Copyright
Borden Parker Bowne.

Metaphysics online

. (page 6 of 34)
Online LibraryBorden Parker BowneMetaphysics → online text (page 6 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the cause disappears in the effect. We have next to add



CHANGE AND IDENTITY 59

that this separation of phases is largely arbitrary. In the
series A, A r A v A 3 , etc., any one member is as much the
thing as any other; but these members are only arbitrary
units in a continuous process, like the moments into which
we divide time. Time is not composed of moments, but is
strictly continuous. So the process which we call a thing
is also continuous, and the sections into which we divide it
are only products of our thought. A, A v A v A y etc., are
only segments of a process which appears now as one
member of the series, and now as another. It cannot be
detained as any one, and it no sooner comes than it goes.
Being in incessant progress, it forces itself from form to
form, nor tarries in one stay. This is the conception of
being which rules in all systems of philosophical evolution.
Being is perpetual process, and exists only in its incessant
procession. Motion and change are omnipresent. Things
as they appear are only stages of the eternal flow, or
transient eddies in the flood. The incessant weaving is
attended by incessant unweaving, and sooner or later all
things pass, except the procession of being itself.

This result is in the highest degree paradoxical, and to
many must seem absurd. There is no escape from it, how-
ever, so long as we conceive the world of things as existing
apart from intelligence and founding the world of change.
With such a view the world of substances must be brought
into the cycle of change and resigned to the eternal flow.
Spontaneous thought is very possibly right in demanding
permanence and identity, but it is certainly wrong in its
way of getting them. It is looking-for them apart from

* ^< i *

intelligences and these buffetings result. No reflection
upon a world of change, according to the law of the suffi-
cient reason, will ever find a world of changeless substances.
On this line there is no escape from the Heraclitic flow.



60 METAPHYSICS

But the Heraclitio must not triumph. For while spon-
taneous thought cannot find its identities in an extra-mental
world, just as little can the doctrine of change be made in-
telligible without reference to an abiding intelligence. The
extra-mental identities are no worse off in this respect than
the extra-mental changes. When all tilings flow and pass,
without permanence or identity of any sort, the Heraclitic
doctrine is intelligible only because it is false. If being
were strictly changeless the illusion of change could never
arise; and if all things flowed the illusion of permanence
would be impossible. There must be some permanent
factor somewhere, to make the notion possible. A flow
cannot exist for itself, but only for the abiding. The
knowledge of change depends on some fixed factor, which,
by its permanence, reveals the change as change. If, then,
all things flowed the thinking subject as well as the ob-
ject the doctrine itself would be logically impossible. It
is commonly overlooked by speculators that succession and
change can exist, as such, only for the abiding. Something
must stand apart from the flow, or endure through it, be-
fore change can be conceived. Hence, as a matter of theory,
we must have, at least, an abiding or permanent knower, to
make the theory intelligible ; and, as a matter of conscious-
ness, we have immediate experience of such a knowing sub-
ject the conscious self. In what this permanence consists
we shall see hereafter.

Thus it appears that the doctrine of the flow of being
must be limited by the permanence, in some sense, of the
mental subject. Epistemology further reminds us that the
flow, if it is to be anything for thought, must be cast in
intellectual moulds. A mere flow, external to all thought
and expressing no thought, could be no object of cognition,
and would indeed be nothing for intelligence. Finally,
logic reminds us that formal identity or the fixity of the



CHANGE AND IDENTITY 61

idea is the absolute condition of any articulate thought
whatever. Hence any change which we can recognize must
be subject to these conditions.

With this insight it becomes plain that the question of \
change and identity must be considered from the stand- I
point of intelligence, if we would reach any solution. The
abstract identity of the Eleatics cannot be found, when we
look for it; and the abstract change of the Heraclitics
would make thought impossible. And we must also bear
in mind the various sorts of identity, which common-sense
never distinguishes. For the entire phenomenal world, the
similarity and continuity of appearance are the only identity
we have any occasion to affirm. For the physical world,
the continuity of law and relation are the sufficient identity.
These are the only fixed elements we find, and these are all
we need. But for the knowability of that world it is neces-
sary that its successive phases shall admit of being gather-
ed up into a law-giving expression which shall express for
thought the nature of the thing. In the series A,A r A v etc.,
no one member fully expresses the thing, but only the whole
series and the law which unites and implies the members.
Such a thing, however, is' absurd and impossible apart from
intelligence, while it is perfectly clear on the plane of in-
telligence.

We have here an antithesis of the real and the ideal
which is somewhat peculiar, and which demands a word of
explanation. Commonly by the real we mean the actual,
existing apart from the mind in space and time ; and by
the ideal we mean that which exists only subjectively or in
idea. But now it begins to appear as if the idea were
needed to constitute and define the real, so much so that
the real threatens to vanish otherwise. If we understand
by the real that which is in time and has its existence in
succession, logic shows that the real cannot be known ; for



62 METAPHYSICS

if A be A only for an indivisible instant, it is not A long
enough for us to say anything about it, or to make it worth
while to say anything about it. Before we can say it is A,
it is no longer A, and thus eludes us altogether.

We must, then, link the successive phases together by
some law-giving idea before we can grasp the thing at all.
But this idea, on the other hand, is timeless and thus un-
real. Without the idea_the_cjiangmg thing vamsbejsJiEQin
thought altogether ; but it is not immediately clear how the
idea can take on the temporal form. The thing exists suc-
cessively ; the idea has no succession in it. We need the
full idea to express the existence of the thing, but the ex-
isting thing never expresses or realizes the full idea. Com-
mon-sense will not allow the idea to be real, and logic will
not allow the thing to be real.

There is no way out of this puzzle so long as we try to
define reality without reference to intelligence. The diffi-
culty can be removed only as we conceive the idea to be
realized successively, or under the temporal form ; and to
complete the thought, we are thrown back upon the con-
ception of an underlying intelligence which is at once the
seat of the idea and the source of the realizing energy.
Otherwise we can only oscillate between an impossible real-
ism and an impossible idealism.

With this result reality and identity acquire special mean-
ings. The reality of the thing might mean the temporal
manifestation of the productive energy, or it might mean
the idea expressed thereby, and identity might mean the
continuity of the realizing process, or the oneness of the
underlying idea. And this is the view to which we
must finally come concerning the reality of all impersonal
things. They hiweJ^T- A^i gtA Jl (^through an energy not
their own, ana tey have their identity solely through tfrft
intellect which constitutes them identical.. This will appear



CHANGE AND IDENTITY 63

more fully later on; meanwhile we get a hint of the diffi-
culty in defining reality without reference to intelligence.

The law of the sufficient reason never brings us beyond
the continuous in existence. Continuity of some kind is
necessary to escape the groundless becoming and the disso-
lution of both reason and existence. But this continuity in
itself makes no provision for knowledge. Something truly
abiding must be found, if we are to escape the eternal flow.
And fortunately this something is revealed in experience.
In personality, or in the self-conscious spirit, we find the
onlj union of change and permanence, or of identity and
diversity. The soul knows itself to be the same^ and dis-
tingujshes_itsell Jrom its states as their permanent subject.
This permanence, however, does not consist in any rigid
sameness of being, but in thought, memory, and self-con-
sciousness, whereby alone we constitute ourselves abiding
persons. How this is possible there is no telling; but we
get no insight into its possibility by affirming a rigid du-
ration of some substance in the soul. The soul, as sub-
stance, forever changes ; and, unlike what we assume of the
physical elements, its series of changes can be reversed only
to a slight extent. The soul develops, but it never un-
develops into its former state. Each new experience leaves
the soul other than it was ; but, as it advances from stage
to stage, it is able to gather up its past and carry it with it,
so that, at any point, it possesses all that it has been. It is
this fact only which constitutes the permanence and identity
of self.

Here it will be urged that this view is only another form
of Locke's theory, which made identity to consist in memo-
ry ; and as Locke's view was exploded, even in his own gen-
eration, our view may be regarded as demolished in ad-
vance. The objection to Locke's view is that memory does



4 METAPHYSICS

not make, but reveals, identity; and, if Locke denied the
continuity of being in the sense in which we have explained
it, the objection is fatal. Memory does not make, but re-
veals the fact that our being is continuous. If our being
were discontinuous, or if we were numerically distinct from
ourselves at an earlier date, memory would be impossible.
But we have seen that continuity is not identity. It is itself
a flow, and means only that the being which now is has
been developed from the being which was. This is all that
is commonly meant by identity. But the question we raise
is how to bring a fixed factor into this flow, and thus raise
continuity to proper identity or sameness. And this cai be
done only as the agent himself does it ; and the agent does
it only by memory and self-consciousness, whereby a fixed
point of personality is secured, and the past and present are
bound together in the unity of one consciousness. The per-
manence and identity, therefore, are products of the agent's
own activity. We become the same by making ourselves
such. Numerical identity may be possible on the imper-
sonal plane; but proper identity is impossible, except in
consciousness. And that numerical identity is never for the
thing itself, but only for the conscious observer.

At first view this position is an extravagant and even
absurd paradox ; but we must remember that the soul, as
substance, comes under the perpetual flow. "We are not
conscious of a permanent substance, but of a permanent
self; and this permanence is not revealed, but constituted
by memory and self-consciousness ; for, if we abolish them,
and allow the soul to sink to the level of an impersonal
thing, identity is degraded into continuity, and permanence
passes into flow. Consciousness, then, does not simply re-
veal permanence in change ; it is the only basis of perma-
nence in change. Of course, we do not pretend to tell how
personality is made ; we leave that for the disciple of the



CHANGE AND IDENTITY 65

senses. He finds no difficulty in manufacturing a person
by simply providing a lump of rigid substance, and then
stocking it with divers faculties. But, while nothing can
exceed the cheerfulness with which we admit that we can-
not construe the possibility of personality, nothing, also, can
exceed the stubbornness with which we deny that the rigid
substance furnishes the least insight into the possibility.
If, then, the idea of being must include permanence as well
as activity, we must say that only the personal truly is.
All else is flow and process.

These results are so paradoxical, and so easily misunder-
stood, that a final caution must be added. In general, com-
mon-sense understands by identity merely numerical identity,
or continuity of being. In this sense we, also, affirm iden-
tity, and agree entirely with spontaneous thought. But the
question we raise lies inside of this numerical identity. The
thing which is thus numerically identical and continuous is
itself discovered to be a flowing principle of action; and
here our break with the current view begins. Common-
sense aims to secure identity in diversity by the doctrine of
a permanent or changeless thing with changing states; and
this view we have been forced to reject. Change penetrates
to the centre of the thing; the only thing which is per-
manent is the law of change, and even this is largely a logi-
cal permanence. Reality, then, is process, and yet not a proc-
ess in which nothing proceeds ; for being itself proceeds,
and, by proceeding, incessantly passes into new forms, and
changes through and through. If, by being, we mean some-
thing which unites identity and diversity, we must say that
the personal only is able to fill out the notion, of a thing.

Logic shows that thought can deal with the temporal
only as it brings it under a timeless idea; and when we
inquire how the timeless idea can be set in reality we find
only one way. An active intelligence must realize the idea



66 METAPHYSICS

under the temporal form. But when we seek to under- \
stand intelligence itself we find that intelligence cannot be \
understood through its own categories, but rather, con-
versely, the categope^ must be understood through our ex-
perience of intelligence itself. Apart from this they are
purely formal, or else mere shadows of living experience.

(Only in the unity of consciousness can the category of
unity be realized. In the consciousness of self as identical
throughout change we have the only example of identity
in change. The conception of a permanent thing with
changing states is founded as conception, as well as real-
ized in being, in the fact of the conscious self. Apart from
this personal reference, the categories defy all attempts to
give them any metaphysical significance. The formal iden-
tities of logic are intelligible on their own plane ; but the
metaphysical identities of things are simply shadows of self-
identifying intelligence. Instead, then, of interpreting per-
sonality from the side of ontology, we must rather interpret
ontology from the side of personality. Only personality is
able to give concrete meaning to those ontological cate-
gories by which we seek to interpret being. Only person-
ality is able to reconcile the Eleatic and Heraclitic phi-
losophies, for only the personal can combine change and
identity, or flow and permanence. The impersonal abides
in perpetual process. It may hereafter appear that the im-
personal is only a flowing form of activity, to which, because
of its constancy, we attribute thinghood, but which is, in
reality, only a form of the activity of something deeper
than itself. If this should be the case, the conclusion would
be that the absolute person, not the absolute being, is the
basal fact of existence.

Here we rest the case at present. The question cannot
be finally dismissed until the nature of time has been con-
sidered. Meanwhile we see that we must have identity and



CHANGE AND IDENTITY



67



we must recognize change; and we also see that the two
can never be reconciled on the impersonal plane. As ab-
stract principles, change and identity are in mutual contra-
diction, and they remain so until they are carried up to the
plane of self-conscious thought, and are interpreted not as
abstract conceptions, but as concrete manifestations of the
living intelligence whicn is tne source and reconciliation of
both.




CHAPTER IV

CAUSALITY

WE have already seen how the conception of the cate-
gories in popular thought is confuted by the failure to dis-
tinguish the phenomenal from the ontological order. The
same fact finds further illustration in the case of causality.
The popular conception of this category is in the highest
degree confused. Minds on the sense plane are prone to con-
ceive efficiency itself in a mechanical and materialistic fash-
ion ; and, owing to the confusion just referred to, efficient
causes and phenomenal conditions are inextricably mingled.
The only thing clear is that causality must be affirmed;
but the form under which it is to be conceived, and the
place of its location, are left very indefinite. Very much
of our metaphysics on this subject has been built up under
the influence of our sense thinking ; and for such thinking
it is always doubtful if anything exists which cannot, be
sensuously presented. The first step out of this confusion
consists in emphasizing the distinction between causality in
the inductive sense and causality as-metaphysical efficiency.

As a matter of fact, we find that events occur under
certain conditions. When the conditions are fulfilled, the
event appears. We may call the total group of conditions
the cause, and, upon occasion, we may call any one of the
conditions the cause. The complete cause, and the only
adequate cause, is the whole group; nevertheless, if the
group were given with the exception of one member, we



CAUSALITY 69

should call that member the cause of the event which would
follow its addition to the group. Any event with complex
antecedents would have only one adequate cause, but it
might also be said to have as many causes as antecedents,
for any one of these might, upon occasion, complete the
group, and thus be viewed as the cause. This is causality
in the inductive sense ; it has nothing to do with efficiency,
but only with the order in which events occur.

That the study of this order is of the utmost practical
importance is plain upon inspection. The chief part of
practical wisdom lies in a knowledge of it. The study
must be pursued inductively and not speculatively. It can
be prosecuted on any theory of metaphysics, and need not
concern itself except in the most general way about meta-
physics at all. It is to be regretted, however, that the
name of causation should be given to these phenomenal re-
lations. It is not necessary ; for nothing is in question but
the empirical conditions under which events occur. And
it is misleading; for no one has yet succeeded in talking
long about inductive causation without dropping into met-
aphysics ; while a large number of those who thus talk
have simply caught the phrase without understanding it.
Striking illustration is found in the case of those psycholo-
gists who set out to investigate inductively the interaction
of mind and body, and who fail to perceive that, inductive-
ly, the causality is mutual. Physical states condition men-
tal states no more certainly than mental states condition
physical states. Both alike, then, are cajises in the induc-
tive ^ense. But the investigators soon let it appear that
they have some other conception of causation in mind.
Accordingly they allow mental states to attend physical
states, but they will not hear of their conditioning them.
This uncertainty shows that it is possible to learn a phrase
without mastering the corresponding idea.



70 , METAPHYSICS

But whatever we call it, it is clear that the inductive in-
quiry should be distinguished from the metaphysical. The
phenomenal conditions under which events occur are quite
distinct from the metaphysical agency by which they are
brought about; and they may be studied by themselves.
By insisting on this distinction we make a field for induc-
tive study unembarrassed by metaphysical scruples ; and we
also rescue the metaphysical problem from the confusion
which results from confounding the phenomenal and the
ontological points of view.

Causality, then, in the sense of productive efficiency or
dynamic determination^ is the subject of the present dis-
cussion. As formal category the idea is simple and admits
of no definition, but this by no means decides the form in
which the concrete category must be conceived. "We are,
indeed, commanded to look for a causal ground for events ;
but it might turn out upon inquiry that that ground must
be conceived under a volitional form. It might also appear
that such phrases as physical, mechanical, material causa-
tion are only crude and untenable applications of the causal
idea, which vanish before critical reflection, as either empty
or inconsistent.

In popular thought causation manifests itself in three
great forms, the interaction of things, the determination of
consequents by their antecedents, and in volitional self-
determination. We examine these in their order.

Owing to the form of our sense - experience common-
sense never doubts that we are surrounded by a great
multitude of mutually independent things, each of which
might well continue to exist if all the rest should fall away.
Each has its being in itself and has its own hard-and-fast
self -identity and individuality. But common-sense is not
long in observing that these things are comprised in an



CAUSALITY 71

order of mutual change and concomitant variation. This
fact, together with the systematic tendency even of spon-
taneous thought, soon leads to the conviction that things
also form a system, and that the place and functions of
the individual are determined by its relations to the whole.
But how can things which are mutually so independent
and indifferent in their being be brought into any system-
atic connection ? According to common-sense, this is done
by interaction. Things are endowed with forces whereby
they mutually determine one another, and thus the system
of things is founded. In estimating this view we must
consider, first, the logical presupposition of any system ;/^
secondly, the given facts of experience ; and, thirdly, the
nature of interaction itself.

In order that any system whatever shall exist for thought, )
its members must admit of being brought into relations
of likeness and difference under the various categories of
thought, and of being united into a logical whole. This
implies a complex system of logical relations among the
members, and a mutual logical dependence. Hence, what-
ever the dynamical relations of the members may be, or
however those relations may be founded, an amenabilityjto
thought and to thought laws is implicit in the conception
of an intelligible system. For spontaneous thought there
is no mystery or wonderjiere, for the knowability of things
is a matter of course. Reflection, however, shows that this
knowability is one of the greatest wonders of existence, and
that it has complex and far-reaching implications.

Again, a real system, in order to be anything for us,
must be a system of law, so that definite antecedents shall
have the same definite consequents; and this in turn de-
mands an exact adjustment or correspondence of all the
interacting members to all the rest. Otherwise, anything
might be followed by everything or by nothing. The whole



72 METAPHYSICS

system of law upon which science builds is but the ex-
pression of this metaphysical adjustment or correspond-
ence. How this correspondence is secured is an obscure
enough problem, but the fact must be affirmed in any case
as a postulate of all objective science. Every scientific
conception of the causality of the system assumes that sim-
ilar causes must have similar effects, and that there is some
fixed quantitative and qualitative relation between the cause
and the effect. Under given conditions there can be only
one result. To any given action every other element must
correspond with a fixed reaction. But if this is to be the
case, then everything must be adjusted to every other in an
exact and all-embracing harmony.

But this general commensurability and adjustednesjL-Of
tbrngsTwhile _a pre-condition of system, founds none. It
determines the possibility of combination rather than its
actuality. In the case of a conceptual system, two things
are necessary : first, the commensurability of the contents
of the conceptions themselves ; and, secondly, the unity of
the thinking mind. The mind must comprise the many



Online LibraryBorden Parker BowneMetaphysics → online text (page 6 of 34)