Hiram M. (Hiram Miner) Stanley.

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efforts, there is neither sense of objectivity nor subjectivity. These
very lowest psychisms have experience, but no sense of experience;
pleasures and pains possess them, but they do not possess these. But if
mentality arises and progresses solely by virtue of its function in
saving and profiting the individual living organism, if the end of
psychosis is this self-conservation of the bodily whole in its vitality,
there is an imperative demand for self-cognizance in order to self-care.
Under the law of struggle and survival of the fittest, the organism
which does not look out _for itself_ must go to the wall or be in the
lowest grade. Self-conservation is closely linked with self-sense. Hence
the individual very early acquires some sense of itself in its
environment, and so acts and conducts itself. Thus under adverse forces
it learns to know itself, to realize its own place and power, and to
feel fear, anger, and so to appropriately respond to any environment.
Thus is secured manifold and special response to multiform conditions,
whereas in the organism which has only pure subjectivity of pain the
response would be uniform.

The condition of an _ego_ being sensed or known is, of course, that
there is an ego to be sensed. All experience is an individual’s
experience, is personal, but this does not constitute egoism as an
experience. The experiencer must have experience before he can know
himself as experience centre, that is, there must be experience before
there can be experience of experience. But the amount of consciousness
and integration thereof which is required for self-cognizance is
probably very small. The dynamic organic whole of psychic life, which we
denominate _ego_, has almost from the start self-consciousness, and
grows by self-integration. By the conjoint interaction of subject and
object cognition with feeling and will elements egohood or personality
is gradually developed to the largeness which we see in the human mind.
Experience which does not self-integrate is scarce worthy the name, and
it is noticeable that we usually associate self-consciousness with the
term. “Having an experience” signifies a self-related psychic fact.
Given the first germ and experience constantly returns upon itself and
self-develops. It anticipates itself, experiences the experienceable,
and so serves life. A psychic individual without sense of his own
individuality is practically undiscoverable and impossible. It is
perhaps not too much to say that psychically egohood really begins when
experience cognizes and organizes itself; the self is made by the sense
of self. At first only an occasional achievement upon a very meagre
basis of psychosis, the self-sense rose only through intense pain and
effort, but has now become so built into experience that, with human
minds at least, it seems constant and spontaneous factor. Just what this
means we have to note when we come to analyze the self-sense.

While the ego-sense is to be regarded as a reflection of experience upon
itself, this reflection is far from being abstract, or general, or
spontaneous. The self-sense is wrought out in the direct commerce with
objects demanded by the exigencies of existence, a particular and
concrete apprehension is produced. That is, mind is no purely internal
development nor yet a mechanical impression. Development is forced upon
it in a world of competition and danger, but yet this development is
always active response. The self-sense then by which the individual
becomes aware of its own activities and feelings as its own, originates,
like all other new modes, by stress and strain as a most valuable
psychosis in the struggle of existence.

The primitive self-consciousness is evidently naïve, that is, there is
no consciousness of the self-consciousness. The low psychism is
conscious of itself, knows what is to its own advantage, and is
absorbingly selfish, but it is wholly unconscious of its self regard; so
also with very young children we see an egoism which is perfectly
unconscious and naïve, often humorously so to the observant adult who
perceives the utter simplicity of its selfishness. The embarrassing
self-consciousness of the boy and girl in their teens, a conscious
self-consciousness, is not yet achieved. The immediate consciousness of
self cannot by itself embarrass, it must be complicated with reflection
and with cognizance of other _ego_'s; but later forms we do not need to
discuss here.

In the simplest form of self-consciousness what are the necessary
elements? and what is the essential nature of self-consciousness as
psychic fact?

In the first place, then, what is the nature of self-consciousness as
cognition? If cognition be awareness of object, what is self or subject
cognition? Is subject merely a kind of object? Is self-consciousness a
peculiar conscious mode, or is it merely of the same type as the general
cognition of object? Of course we wish to consider such questions here
simply in the light of psychic fact.

It is often considered that self-cognitions are really in no way unique,
that the subject sensed is merely the individual’s body or his mental
powers. And it is undoubtedly true that subject is always some object,
the subject cognition is apprehension of some object either corporeal or
mental; yet self-cognition is never merely an object seen as object. The
psychic act of self-cognition is a peculiar qualifying of the object
cognition; the individual who merely knows body or mind has not
self-sense, he must be aware of body and mind as his own. The essence of
self-sense is not in the object as so perceived, but in the
subjectifying reference. While the _ego_ then is always constituted as
object, _ego_ sense as psychic fact is more than mere object cognition.
The psychic self as object, as some mode or modes of consciousness, has
naturally been emphasized. Thus the self may be defined as that which is
subject to will. Yet the least reflection shows us that for self-sense
this must imply _my_ will, and so assume what it would explain. A
consciousness of will act as effective psychic fact is not _ego_ sense.
A cognition of effort or _nisus_ is not the sense of self save so far as
the effort is known or felt as _mine_. And so in any other objectivist
definition of self as psychic object, the self in its real nature as
psychic act vanishes. Thus the consciousness of pleasure-pain capacity,
while closely related to self-sense, does not make it, for we have to
add that the capacity must be known as one’s own. In every endeavour
then to define or analyze the self as psychic fact we must either
eliminate it or presuppose it, and this must be taken as very
significant. It means at least that this _stating_ it—being merely
objectifying act—destroys the subjectifying which is its essence. The
radical distinction and polar opposition of subjectifying and
objectifying is therein suggested, and the difficulty of all fruitful
discussion and scientific investigation, which is objectifying, is made

The objective cognition of a self can only mean cognition of an object
capable of experience. Objects are thus discriminated into two
classes—experiencers and non-experiencers, subject-objects and bare
objects; but this is not self-sense whereby the experiencer directly
knows _his own_ experience as such, but merely sense of a self as any
individual object experiencing. This objective definition of a self is
simple enough. It merely asserts that any object which at any moment of
its persistence or existence has a consciousness or experience of any
kind is thereby a self. But this is obviously not a definition of the
self and self-sense as psychic act, nor does it explain it. The
scientific statement that individual objects exist as experiencers, and
so are personalities, or _ego_'s, does not clear up the self-sense
whereby the individual is aware of his own individuality as such.
Egohood as selfishness in this objective sense, and ego-hood as
self-experience, as a feeling and knowing myself, are quite distinct. To
the question, What makes an object—this particular object, body with
limbs and various organs capable of feeling pain-pleasure—what makes
this _myself_? the only answer is relation not, be it noted, to
experience, but to _my_ experience felt as such. And what makes an
experience mine is that I consciously experience it; not merely that I
experience—that experience occurs to me, or in me, as objective fact—but
that I consciously experience, subjectively realize the experience as
_mine_; not merely as realizing experience as experience, but as _mine
own_. This ceaseless circle into which we fall in trying to define _ego_
is hinted at in various common expressions. A child even will often
remark, “I did not do it, my hand did it”; “you did not touch _me_, you
touched my _foot_,” etc. That is, even the most cursory observation
asserts that object in itself is not subject, that the me is not mine.

While, then, we must regard self-cognition as a _genus_ by itself and as
unanalyzable simple psychic fact, arising early upon a very slight basis
of experience, and continually developing as most important psychosis
for life, we may yet distinguish what is involved with it, what modes of
consciousness it presupposes, and from which it yet is distinct.

We might speak of ego-sense as an experience knowing itself. But since
cognition implies always a knowing and the known, an experience cannot,
and does not, know itself. The consciousness knowing is never the
consciousness known; and to speak of a consciousness as aware of itself
is misleading and inaccurate. To speak of the cognizance of a pain as
pain self-cognizant is an erroneous expression, for the pain does not
know itself; but it is known by a cognition which is not it. To be aware
of pain as such is awareness of consciousness, but is, interpreted
strictly, in no wise self-consciousness. I may even speak of a
self-conscious self-consciousness. This does not really mean what it
directly implies, but can only mean a self-consciousness _plus_ a
consciousness of it as one’s own; that is, the self-consciousness is not
actually conscious of itself. Even if a consciousness could both be and
know its being as an absolute, simple act, yet this would not be
self-sense, an individual realizing its own individuality, but merely a
single psychic act existing, and at the same time conscious of its
existence. Self-consciousness is more and other than any consciousness
which is self-conscious, if that were possible.

Consciousness of consciousness is not, then, self-consciousness. It is,
indeed, conceivable that an _ego_, in objective sense, might know his
own consciousness not as _his own_—the act of self-consciousness—but
merely as consciousness, and he would thus exist as an individual, yet
without subjective individuality. Yet, as matter of fact, consciousness
of consciousness always carries self-consciousness with it. If I become
conscious of a consciousness which is my own, I know it, not merely as a
consciousness, but as my own consciousness; if I am conscious of anger,
I am conscious of being angry.

Hume, in his chapter on Personal Identity, observes, “For my part, when
I enter most intimately into what I call _myself_, I always stumble on
some particular perception or other of heat or cold, light or shade,
love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch _myself_ at any time
without a perception, and never can observe anything but the
perception.” This is a good illustration of a futile and mistaken
attempt to absorb self-consciousness in consciousness of consciousness.
Of course Hume was not the hypothetical _ego_ which we have instanced as
purely objective observer of his own consciousness; when he was
conscious of any consciousness, as a heat or light sensation, a pleasure
or a pain, he was assuredly, like other mortals, conscious of it as his
own. The sense of mine-ness as psychic fact he should not have ignored,
whatever might be his conclusions as to the _myself_ But metaphysical
psychology is always apt to swerve from fact.

The close connection of self-consciousness with consciousness of
consciousness leads often to their confusion. Thus under the head
“Illusions of Self-consciousness,” J. M. Baldwin, in his treatise on the
Senses and Intellect, says, “Of these subjective illusions we may
mention _emotional illusions_, wrong estimates of our emotional states,
as when an angry man declares that he was never more cool in his life.”
This instance is plainly an illusion of introspection, not of
self-inspection; there is a mistake in the consciousness of
consciousness. Wundt, in defining self-sense as perception of the unity
of experience, falls into the same confusion.

It points to the fundamental value and place of these cognition factors,
that when we say any one is conscious we imply them all. Thus I say of
some one rendered unconscious by an accident, “He slowly recovered
consciousness,” by which I mean, became aware of himself and his
surroundings with awareness of his own mental activities. He is
consciously conscious, objectively conscious, and self-conscious. All
this makes up for us being conscious, and is for cognitive mind such a
simple organic basal movement as circulatory-nervous-motor function is
for body.

An organism must, of course, have had some psychosis before it can
become conscious of it, and of it as its own, and this primitive
psychosis we regard as pure pleasure-pain series. But in the struggle
for existence the organism is driven out of this subjectivity to
cognize its environment as related to itself, to apprehend and
comprehend and so to feel about itself—emotion—and so led to
intelligent will activity as real self-activity. At the very first the
organism has pleasures and pains, without knowing them as determined
in itself by objects, but this primitive pre-cognitive stage is short,
and most psychisms are certainly beyond it; they sense and notice
things, bodily and beyond the body, as of experience value in pleasure
and pain terms. At some most critical moment cognition first arose as
triple movement, object—subject—consciousness knowledge. Just what may
have been its original form it is most difficult to determine, but we
may suppose it to have been a very weak activity, possibly
expressible, as, “it hurts,” object being simply pain centre. “It
hurts,” means object self-related, with consciousness of the
consciousness, and this is our language expression for what seems to
be an extremely common psychosis among many organisms. As simple pains
were probably the first conscious phenomena, consciousness of pain was
probably the first consciousness of consciousness, involving also
subject and object consciousness. Not only to have a pain, but to be
conscious of it as definitely objectively determined is decidedly
useful attainment, which is finally inground in experience, so that it
occurs spontaneously in highest psychisms. But it is only with a few
of the highest human psychisms that consciousness object and subject
are apprehended as general facts. Even by philosophers and scientists,
subject, subjectivity, and object are not easily apprehended in their
distinctness as purely general modes; it requires will strain to
properly know them.

We have throughout sought the origin and place of modes of consciousness
in function, and from this point of view we must view object-knowledge,
subject-knowledge, and consciousness-knowledge as early coincident and
correlative. Cognition springs up as a threefold mode, for in no single
factor by itself has it life value. Pain, we say, forced the organism to
work out to object as painer, cognition arising at once as triple
activity. However, this does not imply that there is a constant knowing
with, an apperception, that every consciousness is accompanied with a
consciousness of it. Pains, pleasures, perceptions, etc., constantly
engross the consciousness field without our apprehending them. Simple,
common folk and children are rarely apperceptive, but yet they are
eminently self-conscious, and consciousness conscious in all their life
of naïve selfishness. They are constantly perceiving the significance of
things for their own experience, and acting upon this felt meaning.
Although not immediately aware of what is passing in their own
consciousness, as is common to certain high types of human psychism, yet
in their self-interest they certainly know themselves as experiencers.
Thus immediate awareness of one’s own psychic attitude as
such—apperception—is a kind of consciousness of consciousness in measure
divorced from consciousness of the object, and so belonging to such a
high scope of psychism that it hardly falls within the range of our
discussion, which is confined to simple direct emotion—value of things
as implying both self and consciousness knowledge. Apperception as a
constant reflection and introspection is certainly not original. In its
original form consciousness of consciousness is merely implied element
in the study of things. The study of conscious self self-possession,
self-poise, conscious psychic self-development, is all very late.

Leaving now the general consideration and analysis of self-consciousness
in the light of the general doctrine of evolution, let us note how it
occurs in consciousness to-day. Let us come to some direct inductive

The simplest method and the most direct of studying the rise and nature
of self-consciousness is in those experiences in coming to
self-consciousness from deep sleep or from coma after severe accident. I
say, “I regained consciousness,” “I came to consciousness,” meaning, not
bare consciousness as in mere sensations or perceptions, but a
self-consciousness involved therein. In becoming conscious I came to
self-consciousness; in becoming aware of the objective, I at once
realize my subjectivity, myself as experiencer. In coming out from under
the influence of chloroform, there is, I have distinctly observed in my
own case, a struggling to realize, which is both objective and
subjective cognition. It is true a person having awakened under very
strange circumstances, as in a bed in a hospital after an accident, may
declare, “I did not know myself,” but this does not mean that he had no
self-consciousness, but merely that for the moment he did not identify
this self, himself, as John Smith, of Jonesville, etc. Sometimes it
happens that self-identification is not reached at all, but the self, as
bodily whole experiencing, is speedily aware of self, a new personality
and sense of personality quickly grows up. Again, a lunatic mistaking
_himself_ for Herod or Cæsar is thus always self-conscious. He has
consciously established himself as the self playing a part in the world,
but according to the opinion of his sane fellows he is much in error as
to what that part is. Strictly speaking, there is no illusion of
self-consciousness, except under the impossible supposition that a being
not a real self or psychic individual should have self-sense; but the
very act of self-cognizance implies reality of self-hood. It is plain
that even the insane man who regards _himself_ as tree or stone, has,
however, the act of self-regard, is really self-conscious. Strictly
speaking, we cannot identify or recognise self, for sense of self is
necessary in any recognition to make it such, a self-consciousness is a
fundamental _prius_. You recognise a tree, a house, but you do not
recognise yourself except as yourself is mere object related to you, to
your experience. Self-identification means only objective act, and is
not, then, the same as self-consciousness, though based upon it.

I have endeavoured to make observations of myself in moments of awaking
from sleep or going to sleep, to find whether subjective reference and
objective apprehension are mingled co-ordinately in consciousness from
the beginning, whether the self-sense reaches through both the
perceptive life and the sensation life. Drowsing in bed I sometimes have
a feeling of bare pleasure as the first stage in a pleasant awakening.
There is here no sensing, no localizing, no awareness of body or of
anything, no self-consciousness. This mere undifferentiated pleasure,
interrupted by “cat-naps,” may often recur. Lolling half-awake every one
has frequently experienced these feelings of pure pleasure, unsensed and
unlocalized, and wholly unobjectivised, the barest and simplest
consciousness, the very first stage in awaking. In this very lowest
_status_ in which I can ever catch my consciousness I have the pleasure
from the warmth and softness of the bed without having to feel warm or
sensing the soft. It is a distinct step to even feeling warm; moreover,
in extreme drowsiness it is an effortful step, an active sensing, an
objectifying self-activity, and hence a real self-consciousness, implied
in the sensing act. To _feel_ warm, to sense in this mode, is primarily
object cognition which implies a measure of subject and consciousness
cognition in feeling the warmth as source of the pleasure. Any one who
will closely examine his mental state at the very first stage of slow
awaking from deep sleep—a state of primitive consciousness—will notice a
vanishing moment of mere pleasure or pain, and in cases of great
drowsiness, when a sensation supervenes upon this stage, it does not
merely _come_, as in our ordinary consciousness, but it is _brought_;
there is objectifying effort. So in basking in the sun like an animal,
the very first and lowest stage of consciousness I drop to is pure
pleasure without having even to feel warm; and the feeling warm is
distinctly a new and higher step in consciousness which is often
attained by some slight effort. Thus it is distinctly possible for a man
at times to be too lazy to feel warm; and this fundamental laziness must
be accounted not uncommon with lower psychisms. Similarly for cold
awakening one. There is a moment of pain from cold before one feels
cold, a general pain and uneasiness discomfort before one realizes what
is the matter, feels cold and the part cold—foot it may be—and so
reaches some self-consciousness; in language expression, I am cold or
feel cold. Here is a self-conscious personal experience, though the
first touch of mere pain was experienced by the individual unconscious
of himself.

We infer, then, that self-consciousness is first reached and maintained
in the sensing act as definite cognitive volition. To sense warmth and
cold is simply a little earlier objectification than to attain sense of
a light or a sound. To _feel_ is as active as to look or to listen. We
know that there are modes of force an appreciation of which does not now
enter into known psychosis, but which might be sensed through long and
severe effort and evolve a new sense-organ. Thus, if the conditions of
life had demanded it, there would have arisen in the struggle of
existence a magnetic sense, though now a man may place his head between
the poles of the strongest magnet and be unable to reach any sensation.
A magnetic sense once organized and inbred into experience would act
with the same apparent spontaneity, as a “_given_,” as does such a
sensation as that of heat; and a person feeling magnetic would have
self-feeling implied the same as in feeling warm. That feeling warm with
us denotes something which possesses consciousness rather than
consciousness by struggle possessing it, is simply the result of the
inheritance of the accumulated mental force by which past generations
have reached this sense, and thereby consolidated self-consciousness
with it, for self-consciousness is built up as reflex cognition from the
cognitive effort and willing of the individual. Sensation always begins
in a sensing, a volition of the individual to realize externality in its
experience value, that is, mode of affection of its own body, as in
feeling warm pleasurably or painfully. When the objective is not merely
sensed but perceived, when object and objects are definitely cognized,
self-consciousness is greatly furthered, as each object and objectifying
cognizance means self-reference or interpretation in terms of

That self-consciousness is early and fundamental psychosis, is apparent,
not only from the gradual losing consciousness on going to sleep or in
gaining consciousness in waking, but also from the fact of its being
universal in dream life. Those factors which remain throughout all
stages and kinds of dream life, are justly regarded as organic and

Online LibraryHiram M. (Hiram Miner) StanleyStudies in the Evolutionary Psychology of Feeling → online text (page 21 of 32)