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and weaker when the organism is in a state of fatigue. In this
respect the condition of the central organ is of decisive influence ;
if it is tired, badly nourished, or affected by cold or strychnine
and certain other poisons, the reflex movement increases in speed,
strength, and extent. With " nervous " persons, whose unhealthy
state is connected with disturbances of nutrition in muscles and
nerves, there is found a strong propensity to reflex movements and
spasms.^ So far as there is any occasion to talk of reflex move-
ments (in the sense of immediate motor responses) within the
brain itself, the brain is a complete little world, possessing in its
myriads of cells and fibres the means for internal strengthening or
inhibition, for internal debate, and for the struggle for supremacy
among all the impulses that can arise in it.

5. From the purely physical point of view, which is also the physio-
logical, everything that takes place in the nervous system, even
in its highest centres, is a conversion of forces, since an excita-
tion from the external world, or from within the organism itself,
sets free the tension accumulated in the nervous tissue. The
physiological way of expressing it is to say that the excitation (the
irritant) calls foith a reaction, which consists either in a movement
of the muscles or a secretion of the glands, or in a more com-
prehensive process in the centres of the nervous system. But it
is evident that in the case of some of the phenomena included in
these points of view, a third point of view must be established —
namely, the psychological, for with the physico-physiological pro-
cesses are linked certain states of consciousness. Then comes the
question of the relation between these different points of view. Is the
one subordinated to the rest in such away that, as the physiological
point of view is included in the physical — if the word physical be
taken in the widest sense— so the psychological should be included
in the physiological as one of its special forms? Is that which
is presented to us from the one point of view perhaps the cause or
the effect of that which is presented to us from the others?

Something is still wanting for the clearing up of this question.

1 W'undt, Pliysiol. Psychologic, i. pp. 2*30-263 (S^d ed. I. pp. 273 scq.) ; Panum, Nen^e-
viivets Fysiologi ("The I'hysiylogy of the Nervous Tissu-j"), p. 196 seq.



II] MIX!) AND BODY 45

For, while we have given a sketch of what in physiology is of
importance for our problem, we have not yet given any detailed
account of the characteristics of the conscious phenomena. The
psychological point of view, therefore, has not yet been clearly
presented. It is the special object of all the following inves-
tigations to give an account of the mental life, and it will
of course be impossible to give it now. But since I have
chosen to treat of the general problem of the relation between
mind and body before dealing with the more special psychological
questions, which in many ways presuppose a definite conception of
that problem, nothing remains but to present here a preliminary
description of the psychological phenomena, reserving to the
following chapters the more complete proofs of its validity.

Consciousness in general is in the same position as particular
forms or elements of consciousness (colours and sounds, e.g.) ; a
description or definition of them is impossible, because they are
fundamental facts, and cannot be traced back to anything simpler
and clearer. But this does not exclude the bringing out of their
most important characteristics. Attention may be directed namely
to those marginal cases, in which consciousness is just gliding
over into unconscious states ; and we may observe and investigate
the transitions from weaker and more obscure to stronger and
clearer consciousness, through which the higher states of con-
sciousness are conditioned.

A completely uniform and unchanged condition has a tendency
to arrest consciousness. Uniform impressions (such as the rippling
of a fountain) have a somniferous effect. The more change and
variety are kept at a distance, the more consciousness gives
place to unconscious states. Staring at one special point produces
a sort of border state. Thomas Hobbes, the founder of. English
psychology, maintained that to have always the same feeling and
to have none at all were one and the same thing.^

By uniform treatment, as, for instance, by being stroked up and
down regularly with the hands, or by being made to fix attention
on a single point, a person can be put in a hypnotic or somnambulant
condition. James Braid, the discoverer of hypnotism, gives as the
condition of its appearance, " monoideism,"-'— that is, absorption
in one idea.

1 De Corpore, xxv. 3 ; cf. Leibniz, Monadologie, § ?4.

■■' Cf. Preyer, Die Entdeckimg des Hvpnotisins (Berlin, 1881), p. 41 ieq., Si ; RicheC
" Lc Somnambulisme pruvoque " (in the treatise L' Homme et t' Intelligence (Paris,
1884. [Sully, Illusicm, pp. 185, 187. (Tr.)]



46 OUTLINES OF PSYCHOLOGY [ll

Concentration of attention on a single thought has the same
effect as absorption in one sense-affection. The mystic tries to
lose himself in the Deity, to him an absolute unity, and to become
one with the Deity ; therefore he strives to avoid all change of ideas,
and the more he succeeds in doing so, the more nearly he approaches
to ecstasy — a condition which is described as being raised above all
consciousness. To attain to this end the mystics often made use
also of hypnotism.

By changes, consciousness is aroused from sleep or from a state
of abstraction. If awake, consciousness is quickened and enhanced
by contrasts and changes. We feel cold more intensely on coming
out of a warm room ; light appears of extreme brilliancy when
we come out of deep darkness ; we are thoroughly conscious
of quiet and repose only after the noisy town or hard work.

But change and contrast are not in themselves enough. They
give a sudden shock, a surprise ; but unless the effect they produce
were preserved, it would be only like a quickly vanishing ray
of light. It is possible to imagine a living being constituted
so as from time to time to have quite isolated sensations.
Such separate rays would not correspond to sensations as we
have them ; in us the single elements of consciousness are
not isolated, but are from beginning to end in closer or looser
connection. Such a connection is necessary, to enable even
the single impressions: each for itself, to take effect. Then the
earlier conditions must admit of retention or reproduction, to make
a connection and an interaction among the different elements
of consciousness possible. This is corroborated by the fact that
want of connection and interaction among the elements of
consciousness is a sign of approaching dissolution. As mental
disease advances, fixed ideas are formed, rendering free natural
stir and conflict among ideas impossible. At a later stage not
even fixed ideas can be held fast and applied ; no comparisons
can be instituted, or combinations made. P'inally there ensues a
complete absence of images and thoughts : sensuous impressions
are no longer elaborated, memory is almost extinguished, and the
power of speech for the most part lost.'

The two conditions we have mentioned do not, however,- suffice
for a full account of conscious life. They would serve equally
well for organic life. The power of preserving and repro-

1 Cf. Griesinger, Die Patholosie "ml Therapie tier psychischen Krankheiien
(Stuttgart, 1861), pp. 323-351.



ft



n] MIND AND BODY 47

ducing earlier states is found in unconscious nature. But what
this lacks is the power of recognizing the states reproduced.
With unconscious beings one moment falls outside the other, even
though the content of both is the same. In recognition, on
the contrary, the distinctions of time and space are annulled,
things which have been experienced at different times and in
different places being immediately brought together. In recog-
nition and in memory is expressed an inner unity, to which the
material world affords no parallel.

Conscious life has thus three main characteristics : (i) change
and contrast as condition of the individual elements entering
consciousness ; (2) preservation or reproduction of previously
given elements, together with connection between these and the
new elements ; and (3) the inner unity of recognition.

If we look back on our previous states of consciousness, they
come before us as a series of sensations, representations, and
feelings — as a stream with succeeding waves. It may often
seem to memory as though this series were composed of in-
dependent, separate units, only externally combined. Some
psychologists (in particular Hume) have consequently described
consciousness as a mere succession of ideas without inner
bond and connection, or more precisely as the series of our
possible and actual sensations (John Stuart Mill). But the fact
that it is impossible for the individual elements within what we
know as consciousness to stand out absolutely isolated, shows
distinctly the inaccuracy of this description. Every individual
element belongs to consciousness only through its union with
other elements. The emphasis is thus to be laid on the union, the
connection, and not on the members in their individuality. The
peculiarity of the phenomena of consciousness as contrasted with
the subject-matter of the science of external nature — mate-
rial phenomena — is precisely that inner connection between the
individual elements in virtue of which they appear as belonging to
one and the same subject ; and this connection has its typical
expression in memory, which may on that account be called the
fimdamental phenomenon in the mental province. That which has
escaped the memory may still indirectly, through its after-effects,
exercise a great intluencc on our conscious life, but is no longer
a part of it. In the physical world memory can be spoken of only
figuratively. Everywhere, where there is development, later events
are conditioned by earlier ; and by virtue of the law of the per-



48 OUTLINES OF PSYCHOLOGY [il

sistence of energy, nothing happens, however insignificant, without
exercising its effect on what happens afterwards. But only on the
supposition of a consciousness can that which is past be itself
re-experienced, actually enter into a later mental connection, so
that the distinctions of time are annulled. The different stages
at which this fundamental psychological phenomenon appears,
and the forms it takes, will be discussed in a later chapter.

It here remains to add that this intimate union and unity
may ^•ary greatly in degree, and that in our psychological ex-
perience we never meet with it in the highest degree imaginable.
Beneath the clearness and the connection in our conscious-
ness there is always a more or less obscure chaos ; the original
elements must always arise in it as something given, to serve
as material for its activity. There is thus a passive and an
active side in the nature of consciousness, the former corresponding
in the first instance to the diversity of the elements, the latter to
the unity and the connection of all conscious content. The energy
of consciousness is manifested in the way in which the individual
elements are connected and brought into interaction. Kant, there-
fore, rightly characterized consciousness as a synthesis. Synthesis,
at whatever stage in the development of conscious life we look for it,
presupposes a given manifold. It combines individual sensations
into percepts, forms representations into concepts, and so forth.
Work of this kind is carried on from the very threshold of con-
sciousness ; this is implied in the fact that consciousness approaches
more closely to unconsciousness, the nearer it comes to the point
where there is only a single element. Consciousness, in awakening
to clearness, finds its special work in full progress. Synthesis, to
employ Kant's words, is " a. blind, but indispensable, function
of the soul, without which we should have no knowledge what-
soever, but of the existence of which we are scarcely conscious." ^

It is especially this property of conscious life which makes its
origin so great a problem. For even if we admit the existence
of elementary sensations in less developed organisms, still the
decisive test is the connection, the unity of these sensations. The
Jirst sensation cannot, of course, be attached to any other mental
element ; how, then, can synthesis and consciousness exist here ?
Similar questions arise wherever we go back to the beginning.
The question of the origin of organic life presents a like difficulty.

1 Kant, Kritik der rcinen Vernnnft^ ist ed., p. 78 (Kehrbach's edition, p. 95). [Max
M Oiler's translation, p. 69. J



II] MIND AND BODY ^g

It is a principle of physiology that every organic cell springs from
another cell {o//im's ccUulae cellula) ; but \.\\q. first organic cell must
have originated under quite different conditions.

The history of psychology shows that different schools of thought
have laid different weight on the two sides in the nature of conscious-
ness. The German school (Leibniz, Kant, Hegel) lays paramount
stress on synthesis, activity, unity. The English school (and Herbart
in Germany) has given prominence to the passive or mechanical
side, to the diverse elements and their reciprocal interaction. Each
school is especially strong in the treatment of different problems.
The English school devotes attention rather to the elementary,
real side of conscious life, to the manner in which the mental
structure is raised by the combination of fundamental elements ;
the German school, on the contrary, attends more to the connec-
tion and the unity which from beginning to end are the marks of
consciousness. The more recent English school appears to meet
the German school in the recognition of the fact that the individual
sensation or idea exists only as a member of a connected, con-
scious series, and that consciousness therefore can never be
conceived as mere sum or mere product'

German psychology has often exhibited a tendency to approach
metaphysics ; English psychology, on the other hand, has ap-
proached the mechanical sciences, and has transferred analogies
from them to the conception of mental phenomena.

In the account of consciousness just given, we have con-
fined ourselves mainly to the formal side. Only in the more special
psychological discussion shall we be able to deal more closely with
the real side. In the present connection we must content ourselves
with calling attention to the fact, that the unity of mental life has
its expression not only in memory and synthesis, but also in
a dominant fundamental feeling, characterized by the contrast
between pleasure and pain, and in an impulse, springing from this
fundamental feeling, to movement and activity.

Synthesis is the fundamental form of all consciousness. But
the activity which finds expression in synthesis is in every in-
dividual case directed to a definite end. This end may be more or
less conscious ; but the activity directed to it will be accompanied
by a feeling of pleasure, the interruption of this activity by a feel-
ing of pain. The capacity to feel pleasure and pain, quite as much

1 On this point see my book, '■"Den engelske Filosofi i vor TiJ" ("The English
Pliilosophy of our Times"), (Copenhagen, 1S74); German translation, 1889.



so OUTLINES OF PSYCHOLOGY [ii

as the synthetic activity, presupposes a unity, an inner central
point, into relation with which the changing diverse elements of
consciousness are brought. The relation between the formal and
the real side of consciousness we shall examine more closely in
another connection (V. B. 5).

6. If we now try to institute a comparison between the activity of
consciousness, as we have provisionally described it, and the func-
tions of the nervous system, a wealth of parallel traits will present
themselves. It might even be said that the need for a visible image
of the mind — a need which so often asserts itself at the unscientific
standpoint — is actually met by Nature herself in the form and
method of function of the nervous system. The next problem,
then, is to explain the image — to find out the relation between the
symbol and the thing symbolized.

(a) The great importance of the nervous system, as we have seen,
lies in its serving as the connecting central organ of the several
parts of the organism, guiding their activities into inner har-
mony, and enabling them to present a combined front to the
external world. Exactly the same task is fulfilled by consciousness
in its own way. In it things scattered in space and time are
brought together, the wave-beats of the conditions of life are ex-
pressed as a rhythm of pleasure and pain, and in memory and
intellectual activity is manifested the closest concentration to be
found in the whole of our experience.

{b) To become conscious of something presupposes a change, a
transition, a contrast. The content and energy of consciousness
must have their equilibrium disturbed, the attention must be aroused.
An arousing, an excitation (irritant) is in like manner essential to
the function of the nervous system. The excitation operates by
setting free restrained force, by upsetting equilibrium in the nerve-
fibres and nerve-centres.

{c) But the excitation acts not only on single centres ; owing
to the highly ramified connection between the different nerve-
centres, it sets free a series of processes which reciprocally augment
or inhibit one another, so that the total effect depends on the result
of this physiological debate. To this corresponds on the psycho-
logical side the calling up of associated ideas by simple sensations.
The simple sensation has thus not a simple, but a very com-
plicated, effect. The psychological relation between sensation and
memory has its physiological parallel in the relation between the
arrival of an excitation in the central nerve-organs and the interaction



Ii] MIND AND BODY 51

among these organs. Not only from the purely physical, but from
the physiological, point of view, the effect of the spark on the powder
is the most appropriate representation of what here takes place.

{d) The formation of sensations and representations takes a
certain amount of time. Of all our movements, the unconscious
are most quickly executed. The greater the caution, the slower the
action. The more complicated the operations undertaken, the longer
the time required. In like manner the nervous process takes a cer-
tain time, which physiology has begun to measure. All that here
interests us is the circumstance that movement' in the nerve-fibres
passes more quickly than movement in the nerve-centres (the grey
substance), and more especially that the central nervous functions
(the psycho-physical functions), with which the activity of conscious-
ness seems to be linked, take more time than the purely physiological
functions. It accords with this, that actions, undertaken at first
consciously, become unconscious after frequent repetition and
exercise, and more quickly executed. The child learning to read
looks closely at each letter until he recognizes it, and devotes
special attention and care to its accurate pronunciation. But
by degrees he learns to read aloud, without thinking about the
formation of the letters and the character of the sound. So with
dressing and undressing, walking, dancing, swimming, and many of
our daily occupations. The shorter the time that passes betwen
the excitation and the movement it sets up (the reaction-time,
the physiological time), the more unconsciously does the action
take place.

{e) To the physiological hierarchy of principal and subordinate
nerve-centres, and to the relative independence of the latter, cor-
responds the fact that in our organism there are activities which
under normal conditions are not accompanied by consciousness,
but which become conscious if taken out of their normal conditions.
The functions of nutrition, for example, arc usually carried on un-
heeded. They give rise to sensations accompanied by pleasure or
pain only when they are especially favoured or hindered. When
food is wanting the blood ceases to flow to the stomach, which
has then nothing more to work up, and from the consequent want
of nourishment for the nerves arises, as some suppose, the feeling
of hunger. This feeling is a particularly good example of the
transition from unconsciousness to consciousness, since it passes
through a whole scale of degrees, from the tirst vague feeling of
discomfort up to the most terrible torture.



52 OUTLINES OF PSYCHOLOGY [ir

The psychological parallel to the relation between higher and
lower nerve-centres appears from another side in the phenomena
of movement. We ha\e just seen how new reflex actions may
result from constant and repeated functioning of the higher centres.
But the higher centres also, as already noted, exercise an inhibiting
influence on the involuntary movements which can be set up in
lower centres. As the exercise of new reflex movements corre-
sponds to the positive work of the will, so the inhibition of natural
and involuntary movements corresponds to its negative work. Our
natural as well as our artificial education consists in partly ac-
customing, partly disaccustoming, ourselves to something. This
will be treated more in detail in the chapter on the psychology of
the will ; here we would only suggest that even the struggle between
" the spirit and the flesh "' has its physiological counterpart.

{/) r^inally, a parallel appears between the different sides of
conscious life and the different organs of the nervous system. In
cognition and feeling consciousness turns as it were an open side
to the not-self; where it thus lies open, it is mainly receptive and
appropriati\e. In will (at its several stages of instinct, impulse,
purpose, and resolve) we have, on the other hand, the response of
the conscious life, the mental reaction. Precisely the same
double-sidedness is found in the nervous system, in the contrast
between the sensory and motor organs. To conceive thought,
feeling, and will as localized, each in its special place in the
brain, would be to revive the errors of phrenology : no one of
these, looked at psychologically, is a single and simple process,
the course of which may be conceived as in one definite organ ;
they inter- penetrate, as will be proved later, to such a degree
tliat it is only in the abstract mode of speech that we can talk of
them as different processes. Here we refer only to the general
schema of the nervous system : an in-going movement, a central
elaboration of it, an out-going movement. The same schema
serves for the conscious life.

7. We must assume that these parallels have a real significance ;
there must be an inner connection between conscious life and the
brain.

The matter might be most simply settled, if we could immediately
observe that conscious life is attached to the brain, a certain
state of consciousness being accompanied by the sensation of a
certain. state of the brain. In severe mental work we do, indeed,
think we feel something in the brain ; but it is not the function



Il] MlXn AND r.oDV 53

of the brain itself which is then felt. Such phenomena, accordinj,'
to Griesinger,' appear to correspond to processes connected with
the membranes of the brain and their supply of blood.

It is evident, moreover, that it was long before the connection
of consciousness with the brain was fully established. In ancient
times the seat of the mind was held to be in the blood, in the
diaphragm, or in the heart. Among the ancient Greeks, only
Alcmaeon and Plato taught that we think with the head. Hero-
philus, the great Alexandrian anatomist (300 B.C.), was the first to
transfer the mind to the brain, relying on definite facts— that is
to say, on the observation that the nerves, and especially the
sensory nerves, are collected in the brain as the last centre.- But
this anatomical proof is not enough to establish the conviction of
the real connection between consciousness and brain. However
a series of comparative observations and experiments has here
been decisive.

In the lowest animals a nervous system has not yet been dis-
covered. In Mollusca and Articulata there is only slight central-
ization of the nervous system ; at the best the central nervous
system consists of a ring of nerve-ganglia. The lowest vertebrate,



Online LibraryHarald HøffdingOutlines of psychology → online text (page 6 of 41)