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ployment, or " calling them up " as though they were servants
in the kitchen, and as if " relations " were wires that rang the
bell, or were fishing-lines baited with similarity to draw up
from non-existence the ghosts of the past. It is " positive
knowledge " to make that come before the mind which does
not come before the mind, and then to remove it by a
fictitious expedient. Yes, sooner than run the risk of believ-
ing in metaphysics, there is no superstition so gross, no
mythology so preposterous that we ought not to believe in
it, and believe anything sooner than cease to believe in it.

§ 28. But what is it that forces us to these desperate
shifts ? Not the facts themselves, for we violate them. It is
simply the shrinking, as we think, from metaphysics. And



Chap. I.] THE THEORY OF ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS. 305

this, after all, is nothing but metaphysics. It is our unreason-
ing fidelity to a metaphysical dogma which has driven us to
adopt these embarrassing results. For why is it we are so
sure that identity is impossible, and that a synthe&'s of
universals is a " survival " of superstitions, which in the nine-
teenth century are out of date? It is because we are sure
that there can be no reality but particular existences, and no
mental connection but a relation of these units ; and that
hence identity is not possible. But this is of course a meta-
physical view, and, what is more, it is nothing but a dogma.
The Philosophers of Experience have, so far as I know, never
offered any proof of it ; they have heard it from their fathers,
and their fathers had heard it. It is held true because of
the continuity of tradition in a Church, which must have
truth, since it has never failed to preserve its continuity.
Has the school ever tried to support it by any mere rational
considerations .-*

So far as I know, it has been assumed that, if you are not
able to swallow down this dogma, you are forced to accept
an intolerable alternative. You are given a choice between
naked universals, existing as such, and bare particulars. You
can not stomach the first, and so you take the last. But why
should you take either } Why not adopt the view that the
real is the concrete individual, and that the bare particular
and abstract universal are distinctions within it, which, apart
from it, are only two forms of one fiction ? You say. This is
unintelligible. But perhaps you never heard of it, or heard
of it too late, when you were already compromised, and had
no inclination to begin life again. Let it then be unintel-
ligible ; but permit me to add that the view you have adopted
calls for something stronger, to back it against facts, than an
a priori deduction from a metaphysical alternative.

§ 29. We have shown so far that, in the extension of our
experience, there is a synthetic construction by virtue of
identity, and that association by similarity has no part in it.
We have shown that the test which we bring to inferences, in
order to examine their validity, is also the principle which
operates in all extension of experience. On our view the
origin of the fact is explained, and its existence is at the

X



306 THE PRINCIPLES OF LOGIC. [Bk. II. Pt. IL

same time justified. But, on the fashionable theory of Asso-
ciation, early inferences are made by what afterwards we find
to be the essence of bad reasoning. And, to explain the
origin of this unjustifiable fact, open fictions have had to be
invented.

But not only is Association by Similarity a fictitious
account of the reasoning process. It is a fiction altogether ;
there is no evidence for it at all. And it is to the final proof
of this point that we must now address ourselves.

Our previous objections have raised at least a presumption
against the alleged phenomenon. Let us now ask, Is there
any evidence of any kind which tends to confirm it ? I know
of none whatever.

We are told (J. S. Mill, Hamilton, p. 315, note) that the
elementary case of the suggestion of similars will not come
under the head of redintegration. But the answer to this is
very simple. Reproduction by mere similarity is a fact which,
if i^eal, would certainly stand by itself Who doubts it .'' But
then the existence of this fact is just what we deny. The
general fact that ideas and perceptions give rise to others
which are like them, is of course admitted. But this not only
can be reduced to redintegration, but long ago it Jias been so
reduced. I will exhibit this in a concrete instance.

§ 30. I am walking on the shore in England and see a
promontory A, and then suddenly I have the idea of another
promontory B which is in Wales, and I say How like is A to
B. This is the fact which is to be explained. The false
theory tells us to explain the fact by postulating a direct
connection between A and the idea of B, for it says The
suggestion is perfectly simple. But in the first place the
postulate demands an absurdity, and in the second place the
suggestion is certainly not simple. If instead of asserting we
are willing to analyze, we soon find the true explanation of
the fact.

The content of A, like the content of every other perception,
is complex, and has several elements. Let us say that it has
an element of form which is p. Now let us look at B, the
idea which is to come up. That also possesses a complex
content, and we find in it the same element/, in connection



Chap. I.] THE THEORY OF ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS. 307

with Others, ^, r, j, /. These are the conditions, and let us see
what follows.

In the first place A is presented, and so presents /, which
by redintegration stimulates the mind X to produce qr.
What happens then }

Several things may happen, and it is exceedingly difficult
to work out the minute psychological conditions which settle
the result. But this is a question with which we are not here
concerned. One result would be the identification of qr
with A/>. A would then be qualified as Apqr, and this
would be an unconscious inference. In the present case we
are to suppose that this can not happen ; for we suppose that
g, r (say a certain colour and a certain size) are discrepant
with A. What then may we expect } We might expect that
qr would be simply dropped. It might not catch the attention,
and the mind might be arrested by a new sensation. We
might expect again that, if qi' is not dropped, it might be used
as a means for a wandering course through a train of ideas,
foreign to both A and B, and which might take us anywhere.
But we are to assume that none of these possibilities become
real ; and that instead the idea B rises in the mind. How
do we explain this ?

Very simply. We remember B had a content /^rj-/, and
now we have A which has brought in /, and so introduced
qr. But qr will not coalesce with A. Let them then
instead go on to complete the synthesis pqrst, a synthesis
which by its discrepancy with A is freed from union with it.
But an independent pqrst is B, and may be recognized
as B. And now, B being there along with A, the perception
of its resemblance calls for no special explanation. This
account of the matter appears to me simple and natural
and true.

§ 31. It may be objected, in the first place, that, if the
sensation is simple, this theory will not work. I admit it, and
I should be sorry if in such a case it did work. I would
rather that any theory, which I adopt, did not explain
impossibilities. And that any actual presentation should be
simple is quite impossible. Even if it had no internal
characters, yet it must be qualified by the relations of its

X 2



308 THE PRINCIPLES OF LOGIC. [Bk. IL Pt. II.

environment. And this complexity would be quite enough
for the purpose. For the identity of the simple internal
character, over against the difference of two sets of external
relations, would give rise to redintegration and to the per-
ception of the resemblance. I think a sober antagonist will
hardly deny this. And if it should be denied, then I am
inclined to reply with a reductio ad absurdum. If the sugges-
tion is quite simple, perhaps there is no difference between
the similars, or perhaps they are quite different. But on
either alternative they can not be similar ; and again, if
neither alternative is true, then the suggestion is now
admitted not to be simple, because the elements have a
complex content.

I can think of another case where mistake is possible, and
where suggestion might seem to dispense with redintegration.
If an idea before the mind is unsteady and wavering, it tends
to pass into something different. This difference may be
recognized, and may appear as an idea, which is not the first
idea, and yet is seen to resemble it. But the unsteadiness
will in no case be reproduction by similarity. If the new
idea, which is similar to the other, is produced by a change
in the actual impressions, then this of course is not reproduc-
tion at all. But if the alteration takes place apart from the
stimulus of a fresh sensation, it will still be a case of redinte-
gration. For that will be the principle which determines the
direction of the idea's unsteadiness.

We must pass next to an objection which I feel bound to
notice, though I confess I am not able to understand it. We
are told that the form, say of a triangle, is not one single
feature among others, which therefore could call up the other
features ; and that yet a triangle may call up another which
is similar in nothing but form (J. S. Mill, on James Mill, I. 1 1 3).
But why the form of a figure is not to be a " feature " of it we
are not told, and I at least can not imagine. I was glad to find
when, after forgetting this passage, I came on it again, that
accidentally (§ 30) I had chosen to work out an instance where
the form is the base of the redintegration. And I will say no
more.

And there is another misunderstanding which we may



Chap. I.] THE THEORY OF ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS. 309

remove in conclusion. After pointing out that " in the very
heart of Similarity is an indispensable bond of Contiguity ;
showing that it is not possible for either process to be
accomplished in separation from the other," Professor Bain, if
I understand him rightly, goes on to argue that, notwithstand-
ing this, at least a partial reproduction by pure Similarity
does actually take place.

" It might, therefore, be supposed that Similarity is, after
all, but a mode of Contiguity, namely, the contiguity or
association of the different features or parts of a complex
whole. The inference is too hasty. Because contiguity is a
part of the fact of the restoration of similars, it is not the
entire fact. There is a distinct and characteristic step pre-
ceding the play of this mutual coherence of the parts of the
thing to be recovered. The striking into the former track of
the agreeing part of the new and the old, is a mental move-
ment by itself, w^hich the other follows, but does not do away
with. The effect above described, as the consciousness of
agreement or identity, the flash of a felt similarity, is real and
distinct We are conscious of it by itself ; there are occasions
where we have it without the other, that is to say, without
the full re-instatement of the former object in its entireness.
We are often aware of an identity without being able to say
what is the thing identified ; as when a portrait gives us the
impression that we have seen the original, without enabling us
to say who the original is. We have been affected by the
stroke of identity or similarity ; but the restoration fails from
the feebleness of the contiguous adherence of the parts of the
object identified. There is thus a genuine effect of the nature
of pure similarity, or resemblance, and a mode of conscious-
ness accompanying that effect ; but there is not the full
energy of reproduction without a concurring bond of pure
contiguity. A portrait may fail to give us the consciousness
of having ever seen the original. On the supposition that
we have seen the original, this would be a failure of pure
similarity" (Bain on James Mill, I. 122-3).

Before I criticize this passage, let me show how easily the
fact which it mentions comes under our theory. When the
promontory A by means of / calls up q, r, these are not



310 THE PRINCIPLES OF LOGIC. [Bk. XL Pt. II*

referred to A. And, unless the synthesis /, q, r, s^ t is
completed, they can not re-instate B. The uneasiness of
partial but incomplete recognition is caused by the presence
of connected elements, such as /, q, r, s, which, by actual
incompleteness and by vague suggestion of completeness, give
us the feeling that every moment another object is coming.
But, although the whole pqrs keeps calling in other ele-
ments such as ^/, X, y, w, yet none of these makes up a
totality we are able to subsume under any head which we
know. Should however t be called in, then B comes at once.
In this case we have the feeling of discovery, while in the
former case we have the feeling of search. And all is
consistent.

In Professor Bain's account we have no consistency. His
view, as I understand it, is that though, for the full reproduc-
tion of B, contiguity is required, yet partial reproduction takes
place without it. In other words the stroke of similarity
affects us enough for us to strike into a former track, but the
adhesion of the contiguous bond is too feeble to drag on the
mutual play of the parts. The hammer of similarity comes
down, but the flash of agreement is a flash in the pan, which
fails to explode the barrel of contiguity. But in this place
again, I think truth has been sacrificed to imagination.

If anything is brought up which suggests agreement, then
this must involve what is called contiguity. For apart from
such contiguity there would be nothing to recognize. This is
readily shown. In the first place let the similarity "amount
to identity : " let the differences, which went along with and
qualified B, be none of them called up. Then what is there }
Why nothing but one part of the content of A, say p. And
p agrees with nothing ; for what can it agree with .? There is
nothing save itself. But in the second place, if the differences
which qualified B and made it B, are called up, then obviously
we have contiguity at once ; for / by contiguity has re-instated
pqrst. " Oh but," I may hear, " we do not go on to t, and
so we never do get so far as B. We go only as far as pqrs,
so that we are not able to recognize the result. . It would be
contiguity if we went from p to t : but if we stop at s, it is not
contiguity at all.



Chap. I.] THE THEORY OF ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS. 3 II

But this would surely be no less feeble than arbitrary. If
the whole of the differences between a portrait and the idea
of the original can not be given by contiguity, why then
should any of them } Why not a/l be given by similarity .?
And if a^iy are given by contiguity, why should not a/l be
given, for all of them are demonstrably " contiguous " .? In
other words if similarity will not bring up all the differences,
why should it bring up any ? Why should not all be left to
contiguity }

Because as before we do not start from the fact, but start
from a vicious theory of that fact. In the perception Ap the
/ is not really a particular image ; and if you said q, r, s, t
were associated with this mere adjective /, you would have
deserted your vicious theory. You try to save it by invent-
ing a fictitious substantival image p, which then can be brought
in by similarity. But the result is a system of compromise
and oscillation. You will not boldly say that A brings up all
of B by similarity, and your theory forbids you to say it does
so by contiguity. To satisfy both the fact and your theory
you say. One arbitrary part is done by one agency, and the
rest by the other. And you satisfy neither your theory nor
the fact. For what is actually contiguous is not like, and
what is supposed like could never have been contiguous.
The particular image, which on your theory is called up, has
never been contiguous to anything whatever. And the actual
element, which does re-instate qrst by contiguity, is not any-
thing we can call like A at all. It is an universal which is
part of A's content. Into this confusion we are led by forcing
on the facts our bad metaphysics ; and the confusion at once
gives place to order when we recognize that Association by
Similarity has no existence.

§ 32. We have seen that reproduction of a similar idea
comes under the general head of Redintegration. And
if the English votary of Association, instead of declaiming
against the blindness of Germans, had been willing to
learn from them, he might long ago have amended his
theory.

" Si quod nunc percipitur specie vel gen ere idem est cnm eo,
quod alias una cum aliis perceptum fuerat, imaginatio etiam



312 THE PRINCIPLES OF LOGIC. [Bk. XL Pt. XL

horum perceptionem producere debet. Quae enim specie vel
genere eadem sunt, ea sibi mutuo similia sunt, quatenus ad
eandem speciem, vel ad idem genus referuntur (§ 233, 234,
Ontol.)y consequenter quaedam in iisdem eadem sunt (§ 195,
Ontol.). Quare si nunc percipimus A specie vel genere idem
cum B, quod alias cum C perceperamus ; quaedam omnino
percipimus, quae antea simul cum aliis in B percepimus.
Quamobrem cum perceptio ceterorum, quae ipsi B inerant et
in A minime deprehenduntur, vi imaginationis una produci
debeant (§ 104) ; imaginatio quoque producit perceptionem
ipsius B . . . .

" Idem confirmatur a posteriori. Ponamus enim nos in
convivio simul vidisse hospites et vitra vino plena. Quodsi
domi die sequente oculos in vitra convertis, quibus vinum
infundi solet ; extemplo tibi occurrit phantasma hospitum ac
vitrorum vino plenorum rerumque ceterarum in convivio
praesentium. Vitra, quae domi conspicis, specie saltem eadem
sunt cum vitris, quae videras in convivio." *

Let us hear now what Maas has to say. I translate from
the second edition of his Versuch uber die Einbildungs-
kraft, 1797.

" The first of these rules we have mentioned is the so-called
Law of Similarity : All ideas which are like are associated.!
I am aware that many psychologists give this law a place
co-ordinate with the law of partial perception " [redintegration]
"and consider it independent. But on this view the former
stands too high, and the latter too low. Similar ideas can not
be associated unless, and so far as, either they or their marks
form part of one total perceptive state. But this holds good
without exception. Two ideas, a and b, are like one another
in so far as they have a common mark /3. Suppose now that it
is a fact that b has associated itself with ^." [The explanation
of this fact is that] " b contains the marks /?, 5, e, and a the
marks ft a, 7." [On the presentation of b'\ " the marks a, 7
associate themselves with the /?," [which appears in b, and ySa7
is then recognized as ^.] " The association which takes place

♦ These quotations are from § 105 of Wolff's Psych. Emp, Ed. Nova,
1738. First published in 1732.

t " Ideas " here includes perceptions.



Chap. I.] THE THEORY OF ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS.



UNIVEIJ



is thus between connected ideas, which are parts of one
perceptive state." s. 55.*

I admit that the passage is so brief and cramped that I have
been obliged to interpolate a commentary. But there are other
passages, which I need not quote, which would settle the
meaning even if it were doubtful.

From these extracts it will be plain that the school of
Association have had something to learn which they never
have learnt.f

§ 33. There is a possible objection we may here anticipate.
" Admitted," it may be said, " that your theory explains the
suggestion of similars, yet it does so indirectly. We explain
it directly and by a simple law. And the simpler explanation
is surely the better one." Anything more unscientific than
such an objection I can hardly conceive. It proposes to give
a simple explanation of a complex case ; in other words to
decline analysis, and to reassert the fact as a principle. And
it proposes in consequence (as we have shown at length)
to treat the simple as a complication of the complex. But the
price you pay for turning a derivative law into an ultimate
principle is somewhat ruinous. You have to import into the

* " Die erste von den eben erwahnten Regeln ist das sogenannte Gesetz
der Aenlichkeit : alle ahnlichen Vorstellungen associiren sich. Es ist
mir nicht unbekannt, dass diese Kegel von vielen Psychologen dem
Gesetze der Partialvorstellungen koordinirt, und fiir ein, von diesem
unabhangiges Gesetz gehalten wird. Allein das heisst dem erstern einen
zu hohen, dem andern einen zu niedrigen Rang anweisen. Aehnliche
Vorstellungen konnen sich nur in sofern associiren, als sie, oder ihre
Merkmale, zu einer Totalvorstellung gehoren, welches aber bei ihnen ohne
Ausnahme der Fall ist. Zwei Vorstellungen a und b sind einander
ahnlich, sofern beide das gemeinschaftliche Merkmal /3 haben. Wenn
also b^ der die Merkmale /3 8 e zukommen, sich mit a worin die Merkmale
/Say angetroffen werden, vergesellschaftet ; so associiren sich a y mit i3,
sind also zusammengehorige Partialvorstellungen."

t Sir W. Hamilton not only refers to the true account of Association
by Similarity, but even criticizes it. Unfortunately he had not the least
idea of its meaning. He tells us first that we are to discount " Wolff who
czunot properly be adduced." I have no notion what "properly" stands
for here, and perhaps Sir W. Hamilton did not really know what Wolff
says. He then proposes an emendation in the passage from Maas,
which reduces it to nonsense, and his criticism shows that he had no idea
of the real meaning of cither Wolff or his followers (vid. Reidy 913-4).



314 THE PRINCIPLES OF LOGIC. [Bk. IL Pt. IL

simplest processes a mass of detail which is demonstrably not
there. And this is surely a procedure which science will not
justify.

And if I am told, " At all events the process of suggestion,
as you describe it, is much too complex for a primitive mind,"
that objection once more only serves to strengthen me. For the
process does not exist in a primitive mind. Similarity is a
somewhat late perception, and hence can not appear at an early
stage. For a rude understanding, if things are not the same,
they are simply different To see, or to feel, that two things
are not the same and yet are alike, are diverse and yet in part
identical, is a feat impossible for a low intelligence. It demands
an advance in reflection and distinction which no sane
psychology can place at the beginning of mental evolution.
No doubt you may say that from the very first mental elements
are alike, although the mind does not perceive it. But in
saying this you open a question not welcome I should judge
to the disciples of Experience. For if states of mind can be
alike, and yet not like to the mind, what is such similarity but
the identity of elements within these states } The distinction
on the one hand between what is or was in the mind, and, on the
other hand, that which is felt by the mind or is now before ity
is, if admitted, quite fatal to the orthodox English creed. We
should have an attempt to purchase consistency by suicide.

If the school of Association desired to be consistent, it
might find perhaps in the " mechanism of ideas," apart from
consciousness, a way of propping its tottering beliefs. But
that mechanism implies metaphysical doctrines as to the
unity of the soul and the permanence of ideas, which in
themselves would be somewhat difficult to maintain, and
which would give the lie to our most cherished prejudices.

But if consistency can be reached by no way but suicide,
something after all may be said for the admission of the
doctrine we have adopted — that all association is between
universals, and that all consists in redintegration by identity.

§ 34. The answer no doubt will be the old " Non
possumns. No two states of mind can have anything in
common ; for, if so, they would be the same, and that is
impossible." On this rock of obstinate metaphysical prejudice



Chap. L] THE THEORY OF ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS. 315

our explanations are broken. It would be useless to point out,
as we have already pointed out, to the disciple of Experience
that his own theory has been wrecked on this same iron dogma.
He would say, I suppose, "Let the facts go unexplained, let
miracles be invoked and fictions multiplied, let analysis be
neglected and experience contemned — only do not ask me to
be false to my principles, do not ask me to defile the grave of
my fathers. An advanced thinker once, an advanced thinker



Online LibraryF. H. (Francis Herbert) BradleyThe principles of logic → online text (page 30 of 50)