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Book I Chapter 2 - § 4

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« on: January 06, 2023, 10:12:29 am »

§ 4. Reality, then, in spite of the sceptic's objections, is truly known to be a connected and self-consistent, or  internally coherent, system; can we with equal confidence say anything of the data of which the system is composed? Reflection should convince us that we can at least say as much as this: all the materials or data of reality consist of experience, experience being provisionally taken to mean psychical matter of fact, what is given in immediate feeling. In other words, whatever forms part of presentation, will, or emotion, must in some sense and to some degree possess reality and be a part of the material of which reality, as a systematic whole, is composed; whatever does not include, as part of its nature, this indissoluble relation to immediate feeling, and therefore does not enter into the presentation, will, and emotion of which psychical life is composed, is not real. The real is experience, and nothing but experience, and experience consists of "psychical matter of fact."[1]
Proof of this proposition can only be given in the same way as of any other ultimate truth, by making trial of it; if you doubt it you may be challenged to perform the experiment of thinking of anything whatever, no matter what, as real, and then explaining what you mean by its reality. Thus suppose you say "I can think of A as real," A being anything in the universe; now think, as you always can, of an imaginary or unreal A, and then try to state the difference between the A which is thought of as real and the A which is thought of as merely imaginary. As Kant proved, in the famous case of the real and the imagined hundred dollars, the difference does not lie in any of the qualities or properties of the two A's; the qualities of the imagined hundred dollars are precisely the same as those of the real sum, only that they are "imaginary." Like the real dollars, the imagined dollars are thought of as possessing such and such a size, shape, and weight; stamped with such and such an effigy and inscription; containing such and such a proportion of silver to alloy; having such and such a purchasing power in the present condition of the market, and so forth. The only difference is that the real dollars are, or under specified and known conditions may be, the objects of direct perception, while the imaginary ones, because imaginary, cannot be given in direct perception. You cannot see or handle them; you can only imagine yourself doing so. It is in this connection with immediate psychical fact that the reality of the real coins lies. So with any other instance of the same experiment. Show me, we might say, anything which you regard as real,—no matter what it is, a stone wall, an æsthetic effect, a moral virtue,—and I will ask you to think of an unreal and imaginary counterpart of that same thing, and will undertake to prove to you that what makes the difference between the reality and the imagination is always that the real thing is indissolubly connected with the psychical life of a sentient subject, and, as so connected, is psychical matter of fact.

[1] What follows must be regarded as a mere outline which awaits subsequent filling up by the more concrete results of Bk II. chap. 1.

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