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Experience Analyzed

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Let us throw these thoughts into staccato: In experience you are affected by something. You know that you are so affected.

You know that what affects you is a something other than yourself as affected.

By so much you know that affecting something. But you are able to remember all this, and to act accordingly in the future.

Experience, then, consists in being affected by something, knowing the fact, and being able to use the knowledge with reference to self and conditions.

Now, you cannot have an experience unless some-thing comes into relation with yourself. Such relation secures the knowing. That is the only way in which anything can be known. You can know nothing outside your experience.

Take, for example, a word in the dictionary. It is a strange word, and you are ignorant of its meaning. Its definition consists totally of words that are equally unknown to you, and your ignorance remains as in the first case. If, however, one of the defining words is understood by you, that word becomes a clue, and you may turn, now, to its definition, and find there other familiar words, until, by a round-about way, you find out what another word in the definition of your first word means. You have started in on a voyage of discovery. When you have finished this work, you understand every word in the definition of that first troublesome word, and, therefore, the meaning of that word itself. But you will know that word only as you come to know every identical word employed in its definition provided all its defining words are them-selves necessary and correctly defined.

But your first clue-word and every other word studied in the voyage of discovery represents some experience in your past. You have to experience words at least their individually major part in order to know them. And you have to know experience in order to know that you know. When you thus doubly and triply know you understand.



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