Cultural Reality

Chapter 3: The Concrete, Empirical Object and Historical Reality

Florian Znaniecki

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We have seen that actuality involves, in the course of objectivation, a growing distinction between reality as rational object-matter of thought and thought as logical activity handling the real materials. Absolutely objective reality and absolutely objective thought are only ideal limits of this actual objectivation, and since only that is empirically attainable which can be reached from actuality, the empirical world contains neither absolute reality nor absolute thought; any reality which can be empirically ascertained must preserve in some, however slight, measure the character of a subjective datum, any thought which can be empirically reconstructed must preserve in some, however slight, measure the character of a subjective association of data. Realities and thoughts are, indeed, objectivated and opposed to each other by being incorporated into systems of realities or thoughts, and, as we shall see later on, it is possible to consider them abstractly only within a given system, disregarding characters they may possess outside of it; it is by this abstract isolation that the concepts of pure or absolute reality, of pure or absolute thought, have been constructed. Once ready, those concepts have been used to reconstruct the full empirical, imperfectly objective realities and thoughts in their concreteness. But it is clearly an inversion of the proper method to deduce formally human experience and reflection in general from a theory of nature, or from a theory of absolute reason, or from a combination of both, since nature and absolute reason are attainable only by human experience and reflection.


Our method must therefore be entirely different. In studying reality, which is our present task, we must proceed from experience to more and more objective rational reality and not vice versa. Instead of assuming, as realism does, a maximum of objectivity and rationality as inherent in the real world and trying to show how this maximum decreases in personal experience, we must start with the minimum of objectivity and rationality which reality must have to exist at all as a plurality of objects transcending present experience and opposed to thought, and then show how this minimum can increase. For, even if we admitted provisionally that all reality as such possessed approximately that amount of rationality and objectivity which realism ascribes to it, it would be none the less continually experienced and reconstructed by experiencing individuals in the course of actual reflection. Therefore, even if the claims of realism were justified, empirical reality would still have to rise from that minimum of rationality and objectivity which is just necessary to make any personal datum a real object and to pass through many stages of rationalization and objectivation, before our actual reconstruction could empirically reach that highest level of rationality and objectivity which is postulated by realism. For a theory of empirical reality, the fact that the latter is continually reconstructed by personal reflection is at least as essential as the fact that it constitutes objective and rational systems which to the degree in which they are objective and rational are also assumed as independent in their constitution from personal experience and reflection. In a word, empirical reality moves between two limits: the limit of personal subjectivity and the limit of absolute objectivity and rationality, and we must determine the universal conditions, as a result of which it is raised above the first limit, before we attempt to show how it approaches to the second.

The necessity of such a method appears with particular evidence if we realize that, while all real objects must equally

(55) be reconstructed from actuality in order to exist for us at all, only some real objects approach near enough to the limit of absolute objectivity and rationality to permit us for certain scientific purposes to ignore their dependence on the experiencing and reflecting personalities; whereas many of them remain very far from this limit. Take, for instance, social institutions, works of literature, objects of religious worship, etc., in general all those objects which constitute cultural reality in the traditional, narrow sense of the term, as opposed to natural reality. It is clear that if we tried to study the former by the same realistic method which is applied by physical science to material objects and treated them as objective and perfectly rational, completely independent of personal experience and reflection, we would fail to understand them properly, for they are much too far from the absolute limit of realism to be sufficiently characterized from the standpoint of this limit alone. Thus, the provisional admission which we made above, that all reality may possess approximately the maximum of objectivity and rationality which realism ascribes to it, was too far-reaching. The fact that objects are continually reconstructed from actuality is not as much, but more fundamental for the purpose of a general characteristic of reality than the fact that they belong to objective, rational systems. Reality is primarily empirical and only secondarily rational; all real objects possess fully the empirical character, whereas their rationality is mostly imperfect, admits innumerable gradations, and can, as we shall see later, increase and decrease not merely from the standpoint of personal experience, but objectively, from the standpoint of their own real constitution. It is impossible to understand the objective rationality of the real world without having understood its concrete empirical character. We must therefore first of all study reality as empirical, leaving aide for the moment the question of its rational organization, and our first problem will be: how are empirical real objects constructed or reconstructed from personal data ?



The two fundamental characters which reality must possess in so far as empirical are, as follows from our preceding discussion, the possibility of being given in actual experience and of being reconstructed by actual reflection. Whatever a real object is as a part of the self-existing reality in general can be empirically ascertainable only in so far as this object becomes a datum in the course of experience; whatever a real object is' as object-matter of logical thought— in general can be empirically reconstructible only if and in so far as this object becomes the subject-matter of actual reflection.

We call content that which, while constituting the object as subject-matter of reflection, is also given in the course of experience, or, in terms of experience, the content can be defined as a datum of experience which is also subject-matter of reflection and thus transcends the limitation of its own presence here and now.

The content is therefore free from any subjective or objective determinations. It is free empirically from subjective determinations, because, though in fact present here and now, it is not affected by its presence here and now with regard to that which objectively constitutes it as subject-matter of reflection; it is given, but taken not as personal datum, only as subject-matter of reflection. We can have reality empirically given to us only because it is possible for us actually to ignore the fact of the content's actuality and to take it exclusively with regard to what it is as subject-matter of reflection, neglecting its appearance in the course of personal experience. It is rationally free from objective determinations, because whatever may be the system of objects to which it belongs, we must have it first given to us in itself before we take it as component of a system of reality; its rational character as object, part of a system, does not exist for us until we have reconstructed it by ourselves, by our own logical thought, and therefore the content as such is

(57) logically prior to any objective determination which the object may possess as part of a reality. Since all the definitions and classifications of our theoretic reflection bear upon objects, the formal character of the content must be expressed negatively; we must exclude from the definition of the content all the particular real forms which various classes of objects possess, thanks to their participation in various systems. But this negation represents only one side of the problem; for, since the content is the basis of all objects, since every object must be a content before being anything else, the content in general must have the possibility of acquiring under certain conditions any determinations which objects as real possess. In denying every particular real determination which one might be tempted to ascribe to the content as such, we mean thus to say simply that the content cannot possess this particular determination because this would prevent it from acquiring other real determinations, and a priori, before having reconstructed the entire objective reality, we cannot say of any content that it belongs only to an object of some particular class, and not to one of any other class.

a) In this sense the content is neither perceived nor imagined; it is simply given as subject-matter of reflection. The contents "horse" and "centaur," the content given in a u dream as well as the content given in a waking state, are formally, without regard to the connections of the respective objects as parts of various systems, equally contents and nothing more or less. The content may even sometimes include the character of being perceived or that of being imagined; this character may belong to its objective and empirical matter. For example, instead of the content ç: "horse," we may have the content "the perceived, or perceivable, horse," instead of "centaur," "the imaginary being centaur." But the content "the perceivable horse" is not itself perceived, and the content "the imaginary being

(58) centaur" is not imagined; we have only here instead of the contents "horse" and "centaur," which we had before, new contents, composed of the contents "horse" and "centaur" taken together with certain contexts, with certain complex characters which we call "being perceptual" and "being imaginary, " even as we may add to a content the character of "being a dream," or again the character of "being a commonsense reality," acquiring thus two new and different contents. Each such addition is then an empirical subject-matter of reflection and together with the other unqualified components of the content constitutes a new content. For the manner of existence of the content is not determined by the manner of existence of the object, but any determination of the object, any manner of existence that we ascribe to it, must be given as part of a content in order to become empirically given at all.

b) The content is neither particular nor general. Of course it is a unit, but it is neither the member of a class nor a class. "This oak" is a content and "the class tree" is a content, but the content "this oak" is not a member of a class and the content "the class tree" is not a class of which the content "this oak" is a member. Both contents are equally units, equally single subject-matters of reflection. We may indeed connect logically the respective subjects and include this oak in the class tree; but in so far as the contents are concerned, the result will be expressed by two new contents, "this oak as member of the class tree," which is different from the content "this oak," and "the class tree as exemplified by this oak," which is different from the content" the class tree." The determination of an object as belonging to a class must become a content in order to be empirically realized, and precisely therefore the content as such is independent of this determination.

c) The same holds true of the distinction between concreteness and abstractness. The content is neither a concrete object including all the special characters necessary to its full

(59) determination as empirical reality, opposed to the abstract concept, nor abstract in the sense of being a concept which includes only certain essential characters common to many empirical objects. The content "the Louvre" is not a concrete to which, together with other contents, the content " the French Renaissance" would correspond as an abstract, and the "principle of conservation of energy" as content is not more abstract than any particular change of one form of energy into another when given as empirical subject-matter of reflection. Of course, the material object "Louvre" can be taken as concrete as against the abstract ideal object "French Renaissance," and their synthesis may then constitute a new content. But "the French Renaissance" or "the principle of conservation of energy," as empirically given subject-matters of reflection do not contain other contents; they contain what is actually included in them, and this may be a simple formula expressed in words or other symbols, or the formula with several examples of its application, or the formula with a vague characterization of the common features of the objects included under the concept, or all this together. We can have thus several different contents, whereas the objective idea is supposed to be one and the same, however it is given, because it is supposed to have the same rational constitution and the same field of application. But the application of the abstract to the concrete must itself become a content in order to be given.

d) The content may include simple or complex objects, but neither the qualification of complexity nor the correlative one of simplicity can be applied to it, because the very distinction between simple and complex objects must be given as a content to be given empirically at all. The objective green color of the grass is, of course, simpler than the object grass; this chair is a simpler object than the furniture of this room. But the content "grass" is not a composite of the various contents including different characters of the object grass,

(60) the content "the furniture of this room" is not a composite of the contents including the different pieces of furniture separately; and reciprocally, the content "green" is not a product of an analysis of the content "grass" into simpler elements, nor the content "chair" a product of a division of the content "the furniture of this room" into parts. But we can have contents in which the comparative simplicity and complexity of objects is empirically given as subject-matter of reflection, for example, the "green color of grass," or "the furniture of this room composed of chairs, tables, etc."

e) In the same way, the content may include space and time as characters of objects: and perhaps even pure objective space and time may be contents. But the content itself is not spatially localized nor temporarily determined, precisely because spatial and temporal determinations must be given within a content to be empirically given at all. Neither, on the other hand, does it possess any characters which would make its incorporation as an object into a spatial or temporal system impossible; it is not positively raised above space and time as are the Platonic ideas, for it is not a component of any system of ideas. Thus, while the content "the dimensions of the Metropolitan Opera House" contains space but is not itself in space, and the content "the nineteenth century" contains a time-determination but is not itself in time, the content "the problem of the syllogism" contains no spatial characteristics but is not essentially raised above space, and "the equilateral triangle" as content is not essentially timeless, whatever may be the determinations of the respective objects.

f) One of the very important kinds of contents are those which contain changes of objects. But the content "movement of the street car" clearly does not move and the content "evolution of the state" does not evolve. Of course, the objective concept which we form of the evolution of the state can and does evolve as an idea, by being introduced

(61) into different systems of the ideal reality. What is there empirically given as subject-matter of reflection is either a series of distinct contents, "the evolution of the state as conceived at the moment A," " . . . . at the moment B, " " . . . . at the moment C," etc., or this whole evolution is itself a new content, "the evolution of the theory of the evolution of the state," and this content does not evolve either. On the other hand, no content can be said to be by virtue of its objective essence changeless, for this would mean that we attribute to it a certain objective character excluding change from that which it contains. "The substance of Spinoza" will be changeless only when it is taken as part of the one ideal system of Spinoza; "two times two equals four" is objectively changeless only "by definition," that is, as an object-idea, as component of the system of mathematics.

g) Finally, a particularly good illustration of the nature of the content is found in contents including personal experiences. The content, as we have seen already, has no personal characters, because, though it is a datum of experience, it is taken not as datum of experience, but as subject-matter of reflection. Now, a personal datum of experience can become the subject-matter of reflection, but then it has an impersonal content. This is precisely what happens when I reflect about the course of my own experience. The course of experience becomes a content which is no longer mine, no longer taken as present here and now, though in fact present here and now. I can discuss it, analyze it, communicate it to others. I can also incorporate it reflectively into the course of my personal experience out of which I took it to objectivate it; it will then become an object, part of the reflectively constructed system of objects which I call my personality or my experience. Or, on the contrary, I can connect it with contents in which experiences of other persons have become subject-matters of reflection, and then it will become a completely different object.


In the examples quoted above we have tried to deny the content of the most important characters which under the influence of various philosophical traditions may be ascribed to it; we do not pretend to have exhausted the list. The principle is clear. All reality must be accessible as such to our experience; the term reality is meaningless unless applied to the reality with which we are empirically acquainted. And all reality must be objectively reconstructed from actuality by our logical thought; an agglomeration of data is not reality. Therefore, whatever there may be in reality must be accessible to both our experience and thought. Any object must be able to become a content, an empirically given subject-matter of reflection, for we cannot admit that there is anything in reality which cannot become the material of our reconstructive activity; and, on the other hand, any content must be able to become an object, for we cannot admit that there is anything in reality which we cannot reconstruct out of the given materials.

The problem of the reconstruction of objective reality from individual experience should not therefore be put, as it usually is: "How is a copy of the object, or a phenomenal object, constructed out of contents?" but: "How does a content become an object ?" The first question either leads to the conception of the object as outside the field of experience, a transcendent nucleus of contents inaccessible in itself and given only through its empirical copies, or supposes that the object—the "natural thing"—is empirically given besides its copies—the "psychological images." In both cases the essential problem is left untouched. In the first case, besides the transcendent object we must have an empirical, objective copy of this transcendent object, and this objective copy differs as much from the subjective contents from which it has to be reconstructed as if there were no transcendent object; and its reconstruction from individual experience demands explanation quite independent of the existence or non-

(63) existence of a transcendent nucleus. Even if we supposed that subjective contents were the product of the influence of the transcendent object upon the subject, the problem would remain, for the transcendent object by definition could not be given in the subjective content, and the subject would always have to pass from the content to the object, even though in this passage he would reconstruct only an empirical copy of the object. In the second case the possibility of the individual's experiencing the natural "thing" is simply postulated, and the postulate is in the most naïve way self-contradictory, since the primary assumption implied in the opposition between things and psychological images is that the individual can experience only the latter.

These difficulties led to the well-known attempt to maintain the traditional way of putting the problem by separating experiencing and thinking; the individual was supposed not only to experience either effects of the transcendent object or subjective images of the natural thing, but to reconstruct the transcendent object or the thing by theoretic reasoning. But theoretic thought, as defined by these rationalistic schools, is not supposed to create reality, but only to know it. If it knows only subjective elements, it cannot know objects. Only that can be empirically reconstructed which is both empirically given and logically thinkable as objective—that is, only a content can become an object.


The object is real only as part of a system of reality. The content is precisely a datum viewed as ready to become a part of some system of reality, but not yet determined as to the system to which it will belong. The question, "How does a content become an object?" is thus equivalent to the question, "How is a content incorporated into reality?" or "How does a content become a part of a real system ? "


Here we meet at once a difficulty. We have postponed provisionally the problem of the rational organization of reality as manifested in the existence of systems; we have found it necessary to study reality as empirical before studying it as rational. And yet we see that there is no possibility of avoiding the problem of the system of reality, since there can be no real empirical object except as part of a system.

This difficulty, however, will be easily overcome. As we shall see, there are many systems of reality and they vary within the widest limits with regard to the rational perfection of their organization. If it is necessary for an object to belong to a system of reality in order to be real, it does not follow from this that the system to which the object belongs must be rationally perfect; on the contrary, though there are probably no perfect systems at all in the empirical world, this world is yet objective and real. Therefore, at the present moment when we are investigating reality only as empirical, not as rational, we do not need to assume any degree of rational perfection in the organization of real systems; it is enough for objects to be real that they belong to any system whatever, however imperfect and chaotic. A system viewed in this way, without regard to the rationality of its organization, is a mere complex; therefore throughout this chapter we shall speak mostly of complexes, not of systems of objects, and our present problem will be formulated: "How does a content become a part of a real complex?"

Two points must be kept in mind while trying to answer this question. On the one hand, indeed, the objectivation of the content must go on in actuality, otherwise the object could not be empirically reached; on the other hand, it must have a trans-actual bearing, must manifest itself in some way beyond the actual moment, otherwise the object would not be real, would not transcend the course of individual activity. The content must actually acquire a connection with other

(65) contents which will trans-actually characterize it as object, part of a real complex.

The necessity of the object's being reconstructed in actuality makes the use of the category of relation here impossible. A relation exists between ready objects as such; it is already objective, it is an object-matter of logical thought and a link of a definite system; and its own reconstruction in actuality is as much of a problem as the reconstruction of the objects between which it exists. It cannot therefore be the factor of objectivation of contents. However ultimate it may seem from the abstract standpoint of the logic of things, from the standpoint of concrete experience it presupposes the more primary category of actual connection.

On the other hand, since the connection must have an objective significance, be the ground of objectivity, it cannot be interpreted subjectively, as a psychological process. The theory which wants to explain objectivity by a permanence and uniformity of psychological associations of data simply begs the question. For the psychological association either has no objective ground, is not founded in the objective order of the associated data, and then it cannot serve to reconstruct this objective order in experience, or it has an objective ground, and then it is independent of the psychological course of experience and is not an association but a logical thought.

The connection must therefore be objective, but both ideal and real. It is ideal, for it is established by active thought in the course of actuality; as such, it is conscious and dynamic, subsisting fully only in the very act of its establishment and not existing trans-actually as a relation does. It is real, for it modifies the character of its object-matter and turns the content into a real object. We must leave the investigation of its ideal, conscious, and dynamic aspect provisionally aside; here we can study only its real, transactual side, the static result it leaves with objects. This static result is double.


On the one hand, the contents which have become actually connected with other contents must in some way preserve empirically the character of objects which they have acquired, must in other actualizations appear as objects, as being already parts of a reality into which they have become incorporated; otherwise, reality would always appear to us as depending continually and exclusively on individual acts of thought, whereas even in the course of its actual reconstruction it appears usually as more or less imposing itself upon our activity. This character which the object preserves beyond actuality and with which it appears in every new actualization can be neither a part of its content, for then it would not make the content anything else than a content, nor a relation, for a relation presupposes both the reality of the object and its own objectivity. There remains only one possibility. The new empirical character which a content acquires when it becomes object by an act of thought connecting it with other contents, must be simply an objective and still empirical ground for repeating indefinitely this act of thought, for reconstructing indefinitely the connection in actuality. When we say that a content which has been actively connected with other contents has become real, this character of "being real" from the empirical standpoint can be only a special feature which becomes and remains attached to the content as object and by virtue of which its connection with other contents remains latent even when not actually reconstructed, and can be made actual, conscious, and dynamic, at any moment and by any individual. By calling it an objective ground of an actual connection we wish to have it understood that it is less than a relation, which is supposed to be always explicit, always the same whether actually thought or not, but more than a mere subjective possibility of thinking the same connection over again without anything in the object being the reason for the thinking it over. This distinction is rather difficult for our intellectual habits, for we

(67) have been accustomed to think of objects either as not connected at all, so that the establishment of a connection is absolutely arbitrary, or as fully related, so that our thought is logically compelled by the relation to connect them. Meanwhile, in concrete experience what is left of a connection once established is merely a suggestion of its actual reconstruction, a suggestion which gives to our thought the ground for repeating the connecting act without logically forcing it to do it.

We call the meaning of an object this suggestion to reproduce actually a connection which has been established between this object and others, when this suggestion appears as grounded in the nature of this object as such. It is the meaning which makes the empirical distinction between the content and the object persist, even when the act in which the connection is established is not being actually performed; it is the meaning which makes reality empirically transcend the limits of present individual experience. It is not given with the content nor is it a content; and still it is empirical, it qualifies empirically the content as real. It is empirical in this unique sense, incomparable with the empirical character of the content, of being a qualification of an object as existing within a certain sphere of empirical reality.

The meaning is only one static result of the connection it is the characteristic of the object with reference to the actual thought which reproduces it. Objectively, in the real complex, the reality of the object must also manifest itself with reference to other objects. An object is a part of a real complex only if it influences other objects by being connected with them, if it determines their contents really and objectively. The connection by which a content is made an object is real, not merely ideal, and introduces the object into the sphere of existence, only because it in some way modifies some other content with regard to the content that it objectivates; the objectivated content becomes the ground, the starting

(68) point of some real determination of the content with which it becomes connected. This is what the real relation is supposed to produce absolutely and objectively, by its very existence, for the objects are supposed to be permanently determined by it in their content with regard to each other. Of course in concrete experience such a permanent reciprocal determination is impossible, because the primary connection, being established in actuality, can really determine a content only while it is actually being produced or reproduced; and, because it is directed in time, it passes from one content to another as they successively become actualized, and therefore can determine only one of them from the standpoint of the preceding one, not both simultaneously and reciprocally. However, the act which objectivates a content by connecting it with another leaves a double trace: a meaning acquired by the first, objectivated content and a new determination, a variation of the second. The suggestion involved in the meaning of the first content to repeat the connection is therefore also a suggestion to reaffirm, to fix the determination of the second.

If, now, the second content thus determined by the connection with the first, objectivated content becomes in turn the starting-point of a new connection which gives it a meaning with regard to the first content and determines the latter from the standpoint of the former, we have the most elementary possible complex of objects. The complexes which we really find are, of course, composed of much more numerous objects, each having several meanings and determined with regard to several other objects and all thus directly or indirectly connected with each other. And when a set of contents has become a complex of interconnected objects, the influence of each of these objects on the other objects of the complex, which constitutes the objective ground of its "being real," is explicit and effective only in so far as consciously and dynamically reproduced, but it remains latent and implicit beyond

(69) actuality. As we shall see more in detail later on, the greater the number and stability of the connections of which an object is the starting-point, the greater the complexity and fixity of its meaning and the sphere of its influence on other objects, the higher also is the degree to which it is real.

Let us take several illustrations.

a) The most popular example illustrating the meaning is a word. The word as mere sensual content—sound or written sign—is not an object, unless it is incorporated into the physical world; but this is a relatively complicated problem which we shall discuss later. But when we use it as symbol of another content, when we refer it to this other content by an act, it acquires the character of a specific object and preserves it even when its connection with the content symbolized is no longer actual. Its meaning, as we clearly see in this case, is neither a part of its content nor an objective relation between it and the content indicated, but merely a suggestion to perform the same act of thought as the one already performed, a suggestion which may lead to a repetition of the act when the content of the word appears in actuality. The more frequently the act is repeated, the stronger becomes the suggestion, the more fixed the meaning, though its essential character does not change; it does not become either a part of the content or a relation, and the only explicit manifestation of this growing fixity of the meaning is the growing probability that this objectively grounded act and not any other act of symbolization will be performed whenever the word appears in actuality. This relative stability and uniformity of the meaning is usually not limited to the experience of one individual, because the word normally is a social object, its meaning is approximately the same for everybody in the social group, everybody obtains a similar suggestion.

At the same time, the reality of the word manifests itself objectively by the fact that the content given with reference

(70) to the word acquires thereby a special determination, becomes given with a special character corresponding to the meaning of the word and conditioned by the word. Thus, it is isolated from other contents and stabilized, it acquires prominently the categorical characteristic of a thing, a quality, a state, it becomes more or less distinctly qualified as pleasant, good, important, or unpleasant, bad, insignificant, etc. It is hardly necessary to emphasize this well-known influence of words upon the contents symbolized by them, and we observe how this influence grows with the fixation of the meaning of the words.

The same field of language furnishes us with another type of examples. Besides the acts in which we pass from the word to the content symbolized, there are usually other acts in which it is the content symbolized that acquires in turn a meaning with reference to the word: its appearance "suggests the word." We see in the history of culture many interesting examples of how far this reference of a content to a word is able to give objective reality to the former; it has frequently been noticed that a content constituting an imaginary extension of the natural or social reality, when permanently called by a word, can become so vivid that no efforts of philosophical or scientific criticism can destroy the belief that it must exist somewhere in nature or society, since it has a name. The variations of content which the word then acquires by being referred to from the standpoint of the symbolized object are best illustrated by the examples of onomatopoeia and of the morphological assimilation to some other word used of a similar object.

b) The myth gives another interesting illustration. The meaning of the myth involves many and complicated sub gestions. These suggestions are, first, those of the aesthetic or theoretic acts of thought by which the mythical personality is connected with other mythical personalities or happenings in the pantheon of the social group; secondly, those of

(71) practical or religious acts by which the mythical personality is connected with definite objects used in the ritual, temples, sacred vessels, sacred food, drink, incense, bodies of the priests, etc., and with such objects in the sphere of individual or social interest as are supposed to be affected by the interference of the mythical personality. It is this whole complex of meanings which makes the myth subjectively as real in the experience of the group as any sensual reality. This point appears with particular clearness when we compare the myth with the popular tale into which it often degenerates; the tale lacks all these complex meanings, and therefore its personalities are no longer treated by the group as real. Objectively, with reference to other objects, the myth is real by all the influence it exercises, through the acts in which its meaning is realized, over individual ideas and emotions, over social organization, and even over the material world, indirectly by putting certain demands on technique, directly by conditioning the view of the material world which prevails at the given period and in the given society; and certainly its objective reality is not less manifest than that of many a material object whose influence is not even approximately as wide.

c) Take now the bank note. Of course, it is an object as part of the physical world, but this character is almost completely ignored when we treat it as an economic object. Then we neglect its physical and chemical properties and pay attention only to its directly given sensual content. It is for us not a complex of atoms or electrons but a note of certain dimensions, certain color, with certain pictures and signs printed on it, etc. And this content has an economic reality because it suggests a plurality of acts which consist in planning or effecting economic exchanges and which establish connections between the note and other contents-those of objects that can be bought with the note. The meaning, and with it the reality of the note, lasts, even though no new acts are performed, as long as the objective ground is there, as we

(72) see from the example of the miser; the note loses reality only if these acts become limited or impossible, if, for example, paper money becomes depreciated. Objectively, the reality of the note expresses itself in all the modifications that its meaning determines in the economic and material reality-changes of property, production, transportation, and consumption of goods, etc.

d) The problem of consumption suggests another kind of reality which a content acquires when it becomes connected with our body by a reference to our needs. Thus, an unknown fruit, if we once more exclude by abstraction its objectivity as part of the physical world, which is in fact taken into account only on special occasions, remains a content without much objective character as long as we merely contemplate it with regard to its form, color, etc. But the acquaintance with its use, that is, the performance of the acts of observing, planning, or effecting the movements which will bring it into touch with our palate and throat, gives it immediately a meaning and makes it appear real. The connection between the fruit and the body is less fixed in the acts of observing or planning than in those of actual consumption, and therefore the object acquires a less definite reality in the first case than in the second-a difference which we shall be able better to understand later on. There is an interesting point here which shows that it is indeed the fruit as content which acquires a specific reality distinct from the material reality, not the ready material object which acquires a new subjective significance. When the fruit is consumed, the material object is no longer there; it is evident, however, that the content is not annihilated but preserves the meaning it thus acquired, perhaps for the first time. It remains an object of a specific kind, a hedonistic value. When it later returns in actuality, it suggests the same acts, even though the "thing," the material "fruit" is a new one, or even if the content is given only as an "image" or a "dream," for

(73) the specific object, the hedonistic value, is the same. Objectively, its reality is shown by the variations it adds to the content of our body, the new smell-, taste-, and touch-sensations which result from its being brought into connection with our body and which may be revived even if the connection is not fully, only partly realized, as in a hallucination or a dream.

e) But our body is not only an exceptionally rich content continually modified and determined by the objects which are brought into connection with it in satisfying our needs; it is also a prominently real object; we can say the real object par excellence, because of the active connections of which it is the starting-point, because of the modifications which we bring with its help into other objects. The type of these connections is different from the one discussed in the previous example; here the connections are "material" and it is the body itself which acquires through them the character of a material object, whereas in the previous case they were hedonistic and it was other contents which became hedonistic objects with reference to the body. But the mechanism of objectivation is the same; here the actual connection—the conscious and dynamic, though at the same time material, act—leaves after it a new meaning added to the body as "instrument" of this particular kind of activity (a question to which we shall return later) and a new determination of the content which became the object-matter of this activity, and both the meaning and the determination remain latent; the body appears later in actuality as able to perform this movement, the other content as determinable in the same way by this movement. The other content, we repeat, not the particular material object, for the material object that was the object-matter of the bodily activity may no longer be in existence, the movement might even have consisted in destroying its materiality. When this content reappears in actuality, whether as other material object or as "image," the

(74) possibility of determining it in the same way by the same actual connection with the body is always there, whether the connection and the resulting determination be performable materially or only "in imagination" (which is a later problem).

f) Not only the body but many other contents can be objectivated by the same type of connection, that is, by a conscious and dynamic, though at the same time "material," action which gives them the actual meaning of material objects and makes them objectively real by modifying other contents with their help. They are the material "instruments" in general. In order to understand the question properly, we must provisionally forget the fact that material instruments are already real even before being used for a particular activity. This is not very difficult, as we still occasionally find children, savages, and even ourselves testing the reality of given sensual contents by trying to use them as material instruments, that is, by trying to produce with their help materially some modifications in other contents, even if only in our own bodies. Moreover, whatever may have been the pre-existing "realness" of an artificial instrument, such as an ax or a sewing-machine, it is clear that this pre-existing "realness" of a lump of matter is relatively unimportant as compared with the highly specified and definite "realness" which it acquires by being particularly adapted to perform special activities. Thus, in the course of ordinary experience the material meaning of a piece of iron or wood is poorer than that of the sewing-machine or ax made of them; they appear less real in actuality because they count less for activity. They may indeed acquire a very complex meaning and appear as very highly real when the technician takes them as practical materials, or the scientist as object-matter of theoretic investigation, precisely because then they become actually connected with many other objects, become incorporated into system; but aside from this, their average subjective "realness" in common-sense experience lacks much as compared with that

(75) of a ready and much-used instrument. Objectively their existence is also less effective, for the field of their actual influence is narrower; the number, variety, range, and definiteness of modifications which a piece of iron or wood can determine in other contents are normally much smaller than those which an ax or a sewing-machine can bring forth.

g) Passing now to this pre-existing real character of the material object as such, if we only exclude provisionally the naturalistic postulate of the absoluteness of the material world in general, we shall see that the empirical objectivation of a content as material object, even without reference to its use as instrument, has the same explanation as the objectivation of a content as symbol, as religious, economic, or hedonistic object. The material object appears real in actuality because the numerous conscious and dynamic connections—spatial, qualitative, causal—which have been established between it and many other contents have incorporated it empirically into a wide and intricate complex. The meaning of this object involves thus numerous suggestions of possible acts, particularly since many material things have similar contents and their suggestions agglomerate. These suggestions are usually more numerous, more fixed, and simpler than those offered by most of the objects of other types, though, as the example of a material object worked over into an artificial instrument shows, their number and definiteness are far from having attained any absolute limit and can greatly increase. And the real character of the material object is also objectively manifested by the influence which it has over other objects; only our naturalistic prepossessions make us assume that this influence is independent of the actual, conscious, and dynamic connections which we may establish between this object and others, that, for example, any modification which a material object can produce in other objects, aside from its being used as instrument by us, is due to relations of causality purely objective and independent of our thought.


But it is clear that, since the empirical existence of the causal relation, just as the empirical existence of any part or side of reality, depends on its actual reconstruction, whatever is empirical in the causal relation must be deducible from actual contents and connections. As a bond between actually given objects in which one of these objects now and here empirically influences the content of the other, it can be nothing but a very stable connection. It can be actually realized by any experiencing individual at any moment only if this individual actively connects the given objects; otherwise, in this individual's actual experience, these objects will not be connected at all, there will be no dynamic bond between them. Of course this bond is objective; it transcends any particular actuality, is not reducible entirely to the act by which a particular individual determines the objects as causally connected now and here; but it is reducible, as empirical objective connection, to the totality of actual and conscious acts by which various individuals at various moments have determined one of these objects from the standpoint of the other as causally modified by it in its content. Now, such an objective connection becomes a relation when we abstractly ignore its dependence on actuality in general and treat it, not as an objective possibility of acts which will actually connect the objects when empirically given, but as a trans-actual object-matter of logical thought, as a self-existing dynamic influence exercised by one object upon another in a rational order of reality. We shall investigate later on the origin and significance of this conception.

There is one important factor which makes it difficult for us to see that the material reality is as dependent in its empirical existence on actually established connections as any other reality; it is that material reality has been always the

(77) favorite object-matter of theoretic thought and no real connection can be reproduced in actuality by this thought; reality imposes itself upon our knowledge as seemingly quite independent of the latter. This is due, as we shall see later on, to the specific character of knowledge which never tends to reproduce pre-existing real connections but takes their results as given and reconstructs them in a new way. But actually each real connection in particular can be reproduced by some other kind of activity—technical, hedonistic, aesthetic, etc.— and only in so far as thus reproduced by some activity can it be actually experienced.

h) There is one sphere in which even theoretic thought is able to produce or reproduce entirely the objective reality of contents: it is the sphere of scientific and philosophical ideas. "The principle of conservation of energy," "the binomial theorem of Newton," "the concept of substance," can be given by thought a double kind of meaning. As formulae they have a symbolic character in reference to empirical contents; their own content is then merely the formula as set of sounds or signs; their meaning is of the same type as the meaning of a word; they are then not scientific, but philological objects. But they can be taken, together with the postulate of their empirical application and eventual illustrations of this application, as forms of reality (we shall see later the significance of this term) and then objectivated as ideas with reference to other ideas. In other similar connections, from the standpoint of other ideas, their own content becomes determined, acquires a higher degree of exactness, abstractness, and generality, and in this way they are incorporated into a system of ideas and acquire a specific real character, on account of which they can be called, in spite of the seeming contradiction of terms, the ideal reality.

As these examples sufficiently show, contents can become incorporated into any type of reality by actual connections. The more frequently the connections are reproduced, the more fxed become the meanings, the stronger the suggestions which they have in the experience, not only of the same, but

(78) of any individual whether acquainted or not with their former actualizations. We find innumerable gradations from the faintest aesthetic suggestion presented by a new combination of sounds down to the strongest and most definite suggestions of consumption offered by food or suggestions of resistance and weight given by material objects when we look at them.

Of course, we must always keep in mind here that the individual can actually experience a meaning only after having reconstructed the connection in actuality. But he can actually experience a previously unknown character of a content also only after having reconstructed this character in actuality by being brought to perceive the content from a certain particular standpoint. I must be trained to experience meanings, to realize suggestions; but I must also be trained to experience contents, to see in them such sides as I have not seen before. But this necessity does not permit me to conclude that every meaning begins to exist only when I experience it, any more than I conclude that every content begins to exist only when I perceive it. I know usually, when I experience a previously unknown content, whether I have just produced it by my own activity or merely reproduced it as it pre-existed in the cultural world, for in the latter case it has a definiteness and clearness which it seldom possesses in the first case. In the same way I distinguish a meaning which is given to an object for the first time by me from one which I have merely discovered and reconstructed in actuality and which the object had long ago, for the suggestion in the latter case is incomparably stronger. The distinction may be difficult in intermediary cases, when either the old meaning is not yet very fixed or the new meaning is merely a transference of some old meaning to a new content. There is also no doubt that some, though it is impossible to say a priori how much, of the relative objectivity with which litany meanings appear when reconstructed is due to the consciousness of social sanction.


On the ground of the content and the connection, as discussed in the preceding sections, it is thus possible to reconstruct any objective and rational reality from actual experience and by actual reflection; for in the content any rational determination of a real object can be actually experienced and in the connections any rational organization of a real system can be actually reproduced. We shall study in later chapters the problem how this reconstruction, or construction, of a rational and objective reality is actually performed, how complexes of objects by acquiring a rational organization become more and more perfect systems, and how

(79) objects included in these complexes acquire a rational determination which makes them more and more independent of actual experience.

But the problems concerning the empirical character of reality are not exhausted by our having shown how an object and a complex of objects is empirically produced or reproduced in actuality. For there are many possible ways of empirically determining and objectivating a content, many complexes into which an empirical object may be introduced in the course of actuality, and none of these ways of objectivation is, from the standpoint of experience, the only rational one to the exclusion of others; none of these complexes determines the object so perfectly and completely as to make other determinations of the same object, even entirely different ones, rationally impossible. There is hardly any object whose concrete reality is completely exhausted by any one system to which it belongs; in the examples which we quoted in the last section every object was found to belong to several different types of reality.

Moreover, there are, as we know, no absolutely objective and absolutely rational systems in the world as reconstructible from actuality and, on the other hand also, no actually produced complex of interconnected contents is

(80) merely subjective and none is ever deprived of that minimum of rationality which it must possess in order to make real objects of the contents of which it is composed. Once a content has been actually connected with other contents, it is no longer a mere datum, for it has become in some, however small, measure independent of the course of personal experience: it may return indefinitely with the same objective determination in other experiences of the same or of other individuals, even though the set of data with which it returns will always be more or less different. Once a number of contents have been actually interconnected and have formed a complex, this complex is no longer a mere association of data, for it has become in some, however small, measure rational; for each and all of the connections can be reproduced indefinitely in actuality as the same objective connections by the same or other individuals, even though the associations in which these contents will be given as data in the course of personal experience will vary from case to case. This is precisely the most elementary and fundamental difference between a connection of objects and an association of data, for the association of data is as such unique and irreproducible. In so far as the individual connects objects to some degree at least independently of the succession and centralization of data in his present experience, by giving these objects meanings and determining their contents with regard to each other, he is no longer a mere subject of data but a creator of reality. Though the results of this conscious connecting activity, the more or less imperfectly organized complexes, may appear as relatively subjective and relatively irrational from the standpoint of more objective, more rationally perfect systems, they are not absolutely subjective, not absolutely irrational. The difference of objectivity and rationality between various real systems is one of degree, not of nature. We shall later on examine this difference as manifested in the rational organization of various systems. Here we can discuss only its

(81) manifestations in experience. And we notice that, in so far as empirically given, complexes of objects present indeed many gradations in two respects: with regard to their stability and with regard to their wideness.

Thus, the difference between a part of the common-sense reality, an imaginary construction of a poet, and a dream shows itself, first of all, in the various degrees of fixity with which the respective contents and meanings impose themselves upon the reconstructing individual. During the reconstruction of all three of these complexes, some part is still played by the individual objectivation of data and of associations of data into real objects and rational connections; for even the common-sense reality, the most fixed of the three, reaches the individual only as personal data and associations and must be reconstructed in actuality by this kind of objectivation in order to be empirically given as reality at all. But in the common-sense reality the channels of objectivation are so fixed, the meanings established, and the contents determined by such innumerable repetitions that the individual is hardly conscious of his reconstructive activity and every individual reconstructs it in nearly the same way. The imaginary construction of a poet or artist, without being irrational or subjective, is more personal and unusual; it can be repeated by others in the same form only because the poet or artist tries consciously to use for his construction a sufficient number of fixed meanings and determinations to make its reconstruction by others easy. Whereas in the dream the intention to communicate the new reality to others is absent and there is no limitation imposed by common sense or social tradition on the construction of the dream-complex, which thus appears as purely personal. And yet the dream is still an objective reality. It is a curious fact that dreams after having been treated for innumerable centuries as objective realities, were for a period considered as pure associations; but now their "meaningfulness," with the ancient mystical

(82) exaggerations excluded, once more begins to be taken into account. However great may be the difference of fixity between a dream, an artistic construction, and a part of common-sense reality, all of them are objective, because all of them are reconstructible.

The second empirical difference of degree between complexes is their wideness. Even if the artist's construction, or the dream, is fully objectivated, it remains isolated from the rest of reality, a rather limited complex—the latter more, the former less. Meanwhile, an objectivated part of the commonsense reality is by innumerable meanings connected with many other objects continually returning in actuality. Therefore, even if in my dream the objects and their connections are the same as a certain waking complex, after I awake they do not appear real to me because I do not find the expected connections between them and the rest of my usual environment. If I find myself unexpectedly in a new environment not connected with my usual environment, I have in a smaller degree exactly the same attitude toward my new experiences as toward a dream.

Of course both the fact that an object can belong to several different complexes and the differences of stability and wideness between these complexes themselves can be empirically ascertained only if our experience and reflection are not at every moment exclusively limited to the one more or less systematic, more or less stable and wide complex which we are actually producing or reproducing here and now. If our personality were always absorbed by the one complex which is actually reproduced, we would know nothing about the relativity and limitation of this complex and about the fact that an object which we are actually taking as part of this complex exists also within other complexes. This would be the case if our personalities were exclusively active, perfectly logical, and entirely isolated from other personalities.


But this is not the case. It has been shown in the preceding chapter that a personality is both active and passive, that it not only objectivates reality in actual reflection but also subjectivates reality in actual experience. And the actually objectivated domain of reflection is by no means identical with the actually subjectivated domain of experience. While we are reproducing actively some complex, other complexes impose themselves upon our passive personality by becoming associations of data without entirely ceasing to be complexes, and an object which we have just incorporated into one complex may return at any moment as element of some other complex, preserving even as a passively experienced datum some of its original objectivity. Our actuality is thus a ceaseless and chaotic alternation of active reproduction of some realities, or passive experiencing of others. Further, even without this interference of passively accepted experiences our active reproduction of reality is far from being logically perfect: we seldom, and only by a special intentional effort, reproduce a pre-existing real complex fully and adequately with all its objects and connections, and we never reproduce a relatively wide complex continuously, but always in fragments, with interruptions during which other complexes occupy our active attention. Finally, neither as passively experiencing nor as actively reproducing personalities are we entirely isolated, but our experience and reflection are at every step interfered with by the experience and reflection of others and vice versa. The full, concrete sphere of experience and reflection of any individual taken within a certain period of duration presents from the purely empirical standpoint an irrational dynamic combination, fragmentarily experienced, fragmentarily reconstructed, intermingled, multiform, and changing. And the total empirical, real world viewed in its full concreteness as a synthesis of all individual experiences and reflections is an enormous, wild, and rushing

(84) chaos of innumerable complexes, inextricably and irrationally combined, becoming and developing without any possible universal order whatever.

It is clear that under these conditions our conception of the concrete empirical object, and of the concrete empirical reality as composed of such objects, must be radically different from the traditional conceptions of realistic empiricism. The latter continually works under the assumption that reality is rationally one, even if we cannot reconstruct this unity a priori but must reach it step by step from experience, and that therefore each empirical object as element of this reality must be rationally determinable in one way, must possess one definite objective nature, be objectively similar to itself in spite of the manifold and often conflicting variations which it presents when reconstructed by different individuals and at different moments. The problem of realistic empiricism has always been therefore to reach this rationally one object from the varying and conflicting views of this object taken in different connections. And this is not an ontological, but a psychological problem. Treating reality as independent of both our experience and our reflection, realism entirely neglects the difference between a mere datum and an object as part of a complex actually constructed by reflective thought, ignores the empirical objectivity of the complex, and, instead of asking how the object is determined in its nature by the various empirical complexes in which it is taken, asks merely how can the object, which is supposed to be already completely determined in its nature, be known by human individuals with the help of their imperfect and varying experiences.

The usual and most popular attempt to reconcile the supposedly one real nature of the object with the multiple empirical views of this object is to assume that there is indeed a variety of individual "representations," but that these representations are not objects, but only refer to the one common object—as such. The oldest and simplest criterion

(85) making it possible to distinguish what in individual representations belongs to this common object is the identity of content; that which is identically given to all individuals is supposed to belong to the object, that which is not is qualified as subjective, due to the personal peculiarities of the experiencing subjects. But this criterion can work only when there is enough uniformity in a social group to make the variations of individual representations relatively insignificant, and when the problems concerning objects are simple enough to be solved with the help of such roughly approximate definitions of objects as are still preserved in popular language. For if we really compare, as far as can be done, individual representations of an object in many groups and at various periods, we find that their identical elements are relatively few, seldom sufficient to construct out of them even a very simple object, and dwindle to nothing when we pass from material reality to social, religious, aesthetic, moral, or scientific objects. Moreover, we find more and more frequent cases in the evolution of culture where the representation of a single individual—for instance, a scientist—must be admitted to be more objective than the average of all the other representations put together, and yet differs from it very widely.

Realistic empiricism has thus to adopt necessarily a different criterion, which it expresses in the theory that the object, as distinguished from individual representations, contains of these representations all that can be rationally and without contradiction ascribed to it, all that is reconcilable with its objective nature as determined by the character of the reality to which it belongs and by the logical demands of the system of thoughts of which this reality is the object-matter. This is to say, in other words, that the content of the object is determined by the system of objects of which it is a part; that there is one System in which its real content is entirely determined, and that, if various individuals try to incorporate it into other systems, these other systems either

(86) are merely components of that one system, or if they are not, then the divergent determinations which these individuals give to the content of the object do not belong to it objectively.

From whatever standpoint we look at this theory and its implications, it is philosophically impossible. We can understand how a scientist may delude himself that his science at the given moment is able to explain the content of a certain object entirely, because he is already dealing not with the full concrete object, but with the object as part of the specific real system which his science is then investigating; that is, an object from whose content all the variations which it possesses outside of this system have been excluded. But already in the past the same object was explained differently many times by the same science and will be explained differently in the future, and each of these successive explanations may be equally complete in its own sphere; for the problems which a science puts change with the evolution of this science, and none of its successive problematizations has the entire concrete object to deal with, but each takes the object only as determined by certain specific connections. Furthermore. the object is also being treated simultaneously in other sciences, where its content is again differently given; it is, perhaps, also the object-matter of technical activity, of religious worship, of hedonistic enjoyment, of economical exchange, of aesthetic reproduction, and in each of these systems its content differs. Only a metaphysical fanaticism can expect to reduce all these systems to one in which the objects are entirely determined in their content. And if, in spite of their plurality, the determination which each of these systems gives to the objects is, nevertheless, objective, where shall we put any limit to objectivity and how can we separate subjective representations from objective variations of content ?

This much for the rational side of the question. But the theory of representations as distinct from objects and of

(87) objects constructed out of representations is also false empirically, because it does not correspond to anything in experience. There is certainly no distinction in empirical reality between the object and the representation or image of the object. When I see Lake Michigan, there is in my experience only one object, the lake, and not two, the lake and its representation. If someone else looks at the lake with me, I know that there is always one object, the lake, and not three—the lake, his and my representation—nor even two, his representation and mine. When sitting in my room in Chicago I remember the Notre Dame of Paris there is empirically again only one object, Notre Dame, and not two, Notre Dame and my representation. And again, if someone else, in my presence or not, is also at this moment remembering Notre Dame, there is still only one object, not two or three. The same is true of my or anybody else's actual realization of a myth, a mathematical proposition, an economic value, etc.; there is never any distinction or opposition in experience between the object and its image, but there is always only the object given as content in my experience and as object-matter of my thought.

If thus on the realistic assumptions it is impossible to reconstruct even the empirical content of the concrete object, the difficulties when its meaning is taken into account are still greater. The problem of the meaning as conditioning human activity is the central point of the theory of values, the chief stumbling-stone of both realism and idealism. Philosophy has always tried to simplify the question of the object by reducing either the meaning to the content or the content to the meaning. In the first case it assumes that the individual's activity in response to the object is naturally conditioned by the content of this object. In so far then as the content is supposed identical for everybody, the meaning should also be identical; in so far as the content is admitted to vary from individual to individual, the meaning should vary accordingly. The primary, naïve standpoint that contents are thoroughly

(88) common led thus, first of all, to a righteous indignation, typified in the first Greek thinkers, against the variation of individual reactions to them, rather than to an explanation of this variation; and when the explanation was attempted, it took the radical sophistic form of the assumption of a complete variety of individual contents. But the complete variety of contents explained too much, for a certain identity of meanings was undeniable, and it is from this partial identity of meanings as manifested in common valuations that Socratism took its start and concluded that contents must be also partially identical. The golden period of Greek philosophy is thus characterized with respect to this problem by an assumption of the community of the essential, conceptual part of contents and the community of the rational, perfect meanings corresponding to it and determined by it, while the varying individual meanings of objects corresponded to and were assumed to be determined by the individually differentiated, unessential, sensual part of contents. But the apparent harmony of this solution was soon disturbed by the circumstance that, on the one hand, the conceptual identity of content could not guarantee a rational identity of meaning, the most varying practical conclusions could be drawn, abstractly and in concrete behavior, from any theory of the world as world of contents, and on the other hand, a quite irrational set of religious and practical meanings became, in Christian dogmatics, the source of a common theoretic conception of the world. And thus, when after renaissance and reformation the problem was taken up again, it was put on a different ground, in view of the importance which individual conscious life with all its valuations had taken during the domination of faith. Contents and meanings were entirely separated from each other, the first as real, the second as ideal, and while on the one hand a unique objective system of reality was constructed as a system of natural things and relations, of absolute contents, on the other an equally

(89) objective ideal system was attempted as a system of absolute values-of absolute meanings, more exactly. The noncommon parts of contents and meanings both found their refuge in individual consciousness.

Thus, the problem of the meaning has become much more complicated and its solution depends essentially on the question where individual consciousness, including both contents and meanings, is supposed properly to belong. If it is conceived as a part of nature, then its meanings are supposed to be reducible to contents, and their variations and identities explicable by the variations and identities of the given contents themselves and of human nature; men react to things in a way that is conditioned both by these things and by their own character as natural beings. In this case the objectivity of meanings and their identity for all become dissociated problems, for meanings may be identical without being objective, objective without being identical. Objective meanings, judged by the standards of natural objectivity, would be such as would follow from the nature of the object to which they are attached, whereas meanings identical for living beings would have to follow from the uniformity of nature of the beings and would change when this nature changed. The chief effort of naturalism in this line is therefore the harmonization of these two explanations by assuming that individual meanings in so far as identically common to living beings tend to adapt themselves to the objective relations of things. The possibility of such an adaptation presupposes, first, that individually given contents adapt themselves to the absolutely determined contents of the things in nature, and secondly, that individual meanings are exclusively conditioned by individual contents. The biological theory of knowledge tries to demonstrate that by means of knowledge the individual determination of contents subordinates itself to their objective determination in nature. But naturalism is unable to show that individual meanings are exclusively conditioned by

(90) individually determined contents, for this would imply that all individual activity is entirely conditioned by the rational organization in knowledge of the contents of individual experience, whereas the illogical character of emotion and will proves the opposite. Thence all the types of voluntaristic reaction against naturalistic rationalism. These take the opposite standpoint and emphasize that it is rather the meaning, as manifested in the intention, the feeling, the desire, etc., which determines the selection, qualification, and organization of contents in individual experience. But this reaction, in order to save this voluntaristic individual experience from the reproach of subjectivity, as against the theoretically determined objectivity of the world of natural things and relations, has either to deny the objectivity of the latter, which would lead to pure subjectivism, or to subordinate the objectivity of contents to the objectivity of meanings and thus lead logically to the philosophy of absolute meanings.

This philosophy begins by pointing out that in the world of meaningless existence, that is, nature, contents are in fact determined by meanings, by the meanings which the theorist gives them when treating them as objectively interrelated things, and that "the world of nature is valueless because it is valuable for us to conceive it as valueless." Then it goes on to demonstrate that the objectivity of the natural world is based on the objectivity of the meanings and that this demands absolutely objective meanings as supreme criteria. The scientific meanings are then considered only as part of the world of absolutely objective meanings, which includes also moral, aesthetic, religious, and perhaps other meanings as well. But even if we grant that in this theory the objective world of contents can be deduced from the objective world of absolute meanings, it is evident that the contents of individual experience always appear as simply given and are not deducible either froth objective or from subjective meanings: they are, as we have seen, objectivated data whose source is in the

(91) trans-individual world of contents, and as data they come to the individual not only independently of his objective or subjective valuations, but often even against them. The philosophy of absolute meanings may subordinate the abstract world of nature to absolute valuations, acts of the absolute subject, but it cannot prevent the empirical subject with his empirical meanings from being in some way dependent, as to the contents of his experience, on the trans-actual empirical reality.

Moreover, the philosophy of absolute meanings meets for the first time, in its full significance as independent problem, the problem of opposition between subjective and objective meanings, entirely distinct from the problem of the opposition between subjective and objective contents, to be solved no longer, as in the past, in connection with the distinction of things and representations, but by entirely new methods. But it clearly fails to give any satisfactory solution. It is easy to say that, if individual moral, aesthetic, religious, valuations are not absolute, it is because the individual is not a pure subject of absolute valuations, but has also an existential character, as a part of the world of contents. But, even so, since the world of contents is supposed to be produced by the absolute subject, in so far as the individual is a subject, he should agree with the latter. The chief difficulty for the theory of absolute meanings, just as for the theory of absolute contents, comes not from the very personal, stupid, and egotistic appreciations, parallel to illusions in the sphere of contents, but from the numerous highly developed, but conflicting, valuations of morality, art, religion, etc., each of which imposes itself on different individuals with the same degree of objectivity and which it is impossible to reduce to one system, just as it is impossible to reduce to one the varying and partial systems based on the contents of things.

Thus the attempt to reconcile the principle of one reality with the empirical manifoldness of content and meaning

(92) which the same object possesses in different complexes is a complete and all-sided failure. However comfortable may be the common assumption that every object has one unique and self-consistent nature of its own, which does not vary though its subjective representations may differ and even contradict each other, it must be definitively classed with such beliefs as the "direct action" of magical causality and the existence of "faculties of the soul." The fact is that, viewed as to their contents exclusively, objects are determinable in innumerable ways according to the complexes in which they are included; these complexes cannot be reduced to one another because each constitutes a distinct objective whole, for between the most impersonal determination of a content in a physical theory and the most personal determination of this content in a dream the difference is merely one of degree. Viewed as to their meanings exclusively, objects can have innumerable meanings according to the systems to which they belong; there are no absolute unique meanings to which others could be reduced, and between the meaning given to an object by the wisest or holiest man in accordance with a deeply impersonal and highly moral view of the world, and the meaning given to it by an imbecile or a thief for his momentary personal needs, the difference is one of degree, not of essence.

Finally, between the objects viewed in their content and the objects viewed in their meaning there is a discrepancy impossible to overlook. Both the content and the meaning of an object are due to actual connections between this object and others, but to different connections, for, as we have seen, the actual connection is directed and one-sided and gives the meaning to one object and the determination of content to another, so that the connections which fix the meaning are necessarily different from those that determine the content. The same content may thus acquire the most various meanings; the same meaning may qualify the most various

(93) contents. Of course, certain meanings are, as a matter of fact, more often attached to certain contents than other meanings, but this does not constitute any logical ground for treating this fact as in any way objectively conditioned either by the character of the contents or by the character of these meanings. A stone is more often qualified as material object than as religious object, a bank note as economic value rather than as hedonistic or technical value, a picture as aesthetic rather than as scientific value. But it is no more essential for the content "stone" to be a material thing than an object of religious worship, not more essential that the content "bank note" be put into circulation than be immediately enjoyed by a miser or used by a spendthrift to light a cigar, not more essential for the content "picture" to be aesthetically admired than to serve as source for a study of the costumes of the epoch. On the other hand, though we more often ascribe material meaning to certain contents, economical meaning to other contents, aesthetic or religious meaning to still others, there is nothing in the character of these meanings which would exclude the possibility of their application to any other contents whatever. There is no content which could not acquire the character of a material thing, if it were only in a dream or a hallucination, no content which could not be treated as object of economical exchange, no content which could not become an object of aesthetic admiration, or religious worship, etc. This is no longer true when we have to deal with an object exclusively within a limited complex: there its content and its meaning do belong to each other, not because they depended on each other originally, but because the object has become defined in this complex with regard to both content and meaning. Thus the stone in the system of the mineralogist or of the stone-cutter is a material thing, but the stone Kaaba is an object of religious worship in the religious system of the Mohammedans of Arabia; the paper bill is an economic value in the system

(94) of the business man, a hedonistic value in the system of the miser, etc.

Within one limited complex the object is thus as rational in its content, its meaning, and in the coexistence of a certain content and a certain meaning as this complex by virtue of its own rational organization can make it. But there is no rational connection whatever between, the various aspects which one object presents in different complexes. We have to separate definitively the problem of the object as rationally but only partially determined within a single system from that of the object as completely but irrationally determined in many more or less systematic and objective, but different and disconnected, complexes. We must realize that the concrete, empirical object, taken in the totality of the content and meaning given to it in all the various empirical complexes to which it belongs, can satisfy neither the demands of traditional epistemology, which requires it to be the same for different individuals, nor the demands of traditional logic, which requires it, to possess a self-identical, non-contradictory objective nature, nor those of traditional philosophy of values, which requires its meaning and its content to belong rationally together.

We call a concrete empirical object in its total content and meaning a historical object. The choice of this term is justified by the fact that all the various more or less systematic empirical complexes of which a concrete object is a part are constructed or reconstructed in the course of historical becoming, and thus, as will be seen presently, the concrete object in its total content and meaning is not fully real at once, but realizes itself more and more in its entire historical existence, as simultaneously or successively produced or reproduced by various individuals at various moments. The historical objet includes thus all the determinations of content and all the meanings that it possesses in all the various complexes of which it is a part, with no distinction between

(95) subjective and objective characters. It is only the datum which is or rather becomes subjective in the course of its subjectivation; but the datum contains no characters which the object does not possess, it is not a subjective copy of the object, it is the object while becoming subjective, the same object which, in a subsequent objectivation, acquires a new meaning and a new variation of content. Every character which is ascribed to the historical object in the course of objectivation belongs to this object itself, because the fact that a character has been ascribed to an object in the course of objectivation means that this character has been added to it by connecting it with other objects, by making it a part of a complex. This principle is easily recognized in the case of many cultural objects. Thus, almost everybody will agree that a myth as such possesses all the content and meaning ascribed to it by the members of the group, that a word as philological object includes all the variations of pronunciation and of significance given to it when spoken, that a law as social value includes all the interpretations and applications given to it by the judges and by the people, etc. Though even here we find the marked practical tendency to limit the object to one system, to purify grammatically the use of the word, to prescribe exact limits to the interpretation of the law; but the scientist is able to distinguish the concrete social reality itself from these efforts of practical schematization. But it is much more difficult to get rid of the inveterate naturalistic presuppositions and to realize that not only a material product of human industry, but any natural object whatever, a tree, a lake, is in its concreteness a historical object, possesses all the variations of content and meaning which are given to it, not only by physics, chemistry, botany, geology, but also by ordinary human observation, by the aesthetic view of the painter, by the practical standpoint of the technician, even by the attitude of the tramp who searches for the shade of the tree or takes a bath in the lake. And yet

(96) we must be aware that if we once begin to qualify some of these contents and meanings as subjective and deny that they belong to the objects themselves, we cannot stop with the characters ascribed to the objects by the tramp or the painter, but must qualify as also subjective the properties which the physicist and geologist find in these objects. Then the whole discussion begins over again, for if everything is subjective, the problem how objects are constructed is not solved, but merely transported into the subject, expressed in terms of the subject; and this, as we shall see at a later point, makes its rational solution impossible.

Of course, the historical object is—must be—full of contradictions, precisely because it is not limited in its existence to a single rational system. These contradictions do not destroy its reality, for no one of these variations of content or meaning belongs to it absolutely, constitutes its essence. The ontological principle of contradiction has been worked out in application to the object within one limited system, and does not apply at all to the concrete historical reality. Whenever, therefore, we want to apply it to a certain object, we must first define with precision the limits within which the object is taken, the standpoint from which its content is determined and the objects with regard to which its meaning is fixed.

But, though the concept of subjective copies, of representations, as distinct from and opposed to the object must be entirely excluded from the theory of concrete empirical reality, there remains a very real problem: how far the variations which a historical object undergoes in various complexes affect the unity of this object, and on the other hand, how far a similarity of two objects in different complexes is a ground for considering these objects as one. The problem has evidently no direct connection with the variety of individual experiences, for the various systems may be realized either by different individuals or groups of individuals, or by the same individual or group.


It is clear that in concrete experience no absolute distinction between the one and the many can be established, that within wide limits the variations of a historical object in various complexes may be treated either as included in this object or as distinct, self-existing objects, and that the matter is merely one of degree of difference or similarity. Thus, take a word. In what measure can we treat the variations of content and meaning which the word undergoes by being pronounced or written many times in many different actual complexes, as constituting different words, and in what measure as being merely variations of one and the same word? This depends, first of all, on what we should consider to be different complexes instead of mere varying actualizations of one complex. We know that, because of the irrational character of concrete personalities, a complex is seldom, if ever, in fact exactly and fully reproduced, though it should be possible to reproduce it indefinitely by virtue of its own objective nature. Before we take into account the rational organization of a complex, which makes of it a system, we have no definite criteria permitting us to distinguish objectively and absolutely the reproduction of a complex from the production of a new complex, and in any particular case our distinction must be, viewed from the rational standpoint, arbitrary, though usually it has a partial empirical justification in the consciousness, more or less clear, which the individual or group has of producing a new or of reproducing an old complex. Thus, the mispronunciations, misspellings, or misunderstandings of a word by individuals who are learning how to use it in a certain formerly fixed, objective connection will normally not be considered as new determinations of this Word in new complexes, but as inadequate reproductions of its determination in an old complex which from the standpoint of concrete experience are, of course, objectively real, but from the special philological standpoint are treated as half-subjective. In so far as the

(98) complex is thus one, though many times actualized, the word is evidently also one, both from the standpoint of this complex and from the historical standpoint; the problem of unity and multiplicity does not exist. Suppose now that the content of the word is widely and permanently differentiated by this word's being differently pronounced in different provincial dialects, or that its meaning is widely and permanently differentiated by being applied to different classes of contents, or that both its content and its meaning become modified by its passing into a different language. In the first two cases we shall probably, and certainly in the latter case, assume that the word has been differentiated objectively by being introduced into different complexes. How far, up to what limits, then, shall we treat the word as one ? When shall we begin to consider it as many ? Evidently, from the empirical standpoint, regarding this word as a historical object, we can assign it no limits whatever. The distinction is here not arbitrary, but free. We can treat the word as one in spite of the most far-reaching objective variations it has undergone, provided we then take these variations into account; we can treat each of these variations as a different word, provided we then take into account the fact that they do have a certain content and meaning in common and that they are thus variations of one and the same word; or we can divide the variations into several groups, according to the degrees of difference, and take the word as one within each such group only and as distinct from group to group, provided we then take into account not only the objective variations which each such word undergoes within its group, but also the common ground by which all these words together are characterized.

Similar examples are offered in the field of mythology. We exclude again as irrelevant those variations which we arbitrarily agree to treat as half-subjective, due to imperfect individual reproductions of a complex. When shall we treat

(99) divinities which have more or less similar contents and meanings in different complexes produced by different groups or within the same group, as the same or as different mythological beings ? Here again the choice is free and in each particular case conditioned only by the question whether it is the common or the varying contents and meanings which seem empirically more important from the standpoint of the total concrete historical domain with which we are dealing. Thus, we shall usually consider the Greek Zeus as one divinity in spite of the variations of content and meaning which we find between the Zeus of Dodona and the Zeus of Olympia, between the Zeus of Homer and the one of Hesiod, whereas we shall probably treat the Greek Zeus and the Roman Jupiter as two divinities in spite of their possible common origin and of the well-known later syncretism; but we are free in both cases to take a different standpoint provided we always take into account both the diversity included under the assumed unity and the similarity existing above the assumed multiplicity.

Thus, in so far as determined within one complex as one object, a historical object is certainly and indubitably one, in spite of the various half-subjective reproductions of this complex; but as variously determined in objectively different complexes, it may be either one or many, we are free to treat it either way. There are, however, numerous cases in which this freedom is limited and the problem complicated by the fact that when we take a certain content and meaning as object-matter of historical reflection, we may find that in one complex it is explicitly and objectively qualified as one object, whereas within some other complex it may be the common ground of many objects. Such is the case whenever an object, determined as one in its content and meaning within a certain complex, becomes within another complex diversified by being materially multiplied in many physical copies, or when, on the contrary, objects which within one complex are determined as materially multiple and distinct

(100) are taken within another complex with regard to their common content and meaning as one object. Examples of an objective multiplication within a new complex of an object originally one abound in the sphere of industry: an artist produces a model of a table or a technician a model of an instrument, and each of these viewed from the standpoint of applied art or of technical invention is and remains one object, however many copies are made; but from the standpoint of industrial production, of economical exchange, of spatial localization, in the complexes of the factory manager, of the dealer, of the casual observer who sees many similar tables or instruments side by side, each of these copies counts as a distinct object. Examples of an objective unification of objects originally many into one are frequent in hedonistic, aesthetic, scientific, and similar activities. Thus, many spatially and economically distinct bottles of wine of a certain vintage and year are for the gastronomer one hedonistic value in the sense that the distinct bottles do not count hedonistically as separately qualified values, but each and all are "the wine of this vintage and year." The artist who makes a flower the object-matter of aesthetic stylization is not concerned with the material multiplicity of flowers of this species; his stylization bears on each and all of them: the flower of this species is his aesthetic value. The scientific study of an object as typical representative of a class ignores the multiplicity of this object in the physical world; the object is one and not many with regard to its scientifically determinable essence.

The common-sense realistic solution of the problem would evidently consist in denying any real and objective community between the one object—the model of the instrument, the aesthetic stylization of the flower, the scientific conceptand the multiple objects—the copies of the model, natural flowers, particular things on which the concept bears. From this standpoint we would have simply many distinct objects, copies of the instrument, plus a model, many natural flowers

(101) plus an aesthetic stylization, many particular things plus a general concept; there would be no objective unity either between each copy and other copies or between the copies and the model, no objective unity between each specimen of the natural flower and other specimens, or between the natural specimens and the artistic stylization. Objective absolute idealism, on the contrary, would sacrifice the plurality to unity and say there is only one essence of the instruments, one essence of the flowers, one essence of the particular things which science studies, and that this essence is identical in the model and the copies, in the natural flowers and the aesthetic stylization, in the particular things and the general concept: multiplicity would be treated as an illusion, or an accident, or a mh on.

But neither unity can be sacrificed to multiplicity nor multiplicity to unity from the standpoint of concrete historical reality, because empirically we follow both the formation of many objects from one and the formation of one from many and see the continuity between the one and the many, and because unity and multiplicity exist for us empirically only so far as actually reconstructible. When one model of a table is objectively reproduced many times, this reproduction is an empirical development, which we see going on; we see how the same given content and meaning become embodied in many objects; and this objective reproduction is empirically real, has for us an actual objective character only because its primary ground is this one content and meaning developed in various complexes. A new object is produced only when a content is objectivated and determined in a new complex; thus, each new copy of a certain model table is a separate table, a new object distinct from other similar tables, only because in the course of its construction it becomes an element of a separate practical complex. The fact that when once constructed it has a separate history of its own, is incorporated into various complexes different from those of similar objects,

(102) is put into a different room, turned to a somewhat different use, belongs to different individuals, etc., increases its reality as a separate object, but without destroying the community of content and meaning with other similar objects which it originally possessed. Each new table is and remains a mere variation of the same model, so that all such tables can be treated as one concrete historical object existing in many increasingly real variations. When, now, many such specimens are taken together in one complex, as distinct objects, and determined with regard to one another as many, this determination is simply a new character added to this concrete historical object, the one table realizing itself in the many increasingly real variations, which in addition to its original historical unity and its gradually increasing historical diversity acquires also the characteristic of being objectively a physical multiplicity of similar things. This characteristic does not destroy its unity; on the contrary, it is possible only because the object is still one and all the physical things have therefore a common content and meaning; it is only superadded to the original unity. Nor does it create the multiplicity; on the contrary, the tables can be treated as many in one complex only because they have been already diversified in many different complexes. This diversity is itself objectivated in this one complex as an objective multiplicity of the objects incorporated into this complex. In this way the historical object, the table of a certain style, which was already objectively one in the aesthetic complex of the artist who produced the model, in the economic complex of the business man who paid for this model, and in the intellectual complex of the historian of applied art who studied it, becomes also objectively many in the technical or spatial complex in which the same content and meaning is characterized as inherent in many physical things. The same table, the same historical object, with its original content and meaning, with the variations of this content and meaning in many different complexes, is thus

(103) objectively characterized as one in some complexes, as many in other complexes. Therefore, from the empirical standpoint, this table, this historical object, is both one and many.

This is true likewise when it is the unity which is actually superadded to an original plurality. The gastronomer who qualifies the many bottles of wine as one value in his hedonistic complex, the artist who sees one aesthetic value in the many natural individuals of a species of flowers and from the standpoint of an aesthetic complex produces one stylization of the many flowers, the scientist who from the standpoint of a theoretic complex finds one essence in many particular things, each of them creates an objective unity on the ground of a similarity of content and meaning which existed originally in many more or less different objects. One object—the hedonistic value, the aesthetic stylization, the scientific idea—is the result of the incorporation by each of the many pre-existing objects into a new complex in which they are objectively determined not as many, but as one. From this moment the many historical objects are syncretized into one historical object, and this new object, the product of this syncretism, is both many and one: many in so far as each object of the original plurality is already qualified in some complex as a distinct thing—as a separate bottle of wine among other bottles in a cave, a separate flower among other flowers in a garden; one in so far as the new objective determination in the hedonistic, aesthetic, scientific complex qualifies the original plurality as one with regard to its common content and meaning.

This, however, does not imply, as Platonism presupposes, that in such cases it is an original unity of essence which becomes merely reconstructed by reflection. The fact that many objects have a more or less similar content and meaning does not necessarily imply that there was some one original object from which these objects have actually developed as its variations. In some cases there may have been such an

(104) original object, but we can know this only if we actually find this object in the cultural past. When we find many industrial objects with a similar content and meaning we can usually discover or presuppose the technician's model which served as a common basis for the manufacture of all. The common content and meaning of some species of flowers can be traced back to a common origin, but the origin of most species of flowers as of most natural objects is lost in the pre-cultural past and we cannot be certain that they are all variations of a primary unit. Whether they are or not is irrelevant from the standpoint of our present problem. For, even when the multiple objects which the hedonist, the artist, the scientist, unifies by determining them as one, were actually produced by a differentiation of one primary object, the unity produced is from the hedonistic, aesthetic, or scientific standpoint a new unity, not the reproduction of the old unity, because the one object—the hedonistic value, the aesthetic stylization, the scientific idea—to which this new unity is due is not the same as the old original object which was diversified and multiplied. For instance, the concept "Louis XVI table," by which the historian of applied art gives a unity to the multiplicity of materially existing tables which have certain common aesthetic features developed under the reign of Louis XVI, is not the same object as the original model from which the various and materially multiple Louis XVI tables have developed. On the other hand, even when the many given objects syncretized into one by an aesthetic stylization or a scientific idea were distinct objects from their very beginning, their newly acquired unity is nevertheless objective and real, though it does not destroy their plurality, and we can treat them, because of this syncretism, as a concrete historical object which is both one and many in its real nature.


The historical object can be defined, as we have seen, as a concrete irrational synthesis of all those special, more or less

(105) rational objects which constitute objective variations of it in various limited complexes. But this definition is still incomplete, for the historical object is not reducible to a mere sum of its objective variations. Indeed, the possibility of empirically ascertaining the existence of the historical object, as of something more than any particular rationally determined object, depends upon our being conscious that the given object, as determined within one limited complex, is not the full concrete object, that it belongs or may belong also to other complexes where it is differently determined. This consciousness is due, as we have seen, to the imperfect objectivity and rationality of our personalities, to the fact that actuality is not a systematic, objective development of a perfectly rational reality, but an active, progressive objectivation and rationalization of data accompanied by a passive subjectivation of rational objects, so that the same object may be given in the course of subjectivation with the determinations which it has received in one complex, and in the course of subsequent objectivation acquire different determinations by being incorporated into another complex; or vice versa, after having been objectivated in one complex, it may return and become subjectivated as an element of a different complex. The rational determination of an object within any one limited system is the one-sided static result of this two-sided dynamic development. And since the latter is essential in order to have a historical object empirically given as such, it is not enough to define the historical object from the standpoint of the objective results of actuality as determined in all the objective complexes to which it belongs: it is indispensable to supplement this definition by studying the historical object from the standpoint of actuality itself, by characterizing it with regard to this double process of sub jectivation and objectivation, by virtue of which it is, not a mere philosophical construction, but an empirical object.

By becoming a datum in the course of subjectivation, every empirical object, no matter what complexes it belongs to,

(106) becomes dynamically attracted, as we may say for the lack of any better term, toward the here. In the course of objectivation, on the other hand, whatever may be the complex into which the datum while becoming an object is being incorporated, this incorporation is progressing from the here. We shall call the sphere of experience of an individual the totality of objects which are, have been, or will be attracted toward this individual's here, and the sphere of reflection of an individual the totality of the objects which are, have been, or will be reconstructed from this individual's here.

If empirical contents were purely actual, they would be limited, both as data and as objects, to an individual's spheres of experience and of reflection. If, on the contrary, reality were purely trans-actual, it would transcend absolutely in its objectivity the individual's sphere of reflection, and only its subjective copies would come into the individual's sphere of experience. But concrete reality is both actual and transactual: actual in so far as actually subjectivated and objectivated, trans-actual in so far as belonging to more or less rationally organized complexes. As long as we treat an object as limited in its existence to one complex, we can neglect its dependence on individual spheres of experience and reflection, for in dealing with a ready objective complex we do not need to take into account the fact that this complex could not be a part of empirical reality, if it were not constructed and reconstructed in actual reflection, and that it could not be reconstructed in actual reflection if all its elements were not given in actual experience. But we must take this fact into account in dealing with the concrete historical object, for its existence can be ascertained only in the course of its objectivation and subjectivation in many complexes. The historical object therefore depends on the individual's spheres of experience and of reflection: its being attracted as datum toward the here and its being reconstructed as object from the here are features essential to its characterization as an actual object.


Since, however, the historical object at the same time belongs to objective complexes, as an element in these complexes it is trans-actual and thus transcends any particular individual's spheres of experience and of reflection. This transcendence can, of course, manifest itself empirically only in some actuality, which must be the actuality of some other individual. The historical object as actual must belong to some individual's sphere of experience and reflection, but as element of trans-actual complexes it enters, simultaneously or successively, into the spheres of experience of all the individuals who subjectivate it as a datum from any of these complexes, and into the spheres of reflection of all the individuals who reincorporate it as object into any of these complexes. In other words, though it is essential for the historical object as actual object to be an element of some individual's sphere of experience and sphere of reflection, it is equally essential for it not to be limited to the spheres of experience and of reflection of any individual, but to belong—or at least be able to belong—to the spheres of experience and reflection of all other individuals who have or will experience and reproduce it in any connection. It depends in some measure for its actual empirical existence on each personality which experiences and reconstructs it, but it does not depend exclusively on any particular personality or on any limited number of personalities.

Since each individual sphere of experience and sphere of reflection is centered around a unique personal here, the historical object, which can belong to many individual spheres of experience and reflection, can extend empirically and dynamically over many here's, both in so far as it has been or will be actually subjectivated as a datum and in so far as it has been or will be actually objectivated as an element of empirical complexes. And because, on the other hand, it is not only an actual datum, but also a trans-actual object, its empirical and dynamic determination with regard to a

(108) here is not exclusively limited to the moment when it is actually experienced or reproduced by the individual; once reproduced as an object in an individual's spheres of experience and reflection, it belongs to them forever, because it has acquired an objective and empirical existence for this individual and can be indefinitely experienced by him and reproduced by him as part of his empirical world, conditioning thus more or less the future active and passive evolution of his personality. From this it follows that the extension of the historical object over many here's is not a mere passing of this object from one here to another, as it is experienced or reconstructed now by one individual or another, but a permanent extensive existence of this object, which permits it to become simultaneously given at any moment by approaching to many unique here's, or to be simultaneously reproduced at any moment from many unique here's, or to be at the same time given at some here's as datum and reproduced from other here's as object.

Since every real object or group of objects either is or can be experienced and reproduced by many individuals, every part of the empirical objective reality possesses in some degree this concrete dynamic extension, exists or can exist in many personal spheres of experience and reflection, extends over many here's. Empirical objective reality is a multiplicity of extensive objects—extensive in this concrete and empirical sense of the term; and the extension of the historical world is the totality of the extensions of the historical objects of which it is composed. This concrete extension is the primary, the fundamental objective and empirical extension. The personal centralization of data around a unique individual here is evidently not sufficient to produce alone objective extension, though it is one of its essential conditions. On the other hand, the rational order of objects in a complex is not alone sufficient to make these objects or the complex itself empirically extended, existing in many here's, for these

(109) objects must be actually experienced, the complex actually reproduced in order to exist at any here at all. It needs both a personal centralization of data around a here and an impersonal organization of objects in complexes because of which they can empirically exist at many here's, in order to have objective extension.

We must clearly realize that the extension of reality is not deducible from the fact that spatial characters, that is lines, surfaces, three-dimensional bodies, and interstices between bodies, are included within some empirical data, together with other characters. For, as empirically given, the data possessing those characters are not parts of an objective extension but elements of the concrete course of personal experience and reflection, chaotically intermingled with other data which do not possess spatial characters, and following one another in actuality without any spatial order. If now such contents including spatial characters become incorporated into a complex in which they are reciprocally determined as spatial objects, such a spatial organization is empirically not a part of a general spatial extension, but a part of the concrete and chaotic historical plurality of complexes among which some may be spatially organized, others not, and all of which are parts of the same empirical extension only in so far as they are experienced and reproduced by the same group of individuals, belong to the same multiple spheres of individual experience and individual reflection. The spatial determination which an object may receive in a spatially organized complex is only one of many determinations which it may receive in other complexes; and thus, the same concrete historical object may be spatial and non-spatial at the same time, without its spatiality being any more essential to it than its non-spatiality; whereas, both as spatial and non-spatial it must be concretely extended, given at many here's. We shall see later on how the conception of a general objective and rational space including reality is constructed. It is evidently only a

(110) rational unification and generalization of one particular type of rational determination which certain objects receive by being incorporated into one specific kind of complexes, the spatially organized complexes. And such a rational unification and generalization itself presupposes this primary, irrational, concrete extension of historical reality which we are discussing now. For it is possible to treat from a certain rational standpoint all the spatially organized complexes as parts of one spatial organization only because each and all of these complexes are concretely extended, because they exist in many individual spheres of experience and reflection, because the spatial organization of each of them and the spatial connection between them can be taken as independent of each individual's particular here separately. The substitution of a common space in which objects are supposed localized for the concrete extension over which objects actually spread is thus the substitution of a certain particular rational order of objects viewed with regard to certain particular determinations and taken within a special class of systems, for a universal empirical character which all objects possess in concrete experience, whatever determinations they may have and to whatever systems they may belong, a character, moreover, which pertains to all systems as well as to their elements. It was, therefore, one of the greatest errors ever committed in the history of philosophy for realism to identify spatiality with concrete empirical extension and conceive concrete objects as included within space, for this space is only one of many types of rational organization of the objects which are found in the concretely and irrationally extended historical world.

In the light of naturalistic prepossessions our theory must seem strange, though as a matter of fact, scientists when dealing with cultural reality do implicitly ascribe to many historical objects the character of extensiveness as herein described. They are forced to speak of myths and mores, of

(111) language and social institutions, of technical devices and economic forms as existing within a certain extensive domain of culture, as spreading out or becoming more limited, passing from one part of extension to another, etc. They are, indeed, under the influence of the naturalistic view, inclined to treat these expressions as mere figures of speech and if asked the exact meaning of them, to say that these objects are either spatial or absolutely inextensive and that by ascribing to them a certain cultural extension they mean only that they are recognized by the individuals who inhabit a certain geographical territory. This concession to naturalism not only forces a conception based upon the essential character of concrete reality to yield to a traditional and narrow view based on a certain special rational reconstruction of reality, but sacrifices the only methodical viewpoint which is adequate for dealing with cultural reality in its historical concreteness.

It is only this naturalistic tendency of thought which prevents historical and social sciences from realizing that the spatiality of the geographical territory inhabited by certain individuals cannot be the ground of the extension of cultural values as given to these individuals, because this spatiality is itself possible, can be itself empirically given only on the ground of the primary extensive character which conscious individuals give to the world of their experience, each by subjectivating around his personal here objects which are also given to others and by objectivating them from his personal here in various systems into which others also incorporate them from their personal here's. The geographical territory with its spatial extension and limitation and with all the spatial things that it includes, among them the bodies of the individuals inhabiting it, the earth itself, the solar system, the entire astronomical "infinite" space, are empirically possible only in so far as actually given and empirically reconstructed by many individuals along with all other

(112) historical objects, with myths and mores, with language and social institutions, with technical devices and economical forms, with art and scientific ideas, as parts of the same general world of empirical reality. Concretely, from the standpoint of full empirical reality, they are included within the wider extension of the empirical world in general which abstractly, from the standpoint of naturalistic systematization, they seem to include. Their primary and fundamental concrete extension is not the absolutely objective and invariable spatial extension with which astronomy and geography are dealing, but the general, undetermined, and changing extension of empirical objects given in many here's to many individuals; and they could not even acquire for us, experiencing individuals, the characters of spatiality, which from the naturalistic viewpoint appear as so important, if they did not possess the more primary character of empirical extensiveness resulting from the fact of their being given to many of us at once. We shall later investigate the problem of the relative validity of the naturalistic system with its conception of infinite objective space, an unlimited number of material bodies within this space, etc.; now, on the ground of the formal definition of historical reality, we simply state that the naturalistic conception of an objectively spatial world does not correspond to the form of the elementary concrete empirical world; it is valid within the material system, whatever be the sphere of validity of the material system itself, but valid nowhere else.

Of course, when we have once accepted the determination which objects possess within this system, we must also accept the form of spatiality which is involved in this determination and exclude all that disagrees with it as not belonging to reality materially defined. Thus, from the naturalistic standpoint the Notre Dame of Paris or the Rocky Mountains are material things, part of the material world, absolutely localized in the absolute space—though their localization is

(113) astronomically relative, it is absolute geographically—and their presence outside of their position in space, in the here of an individual whose body is several thousand miles removed from them, has then to be interpreted not as their actual presence, but as the presence of their representations, which, as such, do not belong to the material world. But the empirical existence of the Notre Dame of Paris or of the Rocky Mountains is not limited to their existence as material things in space; they exist also in innumerable other complexes, hedonistic, aesthetic, economic, political, theoretic, religious, etc., and their contents and meanings are incomparably richer than those ascribed to them in naturalistic knowledge. They are material objects, but they are also much else besides. And as such full concrete historical objects, they are not localized in space; their spatial localization is just a certain particular feature added to the many other features, coexisting really though irrationally with non-spatial characters, even with such as would, if the concrete reality were rational, exclude spatiality, as for instance, the characters which they acquire by being analyzed into theoretic ideas, and becoming thus incorporated into various systems of knowledge. As historical objects, they exist at once and really wherever and however experienced; they spread with all their characters over all the here's where they have been experienced and reconstructed, and will probably spread farther still, when new individuals introduce them into their spheres of experience and reflection. When the character of spatial localization is added to their other characters, it does not change at all the nature of their primary historical extension, for it must extend itself, it must spread over many individual here's in order to be neither a mere personal datum nor a purely rational construction inaccessible to human experience, but an objective and yet empirical feature of these objects.

The problem is much simpler with regard to the immaterial objects to which naturalism, by contrast with material

(114) objects, has denied all extension. The poem or the scientific theory are, of course, outside all extension in the rational determination which they possess as elements of an aesthetic. or theoretic system; but they are not merely elements of those rational systems within which they have received their aesthetic or theoretic determination. They are also empirical, actually accessible objects, and as such cannot be experienced by any individual otherwise than by being subjectivated as data with reference to his here, or reproduced by him otherwise than by being objectivated from his here: and they are incorporated into many real complexes, hedonistic and economic, political and religious, and are thus concrete historical objects like all others. Their objective empirical existence in the cultural world depends, as much as the existence of any material or social object, on their belonging to the spheres of experience and reflection of many individuals, on their spreading over many here's: they could have no historical importance whatever if they did not participate in the concrete extension of the historical reality, but were either exclusively and absolutely super-cultural or existed only within the closed receptacles of individual consciousnesses. Their extension is, therefore, at the same time one of the factors and one of the results of their cultural influence.


We pass now to the problem of the existence of historical objects in time. On grounds similar to those on which we have excluded absolute space, we can exclude in advance, from the definition of the concrete empirical world, the idea of the absolute pure time, without beginning or end, in which objects last and change and in which actuality itself develops. Absolute time, even as, at the opposite pole, absolute timelessness; is a specific rational; non-empirical form of reality, postulated within the logical limits of the naturalistic system of objects; what these limits are and what is the relative

(115) validity of the conception of absolute time, are later problems. But from the standpoint of concrete experience, it is clear that .absolute time together with the naturalistic system itself must be constructed and reconstructed in actuality, and it presupposes a more primary and concrete objective duration, in the same way as absolute space presupposes a more primary and concrete objective extension. The starting-point of all duration is that relative and limited direction in time and of time with regard to the individual actual now, which characterizes the course of experience. Objective duration can be reached from this starting-point only in the form of an empirical unification and interpenetration of many such relative and limited dynamic arrangements of individual spheres of experience with regard to the now, as a synthesis of many particular durations into one general and complex duration with one future and one past, even as objective extension can be reached only in the form of a unification and interpenetration of many subjectively limited extensions organized with regard to the here. And the objectivity of duration, in the same way as the objectivity of extension, is a formally unavoidable consequence and condition of the existence of the concrete empirical objects themselves. Because, and in so far as, the object by being incorporated into a complex acquires an existence independent of any particular individual now, it must be able to be given at many successive now's, and this is the only form in which the object, while transcending in duration the span of present individual experience, still remains an empirical object. Since historical objects become fully real by being incorporated into many complexes, and this incorporation goes on both simultaneously and successively, duration through many now's, like extension over many here's, is essential for the empirical reality of the historical object. The successive actualizations of the historical object are directed in time, are following one another objectively and irreversibly, and thus produce objective

(116) duration, precisely and only because they constitute a progressive empirical realization of one and the same object, because each of them influences the concrete reality of this object, leaves an objective trace after it.

Therefore it is not the duration of objects which is empirically dependent upon the duration of an individual personality, but on the contrary, the individual personality acquires objective empirical duration in the world of reality because of the objective duration of the objects which individual thought has raised to trans-actual existence. Indeed, if we leave aside the problem of the duration of active thought, which does not belong here, and take the individual only from the standpoint of the reality which he experiences and reconstructs, it is clear that the now at which objects are given as data and from which they are reconstructed as trans-actual realities is by itself not enough to qualify a personality as experiencing and acting continuously within a certain period of objective duration, during, before, or after the existence of certain real objects and of other personalities. The now by itself is unique, is not a part of duration; the successive now's of an individual, viewed from the standpoint of reflectively analyzed experience, can be distinguished in themselves, but only by the different data and associations of data present at each of them; and if the now were not a ground of the duration of objective reality, we could assume that there is only one now for each individual filled out successively by varying data, just as there is only one here for each individual; the individual would be thus continuously and exclusively in a now, actual but timeless, like the God of Aristotle. If this is not so, if the successive now's of an individual's actuality do objectively differ from each other and their series constitutes one continuous duration, it is because they are not only the now's of the individual course of experience, but also the now's of historical objects, because at each of them some object, whose existence is not limited to this individual's

(117) experience, acquires some additional real determination by being now incorporated or reincorporated into some complex. The same object has acquired some other real determination at a now of some other individual and will acquire new determinations at the now's of others. Because each individual now is thus also the now of some trans-individual object, it is a moment of a trans-individual duration. And since all these objects constitute the chaos of concrete historical reality, the whole series of the successive now's of an individual is a component of the total concrete duration of this reality. The individual's life is limited in duration from the standpoint of reality, has an objective beginning and end, because his participation in constructing the objective duration of historical reality is limited, because various concrete historical objects begin at a certain moment of their objective duration to acquire new real determinations at the now's of this individual, and later, at another moment of their objective duration, cease to be experienced and reproduced at this individual's now's.

On the other hand, it is evident that the duration of historical objects as empirical objects depends in turn entirely on their being experienced and reproduced at some now's; it is logically impossible to think of the duration of a concrete empirical object before or after its being experienced and reproduced at some now by some individual. The formal character of the existence of historical objects as concrete objects in time can be thus most properly termed historical, as against the supposedly pure duration of the natural world in absolute time and independent of consciousness; the application of the latter conception outside the limits of the system of naturalism to concrete empirical reality is clearly self-contradictory, since concrete empirical reality involves actuality. The concrete object, element of the full empirical reality, while transcending in duration any particular actualization, is still dependent on the whole series of its actualizations for its existence. And every actual reconstruction adds

(118) something to its real constitution. Its duration is thus essentially its becoming; whatever it is at any now, it must have gradually become during the whole series of its preceding now's, and every now is a moment, a stage of the process of its gradual creation. We have seen that at every now it is an extensive object and includes all the variations of content and all the variations of meaning ascribed to it by all the individuals who have ever reconstructed it. Therefore its duration must be conceived as a gradual becoming of its content and meaning; every actualization by incorporating it into a complex adds both a new variation of content and a new variation of meaning, and the totality of these actualizations up to a certain moment have constructed its total content and its total meaning as existing at this moment, that is, have created it entirely as a concrete empirical object.

Since this process is historical, the objects must have a beginning in historical time. It is not enough for us to have shown from the formal standpoint how a datum as objectmatter of thought is a content, and a content by being connected with other contents becomes an object. This deduction of reality from experience would be sufficient if objectivation had, as was usually assumed in the past, a purely ideal significance, if it did not affect the objects themselves empirically in their extension and duration. Since it does affect them, since it leaves an empirical trace in reality, our logical explanation of reality must be supplemented. Every act of objectivation is an act which occurs in a certain part of empirical extension and at a certain moment of empirical duration, and we cannot, like the idealists or realists, neglect this point as immaterial, for these acts condition objects not only in their existence for any one of us at any moment, but also in their existence for themselves in their total objective extension and duration. In other words, the historical existence belongs to the essence of all real empirical objects as such. Therefore the phenomenological

(119) question, "How are objects in general empirically possible for us?" must be supplemented by the ontological question, "How is any particular empirical object historically possible for itself ?"

Evidently there can be within the domain of historical experience no absolute beginning of an object in the sense of a pure and sudden creation of an entirely new content and its endowment with an entirely new meaning. Active thought must have data to turn into contents and objectivate in connection with other contents, and data can arise only out of the subjectivation of pre-existing reality. When we have an artificially isolated sphere of reality, we find indeed seemingly entirely new objects appearing within it, new works of art within the domain of aesthetic reality, new ideas within theoretic reality, new inventions within material reality, new myths within religious reality, etc. But in all these cases something pre-existed outside of this domain and the new object has been constructed from this pre-existing material; it may be absolutely new within the given system, but only relatively new on the ground of the full concrete reality. The concrete duration is indeed a continual becoming, but this becoming is possible only in the form of a continual appearance of new variations of pre-existing objects.

We find in the cultural world two distinct types of this becoming of historical objects. One is the intentional production of new objects on the ground of the rational organization of pre-existing materials and instruments. We shall study it in a later chapter. The other, more primary, is the unorganized evolution of new objects by a gradual differentiation of pre-existing objects. If a certain variation of content and meaning which may at first only be added to some existing historical object continues to develop by new actualization, if within a certain part of the concrete empirical world it becomes more and more frequently actualized independently of the original object of which it is a variation, it

(120) acquires in this series of actualizations a growing fixity and objectivity and thus begins to be treated as a separate object rather than as a mere variation. As its content and meaning develop in new connections, it can indefinitely grow in extension. It is, of course, impossible to say when the new object is definitively constituted as independently existing, unless when we take it exclusively within the limits of some particular complex in which it is isolated and thus implicitly ignore any variations that remain outside of this complex. This evolution may be primarily founded either on a differentiation of content or on one of meaning; in the first case, evidently, a corresponding modification of meaning, in the second, a corresponding modification of content, has to follow before the new object acquires enough of an independent existence to be treated as a separate object.

Since the beginning of the historical existence of every single object is thus to be found always in pre-existing historical objects, the existence of the whole world of experience in time has a character of continuity. But this continuity is clearly not at all identical with the conception of causal continuity of the natural world, though the concept of causal continuity may have its origin in a special determination of this general continuity of concrete evolution in view of the specific problems raised by the necessity of adapting the closed naturalistic system to the temporal character of empirical reality. The fundamental differences between these two continuities are these: (a) while the natural phenomenon is conceived as effectively brought into existence by preceding phenomena, the new historical object is merely passively conditioned by pre-existing historical objects, needs them to appear in existence, but is produced not by them, only from them by active thought; (b) while the natural phenomenon is completely conditioned in its entire temporal existence by other phenomena, the new historical object is conditioned only in the very beginning, and even then not completely, by

(121) the content and meaning of the object, or objects, from which it evolves, and becomes less and less dependent on the character of this pre-existing historical object and more and more dependent on its own character as its evolution progresses. The continuity in duration of the concrete empirical world is thus historical, not natural; is a continuity of growth by the agency of creative thought, not a continuity of changes determining one another.

Examples like the evolution of a new word or of a new myth illustrate this gradual unorganized growth of historical objects. Every new actualization of a word brings with it a variation, however slight, of its content, due to the peculiarities of pronunciation determined in part by organic differences between individuals, in part by the conditions in which it is used which provoke special intonations, in part finally to the influence of other words in the phrase; and every such variation is added to its concrete content, which thus grows in complexity all the time. The philological fixation of this content in a dictionary or grammar is, of course, merely an abstract formula of its whole complexity, as is shown by the need to modify the formula when after a longer evolution of the word itself the old formula ceases to correspond to the prevalent characters of its content; the old prevalent characters have been, in the consciousness of the people, pushed into shadow by the gradually agglomerating new characters. But it may be also that the old and the new pronunciation coexist: we may have a word with two forms. A similar evolution goes on with respect to the meaning of the word, when the latter in different actualizations is applied either to different objects or to the same object viewed from different standpoints. Thus the complexity of the meaning may grow so that nothing but its general limits are outlined with a rough approximation in the formal scheme of a philological definition of the word, which must also change when a new and gradually agglomerated predominant meaning has pushed

(122) into the background the meaning that formerly predominated. But it may be that both the old and the new meaning coexist: we may have a word with two meanings. And if the evolution of content and the evolution of meaning go on side by side, the word splits definitely into two distinct words. The myth shows a very analogous process of growth, only here differentiation of content is more regularly followed by a differentiation of meaning and reciprocally.

As long as this conception of growth is applied to the reality traditionally called "cultural" in the narrower sense of the term, hardly any serious difficulties can arise, if we only remember that this spontaneous growth gives place more and more on higher stages of culture to voluntary organized production, which we shall study later. Historical and ethnological investigations have accustomed us to the idea of an incalculable development of historical objects, to the conception that the entire enormous complexity of cultural contents and meanings have appeared from exceedingly poor and simple beginnings as the product of active thought. But all our intellectual traditions revolt against the application of this formula to the duration of material objects, parts of nature—mountains, rivers, planets, etc. How is it possible to interpret the existence of these objects in time as the evolution of historical objects growing by the addition of new variations of content and meaning in a series of actualizations ? And yet, it is not only by analogy that we are forced to extend our principle to cover natural objects as well.

By way of introduction, we may mention that the apparent theoretic difficulty of interpreting natural objects as historical objects becoming through actualization has been in a large measure due to the philosophical custom of first of all accepting the world of nature as ready with all its object and laws, as a perfectly closed, finished, and rational system, and only then trying to criticize its objectivity as a whole, instead of studying how this system has grown, step by step, and criticizing its

(123) internal construction. Therefore, when naturalism introduced the idea of evolution into this system and attempted to explain causally the origin of natural objects, idealistic criticism willingly admitted that the origin of natural objects as such could be explained causally from the standpoint of the natural system in the same way as, for instance, particular physical or biological changes: it saw no essential difference between the explanation of a repeatable change by a cause and the explanation of the origin of an object by a combination of causes, and continued to criticize the naturalistic system en bloc, as if all the principles assumed by the naturalistic theory had the same validity within the system of nature. Whereas the point is that, whatever may be the validity of the causal explanations when applied to the natural reality as already given, these explanations are inapplicable to the genesis of this reality or of any of its parts; the naturalistic system precludes the possibility of explaining not only the origin of full historical objects, but even the origin of its own objects, of objects as determined rationally within its own limits. And therefore even some naturalistic theories of the world which understand all the implications of the idea of natural evolution see the necessity of appealing, as Bergson does, to some mystical creative essence underlying empirical nature. For the most striking feature about the evolution of the natural world as material world is the gradual appearance of innumerable new contents, whereas the causal naturalistic explanation traces only the evolution of the mechanical or energetic conditions under which these contents are supposed to have appeared. The fact that they have actually appeared in the empirical world is thus taken for granted. But, if these contents are then considered objective, belonging to the natural things in themselves, as pure naturalistic realism presupposes, this is equivalent to an implicit assumption of a world of Platonic ideas existing besides the world of nature and to an implicit admission that some of those ideas

(124) come into materiality when the proper conditions are given; whereas, if these contents are considered, as in the conceptions of naturalistic dualism, as subjective, as occurring only in consciousness and constituting a reaction of conscious living beings to new conditions of their material environment in which these living beings are assumed to have appeared themselves as causal products of evolution, we have a theory to which we can apply the Schopenhauerian comparison with Baron Münchausen who pulled himself and his horse out of a quagmire by his own hair. But philosophy has had nothing to substitute for these pseudo-explanations because the individualistic limitation of subjective idealism did not permit it to trace the origin of objects beyond the duration of individual consciousness, and the timeless character of objective idealism prevented it from even stating adequately the full problem of the historical origin of objects. If, however, we now succeed in overcoming the subject-object dualism and the habit of looking upon nature as having become what it is without the participation of thought, all difficulties vanish.

We must first of all subdivide the problem. We neglect entirely that traditional part of it which concerns the existence of natural objects beyond the reach of our experience and reflection in general. We are concerned exclusively with empirical objects and it would be self-contradictory to ask whether these objects have any existence beyond all experience and reflection, for the concept of existence has no significance whatever unless used of empirical reality as empirically given object-matter of actual thought. Secondly, we exclude provisionally the problem of the determination of a natural object, for example, a mountain, a river, a planet, by the entire natural system of which it is a part, because the discussion of this problem would involve the question of the relative validity of the natural system as such, which sae have already postponed. We are concerned here exclusively with the existence, in concrete empirical duration, of these objects

(125) as elements of the whole concrete world of our experience in general and not merely with their existence within the natural system as one of the specifically organized complexes which exist within concrete experience.

It is clear that in these cases a direct appeal to the testimony of experience cannot have the same conclusiveness as the one which we made in the case of words and myths, for the empirical evolution of a natural object through a series of actualizations can be scarcely observed; even on the basis of our theory, it takes thousands of years to produce a really important change in the sensual appearance of reality. Still, there are observations which may be termed suggestive at least. Probably no one has failed to notice the fact that the appearance of any material object changes after a long acquaintance with it. This change is, of course, put by common sense into the psychological subject; but there is no psychological subject. In any case, therefore, natural objects as empirical objects do evolve by being actualized, though it would be impossible to define exactly in any given example the character of the evolution. We have sufficiently demonstrated that in concrete reality any modifications are modifications of the objects themselves as historical objects, not of their representations. The question then is what is the relative importance for the objects of such modifications as compared with the more general content of these objects, and we can perhaps hope for some answer to this question from the history of culture, of aesthetic culture in particular.

However, this is not the central point of the problem. As long as we take only single observable changes in the sensual content of objects, we have no positive arguments to oppose to the assumption that such changes concern these objects only as subjective data and not as self-existing realities. But if we take into account the totality of modifications which an object undergoes during its empirical existence, the subjectivistic interpretation proves completely untenable. It is

(126) evident that any empirical object, and therefore also the mountain, the river, the planet, can have duration in concrete empirical time only by being given in a series of actualizations, so that the beginning of its empirical existence as real object cannot in any case go beyond the beginning of its actualizations, that is, beyond the beginning of individual experience and thought in general. The only problem which we must now boldly face is, whether it can be assumed that it began to exist as empirical object with all the content and meaning which it now possesses or whether its content and meaning were constructed gradually through an immeasurably long series of actualizations, even as the content and meaning of other concrete objects like the word or the myth whose origin we can trace historically. This alternative would hardly even be stated, if it were not for two arguments which seem to point toward the first solution.

The one is an argument by analogy, based upon the fact that when we find now a sensual object which seeins to have never before been actually given to anybody—say a mountain in the polar region or a telescopic planetoid—it is given at once with all the characters of a mountain or a planetoid. From this it is concluded that when consciousness first began to exist it found nature at once possessing all the objective characters which it possesses now. But the fact is that, once given our present world of nature in general, whatever its origin, the content of any new natural object which we discover is a mere variation of some already existing contents of other natural objects, a variation whose highly developed form is now possible only because a long creative development of contents has preceded it and because it is itself a creative continuation of this development. It is evident that this content must be given as a natural object after its discovery, since the very process of "discovering an object in nature" involves the establishment in actuality of many connections between this content and various pre-existing natural objects,

(127) so that by assuming that we have "discovered it in nature" we have actually incorporated it into nature; we have made the content a part of the natural system, we have given it ourselves a meaning similar to those which other objects possess within the natural system, and thereby we have constructed it as a natural object. If somebody should presuppose that there is something, some trans-cultural reality underlying this empirical "mountain" or "planetoid," that this new object does not resolve itself into a content which is a creatively produced variation of other contents of already known mountains or planetoids, and an actually produced set of empirical connections, he would have to show what this underlying reality empirically consists in, otherwise his conception would be empirically meaningless, since an empirically inaccessible reality is nonsense. The only way he could show what there is behind this content and meaning which constitutes empirically the mountain or planetoid would be by historical analysis which, having excluded all that in mountains and planetoids is the product of the activities of conscious beings, might find something original and pre-conscious left in these objects. But we cannot tell whether any such discovered remnant really existed in fact before all activity or whether it is not a mere creation, a product of our own historical analysis, unless we have already demonstrated that nature did exist before consciousness, which is the very problem we are seeking to prove. From the fact that any particular object is given with all the properties of a natural object now when our world of nature in general is already given, it is evidently impossible to conclude that nature itself when first given was given at once with all the properties of our present nature. The situations are not at all analogous.

The other empirical argument consists in pointing out that, as far as our historical and ethnological researches reach now, the content and connection of natural objects do not seem to

(128) have changed except by natural causes. This is really the converse of the first argument and like it begs the question. The answer to the question whether natural objects have changed or not during evolution will depend, as we have already seen in our first chapter, on the philosophical standpoint taken toward this evolution. If we claim that all changes of the mechanical, physical, chemical properties and relations of objects as given to us are changes of our subjective views, are pure discoveries of previously existing properties and relations, then, of course, we shall say that objects have not changed; but this is precisely a matter of contention.

The irrelevancy of these two arguments leaves the problem open. The content and the meaning which natural objects, like all empirical objects, have for a certain individual depend on the spheres of experience and reflection of this individual. Whatever a reality may be in itself, for any concrete personality it is empirically only that which this individual experiences and reconstructs. Though at any particular moment an individual's passive experience and his active reconstruction do not coincide, because his subjectivation is concerned with different objects than his objectivation, the limits of his total sphere of experience tend to coincide with those of his total sphere of reflection, for he cannot reconstruct anything he has never approximately experienced and he cannot experience anything which he has never approximately reconstructed. We say approximately because in incorporating into a complex an object which he has passively experienced, he modifies it in some measure, and no object returns in his passive experience with exactly the same characters which it received when actively objectivated by him, since it is not a purely personal object but is modified also independently of this particular individual. Both the sphere of experience and the sphere of reflection are thus continually growing by new additions. But the growth of the sphere of experience is gradual and

(129) parallel to that of the sphere of reflection and vice versa, and these two spheres are dependent on each other: the individual widens his sphere of experience by widening his sphere of reflection and reciprocally. And the total field covered at any moment by both his experience and his reflection as developed up to this moment constitutes what we may call his "sphere of reality," that is, reality as existing for this individual at this moment of his evolution.

We do not need any particular intuition, any "feeling ourselves into" the consciousness of another individual in order to ascertain objectively how wide and complicated his sphere of reality is, because we find a perfectly adequate objective criterion in the range of his activity, in the widest sense of the term, as manifested in its real results. When measured by this criterion, the individual's sphere of reality not only increases during the development of his personality, but between the widest limits reached by various individuals, respectively, we find very great differences. If we compare the widest individual spheres of reality at different epochs of the cultural evolution, we find they have enormously increased even during the purely historical period of existence of the human race. A sociologist may affirm that a leading individual of five thousand years ago might have been capable of embracing by his activity as wide a domain of reality as a leading modern individual, but actually, as a matter of fact, he did not: the question of his potentialities may have some significance within the limits of race psychology, but is irrelevant for a philosophical theory of concrete reality. And, of course, the difference between the present and the past becomes much greater if we leave direct historical testimony and pass to an indirect reconstruction of the spheres of activity of the early representatives of the human race, with the help of paleontology and comparative ethnology; and it becomes quite incalculable if we go farther still and try to

(130) conjecture, not, indeed, about any particular "mental" properties, but about the domain or reality embraced by the activity of animal beings in the pre-human past.

Then, the next point which must be kept clearly in view, one which results, moreover, from our discussion in a previous section of the extensiveness of concrete reality, is that,, whereas the empirical world at any given moment is not limited as objective world to the contents and meanings that its objects possess in the spheres of experience and reflection of any one individual, it evidently is identical with the total reality of all the individuals who live and act in it, with all their spheres of reality taken together. Therefore, at the present moment the empirical world includes all that is included in the spheres of reality of all the empirically living and active individuals, from the greatest scientist down to the protozoön. But it includes nothing more. The science of nature, from the standpoint and within the limits of the naturalistic system, claims that nature includes even now the things, properties, and relations which will be discovered in it a hundred years from now. But our standpoint here is that of concrete historical reality, not of any special ontological systematization of this reality. And from the standpoint of concrete reality the material reality does not include now the contents and meanings which will be given to it in the spheres of experience and reflection of some great scientist a hundred years from now, any more than art includes now the works which will be produced by some great artist a hundred years from now, or social life the forms of political organization which will be given to social groups a hundred years from now. We may try to foresee the direction of the future evolution of the concrete empirical material reality, even as we may try to foresee the direction of the future evolution of art or of political organization, that is as of an evolution dependent in a gradually decreasing measure both on the present character of reality and on the present direction of active thought;

(131) we cannot foresee the future contents and meanings, because this would be producing them in advance.

The same considerations bear on every past stage of evolution. The concrete empirical real world contained at any past moment everything that was contained in the spheres of reality of all conscious individuals living and acting in it, and contained nothing more. At periods when in the empirical world there were no conscious beings higher than the mollusca, the empirical world was the totality of the spheres of reality of all conscious, that is, active, beings from the mollusca down.

It may be objected that this conclusion is absurd, for the mollusca needed a definite milieu to live in, so their world could not have been limited to their own spheres of reality but must have been such as we reconstruct it now, for only then it could have offered them the necessary conditions of existence. Let us again face the problem simply and squarely. Of course, the mollusca as the investigating scientist sees them now, with such bodies as they now have, can exist only in a milieu of the kind which the scientist reconstructs for them. But their bodies, like all bodies, are parts of our empirical reality, are objects of our concrete experience and reflection. As objects they determine other objects and are determined by them. Now, as parts of our present world of experience, they contain, like every other object, all the contents and meanings which they have ever possessed for all the individuals who have ever experienced and reproduced them as objects, and nothing more. Both the bodies of actually living mollusca and the shells found in old geological formations include all we ascribe to them as parts of our present nature, but the bodies of mollusca, when the latter were the highest conscious beings on earth, did not contain all they do now. As empirical objects they included only that which was practically experienced by their owners themselves and by other contemporary conscious beings.

(132) They were "adapted to their milieu," even as the bodies of the present mollusca appear to us "adapted" to their present milieu. But their milieu was then adapted only to them, whereas now it is adapted to the bodies of all the innumerable superior conscious beings that live and act in this empirical world. Their bodies and their milieu were then both empirically all that and only that which they were as objects of their practical experience.

Whatever may now be the character of natural objects within the naturalistic system and whatever may be the range of validity of the naturalistic system, in so far as natural objects are historical objects, elements of concrete reality, we must conclude that their duration has the same form as the directly observable duration of cultural objects in the narrower sense of the term. All of them, the bodies of conscious beings included, are historical products, developed in content and meaning, like all historical objects, through a series of actualizations; only, in their case, the series has been incomparably longer and the development incomparably slower than in the case of those cultural objects whose origin we can historically follow.

If this evident conclusion has been usually avoided, even by those who have tried to reconcile objective idealism and historicism, it is simply because on the ground of the subjectobject dualism, the active participation of thought in the evolution of objective reality could not be interpreted otherwise than by conceiving individual consciousnesses, each of which is evidently insufficient to explain alone the objective reality, as included in a general consciousness, a SuperConsciousness or an Absolute Life or whatever else it may be called. As a consequence, philosophers, even those who realized that the empirical world can be nothing more than what is given of it in experience and reflection, have still failed to see that in the early stages of development of experience and reflection, it could not have contained more than was

(133) given to and actively reproduced by all the individuals existing then, for they explicitly or implicitly thought of its being also given to that absolute all-embracing Super-Consciousness and therefore containing all that this Super-Consciousness was supposed to find in it. But this whole theory of Super-Consciousness is based on a misunderstanding. If reality exists empirically only as experienced and reconstructed by conscious beings, the latter exist empirically only as experiencing and reconstructing reality, that is, as active in it. We cannot assume any consciousness which does not manifest itself empirically in the modification of particular objects in their content and meaning by individual active thought, because consciousness is essentially actuality and actuality as we know it is exclusively the actuality of individuals, each with a limited sphere of experience and a relative reality as object-matter of his active and limited thought. To speak of an absolute consciousness is therefore either a selfcontradiction, if by consciousness we mean what we empirically find within our world, or an empty combination of words, if we mean something else by it. The same is true of any conception of a conscious being which has not actively manifested itself within our reality. Our concrete empirical world as such—we do not speak here of the world as conceived in one or another rational system—could not have been present at its beginning as it now is, either for a Super-Ego, or for a Super-Consciousness, or for an inhabitant of Mars, for it is in its entire empirical concreteness what it is only for the conscious beings who live and act empirically in it and whose existence and activity leave traces which can be empirically found in it.


Having thus shown that the empirical world is entirely a world of historically evolved objects and can contain nothing but that which has been gradually added to it in actuality by the active thought of empirically manifested conscious

(134) individuals, we now meet a new difficulty. Does the world contain all that has been ever added to it, is the process of evolution only a process of creation, unaccompanied by destruction ? And if there is destruction, as there certainly seems to be, how can we account for it? And supposing we do reconcile both creation and destruction, how shall we explain the prevalence of creation over destruction which is necessary to have produced this world?

Again we must subdivide the problem. We exclude the question of destruction and production conceived as brought about by natural causes. For, in a natural reality, by principle, there can be neither production nor destruction: there is only change, that is, production entirely balanced by destruction and reciprocally. This problem of change is connected with the general problem of the world of nature and will therefore be treated separately from the problem of concrete reality. Now, what does destruction mean for the latter ?

When a house is burned, what is there destroyed empirically, what effect does the burning have on the empirical existence of the house? Does it destroy its content? No, for the content persists in memory, can be revived at any moment. Does it destroy the meaning ? No, for the meaning established before can be revived, the acts suggested by it can be performed, and, though they can be performed only in imagination, still this does not make them unreal. And yet something has been certainly modified; the burned house is not the same as the standing house. From the standpoint of concrete reality, as object-matter of active thought, the difference between the new and the old conditions is clear; the house is no longer an object of certain activities. Its old content remains, but it is no longer enriched by being connected with other material objects; it may be developed still aesthetically, but not physically. Its old meaning remains, but no new material or hedonistic connections are established

(135) between it and other material objects or our own bodies. It has not ceased to exist, but it has been removed from the complex of present material reality.

Take another example. A speech has been made at a meeting. It is and remains an object with a definite content and meaning given to it by the speaker and all his listeners. But after a time many listeners forget it. It has not ceased to exist, for it can always be recalled by others and reconstructed; but it has been at least provisionally removed from the present spheres of reality of those individuals; it is no longer an object of active thought for them. Even those who remember it do not perform with regard to it many of the actions which were performed at the moment when it was made, do not reproduce it as element of the same complexes to which it then belonged.

Let us go farther. There existed an Egyptian civilization. It included technical products, economic values, political and social organizations, language, religion, art, science—in a word, everything a full civilization can contain. It disappeared with the ancient Egyptians, and for fifteen hundred years little was known about it. Does this mean that it has ceased to exist? No, because during the past century more and more of its objects have been gradually reproduced in their content and meaning, and they are still the same concrete historical objects, not different ones, in so far as the reconstruction is exact. Of course, not all their content and not all their meaning has been reproduced, but this is only a matter of degree. In fact, the reproduction of one or another object, of one or another variation of the content or meaning of an object, may be impracticable, but it can never be said to be absolutely impossible. And no historical object which can be actually revived has ceased to exist, however short or long the span of time between its successive actualizations, however small or great the variation of content and meaning which its new actualization brings

(136) with it. Yet there is a fundamental difference between the way these historical objects existed in ancient Egypt and the way they exist for us now. They are not for us objects of new actions of the same type as those performed by the Egyptians; we do not take them as parts of similar complexes. We do not use their technical products for practical purposes, their exchange—values are not (or not in the same proportions) exchange—values for us, we are little concerned with their myths and ritual in our own religious systems, we do not speak their language, their science is for us merely a historical datum, not a source of our own truth; only their art, their morality, their political and social organization, may have preserved for us a slight vestige of their old vitality, may influence in a minimal way our own art, our own morality, our own social life. Their values have dropped out of those systems of reality which are now within the limits of our vital interests.

These three examples, the burning of a house, forgetting of an event by an individual, passing away of an old civilization, illustrate the same general principle, which we must now take into consideration.

We postpone provisionally the question how it happens that a certain historical object becomes excluded from a certain complex of reality, and how it not only is not, but often cannot be connected with other values of this complex. Such an exclusion implies that the respective domain of reality is rationally organized and excludes the given historical object by virtue of its organization; and we shall speak of the rational organization of reality later on. Here we are concerned with the entire concrete existence of a historical object, independent of any special determination it may acquire and special conditions to which it may be subjected within one or another isolated system to which it may belong. From this general standpoint the problem stated above demands that a distinction be made between the mere fact of the existence of a historical object and the degree of its realness.


The concept of existence is, for the concrete historical world, retrospective. It bears on all that, and only on that which has been already evolved and as far as it has been evolved. To exist means simply to be in itself and for itself, not merely for actual thought. Of course empirically nothing exists which has not been produced by actual thought and which cannot become again an object-matter of actual thought, but as far as already existing it does not depend on actual thought for its further existence. The existence of concrete things is neither their pure actuality, nor a pure transcendence of all actuality, but a transcendence of any particular actuality and of any number of actualities. An object exists only as far as it has been actually created; an object that has yet to be created does not exist; possibility of being created is not equivalent to potential existence, and this differentiates the concrete historical reality from the abstractly determined physical reality in which the future may be said to exist in the present because it is supposed predetermined entirely by the present. However, all the objects which have been already created, with all their variations of content and meaning, exist if there is any possibility of their reappearing in actuality, because here the possibility is not an abstract and undetermined possibility of being created (which in the case of any particular object approaches zero, since the number of objects that can be created is, by the very definition of creation, unlimited), but a concrete and determined possibility of being revived, which for any particular object is theoretically a positive quantity, the number of objects that can be revived being always limited. Of course, like every other actualization, the revival itself is a creative act, for it always brings a new variation of the revived object, but it is not with the variation, only with the object which will include this variation, that w e are here concerned. And as there is no historical object which, once created, could not possibly be reconstructed under some, however improbable, conditions, even without

(138) the explicit consciousness of its having been created before, there is no historical object which, once created, can ever cease to exist, even if as a matter of fact it never is revived after it once disappears from the domain of actual human interests.

There is a prepossession which has hindered this principle from becoming generally recognized, namely, that consciousness of the continuity of existence is necessary for the continuity of the existence of a historical object. This standpoint is almost always more or less clearly taken with regard to historical objects whose existence seems to depend prominently on human individuals or societies. It is imagined that a historical object can be simultaneously the same for several individuals only if they are conscious of its identity and have communicated it to each other, that when two individuals have simultaneously the same idea, concrete remembrance, or concept (for usually an exception is made for material objects), it is not one, but two ideas which become unified only when each individual knows about the other's having it and refers his own idea to the other's. In the same way also it is assumed that a historical object cannot be successively the same for two individuals unless the one to whom it has been given later knows that it was given before to the other individuals, and it is this knowledge which is implicitly supposed to create the continuity of existence, just as when two individuals have at a different moment of time the same idea without the first having expressed it and directly or indirectly communicated it to the second, it is not taken to be one, but two ideas. This double assumption is simply the product of an erroneous interpretation of a real empirical fact. The historical object, whatever it be, possesses always, as we know, a certain range of extension, spreads over the spheres of experience and reflection of a certain number of individuals. Its mere objective existence as element of a complex is not affected by the range of its empirical extension;

(139) it exists as long as it can be reproduced with this complex, and it always can. But its actual influence on other objects, the rôle it plays in the concrete historical reality, does depend, of course, on its extension, and this rôle can decrease to approximately zero or increase indefinitely, depending on the decrease or growth of the extension of the object. Now, a historical object increases in extension by being introduced into new spheres of experience and reflection. This introduction may proceed empirically in various ways, but its fundamental mechanism is always the same. A certain object which belongs to the spheres of experience and reflection of some individuals living now, or which belonged to the spheres of experience and reflection of individuals who lived years or centuries ago, is objectively an element of a complex which has been partly experienced and reproduced by a certain individual, so that the latter is already acquainted with other elements of this complex, but not with this particular one. If, now, this individual reproduces this objective connection between the objects with which he is acquainted and the element which up to then did not belong to his sphere of experience and reflection, he introduces thereby this element into his actual sphere of reality as objectively the same. Of course, this object may have for him a somewhat different content and meaning than for others, if in their spheres of reality it was also an element in other complexes with which this individual is not yet acquainted. Thus, when an individual approaches a new locality, the material objects of this locality become gradually introduced into his sphere of experience and reflection and any material object which was ever given to others can be given to him because of its connections. By getting acquainted with the pictures on Egyptian walls he can reconstruct many of the values which were connected in the past with these pictures. 13v introducing into the spheres of his experience and reflection certain technical problems he may repeat, without knowing it, an invention

(140) which the same problems have suggested to others. And so on. The unknown historical object can be given whenever known and given objects, directly or indirectly, suggest it, owing to their pre-established connections. And since there are innumerable connections between an object and other objects of the historical reality, innumerable complexes more or less interfering with each other, there are for an individual many ways of reaching a certain unknown object and each known object may lead to the rediscovery of many others.

Now, the mechanism of social communication only makes this process more rapid and better organized: it permits an individual to suggest to others at once such definite objects as he wants to suggest among all the objects with which he is acquainted and others are not, and vice versa; it permits him to reproduce at once in his sphere such objects as are suggested to him among those with which others are acquainted and he is not. Thanks to social symbols, words, or signs, the extension of historical objects to new spheres of experience and reflection becomes intentional and selective, whereas without organized communication it is a matter of chance, depends on the question whether among the many suggestions which actually given objects offer to an individual he happens to follow the one which will lead him to the discovery of a certain personally unknown object. But the existence of this intentionally organized passage of objects from the sphere of experience and reflection of one individual to that of another presupposes the unintentional reproduction of objects as given to one individual by another individual; social communication, far from being the ground of the inter-individual community of objects, is entirely founded upon this community.

This is usually recognized with regard to material objects, since it is quite evident that symbols could not be the vehicle of social communicaticin, if the community of their sensual content were not independent of social communica-

(141) -tion, if each individual could not, on the ground of his own sphere of reality, experience and reproduce them by himself; and it is equally evident that no social co-operation in the material world would be possible if this world were not at least in its essential features common to the co-operating individuals without their needing to construct this community for every common action with the help of social communication. Now, the same must be true of all objects; sensual contents are not privileged in this respect. In order to have a myth, an idea, an economic value, a political or moral rule, communicated to me, I must be able to reproduce them on the ground of my own experience and reflection; I must have within my own sphere of reality the possibility of reconstructing for myself the same cultural objects with which others are already acquainted, otherwise the help offered by social symbols would be lost for me; these symbols would not mean to me the same objects as they mean to others. Whether I reproduce these objects before or after their reproduction has been suggested to me by other individuals, whether in reproducing them I am conscious that others are already acquainted with them or not, has no importance whatever for the question of their being the same objects for all of us. They are the same whether I know it or not, if their contents and meanings in my experience are sufficiently similar to the contents and meanings they have in the experience of others. Social communication can, indeed, help me to make my view of the object more similar to that of others by suggesting to me how I should determine this object to make it similar; but this suggestion would be useless if I could not determine it like others in any case, if I did not possess in my spheres of experience and reflection all that is necessary to reconstruct the complex in which this new object will acquire a character similar to that which it possesses for others. The consciousness that this object as given to me and reproduced by me is .the same as the object experienced

(142) and reproduced by others presupposes thus that the object can be the same without my being conscious of its identity in our respective experiences.

Further, cultural objects in the narrower sense of the term —scientific, aesthetic, religious, moral, political, economic—can be just as well the object-matter of social co-operation as natural reality; and though an intentional and organized co-operation requires in both cases that each individual be conscious of his reality's being the same as the reality of others, all co-operation, organized or not, would be impossible if the objects were not common independently of actual social communication, and if thus each individual could not find in objects as given to him the modifications which other individuals, with or without his knowledge, have produced in these objects, and if vice versa the modifications produced by him could not appear in the experience of others whether the latter knew or not who was the author. As a matter of fact, in the very beginning of social communication we do not even assume that there are differences between objects as given to other individuals and objects as given to us; we have to learn this, and we are still learning. The ground on which we begin to communicate is the general assumption of a universal and complete identity of objects for all conscious beings, and it is only gradually that we qualify it. The philosophical and sociological theories of social communication and of the continuity of culture as due to social tradition invert the original empirical situation, because they try to interpret it in the light of the supposition that human individuals are as many distinct, closed, and impenetrable minds within which all objects, or at least non-material objects, are supposed to be inclosed and whose communication becomes a fundamental, and in fact an insoluble, problem.

Existence, as the common character of all objects which have ever been given in the past and can therefore be given again with their once acquired content and meaning, applies

(143) equally to all of them, whether they happen or not to be within the sphere of present activities. But this is not so with respect to their "being real," their "realness," as we may call the character which an object possesses as a part of reality. The object is real, as we know, not because of the mere fact of its existence within the domain of actual or possible experience, but because of the significance which this existence has both for active thought and for other objects. What makes therefore a concrete object empirically real is not its having been produced by old activities, but its being now the starting-point for new activities. Realness is not the retrospective, but the prospective side of an object; it depends indeed on the past, on the connections already established between the object and other objects, but depends on them only with regard to the future, in so far as those connections are the ground for new acts. For it is clear that the more frequently an object appears in actuality and the wider grows the sphere of its extension, the greater becomes also the number and variety of new activities of which it is the object-matter, the greater its actual, not merely potential, significance for active thought and its influence on other objects. And thus, while existence admits no gradations, there are innumerable possible degrees of realness, though of course whatever exists has some degree of realness, however slight, however approaching zero, for there are no existing objects without any reference whatever, even though only distant and mediate, to the present sphere of reality of some conscious beings.

While existence, once acquired, is never lost, realness does not stay changeless, but either increases or decreases indefinitely. Its increase is the direct effect of the actual growth of an object in extension, of its introduction into new spheres of reality. When, on the contrary, an object ceases to enter into new connections, other objects take its place in the center of active interest, and not only it does not become the object-matter of new actions, but even old actions cease to be

(144) actually repeated, its importance for activity and its influence upon other objects decrease. This may be the effect either of that removal of the object from a certain system of reality which is destruction proper, or of simple oblivion, that is, of other objects and groups of objects actively taking the center of present experience and reflection. What is destroyed in both cases is neither the content nor the meaning of the object, but some of its realness.

It may happen also that an object which loses some realness in a certain domain continues to acquire some in another domain, that while a certain side of its content and meaning ceases to be the object-matter of new activities, another side develops even more intensely than before. Thus, an object that has lost some of its material realness by physical destruction may continue to exist chiefly as a mythological, or aesthetic, or scientific value. We know, for example, that in myths which have material realness as their basis the partial destruction of this realness is often a necessary condition of the development of the myth, and the time is not very remote when only happenings and personalities which had ceased to be materially real were considered the proper objects of poetry.

This possibility for an object to increase in realness in one line after the destruction of a part of its realness in another helps us to understand how it is that, while within any particular real complex creation may be balanced by destruction or the latter may prevail altogether, the whole concrete historical reality is ceaselessly and indefinitely growing. And the very rate of this growth increases in the measure in which organized, systematic, intentional creation of new objects becomes gradually superadded to the primary unorganized development of contents and meanings due to those innumerable, often insignificant, but continually agglomerating variations which all acts of thought add to the reality that is their object-matter.


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