Essays in Experimental Logic

Chapter 4: Data and Meanings

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We have reached the point of conflict in the matters of an experience. It is in this conflict and because of it that the matters, or significant quales, stand out as matters. As long as the sun revolves about earth without question, this "content" is not in any way abstracted. Its distinction from the form or mode of experience as its matter is the work of reflection. The same conflict makes other experiences assume discriminated objectification; they, too, cease to be ways of living, and become distinct objects of observation and consideration. The movements of planets, eclipses, etc., are cases in point.[1] The maintenance of a unified experience has become a problem, an end, for it is no longer secure. But this involves such restatement of the conflicting elements as will enable them to take a place somewhere in the world of the

(137) new experience; they must be disposed of somehow, and they can be disposed of finally only as they are provided for. That is, they cannot be simply denied or excluded or eliminated; they must be taken into the fold. But such introduction clearly demands more or less modification or transformation on their part. The thought-situation is the deliberate maintenance of an organization in experience, with a critical consideration of the claims of the various conflicting contents to a place, and a final assignment of position.

The conflicting situation inevitably polarizes or dichotomizes itself. There is somewhat which is untouched in the contention of incompatibles. There is something which remains secure, unquestioned. On the other hand, there are elements which are doubtful and precarious. This gives the framework of the general distribution of the field into "facts," the given, the presented, the Datum; and ideas, the Quaesitum, the conceived, the Inferential.

a) There is always something unquestioned in any problematic situation at any stage of its process,[2]

(138) even if it be only the fact of conflict or tension. For this is never mere tension at large. It is thoroughly qualified, or characteristically toned and colored, by the particular elements which are in strife. Hence it is this conflict, unique and irreplaceable. That it comes now means precisely that it has never come before; that it is now passed in review and some sort of a settlement reached, means that just this conflict will never recur. In a word, the conflict is immediately of just this and no other sort, and this immediately given quality is an irreducible datum. It is fact, even if all else be doubtful. As it is subjected to examination, it loses vagueness and assumes more definite form.

Only in very extreme cases, however, does the assured, unquestioned element reduce to terms as low as we have here imagined. Certain things come to stand forth as facts, no matter what else may be doubted. There are certain apparent diurnal changes of the sun; there is a certain annual course or track. There are certain nocturnal changes in the planets, and certain seasonal rhythmic paths. The significance of these may be doubted: Do they mean real change in the sun or in the earth ? But change, and change of a certain definite and numerically determinate

( 139) character, is there. It is clear that such out-standing facts (ex-istences) constitute the data, the given or presented, in the thought-function.

b) It is obvious that this is only one correspondent, or status, in the total situation. With the consciousness of this as certain, as given to be reckoned with, goes the consciousness of uncertainty as to what it means—of how it is to be understood or interpreted, that is, of its reference and connection. The facts qua presentations or existences are sure; qua meanings (position and relationship in an experience yet to be secured) they are doubtful. Yet doubt does not preclude memory or anticipation. Indeed, it is possible only through them. The memory of past experience makes sun-revolving-about-earth an object of attentive regard. The recollection of certain other experiences suggests the idea of earth-rotating-daily-on-axis and revolving-annually-about-sun. These contents are as much present as is the observation of change, but as respects connection they are only possibilities. Accordingly, they are categorized or disposed of as ideas, meanings, thoughts, ways of conceiving, comprehending, interpreting facts.

Correspondence of reference here is as obvious as correlation of existence. In the logical process, the datum is not just external existence, and the idea mere psychical existence. Both are modes of existence—one of given existence, the other of possible, of inferred existence. Acid if the latter is regarded, from

(140) the standpoint of the unified experience aimed at, as having only possible existence, the datum also is regarded as incomplete and unassured. Or, as we commonly put it, while the ideas are impressions, suggestions, guesses, theories, estimates, etc., facts are crude, raw, unorganized, brute. They lack relationship, that is, assured place; they are deficient as to continuity. Mere change of relative position of sun, which is absolutely unquestioned as datum, is a sheer abstraction from the standpoint either of the organized experience left behind, or of the reorganized experience which is the end — the objective. It is impossible as a persistent object. In other words, datum and ideatum are divisions of labor, co-operative instrumentalities, for economical dealing with the problem of the maintenance of the integrity of experience.

Once more, and briefly, both datum and ideatum may (and positively, veritably, do) break up, each for itself, into physical and mental. In so far as the conviction gains ground that the earth revolves about the sun, the old fact is broken up into a new cosmic existence, and a new psychological condition — the recognition of a process in virtue of which movements of smaller bodies in relation to very remote larger bodies are interpreted in a reverse sense. We do not just eliminate the source of error in the old content. We reinterpret it as valid in its own place, viz., a case of the psychology of perception, although

(141) invalid as a matter of cosmic structure. Until we have detected the source of error as itself a perfectly genuine existence, we are not, scientifically, satisfied. If we decide that the snake is but a hallucination, our reflection is not, in purport, complete until we have found some fact just as existential as the snake would have been had it been there, which accounts for the hallucination. We never stop, except temporarily, with a reference to the mind or knower as source of an error. We hunt for a specific existence. In other words, with increasing accuracy of determination of the given, there comes a distinction, for methodological purposes, between the quality or matter of the sense experience and its form — the sense perceiving, as itself a psychological fact, having its own place and laws or relations. Moreover, the old experience, that of sun-revolving, abides. But it is regarded as belonging to "me " —to this experiencing individual rather than to the cosmic world.

Here, then, within the growth of the thought-situation and as a part of the process of determining specific truth under specific conditions, we get for the first time the clue to that distinction with which, as ready-made and prior to all thinking, Lotze started out, namely, the separation of the matter of impression from impression as a personal event. The separation which, taken at large, engenders an insoluble problem, appears within a particular reflective inquiry, as an inevitable differentiation of a scheme of existence.


The same sort of thing occurs on the side of thought, or meaning. The meaning or idea which is growing in acceptance, which is gaining ground as meaning-of-datum, gets logical or intellectual or objective force; that which is losing standing, which is increasingly doubtful, gets qualified as just a notion, a fancy, a prejudice, misconception — or finally just an error, a mental slip.

Evaluated as fanciful in validity it becomes a mere fancy in its existence.[3] It is not eliminated, but receives a new reference or meaning. Thus the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity is not one between meaning as such and datum as such. It is a specification that emerges, correspondently, in both datum and ideatum. That which is left behind in the evolution of accepted meaning is still characterized as real, but real now in relation only to a way of experiencing — to a peculiarity of the organism. That which is moved toward is regarded as real in a cosmic or extra-organic sense.

1. The data of thought.—When we turn to Lotze, we find that he makes a clear distinction between the presented material of thought, its datum, and the typical characteristic modes of thinking in virtue of which the datum gets organization or system. It is

(143) interesting to note also that he states the datum in terms different from those in which the antecedents of thought are defined. From the point of view of the data or material upon which ideas exercise themselves, it is not coincidence, collocation, or succession that counts, but gradation of degrees in a scale. It is not things in spatial or temporal arrangement that are emphasized, but qualities as mutually distinguished, yet resembling and classed. There is no inherent inconceivability in the idea that every impression should be as incomparably different from every other as sweet is from warm. But by a remarkable circumstance such is not the case. We have series, and networks of series. We have diversity of a common — diverse colors, sounds, smells, tastes, etc. In other words, the data are sense qualities which, fortunately for thought, are given arranged as shades, degrees, variations, or qualities of somewhat that is identical.[4]

All this is given, presented, to our ideational activities. Even the universal, the common color which runs through the various qualities of blue, green, white, etc., is not a product of thought, but something which thought finds already in existence. It conditions comparison and reciprocal distinction. Particularly all mathematical determinations, whether of counting (number), degree (more or less), and quantity (greatness and smallness), come back to

( 144) this peculiarity of the datum. Here Lotze dwells at considerable length upon the fact that the very possibility, as well as the success, of thought is due to this peculiar universalization or prima facie ordering with which its material is given to it. Such preestablished fitness in the meeting of two things that have nothing to do with each other is certainly cause enough for wonder and congratulation.

It should not be difficult to see why Lotze uses different categories in describing the material of thought from those employed in describing its antecedent conditions, even though, according to him, the two are absolutely the same.[5] He has different functions in mind. In one case, the material must be characterized as evoking, as incentive, as stimulus — from this point of view the peculiar feature of spatial and temporal arrangement in contrast with

(145) coherence or connection is emphasized. But in the other case the material must be characterized as affording stuff, actual subject-matter. Data are not only what is given to thought, but they are also the food, the raw material, of thought. They must be described as, on the one hand, wholly outside of thought. This clearly puts them into the region of sense perception. They are matters of sensation given free from all inferring, judging, relating influence. Sensation is just what is not called up in memory or in anticipated projection — it is the immediate, the irreducible. On the other hand, sensory-matter is qualitative, and quales are made up on a common basis. They are degrees or grades of a common quality. Thus they have a certain ready-made setting of mutual distinction and reference which is already almost, if not quite, the effect of comparing, of relating, effects which are the express traits of thinking.


It is easy to interpret this miraculous gift of grace in the light of what has been said. The data are in truth precisely that which is selected and set aside as present, as immediate. Thus they are given to further thought. But the selection has occurred in view of the need for thought; it is a listing of the capital in the way of the undisturbed, the undiscussed, which thought can count upon in this particular problem. Hence it is not strange that it has a peculiar fitness of adaptation for thought's further work. Having been selected with precisely that end in view, the wonder would be if it were not so fitted. A man may coin counterfeit money for use upon others, but hardly with the intent of passing it off upon himself.

Our only difficulty here is that the mind flies away from the logical interpretation of sense datum to a ready-made notion of it brought over from abstract psychological inquiry. The belief in isolated sensory quales which are somehow forced upon us, and forced upon us at large, and thus conditioning thought wholly ab extra, instead of determining it as instrumentalities or elements selected from experienced things for that very purpose, is too fixed. Sensory qualities are forced upon us, but not at large. The sensory data of experience always come in a context; they always appear as variations in a continuum. Even the thunder which breaks in upon me (to take the extreme of apparent discontinuity and irrelevancy) disturbs me because it is taken as thunder: as a part of the

(147) same space-world as that in which my chair and room and house are located; and it is taken as an influence which interrupts and disturbs, because it is part of a common world of causes and effects. The solution of continuity is itself practical or teleological, and thus presupposes and affects continuity of purpose, occupations, and means in a life-process. It is not metaphysics, it is biology which enforces the idea that actual sensation is not only determined as an event in a world of events,[6] but is an occurrence occurring at a certain period in the control and use of stimuli.[7]

2. Forms of thinking data. —As sensory datum is material set for work of thought, so the ideational forms with which thought does its work are apt and prompt to meet the needs of the material. The "accessory"[8] notion of ground of coherence turns out, in truth, not to be a formal, or external, addition to the data, but a requalification of them. Thought is accessory as accomplice, not as addendum. "Thought" is to eliminate mere coincidence, and to assert grounded coherence. Lotze makes it clear that he does not at bottom conceive of "thought" as an activity "in itself" imposing a

( 148) form of coherence; but that the organizing work of "thought" is only the progressive realization of an inherent unity, or system, in the material experienced. The specific modes in which thought brings its "accessory" power to bear—names, conception, judgment, and inference —are successive stages in the adequate organization of the matter which comes to us first as data; they are successive stages of the effort to overcome the original defects of the data. Conception starts from the universal (the common element) of sense. Yet (and this is the significant point) it does not simply abstract this common element, and consciously generalize it over against its own differences. Such a "universal" is not coherence just because it does not include and dominate the temporal and local heterogeneity. The true concept (see I, 38) is a system of attributes, held together on the basis of some ground, or determining, dominating principle—a ground which so controls all its own instances as to make them into an inwardly connected whole, and which so specifies its own limits as to be exclusive of all else. If we abstract color as the common element of various colors, the result is not a scientific idea or concept. Discovery of a process of light-waves whose various rates constitute the various colors of the spectrum gives the concept. And when we get such a concept, the former mere temporal abruptness of color experiences gives way to ordered parts of a color system. The logical product the

(149) concept, in other words—is not a formal seal or stamp; it is a thoroughgoing connection of data in a dynamic continuity of existence.

The form or mode of thought which marks the continued transformation of the data and the idea in reference to each other is judgment. Judgment makes explicit the assumption of a principle which determines connection within an individualized whole. It definitely states red as this case or instance of the law or process of color, and thus further overcomes the defect in subject-matter or data still left by conception.[9] Now judgment logically terminates in disjunction. It gives a universal which may determine

( 150) any one of a number of alternative defined particulars, but which is arbitrary as to what one is selected. Systematic inference brings to light the material conditions under which the law, or dominating universal, applies to this, rather than that alternative particular, and so completes the ideal organization of the subject-matter. If this act were complete, we should finally have present to us a whole on which we

(151) should know the determining and effective or authorizing elements, and the order of development or hierarchy of dependence, in which others follow from them.[10]

In this account by Lotze of the operations of the forms of thought, there is clearly put before us the picture of a continuous correlative determination of datum on one side and of idea or meaning on the other, till experience is again integral, data being thoroughly defined and connected, and ideas being the relevant meanings of subject-matter. That we have here in outline a description of what actually occurs there can be no doubt. But there is as little doubt that the description is thoroughly inconsistent with Lotze's supposition that the material or data of thought is precisely the same as the antecedent of thought; or that ideas, conceptions, are purely mental somewhats extraneously brought to bear, as the sole essential characteristics of thought, upon a material provided ready-made. It means but one thing: The maintenance of unity and wholeness in experience through conflicting contents occurs by means of a strictly correspondent setting apart of facts to be accurately described and properly related, and meanings to be adequately construed and properly referred. The datum is given in the thought-situation, and to further qualification of ideas or meanings. But even in this

( 152) aspect it presents a problem. To find out what is given is an inquiry which taxes reflection to the uttermost. Every important advance in scientific method means better agencies, more skilled technique for simply detaching and describing what is barely there, or given. To be able to find out what can safely be taken as there, as given in any particular inquiry, and hence be taken as material for orderly and verifiable inference, for fruitful hypothesis-making, for entertaining of explanatory and interpretative ideas, is one phase of the effort of systematic scientific inquiry. It marks its inductive phase. To take what is discovered to be reliable evidence within a more complex situation as if it were given absolutely and in isolation, or apart from a particular historic situs and context, is the fallacy of empiricism as a logical theory. To regard the thought-forms of conception, judgment, and inference as qualifications of "pure thought, apart from any difference in objects," instead of as successive dispositions in the progressive organization of the material (or objects), is the fallacy of rationalism. Lotze, like Kant, attempts to combine the two, thinking thereby to correct each by the other.

Lotze recognizes the futility of thought if the sense data as data are final, if they alone are real, the truly existent, self-justificatory and valid. He sees that, if the empiricist were right in his assumption as to the real worth of the given data, thinking would be a ridiculous pretender, either toilfully and poorly doing

(153) over again what needs no doing. or making a wilful departure from truth. He realizes that thought is evoked because it is needed; and that it has a work to do which is not merely formal, but which effects a modification of the subject-matter of experience. Consequently he assumes a thought-in-itself, with certain forms and modes of action of its own, a realm of meaning possessed of a directive and normative worth of its own—the root-fallacy of rationalism. His attempted compromise between the two turns out to be based on the assumption of the indefensible ideas of both—the notion of an independent matter given to thought, on one side, and of an independent worth or force of thought-forms, on the other.

This pointing out of inconsistencies becomes stale and unprofitable save as we bring them back into connection with their root-origin—the erection of distinctions that are genetic and historic, and working or instrumental divisions of labor, into rigid and ready-made structural differences of reality. Lotze clearly recognizes that thought's nature is dependent upon its aim, its aim upon its problem, and this upon the situation in which it finds its incentive and excuse. Its work is cut out for it. It does not what it would, but what it must. As Lotze puts it, "Logic has to do with thought, not as it would be under hypothetical conditions, but as it is" (I, 33), and this statement is made in explicit combination with statements to the effect that the peculiarity of the material of thought

(154) conditions its activity. Similarly he says, in a passage already referred to: "The possibility and the success of thought's production in general depends upon this original constitution and organization of the whole world of ideas, a constitution which, though not necessary in thought, is all the more necessary to make thought possible."[11]

As we have seen, the essential nature of conception, judgment, and inference is dependent upon peculiarities of the propounded material, they being forms dependent for their significance upon the stage of organization in which they begin.

From this only one conclusion is possible. If thought's nature is dependent upon its actual conditions and circumstances, the primary logical problem is to study thought-in-its-conditioning; it is to detect the crisis within which thought and its subject-matter present themselves in their mutual distinction and cross-reference. But Lotze is so thoroughly committed to a ready-made antecedent of some sort, that this genetic consideration is of no account to him. The historic method is a mere matter of psychology, and has no logical worth (I,2). We must presuppose a psychological mechanism and psychological material, but logic is concerned not with origin or history, but with authority, worth, value (I, 10). Again: "Logic is not concerned with the manner in which the elements utilized by thought come into

(155) existence, but their value after they have somehow come into existence, for the carrying out of intellectual operations" (I, 34). And finally: "I have maintained throughout my work that logic cannot derive any serious advantage from a discussion of the conditions under which thought as a psychological process comes about. The significance of logical forms . . . . is to be found in the utterances of thought, the laws which it imposes, after or during the act of thinking, not in the conditions which lie back of any which produce thought."[12]

Lotze, in truth, represents a halting-stage in the evolution of logical theory. He is too far along to be contented with the reiteration of the purely formal distinctions of a merely formal thought-by-itself. He recognizes that thought as formal is the form of some matter, and has its worth only as organizing that matter to meet the ideal demands of reason; and that "reason" is in truth only an adequate systematization of the matter or content. Consequently he has to open the door to admit "psychical processes" which furnish this material. Having let in the material, he is bound to shut the door again in the face of the processes from which the material proceeded—to dismiss them as impertinent intruders.

( 156) If thought gets its data in such a surreptitious manner, there is no occasion for wonder that the legitimacy of its dealings with the material remains an open question. Logical theory, like every branch of the philosophic disciples, waits upon a surrender of the obstinate conviction that, while the work and aim of thought is conditioned by the material supplied to it, yet the worth of its performances is something to be passed upon in complete abstraction from conditions of origin and development.


  1. This is but to say that the presentation of objects as specifically different things in experience is the work of reflection, and that the discrimination of something experienced from modes of experiencing is also the work of reflection. The latter statement is, of course, but a particular case of the first; for an act of experiencing is one object, among others, which may be discriminated out of the original experience. When so discriminated, it has exactly the same existential status as any other discriminated object; seeing and thing seen stand on the same level of existentiality. But primary experience is innocent of the discrimination of the what experienced and the how, or mode, of experiencing. We are not in it aware of the seeing, nor yet of objects as something seen. Any experience in all of its nonreflective phases is innocent of any discrimination of subject and object. It involves within itself what may be reflectively discriminated into objects located outside the organism and objects referred to the organism. [Note added in revision.]
  2. Of course, this very element may be the precarious, the ideal, anal possibly fanciful of some other situation. But it is to change the historic into the absolute to conclude that therefore everything is uncertain, all at once, or as such. This gives metaphysical skepticism as distinct from the working skepticism which is an inherent factor in all reflection and scientific inquiry.
  3. But this is a slow progress within reflection. Plato, who was influential in bringing this general distinction to consciousness, still thought and wrote as if "image" were itself a queer sort of objective existence; it was only gradually that it was disposed of as a phase of personal experiencing.
  4. I, 28-34
  5. It is interesting to see how explicitly Lotze is compelled finally to differentiate two aspects in the antecedents of thoughts, one of which is necessary in order that there may be anything to call out thought (a lack, or problem); the other in order that when thought is evoked it may find data at hand—that is, material in shape to receive and respond to its exercise. "The manifold matter of ideas is brought before us, not only in the systematic order of its qualitative relationships, but in the rich variety of local and temporal combinations . . . . . The combinations of heterogeneous ideas . . . . form the problems, in connection with which the efforts of thought to reduce coexistence to coherence will subsequently be made. The homogeneous or similar ideas, on the other hand, give occasion to separate, to connect, and to count their repetitions" (I, 33, 34; italics mine). Without the heterogeneous variety of the local and temporal juxtapositions there would be nothing to excite thought. Without the systematic arrangement of quality there would be nothing to meet thought and reward it for its efforts. The homogeneity of qualitative relationships, in the pre-thought material, gives the tools or instruments by which thought is enabled successfully to tackle the heterogeneity of collocations and conjunctions also found in the same material! One would suppose that when Lotze reached this point he might have been led to suspect that in his remarkable adjustment of thought-stimuli, thought-material, and thought-tools to one another, he must after all be dealing, not with something prior to the thought-function, but with the necessary structures and tools of the thought situation.
  6. Supra, p. 113.
  7. For the identity of sensory experience with the point of greatest strain and stress in conflicting or tensional experience, see "The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology," Psychological Review, III, 57.
  8. For the "accessory" character of thought, see Lotze, I, 7, 25-27, 61, etc.
  9. Bosanquet (Logic, I, 30-34) and Jones (Philosophy of Lotze, 1895, chap. iv) have called attention to a curious inconsistency in Lotze's treatment of judgment. On one hand, the statement is as given above. Judgment grows out of conception in making explicit the determining relation of universal to its own particular, implied in conception. But, on the other hand, judgment grows not out of conception at all, but out of the question of determining connection in change. Lotze's nominal reason for this latter view is that the conceptual world is purely static; since the actual world is one of change, we need to pass upon what really goes together (is causal) in the change as distinct from such as are merely coincident. But, as Jones clearly shows, it is also connected with the fact that, while Lotze nominally asserts that judgment grows out of conception, he treats conception as the result of judgment since the first view makes judgment a mere explication of the content of an idea, and hence merely expository or analytic (in the Kantian sense) and so of more than doubtful applicability to reality. The affair is too large to discuss here, and I will content myself with referring to the oscillation between conflicting contents and gradation of sensory qualities already discussed (p. 144, note). It is judgment which grows out of the former, because judgment is the whole situation as such; conception is referable to the latter because it is one abstraction within the whole (the solution of possible meanings of the data) just as the datum is another. In truth. since the sensory datum is not absolute, but comes in a historical context, the qualities apprehended as constituting the datum simply define the locus of conflict in the entire situation. They are attributives of the contents-in-tension of the colliding things, not calm untroubled ultimates. On pp. 33 and 34 of Vol. I, Lotze recognizes (as we have just seen) that, as matter of fact, it is both sensory qualities in their systematic grading, or quantitative determinations (see I, 43, for the recognition of the necessary place of the quantitative in the true concept), and the "rich variety of local and temporal combinations," that provoke thought and supply it with material. But, as usual, he treats this simply as a historical accident, not as furnishing the key to the whole matter. In fine, while the heterogeneous collocations and successions constitute the problematic element that stimulates thought, quantitative determination of the sensory quality furnishes one of the two chief means through which thought deals with the problem. It is a reduction of the original colliding contents to a form in which the effort at redintegration gets maximum efficiency. The concept, as ideal meaning, is of course the other partner to the transaction. It is getting the various possible meanings-of-the-data into such shape as to make them most useful in construing the data. The bearing of this upon the subject and predicate of judgment cannot be discussed here.
  10. See I, 38, 59, 61, 105, 120, 197, for Lotze's treatment of these distinctions.
  11. I, 36; see also II, 290, 291.
  12. II, 246; the same is reiterated in II, 250, where the question of origin is referred to as a corruption in logic. Certain psychical acts are necessary as "conditions and occasions" of logical operations, but the "deep gulf between psychical mechanism and thought remains unfilled."

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