Space, Time and Deity


Samuel Alexander

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THE title of this book names what is simplest in the universe, and what is, for us, most complex in it. A very large part of the book will be occupied with the mind ; but I shall endeavour to exhibit minds in the order of realities which begins with mere events in space and time and ends with God. No explanation is needed for leaving the notion of deity to the end. However immediately we may be aware of God in the religious sentiment, in philosophy there is no short road to deity. But I propose in this introductory chapter to explain the reasons why I begin with Space and Time and not with mind ; and by a preliminary and provisional description of the relation of mind to its objects, to show how an inquiry into this secondary topic leads on to the more fundamental one.

Philosophy and science

Philosophy, by which I mean metaphysics, differs from the special sciences, not so much in its method as in the nature of the subjects with which it deals. They are of a peculiarly comprehensive kind, and are revealed to the most superficial glance cast at the things or existences in the world. These things fall into groups distinguished from one another by specific characters which some have and others have not. Thus there are material bodies, ranging from ordinary things like stones down to molecules and ions, if these may be called material ; there are living things ; and there are beings with minds. What is the relation of these different orders of existence to one another ? Is there any fundamental nature which they have in common,

(2) of which they are specific examples, and what meaning can we attach to such specification ? What is the primary form of being, and how are different orders of being born of it ? In the next place, alongside of the diversity of kind amongst things, there are certain pervasive features, which, if they are not found in all things alike, have at least an extraordinary universality of range. Such are the permanence in change by virtue of which things are described as substances, quantity, spatial and temporal character, causality. Individuality is a pervasive character of things, but so also it would seem that there is nothing individual which has not in it a character recognisable by thought, and known as a universal. Metaphysics is thus an attempt to study these very comprehensive topics, to describe the ultimate nature of existence if it has any, and these pervasive characters of things, or categories. If we may neglect too nice particulars of interpretation we may use the definition of Aristotle, the science of being as such and its essential attributes.

But comprehensiveness within its subject-matter is the very essence of every science. What else does a science do but bring system and connection into the haphazard facts which fall within its view, elevating (to use a phrase of Lotze's) coincidences into coherences by the discovery of laws, simplifying under conceptions, unifying what is at first multiplicity ? Philosophy does but carry the same enterprise to its furthest limits, and its spirit is one with the spirit of science. Two things attest this community of spirit. The more comprehensive a science becomes the closer it comes to philosophy, so that it may become difficult to say where the science leaves off and philosophy begins. In history the chronicle or newspaper is replaced by the scientific discovery, based in turn on scientific criticism of documents, of the underlying movements in men's minds. When, going a stage further, the science undertakes to exhibit the growth and change of the conception of the State in universal history, as Hegel did, it may claim to be a philosophy of history, not because it is

(3) philosophy but because it is so comprehensive. The highest generalisations in biology, in chemistry and physics are different illustrations of the same thing. Philosophy, if it is well advised, does not count these doctrines as philosophy ; it learns from the sciences what is life or matter or mental action, and its problem with regard to them is to ask how these orders of fact are related to one another and to the fundamental nature of things. But it is just because philosophy is concerned, amongst other matters, with these comprehensive ideas that the sciences at their upper limit border on philosophy.

The other witness to the unity of spirit, which makes philosophy only one though the most comprehensive of the sciences, is the historical truth that the special sciences are, at least in our Western world, outgrowths from philosophy. It is the vaguer, simpler, and more comprehensive problems which excite men's minds first, when special knowledge is more limited. Gradually specific bodies of facts are separated from the general body of knowledge which is called philosophy. In our own day we are witnessing the separation of psychology from its parent stem.

Common usage corroborates the description that philosophy like science is the habit of seeing things together. A person is said to take things philosophically who sees and feels things in their proper proportion to one another—a habit of conduct which is not always possessed by the professional philosopher. On a certain occasion Boswell had invited Johnson with some others to supper at his lodgings. But, the landlord having proved disagreeable, Boswell was obliged to change the place of meeting from his house to the Mitre, and waited on Johnson to explain the " serious distress." " Consider, Sir," said Johnson, how insignificant this will appear a twelvemonth hence."[1] That was a philosophic answer, and Johnson had in practical conduct, though certainly not in specula-

(4) -tion, the philosophic mind. So true it is that, as Plato puts it, the metaphysician is a " synoptical " man.

The method of philosophy empirical

Since, then, philosophy differs from the sciences nowise in its spirit but only in its boundaries, in dealing with certain comprehensive features of experience which lie outside the purview of the special sciences, its method will be like theirs empirical. It will proceed like them by reflective description and analysis of its special subject-matter. It will like them use hypotheses by which to bring its data into verifiable connection. Its certainty like theirs will extend no further than its efficiency in providing a reasoned exhibition of such system as can be discovered in these data. But the word empirical must not be too closely pressed. It is intended to mean nothing more than the method used in the special sciences. It is a description of method and not of the subject-matter, and is equivalent to experiential. On the contrary, the subject-matter of philosophy is, in a special and more valuable sense of the word, non-empirical. Taking it as self-evident that whatever we know is apprehended in some form of experience, we can distinguish in experienced things, as has been indicated above, the variable from the pervasive characters. I shall call this the distinction of the empirical from the non-empirical or a priori or categorial. These a priori elements of things are, however, experienced just as much as the empirical ones : all alike are parts of the experienced world. Philosophy may therefore be described as the experiential or empirical study of the non-empirical or a priori, and of such questions as arise out of the relation of the empirical to the a priori. It is thus itself one of the sciences delimited from the others by its special subject-matter.

Still less do I mean that an empirical philosophy is in some prerogative manner concerned with sense-experience. The senses have no privilege in experience, but that they are the means by which our minds through our bodies are affected by external objects.

(5) Sensations though integral parts of experience are not the only ones. Thoughts are experienced as much as sensations, and are as vital to experience. It may even appear that there are experiences simpler and of a lower order than sensation itself ; and it may be possible to indicate the precise relation of these various forms of our experience in the economy of things. A philosophy which pursues an empirical method is not necessarily a sensationalistic one. It deals with the actual world, but the parts of it with which it deals empirically are non-empirical parts of that actual world. The contrast of thought and sense is from this point of view irrelevant.

The problem of knowledge

One of the most important problems, some think T1 the most important problem, of philosophy, the problem of knowledge or of experience itself, is dictated at once by the general nature of the task which philosophy undertakes. The most striking classification of finite things is into minds on the one side and external things on the other. The relation between any member of the one group and those of the other is the relation of cognition or, in general, of experience. Mind knows or experiences ; external things are known or experienced. The one is the experiencer, the other the experienced. What is this relation ? Is it singular and unlike any other relation between other groups, between, for instance, any two material things, or between a living and a material thing ? What is implied in the very fact of experience, in virtue of which we know all that we can know ? Some have answered that experience is something unique, and have assigned a privileged position to mind. They have not claimed that privilege in its full extent for the individual minds of you and me, but they have claimed it for mind in some shape or form, whether it be the mind of God, or mind as such, the so-called universal mind. They have been impressed by the inseparability of mind and things within experience. No object, no mind : the mind cannot exercise itself in the void, but only upon some

(6) object. That proposition is accepted by all parties. But they have added ; no mind, no object : in the absence of mind there would be not only no experience in the sense that there would be no experiencer, but nothing to be experienced. Not all forms of so-called idealism have been so thoroughgoing as the Berkeleyan. Some have been content to insist that what is experienced is dependent on mind and to treat the experienced objects as appearances of an assumed ulterior reality. Even for Kant the world of empirical reality is a world of ideas, unthinkable therefore apart from mind. In this respect, great as was his advance upon his predecessors, he was of their family ; and the value of his achievement can only properly .be realised when his doctrine has been purged of its disproportionate respect for mind and regenerated by that purgation.

Attitude of the empirical method

Now the effect of the empirical method in metaphysics is seriously and persistently to treat finite minds as one among the many forms of finite existence, having no privilege above them except such as it derives from its greater perfection of development. Should inquiry prove that the cognitive relation is unique, improbable as such a result might seem, it would have to be accepted faithfully and harmonised with the remainder of the scheme. But prima facie there is no warrant for the assumption, still less for the dogma that, because all experience implies a mind, that which is experienced owes its being and its qualities to mind. Minds are but the most gifted members known to us in a democracy of things. In respect of being or reality all existences are on an equal footing. They vary in eminence ; as in a democracy, where talent has an open career, the most gifted rise to influence and authority. This attitude of mind imposed by the empirical method is and may rightly be called in philosophy the attitude of realism, if a name which has borne so many meanings may be so used. By whatever name the method may be called, it does not deprive mind of its greatness in questioning its pretensions. Rather it leaves these pretensions to be examined in their place ; and there is no rashness in predicting that the real greatness and

(7) value of mind is more likely to be established on a firm and permanent basis by a method which allows to other existences than mind an equally real place in the scheme of being.

It follows that for the empirical method the problem of knowledge, the subject-matter of epistemology, is nothing but a chapter, though an important one, in the wider science of metaphysics, and not its indispensable foundation.

Idealism and realism

Let me hasten to add that the contrast of the empirical method with the forms of idealism hinted at above is not in all respects, perhaps not in the gravest respects, valid of the form of idealism which, under the usual name of absolute idealism, has been and is so influential on thinking in this country. That doctrine does indeed maintain that reality is experience and penetrated with mind, lives in a medium of mind, and, whatever it is ultimately, is at any rate spirit. But it would accept with qualifications the empirical principle that minds are existences in a world of existences and alongside of them. One of its tenets is in fact that minds are no more ultimately real than material things. In truth the essence of this creed 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. At least the grounds of the proposition are quite other than the grounds of ordinary idealism. I have come to believe that the foundation of it as conceived by absolute idealism is erroneous, for reasons which will, I hope, be clear as I proceed. But if I may for a moment touch a personal note I am all the more anxious not to overestimate differences from a school of thought in which 1 was myself bred, and to whose leaders, Mr. Bradley and Mr. Bosanquet, I owe so much of whatever capacity I may have attained, however unable I may have proved myself to see things with their eyes.

As to the terms idealism and realism, I should he heartily glad if we might get rid of them altogether :

(8) they have such shifting senses and carry with them so much prejudice. They serve, however, to describe a difference of philosophical method or spirit. If idealism meant only that philosophy is concerned with experience as a whole, it has no exclusive title to be considered the true philosophic method ; for all philosophies are concerned with experience as a whole. The real difference between idealism and realism lies in their starting-point or the spirit of their method. For the one, in some form or other, however much disguised, mind is the measure of things and the starting-point of inquiry. The sting of absolute idealism lies in its assertion that the parts of the world are not ultimately real or true but only the whole is true. For realism, mind has no privileged place except in its perfection. The real issue is between these two spirits of inquiry ; and it is in this sense that the following inquiry is realistic. But no sane philosophy has ever been exclusively the one or the other, and where the modern antithesis has hardly arisen, as with Plato, it is extraordinarily difficult to say under which head the philosophy should be classed.

The study of mind in metaphysics

But though we do not assume in mind any prerogative being or reality which should make other reality in some way dependent for its existence upon mind, it by no means follows that the study of mind may not be of special importance and value for philosophy. The reason is that our minds are so directly open to our own inspection, and we may become by attention so intimate with their working, that what escapes us in the external world may be observed more easily in our own minds. An illustration is found in the notion of causality. After naïvely describing how the behaviour of the sun towards a piece of wax enables us to collect the idea of a power in the sun to melt the wax, Locke says that this power may be most easily discovered in the operations of our wills, or in the power of our mind over its ideas. Locke's instinct guided him right. If you wish to discover the nature of causality, look first to your mind. You are conscious of your own power in willing in so far as you

(9) experience the continuous transition of an idea of some end into the consciousness of taking the final steps to its attainment ; for example, are aware that you have dismissed a troublesome imagination, or that an idea of some object to be attained by your action has been replaced continuously by an act which ends in the perception of the end as attained ; that experience is the experience of power or activity. You do not, as some suppose (including even Hume in a famous passage which misunderstands the argument), you do not compare your action with a notion of power or activity, and find it to be a case which falls under that designation. It is itself the experience of exerting power. With this analysis in our mind we may ask ourselves whether causality in the physical world is not in turn the continuous transition of one physical event into another. To do so is not to impute minds to physical things, as if the only things which could be active must, on the strength of the experience referred to, be minds. It is merely to verify under obscurer conditions what is manifest in the working of our mind. It is likely therefore that in respect of the other categorial features of things which may be shared by the mind with things, our readiest approach is through the mind, and the help may extend beyond such cases to those questions which arise out of the relations of various grades of existence to one another.

All such inquiry into the operation of mind must be borrowing a page from psychology. But we need not be deterred by the objections of metaphysical purists from gathering material from every relevant source. The problems of metaphysics are anxious enough without allowing ourselves to be disturbed by punctilios.

Alternative courses

There are two ways of procedure which seem open to me to pursue. One is that which I have elsewhere followed hitherto,[2] to begin by examining in detail the relation of mind to its objects, always on the empirical

(10) method of analysing that relation in our experience of it ; and to draw from thence what indications are legitimate as to the general nature of things, and of their categorial features. The other way is the one which I propose to follow here : to examine in their order the various categorial features of existence and to exhibit the relation of mind to its objects in its proper place in the system of finite empirical existences. The first way leads ultimately, as will be explained, to this. Only by such an enterprise can the difficulties which present themselves in the problem of knowledge be satisfactorily cleared away.

I propose, however, in the remainder of this introductory chapter briefly to pursue the earlier method and to study the problem of knowledge. I do so partly because it is by that road that I have come myself to consider the larger task, and I cannot help thinking that a man is likely to be more persuasive if he follows the course of his own mental history ; but secondly, and mainly, in order to do something to meet an objection which will inevitably be taken to the other procedure. You are about, it will be said, to examine empirically Space and Time and the various categories of experience. How can you treat these as objects for the mind to examine as it were ab extra, when they are unintelligible except in relation to mind ? Has not Kant declared them to be forms of sensibility or understanding, supplied therefore by mind ? Nay, is not your empirical method based upon a sheer mistake ? For in the first place you are treating the objects of experience as if they could be without mind, and yet maintain they are to be open to the mind's inspection. And, as if that were not enough, you are including amongst the things to be examined not merely physical objects but minds themselves. You propose to treat the mind both as an instrument of knowledge and as its object. Before you examine the contents of knowledge you must examine knowing itself.

Now it would be a legitimate reply to these remonstrances, that the existence distinct from mind of the various groups of physical things and the existence of minds as one group among the existences of the world,

(11) as thus postulated by the empirical method, may be taken as a hypothesis for investigating reality. Without troubling our minds as to how things are related to our minds, or how we are ourselves related to our minds, let us make the assumption mentioned and see what comes of it. This is of the essence of the empirical method as a scientific method. You do not raise these questions in science. You assume the existence of life or matter and you ask what it is. Let us in philosophy make the same assumption and see whether in the end we do not get illumination as to our minds and knowledge.

This is all I need, and on which I fall back in the last resort if the hearer remains unconvinced by my version of the fact of experience itself. But in the first place I should wish to incline him from the beginning to the initial soundness of the hypothesis as expressing the nature of our experience. In the next place, it will, I believe, serve us usefully by suggestion, and in particular it will throw light on the sense in which it can be maintained that our mind is an experience for us alongside of the other existences in the world, though it is experienced differently from them.

Mind and its objects

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 [3] ; 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

(12)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.[4] 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.[5] 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.

'Enjoyed' and 'contemplated'

For convenience of description I am accustomed to say the mind enjoys itself and contemplates its objects. The act of mind is an enjoyment ; the object is contemplated. If the object is sometimes called a contemplation, that is by the same sort of usage by which a perception' is used for a perceived object or percept as well as for an act of perceiving. The contemplation of a contemplated object is, of course, the enjoyment which is together with that object or is aware of it. The choice of the word enjoyment or enjoy must be admitted not to be particularly felicitous. It has to include suffering, or any state or process in so far as the mind lives through it. It is undoubtedly at variance with ordinary usage, in which, though we are said indeed to enjoy peace of

(13) mind, we are also said to enjoy the things we eat, or, in Wordsworth's words, a flower enjoys the air it breathes, where I should be obliged to say with the same personification of the flower that it contemplates the air it breathes, but enjoys the breathing. Still less do I use the word in antithesis to understanding, as in another famous passage of the same poet, " contented if he might enjoy the things which others understand." Both the feeling and the understanding are in my language enjoyed. I should gladly accept a better word if it is offered. What is of importance is the recognition that in any experience the mind enjoys itself and contemplates its object or its object is contemplated, and that these two existences, the act of mind and the object as they are in the experience, are distinct existences united by the relation of compresence. The experience is a piece of the world consisting of these two existences in their togetherness. The one existence, the enjoyed, enjoys itself, or experiences itself as an enjoyment ; the other existence, the contemplated, is experienced by the enjoyed. The enjoyed and the contemplated are together.

Acts of mind and the appearances of things

We have called the two elements united in an experience an act of mind and the appearance of a thing. In strictness they are but an act or event with a mental character and a non-mental object of just such character as it bears upon its face. But it is hard to speak of the perceived table except as being the thing table as it looks from a particular point of view under particular circumstances ; or of the mental act except as an act of the mind.

The anticipatory language was justified, for, in fact, no mental act is ever found by itself in the limited and precisely defined form above described ; and the like is true of the object. A mental act is only a salient and interesting act which stands out in the whole mental
condition. At any one moment a special mental act or state is continuously united with other mental acts or states within the one total or unitary condition ; e.g. the perceiving of the tree with the sight of adjacent objects,

(14) the sensation of the cold air, the feeling of bodily comfort and the like ; not juxtaposed with them, but all of them merely elements which can be discriminated, according to the trend of interest, within the whole mass. Moreover, not only is the mental act continuous with others at the same moment, but each moment of mind is continuous with preceding, remembered, moments and with expected ones. This continuum of mental acts, continuous at each moment, and continuous from moment to moment, is the mind as we experience it. It is in this sense that we have to describe any limited element of mental action as an act of mind. In the same way the object of the mental act does not exist by itself disconnected from other such objects. It is not relevant for our immediate purpose that a single thing is itself but selected from a vast background. What is relevant is that the limited object is found to cohere with other such objects, and this intimately blended continuum is called the thing, the table or tree, which appears partially on various occasions. Even the single percept of the table or tree betrays this continuity of different separate objects with one another. For a percept is only partially presented in sense. Part of it is suggested by what may loosely be called memory. The tree is only seen from one side by actual sight ; its other side is presented only in idea, in virtue of a past sensory experience of that side.

Thus, immediately, or by a union of many experiences, we are aware not merely of a mental act but of a mind to which that act belongs, which we experience in an enjoyed synthesis of many mental acts, a synthesis we do not create but find. In like manner we become aware of a thing as the synthesis of its appearances to mind on different occasions, where again the synthesis must not be supposed to be made by the mind, but to be in the actual objects themselves ; it is made manifest to us in the tendency of the separate appearances to link themselves together. The ultimate basis of this continuity or synthesis we shall examine in the sequel.[6] Meantime, let us observe that once we have realised this unity of mind or

(15) of thinghood, we can express the fundamental analysis of experience thus : that in experience things are revealed to mind under various aspects, or in various respects, and that the mind in any experience is compresent with the revelation of the world of things so far forth as it is contained in the experience. The name object may be retained conveniently as a general name for all that is contemplated, whether it be the partial appearance of a thing, or the thing itself.

The object distinct from the mind

Always, however, the object is a distinct existence from the mind which contemplates it, and in that sense independent of the mind. At the same time every object implies a selection from the world of being. The selection may be a passive one ; only those features of the world can be revealed to a mind for which the mind possesses the appropriate capacities. The colour-blind man may be unable to distinguish red and green, the tone-deaf man to distinguish a tone from its octave. In part the selection is determined actively by the interests of the mind. In the one case the objects force themselves upon the mind as a bright light upon an open eye. In the other case the chief determinant in the selection is the direction of a man's thoughts or feelings, so that, for instance, he will not hear suspicions of a person whom he loves, and forgets the risk of death in the pursuit of duty. This selectiveness of the mind induces the belief that the objects of mind are made by it, so that they would not be except for the mind. But the inference is erroneous. If I stand in a certain position I see only the corner of the table. It is certainly true that I am responsible for seeing only that corner. Yet the corner of the table belongs to the table. It belongs to me only in virtue of my confining myself to that aspect of the table. The shilling in my pocket owes it to me that it is mine, but not that it is a piece of silver. In the same way it is the engine-maker who combines iron and steel upon a certain plan of selection, but the steam-engine only depends on him for this selection and not for its characters or for its existence as a steam-engine. On

the contrary, if he is to use it, he must learn its ways and adapt himself to them for fear of disaster.

Object is, in fact, a question-begging word. It implies a subject. A table cannot be an object to my mind unless there is a mind, to which it is an object. It must be selected for contemplation. It cannot be known without a mind to know. But how much does it owe to that mind ? Merely that it is known, but neither its qualities as known nor its existence. We cannot therefore conclude legitimately from the obvious truth that an object would not be perceived without a percipient, that it owes its being and character to that percipient. Berkeley saw the truth that there is no idea to act as middleman between the mind and external things, no veil betwixt the mind and reality. He found the reality therefore in the ideas themselves. The other alternative is not to discard the supposed world of reality behind the ideas but to discard the ideas, regarded as objects dependent on the mind. Either way ideas and reality are one. But for Berkeley reality is ideas. For us ideas are reality. In so far as that reality enters into relation with the mind, it is ideas.

When the prejudice is removed that an object, because it owes its existence as an object to a subject, owes to that subject its qualities of white or green and its existence ; the appeal lies from Berkeley to experience itself. So appealed to, my experience declares the distinct existence of the object as something non-mental. I will not yet say physical, for so much is not implied in every experience, for example the experience of universals or of number, but only where the object is physical.[7] But the distinct existence of my object from my mind is attested by experience itself. This is a truth which a man need only open his eyes to see.

The mind not a contemplated object to itself

I do not underestimate the difficulty of that operation. Some of the difficulties of a minor sort will perhaps be met by the exposition itself. But the first condition of

(17) success is to distinguish between the different experiences which the mind has of itself and of the object. Only so can we realise that experience declares mind and things to be fellow members of one world though of unequal rank ; and this was the purpose of our reference to knowledge. To be an experiencer of the experienced is the very fact of co-membership in the same world. 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. Such a mind is never experienced and does not enter, therefore, into the view of an empirical metaphysics. Nor is it of any avail to answer that, although not experienced, it must be postulated to account for certain experiences. The empirical method approves such postulation, which is habitual in science. But the unseen entities, atoms or ions which physics, for instance, postulates, or the molecules of the chemist, are all of them conceived on the analogy of something else which is known to experience. The mind, however, which is postulated in our case, is a mere name for something, we know not what, which claims all the advantages of the mind which we do experience, but accepts none of the restrictions of that mind, the most important of which that it shall not go beyond what is found or suggested by experience. Whatever else the evidence entitles us to say of the mind, its connection with mental acts must be as intimate as the connection of any substance with its functions, and it cannot be such as to allow the mind to look on, as it were, from the outside and contemplate its own passing states.

Introspection is not contemplation

The possibility of introspection might seem to falsify this statement. It might be thought that in observing our own minds we were turning our mind upon itself and making itself an object of contemplation. But though looking into one's mind is sometimes described, with our

(18) objectifying tendency, as looking into one's breast, which is a contemplative act, it is very different. 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 own mental condition. Now except in refinement and in purpose there is no difference of 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. The interest which prompts that subtle enjoyment is a late acquisition, when the natural preoccupation with external things has ceased to monopolise our minds. And it is small wonder that we should regard our introspection as turning our minds into objects, seeing how largely the language which expresses our mental state has been elaborated in pursuit of practical interests and in contact with physical objects.

Introspection and extrospection

Moreover, we are sometimes victims of a misapprehension as to what it is that we introspect. I am sometimes said to discover by introspection the images that flit before my fancy or the subject of my thoughts. But the landscape I imagine, or Lorenzo's villa on the way down from Fiesole that I remember with the enchanting view of Florence from the loggia, are no more discovered to me by introspection than the rowan tree which I perceive in front of my window as I write. These objects are presented to me by imagination or memory or perception, not by introspection, and are the objects not of introspection but of extrospection, if such a word may be used, all alike. What I introspect is the processes of imagining and thinking or remembering or perceiving. Hence it is that introspection is so difficult to the untrained person to perform with any niceness, unless it is the introspection of some complicated and winding process of mind, as when we describe the growth

19) of our feelings, as distinguished from the objects to which those feelings relate,[8] or some of the less simple mental processes such as desire where it is easy to note how the mind is tantalised by straining after a fruition which is still denied. In so simple a situation as mere sensation of green introspection can tell us next to nothing about the actual process of sensing, only its vaguely enjoyed direction.' The green which is the object sensed, the sensum, is observed by extrospection.

Thus 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. When that condition of subtle dissection arises out of set scientific interest, we are said to practise introspection, and the enjoyment is the existence which is introspected. Such introspection displays the complexities of our mind as careful scientific observation of external things displays their complexities and the relations of their parts or features.

The angel's view

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. But since I cannot do so, since my mind minds itself in being aware of the tree, what is this but the fact that there is a mind, whose consciousness is self-consciousness, which is together with the tree ? Imagine a being higher than me, something more than mind ; let us call him an angel. For him my consciousness would be an object equally with the tree, and he would see my enjoyment compresent with the tree, much in the same way as I may see a tree compresent with the earth. I should be for him an object of angelic contemplation, and he would have no doubt that different

(20) as are the gifts of minds and trees they are co-ordinate in his contemplated world, as external things are in mine. Now I cannot do as an angel and contemplate myself, in so far as I am mind (for, of course, I contemplate my body). But in recognising that in the cognitive relation to the tree, the tree and I are distinct and relatively independent existences compresent with each other, I am, under the limitations imposed on me, anticipating the angel's vision ' (I have to use mental terms for what is higher than mental and different from it). Hence I have sometimes allowed myself playfully to speak of what here I call seriously the empirical method in philosophy as the angelic method. 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. And if you fail, as many persons appear to fail to whom I have spoken, to find in your experience the act of experiencing the enjoyment, but find only the object and nothing else ; for instance, if you find the tree but not the enjoyed perceiving of it ; the reason is that you are seeking for the enjoyed as if it were an object contemplated, and naturally can find no perceiving or imagining or thinking which stands to you in the same relation as the tree, no idea of reflection or inner sense comparable with an idea of sensation. All that you then find that can be called your self is your body. On the other hand, seek for the enjoyment as something which you mind or live through, and which you are, and, beginning with acts highest in the scale like willing or desiring, where the enjoyed act is palpable, descend in the scale through constructive imagination to remembering, perceiving, and at last to bare sensing of a sensum, where the enjoying act is least distinct,[9] you will assure yourself of the compresence of the non-mental object with your enjoyed mind.

Experience of togetherness

But a word is needed to explain what has been omittcd till now, how the tact of compresence or togetherness is itself experienced. It means the bare fact, as the angel sees it, that I and the tree are together. That together-

(21) -ness is the togetherness of an -ing and an -ed ; and this is for the empirical method 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. When I say I see a horse, the object is not the horse as seen but an object with certain colours and shape. The horse as seen or the seen horse is a description of the horse from the philosopher's point of view in discussing the matter, not from the point of view of the experient himself. What I see is therefore not a horse which I see to be together with me. But in contemplating the horse, I, the experiencer, am experiencing the fact of my togetherness with the horse. The horse's togetherness with me is experienced by me as my togetherness with the horse ; which I express by saying I see a horse. If we could suppose the horse to rise to our point of view he would in turn enjoy himself as together with me, that is, with what he apprehends of me ; but this would not be the same experience. It would be the horse's experience and not mine. In fact, for me to say that I contemplate the horse as together with my enjoyment is merely a linguistic variation, and consequently a repetition, of the statement that I enjoy myself together with the horse. I neither ought to count the relation twice over nor can I in fact do so. I experience the string which unites us only, as it were, from my own end.[10]


Before proceeding further, let us touch lightly on

(22) certain points where difficulties are likely to be felt or doubts to be raised.

1. Mind and body

1. When in any cognitive experience the mind or its act is said to be compresent with a distinct and independent object which is non-mental, it will not be supposed that the mind is as it were floated off from connection with the body. Nothing is said as to the body because the body does not as such enter into the experience. It is commonly believed on sufficient grounds that when I see a tree there is excitement of the occipital region of the cerebral cortex. But it is certain that I do not experience this cerebral excitement as such when I see the tree, and that when I experience the cerebral excitement I do not see the tree, but think of the excitement. We are describing experience as we have it by direct knowledge or acquaintance, not importing into it what we may know indirectly or, as it is said, by knowledge about' it. There are indeed experiences of the contemplated body which accompany the enjoyment of vision, such as movement of the eyes or their accommodation. These are added experiences and are not part of the experience of seeing the horse, but are experiences of other objects, located in my body.[11]

2. Range of objects

2. The analysis of experience is claimed to be true cf any experience. But it is often urged that the distinction of subject and object is a late experience, and is preceded by an experience where the contrast has not yet arisen, an undifferentiated form of " feeling " which is below the level of relational experience. We have, it is admitted, only verifiable approximations to such experiences ; if they do exist they would be comparable to a life which was lived within itself, not needing the stimulus of a surrounding world to which it reacts. It may be gravely questioned whether they are rightly described. In some cases the object felt is a mass of bodily states. In other cases, which are more probably the ones hinted at, the apparent absence of an object distinct from the enjoyment arises merely from the vagueness of the object, in which no specific qualities


(23) can be detected, no parting of the mass into things with their shapes and colours and smells. Great is the importance in the mental life of the non-mental object which can only be described as 'something or other.'

3. Fluidity of every experience

3. No experience, we have said, ever is isolated or has boundaries which shut it off rigidly from the rest of the world. Rather it is true alike of the enjoyment and of its object that they swim in a surrounding atmosphere or medium. As we turn our eyes, or move our heads, or vary anyhow from one moment to another, the old vague field shifts into a new, and we have the experience of an unending or at least indefinitely shaped and uncircumscribed volume. Every experience has its fringes, or shoots out its corona into some larger whole which encircles it. Some of these surroundings are supplied in memory or imagination, some in present consciousness, and thought with its symbolic process carries us still further beyond. Even the shapes and dates of things are merged into Space and Time as wholes. We have on the side of mind, flashes of light on a dim background of consciousness ; and on the object side, more vivid or interesting particulars rising like peaks out of a continuous range of mountainous country. Thus rather than to say we are definite acts of mind which take cognisance of a definite object, it is truer to say that every object we know is a fragment from an infinite whole, and every act of mind is correspondingly a fragment out of a larger though finite mass.

4. Enjoyments forms of attention

4. Experience varies from that of something or other ' through all the grades of mental life, sensation, perception, imagination, memory, thought. In each case the -ing and the -ed are distinguishable and the -ed is non-mental, and in some cases patently physical. All these mental phases are different forms of attention with its accompanying pleasure or pain. The act is cognitive not because there is any act of cognition distinct from the attention or interest, but because that interest is directed upon a cognised object. In sensation we can distinguish the sensing from its object, the sensum, which is external to it. In like manner we have on one side

(24)the perceiving, imagining, remembering, and on the other the percept, the image, the memory, the thought, the object in every case being attested by experience itself as a non-mental existence. Many difficulties are thus raised which I dare not here discuss for fear of repetition. They will, I trust, be removed or enlightened when the mind appears in its due place in the order of things. The externality and physical nature of sensations is a particularly disputable matter ; for to some they appear to be immediate experiences utterly dependent on mind, though objective in their reference as distinguished from subjective acts like desiring or attention. I will only say that to me every mental act is equally immediate, thinking as much as sensation, and the sensum no less external and non-mental than the thought.

Images not mental

Imagination, however, requires more than a passing mention. It seems in the last degree paradoxical to ascribe to the image of a landscape regained in the memory, and still more of one which has never been seen, an existence, in this case a physical existence, independent of the mind. However objective in character, images appear to be patently psychical, to be mere ideas and in no sense realities. Impressed by the mental character of images, philosophers have construed the rest of experience in their likeness. If an image is the creature of the mind, may not perception be equally so ? Error comes in to reinforce this procedure, for an error or an illusion is demonstrated by its discordance with reality to be a mere idea. This way of thinking has led in the past to the doctrine that the objects of our minds are but copies or representations of real things which we therefore do not know directly. When Berkeley reduced all sensible reality to ideas, representationism received its deathblow, but its influence cannot be said to have been eradicated.

The circumstances are altered when instead of beginning our inquiry into knowledge with images, we begin it, as we deliberately did, with perception, where there is less difficulty in believing ourselves directly in

(25) contact with the sensible thing. We can then construe the more difficult cases in the light of perception, passing through the images of memory which are nearer to perception because the memory is of something which was once perceived ; thence to an image of an object once experienced but presented again in imagination without the consciousness that it is familiar from the past ; and thence to the constructions of fancy. In the memory-image of my friend I have before my mind the revelation of my friend just as much as I have a revelation of him when I see him. The first differs from the second only in the absence of the friend from my organs of sight, in his removal from me in time, and further in that, not being limited and constrained by the presence of the thing to my senses, the subsidiary operations of my mind may introduce into the object features which do not belong to the thing. He is revealed to me through the haze of remoteness in Time and Space, and under the distorting influence of myself adding or subtracting or rearranging. As we pass to constructive imagination the element of personal interference increases. The problems raised by the constructive action of the mind, and, in particular, how in imagination or error we can be in compresence of an object which is a revelation of something in the world of reality, must again be deferred to their place.[12] Meantime let us only observe that no action of the mind is possible without its object any more than a plant can breathe without air. In sensory experience compresence with the physical revelation of a physical thing is brought about through the direct operation of the thing upon the senses. In imaging the act of mind is provoked from within, but in the one case as in the other the act of mind is face to face with its appropriate revelation. The very constitution of a perceived object, as already observed, verifies this description. For it is a commonplace that only part of it is sensed, the rest of the object is supplied by the action of the mind itself.

5. Lastly, the acts of mind are not colourless. They

5. Mental acts vary with the object.

(26) are different with every variation of the object. They vary according as the object is a sensum, a percept, an image, or a thought. Moreover they vary according to the qualities of the object. It is not the same act of mind which apprehends green as apprehends red, still less as apprehends sweet, and my response to a tree differs from my response to a man. Briefly, as the object varies, however minutely, so does the corresponding enjoyment vary however minutely. But this variation in the mind is not a variation of quality. The mind to experience has only the quality of being mind, that is of being conscious. This proposition is almost the same thing as saying that cognition is being in presence of, in compresence with, the cognitum. The so-called " content " of the mind is the object which is distinct from it, and is revealed to the mind, but in no other sense in the mind. I call the variation of the mind with its object a variation of direction,' but must leave the more exact meaning and justification of the description to a later stage.[13]

The cognitive relation not unique

Let us now return from pursuing these hints which are intended to smooth the way for acceptance of the of fundamental proposition to the fundamental proposition itself ; and consider what conclusions of a more general metaphysical nature may be drawn from the character of the fact of cognition ; and, further, what problems it suggests. There is nothing in the compresence between the mind and its objects to distinguish that relation from the compresence between any two objects which it contemplates, like the tree and the grass. To the supposed superior being or angel this would be obvious. We only conceal it from ourselves, as has been explained, because we fancy that the experient is himself contemplated. When we take the deliverance of experience without prepossessions, we realise that our togetherness with our object and the togetherness of two objects are so far forth as togetherness is concerned identical. The difference between the two situations is, precisely as the angel would recognise, to be found not in the nature of

(27) the relation, but of the terms related. In the case of two physical objects both terms are physical. In the case of cognition of a physical object, one of the terms, our mind, is a mental or conscious being. When such a conscious being is in a process or act of mind appropriate to a certain object, we are conscious of that object. The little word of is the symbol of the compresence. So far then as the cognitive relation is concerned, it appears not only not to be unique, but to be the simplest of all relations, the mere togetherness of two terms, their belonging together to a world.

Not only is there a togetherness between the enjoyed and the contemplated, which is the same as that between two objects contemplated, but there is togetherness in enjoyment, as when two acts of mind are distinguished by us as enjoyed, whether at the same time (e.g. I see a friend and hear his voice) or in succession. If we indicate objects contemplated by Roman letters, and enjoyments by Greek ones, we have three instances of togetherness which may be indicated thus, AB, aA, and ab.

Transition to problems of Space and Time

At once a problem is raised. The togetherness of physical things is at least, it would seem, a spatial and ' temporal relation ; the things or events belong to one Space and to one Time. (It may be observed in passing that togetherness in time or compresence in it includes both simultaneity and succession.) Do mental acts, then, belong together in Space and Time ? and is the mind together with its objects in Space and Time ? It would be at once admitted that mental acts are related in time, they are either simultaneous or successive, but it would not universally or even commonly be admitted that they are spread out in space. Further, it is clear that the mental act stands in a temporal relation to its object ; whether of simultaneity or succession is not obvious from direct experience. I am aware that my act occurs in time, and the event contemplated also) and the two moments belong at least to one inclusive Time. Does the experience declare that the object and the mind are correspondingly together in Space ? The object is

(28) contemplated in Space. Even if it is an image, for example of a landscape once seen, not only is it spread out, but also, however vaguely and indefinitely, it is referred to the place to which it belongs in the one Space which we both perceive and imagine.[14] Moreover I seem to enjoy myself as being somewhere in Space, a place which with further experience I assign to somewhere in the region of the contemplated space of my body. Whether these experiences are or are not rightly reported, at any rate the problem of whether mind like physical things is not only in Time but in Space, and of the relation of the space and time contemplated to the time and the problematical space which we enjoy, is pressed upon us for solution.

But the tale of experience is not yet completed. Space and Time are not the only forms of relation or features of things which may make a claim to belong to mind as well as to physical things. All the so-called categories like causality or substance or quantity belong both to the A order and the a order, and where that is possible to the order in which an A and an a are together. Take, for example, causality, which is contemplated as between events in the physical world. It obtains also as between the mind and some physical objects. When I receive a sensation from an external object, I feel myself passive to that object ; I enjoy my sensing as an effect of the sensum, which is its object. This is not a mere postulate made by philosophers for theoretical purposes—that there is an external cause of my perceptions. It is a direct deliverance of experience, and Locke and Berkeley, who insist (particularly Berkeley) on our passivity to sensations in contrast with our activity in imagination, were rendering a fact of experience and not a dogma. I enjoy myself as the effect of an object which acts on my senses, and only in this sense do I contemplate the object as the cause of the effect in me.[15] Moreover, besides causality between

(29) things and me, there is causality between my mental acts or processes ; as when the thought of my friend leads me by association to remember a reproof, which in the fashion of friends he administered to me. The causal relation, as we have before observed, is, in fact, more easily noticed and analysed as we experience it in ourselves than as we contemplate it outside us.

What is true of causality is true of other categories. We enjoy ourselves as permanent amid our changes, that is, our mind is in its own enjoyment a substance. It enters into relations within itself as well as with external things. Its processes have at least intensity : they have that species of quantity. Whether it may be qualified by all the categories remains to be seen, and is proposed as a problem. At any rate it would seem that some of them belong both to mind and to things, and that these categories, and, if it is true of all of them, that all the categories, are parts of experience which are features alike of the mental and the physical world. If this is to be regarded as a mere coincidence it is a highly interesting one and would correspond to the superior importance attached in some philosophies to these categories. Is it more than a coincidence, dependent on some deeper reason?

Some, at any rate, of the categories bring us back once more to the earlier problem. Causality is, as physical, a relation which can only be described in terms of Space and Time. What is the connection of this category with Space and Time ? Finally, is there any connection between the other categories and Space and Time ? We are thus faced again with the duty of investigating these two things (shall I call them entities or forms of relation or features of reality ?) as fundamental to any metaphysics.


Thus our analysis of the experience of experience itself has led us to two results. It has shown us that minds and external things are co-ordinate members of a world, and it has so far justified the empirical method which proceeds on that assumption. In the next place it has suggested, with the help of additional experiences all

(30) intimately connected with that analysis, that Space and Time may be in some peculiar fashion basic to all being. At the same time Space and Time, whatever they may be and whatever may be their relation to one another and to the categories, have been treated as something which can be contemplated and cannot therefore be regarded as dependent on mind, though they may be concerned with the constitution of mind as well as of external things. This is only an extension to them of the empirical method.

I have introduced this long review of mind, which is yet far too short to be convincing, for the reasons which I mentioned before, that it is the natural method of approach and the one I have followed in my own thinking. It may, I trust, have removed any prejudice against the empirical method in metaphysics. If I have failed, I can only beg that my readers will be content to treat the fundamental implications of the method as a hypothesis, a hypothesis of method. That is all that is needed for what is to follow. Let the examination be an empirical examination of the world in its a priori features, and without demonstration of the position taken up by any particular form of realism, let us put aside any postulate as to the nature of knowledge, and let the relation of mind to its objects develop if it can in the course of the inquiry. The outline which I have given of the analysis of knowledge will at least have served the purpose of an explanation of certain terms which may be used henceforth without commentary.

The plan I shall follow is this : I shall begin with an inquiry into Space and Time, designed more particularly to exhibit their relation to one another, and after this into the categories. This will occupy the first two Books. In the third Book I shall seek to treat, so far as this falls to the business of philosophy, the various types of existents, so as to bring out their relations to one another within Space and Time. We shall have to ask, for instance, whether the relation of mind to body is unique or not, and in the same way whether its relation to its objects is unique or not, a question already answered provisionally by reference to the fact of experience itself.

(31) Finally, I shall discuss what can be known as to the nature of deity, consistently with the whole scheme of things which we know, and with the sentiment of worship which is directed to God. In attempting this enterprise I can but regret that I am hampered at many points by want of relevant knowledge, especially mathematical and physical knowledge, but it may well be that an outline which is defective in detail may be correct in its general movement. Whether this is so or not I must leave to the result to determine.


  1.  Boswell, Life of Johnson, July 6, 1763, vol. i. p. 422 (Oxford, 1887, ed. G. B. Hill).
  2. See various papers in Proc. Arist. Soc. N.S. vols. viii. to xi. (1908-11); Mind, N.S. vols. xxi.-ii. (1912-13); Proc. British Academy, vol. vi. (' The Basis of Realism,' 1914) ; Brit. Journ. of Psych. iv., 191 1.
  3.  The distinctness of these two elements was made clear in Mr. G. E. Moore's paper on 'The Refutation of Idealism ' in Mind; N.S. vol. xii., 1903.
  4. See his Instinct and Experience (London, 1912).
  5. The distinction is borrowed from some remarks of Mr. Stout, Proc. Arist. Soc. N.S., vol. ix. p. 243. See also vol. viii. p. 254, where the 'of' in 'aware of myself' is described after him as the 'of' of apposition.
  6.  Bk. III. ch. vii.
  7. For our apprehension of the minds of others, see later, Bk. III. ch. i. B.
  8. Cp. Browning's :
        "Hardly shall I tell my joys and sorrows,
         Hopes and fears, belief and disbelieving "
    these are described introspectively.
        "I am mine and yours—the rest be all men's,
        Karshish, Cleon, Norbert, and the fifty."
    These are the objects of extrospection.
  9.  I owe this point to Mr. Laird.
  10.  See, further, Mind, N.S. vol. xxi., 1912. On relation, and in particular the cognitive relation,' §§ 5, 6, pp. 319-323.
  11. This subject is discussed in a later chapter, Bk. III. ch. iv. B.
  12. Bk. III. chs. viii. and ix. B.
  13. Bk. III. ch. vi.
  14. On this last difficult point see later, Bk. I. ch. iii. That the image is spatial in itself is enough for my purposes ; it indicates a problem.
  15.  See the parallel remarks above on the experience of togetherness (p. 21), and further, Mind, N.S. xxi., 1912, On relations, etc.,' § 7, PP. 323 ff

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