Page:Avenarius and the Standpoint of Pure Experience.djvu/24

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16
AVENARIUS AND PURE EXPERIENCE

facts given in experience, and then I slipped into a discussion of knowledge, and it may seem that sometimes I used knowledge and experience as equivalent terms, and again, I spoke of knowledge as a special type of experience, namely cognitive experience.

The criticism would be fair, but it is of service in pointing out that there are two meanings of the word experience, and these I must now try to separate.

Most often we mean by experience, something as wide as the whole of consciousness. There is no defining experience in this most comprehensive sense. No feeling, however elusive, falls outside of experience. Experience means also, however, something more limited and definite. In this narrower meaning, experience is the experience of some particular object or fact. We express this meaning of the term when we say to any one, ‘Did you experience that or did you imagine it or invent it or dream it or postulate it?’ Experience in this sense is the cognition of apparently real fact. It is in this sense that Avenarius uses the word. He defines it as the ‘Kenntnissnahme seiender Sachen.’[1]

A near-sighted person frequently sees some one across the street whom he thinks must be an acquaintance, but he can not be sure, owing to his defective eyesight. In this case, and speaking from the point of view of the narrower definition, the object of his experience is his own state of uncertainty. He can not say, ‘I perceive my friend A. over there,’ but he can say, ‘I perceive great uncertainty in myself.’ The latter judgment is a complete cognition. His uncertainty is fact of his experience, but his experience does not present it as fact that the man across the street is really his friend. It is this cognitive character of experience that we have in mind when we speak of experience as the basis of science, when we speak of facts, of experience and objects of experience. Any discussion of experience as a criterion of certainty must conceive it in the narrower sense, as direct cognition of fact, without, however, implying that the fact has any metaphysically independent existence. It may or it may not. In either case we have the same empirical situation. I shall accordingly use the word experience to mean experience cognitive, experience having an object.

I trust it will not sound either dogmatic or excessively commonplace if I say at once that the independent outer world is an object of experience.

VI

It has been already observed how we meet again and again with the declaration or the insinuation that knowledge of a real transcendent is the only knowledge worth the name, and at the same


  1. ‘Kr. der R. Erf.,’ II., p. 359.