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IMMEDIATISM VERSUS INTELLECTUALISM : § 1. The pragmatist theory of knowledge, in the limited sense, is an analysis and description of the concrete process Definition of of intellection or reflective thought. It is an
account of mediate knowledge, or knowledge about of that knowledge in which ideas of things are entertained, believed, or verified. Pragmatism finds intellection to be essentially a practical process, or operation. But in the course of his exposition, the pragmatist is perpetually attacking what he calls 'intellectualism;' by which he means the uncritical use of the intellect. The pragmatist describes the intellect, and because he understands it, he can discount it; the "intellectualist," on the other hand, reposes a blind confidence in it. The pragmatist sees around the intellect, and construes reality in terms of its process and circumstances; while the horizon of the intellectualist is bounded by the intellect, and he can only use it and construe reality in terms of the results. Whereas the pragmatist vitalizes the intellect, his opponent intellectualizes life.
It is the old issue between the intellectualistic and voluntaristic views of the soul, revived in a new form; and it appears at first as though it were merely a question as to which of two parties shall have the last word. The intellectualist asserts that the will is a case of knowledge; it is what you know it to be; it must be identified with your idea or definition of it. The voluntarist or pragmatist, on the other hand, protests that knowing - the having of ideas or the framing of definitions, is a case of willing. And we seem to be launched upon an infinite series of rejoiners.
Portions of this and the following chapter are reprinted from “ Notes on the Philosophy of Bergson,” Jour. of Phil., Psych., and Scientific Methods, Vol. VIII, 1911, Nos. 26, 27.
But such is not necessarily the case. For it is entirely possible to regard both parties as correct. Suppose it to be admitted that knowing is a kind of willing. What, then, is willing? Is there any contradiction in supposing that one can know; in supposing that one can will to know what willing is? Bergson evidently believes that there is. He argues that the intellect, because it is a special form of life, cannot know the whole of life. “Created by life, in definite circumstances, to act on definite things, how can it embrace life, of which it is only an emanation or an aspect? Deposited by the evolutionary movement in the course of its way, how can it be applied to the evolutionary movement itself ?”But why not? Unless we are to assume that to know and to be known are the same thing, there is not the slightest difficulty in supposing that a part can know the whole. Assuming intellection to be a special act, there is no difficulty in supposing that it addresses itself in turn to the collateral parts of life; and in supposing that the act itself is known through the mutual knowledge of several intellects. Furthermore, it is absurd to describe knowing as willing unless one does know what willing is.
The purely dialectical question turns out, like most such questions, to be a quibble. The real question is this: is there a special variety of knowledge, namely mediate or reflective knowledge, the nature of which as a process can be apprehended only by another more general variety of knowledge, namely immediate knowledge? In these terms it is possible to distinguish two theoretical opponents and adjudicate their quarrel. The pragmatist, on the one hand, finds that reflective thought needs to be supplemented by some variety of non-reflective experience. Reflective thought, for example, implies sensible facts, which are simply sensed, and no more. Or, reflective thought itself is a process, which as such is directly felt. Again, certain things, such as time, cannot in their native character be
· Bergson: Creative Evolution, trans. by A. Mitchell, p. x; cf. p. 49. . Cf. below, pp. 255, 295-296.
grasped by thought at all, but must be apprehended by instinct. The intellectualist, on the other hand, insists that all things must be identified with what we know of them, and that there is but one way to know, namely, by reflective thought. In short, the real support of the pragmatist polemic against intellectualism is insistence on a non-intellectual variety of knowledge, which is more fundamental and more comprehensive than intellection; which affords, as James expresses it, real “insight” as distinguished from the superficiality and abstraction of intellection.
§ 2. Pragmatists offer different versions of this non-intellectual or non-reflective experience. With Bergson it is Non-intellec
“the fringe of vague intuition that surrounds tual Experience, our distinct that is, intellectual represenor Immediacy tation.” If he hesitates to call it knowledge, it is only because it has more rather than less of cognitive value than knowledge in the usual sense. “The feeling we have of our evolution and of the evolution of all things in pure duration is there, forming around the intellectual concept properly so-called an indistinct fringe that fades off into darkness." And intellectualism forgets "that this nucleus has been formed out of the rest by condensation, and that the whole must be used, the fluid as well as and more than the condensed, in order to grasp the inner movement of life. Indeed, if the fringe exists, however delicate
. and indistinct, it should have more importance for philosophy than the bright nucleus it surrounds. For it is its presence that enables us to affirm that the nucleus is a nucleus, that pure intellect is a contraction, by condensation, of a more extensive power."? In short, intellectual knowledge is surrounded and corrected by intuitive or immediate knowledge. The former is defined and assigned limits by the evidence of the latter.
James alone of pragmatist writers is always willing to refer to the non-intellectual experience as a species of knowledge. As he expresses it in his exposition of Bergson, there is
1 Pluralistic Universe, p. 246. • Op. cit., pp. 49, 46 (italics minc).
a living or sympathetic acquaintance” with things, distinguished from the knowledge about them that “touches only the outer surface of reality.” “The only way in which to apprehend reality's thickness is either to experience it directly by being a part of reality one's self, or to evoke it in imagination by sympathetically divining some one else's inner life.” If you are to really “know reality,” you must “dive back into the flux itself," or turn your face toward sensation, that fleshbound thing which rationalism has always loaded with abuse."'i
Dewey's opinion would seem to differ from that of Bergson and James, mainly in his strict reservation of the term 'knowledge' for the intellectualized experience. The nonintellectual experience is there in his view as in that of Bergson and James, and it plays substantially the same rôle. “Things are what they are experienced to be”; and knowledge is by no means the "only genuine mode of experiencing.” The “knowledge-object” is immersed in “an inclusive, vital, direct experience.” There is an experience in which knowledge-and-its-object is sustained, and whose schematized, or structural, portion it is.” Knowing being one mode of experiencing, “the primary philosophic demand [from the standpoint of immediatism) is to find out what sort of an experience knowing is – or, concretely, how things are experienced when they are experienced as known things.”In short, this extra-cognitive experience is clearly an experience of things to be, an experience of things as such and such; and thus a revelation of their nature. As with Bergson and James, it affords the light by which the cognitive process itself is circumspected and discounted, and intellectualism denounced as rendering a limited view of reality.
$ 3. Thus far, then, the pragmatist polemic against intellectualism signifies that knowledge commonly so-called,
" A Pluralistic Universe, pp. 249–252.
: "Reality as Experience,” in Jour. of Phil., Psych., and Scientific Methods, Vol. III, p. 256; Influence of Darwin, etc., pp. 228, 229.
the knowledge mediated by ideas, is but one way, and that not the most profound way, of knowing things. The
essentially practical or instrumental character Immediacy Implied in of mediate knowledge suggests that it is knowlMediate
edge ‘for a purpose,' a knowledge limited by Knowledge
a governing motive. The full extent and native quality of reality, including the ideational or mediating process itself, is to be apprehended only by immediacy, such as sensation or the feeling of life. We must now examine the grounds of this pragmatist contention. We must ask, in other words, why it is that intellectual knowledge is limited, inadequate, and secondary.
In the first place, it is contended that mediation implies immediacy. The mediating relation between the idea and its object, always implies the immediate presence of the idea, of the process, and eventually of the object or terminus of the process. “It is in the concrete thing as experienced," says Dewey, “that all the grounds and clues to its own intellectual or logical rectification are contained.” “Sensations,” says James, “are the mother-earth, the anchorage, the stable rock, the first and last limits, the terminus a quo, and the terminus ad quem of the mind.” Or, as he puts it more emphatically, “these percepts, these termini, these sensible things, these mere matters-of-acquaintance, are the only realities we ever directly know, and the whole history of our thought is the history of our substitution of one of them for another, and the reduction of the substitute to the status of a conceptual sign.”'1
Thus not only is mediate knowledge tested by immediacy, but it is never more than a second best, a mode of knowledge to be adopted in default of immediacy. The best idea will be that which renders its own existence unnecessary by leading to "an actual merging of ourselves with the object, to an utter mutual confluence and identification," - "a completely consummated acquaintance.” ? This follows
· Dewey: op. cit., p. 235; James: Meaning of Truth, p. 39 (italics mine). • James: op. cit., p. 156.