Of human life the time is a point, and the substance is in a flux, and the perception dull, and the composition of the whole body subject to putrefaction, and the soul a whirl, and fortune hard to divine, and fame a thing devoid of judgment. And, to say all in a word, everything which belongs to the body is a stream, and what belongs to the soul is a dream and a vapor, and life is a warfare and a stranger’s sojourn, and after-fame is oblivion.
To assume that anything can be known in isolation from its connections with other things is to identify knowing with merely having some object before perception or in , and is thus to lose the key to the traits that distinguish an object as known... The more connections and interactions we ascertain, the more we know the object in question.
Mental activity, which works in its way from the memory-image to the production of identity of perception via the outer world, merely represents a roundabout way to wish-fulfillment made necessary by experience. Thinking is indeed nothing but a substitute for the hallucinatory wish; and if the dream is called a wish-fulfillment, this becomes something self-evident, since nothing but a wish can impel our psychic apparatus to activity.
Nature... is frugal in her operations and will not be at the expense of a particular instinct to give us that knowledge which experience and habit will soon produce. Reproduced sights and contacts tied together with the present sensation in the unity of a thing with a name, these are complex objective stuff out of which my actually perceived table is made. Infants must go through a long education of the eye and ear before they can perceive the realities which adults perceive. Every perception is an acquired perception.
Since the mind, in all its thoughts and reasonings, hath no other immediate object but its own ideas, which it alone does or can contemplate, it is evident that our knowledge is only conversant about them... Knowledge then seems to me to be nothing but the perception of the connection of and agreement, or disagreement and repugnancy of any of our ideas. In this alone it consists. Where this perception is, there is knowledge, and where it is not, there, though we may fancy, guess, or believe, yet we always come short of knowledge.
We must not, therefore, wonder whether we really perceive a world, we must instead say: the world is what we perceive... To seek the essence of perception is to declare that perception is, not presumed true, but defined as access to truth.
We live in a narrow reality, partly conditioned by our form of perception and partly made by opinions that we have borrowed, to which our self-esteem is fastened. We fight for our opinions, not because we believe them but because they involve the ordinary feeling of oneself. Though we are continually being hurt owing to the narrowness of the reality in which we dwell, we blame life, and do not see the necessity of finding absolutely new standpoints. All ideas that have a transforming power change our sense of reality.
In that continuity of becoming which is reality itself, the present moment is constituted by the quasi-instantaneous section effected by our perception in the flowing mass; and this section is precisely that which we call the material world. Our bodies occupies its centre; it is, in this material world, that part of which we directly feel the flux; in its actual state the actuality of our present lies.
When I began to examine just how wealth is created, it seemed to me plain that it arises not from taking, but from giving. People get rich by giving rather than by taking, and this seemed to me to be a very important perception, because the reason for the crisis in capitalism today, it seems to me, is not its practical achievements, but rather the perception of its moral character.
Without my work in natural science I should never have known human beings as they really are. In no other activity can one come so close to direct perception and clear thought, or realize so fully the errors of the senses, the mistakes of the intellect, the weakness and greatnesses of human character.