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process of nutrition in its simplest forms to the most ideal process
of feeling or thought. The biology of our time seems to be making
an approach to an all-embracing biological conception of this kind,
in regarding life in all its forms as an accommodation of the in-
ternal to the external. Conscious life marks the highest point of
the evolution of life, shows us the highest forms under which living
beings carry on the great struggle with the relations of the universe,
and in this struggle unfold their nature. To treat psychology
purely subjectively would be to overlook the great truth that
everything which stirs in the mind is conditioned by the mind's
place in the great system of nature.

Besides the physiology of the nerves and the physiology of the
senses, the science of mental diseases is also an important aid to
psychological insight, both by what it teaches about the connection
between mental and bodily disturbances, and by its investigations
into the forms and the course of development of the diseased mental
life. In the latter respect it serves as a transition from physio-
logical to sociological psychology, which deals with mental life as it
reveals itself in movement and action, in literature and art. The
material of sociological or comparative psychology is animal life,


child life, savage races, the whole history of man, poetry, and
biographies. Sociological psychology may thus be divided into
many branches of study (child psychology, animal psychology,
the psychology of races, of language, of literature, etc.), all of
which lead into the great historical system, within which the
individual consciousness develops, just as physiological psycho-
logy leads over to the physical system, in virtue of which the
mental life shares in the life of the universe. The thoughts and
feelings of the individual man at any given time are conditioned
not merely by his inherited natural organization, but also by the
atmosphere of historically evolved civilization in which he
grows up. The physical and historical systems stand in close
connection. The study of the influence of heredity forms (as from
another side the study of mental diseases) a connecting link be-
tween physiological and sociological psychology, especially if we
extend our view to the great horizon opened for us by the hypo-
thesis of evolution. Through this hypothesis, organic nature, even
the whole system of nature with its laws, acquires an historical
character, as conversely we look at organic forces and laws in their
influence on the historical development of human nature and of
the relations of human life.

(/) We need only glance hastily at all these different sources to
know that psychology cannot be a sharply defined science. It may
be pursued by many methods and in many ways ; here we have
wished to bring out distinctly only the principle of the relation
between the various ways. Thus there is not one psychology ; there
are many psychologies. But in consequence of the principle of the
position occupied by subjective psychology, there will always — in
spite of the growing importance of objective psychological study —
be a natural and legitimate endeavour to utilize subjective psycho-
logy as a basis, and to collect around it as the centre the contribu-
tions made from other sources. In fact psychology has followed
this method ever since Aristotle laid the foundation of experiential
psychology. Only for a time did psychology, guided by a mistaken
spiritualistic interest, endeavour to make its cause distinct from
that of physiology and the other objective sciences, with the
result the re-establishment of the connection came to be regarded
as a new discovery. Subjective psychology has had to wait for
objective ; when it had arrived at a thoroughly clear idea as to its
principle, it soon attained a certain completeness in its broad
features, before physiological and sociological study was sufficiently


developed to be able to work seriously into the hands of psychology.
In this respect it may be said that in our time a turning-point has
been reached.

Anyone who studies psychology out of philosophical interest will
have a special reason for bearing in mind throughout the principle
of the relation between the different sources of psycholoi;ical
knowledge, that the contribution which psychology is capable of
yielding to our general conception of the universe may not be dis-
torted. Here, as everywhere, it is important so to spread out for
observation the content of experience, that what is actually given
may be sharply distinguished from what is hypothetical, while, on
the other hand, the common and constant features, the general
laws, may come clearly and distinctly into view ; for on these, not
on the gaps which always remain in human knowledge, every
progressive philosophical inquiry should be based.

9. Psychology stands, then, at a point where natural science and
mental science intersect, where the one passes over into the
other. In its principle is the central point round which the
currents circle from either side, since all knowledge — being
based upon human nature and organization— becomes directly or
indirectly knowledge of mankind.

Psychology forms the basis on which the ideal mental sciences,
logic and ethics, build. What is true and good can be determined
only from the human standpoint, and cannot be understood with-
out acquaintance with actual human nature. Logic and ethics
set up ideals of human endeavour in thought and action. But if
these ideals are to have any value in actuality, they must be rooted
in it, and must therefore be based on a knowledge of the deepest
and most general elements and powers of human nature. Logic, as
the science of method, studies the special methods of investigation,
and tries to trace them back to fundamental methods immediately
arising from the nature of human consciousness ; as tlie philo-
sophical science of knowledge, it tries to lay down the general
principles, and the consequent limits, of human knowledge ; but
without psychological insight into the development of the life of
ideas, such an attempt can have no good result. Ethics tries
to lay down general principles for the estimation of human
volition and action, and to find out the direction in which,
according to these principles, human life should be developed ; but,
in attempting this, it must always proceed from human nature as
actually given, and from its possibilities as given by psychological


laws. Among these possibilities ethics, after weighing them,
makes its choice.

On the other hand, to confound logical and ethical ideals with
psychological reality leads to the distortion of psychology.
Psychology is concerned only with what is, not with what should be.
Of course, that state of consciousness in which it becomes
apparent to us that there is something we ought to do comes also
within the province of psychology ; like every other state of con-
sciousness, it is here investigated. But psychology makes no
valuation ; it inquires only into the actual connection, and into
the manner and the laws of its development, and leaves it to ethics
to pronounce a judgment on the different states. Psychology regards
mental phenomena as natural phenomena, and examines all of them
with the same calmness and impartiality. The fact that psychology
is independent of ethics was energetically maintained by Spinoza ; ^
but it is not yet, by a long way, sufficiently recognized. There is still
a disposition to regard certain forms of mental life as exempted by
their sublimity and worth from explanation and analysis. But
precisely those psychological phenomena which are of the greatest
ethical value are not simple and uncompounded, since they are the
crowning point of a long and rich process of development. From
their value, therefore, it follows that they are the very opposite
of an exception to general psychological conditions. It is in all
cases a mistaken notion that to esteem a thing of value and
to explain it causally are necessarily incompatible and opposed.
Of course theoretical inquiry may expose illusions ; in each
individual case it calls for a fresh testing of the justice of the
valuation ; but, in itself, it may very well be compatible with the
determination of worth. It is only a blase person, or one under
the influence of mythological superstition, who supposes that a
phenomenon loses its value because it is understood. Mean-
while it must be admitted that the harmony between valuation
and causal explanation is as yet only coming into existence ; but
psychology teaches that it must grow by a necessity of nature,
since knowledge artd feeling cannot permanently move in opposite

1 See my work, Spinoza's Liv og Lore (" Spinoza's Life and Teaching "), Copenhagen,
1877, p. 120 seq.



I. In the foregoing investigation it has been estabhshed that
knowledge of the mental and knowledge of the material are de-
rived from two distinct sources. The question which now arises
is concerned with the relation between these two dilVerent pro-
vinces of experience. This question does not lead, as here pre-
sented, to any metaphysical inquiries. We employ the word mind
only in the sense of consciousness, as a collective term for all our
inner experiences (sensations, thoughts, feelings, and resolutions),
and ask what guidance experience aftbrds as to the connection of
these experiences with those whose content is what moves in
space. Our standpoint is thus, to begin with, purely empirical or
phenomenal, not metaphysical or ontological. According to the
view given in the preceding chapter, the work of metaphysics
begins only when experience has been thoroughly explored, and
its tendencies and possibilities have been discussed.

Here, as everywhere, the popular mode of apprehension is
distinguished from the scientific in being a compound of ex-
perience and metaphysics. Popular apprehension often fastens,
with instinctive assurance, on certain prominent experiences ; but
it explains and circumscribes these experiences under the un-
conscious influence partly of traditional, partly of undisciplined
metaphysical ideas. Scientific apprehension, on the other hand,
endeavours first of all to become acquainted with the sources of
its assumptions, and to distinguish sharply between experience
and explanation. Consequently there arise for it difficulties
and problems which the popular mode of apprehension does
not feel.


So long as the phenomena of consciousness and the material
phenomena, each set with its special characters and internal
connection, are neither of them clearly conceived, the problem of
the relation between mind and body does not, properly speaking,
exist at all. If by mind is understood vaguely a moving principle,
an inner force of things, then there is no occasion to see any kind
of difficulty ; for such principles and forces can be postulated with
equal right in any province whatsoever. It is only when the
notion of mind is definitely limited to conscious life and its facts,
and when material phenomena, on the other hand, are conceived as
a self-contained world with its own principles and laws, that the
difficulty of a connection between the two provinces makes itself
felt. Thus the problem does not come from a dogmatic and
absolute distinction of two substances or essences ; we do not
know at the outset whether the difference is one of essence or not ;
we know only that there is a difference, and ask what is involved
in this phenomenal difference, given inexperience, and what follows
froiii it. In order to answer this question, we shall jjlace side by
side the main features characteristic of the two provinces of

2. The first great feature of material phenomena is the fact that
they appear in the form of space ; that directly or indirectly they
may always be traced back to a movement in space. This dis-
tinguishes them from states of consciousness, which can be repre-
sented as spatial only symbolically. This characteristic does not
in itself contain anything by which the material is sharply defined
and closed off as a world in itself For we might conceive these
spatial movements as brought about by something non-spatial.
The material world would in that case lie open to influences from

But scientific research makes such a possibility always more
inadmissible. It now applies in all departments tlie principle that
every material movement must be explained by another material

The very first principle on which exact natural science is based
is, that the state of a material point (rest or movement in a straight
line) can be altered only througli the influence of another material
jjoint. Physics marks off its special province by this principle
(the law of inertia), having found that it can attain to a scientific
knowledge of nature only by employing this law as basis. If
there were in a material point a capricious force, which might at


any moment move it in this or in that direction, or leave it at
rest or set it in motion indifferently, natural science would be

This principle cannot, from its nature, admit of rigid proof. It
is the fundamental assumption with which natural science comes
into existence ; wherefore it was laid down by Galileo, the founder
of physics. It cannot be deduced, as has been sometimes
attempted, from the universal principle of causality. For a
material phenomenon, a material movement, so far as its nature is
concerned, might very well have a cause, without this being
necessarily a material cause : the universal principle of causality
may be satisfied in many different ways. But it is a matter of fact
that physical science as hitherto developed has been made possible
only through the closer determination and limitation which the
law of inertia gives to the principle of causality in the province of
material nature. Nor can the law of inertia be fully established
by experience ; it does not, as some have supposed, express a
"fact." It can only be proved that the more a body is preserved
from external influence, tite more it remains in the state (rest or
movement in a straight line) in which it already is. The first
proposition of dynamics can therefore be only approximately
established in experience. Its chief importance is that it sets the
problem - to trace material phenomena back to other material
phenomena as their cause.

The like holds true of a more special principle, which gives its
character to modern natural science, the principle, namely, of the
conservation of matter and energy. Modern chemistry is based on
the assumption, confirmed by numerous experiments, that, in all
changes of matter, the sum of material particles (atoms) remains
the same. When bodies acquire new properties, this is to be
explained by the changed combination and disposition of the
parts. By the emergence and disappearance of a material object
is meant the composition or separation of atoms which existed
previously, but in other combinations. Chemistry, in explaining in
this way all changes of matter by the different movements of
atoms, applies in its particular department the principle that
material phenomena must be explained by other material pheno-
mena. And as matter is assumed to persist through all changes,
so the sum of the energy {i.e. capacity for work, for overcoming
resistance) manifested in material nature, is assumed to remain
the same. If energy appears to come into existence or to be lost.


this is an appearance only. Some examples will throw light on
the meaning of this principle.

Through chemical combination heat may arise. lUit the precise
amount of heat which arises through the combination disappears
when the combination is broken up. Now, whence does this heat
come, and whither does it go ? It arises as the equivalent of that
elastic force which held the parts asunder before their combina-
tion, and it recovers its equivalent through the tension with which,
after separation, the parts are kept away from one another. The
force with which a stone falls to the ground depends on the height
from which it falls ; but the height depends in its turn on the
force with which the stone has been raised. When the stone is
stopped by the earth, force seems to be lost, for the stone certainly
cannot set the earth in motion ; but in this case again the loss of
force means only its translation into another form — into heat.
This is what happens, too, when a movement is not altogether
stopped, but only checked by friction. The force which a body
loses through friction is not really lost, but turned into heat. When
water dashes against a mill-wheel, heat is produced. Conversely
heat can produce mechanical movement, as when the steam
expanded by heat drives the piston, which in its turn sets in
motion the wheel of the locomotive. And it has been proved by
repeated and uniformly successful experiments, that the amount
of force or energy^ lost under the one form obtains its exact equi-
valent under tlie other form, so that the same amount of the same
kind of energy can be restored.

However much the different forms of energy taken individually
may change, their sum therefore remains the same. But by energy
in that case we must understand not merely actual performance of
work (living force, actual energy), but also possible performance of
work (tension, potential energy), the work stored up, which under
•certain conditions can be set free and applied. When Sisyphus
succeeds in rolling his stone up the mountain, he really accom-
plishes something : his work is not lost, for the stone represents a
greater amount of energy at the top of the mountain than when
lying at the foot. In both cases it is at rest ; but the potential
energy is greater in the former case than in the latter, as becomes
evident so soon as the stone is put in motion. The misfortune of

1 On account of tlie ambiguity of llie term force, that of energy is usually employed,
nothing more being meant by it than the capacity to perform work or to overcome


Sisyphus consists only in his not being able to direct the greater
potential energy to sometlvng useful to himself or to other men ;
he is always obliged to begin again from the beginning. It is
therefore the sum of the actual and potential energy which— so far
as we can regard the universe as a self-contained whole— remains
always the same.

The doctrine of the conservation of matter and of energy may be
fornuihited either as a law, as a hypothesis, or as a principle. It
has been experimentally demonstrated in respect of so manv kinds
of matter and force, that it may justly be styled a law of nature.
The question is whether it holds for all kinds of matter and force,
and from this point of view — as a universal law of nature — it has
only hypothetical validity. It can never be more than approxi-
mately established by experience, since the whole content of nature
will probably never be known to us. To which must be added,
that we do not know any absolutely isolated and self-contained
totalities ; and only for such totalities can the doctrine hold good
in its strictest sense, since beings or systems related to other beings
or systems give off energy to these or receive energy from them.
All that we can show is, that the more a material system can be
shut off and isolated, the more will its matter and energy continue
to persist. As regards the extent to which this doctrine admits
of experimental proof, it resembles the law of inertia. Like
the latter, it has the great importance of being a methodical
principle, which impels us to seek equivalents for every portion
of. matter or of energy that seems to come into existence or to

3. One class of beings, however, not only popular apprehen-
sion, but for a long time science also, was disposed to regard as
exceptions to this general doctrine. Organisms, with their special
forms of development, their power of self-preservation in face of an
external world, seem to be little worlds capable of drawing life
from sources within themselves. For a long time any explanation
of the phenomena of organic life by means of the general forces of
nature was regarded as materialism. As, however, on the other
hand, it was clear that the conscious mind is not the direct cause of
organic processes, which so often take a direction quite contrary to
the will of the individual, a so-called vital force was interpolated
between the conscious mind and the body, to explain those
phenomena. This conception, the doctrine of so-called Vitalism,
could not of course fail to note that living beings stand in a rela-



tion of constant and complicated interaction with the external
world, are every instant being influenced and giving off influences,
and that the course of their development and dissolution is con-
ditioned throughout by this relation. The " vital force " had there-
fore to go through a similar process. But what led Vitalism astray
was the special manner in which the organism responds to all
external influences. That a ball rolls when we push it, seems to us
quite natural ; but that plants turn to the light, that nutriment
is converted into flesh and blood, or that the fingers contract when
the palm of the hand is lightly touched, appears to us very extra-
ordinary, for in these cases the response appears to stand in no
relation to what has called it forth. Vitalism here makes the mistake
of regarding the organism as an absolute unity, while it is in reality
an extraordinarily complex whole. An influence, when received,
is transmitted from part to part in this whole, and thus gradually
undergoes a complete change of aspect. It is converted partly into
other forms of energy, partly into potential energy or tension, and
finally serves partly to set free potential energy in the organism.
Research, in endeavouring to trace these changes step by step,
begins to understand them, and to see that the ultimate result may
be something totally different from what was taken into the
organism in the first instance. It perceives that the organism, by
means of the store of potential energy collected in its tissues and
circulating in its humours — which form as it were an external world
within the organism (a 7nilieti iiiterieur, to use Claude Bernard's
pertinent expression) — must confront the external world with an
independence quite other than that of the inorganic forms of
existence. Organic response to the appeal of the outward world
(irritability) must be the richer and more special in character, the
more stored-up energy there is to be set free. The doctrine of the
" vital force " is really only a mythological way of expressing the
amazement which the unique character of organic phenomena ex-
cited. Modern physiology has been led to a higher point of view
by analysis of the individual factors in the vital process. The idea
of the one indivisible vital force came in this way to give place to
the conception of an exceedingly complicated interaction, in which
individual manifestations of force may be traced back to general
forces of nature, and individual material particles to general
elementary matter. This is the principle with which physiology
now works, and to which therefore we also must adhere in the
present inquiries, even though no one may maintain that it is, or


perhaps ever can be, carried out everywhere. The important point
is, that to it are due all the advances physiology has made. How-
ever many difficulties remain, especially in the province of morpho-
logy, no explanation which contradicts this principle will for the
future be accepted. In any case the burden of proof rests on those
who appeal to the intervention of immaterial causes.^

For everything that arises or disappears in the organism, physi-
cal or chemical equivalents must be looked for, either within the
organism or outside it. Organic life is thus drawn into the great
system of nature. Under the influence of liylit the conversion of
inorganic matter into more complex organic matter takes place,
more particularly in the green cells of plants.- The organic matter
thus collected is used up in the functions of the plant and the
animal. .Metabolism depends on the conservation of energy,

Online LibraryHarald HøffdingOutlines of psychology → online text (page 4 of 41)