Philosophy

Articles

The Social Structure of Experience

Charles Hartshornea1

a1 Emory University, Georgia, U.S.A.

In many contemporary philosophical writings, what is most surprising to me is not the things asserted, nor those denied, but those not even mentioned (or barely mentioned as of no importance). Several of these slighted topics are summed up in the title of this essay. At the age of twenty, when I was not reading any technical philosophers, nor any author (unless a poet or two) who held an essentially social view of experience, I attempted to persuade myself of the adequacy of a non-social view, expressed partly in a self-interest theory of motivation, and partly in an idea of perception as experience of things not themselves constituted by any sort of experiences. So far from succeeding in this attempt, I began to find reasons for regarding both motivation and perception as manifestations of a single principle, that of the overlapping or inter-individual unity of minds, not simply of human minds, but of mind on various levels of, nature, including inorganic nature. This overlapping I thought I found in experience itself, and not merely through speculation or postulation. Subsequent reading in philosophy has not shown me a basic error in Hhis early philosophizing, but only a vagueness and blurring of dis; Jinctions which, when taken into account, strengthen rather than weaken the case.