It has been the habit, and, if the contention of these Lectures is justified, the besetting sin, of philosophy to take cognition as the initial form of apprehension, and to seek, by such expedients as may be available, to evolve the other forms of apprehension, such as appreciation, from this. That is the source of the Cartesian error, though indeed it is much older than Descartes. For it is this assumption of the priority of intellection that gives such plausibility as it possesses to the notion that we begin with our mind and its ideas and then from these advance to knowledge of the external world by inference. Hence comes the whole farrago of Subjective Idealism, Pre-established Harmony, Psycho-physical Parallelism, and other outrages upon common sense. Indeed from these or other equally outrageous alternatives there is no escape when once the priority of intellection or cognition has been assumed; for some one is then bound to ask the questions which in fact were put to himself by Descartes, and the questioner or others must try to answer them.
That philosophy should fall into this error was natural enough. For it is an intellectual process; and to it the intellectual apprehension of the world was nearest to hand. The intellect was almost bound to see first how far it could advance by consideration of its own processes and of their results. But by degrees the results of the process itself compelled the intellect to recognise that its apprehension is not primary but derivative. For the scientific study of the world began to present a picture of the world as existing long before the human intellect existed to apprehend it, and human thought as appearing in the course of the world’s development. At first it seemed that this difficulty could be met by postulating a Divine Intelligence as thinking the universe into existence, so that as we study the universe we are entering into the thoughts of that Intelligence. There is real ground for that postulate, and in other connexions it becomes important. But in this connexion it is easily seen to be called for only in order to preserve the initial assumption of the priority of intellect; and for that purpose it could not satisfactorily maintain itself in face of the fuller detail which science began to give to its picture of the world. For science now went on to show intelligence itself developing from most rudimentary beginnings in which it was scarcely distinguishable from instinct or even from unconscious organic reaction. So soon as that idea had gripped the mind, it became more natural to conceive the intellect as a function of the organism, which apprehended reality with approximate accuracy because it was evolved in interaction with it, rather than as a regal faculty whose principles are valid of reality because reality itself is governed by the “Royal Mind of Zeus”.1 We shall come back to a position very similar to that, but the difference of approach is vital.
For some time there existed an almost complete alienation between scientists and philosophers, because scientists were content to present the picture of the late evolution of mind on the earth, without raising the question what may be implied in the fact that the earth is such as to be intelligible to mind when mind appears, while philosophers continued to occupy themselves chiefly with this question without relating their answers at all closely to the increasingly authenticated picture of the world which science was offering. In recent years that alienation has been diminishing through the perpetual increase of attention on each side to the preoccupation of the other. The great series of Gifford Lectures delivered by Bernard Bosanquet were marked by a specially full appreciation of the significance of organic evolution, though he was in certain respects deeply infected with Intellectualism; Professor Pringle-Pattison carried still further the movement towards a synthesis; while Professors Eddington and Whitehead, starting from the side of science, and even of the physical sciences, have taken up the specifically philosophical enquiry. And these, of course, are no isolated pioneers, but are outstanding representatives of a world-wide movement of thought.
The dominating fact in the new situation may be stated thus: the world as apprehended is now something which antedates apprehension. The world which we apprehend is apprehended as having been extant historically before any one apprehended it. So far as our experience is concerned, Apprehension takes place within the world, not the world within apprehension.
If the postulate of continuity, which science commonly makes, is allowed to stand, this will mean either that we shall try to account for all apprehension, including the scientist’s grasp of the world, in terms of the action and reaction of atoms, or electrons, or whatever else is at the moment presented as the ultimate product of the analysis of matter; or else we shall interpret those actions and reactions as embryonic apprehensions. The former is a plain reductio ad absurdum; the latter must therefore be preferred. It is the adoption of this method which (if I understand him rightly) constitutes the special suggestiveness and also the special difficulty of Professor Whitehead’s Process and Reality. Reason will be given later2 for holding that this doctrine of continuity is itself, if not misleading, at any rate irrelevant to Natural Theology; and there are other strands in Professor Whitehead’s thought which suggest that it is not indispensable. But when he adopts it, as for the most part he does, it leads him to speak of purely physical relations as prehensions and feelings. This is very awkward as a matter of language, but for that Professor Whitehead is not responsible. Whatever words he uses will either connote consciousness or will not. If they do not, there will be a suggestion of discontinuity when the account reaches the level of consciousness; if they do, they will convey an unintended suggestion of consciousness at the lower level; that Professor Whitehead’s terminology should be confusing to the reader is no cause for wonder. He develops his own view by means of comparison and contrast with the philosophy of Descartes, Locke and Hume, especially Hume. He speaks of “the disastrous confusion, more especially by Hume, of conceptual feelings with perceptual feelings”;3 and with reiterated emphasis insists upon the fact that for Hume the primary data are percepts, while for himself they are “prehensions” which may be non-conscious. Thus he writes:
“Hume and Locke, with the over-intellectualist bias prevalent among philosophers, assume that emotional feelings are necessarily derivative from sensations. This is conspicuously not the case; the correlation between such feelings and sensations is on the whole a secondary effect.… The confinement of our prehension of other actual entities to the mediation of private sensations is pure myth.”4
This position is for Whitehead fundamental. He says:
“The principle that I am adopting is that consciousness presupposes experience and not experience consciousness. It is a special element in the subjective form of some feelings. Thus an actual entity may, or may not be, conscious of some parts of its experience. Its experience is its complete formal constitution.”5
Here is still the awkwardness of language. For the terms “feeling”, “subject” and even “experience” have commonly been taken as connoting consciousness. But in the case of “experience” the developments of Psychology have brought assistance, for we are all familiar with the notion of elements in experience which lie on the margin of consciousness or altogether beyond it. In any case, that awkwardness of language is, as has been said, inevitable for one who accepts the doctrine of continuity, and is easily overcome by the exercise of a little special attention. Whatever we may have to say later concerning the doctrine of continuity, as for example from the inorganic level to the organic, and from the organic to the personal, the principle stated above must, I submit, be accepted as manifestly true at least as far as human consciousness is concerned.
As we consider the picture presented by scientific study of the world we see that the earliest traceable form of existence is that of physical entities related to one another in the ways which the science of Physics describes. Admittedly that science is more conscious now than it was a short time ago of the provisional character of its results. Thus for example it works alternately with the corpuscular and the undulatory theories of light, though both cannot be true together in the form at present given them.6 But it is not necessary for our purposes to enquire further into the nature of the physical structure of reality. Either it is itself rudimentarily organic, as Whitehead urges, or else it supplies to the organic world as known to us its substratum, and is so ordered as to supply in the instance of our planet the necessary conditions for life as we know it.7 That purely physical realm may consist of protons and electrons and the rest moving in paths and at velocities which can be calculated; and that may be all that can be fairly said about it. Or again all that is said about these may be, as some scientists suggest, not a description of facts but a diagram by the help of which we can calculate future events from present observations, as sociologists may make a “graph” of seasonal or cyclical unemployment, and use it for the suggestion of policy without suggesting that it is a picture of the concrete fact of unemployment. Or yet again it may be that even at this level the principle of the organism finds illustration. What is entirely beyond dispute is that this principle finds illustration long before consciousness appears on the scene; and whether or not all existence is organic, yet it is by the organic principle in the first instance that we must seek to understand our apprehension of the world and the place of our apprehension itself in the world that we apprehend.
The flower turns its face to the sun, and closes its petals to protect itself from the damp night; the dog hurries to the place where he is fed when it is time for feeding; the child runs to his mother when he is hurt; the sinner, when he becomes aware of his sin, humbles himself in penitence before his God. Any one can see differences in these different activities, and with them we shall be concerned later. But it seems quite arbitrary to draw a sharp line at any point or totally to deny continuity of principle. Our inherited habit of thinking by means of supposed Real Kinds makes difficult for us the intellectual appreciation of continuity of growth, however eager the intellect may be to trace continuity in the world wherever it can. But all of us who are grown up have lived through many stages of the continuous process, and a man is no less a responsible citizen because he was once a semiconscious infant and cannot draw any sharp lines between his infancy, his childhood, his adolescence, and his manhood. But the assertion of continuity in growth is neither the assertion that there is no more in the mature development than in the germ, nor the assertion that the germ actually contains what appears in the mature development. The desire for heads of classification here perverts an apprehension which the unsophisticated mind achieves every day and every moment without either difficulty or perplexity. Continuous becoming is the most familiar fact of experience. Coleridge solved the problem of Achilles and the tortoise by saying that Zeno, who propounded it, was postulating the infinite divisibility of space without allowing also for the infinite divisibility of time. That may have been, as one of his circle exclaimed, “a lightning-flash illuminating a darkness that had existed for centuries”. But the darkness was highly artificial. To this, as to the parallel demonstration that motion is impossible, the truly rational answer is that of the Cynic: solvitur ambulando. For the initial error is the treatment of continuous change as if it consisted of a series of stages, each of which has its own fixed position or character. That is as false as to treat a circle as an indefinitely many-sided polygon. The line that bounds the circle never moves in any direction at all; there is no extent in the point at which the tangent touches it, but position only. So the boy who is growing to manhood changes his character while we observe and note it. Our recorded apprehension of the world is always out of date; but the apprehension itself is not out of date, unless it is perverted by the record or memory of previous apprehensions.
As we pass from actual observation or enjoyment to any form of reflection upon them, we fall behind the flow of facts. For the reflective mind, the datum is the record or the memory; and this fixes as an unchanging object of attention an experience in which movement was an essential characteristic. We may consider the evolution of a species, or a period of human history; and even if we are careful to recall in recollection the actual process, yet inevitably we ignore the previous and succeeding process, and thus tend to treat our section as if it were capable of isolation and, when thus isolated, had some characteristic which is not only distinctive but peculiar. There is real truth in saying that the Dark Ages present one distinctive character, the Middle Ages another, the modern period yet another. But each has the elements of what becomes the distinctive character of another. There are real turning points in Evolution and in History, but they are not points of transition from one strictly definable type to another strictly definable type. Whatever we define, or fix in a concept, is always thereby removed in some degree from fact.
Yet the conceptual treatment of reality vindicates itself in practice, and thereby proves that, even though not in immediate touch with fact, it is not wholly alien from it. A wholly conceptual geometry gives results which are verified in experience. But here a new complication intrudes itself. For the degree to which the conceptual treatment of experience is adequate or inadequate varies with the importance of the principle of individuality in the given, field of study. It is at least broadly true that in those fields of study where we are concerned with what is most primitive and elemental in the evolutionary series individuality counts for least, while as the evolutionary process advances it counts for more and more, so that conceptual thinking comes nearest to adequacy in relation to what is least developed and loses adequacy as we follow the advance of evolution to more complex forms of being.8
For the moment, however, our concern is with the reality of our apprehension of process or growth as such. The trouble only arises if, having resorted to conceptual thinking, we stop there. The real value of conceptual thinking is found when, bringing its results with us, we return to the actual living experience.9 A man listens, let us say, to a symphony by Beethoven; there is a direct impact made by the symphony as a whole upon his entire being. Some elements he at once grasps in consciousness. It is hardly conceivable, for example, that any man should hear the Fifth Symphony without distinct apprehension and retention of the opening phrase, of the melody of the second movement, or the rhythm of the scherzo; or again, that he should hear the Ninth Symphony without distinct apprehension and retention of the startlingly simple melody in which the intricate pattern of themes and rhythms finally issues. But beyond this there is a vague feeling of balance in tone and rhythm and contrapuntal scheme. We may have no words to express all this, but it will be there. Mr. J. B. Priestley has given an admirable picture of this stage of musical apprehension in the effect which Brahms’ First Symphony had upon Mr. Smeath.10 But this is a rudimentary stage of appreciation. If the listener now studies the composition scientifically with the guidance of a competent critic, he will grasp far more fully than before the principles of its construction; he will make vivid to himself very many “themes” and “subjects” which he had previously heard without heeding. But if he stops there, he has got further from the reality of the music, not nearer to it. At the end of all his study, and having its results available, he should now hear the work itself again. It will be in one sense the same experience as before, but richer and fuller because so much more of it is now distinct to consciousness.11 But in both actual experiences of the music, it is apprehended as a process. The listener is not in the least perplexed by paradoxes about the nature of Time. He does not find himself unable to relate the notes that are sounding to their predecessors on the ground that these are now not extant. Normal experience is of process, and the mind is wholly free from embarrassment in face of that fact unless or until it begins to treat conceptual thinking, not as the interim procedure that it is qualified to be, but as itself the real life and characteristic activity of a living and self-conscious organism.
This becomes fully apparent when we turn from the “bewildering entanglement of eventualities” which constitutes the process of the real world, and consider processes deliberately constructed to be comprehensible by the minds of men. Such processes we find in those works of art in which process is an essential element—music, poetry, drama and their fellows. From consideration of these processes and of the relation to them of our minds there is much to be learnt. For the moment our concern is with the unquestionable fact that in the apprehension of such a successive unity as a poem or a fugue the mind experiences a joy which springs from unimpeded exercise of its energies. Action is required of it, but it is the action proper to it. The accompanying emotion is not the depression of perplexity but the exhilaration of mastery.
We are familiar with the conundrums that can be asked as soon as we analyse Time into its parts and discuss their relation to one another, as though those parts had independent real existence. Past and Future must then be defined by reference to the Present; but the Present is no more than a cross-section between Past and Future, and even so is not the same for two seconds, or even for two infinitesimal particles of time, together. So there is no “clear and distinct idea” of Time; the concept is riddled with contradiction; consequently it must be regarded as unreal. Yes, certainly Time the abstraction is unreal; but so is Euclid’s triangle, of which we have a perfectly clear and distinct idea. On the other hand successive objects or occasions are not unreal, and their successiveness is part—not indeed of their reality if this is thought to be something other than themselves—but of their existent selves.
The amount of succession that is apprehended by different minds may vary indefinitely, and also the amount that is apprehended by the same mind at different times. But always real apprehension is of process. What has been called “the specious present” is the true present. Every momentary perception both occupies time and is a perception of what changes in time. The apprehending mind is living in and through time, as truly as the objects which it apprehends. Many of those objects maintain their identity through time, as a picture seems to do; many again are of such a nature that their identity actually consists of a process of change, as a poem or a piece of music. The mind which apprehends shares in that kind of identity which is characteristic of the object apprehended, though to some extent the quality of the successive type is always discernible. If I stand gazing at a picture, the picture remains and my mind remains. The process of the universe goes on around us; other spectators come and go, men are born and die, planets revolve—about the picture and myself enthralled by it all this goes on; but the picture and I stand fixed. Yet that is not quite true. Subtle changes are in process in the picture, which produce in sufficient course of time perceptible modifications, and my mind is not quite static, for at every moment its apprehension is richer through the cumulative effect of long attention. When, to turn to the successive type, the mind is held by the occurrence before it of a great tragedy or symphony, the work of art has its own unity, but it is a unity which actually consists of a temporal process, and the persisting identity of the receptive mind has the same quality. At every stage the mind understands what has happened more thoroughly because in a fuller context. The Greek custom of choosing for Tragedy themes known to the audience beforehand secured that each action was appreciated in the light of its known result;12 yet inasmuch as the colour to be given to that result by the poet was still unknown until the episode upon the stage disclosed it, that appreciation grew from moment to moment, and might at the conclusion be scarcely recognisable as that which had arisen in connexion with the opening scene.
Apprehension of process, then, may securely be said to present no difficulties of its own in principle. The difficulties only arise when we try to achieve a timeless understanding of it. So long as mind and occasion move together all is straightforward. And this is natural; for we have now to notice that our apprehension of the process of reality includes the very dawn of that apprehension as occurring at a moment in that process. Whatever it may become necessary to add concerning the spiritual nature of the ground of existence, it is impossible to deny, and vitally important to recognise, that within the historical process, mind is a late arrival. Within the ever-changing process of reality there appears, as one of its constituent elements, the capacity for observing it. The process becomes conscious, and then self-conscious, in some of its own parts. Historically regarded, mind is itself a process, and is part of the universal process. I refer here, of course, to mind as a mode of existence and activity within the historical process. The question whether there is a Divine Mind has not yet been raised. The actual emergence in the process of evolution is of particular minds; but here, as elsewhere, I use the generic term “mind” when the subject of interest is not the particular minds as such but the mode of being and activity in virtue of which each is entitled to be called a mind. That is, at a certain stage of the evolutionary process, a new mode of being and activity. It is true that as soon as reflection is directed upon that particular part of the universal process, it reveals itself as something other and more than process is commonly understood to be; and then the question arises whether this is something altogether peculiar to mind, or something in which a characteristic of the whole process becomes for the first time manifest. To those points we must return at a later stage.13
Whether or not the actions and reactions of physical entities can properly be called “experience”, the modern account of the evolution of the world makes it necessary to assent to Whitehead’s proposition, already quoted, “that consciousness presupposes experience and not experience consciousness”. Vegetable life exhibits much adjustment of the organism to its environment; the organism “responds” in various ways; but it is not capable of self-motion. There is, apparently, a transitional kind of vegetable-animal, which grows as a vegetable, but is capable of detaching itself from the soil and exercising self-movement. Where there is no self-movement we generally assume that there is no sensation, in the sense of a modification of consciousness; but no one can prove that the daisy does not “feel” the warmth of the sun to which it responds by opening its petals. Where there is self-motion, we assume that consciousness to direct such motion exists; though it is not clear why it should be needed to direct the motion of the whole organism, and not needed for the direction of its parts. Where the structure of the organism resembles that of our own bodies, we assume that its reactions are accompanied by sensations similar to those which accompany similar reactions in ourselves; but we only begin to have clear evidence of this where there is not only a physiological reaction appropriate to its stimulus, but some capacity to learn by experience, such as a dog has and a plant (I suppose) has not.14 Certainly it would seem natural that the power of self-motion should accompany, and even stimulate, a clearer differentiation of the organism from its environment, and thus encourage the development of any rudimentary consciousness that exists.
Bergson suggested that the clearest available distinction between instinct and intelligence is that drawn between the adjustment by the organism of itself to its environment and its adjustment of the environment to itself; thus he says that when nature produced a creature who needed clothes to maintain himself in life, it gave the congé to instinct.15 Without going into the precise question thus raised, which does not concern us here, we may safely say that the activity of adjusting the environment to the organism is one which is likely to minister to the development of self-consciousness in the organism as surely as self-motion is likely to minister to the development of consciousness; but it can no more actually give birth to self-consciousness than self-motion can give birth to consciousness.
When we consider the development of full self-conscious apprehension as we find it in ourselves, we must begin with the reactions of the embryo in the ante-natal stage. It is then adjusting itself to its environment, and receiving from its environment what it transmutes into the substance of its own organic life. When the new-born child first opens his eyes upon the world, he is already well established in this habit of organic adjustment. The pressures and impacts of various sorts to which his system makes response are different in many ways from those to which it was responding in the earlier phase; but the habit of organic self-adjustment, and of using the environment for self-maintenance, is already well established. The rudimentary consciousness is not of objects as such, but of this actual process of responsive adjustment.
Gradually the two main factors in that process distinguish themselves—not yet as subject and object but as self and not-self. It is found in experience that there is one entity which moves at desire, and which is a locus of sensation in the sense that when other entities impinge upon it sensation results. So the child comes to recognise his body as for him different from all other objects, and it becomes the basis of his notion of himself. Later on, though germinally from the first, self-consciousness is found to accompany consciousness of the reactions between organism and environment. The child not only feels or desires, but is conscious of himself as feeling and desiring. Thus becomes possible the contrast between the self as it is and the self as it might be, from which arises in turn the possibility of moral character and moral action. Thus also becomes evident the distinction of subject and object in experience, and with it the possibility of both science and philosophy.
But these are very late arrivals; indeed cognition itself is a late and specialised form of consciousness. First there is the reaction of the organism to its environment; then this becomes conscious, and (in one act with the emergence of consciousness) more highly unified. “The feeler is the unity emergent from its own feelings; and feelings are the details of the process, intermediary between this unity and its many data.”16 Consciousness first arises in its emotional form—not as knowledge nor as purpose, but as organic reaction become aware of its significance in terms of pleasure and pain. “We prehend other actual entities more primitively by direct mediation of emotional tone, and only secondarily and waveringly by direct mediation of sense.”17 But even so, the primitive consciousness is primarily objective in its reference. “The primitive form of physical experience is emotional—blind emotion—received as felt in another occasion and conformally appropriated as a subjective passion. In the language appropriate to the higher stages of experience, the primitive element is sympathy, that is, feeling the feeling in another and feeling conformally with another.”18
In other words, the earliest form of consciousness is awareness of feeling in some part of the environment and responsive feeling thereby evoked. How remote is this conception from any speculation how the mind can pass from its ideas to an external world! How remote from questions whether we can know the existence of other persons as persons except by analogical inference from the resemblance of their perceived physical actions to our own! From the beginning of intellectual life the mind lives and moves and has its being in an actual apprehension of a world which is first realised in consciousness through the emotional tone which that world elicits in response to its own. Such a view of the growth of mind is necessitated by the picture which modern science gives of its history and of the history of the organism in the development of which it is found to exist.
Each individual human mind attains to full consciousness and self-consciousness by this process. There is first the relation between the embryo and its environment in the ante-natal stage; after birth the new world on which the infant opens his eyes is still primarily the world made up of himself and his mother in their mutual relationship. Professor Grensted admirably summarises the upshot of psychological study and reflection on this point as follows:
“Behind even the most primitive forms of knowledge there lies what can be most simply called the ego-object relation, its duality still implicit. The child does not start out into life with an assured individuality from which it sets out to conquer an outer world. It starts rather from an unresolved confusion within which the ego and the other are at first undifferentiated, and out of which they are developed into the comparatively sharp distinctions of adult life. The child accepts what the mother says, not as some new and external addition to the structure of its personality, but rather as something existent within that relationship to the mother which is prior, unanalysed and unquestioned. It is not even, in James’ phrase, ‘faith in some one else’s faith’. That is a later and much more complex development. It would be more nearly true to call it simply ‘faith in some one else’ if even that phrase did not imply a consciousness of faith and of the other, which goes beyond the direct and unresolved unity of the relationship. This is not as yet love, or knowledge, or faith, but it is the basis of all three.”19
“The belief that knowledge of things is in some way prior to the knowledge of persons is sheer delusion. In the analysis of life, we cannot start from the solid world about us, for both its solidity and its apparent self-existence are mere interpretations of our experience. And the experience from which we set out to interpret the world is not simply our own. It is, and was from the very first, a corporate existence, in which we are intimately interrelated with others like ourselves. The contact of spirit with matter constitutes a problem of apparently insoluble difficulty. The contact of spirit with spirit is a primary and incontrovertible datum. Here at least is something of which all are directly aware, even if they cannot state in clear terms exactly what they mean. Faith and love are simple and immediate facts, and, unlike our knowledge of the so-called external world, they carry with them a certainty and security of their own.”20
All distinctions which the developed mind elaborates are found by analysis of what is at first given as an apparently undifferentiated continuum. We do not first know sensations, and then build these up into a system or order. We do not first realise the world as extended and then raise questions whether it is beautiful. The extension and the beauty of the world are there in the initial datum. If it is the mind that discovers beauty, it is equally the mind that discovers extension. And it discovers them because they are there. I must regard as completely fallacious all theories of Perception which start with a so-called sensum as the object of immediate apprehension, on occasion of which the mind, by use of memory and imagination, builds up a picture of the world which it then believes itself to apprehend. The initial and permanent fact is the organism in interaction with the environment, which, if the organism is mental, takes the form of apprehension among others. What it apprehends is the real world, and no limit can be set a priori to the extent in space or time of its potential apprehension. Sensa and the like are part of the organism’s machinery of this apprehension; but they are not the objects apprehended. Of course I do not claim with “naïve realism” that an object is, apart from knowledge, exactly what it is for knowledge: to ask what we can know it to be apart from knowledge is like asking what it looks like to a blind man. My contention is that in cognition the subject-object relation is ultimate, and neither term is in any degree reducible to the other. Apprehension is of the object. Moreover apprehension is interpretative from the outset, and sensation is from the first indissolubly inter-penetrated by interpretation—which may of course be mis-interpretation. To argue this position here would involve disproportionate digression. I mention the whole matter only in order to make clear what is my angle of approach, and so perhaps avoid confusion.
Supremely false is any suggestion that the individual mind, starting as an already established unity and as such apprehending a world of multiple phenomena, argues from the behaviour of some of these phenomena that they must be animated by other minds similar to itself. The fact is that only by intercourse with other minds does any mind fully attain to its own unity. It has, no doubt, at all stages of its growth a numerical unity as subject of its experiences; it is one with itself, and other than all else. But this is no more than the necessary presupposition of that unity of manifold apprehension which is already apparent in principle in the earliest stages that we are able to study and describe; and this unity is developed through entry into the corporate experience and understanding of experience which has been built up through the ages, and by comparison and contrast of itself with other minds, and especially with the purposes of other minds.21
The fact of language is here of incalculable importance. For while it may be disputed whether thought can exist at all without language of some kind, it is certainly true that our actual thought is developed and sustained by use of language. Thought definitely requires some symbolism; pure thinking, without either percepts or imagery does not occur. But it is possible that the individual mind might construct its own set of images to serve as vehicles of its thought-processes, even though these were quite unintelligible to any one else. To some extent, perhaps, a baby does this. But thought would thus make little progress. Its actual advance is made by acceptance of that articulated apprehension of the world of experience which language enshrines. Language itself is of very slow growth; sometimes, we must presume, its inadequacy holds thought back; sometimes its slow development is a mark of thought’s failure to press beyond the stage which it has already found means to express. But thought and language have taken many generations to reach the degree of development which we find even among primitive peoples. When the child begins to use ordinary words with their accepted meaning, his mind is appropriating the accumulated thought of centuries; and it is by this acceptance of the deposit of corporate thought that the child achieves such mastery over his experience as he actually reaches. It is through social contacts that the mind is enabled to unify its experience even as material of the understanding.
Far more evidently is this true in relation to experience regarded as giving rise to emotional or aesthetic or ethical reactions. In the primal sympathy, of which perhaps the imitative tendencies of the organism are the first occasion, the mind finds itself feeling this or that solely because some other person who bulks large in his experience feels this or that. The other person who plays far the largest part in the calling forth of this primal sympathy is the mother. That sympathy, like all else at the early undifferentiated stage, is rather a potentiality of understanding and of love than the actuality of either; but both grow out of it; and from his understanding of his mother’s, and then of other people’s, understanding of the world, the child wins his own understanding of it; from his love for his mother, and then for other people, he learns the meaning of human society and its obligations.
All this is given in the initial experience, though it is not all received. But the reception of all the richness of the gift is not achieved by inference from initial percepts, but rather by the direction of attention to the different elements in the initial datum as practical interest, and later theoretic interest also, may require. To call the process analytical would suggest that it is more purely intellectual than it actually is. But in the sense that it is the discovery of what is within the datum of primary experience and not an inference from it, it is analytical. All that scientists have learnt, all that artists have perceived, is there from the outset. We build up the fabric of our knowledge by taking to pieces the datum of experience.
Thus we are led to the view that thinking is grounded in the process of adjustment between organism and environment and is indeed an extension of that process. Enrichment of thought is an entry into appropriate adjustment to a wider environment—for only that part of contemporaneous existence which is relevant to the organism can properly be called its environment. Intellectual growth is a perpetually fuller responsiveness to the truth of the environment; aesthetic growth to its beauty; moral growth to its goodness; religious growth to its spiritual character expressed in all of these. Extension of the apprehended environment and development of the apprehending mind are two ways of describing the same fact; and the organism, now more mental than physical,22 is scientific, artistic, moral and religious because in the mutual reaction between it and its environment it finds the environment to be possessed of the characters to which these activities are the appropriate response.
The mind, which conducts this progressive apprehension, itself “emerges” in the midst of the process which it apprehends. That fact must engage our further attention shortly. Meanwhile, we have to notice the actual correlation of mind with the world it apprehends. This is so fundamental to all science, and indeed to all reflection, that we seldom pay attention to it. We are so impressed by the greatness and multiplicity of the world we know, that we seldom reflect upon the amazing fact of our knowing it. Some men have even been so overwhelmed by the greatness of the known world as to deny all significance to the knowing mind. But this fact of knowledge is more remarkable than all the varieties of known objects put together. For the mind which knows is in a perfectly real sense equal to what it knows, and in another real sense transcends it, unless what it knows is another mind which also knows. The mind of the astronomer is equal to so much of the stellar system as he grasps, and transcends it in so far as he knows it while it does not know him. That there should “emerge” in the cosmic process a capacity to apprehend, even in a measure to comprehend, that process is the most remarkable characteristic of the process itself. For though minds emerge as episodes within the process, it is, as will appear, essential to their nature as minds that they are not mere episodes. Thus the cosmic process gives evidence that it is not only process, and history supplies the proof that reality is more than historical.
The word “emerge” is commonly used in this connexion, as I understand, to indicate that the emergent entity is not to be accounted for in terms of the antecedent stages of the process, and yet is not due either to chance, or to any known principle of teleology. It represents a certain Agnosticism coupled with a strong preference for continuity as against catastrophic irruptions of novelty. But when the process as a whole is considered, it is to be presumed that either its first term or its entire totality supply a ground for its various phases; and either assumption will necessitate the inference from the mere fact of knowledge to a spiritual (or at least a “mental”) interpretation of existence. That the world should give rise to minds which know the world involves a good deal concerning the nature of the world.
Once more, mind and the world are found to be akin in such a sense that valid mental processes lead to verifiable results. It may be urged that this is only natural, for the mind is a product of nature and has grown up in intercourse with nature in order to guide our handling of nature; consequently nature seems to correspond to mind because mind was actually constructed in correspondence to nature. Even if that be admitted—and it cannot be a complete account of mind, as we shall see—yet the actual kinship remains. We know some of the characteristics of the mind, however it may have acquired them; and its kinship with nature is a fact worthy of consideration, whichever is taken to be the senior partner.
Taking these two considerations together we get the following result: there is a kinship between Mind and the World, so that we can assert of the World a relation of correspondence to Mind as we know it in ourselves, and can affirm that our minds rightly find themselves at home in the world. Further, our minds discover themselves to be occurrences within, and forming part of, the process with which they recognise kinship, so that a full account of the process must account for them along with the rest, and a full explanation of the process must explain how they come to be part of it.
Now as far as our experience goes, matter does not generate thought, nor does thought generate matter. But in the world of matter there is no known principle which is self-explanatory; of every principle or systematisation of experience it is possible to ask—Why is it thus and not otherwise? At one period a certain school of philosophers would have been content to answer that in infinite time every permutation and combination of the ultimate particles of matter is bound to occur, and this is the one that is occurring now. I am not satisfied that such a view expresses a sound logic of probability; but it is scarcely worth while to discuss that point, because the argument in question ignores and contradicts the essential principle of the organism. An organism is not a mere collection of juxtaposed particles or cells. Its nature is determined by its principle of unity; and this also determines the organisms that proceed from it. Consequently of the whole organic world—whether that be the entire universe or not—we are bound to say, with Whitehead,
“The evolution of history can be rationalised by the consideration of the determination of successors by antecedents. But, on the other hand, the evolution of history is incapable of rationalisation (by that means), because it exhibits a selected flux of participating forms. No reason, internal to history, can be assigned why that flux of forms, rather than another flux, should have been illustrated.”23
But when we turn from the World as apprehended by Mind to Mind which apprehends the World, we find among its functions a principle which is self-explanatory—the principle of Purpose or of Intelligent Choice.
This is an ultimate principle of explanation. When we find that the position of a given set of material objects is due to their having been arranged with a view to facilitating the accomplishment of some intelligible purpose, our minds are satisfied. That a plank should lie across a stream may call for much explanation if no human beings have ever placed it there; but if men laid it across to form a bridge, so that they could cross over dry-shod, no further explanation is needed. Purpose is a self-explanatory principle: that it is also a true principle of origination we shall seek to show later; and if that can be shown, certain further results are obtainable.
The picture of the World-Process as existing for aeons before it contained minds to apprehend it suggests at first that its non-mental functions must contain the ground of its mental functions—both of their occurrence and of their nature. But in fact all attempts to trace in evolution an explanation of the emergence of mind have totally failed. And if this is not explained, the Process is not explained, for this is an element in the Process. On the other hand we find that the Process is akin to Mind, that Mind arises in the course of it, and that Mind does exhibit what is essentially the thing required—a self-explanatory principle of origination. It is then more reasonable to test the hypothesis that Mind contains the explanation of the World-Process than to refuse to test it. That is not an extravagant claim. The whole future course of these Lectures will be concerned with one very limited attempt to test that hypothesis and to develop its implications. From the first it is more than a hypothesis awaiting verification. The considerations which suggest it go far towards establishing it.
But here, before going further, we must notice that there are other methods of rationalising a process than “the consideration of the determination of successors by antecedents”. A poem is a process or a history of a certain kind; if it is a good poem every word in it is strictly necessary; precisely that word must occur in precisely that place. But the necessity does not reside in the preceding words or lines. The words “To be or not to be” do not contain any necessity predetermining the occurrence of the words “Who would fardels bear?”—nor do all the intervening words in Hamlet’s speech. The ground of necessity for each word is the meaning which finds expression in the whole speech. But the process is completely rationalised. The same is true in even higher degree of that unity which gives rational coherence to the life of a great man. Therefore there is no insuperable difficulty in the view that the history of the universe is rational, though the ground of its rationality is only fully disclosed in its entire course, and though the element within it which supplies the unifying influence only appears late in that course.
But if we take such a view, we must recognise that what thus appears late must truly have been active from the beginning. That late appearance must be the clear “emergence”—the word is more appropriate now—of what was all along an immanent principle. In other words, our hypothesis is so far that of Immanent Theism. Whether on examination it will remain a hypothesis of Immanence only our further consideration of this view must decide.
Meanwhile let us review our course up to date. We have followed the guidance of “modern knowledge” so as to see Mind first as something which occurs in, or emerges out of, the whole evolutionary process of the universe; and our willingness to see Mind as one element in Nature has led—not to Naturalism—but to a fresh perception that if Nature (containing Mind) is to be explained at all, it is Mind that can alone supply the explanation. The more completely we include Mind within Nature, the more inexplicable must Nature become except by reference to Mind. If Nature is only a whirling mass of protons and electrons, that gyration might intelligibly go on for ever, and at some point in its endless permutations would present us with the physical universe of contemporary experience. Such a universe might exist apart from any Immanent or Transcendent Mind or Spirit. But if, as science has disclosed, Mind is part of Nature, then Nature (to contain such a part) must be grounded in Mind.
In short, the more we identify ourselves with the rest of the natural order, the more are we compelled to assert the reality of a supernatural Creator. But the justification of this proposition in precisely that form must wait for the further development of the argument.
- 1. Plato, Philebus, 30 D.
- 2. See Lecture X.
- 3. Process and Reality, p. 324.
- 4. Op. cit. p. 197.
- 5. Op. cit. p. 72. In this quotation, whenever I refer to it, I presume the word “presupposes” to mean “supposes as its historical condition”, not “supposes as its logical ground”. It is with the historical order only that I am concerned at this stage. Towards the end of this Lecture an enquiry is initiated which, especially as developed in Lectures VIII, IX, and X, effects a transition to the logical order of such sort as to lead to an account, in the closing Lectures, of the relation of these two orders to one another.
- 6. Cf. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p. 264.
- 7. “As we know it” because there is no reason to suppose that there may not be very different forms of life. It is sometimes urged that this must be the only inhabited planet, because this alone provides the necessary conditions of physiological life. But if “inhabited” means “dwelt in by rational beings” this is a non sequitur. The Jewish conception of a Seraph was that of a being made of fire. Such beings may not exist; but science cannot prove that they do not. If they do, they presumably require physical conditions quite different from ours.
- 8. That is why the Laws or Canons of a spiritual society ought to be as elastic as regard for the solidarity of the society will allow.
- 9. “The nature of reflective knowledge is such that it is always incomplete until we have returned from the reflective process to the concreteness of immediate experience.”—Professor John Macmurray, Interpreting the Universe, p. 74.
- 10. Angel Pavement, pp. 288–290.
- 11. Thus he turns from
ejpisthvmh, the potentiality, to qewria, its energising actuality. See p. 95.
- 12. This is the basic principle of Tragic Irony.
- 13. See Lecture X.
- 14. I assume that the adoption by a plant of the direction in which its stems are trained is due to a purely physical hardening of the fibres in the appropriate shape and not to its giving up the effort to thrust them in some other direction; but I am not quite sure that this distinction is a real one.
- 15. L’Évolution créatrice, pp. 152, 155.
- 16. Whitehead, Process and Reality, p. 123.
- 17. Whitehead, op. cit. p. 197.
- 18. Whitehead, op. cit. p. 227.
- 19. Psychology and God, pp. 79, 80.
- 20. Ibid. pp. 81, 82.
- 21. “Personality is mutual in its very being. The self is one term in a relation between two selves.… The self exists only in the communion of selves.”—Professor John Macmurray, Interpreting the Universe, p. 137.
- 22. Because in any organism wherein mind is an element, this is the “principle of unity”.
- 23. Process and Reality, p. 64. Into this quotation I have inserted the phrase “by that means”, which seems necessary to balance the phrase “internal to history” in the sentence which follows. It will become apparent later, specially in Lecture X., that nothing can in fact be “rationalised” only “by the consideration of the determination of successors by antecedents”. Events can be rationalised or explained only by reasons, not by causes. But we must not beg the question of the possibility of this. We must first apprehend the facts in the order of their objective occurrence and then see if, so apprehended, they offer a clue to their own interpretation.