§2. Struggle

 

51. But precisely how does this action of experience take place? It takes place by a series of surprises. There is no need of going into details. At one time a ship is sailing along in the trades over a smooth sea, the navigator having no more positive expectation than that of the usual monotony of such a voyage, when suddenly she strikes upon a rock. The majority of discoveries, however, have been the result of experimentation. Now no man makes an experiment without being more or less inclined to think that an interesting result will ensue; for experiments are much too costly of physical and psychical energy to be undertaken at random and aimlessly. And naturally nothing can possibly be learned from an experiment that turns out just as was anticipated. It is by surprises that experience teaches all she deigns to teach us.

In all the works on pedagogy that ever I read — and they have been many, big, and heavy — I don't remember that any one has advocated a system of teaching by practical jokes, mostly cruel. That, however, describes the method of our great teacher, Experience. She says,

Open your mouth and shut your eyes

And I'll give you something to make you wise;

and thereupon she keeps her promise, and seems to take her pay in the fun of tormenting us.

52. The phenomenon of surprise in itself is highly instructive in reference to this category because of the emphasis it puts upon a mode of consciousness which can be detected in all perception, namely, a double consciousness at once of an ego and a non-ego, directly acting upon each other.1) Understand me well. My appeal is to observation — observation that each of you must make for himself.

53. The question is what the phenomenon is. We make no vain pretense of going beneath phenomena. We merely ask, what is the content of the Percept? Everybody should be competent to answer that of himself. Examine the Percept in the particularly marked case in which it comes as a surprise. Your mind was filled [with] an imaginary object that was expected. At the moment when it was expected the vividness of the representation is exalted, and suddenly, when it should come, something quite different comes instead. I ask you whether at that instant of surprise there is not a double consciousness, on the one hand of an Ego, which is simply the expected idea suddenly broken off, on the other hand of the Non-Ego, which is the strange intruder, in his abrupt entrance.

54. The whole question is what the perceptual facts are, as given in direct perceptual judgments. By a perceptual judgment, I mean a judgment asserting in propositional form what a character of a percept directly present to the mind is.2) The percept of course is not itself a judgment, nor can a judgment in any degree resemble a percept. It is as unlike it as the printed letters in a book, where a Madonna of Murillo is described, are unlike the picture itself.

55. You may adopt any theory that seems to you acceptable as to the psychological operations by which perceptual judgments are formed. For our present purpose it makes no difference what that theory is. All that I insist upon is that those operations, whatever they may be, are utterly beyond our control and will go on whether we are pleased with them or not. Now I say that taking the word »criticize« in the sense it bears in philosophy, that of apportioning praise and blame, it is perfectly idle to criticize anything over which you can exercise no sort of control. You may wisely criticize a reasoning, because the reasoner, in the light of your criticism, will certainly go over his reasoning again and correct it if your blame of it was just. But to pronounce an involuntary operation of the mind good or bad, has no more sense than to pronounce the proportion of weights in which hydrogen and chlorine combine, that of 1 to 35.11 to be good or bad. I said it was idle; but in point of fact »nonsensical« would have been an apter word.

If, therefore, our careful direct interpretation of perception, and more emphatically of such perception as involves surprise, is that the perception represents two objects reacting upon one another, that is not only a decision from which there is no appeal, but it is downright nonsense to dispute the fact that in perception two objects really do so react upon one another.

56. That, of course, is the doctrine of Immediate Perception which is upheld by Reid, Kant, and all dualists who understand the true nature of dualism, and the denial of which led Cartesians to the utterly absurd theory of divine assistance upon which the preestablished harmony of Leibniz is but a slight improvement. Every philosopher who denies the doctrine of Immediate Perception — including idealists of every stripe — by that denial cuts off all possibility of ever cognizing a relation. Nor will he better his position by declaring that all relations are illusive appearances, since it is not merely true knowledge of them that he has cut off, but every mode of cognitive representation of them.

57.1) When a man is surprised he knows that he is surprised. Now comes a dilemma. Does he know he is surprised by direct perception or by inference? First try the hypothesis that it is by inference. This theory would be that a person (who must be supposed old enough to have acquired self-consciousness) on becoming conscious of that peculiar quality of feeling which unquestionably belongs to all surprise, is induced by some reason to attribute this feeling to himself. It is, however, a patent fact that we never, in the first instance, attribute a Quality of Feeling to ourselves. We first attribute it to a Non-Ego and only come to attribute it to ourselves when irrefragable reasons compel us to do so. Therefore, the theory would have to be that the man first pronounces the surprising object a wonder, and upon reflection convinces himself that it is only a wonder in the sense that he is surprised. That would have to be the theory. But it is in conflict with the facts which are that a man is more or less placidly expecting one result, and suddenly finds something in contrast to that forcing itself upon his recognition. A duality is thus forced upon him: on the one hand, his expectation which he had been attributing to Nature, but which he is now compelled to attribute to some mere inner world, and on the other hand, a strong new phenomenon which shoves that expectation into the background and occupies its place. The old expectation, which is what he was familiar with, is his inner world, or Ego. The new phenomenon, the stranger, is from the exterior world or Non-Ego. He does not conclude that he must be surprised because the object is so marvellous. But on the contrary, it is because of the duality presenting itself as such that he [is] led by generalization to a conception of a quality of marvellousness.

58. Try, then, the other alternative that it is by direct perception, that is, in a direct perceptual judgment, that a man knows that he is surprised. The perceptual judgment, however, certainly does not represent that it is he himself who has played a little trick upon himself. A man cannot startle himself by jumping up with an exclamation of Boo! Nor could the perceptual judgment have represented anything so out of nature. The perceptual judgment, then, can only be that it is the Non-Ego, something over against the Ego and bearing it down, is what has surprised him. But if that be so, this direct perception presents an Ego to which the smashed expectation belonged, and the Non-Ego, the sadder and wiser man, to which the new phenomenon belongs. . . .

 


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