The Final Ground of Knowledge


Leighton, Joseph A. “The Final Ground of Knowledge.” The Philosophical Review 17, no. 4 (1908): 383. https://doi.org/10.2307/2177912


The purpose of the following paper is to consider what is implied as to the character of reality, taken as a unitary whole, if knowledge be valid. I shall assume, in order to go forward more rapidly, that the 'copy' theory of knowledge is dead and buried. Thinking is not a mirror which passively reflects a world, and valid thoughts or bits of knowledge are not copies of outside things. Thought is active in 'knowing' no less than in 'willing,' and the world of real existence which thought knows must be of such a character that it responds to or submits to the activity of thought without vitiation of its own actual nature. It is obviously the case that the individual mind, as knowing, does not create the materials of its knowledge, not even of its self-knowledge. There is always a determinate datum given to thought in experience. The individual knower could intelligibly conceive neither a world nor its own nature, without the presence of a datum which is existentially distinct from itself as knower.

Nevertheless, the attempt to define this original datum of experience in terms of an absolute sensible minimum or raw and irreducible material of experience, supposed to be representative of a reality by nature absolutely disparate from mind as knowing, and discolored by the reaction of the latter to it, must always prove fruitless. By the method of analytic reduction and elimination of the thought-factor, we can never reach a stage in the analysis of actual experience at which we can point to an absolute datum of sense, from which the influence of the mental reaction is entirely absent. ' Pure ' sensation may exist for the psychologist, but it exists as an artificial product of analysis. There is no actual state of mind in knowing that is freer from the activity of thought than crude sense-perception, such, for instance, as suddenly bumping against an object in the dark. And yet this experience involves at least the awareness or recognition by thought of an object. When the baby becomes aware of any solid object, the bed, or the body of its mother, even in this inchoate and dawning knowledge its mind reacts. Actual experience in its crudest terms is the reaction of mind to a stimulus, but the immediate datum is the experience as received by a mind. The stimulus is an inference. One cannot define a physical stimulus out of all relation to the corresponding perception or sensation. The very vibration of ether or air, supposed to be the physical stimulus of visual or auditory sensation, has minimally in so far as it is organically related to the mind which perceives colors and sounds.


The cognitive significance of the entire world of the not-self depends on the readiness with which the most primitive experiences, as meeting points of self and not-self, lend themselves to interpretation and reconstruction in terms of the self's controlling interests and ideas. While the external world has a determinate order of its own, this order is found not to exclude the directive influence of human thought-activities and purposes. The self is able successfully to forecast the order of nature and to adjust its own activities thereto. This is the most obvious and immediate test of the validity of knowledge, viz., that, taken by and large, knowledge 'works.'


Thought, then, is not wholly constrained from without. The external world does not dictate unconditionally or indubitably tithe mind the direction which its thoughts and purposes shall take, nor does it determine the rate at which knowledge Shal grow. In its theoretical, as well as in its practical, procedure, human thinking is self-determining. It selects the data which it shall reconstruct in accordance with its own aims. The whole history of science bears out the truth of this view. Even in the science of mathematics, with its relatively very abstract and simple data and its rigorous procedures, progress has been slow and irregular because of frequent failure to choose and follow out the problems that were most fruitful. The mind of man, immersed in the world of objects, has but intermittently considered the nature of its own processes. Hence the comparative modernness of systematic psychology. Not only does each individual investigator choose his own field, but each age as well has a fashion in intellectual work which it follows.


The responsiveness of the external world to the changing aims of human thought implies a dynamic community, an organic relationship, between the mind and the world. Either the whole development of knowledge is the expression, in mental symbols or signs, of the actual relationships in which the mind stands tithe world and in which the varied elements of existence stand tone another; and, hence, the world of reality is in some sense a system shot through by mind; or else it is impossible to say in any definite sense what the relation may be, of truth or illusion, in which human thought and experience, as factors in the individual’s psychical life, stand to the world outside. In the latter case, our knowledge hangs in the air and its validity is a mere subjective prejudice.


A way out of this difficulty may be sought in a manner that is fashionable to-day, in the social consciousness. It may be argued that the final test of truth is the agreement of different minds under the same conditions and at a similar stage of development. If we cannot successfully apply the test of universal consent, we may and do rely on the testimony of experts, and experts are socially recognized authorities. Truth, then, becomes a question of the social standing of a proposition; and, on the other hand, since men and minds notoriously differ, we must presuppose, when we apply this test, that the social group is homogeneous, for example, that it is the real masters in physics or biology to whom reference is made. Now, without doubt, this test of truths of great practical importance. The authority of experts may well be the final court of appeal for the laymen. But this test is after all only of proximate value. It rests on a suppressed premise. It presupposes a common rational structure in all minds and the possibility of a common relation of all minds in the world of reality. One may not assert that the social consciousness is the final ground of truth, for the reason that every form and phase of the so-called social consciousness has its originating center in individual minds, and, hence, involves a reference of the latter's passing thought to a reality beyond itself. And every such reference assumes the validity of the general thought-processes which are alike involved in the recognition of other selves and of an external world.


The relationships between human individuals, no less than the relations of the individual mind to the order of nature, involve an over-individual thought-actuality. The validity of my knowledge another self, not less than the validity of my knowledge of these-called material world, involves the rational intercourse of my mind with an order of reality which transcends the so-called ‘social contents' of my consciousness, taken as a psychological process, just as truly as it transcends the psychological processes of touch, color, form, sound, and weight sensations, which represent for me the world of material things. There can be nonessential difference in kind between the validity of my knowledge in these two spheres. Human society and the physical world must, therefore, both be elements in a more comprehensive system, the reality of which is implied in any bit of genuine knowledge. The reality of truth cannot be constituted by the cooperative thinking of human society, since, in the latter, knowledge is always imperfect and in process of growth, whereas truth by its very nature refers to a reality not generated in the psychological process of its discovery. On the other hand, the development of society, through valid knowledge, efficient interaction, and deeper communal feeling, involves the same meaningful and systematic reality which makes possible the cognitive life of the single self in its predominantly individual aspects. If the conditions of the validity of knowledge, /. e., of its actual reference to reality, are not directly implicated in the movement of the individual's thought, these conditions cannot be obtained by counting individual minds and calling the sum Reality = Social Consciousness.


Doubtless, knowledge of one's neighbors is, at all stages of human development, of greater practical and emotional interest than knowledge of nature. But this does not place the former on a generically different plane from the latter, nor give it a validity of a higher order. Both kinds of knowledge begin in immediate experience, perceptions of contact, color, movement, etc., in the one case, and the feeling of another life and consciousness in the other case. 1 Primitive man is unable to distinguish clearly between these two sorts of knowledge, and even civilized man is often at a loss to tell whether a body is living or dead, and to determine the presence or degree of consciousness in an organism. How much in the dark we often are as to our fellows' motives and ideas, not to mention those of the animals!


In both cases our knowledge requires to be corrected and enlarged

by the same mental processes. Both forms of immediate experience must be ' mediated ' in order to yield surer practical guidance and a fuller insight. No doubt, as man develops in civilized society, his acquaintance with his fellows seems to become more intimate than his acquaintance with the physical order. Nature is de-animated; it becomes lifeless and remote. But this may be a transitional result in the development of knowledge, due to over-emphasis of the abstract physical sciences. Our knowledge of nature may become more adequate when we recognize that it, too, is the expression of a psychic life. Certainly the actual successes of human thought in establishing and forecasting the behavior of things, in constructing a systematic insight into the unity of the world, in short, the entire work of reflectively organizing experience in relation to the physical, as well as to the social environment, argue that the real world is an intelligible or significant system. I cannot here discuss at length the view that the truth of particular truths, or 'propositional ‘truths, is nothing more than an immediately apprehended quality of propositions, like the color of an orange or the bouquet of wine. G. E. Moore and. Russell apparently draw from this contention the conclusion that there is a plurality of self-existent truths independent of their relations to any knowing mind or to one another. The latter contention seems to me to be refuted by the consideration that the growth of real knowledge always consists in the development of greater systematic coherence.


As to the former contention, it seems to me simply to emphasize the psychical 'feeling or belief-coefficient that accompanies recognition of a specific truth by an individual mind. This belief coefficient by no means relieves one from the necessity of further analysis and grounding of specific truths. The color of an orange or the bouquet of a wine is an experience capable of further analysis. So is the intuition of the truth that 2 + 2 = 4. in such cases as the latter, the truth is not the same for a child learning it and for the mathematician with a grasp on the principles of the number system. The mathematician's truth does not invalidate the child's, but it does transform it by a more systematic insight.


When we employ the various logical methods of investigating and testing the results of thinking, we are not comparing the latter with something wholly alien to itself. We are testing the adequacy of our symbols and formulas with reference to the ideal of a self-coherent or wholly systematized experience. Knowledge is intra-experiential, in the sense that the materials and points of departure for cognitive thinking are found in immediate experience; and, again, knowledge involves all along the line a reference to experience, in the sense that its goal is a complete or perfected experience, in which every datum is become an element in a harmonious system. On the other hand, in relation to any actual experience, cognitive thinking has always a transcendent reference, since this complete or perfect experience is for us to impart only 'ideal' or 'possible.' We can conceive reality in its systematic and self-consistent wholeness only in terms of the structure and functions of a 'possible' perfect experience in which knowledge or consciousness is aware of all its data in their organic or systematic unity. Valid knowledge is the symbol of, and the actual reference of the individual's thought to a reality, which, whatever the qualitative variety and quantitative multiplicity of its elements, must have those coherences or relationships that are commonly called 'rational.'


While truth has for me its point of departure in my experience, its ultimate reference must transcend the experience of any finite self. And knowledge is always the reflective consciousness of some relation or group of relations between a thinking mind and the systematic whole of a self-coherent reality in which the mind, so thinking is an element. Reality may have many series of increasingly inclusive systematic unities/ from that of unconscious physical centers of relationship up to that of an absolute self-luminous unity of 'ideal' experience. If reality in all its forms were not always intelligible, at least in promise and potency, knowledge could have no absolute validity. Truth is an individual achievement and possession here and now in a particular mind, and yet must possess universality of reference, i.e., be timelessly valid for all. How can we reconcile these attributes of truth? Kant and his immediate followers based the objectivity of truth on the existence of a consciousness or mind common to all individuals, but, in itself, over-individual and absolutely distinct from the empirical ego. But they failed to make clear the relation of this universal consciousness (Bewusstsein uberhaupt) or ‘transcendental ego' to the individualized human consciousness. In Kant's theoretical philosophy the former seems to be a merely formal unity. And, from one point of view, the metaphysics of Fichte and Hegel were attempts simply to bring this notion of universal mind into more definite relation with that of the individual mind. We must now consider this problem.


I have already maintained that thinking selves develop knowledge or attain truth only in community with other members of a relational system, and that the success of the individual mind in reaching truth indicates that the world of reality can contain nothing absolutely impenetrable by mind. Individual minds have knowledge only as actual members of an intelligible system of things. Community of experience and universality, as attributes of truth, involve a fundamental identity of function, and hence of nature, in the elements of reality. Hence reality, in its systematic totality of meaning, must be a mental unity. The total real must have that intelligible character which is demanded by the place that human cognitive activity occupies therein. If any knowledge be valid, then the real universe is an intelligible and systematic whole, i.e., a rational organism. If there be any truth, and if the real world be a unity, this truth is valid only as an element in a systematic whole of meaning. This systematic whole must signify, or define, in terms of rational meaning, that aspect of reality which exists as the totality of objects of truth.


Truth, we say, is universal and necessary. By these attributes we obviously mean that any normal mind, placed in the same conditions and having had the same training and antecedent experience, must recognize the truth, or significant reference to existence, of the judgment which we have made or accepted. Button appeals to a normal mind as the standard of recognition for truth is to assume a common and over-individual structure and functioning in individual minds. This common rational structure is the Universal Mind or Thinker, the ground of the relational irrational system which is the ideal of knowledge.


The ultimate subject of reference in valid knowledge, then, Isa Universal Systematic Intelligence. The reality of this Intelligences presupposed whenever we test our judgments and theories by reference, either to the general conditions of valid thinking, or to the special conditions of actual existence. The test of self-consistency, i.e., of non-contradiction in a system, implies the ultimate reality of the rational or logical structure which functions in individual minds. The test of empirical reference to perception, in scientific induction, presupposes the coherence of the physical world-order with the structure and aims of mind in us. If there be any truth, the existing objects to which truth makes valid and significant reference must possess the specific character which makes truth valid and significant. If truth be real, the elements or aspects of reality which are not in themselves consciously significant ideas, or valid meanings, must conform to valid meanings., to cognitive acts of reference. In short, we may say that ultimate reality is at least two-fold in nature. It includes, in organic interrelationship, the valid reality of truth, or of the whole system of cognitive meanings, and the existential reality of thought’s objects of reference. And the valid reality of truth as a systematic whole presupposes that all existent objects, whether physical or psychical, are possible subjects of cognitive meanings. Ultimate Reality, then, must be a duality-in-unity, an ideal harmony of ‘differences.'


Indeed, mind or spirit is essentially a self-realizing process which knows, feels, and acts through 'differences,' and which fulfills itself in overcoming differences. In winning truth, mind affirms its oneness with the 'other' or 'object' to which truth refers, as, in winning the Good, mind affirms the oneness of its impulses and character with an ideal end, or as, in experiencing the beautiful, mind feels its harmony with the object. The unceasing movement of mind towards conscious self-possession and self-determination, through that which is other than itself, is the primal condition of its conscious meaningful life. Did this movement cease, mind must relapse into the unconsciousness of a dead thing.


Truth, in the specific sense, is always the significant symbol of relationships of things which belong to some kind of system. Even the truths of mathematics are but highly generalized signs of relationship among certain things. Now, relationships not cognized or felt by some consciousness seem to be unmeaning. One who asserts the existence of relationships independent of any thinking center is able to do so only because, in thinking of this supposed independence, he presupposes either his own consciousness or a consciousness uberhaupt. Relationships signify intelligible connections, and the reality of the latter presupposes a constitutive or sustaining act of intelligence. If all relations were, in reality, external to the terms related, the world would be in no sense a unity. A world of disjecta membra of this sort would be unintelligible, and could not, strictly speaking, be called world. For, since the development of knowledge is always a progress in our insight into the inter-relations of elements or ‘terms' of reality, the growth of knowledge, if relations are external to their terms and if terms are indifferent to relations, must be an inexplicable growth away from reality. Hence, if reality honor the knowledge process, the systematic relatedness which pertains to knowledge, and of which the growth in knowledge is the increasing revelation, must be organic to the real. And a reality to which intelligible relations are through and through organic is an intelligent reality. The total intelligence of reality is the ground of its partial and ever-growing intelligibility in and to the finite mind.


There can, then, be no truth or knowledge which does not obtain in and for some mind. And, since there can be no world of existents unqualified by truth, there can be no world of existents without a world-mind. One might, of course, arbitrarily assume a reality utterly independent of all consciousness; but a reality of this sort would be forever beyond the pale of discussion and utterly meaningless, since without positive reference to our experience. Hence, the whole system of psychical and other finite existences, with whose interactions and intersessions the individual knower's experience is inextricably bound up, and on which in specific cases knowledge seems to depend for the validity of its meanings, must in turn depend upon a more intimate systematic unity. The system of individual experiences must have a real basis for the unity that it depends upon at every moment in its life and for its continuity from moment to moment in the. world's history. The common basis for thought and knowledge must transcend alike the individual consciousness and the so-called 'social consciousness.' It follows from the principle that nothing can at once exist and have meaning which does not exist for a mind, that the unity of the social system of individual experiences must be for some mind or center of experience. In a final analysis the objectivity of truth, the valid reference of knowledge to reality, depends on the reality of a single, systematic intelligence, which must have a determinate character, since it is the ground of a determinate system of cognitions.


But, now, the question confronts us: Why need there be any truth at all? What right has one to assume that any knowledge has final validity, that any cognitive meaning is honored by the universe, that things have any ultimate significance whatsoever? These queries might be answered by pointing to the splendid practical successes of science in giving man control over the physical world. But this would be only a make-shift answer. For, again, the objection might be urged that our knowledge is, after all, as yet very limited, is constantly changing, and the years of human science are infinitesimally few in comparison with the supposed duration of the universe. Therefore, it is possible that our fragmentary science, with its ideal of systematic completeness, is but a happy hit which more or less successfully fits into the present phase of an ageless, ever-changing chaos. The vaunted fitness of science to the world may be but a chance coincidence amidst a chaos of innumerable possibilities. On the ground of a utilitarian success alone, we are not entitled to assume any final validity in knowledge nor any absolute truth.


It is true, nevertheless, that the sceptic is himself unable to refrain from assertion or judgment of some sort. In his deepest doubt there lurks the assumption of a possible knowable truth. Even when he suspends judgment and refrains from any assertion, he assumes that he knows enough about the nature of things to make every more specific assertion futile. In short, to seek truth is a fundamental impulse of rational human nature, an impulse which the most radical sceptic cannot free himself from. To become reflectively aware of any experience is to make judgments, and to make a judgment is to assume that some reality is intelligible or that some truth is real. And, if there be any truth at all, there must be an absolute organism of truth, since no single truth can be valid for reality out of its place in the systematic whole of truth which expresses the absolute and total cognitive meaning of reality. Even the sceptic cannot free himself from the rule of the instinct to know. His most radical questionings presuppose the possibility of a rational answer. His most consistent attempts to suspend all judgment imply at the least this judgment about reality, viz., that it is so constituted that no human judgment can be valid for it, or that there is no means of determining whether any specific judgment is valid.


In short, to think at all, even in terms of the most radical skepticism, is to assume the validity of truth. We must seek truth and promote its recognition, because it is a mode or function of the common spiritual nature in men. Truth is an end in-itself, since it is an integral pulsation of reason in the spirit of man. In attaining truth, the individual thinker is entering the universal heritage of mind.

Serious objection may be made to the doctrine that the Supreme Rational Unity or Systematic Intelligence, on which truth is made to rest, has self-consciousness. It may be urged that, however completely I may organize my experience into knowledge, still my experience and thought, as finite, are dependent on a 'not-self’ or ‘other.' Knowledge seems always to involve both a resemblance or community of nature, between the knowing self and the not-self or 'other,' and a duality of being. So far as our insight goes, it seems, then, that the very condition of a conscious selfhood and, therefore, of experience and knowledge in general, is the existence of an element that cannot be comprehended in or absorbed into the self's thinking. Therefore, it may be said, as soon as one conceives knowledge as absolute, one thinks the self as absolutely coincident with the data of experience. Knowing self and known 'object' collapse or coalesce into a higher unity. The objective reference or validity of knowledge in relation to the materials of experience ceases since there is no longer any existentially outer object or ' other ' to which thought can be referred by a cognitive self. Knowledge, when it becomes absolute, fuses wholly with its object and self-consciousness ceases, or is transmuted into 'something else, into some higher, and, by us, inconceivable kind of experience. It would seem to follow that in this higher state of insight or experience there can no longer be any cognitive consciousness, as we human beings understand consciousness, nor any truth as we conceive truth. The complete union of self and not-self results in something which may be more than a conscious self, but which certainly cannot be a self in the sense in which we know the self reflectively. Hence, the systematic intelligence on which the whole of knowledge depends cannot be self-conscious and nothing can be true for it.


Now, it must be admitted that, if a self-coherent totality of truth be real in and for a consciousness, the relation of such a consciousness to some of its objects (i. e., to those objects of its knowledge that are not its own internal and immediate states of feeling) must differ decidedly from the relation of any human consciousness to its corresponding objects. Truth cannot be a perfect organism, unless it means the thorough comprehension, by the knower, of the determinate world of objects. A universal knower must, then, as a conscious knower, have a world of ‘objects' and, as a perfect knower, must wholly penetrate, within intuitive insight, this world. Such a knower must be in some sense the ground of his own experience. So far as his experience depends on the activities and experiences of other beings, their experiences must, in turn, somehow depend on his activity. A world which is the ' other ' of his thought cannot have self-existence external to his will. Hence, such a knower must sustain the world of objects which he knows. The 'opposition ‘between his thought and its objects, for example, the movements of a material system or the activities of living and conscious beings, must originate in his own activity. His life can be ‘limited' or 'determined,' only in the sense that he is conscious, as originating an 'opposition' through and in which he finds consciousness; in other words, he is conscious as self-determining activity that constitutes the 'other' for his own conscious experience.

This is a difficult notion that probably no amount of reflection will make plain to our finite and growing minds. But sun-clear lucidity is not to be expected in such matters. Moreover, there is that in the nature of human consciousness which gives us some inkling of the possible nature of a 'higher' consciousness. Forti is not true that knowledge, in all its phases, depends on the opposition of a wholly external 'other.' The impulse to know is by no means always a compulsion from without, and in self-knowledge the object is within the knower's thought. The higher phases of knowledge involve the self-initiative of the knower who in knowing enlarges his being. In order to satisfy its demands for reflective insight into the nature of things, the finite self must seemingly go outside its present selfhood. But, indeed, the truer view is that in knowledge, as in any kind of genuine self-activity, growth in depth, extent, and organization involves a constant dialectic movement between the two poles of internally initiated interest and activity and externally given materials and obstacles. And the goal of this movement is twofold, the internal appropriation or 'spiritualization' of the not-self, and the expansion and enrichment of the self. In this dialectic process of development through opposition the mind assimilates a seemingly foreign world more and more completely to itself and enlarges its own being thereby. In knowledge, which is a special case of this general movement, the 'other,' which first appears as a negation of the knowing mind is progressively overcome and unified with the mind.


The process of knowledge, and, indeed, of experience as a while, is a progressive overcoming of the fundamental antithesis between self and not-self, which is the nerve of all intellectual activity, of moral endeavor, aesthetic vision, and religious aspiration. The meaning of the antithesis is that it is there to be overcome; and the self is potentially infinite since it can overcome unceasingly the opposition in question. It does overcome this opposition, and make it tributary to its own self-fulfillment, in finding the true, as in willing the good, and enjoying the beautiful.


This process of self-realization is illustrated in the social world, where selves cooperate to win truth and goodness and to embody the vision of beauty. The farther the social relationships of selves develop, in the direction of mutual understanding and inclusive sympathy, the more completely does the single self-learn to find itself in and through other selves. It dies to its narrow selfhood to live in a larger experience. The primitive savage is so ignorant and fearful that to him every stranger is an enemy, a point of absolute 'opposition.' The cultivated man of the twentieth century can appreciate the meaning of a world-literature and cherish the thought of a universal peace and of a humane social ethics. He lives through and with others in a vastly wider, richer, and more harmonious experience than that of the savage. The deeper and more harmonious a self's experiences become, the more rationally communicable and shareable do they grow. Progress in rational self-consciousness is at once a growth in internal self-enlightenment and in communal experience. A living world of socially related individual centers tends toward fuller unity-in-variety. And the ' otherness ' of its world of things and selves is a prime condition of the human self's growth in knowledge, as in goodness and in all the forms of harmonious experience. Without 'opposition' or 'negativity' to be lived through, there is no reflective insight and no ethical volition. Now, the growth in knowledge is simply the explication and revelation of that community between the self and its world (of things and selves) which is implicit from the very outset of mental life.


Object and subject of knowledge, then, are strictly co-relative. The imperfection and indirection of our human knowledge result from the finite and growing character of the individual members of the world system, both as knowers and as known. On the other hand, if there be a systematic, self-consistent whole of absolute truth, the mind for which this truth is true must have an insight that transcends change and that wholly penetrates, while yet it consciously lives in, the opposition of subject-knower and object-known. Its knowledge, it would seem, can neither be impelled nor limited by anything that remains stubbornly outside the reach of its experience and immediate insight.


A Supreme Mind, of course, could not be a knower without an object of knowledge. But, on the other hand, if such mind be the ground of truth in its self-consistent totality, i.e. if it be the source and basis of the unity and continuity of cognition in finite centers of being, then the 'objects' of its knowledge cannot constitute external and stubbornly opaque limits to its world insight. Every object, for a Supreme Self, must depend on the consent of his will or somehow have its basis of existence in his being. The finite self may possess its own unique experience and be the proximate initiating center of its own deeds, but it’s being and action must be impossible out of relation to the Supreme Mind who sustains its life and experience as an element in the whole system of reality. One could not conceive a Supreme Mind without finite centers of experience. Their lives and activities must enter, as elements, into the unity of its insight. Justas a finite self may be said to have his experiences sympathetically reproduced by other finite selves, so by analogy a Supreme Mind may be said to apprehend intuitively and in perfect degree the mind of a finite self without abolishing the latter's unique experience and life. Mind can give to mind without losing and take without robbing. Truth may be shared in common by a multitude of minds and yet refer to one indivisible object. So a finite self, here and now, will have this bit of experience or this particular prepositional truth as a unique element in his mental history, but the final validity and significance of this local and limited experience will depend upon its relations in and to the whole of the absolute or 'ideal' experience of the Supreme Mind. The latter may know our experiences as elements in the systematic meaning of the universe, while our experiences remain uniquely valid for us.


Of course, it is possible to assert that knowledge is but a transient episode in an unconscious universe. But, if so, and if the universe has any coherence, then no knowledge is true since there is no absolute whole of truth. If there be no organism of truth, then the statement that knowledge is an episode in an unconscious universe is untrue, and there is no universe except for one who is willing to make unmeaning assertions.


The 'experience' or knowledge possessed by the Supermini must, as we have seen, be direct and intuitive, in contrast with the hindered and piecemeal character of our human discursive knowledge. The Ultimate Mind must apprehend truth in its systematic totality, and the absolute truth must be the whole system of relations and terms which is intuitively perceived or grasped in a single and continuous act by such a mind.


It would seem to follow that neither the truths of mathematics nor of perception (the two poles of human knowledge) need exist for such a mind precisely as they exist for our minds. Obviously perceptive intelligence in such a mind must grasp every item of perception in all its relations, and this our minds never do. The Supreme Mind must be an intuitive intelligence; our minds are largely discursive in their operations. For example, the proposition that 2 + 2 = 4, or that the three interior angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles, need not represent acts of thought for a perfect intuitive intelligence. Grasping all finite existences in their systematic relations, it does not need toad, multiply, or divide. Grasping space in its final truth, in the totality of the real, such a mind does not need to geometrize. I venture to suggest that the intuitive processes of the highest genius in science, poetry, and art, processes which transcend discursive thinking, give us the best hints of the nature of a Supreme Intuitive Intelligence.


While the Supreme Mind is the necessary implicate of the system of finite existences, sentient and insentient, and cannot be thought out of relation to these, it cannot be an existent in the same sense in which finite things exist. It’s being must at once transcend every form of existence and sustain the system of the finite in its organized totality of meanings or of truth. The ultimate presupposition of truth's reality or validity is a transcendent consciousness or 'ideal' experience, whose being is the pure actuality of intuitive thinking or active reason, and whose expressionism twofold, the validity of knowledge and the system of finite existents concerning which knowledge is valid.


There yet remains the grave difficulty as to how one is to conceive the relation to change and progress in finite beings of an Eternal and Perfect Knower, some objects of whose knowledge are changing and in process of development. This difficulty constitutes perhaps the greatest and weightiest of all speculative problems. Its consideration must be reserved for another occasion.


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