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all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe of ruins.”
a To pretend to speak for the universe in terms of the narrow and abstract predictions of astronomy, is to betray a bias of mind that is little less provincial and unimaginative than the most naïve anthropomorphism. What that residual cosmos which looms beyond the border of knowledge shall in time bring forth, no man that has yet been born can say. That it may overbalance and remake the little world of things known, and falsify every present prophecy, no man can doubt. It is as consistent with rigorous thought to greet it as a promise of salvation, as to dread it as a portent of doom. And if it be granted that in either case it is a question of over-belief, of the hazard of faith, no devoted soul can hesitate. Justified by the victories already won, he will with good heart invite his will to the completion of the conquest.
There is nothing dispiriting in realism. It involves the acceptance of the given situation as it is, with no attempt to think or imagine it already good. But it involves no less the conception of the reality and power of life. It is opposed equally to an idealistic anticipation of the victory of spirit, and to a naturalistic confession of the impotence of spirit, In this sense all bold and forward living is realistic. It involves a sense for things as they are, an ideal of things as they should be, and a determination that, through enlightened action, things shall in time come to be what they should be.
· Russell: op. cit., pp. 60-61.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF WILLIAM JAMES :
I. PHILOSOPHY OF MIND
§1. A philosophy so complete and so significant as that of William James, touching, as it does, every traditional problem,
and expressing through the medium of personal The Place of the Problem genius the characteristic tendencies of an epoch, of Mind in cannot be hastily estimated. There is no glory to James's Phil
be won by pressing the attack upon its unguarded osophy
defences; while solemn verdicts, whether of commendation or censure, would surely prove premature and injudicious. But there is perhaps one service to be rendered to James and to philosophy for which this is the most suitable time, the service, namely, of brief and proportionate exposition. Every philosophical system suffers from accidental emphasis, due to the temporal order of production and to the exigencies of controversy. Towards the close of his life, James himself felt the need of assembling his philosophy, and of giving it unity and balance. It was truly one philosophy, one system of thought, but its total structure and contour had never been made explicit. That James should not have lived to do this work himself is an absolute loss to mankind, for which no efforts of mine can in the least compensate. But I should like to make a first rude sketch, which may, I hope, despite its flatness and its bad drawing, at least suggest the form of the whole and the proper emphasis of the parts.
* Reprinted from the Philosophical Review, Vol. XX, 1911; and from The Harvard Graduates' Magazine, Vol. XIX, 1910.
· James left an unfinished “Introduction to Philosophy,” in which he had made a beginning of a systematic restatement of his thought; but owing to its incompleteness it does not, as it stands, afford the reader the total view which was in the author's mind as he composed it. It has been published since his death under the title, Some Problems of Philosopky.
If one could read James's writings in a day, and forget the order of their publication, one would, I think, find that they treated of three great topics — the nature of the human mind, the structure and criteria of knowledge, and the grounds of religious belief. Were one then to take into consideration the writer's development, together with his interests and his aptitudes, one would be brought to see that the first of these topics was original and fundamental. James's philosophy was a study of man, or of life. The biological and medical sciences, psychology, philosophy proper, and religion, were not for him so many independent disciplines, from which he chose now one and now another owing to versatility or caprice; but so many sources of light concerning human nature. So that while one has difficulty in classifying him within a curriculum or hierarchy of the sciences, since he ignored such distinctions and even visited the intellectual under-world when it suited his purpose, his mind was none the less steadily focussed on its object. His knowledge was on the one hand as unified, and on the other hand as rich and diversified, as its subject matter. In the summary which follows I shall first give an account of his general views of the human mind; after which I shall discuss his view of man's great enterprises, knowledge, and religion.
82. In one of his earliest published articles, on "Spencer's Definition of Mind," : James adopts a standpoint which he Mind as In
never leaves. His object is man the organism, savterested and ing himself and asserting his interests within the Selective
natural environment. These interests, the irreducible “teleological factor,” must be the centre and point of reference in any account of mind. The defect in Spencer's view of mind as correspondence of "inner" and "outer" relations, lies in its failing to recognize that such correspondence is relative to the organism's interests. “So that the Spencerian formula, to mean anything definite at all, must, at least, be re-written as follows: ‘Right or intelligent mental action consists in the establishment, corresponding to outward relations, of such inward relations and reactions as will favor the survival of the thinker, or, at least, his physical well-being.'”, The mind is not a “mirror" which passively reflects what it chances to come
1 The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Vol. XII, Jan., 1878. • Loc. cit., p. 5.
upon. It initiates and tries; and its correspondence with the "outer world” means that its effort successfully meets the environment in behalf of the organic interest from which it sprang. The mind, like an antenna, feels the way for the organism. It gropes about, advances and recoils, making many random efforts and many failures; but is always urged into taking the initiative by the pressure of interest, and doomed to success or failure in some hour of trial when it meets and engages the environment. Such is mind, and such, according to James, are all its operations. These characters, interest, activity, trial, success, and failure, are its generic characters when it is observed concretely; and they are the characters which should take precedence of all others in the description of every special undertaking of mind, such as knowing, truth-getting, and believing.
The action of the mind is not, however, creative. Its ideas are not of its own making, but rather of its own choosing. At every stage of its development, on every level of complexity, the mind is essentially a selective agency, "a theatre of simultaneous possibilities.” The sense-organs select from among simultaneous stimuli; attention is selective from among sensations; morality is selective from among interests. And above all, thought is selective. The unity and discreteness of “things” first arises from interest in some special group of qualities, and from among the group the mind then selects some to represent it most truly as its “essential" characters. Reasoning is not the mere mechanism of association. Garrulousness in which the course of ideas is allowed to proceed as it will, is unreason, a symptom of mental decay. To reason is to guide the course of ideas, through discriminating and accentuating those whose associates are to the point. Human sagacity and genius, as well as the whole overwhelming superiority of man to brute, are to be attributed to a capacity for extracting the right characters from the undifferentiated chaos of primeval experience; the right characters being those which are germane to the matter in hand, or those which enable the mind to pass to similars over a bridge of identities.
Principles of Psychology, Vol. I, p. 288. * Op. cit., Ch. V, IX, XIII, XIV, XXII. Cf. especially, Vol. I, pp. 284-290; Vol. II, pp. 329–366.