Modes of Thought
Lecture Six: Civilized Universe
Alfred North Whitehead
IN THIS LECTURE we seek the evidence for that conception of the universe which is the justification for the ideals characterizing the civilized phases of human society.
We have been assuming as self-evident the many actualities, their forms of co÷rdination in the historic process, their separate importance, and their joint importance for the universe in its unity. It must be clearly understood, as stated in the earlier lectures, that we are not arguing from well-defined premises. Philosophy is the search for premises. It is not deduction. Such deductions as occur are for the purpose of testing the starting-points by the evidence of the conclusions.
A special science takes the philosophic assumptions and transforms them into comparative clarity by narrowing them to the forms of the special topic in question. Also even in reasoning thus limited to special topics, there is no absolute conclusiveness in the deductive logic. The premises have assumed their limited clarity by reason of
( 144) presuming the irrelevance of considerations extraneous to the assigned topic. The premises are conceived in the simplicity of their individual isolation. But there can be no logical test for the possibility that deductive procedure, leading to the elaboration of compositions, may introduce into relevance considerations from which the primitive notions of the topic have been abstracted. The mutual conformity of the various perspectives can never be adequately determined.
The history of science is full of such examples of sciences bursting through the bounds of their original assumptions. Even in pure abstract logic as applied to arithmetic, it has within the last half century been found necessary to introduce a doctrine of types in order to correct the omissions of the original premises.
Thus deductive logic has not the coercive supremacy which is conventionally conceded to it. 'When applied to concrete instances, it is a tentative procedure, finally to be judged by the self-evidence of its issues. This doctrine places philosophy on a pragmatic basis. But the meaning of 'pragmatism 'must be given its widest extension. In much modern thought, it has been limited by arbitrary specialist assumptions. There should be no pragmatic exclusion of self-evidence by dogmatic denial. Pragmatism is simply an appeal to that self-evidence which sustains
( 145) itself in civilized experience. Thus pragmatism ultimately appeals to the wide self-evidence of civilization, and to the self-evidence of what we mean by 'civilization'.
Before we finally dismiss deductive logic, it is well to note the function of the 'variable' in logical reason. In this connection the term 'variable' is applied to a symbol, occurring in a propositional form which merely indicates any entity to which the propositional form can be validly applied, so as to constitute a determinate proposition. Also the variable, though undetermined, sustains its identity throughout the arguments. The notion originally assumed importance in algebra, in the familiar letters such as x, y, z indicating any numbers. It also appears somewhat tentatively in the Aristotelian syllogisms, where names such as 'Socrates', indicate 'any man, the same throughout the argument'.
The use of the variable is to indicate the self-identity of some use of 'any' throughout a train of reasoning. For example in elementary algebra when x first appears it means 'any number'. But in that train of reasoning, the reappearance of x always means 'the same number' as in that original appearance. Thus the variable is an ingenious combination of the vagueness of 'any' with the definiteness of a particular indication.
In logical reasoning, which proceeds by the
( 146) use of the variable, there are always two tacit presuppositions—one is that the definite symbols of composition can retain the same meaning as the reasoning elaborates novel compositions. The other presupposition is that this self-identity of each variable can be preserved when the variable is replaced by some definite instance. Complete self-identity can never be preserved in any advance to novelty. The only question is, as to whether the loss is relevant to the purposes of the argument. The baby in the cradle, and the grown man in middle age, are in some senses identical and in other senses diverse. Is the train of argument in its conclusions substantiated by the identity or vitiated by the diversity?
We thus dismiss deductive logic as a major instrument for metaphysical discussion. Such discussion is concerned with the eliciting of self-evidence. Apart from such self-evidence, deduction fails. Thus logic presupposes metaphysics.
2. What is the dominating insight whereby we presuppose ourselves as actualities within a world of actualities? There can be no argument from a purely subjective experience of qualitative details so as validly to infer a world of actualities co÷rdinate with ourselves. A 'form of reception' will then be simply a mode of make-belief. In other words, a form of reception is re-
( 147) -duced to an account of our solipsist existence. It describes our individual experience of a display of qualitative pattern. It gives an account of an activity within us. It gives no account of ourselves as activities among other activities. It misses the point that we know ourselves as creatures in a world of creatures. We are reduced to an enjoyment of mere appearance. With such assumptions there are no data for the insight into a world of many co÷rdinated actualities.
In the discussion of our experience, the first point for notice is the superficial variability in our clear consciousness of qualitative detail. The decisive consciousness that this is red, and that is loud, and this other is square, results from an effort of concentration and elimination. Also it is never sustained. There is always a flickering variation, varied by large scale transference of attention. Consciousness is an ever-shifting process of abstracting shifting quality from a massive process of essential existence. It emphasizes. And yet, if we forget the background, the result is triviality.
Concentration of attention on sheer qualitative detail can result in consciousness of mere succession of such detail. For example, we record a red-and-green pattern succeeded by a blue-and-grey pattern, the experience being closed by a clear bell-like sound. There is a qualitative sub-
( 148) -jective experience. That and nothing more. The whole meaningless. This is the result of obtaining a clear-cut experience by concentrating on the abstractions of consciousness.
But we are conscious of more than clarity. The importance of clarity does not arise until we have interpreted it in terms of the vast issues vaguely haunting the fullness of existence.
It is here that the prominent epistemology of the modern centuries has been so weak. It has interpreted the totality of experience as a mere reaction to an initial clarity of sensa. The result is that the reaction is limited to the data provided by the sensa. Such modern schools of philosophic thought can simply ask, 'What is the sensible emotional reaction to a red-and-green pattern, succeeded by a blue-and-grey pattern, succeeded by a clear bell-like sound? The answer is, 'What you like, except you are a high-brow intellectual when you will follow the current reactions of Greenwich Village and Harvard, if you are American, and of Bloomsbury and Oxford, if you are English.
In other words, the mass of our moral, emotional, and purposive experience is rendered trivial and accidental. The whole notion of our massive experience conceived as a reaction to clearly envisaged details is fallacious. The relationship should be inverted. The details are a
( 149) reaction to the totality. They add definition. They introduce powers of judgment. They exalt men above animals, and animals above vegetables, and vegetables beyond stones, always provided that they are kept in their proper relation to the soil from which they originate. They are interpretive and not originative. 'What is original is the vague totality.
Of course, the clarity of experience does originate further experience, by reason of its very clarity. But this origination is a secondary fact, and is not the basis of the whole. We enter the room already equipped with an active aesthetic experience, and we are charmed with the forms and colouring of the furniture. The sensory experience of the room adds vividness and point to an activity of feeling already possessed.
3. At the base of our existence is the sense of 'worth'. Now 'worth' essentially presupposes that which is 'worthy'. Here the notion of worth is not to be construed in a purely eulogistic sense. It is the sense of existence for its own sake, of existence which is its own justification, of existence with its own character.
The discrimination of detail is definitely a secondary process, which may or may not assume importance. There is the germ of discrimination, which may or may not flower into a varied experience. The dim decision is a large-scale judg-
( 150) -ment—namely, avoidance or maintenance. The stage of analysis into details, of which some are to be discarded, others are to be maintained, has not arrived. There is simply the large-scale feeling as to the totality—avoid it or maintain it.
Again the primitive stage of discrimination is not primarily qualitative. It is the vague grasp of reality, dissecting it into a three-fold scheme, namely, The Whole, That Other, and This-My-Self.
This is primarily a dim division. The sense of totality obscures the analysis into self and others. Also this division is primarily based on the sense of existence as a value-experience. Namely, the total value-experience is discriminated into this value-experience and those value-experiences. There is the vague sense of many which are one; and of one which includes the many. Also there are two senses of the one—namely, the sense of the one which is all, and the sense of the one among the many.
The fundamental basis of this description is that our experience is a value-experience, expressing a vague sense of maintenance or discard; and that this value-experience differentiates itself in the sense of many existences with value-experience; and that this sense of the multiplicity of value-experiences again differentiates it into the totality of value-experience, and the
( 151) many other value-experiences, and the egoistic value-experience. There is the feeling of the ego, the others, the totality. This is the vague, basic presentation of the differentiation of existence, in its enjoyment of discard and maintenance. We are, each of us, one among others; and all of us are embraced in the unity of the whole.
The basis of democracy is the common fact of value-experience, as constituting the essential nature of each pulsation of actuality. Everything has some value for itself, for others, and for the whole. This characterizes the meaning of actuality. By reason of this character, constituting reality, the conception of morals arises. We have no right to deface the value-experience which is the very essence of the universe. Existence, in its own nature, is the upholding of value-intensity. Also no unit can separate itself from the others, and from the whole. And yet each unit exists in its own right. It upholds value-intensity for itself, and this involves sharing value-intensity with the universe. Everything that in any sense exists has two sides, namely, its individual self and its signification in the universe. Also either of these aspects is a factor in the other.
So far, we have been considering the dim foundation of experience. In animal experience there supervenes a process of keen discrimination of quality. The sense-experiences, such as
( 152) sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and so on, are distinguished. Also within each such species of quality, clear distinctions are discerned, for example, red and green, distinctions of note, distinctions of taste.
With the rise of clear sensations relating themselves to the universe of value-feeling, the world of human experience is defined.
4. At this point, the preceding exposition must be reviewed. It is evident that the current doctrine of epistemology has been completely inverted. This current doctrine culminated in the eighteenth century with Hume's Treatise. It bases itself upon the well-defined factors in our experience. Undoubtedly there are these sensa, such as sensations of colour, sound, and so on. It is then assumed that because they are definite, therefore they are fundamental.
The other factors in experiences are therefore to be construed as derivative, in the sense of owing their origin to these sensa. Emotions, aspirations, hopes, fears, love, and hate, intentions, and recollections are merely concerned with sensa. Apart from sensa, they would be non-existent.
This is the doctrine which in this lecture is being denied. The only mode of decision can be by an appeal to the self-evidence of experience. In Hume's Treatise, this appeal is the basis on which
( 153) he founds his doctrine.
In opposition to Hume's interpretation of experience, the first point to notice is that these distinct sensa are the most variable elements in our lives. We can shut our eyes, or be permanently blind. None-the-less we are alive. We can be deaf. And yet we are alive. We can shift and transmute these details of experience almost at will.
Further, in the course of a day our experience varies with respect to its entertainment of sensa. We are wide-awake, we doze, we meditate, we sleep. There is nothing basic in the clarity of our entertainment of sensa. Also in the course of our lives, we start in the womb, in the cradle, and we gradually acquire the art of correlating our fundamental experience to the clarity of newly-acquired sensa.
Again, human beings are merely one species in the throng of existences. There are the animals, the vegetables, the microbes, the living cells, the inorganic physical activities. At the beginning of science, nature was surveyed as including diversities of species and genera, separated by impassible boundaries. Today the doctrine of evolution reigns. We need not necessarily conceive this doctrine as implying evolution upwards. What we do observe is the historic transition from species to species, and genera to genera. The qualitative experiences of the various animals seem to be
( 154) vastly different. In some respects, more keenly felt than among human beings—for example, the sense of smell by some dogs. In other respects, there is reason to suspect a certain dimness of such experience in living things with low types ofbodily organization. And yet they react to the external world.
In other words, reaction to the environment is not in proportion to clarity of sensory experience. Any such doctrine would sweep away the whole of modern physical science as being expressed in terms of irrelevancies. Reaction does not depend upon sense-experience for its initiation.
Now confine the argument to human experience, which we know at first hand. This experience does not depend for its excellence simply upon clarity of sense-experience. The specialist in clarity sinks to an animal level—the hound for smell, the eagle for sight.
Human beings are amateurs in sense-experience. The direct, vivid clarity does not dominate so as to obscure the infinite variety involved in the composition of reality. The sense-experience is an abstraction which illustrates and stimulates the completeness of actuality. It increases importance. But the importance thus elicited is more than a colour-scheme of red, white, and blue. It involves the infinitude of actuality, hidden in its finitude of realization.
5. Descartes, following a tradition stretching back to the very origin of philosophy, derives a proof of the existence of God from the notion of perfection. His argument fails, because he abstracts God from the historic universe. Thus the conclusion depends upon meaningless phrases respecting the unknown. We and our relationships are in the universe.
The starting point of philosophy is the determination of that aspect of experience which most fully exhibits the universal necessities of existence. In answer to this problem Descartes gave the formula 'clarity and distinctness'. He thereby inevitably prepared the way for Hume in the next century. The immense value of the philosophic discussions produced by Descartes and by Hume, arises from the fact that neither of them consistently followed this formula. Undoubtedly the clear and distinct factors in human experience are the high grade sensa. We have been considering the reasons for the conclusion that these distinct sensory factors are comparatively superficial elements in our lives.
Nothing is more astonishing in the history of philosophic thought than the na´ve way in which our association with our human bodies is assumed. The unity of man and his body is taken for granted. Where does my body end and the external world begin? For example, my pen is ex-
( 156) -ternal; my hand is part of my body; and my finger nails are part of my body. Also the breath as it passes in and out of my lungs from my mouth and throat fluctuates in its bodily relationship. Undoubtedly the body is very vaguely distinguishable from external nature. It is in fact merely one among other natural objects.
And yet, the unity 'body and mind' is the obvious complex which constitutes the one human being. Our bodily experience is the basis of existence. How is it to be characterized? In the first place, it is not primarily an experience of sense-data, in the clear and distinct sense of that term. The internal functioning of a healthy body provides singularly few sense-data, primarily associated with itself. When such sense-data appear, we send for a doctor. They are mostly aches and pains. And yet our feeling of bodily-unity is a primary experience. It is an experience so habitual and so completely a matter of course that we rarely mention it. No one ever says, Here am I, and I have brought my body with me.
In what does this intimacy of relationship consist? The body is the basis of our emotional and purposive experience. It determines the way in which we react to the clear sensa. It determines the fact that we enjoy sensa. But the eye-strain in sight is not the eye-sight. We see with our eyes; we do not see our eyes.
The body is that portion of nature with which each moment of human experience intimately co÷perates. There is an inflow and outflow of factors between the bodily actuality and the human experience, so that each shares in the existence of the other. The human body provides our closest experience of the interplay of actualities in nature.
Ordinary language, and the sciences of physiology and psychology, supply the evidence. This evidence is three-fold: namely, the body is part of nature, the body supplies the basis of emotional and sensory activities, and the agitations of human experience pass into subsequent bodily functionings.
The body is that part of nature whose functionings are so co÷rdinated as to be reciprocally co÷rdinated with the functionings of the corresponding human experience. There is a transfer of types of agitation.
So long as nature was conceived in terms of the passive, instantaneous existence of bits of matter, according to Newton or Democritus, a difficulty arises. For there is an essential distinction between matter at an instant and the agitations of experience. But this conception of matter has now been swept away. Analogous notions of activity, and of forms of transition, apply to human experience and to the human body. Thus
( 158) bodily activities and forms of experience can be construed in terms of each other. Also the body is part of nature. Thus we finally construe the world in terms of the type of activities disclosed in our intimate experience.
6. This conclusion must not be distorted. The fallacious notion of passive matter has by a reaction led to a distorted account of human experience. Human nature has been described in terms of its vivid accidents, and not of its existential essence. The description of its essence must apply to the unborn child, to the baby in its cradle, to the state of sleep, and to that vast background of feeling hardly touched by consciousness. Clear, conscious discrimination is an accident of human existence. It makes us human. But it does not make us exist. It is of the essence of our humanity. But it is an accident of our existence.
What is our primary experience which lies below and gives its meaning to our conscious analysis of qualitative detail? In our analysis of detail we are presupposing a background which supplies a meaning. These vivid accidents accentuate something which is already there. We require to describe that factor in our experience which, being a matter of course, does not enter prominently into conversation. There is no need to mention it. For this reason language is
( 159) very ineffective for the exposition of metaphysics.
Our enjoyment of actuality is a realization of worth, good or bad. It is a value-experience. Its basic expression is—Have a care, here is something that matters! Yes—that is the best phrase —the primary glimmering of consciousness reveals, Something that matters.
This experience provokes attention, dim and, all but, subconscious. Attention yields a three-fold character in the 'Something that matters'. Totality, Externality, and Internality are the primary characterizations of 'that which matters'. They are not to be conceived as clear, analytic concepts. Experience awakes with these dim presuppositions to guide its rising clarity of detailed analysis. They are presuppositions in the sense of expressing the sort of obviousness which experience exhibits. There is the totality of actual fact; there is the externality of many facts; there is the internality of this experiencing which lies within the totality.
These three divisions are on a level. No one in any sense precedes the other. There is the whole fact containing within itself my fact and the other facts. Also the dim meaning of fact--or actuality —is intrinsic importance for itself, for the others, and for the whole.
7. Of course all our terms of speech are too special, and refer too explicitly to higher stages
( 160) of experience. For this reason, philosophy is analogous to imaginative art. It suggests meanings beyond its mere statements. On the whole, elaborate phrases enshrine the more primitive meanings.
Also as disclosure develops, facts disclose themselves as stages in the transitions of history. Importance reveals itself as transitions of emotion. My importance is my emotional worth now, embodying in itself derivations from the whole, and from the other facts, and embodying in itself reference to future creativity.
These embodiments both unify the many facts in the experiencing self, and at the same time differentiate these facts by their variety of reference to that self. Some facts have such closeness of reference to the immediate self that an intimate unity with them is claimed. In this way, the concept of self-identical enduring personal existence dawns. It is the concept of one person with many stages of existence. But the basis of all experience is this immediate stage of experiencing, which is myself now. Also the external facts, as disclosed in experiencing, tend more vaguely and flittingly to group themselves in the same way.
But the sense of importance is not exclusively referent to the experiencing self. It is exactly this vague sense which differentiates itself into the disclosure of the whole, the many, and the self.
( 161) It is the importance of the others which melts into the importance of the self. Actuality is the self-enjoyment of importance. But this self-enjoyment has the character of the self-enjoyment of others melting into the enjoyment of the one self. The most explicit example of this is our realization of those other actualities, which we conceive as ourselves in our recent past, fusing their self-enjoyment with our immediate present. This is only the most vivid instance of the unity of the universe in each individual actuality.
The main point of this description is the concept of actuality as something that matters, by reason of its own self-enjoyment, which includes enjoyment of others and transitions towards the future.
Qualitative discrimination now arrives in the formation of the completed experience. The variety of quality is infinite. Thus every description is narrowed by some specialty of quality which is unconsciously presupposed.
There is the dim qualification enjoyed by the lowest types of actuality. There are the clear, distinct qualities enjoyed in human experience. There is every stage in between, and there are numberless stages which human experience has never touched. Undoubtedly, if we may trust our memories of the variety of human experience, the discrimination of quality immensely increases
( 162) the intensity of experience. The sense of importance is a function of the analysis of experienced quality. It is hardly too much to say this. But it is too much; or rather, it is too simple an explanation. It does seem invariably the case, that the intrinsic importance of an experience requires a large clarity of analysis for one of its factors. Here the phrase 'intrinsic importance' means 'importance for itself'.
But the whole point of this exposition is that our discrimination is exercised upon an experienced world. This world is the subject-matter for qualitative discrimination. Civilization involves the understanding of the given world in respect to its qualifications.
8. This doctrine exactly inverts Hume's point of view, and the variant points of view derived from his doctrines. Hume makes the qualifications primary; and the world is introduced as a secondary conjecture. It is to be noticed that our exposition is nothing else than the expansion of the insight that 'power' is the basis of our notions of 'substance'. This notion of 'power' is to be found in Locke and in Plato, flittingly expressed and never developed. Our experience starts with a sense of power, and proceeds to the discrimination of individualities and their qualities.
Another consequence is that 'actuality' is in its essence 'composition'. Power is the compul-
( 163) -sion of composition. Every other type of composition is a half-way stage in the attainment of actuality. The final actuality has the unity of power. The essence of power is the drive towards aesthetic worth for its own sake. All power is a derivative from this fact of composition attaining worth for itself. There is no other fact. Power and Importance are aspects of this fact. It constitutes the drive of the universe. It is efficient cause, maintaining its power of survival. It is final cause, maintaining in the creature its appetition for creation.
The sense of externality is based on the primary self-analysis of the process of composition. This analysis discloses factors in the composition, with their own self-enjoyment and contributing that self-enjoyment to the immediate composition in which they are factors.
There are two types of such factors. In one type there are the many factors which form the historic environment for the new creation in the historic process. They are factors in the new composition which in its completion is one of themselves. This is a primary deliverance of experience, and if philosophical dictionaries have no single words to express it—so much the worse for the dictionaries.
9. The second type of factor has, by the nature of the case, only one example. It is that factor
( 164) disclosed in our sense of the value, for its own sake, of the totality of historic fact in respect to its essential unity. There is a unity in the universe, enjoying value and (by its immanence) sharing value. For example, take the subtle beauty of a flower in some isolated glade of a primeval forest. No animal has ever had the subtlety of experience to enjoy its full beauty. And yet this beauty is a grand fact in the universe. When we survey nature and think however flitting and superficial has been the animal enjoyment of its wonders, and when we realize how incapable the separate cells and pulsations of each flower are of enjoying the total effect—then our sense of the value of the details for the totality dawns upon our consciousness. This is the intuition of holiness, the intuition of the sacred, which is at the foundation of all religion. In every advancing civilization this sense of sacredness has found vigorous expression. It tends to retire into a recessive factor in experience, as each phase of civilization enters upon its decay.
We are now discussing an alternative rendering of Descartes' notion of 'perfection'. It is the notion of that power in history which implants into the form of process, belonging to each historic epoch, the character of a drive towards some ideal, to be realized within that period. This ideal is never realized, it is beyond realization,
( 165) and yet it moulds the form of what is realized.
For example, there is an ideal of human liberty, activity, and co÷peration dimly adumbrated in the American Constitution. It has never been realized in its perfection; and by its lack of characterization of the variety of possibilities open for humanity, it is limited and imperfect. And yet, such as it is, the Constitution vaguely discloses the immanence in this epoch of that one energy of idealization, whereby bare process is transformed into glowing history.
In this discussion we are upholding the thesis that the sense of external reality—that is to say, the sense of being one actuality in a world of actualities—is the gift of aesthetic significance. This experience claims a relevance beyond the finite immediacy of any one occasion of experience. If in that occasion, there is a failure consciously to discern that significance, so much the worse for that occasion. This doctrine appliesto all experience, great and small. Our intuitions of righteousness disclose an absoluteness in the nature of things, and so does the taste of a lump of sugar.
The variations of importance are beyond our weak imaginations; and yet aesthetic importance in any factor of experience carries its proof of existence beyond present immediacy. The ego enjoys an importance stretching beyond itself.
The rise of animal, and then of human, consciousness is the triumph of specialization. It is closely connected with the evolution of clear and distinct sensory experience. There is abstraction from the vague mass of primary feelings, and concentration upon the comparative clarity of a few qualitative details. These are the sensa.
Unless the physical and physiological sciences are fables, the qualitative experiences which are the sensations, such as sight, hearing, etc., are involved in an intricate flux of reactions within and without the animal body. These are all hidden below consciousness in the vague sense of personal experience of an external world. This feeling is massive and vague—so vague that the pretentious phrase, namely, personal experience of an external world, sounds nonsense. A particular instance can be explained more simply. For example, 'I see a blue stain out there', implies the privacy of the ego and the externality of 'out there'. There is the presupposition of 'me' and the world beyond. But consciousness is concentrated on the quality blue in that position. Nothing can be more simple or more abstract. And yet unless the physicist and physiologist are talking nonsense, there is a terrific tale of complex activity omitted in the abstraction.
Further, our subsequent actions conform to the tales of the scientists, and not primarily to the
( 167) blueness of the stain. We may want to preserve or modify the experience. But inexorably our actions are directive of our bodies. We do not touch the quality blue. We stretch out our arms to modify the relations of the blue thing to the various activities in its environment.
In so far as we are merely conscious of the formal relationships of qualities, there is aesthetic failure. It is the recognition of the arid fact of the possibility of relationship. The sense of reality is the sense of effectiveness, and the sense of effectiveness is the drive towards the satisfaction of appetition. There is a past, real in its own right, satisfying itself in the present.
Io. Fact includes in its own nature something which is not fact, although it constitutes a realized item within fact. This is the conceptual side of fact. But, as usual, the philosophic tradition is too abstract. There is no such independent item in actuality as 'mere concept'. The concept is always clothed with emotion, that is to say, with hope, or with fear, or with hatred, or with eager aspiration, or with the pleasure of analysis. The variations in the quality of appetition are infinite. But the notion of 'mere concept', or of 'mere realization', apart from a relevant emotional derivation, which is its emotional origin, is fallacious. The doctrine here maintained is to be found in Hume, except that he oversimplifies the problem
( 168) by conceiving an initial bare occurrence of sense-impressions devoid of essential relationship to other factors in experience. In his subsequent argument he is apt fortunately to forget his explicit premises. So it is possible to construe his meaning in many ways. But in his controversy with antagonistic modes of thought, he judges them by the strict consequences of these premises.
The final conclusion from the discussions included in this course of lectures is the importance of a right adjustment of the process of abstraction. Those characteristics of experience which separate the higher from the lower species of actualities all depend upon abstraction. The living germs are distinguished from lifeless physical activities by the abstractions inherent in their existence. The higher animals are distinguished from mere life, by their abstractions, and by their use of them. Mankind is distinguished from animal life by its emphasis on abstractions. The degeneracy of mankind is distinguished from its uprise by the dominance of║ chill abstractions, divorced from aesthetic content.
The growth of consciousness is the uprise of abstractions. It is the growth of emphasis. The totality is characterized by a selection from its details. That selection claims attention, enjoyment, action, and purpose, all relative to itself. This concentration evokes an energy of self-
( 169) -realization. It is a step towards unification with that drive towards realization which discloses the unity of aim in the historic process.
But this enhancement of energy presupposes that the abstraction is preserved with its adequate relevance to the concrete sense of value-attainment from which it is derived. In this way, the effect of the abstraction stimulates the vividness and depth of the whole of experience. It stirs the depths.
Thus a fortunate use of abstractions is of the essence of upward evolution. But there is no necessity of such good use. Abstractions may function in experience so as to separate them from their relevance to the totality. In that case, the abstractive experience is a flicker of interest which is destroying its own massive basis for survival.
It is interesting to note that in the entertainment of abstractions there is always present a preservative instinct aiming at the renewal of connection, which is the reverse of abstraction. This reverse process, partly instinctive and partly conscious, is wisdom of that higher life made possible by abstraction.
For example, in the consciousness of sense-experience, we first fix attention on some sensory detail. We then glance around and attend to the environment of sights and sounds. We endeavour
( 170) to lift into consciousness meaningful units, such as the whole picture, the whole building, the living animal, the stone, the mountain, the tree.
Such vivid conscious experience is a return to the concrete. The return may be misconceived. The abstraction may misdirect us as to the real complex from which it originates. But, in the dim recesses behind consciousness there is the sense of realities behind abstractions. The sense of process is always present. There is the process of abstraction arising from the concrete totality of value-experience, and this process points back to its origin.
11.But consciousness, which is the supreme vividness of experience, does not rest content with the dumb sense of importance behind the veil. Its next procedure is to seek the essential connections within its own conscious area. This is the process of rationalization. This process is the recognition of essential connection within the apparent isolation of abstracted details. Thus rationalization is the reverse of abstraction, so far as abstraction can be reversed within the area of consciousness.
Our powers are finite. So, although no item in this process of reversion is necessarily beyond us, it is confined within the environment accidentally presented to us by our immediate area of con consciousness. Thus rationalization is the partial ful-
( 171) -filment of the ideal to recover concrete reality within the disjunction of abstraction.
This disjunction is the appearance which has been introduced as price of finite conscious discrimination. The concrete reality is the starting-point of the process of individual experience, and it is the goal in the rationalization of consciousness. The prize at the goal is the enhancement of experience by consciousness and rationality.