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PAGE 4

Pragmatism And Common Sense
by [?]

That one Time which we all believe in and in which each event has its definite date, that one Space in which each thing has its position, these abstract notions unify the world incomparably; but in their finished shape as concepts how different they are from the loose unordered time-and-space experiences of natural men! Everything that happens to us brings its own duration and extension, and both are vaguely surrounded by a marginal ‘more’ that runs into the duration and extension of the next thing that comes. But we soon lose all our definite bearings; and not only do our children make no distinction between yesterday and the day before yesterday, the whole past being churned up together, but we adults still do so whenever the times are large. It is the same with spaces. On a map I can distinctly see the relation of London, Constantinople, and Pekin to the place where I am; in reality I utterly fail to FEEL the facts which the map symbolizes. The directions and distances are vague, confused and mixed. Cosmic space and cosmic time, so far from being the intuitions that Kant said they were, are constructions as patently artificial as any that science can show. The great majority of the human race never use these notions, but live in plural times and spaces, interpenetrant and DURCHEINANDER.

Permanent ‘things’ again; the ‘same’ thing and its various ‘appearances’ and ‘alterations’; the different ‘kinds’ of thing; with the ‘kind’ used finally as a ‘predicate,’ of which the thing remains the ‘subject’–what a straightening of the tangle of our experience’s immediate flux and sensible variety does this list of terms suggest! And it is only the smallest part of his experience’s flux that anyone actually does straighten out by applying to it these conceptual instruments. Out of them all our lowest ancestors probably used only, and then most vaguely and inaccurately, the notion of ‘the same again.’ But even then if you had asked them whether the same were a ‘thing’ that had endured throughout the unseen interval, they would probably have been at a loss, and would have said that they had never asked that question, or considered matters in that light.

Kinds, and sameness of kind–what colossally useful DENKMITTEL for finding our way among the many! The manyness might conceivably have been absolute. Experiences might have all been singulars, no one of them occurring twice. In such a world logic would have had no application; for kind and sameness of kind are logic’s only instruments. Once we know that whatever is of a kind is also of that kind’s kind, we can travel through the universe as if with seven- league boots. Brutes surely never use these abstractions, and civilized men use them in most various amounts.

Causal influence, again! This, if anything, seems to have been an antediluvian conception; for we find primitive men thinking that almost everything is significant and can exert influence of some sort. The search for the more definite influences seems to have started in the question: “Who, or what, is to blame?”–for any illness, namely, or disaster, or untoward thing. From this centre the search for causal influences has spread. Hume and ‘Science’ together have tried to eliminate the whole notion of influence, substituting the entirely different DENKMITTEL of ‘law.’ But law is a comparatively recent invention, and influence reigns supreme in the older realm of common sense.

The ‘possible,’ as something less than the actual and more than the wholly unreal, is another of these magisterial notions of common sense. Criticize them as you may, they persist; and we fly back to them the moment critical pressure is relaxed. ‘Self,’ ‘body,’ in the substantial or metaphysical sense–no one escapes subjection to THOSE forms of thought. In practice, the common-sense DENKMITTEL are uniformly victorious. Everyone, however instructed, still thinks of a ‘thing’ in the common-sense way, as a permanent unit-subject that ‘supports’ its attributes interchangeably. No one stably or sincerely uses the more critical notion, of a group of sense- qualities united by a law. With these categories in our hand, we make our plans and plot together, and connect all the remoter parts of experience with what lies before our eyes. Our later and more critical philosophies are mere fads and fancies compared with this natural mother-tongue of thought.