A philosophic realist--in contrast to the popular meaning of the word--realist--affirms that objects exist independently of being known by any particular person. What we see is real, what we touch has reality, and to top it off, we can know these things directly. Before any qualifications begin that is the simple platform of realism.
Descartes may be regarded as the father of modern realism. He set forth one of the basic propositions of the movement: the independent existence of the object.1 After Descartes, philosophers like Locke, Reid, and others introduced an idea that eventually lead to subjective idealism. This idea has been called representationism, and refers to the view that objects existing outside of mind are not known directly but by means of representations. This is based on the analysis of vision; object to subject via the sense or image in the eye. As such it involves an uncertainty about the real world back of the image. It means that one must infer that the world beyond the sense datum is like the sense datum that is represented by it.
George Berkeley, after Locke, argued that the images are in a mind, or Mind, and that nothing exists without the perception of it. The formula, "to be is to be perceived," stressed the importance of the mind. Eventually in the nineteenth century, idealism--as a general term--came to be the dominant philosophy although it was not the Berkelean variety. But it was this basic tenet of Berkeley that figured into the revolt against idealism. Berkelean idealism leads to subjectivism and realism eventually arose as a reaction to subjectivism. G.E. Moore lead in the attack upon subjectivism with his essay "Refutation of Idealism" in l903. Among other things Moore argued that the idealists did not distinguish between act and the object in sensation.
Eventually modern realism set forth its positive platform as well as its criticisms of other philosophies. It rejected naive realism because it did not seemingly explain the problem of error in the senses. For example, how does one explain the contradiction between the vision when seeing a stick in the water, and the touch which feels it to be straight? Representationism was rejected because it did not give a creditable view of the world. One cannot compare images with the world to see if the representation was adequate or false. Too much skepticism seems involved in it. Subjectivism was rejected because it could not explain how one could get behind the mind or consciousness to the "outside" world. This seemed to end in solipsism and one would say only that I and my ideas exist. To whom one would say this is not obvious.
In a positive direction, modern realism began with the attempt to explain the relation between the knowing process and the thing known. Eventually the movement was to split into two camps called the Neo-Realists and the Critical Realists. We will examine these two groups in some detail.
I. The New Realists
A group of philosophers led a common cause in setting forth what they described as The New Realism.2 They argued for a common sense view that "the world exists independently of the knowing of it," as well as the belief that "the same independent world can be directly presented to consciousness and not merely represented or copied by 'ideas.'"3 A central issue for neo-realism was its "emancipation of metaphysics from epistemology."4 This means that although one way we know is a mental operation it does not necessarily follow from the process of knowing that the world is mental in nature. A realist may come to that conclusion on other grounds than the theory of knowledge. Mind or mental process is important, but the new realists would not follow Kant in the mind imposing order on the world. On Kant's ground it was charged that if mind were different than what it is in man, then "the world which we should then perceive and know might be quite other than our present world."5 In contrast, the new realists made much of perception. Space, for example, is known on the basis of perception rather than on the basis of rationalistic mathematics.
The matter of epistemology, seeking liberation from the idealist's philosophy of "to be is to be perceived," became the beginning and the basic point of emphasis of the new realists. In pursuing this liberation they returned to some of the tenets of naive realism, but with a defence, explanation, and elaboration to make it a viable option without the problems of naivete, subjectivism, or skepticism. The epistemological emphasis can be seen in the first two subjects below.
The New Realists rejected materialism because it was nothing but a monism, or oneness of nature, and spiritualism because it was nothing but a monism of spirit. Thus reality must be understood as dualistic or pluralistic. Spaulding noted:
The realist, therefore, can accept no one quality or substance, no one 'stuff,' either mind or matter, or some unknown or unknowable underlying entity, to which all other entities are reducible, and which they ultimately are, or of which they are manifestations. Rather, for him, there are kinds that are irreducibly different, and there is an irreducible plurality of these kinds.6
He does concede that pluralism may involve relatedness between diverse things, but there is no hope of returning to a monism as seen in either idealism or naturalism.
Reality is known by scientific study. One knows the world about oneself by means of perception and analysis. Negatively, the new realists rejected knowing based on intuition, authority, or illumination.7 Placing themselves in the scientific community, the new realists called for a working relationship with the special sciences, i.e., biology, psychology, mathematics, and logic.
This approach, following the sciences closely, brought the new realists closer to the materialists camp in their interpretation of much of reality. The exception involved man's mind and values related to the mind. Biology, for example, was strongly regarded as mechanistic rather than involving any form of vitalism, purpose, or entelechy which could never be discerned by perception or experiments.8
In conclusion, the realist view of the total world involved both physical and mental possibilities. Negatively, they rejected naturalism because it did not have a place for ideas and concepts and idealism was equally offensive because it led to the "abolition of nature as an independent system."9
The view of man is crucial since it is man that is related to the theory of knowledge which assumes great importance for new realists. We have already noted that a simple materialistic view of man is to be rejected because there is no place for mind, and a simple idealistic position is rejected because there is no place for a material world. The new realists sought to link mind very closely with the nervous system, but in which case affirming both realities. The mind is not the nervous system, nor the nervous system the mind.
One new realist claimed that the mind is not discoverable by "an analysis of mental contents nor by self-intuition," but by "general observation." These general observations include such common mental understandings as that taking place in a store in the exchange of money for merchandise, or the verbal reporting that goes on between people when they talk with one another, or by observing the actions of the body as a whole as when one is looking at the moon.10
Perry further describes the relationship of the mental and the physical in the human being as the ability to handle both sense and abstract qualities. Thus he noted, "instead of conceiving of reality as divided absolutely between two impenetrable spheres, we may conceive it as a field of interpenetrating relationships . . . ."11
Another realist, W.P. Montague, strongly rejects both the materialists and idealist positions. Arguing that the materialists regard consciousness as nothing more than neural responses in the body, Montague complained that "they deny the existence of all that which is more certainly real than anything else, viz., my awareness of objects."12 Moreover, he objected to the growing influence of behaviorism of his day. Behaviorism involves movements of the body and something in the body as in the nervous system. But there are many things involving no movement such as the square root of minus one, or past events like the life of Julius Caesar. Moreover, consciousness has for its thought events of the future which are not yet and non-existent. Montague developed other evidence against materialism and behaviorism and concluded that it was futile for these forms of naturalism to deny the reality of the psychical.13
The idealist, or panpsychists as Montague called them (all-mind), did not fare any better than the materialists or panhylists (all-matter). The idealist argues for mind as the ultimate reality, but mind is only known under the form of matter. So on the one hand, the idealists accept matter but turns around to deny matter. Moreover, it was argued that idealism's foundation is based on the invalid relationship that since only ideas are known, only ideas exist. The neo-realists argued that one must distinguish between the experience of knowing and the thing known. Hence both physical and mental aspects are valid. Before developing Montague's position in a positive way, it should be noted that he rejected what he called agnostic monism "which defines the physical and psychical as the miraculously parallel attributes or manifestation of substance or power whose nature is otherwise indefinable, solves no problem either scientific or metaphysical."14 Moreover, the dualist view advocated by Descartes in which two heterogenous entities--body and spirit--are brought together in an inexplicable relationship not only offers no "explanation of their interaction, but by its very terms it makes such interaction something that is miraculous if not impossible."15
In answer to these problems, Montague proposes what he calls Hylopsychism (matter-mind) to "indicate the special synthesis" which takes place in the interpenetration of the two. He wrote:
By Hylopsychism I wish to denote the theory that all matter is instinct with something of the cognitive function; that every objective event has that self-transcending implication of other events which when it occurs on the scale that it does in our brain processes we call consciousness.16
One may get the hint that consciousness is more than just the neural system. Some new realists point out that consciousness is not localized in the skull as it was widely believed in their day; rather consciousness is "out there" precisely wherever it appears to be. By "out there" is meant that wherever the human organism encounters an object, consciousness is in that cross-section. E.B. Holt said, "Consciousness is, then, out there wherever the things specifically responded to are."17 In a similar vein Perry noted that "consciousness is a relation into which things enter without forfeiting their independence."18 When one encounters a rose, the rose is not dependent upon the knower, and the rose is not in the knower's mind or neural system. The encounter is "out there" where the organism and the rose meet.
The new realists sought to give credence to the complexity of man's dimension--body and soul. In this they steered clear of the reductionism of the competing philosophies--naturalism and idealism.
The nature of man on the level of good or evil involves a less optimistic view in realism than in idealism. Idealism viewed man as good. Realism is more neutral. Man can be good and he can be very bad. Evil in the human community has been a brute fact and there is no need to whitewash it, or rationalize it away as is done in some forms of idealism. Man is a child of nature at the least, but may make great moral advances.
The word "God" does not occur in the index of The New Realism, although it may occur in the book in a non-consequential way. Their great emphasis in that work was epistemology, rather than metaphysics. On this issue they were united, on metaphysics they were not. For their views about God we have to consult individually authored works. Some of the new realists were atheists, others tended toward a form of pantheism, and still others pursued a somewhat traditional theism. Montague comes closest to being a traditional theist but he does not accept the term for himself. Nevertheless, he rejected atheism as a completely negative theory. Atheism has no means of accounting for the presence of the Good in the world. Pantheism was regarded as unimportant because it lacks "value or personality, and hence indifferent to the weal or woe of living individuals."19 Polytheism is unimportant because it lacks the ultimate unity found in monotheism and is not intellectually satisfying.
For Montague, the only viable option is theism. But he has a problem with traditional theism since he believed it does not deal with the problem of evil adequately. He appealed to the ancient argument of many atheists:
If God were all good, he would wish to abolish evil; and if He were all-powerful He would be able to abolish evil. Therefore, since he doesn't abolish evil, it must be either because He won't or because He can't.20
Montague felt that the problem of evil was as difficult for the theist as the problem of good was for the atheist. Some theists in emphasizing the power of God make him less moral than man, while others emphasizing the goodness of God make him finite and not able to accomplish the battle against evil. Trying to escape these dilemmas Montague expressed his belief in the following:
The God that I believe to be most probable is infinite and eternal like the universe which is His body, all-perfect in Himself, and in His Will to good, but limited in power by that totality of possible and actual beings which is within Himself yet not Himself, and which in what we may call evolution is undergoing the endless leavening and perfecting that such an infinite chaos would require.21
This brief credo needs some further explanation, particularly the last part. In an essay on The Trinity--A Speculation, Montague elaborates a view that gives meaning to the latter part of that statement. Admitting against the empiricists that he always felt the necessity of "going beyond the world to explain the world," he turned to the idea of the Christian trinity with a novel interpretation. He spoke of "God the Father" as a "preconcious and prepersonal power expressing itself in the production of mere existential and subsistential being in maximum abundance."22 These beings make up the world. "God the Son" would refer to the collective, integrated personal unity that exists. The third phrase is God the Holy Spirit expressing itself in what we recognize as evolution, but "evolution interpreted as the working of God in that world which is within him."23 This view of the world helps Montague to say that when God looked upon the world "it was to be made good" rather than the Biblical statement that "it was good."24
Montague does not argue for God in the traditional classic proofs approach. Yet he believes that God is necessary to give meaning to the world. He believes that "ideals are eternal things."25 While biology, physiology and physiological psychology supported some form of materialism in his day, chemistry and physics "make it more and more difficult to regard the material as the all-sufficient ground of the vital and psychical."26 In his summation of these years of philosophical change, Montague exclaims, "There must be a God, a force or trend upward, to account for the more than casual amount of goodness in existence . . . ."27 Enough of Montague.
A realist's approach to God would be followed along the same analogies as other objects. God is "out there" and not a figment of the mind. Like any other object a realist view would not require that God be known to be in existence. God exists whether anyone knows Him or not. If God is to be known, then he must be experienced, encountered as other objects are encountered. Religious experience then plays a significant role in a realist's view of God.
Moreover, a realistic view of God would include the following ideas: (l) God and man are not identified as one and the same. (2) God is above and beyond man. (3) God is personal and only a personal God can be known. (4) If God the unknown, the hidden God, is to be known, then He must make the initial move to come to man to reveal himself in some way. (5) Although the facts of the universe may point to God's existence, God and the universe are not different terms for the same thing. Knowing the universe in a scientific sense is not the same as knowing God.
Since the neo-realists stressed objective reality existing independently of being known, it could easily follow that values exist independently of being known. Perry noted, "finally, and this is our most important conclusion, all values whatsoever are absolute in the sense that they are independent of opinion."28 In another place he argued that values are independent of judgements and he rejected a standard of good as that which anyone thinks good, as being "both dialectically and empirically untenable."29 These views are urged against the widespread feeling that values are only related to desires and desires are relative. Rather, if something is good, then the fact cannot be made or unmade by any opinion about it. Moreover, the realists sought to escape the indictment of their own accusations against the idealists tradition of reading goodness and value into the world where these did not exist. Thus the realist sought to discover values rather than to read or project them into the world of nature.30
What is the status or source of values? Some new realists relate these to God, but not all did. Those who did not, founded values in reason. E.G. Spaulding, believed that values are related to God. He wrote, "God is the totality of values, both existent and subsistent, and of these agencies and efficiencies with which these values are identical.31 Spaulding continued in saying that "God is justice and truth and beauty." These values are found in the world as well as in God. Values are both transcendent and immanent in the world and above it. The summary statement is reached that "God is Value, the active, 'living' principle of the conservation of values and of their efficiency."32
The link between God and value is a close one, but God is not everything in the cosmos, as in the full-blown idealist tradition. There are dis-values, or evil. The new realists rejected the view that evil is non-existent, or ultimately a good. Evil should not be white-washed by saying that evil is necessary so that good can be known. Evil cannot be reducible to good. Evil is an "immediate and self-sufficient entity that, although it is opposed to, is not in the least dependent upon, good, although, of course, it is related to good . . . ."33 In the case of Spaulding and others, evil is dealt with in a theistic rather than pantheistic manner. Evil is not part of the Total which is all good, rather the pluralism of the new realists gave evil more existence than idealists did.
Montague took a more rational approach to values. He rejected hedonism as contradictory since one likes one action at one moment and dislikes it another moment. He also rejects the view of ethics which may be called "conscience ethic" based upon prudence, sympathy, and suggestibility.34 Actions governed by this stance are actions born out of customs and authority commands (as of home or community). These may have some rational justification that is rational within the community but not out of it. The Aztecs sacrificed humans which was rational to them but not to outsiders. After analyzing ethical ideas based upon principles--acting regardless of consequences--and systems based upon "the good," the greatest amount of happiness without regard to principles, then Montague concluded that both alternatives are needed, rather than a defense of a one-sided system.
He prefers the term "perfectionism" which is defined to include actions based on both principle and end. A happiness or pleasure directed life has little regard for virtue, but a principle system has little regard for happiness. Perfectionism includes both virtue or principle and pleasure. The goal of this type of ethical system is "an increase of the substance of a life or a self, and that an integral component and infinitely the most important component of the self is that rational or spiritual nature of which conscience itself is an expression."35
We now turn to the second group of realists who reacted against the neo-realists.
II. The Critical Realists
Following the appearance of The New Realism, another group of philosophers sought to set forth an alternative view of things. Their work was published in 1920 and involved seven men (Durant Drake, Arthur O. Lovejoy, James Pratt, Arthur Rogers, George Santayana, Roy W. Sellars, and C.A. Strong). Their Essays in Critical Realism was an attempt to criticize not only the new realists but also pragmatic and idealistic views. The central theme was strictly epistemology. Almost no other issue appears in the scope of the book. As far as metaphysics goes, it was admitted that a critical realist could be a "panpsychists, a metaphysical dualists, a Platonist, or an ontological idealists of some other type."36 Consequently, one must look elsewhere for a development of the philosophy of critical realism as it relates to interests other than epistemology.
Since the basic platform centers on knowing, we will look briefly at their view of epistemology and then move to other works for a consideration of issues of metaphysics and values.
The Critical Realists rejected the view of the new realists and actually regarded the new realists as naive realists. Their rejection was on two principle points: (l) the new realists could not explain error and (2) their analysis of perception was regarded as inadequate. The Critical Realists sought to retain the new realists respect for the directness of knowing, but it was a mediated knowing, which is another way of describing an indirectness. Drake wrote:
Physical events send off their messages to us; our perceptual data appear at a later moment, and seem to be in the direction from us in which the object existed at the time when the message started. If, then, our perceptual data are existents, they cannot be the same existents as those from which the message came, because they have a different temporal-spatial locus.37
The perceptual data are called "character-complexes (--essences), irresistibly taken in the moment of perception to be the characters of existing outer objects."38 The character-complexes themselves don't have existence.39 Perception then is the reception of these character-complexes caused by objects in space around us. In this sense we know objects "directly," but the objects themselves never get within our consciousness.40 Durant concludes that this is the best that we can do in getting to know objects "and we might as well be content."41
Pratt, in the same work, speaks of a quality-group in perception and this is not the object known, but a tool for perceiving objects.42 There is no knowing without percepts anymore than there can be thinking without thoughts. The thought is not a hindrance to thinking, and the percept is not a hindrance to knowing.43
The critical realists' maintained that their view was better to explain certain facts about knowing than the new realists could. Memory served as one example. If knowing is direct, how can memory "know" the past? Can one know the past directly? The critical realists said no. They argued that error was more explicable since they were not arguing for a direct knowing. Error was explicable because "data are directly dependent on the individual organism, not on the external object, varying in their character with the constitution of the sense-organs and the way in which these are affected and only secondarily and indirectly with the external thing."44 Hallucinations, confusion of color, and other problems of error would be explained by the irritation of the brain, or abnormal eyes, etc. The data (caused by the object) are subject to the laws of psychophysiology.
How well did the critical realists succeed? Montague, the new realist, reflecting on this in 1940, conceded that both new realists and critical realists had problems. Critical realism did not make any advances on "the dualistic realisms of Locke and Descartes."45 Critical realism still centered on skepticism46 and reverted to "animal faith" that there was a relation between object and perception given in the data.
Even some of the critical realists admitted their problems. Sellars confessed in 1932 that they had oversimplified things. "It did not do justice to the complexity of the act of perceiving and did not see that perceiving was essentially interpretative in its nature."47
Perhaps more useful and permanent are the material elements of the critical realists in their views on metaphysical issues. To that we now turn.
Roy Sellars attempted to develop a Philosophy of Physical Realism which was published in 1932. For him, reality is not a humdrum single kind of physical reality. There is immense variety of material forms in the world ranging from "star-dust and the stripped atoms of incandescent suns to the primeval slime of the surface of this earth of ours and the intricate organization of human brains."48
He rejected the idealist's contention that mind is higher and is a fairer sample of reality. Mind is part of reality as well as other dimensions--both are real. "Being can assume many forms, all equally real, though different."49
One who is often linked with critical realists, but not included in the original work by that title, is a Britisher by birth, Alfred North Whitehead, later a professor at Harvard. Whitehead's views of nature involve bi-polarity between mind and matter. Both mind and matter are necessary for the other. He wrote, "The key to metaphysics is this doctrine of mutual immanence, each side lending to the other a factor necessary for its reality."50 Bi-polarity is also seen in the relation between the permanence and becoming of the world. "The universe is dual because, in the fullest sense, it is both transient and eternal. The universe is dual because each final actuality is both physical and mental."51
Whitehead argued that much bad metaphysics grew up under the influence of Newton, Descartes, and others in the modern era while it neglected the contributions of Plato. He sees his philosophy as a fusion of these two different cosmologies. He combines the "eternal object" (Platonic form) with the process of becoming so that both permanence and process are accepted in his metaphysics. He noted, "The things which are temporal arise by their participation in the things which are eternal."52
Whitehead deprecates any metaphysical Unmoved Mover and the Creator of theism and argues that these views have "infused tragedy into the histories of Christianity and Mohomatanism."53 In contrast to the image of a divine Caesar type who fiats the world into existence as a cosmic magician, or reducing God to a philosophical principle of the First Cause, he alludes to another way of viewing the universe as seen in the Galilean who
dwells upon the tender elements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love; and it finds purpose in the present immediacy of a kingdom not of this world. Love neither rules nor is it unmoved, also it is a little oblivious to
morals. It does not look to the future; for it finds its own reward in the immediate present.54
This expresses quite a contrast to simple argumentation. Not only in this but in other ways Whitehead places an emphasis on feeling which transcends mere sensation, facticity, and science.
There is a sense in which he speaks of God as the beginning of reality, but it is not a chronological beginning that is stressed, rather it is a basis of beginning. "He is the presupposed actuality of conceptual operation in unison of becoming with every other creative act . . . . He shares with every new creation its actual world."55 Another way of viewing this priority of God with reality is that God is not "before all creation, but with all creation."56
If one keeps in mind the idea of mutual immanence that we began with, then Whitehead's set of antitheses makes sense, otherwise they appear contradictory. In these one can see some of the ideas developed above:
(1) It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as the World is permanent and God is fluent.
(4) It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World.
(5) It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God.
(6) It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that World creates God.57
Further explanation will be given this last antithesis in the section on God, but mutual immanence is seen in all of these statements.
Whitehead has probably done a more successful job of working out the realistic theme of mind and matter than some of the other critical realists. His views have had a widespread influence particularly in religious philosophy.
The critical realists had no agreement on the nature of man. A man ranked among the critical realists, Samuel Alexander, regarded man as a combination of both physical and mental qualities. Rejecting behaviorism as it developed in his day, Alexander believed that the mind is more than the neural system in man although the neural system is required.58 The quality of the mental is new and is to be explained on the basis of emergence. "Mind as a thing is a living being with the mental quality or consciousness. Following this clue we may interpret life as an emergent from material existence."59 Putting these combinations together with regard to man, Alexander wrote:
Life is thus intermediate between matter and mind. It is also material in that it is expressible (and we may hope may be expressed hereafter) in material terms, but it is not purely material life.60
This places man in a half-way position between idealism and naturalism, or in other words, it makes man a combination of both. Man is not just matter, nor just mind, but both.
The critical realists were inclined to argue for man's freedom. This implies a rejection of a cause-effect view of man that was involved in crude naturalism. Alexander noted that "man is free, and his freedom has been supposed on one ground or another to separate him from the rest of creation."61 Alexander has an unusual way of describing freedom. Freedom is the enjoyment of or acceptance of acts arising from a cause and effect situation. Or, "freedom is determination as enjoyed."62 Even though Alexander sounds contradictory on freedom and determination, he concludes that "there is nothing in free mental action which is incompatible with thorough determinism."63 Sellars likewise stressed freedom which must be granted to all people since men as individual personalities differ so.64
Whitehead's view of man can be seen in several of his works, but most specifically scattered through the Adventures of Ideas. "Man is different than insect societies because he is progressive and they are not."65 Man can make progress in a rather barbaric way but if man is to avoid decadence, boredom, and chaos he must have a "coordinating philosophy of life." Without a vision involving reverence and order, man lapses into meaninglessness. But man's philosophy, coupled with science, is the means of raising the general level of life. Man's difference from animals, and the difference it makes, is seen in Whitehead's view of theology. It has the role of showing that "the world is founded on something beyond mere transient fact, and how it issues in something beyond the perishing of occasions."66
Man's difference from other creatures is seen in the matter of personal unity and identity. Personal identity as in Platonic, Christian, Cartesian, humanitarian, or common sense, is such a part of human tradition that philosophy seems futile without it. While Whitehead stresses the realm of man's spiritual existence and personal identity he declares that body and soul are fused together in common identity. In a scientific investigation one sees more body than soul, but the soul is equally important.
Man is located in space and Whitehead views man's existence as continuous with space all the way to the brain. He noted: "The truth is that the brain is continuous with the body, and the body is continuous with the rest of the world. We cannot determine with what molecules the brain begins and the rest of the body ends."67
The critical realists do not offer anything in their essays about the nature and issue of God. Outside the essays one can find works that incorporate their views about God. Sellars has a certain disdain for the role of God in metaphysics. He rejects an idea of God that makes God prior to the universe or a view that suggests creation. Anyone trying to advocate the idea of God is treated as a psychological problem who desires a "final and authoritative standard." He further asks, "Why should God be eternal if physical existence is not?" Out of this he concludes that "the universe is eternal and had neither beginning nor end."68
Alexander is more interesting and unusual in his treatment of God. He does not offer proofs for God's existence. He believed that "no one now is convinced by the traditional arguments for God's existence."69 What is more important then is the fact of experiencing God.
Alexander takes Space-Time as a means of accounting for things, including God. Space-Time gave birth to matter, life, and mind. Space-Time is now in the throes of giving birth to deity.
Deity is thus the next higher empirical quality to mind, which the universe is engaged in bringing to birth. That the universe is pregnant with such a quality we
are speculatively assured. What that quality is we cannot know; for we can neither enjoy nor still less contemplate it.70
He distinguished between an ideal view of God in which he talks about attributes such as deity, the identity of Space-Time with God, the whole world in his body, and similar features, but then seemingly contradicts this with the ideas that Deity is emerging and is not yet. Compare these statements: (l) "Now the body is the Universe and there is no body outside his."71 (2) "Thus there is actual infinite being with quality of deity; but there is an actual infinite, the whole universe, with a nisus to deity."72
The difference seems resolved for Alexander in what is required for religious experience over against intellectual consciousness. Man would not worship abstract Space-Time and requires more warmth in religious orientation. Religion requires concrete views right now and Alexander wants to allow for this but intellectually maintains that "God as an actual existent is always becoming deity but never attains it. He is the ideal God in embryo."73
Alexander rejects a world soul. A world soul has actuality now, but Space-Time is not yet a reality. He also rejects both pantheistic and theistic categories for his views. If made to choose, it would be in the direction of theism. He tried to maintain both emphases. "God is immanent in respect to his body--" siding with pantheism--but "transcendent in respect of his deity"--siding with theism. His tendency toward pantheism is different from many pantheisms. Many identify the world as the body of the world-spirit. Alexander describes God's body as Space-Time itself. "His deity is located in an infinite portion of Space-Time."74
Whitehead's view of God is more difficult to grasp then some of the other critical realists. First, God has a definite place in Whitehead's thought. God is not merely a means of explaining things--he is central to thought. In some ways he seems tilted toward Eastern rather than Western thought in his view of God. The reason for this is that the East's pantheistic tendency stresses the process of things whereas the West has stressed fact which makes God more final and static.75 But this can be misleading since Whitehead is not a pantheist in the ordinary sense of that word that God is all and all is God.
Second, there is the theme of process. Process is related to God in an unusual way. God is not static or abstract. He changes (grows?) as the world changes. Contemplate the following:
He is the presupposed actuality of conceptual operation in union of becoming with every other creative act . . . . The completion of God's nature into a fulness of physical feeling is derived from the objectification of the world in God. He shares with every new creation its actual world . . . .76
While change in relation to the world is described as process, Whitehead, nevertheless, uses some unchanging terms about God's nature. The two ideas--changing and unchanging--are placed side by side: "God's conceptual nature is unchanged by reason of its final completeness. But this derivative nature is consequent upon the creative advance of the world. Thus analogously to all actual entities, the nature of God is dispolar. He has a primordial nature and a consequent nature."77
Third, Whitehead may not sound like a realist on his view of God, because of his stress on immanence, but he does fit the category. He speaks of God being with all creation,78 being an actual entity,79 and in a guarded sense of God's being the creator. His idea of God requires a lessor known term for describing it: pan-en-theism, which means that all is in God and has its existence relative to his. This is not pantheism since God is more than a sum of the parts of the world. Yet the world is immanent in God as he said in the antithesis quote above. At the same time Whitehead does not like the term "theism" because it is associated with a dictator image of God which is unchanging and static.
There is a tendency on the part of some critical realists to argue for a qualified objective stance on the nature of values. That is, values have an independent status regardless of what humans think about them. The critical realists are not willing to write values off as a mere fiction of the human desire.
Sellars, for example, opts for an objective view of values. A value is defined as "an object having the capacity to enter human life with certain consequences of importance to the self or to a social group."80 But he does admit a subjective area in values in that they have to be enjoyed. But he is not willing to reduce values to mere psychological considerations.
He rejects the position that values are personal tastes by raising questions about understanding, education, and growth. One may not initially like Bach but if one makes an effort to understand what the musicians are seeking to accomplish, one may change one's taste. Along this line he calls for a new attitude of reason and analysis over against impulse, taste, or dogmatism. In morality, this would mean
trying to trace out in detail the consequences of an act and to appreciate its effect on human life in the way of welfare and happiness, of seeking to gain sympathy for those people who have been repressed and misused by our social institutions. The keys to this new attitude would be love and knowledge . . . It stands for a process, a method, a procedure, for the use of reason and sympathy.81
The problem with a taste-oriented value system, or factualism as Sellars calls it, is that it discounts "development, increased insight, and creative understanding."82
Although he argues for an objective point of view in values, he admits that values are always with reference to someone. A value can enter into someone's life, but without someone, there are no values. Values do change with circumstances and education. Even though values are rationally appreciated there are circumstances in which things of value are of no value. A death situation in a desert where water is absent makes gold of no value. Gold would be of value only if it could buy the means to life.
When there are differences in values or morals, Sellars suggests that the people involved should ask: (l) have I sufficiently examined all that is relevant to the judgement and (2) have I essentially the same aesthetic and moral nature as others? If there is a commonness on these issues he expects that there would be more common agreement in valuing. Part of the implication of this is that values have a "double-reference." What is good for me probably has a general application to people at large. If it is not true for them, it will probably be not true for me.
Alexander's view of values includes both objective and subjective stances. Using the analogy of a rose, he claimed that it is real, red, and objective whether it is known by me or not. But the rose is "not beautiful except for a contemplating mind."83 In this regard he pushed the personal involvement in values. He noted: "Truth does not consist of mere propositions but of propositions as believed; beauty if felt, and good is the satisfaction of persons."84 Beauty and appreciation are related to a community of minds. This simply means that there is "cooperation and conflict of many minds which produces standards of approval or disapproval." This relationship to approving minds does not make the values less real.85 There has been a strange argument that if something is related to the mind, then it is less real, or unreal. He noted, "The mind is the highest finite empirical reality we know. Strange that its touch should be thought to de-realize its creation."86
The element that makes an object bring forth collective appreciation is "coherence within the object of value."87 "Coherence amongst wills" describes a way of looking at morality as it does in values, of beauty. As such there is a rational appeal in morality. Its rationality gives moral appeal a universal application. He noted: "This is the true universality of moral requirements, that they would be binding on any individual under such conditions."88
A moral society is one in which the diverse passions of people are regulated so that there is a reasonable distribution of satisfaction for these passions. A coherent distribution leads to happiness, a misdistribution is called evil. Without a coherent distribution, one may suppose a turn to anarchy, or each man doing what he feels rather than thinks is right.
Modern realism began as an epistemological movement in reaction to idealism and materialism. Consequently, the first criticisms must be related to the matter of epistemology. Realism has maintained that objects exist independently of being known. Two similar criticisms have come from the idealists and pragmatists. The idealist raises the question: how can you know something that exists independently of a mind? The pragmatist questions, how can one know independently of experience? The conclusion of these critics is that realism has to assume that objects exist out there as a part of his faith, common sense, or conviction.
Another criticism relating to the subject of knowing is that knowing involves more than looking at something. Knowing involves judgement. Without making judgements about the world, there is no knowledge. One may see things but not know what they are. A little child who has never seen a dog before is informed and taught by his mother when he first encounters one, by the words (or judgement conferred), "doggie, doggie." Meaning is imposed on the world by judgement which stresses the importance of mind ordering the world. The criticism implies that realism does not place enough emphasis on the priority of mind.
Other criticisms would have to be made in regard to a particular philosopher's views.
In the general area of metaphysics or reality, it is no problem to affirm that matter exists, but affirming that spirit or mind exists is more difficult. Realism has to affirm a spiritual existence based on rational argument rather than a scientific proof. If one bases his criterion of truth solely on scientific standards than this part of realism is weaker than the other part of the dualism, that is, matter.
The same problem could arise in connection with saying that man is more than body, or that God exists, or that values are objective. God's existence is not seen with the naked eye, and arguments for his existence make more sense to idealist than to naturalists. But it must be remembered that many realists who philosophized about God were also influenced by, or were, scientists themselves. As long as realism seeks to argue for a spiritual or mental element in metaphysics, then it inclines more to idealism than naturalism.
Realists who are believers in God appear in many ways critical of religion, but affirm quite a bit of information about God. Alexander's view of God appears quite detailed for a person who makes so little of revelation in religion. The same would be true of Whitehead. It would seem to require of a philosopher who claimed extensive knowledge about God that he give strong affirmation to a doctrine of God's self-revelation. If not, one is limited to a natural philosophy of God. Is it possible to know as much as Alexander and Whitehead affirm about God without an extremely orthodox religious view of God's self-revelation.
Realism has the advantage of not being a reductionistic philosophy. It can affirm matter, body, and the material as well as the spiritual, the mental, and the immaterial.
The following chart may help compare and contrast the basic ideas of realism.
Neo-Realism Critical Realism
A. Reality Dualism; mind and Being assumes many forms
matter (mind, matter, other)
Pluralism--many Temporal and eternal
B. Man hylopsychism (mind- Both mind-body being
matter) Man's difference from
Body and soul beasts is based on
Rejects behaviorism progress
C. God Some are atheists Process is a theme about Some are theist God
Some are inclined God the actual is
to pantheism struggling to become God
Pan-en-theism--Whitehead- all is in God
D. Values Objective Objective, can be taught
Have their status to rational minds
in God or reason
One of the competing philosophies at the turn of the century was pragmatism. It was a rival of realism, and has had an important influence in American thought particularly. To it, we now turn.
For Further Study
Alexander, Samuel. Space, Time and Deity. New York: Dover Publications, 1966, 2 vols.
Essays in Critical Realism (Durant, Drake, A.O. Lovejoy, James Pratt, Arthur Rogers, George Santayana, Roy Sellars, and C.A. Strong). New York: Macmillan Co., 1920.
Hasan, S.Z. Realism. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1971.
Montague, W.P. The Way of Things. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1940.
The New Realism (E.B. Holt, W.T. Marvin, W.P. Montague, R.B. Perry, W.B. Pitkin, and E.G. Spaulding). New York: The Macmillan Co., 1922.
Perry, R.B. Present Philosophical Tendencies. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1912.
Sellars, Roy. The Philosophy of Physical Realism. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1932.
Spaulding, E.G. The New Rationalism. New York: Holt and Co., 1918.
Whitehead, A.N. Adventures of Ideas. New York: New American Library of World Literature, 1955.
________. Essays in Science and Philosophy.
________. Process and Reality. New York: Harper Torchbook, 1960.
1S.Z. Hasan, Realism, New York: Benjamin Blom, 1971, first published, 1928, p. 48.
2E.B. Holt, W.T. Marvin, W.P. Montague, R.B. Perry, W.B. Pitkin, and E.G. Spaulding, The New Realism, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1912.
3Ibid., p. 10.
4Ibid., p. 32.
5Ibid., p. 75.
6Edward G. Spaulding, The New Rationalism, New York: Holt and Co., 1918, p. 435.
7The New Realism, p. 32.
8Ibid., p. 245.
9Ibid., p. 15.
10R.B. Perry, Present Philosophical Tendencies, New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1912, p. 296.
11Ibid., p. 311.
12The New Realism, op. cit., p. 269.
13Ibid., p. 270.
14Ibid., p. 276.
15Ibid., p. 276.
16Ibid., p. 283.
17Ibid., p. 354.
18Perry, op. cit., p. 332.
19W.P. Montague, The Way of Things, New York: Prentice-Hall, 1940, p. 111.
20Ibid., p. 113.
21Ibid., p. 123.
22Ibid., p. 536.
24Ibid., p. 538.
25Ibid., p. 546.
26Ibid., p. 542.
27Ibid., p. 664.
28Perry, op. cit., p. 335.
29The New Realism, op. cit., p. 149.
30Perry, op. cit., p. 329.
31Spaulding, op. cit., p. 517.
33Ibid., p. 520.
34Montague, op. cit., p. 414.
35Ibid., p. 153.
36Durant Drake, et. al., Essays in Critical Realism, New York: Macmillan Co., 1920, p. 109.
37Ibid., p. 37.
38Ibid., p. 19-20.
39Ibid., p. 22.
40Ibid., p. 24.
42Ibid., p. 97.
43Ibid., p. 104.
44Ibid., p. 225.
45Montague, op. cit., p. 259.
46Ibid., p. 258.
47Roy Sellars, The Philosophy of Physical Realism, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1932, p. 3.
48Ibid., p. 48.
49Ibid., p. 6.
50A.N. Whitehead, Essays in Science and Philosophy.
51A.N. Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, New York: New American Library of World Litearture, 1955, pp. 244-245.
52A.N. Whitehead, Process and Reality, New York: Harper Torchbook, 1960, p. 63.
53Ibid., p. 519.
54Ibid., p. 519.
55Ibid., p. 523.
56Ibid., p. 521.
57Ibid., p. 528.
58Samuel Alexander, Space, Time, and Deity, New York: Dover Publications, 1966, Vol. II, p. 6.
59Samuel Alexander, Space, Time, and Deity, New York: Dover Publications, 1966, Vol. I, p. 61.
60Ibid., p. 64.
61Alexander, Vol. II, op. cit., p. 315.
62Ibid., p. 315.
63Ibid., p. 320.
64Sellars, op. cit., p. 471.
65Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, op. cit., p. 115.
66Ibid., p. 221.
67Ibid., p. 290.
68Sellars, op. cit., pp. 368-69.
69Alexander, op. cit., p. 343.
70Ibid., p. 347.
71Ibid., p. 357.
72Ibid., p. 362.
73Ibid., p. 365.
74Ibid., p. 399.
75Whitehead, Process and Reality, op. cit., pp. 10-11.
76Ibid., p. 523.
78Ibid., p. 521.
79Ibid., p. 523.
80Sellars, op. cit., p. 445.
81Ibid., p. 455.
83Alexander, op. cit., p. 238.
84Ibid., p. 238.
85Ibid., p. 244.
86Ibid., p. 245.
87Ibid., p. 242.
88Ibid., p. 275.