Herbert Spencer.

The principles of psychology / by Herbert Spencer online

. (page 40 of 52)
Online LibraryHerbert SpencerThe principles of psychology / by Herbert Spencer → online text (page 40 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

necessitate the Realistic conception — the Realistic concep-
tion does not, as Hume puts it, result from a " natural pro-
pensity •'-' at variance with the laws of thought ; nor is it, as
Sir W. Hamilton supposes, a miraculously-inspired belief;
but it is an inevitable outcome of the mental process
gone through in every vaUd argument.

§ 472. But now what is this Realism which is esta-
blished as a datum long before reasoning begins, which
immeasurably transcends reasoning in certainty, and which
reasoning cannot justify, further than by finding that its
own deliverances are wrong when at variance with it ? Is
it the Realism of common life — the Realism of the child or
the rustic ? By no means.

Near the beginning of this work, in a chapter on the
" Relativity of Feelings,'* it was shown that ^' what we ai'o
conscious of as properties of matter, even down to its
weight and resistance, are but subjective affections pro-
duced by objective agencies which are unknown and un-
knowable.'* But while we saw that comparisons of our
sensations with one another inevitably bring us to this
conclusion, we also saw that every argument by which the

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


relativity of feelings is proved " sets out by assuming ob-
jective existence/' and cannot do otherwise. In the next
chapter, on the " Belativity of Relations between Feelings/'
it was similarly shown that no relation in consciousness
can '^ resemble, or be in any way akin to, its source
beyond consciousness." Similarly, however, it was there
pointed out that the assumption "inevitably made in all
reasoning used to prove the relativity of relations/' is " that
there exist beyond consciousness, conditions of objective
manifestation which are symbolized by relations as we
conceive them."

The conclusion to which our General Aimlysis has
brought us, is in perfect harmony with these conclusions,
yielded by inductive inquiry at the outset. While some
objective existence, manifested under some conditions, re-
mains as the final necessity of thought, there does not
remain the implication that this existence and these condi-
tions are more to us than the unknown correlatives of our
feelings and the relations among our feelings. The
Realism we are committed to is one which simply asserts
objective existence as separate from, and independent of,
subjective existence. But it affirms neither that any one
mode of this objective existence is in reality that which it
seems, nor that the connexions among its modes are objec-
tively what they seem. Thus it stands widely distinguished
from Crude Realism j and to mark the distinction it may
properly be called Transfigured Realism.

§ 473. A diagram will give the highest definiteness to
the general and special results arrived at. It is possible to
represent geometrically the relations which exist among the
several hypotheses we have discussed — ^between Crude Real-
ism, the idealistic and sceptical forms of Anti- Realism, and
the Transfigured Realism which reconciles them.

To prepare himself for imderstanding the analogy about
to bo drawn, let the reader, if the theory of perspective has

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


ever been rationally explained to him, call to mind the ex-
planation. He remembers that, looking through the window
at some object, say a trunk lying on the ground outside,
he may, keeping his eye fixed, make dots with pen and ink
on the glass so that each dot hides an angle of the trunk ;
and may then join these dots by lines, each of which
hides one of the edges of the trunk. This done, he has on
the surfece of the glass an outline-representation such as
we call a perspective view of the trunk — a representation
of its form not as conceived but as actually seen. If now
he considers the relation between this figure and the trunk
itself, he finds the two variously contrasted. The one
occupies space of three dimensions and the other space of
two dimensions ; the lines of the one are far longer than
those of the other ; the ratios among the lines of the one
are unlike the ratios among the lines of the other; the
directions in space of the representative lines are wholly
different from those of the actual lines; the angles they
make with one another are dissimilar; and so on. Never-
theless, representation and reality are so connected that the
positions of his eye, the glass, and the trunk, being given,
no other figure is possible ; and if the trunk is changed in
attitude or distance, the changes in the figure are such that,
from them the changes in the trunk may be known. Here,
then, he has a case of a symbolization such that, along with
extreme unUkeness between the symbol and the actuality,
there is an exact though indirect correspondence between
the varying relations among the components of the one and
the varying relations among the components of the other.

A more involved case of the eame general nature may now
be taken. Suppose A B C D is the surface of a cylinder ;
suppose B is a cube, in front of it ; and suppose that from
some point beyond F there radiate the lines shown, severally
passing through the angles of the cube, as well as other
lines not shown, passing through all the points which
form the edges of the cube. Then these lines, when inter-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC



cepted by tlio curved surface, will form a projected ima^
of the cube, as shown at 6. Here it is observable, as before.

that the lengths, ratios, directions, &c., of the lines in the
image are wholly diflFerent from those in the solid; that the
angles also, both absolutely and in their relations to one
another, ore diflFerent; and that so, too, are the surfaces,
both in their shapes and in their relative directions. But
beyond this it is observable that lines which are straight in
the cube are curved in its image ; and that the flat surfaces
of the one are represented by curved surfaces in the other.
Yet further, it is to be noted that the laws of variation
among the lines in the image have become greatly involved :
if the cube be so moved laterally that the projected image
fells very much on the retreating surface of the cylinder,
some of the representative lines begin to elongate at
much greater rates than the others ; and even the remoter
parts of each line elongate at greater rates than the nearer
parts. Nevertheless, in this case, as in the simpler one first
described, there is an absolutely-definite system of corre-
spondences. Given as fixed, the cylinder, the dimensions of
the cube, and the point whence the lines radiate, and for
every position, distance, or attitude of the cube, there is a
corresponding figure on the cylinder ; and no change in the

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


place of the cube, or in its attitude, can be made but what
Has an exactly answering change in the figure — a change so
exactly answering that from the new figure the new place
or attitude of the cube could be determined.

Thus we have a symbolization in which neither the com-
ponents of the symbol, nor their relations, nor the laws of
variation among these relations, are in the least like the com-
ponents, their relations, and the laws of variation among
these relations, in thd thing symbolized. And yet reality
and symbol are so connected that for every possible re-
arrangement in the plex^L8 constituting the one, there is an
exactly-equivalent re-arrangement in the plexus constituting
the other.

The analogy to be drawn is so obvious that it is scarcely
needful to point it out in detail. The cube stands for the
object of perception ; the cyKndrical surface stands for the
receptive area of consciousness ; the projected figure of the
cube stands for that state of consciousness we call a percep-
tion of the object. Thus carrying out the parallel, we may
understand very clearly how it becomes possible that a
plexus of objective phenomena may be so represented by
the plexus of subjective effects produced, that though the
eflTects are totally unlike their causes, and though the rela-
tions among the effects are totally unlike the relations
among their causes, and though the laws of variation in the
one set of relations difier entirely from those in the other ;
yet the two may correspond in such way that each change in
the objective reality causes in the subjective state a change
» exactly answering to it — so answering as to constitute a
cognition of it.

But that which we are here chiefly concerned to note is
that by thus representing the matter diagrammatically, a
distinct idea is given of the relations among the several
hypotheses we have been discussing. Crude Realism as-
sumes that the lines and angles and areas on the curved
surface are actually like the lines and angles and areas of

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


the cabe. Idealising observing how all theso varioas ele-
ments in the projected figure change in themselves and in
their relations to one another when only change of place
or attitude has occurred in the cube, concludes that as
there is nothing in the figure which is like anything in the
cube^ no such thing as a cube is implied ; and that the only
existences are the figure and the containing surface. Hypo-
thetical Realism, accepting these statements as to the non-
agreement between the figure and the cube^ argues that
nevertheless the existence of the cube must be assumed :
cannot be alleged as a fact but must be admitted as a
needful hypothesis. Scepticism, carrying further the Ideal-
istic criticism, contends that in the figure there is not only
nothing to aflTord proof of anything producing the figure,
but there is nothing to afford proof of any surface contain-
ing the figure ; and that though there is a natural tendency
to believe in the existence of this surface, as well as in the
existence of the cube, we may reasonably doubt whether
these really exist. While Absolute Idealism, pushing to its
extreme the sceptical argument, asserts that the figure alono
exists, and that there are no such things as either the cube
or the surface. And now, rejecting all these conflicting
hypotheses considered as wholes, Transfigured Realism
takes an element from each. It affirms a connexion between
the cube and its projected image which reconciles whatever
is true in Realism with whatever is true in Anti-Realism.
With Crude Realism it agrees in asserting the existence of
the cube as being the primary certainty ; but differs entirely
by asserting that there is no kinship of nature whatever
between the cube and the projected image. It joins
Idealism, Scepticism, and Hypothetical Realism, in affirming
that the projected figure contains no element, relation, or
law, that is like any element, relation, or law, in the cube ;
but it affirms against Idealism that the argument on which
this conclusion rests is impossible in the absence of tiio
cube ; it affirms against Scepticism that besides the correla-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


tiye cube necessitated by the argument^ there is also ne-
cessitated by the argument a receptive area for the figure ;
while it blames Hypothetical KeaJism for admitting to be
hypotheses, what the arguments themselves assume to be
facts transcending in certainty all other facts. Finally,
though it has a point of community with Absolute Idealism
in recognizing the truth that the projected figure can never
have within it any trait whatever either of the actual cube
jfirom which it is projected or the actual surface on which it
is projected; yet it difiers utterly by declaring that the
existence of these is impHed as in a sense more certain than
that of the figure, since the existence of the figure is made
possible only by their existence.

The geometrical analogy thus helps us to see how Trans-
figured Realism reconciles what appear to be irreconcilable
views. It was lately shown that existence, in the accepted
sense of the word, can be aflSrmed only of that variously-
conditioned substratum called the Object and that other sub-
stratum variously acted on by it, called the Subject ; while
the efiects of the one on the other, known as perceptions,
are changes having but transitory existences. In the dia-
gram we similarly see that the permanent existences are the
cube and the surface ; while the projected image, varying
with every change in the relation between the cube and the
surface, has no permanent existence. And just as we saw that
Subject and Object, as actually existing, can never be con-
tained in the consciousness produced by the co-operation of
the two, though they are necessarily implied by it; so
we see that neither the cube nor the surface can ever be
contained in the projected image of the one upon the other,
though this projected image can exist only on condition
that they pre-exist.

§ 474. And now the impossibility of all Anti-Realistic
belieis having been shown by direct analysis in the preced-
ing chapters, and having been again shown still more clearly

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


by this geometrical analogy^ tHe final remark to be ma^ is
that Anti-Realistic belieis have never been held at all. They
are but ghosts of beliefs^ haunting those mazes of verbal
propositions in which metaphysicians habitually lose them-
selves. Berkeley was not an Idealist: he never suc-
ceeded in expelling the consciousness of an extemcd reality,
as we saw when analyzing his language and his reasonings.
Hume did not in the least doubt the existence of Matter or
of Mind : he simply persuaded himself that certain argu-
ments ought to make him doubt. Nor was £!ant a Kantist :
that Space and Time are nothing more than subjective
forms was with him, as it has been and will be with every
other, a verbally-intelligible proposition, but a proposition
which can never be rendered into thought, and can never
therefore be believed.

For here let me re-insist on the all-important distinc-
tion, ignored in metaphysical controversies, between think-
ing separately the components of a proposition, and think-
ing the proposition itself; which consists in combining the
two terms in the alleged relation. If any one tells me that
a sphere is equiangular, I can think separately of a sphere,
I can think separately of equiangularity as a character pos-
sessed by certain figures, and I can think separately of the
relation of coexistence. But though each of the two terms is
thinkable by itself as something that has been presented in
experience ; and though the relation of coexistence is think-
able as one that is extremely familiar in experience ; and -
though the proposition is therefore verbally intelligible in
the sense that each of its words has a known meaning ; yet
the proposition itself, considered as a whole, is utterly unin-
telligible. The conception of a sphere and the conception
of equiangularity cannot be made to coexist as object and
attribute in consciousness; and if they cannot be made
thus to coexist, the proposition that they do thus coexist
cannot be conceived, and therefore cannot be believed. Now
this confounding of propositions the components of which

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


can be thought only separately, with propositions of which
the two terms can be thought in the relation alleged,
characterizes all Anti-Realistic arguments e^nd conclusions.
When the Idealist says that what he knows as an object is
a cluster of sensations contained in his consciousness, the
proposition has intrinsically the same character as that
which asserts the equiangularity of a sphere. The two
terms, object and consciousness, are severally intelligible ;
and the relation of inclusion, considered apart, is intelligible.
But the proposition itself, asserting that the object stands
to consciousness in the relation of inclusion, is unintelligible ;
since the two terms cannot be combined in thought under
this relation : no eflfort whatever can present, or represent,
the one as within the limits of the other. And if it is not
possible to conceive it within the limits, still less is it pos-
sible to believe it within the limits ; since belief, properly
so-called, pre-supposes conception.

Here, indeed, even more clearly than before, we may note
what contradictory meanings are given to the word belief;
and how fatal are the confusions hence arising. In § 425
we observed the origin of a remarkable ambiguity in the
use of this word. Because they have in common the
character that no reason can bo assigned for them, those
most certain propositions which underlie all proof, and
those most doubtful propositions which are accepted with-
out proof, are both classed as beliefs. Though otherwise
radically unlike, propositions of these two kinds are, how-
ever, alike in this, that their terms cohere in consciousness
— in the one case indissolubly and in the other case feebly.
But now, marvellous to relate, Anti-Realism applies the word
belief to a proposition of which the terms not only have no
cohesion in consciousness, but cannot even be brought to-
gether in consciousness. The name is given to ^ proposi-
tion having a peculiarity absolutely opposite to that of the
propositions ordinarily distinguished by the name.

So that, in fact, every Anti-Realistic system is not a

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


fabric of ideas but a fabric of pseud-ideas. It is composed
not of thoughts property so-called, but of the forms of
thoughts without any contents. Whether it be or be not
a true saying that Mythology is a disease of language^ it
may be said with truth that Metaphysics, in all its Anti-
Bealistic developments^ is a disease of language. For its
Anti-Realistic developments are results of those abnormal
combinations of linguistic symbols in which they no longer
perform their functions as expressing ideas.

Nevertheless, we must not forget that these complicated
aberrations of reason have been the concomitants of a legiti-
mate, and indeed necessary, criticism. Crude Realidm
claimed as part of knowledge an unlimited territory which
transcends knowledge. In showing how unwarranted is
this claim, Anti-Realism went to the extreme of denying
to Realism all territory whatever. Metaphysical contro-
versy has been the settlement of the limit ; and the history
of it has been a history of those ryhthms which antagonistic
forces always produce — now causing excess on this side of
the limit and now on the other. But as fast as the dif-
ferentiation of Subject and Object approaches completion,
the oscillations become less and less ; and along with the
purification of Realism from all that does not belong to it,
the controversy ends : Realism contenting itself with affirm-
ing that the object of cognition is an independent existence,
and Anti-Realism having shown that the cognition of it is
entirely relative.

§ 475. Thus ends our examination of the Ultimate Ques-
tion. We saw, when considering its nature, that Philosophy
reaches its goal when it establishes universal congruity
{First Principles, Part II., Chap. I.). Before s£irring a step
towards this goal, however. Philosophy has to assume the
validity of certain primary dicta of consciousness ; since
before there can be thought there must bo some data of
thought. A general survey brought us to the conclusion

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


that the relation of Subject and Object was a dictum of con-
sciousness which must be thus provisionally accepted.
Accepting it, the process of establishing congruities was
pursued, until at length it brought us round to the original
dictum ; and we had then to consider whether this could be
absolutely justified. The foregoing chapters have led us
not only to the result that it harmonizes with all other dicta
of consciousness, but also to the result that every adverse
proposition is absolutely and in every way incongruous with

Finally, then, we resume this originally-provisional as-
sumption but now verified truth. Once more we are brought
round to the conclusion repeatedly reached by other
routes, that behind all manifestations, inner and outer, there
is a Power manifested. Here, as before, it has become clear
that while the nature of this Power cannot be known — while
we lack the faculty of framing even the dimmest conception
of it, yet its universal presence is the absolute fact without
which there can be no relative facts. Every feeling and
thought being but transitory — an entire life made up of .
such feelings and thoughts being also but transitory — nay
the objects amid which life is passed, though less transi-
tory, being severally in course of .losmg their individualities,
quickly or slowly ; we learn that the one thing permanent
is the Unknowable Eeality hidden under all these changing

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

Digitized by VjOOQ IC



Digitized by VjOOQ IC

Digitized by VjOOQ IC



§ 476. The foregoing divisions of tliis work have had for
their subject-matter the principles of Psychology, considered
as the science of Mind in general. Though numerous
special facts have been cited, and illustrations have been
culled now from the mental phenomena seen in animals and
now from those which men exhibit, yet the aim throughout
has been to establish truths of universal application — to
formulate the laws of psychical action at large, without
reference to the particular forms of it displayed in this or
that creature and this or that faculty.

But the field of General Psychology having been ex-
plored, there opens before us the far more extensive field
of Special Psychology. After the task of arriving at
universal principles by induction from particular cases, and
the deductive verification of these principles, there comes
the task of explaining by them the multitudinous par-
ticular cases which have not been recognized in the
process of generalization. The nature of each mental
power, considered as a distinguishable group of activities
displayed in common by many animals, is a question in
Special Psychology least removed from the questions of
Greneral Psychology. The mental constitution of each
animal, considered as an aggregate of such powers ad-
justed in their kinds and degrees to the mode of life, is

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


a moro special question — one the remoteness of which
from questions of General Psychology is conspicuous. And
then among still more special questions are those presented
by individual peculiarities, and by the variations which the
life of each individual displays.

§ 477. Of the vast field of research included within these
bounds, we need here examine but a small part. Having
presently to follow out Evolution under those higher forms
which societies present, the special psychology of Man, con-
sidered as the unit of which societies are composed, must bo
briefly outlined — or rather, such part of his special
psychology as stands in direct relation to sociological

It is manifest that the ability of men to co-operate in any
degree as members of a society, pre-supposes certain in-
tellectual faculties and certain emotions. It is manifest
that the efficiency of their co-operation wiU, other things
equal, be determined by the amounts and proportions in
which they possess these required mental powers. It is
also manifest that, by continuing to co-operate under the
conditions furnished by any social state, the amounts and
proportions of these mental powers may be modified, and
some modified form of co-operation may hence result; which
again reacting on the nature is itself again reacted upon.
Hence, in preparation for the study of social evolution, there
have to be dealt with various questions respecting the
faculties it brings into play, and respecting the modes in
which these are developed during continued social life.

§ 478. In the group of corollaries here to be gathered
together, sundry of the facts and inferences already used in
the development of general principles will naturally recur —
not, however, under the same aspects as before, but under
aspects somewhat more specific and under relations to one
another more or less new.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


I may further explain that while the aim will be to give
an adequate account of those human faculties which take
part as factors in social phenomena, it will not be possible
to limit ourselves absolutely to the manifestations of these

Online LibraryHerbert SpencerThe principles of psychology / by Herbert Spencer → online text (page 40 of 52)