§1. Scholastic Realism


93. I proceed to argue that Thirdness is operative in Nature. Suppose we attack the question experimentally. Here is a stone. Now I place that stone where there will be no obstacle between it and the floor, and I will predict with confidence that as soon as I let go my hold upon the stone it will fall to the floor. I will prove that I can make a correct prediction by actual trial if you like. But I see by your faces that you all think it will be a very silly experiment. Why so? Because you all know very well that I can predict what will happen, and that the fact will verify my prediction.

94. But how can I know what is going to happen? You certainly do not think that it is by clairvoyance, as if the future event by its existential reactiveness could affect me directly, as in an experience of it, as an event scarcely past might affect me. You know very well that there is nothing of the sort in this case. Still, it remains true that I do know that that stone will drop, as a fact, as soon as I let go my hold. If I truly know anything, that which I know must be real. It would be quite absurd to say that I could be enabled to know how events are going to be determined over which I can exercise no more control than I shall be able to exercise over this stone after it shall have left my hand, that I can so peer in the future merely on the strength of any acquaintance with any pure fiction.

95. I know that this stone will fall if it is let go, because experience has convinced me that objects of this kind always do fall; and if anyone present has any doubt on the subject, I should be happy to try the experiment, and I will bet him a hundred to one on the result.

96. But the general proposition that all solid bodies fall in the absence of any upward forces or pressure, this formula I say, is of the nature of a representation. Our nominalistic friends would be the last to dispute that. They will go so far as to say that it is a mere representation — the word mere meaning that to be represented and really to be are two very different things; and that this formula has no being except a being represented. It certainly is of the nature of a representation. That is undeniable, I grant. And it is equally undeniable that that which is of the nature of a representation is not ipso facto real. In that respect there is a great contrast between an object of reaction and an object of representation. Whatever reacts is ipso facto real. But an object of representation is not ipso facto real. If I were to predict that on my letting go of the stone it would fly up in the air, that would be mere fiction; and the proof that it was so would be obtained by simply trying the experiment. That is clear. On the other hand, and by the same token, the fact that I know that this stone will fall to the floor when I let it go, as you all must confess, if you are not blinded by theory, that I do know — and you none of you care to take up my bet, I notice — is the proof that the formula, or uniformity, as furnishing a safe basis for prediction, is, or if you like it better, corresponds to, a reality.

97. Possibly at this point somebody may raise an objection and say: You admit, that is one thing really to be and another to be represented; and you further admit that it is of the nature of the law of nature to be represented. Then it follows that it has not the mode of being of a reality. My answer to this would be that it rests upon an ambiguity. When I say that the general proposition as to what will happen, whenever a certain condition may be fulfilled, is of the nature of a representation, I mean that it refers to experiences in futuro, which I do not know are all of them experienced and never can know have been all experienced. But when I say that really to be is different from being represented, I mean that what really is, ultimately consists in what shall be forced upon us in experience, that there is an element of brute compulsion in fact and that fact is not a mere question of reasonableness. Thus, if I say, »I shall wind up my watch every day as long as I live,« I never can have a positive experience which certainly covers all that is here promised, because I never shall know for certain that my last day has come. But what the real fact will be does not depend upon what I represent, but upon what the experiential reactions shall be. My assertion that I shall wind up my watch every day of my life may turn out to accord with facts, even though I be the most irregular of persons, by my dying before nightfall.

If we call that being true by chance, here is a case of a general proposition being entirely true in all its generality by chance.

98. Every general proposition is limited to a finite number of occasions in which it might conceivably be falsified, supposing that it is an assertion confined to what human beings may experience; and consequently it is conceivable that, although it should be true without exception, it should still only be by chance that it turns out true.

99. But if I see a man who is very regular in his habits and am led to offer to wager that that man will not miss winding his watch for the next month, you have your choice between two alternative hypotheses only:

1. You may suppose that some principle or cause is really operative to make him wind his watch daily, which active principle may have more or less strength; or

2. You may suppose that it is mere chance that his actions have hitherto been regular; and in that case, that regularity in the past affords you not the slightest reason for expecting its continuance in the future, any more than, if he had thrown sixes three times running, that event would render it either more or less likely that his next throw would show sixes.

100. It is the same with the operations of nature. With overwhelming uniformity, in our past experience, direct and indirect, stones left free to fall have fallen. Thereupon two hypotheses only are open to us. Either

1. the uniformity with which those stones have fallen has been due to mere chance and affords no ground whatever, not the slightest for any expectation that the next stone that shall be let go will fall; or

2. the uniformity with which stones have fallen has been due to some active general principle, in which case it would be a strange coincidence that it should cease to act at the moment my prediction was based upon it.

That position, gentlemen, will sustain criticism. It is irrefragable.

101. Of course, every sane man will adopt the latter hypothesis. If he could doubt it in the case of the stone — which he can't — and I may as well drop the stone once for all — I told you so! — if anybody doubts this still, a thousand other such inductive predictions are getting verified every day, and he will have to suppose every one of them to be merely fortuitous in order reasonably to escape the conclusion that general principles are really operative in nature. That is the doctrine of scholastic realism.


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