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Lecture VI: The Dissolution of Bodies

In my last lecture I was attempting to study that curious mixture of permanence and flux, of empty self-sufficiency which yet has a necessary relation to possible occupation, which we call the time, the temporality of the world. We feel this time with our bones as something that in passing or going by also always must go on, and that in changing always stays the same, and we also feel it with our bones as being something that, while indifferent to the coloured play that is varyingly crowded and spaced out in it, is yet essentially receptive to that coloured play, having as it were a built-in place for the permanences of existence and nature that will give flesh and blood to its constant framework, as well as places for the ever changing states that are presupposed by as well as presupposing that framework. Time as a phenomenon seems always about to dissolve into one or other of its contrasted aspects, either becoming a pure flux in which nothing constant is discernible, or an absolute permanence in which all succession is frozen: to come down on either side of these contrasts is, in effect, to reject time altogether, to deprive it of sense.

We have further seen that there is a radical asymmetry in the temporality of bodies, and indeed of anything else, in respect of their pastness and futurity. The permanent things in the world are all given as carrying quite specific pasts with them, pasts knowably documented by nicks, stains, twists and other imprints: it is part of the idea of those pasts that there is nothing unsettled about them, however little we may in practice be able to probe then completely. Whereas, while all the permanent things in the world are given as being big with futures, these futures can only be vaguely prefigured, and certainly not documented in advance by imprints and other marks, and it is part of the idea of those futures that they need not be in all cases defined and settled, but that in their case the denial that they are futures of a state p does not automatically entail that they are futures of the contrary state not-p, but leaves open the third possibility that they are not as yet the defined futures of either. Only a superficial grasp of the indefinite flexibility of our basic logical rules, makes it appear that there is any logical antinomy here, for we are under no logical obligation to equate the non-futurity of p, the true contradictory of the futurity of p, with the futurity of not-p, which is only its contrary, not its contradictory. In the same manner we are under no obligation to equate the non-necessity of p with the necessity of not-p, and so on in many other modal cases.

I shall consider this tedious crux as passed, and shall go on to consider the third of the Kantian modes of time, the mode of coexistence, of simultaneous being. Temporality, we may say, not only intrinsically involves possible permanences and successions which give concreteness to its abidingness and its flux: it also involves possible coexistences which give concreteness to its purity and indifference to content, for in coexistence one and the same time can be the time in which many things last, and in which they are in one or another of their passing states. We feel it in our bones that, not only could there have been other contents in the times at which we now are, but that there may in fact actually be other contents at those times, and that each time at which we live is also a time for a whole world of coactual and compresent things. Each point of presentness in which we live is given as the sole point of concentration for all that was, is and shall be: in it, and in in it only, the definite past lives qua past, and the more or less undefined future lives qua future, and in it only, likewise, lives whatever is still in process of being carried out or realized, however remote and irrelevant it may be to ourselves or our present states and conerns. A point of presentness is in fact one of those ultimate ideas which has no true contrast, and which we define and describe only by contrast with the various partial abstractions which contribute to its make-up, and in realizing how absurd it is to give them a truly separate meaning. Being thus ultimate, it is also of necessity universal: in being aware of the most trivial event we are therefore made aware of an infinite coactual background into which it fits, and over which the same ‘moment’ extends. In all this there is no breath or foretaste of a variable simultaneity, neatly tailored to preserve the constancy of so seemingly contingent a phenomenon as light.

So far it seems part of the idea of coexistence that things coexistent may be mutually irrelevant, may lie side by side without affecting one another, at least in respect of some of their attributes. Things coexistent need not grow in or out of each other's environing soil: there seem possibilities of indifference and externality which there are not in a thing's relation to its own past and future. It is here that we must acknowledge that Kant, in the magisterial insights of his three Analogies, rather overplayed his hand: it is not part of the idea of coexistent substances in space that they should stand in relations of ‘thoroughgoing reciprocity’, nor is it even coherently conceivable that they should. The notion of all-pervasive coherence is itself incoherent, since where there are no mere collocations, no cases of chance side-by-sideness, it makes no sense to discern any intimate, underground links, any profound connections among phenomena. All things become antecedents in one immense hypothetical of which all things are likewise consequents, which amounts to no more than a somewhat redundant acceptance of things as they are. The very idea of interaction, of mutual influence among the existences in the world implies a certain apartness and separate development of their being: to act on something is to irrupt on it in a manner not prefigured in its nature, though no doubt permitted by it, not heralded by any anticipatory mark or sign. The notion of action is, in short, inseparable from the notion of chance, of an encounter among objects which is not part of the inner destiny, the future of either. It is only because things to a great extent preserve their separate lines of being intact, that it makes sense to conceive of the lines as crossing or being intertwined, or of the things as being reciprocally agents and patients. And space, the great continuum which makes such interaction possible, is also the great separative factor which makes possible such indifference or irrelevance.

The Kantian position has, however, its deep-laid justification. The merely coexistent environment which is given as surrounding each thing in the world, necessarily has in it the possibility of becoming an effective environment for that thing: it can irrupt upon it in diverse ways, and is given as being ready to do so, and the thing in question is also given as capable of going out of itself to find the environing realities, to suffer them to impinge on it. The vast world around us comes before us as always full of vague threats and promises: we shall come upon them ‘round the corner’, and they will shock, thrill or merely surprise us, we can see further and further into it, and can have more and more intimate dealings with it. All the apprehensive, exploratory behaviour of animals shows them to be in the same phenomenal order as we are, an order in which the vague things that surround them are ready to become the things that actively impinge on them, and that they themselves can explore and modify. The space which is the containing form of the phenomenal world connects as much as it sets apart, and it would be a strange, inherently improbable circumstances were the objects that inhabit it to have no effective influence on one another. Our rejection of a world which falls apart into mutually divorced, disjoined islands of coexistence, between which there are no effective links of influence—even such a remote link as the shift towards red in a spectrum—is not merely based on its difficulty for us and for our knowledge: it is given as being deeply difficult for the things themselves. The absurdity of it is not the absurdity of our talking and thinking about something utterly beyond our reach, but the deeper absurdity of there being any such thing at all. Surely, we say, if a thing exists it will do something to make its presence felt, and such a protest voices no ‘postulate’ or heuristic maxim: it voices what comes before us as a genuine insight into the phenomenal world. The world is, in fact, given as one in which mutual irrelevance and lack of influence become more and more difficult and unlikely the nearer objects are to one another in space, and become less and less unlikely the more widely separated they are. Experience, in the sense of direct encounter with individual objects, merely restricts or specially directs these insights: it could not conceivably create them. Kant was therefore right in making a pervasive possibility of real interaction among at least some special things and aspects of things part of the make-up of the empirical, the phenomenal world. Inherent likelihood likewise attends the existence of at least some universally connective standard phenomena such as light and gravitation, to which both Kant and Hegel have given a privileged position in the phenomenal world. The objects in one world, we may mythically say, must in some manner acquaint each other with their existence and with what they inherently are.

The phenomenal world is therefore given as fulfilling extremely watered-down forms of Kant's three Analogies of Experience: these are part of the phenomena and of our way of exploring them, and we know them as well as we know anything. To this piece of basic gnosis we must add the further feature of a possible and likely repetitiveness and numerousness of objects exemplifying the same sort or kind, which is such that our acquaintance with the ways of one of them is ipso facto an acquaintance, confident or problematic, with the ways of any of them, and so with the ways of any other of them, or with all of them. That whatever comes before us comes before us as more or less definitely embodying a kind, as being a so-and-so of which there may well be other instances, is not anything that is learnt elaborately from many individual encounters, but is involved in the possibility of learning anything from such encounters. What emerges emphatically in the first encounter is, in fact, not so much the individual as the sort, the kind, the clear pattern that it exemplifies, and that we expect to meet again on countless other occasions. Individuality, indubitably part of the phenomena, require much repetition to become salient: it is in fact strange that the empiricists have toiled so much over theories of universals, when it is theories of particulars that should have engrossed their energies.

The ειδη or general patterns of things are, therefore, among the most absolute of phenomenological data, and so too is the generally eidetic or patterned character of the world which individually encountered ειδη or patterns specify. What we have before us are not only definite cases of this or that or of something else, but an indefinite environment, not only of other cases of the same sorts, but of other cases of an indefinite number of other sorts. The realm of kinds, of ειδη, reveals itself, however, as subject to certain pervasive restrictions without which there would not be genuine kinds at all. Not every character or assemblage of characters, even if covered by a neat symbol or combination of symbols and perhaps empirically illustrated, will constitute a genuine sort or kind under which permanent individuals will fall, and which we may expect to encounter again and again throughout time and space. The ειδη, of course, as the Academics came to see, and as Aristotle took over from them with little explanation or criticism, are not of what exists fortuitously or artificially or defectively or merely negatively: they are only of fully-formed, natural individuals, and what are natural individuals of course depends on the particular, contingent nature we live in, and is learnt by individual encounter with many specimens of its ways. There are, however, certain features which any nature, qua nature, must exemplify, and these guide our research into its detail and alone make it possible. These features are, roughly, that kinds in nature are relatively few, that they involve a high degree of what one can only call good form or pattern, a property for whose discernment logical feeling as well as observational and symbolic skill are required, which everyone recognizes as present in a crystalline or organic form but not present in a disorderly squiggle, and lastly that they will reveal themselves ever more clearly as we examine nature and sort out its various individual objects. Our whole experience comes structured by these principles, just as it comes structured by space and time. There are a limited number of places in it for real natural kinds, and in the internal make-up of each kind there is a limited stretch of broad diversity and complexity, governed by principles of good form, but admitting of endless subordinate intricacy, and there is further a real area of possible exemplification, neither indefinitely large nor negligibly small, for each natural kind. How large all these numbers and ranges may be, and how they may be modified by our detailed findings, is something impossible to put into words but not difficult to feel. It is plain, e.g., that there are few or no kinds of large-scale animals on the earth that have never been seen.

The ‘gnostic’ character of our phenomenological approaches will arouse great objection from the standpoint of all those who have considered the procedures of inductive and classificatory science in the light of that particular form of probability-theory which proclaims itself to be a theory of chance or chances. If our world has ‘places’ for various natural kinds and their specimens, it also has ‘places’ for their loosely variable collocations and encounters, and all these ‘places’ are part of a full vision of the world. The places for chance encounters occur, however, in and among the solid items whose internal unity has nothing of chance about it: chance is, in fact, essentially given as a parasitic, peripheral, interstitial factor among connections which are essential, natural and not casual. It consists of all that remains over or is excluded from the natures of mutually encountering specimens of kinds. That in its absence of governing pattern it should none the less generate governing patterns of higher order, of immense long-run or large-scale regularity, patterns which are given as having an ontological as much as an epistemological status, is a further circumstance which involves as much fundamental ‘gnosis’ as our reasonable insight into natural kinds and their specimens. It is not here possible for us to consider the way in which a higher statistical nature superimposes itself on the first-order nature of natural specimens and their encounters: as there is as yet no satisfactory elaboration of the phenomenology of natural kinds and their specimens, there is even less a satisfactory elaboration of a true theory of statistics. All is given over to calculation, to detailed ascertainment, to the supposedly scientific. But what is above all strange is that the theory of chance encounter, in all its fundamental obscurity, should have been used to undermine the theory of law and essence that it presupposes, and without which it would not make sense at all. From urns and balls and their nicely limited possibilities of combination, which depend throughout on the persistence, the independence and the constancy of character of the units involved, we proceed to isolated characters and occasions conceived as a new sort of unit, and we are then ready to conclude that such units and their possible combinations are always infinite in number, so that the ‘place’ in the world, the probability of any combination of characters is and remains infinitesimal, and law and chance become confounded in a common meaninglessness, only to be rescued by infinitely bold espousals of infinitely improbable hypotheses which we cling to until they are refuted. Strange to relate, however, the ‘boldness’ which here rescues us from the morass of infinite improbability, is merely the old likelihood which that morass obscures: the morass is in fact a mirage generated by the separation of logical and mathematical patterns from the material without which they would be meaningless. That material consists of an indefinite number of persistent individual specimens of not very many, well-formed, natural kinds, distributed with a relative frequency that does not differ beyond all limits, and which in general satisfies conditions which may tax our ingenuity to formulate, but which we understand well and apply well in practice. Applied to their true material, there are both well-founded probabilities of law and well-founded probabilities of chance encounter, the latter depending throughout upon the former. And these probabilities are as much part of the world as given to us as they are part of our approaches to it. The phenomenal world resembles some colour-print made by successively superimposed blocks, graded from a lower limit of black and white outline to an upper limit of full colour and detail. At each level I but the ultimate one, and possibly there too, there are ‘places’ for varied occupying contents, and all such ‘places’ are as much part of the discoverable phenomena as are the more concrete hues and shapes which ultimately ‘fill them in’. The probabilities at one level of abstraction are not the probabilities at another level, but it is only at some arguably meaningless limit that we can look forward to their complete removal.

I have now completed my sketch of the phenomenology of bodies, of material spatio-temporal realities, though there are no doubt innumerable features and sides of them that I have not found time to touch on at all. What I would here, however, insist on, is that the bodily world in space-time, revealed to us by the senses but independent of sense and thought alike, comes to us by what may be called a ‘package deal’. We may analyse what it involves into various features of spatiality, temporality, solidity, independence, essential character, natural kind, interaction, probability etc., but all of these hang essentially together: any account which does not involve all of them is not an account of the bodily world, nor indeed of any clear thing whatever. This ‘package deal’ is presupposed by all our propositional forms of discourse: there can be no hopeful talk as to how we came to construct or infer or arrive at any of its features through some special activity or process. Certain empirical encounters may provoke us to develop this ‘package deal’ in various explicit ways, but we cannot derive it from such encounters, since it always goes beyond them. Certain inferences and constructions may likewise reveal our vivid sense of this or that side of our package deal, but these sides too are presupposed by the constructions and inferences in question and go indefinitely far beyond them. In the same way it is impossible to throw light on various aspects of the package deal by considering the manner in which we were taught various basic parts of the grammar of our language: such basic teaching is only successful in so far as it quickens our understanding of the way different phenomenal features fit together. To be taught the use of the past tense we needed to understand the ultimacies of flux and passage which teaching situations are by themselves powerless to bring out; to learn to use the ‘coulds’, ‘woulds’, ‘mights’ and ‘needn'ts’ involved in talk of permanent things and their interactions, we needed to delve beneath the superficialities of the teaching situation into our deep understanding of the basic structure, the phenomenology of a nature as such. The study of language and its teaching is of infinite importance, not in tracking down all our concepts to simple acts of direct ostension, but in showing where such tracking-down ceases, where we come up against something presupposed by acts of showing and learning rather than itself learnt and shown. This package deal can of course be wrapped up in further integuments of discourse, talk of minds, of events, of sensibilia, of eternal objects, etc., etc.: it can even, as we shall see, be suspended in various forms of theological and metaphysical theorizing. But whatever transformations and suspensions it may undergo, it retains something of its original package character: whatever is added to it or substituted for it takes off from it and presupposes it and borrows its content from it, or, if it tries utterly to turn its back on it, does so at the cost of saying nothing that has a clear significance at all. The ‘thing-language’ and ‘thing-view’ is the acknowledged basis of all other languages and views whatsoever, and its reappearance in an unhelpful, confused form in all attempts to dispense with it, is the main evidence of its absolute indispensability.

So far we have followed the line of that intuitive dogmatism which Descartes called the ‘teaching of nature’, and which is also the foundation of all phenomenology. We have not, however, regarded it as naïve in some pejorative sense: it may as much be regarded as a reflection of unlearnt wisdom, of deep philosophy, as of naïveté. Now, however, we must start to expose the deep rifts and inconsequences, the anomalies, discrepancies and even antinomies that this natural view of the world entails, and so find ourselves forced to move on to more analysed, wrapped-up, bracketed or qualified views of the world. We may say in advance that we are not suggesting that the natural view of the world involves any ineliminable formal contradictions, nor that its categories involve the extreme absurdities which have driven philosophers like Nagarjuna and Bradley to a reality or empty unreality—it does not really matter which—which is even more obscure and absurd. The natural view of the world, and the language-forms in which it is enshrined, is indeed full of forces that pull in different directions, and it can be so developed as simply to abolish itself and to vanish without trace, leaving the field free for any mysticism, intuitionism, emotionalism, voluntarism, etc., that choice or temperament may dictate. But that natural view can also be indefinitely buttressed and patched: cement may be poured into its yawning cracks, fresh terminology may give a gloss to its peeling surfaces, its worn forms may be resculptured with some critical caution and economy. Obviously we can preserve something like the natural view of the world by a sufficiency of small revisions and modifications, even if the result is ever more patched and untidy. Different from either the levelling or the patchwork method, is the method which proceeds by large revisionary leaps to comprehensive reconstructions, where the old details find a place in astonishing, new patterns, and where the old strains and stresses vanish entirely though new ones may take their place. This comprehensive revisionary method, which preserves all that it transforms, is what we shall take over from Hegel and speak of as a ‘dialectic’. It is a method that persuades us to see a confused, discrepant, tortured situation from a new elevation, in a new simplifying and unifying light, rather than compels us to accept anything which the confused situation, with its actual methods and resources, entails. We shall also follow Hegel in treating such dialectic not as some extrinsic, adventitious art, something wrought up with our language or mode of conception, but as being as ‘objective’, as much involved in the eidetic ‘shapes’ that come before us, as are the first stiff forms in which they show themselves. The phenomena, we may hold, have a dynamic as well as a static pattern: like cloud-shapes they come together in new masses, or drift apart from old alignments, or come into being or vanish utterly in the great blue that surrounds them. To study their meteorology, the elaborate cycle of their changes, is as much a task for the phenomenologist, the student of the basic patterns of human experience, as to catch and sketch them in each passing phase.

We may begin our study of the dialectical collapse of bodies by first considering their relation to the space and the time in which they are accommodated. Bodies are given as the prime population of space and time, and to this occupancy they add their basic separateness from each other, and their capacity for being themselves fractured and separated: to this they also owe their capacity for change, permanence and free mobility, for impinging on and influencing each other, as well as for remaining impassive and uninfluenced. Through space and time, bodies are members of a single bodily world, and their properties and the properties of that world, all refer us back to properties of the great media which they occupy. No parts of the phenomena are, however, so exposed to dialectical erosion as the two great media in question. From an early time they have seemed to hover uneasily between being something and being nothing, between hollowly claiming the status of abiding or ever flowing things without the least content to support their pretensions, and being mere appanages or appendages which none the less do not qualify well for the usual non-substantial categories. It is above all their undifferentiatedness, their sheer numerical difference, the difference, as Hegel would call it, that makes no difference, which renders the great media so puzzling, the fact that the most rapid movement in pure space need not differ phenomenally from remaining in the same spot, that uniform expansions and shrinkages need make no phenomenal difference at all, with similar perplexities regarding the uniform speeding up or slowing down of events in pure time. All these aporiae of the unoccupied, the purely void, are in one way exactly what we expect and accept in accepting the notion, yet from another point of view they stir up an unease against it, they make us feel that such virgin blankness is really parasitic upon the contents to which it seems so indifferent. Further difficulties arise from what Hegel would call the Sprödigkeit, the indefinite frangibility of space and time and their contents, a frangibility inherent in time, since it is of its essence to carry all its eggs in one basket, to contain nothing of past states but their pastness and of future states but their futurity, and then to go on to break up the contained, spread-out past and future into countless reiterations of its own momentariness, as well as, through the phenomenon of motion, to erode and break up the smooth integrity of space. The frangibility of space and time and their contents, seems to make them, as Kant showed, relational structures whose terms melt away when we try to grasp them, which provide no final ontological purchase.

That this advance removes the underpinnings, the contrasts vital to the bodily world, is not at first evident. Yet it is plain that space is no redundant symbol for the mutual substitutability of bodies, for their free mobility, whether as wholes or parts; it is the permanent guarantee of these possibilities, which, without such a guarantee, would soon assume a very shaky status. Space has, as Newton well knew, not merely a receptive but a truly dynamic role. To be at rest in one of its regions, or to move through it without altering speed or direction, is to remain blessedly undistorted and selfsame: to move variably through it, changing speed or direction regularly or irregularly, means to suffer all the distortions of length and girth, those uncomfortable or delightful pulls and pressures, which physics studies in its elementary problems, and which provide the endless exhilaration of the pleasure-park or fun-fair. In kinaesthesis Newtonian space practically becomes sensible. Remove pure space, and Newtonian physics becomes a mystery, as was deeply felt by Mach in his first ventures into notional iconoclasm: it becomes a strange bow on the part of bodies to things remote and irrelevant, to the fixed stars which now assume an almost astrological importance, or to that undefined natural establishment which Whitehead, borrowing the language of the social columnist, calls the ‘Newtonian set’. If one sacrifices the deference of bodies to an unobservable geometry of the void, revealed only through that deference itself, one must replace it with a deference to a vast, remote, seemingly irrelevant bodily framework, which destroys all the independence, the simple side-by-sideness coupled with forays of interference, which constitutes the essence and the clear-cut charm of bodies. One becomes part of a Plotinian world where the water in a rotating bucket curves in sympathy with the remote stars, rather than trying to adapt itself to its immediate, humble container, behaviour which, however mystical and remarkable, is certainly not what we expect of a body.

Not only does the elimination of pure space thus make actual bodily behaviour strange and arbitrary: it also opens the door to so many possibilities that we can no longer learn anything from experience, from individual encounter. It makes possible the existence of a cosmos which stops dead at certain boundaries, with no genuine possibility of going beyond them. It makes possible the existence of a cosmos with unaccountable gaps in its structure, positions environmentally fixed but where nothing naturally is or can be. It makes possible the existence of a plurality of spatial systems having nothing to do with one another. It in fact opens the possibility of there not being any world or cosmos at all. If the spatial structure of the world and the bodies in it has to be learnt wholly from detailed encounter with individual bodies, then, in default of any wider framework which information fills in, we cannot use that information to learn anything further. It is vain to appeal to interpolation and extrapolation, since we can only interpolate and extrapolate where there is a general framework which in some degree tells us how to go on: we cannot by extrapolation and interpolation generate the whole framework of the significant and real, as opposed to countless, merely formal possibilities. And what we have said of space, of course, applies, mutatis mutandis, to time. If time is not the presupposition of any and every possible state of persistence or change, but expresses merely the mutual substitutability of states in a context of other states, then the possibilities become altogether too unrestricted, and we can no longer learn from empirical encounters since there is no indication how we are to go beyond them. And what we have said, though approached subjectively, can be given an ontological formulation which only sounds dogmatic. Whatever may be symbolized or imagined at various levels of artificial abstraction, the existence of individual bodies is not separable from the existence of a total bodily system, a total spatio-temporal world, in which they have their place, are really and not merely notionally brought together, and have the background and contrast which, strange as it may sound to say it, their being needs.

It is not, therefore, by adopting any purely positivistic or Leibnizian relativity that we can advance beyond the first obscurities of space and time. This sort of relativity, with its extreme empiricism, is in fact merely transitional, and never has been nor can be made the basis of any settled picture of the phenomenal world. What its utter confusion and instability brings forth as its positive suggestion and outcome, is not any sort of relational view of space and time, one that connects them with relations among bodies and states of bodies, but a view which is relativistic in quite another sense, one which makes space and time, on the one hand, and bodies and their states on the other, things mutually requiring and presupposing, which are such that it is just as impossible for either to be posited without the other. We have already held that bodies and their motions and other changes presuppose the space and time in which alone their presence and behaviour are allowed for. We now assert the reverse side of the coin: that space and time are nothing if not the guarantors of real possibilities of occupancy and motion, and could not be if there were absolutely no bodies and no motions and no changes at all. In other words we are brought close to that position of Leucippus according to which the void, though we may think of it as that which is not, has as much being as the things which are in it: it becomes in fact just as feasible to regard the void as what authentically is as what is in the void. The ‘truth’ of the situation is the simple one that space is essentially space for something, and time time for something, just as something always necessarily occupies a space and a time. It is then through the extension and duration and the motion and changes of bodies and their states that we become aware of the space, the actual room in which they exist and act, and of the time, the pure permanence-in-flux, on which they impose their varied rhythms. This space and this time have indeed a reality which extends beyond that of their parcelled occupants, and which in a sense imposes itself upon them, but space and time none the less require those parcelled occupants, not only to make their presence evident, but even to be at all.

Seen in this light, space can indeed be credited with a definiteness, an individuality of character not differing toto caelo from that of the bodies and states that occupy it, just as modern physical theory requires. We can have, if we want them, the spaces which return upon themselves in that the zones of possible bodily occupancy, the room they involve, forms a closed system, and that motions persistently and unswervingly away from given zones of occupancy may be forced at length to return to them; we can have the spaces which fan out hyperbolically and unfold new ranges of direction where in undistorting, unembarrassing Euclidean space only one has a plain right to be. And we have, of course, the spaces whose ‘room’ is irregular, and whose odd distortions show themselves in the twisted behaviour of bodies, and so on. Besides all these alternatives we may, of course, still regard with respect the old Aristotelian alternative of a space spherical in the quite ordinary manner, in which it simply does not make physical sense to ask what is outside the outermost sphere. Many of these putative possibilities have, of course, been conceived in a merely symbolical or verbal manner, but they can probably with some straining, be given a good phenomenal sense. It is not over-hard, for example, to imagine the strange optics of a small ‘spheroidal’ space in which objects would shrink visibly as they now do when we retreat from them, but then start expanding remarkably until, when they reached a point that would be styled the antipodes of the spheroidal system, they would, if nothing intervened, appear gloriously plastered inside out on the firmament, and confronting us visually from all sides, only to shrink thereafter to more conventional dimensions, and then to expand visually as they advanced towards us in the usual manner of our experience. I have not been able to think out the optics of a highly curved hyperbolical space, but imagine that it might involve great blurring in the further distances, out of which, according as one took one initially indiscernible direction or another, different clear pictures would emerge. It would, however, be in the actual appearances of bodies and in their behaviour as they moved, that the peculiarities of the space they inhabited would ‘come out’, though the peculiarities would be ‘there’ whether or not any actual objects brought them out at the moment, though not of course in the absence of all bodies. Such a learning about space through appearances would not, however, be wholly empirical, since, though we should learn the precise character of the room in the world through these appearances, we should still have to have the vague background sense of there being a room of some sort into which bodily phenomena could be comprehensively fitted and interconnected. And the old ideals of the undistorting and unrestricting, of freedom from privileged magnitudes which we saw to be fundamental to Euclidean space, would still guide us; though we might be prepared for departures from them, we should see such departures in their light.

It is this sort of relativity of space to bodies and of bodies to space that is plainly the one required by physics and actually used by it, rather than the relativism of Leibniz and certain positivists. And it is important to stress that the advance to this sort of view is not merely an empirical advance, rooted in certain queer findings, but that it springs from pressures in the phenomena themselves which, though they may at first offer us a space which is little more than a name for the power of bodies to have any relation to other bodies, soon show us that such a space is unmeaning, unthinkable, that space is nothing if not a highly positive, determining factor, brought out at every point in the way bodies are shaped, move and behave. Such a view is, in fact, really implicit, as we saw before, in the Newtonian view of space, where departures from absolute rest or absolute motion betray themselves by characteristic dynamic changes, regardless as to the relative rest or motion of a body in its immediate context. Such a view of space involves a profound shift in our fundamental intuitions, in that the empty ceases to be a mere negation or privation of the full, but becomes so positive that the full can just as well be regarded as a mere negation or privation of it, much as happens when ‘ground’ and ‘figure’ reverse their roles in certain ambiguous drawings. But the changed perspective makes more difference to the realm of bodies than would readily have been suspected: bodies lose their independence, their mere side-by-sideness, diversified by occasional interference with each other's development: they become the joint inhabitants of a curious common room, which, like some play-pen designed to shut in children, binds them all rather closely together and subjects them all to highly specific conditions. There is, we may say, something deeply odd about the presence of bodies in such a definite, highly characteristic room—it is definitely analogous to the cave of which we have been speaking—it negates their independence and mutual indifference which from other points of view seems so strident. Bodies, we may say come before us as having to a large extent nothing to do with each other, and yet they are all linked together and governed in their behaviour and interactions by something as unfragmented as they are fragmented, and which is, moreover, nothing external to themselves, but part of their intimate being, part of their very blood and bone.

There is, we may say at this point, something deeply discrepant about the phenomena, or to use a term that we shall also often employ, something strangely ‘collusive’ about them. It is as if factors were putting up a show of mutual unconnectedness, of total unconcern, while they were none the less secretly in league with one another, were following out a cunning, preconcerted plan of which they gave us no overt inkling. This ‘collusiveness’, as we shall call it, this suggestion of a conspiracy, is something that meets us again and again in every zone of cave-life: it provides, perhaps, the central perplexity of that life. Everywhere we meet with counter-suggestions. Everywhere phenomena wear a bold face of independence which, if we trust it, shows signs of deep-lying concert, everywhere, also, phenomena show passing signs of concert which, if we rely on them, again suggest a chance origin. Hence the unending play of philosophical approaches, all of which have their good ground in the phenomena. What we have said will seem to some unutterably weak, since it has no sort of formal cogency. There is indeed no strictly compelling reason why co-presence in a highly specific common space should not assort with total independence in other respects. Strictly compelling reasons are, however, of as little importance in sizing up the phenomena of the human cave as in testing the stories of human witnesses and reporters: it is another sort of affinity or lack of affinity, of good or ill fit, of coherence or incoherence, that is in point in either case. And it is in respect of these non-formal connections that we affirm that there is something odd and queer, something that suggests dummy scenery, in the mixture of proud independence and profound interconnection which characterizes the life of bodies in space. Something more is here present than meets the immediate eye, something we look to see brought out in other cases also, and perhaps more plainly and saliently, something in virtue of which it will be clear just why there is this queer mixture of indifference and non-indifference in bodily and spatial existence.

I have so far spoken of the relationship of bodies to space, and have not considered the relation of them and their states to time. But here, as in the case of space, time will be as much dependent upon, bound up with bodies and their states, as bodies and their states are dependent upon and bound up with time. This cannot, readily be taken to mean that time can lose all its basic categorial features, that its focus of presentness can be widened, its future confounded with its past, its order reversed, etc., etc. But it does mean that time's permanence-in-flux is nothing if not shown in the permanence-in-flux of definite bodies—or of other permanents than bodies which do not here concern us—and this means that the time brought out in the permanence-in-flux of bodies in a given region may have peculiarities shown in the changes and constancies of the bodies in that region and not exhibited elsewhere. Time is time for phenomena, and it may vary specifically and locally according to the phenomena for which it is the time. What is here short may be correlated with what is there long, what is here minimal and not further divisible with what there permits of much division and so on. The very method of correlating the temporality of one body with that of another will have something arbitrary and variable about it. Since the focus of presentness is a local, corporeal focus there is no plain sense in which it can or must be the same focus for different bodies.

The way is accordingly open for those momentous conceptual changes affecting physical temporality which the physicists have introduced with such insouciance, and which philosophers have accepted with such frivolity. Ours is the harder task of trying to see how such changes can be reflectively lived with—not merely assented to on paper or in the experimental situation—and what they really imply or entail. Reluctantly we may surrender the unique, broad, cosmic presents that we feel with our bones, that extend over a whole world of coactual things and states, whether we know of them or not. We do this in part, no doubt, in deference to experimental findings, which suggest, though they cannot compel, a change in categories, but we are also moved by the empty notional intricacy of a pure time which is not as such the time for any specific, and perhaps local, phenomenon. If times are times for specific, separated states, and such times are in some way to be correlated, they can be correlated only by way of real processes of some kind. The way is therefore open for that particular modification of older temporal categories which connects the times of different bodies by way of light-signals, and which further makes that correlation vary in such a way that light always appears to depart from and arrive at a body with the same uniform velocity. Positively such a view high-lights the position of light in the universe, as the supreme connective phenomenon which by its busy travelling gives space and its structure full concreteness, and makes time more than the flux-in-permanence of particular bodies. Hegel alone among philosophers has given light a similar dignity: to the mind of Einstein its special position merely represented a queer fact about the universe which provided the simplest explanation of a single experiment. Even the profound mind of Whitehead had little to say in explanation of it. But negatively the change represents an extraordinary new way of ‘saving the phenomena’, in which, instead of using the invariant natures of permanent bodies to explain the infinite variety of their chance encounters and resultant phenomenal products, we subordinate the whole life of such bodies, together with their spatio-temporal frameworks, to preserving inviolate and miraculously invariant the contingent velocity of a single phenomenon, light. Whatever modifications of fundamental categories have to be made, and however much we may have to alter our fundamental terms and axioms, all must be done so that light will in all circumstances continue to speed past our heads at the same velocity. And what remains of the underlying, the explanatory and the ‘saving’, is no longer a world of mutually independent, mutually interacting physical realities, but an abstract matrix of events in an epicene spatio-temporal medium which exists only on paper, and which has as much right to be called a system of natural reality as an eccentrically projected map can be identified with a real territory. Raffiniert ist der Herr Gott, said Einstein, aber boshaft ist er nicht, but we may well question the second half of this assertion. The Herr Gott certainly seems to have shown abundant irony in rigging the phenomena of the Michelson-Morley experiment. They are more destructive of the ordinary materialistic set-up of the natural cosmos, as given to our thought-impregnated perception, than the occasional suspensions of natural law that occur, or are alleged to occur, in the seance-room. The Herr Gott, it would seem, is in some ways a Platonist or a Spinozist, and he lets us us see this in the strange data that he offers us, which tempt us to look further.

In concluding this lecture I wish to apologize for the incompetence of my references to modern physics. Philosophical interpreters of modern physics have hitherto fallen into a few classes. Either, being positivists and phenomenalists, they have long ago pounded and pulverized physical reality into palpable data of various kinds, without seeing or caring about the ruin they are bringing upon all inference and knowledge, and so are indifferent to any further rendings of the physical fabric. Or, being sincere adherents of the natural view of the world, they, like C. D. Broad, combine a careful exposition of modern physical theory with a philosophical treatment which by-passes this entirely (see, e.g., Broad's treatment of time in his Examination of McTaggart's Philosophy). Or being, speculative theosophists, trapped by their education within the limits of physical science, they have, like Whitehead, transformed the web of nature into a many-windowed monadology. Or, lastly, being great physicists like Eddington, who have clearly seen the non-materialistic implications of modern physics, they have been hindered from saying much that is highly profitable by their sheer philosophical illiteracy. Among all these incompetents, I can at best hope that my incompetence will be of a new variety. While I do not know what the right philosophical interpretation of modern physical findings may be, I am at least clear that we have not as yet even begun to ask the right questions about them. What is important for my purpose is not, however, how they are in detail to be interpreted, but the general dialectic which underlies them, which casts a shadow of absurdity on the realm of bodies, peaceably pursuing their independent ways in space and time with bouts of occasional influence and intercourse. These surface appearances are, as I have said, deeply collusive, they point to some deeper concert than actually comes out in them, and of which we may hope to discover further instances. It is to these that my next lecture will be devoted.