'Values' and the Nature of Science
John Frederick Dashiell
AT the present day much is being made of the naive point of view as shedding light on philosophic problems. 'Everybody's world,' 'the man in the street,' 'the plain man,' 'what is it experienced as,' etc., are expressions indicating this point of departure as it is to be found not merely in the immediate empiricist or in the naive realist or in the philosopher of pure experience, but also in the critical realist, in the idealist, in the phenomenalist. There has always, of course, been great attention paid to experience. Practically every philosophic writer of the past has done his constructive as well as his critical work with a conscious regard for 'experience,' whether it be a belated recognition of it in the reading out of the implications of his system, or an acceptance of the patterns of experience as given him by his dialectic, or an analysis of human life in its more unreflective immersion in raw phenomena. The last mentioned is the peculiar use of the term characteristic of the present. It is an immediate empiricism of a radical temper. Any fact of experience, so it be such, is entitled to some consideration in our seeking philosophic adjustment. Things are experienced as red and blue just as much as heavy and solid, ugly and magnificent, as much as red and blue. The mystic's vision and the dreamer's romance are original data just as truly as the broker's stocks and the zoologists' protozoa. We are not limited to a recognition of facts observed in a coldly intellectual spirit, but acknowledge all facts of life, however emotional and affectional. Anything, then, that may be an object of experience may be taken as an original datum. These need not remain data: the purposes of investigation or the contingencies of use may require a selection of certain kinds and a discrimination against certain other kinds. But philosophical polemics have often enough shown us the difficulty of laying hold by more reflective thinking of the immediate data. and naive methods of the less reflective; and one general character of experience that calls for special
( 521) attention is one that is so apparent that it is often as unrecognized as it is fundamental and important.
Our life is in a world that surrounds us and that concerns us deeply. It is not all agreeable and not all disagreeable, but that it is in parts now one, now the other, is the first lesson of life. Be we never so young and undiscriminating or never so dreamy and inactive, we are always forced into attitudes, positive or negative, by our experiences, favorable or unfavorable. Things strike us in the face, as it were, by the very coerciveness of their ! meanings. Nothing is more false than to say that we find the attributes of goodness or badness, of prettiness or ugliness, added to the things: they simply are the things. It is not that we experience an object as having also the quality of loveliness, but rather that we know it as a loveliness in this particular form. It is seen first as a value, then scrutinized for its detailed make-up ` and for whatever handles we may grasp.
Generalizing, in the real experience of humanity—and I know not what else to start from—the categories of value actually are found to be more primary than those categories developed by further description of the thing. The persons we know, the dog we pat, the chairs and houses and sidewalks, are the results of a gradual precipitation out of the solution of a general meaningfulness. However much the first experiences lack definiteness, they never lack the quality of meaningfulness; and the babe experiences uncomfortableness, or better, just something wrong, long before he is conscious of what is the trouble in definite particulars. But this is not a story of children only. Adults are conscious of, and react to, situations primarily in their value aspect: How often we have a sense of deep satisfaction or its opposite before we realize what the situation 'is'!
Let us look for a moment at the savage and his animistic tendencies. Our traditional Tylor-Spencer doctrine of the animism of the primitive man holds that everything not easily and obviously explicable by familiar rules was animated, was inhabited by a spirit, a soul. The sudden falling of a tree, the soughing of the wind, an echo, the sudden collapse of his lodge or tent, were
( 522) enough to impel our hypothetical savage to straightway recognize therein the manifestations . of spiritual agencies, whether of superior or inferior grade, whether separable or inseparable from the material objects. We shall not be interested in a proof or disproof of the inhabiting soul or principle, but only in examining the method of thinking here imputed to the primitive man. The logic of this position runs somewhat as follows: the primitive man knows two radically distinct things, an impersonal mechanistic order of nature that he has found to behave in certain fairly established ways, and a personal spiritual entity or reality within himself that alone acts independently of the mechanical order; on occasion certain objects act in ways inexplicable by the former conception alone; they therefore must be allowed some inner purposive agency similar to the hunter's own soul. Thus results the introjective imputation of some degree of spirit on the basis of analogy. This whole conception has fatal weaknesses.
We need not tarry long with the objection that it holds our naive man responsible for a developed consciousness of self and an articulate theory of his own soul, which are, of course, decided anachronisms. There is a more subtle weakness: it is overlooked that the strange phenomena in question, whether falling tree or soughing wind or answering hill or collapsing lodge, bear vital relations to the purposive living of the man himself. The tree is not just falling, but is falling across his path or dangerously near himself or his teepee; the wind's howling is immediately disquieting; the voice from the hill must be either friend or foe; the lodge is his lodge and will have to be rebuilt. One character, then, of the situation is overlooked by the given interpretation.
And this gives a clue to an entirely different mode of procedure possible in construing the general fact of animistic behavior. Suppose that instead of conceiving it as an adding to the presented phenomena of a new character we conceive it as an insufficient stage of analysis. The savage, in so far as he treats the mysterious thing as alive and full of purposes, fails just so far to discriminate adequately the particulars of the object given. He has failed to carry further the analysis and characterization of
( 523) the thing. He has not sufficiently subjected this mysterious 'power' or 'virtue' or 'medicine' to careful dissection. We need not seek a strictly psychological explanation in terms merely of attention, habit, conception, and emotion, as some have done: we need only try to envisage the whole experience in more accurate and less anachronistic terms.
Another interesting treatment of primitive thinking is given in what has been called sometimes "animatism" (R. R. Marett), sometimes "manitou" (Wm. Jones). Differing on the face, these two theories have a core of similarity. They are held to be a certain pre-animistic habit of thinking. Before he comes to find the 'medicine' in particular things, the savage has found himself face to face with a world that is interfused with a cosmic, mysterious property existing everywhere, but on occasion found identified with single objects. This general theory, it seems, is not to be interpreted as contradictory to the older animism theory, but as referring to an earlier stage.
Apparently this conception shows a better appreciation of the vital experience of the savage. It reveals a more living and purposive quality that is surely central in the sensing of a mysterious power for good or evil. But one is in danger of accepting the theory in a form too intellectualistic. We are likely to allow the hunter a capacity for conceiving a pantheistic deity who manifests himself and addresses man in this, that, or the other particular medium. It is true that such an intellectual pantheism is to be found in certain stages of human experience. It may be equally true that the phenomena of shadows and sleep, dreams and death, have been the stimuli at some time to the development of the idea of the soul. But it should be obvious that such more conscious and reflective constructions have followed upon and built upon the more immediate experiences of value. Whatever it may come to be in addition, the significant thing about animism is no the introjective imputation of a soul, but the uncriticized appreciation of the goodness or badness of the object, its weal- or woe-bearing character. In so far, then, as it is an error by the primitive man, it is an error of insufficient subtraction, not one of superfluous
( 524) addition. In other words, the conception of animism has suffered by reason of a mechanical and static rather than a dynamic and living interpretation.
We see all this in our own experiences. If I become angry with a tie that will not slide in the collar, it is not because I impute an additional agency to the tie thwarting my purposes, but because in my impulsion I have failed to utilize the fruits of past analysis.
A significant question might be asked: Is our traditional religious conception of the soul a survival of animistic belief, in the sense of being an intellectual construction of certain emotional experiences later launched upon its historical voyage naked of its original dress and forgetful of the place of its nativity? But we will not stop here. It will suffice to point out a similarity between the Tylor-Spencer theory of animism of the primitive man and the 'mind' or 'consciousness' of the older psychological textbooks.
One is struck with one great difference in behavior toward a passerby as seen in a New Yorker, for instance, and as seen in a mountaineer. Tread on his toe, exhibit a combative attitude, interrupt his private conversation, and the Westerner will show an immediate resentment in some degree where the other man will restrain such impulses. Now, why does the man of the city take up this different attitude? Is it because of some conception of the offender's state of consciousness and some dangerous pictures lying in there, or is it because of a carefulness and regard for his overt physical attitudes? When the larger boy teases or bullies the smaller, surely he forms little idea of the feelings of his victim from the inside, as it were; he is interested rather in what the latter will do than in what he will feel. It is an interest fairly comparable to the same boy's play with a new mechanical contrivance: he wants to see how it will work, what will happen, and what is the go of it. Mind, we may conclude, is not to be given an introjective interpretation but an immediately dynamic one.
What we have said of 'animism' may be repeated substantially for the methods of thinking called 'anthropomorphism' and
( 525) 'personification'; and may be a most fundamental point in any conception of the 'spiritual.' Though it may be given highly intellectualized and hypostatized form, the 'spiritual' element is always traceable, I am sure, to a live, purposive, meaningful character of immediate situations. It has undoubtedly grown out of the constant personal perspective into which the objective presentations have ranged themselves by virtue of their friendliness and unfriendliness to our ideals and aims.
Advance from animism does not mean a total reading out from the object of all the good-bad character originally found there and a substitution of a dead absolute purposelessness: the object is still good or bad, but this goodness or badness comes to be seen in a more refined light. In place of a capricious and uncalculated foe or friend is substituted a hindrance of just so much limited troublesomeness, or a help of just so much limited assistance. As soon as one learns that a terrible thing can be guarded against, there is a limitation of its terrible quality; it is no longer a vague terribleness but a fairly definite thing that can be made less terrible by certain precautions. Possibly the chipped flint spear or arrow was regarded by the child or even at first by the man as a friend than whom no greater was conceivable, but a few failures in aim were doubtless sufficient to induce a qualified regard for the weapon and a recognition of the need of a developed skill. How the qualification of meaningfulness is related to the development of technique will be noticed later.
This view of animism now lends weight to a wider thesis. As stated above, our 'objects' are the result of a gradual precipitation out of the solution of general meaningfulness. It is not a denial of meaningfulness but a defining of it. Taking 'category' in a living rather than a pigeon-hole sense, we may say that value is a. category fundamental to all others.
The meaningfulness of the world we live in implies another of its characters. Hindrance and help are words of no meaning except as referring to an effect upon some action or tendency in some more or less definite direction; and that we find values in our world testifies to some action in some direction in ourselves. It is only as living, striving beings that we can experience worths.
( 526) But the world, too, must be active. The dynamism felt by the savage and by the child may need analysis and extended refinement, but it is nevertheless an indication of the active character exhibited in all immediate situations. Those phases of experience that become most vividly valuated are the more active elements that force us into decided attitudes. The perspective into which things fall is undoubtedly due—as perspective—to the fact that the experiencer is a being with a more or less unified purposive life; but his experiences can be so ranged only because they have some real and efficient connection with the movements of this life. The fact of direction may be the contribution of the active nature of the experiencer, but the specific directions developed show the genuineness of activities at work about him. We are not passive spectators of a finished cosmos, but finding ourselves in a world of change and flux we can have no other business than to struggle to keep above the surface.
In this struggle, now, a significant thing is that we encounter all kinds of values, some of them helpful to us if we but learn just how helpful and just how to lay hold of them for our use, some of them hindering and treacherous. Growth in wisdom will amount to growth in power of discrimination and of discovery as to what is helpful and what is not—what is more truly the positive value and what the negative. And this is not a small or an easy matter. Things may come in guises of usefulness that need reinterpretation and refusal, while many phases hitherto unappreciated or even disliked and feared need to be given a sharper analysis and a consequent appreciation.
Then comes in a significant step. The increase in sharpness of analysis, in acuteness and carefulness of definition, leads not only to a truer appraisal of what is given, but to a new kind of valuation, which finds the elements of the experience capable of yielding meanings indirectly by being handled for mediate purposes. Instead of being regarded only in light of their usefulness now, they gain importance by reason of their possible utilization in the seeking of remoter things. When mankind has thus analyzed deeper than the aspect of things as that is valuable here and now, then mind has begun to realize itself, and the human
( 527) being has begun in a measure to escape from his environment, or better, to remake it..
The qualification of the meaningfulness of presentations is now hastened by the discovery of instruments. The value previously appreciated in its vagueness and uncertainty may now be limited in its powers sufficiently to be approached and laid hold of by our new tools, or may even become tool itself in further enterprises. The tiger may have been previously a source of unlimited danger; now with the use of our clubs and spears it maybe resisted with an enormous gain in economy of effort, suffering, and life.
There is need for caution. The present shows a widespread tendency to view experience wholly in biographical and psychological terms. If the world we know is as dynamic as we say, then this quality must be found within ourselves. What is it in our constitution that prompts us to view life in such a way; surely the latter is an exteriorization of the purposive nature of all our own strivings. But here are we not creating our own problem? Are we not subjectifying an objective character, then asking how its seeming objectivity is possible? If man is to be able to lay hold on the world of nature and manipulate it in. the interest of remoter aims, it is obvious that nature must he just the kind of thing that can be so laid hold on. To think that one can use purely static materials for dynamic ends is as erroneous as to think that one can make distinctions and discriminations in a homogeneity. In point of fact, man does employ processes and causalities to work for him, setting a given process in action now that the fruits may be yielded to him in the future.
Here, then, he recognizes a certain definiteness in the activity. The world of change is a flux, to be sure; yet it is not an aimless flux, but one that manifests lines of change that allow of increasingly precise definition. Had the flux no such comparative regularities, man's control would be impossible. There is some meaning, then, attaching to an ancient exhortation that the surface of this changing flux is mere appearance and that we should seek reality beneath it.—This does not imply, of course, the monistic view of existence, for the processes and hence the
(528) `realities' we read in them are encountered here and there and now and then. The degrees of unity therein are to be revealed only empirically.The nature of scientific method is implied in the foregoing. The emergence of concrete objects from the magma of general meaningfulness is accomplished, as has been said, by the increase of definition and analysis. No longer content to react to moments of vague pleasantness and unpleasantness, we seek to know the more definitive marks of those moments. The investigation need not be a very conscious one always; but there is a growing demarcation and limitation of the source of the pleasantness or unpleasantness. Important differences between animal and human behavior have been traced to this difference in degree of discrimination of actual sources: the dog or cat reacts to the situation in which the value is experienced but is unable to distinguish the essential from the unessential factors. Man, on the other hand, comes more and more to perceive the more relevant elements and reacts to them only. He learns just how to locate the source of the value. But he learns also its characteristics, and especially just how it may be approached or shunned most conveniently and economically, just what particular handle may be best seized, just what certain path will lead to the heart of the matter. But it is a gradual development, and man is slow not only (a) in the location of his values, but also—and especially —(b) in the just estimation of their strength. Having found the agent in a given element of the situation, there remains the further problem of determining its energies. It must not be left a capricious, unmeasured agent, but must be analyzed into an object or a force of just so much power. (The stimulus to this investigation of the value is, of course, a more or less felt difficulty in dealing with it; or more broadly, the stimulus to the examination of the situation is a hindrance somewhere.)
But now in this more careful and exact analysis of the value, our immediate reactions must be arrested, held in suspense, while the object is kept as long as possible in the field of direct vision. Only in undisturbed observation of an isolated problem
( 529) -atic agent can we secure an adequate idea of its make-up and its modes and amounts of activity. And this is the scientific interest—the interest that abstracts from the more immediate characters of the object in order to learn what is `behind.' To learn what is behind will mean to learn the aspects that while less evident are more controlling. Science arises as a process of definition and analysis of the value with a view to ultimate manipulation. As such it is seen to be a certain phase of the natural history of man. The life of man, the practical person would say, is a story of progressive control and utilization of values; we may look at it from the scientist's angle and say that the life of man is a story of progressive discovery and definition of values.
It is a common contention heard on every hand that the objects of science re studied absolutely per se. But it is evident that, unless the a came in the shape of certain values, appealing or coercing, there would be no investigation started; and unless the data came to be of themselves interesting, not simply dry-as-dust data, the investigation would not be continued. If we ridicule a certain type of scholars, calling their exhaustive labors over great stacks of books written about a distant past, a dry-as-dust scholarship, we are neglecting the fact that to them, it is not dry drudgery: it is we who have not found the true perspective for those books. An object with no significances—even after immediate significances are abstracted from—can not even be an object. Thus science in its analysis of worths does not abstract all the worth aspect: it merely limits it conveniently. Mathematics is an extreme type of depersonalized technique, yet we do not need a Pythagoras to impress us with the human meaning bound up with its abstract symbols. Cancer research is plainly and obviously devoted to a problem set by human hopes and fears; the outcome of every study is awaited eagerly by humanity, and the announcement of a successful result in the attempts to locate and control the essential specific agent at work in cancer, just as in tuberculosis, is certain to command immediate attention on all hands. While actually at work on his experimentations, however, the investigator must neglect the
(530) value of his work to an anxious people, he must study what he has in as complete abstraction and with as little mixture of motives as is possible. And this study is science, and is, as impersonal, as experimental, as rigorous, almost as mathematical, as is the observation of the effect of various densities of liquids in the refraction of light.
We may say, then, that a typical problem of natural science is a problem set by human ideals, a value unsatisfactorily grasped and controlled and set aside for particular examination; this problem is simplified as far as can be and its appealing or coercing or repelling characteristics are consciously discriminated against to a maximum extent so that the more evanescent and more treacherous aspects may not confuse; the outcome of the enquiry is not welcomed per se, but as material for an immediate practical readjustment of human daily values or as an instrument in more prolonged research. Man's spiritual progress determines the direction of his natural science as much as science determines this progress. Obviously, remoteness is not an argument against essential connection, and the relations to human welfare of the classification of Paleozoic fauna or the periodicity of variations in Algol, though indirect, are none the less genuine and in their way important.
This isolation and examination of particular cruxes is, however, part and parcel of the gradual reconstruction and reinterpretation of experience as a whole. Not only single values are problematized, but also their complex dynamic interrelations, as well as the general bearings of vaguer wholes. If objects are the precipitations out of general meaningfulness, this does not imply that all this aboriginal meaningfulness is hardened into localized 'things.' Instead, some of the transitive characters retain their fluency and their attributive aspect. What are known to the reflective thinker as attributes, relations, categories, are so many of the transitive characters continuing to do duty as the fluid in which the more substantive characters may move and be. They are survivals, not in the sense of being outgrown, but in the sense of being evidences of the eternally and inevitably dynamic.
Science, therefore (or, what is the same, the human mind discovering itself), emphasizes not only existences but their continuities, not only the modes and amounts of activity of isolated values but also the interconnections and mutual references between them. Experience has always been fragmentary, yet the onward life at the core has constantly urged the discovery of efficient relations.
Once taken as a datum, a function is in danger of losing its active for a static aspect. And so we find the more fluid attributes and relations ever in danger of taking on strictly substantive character. The history of philosophy is strewn with such skeletons—'goodness,' 'truth,' 'consciousness,' 'thought,' etc.
I think we may say that magic was an example of scientific method. The transition from the former to what we know as natural science was not a leap, but a perfecting of an identical attitude. The referential and implicative nature of values was felt immediately; and the motive to grasp such transitive elements in the interest of a control of the remote and the elusive, was scientific in the broad sense. In both 'imitative' and 'sympathetic' magic there was a perception of real relations. But the tests of experience gradually discredited their original use and science has been ever since largely the enquiry into the essential and effective as versus the unessential relations between the fragments of experience.
It is a well recognized fact that for the hypothetical savage, objects' and their ' relations' not only were confused with each other, but were soaked in imaginative, desirable, emotional elements. But this latter point is likewise true of developed science, and the scientific thinker knows and handles his data only as they are suffused with the ideal and purposive.
We may extend our above assertion and say that not only objects but also relations, qualities, concepts, are gradual precipitates from the solution of a general meaningfulness.
It is not to be maintained that scientific work is entirely and throughout busied with values in the primary sense, and with direct motives of manipulation. An esthetic interest in system may enter (as in mathematics or astronomy), as well as complex
( 532) interests indirectly connected with the more practical life (as in scientific philanthropy, personal rivalry, etc.). Thus 'instrumental' and 'complementary' worth aspects accrue to the data.
It is sometimes said that philosophy deals with values while science deals with 'things'; or again, that a particular philosophy is colored according as it deals with one or the other; or still again, that the problem of philosophy is to seek the ground of reconciliation and of unity between values and 'things.' But all these statements imply a hard disjunction against which a protest should be urged. They imply, or even assert sometimes, that we have two universes to deal with, whether in science or in philosophy or in the two together: the universe of things and the universe of values are utterly disparate. But from the preceding it should be reasonably clear that such a distinction is arbitrary and relative to human needs and purposes, and a problem of how to get them together again is a problem created rather than found. The disjunction starts from a (fluid) distinction between two aspects of man's active life, the interest in his ideals and purposes on the one hand and the interest in his data and materials on the other. Their intimate interaction and interdependence are obvious enough to throw immediate suspicion upon a theory that erects the distinction into an onto logical dualism instead of leaving the two interests in situ.
A discussion of the nature of science is always likely to demand in addition some notice of the concept time. In fact, perhaps the most important contemporary attack on the scientific method is a certain claim that it falsifies true qualitative duration and sets up an abstracted, lifeless, quantitative time series that grossly misrepresents the world we live in (Bergson). Whether we subscribe to this indictment or not, it is significant as pointing to the essential intimacy of the two conceptions of the scientific procedure and the temporal relation.
In the immediately experienced value situations temporal relations may be seen to have their primary meaning.
Reference has been made to the active character exhibited in all .immediate situations. The objects of attention claim our
( 533) notice by virtue of their very liveliness, and their objectivity may be said to be due to their exercising some influence and control over our activity. Our values, then, are not primarily stationary and highly definite objects, but mobile agencies whose courses of action yet to follow are very indeterminate. They are unstable, shifting, and this very instability coupled with the indeterminateness of their later behavior is what is always of supreme importance for us. Were an element of the environment to assure us of its eternal immutability, were it to be lacking in all ability to be other than exactly just what it is, it would be consequently ignored, for what of harm thereby need be feared or what of good could be hoped? Even those values that we seem to prize because of their stability and permanence of rigid form are little more than constant relations we have found within the engrossing world of change. Thus our assertion holds true of intrinsic values entirely, and of instrumental values also as soon as we consider their origin and function. (Moreover, the most common teachings of psychology emphasize the necessity of a dynamic character to anything that is to be an object at all.) Thus, our values are such for us fundamentally because of their indeterminate status not only in the present moment but also in further experiences.
We may state this in another way. Terms such as 'dynamic,' 'unstable,' 'mobile,' are, strictly speaking, never applicable to a thing in only an instantaneous present cross-section but involve references to subsequent conditions. The elements of living appreciation are elements that are unstable in the sense of having prospective implications as well as retrospective references. Take the snapshot photograph. The position of the athlete high in the air two inches above a horizontal bar means nothing in itself; it is understood and appreciated only as referring to the past and to the future career of the subject. Myron's Discobolus, beautiful as it is in exhibiting a poise, exhibits it as a momentary poise, and takes meaning only as related to and involving the subsequent movements in the discus throwing. When we appreciate the whole active process suggested in this petrified cross-section (wonderfully chosen), we begin to understand the
(534) statue. We are concerned with values here and now because they show some hint of future advantage or disadvantage, and our hope is to lay hold of the more fruitful of these implications.
It is here we get our sense of time. If the worths of experience were absolutely stable and permanent, there would be no perception of a temporal order at all; in fact, the world would be quite meaningless. But since our experiences do change continually and since a forward pointing implication is found essential, the world takes on a direction. Or perhaps it were better to say directions; for our values being largely pluralistic and exhibiting only degrees of cooperation, the movements of existence may be said to be in an indefinite number of directions. The instabilities of the various now-givens imply various things-to-come, various futures. The movements of existence are also in an indefinite number of rates. The dynamism is not the parallel activity of a four-in-hand or a twenty-mule team, but of innumerable forces acting at different rates of speed. From the point of view of one process, other activities may be fast or slow.
Now, practical .life involves adjustments of an indefinite number of discrete sides of experience, and as our values in their activities are decidedly pluralistic both in kind and in rate, we are forced at last to the conception of a one-dimensional, serial time as an artificial standard with reference to which fragmentary and occasional times are coordinated.
In the making use of present processes to mediate a purpose, we must perforce await the action of the process. If we could make these processes accomplish their desired results instanter, science would never have arisen. Thus we feel a certain objective restraint upon us in awaiting the fruits of our manipulations, and our futures have a definite objective meaning as over against our present.
Scientific thinking; in its definition of values here and now is really reading their courses of history in approximate terms. In fact, the description of a present-moment or past-moment content just as such is of utterly no use: no consequences could flow from it. However much we may recognize the fact, it is the subsequent behavior of the thing that concerns us, and our scientific
( 535) endeavors are in the direction of plotting future forces from present and past uniformities. But now the intelligent reader of science is aware of the all-importance of the law of probability. Whether there is true creativeness at work somehow or whether human knowledge is incompetent to grasp absolutely all the factors involved, does not interest us here (and perhaps is a meaningless conception to the philosopher holding to the experience basis). What I would emphasize here is that these forces are only approximately mapped out, the values are described in only general aspects, and the habit of treating them as highly definite and fixed elements—even uniformly active elements—is very dangerous.Perhaps the most common attribute we hear associated with values is their relativity. Speak very long on the beauty of a picture, or on the sublimity of a moral ideal, or on the preferability of a beefsteak done rare, and you will usually hear the answer (in effect) : Yes, but values are relative. Obviously, the assertion is true, but the connection of the speech is suspicious and certain conscious implications are dangerous. The expression, "it all depends," carries with it something of this depreciatory attitude toward whatever is openly and obviously relative.
It is an old truth, but one easily forgotten, that relativity does not imply unreality or non-existence; it does not prejudice the ultimate validity of the experience in question.. This should be—but is not—a familiar truth from the natural sciences and daily life. For optics the stick-in-the-pool must be bent, or else, as someone has said, the stick that is not bent when in the pool is a suspicious thing. To the astronomer it is a matter of course that the light of an extinct star should reach me long after it has been observed by an inhabitant on a planet half the distance away. The student in zoology does not marvel in a philosophical vein that the same snake should be repulsive on the ground but attractive when he has it in his hands and under a knife. The realization that the bull in the pasture is not frightful to the tree near us does not slacken our own progress toward the fence. Whether the relativity be in terms of space or time or thought-
(536) connections or even of our organic constitution, it does not prejudice the reality of the experience. Variability gains power to prejudice actuality only by the legitimate or illegitimate extension of the demand of a scientific observation that the subject matter remain essentially consistent.
In our common discourse, then, a given subject may take on different qualities as it is found in different connections, but it remains throughout substantially the same core of discourse, the same that. It may even be said that as scientific thinking aims at more complete definition of a given value, ultimately in terms of its most probable futures, it actually goes to work on the task by comparing and construing the value's relativities. To apply new conditions and seek to know the consequent new relativities is, after all, the heart of experiment.
We must repeat: relativity as prejudicing the reality of the subject-matter is manifestly a confusion of thinking. But an even greater confusion is often hidden under a name given to certain kinds of relativity that are emphasized on particular occasions. In defining the values discovered, some of their aspects may be found wholly foreign to the purpose of this particular enterprise, or will prove treacherous in their implications. The physics of Democritus or of the Seventeenth Century will render color, sound, taste, etc., as secondary or 'merely mental' qualities, because no place is made for such characters on the atomistic premises, and they are left relative to the perceiver. Similarly, your man interested in 'things as things' may recognize both the 'primary' and 'secondary' qualities, but deny reality to the 'tertiary,' calling values 'only relative.'
The inference usually to be read from the ordinary text-book of psychology is that because this or that perceived thing is relative to the organic process involved in its perception, the thing's locus must be not in the world at large but 'in the mind.' How the thing may appear with, e. g., spatial relations in the mind, becomes a knotty problem.
Such treatments of experience lead to a notion of the 'subjective' as a dump-heap (however it may be conceived) for these rejected relativities. The well-known subsequent history is the
( 537) introduction of a split between 'subjective' and 'objective,' and even. a discarding of the latter category. But an all-important point to be borne in mind is this: in the initial stage not all relativities have been relegated to the subjective limbo-only those foreign to, or objectionable to, our present enterprise. In the condemnation of relativity it is usually a particular kind that is in mind-not a recognition of the relativities involved in all existence. This is the underlying fallacy of those who urge relativity against the reality of values.
'Subjectivity' has been used in, say, four fairly distinct ways: (1) the given is wholly a state of consciousness; (2) its existence is dependent on, or is modified by, consciousness; (3) its existence is dependent on, or is modified by the human organism; (4) its presentation is misleading.
The first and second uses are the most common in traditional philosophy. Is the day really gloomy, or is the gloominess an element in consciousness added to the perception of the day? But perhaps the whole question is an illegitimate one. As soon as we forsake the standpoint of consciousness as a static reflector of a parallel panorama in favor of a conception of the mind as the body active, and consciousness as a particular relation into which objects get with reference to each other and to this active body, then the question as to how much is real existence outside and how much is 'just consciousness' appears artificial.
The third use of the alternatives 'subjective-objective' may or may not be legitimate as it is used. If 'subjective' be applied to the values in experience which man has built up of his own accord as real contributions to the making of reality (books, good roads, the aeroplane), such a category is full of significance. But if 'subjective' refers to an essential part played by the organism in the experiencing of the value, then its full significance is rightly understood only as an abstraction from the whole situation. The requirements of a technique of values, e. g., may require a distinction between an object as in relation to ourselves and an object as in relation to other things. A thoroughgoing reading of the object in only the former selected aspects will yield a subjective account of it—an account in terms of visual and tactual
(538) sensations, feeling tones, existential judgments, motor dispositions, and so forth. This is, be it remembered, only an artificial abstraction from the total complex experience.
The fourth use of `subjectivity' is historically fundamental to the other three, and has really been touched on above. Values are sorted according to the help-hindrance criterion, the positive-negative quality, in relation to our present purposes and undertakings. In the business of life—the discovery, analysis, and utilization of values—subjectivity-objectivity arises as a functional distinction, a distinction of worth. The other uses of the terms find their root here.
To summarize: relativity is seen to be fundamental for scientific work, its very basis and subject-matter; and the subjective is to be taken as a by-product of the scientific method, a result of classifications of values.
The gist of these pages may be condensed into the following statement: the world we live in is intensely interesting, active, alive, and fruitfully (and fruitlessly) prospective; by the very fact of the case, values immediately are for us and form therefore a fundamental category; scientific thinking arises in the natural human enterprise of discovering, defining, and analyzing these dynamic values in the interests of living; the category of the subjective finds its place here in the functional classification of worths.
JOHN FREDERICK DASHIELL.