THREE CATEGORIES OF EXPERIENCE
An analysis and description of three irreducibly different kinds of elements found in experience and even in the abstract world of pure mathematics. This memoir rests upon observation of the experience of every day and hour, this observation being systematized by thought. It is proved, beyond doubt, that there are no more than the three categories. The list was first published by me in May 1867, but has since been repeatedly subjected to the severest criticism I could bring to bear upon it, with the result of making it far more evidently correct. The categories were originally called "quality", "relation", and "representation". The question of names and other terminology for them still somewhat perplexes me. I am inclined to call them "flavor", "reaction", and "mediation".
[This memoir] will show that all that is before the mind as perceived, imagined, supposed, rejected, etc, has three kinds of elements and no more. These are the qualities of feeling, reaction, and mediation. [EDITORIAL NOTE: Notice that elements of the first kind are qualities of feeling and not simply feelings.] Great pains will be taken to make these three conceptions perfectly clear and vivid.
My aim in this paper, upon which I have bestowed more labor than upon any other, beginning two years before my first publication on the subject in May 1867, is far more ambitious than that of Kant, or even that of Aristotle, or even the more extended work of Hegel. All those philosophers contented themselves mainly with arranging conceptions which were already current. I, on the contrary, undertake to look directly |103| upon the universal phenomenon, that is, upon all that in any way appears, whether as fact or as fiction; to pick out the different kinds of elements which I detect in it, aided by a special art developed for the purpose; and to form clear conceptions of those kinds, of which I find that there are only three, aided by another special art developed for that purpose.*
In my present limited space, I cannot make myself clear, still
less convincing. Yet I will give such hint as I can of the three
kinds of elements. I might name them "qualities", "occurrences", and
"meanings". In order to get an idea of what I mean by a "quality",
imagine a being whose consciousness should be nothing but the perfume
of a damask rose, without any sense of change, of duration, of self or
anything else. Put yourself in that being's shoes, and what of the
universal phenomenon remains is what I call a "quality". It may be
defined as that whose mode of |104| being consists simply in its being what it is. It is self-essence. Suppose next that the consciousness we have imagined should
undergo the simplest possible experience; that, for example, the
rose-odor should suddenly change to violet-odor. If it is to remain
the same consciousness, there must be a moment in which it is
conscious of both odors. It cannot in this moment be conscious of the
flow of time; but the former rose-odor will appear as its ego, as its
consciousness, while the new violet-odor will at that moment be its
non-ego, the object of its consciousness. We have this sort of
consciousness whenever we experience an event. The old, which has
just come to an end, appears as an ego, with the new, which is just
about to begin, over against it as a non-ego instantly passing into
the ego. The sense of actuality, of present fact, is thus essentially
a consciousness of duplicity, of opposition. When we have thus got
the idea of an inner and an outer, we can |105| review our experience and
place ourselves back to a moment when both the former and the latter
states were non-egos, and thus we get the idea of a force acting
between outward objects. I do not mean to say that historically we
actually do so reflect; probably not. But I mean that that would be a
logical reflection. Thus we might logically derive the notion of a
thing, as something whose mode of being consists in a reaction against
something else. This is my second category. The occurrence is
essentially present. When it is not present its peculiar mode of
being is gone. There is no time-constituent in it; for the flow of
time involves a very different element. There is always a certain
resistance to the unexpected. It is usually broken down so instantly
that it can only be detected in cases in which peculiar circumstances
cause its continuance. But that the new experience always has to
overcome a resistance on the part of the old is proved by the |106| fact
that we feel it to be irresistible. We feel its force. Now, there
can be no force where there is no resistance. The two are but reverse
aspects of the same phenomenon. This resistance is a counter-force.
Hence the sense of actual fact is a sense of reacting efforts.
Although I cannot in my present limited space make myself clear, still less convincing, I will name the three elements which I find and give some rough notion of the significations of the names. They are called "qualities", "things", and "meanings". By a "quality" is meant a self-essence, or something which is what it is by and in itself alone. Such, for example, is any simple quality of sensation. Mind, I am not speaking of the occurrence of that sensation. What I mean can be understood by imagining a being whose consciousness should consist, we will say, in the sense of the perfume |135| of a damask rose, without any change, without any sense of time, without attributing the smell to any object, without any self-consciousness. I do not say that one can realize that in the imagination; but one can perceive that such a state of consciousness there might be. One can even suppose, however groundlessly, that the attar of roses has a consciousness which is just that. Now take away the consciousness in which there is an element of fact, of action, and in which there is an element of representation, and the very quality itself, which consists in its own peculiar self-being, and you have what I mean by the elements of quality in the universal phenomena. The element that I call a "thing" is more familiar; but the logical analysis of it which is given in the books is inaccurate, because it is colored by the peculiar ways of thinking of the Indo-European languages. It is true that there are proper |136| names in all languages; but common substantives, such as ours are, definitely not verbs, are certainly not necessary in a language, and in my opinion they do not fully exist in the majority of languages. In the Shemitic languages, for example, every common noun is regarded as a formation from a verb. Even if no such verb exists, it would seem that the Shemites cannot think of a noun except as a part of a verb; for they give it a form as if it were of that nature. Indeed, there are Indo-European languages in which the idea of the common noun is not completely hardened. For it is plain that with nouns, full nouns alone, one could not frame a sentence which should satisfy the mind as completely expressed. Now the majority of languages are destitute of any substantive verb "is". In ancient Egyptian, a pronoun "that" usually takes its place. In Greek there is little or no feeling that a sentence without a verb is elliptical. |137| It is, therefore, impossible that in those languages the common noun should be thought as a mere name, as we think it. In Ancient Egyptian, it seems that the pictorial way of thinking, so prominent in the hieroglyphics, was more influential in their thought than it is with us. The word "man" would then be replaced by what we can nearest express as "something is a man", the word "animal" by "something is an animal". Hence to express the idea that "man is an animal", the pronoun "that" would naturally be more appropriate than "is". They would think "Something is a man that something is an animal". It is our idea of a common noun as a name which has caused the logicians to regard a thing as something self-subsistent. There is no room for doubt that that is the way the idea arose. A proper name is always the name of something more or less familiar to both the utterer of the sentence in which it occurs |138| and the person whom he addresses. For otherwise the sentence would have no meaning. If I inform you that the first king of England was Arthur, and you had never before heard of Arthur, still my description of him as the first king of England gives you some acquaintance with him before I use the word "Arthur". If I say "Arthur was the first king of England" I am using a faulty inversion. But a common noun does not suppose any such familiarity. The sentence "Flying-fishes are common in the gulf stream" is sufficiently intelligible to a person who never heard of a flying-fish. That the idea of a thing or, as the logicians say, a substantia, not only does not consist in self-subsistence, which really describes a quality, but is downright repugnant to it, is seen by trying to imagine a universe in which nothing should exist but a single atom. It has been shown above that it is quite possible to conceive of a universe in which there |139| should be absolutely nothing but a rose-odor, without time, space, or anything else. But to suppose that nothing existed but a single atom would be absurd. Suppose it should exist and not exist every other day: what difference would there be between the odd and even days? The difference between an actually existing magnet and a phantasm of a magnet is that one actually pulls and the other does not. Actuality, or existence, consists in reaction. When I call a phenomenon a thing, I mean that it is an object, a something acting ob, or over against me.
I will name these elements here, although I cannot stop to
explain what the names mean. They are simple qualities, subjects of
force, and mind. Mind, in particular, is a very different conception
from that which is current. It is nearly the Hegelian Begriff. There
are three points of view from which these elements have to be studied
before they can be clearly apprehended. These are the points of view
of qualities, of subjects, and of minds. From the point of view of
quality, they appear respectively as quality, |141| reaction, and mediation.
From the point of view of subjects they appear as quales, relates, and
representations. This is [the] point of view most familiar to
ordinary thought, and will appear the clearest to a beginner in the
subject. Remembering that by "the universal phenomenon" I mean
everything which has got into the mind in any way whatever, including
every fiction and false notion, anyone can without difficulty see that
there is an idea of a thing as it is in itself with certain qualities,
however occult, which do not consist in its actual relation to
anything else. In the next place, things are related to one another
in pairs. That is, they are at distances from one another, attract or
repel one another, etc. In the third place, finally, there are things
which represent other things to some purposing mind; that is, they act
as substitutes for those other things for some purpose; that is,
again, they render the object represented available for the |142| purpose.
Thus, to take an example where, at first sight, one does not perceive
any element of representation, A gives B a present, C. As a
consequence of that act, B comes into direct relation with C, and A
has no more to do with the matter. But as long as A's act of gift is
in process of performance, this act consists in giving B a
consciousness of having a power over C. It is a particular kind of
representation to B of the object C. In [the] third place, from the
point of view of mind, the three categories appear as feeling or
immediate consciousness, as the sense of fact, and as conception or
These two memoirs [i.e. Memoirs 6 and 7] develop and render clear a considerable number of conceptions of which I shall make constant use in the remaining memoirs, and which are of constant use in all parts of philosophy and even in mathematics.
My list differs from those of Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel in that they never really went back to examining the phenomenon to see what was to be observed there; and I do not except Hegel's Phänomenologie from this criticism. They simply took current conceptions and arranged them. Mine has been a more fundamental and more laborious undertaking since I have worked up from the percepts to the highest notions. I examine those systems as well as some others.
I begin by explaining the nature of the normative sciences. They have often been mistaken for practical |360| sciences, or arts. I show that they are at the opposite pole of the sphere of science, and are so closely allied to mathematics that it would be a much smaller error to say that, like mathematics, they were simply occupied in deducing the consequences of initial hypotheses. Their peculiar dualism, which appears in the distinctions of the beautiful and the ugly, right and wrong, truth and falsity, and which is one cause of their being mistaken for arts, is really due to their being on the border between mathematics and positive science; and to this, together with their great abstractness, is due their applicability to so many subjects, which also helps to cause their being taken for arts. Having analyzed the nature of the precise problems of the three, and given some considerations generally overlooked, I show that ethics depends essentially upon esthetics and logic upon ethics. The latter dependence I had shown less fully in 1869. (Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Vol. II, pp. 297 et seq.) But the methods of reasoning by which the truths of logic are established must be mathematical, such reasoning alone |361| being evident independently of any logical doctrine.
[This memoir] will explain the nature of a normative science and show that, so far from such science approximating to practical science, or art, it is, on the contrary, its extreme abstractness, closely approaching the nature of pure mathematics, surpassing in abstractness all other positive science, or science of fact (which pure mathematics is not), which imparts to it its peculiar dualism (fine and ugly, good and bad, true and false), and at the same time makes it more nearly applicable to every subject than any other such science except mathematics and categorics. The precise problems of the three normative sciences are made clear in four stages or degrees of clearness. In what manner the truths of esthetics are to be discovered [is its] main proposition. Ethics depends upon esthetics; we cannot know how we are deliberately prepared to aim to behave until we know what we deliberately admire. The two leading doctrines of ethics. Logic in its turn essentially depends upon ethics (as I showed, in a general and vaguer way in 1869, |162| Journal of Speculative Philosophy, II, 207-208), but its methods of reasoning must be mathematical, such reasoning being evident and therefore not requiring the support of any logical doctrine. Preliminary sketch of the three great doctrines of logic.
I here show the peculiar character of a normative science; namely, that while it is a purely theoretical science, and not essentially practical, it nevertheless pronounces some things to be good and others bad. Esthetics does so within the realm of the category of feeling, ethics in the realm of action, and logic in the realm of thought. As far back as 1869, I proved clearly that it is impossible for a man to be logical unless he adopts certain high moral aims. The argument is extremely |232| simple: All positive reasoning depends upon probability. All probability depends upon the supposition that there is a "long run." But a long run is an endless course of experience. Now even if there be a future life, every man's course of experience with which his reasoning has to do comes to a speedy end. Therefore, if his purposes are purely selfish he cannot be logical. That argument is open to some apparent objection; but the subsequent careful analysis of it has only shown that the argument has even more force than was supposed. Other considerations have also appeared which make the dependence of what we ought to think upon what we aim at still more close. Logic is, therefore, more or less dependent upon ethics. Ethics, in its turn, or the question what we are deliberately prepared to aim at, depends in a similar way upon esthetics, or what it is that we would deliberately pronounce to be kalon k'agathon. Indirectly, therefore, logic even depends upon esthetics. For |233|this reason, with the help of the categories, I commence with an attempt at outline analyses of the problems of esthetics and of ethics.