Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Remarks on Books:

Abel Rey.
Modern Philosophy.
Paris, 1908

(Part Two)

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[204]...But in the vitalist method the entelechies
and dominants have nothing in common with

described elements: the ends cannot be described
because they do not exist materially
—at any

letting the
cat out of

rate they do not yet exist, for they are in the

the bag!

process of becoming, of a progressive realisa-

Their influence is not perceptible to the senses.
That is why it is more dangerous to turn to them
in science than to turn to mechanical models—and
the history of all the sciences proves it. The teleo-
logical hypotheses by their very nature escape
experimental control and can only be harmful if
they are chimerical.


[216-218]...But it would be contrary to all the
lessons of experience to assert that in the phenome-
na of life everything can be reduced to physico-
chemical laws and that mechanism in its whole
scope has been verified experimentally. On the
contrary, we know very little about life. Experi-
mental biology has to its credit a number of im-
portant results, if they are taken in themselves,
but they are very insignificant when compared with
all the results that we still have to obtain.

Why, then, concern ourselves with mechanist
theories, one is led to think? Should not these
very general hypotheses, the verification of which

presupposes the complete achievement of science,
be banned from science? Here again we find an
opinion that we have already seen expressed by
a number of physicists regarding physics and, in
particular, mechanistic theories in physics
. Let us
recall that some energeticists were in favour of

banning mechanist hypotheses from physics as

being unverifiable, useless and even dangerous
generalisations. Among biologists, too,
we find
some scientists who adopt the same attitude and
align themselves directly with these energetics
In their opinion biology should be re-


stricted to a description of the phenomena of life,
without going beyond what experience allows us
to affirm. While using the energetistic scheme,
it will restrict itself, when seeking general formulas
for systematising its laws, to measuring exchanges
of energy between the organism and its environ-
ment in the performance of various organic func-
tions, and to the enunciation of the laws governing
these exchanges.

But is not this already an admission that there
is a basic analogy between the physico-chemical
sciences and biology, at any rate from the stand-
point of the description of facts and experimental

verification? The energetics school in biology
is less clearly differentiated from the mechanistic
school than in physics
. It is rather only a timid

un aspect
timide du

aspect of mechanism, for it opposes teleology and


postulates a conformity between the phenomena of
life and inorganic phenomena.

And this again brings us to our previous con-
clusions: every time it is possible to make a scien-
tific analysis of a biological phenomenon, we
again find ourselves up against the relations be-
tween biological activity and physico-chemical
activity. Hence everything takes place as though,
in connection with these facts, the mechanical
hypothesis, or at least the physico-chemical theory
of life, had been partially verified....


[223-224]...Living matter is clearly conditioned
by habit and heredity: everything takes place
as though it remembered all its preceding states.
It is said, however, that inanimate matter never
manifests this property. It would even be a con-
tradiction to imagine anything of the kind. All
material phenomena are reversible. All biological
phenomena are irreversible.

In these conclusions one forgets that the second
principle of thermodynamics could have been called
the principle of evolution or heredity.[2]
One forgets
about all the phenomena of “residual” electricity
and hysteresis. One forgets that physics will not
retreat even in the face of this conclusion: no
phenomenon of reality is absolutely reversible,
which, however, does not prevent this irreversibili-
ty of partial systems, when transposed in the
infinity of time and space, i.e., in the total uni-
verse, from being conditioned by reversible phenome-
na—just as chance and coincidence are, probably,
only a sign of our ignorance of necessary, very
complex laws. However that may be, and no
matter which way one looks at irreversibility,
heredity cannot be an insurmountable obstacle
for mechanist biology.

[227]...Scientific discipline tries primarily to
find, beneath the appearances which our direct
sensations of objects and living beings give us,
the relations which link them together, the bonds
of dependence which explain their appearance or
disappearance, or their variations. The mechanistic
theory of evolution is nothing but the effort to
determine these relations of dependence as regards
the aspects, forms and characters in which life
and living beings appear to us.

Scientific discipline further tries to link every
particular sphere it studies with the other spheres
in which it is applied. Science cannot resolve to

consider as isolated for all time the various orders
of facts for whose sake it
is divided into particular
sciences. This division has entirely subjective and
anthropomorphic causes. It proceeds solely from
the requirements of research which compel

An approach
to dialectical

serialisation of questions, the concentration of
attention on each of them separately, starting with
the particular in order to arrive at the general.

Nature is of itself one whole.

C H A P T E R   V

[242-243] Although metaphysical rationalism
constituted the great philosophical tradition, its
ancient affirmations a priori could not fail to evoke
objections from critical minds. Indeed, in all
times we see philosophers trying to resist the

rationalist and metaphysical trends. These were
in the first place the sensualists and materialists,
then the associationists and phenomenists. In
a general sense they may be called empiricists.

2 brackets

Instead of opposing mind to nature, they try
anew to put mind in nature.
Only they continue
to understand mind in the same simplified and
intellectualist manner as those whom they are


[244]...The empiricist theory regarded mind
in approximately the same way as atomism regards
This is the psychological atomism in

which atoms are replaced by states of consciousness:
sensations, ideas, feelings, emotions, sensations
of pleasure and pain, movements, volitions, etc. ...

[245-246]...Thus our psychological states are
only the sum-total of elementary consciousnesses,
corresponding to the atoms of which our nerve
centres are composed. Mind is parallel to matter.
It expresses in its own form, in its own language,
what matter, in turn, expresses in its own form,

and in a different language. Mind, on the one
hand, matter on the other, are two mutually-
reversible translations of one and the same text.

For the idealists, the original text is mind; for
the materialists, it is matter;
for the dualist-

spiritualists both texts are equally the original,
since nature is written simultaneously in both
languages; for the pure monists, we are concerned
with two translations of an original text that
eludes us....


[248-249]...When it is said that consciousness
is one and continuous, one must beware of thinking
that the theory of the unity and identity of the
“Ego,” the corner-stone of ancient rationalism,
is being revived. Consciousness is one, but it does
not always remain identical with itself, as is the
case, moreover, with all living beings. It is con-
stantly changing; not as something created once
and for all, which remains what it is, but as a being
that is being constantly created: evolution is
creative. There would only be a need for the
notion of identity and permanence if it were neces-
sary, in order to discover the real appearances, to
impose the link of synthesis and unity on the
multiple states which seem to be revealed behind
these appearances. But if one supposes that reality
is essentially continuous, and that the gaps in it
are artificial, then there is no longer any need
to appeal to the principle of unity and per-


The theories of Anglo—American pragmatism are
extremely close to these.
These theories are very

diverse, particularly in the moral and logical
applications that it has been sought to deduce
from them. But what gives them their unity and
allows us to group them together are precisely the
general features of the solution they have given

to the problem of consciousness. William James,
the great psychologist of pragmatism, gave

solution its clearest and most complete form.
His conception opposes at one and the same time,
and for almost the same reasons, both the concep-
tion of metaphysical rationalism and that of

[251-252]...William James claims also that to
arrive at this theory he needed only to follow

with the utmost rigour the teaching of experience:
hence he calls it “the theory of radical empiricism”
or of “pure experience.”
For him the old empiricism

“theory of

remained impregnated with metaphysical and
rationalist illusions. He tried to free it from them

Indubitably, these new theories of consciousness
won very great favour in a very short space of time:
the Englishmen—Schiller and Peirce, the Ameri-

cans—Dewey and Royce, scientists like Poincaré,
Hertz, Mach and Ostwald
in France and Germany,
and, on the other hand, almost everyone
who want-
ed to reform Catholicism, while remaining faith-
ful to it, could be associated with the trend of
ideas which have been most systematically pre-
sented by Bergson and James.
It is also inconte-

James, Mach
and the

stable that this favour seems to be largely

[254-255]...True, rationalism claimed that
empiricism, i.e., the explanation of the progress of
the mind by experience alone, destroys all science
or, if you prefer, all truth. The theory of innate
or a priori reason was, above all, a legitimisation
of the rights of science. We shall see, in connection

with the problem of knowledge and truth, that
pragmatism has in fact often led to sceptical
conclusions, but these conclusions are by no means
James himself, who at times seems to

stand extremely close to sceptical irrationalism,

has pointed out that in a strict interpretation of
experience it should not be considered as giving
us only an idea of isolated facts, but as giving us
in addition, and in particular, an idea of the
relations existing between the facts.

But does it not then become impossible to say
with the rationalists that the empiricists have no
guarantee that tomorrow’s experience will be
identical with yesterday’s or, in other words, that
phenomena always follow one another in the
same order since it is precisely the order of phenom-
ena that is the subject of experience? When we
come into contact with nature, the mind actually
perceives not isolated phenomena, the terms
between which it will later establish some relation
or other, but the relations themselves, a definite
continuity in which we then arbitrarily mark out
the terms themselves, rather as we mark points
on a line.


Thus, it seems that the new orientation which
has appeared in philosophy and which has been
given the name of pragmatism
marks an indispu-
table advance in the scientific and philosophical
conceptions of the mind.


[256-258]...One would now have to establish
accurately what constitutes the relations which
form the psychological world and how they differ
from the relations which comprise the rest of nature
and experience. Perhaps the Viennese physicist,
Mach, has made the clearest points on this sub-
ject.[3] In every experience that which is given
depends on a multitude of relations which in the
first place are divisible into two groups: those
which have been verified in an identical way by
all organisms externally analogous to our own,
i.e., by all witnesses, and those which differ
according to the witness. It is all the latter that
are the subject of psychology and together they
form what we call psychological activity. More

exactly, the former are independent of our orga-
nism and biological activity.
The latter do depend

on them, intimately and inevitably.

If we take a piece of sulphur, then the geometri-
cal, mechanical, physical and chemical properties
are relations which are independent of our orga-
nism. Psychology has nothing to do with them.
If a living being is concerned new relations are
added to the previous ones: biological properties
which, too, are independent of our organism.
If it is a matter of our own organism itself, it also
possesses properties which to a certain extent
are independent of the conditions in which it
is given to us in the experience; these are physico-
chemical and biological properties. Mathematics,
mechanics, physics, chemistry and biology are so
many sciences, each of which takes a group of re-
lations from the sum-total of relations included
in the given thing, and which are independent
and should be examined independently of our

organisation. These are objective relations, the
subject of the natural science, the ideal of which
is to exclude from what is given all relations
which make this given dependent on our organ-


[259-261] Experience shows us the reciprocal
influence of the biological and the psychological,
the system of relations between them. Why should
not each of these two orders of facts be regarded
as two orders of facts of nature, which act and
react on each other, like all the other orders of
natural facts: heat, electrical, optical, chemical and
other phenomena? There is no more and no less
difference between all these orders than between
the biological order and the psychological. All
phenomena should be regarded on one and
the same plane and as able to condition one

Against this conception the objection will

no doubt be raised that it fails to explain why
there is experience, and knowledge by the organism
of this experience.
But does it not seem that one
could and should reply that this question, like

all metaphysical questions, is badly framed,
non-existent? It arises from an anthropomorphical
illusion which always opposes mind to the universe.

One cannot say why there is experience, for expe-
rience is a fact and as such imposes itself.

is a fact”

So as to depart from abstractions and generali-
ties, let us try to develop in a more concrete form
the definition of psychology that we have just
given—and which appears to us the simplest and
most scientific. Let us try to imagine the general
conception of psychological activity to which it
leads us.


Experience or, to use a less ambiguous term,
the given, has up to now seemed to us to be de-

pendent on mathematical, mechanical, physical
and other relations. When we analyse these condi-
tions, it appears to us, in addition, to he dependent
on certain relations concerning which one can say,
in general, that they distort it according, to the
individual to whom it is given: these distortions
constitute the subjective, the psychological. Can
we establish—of course very roughly and prelimi-
narily—the general meaning of these new relations,
of these distortions, i.e., the direction in which
scientific analysis, in its progress through the
centuries, dares to reveal the most general relations
(principles) which they imply?

Why, in other words, is the given subjectively
distorted, instead of being identical for all individ-
uals, instead of being a direct datum, forming
a single unity with the knowledge that we have of
it? It is distorted to such a degree that a fairly
large number of philosophers and common sense
have gone so far as to smash the unity of experi-
ence, and to advance the irreducible dualism of

things and the mind, which is nothing but the
dualism of experience as had by all, to the extent
that the sciences correct it, and experience as dis-
torted in the individual consciousness....

experience of

[271-272]...Images are not identical with sensa-
as subjectivism has maintained, if this
word, ambiguous in the scope of its meaning, is
given the sense of immediate experiences. On this
point Bergson’s analysis has been by no means
The image is the result of certain rela-
tions already involved in immediate experience,
i.e., in sensations. Only the latter involve quite
a number of others. Let there be given only the
relations which form the system of the “image”
(a partial system, if compared with the whole
system of sensations and immediate experience)—
more exactly, let there be given only those rela-
tions of the whole system which involve the de-
pendence of what is given on the organism, and
then we have precisely the image, the recollec-

In defining recollection in this way we have
done no more than express the latest results of
experimental psychology as well as the older ideas
of common sense: recollection is an organic habit.
All that is common to recollection and primitive
sensation are the organic conditions. The former

lacks all the extra-organic relations with what we
call the external environment
involved in sensa-

))   NB

This complete dependence of the image and
partial dependence of sensations on organic condi-
tions also enables one to understand illusions,
errors of the senses, dreams and hallucinations,
when relations with the external environment

are to some degree abnormally cut off, and expe-
rience becomes reduced
for the individual to that

))   NB

which is taking place in his organism, i.e., to
the relations which depend on the latter, hence
to the purely psychological, the purely subjec-


[280]...Our life, fully conscious, is only an
extremely limited part of the sum-total of our
psychological activity. It is as it were the centre
of an illuminated area, around which extends
a much larger semi-shaded region that gradually
passes into absolute darkness. Ancient psychology
made a very serious mistake in regarding fully
conscious activity alone as psychological activity.

Although it is difficult to exaggerate the extent
of the unconscious in our organisation, one should

not, as is very frequently done by a certain kind
of pragmatist psychology, exaggerate the qualita-
tive importance of this unconscious.


According to some pragmatists, clear conscious-
ness, intellectual and rational consciousness, is
the most superficial and insignificant part of our


[285-286]...To immediate and superficial obser-
vation, the higher psychological life, of course,
seems heavily stamped with final cause. In generalis-
ing by a familiar procedure from the known to the
unknown, one sees that from the earliest times
attempts have equally been made at interpreting
in a teleological way the entire lower psychological
life. The simplest reflex, like blinking an eye
when the light is too strong, the simplest physical
pleasures and sufferings, the primitive emotions—
do not all these facts appear to be required to
maintain and advance the species, or to maintain
and advance the individual? Beginning with the
amoeba, that embryonic blob of protoplasm
which stretches out to some light irradiations and tries
to avoid others, has not all activity which can
becalled conscious always belonged to the category
of tendency, and is not tendency purpose in action?


Nor should one be surprised that James, Tarde
and many others conclude from these facts that
psychological laws have a totally different charac-
ter from the other laws of nature. They are teleologi-


The teleological conception of psychological
law is in essence nothing but a scientific facing
for metaphysical conceptions,
which make ten-

dency, the will to live, instinct, the will, and
action, the basis of everything that exists. Moreov-
er, it has been accepted, elucidated and developed

by the pragmatists, the adherents of the primacy
of action. For them functional psychology and
teleological psychology are synonymous terms....


[294-296]...The antithesis of activity, reality,
which cannot be analysed, on the one hand, and
of relation on the other, disappears and, both as
regards mind and niatter, should be left on the
dump-heap of obsolete metaphysics. All the given
is merely a synthesis, whose analysis is the concern
of science, which traces it to its conditions and,
further, resolves it into relations.


But in that case what becomes of the immortal-
ity of the soul, particularly its personal immortal-
ity, since for two thousand years
now we have

valued this above everything. Not to follow the
law of things, not to follow the law of everything
living, not to disappear, not to be superseded by
something else! To run this fine risk, belatedly
invented by the bad gambler, that is man, the bad
gambler who wants to win the prize and demands
that the dice be loaded in his favour!

To be sure a system of relations can hardly seem

eternal or immortal. However, there is no absolute
impossibility about it. Improbable—yes! Impos-
Only, on the ground on which we now

stand, it would be necessary for experience to de-
stroy the improbability or, at any rate, to convert
it into probability.

It would be necessary for experience to force
us to discover, beyond the subjective, the condi-
tions which would exist after the disappearance
of the organism, the relations which would make
it partially dependent on something other than
that organism. It is for experience to decide. It
alone is capable of dispelling doubts. A priori there
is nothing to stop certain conditions, certain rela-
tions, from being discovered which would involve—
at least partially—the indestructibility of one part
of what is given, for example, consciousness.


But need this be said? Experience has so far
never shown us anything of the kind. I am aware
that spiritualists claim the opposite.
But that is
mere assertion. Their experiments, at least those

that are not based on trickery or deception (and
are not these a minority?), in the present state of
things can at most induce us to think that there
exist some forces of nature, some kinds of mechani-
cal motion, of whose manifestations we know very
little, and the conditions and laws—still less.
It even seems probable that they depend on the
human organism and are simply related to the
unconscious psychological and biological activity.


Moreover, in the face of the poverty of the sham
experimental verifications of the life beyond the
grave, the theory of the immortality of the soul
can only retain the form which Socrates and

Plato already gave it: it is a risk one has to take—
it is an appeal to the unknown, and an appeal
to which there hardly seems any chance of get-
ting a reply....

and Rey’s
C H A P T E R   VI

[304-302]...The new philosophies are, therefore,
primarily moral doctrines. And it appears that

these doctrines can be defined as: a mysticism
of action.
This attitude is not new. It was the
attitude adopted by the sophists, for whom there
was also neither truth nor error, but only success.


It was the attitude adopted by the post-Aristotelian
probabilists and sceptics, the attitude of some
nominalists at the time of scholasticism, the

attitude of the subjectivists of the eighteenth
century, notably Berkeley.


The doctrines of the intellectual anarchists like
Stirner and Nietzsche rest on these same premises.


Thus, in the stock of modem nominalism and
pragmatism, the words are newer than the things....


[303]...When some modernlsts, llke Le Roy,
derive from pragmatism a justification for Catholi-
they perhaps do not derive from it what some
philosophers—the founders of pragmatism—want-
ed to obtain. But they draw from it conclusions
which can legitimately he drawn and which, inci-
dentally, were drawn or almost so, by outstanding
pragmatists like William James and the philoso-
phers of the Chicago school.
I think I can say

even more than this. I believe that Le Roy draws
the only conclusions that should legitimately be
drawn from this way of thinking....


[304]...It is characteristic of pragmatism that
everything is true that succeeds and, in one way
or another, is adapted to the moment: science,
religion, morality, tradition, custom, routine.

Everything must be taken seriously, and that

which realises an aim and permits one to act
must he taken just as seriously....

[305-306]...What has caused the downfall of
traditions and dogmas up to now? Science, or if
one prefers to consider the instrument rather than
the product—reason. Science lives by freedom;
reason in the final analysis is nothing but free
examination. Moreover, science and reason are,
above all, revolutionary, and the Greco-Western
civilisation founded on them was, is and will re-
main a civilisation of men in revolt. Revolt has
so far been our only means of liberation and the
only form in which we have been able to get to
know liberty. I have in mind the spiritual revolt
of reason that is master of itself, and not the
brutal revolt that has been only the covering—
often useful, sometimes necessary—for the precious
metal constituting the former.

Thus, the chief aid that can be given to tradi-
tion, to the preservation of the ancient moral values,
to use a fashionable term, is the depreciation of
science. That is why pragmatism, nominalism,
should have had as logical consequence—as was
very well seen by the majority of those who adhered
to it, with a rational understanding of the cause—
the justification of certain motives of action: reli-
gious, sentimental, instinctive, traditional. On the
same plane as the motives of action borrowed from

scientific cognition or, still more logically, on a
higher plane, for science aims only at industrial
action, the new philosophy should have led to
the legitimisation of an irrational morality:
passionate impulses or submission to authority,
mysticism or traditionalism
. Traditionalism some-


times even goes so far that some (William James,
for example) do not hesitate in regard to morality
to return to the absolute of rationalist doctrines
of morality....


[344]...For this conception of morality as
a rational art to be possible, it is clearly necessary
that a science of morals should be possible. Here
metaphysics renews its high hopes. In fact, so-
ciology, of which this science of morals is only
a section, has hardly come into being. Like psychol-
ogy, only much less advanced than this, it is still
in the period where it is necessary to argue against
the metaphysicians concerning the method, the
subject of science and its right to exist. It seems,
however, that here as elsewhere the question
will finally be decided in favour of scientific
effort. One cannot prevent the metaphysicians from
chattering, but one can allow them freedom of
speech and action. And so sociology, thanks to the

work of Durkheim and his school, has been working
and acting

double V's

[325-326]...Actually, scientists, pure scientists,
concern themselves very little with this question
of truth. For them it is enough to arrive at state-
ments which receive universal assent and which,
therefore, appear to be necessary. For them every
experiment methodically carried out and properly

controlled is true. Experimental verification—
that, they say, is the criterion of truth. And the
scientists are perfectly right, for practice has
always justified this attitude.
To suppose that


it will not always justify it would be to imagine
the absurd, to doubt for the pleasure of doubt-

[328-332]...The modern rationalists energeti-
cally defended themselves against the attacks of

pragmatism, when the latter claimed that the
reason of the rationalists amounted, in the final
analysis, to guaranteeing to our mind a true copy
of reality.
And, indeed, pragmatism reproached


rationalism for dividing cognition into two syn-
chronised parts: the objects or things-in-themselves
and the ideas which the mind makes of them....


In the rationalism of the nineteenth century,
as in evolutionary empiricism and also among the
modern rationalists, we, of course, already find
this idea that the mind is not a mirror, nor truth
a faithful image of things. Usually it is claimed
that truth is the result of the work of the mind on
things. But this again means putting things in
opposition to mind. Pragmatism goes further.

All experience, all knowledge, is at the same
time action: to live means to act, and only to act.
From which it follows—and it is this that caused
the name of pragmatism to he given to this system,
which essentially defines it in the general view—
that truth is defined as a function of action, i.e.,
a function of its practical results. This is success.
Every experiment that is successful, i.e., that
allows the expected result to be achieved, determines
a truth. In order to get away from philosophical
abstractions, let us note that in the final analysis
this conclusion is merely a generalised expression
of the faith of scientists in experimentation.
At what moment does the scientist say that the
hypothesis advanced by him is true? The moment
the result he expected to see in the operation
undertaken by him is actually apparent. Since
this operation corresponds to the hypothesis or,
more correctly, to the chain of hypotheses which
he had in his mind, and the result obtained cor-
responds to the conclusion from this chain of
hypotheses, his idea was successful; it has been
verified by experiment.

To be sure, if one identifies success with experi-
mental verification, then the pragmatist proposi-
tion appears to be true; it merely conveys the
essence of the experimental method. But the
trouble is that the word success is used sometimes
in this limited sense and sometimes in its broad,
popular sense, depending on the occasion and the
philosopher. This is particularly noticeable in the
case of William James. He claims that truth ap-
plies to everything that is verified experimentally,
and, at other times, to everything that ensures any
sort of success for our activity. Hence, if one
adopts this latter proposition, one is almost neces-
sarily brought to the conclusion that truth no longer
exists. For what is successful today may not be
successful tomorrow—a thing that often happens
in practice, as proved by changes in laws and
jurisprudence, moral rules and religious faiths,
and scientific opinions. The truth of today is
the error of tomorrow, truth on this side of the
Pyrenees is error on the other side. The theme is
commonplace. And these conclusions, which
Peirce—the founder of pragmatism—firmly set

aside and combated, and from which the great
pragmatist philosophers, William James in partic-
ular, tried to escape by means of the most subtle

evasions, are in general accepted by the majority
of the epigones. Moreover, in regard to the problem

of truth, pragmatism has become synonymous with
just as, in regard to morality or faith,
it has become synonymous with irrational tradi-


And yet, as in all criticism, there is, of course,
an element of truth in the pragmatist criticism
of rationalism. One can say of it what frequently
has to be said of critical theories: the destructive
part is excellent, but the constructive part leaves

much to be desired. Certainly the theory of mind
as a mirror of things, and of truth as a copy, is
crudely superficial.
The evolution of scientific


truths through all the mistakes which strew the
path of science proves this.


On the other hand, when we regard ourselves
as an organism operating in the environment of the
universe, it is true that we cannot separate the
realm of practice from that of truth for, in ac-
cordance with all that we have said above, and
in accordance with all the lessons of science, we
cannot separate truth from experimental verifica-
tion. Only those concepts that succeed are true.

But one has yet to discover whether they are true
because they succeed or whether they succeed
because they are true.
Pragmatism is always

inclined to choose between these alternatives in
favour of the first. Common sense, apparently,
can only choose the second....


[332-334]... The given, the experience, is evi-
dently that which is known. Consequently, it is
necessary to assume complete unity between the
given and the means by which it is cognised, to
make a determined break with all dualism at the
point of departure—but only at the point of
departure. This is an important limitation. Does
it not in itself already contain the key to the
solution of the problem of truth?

At the point of departure the only possible
method of cognition, i.e., the only method of
discovery, is the experimental method, the elimina-
tion of all a priori methods, all dialectical reason-

Modern science fully confirms this proposition
and thereby postulates the first statement which
we have just advanced. The mathematical sciences
themselves have experience for their point of
departure; reasoning comes later, as we have seen,
and always remains to a certain extent subordinate
to experience.

But experience is not merely the immediate
experience of the given; it includes also—and this
in our view is James’ great philosophical innova-
tion—the relations implied by the given, and
which form a rigid fabric between all immediate
experience and past or future experience. If expe-
rience consisted only of immediate experience, we
would have only sensations and not science; we
would not even have perception in the full sense
of the word. The object of science, and even of
perception, is precisely to analyse immediate
experience in order to arrive at the experience
which has prepared it, or which prolongs it. To
perceive and above all to note, to draw attention
and to reflect—this is the beginning of this pro-
tracted experience.

From this second remark we can draw the
following conclusion: all knowledge that expe-
rience gives us is interconnected and becomes
systematised. But it does not become systematised,
as in rationalism, as the result of an activity
that is superior to it and which would impose its
forms on it. While seeking to guarantee the stabil-
ity of science, this concept on the contrary leads
to scepticism, for it makes cognition a creation of
the mind, and this dualism inevitably raises the
question as to whether or not this creation of the

mind, cognition, distorts the given. Here, on the
other hand, our knowledge becomes systematised in
exactly the same way as it is given to us, and the
relations of the given
have the same value as the

given itself. In reality, the immediately given and
the relations it involves form a unity and are
indivisible. The acts of cognition are all of the
same kind and of the same value....


[336-347]... In the |absolute realism| in
which we have thus far been moving there is
apparently no place for error.
But let us recall
that we made experience and cognition identical
only at the point of departure. The time has come
to show what this limitation implies.

2 parentheses
( = histor-
ical ma-
terialism )

It is a fact established by experience that cogni-
tion by different individuals is not exactly the
same. This can be explained in two ways: either
there exist as many different realities as there are
individuals (which is absurd: we should be falling
into subjectivism), or—and we are consequently

forced to adopt this alternative since the given
is unique and the same for all
—the difference be-

tween the cognitions which individuals obtain
about the given arises from the conditions in
which they were and are situated, in other words,
from certain individual relations which exist
between them and the given, and which scientific
analysis can reveal. This is the conclusion to which
we were led by other considerations in connection

with the problem of consciousness. We saw that
the given involved relations independent of the
cognising individual
objective relations—and re-


lations in which the given depends on the cognising
organism—subjective relations.

Once this is admitted, we see that in experience,
and not now at the point of departure but in the

measure that we analyse it, bifurcation takes
place between the cognising agent and the object
of cognition.
This relation, in accordance with


what we have said, has the same value as the
given itself. It imposes itself on us with the same
justification as does the given; from which
it follows that the difference between the mind
and the object should not be regarded as something
primary, but as the product of analysis, as two
very common relations which analysis discovers
in the given (W. James); and this distinction
derives its value from the value given at the outset
to experience taken as a whole, single and indivi-
sible experience.

But in that case mistakes and errors have
a very natural explanation: they are the changes,
the distortions, which depend on the individual
and subjective conditions of cognition. While
science, thanks to experience, makes an increas-
ingly complete analysis of the given, it should,
no matter how prolonged and arduous the task,
gradually exclude all these “personal equations”
which are far more complex than those which
astronomers assign to the visual perceptions of the
individual observer. It should draw a dividing
line between objective and subjective relations.
It was for just this purpose that it was created.


Do these considerations not lead us to a con-
venient and practical definition of truth? Truth
is the objective.
The objective is the sum-total
of the relations which are independent of the
In practice, it is that which everyone

2 parentheses
Rey’s theo-
ry of cogni-
tion =

admits, that which is the subject of universal
experience, universal agreement, using these words
in a scientific sense.
In analysing the conditions

of this universal agreement, in seeking behind
this fact the law it conceals, its cause, we arrive
at this conclusion: scientific work aims to “de-
subjectivise,” de-personalise, experience, methodi-
cally prolonging and continuing it. Hence scientific
experience is the continuation of crude experience,
and there is no difference in character between
a scientific fact and a crude fact.

It has sometimes been said that scientific truth
is nothing but an abstraction. Of course it is only
an abstraction if one is considering crude expe-
rience, i.e., subjective and individual experience,
for it excludes from this experience everything
that depends solely on the individual who cognises
through experience. But, on the other hand, this
abstraction aims at discovering the given as it
really is, independent of the individuals and circ-

umstances which change it; it aims at discover-
ing the objective,
[5] the concrete par excellence,
the real.


It would be interesting to try to verify this
general theory by analysing some famous errors.
Ptolemy’s system, for instance, shows us experience
encumbered with individual ideas which depend
on the terrestrial conditions of astronomical obser-
vation: it is the stellar system as seen from the
earth. The system of Copernicus and Galileo is
much more objective,
since it does away with the
conditions which depend on the fact that the
observer is situated on the earth. In a more general
sense, Painlevé has pointed out that causality
in mechanics, in the science of the Renaissance
and in the science of our day, embraced the condi-
tions of the appearance of phenomenon independent
of space and time. But the point is that the condi-
tions of the situation in space and time embrace,
particularly in mechanics, almost the totality of
the subjective conditions which are no longer
sufficiently crude to be eliminated by summary


An important conclusion: error is not the abso-
lute antithesis of truth.
As very many philosophers
have already claimed, it is not positive; on the
contrary, it is negative and partial, it is in a sense
a lesser truth.
In ridding it—thanks to experi-

truth and
error (ap-
proach to dia-
lectical mate-

ence—of the subjective that it involves, we pro-
gressively approach the truth
. Once the truth has

been reached, it is in the full sense of the word
absolute and a limit, for it is objective, necessary
and universal.
However, this limit is far removed

from us in almost all cases. It appears to us almost
like a mathematical limit,
which one approaches
closer and closer without ever being able to reach.
The history of science, moreover, shows us the
truth in the becoming of development; the truth is

not yet formed, but is rather in the process of
|Perhaps| it never will be formed, but it
will always be more and more formed.

V with ?

A final question may perhaps be raised: Instead
of being satisfied with what is, are we not still
obsessed by the old metaphysical illusion of trying
to discover why things exist? Why does experience

have subjective conditions? Why is its cognition
not immediately one and the same for all? It
would appear that we have the right to refuse

gering with

to reply; but here thanks to psychology it seems
one could indicate in the positive. If full experience
had to any degree knowledge of itself, like the god
of the pantheists, this knowledge would indeed
be immediately one and the same. But in expe-

rience, as it presents itself to us, the cognition of
experience is given in a fragmentary way
and it is
only to those fragments of experience that we are


Biology and psychology tell us that we are
what we are, or rather have been shaped into
(what we are, by adaptation, a continuous equilib-
rium with the environment. From which, in)
general, it can be concluded that our cognition
should above all correspond to the requirements
of organic life. Moreover, it is at first restricted,
vague, extremely subjective, as in instinctive life.
But once consciousness appears in the play of
universal energies, it is preserved and strengthened
because of its practical utility. Increasingly complex
beings are evolved and develop. Consciousness
becomes more exact, more precise. It becomes
intelligence and reason. And at the same time

(adaptation, adequacy in relation to experience,)
becomes more complete. Science is merely the

l’expérience =
le milieu?[6]

highest form of this process. Even if it never
attains it, science has the right to hope for a cogni-

tion which will rather be at one with the given,
which will be absolutely adequate to the object:
objective, necessary and universal.

its claim is justified, because it is in line with
the evolution that has taken place up to now.
In practice this claim will most probably never
be satisfied, for it marks the limit of evolution,
and to attain it would require a state of the universe
quite different from that at present, and a kind
of identification between the universe and the
experience of cognition.

In any case, one conclusion impresses itself:
scepticism in relation to science conceals the most
complete and clearest metaphysical illusion that
ever deceived philosophical thought. It consists
in raising non-existent problems, in seeking a non-
existent reality beyond reality in order to explain
the latter. It is the result of the dualistic abstrac-
tions in which philosophy has always been only
too willing to engage.

In particular, is it not overthrowing all expe-
rience to see in the embryonic, instinctive, vague,
almost wholly subjective and instantaneous cogni-
tion of awakening consciousness, original and real
experience, as Bergson, Le Roy and some pragma-
tists are inclined to do. Primitive experience,
wholly stamped with subjectivity—yes, but also
wholly stamped with error and unreality. This
vague, nebulous experience is only the covering
of experience. True experience of the real, on the
contrary, is in the increasingly lucid limit towards
which the human mind makes its way, and towards
the increasingly rational form which it tends to
adopt, towards reason. The most artificial of all
abstractions is that which excludes from experience
the results of rational labour and the progress of

This evolution has been definitely guided by
practice and towards practice, for it is transmitted
and realised owing to the constant adaptation
of the being to its environment. Who would at-
tempt to deny this today? That is one of the most
decisive victories of pragmatism over a now fos-

silised rationalism. But it does not mean that truth
is defined as a function of utility and success.
On the contrary, it means that the utility and
are a consequence of the acquisition of
Why and how did cognition appear in

nature? Because some beings were incapable of
acting blindly. They bad to know the circumstances
of their action. And that is why, having taken
from pragmatism everything that seemed to us to
be excellent in its criticism of the old metaphysics,
we resolutely turn our backs on it in the name
of absolute positivism.

To express sensibly and accurately the relations
between practice and truth, it seems, therefore,
that one should not say that what is successful
is true, but rather that which is true is successful,

i.e., what is in conformity with reality, insofar
as it concerns attempted action.
Direct action is the
result of exact knowledge of realities, in the en-


vironment of which it takes place. We act cor-
rectly in the measure that we know truly.


Everyone will agree, I think, that we affirm as
true and objective that which is independent of the
individual coefficient which is to be found in every
individual in the act of cognition. But when diver-
gencies appear it is a matter of saying at what
moment the individual coefficient disappears.
Confronted by any kind of experimental confirma-
tion, can I draw a line between that which has been
universally noted and that which has been noted
only by me?

We said, in a general way, that the effort of
science is in all cases directed precisely toward
drawing this line. Basically, science has no other
aim. It could be defined by this characteristic.
In practice, then, we already have a primary

means of distinguishing what is true and objective
from what is subjective and illusory. That which

has been acquired by means of rigorously applied
scientific methods will be true. Scientists have
the duty of elaborating, perfecting and defining
these methods. This primary criterion is more

strict than the very vague rule given thus far:
universal agreement. For universal agreement may

confuses the

be only universal prejudice. And a priori there
is nothing to bar the hypothesis that such preju-
dices may exist in a truly universal manner during
a particular period, although one could hardly
cite any of them. But if we replace the expres-
sion “universal agreement” by the expression
scientific control, then the objection collapses, for,
insofar as it is a question of prejudice, it is impos-
sible to indicate the reasons for it, whereas scien-
tific control only exists when these reasons are
manifest. Obviously, we see scientific control only
where hypotheses are excluded, and we admit
that it can just as well establish the limits of an
approximation as a strictly exact truth.

However, scientists will not engage in a search
for any other criterion. And from the practical
point of view they are perfectly right. But from
the speculative and theoretical point of view one
may find—and this is the opinion of all meta-
physicians who have been engaged in creating a
theory of knowledge—that the indicated criterion
is unsufficient. Let us summarise in their crudest
form all the objections that can be raised from
this new point of view: is not all science, in its
turn, with its methods and its control, a universal
prejudice and, to use Bacon’s expression, an
idola tribus?[7] Indeed, one can imagine that no
matter what efforts we make to draw a line be-
tween the subjective and the objective, we always
remain enclosed, at least to a certain extent, in the
subjective. Our cognition would always depend
on our individual structure and, consequently,
would also always distort its object. Taking the
psychological hypothesis which we advanced in
connection with consciousness, can it not be said
that since cognition is the result of the adaptation
of our being to the actions which it has to carry
out in its environment, all cognition will always be,
without our being able to take this into account,
a distortion of the environment in accordance with
the structure and the requirements of the human

It seems one could certainly reply: yes. But
precisely because we cannot take this into account,
the problem is insoluble and futile. It must be

granted: the truth that man can attain is human
By this we do not mean to say that it is


relative in the sceptical sense of the word. But
we do mean to say that it depends on the structure

realtive in
the sceptical

of the human species, and is valid only for that


species. Here, with some correction, one must
repeat the famous words of Gorgias: we know
nothing that is not human. If by chance we were
to know something that had nothing of the human
in it, we would be unable to take account of it;
and if, which is impossible, we were able to take
account of it, then we would be unable to inform
others of it. Consequently, in looking for a sign
and definition of truth, it is not a question of
finding a sign and definition that would be valid
for anything other than the human race, but
simply a sign and definition that would be abso-
lutely and identically
valid for all representatives
of the human race. It is in this sense that the
criterion already referred to—scientific control—is


Moreover, once and for all an end must be put to
certain sophisms: truth, valid for the whole human

)   ha!

race, human truth, is absolute truth for man, be-

cause if it is supposed, as the adherents of an

extra-human absolute suppose, that it is not
a copy of the real,
it is still, at any rate for man,
the only possible exact translation, the absolute


[351]...Perhaps, those who try to find reasons
for doubting scientific results may still say: we
are ready to allow that properly controlled ex-
perience gives us effectively and fully the trans-
formation of a cause into a given effect and, it
follows, an indubitable relation between the condi-
tion and the conditioned. But what can prove to us
that this relation will manifest itself identically in
a second experience? Leibnitz claimed that all
facts differ, if only a little, from one another be-
cause we can distinguish them from one another
(the principle of the indiscernible: in all the
forests of the earth no two identical leaves are to
be found). A modern scientist, Poincaré, claimed
also that physics never deals with identical facts,
but simply with facts that closely resemble one
another. In that case, what use is science to us;
for if it wants to be strictly exact, then every new
fact requires a new law.


This objection is of the same character as the
following: every fact embraces infinity.

quently, we would have to have complete science
in order to have the very minimum exact knowl-
edge of the smallest object.
It is overcome in the
same way and almost of itself....

[352]...To sum up, the given is the subject of
science, because it is analysable, and because this
analysis reveals to us the conditions of its existence.
Science is certain because every analysis it makes
gradually brings us to experimental intuitions
which have the same value as the given; hence
science has the same degree of certainty as the

existence of the universe, which it explains, and
my own existence, which is likewise known to me
through experimental intuition.

finale =

[353-357]...Up to now philosophy has been
above all a system of values, to use an expression
now in vogue. It sought to establish a hierarchy
of things and to make laws about the good, the
true and the beautiful in the name of this hierarchy.
In general, one can say that it never conceived
natural facts on one and the same plane, impar-
tially and objectively; on the contrary it arranged
them on different planes in the name of wholly
subjective personal preferences or collective preju-
dices, human of course but equally subjective for
that very reason.

All Greek philosophy and scholasticism, the heir
of Aristotelianism, present us with typical scales
by which the value of things is measured. Both the
philosophy of the Renaissance and all modern
philosophy, despite the isolated efforts of a Spino-
za, were crystallised in one and the same mould.
Moreover, leaving aside Spinoza’s system, since
it represents an excellent attempt to conceive
things from a viewpoint as little human and
subjective as possible, we always find, from the
very beginnings of Greek philosophical thought,
the same two or three general orientations along

metaphysical lines. These are the orientations
according to which all the textbooks still usually
classify philosophical systems under the names
of materialism, spiritualism and idealism.


In essence—considering things from the very
general standpoint that we adopt here, i.e., the
standpoint of the “particular scale of values”
offered by each of these orientations—since spirit-
ualism and idealism often present the closest

analogies, it can be said that metaphysics has
always confronted us with two great scales of
value: the materialist scale and the idealist-
spiritualist scale.
These two scales oppose each oth-


er and each is almost the reverse image of the other.


In the idealist-spiritualist scale, mind occupies
the topmost position
; it gives all the rest its sense
and value either because, as in the case of idealism,

judgement of
idealism and

it represents the sole reality, material appearances
being created by it or existing only through it or
because, as in the case of spiritualism, it offers
above material reality which is merely its support
or its environment, the higher reality in which
nature culminates and through which nature is

explained.—In the materialist scale, on the
other hand, everything derives from matter and
everything returns to it.
It is the eternal and

|immutable| creator of all the spectacles of the
universe, including the spectacle of life and of
consciousness. Life is only one particular variety—
among an infinite number of others—of the combi-
nations which blind chance has evoked from the
original matter. Consciousness, thought are only
phenomena of life; the brain secretes them as the
liver secretes bile.
Basically, all the phenomena
that we can observe—amber which electrifies,
iron which heats, steam which vapourises, liquid
which solidifies, light or sound, life or thought—
are all nothing but the appearances embellished
by the various combinations of vortices of a homo-
geneous field which fills all space, or of the atoms
which collide in the infinite void.

It seems to me that one could represent the
manner in which spiritualism and idealism argue
approximately in the same way: motion is incon-
ceivable without a force to animate the moving
body. Force is unintelligible except in relation
to the effort we ourselves feel in muscular move-
ment, in the tendency of life; it follows that effort
presupposes life. But vital effort, in turn, is always
directed to an end; bearing the stamp of purpose,
it is conceivable only by the consciousness which
directs it. Consequently, thought or, at least,
something of the order of immaterial and free
spirit is necessary both as the supreme principle
of explanation and as the essential principle of
existence and creation. Allow the spirit, and
everything in nature becomes clear.
Suppress it,
and nature becomes incomprehensible. It vanishes
into nothingness.

Materialism, on the other hand, claims—if
I may use the same summary procedure—that every
experiment that explains a psychological fact
for us reduces it to organic facts. Organic matter
comes closer and closer to inorganic matter.
is nothing but a shock impulse; it is motion com-

bined with something else. Hence at the basis of
things we find only sheer, blind motion.

3,000 years
of idealism and

And soon it will be three thousand years during

which these systems of value have been taken up
by generation after generation,
elaborated, some-
times made more precise, and very often obscured
by the subtleties of thought which is never ready
to admit itself conquered. And we are hardly any
further advanced than we were at the beginning.

Broken V Shape

Does this not mean, then, that the questions
these conflicting systems are debating are idle ques-
tions and badly formulated? Is not the desire to
establish an explanatory hierarchy between things
a purely anthropomorphic prejudice? And is not
this prejudice derived much more from the aspira-
tions of individual sentiment than from rational

discussion? Basically, it is for ends totally dif-
ferent from objective cognition
that these systems
are put forward and opposed to one another, and
concern for them has nothing in common with
the impartial
search for truth. Thus, since they
are incompatible with a positive discussion, we
shall not consider them any further.


Either I am greatly mistaken or modern philos-

ophy in its vital and powerful trends—positivism
and pragmatism
—is tending towards this conclu-


[358-362]...Thus, all the preceding seems to
show not only that contempomry philosophy is
coming closer and closer to science and becoming
an increasingly elegant part of it, but also that it
is possible to arrive at a scientific conception of
philosophy: it would be no more than the neces-
sary complement to science. By setting aside the
metaphysical poems of the individual imagina-
tion, it would initiate the collective collaboration
of scientists, historians and critics.

All facts are subject to scientific explanation;
none of them can be cognised objectively, that is
in truth, otherwise than through the sciences.
Evidently, science is still very limited and very
superficial, but it can only be developed by those
who seek to know; without it all speculation is

Is philosophy therefore condemned? Is it noth-
ing but a word devoid of sense and content?
A few years ago many scientists would have said
so. And it is true to say that if we mean by philos-
ophy those speculations which, beyond experience
or on this side of it, seek the origin, end, and
nature of things, the useless foundations of science
or action, burdening everything immediately
known by an unknowable, which ought to justify

it, if, in a word, we mean by it the old dialectics,
whether rational or sceptical, idealist or material-
ist, individualist
or pantheist, then those scientists
have apparently scored a victory. All this meta-
physics has only an aesthetic interest

incidentally, can be a passionate one for those
who have a predilection for it: it represents the
individual dreams of lofty but hardly practical

But as this philosophy began to find fewer
and fewer adherents, scientists created from it
something else or other, and in the past few years
the most outstanding fact in the field of philo-
sophical knowledge has been the appearance of
a large number of philosophies drafted by scientists
in connection with their science, with it and for it.
It is true that there have been learned philosophers
before. Almost all great systems of philosophy
are their work. But particularly in their methods
and conclusions these systems lagged considerably
behind and stand apart from the scientific works
of their authors. Contemporary scientists, on the
contrary, instead of seeking a general conception
of the world, simply seek to supplement and
clarify scientific experience by partial hypotheses
that are much more exact and closely linked with
this experience.

So, in a different way but to achieve almost
identical results, Comte’s idea is being vindicated:
a section of scientific work is being collectively
organised with the object of scientific generalisa-
tion and the synthesis of the sciences.

The manner in which scientific work is con-
ducted makes this conception of philosophy clearer
and more exact. Science is composed at once of
the totality of experimental results and of the
theories of this totality which are always hypo-
theses in one respect or another. But these hypo-
theses are indispensable to science, because it is
precisely by their anticipation of future experience
and the unknown that science advances. They
systematise all that is known in such a way as to

throw light on the unknown. Why should not phil-
osophy, therefore, in the same way, be a gen-
eral synthesis of all scientific knowledge
, an
effort to represent the unknown as a function of
the known, in order to aid in discovering it and to
keep the scientific spirit in its true orientation? It


would differ from science only in the greater general-
ity of the hypothesis; instead of being the theory of
a group of isolated and very circumscribed facts,
philosophical theory would be the theory of

the totality of the facts that nature presents


us with, the system of nature, as it used to be
called in the eighteenth century, or at any rate
a direct contribution to a theory of this kind.


The philosophical standpoint is not opposed

bim, bam!

to the scientific standpoint; it stands side by side
with it. Even when a scientist is making every
effort to attain positivity he is a philosopher, for
positivity is itself a philosophy....

Science should not differ from philosophy either
in subject (it is the same: to give an account of
experience), or in method (it should be the same,
for the scientific discipline is by its very defini-
tion the only discipline which can satisfy our
intelligence). No, the only difference between
them is one of standpoint, and what distinguishes,
and is the only thing that should distinguish, the
scientific from the philosophical standpoint is that
the latter is far more general and always appears

somewhat of an adventure....


[364-369]... History shows us that when science
becomes too far removed from the most common
human concerns, forming the basis of most philo-
sophical questions, when it leaves the burden of
replying to these concerns to various speculations
or traditional beliefs, out of necessity or excessive
prudence, it vegetates or begins to decline. It is
necessary, absolutely necessary, therefore, for the

gains of science and the scientific spirit to be
in case of need in spite of themselves,
against excessive presumption or adventurism,


when they overstep their rights. For excessive
—seen, for instance, in some materialist
—is no less dangerous for science
in the case of sane and straightforward minds, than is


timidity and lack of spirit in the case of ordinary
people. Hence, one of the essential tasks of philos-
ophy is to maintain the general atmosphere re-
quired for the development of science, for the
normal maintenance and dissemination of the
scientific spirit....

But philosophy, of course, will only be able to
fulfil the dual mission which we feel it is called upon
to fulfil—to co-ordinate the efforts of scientists,
to provide hypotheses which inspire discoveries,
on the one hand, and, on the other, to create the
necessary atmosphere for scientific advance—if
it seeks to be nothing but the organising synthesis
of the sciences, regarded and understood in the
way scientists regard and understand them, in
short, a synthesis established in an exclusively
scientific spirit.

It is gratifying to see—to a lesser extent, of
course, in pragmatism, but all the same
to a suf-

ficiently great extent—that philosophical re-
search today,
having decisively broken away from


the metaphysical errors of the preceding period, is

extremely well informed regarding scientific works,
seeks to conform to them and derives its inspiration


from them.

Without doubt, a very vital and pronounced
scientific sentiment is taking shape today which,
in some people, is developing parallel with religious
and moral sentiments and, as it were, on a different
plane where conflict is impossible, while in others
it has replaced the religious sentiment and fully
satisfies their needs. For these, as Renan has beauti-
fully expressed it, science has provided a symbol
and a law. They have adopted a truly positive
attitude which retains from ancient rationalism

its unshakable faith in human reason, while at
the same time acquiring from the incontestable
triumph of the experimental method the incon-


testable conclusion that reason is nothing but the
constant effort of the mind to adapt itself to
experience and to cognise it more and more deeply,

the reciprocal penetration of objective reality
and subjective thought.

I believe that the future of philosophy lies on
this side, because it is on this side that truth is
to be found.
As in all prophecies, this is nothing
but an act of faith. It is for the future to say

whether it will be justified or not. And as this is
an act of faith, I consider legitimate all other acts
of faith, on condition that the attitude of those
who perform them is the same towards me. I even
consider that it is fortunate that one ideological
trend is confronted by trends of opposing ideas;
it is by the criticism of its opponents that it is
refined, developed, corrected and made precise.


The philosophical attitude which has been
outlined in these brief studies could be called ra-
tionalist positivism, absolute positivism or scien-
To avoid any ambiguity it would, perhaps,
be better to call it experimentalism; this would
indicate simultaneously that it rests wholly on

ism, realism
= “absolute
or rationalist

experience—but, contrary to the old empiricism,


on controlled experience, the fruit of scientific
experiment—and that it refuses in its absolute
and its experimental monism to go beyond
the bounds of experience.


Experience is primarily and immediately the
totality of our sensations, what we call phenomena.

experience =
Σ[9] sensations

But it begins with analysis of itself as soon as
attention, thought is applied to it, for this totality
of sensations is nothing but a crude and very
superficial view of the given. Almost immediately
there is to be discerned in it and beneath it some of
the relations that it involves and which form its
true basis. Science strives to carry this analysis
progressively forward, penetrating ever more

deeply into the nature of the given. If the immedi-
ate given
is represented by a point then, in order
to obtain a picture of the real given, one has to
imagine that this point is merely a projection of the
straight line extending beyond it.
This straight

)   “chose en soi”?[10]

line can be broken up into several segments, each
of which will embrace, without there being any
impenetrable partitions between them, families
of relations on which the immediate given depends.
Each of these famines will be formed by virtue of
a definition which will be based on the natural
by which these relations are joined
together. These will be relations of number and
position, mechanical, physical relations, etc.,
and, finally, psychological relations determined by
their dependence on the organism to which the
given is related. There will be as many particular
sciences as there are such groups of relations.

Philosophy, on the other hand, tries to conceive
the straight line in its entire length and continuity.

But the line in its totality, just as much as the
point which is the projection of it, the immediate

Arrows pointing to 'chose en soi'?

given, as also the relations which supplement it
to the extent of its analysis, are of one and the
same character.

These are the data of experience. And their

totality comprises a single experience: human
experience. It is our psychological constitution,
and not the nature of things, which distinguishes


the world from perception, the universe from
science; and this distinction is temporary and

Experience, therefore, needs only to be explained.
To explain it means simply to formulate the relations
it involves, and which it itself brings to our attention
if we know how to grasp its lessons. And science is

beginning to concern itself with them. But, being
all reality, experience[11] is not in need of justifi-
cation: it exists.







. . . . .

—§ 6. Ideas of Poincaré, the mathematician. Poin-

. . . . .

Pp. 6--7; 28-9=two lines
33=truth=? for pragmatism and 35
49=the objective value of science=oentre
Mathematics and pragmatism — 62
80 : the pragmatists laid claim to Poincaré,
and Mach 90
Rey=a pure agnostic 94 (93)
98 : Mach+objectivity=Rey?!
100 : Concepts—copies of reality
Objectivity 105
113 : vulgar materialism




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[1] timid aspect of mechanism—Ed.

[2] Clausius called it the principle of entropy which exactly corresponds to the word “evolution,” though derived from Greek rather than from Latin.—Rey.

[3] Année psychologique 1906, XIIe année. (Paris, Schleicher.)—Rey.

[4] absolute realism—Ed.

[5] Lenin underlined the phrase “discovering this objective” four times.—KCG.

[6] experience = environment?—Ed.

[7] idol of the tribe—Ed.

[8] In defining pragmatism, William James insists on
the idea that it is a system which turns away from a
explanations, from dialectics and metaphysics, in
order constantly to turn to the facts and experiment.Rey.

  ) W. James on

[9] summation—Ed.

[10] “Thing-in-itself”?—Ed.

[11] Lenin underlined the word “experience” five times.—KCG.

[12] Written by Lenin on the cover of Rey’s book.—Ed.


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