Symbolism, Its Meaning and Effect

Chapter II

Alfred North Whitehead

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I. Hume on Causal Efficacy.

It is the thesis of this work that human symbolism has its origin in the symbolic interplay between two distinct modes of direct perception of the external world. There are, in this way, two sources of information about the external world, closely connected but distinct. These modes do not repeat each other; and there is a real diversity of information. Where one is vague, the other is precise: where one is important, the other is trivial. But the two schemes of presentation have structural elements in common, which identify them as schemes of presentation of the same world. There are however gaps in the determination of the correspondence between the two morphologies. The schemes only partially inter-sect, and their true fusion is left indeterminate. The symbolic reference leads to a transference of emotion, purpose, and belief, which cannot be justified by an intellectual comparison of the direct information derived from the two schemes


( 31) and their elements of intersection. The justification, such as it is, must be sought in a pragmatic appeal to the future. In this way intellectual criticism founded on subsequent experience can en-large and purify the primitive nave symbolic transference.

I have termed one perceptive mode 'Presentational Immediacy,' and the other mode `Causal Efficacy.' In the previous lecture the mode of presentational immediacy was discussed at length. The present lecture must commence with the discussion of `Causal Efficacy.' It will be evident to you that I am here controverting the most cherished tradition of modern philosophy, shared alike by the school of empiricists which derives from Hume, and the school of transcendental idealists which derives from Kant. It is unnecessary to enter upon any prolonged justification of this summary account of the tradition of modern philosophy. But some quotations will summarize neatly what is shared in common by the two types of thought from which I am diverging. Hume[1] writes :—"When both the objects are present to the senses along with the relation, we call this perception rather than reasoning; nor is there in


( 32) this case any exercise of the thought, or any action, properly speaking, but a mere passive admission of the impressions through the organs of sensation. According to this way of thinking, we ought not to receive as reasoning any of the observations we may make concerning identity and the relation of time and place; since in none of them can the mind go beyond what is immediately present to the senses, either to discover the real existence or the relations of objects."

The whole force of this passage depends upon the tacit presupposition of the `mind' as a passively receptive substance and of its `impression' as forming its private world of accidents. There then remains nothing except the immediacy of these private attributes with their private relations which are also attributes of the mind. Hume explicitly repudiates this substantial view of mind.

But then, what is the force of the last clause of the last sentence, "since . . . objects?" The only reason for dismissing `impressions' from having any demonstrative force in respect to `the real existence or the relations of objects,' is the implicit notion that such impressions are mere private attributes of the mind. Santayana's book, Scepticism and Animal Faith, to which I have al-


( 33) -ready referred, is in its earlier chapters a vigorous and thorough insistence, by every manner of beautiful illustration, that with Hume's premises there is no manner of escape from this dismissal of identity, time, and place from having any reference to a real world. There remains only what Santayana calls `Solipsism of the Present Moment.' Even memory goes: for a memory-impression is not an impression of memory. It is only another immediate private impression.

It is unnecessary to cite Hume on Causation; for the preceding quotation carries with it his whole sceptical position. But a quotation[2] on substance is necessary to explain the ground of his explicit—Is distinct from sporadic implicit presuppositions —doctrine on this point :—"I would fain ask those philosophers, who found so much of their reasonings on the distinction of substance and accident, and imagine we have clear ideas of each, whether the idea of substance be derived from the impressions of sensation or reflection? If it be conveyed to us by our senses, I ask, which of them, and after what manner? If it be perceived by the eyes, it must be a colour; if by the ears, a sound; if by the palate, a taste; and so of the other senses. But


( 34) I believe none will assert that substance is either a colour, or sound, or a taste. The idea of sub-stance must, therefore, be derived from an impression of reflection, if it really exist. But the impressions of reflection resolve themselves into our passions and emotions; none of which can possibly represent a substance. We have, therefore, no idea of substance, distinct from that of a collection of particular qualities, nor have we any other meaning when we either talk or reason concerning it."

This passage is concerned with a notion of `substance,' which I do not entertain. Thus it only indirectly controverts my position. I quote it because it is the plainest example of Hume's initial assumptions that (i) presentational immediacy, and relations between presentationally immediate entities, constitute the only type of perceptive experience, and that (ii) presentational immediacy includes no demonstrative factors disclosing a con-temporary world of extended actual things.

He discusses this question later in his `Treatise' under the heading of the notion of 'Bodies'; and arrives at analogous sceptical conclusions. These conclusions rest upon an extraordinary nave assumption of time as pure succession. The assump-


( 35) -tion is nave, because it is the natural thing to say; it is natural because it leaves out that characteristic of time which is so intimately interwoven that it is natural to omit it.

Time is known to us as the succession of our acts of experience, and thence derivatively as the succession of events objectively perceived in those acts. But this succession is not pure succession: it is the derivation of state from state, with the later state exhibiting conformity to the antecedent. Time in the concrete is the conformation of state to state, the later to the earlier; and the pure succession is an abstraction from the irreversible relationship of settled past to derivative present. The notion of pure succession is analogous to the notion of colour. There is no mere colour, but al-ways some particular colour such as red or blue: analogously there is no pure succession, but always some particular relational ground in respect to which the terms succeed each other. The integers succeed each other in one way, and events succeed each other in another way; and, when we abstract from these ways of succession, we find that pure succession is an abstraction of the second order, a generic abstraction omitting the temporal character of time and the numerical relation of integers.


( 36) The past consists of the community of settled acts which, through their objectifications in the present act, establish the conditions to which that act must conform.

Aristotle conceived 'matter'-ύλγ-as being pure potentiality awaiting the incoming of form in order to become actual. Hence employing Aristotelian notions, we may say that the limitation of pure potentiality, established by `objectifications'of the settled past, expresses that `natural potentiality'—or, potentiality in nature—which is `matter' with that basis of initial, realized form presupposed as the first phase in the self-creation of the present occasion. The notion of `pure potentiality' here takes the place of Aristotle's `matter,'and `natural potentiality'is `matter' with that given imposition of form from which each actual thing arises. All components which are given for experience are to be found in the analysis of natural potentiality. Thus the immediate present has to conform to what the past is for it, and the mere lapse of time is an abstraction from the more concrete relatedness of `conformation.' The `substantial' character of actual things is not primarily concerned with the predication of qualities. It expresses the stubborn' fact that whatever is set-


( 37) -tled and actual must in due measure be conformed to by the self-creative activity. The phrase 'stubborn fact' exactly expresses the popular apprehension of this characteristic. Its primary phase, from which each actual thing arises, is the stub-born fact which underlies its existence. According to Hume there are no stubborn facts. Hume's doctrine may be good philosophy, but it is certainly not common sense. In other words, it fails before the final test of obvious verification.

2. Kant and Causal Efficacy.

The school of transcendental idealists, derived from Kant, admit that causal efficacy is a factor in the phenomenal world; but hold that it does not belong to the sheer data presupposed in perception. It belongs to our ways of thought about the data. Our consciousness of the perceived world yields us an objective system, which is a fusion of mere data and modes of thought about those data.

The general Kantian reason for this position is that direct perception acquaints us with particular fact. Now particular fact is what simply occurs as particular datum. But we believe universal principles about all particular facts. Such universal knowledge cannot be derived from any selection


( 38) of particular facts, each of which has just simply occurred. Thus our ineradicable belief is only explicable by reason of the doctrine that particular facts, as consciously apprehended, are the fusion of mere particular data with thought functioning according to categories which import their own universality in the modified data. Thus the phenomenal world, as in consciousness, is a complex of coherent judgments, framed according to fixed categories of thought, and with a content constituted by given data organized according to fixed forms of intuition.

This Kantian doctrine accepts Hume's nave presupposition of `simple occurrence' for the mere data. I have elsewhere called it the assumption of `simple location,' by way of applying it to space as well as to time.

I directly deny this doctrine of `simple occurrence.' There is nothing which `simply happens.'Such a belief is the baseless doctrine of time as `pure succession.' The alternative doctrine, that the pure succession of time is merely an abstract from the fundamental relationship of conformation, sweeps away the whole basis for the intervention of constitutive thought, or constitutive in-tuition, in the formation of the directly appre-


( 39) -hended world. Universality of truth arises from the universality of relativity, whereby every particular actual thing lays upon the universe the obligation of conforming to it. Thus in the analysis of particular fact universal truths are discover-able, those truths expressing this obligation. The given-ness of experience—that is to say, all its data alike, whether general truths or particular sensa or presupposed forms of synthesis—expresses the specific character of the temporal relation of that act of experience to the settled actuality of the universe which is the source of all conditions. The fallacy of `misplaced concreteness' abstracts from time this specific character, and leaves time with the mere generic character of pure succession.

3. Direct Perception of Causal Efficacy.

The followers of Hume and the followers of Kant have thus their diverse, but allied, objections to the notion of any direct perception of causal efficacy, in the sense in which direct perception is antecedent to thought about it. Both schools find `causal efficacy' to be the importation, into the data, of a way of thinking or judging about those data. One school calls it a habit of thought; the


( 40) other school calls it a category of thought. Also for them the mere data are the pure sense-data.

If either Hume or Kant gives a proper account of the status of causal efficacy, we should find that our conscious apprehension of causal efficacy should depend to some extent on the vividness of the thought or of the pure intuitive discrimination of sense-data at the moment in question. For an apprehension which is the product of thought should sink in importance when thought is in the background. Also, according to this Humian-Kantian account, the thought in question is thought about the immediate sense-data. Accordingly a certain vividness of sense-data in immediate presentation should be favourable to apprehension of causal efficacy. For according to these accounts, causal efficacy is nothing else than a way of thinking about sense-data, given in presentational immediacy. Thus the inhibition of thought and the vagueness of sense-data should be extremely unfavourable to the prominence of causal efficacy as an element in experience.

The logical difficulties attending the direct perception of causal efficacy have been shown to depend on the sheer assumption that time is merely the generic notion of pure succession. This is an


( 40) instance of the fallacy of `misplaced concreteness.' Thus the way is now open to enquire empirically whether in fact our apprehension of causal efficacy does depend either on the vividness of sense-data or on the activity of thought.

According to both schools, the importance of causal efficacy, and of action exemplifying its pre-supposition, should be mainly characteristic of high-grade organisms in their best moments. Now if we confine attention to long-range identification of cause and effect, depending on complex reasoning, undoubtedly such high-grade mentality and such precise determination of sense-data are required. But each step in such reasoning depends on the primary presupposition of the immediate present moment conforming itself to the settled environment of the immediate past. We must not direct attention to the inferences from yesterday to today, or even from five minutes ago to the immediate present. We must consider the immediate present in its relationship to the immediate past. The overwhelming conformation of fact, in present action, to antecedent settled fact is to be found here.

My point is that this conformation of present fact to immediate past is more prominent both in


( 41) apparent behaviour and in consciousness, when the organism is low grade. A flower turns to the light with much greater certainty than does a human being, and a stone conforms to the conditions set by its external environment with much greater certainty than does a flower. A dog anticipates the conformation of the immediate future to his present activity with the same certainty as a human being. When it comes to calculations and remote inferences, the dog fails. But the dog never acts as though the immediate future were irrelevant to the present. Irresolution in action arises from consciousness of a somewhat distant relevant future, combined with inability to evaluate its precise type. If we were not conscious of relevance, why is there irresolution in a sudden crisis?

Again a vivid enjoyment of immediate sense-data notoriously inhibits apprehension of the relevance of the future. The present moment is then all in all. In our consciousness it approximates to `simple occurrence.'

Certain emotions, such as anger and terror, are apt to inhibit the apprehension of sense-data; but they wholly depend upon a vivid apprehension of the relevance of immediate past to the present, and of the present to the future. Again an inhibition


( 43) of familiar sense-data provokes the terrifying sense of vague presences, effective for good or evil over our fate. Most living creatures, of daytime habits, are more nervous in the dark, in the absence of the familiar visual sense-data. But ac-cording to Hume, it is the very familiarity of the sense-data which is required for causal inference. Thus the sense of unseen effective presences in the dark is the opposite of what should happen.

4. Primitiveness of Causal Efficacy.

The perception of conformation to realities in the environment is the primitive element in our external experience. We conform to our bodily organs and to the vague world which lies beyond them. Our primitive perception is that of `conformation' vaguely, and of the yet vaguer relata `oneself' and `another' in the undiscriminated back-ground. Of course if relationships are unperceivable, such a doctrine must be ruled out on theoretic grounds. But if we admit such perception, then the perception of conformation has every mark of a primitive element. One part of our experience is handy, and definite in our consciousness; also it is easy to reproduce at will. The other type of experience, however insistent, is vague, haunting, unmanageable. The former type, for all its deco-


( 44) -rative sense-experience, is barren. It displays a world concealed under an adventitious show, a show of our own bodily production. The latter type is heavy with the contact of the things gone by, which lay their grip on our immediate selves. This latter type, the mode of causal efficacy, is the experience dominating the primitive living organ-isms, which have a sense for the fate from which they have emerged, and for the fate towards which they go—the organisms which advance and retreat but hardly differentiate any immediate display. It is a heavy, primitive experience. The former type, the presentational immediacy, is the superficial product of complexity, of subtlety; it halts at the present, and indulges in a manage-able self-enjoyment derived from the immediacy of the show of things. Those periods in our lives—when the perception of the pressure from a world of things with characters in their own right, characters mysteriously moulding our own natures, be-come strongest—those periods are the product of a reversion to some primitive state. Such a reversion occurs when either some primitive functioning of the human organism is unusually heightened, or some considerable part of our habitual sense-perception is unusually enfeebled.


( 45)

Anger, hatred, fear, terror, attraction, love, hunger, eagerness, massive enjoyment, are feelings and emotions closely entwined with the primitive functioning of `retreat from' and of `expansion towards.' They arise in the higher organism as states due to a vivid apprehension that some such primitive mode of functioning is dominating the organism. But `retreat from' and `expansion towards,' divested of any detailed spatial discrimination, are merely reactions to the way externality is impressing on us its own character. You cannot retreat from mere subjectivity; for subjectivity is what we carry with us. Normally, we have almost negligible sense-presentations of the interior organs of our own bodies.

These primitive emotions are accompanied by the clearest recognition of other actual things re-acting upon ourselves. The vulgar obviousness of such recognition is equal to the vulgar obviousness produced by the functioning of any one of our five senses. When we hate, it is a man that we hate and not a collection of sense-data—a causal, efficacious man. This primitive obviousness of the perception of `conformation' is illustrated by the emphasis on the pragmatic aspect of occurrences, which is so prominent in modern philosophical


( 46) thought. There can be no useful aspect of anything unless we admit the principle of conformation, whereby what is already made becomes a determinant of what is in the making. The obviousness of the pragmatic aspect is simply the obviousness of the perception of the fact of conformation.

In practice we never doubt the fact of the con-formation of the present to the immediate past. It belongs to the ultimate texture of experience, with the same evidence as does presentational immediacy. The present fact is luminously the out-come from its predecessors, one quarter of a second ago. Unsuspected factors may have intervened; dynamite may have exploded. But, how-ever that may be, the present event issues subject to the limitations laid upon it by the actual nature of the immediate past. If dynamite explodes, then present fact is that issue from the past which is consistent with dynamite exploding. Further, we unhesitatingly argue backwards to the inference, that the complete analysis of the past must disclose in it those factors which provide the conditions for the present. If dynamite be now exploding, then in the immediate past there was a charge of dynamite unexploded.

The fact that our consciousness is confined to


( 47) an analysis of experience in the present is no difficulty. For the theory of the universal relativity of actual individual things leads to the distinction between the present moment of experience, which is the sole datum for conscious analysis, and perception of the contemporary world, which is the only one factor in this datum.

The contrast between the comparative emptiness of Presentational Immediacy and the deep significance disclosed by Causal Efficacy is at the root of the pathos which haunts the world.

`Pereunt et imputantur'

is the inscription on old sundials in `religious' houses:

`The hours perish and are laid to account.'

Here `Pereunt' refers to the world disclosed in immediate presentation, gay with a thousand tints, passing, and intrinsically meaningless. `Imputantur' refers to the world disclosed in its causal efficacy, where each event infects the ages to come, for good or for evil, with its own individuality. Almost all pathos includes a reference to lapse of time.

The final stanza of Keats' Eve of St. Agnes commences with the haunting lines :—


( 48)

`And they are gone : ay, ages long ago

Those lovers fled away into the storm.'

There the pathos of the lapse of time arises from the imagined fusion of the two perceptive modes by one intensity of emotion. Shakespeare, in the springtime of the modern world, fuses the two elements by exhibiting the infectiousness of gay immediacy:

'. . . daffodils,

That come before the swallow dares, and take The winds of March with beauty; . .

(The Winter's Tale, IV, iv, 118-120.)

But sometimes men are overstrained by their undivided attention to the causal elements in the nature of things. Then in some tired moment there comes a sudden relaxation, and the mere presentational side of the world overwhelms with the sense of its emptiness. As William Pitt, the Prime Minister of England through the darkest period of the French Revolutionary wars, lay on his death-bed at England's worst moment in that struggle, he was heard to murmur,

`What shades we are, what shadows we pursue!'

His mind had suddenly lost the sense of causal efficacy, and was illuminated by the remembrance of

the intensity of emotion, which had enveloped his life, in its comparison with the barren emptiness' of


( 49) the world passing in sense-presentation.

The world, given in sense-presentation, is not the aboriginal experience of the lower organisms, later to be sophisticated by the inference to causal efficacy. The contrary is the case. First the causal side of experience is dominating, then the sense-presentation gains in subtlety. Their mutual symbolic reference is finally purged by consciousness and the critical reason with the aid of a pragmatic appeal to consequences.

5. The Intersection of the Modes of Perception.

There cannot be symbolic reference between percepts derived from one mode and percepts from the other mode, unless in some way these percepts intersect. By this `intersection' I mean that a pair of such percepts must have elements of structure in common, whereby they are marked out for the action of symbolic reference.

There are two elements of common structure, which can be shared in common by a percept de-rived from presentational immediacy and by an-other derived from causal efficacy. These elements are (I) sense-data, and (2) locality.


( 50)

The sense-data are `given' for presentational immediacy. This given-ness of the sense-data, as the basis of this perceptive mode, is the great doctrine common to Hume and Kant. But what is already given for experience can only be derived from that natural potentiality which shapes a particular experience in the guise of causal efficacy. Causal efficacy is the hand of the settled past in the formation of the present. The sense-data must therefore play a double rle in perception. In the mode of presentational immediacy they are projected to exhibit the contemporary world in its spatial relations. In the mode of causal efficacy they exhibit the almost instantaneously precedent bodily organs as imposing their characters on the experience in question. We see the picture, and we see it with our eyes; we touch the wood, and we touch it with our hands; we smell the rose, and we smell it with our nose; we hear the bell, and we hear it with our ears; we taste the sugar, and we taste it with our palate. In the case of bodily feelings the two locations are identical. The foot is both giving pain and is the seat of the pain. Hume himself tacitly asserts this double reference in the second of the quotations previously made. He writes : "If it be perceived by the eyes, it must


( 51) be a colour; if by the ears, a sound; if by the pal-ate, a taste; and so of the other senses." Thus in asserting the lack of perception of causality, he implicitly presupposes it. For what is the meaning of `by' in `by the eyes,' `by the ears,' `by the pal-ate'? His argument presupposes that sense-data, functioning in presentational immediacy, are `given' by reason of `eyes,' `ears,' `palates' functioning in causal efficacy. Otherwise his argument is involved in a vicious regress. For it must begin again over eyes, ears, palates; also it must ex-plain the meaning of `by' and `must' in a sense which does not destroy his argument.

This double reference is the basis of the whole physiological, doctrine of perception. The details of this doctrine are, in this discussion, philosophic-ally irrelevant. Hume with the clarity of genius states the fundamental point, that sense-data functioning in an act of experience demonstrate that they are given by the causal efficacy of actual bodily organs. He refers to this causal efficacy as a component in direct perception. Hume's argument first tacitly presupposes the two modes of perception, and then tacitly assumes that presentational immediacy is the only mode. Also Hume's followers in developing his doctrine presuppose


( 52) that presentational immediacy is primitive, and that causal efficacy is the sophisticated derivative. This is a complete inversion of the evidence. So far as Hume's own teaching is concerned, there is, of course, another alternative: it is that Hume's disciples have misinterpreted Hume's final position. On this hypothesis, his final appeal to 'practice' is an appeal against the adequacy of the then current metaphysical categories as interpretive of obvious experience. This theory about Hume's own beliefs is in my opinion improbable: but, apart from Hume's own estimate of his philosophical achievement, it is in this sense that we must reverence him as one of the greatest of philosophers.

The conclusion of this argument is that the intervention of any sense-datum in the actual world cannot be expressed in any simple way, such as mere qualification of a region of space, or alter-natively as the mere qualification of a state of mind. The sense-data, required for immediate sense-perception, enter into experience in virtue of the efficacy of the environment. This environment includes the bodily organs. For example, in the case of hearing sound the physical waves have entered the ears, and the agitations of the nerves


( 53) have excited the brain. The sound is then heard as coming from a certain region in the external world. Thus perception in the mode of causal efficacy discloses that the data in the mode of sense-perception are provided by it. This is the reason why there are such given elements. Every such datum constitutes a link between the two perceptive modes. Each such link, or datum, has a complex ingression into experience, requiring a reference to the two perceptive modes. These sense-data can be conceived as constituting the character of a many-termed relationship between the organ-isms of the past environment and those of the contemporary world.

6. Localization.

The partial community of structure, whereby the two perceptive modes yield immediate demonstration of a common world, arises from their reference of sense-data, common to both, to localizations, diverse or identical, in a spatio-temporal system common to both. For example, colour is referred to an external space and to the eyes as organs of vision. In so far as we are dealing with one or other of these pure perceptive modes, such reference is direct demonstration; and, as iso-


( 54) -lated in conscious analysis, is ultimate fact against which there is no appeal. Such isolation, or at least some approach to it, is fairly easy in the case of presentational immediacy, but is very difficult in the case of causal efficacy. Complete ideal purity of perceptive experience, devoid of any symbolic reference, is in practice unobtainable for either perceptive mode.

Our judgments on causal efficacy are almost inextricably warped by the acceptance of the symbolic reference between the two modes as the completion of our direct knowledge. This acceptance is not merely in thought, but also in action, emotion, and purpose, all precedent to thought. This symbolic reference is a datum for thought in its analysis of experience. By trusting this datum, our conceptual scheme of the universe is in general logically coherent with itself, and is correspondent to the ultimate facts of the pure perceptive modes. But occasionally, either the coherence or the verification fails. We then revise our conceptual scheme so as to preserve the general trust in the symbolic reference, while relegating definite details of that reference to the category of errors. Such errors are termed `delusive


( 55) appearances.' This error arises from the extreme vagueness of the spatial and temporal perspectives in the case of perception in the pure mode of causal efficacy. There is no adequate definition of localization, so far as what emerges into analytic consciousness. The principle of relativity leads us to hold that, with adequate conscious analysis, such local relationships leave their faint impress in experience. But in general such detailed analysis is far beyond the capacity of human consciousness.

So far as concerns the causal efficacy of the world external to the human body, there is the most insistent perception of a circumambient efficacious world of beings. But exact discrimination of thing from thing, and of position from position, is extremely vague, almost negligible. The definite discrimination, which in fact we do make, arises almost wholly by reason of symbolic reference from presentational immediacy. The case is different in respect to the human body. There is still vagueness in comparison with the accurate definition of immediate presentation; al-though the locality of various bodily organs which are efficacious in the regulation of the sense-data, and of the feelings, are fairly well-defined in the


( 56) pure perceptive mode of causal efficacy. The symbolic transference of course intensifies the definition. But, apart from such transference, there is some adequacy of definite demarcation.

Thus in the intersection of the two modes, the spatial and temporal relationships of the human body, as causally apprehended, to the external con-temporary world, as immediately presented, afford a fairly definite scheme of spatial and temporal reference whereby we test the symbolic use of sense-projection for the determination of the positions of bodies controlling the course of nature. Ultimately all observation, scientific or popular, consists in the determination of the spatial relation of the bodily organs of the observer to the location of `projected' sense-data.

7. The Contrast Between Accurate Definition and Importance.

The reason why the projected sense-data are in general used as symbol, is that they are handy, definite, and manageable. We can see, or not see, as we like: we can hear, or not hear. There are limits to this handiness of the sense-data : but they are emphatically the manageable elements in our perceptions of the world. The sense of control-


( 57) -ling presences has the contrary character: it is un-manageable, vague, and ill-defined.

But for all their vagueness, for all their lack of definition, these controlling presences, these sources of power, these things with an inner life, with their own richness of content, these beings, with the destiny of the world hidden in their natures, are what we want to know about. As we cross a road busy with traffic, we see the colour of the cars, their shapes, the gay colours of their occupants; but at the moment we are absorbed in using this immediate show as a symbol for the forces determining the immediate future.

We enjoy the symbol, but we also penetrate to the meaning. The symbols do not create their meaning: the meaning, in the form of actual effective beings reacting upon us, exists for us in its own right. But the symbols discover this meaning for us. They discover it because, in the long course of adaptation of living organisms to their environment, nature[3] taught their use. It developed us so that our projected sensations indicate in general those regions which are the seat of important organisms.


( 58)

Our relationships to these bodies are precisely our reactions to them. The projection of our sensations is nothing else than the illustration of the world in partial accordance with the systematic scheme, in space and in time, to which these re-actions conform.

The bonds of causal efficacy arise from without us. They disclose the character of the world from which we issue, an inescapable condition round which we shape ourselves. The bonds of presentational immediacy arise from within us, and are subject to intensifications and inhibitions and diversions according as we accept their challenge or reject it. The sense-data are not properly to be termed `mere impressions'—except so far as any technical term will do. They also represent the conditions arising out of the active perceptive functioning as conditioned by our own natures. But our natures must conform to the causal efficacy. Thus the causal efficacy from the past is at least one factor giving our presentational immediacy in the present. The how of our present experience must conform to the what of the past in us.

Our experience arises out of the past: it en-riches with emotion and purpose its presentation of the contemporary world: and it bequeaths its


( 59) character to the future, in the guise of an effective element forever adding to, or subtracting from, the richness of the world. For good or for evil,

`Pereunt et Imputantur.'

8. Conclusion.

In this chapter, and in the former chapter, the general character of symbolism has been discussed. It plays a dominant part in the way in which all higher organisms conduct their lives. It is the cause of progress, and the cause of error. The higher animals have gained a faculty of great power, by means of which they can define with some accuracy those distant features in the immediate world by which their future lives are to be determined. But this faculty is not infallible; and the risks are commensurate with its importance. It is the purpose of the next chapter to illustrate this doctrine by an analysis of the part played by this habit of symbolism in promoting the cohesion, the progress, and the dissolution of human societies.

Notes

  1. 'Treatise', Part III, Section H.
  2. Cf. Hume's `Treatise', Part I, Section VI.
  3. Cf. Prolegomena to an Idealist Theory of Knowledge, by Norman Kemp Smith, Macmillan and Co., London, 1924.

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