APPRECIATIONS OF EXPERIENCE
It often happens in philosophical discussion that the idea of an experience that is valid or logically justifiable leads us to forget or ignore our actual experience. That a type of experience should be apparently illogical and illusory is enough oftentimes to dismiss it from consideration. In what follows, I wish to speak not of valid experience as such, but simply of average human experience which may be naïve and illusory but which is not therefore less genuine.
I am not concerned with any metaphysic. I do not purpose to justify any experience as against any other, but simply to state some of the commoner characteristics of frankly naïve and spontaneous experience, and to mention some logical considerations that seem relevant. And if from time to time the habits of language may cause it to appear that I am discussing a metaphysical question, I would beg the reader to recall that my real interest is in characteristics of human experience simply, detached as completely as may be from any notion of reality.
Each one of us can say, ‘Here I am in a world of things, among my fellows.’ Whether in our philosophical moments we believe in a world of independent external objects and of different external selves is another matter. However illusory its appearance, the outer world does seem to be a world of facts, whose reality is not dependent upon our cognition. Reflection may show that this appearance is highly ambiguous, and that such an independent reality can be neither comprehended nor described,—but the appearance persists. All sorts of things happen or seem to happen without any help from humanity,—things which humanity would be only too glad to help if it could. Independent facts and forces there seem to be which man can take advantage of to his profit. The farmer plants his crops and they grow, not without his care, to be sure, but chiefly by virtue of something which he does not seem to contribute. There is falling water to turn a mill wheel, metals there are to be dug from the earth, heavenly bodies to be searched out with the telescope, germs of disease to be avoided. One who has never heard of metaphysical realism has nevertheless a completely realistic attitude.
This is the attitude of the ‘plain man.’ The philosopher is rather fond of contrasting himself with the ‘plain man,’ and since he is interested in the contrast-effect, he is apt not to observe how much