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´╗┐Title: Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking
Author: James, William, 1842-1910
Language: English
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A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking

By William James

To the Memory of John Stuart Mill

from whom I first learned the pragmatic openness of mind and whom my
fancy likes to picture as our leader were he alive to-day.


The lectures that follow were delivered at the Lowell Institute in
Boston in November and December, 1906, and in January, 1907, at
Columbia University, in New York. They are printed as delivered, without
developments or notes. The pragmatic movement, so-called--I do not like
the name, but apparently it is too late to change it--seems to have
rather suddenly precipitated itself out of the air. A number of
tendencies that have always existed in philosophy have all at once
become conscious of themselves collectively, and of their combined
mission; and this has occurred in so many countries, and from so many
different points of view, that much unconcerted statement has resulted.
I have sought to unify the picture as it presents itself to my own eyes,
dealing in broad strokes, and avoiding minute controversy. Much futile
controversy might have been avoided, I believe, if our critics had been
willing to wait until we got our message fairly out.

If my lectures interest any reader in the general subject, he will
doubtless wish to read farther. I therefore give him a few references.

In America, John Dewey's 'Studies in Logical Theory' are the foundation.
Read also by Dewey the articles in the Philosophical Review, vol.
xv, pp. 113 and 465, in Mind, vol. xv, p. 293, and in the Journal of
Philosophy, vol. iv, p. 197.

Probably the best statements to begin with however, are F. C. S.
Schiller's in his 'Studies in Humanism,' especially the essays numbered
i, v, vi, vii, xviii and xix. His previous essays and in general
the polemic literature of the subject are fully referred to in his

Furthermore, see G. Milhaud: le Rationnel, 1898, and the fine articles
by Le Roy in the Revue de Metaphysique, vols. 7, 8 and 9. Also articles
by Blondel and de Sailly in the Annales de Philosophie Chretienne, 4me
Serie, vols. 2 and 3. Papini announces a book on Pragmatism, in the
French language, to be published very soon.

To avoid one misunderstanding at least, let me say that there is no
logical connexion between pragmatism, as I understand it, and a doctrine
which I have recently set forth as 'radical empiricism.' The latter
stands on its own feet. One may entirely reject it and still be a

Harvard University, April, 1907.


Lecture I

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy

Chesterton quoted. Everyone has a philosophy. Temperament is a factor in
all philosophizing. Rationalists and empiricists. The tender-minded
and the tough-minded. Most men wish both facts and religion. Empiricism
gives facts without religion. Rationalism gives religion without facts.
The layman's dilemma. The unreality in rationalistic systems. Leibnitz
on the damned, as an example. M. I. Swift on the optimism of idealists.
Pragmatism as a mediating system. An objection. Reply: philosophies have
characters like men, and are liable to as summary judgments. Spencer as
an example.

Lecture II

What Pragmatism Means

The squirrel. Pragmatism as a method. History of the method. Its
character and affinities. How it contrasts with rationalism and
intellectualism. A 'corridor theory.' Pragmatism as a theory of truth,
equivalent to 'humanism.' Earlier views of mathematical, logical, and
natural truth. More recent views. Schiller's and Dewey's 'instrumental'
view. The formation of new beliefs. Older truth always has to be kept
account of. Older truth arose similarly. The 'humanistic' doctrine.
Rationalistic criticisms of it. Pragmatism as mediator between
empiricism and religion. Barrenness of transcendental idealism. How far
the concept of the Absolute must be called true. The true is the good
in the way of belief. The clash of truths. Pragmatism unstiffens

Lecture III

Some Metaphysical Problems Pragmatically Considered

The problem of substance. The Eucharist. Berkeley's pragmatic treatment
of material substance. Locke's of personal identity. The problem of
materialism. Rationalistic treatment of it. Pragmatic treatment. 'God'
is no better than 'Matter' as a principle, unless he promise more.
Pragmatic comparison of the two principles. The problem of design.
'Design' per se is barren. The question is WHAT design. The problem of
'free-will.' Its relations to 'accountability.' Free-will a cosmological
theory. The pragmatic issue at stake in all these problems is what do
the alternatives PROMISE.

Lecture IV

The One and the Many

Total reflection. Philosophy seeks not only unity, but totality.
Rationalistic feeling about unity. Pragmatically considered, the world
is one in many ways. One time and space. One subject of discourse. Its
parts interact. Its oneness and manyness are co-ordinate. Question of
one origin. Generic oneness. One purpose. One story. One knower. Value
of pragmatic method. Absolute monism. Vivekananda. Various types of
union discussed. Conclusion: We must oppose monistic dogmatism and
follow empirical findings.

Lecture V

Pragmatism and Common Sense

Noetic pluralism. How our knowledge grows. Earlier ways of thinking
remain. Prehistoric ancestors DISCOVERED the common sense concepts. List
of them. They came gradually into use. Space and time. 'Things.' Kinds.
'Cause' and 'law.' Common sense one stage in mental evolution, due
to geniuses. The 'critical' stages: 1) scientific and 2) philosophic,
compared with common sense. Impossible to say which is the more 'true.'

Lecture VI

Pragmatism's Conception of Truth

The polemic situation. What does agreement with reality mean? It means
verifiability. Verifiability means ability to guide us prosperously
through experience. Completed verifications seldom needful. 'Eternal'
truths. Consistency, with language, with previous truths. Rationalist
objections. Truth is a good, like health, wealth, etc. It is expedient
thinking. The past. Truth grows. Rationalist objections. Reply to them.

Lecture VII

Pragmatism and Humanism

The notion of THE Truth. Schiller on 'Humanism.' Three sorts of
reality of which any new truth must take account. To 'take account' is
ambiguous. Absolutely independent reality is hard to find. The human
contribution is ubiquitous and builds out the given. Essence of
pragmatism's contrast with rationalism. Rationalism affirms a
transempirical world. Motives for this. Tough-mindedness rejects them. A
genuine alternative. Pragmatism mediates.

Lecture VIII

Pragmatism and Religion

Utility of the Absolute. Whitman's poem 'To You.' Two ways of taking
it. My friend's letter. Necessities versus possibilities. 'Possibility'
defined. Three views of the world's salvation. Pragmatism is
melioristic. We may create reality. Why should anything BE? Supposed
choice before creation. The healthy and the morbid reply. The 'tender'
and the 'tough' types of religion. Pragmatism mediates.


Lecture I

The Present Dilemma in Philosophy

In the preface to that admirable collection of essays of his called
'Heretics,' Mr. Chesterton writes these words: "There are some
people--and I am one of them--who think that the most practical and
important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think
that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his
income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that
for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know
the enemy's numbers, but still more important to know the enemy's
philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the
cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else
affects them."

I think with Mr. Chesterton in this matter. I know that you, ladies and
gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most
interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it
determines the perspective in your several worlds. You know the same
of me. And yet I confess to a certain tremor at the audacity of the
enterprise which I am about to begin. For the philosophy which is so
important in each of us is not a technical matter; it is our more or
less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means. It is only
partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and
feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos. I have no right to
assume that many of you are students of the cosmos in the class-room
sense, yet here I stand desirous of interesting you in a philosophy
which to no small extent has to be technically treated. I wish to fill
you with sympathy with a contemporaneous tendency in which I profoundly
believe, and yet I have to talk like a professor to you who are not
students. Whatever universe a professor believes in must at any rate be
a universe that lends itself to lengthy discourse. A universe definable
in two sentences is something for which the professorial intellect has
no use. No faith in anything of that cheap kind! I have heard friends
and colleagues try to popularize philosophy in this very hall, but they
soon grew dry, and then technical, and the results were only partially
encouraging. So my enterprise is a bold one. The founder of pragmatism
himself recently gave a course of lectures at the Lowell Institute with
that very word in its title-flashes of brilliant light relieved
against Cimmerian darkness! None of us, I fancy, understood ALL that he
said--yet here I stand, making a very similar venture.

I risk it because the very lectures I speak of DREW--they brought good
audiences. There is, it must be confessed, a curious fascination in
hearing deep things talked about, even tho neither we nor the disputants
understand them. We get the problematic thrill, we feel the presence of
the vastness. Let a controversy begin in a smoking-room anywhere, about
free-will or God's omniscience, or good and evil, and see how everyone
in the place pricks up his ears. Philosophy's results concern us all
most vitally, and philosophy's queerest arguments tickle agreeably our
sense of subtlety and ingenuity.

Believing in philosophy myself devoutly, and believing also that a kind
of new dawn is breaking upon us philosophers, I feel impelled, per fas
aut nefas, to try to impart to you some news of the situation.

Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human
pursuits. It works in the minutest crannies and it opens out the widest
vistas. It 'bakes no bread,' as has been said, but it can inspire our
souls with courage; and repugnant as its manners, its doubting and
challenging, its quibbling and dialectics, often are to common people,
no one of us can get along without the far-flashing beams of light it
sends over the world's perspectives. These illuminations at least, and
the contrast-effects of darkness and mystery that accompany them, give
to what it says an interest that is much more than professional.

The history of philosophy is to a great extent that of a certain clash
of human temperaments. Undignified as such a treatment may seem to some
of my colleagues, I shall have to take account of this clash and explain
a good many of the divergencies of philosophers by it. Of whatever
temperament a professional philosopher is, he tries when philosophizing
to sink the fact of his temperament. Temperament is no conventionally
recognized reason, so he urges impersonal reasons only for his
conclusions. Yet his temperament really gives him a stronger bias than
any of his more strictly objective premises. It loads the evidence
for him one way or the other, making for a more sentimental or a more
hard-hearted view of the universe, just as this fact or that principle
would. He trusts his temperament. Wanting a universe that suits it, he
believes in any representation of the universe that does suit it.
He feels men of opposite temper to be out of key with the world's
character, and in his heart considers them incompetent and 'not in
it,' in the philosophic business, even tho they may far excel him in
dialectical ability.

Yet in the forum he can make no claim, on the bare ground of his
temperament, to superior discernment or authority. There arises thus a
certain insincerity in our philosophic discussions: the potentest of
all our premises is never mentioned. I am sure it would contribute to
clearness if in these lectures we should break this rule and mention it,
and I accordingly feel free to do so.

Of course I am talking here of very positively marked men, men
of radical idiosyncracy, who have set their stamp and likeness on
philosophy and figure in its history. Plato, Locke, Hegel, Spencer,
are such temperamental thinkers. Most of us have, of course, no
very definite intellectual temperament, we are a mixture of opposite
ingredients, each one present very moderately. We hardly know our own
preferences in abstract matters; some of us are easily talked out of
them, and end by following the fashion or taking up with the beliefs of
the most impressive philosopher in our neighborhood, whoever he may be.
But the one thing that has COUNTED so far in philosophy is that a man
should see things, see them straight in his own peculiar way, and be
dissatisfied with any opposite way of seeing them. There is no reason
to suppose that this strong temperamental vision is from now onward to
count no longer in the history of man's beliefs.

Now the particular difference of temperament that I have in mind
in making these remarks is one that has counted in literature, art,
government and manners as well as in philosophy. In manners we find
formalists and free-and-easy persons. In government, authoritarians and
anarchists. In literature, purists or academicals, and realists. In art,
classics and romantics. You recognize these contrasts as familiar; well,
in philosophy we have a very similar contrast expressed in the pair of
terms 'rationalist' and 'empiricist,' 'empiricist' meaning your lover of
facts in all their crude variety, 'rationalist' meaning your devotee to
abstract and eternal principles. No one can live an hour without both
facts and principles, so it is a difference rather of emphasis; yet it
breeds antipathies of the most pungent character between those who
lay the emphasis differently; and we shall find it extraordinarily
convenient to express a certain contrast in men's ways of taking their
universe, by talking of the 'empiricist' and of the 'rationalist'
temper. These terms make the contrast simple and massive.

More simple and massive than are usually the men of whom the terms are
predicated. For every sort of permutation and combination is possible in
human nature; and if I now proceed to define more fully what I have in
mind when I speak of rationalists and empiricists, by adding to each
of those titles some secondary qualifying characteristics, I beg you to
regard my conduct as to a certain extent arbitrary. I select types
of combination that nature offers very frequently, but by no means
uniformly, and I select them solely for their convenience in helping
me to my ulterior purpose of characterizing pragmatism. Historically we
find the terms 'intellectualism' and 'sensationalism' used as synonyms
of 'rationalism' and 'empiricism.' Well, nature seems to combine most
frequently with intellectualism an idealistic and optimistic tendency.
Empiricists on the other hand are not uncommonly materialistic, and
their optimism is apt to be decidedly conditional and tremulous.
Rationalism is always monistic. It starts from wholes and universals,
and makes much of the unity of things. Empiricism starts from the parts,
and makes of the whole a collection-is not averse therefore to calling
itself pluralistic. Rationalism usually considers itself more religious
than empiricism, but there is much to say about this claim, so I merely
mention it. It is a true claim when the individual rationalist is what
is called a man of feeling, and when the individual empiricist prides
himself on being hard-headed. In that case the rationalist will usually
also be in favor of what is called free-will, and the empiricist will
be a fatalist--I use the terms most popularly current. The rationalist
finally will be of dogmatic temper in his affirmations, while the
empiricist may be more sceptical and open to discussion.

I will write these traits down in two columns. I think you will
practically recognize the two types of mental make-up that I mean if
I head the columns by the titles 'tender-minded' and 'tough-minded'


Rationalistic (going by 'principles'), Intellectualistic, Idealistic,
Optimistic, Religious, Free-willist, Monistic, Dogmatical.


Empiricist (going by 'facts'), Sensationalistic, Materialistic,
Pessimistic, Irreligious, Fatalistic, Pluralistic, Sceptical.

Pray postpone for a moment the question whether the two contrasted
mixtures which I have written down are each inwardly coherent and
self-consistent or not--I shall very soon have a good deal to say on
that point. It suffices for our immediate purpose that tender-minded and
tough-minded people, characterized as I have written them down, do both
exist. Each of you probably knows some well-marked example of each type,
and you know what each example thinks of the example on the other side
of the line. They have a low opinion of each other. Their antagonism,
whenever as individuals their temperaments have been intense, has formed
in all ages a part of the philosophic atmosphere of the time. It forms a
part of the philosophic atmosphere to-day. The tough think of the tender
as sentimentalists and soft-heads. The tender feel the tough to be
unrefined, callous, or brutal. Their mutual reaction is very much like
that that takes place when Bostonian tourists mingle with a population
like that of Cripple Creek. Each type believes the other to be inferior
to itself; but disdain in the one case is mingled with amusement, in the
other it has a dash of fear.

Now, as I have already insisted, few of us are tender-foot Bostonians
pure and simple, and few are typical Rocky Mountain toughs, in
philosophy. Most of us have a hankering for the good things on both
sides of the line. Facts are good, of course--give us lots of facts.
Principles are good--give us plenty of principles. The world is
indubitably one if you look at it in one way, but as indubitably is
it many, if you look at it in another. It is both one and many--let us
adopt a sort of pluralistic monism. Everything of course is necessarily
determined, and yet of course our wills are free: a sort of free-will
determinism is the true philosophy. The evil of the parts is undeniable;
but the whole can't be evil: so practical pessimism may be combined with
metaphysical optimism. And so forth--your ordinary philosophic layman
never being a radical, never straightening out his system, but living
vaguely in one plausible compartment of it or another to suit the
temptations of successive hours.

But some of us are more than mere laymen in philosophy. We are worthy
of the name of amateur athletes, and are vexed by too much inconsistency
and vacillation in our creed. We cannot preserve a good intellectual
conscience so long as we keep mixing incompatibles from opposite sides
of the line.

And now I come to the first positively important point which I wish to
make. Never were as many men of a decidedly empiricist proclivity in
existence as there are at the present day. Our children, one may say,
are almost born scientific. But our esteem for facts has not neutralized
in us all religiousness. It is itself almost religious. Our scientific
temper is devout. Now take a man of this type, and let him be also a
philosophic amateur, unwilling to mix a hodge-podge system after the
fashion of a common layman, and what does he find his situation to be,
in this blessed year of our Lord 1906? He wants facts; he wants
science; but he also wants a religion. And being an amateur and not an
independent originator in philosophy he naturally looks for guidance to
the experts and professionals whom he finds already in the field. A
very large number of you here present, possibly a majority of you, are
amateurs of just this sort.

Now what kinds of philosophy do you find actually offered to meet your
need? You find an empirical philosophy that is not religious enough, and
a religious philosophy that is not empirical enough for your purpose.
If you look to the quarter where facts are most considered you find
the whole tough-minded program in operation, and the 'conflict between
science and religion' in full blast. Either it is that Rocky Mountain
tough of a Haeckel with his materialistic monism, his ether-god and his
jest at your God as a 'gaseous vertebrate'; or it is Spencer treating
the world's history as a redistribution of matter and motion solely, and
bowing religion politely out at the front door:--she may indeed continue
to exist, but she must never show her face inside the temple. For a
hundred and fifty years past the progress of science has seemed to mean
the enlargement of the material universe and the diminution of man's
importance. The result is what one may call the growth of naturalistic
or positivistic feeling. Man is no law-giver to nature, he is an
absorber. She it is who stands firm; he it is who must accommodate
himself. Let him record truth, inhuman tho it be, and submit to it! The
romantic spontaneity and courage are gone, the vision is materialistic
and depressing. Ideals appear as inert by-products of physiology; what
is higher is explained by what is lower and treated forever as a case of
'nothing but'--nothing but something else of a quite inferior sort. You
get, in short, a materialistic universe, in which only the tough-minded
find themselves congenially at home.

If now, on the other hand, you turn to the religious quarter for
consolation, and take counsel of the tender-minded philosophies, what do
you find?

Religious philosophy in our day and generation is, among us
English-reading people, of two main types. One of these is more radical
and aggressive, the other has more the air of fighting a slow retreat.
By the more radical wing of religious philosophy I mean the so-called
transcendental idealism of the Anglo-Hegelian school, the philosophy of
such men as Green, the Cairds, Bosanquet, and Royce. This philosophy has
greatly influenced the more studious members of our protestant ministry.
It is pantheistic, and undoubtedly it has already blunted the edge of
the traditional theism in protestantism at large.

That theism remains, however. It is the lineal descendant, through one
stage of concession after another, of the dogmatic scholastic theism
still taught rigorously in the seminaries of the catholic church. For a
long time it used to be called among us the philosophy of the Scottish
school. It is what I meant by the philosophy that has the air of
fighting a slow retreat. Between the encroachments of the hegelians and
other philosophers of the 'Absolute,' on the one hand, and those of the
scientific evolutionists and agnostics, on the other, the men that
give us this kind of a philosophy, James Martineau, Professor Bowne,
Professor Ladd and others, must feel themselves rather tightly squeezed.
Fair-minded and candid as you like, this philosophy is not radical
in temper. It is eclectic, a thing of compromises, that seeks a modus
vivendi above all things. It accepts the facts of darwinism, the facts
of cerebral physiology, but it does nothing active or enthusiastic with
them. It lacks the victorious and aggressive note. It lacks prestige in
consequence; whereas absolutism has a certain prestige due to the more
radical style of it.

These two systems are what you have to choose between if you turn to the
tender-minded school. And if you are the lovers of facts I have
supposed you to be, you find the trail of the serpent of rationalism, of
intellectualism, over everything that lies on that side of the line. You
escape indeed the materialism that goes with the reigning empiricism;
but you pay for your escape by losing contact with the concrete parts
of life. The more absolutistic philosophers dwell on so high a level
of abstraction that they never even try to come down. The absolute mind
which they offer us, the mind that makes our universe by thinking it,
might, for aught they show us to the contrary, have made any one of a
million other universes just as well as this. You can deduce no single
actual particular from the notion of it. It is compatible with any state
of things whatever being true here below. And the theistic God is almost
as sterile a principle. You have to go to the world which he has created
to get any inkling of his actual character: he is the kind of god that
has once for all made that kind of a world. The God of the theistic
writers lives on as purely abstract heights as does the Absolute.
Absolutism has a certain sweep and dash about it, while the usual theism
is more insipid, but both are equally remote and vacuous. What you want
is a philosophy that will not only exercise your powers of intellectual
abstraction, but that will make some positive connexion with this actual
world of finite human lives.

You want a system that will combine both things, the scientific
loyalty to facts and willingness to take account of them, the spirit of
adaptation and accommodation, in short, but also the old confidence in
human values and the resultant spontaneity, whether of the religious or
of the romantic type. And this is then your dilemma: you find the two
parts of your quaesitum hopelessly separated. You find empiricism with
inhumanism and irreligion; or else you find a rationalistic philosophy
that indeed may call itself religious, but that keeps out of all
definite touch with concrete facts and joys and sorrows.

I am not sure how many of you live close enough to philosophy to realize
fully what I mean by this last reproach, so I will dwell a little longer
on that unreality in all rationalistic systems by which your serious
believer in facts is so apt to feel repelled.

I wish that I had saved the first couple of pages of a thesis which
a student handed me a year or two ago. They illustrated my point so
clearly that I am sorry I cannot read them to you now. This young man,
who was a graduate of some Western college, began by saying that he had
always taken for granted that when you entered a philosophic class-room
you had to open relations with a universe entirely distinct from the one
you left behind you in the street. The two were supposed, he said, to
have so little to do with each other, that you could not possibly occupy
your mind with them at the same time. The world of concrete personal
experiences to which the street belongs is multitudinous beyond
imagination, tangled, muddy, painful and perplexed. The world to which
your philosophy-professor introduces you is simple, clean and noble.
The contradictions of real life are absent from it. Its architecture is
classic. Principles of reason trace its outlines, logical necessities
cement its parts. Purity and dignity are what it most expresses. It is a
kind of marble temple shining on a hill.

In point of fact it is far less an account of this actual world than
a clear addition built upon it, a classic sanctuary in which the
rationalist fancy may take refuge from the intolerably confused and
gothic character which mere facts present. It is no EXPLANATION of our
concrete universe, it is another thing altogether, a substitute for it,
a remedy, a way of escape.

Its temperament, if I may use the word temperament here, is utterly
alien to the temperament of existence in the concrete. REFINEMENT is
what characterizes our intellectualist philosophies. They exquisitely
satisfy that craving for a refined object of contemplation which is so
powerful an appetite of the mind. But I ask you in all seriousness to
look abroad on this colossal universe of concrete facts, on their awful
bewilderments, their surprises and cruelties, on the wildness which
they show, and then to tell me whether 'refined' is the one inevitable
descriptive adjective that springs to your lips.

Refinement has its place in things, true enough. But a philosophy that
breathes out nothing but refinement will never satisfy the empiricist
temper of mind. It will seem rather a monument of artificiality. So we
find men of science preferring to turn their backs on metaphysics as on
something altogether cloistered and spectral, and practical men shaking
philosophy's dust off their feet and following the call of the wild.

Truly there is something a little ghastly in the satisfaction with which
a pure but unreal system will fill a rationalist mind. Leibnitz was
a rationalist mind, with infinitely more interest in facts than
most rationalist minds can show. Yet if you wish for superficiality
incarnate, you have only to read that charmingly written 'Theodicee' of
his, in which he sought to justify the ways of God to man, and to prove
that the world we live in is the best of possible worlds. Let me quote a
specimen of what I mean.

Among other obstacles to his optimistic philosophy, it falls to Leibnitz
to consider the number of the eternally damned. That it is infinitely
greater, in our human case, than that of those saved he assumes as a
premise from the theologians, and then proceeds to argue in this way.
Even then, he says:

"The evil will appear as almost nothing in comparison with the good, if
we once consider the real magnitude of the City of God. Coelius Secundus
Curio has written a little book, 'De Amplitudine Regni Coelestis,' which
was reprinted not long ago. But he failed to compass the extent of the
kingdom of the heavens. The ancients had small ideas of the works of
God. ... It seemed to them that only our earth had inhabitants, and even
the notion of our antipodes gave them pause. The rest of the world for
them consisted of some shining globes and a few crystalline spheres.
But to-day, whatever be the limits that we may grant or refuse to the
Universe we must recognize in it a countless number of globes, as big
as ours or bigger, which have just as much right as it has to support
rational inhabitants, tho it does not follow that these need all be men.
Our earth is only one among the six principal satellites of our sun. As
all the fixed stars are suns, one sees how small a place among visible
things our earth takes up, since it is only a satellite of one among
them. Now all these suns MAY be inhabited by none but happy creatures;
and nothing obliges us to believe that the number of damned persons is
WHICH GOOD DRAWS FROM EVIL. Moreover, since there is no reason to
suppose that there are stars everywhere, may there not be a great space
beyond the region of the stars? And this immense space, surrounding all
this region, ... may be replete with happiness and glory. ... What now
becomes of the consideration of our Earth and of its denizens? Does it
not dwindle to something incomparably less than a physical point, since
our Earth is but a point compared with the distance of the fixed stars.
Thus the part of the Universe which we know, being almost lost in
nothingness compared with that which is unknown to us, but which we
are yet obliged to admit; and all the evils that we know lying in this
almost-nothing; it follows that the evils may be almost-nothing in
comparison with the goods that the Universe contains."

Leibnitz continues elsewhere: "There is a kind of justice which aims
neither at the amendment of the criminal, nor at furnishing an example
to others, nor at the reparation of the injury. This justice is founded
in pure fitness, which finds a certain satisfaction in the expiation
of a wicked deed. The Socinians and Hobbes objected to this punitive
justice, which is properly vindictive justice and which God has reserved
for himself at many junctures. ... It is always founded in the fitness
of things, and satisfies not only the offended party, but all wise
lookers-on, even as beautiful music or a fine piece of architecture
satisfies a well-constituted mind. It is thus that the torments of the
damned continue, even tho they serve no longer to turn anyone away from
sin, and that the rewards of the blest continue, even tho they confirm
no one in good ways. The damned draw to themselves ever new penalties
by their continuing sins, and the blest attract ever fresh joys by their
unceasing progress in good. Both facts are founded on the principle of
fitness, ... for God has made all things harmonious in perfection as I
have already said."

Leibnitz's feeble grasp of reality is too obvious to need comment from
me. It is evident that no realistic image of the experience of a damned
soul had ever approached the portals of his mind. Nor had it occurred to
him that the smaller is the number of 'samples' of the genus 'lost-soul'
whom God throws as a sop to the eternal fitness, the more unequitably
grounded is the glory of the blest. What he gives us is a cold literary
exercise, whose cheerful substance even hell-fire does not warm.

And do not tell me that to show the shallowness of rationalist
philosophizing I have had to go back to a shallow wigpated age. The
optimism of present-day rationalism sounds just as shallow to the
fact-loving mind. The actual universe is a thing wide open, but
rationalism makes systems, and systems must be closed. For men in
practical life perfection is something far off and still in process of
achievement. This for rationalism is but the illusion of the finite
and relative: the absolute ground of things is a perfection eternally

I find a fine example of revolt against the airy and shallow optimism
of current religious philosophy in a publication of that valiant
anarchistic writer Morrison I. Swift. Mr. Swift's anarchism goes a
little farther than mine does, but I confess that I sympathize a
good deal, and some of you, I know, will sympathize heartily with his
dissatisfaction with the idealistic optimisms now in vogue. He begins
his pamphlet on 'Human Submission' with a series of city reporter's
items from newspapers (suicides, deaths from starvation and the like) as
specimens of our civilized regime. For instance:

"'After trudging through the snow from one end of the city to the other
in the vain hope of securing employment, and with his wife and six
children without food and ordered to leave their home in an upper east
side tenement house because of non-payment of rent, John Corcoran, a
clerk, to-day ended his life by drinking carbolic acid. Corcoran lost
his position three weeks ago through illness, and during the period of
idleness his scanty savings disappeared. Yesterday he obtained work with
a gang of city snow shovelers, but he was too weak from illness and was
forced to quit after an hour's trial with the shovel. Then the
weary task of looking for employment was again resumed. Thoroughly
discouraged, Corcoran returned to his home late last night to find his
wife and children without food and the notice of dispossession on the
door.' On the following morning he drank the poison.

"The records of many more such cases lie before me [Mr. Swift goes on];
an encyclopedia might easily be filled with their kind. These few I cite
as an interpretation of the universe. 'We are aware of the presence of
God in His world,' says a writer in a recent English Review. [The very
presence of ill in the temporal order is the condition of the perfection
of the eternal order, writes Professor Royce ('The World and the
Individual,' II, 385).] 'The Absolute is the richer for every discord,
and for all diversity which it embraces,' says F. H. Bradley (Appearance
and Reality, 204). He means that these slain men make the universe
richer, and that is Philosophy. But while Professors Royce and Bradley
and a whole host of guileless thoroughfed thinkers are unveiling
Reality and the Absolute and explaining away evil and pain, this is the
condition of the only beings known to us anywhere in the universe with
a developed consciousness of what the universe is. What these people
experience IS Reality. It gives us an absolute phase of the universe. It
is the personal experience of those most qualified in all our circle
of knowledge to HAVE experience, to tell us WHAT is. Now, what does
THINKING ABOUT the experience of these persons come to compared with
directly, personally feeling it, as they feel it? The philosophers are
dealing in shades, while those who live and feel know truth. And the
mind of mankind-not yet the mind of philosophers and of the proprietary
class-but of the great mass of the silently thinking and feeling men,
is coming to this view. They are judging the universe as they have
heretofore permitted the hierophants of religion and learning to judge
THEM. ...

"This Cleveland workingman, killing his children and himself [another
of the cited cases], is one of the elemental, stupendous facts of this
modern world and of this universe. It cannot be glozed over or minimized
away by all the treatises on God, and Love, and Being, helplessly
existing in their haughty monumental vacuity. This is one of the simple
irreducible elements of this world's life after millions of years of
divine opportunity and twenty centuries of Christ. It is in the moral
world like atoms or sub-atoms in the physical, primary, indestructible.
And what it blazons to man is the ... imposture of all philosophy
which does not see in such events the consummate factor of conscious
experience. These facts invincibly prove religion a nullity. Man will
not give religion two thousand centuries or twenty centuries more to try
itself and waste human time; its time is up, its probation is ended.
Its own record ends it. Mankind has not sons and eternities to spare for
trying out discredited systems...." [Footnote: Morrison I. Swift, Human
Submission, Part Second, Philadelphia, Liberty Press, 1905, pp. 4-10.]

Such is the reaction of an empiricist mind upon the rationalist bill of
fare. It is an absolute 'No, I thank you.' "Religion," says Mr. Swift,
"is like a sleep-walker to whom actual things are blank." And such,
tho possibly less tensely charged with feeling, is the verdict of
every seriously inquiring amateur in philosophy to-day who turns to the
philosophy-professors for the wherewithal to satisfy the fulness of his
nature's needs. Empiricist writers give him a materialism, rationalists
give him something religious, but to that religion "actual things are
blank." He becomes thus the judge of us philosophers. Tender or tough,
he finds us wanting. None of us may treat his verdicts disdainfully, for
after all, his is the typically perfect mind, the mind the sum of whose
demands is greatest, the mind whose criticisms and dissatisfactions are
fatal in the long run.

It is at this point that my own solution begins to appear. I offer the
oddly-named thing pragmatism as a philosophy that can satisfy both kinds
of demand. It can remain religious like the rationalisms, but at the
same time, like the empiricisms, it can preserve the richest intimacy
with facts. I hope I may be able to leave many of you with as favorable
an opinion of it as I preserve myself. Yet, as I am near the end of my
hour, I will not introduce pragmatism bodily now. I will begin with it
on the stroke of the clock next time. I prefer at the present moment to
return a little on what I have said.

If any of you here are professional philosophers, and some of you I know
to be such, you will doubtless have felt my discourse so far to have
been crude in an unpardonable, nay, in an almost incredible degree.
Tender-minded and tough-minded, what a barbaric disjunction! And, in
general, when philosophy is all compacted of delicate intellectualities
and subtleties and scrupulosities, and when every possible sort of
combination and transition obtains within its bounds, what a brutal
caricature and reduction of highest things to the lowest possible
expression is it to represent its field of conflict as a sort of
rough-and-tumble fight between two hostile temperaments! What a
childishly external view! And again, how stupid it is to treat the
abstractness of rationalist systems as a crime, and to damn them because
they offer themselves as sanctuaries and places of escape, rather than
as prolongations of the world of facts. Are not all our theories just
remedies and places of escape? And, if philosophy is to be religious,
how can she be anything else than a place of escape from the crassness
of reality's surface? What better thing can she do than raise us out of
our animal senses and show us another and a nobler home for our minds in
that great framework of ideal principles subtending all reality, which
the intellect divines? How can principles and general views ever be
anything but abstract outlines? Was Cologne cathedral built without an
architect's plan on paper? Is refinement in itself an abomination? Is
concrete rudeness the only thing that's true?

Believe me, I feel the full force of the indictment. The picture I
have given is indeed monstrously over-simplified and rude. But like all
abstractions, it will prove to have its use. If philosophers can treat
the life of the universe abstractly, they must not complain of an
abstract treatment of the life of philosophy itself. In point of fact
the picture I have given is, however coarse and sketchy, literally true.
Temperaments with their cravings and refusals do determine men in their
philosophies, and always will. The details of systems may be reasoned
out piecemeal, and when the student is working at a system, he may
often forget the forest for the single tree. But when the labor is
accomplished, the mind always performs its big summarizing act, and the
system forthwith stands over against one like a living thing, with that
strange simple note of individuality which haunts our memory, like the
wraith of the man, when a friend or enemy of ours is dead.

Not only Walt Whitman could write "who touches this book touches a man."
The books of all the great philosophers are like so many men. Our
sense of an essential personal flavor in each one of them, typical but
indescribable, is the finest fruit of our own accomplished philosophic
education. What the system pretends to be is a picture of the great
universe of God. What it is--and oh so flagrantly!--is the revelation of
how intensely odd the personal flavor of some fellow creature is. Once
reduced to these terms (and all our philosophies get reduced to them in
minds made critical by learning) our commerce with the systems reverts
to the informal, to the instinctive human reaction of satisfaction or
dislike. We grow as peremptory in our rejection or admission, as when a
person presents himself as a candidate for our favor; our verdicts are
couched in as simple adjectives of praise or dispraise. We measure the
total character of the universe as we feel it, against the flavor of the
philosophy proffered us, and one word is enough.

"Statt der lebendigen Natur," we say, "da Gott die Menschen schuf
hinein"--that nebulous concoction, that wooden, that straight-laced
thing, that crabbed artificiality, that musty schoolroom product, that
sick man's dream! Away with it. Away with all of them! Impossible!

Our work over the details of his system is indeed what gives us our
resultant impression of the philosopher, but it is on the resultant
impression itself that we react. Expertness in philosophy is measured
by the definiteness of our summarizing reactions, by the immediate
perceptive epithet with which the expert hits such complex objects
off. But great expertness is not necessary for the epithet to come. Few
people have definitely articulated philosophies of their own. But almost
everyone has his own peculiar sense of a certain total character in
the universe, and of the inadequacy fully to match it of the peculiar
systems that he knows. They don't just cover HIS world. One will be too
dapper, another too pedantic, a third too much of a job-lot of opinions,
a fourth too morbid, and a fifth too artificial, or what not. At any
rate he and we know offhand that such philosophies are out of plumb and
out of key and out of 'whack,' and have no business to speak up in the
universe's name. Plato, Locke, Spinoza, Mill, Caird, Hegel--I prudently
avoid names nearer home!--I am sure that to many of you, my hearers,
these names are little more than reminders of as many curious personal
ways of falling short. It would be an obvious absurdity if such ways of
taking the universe were actually true. We philosophers have to reckon
with such feelings on your part. In the last resort, I repeat, it will
be by them that all our philosophies shall ultimately be judged. The
finally victorious way of looking at things will be the most completely
IMPRESSIVE way to the normal run of minds.

One word more--namely about philosophies necessarily being abstract
outlines. There are outlines and outlines, outlines of buildings
that are FAT, conceived in the cube by their planner, and outlines of
buildings invented flat on paper, with the aid of ruler and compass.
These remain skinny and emaciated even when set up in stone and mortar,
and the outline already suggests that result. An outline in itself is
meagre, truly, but it does not necessarily suggest a meagre thing. It is
the essential meagreness of WHAT IS SUGGESTED by the usual rationalistic
philosophies that moves empiricists to their gesture of rejection. The
case of Herbert Spencer's system is much to the point here. Rationalists
feel his fearful array of insufficiencies. His dry schoolmaster
temperament, the hurdy-gurdy monotony of him, his preference for
cheap makeshifts in argument, his lack of education even in mechanical
principles, and in general the vagueness of all his fundamental ideas,
his whole system wooden, as if knocked together out of cracked hemlock
boards--and yet the half of England wants to bury him in Westminster

Why? Why does Spencer call out so much reverence in spite of his
weakness in rationalistic eyes? Why should so many educated men who
feel that weakness, you and I perhaps, wish to see him in the Abbey

Simply because we feel his heart to be IN THE RIGHT PLACE
philosophically. His principles may be all skin and bone, but at any
rate his books try to mould themselves upon the particular shape of
this, particular world's carcase. The noise of facts resounds through
all his chapters, the citations of fact never cease, he emphasizes
facts, turns his face towards their quarter; and that is enough. It
means the right kind of thing for the empiricist mind.

The pragmatistic philosophy of which I hope to begin talking in my
next lecture preserves as cordial a relation with facts, and, unlike
Spencer's philosophy, it neither begins nor ends by turning positive
religious constructions out of doors--it treats them cordially as well.

I hope I may lead you to find it just the mediating way of thinking that
you require.

Lecture II

What Pragmatism Means

Some years ago, being with a camping party in the mountains, I
returned from a solitary ramble to find everyone engaged in a ferocious
metaphysical dispute. The corpus of the dispute was a squirrel--a live
squirrel supposed to be clinging to one side of a tree-trunk; while over
against the tree's opposite side a human being was imagined to stand.
This human witness tries to get sight of the squirrel by moving rapidly
round the tree, but no matter how fast he goes, the squirrel moves
as fast in the opposite direction, and always keeps the tree between
himself and the man, so that never a glimpse of him is caught. The
resultant metaphysical problem now is this: DOES THE MAN GO ROUND THE
SQUIRREL OR NOT? He goes round the tree, sure enough, and the squirrel
is on the tree; but does he go round the squirrel? In the unlimited
leisure of the wilderness, discussion had been worn threadbare. Everyone
had taken sides, and was obstinate; and the numbers on both sides were
even. Each side, when I appeared, therefore appealed to me to make it
a majority. Mindful of the scholastic adage that whenever you meet a
contradiction you must make a distinction, I immediately sought and
found one, as follows: "Which party is right," I said, "depends on what
you PRACTICALLY MEAN by 'going round' the squirrel. If you mean passing
from the north of him to the east, then to the south, then to the west,
and then to the north of him again, obviously the man does go round him,
for he occupies these successive positions. But if on the contrary you
mean being first in front of him, then on the right of him, then behind
him, then on his left, and finally in front again, it is quite as
obvious that the man fails to go round him, for by the compensating
movements the squirrel makes, he keeps his belly turned towards the man
all the time, and his back turned away. Make the distinction, and there
is no occasion for any farther dispute. You are both right and both
wrong according as you conceive the verb 'to go round' in one practical
fashion or the other."

Altho one or two of the hotter disputants called my speech a shuffling
evasion, saying they wanted no quibbling or scholastic hair-splitting,
but meant just plain honest English 'round,' the majority seemed to
think that the distinction had assuaged the dispute.

I tell this trivial anecdote because it is a peculiarly simple example
of what I wish now to speak of as THE PRAGMATIC METHOD. The pragmatic
method is primarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that
otherwise might be interminable. Is the world one or many?--fated or
free?--material or spiritual?--here are notions either of which may
or may not hold good of the world; and disputes over such notions are
unending. The pragmatic method in such cases is to try to interpret each
notion by tracing its respective practical consequences. What difference
would it practically make to anyone if this notion rather than that
notion were true? If no practical difference whatever can be traced,
then the alternatives mean practically the same thing, and all dispute
is idle. Whenever a dispute is serious, we ought to be able to show some
practical difference that must follow from one side or the other's being

A glance at the history of the idea will show you still better what
pragmatism means. The term is derived from the same Greek word [pi rho
alpha gamma mu alpha], meaning action, from which our words 'practice'
and 'practical' come. It was first introduced into philosophy by Mr.
Charles Peirce in 1878. In an article entitled 'How to Make Our Ideas
Clear,' in the 'Popular Science Monthly' for January of that year
[Footnote: Translated in the Revue Philosophique for January, 1879 (vol.
vii).] Mr. Peirce, after pointing out that our beliefs are really rules
for action, said that to develope a thought's meaning, we need only
determine what conduct it is fitted to produce: that conduct is for
us its sole significance. And the tangible fact at the root of all our
thought-distinctions, however subtle, is that there is no one of them so
fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference of practice.
To attain perfect clearness in our thoughts of an object, then, we need
only consider what conceivable effects of a practical kind the object
may involve--what sensations we are to expect from it, and what
reactions we must prepare. Our conception of these effects, whether
immediate or remote, is then for us the whole of our conception of the
object, so far as that conception has positive significance at all.

This is the principle of Peirce, the principle of pragmatism. It lay
entirely unnoticed by anyone for twenty years, until I, in an address
before Professor Howison's philosophical union at the university of
California, brought it forward again and made a special application
of it to religion. By that date (1898) the times seemed ripe for its
reception. The word 'pragmatism' spread, and at present it fairly
spots the pages of the philosophic journals. On all hands we find the
'pragmatic movement' spoken of, sometimes with respect, sometimes with
contumely, seldom with clear understanding. It is evident that the term
applies itself conveniently to a number of tendencies that hitherto have
lacked a collective name, and that it has 'come to stay.'

To take in the importance of Peirce's principle, one must get accustomed
to applying it to concrete cases. I found a few years ago that Ostwald,
the illustrious Leipzig chemist, had been making perfectly distinct
use of the principle of pragmatism in his lectures on the philosophy of
science, tho he had not called it by that name.

"All realities influence our practice," he wrote me, "and that influence
is their meaning for us. I am accustomed to put questions to my classes
in this way: In what respects would the world be different if this
alternative or that were true? If I can find nothing that would become
different, then the alternative has no sense."

That is, the rival views mean practically the same thing, and meaning,
other than practical, there is for us none. Ostwald in a published
lecture gives this example of what he means. Chemists have long wrangled
over the inner constitution of certain bodies called 'tautomerous.'
Their properties seemed equally consistent with the notion that an
instable hydrogen atom oscillates inside of them, or that they are
instable mixtures of two bodies. Controversy raged; but never was
decided. "It would never have begun," says Ostwald, "if the combatants
had asked themselves what particular experimental fact could have been
made different by one or the other view being correct. For it would then
have appeared that no difference of fact could possibly ensue; and the
quarrel was as unreal as if, theorizing in primitive times about the
raising of dough by yeast, one party should have invoked a 'brownie,'
while another insisted on an 'elf' as the true cause of the phenomenon."
[Footnote: 'Theorie und Praxis,' Zeitsch. des Oesterreichischen
Ingenieur u. Architecten-Vereines, 1905, Nr. 4 u. 6. I find a still
more radical pragmatism than Ostwald's in an address by Professor W.
S. Franklin: "I think that the sickliest notion of physics, even if a
student gets it, is that it is 'the science of masses, molecules and the
ether.' And I think that the healthiest notion, even if a student does
not wholly get it, is that physics is the science of the ways of taking
hold of bodies and pushing them!" (Science, January 2, 1903.)]

It is astonishing to see how many philosophical disputes collapse
into insignificance the moment you subject them to this simple test of
tracing a concrete consequence. There can BE no difference any-where
that doesn't MAKE a difference elsewhere--no difference in abstract
truth that doesn't express itself in a difference in concrete fact and
in conduct consequent upon that fact, imposed on somebody, somehow,
somewhere and somewhen. The whole function of philosophy ought to be
to find out what definite difference it will make to you and me,
at definite instants of our life, if this world-formula or that
world-formula be the true one.

There is absolutely nothing new in the pragmatic method. Socrates was
an adept at it. Aristotle used it methodically. Locke, Berkeley and Hume
made momentous contributions to truth by its means. Shadworth Hodgson
keeps insisting that realities are only what they are 'known-as.'
But these forerunners of pragmatism used it in fragments: they were
preluders only. Not until in our time has it generalized itself, become
conscious of a universal mission, pretended to a conquering destiny. I
believe in that destiny, and I hope I may end by inspiring you with my

Pragmatism represents a perfectly familiar attitude in philosophy, the
empiricist attitude, but it represents it, as it seems to me, both in
a more radical and in a less objectionable form than it has ever yet
assumed. A pragmatist turns his back resolutely and once for all upon
a lot of inveterate habits dear to professional philosophers. He turns
away from abstraction and insufficiency, from verbal solutions, from bad
a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended
absolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy,
towards facts, towards action, and towards power. That means the
empiricist temper regnant, and the rationalist temper sincerely given
up. It means the open air and possibilities of nature, as against dogma,
artificiality and the pretence of finality in truth.

At the same time it does not stand for any special results. It is
a method only. But the general triumph of that method would mean an
enormous change in what I called in my last lecture the 'temperament'
of philosophy. Teachers of the ultra-rationalistic type would be frozen
out, much as the courtier type is frozen out in republics, as the
ultramontane type of priest is frozen out in protestant lands. Science
and metaphysics would come much nearer together, would in fact work
absolutely hand in hand.

Metaphysics has usually followed a very primitive kind of quest. You
know how men have always hankered after unlawful magic, and you know
what a great part, in magic, WORDS have always played. If you have his
name, or the formula of incantation that binds him, you can control the
spirit, genie, afrite, or whatever the power may be. Solomon knew the
names of all the spirits, and having their names, he held them subject
to his will. So the universe has always appeared to the natural mind as
a kind of enigma, of which the key must be sought in the shape of
some illuminating or power-bringing word or name. That word names the
universe's PRINCIPLE, and to possess it is, after a fashion, to
possess the universe itself. 'God,' 'Matter,' 'Reason,' 'the Absolute,'
'Energy,' are so many solving names. You can rest when you have them.
You are at the end of your metaphysical quest.

But if you follow the pragmatic method, you cannot look on any such word
as closing your quest. You must bring out of each word its practical
cash-value, set it at work within the stream of your experience. It
appears less as a solution, then, than as a program for more work,
and more particularly as an indication of the ways in which existing
realities may be CHANGED.

WE CAN REST. We don't lie back upon them, we move forward, and, on
occasion, make nature over again by their aid. Pragmatism unstiffens all
our theories, limbers them up and sets each one at work. Being nothing
essentially new, it harmonizes with many ancient philosophic tendencies.
It agrees with nominalism for instance, in always appealing to
particulars; with utilitarianism in emphasizing practical aspects; with
positivism in its disdain for verbal solutions, useless questions, and
metaphysical abstractions.

All these, you see, are ANTI-INTELLECTUALIST tendencies. Against
rationalism as a pretension and a method, pragmatism is fully armed
and militant. But, at the outset, at least, it stands for no particular
results. It has no dogmas, and no doctrines save its method. As the
young Italian pragmatist Papini has well said, it lies in the midst of
our theories, like a corridor in a hotel. Innumerable chambers open out
of it. In one you may find a man writing an atheistic volume; in the
next someone on his knees praying for faith and strength; in a third
a chemist investigating a body's properties. In a fourth a system
of idealistic metaphysics is being excogitated; in a fifth the
impossibility of metaphysics is being shown. But they all own the
corridor, and all must pass through it if they want a practicable way of
getting into or out of their respective rooms.

No particular results then, so far, but only an attitude of orientation,
is what the pragmatic method means. THE ATTITUDE OF LOOKING AWAY FROM

So much for the pragmatic method! You may say that I have been praising
it rather than explaining it to you, but I shall presently explain it
abundantly enough by showing how it works on some familiar problems.
Meanwhile the word pragmatism has come to be used in a still wider
sense, as meaning also a certain theory of TRUTH. I mean to give a whole
lecture to the statement of that theory, after first paving the way,
so I can be very brief now. But brevity is hard to follow, so I ask
for your redoubled attention for a quarter of an hour. If much remains
obscure, I hope to make it clearer in the later lectures.

One of the most successfully cultivated branches of philosophy in our
time is what is called inductive logic, the study of the conditions
under which our sciences have evolved. Writers on this subject have
begun to show a singular unanimity as to what the laws of nature and
elements of fact mean, when formulated by mathematicians, physicists and
chemists. When the first mathematical, logical and natural uniformities,
the first LAWS, were discovered, men were so carried away by the
clearness, beauty and simplification that resulted, that they believed
themselves to have deciphered authentically the eternal thoughts of the
Almighty. His mind also thundered and reverberated in syllogisms.
He also thought in conic sections, squares and roots and ratios, and
geometrized like Euclid. He made Kepler's laws for the planets to
follow; he made velocity increase proportionally to the time in falling
bodies; he made the law of the sines for light to obey when refracted;
he established the classes, orders, families and genera of plants and
animals, and fixed the distances between them. He thought the archetypes
of all things, and devised their variations; and when we rediscover any
one of these his wondrous institutions, we seize his mind in its very
literal intention.

But as the sciences have developed farther, the notion has gained ground
that most, perhaps all, of our laws are only approximations. The laws
themselves, moreover, have grown so numerous that there is no counting
them; and so many rival formulations are proposed in all the branches of
science that investigators have become accustomed to the notion that no
theory is absolutely a transcript of reality, but that any one of them
may from some point of view be useful. Their great use is to summarize
old facts and to lead to new ones. They are only a man-made language,
a conceptual shorthand, as someone calls them, in which we write our
reports of nature; and languages, as is well known, tolerate much choice
of expression and many dialects.

Thus human arbitrariness has driven divine necessity from scientific
logic. If I mention the names of Sigwart, Mach, Ostwald, Pearson,
Milhaud, Poincare, Duhem, Ruyssen, those of you who are students will
easily identify the tendency I speak of, and will think of additional

Riding now on the front of this wave of scientific logic Messrs.
Schiller and Dewey appear with their pragmatistic account of what truth
everywhere signifies. Everywhere, these teachers say, 'truth' in our
ideas and beliefs means the same thing that it means in science. It
means, they say, nothing but this, THAT IDEAS (WHICH THEMSELVES ARE BUT
summarize them and get about among them by conceptual short-cuts instead
of following the interminable succession of particular phenomena. Any
idea upon which we can ride, so to speak; any idea that will carry us
prosperously from any one part of our experience to any other part,
linking things satisfactorily, working securely, simplifying,
saving labor; is true for just so much, true in so far forth, true
INSTRUMENTALLY. This is the 'instrumental' view of truth taught so
successfully at Chicago, the view that truth in our ideas means their
power to 'work,' promulgated so brilliantly at Oxford.

Messrs. Dewey, Schiller and their allies, in reaching this general
conception of all truth, have only followed the example of geologists,
biologists and philologists. In the establishment of these other
sciences, the successful stroke was always to take some simple process
actually observable in operation--as denudation by weather, say, or
variation from parental type, or change of dialect by incorporation of
new words and pronunciations--and then to generalize it, making it apply
to all times, and produce great results by summating its effects through
the ages.

The observable process which Schiller and Dewey particularly singled out
for generalization is the familiar one by which any individual settles
into NEW OPINIONS. The process here is always the same. The individual
has a stock of old opinions already, but he meets a new experience that
puts them to a strain. Somebody contradicts them; or in a reflective
moment he discovers that they contradict each other; or he hears of
facts with which they are incompatible; or desires arise in him which
they cease to satisfy. The result is an inward trouble to which his
mind till then had been a stranger, and from which he seeks to escape
by modifying his previous mass of opinions. He saves as much of it as he
can, for in this matter of belief we are all extreme conservatives. So
he tries to change first this opinion, and then that (for they resist
change very variously), until at last some new idea comes up which he
can graft upon the ancient stock with a minimum of disturbance of the
latter, some idea that mediates between the stock and the new experience
and runs them into one another most felicitously and expediently.

This new idea is then adopted as the true one. It preserves the older
stock of truths with a minimum of modification, stretching them just
enough to make them admit the novelty, but conceiving that in ways as
familiar as the case leaves possible. An outree explanation, violating
all our preconceptions, would never pass for a true account of a
novelty. We should scratch round industriously till we found something
less excentric. The most violent revolutions in an individual's beliefs
leave most of his old order standing. Time and space, cause and effect,
nature and history, and one's own biography remain untouched. New truth
is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions. It marries old
opinion to new fact so as ever to show a minimum of jolt, a maximum of
continuity. We hold a theory true just in proportion to its success in
solving this 'problem of maxima and minima.' But success in solving
this problem is eminently a matter of approximation. We say this theory
solves it on the whole more satisfactorily than that theory; but that
means more satisfactorily to ourselves, and individuals will emphasize
their points of satisfaction differently. To a certain degree,
therefore, everything here is plastic.

The point I now urge you to observe particularly is the part played by
the older truths. Failure to take account of it is the source of much
of the unjust criticism leveled against pragmatism. Their influence is
absolutely controlling. Loyalty to them is the first principle--in
most cases it is the only principle; for by far the most usual way
of handling phenomena so novel that they would make for a serious
rearrangement of our preconceptions is to ignore them altogether, or to
abuse those who bear witness for them.

You doubtless wish examples of this process of truth's growth, and the
only trouble is their superabundance. The simplest case of new truth is
of course the mere numerical addition of new kinds of facts, or of new
single facts of old kinds, to our experience--an addition that involves
no alteration in the old beliefs. Day follows day, and its contents are
simply added. The new contents themselves are not true, they simply COME
and ARE. Truth is what we say about them, and when we say that they have
come, truth is satisfied by the plain additive formula.

But often the day's contents oblige a rearrangement. If I should now
utter piercing shrieks and act like a maniac on this platform, it
would make many of you revise your ideas as to the probable worth of my
philosophy. 'Radium' came the other day as part of the day's content,
and seemed for a moment to contradict our ideas of the whole order of
nature, that order having come to be identified with what is called
the conservation of energy. The mere sight of radium paying heat away
indefinitely out of its own pocket seemed to violate that conservation.
What to think? If the radiations from it were nothing but an escape of
unsuspected 'potential' energy, pre-existent inside of the atoms, the
principle of conservation would be saved. The discovery of 'helium' as
the radiation's outcome, opened a way to this belief. So Ramsay's view
is generally held to be true, because, altho it extends our old ideas of
energy, it causes a minimum of alteration in their nature.

I need not multiply instances. A new opinion counts as 'true' just in
proportion as it gratifies the individual's desire to assimilate the
novel in his experience to his beliefs in stock. It must both lean on
old truth and grasp new fact; and its success (as I said a moment ago)
in doing this, is a matter for the individual's appreciation. When
old truth grows, then, by new truth's addition, it is for subjective
reasons. We are in the process and obey the reasons. That new idea is
truest which performs most felicitously its function of satisfying our
double urgency. It makes itself true, gets itself classed as true, by
the way it works; grafting itself then upon the ancient body of truth,
which thus grows much as a tree grows by the activity of a new layer of

Now Dewey and Schiller proceed to generalize this observation and
to apply it to the most ancient parts of truth. They also once were
plastic. They also were called true for human reasons. They also
mediated between still earlier truths and what in those days were novel
observations. Purely objective truth, truth in whose establishment the
function of giving human satisfaction in marrying previous parts of
experience with newer parts played no role whatever, is nowhere to be
found. The reasons why we call things true is the reason why they ARE
true, for 'to be true' MEANS only to perform this marriage-function.

The trail of the human serpent is thus over everything. Truth
independent; truth that we FIND merely; truth no longer malleable to
human need; truth incorrigible, in a word; such truth exists indeed
superabundantly--or is supposed to exist by rationalistically minded
thinkers; but then it means only the dead heart of the living tree, and
its being there means only that truth also has its paleontology and its
'prescription,' and may grow stiff with years of veteran service and
petrified in men's regard by sheer antiquity. But how plastic even the
oldest truths nevertheless really are has been vividly shown in our
day by the transformation of logical and mathematical ideas, a
transformation which seems even to be invading physics. The ancient
formulas are reinterpreted as special expressions of much wider
principles, principles that our ancestors never got a glimpse of in
their present shape and formulation.

Mr. Schiller still gives to all this view of truth the name of
'Humanism,' but, for this doctrine too, the name of pragmatism seems
fairly to be in the ascendant, so I will treat it under the name of
pragmatism in these lectures.

Such then would be the scope of pragmatism--first, a method; and second,
a genetic theory of what is meant by truth. And these two things must be
our future topics.

What I have said of the theory of truth will, I am sure, have appeared
obscure and unsatisfactory to most of you by reason of us brevity. I
shall make amends for that hereafter. In a lecture on 'common sense' I
shall try to show what I mean by truths grown petrified by antiquity. In
another lecture I shall expatiate on the idea that our thoughts become
true in proportion as they successfully exert their go-between function.
In a third I shall show how hard it is to discriminate subjective from
objective factors in Truth's development. You may not follow me wholly
in these lectures; and if you do, you may not wholly agree with me. But
you will, I know, regard me at least as serious, and treat my effort
with respectful consideration.

You will probably be surprised to learn, then, that Messrs. Schiller's
and Dewey's theories have suffered a hailstorm of contempt and ridicule.
All rationalism has risen against them. In influential quarters Mr.
Schiller, in particular, has been treated like an impudent schoolboy who
deserves a spanking. I should not mention this, but for the fact that it
throws so much sidelight upon that rationalistic temper to which I have
opposed the temper of pragmatism. Pragmatism is uncomfortable away from
facts. Rationalism is comfortable only in the presence of abstractions.
This pragmatist talk about truths in the plural, about their utility
and satisfactoriness, about the success with which they 'work,' etc.,
suggests to the typical intellectualist mind a sort of coarse lame
second-rate makeshift article of truth. Such truths are not real truth.
Such tests are merely subjective. As against this, objective truth must
be something non-utilitarian, haughty, refined, remote, august, exalted.
It must be an absolute correspondence of our thoughts with an equally
absolute reality. It must be what we OUGHT to think, unconditionally.
The conditioned ways in which we DO think are so much irrelevance and
matter for psychology. Down with psychology, up with logic, in all this

See the exquisite contrast of the types of mind! The pragmatist clings
to facts and concreteness, observes truth at its work in particular
cases, and generalizes. Truth, for him, becomes a class-name for all
sorts of definite working-values in experience. For the rationalist it
remains a pure abstraction, to the bare name of which we must defer.
When the pragmatist undertakes to show in detail just WHY we must defer,
the rationalist is unable to recognize the concretes from which his own
abstraction is taken. He accuses us of DENYING truth; whereas we have
only sought to trace exactly why people follow it and always ought
to follow it. Your typical ultra-abstractionist fairly shudders at
concreteness: other things equal, he positively prefers the pale and
spectral. If the two universes were offered, he would always choose the
skinny outline rather than the rich thicket of reality. It is so much
purer, clearer, nobler.

I hope that as these lectures go on, the concreteness and closeness to
facts of the pragmatism which they advocate may be what approves itself
to you as its most satisfactory peculiarity. It only follows here the
example of the sister-sciences, interpreting the unobserved by the
observed. It brings old and new harmoniously together. It converts the
absolutely empty notion of a static relation of 'correspondence' (what
that may mean we must ask later) between our minds and reality, into
that of a rich and active commerce (that anyone may follow in detail and
understand) between particular thoughts of ours, and the great universe
of other experiences in which they play their parts and have their uses.

But enough of this at present? The justification of what I say must be
postponed. I wish now to add a word in further explanation of the claim
I made at our last meeting, that pragmatism may be a happy harmonizer
of empiricist ways of thinking, with the more religious demands of human

Men who are strongly of the fact-loving temperament, you may remember me
to have said, are liable to be kept at a distance by the small sympathy
with facts which that philosophy from the present-day fashion of
idealism offers them. It is far too intellectualistic. Old fashioned
theism was bad enough, with its notion of God as an exalted monarch,
made up of a lot of unintelligible or preposterous 'attributes'; but, so
long as it held strongly by the argument from design, it kept some touch
with concrete realities. Since, however, darwinism has once for all
displaced design from the minds of the 'scientific,' theism has lost
that foothold; and some kind of an immanent or pantheistic deity working
IN things rather than above them is, if any, the kind recommended to our
contemporary imagination. Aspirants to a philosophic religion turn, as a
rule, more hopefully nowadays towards idealistic pantheism than towards
the older dualistic theism, in spite of the fact that the latter still
counts able defenders.

But, as I said in my first lecture, the brand of pantheism offered is
hard for them to assimilate if they are lovers of facts, or empirically
minded. It is the absolutistic brand, spurning the dust and reared upon
pure logic. It keeps no connexion whatever with concreteness. Affirming
the Absolute Mind, which is its substitute for God, to be the rational
presupposition of all particulars of fact, whatever they may be, it
remains supremely indifferent to what the particular facts in our world
actually are. Be they what they may, the Absolute will father them. Like
the sick lion in Esop's fable, all footprints lead into his den,
but nulla vestigia retrorsum. You cannot redescend into the world of
particulars by the Absolute's aid, or deduce any necessary consequences
of detail important for your life from your idea of his nature. He gives
you indeed the assurance that all is well with Him, and for his eternal
way of thinking; but thereupon he leaves you to be finitely saved by
your own temporal devices.

Far be it from me to deny the majesty of this conception, or its
capacity to yield religious comfort to a most respectable class of
minds. But from the human point of view, no one can pretend that it
doesn't suffer from the faults of remoteness and abstractness. It is
eminently a product of what I have ventured to call the rationalistic
temper. It disdains empiricism's needs. It substitutes a pallid outline
for the real world's richness. It is dapper; it is noble in the bad
sense, in the sense in which to be noble is to be inapt for humble
service. In this real world of sweat and dirt, it seems to me that
when a view of things is 'noble,' that ought to count as a presumption
against its truth, and as a philosophic disqualification. The prince of
darkness may be a gentleman, as we are told he is, but whatever the
God of earth and heaven is, he can surely be no gentleman. His menial
services are needed in the dust of our human trials, even more than his
dignity is needed in the empyrean.

Now pragmatism, devoted tho she be to facts, has no such materialistic
bias as ordinary empiricism labors under. Moreover, she has no objection
whatever to the realizing of abstractions, so long as you get about
among particulars with their aid and they actually carry you somewhere.
Interested in no conclusions but those which our minds and our
experiences work out together, she has no a priori prejudices against

What I said just now about the Absolute of transcendental idealism is a
case in point. First, I called it majestic and said it yielded religious
comfort to a class of minds, and then I accused it of remoteness and
sterility. But so far as it affords such comfort, it surely is not
sterile; it has that amount of value; it performs a concrete function.
As a good pragmatist, I myself ought to call the Absolute true 'in so
far forth,' then; and I unhesitatingly now do so.

But what does TRUE IN SO FAR FORTH mean in this case? To answer, we need
only apply the pragmatic method. What do believers in the Absolute mean
by saying that their belief affords them comfort? They mean that since
in the Absolute finite evil is 'overruled' already, we may, therefore,
whenever we wish, treat the temporal as if it were potentially the
eternal, be sure that we can trust its outcome, and, without sin,
dismiss our fear and drop the worry of our finite responsibility. In
short, they mean that we have a right ever and anon to take a moral
holiday, to let the world wag in its own way, feeling that its issues
are in better hands than ours and are none of our business.

The universe is a system of which the individual members may relax their
anxieties occasionally, in which the don't-care mood is also right for
men, and moral holidays in order--that, if I mistake not, is part, at
least, of what the Absolute is 'known-as,' that is the great difference
in our particular experiences which his being true makes for us, that
is part of his cash-value when he is pragmatically interpreted. Farther
than that the ordinary lay-reader in philosophy who thinks favorably of
absolute idealism does not venture to sharpen his conceptions. He can
use the Absolute for so much, and so much is very precious. He is pained
at hearing you speak incredulously of the Absolute, therefore, and
disregards your criticisms because they deal with aspects of the
conception that he fails to follow.

If the Absolute means this, and means no more than this, who can
possibly deny the truth of it? To deny it would be to insist that men
should never relax, and that holidays are never in order. I am well
aware how odd it must seem to some of you to hear me say that an idea is
'true' so long as to believe it is profitable to our lives. That it is
GOOD, for as much as it profits, you will gladly admit. If what we do
by its aid is good, you will allow the idea itself to be good in so far
forth, for we are the better for possessing it. But is it not a strange
misuse of the word 'truth,' you will say, to call ideas also 'true' for
this reason?

To answer this difficulty fully is impossible at this stage of
my account. You touch here upon the very central point of Messrs.
Schiller's, Dewey's and my own doctrine of truth, which I cannot discuss
with detail until my sixth lecture. Let me now say only this, that truth
is ONE SPECIES OF GOOD, and not, as is usually supposed, a category
distinct from good, and co-ordinate with it. THE TRUE IS THE NAME OF
FOR DEFINITE, ASSIGNABLE REASONS. Surely you must admit this, that if
there were NO good for life in true ideas, or if the knowledge of them
were positively disadvantageous and false ideas the only useful ones,
then the current notion that truth is divine and precious, and its
pursuit a duty, could never have grown up or become a dogma. In a world
like that, our duty would be to SHUN truth, rather. But in this world,
just as certain foods are not only agreeable to our taste, but good for
our teeth, our stomach and our tissues; so certain ideas are not only
agreeable to think about, or agreeable as supporting other ideas that we
are fond of, but they are also helpful in life's practical struggles. If
there be any life that it is really better we should lead, and if there
be any idea which, if believed in, would help us to lead that life,
then it would be really BETTER FOR US to believe in that idea, UNLESS,

'What would be better for us to believe'! This sounds very like a
definition of truth. It comes very near to saying 'what we OUGHT to
believe': and in THAT definition none of you would find any oddity.
Ought we ever not to believe what it is BETTER FOR US to believe? And
can we then keep the notion of what is better for us, and what is true
for us, permanently apart?

Pragmatism says no, and I fully agree with her. Probably you also agree,
so far as the abstract statement goes, but with a suspicion that if
we practically did believe everything that made for good in our own
personal lives, we should be found indulging all kinds of fancies about
this world's affairs, and all kinds of sentimental superstitions about a
world hereafter. Your suspicion here is undoubtedly well founded, and it
is evident that something happens when you pass from the abstract to the
concrete, that complicates the situation.

I said just now that what is better for us to believe is true UNLESS THE
life what vital benefits is any particular belief of ours most liable
to clash with? What indeed except the vital benefits yielded by OTHER
BELIEFS when these prove incompatible with the first ones? In other
words, the greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest
of our truths. Truths have once for all this desperate instinct of
self-preservation and of desire to extinguish whatever contradicts them.
My belief in the Absolute, based on the good it does me, must run the
gauntlet of all my other beliefs. Grant that it may be true in giving me
a moral holiday. Nevertheless, as I conceive it,--and let me speak now
confidentially, as it were, and merely in my own private person,--it
clashes with other truths of mine whose benefits I hate to give up on
its account. It happens to be associated with a kind of logic of which I
am the enemy, I find that it entangles me in metaphysical paradoxes
that are inacceptable, etc., etc.. But as I have enough trouble in
life already without adding the trouble of carrying these intellectual
inconsistencies, I personally just give up the Absolute. I just TAKE my
moral holidays; or else as a professional philosopher, I try to justify
them by some other principle.

If I could restrict my notion of the Absolute to its bare holiday-giving
value, it wouldn't clash with my other truths. But we cannot easily thus
restrict our hypotheses. They carry supernumerary features, and these it
is that clash so. My disbelief in the Absolute means then disbelief
in those other supernumerary features, for I fully believe in the
legitimacy of taking moral holidays.

You see by this what I meant when I called pragmatism a mediator and
reconciler and said, borrowing the word from Papini, that he unstiffens
our theories. She has in fact no prejudices whatever, no obstructive
dogmas, no rigid canons of what shall count as proof. She is completely
genial. She will entertain any hypothesis, she will consider any
evidence. It follows that in the religious field she is at a great
advantage both over positivistic empiricism, with its anti-theological
bias, and over religious rationalism, with its exclusive interest in
the remote, the noble, the simple, and the abstract in the way of

In short, she widens the field of search for God. Rationalism sticks
to logic and the empyrean. Empiricism sticks to the external senses.
Pragmatism is willing to take anything, to follow either logic or the
senses, and to count the humblest and most personal experiences. She
will count mystical experiences if they have practical consequences.
She will take a God who lives in the very dirt of private fact-if that
should seem a likely place to find him.

Her only test of probable truth is what works best in the way of leading
us, what fits every part of life best and combines with the collectivity
of experience's demands, nothing being omitted. If theological ideas
should do this, if the notion of God, in particular, should prove to do
it, how could pragmatism possibly deny God's existence? She could see
no meaning in treating as 'not true' a notion that was pragmatically so
successful. What other kind of truth could there be, for her, than all
this agreement with concrete reality?

In my last lecture I shall return again to the relations of pragmatism
with religion. But you see already how democratic she is. Her manners
are as various and flexible, her resources as rich and endless, and her
conclusions as friendly as those of mother nature.

Lecture III

Some Metaphysical Problems Pragmatically Considered

I am now to make the pragmatic method more familiar by giving you some
illustrations of its application to particular problems. I will begin
with what is driest, and the first thing I shall take will be the
problem of Substance. Everyone uses the old distinction between
substance and attribute, enshrined as it is in the very structure
of human language, in the difference between grammatical subject and
predicate. Here is a bit of blackboard crayon. Its modes, attributes,
properties, accidents, or affections,--use which term you will,--are
whiteness, friability, cylindrical shape, insolubility in water,
etc., etc. But the bearer of these attributes is so much chalk,
which thereupon is called the substance in which they inhere. So the
attributes of this desk inhere in the substance 'wood,' those of my coat
in the substance 'wool,' and so forth. Chalk, wood and wool, show again,
in spite of their differences, common properties, and in so far forth
they are themselves counted as modes of a still more primal substance,
matter, the attributes of which are space occupancy and impenetrability.
Similarly our thoughts and feelings are affections or properties of our
several souls, which are substances, but again not wholly in their own
right, for they are modes of the still deeper substance 'spirit.'

Now it was very early seen that all we know of the chalk is
the whiteness, friability, etc., all WE KNOW of the wood is the
combustibility and fibrous structure. A group of attributes is what each
substance here is known-as, they form its sole cash-value for our actual
experience. The substance is in every case revealed through THEM; if we
were cut off from THEM we should never suspect its existence; and if
God should keep sending them to us in an unchanged order, miraculously
annihilating at a certain moment the substance that supported them, we
never could detect the moment, for our experiences themselves would be
unaltered. Nominalists accordingly adopt the opinion that substance is
a spurious idea due to our inveterate human trick of turning names
into things. Phenomena come in groups--the chalk-group, the wood-group,
etc.--and each group gets its name. The name we then treat as in a
way supporting the group of phenomena. The low thermometer to-day,
for instance, is supposed to come from something called the 'climate.'
Climate is really only the name for a certain group of days, but it is
treated as if it lay BEHIND the day, and in general we place the name,
as if it were a being, behind the facts it is the name of. But the
phenomenal properties of things, nominalists say, surely do not
really inhere in names, and if not in names then they do not inhere
in anything. They ADhere, or COhere, rather, WITH EACH OTHER, and the
notion of a substance inaccessible to us, which we think accounts
for such cohesion by supporting it, as cement might support pieces of
mosaic, must be abandoned. The fact of the bare cohesion itself is all
that the notion of the substance signifies. Behind that fact is nothing.

Scholasticism has taken the notion of substance from common sense and
made it very technical and articulate. Few things would seem to have
fewer pragmatic consequences for us than substances, cut off as we are
from every contact with them. Yet in one case scholasticism has proved
the importance of the substance-idea by treating it pragmatically. I
refer to certain disputes about the mystery of the Eucharist. Substance
here would appear to have momentous pragmatic value. Since the accidents
of the wafer don't change in the Lord's supper, and yet it has become
the very body of Christ, it must be that the change is in the substance
solely. The bread-substance must have been withdrawn, and the divine
substance substituted miraculously without altering the immediate
sensible properties. But tho these don't alter, a tremendous difference
has been made, no less a one than this, that we who take the sacrament,
now feed upon the very substance of divinity. The substance-notion
breaks into life, then, with tremendous effect, if once you allow that
substances can separate from their accidents, and exchange these latter.

This is the only pragmatic application of the substance-idea with
which I am acquainted; and it is obvious that it will only be treated
seriously by those who already believe in the 'real presence' on
independent grounds.

MATERIAL SUBSTANCE was criticized by Berkeley with such telling effect
that his name has reverberated through all subsequent philosophy.
Berkeley's treatment of the notion of matter is so well known as to need
hardly more than a mention. So far from denying the external world which
we know, Berkeley corroborated it. It was the scholastic notion of a
material substance unapproachable by us, BEHIND the external world,
deeper and more real than it, and needed to support it, which Berkeley
maintained to be the most effective of all reducers of the external
world to unreality. Abolish that substance, he said, believe that God,
whom you can understand and approach, sends you the sensible world
directly, and you confirm the latter and back it up by his divine
authority. Berkeley's criticism of 'matter' was consequently absolutely
pragmatistic. Matter is known as our sensations of colour, figure,
hardness and the like. They are the cash-value of the term. The
difference matter makes to us by truly being is that we then get such
sensations; by not being, is that we lack them. These sensations then
are its sole meaning. Berkeley doesn't deny matter, then; he simply
tells us what it consists of. It is a true name for just so much in the
way of sensations.

Locke, and later Hume, applied a similar pragmatic criticism to the
notion of SPIRITUAL SUBSTANCE. I will only mention Locke's treatment
of our 'personal identity.' He immediately reduces this notion to its
pragmatic value in terms of experience. It means, he says, so much
consciousness,' namely the fact that at one moment of life we remember
other moments, and feel them all as parts of one and the same personal
history. Rationalism had explained this practical continuity in our life
by the unity of our soul-substance. But Locke says: suppose that God
should take away the consciousness, should WE be any the better
for having still the soul-principle? Suppose he annexed the same
consciousness to different souls, | should we, as WE realize OURSELVES,
be any the worse for that fact? In Locke's day the soul was chiefly a
thing to be rewarded or punished. See how Locke, discussing it from this
point of view, keeps the question pragmatic:

Suppose, he says, one to think himself to be the same soul that once was
Nestor or Thersites. Can he think their actions his own any more than
the actions of any other man that ever existed? But | let him once find
himself CONSCIOUS of any of the actions of Nestor, he then finds himself
the same person with Nestor. ... In this personal identity is founded
all the right and justice of reward and punishment. It may be reasonable
to think, no one shall be made to answer for what he knows nothing of,
but shall receive his doom, his consciousness accusing or excusing.
Supposing a man punished now for what he had done in another life,
whereof he could be made to have no consciousness at all, what
difference is there between that punishment and being created miserable?

Our personal identity, then, consists, for Locke, solely in
pragmatically definable particulars. Whether, apart from these
verifiable facts, it also inheres in a spiritual principle, is a merely
curious speculation. Locke, compromiser that he was, passively tolerated
the belief in a substantial soul behind our consciousness. But his
successor Hume, and most empirical psychologists after him, have denied
the soul, save as the name for verifiable cohesions in our inner life.
They redescend into the stream of experience with it, and cash it into
so much small-change value in the way of 'ideas' and their peculiar
connexions with each other. As I said of Berkeley's matter, the soul is
good or 'true' for just SO MUCH, but no more.

The mention of material substance naturally suggests the doctrine of
'materialism,' but philosophical materialism is not necessarily knit
up with belief in 'matter,' as a metaphysical principle. One may
deny matter in that sense, as strongly as Berkeley did, one may be a
phenomenalist like Huxley, and yet one may still be a materialist in the
wider sense, of explaining higher phenomena by lower ones, and leaving
the destinies of the world at the mercy of its blinder parts and forces.
It is in this wider sense of the word that materialism is opposed to
spiritualism or theism. The laws of physical nature are what run things,
materialism says. The highest productions of human genius might be
ciphered by one who had complete acquaintance with the facts, out of
their physiological conditions, regardless whether nature be there only
for our minds, as idealists contend, or not. Our minds in any case would
have to record the kind of nature it is, and write it down as operating
through blind laws of physics. This is the complexion of present day
materialism, which may better be called naturalism. Over against it
stands 'theism,' or what in a wide sense may be termed 'spiritualism.'
Spiritualism says that mind not only witnesses and records things, but
also runs and operates them: the world being thus guided, not by its
lower, but by its higher element.

Treated as it often is, this question becomes little more than a
conflict between aesthetic preferences. Matter is gross, coarse, crass,
muddy; spirit is pure, elevated, noble; and since it is more consonant
with the dignity of the universe to give the primacy in it to what
appears superior, spirit must be affirmed as the ruling principle. To
treat abstract principles as finalities, before which our intellects
may come to rest in a state of admiring contemplation, is the great
rationalist failing. Spiritualism, as often held, may be simply a
state of admiration for one kind, and of dislike for another kind,
of abstraction. I remember a worthy spiritualist professor who always
referred to materialism as the 'mud-philosophy,' and deemed it thereby

To such spiritualism as this there is an easy answer, and Mr. Spencer
makes it effectively. In some well-written pages at the end of the
first volume of his Psychology he shows us that a 'matter' so infinitely
subtile, and performing motions as inconceivably quick and fine as those
which modern science postulates in her explanations, has no trace of
grossness left. He shows that the conception of spirit, as we mortals
hitherto have framed it, is itself too gross to cover the exquisite
tenuity of nature's facts. Both terms, he says, are but symbols,
pointing to that one unknowable reality in which their oppositions

To an abstract objection an abstract rejoinder suffices; and so far as
one's opposition to materialism springs from one's disdain of matter as
something 'crass,' Mr. Spencer cuts the ground from under one. Matter is
indeed infinitely and incredibly refined. To anyone who has ever looked
on the face of a dead child or parent the mere fact that matter COULD
have taken for a time that precious form, ought to make matter sacred
ever after. It makes no difference what the PRINCIPLE of life may be,
material or immaterial, matter at any rate co-operates, lends itself
to all life's purposes. That beloved incarnation was among matter's

But now, instead of resting in principles after this stagnant
intellectualist fashion, let us apply the pragmatic method to the
question. What do we MEAN by matter? What practical difference can it
make NOW that the world should be run by matter or by spirit? I think we
find that the problem takes with this a rather different character.

And first of all I call your attention to a curious fact. It makes not
a single jot of difference so far as the PAST of the world goes, whether
we deem it to have been the work of matter or whether we think a divine
spirit was its author.

Imagine, in fact, the entire contents of the world to be once for all
irrevocably given. Imagine it to end this very moment, and to have
no future; and then let a theist and a materialist apply their rival
explanations to its history. The theist shows how a God made it; the
materialist shows, and we will suppose with equal success, how it
resulted from blind physical forces. Then let the pragmatist be asked to
choose between their theories. How can he apply his test if the world
is already completed? Concepts for him are things to come back into
experience with, things to make us look for differences. But by
hypothesis there is to be no more experience and no possible differences
can now be looked for. Both theories have shown all their consequences
and, by the hypothesis we are adopting, these are identical. The
pragmatist must consequently say that the two theories, in spite of
their different-sounding names, mean exactly the same thing, and that
the dispute is purely verbal. [I am opposing, of course, that the
theories HAVE been equally successful in their explanations of what is.]

For just consider the case sincerely, and say what would be the WORTH
of a God if he WERE there, with his work accomplished and his world run
down. He would be worth no more than just that world was worth. To that
amount of result, with its mixed merits and defects, his creative power
could attain, but go no farther. And since there is to be no future;
since the whole value and meaning of the world has been already paid in
and actualized in the feelings that went with it in the passing, and now
go with it in the ending; since it draws no supplemental significance
(such as our real world draws) from its function of preparing something
yet to come; why then, by it we take God's measure, as it were. He
is the Being who could once for all do THAT; and for that much we
are thankful to him, but for nothing more. But now, on the contrary
hypothesis, namely, that the bits of matter following their laws could
make that world and do no less, should we not be just as thankful to
them? Wherein should we suffer loss, then, if we dropped God as an
hypothesis and made the matter alone responsible? Where would any
special deadness, or crassness, come in? And how, experience being what
is once for all, would God's presence in it make it any more living or

Candidly, it is impossible to give any answer to this question. The
actually experienced world is supposed to be the same in its details
on either hypothesis, "the same, for our praise or blame," as Browning
says. It stands there indefeasibly: a gift which can't be taken back.
Calling matter the cause of it retracts no single one of the items that
have made it up, nor does calling God the cause augment them. They are
the God or the atoms, respectively, of just that and no other world. The
God, if there, has been doing just what atoms could do--appearing in the
character of atoms, so to speak--and earning such gratitude as is due to
atoms, and no more. If his presence lends no different turn or issue to
the performance, it surely can lend it no increase of dignity. Nor would
indignity come to it were he absent, and did the atoms remain the only
actors on the stage. When a play is once over, and the curtain down,
you really make it no better by claiming an illustrious genius for its
author, just as you make it no worse by calling him a common hack.

Thus if no future detail of experience or conduct is to be deduced from
our hypothesis, the debate between materialism and theism becomes quite
idle and insignificant. Matter and God in that event mean exactly the
same thing--the power, namely, neither more nor less, that could make
just this completed world--and the wise man is he who in such a case
would turn his back on such a supererogatory discussion. Accordingly,
most men instinctively, and positivists and scientists deliberately,
do turn their backs on philosophical disputes from which nothing in the
line of definite future consequences can be seen to follow. The verbal
and empty character of philosophy is surely a reproach with which we
are, but too familiar. If pragmatism be true, it is a perfectly sound
reproach unless the theories under fire can be shown to have alternative
practical outcomes, however delicate and distant these may be. The
common man and the scientist say they discover no such outcomes, and if
the metaphysician can discern none either, the others certainly are
in the right of it, as against him. His science is then but pompous
trifling; and the endowment of a professorship for such a being would be

Accordingly, in every genuine metaphysical debate some practical issue,
however conjectural and remote, is involved. To realize this, revert
with me to our question, and place yourselves this time in the world we
live in, in the world that HAS a future, that is yet uncompleted whilst
we speak. In this unfinished world the alternative of 'materialism or
theism?' is intensely practical; and it is worth while for us to spend
some minutes of our hour in seeing that it is so.

How, indeed, does the program differ for us, according as we consider
that the facts of experience up to date are purposeless configurations
of blind atoms moving according to eternal laws, or that on the other
hand they are due to the providence of God? As far as the past facts
go, indeed there is no difference. Those facts are in, are bagged, are
captured; and the good that's in them is gained, be the atoms or be the
God their cause. There are accordingly many materialists about us
to-day who, ignoring altogether the future and practical aspects of the
question, seek to eliminate the odium attaching to the word materialism,
and even to eliminate the word itself, by showing that, if matter could
give birth to all these gains, why then matter, functionally considered,
is just as divine an entity as God, in fact coalesces with God, is what
you mean by God. Cease, these persons advise us, to use either of these
terms, with their outgrown opposition. Use a term free of the clerical
connotations, on the one hand; of the suggestion of gross-ness,
coarseness, ignobility, on the other. Talk of the primal mystery, of the
unknowable energy, of the one and only power, instead of saying either
God or matter. This is the course to which Mr. Spencer urges us; and if
philosophy were purely retrospective, he would thereby proclaim himself
an excellent pragmatist.

But philosophy is prospective also, and, after finding what the world
has been and done and yielded, still asks the further question 'what
does the world PROMISE?' Give us a matter that promises SUCCESS, that is
bound by its laws to lead our world ever nearer to perfection, and any
rational man will worship that matter as readily as Mr. Spencer
worships his own so-called unknowable power. It not only has made for
righteousness up to date, but it will make for righteousness forever;
and that is all we need. Doing practically all that a God can do, it is
equivalent to God, its function is a God's function, and is exerted in
a world in which a God would now be superfluous; from such a world a God
could never lawfully be missed. 'Cosmic emotion' would here be the right
name for religion.

But is the matter by which Mr. Spencer's process of cosmic evolution is
carried on any such principle of never-ending perfection as this? Indeed
it is not, for the future end of every cosmically evolved thing or
system of things is foretold by science to be death and tragedy; and
Mr. Spencer, in confining himself to the aesthetic and ignoring the
practical side of the controversy, has really contributed nothing
serious to its relief. But apply now our principle of practical results,
and see what a vital significance the question of materialism or theism
immediately acquires.

Theism and materialism, so indifferent when taken retrospectively,
point, when we take them prospectively, to wholly different outlooks of
experience. For, according to the theory of mechanical evolution, the
laws of redistribution of matter and motion, tho they are certainly to
thank for all the good hours which our organisms have ever yielded
us and for all the ideals which our minds now frame, are yet fatally
certain to undo their work again, and to redissolve everything that they
have once evolved. You all know the picture of the last state of the
universe which evolutionary science foresees. I cannot state it better
than in Mr. Balfour's words: "The energies of our system will decay, the
glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert,
will no longer tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed its
solitude. Man will go down into the pit, and all his thoughts will
perish. The uneasy, consciousness which in this obscure corner has for
a brief space broken the contented silence of the universe, will be at
rest. Matter will know itself no longer. 'Imperishable monuments' and
'immortal deeds,' death itself, and love stronger than death, will be as
though they had never been. Nor will anything that is, be better or be
worse for all that the labour, genius, devotion, and suffering of man
have striven through countless generations to effect." [Footnote: The
Foundations of Belief, p. 30.]

That is the sting of it, that in the vast driftings of the cosmic
weather, tho many a jeweled shore appears, and many an enchanted
cloud-bank floats away, long lingering ere it be dissolved--even as our
world now lingers, for our joy-yet when these transient products are
gone, nothing, absolutely NOTHING remains, of represent those particular
qualities, those elements of preciousness which they may have enshrined.
Dead and gone are they, gone utterly from the very sphere and room of
being. Without an echo; without a memory; without an influence on aught
that may come after, to make it care for similar ideals. This utter
final wreck and tragedy is of the essence of scientific materialism
as at present understood. The lower and not the higher forces are the
eternal forces, or the last surviving forces within the only cycle of
evolution which we can definitely see. Mr. Spencer believes this as much
as anyone; so why should he argue with us as if we were making silly
aesthetic objections to the 'grossness' of 'matter and motion,' the
principles of his philosophy, when what really dismays us is the
disconsolateness of its ulterior practical results?

No the true objection to materialism is not positive but negative. It
would be farcical at this day to make complaint of it for what it IS for
'grossness.' Grossness is what grossness DOES--we now know THAT. We make
complaint of it, on the contrary, for what it is NOT--not a permanent
warrant for our more ideal interests, not a fulfiller of our remotest

The notion of God, on the other hand, however inferior it may be
in clearness to those mathematical notions so current in mechanical
philosophy, has at least this practical superiority over them, that it
guarantees an ideal order that shall be permanently preserved. A world
with a God in it to say the last word, may indeed burn up or freeze,
but we then think of him as still mindful of the old ideals and sure to
bring them elsewhere to fruition; so that, where he is, tragedy is
only provisional and partial, and shipwreck and dissolution not the
absolutely final things. This need of an eternal moral order is one
of the deepest needs of our breast. And those poets, like Dante and
Wordsworth, who live on the conviction of such an order, owe to that
fact the extraordinary tonic and consoling power of their verse. Here
then, in these different emotional and practical appeals, in these
adjustments of our concrete attitudes of hope and expectation, and all
the delicate consequences which their differences entail, lie the
real meanings of materialism and spiritualism--not in hair-splitting
abstractions about matter's inner essence, or about the metaphysical
attributes of God. Materialism means simply the denial that the moral
order is eternal, and the cutting off of ultimate hopes; spiritualism
means the affirmation of an eternal moral order and the letting loose of
hope. Surely here is an issue genuine enough, for anyone who feels
it; and, as long as men are men, it will yield matter for a serious
philosophic debate.

But possibly some of you may still rally to their defence. Even whilst
admitting that spiritualism and materialism make different prophecies
of the world's future, you may yourselves pooh-pooh the difference as
something so infinitely remote as to mean nothing for a sane mind. The
essence of a sane mind, you may say, is to take shorter views, and to
feel no concern about such chimaeras as the latter end of the world.
Well, I can only say that if you say this, you do injustice to human
nature. Religious melancholy is not disposed of by a simple flourish of
the word insanity. The absolute things, the last things, the overlapping
things, are the truly philosophic concerns; all superior minds feel
seriously about them, and the mind with the shortest views is simply the
mind of the more shallow man.

The issues of fact at stake in the debate are of course vaguely enough
conceived by us at present. But spiritualistic faith in all its forms
deals with a world of PROMISE, while materialism's sun sets in a sea of
disappointment. Remember what I said of the Absolute: it grants us moral
holidays. Any religious view does this. It not only incites our more
strenuous moments, but it also takes our joyous, careless, trustful
moments, and it justifies them. It paints the grounds of justification
vaguely enough, to be sure. The exact features of the saving future
facts that our belief in God insures, will have to be ciphered out
by the interminable methods of science: we can STUDY our God only by
studying his Creation. But we can ENJOY our God, if we have one, in
advance of all that labor. I myself believe that the evidence for God
lies primarily in inner personal experiences. When they have once given
you your God, his name means at least the benefit of the holiday. You
remember what I said yesterday about the way in which truths clash and
try to 'down' each other. The truth of 'God' has to run the gauntlet of
all our other truths. It is on trial by them and they on trial by it.
Our FINAL opinion about God can be settled only after all the truths
have straightened themselves out together. Let us hope that they shall
find a modus vivendi!

Let me pass to a very cognate philosophic problem, the QUESTION of
DESIGN IN NATURE. God's existence has from time immemorial been held to
be proved by certain natural facts. Many facts appear as if expressly
designed in view of one another. Thus the woodpecker's bill, tongue,
feet, tail, etc., fit him wondrously for a world of trees with grubs hid
in their bark to feed upon. The parts of our eye fit the laws of light
to perfection, leading its rays to a sharp picture on our retina. Such
mutual fitting of things diverse in origin argued design, it was held;
and the designer was always treated as a man-loving deity.

The first step in these arguments was to prove that the design existed.
Nature was ransacked for results obtained through separate things being
co-adapted. Our eyes, for instance, originate in intra-uterine darkness,
and the light originates in the sun, yet see how they fit each other.
They are evidently made FOR each other. Vision is the end designed,
light and eyes the separate means devised for its attainment.

It is strange, considering how unanimously our ancestors felt the force
of this argument, to see how little it counts for since the triumph
of the darwinian theory. Darwin opened our minds to the power of
chance-happenings to bring forth 'fit' results if only they have time
to add themselves together. He showed the enormous waste of nature in
producing results that get destroyed because of their unfitness. He also
emphasized the number of adaptations which, if designed, would argue
an evil rather than a good designer. Here all depends upon the point
of view. To the grub under the bark the exquisite fitness of the
woodpecker's organism to extract him would certainly argue a diabolical

Theologians have by this time stretched their minds so as to embrace
the darwinian facts, and yet to interpret them as still showing divine
purpose. It used to be a question of purpose AGAINST mechanism, of
one OR the other. It was as if one should say "My shoes are evidently
designed to fit my feet, hence it is impossible that they should have
been produced by machinery." We know that they are both: they are made
by a machinery itself designed to fit the feet with shoes. Theology need
only stretch similarly the designs of God. As the aim of a football-team
is not merely to get the ball to a certain goal (if that were so, they
would simply get up on some dark night and place it there), but to get
it there by a fixed MACHINERY OF CONDITIONS--the game's rules and the
opposing players; so the aim of God is not merely, let us say, to make
men and to save them, but rather to get this done through the sole
agency of nature's vast machinery. Without nature's stupendous laws and
counterforces, man's creation and perfection, we might suppose, would be
too insipid achievements for God to have designed them.

This saves the form of the design-argument at the expense of its old
easy human content. The designer is no longer the old man-like deity.
His designs have grown so vast as to be incomprehensible to us humans.
The WHAT of them so overwhelms us that to establish the mere THAT of a
designer for them becomes of very little consequence in comparison.
We can with difficulty comprehend the character of a cosmic mind whose
purposes are fully revealed by the strange mixture of goods and evils
that we find in this actual world's particulars. Or rather we cannot by
any possibility comprehend it. The mere word 'design' by itself has,
we see, no consequences and explains nothing. It is the barrenest of
principles. The old question of WHETHER there is design is idle.
The real question is WHAT is the world, whether or not it have a
designer--and that can be revealed only by the study of all nature's

Remember that no matter what nature may have produced or may be
producing, the means must necessarily have been adequate, must have been
FITTED TO THAT PRODUCTION. The argument from fitness to design would
consequently always apply, whatever were the product's character. The
recent Mont-Pelee eruption, for example, required all previous history
to produce that exact combination of ruined houses, human and animal
corpses, sunken ships, volcanic ashes, etc., in just that one hideous
configuration of positions. France had to be a nation and colonize
Martinique. Our country had to exist and send our ships there. IF God
aimed at just that result, the means by which the centuries bent their
influences towards it, showed exquisite intelligence. And so of any
state of things whatever, either in nature or in history, which we
find actually realized. For the parts of things must always make SOME
definite resultant, be it chaotic or harmonious. When we look at what
has actually come, the conditions must always appear perfectly designed
to ensure it. We can always say, therefore, in any conceivable world, of
any conceivable character, that the whole cosmic machinery MAY have been
designed to produce it.

Pragmatically, then, the abstract word 'design' is a blank cartridge. It
carries no consequences, it does no execution. What sort of design? and
what sort of a designer? are the only serious questions, and the study
of facts is the only way of getting even approximate answers. Meanwhile,
pending the slow answer from facts, anyone who insists that there is a
designer and who is sure he is a divine one, gets a certain pragmatic
benefit from the term--the same, in fact which we saw that the terms
God, Spirit, or the Absolute, yield us 'Design,' worthless tho it be
as a mere rationalistic principle set above or behind things for our
admiration, becomes, if our faith concretes it into something theistic,
a term of PROMISE. Returning with it into experience, we gain a more
confiding outlook on the future. If not a blind force but a seeing
force runs things, we may reasonably expect better issues. This vague
confidence in the future is the sole pragmatic meaning at present
discernible in the terms design and designer. But if cosmic confidence
is right not wrong, better not worse, that is a most important meaning.
That much at least of possible 'truth' the terms will then have in them.

Let me take up another well-worn controversy, THE FREE-WILL PROBLEM.
Most persons who believe in what is called their free-will do so after
the rationalistic fashion. It is a principle, a positive faculty or
virtue added to man, by which his dignity is enigmatically augmented. He
ought to believe it for this reason. Determinists, who deny it, who say
that individual men originate nothing, but merely transmit to the
future the whole push of the past cosmos of which they are so small
an expression, diminish man. He is less admirable, stripped of this
creative principle. I imagine that more than half of you share our
instinctive belief in free-will, and that admiration of it as a
principle of dignity has much to do with your fidelity.

But free-will has also been discussed pragmatically, and, strangely
enough, the same pragmatic interpretation has been put upon it by both
disputants. You know how large a part questions of ACCOUNTABILITY have
played in ethical controversy. To hear some persons, one would suppose
that all that ethics aims at is a code of merits and demerits. Thus does
the old legal and theological leaven, the interest in crime and sin and
punishment abide with us. 'Who's to blame? whom can we punish? whom
will God punish?'--these preoccupations hang like a bad dream over man's
religious history.

So both free-will and determinism have been inveighed against and called
absurd, because each, in the eyes of its enemies, has seemed to prevent
the 'imputability' of good or bad deeds to their authors. Queer antinomy
this! Free-will means novelty, the grafting on to the past of something
not involved therein. If our acts were predetermined, if we merely
transmitted the push of the whole past, the free-willists say, how could
we be praised or blamed for anything? We should be 'agents' only, not
'principals,' and where then would be our precious imputability and

But where would it be if we HAD free-will? rejoin the determinists. If a
'free' act be a sheer novelty, that comes not FROM me, the previous
me, but ex nihilo, and simply tacks itself on to me, how can _I_, the
previous I, be responsible? How can I have any permanent CHARACTER that
will stand still long enough for praise or blame to be awarded? The
chaplet of my days tumbles into a cast of disconnected beads as soon
as the thread of inner necessity is drawn out by the preposterous
indeterminist doctrine. Messrs. Fullerton and McTaggart have recently
laid about them doughtily with this argument.

It may be good ad hominem, but otherwise it is pitiful. For I ask you,
quite apart from other reasons, whether any man, woman or child, with a
sense for realities, ought not to be ashamed to plead such principles
as either dignity or imputability. Instinct and utility between them
can safely be trusted to carry on the social business of punishment and
praise. If a man does good acts we shall praise him, if he does bad acts
we shall punish him--anyhow, and quite apart from theories as to whether
the acts result from what was previous in him or are novelties in a
strict sense. To make our human ethics revolve about the question of
'merit' is a piteous unreality--God alone can know our merits, if we
have any. The real ground for supposing free-will is indeed pragmatic,
but it has nothing to do with this contemptible right to punish which
had made such a noise in past discussions of the subject.

Free-will pragmatically means NOVELTIES IN THE WORLD, the right to
expect that in its deepest elements as well as in its surface phenomena,
the future may not identically repeat and imitate the past. That
imitation en masse is there, who can deny? The general 'uniformity
of nature' is presupposed by every lesser law. But nature may be only
approximately uniform; and persons in whom knowledge of the world's past
has bred pessimism (or doubts as to the world's good character, which
become certainties if that character be supposed eternally fixed) may
naturally welcome free-will as a MELIORISTIC doctrine. It holds up
improvement as at least possible; whereas determinism assures us that
our whole notion of possibility is born of human ignorance, and that
necessity and impossibility between them rule the destinies of the

Free-will is thus a general cosmological theory of PROMISE, just like
the Absolute, God, Spirit or Design. Taken abstractly, no one of these
terms has any inner content, none of them gives us any picture, and
no one of them would retain the least pragmatic value in a world
whose character was obviously perfect from the start. Elation at mere
existence, pure cosmic emotion and delight, would, it seems to me,
quench all interest in those speculations, if the world were nothing but
a lubberland of happiness already. Our interest in religious metaphysics
arises in the fact that our empirical future feels to us unsafe, and
needs some higher guarantee. If the past and present were purely good,
who could wish that the future might possibly not resemble them? Who
could desire free-will? Who would not say, with Huxley, "let me be wound
up every day like a watch, to go right fatally, and I ask no better
freedom." 'Freedom' in a world already perfect could only mean
freedom to BE WORSE, and who could be so insane as to wish that? To be
necessarily what it is, to be impossibly aught else, would put the
last touch of perfection upon optimism's universe. Surely the only
POSSIBILITY that one can rationally claim is the possibility that things
may be BETTER. That possibility, I need hardly say, is one that, as the
actual world goes, we have ample grounds for desiderating.

Free-will thus has no meaning unless it be a doctrine of RELIEF. As
such, it takes its place with other religious doctrines. Between them,
they build up the old wastes and repair the former desolations. Our
spirit, shut within this courtyard of sense-experience, is always saying
to the intellect upon the tower: 'Watchman, tell us of the night, if it
aught of promise bear,' and the intellect gives it then these terms of

Other than this practical significance, the words God, free-will,
design, etc., have none. Yet dark tho they be in themselves, or
intellectualistically taken, when we bear them into life's thicket with
us the darkness THERE grows light about us. If you stop, in dealing with
such words, with their definition, thinking that to be an intellectual
finality, where are you? Stupidly staring at a pretentious sham! "Deus
est Ens, a se, extra et supra omne genus, necessarium, unum, infinite
perfectum, simplex, immutabile, immensum, aeternum, intelligens,"
etc.,--wherein is such a definition really instructive? It means less,
than nothing, in its pompous robe of adjectives. Pragmatism alone can
read a positive meaning into it, and for that she turns her back upon
the intellectualist point of view altogether. 'God's in his heaven;
all's right with the world!'--THAT'S the heart of your theology, and for
that you need no rationalist definitions.

Why shouldn't we all of us, rationalists as well as pragmatists, confess
this? Pragmatism, so far from keeping her eyes bent on the immediate
practical foreground, as she is accused of doing, dwells just as much
upon the world's remotest perspectives.

See then how all these ultimate questions turn, as it were, up
their hinges; and from looking backwards upon principles, upon an
erkenntnisstheoretische Ich, a God, a Kausalitaetsprinzip, a Design, a
Free-will, taken in themselves, as something august and exalted above
facts,--see, I say, how pragmatism shifts the emphasis and looks forward
into facts themselves. The really vital question for us all is, What is
this world going to be? What is life eventually to make of itself? The
centre of gravity of philosophy must therefore alter its place. The
earth of things, long thrown into shadow by the glories of the upper
ether, must resume its rights. To shift the emphasis in this way means
that philosophic questions will fall to be treated by minds of a
less abstractionist type than heretofore, minds more scientific and
individualistic in their tone yet not irreligious either. It will be
an alteration in 'the seat of authority' that reminds one almost of the
protestant reformation. And as, to papal minds, protestantism has
often seemed a mere mess of anarchy and confusion, such, no doubt, will
pragmatism often seem to ultra-rationalist minds in philosophy. It will
seem so much sheer trash, philosophically. But life wags on, all the
same, and compasses its ends, in protestant countries. I venture to
think that philosophic protestantism will compass a not dissimilar

Lecture IV

The One and the Many

We saw in the last lecture that the pragmatic method, in its dealings
with certain concepts, instead of ending with admiring contemplation,
plunges forward into the river of experience with them and prolongs the
perspective by their means. Design, free-will, the absolute mind, spirit
instead of matter, have for their sole meaning a better promise as to
this world's outcome. Be they false or be they true, the meaning of them
is this meliorism. I have sometimes thought of the phenomenon called
'total reflexion' in optics as a good symbol of the relation between
abstract ideas and concrete realities, as pragmatism conceives it. Hold
a tumbler of water a little above your eyes and look up through the
water at its surface--or better still look similarly through the flat
wall of an aquarium. You will then see an extraordinarily brilliant
reflected image say of a candle-flame, or any other clear object,
situated on the opposite side of the vessel. No candle-ray, under these
circumstances gets beyond the water's surface: every ray is totally
reflected back into the depths again. Now let the water represent the
world of sensible facts, and let the air above it represent the world of
abstract ideas. Both worlds are real, of course, and interact; but they
interact only at their boundary, and the locus of everything that lives,
and happens to us, so far as full experience goes, is the water. We are
like fishes swimming in the sea of sense, bounded above by the superior
element, but unable to breathe it pure or penetrate it. We get our
oxygen from it, however, we touch it incessantly, now in this part, now
in that, and every time we touch it we are reflected back into the water
with our course re-determined and re-energized. The abstract ideas of
which the air consists, indispensable for life, but irrespirable by
themselves, as it were, and only active in their re-directing function.
All similes are halting but this one rather takes my fancy. It shows
how something, not sufficient for life in itself, may nevertheless be an
effective determinant of life elsewhere.

In this present hour I wish to illustrate the pragmatic method by one
more application. I wish to turn its light upon the ancient problem
of 'the one and the many.' I suspect that in but few of you has this
problem occasioned sleepless nights, and I should not be astonished if
some of you told me it had never vexed you. I myself have come, by long
brooding over it, to consider it the most central of all philosophic
problems, central because so pregnant. I mean by this that if you know
whether a man is a decided monist or a decided pluralist, you perhaps
know more about the rest of his opinions than if you give him any other
name ending in IST. To believe in the one or in the many, that is the
classification with the maximum number of consequences. So bear with
me for an hour while I try to inspire you with my own interest in the

Philosophy has often been defined as the quest or the vision of the
world's unity. We never hear this definition challenged, and it is true
as far as it goes, for philosophy has indeed manifested above all things
its interest in unity. But how about the VARIETY in things? Is that such
an irrelevant matter? If instead of using the term philosophy, we talk
in general of our intellect and its needs we quickly see that unity
is only one of these. Acquaintance with the details of fact is always
reckoned, along with their reduction to system, as an indispensable
mark of mental greatness. Your 'scholarly' mind, of encyclopedic,
philological type, your man essentially of learning, has never lacked
for praise along with your philosopher. What our intellect really aims
at is neither variety nor unity taken singly but totality.[Footnote:
Compare A. Bellanger: Les concepts de Cause, et l'activite intentionelle
de l'Esprit. Paris, Alcan, 1905, p. 79 ff.] In this, acquaintance with
reality's diversities is as important as understanding their connexion.
The human passion of curiosity runs on all fours with the systematizing

In spite of this obvious fact the unity of things has always been
considered more illustrious, as it were, than their variety. When a
young man first conceives the notion that the whole world forms
one great fact, with all its parts moving abreast, as it were, and
interlocked, he feels as if he were enjoying a great insight, and looks
superciliously on all who still fall short of this sublime conception.
Taken thus abstractly as it first comes to one, the monistic insight is
so vague as hardly to seem worth defending intellectually. Yet probably
everyone in this audience in some way cherishes it. A certain abstract
monism, a certain emotional response to the character of oneness, as
if it were a feature of the world not coordinate with its manyness, but
vastly more excellent and eminent, is so prevalent in educated circles
that we might almost call it a part of philosophic common sense. Of
COURSE the world is one, we say. How else could it be a world at all?
Empiricists as a rule, are as stout monists of this abstract kind as
rationalists are.

The difference is that the empiricists are less dazzled. Unity doesn't
blind them to everything else, doesn't quench their curiosity for
special facts, whereas there is a kind of rationalist who is sure to
interpret abstract unity mystically and to forget everything else, to
treat it as a principle; to admire and worship it; and thereupon to come
to a full stop intellectually.

'The world is One!'--the formula may become a sort of number-worship.
'Three' and 'seven' have, it is true, been reckoned sacred numbers; but,
abstractly taken, why is 'one' more excellent than 'forty-three,'
or than 'two million and ten'? In this first vague conviction of the
world's unity, there is so little to take hold of that we hardly know
what we mean by it.

The only way to get forward with our notion is to treat it
pragmatically. Granting the oneness to exist, what facts will be
different in consequence? What will the unity be known-as? The world is
one--yes, but HOW one? What is the practical value of the oneness for

Asking such questions, we pass from the vague to the definite, from the
abstract to the concrete. Many distinct ways in which oneness predicated
of the universe might make a difference, come to view. I will note
successively the more obvious of these ways.

1. First, the world is at least ONE SUBJECT OF DISCOURSE. If its
manyness were so irremediable as to permit NO union whatever of it
parts, not even our minds could 'mean' the whole of it at once: the
would be like eyes trying to look in opposite directions. But in point
of fact we mean to cover the whole of it by our abstract term 'world' or
'universe,' which expressly intends that no part shall be left out. Such
unity of discourse carries obviously no farther monistic specifications.
A 'chaos,' once so named, has as much unity of discourse as a cosmos.
It is an odd fact that many monists consider a great victory scored for
their side when pluralists say 'the universe is many.' "'The universe'!"
they chuckle--"his speech bewrayeth him. He stands confessed of monism
out of his own mouth." Well, let things be one in that sense! You can
then fling such a word as universe at the whole collection of them, but
what matters it? It still remains to be ascertained whether they are one
in any other sense that is more valuable.

2. Are they, for example, CONTINUOUS? Can you pass from one to another,
keeping always in your one universe without any danger of falling out?
In other words, do the parts of our universe HANG together, instead of
being like detached grains of sand?

Even grains of sand hang together through the space in which they are
embedded, and if you can in any way move through such space, you can
pass continuously from number one of them to number two. Space and
time are thus vehicles of continuity, by which the world's parts hang
together. The practical difference to us, resultant from these forms of
union, is immense. Our whole motor life is based upon them.

3. There are innumerable other paths of practical continuity among
things. Lines of INFLUENCE can be traced by which they together.
Following any such line you pass from one thing to another till you
may have covered a good part of the universe's extent. Gravity and
heat-conduction are such all-uniting influences, so far as the physical
world goes. Electric, luminous and chemical influences follow similar
lines of influence. But opaque and inert bodies interrupt the continuity
here, so that you have to step round them, or change your mode of
progress if you wish to get farther on that day. Practically, you have
then lost your universe's unity, SO FAR AS IT WAS CONSTITUTED BY THOSE
FIRST LINES OF INFLUENCE. There are innumerable kinds of connexion that
special things have with other special things; and the ENSEMBLE of any
one of these connexions forms one sort of system by which things are
conjoined. Thus men are conjoined in a vast network of ACQUAINTANCESHIP.
Brown knows Jones, Jones knows Robinson, etc.; and BY CHOOSING YOUR
FARTHER INTERMEDIARIES RIGHTLY you may carry a message from Jones to the
Empress of China, or the Chief of the African Pigmies, or to anyone
else in the inhabited world. But you are stopped short, as by a
non-conductor, when you choose one man wrong in this experiment. What
may be called love-systems are grafted on the acquaintance-system. A
loves (or hates) B; B loves (or hates) C, etc. But these systems are
smaller than the great acquaintance-system that they presuppose.

Human efforts are daily unifying the world more and more in definite
systematic ways. We found colonial, postal, consular, commercial
systems, all the parts of which obey definite influences that propagate
themselves within the system but not to facts outside of it. The result
is innumerable little hangings-together of the world's parts within the
larger hangings-together, little worlds, not only of discourse but of
operation, within the wider universe. Each system exemplifies one type
or grade of union, its parts being strung on that peculiar kind of
relation, and the same part may figure in many different systems, as
a man may hold several offices and belong to various clubs. From this
'systematic' point of view, therefore, the pragmatic value of the
world's unity is that all these definite networks actually and
practically exist. Some are more enveloping and extensive, some less so;
they are superposed upon each other; and between them all they let no
individual elementary part of the universe escape. Enormous as is the
amount of disconnexion among things (for these systematic influences and
conjunctions follow rigidly exclusive paths), everything that exists is
influenced in SOME way by something else, if you can only pick the way
out rightly Loosely speaking, and in general, it may be said that all
things cohere and adhere to each other SOMEHOW, and that the universe
exists practically in reticulated or concatenated forms which make of
it a continuous or 'integrated' affair. Any kind of influence whatever
helps to make the world one, so far as you can follow it from next
to next. You may then say that 'the world IS One'--meaning in these
respects, namely, and just so far as they obtain. But just as definitely
is it NOT one, so far as they do not obtain; and there is no species of
connexion which will not fail, if, instead of choosing conductors for
it, you choose non-conductors. You are then arrested at your very
first step and have to write the world down as a pure MANY from that
particular point of view. If our intellect had been as much interested
in disjunctive as it is in conjunctive relations, philosophy would have
equally successfully celebrated the world's DISUNION.

The great point is to notice that the oneness and the manyness are
absolutely co-ordinate here. Neither is primordial or more essential or
excellent than the other. Just as with space, whose separating of things
seems exactly on a par with its uniting of them, but sometimes one
function and sometimes the other is what come home to us most, so,
in our general dealings with the world of influences, we now need
conductors and now need non-conductors, and wisdom lies in knowing which
is which at the appropriate moment.

4. All these systems of influence or non-influence may be listed under
the general problem of the world's CAUSAL UNITY. If the minor causal
influences among things should converge towards one common causal origin
of them in the past, one great first cause for all that is, one might
then speak of the absolute causal unity of the world. God's fiat on
creation's day has figured in traditional philosophy as such an absolute
cause and origin. Transcendental Idealism, translating 'creation' into
'thinking' (or 'willing to' think') calls the divine act 'eternal'
rather than 'first'; but the union of the many here is absolute, just
the same--the many would not BE, save for the One. Against this notion
of the unity of origin of all there has always stood the pluralistic
notion of an eternal self-existing many in the shape of atoms or even of
spiritual units of some sort. The alternative has doubtless a pragmatic
meaning, but perhaps, as far as these lectures go, we had better leave
the question of unity of origin unsettled.

5. The most important sort of union that obtains among things,
pragmatically speaking, is their GENERIC UNITY. Things exist in kinds,
there are many specimens in each kind, and what the 'kind' implies for
one specimen, it implies also for every other specimen of that kind. We
can easily conceive that every fact in the world might be singular,
that is, unlike any other fact and sole of its kind. In such a world of
singulars our logic would be useless, for logic works by predicating
of the single instance what is true of all its kind. With no two
things alike in the world, we should be unable to reason from our past
experiences to our future ones. The existence of so much generic unity
in things is thus perhaps the most momentous pragmatic specification of
what it may mean to say 'the world is One.' ABSOLUTE generic unity would
obtain if there were one summum genus under which all things without
exception could be eventually subsumed. 'Beings,' 'thinkables,'
'experiences,' would be candidates for this position. Whether the
alternatives expressed by such words have any pragmatic significance or
not, is another question which I prefer to leave unsettled just now.

6. Another specification of what the phrase 'the world is One' may mean
is UNITY OF PURPOSE. An enormous number of things in the world subserve
a common purpose. All the man-made systems, administrative, industrial,
military, or what not, exist each for its controlling purpose. Every
living being pursues its own peculiar purposes. They co-operate,
according to the degree of their development, in collective or tribal
purposes, larger ends thus enveloping lesser ones, until an absolutely
single, final and climacteric purpose subserved by all things without
exception might conceivably be reached. It is needless to say that the
appearances conflict with such a view. Any resultant, as I said in
my third lecture, MAY have been purposed in advance, but none of the
results we actually know in is world have in point of fact been purposed
in advance in all their details. Men and nations start with a vague
notion of being rich, or great, or good. Each step they make brings
unforeseen chances into sight, and shuts out older vistas, and the
specifications of the general purpose have to be daily changed. What is
reached in the end may be better or worse than what was proposed, but it
is always more complex and different.

Our different purposes also are at war with each other. Where one can't
crush the other out, they compromise; and the result is again different
from what anyone distinctly proposed beforehand. Vaguely and generally,
much of what was purposed may be gained; but everything makes strongly
for the view that our world is incompletely unified teleologically and
is still trying to get its unification better organized.

Whoever claims ABSOLUTE teleological unity, saying that there is one
purpose that every detail of the universe subserves, dogmatizes at
his own risk. Theologians who dogmalize thus find it more and more
impossible, as our acquaintance with the warring interests of the
world's parts grows more concrete, to imagine what the one climacteric
purpose may possibly be like. We see indeed that certain evils minister
to ulterior goods, that the bitter makes the cocktail better, and that
a bit of danger or hardship puts us agreeably to our trumps. We can
vaguely generalize this into the doctrine that all the evil in the
universe is but instrumental to its greater perfection. But the scale
of the evil actually in sight defies all human tolerance; and
transcendental idealism, in the pages of a Bradley or a Royce, brings us
no farther than the book of Job did--God's ways are not our ways, so let
us put our hands upon our mouth. A God who can relish such superfluities
of horror is no God for human beings to appeal to. His animal spirits
are too high. In other words the 'Absolute' with his one purpose, is not
the man-like God of common people.

7. AESTHETIC UNION among things also obtains, and is very analogous to
ideological union. Things tell a story. Their parts hang together so as
to work out a climax. They play into each other's hands expressively.
Retrospectively, we can see that altho no definite purpose presided
over a chain of events, yet the events fell into a dramatic form, with
a start, a middle, and a finish. In point of fact all stories end; and
here again the point of view of a many is that more natural one to take.
The world is full of partial stories that run parallel to one another,
beginning and ending at odd times. They mutually interlace and interfere
at points, but we cannot unify them completely in our minds. In
following your life-history, I must temporarily turn my attention from
my own. Even a biographer of twins would have to press them alternately
upon his reader's attention.

It follows that whoever says that the whole world tells one story utters
another of those monistic dogmas that a man believes at his risk. It is
easy to see the world's history pluralistically, as a rope of which each
fibre tells a separate tale; but to conceive of each cross-section of
the rope as an absolutely single fact, and to sum the whole longitudinal
series into one being living an undivided life, is harder. We have
indeed the analogy of embryology to help us. The microscopist makes a
hundred flat cross-sections of a given embryo, and mentally unites them
into one solid whole. But the great world's ingredients, so far as
they are beings, seem, like the rope's fibres, to be discontinuous
cross-wise, and to cohere only in the longitudinal direction. Followed
in that direction they are many. Even the embryologist, when he follows
the DEVELOPMENT of his object, has to treat the history of each single
organ in turn. ABSOLUTE aesthetic union is thus another barely abstract
ideal. The world appears as something more epic than dramatic.

So far, then, we see how the world is unified by its many systems,
kinds, purposes, and dramas. That there is more union in all these ways
than openly appears is certainly true. That there MAY be one sovereign
purpose, system, kind, and story, is a legitimate hypothesis. All I
say here is that it is rash to affirm this dogmatically without better
evidence than we possess at present.

8. The GREAT monistic DENKMITTEL for a hundred years past has been
the notion of THE ONE KNOWER. The many exist only as objects for his
thought--exist in his dream, as it were; and AS HE KNOWS them, they have
one purpose, form one system, tell one tale for him. This notion of an
ALL-ENVELOPING NOETIC UNITY in things is the sublimest achievement of
intellectualist philosophy. Those who believe in the Absolute, as the
all-knower is termed, usually say that they do so for coercive reasons,
which clear thinkers cannot evade. The Absolute has far-reaching
practical consequences, some of which I drew attention in my second
lecture. Many kinds of difference important to us would surely follow
from its being true. I cannot here enter into all the logical proofs of
such a Being's existence, farther than to say that none of them seem to
me sound. I must therefore treat the notion of an All-Knower simply as
an hypothesis, exactly on a par logically with the pluralist notion that
there is no point of view, no focus of information extant, from
which the entire content of the universe is visible at once. "God's
consciousness," says Professor Royce,[Footnote: The Conception of
God, New York, 1897, p. 292.] "forms in its wholeness one luminously
transparent conscious moment"--this is the type of noetic unity on which
rationalism insists. Empiricism on the other hand is satisfied with the
type of noetic unity that is humanly familiar. Everything gets known by
SOME knower along with something else; but the knowers may in the end be
irreducibly many, and the greatest knower of them all may yet not know
the whole of everything, or even know what he does know at one single
stroke:--he may be liable to forget. Whichever type obtained, the world
would still be a universe noetically. Its parts would be conjoined
by knowledge, but in the one case the knowledge would be absolutely
unified, in the other it would be strung along and overlapped.

The notion of one instantaneous or eternal Knower--either adjective
here means the same thing--is, as I said, the great intellectualist
achievement of our time. It has practically driven out that conception
of 'Substance' which earlier philosophers set such store by, and by
which so much unifying work used to be done--universal substance which
alone has being in and from itself, and of which all the particulars
of experience are but forms to which it gives support. Substance has
succumbed to the pragmatic criticisms of the English school. It appears
now only as another name for the fact that phenomena as they come are
actually grouped and given in coherent forms, the very forms in which
we finite knowers experience or think them together. These forms of
conjunction are as much parts of the tissue of experience as are the
terms which they connect; and it is a great pragmatic achievement for
recent idealism to have made the world hang together in these directly
representable ways instead of drawing its unity from the 'inherence' of
its parts--whatever that may mean--in an unimaginable principle behind
the scenes.

'The world is one,' therefore, just so far as we experience it to be
concatenated, one by as many definite conjunctions as appear. But then
also NOT one by just as many definite DISjunctions as we find. The
oneness and the manyness of it thus obtain in respects which can
be separately named. It is neither a universe pure and simple nor
a multiverse pure and simple. And its various manners of being one
suggest, for their accurate ascertainment, so many distinct programs
of scientific work. Thus the pragmatic question 'What is the oneness
known-as? What practical difference will it make?' saves us from all
feverish excitement over it as a principle of sublimity and carries us
forward into the stream of experience with a cool head. The stream may
indeed reveal far more connexion and union than we now suspect, but we
are not entitled on pragmatic principles to claim absolute oneness in
any respect in advance.

It is so difficult to see definitely what absolute oneness can mean,
that probably the majority of you are satisfied with the sober attitude
which we have reached. Nevertheless there are possibly some radically
monistic souls among you who are not content to leave the one and the
many on a par. Union of various grades, union of diverse types, union
that stops at non-conductors, union that merely goes from next to next,
and means in many cases outer nextness only, and not a more internal
bond, union of concatenation, in short; all that sort of thing seems to
you a halfway stage of thought. The oneness of things, superior to their
manyness, you think must also be more deeply true, must be the more
real aspect of the world. The pragmatic view, you are sure, gives us
a universe imperfectly rational. The real universe must form an
unconditional unit of being, something consolidated, with its parts
co-implicated through and through. Only then could we consider our
estate completely rational. There is no doubt whatever that this
ultra-monistic way of thinking means a great deal to many minds. "One
Life, One Truth, one Love, one Principle, One Good, One God"--I quote
from a Christian Science leaflet which the day's mail brings into my
hands--beyond doubt such a confession of faith has pragmatically an
emotional value, and beyond doubt the word 'one' contributes to the
value quite as much as the other words. But if we try to realize
INTELLECTUALLY what we can possibly MEAN by such a glut of oneness we
are thrown right back upon our pragmatistic determinations again. It
means either the mere name One, the universe of discourse; or it means
the sum total of all the ascertainable particular conjunctions and
concatenations; or, finally, it means some one vehicle of conjunction
treated as all-inclusive, like one origin, one purpose, or one knower.
In point of fact it always means one KNOWER to those who take it
intellectually to-day. The one knower involves, they think, the other
forms of conjunction. His world must have all its parts co-implicated
in the one logical-aesthetical-teleological unit-picture which is his
eternal dream.

The character of the absolute knower's picture is however so impossible
for us to represent clearly, that we may fairly suppose that the
authority which absolute monism undoubtedly possesses, and probably
always will possess over some persons, draws its strength far less from
intellectual than from mystical grounds. To interpret absolute monism
worthily, be a mystic. Mystical states of mind in every degree are shown
by history, usually tho not always, to make for the monistic view. This
is no proper occasion to enter upon the general subject of mysticism,
but I will quote one mystical pronouncement to show just what I mean.
The paragon of all monistic systems is the Vedanta philosophy of
Hindostan, and the paragon of Vedantist missionaries was the late
Swami Vivekananda who visited our shores some years ago. The method of
Vedantism is the mystical method. You do not reason, but after going
through a certain discipline YOU SEE, and having seen, you can report
the truth. Vivekananda thus reports the truth in one of his lectures

"Where is any more misery for him who sees this Oneness in the
Universe...this Oneness of life, Oneness of everything? ...This
separation between man and man, man and woman, man and child, nation
from nation, earth from moon, moon from sun, this separation between
atom and atom is the cause really of all the misery, and the Vedanta
says this separation does not exist, it is not real. It is merely
apparent, on the surface. In the heart of things there is Unity still.
If you go inside you find that Unity between man and man, women and
children, races and races, high and low, rich and poor, the gods and
men: all are One, and animals too, if you go deep enough, and he who has
attained to that has no more delusion. ... Where is any more delusion
for him? What can delude him? He knows the reality of everything, the
secret of everything. Where is there any more misery for him? What does
he desire? He has traced the reality of everything unto the Lord, that
centre, that Unity of everything, and that is Eternal Bliss, Eternal
Knowledge, Eternal Existence. Neither death nor disease, nor sorrow nor
misery, nor discontent is there ... in the centre, the reality, there
is no one to be mourned for, no one to be sorry for. He has penetrated
everything, the Pure One, the Formless, the Bodiless, the Stainless, He
the Knower, He the Great Poet, the Self-Existent, He who is giving to
everyone what he deserves."

Observe how radical the character of the monism here is. Separation is
not simply overcome by the One, it is denied to exist. There is no many.
We are not parts of the One; It has no parts; and since in a sense we
undeniably ARE, it must be that each of us is the One, indivisibly and
totally. AN ABSOLUTE ONE, AND I THAT ONE--surely we have here a religion
which, emotionally considered, has a high pragmatic value; it imparts a
perfect sumptuosity of security. As our Swami says in another place:

"When man has seen himself as one with the infinite Being of the
universe, when all separateness has ceased, when all men, all women, all
angels, all gods, all animals, all plants, the whole universe has been
melted into that oneness, then all fear disappears. Whom to fear? Can
I hurt myself? Can I kill myself? Can I injure myself? Do you fear
yourself? Then will all sorrow disappear. What can cause me sorrow? I am
the One Existence of the universe. Then all jealousies will disappear;
of whom to be jealous? Of myself? Then all bad feelings disappear.
Against whom will I have this bad feeling? Against myself? There is none
in the universe but me. ... Kill out this differentiation; kill out this
superstition that there are many. 'He who, in this world of many, sees
that One; he who in this mass of insentiency sees that One Sentient
Being; he who in this world of shadow catches that Reality, unto him
belongs eternal peace, unto none else, unto none else.'"

We all have some ear for this monistic music: it elevates and reassures.
We all have at least the germ of mysticism in us. And when our idealists
recite their arguments for the Absolute, saying that the slightest union
admitted anywhere carries logically absolute Oneness with it, and that
the slightest separation admitted anywhere logically carries disunion
remediless and complete, I cannot help suspecting that the palpable weak
places in the intellectual reasonings they use are protected from their
own criticism by a mystical feeling that, logic or no logic, absolute
Oneness must somehow at any cost be true. Oneness overcomes MORAL
separateness at any rate. In the passion of love we have the mystic germ
of what might mean a total union of all sentient life. This mystical
germ wakes up in us on hearing the monistic utterances, acknowledges
their authority, and assigns to intellectual considerations a secondary

I will dwell no longer on these religious and moral aspects of the
question in this lecture. When I come to my final lecture there will be
something more to say.

Leave then out of consideration for the moment the authority which
mystical insights may be conjectured eventually to possess; treat the
problem of the One and the Many in a purely intellectual way; and we
see clearly enough where pragmatism stands. With her criterion of the
practical differences that theories make, we see that she must equally
abjure absolute monism and absolute pluralism. The world is one just
so far as its parts hang together by any definite connexion. It is many
just so far as any definite connexion fails to obtain. And finally it
is growing more and more unified by those systems of connexion at least
which human energy keeps framing as time goes on.

It is possible to imagine alternative universes to the one we know, in
which the most various grades and types of union should be embodied.
Thus the lowest grade of universe would be a world of mere WITHNESS, of
which the parts were only strung together by the conjunction 'and.' Such
a universe is even now the collection of our several inner lives. The
spaces and times of your imagination, the objects and events of your
day-dreams are not only more or less incoherent inter se, but are wholly
out of definite relation with the similar contents of anyone else's
mind. Our various reveries now as we sit here compenetrate each other
idly without influencing or interfering. They coexist, but in no order
and in no receptacle, being the nearest approach to an absolute 'many'
that we can conceive. We cannot even imagine any reason why they SHOULD
be known all together, and we can imagine even less, if they were known
together, how they could be known as one systematic whole.

But add our sensations and bodily actions, and the union mounts to
a much higher grade. Our audita et visa and our acts fall into those
receptacles of time and space in which each event finds its date and
place. They form 'things' and are of 'kinds' too, and can be classed.
Yet we can imagine a world of things and of kinds in which the causal
interactions with which we are so familiar should not exist. Everything
there might be inert towards everything else, and refuse to propagate
its influence. Or gross mechanical influences might pass, but no
chemical action. Such worlds would be far less unified than ours. Again
there might be complete physico-chemical interaction, but no minds; or
minds, but altogether private ones, with no social life; or social
life limited to acquaintance, but no love; or love, but no customs
or institutions that should systematize it. No one of these grades of
universe would be absolutely irrational or disintegrated, inferior tho
it might appear when looked at from the higher grades. For instance, if
our minds should ever become 'telepathically' connected, so that we knew
immediately, or could under certain conditions know immediately, each
what the other was thinking, the world we now live in would appear to
the thinkers in that world to have been of an inferior grade.

With the whole of past eternity open for our conjectures to range in, it
may be lawful to wonder whether the various kinds of union now realized
in the universe that we inhabit may not possibly have been successively
evolved after the fashion in which we now see human systems evolving in
consequence of human needs. If such an hypothesis were legitimate, total
oneness would appear at the end of things rather than at their origin.
In other words the notion of the 'Absolute' would have to be replaced by
that of the 'Ultimate.' The two notions would have the same content--the
maximally unified content of fact, namely--but their time-relations
would be positively reversed. [Footnote: Compare on the Ultimate,
Mr. Schiller's essay "Activity and Substance," in his book entitled
Humanism, p. 204.]

After discussing the unity of the universe in this pragmatic way, you
ought to see why I said in my second lecture, borrowing the word from my
friend G. Papini, that pragmatism tends to UNSTIFFEN all our theories.
The world's oneness has generally been affirmed abstractly only, and as
if anyone who questioned it must be an idiot. The temper of monists has
been so vehement, as almost at times to be convulsive; and this way of
holding a doctrine does not easily go with reasonable discussion and the
drawing of distinctions. The theory of the Absolute, in particular, has
had to be an article of faith, affirmed dogmatically and exclusively.
The One and All, first in the order of being and of knowing, logically
necessary itself, and uniting all lesser things in the bonds of mutual
necessity, how could it allow of any mitigation of its inner
rigidity? The slightest suspicion of pluralism, the minutest wiggle of
independence of any one of its parts from the control of the totality,
would ruin it. Absolute unity brooks no degrees--as well might you claim
absolute purity for a glass of water because it contains but a single
little cholera-germ. The independence, however infinitesimal, of a part,
however small, would be to the Absolute as fatal as a cholera-germ.

Pluralism on the other hand has no need of this dogmatic rigoristic
temper. Provided you grant SOME separation among things, some tremor of
independence, some free play of parts on one another, some real novelty
or chance, however minute, she is amply satisfied, and will allow you
any amount, however great, of real union. How much of union there may
be is a question that she thinks can only be decided empirically. The
amount may be enormous, colossal; but absolute monism is shattered if,
along with all the union, there has to be granted the slightest modicum,
the most incipient nascency, or the most residual trace, of a separation
that is not 'overcome.'

Pragmatism, pending the final empirical ascertainment of just what the
balance of union and disunion among things may be, must obviously range
herself upon the pluralistic side. Some day, she admits, even total
union, with one knower, one origin, and a universe consolidated in
every conceivable way, may turn out to be the most acceptable of all
hypotheses. Meanwhile the opposite hypothesis, of a world imperfectly
unified still, and perhaps always to remain so, must be sincerely
entertained. This latter hypothesis is pluralism's doctrine. Since
absolute monism forbids its being even considered seriously, branding it
as irrational from the start, it is clear that pragmatism must turn its
back on absolute monism, and follow pluralism's more empirical path.

This leaves us with the common-sense world, in which we find things
partly joined and partly disjoined. 'Things,' then, and their
'conjunctions'--what do such words mean, pragmatically handled? In
my next lecture, I will apply the pragmatic method to the stage of
philosophizing known as Common Sense.

Lecture V

Pragmatism and Common Sense

In the last lecture we turned ourselves from the usual way of talking
of the universe's oneness as a principle, sublime in all its blankness,
towards a study of the special kinds of union which the universe
enfolds. We found many of these to coexist with kinds of separation
equally real. "How far am I verified?" is the question which each
kind of union and each kind of separation asks us here, so as good
pragmatists we have to turn our face towards experience, towards

Absolute oneness remains, but only as an hypothesis, and that hypothesis
is reduced nowadays to that of an omniscient knower who sees all things
without exception as forming one single systematic fact. But the knower
in question may still be conceived either as an Absolute or as an
Ultimate; and over against the hypothesis of him in either form the
counter-hypothesis that the widest field of knowledge that ever was or
will be still contains some ignorance, may be legitimately held. Some
bits of information always may escape.

This is the hypothesis of NOETIC PLURALISM, which monists consider so
absurd. Since we are bound to treat it as respectfully as noetic monism,
until the facts shall have tipped the beam, we find that our pragmatism,
tho originally nothing but a method, has forced us to be friendly to the
pluralistic view. It MAY be that some parts of the world are connected
so loosely with some other parts as to be strung along by nothing but
the copula AND. They might even come and go without those other parts
suffering any internal change. This pluralistic view, of a world of
ADDITIVE constitution, is one that pragmatism is unable to rule out from
serious consideration. But this view leads one to the farther hypothesis
that the actual world, instead of being complete 'eternally,' as the
monists assure us, may be eternally incomplete, and at all times subject
to addition or liable to loss.

It IS at any rate incomplete in one respect, and flagrantly so. The very
fact that we debate this question shows that our KNOWLEDGE is incomplete
at present and subject to addition. In respect of the knowledge it
contains the world does genuinely change and grow. Some general remarks
on the way in which our knowledge completes itself--when it does
complete itself--will lead us very conveniently into our subject for
this lecture, which is 'Common Sense.'

To begin with, our knowledge grows IN SPOTS. The spots may be large or
small, but the knowledge never grows all over: some old knowledge always
remains what it was. Your knowledge of pragmatism, let us suppose, is
growing now. Later, its growth may involve considerable modification of
opinions which you previously held to be true. But such modifications
are apt to be gradual. To take the nearest possible example, consider
these lectures of mine. What you first gain from them is probably a
small amount of new information, a few new definitions, or distinctions,
or points of view. But while these special ideas are being added, the
rest of your knowledge stands still, and only gradually will you 'line
up' your previous opinions with the novelties I am trying to instil, and
modify to some slight degree their mass.

You listen to me now, I suppose, with certain prepossessions as to my
competency, and these affect your reception of what I say, but were I
suddenly to break off lecturing, and to begin to sing 'We won't go home
till morning' in a rich baritone voice, not only would that new fact be
added to your stock, but it would oblige you to define me differently,
and that might alter your opinion of the pragmatic philosophy, and in
general bring about a rearrangement of a number of your ideas. Your mind
in such processes is strained, and sometimes painfully so, between its
older beliefs and the novelties which experience brings along.

Our minds thus grow in spots; and like grease-spots, the spots spread.
But we let them spread as little as possible: we keep unaltered as much
of our old knowledge, as many of our old prejudices and beliefs, as we
can. We patch and tinker more than we renew. The novelty soaks in; it
stains the ancient mass; but it is also tinged by what absorbs it. Our
past apperceives and co-operates; and in the new equilibrium in which
each step forward in the process of learning terminates, it happens
relatively seldom that the new fact is added RAW. More usually it is
embedded cooked, as one might say, or stewed down in the sauce of the

New truths thus are resultants of new experiences and of old truths
combined and mutually modifying one another. And since this is the case
in the changes of opinion of to-day, there is no reason to assume that
it has not been so at all times. It follows that very ancient modes
of thought may have survived through all the later changes in men's
opinions. The most primitive ways of thinking may not yet be wholly
expunged. Like our five fingers, our ear-bones, our rudimentary caudal
appendage, or our other 'vestigial' peculiarities, they may remain as
indelible tokens of events in our race-history. Our ancestors may at
certain moments have struck into ways of thinking which they might
conceivably not have found. But once they did so, and after the fact,
the inheritance continues. When you begin a piece of music in a certain
key, you must keep the key to the end. You may alter your house ad
libitum, but the ground-plan of the first architect persists--you can
make great changes, but you cannot change a Gothic church into a Doric
temple. You may rinse and rinse the bottle, but you can't get the taste
of the medicine or whiskey that first filled it wholly out.

TIME. They form one great stage of equilibrium in the human mind's
development, the stage of common sense. Other stages have grafted
themselves upon this stage, but have never succeeded in displacing it.
Let us consider this common-sense stage first, as if it might be final.

In practical talk, a man's common sense means his good judgment, his
freedom from excentricity, his GUMPTION, to use the vernacular word. In
philosophy it means something entirely different, it means his use of
certain intellectual forms or categories of thought. Were we lobsters,
or bees, it might be that our organization would have led to our using
quite different modes from these of apprehending our experiences. It
MIGHT be too (we cannot dogmatically deny this) that such categories,
unimaginable by us to-day, would have proved on the whole as serviceable
for handling our experiences mentally as those which we actually use.

If this sounds paradoxical to anyone, let him think of analytical
geometry. The identical figures which Euclid defined by intrinsic
relations were defined by Descartes by the relations of their points to
adventitious co-ordinates, the result being an absolutely different and
vastly more potent way of handling curves. All our conceptions are what
the Germans call denkmittel, means by which we handle facts by thinking
them. Experience merely as such doesn't come ticketed and labeled, we
have first to discover what it is. Kant speaks of it as being in
its first intention a gewuehl der erscheinungen, a rhapsodie der
wahrnehmungen, a mere motley which we have to unify by our wits. What
we usually do is first to frame some system of concepts mentally
classified, serialized, or connected in some intellectual way, and then
to use this as a tally by which we 'keep tab' on the impressions that
present themselves. When each is referred to some possible place in the
conceptual system, it is thereby 'understood.' This notion of parallel
'manifolds' with their elements standing reciprocally in 'one-to-one
relations,' is proving so convenient nowadays in mathematics and logic
as to supersede more and more the older classificatory conceptions.
There are many conceptual systems of this sort; and the sense
manifold is also such a system. Find a one-to-one relation for your
sense-impressions ANYWHERE among the concepts, and in so far forth you
rationalize the impressions. But obviously you can rationalize them by
using various conceptual systems.

The old common-sense way of rationalizing them is by a set of concepts
of which the most important are these:


The same or different;




One Time;

One Space;

Subjects and attributes;

Causal influences;

The fancied;

The real.

We are now so familiar with the order that these notions have woven for
us out of the everlasting weather of our perceptions that we find it
hard to realize how little of a fixed routine the perceptions follow
when taken by themselves. The word weather is a good one to use here.
In Boston, for example, the weather has almost no routine, the only law
being that if you have had any weather for two days, you will probably
but not certainly have another weather on the third. Weather-experience
as it thus comes to Boston, is discontinuous and chaotic. In point of
temperature, of wind, rain or sunshine, it MAY change three times a
day. But the Washington weather-bureau intellectualizes this disorder by
making each successive bit of Boston weather EPISODIC. It refers it to
its place and moment in a continental cyclone, on the history of which
the local changes everywhere are strung as beads are strung upon a cord.

Now it seems almost certain that young children and the inferior animals
take all their experiences very much as uninstructed Bostonians take
their weather. They know no more of time or space as world-receptacles,
or of permanent subjects and changing predicates, or of causes,
or kinds, or thoughts, or things, than our common people know of
continental cyclones. A baby's rattle drops out of his hand, but the
baby looks not for it. It has 'gone out' for him, as a candle-flame goes
out; and it comes back, when you replace it in his hand, as the flame
comes back when relit. The idea of its being a 'thing,' whose permanent
existence by itself he might interpolate between its successive
apparitions has evidently not occurred to him. It is the same with dogs.
Out of sight, out of mind, with them. It is pretty evident that they
have no GENERAL tendency to interpolate 'things.' Let me quote here a
passage from my colleague G. Santayana's book.

"If a dog, while sniffing about contentedly, sees afar off his master
arriving after long absence...the poor brute asks for no reason why
his master went, why he has come again, why he should be loved, or why
presently while lying at his feet you forget him and begin to grunt and
dream of the chase--all that is an utter mystery, utterly unconsidered.
Such experience has variety, scenery, and a certain vital rhythm;
its story might be told in dithyrambic verse. It moves wholly by
inspiration; every event is providential, every act unpremeditated.
Absolute freedom and absolute helplessness have met together: you
depend wholly on divine favour, yet that unfathomable agency is not
distinguishable from your own life. ...[But] the figures even of that
disordered drama have their exits and their entrances; and their cues
can be gradually discovered by a being capable of fixing his
attention and retaining the order of events. ...In proportion as such
understanding advances each moment of experience becomes consequential
and prophetic of the rest. The calm places in life are filled with power
and its spasms with resource. No emotion can overwhelm the mind, for
of none is the basis or issue wholly hidden; no event can disconcert it
altogether, because it sees beyond. Means can be looked for to escape
from the worst predicament; and whereas each moment had been formerly
filled with nothing but its own adventure and surprised emotion, each
now makes room for the lesson of what went before and surmises what
may be the plot of the whole."[Footnote: The Life of Reason: Reason in
Common Sense, 1905, p. 59.]

Even to-day science and philosophy are still laboriously trying to part
fancies from realities in our experience; and in primitive times they
made only the most incipient distinctions in this line. Men believed
whatever they thought with any liveliness, and they mixed their dreams
with their realities inextricably. The categories of 'thought' and
'things' are indispensable here--instead of being realities we now call
certain experiences only 'thoughts.' There is not a category, among
those enumerated, of which we may not imagine the use to have thus
originated historically and only gradually spread.

That one Time which we all believe in and in which each event has its
definite date, that one Space in which each thing has its position,
these abstract notions unify the world incomparably; but in their
finished shape as concepts how different they are from the loose
unordered time-and-space experiences of natural men! Everything that
happens to us brings its own duration and extension, and both are
vaguely surrounded by a marginal 'more' that runs into the duration
and extension of the next thing that comes. But we soon lose all our
definite bearings; and not only do our children make no distinction
between yesterday and the day before yesterday, the whole past being
churned up together, but we adults still do so whenever the times are
large. It is the same with spaces. On a map I can distinctly see the
relation of London, Constantinople, and Pekin to the place where I am;
in reality I utterly fail to FEEL the facts which the map symbolizes.
The directions and distances are vague, confused and mixed. Cosmic space
and cosmic time, so far from being the intuitions that Kant said they
were, are constructions as patently artificial as any that science can
show. The great majority of the human race never use these notions, but
live in plural times and spaces, interpenetrant and DURCHEINANDER.

Permanent 'things' again; the 'same' thing and its various 'appearances'
and 'alterations'; the different 'kinds' of thing; with the 'kind' used
finally as a 'predicate,' of which the thing remains the 'subject'--what
a straightening of the tangle of our experience's immediate flux and
sensible variety does this list of terms suggest! And it is only
the smallest part of his experience's flux that anyone actually does
straighten out by applying to it these conceptual instruments. Out of
them all our lowest ancestors probably used only, and then most vaguely
and inaccurately, the notion of 'the same again.' But even then if
you had asked them whether the same were a 'thing' that had endured
throughout the unseen interval, they would probably have been at a
loss, and would have said that they had never asked that question, or
considered matters in that light.

Kinds, and sameness of kind--what colossally useful DENKMITTEL for
finding our way among the many! The manyness might conceivably have
been absolute. Experiences might have all been singulars, no one of them
occurring twice. In such a world logic would have had no application;
for kind and sameness of kind are logic's only instruments. Once we know
that whatever is of a kind is also of that kind's kind, we can travel
through the universe as if with seven-league boots. Brutes surely never
use these abstractions, and civilized men use them in most various

Causal influence, again! This, if anything, seems to have been an
antediluvian conception; for we find primitive men thinking that almost
everything is significant and can exert influence of some sort. The
search for the more definite influences seems to have started in the
question: "Who, or what, is to blame?"--for any illness, namely, or
disaster, or untoward thing. From this centre the search for causal
influences has spread. Hume and 'Science' together have tried to
eliminate the whole notion of influence, substituting the entirely
different DENKMITTEL of 'law.' But law is a comparatively recent
invention, and influence reigns supreme in the older realm of common

The 'possible,' as something less than the actual and more than the
wholly unreal, is another of these magisterial notions of common sense.
Criticize them as you may, they persist; and we fly back to them the
moment critical pressure is relaxed. 'Self,' 'body,' in the substantial
or metaphysical sense--no one escapes subjection to THOSE forms
of thought. In practice, the common-sense DENKMITTEL are uniformly
victorious. Everyone, however instructed, still thinks of a 'thing' in
the common-sense way, as a permanent unit-subject that 'supports' its
attributes interchangeably. No one stably or sincerely uses the more
critical notion, of a group of sense-qualities united by a law. With
these categories in our hand, we make our plans and plot together, and
connect all the remoter parts of experience with what lies before our
eyes. Our later and more critical philosophies are mere fads and fancies
compared with this natural mother-tongue of thought.

Common sense appears thus as a perfectly definite stage in our
understanding of things, a stage that satisfies in an extraordinarily
successful way the purposes for which we think. 'Things' do exist, even
when we do not see them. Their 'kinds' also exist. Their 'qualities' are
what they act by, and are what we act on; and these also exist. These
lamps shed their quality of light on every object in this room. We
intercept IT on its way whenever we hold up an opaque screen. It is
the very sound that my lips emit that travels into your ears. It is the
sensible heat of the fire that migrates into the water in which we boil
an egg; and we can change the heat into coolness by dropping in a
lump of ice. At this stage of philosophy all non-European men without
exception have remained. It suffices for all the necessary practical
ends of life; and, among our own race even, it is only the highly
sophisticated specimens, the minds debauched by learning, as Berkeley
calls them, who have ever even suspected common sense of not being
absolutely true.

But when we look back, and speculate as to how the common-sense
categories may have achieved their wonderful supremacy, no reason
appears why it may not have been by a process just like that by which
the conceptions due to Democritus, Berkeley, or Darwin, achieved their
similar triumphs in more recent times. In other words, they may have
been successfully DISCOVERED by prehistoric geniuses whose names the
night of antiquity has covered up; they may have been verified by the
immediate facts of experience which they first fitted; and then from
fact to fact and from man to man they may have SPREAD, until all
language rested on them and we are now incapable of thinking naturally
in any other terms. Such a view would only follow the rule that has
proved elsewhere so fertile, of assuming the vast and remote to conform
to the laws of formation that we can observe at work in the small and

For all utilitarian practical purposes these conceptions amply suffice;
but that they began at special points of discovery and only gradually
spread from one thing to another, seems proved by the exceedingly
dubious limits of their application to-day. We assume for certain
purposes one 'objective' Time that AEQUABILITER FLUIT, but we don't
livingly believe in or realize any such equally-flowing time. 'Space'
is a less vague notion; but 'things,' what are they? Is a constellation
properly a thing? or an army? or is an ENS RATIONIS such as space or
justice a thing? Is a knife whose handle and blade are changed the
'same'? Is the 'changeling,' whom Locke so seriously discusses, of the
human 'kind'? Is 'telepathy' a 'fancy' or a 'fact'? The moment you pass
beyond the practical use of these categories (a use usually suggested
sufficiently by the circumstances of the special case) to a merely
curious or speculative way of thinking, you find it impossible to say
within just what limits of fact any one of them shall apply.

The peripatetic philosophy, obeying rationalist propensities, has
tried to eternalize the common-sense categories by treating them very
technically and articulately. A 'thing' for instance is a being, or
ENS. An ENS is a subject in which qualities 'inhere.' A subject is a
substance. Substances are of kinds, and kinds are definite in number,
and discrete. These distinctions are fundamental and eternal. As terms
of DISCOURSE they are indeed magnificently useful, but what they mean,
apart from their use in steering our discourse to profitable issues,
does not appear. If you ask a scholastic philosopher what a substance
may be in itself, apart from its being the support of attributes, he
simply says that your intellect knows perfectly what the word means.

But what the intellect knows clearly is only the word itself and its
steering function. So it comes about that intellects SIBI PERMISSI,
intellects only curious and idle, have forsaken the common-sense level
for what in general terms may be called the 'critical' level of thought.
Not merely SUCH intellects either--your Humes and Berkeleys and Hegels;
but practical observers of facts, your Galileos, Daltons, Faradays, have
found it impossible to treat the NAIFS sense-termini of common sense
as ultimately real. As common sense interpolates her constant 'things'
between our intermittent sensations, so science EXTRApolates her world
of 'primary' qualities, her atoms, her ether, her magnetic fields, and
the like, beyond the common-sense world. The 'things' are now invisible
impalpable things; and the old visible common-sense things are supposed
to result from the mixture of these invisibles. Or else the whole NAIF
conception of thing gets superseded, and a thing's name is interpreted
as denoting only the law or REGEL DER VERBINDUNG by which certain of our
sensations habitually succeed or coexist.

Science and critical philosophy thus burst the bounds of common sense.
With science NAIF realism ceases: 'Secondary' qualities become unreal;
primary ones alone remain. With critical philosophy, havoc is made of
everything. The common-sense categories one and all cease to represent
anything in the way of BEING; they are but sublime tricks of human
thought, our ways of escaping bewilderment in the midst of sensation's
irremediable flow.

But the scientific tendency in critical thought, tho inspired at first
by purely intellectual motives, has opened an entirely unexpected range
of practical utilities to our astonished view. Galileo gave us accurate
clocks and accurate artillery-practice; the chemists flood us with new
medicines and dye-stuffs; Ampere and Faraday have endowed us with the
New York subway and with Marconi telegrams. The hypothetical things that
such men have invented, defined as they have defined them, are showing
an extraordinary fertility in consequences verifiable by sense. Our
logic can deduce from them a consequence due under certain conditions,
we can then bring about the conditions, and presto, the consequence
is there before our eyes. The scope of the practical control of nature
newly put into our hand by scientific ways of thinking vastly exceeds
the scope of the old control grounded on common sense. Its rate of
increase accelerates so that no one can trace the limit; one may even
fear that the BEING of man may be crushed by his own powers, that his
fixed nature as an organism may not prove adequate to stand the strain
of the ever increasingly tremendous functions, almost divine creative
functions, which his intellect will more and more enable him to wield.
He may drown in his wealth like a child in a bath-tub, who has turned on
the water and who cannot turn it off.

The philosophic stage of criticism, much more thorough in its negations
than the scientific stage, so far gives us no new range of practical
power. Locke, Hume, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel, have all been utterly
sterile, so far as shedding any light on the details of nature goes, and
I can think of no invention or discovery that can be directly traced
to anything in their peculiar thought, for neither with Berkeley's
tar-water nor with Kant's nebular hypothesis had their respective
philosophic tenets anything to do. The satisfactions they yield to their
disciples are intellectual, not practical; and even then we have to
confess that there is a large minus-side to the account.

There are thus at least three well-characterized levels, stages or types
of thought about the world we live in, and the notions of one stage
have one kind of merit, those of another stage another kind. It is
impossible, however, to say that any stage as yet in sight is absolutely
more TRUE than any other. Common sense is the more CONSOLIDATED stage,
because it got its innings first, and made all language into its ally.
Whether it or science be the more AUGUST stage may be left to private
judgment. But neither consolidation nor augustness are decisive marks of
truth. If common sense were true, why should science have had to
brand the secondary qualities, to which our world owes all its living
interest, as false, and to invent an invisible world of points and
curves and mathematical equations instead? Why should it have needed
to transform causes and activities into laws of 'functional variation'?
Vainly did scholasticism, common sense's college-trained younger sister,
seek to stereotype the forms the human family had always talked with,
to make them definite and fix them for eternity. Substantial forms (in
other words our secondary qualities) hardly outlasted the year of our
Lord 1600. People were already tired of them then; and Galileo, and
Descartes, with his 'new philosophy,' gave them only a little later
their coup de grace.

But now if the new kinds of scientific 'thing,' the corpuscular and
etheric world, were essentially more 'true,' why should they have
excited so much criticism within the body of science itself? Scientific
logicians are saying on every hand that these entities and their
determinations, however definitely conceived, should not be held for
literally real. It is AS IF they existed; but in reality they are like
co-ordinates or logarithms, only artificial short-cuts for taking us
from one part to another of experience's flux. We can cipher fruitfully
with them; they serve us wonderfully; but we must not be their dupes.

There is no RINGING conclusion possible when we compare these types
of thinking, with a view to telling which is the more absolutely true.
Their naturalness, their intellectual economy, their fruitfulness for
practice, all start up as distinct tests of their veracity, and as a
result we get confused. Common sense is BETTER for one sphere of life,
science for another, philosophic criticism for a third; but whether
either be TRUER absolutely, Heaven only knows. Just now, if I understand
the matter rightly, we are witnessing a curious reversion to the
common-sense way of looking at physical nature, in the philosophy of
science favored by such men as Mach, Ostwald and Duhem. According to
these teachers no hypothesis is truer than any other in the sense of
being a more literal copy of reality. They are all but ways of talking
on our part, to be compared solely from the point of view of their USE.
The only literally true thing is REALITY; and the only reality we know
is, for these logicians, sensible reality, the flux of our sensations
and emotions as they pass. 'Energy' is the collective name (according
to Ostwald) for the sensations just as they present themselves (the
movement, heat, magnetic pull, or light, or whatever it may be) when
they are measured in certain ways. So measuring them, we are enabled
to describe the correlated changes which they show us, in formulas
matchless for their simplicity and fruitfulness for human use. They are
sovereign triumphs of economy in thought.

No one can fail to admire the 'energetic' philosophy. But the
hypersensible entities, the corpuscles and vibrations, hold their own
with most physicists and chemists, in spite of its appeal. It seems too
economical to be all-sufficient. Profusion, not economy, may after all
be reality's key-note.

I am dealing here with highly technical matters, hardly suitable for
popular lecturing, and in which my own competence is small. All the
better for my conclusion, however, which at this point is this. The
whole notion of truth, which naturally and without reflexion we assume
to mean the simple duplication by the mind of a ready-made and given
reality, proves hard to understand clearly. There is no simple test
available for adjudicating offhand between the divers types of thought
that claim to possess it. Common sense, common science or corpuscular
philosophy, ultra-critical science, or energetics, and critical or
idealistic philosophy, all seem insufficiently true in some regard and
leave some dissatisfaction. It is evident that the conflict of these so
widely differing systems obliges us to overhaul the very idea of truth,
for at present we have no definite notion of what the word may mean. I
shall face that task in my next lecture, and will add but a few words,
in finishing the present one.

There are only two points that I wish you to retain from the present
lecture. The first one relates to common sense. We have seen reason to
suspect it, to suspect that in spite of their being so venerable, of
their being so universally used and built into the very structure
of language, its categories may after all be only a collection of
extraordinarily successful hypotheses (historically discovered or
invented by single men, but gradually communicated, and used by
everybody) by which our forefathers have from time immemorial unified
and straightened the discontinuity of their immediate experiences,
and put themselves into an equilibrium with the surface of nature so
satisfactory for ordinary practical purposes that it certainly would
have lasted forever, but for the excessive intellectual vivacity of
Democritus, Archimedes, Galileo, Berkeley, and other excentric geniuses
whom the example of such men inflamed. Retain, I pray you, this
suspicion about common sense.

The other point is this. Ought not the existence of the various types of
thinking which we have reviewed, each so splendid for certain purposes,
yet all conflicting still, and neither one of them able to support a
claim of absolute veracity, to awaken a presumption favorable to the
pragmatistic view that all our theories are INSTRUMENTAL, are mental
modes of ADAPTATION to reality, rather than revelations or gnostic
answers to some divinely instituted world-enigma? I expressed this view
as clearly as I could in the second of these lectures. Certainly the
restlessness of the actual theoretic situation, the value for some
purposes of each thought-level, and the inability of either to expel the
others decisively, suggest this pragmatistic view, which I hope that the
next lectures may soon make entirely convincing. May there not after all
be a possible ambiguity in truth?

Lecture VI

Pragmatism's Conception of Truth

When Clerk Maxwell was a child it is written that he had a mania for
having everything explained to him, and that when people put him off
with vague verbal accounts of any phenomenon he would interrupt them
impatiently by saying, "Yes; but I want you to tell me the PARTICULAR GO
of it!" Had his question been about truth, only a pragmatist could
have told him the particular go of it. I believe that our contemporary
pragmatists, especially Messrs. Schiller and Dewey, have given the only
tenable account of this subject. It is a very ticklish subject, sending
subtle rootlets into all kinds of crannies, and hard to treat in the
sketchy way that alone befits a public lecture. But the Schiller-Dewey
view of truth has been so ferociously attacked by rationalistic
philosophers, and so abominably misunderstood, that here, if anywhere,
is the point where a clear and simple statement should be made.

I fully expect to see the pragmatist view of truth run through the
classic stages of a theory's career. First, you know, a new theory is
attacked as absurd; then it is admitted to be true, but obvious
and insignificant; finally it is seen to be so important that its
adversaries claim that they themselves discovered it. Our doctrine of
truth is at present in the first of these three stages, with symptoms
of the second stage having begun in certain quarters. I wish that this
lecture might help it beyond the first stage in the eyes of many of you.

Truth, as any dictionary will tell you, is a property of certain of our
ideas. It means their 'agreement,' as falsity means their disagreement,
with 'reality.' Pragmatists and intellectualists both accept this
definition as a matter of course. They begin to quarrel only after
the question is raised as to what may precisely be meant by the term
'agreement,' and what by the term 'reality,' when reality is taken as
something for our ideas to agree with.

In answering these questions the pragmatists are more analytic and
painstaking, the intellectualists more offhand and irreflective. The
popular notion is that a true idea must copy its reality. Like
other popular views, this one follows the analogy of the most usual
experience. Our true ideas of sensible things do indeed copy them. Shut
your eyes and think of yonder clock on the wall, and you get just such
a true picture or copy of its dial. But your idea of its 'works' (unless
you are a clock-maker) is much less of a copy, yet it passes muster, for
it in no way clashes with the reality. Even tho it should shrink to the
mere word 'works,' that word still serves you truly; and when you
speak of the 'time-keeping function' of the clock, or of its spring's
'elasticity,' it is hard to see exactly what your ideas can copy.

You perceive that there is a problem here. Where our ideas cannot copy
definitely their object, what does agreement with that object mean?
Some idealists seem to say that they are true whenever they are what
God means that we ought to think about that object. Others hold the
copy-view all through, and speak as if our ideas possessed truth just
in proportion as they approach to being copies of the Absolute's eternal
way of thinking.

These views, you see, invite pragmatistic discussion. But the great
assumption of the intellectualists is that truth means essentially
an inert static relation. When you've got your true idea of anything,
there's an end of the matter. You're in possession; you KNOW; you have
fulfilled your thinking destiny. You are where you ought to be mentally;
you have obeyed your categorical imperative; and nothing more need
follow on that climax of your rational destiny. Epistemologically you
are in stable equilibrium.

Pragmatism, on the other hand, asks its usual question. "Grant an idea
or belief to be true," it says, "what concrete difference will its being
true make in anyone's actual life? How will the truth be realized?
What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if
the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth's cash-value in
experiential terms?"

The moment pragmatism asks this question, it sees the answer: TRUE IDEAS
FALSE IDEAS ARE THOSE THAT WE CANNOT. That is the practical difference
it makes to us to have true ideas; that, therefore, is the meaning of
truth, for it is all that truth is known-as.

This thesis is what I have to defend. The truth of an idea is not a
stagnant property inherent in it. Truth HAPPENS to an idea. It BECOMES
true, is MADE true by events. Its verity is in fact an event, a process:
the process namely of its verifying itself, its veri-FICATION. Its
validity is the process of its valid-ATION.

But what do the words verification and validation themselves
pragmatically mean? They again signify certain practical consequences of
the verified and validated idea. It is hard to find any one phrase
that characterizes these consequences better than the ordinary
agreement-formula--just such consequences being what we have in mind
whenever we say that our ideas 'agree' with reality. They lead us,
namely, through the acts and other ideas which they instigate, into or
up to, or towards, other parts of experience with which we feel all the
while-such feeling being among our potentialities--that the original
ideas remain in agreement. The connexions and transitions come to us
from point to point as being progressive, harmonious, satisfactory. This
function of agreeable leading is what we mean by an idea's verification.
Such an account is vague and it sounds at first quite trivial, but it
has results which it will take the rest of my hour to explain.

Let me begin by reminding you of the fact that the possession of true
thoughts means everywhere the possession of invaluable instruments
of action; and that our duty to gain truth, so far from being a
blank command from out of the blue, or a 'stunt' self-imposed by our
intellect, can account for itself by excellent practical reasons.

The importance to human life of having true beliefs about matters of
fact is a thing too notorious. We live in a world of realities that can
be infinitely useful or infinitely harmful. Ideas that tell us which
of them to expect count as the true ideas in all this primary sphere of
verification, and the pursuit of such ideas is a primary human duty. The
possession of truth, so far from being here an end in itself, is only a
preliminary means towards other vital satisfactions. If I am lost in
the woods and starved, and find what looks like a cow-path, it is of the
utmost importance that I should think of a human habitation at the end
of it, for if I do so and follow it, I save myself. The true thought
is useful here because the house which is its object is useful. The
practical value of true ideas is thus primarily derived from the
practical importance of their objects to us. Their objects are, indeed,
not important at all times. I may on another occasion have no use
for the house; and then my idea of it, however verifiable, will be
practically irrelevant, and had better remain latent. Yet since almost
any object may some day become temporarily important, the advantage of
having a general stock of extra truths, of ideas that shall be true of
merely possible situations, is obvious. We store such extra truths away
in our memories, and with the overflow we fill our books of reference.
Whenever such an extra truth becomes practically relevant to one of our
emergencies, it passes from cold-storage to do work in the world, and
our belief in it grows active. You can say of it then either that 'it
is useful because it is true' or that 'it is true because it is useful.'
Both these phrases mean exactly the same thing, namely that here is
an idea that gets fulfilled and can be verified. True is the name for
whatever idea starts the verification-process, useful is the name for
its completed function in experience. True ideas would never have been
singled out as such, would never have acquired a class-name, least of
all a name suggesting value, unless they had been useful from the outset
in this way.

From this simple cue pragmatism gets her general notion of truth as
something essentially bound up with the way in which one moment in our
experience may lead us towards other moments which it will be worth
while to have been led to. Primarily, and on the common-sense level, the
truth of a state of mind means this function of A LEADING THAT IS WORTH
WHILE. When a moment in our experience, of any kind whatever, inspires
us with a thought that is true, that means that sooner or later we dip
by that thought's guidance into the particulars of experience again and
make advantageous connexion with them. This is a vague enough statement,
but I beg you to retain it, for it is essential.

Our experience meanwhile is all shot through with regularities. One
bit of it can warn us to get ready for another bit, can 'intend' or
be 'significant of' that remoter object. The object's advent is the
significance's verification. Truth, in these cases, meaning nothing but
eventual verification, is manifestly incompatible with waywardness on
our part. Woe to him whose beliefs play fast and loose with the order
which realities follow in his experience: they will lead him nowhere or
else make false connexions.

By 'realities' or 'objects' here, we mean either things of common sense,
sensibly present, or else common-sense relations, such as dates, places,
distances, kinds, activities. Following our mental image of a house
along the cow-path, we actually come to see the house; we get the
offers indeed other forms of truth-process, but they are all conceivable
as being primary verifications arrested, multiplied or substituted one
for another.

Take, for instance, yonder object on the wall. You and I consider it to
be a 'clock,' altho no one of us has seen the hidden works that make it
one. We let our notion pass for true without attempting to verify. If
truths mean verification-process essentially, ought we then to call such
unverified truths as this abortive? No, for they form the overwhelmingly
large number of the truths we live by. Indirect as well as direct
verifications pass muster. Where circumstantial evidence is sufficient,
we can go without eye-witnessing. Just as we here assume Japan to exist
without ever having been there, because it WORKS to do so, everything we
know conspiring with the belief, and nothing interfering, so we assume
that thing to be a clock. We USE it as a clock, regulating the length
of our lecture by it. The verification of the assumption here means its
leading to no frustration or contradiction. VerifiABILITY of wheels and
weights and pendulum is as good as verification. For one truth-process
completed there are a million in our lives that function in this state
of nascency. They turn us TOWARDS direct verification; lead us into the
SURROUNDINGS of the objects they envisage; and then, if everything runs
on harmoniously, we are so sure that verification is possible that we
omit it, and are usually justified by all that happens.

Truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit system. Our
thoughts and beliefs 'pass,' so long as nothing challenges them, just as
bank-notes pass so long as nobody refuses them. But this all points to
direct face-to-face verifications somewhere, without which the fabric of
truth collapses like a financial system with no cash-basis whatever.
You accept my verification of one thing, I yours of another. We trade on
each other's truth. But beliefs verified concretely by SOMEBODY are the
posts of the whole superstructure.

Another great reason--beside economy of time--for waiving complete
verification in the usual business of life is that all things exist
in kinds and not singly. Our world is found once for all to have that
peculiarity. So that when we have once directly verified our ideas about
one specimen of a kind, we consider ourselves free to apply them to
other specimens without verification. A mind that habitually
discerns the kind of thing before it, and acts by the law of the
kind immediately, without pausing to verify, will be a 'true' mind
in ninety-nine out of a hundred emergencies, proved so by its conduct
fitting everything it meets, and getting no refutation.

WELL AS FULL VERIFICATION-PROCESSES. They work as true processes would
work, give us the same advantages, and claim our recognition for the
same reasons. All this on the common-sense level of, matters of fact,
which we are alone considering.

But matters of fact are not our only stock in trade. RELATIONS AMONG
PURELY MENTAL IDEAS form another sphere where true and false beliefs
obtain, and here the beliefs are absolute, or unconditional. When they
are true they bear the name either of definitions or of principles. It
is either a principle or a definition that 1 and 1 make 2, that 2 and 1
make 3, and so on; that white differs less from gray than it does from
black; that when the cause begins to act the effect also commences. Such
propositions hold of all possible 'ones,' of all conceivable 'whites'
and 'grays' and 'causes.' The objects here are mental objects.
Their relations are perceptually obvious at a glance, and no
sense-verification is necessary. Moreover, once true, always true, of
those same mental objects. Truth here has an 'eternal' character. If you
can find a concrete thing anywhere that is 'one' or 'white' or 'gray,'
or an 'effect,' then your principles will everlastingly apply to it. It
is but a case of ascertaining the kind, and then applying the law of its
kind to the particular object. You are sure to get truth if you can but
name the kind rightly, for your mental relations hold good of everything
of that kind without exception. If you then, nevertheless, failed to get
truth concretely, you would say that you had classed your real objects

In this realm of mental relations, truth again is an affair of leading.
We relate one abstract idea with another, framing in the end great
systems of logical and mathematical truth, under the respective terms of
which the sensible facts of experience eventually arrange themselves,
so that our eternal truths hold good of realities also. This marriage of
fact and theory is endlessly fertile. What we say is here already true
in advance of special verification, IF WE HAVE SUBSUMED OUR OBJECTS
RIGHTLY. Our ready-made ideal framework for all sorts of possible
objects follows from the very structure of our thinking. We can no more
play fast and loose with these abstract relations than we can do so with
our sense-experiences. They coerce us; we must treat them consistently,
whether or not we like the results. The rules of addition apply to our
debts as rigorously as to our assets. The hundredth decimal of pi, the
ratio of the circumference to its diameter, is predetermined ideally
now, tho no one may have computed it. If we should ever need the figure
in our dealings with an actual circle we should need to have it given
rightly, calculated by the usual rules; for it is the same kind of truth
that those rules elsewhere calculate.

Between the coercions of the sensible order and those of the ideal
order, our mind is thus wedged tightly. Our ideas must agree with
realities, be such realities concrete or abstract, be they facts or be
they principles, under penalty of endless inconsistency and frustration.
So far, intellectualists can raise no protest. They can only say that we
have barely touched the skin of the matter.

Realities mean, then, either concrete facts, or abstract kinds of things
and relations perceived intuitively between them. They furthermore and
thirdly mean, as things that new ideas of ours must no less take account
of, the whole body of other truths already in our possession. But what
now does 'agreement' with such three-fold realities mean?--to use again
the definition that is current.

Here it is that pragmatism and intellectualism begin to part company.
Primarily, no doubt, to agree means to copy, but we saw that the mere
word 'clock' would do instead of a mental picture of its works, and that
of many realities our ideas can only be symbols and not copies. 'Past
time,' 'power,' 'spontaneity'--how can our mind copy such realities?

To 'agree' in the widest sense with a reality, CAN ONLY MEAN TO BE
intellectually or practically! And often agreement will only mean
the negative fact that nothing contradictory from the quarter of that
reality comes to interfere with the way in which our ideas guide us
elsewhere. To copy a reality is, indeed, one very important way of
agreeing with it, but it is far from being essential. The essential
thing is the process of being guided. Any idea that helps us to DEAL,
whether practically or intellectually, with either the reality or its
belongings, that doesn't entangle our progress in frustrations, that
FITS, in fact, and adapts our life to the reality's whole setting, will
agree sufficiently to meet the requirement. It will hold true of that

Thus, NAMES are just as 'true' or 'false' as definite mental pictures
are. They set up similar verification-processes, and lead to fully
equivalent practical results.

All human thinking gets discursified; we exchange ideas; we lend and
borrow verifications, get them from one another by means of social
intercourse. All truth thus gets verbally built out, stored up, and made
available for everyone. Hence, we must TALK consistently just as we must
THINK consistently: for both in talk and thought we deal with kinds.
Names are arbitrary, but once understood they must be kept to. We
mustn't now call Abel 'Cain' or Cain 'Abel.' If we do, we ungear
ourselves from the whole book of Genesis, and from all its connexions
with the universe of speech and fact down to the present time. We throw
ourselves out of whatever truth that entire system of speech and fact
may embody.

The overwhelming majority of our true ideas admit of no direct or
face-to-face verification-those of past history, for example, as of Cain
and Abel. The stream of time can be remounted only verbally, or verified
indirectly by the present prolongations or effects of what the past
harbored. Yet if they agree with these verbalities and effects, we can
know that our ideas of the past are true. AS TRUE AS PAST TIME ITSELF
WAS, so true was Julius Caesar, so true were antediluvian monsters,
all in their proper dates and settings. That past time itself was, is
guaranteed by its coherence with everything that's present. True as the
present is, the past was also.

Agreement thus turns out to be essentially an affair of leading--leading
that is useful because it is into quarters that contain objects that are
important. True ideas lead us into useful verbal and conceptual
quarters as well as directly up to useful sensible termini. They lead
to consistency, stability and flowing human intercourse. They lead away
from excentricity and isolation, from foiled and barren thinking. The
untrammeled flowing of the leading-process, its general freedom from
clash and contradiction, passes for its indirect verification; but all
roads lead to Rome, and in the end and eventually, all true processes
must lead to the face of directly verifying sensible experiences
SOMEWHERE, which somebody's ideas have copied.

Such is the large loose way in which the pragmatist interprets the word
agreement. He treats it altogether practically. He lets it cover any
process of conduction from a present idea to a future terminus, provided
only it run prosperously. It is only thus that 'scientific' ideas,
flying as they do beyond common sense, can be said to agree with their
realities. It is, as I have already said, as if reality were made of
ether, atoms or electrons, but we mustn't think so literally. The term
'energy' doesn't even pretend to stand for anything 'objective.' It is
only a way of measuring the surface of phenomena so as to string their
changes on a simple formula.

Yet in the choice of these man-made formulas we cannot be capricious
with impunity any more than we can be capricious on the common-sense
practical level. We must find a theory that will WORK; and that means
something extremely difficult; for our theory must mediate between all
previous truths and certain new experiences. It must derange common
sense and previous belief as little as possible, and it must lead to
some sensible terminus or other that can be verified exactly. To 'work'
means both these things; and the squeeze is so tight that there is
little loose play for any hypothesis. Our theories are wedged and
controlled as nothing else is. Yet sometimes alternative theoretic
formulas are equally compatible with all the truths we know, and then we
choose between them for subjective reasons. We choose the kind of theory
to which we are already partial; we follow 'elegance' or 'economy.'
Clerk Maxwell somewhere says it would be "poor scientific taste" to
choose the more complicated of two equally well-evidenced conceptions;
and you will all agree with him. Truth in science is what gives us the
maximum possible sum of satisfactions, taste included, but consistency
both with previous truth and with novel fact is always the most
imperious claimant.

I have led you through a very sandy desert. But now, if I may be allowed
so vulgar an expression, we begin to taste the milk in the cocoanut. Our
rationalist critics here discharge their batteries upon us, and to reply
to them will take us out from all this dryness into full sight of a
momentous philosophical alternative.

Our account of truth is an account of truths in the plural, of processes
of leading, realized in rebus, and having only this quality in common,
that they PAY. They pay by guiding us into or towards some part of a
system that dips at numerous points into sense-percepts, which we may
copy mentally or not, but with which at any rate we are now in the kind
of commerce vaguely designated as verification. Truth for us is simply
a collective name for verification-processes, just as health, wealth,
strength, etc., are names for other processes connected with life, and
also pursued because it pays to pursue them. Truth is MADE, just as
health, wealth and strength are made, in the course of experience.

Here rationalism is instantaneously up in arms against us. I can imagine
a rationalist to talk as follows:

"Truth is not made," he will say; "it absolutely obtains, being a unique
relation that does not wait upon any process, but shoots straight over
the head of experience, and hits its reality every time. Our belief that
yon thing on the wall is a clock is true already, altho no one in
the whole history of the world should verify it. The bare quality of
standing in that transcendent relation is what makes any thought true
that possesses it, whether or not there be verification. You pragmatists
put the cart before the horse in making truth's being reside in
verification-processes. These are merely signs of its being, merely our
lame ways of ascertaining after the fact, which of our ideas already has
possessed the wondrous quality. The quality itself is timeless, like all
essences and natures. Thoughts partake of it directly, as they partake
of falsity or of irrelevancy. It can't be analyzed away into pragmatic

The whole plausibility of this rationalist tirade is due to the fact
to which we have already paid so much attention. In our world,
namely, abounding as it does in things of similar kinds and similarly
associated, one verification serves for others of its kind, and one
great use of knowing things is to be led not so much to them as to their
associates, especially to human talk about them. The quality of truth,
obtaining ante rem, pragmatically means, then, the fact that in such a
world innumerable ideas work better by their indirect or possible than
by their direct and actual verification. Truth ante rem means only
verifiability, then; or else it is a case of the stock rationalist trick
of treating the NAME of a concrete phenomenal reality as an independent
prior entity, and placing it behind the reality as its explanation.
Professor Mach quotes somewhere an epigram of Lessing's:

Sagt Hanschen Schlau zu Vetter Fritz, "Wie kommt es, Vetter Fritzen,
Dass grad' die Reichsten in der Welt, Das meiste Geld besitzen?"

Hanschen Schlau here treats the principle 'wealth' as something distinct
from the facts denoted by the man's being rich. It antedates them; the
facts become only a sort of secondary coincidence with the rich man's
essential nature.

In the case of 'wealth' we all see the fallacy. We know that wealth is
but a name for concrete processes that certain men's lives play a
part in, and not a natural excellence found in Messrs. Rockefeller and
Carnegie, but not in the rest of us.

Like wealth, health also lives in rebus. It is a name for processes,
as digestion, circulation, sleep, etc., that go on happily, tho in this
instance we are more inclined to think of it as a principle and to say
the man digests and sleeps so well BECAUSE he is so healthy.

With 'strength' we are, I think, more rationalistic still, and decidedly
inclined to treat it as an excellence pre-existing in the man and
explanatory of the herculean performances of his muscles.

With 'truth' most people go over the border entirely, and treat the
rationalistic account as self-evident. But really all these words in TH
are exactly similar. Truth exists ante rem just as much and as little as
the other things do.

The scholastics, following Aristotle, made much of the distinction
between habit and act. Health in actu means, among other things, good
sleeping and digesting. But a healthy man need not always be sleeping,
or always digesting, any more than a wealthy man need be always handling
money, or a strong man always lifting weights. All such qualities sink
to the status of 'habits' between their times of exercise; and similarly
truth becomes a habit of certain of our ideas and beliefs in their
intervals of rest from their verifying activities. But those activities
are the root of the whole matter, and the condition of there being any
habit to exist in the intervals.

'The true,' to put it very briefly, is only the expedient in the way of
our thinking, just as 'the right' is only the expedient in the way of
our behaving. Expedient in almost any fashion; and expedient in the
long run and on the whole of course; for what meets expediently all
the experience in sight won't necessarily meet all farther experiences
equally satisfactorily. Experience, as we know, has ways of BOILING
OVER, and making us correct our present formulas.

The 'absolutely' true, meaning what no farther experience will ever
alter, is that ideal vanishing-point towards which we imagine that all
our temporary truths will some day converge. It runs on all fours with
the perfectly wise man, and with the absolutely complete experience;
and, if these ideals are ever realized, they will all be realized
together. Meanwhile we have to live to-day by what truth we can
get to-day, and be ready to-morrow to call it falsehood. Ptolemaic
astronomy, euclidean space, aristotelian logic, scholastic metaphysics,
were expedient for centuries, but human experience has boiled over
those limits, and we now call these things only relatively true, or true
within those borders of experience. 'Absolutely' they are false; for we
know that those limits were casual, and might have been transcended by
past theorists just as they are by present thinkers.

When new experiences lead to retrospective judgments, using the past
tense, what these judgments utter WAS true, even tho no past thinker
had been led there. We live forwards, a Danish thinker has said, but we
understand backwards. The present sheds a backward light on the world's
previous processes. They may have been truth-processes for the actors
in them. They are not so for one who knows the later revelations of the

This regulative notion of a potential better truth to be established
later, possibly to be established some day absolutely, and having powers
of retroactive legislation, turns its face, like all pragmatist
notions, towards concreteness of fact, and towards the future. Like the
half-truths, the absolute truth will have to be MADE, made as a relation
incidental to the growth of a mass of verification-experience, to which
the half-true ideas are all along contributing their quota.

I have already insisted on the fact that truth is made largely out
of previous truths. Men's beliefs at any time are so much experience
funded. But the beliefs are themselves parts of the sum total of the
world's experience, and become matter, therefore, for the next day's
funding operations. So far as reality means experienceable reality,
both it and the truths men gain about it are everlastingly in process
of mutation-mutation towards a definite goal, it may be--but still

Mathematicians can solve problems with two variables. On the Newtonian
theory, for instance, acceleration varies with distance, but distance
also varies with acceleration. In the realm of truth-processes facts
come independently and determine our beliefs provisionally. But these
beliefs make us act, and as fast as they do so, they bring into sight or
into existence new facts which re-determine the beliefs accordingly. So
the whole coil and ball of truth, as it rolls up, is the product of a
double influence. Truths emerge from facts; but they dip forward into
facts again and add to them; which facts again create or reveal new
truth (the word is indifferent) and so on indefinitely. The 'facts'
themselves meanwhile are not TRUE. They simply ARE. Truth is the
function of the beliefs that start and terminate among them.

The case is like a snowball's growth, due as it is to the distribution
of the snow on the one hand, and to the successive pushes of the boys on
the other, with these factors co-determining each other incessantly.

The most fateful point of difference between being a rationalist and
being a pragmatist is now fully in sight. Experience is in mutation,
and our psychological ascertainments of truth are in mutation--so much
rationalism will allow; but never that either reality itself or truth
itself is mutable. Reality stands complete and ready-made from all
eternity, rationalism insists, and the agreement of our ideas with it
is that unique unanalyzable virtue in them of which she has already told
us. As that intrinsic excellence, their truth has nothing to do with our
experiences. It adds nothing to the content of experience. It makes
no difference to reality itself; it is supervenient, inert, static, a
reflexion merely. It doesn't EXIST, it HOLDS or OBTAINS, it belongs to
another dimension from that of either facts or fact-relations, belongs,
in short, to the epistemological dimension--and with that big word
rationalism closes the discussion.

Thus, just as pragmatism faces forward to the future, so does
rationalism here again face backward to a past eternity. True to her
inveterate habit, rationalism reverts to 'principles,' and thinks that
when an abstraction once is named, we own an oracular solution.

The tremendous pregnancy in the way of consequences for life of this
radical difference of outlook will only become apparent in my later
lectures. I wish meanwhile to close this lecture by showing that
rationalism's sublimity does not save it from inanity.

When, namely, you ask rationalists, instead of accusing pragmatism
of desecrating the notion of truth, to define it themselves by saying
exactly what THEY understand by it, the only positive attempts I can
think of are these two:

1. "Truth is just the system of propositions which have an
un-conditional claim to be recognized as valid." [Footnote: A. E.
Taylor, Philosophical Review, vol. xiv, p. 288.]

2. Truth is a name for all those judgments which we find ourselves under
obligation to make by a kind of imperative duty. [Footnote: H.
Rickert, Der Gegenstand der Erkenntniss, chapter on 'Die

The first thing that strikes one in such definitions is their
unutterable triviality. They are absolutely true, of course, but
absolutely insignificant until you handle them pragmatically. What do
you mean by 'claim' here, and what do you mean by 'duty'? As
summary names for the concrete reasons why thinking in true ways is
overwhelmingly expedient and good for mortal men, it is all right to
talk of claims on reality's part to be agreed with, and of obligations
on our part to agree. We feel both the claims and the obligations, and
we feel them for just those reasons.

But the rationalists who talk of claim and obligation EXPRESSLY SAY
REASONS. Our reasons for agreeing are psychological facts, they say,
relative to each thinker, and to the accidents of his life. They are his
evidence merely, they are no part of the life of truth itself. That
life transacts itself in a purely logical or epistemological, as
distinguished from a psychological, dimension, and its claims antedate
and exceed all personal motivations whatsoever. Tho neither man nor God
should ever ascertain truth, the word would still have to be defined as
that which OUGHT to be ascertained and recognized.

There never was a more exquisite example of an idea abstracted from the
concretes of experience and then used to oppose and negate what it was
abstracted from.

Philosophy and common life abound in similar instances. The
'sentimentalist fallacy' is to shed tears over abstract justice and
generosity, beauty, etc., and never to know these qualities when you
meet them in the street, because there the circumstances make them
vulgar. Thus I read in the privately printed biography of an eminently
rationalistic mind: "It was strange that with such admiration for beauty
in the abstract, my brother had no enthusiasm for fine architecture, for
beautiful painting, or for flowers." And in almost the last philosophic
work I have read, I find such passages as the following: "Justice
is ideal, solely ideal. Reason conceives that it ought to exist, but
experience shows that it can-not. ... Truth, which ought to be, cannot
be. ... Reason is deformed by experience. As soon as reason enters
experience, it becomes contrary to reason."

The rationalist's fallacy here is exactly like the sentimentalist's.
Both extract a quality from the muddy particulars of experience, and
find it so pure when extracted that they contrast it with each and all
its muddy instances as an opposite and higher nature. All the while it
is THEIR nature. It is the nature of truths to be validated, verified.
It pays for our ideas to be validated. Our obligation to seek truth is
part of our general obligation to do what pays. The payments true ideas
bring are the sole why of our duty to follow them.

Identical whys exist in the case of wealth and health. Truth makes no
other kind of claim and imposes no other kind of ought than health and
wealth do. All these claims are conditional; the concrete benefits we
gain are what we mean by calling the pursuit a duty. In the case of
truth, untrue beliefs work as perniciously in the long run as true
beliefs work beneficially. Talking abstractly, the quality 'true' may
thus be said to grow absolutely precious, and the quality 'untrue'
absolutely damnable: the one may be called good, the other bad,
unconditionally. We ought to think the true, we ought to shun the false,

But if we treat all this abstraction literally and oppose it to its
mother soil in experience, see what a preposterous position we work
ourselves into.

We cannot then take a step forward in our actual thinking. When shall
I acknowledge this truth and when that? Shall the acknowledgment be
loud?--or silent? If sometimes loud, sometimes silent, which NOW? When
may a truth go into cold-storage in the encyclopedia? and when shall it
come out for battle? Must I constantly be repeating the truth 'twice
two are four' because of its eternal claim on recognition? or is
it sometimes irrelevant? Must my thoughts dwell night and day on my
personal sins and blemishes, because I truly have them?--or may I sink
and ignore them in order to be a decent social unit, and not a mass of
morbid melancholy and apology?

It is quite evident that our obligation to acknowledge truth, so far
from being unconditional, is tremendously conditioned. Truth with a big
T, and in the singular, claims abstractly to be recognized, of course;
but concrete truths in the plural need be recognized only when their
recognition is expedient. A truth must always be preferred to a
falsehood when both relate to the situation; but when neither does,
truth is as little of a duty as falsehood. If you ask me what o'clock it
is and I tell you that I live at 95 Irving Street, my answer may indeed
be true, but you don't see why it is my duty to give it. A false address
would be as much to the purpose.

With this admission that there are conditions that limit the application
BACK UPON US IN ITS FULNESS. Our duty to agree with reality is seen to
be grounded in a perfect jungle of concrete expediencies.

When Berkeley had explained what people meant by matter, people thought
that he denied matter's existence. When Messrs. Schiller and Dewey
now explain what people mean by truth, they are accused of denying ITS
existence. These pragmatists destroy all objective standards, critics
say, and put foolishness and wisdom on one level. A favorite formula for
describing Mr. Schiller's doctrines and mine is that we are persons who
think that by saying whatever you find it pleasant to say and calling it
truth you fulfil every pragmatistic requirement.

I leave it to you to judge whether this be not an impudent slander. Pent
in, as the pragmatist more than anyone else sees himself to be, between
the whole body of funded truths squeezed from the past and the coercions
of the world of sense about him, who so well as he feels the immense
pressure of objective control under which our minds perform their
operations? If anyone imagines that this law is lax, let him keep its
commandment one day, says Emerson. We have heard much of late of the
uses of the imagination in science. It is high time to urge the use of
a little imagination in philosophy. The unwillingness of some of our
critics to read any but the silliest of possible meanings into our
statements is as discreditable to their imaginations as anything I know
in recent philosophic history. Schiller says the true is that which
'works.' Thereupon he is treated as one who limits verification to
the lowest material utilities. Dewey says truth is what gives
'satisfaction.' He is treated as one who believes in calling everything
true which, if it were true, would be pleasant.

Our critics certainly need more imagination of realities. I have
honestly tried to stretch my own imagination and to read the best
possible meaning into the rationalist conception, but I have to confess
that it still completely baffles me. The notion of a reality calling on
us to 'agree' with it, and that for no reasons, but simply because
its claim is 'unconditional' or 'transcendent,' is one that I can make
neither head nor tail of. I try to imagine myself as the sole reality
in the world, and then to imagine what more I would 'claim' if I were
allowed to. If you suggest the possibility of my claiming that a mind
should come into being from out of the void inane and stand and COPY me,
I can indeed imagine what the copying might mean, but I can conjure up
no motive. What good it would do me to be copied, or what good it would
do that mind to copy me, if farther consequences are expressly and
in principle ruled out as motives for the claim (as they are by our
rationalist authorities) I cannot fathom. When the Irishman's admirers
ran him along to the place of banquet in a sedan chair with no bottom,
he said, "Faith, if it wasn't for the honor of the thing, I might as
well have come on foot." So here: but for the honor of the thing, I
might as well have remained uncopied. Copying is one genuine mode
of knowing (which for some strange reason our contemporary
transcendentalists seem to be tumbling over each other to repudiate);
but when we get beyond copying, and fall back on unnamed forms of
agreeing that are expressly denied to be either copyings or leadings or
fittings, or any other processes pragmatically definable, the WHAT of
the 'agreement' claimed becomes as unintelligible as the why of it.
Neither content nor motive can be imagined for it. It is an absolutely
meaningless abstraction. [Footnote: I am not forgetting that Professor
Rickert long ago gave up the whole notion of truth being founded on
agreement with reality. Reality, according to him, is whatever agrees
with truth, and truth is founded solely on our primal duty. This
fantastic flight, together with Mr. Joachim's candid confession of
failure in his book The Nature of Truth, seems to me to mark the
bankruptcy of rationalism when dealing with this subject. Rickert deals
with part of the pragmatistic position under the head of what he calls
'Relativismus.' I cannot discuss his text here. Suffice it to say
that his argumentation in that chapter is so feeble as to seem almost
incredible in so generally able a writer.]

Surely in this field of truth it is the pragmatists and not the
rationalists who are the more genuine defenders of the universe's

Lecture VII

Pragmatism and Humanism

What hardens the heart of everyone I approach with the view of truth
sketched in my last lecture is that typical idol of the tribe, the
notion of THE Truth, conceived as the one answer, determinate and
complete, to the one fixed enigma which the world is believed to
propound. For popular tradition, it is all the better if the answer
be oracular, so as itself to awaken wonder as an enigma of the second
order, veiling rather than revealing what its profundities are supposed
to contain. All the great single-word answers to the world's riddle,
such as God, the One, Reason, Law, Spirit, Matter, Nature, Polarity, the
Dialectic Process, the Idea, the Self, the Oversoul, draw the admiration
that men have lavished on them from this oracular role. By amateurs in
philosophy and professionals alike, the universe is represented as
a queer sort of petrified sphinx whose appeal to man consists in a
monotonous challenge to his divining powers. THE Truth: what a perfect
idol of the rationalistic mind! I read in an old letter--from a gifted
friend who died too young--these words: "In everything, in science, art,
morals and religion, there MUST be one system that is right and EVERY
other wrong." How characteristic of the enthusiasm of a certain stage of
youth! At twenty-one we rise to such a challenge and expect to find the
system. It never occurs to most of us even later that the question 'what
is THE truth?' is no real question (being irrelative to all conditions)
and that the whole notion of THE truth is an abstraction from the fact
of truths in the plural, a mere useful summarizing phrase like THE Latin
Language or THE Law.

Common-law judges sometimes talk about the law, and school-masters talk
about the latin tongue, in a way to make their hearers think they mean
entities pre-existent to the decisions or to the words and syntax,
determining them unequivocally and requiring them to obey. But the
slightest exercise of reflexion makes us see that, instead of being
principles of this kind, both law and latin are results. Distinctions
between the lawful and the unlawful in conduct, or between the
correct and incorrect in speech, have grown up incidentally among the
interactions of men's experiences in detail; and in no other way do
distinctions between the true and the false in belief ever grow up.
Truth grafts itself on previous truth, modifying it in the process, just
as idiom grafts itself on previous idiom, and law on previous law. Given
previous law and a novel case, and the judge will twist them into fresh
law. Previous idiom; new slang or metaphor or oddity that hits the
public taste:--and presto, a new idiom is made. Previous truth; fresh
facts:--and our mind finds a new truth.

All the while, however, we pretend that the eternal is unrolling, that
the one previous justice, grammar or truth is simply fulgurating, and
not being made. But imagine a youth in the courtroom trying cases with
his abstract notion of 'the' law, or a censor of speech let loose
among the theatres with his idea of 'the' mother-tongue, or a professor
setting up to lecture on the actual universe with his rationalistic
notion of 'the Truth' with a big T, and what progress do they make?
Truth, law, and language fairly boil away from them at the least touch
of novel fact. These things MAKE THEMSELVES as we go. Our rights,
wrongs, prohibitions, penalties, words, forms, idioms, beliefs, are so
many new creations that add themselves as fast as history proceeds.
Far from being antecedent principles that animate the process, law,
language, truth are but abstract names for its results.

Laws and languages at any rate are thus seen to be man-made: things.
Mr. Schiller applies the analogy to beliefs, and proposes the name of
'Humanism' for the doctrine that to an unascertainable extent our truths
are man-made products too. Human motives sharpen all our questions,
human satisfactions lurk in all our answers, all our formulas have a
human twist. This element is so inextricable in the products that Mr.
Schiller sometimes seems almost to leave it an open question whether
there be anything else. "The world," he says, "is essentially [u lambda
nu], it is what we make of it. It is fruitless to define it by what it
originally was or by what it is apart from us; it IS what is made of it.
Hence ... the world is PLASTIC." [Footnote: Personal Idealism, p. 60.]
He adds that we can learn the limits of the plasticity only by trying,
and that we ought to start as if it were wholly plastic, acting
methodically on that assumption, and stopping only when we are
decisively rebuked.

This is Mr. Schiller's butt-end-foremost statement of the humanist
position, and it has exposed him to severe attack. I mean to defend the
humanist position in this lecture, so I will insinuate a few remarks at
this point.

Mr. Schiller admits as emphatically as anyone the presence of resisting
factors in every actual experience of truth-making, of which the
new-made special truth must take account, and with which it has perforce
to 'agree.' All our truths are beliefs about 'Reality'; and in any
particular belief the reality acts as something independent, as a thing
FOUND, not manufactured. Let me here recall a bit of my last lecture.

Mr. Taylor in his Elements of Metaphysics uses this excellent pragmatic
definition.] and the FIRST part of reality from this point of view is
the flux of our sensations. Sensations are forced upon us, coming we
know not whence. Over their nature, order, and quantity we have as good
as no control. THEY are neither true nor false; they simply ARE. It is
only what we say about them, only the names we give them, our theories
of their source and nature and remote relations, that may be true or

The SECOND part of reality, as something that our beliefs must also
obediently take account of, is the RELATIONS that obtain between our
sensations or between their copies in our minds. This part falls into
two sub-parts: 1) the relations that are mutable and accidental, as
those of date and place; and 2) those that are fixed and essential
because they are grounded on the inner natures of their terms--such as
likeness and unlikeness. Both sorts of relation are matters of immediate
perception. Both are 'facts.' But it is the latter kind of fact that
forms the more important sub-part of reality for our theories of
knowledge. Inner relations namely are 'eternal,' are perceived whenever
their sensible terms are compared; and of them our thought--mathematical
and logical thought, so-called--must eternally take account.

The THIRD part of reality, additional to these perceptions (tho largely
based upon them), is the PREVIOUS TRUTHS of which every new inquiry
takes account. This third part is a much less obdurately resisting
factor: it often ends by giving way. In speaking of these three portions
of reality as at all times controlling our belief's formation, I am only
reminding you of what we heard in our last hour.

Now however fixed these elements of reality may be, we still have a
certain freedom in our dealings with them. Take our sensations. THAT
they are is undoubtedly beyond our control; but WHICH we attend to,
note, and make emphatic in our conclusions depends on our own interests;
and, according as we lay the emphasis here or there, quite different
formulations of truth result. We read the same facts differently.
'Waterloo,' with the same fixed details, spells a 'victory' for an
englishman; for a frenchman it spells a 'defeat.' So, for an optimist
philosopher the universe spells victory, for a pessimist, defeat.

What we say about reality thus depends on the perspective into which we
throw it. The THAT of it is its own; but the WHAT depends on the WHICH;
and the which depends on US. Both the sensational and the relational
parts of reality are dumb: they say absolutely nothing about themselves.
We it is who have to speak for them. This dumbness of sensations has
led such intellectualists as T.H. Green and Edward Caird to shove them
almost beyond the pale of philosophic recognition, but pragmatists
refuse to go so far. A sensation is rather like a client who has given
his case to a lawyer and then has passively to listen in the courtroom
to whatever account of his affairs, pleasant or unpleasant, the lawyer
finds it most expedient to give.

Hence, even in the field of sensation, our minds exert a certain
arbitrary choice. By our inclusions and omissions we trace the field's
extent; by our emphasis we mark its foreground and its background; by
our order we read it in this direction or in that. We receive in short
the block of marble, but we carve the statue ourselves.

This applies to the 'eternal' parts of reality as well: we shuffle our
perceptions of intrinsic relation and arrange them just as freely. We
read them in one serial order or another, class them in this way or
in that, treat one or the other as more fundamental, until our beliefs
about them form those bodies of truth known as logics, geometries, or
arithmetics, in each and all of which the form and order in which the
whole is cast is flagrantly man-made.

Thus, to say nothing of the new FACTS which men add to the matter of
reality by the acts of their own lives, they have already impressed
their mental forms on that whole third of reality which I have called
'previous truths.' Every hour brings its new percepts, its own facts of
sensation and relation, to be truly taken account of; but the whole
of our PAST dealings with such facts is already funded in the previous
truths. It is therefore only the smallest and recentest fraction of the
first two parts of reality that comes to us without the human touch, and
that fraction has immediately to become humanized in the sense of being
squared, assimilated, or in some way adapted, to the humanized mass
already there. As a matter of fact we can hardly take in an impression
at all, in the absence of a pre-conception of what impressions there may
possibly be.

When we talk of reality 'independent' of human thinking, then, it seems
a thing very hard to find. It reduces to the notion of what is just
entering into experience, and yet to be named, or else to some imagined
aboriginal presence in experience, before any belief about the presence
had arisen, before any human conception had been applied. It is what is
absolutely dumb and evanescent, the merely ideal limit of our minds.
We may glimpse it, but we never grasp it; what we grasp is always some
substitute for it which previous human thinking has peptonized and
cooked for our consumption. If so vulgar an expression were allowed us,
we might say that wherever we find it, it has been already FAKED. This
is what Mr. Schiller has in mind when he calls independent reality a
mere unresisting [u lambda nu], which IS only to be made over by us.

That is Mr. Schiller's belief about the sensible core of reality.
We 'encounter' it (in Mr. Bradley's words) but don't possess it.
Superficially this sounds like Kant's view; but between categories
fulminated before nature began, and categories gradually forming
themselves in nature's presence, the whole chasm between rationalism and
empiricism yawns. To the genuine 'Kantianer' Schiller will always be to
Kant as a satyr to Hyperion.

Other pragmatists may reach more positive beliefs about the sensible
core of reality. They may think to get at it in its independent nature,
by peeling off the successive man-made wrappings. They may make theories
that tell us where it comes from and all about it; and if these theories
work satisfactorily they will be true. The transcendental idealists say
there is no core, the finally completed wrapping being reality and truth
in one. Scholasticism still teaches that the core is 'matter.' Professor
Bergson, Heymans, Strong, and others, believe in the core and bravely
try to define it. Messrs. Dewey and Schiller treat it as a 'limit.'
Which is the truer of all these diverse accounts, or of others
comparable with them, unless it be the one that finally proves the most
satisfactory? On the one hand there will stand reality, on the other
an account of it which proves impossible to better or to alter. If
the impossibility prove permanent, the truth of the account will be
absolute. Other content of truth than this I can find nowhere. If the
anti-pragmatists have any other meaning, let them for heaven's sake
reveal it, let them grant us access to it!

Not BEING reality, but only our belief ABOUT reality, it will contain
human elements, but these will KNOW the non-human element, in the only
sense in which there can be knowledge of anything. Does the river make
its banks, or do the banks make the river? Does a man walk with his
right leg or with his left leg more essentially? Just as impossible may
it be to separate the real from the human factors in the growth of our
cognitive experience.

Let this stand as a first brief indication of the humanistic position.
Does it seem paradoxical? If so, I will try to make it plausible by a
few illustrations, which will lead to a fuller acquaintance with the

In many familiar objects everyone will recognize the human element. We
conceive a given reality in this way or in that, to suit our purpose,
and the reality passively submits to the conception. You can take the
number 27 as the cube of 3, or as the product of 3 and 9, or as 26 PLUS
1, or 100 MINUS 73, or in countless other ways, of which one will be
just as true as another. You can take a chessboard as black squares on
a white ground, or as white squares on a black ground, and neither
conception is a false one. You can treat the adjoined figure [Figure of
a 'Star of David'] as a star, as two big triangles crossing each other,
as a hexagon with legs set up on its angles, as six equal triangles
hanging together by their tips, etc. All these treatments are true
treatments--the sensible THAT upon the paper resists no one of them. You
can say of a line that it runs east, or you can say that it runs west,
and the line per se accepts both descriptions without rebelling at the

We carve out groups of stars in the heavens, and call them
constellations, and the stars patiently suffer us to do so--tho if they
knew what we were doing, some of them might feel much surprised at the
partners we had given them. We name the same constellation diversely, as
Charles's Wain, the Great Bear, or the Dipper. None of the names will be
false, and one will be as true as another, for all are applicable.

In all these cases we humanly make an addition to some sensible reality,
and that reality tolerates the addition. All the additions 'agree' with
the reality; they fit it, while they build it out. No one of them is
false. Which may be treated as the more true, depends altogether on
the human use of it. If the 27 is a number of dollars which I find in
a drawer where I had left 28, it is 28 minus 1. If it is the number of
inches in a shelf which I wish to insert into a cupboard 26 inches wide,
it is 26 plus 1. If I wish to ennoble the heavens by the constellations
I see there, 'Charles's Wain' would be more true than 'Dipper.' My
friend Frederick Myers was humorously indignant that that prodigious
star-group should remind us Americans of nothing but a culinary utensil.

What shall we call a THING anyhow? It seems quite arbitrary, for we
carve out everything, just as we carve out constellations, to suit our
human purposes. For me, this whole 'audience' is one thing, which grows
now restless, now attentive. I have no use at present for its individual
units, so I don't consider them. So of an 'army,' of a 'nation.' But
in your own eyes, ladies and gentlemen, to call you 'audience' is an
accidental way of taking you. The permanently real things for you are
your individual persons. To an anatomist, again, those persons are but
organisms, and the real things are the organs. Not the organs, so much
as their constituent cells, say the histologists; not the cells, but
their molecules, say in turn the chemists.

We break the flux of sensible reality into things, then, at our will. We
create the subjects of our true as well as of our false propositions.

We create the predicates also. Many of the predicates of things express
only the relations of the things to us and to our feelings. Such
predicates of course are human additions. Caesar crossed the Rubicon,
and was a menace to Rome's freedom. He is also an American school-room
pest, made into one by the reaction of our schoolboys on his writings.
The added predicate is as true of him as the earlier ones.

You see how naturally one comes to the humanistic principle: you can't
weed out the human contribution. Our nouns and adjectives are all
humanized heirlooms, and in the theories we build them into, the inner
order and arrangement is wholly dictated by human considerations,
intellectual consistency being one of them. Mathematics and logic
themselves are fermenting with human rearrangements; physics, astronomy
and biology follow massive cues of preference. We plunge forward into
the field of fresh experience with the beliefs our ancestors and we have
made already; these determine what we notice; what we notice determines
what we do; what we do again determines what we experience; so from
one thing to another, altho the stubborn fact remains that there IS a
sensible flux, what is true of it seems from first to last to be largely
a matter of our own creation.

We build the flux out inevitably. The great question is: does it,
with our additions, rise or fall in value? Are the additions WORTHY or
UNWORTHY? Suppose a universe composed of seven stars, and nothing else
but three human witnesses and their critic. One witness names the
stars 'Great Bear'; one calls them 'Charles's Wain'; one calls them the
'Dipper.' Which human addition has made the best universe of the given
stellar material? If Frederick Myers were the critic, he would have no
hesitation in 'turning-down' the American witness.

Lotze has in several places made a deep suggestion. We naively assume,
he says, a relation between reality and our minds which may be just the
opposite of the true one. Reality, we naturally think, stands ready-made
and complete, and our intellects supervene with the one simple duty
of describing it as it is already. But may not our descriptions, Lotze
asks, be themselves important additions to reality? And may not previous
reality itself be there, far less for the purpose of reappearing
unaltered in our knowledge, than for the very purpose of stimulating
our minds to such additions as shall enhance the universe's total value.
"Die erhohung des vorgefundenen daseins" is a phrase used by Professor
Eucken somewhere, which reminds one of this suggestion by the great

It is identically our pragmatistic conception. In our cognitive as well
as in our active life we are creative. We ADD, both to the subject and
to the predicate part of reality. The world stands really malleable,
waiting to receive its final touches at our hands. Like the kingdom of
heaven, it suffers human violence willingly. Man ENGENDERS truths upon

No one can deny that such a role would add both to our dignity and to
our responsibility as thinkers. To some of us it proves a most inspiring
notion. Signer Papini, the leader of italian pragmatism, grows fairly
dithyrambic over the view that it opens, of man's divinely-creative

The import of the difference between pragmatism and rationalism is now
in sight throughout its whole extent. The essential contrast is that for
rationalism reality is ready-made and complete from all eternity,
while for pragmatism it is still in the making, and awaits part of its
complexion from the future. On the one side the universe is absolutely
secure, on the other it is still pursuing its adventures.

We have got into rather deep water with this humanistic view, and it is
no wonder that misunderstanding gathers round it. It is accused of being
a doctrine of caprice. Mr. Bradley, for example, says that a humanist,
if he understood his own doctrine, would have to "hold any end however
perverted to be rational if I insist on it personally, and any idea
however mad to be the truth if only some one is resolved that he will
have it so." The humanist view of 'reality,' as something resisting, yet
malleable, which controls our thinking as an energy that must be
taken 'account' of incessantly (tho not necessarily merely COPIED) is
evidently a difficult one to introduce to novices. The situation reminds
me of one that I have personally gone through. I once wrote an essay on
our right to believe, which I unluckily called the WILL to Believe.
All the critics, neglecting the essay, pounced upon the title.
Psychologically it was impossible, morally it was iniquitous. The
"will to deceive," the "will to make-believe," were wittily proposed as
substitutes for it.


On the pragmatist side we have only one edition of the universe,
unfinished, growing in all sorts of places, especially in the places
where thinking beings are at work.

On the rationalist side we have a universe in many editions, one real
one, the infinite folio, or edition de luxe, eternally complete; and
then the various finite editions, full of false readings, distorted and
mutilated each in its own way.

So the rival metaphysical hypotheses of pluralism and monism here come
back upon us. I will develope their differences during the remainder of
our hour.

And first let me say that it is impossible not to see a temperamental
difference at work in the choice of sides. The rationalist mind,
radically taken, is of a doctrinaire and authoritative complexion: the
phrase 'must be' is ever on its lips. The belly-band of its
universe must be tight. A radical pragmatist on the other hand is a
happy-go-lucky anarchistic sort of creature. If he had to live in a tub
like Diogenes he wouldn't mind at all if the hoops were loose and the
staves let in the sun.

Now the idea of this loose universe affects your typical rationalists
in much the same way as 'freedom of the press' might affect a veteran
official in the russian bureau of censorship; or as 'simplified
spelling' might affect an elderly schoolmistress. It affects him as
the swarm of protestant sects affects a papist onlooker. It appears
as backboneless and devoid of principle as 'opportunism' in politics
appears to an old-fashioned french legitimist, or to a fanatical
believer in the divine right of the people.

For pluralistic pragmatism, truth grows up inside of all the finite
experiences. They lean on each other, but the whole of them, if such a
whole there be, leans on nothing. All 'homes' are in finite experience;
finite experience as such is homeless. Nothing outside of the flux
secures the issue of it. It can hope salvation only from its own
intrinsic promises and potencies.

To rationalists this describes a tramp and vagrant world, adrift in
space, with neither elephant nor tortoise to plant the sole of its foot
upon. It is a set of stars hurled into heaven without even a centre of
gravity to pull against. In other spheres of life it is true that we
have got used to living in a state of relative insecurity. The authority
of 'the State,' and that of an absolute 'moral law,' have resolved
themselves into expediencies, and holy church has resolved itself into
'meeting-houses.' Not so as yet within the philosophic class-rooms.
A universe with such as US contributing to create its truth, a world
delivered to OUR opportunisms and OUR private judgments! Home-rule for
Ireland would be a millennium in comparison. We're no more fit for such
a part than the Filipinos are 'fit for self-government.' Such a world
would not be RESPECTABLE, philosophically. It is a trunk without a tag,
a dog without a collar, in the eyes of most professors of philosophy.

What then would tighten this loose universe, according to the

Something to support the finite many, to tie it to, to unify and anchor
it. Something unexposed to accident, something eternal and unalterable.
The mutable in experience must be founded on immutability. Behind our de
facto world, our world in act, there must be a de jure duplicate fixed
and previous, with all that can happen here already there in posse,
every drop of blood, every smallest item, appointed and provided,
stamped and branded, without chance of variation. The negatives that
haunt our ideals here below must be themselves negated in the absolutely
Real. This alone makes the universe solid. This is the resting deep.
We live upon the stormy surface; but with this our anchor holds, for it
grapples rocky bottom. This is Wordsworth's "central peace subsisting at
the heart of endless agitation." This is Vivekananda's mystical One of
which I read to you. This is Reality with the big R, reality that makes
the timeless claim, reality to which defeat can't happen. This is
what the men of principles, and in general all the men whom I called
tender-minded in my first lecture, think themselves obliged to

And this, exactly this, is what the tough-minded of that lecture find
themselves moved to call a piece of perverse abstraction-worship. The
tough-minded are the men whose alpha and omega are FACTS. Behind the
bare phenomenal facts, as my tough-minded old friend Chauncey Wright,
the great Harvard empiricist of my youth, used to say, there is NOTHING.
When a rationalist insists that behind the facts there is the GROUND of
the facts, the POSSIBILITY of the facts, the tougher empiricists accuse
him of taking the mere name and nature of a fact and clapping it behind
the fact as a duplicate entity to make it possible. That such sham
grounds are often invoked is notorious. At a surgical operation I heard
a bystander ask a doctor why the patient breathed so deeply. "Because
ether is a respiratory stimulant," the doctor answered. "Ah!" said the
questioner, as if relieved by the explanation. But this is like saying
that cyanide of potassium kills because it is a 'poison,' or that it is
so cold to-night because it is 'winter,' or that we have five fingers
because we are 'pentadactyls.' These are but names for the facts,
taken from the facts, and then treated as previous and explanatory.
The tender-minded notion of an absolute reality is, according to the
radically tough-minded, framed on just this pattern. It is but our
summarizing name for the whole spread-out and strung-along mass of
phenomena, treated as if it were a different entity, both one and

You see how differently people take things. The world we live in exists
diffused and distributed, in the form of an indefinitely numerous lot of
eaches, coherent in all sorts of ways and degrees; and the tough-minded
are perfectly willing to keep them at that valuation. They can stand
that kind of world, their temper being well adapted to its insecurity.
Not so the tender-minded party. They must back the world we find
ourselves born into by "another and a better" world in which the eaches
form an All and the All a One that logically presupposes, co-implicates,
and secures each EACH without exception.

Must we as pragmatists be radically tough-minded? or can we treat
the absolute edition of the world as a legitimate hypothesis? It is
certainly legitimate, for it is thinkable, whether we take it in its
abstract or in its concrete shape.

By taking it abstractly I mean placing it behind our finite life as we
place the word 'winter' behind to-night's cold weather. 'Winter' is
only the name for a certain number of days which we find generally
characterized by cold weather, but it guarantees nothing in that line,
for our thermometer to-morrow may soar into the 70's. Nevertheless
the word is a useful one to plunge forward with into the stream of our
experience. It cuts off certain probabilities and sets up others: you
can put away your straw-hats; you can unpack your arctics. It is a
summary of things to look for. It names a part of nature's habits,
and gets you ready for their continuation. It is a definite instrument
abstracted from experience, a conceptual reality that you must take
account of, and which reflects you totally back into sensible
realities. The pragmatist is the last person to deny the reality of such
abstractions. They are so much past experience funded.

But taking the absolute edition of the world concretely means a
different hypothesis. Rationalists take it concretely and OPPOSE it to
the world's finite editions. They give it a particular nature. It is
perfect, finished. Everything known there is known along with everything
else; here, where ignorance reigns, far otherwise. If there is want
there, there also is the satisfaction provided. Here all is process;
that world is timeless. Possibilities obtain in our world; in the
absolute world, where all that is NOT is from eternity impossible,
and all that IS is necessary, the category of possibility has no
application. In this world crimes and horrors are regrettable. In that
totalized world regret obtains not, for "the existence of ill in the
temporal order is the very condition of the perfection of the eternal

Once more, either hypothesis is legitimate in pragmatist eyes, for
either has its uses. Abstractly, or taken like the word winter, as a
memorandum of past experience that orients us towards the future, the
notion of the absolute world is indispensable. Concretely taken, it is
also indispensable, at least to certain minds, for it determines them
religiously, being often a thing to change their lives by, and by
changing their lives, to change whatever in the outer order depends on

We cannot therefore methodically join the tough minds in their rejection
of the whole notion of a world beyond our finite experience. One
misunderstanding of pragmatism is to identify it with positivistic
tough-mindedness, to suppose that it scorns every rationalistic notion
as so much jabber and gesticulation, that it loves intellectual anarchy
as such and prefers a sort of wolf-world absolutely unpent and wild
and without a master or a collar to any philosophic class-room
product, whatsoever. I have said so much in these lectures against
the over-tender forms of rationalism, that I am prepared for some
misunderstanding here, but I confess that the amount of it that I have
found in this very audience surprises me, for I have simultaneously
defended rationalistic hypotheses so far as these re-direct you
fruitfully into experience.

For instance I receive this morning this question on a post-card: "Is a
pragmatist necessarily a complete materialist and agnostic?" One of my
oldest friends, who ought to know me better, writes me a letter that
accuses the pragmatism I am recommending, of shutting out all wider
metaphysical views and condemning us to the most terre-a-terre
naturalism. Let me read you some extracts from it.

"It seems to me," my friend writes, "that the pragmatic objection to
pragmatism lies in the fact that it might accentuate the narrowness of
narrow minds.

"Your call to the rejection of the namby-pamby and the wishy-washy is of
course inspiring. But although it is salutary and stimulating to be told
that one should be responsible for the immediate issues and bearings
of his words and thoughts, I decline to be deprived of the pleasure and
profit of dwelling also on remoter bearings and issues, and it is the
TENDENCY of pragmatism to refuse this privilege.

"In short, it seems to me that the limitations, or rather the dangers,
of the pragmatic tendency, are analogous to those which beset the unwary
followers of the 'natural sciences.' Chemistry and physics are eminently
pragmatic and many of their devotees, smugly content with the data that
their weights and measures furnish, feel an infinite pity and disdain
for all students of philosophy and meta-physics, whomsoever. And
of course everything can be expressed--after a fashion, and
'theoretically'--in terms of chemistry and physics, that is, EVERYTHING
EXCEPT THE VITAL PRINCIPLE OF THE WHOLE, and that, they say, there is no
pragmatic use in trying to express; it has no bearings--FOR THEM. I for
my part refuse to be persuaded that we cannot look beyond the obvious
pluralism of the naturalist and the pragmatist to a logical unity in
which they take no interest."

How is such a conception of the pragmatism I am advocating possible,
after my first and second lectures? I have all along been offering it
expressly as a mediator between tough-mindedness and tender-mindedness.
If the notion of a world ante rem, whether taken abstractly like the
word winter, or concretely as the hypothesis of an Absolute, can be
shown to have any consequences whatever for our life, it has a meaning.
If the meaning works, it will have SOME truth that ought to be held to
through all possible reformulations, for pragmatism.

The absolutistic hypothesis, that perfection is eternal, aboriginal, and
most real, has a perfectly definite meaning, and it works religiously.
To examine how, will be the subject of my next and final lecture.

Lecture VIII

Pragmatism and Religion

At the close of the last lecture I reminded you of the first one,
in which I had opposed tough-mindedness to tender-mindedness and
recommended pragmatism as their mediator. Tough-mindedness positively
rejects tender-mindedness's hypothesis of an eternal perfect edition of
the universe coexisting with our finite experience.

On pragmatic principles we cannot reject any hypothesis if consequences
useful to life flow from it. Universal conceptions, as things to take
account of, may be as real for pragmatism as particular sensations are.
They have indeed no meaning and no reality if they have no use. But if
they have any use they have that amount of meaning. And the meaning will
be true if the use squares well with life's other uses.

Well, the use of the Absolute is proved by the whole course of
men's religious history. The eternal arms are then beneath. Remember
Vivekananda's use of the Atman: it is indeed not a scientific use,
for we can make no particular deductions from it. It is emotional and
spiritual altogether.

It is always best to discuss things by the help of concrete examples.
Let me read therefore some of those verses entitled "To You" by Walt
Whitman--"You" of course meaning the reader or hearer of the poem
whosoever he or she may be.

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem; I
whisper with my lips close to your ear, I have loved many women and men,
but I love none better than you.

O I have been dilatory and dumb; I should have made my way straight
to you long ago; I should have blabb'd nothing but you, I should have
chanted nothing but you.

I will leave all, and come and make the hymns of you; None have
understood you, but I understand you; None have done justice to you--you
have not done justice to yourself; None but have found you imperfect--I
only find no imperfection in you.

O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you! You have not known
what you are--you have slumber'd upon yourself all your life; What you
have done returns already in mockeries.

But the mockeries are not you; Underneath them, and within them, I see
you lurk; I pursue you where none else has pursued you; Silence, the
desk, the flippant expression, the night, the accustom'd routine, if
these conceal you from others, or from yourself, they do not conceal you
from me; The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if
these balk others, they do not balk me, The pert apparel, the deform'd
attitude, drunkenness, greed, premature death, all these I part aside.

There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied in you; There
is no virtue, no beauty, in man or woman, but as good is in you; No
pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you; No pleasure
waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits for you.

Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard! These shows of the
east and west are tame, compared to you; These immense meadows--these
interminable rivers--you are immense and interminable as they; You are
he or she who is master or mistress over them, Master or mistress in
your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, dissolution.

The hopples fall from your ankles--you find an unfailing sufficiency;
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, whatever
you are promulges itself; Through birth, life, death, burial, the means
are provided, nothing is scanted; Through angers, losses, ambition,
ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.

Verily a fine and moving poem, in any case, but there are two ways of
taking it, both useful.

One is the monistic way, the mystical way of pure cosmic emotion. The
glories and grandeurs, they are yours absolutely, even in the midst of
your defacements. Whatever may happen to you, whatever you may appear to
be, inwardly you are safe. Look back, LIE back, on your true principle
of being! This is the famous way of quietism, of indifferentism. Its
enemies compare it to a spiritual opium. Yet pragmatism must respect
this way, for it has massive historic vindication.

But pragmatism sees another way to be respected also, the pluralistic
way of interpreting the poem. The you so glorified, to which the hymn
is sung, may mean your better possibilities phenomenally taken, or the
specific redemptive effects even of your failures, upon yourself or
others. It may mean your loyalty to the possibilities of others whom you
admire and love so, that you are willing to accept your own poor life,
for it is that glory's partner. You can at least appreciate, applaud,
furnish the audience, of so brave a total world. Forget the low in
yourself, then, think only of the high. Identify your life therewith;
then, through angers, losses, ignorance, ennui, whatever you thus make
yourself, whatever you thus most deeply are, picks its way.

In either way of taking the poem, it encourages fidelity to ourselves.
Both ways satisfy; both sanctify the human flux. Both paint the portrait
of the YOU on a gold-background. But the background of the first way
is the static One, while in the second way it means possibles in the
plural, genuine possibles, and it has all the restlessness of that

Noble enough is either way of reading the poem; but plainly the
pluralistic way agrees with the pragmatic temper best, for it
immediately suggests an infinitely larger number of the details of
future experience to our mind. It sets definite activities in us at
work. Altho this second way seems prosaic and earthborn in comparison
with the first way, yet no one can accuse it of tough-mindedness in any
brutal sense of the term. Yet if, as pragmatists, you should positively
set up the second way AGAINST the first way, you would very likely be
misunderstood. You would be accused of denying nobler conceptions, and
of being an ally of tough-mindedness in the worst sense.

You remember the letter from a member of this audience from which I read
some extracts at our previous meeting. Let me read you an additional
extract now. It shows a vagueness in realizing the alternatives before
us which I think is very widespread.

"I believe," writes my friend and correspondent, "in pluralism; I
believe that in our search for truth we leap from one floating cake of
ice to another, on an infinite sea, and that by each of our acts we make
new truths possible and old ones impossible; I believe that each man is
responsible for making the universe better, and that if he does not do
this it will be in so far left undone.

"Yet at the same time I am willing to endure that my children should be
incurably sick and suffering (as they are not) and I myself stupid
and yet with brains enough to see my stupidity, only on one condition,
namely, that through the construction, in imagination and by reasoning,
of a RATIONAL UNITY OF ALL THINGS, I can conceive my acts and my
thoughts and my troubles as SUPPLEMENTED: BY ALL THE OTHER PHENOMENA
APPROVE AND ADOPT AS MY I OWN; and for my part I refuse to be persuaded
that we cannot look beyond the obvious pluralism of the naturalist and
pragmatist to a logical unity in which they take no interest or stock."

Such a fine expression of personal faith warms the heart of the hearer.
But how much does it clear his philosophic head? Does the writer
consistently favor the monistic, or the pluralistic, interpretation of
the world's poem? His troubles become atoned for WHEN THUS SUPPLEMENTED,
he says, supplemented, that is, by all the remedies that THE OTHER
PHENOMENA may supply. Obviously here the writer faces forward into
the particulars of experience, which he interprets in a
pluralistic-melioristic way.

But he believes himself to face backward. He speaks of what he calls
the rational UNITY of things, when all the while he really means their
possible empirical UNIFICATION. He supposes at the same time that the
pragmatist, because he criticizes rationalism's abstract One, is cut
off from the consolation of believing in the saving possibilities of
the concrete many. He fails in short to distinguish between taking the
world's perfection as a necessary principle, and taking it only as a
possible terminus ad quem.

I regard the writer of this letter as a genuine pragmatist, but as a
pragmatist sans le savoir. He appears to me as one of that numerous
class of philosophic amateurs whom I spoke of in my first lecture, as
wishing to have all the good things going, without being too careful
as to how they agree or disagree. "Rational unity of all things" is
so inspiring a formula, that he brandishes it offhand, and abstractly
accuses pluralism of conflicting with it (for the bare names do
conflict), altho concretely he means by it just the pragmatistically
unified and ameliorated world. Most of us remain in this essential
vagueness, and it is well that we should; but in the interest of
clear-headedness it is well that some of us should go farther, so I
will try now to focus a little more discriminatingly on this particular
religious point.

Is then this you of yous, this absolutely real world, this unity that
yields the moral inspiration and has the religious value, to be taken
monistically or pluralistically? Is it ante rem or in rebus? Is it a
principle or an end, an absolute or an ultimate, a first or a last? Does
it make you look forward or lie back? It is certainly worth while not to
clump the two things together, for if discriminated, they have decidedly
diverse meanings for life.

Please observe that the whole dilemma revolves pragmatically about the
notion of the world's possibilities. Intellectually, rationalism invokes
its absolute principle of unity as a ground of possibility for the
many facts. Emotionally, it sees it as a container and limiter of
possibilities, a guarantee that the upshot shall be good. Taken in this
way, the absolute makes all good things certain, and all bad things
impossible (in the eternal, namely), and may be said to transmute the
entire category of possibility into categories more secure. One sees at
this point that the great religious difference lies between the men who
insist that the world MUST AND SHALL BE, and those who are contented
with believing that the world MAY BE, saved. The whole clash of
rationalistic and empiricist religion is thus over the validity of
possibility. It is necessary therefore to begin by focusing upon that
word. What may the word 'possible' definitely mean?

To unreflecting men the possible means a sort of third estate of being,
less real than existence, more real than non-existence, a twilight
realm, a hybrid status, a limbo into which and out of which realities
ever and anon are made to pass. Such a conception is of course too
vague and nondescript to satisfy us. Here, as elsewhere, the only way to
extract a term's meaning is to use the pragmatic method on it. When you
say that a thing is possible, what difference does it make?

It makes at least this difference that if anyone calls it impossible you
can contradict him, if anyone calls it actual you can contradict HIM,
and if anyone calls it necessary you can contradict him too. But these
privileges of contradiction don't amount to much. When you say a thing
is possible, does not that make some farther difference in terms of
actual fact?

It makes at least this negative difference that if the statement be
true, it follows that there is nothing extant capable of preventing the
possible thing. The absence of real grounds of interference may thus be
said to make things not impossible, possible therefore in the bare or
abstract sense.

But most possibles are not bare, they are concretely grounded, or
well-grounded, as we say. What does this mean pragmatically? It means,
not only that there are no preventive conditions present, but that some
of the conditions of production of the possible thing actually are here.
Thus a concretely possible chicken means: (1) that the idea of chicken
contains no essential self-contradiction; (2) that no boys, skunks, or
other enemies are about; and (3) that at least an actual egg exists.
Possible chicken means actual egg--plus actual sitting hen, or
incubator, or what not. As the actual conditions approach completeness
the chicken becomes a better-and-better-grounded possibility. When the
conditions are entirely complete, it ceases to be a possibility, and
turns into an actual fact.

Let us apply this notion to the salvation of the world. What does it
pragmatically mean to say that this is possible? It means that some of
the conditions of the world's deliverance do actually exist. The more of
them there are existent, the fewer preventing conditions you can find,
the better-grounded is the salvation's possibility, the more PROBABLE
does the fact of the deliverance become.

So much for our preliminary look at possibility.

Now it would contradict the very spirit of life to say that our minds
must be indifferent and neutral in questions like that of the world's
salvation. Anyone who pretends to be neutral writes himself down here
as a fool and a sham. We all do wish to minimize the insecurity of the
universe; we are and ought to be unhappy when we regard it as exposed to
every enemy and open to every life-destroying draft. Nevertheless there
are unhappy men who think the salvation of the world impossible. Theirs
is the doctrine known as pessimism.

Optimism in turn would be the doctrine that thinks the world's salvation

Midway between the two there stands what may be called the doctrine of
meliorism, tho it has hitherto figured less as a doctrine than as an
attitude in human affairs. Optimism has always been the regnant DOCTRINE
in european philosophy. Pessimism was only recently introduced by
Schopenhauer and counts few systematic defenders as yet. Meliorism
treats salvation as neither inevitable nor impossible. It treats it as
a possibility, which becomes more and more of a probability the more
numerous the actual conditions of salvation become.

It is clear that pragmatism must incline towards meliorism. Some
conditions of the world's salvation are actually extant, and she cannot
possibly close her eyes to this fact: and should the residual conditions
come, salvation would become an accomplished reality. Naturally the
terms I use here are exceedingly summary. You may interpret the
word 'salvation' in any way you like, and make it as diffuse and
distributive, or as climacteric and integral a phenomenon as you please.

Take, for example, any one of us in this room with the ideals which
he cherishes, and is willing to live and work for. Every such ideal
realized will be one moment in the world's salvation. But these
particular ideals are not bare abstract possibilities. They are
grounded, they are LIVE possibilities, for we are their live champions
and pledges, and if the complementary conditions come and add
themselves, our ideals will become actual things. What now are the
complementary conditions? They are first such a mixture of things as
will in the fulness of time give us a chance, a gap that we can spring
into, and, finally, OUR ACT.

Does our act then CREATE the world's salvation so far as it makes room
for itself, so far as it leaps into the gap? Does it create, not the
whole world's salvation of course, but just so much of this as itself
covers of the world's extent?

Here I take the bull by the horns, and in spite of the whole crew of
rationalists and monists, of whatever brand they be, I ask WHY NOT? Our
acts, our turning-places, where we seem to ourselves to make ourselves
and grow, are the parts of the world to which we are closest, the parts
of which our knowledge is the most intimate and complete. Why should
we not take them at their face-value? Why may they not be the actual
turning-places and growing-places which they seem to be, of the
world--why not the workshop of being, where we catch fact in the making,
so that nowhere may the world grow in any other kind of way than this?

Irrational! we are told. How can new being come in local spots and
patches which add themselves or stay away at random, independently of
the rest? There must be a reason for our acts, and where in the last
resort can any reason be looked for save in the material pressure or the
logical compulsion of the total nature of the world? There can be but
one real agent of growth, or seeming growth, anywhere, and that agent is
the integral world itself. It may grow all-over, if growth there be, but
that single parts should grow per se is irrational.

But if one talks of rationality and of reasons for things, and insists
that they can't just come in spots, what KIND of a reason can there
ultimately be why anything should come at all? Talk of logic and
necessity and categories and the absolute and the contents of the whole
philosophical machine-shop as you will, the only REAL reason I can think
of why anything should ever come is that someone wishes it to be here.
It is DEMANDED, demanded, it may be, to give relief to no matter
how small a fraction of the world's mass. This is living reason, and
compared with it material causes and logical necessities are spectral

In short the only fully rational world would be the world of
wishing-caps, the world of telepathy, where every desire is fulfilled
instanter, without having to consider or placate surrounding or
intermediate powers. This is the Absolute's own world. He calls upon the
phenomenal world to be, and it IS, exactly as he calls for it, no other
condition being required. In our world, the wishes of the individual are
only one condition. Other individuals are there with other wishes
and they must be propitiated first. So Being grows under all sorts
of resistances in this world of the many, and, from compromise to
compromise, only gets organized gradually into what may be called
secondarily rational shape. We approach the wishing-cap type of
organization only in a few departments of life. We want water and we
turn a faucet. We want a kodak-picture and we press a button. We want
information and we telephone. We want to travel and we buy a ticket. In
these and similar cases, we hardly need to do more than the wishing--the
world is rationally organized to do the rest.

But this talk of rationality is a parenthesis and a digression. What
we were discussing was the idea of a world growing not integrally but
piecemeal by the contributions of its several parts. Take the hypothesis
seriously and as a live one. Suppose that the world's author put the
case to you before creation, saying: "I am going to make a world
not certain to be saved, a world the perfection of which shall be
conditional merely, the condition being that each several agent does its
own 'level best.' I offer you the chance of taking part in such a world.
Its safety, you see, is unwarranted. It is a real adventure, with real
danger, yet it may win through. It is a social scheme of co-operative
work genuinely to be done. Will you join the procession? Will you trust
yourself and trust the other agents enough to face the risk?"

Should you in all seriousness, if participation in such a world were
proposed to you, feel bound to reject it as not safe enough? Would you
say that, rather than be part and parcel of so fundamentally pluralistic
and irrational a universe, you preferred to relapse into the slumber of
nonentity from which you had been momentarily aroused by the tempter's

Of course if you are normally constituted, you would do nothing of the
sort. There is a healthy-minded buoyancy in most of us which such a
universe would exactly fit. We would therefore accept the offer--"Top!
und schlag auf schlag!" It would be just like the world we practically
live in; and loyalty to our old nurse Nature would forbid us to say no.
The world proposed would seem 'rational' to us in the most living way.

Most of us, I say, would therefore welcome the proposition and add our
fiat to the fiat of the creator. Yet perhaps some would not; for there
are morbid minds in every human collection, and to them the prospect of
a universe with only a fighting chance of safety would probably make no
appeal. There are moments of discouragement in us all, when we are sick
of self and tired of vainly striving. Our own life breaks down, and we
fall into the attitude of the prodigal son. We mistrust the chances
of things. We want a universe where we can just give up, fall on our
father's neck, and be absorbed into the absolute life as a drop of water
melts into the river or the sea.

The peace and rest, the security desiderated at such moments is security
against the bewildering accidents of so much finite experience. Nirvana
means safety from this everlasting round of adventures of which the
world of sense consists. The hindoo and the buddhist, for this
is essentially their attitude, are simply afraid, afraid of more
experience, afraid of life.

And to men of this complexion, religious monism comes with its consoling
words: "All is needed and essential--even you with your sick soul and
heart. All are one with God, and with God all is well. The everlasting
arms are beneath, whether in the world of finite appearances you seem to
fail or to succeed." There can be no doubt that when men are reduced
to their last sick extremity absolutism is the only saving scheme.
Pluralistic moralism simply makes their teeth chatter, it refrigerates
the very heart within their breast.

So we see concretely two types of religion in sharp contrast. Using our
old terms of comparison, we may say that the absolutistic scheme appeals
to the tender-minded while the pluralistic scheme appeals to the tough.
Many persons would refuse to call the pluralistic scheme religious at
all. They would call it moralistic, and would apply the word religious
to the monistic scheme alone. Religion in the sense of self-surrender,
and moralism in the sense of self-sufficingness, have been pitted
against each other as incompatibles frequently enough in the history of
human thought.

We stand here before the final question of philosophy. I said in my
fourth lecture that I believed the monistic-pluralistic alternative to
be the deepest and most pregnant question that our minds can frame. Can
it be that the disjunction is a final one? that only one side can be
true? Are a pluralism and monism genuine incompatibles? So that, if
the world were really pluralistically constituted, if it really existed
distributively and were made up of a lot of eaches, it could only be
saved piecemeal and de facto as the result of their behavior, and its
epic history in no wise short-circuited by some essential oneness in
which the severalness were already 'taken up' beforehand and eternally
'overcome'? If this were so, we should have to choose one philosophy or
the other. We could not say 'yes, yes' to both alternatives. There would
have to be a 'no' in our relations with the possible. We should confess
an ultimate disappointment: we could not remain healthy-minded and
sick-minded in one indivisible act.

Of course as human beings we can be healthy minds on one day and sick
souls on the next; and as amateur dabblers in philosophy we may
perhaps be allowed to call ourselves monistic pluralists, or free-will
determinists, or whatever else may occur to us of a reconciling kind.
But as philosophers aiming at clearness and consistency, and feeling the
pragmatistic need of squaring truth with truth, the question is forced
upon us of frankly adopting either the tender or the robustious type of
thought. In particular THIS query has always come home to me: May not
the claims of tender-mindedness go too far? May not the notion of a
world already saved in toto anyhow, be too saccharine to stand? May not
religious optimism be too idyllic? Must ALL be saved? Is NO price to be
paid in the work of salvation? Is the last word sweet? Is all 'yes,
yes' in the universe? Doesn't the fact of 'no' stand at the very core of
life? Doesn't the very 'seriousness' that we attribute to life mean that
ineluctable noes and losses form a part of it, that there are genuine
sacrifices somewhere, and that something permanently drastic and bitter
always remains at the bottom of its cup?

I can not speak officially as a pragmatist here; all I can say is that
my own pragmatism offers no objection to my taking sides with this more
moralistic view, and giving up the claim of total reconciliation. The
possibility of this is involved in the pragmatistic willingness to treat
pluralism as a serious hypothesis. In the end it is our faith and not
our logic that decides such questions, and I deny the right of any
pretended logic to veto my own faith. I find myself willing to take
the universe to be really dangerous and adventurous, without therefore
backing out and crying 'no play.' I am willing to think that the
prodigal-son attitude, open to us as it is in many vicissitudes, is not
the right and final attitude towards the whole of life. I am willing
that there should be real losses and real losers, and no total
preservation of all that is. I can believe in the ideal as an ultimate,
not as an origin, and as an extract, not the whole. When the cup is
poured off, the dregs are left behind forever, but the possibility of
what is poured off is sweet enough to accept.

As a matter of fact countless human imaginations live in this moralistic
and epic kind of a universe, and find its disseminated and strung-along
successes sufficient for their rational needs. There is a finely
translated epigram in the greek anthology which admirably expresses this
state of mind, this acceptance of loss as unatoned for, even tho the
lost element might be one's self:

"A shipwrecked sailor, buried on this coast, Bids you set sail. Full
many a gallant bark, when we were lost, Weathered the gale."

Those puritans who answered 'yes' to the question: Are you willing to be
damned for God's glory? were in this objective and magnanimous condition
of mind. The way of escape from evil on this system is NOT by getting
it 'aufgehoben,' or preserved in the whole as an element essential but
'overcome.' It is by dropping it out altogether, throwing it overboard
and getting beyond it, helping to make a universe that shall forget its
very place and name.

It is then perfectly possible to accept sincerely a drastic kind of a
universe from which the element of 'seriousness' is not to be expelled.
Whoso does so is, it seems to me, a genuine pragmatist. He is willing to
live on a scheme of uncertified possibilities which he trusts; willing
to pay with his own person, if need be, for the realization of the
ideals which he frames.

What now actually ARE the other forces which he trusts to co-operate
with him, in a universe of such a type? They are at least his fellow
men, in the stage of being which our actual universe has reached. But
are there not superhuman forces also, such as religious men of the
pluralistic type we have been considering have always believed in? Their
words may have sounded monistic when they said "there is no God but
God"; but the original polytheism of mankind has only imperfectly and
vaguely sublimated itself into monotheism, and monotheism itself, so far
as it was religious and not a scheme of class-room instruction for the
metaphysicians, has always viewed God as but one helper, primus inter
pares, in the midst of all the shapers of the great world's fate.

I fear that my previous lectures, confined as they have been to human
and humanistic aspects, may have left the impression on many of you that
pragmatism means methodically to leave the superhuman out. I have shown
small respect indeed for the Absolute, and I have until this moment
spoken of no other superhuman hypothesis but that. But I trust that you
see sufficiently that the Absolute has nothing but its superhumanness
in common with the theistic God. On pragmatistic principles, if the
hypothesis of God works satisfactorily in the widest sense of the word,
it is true. Now whatever its residual difficulties may be, experience
shows that it certainly does work, and that the problem is to build it
out and determine it, so that it will combine satisfactorily with all
the other working truths. I cannot start upon a whole theology at the
end of this last lecture; but when I tell you that I have written a book
on men's religious experience, which on the whole has been regarded as
making for the reality of God, you will perhaps exempt my own pragmatism
from the charge of being an atheistic system. I firmly disbelieve,
myself, that our human experience is the highest form of experience
extant in the universe. I believe rather that we stand in much the same
relation to the whole of the universe as our canine and feline pets
do to the whole of human life. They inhabit our drawing-rooms and
libraries. They take part in scenes of whose significance they have no
inkling. They are merely tangent to curves of history the beginnings and
ends and forms of which pass wholly beyond their ken. So we are tangents
to the wider life of things. But, just as many of the dog's and cat's
ideals coincide with our ideals, and the dogs and cats have daily living
proof of the fact, so we may well believe, on the proofs that religious
experience affords, that higher powers exist and are at work to save the
world on ideal lines similar to our own.

You see that pragmatism can be called religious, if you allow that
religion can be pluralistic or merely melioristic in type. But whether
you will finally put up with that type of religion or not is a question
that only you yourself can decide. Pragmatism has to postpone dogmatic
answer, for we do not yet know certainly which type of religion is going
to work best in the long run. The various overbeliefs of men, their
several faith-ventures, are in fact what are needed to bring the
evidence in. You will probably make your own ventures severally. If
radically tough, the hurly-burly of the sensible facts of nature will
be enough for you, and you will need no religion at all. If radically
tender, you will take up with the more monistic form of religion:
the pluralistic form, with its reliance on possibilities that are not
necessities, will not seem to afford you security enough.

But if you are neither tough nor tender in an extreme and radical
sense, but mixed as most of us are, it may seem to you that the type
of pluralistic and moralistic religion that I have offered is as good a
religious synthesis as you are likely to find. Between the two extremes
of crude naturalism on the one hand and transcendental absolutism on
the other, you may find that what I take the liberty of calling the
pragmatistic or melioristic type of theism is exactly what you require.

The End

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