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from the function of ideas. Their virtue lies in their substitutional and provisional character. They are means of knowing beyond the limits of immediacy; but are valid there only in so far as they refer to possibilities of immediacy. It is not unfair to say that on anti-intellectualist grounds, reality is revealed only when it is actually or potentially present. Whether this be construed as a limiting of knowledge in general or only of one kind of knowledge in behalf of another, is a matter of words. Direct, presentative, immediate experience, in which' reality is itself in mind, in which the knower and the known coincide, is more comprehensive, fundamental, and penetrating than the indirect, representative, mediate experience which implies it, refers to it, and is formed out of it.
In examining further the grounds of the pragmatist indictment of intellectualism we come at once upon the question of concepts. Intellectualism is charged with a blind and excessive use of concepts, with an exclusive reliance on them despite the abstractness and artificiality which vitiate them. This indictment of concepts suggests their distinguishing marks. A concept is abstract in the sense of being a discrimination, separation, and fixation of some limited portion of a wider experience. Being the work of analysis, a concept is clear and distinct. A concept is unambiguous; once the identification has taken place the concept is just what it is identified as being, and can never be anything else. It is discrete and changeless, as distinguished from the unlimited richness, the marginal vagueness, and perpetual flux of sense and feeling. But these virtues are offset by its artificiality. A concept is an instrument, owing its existence and form to its use. As a human artifact it is other than, and in a sense false to, the primitive experience from which it is created and to which it is applied. In other words, a concept is an idea, in the pragmatist sense. To this disparagement of concepts as abstract and artificial we must now turn.
1 Whether all ideas are concepts is not clear; and for our immediate
ness of Con
§ 4. James bases his criticism of concepts mainly on their abstractness. He repeatedly emphasizes their selec
tive or partial character. This would not renThe Abstract.
der them false if it were understood, and due cepts. "Vicious, allowance made for it. But it is customary for Intellectualism"
intellectualists to use concepts as though they were exhaustive of their objects, and to deny to the object whatever is not contained in the concept. This is what James calls "vicious” intellectualism or abstractionism. He describes it as follows: "We conceive a concrete situation by singling out some salient or important feature in it, and classing it under that; then, instead of adding to its previous characters all the positive consequences which the new way of conceiving it may bring, we proceed to use our concept privatively; we reduce the originally rich phenomenon to the naked suggestions of that name abstractly taken, treating it as a case of ‘nothing but' that concept, and acting as if all the other characters from out of which the concept is abstracted were expunged.” 1
In other words, “vicious intellectualism" proceeds as though a conceptual truth about a thing were the exclusive truth about the thing; whereas it is true only so far as it goes. Thus the world may be truly conceived as permanent and unified, since it is such in a certain respect. But this should not lead us, as it has led certain intellectualists, to suppose that the world is therefore not changing and plural. We must not identify our world with one conception of it. In its concrete richness it lends itself to many conceptions. And the same is true of the least thing in the world. It has many aspects, none of which is exhaustive of it. It may be taken in many relations or orders, and be given different names accordingly. As it is immediately presented it contains all these aspects, as potentialities for purpose it is not necessary to determine. See below, pp. 231-232. The best discussion of the matter is to be found in James: Some Problems of Philosophy, pp. 48 sq.
i Meaning of Truth, p. 249 (italics mine); cf. ibid., p. 147; and Pluralistic Universe, p. 218. Cf. also below, p. 365.
the discriminating and abstracting operation of thought. “Vicious intellectualism" thus rests on the errors that I have already referred to as 'exclusive particularity' and definition by initial predication': the false supposition that because a thing has one definable character, it cannot also have others; and that because it has been named first for one of its aspects, the others must be reduced to it or deduced from it.1
Now the fault of "vicious intellectualism" evidently lies in the misuse of concepts, and not in the nature of the concepts themselves. There is nothing to prevent our supposing that the abstractness of single concepts can be compensated for by the addition of further concepts, or by some conceptual system in which the presence and interrelation of many concepts is specifically provided for. In this case the remedy for the short-comings of concepts would be more concepts. But the indictment which pragmatism finds against intellectualism is much more serious than this. It is charged that concepts are such that they can never serve as means of knowing the native and salient characters of reality. To grasp these we must abandon concepts altogether, and turn to the illumination or inspiration of immediacy. To this charge, that there is an irremediable cognitive flaw in concepts, we must now turn.
5. Of eminent contemporary writers belonging to the pragmatist school in the broad sense, Bergson is the most
radical ‘anti-intellectualist.'? In his opinion The Failure of
intellect not only divides and separates reality, Concepts to Grasp Reality. thus replacing its concrete fulness with Radical Antiintellectualism
abstracted and partial aspects; but is doomed
to failure, however far its activities may be carried. Intellect cannot, in short, correct itself, and atone for its own short-comings.
The cause of this irretrievable failure lies in the fact that
· See above, pp. 126-128.
• Although his view is expounded with evident approval by James, in A Pluralistic Universe, Lect. VI.
intellect is essentially the instrument of action. For the purpose of action it is necessary to specify and fixate some present aspect of the environment. The object of action must be distinguished and held by the attention. Through the repetition of such attitudes the intellect elaborates a scheme or diagram in which the several terms of analysis are correlated. They remain distinct and external, but are woven by relations into a system, which is like its component terms in being stereotyped and fixed. The pattern of all such systems is geometry, the most perfect expression of the analytical method. The sign of the intellect's handiwork is spacial “ juxtaposition” and arrangement, the static coördination of discriminated elements. In vain, then, does the intellect seek to correct itself — for the further it proceeds the more thoroughly does it reduce reality to this form.
And it is this form itself, and not any specific or incomplete phase of it, that is foreign to the native, aboriginal quality of reality. The latter abides, not in fixity, but in fluidity; not in sharpness of outline, but in adumbration; not in external juxtaposition, but in "interpenetration;" not in discreteness, but in continuity; not in space, but in time. The helplessness of the intellect to escape its own inveterate habits appears most strikingly in its treatment of time. For it spacializes even this, conceiving it as a linear series of instants, whereas real time is an "enduring” (durée réelle), a continuous and cumulative history, a “growing old.” And this real time we cannot think; we must "live it, because life transcends intellect.” 1
A radical anti-intellectualism may serve as the ground of an attack upon science, as is illustrated by the views of the French pragmatist LeRoy, and the Italian pragmatist Papini. “Science consists only of conventions, and to this circumstance solely does it owe its apparent certitude; the facts of science and, a fortiori, its laws are the artificial work
1 Bergson's Creative Evolution, trans. by A. Mitchell, pp. xiv, 46. Ci. Ch. I, passim.
of the scientist; science therefore can teach us nothing of the truth; it can serve only as a rule of action." But there is a sequel. For with LeRoy and Papini, as with Bergson, the failure of science is compensated by an immediate sense of the power of life. Science manufactures concepts, which misrepresent reality; but the life which science serves, the creative agency which forges and uses the instruments, is known to itself by instinct and faith.
§ 6. This wholesale indictment of the intellectual method rests, I am convinced, on a misunderstanding of that method. It will be worth our while to seek The Failure of Anti-intellec- more light on the matter. In the first place, tualism to as has been already suggested,' neither BergUnderstand the Intellectual son nor James is clear as to whether a concept Method. Con- is to be distinguished by its function or by its content. Is 'concept' the same as 'idea,' or
cept as Func
tion and as Content
is it a special class of ideas? This question is of crucial importance. For if 'concept' is only another name for 'idea,' and if an idea is essentially a function or office, and not a content, then the failure of concepts must mean simply the failure of the ideating or mediating operation of thought. But this operation, according to the pragmatist account, is essentially a mode of access to immediacy. The more it is perfected the more unerringly it leads us into the presence of its object. To prove that intellect is essentially instrumental, and then to attack it in behalf of the very end for which it is useful, would be a strange procedure. In fact the anti-intellectualist perpetually employs intellect in this sense, even with reference to 'reality.' He uses words and figures of speech which he hopes will conduct the reader or hearer to the immediate experience in which 'reality' is revealed. A pragmatist can have no ground for maintaining that there is any reality which cannot be represented, for he means by repre
1 Quoted from an exposition and criticism of LeRoy by Poincaré, in The Value of Science (trans. by Halsted), p. 112. See also above, pp. 93 ff. For Papini, cf. below, p. 264.
See above, p. 227.