The Nature of Physical Reality: A Philosophy of Modern Physics

By Henry Margenau | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Departure from the Immediate; Constructs

4.1 THE CONTINUITY BETWEEN THE SPONTANEOUS AND THE REFLECTIVE1

ONE OFTEN THINKS of data as kinds of experience which point beyond themselves. By virtue of this transcendent linkage, it is supposed, data enjoy a unique position in the scheme of reality, with a stability and a significance all of their own. This view has very naturally created the illusion of a marked cleavage within experience, between sense data as parts of the immediately given on the one hand, and representation, abstraction, thought on the other. Accordingly, data are easily distinguished from concepts.

On our view, which encourages experience to walk on its own feet and denies it the use of ontological crutches, and which therefore forces us to seek meaning and significance within our own cognitive procedures, the difference between sensory fact and thought is not so apparent. We shall argue that sensation as part of the process of knowledge is not wholly sui generis and that a passage from the qualities that signify an act of clear perception to those characterizing pure thought may well be gradual.

Beforehand, however, one possible misunderstanding should be forestalled: In asserting such continuous gradation we are not

____________________
1

The arguments set forth in this section are rudimentary and incomplete. For a careful and competent treatment of all matters within the purview of the present task, but from different philosophical standpoints, see B. Blanshard two volumes, "The Nature of Thought," and C. L. Lewis, "An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation," The Open Court Publishing Company, La Salle, Ill., 1947.

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