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Persons in Relation 1953–1954

John Macmurray

CHAPTER EIGHT
Reflection and the Future
Action is the determination of the future. Freedom is the capacity to act, and so the capacity to determine the future. This freedom has two dimensions; the capacity to move, and the capacity to know; both of which have reference to the Other. To move is to modify the Other: to know is to apprehend the Other. To act, then, as the essential unity of these two freedoms is to modify the Other by intention.1 To this we add that since the agent is part of the Other, he cannot modify the Other without modifying himself, or know the Other without knowing himself. In determining the future for the Other he also determines his own future. Self-determination is thus included in action as a negative aspect. It is negative because the intention is directed upon the Other, not upon oneself.
The freedom of any particular agent, however, depends upon his knowledge of the Other, and this knowledge is problematic. So far as his knowledge of the Other is infected with error, his capacity to act will be frustrated; his intention will not be realized. This frustration does not mean that he cannot act at all, but that he will act wrongly and the resulting determination of the future will not be what he intended, and hence not in the strict sense his determination. It will be determined for him through his own act in a way which he did not intend. This must include, of course, a self-determination which is un-intentional. Again, his freedom of action will depend upon the adequacy of his knowledge: he will be able to determine the future only to the extent of his knowledge, even if it is valid so far as it goes.
The reflective activities of the personal are, therefore, concerned with the development of knowledge, and this development has two interrelated aspects, eliminating error and enlarging its scope. The development of knowledge is primarily concerned with our knowledge of the Other; but this will include, as its negative, knowledge of ourselves. The reflective activities, as negative aspects of action, are for the sake of action; they are symbolic actions, as it were, with a meaning; and this meaning is a reference beyond the symbols to what they signify. In general, this reference is from reflection to action; from a symbolic or imaginary action to real action. Now since action is the determination of the future, all reflective activities have a reference to the future and its determination. They determine the future symbolically, but not in reality.
We have determined three forms of reflection—religion, art and science. It remains for us to consider their relation to the future and to one another. It will help us in this task if we remember that all must be concerned with the extension of knowledge and the elimination of error; and so with creating the conditions of freedom, that is to say, of action as the capacity to determine the future in accordance with an intention. Further, since it is the capacity to act—to do something knowing what we are doing—that makes us persons, and since reason is the traditional term which we apply to the differentia of the personal, the forms of reflection will be modes of rationality.
The primary mode of reflective rationality, then, is religion. It is, as we have seen, primary in the historical and genetic sense. It is both the first form of reflection to manifest itself in human development, and the matrix from which the other forms are historically derived. But it is also, as we shall see, the primary mode analytically. It is the basic mode with which the others must function if they are to maintain their own rationality. We shall therefore consider religion first of all, and seek to discover the logical derivation of art and science from it, as forms of reflective rationality.
Religion, as a mode of reflection, is concerned with the knowledge of the personal Other. The data for such reflection are our experiences of personal relationship. We know other persons, in our practical activities, by entering into personal relation with them. Reflection, however, being derivative, can arise only from a problem set by failure in action. Religious reflection, therefore, arises from a failure in personal relationship, and its reference, as a symbolic activity, is to personal relationship. It aims at knowledge of the personal Other in mutual relation with oneself; it is for the sake of the life of active personal relationship; its function is, therefore, to understand the reason for the failure so that the relationship may be resumed in a way that will avoid failure in future.
Now any form of reflection universalizes its problem, however particular it may be in origin. The withdrawal from action is a withdrawal from the particularity of a situation; and the substitution of a symbol for the particular reality has the effect of universalization. For the symbolic resolution of the problem will apply to all cases to which the symbols can refer. This is quite independent of any immediate interest. If I reflect upon the reason why a particular friend has taken offence at something I have done, I may have no other interest than to discover how to restore the relation between us. But if I do reach an understanding, I have improved my knowledge of personal relationship in general, and can avoid this sort of mistake with other people. Religious knowledge, therefore, universalizes the problem of personal relationship, and seeks an understanding of personal relationship as such. We must not confuse this universality with mere generalization, which is characteristic of scientific reflection. Each form of reflection has its own type of universality. Art does not generalize; on the contrary, it particularizes; yet its insight is universal in its own mode. Religious reflection, for reasons we have already touched upon, universalizes its problem through the idea of a universal Person to whom all particular agents stand in an identical relation. This is the idea of God, and religious knowledge is rightly described as the knowledge of God. Such knowledge will apply universally to all instances of personal relationship.
The form of religious reflection is necessarily determined by its data; and these are our practical experiences of our relations with one another. How then do we know one another, and what form does this knowledge take? Clearly, it has a very different form from our knowledge of the material world. It is not, and cannot be, objective or scientific. A purely objective attitude to another person precludes a personal knowledge, because it excludes direct personal relationship. We can know a great deal about other people, both in particular and in general, without knowing them. The reason for this is simply the mutuality of the personal. If I know you, then it follows logically that you know me. If you do not know me, then necessarily I do not know you. To know another person we must be in communication with him, and communication is a two-way process. To be in communication is to have something in common. Knowledge of other people is simply the negative or reflective aspect of our personal relations with them.
From this there follows an interesting corollary. All knowledge of persons is by revelation. My knowledge of you depends not merely on what I do, but upon what you do; and if you refuse to reveal yourself to me, I cannot know you, however much I may wish to do so. If in your relations with me, you consistently ‘put on an act’ or ‘play a role’, you hide yourself from me. I can never know you as you really are. In that case, generalization from the observed facts will be positively misleading. This puts the scientific form of knowledge out of court in this field. For scientific method is based on the assumption that things are what they appear to be; that their behaviour necessarily expresses their nature. But a being who can pretend to be what he is not, to think what he does not think, and to feel what he does not feel, cannot be known by generalization from his observed behaviour, but only as he genuinely reveals himself.
But we must go deeper than this. The ‘I’ and the ‘You’, we have said, are constituted by their relation. Consequently, I know myself only as I reveal myself to you; and you know yourself only in revealing yourself to me. Thus, self-revelation is at the same time self-discovery. This may sound paradoxical, yet it is a commonplace of personal experience. In no field of knowledge is anything really known until it is expressed; and to express knowledge is to put it in the form of a communication. In the personal field this is merely complicated by the mutuality of the personal relation. One can only really know one's friends, and oneself through one's friends, in a mutuality of self-revelation. This self-revelation is, of course, primarily practical, and only secondarily a matter of talk. We sometimes call it ‘giving oneself away’, and contrast it with ‘keeping oneself to oneself’.
Now because of this such knowledge of another person as we can achieve depends upon our emotional disposition towards him. In the formal terms of our earlier analysis, a negative personal relation between persons makes knowledge of the other and of oneself alike impossible. For mutual dislike or hostility inhibits self-revelation. Of course, I still form an ‘idea’ of my enemy; and I shall take my representation of him to be the truth. But this will necessarily be an illusion. I shall know him as he appears to be, but not as he really is; and the knowledge will be ‘unreal’. My knowledge of another person is a function of my love for him; and in proportion as my knowledge is a function of my fear of him, it is illusory or unreal. The problematic of our knowledge of persons is in terms of the distinction between reality and illusion, between ‘real’ and ‘unreal’.
The problematic of religion, therefore, is in terms of this distinction. Religion itself, in any of its manifestations, can be real or illusory. The distinction rests upon the motivation which sustains religious reflection. If the motivation is negative the religious activity and the knowledge which informs it will be illusory; it will be real so far as it is positively motived. Illusory religion is, then, egocentric, for the sake of oneself, defensive; it is grounded in the fear of life. Real religion is heterocentric. So far as it is concerned with oneself, it is for the sake of the other. All religion, as we have seen, is concerned to overcome fear. We can distinguish real religion from unreal by contrasting their formulae for dealing with negative motivation. The maxim of illusory religion runs: ‘Fear not; trust in God and He will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you’; that of real religion, on the contrary, is ‘Fear not; the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.’
We have been considering religion from the point of view of the individual. If we look at it from the point of view of the society whose religion it is, we can express this in terms of the categories of apperception. Any society of persons, united in a common life, has a religious aspect. Atheism, if it is in action, is an effort to suppress this aspect; if it is passive, it is a failure to recognize it. Both active and passive atheism are normally reactions against unreal religion, and even so they are accidental and unusual. All societies therefore have religions which express and symbolize their consciousness of community. But if their normal apperception is negative the religion will be unreal. If the apperception is pragmatic, the religion will have the form, as it were, of a spiritual technology; an armoury of devices to control the forces which determine practical success or failure, but which are beyond the reach of ordinary human power; a set of ritual devices which placate the hostility or enlist the favour of the divine. If the apperception is contemplative, the religion will be idealist or ‘purely spiritual’. Such religion tends in various manners to be ‘otherworldly’, for it is characteristically the representation of an ideal community which is hoped for and imagined, but not intended in practice. It is a withdrawal from the world; an escape into phantasy: it refers its symbols not to the common world of actual life, but away from it to another world which compensates for the unsatisfactory character of the actual. It tends, therefore, to make central a belief in the immortality of the soul, and like all idealism, to invert the relation between reality and appearance. It makes the spiritual world real; the material world unreal and illusory.
The problematic of religion, then, is in terms of the distinction between reality and unreality in the relation of persons. For this reason the primary demand of religion is for a personal integrity. Integrity here is not a general term for moral goodness: it means specifically a way of life which is integral. In particular, an integration of the inner life with the outer, a unity of reflection and action, a coincidence of motive and intention. If this were complied with, the result would be action which is at once moral and spontaneous, and consequently, free. The opposite of this is action which is ‘hypocritical’ in its etymological sense of ‘play-acting’, or ‘acting a part’, ‘sustaining a role’. Integrity, then, is incompatible with dualism in any form and religion is therefore incompatible with acquiescence in dualism, whether in its pragmatic or its idealist mode.
We should notice that it is acquiescence in dualism that is the real issue, not the fact of dualism. Religion expresses the intention to realize integrity, in the face of the dualism that pervades the personal world. If dualism were not the fact, if there were no unreality in personal life, then there would be no need for religion, and religion would never make its appearance. But if we acquiesce in dualism, there is no point in religion, and religion itself becomes a sentimentality. To suppress religion is, therefore, to suppress the consciousness of unreality in ourselves, and, in Rousseau's phrase, to ‘take men as they are, and States as they ought to be’. This is to project our unreality upon the impersonal Other, denying it in ourselves. It is this self-deception which religion refuses. It recognizes the constraint of necessity which maintains the unity of social co-operation, whether as an external compulsion or an inner repression; whether as a law enforced by the Other or as a law which we impose upon ourselves. But for religion it is the necessity of this constraint that is the problem of problems—the problem of evil. The problem is, ‘Why can we not do as we please?’ The negative modes of morality give a reason; and the form of their argument is, ‘Because it is in the nature of things that we should not.’ Religion rejects this answer; its own has another form. ‘Why not, indeed? The fact that we cannot is the problem. Let us discover what is wrong and put it right.’
Now, since religion is a form of reflection, it is a search for knowledge, that is, for a valid symbolic representation. But because its problematic is in terms of the distinction of real and unreal the question to be asked about its representation is not limply whether it is true, nor merely whether it is satisfying, but whether it is real. This is a question which includes the other two questions and demands their unification. If it is true but unsatisfactory, or if is satisfactory but untrue, it is unreal. Now truth is judged; satisfaction is felt: consequently the reflection which is concerned with the problematic of truth is an intellectual reflection, while the reflection that is concerned with satisfactoriness is emotional. The first is concerned with matter of fact; the second with matter of intention, that is to say, with value. Both, as representational, refer to action and have their verification in action.
The knowledge which is involved in action has two aspects, which correspond to the reflective distinction between means and end. As knowledge of means, it is an answer to the question, ‘What, as a matter of fact, is the means to a given end?’; as knowledge of ends, it is the answer to another question, ‘Which, of the possible ends, is the most satisfactory end to pursue?’ This second question is concerned with value, not with matter of fact. It initiates a reflective activity which seeks to arrange an order of priority between possible ends. Action itself involves the integration of these two types of knowledge. To act is to choose to realize a particular objective, in preference to all other possible objectives, by an effective means. In reflection, however, these two questions are necessarily separated, because they require two different modes of reflective activity for their solution. From this it follows that the problematic of religion, which requires their integration, can only be solved in action and not in reflection. The validity of a theological doctrine, for instance, cannot be determined merely by asking whether it is true. For this is only one aspect of its reality. Its validity depends also upon the valuation with which it is integrated in action. It is characteristic of theological doctrines that they are ambivalent in this respect. The Christian doctrine of the incarnation may mean, to one who accepts it, either that he is expected to live according to the pattern set by Christ, or that he cannot be expected to do so.
Religion, therefore, has two aspects, ritual and doctrine. The first is aesthetic in form, the second scientific. Of the two aspects, the aesthetic is the positive and primary, since it is valuational, and refers to the intention of action; the scientific is secondary and negative, since the means presupposes the end. These aspects are not, of course, science and art; the distinction has reference only to their form. As aspects of religion they are held together and complement one another—looking to their integration in action. Or, to put it otherwise, both refer to the unity of action which constitutes reality; the one to its aspect as fact, the other to its aspect as value. The one refers to an absolute Truth which is the standard of all partial truths; the other to an absolute Satisfactoriness (or Goodness) which is the standard of all partial goods. In their togetherness they symbolize the unity of Truth and Goodness. But this unity is realized only in action; so that reality is symbolized as the one action which intends the unity of Truth and Goodness, and which achieves its end with absolute efficiency. To this we must add that the problem of the unreal is the problem of the personal, and action depends upon the relation of persons. The absolute intention must, therefore, be the realization of a universal community; the means to this the actuality of the world as history. This can only be satisfactorily expressed in religious terms, as we should expect; since no form of reflection can be adequately translated into another. The language of religion, which wrestles with the problematic of the personal, is necessarily a personal language. We might say—to use a form of words with which we are familiar—that the reality of the world is a personal God, who is the Creator of the world and the Father of all men. His work in history is the redemption of the world from evil and the setting up of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
If the motive which sustains a religion becomes negative, the religion itself must become unreal. In that case, the religion may either become aggressive—seeking to achieve community by force and achieving, at most, a pragmatic society; or it may become submissive, contemplative and idealistic, referring its reflective symbolism to another world; to a community which is expected but not intended. We must refrain from elaborating this theme, tempting though it is, in order to concentrate our attention upon a more urgent issue. We must consider the loosing of the ties which unite the two aspects of religion—the intellectual and the emotional—so that they enter upon an independent life of their own and become autonomous as science and art respectively.
It should be remembered in this and similar connections that when we derive the negative forms from the positive by a negation of the positive, the purpose is methodological and expository. It must not be interpreted as though it were constitutive. In the rhythm of withdrawal and return, the negative phase may be intentionally for the sake of the return; or it may not be. In the latter case the return is for the sake of the withdrawal. In the form of the personal the positive always contains and is constituted by its negative. Consequently there is no reason why both science and art should not be integrated with religion, as the two ambivalent forms of the negative which is necessary to its constitution. Indeed, the development of religion requires the discrimination of the two forms of reflection within it, if it is not to fall into illusion. If, on the other hand, any religion falls into unreality by losing its reference to the real world, that is, the world of action, art or science or both must become substitutes for religion. For the reference of reflection to action is necessary. If it is not maintained in one way it must be maintained in another. The same principle holds in all fields of personal experience. We distinguished between a positive and two negative modes of morality;2 between community and two forms of society.3 But the reality of community implies society in both its forms, as necessary to it, in due subordination within it. Community which does not express itself in co-operative activity for common purposes is illusory—a mere sentimentality. Similarly, the positive morality of love contains and subordinates the two negative moralities of good form and of self-control.
Art and science are derived from religion by a limitation of attention. They are activities of reflection carried on for their own sake, and not for the sake of the personal Other. The one is an activity of emotional reflection, the other of intellectual reflection. As aspects of religion they refer to action which integrates them, and they have therefore a reference to one another and qualify one another. This is possible only so far as action is positively motived and heterocentric. If they are carried on for their own sakes, the reference to the personal Other is excluded from this intention of the activity; though it necessarily remains as matter of fact. As a result they lose their intentional reference to one another and become antithetical. Religion, we might say, intends the synthesis of art and science; art and science each intend themselves and exclude one another. Art intends the determination of the possible, not of the actual. Its problematic is in terms of satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and it is therefore an activity of valuation. Science intends the determination of the actual, not of the possible. Its problematic is in terms of true or false, and it is concerned with matter of fact. Both, however, are impersonal activities, in the sense that neither intends the personal. The relation of both the artist and the scientist to the world is an impersonal relation. In the critical case, which is the relation to their fellow men, they stay aloof. The scientist, intellectually reflective, observes, compares, generalizes and records; the artist contemplates, isolates, particularizes and evaluates, in an activity of emotional reflection.
We must not forget, however, that both art and science are, as a matter of fact, personal activities. They are the activities of persons, and only of persons. It is the relation to the Other that is impersonal. Artist and scientist alike are doing something, and the unity of the personal informs the doing. In both cases, therefore, the motive and intention are operative together; both intellectual and emotional forces are at work. There is, then, in all art an intellectual element, and in all science an emotional element. The intention, however, is in science intellectual, and therefore factual; in art it is emotional and evaluative. Formally, the artistic aspect in science is negative and subordinate, for the sake of the scientific; while in art the relation is reversed. Further, as personal activities they are forms of reflective rationality, though they are limited forms. Their rationality consists in their problematical character and their reference to the world of action for their verification. Their limitation is a limitation of this reference. Both refer only to an aspect of experience. In this sense they are abstract forms of rationality. Action based upon a valid intellectual analysis of the world may as a whole be irrational, since its intention may be evil; and action based on a valid valuation may equally be irrational as a whole; as, for example, the effort to achieve community by force.
To complete this comparison, we must add that of the two abstract forms of rationality, the aesthetic is primary, the scientific is secondary and subordinate. This follows at once from the fact that the end determines the means and not vice versa. It is, of course, possible to allow the means to determine the end. We do this whenever we exploit any sort of power for its own sake. But this is inherently irrational, or rather it can be rational only by reference to a valid intention to which it is itself the means, as when we act experimentally, testing the efficiency of a means before using it for a positive purpose. The reference in science to action is to its aspect as means; that of art is to its aspect as end; and the end includes, as a negative, the means to the end in the same way as the conclusion of a syllogism includes its premises. For this reason science is pragmatic while art is contemplative.
We discover, then, three forms of reflective rationality, of which the fully intentional expressions are religion, art and science respectively. All of these are equally rational, for reason is the same in all its manifestations. It would be an error to think that science is less rational than art or art than religion. But it is true to say that science is the lowest, religion the highest form of reflective rationality, while the rationality of art is intermediate. From the point of view of the agent, the validity of his action—its reality as action—has three aspects. The means chosen must be efficient, the end to be realized must be satisfactory, and the action as a whole must be moral, that is to say, compatible with the community of action as a whole. Of these aspects, the moral validity is primary. It is the governing condition of the full and ultimate satisfactoriness of the end. For the end achieved may be satisfactory in itself, considered abstractly in isolation. Its value may be intrinsic. Yet it may conflict with the ends of other agents which are equally valid in themselves, and in such circumstances its intrinsic validity may not justify its realization. Further, the end realized may be unsatisfactory in itself, yet the means chosen to realize it may be efficient. In that case, a valid means has been misused.
The propriety of this analysis is borne out by an examination of the structure of language, so far as it is relevant to the issue. The form of the personal is a relation of persons; and a person is an agent. To be an agent is to be in active relation with the Other, which includes himself. Thus the unit of the personal is two persons in community in relation to a common Other which includes them. The basic condition of their community is communication, and language is their normal means of communication. Language must, therefore, reflect this structure of relationships. It does so by distinguishing and symbolizing three persons, which the grammarians call the first, second and third persons. The first person is the speaker, symbolized as ‘I’, the second is the person addressed, the ‘You’, and the third is the person or thing spoken about. The fact that this last element is called a person reminds us of our conclusion that the Other is primarily personal, and that the impersonal is a discrimination within it—its negative aspect. Thus the grammarian's third person is symbolized as ‘he, she or it’.
The full situation which is thus reflected is two persons in communication about a common Other. The ‘I’ and ‘You’ are talking to one another; and the mutuality of the relation is expressed by the interchange of the symbols. When I speak to you, I am the first person, you are the second. When you reply you become the first person and I the second. The symbols are interchangeable. The third person is the same for both of us, the common other about which we are talking. It is this whole situation which is generalized in religious reflection as the community of persons in active relation to the universal Other, that is, to God.
Now we can derive the situation which is reflected in art and science by successive limitations of this grammatical structure. In aesthetic reflection, we may say, the second person is intentionally excluded. The ‘You’ cannot, of course, be excluded as a matter of fact, for the ‘I’ is constituted by his relation to the ‘You’, but he can be excluded by a limitation of attention. The second person, excluded from attention, is not abolished, but he is not individualized. He is, as it were, treated as a negligible constant. The artist's activity is one of expression; it is not complete until its product is exhibited, or at least externalized in a form which can be exhibited, to other people. Expression implies exhibition, and exhibition implies communication. But the communication is not to another person to whom the artist stands in a personal relation. It is to a public; to anyone who has the interest to accept and the ability to understand. In the activity of reflective and symbolic representation, however, the artist's intention is not communication—that supervenes upon the completion of his task—it is limited to expression, to the construction of an adequate image.
Art then, as emotional reflection expressing itself in the construction of an adequate image, is an activity of the isolated self in mutual, but impersonal relation to the Other. Its grammatical schema includes the first and third persons, and excludes the second person. The inclusion of the first person signifies that the completed symbol expresses not the object of the artist's attention merely, but himself, as an individual person, in relation to the object. For this reason the same object will give rise to different symbols and different valuations for every artist. The expression is not of the object as such but of the artist's vision of the object.
If now we take a step farther, and exclude in intention not only the second but also the first person, we have the schema of scientific or intellectual reflection. Again, the first person cannot in fact be eliminated; he can only be generalized and treated as a negligible constant. The scientist is indeed a person, and the scientific activity is his activity. But he must intentionally exclude himself—reduce himself to a mere observer who records what happens and takes pains to see that his personal reaction to what happens is excluded from what is symbolized. The scientist must take precautions which will eliminate the personal factor, and make allowances for the errors of observation to which it may give rise. What he observes and what he symbolizes must be the same for all possible observers. What remains of the schema of communication is only the third person, isolated in intention from all relation to the personal reality of the observer, as well as from that of the persons to whom the results of his reflection may thereafter be communicated. Science is thus completely impersonal and merely objective. It knows, or at least intends to know, only the Other in its isolation. Whether this is actually possible must remain doubtful. Until recently science felt assured that it was possible to know the impersonal Other as it is in itself. But contemporary science has found reason to doubt this, and is busy revising its theory in consequence. From the philosopher's point of view this was to be expected, and makes no essential difference. Observation can take note only of what appears to the observer. Whether the relation of the object to the person observing it makes an essential difference to objective knowledge we cannot be certain, and there is no need to be certain. All that is necessary to scientific rationality is that what is observed should be the same for all possible observers. Whether this guarantees that the object is known as it is when it is not observed, known 'as it is in itself, is inherently doubtful, and indeed the question seems to be nonsensical. Can it mean anything to ask what a thing looks like when no one is looking? It is enough that this product of scientific reflection should be the same for all scientists. This guarantees its rationality. In art, on the other hand, the opposite is the case. The product of artistic reflection is necessarily different for every artist. If two painters were to produce identical representations of the same scene, the genuineness of the work of the one or of the other or of both would at once be questionable. Either one would be a copy of the other, or both mere mechanical reproductions of the scene, using the same technique but devoid of genuine emotional reflection.
The rationality of any mode of reflection lies in its reference to the Other. Without this reference reflection is mere phantasy, mere imagination. Art and science are, from one point of view at least, both objective and both equally objective. The one objectivity is descriptive, the other valuational. If art were not objective, it would have no problematic; it would be a mere subjective play of fancy. It would be impossible that there should be a distinction between good and bad art, and all products of art would be meaningless and insignificant. It is not easier to produce a great drama than to make a great scientific discovery. It is much more difficult. The possible data for art and for science are the same—the whole range of our experience of the world. Both demand an intense and impersonal concentration upon the world. Both have their interest fixed upon the other, not upon the self. Both extend our knowledge of the world, though in different fashion, and of the two kinds of knowledge it is that yielded by the insight of the artist that is more important. The denial of this rests upon the traditional dogma, which we have already dismissed, that feeling cannot be cognitive.
Now, from the standpoint of the Agent, the reference of all reflection is to action. But action is the determination of the future. Both art and science, therefore, have a reference to the future, and this reference constitutes their rationality, and provides the means of their validation. The resolution of their problematic lies only in action, and action is concerned with the future. Reflection, we have seen, is about the past, about the existent—that which is already determinate. But it refers to the future. The actual is datum for science. It is the model for art. But as activities directed upon the actual, both point beyond it, to what is not yet.
The reference of science to the future is clear. Science provides that kind of knowledge which can form the basis for technology; that is to say, for the provision of techniques for the achievement of intentions. Through the scientific extension of knowledge we learn how to do what we want to do and could not do, or not so effectively, without it. Thus science increases the range of our power. But it is indifferent as regards the objectives of action. It can therefore be used for good or bad ends indifferently, to further intentions which are either rational or irrational. Science presupposes intentions and does not evaluate them. As a dimension of action, scientific knowledge is the negative aspect of technology, that is to say, of action regarded as means. For this reason the problematic of science—true or false?—is resolved by experiment. We do something which will achieve a certain result if the theory is true but not if the theory is false. This does not mean that science is necessarily carried on by scientists for the sake of technology. It may be pursued for its own sake, and is probably at its best when so pursued. But whatever the immediate aim of the scientist, knowledge always is ultimately for the sake of action. The negative is always for the sake of the positive. And the aspect of action for which science exists—its function for the community—is its technological aspect. It envisages the actual as the means of action and asks only questions to which answers can be verified experimentally, that is, by their use as the basis of a technology.
Art, on the other hand, starting from the same world of actual experience, contemplates instead of merely observing. It does not refer the object which it contemplates to a class and seek to discover and formulate a general law. Instead it isolates and individualizes its object, and seeks to penetrate beneath the surface appearance to the individual reality which makes it significant. The artist is in search not of a law, but of a form; and the concepts of ‘law’ and ‘form’ are related as the concepts of ‘means’ and ‘end’. For a law is a rule for achieving ends: it is technological. A form is an achieved finality, to be contemplated and enjoyed. When it is referred to the future it defines a finality to be achieved, and so the unity of the action as it is intended to be; an organic unity of its elements, complete in itself and therefore satisfactory.
Form, in this sense, is always ideal. It is a standard to which the actual can only approximate. For the actual is always in process and never complete; and any object of contemplation presents a form which is due as much to the whole actual within which it exists as to its own individual being. It is the form that would express the isolated individual in its own self-realization which the artist seeks. To reproduce the form actually observed would be useless: it would be totally inadequate to the artistic aim. The observed form is only the starting-point of a reflective activity of feeling which must create an adequate form, complete in itself; with a unity achieved by the functional relation of divergent elements, and characterized by the rhythm, balance and harmony of its differences. ‘Art’, said Mr. Roger Fry, ‘is significant form.’ I prefer to express what I take to be substantially the same idea by saying that art is the expression of satisfactory form in an adequate image. The form is universal, a standard of satisfactoriness for contemplation. The image is its embodiment in a particular combination of sensible elements. Only so can form be exhibited; for a form must be the form of something; and the significance of form cannot be intellectually apprehended, it must be felt.
The function of art, then—its place in the economy of the personal, and so in action as the determination of the future— is the education and refinement of sensibility. Sensibility is feeling determining an image, as we saw at an early stage of our discussion.4 In action, this image is the ‘image of the end’, as Aristotle said, and as such the representation of the Good as a form. ‘The Good’, to quote Aristotle once again, ‘may be defined as that at which all things aim.’5 This capacity to envisage the future before we act and while we act is itself the form of intentionality. For in acting we must envisage our action as ideally complete and satisfactorily achieved. We refer to this as ‘the formation of an intention’, and this expression is satisfactory so long as we remember that the intention is itself formed in the process of acting, and the intention present before the action begins is only the germ of an intention which develops during the action and is mature only when the action is completed. Of this aspect of action art is the reflective mode.
Science, then, is knowledge of the Other as means. This knowledge it represents as a universal system of laws of Nature, which forms the theoretical basis for all possible techniques. Art is the knowledge of the Other as ends, which it represents as a set of universal forms which are the standards of satisfactoriness or value for contemplation, and therefore the basis for all satisfactory intentions. But in reflection the two aspects are unrelated and antithetical. Action is the unity of means and end: it involves a double choice—of ends to be achieved and of the means to their achievement. Science provides a knowledge of the general rules of efficiency in action without reference to the intentions to be realized through them. Art exhibits the general forms of all satisfactory achievement, that is to say, of intrinsic values, of ends which are indirectly worth achieving, without reference to the means for their realization, and so as ideals. These are the two antithetical forms of abstract reflective rationality. Practical rationality is the synthesis of these two aspects; the unification of efficient means and satisfactory ends. But we meet here the ultimate condition both of efficiency and satisfactoriness. The future can be determined only in one way, and therefore only through the unification of actions, as one action of many agents. If this is not achieved, then the means which is efficient in abstract theory will prove ineffective in practice; and what is ideally satisfactory will prove in reality unsatisfactory. The actions of different agents will negate one another and produce frustration. The function of religion is the representation of the community of agents, and of the ultimate conditions of action, both in respect of its means and its ends. Religion, we may say, is the knowledge of the Other as community, and is the full form of reflective rationality. It is the knowledge which must inform all action for the achievement of community, and therefore the ground of all really efficient and really satisfactory action whatever.
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