Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/69

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

as it refers to nothing in particular in the world of concrete values—it follows that this logic will not meet the requirements of a scientific method which is seeking to explain the actual world of phenomena conditioned by human interests and purposes.

Instrumentalism, in other words, is an attempt at once to make philosophy scientific and science philosophic, and pragmatism means instrumentalism in this sense. In seeking to work out this relation in detail, pragmatism has become a general theory of experience, and, interpreted in terms of existing schools of thought, may be described as presenting both an empiricistic and an idealistic phase of its methodology.

In the first place, pragmatism is empiricistic. If philosophy is to be practical and personal and instrumental it must begin with concrete experience, not with an assumed reality beyond nor with an abstracted aspect. It must begin with the full tide of life as we live it and try to understand it from within, not seek to leap out of experience to some transcendental vantage-ground from which the procession might be watched from without. Nor will philosophy begin with such partial aspects as mind and matter nor with such terminal problems as origin and destiny, but will endeavor by a patient study of the way in which experience goes on in the present moment of consciousness to construct the law of the process by which it goes on in other moments. This is the empircal principle of pragmatism. As Professor Dewey puts it, Reality is what it is experienced as. Or as Hegel long since phrased it, "the laws of thought are the laws of things."

This empirical point of view has several important implications. It implies, for one thing, that the distinction between experience and reality is not an absolute one, not an ontological distinction, as the metaphysicians say, but only a methodological or functional one. It no more represents a distinctness in existence than does the distinction of the how and the what of anything, or the distinction of process and content. Experience regarded from the point of view of what it is, its content, its filling of objects and events, we call reality. Reality, regarded from the point of view of how it goes on or the way in which it occurs in consciousness, that is, viewed as a process of evolution here and now, we call experience. A moment of consciousness is a sample of how reality evolves. An object in space or an event in time is a sample of the content of this evolving process. Reality viewed in longitudinal section as a process gives us what we call experience. Experience taken in cross-section yields a content which we call reality.

In the second place, mind or consciousness is what it seems to be—a transformation-phase of experience, not a separate entity. The distinction of mind and body and their alleged disparateness and supposed parallelism is a pseudo-problem created by the methodological inutil-