Page:Reason in Common Sense (1920).djvu/121

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self is making as he utters the phrase; for he would not be so proud of himself if he thought he was thundering a tautology. If a thing were never perceived, or inferred from perception, we should indeed never know that it existed; but once perceived or inferred it may be more conducive to comprehension and practical competence to regard it as existing independently of our perception; and our ability to make this supposition is registered in the difference between the two words to be and to be perceived—words which are by no means synonymous but designate two very different relations of things in thought. Such idealism at one fell swoop, through a collapse of assertive intellect and a withdrawal of reason into self-consciousness, has the puzzling character of any clever pun, that suspends the fancy between two incompatible but irresistible meanings. The art of such sophistry is to choose for an axiom some ambiguous phrase which taken in one sense is a truism and taken in another is an absurdity; and then, by showing the truth of that truism, to give out that the absurdity has also been proved. It is a truism to say that I am the only seat or locus of my ideas, and that whatever I know is known by me; it is an absurdity to say that I am the only object of my thought and perception.

To confuse the instrument with its function and the operation with its meaning has been a persistent foible in modern philosophy. It could thus come about