Mo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint Louis.

Congress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 online

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Even to-day the question regarding the meaning and the validity
of the causal connection stands between these contrary directions
of epistemological research; and the ways leading to its answer
separate more sharply than ever before. It is therefore more press-
ing in our day than it was in earlier times to find a basis upon which
we may build further epistemologically and therefore methodologic-
ally. The purpose of the present paper is to seek such a basis for the
different methods employed in the sciences of facts.

As has already been said, the contents of our consciousness, which
are given us immediately in outer and inner perception, constitute
the raw material of the sciences of facts. From these various facts
of perception we derive the judgments through which we predict,
guide, and shape our future perception in the course of possible
experience. These judgments exist in the form of reproductive
ideational processes, which, if logically explicit, become inductive
inferences in the broader sense. These inferences may be said to be
of two sorts, though fundamentally only two sides of one and the
same process of thought; they are in part analogical inferences and
in part inductive inferences in the narrower sense. The former infers
from the particular in a present perception, which in previous per-
ceptions was uniformly connected with other particular contents of
perception, to a particular that resembles those other Qontents of per-
ception. In short, they are inferences from a particular to a particular.
After the manner of such inferences we logically formulate, for
example, the reproductive processes, whose conclusions run: "This
man whom I see before me, is attentive, feels pain, will die;" "this
meteor will prove to have a chemical composition similar to known
meteors, and also to have corresponding changes on its surface as
the result of its rapid passage through our atmosphere." The induct-
ive inferences in the narrower sense argue, on the contrary, from
the perceptions of a series of uniform phenomena to a universal,
which includes the given and likewise all possible cases, in which
a member of the particular content of the earlier perceptions is
presupposed as given. In short, they are conclusions from a partic-
ular to a universal that is more extensive than the. sum of the given
particulars. For example: "All men have minds, will die;" "all
meteoric stones will prove to have this chemical composition and
those changes of surface."


There is no controversy regarding the inner similarity of both
these types of inference or regarding their outward structure; or,
again, regarding their outward difference from the deductive in-
ferences, which proceed not from a particular to a particular or
general, but from a general to a particular.

There is, however, difference of opinion regarding their inner
structure and their inner relation to the deductive inferences. Both
questions depend upon the decision regarding the meaning and
validity of the causal relation. The contending parties are recruited
essentially from the positions of traditional empiricism and ration-
alism and from their modern offshoots.

We maintain first of all:

L The presupposition of all inductive inferences, from now on
to be taken in their more general sense, is, that the contents of
perceptioif are given to us uniformly in repeated perceptions, that is,
in uniform components and uniform relations.

2. The condition of the validity of the inductive inferences lies
in the thoughts that the same causes will he present in the unobserved
realities as in the observed ones, and that these same causes ivill bring
forth the same effects.

3. The conclusions of all inductive inferences have, logically
speaking, purely problematic validity, that is, their contradictory
opposite remains equally thinkable. They are, accurately expressed,
merely hypotheses, whose validity needs verification through future

The first-mentioned presupposition of inductive inference must not
be misunderstood. The paradox that nothing really repeats itself,
that each stage in nature's process comes but once, is just as much
and just as little justified as the assertion, everything has already
existed. It does not deny the fact that we can discriminate in the
contents of our perceptions the uniformities of their components
and relations, in short, that similar elements are present in these
ever new complexes. This fact makes it possible that our manifold
perceptions combine to make up one continuous experience. Even
our paradox presupposes that the different contents of our percep-
tions are comparable with one another, and reveal accordingly
some sort of common nature. All this is not only a matter of course
for empiricism, which founds the whole constitution of our know-
ledge upon habits, but must also be granted by every rationalistic
interpretation of the structure of knowledge. Every one that is
well informed knows that what we ordinarily refer to as facts already
includes a theory regarding them. Kant judges in this matter pre-
cisely as Hume did before him and Stuart Mill after him. " If cin-
nabar were sometimes red and sometimes black, sometimes light and
sometimes heavy, if a man could be changed now into this, now into


another animal shape, if on the longest day the fields were some-
times covered with fruit, sometimes with ice and snow, the faculty
of my empirical imagination would never be in a position, when
representing red color, to think of heavy cinnabar." ^

The assumption that in recurring perceptions similar elements
of content, as well as of relation, are given, is a necessary condition
of the possibility of experience itself, and accordingly of all those
processes of thought which lead us, under the guidance of previous
perceptions, from the contents of one given perception to the con-
tents of possible perceptions.

A tradition from Hume down has accustomed us to associate the
relation of cause and effect not so much with the uniformity of co-
existence as with the uniformity of sequence. Let us for the present
keep to this tradition. Its first corollary is that the relation of cause
and effect is to be sought in the uninterrupted flow and tjonnection
of events and changes. The cause becomes the uniformly preceding
event, the constant antecedens, the effect the uniformly following, the
constant consequens, in the course of the changes that are presented
to consciousness as a result of foregoing changes in our sensorium.

According to this tradition that we have taken as our point of
departure, the uniformity of the sequence of events is a necessary
presupposition of the relation between cause and effect. This uni-
formity is given us as an element of our experience; for we actually
find uniform successions in the course of the changing contents of
perception. Further, as all our perceptions are in the first instance
sense-perceptions, we may call them the sensory presupposition of
the possibility of the causal relation.

In this presupposition, however, there is much more involved than
the name just chosen would indicate. The uniformity of sequence
lies, as we saw, not in the contents of perception as such, which are
immediately given to us. It arises rather through the fact that, in
the course of repeated perceptions, we apprehend through abstraction
the uniformities of their temporal relation. Moreover, there lie in the
repeated perceptions not only uniformities of sequence, but also
uniformities of the qualitative content of the successive events
themselves, and these uniformities also must be apprehended through
abstraction. Thus these uniform contents of perception make up
series of the following form:

tto — > &o

«» -^ K
1 Kant, Kr. d. r. V., 1st ed., pp. 100 f.


The presupposition of the possibihty of the causal relations in-
cludes; therefore, more than mere perceptive elements. It involves
the relation of different, if you will, of peculiar contents of percep-
tion, by virtue of which we recognize a^—^h^ . . . «„ — > &„ as events
that resemble one another and the event a^ — > 61 qualitatively as well
as in their sequence.' There are accordingly involved in our presup-
position reproductive elements which indicate the action of memory.
In order that I may in the act of perceiving ag -^ 63 apprehend the
uniformity of this present content with that of ag -^ h^ and a^ -^ h-^,
these earlier perceptions must in some way, perhaps through mem-
ory,^ be revived with the present perception.

In this reproduction there is still a further element, which can
be separated, to be sure only in ahstracto, from the one just pointed
out. The present revived content, even if it is given in memory as
an independent mental state, is essentially different from the original
perception. It differs in all the modifications in which the memory
of lightning and thunder could differ from the perception of their
successive occurrence, or, again, the memory of a pain and the re-
sulting disturbance of attention could differ from the corresponding
original experience. However, as memory, the revived experience
presents itself as a picture of that which has been previously per-
ceived. Especially is this the case in memory properly so called,
where the peculiar space and time relations individualize the revived
experience. If we give to this identifying element in the associative
process a logical expression, we shall have to say that there is in-
volved in revival, and especially in memory, an awareness that the
present ideas recall the same content that was previously given us
in perception. To be sure, the revival of the content of previous
perceptions does not have to produce ideas, let alone memories.
Rapid, transitory, or habitual revivals, stimulated by associative
processes, can remain unconscious, that is, they need not appear as
ideas or states of consciousness. Stimulation takes place, but con-
sciousness does not arise, provided we mean by the term " conscious-
ness" the genus of our thoughts, feelings, and volitions. None the
less it must not be forgotten that this awareness of the essential
identity of the present revived content with that of the previous
perception can be brought about in every such case of reproduction.
How all this takes place is not our present problem.

We can apply to this second element in the reproductive process,
which we have found to be essential to the causal relation, a Kantian

' It is not our present concern to ascertain how this actually happens. The
psychological presuppositions of the present paper are contained in the theory of
reproduction that I have worked out in connection with the psychology of speech
in the articles on "Die psychologischen Grundlagen der Beziehungen zwischen
Sprechen und Denken," Archiv fiXr systematische Philosophic, 11, iii, und vii;
of. note 1, page 151.


term, "Recognition." This term, however, is to be taken only in the
sense called for by the foregoing statements; for the rationalistic
presuppositions and consequences which mark Kant's "Synthesis
of Recognition" are far removed from the present line of thought.

We may, then, sum up our results as follows: In the presuppo-
sition of a uniform sequence of events, which we have accepted
from tradition as the necessary condition of the possibility of the
causal relation, there lies the thought that the contents of perception
given us through repeated sense stimulation are related to one
another through a reproductive recognition.

The assumption of such reproductive recognition is not justified
merely in the cases so far considered. It is already necessary in the
course of the individual perceptions a and b, and hence in the appre-
hension of an occurrence. It makes the sequence itself in which a
and h are joined possible; for in order to apprehend h as follovt'ing
upon a, in case the perception of a has not persisted in its original
form, a must be as far revived and recognized upon 5's entrance into
the field of perception as it has itself passed out of that field. Other-
wise, instead of h following upon a and being related to a, there
would be only the relationless change from a to b. This holds gen-
erally and not merely in the cases where the perception of a has
disappeared before that of b begins, for example, in the case of light-
ning and thunder, or where it has in part disappeared, for example,
in the throwing of a stone.

We have represented a as an event or change, in order that uniform
sequences of events may alone come into consideration as the pre-
supposition of the causal relation. But every event has its course in
time, and is accordingly divisible into many, ultimately into infinitely
many, shorter events. Now if b comes only an infinitely short interval
later than a, and by hypothesis it must come later than a, then a
corresponding part of a must have disappeared by the time b appears.
But the infinitesimal part of a perception is just as much out of all
consideration as would be an infinitely long perception; all which only
goes to show that we have to substitute intervals of finite length in
place of this purely conceptual analysis of a continuous time inter-
val. This leaves the foregoing discussion as it stands. If b follows a
after a perceptible finite interval, then the flow or development
of a by the time of b's appearance must have covered a course cor-
responding to that interval; and all this is true even though the
earlier stages of a remain unchanged throughout the interval pre-
ceding 6's appearance. The present instant of flow is distinct from
the one that has passed, even though it takes place in precisely the
same way. The former, not the latter, gives the basis of relation which
is here required, and therefore the former must be reproduced and
recognized. This thought also is included in the foregoing summary


of what critical analysis shows to be involved in the presupposition
of a uniform sequence.

In all this we have already abandoned the field of mere perception
which gave us the point of departure for our analysis of uniform
sequence. We may call the changing course of perception only in the
narrower meaning the sensory presupposition of the causal relation.
In order that these changing contents of perception may be known
as like one another, as following one another, and as following one
another uniformly, they must be related to one another through a
recognitive reproduction.

Our critical analysis of uniform sequence is, however, not yet
complete. To relate to one another the contents of two ideas always
requires a process at once of identifying and of differentiating, which
makes these contents members of the relation, and which accordingly
presupposes that our attention has been directed to each of the two
members as well as to the relation itself — in the present case, to the
sequence. Here we come to another essential point. We should apply
the name "thought" to every ideational process in which attention
is directed to the elements of the mental content and which leads us
to identify with one another, or to differentiate from one another, the
members of this content.^ The act of relating, which knows two
events as similar, as following one another, indeed, as following one
another uniformly, is therefore so far from being a sensation that it
must be claimed to be an act of thinking. The uniformity of sequence
of a and h is therefore an act of relating on the part of our thought,
so far as this becomes possible solely through the fact that we at one
and the same time identify with one another and differentiate from
one another a as cause and h as effect. We say " at one and the same
time," because the terms identifying and differentiating are corre-
latives which denote two different and opposing sides of one and the
same ideational process viewed logically. Accordingly, there is here
no need of emphasizing that the act of relating, which enables us to
think a as cause and h as effect, is an act of thought also, because it
presupposes on our part an act of naming which raises it to being
a component of our formulated and discursive thought. We therefore
think a as cause and h as effect in that we apprehend the former as
uniform antecedens and the latter as uniform consequens.

Have we not the right, after the foregoing analysis, to interpret
the uniform sequence of events solely as the necessary presupposi-
tion of the causal relation? Is it not at the same time the adequate
presupposition? Yes, is it not the causal relation itself? As we
know, empiricism since Hume has answered the last question in the

^ Cf. the author's "Umrisse zur Psychologie des Denkens," in Philosophische
Abhandlungen Chr. Sigwart . . . gewidmet, Tubingen, 1900.


affirmative, and rationalism since Kant has answered it in the nega-

We, too, have seemingly followed in our discussion the course of
empiricism. At least, I find nothing in that discussion which a con-
sistent empiricist might not be willing to concede; that is, if he is
ready to set aside the psychological investigation of the actual pro-
cesses which we here presuppose and make room for a critical analysis
of the content of the relation of cause and effect.^ However, the

' The difference between the two points of view can be made clearer by an illus-
tration. The case that we shall analyze is the dread of coming into contact with
fire. The psychological analysis of this case has to make clear the mental content
of the dread and its causes. Such dread becomes possible only when we are aware
of the burning that results from contact with fire. We could have learned to be
aware of this either immediately through our own experience, or mediately
through the communication of others' experience. In both cases it is a matter of
one or repeated experiences. In all cases the effects of earlier experiences equal
association and recall, which, in turn, result in recognition. The recognition
explaining the case under discussion arises thus. The present stimuli of visual
perception arouse the retained impressions of previous visual perceptions of fire
and give rise to the present perception (apperception) by fusing with them. By
a process of interweaving, associations are joined to this perception. The apper-
ceptively revived elements which lie at the basis of the content of the perception
are interwoven by association with memory elements that retain the additional
contents of previous perceptions of fire, viz., the burning, or, again, are interwoven
with the memory elements of the communications regarding such burning. By
means of this interweaving, the stimulation of the apperceptive element transmits
itself to the remaining elements of the association complex. The character of the
association is different under different conditions. If it be founded only upon one
experience, then there can arise a memory or a recall, in the wider sense, of the
foregoing content of the perception and feeling at the time of the burning, or,
again, there can arise a revival wherein the stimulated elements of retention remain
unconscious. Again, the words of the mother tongue that denote the previous
mental content, and which likewise belong to the association complex (the apper-
ceiving mass, in the wider sense), can be excited in one of these three forms and
in addition as abstract verbal ideas. Each one of these forms of verbal discharge
can lead to the innervations of the muscles involved in speech, which bring about
some sort of oral expression of judgment. Each of these verbal reproductions can
be connected with each of the foregoing sensory {sachlichen) revivals. Secondly,
if the association be founded upon repeated perceptions on the part of the person
himself, then all the afore-mentioned possibilities of reproduction become more
complicated, and, in addition, the mental revivals contain, more or less, only the
common elements of the previous perceptions, i. e., reappear in the form of
abstract ideas or their corresponding unconscious modifications. In the third
case the association is founded upon a communication of others' experience. For
the sake of simplicity, let this case be confined to the following instance. The
communication consisted in the assertion: "All fire will burn upon contact."
Moreover, this judgment was expressed upon occasion of imminent danger of
burning. There can then arise, as is perhaps evident, all the possibilities men-
tioned in the second case, only that here there will be a stronger tendency toward
verbal reproduction and the sensory reproduction will be less fixed.

In the first two cases there was connected with the perception of the burning
an intense feehng of pain. In the third the idea of such pain added itself to the
visual perception of the moment. The associated elements of the earlier mental
contents belong likewise to the apperceiving mass excited at the moment, in fact
to that part of it excited by means of association processes, or, as we can again say,
depending upon the point from which we take our view, the associative or apper-
ceptive completion of the content of present perception. If these pain elements
are revived as memories, i. e., as elements in consciousness, they give rise to a new
disagreeable feeling, which is referred to the possible coming sensation of burning.
If the mental modifications corresponding to these pain elements remain uncon-
scious, as is often possible, there arises none the less the same result as regards our
feeling, only with less intensity. This feeling tone we call the dread.


decision of the question, whether or not empiricism can determine
exhaustively the content that we think in the causal relation, depends
upon other considerations than those which we have until now been
called upon to undertake. We have so far only made clear what
every critical analysis of the causal relation has to concede to empiri-
cism. In reality the empiristic hypothesis is inadequate. To be sure,

As a result of the sum total of the revivals actual and possible, there is finally
produced, according to the particular circumstances, either a motor reaction or an
inhibitant of such reaction. Both irmervations can take place involuntarily or

The critical analysis of the fact that we dread contact with fire, even has another
purpose and accordingly proceeds on other lines. It must make clear under what
presuppositions the foresight that lies at the basis of such dread is valid for future
experience. It must then formulate the actual process of revival that constitutes
the foundation of this feeling as a series of judgments, from which the meaning and
interconnection of the several judgments will become clear. Thus the critical
analysis must give a logical presentation of the apperceptive and associative
processes of revival.

For this purpose the three cases of the psychological analysis reduce themselves
to two: viz., first, to the case in which an immediate experience forms the basis,
and secondly, to that in which a variety of similar mediately or immediately
communicated experiences form such basis.

In the first of these logically differentiated cases, the transformation into the
speech of formulated thought leads to the following inference from analogy :

Fire A burned.

Fire B is similar to fire A.

Fire B will burn.

In the second case there arises a syllogism of some such form as:

AH fire causes burning upon contact.
This present phenomenon is fire.

This present phenomenon will cause burning upon contact.

Both premises of this syllogism are inductive inferences, whose implicit meaning
becomes clear when we formulate as follows :

All heretofore investigated instances of fire have burned, therefore all fire

The present phenomenon manifests some properties of fire, will consequently

have all the properties thereof.

The present phenomenon will, in case of contact, cause burning.

The first syllogism goes from the particular to the particular. The second proves
itself to be (contrary to the analysis of Stuart Mill) an inference that leads from
the general to the particular. For the conclusion is the particular of the second
parts of the major and minor premises; and these second parts of the premises are

Online LibraryMo.) Congress of Arts and Science (1904 : Saint LouisCongress of Arts and Science : universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904 → online text (page 40 of 68)