Appearance and Reality/Chapter II

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We have seen that the distinction of primary from secondary qualities has not taken us far. Let us, without regard to it, and once more directly turning to what meets us, examine another way of making that intelligible. We find the world’s contents grouped into things and their qualities. The substantive and adjective is a time-honoured distinction and arrangement of facts, with a view to understand them and to arrive at reality. I must briefly point out the failure of this method, if regarded as a serious attempt at theory.

We may take the familiar instance of a lump of sugar. This is a thing, and it has properties, adjectives which qualify it. It is, for example, white, and hard, and sweet. The sugar, we say, is all that; but what the is can really mean seems doubtful. A thing is not any one of its qualities, if you take that quality by itself; if “sweet” were the same as “simply sweet,” the thing would clearly be not sweet. And, again, in so far as sugar is sweet it is not white or hard; for these properties are all distinct. Nor, again, can the thing be all its properties, if you take them each severally. Sugar is obviously not mere whiteness, mere hardness, and mere sweetness; for its reality lies somehow in its unity. But if, on the other hand, we inquire what there can be in the thing beside its several qualities, we are baffled once more. We can discover no real unity existing outside these qualities, or, again, existing within them.

But it is our emphasis, perhaps, on the aspect of unity which has caused this confusion. Sugar is, of course, not the mere plurality of its different adjectives; but why should it be more than its properties in relation? When “white,” “hard,” “sweet,” and the rest co-exist in a certain way, that is surely the secret of the thing. The qualities are, and are in relation. But here, as before, when we leave phrases we wander among puzzles. “Sweet,” “white,” and “hard” seem now the subjects about which we are saying something. We certainly do not predicate one of the other; for, if we attempt to identify them, they at once resist. They are in this wholly incompatible, and, so far, quite contrary. Apparently, then, a relation is to be asserted of each. One quality, , is in relation with another quality, . But what are we to understand here by is? We do not mean that “in relation with is A, and yet we assert that A is “in relation with ” In the same way is called “before ” and is spoken of as being “to the right of .” We say all this, but from the interpretation, then “before is C, and “to the right of is E, we recoil in horror. No, we should reply, the relation is not identical with the thing. It is only a sort of attribute which inheres or belongs. The word to use, when we are pressed, should not be is, but only has. But this reply comes to very little. The whole question is evidently as to the meaning of has; and, apart from metaphors not taken seriously, there appears really to be no answer. And we seem unable to clear ourselves from the old dilemma, If you predicate what is different, you ascribe to the subject what it is not; and if you predicate what is not different, you say nothing at all.

Driven forward, we must attempt to modify our statement. We must assert the relation now, not of one term, but of both. and are identical in such a point, and in such another point they differ; or, again, they are so situated in space or in time. And thus we avoid is, and keep to are. But, seriously, that does not look like the explanation of a difficulty; it looks more like trifling with phrases. For, if you mean that and , taken each severally, even “have” this relation, you are asserting what is false. But if you mean that and in such a relation are so related, you appear to mean nothing. For here, as before, if the predicate makes no difference, it is idle; but, if it makes the subject other than it is, it is false.

But let us attempt another exit from this bewildering circle. Let us abstain from making the relation an attribute of the related, and let us make it more or less independent. “There is a relation , in which and stand; and it appears with both of them.” But here again we have made no progress. The relation has been admitted different from and , and no longer is predicated of them. Something, however, seems to be said of this relation , and said, again, of and . And this something is not to be the ascription of one to the other. If so, it would appear to be another relation, , in which , on one side, and, on the other side, and , stand. But such a makeshift leads at once to the infinite process. The new relation can be predicated in no way of , or of and ; and hence we must have recourse to a fresh relation, , which comes between and whatever we had before. But this must lead to another, ; and so on, indefinitely. Thus the problem is not solved by taking relations as independently real. For, if so, the qualities and their relation fall entirely apart, and then we have said nothing. Or we have to make a new relation between the old relation and the terms; which, when it is made, does not help us. It either itself demands a new relation, and so on without end, or it leaves us where we were, entangled in difficulties.

The attempt to resolve the thing into properties, each a real thing, taken somehow together with independent relations, has proved an obvious failure. And we are forced to see, when we reflect, that a relation standing alongside of its terms is a delusion. If it is to be real, it must be so somehow at the expense of the terms, or, at least, must be something which appears in them or to which they belong. A relation between and implies really a substantial foundation within them. This foundation, if we say that is like to , is the identity which holds these differences together. And so with space and time—everywhere there must be a whole embracing what is related, or there would be no differences and no relation. It seems as if a reality possessed differences, and , incompatible with one another and also with itself. And so in order, without contradiction, to retain its various properties, this whole consents to wear the form of relations between them. And this is why qualities are found to be some incompatible and some compatible. They are all different, and, on the other hand, because belonging to one whole, are all forced to come together. And it is only where they come together distantly by the help of a relation, that they cease to conflict. On the other hand, where a thing fails to set up a relation between its properties, they are contrary at once. Thus colours and smells live together at peace in the reality; for the thing divides itself, and so leaves them merely side by side within itself. But colour collides with colour, because their special identity drives them together. And here again, if the identity becomes relational by help of space, they are outside one another, and are peaceful once more. The “contrary,” in short, consists of differences possessed by that which cannot find the relation which serves to couple them apart. It is marriage attempted without a modus vivendi. But where the whole, relaxing its unity, takes the form of an arrangement, there is co-existence with concord.

I have set out the above mainly because of the light which it throws upon the nature of the “contrary.” It affords no solution of our problem of inherence. It tells us how we are forced to arrange things in a certain manner, but it does not justify that arrangement. The thing avoids contradiction by its disappearance into relations, and by its admission of the adjectives to a standing of their own. But it avoids contradiction by a kind of suicide. It can give no rational account of the relations and the terms which it adopts, and it cannot recover the real unity, without which it is nothing. The whole device is a clear makeshift. It consists in saying to the outside world, “I am the owner of these my adjectives,” and to the properties, “I am but a relation, which leaves you your liberty.” And to itself and for itself it is the futile pretence to have both characters at once. Such an arrangement may work, but the theoretical problem is not solved.

The immediate unity, in which facts come to us, has been broken up by experience, and later by reflection. The thing with its adjectives is a device for enjoying at once both variety and concord. But the distinctions, once made, fall apart from the thing, and away from one another. And our attempt to understand their relations brought us round merely to a unity, which confesses itself a pretence, or else falls back upon the old undivided substance, which admits of no relations. We shall see the hopelessness of its dilemma more clearly when we have examined how relation stands to quality. But this demands another chapter.

I will, in conclusion, dispose very briefly of a possible suggestion. The distinctions taken in the thing are to be held only, it may be urged, as the ways in which we regard it. The thing itself maintains its unity, and the aspects of adjective and substantive are only our points of view. Hence they do no injury to the real. But this defence is futile, since the question is how without error we may think of reality. If then your collection of points of view is a defensible way of so thinking, by all means apply it to the thing, and make an end of our puzzle. Otherwise the thing, without the points of view, appears to have no character at all, and they, without the thing, to possess no reality—even if they could be made compatible among themselves, the one with the other. In short, this distinction, drawn between the fact and our manner of regarding it, only serves to double the original confusion. There will now be an inconsistency in my mind as well as in the thing; and, far from helping, the one will but aggravate the other.