return to religion-online

The Subjectivist Principle and Its Reformed and Unreformed Versions

by David Ray Griffin

David Ray Griffin teaches philosophy of religion at the School of Theology at Claremont and is executive director of the Center for Process Studies. The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 27-36, Vol. 7, Number 1, Spring, 1977. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


James Lindsey’s essay on the subjectivist principle (PS 6:97-102) first came to my attention in an earlier version in Connection with my role as co-editor of the Corrected Edition of Process and Reality. Lindsey’s essay contains some proposals for textual changes; insofar as my essay is a response to his, it is limited to the matters related to these proposals. (Hence I do not deal with his main point, concerning Whitehead’s diagnosis of modern philosophy’s malady.) My response takes the form of an alternative interpretation of some of the variants of ‘subjectivism.’ Since this is more of an independent essay, with the response to Lindsey made in passing, rather than a point-by-point reply, it may be helpful to summarize in advance the problems in Lindsey’s view which my own interpretation avoids (I summarize the problems I see in my own position at the end of the essay):

1. Lindsey’s view requires that the text be changed at PR 253.24-25 (lines as well as pages are given for easy reference) from ‘subjectivist principle’ to ‘subjectivist bias’ (PS 6:98). This is not an error that could easily be explained, e.g., as a misreading or a typing or printing error.

2. Lindsey’s view requires that the text at PR 252.35 be changed from ‘subjectivist principle’ to ‘reformed subjectivist principle’ (PS 6:-101).

3. On Lindsey’s view the term ‘reformed subjectivist principle’ is a misnomer, since the principle in question involves not a reformation but a complete rejection of the ‘subjectivist principle’ (PS 6:101).

4. On Lindsey’s interpretation, the chapter title "The Subjectivist Principle," refers only to a principle which Whitehead completely rejects, something that is not true of any of his other chapter titles.

5. On Lindsey’s view the only referent of the ‘subjectivist principle’ is a principle which is on par with the ‘sensationalist principle,’ since the two of them combine to constitute the ‘sensationalist doctrine.’ Hence his view implies that Whitehead arbitrarily took the name of one of these two subordinate principles for the chapter title.

My central and (as far as I know) novel claim is that Whitehead uses the term ‘subjectivist principle’ in two ways: one use refers to a principle which he rejects, while the second refers to a more general principle which he accepts. Supporting this thesis and responding to Lindsey’s position requires considerable scholastic thrashing about. But I believe the importance of getting clear about Whitehead’s use of ‘subjectivist principle’ and other variants of ‘subjectivism’ is sufficient to justify this scholastic analysis, since the issues signified by these terms (and the variants of ‘sensationalism,’ which are discussed in notes 1 and 2), are at the heart of Whitehead’s epistemological revolution.

Analysis of Terms

The Subjectivist Principle,): Whitehead begins the chapter entitled "The Subjectivist Principle" by pointing out that the ‘sensationalist doctrine’ (which is a way of summing up Hume’s doctrine of ‘impressions of sensation’) is composed of two subordinate principles, the ‘subjectivist principle’ and the ‘sensationalist principle.’ The latter concerns the manner in which the datum in the act of experience is initially received.’ The former says that "the datum in the act of experience can be adequately analysed purely in terms of universals" (PR 239.3-5). Hume and Kant accepted this subjectivist principle, while Locke and Descartes held it inconsistently (PR 238.13-25, 239.32-34). Whitehead rejects it, affirming that the datum includes actual entities, not just eternal objects.

Since these definitions occur at the beginning of the chapter, it has been natural for readers to assume that the subjectivist principle as defined here is the subjectivist principle with which the chapter is concerned (and hence to which the chapter title refers). However, I believe that the subjectivist principle as defined here (PR 239.3-5), i.e., as stating that the datum of experience involves only universals and hence no actualities, is only one of two subjectivist principles which Whitehead has in mind. Since this one concerns the datum of experience, I refer to it as ‘the subjectivist principle.’

The fact that it is not the only subjectivist principle is suggested by the italicized words in this quotation: "It is only by the introduction of covert inconsistencies into the subjectivist principle, as here stated, that there can be any escape from what Santayana calls, ‘solipsism of the present moment’" (PR 240.3-7; italics added). Furthermore, the fact that there is a subjectivist principle which applies to the datum and another one which applies to something else is suggested by the fact that Whitehead sometimes speaks of "the subjectivist principle as to the datum" (PR 239.33-34; cf. 242.24-25). I turn now to that other subjectivist principle, which is synonymous with the ‘subjectivist doctrine.’

The Subjectivist Principle, The Subjectivist Doctrine: The subjectivist principle which Whitehead accepts deals with the nature of reality as a whole (hence I call it ‘the subjectivist principle,’): "The subjectivist principle is that the whole universe consists of elements disclosed in the analysis of the experience of subjects" (PR 252.35-37). It is this principle to which Whitehead refers when he says: "The difficulties of all schools of modern philosophy lie in the fact that, having accepted the subjectivist principle, they continue to use philosophical categories derived from another point of view" (PR 253.23-26). (These are the two passages which, on Lindsey’s interpretation, must be altered.) The ‘philosophical categories’ he has in mind are, as Lindsey stresses, clearly the "substance-quality categories" which "have lost all claim to any fundamental character in metaphysics" if the "subjectivist bias which entered into modern philosophy through Descartes" is accepted (PR 241.17-18, 34-37). (The ‘subjectivist bias,’ which, I believe, logically follows from the subjectivist principle, will be discussed below.)

Identical with the subjectivist principle is the ‘subjectivist doctrine’: "The consideration of experiential togetherness raises the final metaphysical question: whether there is any other meaning of ‘togetherness.’ The denial of any alternative meaning . . . is the ‘subjectivist’ doctrine" (PR 288.26-31). This subjectivist doctrine is explicitly accepted by Whitehead (note the parenthetical phrase, "as here stated," which provides further evidence that he was aware of using ‘subjectivism’ in different senses): "The philosophy of organism admits the subjectivist doctrine (as here stated), but rejects the sensationalist doctrine: hence its doctrine of the objectification of one actual occasion in the experience of another actual occasion" (PR 290.1-5). The ‘sensationalist doctrine’ includes, it will be recalled, the ‘subjectivist principle’; in fact, most of the places where Whitehead writes ‘the sensationalist doctrine’ (or simply ‘sensationalism’), he has the subjectivist principle,) principally or even exclusively in mind.2 Whitehead is here contrasting his position with Kant, who accepted not only the subjectivist doctrine (i.e., the subjectivist principle), but also the subjectivist principle:

"He [Kant] adopted a subjectivist position, so that the temporal world was merely experienced. But according to his form of the subjectivist doctrine, in the Critique of Pure Reason, no element in the temporal world could itself be an experient. . . . The difficulties of the subjectivist doctrine arise when it is combined with the ‘sensationalist’ doctrine concerning the analysis of the components which are together in experience." (PR 289.5-18)

This, together with the previously quoted passage, suggests that there is a general subjectivist position which Whitehead accepts along with modern philosophy in general, but that there are two forms of this subjectivism, depending upon the analysis of the datum of experience. In other words, there are ‘reformed’ and ‘unreformed’ versions of the subjectivist doctrine. The unreformed version, accepted by Hume and Kant (note the phrase, "his form of the subjectivist doctrine," in the previous quotation), and inconsistently by Locke and Descartes, involves the subjectivist principle. I will discuss Whitehead’s ‘reformed’ version of the subjectivist doctrine after discussion of the ‘subjectivist bias.’

The Subjectivist Bias: This term refers to the data for philosophy (as Lindsey says):

"He [Descartes] also laid down the principle, that those substances which are the subjects enjoying conscious experiences, provide the primary data for philosophy, namely, themselves as in the enjoyment of such experience. This is the famous subjectivist bias which entered into modern philosophy through Descartes. In this doctrine Descartes undoubtedly made the greatest philosophical discovery since the age of Plato and Aristotle." (PR 241.12-20)

Two pages later Whitehead refers to "Descartes’ discovery that subjective experiencing is the primary metaphysical situation which is presented to metaphysics for analysis" (PR 243.14-16).

Since the ‘subjectivist bias’ deals with the data for philosophy, it is not strictly identical with the subjectivist principles (or doctrine). But it is closely related, and logically follows from it. If there is no togetherness not based upon "togetherness in experience" (PR 288.19), so that "the whole universe consists of elements disclosed in the analysis of the experience of subjects" (PR 252.35-36), it follows that the primary data for the philosopher should be the "subjects enjoying conscious experiences" (PR 241.14). Hence, after stating the subjectivist principles, Whitehead adds: "It follows that the philosophy of organism entirely accepts the subjectivist bias of modern philosophy" (PR 253.1-2; italics added). (My claim here is only that the subjectivist bias logically follows from the subjectivist principles, not that historically the former had to wait upon an explicit recognition of the latter.)

The Reformed Subjectivist Doctrine, The Reformed Subjectivist Principle: This is a doctrine about both the nature of reality and the datum of experience. It is a reformed version of the subjectivist doctrine (i.e., the subjectivist principle), the ‘reformation’ consisting in the fact that (unlike the unreformed version) the datum of experience is taken to include actual entities. Whitehead first discusses the reformed subjectivist principle in the context of the subjectivist bias (which, as we have seen, logically follows from the subjectivist principle). He contrasts his position on the datum of experience with Hume, who "discarded the objective actuality of the stone-image" (Descartes ‘realitas objectiva’) in favor of "sensation of greyness" (PB 242.15-23).

"In contrast to Hume, the philosophy of organism keeps ‘this stone as grey in the datum for the experience in question. It is, in fact, the ‘objective datum’ of a certain physical feeling, belonging to a derivative type in a late phase of concrescence This doctrine is the ‘reformed subjectivist principle’ mentioned earlier in this chapter [PR 238.17]." (PB 243.9-18)

In the next paragraph, he adds: "Descartes’ discovery on the side of subjectivism requires balancing by an ‘objectivist’ principle as to the datum for experience" (PR 243.26-28).

The fact that the reform involved in the reformed subjectivist doctrine has to do with an objectivist view of the datum is further supported by the statement that "The reformed subjectivist principle... is merely an alternative statement of the principle of relativity" (PB 252.22-24). This principle, which states that "it belongs to the nature of a ‘being’ that it is a potential for every ‘becoming’" (PR 252.25-27), is usually used by Whitehead to stress that actual beings are experienced (PR 33.29-32; 42.9-17; 71.19-24; 79.29-35; 101.29-36; 224.8-14; 226.18-22; 340.17-21; 371.18-24). And that point is made in the passage in question: "The way in which one actual entity is qualified by other actual entities is the ‘experience’ of the actual world enjoyed by that actual entity, as subject" (PR 252.32-34).

Summary Of Advantages

The above interpretation of the variants of ‘subjectivism’ has several advantages. It not only allows the chapter title to refer to a principle which Whitehead accepts, and to a general principle rather than to a subordinate principle which is merely one of two parts of the sensationalist doctrine. It also allows the reformed subjectivist principle (or doctrine) indeed to be a reformed version of a subjectivist principle, i.e., of the subjectivist principle. If, on the contrary, the subjectivist principle were taken to be defined at PR 239.3-5, then the reformed subjectivist principle, which is concerned with an objectivist view of the datum, is not a reformation of it but a complete rejection of it (as Lindsey sees, PS 6:10 1). Finally, my view avoids the need for textual changes at PR 252.35 and 253.24-25.

Textual Problems

However, my interpretation does require one minor textual change. ‘This’ needs to be changed to ‘The’ at the beginning of the last sentence of the following paragraph:

"The consideration of experiential togetherness raises the final metaphysical question: whether there is any other meaning of ‘togetherness.’ The denial of any alternative meaning . . . is the ‘subjectivist’ doctrine. This reformed version of the subjectivist doctrine is the philosophy of organism." (PR 288.26-32)

As it presently reads, the ‘subjectivist’ doctrine is equated with the ‘reformed subjectivist doctrine,’ whereas my view of Whitehead’s meaning is that many modern philosophers (including Kant, who is in view here) accept the subjectivist doctrine, as here defined, while the reformed version of the subjectivist doctrine’ is not accepted by them. The change of ‘This’ to ‘The’ would have the text make this distinction. (The printing of ‘This’ instead of ‘The’ is easily explainable as the typist’s misreading of Whitehead’s handwriting, whereas the errors Lindsey thinks are present elsewhere are not so easily explainable.)

The interpretation which entails this change makes sense of the present paragraph as an anticipation of the contrasts to be described in the following four paragraphs. In this paragraph (as emended), Whitehead defines the subjectivist principle, and announces that he accepts thc reformed version of it. Then, in the first paragraph following it, he describes the epistemological problem which arises if one assumes that there is a nonexperiential togetherness.

In the second paragraph, he says that this difficulty is the point of Kant’s ‘transcendental’ criticism. Note: he means that Kant recognized the difficulty and that this recognition is the basis of his critical philosophy; Whitehead does not mean that Kant has this difficulty, i.e., that he accepted a nonexperiential togetherness -- Whitehead speaks elsewhere of the chaos (i.e., nontogetherness) of the data of experience for Kant (PB 111.23-30; 172.31-35; 379.37-380.1). The point of the paragraph is that Kant accepted the subjectivist principle, but not the reformed version of it: "He adopted a subjectivist position, so that the temporal world was merely experienced. But according to his form of the subjectivist doctrine... no element in the temporal world could itself be an experient" (PR 289.6-10; italics added).

In the third paragraph, Whitehead explains the source of Kant’s problem: "The difficulties of the subjectivist doctrine arise when it is combined with the ‘sensationalist’ doctrine concerning the analysis of the components which are together in experience" (PR 289.15-18). By the ‘sensationalist doctrine’ here, Whitehead has in mind the subjectivist principle) (since Kant rejects the other half of the sensationalist doctrine, i.e., the sensationalist principle): This means that the datum of experience contains no actualities and hence no entities which could be affirmed to be experients in their own right.

Finally, in the fourth paragraph, Whitehead states the two-fold point which had been anticipated back in the paragraph in question (i.e., if the emendation I am suggesting is accepted): "The philosophy of organism admits the subjectivist doctrine (as here stated), but rejects the sensationalist doctrine: hence its doctrine of the objectification oi one actual occasion in the experience of another actual occasion" (PR 290.1-5). This means that Whitehead accepts the subjectivist principle, but that he rejects the subjectivist principle; hence, lie accepts the reformed version of the subjectivist doctrine. He next states how the resulting doctrine of the temporal world differs from Kant’s, who had to regard it as phenomenal: "Each actual entity is a throb of experience including the actual world within its scope" (PR 290.5-6). Whitehead then points out how this metaphysical position, which is implied by the reformed subjectivist principle, overcomes the epistemological and metaphysical difficulties regarding the truth and falsehood of propositions which have plagued other views (cf. PR 288.2-16).

That concludes the justification for distinguishing the ‘subjectivist principle’ and the ‘reformed subjectivist principle’ in the way I have, and hence for changing ‘This’ at PR 288.31 to ‘The.’

One other apparent textual problem remains for my interpretation. At the close of the chapter entitled "The Subjectivist Principle" Whitehead writes: "Finally, the reformed subjectivist principle must be repeated: that apart from the experiences of subjects there is nothing, nothing, nothing, bare nothingness" (PB 254.3-6). The problem is that this seems to be merely a restatement of the subjectivist principle; it seems to state nothing about the datum of a subject’s experience, and hence seems not to be a restatement of the reformed subjectivist principle as I have interpreted it.

However, this statement can be read as differing from the formulations of the subjectivist principle. The formulation at PR 252.35-37 states that the "whole universe consists of elements disclosed in the analysis of the experiences of subjects;" that leaves open the possibility that the "elements disclosed" might be mere universals. But the statement at PR 254.3-6 about the reformed subjectivist principle says that there is nothing apart from the experiences of subjects; hence the data themselves have to be subjects or abstracted from subjects. Thus it can be read as a statement about the datum of an experience. The statement at PR 288.26-31 about the subjectivist principle says only that there is no meaning to ‘togetherness’ which is not abstracted from ‘experiential togetherness;’ it leaves open the possibility that there could be some nontogether because nonexperiential elements in the universe, e.g., Kant’s chaotic data. But the statement at PR 254.3-6 about the reformed subjectivist principle says that there is nothing in the universe apart from the experiences of subjects; hence if a subject’s experience has data (which none of the philosophers in question denies), these data must be other experiencing subjects or abstracted from the same. Accordingly, this statement can also be regarded as a statement about the data of experience and thereby a formulation of the reformed subjectivist principle.

Therefore, the subjectivist principle can be seen as distinct not only from the subjectivist principle, but also from the reformed subjectivist principle, and hence as the central topic of the chapter entitled "The Subjectivist Principle."

Problems with my View

While the above interpretation makes more sense to me of the various data than any other view I now know of, it has its problems. I will state in summary form the ones that are evident to me.

1. If Whitehead did have in mind a distinction between two meanings of the ‘subjectivist principle,’ one would expect him to have distinguished more clearly between them. I have shown that some of his language does give hints of a distinction, but one would have expected a clearer, terminological distinction.

2. If Whitehead indeed intended the chapter title, "The Subjectivist Principle," to refer to a principle which he endorsed, one would have expected the chapter to have begun somewhat differently.

3. If the reformed subjectivist principle is indeed a reformed version of a more general subjectivist principle, the word ‘This’ at PB 288.31 must be changed to ‘The.’

4. Also a somewhat forced interpretation of the statement at PR 254.3-6 is needed to maintain a distinction between the reformed subjectivist principle and the subjectivist principle.

These problems do not seem so formidable as to rule out the interpretation I have offered; but they are great enough to make me hope that a less problematic view can be attained. Hence, my essay is offered with the hope that it will prod others to seek a better interpretation.

 

Notes

1 Lindsey’s essay reflects a misunderstanding of the ‘sensationalist principle.’ He sees it as concerned directly with the datum as such (PS 6:100). But the definition at PR 239.6-9 states that it is concerned with the ‘primary activity’ on the part of the experiencing subject in entertaining the datum, i.e., it denies that this primary activity involves any subjective form of reception. This (Humean) sensationalist principle says that one first entertains ‘impressions of sensation’ and only derivatively has forms of response to them, such as emotional and purposive reactions. Whitehead’s clearest rejection of this principle is the following statement: "Experience has been explained in a thoroughly topsy-turvey fashion, the wrong end first. In particular, emotional and purposeful experience have been made to follow upon Hume’s impressions of sensation" (PR 246.13-16). In support of his view that the sensationalist principle concerns the datum of experience, Lindsey cites Adventures of Ideas, chapter 11, paragraph 7. But this passage concerns the ‘sensationalist doctrine,’ which contains both the subjectivist principle (see my discussion in the text, below), which does deal directly with the datum, and the sensationalist principle. The statement that summarizes the sensationalist principle says "that our emotional and purposive experience is a reflective reaction derived from the original perception . . ." (AI 228).

The view that this principle deals with the question of the subject’s activity in receiving data is further supported by the fact that Locke is said to have affirmed this principle, while Kant is said to have rejected it (PR 238.18-19, 23-25). Locke, of course, is famous for speaking of the mind as an ‘empty cabinet’ (cf. PR 83n, 84.30-32), while Kant thought of the mind as receiving the data from the outset in terms of certain subjective forms, e.g., ‘forms of intuition’ (cf. PR 111.23-26).

However, there is one passage which sup orts the view that the ‘sensationalist principle’ is concerned with the datum as such. In discussing Hume’s rejection of the objective actuality of the stone-image in the datum of experience, Whitehead says: "He is aware of ‘this sensation of greyness.’ What he has done is to assert arbitrarily the ‘subjectivist’ and ‘sensationalist’ principles as applying to the datum for experience: the notion ‘this sensation of greyness’ has no reference to any other actual entity" (PR 242.22-26). This passage seems to say that the sensationalist principle, as well as the subjectivist principle, involves the question of whether or not the datum of experience includes actualities. The proper interpretation, I believe, is that the sensationalist principle directly involves the issue of the subjective form of response to the datum, and indirectly involves the datum itself.

Discussions of the sensationalist principle directly concern the issue as to whether the subject’s initial response to its datum is devoid of a subjective form. The denial of this sensationalist principle does not strictly require the denial of the subjectivist principle and hence the affirmation of the direct objectification of actual entities. This is shown by the fact that Kant held the subjectivist principle and yet denied the sensationalist principle. However, the ‘subjective forms’ of response which Kant affirms are radically different from the ones which Whitehead has in mind in his own way of denying the sensationalist principle. For Kant, the subjective forms are conceptual forms, and ones which are not affirmed to be conformal to the things-in-themselves beyond the experience. But for Whitehead the subjective forms are first of all emotional forms, and ones which are thought to he conformal to the actual entities constituting the initial data of the experience. Hence, in regard to Whitehead’s own way of rejecting the sensationalist principle, the question of the nature of the datum is involved. The affirmation that the subject’s initial reaction to the datum involves subjective forms requires (for Whitehead’s particular way of affirming this) that this datum contain actual entities. The connection between the nonderivative status of subjective forms and the nature of the datum is shown clearly in the following statement: "Hume and Locke, with the overintellectualist bias prevalent among philosophers, assume that emotional feelings are necessarily derivative from sensations. This is conspicuously not the case; . . . . Emotions conspicuously brush aside sensations and fasten upon ‘particular’ objects to which -- in Locke’s phrase -- certain ‘ideas’ are ‘determined.’ The confinement of our prehension of other actual entities to the mediation of private sensations is pure myth. The converse doctrine is nearer the truth: the more primitive mode of objectification is via emotional tone, and only in exceptional organisms does objectification, via sensation, supervene with any effectiveness. We prehend other actual entities more primitively by direct mediation of emotional tone, and only secondarily and waveringly by direct mediation of sense" (PR 214.5-31). This explains why Whitehead can refer to the ‘sensationalist’ principle as applying to the datum (P11 242.23-25). ‘Sensations’ are data in the mode of presentational immediacy. The sensa which were felt in the mode of causal efficacy as emotional forms are transmuted by the mode of presentational immediacy into forms characterizing external nexus (PR 174.6-11, 446.16-33, 496.21-27). In this mode, i.e., as sensations, the emotional aspect tends to be played down in favor of the geometric aspect. Accordingly, we tend not to be conscious of the emotional nature of the sensa (PR 246.32-36, 247.3-5, 480.11-13). Hence, if sensations are taken to be the primary datum in the act of experience, it will be natural to think in terms of a bare entertainment of the datum and to assume that emotions arise only secondarily. Therefore, since Whitehead himself thinks of the fundamental subjective forms with which we receive the datum as emotional, he can regard the question of whether one is a sensationalist as virtually settled by one’s position on the nature of the primary datum of experience. Hence in the passage in question he could speak as if the sensationalist principle directly concerned the datum itself. But the example of Kant shows that one’s position on the datum does not completely settle the question as to whether one is a sensationalist, and thereby that the sensationalist principle does not directly concern the datum of experience, but the status of subjective forms of response to the datum.

Incidentally, this means that the term ‘sensationalist principle’ in the second sentence of the following passage must be erroneous: "Descartes held, with some flashes of inconsistency arising from the use of ‘realitas objectiva,’ the subjectivist principle as to the datum. But he also held that this mitigation of the sensationalist principle enabled the process’ within experience to include a sound argument for the existence of God" (PR 239.32-37. Since it is not the sensationalist principle, but the subjectivist principle, which is directly concerned with the issue as to whether there is any realitas objectiva (actual entity) in the datum of experience, Descartes’ occasional use of ‘realitas objectiva’ cannot he a mitigation of the sensationalist principle.

The passage would make sense if ‘sensationalist principle’ were changed either to ‘subjectivist principle’ or to ‘sensationalist doctrine.’ The fact that Descartes’ position was inconsistent, in that he only sometimes spoke of a realitas objectiva, would be a ‘mitigation’ of the subjectivist principle, i.e., that the datum of experience is exhaustively constituted by universals. Likewise, since the sensationalist doctrine includes the subjectivist principle as one of its two parts (and the one which is generally in view -- see note 2),it would equally be ‘mitigated’ by the occasional use of ‘realitus objectiva.’ (This suggested change is not included in the summary’ of the problems with my interpretation in comparison with Lindsey’s, since this point is not integral to the main points at issues.)

2 Of the 19 instances in PR of ‘sensationalism’ or ‘sensationalist’ (when it is followed by something other than ‘principle’), there are only three in which the sensationalist principle is centrally in view (PR 214.5-8, 221.19-22, and the definition of the sensationalist doctrine at 238.11). All of the other instances of ‘sensationalism’ or ‘sensationalist’ (as in ‘sensationalist doctrine’) have the ‘subjective principle’ primarily or exclusively in view (with the possible exception of PR viii. 25, which only’ mentions the doctrine). Here are some examples: (1) "Thus the philosophy of organism is . . . a doctrine of experience prehending actualities, in contrast with Hume’s sensationalist phenomenalism" (PR 114.24-28). (2) "Santayana would deny that ‘animal faith’ has in it any element of givenness. This denial is presumably made in deference to the sensationalist doctrine, that all knowledge of the external world arises by the mediation of private sensations" (PR 215.23-27). (3) "The philosophy’ of organism . . . rejects the sensationalist doctrine: hence its doctrine of the objectification of one actual occasion in the experience of another actual occasion" (P11 290.1-5). For the other instances, see PR 83, 89, 196, 205n, 220, 221, 223, 235, 237, 289, 371, and 379.

When Whitehead refers to Kant as a ‘sensationalist’ he has to have the ‘subjectivist principle’ not only primarily but exclusively in mind. For example, in discussing the fact that Locke sometimes affirmed a direct a p prehension of exterior things, Whitehead says: "The philosophy of organism here takes the opposite road to that taken alike by Descartes and by Kant. Both of these philosophers accepted (Descartes with hesitations, and Kant without question) the traditional subjectivist sensationalism, and assigned the intuition of ‘things without’ peculiarly to the intelligence" (PR 371.3-9). Here it is only the subjectivist principle which is in view. It is this principle about which Descartes has reservations (PR 117.29-36, 239.32-34). Most importantly, Kant is said to reject the sensationalist principle (as documented in note 1); so it can only be the subjectivist principle which he accepts "without question." This use of ‘sensationalism’ to refer exclusively’ to the subjectivist side of the sensationalist doctrine is shown also at PR 379.31-37, where Kant is considered a member of the "sensationalist school." The clearest example of this use is at PR 289.5-28, where Kant is discussed as one who accepted "the sensationalist’ doctrine concerning the analysis of the components which are together in experience." Again, since Kant rejects the sensationalist principle, Whitehead has to be thinking exclusively of the subjectivist principle when referring to Kant as an exponent of the sensationalist doctrine.

3 Of course, the subjectivist principle is also about the nature of reality as well as about the datum of experience, insofar as it is an unreformed version of the subjectivist principle, and thereby includes this more general principle.

4 The missing sentence indicated by the ellipsis reads: "But this doctrine fully accepts Descartes’ discovery that subjective experiencing is the primary metaphysical situation which is presented to metaphysics for analysis." Leaving out this sentence (which refers to the ‘subjective bias’) for the sake of clarity is justified, for the following sentence’s reference to ‘this doctrine’ is not a reference to the subjectivist bias. It is, rather, a reference back to the two previous sentences, to which the deleted sentence also referred with the words ‘this doctrine.’

5 See note 2.


Viewed 8636 times.