F.C.S. Schiller

Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller (1864-1937), usually cited as F. C. S. Schiller, was a German-British philosopher. Born in Altona, Holstein (at that time member of the German Confederation, but under Danish administration), Schiller studied at the University of Oxford, later was a professor there, after being invited back after a brief time at Cornell University. Later in his life he taught at the University of Southern California.
Schiller's philosophy was very similar to and often aligned with the pragmatism of William James, although Schiller referred to it as "humanism". He argued vigorously against both logical positivism and associated philosophers (for example, Bertrand Russell) as well as absolute idealism (such as F.H. Bradley).
Schiller was an early supporter of evolution and a founding member of the English Eugenics Society. (Wikipedia)

Schiller's Pragmatism

In his interpretation of pragmatism, Schiller follows James’s lead in “Philosophical Conceptions and Practical Results” that pragmatism cannot be seen merely as a device for determining the meaning of a statement or belief, but that it must also determine what makes that statement or believe true. As Schiller remarks in his review of the fourth volume of Peirce’s Collected Papers, “[Peirce’s] principle was ostensibly a rule for determining meaning and eliminating the unmeaning. But it was impossible to overlook its bearing on all attempts to determine truth.”

It would not be too much to say that Schiller’s own view of pragmatism is entirely overshadowed by his views on truth. In his Encyclopaedia Britannica article on pragmatism, he gives the following rendition of Peirce’s pragmatic maxim:
      The real difference between two conceptions lies in their application, in the different consequences for the purposes of life which their acceptance caries. When no such “practical” difference can be found, conceptions are identical; when they will not “work”, i.e., when they thwart the purpose which demanded them, they are false; when they are inapplicable they are unmeaning (A. Sidgwick). Hence, the “principle of Peirce” may be formulated as being that “every truth has practical consequences, and these are the test of its truth”.

One can see a marked shift in the meaning of “pragmatism”. Whereas for Peirce, the maxim is a principle to determine the meaning of the terms we use, the term “truth” being one of them. Schiller makes the maxim a principle to distinguish true conceptions (or beliefs) from false ones. True beliefs are those that work and false beliefs are those that don’t.

This view of truth immediately raises the crucial question of what it means for a belief to work. For Schiller, all our thoughts, and hence all our concepts, are always purpose-directed. In fact, the main reason Schiller embraced pragmatism was its insistence “that the purposive character of mental life must influence and pervade our most remotely cognitive activities”. All our conceptions, no matter how abstract and how far removed from our daily lives they might be, are ultimately purpose-directed. This purpose-directedness of all our thought led Schiller to conclude that the truth of any conception is a function of its use or application. What makes a belief or an assertion true is its effect on “any human interest”, and more specifically on “the interest with which it is directly concerned”. Hence Schiller concludes,
      Pragmatism, then, in its wider sense, refers to the way in which our attributions of ‘truth’ and our recognitions of ‘reality’ are established and verified by their working, and sooner or later brought to the definite test of experiments which succeed or fail, i.e., give or deny satisfaction to some human interest, and are valued accordingly. (The Definition of “Pragmatism” and ‘Humanism’, p237f)

Schiller’s Humanism

Schiller’s humanism is best understood as a reaction against the attempts to “de-humanize” knowledge. Humanism, for Schiller, is a “systematic protest against the artificial elimination of the human aspects of knowing”. Schiller insists repeatedly that we should never lose sight of Protagoras’s maxim that “man is the measure of all things”. Philosophical conceptions such as truth, reality, determination, etc., must always be kept within our own human perspective and may not be “dehumanized”.

When we abstract in actual thinking, this abstraction is not absolute, as something that can be separated wholly from the purposes and conditions that gave rise to it, but is an instrument of though, designed to help us cope with the world wherein we live. Without a context, abstraction is devoid of meaning.

In Schiller’s view, Western philosophy took a wrong turn with Plato. In Plato’s time, philosophy was in a dilemma. On the one side, there were the followers of Heraclitus, who believed that everything was in a constant flux. On the other side, there were the Eleatics who believed that everything was absolutely static. Both views made knowledge impossible. For the followers of Heraclitus, it was impossible to assert anything about anything, since everything keeps changing; nothing is stable enough for an assertion to refer to it. For the Eleatics, the problem was a different one. Because of their fundamental commitment to the unity od being, the only assertion they could make was to declare the being of being: ”What is, is.”
According to Schiller, Plato found a way out of this when he discovered the function of concepts in the organization of experience. By using a concept, an idea could be predicated of the Heraclitan flux. Whereas the object of the idea would continue to change, the concept through which the object is lifted out of the flux of experience, would remain constant.
Using concepts, allowed Plato to attach permanence to the flux of experience in a way that avoided the problem of the undifferentiated unity of the Eleatic “one”. In its place we get “a well-knit system of knowable ideas”.
The central problem that Plato subsequently ran into was that of the interface between the Heraclitan flux of experience and this stable system of “knowable ideas”. Plato’s allegory of the cave in the Republic was one attempt to bridge the gap between the eternal world of ideas and the perpetual flux of experience.

For Schiller, it was Protagoras who gave Plato the answer to this problem, albeit Plato failed to recognize this. As Schiller sees it, what connected, for Protagoras, the ideas with the flux of sensory impressions is that they are useful for us humans in our dealings with the world within which we live. This is the true meaning of the claim that man is the measure of all things. The idea of a snow shovel is constituted, not by something otherworldly within the realm of ideas, but simply by the fact that it enables us to scoop snow. It is this usefulness that gives the idea of the snow shovel its stability.

The requirement of making ourselves the measure of all things holds not only for philosophy, Schiller contends, but for the sciences as well. All scientific knowledge is intimately related to human needs and desires, and the world shaped by science is ultimately a human world.


The above discussion brings to light the following difference between pragmatism and humanism. Pragmatism focuses specifically on the idea that all beliefs must have practical consequences to be meaningful and that if those practical consequences come to be, the belief is not just meaningful but also true.
Humanism, is broader in that it focuses on the whole individual who is holding the belief, with all his fears, frailties, desires, etc., and emphasizes that in determining the meaning or the truth of a belief we may never abstract from this. According to humanism, philosophers should always keep the whole person in mind. Pragmatists do not need to go this far. They may still dehumanize truth as long as they keep sight of the fact that truth is an inherently practical affair.

What is Reality?

It is generally recognized as the capital achievement of modern philosophy to have perceived that a solution of the ontological question -What is Reality?- is not possible until it has been decided how Reality can come within our ken. Before there can be a real for us at all, the Real must be knowable, and the notion of an unknowable reality is useless, because it abolishes itself. The true formulation therefore of the ultimate question of metaphysics must become -What can I know as real? And thus the effect of what Kant called the Copernican revolution in philosophy is that ontology, the theory of Reality, comes to be conditioned by epistemology, the theory of our knowledge.

But this truth is incomplete until we realize all that is involved in the knowledge being ours and recognize the real nature of our knowing. Our knowing is not the mechanical operation of a passionless "pure" intellect, which
      "Grinds out Good and grinds out Ill,
       And has no purpose, heart or will."
Pure intellection is not a fact in nature; it is a logical fiction which will not really answer even for the purposes of technical logic. In reality our knowing is driven and guided at every step by our subjective interests and preferences, our desires, our needs and our ends. These form the motive powers also of our intellectual life.

Now what is the bearing of this fact on the traditional dogma of an absolute truth and ultimate reality existing for themselves apart from human agency? It would utterly debar us from the cognition of "Reality as it is in itself and apart from our interests" if such a thing there were.

For our interests impose the conditions under which alone Reality can be revealed. Only such aspects of Reality can be revealed as are not merely knowable but as are objects of an actual desire, and consequent attempt, to know. All other realities or aspects of Reality, which there is no attempt to know, necessarily remain unknown, and for us unreal, because there is no one to look for them. Reality, therefore, and the knowledge thereof, essentially presuppose a definitely directed effort to know. And, like other efforts, this effort is purposive; it is necessarily inspired by the conception of some good at which it aims. Neither the question of Fact, therefore, nor the question of Knowledge can be raised without raising also the question of Value. Our "Facts" when analyzed turn out to be "Values," and the conception of "Value" therefore becomes more ultimate than that of "Fact." Our valuations thus pervade our whole experience, and affect whatever "fact," whatever "knowledge" we consent to recognize. If then there is no knowing without valuing, if knowledge is a form of Value, or, in other words, a factor in a Good, Lotze's anticipation has been fully realized, and the foundations of metaphysics have actually been found to lie in ethics.

In this way the ultimate question for philosophy becomes -What is Reality for one aiming at knowing what? "Real" means, real for what purpose? to what end? in what use? And the answer always comes in terms of the will to know which puts the question. This at once yields a simple and beautiful explanation of the different accounts of Reality which are given in the various sciences and philosophies. The purpose of the questions being different, so is their purport, and so must be the answers. For the direction of our effort, itself determined by our desires and will to know, enters as a necessary and ineradicable factor into whatever revelation of Reality we can attain. The response to our questions is always affected by their character, and that is in our power. For the initiative throughout is ours. It is for us to consult the oracle of Nature or to refrain; it is for us to formulate our demands and to put our questions. If we question amiss, Nature will not respond, and we must try again. But we can never be entitled to assume either that our action makes no difference or that nature contains no answer to a question we have never thought to put.

It is no exaggeration therefore to contend, with Plato, that in a way the Good, meaning thereby the conception of a final systematization of our purposes, is the supreme controlling power in our whole experience, and that in abstraction from it neither the True nor the Real can exist. For whatever forms of the latter we may have discovered, some purposive activity, some conception of a good to be attained, was involved as a condition of the discovery. If there had been no activity on our part, or if that activity had been directed to other ends than it was, there could not have been discovery, or that discovery.

We must discard, therefore, the notion that in the constitution of the world we count for nothing, that it matters not what we do, because Reality is what it is, whatever we may do. It is true on the contrary that our action is essential and indispensable, that to some extent the world (our world) is of our making and that without us nothing is made that is made. To what extent and in what directions the world is plastic and to be moulded by our action we do not yet know. We can find out only by trying: but we know enough for Pragmatism to transfigure the aspect of existence for us.

It frees us in the first place from what constitutes perhaps the worst and most paralyzing horror of the naturalistic view of life, the nightmare of an indifferent universe. For it proves that at any rate Nature cannot be indifferent to us and to our doings. It may be hostile, and something to be fought with all our might; it may be unsuspectedly friendly, and something to be co-operated with with our whole heart; it must respond in varying ways to our various efforts.



INDEX . 487



The need of definitions.
I. Importance of the problem of Error. Truth as the evaluation of claims. The question begged and burked by Intellectualism. The value of the consequences as the Humanist test. Why 'true' consequences are 'practical' and 'good.' Impossibility of a 'purely intellectual ' satisfaction.
First definition of Pragmatism : truths are logical values;
II. Necessity of 'verification' of truth by use and application ;
Second definition: the truth of an assertion depends on its application ;
Third definition: the meaning of a rule lies in its application;
Fourth definition: all meaning depends on purpose. Its value as a protest against the divorce of logic from psychology.
Fifth definition: all mental life is purposive, a protest against Naturalism, as is the
Sixth definition: a systematic protest against ignoring the purposiveness of actual knowing. No alien reality.
Seven definition: as a conscious application to logic of a ideological psychology, implying a voluntaristic metaphysic.
III. Humanism as the spirit of Pragmatism, and like it a natural method, which will not mutilate experience. Its antagonism to pedantry. It includes Pragmatism, but is not necessitated by the latter, nor confined to epistemology.
IV. Neither are as such metaphysics, both are methods, metaphysical syntheses being merely personal. But both may be conceived metaphysically and have metaphysical affinities. Need of applying the pragmatic test to metaphysics.



The great antithesis between Pragmatism and Intellectualism as to the nature of Truth.
I. The predication of truth a specifically human habit. The existence of false claims to truth. How then are false claims to be discriminated from true ? Intellectualism fails to answer this, and succumbs to the ambiguity of truth ('claim' and 'validity'). Illustrations from Plato and others.
II. Universality and importance of the ambiguity. The refusal of intellectualism to consider it.
III. The pragmatic answer. Relevance and value relative to purpose. Hence ' truth' a valuation. The convergence of values.
IV. The evaluation of claims proceeds pragmatically.


I. The making of ideals is vain if they are divorced from human life.
II. Mr. Joachim's abstraction from the human side of truth.
III. The consequent failure of his 'ideal'.
IV. Truth and error in the Hegelian ‘Dialectic'. The 'concrete' universal really abstract. Scientific 'laws' truly concrete and not timeless, as alleged. The chasm between the human and the ideal in intellectualist epistemology.
V. Contrast with the Humanist solution. The 'correspondence' and the 'independence' view of truth. Both are inevitable for intellectualism, as is the scepticism in which they end.


1. The problem of relating 'truth' to 'fact'. Difficulties of conceiving 'fact' as 'independent' of our knowing :
(a) The paradoxes of realism ;
(b) the additional contradictions of rationalism. The old assumptions to be given up. (1) Truth is human ; (2) fact is not 'independent',' but (3) dependent and relative to our knowing,
2. The problem of validating claims to truth, and avoiding error.
3. Actual knowing our starting-point : its seven features dominated by the pragmatic test of truth,
4. The fact of previous knowledge.
5- The acceptance of a basis of fact. The ambiguity of fact : 'real ' fact evolved from 'primary,' by a process of selection. Individual variations as to acceptance of fact. Fact never merely objective.
6. The problem of 'objectivity'. It does not = unpleasantness. Pragmatic recognition of 'unpleasant fact' and its motives.
7. The place of interest and purpose in our knowing. 'Goods' and ' ends' .
8. The validation of a claim by its consequences.
9. (a) Complete success ; (b) partial and conditional success leading to methodological or practical 'truth'; (c) failure, to be variously explained.
10. The growth of knowledge a growth of efficiency as well as of ' system,' but 'system' tested by its efficiency.
11. The making of truth in its application to the future and the past. Antedating and re-valuing of truth. Can all truth be conceived as 'made' ? Difficulties. No 'creation out of nothing'. The problems of 'previous knowledge' and 'acceptance of fact.'
12. The 'previous knowledge' to be treated pragmatically. Uselessness of fundamental truths which cannot be known.
13. The 'making of truth' ipso facto a 'making of reality' : (a) beliefs, ideas, and desires, as real forces shaping the world ; (b) the efficacy of ideals ; (c) the dependence of 'discovery' upon endeavour.
14. The further analysis of the factual basis is really metaphysics, and pragmatic method need not be carried so far. Conflict between the pragmatic value (1) of the real world of common-sense, and (2) of the making of truth. But (2) is of superior authority because (1) is a pragmatic construction. Also the real making of reality may be analogous to our own.


1. Hegel's great idea of a thought process which was to be also the cosmic process spoilt by his dehumanising of the former. The false abstractions of the 'Dialectic' from time and personality lead to its impotence to explain either process.

2. Humanism renews Hegel's enterprise by conceiving the 'making of truth' to be also a 'making of reality'. Its epistemological validity.
          Let us try, therefore, to renew Hegel's enterprise of the identification of the making of truth and the making of reality, under the better auspices of a logic which has not disembowelled itself in its zeal to become true. That the pragmatic theory of knowledge does not start with any antithesis of ' truth ' and 'fact,' but conceives 'reality' as something which, for our knowledge at least, grows up in the making of truth, and consequently recognizes nothing but continuous and fluid transitions from hypothesis to fact and from truth to truth, we have already seen in Essays vii. and viii. It follows that the 'making of truth' is also in a very real sense a 'making of reality.' In validating our claims to 'truth' we really 'discover' realities. And we really transform them by our cognitive efforts, thereby proving our desires and ideas to be real forces in the shaping of our world.
          Now this is a result of immense philosophic importance. For it systematically bars the way to the persistent but delusive notion that 'truth' and 'reality' somehow exist apart, and apart from us, and have to be coaxed or coerced into a union, in the fruits of which we can somehow participate. The making of truth, it is plain, is anything but a passive mirroring of ready-made fact. It is an active endeavour in which our whole nature is engaged, and in which our desires, interests, and aims take a leading part.
Nevermore, therefore, can the subjective making of reality be denied or ignored, whether it be in the interests of rationalism, and in order to reserve the making of reality for an 'absolute thought,' or whether it be in the interests of realism, and in order to maintain the absoluteness of an 'independent' fact.
Taken strictly for what it professes to be, the notion of 'truth' as a 'correspondence' between our minds and something intrinsically foreign to them, as a mirroring of alien fact, has completely broken down. The reality to which truth was said to 'correspond,' i.e. which it has to know, is not a 'fact' in its own right, which pre-exists the cognitive functioning. It is itself a fact within knowing, immanently deposited or 'precipitated' by the functioning of our thought. The problem of knowledge, therefore, is not 'how can thought engender truth about reality ?' It is rather ' how can we best describe the continuous cognitive process which engenders our systems of ' truth ' and our acceptance of 'reality,' and gradually refines them into more and more adequate means for the control of our experience ?'
It is in this cognitive elaboration of experience that both reality and truth grow up pari passu. 'Reality' is reality for us, and known by us, just as 'truth' is truth for us. What we judge to be 'true,' we take to be 'real,' and accept as 'fact.' And so what was once the most vaporous hypothesis is consolidated into the hardest and most indubitable 'fact.' Epistemologically speaking, therefore, so far as our knowledge goes or can go, the making of truth and the making of reality seem to be fundamentally one.

3. The problem of a metaphysical 'making of reality'.
4. Its difficulties, (i) Can reality be wholly engendered by our operations ? (2) Can the Pragmatic method yield a metaphysic ?
5. Even epistemologically we must (1) distinguish between 'discovering' and 'making' reality. The distinction may mark the division between Pragmatism and Humanism. But it is itself pragmatic, and in some cases the difference between 'making' and 'finding' becomes arbitrary.
6. (2) The great difference between original and final 'truth' and 'fact' in the process which validates 'claims' and makes 'realities'. The Pragmatic unimportance of starting-points. Initial truth as 'sheer claim' and initial fact as mere potentiality. Their methodological worthlessness.
7. (3) The methodological nullity and metaphysical absurdity of the notion of an 'original fact.' Ultimate reality something to be looked forward, and not back, to.
8. The transition to metaphysics. Humanism and metaphysics.
9. The four admitted ways in which the 'making of truth' involves a 'making of reality'. The fifth - knowing - makes reality by altering the knowers, who are real.
10. But is the object known also altered, and so 'made' ? Where the object known is not aware it is known, it is treated as 'independent,' because knowing seems to make no difference. The fallaciousness of the notion of mere knowing. Knowing as a prelude to doing.
11. The apparent absence of response to our cognitive operations on the part of 'things,' due to their lack of spiritual communion with us. But really they do respond to us as physical bodies, and are affected by us as such.
12. Hylozoism or panpsychism as a form of Humanism. ' Catalytic action ' and its human analogues.
13. Hence there is real making of reality by us out of plastic facts.
14. The extent of the plasticity of fact, practically and methodologically.
15. The non-human making of reality.
16. Our two indispensable assumptions : (i) the reality of freedom or determinable indetermination, and (2)
17, the incompleteness of reality, as contrasted with the Absolutist notion of an eternally complete whole, which renders our whole world illusory.



Criticism of Schiller's doctrine of 'The making of reality' by Bertrand Russell

It is now time to turn our attention to the metaphysic which Dr. Schiller has based upon the pragmatist theory of truth.
Pragmatism as such professes to be only a method ; the metaphysical doctrine which Dr. Schiller derives from it he calls Humanism. In regard to metaphysics, pragmatism professes to be a kind of universal provider, willing and able to suit all tastes. As William James puts it : —
"Against rationalism as a pretension and a method pragmatism is fully armed and militant. But, at the outset, at least, it stands for no particular results. It has no dogmas, and no doctrines save its method. As the young Italian pragmatist Papini has well said, it lies in the midst of our theories, like a corridor in a hotel. Innumerable chambers open out of it. In one you may find a man writing an atheistic volume ; in the next some one on his knees praying for faith and strength ; in a third a chemist investigating a body's properties. In a fourth a system of idealistic metaphysics is being excogitated ; in a fifth the impossibility of metaphysics is being shown. But they all own the corridor, and all must pass through it if they want a practicable way of getting into or out of their respective rooms."

^ In spite of this catholicity, however, we agree with Dr. Schiller in thinking that his metaphysic is the one which naturally results from pragmatism. It will be remembered that, in considering induction, we pointed to the dependence of inductive verification upon an appeal to "facts." Humanism, as a metaphysic, results from the application of the pragmatic method to the question : What is a "fact"? This subject has been treated by Dr. Schiller in his essay on "the making of reality."

The main purpose of humanist metaphysics is to emphasise the primacy of the Will. The Will, it is true, requires a datum of " fact " to which to apply its operations, but this datum is itself the product of previous volitions, and although we cannot quite deny some original i/A>; which has been moulded by will, yet this is remote and unimportant, and has been trans- formed into genuine reality by the agency of human beings and other beings more or less resembling them. Nothing that can be known, nothing that can properly be called " real," is independent of the knower. There is no such thing as "mere" knowing, in which we passively apprehend the nature of a merely "given" object. All knowing is bound up with doing, and everything that we know has been in some degree altered by our agency. This, Dr. Schiller says, is obvious in the case of our acquaintances, who plainly are more or less affected by the fact that we are acquainted with them. When we say that something is "independent" of our knowing, we mean, according to him, that the thing is not aware that we know it. But, as a matter of fact, everything we know, even a stone, is aware of us in its own way. To the charge that this is Hylozoism, Dr. Schiller replies by admitting it.

The grounds for these opinions are not set forth quite so clearly as could be wished, but we may gather them from a complimentary allusion to Hegel's dialectic at the beginning of the Essay. Imagine some '^ fact " in regard to which we entertain a belief. The belief leads to action, and the action alters the "fact." If it alters it into harmony with our wishes the belief is proved to have been what pragmatists call "true," since it has proved successful in action. In this case, since the belief in the fact is true, it follows that the fact is real. Thus the belief has made the fact. But if the outcome of the belief is a " fact " which, though in harmony with the wishes which originally led us to concern ourselves with the matter, is in conflict with others of our wishes, the belief is not "true" as regards these other wishes ; hence we shall have to change our belief, and take fresh action on the new belief, and so bring the "fact" into harmony with these new wishes. In this way, so long as we have any unsatisfied wishes, we are led on in a cycle of beliefs and actions, the beliefs becoming gradually "truer," and the "facts" with which the beliefs are concerned becoming gradually more "real " as greater harmony is established between the "facts" and our wishes. The motive power of this whole development is the pragmatic definition of truth. For if we believe A to be a fact, that belief is true if it is successful as a means to satisfying our wishes ; hence so long as our wishes are not completely satisfied, the belief that A is a fact is not completely true, and therefore A is not completely a fact. Thus complete truth and complete reality go hand in hand, and both are only to be found at the end of the road which leads to the complete satisfaction of all our wishes.

The similarity of the above process to the Hegelian dialectic is emphasised by Dr. Schiller ; with his inveterate love of a pun, he has christened his process 'trialectic." He does not seem, however, to have observed that his process, like Hegel's, introduces a distinction between appearance and reality ; that appearance embraces the whole of the world as we know it, and that it is only to reality that the pragmatic test of truth applies. The “facts" which he can accept as real must be such as not to thwart our purposes ; the “facts" which appear are very often such as to thwart our purposes. If a fact is such as to thwart our purposes, the pragmatist test of truth is not fully applicable to it ; for by believing that it will thwart our purposes, we do not prevent it from doing so, and our belief, though possibly preferable pragmatically to any other, does not secure the satisfaction of our desires. If, on the other hand, we believe that the fact is not such as to thwart our purposes, we believe what, ex hypothesis is not the case. Hence it follows that such facts cannot be real. Since many apparent facts thwart our purposes, we are led to distinguish between real and apparent facts. Hence it is not here on earth that pragmatism applies, but only in Dr. Schiller's heaven, just as it is only in Mr. Bradley's heaven that Mr. Bradley's metaphysic applies. The whole doctrine, therefore, reduces itself to the proposition that it would be heavenly to live in a world where one's philosophy was true, and this is a proposition which we have no desire to controvert.

The distinction between appearance and reality is one which Dr. Schiller is never weary of attacking ; indeed, a very large proportion of his writings is directed against it. His complete reality, he holds, is being progressively realised, and is not, like the Absolute, something wholly unconnected with our actual world of appearance. But his only reason for supposing that his complete reality is being progressively realised is a tacit assumption of co-operation among the agents composing the universe. He assumes, that is, that the various desires which (according to him) form the motive power of all that occurs in the universe, are not such as to counteract each other : the world's activities are not to be conceived as a tug-of-war. For this view there is, we fancy, no argument except the pragmatic argument, that it is pleasant and cannot be conclusively disproved.

Thus the whole humanist metaphysic rests upon the pragmatic theory of truth, and falls with that theory. Moreover, it introduces, in a slightly modified form, the old distinction of appearance and reality, of which the difficulties have been admirably set forth by Dr. Schiller himself. Since the distinction, and therefore the difficulties, result inevitably from the pragmatic theory of truth, they afford a new argument against that theory ; for they show that the theory is applicable, not to our actual world, but to an ideal world where all the hopes of pragmatists have been realised.

Although, for the reasons alleged above, we do not ourselves accept the pragmatist philosophy, we nevertheless believe that it is likely to achieve widespread popularity, because it embodies some of the main intellectual and political tendencies of our time. This aspect of pragmatism deserves consideration, since the influence of a doctrine (as pragmatists have very prudently pointed out) is by no means proportional to its intellectual value.



George Herbert Mead

George Herbert Mead (1863—1931) is a major figure in the history of American philosophy, one of the founders of Pragmatism along with Peirce, James, Tufts, and Dewey.
During his more-than-40-year career, Mead thought deeply, wrote almost constantly, and published numerous articles and book reviews in philosophy and psychology. However, he never published a book. After his death, several of his students edited four volumes from stenographic records of his social psychology course at the University of Chicago, from Mead's lecture notes, and from Mead's numerous unpublished papers. The four books are The Philosophy of the Present (1932), edited by Arthur E. Murphy; Mind, Self, and Society (1934), edited by Charles W. Morris; Movements of Thought in the Nineteenth Century (1936), edited by Merritt H. Moore; and The Philosophy of the Act (1938), Mead's Carus Lectures of 1930, edited by Charles W. Morris.
Through his teaching, writing, and posthumous publications, Mead has exercised a significant influence in 20th century social theory, among both philosophers and social scientists. In particular, Mead's theory of the emergence of mind and self out of the social process of significant communication has become the foundation of the symbolic interactionist school of sociology and social psychology. In addition to his well- known and widely appreciated social philosophy, Mead's thought includes significant contributions to the philosophy of nature, the philosophy of science, philosophical anthropology, the philosophy of history, and process philosophy. Both John Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead considered Mead a thinker of the highest order.
(Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Mead’s Social Theory

Social behaviorism refers to the emergence of mind and self from the communication process between organisms - a social process which is largely symbolic, i.e. linguistic.
Thus, whereas conventional thinking posits the logical primacy of the individual over society, and assumes that the individual is the building block of society, Mead reversed this, arguing that society precedes the individual.
For Mead, the social process is prior to the structures and processes of individual experience. Individual psychology is intelligible only in terms of social processes.

In Mind, Self and Society (1934), Mead describes how the individual mind and self arises out of the social process. The "development of the individual's self, and of his self- consciousness within the field of his experience" is preeminently social.

Mind, according to Mead, arises within the social process of communication and cannot be understood apart from that process. The communicational process involves two phases: (1) the "conversation of gestures" and (2) language, or the "conversation of significant gestures." Both phases presuppose a social context within which two or more individuals are in interaction with one another.

Symbolic interactionism is the study of the patterns of communication, interpretation, and adjustment between individuals.
The social process that produces the self is called socialization. The sine qua non for socialization is symbolic thought, or language. Language consists of significant gestures or symbols, and it is an inherently social phenomenon, since a gesture is only significant if it evokes the same response in oneself as it is intended to elicit in another. Such meaningful communication occurs through role-taking. By taking the role of the other, Mead meant putting oneself in the place of another individual in such a manner that one arouses the same response in both. Only symbolic interaction is truly social in the sense that it requires role-taking. The “social” organization of ants and bees, while complex and sophisticated, is based on instinct, not role-taking.

Mead distinguished several phases of socialization, notably the "play phase" and the "game phase." The former stage occurs when the young child begins to take the role of individual significant others. For the game stage, which is a later developmental stage, Mead used baseball as a metaphor: In order to successfully participate in a game of baseball, the individual must take the role of the generalized other, i.e. the entire social structure and its rules. And so it is with participating in society.


The Self, the I and the Me
According to Mead, a self is "that which can be object to itself," or that "which is reflexive, i.e. which can be both subject and object.". The self, then, represents reflexive experience, simultaneous organic and mental activity. Only humans are capable of this. Only humans have, and are, selves. Lower animals have feelings such as pleasure and pain, but these belong to the organism, not to the self, for the feelings have no symbolic meaning.

Following William James, Mead found it convenient to express the dual and reflexive nature of the self through the concepts of the "I" and the "me." "The self is essentially a social process going on with these two distinguishable phases." In other words, the "I" is the subjective and active phase of the self, and the "me" is the objective and passive phase.

Mead also rooted the self’s "perception and meaning" deeply and sociologically in "a common praxis of subjects" (Joas) found specifically in social encounters. Understood as a combination of the "I" and the "me," Mead’s self proved to be noticeably entwined within a sociological existence: For Mead, existence in this community comes before individual consciousness. Thus, just as Mead's theory of knowledge and value is a philosophy of the act from the standpoint of the experiencing individual in interaction with the physical environment, his view of the self is of that self emerging through social acts involving interaction with other individuals.

Mead argues that the individual is a product of an ongoing, preexisting society, or more specifically, social interaction that is a consequence of a sui generis society. The self arises when the individual becomes an object to themselves. Mead argued that we are objects first to other people, and secondarily we become objects to ourselves by taking the perspective of other people. Language enables us to talk about ourselves in the same way as we talk about other people, and thus through language we become other to ourselves. In joint activity, which Mead called 'social acts', humans learn to see themselves from the standpoint of their co-actors. A central mechanism within the social act, which enables perspective taking, is position exchange. People within a social act often alternate social positions (e.g., giving/receiving, asking/helping, winning/losing, hiding/seeking, talking/listening). In children's games there is repeated position exchange, for example in hide-and-seek, and Mead argued that this is one of the main ways that perspective taking develops.

The Meadian perspective can be termed humanistic, in that it focuses on human uniqueness, rather than on our similarities with other species. Our ability to symbolize frees us from our environment and from our past. While much of human behavior is habitual, there always remains an element of unpredictability and freedom, which Mead conceptualized as the “I" phase of the self. The lesson that Mead teaches is that, in the end, no social theorist will ever be able to fully predict human behavior.

The two most important roots of Mead's work are the philosophy of pragmatism and social behaviorism.
Mead is considered a major American philosopher by virtue of being, along with Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey, one of the founders of pragmatism.
Mead argues that the individual is a product of society, the "self" arising out of social experience as an object of socially symbolic gestures and interactions. Rooted intellectually in social behaviorism, Mead’s self was a self of practical and pragmatic intentions.

Mead, like Dewey, developed a more naturist philosophy that was based upon human action and specifically communicative action. Human activity is, in a pragmatic sense, the criterion of truth, and through human activity meaning is made. Joint activity, including communicative activity, is the means through which our sense of self is constituted.
Mead grounded human perception in an "action-nexus" (Joas). We perceive the world in terms of the “means of living”. To perceive food, is to perceive eating. To perceive a house, is to perceive shelter. That is to say, perception is in terms of action.

In philosophy, Mead was one of the major thinkers among the American Pragmatists. In common with a number of his contemporaries, he was much-influenced by the theory of relativity and the doctrine of emergence. His philosophy might be called objective Relativism. Just as some objects are edible, but only in relation to a digestive system, so Mead thought of experience, life, consciousness, personality, and value as objective properties of nature which emerge only under (and hence are relative to) specific sets of conditions.

Mead developed the most comprehensive of the pragmatist theories of mind. He depicted the evolution of mind and self-consciousness as emerging from social interactions and the use of gestures and “significant symbols” such as words. In contrast to other creatures, an individual regarded as having mind, engaging with others in social acts, can respond to his own gestures as others respond to them—thus taking on social roles and becoming an “other” in respect to himself. It is therefore by means of language, the use of “significant symbols,” that mind emerges.

Fundamental to Mead’s philosophy is his conception of the social act, in which individuals modify and direct one anothers’ activities, work out their purposes, and accordingly transform their environments. In the social act the future controls present conduct, and this is distinctive of consciousness. Since the function of intelligence is to render the world “favourable for conduct,” Mead viewed the development of scientific knowledge and the evolutionary process as coinciding.

For Mead, mind and self arise out of the social act of communication. His theory of "mind, self, and society" is, in effect, a philosophy of the act from the standpoint of a social process involving the interaction of many individuals, just as his theory of knowledge and value is a philosophy of the act from the standpoint of the experiencing individual in interaction with an environment.


Mead’s Social Pragmatism

When Mead wrote or lectured on social psychological topics, he often characterized his mature approach to human conduct as a version of psychological “behaviorism”. When he sought to develop the broader implications of this same approach, however, he thought of himself as a representative of Philosophical “pragmatism”. (p 161)

One of the foundations of pragmatism, Mead claims in The Philosophies of Royce, James, and Dewey in their American Setting (1930), is a psychology that locates intelligence within conduct and conduct within nature. And it was just a psychology that Mead took over from Dewey in the 1890s. The psychological functionalism of the early Chicago School, with its organic conception of conduct, became the basis of Mead’s later pragmatism. But Mead did more than simply work out some of the implications of this new organic model of action; he transformed it by emphasizing and analyzing the social dimensions of both animal and human conduct. His delineation of such features of social conduct as the gesture, the conversation of gestures, the significant symbol, and “taking the attitude or the role of the others” are key aspects of this analysis.

Much of the significance of Mead’s analysis of social conduct derives, of course, from his use of this analysis upon which to build a number of highly original social psychological theories. Not satisfied simply to assert standard functionalist or pragmatic generalities about the place of thought within biologically construed action, Mead outlined constructive hypotheses concerning the genesis of language, self-consciousness, and reflective intelligence within human social conduct. Even if he had accomplished nothing else, these social psychological achievements are of sufficient importance to guarantee Mead a place of prominence in the history of American pragmatism.

In his Mind, Self, and SocietyMead discusses two differing approaches to the relationship between individual human selves and the ongoing social process in which they are involved. One approach accounts for the social process on terns of the interaction of individuals whose reflective, self-conscious nature is regarded as given. The second approach explains the rational, self-conscious nature of human individuals in terms of the type of social interaction on which they participate. On this view, too, human individuals are presupposed, but only as biological organisms having certain socio-physiological capacities and tendencies to respond, not as self-conscious beings. The actual development of distinctively human mentality and personality in these organisms is held to be the product of social interaction.

In his social psychology, as in his philosophy in general, Mead is thoroughly evolutionary thinker and holds that the second approach, with its emphasis upon the primacy of sociality, yields a deeper understanding of the evolution of distinctively human behavior. If we begin with a rudimentary form of social process, Mead maintains, then we can explain human minds and selves as structure of conduct that evolve out of that process. Moreover, the second approach can explain the existence of that rudimentary social process it regards as logically prior to the development of minds and selves.

The human personality arises within a kind of social interaction similar to that exhibited in the behavior of nonhuman animals. But the individual personality is at the same time a genuine emergent, i.e., it possesses novel characteristics not reducible to properties of the biological and social factors responsible for its genesis, and as such it affects the further development of the process from which it arises. Mead is eager to incorporate this emergent characteristic into his social view of the human individual: ”Once mind has arisen in the social process it makes possible the development of that process into much more complex forms of social interaction among the component individuals than was possible before it had arisen. But there is nothing odd about a product of a given process contributing to, or becoming an essential factor in, the further development of that process. The social process, the, does not depend for its origin or initial existence upon the existence and interaction of selves; though it does depend the latter for the higher stages of complexity and organization which it reaches after selves have risen within it” (Mind, Self, and Society 226).

In this manner, Mead locates his social psychological theorizing within a conception of nature involving social as well as biological evolution. And in so doing he subscribes to the same kind of evolutionary naturalism that provides the backdrop for the pragmatism of James and Dewey. He goes beyond these thinkers, however, in his emphasis upon the role of the human individual in the process of social evolution. This emphasis is central to his later writings on ethics and moral psychology: his attempt to interpret the process of moral and social reconstruction in terms of his social psychological conceptions constitute part of his contribution to the pragmatic understanding of human personality as both social and creative. Another aspect of this same contribution can be found in his analysis of the reconstructive role of the human individual in the growth of scientific knowledge.

Mead’s analysis of the temporal dimensions of conduct deserves emphasis because it underlies many of the recurring themes found in his later writings where he analyzes “the act” (his preferred term for the unit of conduct) as a dynamic whole consisting of successive and interpenetrating stages: the act is rooted in impulses, and it typically passes through stages of perception and manipulation toward consummation.

Every act, Mead maintains, arises from impulses that seek expression in the conduct or life process of an organism. These impulsive tendencies are often social in character; they always have a biological basis, but they may also have been shaped in considerable degree by the previous experience of the organism.
An organism’ impulses sensitize every act to certain features of its environment, which thereby become stimuli that release and guide the expression of the impulses involved. Environmental stimuli thus enter the process of conduct as functional cues, rather as mere external influences. “The stimulus is the occasion for the expression of the impulse. Stimuli are means, tendency is the real thing (Mind, Self, and Society 6n).

Mead refers to the perceptual and manipulative phases of conduct as “mediate” stages of the act: they occupy a temporal position between the initiation of the act and its completion. It is in the consummatory stage of the act that impulses seeking expression in the act encounter some measures of immediate fulfillment or frustration; here things “are possessed, are good, bad, indifferent, beautiful or ugly, and lovable or noxious. Such values, of course, have no absolute status independent of conduct. They arise within conduct, within the life process; their import is a function of ongoing activity, of modifiable impulses seeking expression. Hence, they, too, serve as means for continuation of activity.

In setting forth this temporal or sequential analysis of that act, Mead is again building in an original manner upon Dewey’s organic conception of conduct. We can properly understand Mead’s analysis only if we bear in mind Dewey’s claim that conduct is an affair in which responses do more than merely succeed a stimulus; they transform, mediate, or interpret that stimulus. The response, as Dewey remarks in his 1896 essay on the reflex arc concept, is not simply to a stimulus but into it. The perceptual, manipulative and the consummatory stages Mead delineates in his analysis of the act should thus be regarded as successive phases of response, each of which further transforms or interprets an initial stimulus content. When an organism respond s perceptually to a distant object, it characteristically does so with habitual manipulatory and consummatory responses already aroused. The percept is in this sense a “collapsed art”; anticipated manipulatory experiences and consummatory values tend to be implicitly present in the perceptual stage of the act.

It is precisely because responses mediate or interpret the stimuli that call them forth, Mead holds, that our everyday perceptual experience is populated by meaningful events and objects rather than by mere sensation: such objects are not so much given as constituted through a behavior process in which we gradually acquire habitual pattern of response with respect to recurring sorts of stimuli. Indeed, much of Mead’s social psychological theorizing is, in fact, a creative elaboration of this key idea. According to his theory of language, for instance, it is the interpretive function of our responses that gives meaning to the gestures of the others with whom we interact; moreover, we acquire consciousness of the social meanings of own gestures to the extent that we respond into (mediate, interpret) these gestures as others do when they interact with us. Further, according to his theory of self-consciousness, it is by importing the social attitudes or responses others into our own behavior that we are able to constitute in our experience those important social objects we call selves. Both the selves of others and also one’s own self are constructs made possible by the interpretive function of social responses.

In his latter philosophical writings, Mead uses his analysis of perceptual and manipulatory phases of the act, together with his notion of “taking the attitude or the role of the other”, to develop detailed hypotheses concerning the ways in which physical objects, space, and time are constituted as structures of our everyday perceptual world.

Not only does Mead attempt in his latter writings to account for the fundamental structures of perceptual world in terms of his temporal and social analyses of human conduct, but he also seeks to carry out a similar program with respect to the structures of the world as conceptualized in both Newtonian and post-Newtonian physics.



C.I. Lewis

Clarence Irving Lewis (1883-1964), usually cited as C. I. Lewis, was an American academic philosopher and the founder of conceptual pragmatism. First a noted logician, he later branched into epistemology, and during the last 20 years of his life, he wrote much on ethics. The New York Times memorialized him as "a leading authority on symbolic logic and on the philosophic concepts of knowledge and value." (Wikipedia)

Clarence Irving (C.I.) Lewis was perhaps the most important American academic philosopher active in the 1930s and 1940s. He made major contributions in epistemology and logic, and, to a lesser degree, ethics. Lewis was also a key figure in the rise of analytic philosophy in the United States, both through the development and influence of his own writings and through his influence, direct and indirect, on graduate students at Harvard, including some of the leading analytic philosophers of the last half of the 20th century. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Knowledge – so the pragmatist conceives – is for the sake of action; and action is directed to realization of what is valuable. If there should be no valid judgments of value, then action would be pointless or merely capricious, and cognition would be altogether lacking in significance. (Collected Papers of Clarence Irving Lewis, p112, 1970).

C.I. Lewis's Conceptual Pragmatism

Lewis’ philosophy focused on one of the key problems of pragmatism, namely, how to reconcile the notion that our experience is malleable to our purposes with the notion that facts are “hard”. Lewis found his answer in a pragmatic epistemology that brought together "the given", the world of “hard fact” that is not subject to our will, and the a priori which, being a creation of ours, is subject to our will and malleable to our courses.

For Lewis, empirical knowledge is in essence a triadic affair. Its three elements are what Lewis called “the given”, a priori conceptual schemes, and something to connect the two together.
“The given” is that element in perception that “remains unaltered, no matter what our interests, no matter how we think or conceive” (Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge p52, - C.I. Lewis, 1929). It is wholly independent of any activity of thought.
Lewis’s a priori conceptual schemes furnish the other end of the spectrum. They are entirely products of the free activity of thought. The a priori and “the given” are wholly independent of each other. Neither limits the other or adds anything to it (Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge p37).

Various answers have been suggested to explain how our conceptual schemes connect with the world of brute fact. Lewis’s answer is decidedly pragmatic: what connects “the given” with a priori conceptual schemes are our human needs and interests.
Along that line Lewis remarked that empirical knowledge is “an interpretation, instigated by need or interest and tested by its consequences in action, which individual minds put upon something confronting them or given to them” (Collected Papers of Clarence Irving Lewis, p241, 1970). Put differently, “the primary and pervasive significance of knowledge lies in its guidance of action: knowing is for the sake of doing” (An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation, p3, - C.I. Lewis, 1964). Application of concepts to the given yields empirical knowledge, but this application is not just a product of the given that confronts the reasoner, but also of her aims and interests. Hence, for Lewis, truth is neither wholly found nor a product of the mind.

Since, for Lewis, knowledge results from successful application of a priori conceptual schemes to “the given”, knowledge is for him always relative to a conceptual system. For Lewis, scientific as well as everyday knowledge is a product of deeply rooted attitudes and interpretative habits of thought. Nothing succeeds like success, and it is the past success of conceptual schemes that guides us in how to understand the world in which we live. The result is a thoroughly pragmatic theory of truth.

On this account, alchemy was not replaced by modern chemistry because alchemy proved to be false (being an a priori system it applies to all possible worlds), but because alchemistic categories and principles have been found not (or no longer) to connect with the given in a manner that serves our purposes. Pragmatists have interpreted this in terms of new truths taking the place of old truths, but Lewis finds it would be more accurate to say that an old interpretation was replaced by a new one. In this process the old interpretation was not discovered to be false, but simply abandoned.

Lewis voices severe criticism of the pragmatism of James and Dewey whom he accused of neglecting the a priori. Because of this, they “seem to put all truth at once at the mercy of experience and within the power of human decision” (Mind and the World Order: Outline of a Theory of Knowledge p226, - C.I. Lewis, 1929). For Lewis, one does not begin by being a pragmatist, but one begins by construing a priori systems in which one is guided by intellectual motives that go well beyond the practical and the expedient, such as consistency, simplicity, and completeness. Without a well-developed a priori Lewis insisted, the acquisition of knowledge remains a random leap in the dark. Any pragmatism that ignores this aspect of knowledge acquisition, Lewis insists, is no more than “a cheerful form of skepticism" (Ibid p271). For Lewis, it is not in the construction of a priori systems, but only in their application to the given that one is to be a pragmatist. “We must all be pragmatists”, Lewis observes, “but pragmatists in the end, not in the beginning” (Ibid p267).