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tain realm of experience only by means of the statement: The
events of this realm of experience have the character of ran-
domness in the mathematical sense of the word. It follows from
this statement that all the propositions of the calculus of pro-
babilities must be true for this group of events, but the truth of
every single proposition is based and derived from this one
empirical fact that the events have random character. The
more frequent practice of concluding from the agreement of all
the inferences of the calculus of probabilities with experience to
the randomness of the events stands of course on the same
epistemoloojical level.

The set of fundamental proposition may be subjected to criti-
cism or revision, but as long as one stands on the ground of this
science one has no possibility, and no need, .to doubt the truth
of the set of fundamental propositions. All one can do is to state
the fact that the conclusions drawn from it coincide or do not
coincide with experience. It is not always possible to state the
fundamental principles in such a way that one can be sure of their
empirical truth; this is the case mostly when the facts science has
to work on are yet imperfectly known. In these Qases one accepts
the formulation which fits best to the facts known; propositions

*C. F. Gauss, Magnetismus und Mainetomcier, Werke, Vol. 5, p. 315.
"Unter Erklaren versteht aber der Naturforscher nichts anderes, als das
Zuriickfuhren auf moglichst weriige und moglichst einfache Grundgesetre,
iiber die er nicht weiter hinaus kann, sondern sie schlechthin fordern muss,
und aus ihnen die Erscheinungen vollstandig ableitet."



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THE PSYCHOMETRIC FUNCTIONS 1 47

of this kind are hypotheses of generalizing character. Systems
which are based on generalizations from incomplete data are
likely to undergo changes due to better information. The cor-
rections which our views have to undergo under the influence of
the knowledge of new facts must render the system again the one
that fits the facts best. This requirement is based on the
methodological principle that a proposition based on the observa-
tion of empirical facts holds good for experience in general as
long as no contrary instances are known. The system of science
which fits best the facts known has, therefore, the smallest
probability of being obliged to undergo a correction under the
influence of new information. This rule may be formulated, that
one chooses among systems of hypothetical character the one
which has the greatest stability.

It was mentioned above that the difficulties which one encoun-
ters in the construction of these systems of science are very differ-
ent in the different realms of experience. The totality of all the
data which constitute experience may be divided into two classes.
The first class comprises all those events which are interpreted
as indicating a mental life similar to our own; the second class
is constituted by all the events which are not interpreted in this
way. Let us designate events of the first class by the capital

letters A, B, C, , events of the second class by the small

letters a, b, c, and let us use greek letters if we speak of an

event without laying stress on its belonging to one of these two

classes. The description of the phenomena a, b, c, has made

steady progress, but that of the phenomena of the class A, B, C,

was found to be singularly difficult. The elements of the

class a, b, c, show a certain constancy in their arrangement

which makes classification comparatively eafsy, and which is very
important for the study of the succession of these phenomena,
understanding by succession the temporal order of the phenomena.
This succession is under the general rule of the law of causality
which states that there are certain definite rules which regulate

the order in which a group of events jw, v, o, .... is followed by

other events .... jw', v\ o', If the rules are such that a certain

group .... |0, Oy T, .... is always followed by the same group |o', o'yv' j
...., we may say that the succession shows uniformity, but if the



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148 PROBLEMS OF PSYCHOPHYSICS

rules are such that a group of events .... py a, t, .... may. be fol-
lowed at different times by different gioups, although the group
which follows it, is well defined, we may say that the succession
is regular. The law of causality in this general formulation
does not discriminate between events of the classes A, B, C ....

and a, b, c, The difficulty of establishing rules of succession

depends to a large extent on the possibility of identifying groups
of events and on their stability, which consists chiefly in their
not being broken up or interrupted by other events. The num-
ber of rules for the succession of the events of the class a,
b, c, .... is so great and that for the class A, B, C, .... is so small,
that one has tried to utilize this fact for laying down a general
distinction between these two classes of events. Leaving the
metaphysical side of this view out of question (that the class
A, B, C, .... is made up of those events for which it is character-
istic that they never can be brought under the law of causality)
this definition is certainly not serviceable for empirical purposes,
because the apparent lack of rules of the succession is also found
in other events (events of random character) which we do not

classify among A, B, C, Drawing the line of demarcation

at those points where the limits of our actual knowledge are, has
the inconvenience that the class A, B, C, .... is cut down by every
progress of science. The logical outcome of such a procedure
is the denial of the existence of this class, the elements of which
are found only outside of the realm of science, a denial, which in
turn is confronted with the fact that these events, whatever
their general importance may be, are most intimately known and
of greatest immediate interest for us.

The difference between these two classes does not exist for
primitive thinking, which is anthropomorphic to such an extent

that all the events seem to belong to the class A, B, C, The

above mentioned elimination of this class belongs only to a com-
paratively late stage of development. This development is brought
about by the consistent and continuous use of certain notions the
origin of which we do not discuss here and the metaphysical bear-
ing of which we leave aside. In the first rank among these no-
tions stand the ideas of substance and causality. Substance is
defined as that, the idea of which is the absolute subject of our



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THE PSYCHOMETRIC FUNCTIONS 149

judgments and which is, therefore, not a determination of any-
thing. Substance is not the predicate of any object, but it is the
subject to which all attributes refer. All phenomena are regarded
as attributes of something, and this is substance which remains
unaltered by the change of its determinations. The difference be-
tween the two classes of events being established, the phenomena
were referred to two entirely different substances, and the problem
was to define them and to answer the questions which arise from
the application of these notions to experience. The bearer of alJ
the predicates of the class a, b, c, .... can be defined as what is move-
able in space, and the term used for this notion is matter. The
substance underlying the phenomena A, B, C, .... is characterized
by thinking. These are the characteristic qualities of the materia
extensa and of the materia cogitans, from which their other deter-
minations follow.

These notions of mind and matter met with very different suc-
cess. On the notion of matter one can build up systems of almost
inexhaustible fertility, but all the efforts to deduce anything
from the notion of a thinking substance have been in vain. In
the realm of experience this notion is of no use, and beyond this
it leads only to endless controversies. The success of the one
notion, however, produced a favorable prejudice in favor of the
other and numberless attempts were made to define it in such
a way that the difficulties which it implies may be avoided.

We may call every theory which uses the notion of substance
an ontological hypothesis, because it expresses a view on the
nature of things. Any ontological theory must take one of the
following views. 1.) There exists only one substance, because
the other can be reduced to it; 2.) there exist two substances,
one of which produces the phenomena A, B, C, .... and the other

the phenomena a, b, c, The first hypothesis is the monistic

view, which may be formulated as materialism or as spiritualism
of which materialism is the more important partly for reason of
the consistency of the system and partly for the number of its
followers. Materialism (spiritualism) is the ontological view
that extended matter (thinking substance) is the only existing
thing. Both forms of the monistic hypothesis meet with one
common difficulty, but against materialism there is an argument



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150 PROBLEMS OF PSYCHOPHYSICS

available to which spiritualism is not open. This argument may
be called the epistemological argument against materialism. It
is based on the fact, that what is immediately given to us is con-
sciousness and that matter is known to us merely by our ideas.
To reduce mental life to matter is therefore an explanation per
ignotius.'^'

Every monistic system is called upon to explain how a substance
may produce phenomena so fundamentally different in their qual-
ities. Materialism can explain everything but thought; spiritual-
ism can explain everything but matter. The materia cogitans can
not be reduced to the materia extensa nor I'ice versa. Materialism
and spiritualism are equally open to this argument which may be
called the ontological argument against monism. This argument
is greatly used in the different refutations of materialism, f and
Leibnitz's example of the mill| is very likely the first exhibition
of it. No new argument against materialism was found in spite
of great effort and, as F. A. Lange remarks,! it is always the
same hit, the impossibility to reduce the psychic to the physic,
which deals a knock-out blow to materialism.

♦The trend of this argument goss bac'c to Kant K. d. r. V., Werke, ed.
Hartenstein, Vol. 3, pp. 606, 607 (omitted in the second edition.) The full
statement of this subtle argument is due to Schopenhauer, W. a. W.
u. V. Werke, ed. Griesebach, Vol. 1, p. 62 sqs. "Der Materialismus ist also
der Versuch das unmittelbar Gegebene aus dem mittlebar Gegebenem zu
erklaren." This argument was adopted also by Riehl, Schuppe, Bergmann,
Adickes and others; see L. BussE, Geist und K or per, Seele und Leib, 1903,
pp. 15-17, who states the argument in full and gives references to further
Hterature.

fMaterialism has two forms: 1.) The psychic is a particular kind of
matter; 2.) the psychic is a type of motion. The latter view may be formu-
lated more cautiously in this way: The effects of the psychic are equivalent
to motion. It seems that this formulation avoids the ontological argument
but in this formulation, materialism has lost entirely its ontological charac-
ter taking the phenomenalistic point of view that a force is known to us merely
by its effects.

jOne finds this argun^it very frequently. The last statement is that of
C. L. Herrick, The Nature of the Soul, Psych. Rev. Vol. XIV, 1907, p. 208,
where the argument is attributed to Rabier.

!IF. A. Lange, History of Materialism {Engl. Transl.,) 1881, Vol. Ill, p.
329. For the critique of other arguments against materialism L. BussE,
Geist und K or per, Seele und Leib, 1903, pp. 50-61.



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THE PSYCHOMETRIC FUNCTIONS 151

The dualistic hypotheses are in turn confronted with the neces-
sity of explaining how two substances which are so fundamentally
different can influence one another. The relation of these two
substances is the problem to be explained by dualism; the intrin-
sic difficulties of this view are so great that the authors who pro-
fess these ideas introduce them, very frequently, as the one hy-
pothesis against which the smallest number of arguments tells.*
Such a view, even if full credit is given to all the arguments of
the authors, has of course not the character of the most probable,
but only of the least objectionable hypothesis, and it amounts
almost to a renunciation of every theoretical intelligibility to
introduce the incomprehensible right at the beginning of one's
explanation, t The dualistic systems occur in the following
three forms: 1.) Interactionalism, 2.) occasionalism and 3.)
parallelism, the first and third form having two different types.

♦Prof. James, for instance, introduces in his "Principles of Psychology"
the notion of a soul in this way at the end of a long discussion of other views;
the trend of Busse's argumentation is similar.

fXhe same objection holds against the view that one has to consider it as
a jact that the psychic influences the physical, and vice versa, and that the
incomprehensibility of such an influence, which makes this influence equiva-
lent to a miracle, is no objection, "because a miracle that happens every day
ceases to be a miracle." This view was taken by Stumpf and Jerusalem.
This argument proves too much. It is for instance also available in defence
of occasionalism, which is thoroughly acceptable if one is satisfied with resolv-
ing the events in an uninterrupted chain of miracles. The argument, however,
misses the following point: The difficulty of the problem lies in the correct
definition of notions which must be serviceable for the description of certain
facts, about which is little doubt in so far the quaesHo facti goes. The notions
used until now do not serve this purpose of a correct and contradictionless
description. In other problems one would dispose of notions which lead to
contradictions and try new ones. If the notions which are available should
not meet with better success one would suspect either that the problem is
insolvable, or that our present means are not sufficient for the solution. In
the first case one is satisfied with the demonstration that the problem cannot
be solved and one leaves the problem aside, as it was done with the problems
of squaring the circle and of constructing the perpetuum mobile. An example
of the second possibility is the problem of n bodies, of which it was shown lately
that our present means are not sufficient for a general solution. The peculiarity
of the mind-body problem lies in its connection with other highly important
■questions, which make it desirable to solve the problem in one way or the other.



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152 PROBLEMS OF PSYCHOPHYSICS

Interactionalism is found as the theory of an inftuxus physicus
or as the theory of an inftuxus psychicus or as a combination of
these two theories. The first type of the third form of the dual-
istic hypothesis is the pre-established harmony, and the second
is psychophysical parallelism in the proper sense, the principle
of which is that mental and physical phenomena are independent
from each other, so that one of them cannot be reduced to the
other, and that they go parallel without being in causal relation.
Psychophysical parallelism was stated in many different ways^
but the characteristic feature of parallelistic systems is the alleged
impossibility to reduce psychical to physical phenomena or vice
versa and the lack of causal relations between them. A certain
form of parallelism (universal parallelism in Busse's terminology)
approaches closely the view of the pre-established harmony.
Parallelism is called upon to explain the intercourse of two "spir-
its,' ' ase. g. in conversation, but this argument avails also against the
other dualistic theories except interactionalism.

The dualistic systems meet with a peculiar difficulty which is
caused by the application of the category of substance. This
difficulty consists in the impossibility of demonstrating strictly
the existence of other thinking beings, the term "thinking being''
referring a subject which is the bearer of conscious states. There
is no necessity for the assumption of conscious beings besides
the one thinking individual, because what we perceive are phe-
nomena belonging to the class of those which are attributed to
the materia extensa, and only our own conscious states are imme-
diately given to us. This view is known under the name of ab-
solute idealism or transcendental egotism. The scholastic for-
mulation of this view maintains that we perceive only the effects
of conscious states and that the conclusion from the effect to the
cause is not certain. This argument seems to be inevitable un-
der the assumption of a substance which underlies the thinking
process and the force and peculiarity of this argument is, per-
haps, best characterized by Schopenhauer's remark that trans-
cendental egotism remains an unconquerable position which, how-
ever, as a serious point of view can be found only in the mad-
house. This much disputed argument seems to give a peculiar
position to the mental states and it is not void of interest that it



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THE PSYCHOMETRIC FUNCTIONS 153

may be applied to objects of every description. This becomes
obvious at once when a question is raised like this : How do we
know that there is magnetic substance in a magnet? A magnet
is defined by the qualities of bodies in general and in addition to
these by all those reactions which are characteristic for the mag-
netic state. There is nothing about a substance in the data and
all we know about a magnetic body is exhausted with their de-
scription. In the same way we do not know of intelligence in a
thinking individual except by its reactions which, however, are
not as clearly defined as those characteristic for magnetism^ and
which are, furthermore, less stable. This lack of stability is the
reason why the notion of substance is of so little use in the treat-
ment of psychical phenomena and, no matter whether we regard
with Mach the notion of a substance as a hypothesis introduced
for the sake of explanation, or whether we consider it with Kant
as one of those notions which we are bound to apply to experi-
ence — two views which are by no means so very widely different
and which may be varied in detail considerably — the fact remains
that the notion of substance, though very useful in physics, is
of no practical avail in psychology. In physics the notion of
substance leads to that of matter, as that which is extended,,
moveable and impermeable, but when applied to mental states
it can be used only as the notion of an indefinite "something^',,
which is of no use. It is a very obvious idea to try how much one
can do without this notion.

In order to avoid all these difiiculties one may try to formulate
the problem in such a way that it loses its ontological character,,
retaining only the general problem of finding relations between
phenomena. Events are the only immediate datum of experi-
ence and one may try to find relations between them. The
complete description of an event requires that all the events
which are connected with it according to a definite rule are de-
scribed. A mental state is connected not only with events of
the class A, B, C, .... but also with events of the class a, b, c, ....
which must not be omitted in a complete description. Psycho-
physical parallelism, thus, gets a very simple expression on this
ground. The general principle of psychophysical parallelism
is that the events A, B, C, .... are in a relation with the events



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154 PROBLEMS OF PSYCHOHHYSICS

a, b, c, .... and that a mental phenomenon A is not explained
before those events of the class a, b, e, .... are described with which
A is in a definite relation. This principle does not make any
definite assumption about the nature of this relation, but it is
rather the expression of the fact that the phenomena of the classes
A, B, C, .... and a, b, c, .... constitute together the realm of experi-
ence, in which we may look out everywhere for connections be-
tween the events. A practical consequence of this principle is that
the investigation of the regularities of the connection between
events, especially of events of the class A, B, C, ....,must not stop
at any boundary inside the realm of experience. The existence
of definite rules for the connection of events is a supposition of
the possibility of constructing scientific systems, because it would
not be possible otherwise to deduce an exhaustive system from a
finite number of principles. The supposition that there are no dis-
connected events, i. e. wonders, in the entire realm of experience is
the condition of a complete description of the phenomena. In the
description of an element of the class A, B, C, .... , e. g. a color sen-
sation, the problem of psychophysical parallelism is not exhausted
with the answer to the question: Which are the phenomena
of the class a, b, c, . .. which are connected with this event accord-
ing to a definite rule? The class of phenomena the description
of which is required by this question contains among other pro-
cesses those which take place in the optic nerves and in the occip-
ital lobes under the influence of retinal stimulation. This answer
shows in itself that this description is only a part of the answer
to the more general problem which does not restrict the events
to those of the second class, and which requires the description
of all the events with which the first event is in relation. Events
of the class A, B, C, .... have the same claim as those of the class
a, b, c, . .. and the view that psychology, i. e. the science which
deals primarily with the events A, B, C, ...., should be resolved
into a special science of the events a, b, c, ....,e. g. into brain phys-
iology, is not essentially superior to the opposite view that the
events a, b, c, .... are indifferent for psychology, although it may
lead at present to a greater number of propositions, because the
relations of the second class are better known. The statement
that mental phenomena depend on physical phenomena is fre-



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THE PSYCHOMETRIC FUNCTIONS 155

quently nothing else but an expression of the principle of psycho-
physical parallelism. Sometimes, however, this statement is
given the more definite meaning that spatially well defined groups
of events of the class a, b, c, .. . are in constant relation with
certain events of the class A, B, C, .... so that the event A does
not occur if ....m, n, o, .... did not occur, and that .... m, n, o, ....
occur when A is observed. Such a statement contains a special
law and is necessarily the product of observation. The best
known example of a relation of this type is the so-called principle
of cortical localization. The term ''principle^' is well chosen if
this proposition is given the meaning that there exist such groups

of events .... m, n, o, .... for every event of the class A, B, C,

This proposition is of higher generality than a result of observa-
tions can be and it deserves the name of a principle, because it lays
down a rule for an important part of physiology. The term '^ prin-
ciple of cortical localization," however, is not well chosen, if it is
applied to that group of propositions which are the outcome of all
the investigations along this line. This group of propositions is the
expression of empirical facts and the term ^* empirical law" or
''law" is more appropriate. This relation between events A,
B, C, .... and events of the class a, b, c, .... seems to be very mys-
terious, if this relation is conceived as a relation between two
fundamentally different substances, but this mystery disappears
if the purely phenomenological point of view is taken. Both
events stand on the same level and their relation is not more
mysterious than that between any two others. The existence
of definite relations between spatially well defined groups of
physical phenomena and certain mental phenomena shows that
it is by no means an impossible task, involving a contradiction, to
establish relations between phenomena of the class A, B, C, .... and

those of the class a, b, c, * The contradiction only comes in

when the phenomena are referred to substances which are funda-
mentally different. Treating the data of experience in a purely

*An analysis of a very complicated group of sensation into its elements
was given by E. Mach, Analyse der Empfindungen, 1902, pp. 32, sq. This


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Online LibraryFriedrich Maria UrbanThe application of statistical methods to the problems of psychophysics → online text (page 13 of 18)