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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 52



Claude Bernard, in that most profound as well as luminous work, his Introduction à l'étude de la Médicine Expérimentale, thus expresses himself on the limits of knowledge: "The nature of our mind leads us to seek the essence or the why of things. In this we aim beyond the mark which it is given us to attain; for experience soon teaches us, that we cannot go beyond the how, that is, beyond the proximate cause or the conditions of existence of the phenomena. In this respect, the limits of our knowledge are the same in the biological sciences, as in the physico-chemical." (Second Part. Chap. I. § 9, p. 187-8 of the edition of 1865.) And presently he adds, taking an illustration, I believe, from one of his own great discoveries: "If for instance in physiology we prove, that oxyde of carbon kills, by combining more energetically than oxygen with the matter of the blood globule, we then know all that is possible for us to know of the cause of death." (Ibid. p. 139.)

I have quoted this passage in order to bring out the great general difference between the two domains of science and philosophy. It is perfectly true, that the scientific interest is to know how to get at the proximate cause (cause prochaine) of phenomena, how to avoid aiming beyond (viser plus loin), i.e., at the essence or why page 12 (pourquoi) of things. But the philosophical interest is to know how it happens (1) that we form the idea of the essence or why; (2) that we imagine it to exist, though unknowable by us; (3) that we place it somewhere beyond (plus loin) the proximate cause or conditions of existence (conditions d'existence) of the phenomena; and (4) that we identify this "essence" with the answer to the question why. In other words, the special interest of philosophy begins where that of science ends, with the fact that "the nature of our mind leads us to seek the essence or why" We want, in philosophy, to know the "how," the "comment," of this process of our "mind," when it so leads us. What is the analysis, within consciousness, of this peculiar process? But note, that this "how" is not the "how comes" of science, but the mere "what" of a process of consciousness, since the analysis of a process is that which show's how its parts are related to one another. The whatness of the process A—B is the how of B, its terminus ad quem. Such is the nature of the philosophical question, which is quite distinct from the scientific question, and at the same time in perfect accord with it.

Having thus obtained a general idea of the distinct purposes of the two pursuits, I proceed to show you the peculiar importance of the distinction previously established, between the world of objects immediately present to consciousness and the order of real conditioning, comprising the further distinction between the two senses of reality, the two senses in which objects are called real. Its importance consists in this, that it enables us to draw the line of demarcation between philosophy and science. Of course I use the term science collectively, meaning the sciences one and all, from psychology at one end of the list to dynamics or kinetics at the other. One and all, what they seek is to determine the order of real conditioning, affecting their several groups of phenomena, that page 13 is, the particular kinds, quantities, interactions, and combinations of forces, upon which the varied play of common-sense phenomena depends, and without which that play would not take place as it does take place.

Mathematic stands on a peculiar footing; in its two branches of geometry and calculation it forms the link between the positive physical and physiological sciences, on the one hand, and philosophy on the other; for it is founded on the formal elements in consciousness, spatial extension in its geometrical branch, and the act of attention dividing time, which is numbering, in its arithmetical or calculating branch. At the same time these elements of consciousness are also elements of things conceived as external to consciousness; the surface of an orange, for instance, is identical with the surface seen and the surface touched, that is, with the surface in our sensations and representations of sensation. Again, an act of attention, once performed, is performed for ever; not even God, it has been said, can make the done undone. That is the subjective root of the objectivity of Number.

But distinct from, though founded on, these sciences of pure mathematic, all the other positive sciences seek the real conditions of things, and rest when they have discovered them. The first business of any science is to discover, in what the real conditioning, governing its phenomena, consists. This it does tentatively, by hypotheses, connected into theories, and verified by observation or experiment on the phenomena. Till this real order of conditioning is discovered, the science can hardly be said to be constituted as a positive science; at least has not reached its state of full maturity. It is a mere grouping of phenomena held together by some hypothetical real condition, as for instance the vortices in astronomy. Gravitation was a vera causa. After this the search ended; the science was established; notwithstanding that the intimate page 14 or (so to speak) the nonmenal agency, the essence of the agency, in Claude Bernard's sense of the term, was still unknown; and quite as much unknown in the case of gravitation as in that of the vortices.

So also in chemistry. What is the real process which takes place, when, for instance, two gases combine; and what are the ultimate portions of matter which enter into the combination? It is questions of this kind which are the fundamental ones for chemistry. So in electricity. What exactly is it that happens, when the electric circle is completed, or when one body communicates electricity to another? So in biology. In what consists that tension and movement, that organic loss and growth and repair of parts, which constitute what we call the life of an organism? Everywhere in science, it is the real and for the most part hidden processes, and the real and hidden ultimates between which they take place, and upon which the obvious, or rather the common-sense phenomena of daily experience depend, that are the objects of search. First, science seeks to discover what these processes and these ultimates are, and then to carry to further completion its knowledge of their effects, both actual and possible, in common-sense phenomena; which latter stage of enquiry marks the maturity of the science, its full fruit-bearing period.

Admitting this as a brief description, sufficient for our present purpose, of the true aim of science, and allowing that it falls in with our great distinction of method, by assigning to science the discovery of the order of real conditioning, the next point for consideration is, how we bring this search for real conditions into connection with the correlative member of our distinction, the world of objects, taken simply as percepts, that is, immediate objects of consciousness.

In the first place it is clear, that the double task, first, page 15 of analysing the latter world, and then of determining the relations between its own special work of analysis and the work of science, belongs to philosophy. It is philosophy which draws the distinction between the two worlds in the first instance, in consequence of its putting the question what to experience. It is philosophy, not science, which perceives in the first instance, that by things are meant known things, or objects of knowledge, and thus distinguishes, without separating, knowing from the known. All further relations made out between this pair, of which the present correlation between the world of immediate perceptions and that of real conditions is an instance, must proceed on the basis of that originally philosophical distinction. The philosophical conception of a world of immediate perceptions thus comes to throw an entirely new light upon the scientific conception of real conditions. There is, in knowledge, no road from unknown things to knowledge, but there is from knowledge to unknown things. This fact gives the primacy to philosophy over science, in the realm of knowledge. In order to investigate real conditions, you must first either assume them or infer them. Philosophy throws light on this necessity. Science takes things exactly as it finds them in ordinary common-sense experience, and knows no more of their connection with that world of percepts immediate to consciousness, than the man of ordinary common sense knows; and yet that perceptual world, the only world we are ever immediately conscious of, is the only material, so to speak, of which that common-sense world, which we seem to know so well, is composed; the world, I mean, of mixed objects, objects made up of sensations and real conditions mixed together and undistinguished; the world of things and persons, events and actions, as commonly understood.

[But now to show somewhat more particularly the page 16 mode in which philosophy brings the two members of its distinction into correlation.] And here we come upon the beginning of the whole matter in actual experience. The world of common-sense objects, just described, is our starting point historically, in philosophy, as it is in science; it is the common starting point of both; but there are two ways of starting from it. One is by assuming its objects to be ready-made existents, and examining their relations on that footing, which is the way of science; the other is by examining its objects as they are known to us, that is, examining our knowledge of its objects, which is the way of philosophy. It is owing to this its primary assumption, this its original choice of road from the common starting point, that science is debarred from explaining the connection between real conditions and the world of knowledge. No such assumption bars the road of philosophy. But on the other hand philosophy necessarily renounces the search for real conditions, at least for real conditions of any kind which can come within the scope of science, or be the objects of scientific hypothesis or verification; and contents itself with the analysis of knowledge generally, including a knowledge of the connection between the search for real conditions and analysis itself.

[When,* therefore, we say that we must begin with philosophy, if we would explain the position and function of science, because science is precluded from knowing more in this direction than common sense already knows, page 17 we mean that the road is barred, to common sense and science alike, by an assumption which is natural enough to common sense, and never retracted in science, I mean the assumption, that common-sense objects are ready made, or technically absolute existents, that is, have an existence per se, though not of necessity wholly unconditioned, besides the existence which they have as known to percipients, that is to say, in relation to a certain class among themselves, namely, to those of them which are endowed with sensibility. This assumption is, I do not say false, but premature; it is false as an assumption. To refuse it is distinctive of philosophy, and opens that road to philosophy which is barred to science, though both alike start from the same ground of common-sense knowledge, the world of which every man finds himself a denizen, when he first comes to years of intellectual discretion and enquiry. In starting from this world and analysing it on its subjective side, we are virtually, though not actually, reconstructing the history of that forgotten period of our own lives, beginning with the earliest days of infancy, during which our knowledge of it as a world of common-sense objects was originally built up. I mean, that we now begin to analyse that knowledge, including the ideas and feelings connecting its several parts, which we have been accumulating and organising from infancy onwards, without then reflecting on the fact that we were building up a systematic world of knowledge, as well as acquiring an acquaintance with what appear to us as "absolute" persons and things. We can never trace the steps of its acquisition in their actual history, because they have long faded from our memory; we can only analyse them in their result. But then we are also at the same time continuing that history, even while we are analysing its past results; and in the first and subsequent moments of philosophical reflection, we can look back, from time to page 18 time, upon the course immediately before traversed, while it is still fresh in memory.

This brings us to the central fact, or cardinal operation, in all knowledge. Reflection, taken in its simplest form, or lowest terms, is the act or moment of consciousness, an act continually repeated, in which we look back upon the state of consciousness immediately preceding it, without which act the preceding state would be no more to us, than if it were a state of consciousness in another person, or a feeling in a severed limb. The preceding state taken alone is not to be regarded as below the threshold, or out of consciousness, altogether. It is more than a state of the organism simply. It is strictly a state of consciousness, but not yet of our consciousness; belonging not to us as a whole, but only to a part of us, an organ not in full intercourse with the rest. The next step towards completion of the intercourse is the arising of reflection, which is therefore strictly to be described as consciousness of states of consciousness, or consciousness conscious of itself, or having itself, not the conscious being or agent, except incidentally, as its object. When we use the term we to describe this process, as in saying "we look back," the term we is of course used proleptically, in anticipation of a future justification, since it is a term of common sense as yet unanalysed, and therefore to be taken in philosophy as a term simply designative of the facts intended. And the same may be said of the verbs as well as the nouns which we employ in the description, perceiving, looking back upon, being conscious of, and so on, as well as of we the agents, and things the objects of the process.

But now to go a step farther. Philosophical reflection, which is reflection distinctly conscious of asking the question what, and that question only, of the phenomena presented to it,—philosophical reflection looking back upon its previous history, that is, prior acts of reflection page 19 and the content of consciousness perceived in them, becomes aware, that reflection therein gives us what we may call a varied stream of consciousness, consisting of feelings of all kinds, extended colours and pressures, as well as feelings having duration only; and not of presented feelings only, but of represented also; not isolated but in combinations and groups; in fact, a full and varied picture, changing its content from moment to moment. This picture or stream, given in reflection, is also perceived by philosophical reflection to be the counterpart or equivalent for the common-sense world of objects, to be in fact the matrix or the material out of which the knowledge of the common-sense world of objects has been and is still being produced; so that we have, as it were, two worlds before us, the common-sense world with which we began, and the varied stream or picture, woven out of consciousness, which is now seen to be its perennial source, so far as our knowledge of either of them goes, apart from the causes or conditions which may have produced, or may still sustain and govern them.

Philosophical reflection next proceeds to analyse this new world which it has discovered, and to analyse it in connection with the common-sense world, so as to have in either analysis the means of controlling the other. The work of simple reflection is taken up and continued by philosophical, in its conscious comparison of the old world with the new. Both worlds are objective to both stages of reflection, but the important point to notice is, that it is only the new world, the varied stream or picture of consciousness, which is in all its parts their immediate object. To reflection a representation is as immediately present as a presentation. Presentations are usually more vivid, but they are not more immediate. When I look at a tree, for instance, a coloured surface is presented, the solidity and the unseen sides of it are represented. But those representa- page 20 tions, whenever they are actually represented, are immediately present to reflection. When, however, we look at the tree as a common-sense object, we do not actually repeat all the representations which are involved in the knowledge of it. The word tree is a shorthand or symbolic expression for the result of a long history of presentations, associations, and thoughts; and therefore the object, the tree itself, contains much that is not immediately present to reflection, and can become so only by being, and while being, referred to the other world, the stream or picture of consciousness, in contrast to the world of common sense. This fact gives much scope to fancy, and indeed trees were at one time thought to be trees, by having Dryads or other living beings inside, to animate them.

Common-sense objects, then, as such, are not immediate objects of reflection. It is only their component parts, by which I mean of course the component parts of them as known to us, that is, the various presentations and representations which compose our knowledge of them, which are such immediate objects. We speak, indeed, as if the tree itself, when actually seen, was immediately presented to us; but we do so only because we habitually think in common-sense terms, and because we regard ourselves also, the we spoken of above, as being common-sense objects in presence of the tree, as well as the tree in presence of ourselves. But the we, or self, requires philosophical analysis, just as much as the tree docs. Both alike are objects of reflection, but also both alike are remote, not immediate, objects of it. Parts of them only are immediate objects, and in order that all their parts may become so, it is requisite to refer them to their original source in the stream of consciousness. Thus, to reflect on the world of common-sense objects is the same thing as transforming it, for and during the reflection, into a stream of consciousness; and to reflect on the stream of conscious- page 21 ness is to subject every part of it successively, whether it be a presentation or a representation, to immediate inspection, and so make it immediately objective.]

Standing on this distinction between the two worlds, we shall now have no difficulty in seeing where the notion, or fact as known to us, of real conditions has its origin. It is clearly in the world of common-sense objects, and not in the stream of consciousness. The tree as a common-sense object is the real condition, along with other common-sense objects and circumstances, of the production of fruit; that is to say, is that object or combination of objects, without which there would be no fruit, or on the existence of which the existence of fruit depends. The existence of the fruit is conditioned inter alia upon the existence of the tree; it is not conditioned in any way upon the analysis of the tree into a group of presentations and representations. Nor again does the subjective analysis of the fruit in any way depend for its existence upon the subjective analysis of the tree. If you want fruit, you must not analyse a tree but plant one.

It is true, that the possibility of my analysing the fruit or the tree depends upon my perceiving them, and that they cannot be perceived at all without being perceived as percepts of such and such kinds; a content of some sort being bound up with every act of perception. But it does not follow, that the act of perception depends upon its content. It depends partly upon the percipient, partly upon the thing perceived, both being taken as common-sense objects; and the part which each of these two real conditions of perception contributes to the perceptions, which are the result, is among the more abstruse questions relating to real conditioning, in the department of Psychology. When we take account of the percipient as a real condition of perception, we find that the thing perceived means that set of real conditions which, in conjunction page 22 with those in the percipient, produce in the percipient the perception which we call a fruit, or a tree, or other perceived object. Such, I take it, are the original meaning and the original source of the notion of real conditions. The term is originally appropriate to those common-sense objects or events, without which other given common-sense objects or events would not, and with which they do, take place or come into existence.

Now these considerations introduce us to one of the most important distinctions in philosophy, and especially so in the delimitation of philosophy from science; I mean the distinction between objective thought and objects thought of. Take any common-sense object, a material object for instance, and place it by reflection in the two worlds spoken of, and you will find that the first stage on the road to its complete philosophical analysis consists of objective thoughts,—thoughts objective to consciousness,—while at the same time the object itself, the common-sense object, becomes an object thought of, namely, the object of those thoughts. It is doubly objective; it is one half of the whole object of reflection, and it is the whole object of the other half, the objective thoughts. They are the analysis, it is the unit analysed. The tree, for instance, is the unity of the objective thoughts which I bring successively into immediate objectivity to consciousness, as composing in combination the tree itself as known to me. The tree is the name for their combination into unity, as an individual unit. But then, at the same time, when I consider, that these thoughts are my thoughts, that they are combined in my consciousness, their unity seems to be not in them but in me. The tree has two apparent places of existence, one in its percipient, the other in space outside its percipient, as if it was a tree in a mirror. Now which of these is the real tree? Idealists answer,—the mirror-tree, the tree in the per- page 23 cipient. I think, however, we shall see reason to give the other answer, namely, the tree in space outside the percipient, as object thought of, and distinguished from objective thought, when we consider, that the power of real conditioning falls on that side, and belongs to the tree, not as composed of perceptions of ours, but as a common-sense object in presence of, and combination with, other common-sense objects which fill the world of space.

For put the same question to the percipient, taken as a common-sense object, which you put to the tree, and you will find that it also breaks up into objective thoughts and object thought of; and if you say that the objective thoughts are the real percipient, you have no answer to the question, what gives them unity, or where they exist; since the percipient is then their creature, and receives from them its unity, instead of vice versa. And yet, starting from the basis of common sense, percipients are among the real conditions of perception. I have no perception of a tree, for instance, unless I am in presence of it, and possess bodily organs of sense perception. In short, where do Idealists find a percipient at all, in any real sense? They cannot say: In self-consciousness, or reflective consciousness of perception; for that is a moment, or act, of perception, continually repeated, and indifferent to all kinds of content; there is no agent, no substantia, perceived or perceivable in it, taken as an immediate object of consciousness. Where does its numerical unity come from; whence its grouping and combining power? In other words, there is nothing in the act of reflection,—and reflection, I would remind you, corresponds to Kant's Apperception,—which in any way answers the description of a real condition. This we see, as soon as we apply the principle of method to interrogate the phenomenon. And yet we know from com- page 24 mon sense, that a real condition of some sort must he involved, and therefore are not easy till we can say what it is. Confusion of the reflective centre, or more strictly, constant feature in consciousness with the psychological centre or centres, localised in the conscious being, is the most fruitful source of fallacy in philosophy. Unless there was a psychological centre, there would be no constant-reflective act; it is its real or efficient condition. Unless there was a constant reflective act, there would be no knowledge of the psychological centre; it is its making known or revealing condition (conditio cognoscendi). This relation involves no logical difficulty; the universality of consciousness docs not clash with its particular genesis in individuals. But to confuse the moment of reflection with the moment of origin is to raise a question of priority between consciousness and its objects, a question as hopeless as the old puzzle,—which were first, hens or eggs?

Percipients, then, are originally, that is to say, on the common-sense basis, as much objects of common-sense perception as the things around them, and also have in common with them the property of being links in the order of real conditioning. They contribute their part to the perceptions which compose our knowledge of the common-sense world; and also, like the rest, they contribute thereto in their character of objects thought of, and not in that of combinations of objective thought. The conditioning power of things, whether percipient or non-percipient, belongs to them as objects thought of, distinct from our knowledge of them. This result is the basis of our broad distinction between philosophy and science. For the work of science consists, as we have seen above, in the discovery of real conditions; and real conditions have now been shown to be involved in the objects of thought, as existing independently of our page 25 knowledge of them, or in other words, abstracting from the subjective or philosophical analysis of the objective thoughts, by means of which science lays hold of them.

Objective thoughts, which I spoke of above as the first stage towards a complete philosophical analysis of the objects of common sense, are thus seen as the link between that analysis and the objects thought of. They are the subjective aspect of the objects thought of, and at the same time the objects analysed by philosophical reflection into immediately present states of consciousness. But in what precisely does their difference from the results of purely philosophical analysis consist? The chief difference at any rate is this, that the representations which they contain are in the form of concepts or general terms, not yet reduced to perceptual form; reducing them to which is the work of philosophical analysis. A tree as object thought of is in perceptual form, as an individualised existent, real in the second sense of the term. But the objective thought of a tree is a combination of general notions. As I bring each of these in turn under immediate reflective perception, I bring it again, at the same time, into a perceptual and individualised form, though not as a real existent in the same sense as the tree. If I could have the whole of these percepts before me at once, and in perceptual form, then I should have the intuition of the tree, as a real existent or object thought of, just as I now have the intuition of each percept singly. But as it is, I have before me, at once, only the objective thought of the tree, the shorthand expression for it, the parts of which have necessarily the conceptual form, or are a combination of general notions. The function of philosophical analysis, therefore, is to realise the content of objective thought, but to realise it as a content of consciousness only, to realise it, so far as possible, as an intuition. It is thus page 26 that philosophy proceeds on the subjective path, which I described it above as taking from the world of common-sense objects, the starting point which it shares with science.

Turning in the next place to the scientific path from the common starting point, the path of assuming its objects as simply existent, and tracing the laws and order of real conditioning, which obtain between them, we find the opposite aspect of objective thoughts presented to us, namely, their relation to their objects, the objects thought of or represented by them. The question is, how does science fare, and what enables it to proceed, on this track? Here it is that we are met by the remarkable fact, that these objects, the objects of thought, which are the special objects of science, are capable of a second kind of analysis, quite distinct from the philosophical, that is, from the subjective analysis of the objective thoughts which represent or mirror them, but also quite compatible with it; and not merely compatible, but one the several steps and details of which must be translateable into philosophical analysis, or capable of having their value assigned in terms of immediate perception, if they are to be accounted realities. This second analysis, in the case of material or physical objects, consists in resolving them into material parts and processes, by which they mutually act and re-act on each other, every such part and process being conceived on the general pattern or analogy of the material common-sense objects and processes from which they come, and of which they are the analysis. In other words, the analysis is into masses and forces which enter into and compose that series of transformations of energy, which underlies the whole order of Nature as it appears to sense, being itself the object not of sense but of thought.

[As an instance of what I mean, and particularly of page 27 the distinction contained in the last few words, take the common-sense objects, or phenomena as they are called, of sunrise and sunset, the alternation of night and day, and the repeated succession of the seasons. No mere analysis of these phenomena will give their real conditioning, that is, explain how it comes, either that they are composed of the feelings,—light and darkness, heat and cold.—of which they consist, or that they happen in the order in which they do happen. No. The real conditions of these phenomena are partly the physical constitution of the heavenly bodies, as the source of motions which, acting upon our organisms, give rise to particular sensations, and partly the physical movements of the earth and other planets round the sun, which again depend upon circumstances in the physical constitution and relatively initial position of those bodies, in regard to each other.

Now the moment we bring these real conditions into our mental view, we enter upon a world of thought, as distinguished from sense. The sun is partly an object of sense, partly of thought; but the actual path of a planet round the sun is an object of thought only. So is the molecular constitution of the heavenly bodies, and of the medium, if any, of the light and heat which reach us from them. We can neither see nor touch that molecular constitution, or those molecular and other movements. We do not as yet accurately know their physical analysis, even in general terms. They are objects thought of, but not yet in detail objective thoughts. Yet they are indisputable realities. The particles, tensions, and motions of particles, are as much realities, as if we could equate them with their objective thought, that is, express their minutiæ in terms of subjective feeling and perception. Real conditions, therefore, are objects, some of which are objects of sense as well as thought, and others objects of thought page 28 only, though always of thought based on sense. But their conditioning power, their action and re-action with each other, and their power of giving rise to sensation, are wholly indifferent to this distinction; that is to say, belong to them independently of the degree of knowledge which we have of them, independently of the objective thoughts into which we more or less perfectly translate them.

But here I must again observe,—and of this I cannot remind you too often,—that, when real conditions are said to belong to objects thought of, and to exist independently of our thoughts of them, this does not and cannot mean, that they are not objective to reflection. Both objective thoughts and the objects thought of are objective to reflection; were it not so, they would be purum nihil to us, and to speak of them at all would be a contradiction in terms. Since the distinction is drawn by reflection, it is clear that both its members must be objective to reflection. That knowledge of ours, of which we say that the objects thought of are independent, is the objective thought of them, which again is the object of their philosophical or subjective analysis, not the knowledge that they exist with powers of their own as yet unanalysed, which is their objectivity to reflective consciousness, their reality in the first sense of the term, as explained in my last Address.

The great blunder of what may be called either the empirical or the materialist school in philosophy is, to overlook the relativity of objects thought of to reflective perception, and thus to ascribe to them an absolute character. In this way it severs the connection between science and philosophy, and the severance springs from blindness to a simple matter of fact, a matter of the plainest experience. On the other hand, it is the great blunder of the idealist schools, to make this relation a page 29 relation of dependence, to make reflective perception causal. An idealist will urge, that after all, that is, after all our distinguishing objects thought of from objective thought, still we know nothing of the former but as the latter, that is, as states of thought, and therefore we are in a thought-world throughout. Now my answer to this is, that we know indeed nothing of what the former, the object thought of, is, but as a mode of thought distinguished from the latter as another mode of thought; but that we do know something more of how it comes and how it behaves; we know something of its real conditions, its relations to other objects thought of, and to objective thought itself; and this knowledge it is which forbids us to ascribe its production, its real conditioning, to objective thought, or to consciousness in any way whatever.]

It is just at this point that the double analysis of material things makes its importance felt. A piece of matter has one analysis into sensations and representations of sensation, which is its subjective or philosophical analysis; and another into molecules, or possibly atoms, or some other non-atomic primordial configurations of matter, together with the tensions, forces, motions, or tendencies to motion, between them or between their parts;—or even it may be into mathematical lines or points, provided that these are conceived as the seats of actual forces in interaction with each other;—which is its physical or scientific analysis. And whatever content of thought you put, by hypothesis or by inference, into the position of an object thought of, whether that content is of a physical, or of a spiritual and immaterial nature, you thereby fix it, so to speak, with the properties of an object thought of, that is, ascribe to it the possession of a real existence, independent of the degree of knowledge which we may have of its constitution and modes of action. It is thereby posited in thought as an page 30 individual and concrete existent. And it is this concrete individuality which is the characteristic mark of objects thought of, as opposed to objective thoughts. An object thought of may be defined as the actually existent and individualised combination of the properties expressed in general terms by the corresponding objective thought, plus properties which are as yet unknown to us, but which are also actually existent and individualised. Positive theoretical science is the endeavour to exhaust these properties, to bring to book, as it were, the Dryad or other noumenal entity inside the tree, and express them in terms of objective thought, that is, in terms of consciousness. The real conditions discovered by scientific analysis derive their actual and individualised character from the common-sense objects, of which they are the analysis and, so to speak, the miniatures. Our belief in their conditioning power is derived from the same source. In short they are real, in the second of the two senses of this term assigned in my last Address, because the common-sense objects and events are so, which are their original source in experience. We cannot indeed say, whence their conditioning power is ultimately derived. That would be to pierce the veil of the Unseen World, by pointing out in it the real conditions of the Seen World. Philosophy may have something to say on our position with regard to this question in its Constructive Branch. But the question is one which cannot even be approached with profit, until a broad and secure foundation has been laid in philosophical analysis.

Positive science, as we have seen, never entirely quits its hold of individual objects of thought; its analysis of them, though performed by means of objective thought, is always into objects of thought again, into more and more recondite parts and operations, which it has no other means of expressing or thinking of, than by general page 31 terms, but which are always taken as objects thought of, as real conditions and conditionates. It is for the verification of the reality of the objective thoughts, for being sure that the steps in our theorising are genuine and not imaginary, that philosophical analysis is required in science, that is, the bringing each step in thought under immediate reflective inspection. We have no intuition of objects of thought as such, that is, in their completely determined individuality, with all their parts fully determinate and standing in perceptual order in relation to each other; that being their logical distinction from objective thoughts, which are always combinations of general terms. We therefore cannot verify our thoughts by their means. Indeed, if we had such intuitions, verification would be needless. Intuition would supersede it. Scientific omniscience would be universal. Again a great part of the reasoning in science is done by means of symbols, the meaning of which has been verified once for all, and does not require reflective analysis at every fresh use. In short, as I remarked above, the assumption of objects as ready made or absolute existents, originally made by common sense, is never retracted by science; and I may add is never entirely abstracted from, even in the fullest tide of theorising, and flush of occupation with objective thoughts. For science uses thought solely as a means ancillary to the discovery of the real nature and power of things, as existent objects, and not as existent thoughts.

* For the part here omitted the following short transition was substituted in delivery: Time compels me to omit what I have written here, concerning the steps by which we first analyse the world of common-sense objects into a stream or moving panorama of consciousness, and then secondly place the analysis of this second world, the stream of consciousness, over against the former one. But enough, I hope, has been said, to show at any rate where the conception of real conditions has its origin.