Page:Avenarius and the Standpoint of Pure Experience.djvu/22

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though,—but he doesn’t look so much like Smith as he just now did. After all, he doesn’t look like Smith, it can’t be Smith, it isn’t Smith;—but who is it? Perhaps it’s Jones; it looks like Jones; of course it’s Jones.

Now whether the man is Smith or Jones or some one else makes no difference to the process of arriving at the judgment, ‘That is Jones.’ The man was first seen and he had a familiar look about him,—he was characterized by a quality of sameness, he is the same man as the one I know as Smith. Then this sameness quality diminishes,—the man feels to us less and less the same,—he takes on a problematic character, we are in doubt and we worry over the problem who it can be. Then we reach a negative certainty,—the man is certainly not Smith. He has taken on a quality of difference or otherness. Gradually this negative certainty passes over into a positive attitude. Another quality of sameness appears. The man may be Jones. The sameness quality grows stronger until we are certain he is the same man as Jones. With this certainty the man has lost the problematic character.

At this point either motor results follow, we rise and speak to the man Jones, or we turn our thoughts to other things. We do not worry any longer over the problem of the man’s identity. We have found that out. But who the man really is, is a fact outside the knowing process and irrelevant to it.

It is this irrelevancy of outer fact that I want to insist upon. If it makes any difference to the kind of process and experience of knowledge, then it is not irrelevant, but so long as that experience which claims to be knowledge is quite the same in its own positive character, whether it happens to be in error or not, it seems like a metaphysical distinction and not a merely descriptive one, to call some apparently cognitive experience genuine knowledge, and refuse this name to other such experience because in the course of events it has to be recognized as error. I therefore define knowledge, provisionally at least, as experience with the cognitive character. Other cognitive experience may drive it out, but it does not cease to be knowledge until that happens.


One is perhaps inclined at this point to protest against a misuse of words. We do not normally use the word knowledge to mean merely an experience which has a cognitive feeling. By knowledge we mean knowledge and not perhaps error that feels like knowledge. Truth and error, it is held, are two radically different things, and knowledge means the possession of truth and it can not mean the possession of error. This is the traditional attitude.