From William James, Essays in Radical Empiricism, 1912, pp22-25, from the essay: Does ‘Consciousness Exist?’
“The two collections, first of its cohesive, and, second, of its loose associative, inevitably come to be contrasted. We call the first collection the system of external realities, in the midst of which the room, as ‘real’, exists; the other we call the stream of our internal thinking, in which, as a ‘mental image’, it for a moment floats. The room thus again gets counted twice over. It plays two different roles, being Gedanke and Gedachtes, the thought-of-an-object, and the object-thought-of, both in one; and all this without paradox or mystery, just as the same material thing may be both low and high, or small and great, or bad and good, because of its relations to opposite parts on an environing world.
As ‘subjective’ we say the experience represents; as ‘objective’ it is represented. What represents and what is represented is here numerically the same; but we must remember that no dualism of being represented and representing resides in the experience per se. In its pure state, or when isolated, there is no self-splitting of it into consciousness and what the consciousness is ‘of’. Its subjectivity and objectivity are functional attributes solely, realized only when the experience is ‘taken’ i.e., talked-of, twice, considered along with its two differing contexts respectively, by a new retrospective experience, of which that whole past complication now forms the fresh content.
The instant field of the present is at all times what I call the ‘pure experience’. It is only virtually or potentially either object or subject as yet. For the time being, it is plain, unqualified actuality, or existence, a simple that. In this naïf immediacy it is of course valid; it is there, we act upon it, and the doubling of it in retrospection into a state of mind and a reality intended thereby, is just one of the acts. The ‘state of mind’, first treated explicitly, as such in retrospection, will stand corrected or confirmed, and the retrospective experience in its turn will get a similar treatment; but the immediate experience in its passing is always ‘truth’, practical truth, something to act on, at is own movement.
…Consciousness connotes a kind of external relation, and does not denote a special stuff or way of being. The peculiarity of our experiences, that they not only are, but are known, which their ‘conscious’ quality is invoked to explain, is better explained by their relations—these relations themselves being experiences—to one another.
Were I now to go on to treat of the knowing of perceptual by conceptual experiences, it would again prove to be an affair of external relations. One experience would be the knower, the other the reality known; and I could perfectly well define, without the notion of ‘consciousness’, what the knowing actually and practically amounts to—leaning towards, namely, and terminating-in percepts, through a series of transitional experiences which the world supplies.
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