The Philosophy of the Act
Essay 11 Perspective Theory of Objects
IN A Minkowski world an organism adjusts itself to stimuli which are spatiotemporally distant from it. The distance depends on the rate of the motion of the organism and of the object. This statement in terms of motion is illegitimate, since there is in a Minkowski world no motion, as there is no permanent space, but there are varying intervals between organism and surrounding stimuli which are dependent upon the expressions of energy of the organism and the stimuli. One organism will have, then, a different environment if it develops more energy than another.
The selection of the environment that the temporal character of space makes possible is just as important as that dependent upon the sensuous susceptibilities of the organism. We overlook its fundamental nature because we reduce all the environments to terms of our own permanent space; and, in stating the environments in a Minkowski world, it is perhaps impossible to avoid this reduction, but we can abstract from its fundamental import for ourselves. A form which in our permanent space moves rapidly will relate itself to distant objects which would not lie within the purview of a form whose motion was slower. Objects which would be spatiotemporally out of reach of the latter form would be readily accessible to the former. Thus, assuming the two forms to be located in the same event, we would be in one temporal environment and the other form in another environment. In a Minkowski world there would be no present, that is, no simultaneity, except in the manipulatory field, which in the case of an animal whose immediate contacts were mainly those of position, balance, and support would be of minimal import. Rest in the experience of such an animal would be a negative reaction to the distance stimuli. There would be no
(160) content placed in the spatiotemporally distant stimuli which would belong to the contact experiences of the animal because, if we assume imagery from past experiences, it would be of consummations, positive or negative. Furthermore. there would be no implemental content in the manipulatory or contact field of the animal. In a field of a "now" the content must be one which could be at the same phase of the act. Food which is '(now" is not being consumed, but is mediatory stuff, matter, which could be at the same stage of the act as that which was reached by subdivision-which yields only new surfaces. It is evidently an experience which is conveyed from the organism, where an inside is given directly. Of course, no outside can appear as such except over against an inside. It is over against the surfaces of other things that the outside of the organism arises in experience, and then the experiences of the organism which are not in such contacts become the inside of the organism. It is a process in which the organism is bounded, and other things are bounded as well. The inside is, first of all, that effort which we denominate muscular exertion, which brings about change and activity, together with affection and intent. But nothing can be an object in experience unless action is directed toward it, and nothing is an object without the self or organism being also an object, so that the presence of an object involves not only action with reference to this object but also action directed toward the self or organism. Action of the organism with reference to itself is, then, a precondition of the appearance of an object in its experience. The striking characteristic of perceptual objects is their simultaneity, the substitution of objects which are spatially but not temporally distant from the individual for those which are spatiotemporally distant. The basis for this simultaneity is the common possession of a content which carries the character of "now." What seems to take place is the pulling of the distance stimulations out of their temporal distance from the percipient and endowing them all with the temporal character of the "now," thus rendering them all simultaneous. The mechanism for this is in some sense pro-
(161) -vided by what may be termed the terminal attitudes. These are beginnings of the contact response that will be made to the object when the object is reached. This is already excited in the organism with the sight of the object and controls the approach of the organism. It has been customory to assume that the memory image of former contacts comes in to fill out the experience. This is a dubious assumption from the standpoint of introspection, but the question here is whether such a filling would provide the element of the now. The now is contrasted with a then and implies that a background which is irrelevant to the difference between them has been secured within which the now and the then may appear. There must be banks within which the stream of time may flow. Mere imagery which filled out the distance experience would be infected with the same temporal distance as the distance experience itself. If, however, two mutually exclusive ways of seizing the object were present in the organism, two different terminal attitudes which inhibited the approach, the organism might try them out over against each other in imagination if it could wrench them out of their temporal distance and make them simply extensions of the manipulatory area. In the characters which remain unchanged in the process there would be a timeless situation within which the process could go on and which would provide the conditions for the competing acts.
The achievement of the human animal, or rather of human social conduct, is the arrest of passage, and the establishment of a "now." It takes place, as indicated above, by inhibition first of all, but inhibition is not competent to erect the now, i.e., a world within which passage can take place, and hence a world which is irrelevant to passage as regards its structure, and, in the second place, a world in which the temporal character of the manipulatory present is extended indefinitely, i.e., in which what is spatiotemporally distant is given the character of that which is both seen and grasped, is one in which both promise and fulfilment are given. Actually only the promise is given in the distance experience and any imagery of contact would still
(162) be spatiotemporally distant--the contact if this Is given in tactual imagery would be a past content put into a future experience. To reach a now, involves putting the temporal character of the organism in the manipulatory area over against a then. To pull all the distant stimuli into such a now requires getting an experience of the organism which belongs to the manipulatory area into these stimuli. The content must be one of content which is the fulfilment of the act, and yet it must be one that is identified with the organism in its immediate activity which is essential to the now. Such an element is found in the resistance which the organism offers. If the organism can play the part of the object in resisting the organism, if the organism can play both parts (that of resisting the object as organism and of resisting the organism as object), the now of the immediate activity of the organism can be put into the world of distant stimuli. To accomplish this, the organism must stimulate itself to act as the object by its response to the stimulus of the distant object.
The character of the now attaches to the Immediate reaction of the organism, in so far as the act can be completed, in response to a distant stimulus by contact reaction. If only the stimulation by a distant stimulus is present, it attaches to the incompleted act and has therefore the coefficient of the future. This will also attach to any mere imagery which is fused with the distant stimulus. In some fashion the organism must be in the attitude of reacting in contact fashion to the distant stimulus if it is to be brought into the now. The memory image will not induce this reaction; it comes with the character of the past, not of the present. All reactions in the now are to selected stimuli which call for a response on the part of the object which is required for the completed reaction. One appeals to the environment for the response that is needed. In inhibition owing to competing responses, the terminal attitudes call for tentative reactions of the objects which will lead to readjustment of the complex response which overcomes the obstacle in the situation. One imaginatively tries out various combinations, demanding
(163) therefore a content of the object in contact terms which is in some sense under the control of the organism. Mere passive imagery does not meet this requirement. It must be the resistance which the organism itself innervates if it is to meet this requirement.
Such a process is evidently one that is presupposed by the self and the objects that appear in experience, as they are in some sense constituted by the process. It is not the self that takes the role of the physical object, but certain of the initiated responses of the organism, such as go to make up the self, do go to make up the object, and these responses are excited by the terminal attitudes of the organism.
The peculiar importance of this origin of the content of the physical object lies in the occasion that it offers for the appearance of the self as an object. In the content of resistance which goes into the chair seen at a distance the organism is inviting itself to sit down in the chair. It is the inside of the object that reveals the action of the organism in the content of the object, and it is this which is not given in the distance or passive tactual experience. It can have no other source except the resistance as given in the initiation of the response of the organism itself and which, in so far as it is inside the object, dates it with the organism in the now. If the stimulus to this reaction lies in the object it would have the future date of that stimulus. Only if the stimulus lies in the organism itself can it be in the now, and so be simultaneous with the organism. It is a reflection of the organism into the environment. This can only take place in an organism in which the whole determines the parts, where an identity of the content of the whole and the part is given.
The objects that are there in independence of the organism imply the organism. That is, the organism is not independent of them. That the organism may be an object, they must be what they are. It must be possible to regard the organism from the standpoint of its field so that it may be there as an object. The process by which the organism has arisen is, however, one in which the organism has determined its field by its susceptibil-
(164) -ities and responses. There is a mutual interdependence of the two. This is expressed in the term "perspective." In biology the dependence of the organism upon its field has been the dominant standpoint, but the conception of evolution has introduced the dependence, though by the back door, of the survival of the fit. This conception so conceived has stated the organism entirely in terms of the environment. However, this overlooks the fact that the environment is a selection which is dependent upon the living form. There is a double statement involved. The environment can be regarded as simply a group of physical particles arbitrarily selected from the whole congery of particles that make up the universe, so that the occurrences in the environment in its interaction with the form are conceived not in terms of the life of the form or the selective relationship of the form to the environment but in purely physicochemical terms. Or the reality of the form and consequently of the environment as such may be regarded as effective in the nature with which science is occupied. There is a remarkable degree of success attained by the physical sciences in predicting results on the basis of the first assumption, an assumption which just places the realities of biological and so-called conscious experience entirely in the consciousness of certain living forms. From the standpoint of the physical sciences an animal as an animal would be found solely in the feelings of the animal and in the thought and interest of the so-called conscious beings who regarded it. Beyond this, living processes would be solely a redistribution of physical particles, certain of which we would arbitrarily call life, i.e., arbitrarily from the standpoint of the physical things with which the physical sciences are occupied. Such a scientific statement, however, is in terms of a distribution of physical particles at an instant-an ideal situation that does not exist, though the approach to it in the formulations of science gives us the basis for the statement of the laws of nature. The statement ignores passage. Its statement of passage is of a series of such instantaneous spreads of nature, which can be brought as close to one another as is desired. Such a series im-
(165) -plies a determined succession of events, and this implies a definite selection of events which are simultaneous. If there are different simultaneities, there will be different successions. The assumption of science with its absolute space and time has been that there is only one simultaneity and, consequently, only one succession. But realities which involve passage for their expression do not admit of reduction to instantaneous distributions of particles, and the abandonment of absolute space and time removes the necessity of a single succession. There arise, therefore, perspectives not only in respect to the sense susceptibilities of different organisms, and to their spatial relations, but also in respect to the simultaneities which the organisms select and hence to the succession of events.
The conception of a world that is independent of any organism is one that is without perspectives. There would be no environments. There would be no objects except physical particles, for every other object involves abstraction from relations which are as real as those in the object and in the environment, and the only ground for such abstraction can be found in the attitude of some organism or structure which maintains itself through a patience of the world to that structure. But that it should be a structure implies that an abstraction has already taken place. The physical sciences in positing such a reality of the world as its ultimate reality relegated all objects except physical particles to the effects of these physical particles upon consciousness. The reply of transcendental idealism was to relegate the physical world to consciousness. It was, however, unable to make physical science a part of its philosophy of mind. Biology has forced organisms into the field of science, and with the animal organism has gone the mind. Philosophy has steadily been working since then to take back the go-called contents of consciousness into the world. It cannot be done in the Aristotelian fashion. It can only be accomplished by recognizing the principle of the perspective, that the object exists in its relation to the aspects of the world to which it is related-the form and its environment.