By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Essays Towards a Theory of Knowledge
Author: Philip, Alexander
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Essays Towards a Theory of Knowledge" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcriber's Note: Greek words may not display properly--in that case,
try another version. Transliterations of Greek words can be found in the
ascii and html files. Words italicized in the original are surrounded by
_underscores_. Characters superscripted in the original are inclosed in
{} brackets.


     _Rosalind:_ I pray you, what is't o'clock?

     _Orlando:_  You should ask me, what time o' day;
                   there's no clock in the forest.

                    _As You Like It, Act III. Sc. 2._






ἡ γὰρ ἀχρώματός τε καὶ ἀσχημάτιστος καὶ ἀναφὴς οὐσία
ὄντως οὖσα ψυχῆς κυβερνήτη μονῳ θεατῂ νῶ, ρεπὶ ἧν τὸ τῆς
ἀληθοῦς ἐπιστήμης γένος, τοῦτον ἔχει τὸν τόπον.--PHÆDRUS.


Two years ago, in the preface to another essay, the present writer
ventured to affirm that "Civilisation moves rather towards a chaos than
towards a cosmos." But he could not foretell that the _descensus Averni_
would be so alarmingly rapid.

When we find Science, which has done so much and promised so much for
the happiness of mankind, devoting so large a proportion of its
resources to the destruction of human life, we are prone to ask
despairingly--Is this the end? If not; how are we to discover and assure
for stricken Humanity the vision and the possession of a Better Land?

Not certainly by the ostentatious building of peace-palaces nor even by
the actual accomplishment of successful war. Only by the discovery of
true first principles of Thought and Action can Humanity be redeemed.
Undeterred by the confused tumult of to-day we must still seek a true
understanding of what knowledge is--what are its powers and what also
are its limitations. Nor may we forget that other principle of
life--with which it is so quaintly contrasted in Lord Bacon's
translation of the Pauline aphorism--_Knowledge bloweth up, Charity
buildeth up._

_January 1915._



TIME AND PERIODICITY                       11






THE DOCTRINE OF ENERGY                     81




We can measure Time in one way only--by counting repeated motions. Apart
from the operation of the physical Law of Periodicity we should have no
natural measures of Time. If that statement be true it follows that
apart from the operation of this law we could not attain to any
knowledge of Time.[11:1] Perhaps this latter proposition may not at
first be readily granted. Few, probably, would hesitate to admit that in
a condition in which our experience was a complete blank we should be
unable to acquire any knowledge of Time; but it may not be quite so
evident that in a condition in which experience consisted of a
multifarious _but never repeated_ succession of impressions the
Knowledge of Time would be equally awanting.[12:1] Yet so it is. The
operation of the Law of Periodicity is necessary to the measurement of
Time. It is by means, and only by means, of periodic pulsative movements
that we ever do or can measure Time. Now, apart from some sort of
measurement Time would be unknowable. A time which was neither long nor
short would be meaningless. The idea of unquantified Time cannot be
conceived or apprehended. Time to be known must be measured.

Periodicity, therefore, is essential to our Knowledge of Time. But
Nature amply supplies us with this necessary instrument. The Law of
Periodicity prevails widely throughout Nature. It absolutely dominates

The centre of animal vitality is to be found in the beating heart and
breathing lungs. Pulsation qualifies not merely the nutrient life but
the musculo-motor activity as well. Eating, Walking,--all our most
elementary movements are pulsatory. We wake and sleep, we grow weary and
rest. We are born and we die, we are young and grow old. All animal life
is determined by this Law.

Periodicity--generally at a longer interval of pulsation--equally
affects the vegetal forms of life. The plant is sown, grows, flowers,
and fades.

Periodicity is to us less obvious in the inanimate world of molecular
changes; yet it is in operation even there. But it is more especially in
the natural motions of those so-called material masses which constitute
our physical environment that Periodicity most eminently prevails.
Indeed it was by astronomers that the operation of this Law was first
definitely recognised and recorded. Periodicity is the scientific name
for the Harmony of the Spheres.

The two periodic motions which most essentially affect and concern us
human beings are necessarily the two periodic motions of the globe which
we inhabit--its rotation upon its axis which gives us the alternation of
Day and Night, and its revolution round the Sun which gives us the year
with its Seasons. To the former of these, animal life seems most
directly related; to the latter, the life of the vegetal orders. It is
evident that the forms of animal life on the globe are necessarily
determined by the periodic law of the Earth's diurnal rotation. This
accounts for the alternations of waking and sleeping, working and
resting, and so forth. In like manner the more inert vitality of the
vegetable kingdom is determined by the periodic law of the Earth's
annual revolution. When fanciful speculators seek to imagine what kind
of living beings might be encountered on the other planets of our
system, they usually make calculations as to the force of gravity on the
surface of these planets and conjure up from such data the possible size
of the inhabitants, their relative strength and agility of movement,
etc. So far so good. But the first question we should ask, before
proceeding to our speculative synthesis, should rather be the length of
the planet's diurnal rotation and annual revolution periods. Certain
planets, such as Mars and Venus, have rotation periods not very
different from those of our own Earth.[14:1] Other things being equal,
therefore, a certain similarity of animal life must be supposed possible
on these planets. On the other hand, the marked difference in their
revolution period would lead us to expect a very wide divergence between
their lower forms of life, if any such there be, and our own terrestrial
vegetation. The shorter the annual period the more would the vegetal
approximate to the animal, and _vice versa_. It would, however, be
foolish to waste more time over a speculation so remote.

But these two facts remain unshaken:--(1) That our measurements and
whole science of Time depend absolutely on the operation throughout
Nature of the Law of Periodicity, and (2) that the periodicities which
affect and determine animal and vegetal life upon our Earth are the
periodic movements of rotation and revolution of that Earth itself.

Now it is to the curvilinear motions of the heavenly bodies that we must
ascribe our subjection to the periodic law. If these heavenly bodies
moved for ever in straight lines, as they would do if unacted on by
natural forces, the periodic rhythm of Nature would disappear.

It is to the fact that all Nature is under the constraint due to the
constant silent operation of physical Force that we owe, therefore, the
law which determines the most essential features of vitality. The
pulsations in which life consists and by which it is sustained are
attributable to the constraint and limitation which we recognise as the
effect of the operation of Natural Force. It is to this same cause that
we ascribe the resistance of cohering masses in virtue of which
sensation arises and by which our experience is punctuated. It is by
means of these obstructions to free activity that our experience is
denoted, and by reference to these that it is cognised. Indeed, Activity
itself as we know it depends upon and presupposes the existence of
these cohering masses.

Thus the operation of Natural Force and the constraint and limitation
which are thereby imposed upon our activity appear at once to determine
the conditions of life and to furnish the fundamental implements of

We cannot overleap the barriers by which Life is constrained. These,
whilst, on the one hand they seem to _create the environment_ which
sustains Life, on the other hand seem to impose upon it the limitations
under which it inevitably fails and dies. We cannot even in imagination
conceive, either as reality or as fancy, the illimitable puissance of a
Life perfectly free and unrestrained. Yet the assurance that Perfect
Love could overcome the bonds of Materiality and Death encourages in
mankind the Hope of an existence beyond the impenetrable veil of
physical limitation. And this at any rate may be admitted, namely, that
that dynamic condition in which materiality arises is also the
condition-precedent of Tridimensionality, of Force, of Time, and of
Mutation. But we cannot thus account for the _elan vital_ itself.


[11:1] Plato in the dialogue _Timæus_ tells us that Time was born with
the Heavens, and that Sun, Moon, and Planets were created in order that
Time might be.

[12:1] This might be contrasted with the statement of M. Bergson who
tells us (_Evolution créatrice_, p. 11): "Plus nous approfondirons la
nature du temps plus nous comprendrons que durée signifie invention,
création de formes, elaboration continue de l'absolument nouveau."

[14:1] Recently, we believe, astronomers have favoured the view that the
day of Venus is equal in length to her year.



"_Penser c'est sentir_," said Condillac. "It is evident," said Bishop
Berkeley, "to one who takes a survey of the _objects_ of Human Knowledge
that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses or else such
as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the
Mind, or lastly ideas formed by help of memory and imagination either
combining, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived
in the foresaid ways." J. S. Mill tells us, "The points, lines, circles,
and squares which one has in his mind are, I apprehend, simply copies of
points, lines, circles, and squares which he has known in his
experience," and again, "The character of necessity ascribed to the
truths of Mathematics and even, with some reservations to be hereafter
made, the peculiar certainty attributed to them is an illusion." "In the
case of the definitions of Geometry there exist no real things exactly
conformable to the definitions." Again Taine, "_Les images sont les
exactes reproductions de la sensation._" Again Diderot, "_Pour imaginer
il faut colorer un fond et détacher de ce fait des points en leur
supposant une couleur differente de celle du fond. Restituez à ces
points la même couleur qu'au fond,--à l'instant ils se confondent avec
lui et la figure disparait_," etc. Again, Dr. Ernest Mach, Vienna,
remarks, "We are aware of but one species of elements of Consciousness:
sensations." "In our perceptions of Space we are dependent on
sensations." Dr. Mach repeatedly refers to "space-sensations," and
indeed affirms that all sensation is spatial in character.[18:1]

According to the view of Knowledge of which we have extracted examples
above, the ideas of the mind are originally furnished to it by
sensation, from which therefore are derived, not necessarily all our
Thoughts, but all the materials of Discourse, all that constitutes the
essence of Knowledge.

Our purpose at the moment is to show that this view is altogether false,
and our counter proposition is, that it is from our Activity that we
derive our fundamental conceptions of the external world; that
sensations only mark the interruptions in the dynamic Activity in which
we as potent beings partake, and that they serve therefore to denote and
distinguish our Experience, but do not constitute its essence.

We do not propose now to devote any time to the work of showing that
sensations from their very nature could never become the instruments of
Knowledge. We propose rather to turn to the principal ideas of the
external world which are the common equipment of the Mind in order to
ascertain whether in point of fact they are derived from Sensation.

Of course to some extent the answer depends on what we mean by
Sensation. If by that term we intend our whole Experience of the
external, then of course it necessarily follows--or, at least, we
admit--that our Knowledge of the external must be thence derived. But
such a use of the term is loose, misleading, and infrequent. The only
safe course is to confine the term Sensation to the immediate data of
the five senses--touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste, with probably
the addition of muscular and other internal feelings. It is in this
sense that the word is usually employed, and has been employed by the
Sensationalist School themselves.

Now we might perhaps begin by taking the idea of Time as a concept
constantly employed in Discourse, but of which it would be absurd to
suggest that it is supplied to us by Sensation. It might, however, be
urged in reply that the idea of Time is not derived from the external
world at all, but is furnished to us directly by the operations of the
Mind, and that therefore its intellectual origin need not involve any
exception to the general rule that the materials of our Knowledge of the
world are furnished by Sensation alone. Without, therefore, entering
upon any discussion of the interesting question as to what is the real
nature of Time, we shall pass to the idea of Space.

Mach, the writer whom we have already quoted, in his essay on _Space and
Geometry_ speaks constantly and freely of sensations of Space, and as
there can be no denial of the fact that Space is a constituent of the
external world, it would seem to follow that those who hold Sensation to
be the only source of our Knowledge must be obliged to affirm the
possibility of sensations of Space. Mach indeed claims to distinguish
physiological Space, geometrical Space, visual Space, tactual Space as
all different and yet apparently harmoniously blended in our Experience.
He is, however, sadly wanting in clearness of statement. He never tells
us when and where exactly we do have a sensation of Space. In truth he
never gets behind the postulate of an all-enveloping tridimensional
world; so that he throughout assumes Space as a datum, and his inquiry
is an effort to rediscover Space where he has already placed it.

Let us, however, consider for a moment what can be meant by a sensation
of Space. Does it not look very like a contradiction in terms? Pure
Space, if it means anything, means absolute material emptiness and
vacuity. How, then, by any possibility can it give rise to a sensation?
What sensory organ can it be conceived as affecting? How and in what way
can it be felt?

The truth is the idea of Space is essentially negative. It represents
absence of physical obstruction of every kind. No doubt, we may describe
it positively as a possibility of free movement, and such a description
is at once true and important. Yet even _it_ involves a negative. The
term "free" is in reality, though not in form, a negative term and means
"unconstrained." And the reason why such a term is necessarily negative
is to be found in the fact that a state of dynamic constraint is the
essential condition under which we enter upon our organic existence.
Freedom is a negation of the Actual. Absolute freedom is a condition
only theoretically possible, and is essentially the negation of the
state of restraint in which our life is maintained.

But the definition last quoted is nevertheless valuable because it
clearly shows what really is the origin of the idea of Space. It proves
that the idea of Space is a representation of one condition of our
Activity. It is because the primary work of Thought is to represent the
forms of our dynamic Activity that we find the idea of Space so
necessary and fundamental.

But it will perhaps be argued that our ordinary sensations carry with
them a spatial meaning and implication, and that indirectly, therefore,
our sensations _do_ supply us with the idea of Space. It will readily be
agreed that if this is so of any sensations it is pre-eminently true of
the sensations of vision and touch. Indeed, it will perhaps not be
disputed that the ordinary vident man derives from the sensations of
vision his most common spatial conceptions. We propose, therefore, to
inquire very briefly how the character of spatial extension becomes
associated with the data of Vision.

The objects of Vision appear to be displayed before us in immense
multitude, each distinct from its adjacent neighbour, yet all
inter-related as parts of one single whole--the presentation thus
constituting what is called Extensity.

This is the most commonly employed meaning of the term spatial. Yet it
is evidently in its origin rather temporal than spatial. In ordinary
movement we encounter by touch various obstacles, but only a very few of
these impress us at any one moment of time. On the contrary, they
succeed one after the other. To the blind, therefore, as Platner long
ago remarked: Time serves instead of Space. In Vision, on the other
hand, a large number, which it would take a very long time to encounter
in touch, are presented _simultaneously_. In this there is an immense
practical advantage, the result being that we come habitually to direct
our every action by reference to the data of Sight. Now it is because
these data--so simultaneously presented--are employed by us as the
guides of action that their presentation acquires the character which we
denominate Extensity. The simultaneous occurrence of a large number of
Sounds does not seem to us to present such a character. But let us
suppose that all the objects which constitute obstacles to our Activity
emitted Sounds by which they were recognised; it is not doubtful that
these would then come to be employed by us as the guides of our Activity
and would acquire in our minds the character of Extensity. They would
arrange themselves in a cotemporaneous, extensive, or spatial relation
to one another just as the objects of Vision do at present.

It is only, therefore, when we come to employ the simultaneous
presentation of Vision as the instrument of our Activity and the guide
of Action that it acquires the character commonly called extensive.
_Successive_ visual sensations convey no extensive suggestion.

It is important to realise the nature of this peculiar feature in the
data of Vision. The sounds which we hear, the odours which we smell, are
the immediate result of certain undulations affecting the appropriate
organ of sensation. We refer these to the object in which the
undulations originate. In like manner a light which we see is referred
to its objective luminous source. But light also and in addition is
reflected from, and thus reveals the presence of the whole body of our
resistant environment. Hence is derived the coloured presentation of
Vision to which the character of extensity attaches. Nothing similar
takes place in the case of the other distantial sensations. If sonorous
undulations excited vibration in every resistant object of the
environment they would undoubtedly come to arrange themselves in an
order resembling the extensity suggested by Vision, though the slower
rate of transmission of sound would detract from the practical
simultaneity in the effect which, as we have seen, largely accounts for
the perception of visual extensity. The universal diffusion of sunlight
is also a determining factor.

       *       *       *       *       *

The matter becomes still clearer when we contrast the experience of
vident men with what we have been able to learn of the experiences of
the blind. Nowhere have we found this aspect of the question discussed
with the same clearness and ability as by M. Pierre Villey in his
recently published essay, _Le Monde des Aveugles_--Part III.

The blind man, as he remarks, requires representations in order to
command his movements. We must then penetrate the mind of the blind and
ascertain what are his representations. Are they, he asks, muscular
images combined by temporal relations, or are they images of a spatial
order? He replies without hesitation: Both, but, above all, spatial
images. It is clear, he says, that the modalities of the action of the
blind are explained by spatial representations. These must be derived
from touch. What, then, can be the spatial representations which arise
from touch? The blind, he says, are often asked, How do you figure to
yourself such and such an object, a chair, a table, a triangle? M.
Villey quotes Diderot as affirming that the blind cannot imagine.
According to Diderot, images require colour, and colour being totally
wanting to the blind the nature of their imagination was to him
inconceivable. The common opinion, says M. Villey, is entirely with
Diderot. It does not believe that the blind can have images of the
objects around him. The photographic apparatus is awanting and the
photograph cannot therefore be there.

Diderot was a sensationalist. For this school, as Villey remarks,
_l'image est le décalque de la sensation_, and he refers not merely to
Condillac the friend of Diderot but to his continuator Taine whose
dictum we have already quoted.

Diderot attempts to solve the problem by maintaining that tactual
sensations occupy an extended space which the blind in thought can add
to or contract, and in this way equip himself with spatial conceptions.

There would, on this view, as M. Villey remarks, be a complete
heterogeneity between the imagination of the blind and that of the
vident. M. Villey denies this altogether. He affirms that the image of
an object which the blind acquires by touch readily divests itself of
the characters of tactual sensation and differs profoundly from these.
He takes the example of a chair. The vident apprehends its various
features simultaneously and at once; the blind, by successive tactual
palpations. But he maintains that the evidence of the blind is unanimous
on this point, that once formed in the mind the idea of the chair
presents itself to him immediately as a whole,--the order in which its
features were ascertained is not preserved, and does not require to be
repeated. Indeed, the idea divests itself of the great bulk of the
tactual details by which it was apprehended, whilst the muscular
sensations which accompanied the act of palpation never seek to be
joined with the idea. This divestiture of sensation proceeds to such an
extent that there is nothing left beyond what M. Villey calls the pure
form. The belief in the reality of the object he refers to its
resistance. The origin of each of these is exertional. The features upon
which the mind dwells, if it dwells upon them at all, are _les qualités
qui sont constamment utiles pour la pratique_--in a word, the dynamic
significance of the thing.

We may remark that much the same is true of the ideas of the vident. In
ordinary Discourse we freely employ our ideas of external objects
without ever attempting a detailed reproduction of the visual image.
Such a reproduction would be both impracticable and unnecessary, and
would involve such a sacrifice of time as to render Discourse altogether
impossible. All that the Mind of the vident ordinarily grasps and
utilises in his discursive employment of the idea of any physical thing
is what we have ventured to call its dynamic significance. And the very
careful analysis which M. Villey has made of the mental conceptions of
the blind clearly shows that in their case he has reached exactly the
same conclusion.

Our fundamental conceptions of the external world are therefore derived
from and are built up out of the data of our exertional Activity
combined with the interruptions which that Activity perpetually
encounters, and in which sensations arise. It would indeed be a useful
work of psychological analysis if the conditions of exertional action
were carefully and systematically investigated--much more useful than
most of the trifling experiments to which psychological laboratories are
usually devoted.

The principal elements of such a scheme would be--

(1) The force of gravity. This force constantly operating constrains
the organism to be in constant contact with the earth on which we live.
But, further, it gives us the definite idea of _Direction_. It is from
the action of gravity that we derive our distinction between Up and Down
from which as a starting-point we build up our conception of
tridimensional Space. And in this respect it must be remembered that as
the areas of spheres are proportional to the squares of their radii it
necessarily follows that gravity if it acts uniformly in tridimensional
Space _must_ vary in intensity in proportion to the square of the
distance of the point of application from the centre of origin. Gravity
and tridimensionality are in short necessarily connected.

(2) The same law which determines the force of gravity seems to
determine also the force of cohesion, and therefore the form of material
bodies. These, therefore, are necessarily subject also to
tridimensionality, and in the force which generates solid form we find a
second source of our elementary spatial ideas.

Such form is the expression of an obstacle to action which determines
all our movements, and in which we discover those forms of the
limitations of activity which we call spatial characters.

(3) Organic Dualism is a third determinant of activity, and thus also a
source of spatial ideas.

The structural dualism of the human body, its right and left, its front
and back, etc., furnish our activity with a set of constant forms to
which its action must conform, and which necessarily also partake of,
and help us to conceive of tridimensional form. It is interesting to
note that this dualism characterises the organs specially adapted to
serve exertional action rather than those which serve our vegetal or
nutrient life.

The way in which our spatial conceptions are ever extended and built up
out of the data of action is also well illustrated in the case of the
blind, and to this also M. Villey devotes an interesting chapter under
the title _La conquête des représentations spatiales_.

This is effected in their case by the high development of what we must
call active touch. Just as we distinguish between hearing and listening,
between seeing and looking, so must we distinguish between touching and

Mere passive touch gives a certain amount of information, but
comparatively little. It is necessary to _explore_; that is what is done
in active touch--palpation--of different degrees.

The sensitiveness of the skin varies at different places from the tongue
downwards. Palpation by the fingers marks a further stage. The blind
also, we are told, largely employ the feet in walking as a source of
locative data.

To the concepts reached by such palpation with the hand, M. Villey gives
the name of Manual Space. In this connection he thinks it necessary to
distinguish between synthetic touch and analytic touch--the former
resulting from the simultaneous application of different parts of the
hand on the surface of a body, the latter that which we owe to the
movements of our fingers when having only one point of contact with the
object the fingers follow its contour. Various examples of the delicacy
of the information thus obtainable are given. Following two straight
lines with the thumb and index respectively, a blind man can acquire by
practice a sensibility so complete as to enable him to detect the
slightest divergence from parallelism.

The analysis passes on from the data of Space manual to those of Space
brachial; then to the information derived from walking and other
movements of the lower limbs, and then to the co-ordination of the
information derived from the sensations of hearing, which is necessarily
very important to the blind.

The conclusion of the whole matter is that our principal spatial ideas
are common alike to the blind and the vident. Both can be taught and are
taught the same geometry. Both understand one another in the
description of spatial conditions. The common element cannot possibly be
supplied either by the data of visual sensation which the blind do not
possess, or by the data of passive tactual sensation which the vident
hardly ever employ. _Une étendue commune se retrouverait à la fois dans
les données de la vue et dans celles du toucher._ The common element is
furnished by the common laws and forms of our exertional Activity by
means of which and in terms of which we all construct our conceptions of
the dynamic world of our environment.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is from our dynamic Activity also that we derive our conception of
Force. Force, though it is studied scientifically in the measurement of
the great natural forces which operate constantly, is originally known
to us in the stress or pressure to which muscular exertion in contact
with a material body gives rise. Such a force if it could be correctly
measured, would record the rate at which Energy was undergoing
transmutation, and it is from such experience of pressure that our idea
of Force is originally derived.

The mass of bodies is usually measured by their weight, _i.e._ by
gravity. Its absolute measurement must be in terms of momentum. The true
estimate of the Energy of a body moving under the impulse of a constant
Force is stated in the formula 1/2MV{2}. To ascertain M, therefore, we
must have given F and V, and these are both conceptions the original
idea of which is derived from our exertional activity.

Quantity of Matter originally means the same as amount of resistance to
initiation of motion, at first estimated by the varying amount of
personal muscular energy required to effect the motion in question,
thereafter objectively and scientifically by comparison with some
independent standard whereby a more exact estimation can be attained
than was possible by a mere reference to the varying inferences of the
individual who might exert the force.

Space, Mass, Force are all therefore ideas which are furnished to us out
of our experience as potent actors, and the recognition of this great
truth provides us with the means of clearly apprehending and co-relating
our conceptions of the external world, the framework of our Knowledge.

The true distinction between a _percept_ and a _concept_ is just that a
percept is a concept associated with the dynamic system discovered in
and by our exertional activity.

In like manner we find here the true solution of the many questions
which have been raised as to the distinction between general and
abstract, singular and concrete terms.

Language expresses action: the roots of language are expressions of the
elementary acts which make up experience. They are therefore general.
Each applies to every act of the class in question. They are also
concrete. That is so because they refer to exertional activities.
Abstract terms are terms abstracted from this dynamic reference. Thus
_white_ is concrete because colour is a property of the dynamic world.
But when this property is considered apart from its dynamic support it
is called _whiteness_, and becomes abstract. In the case of purely
mental qualities the term is regarded as abstract simply because the
quality is in every reference extra dynamic. Thus _candour_, _justice_
are called abstract terms; they are properties of the Mind. But a
property of the dynamic system, _e.g._ Gravitation, does not strike us
as abstract--the sole distinction being the dynamic reference which the
latter term implies.

It will even be seen that there is sometimes a shading off of abstract
quality. Thus _Justice_ as an attribute of the Mind strikes us as a
purely abstract term. But as the word takes up a dynamic reference so
does its abstraction diminish. Thus in the expression "Administration of
Justice" the abstractive suggestion is less pronounced; till in the
person of Justice Shallow it vanishes in the very concrete.

Behind and beneath all these considerations we should never lose sight
of the great main facts--that thought is an activity; that its function
therefore is to represent or reproduce our pure exertional activity;
that such representation is _at the basis_ of all our concepts of
externality; that sensation, _per se_ is mere interruption of activity;
that _per se_ it possesses no spatial or extensive or external
suggestiveness; that sensations nevertheless serve to denote or give
feature and particularity to our experience of activity; that all
perception of the external is at bottom therefore a mental
representation of exertional activity and its forms, denoted,
punctuated, identified by sensation, which latter by itself, we repeat,
carries no suggestion of externality. This view revolutionises the whole
psychology of Perception, and therefore, though it at once gives to that
science a much-needed unity, clarity, and simplicity, it will naturally
be accepted with reluctance by the laborious authors of the cumbrous
theories still generally current.


[18:1] His reason is that we _ab origine_ localise sensations with
reference to our organism. This, of course, means by reference to the
system of potent energy in which our organism essentially consists.



The evolution of living organisms is in general a gradual and continuous
process. But it is nevertheless true that it presents well-marked stages
and can best be described by reference to these. Frequently, moreover,
the meaning and true nature of the movement at one stage is only
revealed after a subsequent stage has been reached.

The development of a brain or cerebrum marks one important advance. The
presence of this organ renders possible to the animal in varying degree
what are called representations of objects, and the faculty of making
such representations appears to be a condition precedent to the
development of deliberation, volition, and purposive action as opposed
to reflex or instinctive activity. The latter is specially
characteristic of other orders of organic existence such as the
Articulata--being remarkably exemplified in the activities of the social
insects such as the bee.

The advent of man with his faculty of Discourse may be regarded as
marking another distinct stage in the evolutionary movement--a stage,
moreover, the operations of which throw light upon the whole nature of
cerebral representations. The faculty of rational Discourse, as
Max Müller pointed out, is denominated in Greek by the word λόγος,
applicable at once to the mental activity and to its appropriate
expression in speech. Discourse is an instrument by means of which man
has been enabled to construct his whole system of representations of the
world in which he lives, the system of what is commonly called his
Knowledge. Human Knowledge just is the body of man's representations of
his Experience in the world of which he forms a part. It is not
necessary to insist here on the gradual but remarkable growth and
extension which Human Knowledge has undergone during the last two
thousand years. Concurrently with its extension man's ability to control
the forces of Nature has been enlarged and increased. At the same time,
however, that extension has rendered possible false developments and
aberrations to which the more limited representations of the brute are
less liable.

With the faculty of rational Discourse constantly striving to extend the
bounds of Knowledge, man came in time to attempt to give an account not
only of the immediate objects which surround him, but of the whole choir
of Heaven and furniture of Earth. In this advance the Greeks took a
leading part.

When we first make acquaintance through historical records with the
intellectual activity of the Greek mind, we find it engaged in the
construction of various such schemes for an explanation of the
world--usually called cosmogonies.

It was at this stage of intellectual progress that what we might call an
interruption occurred in the normal process of evolution. Great
intellectual activity had for some time prevailed in the Greek
communities; several men of conspicuous genius--notably Heracleitus and
Parmenides--had carried speculation as to the origin and nature of the
world to a height hitherto undreamt of. These achievements and the
consciousness of continual progress had engendered in Athens
particularly what might be called an epidemic of intellectual pride.

On this scene Socrates appeared, plain, blunt, critical. His teaching
was in effect an appeal to men to reflect: to turn their attention away
from the world which they were supposed to be explaining to the
contemplation of their own Minds by which the explanation was
furnished. γνῶθι σεαυτόν was his motto. All explanations of the
Universe or of Experience were, as he showed, vain unless the Cognitive
Faculty by which they were constructed were operating truly. In
particular, the process of Rational Discourse implied the use of
concrete general terms, which were recognised to be the essential
instruments of Cognition. Socrates therefore devoted his attention
specially to a critical examination of these general terms and also of
the abstract terms which were the familiar instruments of Discourse.

The Greeks of that day were endowed with a singular clearness of
intellectual vision. They readily recognised that Knowledge was an
intellectual process; they appreciated the activity of Thought or
Rational Discourse as essential to its formation. They quite understood
that Knowledge is not of the nature of a photograph--a resemblant
pictorial reproduction of the data furnished by sensation. Only very
casually and occasionally do we ever attempt to supply ourselves with a
resemblant reproduction of our sensations. Obviously such a reproduction
would only be of value memorially and could tell us nothing new.

These early Greeks realised this, and they appear to have realised also
pretty clearly that it would be impossible by means of such pictorial
impressions to establish any community of Knowledge. It is of the
essence of Knowledge that it is something which can be communicated to,
and which is the common possession of, several individuals. That can
never be true of sensation. We can never tell whether our sensations are
the same as those of other people--never at any rate by means of
sensations themselves; never unless and until such sensations have been
inter-related by some other instrument. A mere photographic reproduction
of sensation is thus quite useless as a means of Knowledge.

In some way or other general terms supply the common bond. The
recognition of this fact was one of the great results of the Socratic
discussion. This explains the immense importance which Socrates
naturally attached to the criticism of general and abstract terms.

       *       *       *       *       *

The work of Socrates in this direction was immediately taken up and
carried much further by Plato. Plato maintained that these general and
abstract terms were in truth the names of ideas (εἲδη) with which the
mind is naturally furnished, and further that these ideas corresponded
to and typified the eternal forms of things--the essential constituents
of the real world. Knowledge was possible because there were such
eternal forms or ideal elements--the archetypes--of which the εἴδη
were the counterparts and representations.

Knowledge, Plato held, was concerned solely with these eternal forms,
not with sensation at all. The sensible world was in a state of constant
flux and could not be the object of true science. Its apprehension was
effected by a faculty or capacity (_Republic_, v. 478-79) midway between
Knowledge and nescience to which he applied the term δόξα, frequently
translated _opinion_, but which in this connection would be much more
accurately rendered, _sensible impression_, or even perception. At any
rate, the term _opinion_ is a very unhappy one, and does not convey the
true meaning at all, for no voluntary intellective act on the part of
the subject was implied by the term. Now intelligence in constructing a
scheme of Knowledge is active. The ideas are the instruments of this

Plato's doctrine of ideas was probably designed or conceived by him as
affording an explanation also of the community of Knowledge. He
emphasised the fluent instability of the sensible impression, and as we
have already pointed out, sensation in itself labours also under this
drawback that it contains and affords no common nexus whereby the
conceptions or perceptions of one man can be compared or related with
those of another.

Indeed, if Experience were composed solely of sensations, each
individual would be an isolated solipsistic unit--incapable of rational
Discourse or communication with his fellow-men. To cure this defect,
Plato offered the ideas--universal forms common to the intelligence of
every rational being. Not only would they render possible a common
Knowledge of Reality--the existence of such ideas would necessarily also
give permanence, fixity, law, and order to our intellectual activity.
Our Knowledge would not be a mere random succession of impressions, but
a definitely determined organic unity.

In all this argument it must be remembered Plato never said or suggested
that the intellect of man--thus equipped with ideal forms--was thereby
enabled to become, or did become, the creator of the world by and in
which each one believes himself to be surrounded and included. He always
distinguished between Idea and Reality, between Thought and Thing. The
ideas were types of the forms immanent in things themselves. It has been
said by some scholars that he generally distinguished between the two
by the employment of distinct terms, applying εἷδος to the mental
conception and ἰδέα to the substantial form. This verbal distinction
was accepted by many scholars of the epoch of Liddell and Scott and
Davies and Vaughan. A reference to this distinction in the present
writer's essay on _The Dynamic Foundation of Knowledge_ provoked at the
instance of one critic the allegation that it is not borne out by a
critical study of the Platonic texts. That is a matter of little moment
and one upon which the writer cannot claim to pronounce. The important
point is that in one way or another Plato undoubtedly distinguished
between and indeed contrasted the idea and the substantial form. No
trace of the solipsism which results from their being confounded and
which has ultimately brought to destruction the imposing edifice of
Hegelian Thought is to be found in his writings.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Platonic doctrine of ideas speedily found an energetic critic in
Aristotle. In Aristotle's view, it was quite unnecessary and
unwarrantable to postulate the existence in the Mind of ideal forms or
counterparts of the substantial forms of Reality. This, according to
him, was a wholly unnecessary reduplication. He was content to believe
that the mind found and recognised the essential forms of things when
they were presented to it in perceptive Experience. _Universalia in re_
were conceived by him as sufficiently explaining the genesis of
cognition without the postulation of any such _universalia extra rem_.

       *       *       *       *       *

To the Platonic doctrine he offered the further objection that the
eternal forms of things which that doctrine affirmed and which it
declared to be represented in their ideal types were necessarily
impotential. There was no generative power in the pure activity of
Thought. If, therefore, the essentials of Reality were ideal, it
followed that they also were impotent, and incapable of causative
efficacy. The sensible world, however, was a fluent and perpetually
generated stream, which required some potent cause to uphold it.

The eternal Reality which sustained the world was for him an Energy
constantly generating the actual, and no conception which failed to
provide for this process of causative generation of the things of Sense
could in his view adequately account for the phenomena of Nature nor
consequently could constitute the system of science.

In this argument Aristotle undoubtedly expressed a profound truth, but
it may perhaps be admitted that he rather failed to appreciate fully
the difficulty which the Platonic doctrine was designed to meet--that,
namely, of providing some sort of common nexus or unifying principle by
which the validity of Knowledge could be maintained. For he had no
certain means of showing that the potent energy of Nature was unitary
and homogeneous.

He is frequently described as a sensationalist, but such a view is
certainly incorrect. This, however, may be admitted--that he sought the
essentials of Reality not in the Mind but in the Object. It may be
fairly claimed that to this extent he occupied common ground with the
sensationalists, in that he was an adherent of the _tabula rasa_ view of
the Mind, expressed in the maxim:--

_Nihil est in intellectu quod non fuit in sensu._

       *       *       *       *       *

Plato and Aristotle may be taken as typical of the two principal
intellectual tendencies which have characterised all subsequent
speculation--the Platonist, he who finds in the constitution of the Mind
the eternal principles or at least the types of the eternal principles
of Reality; the Aristotelian, he for whom these seem to reside in the
object and, in the act of Cognition, are merely impressed upon,
transferred to, presented to, or otherwise introduced into or
apprehended by the Mind.

The Aristotelian view of Nature as an energetic process failed to
impress itself upon his successors. Greek Philosophy soon after
Aristotle's death decayed or was deprived of its early vigour, and the
doctrine which survived the wreck was essentially derived, however
imperfectly, from the Platonic theory.

Throughout the first fifteen hundred years of the Christian era this
doctrine undoubtedly dominated the course of speculation--a speculation
of which much is now forgotten and almost as much was certainly barren
and unfruitful, but of which we would entertain a very mistaken notion
if we were to imagine that it was not often pursued with great subtlety
and acumen.

One natural result of the fact that such a principle dominated human
thought was the prevalence of a belief that the explanation of Nature
and natural processes could be derived from the cognitive faculty
itself. Our cognition of our immediate surroundings was doubtless
continuously corrected by immediate practical tests. But the science of
a more extended view of Nature was vitiated by this false principle and
in consequence for many centuries our whole Knowledge of Nature remained
unprogressive and unfruitful.

_Causa æquat effectum_, Nature abhors a vacuum, are examples of the
maxims derived or supposed to be derived from the necessities of our
Reason, and by the aid of which it was vainly hoped to attain a
knowledge of Nature and natural laws.

The principle was in itself unsound.

The necessary laws of our rational faculty could discover to us only the
essentials of that faculty itself.

The maxims by which it was sought to constitute _a priori_ a scheme of
natural laws could not justly claim descent from the necessities of
Thought. Had the Schoolmen formed a true conception of the nature of
Knowledge they would never have imagined that any necessity of Thought
obliged them to believe that a 10 lb. weight would fall to the ground
more rapidly than a 1 lb. weight. Equally true is it that their
scientific principles had not been derived from any study of the action
of natural law. They were unacknowledged intellectual orphans.

The movement associated with the names of Galileo, Bruno, Bacon, Kepler,
and Newton owed its origin and its success to the abandonment of this
vicious principle. So far as Nature was concerned, the Mind was regarded
as a _tabula rasa_, and the physician set himself to ascertain the laws
of nature not by reflection upon his own mental processes or
requirements, but by experiment with and observation of natural
processes themselves. The result has been the establishment of modern
science--the greatest triumph which the human mind has yet achieved.

     In a criticism of the writer's essay on _The Dynamic
     Foundation of Knowledge_ in the _Revue neo-scolastique_ of
     Louvain, the critic wrote as follows: "Remarquons qu'il n'a
     pas compris la synthèse scolastique du moyen âge, elle qui
     cependant a concilié d'une façon admirable l'_actuel_ et le
     _potentiel_ dans l'explication de la nature des choses. Il
     s'est mepris aussi sur les caractères de la méthode
     scolastique de connaître la constitution intime du monde
     experimental; il croît cette méthode exclusivement deductive."

     We have felt that candour demanded that we should quote the
     foregoing passage--coming as it does from a source
     exceptionally well qualified to express an opinion. If we have
     nevertheless allowed ourselves in the precedent paragraphs of
     this essay to express again the view which this critic seeks
     to qualify, but which we still think in the main sound, we are
     at the same time very glad to be able in this way to invite
     attention to the undoubted fact that the distinction between
     the actual and the potential was recognised by the schoolmen
     as of a very deep significance. We believe further that the
     real secret of the failure of mediævalism to extend its
     Knowledge of Nature was not so much a preference for
     deductive over inductive methods as the failure to realise
     that Nature was a dynamic operation.

It is important, then, to understand accurately what is the method of

The external world of our Experience seems to be composed of sensible
impressions. The ever present visual panorama combined with the constant
occurrence of other sensations suggests that Nature is, as has so often
been asserted, simply another name for the sensible presentation. A
truer view of Nature was adumbrated by Aristotle when he formulated the
theory of an Energy ever generative of the sensible. If the founders of
Science did not fully grasp the Aristotelian conception, it is at least
certain that they looked upon Nature not merely as a sensible
presentation but as a process--a dynamic operation. It was to the study
of these operations, to the measurement of the natural forces or normal
categories of physical action that Galileo and Newton devoted
themselves. The true estimate of a moving force may indeed be said to
have been their first great problem, just as the law of universal
gravitation was their grandest generalisation.

It was to this sure instinct that the founders of Science owed their
success. Had they devoted themselves to the mere study of sensations--of
blue things and green things, of hard things and soft things, of loud
things and silent things--Science as an efficient and co-ordinated
system would never have come into being.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having struck the right path, they moved rapidly along it, leaving the
Schoolmen and Philosophers behind them, suspicious, hostile, and amazed.

But Philosophy did not remain altogether negative. The new movement
extended itself to Metaphysics, and under the leadership of Descartes a
resolute effort was made to reform Philosophy on sympathetic lines.

It was in the true spirit of Socrates that Descartes advanced his famous
method of Doubt. The whole fabric of beliefs and rational principles was
to be subjected to a re-examination, and Descartes found himself on
bedrock when he touched his famous _Cogito, ergo sum._ The simple fact
or act of Doubt implied the Activity--the Reality therefore--of the
Doubter. But the cogitant subject was reduced very much to the condition
of a _tabula rasa_, and when Descartes proceeded to fill up the blank
with a rediscovery on more scientific lines of the essentials of
Cognition he found his basal feature in Extension. Tridimensional Space
seemed the simple elementary framework of our Knowledge of Nature.

The method of Descartes was further extended by the English philosopher
Locke. Those qualities which formed the elements of Knowledge were
described by him as the primary qualities of body; the sensible
presentation comprised also the secondary qualities which seemed to be
in some way superposed upon and contained within the former.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our fundamental ideas of Nature were called by Locke sensible ideas.
These ideas were derived from our sensible Experience, and it is only
just to Locke to point out that, when examined in detail, his sensible
ideas are seen to be not mere qualifications of sensation, but rather
the elementary characters of Nature viewed as a dynamic process and
discovered by our Activity. Yet the ambiguous term _sensible ideas_
unfortunately led to their being regarded as ideas derived, not from our
action in any form, but from pure sensation alone.

This extraordinary error was intensified in the speculation of Berkeley
and Hume. Experience with them appeared to consist solely of a
succession of sensations appearing to, impressing, or affecting a
_tabula rasa_ of consciousness.

Of course in such a state of affairs all Knowledge would be impossible.
The scepticism which logically followed from such a doctrine was too
universal to be capable even of the fiction that it was credible.
Berkeley, it is true, endeavoured to save the situation by postulating
the incessant and immediate intervention of the Deity as the sustainer
of the sensible panorama. This purely arbitrary and fictitious expedient
was entirely rejected by Hume, who with fearless honesty carried to its
ultimate results the direct consequences of the doctrine and then
complacently left human Knowledge to take care of itself.

       *       *       *       *       *

A masterly protest against the position of Hume was made by his
countryman Reid, who in his _Inquiry into the Human Mind_ very clearly
pointed out the fundamental difference between the sensible
accompaniments or constituents of our Experience and the real and
independently existent substratum by which that Experience is sustained
and organised. His argument, though it attracted considerable attention,
did not, however, affect as deeply as might have been expected the
future of philosophic speculation, probably because he offered no new
clue or key whereby to detect the origin and account for the presence in
our Experience of those enduring and substantial elements or forms by
which it is sustained, but on the contrary left their recognition to
what he rather vaguely described as common sense.

       *       *       *       *       *

Much more influential was the elaborate answer of Kant, which has
profoundly affected the course of Metaphysics since its publication.
Reverting in principle to the platonic method, Kant again sought the
enduring elements, the fundamentals of Science, in the constitution of
the cognitive faculty itself. But very differently from Plato he
discovered these in the categories or essential forms of intellective
action,--the category of causality and dependence and the so-called
forms of the transcendental æsthetic--Time and Space. Under these
categories the indefinite data of sensation were thought to be organised
into a cognisable system.

A rapid advance of speculation along the lines signalised by Kant took
place after his work was published, and for many years this movement was
regarded by a large part of the speculative world as the most hopeful
and progressive of philosophic efforts, and by its own votaries as
placing them in a position of superiority to all other schools of
thought. The thoroughness of their studies and introspective methods to
some extent justified, or at least excused the arrogance of their

But it is to-day almost unnecessary even to criticise this Philosophy.

From the first it was foredoomed to failure, and had no prospect of
succeeding where Plato--equipped with armour from the same forge--had
already failed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kantianism like Platonism failed because it still left the sensible
unaccounted for. Not only did it fail to tell us whence came these
sensations which, however transitory and unreal, constantly saluted our
consciousness and largely constituted our Experience; it failed also to
show us how they could be brought into relation with the faculty of

Finding its elemental forms in the structure of the organ of Knowledge,
it failed to tell us how we ever managed by means of these to get beyond
our own subjective states, or how we ever came to think that there was a
World outside of the individual consciousness, by the categories of
which, according to them, our cognitions of such a World were called
into being. For if Reality were unknowable except by and through the
categories, then our Knowledge of Reality was the creature of our own
mental activity, and we must still remain unable to understand why we
should suppose that we had got beyond ourselves.

These defects of Kantianism were early recognised by Schopenhauer, who
also appears to have realised that what was wanted was another and a new
key to unlock the gateway of Knowledge.

Knowledge was in essence an affirmation or series of affirmations about
a real World distinct from the Knower. It was surely now obvious that
the warrant for such affirmations and the source of their validity must
come from somewhere beyond the cognitive faculty itself. The source upon
which men again and again have seemed to fall back is Sensation; but
Sensation being transitory and dependent for its existence upon its
being felt can really give us no help. Some other, some self-existent
thing is wanted, and with considerable insight Schopenhauer suggested
that the key was to be found in the Will.

But this theory, though it has lately attracted considerable attention,
can hardly be claimed as offering any definite prospect of a solution.
Its cardinal defect is that it still fails to show how the sensible
arises. It is supposed to be generated out of pure Volition, but no
causal nexus, no direct connection of any kind is immediately apparent
between the two, and Schopenhauer in developing his theory did nothing
to supply the want. The doctrine cannot therefore be regarded as more
than a helpful stepping-stone to the true answer.

       *       *       *       *       *

In recent years various forms of opportunist philosophies under the
names of Pragmatism, Pluralism, etc., have endeavoured to elude the
pressure of the dilemma and to solace mankind for the failure of
Kantianism by advising them to accept Experience as it is. But though
such a counsel of resignation may in a popular sense of the term be
regarded as philosophical it can hardly be accepted as a solution.

       *       *       *       *       *

We find, then, that since man first began to inquire reflectively upon
the nature of his cognitive faculty his speculation has followed one or
other of two great lines or divisions of theory, neither of which has
been found to afford intellectual satisfaction.

We have (1) the theory that seeks in some way or other to derive the
real constituents of Science from the constitution of the cognitive
faculty itself. To this theory, which has inspired one whole stream of
speculation from Plato to Hegel, there are at least two absolutely fatal

(_a_) It fails altogether to account for the sensible presentation which
however fluent and unstable appears to stand in a direct and even
unique relation to the real. It fails to let us understand how that
relation arises, how the sensible is generated, or how it enters into
our consciousness.

(_b_) We are unable under this theory to discover how we ever reach a
Knowledge of the real World, how we can get beyond ourselves, how if the
Mind in its search for truth is perpetually intercepted by its own forms
it can ever furnish us with any genuine cognitions of the external.

(2) We have the theory that the essential forms of Reality are to be
found in the Object and are thence supplied to the Understanding, which
plays the part merely of a receptive surface or _tabula rasa_.

In the hands of Aristotle this doctrine took the form of an affirmation
that Nature must be regarded as an energetic process containing within
itself the potency by which it perpetually generated the actual.

Promising as it was in Aristotle's hands, this speculation was not
carried forward or assimilated by his immediate successors. Indeed, it
was practically forgotten until the intellectual revival of the
sixteenth century, which inaugurated the foundations of modern Science.
However little the fact may have been consciously recognised even by
the leaders of scientific discovery, this was the conception of Nature
which inspired and sustained the scientific advance. In the department
of philosophic speculation, however, it appeared only under the debased
and misleading form of a belief that the sensible presentation was the
true source of the contents of Cognition, that it was from Sensation
that the Mind of Man derived the whole fabric of Science. "_Penser c'est
sentir_" was the form in which it was expressed by Condillac, but was
equally the view which commended itself to Berkeley, at least in his
early writings, to Hume, and to a whole army of successors down to J. S.

We hope we have already sufficiently emphasised the falsity of such a
view. Obviously, if the Mind were merely the passive recipient of a
stream of impressions, no sort of rational Discourse, no scientific or
cognitive effort could ever have been stimulated into activity, and the
very ideas of causality and relation, indeed all that we associate with
the exercise of the understanding, could never have been called into

Upon neither of these views of the nature of Knowledge can we arrive at
any consistent or intelligible conception of its genesis, nature, or
method of operation.

What, then, must we do? It is hardly doubtful that if we are to make
any progress we must find another and a new key whereby to unlock the
double door that bars the entrance to the inner shrine of truth.

Now _the_ fundamental, or at least _a_ fundamental error characteristic
of all these various efforts after a solution is to be found in the fact
that they view the World as a static thing rather than as a kinetic

The World to vision seems a great still thing in or on which no doubt
innumerable bodies are moving to and fro, but which itself--the
fundamental thing--is solid and unchanging. But this is an illusion. The
seemingly unchanging features are changeless only in the monotony of
their constant mutation.

Cohering masses are rigid in respect only of the constancy of the
dynamic process of transmutation in which cohesion consists. The sun
shines eternally steady only in consequence of the ceaseless kinetic
energies which give it being.

What we are ever doing in rational Discourse, what Knowledge constantly
accomplishes, is to furnish an account, a reproduction of a series of
operations. The World is a process--an activity. That was recognised as
long ago as the days of Heracleitus, but his disciples did
not--although we think there is good ground for believing that he
did[60:1]--his disciples did not realise that a process, whilst it
implies constant flux and change, implies also something permanent even
in its mutations, something which undergoes the change and sustains the

To understand a thing is to discover how it _operates_. The eternal
forms of things are laws of natural action. Such are the law of
gravitation, the laws of optics or of chemical combination. A static
picture unless so interpreted must be at once valueless and meaningless.

It follows that Thought and Discourse, in furnishing us with Knowledge,
must themselves be active, and must in some way or other reproduce the
activity of Nature. Thought, in short, _is_ an Activity which reproduces
the activity of things, the activity in which the phenomena of Nature

But how do we arrive at any apprehension of Natural Action? What informs
us that Nature is a potency ever operative? What suggests to us the
conception of potency at all? We reply that we arrive at the idea of
potent action because we are ourselves active beings. Our organism
maintains itself by constant physiological activities. These are the
permanent constancies of transmutation which _constitute_ the organism.

But superimposed upon these there are our voluntary exertional
activities. By these latter we necessarily mingle with and indeed
participate in the action of the natural forces which (as we usually
say) surround us, but which in point of fact do more than surround us.
The disparate grouping of natural bodies in vision blinds us to the fact
that we are really not merely surrounded by but are mingled with and
participate in the dynamic system.[61:1] We are continually pressing
with our weight upon the bodies on which we rest, we are continually
exerting or resisting the pressure of so-called adhering
masses--resistance-points in one dynamic system of which we are
ourselves a part. Thus it is that in our exertional action we reveal to
our consciousness not only the forms of our own activity but the forms
of the dynamic system which contains and yet transcends the Sensible and
the Ideal.

The theory we have suggested enables us to proceed at once to a
rational explanation of Sensation.

Sensation is _obstructed action_. A detailed consideration of as many as
you like to take of the myriad constituents of our sensible Experience
will continually and without exception confirm this simple fact.

In Nature it is the potent action which is real. It alone can be
directly represented by the activity of Thought. The mere obstruction of
activity is not a real thing, hence the unreal character of Sensation.
Yet the obstruction being an obstruction of the real action of Nature
is, if not real, at least actual and immediate. Nay, its presence in our
Experience, however mutable and unstable it may be, is the only sure
test and guarantee of Reality.

Each of the two leading theories which have dominated speculation
presents one partial aspect of the truth.

The eternal cognisable element of Reality _is_ apprehended, as the
Platonist holds, by the intellect and by the intellect alone. To that
extent the Platonist is right. That cognisable element is Action. But
Action is denoted for us only in the obstructions which it encounters.
These obstructions constitute our World of Sensible Experience, which
is therefore for each of us the sure indicator of the Real. In
recognising this fact the sensationalist is right in his turn.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not only does the dynamic conception of Nature enable us to account for
Sensation, but it lets us see how the Sensible World becomes a
constituent of Experience. It is by and through its obstructions and
these only that we featurise or denote our Experience. It is by the
breaks, the turnings in the road that we cognise its course. It is by
the line of rocks and breakers that we define the shore. But we must not
mistake the turnings for the roadway nor the shore for the ocean.

It is in and by our activity that we discover this World of sensible
obstructions. The features of the Sensible World correspond therefore to
the laws of our exertional activity, but the correspondence is
relational, not resemblant. Just so, it is by the reflection of Light
that we discover the forms of the obstacle which solid bodies oppose to
the radiant undulation. The resultant colours correspond to the form of
these obstructions; but the correspondence is relational not resemblant.
The same is true of sounds, of tactual sensations, of every other
sensible obstacle to pure activity.

By the clouds of smoke we follow or used to follow the progress of the
battle, but the battle is something other than a cloud of smoke.

We are, as Plato told us in his famous allegory, like prisoners in a
cave--our attitude averted from the aperture, and it is only by the
shadows cast upon the cavern wall that we can interpret the events which
are transacting themselves outside.

In one sense, therefore, the whole sensible and spatial World is real.
At least it is actual; and it affords us the materials from which we
construct our scheme of phenomena, and by which the kinetic process of
Reality is denoted and conceived.

The question ever and anon occurs to us--How upon this view can we solve
the problem of transcendence? How even on this view of the case do we
manage to get beyond ourselves? How are we in any way helped thereto by
the fact that Reality consists in potent action rather than in

Again, the answer is significant. In action, that is, in exertional
action, we are really _part_ of a larger _whole_. Our exertional action
is _ab initio_ mingled in and forms really an integral part of the
dynamic system in which our life is involved. The ever operative forces
of Gravity, Cohesion, Chemical Affinity, and so forth are the phenomenal
expression of the laws of energetic transmutation in which we partake
and of which we are organically a part, however apparently separate and
disparate our bodies may seem to be. It is life and feeling, not action,
which really distinguish the individual from his environment, at least
from his material dynamic environment. Be it noted that what is required
is not an explanation of how we transcend Experience. That by no effort
can we ever do in Knowledge. All we are required to explain is how we
transcend our Thought and our Sensibility. The answer is: Our Experience
begins in action, and it begins therefore in a sphere which is beyond
the mere subjective Consciousness, and yet is _organically one_ with the
organs of Cognition and Feeling.

It is only by a visual fiction that we come to regard our active selves
as distinct from the dynamic system. We cannot, in fact, shake off the
bonds of corporeality, of gravity, of all the various restraints of our
organic activity.

Relatively, however, the cerebral activity of Thought is liberated from
the stresses of the dynamic environment; hence the apparent freedom and
independence, under certain conditions, of Thought, Imagination, and

A great difficulty in realising this view of Experience is to be found
in the apparent Solidity and Inertia of material bodies. Sensible
experiences group themselves round these _constancies_. But a material
body, when its sensible concomitants are abstracted, is nothing more
than a permanent process of energy transmutation the interruption of
which in one form or another may originate Sensation. It follows that
the world of spatially extended bodies is a homogeneous and consistent
whole, reflecting in its laws and forms the real operations by which it
is constituted and sustained. But all this actual World is nevertheless
phenomenal only, albeit the phenomena are derived from and related to
the Real as change is to the thing which changes.

To a large extent we are misled by the impressive prominence of the
visual data. In vision we are presented with a system of inter-related
and simultaneously occurring sensations which we find by experience to
be the sure and certain indicators of the potent obstructions which our
activity encounters. For this reason we habitually make use of the
visual sign as the guide and instrument of our exertional activity, and
this habitual use leads us to regard the visual presentation as the
essential form of Reality. However sure we are that that is a false
view, it yet is very difficult to retrace our steps and re-enter the
elemental darkness which involves the blind.

The philosophic value of the interpretation of Experience by the blind
ought therefore to be very great. Observations made on the experiences
of the blind and of those to whom vision has been restored are not very
numerous, but many of these recorded by Plainer, the friend of Leibniz,
and others are of the highest value, and remarkably confirm the view for
which we have been contending.

Undoubtedly, so far as we are aware, the most valuable contribution to
this aspect of the discussion is to be found in a little volume recently
published in Paris under the title _Le Monde des Aveugles_. The author,
M. Pierre Villey, is himself blind. In the interests of Science he has
cast aside the delicacy and reserve which have generally prevented the
blind from analysing or at least from discussing the import of their
experiences. He is also fortunately possessed of a philosophic and
highly cultivated intellect, and has not failed to make himself
acquainted with the general course of metaphysical speculation.

The present writer has been in correspondence with M. Villey, whose
conclusions remarkably confirm the view for which this essay contends,
and he finds that M. Villey recognises the truth of that view.
Individual quotations would only detract from the cumulative effect of
his argument, but we may refer in particular to the interesting
discussion as to the relations between the space concepts of the blind
and those of the vident. The blind can be taught, and are taught,
geometry, and can discuss and understand spatial and geometrical
problems. The sensible furniture by which the spatial conceptions of the
blind are denoted obviously cannot be visual, and are no doubt largely
tactual, whilst on the other hand the vident utilise the visual data to
the almost total exclusion of any other. There must therefore be some
common measure by means of which a community is established between the
spatial conceptions of the blind and those of the vident. M. Villey
concludes and clearly shows that the common medium is to be found in the
fact that our spatial conceptions are fundamentally based upon and are
expressive of the discoveries of our exertional activity. Touch, in
short, is an ambiguous term and includes both passive sensations and
those forms of Activity which we describe when we use the term "feel" as
a transitive verb. Just as we distinguish between seeing and looking or
between hearing and listening, so should we distinguish between touch
passive and touch active or palpation.

       *       *       *       *       *

The view of Science which we have endeavoured to explain has received a
notable confirmation from the establishment during the latter part of
the nineteenth century of the scientific doctrine of Energy.[69:1]

The culmination of the scientific fabric of which Galileo and Newton
laid the foundations was reached when it was demonstrated that the whole
physical universe must be regarded as composed of Energy, either kinetic
and actually undergoing transmutation from one form to another, or
potential and quiescent yet containing within itself the quantifiable
capacity of transformation. The objective correlatives of the different
classes of sensible experiences are found to be different forms which
this Energy assumes--the kinetic energy of a mass in motion, the radiant
energy of Light, the energy of Heat, the potential energy of chemical
separation, etc.--all these have now at length been shown to be forms of
one real thing capable under appropriate conditions of being transmuted
into each other and of which not only the inter-transmutability but the
equivalent values can be calculated and have been found by experiment to
be fixed and definite. Thus the mechanical equivalent of heat is a fixed
and definite quantity. The Energy of a body in motion can be measured
and stated in terms of mass and velocity.

The profound conception of Aristotle, under which Nature was regarded as
a potent Energy containing within itself the capacity of generating the
phenomenal World, has again been revived and realised--but with great
additions. The theory in the hands of Science is now not only confirmed
by incessant experiment, but the relation which it affirms between
reality and phenomenon has been _quantified_.

Moreover, the actual operations under which the potential generates the
actual have, so to say, been laid bare to view; and lastly, the
inter-transmutability of all forms of Energy and its real unity have
been established.

The doctrine has therefore received a confirmation of which Aristotle
did not dream, and its explanation has at the same time received an
illumination which his vague if profound adumbration could never afford.
With this added support the true conception of human knowledge has
received new strength. The theory is still, nevertheless, not to be
grasped without a resolute effort of reflection. It involves an
inversion of our everyday conceptions more radical than that which was
demanded by the Copernican theory of astronomy, and we know that that
theory--offered to and rejected by mankind before the beginning of the
Christian era--had to wait through sixteen or seventeen hundred years
before it secured an acceptance, at first grudging and even now not
always adequate.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ordinary metaphysical student has hitherto rather resented the idea
that in order to a true solution of the problem of Knowledge he must
acquaint himself with the fundamental conceptions of physics. Yet so it
is. It may perhaps be hoped that when the first strangeness of the new
position has disappeared the conditions may be accepted with greater
readiness. At any rate, a correct apprehension of our fundamental
conceptions of the world of our external experience is indispensable. No
theory can wholly dispense with such conceptions. It is therefore
essential that, however elementary, they should be clear and not
contradictory. Philosophy has always vaguely realised and exacted as
much. The need is now imperative.

Some years ago, in an essay on Schopenhauer, the author, Mr. Saunders,
remarked, "How the matter of which my arm is composed and that state of
consciousness which I call my Will [imagine anyone calling Will a state
of consciousness!] are conjoined is a mystery beyond the reach of
Science, and the man who can solve it is the man for whom the world is

Well, if that be so, then the world need not wait any longer. The
required explanation is offered to metaphysics by the scientific work of
the physicians who built up and consolidated the modern doctrine of
Energy. It is true that most of them have continued to postulate the
reality of material bodies. For their purpose there was no real
difficulty in doing so. What they required was a datum of configuration,
a phenomenal basis upon which their calculations could proceed and in
terms of which, as a point of origin, their statement of transmutations
was made. The persistence of material bodies is a condition precedent to
the phenomenal manifestations in which our Experience arises. Organic
existence in every form and the world in which it arises presuppose the
actuality of these. But dynamically they are merely the phenomenal
result of certain permanent forces constantly in operation. To beings,
if there be such, inhabiting the Ether there is little doubt but that a
gravitation system like that of the sun and its planets must present a
corporate rigidity and identity somewhat similar to that which cohering
masses present to our intelligence. But, in terms of reality, Energy,
potential and kinetic, containing within itself the potency which
generates the actual and sustains the constant transmutation in which
phenomena arise is the sole and only postulate.

The rise of meta-geometrical methods and other branches of scientific
speculation have led in recent years to a considerable amount of very
interesting inquiry into the nature of our fundamental geometrical
conceptions. Strange to say, a large body of respectable mathematicians
have been found to favour the extraordinary view that our mathematical
conceptions are derived from Sensation. We do not propose here to
discuss at length this idea. It is merely another form of the old
sensationalist view of Knowledge, but we suggest that the conditions of
the problem will readily appear in their true light and real nature
whenever such inquirers realise the fact that our exertional activity is
the source of our cognitions of the external, and that therefore our
pure exertional activity is the source of the basal concepts of

Here lies the root of the distinction between pure and empirical
science. The propositions of geometry, being derived from our own pure
activity, are of the former class; the inductive conclusions of physical
experimental science, being gathered by observation and measurement
from sensible data, are empirical and approximate. A geometrical
proposition--such, for example, as the assertion that the three angles
of a triangle are equal to two right angles--is not merely approximate.
It has no dependence on measurement. It is absolutely true. It is
ascertained deductively, and therefore measurement is not involved, and
is never employed. Its truth is not ascertained by measurement. It is
not verified by measurement. It in no degree depends upon the sensible
figure. It is equally true for every human being whatever be the degree
of accuracy of the figure by the aid of which he studies it, or indeed
whether he studies it by figure or otherwise, as must necessarily be the
case with the born blind.

There may be many different forms of energetic transmutation which may
determine many other forms of space besides that form of tridimensional
space in which our Activity is involved. For such, a different geometry
may and will be applicable; but for the tridimensional conditions of
_our activity_ the proposition is necessary and absolute. No measurement
of any stellar parallax, however minute and whatever the result might
be, could have any bearing on its truth. Geometry is the science of the
pure forms of our motor activity amidst corporeal bodies.

A useful illustration of our argument is to be drawn from a
consideration of the question of phonetic spelling. Occasionally we find
persons urging that all spelling should be an exact reproduction of
sound. Indeed, an improved alphabet has been designed to enable the idea
to be carried out with greater accuracy.

Now it is quite true that it is by their sound that we recognise or
denote our words. Hence our alphabet was originally phonetic in
principle, and indeed still is so, although the correspondence is
imperfect. As the use of visible signs develops spelling seems to fall
into certain fixed frames and to deviate more and more from pure
phonetic simplicity. But why is this so? It is because the sounds are
merely the symbols or indicators of the different forms of vocal
articulation (vocal acts), and it is really as the symbols and
indicators of these actions that they possess any meaning and acquire
such permanence and identity as they have. The phonetic system,
therefore, becomes in use subordinated to the expression of the acts by
which are produced these radical vocables which constitute the
essentials of rational Discourse.

In all this the process of the expression of words in spelling is a
microcosmic counterpart of the process of cognition as we have tried to
explain it.

It is noteworthy that the same thing necessarily happens in the case of
any new system of spelling.

The most prominent advocates of phonetic spelling have been also the
authors of a system of phonetic shorthand.

Like the written and printed alphabet of Europe, the alphabet of
Phonography was made phonetic. Indeed it started off as a more nearly
perfect phonetic system than the ordinary European alphabet. But as its
use advances its employment undergoes the same change. The phonetic
symbols are abbreviated by grammalogues and contractions, and this
proceeds in accordance with a principle unconsciously recognised but
which really depends on the same inherent necessity to preserve in a
consistent form the expression of the radical vocables of Speech.
Finally, in the hands of the expert stenographer the system of phonetic
shorthand (though he still uses the sound as the guide and indicator of
his actions) is as far removed from a pure phonetic representation as
the ordinary method of spelling. Indeed, unless some such suprasensible
and unifying principle were available, phonetic spelling would speedily
perish in an infinity of degenerate variations.

We adduce this illustration as one which very well confirms our main
argument. We have no desire to discuss on its merits the general
question of Spelling Reform, which of course is quite apart from the
attempt to establish a scheme of spelling on a purely phonetic basis. A
more rational system of spelling is nevertheless an object worthy of all

       *       *       *       *       *

Intellectualism and sensationalism have both broken down. The world of
speculation is anxiously looking for a new clue. Witness the pathetic
eagerness with which it clutches at every floating straw. The
innumerable "isms" by which it seeks ever and anon to keep itself afloat
are most of them but the sometimes unrecognisable wreckage of the old
systems drifting about under very inappropriate names. Such terms as
Realism and Idealism are freely used (generally prefixing the adjective
"new") by writers in philosophic periodicals in a sense which might make
Plato, Aquinas, or Kant turn in their graves.

We see their votaries encumbered with the trappings of a futile
erudition of the insignificant or clinging pathetically to the insecure
relics of teleological doctrine, or, still less virile, seeking support
in a return to the unscientific tales of supernatural spiritualism. Such
efforts are vain.

Only by facing the facts with all their consequences, whatever these
may be and whatever they may involve for the proudest aspirations of
mankind--only thus can truth be attained. And lest any should say that
we preach an unrelieved pessimism, let us remind such that Knowledge is
not after all the source of Life, that another category and a different
principle--that, namely, which we indicate under the term
Love-divine--must have generated the potent current of Life, and that no
one should close the door against the hopes of the human Intelligence
until he has discovered what are the limits imposed upon what Perfect
Love can do.

The question still remains whether mankind will be equal to the effort
required to assimilate the essential truth. They very nearly failed to
assimilate the Copernican cosmogony. For sixteen hundred years after it
was first offered to mankind the race preferred to grope in the darkness
and confinement of a false conception.

If they succeed in accomplishing the reception of the new truth,
unheard-of progress may be looked for. If they fail, civilisation must
disappear and humanity decline. There is no middle course. As Bacon
remarked, in this theatre of man's life it is reserved only to God and
angels to be lookers-on.

We know how stubbornly the Ptolemaic cosmogony still clings to our
conceptions, how largely it still dominates--or till recently did
dominate--the religious cosmography of the most civilised peoples.

In Philosophy our leading teachers seem as yet to have a very feeble
appreciation of the new conditions. They turn greedily to the eloquent
pages of _L'Evolution créatrice_, but however earnestly they search they
cannot find there any definite solution of the difficulties of the
age-old problem. They wander wearily through the mazes of psychological
detail or wage almost childish logomachies over the interpretation of
each other's essays. Philosophical magazines are filled with articles
which reflect this state of the philosophic mind. Philosophical
congresses meet and argue and go home; Gifford lecturers prelect; yet so
far as can be seen there is little sign that the key has been grasped.
The great fact remains obscured amidst a mass of words.

The elucidation of the problem of Knowledge demands certain improvements
in our philosophic terminology. Language as a rule is a very unerring
philosopher, and words shaped and polished by long usage generally
express, more truly than those who use them realise, the essential
reality of things. Yet these long-enduring errors of the ages which we
have been discussing here have left their impress too on the terminology
of Metaphysics.

Thought and Action are in common speech contrasted, and the distinction
expresses an essential truth. But when we seek to say further that both
of these are Activities, we are stating another truth in terms which are
hardly consistent with the previously contrasted distinction. It might
be better if Action and Active could be applied generally to both and if
the term _exertion_ could be substituted for Action in describing the
forms of activity which we denominate _motor_. To that suggestion,
however, there are also serious objections. The words derived from _ago_
have historically a special application to the exertional and dynamic.
We leave the question to our readers as one of which it is of
considerable importance to find a satisfactory solution.

In the foregoing pages our object has been to illustrate the erroneous
conceptions by which the theory of human cognition has been obscured and
to explain briefly what we conceive to be the true solution. The
argument in support of the doctrine here explained has been more fully
presented by the present writer in an essay entitled _The Dynamic
Foundation of Knowledge_, to which the reader who desires to study the
question further must now be referred.


[60:1] Κόσμον τόνδε τὸν αὐτὸν ἀπάντων οὔτε τις Θεῶν οὔτε ἀνθρώπων
ἐποίησε, ἀλλ' ἧν αἰεὶ καὶ ἔστι καὶ ἔσται πῦρ ἀείζωον ἁπτόμενον μέτρα
καὶ ἀποσβεννύμενον μέτρα. Quoted by Clement of Alexandria, etc. (_The
First Philosophers of Greece_, by A. Fairbanks, p. 28.)

[61:1] "La subdivision do la matière en corps isolés est relative à
notre perception" (_Evolution créatrice_, p. 13).

[69:1] For a clear brief summary of the theory the reader may be
referred to a little work by Sir William Ramsay, F.R.S., entitled
_Elements and Electrons_, pp. 8-15.



The problem of Metaphysics--the nature of Reality--still presses for a
solution. Agnosticism is but a cautious idealism--a timid phenomenalism.
That philosophy, however named, which proclaims that the experience of
life is nothing more than a vain show, a pantomime of sensations
distinguished only from ideas by their greater intensity and
distinctness, is not only a confession of failure. It is a denial of

To know the nature of the Absolute as such, to present the Absolute to
finite minds as it must be presented, if that be possible, to the
Absolute itself, must ever remain impossible to man. But it is equally
true that to attempt such a task has never been the urgent mission of
Philosophy. The distinction between the Ideal and the Real, between the
conceptual and the perceptual, is quite certainly and incessantly
recognised. Agnosticism can neither deny the fact successfully, nor
solve the speculative difficulties which its recognition raises up. The
Real and the Ideal, essentially distinct yet mockingly similar, for ever
blend and intermingle in the composite experience of life. Truly to
discriminate and unravel these,--validly to separate the Ideal element
which impregnates that Reality which we are for ever compelled to
postulate and recognise, still remains the great problem of
Philosophy--humbler perhaps and more practical, but not less profound
than any vain attempt to discover to finite conception the Absolute as
it is in itself. Therefore it is that the efforts of negative and
agnostic criticism to dispense with the recognition of Reality as a
necessary postulate of our activity are foredoomed to failure. They
leave us not a solitude which we might pretend to be peace, but a
seething sea of troubles urgently demanding a new attempt to reveal the
unity which must underlie the infinite diversity of experience.

Such, indeed, seems to us the present position of Metaphysics; and, what
is more important, it appears to react with increasing force upon the
theories and investigations of Science.

The problem of Reality is thus at present not without a special and
increasing interest for the students of Physical Science. Until lately
they have been taught and have always maintained that Matter is the
direct object of sense-perception. No doubt it is long since Philosophy
has urged that our conceptions of the external world are a mentally
constructed system. But this doctrine has made but little impression
upon the students of Natural Science. The objective origin of our
sensations and the apparently objective reality also of the intelligible
qualities and operative laws of the external world are too strongly
impressed upon their minds. Idealism and Transcendentalism have carried
no conviction to them. Still, the difficulties of common sense have
continued to grow. Recent developments of scientific theory have
increased the urgency of the problem, but they seem to us also to
suggest a solution the beneficial results of which affect the whole of

We refer to the doctrine of Energy, which occupies now as great a place
in the physical sciences as the doctrine of Evolution does in the
zoological sciences.

Natural philosophers have for some time taught that there are two Real
Things in the physical universe--Matter and Energy. It seems a very
striking theory. Has it received the attention it deserves from the
student of Metaphysics? We are convinced that it has not: and the reason
he most frequently gives for this neglect is that, being a purely
scientific doctrine, it does not come within his sphere. Science, we are
told, deals with the phenomenal world internally considered; Philosophy
with the relations of the phenomenal world to Reality, and with the
nature of the transcendental elements in our Knowledge.

This may be generally true. Nevertheless, Philosophy and Science have
surely concepts in common. They both refer to the same thing when they
speak of Space; we presume also when they speak of Matter. Indeed,
Philosophy analyses the conceptions involved not only in scientific
reasoning, but in the most common and ordinary mental processes. It
analyses them with special reference to the relations between the
Phenomenal and the Real--a question which, though it always lies latent,
does not in ordinary circumstances arise in urgent form. It is therefore
evident that the fundamental conceptions of Science _do_ fall within the
purview of Philosophy.

The study of Physics _can_ be carried on practically as a study of
phenomena--of Heat, Colours, Sounds, Forces, etc., all of which are
kinds of phenomena--without the expression of any dogmatic and
formulated opinion as to their relation with Reality. Physics can speak
of mass and weight and avoid all reference to Matter; but there always
is, in scientific reasoning, an implicit reference to Reality, and it
facilitates, therefore, the expression of scientific reasoning, when the
account of a physical process is stated with reference to a supposed
reality, such as Matter. And in making such reference Science _is_
thinking of the thing-in-itself. It _is_ a reference beyond phenomena.

Heat, Light, Sound, Force, are names of classes of phenomena, and the
great discovery of Physics during the nineteenth century has been that
these are all transformable into each other, and bear definite numerical
relations to each other in proportion to which such transformations take
place. Science availing itself of this discovery, unifies its conception
of Nature and gives expression to the doctrine of the
inter-transmutability of the various classes of physical phenomena by
postulating an entity called Energy, and regarding the various classes
of phenomena as transmutations which this entity undergoes. But Science
has been reluctant to recognise that it is now entitled to dispense with
the postulation of Matter. The theory, as announced by the leading men
of science, has therefore been to the effect that there exist in the
physical universe _two_ real things--Matter and Energy--in place of one
only, as commonly supposed for so long.

Now we maintain, on the contrary, that such a statement of physical
theory is erroneous and redundant; that Science is not obliged to
postulate _two_ such entities; that the concept of Energy supplies all
her requirements; and that the employment of that conception obviates
the very serious contradictions which are involved in any assumption of
a real entity of the nature of Matter as ordinarily understood--a
conception of which the very description involves difficulties which
have perplexed thinking men for more than two centuries.

Our argument on this point involves consideration of the place occupied
by Energy in a potential form.

Whilst the transformability of Heat, Light, Sound, and other physical
phenomena in definite numerical ratios has led to their being all
regarded as actual manifestations of transmutations proceeding in one
real thing, occasionally there is a seeming break in the catena; no
phenomenon can be detected into which the heat or light or other
immediately preceding manifestation has been transformed; but, later on,
the co-relative reappears, and by an argument as strong as that which
asserts the continuous identity of an intelligence before, during, and
after a temporary suspension of consciousness, the student of Physics
maintains the continued existence _in posse_, if not _in esse_, of the
Energy which by appropriate action he can again reveal in an active or
kinetic manifestation. Hence arises the conception of potential Energy.
The Energy to which we attribute the force of cohesion which any
particular body can on occasion manifest, we believe to exist
potentially whilst that body continues unacted upon. Our belief is
confirmed by our experience of the certainty with which, on the
recurrence of the given conditions, the force always again manifests
itself. In like manner the potential Energy to which we attribute the
Force of Gravitation we believe to exist at all times, even when not
kinetically active. Indeed, it only manifests itself when a
transmutation is taking place into some other form of Energy. Now it is
the universal association of these two forms of potential Energy with
the common and fundamental data of our sense-experience that has
suggested the construction in our minds of the conception of Matter, and
furnished us with the ideas of solidity, impenetrability, and weight
which constitute its groundwork.

Our view, therefore, is that the concept of materiality can, in the way
just indicated, be in all cases analysed into, and derived from, the
conception of Energy; and that Science, if consistent, cannot postulate
the reality of Matter as well. Potential Energy adequately supplies the
demand for a real substratum of which phenomena are the manifestation.

The whole question is very well worth the attention, not only of
scientific students but of metaphysicians. The inquiry will distinctly
gain if it receive the auxiliary attention of those who have studied the
process by which we form our mental conceptions, and whilst the students
of Physics deserve the honours of discovery, they cannot safely dispense
with such assistance, for which the present confused and inconsistent
state of the fundamental definitions of Physical Science most urgently
calls. There is here a neglected but very interesting field for the
metaphysician's efforts.

Recent scientific writings contain enough to show us that men of science
are already beginning to recognise not only the inconsistency of the
theory of two real things, but the dominating significance of the
conception of Energy, and are gradually coming to claim for the
conception of Matter little more than recognition as the vehicle of
energetic transmutation. Let us then for the moment accept the position
that Science--ridding itself of redundant theory--postulates Energy as
the real thing-in-itself, in terms of which it frames its statement of
physical phenomena, and let us examine briefly the effects which the
acceptance of this new postulate is likely to have on philosophic

All my Presentment, all the content of my sense-experience, according to
this theory, I attribute to a multifarious continuous series of
transmutations constantly proceeding in some portion of the system of
Energy which constitutes the real substratum of phenomena. I study,
measure, and classify the different species of these transmutations; I
associate particular sensations and classes of sensations with
particular transmutations, and I thence infer the existence _in posse_
or _in esse_ of more or less Energy in some particular form transmuting
itself according to some one or other definite physical law. I infer
also the existence of various supplies of potential Energy constantly
available, and of other intelligent agents like myself.

I associate every such intelligent agent with a particular series or
group of sense-experiences, and further I assume that the world at his
Presentment, consists for him in a similar series of transmutations
continuously going on in that portion of the energetic system which I
believe in a similar way to constitute such person's bodily organism.
Thus by the same process of reasoning by which I am led to believe that
my own Presentment consists in the energetic transmutations proceeding
in my organism, I explain the universality of the experience of all
intelligent agents. In my own case, by that union of consciousness with
physical energy which accompanies the manifestation of life, I am
immediately related with that portion of the energetic system which is
the real substratum of my organism, and am made conscious of the series
of transmutations occurring at that particular point in it which is
represented by my sensory system. In the case of others, from certain of
the transmutations occurring in my Presentment, I am led to infer the
existence of other similar microcosmic systems in the energetic
macrocosm of the physical universe.

This is all very well as a theory, but if all I know is the series of
transmutations occurring in the portion of the system of Energy related
directly to my intelligence, how did I ever learn to infer from these
transmutations the existence of that Energy underlying them, and still
more of the whole energetic system extending far beyond my organism? How
do I deduce from transmutations proceeding in the portion of the
energetic system which constitutes the real substratum of my organism
the existence, not only of that substratum itself, but of other portions
of the system similarly related to other intelligences, and of the
energetic system as a whole? How do I get beyond my Presentment? How
pass from Ideality to Existence?

I answer that I never could by any chance or possibility have got beyond
it or got any suggestion of the Reality had I been merely related to my
Presentment as a passive and percipient subject. In point of fact,
however, I am in relation with the energetic system not merely or
primarily as an Intelligence percipient of the transmutations proceeding
in it at a particular point, but also as a Will initiative to some
extent of such transmutations and capable of influencing and directing
the physical process. Life necessarily involves a process of energetic
transmutation constantly proceeding at that portion of the system of
Energy which constitutes my organism, and I am there related as Will
with a larger system which embraces the part in which intelligence is

Fundamentally, life manifests itself in all grades of the zoologic
hierarchy as a union of Volition (or what appears in action as Volition)
with some particular point in the universe of physical Energy, the union
constituting what we call a living organism.

Despite its profound importance to us personally and to our race, we
should not forget that, objectively considered, the brain in man and the
higher animals is merely a special organ highly developed by use, as
the trunk is in the elephant, the middle phalanx in the horse, or wings
in the bird. Intelligence is hardly to any extent a necessity of the
vital union of the Will with the energetic system. It is not at all
developed in the vegetal kingdom, hardly at all in some branches of the
animal, and there may conceivably be an infinite number of other
"kingdoms" in which it may be either undeveloped, or very differently
developed, or superseded by some other manifestation by us unimaginable.
Its development indeed seems to be concurrent with the development of a
locomotive faculty--a striking confirmation of the theory that it is in
our activity that we derive the suggestions which call forth the
exercise of the Understanding and transform sensation into perception.

It is only with a comparative fraction of the organism that I am related
as a passively percipient intelligence. I am directly or indirectly
related as Will, as an originative cause of activity, with a larger
portion of my organism, many parts of which are quite distinct from the
cognitive portion. Now it is from my relation as Will with Energy other
than and beyond the energetic transmutations which constitute my
Presentment that I discover the energetic system of Nature, as a real
thing--beyond, underlying, and by its transmutations constitutive of my
Presentment. Many of the transmutations which occur in my Presentment I
recognise as attributable to my own volitional activity operating upon
my energetic organism, and _in my own activity there is thus suggested
to me a source of phenomena lying beyond these phenomena themselves_. A
transmutation initiated in my brain is a pure idea. The key which
suggests to me the real world is the occurrence of transmutations
ascribable to my activity operating beyond the sphere which constitutes
my Presentment.

It is in this way that I originally discover the real energetic
substratum to the phenomenal world of my Presentment. I learn from the
transmutations to infer the agency and operation of the underlying
energy, and thus gradually construct my whole systematic conception of
the real world in which I live and move and have my being.

This view of my activity and of the consequences of my relation as Will
to the energetic system represented by my organism, including the
portion thereof related to my intelligence, supplies us therefore with a
key to the inevitable reference of thoughts to things.

I distinguish in my active experience a clear difference between wishing
and willing, and further between willing and effective action. My
Power--the Energy related to my Will--the exertion of which is
necessary to translate Volition into an overt result--is a limited and
quantifiable thing, but that such a hidden energetic medium or
substratum underlies all phenomena is evident from the fact that I do
not will directly the appearance of any given phenomenon. I may wish
that. But when the Volition is reached and the wish transformed into
overt exertion I find myself involved in the multifarious processes of
an energetic system which I may so far influence, but which is
nevertheless in many ways constantly going on irrespective of my
Volition. I may wish to avoid pain and may will certain exertions with
that view, but the consequences may be the reverse of what I wished.
This shows that the Volition operates immediately not on the sensation
but on the energetic system.

In all cases between Volition and overt result there seems to be erected
and constantly maintained around me a vast energetic system, a part but
only a small part of which, namely the Energy of my organism, can be
influenced directly by my Will, whilst, even in immediate relation with
that part, transmutations beyond the reach of my Will are constantly
going on. Indeed, what fundamentally distinguishes Volition from Desire
is its relation to the energetic system.

The doctrine of Energy therefore puts in a new and clearer light the
whole theory of Causation.

It is common for philosophers to talk of invariable sequence as the
criterion of Causality. But, in fact, that is quite fallacious. No one
ever regards a phenomenon as the cause of another phenomenon. We ascribe
Causality to the energetic transmutation which in some form or other we
inevitably believe to accompany the appearance of every phenomenon. We
never postulate a causal relation between day and night--the most
notable case of invariable sequence. When we say the fire warms the
room, or the horse draws the cart, or the sun ripens the corn, it is the
Energy which we rightly or wrongly associate with the visual sensation
referred to in the words "fire" and "horse" and "sun" of which we are
thinking, and by no means of these visual sensations themselves. As has
been well said, we never suppose that the leading carriage of the train
draws those behind it, although their relation of sequence is quite as
close to it as to the engine.

True, it is and must be from and by phenomena only that I infer and
measure the transmutations of Energy, but the transmutations measured
are operations of the real thing-in-itself postulated by Science. The
existence of such Energy is suggested to me primarily in my experience
of my own activity in which I recognise my power of doing work--a
quantifiable and measurable thing, homogeneous with the Energy in
respect of which Science states the relations and conditions of all
physical phenomena. My most incessant mental act is that by which, on
the analogy of my own active experience, I refer all phenomena to the
underlying energetic system. This reference it is which transforms
sensation into perception; and the constant affirmation of this
reference is the great function of the synthetic mental activity of the
understanding, and is at once the origin and explanation of that
imperative mental tendency which metaphysicians call the law of

How, then, does this doctrine affect the theory of the nature of Space?

If it be true that the world as my Presentment consists in the
transmutations occurring in that particular part of the energetic system
which constitutes the real substratum of the brain, then phenomena as a
whole must arise in transmutation, in a process of Becoming rather than
in a state of Being, and Space must be the content, the condition, in
which that process proceeds. The laws of Space, therefore, are laws, so
to speak, of motion, not of position. The most absolutely still and
motionless visual presentation is really a series of constant
transmutations of Energy and the form of Space is constituted by the
laws of transmutation, which are thus at once the necessary conditions
of my perception and the universal conditions of all sense-perception.
Space, therefore, does not contain the real thing which sustains the
phenomenal world any more than it does the reality which underlies my
conscious self. It is the universal condition of the transmutations
which constitute phenomena; and it therefore "contains" all these
phenomena, including my body as phenomenon and only as phenomenon. Its
form is discovered by my organic motor activity, and in representing
this activity the mind constructs its concepts of Space and Extension.

This view of the nature of Space, by relating its forms and laws with
the objective, and a-logical thing-in-itself in virtue of the
transmutations of which our sense-experience occurs, relieves an obvious
difficulty which must always have been felt in accepting without
qualification the purely Kantian view which regarded it as a category
imposed by the Intelligence upon the otherwise unknowable world of

The most ardent assertors of the ideality of Space have hitherto
apparently had difficulty in avoiding the tendency to conceive it as the
persistent all-embracing objective content of the thing-in-itself, not
merely of the phenomenon, although the latter only might enter into
Knowledge. The doctrine, however, which presents our conception of Space
as discovered in our activity amid resistant transmutation-processes not
only establishes its ideality but at the same time explains the relation
which its form nevertheless bears to the objective material laws of the
sensible presentation. It liberates the mind from the oppressive
necessity of regarding Space as still somehow objectively extending and
containing the real world. It also relieves an obvious difficulty which
confronts the Philosophy of Schopenhauer in locating those
transcendental forms of the phenomenon which are imposed _a priori_ upon
the presentation, and yet are not to be found in the pure Volition.

Of course, it must never be forgotten that my whole sentient experience
consists primarily of the series of energetic transmutations occurring
at that part of the energetic system which is in immediate vital
relation with my consciousness. It is my experience of active exertion,
of moving, speaking, etc., which gives a suggestion of the real
energetic world. The transmutations of the real Energy of the world
beyond my organism never enter my Consciousness. Transmutations arising
beyond my body only enter the presentation by influencing the cerebral
process. The luminous undulation and the sound-wave must both produce
transmutation of the cerebral Energy in order to affect Consciousness.
Yet the various characters of the transmitted impulses are
distinguishable in the resultant cerebral transmutations. Thus I feel
sensations of hardness, roughness, pain, colour, sound, etc. It is by a
process of mental construction that I associate these with the forms of
my exertional activity, and thus frame my conceptions of real bodies in
the world around me--those which I more directly associate with the
Energy subject to my Volition being conceived as representing my body.
For reasons of convenience, I refer those conceptions chiefly to the
co-ordinated visual presentation, and thus build up my conception of the
extended world of material things. Science is possible because all
transmutations of Energy take place according to definite numerical laws
and ratios. The whole work of Science is to explain every phenomenon in
terms of its definite transmutation of Energy. These definite numerical
laws and processes are characteristic of all Energy transmutation, and
thus regulate the experience of every intelligent being. It is in virtue
of these that our separate systems of knowledge correspond, and that we
are thus presented each with corresponding aspects of one outer world.
The laws which regulate the cerebral changes that accompany
sense-presentation are for me the necessary _a priori_ laws of
perception. It is because these laws operate in common in all brains
that community of intercourse is possible amongst mankind. It is because
of the further fact that the whole of the transmutations of Energy which
constitute physical phenomena compose a numerically inter-related and
regulated system that Science and rational knowledge are possible to the
intellect of man. Our knowledge is what we are obliged to think and
assert regarding experience; but the universality of experience is not
explained merely by the common nature and general laws of Intelligence,
but depends also on the generality of the laws under which the
transmutations of Energy proceed.

We are now, therefore, by the aid of the doctrine of Energy, better able
than before to distinguish accurately between the Ideal and the Real as
contrasted elements in our experience.

My Presentment as a whole consists in the transmutation-processes--in
the sensations, feelings, perceptions, images, ideas--in short, in all
that is going on at the point where (I necessarily express myself in
terms of spatial relations, though in this connection these are
figurative) my sentience and intelligence are developed.

My whole Presentment is, therefore, in one sense subjective, or, as some
would say, ideal. For me, my Presentment is the impression produced on,
the condition established in, my Consciousness in virtue of what is
going on at this so-called point of contact.

What we mean, therefore, by the subjectivity or ideality of the
Presentment is the aspect of energetic transmutations when viewed as
affecting my Consciousness in contrast with their obverse aspect when
viewed as transmutations in the objective system. As my Presentment,
they are all subjective or ideal, and it is in this reference that
Berkeley and Hume, for instance, speak of ideas of sense, such as the
colour blue, the heat of the fire, the pain of a blow. These,
constituting the bulk of the Presentment, they distinguish from what
Berkeley called ideas of the imagination--those stimulated or
originated, or, as he said, "excited," by the intelligence itself.
Whilst he contended that both classes are ideal or subjective, in
respect that they are constituents of the Presentment, the latter have
an additional title to subjectivity in respect of their origin, and
constitute what are called "ideas" when the word is used in
contra-distinction to "sensations"--such pure ideas occurring in
response to a subjective impulse.

On the other hand, there is a sense in which the Presentment is, if not
real, at least actual and objective.

So far as we know, Intelligence never develops except in conjunction
with an organism--that is, in vital relation with physical Energy. My
Presentment is constituted by the occurrence and depends upon the
continuance of the transmutations or operations proceeding at the
related point in the energetic system. Even pure ideas, though
subjective not only in regard to aspect but in regard to their origin,
are objective in respect that they also consist in an energetic

Herein lies the germ of truth to be discovered even in the unintelligent
dogmatism of those philosophers who assert the absolute Reality of my
Presentment, as such--not merely its actuality. It is comparatively
seldom, however, either in Science or Philosophy, that we meet a thinker
prepared to go as far as that. Most take refuge in a distinction between
primary and secondary qualities of bodies, classing my sensations as
non-resembling secondary qualities, which they admit cannot be conceived
to exist without the mind in the form in which they make up my
Presentment, but reserving five or six primary qualities--solidity,
extension, figure, motion, rest--which they conceive to exist
independently, just as they enter into my Presentment. In point of fact,
however, these so-called primary qualities are not the names of
intuitions, but are abstractions or generalisations of the most general
and necessary elements of my active Experience by reference to which I
mentally construct my world. The transmutations of Energy are not a
never-repeated accidental kaleidoscope. They proceed according to
constant, definite, measurable laws, and though subordinate variations
are infinite and make up the details of my Presentment, the general laws
and conditions according to which all Energy transmutes are definite,
and constitute the general features or qualities of my Experience, and
these are the so-called primary qualities of bodies regarded in the
light of the doctrine of Energy.

The primary quality of extension, in particular, is a conception
resulting from the association of my visual Presentment with my power of
active exertion, and the delusive tendency to regard this quality as in
some sense primarily and fundamentally real is due to the unconscious
recognition of the fact that it is in virtue of my power, or association
as an agent with the energetic system, that I derive a suggestion of the
real world beyond the phenomena which constitute my experience.

I cannot exist without some development of activity. Hence are derived
my conceptions of free space and of resistance between bodies. My
primary sensations are the sensations of touch, and the primary impulse
of thought is to relate these with my active exertions. When sight is
first restored to the blind the first impulse is to regard the new
sensation as a form of touch. Its intellectual suggestiveness is a
development. The system or stream of transmutations in which my
volitional activity principally takes part is that represented by the
operation of the forces of Gravitation and Cohesion; the system which
influences my visual sensations is a quite different series. The changes
in this latter series, by their greater rapidity, enable me to
anticipate the other series, and for this and other reasons I employ
these sensations to signalise and symbolise the transmutations
proceeding in the series with which I am more immediately related as an
active and "willing" agent. All transmutations, if they result in
sensations, must do so by producing changes in the Energy of my
organism, and must therefore be conditioned by the general laws which
regulate the changes which occur there, or, in other words, must be
contained within a self-consistent spatial condition; but the
differences in the characters of visual Space, as it is called, and the
spatial content of my activity, reflect the differences in the series of
energetic transmutations with which they are respectively connected.

We see more clearly, therefore, with the aid of the doctrine of Energy,
the import of the theory of transcendental æsthetic enunciated by Kant,
who first pointed out that there are elements, and those the most
necessary and universal, in the sense-presentation which bear the
character of ideality as fully as the most subjective efforts of our
ideative activity. More particularly do we illustrate the ideality of
Space as a cognition precedent to experience. It is because general laws
constantly operative regulate the transmutations which constitute the
individual's Presentment that it is possible for him to abstract from
and generalise the data of sense; and it is because the subjective
process of Ideation, by which we mean our representative mental activity
in its widest sense, consists also in transmutations under the same
general laws of the same portion of the energetic organism, that it is
possible to frame general ideas. These general laws of organic
transmutation are the _a priori_ conditions of the necessary
determination in time of all existences in the world of phenomena.

The form, therefore, of the phenomenon, in the language of Kant, is
constituted by the transmutations of the Energy immediately related to
consciousness; the matter of the phenomenon is constituted by the
varieties produced in these by the transmitted transmutations from the
Energy beyond--just as the musician may produce a constant variety of
harmonies upon his instrument, but all must be conditioned by the
relations fixed and established between the notes of which the
instrument is composed. Transmutations of the cerebral Energy may be
stimulated not only from without, but by subjective impulse from within;
but in either case the laws of these transmutations are the necessary
form of experience, and it is the possibility of transmutation upon an
internal and subjective impulse which makes possible the formation of
synthetical judgments _a priori_. It is as if the organ were not only
responsive to impressions upon its keyboard from without, but were also
automotive and could originate harmonies in its own notes; and as if,
moreover, it were endowed with consciousness so as to receive an
intuition of both classes of music. The former would correspond to
sensations, the latter to ideas; and we might imagine such an instrument
by presenting to itself its own system of notes, contriving thus to
frame _a priori_ a synthetical system of these general musical laws
which would constitute the necessary and universal form of its whole
musical experience. To complete the perhaps fantastic analogy we must
imagine the world to be one co-ordinated musical system, and our
instrument to be endowed with the power of playing upon the other
keyboards; of thence deriving the suggestion of the distinction between
the internal and external impulses which respectively awakened harmonies
within itself; and lastly, of thus at length conceiving in the spirit of
science that the necessary and universal laws which it recognised as the
most subjective and fundamental conditions of its own operation, at the
same time regulated the activity of the entire musical universe.

How natural it would be for such an intelligent musical instrument, if
unhappily endowed with common sense, to believe and assert that the real
substance of the universe consisted solely of sounds. Yet how evident
would it be to us from our standpoint of more absolute knowledge that
the whole orchestra of sounds, although actual and quite distinct from
consciousness, was still merely phenomenal, and yet withal, in its every
expression, revealed the laws and structure of reality--of the system of
things in themselves--a system the reality of which was dissimilar to
those appearances, though all its laws and structure could be studied
and derived from them.

Berkeley, therefore, erred seriously when he described the idea as a
fainter sensation. Faint subjective reproductions of our sensations, as
of blue, green, or the like, constitute a very insignificant element in
our mental furniture. We seldom pursue so far into detail the ideative
effort. Severely and effectively as Berkeley criticised Locke's account
of abstract ideas, the fact remains that abstraction is a primary
feature of our whole conceptual system; and the abstractable elements of
the sensible presentation being the necessary constituents of all
ideative representation are properly denominated ideal. The one element
of particularity which every idea lacks is the reference to the
transmitted transmutation to which the sensible phenomenon owes its
origin. We derive such reference to the external solely from the
obstructions which our free activity encounters and without which we
could receive no suggestion of the non-ego, and in particular no
suggestion of the dynamic element which fundamentally distinguishes
things from thoughts. The empirical content of experience--the so-called
secondary qualities of bodies--are often called in their subjective
aspect "ideal" because the mental impression is obviously very
different from the transmutation objectively regarded. But this is to
confound the ideal with the subjective, which latter term is that
properly applicable both to the sensible impression and to purely mental
activity. The primary qualities, being the general laws or forms of
organic Energy-transmutation, are in a higher sense ideal, for they are
the necessary conditions under which both sense-presentation and
ideative representation proceed. Whilst, therefore, as Kant maintained,
they are the _a priori_ element in perception, they at the same time
constitute the laws which regulate all Energy-transmutation within our
experience both organic and extra-organic.

We hold, therefore, to the Platonic doctrine that whilst, on the one
hand, the sensible is only an object of thought in so far as it partakes
of the intelligible, on the other hand the idea is not only a type for
the individual mind, but is partaker also of the laws which penetrate
the system of things. Idealism as a Philosophy, in denying the validity
of any reference of the content of the Presentment to a further
existence outside of the subjective experience, has induced that wider
use of the term idea which applies it to the whole actuality of
experience in its subjective aspect. With the advance of Philosophy we
must revert to that more ancient use of the term idea which confines
its extension into the realm of the perceptual to those elements of the
sensible presentation which can be reproduced by the conceptual activity
of the subject, and which in asserting, for instance, the ideality of
Space, reminds us at the same time that Ideality implies not merely
subjectivity, but the expression or representation also of some aspect
of those laws which regulate the system of Reality.

But is not common sense right, after all? Do I really mean to say that
tables, chairs, houses, mountains--the whole world of my Presentment,
are to be regarded as shrivelled up and located in my brain, or in the
energetic correlative of my brain? Is the whole Universe, as known to me
or conceived by me, contained within a minute portion of itself--the
brain? Now Science does say something very like this, and the logical
difficulties of the position are very pressing. But they cannot be got
over by attempting to revert to common sense, because to assert that all
my conceived Universe is immediately perceived by me as it exists, would
seem to involve a diffusion of my intelligence throughout Space which is
still more inconceivable and self-contradictory. Even apart from this
implication, the assumption of the Reality of the phenomenal world
destroys itself. To assume the reality of so-called material particles
is to lay the foundation of an argument which surely leads to the
conclusion that the whole world of my consciousness is produced by and
consists in motions in that certain small group of these same molecules
which is assumed to make up my brain. The solution is only reached when
we discover that the error lies in forgetting that the Reality which is
the seat of my Presentment is itself unperceived, and that what I
commonly call a body and a brain are the phenomena occurring in my
Presentment, and which I associate with such real substratum. The real
substratum of my Presentment is a part of the energetic Universe, which
is constantly undergoing transmutations. Wherever such Energy is united,
in an organism, with consciousness these transmutations, as affecting
and perceived by such consciousness, constitute its Presentment or
sense-experience; and aided by the constructive activity of thought
expand, as it were, subjectively into a whole world of experience, as
the electric current vibrating darkly along the narrow confines of the
wire suddenly expands at the carbon point into the luminous undulations
which light a city.

We admit, therefore, to the full the actuality and objectivity of the
sensible presentation. We only deny that it is the real thing-in-itself.
The latter is not discovered by sense. My energetic organism is like a
well-fitting garment; I do not feel it at all. I feel only changes or
transmutations taking place in it. Be not alarmed, therefore, for your
common-sense world. We leave it to you intact and actual--not deducting
even a single primary quality. Allowing fully for the extent to which,
little suspected by you, it is a mentally constructed system, its
elements are still actual and objective; they are modes of Reality;
extension and the other primary qualities are qualities of these modes.
Moreover, the Ego, I, myself, as Will, as a continuously identic
intelligent agent, am not given to myself immediately in my Presentment,
any more than is the real object. The existence of my Ego, of my
cogitant self, is an inference which I am compelled to draw from the
facts of my mental activity. _Cogito, ergo sum._ Similarly, my energetic
organism is the real a-logical thing-in-itself which I am compelled to
postulate in order to explain my perception of physical phenomena in the
light of my physical activity; _ago, ergo possum_.

We must not overlook the unique position in our Presentment occupied by
the visual presentation. Its universality, simultaneousness, minute
accuracy, quantifiability, etc., are such that it is really to the
visual Presentment that I refer all other elements in my
sense-experience. I think of them with reference to it. In connection
with it I mentally construct my world. I associate with some
modification of the visual presentation the phenomena resultant upon the
energetic activity of my own organism, and the other forces and
potential Energies which that activity reveals and suggests. It is thus
that I derive the compound idea of Body as consisting of Figure,
Extension, and Solidity. The continued appearance in my visual
presentation of the grey colour which I am now seeing is to me the sign
of the continued persistence of that potential Energy in virtue of which
I regard it as the appearance of a solid extended stone wall. Everything
is referred to the visual presentation, and it is in reference to it
that the mind works in constructing its world.

The whole theory of molecular action is a theory constructed in
reference to the visual presentation--the reality of which, strangely,
it seems to result in overthrowing. A born-blind man could never have
invented the conception of atoms or molecules. This is well worth
thinking over. The visual presentation is not really fundamental; and we
must undo the inversion induced by its great convenience whereby we
refer to it all the other elements of our sense-experience and conceive
of our activity and our whole actual world by reference to the visible
sign. It is in consequence of this reference to the visual that bodies
are thought of as discrete units, so that it is difficult to conceive
that the real thing in virtue of which we experience the perception of,
say, a heap of stones, is truly more or less potential Energy--just as
the continuous process of thought is very different from the disparate
symbols of speech.

I habitually refer to the visual extended image as the primary basis of
my idea of the world, or of any particular part of the world, such as my
dining-room. Why? Simply because, for the reasons already noted, the
sense of sight is the sense of universal reference. In principle it is
the same habitual tendency which makes me associate every element of my
world with its appropriate name. It is different in the case of other
sensations. When I am absent from Niagara I do not, in thinking of it,
primarily conceive of it as a roar of sound. I think of certain motions
of mass which, if I were present, would occasion the subjective
sensations of sound. But for the habitual tendency arising from the
universal reference to the visible I would do the same in the case of
the visual image. All I am necessitated to think is a real event--a
real, physical, dynamical transmutation--proceeding quite independently
of my perception or presence; and if I can only manage to realise that I
must, for philosophical purposes, eliminate my reference to visual as
well as to audible or other sensations, I will understand that all I am
entitled to, and all I can, without hopeless contradiction, postulate as
real thing existing independently of my perception, is a transmutation
of Energy. This energy is imperceptible, unextended, unfigured, yet it
is by no means a mere logical or mental necessity or associative
tendency. On the contrary, it is very real. It sustains my every act. By
an imperative mental necessity I am obliged, by inference from my
experiences as an active and percipient agent, to postulate the
energetic system in which I am involved, and with one particular centre
in which I am organically related.

But we recall at this point that Science says she must still postulate
Matter as the vehicle of Energy. But what does that mean except that the
subject of her studies is the sensible presentation which itself
consists of energy transmutation in part constantly changing but with
relatively permanent and recurrent elements? These more permanent
elements constitute what we call bodies. If the sensible presentation
consisted exclusively of one continuous, unchanging phenomenon, Reason
would never be stimulated, and Personality, Cause, Power would never
have been postulated or conceived. But the transmutation is constantly
"accelerated"--incessantly fluctuates and varies. Certain of these
variations I recognise as related to my own volitional activity, and I
am thus furnished with a key which enables me, by a sympathetic analogy,
to attribute all the changes in my experience to various agents, each
related to the other by the intervention of this system of physical
Energy. Some of these I can further trace to the initiative of Volition
of myself or other persons; others I can only recognise as integral
parts of the vast energetic system of Nature, the stimulus of which I
cannot follow further.

The reality of Matter is said to be proved by its indestructibility; but
this characteristic can easily be resolved into (1) the
indestructibility of Space and Extension which we have seen to be merely
another name for the necessity or inevitable universality of the general
laws and conditions of Energy transmutation, and (2) the
indestructibility of the Energy to the transmutations of which we
attribute the forces of Cohesion and Gravitation.

All vital activity is but a producing of changes in the stream of
transmutation. We never do, nor in the nature of things do we ever try
to, increase or diminish the quantity of the real Energy itself. We
instinctively recognise the objective source of our physical power, and
this has led some thinkers to suppose that the indestructibility of
Matter is an _a priori_ datum of thought. But such a belief is quite
unfounded. All it amounts to is a recognition that the destruction of
Matter is _beyond our power_--a necessary consequence of the fact that
we merely act upon the transmutation-process. Many a long contest
between the supporters of _a priori_ and experiential knowledge can be
set at rest by this view of the mediating functions of the energetic

The reflections which we have thus briefly noted and illustrated open a
wide field for inquiry. The scientific doctrine of Energy would seem to
be pregnant with momentous consequences for Philosophy, and it is worth
while for metaphysicians to devote to this subject the deepest and most
deliberate thought. The results cannot easily be grasped by a mere
cursory perusal of memoranda, in which we have only sketched a few
salient aspects of the doctrine. We deprecate unwarrantable assurance,
and are fully conscious of the difficulty of adequately expressing
thought on such a theme; but we have not written rashly nor without
good grounds for asking attention.

Science, it seems to us, postulates in Energy an a-logical, unextended,
real thing-in-itself in terms of which the phenomena of Physics can be
adequately and quantifiably stated. At the same time it furnishes
Philosophy with a theory of the objectively real thing-in-itself which
satisfied those necessities of thought by which we are constrained to
interpret our sense-experience by a constant reference to a Reality
beyond it--a necessity due to our association as Actors with an Energy
beyond that which is the seat of our Presentment. Such a view avoids the
incurable difficulties and contradictions involved in the theory of the
reality of extended material substance, or in any theory, indeed, which
asserts the reality--as presented--of the sensible presentation.
Physical Reality thus conceived is consistently thinkable as co-existent
with the thing-in-itself--be it ultimately Intelligence or Volition--of
which our cognitive and conative existence is a manifestation. And such
a doctrine, by explaining all phenomena as transmutations proceeding
(according to the definite mathematical laws prevailing throughout the
whole Universe of Energy) at that point in the system which is
organically related to Consciousness, accounts at once for the apparent
apriority and necessity of the qualities of Space, and at the same time
for their evident universality and objectivity.

In a word, it would rather seem as if Science, unconscious of its
pregnant possibilities, has not only formulated a theory which
co-ordinates and unifies the entire fabric of physical knowledge, but
has also at length furnished Philosophy with the key to that problem the
solution of which has, in the words of Schopenhauer, been the main
endeavour of philosophers for more than two centuries, namely, to
separate by a correctly drawn line of cleavage the Ideal--that which
belongs to our knowledge as such--from the Real, that which exists
independently of us; and thus to determine the relation of each to the

To us it seems not strange that Philosophy should in the end be indebted
to Science for this solution--nor should Science, in the hour of her
greatest speculative victory, object too hastily to the assistance which
the thinker, trained to the study of the process of thought, can render
in clarifying and restating in its metaphysical aspects a theory which,
if profoundly conceived, and formulated by men of science from Rumford
and Davy to Stewart, Tait, and Kelvin, was partially anticipated by the
metaphysician who conceived the world as will and idea.

We maintain, therefore, that the presentation of sense, the continuum
or manifold, or what you will, consists in the transmutations of a real
substance itself unextended and unperceived; that the laws of these
transmutations are what constitute the geometric all-containing Space;
that at a point in this real energetic system organically related to the
intelligent self, the transmutations occurring there constitute the
individual's sensible experience; that his mind, by also actively
influencing the system at that point, can stimulate the train of
transmutations which constitute his world of ideas; that the mind can
discover itself as Will influencing transmutations in the organism which
are transmitted through a wider, larger portion of the system; and can
recognise the transmutations at the related point as influenced
sometimes by its own Volition and sometimes by other agents. We seek to
bring the added light of scientific theory to reconcile the conflict
between the law and the fact, between the objects of reflection and the
objects of sense, between the world of thought and the world of
phenomena,--the problem which Plato raised and which has since been the
central problem of Metaphysics. In doing so we present a doctrine which
not only maintains the truth of the Ideal, and the actuality of the
phenomenal, and the relative reality of both, but which proves, with
all the cogency of Science, how it is that the Sensible is permeated by
and made knowable only by the Ideal, by the laws of the transmutations
which constitute actuality, and that, on the other hand, the Ideal only
enters experience as the regulative principle of the ever-transmuting

The world consists not merely of phenomena, nor of phenomena and laws
which regulate them. These are but transitional and imperfect aspects of
Reality. "Our standard of Truth and Reality," says a recent writer,
"moves us on towards an individual with laws of its own, and to laws
which form the vital substance of a single existence." We approach such
a goal in the conception of Energy--the laws of whose constant
transmutations are what we call Nature.

We must distinguish Energy as Absolute Reality from such conceptions as
Activity, which is its subjective aspect, or as Force, which is really
the rate at which Energy is, in certain cases, transformed. Dynamics,
which investigates Force, is a study of the fundamental transmutations
of Energy. It postulates Energy as the Real Entity in terms of which it
can frame a satisfactory theory of dynamical phenomena.

The metaphysical labours of the century which has elapsed since Kant
have not been altogether in vain. The deeper thinkers are pretty nearly
agreed that the Absolute is not to be identified with its appearances.
How far they can bring home this view in practical form to the
intelligence of man is another matter. Plato doubtless saw the truth in
a sort of beatific vision, but the tide of speculation ebbed after his
death, and its healing waters never inundated the deserts of mediæval
thought. The discursive weakness in which the speculation of the
transcendental Philosophy seems to dissipate itself makes us fear a
similar decline. Metaphysics must receive the assistance of the great
speculative achievement of Physics. It must realise that Science can
postulate a Reality unperceived and unqualified by the conditions of
sense, but in terms of which Science can explain the whole phenomena of
the sensible presentation in their objective aspect,--explain these as
transmutations of Reality, proceeding in accordance with the general
mathematical laws under which Reality transmutes itself.

It may be said that reason requires us to think that the Universe is a
unity. Where do you embrace within Reality, in such a view of it,
Intelligence, Volition, Feeling? We answer: Of course, obviously
Reality, as postulated by Physics, does not contain these. But the Real
Thing postulated by Physics is but one aspect of the whole, and may be,
must be, merged in a higher Reality--of which phenomena, on the one
hand, and Thought, Conation, Feeling on the other, are the appearances.
That involves a further advance, the attainment of a higher degree of
Truth which would bridge the Dualism of Thought and Existence, of Self
and Not-self, of Spirit and Nature, and whilst, on the one hand, such
Reality must fundamentally be a-logical, on the other hand Energy may
owe its energy to Spirit.

In the dualism which we must, in experience, recognise, we notice one
fundamental distinction: quantification, measurability, appear the
attributes of the physical; quality, ideality, of the spiritual. The
apprehension, therefore, of the doctrine of Energy should accomplish in
clarity and security the abolition of the intolerable contradictions
which have hitherto involved the search for Reality amid its
appearances. We think it suggests the most satisfying explanation of the
distinction which separates, and the principle which relates Ideality
and Externality, and should obviate the almost childish efforts of
transcendentalists to expound the relation of the Mind to a body which
is involved in, and which is yet--for the individual--distinguished,
they cannot tell us how, from the whole system of Nature.

Of course, neither Thought nor Volition, as such, can be the absolute
Reality. They, like Physical Force, are but transmutations, affections,
phases of Reality. Nor, again, is Energy, as a quality, a correct
description of the Absolute, as such. The Absolute, as such, we cannot
describe; but in studying, as Physics does, the relations of physical
phenomena and stating these in terms of Reality, it conveniently gives
Reality a name appropriate to its own standpoint.

Metaphysics rightly declines to be required to study special branches of
Science. Nothing but grotesque absurdity ensues when this precaution is
overlooked. Yet Metaphysics has hitherto thought itself the better of a
little logic, and in the future it will have to grasp the scientific
conception of Reality. There is nothing else for it; and, after all, it
is remarkable how far the most fundamental conceptions of Metaphysics
are dependent on a physical origin.

Surely it is of primary importance to realise the effect upon our
conceptions of Space and Extension of the doctrine of the transmutations
of Energy. Even the profoundest metaphysicians have seemingly failed to
explain how Space, Matter, and Extension are related with Reality. You
cannot ignore this difficulty by saying that these are the working
conceptions of particular branches of Physical Science. But when you
realise that physical phenomena, even the most permanent and rigid, are
by scientific demonstration but transmutations of the real thing, you
may then understand that Space, Body, and Extension are but the laws and
conditions of the process. As appearances, and within the realm of
phenomena, they seem still what they have always seemed. So much we
still concede without diminution or obscurity; and at the same time we
can harmonise them as they could never be harmonised before with
postulated Reality.

It is the same with Time. The facts of memory would seem to imply that
there is no succession in the Absolute. We are always present at all
times of our life. In recollecting a past event we are contemplating no
mere image, but the actual past event itself. Our chronometry depends on
the annual motion of the Earth round the Sun. It has thus a purely
physical basis.

We might illustrate the application of the doctrine of Energy to every
department of Metaphysics. But such is not the object of the present
essay. We merely desire to indicate briefly some of the many aspects of
the theory, and if only we have been able to suggest a line of inquiry,
the primary object of this essay has been attained.


[81:1] Originally printed in 1898, now revised and rewritten.

_Printed by_ MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED, _Edinburgh_



_Crown 8vo. 330 pp. 6s. net_

"Mr. Philip, a thinker of considerable acuteness, expounds further the
dynamic theory of knowledge which he propounded in 'Matter and Energy'
and the 'Doctrine of Energy.' What we are really sensible of in the
external world is mutation; but the consciousness of our own activity
suggests the existence of something behind phenomena. The reality which
sustains experience is found to be, in essence, power--power conceived
as an energy containing within itself the principle of its own
evolution; an energy constantly transmuting itself, and in its
transmutations furnishing the entire presentation of sense. The
universal application of this concept unifies science or the knowledge
of nature; and the dynamic theory is applied by Mr. Philip to life,
economics, and education."

"Well written, and contains much sound analysis of perception and the
like, with much that is debatable but suggestive and

"The argument is conducted with great ability and thoroughness, and the
writer reveals a most accurate acquaintance with the results of both
science and philosophy."--_Glasgow Herald._


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Essays Towards a Theory of Knowledge" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.