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Chapter One: The Field of the Personal

The first volume of this work was preliminary to the consideration of the personal in its full concreteness of being. It was in my judgment a necessary preliminary. In that volume we considered the Self as agent and sketched the outline of a theory of action. But the task to which we addressed ourselves was more radical than such a summary of its content might suggest. For we were led to criticize and to reject the standpoint of our philosophical tradition—the ‘I think’ and to substitute for it the ‘I do’. We had to attempt to think from the standpoint of action whether what we thought about were matters of theory or of practice; of action or of reflection. Our conclusion was not merely that the Self is agent; but that the Self has its being only in its agency and that its reflective activities are but negative aspects of this agency. The Self as ‘the Mind’ which is the Self as non-agent is a nonentity. It follows from this that so long as we maintain whether consciously or unconsciously the traditional standpoint no account of the personal is logically possible. The Self must then be conceived either as a substance or as an organism while in reality it is a person. Because our final intention was to reflect upon the nature of the personal it was necessary first to shift the centre of gravity in our reflection from thought to action and so to achieve an attitude of mind and a centre of reference from which the Self can appear as an existing being.

This first volume was concerned to criticize the purely theoretical standpoint of our philosophical tradition and to substitute for it a practical standpoint. But in the course of our study we were driven to recognize another defect of modern philosophy its egocentricity. These two defects are inherently related. We discovered that the thinking Self—the Self as Subject—is the Agent in self-negation. In reflection we isolate ourselves from dynamic relations with the Other; we withdraw into ourselves adopting the attitude of spectators not of participants. We are then out of touch with the world and for touch we must substitute vision; for a real contact with the Other an imagined contact; and for real activity an activity of imagination. That this self-negation of the Agent is possible and indeed necessary there can be no doubt; and to recognize it is to bring to light the form of the personal as a positive that includes and is constituted by its own negative. But it is possible only within limits. We can contemplate a distant object but not without remaining in dynamic contact with the ground on which we stand. This contemplation is per se we have seen the formation of an image. It provides knowledge of the Other only on the assumption of the possibility of contact—that is to say that the image is rightly referred to an existing other. On occasion this verification by contact proves impossible and we are convicted of an illusion. The visual experience turns out to have been a mere image which cannot be referred to the Real or which cannot be so referred.

Now if this negative moment in personal experience is used philosophically to determine the nature of the Self if the Self is determined as the Thinker the Knower or the Subject then our actual experience of contemplation is generalized without limit. As a result the Self must be conceived as totally isolated from the Other not as self-isolated by intention within the reality of its existence as agent; while the Other becomes not a part of the existing reality abstracted as a particular object by limitation of attention but the all-inclusive object of thought. The existence of this total object at once becomes problematical and no verification is at all possible. For all possible objects of knowledge have become equally images that is to say representations which demand a reference beyond themselves and whatever we may refer them to is equally a representation itself requiring verification. Any distinction between true and false ideas becomes impossible. Indeed it is impossible to see how the very idea of such a distinction could arise. The Self conceived as ‘spectator of all time and all existence’ itself becomes a mere idea since it is excluded from participation in what it contemplates. There is no place for it in the world. And whatever world its vision may be conceived to apprehend consists of its own ideas as Descartes rightly recognized. It is more illuminating to recognize it frankly as solipsism; and to accept this solipsism for what it is—a reductio ad absurdum of the theoretical standpoint. Existence cannot be proved; it is not a predicate. Yet the isolated self—the thinker—must prove existence if he is to apprehend the Other. The given for reflection is always idea—whether it be concept or image and not less if it be that end-product of the analysis of sensory experience which is now entitled ‘sense-datum’. We know existence by participating in existence. This participation is action. When we expend energy to realize an intention we meet a resistance which both supports and limits us and know that we exist and that the Other exists and that our existence depends upon the existence of the Other. Existence then is the primary datum. But this existence is not my own existence as an isolated self. If it were then the existence of any Other would have to be proved and it could not be proved. What is given is the existence of a world in which we participate—which sustains and in sustaining limits our wills.

Since then the Self as Subject is the isolated Self we can transform our earlier conclusion that the Self exists only as Agent. We may say instead that the Self exists only in dynamic relation with the Other. This assertion provides the starting-point of our present argument. The thesis we have to expound and to sustain is that the Self is constituted by its relation to the Other; that it has its being in its relationship; and that this relationship is necessarily personal. Our main effort therefore must be directed towards determining the formal characters of personal relationship.

It may be useful before going further to consider shortly the terminology which we shall employ. If we change our point of view in philosophy we are inevitably committed to a change in the meaning of the structural terms we use; for we are then looking at the same things from a new perspective not at different things from the same perspective. In such a case it is a mistake to seek for new terms. The wiser way is to use for the most part the old terms and allow them gradually to modify their meaning through their use in the new context. If the change of standpoint is justified the new meaning will not be simply a different one but an ampler and richer meaning; more adequate to the concreteness of living experience. The need for a precisely technical language in science arises because we are dealing with abstract isolates; and our terms must not refer beyond the limits of our abstraction. In philosophy as in history and in theology the opposite is the case; in these it is the incompleteness of the abstract which we must avoid and should not suggest. The effective medium of philosophical language is ordinary speech at its richest used with precision. We should not forget that a measured precision in the use of language is not peculiar to the scientist. It is also a primary necessity for the poet. Philosophical precision differs from both since it is determined by its own purposes; but in this as in other matters the philosopher's stands closer to the poet's than to the scientist's.

There are however certain structural terms in traditional philosophical usage which we should do well to avoid at least for the present12 because they are the product of the inadequate standpoint which we are concerned to abolish. I have in mind in particular such terms as ‘the Mind’ ‘the Will’ and above all ‘the Self’. These terms are systematically indeterminate. The necessity for their employment and the indeterminacy of their reference derive from the adoption of a purely theoretical standpoint. ‘The Self’ is a term whose function is to represent the subject as object of thought. ‘The Mind’ and ‘the Will’ represent the dualist analysis of ‘the Self’ in its irreconcilable aspects of Thinker and Agent. The indeterminacy of meaning arises from the non-existence of the Subject in the sense we have already discussed. Its indeterminacy is in effect a concealed contradiction. It is at once a singular and a general term. As singular it is the unitary centre of all possible experience—what Kant called the Transcendental Unity of Apperception. It is then hypothetical formal and ideal. It is hypothetical as the subjective correlate of our hypothetical knowledge which should be infinitely comprehensive and absolutely coherent—the knower for a completed system of knowledge. It is formal since any assertion anyone makes claims to be true and has therefore the form of an element in such a system. It is ideal since it is what any individual strives to be when he seeks to know the truth. At the same time it is a general term formed on the analogy of terms like ‘the mosquito’ ‘the pig’ ‘the lion’ or more appropriately ‘the unicorn’. For you and I and all other individual subjects are subsumed under it and it refers to any and all of us indifferently. If I read the reflexives ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’ as ‘my Self’ and ‘your Self’ then ‘Self’ becomes the name of something we all possess in common; and can be employed as a generic term to include all beings who like us are capable of thought. They are all Selves; and ‘the Self’ can function as a class concept.

This combination of singularity—as the ‘I’ with generality—as ‘all thinking beings’ is possible only if we postulate the identity of all the particulars denoted by the term. ‘The Self’ then is identical in all thinking beings; or to put it otherwise we are identical in so far as we are rational; and if we think logically we think the same thing in the same connection; if we act rationally we all do the same thing in the same circumstances. The function of this logical sleight of hand is to conceal the essential differences between individual people; and particularly the formal distinction between ‘I’ and ‘You’. These differences become accidental to our real nature empirical only merely psychological. We escape into a logical heaven where error and evil cease to trouble us where the clash of our mutual contradictions is stilled and the struggle of our antagonistic purposes resolved. With a good conscience we can then consider the world as the unique object known by ‘the Self’—though neither you nor I would claim to possess such knowledge; or we can define the truth as that which satisfies ‘the Mind’ though you and I are by no means always satisfied by the truth that we discover as when we come to know that someone we trusted as a friend has been maligning us behind our backs.

‘The Self’ then and its aspects ‘the Mind’ and ‘the Will’ are metaphysical fictions. There are no such entities. They are not however gratuitous fictions. They are necessary postulates for any philosophy which proceeds on the assumption consciously or unconsciously that we can know independently of action; that we can determine truth within the limits of a systematic effort of thought. The formal reason for this necessity is as follows.

The act of thinking is constituted by a purely theoretical intention. It involves a withdrawal from action and so from all positive practical relations with the Other. When we think we shut ourselves within the circle of our own ideas and establish as it were a methodological solipsism. We behave as though we were ‘pure subjects’ observers only unimplicated in the dynamic relatedness of real existence. Our activity we assume makes no difference to the things we think about but only to our ideas of them upon which alone we are operative.

There can be no objection to this procedure so long as it remains within the agency of the thinker as its negative aspect. For we recognize that the thinking and its results have a meaning through their reference to our direct commerce with reality in action in which their truth or falsity can be checked. But when for philosophical purposes we adopt a theoretical standpoint and so define our own being as that of a thinker or subject then whether we are aware of it or not we transform this methodological solipsism into an existential one. We exist as thinkers. We are imprisoned in an ‘egocentric predicament’ and there is no way out. We are committed to explaining knowledge without reference to action.

Philosophers have never of course accepted the implications of this position completely. If they did a total scepticism would be the only possible conclusion. For the reference from theoretical to practical experience provides the only legitimate basis for a distinction between truth and falsity and it is this reference which has been ruled out. If I am isolated within the circle of my ideas then they are what they are; or rather they are as I think them. If they are to be true or false it must be by reference to something beyond them to something which is not ideal but real. What is clearly necessary to the possibility of knowledge is accepted therefore in philosophical practice even if it seems incompatible with the fundamental assumption. Philosophers discuss with one another how any of them can know that the others exist and find no satisfactory solution. We are so used to this that we no longer notice how comical it is.

This is not the place to consider the various ways in which escapes from this dilemma of the egocentric predicament have been engineered. But there is one implication of the distinction between ‘true’ and ‘false’ which is pertinent to our immediate interest. Thinking like other characteristic activities is problematic. Whenever we think we run the danger of falling into error. Part of the meaning of the distinction between truth and falsity lies in a reference to other thinkers. To claim that what I think is true is to require its acceptance by all other subjects. If another disagrees with me either he is wrong or I am wrong or we are both wrong. In other words if we all think the truth we all think the same thing so that it is a matter of indifference from the theoretical point of view which particular thinker does the thinking. Consequently provided we are all thinking the truth we can treat the particularity of the thinker as a negligible constant.

But can we even from a purely theoretical standpoint leave error out of account? We not merely can but we must. For we are withdrawn from contact with other persons and cannot discover whether they disagree with us. We cannot be challenged and we must rely on the process of our own thinking. After all to think is to draw correct conclusions. If we fall into error it must be because we failed to think not because we thought wrongly. Strictly speaking so far as we really do think the possibility of error is excluded. We should remember also that to withdraw into the solipsism of reflection does not merely mean to withdraw from physical contact with the Other. Action is not mere movement; and indeed the cessation of movement is not a necessity for thought. What is excluded are those aspects of our personal existence which are directly concerned with action—personal interests motives desires emotions and the rest. And it is these which provide the prejudices and bias that interfere with the proper movement of disinterested thought.

If then we start with the solitary individual self-isolated in reflection and consider him existing as a thinker we do exclude the normal sources of error and his existence becomes an ideal existence. We must recognize the existence of other people of course in order to give meaning to the distinction between true and false. But we must exclude their concrete practical existence also and conceive them too as unimplicated observers as thinkers like ourselves. So we all rise above the sources of error which lie in the limitations of a spatio-temporal existence and the practical necessities which it imposes; above bias and prejudice; above the particularities of circumstance and experience which account for our differences from one another. So we all enter a logical heaven where there is nothing to sully the pure exercise of reason and to think is to think the truth. This is the world of ‘the Mind’ in which ‘the Self’ has its ideal habitation. For here it is always possible to refer indeterminately to whoever the thinker may be. It is no longer I who think this and you who think that. ‘The Mind’ thinks and what it thinks is true because ‘the Mind’ thinks it.

If the theoretical standpoint of the philosophical tradition is to be maintained it is not merely possible but also necessary to talk in this fashion. For the problem is to recognize the multiplicity of existing individuals while safeguarding the isolation of each as a thinker or subject. This can only be done by identifying each individual qua thinker or qua rational being with all the others. In this way it is possible to maintain a distinction without a difference. There is a multiplicity of individual thinkers. Each is ‘I’ an Ego a Self. But their distinctness is purely numerical; qualitatively they are identical. There are many ‘I's’; but there is no ‘You’ for that would break the isolation and demand an essential difference. Consequently there is effectively only one thinker—the I the Ego the Self and the many selves are all individuations of the same Self.

The concept of ‘the Will’ is generated analogously. But here there is a special difficulty to be overcome. The Will is the Self in action. But the concept of the Self involves as we have seen the withdrawal from action. It is possible from the theoretical standpoint to say that the Mind thinks. It is doubtful whether we can say that the Will acts. There is talk of ‘acts of Will’ but these are not physical actions whatever they may be. They seem to refer rather to decisions to act. They seem to come between the thought that ‘x’ is the right thing to do—which is mental—and the doing of ‘x’—which is physical—in order to bridge the gap between them. This it cannot do. For if it is mental it can no more cause a bodily movement than a thought; and if it can cause a movement of the body the gap between the act of Will and the Mind is itself unbridged. This is the reason no doubt why some have maintained that we are free to will though all our acts are determined.

This however is hardly our concern at the moment. We are discussing the traditional use of the terms ‘the Mind’ ‘the Will’ ‘the Self’ and the ground of its necessity. Since the conception of persons as subjects or thinkers is based upon a withdrawal from action we might expect that it will run into difficulties when practical issues are in question. Our conclusion on the main point is this. The necessity for these terms lies in the egocentricity of the traditional philosophical outlook and this in turn is a necessary consequence of postulating the primacy of thought.

But we have already disposed of this necessity by asserting the primacy of action; and we no longer need to use these abstract terms. In the first volume of this work we had a reason for retaining them. We had two fundamental criticisms to make of the modern philosophical tradition; first that it was purely theoretical and second that it was egocentric. By using the term ‘the Self’ and discussing the Self as agent we were able to isolate the former issue and to consider its major consequences without involving ourselves at the same time in the effort to overcome the egocentricity which is inseparable from the theoretical standpoint. This separation of two issues which are essentially interconnected seemed desirable from a methodological point of view. In talking of the Self as agent we accepted the traditional abstraction from existence and initiated a discussion of the concept of action. Now we have to take the practical standpoint for granted and consider the Agent not as an abstract concept but in its concrete actuality as existent. The appropriate term here is the term ‘person’. Any ‘self’—that is to say any agent—is an existing being a person. At this point therefore our discussion enters the field of the personal. The theme of the present volume can be stated simply. The idea of an isolated agent is self-contradictory. Any agent is necessarily in relation to the Other. Apart from this essential relation he does not exist. But further the Other in this constitutive relation must itself be personal. Persons therefore are constituted by their mutual relation to one another. ‘I’ exist only as one element in the complex ‘You and I’. We have to discover how this ultimate fact can be adequately thought that is to say symbolized in reflection.

The field of our enquiry then is the field of the personal and we have to survey it from the standpoint of action which is the distinguishing characteristic of the personal. By ‘The Field of the Personal’ we mean to denote the whole manifold of entities activities and relations to which the term ‘personal’ is applicable. But this term itself requires some preliminary consideration although its full definition can only emerge later and indeed is in one sense the purpose of our enquiry.

In the first place I have used the term ‘the personal’ where it might have seemed more natural to employ the word ‘personality’. This is partly because we need a word which is more inclusive and wider in denotation than ‘personality’ could reasonably be made. But more important is the fact that the term has been diverted from its natural meaning. We should expect it to refer to that quality or set of characteristics in virtue of which a person is a person; a property therefore which all persons share and which distinguishes a person from all beings which are not personal. In fact it has been specialized to mean the quality or set of characteristics which distinguishes one person from another. This would more properly be referred to as ‘personal individuality’. It is hardly possible to use the term ‘personality’ now without suggesting the specialized meaning and so stressing the element of difference between persons instead of what they have in common. It will be advisable therefore to avoid the use of this term as much as possible.

This specialization of ‘personality’ is not however simply a historical accident and the reason for it is instructive. We have seen that if the individual is defined in terms of his negative aspect as a ‘thinker’ or subject the generalization which refers this definition to all individuals is achieved through an identification and appears as ‘the Self’. As ‘selves’ all persons are identical and formally there is only one subject—the subject of all possible experience. This point of view necessitates a dualism; for all individuals must also appear as objects for the subject. Consequently if we appear at the subjective pole of this dualism in our logical aspect as knowers we must also appear at the opposite pole as objects of knowledge and therefore as discriminable elements in ‘the Object’ which corresponds to ‘the Self’ that is to say in the world. The ‘rational self’ must have as its correlate and complement an ‘empirical self’ or rather a multiplicity of ‘empirical selves’. If then in our rationality we are simply identical in our ‘personality’ which is our empirical self-hood we are simply different. As subjects we are all ‘I’; as personalities in our empirical existence there is only one individual ‘I’—myself: all other persons are not ‘I’ but ‘You’. Thus to be a ‘self’ in the empirical sense is to be I and not you; and the concept of ‘personality’ carries an essential reference to the differentiation of persons and to the ‘otherness’ of each personal individual.

We should notice in passing that this specialization of the term ‘personality’ involves a corresponding specialization of the term ‘rationality’. Reason is traditionally the differentia of the human. If the personal individual is essentially the thinker then rationality must refer to the logical faculty and to this faculty in contrast with the empirical capacities which belong to our practical nature and even to the empirical processes which provide data for a psychological account of thinking. Rationality becomes the capacity to draw correct conclusions from premises; and we postulate that as rational beings this capacity belongs to all of us and is identical in all. This I say is a specialization of the term rationality. But to say this is to say too little. For if we use the term in this sense while at the same time we use it to denote the differentia of the human—that which distinguishes us from the brutes—we are in error. The human differentia we have decided is not the capacity to think but the capacity to act. If then we continue to use the term ‘rationality’ in the specialized theoretical reference we must surrender its use to denote the essential characteristic of the personal. If on the other hand we prefer to retain its use as defining the human or personal field as distinct from the non-human we must give up the specialized reference to logical thought. Reason becomes then the capacity to act and only in a secondary and derivative sense the capacity to think that is to say to pursue a merely theoretical intention. It seems to me that there is good reason for choosing this latter course since choose we must or abandon the term ‘reason’ and its derivatives altogether. For the use of reason to denote the differentia of man is the more fundamental and the more stable. The empirical determination of the differentia is naturally derivative and variable in principle; and it has in fact varied considerably during the history of philosophy. If it has tended on the whole to have a predominantly theoretical reference this is because Plato and Aristotle determined the tradition in this direction at the start by their conviction that the good life for man is the ‘theoretical’ life.

It will be clear from this discussion that the term ‘person’ fulfils the same function from the standpoint of the agent as the term ‘self’ does in traditional philosophy which thinks from the standpoint of the subject. And since the effect of transferring our point of view from the ‘I think’ to the ‘I do’ is to overcome the dualism which is inseparable from the theoretical standpoint the dualism of a rational and an empirical self disappears. There is no longer any need to isolate the two aspects of unity and difference in an antinomy of sheer identity and sheer difference. A personal being is at once subject and object; but he is both because he is primarily agent. As subject he is ‘I’ as object he is ‘You’ since the ‘You’ is always ‘the Other’. The unity of the personal is then to be sought in the community of the ‘You and I’ and since persons are agents this community is not merely matter of fact but also matter of intention.

But this is to anticipate. For the moment it is more important to notice that the theory of the personal is philosophical and not scientific. In other words when we consider the self in its actuality as a personal being we do not initiate an anthropological enquiry. Anthropology is a science and a scientific enquiry is merely objective; and an objective account is necessarily impersonal. From the traditional standpoint with its polar opposition of subject and object we look to science for an account of man but to philosophy for a theory of the self. When we substitute for this the standpoint of the Agent we still look to science for an objective account of man. But it is to philosophy we must look for a theory of the personal. The change of standpoint makes no difference to science but it does make a difference to philosophy and in consequence to the philosophical account of science. Science now appears from the philosophical point of view as one of the characteristic reflective activities of the personal; as the deliberate attempt to improve and extend our generalized knowledge of the Other in its otherness. As we have already noticed this involves a necessary abstraction by limitation of attention. Action cannot be object for a subject; for a purely objective attitude reduces action to behaviour and represents it as matter of fact not as matter of intention. Now that we have recognized that our change of attitude takes us from the isolated self to the self in relation to the Other and so to the person as existent we can express this truth in a more concrete fashion. I exist as an individual only in a personal relation to other individuals. Formally stated ‘I’ am one term in the relation ‘You and I’ which constitutes both the ‘I’ and the ‘You’. But within this relation which constitutes my existence I can isolate myself from you in intention so that my relation to you becomes impersonal. In this event I treat you as object refusing the personal relationship. This is always possible because the form of the personal involves its own negation. Impersonality is the negative aspect of the personal; since only a person can behave impersonally just as only a subject can think objectively.

From this it follows that any objective or impersonal knowledge of the human any science of man whether psychological or sociological involves a negation of the personal relation of the ‘I’ and the ‘You’ and so of the relation which constitutes them persons. Formally such knowledge is knowledge of the ‘You’ that is of the other person; but not of the other person in personal relation to the knower but as object in the world. I can know another person as a person only by entering into personal relation with him. Without this I can know him only by observation and inference; only objectively. The knowledge which I can obtain in this way is valid knowledge; my conclusions from observations can be true or false they can be verified or falsified by further observation or by experiment. But it is abstract knowledge since it constructs its object by limitation of attention to what can be known about other persons without entering into personal relations with them.

The full meaning of this will only become evident at a later stage. But the point is of such importance that we had better guard against an easy misinterpretation from the beginning. I have said that this abstraction from the full personal relationship which makes the ‘You’ an object for ‘Me’ is always possible. It would be a mistake to imagine that this implies that it is unjustifiable. It is true that it is not unconditionally justifiable and therefore it requires justification. The personal relation is constitutive for the personal field and therefore neither requires nor admits of justification. The impersonal relation of persons is however the negation of the personal and is therefore justifiable in so far as it is necessary to the constitution of the personal which includes its own negative. Since persons are agents and action is intentional this can only mean that when the impersonal relation is intentional it is justifiable by a relation to a personal intention which includes it. If it is not so controlled or when it has no such relation it is unjustifiable.

We can exemplify this point so far as it concerns our present interest by reference to the science of psychology. Let us suppose that a teacher of psychology is visited by a pupil who wishes to consult him about the progress of his work. The interview begins as a simple personal conversation between them and the teacher's attitude to the pupil is a normal personal attitude. As it proceeds however it becomes evident that something is wrong with the pupil. He is in an abnormal state of mind and the psychologist recognizes clear symptoms of hysteria. At once the attitude of the teacher changes. He becomes a professional psychologist observing and dealing with a classifiable case of mental disorder. From his side the relation has changed from a personal to an impersonal one; he adopts an objective attitude and the pupil takes on the character of an object to be studied with the purpose of determining the causation of his behaviour. There may be no outward sign of this change; indeed the teacher may deliberately conceal it and pursue the conversation as before. But what he now says is governed by a different intention a theoretical intention to discover what is the matter with his pupil and what has brought it about.

Now this new attitude of the psychologist's if we consider it from the point of view of the relation of teacher and pupil is abnormal; and the departure from the normal attitude is justified and indeed necessitated by the abnormal behaviour of the pupil. But it is also the normal attitude of a psychologist when pursuing his scientific researches into human behaviour. It is indeed the attitude which makes any activity scientific. We might therefore equally well have begun by contrasting the scientific attitude towards human beings with our normal attitude to one another in personal intercourse. On the other hand we need not have introduced science at all in order to make this contrast. We might have illustrated the impersonal relation and the attitude which it expresses by considering an employer interviewing a candidate for a post or an examiner conducting a viva voce examination or a judge trying an accused person in a court of law. Even these would be rather special examples of what is in fact one of the commonest features of our everyday experience.

What emerges for our present purpose is that our relation to another person may either be personal or impersonal. Like all our relations to the Other these are primarily practical but they have of course their theoretical aspect. Each therefore gives rise to a knowledge of people. The first gives rise to that personal understanding of others which is the result of reflection upon our personal dealings with men and women of varying sorts under varied conditions and which we sometimes call ‘a knowledge of the world’; the second if it is systematically pursued leads to the scientific knowledge of man and his behaviour which forms the content of the psychological sciences. These two types of knowledge are different and indeed contradictory. The one assumes and implies that men are free agents responsible for their behaviour choosing their mode of action in the light of a distinction between right and wrong; the other that all human behaviour follows determined patterns and that the laws which we obey are like those which govern all natural objects discoverable by objective scientific methods of investigation. This duality of knowledge personal and impersonal is the concrete statement of the antimony of freedom and determinism.

Now if we consider these two conceptions from a purely theoretical standpoint we must ask since they are incompatible which of them is the true conception. If we do this we are likely to conclude that it is the objective scientific conception which must be accepted as the true one. Indeed we may say if it is the objective view if it is the view which is scientific then it must be the proper view; and if our ordinary or our traditional view differs from it we must attribute the difference to the emotional attitudes which are inseparable from our personal contacts with one another and from the practical need to maintain our own self-esteem. Yet it is precisely an emotional prejudice which underlies and motivates this choice. The term ‘objective’ does not mean ‘true’. Objective statements are often false. Nor is the term ‘scientific’ synonymous with correct. The tracks of science are littered with scientific theories which have been abandoned as incorrect. If our generation tends to associate truth with science and objectivity the association rests upon no logical implication but only upon an emotional prejudice in favour of science.

There is however an ambiguity in our use of the term ‘emotional’ which it is important to clear up at this point. We are apt to contrast the objective attitude which is characteristic of scientific enquiry with other more personal attitudes by calling it unemotional. But this is to restrict the proper meaning of the term in a misleading way. Any personal activity must have a motive and all motives are in the large sense emotional. Indeed an attitude of mind is simply an emotional state. The attitude of a scientist pursuing his vocation is therefore an emotional state. It is no doubt an emotional state of a specific kind and one that has in certain conditions to be sustained by a deliberate effort and with difficulty. But if the scientific state of mind were completely free of emotion scientific enquiry could not be carried on. It would be entirely motiveless and therefore impossible. Further if we identify this objective attitude with rationality then it follows that rationality is itself an emotional state. In contrasting reason with emotion we are under one of the strongest influences in our Western tradition—the Stoic dualism of Reason and the Passions with its prejudice against being emotionally involved in the results of our actions. When this practical dualism becomes theoretical by the substitution of a theoretical for a practical intention we generate the modern dualistic attitude in which reason is the unemotional and purely logical activity of the mind which produces knowledge; while emotion is the source of error through the prejudice which is inseparable from it. From this comes the ideal of a purely objective rationality unaffected by emotion which intends the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth; in contrast with an emotional activity where desires provide the motives for activities which terminate in their satisfaction. This is one aspect of the pervasive dualism of modern thought. Schematically it is a dualism in this incarnation of intention and motive. We contrast two forms of behaviour; the one rational or objective the other subjective and emotional. The first has an intention but no motive; the second a motive but no intention since the motive fully accounts for the behaviour which flows from it as a cause determines its effect. Strangely enough the ‘objective’ activity is the activity of the logical mind—of the Self as subject; while it is the activity of the objective (or empirical) self which is called ‘subjective’. Moreover in its purely objective activity of thinking in its pure theoretical rationality the self as subject is free (since thinking is purely intentional and has no motive) while the object-self is entirely determined by motives of an emotional character which cause and so explain all its behaviour. In this antimony of freedom and determinism the antithetical terms are not merely contradictory; they are also correlative and necessitate one another. For if there is to be objective knowledge then the object in its character as object of knowledge must be determinate and equally the subject in its activity of knowing must be excluded from this determination.

We have rejected the theoretical standpoint however and are no longer bound by its implications. From the standpoint we have adopted the account we have to give of the relation between the personal and the impersonal attitudes and the knowledge to which each gives rise is a different one. We can now rid ourselves effectively of the ghost of the old faculty psychology which still haunts our philosophies; we can insist that all our activities whether practical or theoretical have their motives as well as their intentions and are sustained by an emotional attitude. This is not to say that all our thinking is prejudiced or coloured by emotional bias. It may be true in fact that none of us can escape completely from prejudice. But this is not because an clement of emotion is present in all our reflection nor is it true that if we could get rid entirely of this emotional element we should escape from prejudice. We should in fact lose the capacity to think altogether. Uncontrolled feelings like loose thinking can lead us into error. But even strong emotions such as love or hatred or anger may sharpen the focus of our attention quicken our apprehension of the object upon which they are directed and lead to the recognition of truths and even of facts which otherwise would have escaped our notice.

The relation of our personal to our impersonal knowledge of other people is primarily and practically the relation of two emotional attitudes to the Other which provide the motives for two different ways of behaving in relation to the Other and therefore in the reflective aspect of action in conceiving the Other. Now since both attitudes are the attitudes of a person both are in this sense personal attitudes. But if the Other is another person as attitudes to the Other the one is personal while the other is impersonal. If one person treats another person impersonally he treats him as if he were an object and not a person. He negates the personal character of the other then that is to say his freedom as an agent; and treats him as completely conditioned in his behaviour as if he were not free but determined. Consequently the concepts of the other person which arise within the two attitudes contradict one another and lead to an antimony. But we have only to recall the scheme of the personal in which a positive contains and is constituted by its own negative to understand the meaning of this. The impersonal attitude in a personal relation is the negative which is necessarily included in the positive personal attitude and without which it could not exist. Even in the most personal of relationships the other person is in fact an object for us. We see his movements and his gestures; we hear the sounds he makes; if we did not we could not be aware of him at all. Yet we do not hear mere sounds or see mere movements or gestures. What we apprehend through these are the intentions the feelings the thoughts of another person who is in communication with ourselves. The impersonal aspect of the personal relation is always present and necessarily so. It is not always noticed yet it may be; and at times it may monopolize our attention so that we miss the meaning of the words he speaks or of the movements he makes. We may perhaps express in a general fashion what is here indicated if we say that in a personal relation between persons an impersonal relation is necessarily included and subordinated. The negative is for the sake of the positive. Or from another point of view we may say that the relation is intentionally personal and includes the impersonal as a matter of fact.

The impersonal relation however reverses this; for its impersonality is intentional and to this intention the personal fact is subordinated. The relation of a master to his slave—to take an extreme example—is an impersonal one. It is constituted by the intention of the master to treat the other person ‘as a means merely’—to use Kant's phrase; or as Aristotle put it ‘as a living tool’. Consequently he regards him not as a person nor as an agent but as an object possessing certain capacities and characteristics which make him useful. Amongst these capacities and characteristics are some which are peculiar to persons. What master would consider that an honest slave was no better than a dishonest one? The relation is in fact a relation of persons. The master knows this and recognizes it as a matter of fact. But the personal characteristics of the slave are subordinated to his own impersonal intention. Certain qualities of character for example which he would consider contemptible in a freeman such as a readiness to suffer insult and injustice without retaliation he will consider desirable in his slave. We may say then that a relation between persons is impersonal when it subordinates the personal aspect to the impersonal; that is to say when the negative dominates and subordinates the positive aspect; when the positive is for the sake of the negative.

We should all agree that slavery is unjustifiable since it involves a practical denial of human personality. But whether we are right in this or not it is at least certain that it must require a justification. But a personal relationship of persons does not require justification. It is the norm for all personal relations. If I treat another person as a person and enter into fully personal relations with him it is absurd to ask me to justify my behaviour. There is therefore an important difference between the personal attitude and the impersonal and consequently between the conception of the other person that each involves. The former is always right since it needs no justification; but the latter since it does require to be justified is right only conditionally. We have to ask of any impersonal attitude under what conditions it is justifiable. The answer to this question which seems proper is that the impersonal attitude is justifiable when it is itself subordinated to the personal attitude when it is adopted for the sake of the personal and is itself included as a negative which is necessary to the positive.

The reasons for this answer will appear at a later point. To illustrate its meaning let us return to the example of the psychologist and his pupil with which we began. The psychologist we said recognizing symptoms of neurosis in his pupil's behaviour changes his attitude from a personal to an impersonal one. The pupil at once becomes for the psychologist a case of hysteria to be observed and diagnosed that is to say accounted for by reference to its causes. He observes the young man objectively asking himself ‘What is the matter with him?’ as any of us would do in the circumstances. He observes him scientifically that is to say objectively and with the knowledge at his disposal of the techniques available for answering the question. Let us then assume that the psychologist undertakes a complete investigation of the case and that the pupil submits to it and consider the situation that arises.

We must notice first that the objective attitude of the psychologist arises from and is indeed made necessary by the abnormal condition of the pupil. For the abnormality consists in his inability to enter into normal personal relations with others. This makes the personal attitude impossible in practice. More specifically the abnormality consists in a loss of freedom—in a partial inability to act. The behaviour of the neurotic is compulsive. Either he does not know what he is doing or he cannot help doing it. In either case what has happened is that the motives of his behaviour are no longer under intentional control and function as ‘causes’ which determine his activity by themselves. This at least is the assumption underlying the change of attitude the assumption that human behaviour is abnormal or irrational when it can only be understood as the effect of a cause and not by reference to the intention of an agent.

In the second place the activity directed by the impersonal attitude is justified only if it falls within and is subordinated to an intention to restore the other person to normal health. This means to rid him of the compulsion which makes his behaviour merely caused by restoring intentional control; so that once again personal relations with him become possible and an impersonal relation unnecessary. It is not difficult to see that this must be so. For suppose that the impersonal attitude were self-justifying and unconditionally right. It would then be normative for the activities which it initiates. In the course of his investigation of the cause of the abnormality the psychologist might find that this particular case was of unusual interest presenting novel features which suggested an important modification of current psychological theory. It might well be that this suggestion could only be confirmed if the neurosis were considerably accentuated. In that case not merely would the psychologist be able to make a case in favour of accentuating his pupil's illness; he would not need to make a case for it it would be the right thing for him to do. If this is preposterous if it reminds us of certain Nazi doctors of infamous memory it can only be because we know that a purely objective attitude to another person can only be justified if it falls within and is subordinated to a personal norm. The other person may be treated rightly as a means to the realization of our intentions and so conceived rightly as an object only so far as this objective conception is recognized as a negative and subordinate aspect of his existence as a person and so far as our treatment of him is regulated by this recognition.

These tentative observations are sufficient for our immediate purpose which is to distinguish and in distinguishing to relate the two types of knowledge we possess and may seek systematically to extend of the world of persons. The one is our knowledge of persons as persons; the other our knowledge of persons as objects. The first depends upon and expresses a personal attitude to the other person the second an impersonal attitude. Both types of knowledge can be generalized in reflection; either that is to say may give rise to an activity of intellectual reflection governed by a pure reflective intention. In the first case when the attitude is personal this reflective activity will be philosophical. In the other it will be scientific. The first will yield a philosophy of the personal; the second a science of man or in the wide sense of the term an anthropology. We can now see that the question whether the personal conception of men as free agents or the scientific conception of man as a determined being is the correct one does not arise except through a misunderstanding. Both are correct; and this is possible because they do not refer to the same field. The concept ‘man’ is a general class concept. Its field of reference is the genus Homo sapiens that is to say the class of existents which are identifiable by observation as possessing the factual characteristics by which objects are assigned to this class. The connotation of the term ‘man’ is those characteristics which all members of the class have as matter of fact in common. The concept is therefore an abstract concept and the field to which it refers is an isolate. It depends upon a limitation of attention and this limitation of attention is constituted by the impersonal attitude of the observer. The field of anthropology is persons as objects for us; and our objective or scientific knowledge of man is such knowledge of one another as we can obtain without entering into personal relation. All the knowledge of one another which is possible only through personal intercourse is ipso facto excluded from consideration.

The concept of ‘the personal’ on the contrary is not an exclusive concept and the field of the personal is not an isolate. It is primarily the field in which we know one another as persons in personal relation. But it includes as we have seen the objective knowledge of one another we possess as the negative aspect of itself which is necessary for its possibility. In this sense a knowledge of the personal must include an objective knowledge of man and the work of the anthropological sciences is justified and is in principle correct though of course it may be mistaken in detail. On the other hand if we take the scientific account as a complete account—as absolute and not relative—so that it entails the rejection of the personal conception with the freedom which this implies then we are indeed in error. But the error is not in the scientific account; it does not imply that the scientist should correct his assumption or his conclusions or that we should reject them. The error lies in our failure to understand the special character of scientific knowledge and so not in our science but in our philosophy of the personal. It is in fact the result of a false valuation of the objective attitude which makes it normative for all possible attitudes.

It is of special importance that we should not mistake the ground of this conclusion. It does not rest upon any distinction between subjective and objective entities. It has no relation to the controversy about the objects of psychology whether they are observable or not by introspection or otherwise; whether introspection is really retrospection and therefore for some reason suspect. We may recall an earlier conclusion of our own that the object of reflection is always the past; so that all reflective observation in physics as in psychology is retrospective. It does not matter for our purpose whether thoughts images perceivings rememberings and so on are ‘private’ occurrences or not. The distinction we have drawn between a personal and an ‘objective’ knowledge of one another rests upon this that all objective knowledge is knowledge of matter of fact only and necessarily excludes any knowledge of what is matter of intention. What is intended is never matter of fact though it may be a fact that I intend it. For what is intended is always future and there are no future facts; though again it may be a fact that something which I anticipate will in fact happen. But it may not: my expectation may not be fulfilled; I may fail to realize my intention. In that case not merely is it not matter of fact but it never will be. If it does become matter of fact then it has already happened; it is no longer intended but apprehended retrospectively.

In general this means for our present purpose that an objective knowledge of other persons cannot treat them as agents but only as determinate objects that is as continuants. Determinism is therefore a necessary postulate of the scientific enquiry and serves not merely to dictate its methodology but also to isolate the aspect of personal behaviour which is amenable to the method. The method is as we have seen to search for patterns of behaviour which recur without change and to formulate these in ‘laws’ of general application. The underlying postulate is the postulate of determinism—which is the basis of induction—that the patterns are constants that they will be found in the behaviour of all members of the class and that they will continue without change in the future unless there is an interference.

We may now sum up our conclusion. The field of the personal with which we are concerned is defined by a personal attitude to other persons; the field of the anthropological sciences by an impersonal attitude. These two attitudes are primarily practical though each has its own negative or reflective aspect. The personal attitude is the attitude we adopt when we enter into personal relation with others and treat them as persons. Its reflective aspect systematically pursued is a philosophical knowledge of the personal. The impersonal attitude is the one in which we do not treat other people as persons in personal relation with ourselves but as men that is as members of a determinate class of objects in our environment whose presence and behaviour limits and so helps or hinders the realization of our own personal ends and of whom we must take account since their presence conditions our own actions. This too has its reflective aspect in a knowledge which when methodically developed provides a science or set of sciences of human behaviour.

These two types of knowledge—the philosophical and the scientific—are related as the attitudes which sustain them. Both are personal attitudes in the sense that only a person is capable of adopting either. The impersonal attitude is personal when referred to the ‘I’ but impersonal when referred to the ‘You’. It is indeed the negative aspect of the ‘I-You’ relationship—an impersonal relation of persons. It is therefore included in the personal attitude as a necessary but negative and subordinate aspect of it. It follows that the scientific knowledge of man is included and subordinated as a negative aspect in the philosophical knowledge of the personal. Both types of knowledge therefore are really knowledge. But the philosophical is knowledge of persons as persons and therefore as agents; it is the full and inclusive knowledge of the personal other for to be an agent a person must also be a continuant object in the world. The scientific knowledge is however limited and abstract. It is knowledge of the personal other in so far as he is a determinate object and so as he appears to a mere observer. And since it is the objective or scientific attitude that is limited and subordinate the personal knowledge is normal for the objective and self-justifying; while the objective is for the sake of the personal and is justified only in its proper subordination to the personal.

There is then no necessary contradiction between personal freedom and scientific determinism in the anthropological field. The ‘I do’ is indubitable and to assert it is to assert my freedom as an agent. But when I do this I make no preposterous claim that I can do anything and everything at will and unconditionally. Every actual action is conditioned both by the determinate nature of the world in which it must be done and by my own determinate nature as an object in that world. Without this determination I could not act at all and so could have no freedom. If then I abstract this determinate aspect of action by limitation of attention and seek to understand it the scientific method is the correct one and the only possible one.

If however the two types of knowledge were in contradiction with one another then it would be the scientific account which would have to be rejected. For if it were taken as a complete account and not as the true account of an aspect it would be self-contradictory. For it would then have to deny the possibility of the personal activity which produces and possesses it. The ‘I’ can never depersonalize itself even if it can depersonalize its attitude to the ‘You’. It cannot objectify its own activity of objectification. This would be obvious were it not for our way of talking about science. The logical analysts do well to warn us of the traps that language sets for us. This is one of them and one which is having an increasingly deleterious effect upon much contemporary thought. We not only objectify science as an entity but personify it endowing it with personal attributes. ‘Science’ we say ‘has proved this’ or ‘has discovered that’ or ‘has shown that religion rests on a mistake’. Now strictly—and in this context strictness is essential—there is no such thing as ‘science’ and what is sometimes referred to as the scientific view of the world is either a pure fiction of the imagination or else a half-baked philosophy which many scientists would reject and which no scientist qua scientist is competent to judge.

The term ‘science’ refers primarily to a personal activity of intellectual reflection. It is something that people do. It means secondarily and negatively the set of beliefs which form the datum for this activity at a particular time in any branch of scientific enquiry. All scientific knowledge rests on a postulate of determinism. If it did not it would not be ‘objective’. But if scientific knowledge were made normal for all possible knowledge; if this were interpreted to mean that there are in fact no human activities or no aspects of human activity which are not objectively determined; if it involved a total denial of freedom then the possibility of the personal activity which we call science would itself be denied. For the production of science is one of the manifestations of the ‘I do’. It is itself matter of intention and not merely matter of fact.

Finally the generalization of the impersonal attitude in the anthropological sciences is justified by a practical necessity. In the particular case which we used to illustrate the emergence of an impersonal or objective attitude the necessity lay in an abnormality in the other person which made the continuance of a personal attitude already established impossible. But there is another necessity which applies to the relations between normal persons. The personal relation with the other is possible only between persons who know one another. But our own personal activities depend upon the personal activities of large numbers of people whom we do not and cannot know. All my activities have an economic aspect for example. I need food; consequently I depend upon a host of people who produce transport and deliver my food to me. When I pay for my food; I contribute my quota of assistance to the personal lives of all these people. One aspect of my dependence is my belief that their personal activities will continue in the future as they have done in the past. I must trust in the continuance of patterns of habitual activity carried on by persons whom I do not and cannot know. The relation so established between myself and them is a relation of persons. But the relation is necessarily impersonal; and consequently the knowledge on which it rests must be merely objective. I must conceive the activities of those others upon whom I depend as automatic and continuant although I know well enough that they are personal doings. In particular the organization of personal activities depends on an objective and impersonal knowledge.

This set of considerations leads to our first major division of the field of the personal. We must distinguish between the direct and the indirect relations of persons. This distinction is not the same as that between the impersonal and personal attitudes though it has a relation to it. It is a distinction within the field of our enquiry. Direct relations are those which involve a personal acquaintance with one another on the part of the persons related. Indirect relations exclude this condition: they are relations between persons who are not personally known to one another. All indirect relations are therefore necessarily impersonal. Direct relations are those which may or may not be personal at the will of the persons related. If they are maintained at an impersonal level this requires a justification. If they are fully personal they yet necessarily contain a subordinate impersonal aspect.

We shall consider first the direct relations of persons; and we shall begin in the next chapter where all human experience begins with infancy. In this way we may hope to discover the original structure of the personal and the pattern of its personal development.

  • 1. The
  • 2. terms referred to have been used occasionally, for simplicity of statement, in later chapters; but only where no doubt as to their proper reference can reasonably arise.
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