He found surprising support for this attack from one of Boas' students, Alfred Kroeber, who with Harvard anthropology professor, Clyde Kluckhohn, had led a drive for the reinsertion of values into anthropology. Elsewhere Kluckhohn had said, 'Values provide the only basis for fully intelligible comprehension of culture because the actual organization of all cultures is primarily in terms of their values. This becomes apparent as soon as one attempts to present the picture of a culture without reference to its values. The account becomes a meaningless assemblage of items having relationship to one another only through coexistence in locality and moment - an assemblage that might as profitably be arranged alphabetically as in any other order; a mere laundry list.'
Kluckhohn conceded that, 'The degree to which even lip-service to values has been avoided until recently, especially by anthropologists, is striking. The hesitation of anthropologists can perhaps be laid to the natural history tradition which persists in our science for better or worse.' But in Culture: a Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions they said that, 'culture must include the explicit and systematic study of values and value-systems viewed as observable, describable, and comparable phenomena of nature.'
They explained that negativism toward the use of values resulted from attitudes of objectivity. It was the same objectivity, Phaedrus noted, that Dusenberry had so much trouble with. 'It is this subjective side of values that led to their being long tabooed as improper for consideration by natural science,' Kroeber and Kluckhohn said. 'Instead [values] were relegated to a special set of intellectual activities called "the humanities" included in the "spiritual science" of the Germans. Values were believed to be eternal because they were God-given, or divinely inspired or at least discovered by that soul part of man which partakes somewhat of divinity, as his body and other bodies and tangibles of the world do not. A new and struggling science, as little advanced beyond physics, astronomy, anatomy and the rudiments of physiology as Western science was only two centuries ago, might cheerfully concede this reservation of the remote and unexpected territory of values to the philosophers and theologians and limit itself to what it could treat mechanistically.'
Kluckhohn conceded that values are ill-defined and subject to a multiplicity of competing definitions, but asserted that verbal definitions of values are not necessary to field work. He said that whether they were well-defined or not everyone agreed with what they were in actual practice. He tried to solve the problem by allowing everyone in his Values Project to define values any way they wanted to, but in formal social science that's unacceptable.
In his Values Project Kluckhohn described five neighboring Southwest American cultures in terms of their evaluations of their neighbors, and provided a good description of these cultures by this method. But as Phaedrus continued reading elsewhere, he discovered that values, like every other general term in anthropology, were subject to the usual bilious attack. Sociologists Judith Blake and Kingsley Davis had the following to say about values:
As long as the cultural configurations, basic value attitudes, prevailing mores or whatnot are taken as the starting point and principal determinant, they have the status of unanalyzed assumptions. The very questions that would enable us to understand the norms tend not to be asked, and certain facts about society become difficult if not impossible to comprehend.
Mores, determinants, norms . . . these were the jargon terms of sociology into which they converted things they wanted to attack. That's how you know when you're within a walled city, Phaedrus thought. The jargon. They've cut themselves off from the rest of the world and are speaking a jargon only they can really understand.
'Worse yet,' they went on,
the deceptive ease of explanation in terms of norms or value attitudes encourages an inattentiveness to methodological problems. By virtue of their subjective emotion and ethical character, norms and especially values are among the world's most difficult objects to identify with certainty. They are bones of contention and matters of disagreement . . . an investigator . . . tends to be explaining the known by the unknown, the specific by the unspecific. His identification of the normative principles may be so vague as to be universally useful, i.e. anything and everything becomes explicable. Thus, if Americans spend a great deal of money on alcoholic beverages, theater and movie tickets, tobacco, cosmetics and jewelry, the explanation is simple: they have a good-time ideology. If, on the other hand, there is a lack of social intimacy between Negro and white, it is because of a 'racism' value. The cynical critic might advise that, for convenience in causal interpretation, the values of a 'culture' should always be described in pairs of opposites.
'Explicit definitions, when given, demonstrate the nebulous character of "value,"' Blake and Davis said. 'Here, for example, is the definition of "value-orientation" in a 437-page book on value orientations:
Value orientations are complex but definitely patterned (rank-ordered) principles resulting from the transactional interplay of three analytically distinguishable elements of the evaluative process — the cognitive, the affective, and the directive elements — which give order and direction to the ever-flowing stream of human acts and thoughts as these relate to the solution of 'common human' problems.
Poor Kluckhohn, Phaedrus thought. That was his definition. With that lead balloon for a vehicle there was no way he could succeed.
The attack made Phaedrus want to get in there and start arguing. The statement that values are vague and therefore shouldn't be used for primary classification is not true. There's nothing vague about a value judgment. When a voter goes to the polling booth he's making a value judgment. What's so vague about that? Isn't an election a cultural activity? What's so vague about the New York stock exchanges? Aren't values what they're dealing in? How about the US Treasury? Who in this world is more specific than the Internal Revenue Service? As Kluckhohn kept saying, values are not the least vague when you're dealing with them in terms of actual experience. It's only when you bring back statements about them and try to integrate them into the overall jargon of anthropology that they become vague.
This attack on Kroeber and Kluckhohn's 'values' was a good example of what had stopped Phaedrus' own entry into the field. You can't get anywhere because you are forced to resolve arguments every step of the way about the basic terms you are using. It's hard enough to talk about Indians alone without having to resolve a metaphysical dispute at the end of each sentence. This should have been done before anthropology was set up, not afterward.
That was the problem. The whole field of cultural anthropology is a house built on intellectual quicksand. As soon as you try to build the data into anything of theoretical weight it sinks and collapses. The field that one might have expected to be one of the most useful and productive of the sciences had gone under, not because the people in it were no good, or the subject was unimportant, but because the structure of scientific principles that it tries to rest on is inadequate to support it.
What was clear was that if he was going to do anything with anthropology the place to do it was not in anthropology itself but in the general body of assumptions upon which it rests. The solution to the anthropological blockage was not to try to construct some new anthropological theoretic structure but to first find some solid ground upon which such a structure can be constructed. It was this conclusion that placed him right in the middle of the field of philosophy known as metaphysics. Metaphysics would be the expanded format in which whites and white anthropology could be contrasted to Indians and 'Indian anthropology' without corrupting everything into a white anthropological walled-in jargonized way of looking at things.
Whew! What a job! He wondered if he was biting off ten times as much as he could possibly chew. This could fill a whole shelf full of books. A whole corridor of shelves! But the more he thought about it the more he saw that the only alternative was to quit entirely.
There was a sense of relief though. Metaphysics was an area of study that had interested him more than any other as an undergraduate philosophy student in the United States and later as a graduate student in India. There was a sense of opening up after the endless tangles and nettles of unfamiliar anthropology. He had finally landed in his own brier patch.
Metaphysics is what Aristotle called the First Philosophy. It's a collection of the most general statements of a hierarchical structure of thought. On one of his slips he had copied a definition of it as 'that part of philosophy which deals with the nature and structure of reality.' It asks such questions as, 'Are the objects we perceive real or illusory? Does the external world exist apart from our consciousness of it? Is reality ultimately reducible to a single underlying substance? If so, is it essentially spiritual or material? Is the universe intelligible and orderly or incomprehensible and chaotic?'
You might think from this primary status of metaphysics that everyone would take its existence and value for granted, but this is definitely not so. Even though it has been a central part of philosophy since Ancient Greek times it is not a universally approved field of knowledge.
It has two kinds of opponents. The first are the
philosophers of science, most particularly the group known as logical positivists, who say -that only the natural sciences can legitimately investigate the nature of reality, and that metaphysics is simply a collection of unprovable assertions that are unnecessary to the scientific observation of reality. For a true understanding of reality, metaphysics is too 'mystical.' This is clearly the group with which Franz Boas, and because of him modern American anthropology, belongs.
The second group of opponents are the mystics. The term mystic is sometimes confused with 'occult' or 'supernatural' and with magic and witchcraft but in philosophy it has a different meaning. Some of the most honored philosophers in history have been mystics: Plotinus, Swedenborg, Loyola, Shankaracharya and many others. They share a common belief that the fundamental nature of reality is outside language; that language splits things up into parts while the true nature of reality is undivided. Zen, which is a mystic religion, argues that the illusion of dividedness can be overcome by meditation. The Native American Church argues that peyote can force-feed a mystic understanding upon those who were normally resistant to it, an understanding that Indians had been deriving through Vision Quests in the past. This mysticism, Dusenberry thought, is the absolute center ofNtraditional Indian life, and as Boas had made clear, it is absolutely outside the domain of positivistic science and any anthropology that adheres to it.
Historically mystics have claimed that for a true understanding of reality metaphysics is too 'scientific.' Metaphysics is not reality. Metaphysics is names about reality. Metaphysics is a restaurant where they give you a thirty-thousand page menu and no food.
Phasdrus thought it portended very well for his Metaphysics of Quality that both mysticism and science reject metaphysics for completely opposite reasons. It suggested that if there is a bridge between the two, between the understanding of the Indians and the
understanding of the anthropologists, metaphysics is where that bridge is located.
Of the two kinds of hostility to metaphysics he considered the mystics' hostility the more formidable. Mystics will tell you that once you've opened the door to metaphysics you can say goodbye to any genuine understanding of reality. Thought is not a path to reality. It sets obstacles in that path because when you try to use thought to approach something that is prior to thought your thinking does not carry you toward that something. It carries you away from it. To define something is to subordinate it to a tangle of intellectual relationships. And when you do that you destroy real understanding.
The central reality of mysticism, the reality that Phaedrus had called 'Quality' in his first book, is not a metaphysical chess piece. Quality doesn't have to be defined. You understand it without definition, ahead of definition. Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions.
Quality is indivisible, undefinable and unknowable in the sense that there is a knower and a known, but a metaphysics can be none of these things. A metaphysics must be divisible, definable and knowable, or there isn't any metaphysics. Since a metaphysics is essentially a kind of dialectical definition and since Quality is essentially outside definition, this means that a 'Metaphysics of Quality' is essentially a contradiction in terms, a logical absurdity.
It would be almost like a mathematical definition of randomness. The more you try to say what randomness is the less random it becomes. Or 'zero,' or 'space' for that matter. Today these terms have almost nothing to do with 'nothing.' 'Zero' and 'space' are complex relationships of 'somethingness.' If he said anything about the scientific nature of mystic understanding, science might benefit but the actual mystic understanding would, if anything, be injured. If he really wanted to do Quality a favor he should just leave it alone.
What made all this so formidable to Phaedrus was that he himself had insisted in his book that Quality cannot be defined. Yet here he was about to define it. Was this some kind of a sell-out? His mind went over this many times.
A part of it said, 'Don't do it. You'll get into nothing but trouble. You're just going to start up a thousand dumb arguments about something that was perfectly clear until you came along. You're going to make ten-thousand opponents and zero friends because the moment you open your mouth to say one thing about the nature of reality you automatically have a whole set of enemies who've already said reality is something else.'
The trouble was, this was only one part of himself talking. There was another part that kept saying, 'Ahh, do it anyway. It's interesting.' This was the intellectual part that didn't like undefined things, and telling it not to define Quality was like telling a fat man to stay out of the refrigerator, or an alcoholic to stay out of bars. To the intellect the process of defining Quality has a compulsive quality of its own. It produces a certain excitement even though it leaves a hangover afterward, like too many cigarettes, or a party that has lasted too long. Or Lila last night. It isn't anything of lasting beauty; no joy forever. What would you call it? Degeneracy, he guessed. Writing a metaphysics is, in the strictest mystic sense, a degenerate activity.
But the answer to all this, he thought, was that a ruthless, doctrinaire avoidance of degeneracy is a degeneracy of another sort. That's the degeneracy fanatics are made of. Purity, identified, ceases to be purity. Objections to pollution are a form of pollution. The only person who doesn't pollute the mystic reality of the world with fixed metaphysical meanings is a person who hasn't yet been born — and to whose birth no thought has been given. The rest of us have to settle for being something less pure. Getting drunk and picking up bar-ladies and writing metaphysics is a part of life.
That was all he had to say to the mystic objections to a Metaphysics of Quality. He next turned to those of logical positivism:
Positivism is a philosophy that emphasizes science as the only source of knowledge. It sharply distinguishes between fact and value, and is hostile to religion and traditional metaphysics. It is an outgrowth of empiricism, the idea that all knowledge must come from experience, and is suspicious of any thought, even a scientific statement, that is incapable of being reduced to direct observation. Philosophy, as far as positivism is concerned, is limited to the analysis of scientific language.
Phasdrus had taken a course in symbolic logic from a member of logical positivism's famed Vienna circle, Herbert Feigl, and he remembered being fascinated by the possibility of a logic that could extend mathematical precision to solve problems of philosophy and other areas. But even then the assertion that metaphysics is meaningless sounded false to him. As long as you're inside a logical, coherent universe of thought you can't escape metaphysics. Logical positivism's criteria for 'meaningfulness' were pure metaphysics, he thought.
But it didn't matter. The Metaphysics of Quality not only passes the logical positivists' tests for meaningfulness, it passes them with the highest marks. The Metaphysics of Quality restates the empirical basis of logical positivism with more precision, more inclusiveness, more explanatory power than it has previously had. It says that values are not outside of the experience that logical positivism limits itself to. They are the essence of this experience. Values are more empirical, in fact, than subjects or objects.
Any person of any philosophic persuasion who sits on a hot stove will verify without any intellectual argument whatsoever that he is in an undeniably low-quality situation: that the value of his predicament is negative. This low quality is not just a vague, woolly-headed, crypto-religious, metaphysical abstraction. It is an experience. It is not a judgment about an experience. It is not a description of experience. The value itself is an experience. As such it is completely predictable. It is verifiable by anyone who cares to do so. It is reproducible. Of all experience it is the least ambiguous, least mistakable there is. Later the person may generate some oaths to describe this low value, but the value will always come first, the oaths second. Without the primary low valuation, the secondary oaths will not follow.
The reason for hammering on this so hard is that we have a culturally inherited blind spot here. Our culture teaches us to think it is the hot stove that directly causes the oaths. It teaches that the low values are a property of the person uttering the oaths.
Not so. The value is between the stove and the oaths. Between the subject and the object lies the value. This value is more immediate, more directly sensed than any 'self or any 'object' to which it might be later assigned. It is more real than the stove. Whether the stove is the cause of the low quality or whether possibly something else is the cause is not yet absolutely certain. But that the quality is low is absolutely certain. It is the primary empirical reality from which such things as stoves and heat and oaths and self are later intellectually constructed.
Once this primary relationship is cleared up an awful lot of mysteries get solved. The reason values seem so woolly-headed to empiricists is that empiricists keep trying to assign them to subjects or objects. You can't do it. You get all mixed up because values don't belong to either group. They are a separate category all their own.
What the Metaphysics of Quality would do is take this separate category, Quality, and show how it contains within itself both subjects and objects. The Metaphysics of Quality would show how things become enormously more coherent — fabulously more coherent — when you start with an assumption that Quality is the primary empirical reality of the world . . .
. . . but showing that, of course, was a very big job . . .
... He noticed a strange noise, unlike any boat sound he was used to. He listened for a while and then realized that it was coming from the forecabin. It was Lila. She was snoring. He heard her mutter something. Then she was quiet again . . .
After a while he heard the putt-putting of a small boat approaching. An early fisherman, probably, heading down the creek. Soon the entire cabin rocked gently and the lamp swung a little from the boat's wake. After a while the sound passed and it became quiet again . . .
... He wondered if he was going to get any more sleep himself. He remembered when he used to be a 'night person,' going to bed at three or four in the morning and waking up at around noon. It seemed then that nothing of any importance could ever happen during the hours between dawn and late afternoon, and he avoided them as much as possible. Now it was the opposite. He had to be up with the sun or something was missing. It didn't matter that there was nothing to do.
He picked up the slips on Dusenberry, put them back into the tray where they had been removed and then got up and tucked the tray into the pilot berth where it had come from. Above the pilot berth the portholes of the cabin showed light outside. He saw that the sky was somewhat overcast. It might clear up. The buildings across the harbor were gray. Some trees on the bank still had their leaves but they were brown and ready to fall. October colors.
He pushed the hatch back and stuck his head out.
It was cold out, but not as cold as before. A mild breeze rippled the water toward the stern of the boat, and he felt it on his face.
Richard Rigel awoke and looked at his watch. It was 7:45 already. He felt tired and cross. He had not had much sleep since that fool author and Lila Blewitt stumbled across his deck.
All night long, in and out, in and out, the wakes from passing boats caused that author's barge next to him to push his own boat in and out against the dock like a railroad Pullman car. And there was nothing he could do about it.
He could have gotten up and adjusted the author's lines himself. But that wasn't his job.
What was really angering was that he hadn't even granted the author permission to raft. The author had been told in Oswego he could raft because of the emergency there and evidently had taken it as a lifetime privilege.
Now no more sleep was possible. He would have to make the best of it. Bill would have to get up too. There was much to be done today.
Richard Rigel went to the forecabin of the boat, found Capella with a pillow over his head and pulled it off. 'Get up, Bill,' he said.
Capella yawned and looked at his watch. 'They said they'd take us at nine to get the mast up.'
Rigel replied, 'We should be ready for an earlier opening.'
He went back to his aft cabin, removed his pajamas, carefully folded them and put them in the drawer. Only a week left before going back. He could get Simonsen to take over his court appearances, but if he were lucky and there were no more delays he might still get back in time . . . What a completely rotten vacation.
Capella's voice said, 'What about next door?'
'You mean the "Great Author"?' Rigel replied. 'I don't think the "Great Author" will be up this morning.'
'Why not?' Capella asked.
'Didn't you hear him last night?'
'You certainly must have been sleeping soundly . . . Of course! You were forward. He fell on my cabin.'
'Yes, he and that woman he was dancing with stumbled across the deck and fell evidently. I didn't want to get into it so I didn't go up there. What a commotion!'
In the boat's head Richard Rigel drew a basin of heated water with which to wash his face and shave. He said loudly, 'We've got to get free of his boat before we can move. You'll have to go over and wake him up.'
'Wake him up?' Capella repeated.
'Yes,' Richard Rigel replied. 'He was in no condition to set an alarm clock.'