§4. The Relations of the Normative Sciences


34. It must be understood that all I am now attempting to show is that Pragmatism is apparently a matter of such great probable concern, and at the same time so much doubt hangs over its legitimacy, that it will be well worth our while to make a methodical, scientific, and thorough examination of the whole question, so as to make sure of our ground, and obtain some secure method for such a preliminary filtration of questions as pragmatism professes to furnish.

Let us, then, enter upon this inquiry. But before doing so let us mark out the proposed course of it. That should always be done in such cases, even if circumstances subsequently require the plan to be modified, as they usually will.

Although our inquiry is to be an inquiry into truth, whatever the truth may turn out to be, and therefore, of course, is not to be influenced by any liking for pragmatism or any pride in it as an American doctrine, yet still we do not come to this inquiry, any more than anybody comes to any inquiry, in that blank state that the lawyers pretend to insist upon as desirable, though I give them credit for enough common-sense to know better.

35. We have some reason already to think there is some truth in pragmatism although we also have some reason to think that there is something wrong with it. For unless both branches of this statement were true we should do wrong to waste time and energy upon the inquiry we are undertaking.

I will, therefore, presume that there is enough truth in it to render a preliminary glance at ethics desirable. For if, as pragmatism teaches us, what we think is to be interpreted in terms of what we are prepared to do, then surely logic, or the doctrine of what we ought to think, must be an application of the doctrine of what we deliberately choose to do, which is Ethics.

36. But we cannot get any clue to the secret of Ethics — a most entrancing field of thought but soon broadcast with pitfalls — until we have first made up our formula for what it is that we are prepared to admire. I do not care what doctrine of ethics be embraced, it will always be so. Suppose, for example, our maxim of ethics to be Pearson's 1) that all our action ought to be directed toward the perpetuation of the biological stock to which we belong. Then the question will arise, On what principle should it be deemed such a fine thing for this stock to survive — or a fine thing at all? Is there nothing in the world or in posse that would be admirable per se except copulation and swarming? Is swarming a fine thing at all, apart from any results that it may lead to? The course of thought will follow a parallel line if we consider Marshall's ethical maxim: Act to restrain the impulses which demand immediate reaction, in order that the impulse-order determined by the existence of impulses of less strength, but of wider significance, may have full weight in the guidance of your life. Although I have not as clear an apprehension as I could wish of the philosophy of this very close, but too technical, thinker, yet I presume that he would not be among those who would object to making Ethics dependent upon Esthetics. Certainly, the maxim which I have just read to you from his latest book 2) supposes that it is a fine thing for an impulse to have its way, but yet not an equally fine thing for one impulse to have its way and for another impulse to have its way. There is a preference which depends upon the significance of impulses, whatever that may mean. It supposes that there is some ideal state of things which, regardless of how it should be brought about and independently of any ulterior reason whatsoever, is held to be good or fine. In short, ethics must rest upon a doctrine which, without at all considering what our conduct is to be, divides ideally possible states of things into two classes, those that would be admirable and those that would be unadmirable, and undertakes to define precisely what it is that constitutes the admirableness of an ideal. Its problem is to determine by analysis what it is that one ought deliberately to admire per se in itself regardless of what it may lead to and regardless of its bearings upon human conduct. I call that inquiry Esthetics, because it is generally said that the three normative sciences are logic, ethics, and esthetics, being the three doctrines that distinguish good and bad; Logic in regard to representations of truth, Ethics in regard to efforts of will, and Esthetics in objects considered simply in their presentation. Now that third Normative science can, I think, be no other than that which I have described. It is evidently the basic normative science upon which as a foundation, the doctrine of ethics must be reared to be surmounted in its turn by the doctrine of logic.

37. But before we can attack any normative science, any science which proposes to separate the sheep from the goats, it is plain that there must be a preliminary inquiry which shall justify the attempt to establish such dualism. This must be a science that does not draw any distinction of good and bad in any sense whatever, but just contemplates phenomena as they are, simply opens its eyes and describes what it sees; not what it sees in the real as distinguished from figment — not regarding any such dichotomy — but simply describing the object, as a phenomenon, and stating what it finds in all phenomena alike. This is the science which Hegel made his starting-point, under the name of the Phänomenologie des Geistes — although he considered it in a fatally narrow spirit, since he restricted himself to what actually forces itself on the mind and so colored his whole philosophy with the ignoration of the distinction of essence and existence and so gave it the nominalistic and I might say in a certain sense the pragmatoidal character in which the worst of the Hegelian errors have their origin. I will so far follow Hegel as to call this science Phenomenology although I will not restrict it to the observation and analysis of experience but extend it to describing all the features that are common to whatever is experienced or might conceivably be experienced or become an object of study in any way direct or indirect.1)

38. Hegel was quite right in holding that it was the business of this science to bring out and make clear the Categories or fundamental modes. He was also right in holding that these Categories are of two kinds; the Universal Categories all of which apply to everything, and the series of categories consisting of phases of evolution.

As to these latter, I am satisfied that Hegel has not approximated to any correct catalogue of them. It may be that here and there, in the long wanderings of his Encyclopædia he has been a little warmed by the truth. But in all its main features his catalogue is utterly wrong, according to me. I have made long and arduous studies of this matter, but I have not been able to draw up any catalogue that satisfies me. My studies,2) if they are ever published, will I believe be found helpful to future students of this most difficult problem, but in these lectures I shall have little to say on that subject. The case is quite different with the three Universal Categories, which Hegel, by the way, does not look upon as Categories at all, or at least he does not call them so, but as three stages of thinking. In regard to these, it appears to me that Hegel is so nearly right that my own doctrine might very well be taken for a variety of Hegelianism, although in point of fact it was determined in my mind by considerations entirely foreign to Hegel, at a time when my attitude toward Hegelianism was one of contempt. There was no influence upon me from Hegel unless it was of so occult a kind as to entirely escape my ken; and if there was such an occult influence, it strikes me as about as good an argument for the essential truth of the doctrine, as is the coincidence that Hegel and I arrived in quite independent ways substantially to the same result.

39. This science of Phenomenology, then, must be taken as the basis upon which normative science is to be erected, and accordingly must claim our first attention.

This science of Phenomenology is in my view the most primal of all the positive sciences. That is, it is not based, as to its principles, upon any other positive science. By a positive science I mean an inquiry which seeks for positive knowledge; that is, for such knowledge as may conveniently be expressed in a categorical proposition. Logic and the other normative sciences, although they ask, not what is but what ought to be, nevertheless are positive sciences since it is by asserting positive, categorical truth that they are able to show that what they call good really is so; and the right reason, right effort, and right being, of which they treat, derive that character from positive categorical fact.

40. Perhaps you will ask me whether it is possible to conceive of a science which should not aim to declare that something is positively or categorically true. I reply that it is not only possible to conceive of such a science, but that such science exists and flourishes, and Phenomenology, which does not depend upon any other positive science, nevertheless must, if it is to be properly grounded, be made to depend upon the Conditional or Hypothetical Science of Pure Mathematics, whose only aim is to discover not how things actually are, but how they might be supposed to be, if not in our universe, then in some other.1) A Phenomenology which does not reckon with pure mathematics, a science hardly come to years of discretion when Hegel wrote, will be the same pitiful club-footed affair that Hegel produced.


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