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terms of a few broad types? Thus it may be contended that the boundaries of bodies are never absolutely straight or circular, or that no orbit is perfectly elliptical. But note what this criticism implies. It is based either on the fact that there is a sensible discrepancy between the form attributed to natural bodies in exact science, and the actual form of these bodies; or on the presumption that such a discrepancy would appear were our methods of study to be improved. In either case, the discrepancy in question is an analytical discrepancy, a difference of the same definite character as the terms compared. If natural boundaries or orbits are not of a relatively simple geometri
a cal character, then it must be because they are of a more complex geometrical character; if not a straight, then a broken line, if not circular or elliptical, then curved in some other way. Such considerations as these, therefore, do not tell in the least against the analytical method, or cast doubt on the relational structure of reality.
§ 10. But anti-intellectualism is involved in a more serious error. Not only does it misunderstand the view which it attacks; but it puts forth a claim of its own
which is unfounded, the claim, namely, to the The Supposed immediate apprehension of a fused and inarticuSuperiority of the Immediacylate unity. It exploits the common error of that Precedes Analysis
'pseudo-simplicity.' This error consists, as we
have seen, in projecting a verbal or subjective simplicity into the object. The single word 'life,' e.g., is used to refer to the complex thing, life. It is then assumed that behind the various characters of life, or infusing them, there must be a corresponding unity. Or, at the outset of inquiry, life is a problematic unity, a bare that, a something to be known; and it is assumed that this simple quale, this merging of elements, not-yet-but-tobe-distinguished, must somehow be among the elements themselves.
There are two ways of unifying experience. One way is to carry analysis through, and discover the connections of
the parts, and the articulate structure of the whole. The other is to reverse the operation, to carry it back to its vanishing point — to the bare word or the bare feeling of attention. In the second case the experience is simplified
by the disappearance of the object! A perfect simplicity, an ineffable unity, is attained at the point where the object drops out altogether. But then knowledge has ceased; and the experience, what there is of it, is of no cognitive significance whatsoever.
Thus Bergson says: “The more we succeed in making ourselves conscious of our progress in pure duration, the more we feel the different parts of our being enter into each other, and our whole personality concentrate itself in a point.” What Bergson is here describing is, I am convinced, the disappearance of cognition into an experience which is not an experience of anything at all. Such a unification may be obtained by falling asleep, or by auto-hypnosis. It throws no light whatever on the nature of anything. My experience of life has dissolved; but nothing follows concerning the nature of life. I have simply closed my eyes to it. I have blurred and blotted out my knowledge of life; but life is not therefore blurred or extinct. In the twilight all things are gray; in ignorance all things are simple. Bergson speaks of the "feeling of duration,' as "the actual coinciding of ourself with it"; and this, he says, admits of degrees. But I am not more a live when I feel duration than I was before when I thought it. The difference is that, whereas I formerly knew duration, or something of it, now I know comparatively nothing; I simply am duration. Duration itself is neither more nor less complex than it was before; my knowledge only has been simplified to the point of disappearance. Bergson speaks of an instinctive sympathy which, if it "could extend its object and also reflect upon itself," "would give us the key to vital operations.” But I believe that it is safe to say that in proportion as there is reflection i Creative Evolution, p. 201.
; Ibid., pp. 200, 176.
upon instinct, its complexity is manifest; and that in proportion as instinct is simple it has escaped experience altogether, and is, so far as cognition is concerned — nothing.
$ 11. The pragmatist critique of intellectualism, like the pragmatist theory of truth, tends to assume one or the The Subjectivis
other of two forms. Using Dewey's term tic Version of "immediatism" to express this pragmatist docImmediatism
trine positively rather than negatively, we may say that there is a subjectivistic or idealistic version, and a realistic version, of immediatism.
The crucial issue upon which the idealistic and realistic versions of immediatism divide is whether the activity of the intellect is creative or selective. Does the intellect generate concepts, or does it discover them? If we are to judge from the Creative Evolution, Bergson regards the intellect as an artificer. In other words, ideas, things, and objects express, not the environment, but the agent. It is by no means clear that this is consistent with the Bergson view, that intellect is a means of adaptation. “If,” as he himself says, "the intellectual form of the living being has been gradually modelled on the reciprocal actions and reactions of certain bodies and their material environment, how should it not reveal to us something of the very essence of which these bodies are made?” But this query does not prevent Bergson from deriving “intellectual form” from the intellect itself. The origin of it is to be looked for "in the structure of our intellect, which is formed to act on matter from without, and which succeeds by making, in the flux of the real, instantaneous cuts, each of which becomes, in its fixity, endlessly decomposable. ...
This complexity is the work of the understanding."i In other words, the relational texture, the grain of things, is generated by intellect. Given matter, not-yetintellectualized, is pure flux, in its own substance as simple, smooth, and undivided as the life which acts on it — the life of which it is but the "inverse” movement. According to this view, then, to conceive is to bring about the existence of that which is called concept. Conceptual discreteness is the derivative of the pure activity of intellect, and is in no sense contained in that upon which intellect operates.
Ibid., Introduction, p. xi, p. 250 (italics mine).
$ 12. According to the realistic version of immediatism, on the other hand, the intellect discovers, but does not The Realistic
make, concepts. This is the view that is on Version of the whole consistently maintained by James. Immediatism
Concepts are not merely functions of the intellect, they constitute a “coördinate realm” of reality. “If we take the world of geometrical relations, the thousandth decimal of a sleeps there, tho' no one may even try to compute it.” “Philosophy must thus recognize many realms of reality which mutually interpenetrate. The conceptual systems of mathematics, logic, æsthetics, ethics, are such realms, each strung upon some peculiar form of relation, and each differing from perceptual reality in that in no one of them is history or happening displayed. Perceptual reality involves and contains all these ideal systems and vastly more besides.” 1 The crux of the matter lies in this last statement. Reality is not other than the conceptual order, but more than the conceptual order. Intellect is an organ, not of fabrication, but of “discernment,” a power men have “to single out the most fugitive elements of what passes before them ... aspect within aspect, quality after quality, relation upon relation." 2
When thus construed, pragmatism's account of intellect is consistent with its general naturalistic grounds. Concepts work, because the environment is presented and displayed in them. Since nature has logical and mathematical properties, it is expedient to act as tho' it had;
· James: Meaning of Truth, pp. 42 (note), 203; Some Problems of Philosophy, pp. 101-102 (italics mine). Cf. also op. cit., p. 56; Pluralistic Universe, pp. 339–340 (not
• James: Some Problems of Philosophy, pp. 51, 52.
while an intellect that was fatally predestined to falsify the environment would be as misleading to action as it would be inherently arbitrary and meaningless. And this realistic version of concepts is entirely consistent with a censure of their blind and uncritical use. Because nature is logical and mathematical, it does not follow that it is merely logical and mathematical. Such an intellectualism is vicious indeed. The abstracting of some characters of reality is beset by a characteristic danger, the danger of ignoring the rest. This follows from the fact that intellect is selective; it in no way implies that intellect is creative.
It is also true that in a sense the perceptual world is richer than the conceptual, since the latter is abstracted from it, leaving a residuum behind. James, it is true, goes further than this, and contends, with Bergson, that there are some properties of reality, the dynamic or temporal properties, which cannot be conceived. But this is due, I think, to a misunderstanding. If to conceive is not to alter, but only to distinguish, then conceiving is not contrary to any property; to mention a property with a view to showing its inconceivability is to conceive it. And all properties stand on the same footing with reference to the function of mediation. All may be known mediately; but to know them mediately is only an indirect way of knowing them immediately. This is as true of a mathematical triangle, which is mediately known by means of these words, as of color, life, or anything else.
When corrected in the light of these considerations, the realistic anti-intellectualism of James escapes the verbalism and abstractionism of "vicious intellectualism,” without that discrediting of analysis and lapse into uncritical intuitionism—that dissolution of order into chaos, which marks an even more vicious immediatism.
1 Ibid., pp. 81, 104; cf. above, pp. 231 ff.