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series of degrees of consciousness.^

Empirically, conscious life appears as united to certain forms
or functions of the nervous system. But the nervous system has
itself arisen by differentiation out of uniform protoplasm ; the
properties of the nervous system must likewise, therefore, be
higher grades of something already correlated with general organic
matter {cf. above, p. 35). There is nothing here to justify the
introduction, at a certain given stage of material development,
of wholly new points of view. The nervous system is, so to
speak, only the highest flower of material existence ; it is distin-
guished above other forms only by its higher degree of develop-
ment. For this reason modern physiologists {e.g. Claude
Bernard) trace sensibility back to the irritability (the power of
receiving and responding to excitations) of organic matter. Con-
scious reaction would thus be only a higher form of unconscious
reaction. Bernard finds evidence for this in the effect of stupefy-
ing drugs (anaesthetics). The power of such drugs (opium,
chloroform, &c.) to suspend consciousness is due to the fact that
they take effect first of all on that part of the organism which is
most susceptible to excitations, and this is the nervous system,
the most highly differentiated organic matter. But by the use of
stronger doses, or by continuation of the effect, the remaining vital
activity is also gradually affected. Now that which is influenced
by one and the same thing in the same manner, only in different
degrees, can be different only in degree. In this way we ascend
gradually from the lowest manifestations of life to that highest

1 This view is held by various more modern u-riters. The most interesting develop-
ment is that of Clifford {Lectures and Essays, ii., pp. 61-84 seq.). Virchow, who
contested this hypothesis in his speech on " The Liberty of Science" (Die Freilieit der
IVissemcha/t), made nevertheless in regard to it the significant admission that, // the
mental processes could be completely brought into connection with what takes place in
the rest of the world, the province of mental phenomena would necessarily be extended
far below the human consciousness— down to the lowest animals, to plants, cells, and atoms
(p. 27). Monistic speculation cannot be called inadmissible, if it really is the only logical
method of pustulating connection between the mental phenomena and the rest of the


vital activity, with which consciousness is linked.' The differ-
ence between human consciousness and the psychical element
associated with the group of atoms, must be supposed to be as
great as is the distance between the functions of the human
brain and the movements of the inorganic group, though it
may be one of degree only. Here, therefore, we are brought
to recognize a continuation downwards of the scale previously
given (I. 6). A difference of degree, however, does not exclude
the possibility of the emergence of absolutely new forms and
properties, to which we have no parallel in the lower stages ;
a body acquires, e.i^^., other properties when its temperature
is changed, and a compound substance may possess properties
which belong to none of its constituents. We cannot, therefore,
form any idea of the character of those forms of mental life which
lie lower than what is to us the threshold of consciousness.

II. There still remains an important consideration. In what
precedes, stress has been laid on the principle of the conservation of
physical energy, a principle which expresses a grand coherence in
the material world, but prevertts the acceptance of a causal relation
between matter and consciousness. But the principle of the con-
servation of energy is only the special, precise form which the
general causal principle takes in the physical province. In this
province the causal principle is satisfied, if physical causes have
physical effects. But now consciousness makes its appearance as
a plus which is added at certain points to these physical effects, as
a something over and above, that cannot be explained by physical
causes. Dubois Reymond, in his treatise [/der die Grenzen des
Naturerkennens (1872), (" On the Limits to the Knowledge of
Nature,") concludes from this, that mental phenomena stand out
side the law of causality, and indicate a breach with the principle.
of sufficient reason. After all we have said, he must be allowed to
be right, so long as we keep to a purely deductive standpoint and
derive the premisses of the deduction from the principles of
physical mechanics. But we have no right to regard these
principles as the only ones. They are, as already pointed out
(II. 2), the presuppositions on which it has been possible to erect
the proud structure of the natural sciences ; but it does not follow
that they exhaust the nature of being. The same being, which,

1 Bernard, Le^cns sur les Phenomenes lif la I'le. pp. 280-290; see also his p.iper "La
Seiisibilite' dans la Kegiie Animal et dans le Rcgiie Vcge'tal " (111 the collection of Bernard's
papers published under the title La Science experimentalt) \ as also his Rapport sur Ui
Progris et ta Marche Je la /'hysiolo«;i<: s^nirali en France (Paris, 1S77), p. iSo.


looked at from one side, may be apprehended and explained from
points of view contained in the law of conservation and in the law
of energy, may well have other sides, not to be explained from
these points of view but involving new principles, though these
cannot of course contradict the others. Now we have shown in
the first chapter, that the principle that psychology is independent
of natural, science (in the narrower sense) is indicated by the fact
that psychology is not merely based on the consequences of
physics and physiology, but draws also from a totally different
source of knowledge, namely, from inner subjective perception.
If, then, experience is not exhausted in physical experience, we
understand the necessity — after drawing the final consequences of
the fundamental laws of physical experience, and finding that they
do not lead to consciousness — of instituting a new inductive
investigation, of apprehending a new empirical starting-point.
Here two tasks present themselves, the one the discovery of a
conformity to law in the psychological world of experience, the
other the discovery of the relation in which the psychological
experiences must stand to the physical. With the first we shall
occupy ourselves in the subsequent chapters ; the second we have
treated in the preceding chapter. There it was seen to be
difficult, if not impossible, to interpolate conscious life in interstices
or gaps of external nature, and we were led to conceive of it as
another form of manifestation of the same being that operates in
the material world. Herewith Dubois Reymond's paradox falls to
the ground. For there is now a possibility of supposing a con-
nection as thoroughgoing in the one province as in the other.
That consciousness seems to us to arise out of nothing is in that
case only an illusion, precisely as it is a delusion to suppose that in
external nature anything arises out of nothing. The apparent
emergence of consciousness is then only a transition from one
ideal form into another, just as every new material movement is
produced by conversion from another form of movement.

Such an hypothesis must be taken at its proper value. The
unconscious is a conception that marks a limit in science, and
when we stand at such a limit, it may have its importance to try
and measure, by way of hypothesis, the possibilities which suggest
tliemselves as consequences of our knowledge ; but any real
extension of knowledge in this way is impossible. The psycho-
logist acts here like the philologist, who supplements the fragment
of an ancient author by critical conjecture. The mental world — as


compared with the physical world — is to us as a fragment ; it is
possible to complete it only by means of hypothesis, and even such
completion has great difficulties, which have already been touched
upon (see p. 66 seq.).

12. This fragmentary character of the psychological phenomena,
as known to us, makes it impossible for psychology ever to become
an exact science, such as physics is already, and as physiology is
in process of becoming.

The inner incompleteness of psychology is connected with the
fact that we can propound no principle to which both our psycho-
logical and our physical knowledge can be traced back. Philoso-
phical speculation has sought for some such principle, from
which both the world of spirit and of matter might be deduced.
Spinoza found it in "substance," the infinite original essence,
Schelling in " the absolute identity," Hegel in the " absolute idea."
But it has been proved of every principle of this kind, that it
contains no real explanation, and that the deduction rests on
unwarranted assumptions. Starting from experience, we are led
to formulate such an aim, but perceive at the same time that it
can never be attained.

But if we cannot at once reach an exact deductive psychology,
to say nothing of a higher knowledge from which both psycho-
logy and physics might be deduced, we may establish b}- way
of induction significant laws, which hold good in matter of
factfor both conscious life and external nature. To Herbert Spencer
belongs the credit of having first really worked from this point of
view.i He has shown that all phenomena known in inner as well
as in outer experience are subject to evolution, and has tried to lay
down laws of evolution common to both. In all departments
evolution consists in transition from an incoherent, indefinite, and
homogeneous state to coherence, definiteness, heterogeneity.- By
these common laws and forms mental life appears from a new side
as closely bound up with the general life of the universe ; with this
its paths are interlaced. Here we will call special attention only to
the fact that progressive individualization may be given as the

1 First Principles (ist ed., iS6i); Principles oj Biology (1864); Principles oj
Psychology (1st ed., 1855).

- See Den cngtlske Ptlosofi i vor Tiii {" The English Philosophy of our Times "), pp.
137-139 (German edition, 1889, pp. 176-178). Among Danish writers, .Sibbern has laid
special weight on ihe fact, that all evolution takes place sporadically from different
starting-points, and only by degrees leads to coherence, and he has shown this in respect
of mental life very finely in a treatise in his Philosophise/ten y^nA/'f (Kopenhagen, 183c),
p. 263. {Cf. Dr. Ward's application of this principle of "progressive differentiation" to
the theory of presentations (£'»o'. Brit. vol. xx. pp. 44 seq.. Art. " Psychology"). (Tr.)J


common mark of evolution in all its forms. Everywhere in
nature smaller totalities form themselves within the great, infinite
totality, each with its particular relation of interaction with the
surrounding world.' An individual is a being which is in such a
way separated off from and independent of its surroundings,
that it can re-act upon them with a certain uniqueness. But as
already hinted (p. 35 scq.), the full stamp of individuality is found
only in the province of conscious life, where central points are found
for passion and action. This law of the universe receives therefore
its clearest expression in the mental province, as a sort of com-
pensation for the fact that the more elementary law of the con-
servation of energy cannot be established there. Could these two
laws be brought into inner harmony or reduced to a yet deeper
principle, all problems would be solved.

1 See my work Uher die Griindlage der hiiiiianen Ethik ("On the Hasis of Humane
Ethies") (Bonn, 1880), pp. 8o-8i.



I. The preceding chapters have been occupied with the relation
of psychological phenomena to other departments. Before we
enter into an investigation of special psychological relations, it will
be profitable to glance at conscious life as a whole and at the
chief differences found in it. We shall thus be less exposed to
the danger of losing sight of the whole for the details. It is true
that, as in the previous chapters we have made use of psycho-
logical developments and results, so here wc shall have to take as
given and allowed much that can be proved only by special in-
vestigation. We shall gain, however, this advantage, that the
exposition may proceed from the more to the less obvious,
and from the main features to the details. To which may be
added, that special psychological investigations presuppose an
abstraction from that great vital connection, in which every mental
fact has its existence ; so that it is the more necessary to gain
first of all a firm grasp of that whole out of which psychological
abstraction isolates single elements.

The abstract character of psychological distinctions and con-
ceptions has not always been clearly seen. Reflection discovered at
a very early stage different elements in conscious states, but was
disposed to establish them as independent, separate parts or
faculties of the mind {cf. I. 8, c). Thus even in Plato {Republic,
Bk. IV.) we find a distinction, based on a penetrating analysis,
between different "parts" of the mind, in which inner con-
tending principles are exhibited : (i) Reason ; (2) Feelings of
courage and anger ; (3) Sensuous impulse. In modern times


different "faculties" have been spoken of in the same external
manner, as acting independently of, and in opposition to, one
another. Not only was a division between different parts or
faculties thus introduced— a division disproved by the thorough-
going unity of conscious life, without which even the strongest
contrasts could not be felt or apprehended — but moreover those
who took this view fell into the delusion of supposing that by
tracing the phenomena back to different "faculties" they had
reached an explanation : that, e.g., knowledge and feeling would
severally be more easily intelligible, if a special faculty of know-
ledge and a special faculty of feeling were accepted. This illusion
was similar to that which derived life from a vital force — a notion
ridiculed by Moliere in the last interlude oi Le Malade Imaginaire,
when he makes the candidate for a medical degree explain the
soporific effect of opium by attributing to opium a virtus dormi-
tiva. The purely abstract character of such distinctions was
overlooked — as in popular usage it is still overlooked. They imply
only that there are certain differences between certain states of
consciousness. But it does not follow that there is any justification
for arranging the various states each in its own class. It must first
be inquired whether there are not the same elements in all actual
states of consciousness, the differences arising from the preponder-
ance of certain elements and the subordinate importance of others.
Properly speaking, then, it is not the phenomena of consciousness
or the states of consciousness themselves which are grouped and
classified, but the elements which on closer examination we find in
them, since by psychological elements we understand the different
sides or qualities of the states or the phenomena of consciousness.
When intellection and feeling are contrasted with one another, all
that can be meant is the contrast between states with preponder-
ating ideational-elements, and states with preponderating feeling-
elements. It will be seen that this view is the only one tenable,
since no state can be pointed out, which is absolutely pure idea,
or feeling, or will. The question as to classification, then, is really
this — whether we are justified in admitting different species of
psychological elements.

2. The classification now generally accepted is the tripartite
division, into cognition, feeling, and will. After the bipartite
division into cognition and will had been followed from the time
of Aristotle, the German psychologists of the last century accepted
feeling as an intermediate link. Rousseau obtained special in-


flucnce on psychological classification by impressively maintaining
the rights and the importance of the life of feeling. Kant's ap-
plication of this tripartite division secured for it universal accept-
ance. The attempts which have been made since Kant to trace
back all manifestations of consciousness to a single species of
element, have not been successful, and besides, these really recog-
nize the three kinds as given, and only endeavour to trace them
back to one principle.

The older psychologists conceived feeling either as obscure
thought, or as impulse and will. It was natural that attention
should first be directed to cognition and will, and should overlook
the elements which lie deeper. This is analogous to the fact that
attention is directed outwards to the external world earlier than
to the internal. Cognition and will denote in fact the sides of
conscious life which are turned to the outer world. In cognition
(under which psychology reckons sensations, representations,
and thoughts) an image is formed of the external world and of the
individual himself as a part of the world. In will (under which are
reckoned impulse, purpose, and resolve) the individual reacts on
the outer world. The elements of feeling, the inner rhythm of
pleasure and pain, are always so closely bound up with certain
images and thoughts or with certain actions, that they may easily
be confounded with them. Besides, the element of feeling is in
itself difficult to describe. A simple sensuous percept, e.g., a colour
or a sound, can be more directly indicated ; but feelings of pleasure
and pain lie deeper, and cannot be elements of immediate sensuous
perception. Feeling might perhaps be defined as that in our inward
states, which cannot by any possibility become an element of a
percept or of an image. It is an inner illumination which falls on
the stream of sensations and ideas. Nor is it every pleasure and
pain which finds expression in action. In the first chapter we have
given instances of the difficulty of arguing from external relation to
inner feelings.

The independence of the feeling-elements as contrasted with
other conscious elements is apparent in the fact that even if
there be no state that can be called mere feeling without cognition
and will, yet feeling does not necessarily accompany any definite
condition, theoretical or practical. In different individuals and in
the same individual at different times, pleasure and pain accompany
different objects. Something which at first excites pain, may
afterwards excite pleasure, and vice versa. At the same time there


is a clear contrast between states in which thought or action so
powerfully occupies consciousness that the wave of feeling is
scarcely perceptible, and states in which the powerful stirring up of
feeling suppresses clear and coherent thought and circumspect
action. Physiologically, the latter states are clearly indicated by the
transmission of movement from the central nervous system to the
internal organs, and by the reaction of these upon the brain.

3. Although we are thus justified in employing the tripartite
division as a basis in psychological inquiries, it does not follow
that it is to be regarded as original. In presenting the charac-
teristics of conscious life, we take it as it appears at an advanced
stage of development, where it has acquired a certain distinctly
marked form. There is no ground for supposing that the threefold
nature of the elements is equally prominent at lower stages of
development. On the contrary, it is one of the general laws of
development that the indefinite and the homogeneous precedes the
definite and heterogeneous. The first germ of the organism is a
uniform mass, in which no definite structure can be distingished.
If conscious life follows the general laws of life and of develop-
ment, then the three different species of elements must not be
expected to stand out so clearly at the lowest as at the later

This suggests the introduction of a second point of view.
Instead of a classification according to breadth, according to
the dissimilar but simultaneous elements, we now obtain a classi-
fication according to height, according to the stages of develop-
ment. A point of view of this kind was introduced at an early
period in psychology, and once more Aristotle, the founder of
experiential psychology, must first be named. Plato, indeed, dis-
tinguished between higher and lower forms of mental life ; but he
was mainly influenced by ethical motives, and denied that the
higher mental forms could be evolved from the lower, since the
latter arose only through the implanting of a spiritual being in a
mortal body. Aristotle, on the other hand, tries, with a penetrating
use of the materials at his disposal, to show how one form of
the mental manifestations forms the basis of another. In our
times this conception has received fresh support through the
evolution-hypothesis, and through the inducement this offers to
find the connection between the stages of development of mental
life not only in the individual but also in the race and in successive


4. Conscious life certainly begins in the fcctus-state (see I. 4).
So far as it is possible to judge, various more or less definite
sensations (consequently cognitive elements) must be experienced
even in this state. In like manner there are certainly oscilla-
tions of pleasure and pain, following the course of the vegetative
functions. In the movements, often very lively, which the fatus
makes, may be recognized the expression of a primitive will,
whether we explain them (with Bain) by an unconscious impulse to
the discharge of accumulated tension, or even here talk of an
actual impulse to movement. Even if these movements take
place at first quite unconsciously, they will soon bring about
consciousness through the sensations which they occasion. Here,
then, are elements of all three kinds, but in close conjunction.
The transition from stimulus to reaction is here immediate ; even
if the movements of the foetus are something more than mere
reflex-movements, they do not rise far above the stage of instinct.
Instinct is distinguished from mere reflex-movement by the fact
that it includes an obscure impulse of feeling, conseciuently a sort
of consciousness, though not consciousness of the actual end of
the action ; it is distinguished from the involuntary discharge of
energy, supposed by Bain, by the fact that it is directed to a de-
finite end, useful either to the individual or to the race. Instinct
need not be displayed at one stroke ; it does not exclude the
necessity of certain elementary experiences ; but these are easily
and naturally obtained by means of the original organization. The
movements in which the sense of well-being or of discomfort finds
expression, must naturally take that course which the organization
of the individual renders most accessible. This original organization
is a given starting-point, connecting the conscious and the uncon-
scious, the heritage of the race and the experience and activity
of the individual. The new-born individual is thus not only in
possession of sensory and motor organs, but had already begun, in
the maternal bosom, to exercise them.' A definite discrimination
of the different elements cannot, however, be made at this stage.
Sensations blend immediately with feelings of pleasure and pain,
and these break out, equally immediately, into movements.

The experiences of early childhood correspond to what may
be concluded about the conscious life of the foetus. The pre-
dominating importance of the vegetative life precludes differ-

1 Kussm.iul, Untcrsuchunt;en iibcr das SeeUnleben dts neugebsrenen Menschen, p. 35 ;
c/. Cabanis, Rapport du i'hysique et du Moral, ed. Peisse, Paris, 1843, p. 114, seq.
Burdach, Physiologic als Er/ahritngsivissenscka/i, Leipzig, i8i8, vol. ii. p. 693, seg.


entiation. Immediate, instantaneous transition from excitation
to movement is characteristic of the earliest stage of conscious
life ; it is only gradually that an interval is formed, in which inner
differences and contrasts may make themselves felt. " The

Online LibraryHarald HøffdingOutlines of psychology → online text (page 10 of 41)