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THEORETIC AND PRACTICAL ACTIVITY
THE intuitive and intellective forms exhaust, as we have said, all the theoretic form of the spirit. But it is not possible to know them thoroughly, nor to criticize another series of erroneous æsthetic theories, without first establishing clearly their relations with another form of the spirit, which is the practical form.
This form or practical activity is the will. The will. We do not employ this word here in the sense of any philosophical system, in which the will is the foundation of the universe, the principle of things and the true reality. Nor do we employ it in the ample sense of other systems, which understand by will the energy of the spirit, the spirit or activity in general, making of every act of the human spirit an act of will. Neither such metaphysical nor such metaphorical meaning is ours. For us, the will is, as generally accepted, that activity of the spirit, which differs from the mere
The will as an ulterior stage in respect to knowledge.
Objections and elucidations.
theoretical contemplation of things, and is pro-
Man understands things with the theoretical form, with the practical form he changes them ; with the one he appropriates the universe, with the other he creates it. But the first form is the basis of the second; and the relation of double degree, which we have already found existing between æsthetic and logical activity, is repeated between these two on a larger scale. Knowledge independent of the will is thinkable; will independent of knowledge is unthinkable. Blind will is not will; true will has eyes.
How can we will, without having before us historical intuitions (perceptions) of objects, and knowledge of (logical) relations, which enlighten us as to the nature of those objects? How can we really will, if we do not know the world which surrounds us, and the manner of changing things by acting upon them?
It has been objected that men of action, practical men in the eminent sense, are the
least disposed to contemplate and to theorize : their energy is not delayed in contemplation, it rushes at once into will. And conversely, that contemplative men, philosophers, are often very mediocre in practical matters, weak willed, and therefore neglected and thrust aside in the tumult of life. It is easy to see that these distinctions are merely empirical and quantitative. Certainly, the practical man has no need of a philosophical system in order to act, but in the spheres where he does act, he starts from intuitions and concepts which are most clear to him. Otherwise he could not will the most ordinary actions. It would not be possible to will to feed oneself, for instance, without knowledge of the food, and of the link of cause and effect between certain movements and certain organic sensations. Rising gradually to the more complex forms of action, for example to the political, how could we will anything politically good or bad, without knowing the real conditions of society, and consequently the means and expedients to be adopted? When the practical man feels himself in the dark about one or more of these points, or when he is seized with doubt, action either does not begin or stops. It is then that the theoretical moment, which in the rapid succession of human actions is hardly noticed and
Critique of practical judgments or judgments of value.
rapidly forgotten, becomes important and occupies consciousness for a longer time. And if this moment be prolonged, then the practical man may become Hamlet, divided between desire for action and his small amount of theoretical clarity as regards the situation and the means to be employed. And if he develop a taste for contemplation and discovery, and leave willing and acting, to a more or less great extent, to others, there is formed in him the calm disposition of the artist, of the man of science, or of the philosopher, who are sometimes unpractical or altogether blameworthy. These observations are all obvious. Their exactitude cannot be denied. Let us, however, repeat that they are founded on quantitative distinctions and do not disprove, but confirm the fact that an action, however slight it be, cannot really be an action, that is, an action that is willed, unless it be preceded by cognoscitive activity.
Some psychologists, on the other hand, place before practical action an altogether special class of judgments, which they call practical judgments or judgments of value. They say that in order to resolve to perform an action, it is necessary to have judged: "this action is useful, this action is good." And at first sight this
seems to have the testimony of consciousness on its side. But he who observes better and analyses with greater subtlety, discovers that such judgments follow instead of preceding the affirmation of the will; they are nothing but the expression of the already exercised volition. A good or useful action is an action that is willed, It will always be impossible to distil from the objective study of things a single drop of usefulness or goodness. We do not desire things because we know them to be good or useful; but we know them to be good and useful, because we desire them. Here too, the rapidity with which the facts of consciousness follow one another has given rise to an illusion. Practical action is preceded by knowledge, but not by practical knowledge, or better by the practical : to obtain this, it is first necessary to have practical action. The third moment, therefore, of practical judgments, or judgments of value, is altogether imaginary. It does not come between the two moments moments or degrees of theory and practice. That is why there exist no normative sciences in general, which regulate or command, discover and indicate values to the practical activity; because there is none for any other activity, assuming every science already realized