The New Realism
John E. Boodin
THERE has been a great deal of confusion in regard to terms in recent discussion. It may be well, therefore, to define what we mean by realism at the very outset. A number of writers leave called themselves realists and proposed to champion realism, when they are really indistinguishable from idealists. here, at least, the Leibnizian law of indiscernibles ought to hold. If the terms realism and idealism are retained at all, they ought to stand for different concepts. It is bard to see how theories which strive to express reality in terms of perspicuous or translucent perceptual differences can be called realism. This would surely make the shade of Berkeley wince a bit. Either empirical idealism or positivism is a better term for recent tendencies than realism. Leaving out all reference to the metaphysical stuff for the time being, I would hold that realism means the existence of real beyond the apperceptive unity of individual consciousness and that these reals can make a difference to that consciousness so as to be known. Idealism, on the other hand, used in the epistemological sense, would have to hold that there is strictly only one unity of consciousness and that therefore the relation to reality is a perspicuous relation. This assumption on the part of idealism may be veiled under various terms, such as appearance and reality, the finite and the infinite, the incomplete purpose and the completely fulfilled purpose; but in the various forms of expression the assumption remains that all the facts are ultimately and really strung on one unity of thought.
In order to pave the way for the statement of my own realism I must first expose two fundamental fallacies which permeate most of our past philosophic thought. The first of these fallacies may be stated as the assumption that only like can act upon like, or that cause and effect must be identical. This has been assumed as an axiom by metaphysical idealism and materialism alike. For idealism and materialism are alike undiscriminative. Their method is dogmatic rather than critical. The only difference is in the stuff with which they start. Idealism, starting with meaning stuff, tries to ex-
( 534) -press the whole universe in terms of this. Materialism, starting with mechanical stuff—stuff indifferent to meaning and value—must be consistent, or as consistent as it can, in expressing the universe in terms of this. Both buy simplicity at the expense of the facts.
In the end the problem is the old one of Empedocles : Can only like make a difference to like? "For it is with earth that we see Earth, and Water with water, by air we see bright Air, by fire destroying Fire. By love do we see Love, and Hate by grievous hate." Expressed in terms of modern idealism, from the side of individual consciousness, the problem would read: Can only experience make a difference to experience; can only thought make a difference to thought? The absolute idealist attempts this disjunction: The reality which we strive to know must either be part of one context with our own finite meaning, it must be included within the completed purpose, the absolute experience, of which we are even now conscious, as well as of our finitude and fragmentariness ; or, on the other hand, the real object must be independent of our thought reference. But complete independence is meaningless; therefore there must be one inclusive experience. To think an object as real is to think it as experience; therefore it must be experience.
The issue between the realist and the idealist is a twofold one. The realist insists that there can be different universes of experience which can make a difference to each other; and also that what is nonreflective or non-meaning can make a difference to our reflective purposes, or vice versa. When we reflect upon a stone, that makes the stone experience for us, but does it also make the stone as suck experience? It is as reasonable, at any rate, to say that only water can know water, and that therefore in order to know water we must have water in the eye or on the brain, as it is to say that in order to know the stone or to reflect upon the stone, the stone must be reflective. In either case our attitude is merely dogmatic.
Science has already abandoned the axiom that only like can act upon like. It is busy remaking its mechanical models in order to meet the complexity of its world. The atomic theory is hardly more than a. picture language for chemistry. Chemical energy need not be the same as electrical or nervous to make a difference to either. Chemical energy implies weight and mass, while electrical or nervous energy does not. The old metaphysical difficulty in regard to conscious and physical energy has given way to a question of fact. The question is not., Can they make a difference to each other? but, Is there evidence of their making any difference to each other? A cup of coffee or a good beefsteak makes a difference to thinking. But that does not necessarily make them thought stuff. Whether cause
( 535) and effect arc identical, either in kind or in time, is something for empirical investigation to determine, and not to be settled a priori. Science presents strong evidence that they need be neither.
It is time that philosophy, too, were abandoning dogmatism in favor of facts. It is no longer a question of materialism or idealism; but we must use idealistic tools where we are dealing with idealistic stuff and mechanical categories where the evidence for consciousness and value is lacking. We must learn to respect ends where there are ends; and to use those facts as means which have no meaning of their own. To fail thus to discriminate is to be a sentimentalist, on the one hand, or a bore, on the other. What we want is a grain of sanity, even the size of a mustard seed.
The merit of idealism, and for this we ought to give it due credit, is that it has shown that the universe must be differentiated with reference to our purposive attitudes. This is true whether the reality to be known is purposive or not. But because the universe can only be known through our purposive attitudes, that does not make the universe through and through purposive. Where idealism has been strong has been in interpreting institutional life. In order adequately to know another meaning, we must copy or share that meaning. This is true whenever our reality is thought stuff. Idealism, on the other hand, has always been weak in dealing with nature, and in furnishing therefore the proper setting for natural science. Idealism has striven to institutionalize nature or to reduce nature to reflective experience. In order to do this, it has been forced either to insist upon the ideality or phenomenality of nature, with Berkeley and Green, or to take the ground of Hegel, John Caird, and Royce that nature is essentially thought, social experience, the objectification of logical categories, though an sich. and not für sich, whatever that may mean. Hence nature becomes capable of system ; it is essentially systematic. Thus in apotheosizing the unity of apperception into an objective unity of nature, idealism has failed to discriminate. The stone and Hamlet are lumped together. But we can not acknowledge or react on nature as reflective or as experience on its own account, and therefore idealism breaks down. It is true that we make the system of nature, as social minds, to anticipate the future and to satisfy our needs. But the inwardness of the energy which satisfies and the nature of the transformations by which it satisfies, we can not know. Water satisfies thirst. That is an energetic relation. But how and why wo do not know. Hence our knowledge of nature is phenomenal. Not communion, but control, is what we must aim at. Knowledge is good here when it works. Dewey's account of the relation of
(536) knowledge to reality in terms of end and means, or purposive control, dodges the real issue of realism. It is merely a psychological account.
Materialism, on the other hand, has been quite right in applying the mechanical categories to part of reality. The mechanical ideals will always find favor in natural science, where the aim is not the understanding of an objective meaning, but control of nature for our purposes. Where the materialist shows his dogmatism is in applying categories which are convenient in dealing with the nonpurposive structure of the world to institutional reality as well. In failing to make them work here, instead of calling into play new categories, he insists upon eliminating the refractory world of meaning and value. The idealist, on the other hand, with his eye primarily on the world of social tissue or ideals, has insisted that the real is essentially the social or communicable. Each has failed to recognize how the other half lives.
We have spoken of one fallacy, namely, the assumption that part of reality, in order to make a difference to another part, must be of the same stuff. The other fallacy of which I wish to speak is the assumption that what is not stuff can not be real.' This assumption is very old. It is assumed by Parmenides when he dismisses non-being as unthinkable and nonsense. It is assumed by Kant, in his antinomy of space and time, when he assumes that the relation to nothing is no relation. Most philosophers have followed the leadership of these distinguished. thinkers. But the assumption that zero is unthinkable and that the relation to nothing is no relation has been abandoned by mathematics for logical reasons. It must be abandoned likewise by metaphysics. I have tried to show elsewhere that time, space and direction must be assumed as non-stuff dimensions of reality in order to realize our human purposes; and I shall not. try to repeat the arguments here.
Instead of the dogmatic method, pursued by the old idealism and materialism alike, we must substitute the critical method. This method has been rechristened within recent years by C. S. Peirce and William James and called pragmatism. As I understand this method, and have endeavored to apply it, it means simply trying to carry the scientific spirit into metaphysics. It means the willingness to acknowledge reality for what it is; what it is always meaning
(537) for us, what difference it makes to our reflective purposes. Instead of insisting upon identity of stuff, as dogmatism has always done, this method is discriminative. It enables us to break up the universe and to deal with it piecemeal, to recognize unity where there is unity and chaos where there is chaos, purpose where there is purpose and the absence of purpose where there is no evidence of purpose. The universe in each part or stage of development is what we must acknowledge it to be, not necessarily what we do acknowledge, but what we must acknowledge to live life successfully. This acknowledgment, moreover, is not a mere will to believe or volitional fiat, but, at least as knowledge becomes organized, a definite and conscious acknowledgment. An unlimited will to believe as regards objective reality would be possible, if at all, only before we have organized knowledge, that is, if you could imagine knowledge starting in a conscious will-act. When we already have organized knowledge, if we choose to know, the possibilities become limited. In case of fully organized knowledge the place of the will to believe would be the will not to think, that is, to commit intellectual suicide.
Neither can we state the truth attitude in merely dynamic terms. If we believe Dewey, the truth attitude must be characterized primarily by doubt and a transition to a new equilibrium, and must cease with certainty. This seems to me a one-sided definition. The truth attitude may at least involve the consciousness that we know that we know. To be sure, the nervousness of science leads us to repeat the experiment, in order to make sure that we have made no mistake; but that does not alter the truth of our first finding, if the experiment proves correct. If Dewey were right, truth would cease with its attainment. Truth is getting truth, but when you have truth, you have it no longer. That seems paradoxical. Truth as we have it, it seems to me, involves two things,—first, luminousness, or a peculiar satisfaction to the individual experience at the time, due to its felt consistency or fluency. This is the real positive truth value, whether formal or factual. The other factor involved in scientific truth is the feeling of tentativeness or openness to correction. This is a qualification or nervousness on the part of the truth attitude either as a result of an actual feeling of discrepancy and fragmentariness as regards our present meaning; or it may be due to a more general feeling of instability based upon the time character of our meanings. Such correction can only come through further experience, whether of the immediate or formal type. We can not say that the value consists in the future consequences or leadings. These obviously have no value until they come. Further experience furnishes the possibility of correction of our truth values and so of
(538) producing new values. I say possibility of correction because repeating the experiment, while it relieves our nervousness, does not necessarily produce a new truth. The truth value itself must be stated in creative terms, and not merely in terms of consequences. If the truth value lay merely in the consequences or leadings there could be no such thing as truth value.
Having now made clear our method, we are ready to define our realism. We may lay it down, then, that the real must be known through our purposive attitudes or conceptual construction. Real objects are never constituted by lucre sense perception. They are not compounds of sensation. They presuppose creative purpose. They can only become objects for a self-realizing will. The real is the intelligible or noumenal, not the mere immediate. It is through hypothesis that knowledge becomes possible. The immediate can only be evidence, a secondary grade of reality at most, though, in the language of Professor James, it does put us next to the real object; or, in my own terms, it is one form of energetic, continuity.
I realize that this thesis runs counter to the prevailing attitude at the present time, which is an apotheosis of the immediate. But empirical idealism is at best a half-way house. We call not say that the real is merely what is perceived or what makes an immediate difference to our conscious purposes, whether in the way of value or of fact. We must at least say that the real is what can be perceived, unless we bring in some dens ex machina or supernatural storehouse of percepts, as Berkeley does. Surely the empirical idealist of to-day would not say that the increased powers of the telescope or microscope create the facts. Nor can the uniformity of our expectancies be credited to our individual perception; and hence, from the perceptualist point of view, requires another dens ex machina. To say that uniformity or stability is a social fact does not explain the fact, but presupposes an extrasocial constitution, a constitution binding upon all of us. Not only perception, but possible perception, must be invoked to complete the empirical idealist's reality; and `possible' itself is not a category of perception.
As the old idealist and the old realist alike assumed the principle of causal identity, it became necessary to think of the subjective qualities as copies of objective qualities. Native realism and idealism alike assume the identity, of the perceptual qualities and the real qualities. In modified realism, the primary qualities at least must be copied. For the empirical idealism of to-day the problem still remains as to whether the perceived qualities and the objective qualities are the same. Unless the idealist becomes a solipsist he
(539) must show that his subjective copies are adequate even to a perceptual world. This difficulty would vanish, once we abandoned the principle of identity, which is merely a priori and contrary to the evidence of science. To ask what perceptual qualities are, when they are not perceived, becomes in that case as superfluous as it is meaningless. Processes which are not conscious and which therefore have no perceptual qualities can, under certain conditions, make perceptual differences to beings organized as we are. To speak of archetypal qualities is merely duplicating this moment of perception. If these non-conscious reals act upon other non-conscious reals, we have not perceptual differences, but chemical or physical changes. These must be interpolated by us in order to make continuous our perceptual scheme. We saw the wood burning in the grate: in our absence the fire has gone out and the wood has turned to ashes. To piece together this discontinuity in our perceptions we must assume certain differences or changes which can not themselves be expressed as perceptions.
But a more serious difficulty still remains. Even granting a being who should have perceptual differences for all the changes going on, minute or great, and without breach of continuity, even he would not have reality. The real individual can not be treated as a compound of perceptual qualities or subjective values. He must be acknowledged as something more than the sum total of his appearances, past, present and future. If sensations constituted reality, then the more sensations the more reality. Take Helen Keller's reality, for example, on this supposition. For convenience, I will use Professor Titchener's estimate of the number of sense qualities. According to him, sight furnishes us 32,820 different sense qualities, hearing 11,600, making a total of 44,420. The remaining sense qualities are in the neighborhood of fifteen. As Helen Keller possesses neither the sense of sight nor that of hearing, her reality would be to our reality as 15 is to 44,435, leaving the question of value out of account. But Helen Keller seems to be able to enter into communion with human beings all over the world, to share their purposes, to sympathize with them and help them better than most human beings with the use of all their senses. The reason the phenomenalistic position, that reality is the sum of its perceptions, has seemed so plausible is that it has always borrowed its illustrations from the physical part of the world, where the inwardness of the process is inaccessible to our ideal construction. As we can not know the inner reality of gold, it became easy to suppose that gold is the sum total of its perceptual qualities, as yellow, malleable, soluble in aqua regia, while these are merely the functions of gold, or
(540) ways in which it can he connected up with a certain context including our psychophysical organism. When we come to deal with a human being, a friend of ours, the inadequacy of mere perceptual qualities becomes evident. He is not his height, nor his color, nor his softness, nor his hardness, nor even the sum total of all the perceptions we can get. He is what we must acknowledge, what fulfills a unique purpose on the part of our wills, and, as opposed to the gold or the stone, a sharable reality, a reality whose inwardness we can to some extent copy.
The confusion of the perceptual and the noumenal goes back to Leibniz. It was Leibniz that confused force and representation, the resistance and doing-work character of the thing with its perceptual stuff; or, in the case of a higher grade of reality, the abstract concept with the purposive will. Kant is quite right that Leibniz's perception stuff is merely phenomenal. Leibniz misses the very `soul' in things, which he wishes to find.
\\'e have seen that the real is the intelligible or the noumenal; that this reality is accessible only through conceptual construction or purposive will attitudes. The reals must be ejects, not percepts. No wonder that the perceptualists have not been able to discover non-being dimensions, since these could not be perceived, but discovered only through the most subtle conceptual tools, according to the real difference which they make to our purposive striving. We have already indicated that because reality can only be known conceptually, that does not mean that reality must be conceptual. Reality is, however, only really knowable in so far as it is conceptual, that is, so far as we can share its inner meaning. Were reality through and through a moral whole, a city of God, knowledge could be at least approximate, that is, so far as different meanings can grasp each other. Identity is important for the real sharing of meanings or real knowledge, even if it has no relevance to causality. In recognizing that reality could not be treated altogether as moral purpose, Kant showed a keenness far exceeding that of his critics, as he showed his obtuseness in not recognizing that moral purpose, as expressed in individual and institutional life, is a real part of reality.
The conceptual noumenon need not seem a cold abstraction. On the contrary, it may, on account of instinctive beliefs, come to us with immediate certainty and conviction. It may present itself, as in the case of our fellow man, as an object of immediate acknowledgment; and, in the case of religion, it may feel like an immediate presence, as instinctive feeling takes the place of inference. But in any case the reals beyond our own consciousness must be ejects, not
(541) percepts, however immediate their reality as a result of instinct may seem. They are objects of thought or purposive will, not of sense. The perceptual qualities have no reality except as relations to conscious energetic centers or purposive wills. It is quite true, therefore, that perceptual. qualities can not interact, as they are the felt continuities or the functional connections of energetic centers, when a conscious will is part of the complex. There can be no sense in speaking of these qualities as acting upon the will or parallel to the world of will-acts. They are simply one type of transeunt connections or energetic continuities. These energetic continuities may be intersubjective relations, and in that ease communication and real knowledge are possible. They may be relations of centers below the reflective level. In that. case knowledge becomes instrumental or phenomenal.
Equipped with our subjective purposes, or conceptual tools, we can now confront the larger world. In the course of conscious experience, and as we strive to realize our tendencies, formal or practical, the world beyond us becomes differentiated and labeled according to our success or failure. But the real objects are not constituted by our differentiation, except when we make our realities outright, as in the case of artistic creation. The meaning is, indeed, created in the course of experience, but not the object which we mean. Else science were impossible. The real objects must be acknowledged or met, whether they are to be understood or to be controlled.
The noumenal world, which constitutes the world of real objects, may be differentiated according to our purposes into two general divisions, the world of being or stuff, on the one hand, and the world of non-being or non-stuff, on the other. By the former I understand, speaking in phenomenal terms, various types of expectancy or uniformity, which we can have in regard to our perceptual world. These types of uniformity, again, can be graded into two main divisions, namely, those which we can acknowledge metaphysically as purposive in their own right and those which we must acknowledge as existing and must meet, but whose inwardness escapes us. The former we must learn to understand and appreciate, the latter to anticipate and control. The former constitute the realm of idealism, the latter of materialism.
Whether our conceptual structures should be regarded as copies or as tools with reference to the larger world is not a question that can be settled after the manner of either or, but must depend upon the kind of reality we mean. If this reality is that of other purposive structures or meanings, then the relation must be that of
(542) copying or sharing; if the reality aimed at is infra-reflective, then the relation must be instrumental.
As regards the stuff character of reality, then, our theory is pluralistic, acknowledging different kinds and grades of energetic centers according to the differences they make to our reflective purposes.
But this theory also insists upon non-stuff dimensions of reality. These, too, are noumena, or intelligible realities. They differ from the stuff types in that they are not perceptually continuous with our psychophysical organism. They can not appear as phenomena, but must be acknowledged for the realization of our purposes. Thus we must acknowledge the transformation of our values, the instability of our meanings. Time creeps into our equations and makes revision necessary. New values can only be had by waiting. Again, space conditions our intersubjective relations, as well as our relations to non-purposive beings. 'It makes possible externality of energetic centers and free mobility. Lastly, the relativity of our meanings and ideals makes necessary the assumption of an absolute direction, a normative limit, to measure the validity of our finite standards. These non-being dimensions must be regarded as real as the will centers which they condition. They are more knowable than the world of stuff, because their characters are few and simple, whereas the varieties and grades of stuff are almost infinite. Thus, by means of our conceptual tools, we are able to discover, not only various kinds of stuff, but we are able to discover dimensions of reality of ultimate importance, where microscopes and telescopes can not penetrate, realities which eye bath not seen nor ear beard, nor ever will see or hear, more subtle than ether or radium, if these be more than fictions.
If you laugh now at the title of this paper and say that I have palmed off a very old realism with new pretensions, I have no apologies to offer. For, on the one hand, there is nothing a philosopher needs more than a good laugh; and I shall feel that, in any case, I am a public benefactor. On the other hand, it is not the philosopher's business to make a world, but to interpret it; and men's oldest. instincts are often truer than their newest theories. These instincts I have tried to make explicit.
JOHN E. BOODIN