§1. The Three Categories

417. Although the present paper deals with mathematics, yet its problems are not mere mathematical problems. It is not proposed to inquire into the methods of reasoning of mathematics particularly, although this subject will incidentally be touched upon. But mathematics performs its reasonings by a logica utens which it develops for itself, and has no need of any appeal to a logica docens; for no disputes about reasoning arise in mathematics which need to be submitted to the principles of the philosophy of thought for decision. The questions which are here to be examined are, what are the different systems of hypotheses from which mathematical deduction can set out, what are their general characters, why are not other hypotheses possible, and the like. These are not problems which, like those of mathematics, repose upon clear and definite assumptions recognized at the outset; and yet, like mathematical problems, they are questions of possibility and necessity. What the nature of this necessity can be is one of the very matters to be discovered. This much, however, is indisputable: if there are really any such necessary characteristics of mathematical hypotheses as I have just declared in advance that we shall find that there [are], this necessity must spring from some truth so broad as to hold not only for the universe we know but for every world that poet could create. And this truth like every truth must come to us by the way of experience. No apriorist ever denied that. The first matters which it is pertinent to examine are the most universal categories of elements of all experience, natural or poetical.

418. We remark among phenomena three categories of elements.

The first comprises the qualities of phenomena, such as red, bitter, tedious, hard, heartrending, noble; and there are doubtless manifold varieties utterly unknown to us. Beginners in philosophy may object that these are not qualities of things and are not in the world at all, but are mere sensations. Certainly, we only know such as the senses we are furnished with are adapted to reveal; and it can hardly be doubted that the specializing effect of the evolutionary process which has made us what we are has been to blot the greater part of the senses and sensations which were once dimly felt, and to render bright, clear, and separate the rest. But whether we ought to say that it is the senses that make the sense-qualities or the sense-qualities to which the senses are adapted, need not be determined in haste. It is sufficient that wherever there is a phenomenon there is a quality; so that it might almost seem that there is nothing else in phenomena. The qualities merge into one another. They have no perfect identities, but only likenesses, or partial identities. Some of them, as the colors and the musical sounds, form well-understood systems. Probably, were our experience of them not so fragmentary, there would be no abrupt demarcations between them, at all.1) Still, each one is what it is in itself without help from the others. They are single but partial determinations.

419. The second category of elements of phenomena comprises the actual facts. The qualities, in so far as they are general, are somewhat vague and potential. But an occurrence is perfectly individual. It happens here and now. A permanent fact is less purely individual; yet so far as it is actual, its permanence and generality only consist in its being there at every individual instant. Qualities are concerned in facts but they do not make up facts. Facts also concern subjects which are material substances. We do not see them as we see qualities, that is, they are not in the very potentiality and essence of sense. But we feel facts resist our will. That is why facts are proverbially called brutal. Now mere qualities do not resist. It is the matter that resists. Even in actual sensation there is a reaction. Now mere qualities, unmaterialized, cannot actually react. So that, rightly understood, it is correct to say that we immediately, that is, directly perceive matter. To say that we only infer matter from its qualities is to say that we only know the actual through the potential. It would be a little less erroneous to say that we only know the potential through the actual, and only infer qualities by generalization from what we perceive in matter. All that I here insist upon is that quality is one element of phenomena, and fact, action, actuality is another. We shall undertake the analysis of their natures below.

420. The third category of elements of phenomena consists of what we call laws when we contemplate them from the outside only, but which when we see both sides of the shield we call thoughts. Thoughts are neither qualities nor facts. They are not qualities because they can be produced and grow, while a quality is eternal, independent of time and of any realization. Besides, thoughts may have reasons, and indeed, must have some reasons, good or bad. But to ask why a quality is as it is, why red is red and not green, would be lunacy. If red were green it would not be red; that is all. And any semblance of sanity the question may have is due to its being not exactly a question about quality, but about the relation between two qualities, though even this is absurd. A thought then is not a quality. No more is it a fact. For a thought is general. I had it. I imparted it to you. It is general on that side. It is also general in referring to all possible things, and not merely to those which happen to exist. No collection of facts can constitute a law; for the law goes beyond any accomplished facts and determines how facts that may be, but all of which never can have happened, shall be characterized. There is no objection to saying that a law is a general fact, provided it be understood that the general has an admixture of potentiality in it, so that no congeries of actions here and now can ever make a general fact. As general, the law, or general fact, concerns the potential world of quality, while as fact, it concerns the actual world of actuality. Just as action requires a peculiar kind of subject, matter, which is foreign to mere quality, so law requires a peculiar kind of subject, the thought, or, as the phrase in this connection is, the mind, as a peculiar kind of subject foreign to mere individual action. Law, then, is something as remote from both quality and action as these are remote from one another.

421. Having thus by observation satisfied ourselves that there are these three categories of elements of phenomena, let us endeavor to analyze the nature of each, and try to find out why there should be these three categories and no others. This reason, when we find it, ought to be interesting to mathematicians; for it will be found to coincide with the most fundamental characteristic of the most universal of the mathematical hypotheses, I mean that of number.


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