ABSTRACT

The great antinomy in the history of thought-whether the contents of reality are to be conceived and interpreted in terms of their causes or their consequences (i.e. the opposition between a causal and a teleological approach)—finds its original expression in a distinction within our practical motivations. The feeling that we call ‘instinct’ appears to be tied to a physiological process in which stored up energies strive for release. The instinctual drive terminates when these energies find expression in action. If it is simply an instinct then it is ‘satisfied’ as soon as it has dissolved into action. In contrast with this direct causal process, which is reflected in consciousness as a primitive instinctual feeling, are those actions that arise, so far as our consciousness is concerned, from a representation of the ends that they will achieve. In this case we experience ourselves as being drawn rather than driven. The feeling of satisfaction, therefore, does not arise from the action alone, but from the consequences that the action produces. If, for instance, an aimless inner unrest drives us to furious activity, then this belongs to the category of instinctual behaviour; if we undertake the same activity in order to attain some precise kind of well-being, then it belongs to the category of purposive behaviour. Eating exclusively to satisfy hunger falls within the first category; eating to enjoy the flavour of the dishes falls within the second. Sexual intercourse as an animal instinct belongs to the first category, but as an activity directed to the attainment of a particular kind of pleasure it belongs to the second. This distinction seems to me vital in two respects. To the extent that our actions are purely instinctual, that is causally determined in the strict sense, there is a fundamental incongruity between the psychological state, which is the cause of action, and the ensuing consequences. The state that moves us to

action has no more significant qualitative relation to the action and its result than has the wind to the falling of the fruit that it blows from the trees. On the other hand, when the conception of an end is experienced as a motive, cause and effect are congruous in their conceptual and perceptible content. Nevertheless, in this case too, the cause of action is (even though this cannot be defined in a strictly scientific way) the real force of the conception or of its physical correlate, and this force or energy must be rigorously distinguished from the intellectual content of the conception. The content itself, as an ideal representation of action and events, has absolutely no force; it possesses only conceptual validity and can become real only to the extent that it is endowed with real energy, in the same way as justice and morality, as ideas, have no historical influence until they are adopted as determinants of action by real powers. The controversy over the relevance of causality or teleology to human action may thus be decided in the following way. Since the consequences of action exist in a psychologically effective form before they acquire an objective existence, a strict causal relation can be upheld. Only those intellectual conceptions that have become psychological forces need be taken into account, and thus cause and effect are entirely distinct, whereas the identity between the intellectual content of motive and consequences has absolutely nothing to do with the actual production of events.