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A Review
Chapter VI
William James'
Some Problems of Philosophy
by Doug Renselle
Doug's Pre-review Commentary
Start of Review

ISM Extremes

Dedication Introduction Note


Move to any Chapter of William James' Some Problems of Philosophy,
or to beginning of its review via this set of links
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Chapter VI.............Percept and Concept
Some Corollaries


(Most quotes verbatim William James, some paraphrased.)

(Relevant to Pirsig, William James Sidis, and Quantonics Thinking Modes.)


"The first corollary of the conclusions of the foregoing chapter is that the tendency known in philosophy as empiricism, becomes confirmed. Empiricism proceeds from parts to wholes, treating the parts as fundamental both in the order of being and in the order of our knowledge. In human experience the parts are percepts, built out into wholes by our conceptual additions. The percepts are singulars that change incessantly and never return exactly as they were before. This brings an element of concrete novelty into our experience. This novelty finds no representation in the conceptual method, for concepts are abstracted from experiences already seen or given, and he who uses them to divine the new can never do so but in ready-made and ancient terms." Yes, but we must show preference for evolutionary empiricism, vis-à-vis inductive empiricism.

If we assume both parts are in wholes and wholes are in parts. This is essence of quantum reality. They are not separable from one another as classical reality's model suggests.

We would say, "The percepts are quantons..."

Genesis: classical denial of evolution, de jure.

(Our bold and color emphasis.)

"Whatever actual novelty the future may contain (and the singularity and individuality of each moment makes it novel) escapes conceptual treatment altogether. Properly speaking, concepts are postmortem preparations, sufficient only for retrospective understanding; and when we use them to define the universe prospectively we ought to realize that they can give only a bare abstract outline or approximate sketch, in the filling out of which perception must be invoked.

"Rationalistic philosophy has always aspired to a rounded-in view of the whole of things, a closed system of kinds, from which the notion of essential novelty being possible is ruled out in advance. For empiricism, on the other hand, reality cannot be thus confined by a conceptual ring-fence. It overflows, exceeds, and alters. It may turn into novelties, and can be known adequately only by following its singularities from moment to moment as our experience grow"

(James' parenthetical.) (Our bold emphasis.)

Here, we see James' quantum intuition! Quantum reality's quantons, "overflow, exceed, and alter."
However, we deny their singularity, i.e., in a classical sense of 'singularity.'

"Empiricist philosophy thus renounces the pretension to an all-inclusive vision. It ekes out the narrowness of personal experience by concepts which it finds useful but not sovereign; but it stays inside the flux of life expectantly, recording facts, not formulating laws, and never pretending that man's relation to the totality of things as a philosopher is essentially different from his relation to the parts of things as a daily patient or agent in the practical current of events. Philosophy, like life, must keep the doors and windows open.

"In the remainder of this book we shall hold fast to this empiricist view. We shall insist that, as reality is created temporally day by day, concepts, although a magnificent sketchmap for showing us our bearings, can never fitly supersede perception, and that the 'eternal' systems which [concepts] form should least of all be regarded as realms of being to know which is a kind of knowing that casts the knowledge of particulars altogether into the shade. That rationalist assumption is quite beside the mark. Thus does philosophy prove again that essential identity with science which we argued for in our first chapter."

Pirsig handles this aspect of empiricism in his MoQ by saying DQ is unknown and unknowable in its absolute completeness. As soon as one might 'know' DQ, it will have changed, massively. Thus Pirsig's empiricism, like James', is evolutionary empiricism.

Quantons' doors and windows are open!

Our quantons resolve this issue by commingling and coinsiding percepts and concepts as quantons, e.g., quanton(percepts,concepts). James appears to revert to classicism in his dichon(percept, concept).

I.e., both philosophy and sciences' systems themselves are empirically evolutionary and thus innately provisional.
(Our bold emphasis, our bracketed term.)
101 "The last paragraph does not mean that concepts and the relations between them are not just as 'real' in their 'eternal' way as percepts are in their temporal way. What is it to be 'real'? The best definition I know is that which the pragmatist rule gives: 'anything is real of which we find ourselves obliged to take account in any way.' Concepts are real as percepts, for we cannot live a moment without taking account of them. But the 'eternal' kind of being which they enjoy is inferior to the temporal kind, because it is so static and schematic and lacks so many characters which temporal reality possesses. Philosophy must thus recognize many realms of reality which mutually interpenetrate."

(Our bold emphasis.)

We tend to generalize this, i.e., extended it beyond anthropocentricity. As an example, a coconut floating in an ocean 'knows' not to extend its roots until it 'lands.' We might reword James' rule thus, "anything is real of which quantons find themselves obliged to take account in any way." Humanity is just one generic 'subclass' of unlimited 'classes' of quantons in reality.

More of James' own quantum intuition. Did he pass this on to William James Sidis?


"The conceptual systems of mathematics, logic, aesthetics, ethics, are such realms, each strung upon some peculiar form of relation, and each differing from perceptual reality in that in no one of them is history or happening displayed. Perceptual reality involves and contains all these ideal systems, and vastly more besides.

"A concept, it was said above, means always the same thing: Change means always change, white always white, a circle always a circle. On this self-sameness of conceptual objects the static and 'eternal' character of our systems of ideal truth is based; for a relation, once perceived to obtain, must obtain always, between terms that do not alter. But many persons find difficulty in admitting that a concept used in different contexts can be intrinsically the same. When we call both snow and paper 'white' it is supposed by these thinkers that there must be two predicates in the field."

(Our bold emphasis.)

Yes! See our One is the Oneliest.

More quantum intuition! No two quantons are identical! Aristotelian syllogistic identity is a classical ruse! Did William James Sidis share this quantum epiphany?

"As James Mill says:

'Every colour is an individual colour, every size is an individual size, every shape is an individual shape. But things have no individual colour in common, no individual shape in common; no individual size in common; that is to say, they have neither shape, colour, nor size in common. What, then, is it which they have in common which the mind can take into view? Those who affirmed that it was something, could by no means tell. They substituted words for things; using vague and mystical phrases, which, when examined, meant nothing.'

"The truth, according to this nominalist author, is that the only thing that can be possessed in common by two objects is the same name. Black in the coat and black in the shoe are the same in so far forth as both shoe and coat are called black the fact that on this view the name can never twice be the 'same' being quite overlooked. What now does the concept 'same' signify? Applying, as usual, the pragmatic rule, we find that when we call two objects the same we mean either (a) that no difference can be found between them when compared, or (b) that we can substitute the one for the other in certain operations without changing the result. If we are to discuss sameness profitably we must bear these pragmatic meanings in mind."

(Our bold emphasis.)

(See The Sciences, Sep/Oct 1997 issue, 'Tiny Doubles,' by Hans Christian von Baeyer, pp. 11-13)

In our opinion, 'same' is 'iso,' or 'equals.' It derives from Aristotle's syllogistic identity ruse (i.e., A = A).

James' (a), in general, is impossible (see Aristotle link above). (b) needs modification to: "that we can often substitute the one for the other in certain operations without apparently changing the result." However, in general, (b) too is impossible. Bear these in mind.
104 "Do then the snow and the paper show no difference in color? And can we use them indifferently in operations? They may certainly replace each other for reflecting light, or be used indifferently as backgrounds to set off anything dark, or serve as equally good samples of what the word 'white' signifies. But the snow may be dirty, and the paper pinkish or yellowish without ceasing to be called 'white'; or both snow and paper in one light may differ from their own selves in another and still be 'white,' so the no-difference criterion seems to be at fault. This physical difficulty (which all house painters know) of matching two tints so exactly as to show no difference seems to be the sort of fact that nominalists have in mind when they say that our ideal meanings are never twice the same. Must we therefore admit that such a concept as 'white' can never keep exactly the same meaning?" (Our bold emphasis.)

Yes! And similarly, a concept of 'one' can never keep exactly its same 'meaning' from use to use or from Planck moment to Planck moment.
105 "It would be absurd to say so, for we know that under all the modifications wrought by changing light, dirt, impurity in pigment, etc., there is an element of color-quality, different from other color-qualities, which we mean that our word shall inalterably signify. The impossibility of isolating and fixing this quality physically is irrelevant, so long as we can isolate and fix it mentally, and decide that whenever we say 'white,' that identical quality, whether applied rightly or wrongly, is what we shall be held to mean. Our meanings can be the same as often as we intend to have them so, quite irrespective of whether what is meant be a physical possibility or not. Half the ideas we make use of are of impossible or problematic things, zeros, infinites, fourth dimensions, limits of ideal perfection, forces, relations sundered from their terms, or terms defined only conceptually, by their relations to other terms which may be equally fictitious. 'White' means a color quality of which the mind appoints the standard, and which it can decree to be there under all physical disguises." (Our bold emphasis.) Reader, whenever you see words like, 'absurd,' 'unreasonable,' 'contradictory,' etc., know that you are listening to one who is at least partially encumbered by their legacy classical thinking methods, CTMs. By 'inalterably' we presume James intends 'unambiguously.' Yet he has already shown, on page 104, how white-yellow or white-pink may be called either yellow or pink in addition to 'white.' Further, different sensors (i.e., eyes), see colors differently (e.g., quasi-extreme case of color blindness).

Too, his statement re: "...impossibility of isolating and fixing this quality physically is irrelevant..." shows a classical predilection over what we thought we saw as some quantum intuition on his part. In quantum reality 'quality' is Pirsigean Value. Quality is interrelationships among patterns of Value. Quality varies with interrelationships and Planck interval. 'White' is an uncertainty interrelationship among patterns of Value. So, "The impossibility of isolating and fixing this quality physically is" extremely relevant to one's own quantum intuition of reality. (Did James' program WJS with this ilk?)

"Isolating and fixing" 'white' is just another classical concept isolated from its complementary percept.

"That white is always the same white. What sense can there be in insisting that although we ourselves have fixed it as the same, it cannot be the same twice over? It works perfectly for us on the supposition that it is there self-identically; so the nominalist doctrine is false of things of that conceptual sort, and true only of things in the perceptual flux.

"What I am affirming here is the platonic doctrine that concepts are singulars, that concept-stuff is inalterable, and that physical realities are constituted by the various concept-stuffs of which they 'partake.' It is known as 'logical realism' in the history of philosophy; and has usually been more favored by rationalistic than by empiricist minds. For rationalism, concept-stuff is primordial and perceptual things are secondary in nature. The present book, which treats concrete percepts as primordial and concepts as of secondary origin, may be regarded as somewhat eccentric in its attempt to combine logical realism with an otherwise empiricist mode of thought."

Now we see James is speaking tongue-in-cheek. He is pretending classicism in several of its guises.

Whew! Mr. James, you had us worried! But not to fear! William James is an MoQite and like Pirsig an intuitive quantum mechanic.

James tells us this book of his inverts (vis-à-vis classical dogma) truth (dialectic) and Value (rhetoric) just as Pirsig's MoQ does:

Classicism: Truth over Value Concept over Percept
James: Value over Truth Percept over Concept
Pirsig: Value over Truth Percept over Concept

Note: Classicism's and Pirsig's duals for James' Percept and Concept are Subject and Object, respectively. James' duals for Pirsig's Value and Truth are roughly Percept and Concept. As James so eloquently explains, a classical model of reality is immutable, where both James' and Pirsig's models of reality include absolute mutability: James' as 'flux,' and Pirsig's as 'Dynamic Quality.'

107 "I mean by this that they are made of the
same kind of stuff, and melt into each other when we handle them together. How could it be otherwise when the concepts are like evaporations out of the bosom of perception, into which they condense again whenever practical service summons them? No one can tell, of the things he now holds in his hand and reads, how much comes in through his eyes and fingers, and how much, from his apperceiving intellect, unites with that and makes of it this particular 'book'? The universal and the particular parts of the experience are literally immersed in each other, and both are indispensable. Conception is not like a painted hook, on which no real chain can be hung; for we hang concepts upon percepts, and percepts upon concepts interchangeably and indefinitely; and the [inter]relation of the two is much more like what we find in those cylindrical 'panoramas' in which a painted background continues a real foreground so cunningly that one fails to detect the joint."
(Our bold emphasis. Our bracketed 'inter.')

Superb quantum intuition! He describes quanton(universal,particular)! He describes co-immersion, coinsidence!

In quantum reality, SOM's knife has never made its cut, so there is, "no joint!" 6Apr2000 Doug.

"The world we practically live in is one in which it is impossible, except by theoretic retrospection, to disentangle the contributions of intellect from those of sense. They are wrapt and rolled together as a gunshot in the mountains is wrapt and rolled in fold on fold of echo and reverberative clamor. Even so do intellectual reverberations enlarge and prolong the perceptual experience which they envelop, associating it with remoter parts of existence. And the ideas of these in turn work like those resonators that pick out partial tones in complex sounds. They help us to decompose our percept into parts and to abstract and isolate its elements.

"The two mental functions thus play into each other's hands. Perception prompts our thought, and thought in turn enriches our perception. The more we see, the more we think; while the more we think, the more we see in our immediate experiences, and the greater grows the detail and the more significant the articulateness of our perception."

We visualize his words here as equivalent to Dawkins' meme.

"Later, when we come to treat of causal activity, we shall see how practically momentous is this enlargement of the span of our knowledge through the wrapping of our percepts in ideas. It is the whole coil and compound of both by which effects are determined, and they may then be different effects from those to which the perceptual nucleus would by itself give rise. But the point is a difficult one and at the present stage of our argument this brief mention of it must suffice.

"Readers who by this time agree that our conceptual systems are secondary and on the
whole imperfect and ministerial forms of being, will now feel able to return and embrace the flux of their hourly experience with a hearty feeling that, however little of it at a time be given, what is given is absolutely real."

We would change James' 'effects' to 'affects' to effuse a more quantum and less classical tenor. I.e., preconditions influence outcomes (quantum) vis-à-vis preconditions determine outcomes (classical).

"Rationalistic thought, with its exclusive interest in the unchanging and the general, has always de-realized the passing pulses of our life. It is no small service on empiricism's part to have exercised rationalism's veto, and reflectively justified our instinctive feeling about immediate experience. 'Other world?' says Emerson, 'there is no other world,' than this one, namely, in which our several biographies are founded.

'Natur hat weder Kern noch Schale;
Alles ist sie mit einem male.
Dich prüfe du nur allermeist,
Ob du Kern oder Schale seist.'

"The belief in the genuineness of each particular moment in which we feel the squeeze of this world's life, as we actually do work here, or work is done upon us, is an Eden from which rationalists seek in vain to expel us, now that we have criticized their state of mind.

"But they still make one last attempt, and charge us with self-stultification."

We continue to be amazed at James' intuitions! His use of 'squeeze' here is very quantum! Quantum reality tends to do a kind of coherent squeezing of contexts to perform many (to classicists) phenomenal miracles. Quantum squeezing manipulates local entropy by adjusting a quanton's number of micro states. This is exactly what Mae-wan Ho, et al., conjecture happens when we think, flex muscles, etc. Communication systems engineers and scientists use quantum squeezing to create photonic solitons in fibre optic cables. Ocean tsunami are quantum 'squeezed' solitons of water! Doug.


'Your belief in the particular moments,'

they insist,

'so far as it is based on reflective argument (and is not a mere omission to doubt, like that of cows and horses) is grounded in abstraction and conception. Only by using concepts have you established percepts in reality. The concepts are the vital things, then, and the percepts are dependent on them for the character of "reality" with which your reasoning endows them. You stand self-contradicted: concepts appear as the sole triumphant instruments of truth, for you have to employ their proper authority, even when seeking to install perception in authority above them.'

"The objection is specious; but it disappears the moment one recollects that in the last resort a concept can only be designative; and that the concept 'reality,' which we restore to immediate perception, is no new conceptual creation, but only a kind of practical relation to our Will, perceptively experienced, which reasoning had temporarily interfered with, but which, when the reasoning was neutralized by still further reasoning, reverted to its original seat as if nothing had happened."

(James' parenthetical.) Note that he is quoting rationalist straw men here: i.e., "...they insist,"

This 'contradiction' depends upon Aristotle's excluded-middle syllogism which we have shown as a ruse in our Aristotle Connection. James' straw man is right though, without Aristotle's syllogisms, truth as an absolute has no foundation. James wins hands down!

This paragraph, by James, is pure quantum-think. He used QTMs before we gave them a name, almost 100 years later! Wow!
112 "That concepts can neutralize other concepts is one of their great practical functions. This answers also the charge that it is self-contradictory to use concepts to undermine the credit of conception in general. The best way to show that a knife will not cut is to try to cut with it. Rationalism itself it is that has so fatally undermined conception, by finding that, when worked beyond a certain point, it only piles up dialectic contradictions." (Our bold emphasis.)

Shades of ZMM! SOM's knife appears 64 years prior to Pirsig's 1st ed. publication of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance!

Bravo! Great chapter, Mr. J.!
Return to Chapter Index

To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
Suite 18 #368 1950 East Greyhound Pass
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2011 Rev. 5May2009  PDR Created: 7Apr2000  PDR
(10May2000 rev - Add links to prior chapters which James refers.)
(25Sep2000 rev - Add anchor to James' remarks on 'empiricism' on page 98.)
(10Dec2001 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker.)
(1Oct2005 rev - Add anchor to 1st occurrence of 'SOM's knife.' Adjust colors. Release page constraints.)
(12Jan2007 rev - Adjust color.)
(4Sep2007 rev - Reformat page. Massive respell. Reset legacy red text.)
(5May2009 rev - Make page current. Change wingdings font to gif.)

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