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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Meaning of Truth, by William James

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Title: The Meaning of Truth

Author: William James

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THE pivotal part of my book named Pragmatism is its account of the
relation called 'truth' which may obtain between an idea
(opinion, belief, statement, or what not) and its object. 'Truth,' I
there say, '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.

'Where our ideas [do] not copy definitely their object, what does
agreement with that object mean? ... Pragmatism asks its
usual question. "Grant an idea or belief to be true," it says, "what
concrete difference will its being true make in any one's actual
life? What experiences [may] be different from those which would
obtain if the belief were false? How will the truth be realized?
What, in short, is the truth's cash-value in experiential
terms?" The moment pragmatism asks this question, it sees the
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

'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 veriFICATION. Its validity is the process of
its validATION. [Footnote: But 'VERIFIABILITY,' I add, 'is as good
as verification. For one truth-process completed, there are a
million in our lives that function in [the] state of nascency. They
lead us towards direct verification; lead us into the surroundings
of the object 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.']

'To agree in the widest sense with a reality can only mean to be
guided either straight up to it or into its surroundings, or to be
put into such working touch with it as to handle either it or
something connected with it better than if we disagreed. Better
either intellectually or practically .... 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 be true of that reality.

'THE TRUE, to put it very briefly, 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.'

This account of truth, following upon the similar ones given by
Messrs. Dewey and Schiller, has occasioned the liveliest
discussion. Few critics have defended it, most of them have scouted
it. It seems evident that the subject is a hard one to understand,
under its apparent simplicity; and evident also, I think, that
the definitive settlement of it will mark a turning-point in the
history of epistemology, and consequently in that of general
philosophy. In order to make my own thought more accessible to those
who hereafter may have to study the question, I have collected in
the volume that follows all the work of my pen that bears directly
on the truth-question. My first statement was in 1884, in the
article that begins the present volume. The other papers follow in
the order of their publication. Two or three appear now for the
first time.

One of the accusations which I oftenest have had to meet is that of
making the truth of our religious beliefs consist in their 'feeling
good' to us, and in nothing else. I regret to have given some excuse
for this charge, by the unguarded language in which, in the book
Pragmatism, I spoke of the truth of the belief of certain
philosophers in the absolute. Explaining why I do not believe in the
absolute myself (p. 78), yet finding that it may secure 'moral
holidays' to those who need them, and is true in so far forth (if to
gain moral holidays be a good), [Footnote: Op. cit., p. 75.] I
offered this as a conciliatory olive-branch to my enemies. But they,
as is only too common with such offerings, trampled the gift under
foot and turned and rent the giver. I had counted too much on their
good will--oh for the rarity of Christian charity under the sun! Oh
for the rarity of ordinary secular intelligence also! I had supposed
it to be matter of common observation that, of two competing views
of the universe which in all other respects are equal, but of which
the first denies some vital human need while the second satisfies
it, the second will be favored by sane men for the simple reason
that it makes the world seem more rational. To choose the first view
under such circumstances would be an ascetic act, an act of
philosophic self-denial of which no normal human being would be
guilty. Using the pragmatic test of the meaning of concepts, I had
shown the concept of the absolute to MEAN nothing but the
holiday giver, the banisher of cosmic fear. One's objective
deliverance, when one says 'the absolute exists,' amounted, on my
showing, just to this, that 'some justification of a feeling
of security in presence of the universe,' exists, and that
systematically to refuse to cultivate a feeling of security would be
to do violence to a tendency in one's emotional life which
might well be respected as prophetic.

Apparently my absolutist critics fail to see the workings of their
own minds in any such picture, so all that I can do is to apologize,
and take my offering back. The absolute is true in NO way then, and
least of all, by the verdict of the critics, in the way which I

My treatment of 'God,' 'freedom,' and 'design' was similar.
Reducing, by the pragmatic test, the meaning of each of these
concepts to its positive experienceable operation, I showed them all
to mean the same thing, viz., the presence of 'promise' in the
world. 'God or no God?' means 'promise or no promise?' It seems to
me that the alternative is objective enough, being a question as to
whether the cosmos has one character or another, even though our own
provisional answer be made on subjective grounds. Nevertheless
christian and non-christian critics alike accuse me of summoning
people to say 'God exists,' EVEN WHEN HE DOESN'T EXIST, because
forsooth in my philosophy the 'truth' of the saying doesn't
really mean that he exists in any shape whatever, but only that to
say so feels good.

Most of the pragmatist and anti-pragmatist warfare is over what the
word 'truth' shall be held to signify, and not over any of the
facts embodied in truth-situations; for both pragmatists and anti-
pragmatists believe in existent objects, just as they believe in our
ideas of them. The difference is that when the pragmatists speak of
truth, they mean exclusively some thing about the ideas, namely
their workableness; whereas when anti-pragmatists speak of truth
they seem most often to mean something about the objects. Since the
pragmatist, if he agrees that an idea is 'really' true, also
agrees to whatever it says about its object; and since most anti-
pragmatists have already come round to agreeing that, if the object
exists, the idea that it does so is workable; there would seem so
little left to fight about that I might well be asked why instead of
reprinting my share in so much verbal wrangling, I do not show my
sense of 'values' by burning it all up.

I understand the question and I will give my answer. I am interested
in another doctrine in philosophy to which I give the name of
radical empiricism, and it seems to me that the establishment of the
pragmatist theory of truth is a step of first-rate importance in
making radical empiricism prevail. Radical empiricism consists first
of a postulate, next of a statement of fact, and finally of a
generalized conclusion.

The postulate is that the only things that shall be debatable among
philosophers shall be things definable in terms drawn from
experience. [Things of an unexperienceable nature may exist ad
libitum, but they form no part of the material for philosophic

The statement of fact is that the relations between things,
conjunctive as well as disjunctive, are just as much matters of
direct particular experience, neither more so nor less so, than the
things themselves.

The generalized conclusion is that therefore the parts of experience
hold together from next to next by relations that are themselves
parts of experience. The directly apprehended universe needs, in
short, no extraneous trans-empirical connective support, but
possesses in its own right a concatenated or continuous structure.

The great obstacle to radical empiricism in the contemporary mind is
the rooted rationalist belief that experience as immediately given
is all disjunction and no conjunction, and that to make one world
out of this separateness, a higher unifying agency must be there.
In the prevalent idealism this agency is represented as the absolute
all-witness which 'relates' things together by throwing
'categories' over them like a net. The most peculiar and unique,
perhaps, of all these categories is supposed to be the truth-
relation, which connects parts of reality in pairs, making of one of
them a knower, and of the other a thing known, yet which is itself
contentless experientially, neither describable, explicable, nor
reduceable to lower terms, and denotable only by uttering the name

The pragmatist view, on the contrary, of the truth-relation is that
it has a definite content, and that everything in it is
experienceable. Its whole nature can be told in positive terms. The
'workableness' which ideas must have, in order to be true, means
particular workings, physical or intellectual, actual or
possible, which they may set up from next to next inside of concrete
experience. Were this pragmatic contention admitted, one great point
in the victory of radical empiricism would also be scored, for the
relation between an object and the idea that truly knows it, is held
by rationalists to be nothing of this describable sort, but to stand
outside of all possible temporal experience; and on the relation,
so interpreted, rationalism is wonted to make its last most obdurate

Now the anti-pragmatist contentions which I try to meet in this
volume can be so easily used by rationalists as weapons of
resistance, not only to pragmatism but to radical empiricism also
(for if the truth-relation were transcendent, others might be so
too), that I feel strongly the strategical importance of having
them definitely met and got out of the way. What our critics most
persistently keep saying is that though workings go with truth, yet
they do not constitute it. It is numerically additional to them,
prior to them, explanatory OF them, and in no wise to be explained
BY them, we are incessantly told. The first point for our enemies to
establish, therefore, is that SOMETHING numerically additional and
prior to the workings is involved in the truth of an idea. Since the
OBJECT is additional, and usually prior, most rationalists plead IT,
and boldly accuse us of denying it. This leaves on the bystanders
the impression--since we cannot reasonably deny the existence of the
object--that our account of truth breaks down, and that our critics
have driven us from the field. Altho in various places in this
volume I try to refute the slanderous charge that we deny real
existence, I will say here again, for the sake of emphasis, that
the existence of the object, whenever the idea asserts it 'truly,'
is the only reason, in innumerable cases, why the idea does work
successfully, if it work at all; and that it seems an abuse
of language, to say the least, to transfer the word 'truth' from the
idea to the object's existence, when the falsehood of ideas that
won't work is explained by that existence as well as the truth of
those that will.

I find this abuse prevailing among my most accomplished adversaries.
But once establish the proper verbal custom, let the word
'truth' represent a property of the idea, cease to make it something
mysteriously connected with the object known, and the path opens
fair and wide, as I believe, to the discussion of radical empiricism
on its merits. The truth of an idea will then mean only its
workings, or that in it which by ordinary psychological laws sets up
those workings; it will mean neither the idea's object, nor anything
'saltatory' inside the idea, that terms drawn from experience cannot

One word more, ere I end this preface. A distinction is sometimes
made between Dewey, Schiller and myself, as if I, in supposing
the object's existence, made a concession to popular prejudice which
they, as more radical pragmatists, refuse to make. As I myself
understand these authors, we all three absolutely agree in admitting
the transcendency of the object (provided it be an experienceable
object) to the subject, in the truth-relation. Dewey in
particular has insisted almost ad nauseam that the whole meaning of
our cognitive states and processes lies in the way they intervene in
the control and revaluation of independent existences or facts. His
account of knowledge is not only absurd, but meaningless, unless
independent existences be there of which our ideas take account, and
for the transformation of which they work. But because he and
Schiller refuse to discuss objects and relations 'transcendent' in
the sense of being ALTOGETHER TRANS-EXPERIENTIAL, their critics
pounce on sentences in their writings to that effect to show that
they deny the existence WITHIN THE REALM OF EXPERIENCE of objects
external to the ideas that declare their presence there. [Footnote:
It gives me pleasure to welcome Professor Carveth Read into the
pragmatistic church, so far as his epistemology goes. See his
vigorous book, The Metaphysics of Nature, 2d Edition, Appendix A.
(London, Black, 1908.) The work What is Reality? by Francis Howe
Johnson (Boston, 1891), of which I make the acquaintance only while
correcting these proofs, contains some striking anticipations of the
later pragmatist view. The Psychology of Thinking, by Irving
E. Miller (New York, Macmillan Co., 1909), which has just
appeared, is one of the most convincing pragmatist document yet
published, tho it does not use the word 'pragmatism' at all. While I
am making references, I cannot refrain from inserting one to the
extraordinarily acute article by H. V. Knox. in the Quarterly Review
for April, 1909.]

It seems incredible that educated and apparently sincere
critics should so fail to catch their adversary's point of view.

What misleads so many of them is possibly also the fact that the
universes of discourse of Schiller, Dewey, and myself are panoramas
of different extent, and that what the one postulates explicitly the
other provisionally leaves only in a state of implication, while the
reader thereupon considers it to be denied. Schiller's universe is
the smallest, being essentially a psychological one. He starts with
but one sort of thing, truth-claims, but is led ultimately to the
independent objective facts which they assert, inasmuch as the most
successfully validated of all claims is that such facts are
there. My universe is more essentially epistemological. I start with
two things, the objective facts and the claims, and indicate which
claims, the facts being there, will work successfully as
the latter's substitutes and which will not. I call the former
claims true. Dewey's panorama, if I understand this colleague, is
the widest of the three, but I refrain from giving my own account of
its complexity. Suffice it that he holds as firmly as I do to
objects independent of our judgments. If I am wrong in saying this,
he must correct me. I decline in this matter to be corrected at
second hand.

I have not pretended in the following pages to consider all the
critics of my account of truth, such as Messrs. Taylor, Lovejoy,
Gardiner, Bakewell, Creighton, Hibben, Parodi, Salter, Carus,
Lalande, Mentre, McTaggart, G. E. Moore, Ladd and others,
especially not Professor Schinz, who has published under the title
of Anti-pragmatisme an amusing sociological romance. Some of these
critics seem to me to labor under an inability almost pathetic, to
understand the thesis which they seek to refute. I imagine that most
of their difficulties have been answered by anticipation elsewhere
in this volume, and I am sure that my readers will thank me for not
adding more repetition to the fearful amount that is already there.

95 IRVING ST., CAMBRIDGE (MASS.), August, 1909.


















[Footnote: Read before the Aristotelian Society, December 1,
1884, and first published in Mind, vol. x (1885).--This, and
the following articles have received a very slight verbal
revision, consisting mostly in the omission of redundancy.]

The following inquiry is (to use a distinction familiar
to readers of Mr. Shadworth Hodgson) not an inquiry into
the 'how it comes,' but into the 'what it is' of
cognition. What we call acts of cognition are evidently
realized through what we call brains and their events,
whether there be 'souls' dynamically connected with the
brains or not. But with neither brains nor souls has this
essay any business to transact. In it we shall simply
assume that cognition IS produced, somehow, and limit
ourselves to asking what elements it contains, what
factors it implies.

Cognition is a function of consciousness. The first factor it
implies is therefore a state of consciousness wherein the cognition
shall take place. Having elsewhere used the word 'feeling' to
designate generically all states of consciousness considered
subjectively, or without respect to their possible function, I shall
then say that, whatever elements an act of cognition may imply
besides, it at least implies the existence of a FEELING. [If the
reader share the current antipathy to the word 'feeling,' he may
substitute for it, wherever I use it, the word 'idea,' taken in the
old broad Lockian sense, or he may use the clumsy phrase 'state of
consciousness,' or finally he may say 'thought' instead.]

Now it is to be observed that the common consent of mankind has
agreed that some feelings are cognitive and some are simple
facts having a subjective, or, what one might almost call a
physical, existence, but no such self-transcendent function as
would be implied in their being pieces of knowledge. Our task
is again limited here. We are not to ask, 'How is self-transcendence
possible?' We are only to ask, 'How comes it that common sense
has assigned a number of cases in which it is assumed not only to be
possible but actual? And what are the marks used by common sense
to distinguish those cases from the rest?' In short, our inquiry is
a chapter in descriptive psychology,--hardly anything more.

Condillac embarked on a quest similar to this by his famous
hypothesis of a statue to which various feelings were successively
imparted. Its first feeling was supposed to be one of fragrance. But
to avoid all possible complication with the question of genesis, let
us not attribute even to a statue the possession of our imaginary
feeling. Let us rather suppose it attached to no matter, nor
localized at any point in space, but left swinging IN VACUO, as
it were, by the direct creative FIAT of a god. And let us also, to
escape entanglement with difficulties about the physical or
psychical nature of its 'object' not call it a feeling of
fragrance or of any other determinate sort, but limit ourselves to
assuming that it is a feeling of Q. What is true of it under this
abstract name will be no less true of it in any more particular
shape (such as fragrance, pain, hardness) which the reader may

Now, if this feeling of Q be the only creation of the god, it will
of course form the entire universe. And if, to escape the cavils of
that large class of persons who believe that SEMPER IDEM SENTIRE AC
NON SENTIRE are the same, [Footnote:1 'The Relativity of Knowledge,'
held in this sense, is, it may be observed in passing, one of the
oddest of philosophic superstitions. Whatever facts may be cited in
its favor are due to the properties of nerve-tissue, which may be
exhausted by too prolonged an excitement. Patients with neuralgias
that last unremittingly for days can, however, assure us that
the limits of this nerve-law are pretty widely drawn. But if
we physically could get a feeling that should last
eternally unchanged, what atom of logical or psychological argument
is there to prove that it would not be felt as long as it
lasted, and felt for just what it is, all that time? The reason for
the opposite prejudice seems to be our reluctance to think that
so stupid a thing as such a feeling would necessarily be, should be
allowed to fill eternity with its presence. An
interminable acquaintance, leading to no knowledge-about,--such
would be its condition.] we allow the feeling to be of as short a
duration as they like, that universe will only need to last an
infinitesimal part of a second. The feeling in question will thus be
reduced to its fighting weight, and all that befalls it in the way
of a cognitive function must be held to befall in the brief
instant of its quickly snuffed-out life,--a life, it will also be
noticed, that has no other moment of consciousness either preceding
or following it.

Well now, can our little feeling, thus left alone in the universe,--
for the god and we psychological critics may be supposed left out of
the account,--can the feeling, I say, be said to have any sort of a
cognitive function? For it to KNOW, there must be something to be
known. What is there, on the present supposition? One may reply,
'the feeling's content q.' But does it not seem more proper to call
this the feeling's QUALITY than its content? Does not the
word 'content' suggest that the feeling has already dirempted itself
as an act from its content as an object? And would it be quite safe
to assume so promptly that the quality q of a feeling is one and the
same thing with a feeling of the quality q? The quality q, so far,
is an entirely subjective fact which the feeling carries so to speak
endogenously, or in its pocket. If any one pleases to dignify so
simple a fact as this by the name of knowledge, of course
nothing can prevent him. But let us keep closer to the path of
common usage, and reserve the name knowledge for the cognition of
'realities,' meaning by realities things that exist independently of
the feeling through which their cognition occurs. If the content of
the feeling occur nowhere in the universe outside of the feeling
itself, and perish with the feeling, common usage refuses to call it
a reality, and brands it as a subjective feature of the
feeling's constitution, or at the most as the feeling's DREAM.

For the feeling to be cognitive in the specific sense, then, it must
be self-transcendent; and we must prevail upon the god to CREATE A
REALITY OUTSIDE OF IT to correspond to its intrinsic quality Q. Thus
only can it be redeemed from the condition of being a solipsism. If
now the new created reality RESEMBLE the feeling's quality Q I say
that the feeling may be held by us TO BE COGNIZANT OF THAT REALITY.

This first instalment of my thesis is sure to be attacked. But one
word before defending it 'Reality' has become our warrant for
calling a feeling cognitive; but what becomes our warrant for
calling anything reality? The only reply is--the faith of the
present critic or inquirer. At every moment of his life he
finds himself subject to a belief in SOME realities, even though his
realities of this year should prove to be his illusions of the next.
Whenever he finds that the feeling he is studying contemplates what
he himself regards as a reality, he must of course admit the feeling
itself to be truly cognitive. We are ourselves the critics here; and
we shall find our burden much lightened by being allowed to take
reality in this relative and provisional way. Every science must
make some assumptions. Erkenntnisstheoretiker are but fallible
mortals. When they study the function of cognition, they do it by
means of the same function in themselves. And knowing that the
fountain cannot go higher than its source, we should promptly
confess that our results in this field are affected by our own
If our hearers agree with us about what are to be held 'realities,'
they will perhaps also agree to the reality of our doctrine of the
way in which they are known. We cannot ask for more.

Our terminology shall follow the spirit of these remarks. We will
deny the function of knowledge to any feeling whose quality or
content we do not ourselves believe to exist outside of that feeling
as well as in it. We may call such a feeling a dream if we like; we
shall have to see later whether we can call it a fiction or an

To revert now to our thesis. Some persons will immediately cry out,
'How CAN a reality resemble a feeling?' Here we find how wise we
were to name the quality of the feeling by an algebraic letter Q. We
flank the whole difficulty of resemblance between an inner state
and an outward reality, by leaving it free to any one to postulate
as the reality whatever sort of thing he thinks CAN resemble a
feeling,--if not an outward thing, then another feeling like
the first one,--the mere feeling Q in the critic's mind for example.
Evading thus this objection, we turn to another which is sure to
be urged.

It will come from those philosophers to whom 'thought,' in the sense
of a knowledge of relations, is the all in all of mental life; and
who hold a merely feeling consciousness to be no better--one would
sometimes say from their utterances, a good deal worse--than no
consciousness at all. Such phrases as these, for example, are common
to-day in the mouths of those who claim to walk in the footprints
of Kant and Hegel rather than in the ancestral English paths: 'A
perception detached from all others, "left out of the heap we call a
mind," being out of all relation, has no qualities--is simply
nothing. We can no more consider it than we can see vacancy.' 'It is
simply in itself fleeting, momentary, unnameable (because while we
name it it has become another), and for the very same reason
unknowable, the very negation of knowability.' 'Exclude from what we
have considered real all qualities constituted by relation, we find
that none are left.'

Altho such citations as these from the writings of Professor Green
might be multiplied almost indefinitely, they would hardly repay
the pains of collection, so egregiously false is the doctrine they
teach. Our little supposed feeling, whatever it may be, from the
cognitive point of view, whether a bit of knowledge or a dream, is
certainly no psychical zero. It is a most positively and definitely
qualified inner fact, with a complexion all its own. Of course there
are many mental facts which it is NOT. It knows Q, if Q be a
reality, with a very minimum of knowledge. It neither dates nor
locates it. It neither classes nor names it. And it neither knows
itself as a feeling, nor contrasts itself with other feelings, nor
estimates its own duration or intensity. It is, in short, if there
is no more of it than this, a most dumb and helpless and useless
kind of thing.

But if we must describe it by so many negations, and if it can say
nothing ABOUT itself or ABOUT anything else, by what right do we
deny that it is a psychical zero? And may not the 'relationists' be
right after all?

In the innocent looking word 'about' lies the solution of this
riddle; and a simple enough solution it is when frankly looked at. A
quotation from a too seldom quoted book, the Exploratio Philosophica
of John Grote (London, 1865), p. 60, will form the best
introduction to it.

'Our knowledge,' writes Grote, 'may be contemplated in either of two
ways, or, to use other words, we may speak in a double manner of
the "object" of knowledge. That is, we may either use language thus:
we KNOW a thing, a man, etc.; or we may use it thus: we know such
and such things ABOUT the thing, the man, etc. Language in general,
following its true logical instinct, distinguishes between these two
applications of the notion of knowledge, the one being yvwvai,
noscere, kennen, connaitre, the other being eidevai, scire, wissen,
savoir. In the origin, the former may be considered more what I have
called phenomenal--it is the notion of knowledge as ACQUAINTANCE or
familiarity with what is known; which notion is perhaps more akin to
the phenomenal bodily communication, and is less purely
intellectual than the other; it is the kind of knowledge which we
have of a thing by the presentation to the senses or the
representation of it in picture or type, a Vorstellung. The
other, which is what we express in judgments or propositions, what
is embodied in Begriffe or concepts without any necessary
imaginative representation, is in its origin the more
intellectual notion of knowledge. There is no reason, however, why
we should not express our knowledge, whatever its kind, in
either manner, provided only we do not confusedly express it, in the
same proposition or piece of reasoning, in both.'

Now obviously if our supposed feeling of Q is (if knowledge at all)
only knowledge of the mere acquaintance-type, it is milking a he-
goat, as the ancients would have said, to try to extract from it
any deliverance ABOUT anything under the sun, even about itself. And
it is as unjust, after our failure, to turn upon it and call it a
psychical nothing, as it would be, after our fruitless attack upon
the billy-goat, to proclaim the non-lactiferous character of
the whole goat-tribe. But the entire industry of the Hegelian school
in trying to shove simple sensation out of the pale of philosophic
recognition is founded on this false issue. It is always the
'speechlessness' of sensation, its inability to make any
'statement,'[Footnote: See, for example, Green's Introduction to
Hume's Treatise of Human Nature, p. 36.] that is held to make the
very notion of it meaningless, and to justify the student of
knowledge in scouting it out of existence. 'Significance,' in the
sense of standing as the sign of other mental states, is taken to be
the sole function of what mental states we have; and from the
perception that our little primitive sensation has as yet no
significance in this literal sense, it is an easy step to call it
first meaningless, next senseless, then vacuous, and finally to
brand it as absurd and inadmissible. But in this universal
liquidation, this everlasting slip, slip, slip, of
direct acquaintance into knowledge-ABOUT, until at last nothing is
left about which the knowledge can be supposed to obtain, does not
all 'significance' depart from the situation? And when our knowledge
about things has reached its never so complicated perfection, must
there not needs abide alongside of it and inextricably mixed in with
it some acquaintance with WHAT things all this knowledge is about?

Now, our supposed little feeling gives a WHAT; and if other feelings
should succeed which remember the first, its WHAT may stand as
subject or predicate of some piece of knowledge-about, of some
judgment, perceiving relations between it and other WHATS which
the other feelings may know. The hitherto dumb Q will then receive a
name and be no longer speechless. But every name, as students
of logic know, has its 'denotation'; and the denotation always means
some reality or content, relationless as extra or with its
internal relations unanalyzed, like the Q which our
primitive sensation is supposed to know. No relation-
expressing proposition is possible except on the basis of a
preliminary acquaintance with such 'facts,' with such contents, as
this. Let the Q be fragrance, let it be toothache, or let it be a
more complex kind of feeling, like that of the full-moon swimming in
her blue abyss, it must first come in that simple shape, and be held
fast in that first intention, before any knowledge ABOUT it can be
attained. The knowledge ABOUT it is IT with a context added. Undo
IT, and what is added cannot be CONtext. [Footnote: If A enters and
B exclaims, 'Didn't you see my brother on the stairs?' we all hold
that A may answer, 'I saw him, but didn't know he was your brother';
ignorance of brotherhood not abolishing power to see. But those who,
on account of the unrelatedness of the first facts with which we
become acquainted, deny them to be 'known' to us, ought in
consistency to maintain that if A did not perceive the relationship
of the man on the stairs to B, it was impossible he should
have noticed him at all.]

Let us say no more then about this objection, but enlarge our
thesis, thus: If there be in the universe a Q other than the Q in
the feeling, the latter may have acquaintance with an entity
ejective to itself; an acquaintance moreover, which, as mere
acquaintance, it would be hard to imagine susceptible either of
improvement or increase, being in its way complete; and which would
oblige us (so long as we refuse not to call acquaintance
knowledge) to say not only that the feeling is cognitive, but that
all qualities of feeling, SO LONG AS THERE IS ANYTHING OUTSIDE OF
THEM WHICH THEY RESEMBLE, are feelings OF qualities of existence,
and perceptions of outward fact.

The point of this vindication of the cognitive function of the first
feeling lies, it will be noticed, in the discovery that q does exist
elsewhere than in it. In case this discovery were not made, we could
not be sure the feeling was cognitive; and in case there were
nothing outside to be discovered, we should have to call the feeling
a dream. But the feeling itself cannot make the discovery. Its own q
is the only q it grasps; and its own nature is not a particle
altered by having the self-transcendent function of cognition either
added to it or taken away. The function is accidental; synthetic,
not analytic; and falls outside and not inside its being. [Footnote:
It seems odd to call so important a function accidental, but I do
not see how we can mend the matter. Just as, if we start with the
reality and ask how it may come to be known, we can only reply by
invoking a feeling which shall RECONSTRUCT it in its own more
private fashion; so, if we start with the feeling and ask how it may
come to know, we can only reply by invoking a reality which shall
RECONSTRUCT it in its own more public fashion. In either case,
however, the datum we start with remains just what it was. One may
easily get lost in verbal mysteries about the difference between
quality of feeling and feeling of quality, between receiving and
reconstructing the knowledge of a reality. But at the end we must
confess that the notion of real cognition involves an
unmediated dualism of the knower and the known. See Bowne's
Metaphysics, New York, 1882, pp. 403-412, and various passages in
Lotze, e.g., Logic, Sec. 308. ['Unmediated' is a bad word to
have used.--1909.]]

A feeling feels as a gun shoots. If there be nothing to be felt or
hit, they discharge themselves ins blaue hinein. If, however,
something starts up opposite them, they no longer simply shoot or
feel, they hit and know.

But with this arises a worse objection than any yet made. We the
critics look on and see a real q and a feeling of q; and because the
two resemble each other, we say the one knows the other. But what
right have we to say this until we know that the feeling of q means
to stand for or represent just that SAME other q? Suppose, instead
of one q, a number of real q's in the field. If the gun shoots and
hits, we can easily see which one of them it hits. But how can we
distinguish which one the feeling knows? It knows the one it stands
for. But which one DOES it stand for? It declares no intention in
this respect. It merely resembles; it resembles all indifferently;
and resembling, per se, is not necessarily representing or standing-
for at all. Eggs resemble each other, but do not on that account
represent, stand for, or know each other. And if you say this
is because neither of them is a FEELING, then imagine the world to
consist of nothing but toothaches, which ARE feelings, feelings
resembling each other exactly,--would they know each other the
better for all that?

The case of q being a bare quality like that of toothache-pain is
quite different from that of its being a concrete individual thing.
There is practically no test for deciding whether the feeling of a
bare quality means to represent it or not. It can DO nothing to the
quality beyond resembling it, simply because an abstract quality is
a thing to which nothing can be done. Being without context or
environment or principium individuationis, a quiddity with
no haecceity, a platonic idea, even duplicate editions of such a
quality (were they possible), would be indiscernible, and no sign
could be given, no result altered, whether the feeling I meant to
stand for this edition or for that, or whether it simply resembled
the quality without meaning to stand for it at all.

If now we grant a genuine pluralism of editions to the quality q, by
assigning to each a CONTEXT which shall distinguish it from its
mates, we may proceed to explain which edition of it the feeling
knows, by extending our principle of resemblance to the context too,
and saying the feeling knows the particular q whose context it most
exactly duplicates. But here again the theoretic doubt recurs:
duplication and coincidence, are they knowledge? The gun shows which
q it points to and hits, by BREAKING it. Until the feeling can show
us which q it points to and knows, by some equally flagrant token,
why are we not free to deny that it either points to or knows any
one of the REAL q's at all, and to affirm that the
word 'resemblance' exhaustively describes its relation to the

Well, as a matter of fact, every actual feeling DOES show us, quite
as flagrantly as the gun, which q it points to; and practically in
concrete cases the matter is decided by an element we have hitherto
left out. Let us pass from abstractions to possible instances, and
ask our obliging deus ex machina to frame for us a richer world. Let
him send me, for example, a dream of the death of a certain man, and
let him simultaneously cause the man to die. How would our practical
instinct spontaneously decide whether this were a case of cognition
of the reality, or only a sort of marvellous coincidence of a
resembling reality with my dream? Just such puzzling cases as this
are what the 'society for psychical research' is busily
collecting and trying to interpret in the most reasonable way.

If my dream were the only one of the kind I ever had in my life, if
the context of the death in the dream differed in many particulars
from the real death's context, and if my dream led me to no action
about the death, unquestionably we should all call it a strange
coincidence, and naught besides. But if the death in the dream had a
long context, agreeing point for point with every feature that
attended the real death; if I were constantly having such
dreams, all equally perfect, and if on awaking I had a habit of
ACTING immediately as if they were true and so getting 'the start'
of my more tardily instructed neighbors,--we should in all
probability have to admit that I had some mysterious kind of
clairvoyant power, that my dreams in an inscrutable way meant just
those realities they figured, and that the word 'coincidence' failed
to touch the root of the matter. And whatever doubts any one
preserved would completely vanish, if it should appear that from the
midst of my dream I had the power of INTERFERING with the course of
the reality, and making the events in it turn this way or that,
according as I dreamed they should. Then at least it would be
certain that my waking critics and my dreaming self were dealing
with the SAME.

And thus do men invariably decide such a question. THE FALLING OF
THE DREAM'S PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES into the real world, and the
EXTENT of the resemblance between the two worlds are the criteria
they instinctively use. [Footnote: The thoroughgoing objector might,
it is true, still return to the charge, and, granting a dream which
should completely mirror the real universe, and all the actions
dreamed in which should be instantly matched by duplicate actions in
this universe, still insist that this is nothing more than harmony,
and that it is as far as ever from being made clear whether
the dream-world refers to that other world, all of whose details it
so closely copies. This objection leads deep into metaphysics. I do
not impugn its importance, and justice obliges me to say that but
for the teachings of my colleague, Dr. Josiah Royce, I should
neither have grasped its full force nor made my own practical and
psychological point of view as clear to myself as it is. On this
occasion I prefer to stick steadfastly to that point of view; but I
hope that Dr. Royce's more fundamental criticism of the function of
cognition may ere long see the light. [I referred in this note to
Royce's religious aspect of philosophy, then about to be published.
This powerful book maintained that the notion of REFERRING involved
that of an inclusive mind that shall own both the real q and the
mental q, and use the latter expressly as a representative symbol of
the former. At the time I could not refute this transcendentalist
opinion. Later, largely through the influence of Professor D. S.
Miller (see his essay 'The meaning of truth and error,' in the
Philosophical Review for 1893, vol. 2 p. 403) I came to see that any
definitely experienceable workings would serve as
intermediaries quite as well as the absolute mind's
intentions would.]] All feeling is for the sake of action, all
feeling results in action,--to-day no argument is needed to prove
these truths. But by a most singular disposition of nature which we
may conceive to have been different, MY FEELINGS ACT UPON THE
REALITIES WITHIN MY CRITIC'S WORLD. Unless, then, my critic can
prove that my feeling does not 'point to' those realities which it
acts upon, how can he continue to doubt that he and I are alike
cognizant of one and the same real world? If the action is performed
in one world, that must be the world the feeling intends; if in
another world, THAT is the world the feeling has in mind. If your
feeling bear no fruits in my world, I call it utterly detached from
my world; I call it a solipsism, and call its world a dream-world.
If your toothache do not prompt you to ACT as if I had a toothache,
nor even as if I had a separate existence; if you neither say to me,
'I know now how you must suffer!' nor tell me of a remedy, I deny
that your feeling, however it may resemble mine, is really cognizant
of mine. It gives no SIGN of being cognizant, and such a sign is
absolutely necessary to my admission that it is.

Before I can think you to mean my world, you must affect my world;
before I can think you to mean much of it, you must affect much of
it; and before I can be sure you mean it AS I DO, you must affect it
JUST AS I SHOULD if I were in your place. Then I, your critic, will
gladly believe that we are thinking, not only of the same reality,
but that we are thinking it ALIKE, and thinking of much of its

Without the practical effects of our neighbor's feelings on our own
world, we should never suspect the existence of our
neighbor's feelings at all, and of course should never
find ourselves playing the critic as we do in this article. The
constitution of nature is very peculiar. In the world of each of us
are certain objects called human bodies, which move about and act on
all the other objects there, and the occasions of their action are
in the main what the occasions of our action would be, were they our
bodies. They use words and gestures, which, if we used them, would
have thoughts behind them,--no mere thoughts uberhaupt, however, but
strictly determinate thoughts. I think you have the notion of
fire in general, because I see you act towards this fire in my room
just as I act towards it,--poke it and present your person towards
it, and so forth. But that binds me to believe that if you feel
'fire' at all, THIS is the fire you feel. As a matter of fact,
whenever we constitute ourselves into psychological critics, it is
not by dint of discovering which reality a feeling 'resembles' that
we find out which reality it means. We become first aware of which
one it means, and then we suppose that to be the one it resembles.
We see each other looking at the same objects, pointing to them and
turning them over in various ways, and thereupon we hope and trust
that all of our several feelings resemble the reality and each
other. But this is a thing of which we are never theoretically sure.
Still, it would practically be a case of grubelsucht, if a ruffian
were assaulting and drubbing my body, to spend much time in subtle
speculation either as to whether his vision of my body resembled
mine, or as to whether the body he really MEANT to insult were not
some body in his mind's eye, altogether other from my own. The
practical point of view brushes such metaphysical cobwebs away. If
what he have in mind be not MY body, why call we it a body at all?
His mind is inferred by me as a term, to whose existence we trace
the things that happen. The inference is quite void if the term,
once inferred, be separated from its connection with the body
that made me infer it, and connected with another that is not mine
at all. No matter for the metaphysical puzzle of how our two minds,
the ruffian's and mine, can mean the same body. Men who see each
other's bodies sharing the same space, treading the same earth,
splashing the same water, making the same air resonant, and pursuing
the same game and eating out of the same dish, will never
practically believe in a pluralism of solipsistic worlds.

Where, however, the actions of one mind seem to take no effect in
the world of the other, the case is different. This is what happens
in poetry and fiction. Every one knows Ivanhoe, for example; but so
long as we stick to the story pure and simple without regard to
the facts of its production, few would hesitate to admit that there
are as many different Ivanhoes as there are different minds
cognizant of the story. [Footnote: That is, there is no REAL
'Ivanhoe,' not even the one in Sir Walter Scott's mind as he was
writing the story. That one is only the FIRST one of the Ivanhoe-
solipsisms. It is quite true we can make it the real Ivanhoe if we
like, and then say that the other Ivanhoes know it or do not know
it, according as they refer to and resemble it or no. This is done
by bringing in Sir Walter Scott himself as the author of the real
Ivanhoe, and so making a complex object of both. This object,
however, is not a story pure and simple. It has dynamic
relations with the world common to the experience of all the
readers. Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe got itself printed in volumes
which we all can handle, and to any one of which we can refer to
see which of our versions be the true one, i.e., the original one
of Scott himself. We can see the manuscript; in short we can
get back to the Ivanhoe in Scott's mind by many an avenue
and channel of this real world of our experience,--a thing we can by
no means do with either the Ivanhoe or the Rebecca, either the
Templar or the Isaac of York, of the story taken simply as such, and
detached from the conditions of its production. Everywhere, then, we
have the same test: can we pass continuously from two objects in two
minds to a third object which seems to be in BOTH minds, because
each mind feels every modification imprinted on it by the other? If
so, the first two objects named are derivatives, to say the least,
from the same third object, and may be held, if they resemble each
other, to refer to one and the same reality.] The fact that all
these Ivanhoes RESEMBLE each other does not prove the contrary. But
if an alteration invented by one man in his version were to
reverberate immediately through all the other versions, and
produce changes therein, we should then easily agree that all these
thinkers were thinking the SAME Ivanhoe, and that, fiction or no
fiction, it formed a little world common to them all.

Having reached this point, we may take up our thesis and improve it
again. Still calling the reality by the name of q and letting
the critic's feeling vouch for it, we can say that any other feeling
will be held cognizant of q, provided it both resemble q, and refer
to q, as shown by its either modifying q directly, or modifying some
other reality, p or r, which the critic knows to be continuous with
resemble without operating, it is a dream; if it operate without
resembling, it is an error. [Footnote: Among such errors are those
cases in which our feeling operates on a reality which it does
partially resemble, and yet does not intend: as for instance, when
I take up your umbrella, meaning to take my own. I cannot be said
here either to know your umbrella, or my own, which latter my
feeling more completely resembles. I am mistaking them both,
misrepresenting their context, etc.

We have spoken in the text as if the critic were necessarily one
mind, and the feeling criticised another. But the criticised feeling
and its critic may be earlier and later feelings of the same mind,
and here it might seem that we could dispense with the notion of
operating, to prove that critic and criticised are referring to and
meaning to represent the SAME. We think we see our past feelings
directly, and know what they refer to without appeal. At the worst,
we can always fix the intention of our present feeling and MAKE it
refer to the same reality to which any one of our past feelings may
have referred. So we need no 'operating' here, to make sure that the
feeling and its critic mean the same real q. Well, all the better if
this is so! We have covered the more complex and difficult case in
our text, and we may let this easier one go. The main thing
at present is to stick to practical psychology, and ignore
metaphysical difficulties.

One more remark. Our formula contains, it will be observed, nothing
to correspond to the great principle of cognition laid down by
Professor Ferrier in his Institutes of Metaphysic and apparently
adopted by all the followers of Fichte, the principle, namely, that
for knowledge to be constituted there must be knowledge of the
knowing mind along with whatever else is known: not q, as we have
supposed, but q PLUS MYSELF, must be the least I can know. It is
certain that the common sense of mankind never dreams of using any
such principle when it tries to discriminate between conscious
states that are knowledge and conscious states that are not. So
that Ferrier's principle, if it have any relevancy at all, must
have relevancy to the metaphysical possibility of consciousness
at large, and not to the practically recognized constitution
of cognitive consciousness. We may therefore pass it by
without further notice here.] It is to be feared that the reader may
consider this formula rather insignificant and obvious, and hardly
worth the labor of so many pages, especially when he considers that
the only cases to which it applies are percepts, and that the whole
field of symbolic or conceptual thinking seems to elude its grasp.
Where the reality is either a material thing or act, or a state of
the critic's consciousness, I may both mirror it in my mind and
operate upon it--in the latter case indirectly, of course--as
soon as I perceive it. But there are many cognitions, universally
allowed to be such, which neither mirror nor operate on their

In the whole field of symbolic thought we are universally held both
to intend, to speak of, and to reach conclusions about--to know in
short--particular realities, without having in our subjective
consciousness any mind-stuff that resembles them even in a remote
degree. We are instructed about them by language which awakens no
consciousness beyond its sound; and we know WHICH realities they
are by the faintest and most fragmentary glimpse of some remote
context they may have and by no direct imagination of themselves. As
minds may differ here, let me speak in the first person. I am sure
that my own current thinking has WORDS for its almost exclusive
subjective material, words which are made intelligible by being
referred to some reality that lies beyond the horizon of direct
consciousness, and of which I am only aware as of a terminal
MORE existing in a certain direction, to which the words might lead
but do not lead yet. The SUBJECT, or TOPIC, of the words is
usually something towards which I mentally seem to pitch them in a
backward way, almost as I might jerk my thumb over my shoulder to
point at something, without looking round, if I were only entirely
sure that it was there. The UPSHOT, or CONCLUSION, of the words is
something towards which I seem to incline my head forwards, as if
giving assent to its existence, tho all my mind's eye catches sight
of may be some tatter of an image connected with it, which tatter,
however, if only endued with the feeling of familiarity and reality,
makes me feel that the whole to which it belongs is rational and
real, and fit to be let pass.

Here then is cognitive consciousness on a large scale, and yet what
it knows, it hardly resembles in the least degree. The formula last
laid down for our thesis must therefore be made more complete. We
may now express it thus: A PERCEPT KNOWS WHATEVER REALITY IT
The latter percept may be either sensation or sensorial idea; and
when I say the thought must TERMINATE in such a percept, I mean that
it must ultimately be capable of leading up thereto,--by the way of

Is an incomplete 'thought about' that reality, that reality is its
'topic,' etc. experience, if the terminal feeling be a sensation; by
the way of logical or habitual suggestion, if it be only an image in
the mind.

Let an illustration make this plainer. I open the first book I take
up, and read the first sentence that meets my eye: 'Newton saw
the handiwork of God in the heavens as plainly as Paley in the
animal kingdom.' I immediately look back and try to analyze the
subjective state in which I rapidly apprehended this sentence as I
read it. In the first place there was an obvious feeling that the
sentence was intelligible and rational and related to the world of
realities. There was also a sense of agreement or harmony between
'Newton,' 'Paley,' and 'God.' There was no apparent image connected
with the words 'heavens,' or 'handiwork,' or 'God'; they were
words merely. With 'animal kingdom' I think there was the faintest
consciousness (it may possibly have been an image of the steps) of
the Museum of Zoology in the town of Cambridge where I write. With
'Paley' there was an equally faint consciousness of a small
dark leather book; and with 'Newton' a pretty distinct vision of the
right-hand lower corner of curling periwig. This is all the mind-
stuff I can discover in my first consciousness of the meaning of
this sentence, and I am afraid that even not all of this would have
been present had I come upon the sentence in a genuine reading of
the book, and not picked it out for an experiment. And yet my
consciousness was truly cognitive. The sentence is 'about realities'
which my psychological critic--for we must not forget him--
acknowledges to be such, even as he acknowledges my distinct feeling
that they ARE realities, and my acquiescence in the general
rightness of what I read of them, to be true knowledge on my part.

Now what justifies my critic in being as lenient as this? This
singularly inadequate consciousness of mine, made up of symbols
that neither resemble nor affect the realities they stand for,--how
can he be sure it is cognizant of the very realities he has himself
in mind?

He is sure because in countless like cases he has seen such
inadequate and symbolic thoughts, by developing themselves,
terminate in percepts that practically modified and presumably
resembled his own. By 'developing' themselves is meant obeying their
tendencies, following up the suggestions nascently present in them,
working in the direction in which they seem to point, clearing up
the penumbra, making distinct the halo, unravelling the
fringe, which is part of their composition, and in the midst of
which their more substantive kernel of subjective content seems
consciously to lie. Thus I may develop my thought in the
Paley direction by procuring the brown leather volume and bringing
the passages about the animal kingdom before the critic's eyes. I
may satisfy him that the words mean for me just what they mean for
him, by showing him IN CONCRETO the very animals and their
arrangements, of which the pages treat. I may get Newton's works and
portraits; or if I follow the line of suggestion of the wig, I may
smother my critic in seventeenth-century matters pertaining to
Newton's environment, to show that the word 'Newton' has the same
LOCUS and relations in both our minds. Finally I may, by act and
word, persuade him that what I mean by God and the heavens and
the analogy of the handiworks, is just what he means also.

My demonstration in the last resort is to his SENSES. My thought
makes me act on his senses much as he might himself act on
them, were he pursuing the consequences of a perception of his own.
Practically then MY thought terminates in HIS realities. He
willingly supposes it, therefore, to be OF them, and inwardly to
RESEMBLE what his own thought would be, were it of the same symbolic
sort as mine. And the pivot and fulcrum and support of his
mental persuasion, is the sensible operation which my thought leads
me, or may lead, to effect--the bringing of Paley's book, of
Newton's portrait, etc., before his very eyes.

In the last analysis, then, we believe that we all know and think
about and talk about the same world, because WE BELIEVE OUR
PERCEPTS ARE POSSESSED BY US IN COMMON. And we believe this because
the percepts of each one of us seem to be changed in consequence of
changes in the percepts of someone else. What I am for you is in the
first instance a percept of your own. Unexpectedly, however, I open
and show you a book, uttering certain sounds the while. These acts
are also your percepts, but they so resemble acts of yours with
feelings prompting them, that you cannot doubt I have the
feelings too, or that the book is one book felt in both our worlds.
That it is felt in the same way, that my feelings of it resemble
yours, is something of which we never can be sure, but which we
assume as the simplest hypothesis that meets the case. As a matter
of fact, we never ARE sure of it, and, as ERKENNTNISSTHEORETIKER, we
can only say that of feelings that should NOT resemble each other,
both could not know the same thing at the same time in the same way.
[Footnote: Though both might terminate in the same thing and be
incomplete thoughts 'about' it.] If each holds to its own percept
as the reality, it is bound to say of the other percept, that,
though it may INTEND that reality, and prove this by working change
upon it, yet, if it do not resemble it, it is all false and wrong.
[Footnote: The difference between Idealism and Realism is
immaterial here. What is said in the text is consistent with
either theory. A law by which my percept shall change yours
directly is no more mysterious than a law by which it shall
first change a physical reality, and then the reality change
yours. In either case you and I seem knit into a continuous
world, and not to form a pair of solipsisms.]

If this be so of percepts, how much more so of higher modes of
thought! Even in the sphere of sensation individuals are
probably different enough. Comparative study of the simplest
conceptual elements seems to show a wider divergence still. And when
it comes to general theories and emotional attitudes towards life,
it is indeed time to say with Thackeray, 'My friend, two different
universes walk about under your hat and under mine.'

What can save us at all and prevent us from flying asunder into a
chaos of mutually repellent solipsisms? Through what can our
several minds commune? Through nothing but the mutual resemblance of
those of our perceptual feelings which have this power of modifying
which must also resemble their realities or not know them aright at
all. In such pieces of knowledge-of-acquaintance all our knowledge-
about must end, and carry a sense of this possible termination as
part of its content. These percepts, these termini, these sensible
things, these mere matters-of-acquaintance, are the only
realities we ever directly know, and the whole history of our
thought is the history of our substitution of one of them for
another, and the reduction of the substitute to the status of a
conceptual sign. Contemned though they be by some thinkers, these
sensations are the mother-earth, the anchorage, the stable rock,
the first and last limits, the terminus a quo and the terminus ad
quem of the mind. to find such sensational termini should be our aim
with all our higher thought. They end discussion; they destroy the
false conceit of knowledge; and without them we are all at sea with
each other's meaning. If two men act alike on a percept, they
believe themselves to feel alike about it; if not, they may suspect
they know it in differing ways. We can never be sure we understand
each other till we are able to bring the matter to this test.
[Footnote: 'There is no distinction of meaning so fine as to
consist in anything but a possible difference of practice.... It
appears, then, that the rule for attaining the [highest] grade
of clearness of apprehension is as follows: Consider what
effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we
conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our
conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the
object.' Charles S. Peirce: 'How to make our Ideas clear,' in
Popular Science Monthly, New York, January, 1878, p. 293.] This is
why metaphysical discussions are so much like fighting with the air;
they have no practical issue of a sensational kind. 'Scientific'
theories, on the other hand, always terminate in definite
percepts. You can deduce a possible sensation from your theory and,
taking me into your laboratory, prove that your theory is true of my
world by giving me the sensation then and there. Beautiful is the
flight of conceptual reason through the upper air of truth.
No wonder philosophers are dazzled by it still, and no wonder they
look with some disdain at the low earth of feeling from which the
goddess launched herself aloft. But woe to her if she return not
home to its acquaintance; Nirgends haften dann die unsicheren
Sohlen--every crazy wind will take her, and, like a fire-balloon at
night, she will go out among the stars.

NOTE.--The reader will easily see how much of the account of the
truth-function developed later in Pragmatism was already explicit in
this earlier article, and how much came to be defined later. In this
earlier article we find distinctly asserted:--

1. The reality, external to the true idea;

2. The critic, reader, or epistemologist, with his own belief, as
warrant for this reality's existence;

3. The experienceable environment, as the vehicle or
medium connecting knower with known, and yielding the
cognitive RELATION;

4. The notion of POINTING, through this medium, to the reality, as
one condition of our being said to know it;

5. That of RESEMBLING it, and eventually AFFECTING it, as
determining the pointing to IT and not to something else.

6. The elimination of the 'epistemological gulf,' so that the whole
truth-relation falls inside of the continuities of
concrete experience, and is constituted of particular processes,
varying with every object and subject, and susceptible of being
described in detail.

The defects in this earlier account are:--

1. The possibly undue prominence given to resembling, which altho a
fundamental function in knowing truly, is so often dispensed with;

2. The undue emphasis laid upon operating on the object itself,
which in many cases is indeed decisive of that being what we refer
to, but which is often lacking, or replaced by operations on other
things related to the object.

3. The imperfect development of the generalized notion of the
WORKABILITY of the feeling or idea as equivalent to
that SATISFACTORY ADAPTATION to the particular reality,
which constitutes the truth of the idea. It is this more generalized
notion, as covering all such specifications as pointing, fitting,
operating or resembling, that distinguishes the developed view
of Dewey, Schiller, and myself.

4. The treatment, [earlier], of percepts as the only realm of
reality. I now treat concepts as a co-ordinate realm.

The next paper represents a somewhat broader grasp of the topic on
the writer's part.


THE TIGERS IN INDIA [Footnote: Extracts from a presidential address
before the American Psychological Association, published in the
Psychological Review, vol. ii, p. 105 (1895).]

THERE are two ways of knowing things, knowing them immediately or
intuitively, and knowing them conceptually or
representatively. Altho such things as the white paper before our
eyes can be known intuitively, most of the things we know, the
tigers now in India, for example, or the scholastic system of
philosophy, are known only representatively or symbolically.

Suppose, to fix our ideas, that we take first a case of conceptual
knowledge; and let it be our knowledge of the tigers in India, as we
sit here. Exactly what do we MEAN by saying that we here know the
tigers? What is the precise fact that the cognition so
confidently claimed is KNOWN-AS, to use Shadworth
Hodgson's inelegant but valuable form of words?

Most men would answer that what we mean by knowing the tigers is
having them, however absent in body, become in some way present to
our thought; or that our knowledge of them is known as presence of
our thought to them. A great mystery is usually made of
this peculiar presence in absence; and the scholastic philosophy,
which is only common sense grown pedantic, would explain it as a
peculiar kind of existence, called INTENTIONAL EXISTENCE of the
tigers in our mind. At the very least, people would say that what we
mean by knowing the tigers is mentally POINTING towards them as we
sit here.

But now what do we mean by POINTING, in such a case as this? What is
the pointing known-as, here?

To this question I shall have to give a very prosaic answer--one
that traverses the pre-possessions not only of common sense
and scholasticism, but also those of nearly all the epistemological
writers whom I have ever read. The answer, made brief, is this:
The pointing of our thought to the tigers is known simply and solely
as a procession of mental associates and motor consequences that
follow on the thought, and that would lead harmoniously, if followed
out, into some ideal or real context, or even into the immediate
presence, of the tigers. It is known as our rejection of a jaguar,
if that beast were shown us as a tiger; as our assent to a genuine
tiger if so shown. It is known as our ability to utter all sorts of
propositions which don't contradict other propositions that are true
of the real tigers. It is even known, if we take the tigers very
seriously, as actions of ours which may terminate in directly
intuited tigers, as they would if we took a voyage to India for the
purpose of tiger-hunting and brought back a lot of skins of the
striped rascals which we had laid low. In all this there is no self-
transcendency in our mental images TAKEN BY THEMSELVES. They are one
phenomenal fact; the tigers are another; and their pointing to the
tigers is a perfectly commonplace intra-experiential relation, IF
and the tigers are in themselves as loose and separate, to
use Hume's language, as any two things can be; and pointing means
here an operation as external and adventitious as any that
nature yields.[Footnote: A stone in one field may 'fit,' we say, a
hole in another field. But the relation of 'fitting,' so long as no
one carries the stone to the hole and drops it in, is only one name
for the fact that such an act MAY happen. Similarly with the
knowing of the tigers here and now. It is only an anticipatory
name for a further associative and terminative process that
MAY occur.]

I hope you may agree with me now that in representative knowledge
there is no special inner mystery, but only an outer chain
of physical or mental intermediaries connecting thought and thing.
WORLD SUPPLIES. All this was most instructively set forth by our
colleague D. S. Miller at our meeting in New York last Christmas,
and for re-confirming my sometime wavering opinion, I owe him this
acknowledgment. [Footnote: See Dr. Miller's articles on Truth and
Error, and on Content and Function, in the Philosophical Review,
July, 1893, and Nov., 1895.]

Let us next pass on to the case of immediate or intuitive
acquaintance with an object, and let the object be the white paper
before our eyes. The thought-stuff and the thing-stuff are here
indistinguishably the same in nature, as we saw a moment since, and
there is no context of intermediaries or associates to stand between
and separate the thought and thing. There is no 'presence in
absence' here, and no 'pointing,' but rather an allround
embracing of the paper by the thought; and it is clear that the
knowing cannot now be explained exactly as it was when the tigers
were its object. Dotted all through our experience are states
of immediate acquaintance just like this. Somewhere our belief
always does rest on ultimate data like the whiteness, smoothness, or
squareness of this paper. Whether such qualities be truly ultimate
aspects of being, or only provisional suppositions of ours, held-to
till we get better informed, is quite immaterial for our present
inquiry. So long as it is believed in, we see our object face to
face. What now do we mean by 'knowing' such a sort of object
as this? For this is also the way in which we should know the tiger
if our conceptual idea of him were to terminate by having led us
to his lair?

This address must not become too long, so I must give my answer in
the fewest words. And let me first say this: So far as the white
paper or other ultimate datum of our experience is considered to
enter also into some one else's experience, and we, in knowing it,
are held to know it there as well as here; so far, again, as it is
considered to be a mere mask for hidden molecules that other now
impossible experiences of our own might some day lay bare to view;
so far it is a case of tigers in India again--the things known
being absent experiences, the knowing can only consist in
passing smoothly towards them through the intermediary context that
the world supplies. But if our own private vision of the paper be
considered in abstraction from every other event, as if it
constituted by itself the universe (and it might perfectly well do
so, for aught we can understand to the contrary), then the
paper seen and the seeing of it are only two names for one
indivisible fact which, properly named, is THE DATUM, THE
PHENOMENON, OR THE EXPERIENCE. The paper is in the mind and the
mind is around the paper, because paper and mind are only two names
that are given later to the one experience, when, taken in a larger
world of which it forms a part, its connections are traced in
different directions. [Footnote: What is meant by this is that 'the
experience' can be referred to either of two great associative
systems, that of the experiencer's mental history, or that of the
experienced facts of the world. Of both of these systems it forms
part, and may be regarded, indeed, as one of their points of
intersection. One might let a vertical line stand for the mental
history; but the same object, O, appears also in the mental history
of different persons, represented by the other vertical lines. It
thus ceases to be the private property of one experience, and
becomes, so to speak, a shared or public thing. We can track its
outer history in this way, and represent it by the horizontal line.
(It is also known representatively at other points of the
vertical lines, or intuitively there again, so that the line of its
outer history would have to be looped and wandering, but I make it
straight for simplicity's sake.)] In any case, however, it is the
same stuff figures in all the sets of lines.

OBJECT TO BE IDENTICAL. This is a very different definition from
that which we gave of representative knowledge; but neither
definition involves those mysterious notions of self-transcendency
and presence in absence which are such essential parts of the
ideas of knowledge, both of philosophers and of common men.
[Footnote: The reader will observe that the text is written from the
point of view of NAIF realism or common sense, and avoids raising
the idealistic controversy.]


HUMANISM AND TRUTH [Footnote: Reprinted, with slight
verbal revision, from Mind, vol. xiii, N. S., p. 457 (October,
1904). A couple of interpolations from another article in Mind,
'Humanism and truth once more,' in vol. xiv, have been made.]

RECEIVING from the Editor of Mind an advance proof of Mr. Bradley's
article on 'Truth and Practice,' I understand this as a hint to me
to join in the controversy over 'Pragmatism' which seems to have
seriously begun. As my name has been coupled with the movement, I
deem it wise to take the hint, the more so as in some quarters
greater credit has been given me than I deserve, and
probably undeserved discredit in other quarters falls also to my

First, as to the word 'pragmatism.' I myself have only used the term
to indicate a method of carrying on abstract discussion. The serious
meaning of a concept, says Mr. Peirce, lies in the concrete
difference to some one which its being true will make. Strive to
bring all debated conceptions to that' pragmatic' test, and you will
escape vain wrangling: if it can make no practical difference which
of two statements be true, then they are really one statement in two
verbal forms; if it can make no practical difference whether a given
statement be true or false, then the statement has no real meaning.
In neither case is there anything fit to quarrel about: we may
save our breath, and pass to more important things.

All that the pragmatic method implies, then, is that truths should
HAVE practical [Footnote: 'Practical' in the sense of PARTICULAR, of
course, not in the sense that the consequences may not be MENTAL as
well as physical.] consequences. In England the word has been used
more broadly still, to cover the notion that the truth of any
statement CONSISTS in the consequences, and particularly in their
being good consequences. Here we get beyond affairs of method
altogether; and since my pragmatism and this wider pragmatism are
so different, and both are important enough to have different names,
I think that Mr. Schiller's proposal to call the wider pragmatism by
the name of 'humanism' is excellent and ought to be adopted. The
narrower pragmatism may still be spoken of as the
'pragmatic method.'

I have read in the past six months many hostile reviews of
Schiller's and Dewey's publications; but with the exception of Mr.
Bradley's elaborate indictment, they are out of reach where I write,
and I have largely forgotten them. I think that a free discussion of
the subject on my part would in any case be more useful than a
polemic attempt at rebutting these criticisms in detail. Mr. Bradley
in particular can be taken care of by Mr. Schiller. He repeatedly
confesses himself unable to comprehend Schiller's views, he
evidently has not sought to do so sympathetically, and I
deeply regret to say that his laborious article throws, for my mind,
absolutely no useful light upon the subject. It seems to me on the
whole an IGNORATIO ELENCHI, and I feel free to disregard
it altogether.

The subject is unquestionably difficult. Messrs. Dewey's and
Schiller's thought is eminently an induction, a generalization
working itself free from all sorts of entangling particulars. If
true, it involves much restatement of traditional notions. This is a
kind of intellectual product that never attains a classic form of
expression when first promulgated. The critic ought therefore not to
be too sharp and logic-chopping in his dealings with it, but should
weigh it as a whole, and especially weigh it against its possible
alternatives. One should also try to apply it first to one instance,
and then to another to see how it will work. It seems to me that it
is emphatically not a case for instant execution, by conviction of
intrinsic absurdity or of self-contradiction, or by caricature of
what it would look like if reduced to skeleton shape. Humanism is in
fact much more like one of those secular changes that come upon
public opinion overnight, as it were, borne upon tides 'too deep for
sound or foam,' that survive all the crudities and extravagances of
their advocates, that you can pin to no one absolutely essential
statement, nor kill by any one decisive stab.

Such have been the changes from aristocracy to democracy, from
classic to romantic taste, from theistic to pantheistic feeling,
from static to evolutionary ways of understanding life--changes of
which we all have been spectators. Scholasticism still opposes to
such changes the method of confutation by single decisive
reasons, showing that the new view involves self-contradiction, or
traverses some fundamental principle. This is like stopping a river
by planting a stick in the middle of its bed. Round your obstacle
flows the water and 'gets there all the same.' In reading some of
our opponents, I am not a little reminded of those catholic writers
who refute darwinism by telling us that higher species cannot come
from lower because minus nequit gignere plus, or that the notion of
transformation is absurd, for it implies that species tend to their
own destruction, and that would violate the principle that
every reality tends to persevere in its own shape. The point of view
is too myopic, too tight and close to take in the inductive
argument. Wide generalizations in science always meet with these
summary refutations in their early days; but they outlive them, and
the refutations then sound oddly antiquated and scholastic. I
cannot help suspecting that the humanistic theory is going through
this kind of would-be refutation at present.

The one condition of understanding humanism is to become inductive-
minded oneself, to drop rigorous definitions, and follow lines
of least, resistance 'on the whole.' 'In other words,' an opponent
might say, 'resolve your intellect into a kind of slush.' 'Even so,'
I make reply,--'if you will consent to use no politer word.' For
humanism, conceiving the more 'true' as the more 'satisfactory'
(Dewey's term), has sincerely to renounce rectilinear arguments and
ancient ideals of rigor and finality. It is in just this temper of
renunciation, so different from that of pyrrhonistic
scepticism, that the spirit of humanism essentially
consists. Satisfactoriness has to be measured by a multitude of
standards, of which some, for aught we know, may fail in any given
case; and what is more satisfactory than any alternative in sight,
may to the end be a sum of PLUSES and MINUSES, concerning which we
can only trust that by ulterior corrections and improvements a
maximum of the one and a minimum of the other may some day be
approached. It means a real change of heart, a break with
absolutistic hopes, when one takes up this inductive view of the
conditions of belief.

As I understand the pragmatist way of seeing things, it owes its
being to the break-down which the last fifty years have brought
about in the older notions of scientific truth. 'God geometrizes,'
it used to be said; and it was believed that Euclid's elements
literally reproduced his geometrizing. There is an eternal and
unchangeable 'reason'; and its voice was supposed to reverberate in
Barbara and Celarent. So also of the 'laws of nature,' physical and
chemical, so of natural history classifications--all were supposed
to be exact and exclusive duplicates of pre-human archetypes buried
in the structure of things, to which the spark of divinity hidden in
our intellect enables us to penetrate. The anatomy of the world
is logical, and its logic is that of a university professor, it was
thought. Up to about 1850 almost every one believed that sciences
expressed truths that were exact copies of a definite code of non-
human realities. But the enormously rapid multiplication of
theories in these latter days has well-nigh upset the notion of any
one of them being a more literally objective kind of thing than
another. There are so many geometries, so many logics, so many
physical and chemical hypotheses, so many classifications, each one
of them good for so much and yet not good for everything, that the
notion that even the truest formula may be a human device and not a
literal transcript has dawned upon us. We hear scientific laws now
treated as so much 'conceptual shorthand,' true so far as they are
useful but no farther. Our mind has become tolerant of symbol
instead of reproduction, of approximation instead of exactness, of
plasticity instead of rigor. 'Energetics,' measuring the bare
face of sensible phenomena so as to describe in a single formula all
their changes of 'level,' is the last word of this scientific
humanism, which indeed leaves queries enough outstanding as to the
reason for so curious a congruence between the world and the mind,
but which at any rate makes our whole notion of scientific truth
more flexible and genial than it used to be.

It is to be doubted whether any theorizer to-day, either in
mathematics, logic, physics or biology, conceives himself to be
literally re-editing processes of nature or thoughts of God. The
main forms of our thinking, the separation of subjects from
predicates, the negative, hypothetic and disjunctive judgments, are
purely human habits. The ether, as Lord Salisbury said, is only a
noun for the verb to undulate; and many of our theological ideas are
admitted, even by those who call them 'true,' to be humanistic in
like degree.

I fancy that these changes in the current notions of truth are what
originally gave the impulse to Messrs. Dewey's and Schiller's views.
The suspicion is in the air nowadays that the superiority of one of
our formulas to another may not consist so much in its
literal 'objectivity,' as in subjective qualities like
its usefulness, its 'elegance' or its congruity with our residual
beliefs. Yielding to these suspicions, and generalizing, we fall
into something like the humanistic state of mind. Truth we conceive
to mean everywhere, not duplication, but addition; not the
constructing of inner copies of already complete realities, but
rather the collaborating with realities so as to bring about a
clearer result. Obviously this state of mind is at first full of
vagueness and ambiguity. 'Collaborating' is a vague term; it must at
any rate cover conceptions and logical arrangements. 'Clearer' is
vaguer still. Truth must bring clear thoughts, as well as clear
the way to action. 'Reality' is the vaguest term of all. The only
way to test such a programme at all is to apply it to the various
types of truth, in the hope of reaching an account that shall be
more precise. Any hypothesis that forces such a review upon one has
one great merit, even if in the end it prove invalid: it gets
us better acquainted with the total subject. To give the theory
plenty of 'rope' and see if it hangs itself eventually is better
tactics than to choke it off at the outset by abstract
accusations of self-contradiction. I think therefore that a decided
effort at sympathetic mental play with humanism is the provisional
attitude to be recommended to the reader.

When I find myself playing sympathetically with humanism, something
like what follows is what I end by conceiving it to mean.

Experience is a process that continually gives us new material to
digest. We handle this intellectually by the mass of beliefs
of which we find ourselves already possessed, assimilating,
rejecting, or rearranging in different degrees. Some of the
apperceiving ideas are recent acquisitions of our own, but most of
them are common-sense traditions of the race. There is probably not
a common-sense tradition, of all those which we now live by, that
was not in the first instance a genuine discovery, an inductive
generalization like those more recent ones of the atom, of inertia,
of energy, of reflex action, or of fitness to survive The notions of
one Time and of one Space as single continuous receptacles; the
distinction between thoughts and things, matter and mind between
permanent subjects and changing attributes; the conception of
classes with sub classes within them; the separation of
fortuitous from regularly caused connections; surely all these were
once definite conquests made at historic dates by our ancestors in
their attempt to get the chaos of their crude individual experiences
into a more shareable and manageable shape. They proved of such
sovereign use as denkmittel that they are now a part of the very
structure of our mind. We cannot play fast and loose with them. No
experience can upset them. On the contrary, they apperceive every
experience and assign it to its place.

To what effect? That we may the better foresee the course of our
experiences, communicate with one another, and steer our lives by
rule. Also that we may have a cleaner, clearer, more inclusive
mental view.

The greatest common-sense achievement, after the discovery of one
Time and one Space, is probably the concept of permanently
existing things. When a rattle first drops out of the hand of a
baby, he does not look to see where it has gone. Non-perception he
accepts as annihilation until he finds a better belief. That our
perceptions mean BEINGS, rattles that are there whether we hold them
in our hands or not, becomes an interpretation so luminous of what
happens to us that, once employed, it never gets forgotten. It
applies with equal felicity to things and persons, to the
objective and to the ejective realm. However a Berkeley, a Mill, or
a Cornelius may CRITICISE it, it WORKS; and in practical life we
never think of 'going back' upon it, or reading our
incoming experiences in any other terms. We may,
indeed, speculatively imagine a state of 'pure' experience before
the hypothesis of permanent objects behind its flux had been framed;
and we can play with the idea that some primeval genius might have
struck into a different hypothesis. But we cannot positively
imagine today what the different hypothesis could have been, for the
category of trans-perceptual reality is now one of the foundations
of our life. Our thoughts must still employ it if they are to
possess reasonableness and truth.

This notion of a FIRST in the shape of a most chaotic pure
experience which sets us questions, of a SECOND in the way of
fundamental categories, long ago wrought into the structure of our
consciousness and practically irreversible, which define the general
frame within which answers must fall, and of a THIRD which gives the
detail of the answers in the shapes most congruous with all our
present needs, is, as I take it, the essence of the
humanistic conception. It represents experience in its
pristine purity to be now so enveloped in predicates historically
worked out that we can think of it as little more than an OTHER, of
a THAT, which the mind, in Mr. Bradley's phrase, 'encounters,' and
to whose stimulating presence we respond by ways of thinking which
we call 'true' in proportion as they facilitate our mental or
physical activities and bring us outer power and inner peace. But
whether the Other, the universal THAT, has itself any definite inner
structure, or whether, if it have any, the structure resembles any
of our predicated WHATS, this is a question which humanism leaves
untouched. For us, at any rate, it insists, reality is an
accumulation of our own intellectual inventions, and the struggle
for 'truth' in our progressive dealings with it is always a struggle
to work in new nouns and adjectives while altering as little as
possible the old.

It is hard to see why either Mr. Bradley's own logic or his
metaphysics should oblige him to quarrel with this conception. He
might consistently adopt it verbatim et literatim, if he would, and
simply throw his peculiar absolute round it, following in this the
good example of Professor Royce. Bergson in France, and his
disciples, Wilbois the physicist and Leroy, are thoroughgoing
humanists in the sense defined. Professor Milhaud also appears to be
one; and the great Poincare misses it by only the breadth of a hair.
In Germany the name of Simmel offers itself as that of a humanist of
the most radical sort. Mach and his school, and Hertz and Ostwald
must be classed as humanists. The view is in the atmosphere and must
be patiently discussed.

The best way to discuss it would be to see what the alternative
might be. What is it indeed? Its critics make no explicit
statement, Professor Royce being the only one so far who has
formulated anything definite. The first service of humanism to
philosophy accordingly seems to be that it will probably oblige
those who dislike it to search their own hearts and heads. It will
force analysis to the front and make it the order of the day. At
present the lazy tradition that truth is adaequatio intellectus et
rei seems all there is to contradict it with. Mr. Bradley's only
suggestion is that true thought 'must correspond to a
determinate being which it cannot be said to make,' and obviously
that sheds no new light. What is the meaning of the word to
'correspond'? Where is the 'being'? What sort of things are
'determinations,' and what is meant in this particular case by 'not
to make'?

Humanism proceeds immediately to refine upon the looseness of these
epithets. We correspond in SOME way with anything with which we
enter into any relations at all. If it be a thing, we may produce an
exact copy of it, or we may simply feel it as an existent in a
certain place. If it be a demand, we may obey it without knowing
anything more about it than its push. If it be a proposition, we may
agree by not contradicting it, by letting it pass. If it be a
relation between things, we may act on the first thing so as to
bring ourselves out where the second will be. If it be
something inaccessible, we may substitute a hypothetical object for
it, which, having the same consequences, will cipher out for us real
results. In a general way we may simply ADD OUR THOUGHT TO IT; and
if it SUFFERS THE ADDITION, and the whole situation harmoniously
prolongs and enriches itself, the thought will pass for true.

As for the whereabouts of the beings thus corresponded to, although
they may be outside of the present thought as well as in it,
humanism sees no ground for saying they are outside of finite
experience itself. Pragmatically, their reality means that we submit
to them, take account of them, whether we like to or not, but this
we must perpetually do with experiences other than our own. The
whole system of what the present experience must correspond to
'adequately' may be continuous with the present experience itself.
Reality, so taken as experience other than the present, might be
either the legacy of past experience or the content of experience to
come. Its determinations for US are in any case the adjectives which
our acts of judging fit to it, and those are essentially humanistic

To say that our thought does not 'make' this reality means
pragmatically that if our own particular thought were annihilated
the reality would still be there in some shape, though possibly it
might be a shape that would lack something that our thought
supplies. That reality is 'independent' means that there is
something in every experience that escapes our arbitrary control. If
it be a sensible experience it coerces our attention; if a sequence,
we cannot invert it; if we compare two terms we can come to only one
result. There is a push, an urgency, within our very experience,
against which we are on the whole powerless, and which drives us in
a direction that is the destiny of our belief. That this drift of
experience itself is in the last resort due to something independent
of all possible experience may or may not be true. There may or may
not be an extra-experiential 'ding an sich' that keeps the ball
rolling, or an 'absolute' that lies eternally behind all the
successive determinations which human thought has made. But
within our experience ITSELF, at any rate, humanism says, some
determinations show themselves as being independent of others; some
questions, if we ever ask them, can only be answered in one way;
some beings, if we ever suppose them, must be supposed to have
existed previously to the supposing; some relations, if they exist
ever, must exist as long as their terms exist.

Truth thus means, according to humanism, the relation of less fixed
parts of experience (predicates) to other relatively more fixed
parts (subjects); and we are not required to seek it in a relation
of experience as such to anything beyond itself. We can stay at
home, for our behavior as exponents is hemmed in on every side. The
forces both of advance and of resistance are exerted by our own
objects, and the notion of truth as something opposed to waywardness
or license inevitably grows up SOLIPSISTICALLY inside of every human

So obvious is all this that a common charge against the humanistic
authors 'makes me tired.' 'How can a deweyite discriminate sincerity
from bluff?' was a question asked at a philosophic meeting where I
reported on Dewey's Studies. 'How can the mere [Footnote: I know of
no 'mere' pragmatist, if MERENESS here means, as it seems to, the
denial of all concreteness to the pragmatist's THOUGHT.] pragmatist
feel any duty to think truly?' is the objection urged by Professor
Royce. Mr. Bradley in turn says that if a humanist understands his
own doctrine, 'he must hold any idea, however mad, to be the truth,
if any one will have it so.' And Professor Taylor
describes pragmatism as believing anything one pleases and calling
it truth.

Such a shallow sense of the conditions under which men's thinking
actually goes on seems to me most surprising. These critics appear
to suppose that, if left to itself, the rudderless raft of our
experience must be ready to drift anywhere or nowhere. Even
THO there were compasses on board, they seem to say, there would be
no pole for them to point to. There must be absolute sailing-
directions, they insist, decreed from outside, and an
independent chart of the voyage added to the 'mere' voyage itself,
if we are ever to make a port. But is it not obvious that even
THO there be such absolute sailing-directions in the shape of pre-
human standards of truth that we OUGHT to follow, the only
guarantee that we shall in fact follow them must lie in our human
equipment. The 'ought' would be a brutum fulmen unless there were a
felt grain inside of our experience that conspired. As a matter of
fact the DEVOUTEST believers in absolute standards must admit that
men fail to obey them. Waywardness is here, in spite of the eternal
prohibitions, and the existence of any amount of reality ante rem is
no warrant against unlimited error in rebus being incurred. The only
REAL guarantee we have against licentious thinking is the
CIRCUMPRESSURE of experience itself, which gets us sick of
concrete errors, whether there be a trans-empirical reality or not.
How does the partisan of absolute reality know what this orders him
to think? He cannot get direct sight of the absolute; and he has no
means of guessing what it wants of him except by following the
humanistic clues. The only truth that he himself will ever
practically ACCEPT will be that to which his finite experiences lead
him of themselves. The state of mind which shudders at the idea of a
lot of experiences left to themselves, and that augurs protection
from the sheer name of an absolute, as if, however inoperative,
that might still stand for a sort of ghostly security, is like the
mood of those good people who, whenever they hear of a social
tendency that is damnable, begin to redden and to puff, and say
'Parliament or Congress ought to make a law against it,' as if an
impotent decree would give relief.

All the SANCTIONS of a law of truth lie in the very texture of
experience. Absolute or no absolute, the concrete truth FOR US will
always be that way of thinking in which our various experiences most
profitably combine.

And yet, the opponent obstinately urges, your humanist will always
have a greater liberty to play fast and loose with truth than
will your believer in an independent realm of reality that makes the
standard rigid. If by this latter believer he means a man who
pretends to know the standard and who fulminates it, the humanist
will doubtless prove more flexible; but no more flexible than the
absolutist himself if the latter follows (as fortunately
our present-day absolutists do follow) empirical methods of inquiry
in concrete affairs. To consider hypotheses is surely always better
than to DOGMATISE ins blaue hinein.

Nevertheless this probable flexibility of temper in him has been
used to convict the humanist of sin. Believing as he does, that
truth lies in rebus, and is at every moment our own line of most
propitious reaction, he stands forever debarred, as I have heard a
learned colleague say, from trying to convert opponents, for does
not their view, being THEIR most propitious momentary reaction,
already fill the bill? Only the believer in the ante-rem brand of
truth can on this theory seek to make converts without self-
stultification. But can there be self-stultification in urging any
account whatever of truth? Can the definition ever contradict the
deed? 'Truth is what I feel like saying'--suppose that to be the
definition. 'Well, I feel like saying that, and I want you to feel
like saying it, and shall continue to say it until I get you to
agree.' Where is there any contradiction? Whatever truth may be
said to be, that is the kind of truth which the saying can be held
to carry. The TEMPER which a saying may comport is an extra-logical
matter. It may indeed be hotter in some individual absolutist than
in a humanist, but it need not be so in another. And the humanist,
for his part, is perfectly consistent in compassing sea and land to
make one proselyte, if his nature be enthusiastic enough.

'But how can you be enthusiastic over any view of things which you
know to have been partly made by yourself, and which is liable to
alter during the next minute? How is any heroic devotion to the
ideal of truth possible under such paltry conditions?'

This is just another of those objections by which the anti-humanists
show their own comparatively slack hold on the realities of
the situation. If they would only follow the pragmatic method and
ask: 'What is truth KNOWN-AS? What does its existence stand for in
the way of concrete goods?'--they would see that the name of it is
the inbegriff of almost everything that is valuable in our lives.
The true is the opposite of whatever is instable, of whatever is
practically disappointing, of whatever is useless, of whatever is
lying and unreliable, of whatever is unverifiable and
unsupported, of whatever is inconsistent and contradictory, of
whatever is artificial and eccentric, of whatever is unreal in the
sense of being of no practical account. Here are pragmatic reasons
with a vengeance why we should turn to truth--truth saves us from a
world of that complexion. What wonder that its very name awakens
loyal feeling! In particular what wonder that all little provisional
fool's paradises of belief should appear contemptible in comparison
with its bare pursuit! When absolutists reject humanism because they
feel it to be untrue, that means that the whole habit of their
mental needs is wedded already to a different view of reality, in
comparison with which the humanistic world seems but the whim of a
few irresponsible youths. Their own subjective apperceiving mass is
what speaks here in the name of the eternal natures and bids them
reject our humanism--as they apprehend it. Just so with us
humanists, when we condemn all noble, clean-cut, fixed,
eternal, rational, temple-like systems of philosophy. These
contradict the DRAMATIC TEMPERAMENT of nature, as our dealings with
nature and our habits of thinking have so far brought us to conceive
it. They seem oddly personal and artificial, even when not
bureaucratic and professional in an absurd degree. We turn from them
to the great unpent and unstayed wilderness of truth as we feel it
to be constituted, with as good a conscience as rationalists
are moved by when they turn from our wilderness into their neater
and cleaner intellectual abodes. [Footnote: I cannot forbear quoting
as an illustration of the contrast between humanist and rationalist
tempers of mind, in a sphere remote from philosophy, these remarks
on the Dreyfus 'affaire,' written by one who assuredly had
never heard of humanism or pragmatism. 'Autant que la Revolution,
"l'Affaire" est desormais une de nos "origines." Si elle n'a pas
fait ouvrir le gouffre, c'est elle du moins qui a rendu patent et
visible le long travail souterrain qui, silencieusement,
avait prepare la separation entre nos deux camps d'aujourd'hui, pour
ecarter enfin, d'un coup soudain, la France des traditionalistes
(poseurs de principes, chercheurs d'unite, constructeurs de systemes
a priori) el la France eprise du fait positif et de libre examen;--
la France revolutionnaire et romantique si l'on veut, celle qui met
tres haut l'individu, qui ne veut pas qu'un juste perisse, fut-ce
pour sauver la nation, et qui cherche la verite dans toutes ses
parties aussi bien que dans une vue d'ensemble ... Duclaux ne
pouvait pas concevoir qu'on preferat quelque chose a la verite.
Mais il voyait autour de lui de fort honnetes gens qui, mettant
en balance la vie d'un homme et la raison d'Etat, lui avouaient de
quel poids leger ils jugeaient une simple existence
individuelle, pour innocente qu'elle fut. C'etaient des
classiques, des gens a qui l'ensemble seul importe.' La Vie de
Emile Duclaux, par Mme. Em. D., Laval, 1906, pp. 243, 247-248.]

This is surely enough to show that the humanist does not ignore the
character of objectivity and independence in truth. Let me turn next
to what his opponents mean when they say that to be true, our
thoughts must 'correspond.'

The vulgar notion of correspondence here is that the thoughts must
COPY the reality--cognitio fit per assimiliationem cogniti
et cognoscentis; and philosophy, without having ever fairly sat down
to the question, seems to have instinctively accepted this idea:
propositions are held true if they copy the eternal thought; terms
are held true if they copy extra-mental realities. Implicitly, I
think that the copy-theory has animated most of the criticisms
that have been made on humanism.

A priori, however, it is not self-evident that the sole business of
our mind with realities should be to copy them. Let my reader
suppose himself to constitute for a time all the reality there is in
the universe, and then to receive the announcement that another
being is to be created who shall know him truly. How will he
represent the knowing in advance? What will he hope it to be? I
doubt extremely whether it could ever occur to him to fancy it as a
mere copying. Of what use to him would an imperfect second edition
of himself in the new comer's interior be? It would seem pure waste
of a propitious opportunity. The demand would more probably be for
something absolutely new. The reader would conceive the knowing
humanistically, 'the new comer,' he would say, 'must TAKE ACCOUNT OF
TO US BOTH. If copying be requisite to that end, let there be
copying; otherwise not.' The essence in any case would not be
the copying, but the enrichment of the previous world.

I read the other day, in a book of Professor Eucken's, a phrase,
'Die erhohung des vorgefundenen daseins,' which seems to
be pertinent here. Why may not thought's mission be to increase and
elevate, rather than simply to imitate and reduplicate, existence?
No one who has read Lotze can fail to remember his striking comment
on the ordinary view of the secondary qualities of matter, which
brands them as 'illusory' because they copy nothing in the thing.
The notion of a world complete in itself, to which thought comes as
a passive mirror, adding nothing to fact, Lotze says is irrational.
Rather is thought itself a most momentous part of fact, and the
whole mission of the pre-existing and insufficient world of matter
may simply be to provoke thought to produce its far more precious

'Knowing,' in short, may, for aught we can see beforehand to the
REALITY whether copying be one of the relations or not.

It is easy to see from what special type of knowing the copy-theory
arose. In our dealings with natural phenomena the great point is to
be able to foretell. Foretelling, according to such a writer as
Spencer, is the whole meaning of intelligence. When Spencer's 'law
of intelligence' says that inner and outer relations must
'correspond,' it means that the distribution of terms in our inner
time-scheme and space-scheme must be an exact copy of
the distribution in real time and space of the real terms. In strict
theory the mental terms themselves need not answer to the real terms
in the sense of severally copying them, symbolic mental terms being
enough, if only the real dates and places be copied. But in our
ordinary life the mental terms are images and the real ones are
sensations, and the images so often copy the sensations, that we
easily take copying of terms as well as of relations to be the
natural significance of knowing. Meanwhile much, even of this common
descriptive truth, is couched in verbal symbols. If our symbols
FIT the world, in the sense of determining our expectations rightly,
they may even be the better for not copying its terms.

It seems obvious that the pragmatic account of all this routine of
phenomenal knowledge is accurate. Truth here is a relation, not
of our ideas to non-human realities, but of conceptual parts of our
experience to sensational parts. Those thoughts are true which
guide us to BENEFICIAL INTERACTION with sensible particulars as they
occur, whether they copy these in advance or not.

From the frequency of copying in the knowledge of phenomenal fact,
copying has been supposed to be the essence of truth in
matters rational also. Geometry and logic, it has been supposed,
must copy archetypal thoughts in the Creator. But in these abstract
spheres there is no need of assuming archetypes. The mind is free to
carve so many figures out of space, to make so many numerical
collections, to frame so many classes and series, and it can analyze
and compare so endlessly, that the very superabundance of the
resulting ideas makes us doubt the 'objective' pre-existence of
their models. It would be plainly wrong to suppose a God whose
thought consecrated rectangular but not polar co-ordinates, or
Jevons's notation but not Boole's. Yet if, on the other hand, we
assume God to have thought in advance of every POSSIBLE flight of
human fancy in these directions, his mind becomes too much like
a Hindoo idol with three heads, eight arms and six breasts, too much
made up of superfoetation and redundancy for us to wish to copy it,
and the whole notion of copying tends to evaporate from these
sciences. Their objects can be better interpreted as being created
step by step by men, as fast as they successively conceive them.

If now it be asked how, if triangles, squares, square roots, genera,
and the like, are but improvised human 'artefacts,' their
properties and relations can be so promptly known to be 'eternal,'
the humanistic answer is easy. If triangles and genera are of our
own production we can keep them invariant. We can make them
'timeless' by expressly decreeing that on THE THINGS WE MEAN time
shall exert no altering effect, that they are intentionally and it
may be fictitiously abstracted from every corrupting real associate
and condition. But relations between invariant objects will
themselves be invariant. Such relations cannot be happenings, for by
hypothesis nothing shall happen to the objects. I have tried to
show in the last chapter of my Principles of Psychology [Footnote:
Vol. ii, pp. 641 ff.] that they can only be relations of comparison.
No one so far seems to have noticed my suggestion, and I am too
ignorant of the development of mathematics to feel very confident of
my own view. But if it were correct it would solve the difficulty
perfectly. Relations of comparison are matters of direct inspection.
As soon as mental objects are mentally compared, they are perceived
to be either like or unlike. But once the same, always the same,
once different, always different, under these timeless conditions.
Which is as much as to say that truths concerning these man-made
objects are necessary and eternal. We can change our conclusions
only by changing our data first.

The whole fabric of the a priori sciences can thus be treated as a
man-made product. As Locke long ago pointed out, these sciences have
no immediate connection with fact. Only IF a fact can be humanized
by being identified with any of these ideal objects, is what
was true of the objects now true also of the facts. The truth itself
meanwhile was originally a copy of nothing; it was only a relation
directly perceived to obtain between two artificial mental
things. [Footnote: Mental things which are realities of course
within the mental world.]

We may now glance at some special types of knowing, so as to see
better whether the humanistic account fits. On the mathematical and
logical types we need not enlarge further, nor need we return at
much length to the case of our descriptive knowledge of the course
of nature. So far as this involves anticipation, tho that MAY mean
copying, it need, as we saw, mean little more than 'getting ready'
in advance. But with many distant and future objects, our practical
relations are to the last degree potential and remote. In no sense
can we now get ready for the arrest of the earth's revolution by the
tidal brake, for instance; and with the past, tho we suppose
ourselves to know it truly, we have no practical relations at all.
It is obvious that, altho interests strictly practical have been the
original starting-point of our search for true
phenomenal descriptions, yet an intrinsic interest in the bare
describing function has grown up. We wish accounts that shall be
true, whether they bring collateral profit or not. The
primitive function has developed its demand for mere exercise. This
theoretic curiosity seems to be the characteristically human
differentia, and humanism recognizes its enormous scope. A true idea
now means not only one that prepares us for an actual perception. It
means also one that might prepare us for a merely possible
perception, or one that, if spoken, would suggest possible
perceptions to others, or suggest actual perceptions which the
speaker cannot share. The ensemble of perceptions thus thought of as
either actual or possible form a system which it is obviously
advantageous to us to get into a stable and consistent shape; and
here it is that the common-sense notion of permanent beings finds
triumphant use. Beings acting outside of the thinker explain, not
only his actual perceptions, past and future, but his possible
perceptions and those of every one else. Accordingly they gratify
our theoretic need in a supremely beautiful way. We pass from our
immediate actual through them into the foreign and the potential,
and back again into the future actual, accounting for innumerable
particulars by a single cause. As in those circular panoramas, where
a real foreground of dirt, grass, bushes, rocks and a broken-down
cannon is enveloped by a canvas picture of sky and earth and of a
raging battle, continuing the foreground so cunningly that the
spectator can detect no joint; so these conceptual objects, added to
our present perceptual reality, fuse with it into the whole
universe of our belief. In spite of all berkeleyan criticism, we do
not doubt that they are really there. Tho our discovery of any one
of them may only date from now, we unhesitatingly say that it not
only IS, but WAS there, if, by so saying, the past appears connected
more consistently with what we feel the present to be. This is
historic truth. Moses wrote the Pentateuch, we think, because if he
didn't, all our religious habits will have to be undone. Julius
Caesar was real, or we can never listen to history again. Trilobites
were once alive, or all our thought about the strata is at
sea. Radium, discovered only yesterday, must always have existed, or
its analogy with other natural elements, which are permanent, fails.
In all this, it is but one portion of our beliefs reacting on
another so as to yield the most satisfactory total state of mind.
That state of mind, we say, sees truth, and the content of its
deliverances we believe.

Of course, if you take the satisfactoriness concretely, as something
felt by you now, and if, by truth, you mean truth taken
abstractly and verified in the long run, you cannot make them
equate, for it is notorious that the temporarily satisfactory is
often false. Yet at each and every concrete moment, truth for
each man is what that man 'troweth' at that moment with the maximum
of satisfaction to himself; and similarly, abstract truth, truth
verified by the long run, and abstract satisfactoriness, long-run
satisfactoriness, coincide. If, in short, we compare concrete with
concrete and abstract with abstract, the true and the
satisfactory do mean the same thing. I suspect that a certain
muddling of matters hereabouts is what makes the general philosophic
public so impervious to humanism's claims.

The fundamental fact about our experience is that it is a process of
change. For the 'trower' at any moment, truth, like the visible area
round a man walking in a fog, or like what George Eliot calls 'the
wall of dark seen by small fishes' eyes that pierce a span in the
wide Ocean,' is an objective field which the next moment enlarges
and of which it is the critic, and which then either suffers
alteration or is continued unchanged. The critic sees both the first
trower's truth and his own truth, compares them with each other, and
verifies or confutes. HIS field of view is the reality independent
of that earlier trower's thinking with which that thinking ought to
correspond. But the critic is himself only a trower; and if the
whole process of experience should terminate at that instant, there
would be no otherwise known independent reality with which HIS
thought might be compared.

The immediate in experience is always provisionally in this
situation. The humanism, for instance, which I see and try so
hard to defend, is the completest truth attained from my point of
view up to date. But, owing to the fact that all experience is a
process, no point of view can ever be THE last one. Every one is
insufficient and off its balance, and responsible to later points of
view than itself. You, occupying some of these later points in your
own person, and believing in the reality of others, will not agree
that my point of view sees truth positive, truth timeless, truth
that counts, unless they verify and confirm what it sees.

You generalize this by saying that any opinion, however
satisfactory, can count positively and absolutely as true only so
far as it agrees with a standard beyond itself; and if you then
forget that this standard perpetually grows up endogenously inside
the web of the experiences, you may carelessly go on to say that
what distributively holds of each experience, holds also
collectively of all experience, and that experience as such and in
its totality owes whatever truth it may be possessed-of to its
correspondence with absolute realities outside of its own being.
This evidently is the popular and traditional position. From
the fact that finite experiences must draw support from one another,
philosophers pass to the notion that experience uberhaupt must
need an absolute support. The denial of such a notion by humanism
lies probably at the root of most of the dislike which it incurs.

But is this not the globe, the elephant and the tortoise over again?
Must not something end by supporting itself? Humanism is willing to
let finite experience be self-supporting. Somewhere being must
immediately breast nonentity. Why may not the advancing front of
experience, carrying its immanent satisfactions and
dissatisfactions, cut against the black inane as the luminous orb of
the moon cuts the caerulean abyss? Why should anywhere the world be
absolutely fixed and finished? And if reality genuinely grows,
why may it not grow in these very determinations which here and now
are made?

In point of fact it actually seems to grow by our mental
determinations, be these never so 'true.' Take the 'great bear' or
'dipper' constellation in the heavens. We call it by that name, we
count the stars and call them seven, we say they were seven before
they were counted, and we say that whether any one had ever noted
the fact or not, the dim resemblance to a long-tailed (or long-
necked?) animal was always truly there. But what do we mean by this
projection into past eternity of recent human ways of thinking? Did
an 'absolute' thinker actually do the counting, tell off the stars
upon his standing number-tally, and make the bear-comparison, silly
as the latter is? Were they explicitly seven, explicitly bear-like,
before the human witness came? Surely nothing in the truth of
the attributions drives us to think this. They were only implicitly
or virtually what we call them, and we human witnesses first
explicated them and made them 'real.' A fact virtually pre-exists
when every condition of its realization save one is already there.
In this case the condition lacking is the act of the counting and
comparing mind. But the stars (once the mind considers them)
themselves dictate the result. The counting in no wise modifies
their previous nature, and, they being what and where they are, the
count cannot fall out differently. It could then ALWAYS be
made. NEVER could the number seven be questioned, IF THE QUESTION

We have here a quasi-paradox. Undeniably something comes by the
counting that was not there before. And yet that something was
ALWAYS TRUE. In one sense you create it, and in another sense you
FIND it. You have to treat your count as being true beforehand, the
moment you come to treat the matter at all.

Our stellar attributes must always be called true, then; yet none
the less are they genuine additions made by our intellect to the
world of fact. Not additions of consciousness only, but additions of
'content.' They copy nothing that pre-existed, yet they agree with
what pre-existed, fit it, amplify it, relate and connect it with a
'wain,' a number-tally, or what not, and build it out. It seems to
me that humanism is the only theory that builds this case out in the
good direction, and this case stands for innumerable other kinds of
case. In all such eases, odd as it may sound, our judgment may
actually be said to retroact and to enrich the past.

Our judgments at any rate change the character of FUTURE reality by
the acts to which they lead. Where these acts are acts expressive
of trust,--trust, e.g., that a man is honest, that our health is
good enough, or that we can make a successful effort,--which
acts may be a needed antecedent of the trusted things becoming true.
Professor Taylor says [Footnote: In an article criticising
Pragmatism (as he conceives it) in the McGill University
Quarterly published at Montreal, for May, 1904.] that our trust is
at any rate UNTRUE WHEN IT IS MADE, i. e; before the action; and I
seem to remember that he disposes of anything like a faith in the
general excellence of the universe (making the faithful person's
part in it at any rate more excellent) as a 'lie in the soul.'
But the pathos of this expression should not blind us to the
complication of the facts. I doubt whether Professor Taylor would
himself be in favor of practically handling trusters of these kinds
as liars. Future and present really mix in such emergencies, and one
can always escape lies in them by using hypothetic forms. But Mr.
Taylor's attitude suggests such absurd possibilities of practice
that it seems to me to illustrate beautifully how self-
stultifying the conception of a truth that shall merely register a
standing fixture may become. Theoretic truth, truth of passive
copying, sought in the sole interests of copying as such, not
because copying is GOOD FOR SOMETHING, but because copying ought
schlechthin to be, seems, if you look at it coldly, to be an
almost preposterous ideal. Why should the universe, existing in
itself, also exist in copies? How CAN it be copied in the solidity
of its objective fulness? And even if it could, what would
the motive be? 'Even the hairs of your head are numbered.' Doubtless
they are, virtually; but why, as an absolute proposition, OUGHT the
number to become copied and known? Surely knowing is only one way of
interacting with reality and adding to its effect.

The opponent here will ask: 'Has not the knowing of truth any
substantive value on its own account, apart from the collateral
advantages it may bring? And if you allow theoretic satisfactions to
exist at all, do they not crowd the collateral satisfactions out of
house and home, and must not pragmatism go into bankruptcy, if she
admits them at all?' The destructive force of such talk disappears
as soon as we use words concretely instead of abstractly, and ask,
in our quality of good pragmatists, just what the famous
theoretic needs are known as and in what the
intellectual satisfactions consist.

Are they not all mere matters of CONSISTENCY--and emphatically NOT
of consistency between an absolute reality and the mind's copies of
it, but of actually felt consistency among judgments, objects, and
habits of reacting, in the mind's own experienceable world? And
are not both our need of such consistency and our pleasure in it
conceivable as outcomes of the natural fact that we are beings that
do develop mental HABITS--habit itself proving adaptively beneficial
in an environment where the same objects, or the same kinds of
objects, recur and follow 'law'? If this were so, what would have
come first would have been the collateral profits of habit as such,
and the theoretic life would have grown up in aid of these. In point
of fact, this seems to have been the probable case. At life's
origin, any present perception may have been 'true'--if such a
word could then be applicable. Later, when reactions became
organized, the reactions became 'true' whenever expectation was
fulfilled by them. Otherwise they were 'false' or 'mistaken'
reactions. But the same class of objects needs the same kind of
reaction, so the impulse to react consistently must gradually have
been established, and a disappointment felt whenever the results
frustrated expectation. Here is a perfectly plausible germ for all
our higher consistencies. Nowadays, if an object claims from us a
reaction of the kind habitually accorded only to the opposite class
of objects, our mental machinery refuses to run smoothly. The
situation is intellectually unsatisfactory.

Theoretic truth thus falls WITHIN the mind, being the accord of some
of its processes and objects with other processes and objects--
'accord' consisting here in well-definable relations. So long as
the satisfaction of feeling such an accord is denied us, whatever
collateral profits may seem to inure from what we believe in are but
as dust in the balance--provided always that we are highly
organized intellectually, which the majority of us are not. The
amount of accord which satisfies most men and women is merely the
absence of violent clash between their usual thoughts and
statements and the limited sphere of sense-perceptions in which
their lives are cast. The theoretic truth that most of us think we
'ought' to attain to is thus the possession of a set of predicates
that do not explicitly contradict their subjects. We preserve it as
often as not by leaving other predicates and subjects out.

In some men theory is a passion, just as music is in others. The
form of inner consistency is pursued far beyond the line at
which collateral profits stop. Such men systematize and classify and
schematize and make synoptical tables and invent ideal objects for
the pure love of unifying. Too often the results, glowing with
'truth' for the inventors, seem pathetically personal and artificial
to bystanders. Which is as much as to say that the purely theoretic
criterion of truth can leave us in the lurch as easily as any other
criterion, and that the absolutists, for all their pretensions,
are 'in the same boat' concretely with those whom they attack.

I am well aware that this paper has been rambling in the extreme.
But the whole subject is inductive, and sharp logic is hardly yet in
order. My great trammel has been the non-existence of any
definitely stated alternative on my opponents' part. It may conduce
to clearness if I recapitulate, in closing, what I conceive the main
points of humanism to be. They are these:--

1. An experience, perceptual or conceptual, must conform to reality
in order to be true.

2. By 'reality' humanism means nothing more than the other
conceptual or perceptual experiences with which a given present
experience may find itself in point of fact mixed up.
[Footnote: This is meant merely to exclude reality of an
'unknowable' sort, of which no account in either perceptual
or conceptual terms can be given. It includes of course any
amount if empirical reality independent of the knower.
Pragmatism, is thus 'epistemologically' realistic in its account.]

3. By 'conforming,' humanism means taking account-of in such a way
as to gain any intellectually and practically satisfactory result.

4. To 'take account-of' and to be 'satisfactory' are terms that
admit of no definition, so many are the ways in which these
requirements can practically be worked out.

5. Vaguely and in general, we take account of a reality by
preserving it in as unmodified a form as possible. But, to be then
satisfactory, it must not contradict other realities outside of it
which claim also to be preserved. That we must preserve all the
experience we can and minimize contradiction in what we preserve, is
about all that can be said in advance.

6. The truth which the conforming experience embodies may be a
positive addition to the previous reality, and later judgments
may have to conform to it. Yet, virtually at least, it may have been
true previously. Pragmatically, virtual and actual truth mean the
same thing: the possibility of only one answer, when once the
question is raised.



[Footnote: Extract from an article entitled 'A World of Pure
Experience,' in the Journal of Philosophy, etc., September 29,1904.]

Throughout the history of philosophy the subject and its object
have been treated as absolutely discontinuous entities; and
thereupon the presence of the latter to the former, or
the 'apprehension' by the former of the latter, has assumed a
paradoxical character which all sorts of theories had to be invented
to overcome. Representative theories put a mental 'representation,'
'image,' or 'content' into the gap, as a sort of intermediary.
Commonsense theories left the gap untouched, declaring our mind able
to clear it by a self-transcending leap. Transcendentalist theories
left it impossible to traverse by finite knowers, and brought an
absolute in to perform the saltatory act. All the while, in the very
bosom of the finite experience, every conjunction required to make
the relation intelligible is given in full. Either the knower and
the known are:

(1) the self-same piece of experience taken twice over in different
contexts; or they are

(2) two pieces of ACTUAL experience belonging to the same subject,
with definite tracts of conjunctive transitional experience
between them; or

(3) the known is a POSSIBLE experience either of that subject or
another, to which the said conjunctive transitions WOULD lead,
if sufficiently prolonged.

To discuss all the ways in which one experience may function as the
knower of another, would be incompatible with the limits of
this essay. I have treated of type 1, the kind of knowledge called
perception, in an article in the Journal of Philosophy, for
September 1, 1904, called 'Does consciousness exist?' This is the
type of case in which the mind enjoys direct 'acquaintance' with a
present object. In the other types the mind has 'knowledge-about'
an object not immediately there. Type 3 can always formally and
hypothetically be reduced to type 2, so that a brief description of
that type will now put the present reader sufficiently at my point
of view, and make him see what the actual meanings of the
mysterious cognitive relation may be.

Suppose me to be sitting here in my library at Cambridge, at ten
minutes' walk from 'Memorial Hall,' and to be thinking truly of
the latter object. My mind may have before it only the name, or it
may have a clear image, or it may have a very dim image of the
hall, but such an intrinsic difference in the image makes no
difference in its cognitive function. Certain extrinsic phenomena,
special experiences of conjunction, are what impart to the image, be
it what it may, its knowing office.

For instance, if you ask me what hall I mean by my image, and I can
tell you nothing; or if I fail to point or lead you towards the
Harvard Delta; or if, being led by you, I am uncertain whether the
Hall I see be what I had in mind or not; you would rightly deny that
I had 'meant' that particular hall at all, even tho my mental image
might to some degree have resembled it. The resemblance would
count in that case as coincidental merely, for all sorts of things
of a kind resemble one another in this world without being held for
that reason to take cognizance of one another.

On the other hand, if I can lead you to the hall, and tell you of
its history and present uses; if in its presence I feel my idea,
however imperfect it may have been, to have led hither and to be now
TERMINATED; if the associates of the image and of the felt hall
run parallel, so that each term of the one context corresponds
serially, as I walk, with an answering term of the other; why then
my soul was prophetic, and my idea must be, and by common consent
would be, called cognizant of reality. That percept was what I
MEANT, for into it my idea has passed by conjunctive experiences of
sameness and fulfilled intention. Nowhere is there jar, but every
later moment continues and corroborates an earlier one.

In this continuing and corroborating, taken in no transcendental
sense, but denoting definitely felt transitions, LIES ALL THAT THE
Wherever such transitions are felt, the first experience KNOWS the
last one. Where they do not, or where even as possibles they can
not, intervene, there can be no pretence of knowing. In this latter
case the extremes will be connected, if connected at all, by
inferior relations--bare likeness or succession, or by 'withness'
alone. Knowledge of sensible realities thus comes to life inside the
tissue of experience. It is MADE; and made by relations that unroll
themselves in time. Whenever certain intermediaries are given, such
that, as they develop towards their terminus, there is
experience from point to point of one direction followed, and
finally of one process fulfilled, the result is that THEIR STARTING-
OR KNOWN. That is all that knowing (in the simple case considered)
can be known-as, that is the whole of its nature, put into
experiential terms. Whenever such is the sequence of our experiences
we may freely say that we had the terminal object 'in mind' from the
outset, even altho AT the outset nothing was there in us but a flat
piece of substantive experience like any other, with no self-
transcendency about it, and no mystery save the mystery of coming
into existence and of being gradually followed by other pieces of
substantive experience, with conjunctively transitional
experiences between. That is what we MEAN here by the object's being
'in mind.' Of any deeper more real way of its being in mind we have
no positive conception, and we have no right to discredit our actual
experience by talking of such a way at all.

I know that many a reader will rebel at this. 'Mere intermediaries,'
he will say, 'even tho they be feelings of continuously
growing fulfilment, only SEPARATE the knower from the known, whereas
what we have in knowledge is a kind of immediate touch of the one
by the other, an "apprehension" in the etymological sense of the
word, a leaping of the chasm as by lightning, an act by which
two terms are smitten into one over the head of their distinctness.
All these dead intermediaries of yours are out of each other, and
outside of their termini still.'

But do not such dialectic difficulties remind us of the dog dropping
his bone and snapping at its image in the water? If we knew any
more real kind of union aliunde, we might be entitled to brand all
our empirical unions as a sham. But unions by continuous
transition are the only ones we know of, whether in this matter of a
knowledge-about that terminates in an acquaintance, whether in
personal identity, in logical prediction through the copula 'is,' or
elsewhere. If anywhere there were more absolute unions, they could
only reveal themselves to us by just such conjunctive results. These
are what the unions are worth, these are all that we can ever
practically mean by union, by continuity. Is it not time to
repeat what Lotze said of substances, that to act like one is to be
one? Should we not say here that to be experienced as continuous is
to be really continuous, in a world where experience and reality
come to the same thing? In a picture gallery a painted hook will
serve to hang a painted chain by, a painted cable will hold a
painted ship. In a world where both the terms and their distinctions
are affairs of experience, conjunctions that are experienced must be
at least as real as anything else. They will be 'absolutely' real
conjunctions, if we have no transphenomenal absolute ready,
to derealize the whole experienced world by, at a stroke.

So much for the essentials of the cognitive relation where the
knowledge is conceptual in type, or forms knowledge 'about' an
object. It consists in intermediary experiences (possible, if not
actual) of continuously developing progress, and, finally, of
fulfilment, when the sensible percept which is the object is
reached. The percept here not only VERIFIES the concept, proves its
function of knowing that percept to be true, but the percept's
existence as the terminus of the chain of intermediaries CREATES the
function. Whatever terminates that chain was, because it now proves
itself to be, what the concept 'had in mind.'

The towering importance for human life of this kind of knowing lies
in the tact that an experience that knows another can figure as its
REPRESENTATIVE, not in any quasi-miraculous 'epistemological' sense,
but in the definite, practical sense of being its substitute in
various operations, sometimes physical and sometimes mental, which
lead us to its associates and results. By experimenting on our
ideas of reality, we may save ourselves the trouble of experimenting
on the real experiences which they severally mean. The ideas form
related systems, corresponding point for point to the systems which
the realities form; and by letting an ideal term call up its
associates systematically, we may be led to a terminus which
the corresponding real term would have led to in case we had
operated on the real world. And this brings us to the general
question of substitution.

What, exactly, in a system of experiences, does the 'substitution'
of one of them for another mean?

According to my view, experience as a whole is a process in time,
whereby innumerable particular terms lapse and are superseded
by others that follow upon them by transitions which, whether
disjunctive or conjunctive in content, are themselves experiences,
and must in general be accounted at least as real as the terms which
they relate. What the nature of the event called 'superseding'
signifies, depends altogether on the kind of transition
that obtains. Some experiences simply abolish their predecessors
without continuing them in any way. Others are felt to increase or
to enlarge their meaning, to carry out their purpose, or to bring us
nearer to their goal. They 'represent' them, and may fulfil their
function better than they fulfilled it themselves. But to 'fulfil a
function' in a world of pure experience can be conceived and defined
in only one possible way. In such a world transitions and arrivals
(or terminations) are the only events that happen, tho they happen
by so many sorts of path. The only function that one experience can
perform is to lead into another experience; and the only fulfilment
we can speak of is the reaching of a certain experienced end. When
one experience leads to (or can lead to) the same end as another,
they agree in function. But the whole system of experiences as they
are immediately given presents itself as a quasi-chaos through which
one can pass out of an initial term in many directions and yet
end in the same terminus, moving from next to next by a great many
possible paths.

Either one of these paths might be a functional substitute for
another, and to follow one rather than another might on occasion be
an advantageous thing to do. As a matter of fact, and in a general
way, the paths that run through conceptual experiences, that
is, through 'thoughts' or 'ideas' that 'know' the things in which
they terminate, are highly advantageous paths to follow. Not only do
they yield inconceivably rapid transitions; but, owing to the
'universal' character [Footnote: Of which all that need be said in
this essay is that it also an be conceived as functional, and
defined in terms of transitions, or of the possibility of such.]
which they frequently possess, and to their capacity for association
with one another in great systems, they outstrip the tardy
consecutions of the things themselves, and sweep us on towards our
ultimate termini in a far more labor-saving way than the following
of trains of sensible perception ever could. Wonderful are the
new cuts and the short-circuits the thought-paths make. Most
thought-paths, it is true, are substitutes for nothing actual; they
end outside the real world altogether, in wayward fancies,
utopias, fictions or mistakes. But where they do re-enter reality
and terminate therein, we substitute them always; and with these
substitutes we pass the greater number of our hours. [Footnote: This
is why I called our experiences, taken all together, a quasi-chaos.
There is vastly more discontinuity in the sum total of experiences
than we commonly suppose. The objective nucleus of every man's
experience, his own body, is, it is true, a continuous percept; and
equally continuous as a percept (though we may be inattentive to it)
is the material environment of that body, changing by gradual
transition when the body moves. But the distant parts of the
physical world are at all times absent from us, and form conceptual
objects merely, into the perceptual reality of which our life
inserts itself at points discrete and relatively rare. Round their
several objective nuclei, partly shared and common partly discrete
of the real physical world, innumerable thinkers, pursuing their
several lines of physically true cogitation, trace paths that
intersect one another only at discontinuous perceptual points, and
the rest of the time are quite incongruent; and around all the
nuclei of shared 'reality' floats the vast cloud of experiences that
are wholly subjective, that are non-substitutional, that find not
even an eventual ending for themselves in the perceptual world--the
mere day-dreams and joys and sufferings and wishes of the individual
minds. These exist WITH one another, indeed, and with the objective
nuclei, but out of them it is probable that to all eternity no
inter-related system of any kind will ever be made.]

Whosoever feels his experience to be something substitutional even
while he has it, may be said to have an experience that
reaches beyond itself. From inside of its own entity it says 'more,'
and postulates reality existing elsewhere. For the
transcendentalist, who holds knowing to consist in a salto
motale across an 'epistemological chasm,' such an idea presents no
difficulty; but it seems at first sight as if it might be
inconsistent with an empiricism like our own. Have we not explained
that conceptual knowledge is made such wholly by the existence of
things that fall outside of the knowing experience itself--by
intermediary experiences and by a terminus that fulfils?

Can the knowledge be there before these elements that constitute its
being have come? And, if knowledge be not there, how can
objective reference occur?

The key to this difficulty lies in the distinction between knowing
as verified and completed, and the same knowing as in transit and on
its way. To recur to the Memorial Hall example lately used, it is
only when our idea of the Hall has actually terminated in
the percept that we know 'for certain' that from the beginning it
was truly cognitive of THAT. Until established by the end of the
process, its quality of knowing that, or indeed of knowing anything,
could still be doubted; and yet the knowing really was there, as the
result now shows. We were VIRTUAL knowers of the Hall long before we
were certified to have been its actual knowers, by the percept's
retroactive validating power. Just so we are 'mortal' all the time,
by reason of the virtuality of the inevitable event which will make
us so when it shall have come.

Now the immensely greater part of all our knowing never gets beyond
this virtual stage. It never is completed or nailed down. I
speak not merely of our ideas of imperceptibles like ether-waves or
dissociated 'ions,' or of 'ejects' like the contents of our
neighbors' minds; I speak also of ideas which we might verify if
we would take the trouble, but which we hold for true altho
unterminated perceptually, because nothing says 'no' to us, and
there is no contradicting truth in sight. TO CONTINUE
experience runs by cognitive transition into the next one, and
we nowhere feel a collision with what we elsewhere count as truth or
fact, we commit ourselves to the current as if the port were sure.
We live, as it, were, upon the front edge of an advancing wave-
crest, and our sense of a determinate direction in falling forward
is all we cover of the future of our path. It is as if a
differential quotient should be conscious and treat itself as an
adequate substitute for a traced-out curve. Our experience, inter
alia, is of variations of rate and of direction, and lives in these
transitions more than in the journey's end. The experiences of
tendency are sufficient to act upon--what more could we have DONE
at those moments even if the later verification comes complete?

This is what, as a radical empiricist, I say to the charge that the
objective reference which is so flagrant a character of our
experiences involves a chasm and a mortal leap. A
positively conjunctive transition involves neither chasm nor leap.
Being the very original of what we mean by continuity, it makes a
continuum wherever it appears. Objective reference is an incident of
the fact that so much of our experience comes as an insufficient
and consists of process and transition. Our fields of experience
have no more definite boundaries than have our fields of view. Both
are fringed forever by a MORE that continuously develops, and that
continuously supersedes them as life proceeds. The relations,
generally speaking, are as real here as the terms are, and the only
complaint of the transcendentalist's with which I could at all
sympathize would be his charge that, by first making knowledge to
consist in external relations as I have done, and by then confessing
that nine-tenths of the time these are not actually but only
virtually there, I have knocked the solid bottom out of the whole
business, and palmed off a substitute of knowledge for the genuine
thing. Only the admission, such a critic might say, that our ideas
are self-transcendent and 'true' already; in advance of the
experiences that are to terminate them, can bring solidity back to
knowledge in a world like this, in which transitions and
terminations are only by exception fulfilled.

This seems to me an excellent place for applying the pragmatic
method. What would the self-transcendency affirmed to exist in
advance of all experiential mediation or termination, be KNOWN-AS?
What would it practically result in for US, were it true?

It could only result in our orientation, in the turning of our
expectations and practical tendencies into the right path; and the
right path here, so long as we and the object are not yet face to
face (or can never get face to face, as in the case of ejects),
would be the path that led us into the object's
nearest neighborhood. Where direct acquaintance is
lacking, 'knowledge about' is the next best thing, and an
acquaintance with what actually lies about the 'object, and is most
closely related to it, puts such knowledge within our grasp. Ether-
waves and your anger, for example, are things in which my thoughts
will never PERCTEPTUALLY terminate, but my concepts of them lead me
to their very brink, to the chromatic fringes and to the hurtful
words and deeds which are their really next effects.

Even if our ideas did in themselves possess the postulated self-
transcendency, it would still remain true that their putting us
into possession of such effects WOULD BE THE SOLE CASH-VALUE OF THE
SELF-TRANSCENDENCY FOR US. And this cash-value, it is needless to
say, is verbatim et liberatim what our empiricist account pays in.
On pragmatist principles therefore, a dispute over self-
transcendency is a pure logomachy. Call our concepts of ejective
things self-transcendent or the reverse, it makes no difference, so
long as we don't differ about the nature of that exalted virtue's
fruits--fruits for us, of course, humanistic fruits.

The transcendentalist believes his ideas to be self-transcendent
only because he finds that in fact they do bear fruits. Why need
he quarrel with an account of knowledge that insists on naming this
effect? Why not treat the working of the idea from next to next
as the essence of its self-transcendency? Why insist that knowing is
a static relation out of time when it practically seems so much
a function of our active life? For a thing to be valid, says Lotze,
is the same as to make itself valid. When the whole universe seems
only to be making itself valid and to be still incomplete (else why
its ceaseless changing?) why, of all things, should knowing be
exempt? Why should it not be making itself valid like everything
else? That some parts of it may be already valid or verified beyond
dispute; the empirical philosopher, of course, like any one else,
may always hope.



[Footnote: Reprinted from the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and
Scientific Methods, vol. ii. No. 5, March 2, 1905.]

Humanism is a ferment that has 'come to stay.' It is not a single
hypothesis or theorem, and it dwells on no new facts. It is rather a
slow shifting in the philosophic perspective, making things appear
as from a new centre of interest or point of sight. Some writers are
strongly conscious of the shifting, others half unconscious, even
though their own vision may have undergone much change. The result
is no small confusion in debate, the half-conscious humanists often
taking part against the radical ones, as if they wished to count
upon the other side. [Footnote: Professor Baldwin, for example. His
address 'Selective Thinking' (Psychological Review, January, 1898,
reprinted in his volume, 'Development and Evolution') seems to me an
unusually well written pragmatic manifesto. Nevertheless in 'The
Limits of Pragmatism' (ibid; January, 1904), he (much less clearly)
joins in the attack.]

If humanism really be the name for such a shifting of perspective,
it is obvious that the whole scene of the philosophic stage
will change in some degree if humanism prevails. The emphasis of
things, their foreground and background distribution, their sizes
and values, will not keep just the same. [Footnote: The
ethical changes, it seems to me, are beautifully made evident in
Professor Dewey's series of articles, which will never get the
attention they deserve till they are printed in a book. I mean: 'The
Significance of Emotions,' Psychological Review, vol. ii, 13; 'The
Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology,' ibid; iii, 357; 'Psychology and
Social Practice,' ibid., vii, 105; 'Interpretation of Savage Mind,'
ibid; ix, 2l7; 'Green's Theory of the Moral Motive,' Philosophical
Review, vol. i, 593; 'Self-realization as the Moral Ideal,' ibid;
ii, 652; 'The Psychology of Effort,' ibid; vi, 43; 'The Evolutionary
Method as Applied to Morality,' ibid; xi, 107,353; 'Evolution and
Ethics,' Monist, vol. viii, 321; to mention only a few.] If such
pervasive consequences be involved in humanism, it is clear that no
pains which philosophers may take, first in defining it, and then in
furthering, checking, or steering its progress, will be thrown away.

It suffers badly at present from incomplete definition. Its most
systematic advocates, Schiller and Dewey, have published
fragmentary programmes only; and its bearing on many vital
philosophic problems has not been traced except by adversaries who,
scenting heresies in advance, have showered blows on doctrines--
subjectivism and scepticism, for example--that no good humanist
finds it necessary to entertain. By their still greater reticences,
the anti-humanists have, in turn, perplexed the humanists. Much of
the controversy has involved the word 'truth.' It is always good in
debate to know your adversary's point of view authentically. But the
critics of humanism never define exactly what the word 'truth'
signifies when they use it themselves. The humanists have to guess
at their view; and the result has doubtless been much beating of the
air. Add to all this, great individual differences in both camps,
and it becomes clear that nothing is so urgently needed, at the
stage which things have reached at present, as a sharper
definition by each side of its central point of view.

Whoever will contribute any touch of sharpness will help us to make
sure of what's what and who is who. Any one can contribute such a
definition, and, without it, no one knows exactly where he stands.
If I offer my own provisional definition of humanism now and here,
others may improve it, some adversary may be led to define his own
creed more sharply by the contrast, and a certain quickening of the
crystallization of general opinion may result.

The essential service of humanism, as I conceive the situation, is
also expresses the main contention of transcendental idealism, it
needs abundant explication to make it unambiguous. It seems, at
first sight, to confine itself to denying theism and pantheism. But,
in fact, it need not deny either; everything would depend on the
exegesis; and if the formula ever became canonical, it would
certainly develop both right-wing and left-wing interpreters. I
myself read humanism theistically and pluralistically. If there be a
God, he is no absolute all-experiencer, but simply the experiencer
of widest actual conscious span. Read thus, humanism is for me a
religion susceptible of reasoned defence, tho I am well aware how
many minds there are to whom it can appeal religiously only when it
has been monistically translated. Ethically the pluralistic form of
it takes for me a stronger hold on reality than any other philosophy
I know of--it being essentially a SOCIAL philosophy, a philosophy of
'CO,' in which conjunctions do the work. But my primary reason for
advocating it is its matchless intellectual economy. It gets rid,
not only of the standing 'problems' that monism engenders ('problem
of evil,' 'problem of freedom,' and the like), but of other
metaphysical mysteries and paradoxes as well.

It gets rid, for example, of the whole agnostic controversy, by
refusing to entertain the hypothesis of trans-empirical reality at
all. It gets rid of any need for an absolute of the bradleyan type
(avowedly sterile for intellectual purposes) by insisting that the
conjunctive relations found within experience are faultlessly real.
It gets rid of the need of an absolute of the roycean type
(similarly sterile) by its pragmatic treatment of the problem of
knowledge. As the views of knowledge, reality and truth imputed to
humanism have been those so far most fiercely attacked, it is in
regard to these ideas that a sharpening of focus seems most urgently
required. I proceed therefore to bring the views which I impute to
humanism in these respects into focus as briefly as I can.


If the central humanistic thesis, printed above in italics, be
accepted, it will follow that, if there be any such thing at all as
knowing, the knower and the object known must both be portions of
experience. One part of experience must, therefore, either

(1) Know another part of experience--in other words, parts must, as
Professor Woodbridge says, [Footnote: In Science, November 4,
1904, p. 599.] represent ONE ANOTHER instead of representing
realities outside of 'consciousness'--this case is that of
conceptual knowledge; or else

(2) They must simply exist as so many ultimate THATS or facts of
being, in the first instance; and then, as a secondary
complication, and without doubling up its entitative singleness, any
one and the same THAT in experience must figure alternately as a
thing known and as a knowledge of the thing, by reason of two
divergent kinds of context into which, in the general course of
experience, it gets woven. [Footnote: This statement is
probably excessively obscure to any one who has not read my two
articles 'Does Consciousness Exist?' and 'A World of Pure
Experience' in the Journal of Philosophy, vol. i, 1904.]

This second case is that of sense-perception. There is a stage of
thought that goes beyond common sense, and of it I shall say
more presently; but the common-sense stage is a perfectly definite
halting-place of thought, primarily for purposes of action; and, so
long as we remain on the common-sense stage of thought, object and
subject FUSE in the fact of 'presentation' or sense-perception-
the pen and hand which I now SEE writing, for example, ARE the
physical realities which those words designate. In this case there
is no self-transcendency implied in the knowing. Humanism, here, is
only a more comminuted IDENTITATSPHILOSOPHIE.

In case (1), on the contrary, the representative experience DOES
TRANSCEND ITSELF in knowing the other experience that is its object.
No one can talk of the knowledge of the one by the other without
seeing them as numerically distinct entities, of which the one lies
beyond the other and away from it, along some direction and with
some interval, that can be definitely named. But, if the talker be
a humanist, he must also see this distance-interval concretely and
pragmatically, and confess it to consist of other
intervening experiences--of possible ones, at all events, if not of
actual. To call my present idea of my dog, for example, cognitive of
the real dog means that, as the actual tissue of experience is
constituted, the idea is capable of leading into a chain of other
experiences on my part that go from next to next and terminate at
last in vivid sense-perceptions of a jumping, barking, hairy body.
Those ARE the real dog, the dog's full presence, for my common
sense. If the supposed talker is a profound philosopher, altho they
may not BE the real dog for him, they MEAN the real dog, are
practical substitutes for the real dog, as the representation was a
practical substitute for them, that real dog being a lot of atoms,
say, or of mind-stuff, that lie WHERE the sense-perceptions lie in
his experience as well as in my own.


The philosopher here stands for the stage of thought that goes
beyond the stage of common sense; and the difference is simply
that he 'interpolates' and 'extrapolates,' where common sense does
not. For common sense, two men see the same identical real dog.
Philosophy, noting actual differences in their perceptions points
out the duality of these latter, and interpolates something between
them as a more real terminus--first, organs, viscera, etc.; next,
cells; then, ultimate atoms; lastly, mind-stuff perhaps. The
original sense-termini of the two men, instead of coalescing with
each other and with the real dog-object, as at first supposed, are
thus held by philosophers to be separated by invisible realities
with which, at most, they are conterminous.

Abolish, now, one of the percipients, and the interpolation changes
into 'extrapolation.' The sense-terminus of the remaining
percipient is regarded by the philosopher as not quite reaching
reality. He has only carried the procession of experiences, the
philosopher thinks, to a definite, because practical, halting-
place somewhere on the way towards an absolute truth that lies

The humanist sees all the time, however, that there is no absolute
transcendency even about the more absolute realities
thus conjectured or believed in. The viscera and cells are only
possible percepts following upon that of the outer body. The atoms
again, tho we may never attain to human means of perceiving them,
are still defined perceptually. The mind-stuff itself is conceived
as a kind of experience; and it is possible to frame the hypothesis
(such hypotheses can by no logic be excluded from philosophy) of two
knowers of a piece of mind-stuff and the mind-stuff itself becoming
'confluent' at the moment at which our imperfect knowing might pass
into knowing of a completed type. Even so do you and I habitually
conceive our two perceptions and the real dog as confluent, tho only
provisionally, and for the common-sense stage of thought. If my pen
be inwardly made of mind-stuff, there is no confluence NOW between
that mind-stuff and my visual perception of the pen. But conceivably
there might come to be such. confluence; for, in the case of my
HAND, the visual sensations and the inward feelings of the hand, its
mind-stuff, so to speak, are even now as confluent as any two things
can be.

There is, thus, no breach in humanistic epistemology. Whether
knowledge be taken as ideally perfected, or only as true enough to
pass muster for practice, it is hung on one continuous scheme.
Reality, howsoever remote, is always defined as a terminus
within the general possibilities of experience; and what knows it is
defined as an experience THAT 'REPRESENTS' IT, IN THE SENSE OF BEING
SUBSTITUTABLE FOR IT IN OUR THINKING because it leads to the same

Absolute reality here bears the same relation to sensation as
sensation bears to conception or imagination. Both are provisional
or final termini, sensation being only the terminus at which the
practical man habitually stops, while the philosopher projects a
'beyond,' in the shape of more absolute reality. These termini, for
the practical and the philosophical stages of thought respectively,
are self-supporting. They are not 'true' of anything else,
they simply ARE, are REAL. They 'lean on nothing,' as my italicized
formula said. Rather does the whole fabric of experience lean on
them, just as the whole fabric of the solar system, including many
relative positions, leans, for its absolute position in space, on
any one of its constituent stars. Here, again, one gets a new
IDENTITATSPHILOSOPHIE in pluralistic form.


If I have succeeded in making this at all clear (tho I fear that
brevity and abstractness between them may have made me fail), the
reader will see that the 'truth' of our mental operations must
always be an intra-experiential affair. A conception is
reckoned true by common sense when it can be made to lead to a
sensation. The sensation, which for common sense is not so much
'true' as 'real,' is held to be PROVISIONALLY true by the
philosopher just in so far as it COVERS (abuts at, or occupies the
place of) a still more absolutely real experience, in the
possibility of which, to some remoter experient, the
philosopher finds reason to believe.

Meanwhile what actually DOES count for true to any individual
trower, whether he be philosopher or common man, is always a result
of his APPERCEPTIONS. If a novel experience, conceptual or sensible,
contradict too emphatically our pre-existent system of beliefs,
in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is treated as false. Only
when the older and the newer experiences are congruous enough to
mutually apperceive and modify each other, does what we treat as an
advance in truth result. In no case, however, need truth consist in
a relation between our experiences and something archetypal or
trans-experiential. Should we ever reach absolutely terminal
experiences, experiences in which we all agreed, which were
superseded by no revised continuations, these would not be TRUE,
they would be REAL, they would simply BE, and be indeed the angles,
corners, and linchpins of all reality, on which the truth of
everything else would be stayed. Only such OTHER things as led to
these by satisfactory conjunctions would be 'true.'
Satisfactory connection of some sort with such termini is all
that the word 'truth' means. On the common-stage of thought sense-
presentations serve as such termini. Our ideas and concepts and
scientific theories pass for true only so far as they harmoniously
lead back to the world of sense.

I hope that many humanists will endorse this attempt of mine to
trace the more essential features of that way of viewing things. I
feel almost certain that Messrs. Dewey and Schiller will do so. If
the attackers will also take some slight account of it, it may be
that discussion will be a little less wide of the mark than it
has hitherto been.



[Footnote: Reprint from the Journal of Philosophy, July 18,1907.]

My failure in making converts to my conception of truth seems, if I
may judge by what I hear in conversation, almost complete.
An ordinary philosopher would feel disheartened, and a common
choleric sinner would curse God and die, after such a reception. But
instead of taking counsel of despair, I make bold to vary my
statements, in the faint hope that repeated droppings may wear upon
the stone, and that my formulas may seem less obscure if surrounded
by something more of a 'mass' whereby to apperceive them.

For fear of compromising other pragmatists, whoe'er they be, I will
speak of the conception which I am trying to make intelligible, as
my own conception. I first published it in the year 1885, in the
first article reprinted in the present book. Essential theses of
this article were independently supported in 1893 and 1895
by Professor D. S. Miller [Footnote: Philosophical Review, vol. ii,
p. 408, and Psychological Review, vol. ii, p. 533.] and were
repeated by me in a presidential address on 'The knowing of things
together' [Footnote: The relevant parts of which are printed above,
p. 43.] in 1895. Professor Strong, in an article in the Journal of
Philosophy, etc., [Footnote: Vol. i, p. 253.] entitled 'A
naturalistic theory of the reference of thought to reality,' called
our account 'the James-Miller theory of cognition,' and, as I
understood him, gave it his adhesion. Yet, such is the difficulty of
writing clearly in these penetralia of philosophy, that each of
these revered colleagues informs me privately that the account of
truth I now give--which to me is but that earlier statement more
completely set forth--is to him inadequate, and seems to leave the
gist of real cognition out. If such near friends disagree, what can
I hope from remoter ones, and what from unfriendly critics?

Yet I feel so sure that the fault must lie in my lame forms of
statement and not in my doctrine, that I am fain to try once more
to express myself.

Are there not some general distinctions which it may help us to
agree about in advance? Professor Strong distinguishes between what
he calls 'saltatory' and what he calls 'ambulatory' relations.
'Difference,' for example, is saltatory, jumping as it were
immediately from one term to another, but 'distance' in time or
space is made out of intervening parts of experience through which
we ambulate in succession. Years ago, when T. H. Green's ideas were
most influential, I was much troubled by his criticisms of english
sensationalism. One of his disciples in particular would always say
to me, 'Yes! TERMS may indeed be possibly sensational in origin; but
RELATIONS, what are they but pure acts of the intellect coming upon
the sensations from above, and of a higher nature?' I well remember
the sudden relief it gave me to perceive one day that SPACE-
relations at any rate were homogeneous with the terms between which
they mediated. The terms were spaces, and the relations were other
intervening spaces. [Footnote: See my Principles of Psychology, vol.
ii, pp. 148-153.] For the Greenites space-relations had
been saltatory, for me they became thenceforward ambulatory.

Now the most general way of contrasting my view of knowledge with
the popular view (which is also the view of most epistemologists) is
to call my view ambulatory, and the other view saltatory; and the
most general way of characterizing the two views is by saying
that my view describes knowing as it exists concretely, while the
other view only describes its results abstractly taken.

I fear that most of my recalcitrant readers fail to recognize that
what is ambulatory in the concrete may be taken so abstractly as
to appear saltatory. Distance, for example, is made abstract by
emptying out whatever is particular in the concrete intervals--it is
reduced thus to a sole 'difference,' a difference of 'place,' which
is a logical or saltatory distinction, a so-called 'pure relation.'

The same is true of the relation called 'knowing,' which may connect
an idea with a reality. My own account of this relation is
ambulatory through and through. I say that we know an object by
means of an idea, whenever we ambulate towards the object under the
impulse which the idea communicates. If we believe in so-called
'sensible' realities, the idea may not only send us towards its
object, but may put the latter into our very hand, make it
our immediate sensation. But, if, as most reflective people opine,
sensible realities are not 'real' realities, but only their
appearances, our idea brings us at least so far, puts us in touch
with reality's most authentic appearances and substitutes. In any
case our idea brings us into the object's neighborhood, practical or
ideal, gets us into commerce with it, helps us towards its closer
acquaintance, enables us to foresee it, class it, compare it, deduce
it,--in short, to deal with it as we could not were the idea not in
our possession.

The idea is thus, when functionally considered, an instrument for
enabling us the better to HAVE TO DO with the object and to act
about it. But it and the object are both of them bits of the general
sheet and tissue of reality at large; and when we say that the idea
leads us towards the object, that only means that it carries us
forward through intervening tracts of that reality into the object's
closer neighborhood, into the midst of its associates at least, be
these its physical neighbors, or be they its logical congeners only.
Thus carried into closer quarters, we are in an improved
situation as regards acquaintance and conduct; and we say that
through the idea we now KNOW the object better or more truly.

My thesis is that the knowing here is MADE by the ambulation through
the intervening experiences. If the idea led us nowhere, or FROM
that object instead of towards it, could we talk at all of its
having any cognitive quality? Surely not, for it is only when taken
in conjunction with the intermediate experiences that it gets
related to THAT PARTICULAR OBJECT rather than to any other part of
nature. Those intermediaries determine what particular
knowing function it exerts. The terminus they guide us to tells us
what object it 'means,' the results they enrich us with 'verify' or
'refute' it. Intervening experiences are thus as
indispensable foundations for a concrete relation of cognition as
intervening space is for a relation of distance. Cognition, whenever
we take it concretely, means determinate 'ambulation,' through
intermediaries, from a terminus a quo to, or towards, a terminus ad
quem. As the intermediaries are other than the termini,
and connected with them by the usual associative bonds (be these
'external' or be they logical, i.e., classificatory, in character),
there would appear to be nothing especially unique about the
processes of knowing. They fall wholly within experience; and we
need use, in describing them, no other categories than those which
we employ in describing other natural processes.

But there exist no processes which we cannot also consider
abstractly, eviscerating them down to their essential skeletons or
outlines; and when we have treated the processes of knowing thus, we
are easily led to regard them as something altogether unparalleled
in nature. For we first empty idea, object and intermediaries of all
their particularities, in order to retain only a general scheme, and
then we consider the latter only in its function of giving a result,
and not in its character of being a process. In this treatment the
intermediaries shrivel into the form of a mere space of separation,
while the idea and object retain only the logical distinctness of
being the end-terms that are separated. In other words,
the intermediaries which in their concrete particularity form a
bridge, evaporate ideally into an empty interval to cross, and then,
the relation of the end-terms having become saltatory, the whole
hocus-pocus of Erkenntnistheorie begins, and goes on unrestrained by
further concrete considerations. The idea, in 'meaning' an object
separated by an 'epistemological chasm' from itself, now executes
what Professor Ladd calls a 'salto mortale'; in knowing the object's
nature, it now 'transcends' its own. The object in turn becomes
'present' where it is really absent, etc.; until a scheme remains
upon our hands, the sublime paradoxes of which some of us think that
nothing short of an 'absolute' can explain.

The relation between idea and object, thus made abstract and
saltatory, is thenceforward opposed, as being more essential and
previous, to its own ambulatory self, and the more
concrete description is branded as either false or insufficient. The
bridge of intermediaries, actual or possible, which in every real
case is what carries and defines the knowing, gets treated as an
episodic complication which need not even potentially be there. I
believe that this vulgar fallacy of opposing abstractions to the
concretes from which they are abstracted, is the main reason why my
account of knowing is deemed so unsatisfactory, and I will
therefore say a word more on that general point.

Any vehicle of conjunction, if all its particularities are
abstracted from it, will leave us with nothing on our hands but the
original disjunction which it bridged over. But to escape treating
the resultant self-contradiction as an achievement of dialectical
profundity, all we need is to restore some part, no matter
how small, of what we have taken away. In the case of the
epistemological chasm the first reasonable step is to remember that
the chasm was filled with SOME empirical material,
whether ideational or sensational, which performed SOME bridging
function and saved us from the mortal leap. Restoring thus the
indispensable modicum of reality to the matter of our discussion, we
find our abstract treatment genuinely useful. We escape entanglement
with special cases without at the same time falling into gratuitous
paradoxes. We can now describe the general features of cognition,
tell what on the whole it DOES FOR US, in a universal way.

We must remember that this whole inquiry into knowing grows up on a
reflective level. In any real moment of knowing, what we
are thinking of is our object, not the way in which we ourselves are
momentarily knowing it. We at this moment, as it happens, have
knowing itself for our object; but I think that the reader will
agree that his present knowing of that object is included only
abstractly, and by anticipation, in the results he may reach. What
he concretely has before his mind, as he reasons, is some supposed
objective instance of knowing, as he conceives it to go on in some
other person, or recalls it from his own past. As such, he, the
critic, sees it to contain both an idea and an object, and processes
by which the knower is guided from the one towards the other. He
sees that the idea is remote from the object, and that, whether
through intermediaries or not, it genuinely HAS TO DO with it.
He sees that it thus works beyond its immediate being, and lays hold
of a remote reality; it jumps across, transcends itself. It does all
this by extraneous aid, to be sure, but when the aid has come, it
HAS done it and the result is secure. Why not talk of results by
themselves, then, without considering means? Why not treat the idea
as simply grasping or intuiting the reality, of its having the
faculty anyhow, of shooting over nature behind the scenes
and knowing things immediately and directly? Why need we always lug
in the bridging?--it only retards our discourse to do so.

Such abstract talk about cognition's results is surely convenient;
and it is surely as legitimate as it is convenient, SO LONG AS WE DO
say that our idea meant ALWAYS that particular object, that it led
us there because it was OF it intrinsically and essentially. We may
insist that its verification follows upon that original
cognitive virtue in it--and all the rest--and we shall do no harm so
long as we know that these are only short cuts in our thinking. They
are positively true accounts of fact AS FAR AS THEY GO, only they
leave vast tracts of fact out of the account, tracts of tact that
have to be reinstated to make the accounts literally true of any
real case. But if, not merely passively ignoring the intermediaries,
you actively deny them [Footnote: This is the fallacy which I have
called 'vicious intellectualism' in my book A Pluralistic Universe,
Longmans, Green & Co., 1909.] to be even potential requisites for
the results you are so struck by, your epistemology goes to
irremediable smash. You are as far off the track as an historian
would be, if, lost in admiration of Napoleon's personal power, he
were to ignore his marshals and his armies, and were to accuse you
of error in describing his conquests as effected by their means.
Of such abstractness and one-sidedness I accuse most of the critics
of my own account.

In the second lecture of the book Pragmatism, I used the
illustration of a squirrel scrambling round a tree-trunk to keep
out of sight of a pursuing man: both go round the tree, but does the
man go round the squirrel? It all depends, I said, on what you mean
by going round.' In one sense of the word the man 'goes round,' in
another sense he does not. I settled the dispute by
pragmatically distinguishing the senses. But I told how
some disputants had called my distinction a shuffling evasion and
taken their stand on what they called 'plain honest English going-

In such a simple case few people would object to letting the term in
dispute be translated into its concreter equivalents. But in
the case of a complex function like our knowing they act
differently. I give full concrete particular value for the ideas of
knowing in every case I can think of, yet my critics insist
that 'plain honest English knowing' is left out of my account. They
write as if the minus were on my side and the plus on theirs.

The essence of the matter for me is that altho knowing can be both
abstractly and concretely described, and altho the
abstract descriptions are often useful enough, yet they are all
sucked up and absorbed without residuum into the concreter ones, and
contain nothing of any essentially other or higher nature, which the
concrete descriptions can be justly accused of leaving behind.
Knowing is just a natural process like any other. There is no
ambulatory process whatsoever, the results of which we may not
describe, if we prefer to, in saltatory terms, or represent
in static formulation. Suppose, e.g., that we say a man is
'prudent.' Concretely, that means that he takes out insurance,
hedges in betting, looks before he leaps. Do such acts
CONSTITUTE the prudence? ARE they the man qua prudent?

Or is the prudence something by itself and independent of them? As a
constant habit in him, a permanent tone of character, it
is convenient to call him prudent in abstraction from any one of his
acts, prudent in general and without specification, and to say the
acts follow from the pre-existing prudence. There are peculiarities
in his psycho-physical system that make him act prudently; and there
are tendencies to association in our thoughts that prompt some of
them to make for truth and others for error. But would the man be
prudent in the absence of each and all of the acts? Or would the
thoughts be true if they had no associative or impulsive
tendencies? Surely we have no right to oppose static essences in
this way to the moving processes in which they live embedded.

My bedroom is above my library. Does the 'aboveness' here mean aught
that is different from the concrete spaces which have to be moved-
through in getting from the one to the other? It means, you may say,
a pure topographic relation, a sort of architect's plan among the
eternal essences. But that is not the full aboveness, it is only an
abbreviated substitute that on occasion may lead my mind towards
truer, i.e., fuller, dealings with the real aboveness. It is not an
aboveness ante rem, it is a post rem extract from the aboveness in
rebus. We may indeed talk, for certain conveniences, as if the
abstract scheme preceded, we may say 'I must go up stairs because of
the essential aboveness,' just as we may say that the man 'does
prudent acts because of his ingrained prudence,' or that our ideas
'lead us truly because of their intrinsic truth.' But this should
not debar us on other occasions from using completer forms of
description. A concrete matter of fact always remains identical
under any form of description, as when we say of a line, now that it
runs from left to right, and now that it runs from right to left.
These are but names of one and the same fact, one more expedient to
use at one time, one at another. The full facts of cognition,
whatever be the way in which we talk about them, even when we talk
most abstractly, stand inalterably given in the actualities and
possibilities of the experience-continuum. [Footnote 1: The ultimate
object or terminus of a cognitive process may in certain instances
lie beyond the direct experience of the particular cognizer, but it,
of course, must exist as part of the total universe of experience
whose constitution, with cognition in it, the critic is discussing.]
But my critics treat my own more concrete talk as if IT were the
kind that sinned by its inadequacy, and as if the full continuum
left something out.

A favorite way of opposing the more abstract to the more concrete
account is to accuse those who favor the latter of
'confounding psychology with logic.' Our critics say that when we
are asked what truth MEANS, we reply by telling only how it is
ARRIVED-AT. But since a meaning is a logical relation, static,
independent of time, how can it possibly be identified, they say,
with any concrete man's experience, perishing as this does at the
instant of its production? This, indeed, sounds profound, but I
challenge the profundity. I defy any one to show any difference
between logic and psychology here. The logical relation stands to
the psychological relation between idea and object only as saltatory
abstractness stands to ambulatory concreteness. Both relations need
a psychological vehicle; and the 'logical' one is simply the
'psychological' one disemboweled of its fulness, and reduced to a
bare abstractional scheme.

A while ago a prisoner, on being released, tried to assassinate the
judge who had sentenced him. He had apparently succeeded
in conceiving the judge timelessly, had reduced him to a bare
logical meaning, that of being his 'enemy and persecutor,' by
stripping off all the concrete conditions (as jury's
verdict, official obligation, absence of personal spite, possibly
sympathy) that gave its full psychological character to the sentence
as a particular man's act in time. Truly the sentence WAS inimical
to the culprit; but which idea of it is the truer one, that bare
logical definition of it, or its full psychological specification?
The anti-pragmatists ought in consistency to stand up for the
criminal's view of the case, treat the judge as the latter's logical
enemy, and bar out the other conditions as so much
inessential psychological stuff.


A still further obstacle, I suspect, stands in the way of my
account's acceptance. Like Dewey and like Schiller, I have had to
say that the truth of an idea is determined by its satisfactoriness.
But satisfactoriness is a subjective term, just as idea is; and
truth is generally regarded as 'objective.' Readers who admit
that satisfactoriness is our only MARK of truth, the only sign that
we possess the precious article, will still say that the objective
relation between idea and object which the word 'truth' points to is
left out of my account altogether. I fear also that the association
of my poor name with the 'will to believe' (which 'will,' it seems
to me, ought to play no part in this discussion) works against my
credit in some quarters. I fornicate with that unclean thing,
my adversaries may think, whereas your genuine truth-lover must
discourse in huxleyan heroics, and feel as if truth, to be real
truth, ought to bring eventual messages of death to all
our satisfactions. Such divergences certainly prove the complexity
of the area of our discussion; but to my mind they also are based
on misunderstandings, which (tho with but little hope of success) I
will try to diminish by a further word of explanation.

First, then, I will ask my objectors to define exactly what SORT of
thing it is they have in mind when they speak of a truth that shall
be absolute, complete and objective; and then I will defy them to
show me any conceivable standing-room for such a kind of truth
outside the terms of my own description. It will fall, as I contend,
entirely within the field of my analysis.

To begin with, it must obtain between an idea and a reality that is
the idea's object; and, as a predicate, it must apply to the
idea and not to the object, for objective realities are not TRUE, at
least not in the universe of discourse to which we are now confining
ourselves, for there they are taken as simply BEING, while the ideas
are true OF them. But we can suppose a series of ideas to be
successively more and more true of the same object, and can ask what
is the extreme approach to being absolutely true that the last idea
might attain to.

The maximal conceivable truth in an idea would seem to be that it
should lead to an actual merging of ourselves with the object, to an
utter mutual confluence and identification. On the common-sense
level of belief this is what is supposed really to take place in
sense-perception. My idea of this pen verifies itself through my
percept; and my percept is held to BE the pen for the time being--
percepts and physical realities being treated by common sense as
identical. But the physiology of the senses has criticised common
sense out of court, and the pen 'in itself' is now believed to lie
beyond my momentary percept. Yet the notion once suggested, of what
a completely consummated acquaintance with a reality might be like,
remains over for our speculative purposes. TOTAL CONFLUX OF THE MIND
WITH THE REALITY would be the absolute limit of truth, there could
be no better or more satisfying knowledge than that.

Such total conflux, it is needless to say, is ALREADY EXPLICITLY
idea should ever lead us not only TOWARDS, or UP TO, or AGAINST, a
reality, but so close that we and the reality should MELT TOGETHER,
it would be made absolutely true, according to me, by that

In point of fact philosophers doubt that this ever occurs. What
happens, they think, is only that we get nearer and nearer to
realities, we approximate more and more to the all-satisfying limit;
and the definition of actually, as distinguished from
imaginably, complete and objective truth, can then only be that it
belongs to the idea that will lead us as CLOSE UP AGAINST THE OBJECT
as in the nature of our experience is possible, literally NEXT
to it, for instance.

Suppose, now, there were an idea that did this for a certain
objective reality. Suppose that no further approach were possible,
that nothing lay between, that the next step would carry us right
INTO the reality; then that result, being the next thing to conflux,
would make the idea true in the maximal degree that might be
supposed practically attainable in the world which we inhabit.

Well, I need hardly explain that THAT DEGREE OF TRUTH IS ALSO
the marks of truth's presence, we may add that any less true
substitute for such a true idea would prove less satisfactory.
Following its lead, we should probably find out that we did not
quite touch the terminus. We should desiderate a closer approach,
and not rest till we had found it.

I am, of course, postulating here a standing reality independent of
the idea that knows it. I am also postulating that satisfactions
grow pari passu with our approximation to such reality. [Footnote 1:
Say, if you prefer to, that DISsatisfactions decrease pari passu
with such approximation. The approximation may be of any kind
assignable--approximation in time or in space, or approximation in
kind, which in common speech means 'copying.'] If my critics
challenge this latter assumption, I retort upon them with the
former. Our whole notion of a standing reality grows up in the form
of an ideal limit to the series of successive termini to which
our thoughts have led us and still are leading us. Each terminus
proves provisional by leaving us unsatisfied. The truer idea is the
one that pushes farther; so we are ever beckoned on by the ideal
notion of an ultimate completely satisfactory terminus. I, for one,
obey and accept that notion. I can conceive no other objective
CONTENT to the notion of ideally perfect truth than that of
penetration into such a terminus, nor can I conceive that the
notion would ever have grown up, or that true ideas would ever have
been sorted out from false or idle ones, save for the greater sum
of satisfactions, intellectual or practical, which the truer ones
brought with them. Can we imagine a man absolutely satisfied with an
idea and with all its relations to his other ideas and to his
sensible experiences, who should yet not take its content as a true
account of reality? The matter of the true is thus
absolutely identical with the matter of the satisfactory. You may
put either word first in your ways of talking; but leave out that
whole notion of SATISFACTORY WORKING or LEADING (which is the
essence of my pragmatistic account) and call truth a static logical
relation, independent even of POSSIBLE leadings or
satisfactions, and it seems to me you cut all ground from under you.

I fear that I am still very obscure. But I respectfully implore
those who reject my doctrine because they can make nothing of
my stumbling language, to tell us in their own name--und zwar very
concretely and articulately!--just how the real, genuine and
absolutely 'objective' truth which they believe in so profoundly, is
constituted and established. They mustn't point to the 'reality'
itself, for truth is only our subjective relation to realities. What
is the nominal essence of this relation, its logical definition,
whether or not it be 'objectively' attainable by mortals?

Whatever they may say it is, I have the firmest faith that my
account will prove to have allowed for it and included it by
anticipation, as one possible case in the total mixture of cases.
There is, in short, no ROOM for any grade or sort of truth outside
of the framework of the pragmatic system, outside of that jungle of
empirical workings and leadings, and their nearer or ulterior
terminations, of which I seem to have written so unskilfully.




[Footnote: Reprinted from the Journal of Philosophy, etc.,
August 15, 1907 (vol. iv, p. 464).]

Professor J. B. Pratt's paper in the Journal of Philosophy for June
6, 1907, is so brilliantly written that its misconception of
the pragmatist position seems doubly to call for a reply.

He asserts that, for a pragmatist, truth cannot be a relation
between an idea and a reality outside and transcendent of the idea,
but must lie 'altogether within experience,' where it will need 'no
reference to anything else to justify it'--no reference to the
object, apparently. The pragmatist must 'reduce everything
to psychology,' aye, and to the psychology of the immediate moment.
He is consequently debarred from saying that an idea that
eventually gets psychologically verified WAS already true before the
process of verifying was complete; and he is equally debarred from
treating an idea as true provisionally so long as he only believes
that he CAN verify it whenever he will.

Whether such a pragmatist as this exists, I know not, never having
myself met with the beast. We can define terms as we like; and
if that be my friend Pratt's definition of a pragmatist, I can only
concur with his anti-pragmatism. But, in setting up the weird
type, he quotes words from me; so, in order to escape being classed
by some reader along with so asinine a being, I will reassert my own
view of truth once more.

Truth is essentially a relation between two things, an idea, on the
one hand, and a reality outside of the idea, on the other. This
relation, like all relations, has its fundamentum, namely, the
matrix of experiential circumstance, psychological as well as
physical, in which the correlated terms are found embedded. In
the case of the relation between 'heir' and 'legacy' the fundamentum
is a world in which there was a testator, and in which there is now
a will and an executor; in the case of that between idea and object,
it is a world with circumstances of a sort to make a satisfactory
verification process, lying around and between the two terms. But
just as a man may be called an heir and treated as one before the
executor has divided the estate, so an idea may practically be
credited with truth before the verification process has been
exhaustively carried out--the existence of the mass of
verifying circumstance is enough. Where potentiality counts for
actuality in so many other cases, one does not see why it may not so
count here. We call a man benevolent not only for his kind acts paid
in, but for his readiness to perform others; we treat an idea as
'luminous' not only for the light it has shed, but for that
we expect it will shed on dark problems. Why should we not equally
trust the truth of our ideas? We live on credits everywhere; and
we use our ideas far oftener for calling up things connected with
their immediate objects, than for calling up those objects
themselves. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the only use
we should make of the object itself, if we were led up to it by our
idea, would be to pass on to those connected things by its means. So
we continually curtail verification-processes, letting our belief
that they are possible suffice.

What CONSTITUTES THE RELATION known as truth, I now say, is just the
short-circuited or traversed at full length. So long as it exists,
and a satisfactory passage through it between the object and
the idea is possible, that idea will both BE true, and will HAVE
BEEN true of that object, whether fully developed verification has
taken place or not. The nature and place and affinities of
the object of course play as vital a part in making the particular
passage possible as do the nature and associative tendencies of the
idea; so that the notion that truth could fall altogether inside of
the thinker's private experience and be something purely
psychological, is absurd. It is BETWEEN the idea and the object that
the truth-relation is to be sought and it involves both terms.

But the 'intellectualistic' position, if I understand Mr. Pratt
rightly, is that, altho we can use this fundamentum, this mass
of go-between experience, for TESTING truth, yet the truth-relation
in itself remains as something apart. It means, in Mr. Pratt's

It seems to me that the word 'as,' which qualifies the relation
here, and bears the whole 'epistemological' burden, is anything but
simple. What it most immediately suggests is that the idea should be
LIKE the object; but most of our ideas, being abstract concepts,
bear almost no resemblance to their objects. The 'as' must
therefore, I should say, be usually interpreted functionally, as
meaning that the idea shall lead us into the same quarters of
experience AS the object would. Experience leads ever on and on, and
objects and our ideas of objects may both lead to the same goals.
The ideas being in that case shorter cuts, we SUBSTITUTE them more
and more for their objects; and we habitually waive direct
verification of each one of them, as their train passes through our
mind, because if an idea leads AS the object would lead, we can say,
in Mr. Pratt's words, that in so far forth the object is AS we think
it, and that the idea, verified thus in so far forth, is true

Mr. Pratt will undoubtedly accept most of these facts, but he will
deny that they spell pragmatism. Of course, definitions are free to
every one; but I have myself never meant by the pragmatic view of
truth anything different from what I now describe; and inasmuch as
my use of the term came earlier than my friend's, I think it ought
to have the right of way. But I suspect that Professor
Pratt's contention is not solely as to what one must think in order
to be called a pragmatist. I am cure that he believes that the
truth-relation has something MORE in it than the fundamentum which I
assign can account for. Useful to test truth by, the matrix of
circumstance, be thinks, cannot found the truth-relation in se, for
that is trans-empirical and 'saltatory.'

Well, take an object and an idea, and assume that the latter is true
of the former--as eternally and absolutely true as you like. Let the
object be as much 'as' the idea thinks it, as it is possible for one
thing to be 'as' another. I now formally ask of Professor Pratt to
tell what this 'as'-ness in itself CONSISTS in--for it seems to me
that it ought to consist in something assignable and describable,
and not remain a pure mystery, and I promise that if he can assign
any determination of it whatever which I cannot successfully refer
to some specification of what in this article I have called the
empirical fundamentum, I will confess my stupidity cheerfully, and
will agree never to publish a line upon this subject of truth again.


Professor Pratt has returned to the charge in a whole book,
[Footnote 1: J. B. Pratt: What is Pragmatism. New York, The
Macmillan Company, 1909.--The comments I have printed were written
in March, 1909, after some of the articles printed later in the
present volume.] which for its clearness and good temper deserves to
supersede all the rest of the anti-pragmatistic literature. I wish
it might do so; for its author admits all MY essential contentions,
simply distinguishing my account of truth as 'modified'
pragmatism from Schiller's and Dewey's, which he calls pragmatism of
the 'radical' sort. As I myself understand Dewey and Schiller, our
views absolutely agree, in spite of our different modes of
statement; but I have enough trouble of my own in life without
having to defend my friends, so I abandon them provisionally to the
tender mercy of Professor Pratt's interpretations, utterly erroneous
tho I deem these to be. My reply as regards myself can be
very short, for I prefer to consider only essentials, and Dr.
Pratt's whole book hardly takes the matter farther than the article
to which I retort in Part I of the present paper.

He repeats the 'as'-formula, as if it were something that I, along
with other pragmatists, had denied, [Footnote: Op. cit., pp. 77-
80.] whereas I have only asked those who insist so on its importance
to do something more than merely utter it--to explicate it, for
example, and tell us what its so great importance consists in. I
myself agree most cordially that for an idea to be true the object
must be 'as' the idea declares it, but I explicate the 'as'-ness as
meaning the idea's verifiability.

Now since Dr. Pratt denies none of these verifying 'workings' for
which I have pleaded, but only insists on their inability to serve
as the fundamentum of the truth-relation, it seems that there is
really nothing in the line of FACT about which we differ, and that
the issue between us is solely as to how far the notion of
workableness or verifiability is an essential part of the notion of
'trueness'--'trueness' being Dr. Pratt's present name for the
character of as-ness in the true idea. I maintain that there is no
meaning left in this notion of as-ness or trueness if no reference
to the possibility of concrete working on the part of the idea is

Take an example where there can be no possible working. Suppose I
have an idea to which I give utterance by the vocable 'skrkl,'
claiming at the same time that it is true. Who now can say
that it is FALSE, for why may there not be somewhere in the
unplumbed depths of the cosmos some object with which 'skrkl' can
agree and have trueness in Dr. Pratt's sense? On the other hand who
can say that it is TRUE, for who can lay his hand on that object and
show that it and nothing else is what I MEAN by my word? But yet
again, who can gainsay any one who shall call my word utterly
IRRELATIVE to other reality, and treat it as a bare fact in my mind,
devoid of any cognitive function whatever. One of these three
alternatives must surely be predicated of it. For it not to be
irrelevant (or not-cognitive in nature), an object of some kind must
be provided which it may refer to. Supposing that object provided,
whether 'skrkl' is true or false of it, depends, according to
Professor Pratt, on no intermediating condition whatever. The
trueness or the falsity is even now immediately, absolutely, and
positively there.

I, on the other hand, demand a cosmic environment of some kind to
establish which of them is there rather than utter
irrelevancy. [Footnote: Dr. Pratt, singularly enough, disposes of
this primal postulate of all pragmatic epistemology, by saying that
the pragmatist 'unconsciously surrenders his whole case by smuggling
in the idea of a conditioning environment which determines whether
or not the experience can work, and which cannot itself be
identified with the experience or any part of it' (pp. 167-168). The
'experience' means here of course the idea, or belief; and the
expression 'smuggling in' is to the last degree diverting. If any
epistemologist could dispense with a conditioning environment, it
would seem to be the antipragmatist, with his immediate saltatory
trueness, independent of work done. The mediating pathway which the
environment supplies is the very essence of the pragmatist's
explanation.] I then say, first, that unless some sort of a
natural path exists between the 'skrkl' and THAT object,
distinguishable among the innumerable pathways that run among all
the realities of the universe, linking them promiscuously with one
another, there is nothing there to constitute even the POSSIBILITY
OF ITS REFERRING to that object rather than to any other.

I say furthermore that unless it have some TENDENCY TO FOLLOW UP
THAT PATH, there is nothing to constitute its INTENTION to refer to
the object in question.

Finally, I say that unless the path be strown with possibilities of
frustration or encouragement, and offer some sort of terminal
satisfaction or contradiction, there is nothing to constitute its
agreement or disagreement with that object, or to constitute the as-
ness (or 'not-as-ness') in which the trueness (or falseness) is
said to consist.

I think that Dr. Pratt ought to do something more than repeat the
name 'trueness,' in answer to my pathetic question whether
that there be not some CONSTITUTION to a relation as important as
this. The pathway, the tendency, the corroborating or contradicting
progress, need not in every case be experienced in full, but I don't
see, if the universe doesn't contain them among its possibilities of
furniture, what LOGICAL MATERIAL FOR DEFINING the trueness of
my idea is left. But if it do contain them, they and they only are
the logical material required.

I am perplexed by the superior importance which Dr. Pratt attributes
to abstract trueness over concrete verifiability in an idea, and
I wish that he might be moved to explain. It is prior to
verification, to be sure, but so is the verifiability for which I
contend prior, just as a man's 'mortality' (which is nothing but
the possibility of his death) is prior to his death, but it can
hardly be that this abstract priority of all possibility to its
correlative fact is what so obstinate a quarrel is about. I think it
probable that Dr. Pratt is vaguely thinking of something concreter
than this. The trueness of an idea must mean SOMETHING DEFINITE IN
object rather than towards that. Undoubtedly there is something of
this sort in the idea, just as there is something in man
that accounts for his tendency towards death, and in bread that
accounts for its tendency to nourish. What that something is in
the case of truth psychology tells us: the idea has associates
peculiar to itself, motor as well as ideational; it tends by its
place and nature to call these into being, one after another;
and the appearance of them in succession is what we mean by the
'workings' of the idea. According to what they are, does the
trueness or falseness which the idea harbored come to light. These
tendencies have still earlier conditions which, in a general way,
biology, psychology and biography can trace. This whole chain of
natural causal conditions produces a resultant state of things in
which new relations, not simply causal, can now be found, or
into which they can now be introduced,--the relations namely which
we epistemologists study, relations of adaptation, of
substitutability, of instrumentality, of reference and of truth.

The prior causal conditions, altho there could be no knowing of any
kind, true or false, without them, are but preliminary to the
question of what makes the ideas true or false when once their
tendencies have been obeyed. The tendencies must exist in some shape
anyhow, but their fruits are truth, falsity, or
irrelevancy, according to what they concretely turn out to be. They
are not 'saltatory' at any rate, for they evoke their consequences
contiguously, from next to next only; and not until the final result
of the whole associative sequence, actual or potential, is in our
mental sight, can we feel sure what its epistemological
significance, if it have any, may be. True knowing is, in fine, not
substantially, in itself, or 'as such,' inside of the idea from the
first, any more than mortality AS SUCH is inside of the man,
or nourishment AS SUCH inside of the bread. Something else is there
first, that practically MAKES FOR knowing, dying or nourishing, as
the case may be. That something is the 'nature' namely of the first
term, be it idea, man, or bread, that operates to start the causal
chain of processes which, when completed, is the complex fact to
which we give whatever functional name best fits the case. Another
nature, another chain of cognitive workings; and then either another
object known or the same object known differently, will ensue.

Dr. Pratt perplexes me again by seeming to charge Dewey and Schiller
[Footnote: Page 200] (I am not sure that he charges me) with an
account of truth which would allow the object believed in not
to exist, even if the belief in it were true. 'Since the truth of an
idea,' he writes, 'means merely the fact that the idea works, that
fact is all that you mean when you say the idea is true' (p. 206).
'WHEN YOU SAY THE IDEA IS TRUE'--does that mean true for YOU, the
critic, or true for the believer whom you are describing? The
critic's trouble over this seems to come from his taking the word
'true' irrelatively, whereas the pragmatist always means 'true for
him who experiences the workings.' 'But is the object REALLY true or
not?'--the critic then seems to ask,--as if the pragmatist
were bound to throw in a whole ontology on top of his epistemology
and tell us what realities indubitably exist. 'One world at a time,'
would seem to be the right reply here.

One other trouble of Dr. Pratt's must be noticed. It concerns the
'transcendence' of the object. When our ideas have worked so as
to bring us flat up against the object, NEXT to it, 'is our relation
to it then ambulatory or saltatory?' Dr. Pratt asks. If YOUR
headache be my object, 'MY experiences break off where yours begin,'
Dr. Pratt writes, and 'this fact is of great importance, for it bars
out the sense of transition and fulfilment which forms so important
an element in the pragmatist description of knowledge--the sense of
fulfilment due to a continuous passage from the original idea to the
known object. If this comes at all when I know your headache, it
comes not with the object, but quite on my side of
the "epistemological gulf." The gulf is still there to be
transcended.' (p. 158).

Some day of course, or even now somewhere in the larger life of the
universe, different men's headaches may become confluent or be 'co-
conscious.' Here and now, however, headaches do transcend each other
and, when not felt, can be known only conceptually. My idea is that
you really have a headache; it works well with what I see of your
expression, and with what I hear you say; but it doesn't put me in
possession of the headache itself. I am still at one remove, and the
headache 'transcends' me, even tho it be in nowise transcendent of
human experience generally. Bit the 'gulf' here is that which the
pragmatist epistemology itself fixes in the very first words it
uses, by saying there must be an object and an idea. The idea
however doesn't immediately leap the gulf, it only works from next
to next so as to bridge it, fully or approximately. If it bridges
it, in the pragmatist's vision of his hypothetical universe, it can
be called a 'true' idea. If it only MIGHT bridge it, but doesn't, or
if it throws a bridge distinctly AT it, it still has, in the
onlooking pragmatist's eyes, what Professor Pratt calls
'trueness.' But to ask the pragmatist thereupon whether, when it
thus fails to coalesce bodily with the object, it is REALLY true or
has REAL trueness,--in other words whether the headache he
supposes, and supposes the thinker he supposes, to believe in, be a
real headache or not,--is to step from his hypothetical universe
of discourse into the altogether different world of natural fact.


[Footnote: Reprint from the Philosophical Review, January, 1908
(vol. xvii, p. 1).]

The account of truth given in my volume entitled Pragmatism,
continues to meet with such persistent misunderstanding that I
am tempted to make a final brief reply. My ideas may well deserve
refutation, but they can get none till they are conceived of in
their proper shape. The fantastic character of the
current misconceptions shows how unfamiliar is the concrete point of
view which pragmatism assumes. Persons who are familiar with a
conception move about so easily in it that they understand each
other at a hint, and can converse without anxiously attending to
their P's and Q's. I have to admit, in view of the results, that we
have assumed too ready an intelligence, and consequently in many
places used a language too slipshod. We should never have spoken
elliptically. The critics have boggled at every word they could
boggle at, and refused to take the spirit rather than the letter of
our discourse. This seems to show a genuine unfamiliarity in the
whole point of view. It also shows, I think, that the second stage
of opposition, which has already begun to express itself in the
stock phrase that 'what is new is not true, and what is true not
new,' in pragmatism, is insincere. If we said nothing in any degree
new, why was our meaning so desperately hard to catch? The
blame cannot be laid wholly upon our obscurity of speech, for in
other subjects we have attained to making ourselves understood. But
recriminations are tasteless; and, as far as I personally am
concerned, I am sure that some of the misconception I complain of is
due to my doctrine of truth being surrounded in that volume
of popular lectures by a lot of other opinions not necessarily
implicated with it, so that a reader may very naturally have grown
confused. For this I am to blame,--likewise for omitting certain
explicit cautions, which the pages that follow will now in part


This seems the commonest mistake. Scepticism, positivism, and
agnosticism agree with ordinary dogmatic rationalism in
presupposing that everybody knows what the word 'truth' means,
without further explanation. But the former doctrines then either
suggest or declare that real truth, absolute truth, is inaccessible
to us, and that we must fain put up with relative or phenomenal
truth as its next best substitute. By scepticism this is treated as
an unsatisfactory state of affairs, while positivism and agnosticism
are cheerful about it, call real truth sour grapes, and consider
phenomenal truth quite sufficient for all our 'practical' purposes.

In point of fact, nothing could be farther from all this than what
pragmatism has to say of truth. Its thesis is an altogether
previous one. It leaves off where these other theories begin, having
contented itself with the word truth's DEFINITION. 'No matter
whether any mind extant in the universe possess truth or not,' it
asks, 'what does the notion of truth signify IDEALLY?' 'What kind of
things would true judgments be IN CASE they existed?' The answer
which pragmatism offers is intended to cover the most complete truth
that can be conceived of, 'absolute' truth if you like, as well
as truth of the most relative and imperfect description. This
question of what truth would be like if it did exist, belongs
obviously to a purely speculative field of inquiry. It is not a
theory about any sort of reality, or about what kind of knowledge is
actually possible; it abstracts from particular terms altogether,
and defines the nature of a possible relation between two of them.

As Kant's question about synthetic judgments had escaped previous
philosophers, so the pragmatist question is not only so subtile as
to have escaped attention hitherto, but even so subtile, it would
seem, that when openly broached now, dogmatists and sceptics
alike fail to apprehend it, and deem the pragmatist to be treating
of something wholly different. He insists, they say (I quote an
actual critic), 'that the greater problems are insoluble by human
intelligence, that our need of knowing truly is artificial and
illusory, and that our reason, incapable of reaching the
foundations of reality, must turn itself exclusively
towards ACTION.' There could not be a worse misapprehension.


The name 'pragmatism,' with its suggestions of action, has been an
unfortunate choice, I have to admit, and has played into the
hands of this mistake. But no word could protect the doctrine from
critics so blind to the nature of the inquiry that, when Dr.
Schiller speaks of ideas 'working' well, the only thing they think
of is their immediate workings in the physical environment, their
enabling us to make money, or gain some similar
'practical' advantage. Ideas do work thus, of course, immediately or
remotely; but they work indefinitely inside of the mental world
also. Not crediting us with this rudimentary insight, our critics
treat our view as offering itself exclusively to engineers, doctors,
financiers, and men of action generally, who need some sort of
a rough and ready weltanschauung, but have no time or wit to study
genuine philosophy. It is usually described as a characteristically
American movement, a sort of bobtailed scheme of thought,
excellently fitted for the man on the street, who naturally hates
theory and wants cash returns immediately.

It is quite true that, when the refined theoretic question that
pragmatism begins with is once answered, secondary corollaries of a
practical sort follow. Investigation shows that, in the function
called truth, previous realities are not the only independent
variables. To a certain extent our ideas, being realities, are
also independent variables, and, just as they follow other reality
and fit it, so, in a measure, does other reality follow and fit
them. When they add themselves to being, they partly redetermine the
existent, so that reality as a whole appears incompletely definable
unless ideas also are kept account of. This pragmatist
doctrine, exhibiting our ideas as complemental factors of reality,
throws open (since our ideas are instigators of our action) a wide
window upon human action, as well as a wide license to
originality in thought. But few things could be sillier than to
ignore the prior epistemological edifice in which the window is
built, or to talk as if pragmatism began and ended at the
window. This, nevertheless, is what our critics do almost without
exception. They ignore our primary step and its motive, and make the
relation to action, which is our secondary achievement, primary.


They do so, according to the critics, by making the truth of our
beliefs consist in their verifiability, and their verifiability in
the way in which they do work for us. Professor Stout, in his
otherwise admirable and hopeful review of Schiller in Mind for
October, 1897, considers that this ought to lead Schiller (could he
sincerely realize the effects of his own doctrine) to the absurd
consequence of being unable to believe genuinely in another
man's headache, even were the headache there. He can only
'postulate' it for the sake of the working value of the postulate to
himself. The postulate guides certain of his acts and leads
to advantageous consequences; but the moment he understands fully
that the postulate is true ONLY (!) in this sense, it ceases (or
should cease) to be true for him that the other man really HAS a
headache. All that makes the postulate most precious then
evaporates: his interest in his fellow-man 'becomes a veiled form
of self-interest, and his world grows cold, dull, and heartless.'

Such an objection makes a curious muddle of the pragmatist's
universe of discourse. Within that universe the pragmatist finds
some one with a headache or other feeling, and some one else who
postulates that feeling. Asking on what condition the postulate is
'true' the pragmatist replies that, for the postulator at any rate,
it is true just in proportion as to believe in it works in him the
fuller sum of satisfactions. What is it that is satisfactory
here? Surely to BELIEVE in the postulated object, namely, in the
really existing feeling of the other man. But how (especially if the
postulator were himself a thoroughgoing pragmatist) could it ever be
satisfactory to him NOT to believe in that feeling, so long as, in
Professor Stout's words, disbelief 'made the world seem to him cold,
dull, and heartless'? Disbelief would seem, on pragmatist
principles, quite out of the question under such conditions,
unless the heartlessness of the world were made probable already on
other grounds. And since the belief in the headache, true for the
subject assumed in the pragmatist's universe of discourse, is also
true for the pragmatist who for his epitemologizing purposes has
assumed that entire universe, why is it not true in that
universe absolutely? The headache believed in is a reality there,
and no extant mind disbelieves it, neither the critic's mind nor his
subject's! Have our opponents any better brand of truth in this real
universe of ours that they can show us? [Footnote: I see here a
chance to forestall a criticism which some one may make on Lecture
III of my Pragmatism, where, on pp. 96-100, I said that 'God' and
'Matter' might be regarded as synonymous terms, so long as no
differing future consequences were deducible from the two
conceptions. The passage was transcribed from my address at the
California Philosophical Union, reprinted in the Journal of
Philosophy, vol. i, p. 673. I had no sooner given the address than I
perceived a flaw in that part of it; but I have left the passage
unaltered ever since, because the flaw did not spoil its
illustrative value. The flaw was evident when, as a case analogous
to that of a godless universe, I thought of what I called an
'automatic sweetheart,' meaning a soulless body which should be
absolutely indistinguishable from a spiritually animated maiden,
laughing, talking, blushing, nursing us, and performing all feminine
offices as tactfully and sweetly as if a soul were in her. Would
any one regard her as a full equivalent? Certainly not, and
why? Because, framed as we are, our egoism craves above all
things inward sympathy and recognition, love and admiration.
The outward treatment is valued mainly as an expression, as
a manifestation of the accompanying consciousness believed
in. Pragmatically, then, belief in the automatic sweetheart
would not work, and is point of fact no one treats it as a
serious hypothesis. The godless universe would be exactly
similar. Even if matter could do every outward thing that God does,
the idea of it would not work as satisfactorily, because the
chief call for a God on modern men's part is for a being who will
inwardly recognize them and judge them sympathetically. Matter
disappoints this craving of our ego, so God remains for most men the
truer hypothesis, and indeed remains so for definite pragmatic

So much for the third misunderstanding, which is but one
specification of the following still wider one.


This is supposed to follow from his statement that the truth of our
beliefs consists in general in their giving satisfaction. Of
course satisfaction per se is a subjective condition; so the
conclusion is drawn that truth falls wholly inside of the subject,
who then may manufacture it at his pleasure. True beliefs become
thus wayward affections, severed from all responsibility to other
parts of experience.

It is difficult to excuse such a parody of the pragmatist's opinion,
ignoring as it does every element but one of his universe of
discourse. The terms of which that universe consists
positively forbid any non-realistic interpretation of the function
of knowledge defined there. The pragmatizing epistemologist posits
there a reality and a mind with ideas. What, now, he asks, can make
those ideas true of that reality? Ordinary epistemology contents
itself with the vague statement that the ideas must 'correspond' or
'agree'; the pragmatist insists on being more concrete, and asks
what such 'agreement' may mean in detail. He finds first that the
ideas must point to or lead towards THAT reality and no other, and
then that the pointings and leadings must yield satisfaction as
their result. So far the pragmatist is hardly less abstract than the
ordinary slouchy epistemologist; but as he defines himself
farther, he grows more concrete. The entire quarrel of the
intellectualist with him is over his concreteness, intellectualism
contending that the vaguer and more abstract account is here the
more profound. The concrete pointing and leading are conceived by
the pragmatist to be the work of other portions of the same
universe to which the reality and the mind belong,
intermediary verifying bits of experience with which the mind at one
end, and the reality at the other, are joined. The 'satisfaction,'
in turn, is no abstract satisfaction ueberhaupt, felt by an
unspecified being, but is assumed to consist of such satisfactions
(in the plural) as concretely existing men actually do find in
their beliefs. As we humans are constituted in point of fact, we
find that to believe in other men's minds, in independent physical
realities, in past events, in eternal logical relations,
is satisfactory. We find hope satisfactory. We often find it
satisfactory to cease to doubt. Above all we find CONSISTENCY
satisfactory, consistency between the present idea and the entire
rest of our mental equipment, including the whole order of our
sensations, and that of our intuitions of likeness and difference,
and our whole stock of previously acquired truths.

The pragmatist, being himself a man, and imagining in general no
contrary lines of truer belief than ours about the 'reality' which
he has laid at the base of his epistemological discussion, is
willing to treat our satisfactions as possibly really true guides to
it, not as guides true solely for US. It would seem here to be
the duty of his critics to show with some explicitness why, being
our subjective feelings, these satisfactions can not yield
'objective' truth. The beliefs which they accompany 'posit'
the assumed reality, 'correspond' and 'agree' with it, and 'fit' it
in perfectly definite and assignable ways, through the sequent
trains of thought and action which form their verification, so
merely to insist on using these words abstractly instead of
concretely is no way of driving the pragmatist from the field,--
his more concrete account virtually includes his critic's. If our
critics have any definite idea of a truth more objectively grounded
than the kind we propose, why do they not show it more articulately?
As they stand, they remind one of Hegel's man who wanted
'fruit,' but rejected cherries, pears, and grapes, because they were
not fruit in the abstract. We offer them the full quart-pot, and
they cry for the empty quart-capacity.

But here I think I hear some critic retort as follows: 'If
satisfactions are all that is needed to make truth, how about the
notorious fact that errors are so often satisfactory? And how about
the equally notorious fact that certain true beliefs may cause the
bitterest dissatisfaction? Isn't it clear that not the
satisfaction which it gives, but the relation of the belief TO THE
REALITY is all that makes it true? Suppose there were no such
reality, and that the satisfactions yet remained: would they not
then effectively work falsehood? Can they consequently be treated
distinctively as the truth-builders? It is the INHERENT RELATION TO
REALITY of a belief that gives us that specific TRUTH-satisfaction,
compared with which all other satisfactions are the hollowest
humbug. The satisfaction of KNOWING TRULY is thus the only one which
the pragmatist ought to have considered. As a PSYCHOLOGICAL
SENTIMENT, the anti-pragmatist gladly concedes it to him, but then
only as a concomitant of truth, not as a constituent. What
CONSTITUTES truth is not the sentiment, but the purely logical or
objective function of rightly cognizing the reality, and the
pragmatist's failure to reduce this function to lower values is

Such anti-pragmatism as this seems to me a tissue of confusion. To
begin with, when the pragmatist says 'indispensable,' it
confounds this with 'sufficient.' The pragmatist calls satisfactions
indispensable for truth-building, but I have everywhere called them
insufficient unless reality be also incidentally led to. If
the reality assumed were cancelled from the pragmatist's universe of
discourse, he would straightway give the name of falsehoods to the
beliefs remaining, in spite of all their satisfactoriness. For him,
as for his critic, there can be no truth if there is nothing to be
true about. Ideas are so much flat psychological surface unless
some mirrored matter gives them cognitive lustre. This is why as a
pragmatist I have so carefully posited 'reality' AB INITIO, and
why, throughout my whole discussion, I remain an epistemological
realist. [Footnote: I need hardly remind the reader that both sense-
percepts and percepts of ideal relation (comparisons, etc.) should
be classed among the realities. The bulk of our mental
'stock' consists of truths concerning these terms.]

The anti-pragmatist is guilty of the further confusion of imagining
that, in undertaking to give him an account of what truth
formally means, we are assuming at the same time to provide a
warrant for it, trying to define the occasions when he can be sure
of materially possessing it. Our making it hinge on a reality so
'independent' that when it comes, truth comes, and when it goes,
truth goes with it, disappoints this naive expectation, so he
deems our description unsatisfactory. I suspect that under this
confusion lies the still deeper one of not discriminating
sufficiently between the two notions, truth and reality. Realities
are not TRUE, they ARE; and beliefs are true OF them. But I suspect
that in the anti-pragmatist mind the two notions sometimes swap
their attributes. The reality itself, I fear, is treated as if
'true' and conversely. Whoso tells us of the one, it is then
supposed, must also be telling us of the other; and a true idea must
in a manner BE, or at least YIELD without extraneous aid, the
reality it cognitively is possessed of.

To this absolute-idealistic demand pragmatism simply opposes its non
possumus. If there is to be truth, it says, both realities and
beliefs about them must conspire to make it; but whether there ever
is such a thing, or how anyone can be sure that his own beliefs
possess it, it never pretends to determine. That truth-satisfaction
par excellence which may tinge a belief unsatisfactory in other
ways, it easily explains as the feeling of consistency with
the stock of previous truths, or supposed truths, of which one's
whole past experience may have left one in possession.

But are not all pragmatists sure that their own belief is right?
their enemies will ask at this point; and this leads me to the


A correspondent puts this objection as follows: 'When you say to
your audience, "pragmatism is the truth concerning truth," the
first truth is different from the second. About the first you and
they are not to be at odds; you are not giving them liberty to take
or leave it according as it works satisfactorily or not for their
private uses. Yet the second truth, which ought to describe and
include the first, affirms this liberty. Thus the INTENT of your
utterance seems to contradict the CONTENT of it.'

General scepticism has always received this same classic refutation.
'You have to dogmatize,' the rationalists say to the sceptics,'
whenever you express the sceptical position; so your lives keep
contradicting your thesis.' One would suppose that the impotence of
so hoary an argument to abate in the slightest degree the amount of
general scepticism in the world might have led some rationalists
themselves to doubt whether these instantaneous logical refutations
are such fatal ways, after all, of killing off live mental
attitudes. General scepticism is the live mental attitude
of refusing to conclude. It is a permanent torpor of the will,
renewing itself in detail towards each successive thesis that
offers, and you can no more kill it off by logic than yon can
kill off obstinacy or practical joking. This is why it is so
irritating. Your consistent sceptic never puts his scepticism into a
formal proposition,--he simply chooses it as a habit. He provokingly
hangs back when he might so easily join us in saying yes, but he is
not illogical or stupid,--on the contrary, he often impresses us by
his intellectual superiority. This is the REAL scepticism that
rationalists have to meet, and their logic does not even touch it.

No more can logic kill the pragmatist's behavior: his act of
utterance, so far from contradicting, accurately exemplifies the
matter which he utters. What is the matter which he utters? In part,
it is this, that truth, concretely considered, is an attribute of
our beliefs, and that these are attitudes that follow satisfactions.
The ideas around which the satisfactions cluster are primarily only
hypotheses that challenge or summon a belief to come and take its
stand upon them. The pragmatist's idea of truth is just such a
challenge. He finds it ultra-satisfactory to accept it, and takes
his own stand accordingly. But, being gregarious as they are, men
seek to spread their beliefs, to awaken imitation, to infect others.
Why should not YOU also find the same belief satisfactory? thinks
the pragmatist, and forthwith endeavors to convert you. You and he
will then believe similarly; you will hold up your subject-end of a
truth, which will be a truth objective and irreversible if the
reality holds up the object-end by being itself
present simultaneously. What there is of self-contradiction in all
this I confess I cannot discover. The pragmatist's conduct in his
own case seems to me on the contrary admirably to illustrate his
universal formula; and of all epistemologists, he is perhaps the
only one who is irreproachably self-consistent.


In point of fact it tells us both, tells us what it is incidentally
to telling us how it is arrived at,--for what IS arrived at except
just what the truth is? If I tell you how to get to the railroad
station, don't I implicitly introduce you to the WHAT, to the being
and nature of that edifice? It is quite true that the abstract WORD
'how' hasn't the same meaning as the abstract WORD 'what,' but in
this universe of concrete facts you cannot keep hows and
whats asunder. The reasons why I find it satisfactory to believe
that any idea is true, the HOW of my arriving at that belief, may be
among the very reasons why the idea IS true in reality. If not, I
summon the anti-pragmatist to explain the impossibility

His trouble seems to me mainly to arise from his fixed inability to
understand how a concrete statement can possibly mean as much, or be
as valuable, as an abstract one. I said above that the main quarrel
between us and our critics was that of concreteness
VERSUS abstractness. This is the place to develop that point

In the present question, the links of experience sequent upon an
idea, which mediate between it and a reality, form and for
the pragmatist indeed ARE, the CONCRETE relation of truth that may
obtain between the idea and that reality. They, he says, are all
that we mean when we speak of the idea 'pointing' to the reality,
'fitting' it, 'corresponding' with it, or 'agreeing' with it,--they
or other similar mediating trains of verification. Such
mediating events make the idea 'true.' The idea itself, if it exists
at all, is also a concrete event: so pragmatism insists that truth
in the singular is only a collective name for truths in the plural,
these consisting always of series of definite events; and that what
intellectualism calls the truth, the inherent truth, of any one such
series is only the abstract name for its truthfulness in act, for
the fact that the ideas there do lead to the supposed reality in a
way that we consider satisfactory.

The pragmatist himself has no objection to abstractions.
Elliptically, and 'for short,' he relies on them as much as any one,
ending upon innumerable occasions that their comparative emptiness
makes of them useful substitutes for the overfulness of the facts he
meets, with. But he never ascribes to them a higher grade of
reality. The full reality of a truth for him is always some process
of verification, in which the abstract property of connecting ideas
with objects truly is workingly embodied. Meanwhile it is endlessly
serviceable to be able to talk of properties abstractly and apart
from their working, to find them the same in innumerable cases, to
take them 'out of time,' and to treat of their relations to other
similar abstractions. We thus form whole universes of platonic ideas
ante rem, universes in posse, tho none of them exists effectively
except in rebus. Countless relations obtain there which nobody
experiences as obtaining,--as, in the eternal universe of musical
relations, for example, the notes of Aennchen von Tharau were a
lovely melody long ere mortal ears ever heard them. Even so the
music of the future sleeps now, to be awakened hereafter. Or, if we
take the world of geometrical relations, the thousandth decimal of
'pi' sleeps there, tho no one may ever try to compute it. Or, if
we take the universe of 'fitting,' countless coats 'fit' backs, and
countless boots 'fit' feet, on which they are not practically
FITTED; countless stones 'fit' gaps in walls into which no one seeks
to fit them actually. In the same way countless opinions 'fit'
realities, and countless truths are valid, tho no thinker
ever thinks them.

For the anti-pragmatist these prior timeless relations are the
presupposition of the concrete ones, and possess the profounder
dignity and value. The actual workings of our ideas in verification-
processes are as naught in comparison with the 'obtainings' of
this discarnate truth within them.

For the pragmatist, on the contrary,--all discarnate truth is
static, impotent, and relatively spectral, full truth being the
truth that energizes and does battle. Can any one suppose that the
sleeping quality of truth would ever have been abstracted or have
received a name, if truths had remained forever in that storage-
vault of essential timeless 'agreements' and had never been
embodied in any panting struggle of men's live ideas for
verification? Surely no more than the abstract property of
'fitting' would have received a name, if in our world there had been
no backs or feet or gaps in walls to be actually fitted. EXISTENTIAL
truth is incidental to the actual competition of opinions. ESSENTIAL
truth, the truth of the intellectualists, the truth with no one
thinking it, is like the coat that fits tho no one has ever tried it
on, like the music that no ear has listened to. It is less real, not
more real, than the verified article; and to attribute a superior
degree of glory to it seems little more than a piece of perverse
abstraction-worship. As well might a pencil insist that the outline
is the essential thing in all pictorial representation, and chide
the paint-brush and the camera for omitting it, forgetting that
THEIR pictures not only contain the whole outline, but a hundred
other things in addition. Pragmatist truth contains the whole of
intellectualist truth and a hundred other things in addition.
Intellectualist truth is then only pragmatist truth in posse.
That on innumerable occasions men do substitute truth in posse or
verifiability, for verification or truth in act, is a fact to which
no one attributes more importance than the pragmatist: he emphasizes
the practical utility of such a habit. But he does not on that
account consider truth in posse,--truth not alive enough ever to
have been asserted or questioned or contradicted, to be the
metaphysically prior thing, to which truths in act are tributary and
subsidiary. When intellectualists do this, pragmatism charges them
with inverting the real relation. Truth in posse MEANS only
truths in act; and he insists that these latter take precedence in
the order of logic as well as in that of being.


This would seem to be an absolutely wanton slander, were not a
certain excuse to be found in the linguistic affinities of the word
'pragmatism,' and in certain offhand habits of speech of ours which
assumed too great a generosity on our reader's part. When we
spoke of the meaning of ideas consisting "in their 'practical'
consequences", or of the 'practical' differences which our beliefs
make to us; when we said that the truth of a belief consists in
its 'working' value, etc.; our language evidently was too careless,
for by 'practical' we were almost unanimously held to mean OPPOSED
to theoretical or genuinely cognitive, and the consequence was
punctually drawn that a truth in our eyes could have no relation to
any independent reality, or to any other truth, or to anything
whatever but the acts which we might ground on it or the
satisfactions they might bring. The mere existence of the idea, all
by itself, if only its results were satisfactory, would give full
truth to it, it was charged, in our absurd pragmatist epistemology.
The solemn attribution of this rubbish to us was also encouraged by
two other circumstances. First, ideas ARE practically useful in the
narrow sense, false ideas sometimes, but most often ideas which we
can verify by the sum total of all their leadings, and the reality
of whose objects may thus be considered established beyond
doubt. That these ideas should be true in advance of and apart from
their utility, that, in other words, their objects should be
really there, is the very condition of their having that kind of
utility,--the objects they connect us with are so important that the
ideas which serve as the objects' substitutes grow important
also. This manner of their practical working was the first thing
that made truths good in the eyes of primitive men; and buried among
all the other good workings by which true beliefs are
characterized, this kind of subsequential utility remains.

The second misleading circumstance was the emphasis laid by Schiller
and Dewey on the fact that, unless a truth be relevant to the mind's
momentary predicament, unless it be germane to the 'practical'
situation,--meaning by this the quite particular perplexity,--it is
no good to urge it. It doesn't meet our interests any better than a
falsehood would under the same circumstances. But why
our predicaments and perplexities might not be theoretical here as
well as narrowly practical, I wish that our critics would explain.
They simply assume that no pragmatist CAN admit a genuinely
theoretic interest. Having used the phrase 'cash-value' of an idea,
I am implored by one correspondent to alter it, 'for every one
thinks you mean only pecuniary profit and loss.' Having said that
the true is 'the expedient in our thinking,' I am rebuked in this
wise by another learned correspondent:

'The word expedient has no other meaning than that of self-interest.
The pursuit of this has ended by landing a number of officers
of national banks in penitentiaries. A philosophy that leads to such
results must be unsound.'

But the word 'practical' is so habitually loosely used that more
indulgence might have been expected. When one says that a sick
man has now practically recovered, or that an enterprise has
practically failed, one usually means I just the opposite of
practically in the literal sense. One means that, altho untrue in
strict practice, what one says is true in theory, true virtually,
certain to be true. Again, by the practical one often means the
distinctively concrete, the individual, particular, and
effective, as opposed to the abstract, general, and inert. To speak
for myself, whenever I have emphasized the practical nature of
truth, this is mainly what has been in my mind. 'Pragmata'
are things in their plurality; and in that early California address,
when I described pragmatism as holding that the meaning of any
proposition can always be brought down to some
particular consequence in our future practical experience, whether
passive or active, expressly added these qualifying words: the point
lying rather in the fact that the experience must be particular than
in the fact that it must be active,--by 'active' meaning here
'practical' in the narrow literal sense. [Footnote: The ambiguity of
the word 'practical' comes out well in these words of a recent
would-be reporter of our views: 'Pragmatism is an Anglo-Saxon
reaction against the intellectualism and rationalism of the Latin
mind.... Man, each individual man is the measure of things. He is
able to conceive one but relative truths, that is to say, illusions.
What these illusions are worth is revealed to him, not by general
theory, but by individual practice. Pragmatism, which consists
in experiencing these illusions of the mind and obeying them
by acting them out, is a PHILOSOPHY WITHOUT WORDS, a philosophy of
GESTURES AND OF ACTS, which abandons what is general and olds only
to what is particular.' (Bourdeau, in Journal des. debats, October
89, 1907.)] But particular consequences can perfectly well be of a
theoretic nature. Every remote fact which we infer from an idea is a
particular theoretic consequence which our mind practically works
towards. The loss of every old opinion of ours which we see that we
shall have to give up if a new opinion be true, is a particular
theoretic as well as a particular practical consequence. After man's
interest in breathing freely, the greatest of all his interests
(because it never fluctuates or remits, as most of his
physical interests do), is his interest in consistency, in feeling
that what he now thinks goes with what he thinks on other occasions.
We tirelessly compare truth with truth for this sole purpose. Is the
present candidate for belief perhaps contradicted by principle
number one? Is it compatible with fact number two? and so forth. The
particular operations here are the purely logical ones of analysis,
deduction, comparison, etc.; and altho general terms may be used ad
libitum, the satisfactory practical working of the candidate--idea
consists in the consciousness yielded by each successive theoretic
consequence in particular. It is therefore simply idiotic to repeat
that pragmatism takes no account of purely theoretic interests. All
it insists on is that verity in act means VERIFICATIONS, and that
these are always particulars. Even in exclusively theoretic matters,
it insists that vagueness and generality serve to verify nothing.


I have already said something about this misconception under the
third and fourth heads, above, but a little more may be helpful. The
objection is apt to clothe itself in words like these: 'You make
truth to consist in every value except the cognitive value proper;
you always leave your knower at many removes (or, at the uttermost,
at one remove) from his real object; the best you do is to let his
ideas carry him towards it; it remains forever outside of him,' etc.

I think that the leaven working here is the rooted intellectualist
persuasion that, to know a reality, an idea must in some
inscrutable fashion possess or be it. [Footnote: Sensations may,
indeed, possess their objects or coalesce with them, as common sense
supposes that they do; and intuited differences between concepts may
coalesce with the 'eternal' objective differences; but to simplify
our discussion. here we can afford to abstract from these very
special cases of knowing.] For pragmatism this kind of coalescence
is inessential. As a rule our cognitions are only processes of mind
off their balance and in motion towards real termini; and the
reality of the termini, believed in by the states of mind in
question, can be guaranteed only by some wider knower [Footnote: The
transcendental idealist thinks that, in some inexplicable way, the
finite states of mind are identical with the transfinite all-knower
which he finds himself obliged to postulate in order to supply a
fundamentum far the relation of knowing, as he apprehends it.
Pragmatists can leave the question of identity open; but they cannot
do without the wider knower any more than they can do without the
reality, if they want to prove a case of knowing. They themselves
play the part of the absolute knower for the universe of discourse
which serves them as material for epistemologizing. They warrant the
reality there, and the subject's true knowledge, there, of it.
But whether what they themselves say about that whole universe is
objectively true, i.e., whether the pragmatic theory of truth is
true really, they cannot warrant,--they can only believe it To their
hearers they can only propose it, as I propose it to my readers, as
something to be verified ambulando, or by the way is which its
consequences may confirm it]. But if there is no reason extant in
the universe why they should be doubted, the beliefs are true in the
only sense in which anything can be true anyhow: they are
practically and concretely true, namely. True in the mystical
mongrel sense of an Identitatsphilosophie they need not be; nor is
there any intelligible reason why they ever need be true otherwise
than verifiably and practically. It is reality's part to possess its
own existence; it is thought's part to get into 'touch' with it by
innumerable paths of verification.

I fear that the 'humanistic' developments of pragmatism may cause a
certain difficulty here. We get at one truth only through the rest
of truth; and the reality, everlastingly postulated as that which
all our truth must keep in touch with, may never be given to us save
in the form of truth other than that which we are now testing. But
since Dr. Schiller has shown that all our truths, even the most
elemental, are affected by race-inheritance with a
human coefficient, reality per se thus may appear only as a sort of
limit; it may be held to shrivel to the mere PLACE for an object,
and what is known may be held to be only matter of our psyche that
we fill the place with. It must be confessed that pragmatism, worked
in this humanistic way, is COMPATIBLE with solipsism. It joins
friendly hands with the agnostic part of kantism, with
contemporary agnosticism, and with idealism generally. But worked
thus, it is a metaphysical theory about the matter of reality, and
flies far beyond pragmatism's own modest analysis of the nature of
the knowing function, which analysis may just as harmoniously be
combined with less humanistic accounts of reality. One
of pragmatism's merits is that it is so purely epistemological. It
must assume realities; but it prejudges nothing as to their
constitution, and the most diverse metaphysics can use it as
their foundation. It certainly has no special affinity with

As I look back over what I have written, much of it gives me a queer
impression, as if the obvious were set forth so condescendingly that
readers might well laugh at my pomposity. It may be, however, that
concreteness as radical as ours is not so obvious. The
whole originality of pragmatism, the whole point in it, is its use
of the concrete way of seeing. It begins with concreteness, and
returns and ends with it. Dr. Schiller, with his two
'practical' aspects of truth, (1) relevancy to situation, and (2)
subsequential utility, is only filling the cup of concreteness to
the brim for us. Once seize that cup, and you cannot misunderstand
pragmatism. It seems as if the power of imagining the world
concretely MIGHT have been common enough to let our readers
apprehend us better, as if they might have read between our
lines, and, in spite of all our infelicities of expression, guessed
a little more correctly what our thought was. But alas! this was not
on fate's programme, so we can only think, with the German ditty:--

"Es waer' zu schoen gewesen, Es hat nicht sollen sein."


[Footnote: Remarks at the meeting of the American Philosophical
Association, Cornell University, December, 1907.]

My account of truth is realistic, and follows the epistemological
dualism of common sense. Suppose I say to you 'The thing exists'--
is that true or not? How can you tell? Not till my statement has
developed its meaning farther is it determined as being true, false,
or irrelevant to reality altogether. But if now you ask 'what
thing?' and I reply 'a desk'; if you ask 'where?' and I point to a
place; if you ask 'does it exist materially, or only in
imagination?' and I say 'materially'; if moreover I say 'I mean that
desk' and then grasp and shake a desk which you see just as I have
described it, you are willing to call my statement true. But you and
I are commutable here; we can exchange places; and, as you go bail
for my desk, so I can go bail for yours.

This notion of a reality independent of either of us, taken from
ordinary social experience, lies at the base of the pragmatist
definition of truth. With some such reality any statement, in order
to be counted true, must agree. Pragmatism defines 'agreeing' to
mean certain ways of 'working,' be they actual or potential. Thus,
for my statement 'the desk exists' to be true of a desk recognized
as real by you, it must be able to lead me to shake your desk, to
explain myself by words that suggest that desk to your mind, to make
a drawing that is like the desk you see, etc. Only in such ways as
this is there sense in saying it agrees with THAT reality, only thus
does it gain for me the satisfaction of hearing you corroborate me.
Reference then to something determinate, and some sort of adaptation
to it worthy of the name of agreement, are thus constituent elements
in the definition of any statement of mine as 'true'.

You cannot get at either the reference or the adaptation without
using the notion of the workings. THAT the thing is, WHAT it is,
and WHICH it is (of all the possible things with that what) are
points determinable only by the pragmatic method. The 'which' means
a possibility of pointing, or of otherwise singling out the special
object; the 'what' means choice on our part of an essential aspect
to conceive it by (and this is always relative to what Dewey
calls our own 'situation'); and the 'that' means our assumption of
the attitude of belief, the reality-recognizing attitude. Surely
for understanding what the word 'true' means as applied to a
statement, the mention of such workings is indispensable. Surely if
we leave them out the subject and the object of the
cognitive relation float-in the same universe, 'tis true--but
vaguely and ignorantly and without mutual contact or mediation.

Our critics nevertheless call the workings inessential. No
functional possibilities 'make' our beliefs true, they say; they are
true inherently, true positively, born 'true' as the Count of
Chambord was born 'Henri-Cinq.' Pragmatism insists, on the contrary,
that statements and beliefs are thus inertly and statically true
only by courtesy: they practically pass for true; but you CANNOT
DEFINE WHAT YOU MEAN by calling them true without referring to
their functional possibilities. These give its whole LOGICAL CONTENT
to that relation to reality on a belief's part to which the name
'truth' is applied, a relation which otherwise remains one of mere
coexistence or bare withness.

The foregoing statements reproduce the essential content of the
lecture on Truth in my book PRAGMATISM. Schiller's doctrine of
'humanism,' Dewey's 'Studies in logical theory,' and my own 'radical
empiricism,' all involve this general notion of truth as 'working,'
either actual or conceivable. But they envelop it as only one detail
in the midst of much wider theories that aim eventually at
determining the notion of what 'reality' at large is in its ultimate
nature and constitution.


[Footnote: Originally printed under the title of 'Truth versus
Truthfulness,' in the Journal of Philosophy.]

My account of truth is purely logical and relates to its definition
only. I contend that you cannot tell what the WORD 'true' MEANS,
as applied to a statement, without invoking the CONCEPT OF THE

Assume, to fix our ideas, a universe composed of two things only:
imperial Caesar dead and turned to clay, and me, saying
'Caesar really existed.' Most persons would naively deem truth to be
thereby uttered, and say that by a sort of actio in distans my
statement had taken direct hold of the other fact.

But have my words so certainly denoted THAT Caesar?--or so certainly
connoted HIS individual attributes? To fill out the complete measure
of what the epithet 'true' may ideally mean, my thought ought to
bear a fully determinate and unambiguous 'one-to-one-relation' to
its own particular object. In the ultrasimple universe imagined the
reference is uncertified. Were there two Caesars we shouldn't know
which was meant. The conditions of truth thus seem incomplete in
this universe of discourse so that it must be enlarged.

Transcendentalists enlarge it by invoking an absolute mind which,
as it owns all the facts, can sovereignly correlate them. If it
intends that my statement SHALL refer to that identical Caesar, and
that the attributes I have in mind SHALL mean his attributes, that
intention suffices to make the statement true.

I, in turn, enlarge the universe by admitting finite intermediaries
between the two original facts. Caesar HAD, and my statement HAS,
effects; and if these effects in any way run together, a concrete
medium and bottom is provided for the determinate cognitive
relation, which, as a pure ACTIO IN DISTANS, seemed to float too
vaguely and unintelligibly.

The real Caesar, for example, wrote a manuscript of which I see a
real reprint, and say 'the Caesar I mean is the author of THAT.'
The workings of my thought thus determine both its denotative and
its connotative significance more fully. It now defines itself as
neither irrelevant to the real Caesar, nor false in what it suggests
of him. The absolute mind, seeing me thus working towards Caesar
through the cosmic intermediaries, might well say: 'Such workings
only specify in detail what I meant myself by the statement being
true. I decree the cognitive relation between the two original facts
to mean that just that kind of concrete chain of intermediaries
exists or can exist.'

But the chain involves facts prior to the statement the logical
conditions of whose truth we are defining, and facts subsequent to
it; and this circumstance, coupled with the vulgar employment of the
terms truth and fact as synonyms, has laid my account open
to misapprehension. 'How,' it is confusedly asked, 'can Caesar's
existence, a truth already 2000 years old, depend for its truth on
anything about to happen now? How can my acknowledgment of it be
made true by the acknowledgment's own effects? The effects may
indeed confirm my belief, but the belief was made true already by
the fact that Caesar really did exist.'

Well, be it so, for if there were no Caesar, there could, of course,
be no positive truth about him--but then distinguish between 'true'
as being positively and completely so established, and 'true' as
being so only 'practically,' elliptically, and by courtesy, in
the sense of not being positively irrelevant or UNtrue. Remember
also that Caesar's having existed in fact may make a present
statement false or irrelevant as well as it may make it true, and
that in neither case does it itself have to alter. It being given,
whether truth, untruth, or irrelevancy shall be also given
depends on something coming from the statement itself. What
pragmatism contends for is that you cannot adequately DEFINE the
something if you leave the notion of the statement's functional
workings out of your account. Truth meaning agreement with reality,
the mode of the agreeing is a practical problem which the subjective
term of the relation alone can solve.

NOTE. This paper was originally followed by a couple of
paragraphs meant to conciliate the intellectualist opposition.
Since you love the word 'true' so, and since you despise so the
concrete working of our ideas, I said, keep the word 'truth' for the
saltatory and incomprehensible relation you care so much for, and I
will say of thoughts that know their objects in an intelligible
sense that they are 'truthful.'

Like most offerings, this one has been spurned, so I revoke it,
repenting of my generosity. Professor Pratt, in his recent book,
calls any objective state of FACTS 'a truth,' and uses the word
'trueness' in the sense of 'truth' as proposed by me. Mr. Hawtrey
(see below, page 281) uses 'correctness' in the same sense. Apart
from the general evil of ambiguous vocabularies, we may really
forsake all hope, if the term 'truth' is officially to lose its
status as a property of our beliefs and opinions, and become
recognized as a technical synonym for 'fact.'


[Footnote: Reprinted from the Journal of Philosophy, etc., 1906.]

Professor W. A. Brown, in the Journal for August 15, approves my
pragmatism for allowing that a belief in the absolute may give
holidays to the spirit, but takes me to task for the narrowness of
this concession, and shows by striking examples how great a power
the same belief may have in letting loose the strenuous life.

I have no criticism whatever to make upon his excellent article, but
let me explain why 'moral holidays' were the only gift of
the absolute which I picked out for emphasis. I was primarily
concerned in my lectures with contrasting the belief that the world
is still in process of making with the belief that there is
an 'eternal' edition of it ready-made and complete. The former, or
'pluralistic' belief, was the one that my pragmatism favored.
Both beliefs confirm our strenuous moods. Pluralism actually demands
them, since it makes the world's salvation depend upon the
energizing of its several parts, among which we are. Monism permits
them, for however furious they may be, we can always justify
ourselves in advance for indulging them by the thought that they
WILL HAVE BEEN expressions of the absolute's perfect life. By
escaping from your finite perceptions to the conception of
the eternal whole, you can hallow any tendency whatever. Tho the
absolute DICTATES nothing, it will SANCTION anything and everything
after the fact, for whatever is once there will have to be regarded
as an integral member of the universe's perfection. Quietism and
frenzy thus alike receive the absolute's permit to exist. Those of
us who are naturally inert may abide in our resigned passivity;
those whose energy is excessive may grow more reckless still.
History shows how easily both quietists and fanatics have drawn
inspiration from the absolutistic scheme. It suits sick souls
and strenuous ones equally well.

One cannot say thus of pluralism. Its world is always vulnerable,
for some part may go astray; and having no 'eternal' edition of
it to draw comfort from, its partisans must always feel to some
degree insecure. If, as pluralists, we grant ourselves moral
holidays, they can only be provisional breathing-spells, intended to
refresh us for the morrow's fight. This forms one permanent
inferiority of pluralism from the pragmatic point of view. It has no
saving message for incurably sick souls. Absolutism, among its other
messages, has that message, and is the only scheme that has it
necessarily. That constitutes its chief superiority and is the
source of its religious power. That is why, desiring to do it full
justice, I valued its aptitude for moral-holiday giving so highly.
Its claims in that way are unique, whereas its affinities with
strenuousness are less emphatic than those of the pluralistic

In the last lecture of my book I candidly admitted this inferiority
of pluralism. It lacks the wide indifference that absolutism shows.
It is bound to disappoint many sick souls whom absolutism can
console. It seems therefore poor tactics for absolutists to make
little of this advantage. The needs of sick souls are surely the
most urgent; and believers in the absolute should rather hold it to
be great merit in their philosophy that it can meet them so well.

The pragmatism or pluralism which I defend has to fall back on a
certain ultimate hardihood, a certain willingness to live
without assurances or guarantees. To minds thus willing to live on
possibilities that are not certainties, quietistic religion, sure of
salvation ANY HOW, has a slight flavor of fatty degeneration about
it which has caused it to be looked askance on, even in the church.
Which side is right here, who can say? Within religion, emotion is
apt to be tyrannical; but philosophy must favor the emotion that
allies itself best with the whole body and drift of all the
truths in sight. I conceive this to be the more strenuous type of
emotion; but I have to admit that its inability to let loose
quietistic raptures is a serious deficiency in the pluralistic
philosophy which I profess.


[Footnote: Reprint from the Journal of Philosophy for December 3,
1908 (vol. v, p. 689), of a review of Le Pragmatisme et ses Diverses
Formes Anglo-Americaines, by Marcel Hebert. (Paris: Librairie
critique Emile Nourry. 1908. Pp. 105.)]

Professor Marcel Hebert is a singularly erudite and liberal thinker
(a seceder, I believe, from the Catholic priesthood) and
an uncommonly direct and clear writer. His book Le Divin is one of
the ablest reviews of the general subject of religious philosophy
which recent years have produced; and in the small volume the title
of which is copied above he has, perhaps, taken more pains not to do
injustice to pragmatism than any of its numerous critics. Yet the
usual fatal misapprehension of its purposes vitiates his exposition
and his critique. His pamphlet seems to me to form a worthy hook, as
it were, on which to hang one more attempt to tell the reader what
the pragmatist account of truth really means.

M. Hebert takes it to mean what most people take it to mean, the
doctrine, namely, that whatever proves subjectively expedient in
the way of our thinking is 'true' in the absolute and unrestricted
sense of the word, whether it corresponds to any objective state of
things outside of our thought or not. Assuming this to be the
pragmatist thesis, M. Hebert opposes it at length. Thought that
proves itself to be thus expedient may, indeed, have every
OTHER kind of value for the thinker, he says, but cognitive value,
representative value, VALEUR DE CONNAISSANCE PROPREMENT DITE, it has
not; and when it does have a high degree of general utility value,
this is in every case derived from its previous value in the way of
correctly representing independent objects that have an
important influence on our lives. Only by thus representing things
truly do we reap the useful fruits. But the fruits follow on the
truth, they do not constitute it; so M. Hebert accuses pragmatism of
telling us everything about truth except what it essentially is. He
admits, indeed, that the world is so framed that when men have true
ideas of realities, consequential utilities ensue in abundance; and
no one of our critics, I think, has shown as concrete a sense of the
variety of these utilities as he has; but he reiterates that,
whereas such utilities are secondary, we insist on treating them
as primary, and that the connaissance objective from which they draw
all their being is something which we neglect, exclude, and
destroy. The utilitarian value and the strictly cognitive value of
our ideas may perfectly well harmonize, he says--and in the main he
allows that they do harmonize--but they are not logically identical
for that. He admits that subjective interests, desires, impulses may
even have the active 'primacy' in our intellectual life. Cognition
awakens only at their spur, and follows their cues and aims; yet,
when it IS awakened, it is objective cognition proper and not
merely another name for the impulsive tendencies themselves in the
state of satisfaction. The owner of a picture ascribed to Corot
gets uneasy when its authenticity is doubted. He looks up its origin
and is reassured. But his uneasiness does not make the
proposition false, any more than his relief makes the
proposition true, that the actual Corot was the painter. Pragmatism,
which, according to M. Hebert, claims that our sentiments MAKE truth
and falsehood, would oblige us to conclude that our minds exert no
genuinely cognitive function whatever.

This subjectivist interpretation of our position seems to follow
from my having happened to write (without supposing it necessary
to explain that I was treating of cognition solely on its subjective
side) that in the long run the true is the expedient in the way of
our thinking, much as the good is the expedient in the way of our
behavior! Having previously written that truth means 'agreement with
reality,' and insisted that the chief part of the expediency of any
one opinion is its agreement with the rest of acknowledged truth, I
apprehended no exclusively subjectivistic reading of my meaning. My
mind was so filled with the notion of objective reference that I
never dreamed that my hearers would let go of it; and the very
last accusation I expected was that in speaking of ideas and their
satisfactions, I was denying realities outside. My only wonder now
is that critics should have found so silly a personage as I must
have seemed in their eyes, worthy of explicit refutation.

The object, for me, is just as much one part of reality as the idea
is another part. The truth of the idea is one relation of it to the
reality, just as its date and its place are other relations. All
three relations CONSIST of intervening parts of the universe which
can in every particular case be assigned and catalogued, and
which differ in every instance of truth, just as they differ with
every date and place.

The pragmatist thesis, as Dr. Schiller and I hold it,--I prefer to
let Professor Dewey speak for himself,--is that the relation called
'truth' is thus concretely DEFINABLE. Ours is the only articulate
attempt in the field to say positively what truth actually CONSISTS
OF. Our denouncers have literally nothing to oppose to it as an
alternative. For them, when an idea is true, it IS true, and there
the matter terminates; the word 'true' being indefinable. The
relation of the true idea to its object, being, as they think,
unique, it can be expressed in terms of nothing else, and needs only
to be named for any one to recognize and understand it. Moreover it
is invariable and universal, the same in every single instance of
truth, however diverse the ideas, the realities, and the other
relations between them may be.

Our pragmatist view, on the contrary, is that the truth-relation is
a definitely experienceable relation, and therefore describable as
well as namable; that it is not unique in kind, and neither
invariable nor universal. The relation to its object that makes an
idea true in any given instance, is, we say, embodied in
intermediate details of reality which lead towards the object, which
vary in every instance, and which in every instance can be
concretely traced. The chain of workings which an opinion sets up IS
the opinion's truth, falsehood, or irrelevancy, as the case may
be. Every idea that a man has works some consequences in him, in the
shape either of bodily actions or of other ideas. Through these
consequences the man's relations to surrounding realities are
modified. He is carried nearer to some of them and farther from
others, and gets now the feeling that the idea has
worked satisfactorily, now that it has not. The idea has put him
into touch with something that fulfils its intent, or it has not.

This something is the MAN'S OBJECT, primarily. Since the only
realities we can talk about are such OBJECTS-BELIEVED-IN, the
pragmatist, whenever he says 'reality,' means in the first instance
what may count for the man himself as a reality, what he believes at
the moment to be such. Sometimes the reality is a concrete sensible
presence. The idea, for example, may be that a certain door opens
into a room where a glass of beer may be bought. If opening the door
leads to the actual sight and taste of the beer, the man calls the
idea true. Or his idea may be that of an abstract relation, say of
that between the sides and the hypothenuse of a triangle, such a
relation being, of course, a reality quite as much as a glass
of beer is. If the thought of such a relation leads him to draw
auxiliary lines and to compare the figures they make, he may at
last, perceiving one equality after another, SEE the
relation thought of, by a vision quite as particular and direct as
was the taste of the beer. If he does so, he calls THAT idea, also,
true. His idea has, in each case, brought him into closer touch with
a reality felt at the moment to verify just that idea. Each reality
verifies and validates its own idea exclusively; and in each case
the verification consists in the satisfactorily-ending consequences,
mental or physical, which the idea was able to set up. These
'workings' differ in every single instance, they never
transcend experience, they consist of particulars, mental or
sensible, and they admit of concrete description in every individual
case. Pragmatists are unable to see what you can possibly MEAN by
calling an idea true, unless you mean that between it as a terminus
a quo in some one's mind and some particular reality as a terminus
ad quem, such concrete workings do or may intervene. Their direction
constitutes the idea's reference to that reality,
their satisfactoriness constitutes its adaptation thereto, and the
two things together constitute the 'truth' of the idea for its
possessor. Without such intermediating portions of concretely real
experience the pragmatist sees no materials out of which the
adaptive relation called truth can be built up.

The anti-pragmatist view is that the workings are but evidences of
the truth's previous inherent presence in the idea, and that you can
wipe the very possibility of them out of existence and still leave
the truth of the idea as solid as ever. But surely this is not a
counter-theory of truth to ours. It is the renunciation of all
articulate theory. It is but a claim to the right to call certain
ideas true anyhow; and this is what I meant above by saying that
the anti-pragmatists offer us no real alternative, and that our
account is literally the only positive theory extant. What meaning,
indeed, can an idea's truth have save its power of adapting us
either mentally or physically to a reality?

How comes it, then, that our critics so uniformly accuse us of
subjectivism, of denying the reality's existence? It comes, I think,
from the necessary predominance of subjective language in our
analysis. However independent and elective realities may be, we can
talk about them, in framing our accounts of truth, only as so many
objects believed-in. But the process of experience leads men so
continually to supersede their older objects by newer ones
which they find it more satisfactory to believe in, that the notion
of an ABSOLUTE reality inevitably arises as a grenzbegriff,
equivalent to that of an object that shall never be superseded,
and belief in which shall be endgueltig. Cognitively we thus live
under a sort of rule of three: as our private concepts represent the
sense-objects to which they lead us, these being public realities
independent of the individual, so these sense-realities may, in
turn, represent realities of a hypersensible order, electrons, mind-
stuff. God, or what not, existing independently of all human
thinkers. The notion of such final realities, knowledge of
which would be absolute truth, is an outgrowth of our cognitive
experience from which neither pragmatists nor anti-pragmatists
escape. They form an inevitable regulative postulate in every one's
thinking. Our notion of them is the most abundantly suggested and
satisfied of all our beliefs, the last to suffer doubt. The
difference is that our critics use this belief as their sole
paradigm, and treat any one who talks of human realities as if he
thought the notion of reality 'in itself' illegitimate. Meanwhile,
reality-in-itself, so far as by them TALKED OF, is only a human
object; they postulate it just as we postulate it; and if we are
subjectivists they are so no less. Realities in themselves can be
there FOR any one, whether pragmatist or anti-pragmatist, only by
being believed; they are believed only by their notions appearing
true; and their notions appear true only because they work
satisfactorily. Satisfactorily, moreover, for the
particular thinker's purpose. There is no idea which is THE true
idea, of anything. Whose is THE true idea of the absolute? Or to
take M. Hebert's example, what is THE true idea of a picture which
you possess? It is the idea that most satisfactorily meets your
present interest. The interest may be in the picture's place,
its age, its 'tone,' its subject, its dimensions, its authorship,
its price, its merit, or what not. If its authorship by Corot have
been doubted, what will satisfy the interest aroused in you at that
moment will be to have your claim to own a Corot confirmed; but, if
you have a normal human mind, merely calling it a Corot will
not satisfy other demands of your mind at the same time. For THEM to
be satisfied, what you learn of the picture must make smooth
connection with what you know of the rest of the system of reality
in which the actual Corot played his part. M. Hebert accuses us of
holding that the proprietary satisfactions of themselves suffice to
make the belief true, and that, so far as we are concerned, no
actual Corot need ever have existed. Why we should be thus cut off
from the more general and intellectual satisfactions, I know not;
but whatever the satisfactions may be, intellectual or proprietary,
they belong to the subjective side of the truth-relation. They found
our beliefs; our beliefs are in realities; if no realities are
there, the beliefs are false but if realities are there, how they
can even be KNOWN without first being BELIEVED; or how BELIEVED
except by our first having ideas of them that work satisfactorily,
pragmatists find it impossible to imagine. They also find
it impossible to imagine what makes the anti-pragmatists' dogmatic
'ipse dixit' assurance of reality more credible than the
pragmatists conviction based on concrete verifications. M. Hebert
will probably agree to this, when put in this way, so I do not see
our inferiority to him in the matter of connaissance
proprement dite.

Some readers will say that, altho I may possibly believe in
realities beyond our ideas Dr. Schiller, at any rate, does not. This
is a great misunderstanding, for Schiller's doctrine and mine are
identical, only our exposition follow different directions. He
starts from the subjective pole of the chain, the individual with
his beliefs, as the more concrete and immediately given phenomenon.
'An individual claims his belief to be true,' Schiller says,
'but what does he mean by true? and how does he establish the
claim?' With these questions we embark on a psychological inquiry.
To be true, it appears, means, FOR THAT INDIVIDUAL, to work
satisfactorily for him; and the working and the satisfaction, since
they vary from case to case, admit of no universal description. What
works is true and represents a reality, for the individual for whom
it works. If he is infallible, the reality is 'really' there; if
mistaken it is not there, or not there as he thinks it. We all
believe, when our ideas work satisfactorily; but we don't yet know
who of us is infallible; so that the problem of truth and that of
error are EBENBURTIG and arise out of the same situations. Schiller,
remaining with the fallible individual, and treating only of
reality-for-him, seems to many of his readers to ignore reality-in-
itself altogether. But that is because he seeks only to tell us how
truths are attained, not what the content of those truths, when
attained, shall be. It may be that the truest of all beliefs shall
be that in transsubjective realities. It certainly SEEMS the
truest for no rival belief is as voluminously satisfactory, and it
is probably Dr. Schiller's own belief; but he is not required, for
his immediate purpose, to profess it. Still less is he obliged to
assume it in advance as the basis of his discussion.

I, however, warned by the ways of critics, adopt different tactics.
I start from the object-pole of the idea-reality chain and follow
it in the opposite direction from Schiller's. Anticipating the
results of the general truth-processes of mankind, I begin with the
abstract notion of an objective reality. I postulate it, and ask on
my own account, I VOUCHING FOR THIS REALITY, what would make any one
else's idea of it true for me as well as for him. But I find no
different answer from that which Schiller gives. If the other man's
idea leads him, not only to believe that the reality is there, but
to use it as the reality's temporary substitute, by letting it evoke
adaptive thoughts and acts similar to those which the reality itself
would provoke, then it is true in the only intelligible sense,
true through its particular consequences, and true for me as well as
for the man.

My account is more of a logical definition; Schiller's is more of a
psychological description. Both treat an absolutely identical
matter of experience, only they traverse it in opposite ways.

Possibly these explanations may satisfy M. Hebert, whose little
book, apart from the false accusation of subjectivism, gives a
fairly instructive account of the pragmatist epistemology.



Abstract concepts, such as elasticity, voluminousness,
disconnectedness, are salient aspects of our concrete experiences
which we find it useful to single out. Useful, because we are then
reminded of other things that offer those same aspects; and, if the
aspects carry consequences in those other things, we can return to
our first things, expecting those same consequences to accrue.

To be helped to anticipate consequences is always a gain, and such
being the help that abstract concepts give us, it is obvious that
their use is fulfilled only when we get back again into concrete
particulars by their means, bearing the consequences in our minds,
and enriching our notion of the original objects therewithal.

Without abstract concepts to handle our perceptual particulars by,
we are like men hopping on one foot. Using concepts along with the
particulars, we become bipedal. We throw our concept forward, get a
foothold on the consequence, hitch our line to this, and draw
our percept up, travelling thus with a hop, skip and jump over the
surface of life at a vastly rapider rate than if we merely waded
through the thickness of the particulars as accident rained
them down upon our heads. Animals have to do this, but men raise
their heads higher and breathe freely in the upper conceptual air.

The enormous esteem professed by all philosophers for the
conceptual form of consciousness is easy to understand. From Plato's
time downwards it has been held to be our sole avenue to essential
truth. Concepts are universal, changeless, pure; their relations
are eternal; they are spiritual, while the concrete particulars
which they enable us to handle are corrupted by the flesh. They are
precious in themselves, then, apart from their original use, and
confer new dignity upon our life.

One can find no fault with this way of feeling about concepts so
long as their original function does not get swallowed up in
the admiration and lost. That function is of course to enlarge
mentally our momentary experiences by ADDING to them the
consequences conceived; but unfortunately, that function is not only
too often forgotten by philosophers in their reasonings, but is
often converted into its exact opposite, and made a means of
diminishing the original experience by DENYING (implicitly or
explicitly) all its features save the one specially abstracted to
conceive it by.

This itself is a highly abstract way of stating my complaint, and it
needs to be redeemed from obscurity by showing instances of what is
meant. Some beliefs very dear to my own heart have been conceived in
this viciously abstract way by critics. One is the 'will
to believe,' so called; another is the indeterminism of certain
futures; a third is the notion that truth may vary with the
standpoint of the man who holds it. I believe that the perverse
abuse of the abstracting function has led critics to employ false
arguments against these doctrines, and often has led their readers
to false conclusions. I should like to try to save the situation, if
possible, by a few counter-critical remarks.

Let me give the name of 'vicious abstractionism' to a way of using
concepts which may be thus described: We conceive a concrete
situation by singling out some salient or important feature in it,
and classing it under that; then, instead of adding to its previous
characters all the positive consequences which the new way of
conceiving it may bring, we proceed to use our concept privatively;
reducing the originally rich phenomenon to the naked suggestions of
that name abstractly taken, treating it as a case of 'nothing but'
that concept, and acting as if all the other characters from out of
which the concept is abstracted were expunged. [Footnote: Let not
the reader confound the fallacy here described with legitimately
negative inferences such as those drawn in the mood 'celarent' of
the logic-books.] Abstraction, functioning in this way, becomes a
means of arrest far more than a means of advance in thought. It
mutilates things; it creates difficulties and finds impossibilities;
and more than half the trouble that metaphysicians and logicians
give themselves over the paradoxes and dialectic puzzles of the
universe may, I am convinced, be traced to this relatively simple
AND CLASS NAMES is, I am persuaded, one of the great original sins
of the rationalistic mind.

To proceed immediately to concrete examples, cast a glance at the
belief in 'free will,' demolished with such specious
persuasiveness recently by the skilful hand of Professor Fullerton.
[Footnote: Popular Science Monthly, N. Y., vols. lviii and lix.]
When a common man says that his will is free, what does he mean? He
means that there are situations of bifurcation inside of his life in
which two futures seem to him equally possible, for both have their
roots equally planted in his present and his past. Either,
if realized, will grow out of his previous motives, character and
circumstances, and will continue uninterruptedly the pulsations of
his personal life. But sometimes both at once are incompatible with
physical nature, and then it seems to the naive observer as if he
made a choice between them NOW, and that the question of which
future is to be, instead of having been decided at the foundation of
the world, were decided afresh at every passing moment in I which
fact seems livingly to grow, and possibility seems, in turning
itself towards one act, to exclude all others.

He who takes things at their face-value here may indeed be deceived.
He may far too often mistake his private ignorance of what
is predetermined for a real indetermination of what is to be. Yet,
however imaginary it may be, his picture of the situation offers no
appearance of breach between the past and future. A train is the
same train, its passengers are the same passengers, its momentum is
the same momentum, no matter which way the switch which fixes its
direction is placed. For the indeterminist there is at all times
enough past for all the different futures in sight, and
more besides, to find their reasons in it, and whichever future
comes will slide out of that past as easily as the train slides by
the switch. The world, in short, is just as CONTINUOUS WITH
ITSELF for the believers in free will as for the
rigorous determinists, only the latter are unable to believe in
points of bifurcation as spots of really indifferent equilibrium or
as containing shunts which there--and there only, NOT BEFORE--
direct existing motions without altering their amount.

Were there such spots of indifference, the rigorous determinists
think, the future and the past would be separated absolutely,
SOLELY. Whatever is indifferent is in so far forth unrelated and
detached. Take the term thus strictly, and you see, they tell
us, that if any spot of indifference is found upon the broad highway
between the past and the future, then no connection of any sort
whatever, no continuous momentum, no identical passenger, no common
aim or agent, can be found on both sides of the shunt or
switch which there is moved. The place is an impassable chasm.

Mr. Fullerton writes--the italics are mine--as follows:--

'In so far as my action is free, what I have been, what I am, what I
have always done or striven to do, what I most earnestly wish
or resolve to do at the present moment--these things can have NO
EXISTENCE.... The possibility is a hideous one; and surely even the
most ardent free-willist will, when he contemplates it frankly,
excuse me for hoping that if I am free I am at least not very
free, and that I may reasonably expect to find SOME degree of
consistency in my life and actions. ... Suppose that I have given a
dollar to a blind beggar. Can I, if it is really an act of free-
will, be properly said to have given the money? Was it given because
I was a man of tender heart, etc., etc.? ... What has all this to do
with acts of free-will? If they are free, they must not be
conditioned by antecedent circumstances of any sort, by the
misery of the beggar, by the pity in the heart of the passer-by.
They must be causeless, not determined. They must drop from a clear
sky out of the void, for just in so far as they can be accounted
for, they are not free.' [Footnote: Loc. cit., vol. lviii, pp. 189,

Heaven forbid that I should get entangled here in a controversy
about the rights and wrongs of the free-will question at large, for
I am only trying to illustrate vicious abstractionism by the conduct
of some of the doctrine's assailants. The moments of bifurcation,
as the indeterminist seems to himself to experience them, are
moments both of re-direction and of continuation. But because in
the 'either--or' of the re-direction we hesitate, the determinist
abstracts this little element of discontinuity from the
superabundant continuities of the experience, and cancels in
its behalf all the connective characters with which the latter is
filled. Choice, for him, means henceforward DISconnection pure and
simple, something undetermined in advance IN ANY RESPECT WHATEVER,
and a life of choices must be a raving chaos, at no two moments
of which could we be treated as one and the same man. If Nero were
'free' at. the moment of ordering his mother's murder, Mr. McTaggart
[Footnote: Some Dogmas of Religion, p. 179.] assures us that no one
would have the right at any other moment to call him a bad man, for
he would then be an absolutely other Nero.

A polemic author ought not merely to destroy his victim. He ought to
try a bit to make him feel his error--perhaps not enough to convert
him, but enough to give him a bad conscience and to weaken the
energy of his defence. These violent caricatures of men's beliefs
arouse only contempt for the incapacity of their authors to see the
situations out of which the problems grow. To treat the negative
character of one abstracted element as annulling all the positive
features with which it coexists, is no way to change any
actual indeterminist's way of looking on the matter, tho it may make
the gallery applaud.

Turn now to some criticisms of the 'will to believe,' as another
example of the vicious way in which abstraction is currently
employed. The right to believe in things for the truth of which
complete objective proof is yet lacking is defended by those who
apprehend certain human situations in their concreteness. In those
situations the mind has alternatives before it so vast that the full
evidence for either branch is missing, and yet so significant
that simply to wait for proof, and to doubt while waiting, might
often in practical respects be the same thing as weighing down the
negative side. Is life worth while at all? Is there any general
meaning in all this cosmic weather? Is anything being permanently
bought by all this suffering? Is there perhaps a
transmundane experience in Being, something corresponding to a
'fourth dimension,' which, if we had access to it, might patch up
some of this world's zerrissenheit and make things look more
rational than they at first appear? Is there a superhuman
consciousness of which our minds are parts, and from which
inspiration and help may come? Such are the questions in which the
right to take sides practically for yes or no is affirmed by some of
us, while others hold that this is methodologically inadmissible,
and summon us to die professing ignorance and proclaiming the duty
of every one to refuse to believe.

I say nothing of the personal inconsistency of some of these
critics, whose printed works furnish exquisite illustrations of the
will to believe, in spite of their denunciations of it as a phrase
and as a recommended thing. Mr. McTaggart, whom I will once more
take as an example, is sure that 'reality is rational and righteous'
and 'destined sub specie temporis to become perfectly good'; and his
calling this belief a result of necessary logic has surely never
deceived any reader as to its real genesis in the gifted author's
mind. Mankind is made on too uniform a pattern for any of us to
escape successfully from acts of faith. We have a lively vision of
what a certain view of the universe would mean for us. We kindle
or we shudder at the thought, and our feeling runs through our whole
logical nature and animates its workings. It CAN'T be that, we feel;
it MUST be this. It must be what it OUGHT to be, and OUGHT to be
this; and then we seek for every reason, good or bad, to make this
which so deeply ought to be, seem objectively the probable thing. We
show the arguments against it to be insufficient, so that it MAY be
true; we represent its appeal to be to our whole nature's loyalty
and not to any emaciated faculty of syllogistic proof. We reinforce
it by remembering the enlargement of our world by music, by thinking
of the promises of sunsets and the impulses from vernal woods. And
the essence of the whole experience, when the individual swept
through it says finally 'I believe,' is the intense concreteness of
his vision, the individuality of the hypothesis before him, and
the complexity of the various concrete motives and perceptions that
issue in his final state.

But see now how the abstractionist treats this rich and intricate
vision that a certain state of things must be true. He accuses
the believer of reasoning by the following syllogism:--

All good desires must be fulfilled; The desire to believe this
proposition is a good desire;

Ergo, this proposition must be believed.

He substitutes this abstraction for the concrete state of mind of
the believer, pins the naked absurdity of it upon him, and
easily proves that any one who defends him must be the greatest fool
on earth. As if any real believer ever thought in this preposterous
way, or as if any defender of the legitimacy of men's concrete ways
of concluding ever used the abstract and general premise, 'All
desires must be fulfilled'! Nevertheless, Mr. McTaggart solemnly and
laboriously refutes the syllogism in sections 47 to 57 of the above-
cited book. He shows that there is no fixed link in the dictionary
between the abstract concepts 'desire,' 'goodness' and 'reality';
and he ignores all the links which in the single concrete case the
believer feels and perceives to be there! He adds:--

'When the reality of a thing is uncertain, the argument encourages
us to suppose that our approval of a thing can determine its
reality. And when this unhallowed link has once been established,
retribution overtakes us. For when the reality of the thing is
independently certain, we [then] have to admit that the reality of
the thing should determine our approval of that thing. I find it
difficult to imagine a more degraded position.'

One here feels tempted to quote ironically Hegel's famous equation
of the real with the rational to his english disciple, who ends
his chapter with the heroic words:--

'For those who do not pray, there remains the resolve that, so far
as their strength may permit, neither the pains of death nor the
pains of life shall drive them to any comfort in that which they
hold to be false, or drive them from any comfort [discomfort?] in
that which they hold to be true.'

How can so ingenious-minded a writer fail to see how far over the
heads of the enemy all his arrows pass? When Mr. McTaggart
himself believes that the universe is run by the dialectic energy of
the absolute idea, his insistent desire to have a world of that sort
is felt by him to be no chance example of desire in general, but
an altogether peculiar insight-giving passion to which, in this if
in no other instance, he would be stupid not to yield. He obeys its
concrete singularity, not the bare abstract feature in it of being a
'desire.' His situation is as particular as that of an actress who
resolves that it is best for her to marry and leave the stage, of
a priest who becomes secular, of a politician who abandons public
life. What sensible man would seek to refute the concrete decisions
of such persons by tracing them to abstract premises, such as that
'all actresses must marry,' 'all clergymen must be laymen,'
'all politicians should resign their posts'? Yet this type of
refutation, absolutely unavailing though it be for purposes of
conversion, is spread by Mr. McTaggart through many pages of his
book. For the aboundingness of our real reasons he substitutes one
narrow point. For men's real probabilities he gives a skeletonized
abstraction which no man was ever tempted to believe.

The abstraction in my next example is less simple, but is quite as
flimsy as a weapon of attack. Empiricists think that truth in
general is distilled from single men's beliefs; and the so-called
pragmatists 'go them one better' by trying to define what it
consists in when it comes. It consists, I have elsewhere said,
in such a working on the part of the beliefs as may bring the man
into satisfactory relations with objects to which these latter
point. The working is of course a concrete working in the actual
experience of human beings, among their ideas, feelings,
perceptions, beliefs and acts, as well as among the physical things
of their environment, and the relations must be understood as being
possible as well as actual. In the chapter on truth of my book
Pragmatism I have taken pains to defend energetically this view.
Strange indeed have been the misconceptions of it by its enemies,
and many have these latter been. Among the most formidable-sounding
onslaughts on the attempt to introduce some concreteness into our
notion of what the truth of an idea may mean, is one that has been
raised in many quarters to the effect that to make truth grow in any
way out of human opinion is but to reproduce that
protagorean doctrine that the individual man is 'the measure of all
things,' which Plato in his immortal dialogue, the Thaeatetus, is
unanimously said to have laid away so comfortably in its grave
two thousand years ago. The two cleverest brandishers of this
objection to make truth concrete, Professors Rickert and
Munsterberg, write in German, [Footnote: Munsterberg's book has just
appeared in an English version: The Eternal Values, Boston,
1909.] and 'relativismus' is the name they give to the heresy which
they endeavor to uproot.

The first step in their campaign against 'relativismus' is entirely
in the air. They accuse relativists--and we pragmatists are typical
relativists--of being debarred by their self-adopted principles, not
only from the privilege which rationalist philosophers enjoy, of
believing that these principles of their own are truth impersonal
and absolute, but even of framing the abstract notion of such a
truth, in the pragmatic sense, of an ideal opinion in which all men
might agree, and which no man should ever wish to change. Both
charges fall wide of their mark. I myself, as a pragmatist, believe
in my own account of truth as firmly as any rationalist can possibly
believe in his. And I believe in it for the very reason that I have
the idea of truth which my learned adversaries contend that no
pragmatist can frame. I expect, namely, that the more fully
men discuss and test my account, the more they will agree that it
fits, and the less will they desire a change. I may of course be
premature in this confidence, and the glory of being truth final and
absolute may fall upon some later revision and correction of my
scheme, which later will then be judged untrue in just the
measure in which it departs from that finally
satisfactory formulation. To admit, as we pragmatists do, that we
are liable to correction (even tho we may not expect it) involves
the use on our part of an ideal standard. Rationalists
themselves are, as individuals, sometimes sceptical enough to admit
the abstract possibility of their own present opinions being
corrigible and revisable to some degree, so the fact that the mere
NOTION of an absolute standard should seem to them so important a
thing to claim for themselves and to deny to us is not easy
to explain. If, along with the notion of the standard, they could
also claim its exclusive warrant for their own fulminations now, it
would be important to them indeed. But absolutists like Rickert
freely admit the sterility of the notion, even in their own hands.
Truth is what we OUGHT to believe, they say, even tho no man ever
did or shall believe it, and even tho we have no way of getting at
it save by the usual empirical processes of testing our opinions by
one another and by facts. Pragmatically, then, this part of the
dispute is idle. No relativist who ever actually walked the earth
[Footnote: Of course the bugaboo creature called 'the sceptic' in
the logic-books, who dogmatically makes the statement that
no statement, not even the one he now makes, is true, is a
mere mechanical toy--target for the rationalist shooting-gallery--
hit him and he turns a summersault--yet he is the only sort of
relativist whom my colleagues appear able to imagine to exist.] has
denied the regulative character in his own thinking of the notion of
absolute truth. What is challenged by relativists is the pretence on
any one's part to have found for certain at any given moment what
the shape of that truth is. Since the better absolutists agree in
this, admitting that the proposition 'There is absolute truth' is
the only absolute truth of which we can be sure, [Footnote:
Compare Bickert's Gegenstand der Erkentniss, pp. 187, 138.
Munsterberg's version of this first truth is that 'Es gibt eine
Welt,'--see his Philosophie der Werte, pp. 38 and 74 And, after all,
both these philosophers confess in the end that the primal truth of
which they consider our supposed denial so irrational is not
properly an insight at all, but a dogma adopted by the will which
any one who turns his back on duty may disregard! But if it all
reverts to 'the will to believe,' pragmatists have that privilege as
well as their critics.] further debate is practically unimportant,
so we may pass to their next charge.

It is in this charge that the vicious abstractionism becomes most
apparent. The antipragmatist, in postulating absolute truth,
refuses to give any account of what the words may mean. For him they
form a self-explanatory term. The pragmatist, on the
contrary, articulately defines their meaning. Truth absolute, he
says, means an ideal set of formulations towards which all opinions
may in the long run of experience be expected to converge. In this
definition of absolute truth he not only postulates that there is a
tendency to such convergence of opinions, to such ultimate
consensus, but he postulates the other factors of his definition
equally, borrowing them by anticipation from the true conclusions
expected to be reached. He postulates the existence of opinions, he
postulates the experience that will sift them, and the consistency
which that experience will show. He justifies himself in these
assumptions by saying that they are not postulates in the strict
sense but simple inductions from the past extended to the future by
analogy; and he insists that human opinion has already reached a
pretty stable equilibrium regarding them, and that if its
future development fails to alter them, the definition itself, with
all its terms included, will be part of the very absolute truth
which it defines. The hypothesis will, in short, have worked
successfully all round the circle and proved self-corroborative, and
the circle will be closed.

The anti-pragmatist, however, immediately falls foul of the word
'opinion' here, abstracts it from the universe of life, and uses it
as a bare dictionary-substantive, to deny the rest of the
assumptions which it coexists withal. The dictionary says that an
opinion is 'what some one thinks or believes.' This
definition leaves every one's opinion free to be autogenous, or
unrelated either to what any one else may think or to what the truth
may be.

Therefore, continue our abstractionists, we must conceive it as
essentially thus unrelated, so that even were a billion men to sport
the same opinion, and only one man to differ, we could admit no
collateral circumstances which might presumptively make it more
probable that he, not they, should be wrong. Truth, they say,
follows not the counting of noses, nor is it only another name for a
majority vote. It is a relation that antedates experience,
between our opinions and an independent something which the
pragmatist account ignores, a relation which, tho the opinions of
individuals should to all eternity deny it, would still remain to
qualify them as false. To talk of opinions without referring to this
independent something, the anti-pragmatist assures us, is to play
Hamlet with Hamlet's part left out.

But when the pragmatist speaks of opinions, does he mean any such
insulated and unmotived abstractions as are here supposed? Of course
not, he means men's opinions in the flesh, as they have really
formed themselves, opinions surrounded by their causes and
the influences they obey and exert, and along with the whole
environment of social communication of which they are a part and out
of which they take their rise. Moreover the 'experience' which the
pragmatic definition postulates is the independent something which
the anti-pragmatist accuses him of ignoring. Already have men grown
unanimous in the opinion that such experience is of an
independent reality, the existence of which all opinions
must acknowledge, in order to be true. Already do they agree that in
the long run it is useless to resist experience's pressure; that the
more of it a man has, the better position he stands in, in respect
of truth; that some men, having had more experience, are therefore
better authorities than others; that some are also wiser by nature
and better able to interpret the experience they have had; that it
is one part of such wisdom to compare notes, discuss, and follow the
opinion of our betters; and that the more systematically and
thoroughly such comparison and weighing of opinions is pursued, the
truer the opinions that survive are likely to be. When the
pragmatist talks of opinions, it is opinions as they thus concretely
and livingly and interactingly and correlatively exist that he has
in mind; and when the anti-pragmatist tries to floor him because the
word 'opinion' can also be taken abstractly and as if it had no
environment, he simply ignores the soil out of which the whole
discussion grows. His weapons cut the air and strike no blow. No
one gets wounded in the war against caricatures of belief and
skeletons of opinion of which the German onslaughts upon
'relativismus' consists. Refuse to use the word 'opinion'
abstractly, keep it in its real environment, and the withers of
pragmatism remain unwrung. That men do exist who are 'opinionated,'
in the sense that their opinions are self-willed, is unfortunately a
fact that must be admitted, no matter what one's notion of truth in
general may be. But that this fact should make it impossible for
truth to form itself authentically out of the life of opinion is
what no critic has yet proved. Truth may well consist of
certain opinions, and does indeed consist of nothing but opinions,
tho not every opinion need be true. No pragmatist needs to dogmatize
about the consensus of opinion in the future being right--he need
only postulate that it will probably contain more of truth than any
one's opinion now.



Mr. Bertrand Russell's article entitled 'Transatlantic Truth,'
[Footnote: In the Albany Review for January, 1908.] has all the
clearness, dialectic subtlety, and wit which one expects from his
pen, but it entirely fails to hit the right point of view for
apprehending our position. When, for instance, we say that a
true proposition is one the consequences of believing which are
good, he assumes us to mean that any one who believes a proposition
to be true must first have made out clearly that its consequences be
good, and that his belief must primarily be in that fact,--an
obvious absurdity, for that fact is the deliverance of a
new proposition, quite different from the first one and is,
moreover, a fact usually very hard to verify, it being 'far easier,'
as Mr. Russell justly says, 'to settle the plain question of fact:
"Have popes always been infallible?"' than to settle the question
whether the effects of thinking them infallible are on the
whole good.'

We affirm nothing as silly as Mr. Russell supposes. Good
consequences are not proposed by us merely as a sure sign, mark, or
criterion, by which truth's presence is habitually ascertained, tho
they may indeed serve on occasion as such a sign; they are proposed
rather as the lurking motive inside of every truth-claim, whether
the 'trower' be conscious of such motive, or whether he obey it
blindly. They are proposed as the causa existendi of our beliefs,
not as their logical cue or premise, and still less as their
objective deliverance or content. They assign the only intelligible
practical meaning to that difference in our beliefs which our habit
of calling them true or false comports.

No truth-claimer except the pragmatist himself need ever be aware of
the part played in his own mind by consequences, and he himself is
aware of it only abstractly and in general, and may at any moment be
quite oblivious of it with respect to his own beliefs.

Mr. Russell next joins the army of those who inform their readers
that according to the pragmatist definition of the word 'truth'
the belief that A exists may be 'true' even when A does not exist.
This is the usual slander repeated to satiety by our critics. They
forget that in any concrete account of what is denoted by 'truth' in
human life, the word can only be used relatively to some
particular trower. Thus, I may hold it true that Shakespeare wrote
the plays that bear his name, and may express my opinion to a
critic. If the critic be both a pragmatist and a baconian, he will
in his capacity of pragmatist see plain that the workings of my
opinion, I being who I am, make it perfectly true for me, while
in his capacity of baconian he still believes that Shakespeare never
wrote the plays in question. But most anti-pragmatist critics take
the wont 'truth' as something absolute, and easily play on their
reader's readiness to treat his OWE truths as the absolute ones. If
the reader whom they address believes that A does not exist,
while we pragmatists show that those for whom tho belief that it
exists works satisfactorily will always call it true, he easily
sneers at the naivete of our contention, for is not then the belief
in question 'true,' tho what it declares as fact has, as the reader
so well knows, no existence? Mr. Russell speaks of our statement as
an 'attempt to get rid of fact' and naturally enough considers it 'a
failure' (p. 410). 'The old notion of truth reappears,' he adds--
that notion being, of course, that when a belief is true, its
object does exist.

It is, of course, BOUND to exist, on sound pragmatic principles.
Concepts signify consequences. How is the world made different for
me by my conceiving an opinion of mine under the concept 'true'?
First, an object must be findable there (or sure signs of such an
object must be found) which shall agree with the opinion. Second,
such an opinion must not be contradicted by anything else I am aware
of. But in spite of the obvious pragmatist requirement that when I
have said truly that something exists, it SHALL exist, the
slander which Mr. Russell repeats has gained the widest currency.

Mr. Russell himself is far too witty and athletic a ratiocinator
simply to repeat the slander dogmatically. Being nothing if
not mathematical and logical, he must prove the accusation secundum
artem, and convict us not so much of error as of absurdity. I
have sincerely tried to follow the windings of his mind in this
procedure, but for the life of me I can only see in it another
example of what I have called (above, p. 249) vicious
abstractionism. The abstract world of mathematics and pure logic is
so native to Mr. Russell that he thinks that we describers of the
functions of concrete fact must also mean fixed mathematical terms
and functions. A mathematical term, as a, b, c, x, y, sin., log., is
self-sufficient, and terms of this sort, once equated, can
be substituted for one another in endless series without error. Mr.
Russell, and also Mr. Hawtrey, of whom I shall speak presently, seem
to think that in our mouth also such terms as 'meaning,' 'truth,'
'belief,' 'object,' 'definition,' are self-sufficients with no
context of varying relation that might be further asked about. What
a word means is expressed by its definition, isn't it? The
definition claims to be exact and adequate, doesn't it? Then it can
be substituted for the word--since the two are identical--can't it?
Then two words with the same definition can be substituted for one
another, n'est--ce pas? Likewise two definitions of the same word,
nicht wahr, etc., etc., till it will be indeed strange if you can't
convict some one of self-contradiction and absurdity.

The particular application of this rigoristic treatment to my own
little account of truth as working seems to be something like what
follows. I say 'working' is what the 'truth' of our ideas means, and
call it a definition. But since meanings and things meant,
definitions and things defined, are equivalent and
interchangeable, and nothing extraneous to its definition can be
meant when a term is used, it follows that who so calls an idea
true, and means by that word that it works, cannot mean
anything else, can believe nothing but that it does work, and in
particular can neither imply nor allow anything about its object or
deliverance. 'According to the pragmatists,' Mr. Russell writes, 'to
say "it is true that other people exist" means "it is useful to
believe that other people exist." But if so, then these two
phrases are merely different words for the same
proposition; therefore when I believe the one, I believe the other'
(p. 400). [Logic, I may say in passing, would seem to require Mr.
Russell to believe them both at once, but he ignores
this consequence, and considers that other people exist' and 'it is
useful to believe that they do EVEN IF THEY DON'T,' must be
identical and therefore substitutable propositions in the pragmatist

But may not real terms, I now ask, have accidents not expressed in
their definitions? and when a real value is finally substituted for
the result of an algebraic series of substituted definitions, do not
all these accidents creep back? Beliefs have their objective
'content' or 'deliverance' as well as their truth, and truth has its
implications as well as its workings. If any one believe that other
men exist, it is both a content of his belief and an implication of
its truth, that they should exist in fact. Mr. Russell's logic would
seem to exclude, 'by definition,' all such accidents as contents,
implications, and associates, and would represent us as translating
all belief into a sort of belief in pragmatism itself--of
all things! If I say that a speech is eloquent, and explain
'eloquent' as meaning the power to work in certain ways upon the
audience; or if I say a book is original, and define 'original' to
mean differing from other books, Russell's logic, if I follow it at
all, would seem to doom me to agreeing that the speech is about
eloquence, and the book about other books. When I call a belief
true, and define its truth to mean its workings, I certainly do not
mean that the belief is a belief ABOUT the workings. It is a belief
about the object, and I who talk about the workings am a different
subject, with a different universe of discourse, from that of the
believer of whose concrete thinking I profess to give an account.

The social proposition 'other men exist' and the pragmatist
proposition 'it is expedient to believe that other men exist' come
from different universes of discourse. One can believe the second
without being logically compelled to believe the first; one can
believe the first without having ever heard of the second; or one
can believe them both. The first expresses the object of a belief,
the second tells of one condition of the belief's power to maintain
itself. There is no identity of any kind, save the term 'other men'
which they contain in common, in the two propositions; and to
treat them as mutually substitutable, or to insist that we shall do
so, is to give up dealing with realities altogether.

Mr. Ralph Hawtrey, who seems also to serve under the banner of
abstractionist logic, convicts us pragmatists of absurdity by
arguments similar to Mr. Russell's. [Footnote: See The New
Quarterly, for March, 1908.]

As a favor to us and for the sake of the argument, he abandons the
word 'true' to our fury, allowing it to mean nothing but the
fact that certain beliefs are expedient; and he uses the word
'correctness' (as Mr. Pratt uses the word 'trueness') to designate a
fact, not about the belief, but about the belief's object,
namely that it is as the belief declares it. 'When therefore,' he
writes, 'I say it is correct to say that Caesar is dead, I mean
"Caesar is dead." This must be regarded as the definition of
correctness.' And Mr. Hawtrey then goes on to demolish me by the
conflict of the definitions. What is 'true' for the pragmatist
cannot be what is 'correct,' he says, 'for the definitions are not
logically interchangeable; or if we interchange them, we reach the

"Caesar is dead" means "it is expedient to believe that Caesar is
dead." But what is it expedient to believe? Why, "that Caesar is
dead." A precious definition indeed of 'Caesar is dead.'

Mr. Hawtrey's conclusion would seem to be that the pragmatic
definition of the truth of a belief in no way implies--what?--that
the believer shall believe in his own belief's deliverance?--or that
the pragmatist who is talking about him shall believe in that
deliverance? The two cases are quite different. For the believer,
Caesar must of course really exist; for the pragmatist critic he
need not, for the pragmatic deliverance belongs, as I have just
said, to another universe of discourse altogether. When one argues
by substituting definition for definition, one needs to stay in the
same universe.

The great shifting of universes in this discussion occurs when we
carry the word 'truth' from the subjective into the objective
realm, applying it sometimes to a property of opinions, sometimes to
the facts which the opinions assert. A number of writers, as Mr.
Russell himself, Mr. G. E. Moore, and others, favor the unlucky word
'proposition,' which seems expressly invented to foster this
confusion, for they speak of truth as a property of 'propositions.'
But in naming propositions it is almost impossible not to use the
word 'that.'

THAT Caesar is dead, THAT virtue is its own reward, are

I do not say that for certain logical purposes it may not be useful
to treat propositions as absolute entities, with truth or falsehood
inside of them respectively, or to make of a complex like 'that--
Caesar--is--dead' a single term and call it a 'truth.' But the
'that' here has the extremely convenient ambiguity for those
who wish to make trouble for us pragmatists, that sometimes it means
the FACT that, and sometimes the BELIEF that, Caesar is no longer
living. When I then call the belief true, I am told that the truth
means the fact; when I claim the fact also, I am told that my
definition has excluded the fact, being a definition only of a
certain peculiarity in the belief--so that in the end I have no
truth to talk about left in my possession.

The only remedy for this intolerable ambiguity is, it seems to me,
to stick to terms consistently. 'Reality,' 'idea' or 'belief,' and
the 'truth of the idea or belief,' which are the terms I have
consistently held to, seem to be free from all objection.

Whoever takes terms abstracted from all their natural settings,
identifies them with definitions, and treats the latter more
algebraico, not only risks mixing universes, but risks fallacies
which the man in the street easily detects. To prove 'by definition'
that the statement 'Caesar exists' is identical with a statement
about 'expediency' because the one statement is 'true' and the other
is about 'true statements,' is like proving that an omnibus is
a boat because both are vehicles. A horse may be defined as a beast
that walks on the nails of his middle digits. Whenever we see a
horse we see such a beast, just as whenever we believe a 'truth' we
believe something expedient. Messrs. Russell and Hawtrey, if they
followed their antipragmatist logic, would have to say here that we
see THAT IT IS such a beast, a fact which notoriously no one sees
who is not a comparative anatomist.

It almost reconciles one to being no logician that one thereby
escapes so much abstractionism. Abstractionism of the worst sort
dogs Mr. Russell in his own trials to tell positively what the word
'truth' means. In the third of his articles on Meinong, in Mind,
vol. xiii, p. 509 (1904), he attempts this feat by limiting the
discussion to three terms only, a proposition, its content, and an
object, abstracting from the whole context of associated
realities in which such terms are found in every case of actual
knowing. He puts the terms, thus taken in a vacuum, and made into
bare logical entities, through every possible permutation
and combination, tortures them on the rack until nothing is left of
them, and after all this logical gymnastic, comes out with the
following portentous conclusion as what he believes to be the
correct view: that there is no problem at all in truth and
falsehood, that some propositions are true and some false, just as
some roses are red and some white, that belief is a certain attitude
towards propositions, which is called knowledge when they are true,
error when they are false'--and he seems to think that when once
this insight is reached the question may be considered closed

In spite of my admiration of Mr. Russell's analytic powers, I wish,
after reading such an article, that pragmatism, even had it no
other function, might result in making him and other similarly
gifted men ashamed of having used such powers in such abstraction
from reality. Pragmatism saves us at any rate from such diseased
abstractionism as those pages show.

P. S. Since the foregoing rejoinder was written an article on
Pragmatism which I believe to be by Mr. Russell has appeared in the
Edinburgh Review for April, 1909. As far as his discussion of the
truth-problem goes, altho he has evidently taken great pains to be
fair, it seems to me that he has in no essential respect improved
upon his former arguments. I will therefore add nothing further, but
simply refer readers who may be curious to pp. 272-280 of the said



After correcting the proofs of all that precedes I imagine a
residual state of mind on the part of my reader which may still keep
him unconvinced, and which it may be my duty to try at least to
dispel. I can perhaps be briefer if I put what I have to say in
dialogue form. Let then the anti-pragmatist begin:--

Anti-Pragmatist:--You say that the truth of an idea is constituted
by its workings. Now suppose a certain state of facts, facts for
example of antediluvian planetary history, concerning which the
question may be asked:

'Shall the truth about them ever be known?' And suppose (leaving the
hypothesis of an omniscient absolute out of the account) that we
assume that the truth is never to be known. I ask you now, brother
pragmatist, whether according to you there can be said to be
any truth at all about such a state of facts. Is there a truth, or
is there not a truth, in cases where at any rate it never comes
to be known?

Pragmatist:--Why do you ask me such a question?

Anti-Prag.:--Because I think it puts you in a bad dilemma.

Prag.:--How so?

Anti-Prag.:--Why, because if on the one hand you elect to say that
there is a truth, you thereby surrender your whole pragmatist
theory. According to that theory, truth requires ideas and workings
to constitute it; but in the present instance there is supposed to
be no knower, and consequently neither ideas nor workings can exist.
What then remains for you to make your truth of?

Prag.:--Do you wish, like so many of my enemies, to force me to make
the truth out of the reality itself? I cannot: the truth is
something known, thought or said about the reality, and consequently
numerically additional to it. But probably your intent is something
different; so before I say which horn of your dilemma I choose, I
ask you to let me hear what the other horn may be.

Anti-Prag.:--The other horn is this, that if you elect to say that
there is no truth under the conditions assumed, because there are
no ideas or workings, then you fly in the face of common sense.
Doesn't common sense believe that every state of facts must in
the nature of things be truly statable in some kind of a
proposition, even tho in point of fact the proposition should never
be propounded by a living soul?

Prag.:--Unquestionably common sense believes this, and so do I.
There have been innumerable events in the history of our planet of
which nobody ever has been or ever will be able to give an account,
yet of which it can already be said abstractly that only one sort of
possible account can ever be true. The truth about any such event is
thus already generically predetermined by the event's nature; and
one may accordingly say with a perfectly good conscience that it
virtually pre-exists. Common sense is thus right in its instinctive

Anti-Prag.:--Is this then the horn of the dilemma which you stand
for? Do you say that there is a truth even in cases where it
shall never be known?

Prag.:--Indeed I do, provided you let me hold consistently to my own
conception of truth, and do not ask me to abandon it for something
which I find impossible to comprehend.--You also believe, do you
not, that there is a truth, even in cases where it never shall
be known?

Anti-Prag.:--I do indeed believe so.

Prag.:--Pray then inform me in what, according to you, this truth
regarding the unknown consists.

Anti-Prag.:--Consists?--pray what do you mean by 'consists'? It
consists in nothing but itself, or more properly speaking it
has neither consistence nor existence, it obtains, it holds.

Prag.:--Well, what relation does it bear to the reality of which it

Anti-Prag.:-How do you mean, 'what relation'? It holds of it, of
course; it knows it, it represents it.

Prag.:--Who knows it? What represents it?

Anti-Prag.:--The truth does; the truth knows it; or rather not
exactly that, but any one knows it who possesses the truth. Any true
idea of the reality represents the truth concerning it.

Prag.:--But I thought that we had agreed that no knower of it, nor
any idea representing it was to be supposed.

Anti-Prag.:--Sure enough!

Prag.:--Then I beg you again to tell me in what this truth consists,
all by itself, this tertium quid intermediate between the facts per
se, on the one hand, and all knowledge of them, actual or potential,
on the other. What is the shape of it in this third estate? Of
what stuff, mental, physical, or 'epistemological,' is it built?
What metaphysical region of reality does it inhabit?

Anti-Prag.:--What absurd questions! Isn't it enough to say that it
is true that the facts are so-and-so, and false that they are

Prag.:--'It' is true that the facts are so-and-so--I won't yield to
the temptation of asking you what is true; but I do ask you
whether your phrase that 'it is true that' the facts are so-and-so
really means anything really additional to the bare being so-and-so
of the facts themselves.

Anti-Prag.:--It seems to mean more than the bare being of the facts.
It is a sort of mental equivalent for them, their
epistemological function, their value in noetic terms. Prag.:--A
sort of spiritual double or ghost of them, apparently! If so, may I
ask you where this truth is found.

Anti-Prag.:--Where? where? There is no 'where'--it simply obtains,
absolutely obtains.

Prag.:--Not in any one's mind?

Anti-Prag.:--No, for we agreed that no actual knower of the truth
should be assumed.

Prag.:--No actual knower, I agree. But are you sure that no notion
of a potential or ideal knower has anything to do with forming this
strangely elusive idea of the truth of the facts in your mind?

Anti-Prag.:--Of course if there be a truth concerning the facts,
that truth is what the ideal knower would know. To that extent you
can't keep the notion of it and the notion of him separate. But it
is not him first and then it; it is it first and then him, in my

Prag.:--But you still leave me terribly puzzled as to the status of
this so-called truth, hanging as it does between earth and
heaven, between reality and knowledge, grounded in the reality, yet
numerically additional to it, and at the same time antecedent to any
knower's opinion and entirely independent thereof. Is it as
independent of the knower as you suppose? It looks to me terribly
dubious, as if it might be only another name for a potential as
distinguished from an actual knowledge of the reality. Isn't your
truth, after all, simply what any successful knower would have to
know in case he existed? And in a universe where no knowers were
even conceivable would any truth about the facts there as something
numerically distinguishable from the facts themselves, find a place
to exist in? To me such truth would not only be non-existent, it
would be unimaginable, inconceivable.

Anti-Prag.:--But I thought you said a while ago that there is a
truth of past events, even tho no one shall ever know it.

Prag.:--Yes, but you must remember that I also stipulated for
permission to define the word in my own fashion. The truth of
an event, past, present, or future, is for me only another name for
the fact that if the event ever does get known, the nature of the
knowledge is already to some degree predetermined. The truth which
precedes actual knowledge of a fact means only what any possible
knower of the fact will eventually find himself necessitated to
believe about it. He must believe something that will bring him into
satisfactory relations with it, that will prove a decent
mental substitute for it. What this something may be is of course
partly fixed already by the nature of the fact and by the sphere of
its associations. This seems to me all that you can clearly mean
when you say that truth pre-exists to knowledge. It is knowledge
anticipated, knowledge in the form of possibility merely.

Anti-Prag.:--But what does the knowledge know when it comes? Doesn't
it know the truth? And, if so, mustn't the truth be distinct from
either the fact or the knowledge?

Prag.:--It seems to me that what the knowledge knows is the fact
itself, the event, or whatever the reality may be. Where you
see three distinct entities in the field, the reality, the knowing,
and the truth, I see only two. Moreover, I can see what each of my
two entities is known-as, but when I ask myself what your third
entity, the truth, is known-as, I can find nothing distinct from the
reality on the one hand, and the ways in which it may be known on
the other. Are you not probably misled by common language, which has
found it convenient to introduce a hybrid name, meaning sometimes a
kind of knowing and sometimes a reality known, to apply to either of
these things interchangeably? And has philosophy anything to gain by
perpetuating and consecrating the ambiguity? If you call the object
of knowledge 'reality,' and call the manner of its being cognized
'truth,' cognized moreover on particular occasions, and
variously, by particular human beings who have their various
businesses with it, and if you hold consistently to this
nomenclature, it seems to me that you escape all sorts of trouble.

Anti-Prag.:--Do you mean that you think you escape from my dilemma?

Prag.:--Assuredly I escape; for if truth and knowledge are terms
correlative and interdependent, as I maintain they are,
then wherever knowledge is conceivable truth is
conceivable, wherever knowledge is possible truth is possible,
wherever knowledge is actual truth is actual. Therefore when you
point your first horn at me, I think of truth actual, and say it
doesn't exist. It doesn't; for by hypothesis there is no knower, no
ideas, no workings. I agree, however, that truth possible or virtual
might exist, for a knower might possibly be brought to birth; and
truth conceivable certainly exists, for, abstractly taken, there
is nothing in the nature of antediluvian events that should make the
application of knowledge to them inconceivable. Therefore when
you try to impale me on your second horn, I think of the truth in
question as a mere abstract possibility, so I say it does exist, and
side with common sense.

Do not these distinctions rightly relieve me from embarrassment? And
don't you think it might help you to make them yourself?

Anti-Prag.:--Never!--so avaunt with your abominable hair-splitting
and sophistry! Truth is truth; and never will I degrade it by
identifying it with low pragmatic particulars in the way you

Prag.:--Well, my dear antagonist, I hardly hoped to convert an
eminent intellectualist and logician like you; so enjoy, as long as
you live, your own ineffable conception. Perhaps the rising
generation will grow up more accustomed than you are to that
concrete and empirical interpretation of terms in which the
pragmatic method consists. Perhaps they may then wonder how so
harmless and natural an account of truth as mine could have found
such difficulty in entering the minds of men far more intelligent
than I can ever hope to become, but wedded by education and
tradition to the abstractionist manner of thought.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Meaning of Truth, by William James


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