It is significant that facts are reputed to be “solid,” general ideas to be of a more vaporous or ghostly substance. Thus facts possess merit judged by the third standard of common sense, that of “tangibility.” If we go back to the original meaning, the tangible, of course, is that which can be touched. Doubting Thomas was a man of common sense. Now we have here to do with something very original and elemental in human nature. Touch is the most primitive of the senses. And if we consider the whole history of living organisms, it is the experience or the anticipation of contact that has played the largest and the most indispensable part in their consciousness. That which can have contact with an organism is a body; hence bodies or physical things are the oldest and most familiar examples of known things. The status of other alleged things is doubtful; the mind does not feel thoroughly at home and secure in dealing with them. Physical science enjoys the confidence of common sense because, though it may wander far from bodies and imagine intangible ethers and energies, it always starts with bodies, and eventually returns to them. Furthermore, even ethers and energies excite the tactual imagination; one can almost feel them. The human imagination cannot abstain from doing the same thing even when it is perfectly well understood that it is illegitimate. God and the soul are spirits, to be sure; for that there is the best authority. But when they have passed through the average mind they have a distinctly corporeal aspect, as though the mind were otherwise helpless to deal with them.

Philosophy is not governed by an animus against the physical. Indeed philosophy is bound to recognize the possibility that it may turn out to be the case that all real substances are physical. But philosophy is bound to point out that there is a human bias in favor of the physical; and it is bound so far as possible to counteract or discount that bias. Philosophy must nurture and protect those theories that aim especially to do justice to the non-physical aspects of experience, and protest against their being read out of court as “inconceivable” or inherently improbable. A generation ago philosophy was usually referred to as “mental and moral” philosophy. There is a certain propriety in this, not because philosophy is to confine itself to the mental and moral, but because philosophers alone can be depended upon to recognize these in their own right, and correct the exaggerated emphasis which common sense, and science as developed on the basis of common sense, will inevitably place on the physical.

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