The Function of Reason
Alfred North Whitehead
The topic here considered—The Function of Reason—is one of the oldest topics for philosophical discussion. What is the function of Reason amid the welter of our mental experiences, amid our intuitions, our emotions, our purposes, our decisions of emphasis? In order to answer such a question we have to consider the nature of Reason, its essence. Of course this is a hackneyed theme. Its discussion stretches back to the very beginnings of philosophic thought. But it is the business of philosophers to discuss such fundamental topics, and to set them on the stage illuminated by our modern ways of thinking.
Various phrases suggest themselves, which recall the special controversies depending upon the determination of the true function of Reason:
Faith and Reason: Reason and Authority: Reason and Intuition: Criticism and Imagination: Reason, Agency, Purpose: Scientific Methodology: Philosophy
( 4) and the Sciences: Rationalism, Scepticism, Dogmatism: Reason and Empiricism: Pragmatism.
Each of these phrases suggests the scope of Reason, and the limitation of that scope. Also the variety of topics included in them shows that we shall not exhaust our subject by the help of a neat little verbal phrase.
Yet in despite of this warning to avoid a mere phrase, I will start with a preliminary definition of the function of Reason, a definition to be illustrated, distorted, and enlarged, as this discussion proceeds.
The function of Reason is to promote the art of life.
In the interpretation of this definition, I must at once join issue with the evolutionist fallacy suggested by the phrase "the survival of the fittest." The fallacy does not consist in believing that in the struggle for existence the fittest to survive eliminate the less fit. The fact is obvious and stares us in the face. The fallacy is the belief that fitness for survival is identical with the best exemplification of the Art of Life.
In fact life itself is comparatively deficient in survival value. The art of persistence is to be dead. Only in-organic things persist for great lengths of time. A rock survives for eight hundred million years; whereas the limit for a tree is about a thousand years, for a man
( 5) or an elephant about fifty or one hundred years, for a dog about twelve years, for an insect about one year. The problem set by the doctrine of evolution is to explain how complex organisms with such deficient survival power ever evolved. They certainly did not appear because they were better at that game than the rocks around them. It may be possible to explain "the origin of species" by the doctrine of the struggle for existence among such organisms. But certainly this struggle throws no light whatever upon the emergence of such a general type of complex organism, with faint survival power. This problem is not to be solved by any dogma, which is the product of mere abstract thought elaborating its notions of the fitness of things. The solution requires that thought pay full attention to the empirical evidence, and to the whole of that evidence.
The range of species of living things is very large. It stretches from mankind throughout all the vertebrates, and the insects, and the barely organized animals which seem like societies of cells, and throughout the varieties of vegetable life, and down to the minutest microscopic forms of life. At the lower end of the scale, it is hazardous to draw any sharp distinction between living things and inorganic matter. There are
( 6) two ways of surveying this range of species. One way abstracts from time, and considers the variety of species as illustrating various levels of life. The other way emphasizes time, by considering the genetic relations of the species one to another.
The latter way embraces the doctrine of evolution, and interprets the vanishing of species and of sporadically variant individuals, as being due to maladjustment to the environment. This explanation has its measure of truth: it is one of the great generalizations of science. But enthusiasts have so strained its interpretation as to make it explain nothing, by reason of the fact that it explains everything. We hardly ever know the definite character of the struggle which occasioned the disappearance. The phrase is like the liturgical refrain of a litany, chanted over the fossils of vanished species. If the mere fact of dying out be sufficient proof of maladjustment to the environment, the explanation is reduced to a tautology. The importance of the doctrine of the struggle for existence depends on the assumption that living beings reproduce themselves in sufficient numbers of healthy offspring, and that adaptation to the environment is therefore the only decisive factor. This double assumption of prolificness and of healthiness is obviously not always true in particular
( 7) instances. There are limitations to the doctrine of Malthus.
But there is another factor in evolution which is not in the least explained by the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. Why has the trend of evolution been upwards? The fact that organic species have been produced from inorganic distributions of matter, and the fact that in the lapse of time organic species of higher and higher types have evolved are not in the least explained by any doctrine of adaptation to the environment, or of struggle.
In fact the upward trend has been accompanied by a growth of the converse relation. Animals have progressively undertaken the task of adapting the environment to themselves. They have built nests, and social dwelling-places of great complexity; beavers have cut down trees and dammed rivers; insects have elaborated a high community life with a variety of reactions upon the environment.
Even the more intimate actions of animals are activities modifying the environment. The simplest living things let their food swim into them. The higher animals chase their food, catch it, and masticate it. In so acting, they are transforming the environment for their own purposes. Some animals dig for their food, others
( 8) stalk their prey. Of course all these operations are meant by the common doctrine of adaptation to the environment. But they are very inadequately expressed by that statement; and the real facts easily drop out of sight under cover of that statement. The higher forms of life are actively engaged in modifying their environment. In the case of mankind this active attack on the environment is the most prominent fact in his existence.
I now state the thesis that the explanation of this active attack on the environment is a three-fold urge: (i) to live, (ii) to live well, (iii) to live better. In fact the art of life is first to be alive, secondly to be alive in a satisfactory way, and thirdly to acquire an increase in satisfaction. It is at this point of our argument that we have to recur to the function of Reason, namely the promotion of the art of life. The primary function of Reason is the direction of the attack on the environment.
This conclusion amounts to the thesis that Reason is a factor in experience which directs and criticizes the urge towards the attainment of an end realized in imagination but not in fact.
From the point of view, of prevalent physiological doctrine this thesis is a complete heresy. To the older
( 9) discussions mentioned earlier—Faith and Reason, Rea-son and Authority, and so on—I should have added one other, Physiology and Final Causation. When we have added that item, we have placed the discussion of Reason in its modern setting.
In fact we have now before us the two contrasted ways of considering Reason. We can think of it as one among the operations involved in the existence of an animal body, and we can think of it in abstraction from any particular animal operations. In this latter mode of consideration, Reason is the operation of theoretical realization. In theoretical realization the Universe, or at least factors in it, are understood in their character of exemplifying a theoretical system. Reason realizes the possibility of some complex form of definiteness, and concurrently understands the world as, in one of its factors, exemplifying that form of definiteness.
The older controversies have mainly to do with this latter mode of considering Reason. For them, Reason is the godlike faculty which surveys, judges and understands. In the newer controversy Reason is one of the items of operation implicated in the welter of the process. It is obvious that the two points of view must be brought together, if the theoretical Reason is to be
( 10) satisfied as to its own status. But much confusion is occasioned by inconsistently wavering between the two standpoints without any coordination of them. There is Reason, asserting itself as above the world, and there is Reason as one of many factors within the world. The Greeks have bequeathed to us two figures, whose real or mythical lives conform to these two notions—Plato and Ulysses. The one shares Reason with the Gods, the other shares it with the foxes.
We can combine the discussion of these two aspects of Reason by considering the relevance of the notion of final causation to the behaviour of animal bodies. We shall then see how the theoretical and practical Reason in fact operate in the minds of men.
Those physiologists who voice the common opinion of their laboratories, tell us with practical unanimity that no consideration of final causes should be allowed to intrude into the science of physiology. In this respect physiologists are at one with Francis Bacon at the beginning of the scientific epoch, and also with the practice of all the natural sciences.
In this rejection of final causation the testimony seems overwhelming, until we remember that it is testimony of exactly the same force and character as that which led the educated section of the classical world
( 11) to reject the Christian outlook, and as that which led the educated scholastic world to reject the novel. scientific outlook of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We have got to remember the two aspects of Reason, the Reason of Plato and the Reason of Ulysses, Reason as seeking a complete understanding and Rea-son as seeking an immediate method of action.
As a question of scientific methodology there can be no doubt that the scientists have been right. But we have to discriminate between the weight to be given to scientific opinion in the selection of its methods, and its trustworthiness in formulating judgments of the understanding. The slightest scrutiny of the history of natural science shows that current scientific opinion is nearly infallible in the former case, and is invariably wrong in the latter case. The man with a method good for purposes of his dominant interests, is a pathological case in respect to his wider-judgment on the coordination of this method with a more complete experience. Priests and scientists, statesmen and men of business, philosophers and mathematicians, are all alike in this respect. We all start by being empiricists. But our empiricism is confined within our immediate interests. The more clearly we grasp the intellectual analysis of a way regulating procedure for the sake of those interests, the
( 12) more decidedly we reject the inclusion of evidence which refuses to be immediately harmonized with the method before us. Some of the major disasters of man-kind have been produced by the narrowness of men with a good methodology. Ulysses has no use for Plato, and the bones of his companions are strewn on many a reef and many an isle.
The particular doctrine in question is, that in the transformations of matter and energy which constitute the activities of an animal body no principles can be discerned other than those which govern the activities of inorganic matter. There can be no dispute as to the main physiological facts. No reactions between the material components of an animal body have been observed which in any way infringe the physical and chemical laws applying to the behavior of inorganic material. But this is a very different proposition from the doctrine that no additional principles can be involved. The two propositions are only identical on the supposition that the sort of physical principles involved are sufficient to determine definitely the particular activities of each physical body.
This is certainly not the case if we refer to principles such as the conservation of energy, and the chemical reactions. It is often assumed that even the one law
( 13) of the conservation of energy determines without ambiguity the activities to which it applies. It is difficult to understand how such a baseless fiction could have arisen:
But the point to which I wish to draw attention is the mass of evidence lying outside the physiological method which is simply ignored in the prevalent scientific doctrine. The conduct of human affairs is entirely dominated by our recognition of foresight determining purpose, and purpose issuing in conduct. Almost every sentence we utter and every judgment we form, presuppose our unfailing experience of this element in life. The evidence is so overwhelming, the belief so unquestioning, the evidence of language so decisive, that it is difficult to know where to begin in demonstrating it. For example, we speak of the policy of a statesman or of a business corporation. Cut out the notion of final causation, and the word "policy" has lost its meaning. As I write this lecture, I intend to deliver it in Princeton University. Cut out the notion of final causation, and this "intention" is without meaning. Again consider the voyage of the battleship Utah round the South American continent. Consider first the ship itself. We are asked to believe that the concourse of atoms, of iron, and of nitrogen, and of other sorts of chemical elements, into the form of the
( 14) ship, of its armour, of its guns, of its engines, of its ammunition, of its stores of food,—that this concourse was purely the outcome of the same physical laws by which the ocean waves aimlessly beat on the coasts of Maine. There could be no more aim in one episode than in the other. The activity of the shipbuilders was merely analogous to the rolling of the shingle on the beach.
Pass on now to consider—still presupposing the orthodox physiological doctrine—the voyage of the ship. The President-elect of the United States had nothing to do with it. His intentions with respect to South American policy and goodwill in the world were be-side the question, being futile irrelevancies. The motions of his body, those of the bodies of the sailors, like the motions of the shipbuilders, were purely governed by the physical laws which lead a stone to roll down a slope and water to boil. The very idea is ridiculous.
We shall of course be told that the doctrine is not meant to apply to the conduct of men. Yet the bodily motions are physiological operations. If these latter be blind, so are the motions. Also men are animals. Surely, the whole fight over evolution was about this very latter point.
Again we are told that we should look at the matter historically. Mankind has gradually developed from the lowliest forms of life, and must therefore be explained in terms applicable to all such forms. But why construe the later forms by analogy to the earlier forms. Why not reverse the process? It would seem to be more sensible, more truly empirical, to allow each living species to make its own contribution to the demonstration of factors inherent in living things.
I need not continue the discussion. The case is too clear for elaboration. Yet the trained body of physiologists under the influence of the ideas germane to their successful methodology entirely ignore the whole mass of adverse evidence. We have here a colossal ex-ample of anti-empirical dogmatism arising from a successful methodology. Evidence which lies outside the method simply does not count.
We are, of course, reminded that the neglect of this evidence arises from the fact that it lies outside the scope of the methodology of the science. That method consists in tracing the persistence of the physical and chemical principles throughout physiological operations.
The brilliant success of this method is admitted. But you cannot limit a problem by reason of a method of attack. The problem is to understand the operations
( 16) of an animal body. There is clear evidence that certain operations of certain animal bodies depend upon the foresight of an end and the purpose to attain it. It is no solution of the problem to ignore this evidence because other operations have been explained in terms of physical and chemical laws. The existence of a problem is not even acknowledged. It is vehemently denied. Many a scientist has patiently designed experiments for the purpose of substantiating his belief that animal operations are motivated by no purposes. He has perhaps spent his spare time in writing articles to prove that human beings are as other animals so that "purpose" is a category irrelevant for the explanation of their bodily activities, his own activities included. Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study.
Another reason for the extrusion of final causation is that it introduces a dangerous mode of facile explanation. This is certainly true. The laborious work of tracing the sequence in physical antecedents is apt to be discouraged by the facile suggestion of a final cause. Yet the mere fact that the introduction of the notion of final causation has its dangers is no reason
( 17) for ignoring a real problem. Even if heads be weak, the problem remains.
The Christian clergy have often brought forward the same objections to innovations judged dangerous to faith and morals. The scientific world vehemently resents such limitations to the free consideration of evidence. Yet in defence of their own dogmas, the scientists act no otherwise than do the clergy. The physiologists and the legislature of the State of Tennessee exhibit the same principles of human conduct. In fact all types of men are on a level in this respect, and we shall never improve unless we understand the source of our temptation.
The evolution of Reason from below has been entirely pragmatic, with a short range of forecast. The primitive deep-seated satisfaction derived from Reason, a satisfaction arising out of an immemorial heredity, is provided by the emphatic clarification of some method regulating current practice. The method works and Reason is satisfied. There is no interest beyond the scope of the method. Indeed this last statement is too restrained. There is active interest restraining curiosity within the scope of the method. Any defeat of that interest arouses an emotional resentment. Empiricism vanishes.
The best chance for the wider survey is that it also should present itself with the promise of a wider method. Sometimes the reigning method is already showing signs of exhaustion. The main evidence that a methodology is worn out comes when progress within it no longer deals with main issues. There is a final epoch of endless wrangling over minor questions.
Each methodology has its own life history. It starts as a dodge facilitating the accomplishment of some nascent urge of life. In its prime, it represents some wide coordination of thought and action whereby this urge expresses itself as a major satisfaction of existence. Finally it enters upon the lassitude of old age, its second childhood. The larger contrasts attainable within the scope of the method have been explored and familiarized. The satisfaction from repetition has faded away. Life then faces the last alternatives in which its fate depends.
These last alternatives arise from the character of the three-fold urge which I have already mentioned: To live, to live well, to live better. The birth of a methodology is in its essence the discovery of a dodge to live. In its prime it satisfies the immediate conditions for the good life. But the good life is unstable: the law of fatigue is inexorable. When any
( 19) methodology of life has exhausted the novelties within its scope and played upon them up to the incoming of fatigue, one final decision determines the fate of a species. It can stabilize itself, and relapse so as to live; or it can shake itself free, and enter upon the adventure of living better.
In the latter event, the species seizes upon one of the nascent methodologies concealed in the welter of miscellaneous experience beyond the scope of the old dominant way. If the choice be happy, evolution has taken an upward trend: if unhappy, the oblivion of time covers the vestiges of a vanished race.
With a happy choice, the new method quickly reaches its meridian stage. There is thus a new form of the good life, with its prolongation depending on the variety of contrast included within its methodical scope. On the whole, the evidence points to a certain speed of evolution from a nascent methodology into the middle stage which is relatively prolonged.
In the former event, when the species refuses ad-venture, there is relapse into the well-attested habit of mere life. The original method now enters upon a prolonged old age in which well-being has sunk into mere being. Varied freshness has been lost, and the species lives upon the blind appetitions of old usages.
( 20) The essence of Reason in its lowliest forms is its judgments upon flashes of novelty, of novelty in immediate realization and of novelty which is relevant to appetition but not yet to action. In the stabilized life there is no room for Reason. The methodology has sunk from a method of novelty into a method of rep-
etition. Reason is the organ of emphasis upon novelty. It provides the judgment by which it passes into realization in purpose, and thence its realization in fact.
Life-tedium is fatigue derived from a thwarted urge toward novel contrast. In nature we find three ways in which stabilization is secured. They may be named: the Way of Blindness, the Way of Rhythm, the Way of Transience. These ways are not mutually exclusive. In fact the Way of Rhythm seems all-pervasive through-out life. But the Way of Blindness seems to render Transience unnecessary, and the Way of Transience diminishes the Blindness. All three ways seem to be present in a stabilized old age of mere survival, but Blindness and Transience seem to vary inversely to each other.
The Way of Blindness means relapse. This relapse eliminates those flashes of novel appetition which have constituted the means of ascent to the existing stage of complex life. These flashes are in fact part of the stage
( 21) itself. They are the element of vivid novelty of enjoyment. But he ladder of ascent is now discarded. The novelties and their reasoned emphasis are excluded. The complexity attained is lived through on a lower , level of operations than those which went to its attainment. The upward trend is lost. There is stabilization in some lower level, or progressive relapse. The organ of vividness, which is also the organ of novelty and the organ of fatigue, has been atrophied.
The Way of Transience means the substitution of short-lived individuals by way of protecting the species from the fatigue of the individual. Transience is really a way of blindness: it procures novel individuals to face blindly the old round of experience.
The Way of Rhythm pervades all life, and indeed all physical existence. This common principle of Rhythm is one of the reasons for believing that the root principles of life are, in some lowly form, exemplified in all types of physical existence. In the Way of Rhythm a round of experiences, forming a determinate sequence of contrasts attainable within a definite method, are codified so that the end of one such cycle is the proper antecedent stage for the beginning of another such cycle. The cycle is such that its own completion provides the conditions for its own mere repetition. It
( 22) eliminates the fatigue attendant upon the repetition of any one of its parts. Only some strength of physical memory can aggregate fatigue arising from the cycle as a whole. Provided that each cycle in itself is self-repairing, the fatigue from repetition requires a high level of coordination of stretches of past experience.
At the level of human experience we do find fatigue arising from the mere repetition of cycles. The device by which this fatigue is again obviated takes the form of the preservation of the fundamental abstract structure of the cycle, combined with the variation of the concrete details of succeeding cycles. This device is particularly illustrated in music and in vision. It is of course capable of an enormous elaboration of complexity of detail. Thus the Rhythm of life is not merely to be sought in simple cyclical recurrence. The cycle element is driven into the foundation, and variations of cycles, and of cycles of cycles, are elaborated.
We find here the most obvious example of the adoption of a method. The good life is attained by the enjoyment of contrasts within the scope of the method. We exemplify in this way the action of appetition working within a framework of order. Reason finds its scope here in its function of the direction of the upward trend. In its lowliest form, Reason pro-
( 23) -vides the emphasis on the conceptual clutch after some refreshing novelty. It is then Reason devoid of constructive range of abstract thought. It operates merely as the simple direct judgment lifting a conceptual flash into an effective appetition, and an effective appetition into a realized fact.
"Fatigue" is the antithesis of Reason. The operations of Fatigue constitute the defeat of Reason in its primitive character of reaching after the upward trend. Fatigue means the operation of excluding the impulse " towards novelty. It excludes the opportunities of the immediate stage, at which life finds itself. That stage has been reached by seizing opportunity. The meridian triumph of a method is when it facilitates opportunity without any transcending of itself. Mere repetition is the baffling of opportunity. The inertia weighing upon Reason is generation of a mere recurrent round of change, unrelieved by novelty. The urge of Reason, clogged with such inertia, is fatigue. When the baffled urge has finally vanished, life preserves its stage so far as concerns its formal operations. But it has ,lost the impulse by which the stage was reached, an impulse which constituted an original element in the stage itself. There has been a relapse into mere repetitive life, concerned with mere living and divested of any factor
( 24) involving effort towards living well, and still less of any effort towards living better. This stage of static life never truly attains stability. It represents a slow, prolonged decay in which the complexity of the organism gradually declines towards simpler forms.
In this general description of the primitive function of Reason in animal life, the analogy of a living body, with its own self-contained organization, to the self-contained physical organization of the material universeas a whole, has been closely followed. The material universe has contained in itself, and perhaps still contains, some mysterious impulse for its energy to run upwards. This impulse is veiled from our observation, so far as concerns its general operation. But there must have been some epoch in which the dominant trend was the formation of protons, electrons, molecules, the stars. Today, so far as our observations go, they are decaying. We know more of the animal body, through the medium of our personal experience. In the animal body,we can observe the appetition towards the upward trend, with Reason as the selective agency. In the general physical universe we cannot obtain any direct knowledge of the corresponding agency by which it attained its present stage of available energy. The aggregations; of energy in the form of protons, electrons,
( 25) molecules, cosmic dust, stars, and planets, are there. However vast may be the scale of the physical order, it appears to be finite, and it is wasting at a finite rate. However long the periods of time may have been, there must have been a beginning of the mere waste, and there must be an end to it. From nothing, there can come nothing.
The universe, as construed solely in terms of the efficient causation of purely physical interconnections, presents a sheer, insoluble contradiction. The orthodox doctrine of the physiologists demands that theoperations of living bodies be explained solely in terms of the physical system of physical categories. This system within its own province, when confronted with the empirical facts, fails to include these facts apart from an act of logical suicide. The moral to be drawn from the general survey of the physical universe with its operations viewed in terms of purely physical laws, and neglected so far as they are inexpressible in such terms, is that we have omitted some general counter-agency. This counter-agency in its operation throughout the physical universe is too vast and diffusive for our direct observation. We may acquire such power as the result of some advance. But at present, as we survey the physical cosmos, there is no direct in-
( 26) -tuition of the counter-agency to which it owes its possibility of existence as a wasting finite organism.
Thus the orthodox physiological doctrine has the weakness that it rests its explanations exclusively upon the physical system, which is internally inconsistent.
In the animal body there is, as we have already seen, clear evidence of activities directed by purpose. It is therefore natural to reverse the analogy, and to argue that some lowly, diffused form of the operations of Reason constitute the vast diffused counter-agency by which the material cosmos comes into being. This conclusion amounts to the repudiation of the radical extrusion of final causation from our cosmological theory. The rejection of purpose dates from Francis Bacon at the beginning of the seventeenth century. As a methodological device it is an unquestioned success so long aswe confine attention to certain limited fields.
Provided that we admit the category of final causation, we can consistently define the primary function of Reason. This function is to constitute, emphasize, and criticize the final causes and strength of aims directed towards them.
The pragmatic doctrine must accept this definition. It is obvious that pragmatism is nonsense apart from final causation. For a doctrine can never be tested un-
( 27) -less it is acted upon. Apart from this primary function the very existencesof Reason is purposeless and its origination is inexplicable. In the course of evolution why should the trend have arrived at mankind, if his activities of Reason remain without influence on his bodily actions? It is well to be quite clear on the point that Reason is inexplicable if purpose be ineffective.
Thus at the very outset the primary physiological doctrine has to be examined. This examination leads to the distinction between the authority of science in the determination of its methodology and the authority of science in the determination of the ultimate categories of explanation. We are then led to consider the natural reaction of men with a useful methodology against any evidence tending to limit the scope of that methodology. Science has always suffered from the vice of overstatement. In this way conclusions true within strict limitations have been generalized dogmatically into a fallacious universality.
This pragmatic function of Reason provides the agency procuring the upward trend of animal evolution. But the doctrine of the upward trend equally requires explanation in the purely physical cosmos. Our scientific formulation of physics displays a limited universe in process of dissipation. We require a counter-agency
( 28) to explain the existence of a universe in dissipation within a finite time. The analogy of the animal body suggests that the extreme rejection of final causation from our categories of explanation has been fallacious. A satisfactory cosmology must explain the interweaving of efficient and of final causation. Such a cosmology will obviously remain an explanatory arbitrariness if our doctrine of the two modes of causation takes the form of a mere limitation of the scope of one mode by the intervention of the other mode. What we seek is such an explanation of the metaphysical nature of things that everything determinable by efficient causation is thereby determined, and that everything determinable by final causation is thereby determined. The two spheres of operation should be interwoven and required, each by the other. But neither sphere should arbitrarily limit the scope of the alternative mode.
Meanwhile, we find that the short-range function of Reason, characteristic of Ulysses, is Reason criticizing and emphasizing the subordinate purposes in nature which are the agents of final causation. This is Reason as a pragmatic agent.
In this function Reason is the practical embodiment of the urge to transform mere existence into the good
( 29) existence, and to transform the good existence into the better existence.
But if we survey the universe of nature, mere static survival seems to be the general rule, accompanied by a slow decay. The instances of the upward trend are represented by a sprinkling of exceptional cases. Thus the general fact, as empirically presented to us, appears to be the upward trend of the few, combined with a slow slipping away of the old widespread physical order forming the basis from which the ascent is made.
This empirical fact constitutes one of the deepest unsolved mysteries.
When we have recognized these two tendencies at work, it is inevitable that we ask how we can conceive the nature of things so as to include this double character. We all remember Bergson's doctrine of the élan vital and its relapse into matter. The double tendency of advance and relapse is here plainly stated. But we are not given any explanatory insight. The older doctrine of individual substances with their inherent qualities does not give the slightest reason for the double aspect. But there is another obvious duality in the world which it is the first business of every cosmology to consider—Body and Mind. If we follow Descartes and express
( 30) this duality in terms of the concept of substance, we obtain the notion of bodily substances and of mental substances. The bodily substances have, on this theory, a vacuous existence. They are sheer facts, devoid of all intrinsic values. It is intrinsically impossible to give any reason why they should come into existence, or should endure, or should cease to exist. Descartes tells us that they are sustained by God, but fails to give any reason why God should care to do so. This conception of vacuous substantial existence lacks all explanatory insight. The movement to exclude final causation has thus ended by making the doctrine of efficient causation equally inexplicable. Descartes had to call in God, in order to push his bodies around. The two tendencies upward and downward cannot be torn apart. They exist together. Also Descartes' clean cut between bodies and mind is a misreading of the empirical facts.
We shall never elaborate an explanatory metaphysics unless we abolish this notion of valueless, vacuous existence. Vacuity is the character of an abstraction, and is wrongly introduced into the notion of a finally real thing, an actuality. Universals and propositions are vacuous, but are not actualities. But if we discard the notion of vacuous existence, we must conceive each actuality as attaining an end for itself. Its very existence
( 31) is the presentation of its many components to itself, for the sake of its own ends. In other words, an actuality is a complex unity, which can be analysed as a process of feeling its own components. This is the doctrine that each actuality is an occasion of experience, the outcome of its own purposes.
Now I am pursuing the ordinary scientific method of searching for an explanation. Having found one example of a fundamental duality in the universe, namely the physical tendency towards degradation and the counter-tendency upwards, I am enumerating the other basic dualities, with the hope of tying them up into one coherent concept in which they explain each other. We have now to ask how we can interpret the upward and the downward trends, and body and mind, as two co-ordinate dualities essential in the nature of experience.
Bodily experience is sheer physical experience. Such experience is the sheer final enjoyment of being definitely something. It is self-definition as constituting one sheer fact among other things, namely among other actualities and selected forms of definiteness. Physical experience is the matter-of-fact enjoyment of just those items which are given to that occasion. Every component in physical experience is playing its part in sheer matter-of-fact.
But every occasion of experience is dipolar. It is mental experience integrated with physical experience. Mental experience is the converse of bodily experience. It is the experience of forms of definiteness in respect to their disconnection from any particular physical experience, but with abstract evaluation of what they can contribute to such experience. Consciousness is no necessary element in mental experience. The lowest form of mental experience is blind urge towards a form of experience, that is to say, an urge towards a form for realization. These forms of definiteness are the Platonic forms, the Platonic ideas, the medieval universals.
In its essence, mentality is the urge towards some vacuous definiteness, to include it in matter-of-fact which is non-vacuous enjoyment. This urge is appetition. It is emotional purpose: it is agency. Mentality is no more vacuous than is physical enjoyment. But it brings the sheer vacuity of the form into the realization of experience. In physical experience, the forms are the defining factors: in mental experience the forms connect the immediate occasions with occasions which lie beyond. The connection of immediate fact with the future resides in its appetitions.
The higher forms of intellectual experience only arise when there are complex integrations, and reintegra
( 33) -tions, of mental and physical experience. Reason then appears as a criticism of appetitions. It is a second-order type of mentality. It is the appetition of appetitions.
Mental experience is the organ of novelty, the urge beyond. It seeks to vivify the massive physical fact, which is repetitive, with the novelties which beckon. Thus mental experience contains in itself a factor of L. anarchy. We can understand order, because in the recesses of our own experience there is a contrasting element which is anarchic.
But sheer anarchy means the nothingness of experience. We enjoy the contrasts of our own variety in virtue of the order which removes the incompatibility of mere diversity. Thus mental experience must itself be canalized into order.
In its lowest form, mental experience is canalized into slavish conformity. It is merely the appetition towards, or from, whatever in fact already is. The slavish thirst in a desert is mere urge from intolerable dryness. This lowest form of slavish conformity pervades all nature. It is rather a capacity for mentality, than mentality itself. But it is mentality. In this lowly form it evades no difficulties: it strikes out no new ways: it produces no disturbance of the repetitive character of physical
( 34) fact. It can stretch out no arm to save nature from its ultimate decay. It is degraded to being merely one of the actors in the efficient causation.
But when mentality is working at a high level, it brings novelty into the
appetitions of mental experience. In this function, there is a sheer element of
anarchy. But mentality now becomes self-regulative. It canalizes its own
operations by its own judgments. It introduces a higher appetition which
discriminates among its own anarchic productions. Reason appears. It is Reason,
thus conceived, which is the subject-matter of this discussion. We have to
consider the introduction of anarchy, the revolt from anarchy, the use of
anarchy, and the regulation of anarchy. Reason civilizes the brute force of
anarchic appetition. Apart from anarchic appetition, nature is doomed to slow
descent towards nothingness. Mere repetitive experience gradually eliminates
element after element and fades towards vacuity. Mere anarchic appetition
accomplishes quickly the same end, reached slowly by repetition. Reason is the
special embodiment in us of the disciplined counter-agency which saves the