Lecture Two: Expression

“During many generations there has been an attempt to explain our ultimate insights as merely interpretive of sense-impressions. Indeed this school of thought can trace itself back to Epicurus. It can appeal to some phrases of Plato. I suggest to you that this basis for philosophic understanding is analogous to an endeavour to elucidate the sociology of modern civilization as wholly derivative from the traffic-signals on the main roads. The motions of the cars are conditioned by these signals. But the signals are not the reasons for the traffic. Common sense supplies this conclusion, so overwhelmingly that illustration is unnecessary.

It is this direct insight, vague as to detail and yet the basis of all rationality, that has been denied by the prevalent epistemology of the preceding century. Interest and importance are the primary reasons for the effort after exact discrimination of sense-data. The traffic-signals are the outcome of the traffic.

[Modes of Thought]

Alfred North Whitehead