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the known, the knowing is simply the context, the company into which the thing known is received. And the individual knower will be that nuclear bodily complex which has already been described. The function of such knowledge is evidently to get things thus directly acted on, or thus directly introduced into life.
But, humanly speaking, 'if the range of life is not to be narrowly circumscribed, it is necessary that most things should appear in it vicariously, that is, represented by what is known
about" them. “The towering importance for human life of this kind of knowing lies in the fact that an experience that knows another can figure as its representative, not in any quasimiraculous epistemological' sense, but in the definite practical sense of being its substitute in various operations.”ı Thus the function of "knowledge about" is to provide substitutes for things which it is practically impossible to know directly, so that the original function of knowledge may be widely extended. It is only a special case of that which is characteristic of all organized life - namely, the broadening of its scope by delegation and indirection. And we are thus brought to the consideration of a narrow and definite problem. When may one item be, for cognitive purposes, substituted for another? That which may thus be substituted is "knowledge about," or "idea of," the thing for which it is so substituted; and the thing for which the substitution is made is the object. So that our question is equivalent to the traditional question, 'What is the relation between an idea and its object?' But it is important to bear in mind that James's question cannot be answered simply by saying that idea and object are identical. That in many cases they are identical, and that in all cases they are virtually identical, he does not deny. But he asks particularly about that respect in which they are not identical; where there is an actual otherness of content, or an actual temporal progression from the one to the other. And it must also be remembered also that James does not permit himself to deal with this question on other than empirical grounds; in other words, he assumes that all the terms referred to must be such as can be brought together within one field of consciousness. The older dualism, in which the something
1 Essays in Radical Empiricism, p. 60. · For the meaning of "empiricism," see below, pp. 363-366.
‘inside' represents something 'outside' every possible extension of the individual's consciousness, is regarded as obsolete.
The relation characteristic of an idea and its object can be analyzed into two factors, intention and agreement. In the first place, the idea must somehow “mean” its object, that is, designate which thing is its object. And intention is prior to agreement. It is not sufficient that an idea should simply agree with something; it must agree with its object; and until its object has been identified, no test of agreement can be applied. “It is not by dint of discovering which reality a feeling 'resembles' that we find out which reality it means. We become first aware of which one it means, and then we suppose that to be the one it resembles." ; But intention is essentially a practical matter. What one intends is like one's goal or one's destination, in being what one's actions converge on or towards. And the idea owes its existence, as such, to an intention or plan of action of which the 'intended' is the terminus. Intention is, of course, often equivocal; but the intention is revealed, and becomes less and less equivocal as the plan of action unfolds. It is this which accounts for the superiority of gesture over words. If one can hold up the object, lay one's hand on it, or even point to it, its identity becomes unmistakable. So we must conclude that where the action on the object is not completed, the object is intended in so far as there is an incipient train of action which, if completed, would terminate in that thing. I may here and now have an idea of "the tigers in India,” that is, mean, intend, or refer to them, inasmuch as what is in my mind is so connected circumstantially with the actual India and its tigers, that if I were to follow it up I should be brought face to face with them." In other words, to have an idea of a thing is to have access to it, even when it is not present.
But an idea must not only intend its object; it must also, in some sense, “agree” with it. And here again we find that the essential thing is practical connection; for identity, or even similarity, is evidently not necessary. “We are universally held
1 Meaning of Truth, pp. 126-127.
• Cf. ibid., pp. 25, 35; also “Meaning of the Word Truth,” op. cit., p. 217.
• Op. cit., pp. 43-50.
both to intend, to speak of, and to reach conclusions about to know, in short — particular realities, without having in our subjective consciousness any mind-stuff that resembles them even in a remote degree. We are instructed about them by language which awakens no consciousness beyond its sound; and we know which realities they are by the faintest and most fragmentary glimpse of some remote context that they may have, and by no direct imagination of themselves.”ı Since it is not always necessary that the idea should resemble its object, we must conclude that the minimum agreement which is required of all ideas cannot be resemblance. And we shall understand that minimum agreement best where it is barest, where it is not complicated by the accident of agreement. The best example, then, will be the agreement of words with their objects. Now a word agrees with its intended object inasmuch as by an established convention it leads to that object, or enables one to find it. And what is true of single words will also be true of combinations of words; they will “agree,” when they are so connected with a combination of things as to enable one to reverse the verbalizing operation and substitute that combination of things for them. But since it is possible that my idea should not prepare me for what it intends, it is evident that we are already within the domain of truth and error; agreement being the same thing as truth, and disagreement the same thing as error. And this is a matter for special and detailed examination.
Before leaving the present topic, however, it is worth while once more to point out that for James all knowledge is virtually direct or presentative. First, the safest and surest of our everyday knowledge is sense-perception. Second, while it is not necessary that the idea should resemble its object, the idea will ordinarily be some fragment of the object, abstracted and made to serve for the whole. And in so far as this is the case the idea and its object are identical. Third, even mediated knowledge is completed only when by means of it the object is brought directly into the mind. So that the best idea would be that which would “lead to an actual merging of ourselves with the object, to an utter mutual confluence and identification.”: In other words, knowledge, generally speaking, is the entrance of
things belonging otherwise to nature or some ideal order, into the context of the individual life. Mediated knowledge, in which there is a difference and an extrinsic connection between the idea and its object, is incidental to knowledge thus defined; a means, simply, of extending its scope by the method of substitution.
86. The function of knowledge reveals the locus of the problem of truth. Truth is something which happens to ideas owing The Pragma
to their relation to their objects, that is, to the tic Nature of things which they are about.' Ideas are true Truth
'of' their objects, it being assumed that the objects are both different from the beliefs and intended by them. The pragmatic theory of truth means nothing except so far as applied to this particular situation. If the specific complexity of the situation be not taken account of, then the theory becomes labored and meaningless. James convicts most of the objectors to pragmatism of overlooking, or over-simplifying, this problem. If one identifies truth with fact, one is simply ignoring James's question as to how one fact can be true of another, as is supposed to be the case in all mediated knowledge. If one says that true beliefs are beliefs in true propositions, truth being an indefinable property of some propositions, one is evading the troublesome question as to what is meant by belief in; and one is neglecting the fact that in nearly all actual knowledge the content of the believing state, or what is believed, differs from that which it is believed about. So that James's question will simply reappear as the question how a true belief about a 'true proposition' (in the opponent's sense) differs from a false belief about that same proposition. Or, finally, if one defines truth in terms of a hypothetical omniscience, one transfers the problem to a domain where its empirical examination is impossible, and meanwhile leaves untouched the question of that human truth that can be empirically examined, including the truth of the hypothesis of omniscience.
Let us, then, resort to that corner of the world to which James's question invites attention. We find, on the one hand, something belonging, let us say, to the realm of physical nature. We
· The volume entitled The Meaning of Truth is devoted almost entirely to the removal of these misapprehensions. Cf. especially the Preface, and Nos. VI, VIII, IX, and XIV.
find, on the other hand, some particular individual's particular belief, idea, or statement with reference to that thing. What, then, do we find to be characteristic of the idea in so far as true of the thing? We are not asking for a recipe for the making of truth; still less for an infallible recipe. We desire only to understand “what the word 'true' means, as applied to a statement”; "what truth actually consists of”; “the relation to its object that makes an idea true in any given instance."We shall be faithful to James's meaning if we articulate the situation expressly. Let b represent a certain individual thing, assumed to exist; and let a represent somebody's idea of b, also assumed to exist. a may be similar to b, or dissimilar; but in any case, it must ‘intend' b, in the manner already defined. It should also be remarked that a and b belong to one manifold of experience, in the sense that the same individual mind may proceed from the one to the other. Our question, then, is this: When is a true of b? The pragmatist answer is as follows: : a owes its existence as an idea to some interest; if there were no interested minds at work in the world, then the world would consist only of b's.' Ideas, whether they be mere conventional signs for things or selected aspects of things, arise only because of some practical motive. Furthermore, the relation of intention which connects an idea with some thing and makes that thing its object, is due to the same interest or motive which selected the idea. Finally, then, a is true of b, when this interest which selected a and related it to b, is satisfied. In short, a is true of b, when it is a successful ideating of 6.
We shall gain in clearness and explicitness if we now distinguish the cases of applied and theoretical truth. We may suppose a to arise, first, as a mode of conceiving b for some use to which b is to be put. Then, when by virtue of the conception a I am enabled to handle or control b, and reach the desired
I op. cit., pp. 221, 234, 235.
· This is not a close paraphrase of any portion of the text, but is arrived at by using the polemical statement in The Meaning of Truth to give greater precision to the constructive statement in Lect. VI of Pragmatism.
" See above, pp. 350-351.
· This success may be actual or potential. What James means by " potential ” is clearly stated in Meaning of Truth, p. 93. But in any case truth cannot be defined without reference to the success.