objective standpoint, his conception of consciousness as a synthetic principle, and his development of a critical method were essential steps in this direction. One can say that although Kant's own view remains infected with subjectivism, his method and results point the way to a more satisfactory theory than his predecessors had been able to attain a theory that makes it possible to understand how experience can be at once both subjective and objective. Jacobi’s contribution consists mainly in his convincing exhibition of the inconsistencies and defects of the Kantian system, and the need for a different basis in order to secure objective certainty. He himself was unable to supply philosophy with any theory of the relation of the mind and the object that was capable of furnishing a critical principle of procedure: his valid protest against ideas and subjectivism end by an appeal to the immediacy of feeling and the certainty of faith.

It is probable that Schelling's interest in the natural science of his time explains, at least in part, his dissatisfaction with the philosophy of Fichte. This dissatisfaction issued in what Schelling himself described as his "Durchbruch in das freie officered objectiver Wissenschaft," the recognition of the independent existence of the real world, and the necessity of dealing with indirectly. It is true that by attempting to make philosophy do the work of the special sciences, Schelling's philosophy of nature soon brought discredit upon itself. Nevertheless, the new direction and the new interest thus given to philosophy were of great importance for its future. Schelling, however, never succeeded in uniting the logic of the transcendental method with the objective standpoint in philosophy. He rather alternates in different treatments of the philosophical problem between an internal method that follows the general course marked out by Fichte, an objective analysis of nature without any direct reference to the criticism of the categories and forms of experience. It is true that Schelling maintained that the two methods of philosophizing exhibit the same essential relationship of experience and nature: if we begin with one pole we are led necessarily to the other. But he never succeeded in actually demonstrating this unity by combining the two distinct modes of procedure as elements of a single method. It was by the elaboration of a single method capable of holding together the two sides of experience and exhibiting at once their organic unity and distinction that Hegel advanced beyond the philosophy of Schelling. The task of experience is to reveal the nature of things, and the thesis accomplished through the judgments of the mind. But the mind can discover the nature of the real only because the process of experience is guided by an immanent dialectic which at once exhibits the inadequacy of its first attempts and leads on to determinations that are truer. In defining and characterizing the real object, the nature and functions of the knowing intelligence reveal themselves in the dialectical development. These judgments then at once report both the nature of the world of real objects and also the structure of the judging intelligence. The categories are, accordingly, not merely forms of the understanding, as Kant supposed, but also at the same time constitutive principles of things. To regard the categories as a priori forms of the mind to which objects must conform, is just as misleading as the view against which Kant protested, namely, that the mind impassively determined by the merely outward course of events. Moreover, it follows that the forms of the mind can be discovered, and their meanings and limitations brought to light only in and through the objective process of experience itself. The categories reveal themselves and criticize themselves in their concrete employment. On the other hand, it is plainly impossible to discover truth and reality in an existing order of perceived events which may once for all be accepted as 'given,' without any analysis or criticism of the mode of experience through which it is known.


These references to modern systems, hasty and incomplete though they are, serve, I think, to show that real progress has been made in denying experience in such a way as to connect inorganically with the world of real objects. I do not mean that the conceptions arrived at will not require revision in the future; but they appear to me to furnish a working basis for philosophy, bringing it into touch with, and to a considerable extent making intelligible, the standpoint of everyday life and of the special sciences. Philosophy seems to be justified, if we may judge from the logic of modern systems, in taking as its point of departure the real world and a real mind whose function it is to determine what reality is and is capable of becoming. The mind, however, cannot be conceived as something that has an independent and self-enclosed existence apart from its relation to the world. It is not a conscious or thinking ‘substance'; but something which has its being only through its relations, direct and indirect, to the Objective system of persons and things. If we inquire how the mind, a conscious unextended substance, comes to be aware of what is beyond itself, we ask a question that can have no answer. For to be a mind is just to be a function of interpretation and synthesis of the real. If we refuse, then, to set the unmeaning problem of how experience is made, contenting ourselves with understanding, so far as we can, its purpose and immanent principles, we may define the mind as the function which realizes for itself the significance and relations of a world of persons and things.


Consciousness or mind, then, exists for experience only in its functional relationship to the world which it defines and evaluates. Moreover, so far as the individual mind is concerned, these two conceptions are not reciprocally correlative, and do not stand on the same footing. For while the mind of any particular individual has no meaning apart from its relation to objects, the latter exhibit no similar dependence on the individual mind. We think of the system of nature as existing and as forming the Prius in some sense from which emerged all living and conscious beings. To this extent, it seems to me, all philosophy must be realistic or naturalistic. This admission, however, does not predetermine, in any way the character of our metaphysical result. We cannot set out in our philosophizing as 'realists' or ‘idealists.' What we are to think about the world will depend on what our thought is able to make of it, after the most comprehensive survey of which it is capable of the data offered by the various forms of experiencing, and especially as these have been analyzed and classified by the special sciences. If in the end we find ourselves obliged to construe reality by means of idealistic categories, this standpoint must be reached in an objective way. There is no shortcut to idealism. It is not the presupposition of philosophy: its standpoint is not 'first for us, ‘even if it turns out to be 'first by nature.’


I have tried to maintain that, for the purpose of philosophy, it is necessary to keep a fast hold of both the subjective and the objective aspects of experience. Now there are two opposed but closely related theories of experience which disregard this principle. They both appear to furnish a reading of experience in terms that are conditioned by the standpoint and purposes of special sciences. The one, adopting the standpoint of psychology as final, construes experience in terms of qualities in a mind, or states of consciousness. As only the 'inner' can be experienced, objects at least so far as these can be known must be defined in terms of states of the subject. We find, accordingly, that what we call objects are constituted by relations between states of consciousness. The standpoint of experience, thus interpreted, reduces the object to terms of the subject, by a short but infallible method of procedure. This 'psychological' account of experience finds an almost exact counterpart in those theories that adopt the standpoint of the physical sciences. From this point of view, the nature and relations of objects are considered as merely outer; that is, the objects are taken as given without any reference to the process through which they are known. What is called 'consciousness' must accordingly be defined in terms of objects as a relation of objects, or a togetherness of objects, oars behavior of objects, etc. Consciousness can be nothing more; for experience shows only objects and their relations and changes. If we assume that consciousness possesses any other reality, we must at least admit that such a reality is found nowhere inexperienced.


It would be interesting, if time permitted, to dwell on the almost exact parallelism in the arguments by which these two positions are supported. The truth is that the common presuppositions of subjectivism and objectivism are much more important than their apparent opposition. Both alike assume that the real is to be found in what is simple and immediate; both try to grasp the result and forget the process. The abstract inner and the abstract outer interpretations of experience are opposed only superficially; in standpoint and method they are identical.


Moreover, the artificial and untenable character of both these theories is shown in the same way namely, by the fact that in the end both are compelled implicitly to admit what they begin by explicitly denying. This statement, I assume, will find pretty general agreement so far as subjectivism is concerned. It is not possible to bring the theory of subjectivism into relation to any concrete problem without going beyond it. Even in supporting the theory by means of arguments, one is at the same time refuting it, since one must presuppose at least the real existence of other minds to whom the arguments are addressed, and of some objective media through which the ideas are expressed and received. In like manner, the exclusively objective view, in attempting to find some expression for consciousness in terms other object, is able to proceed only because it presupposes, as all objective science presupposes a mind which is aware of the relations or 'behavior' of objects. To omit all reference to the consciousness as the knower, and begin directly with objects is, as is well-known, the procedure which the purposes of the physical sciences impose upon them. But when philosophy adopts this standpoint, it loses its differentiating mark, and can contribute nothing to render the scientific results more intelligible or more concrete. The true science of philosophy consists in maintaining and developing the concrete standpoint of experience, and this can be done only by holding together, without obscuring, its subjective and objective aspects.


If one is to look to the history of philosophy for 'warnings, ‘it appears to me that one can derive from the history of the modern period useful instruction as to the futility of attempting to render philosophy 'scientific' by importing into it the principles and methods of the special sciences. Over and over again new movements have been inaugurated with great enthusiasm to reclaim philosophy from the error of its ways by assimilating its procedure to that of the special sciences, and over and over Agathe outcome has shown that philosophy cannot have a method imposed upon it from without, or be bound by any 'scientific ‘formulation of problems, no matter how skillfully prepared. A single consideration is sufficient to show the inapplicability of natural science concepts to philosophy: all the natural sciences deal with objects (or certain formal aspects of objects). Philosophy, on the other hand is concerned with experienced objects and experiencing subjects. In other words, philosophy is the science whose function is to maintain the standpoint of experience in its concreteness, and it thus includes, as an essential part of its task, a criticism of the categories of knowledge. But, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the function of knowledge is not to construct objects in their relations, but to report them. Knowledge has to follow and interpret the nature of a pre existing order of existence. It is sometimes said, however, that in the process of experience the apparent priority of the object is shown to be unreal; that the mind reduces the object to terms of itself or translates it into terms of ideas. Now it is true that in becoming known, the object reveals its interrelationship to the mind, and that it thus loses the indifference to knowledge which it seemed to possess as a mere form of external immediacy. But it is misleading and inaccurate to speak of knowing as 'reducing' the object to a meaning or idea, or as ‘abolishing' all differences between it and the mind. This form of statement, however, is often adopted by certain idealistic writers. It is even not uncommon to discover in the failure of the knowledge process to reduce the object completely to terms of the subject, and thus to abolish all duality, grounds for appealing to some 'hyper logical' form of experience. In this way it is hoped that the fatal defect of the duality that persists in knowledge may be overcome, and the perfect identity between the mind and the object secured. Now it seems to me that such an ideal of absolute identity is wholly imaginary and spurious. It is surely not a rational demand of knowledge that the object shall be 'reduced' to a state of mind; that there shall be absolute identity between ideas and the things and events known through them. To retain and to define in their reciprocal relations the distinct factors of experience is surely just as important as to discover identity. It would seem that knowledge must do both; that is, it must exhibit and define the differences between the mind and things, at the same time that it exhibits their aspect of identity.


The term 'identity,' however, needs to be carefully defined in this connection. The necessary assumption of experience is that the world of real objects is known, or at least knowable by the mind. The nature of the object is then such that it is capable of being reported in terms of experience. Of course, any concrete individual experience fails, because of its actual limitations, to report completely and without error the objective order of events. But it must not be forgotten that the mind's capacity to know involves the capacity to sift out errors and eliminate subjective limitations, so that we can regard the mind as a potential knower and the object as knowable. And, secondly, in attempting to determine in what sense there can be identity between the mind and the object we should look to a case where knowledge succeeds, to the ideal of knowledge, which may indeed never be completely realized in any individual experience but which is always realized in some degree in every case of real knowledge. Now judgment that expresses the result of actual experience affirms that reality, or some aspect of the real, is, or reveals a universal meaning or idea. (The full truth regarding the real cannot, of course, be expressed in a single judgment and no concrete judgment stands in isolation.) For it must be noted that, as genuine knowledge, the judgment is not to be taken as an ample connection of my ideas about things, but as an actual revelation of their nature. It is not the individual who, from an outside standpoint as it were, attaches ideal meanings to the thing, categorizing and classifying it according to his subjective fancy or convenience. But the relations and qualities of the thing itself come to light and are reported in terms of experience. No doubt experience always goes on in individual minds; but in so far as experience succeeds in realizing its purpose of attaining to knowledge, it is no merely individual affair. The nature of the object is indeed indifferent toward me as an individual so long as I attempt to know it in an external way through ‘qualifying' it by means of abstract ideas, or pasting upon it the labels which are convenient for my own subjective purpose. So long as I maintain my independent position against the object, its inner center and essence remain inaccessible, refusing to be ‘reduced' to sensations and relations in my mind. Only by stripping off its subjective opinions and sinking itself in the object does the mind render itself capable of becoming the bearer of truth, and only then does the object reveal itself in terms of experience. This rapprochement does not involve any real loss of independence on either side. In knowing the object the mind realizes its own capacities and comes to know its true nature; while the object, although displaying its true nature inexperience, does not thereby lose its reality as the being which is known, and so does not become numerically identical with the function of knowledge.


The proposition that experience maintains the duality of knowing and thing known is, then, not incompatible with the assertion that it also reveals their identity. For if there is no identity, knowledge cannot be objective and genuine; logical experience in that case is not a process of concrete determination, but a game that is played with abstract counters. That alternative I am not considering at present but am assuming that objects are capable of being known. If this be granted, then there must be more than an external correspondence between the 'idea' and the object. The idea, we say, is the interpretation of the object, the revelation of its nature. This revelation finds illustration in the fact that cognitive experience may always be read both in internal and external terms; as the ideas and judgments of amend, and as the determinations of real things. In its concreteness, it is both. Moreover, it can only be one in so far as it is the other. This statement, however, is not to be interpreted in the sense of the Kantian doctrine that experience is a compound made up of contributions from the mind and from the object. When the relation is put in these mechanical terms, the so-called contribution of the mind becomes a veil that makes it impossible to know the object as it were face to face. Because the mind expresses its own nature in the process of experiencing, the assumption is that it must thereby conceal the nature of the object. But apart from mechanical theories, why is such an assumption necessary? Because experience expresses the nature of the mind, does it follow that it cannot also express the nature of real objects? This possibility is excluded only by the theory that the relation between the mind and the object is external and mechanical. For those who accept the external view, and still wish to avoid subjectivism, the problem of how to eliminate consciousness naturally arises. What I am proposing is that we should not try to eliminate it and should not regard it with Kant as an 'Unbequemlichkeit'; but should accept knowledge as real. And to accept knowledge as real, to accept the doctrine that logical experience is a form of functioning in which the identity in difference of mind and object is exhibited and defined.

It may perhaps be said that this is to complicate words without adding anything essential to the fact of knowledge itself. How does the doctrine of 'identity in difference ' make the fact of knowledge more intelligible? In reply to this objection two points may here be mentioned. The first consideration, which has already been suggested, is that the conception of identity in difference makes it possible to understand how the mind can know the object without introducing some foreign element into the knowledge of it. In this way, therefore, one can avoid both subjectivism and objectivism. And, secondly, this conception enables one to discard the theory of representative knowledge, while retaining the undoubted element of truth which that theory contains. For logical experience does not construct an image or subjective picture of the object but reveals its essential nature and relations as an element in an unorganized system of ideas. The relation between 'idea' and real object is not external like that of a copy and its original, but the more intimate inner relation of existence and meaning.


It would therefore seem to follow that the question whether the real object and the idea are numerically identical cannot be properly raised. For the question as to whether two things are the same or different is possible only when the things compared belong to the same genus. But the 'cognizing' experience is not an object at all; it cannot even be regarded as an existing psychological process, or complex of processes. It is real, indeed; but its reality consists in its ideal significance or meaning as an element of a conscious experience. In the judgments through which experience is constituted, this 'idea' or meaning is affirmed to be at once identical with the object and different from it.


I have been trying to outline a view which maintains that all experience, of whatever kind, involves consciousness as a function of mediation. And since experience is assumed to furnish genuine knowledge of objects, it follows that no object can be in its own nature a simple unmediated entity. ‘To be real,' would therefore seem to involve, not merely standing in relations, but functioning as an element in a related system. In so far as knowledge is genuine, i.e., in so far as experience fulfils its task of determining the nature of the real, the categories and forms of experience must be actual constitutive determinations of the real world. This, of course, does not mean that anything we are in the habit of thinking must be objectively true; nor does it imply that the hypotheses and methodological principles adopted for a special purpose are tube accepted just as they stand as statements possessing ultimate ontological validity. But when criticism has done its work, when all of the findings of experience have been taken into account, when the analyses of the special sciences have been evaluated and interpreted, what we are obliged to think in the end must be accepted as true, if not the final and complete truth regarding the object.


I shall try to briefly state the bearings of the theory here outlined on the problem of the method of philosophy. In the first place, it appears obvious that the process of determining the nature of the real world must be accompanied by and involve the criticism of the categories of knowledge. Not only so, but these problems are one and inseparable. Epistemology and metaphysics cannot therefore be separated from one another: the categories of knowledge cannot be determined a priori but must be discovered and criticized through an analysis of the actual procedure of thought in dealing with the real world. Secondly, the conclusion seems to be justified that the fruitful method for philosophy cannot be that which proposes to begin by ignoring consciousness and dealing only with objects and their relations. With the idea underlying this proposal, viz., that experience brings us into direct contact with things, I am in full agreement. But the further assumption that such a relation to the real is not mediated by consciousness but takes place solely through the mediation of the physiological functions, seems plainly contradictory of experience. The necessity of getting rid of consciousness plainly depends on the idea that this imposes upon the object an element foreign to its true nature. This, as we have seen, would certainly be true if consciousness were a thing or substance having only an external or accidental relation to the object. One may recognize that the recent attempts to define consciousness in terms of objective relations represent a valid protest against the conception of consciousness as a self-enclosed entity or independent substance. But, as I have tried to show, ‘absolute' objectivism is the exact counterpart and parallel of the subjectivism which it seeks to escape. One view affirms directly from experience what the other denies; and, as is usual in philosophy, these contradictory statements rest on a common assumption. Both alike regard the identity exhibited in experiences as an exact numerical identity which excludes differences and is accordingly capable of being grasped as something simple and immediate.


For it is clear that all attempts thus prematurely to grasp the object, rest on the assumption that the real is a simple undifferentiated form of existence who’s complete being and truth can be presented or given at one stroke. But is it certain that what is real, simply is or exists without mediation? I have already said that if knowledge gives an accurate account of the nature of objects, to be real must mean to function as an element in a systematic totality. Undoubtedly some people will find grounds for rejecting this statement, perhaps because it seems to make for idealism. To avoid any such objection, I am glad to accept the proposition that 'the individual is the real.' The individual is, however, never a simple immediate, but the individuated, which involves positive and negative relations to other things.


Furthermore, even if it were true that real objects possess this form of immediate existence, it would be impossible for the mind to know them. For what mode of experience can we go to find such immediacy? Sometimes we are referred to 'science, ‘sometimes to the experience of the 'plain man,' and sometimes we are told that "Heaven lies about us in our infancy." I personally find it impossible to conceive of any form of awareness or feeling, of however primitive a type, that does not involve consciousness; and consciousness is surely in its very nature a principle of synthesis and interpretation. It is doubtless true that our knowledge of objects begins with a mode of experiencing in which objects with their determinations appear to be given as immediate facts. Nor can it be denied that this primitive experience furnishes the platform from which arise the problems that call out our subsequent processes of reflection. But this so-called presentative or perceptive experience presupposes the interpretation of thought. And, on the other hand, when we deliberately set a problem for thought, we do not cease to appeal to observation and to invoke intuition. What we call 'perception' is to a large extent thinking, and fruitful thinking is closely bound up with perceiving. Nevertheless, although the immediate and the mediate factors in the experience are always thus relative to each other, we can distinguish various stages in the process. The standpoint of ordinary experience, as already remarked, appears to possess immediacy as its prevailing characteristic. The reports of the special sciences carry us a long way beyond this immediacy of common sense. That is, they make it evident that 'the experience of the first look' does not furnish a satisfactory account of the various kinds of objects. Their lesson is that the immediate presentation must be left behind, and the objects construed in terms of atoms and ions, ether, forces, affinities and relations of various kinds, the terms varying with the different sciences. It is to these reports that we are often referred for the final word regarding the nature of reality. But there are serious difficulties in the way of following this advice. In the first place, these reports are not presented by the various sciences in the same terms; and on the surface, at least, they often exhibit inconsistencies. Each of the special sciences defines its own field of reality in accordance with its own particular purpose and adopts the methodological principles that prove most directly serviceable for describing and correlating the objects with which it is concerned. Moreover, the special sciences are concerned only with the various kinds of ‘objects,' and there are aspects of reality that cannot be reduced to this form. More specifically, the special sciences abstract from the process of knowing and the other judgments of conscious appreciation, looking outward rather than inward for their problem. It is, of course, true that one frequently finds within a special science discussion of method, and oftentimes a clear analysis of the presuppositions upon which the science rests. But these discussions, insofar as they belong to the science itself, do not involve any analysis of the knowing process as such, or any attempt to correlate and evaluate the various forms and categories of experience. Now, it is obvious that systematization of results in terms of experience is essential, if any final synthesis and interpretation of the real is to be reached. This systematization is the peculiar problem of philosophy. It should be evident, however, from the outset that a genuine correlation of the sciences cannot be attained by falling back through a process of abstraction, as Spencer proposes, on the most general conceptions which underlie all the sciences. Abstraction can never be an end in itself. Philosophy can arrive at new and valuable results only as a process of concretion, i. e., by introducing into the special sciences the point of view of conscious experience. This means that philosophy must enter into and seek to reinterpret the procedure and results of the special sciences, assigning to them their place and value as functions and determinations of consciousness. It is in this way, by the restoration of consciousness to its proper place, and by the interpretation of the world of objects in its light, that the dead bones of abstract knowledge may be made to live, and that there may be discovered in the world that fluidity and concreteness of which the special sciences seem to have robbed it.


To avoid any possible misunderstanding, I wish to say in conclusion that in speaking of philosophy as criticizing and reinterpreting the reports of the special sciences, I do not mean to suggest that it is the business of the philosopher to dispute or deny the accuracy of the scientist's results, or to inform him as to their bearing on the special problems with which the latter is engaged. To do so would of course be idle and impertinent. But the procedure and results of the sciences are an important part of the data by means of which the philosopher is seeking to solve a problem which does not arise in any of the fields of special investigation. For this problem, which demands an answer in terms of conscious experience, these data require to be differently appraised and evaluated. Philosophy must therefore in a sense begin where the sciences leave off. The analyses which the sciences carry on furnish the philosopher with data that are indispensable for his purpose. He cannot make these analyses for himself. His function is rather to promote rationality and intelligibility by endeavoring to form a consistent conception of a concrete system of knowledge and of reality. In so far as philosophy succeeds in reaching a concrete conception of a globus intellectualis it has something to offer in return to the scientist who is seeking for a clearer view of the wider bearings of his own results. For this synoptic vision of the whole, if concrete, will include the parts, assigning to each of the special inquiries its proper place, and exhibiting its more general significance as contributing to the determination of reality. Philosophy and the special sciences sprang originally from the same root, and in spite of the enormous specialization of modern investigations, the bond of connection has never been broken; the life-giving sap has never ceased to circulate through all the parts. Moreover, at the present time both philosophy and the sciences are recognizing a need for the restoration of the closer and more vital relation that formerly existed between them. On the side of philosophy, this result may be most certainly realized by maintaining a continuity with the past and its historic position as the science of experience, while not neglecting to understand and appropriate the wealth of material which the various sciences are making accessible at the present day.


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