§2. Struggle

 

47. I shall have to content myself with giving some hints as to how I would meet this second double-headed objection, leaving the first to your own reflexions. In the course of considering the second objection, the universality of the element of struggle will get brought to light without any special arguments to that end. But as to its being unscientific because anthropomorphic, that is an objection of a very shallow kind, that arises from prejudices based upon much too narrow considerations.

"Anthropomorphic« is what pretty much all conceptions are at bottom; otherwise other roots for the words in which to express them than the old Aryan roots would have to be found. And in regard to any preference for one kind of theory over another, it is well to remember that every single truth of science is due to the affinity of the human soul to the soul of the universe, imperfect as that affinity no doubt is.1) To say, therefore, that a conception is one natural to man, which comes to just about the same thing as to say that it is anthropomorphic, is as high a recommendation as one could give to it in the eyes of an Exact Logician.•P1

48. As for the double-headed objection, I will first glance at that branch of it that rests upon the idea that the conception of action involves the notion of law or uniformity so that to talk of a reaction regardless of anything but the two individual reacting objects is nonsense. As to that I should say that a law of nature left to itself would be quite analogous to a court without a sheriff. A court in that predicament might probably be able to induce some citizen to act as sheriff; but until it had so provided itself with an officer who, unlike itself, could not discourse authoritatively but who could put forth the strong arm, its law might be the perfection of human reason but would remain mere fireworks, brutum fulmen. Just so, let a law of nature — say the law of gravitation — remain a mere uniformity — a mere formula establishing a relation between terms — and what in the world should induce a stone, which is not a term nor a concept but just a plain thing, to act in conformity to that uniformity? All other stones may have done so, and this stone too on former occasions, and it would break the uniformity for it not to do so now. But what of that? There is no use talking reason to a stone. It is deaf and it has no reason. I should ask the objector whether he was a nominalist or a scholastic realist. If he is a nominalist, he holds that laws are mere generals, that is, formulae relating to mere terms; and ordinary good sense ought to force him to acknowledge that there are real connections between individual things regardless of mere formulae. Now any real connection whatsoever between individual things involves a reaction between them in the sense of this category. The objector may, however, take somewhat stronger ground by confessing himself to be a scholastic realist, holding that generals may be real. A law of nature, then, will be regarded by him as having a sort of esse in futuro. That is to say they will have a present reality which consists in the fact that events will happen according to the formulation of those laws. It would seem futile for me to attempt to reply that when, for example, I make a great effort to lift a heavy weight and perhaps am unable to stir it from the ground, there really is a struggle on this occasion regardless of what happens on other occasions; because the objector would simply admit that on such an occasion I have a quality of feeling which I call a feeling of effort, but he would urge that the only thing which makes this designation appropriate to the feeling is the regularity of connection between this feeling and certain motions of matter.

49. This is a position well enough taken to merit a very respectful reply. But before going into that reply, there is an observation which I should like to lay before the candid objector. Your argument against this category of Struggle is that a struggle regardless of law is not intelligible. Yet you have just admitted that my so-called sense of effort involves a peculiar quality of feeling. Now a quality of feeling is not intelligible, either. Nothing can be less so. One can feel it, but to comprehend it or express it in a general formula is out of the question. So it appears that unintelligibility does not suffice to destroy or refute a Category. Indeed, if you are to accept scholastic realism, you would seem to be almost bound to admit that Nous, or intelligibility, is itself a category; and in that case far from non-intelligibility's refuting a category, intelligibility would do so — that is, would prove that a conception could not be a category distinct from the category of Nous, or intelligibility. If it be objected that the unintelligibility of a Quality of Feeling is of a merely privative kind quite different from the aggressive and brutal anti-intelligibility of action regardless of law, the rejoinder will be that if intelligibility be a category, it is not surprising but rather inevitable that other categories should be in different relations to this one.

50. But without beating longer round the bush, let us come to close quarters. Experience is our only teacher. Far be it from me to enunciate any doctrine of a tabula rasa. For, as I said a few minutes ago, there manifestly is not one drop of principle in the whole vast reservoir of established scientific theory that has sprung from any other source than the power of the human mind to originate ideas that are true. But this power, for all it has accomplished, is so feeble that as ideas flow from their springs in the soul, the truths are almost drowned in a flood of false notions; and that which experience does is gradually, and by a sort of fractionation, to precipitate and filter off the false ideas, eliminating them and letting the truth pour on in its mighty current.

 


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