Modes of Thought
Lecture Two: Expression
Alfred North Whitehead
THIS LECTURE is concerned with various ideas involved in the notion of Expression. The more general notion of Importance is presupposed by Expression. Something is to be diffused throughout the environment which will make a difference. But there is a distinction between the two notions. Importance is primarily monistic in its reference to the Universe. Importance, limited to a finite individual occasion, ceases to be important. In some sense or other, Importance is derived from the immanence of infinitude in the finite.
But Expression is founded on the finite occasion. It is the activity of finititude impressing itself on its environment. Thus it has its origin in the finite; and it represents the immanence of the finite in the multitude of its fellows beyond itself. The two together, namely Importance and Expression, are witnesses both to the monistic aspect of the universe and to its
( 29) pluralistic character. Importance passes from the World as one to the World as many; whereas, Expression is the gift from the World as many to the World as one.
Selection belongs to expression. A mood of the finite thing conditions the environment. There is an active entity which fashions its own perspective, implanted on the world around. The laws of nature are large average effects which reign impersonally. Whereas, there is nothing average about expression. It is essentially individual. In so far as an average dominates, expression fades.
Expression is the diffusion, in the environment, of something initially entertained in the experience of the expressor. No conscious determination is necessarily involved; only the impulse to diffuse. This urge is one of the simplest characteristics of animal nature. It is the most fundamental evidence of our presupposition of the world without.
In fact, the world beyond is so intimately entwined in our own natures that unconsciously we identify our more vivid perspectives of it with ourselves. For example, our bodies lie beyond our own individual existence. And yet they are part of it. We think of ourselves as so intimately entwined in bodily life that a man is a complex unity—body and mind. But the body is part of
( 30) the external world, continuous with it. In fact, it is just as much part of nature as anything else there—a river, or a mountain, or a cloud. Also, if we are fussily exact, we cannot define where a body begins and where external nature ends.
Consider one definite molecule. It is part of nature. It has moved about for millions of years. Perhaps it started from a distant nebula. It enters the body; it may be as a factor in some edible vegetable; or it passes into the lungs as part of the air. At what exact point as it enters the mouth, or as it is absorbed through the skin, is it part of the body? At what exact moment, later on, does it cease to be part of the body? Exactness is out of the question. It can only be obtained by some trivial convention.
Thus we arrive at this definition of our bodies: The Human Body is that region of the world which is the primary field of human expression.
For example, anger issues into bodily excitements, which are then publicized in the form of appropriate language, or in other modes of violent action. We can leave it to the physiologists, in the various departments of that science, to analyse the special sorts of bodily functioning thus elicited. Philosophy should refrain from trespassing upon specialist investigations. Its business is to point out fields for research. Some
( 31) fields remain untilled for centuries. The fruitful initiation is absent, or perhaps interest has never concentrated upon them.
In the present instance, we have defined an animal body—for the higher grade of animals—and have indicated the sort of researches required. Of course, mankind has been engaged on this job for some thousands of years, with some lack of comprehension of its full import. It is the business of philosophy to elicit this consciousness; and then, to co÷rdinate the results of all such specialist enquiries.
So far, we have been considering the bodies of animals with dominant centres of feeling and of expression. We can now enlarge the definition so as to include all living bodies, animal and vegetable:
Wherever there is a region of nature which is itself the primary field of the expressions issuing from each of its parts, that region is alive.
In this second definition, the phrase 'expressions issuing from each of its parts' has been substituted for the phrase `human expression', as used previously. The new definition is wider than the former by extending beyond human beings, and beyond the higher animals. Also it will be noticed that these definitions involve the direct negation of any extreme form of Behaviourism. In such behaviouristic doctrines, Ĺim-
( 32) -portance' and `expression' must be banished and can never be intelligently employed. A consistent behaviourist cannot feel it important to refute my statements. He can only behave.
There are two sides to an animal body of the higher type, and so far we have only developed one of them. The second, and wider, definition enables us to find the distinction between vegetation and animal life. This distinction, like others, refuses to be pushed to meticulous exactness. In the animal, there is the one experience expressing itself throughout the animal body. But this is only half the tale.
The other half of the tale is that the body is composed of various centres of experience imposing the expression of themselves on each other. Feeling (in the sense here used), or prehension, is the reception of expressions. Thus the animal body is composed of entities, which are mutually expressing and feeling. Expressions are the data for feeling diffused in the environment; and a living body is a peculiarly close adjustment of these two sides of experience, namely,expression and feeling. By reason of this organization, an adjusted variety of feelings is produced in that supreme entity which is the one animal considered as one experiencing subject.
Thus the one animal, and the various parts of its body considered as themselves centres of
( 33) experience, are in one sense on a level. Namely, they are centres of experience expressing themselves vividly to each other, and obtaining their own feelings mainly by reason of such mutual expressions.
In another sense, the animal as one centre of experience is on a higher level than its other bodily centres. For these subordinate centres are specialists. They only receive restricted types of emotional feeling, and are impervious beyond such types. Throughout the body there is a complex co÷rdination of a vast variety of emotional types. The bodily organization is such that the unity of feeling, which is the one animal as a sentient being, receives its complex variety of experience from these bodily activities. Thus the combined data for feeling in the animal centre are on a higher level than are the corresponding data for its other bodily centres.
In the case of vegetables, we find bodily organizations which decisively lack any one centre of experience with a higher complexity either of expressions received or of inborn data. A vegetable is a democracy; an animal is dominated by one, or more centres of experience. But such domination is limited, very strictly limited. The expressions of the central leader are relevant to that leader's reception of data from the body.
Thus an animal body exhibits the limited
( 34) domination of at least one of its component activities of expression. If the dominant activity be severed from the rest of the body, the whole co÷rdination collapses, and the animal dies. Whereas in the case of the vegetable, the democracy can be subdivided into minor democracies which easily survive without much apparent loss of functional expression.
It is evident that our statement is oversimplified. In the first place, the distinction between animals and vegetables is not sharp cut. Some traces of dominance can be observed in vegetables, and some traces of democratic independence can be found in animals. For example, portions of an animal body preserve their living activities when severed from the main body. But there is failure in variety of energy and in survival power. Yet allowing for such failure, the vegetable characteristics of equality and independence do manifest themselves. Thus ordinary vegetation and the higher animals represent extremes in the bewildering variety of bodily formations which we term `living things'.
Then we have neglected the differentiation of functions which are to be found alike in vegetables and animals. In the case of the flora, there are the roots, and the branches,,and the leaves, and the flowers, and the seeds—all obvious to common inspection. And the detailed observa-
( 35) -tions of botanists supplement these blatant examples of differentiation by a hundred other functional activities which constitute the physiology of plant life.
When we turn to the animal body, the notion of the sole domination of the directing experience requires 'limitation. There are subordinate agencies which have essential control of the bodily functioning. The heart is one example among many others. The activities of the heart are necessary to the bodily survival, in a way that contrasts with the feet. A foot can be severed with slight damage to the internal functioning; the heart is essential. Thus an animal body in its highest examples is more analogous to a feudal society, with its one overlord.
This final unity of animal intelligence is also the organ of reaction to novel situations, and is the organ introducing the requisite novelty of reaction. Finally, the overlord tends to relapse into the conventionality of routine imposed upon the subordinate governors, such as the heart. Animal life can face conventional novelties with conventional devices. But the governing principle lacks large power for the sudden introduction of any major novelty.
The bodies of the higher animals have some resemblance to a complex society of insects, such as ants. But the individual insects seem to have
( 36) more power of adaptation to their problems than does the community as a whole. The opposite holds in the case of animals. For example, an intelligent dog has more power of adaptation to new modes of life than has its heart, as it functions in the animal body. The dog can be trained, but its heart must go its own way within very close limits.
2. When we come to mankind, nature seems to have burst through another of its boundaries. The central activity of enjoyment and expression has assumed a reversal in the importance of its diverse functionings. The conceptual entertainment of unrealized possibility becomes a major factor in human mentality. In this way outrageous novelty is introduced, sometimes beatified, sometimes damned, and sometimes literally patented or protected by copyright. The definition of mankind is that in this genus of animals the central activity has been developed on the side of its relationship to novelty. This relationship is two-fold. There is the novelty received from the aggregate diversities of bodily expressions. Such novelty requires decision as to its reduction to coherence of expression.
Again there is the introduction of novelty of feeling by the entertainment of unexpressed possibilities. This second side is the enlargement of the conceptual experience of mankind. The
( 37) characterization of this conceptual feeling is the sense of what might be and of what might have been. It is the entertainment of the alternative. In its highest development, this becomes the entertainment o the Ideal. It emphasizes the sense of Importance, discussed in the previous lecture. And this sense exhibits itself in various species, such as, the sense of morality, the mystic sense of religion, the sense of that delicacy of adjustment which is beauty, the sense of necessity for mutual connection which is understanding, and the sense of discrimination of each factor which is consciousness.
Also it is the nature of feeling to pass into expression. Thus the expression of these various feelings produces the history of mankind as distinct from the narrative of animal behaviours. History is the record of the expressions of feelings peculiar to humanity.
There is, however, every gradation of transition between animals and men. In animals we can see emotional feeling, dominantly derived from. bodily functions, and yet tinged with purposes, hopes, and expression derived from conceptual functioning. In mankind, the dominant dependence on bodily functioning seems still there. And yet the life of a human being receives its worth, its importance, from the way in which unrealized ideals shape its purposes and
( 38) tinge its actions. The distinction between men and animals is in one sense only a difference in degree. But the extent of the degree makes all the difference. The Rubicon has been crossed.
Thus in nature we find four types of aggregations of actualities: the lowest is the non-living aggregation, in which mutual influence is predominantly of a formal character expressible in formal sciences, such as mathematics. The inorganic is dominated by the average. It lacks individual expression in its parts. Their flashes of selection (if any) are sporadic and ineffective. Its parts merely transmit average expressions; and thus the structure survives. For the average is always there, stifling individuality.
The vegetable grade exhibits a democracy of purposeful influences issuing from its parts. The predominant aim within the organism is survival for its own coordinated individual expressiveness. This expressiveness has a large average character. But the nature of this average is dominated by the intricacies of its own bodily formation. It has added co÷rdinated, organic individuality to the impersonal average formality of inorganic nature. What is merely latent potentiality in lifeless matter, has awakened into some realization in the vegetable. But in each instance of vegetation, the total bodily organism
( 39) strictly limits the individuality of expression in the parts.
The animal grad includes at least one central actuality, supported by the intricacy of bodily functioning. Purposes transcending (however faintly) the mere aim at survival are exhibited. For animal life the concept of importance, in some of its many differentiations, has a real relevance. The human grade of animal life immensely extends this concept, and thereby introduces novelty of functioning as essential for varieties of importance. Thus morals and religion arise as aspects of this human impetus towards the best in each occasion. Morals can be discerned in the higher animals; but not religion. Morality emphasizes the detailed occasion; while religion emphasizes the unity of ideal inherent in the universe.
In every grade of social aggregation, from a nonliving material society up to a human body, there is the necessity for expression. It is by reason of average expression, and of average reception, that the average activities of merely material bodies are restrained into conformity with the reigning laws of nature. It is by reason of individual expression and reception that the human body exhibits activities expressive of the intimate feelings, emotional and purposeful, of the one human person.
3. These bodily activities are very various and intensely selective. An angry man, except when emotion has swamped other feelings, does not usually shake his fist at the universe in general. He makes a selection and knocks his neighbour down. Whereas a piece of rock impartially attracts the universe according to the law of gravitation.
The impartiality of physical science is the reason for its failure as the sole interpreter of animal behaviour. It is true that the rock falls on one special patch of earth. This happens, because the universe in that neighbourhood is exemplifying one particular solution of a differential equation. The fist of the man is directed by emotion seeking a novel feature in the universe, namely, the collapse of his opponent. In the case of the rock, the formalities predominate. In the case of the man, explanation must seek the individual satisfactions. These enjoyments are constrained by formalities, but in proportion to their intensities they pass beyond them, and introduce individual expression.
Consciousness is the first example of the selectiveness of enjoyment in the higher animals. It arises from expression co÷rdinating the activities of physiological functionings. There is a baseless notion that we consciously observe those activities of nature which are dominant in our
( 41) neighbourhood. The exact opposite is the case. The animal consciousness does not easily discriminate its dependence on detailed bodily functioning. Such discrimination is usually a sign of illness. When we observe the functionings of our viscera, something has gone wrong. We take the infinite complexity of our bodies for granted.
The first principle of epistemology should be that the changeable, shifting aspects of our relations to nature are the primary topics for conscious observation. This is only common sense, for something can be done about them. The organic permanences survive by their own momentum: our hearts beat, our lungs absorb air, our blood circulates, our stomachs digest. It requires advanced thought to fix attention on such fundamental operations.
The higher animals have developed superficial relationships to nature, such as eyesight, hearing, smell, and taste. Also such connections are alterable in proportion to their high-grade character. For example, we have only got to shut our eyes, and visual experience has vanished. We can block our ears, and there is no hearing.
The experiences on which accurate science bases itself are completely superficial. The blind and the deaf are capable of the ultimate great-
( 42) -ness of human life. They are deprived of its walking-sticks. The traffic-lights on the highways are useful for the accomplishment of modern purposes. And yet there have been great civilizations without motor-cars, and without trafficlights.
But though any one of these sense-experiences is non-essential to the existence of the organism, the whole group is quite essential for the development of the higher forms of animal life. Mankind and the animals with analogous abilities are distinguished by their capacity for the introduction of novelty. This requires a conceptual power which can imagine, and a practical power which can effect. The role of sense-experiences consists in the fact that they are manageable.
The animals evolved and emphasized the superficial aspects of their connexity with nature, and thus obtained a manageable grip upon the world. The central organism which is the soul of a man is mainly concerned with the trivialities of human existence. It does not easily meditate upon the activities of fundamental bodily functions. Instead of fixing attention on the bodily digestion of vegetable food, it catches the gleam of the sunlight as it falls on the foliage. It nurtures poetry. Men are the children of the Universe, with foolish enterprises and irrational
( 43) hopes. A tree sticks to its business of mere survival; and so does an oyster with some minor divergencies. In this way, the life-aim at survival is modified into the human aim at survival for diversified worthwhile experience.
The pitfall of philosophy is exclusive concentration on these manageable relationships, to the neglect of the underlying necessities of nature. Thus thinkers repudiate our intimate vague experiences in favour of a mere play of distinct sensations, coupled with a fable about underlying reality. I am now pleading that our whole experience is composed out of our relationships to the rest of things, and of the formation of new relationships constitutive of things to come. The present receives the past and builds the future. But there are grades of permanence and of compulsive stability.
During many generations there has been an attempt to explain our ultimate insights as merely interpretive of sense-impressions. Indeed this school of thought can trace 'itself back to Epicurus. It can appeal to some phrases of Plato. I suggest to you that this basis for philosophic understanding is analogous to an endeavour to elucidate the sociology of modern civilization as wholly derivative from the traffic-signals on the main roads. The motions of the cars are conditioned by these signals. But the signals
( 44) are not the reasons for the traffic. Common sense supplies this conclusion, so overwhelmingly that illustration is unnecessary.
It is this direct insight, vague as to detail and yet the basis of all rationality, that has been denied by the prevalent epistemology of the preceding century. Interest and importance are the primary reasons for the effort after exact discrimination of sense-data. The traffic-signals are the outcome of the traffic.
Importance generates interest. Interest leads to discrimination. In this way, interest is increased; and the two factors, interest and discrimination, stimulate each other. Finally consciousness develops, gradually and fitfully; and it becomes another agent of stimulation.
4. In this lecture, the dominant topic is Expression. Accordingly, we now pass to the outstanding example of the way in which mankind has fabricated its manageable connections with the world into a means of expression. Language is the triumph of human ingenuity, surpassing even the intricacies of modern technology. It tells of widespread intelligence, sustained throughout scores of thousands of years. It is interesting that from the alternatives, sight and sound, sound was the medium first developed. There might have been a language of gesticulation. Indeed, there is a trace of it. But the weak
( 45) point of gesticulation is that one cannot do much else while indulging in it. The advantage of sound is that the limbs are left free while we produce it.
But there is a deeper reason for the unconscious recourse to sound-production. Hands and arms constitute the more unnecessary parts of the body. We can do without them. They do not excite the intimacies of bodily existence. Whereas in the production of sound, the lungs and throat are brought into play. So that in speech, while a superficial, manageable expression is diffused, yet the sense of the vague intimacies of organic existence is also excited. Thus voice-produced sound is a natural symbol for the deep experiences of organic existence.
This sense of reality is of great importance for the effectiveness of symbolism. Personal interviews carry more weight than gramophone records. What an economy could be achieved if the Faculties of Colleges could be replaced by fifty gramophones and a few thousand records! Indeed, we might have expected that in the sixteenth century printed books would have replaced universities. On the contrary, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were an active period in the development of educational foundations. The sense of reality can never be adequately sustained amidst mere sensa, either of
( 46) sound or sight. The connexity of existence is of the essence of understanding.
Language has two functions. It is converse with another, and it is converse with oneself. The latter function is too often overlooked, so we will consider it first. Language is expression from one's past into one's present. It is the reproduction in the present of sensa which have intimate association with the realities of the past. Thus the experience of the past is rendered distinct in the present, with a distinctness borrowed from the welldefined sensa. In this way, an articulated memory is the gift of language, considered as an expression from oneself in the past to oneself in the present.
Again by the aid of a common language, the fragmentary past experiences of the auditor, as enshrined in words, can be recombined into a novel imaginative experience by the reception of the coherent sentences of the speaker. Thus in both functions of language the immediate imaginative experience is enormously increased, and is stamped with a sense of realization, or of possible realization.
'When we examine the content of language, that is to say, the experiences which it symbolizes, it is remarkable how largely it points away from the abstractions of high grade sensa. Its meaning presupposes the concrete relations of real events
( 47) happening and issuing from each other. What Descartes, in his Meditations, terms a `Realitas Objectiva' clings to most sentences, especially to those recording the simpler experiences.
Consider, for example, the homely illustration, used earlier in this lecture, of the angry man who knocks his neighbour down. We each of us frame a pictorial imagination of such a scene. But the flux of imagined sensa is not of the essence of our thought. The event may have generated sensory schemes in a thousand ways. It may" have happened by day, or by night. It may have happened in the street, or in a room. Every variety of attitudes for victor and for vanquished is indifferent. Yet amid all this ambiguity of sensa, the stubborn flux of events is asserted, that the fist of the angry man completely upset the stable functioning of his victim's body. It is not a flux of sensa which is asserted, but a bodily collapse as the result of the expressiveness of the angry man.
Also the anger of the man undoubtedly affected the functioning of his own body. A careful physiological examination with a microscope could have yielded many visual sensa to an observer! Again, consider the variety of sensory pictures which are aroused by the notion of one man knocking another down. What is it that binds them together? In themselves, they are
( 48) merely different compositions of visual sensa. Their unity consists in the type of connected process in the world that they suggest.
Deserting this special example, different sensory experiences derived from the same action have a unity, namely, in the identity of the action. The accounts may be in different languages and may fasten upon different transitions of visual or auditory sensa; and yet they refer to the same action. Also the action may not be purely physical. Heroism, and courage, and love, and hatred are possible characteristics of things that happen.
The essence of language is that it utilizes those elements in experience most easily abstracted for conscious entertainment, and most easily reproduced in experience. By the long usage of humanity, these elements are associated with their meanings which embrace a large variety of human experiences. Each language embalms an historic tradition. Each language is the civilization of expression in the social systems which use it. Language is the systematization of expression.
Of all the ways of expressing thought, beyond question language is the most important. It has been held even that language is thought, and that thought is language. Thus a sentence is the thought. There are many learned works in which
( 49) this doctrine is tacitly presupposed; and in not a few it is explicitly stated.
If this extreme doctrine of language be adopted, it is difficult to understand how translation from language to language, or within the same language between alternative sentences, is possible. If the sentence is the thought, then another sentence is another thought. It is true that no translation is perfect. But how can the success of imperfection be achieved when not a word, or a syllable, or an order of succession is the same. If you appeal to grammar, you are appealing to a meaning which lies behind words, syllables, and orders of succession. Some of us struggle to find words to express our ideas. If the words and their order together constitute the ideas, how does the struggle arise? We should then be struggling to obtain ideas; whereas we are conscious of ideas verbally unexpressed.
Let it be admitted then that language is not the essence of thought. But this conclusion must be carefully limited. Apart from language, the retention of thought, the easy recall of thought, the interweaving of thought into higher complexity, the communication of thought, are all gravely limited. Human civilization is an outgrowth of language, and language is the product of advancing civilization. Freedom of thought is made possible by language: we are thereby re-
( 50) -leased from complete bondage to the immediacies of mood and circumstance. It is no accident that the Athenians from whom we derive our Western notions of freedom enjoyed the use of a language supreme for its delicate variety.
The denial that language is of the essence of thought, is not the assertion that thought is possible apart from the other activities co÷rdinated with it. Such activities may be termed the expression of thought. When these activities satisfy certain conditions, they are termed a language. The whole topic of these lectures is the discussion of the interdependence of thought and its expressive activities.
Such activities, emotional and physical, are older than thought. They existed in our ancestors when thought slumbered in embryo. Thought is the outcome of its own concurrent activities; and having thus arrived upon the scene, it modifies and adapts them. The notion of pure thought in abstraction from all expression is a figment of the learned world. A thought is a tremendous mode of excitement. Like a stone thrown into a pond it disturbs the whole surface of our being. But this image is inadequate. For we should conceive the ripples as effective in the creation of the plunge of the stone into the water. The ripples release the thought, and the thought augments and distorts the ripples. In order to under-
( 51) -stand the essence of thought we must study its relation to the ripples amid which it emerges.
5. Nevertheless, putting aside these refinements as to the origins and effects of thought, language, as commonly understood in the most simple-minded way, stands out as the habitual effect of thought, and the habitual revelation of thought. In order to understand the modes of thought we must endeavour to recall the psychology which has produced the civilization of language—or, if you prefer to invert the expression, the language of civilization.
The first point to notice is that we now employ two distinct types of language, namely, the language of sound and the language of sight. There is speech, and there is writing. The language of writing is very modern. Its history extends for less than ten thousand years, even if we allow for the faint anticipations of writing in the primitive pictures. But writing as an effective instrument of thought, with widespread influence, may be given about five or six thousand years at the most.
Writing as a factor in human experience is comparable to the steam-engine. It is important, modern, and artificial. Speech is as old as human nature itself. It is one of the primary factors constituting human nature. We must not exaggerate. It is now possible to elicit the full stretch of
( 52) human experience by other devices when speech in exceptional instances is denied. But speech, developing as a general social acquirement, was one leading creative factor in the uprise of humanity. Speech is human nature itself, with none of the artificiality of written language.
Finally, we now so habitually intermingle writing and speech in our daily experience that, when we discuss language, we hardly know whether we refer to speech, or to writing, or to the mixture of both. But this final mixture is very modern. About five hundred years ago, only a small minority could read—at least among the European races. That is one great reason for the symbolism of religion, and for the pictorial signs of inns and of shops. The armorial bearings of great nobles were a substitute for writing. The effect of writing on the psychology of language is a neglected chapter in the history of civilization.
Speech, in its embryonic stage as exemplified in animal and human behaviour, varies between emotional expression and signalling. In the course of such variation it rapidly becomes a mixture of both. Throughout its most elaborate developments, speech retains these three characterizations, namely, emotional expression, signalling, and interfusion of the two. And yet somehow in the intellectualized language of advanced civilizations, these characteristics seem to fade into the
( 53) background. They suggest something which has lost its dominating position. We cannot understand modes of thought in the recent civilizations of the last thirty centuries unless we attend to this subtle change in the function of language. The presuppositions of language are various.
Language arose with a dominating reference to an immediate situation. Whether it was signal or expression, above all things it was this reaction to that situation in this environment. In the origin of language the particularity of the immediate present was an outstanding element in the meaning conveyed. The genus `bird' remained in the background of undiscerned meaning; even these particular birds on some other occasion were but dimly sensed. What language primarily conveyed was the direction of attention to these birds, here, now, amid these surroundings.
Language has gradually achieved the abstraction of its meanings from the presupposition of any particular environment. The fact that the French dictionary is published in Paris, at a definite date, is irrelevant to the meanings of the words as explained in the dictionary. The French equivalent to the English word `green', means just `green', whatever be the state of Europe, or of the planetary system. `Green' is `green', and there is the end of it. There is nothing more to
( 53) be said, when you once understand the word in reference to its meaning.
Of course, we are much more civilized than our ancestors who could merely think of green in reference to some particular spring morning. There can be no doubt about our increased powers of thought, of analysis, of recollection, and of conjecture. We cannot congratulate ourselves too warmly on the fact that we are born among people who can talk about green in abstraction from springtime. But at this point we must remember the warning—Nothing too much.
So long as language is predominantly speech, the reference to some particularity of environment is overwhelming. Consider the simple phrase `a warm day'. In a book, as interpreted by a standard dictionary, the words have a generalised meaning which refers to the rotation of the earth, the existence of the sun, and the scientific doctrine of temperature. Now put aside the dictionary, and forget all scraps of science.
Then, with this abstraction from learning, the experience indicated by the ejaculation `a warm day' is very different for speakers in Texas, or on the coast of England bordering the North Sea. And yet' there is an identity of meaning. Nothing too much.
We have to understand language as conveying the identities on which knowledge is based, and
( 55) as presupposing the particularity of reference to the environment which is the essence of existence. Spoken language is immersed in the immediacy of social intercourse. Written language lies hidden in a volume, to be opened and read at diverse times and in diverse places, in abstraction from insistent surroundings. But a book can be read aloud. Here we find an instance of the fusion of writing and speech. Reading aloud is an art, and the reader makes a great difference. The immediacy of the environment then enters into the abstraction of writing.
The abstraction, inherent in the development of language, has its dangers. It leads away from the realities of the immediate world. Apart from a balanced emphasis, it ends in the triviality of quick-witted people. And yet, for all its dangers, this abstraction is responsible for the final uprise of civilization. It gives expression to the conceptual experiences, latent throughout nature, although kept under by vast conformity to average matter-of-fact. In mankind, these conceptual experiences are co÷rdinated, and express themselves throughout their environment. This co÷rdination has two aspects, aesthetic and logical. These aspects will form the topic of my next lecture.
In conclusion, it is time to sum up what I have been saying this afternoon. This lecture is nothing else than a modern rendering of the
( 56) oldest of civilized reflections on the development of the Universe as seen from the perspective of life on this earth. In comparing modern thought with ancient records, we must remember the difficulties of translation, and the difficulties of any thinker battling with the verbal expression of thought which penetrates below the ordinary usages of the market place. For instance, How differently would Aristotle's metaphysical reflections read if we persisted in translating one of his metaphysical key-words by the English term `wood', and also insisted on giving the most literal meaning to that word. There is evidence that three thousand years ago there were deep thinkers, enmeshed as to their imaginations in the trivial modes of presentation belonging to their own days.
But we can discern in the records, which have been edited and re-edited by unimaginative scribes, the notion of the evolution of the universe as viewed from the perspective of life on this earth. We can discern the classification, involving the large physical grades, the grades of vegetation and of animal life, the final rise to human life.
We can also discern the notion of the interweaving of language with the rise of human experience, in the na´ve, childish account of the naming of things. In fact, the whole ancient ac-
( 57) -count is simple-minded in the extreme. And yet the pretentious generalities of the modern rendering do not attain much more than an endeavour to avoid the over-sharp divisions between the various stages, and the excessive simplification of the agencies involved.
This lecture has been written in terms of immanence, and in terms of action and reaction. Its final conclusion respecting human nature, is that the mentality of mankind and the language of mankind created each other. If we like to assume the rise of language as a given fact, then it is not going too far to say that the souls of men are the gift from language to mankind.
The account of the sixth day should be written, He gave them speech, and they became souls.