Chapter 3: Physics and Psychics: The Place of Mind in Nature by Charles Hartshorne

Mind in Nature: the Interface of Science and Philosophy
by John B. and David R. Griffin Cobb, Jr.

Chapter 3: Physics and Psychics: The Place of Mind in Nature by Charles Hartshorne

Charles Hartshorne has taught philosophy primarily at the University of Chicago, Emory University, and the University of Texas; at the latter he is now Emeritus Ashbel Smith Professor of Philosophy.

Charles Peirce (1931, pars 1.252, 255) divided empirical science into two branches, physics and psychics, both terms being used broadly, so that physics includes astronomy, geology, etc., while psychics includes biology, sociology, linguistics, history, and so forth. Peirce distinguished psychics from physics by attributing to the former but not the latter the admission of final causes. He did not hold that the division between the two forms of knowledge expresses an absolute and ultimate distinction in the nature of things. As an ‘objective idealist’ he thought that it is in psychics not in physics that the universal principles are encountered. On his view, the ultimate constituents of nature are all at least sentient, and there are no cases of efficient causation entirely devoid of any teleological aspect. I shall argue in my own way for the ultimacy of the psychical account of nature.

In physics, what properties are assigned to natural processes? Or, what questions is the physicist seeking to answer? In part he is seeking to predict, and in this sense explain, our sense perceptions. But in order to do this he finds it sufficient to attribute to physical nature apart from our experiences a remarkably limited class of properties: geometrical (spatio-temporal) quantities and patterns and ways in which changes in the quantities and patterns in one process cause changes in the quantities and patterns of other processes. These are all structural (spatio-temporal-causal) properties, as contrasted with qualitative ones, e.g., blue, sweet, pleasant, as given in sensation. The difference between positive and negative electricity, or between high and low frequency waves, may seem, and in nature may be, partly qualitative; but physics as a theory of nature takes into account only the spatio-temporal aspects or consequences of such qualities, whatever the latter may be. Physics thinks of nature as causally related spatio-temporal geometrical structures. Qualities as such, what Peirce (1931, pars. 1.300-318) called monads, firsts, or ‘feeling qualities,’ are omitted from the account of things found in physics and chemistry, except for the methodological point that we detect the presence of the various magnitudes and spatio-temporal structures by our qualitative human sense perceptions, visual or tactual. Thus we detect long wave lengths of light by our perceptions of red and short ones by our perceptions of blue. But in principle, I presume, we could design a machine to do this detecting for us, and then the red and blue as sensory qualities would be dispensed with. It has been said that a blind man can understand the whole of physical science. And in any case, when a physicist discusses the velocity of light, or the red-shift which shows that the universe is expanding, he is talking about something that would be there in nature if there were no animals with sensations of color left. It is not an official doctrine of physics, whatever some philosophers or some physicists may hold, that nature is dependent upon man for its existence or basic properties. Here I agree with Popper, as well as Einstein, against some quantum physicists.

In psychics a much greater range of properties is dealt with. Spatio-temporal-causal properties -- the shapes, motions, bodily behavior and interactions of animals, plants, and other things -- are not ignored. But psychics asks questions going far beyond those put in physics: how or what does an animal feel, intend, think purpose, love, or hate? Also why does it move or behave as it does? Here ‘why’ connotes, as it does not in physics, "With what motive, intention, or purpose, or inspired or irritated by what pleasant or unpleasant sensation or memory?" Not a whisper of this is officially present in what physicists or chemists say about their subject matters, even though sometimes physicists, in intended metaphor, speak of the ‘excited’ or ‘satisfied’ states of atoms.

Thus we have two forms of inquiry, the one restricting itself to the study of behavior, the description of behavior being austerely limited to geometrical and arithmetical properties, and the other also studying behavior, but interpreting it as far more than merely that, and as having its meaning, and perhaps also in part its causal explanation, in terms of a large class of concepts excluded from the physicists’ explanations. A central question of our culture simply is, "What is the relation between these two forms of inquiry?" Either the additional concepts of psychics are ultimately relevant to the whole of nature, or they are not. If they are not relevant, then mere behavior, as causally conditioned spatio-temporal changes and nothing more, is the only universal principle, and what we learn by studying animals adds nothing (beyond unusual complexity or subtlety) to our concept of reality in general. At most, such study so interpreted shows us that one corner of nature is in some respects absolutely peculiar, revealing the introduction of unprecedented forms of reality not to be explained by anything found in the rest of nature. This hard dualism appeals to few scientists; so we need not be surprised that there is a tendency to insist that the additional psychical concepts are mere complications, or mere ‘emergent properties,’ which should not influence our basic conception of reality or knowledge.

The sense and degree to which psychologists are behaviorists gets its significance from the fact that, in studying animals, that is, the sort of thing that we ourselves are, we have a dual access to reality, which we do not have in studying inanimate nature. We know what it is like to be a person studying rocks or molecules, in a sense in which we do not know what it is like to be a rock or a molecule. By memory we can generalize about the nature of our own experience, and then by analogy form some conception of the nature of ape, canine, or porpoise experience. But, with a rock, all that we seem to have are our human perceptions of it, these perceptions being how the rock influences our psychophysical being under certain conditions. We know the rock ‘from the outside,’ ourselves ‘from the inside.’ We know animality by being an animal; we do not know inanimate nature by being inanimate. This is simple, but I believe it is not superficial.

Either we can learn something about nature at large by reflecting upon ourselves as samples of natural fact, or we cannot. I hold that dualists and materialists alike are in effect telling us that from animals we can learn only about animals, but not about gases, fluids, or minerals. Note that if it is conceivable that these thinkers are wrong, they are barring the path of inquiry. For, if we can learn from animals something important about inanimate nature, we can do it only by rejecting both dualism and materialism. The dualist says that the psychical aspect found in animals occurs only there, and the materialist, too, says this, adding, however, that even in animals it is nothing theoretically very crucial but is only a special case in the panorama of reality.

What is the third possibility? Obviously this, that the ‘additional’ factors (over and above mere behavior) that are dealt with in psychics but ignored in physics are in principle universally applicable, provided we conceive these factors in their fully generalized variables. Just as physics generalizes variables of movement so that they can apply not only to a human hunter and his fleeing prey, but also to stars, planets, atoms, and photons, so psychics needs to generalize such ideas as feeling, perceiving, remembering, anticipating, intending, liking and disliking, so that they can apply not only to animals, but even to the real individual constituents of the vegetable and mineral portions of nature.

Say what you please about this being a reversion to ‘primitive hylozoism,’ or ‘primitive animism,’ it remains true that it is one of the three options we confront (if we ignore mere subjectivism or positivism) and that the other two are also open to easy rejection. How popular is dualism among scientists? How many scientists or philosophers are really happy with materialistic monism? Psychical monism avoids the most obvious demerits of its two rivals. It is a monism, yet it is not a materialism. I am confident that in time these two advantages will reverse the contemporary fashion among some philosophers and some scientists of inclining toward materialism. We cannot remain mere dualists, for that means giving up the hope of universal explanatory principles; and we cannot agree upon the materialistic form of monism, not only because it is an attempt to explain away mind, but also because it leaves ‘matter’ essentially mysterious. Neither psychics nor physics can satisfy us so long as the former is taken to exhibit either a purely special case of general but merely physical principles, or a sheer exception to the general principles. Rather, what we now know as psychics is indeed a special case of the general principles. However, the principles themselves are not merely, or most basically, physical but are psychical in a generalized sense. On this view ‘mind’ is not confined to a corner of nature but is everywhere in it, just as behavior is. But mind is the substance, and mere behavior, in the sense of spatio-temporal change, is the shadow, the skeletal outline only, the causal geometry, of nature.

In asking about mind or the psychical in nature I am not asking only, or even chiefly, Where in nature is thinking going on? I am asking also, and more particularly, Where in nature is there feeling, perceiving, remembering, desiring, liking and disliking, not necessarily in the higher forms of these functions that we human beings are capable of, but in some form, however primitive and simple, however odd or strange, when compared to our human forms?

First I had better say something about what makes our human way of experiencing and thinking different from that of other animals. The key to our human superiority is, scientists agree, in our symbolic power, as shown in all human languages. What is sometimes called the ‘language’ of birds, or bees, or monkeys is a very different thing from any human language. There is nothing like grammatical structure, systematic ways of combining words into sentences and paragraphs, nothing like nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, pronouns. Grammar is uniquely human. Capacity for it is common to all races and both sexes, and that alone is enough to show what is wrong with racism and male chauvinism.

Psychology can study the behavior of animals and try to guess what forms of perception, emotion, memory, and perhaps learning or problem solving of simple kinds are going on in these creatures. But the question arises, Where is the lower boundary of this science of animal mind? There is a book on "the psychology of microorganisms." I believe the book justifies its title. If so, mind in a broad sense pervades the entire animal kingdom. But what about plants, and what about so-called inanimate nature, the rocks and other minerals, and the liquids and gases?

First the plants. Modern botany accepts the cell theory of living things. All living things that we can see without a microscope consist of many far smaller living things that we cannot see, each of which is an organized individual. Is there a psychology of single cells? They do react to stimuli, and they do organize their internal activities remarkably well. This is most obvious in single-celled animals and plants, but I believe it is a reasonable assumption in all cells. It follows that, even if it is right (and some dispute this) to deny feeling or sensation to a tree or flowering plant, still the cells of which trees or plants consist may feel, may enjoy their activities. In that case, mind in some form may pervade the entire kingdom of living things. I take this view, and so do some other philosophers and some scientists. But some of these (e.g., Cochran 1971) go further. They believe (with Wordsworth and Shelley) that mind is everywhere in nature, even in inanimate things.

What are the reasons for thinking that inanimate objects such as rocks and chairs are devoid of mind? I can see four reasons:

1. Their inertness, inactivity, motionlessness. They do not seem to do anything.

2. Their lack of freedom in the sense of initiative, creative departure from mere routine. The predictability of astronomical events is a good example. The sole motions seem wholly matters of routine, or statistical upshots of huge members of microevents, as in the sun’s corona.

3. Their lack of individuality in the sense of unity and uniqueness. If a chair has parts -- pieces of wood, metal, plastic, etc -- why assign feeling or memory, say, to the whole chair rather than to each piece of wood, each nail or screw? In non-living things visible to the naked eye there is no clear distinction between whole and part, and no dynamic unity, as though something like a sequence of experiences were influencing the parts.

4. Their lack of apparent intrinsic purpose.

These are four valid reasons for denying that rocks or chairs are individual cases of mind. But this is compatible with psychicalism, which asserts, not that all things are or have minds (as the word ‘panpsychism’ may seem literally to connote), but only that all concrete or physical things (a) are minds of some high or low kind, or (b) are composed of minds, and that only active singulars are individually sentient.

Macroscopic inanimate objects are now known to be not the unitary, simply solid, inactive things they appear to be, but rather collections of numerous distinct, highly active things (molecules, atoms, particles). And there is no evidence that such things are wholly devoid of initiative; what evidence there is suggests the opposite.

As for purpose, we must distinguish between conscious purposes, formulated conceptually and deliberately aiming at more or less remote future results, and primitive, short-run, naive intentions. For example, when a bird sits on eggs, this may have nothing to do with foresight of the potential fledglings. It may be that the animal merely feels like assuming this posture, feels comfortable in it, and when forced to leave the eggs has a desire to return to them. Even so, this is a genuine though short-run purpose. Much more naive cases can be imagined. Fully generalized, concern for the future is a variable with an enormous, indeed infinite, range. There may be purpose, or at least desires, referring only to a tiny fraction of a second ahead, just as there may be memories with similarly short-run effective scope toward the past. To know that an active singular represented no value on this variable we should have to have absolute knowledge such as only deity could have. And with Leibniz and Berkeley I see no reason why God should create such entities, nor what his knowledge of them could have in common with his knowledge of sentient creatures realizing values. The latter knowledge is sympathetic participation, the former could be nothing of the kind. In the philosophies of Peirce and Whitehead, and even more explicitly in mine, sympathy, ‘feeling of feeling,’ is an ultimate principle, applicable to deity and every other singular actuality.

It is worth noting, too, that Darwinism explains the seemingly purposiveness of organs and other inherited factors by natural selection operating between groups of individuals assumed to be striving to achieve various short-run objectives, as when the rabbit tries to mate or to escape the fox. Individual purposes are really implicit in the scheme all along, and what is explained is not purpose as such, but only how through many generations there has been a slow increase in the variety and complexity of the purposes. Mutations are indeed not, so far as we know, selected by any overall purpose favoring evolution; but this is compatible with there being short-run and very naive purposes, desires, or feelings in the atoms and molecules constituting the genes, as well as in every cell and every metazoan with a nervous system.

Cosmic teleology may be seen in the basic laws which evolutionary explanation assume and which made possible the glorious ‘web of life’ of which Darwin so wonderfully speaks. But the laws are statistical; they are not Newtonian or classical. They explain how the details of evolution were possible, not why precisely those details occurred. Biology is a fantastically unpredictive science, and this is no mere matter of complexity. I hold that it is absurd in principle to think of predicting details of animal behavior (not to mention animal feelings). Even Skinner is not really doing that. The illusion that he is doing it arises partly from not taking seriously the full meaning of ‘details.’ Tell him the kind of action you want the pigeon to perform and he may give what you ask; but by details I do not mean a kind of action, but the precise unique movements.

What are the advantages of giving up the notion of mere dead, mindless physical things? Are there any advantages to scientists? With Leibniz I suspect that the main advantages of the doctrine are philosophical, in enabling us to arrive at a view of life and nature in which the results of science are given their significance along with the values with which art, ethics, and religion are concerned. In a list of advantages that could be given, some would be relevant to strictly philosophical, religious, aesthetic and ethical issues. The partial list given here will be limited to some advantages which are of relevance to scientists as well as philosophers:

1. We get rid of the problem, "How could mere matter produce life and minds?" Instead, the problem is only, "How did higher types of mind develop out of lower types?" But we have that problem anyway in the evolution of animals. So we have reduced two problems to one.

2. We do justice to the fact, which strikes nearly every scientist, that between so-called ‘lifeless’ matter and primitive forms of living matter there is only a relative difference, not an absolute one. Science thinks of life as a complication of what was there all along. On the view I am defending, this is correct. In principle, life (in a generalized sense) and mind were there all along, but in primitive forms, much more primitive even than in a single plant cell.

3. Psychicalism has the signal advantage, hinted at by Francis Bacon, that it can construe causal connectedness of events in terms of generalized concepts of memory and perception. Materialism and dualism lack these resources and are in Hume’s predicament about causality. Memory and perception are effects whose causes are intrinsically given to them. These are our only clues to the intelligible connectedness of events.

4. A special case of psychicalism’s advantage in understanding causal relations is its ability to do what many scientists and philosophers have despaired of doing, give some explanation of how mind and body are related in animals. Why is it that one’s thoughts and feelings vary with changing states of one’s body, and why is it that with changing states of one’s mind one’s body also changes? If one suffers some terrible disappointment, it may make one physically sick; and if one catches a disease one may become delirious and think and feel in strange ways.

Take the case of pain. We have this feeling if certain cells of ours undergo damage. But if the cells have their own feelings, they can hardly enjoy being damaged. So what is our suffering but our participating in their suffering? Hurt certain of my cells and you hurt me. Hurt my friend and you hurt me. My cells are the friends I have always with me and always care about, whereas my other friends I may be separated from and may forget or learn to dislike. The mind-body relation, I suggest, as Plato hinted long ago, is a relation of sympathy; it is the most instinctive of all forms of sympathy, the form we are born with and do not have to learn. I seriously believe, and not alone I, that this is the key to the influence of body upon mind. There is mind on both sides of the relation, but mind on very different levels. The gap between the levels is crossed by a kind of sympathy. We share in the emotional life of our cells. That is why, in good health, we can have a feeling of wellbeing. Our cells are enjoying themselves, and our sense of the goodness of being alive is partly our vague sense of the goodness of their lives for them. This is how the bodily cells influence our feelings.

"But why," you may ask, "do our feelings influence the bodily cells?" I answer, "By sympathy in the reverse direction." We in our human way share in the subhuman emotional life of cells; they in their subhuman way share in our emotional life. Since cells are limited creatures, compared to us, the vagueness I just spoke of in our sense of cellular feelings must be much more extreme in the cell’s sense of our feelings. The higher type of mind can have better grasp of lower types than lower types can have of higher types. That is why we human beings have science and other creatures do not.

I admit one possible objection. Scientists do not much like the idea of mind influencing body. ‘Interaction’ is the name given to this doctrine. It would be simpler for physiology if one could suppose that physical activities in the body are entirely uninfluenced by our thoughts and feelings. I am not impressed by this argument, since I think that nature is not constructed for the convenience of physiologists. And one still has to find some way to relate our experiences to physiological facts.

5. We solve the problem which Berkeley saw so clearly of relating primary and secondary qualities in the scheme of things. The primary qualities are abstract causal-geometrical relationships; the secondary qualities are more concrete and apply to the terms standing in these relationships. They give something of the internal natures of events, whereas causal geometry only relates events to other events. Psychicalism holds that something more or less like our secondary qualities are in all active singulars.

6. Including, as one should, the more objective of the so-called tertiary or value qualities with the secondary (the two are really inseparable), we can give a psychical account of the relation between perception and behavior and go part of the way toward answering the question "Why?" of behavior. Thus, why do animals tend to eat sweet things and avoid bitter tasting things? Because these qualities are intrinsically emotional, the one positively, the other negatively, reinforcing eating. To taste something as sweet is already an incipient acceptance of it, to taste it as bitter is an incipient rejection of it. This account can be connected, as I have shown elsewhere (Hartshorne 1934, pp. 243-266), with relevant facts of physiology and evolutionary biology. But mere physics cannot include such an account.

7. Carlyle said, "To know is to sympathize." It is arguable that at least knowledge of our friends, and even of our enemies, is of this nature. The doctrine of mere matter, mere mindless and feeling-less stuff or process, puts a limit to the things with which we can sympathize. But the psychicalist view holds that physical nature is mind in other than human forms with which we have more or less mutual participation. A great physicist once said to me, "To understand an atom you must sympathize with it." Perhaps he knew what he was talking about. This man understands molecular structure so well that he has been called ‘Mr. Molecule.’

Wright, Thorpe, Zucker, and Waddington ask what psychicalism could contribute methodologically to scientific work. My view is that the help natural science can derive from a current philosophy is largely for the future to disclose. A philosophical insight implies a program of empirical research for a thousand or five thousand years. Parmenides and Zeno produced Democritus with his atoms, and after twenty centuries Dalton, Lobachewsky, Planck, and others began to find something like the right way to conceive the smaller active constituents. However, I do think a few examples can be given even now.

Even if science is necessarily limited to a purely behavioristic view of its results (which I do not grant), psychicalism can at least have heuristic value. As a minor illustration: I have written two books (The Philosophy and Psychology of Sensation, 1934 and Born to Sing, 1973) which, with all their faults (especially apparent to me in the earlier work), contain pointers, I believe, by which competent investigators might be helped to deal with some problems in psycho-physiology and in the study of animal behavior. In both cases psychicalistic ideas were useful in arriving at some empirical facts, for example, about the composite nature of ‘loudness’ as a variable of sense experience (Hartshorne 1934, pp. 61-72), or the biological significance of ‘highly developed’ bird song, or of contrast and uncertainty in the sequence of songs or phrases (Hartshorne 1973, pp. 106-112, 117f, 119-136, 151-188).

In a recent issue of the journal Behavior there are two articles (Baker 1973; Dawkins 1973) making positive use of one feature of process philosophy, its concept of creative novelty transcending causal determinateness other than statistical. Process philosophy is not referred to, but it is that philosophy which best fits what these investigators are doing.

It is arguable that, had Einstein known a metaphysics more favorable to quantum physics than the Spinozism and other similar doctrines influencing him, he might not have spent the latter decades of his life vainly attempting to recover the absolute ‘incarnate reason’ of classical causality which had been made irrelevant by twentieth-century discoveries, including his own. Materialism and unqualified mechanism seem no longer helpful, even in physics.

The greatest geneticist I have known (Sewall Wright) believes with me that there is nothing in all nature except mind on various levels. The greatest two philosophers of recent times, on my criteria, also believed this. So have many other fine intellects. I am proud to be in their company. We are not a majority, but an elite minority.

It is in order to ask why a view with so many advantages should be a minority view. There are several possible explanations. (a) I have already discussed the primary one: since, owing to the limited resolving power of our perceptions, the sentience of most of nature is hidden from our direct and distinct experience, it was natural enough for early civilized man to form the division of nature into animal, vegetable, and mineral or inanimate. Crystallizing into common sense, and backed by Aristotle, the view acquired massive inertia which lasts to this day. (b) It was also strengthened and seemingly confirmed by the Newtonian period in science which, like Greek atomism, but even mote so, did indeed view matter in terms contradictory to psychical conceptions of it. The fact that science has now destroyed the Newtonian framework (so far as relevant to the issue we are discussing) seems not to have been properly grasped by most philosophers, though Whitehead (1926) has spelled out the story with great power. (c) When Darwinism destroyed the old teleology (which never was a good form of psychicalism, since it implied that the divine psyche was the only one that decided anything), biology seemed to confirm the prejudice against attributing purpose or other psychical factors to nature in general. But since more than one of the leading living Darwinians hold the psychical view, this reason can scarcely be conclusive against psychicalism as such. And indeed it is not logically relevant to that issue, but only to the question, Just what form of psychicalism is worth considering? (d) Science and philosophy alike require constant vigilance against the danger of anthropomorphism. It is easy to caricature psychicalism so that it looks like an anthropomorphism. We psychicalists are accused of attributing human traits to the subhuman, yes, even to the inanimate. In fact we attribute not a single specifically human trait even to apes, let alone to atoms. We do not say that apes or atoms remember, perceive, or know as human beings remember, perceive and know. Yet there is evidence that apes do remember, perceive, and know. In the broadest behavioral sense, remembering is taking account in present action of past events (experience) within the individual in question; perceiving is taking account in present action of past events in the environment. Even atoms take at least the immediate past into account; for if they did not there could be no causal account of their behavior. Therefore, the psychicalist holds, they either remember or perceive or both. (For good reasons it is perception, not memory, that is to be thought of as strictly universal. In the first experience of a new individual, memory must by definition be lacking; insofar as electrons and the like lack enduring individual identity, neither can they remember. But they must perceive, take account of, past events around them.)

I believe the charge of anthropomorphism can with good reason be reversed. Those who say that, apart from the specifically human forms, or the specifically mammalian or animal forms, nature is devoid of psychical traits altogether are indeed exaggerating the role of man or manlike creatures in the world. They are saying that our kind of creature introduces mind as such into nature. Apart from us and our kind there is nothing with intrinsic life, feeling, value, or any sort whatever. Is this not in a class with the idea that our planet is at the center of the universe? Behaviorists point to the public observability of behavior compared to mind taken as something more than just behavior. But if science officially limits itself to behavior, this does not mean that unofficially we cease to acknowledge, in ourselves at least, such qualities as pleasure, pain, sweetness, sourness, fragrance, happiness, joy, sorrow, love, and hate. If we refuse to grant anything generically (of course not specifically) like these to other creatures, we are indeed self-centered or anthropomorphic, whatever we may say.

A version of the charge of anthropomorphism is the objection (urged, e.g., by Dobzhansky) that psychicalism takes a special late form of reality and imputes it also to earlier forms (the charge of ‘preformationism’). But this begs the question, which is precisely whether mind as such or in general is a special form of reality. Animal mind is indeed a special form. But as the psychicalist uses the words, mind, or the psychical, is an infinite variable, coextensive in range with ‘active singulars,’ and what is not an active singular he takes to be an aggregate of singulars or else an abstraction there-from. Viewed from without, or through the sense organs, the psychical appears as behavior, but from within, or in itself, it is feeling, memory, anticipation, and the like. On the higher levels only does it include what we normally mean by ‘thought’ or ‘consciousness.’ Lower creatures feel but scarcely know or think, and if we speak of them as conscious, as Wright does, we stretch the sense of the word. This can be done, but then we need another word to distinguish high-level, thoughtful, cognitive experience or feeling from mere experience or feeling. The verbal confusion arises because in adult human beings, feelings are always more or less thoughtful or conscious. But how far is a baby ‘conscious’ of its feelings? Does it not simply feel, without judging how it feels, which is what ‘conscious’ normally connotes? (e) The disinclination of many to accept psychicalism probably arises partly from the immense demands which the doctrine make upon one’s imagination. How are we to imagine feelings as different from ours as an atom is from our bodies? However, since physicists now agree that the structural aspects of atoms are unimaginable, though mathematically expressible, I wonder if this ground of objection retains any validity. Once more I suggest that the ‘pathetic fallacy’ is to be balanced against the possibility of a ‘prosaic fallacy’: supposing the world to be as tame as our sluggish convention-ridden imaginations imply (f) An objection sometimes raised to the doctrine of psychicalism is that it seems to violate the valid principle that concepts must express contrast. If ‘mind,’ at least as ‘feeling,’ applies everywhere, do not these concepts lose all distinctive meaning? However, as Leibniz showed, two contrasts remain: that between active singulars and groups of these, only the former of which literally feel; and that between low and high levels or degrees of feeling, or minding. Thus contrast is preserved. This logical discovery of Leibniz seems insufficiently appreciated.


Since the only non-question-begging reason for denying feelings to some parts of nature is their lack (for our direct perception) of signs of activity, individual unity, initiative, and purpose, and since physics and chemistry have demonstrated how limited in penetration our mere sense perceptions are, how radically they fail to disclose what is really there in nature, it follows that the entire traditional foundation for materialism and dualism alike has been destroyed by the advance of knowledge. These doctrines are based on imputing to sense perception an adequacy for direct disclosure of the secrets of nature which we now know it does not have. There is no part of nature which we know or could know to be lacking entirely in any of the four respects mentioned. Consequently the concept of ‘mere dead insentient matter’ is an appeal to invincible ignorance. At no time will this expression ever constitute knowledge. Long ago Leibniz saw this with wonderful clarity, but he hid the importance of his insight by interweaving it with some of the most extraordinary fantasies in intellectual history, as well as with the consequences of some pseudo-axioms that he for the first time conceived with full sharpness so that their logical implications were apparent. The reactions of many scholars to this dazzling mixture have been a revealing test of their naivete in metaphysics. Some have defended it as not necessarily untrue in essentials; most have attacked it as so incredible that we have little to learn from it except how far one great mind managed to go ingeniously wrong. Yet the truth, as I see it, is that, in spite of some fundamental blunders, Leibniz took the greatest single step in the second millennium of philosophy (in East and West) toward a rational analysis of the concept of physical reality.


Baker, M. C. 1973. "Stochastic Properties of the Foraging Behavior of Six Species of Migratory Shorebirds." Behavior 45:24 1-270.

Cochran, A. A. 1971. "Relationships Between Quantum Physics and Biology." Foundations of Physics 1:235-249.

Dawkins, R. and M. 1973. "Decisions and the Uncertainty of Behavior." Behavior 45:83-103. Hartshorne, C. 1934. The Philosophy and Psychology of Sensation. University of Chicago Press (reprinted by Kennikat Press, 1968).

Hartshorne, C. 1973. Born to Sing: an Interpretation and World Survey of Bird Song. Indiana University Press.

Peirce, C. S. 1931. The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Edited by C. Hartshorne and P. Weiss. Harvard University Press.

Whitehead, A. N. 1926. Science and the Modern World. Macmillan.

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