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we cannot conceive as separable from matter, and,
moreover, they are like the ideas by which we represent
them. The secondary or imputed qualities, colours,
sounds, tastes, smells, and the rest, are not essential to
the idea of matter. Where present in bodies they exist
merely as powers to produce sensations, properties
emerging out of occult modifications of the primary
attributes, and capable of awakening in us feelings in
no way like themselves.

Berkeley and Hume, proceeding from Locke's
most fundamental doctrine that we can only know our
own ideas, quickly demolished the distinction. Hume
even demonstrated that, on Locke's principles, the
primar}'- qualities, extension, and the rest, are less real
and objective than the secondary, for the former are
merely complex subjective products elaborated out of
the latter, and so the purest of mental fictions. In the
Kantian philosophy, although the subject is not explicitly
treated, the objective significance of the two groups is
similarly reversed. As Space is an exclusively sub-
jective form, while the sensatiors of smell, sound, et
cetera, have some sort of an external correlate, however
remote from them in kinship, the latter would seem to
be of a less purely ideal character.


Sir W. Hamilton from a psychological point of
view distinguishes three classes : (i) Primary or objective.
(2) Seciindo- primary or subjectivo-objective, and (3) Secondary
or subjective qualities. ^3 The primary qualities include all
the relations of matter to space whether as container
or contained. These are (i) Extension, (2) Divisibility,
p (3) Size, (4) Density, (5) Figure, (6) Absolute Incom-
pressibility, (7) Mobility, (8) Situation. These attri-
butes are completely objective. They are percepts
proper, implying no reference to sensation in their

23 These groups have been also styled the geometrical, mechanical,
^.nd. physiological properties, and Mr. Herbert Spencer [Principles of
Psychology, Pt. VI. cc. xi. — xiii.) still further enriches our already
exuberantly wealthy terminology by the invention of the terms,
statical, statico-dynamical, and dynamical, to mark substantially the
same distinctions. In the dynamical or secondary attributes the
external body is active, the mind is wholly passive. These qualities
are objectively occult properties in virtue of which matter modifies
the forces brought to bear on it, so as through these forces to
awaken sensations. With the exception of taste, they act across a
distance ; they are accidents cognizable apart from the body, and
manifested only incidentally. In experiences of the statico-dynamical
kind, both subject and object are simultaneously agent and patient.
These attributes are known through some objective re-activity
evoked by subjective activity. "In respect of its space [statical)
attributes, body is altogether passive and the perception of it is
wholly due to certain mental operations." Unlike the other attri-
butes, " extension is cognizable through a wholly internal co-ordina-
tion of impressions ; a process in which the extended object has no
share." Some distinctive features of the different groups previously
recognized are here pointed out, but there are also some errors.
The mind is never purely passive, even in sensations like those
of colour, taste, et cet., the mental reaction is as real as the physical
stimulation. Consequently the distinction between the dynamical
and statico-dynamical fails. Mr. Spencer is right in holding that
the primary are not the direct object of the special senses in the
same manner as the secondary qualities. In the words of St. Thomas
the sensibilia communia do not constitute formal objects of individual
senses. Still they are not, as Mr. Spencer's exposition implies,
purely subjective products, but forms of reality revealed through,
yet concomitantly with, certain of the proper sensibles. Surface
extension as such does not of course stimulate the retina or the
nerves of touch ; it is made known in experiences of pressure and
colour. Still it is not a mediate inference from the latter, nor a
complex integration of unextended feelings of any kind. Cognition
of the third dimension of space results, as we have already described,
from a reapplication of the same faculties in a new direction.


meaning, though involving sensation in their first
apprehension. They are, he holds, absolutely essential
to body ; deprived of them matter is inconceivable.
The secundo -primary qualities comprehend gravity,
cohesion, repulsion, and inertia. Viewed as objective
they are forces resisting our locomotive faculty or muscular
energy. As subjective they are revealed through the
varying affections of pressure in the sentient organism.
Involving in their meaning these subjective sensations,
they do not possess the objective independence of the
primary qualities. They are, moreover, not essential
to matter. The secundary qualities are not in propriety
qualities of bodies at all. As apprehended they are
only sensations which lead us to infer objective pro-
perties in the external thing. They are experienced
as idiopathic affections of our organism, indefinite in
number, and producible by a variety of stimuli.
Besides the sensations of the special senses, Hamilton
includes in this class a number of other feelings, such
as shuddering, titillation, and sneezing. They are of
course in no way essential to matter. ^^

Criticism. — The recognition of the distinction in
kind between the primary and the secondary qualities, or
between the common and proper sensibles, is justified meta-
physically by the more and less fundamental character
of the two classes respectively, and psychologically by
the numerous differences in the mode of their appre-
hension. Among these latter enough attention has
not been directed to the ancient distinction based on
the fact that secondary and secundo-primary qualities
are disclosed only through a single sense, while the
primary attributes are revealed through a plurality of
independent sources. This circumstance, as well as
their more intelligible nature, makes our cognition of

2-1 As regards Hamilton's treatment of the subject : (i) There is
no warrant either metaphysical or psychological for the intermediate
class. On both grounds it belongs to the third. (2) It is absurd to
speak of secondary qualities of matter as not being properties of
matter at all, but merely conscious states. Hamilton, moreover,
is peculiarly inconsistent in this respect, since he elsewhere holds
that all our senses make us immediately cognizant of the non-ego.


them clearer, more convincing, and more compre-
hensive. The perfect identity of ratios subsisting
between parts of space, e.g., the relation of the side
to the diagonal of the square, known through visual
and tactual sensations, the mathematical power of the
blind, and the recognition of circular and square figures
by those just receiving sight for the first time, present
an irresistible testimony to the reality of what is
affirmed by such diverse witnesses. In addition to
this, the manifestation of extension in the two different
experiences of colour and pressure enables us to detach
in a singularly perfect manner the common element,
and so to form an abstract idea of extension, far
■surpassing in clearness those derived from any single
sensuous channel.

The Relativity of Knowledge. — This expression has been
used in a great variety of meanings, (i) The phrase Relativity
of Knowledge, or rather the Law or Principle of Relativity, has
been used to signify a leading tenet of Bain and Wundt —
that knowledge and feeling are possible only in transition,
that we can know anything ( nly by knowing it as distinguished
from something else, that ni fact all consciousness is of
difference. We have discussed the subject at the end of
chapter v. This doctrine, however, is not that ordinarily
intended when we speak of the Relativity of Knowledge.

(2) The Relativity of Knowledge in its most important sense
refers not to the nature of the relations between one known
object and another, but to that between the known object
and the knowing mind. All systems of philosophy which
reject the doctrine of immediate perception of extended
reality must maintain that our knowledge is relative to the
mind in the sense that we can never know anything but our own
subjective states. Among these the most consistent thinkers,
as we have argued, are the idealists proper. They logically
maintain that if we have no knowledge of anything beyond
consciousness, it is unphilosophical to suppose that anything
else exists. This thoroughgoing view is represented by Hume,
and by Mill at times. The great majority of modern philo-
sophers, however, shrinking back from this extreme, have
adopted some intermediate position akin to that of Kant or
Mr. Spencer. They maintain that while all our knowledge is
relative to our own mental states, and in no way represents
or reflects reality, yet there is de facto some sort of reality
outside of our minds. Our imaginary cognitions of space,


time, and causality are universal subjective illusions either
inherited or elaborated by the mind ; consequently, since
these fictitious elements mould or blend with all our experi-
ence, we can have no knowledge of things in themselves, of
noiimena, of the absolute. But notwithstanding this, and in
spite of the fact that the principle of causality has no more
real validity than a continuous hallucination, these philo-
sophers are curiously found to maintain the existence of a
cause, and even of an external, non-mental cause of our

(3) True doctrine. — Another, and what we maintain to be
the true expression of the Relativity of Knowledge, and one
which is in harmony with the theory of immediate or pre-
sentative perception, holds — (a) that we can only know as
much as our faculties, limited in number and range, can
reveal to us ; (b) that these faculties can inform us of objects
only so far, and according as the latter manifest themselves ;
(c) that accordingly (a) there may remain always an indefinite
number of qualities which we do not know, and (b) what is
known must be set in relation to the mind, and can only be
known in such relation.^^

So much relativity is necessarily involved in the very
nature of knowledge, but it in no way destroys the worth of
that knowledge. If knowledge is defined to imply a relation
betweep the mind and the known object, and if the noumenon
•or thiiig-in-itself is defined to signify some real element of an
■object which never stands in any relation to our cognitive
powers, then a knowledge of noumena or things-in-themselves is
obviously an absurdity.-^ But if by noumena are understood, as

-^ What is given in one or more relations may necessarily
implicate other relations, and these may subsist not merely between
the mind and other objects, but between the several objects them-
selves. Still, mediate cognitions of this sort are knowledge only in
so far as they are rationally connected with what is immediately
given. Our knowledge of the mutual dynamical influence of two
invisible planets, which faithfully reflects their reciprocal relations,
is but an elaborate evolution of what is apprehended by sense and
intellect in experiences where subject and object stand in immediate

-^ " To speak of ' knowing,' ' things in themselves,' or ' things as
they are,' is to talk of not simply an impossibility, but a con-
tradiction ; for these phrases are invented to denote what is in the
sphere of being and not in the sphere of thought ; and to suppose them
known is ipso facto to take away this character. The relativity of
cognition [i.e., in the sense defined) imposes on us no forfeiture
of privilege, no humiliation of pride ; there is not any conceivable
form of apprehension from which it excludes us." (Cf. Martineau,
A Study of Religion, Vol. I. p. 119.)


Kant on the one side, and sensationalists like Mr. Spencer on
the other seem to mean, hypothetical external causes ot" onr
sensations, which yet somehow do not in any way reveal
their character through these sensations, then we must, in
the first place, deny the assumption that we can only know
our own conscious states, and, in the second, we must point
out the fundamental contradiction common to both schools
of disputing the objective or real validity of the principle of
causality, whilst in virtue of a surreptitious use of this rejected
principle they affirm the reality of an unknowable noumenal

Cognition of Primary and Secondary qualities compared. —
Admitting all knowledge to be relative in the third sense
defined, there yet remain grades in the comparative perfection
of cognitions gained through diverse channels ; and here the
distinctions both between sense and intellect, and between
the primary and secondary qualities of matter, assume great
importance. The doctrine that colours, sounds, and the
other secondary qualities do not exist in objects as they are
in the mind has been often cited as a modern psychological
discovery. This, however, is a complete mistake. The wide
difterence which separates the objective or material conditions
of sound, colour, and the rest from the corresponding subjec-
tive consciousness, was as clearly and as firmly gi'asped by
Aristotle and St. Thomas, as by Locke, Hume, Kant, or
Herbert Spencer. The acute minds of the sensationalists
and sceptics of Ancient Greece had, in fact, raised in one
form or another all the most forcible difficulties now urged
by their modern representatives, and the Stagirite was
necessarily led to answer them. He did this by pointing out
the distinction between the potential condition and the com-
pleted realization of the secondary properties. Sound and
colour in apprehension he describes as having reached their
full perfection, actuality, or energy, whilst when unperceived
they exist in the object merely in a. potential or virtual state.
In this stage he recognized them simply as powers capable of
arousing sensation. He even called attention to the ambiguity
arising from the frequent use of the same word — e.g., " sound"
or " taste," to designate both the physical property and the
mental state; and he employs the two terms, sanation and
audition, to bring out the difference. He thus successfully
opposed the scepticism of the ancient empiricists, who denied
all reality or differences of colours, sounds, and the rest apart
from perception, by admitting their contention as regards the
full realization of the qualities of matter, while refusing to
allow its truth in reference to the potential conditions of
these qualities. Neither light, nor sounds, nor odours would


exist in their proper signification as actualities if all sentient
beings were withdrawn from the universe ; but they would
still remain as potencies ready to emerge into life when the
recipient faculty appeared. Aristotle's treatment of the subject
was adopted and elucidated by St. Thomas, and we deem the
matter of such importance that we cite a number of passages
from both the Greek philosopher and his scholastic com-
mentator below.2''

Sensuous and Intellectual cognitions compared. — Through its
secondary qualities, then, an object is known by any sense
only as something capable of producing a particular sensation
in me. The primary attributes are, however, of such a kind,

"7 " Sensibilis autem actus et sensus idem est, et unus; esse
autem ipsorum non idem. Dice autem ut sonus secundum actum,
et auditus secundum actum. Contingit enim auditum habentia
non audire, et habens sonum non semper sonat. Cicm autem operetur
potens (id quod potest) audire, et sonet potens sonare, tunc secundum
actum auditus simul fit, et secundum actum sonus. Quorum
dicet aliquis hoc quidem auditionem esse, hoc verum sona-
tionem." (Aristotle, De Anima, Lib. III. Lect. 2.) " Sonativi
(rei sonorae) igitur actus, aut sonus aut sonatio est. Auditivi
autem, aut auditus aut auditio est. Dupliciter enim auditus, et
dupliciter sonus. Eadem autem ratio est et in aliis sensibus et sctisi-
hilibus , . . sed in quibusdam nomina quoque sunt posita, ut
sonatio ac auditio ; in quibusdam caret alterura nomine ; visio
enim dicitur actus visus, at coloris (actus) nomine vacat, et
gustativi gustatio est, at saporis nomen non habet." {id. ib.)
" Necesse est quod auditus dictus secimdum actum, et sonus dictus
secundum actum, simul salventur et corrumpantur ; et similiter est
de sapore et gustu, et aliis sensibilibus et sensibus. Sed si dicantur
sectindum potent iam, non necesse est quod simul corrumpantur et
salventur. Ex hac autem ratione (Aristoteles) excludit opinionem
antiquorum naturalium . . . dicens, quod priores naturales non
bene dicebant in hoc, quia opinabuntur nihil esse album, aut
nigrum, nisi quando videtur ; neque saporem esse, nisi quando
gustatur ; et similiter de aliis sensibilibus et sensibus. Et quia
non credebant esse alia entia, nisi sensibilia, neque aliam virtutem cognos-
citivam, nisi sensum, credebatit quod totum esse et Veritas rerum esset in
apparere. Et ex hoc deducebantur ad credendum contradictoria
simul esse vera, propter hoc quod diversi contradictoria opinantur,
Dicebant autem quodammodo recte et quodammodo non. Cum enim
dupliciter dicatur sensus et sensibile, scilicet secundum potentiam et secundum
actum, de sensu et sensibili secundum actum accedit quod ipsi dicebant
quod non est sensibile sine sensu. Non autem hoc verum est de
sensu et sensibili secundum potentiam. Sed ipsi loquebantur sim-
pliciter, id est sine distinctione, de his quae dicuntur multipliciter."
(St. Thomas, Comm. de Anima, Lib. IIL 1. 2, ad finem). Cf.
Hamilton, Notes on Reid, pp. 826—830.


and presented to us in such a manner, that our knowledge
of them, even when Umited to the range of the sensuous
faculties, is of far superior importance to that which we
possess of the sensibilia propria. In themselves the primary
attributes consist of extensional determinations universal to
matter, and independent of the nature of the sentient faculty.
In relation to us the fact of their being revealed through the
several channels of ocular, motor, and tactual sensations,
gives our sensuous perception of them a clearness and distinct-
ness far surpassing that oi the proper seusibles.

But it is as affording material for intellectual knowledge
that their true value is to be estimated. Disclosed through
distinct channels the common presentation is instinctively
detached by the higher abstractive activity of the mind ; and
since it is thus given to us unobscured by any subjective
affections of sensibility, it is perceived in a very perfect and
comprehensive manner. Owing to this fact our simplest
intellectual cognitions of spatial relations are enabled to
image with distinctness and lucidity the most fundamental
laws of the physical world.

Finally, by observation, reasoning, and abstraction we
come to discern in these primary attributes universal exten-
sional relations conditioning the mutual connexion and inter-
dependence of material objects apart from their perception
by the knowing spirit. We are assured that, although the
reahzation of the secondary qualities requires the presence of
the sentient faculty, yet the most important part of the
meaning of the primary attributes holds in its absence : we
see that while perception is essential to the one, it is
accidental to the other. Remote and compHcated deductions
from a few primary luminous intuitions of space and number,
together with certain assumptions as to the action of real
force, are found to describe accurately the future conduct of
the universe. Astronomy and Physics, the Law of Gravita-
tion as well as the Undulatory Theory of light, imply the
extra-mental validity of our notions of space, motion, and real
energies, and assume their existence and action apart from
observation. The verification which subsequently observed
results afford to our reasoned deductions must, consequently,
be held to estabhsh that these conceptions are neither " inte-
grations " of purely subjective feeUngs, nor mental "forms,"
which in no way represent the hypothetical, unknowable,
external noumenon, but true cognitions which mirror in a
veracious manner the genuine conditions of real or ontolo-
gical being. Our knowledge, then, of the primary attributes
does not relate exclusively to our own mental states, as is
asserted in the prevalent creed of relativity. Still in the case



of these, as well as of the secondary qualities, we can never
know the object unless in so far as it reveals itself directly or
indirectly to our faculties, and in the simplest creature there
will always remain beyond our ken an indefinite number of
secrets which a higher intelligence might scrutinize, so that
the perfection, range, and penetration of knowledge is, in
truth, ever relative to the knowing mind.

Readings. — On immediate perception, cf. Farges, L'Objectivite de
la Perception, pp. 17 — 36, 83—99, 155 — 181; also J. Mark Baldwin,
Senses and Intellect, c. viii. ; Dr. Porter, The Human Intellect, Pt. I.
cc. iii. — vi. ; Balmez, Fundamental Philosophy, Vol. I. pp. 267 — 324,
339 — 360. Oa the localization of sensations, cf. Gutberlet, op. cit.
pp. 59—84; Mercier, Psychologie, pp. 132 — 147; On the Primary
and Secondary Qualities of Matter, cf. St. Thomas, De Anima, II.
1. 13; Hamilton, Metaph. II. 108— 115; Notes on Reid, pp. 825, seq. ;
On Relativity of Knowledge, St. Thomas, De Anima, III. 1. 2;
Martineau, A Study of Religion, Bk. I. c. iv. ; M'Cosh, Exam, of Mill,
c. X. and Intuitions of Mind, pp. 340, seq. (2nd Edit.) ; Dr. Mivart,
On Truth, c. x. ; Mark Baldwin, op. cit. 58 — 63.



Imagination defined. — Imagination may be
defined as the faculty of forming mental images
or representations of material objects, apart iroi^'
the presence of the latter. The representaiioii
so formed is called in nearly all recent psycno-
logical literature an idea. This application of a
term, which in the old philosophies invariably
expressed the universal representations of the intel-
lect, is unfortunate ; but it has become so general
that there is little hope of restoring the word to its
ancient and proper signification. Accordingly, to
avoid confusion, when employing the word idea to
denote the general concept or notion, we will add
the epithet intellectual to mark its supra-sensuous
character. The term phantasm, by which the school-
men expressed very concisely the acts of the imagi-
nation, has been employed in the same sense by
Dr. M'Cosh, and occasionally also by Hamilton and
Dr. Porter, and we will use it along with the word
ima^e to denote this sensuous representation.

Ideas and Impressions. — The idea or phantasm
of the imagination differs in several respects from
the percept, presentation, or impression, that is the
act by which w^e perceive a real or present object,



such, for instance, as a house. The idea is almost
invariably very faint in intensity as compared with
the impression. The outlines of the one are obscure
and its constituent parts confusedly presented, while
the other is realized in a clear and distinct manner.
Still more striking is the contrast between the
unsteady transitory character of the representation
and the permanent stability of the perceived object.
The image, too, is normally subject to our control,
and can be annihilated by an act of will ; the sensa-
tion, on the contrary, so long as the sense is exposed
to the action of the object, is independent of us. The
imagination, moreover, may vary the position of its
object, and our own movements do not force us to
leave behind us the idea. With the percept of the
external sense it is otherwise ; every change in our
situation produces an alteration in its appearance.
Depending on these lesser differences is the dis-
tinction most noted of all, the reference to objective
reality, the belief in external independent existence
which accompanies the act of sense-perception but
is absent from that of the imagination. And yet, as
St. Thomas pointed out long ago,^ ideas are con-
founded with real objects, if not corrected by actual
perception or free exercise of intellect.

Scholastic Doctrine. — The Phantasy or Imagination was

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 16 of 63)