It is necessary that we should pause at this point to review once more the relation of Mind to the Process in which and out of which it arises, to consider the significance of the Values which Mind discovers in its experience, and to determine the implications of our results for our view of Reality as a whole. We have completely repudiated the Cartesian separation of Mind and Extension, and have accordingly rejected by implication both Idealism (which starts with Mind and makes the extended world adjectival to it) and Materialism (which starts with the Extended World and makes Mind adjectival to, or epiphenomenal to, this)—though our starting-point is closer to Materialism than to Idealism. For we start with the picture which Science gives us of a world undergoing modification through the interaction of its constituent parts while as yet there is, apparently, no mind within it to observe its process. At a certain stage in the development of certain organisms, consciousness appears; and it first appears as an aid towards making effective the reactions of the organism.
But here at once a problem confronts us. For the consciousness which then makes its appearance must be either due to a combination of circumstances which are in their own nature not consciousness, or must be there inserted by a fresh creative act of whatever gives rise to existence in all its forms, or else must have been present throughout, though in a form so rudimentary as to be imperceptible and negligible. Of these alternatives the first may be immediately ruled out. To suppose that a combination of non-conscious physiological functions can be the cause of consciousness in the organism concerned is to assert so great disparity between cause and effect as to rob the notion of causation of all meaning. To suppose that a physiological organism becomes conscious only because its own evolution has brought it to a certain stage of complexity would be like supposing that the mechanical robot at a street corner will automatically turn into a policeman if the traffic is sufficiently congested.1 If it be urged that upholders of this view only mean that on the occasion of a certain stage of complexity being reached consciousness always makes its appearance, we must reply that such occasionalism is an evasion of the issue. A philosophy which leaves the appearance of consciousness or mind as a brute fact incapable of explanation or of intelligible relation to the general scheme of things is self-condemned as bankrupt.
Are we then to posit a new creative act wherever consciousness is found, or to hold that it is present throughout and begins, at this stage of development, not to exist but to function perceptibly? When we have finished our discussion of the relation of Mind to Process, it will be evident that no ultimate issue hangs on the answer to this question; but there is the convenience of more obvious continuity if it be assumed that the novel factor at this stage is the appearance rather than the creation of consciousness. This view is implied in Dr. Whitehead’s use of the word “feeling” to denote the interaction of non-conscious entities. Thus his interpreter says that “feeling of an external world as causally affecting us is prior to conscious awareness of it as an object of perception”.2 But while we may for convenience adopt this view, we do so provisionally only, regarding the question as one to be settled, if ever, by experiments which may test the presence of more than physical processes in the observed reactions of the entities examined.
When once consciousness has appeared, it introduces certain novelties. It delivers the organism from a mere repetition of routine. Even at a rudimentary stage it presents future events as grounds for present action, a thing impossible within the purely physical series of causation. At a later stage it takes a more complete control, and in the human being we find consciousness deliberately using reflection upon past experience in order to secure that future experience shall not be a repetition of it. In this familiar reflection upon the past to modify the future a great deal is implicit which we must shortly attempt to elucidate. What matters for our present purpose is that this entirely non-physical activity determines the behaviour of the organism. But the most minute introspection will disclose no transition from consciousness to movement; when I will to move my hand, as St. Augustine observed,3 forthwith it moves. There is no trace of a causal transition, as though will moved the limbs as the cue moves the billiard-ball—by impact. In a healthy organism the movement is the bodily expression of the volition. The two, though distinguishable, are inseparable; they are organically one. If some lesion or other cause prevents the hand from moving, the volition is, no doubt, still present. But it is a thwarted volition. And when it has its proper expression in the movement of the hand, this is not an external result of the volition but is the volition organically active. The true nature of that one thing is mind, not mechanism. Whether or not there is rudimentary consciousness in all organic and even in inorganic entities, it is certainly true that in so far as mind takes control of any organism it becomes its real principle of unity. That is why bodily ills may sometimes be cured by suggestion, and Dr. Oman is fully entitled to say that “the plain presupposition of this power of mind over body is that the organic functions, however many mechanical operations they may use, are, in so far as life is essential to them, subconscious mental functions”.4
Thus, starting without any of the presuppositions of Idealism, and from an initial view far nearer to Materialism, we are none the less led to an account of the living organism, and specially the human organism, as essentially and fundamentally spiritual, or at the least mental. Where Mind is found, it is found as potentially, and always in some degree actually, the principle of unity of that through which it is active. It is not another thing, so that we have to choose between the absurdities of psycho-physical parallelism and the semi-mechanical treatment of Mind involved in a theory of Interaction between Mind and Body. But where Mind is actively present with Body at all Mind and Body are one thing, of which the dominant character is Mind so far as Mind is active.
Mind first appears as an organ for the satisfaction of needs, and even of physical needs. The organism which is capable of self-motion must determine the direction of its motion, and so soon as there is a comparison of different possibilities of action with a view to selection between them, Mind is at work. But so soon also as such a comparison is instituted, it becomes apparent that it is the general quality of the various objects in the environment, and not their particularity, which is of importance to the organism.5 Thus attention is fixed on general qualities, and science is become possible. For attention, in fixing itself on the general qualities of objects, detaches these in thought from the objects themselves, and so forms concepts, which the mind can handle in complete independence of particular objects, though they have application and meaning only in reference to particular objects. The mind may make a combination of concepts which is exhibited by no actual object, such as the Chimaera; but such combinations are justly called chimerical. Real thinking, though it makes use of concepts throughout its course, is directed to the actual world of objects, which are particular instances of general qualities, and seldom, if ever, exhibit any general quality in precise correspondence to the concept, because the presence of other general qualities involves some modification of that which is the special object of attention. Consequently conceptual thought is more precise and clean-cut than the experience from which it abstracts its general qualities for detached consideration, and in theory as truly as in practice we should expect to find that some margin of variation must be allowed for in the transition from the conceptual to the empirical world.
But the mind, having the power to form concepts, is thus set free from bondage to particular occasions. The concept is a “free idea”. “Only because man can take his ideas out of their context and apply them freely in any other context, could he either have created or applied his science.”6 In the next lecture we shall consider the importance of this freedom of the mind in connexion with man’s moral responsibility and the control of his conduct. But we must first examine the nature of the free activity of mind, and what it implies with regard to the process within which it occurs.
The first and most conspicuous feature of the free activity of mind is its detachment from successiveness. This is the source of all theories which represent Reality as timeless, and treat Time (with Kant) as a form of perception imposed by the mind upon its experience in the act of apprehending it. But our view here is closer to Whitehead than to Kant.
“The abiding value of the Kantian philosophy lies in the discovery that an act of experience is a process of construction. But according to Kant, the objective world is constructed by the subject experiencing; while in Whitehead’s Philosophy of Organism the experiencing subject arises out of the world which it feels, and constructs its own nature from the way in which it feels it.”7
That, so far, is precisely the view which we are here adopting. But one of the ways in which the human experiencing subject feels the world is to gather up in the span of a single comprehension an entire period of the process out of which it arises. A man is born at a particular point in history. At first his mind moves only in the service of his bodily needs; but even so it very soon uses memory of the past to guide action in the present. Gradually, as language is acquired, the general qualities offered by perceived objects are more and more detached from the empirical instances by the help of the names for these which language supplies; sequences are traced out; and at last something that may be called a historical grasp of personal life, of family, of nation, is found to exist.
What is implied in this? First, that “present” experience is apprehended as continuous with the “past” out of which it arises. The “present” is never the mathematical point at which past and future meet; that concept is a fruit of abstraction. The present is so much of the empirical process as is immediately apprehended. This is far more than the passing sense-impression of the moment. It is all which is apprehended as continuous with that impression. And this may be an indefinitely long stretch of duration. A great work of art is always a unity, adequately appreciated only when grasped as a unity. Hamlet, if presented without omissions, occupies several hours. But it is properly appreciated only when apprehended as an experienced unity. It is in such products of human art that the principles which we seek are best illustrated, because these are creations of the human mind, fashioned with reference to its capacities and limitations. If we try to build up the dramatic experience called Hamlet out of a series of successive “present” moments, we shall soon be baffled. Hamlet is a unit, divisible into shorter stretches of duration called Acts and Scenes, and even into lines and words. Every one of these occupies time which passes during the utterance even of a word. But if we begin at the other end, with the mathematical point of present time, we can never arrive at duration at all, still less at an empirical unit which is itself a process. Whitehead is admittedly involved in difficulties by his start from atomic actual entities, and indeed there is no solution of the difficulties inherent in that method of approach.8 The primary datum of experience is a continuum; we may analyse it in any ways that are found useful for theory or for practice, and the result of every analysis is a group of actual entities. But they are not atomic. Nor is there any last point of all conceivable analysis which can be regarded as the ultimate constituent of reality. The world as given in experience is an articulated unit. We understand it by tracing out its articulations; but if we allow this process to obscure the continuity of the whole, we have let our thought lose touch with the given fact.
The mind is distressed by the apparent transitoriness of all things. Arising out of flux, and itself in origin an episode of the flux out of which it arises, mind declares its own nature by demanding permanence. It achieves this in two ways. One is by formulating changeless principles of the constant change of experience—laws which, themselves unchanging, describe the course of change which the various objects of attention follow; this is the method of science. The other is by holding a durational period in a single apprehension so that process becomes a constituent of the non-successive experience achieved. This is the method of Art. It is essential to the drama of Hamlet that the scenes should succeed each other as they do; if all were played at once, the drama would be destroyed; if their order were altered, it would be another drama. Process, and precisely this process, is indispensable; but the process is a unit, and ideally should be complete in the apprehension of the spectator as a “present” fact.
No doubt it would seem curious to regard as present at 11.15 P.M., when the play closes, the rising of the curtain upon the opening scene at 8 P.M. But it is all a question of degree. We all regard as “present” what happened 1/1000 of a second ago; why not what happened 1/10 of a second ago, or a second ago, or an hour, or a day, or the thousand years which are said to be for omniscience as one day? Of course the drama is only part of the spectator’s total experience; other, and artistically irrelevant parts of that experience are also in process. If to his aesthetic soul 8 P.M. is still “now” at 11.15 P.M., to the physical appetite the meal taken at 7 P.M. may be a long while ago. Art gives us, in a selected and deliberately ordered portion of experience, an illustration of what might be extended over the whole of it if our faculties were sufficiently developed. In every act of sensation there is already memory of its first instant, and when memory alone retains the sense-perception, it may still be “present” if its continuity with sensation is not only conceptually thought but organically felt. It is where the whole organic or personal being is involved, as the great dramatist goes far to involve it, that the “present” is extended to cover a great stretch of what to indifferent observation is “past”. In other words, only Love is qualified to view the world sub specie aeternitatis.
The “past” is that which can be inferred from “present” sense-perception. We infer the death of Julius Caesar from documents and other extant forms of evidence. That is truly past. And in ordinary activities, when the mind is not specially stimulated to extend its span, continuity is felt as extending over very short stretches of duration, so that if I am to know what happened five minutes ago it must be by deliberate recollection or by inference; and then what happened five minutes ago is past. It is not become unreal. It is still “present” to omniscience, if that exists. It has its place in the real process; but that place is not “now”, i.e. within my immediate apprehension.
The conception of an “Eternal Now”—the “moment eternal”—is thus seen to be by no means contradictory. Even in our own limited experience we find illustrations of the principle, not indeed in application to all Time, such as is required before the Now can properly be called “eternal”, but with reference to periods of duration sufficient to put the principle itself beyond dispute. The question may, indeed, be asked whether Mind is not here taking flights beyond the warrant of experienced reality. Can we draw conclusions concerning the nature of the real process of the world from these characteristic activities of mind? If our whole scheme of thought is well founded, we can do so, and we shall confidently expect that whatever is a true characteristic of Mind throws light on the process out of which Mind arises. But there is a more pertinent consideration than that to be brought into the argument.
We have spoken of what is past in one view being also present (though as an earlier episode in the process) for a view based on the greater achievements of Mind. We have not brought into review the future. But when we consider Mind in action, and not only in contemplation, we find that it brings the future also into present action. Of course it is only the future as conceived or imagined in the present that affects conduct. But it is of capital importance to notice that man’s deliberate conduct is far more determined by expectation of the future than by any kind of impulsion from the past. This does not necessarily imply that the future exists as part of a sufficiently extended “Now”, as the past may do; but something of that sort is not only implied but actually experienced by the spectator of a drama that he knows well. And while it is his knowledge now of what he found in previous reading or watching of the play which enables him to hear the earlier words or see the earlier actions in the light of their results, yet it seems inconceivable that what is so essential a feature of the greatest dramatic art should be without some counterpart in the real world.
It is most significant that the Greeks, with their sure artistic touch, chose for their comedies unknown plots, with the possibility of surprise, while they chose for their tragedies plots familiar to the audience; the audience at tragedy appreciated the words and actions of the characters in the light of the coming events of which they were aware. This is the principle of the famous tragic irony. Certainly it makes a difference to our hearing of Lady Macbeth’s cynical realism—“What’s done is done”—when one knows that it will be replaced by the despairing agony—“What’s done cannot be undone”.
This method of dealing with the world vindicates itself in practice. The more completely a man acts on the supposition of real continuity in events, the more he is confirmed in his belief by experience. The most significant characteristic of Mind, after all, is not such knowledge as is possible to us while we are subject to the conditions of our present life, but purpose—not the apprehension of the world as it now is, but the constant effort to make it something else. And to the prophet or seer it never appears that he is being led by notions of his own; he feels that the future itself is luring him on. It presents itself as something which can never become actual or present without man’s effort, but also as something which being extant, though not present, itself supplies the motive for its realisation. Those who have given their lives for the Kingdom of God have never felt that they were making their sacrifice for a dream of their own, but in order to bring into present actuality what is after its own manner already profoundly real. It may be that this experience is as yet so little developed that we cannot hope to give a clear account of it; but it seems certain that it is a real experience which bears witness to the true reality of the future, even though that future awaits man’s effort to determine its mode of actualisation. We shall find that other considerations help to elucidate this notion, though it must remain to a great extent obscure.
When we come to Purpose we also come to Value. We have found that the general condition of the actualisation of Value is the Mind’s discovery of itself, or at least of what is akin to it, in its Object. Value as actual belongs neither to the Subjective nor to the Objective side of the Subject-Object relation, but precisely to that relation itself. The picture may be beautiful, but the Value or Good of that only occurs when a mind appreciates it, though the appreciating mind finds the beauty in the picture, and does not put it there. And the Value once found is in some measure independent of the occurrence in which it is found. A mind that has once appreciated Hamlet has an apprehension of that aesthetic value, though no doubt in a lower degree, even when not reading or watching the drama. It enters the mind and becomes part of its life. The man who has let the great Shakespearean Tragedies make their own proper impact upon him does not afterwards have to say, in face of life’s troubles, “I have seen the tragic side of life so revealed as to declare itself sublime, and I will face my troubles with the courage born of that vision”; but he looks on life with eyes which that vision has illumined, and in some degree himself sees tragic facts as in themselves sublime. The Value once possessed is in great measure retained; the mind which has found itself at home in one situation of terror, as in a tragedy, can afterwards face other situations of terror without—or at any rate with less—dismay. And when the Mind’s discovery of itself in its Other reaches its climax in the love of friends, it is still true that the love, which is the excellence, continues even when companionship, which is its delight, is impossible. To love and be separated may be more pain than pleasure; yet no one who loves could wish to cease to love, because though love in such circumstances brings pain, it is yet known to be in itself supremely good. But while our minds attain to some power of retaining the Good or Value when its occasion is past, this power in us is narrowly limited; and for full fruition the occasion must be renewed.
But there is something much more important than this to be said about the relation of Value to Process. The successive events that constitute Process are, as events, unalterable. Whatever may be a true description of them at the time of their occurrence remains a true description throughout the whole course of time. Hamlet killed Polonius; no length of years can make it true to say that Polonius killed Hamlet. Conversely, if it is now true that the earth revolves, and from the formation of the solar system has revolved, about the sun, then it was never true to say that the sun revolves about the earth. In this sense the event is always unalterable, and not even God can change the past. But it is not true that the value of the past event is unalterable; when it is seen in the context and perspective of a longer vista of time, what was, as an isolated event, evil may be appreciated as an element in a total good—not only as a price paid for a consequent good, but as an indispensable element in what as a whole is good. And this again is not to be interpreted merely as a preponderance of good in a whole which also contains evil; the thing that was evil becomes a positive ingredient in a total good.
No doubt it is only by rhetoric that this can be called an alteration of the past; for the past event, as past, is what it always was. But the present appreciation of the past discloses a character which in the past was imperceptible. It would be inconceivable that any one should misunderstand the rhetoric which declares that the past is not unalterable, unless some persons had in fact misunderstood it. For it is the whole point of this way of thinking that the past qua past was what it was; if it was bad, it is now true to say that it was bad; but though it was merely bad, it is now an integral element in good. To turn at once to a supreme instance, the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, interpreted as Christians have interpreted it, was for a moment the worst of all manifestations of evil; but throughout the ages it is the best of all manifestations of good; and the Christian scheme of redemption affirms, not only a preponderance of good over evil, so that the temporary victory of evil is wiped out by a more decisive victory of good, but the conversion of defeat itself into triumph. We are not now concerned with the actual truth of this conception in the particular instance adduced, but with the principle implied in it. That principle is that the future does not merely disclose in the past something which was always there, but causes the past, while retaining its own nature, actually to be, in its organic union with its consequence, something which in isolation it neither is nor was.9
Moreover, it is not only in the subjective experience of the estimating mind that this transition is effected. It is not only that we feel differently towards the event in question. Like all estimates of value, this is a genuine judgement, wherein we assert objective truth. Neither the aesthetic nor the moral judgement can be accounted for as a subjective reaction to facts which are in themselves indifferent. We must reiterate this point. No one who is sensitive to music (for example) can be content with the suggestion that the only objective fact is certain atmospheric vibrations which strike upon the drum of his ear and stimulate the aural nerves and portions of the brain. That is the physical fact—or rather it is the portion of the entire fact which is studied by the physical sciences. But behind this is the thought of the composer, who used those atmospheric vibrations as the medium and vehicle of the beauty which possessed his soul, and which, on occasion of those vibrations reaching their ears, possesses also the souls of listeners to that music. The beauty is quite as objective as the vibrations, and is truly prior to them (though, of course, not previous to them), as being the cause for which they were ever set agoing. The same holds good, even more evidently, of moral value. To a man who is thrilled with admiration at an act of moral heroism it would appear merely ridiculous to maintain that there is no excellence in the act, but only in his own, or the doer’s, reaction to it. The value is in the action. And this objectivity attaches equally to the change of value which new conditions may effect in that action. An act of treachery is morally vile and purely deplorable; but if it reveals to the guilty person his own baseness, and he by repentance wins forgiveness from the person whom he betrayed, so that a new and deeper friendship springs up between them, he can no longer merely deplore that act. He must still deplore the baseness which found expression in the act,10 but he can no longer deplore the act which led to the purging of his character and the closer relationship with his friend. And this change in his judgement of value is apprehension of an objective change in the objective value of the act; whereas it was, at the moment of its commission, a thing wholly deplorable, it now is, in the context of its consequences, an occasion for truly humble gratitude. No doubt it is because of its significance for appreciating minds that it formerly had the one value and now has the other; but it is always true that Value depends for its actuality on the appreciating mind. That does not mean that the Value resides in the subjective experience of that mind; it means that appreciation brings to actuality a quality of the object which previously belonged to it really, but potentially and not actually—
We have now reached these six results: (1) Process is real, and whatever has no relevance for the actual world-process is fictitious; (2) Mind arises in the course of the world-process, and is one of its episodes; (3) but it is an episode of which the distinguishing feature is its capacity, by means of “free ideas”, to survey the process of which, initially, it is a part; (4) in that survey it apprehends process as an organic unity, such that not only does the past condition the present, but the future qualifies and even sometimes occasions both past and present alike; (5) it thus achieves a certain superiority to, and independence of, the process—not indeed such as to endow it with a life wholly detached from the process, but such that the process falls within its grasp, not it within that of the process; (6) in respect of value past events, as apprehended in the present, are not unalterable, but may still be so affected by the results won or wrought out of them as to become even the opposite of what at the time of their occurrence they were, and, when viewed in their isolation, still are.
If all these propositions are true, they involve consequences of the highest importance for the world process itself. We have already recalled how utterly impossible it is that Mind should owe its origin to what is not Mind. Either the Process from the beginning has the nature of mentality, which becomes apparent in the reaction of some living objects to their environments; or else Mind is superadded to the natural objects of which the Process has hitherto consisted, by a Mind which, if it could act thus, must be presumed to have been at work in or upon the Process throughout its course. The choice between these two, we said, was indifferent, and the reason for that view will appear later.12
But if Mind is thus active within or upon the Process, we must interpret this Mind, and consequently also the Process itself, in the light of the most developed type of Mind known to us—the Mind of man as it displays itself in relation to Truth, Beauty and Goodness. Mind, which arises out of the world-process as something so alien from it that what has been observed of that process cannot account for its occurrence, none the less is found to be, or to afford, the clue to the interpretation of the process. Mind is only explicable in itself, if it is the explanation of all else besides itself. This is the truth which makes possible such heresies as subjective idealism, or the Kantian doctrine that in the act of experience Mind constructs, or at least imposes Form upon, its object.
If Mind, of which the vital principle is the aspiration towards totality, is the explanation of the world-process, that process must be itself a unity, a totality. If this involves the doctrine of a universe finite in time, as it is now said to be finite in space, so be it. But there seems no reason to regard this conclusion as inevitable. For the essence of an intelligible unity, or totality, is not that it has limits, but that it is informed by one principle. Now if there be a principle such that it is capable of indefinitely wide application and sets no limit, as a result of its own nature, to its application, there seems no reason why an infinite progress should not be both intelligible and satisfactory.
The choice which the philosopher has to make when he reviews the world-process is between the two apparently possible answers to the questions whether its interpretation is to start from the less or from the more developed stages known to us. Physical Science, and the philosophy which it inspires, with its maxim that any event must be accounted for by the lowest category found to be adequate, inevitably starts with the less developed phase. It begins with atoms, or with electrons, protons and neutrons, or with whatever is taken to be the ultimate term of scientific analysis. From this starting-point may be constructed an intellectual scheme of the physical universe; in Newtonian terms, or those of Einstein, or those of any man who shall devise a theory still more closely adjusted to meet the subtle intricacies of observed facts. But into such a scheme Mind and Value can only be inserted from without. The appearance of Mind is a breach of continuity, and must be accounted for either by treating Mind as an epiphenomenon which produces no modification in the process out of which it arises, or by postulating an external Creator, who has not been required for the account of the process hitherto, and is devised as a means of explaining the otherwise inexplicable. Of these alternatives, the former flouts the common experience of mankind, while the latter is a tacit abandonment of the theory it is devised to protect; for if there is a Creator capable of intervening in the world-process so as to intrude Mind into it at the appropriate moment, it is inconceivable that He should have no connexion with the process except at that point, so that the physical account of it was never complete after all.
Starting from the physical end we can never account for Mind; and Value shares its precarious lot. If primary Reality is purely physical, it is impossible to attribute Value to it in itself. Value, on that hypothesis, can only be found in states of Mind, when Mind has appeared on the scene. No doubt, certain physical occurrences could still for convenience be called good or bad according to the states of Mind which they induce. In that case, when a man calls a view beautiful, he only means that it evokes his admiration—or would do so if he were sufficiently sensitive; when he calls an act good, he only means that he approves it—or knows that it is such as is commonly approved. This conception of Value and of Value-judgements is not utterly without resemblance to what we believe to be the truth about them; but it is more false than true. In the first place, as has already been urged more than once, the Value-judgement certainly claims in its own nature to be as objective as any other. The man who says of a landscape or a work of art that it is beautiful does not suppose himself to be in reality pronouncing upon his own feelings; he does not think that the beauty of the view is grounded in his admiration for it, but that his admiration for it is grounded in its actual beauty. The Value only fulfils its essential nature, only achieves its essential excellence, in the moment when it is appreciated. It exists as value for Mind; Mind finds it and appreciates it; but Mind does not invent or create it in the act of appreciation. If man’s mental activity in relation to the world is so totally at fault in this department that he mistakes for a judgement on the object what is really an expression of his own feelings, there can be little hope for any philosophic enterprise, and science itself could be trusted only so far as its results could be experimentally tested. To doubt the objectivity of Value is to adopt what has been called Scepticism of the Instrument in so extreme a form as to make all intellectual effort futile.
Even to this we might be driven, if by adopting the physical starting point we could produce an account of experience more comprehensive and more coherent than is otherwise attainable. But this is not so, for Mind itself is not thus to be accounted for at all. The recent tendency towards a physical account of reality is due solely to the recent successes of physical science in its own sphere; and inasmuch as its results can in large measure be experimentally tested, it affords a type of certainty that is out of reach where experiment is impossible. But its method ignores altogether the fact of knowledge itself; it concentrates all attention upon the object under investigation, and gives none to the attention so concentrated. It is natural enough that immense success in dealing with the objective world by a method which ignores the subject-object relationship altogether, should lead to a general habit of thought and intellectual outlook for which the fact of the subject-object relationship, and the problems arising from it, have little importance and no determining influence. But the simple and plain fact is that the scientific method wins its success by ignoring parts of reality as given in experience; it is perfectly right to do this for its own purposes; but it must not be permitted by a kind of bluff to create the impression that what it ignores is non-existent. Broadly speaking it is true that scientists themselves have long ceased to make any such attempt; the bluff now is not a consciously exerted influence, but a subconsciously accepted inference from the imposing success of the scientific method in its own field.
If we begin with mindless and valueless fact we cannot give any place in our scheme to Mind or Value without breaking up the unity of the scheme itself. The very activity which makes science possible remains unaccounted for in the theory of the world which men have constructed in the activity of science. It cannot be unscientific to prefer an alternative approach by which we may at least hope to find a place for science itself in its own world.
So much at any rate is secured by the method which takes the fullest development of any process to afford the surest clue to the interpretation of that process as a whole. Adopting that principle, we shall accept Mind as what we find it in experience to be, after study and analysis have done their utmost. That study will be hampered by no presuppositions drawn from the material world. If it appears that Mind is influenced by final causes as truly as by efficient causes, there will be no tendency to argue against this from the fact that physical science has for its own purpose dispensed with teleology.
It will not be claimed by reasonable disputants that we should be able, here and now, to produce a complete and tidy system of universal knowledge on pain of admitting that a philosophy which starts by accepting Mind as an active energy in the real world distinguishable from all physical forces is doomed to failure. But it may reasonably be claimed that this philosophy shall not break down at the same point at which its rival breaks down. The rival was discredited by its inability to effect the transition from the mindless physical system with which it starts to the reality of Mind as a fact observable within the total range of experience. Can our alternative do better?
It is here of primary importance to note that we are not attempting a mere inversion of the discarded view. We are not attempting to start with Mind and find the way to Matter. That was part of the Cartesian blunder. But we start with the totality of experience in which Mind is one given element; and we refuse to reduce Matter to any state of Mind or consciousness just as much as we refuse to reduce Mind to any combination of Matter. What is presented to us is a given articulated continuum in the form of a process, wherein, at a certain stage of development, Mind is found to be active. We take this Mind as what it appears to be, in its initial dependence on the data of experience, in its subsequent independence of particular circumstances, in its comprehension of succession and extension, in its purposiveness, in its freedom. Many of these marks of Mind will engage our attention in the next lecture. But we do not have to ask how Mind effects a transition from its own ideas to an objective world, because we see Mind first appearing as the consciousness of processes which had been going on in the physical world before that appearance. In Whitehead’s words, “consciousness presupposes experience, and not experience consciousness”; “the feeler is the unity emergent from its own feelings”.13 The physical, chemical, biological, physiological process were there before Mind appeared as in less or greater degree superintending the life of any particular organism. When it appears, it appears precisely as that organism become, or becoming, conscious. There is no transition to be effected from Mind to Matter, because Mind, as we know it, is consciousness of an environment which is in one aspect material. How far or how truly Mind rises above the conditions of its origin is a question which must occupy us later.
But here we must note that Mind appears from the outset as apprehension of, or aspiration towards, value. From its first dawning, it is characterised by affection and desire.14 So far as it is passive, it is the awareness of things as welcome or unwelcome, friendly or hostile; so far as it is active, it is a calculation of means to the attainment of ends apprehended as good. Later comes the choice between ends as between greater and lesser goods. But at no point is it other than awareness of Value—positive or negative—in its environment, that is, in the process from which it sprang. And Value we found to be grounded in the discovery by Mind of itself—or its own kin—in its object. If the object is apprehended as good—whether noble, beautiful or true, according to its own nature—that means that Mind finds there an expression, such as the nature of the object permits, of itself as it is or as it would wish to be. If the object is apprehended as bad, that means that Mind finds there either no expression of Mind at all, or else an expression of antagonistic Mind—the base, the ugly, the false.
So far, we have not tried to argue from Value to Fact any more than from Fact to Value; the latter indeed we found to be impossible. We have only claimed that in actual experience Fact and Value are given together, and that our conception of the world must make room for both and disclose a relation between them in a coherent scheme. In order to frame such a conception, we must at least enquire whether, if Fact is not of itself able to give rise in principle to Value, Value can in any sense give rise to fact. In other words, accepting Value as equally real with Existence, can we find in Value the clue to the interpretation of the totality which includes both.
We begin by considering again the Process, which is the first presentation of Reality which we apprehended. Arising out of it, and an episode within it, we find Mind, including our own minds, and the apprehension of the Process which Mind achieves. To put it otherwise, this Process, in certain of its constituent parts, becomes conscious of itself. And when it does so, that consciousness is at once an apprehension of value. The Process, in certain of its parts, apprehends itself as exhibiting that same character of Mind by which this apprehension is possible; for Value arises through Mind’s discovery of itself in its object. Mind, then, though it appears within the Process at a late stage, discovers throughout that Process the activity of Mind—universally in the form of Truth, commonly in the form of Beauty, sometimes in the form of Goodness. That Mind is pervasive of Reality is a necessary inference from this method of apprehending the world. If that method is justified, as we have tried to show that it is, the conclusion is inevitable. Mind is the principle of unity in Reality, or at least the fullest expression of that principle known to us.
But Reality is first presented as Process. We have found that the Process is subject to Mind, and when Mind expresses itself through process, its activity is called Purpose. We are therefore led to enquire whether Purpose can be the governing principle of the world-process. It has, at least, this advantage as a candidate for that function; it is a principle of explanation which itself requires no further explanation. All other types of explanation set new problems; of every other answer to the question Why? we ask Why? again. But Intelligent Purpose is self-explanatory. When we have traced an occurrence to the Purpose of an intelligent being, we are satisfied. And this is natural enough, for in such a case Mind has referred the occurrence to itself as cause.
Now it cannot be said that we are under the same necessity to refer the course of the World-Process to Mind as its cause as we are to regard Mind as its governing principle; for there might be other causes unknown to us to which it could be referred. Yet if there is one and only one principle known which fulfils the requirement of supplying an explanation without demanding one, it is reasonable, at the least, to experiment with the theory that this does indeed supply explanation of the universe. But that theory is Theism in one or another of its forms.15
When we begin to follow up the theory that Mind Purposive, or Intelligent Purpose, supplies the explanation of the world, we are at once confronted with the fact that Purpose is directed primarily to Value or the Good, so that the theory involves the logical priority of Value to Existence. Objects come into existence, if this theory is sound, because they are good or because some good can be brought into existence by means of them. This does not mean that we can infer from the goodness of any state of things as conceived that such a state of things actually exists. For we ourselves exist, and conduct our thinking, in the midst of the World-Process and as part of it; and Values, as we have seen, are alterable, so that there may be goods which do not now exist and evils which now do exist, though the Process viewed as a whole is “very good”.16 Consequently the reasonable attitude is not that which says “This is good, therefore it must be real” or “This is evil; how can it be explained?” but that which asks concerning every situation that arises how good may be won out of it, and how even what is now evil in it be made subservient to good.
For our minds, which are part of the Process, are not primarily occupied in knowing what the facts before us are, but in planning how to deal with them. Mind is first conative, and cognitive only in the second place as a means to acting wisely in the formation and pursuit of purpose. Our minds both exhibit and co-operate with the essential activity of the Mind which pervades and explains the Process. But before we begin to consider further the character of that activity we must determine more closely the relation of Mind as we know it in ourselves to the sequence of the Process in which it arises; in other words, we must form some conception of that freedom which is the most distinctive characteristic of Mind.
An Illustration from Dante
My friend, Mr. Geoffrey Bickersteth, whose translation of the Paradiso lately won so widespread a tribute of admiration, allows me to print here a letter in which he pointed out to me how Dante illustrates the point made on pp. 209–210 of the foregoing lecture:
“I should like to mention something to which I had meant to draw your attention in Dante’s Paradiso xvii. 37–99, and especially verses 43–45, where a great, perhaps the greatest of all specifically Christian poets, is expressing in terms of poetry the truth which you were expounding as a philosopher in your eighth lecture on Process, Mind and Value, when you were employing the drama (sc. Hamlet) to illustrate how an experience really bad, and truly felt as such at the time it occurs, may acquire a wholly different value when judged (as in drama is possible) in the light of the whole in which it forms an element only.
“In this passage Dante, actually writing after the event—his exile, and still suffering the untold misery it brought him—it is important to notice that he is still suffering, for only so does one realise the magnificence of his faith—places (by a well-known device) the future (which he knows, since in fact it is now present and partly past) in the shape of a prophecy on the lips of Cacciaguida, who within the poem speaks of course in the present. [It is as if the audience in a theatre, knowing already the whole course of the action, were at the same time itself taking part in the action of which the outcome is unknown.] I pass over the six verses (37–42) on the relationship of contingency to necessity, with their strikingly apposite simile, and draw your special attention to verses 43–45. In these Cacciaguida, who (since in heaven) is, up to his capacity, one in his vision with God, i.e. seeing Dante’s life past, present and future, sub specie aeternitatis, makes what must have seemed to the ‘Dante in the poem’ the perfectly astounding remark, in the context of the remarks following, that he beholds the poet’s life on earth, a life of appalling suffering and of practically unrelieved misery, as a ‘dolce armonia da organo’, with the implication that if only Dante himself could see as God sees, such would it appear to him also. And as Dante is writing the poem, that as a matter of fact is the way in which, qua poet, he is seeing it. Here, then, we have the actual sufferer at the moment of suffering (and ex hypothesi, therefore, incapable of being mistaken as to the real existence of his suffering) simultaneously with the poet seeing, in the timeless, spaceless experience of poetry, that suffering as an element in a ‘sweet harmony’. The two values, the partial present, momentary, and the complete permanent, eternal, are here both fully realised in a single experience of the man to whose life they both refer. I know no other passage in poetry which goes so deeply to the root of the real meaning of suffering, or if meditated upon contains so much potential consolation to the sufferer—and all in three verses! And it is to be noted that they are the words of ‘amor paterno’ (verse 35).”
- 1. Cf. Oman, Natural and Supernatural, p. 45.
- 2. Emmet, Whitehead’s Philosophy of Organism, p. 94.
- 3. Cf. Confessions, Bk. VIII. chap. ix.
- 4. The Natural and the Supernatural, p. 269.
- 5. See Lecture VI. pp. 142–144.
- 6. Oman, The Natural and the Supernatural, p. 244.
- 7. Emmet, op. cit. p. 48.
- 8. It is doubtful whether “atomic” is the right word to use, but it is Whitehead’s own: cf. “Continuity concerns what is potential; whereas actuality is incurably atomic” (Process and Reality, p. 84).
- 9. See Appendix C, pp. 221–222. Canon Quick has urged (The Christian Sacraments, pp. 47–49) that it is only the “instrumental value”, not the “expressive value”, of the past which can be thus altered. I should agree, if I accepted the distinction as ultimate. But both the past, and the present which effects an alteration in the value of the past, have their being within the whole which is the only reality. Consequently the value which the past has, or had, in isolation from the present and future is not its real value at all, whether expressive or instrumental. The evil thing remains in itself evil, but whereas it was a bad thing that it should happen it is a good thing that it did happen.
- 10. But even this needs qualification. See pp. 471–472.
- 11. I owe this phrase to Professor Bowman.
- 12. See Lecture X.
- 13. Process and Reality, pp. 72, 123. In the second quotation I take Whitehead to mean “emergent from a complex of feelings not hitherto united in a feeling subject”—i.e. feelings which become “its own” so soon as it is there to own them.
- 14. Cf. supra Lecture VI., pp. 141–143.
- 15. This argument is obviously modelled on Aristotle’s argument to a First Cause, which must be an Unmoved Mover, in book A of the Metaphysics. But he developed it along lines of efficient causation; this is the same argument transferred to the category of final causation. Aristotle himself gave the hint in the famous phrase
kinei¤ wJ~ ejrwvmenon. But it is hard to be sure how much he meant by this. See below, pp. 256–257.
- 16. Genesis i. 31.