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In spite of the important advances towards realism which have been made in recent philosophical work, there has not yet been established anything which could be described as a realist school. This is due to the fact that the realist position has been insufficiently worked out, so that we have many competing mixtures of realism and idealism with, as is natural, no clear criterion for deciding among them. Such difficulties invariably arise when any important innovation in theory is made; it is impossible to recognise immediately all that it implies, and many views, which harmonise only with the position that has been abandoned, are still taken as a matter of course. Hence, it happens that the real value of the discovery is often lost, and that backslidings are almost as common as conversions. A particularly sustained effort is required to remove all the germs of idealism, so deeply has it penetrated into the systems and traditions which make up “modern philosophy”.

These statements can best be supported by reference to the work of Professor Alexander, who has given the fullest and most logical statement of realism yet presented,note but with such concessions to idealism as have rendered it practically ineffective, greatest interest, as was only to be expected, having been taken in the idealistic elements in his theory, and particularly in the notion of “emergence” which he did not even initiate. It is singularly unfortunate that he should have preferred an attitude of conciliation to the denunciation of false doctrine. The result has not been to make his general position any more attractive or even intelligible to his opponents, while those who might support it must very often fail in the task of disentangling his genuine contribution to philosophy from the forced interpretations and special pleas by which his statements on consciousness and perspectives, on truth and goodness, are supported and reconciled with it. When the separation is made, it will appear that in his doctrine of Space-Time he has laid the foundation of a thoroughgoing realism as a logic of events. But the greatest obstacle to this consummation is to be found in his theory of consciousness.

This theory is anti-realist and is, in fact, Cartesian; and history has shown how Cartesianism leads on to absolute idealism. To get rid of idealism we have to go back upon all sophisticated “modern” views and recapture the Greek directness. We have to banish mind from philosophy, and in so doing make incidentally possible a positive account of mind


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itself. The position from which realism in these days has taken its departure, and with which the name is most closely associated, is that we are able to know what exists independently. It follows that the study of anything is not, on account of its being a study, at the same time a study of mind, and that the study of mind must be a definite, particular undertaking; or, as Alexander himself puts it (Introduction, Vol. I, p. 7), “that minds are existences in a world of existences and alongside of them”. Yet he contends that this statement would be accepted by absolute idealism (though “with qualifications”), and he adopts the very view of the study of mind which realism would lead us to reject. This indecision is due to insufficiently close analysis of the nature of idealism.

The essence of absolute idealism, he says, “consists not so much in its idealism as in its faith that the truth is the whole, in comparison with which all finites are incomplete and therefore false. With the omission of the concluding phrase, ‘and therefore false’, the proposition might be accepted by other doctrines than idealism.” But the faith that the truth is the whole, or that there is such a thing as the truth or the whole, is precisely idealism. The denial of independent existence to things which are related to mind is only an example, though historically an important one, of the denial of independent existence to things in general in relation to the Absolute or the ideal. Certainly, if we call this ideal “mind”, it is not what we ordinarily mean by mind, in speaking of our relations with things of that character; but so much the worse, idealists will say, for what we ordinarily mean by mind. When any search is made for an ultimate, a standard, an unconditioned or rather self-conditioned condition of things (and the search for the ultimate is idealism or metaphysics), then, in place of the independently existing, we have, on the one hand, the self-subsistent as the basis of things, and, on the other hand, the relative existence of things to that basis. So that, consistently with its initial assertion in regard to knowledge, realism must deny any sort of ultimate. In particular, it must deny “universals”, which is one of the points on which realism has hitherto failed. It (i.e., as misrepresented by its sponsors) has been rationalistic instead of empirical, and Alexander, though he sets out to be empirical, is very often rationalistic.

The history of Greek philosophy shows with the greatest clearness the inevitable passage from rationalism to idealism, the coalescence of the many ultimates into the One. It shows with equal clearness the untenability of the latter view, its fatal admissions even in denying the many. In brief, the notions of “relative existence” and “self-subsistence” are both confused; if “all finites are incomplete”, then the incompleteness of any one is a complete or absolute fact, and yet it is not “the whole”; and there must be a distinction between the Absolute's sustaining itself and the self which is thus sustained.note If theory is to be possible, then, we must be realists; and that involves us in a denial of monism, or of a Being which is the whole, a “universe”, and in the assertion of a single way of being (as contrasted with “being ultimately” and “being relatively”)


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which the many things which we thus recognise have. This is just that independent existence of which realism speaks; more particularly, it is occurring or happening or being in Space and Time. That is the real fruit of Alexander's teaching, divested of his concessions to monism and to its offspring, “consciousness”.

It would be unnecessary, then, for Alexander even to propose to treat the independent existence of things, as contrasted with their existence “in experience”, as a hypothesis, if he began by demonstrating that otherwise we could not have theory at all. But his statement (p. 8) that “all philosophies are concerned with experience as a whole” is not even consistent with his hypothesis, and the finding of minds alongside of other existing things is, if “it is experienced differently from them”, a sheer impossibility. The analysis of experience which he proceeds to give (pp. 11,12) exhibits all the confusions from which idealist arguments have ever suffered, and for that reason is worth quoting in full.

“Any experience whatever may be analysed into two distinct elements and their relation to one another. The two elements which are the terms of the relation are, on the one hand, the act of mind or the awareness, and, on the other, the object of which it is aware; the relation between them is that they are together or compresent in the world which is thus so far experienced. As an example which presents the least difficulty take the perception of a tree or a table. This situation consists of the act of mind which is the perceiving; the object which is so much of the thing called tree as is perceived, the aspect of it which is peculiar to that perception, let us say the appearance of the tree under these circumstances of the perception; and the togetherness or compresence which connects these two distinct existences (the act of mind and the object) into the total situation called the experience. But the two terms are differently experienced. The one is experienced, that is, is present in the experience, as the act of experiencing, the other as that which is experienced. To use Mr Lloyd Morgan's happy notation, the one is an -ing, the other an -ed. The act of mind is the experiencing, the appearance, tree, is that upon which it is directed, that of which it is aware. The word ‘of’ indicates the relation between these two relatively distinct existences. The difference between the two ways in which the terms are experienced is expressed in language by the difference between the cognate and the objective accusative. I am aware of my awareness as I strike a stroke or wave a farewell. My awareness and my being aware of it are identical. I experience the tree as I strike a man or wave a flag. I am my mind and am conscious of the object. Consciousness is another general name for acts of mind, which, in their relation to other existences, are said to be conscious of them as objects of consciousness.”

In this passage Alexander begins by confusing one of the terms of the relation with the relation itself. When we speak of “the object of which an act of mind is aware”, then clearly the relation between the act of mind and the object is expressed by the words “aware of” and not by “of” alone. Instead of “the act of mind which is the perceiving”, we


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should read “which does the perceiving” or “which has the relation ‘perceiving’” to whatever is perceived. We might just as well identify the tree, as Berkeley does, with its being perceived, as identify the act of mind with its perceiving. As it is, we have said nothing about the act of mind except that it has a certain relation; we are not entitled to say that all acts of mind have this relation and so to repudiate, as Alexander later does on no other basis than this, the Freudian “unconscious”; we have found no general name for acts of mind (and no relational term, awareness, consciousness or other, could be such a general name) except acts of mind. It should be noted, moreover, that when the relation, reduced to “of”, is expressed as togetherness in some situation, it is symmetrical; that is, either term may be called the knower and the other the known, as in James's theory of “intersection” — which is certainly not what either James or Alexander intends or adheres to. The unfortunate feature of this contention of Alexander's is that, when he comes to deal with the actual spatio-temporal relation of togetherness, he imports into it certain of the peculiar characteristics of knowledge, and so is developed the theory of perspectives, which opens the way to relativity; just as the idealists begin by treating mind as an absolute, and end by treating the Absolute as having some of the real characters of mind, and so make “the universe” progress, and logic along with it.

Alexander goes on to make the perfectly gratuitous assumption that both terms in “the total situation called the experience” are experienced (the question of the way in which the relation between them is experienced is dealt with later and raises fresh difficulties), that whatever is “present in an experience” must somehow be experienced. The -ing, it appears, is -ed, but, of course, it is -ed in a different way from that in which the -ed is -ed! It ought to be clear, without any argument, that what is experienced or known in any experience is the object; that is what we mean by the object. It is, indeed, possible that that which knows that object, or again the relation between the two, may also be known, i.e., may also be an object, but there is nothing in the first thing's being known to show that this must be so; and where it is so, the second thing's being known will be a different experience. To assert that mind can be experienced only by and in its experiencing something else at least wants proof. But no proof can be given without making the surrender to idealism completely apparent, if it is not already apparent in the phrase “My awareness and my being aware of it are identical.” When mind is treated as essentially “subject”, things must be treated as essentially objects, i.e., as having their existence in their relation to mind. It is necessary, therefore, to deny that the two terms are differently experienced, when it happens, as it need not, that that which knows is known or experienced at all; and so to deny that “I am aware of my awareness” is analogous to “I strike a stroke”, which is merely an extended way of saying “I strike”. The difference is that if I am to talk of my awareness, then I must be aware of it, must have it as an object to which terms can be applied. If Alexander were correct in supposing that only my


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awareness of X can be aware of my awareness of X (and why should anyone suppose this?), the term awareness would never have been employed. But if what we experienced were always a situation in which knower and known were together, if that were what every bit of the world that we came across was like, then the idealist conclusion that the world is a system of knowings would be irresistible.

The names which Alexander proceeds to give to the different ways of experiencing (which naturally follow from the different ways of being experienced, “that is”, as Alexander falsely puts it, of being present in an experience) are enjoyment and contemplation. “The mind enjoys itself and contemplates its objects.” The realist position is, then, that there is no such thing as enjoyment or self-sustaining knowledge (“consciousness”), but that if minds are known, as they are, they are contemplated, and if relations of contemplation are known, as they are, they are contemplated. Curiously enough (or naturally enough, if we think of his realism as striving to break down the barriers which his unrealistic adherence to Descartes and Spinoza has erected), Alexander admits that these things can be contemplated, but only by beings at a higher level than ourselves, “angels”. Psychology is then possible by anticipation of the angel's view. But how can we anticipate or know anything about the angel's view, since all that we know is at a lower level than ourselves? And how can the angel help being wrong? “What the angel sees as the compresence of two objects I experience as the compresence of an enjoyed mind and a contemplated non-mental object” (p. 20). The angel sees a thing of a peculiar quality, a mind, but he cannot see its self-relation, its experiencing itself by being itself. The realistic angel would, in fact, repudiate knowing by being; he would maintain that if we could only be ourselves, then we could not know ourselves at all.

Alexander, indeed, appears to think that in introducing this idealist conception of enjoyment or knowing by being, he is preserving realism. Certainly, in relation to the position that knowledge is a relation between two different things, my knowing myself presents a difficulty; but not my knowing other persons, and therefore the contemplation of mind in general. But to one who treats of acts of mind, who regards things as events, there should be no difficulty. Whereas every argument against the self-contemplation of a mind is an argument against the self-enjoyment of an act of mind, the fact that there are many acts of mind shows how it is possible for a man to know his own mind; one act can know another, or any group of others, or the general system of events which is the mind within which it falls, without being required to know itself. For in knowing that mind which it calls “I”, it does not know all about it; it knows it only as certain particular events or acts. The same applies to our knowledge in general; we do not deem it impossible to learn more about a thing or event than we observed at first. The knowing event, then, might quite easily be one of the unknown characters of the known event.

There is thus no ground for Alexander's statement (p. 17) that only


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on his view “can we realise that experience declares mind and things to be fellow-members of one world though of unequal rank”. It is true that “to be an experiencer of the experienced is the very fact of co-membership in the same world,” in other words, that we are related to the things we know, but being related is quite different from knowing or “realising” that we are related. To be able to say “I know a tree”, we must be able to have this before our minds as a single fact, not as broken up into an enjoyed and a contemplated element, which could neither be enjoyed as united nor contemplated as united. If we can contemplate minds and things together, then we are in a position to find, and have found, their “co-membership”. Yet Alexander argues that “we miss this truth only because we regard the mind as contemplating itself. If we do so, the acts of mind are placed on the level of external things, become ideas of reflection in the phrase of Locke; and thus we think of mind as something over and above the continuum of enjoyments, and invent an entity superior both to things and to passing mental states.” If we did, we should certainly be quite unrealistic. But the argument has cogency only on the assumption that thinking of mind is equivalent to thinking of mind's thinking of mind — which is precisely what those who adhered to contemplation and rejected enjoyment would deny.

The question now arises, What of introspection, if it is the case that I cannot contemplate my own mind since I am it? “Introspection is in fact merely experiencing our mental state, just as in observation of external things the object is contemplated. The accompanying expression in words is extorted from us, in the one case by the object, in the other case by our mental condition. Now, except in refinement and purpose, there is no difference in kind between the feeling expressed in the ejaculation of disgust and the reflective psychological analysis of that emotion. Replace the interjection Ugh! by a whole apparatus of elaborated speech; instead of the vague experience of disgust, let us have the elements of the emotion standing out distinct in enjoyment, and we have the full-blown introspection of disgust” (p. 18). Now enjoyment, we may remember, is simply the mental act being itself. Thus at any time disgust is itself, and its elements are themselves, so that at any time we have “the full-blown introspection of disgust”. The fact cannot be concealed that “standing out” means being contemplated or observed. But if we adhered to Alexander's expressed theory, we could not possibly determine when an expression was extorted from us by the object and when by our own mental condition. “The contemplation of a contemplated object is, of course, the enjoyment which is together with that object or is aware of it” (p. l2). Thus if we applied any of our expressions to the object, we should apply all. But the fact is that we sometimes speak about our own minds and sometimes about other things; that is, our own minds are sometimes objects to us. Alexander has failed to establish that “my own mind is never an object to myself in the sense in which the tree or table is. Only an -ing or an enjoyment may exist in my mind either in a blurred or subtly dissected form.” Once more the -ing is an


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-ed; but to say blurring and dissecting would be to admit that the introspection is extrospection or contemplation, not identity. The argument reaches its climax in the statement (p. 19) that “if I could make my mind an object as well as the tree, I could not regard my mind, which thus takes in its own acts and things in one view, as something which subsists somehow beside the tree”. That is, because my mind is doing something, therefore I can't do it! No, these are not arguments which establish the existence of a mind whose character is consciousness and whose consciousness is self-consciousness; they are the consequences of that assumption, they are its reductio ad absurdum.

There remains to be considered the question of the experiencing of the relation between the two terms in an experience. It also is experienced; in short, the whole experience, just because it is an experience, must be experienced.note The togetherness of the -ing and the -ed is “the fact of their belonging together in their respective characters in the situation. But since the one term is an enjoyment and the other a contemplation, and the relation relates the terms, how, it may be asked, is the togetherness experienced? Is it an -ing or an -ed? Now from the angel's point of view I am together with the horse I see and the horse together with me, we are together both. But when we ask how, in the knowing relation, the togetherness is experienced, we ask the question from the point of view of the being which has the experience, that is, the mind. Thus the mind in enjoying itself enjoys its togetherness with the horse. It does not contemplate the horse's togetherness with itself, the mind.” We are not permitted, then, before asking how the togetherness is experienced, to ask whether it is or not. To know a horse is somehow to know that I know it. But in knowing this, I know the “I know” (i.e., the -ing and the relation) by enjoyment and the “it” by contemplation, but neither by enjoyment nor by contemplation can I know that “I know it”. This simply will not serve; we should have to enjoy the horse as well, in order to have before our minds “I know the horse” as a single proposition — as we do have it. Or else, we should have to contemplate our minds and their relations of knowing; thus alone could we avoid subsisting for ever on our own enjoyments. Here, again, the distinction breaks down, as Berkeley's theory of notions and ideas breaks down, when he is called on to explain how it is possible to know that “I produced this image”. The facts are too much for enjoyments and notions alike.

It is not surprising, in view of the interweaving of opposite strains in his thinking, that Alexander found it impossible to make alterations in his work on the occasion of this new impression. Any serious alteration would have led on to many others. The excision, of which I have tried to show the necessity, of the notion of “enjoyment” would leave few parts of the argument unaffected. It would certainly leave little of the Introduction beyond the contention that mind can be contemplated; and the


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admission that there are not different ways of knowing would render nugatory a large part of the discussion of knowing in Book III. But the fundamental theory of mind would be substantially the same, since Alexander has for the most part accommodatingly taken the angel's view; parallelism would be as decisively rejected, and the view, again emphasised in the new Preface, that mental processes are those brain-processes which have the quality, consciousness, would, with the recognition that there is no such quality and that the quality of mind is still to seek, give the clue, as before, to the understanding of the spatio-temporal theory, viz., that all things belong to the single order of events or propositions. In such a reconstruction Space-Time would be shorn of the monistic features attached to it, and taken consistently, not as the stuff of which things are made, but, in its other formulation, as the medium in which things are. And with a positive theory of events and of mind would go a positive theory of truth and goodness. The relative theories with which Alexander presents us are imbued with that spirit of conciliation which was the stock-in-trade of his idealist teachers, and which makes this work only a mighty fragment to those who are not prepared to carry out its reconstruction in a different spirit.

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