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Lecture IV: The Cave Foreground

The Resting Face of Bodies

Before Christmas I gave you two lectures on the methods of ‘cave-exploration’ that I proposed to follow in the remainder of my course. I said, in the first place, that I intended to proceed phenomenologically, studying human experience for what it gives itself out to be, and not distorting it by any appeal to origins, elements, underlying causes or real foundations, all of which generally bring in matters far more obscure and controversial than the phenomena they attempt to clarify or explain. I intended to proceed as a true empiricist, who describes the world as he finds it, and who is absolutely proof against the siren voice of arguments, backed by a portentous array of theoretical premisses, which tell him that the world must be like this, or that it cannot be like that, that such and such an object or experience in it ‘really only’ consists, of this or that, or that no sense can be given to an utterance except one which identifies this sense with so-and-so and such-and-such and nothing else. Such arguments have their place and their importance: they in fact represent some of the strange ways in which the phenomena transform themselves when we consider them intently, and have one or other of their features predominantly in mind. They are not, however, fit instruments for probing our untutored, undoctored experience, and even the irrefragable logic they wield so subtly has, mainly in its rules of formation, many conceptual narrownesses and rigidities, which may render it simly inapplicable to the material we seek to expound and connect. We must frame the forms and rules of our discourse in the face of the phenomena, letting the phenomena shape our utterances in what way they will, and not forcing them to conform to some predetermined pattern.

One limitation to this radical empiricism we have, however, accepted: that we must deal with the phenomena in terms of concepts and modes of speech somewhat more pointed, more tidy, more clear-cut, more firm and uniform in intent than those which prevail in ordinary discourse. Our description of phenomena is a philosophical, a reflective description, and this can never be conducted in the shifting, biasing, variably tending ways of ordinary discourse, nor have those who have cast most brilliant light on those wandering ways themselves used such wandering ways in their treatment. We are concerned, then, to deal with human experience in terms of ‘ideas’, and to reflect on it in terms, not of casual and contingent but of necessary or near-necessary relations, which are the only significant relations that obtain among ideas. I emphasized too, in a previous lecture, that relations of ideal probability were much more important than relations of absolute necessity or impossibility, particularly in those higher reaches of phenomena which involve mind or existences akin to mind. For in the realm of mind it is hardly ever important to say that it would be impossible for an A not to be a B, or for an M to be an AT, but it is very often important to say that it would be extraordinary, intrinsically exceptional, not conceivably usual, for such and such to be the case. And I went on to say that we should not expect our ideas to be wholly rigid and undeveloping, but to shift and deepen as we reflected on human experience more profoundly. Our method would not merely be phenomenological and Husserlian, but also dialectical and Hegelian. The phenomena of the world can be treated in varying styles and at varying levels of abstraction, and what is quite possible and intelligible if one abstracts sufficiently, may be quite impossible and unintelligible if one sees things in a fuller context, while what is inevitable and necessary in one perspective may be avoidable in another, and similarly in regard to the likely or the unlikely. The relations of ideas may in short vary from the limiting superficiality of purely formal talk which applies to any subject-matter whatever, to a logic which takes full account of the peculiar, non-formal notions which enter into our statements, and the relations of requirement and exclusion, of bias for and against, which the presence of these notions entails. We can, however, spend no more time on programmatic preliminaries, but must give our programme a concrete content by considering the phenomenology and dialectic of the various regions and furnishings of the human cave. And here, as we said at the close of our last lecture, our first concern must be with the phenomena which make up the world of bodies or matter, the phenomena we have for obvious reasons located in the foreground of the cave.

What we are now about to say regarding the realm of body will necessarily have a certain oddness: it will resemble Moore's famous account of the commonsense view of the world which includes such things as that the earth has existed for a long time past, that it has, and has had, many living and lifeless bodies on or near its surface, that one of these bodies has been Moore's own body which was once considerably smaller than it is now, and so on. To talk of the world as it gives itself out to be, is necessarily to state many things that are wholly familiar, but in an embracing, overall account which, in giving them an air of the momentous and unfamiliar, cannot help being faintly laughable. It is only Moore's use of odd, personal phrases which gives all the absurb commonplaces that he utters a note of sustained profundity and beauty. It is not reasonable to expect of me the matchless touch of Moore, but I shall try in what follows not to be wholly banal. And in the subsequent following out of what I may call the dialectic of material reality I shall necessarily also be treading on quite familiar ground, I shall be touching upon and running through views which have never been so finely differentiated, or worked out with such careful consequence, as they have been in our own age and country. For over fifty years nothing has been so much debated, nor with such subtlety and passion, as the theory of perception, and it is not easy to hit upon any fundamental innovation in this field. What will, however, be novel in our treatment will be our viewing of such theoretical alternatives comprehensively, as the varied transformations of which the phenomena of cave-life are capable, when viewed with the quite peculiar, intense scrutiny of philosophy. Our aim will not be to advance this or that analysis, to secure this or that advantage over a competing contestant, but to see in the very fact of the perpetual unease and the surge and resurge of philosophical opinion, even on the most foundational matters, one of the most tantalizing and deeply significant characters of the human cave.

Where shall we then begin our account of the phenomena of bodily existence, which we have argued have a primacy that entitles us to place them in the foreground of the human cave? We shall begin somewhat peripherally by acknowledging in bodies two deeply different modes of coming before us, of being phenomena, which are, as it were, the paradigm for similar dualities throughout the whole range of experience and knowledge: bodies, we may say, making use of an effective metaphor of Husserl's, are in one way present emptily, present in unfulfilled, unrealized, unillustrated fashion, merely taken or known or massively felt to be there, while in another manner thay are present in manifest or fulfilled fashion, more or less definitely revealed, invested with the full flesh and blood of illustrated presence, authentically set before us. The difference is well illustrated by the manner in which, on a dark night, we sense all our room's familiar furnishings about us, looming great or small in various directions, and our own vaguely sensitive body in the midst of them, with the way in which, on the other hand, those furnishings later start up to achieve sharp contours in the gathering grey light of dawn and wakefulness. The distinction between envisaging and merely conceiving, between intuiting and merely knowing about, which will encounter us in various refined forms in all spheres of experience and discourse, here has its primal origin: bodies are on the one hand manifest, displayed, patent, while on the other hand they stand silently by, are unmanifestly present.

The manifest presence of bodies is, of course, a presence to certain definite senses which can themselves be given as having a seat in the sensitive organs of a definitely placed, manifest person: the organs, bodies and persons from which bodies are manifest may, however, themselves be largely unmanifest, so that manifestation is apt to seem a function of the manifested body alone and not of any body to which it is manifest. The moon's rising above the horizon seems to involve only the moon and the horizon, while the particular sense-organ through which it is viewed has to be looked for or recalled. But whether the person or organ to which a body is manifest is prominently given or not, manifestation nevertheless readily comes before us as a forceful, often irruptive affair, which exerts a strong compulsion on vaguer ‘personal’ trends which have little to do with bodies or anything bodily. The so-called causal theory of perception may have developed many strange and monstrous twists, but it has solid phenomenological roots: the manifestation of bodies to the senses involves a violence, extreme or mild, which, though done to an obscure party, not emphatic in the situation, is none the less itself most emphatically manifest in the situation, even if not to the senses, as are the bodies whose characteristic mode of manifestation it is. The causality, the efficacy of bodies is a primitive datum, acknowledged by Hume in the use of such terms as ‘liveliness’, but forgotten in his official worries about causality. As opposed to this irruptive, compulsive presence of bodies to sense, their silent, unmanifest, background presence is much less compulsive, though it may on occasion haunt us obsessively.

There is, of course, no clear-cut opposition between the fulfilled, obtrusive illustrated presence of bodies to sense and their unfulfilled empty background presence. Not only do we have the approach to sensory fulfilment which is deemed to be that merely of an image or a surrogate: we have also the approach to fulfilled sensory presence which spreads to all otherwise emptily given things or features which are more or less closely associated with what has such full presence. The things or features that have just been, or are just going to be, manifest often seem to share in the manifestness of what they herald or of what heralds them. The things or features that in some way continue a manifest theme or put a gloss upon it, share in the manifestness of what they continue or interpret. There is even artificiality and arbitrariness in drawing a sharp line between what is really displayed, and what represents its unfulfilled background or complement, which is not to say that we should not draw such a line at all: the line draws itself for us at some point, whether we will or no. But, wherever we draw such a line, we can always find differences between more or less pregnant manifestness or approach to manifestness on either side: the fully manifest has its shades of more or less gross presence, and the unmanifest its shades of closeness to, and involvement in the manifest. The pure sense-datum and the empty thought-reference both probably represent ideal limits.

The two modes in which bodies come before us have, likewise, the most intimate and necessary relation with one another, which the slightest examination suffices to uncover. The empty mode of presence has at most points a precise correspondence with the manifest mode of presence, and vice versa. Only a few fundamental ideas seem essentially incapable of fulfilment. Our empty, notional view of bodies may, in fact, be said to be always the possibility of an indefinite number of cases of fulfilled, manifest presence, and may be said, further, by an understandable transfer to the scrutinized object of what should properly be attributed to the scrutinizing observer, to ‘press forward’ towards fulfilment in one or other case of manifest presence. To have a vague, unfulfilled sense of the bodily environment is to be ready for a wide range of alternative sense-encounters with bodies, to have a fairly definite unfulfilled sense is to be ready for a much narrower range. Every manifestation of bodies to the senses likewise always emerges out of, is surrounded by, and again passes away into an indefinitely extensive unmanifest background, which need not be characterless but may be most highly detailed. Every time a body goes behind a temporary screen or obstruction, or we momentarily lose sight of or touch with it, it still contributes to experience, remains among the phenomena. That such unmanifest presence has often been rejected as unreliable and unreal is nothing to the point: the manifest presence of a body to the senses also often involves delusion. In the same way, whenever we inspect or handle or otherwise sensuously probe a body, its manifest sides or features are given as one by one emerging out of and detaching themselves from an indefinite number of other unmanifest sides and features, sometimes definite, sometimes indefinite in content, which either have been manifest, or which could be made manifest by further exploration. A bodily object is always as much for us one which could show itself as being an indefinite number of things as one which does show itself as being this or that. Ultimately, however, as modern verificationists have often stressed, it is the idea of a body, or even of most of its properties, to be fulfillable only in an inexhaustible series of sense-encounters: the complete fulfilment of bodily presence is, as Husserl emphasizes, a transcendental idea, one that can never be completely carried out.

If the manifest mode of presence can count it as its prerogative that it in the main gives detailed content to the unmanifest mode—we need to see, touch, etc., bodies to have definite ideas about them—the unmanifest mode can count it as its prerogative that it presents bodies to us as essentially independent of manifestation. Paradoxical as it may sound, the unapparent existence of bodies, in one sense of ‘apparent’, is in another sense apparent: bodies go on being there for us whether we see, hear, touch, smell or taste them or not. Our minds reach out to them, and rest in their assured presence, whether or not this repose is justified. However we may conceive of them, they are not there for us as mere possibilities of manifestation to the senses, though philosophical sophistication may try to make this seem so. And from this primitive, directly experienced independence of bodies of presence to the senses, we readily go on, at a later stage, to their independence even of an unmanifest, a conceptual presence. We interject them, not merely into the interstices of their manifest presence to sense, but even into the interstices of their unmanifest presence to empty thought. What it is important to stress is that we are not dealing, in either case, with notions of dubious provenance and content, that have been imposed on an unoffending experience by the machinations of philosophers, but with notions so closely bound up with experience that only a major notional surgery can extrude them. We are surrounded by bodies, and while they obligingly show themselves to our senses, they persist unshown without interruption, and declare themselves as so persisting. Hume at least recognized this perpetual silent presence of the bodily world when he attributed it to the workings of the ‘imagination’.

We may further hold it to be part of the primitive, or near-primitive structure of the phenomenal world, that it includes appearances of second order: there are matters that appear before us as apparent, and of these some come before us as merely apparent, while others appear to us, by contrast, as being really or authentically what they seem to be, while in yet others the situation is unclear. These distinctions involve a sort of implicit recognition of subjectivity, of the mind with its inherent capacities for distortion and mistake, but it would be quite wrong to see here a case of reflection or introspection: illusion manifests its presence in the realm of body long before it is taken out of this realm and attributed to a mind. To a man even rudimentarily acquainted with the facts of refraction, the bending of a stick in water is given as a merely apparent bending, which contrasts with real bendings or bendings simpliciter that he sees around him. To the man, or even the cat acquainted with mirrors, the objects in such a mirror have become manifestly mere reflections, as doubtless, to experienced dwellers in deserts, the villages, water, etc., on the horizon, have become manifestly mere mirages. These distinctions of mere appearance and of authenticated, well-backed appearance are among the few in regard to which some sort of an empiricist story is at all necessary, though this story is rather an account of the circumstances that lead us to apply such distinctions than of the circumstances that embody them. The distinctions in question, though far too fundamental to be given a chance origin in empirical encounter, are certainly first applied in situations involving a relation antithetical to the one previously called ‘fulfilment’: we may, again following Husserl, give it the name of (cognitive) ‘frustration’ or ‘disappointment’ (Enttaüschung). It often happens that our unfulfilled reference to some bodily situation not only fails to meet with a situation which fulfils it, but encounters a situation that quarrels or resists fusion with it, as when the thought of the cat resting tranquilly on the mat clashes with the harsh sight of a strange dog in its wonted place, and the cat perhaps cowering pitifully on the armchair. The primitive notions of negation, of truth and falsehood, even of reality and unreality, here have their first use, and it is from such simple paradigms of the kitchen that they extend their sphere to the august fields of mathematics and metaphysics.

It is not, however, these higher extensions of Enttaüschung that here concern us, but the strange step that occurs when we not only let manifest phenomena disappoint our preformed notions, but become disappointed in these manifest phenomena themselves. This takes place when we say of these manifest phenomena that they are merely apparent, that bodies are not really as they appear to the senses to be. It looks as if, in such cases, we were quarrelling with the manifest phenomena for their frustration of our unfulfilled notions, and this type of quarrel may in fact arise at higher levels, as, e.g., when philosophers reject the space of sight for not being infinitely divisible. This sort of philosophical condemnation of the manifest appearances is not, however, here in question. In the more ordinary, primitive case, the manifest phenomena continue to ‘wear the trousers,’ and we condemn certain manifest appearances as being merely apparent because they raise unfulfilled expectations which later manifest phenomena then frustrate. Our use of the fundamental distinction between what is merely apparent and what is also authentically, really there, is not, however fully explicable in terms of the situations which provoke it, and, once used, its contribution becomes part of the phenomena, and may in fact come so much within the orbit of the senses as to be practically one of their own deliverances. As we have said, to experienced parties mirror-images look like reflections, and not like things behind the mirror, and mirages look like mirages, and not like villages, water, etc., on the horizon. All this must not blind us to the fact that in these higher-order appearances, whose objects are an authentic part of physical reality lower-order appearances are, as it were, encapsulated: the ‘things’ behind the mirror’ continue to live a sort of bracketed life within the acknowledged ‘reflections’ of which they are a part. Professor Austin, in his Sense and Sensibilia, has greatly mocked the simple-minded philosophers who have assimilated all cases of mere looking or seeming to cases where the brain ‘conjures up’ visions of baseless unrealities. The simple-minded philosophers would, however, seem to have dug down to the important ‘idea’ contained in all these phenomena and usages better than Professor Austin: everywhere we have what at first are baseless visions, and which then, qua merely baseless, become part and parcel of normal reality.

The notion of appearance—if one notion it can be deemed—is, however, enriched by contributions from another quarter, in which the apparent is no longer connected with what frustrates one's expectations: the phenomena are enriched by what rather appear as mere variations in the manner of a thing's appearing, not as simple additions to the features that appear. The manifestations of body to sense have features, often brushed aside and ignored, but reaily made prominent, which may be called ‘perspectival’ or ‘centred’: they are features which in a very perplexing manner combine absoluteness and relativity. They are, if one likes, features which do not involve anything explicitly relational as part of their content, but which none the less imply a relation to something outside of what has them: they are not relational features of bodies, like being next to other bodies, but they are features which are had, and can be seen to be had, relatively to, or from, other bodies. Thus bodies are plainly manifest with an absolute nearness or farness, which does not explicitly bring in any co-ordinating point from which they are near or far: my hand is absolutely near, the moon on the horizon absolutely far, in a sense different from the merely relative, reciprocal sense in which my hand is as far from the moon as the moon is far from my hand. But the sense in which my hand is absolutely near, and the horizon absolutely far, is also a sense in which it is possible and necessary to ask ‘From what bodily standpoint is this object thus absolutely near or far?’ whereas it does not make sense to ask in regard to a merely relative distance ‘From what bodily standpoint is a given body at such and such a distance from that body?’ In other words the absolute, non-relational nearness or farness of a body is a nearness or farness which can only belong to it from the standpoint of other bodies, and which is in this sense relative, whereas the relative nearness or farness which bodies have to or from other bodies is a nearness or farness which bodies have absolutely and from no special standpoint. In much the same way bodies appear to the senses as absolutely head-on, sideways-on, from-behind and variously turned and tilted, as well as being absolutely to the right, to the left, above, below, before, behind, etc. These properties which bodies appear as having absolutely, are also such as they must appear to have from a certain standpoint, whereas corresponding properties which bring in a relation to some definite body—A is facing B—involve no special standpoint from which they must be given.

Perplexity is increased by the fact that the features which bodies have in this queer, perspectival manner shade phenomenologically into features which are not thus perspectival, and are readily transformed into the latter, and vice versa. Nothing is more frequent than a phenomenal state in which something seems steadily to grow smaller and smaller, which then switches into a phenomenal state in which such diminution is given as merely phenomenal, and then into a phenomenal state in which there is no appearance of diminution at all, but only an appearance of an ever constant size perspectivally revealed at an ever increasing distance from ourselves. The logic of perspectival variation is immensely complex and subtle, and obviously requires many more symbolic refinements than we have here used in talking about it. The terrible writings of some philosophers on the subject, and the gratuitous disputes they have involved themselves in, prove abundantly that the peculiar categories and forms here needed have only been inadequately studied and formulated. For our purposes, however, it is sufficient to have adverted to a fundamental character of the phenomenal world, in which its phenomenal character itself occurs as a phenomenon, a character, moreover, which may extend in principle beyond the case of the distance-senses in regard to which we know it.

We may now pile Pelion on Ossa by remarking that not only do bodies thus come before us, in all this vast intricacy and entanglement of manners, but that they come before us also as being in principle for anyone or for everyone all that they are for us. The manifest appearance of a body is a manifestation for all sensitive observers present in the situation or scene, and it is so closely inwound with what is undeniably manifest to the senses as to be itself practically manifest to the senses. The moon comes up for all the parties gathered in the clearing, and it comes up for all of them with its recognizedly illusory largeness. The sceptical chemist doing his experiment in his laboratory, likewise sees it as performed for all the witnesses there present; he is not ready to raise the sceptical doubts, which he so readily raises in regard to introspection and suchlike matters, in regard to this. And the vast unmanifest world of bodies which surrounds all the observers in these situations is likewise given as being in its main outlines and constituents there for all of them equally, as being a public or shared background for all they may observe. The senses are in fact manifestly, if at times delusively, given as windows opening on a common world, not as screens immuring us in our privacy, and the very notion of body is repudiated if this is rejected.

Bodies therefore come before us as capable of displaying themselves to the senses of a great number of persons and in a great number of distinct ways. Such display is, however, given as radically adventitious to their essence, and also as varying in more ways, some deceptive and delusive, than the bodies whose display it is. But the inauthentic or perspectivally biased display only makes sense against a background of authentic, unbiased cases, and there is not merely no reason for denying that there are such cases, but even the strongest general warrant for looking for them and for believing in them. The precise character of bodily display falls, moreover, under a general nemesis, to be examined more fully hereafter, according to which it is a pre-eminently bodily thing to be inert, to perform according to rule, not to deviate arbitrarily in one's behaviour from occasion to occasion, but to let what one does be determined, in regular fashion, by the situation in which one finds oneself. This general nemesis means that the display of bodies to the senses is likewise given as growing out of some total bodily situation, and, if varying with suddenness or seeming arbitrariness, as explicable by unwonted factors or combinations of factors. How the phenomena develop under these general principles cannot here be considered: we need only say something about the special phenomenology of science, about the natural world as it tends to appear to those who have had or have heard of many strange contrived experimental encounters, and who have framed or imbibed many strange new notions that deal with them. What it is here important to stress is that science, if not gone utterly self-destructive and crazy, imports little fundamental phenomenological changes into its objects. Many strange things may be affirmed and predicted by it, but it is still dealing with the same bodies and bodily processes as ordinary men, it still regards them as matters displayed to the senses of many observers and in manners that present them authentically or misleadingly, but in either case in entirely explicable fashion. Thus the water we see in the glass before us is also the water which consists of such and such unmanifest particles, and the particles themselves may at times obligingly show themselves on screens. Of the more sophisticated philosophico-scientific phenomenologies in which a world of structured unknowns stands inexplicably over against the world of ordinary phenomena, or, what is much the same, if a world of uninterpreted symbols occupies the same position, it is perhaps enough to say that such dualisms rest on a rather poor understanding and use of the richer categories and devices of transformation at work in the phenomena, in ordinary experience. These categories do not dictate the crabbed diremptions on which such dualisms rest, and the wretched dilemmas they lead to, dualisms which prefer to retain conceptual gulfs rather than walk over them on unfamiliar bridges, and whose ideal of the clear and the secure is solely based on the most trivial formal identities.

I have gone on too long, without attending to the dumb protest, the muted inward groan, that some of you may have been saving up against me. Surely, it will be said, the set of notions I have been putting across as the primitive phenomenology of the bodily world, with its seasoning of such ideas as the causality of external objects and their independence of perception, is simply a piece of the highly developed grammar of ordinary commonsense realism, with a spice of philosophical dogmatism to keep it fresh. Surely, it may be argued, all these complex notions of the manifest and the unmanifest, of appearance and reality, of the manner and stuff of appearance, are notions painfully developed in the course of experience, in the course of extrapolating and interpolating beyond the given, in the meeting with success and failure in doing so, and, lastly in the intersubjective intercourse which is inseparable from the teaching and use of our various symbolic devices. I shall, on the one hand, be accused, in my distinction between the manifest and unmanifest presence of bodies, of countenancing the extremely suspect philosophical distinction, which advanced thinkers no longer understand, between what men really see and what they are said to see in some other indirect or merely soi-disant manner. And, as if that were not enough, I shall in my doctrine of unmanifest, empty givenness, be accused of trying to put across, without excuse or preamble, the immense obscurities and dubieties of a doctrine of imageless thought, which many would now regard as a false projection of the operations of language. It is indeed hard to cope with a climate of opinion where pure rationalism is as much in disfavour as are purely sensationalist doctrines. I shall, further, no doubt be accused of slavery to various deep-seated errors regarding language: that words exist to express pre-existent senses and references, a sort of universal, inner lingua franca of pure meanings not tied to objects and situations by the mere bonds of convention.

It will be apparent, I hope, that I am assailed by objections from many quarters, not representing a single coherent philosophy, but all characterized by a down-to-earthness, a love of the palpable, that Plato attributed to the ‘giants’ in the famous characterization of philosophical tendencies in the Sophist. To them my best reply is that I am fully aware of them, that I have thought along their lines and shall continue to regard them as warning voices from an inexpugnable, permanently weighty side of human thought, but that I now feel basically unmoved by them, since they confuse the recognition of inescapable elements of structure within which all linguistic conventions must be framed, with the filling in of gaps in such detail in an arbitrary and questionable manner. They believe, in short, in an experience which is the direct, unbriefed encounter with individual realities, and in the possibility of learning something from it. Whereas it seems quite clear to me that there is no experience in this sense, and that if there were we could certainly learn nothing from it. For all deriving light from experience involves, as Kant saw, the ability to ask the right questions and to see the empirical data in the light of them: the ability to profit from individual encounters always argues a governing bias which gives sense to their deliverances. And while there is a most serious fallacy or sophism which consists in letting some factual generality pass muster on a plea of categorial immunity, it would be a far more serious fallacy to ignore such a weighty difference of status.

Our full awareness of our categorial commitments arises, however, in our actual use of them, and thus it may well be that distinctions like those of the manifest, fulfilled and the unmanifest, empty presence of bodies, of the seen and the known, or of the causality of bodies in generating appearances and their independence of the latter, may well come to the fore in empirical encounters, or in the learning of the use of words, though they can afterwards be seen to be august conditions of any experience whatever. Any defects in these notions generally lies rather in the special form that philosophers have given them, e.g. the special form of the notion of sense-data, than in the general feature of experience that they represent. We may further take issue against modern linguistic geneticism, and adhere firmly to some doctrine of pre-existent meanings. It is only because a great number of distinctions are already drawn for us, are written into the phenomena and our approach to them, that we are able to frame viable linguistic conventions and to teach them to others. It is only, e.g., because the phenomena are shot through with contrariety that men can be taught the use of negation, only because they exhibit recurrences of type that men can be taught the use of adjectives, only because persistent, resistant, many-sided, public bodies are already part of the empirical phenomena that we can be taught to talk of them as we do. All this would have been hardly worth saying in the past and may even now seem trite and silly. Modern nominalism has, however, so successfully tied up the form of the World with particular, contingent linguistic usages, that we feel embarrassed and uncomfortable in considering the former out of relation to the latter. Whereas the fact that we cannot discuss anything except in words should not mean that we should not discuss anything but words, nor that we should blur our sense of some important distinction by dwelling too much on the curious circumstances in which we learnt to draw it, or the variable phases in which we express it.

We may now go on to stress the prime rank of solidity among bodily qualifications: solid objects are in a sense the first-class citizens of the bodily world, whereas liquid bodies, gaseous bodies, impalpable radiations, etc., as well as such quite disembodied presences as sounds and smells are second-class phenomena, living parasitically in the interstices of solids, and incapable of existence if there are no solid objects for them to cling to. And with the primacy of solids among bodies goes the primacy of touch among the senses: the so-called distance-senses, even the marvellously revelatory sense of sight, only make sound corporeal sense as terminating in touch, the direct encounter of solid body with solid body. What we have been saying of course has a truly primitive ring, which will be deeply suspect to all those who think that our conception of things should not be based on our experience of middle-sized bodies, on or near the surface of the earth. We should, they think, learn to experiment conceptually, to think in terms which make little difference between the occupied and the unoccupied, between the rigid and the hydrodynamic, between forces and masses or between centres and fields: we should resolve bodies into sensiblia or pointer-readings or parcels of energy, and we should canvass the possibility of worlds made entirely of sounds and smells. What we are arguing is that solids are in a sense the necessary points of firmness to which the world-fabric is attached, the loom-framework, if you like, without which it could not be woven, and that all our mental life and organized discourse would be impossible without them.

That solid bodies have this privileged status among bodies lies in the fact that they exhibit most pre-eminently and emphatically characters without which there could not be bodies or a bodily world at all. They have a definite spatial location to go to, and persist in, at times when they are not manifest to sense, it being the very idea of a place that it does not make sense to suppose it destroyed or nullified or in any way changed, whereas there is no reason whatever why it or its contents should not be unmanifest or hidden. They therefore are superior in status to bodiless phenomena like radiations, effluences, noises or smells, which are most ambiguous as to their location, and which, if stripped of such locations as they more or less derivatively possess, could only with great metaphysical daring be felt to persist unmanifested. But though thus located, solid bodies have more than a mere location: thay have that spread, that continuous extension, which makes them something and not merely nothing, as anything reduced to a mere point must on reflection be admitted to be. They have further, in their solidity, something positive, if obscure, which marks them off from void space, something positive which makes itself known to us in experiences of pressure and contact and bodily feeling without being identical with the latter, and which gives a concrete meaning to the power of a body to keep other bodies from penetrating or invading itself. But though thus positively holding their own against void space, they do so only in a manner which remains distinct from and indifferent to the bewildering variety of qualitative appearances to the distance-senses, particularly those of sight. The manifestation of bodies to the distance-senses always brings in variations which are not so much misrepresentative as essentially unrepresentative of the character of bodies as indifferent to manifestation, as purely corporeal. Hence the perpetual appeal of theories of the primary and secondary qualities, which, though at many points confused, have a sound phenomenological basis. The deliverances of the perspectival, distance-senses all, further, terminate in the solidity which experiences of touch offer us: it would be a strange, spectral consummation to a series of ever shortening prospects if they ended in the vanishing of the object seen at their limit, and such an experience could only be an exceptional one, the encounter with a deviant non-body in a world of normal bodies.

Solid objects have, further, the supreme importance that, whether separated from their setting or not, they can be broken off from the latter, they have that Sprödigkeit, that frangibility, in which Hegel rightly saw a mark of individuality. Solids are not amorphous but endowed with a recognizable outline, which means also that they can be identified and reidentified on many occasions and by various persons. These are the characteristics of bodies κατ’ εξοχην, which parcels of uncontained water or wafts of air, let alone floating lights and shades and sounds or perfumes, only possess derivatively or contextually. That solidity is a macroscopic property perhaps resting on countless microscopic processes which involve nothing solid, is nothing to the point. There is no principle of the priority of small-size arrangements over larger size ones, and if persistence and reidentifiability and indifference to manifestation and the other characters of bodies are best met with at the so-called macroscopic level, then the macroscopic level is the level at which bodily phenomena are located and best understood, and the contents of the various microscopic levels are best understood in terms of what is macroscopic. It may be that the developments of advanced physics represent a slowly advancing dialectic in which the notion of body ultimately goes to ground and demands replacement by something else. However this may be, the phenomenology of the bodily world has a centrality and an authority that no dark vision of advanced physics will ever possess, and will persist largely unchanged, or philosophically reassessed, when the framework of physics has again and again been unrecognizably revised.

I shall round off this lecture by saying something about the space and the extension which all agree are intimately entwined with the idea of body. Few philosophers, with perhaps the exception of Kant, have written tellingly about our experience of space, since too many have been obsessed by the relatively trivial revelations of sight and touch, and with the concepts laboriously derived from these, or capable of interpretation in terms of these. Kant alone dared to suggest that we may have an apprehension of space which underlies, and forms the necessary background and basis, of our sensuous apprehension of bodies in space, and which is not derived from them or abstracted from them: spaces and objects in space are limitations of this one space, and are not capable either of being or of being conceived except as in it. And this space is always given to us as a whole, as a unique individual totality: it is not constructed, as our picture of the world in space is constructed, by piecemeal additions of part to part, but is necessarily presupposed by all such piecemeal constructions and additions. And one of the strangest facts about this unique individual totality is that it is given to us as utterly unbounded in every direction: the infinity that represents a conceptual or perceptual problem and that can at best be covered by a perfunctory ‘and so on’ or regressus in indefinitum, is simply and indefeasibly there, intuited, absolutely given. Still stranger, it is almost in the position of an Anselmian God, for while we can quite well think away all objects in space, we cannot imagine that space itself can be thus brought to nought: it remains there, majestically empty, incapable of annihilation, wholly indifferent to its occupation or non-occupation by existent, empirical objects. All this, in the remarkable doctrine of the Transcendental Aesthetic, is a matter of pure intuition; we intuit this unique, individual continuous, infinite, necessarily existent somewhat which is at once the form of all phenomena and the form of all outer sense, and all concrete matter of experience is projected into it.

It is true, of course, that Kant did not remain loyal to the positions of the Aesthetic. What it set before him—the eternal, independent existence of an infinite, featureless non-substance—his mind rejected as frankly incredible, and he likewise rejected its strange power to multiply indiscernibles or to present us with discrepant counterparts. Nothing is more emphatic in his later treatments than that we can have no experience of empty space, much less of a whole not generated by piecemeal synthesis, and certainly not of an infinite whole. But the earlier doctrine remained quaintly embalmed in the later system, though it is not easy to see just how Kant justified such a preservation. What we now wish to claim is that this earlier Kantian view represents a truer account of the phenomena, a less misleading account of every child's, and, dare I say it, of every animal's experience, than the constructivist pictures built up by the empiricists and increasingly respected by Kant. Our idea of void space is one of the most poignantly clear we possess: void space is given as the indispensable foil to body, and we cannot move our members or move about without being made aware of it. True, void space is not, as such, seen or touched, or, if seen and touched, not quite in the same manner as the bodies in it: it is none the less plainly presumed, felt, there in front of us, even if its voidness is marred by one or two wafts of air or by similar irrelevances, and even if we have been led to believe, perhaps with good foundation, than an absolute vacuum is impossible. The space of our own bodies as given to bodily feeling in the dark watches of the night is often little different from void space: what is evident, indefeasible in it, is its three-dimensionality, its extension and position, not the feeble sense-contents that irrelevantly flicker through it or the feebler images we make of it. And with familiar spaces we have the most extraordinarily complete sense of their occupancies and their voids, their breadths and their narrownesses, their convexities and concavities, with only the most vanishing sensory or imaginal points on which the whole picture hangs, and whose irrelevances are often quite patent. If sensational psychologists have been grotesquely unsuccessful in their analyses of our wonderful, obscure feeling for space, behaviouristic psychologists have done much better. For our varied responses often give a gross form to sensibilities that would otherwise have been theorized out of existence. Migratory birds, and savages who know their way through trackless deserts, show a similar sensibility for pure space.

Space may therefore be said to run, as a vast connective phenomenal background, a background par excellence, among the bodies of our acquaintance: they appear in it, it stretches beyond them, and may even be said to stretch uninterruptedly through them. Bodies serve in a fashion to pin space down, either by occupying it or surrounding it, but it is part of the phenomena that space is not at all dependent on them or their relations. It would be making the implicit too much explicit if we said that space was given to us as infinite, but it is certainly given to us as being without bounds, as automatically exceeding any limit and extending beyond it. There are no notions which haunt the childhood fantasies of individuals or races more obsessively than the notions of great abysms, primal gaps and so forth: they give the lie to the supposed world of the child which ends at the nursery walls.

Space is also not merely given as unbounded but as all-embracing: it leaves no room for any body outside it, and the notion of a plurality of spaces without spatial relations to one another quarrels with the very idea of space. Space does not even leave room for anything that is quite without relation to it: thoughts, dreams, mental pictures must have ties with a location and with identifiable bodily persons if space is to be taken seriously, and even vague religious presences must be thought of as omnipresent. That being and being somewhere require one another was, of course, a point stressed by many pre-Socratic philosophers, and acknowledged by Plato in the remarkable ‘bastard’ argument for space given in the Timaeus. Space is, further, given to us as an irremovable, a necessary existent, and anyone who doubts whether he understands the scholastic notion of God as a necessary being need only consider space. I am not, be it observed, saying that all this is the final truth of the matter, that there are not dialectical forces that will put an end to this queer, privileged position of space. It is clear that there are such forces, and that they have long been at work in philosophy and science. What has not been admitted is that the collapse of the so-called intuitive idea of space brings much more destruction in its train than is commonly expected, and that there may well be utter incoherence in the improvisations that have been substituted for it. A necessary existent we may well need to have, but if space cannot serve in this capacity, an ill-thought-out space-substitute is unlikely to do better.

A last finishing touch may now be added to my phenomenological portrait of space, a touch that may arouse sincere shock in our present notional climate. This is to suggest that what is now called a Euclidean structure, and what is now regarded as a somewhat unadventurous type of spatiality among a thrilling variety of regular and irregular types, is in fact simply the notion of space as such, and that all other notions of space presuppose it, and represent progressive deviations from it, deviations which represent no abstract formal impossibility and which may in fact have empirical applicability, but which represent no less the slow demise, the putting out of action of the nobly interesting notion of space. Of space-time I am not yet speaking, that being a notion that represents the demise of time as well as of space, and of much else as well. I say this unseasonable thing not out of gross lack of understanding (though my understanding is certainly limited) nor out of reactionary romanticism, but because Euclidean space represents in the highest degree the free mobility, the undistortingness and undistortedness, the sheer emptiness and openness which is the core of the idea of space. For the idea of space is that of something which, by the occupancy it freely permits, makes possible anything in the way of shape, size and directed motion that its solid occupants might conceivably exhibit, and does not in any way act as a positive condition which limits or biases or embarrasses what a body can do or be in these respects. Such limitation and bias and embarrassment is, however, precisely what the irregular spaces of modern physics grossly involve, and what the older, regular non-Euclidean spaces do more subtly. For if space has contingent hummocks, these of course are a condition for change in the direction and shapes of bodies, or for what it would be perverse not to describe as a change. And if space is a closed system, this too means that the dimensions and angles of bodies would change if they grew vastly in size, and that, however one might choose to describe it, they could be contingently limited in being unable to go directly away from something without also going towards it and ultimately returning to it. I am not saying that a phenomenal world could not be constructed which would conform to this pattern: I am only saying that in such a world space would have lost some of its purity and have acquired some of the contingent restrictiveness of a body. Other non-Euclidean spaces may embarrass us with a variety of directions not seemingly offered in the extended world as given to us, and might involve dilemmas for directed motion to which unspontaneous bodily being is unfitted. I am not saying that anything so sophisticated as the axiom of parallels is explicit in the space we have about us, but that it is certainly implicit in what we understand by the undistortingness of space and by the impossibility that there should be specially privileged distances and other magnitudes in it. The essence of pure spaciousness, we may maintain, revealed itself to the classical mind of Euclid, and all other spaces have represented distortions of it and departures from it, which none the less continue to presuppose what they distort and depart from. The relation of various metageometrical systems to Euclid is like the relation of various types of sexual aberration to orthodox sex: the norms and paradigms of orthodox sex persist in its deviations despite all differences of role, instrument and performance, and so too does classical or uncurving space persist in curved space. I must not be thought in these utterances to be condemning the deviations in question, which in both cases have an existence and some right to exist. Both are higher-order types of phenomena, possibly begotten out of strains and inadequacies in their basic paradigms, to which, however, they always inevitably and sometimes ironically point back.

I have now said enough of what may be called the resting profile of bodies and of the bodily world in space. I shall pass on in the next lecture to deal with their moving face and with the pure flow of time which that moving face involves.