Page:Avenarius and the Standpoint of Pure Experience.djvu/21

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APPRECIATIONS OF EXPERIENCE

start known to exist. At least we have not the slightest ground for denying that experience was characterized by the existence of God as an object of will attitudes.

Psychologically this means probably that the physiological system comes into the best adjustment to its environment by means of this idea, or else that the idea expresses such an adjustment. Avenarius likes to say that the central nervous system attains a condition of stability, poise, rest, and that a complete cognition is the expression of such stability. Into his elaborate psychophysical account I do not need to go, but it is important to notice how an idea may express a genuine object of experience and how experience may become less and less characterized by this object, until it is no longer an object of experience but has become an object of critical reflection; after which it may be comprehended in one way or another, as fact or as myth.

Political convictions often have a similar history. One knows at the start that a high tariff, perhaps, is the only salvation of national industries. There is no question about it,—one can't be said to believe, for one actually knows all about it. Presently one thinks one doesn't know quite so much, but one believes the former doctrine. And afterward one may veer quite to the other side, and if one is of a dogmatic temperament one may know that various things are so which one formerly knew were not so. And in each instance it is a genuine case of knowledge. Formerly, the soul was an object of experience and knowledge. To-day it has almost ceased to be a problem. It was once a matter of experience that the earth went around the sun. No doubt witchcraft was repeatedly a matter of experience in early New England history. There is really no limit to the impossible things that may be objects of experience. They may not continue very long to exhibit this empirical certainty, but while they pass themselves off as genuine facts, they are facts of experience, that is, experience has that character. One of the most helpful bits of terminology that Avenarius has hit upon is what he calls the problematization of an idea.[1] He means that the idea assumes a problematic character which it may retain or it may lose by being again understood, in which case, the idea is said to be 'deproblematized.' Any idea, any fact you like, may become problematized or deproblematized.

Let me give one more illustration of the cognitive process, in the spirit of Avenarius. We are in a street-car, and at the opposite end of the car is a man whom we recognize as a friend. We are just about to go to speak to him when we suddenly hesitate. Is it really our friend Smith? Perhaps it isn't. He looks like Smith


  1. 'Kr. der R. Erf.,' II., p. 225.