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of modifications in the cellular substance of the brain
could not account for this operation.

It has been well said : '* The sensory'cell is not self-
acting ; it does not of itself originate sensation. . . .
And if it be not, we need, in default of impulse from
without, impulse from an inner sphere of experience,
where intellectual activity proceeds under laws quite
different from those which apply in connection with
purely sensor}^ action."^

Intellectual and sensuous memory. — This third element of
memory involved in the act of recognition introduces us to
the question : Is memory a sensuous or an intellectual faculty?
Although recollection in man commonly involves intellectual
activity, we have discussed memory here along with the
sensuous powers of the mind because a 1 ige portion of the
phenomena of this faculty do not transcend the order of
sensuous life ; and it is of the utmost importance that mere
increase in refinement or complexity should not cause sense
to be confounded with intellect, a mistake which is so often
made in English philosophical literature.

Dr. Bain, for instance, of his large volume on The Senses
and the Intellect, devotes the half entitled Intellect to expounding
the association of mental states. Now, in our view, this is in
the main what intellect is not. The laws of suggestion or
association are best exhibited in the purely automatic working

^ Calderwood, The Relations of Mind and Brain, p. 2S2.



198 SENSUOUS LIFE.



of reproduction, and they account for the various operations
of animal consciousness ; but they are in no way character-
istic manifestations of the superior rational activity which
constitutes intellect, though of course cognitions of an intel-
lectual order may suggest each other.

Neither the acquisition, nor the retention of sensuous
impressions, nor even their automatic reproduction under the
laws of suggestion, exceeds the range of sense. Nay, there
is nothing incompatible with the nature of an exclusively
sentient mind in the presence of a feeling that a revived
image is familiar or has been presented to us before. A man
whose intellectual activity is completely absorbed in some
abstract train of thought may make a complicated journey
through a city, or perform any other familiar mechanical
operation, guided by sensuous memory and the hardly noticed
impressions of various well-known objects. But besides such
processes as these, man can acquire, retain, and reproduce
rational cognitions ; he can recall past acts, sensuous or
rational ; he can formally or explicitly compare the present
representation with the past experience, and recognize identity
or difference between them ; he can form the notion of time ;
and he can by a reflective process of reminiscence localize an
occurrence at a determined date in the past. In all these
operations intellect is essentially implied, and consequently
v/e must admit a rational as well as a sensuous memory.

Scholastic controversy. — There has been much subtle
discussion among the schoolmen as to the forms and modes
of memory which are to be deemed sensuous or intellectual.
St. Thomas, in a well-known passage^° says: " Cognoscere
praeteritum ut prcEteritnm est sensus," but the " ut preteritum "
may have more than one signification. Suarez maintains that
" intellectus rem cognoscit cum affectionibus sen conditioni-
bus singularibus perfectius multo quam sensus ; " also that
" Sensus novit praeteritum tantum materialiter, intellectus
vero formaliter." Amongst recent text - books of note,
Lahousse asserts, " Absurdum est (dicere) memoriae sensitivae
proprium esse apprehendere prcetevitum detevminatum, iiti est
pycdievitiim,'" and he urges, " Ens prassens non apprehenditur
a sensu tanquam prassens ; apprehendi enim deberet ratio
praesentiae ut sic, quae ratio abstracta non attingitur a sensu."
Sanseverino defends a somewhat different view. St. Thomas
appears at times to say that past events are cognized as past
per se by sense, and only per accidens by intellect ; elsewhere,
however, he explicitly distinguishes between the remembrance
of a past object and of the percipient act by which it was
apprehended. The memory of the former he considers as
^0 Qu. Disp. de Vevit. q. x. a. 2, c.



MENTAL ASSOCIATION. 199



per se sensuous, though per accidens it may belong to intellect.
The proper object per se of intellect is the essence or nature
of things without reference to present, past, or future. Time
is a particular determination merely incidental to an object,
and is apprehended by the universal faculty only indirectly
through reflexion. As regards a previous percipient act,
however, it can be known as past by the intellect not merely
thus per accidens, but per se. Still even here the definite
chronological situation, like every other individual determina-
tion, is only indirectly apprehended by intellect through
reflexion, and is accordingly merely per accidens the object of
that faculty. St. Thomas thus seems to teach that the
occurrence of a sensuous impression of an object may carry
with it the feeling that this object has been apprehended
before, and this feeling may even refer the occurrence to a
definite point of the previous time series, just as an external
sense may localize a body in space. The formal recognition,
however, of agreement between a present representation and
a past object or state must, on St. Thomas' principles, be
deemed an act of intellect. This is the feature of memory
most in Suarez' mind, and Dr. Gutberlet would apparently
account for some of the differences of opinion on the subject
by the term " memory " being used by other writers mainly
to signify reproduction apart from recognition. The reader
wishing to study the question at length may consult St. Thomas,
Sum. i. q. 79. a. 6, Qu. Disp. de Verit, q. x. a. 3, c, and De Mem.
et Rem. 1. 2 ; Suarez, De Anima, IV. c. x. ; Lahousse, Psych. III.
c. X. a. 5 ; Sanseverino, Dynam. c. vi. a. 2 ; Liberatore, Psych.
c. i. a. 7 ; and Gutberlet, op. cit. p. 108.

Qualities of good memory. — The estimation of
time, the localization of events in the past, expectation
and some other operations connected with memory, will
be more conveniently treated in a future chapter. But
we may add a word here on the qualities of a good
memory and the aim of the teacher with respect to this
faculty. Excellence of memor}^ is measured by facility
of acquisition, tenacity, and readiness of reproduction.
These properties frequently exist in the same person in
inverse degrees of excellence. The lawyer and the
actor attain great perfection in the rapidity with which
they can commit to memory the facts of a new case or
a part in a new play, but in a short time the whole
subject is again erased from the mind. The capacity
of memory varies much in different individuals, and



200 SENSUOUS LIFE.



history affords us many examples of powers that seem
to the ordinary mind marvellous.

Thus Ben Jonson, it is alleged, could repeat all that
he had ever written, and most of what he had said.
Scaliger learned by heart the Iliad and Odyssey in three
weeks, and the whole of the Greek poets in three
months. Pascal, it is said, could remember anything
he had ever thought. Lord Macaulay could after a
single attentive perusal reproduce several pages of a
book, and discovered by accident that he could repeat
the whole of Paradise Lost. Cardinal Mezzoffanti knew
forty-eight different languages and many dialects. ^^

Training of the memory forms an important part
of the first stages of all systems of education. The
teacher must here carefully distinguish between instruc-
tion or the storing the mind with useful information and
education proper or the development of mental facult}'.
Accordingly, although many of the earlier educational
exercises aim primarily at the acquisition of certain
necessary items of knowledge such as the alphabet,
parts of speech, meanings of words, tables and the like,
which must be learned by sheer force of repetition,
nevertheless the teacher's chief aim must be to cultivate
in the pupil a habit of judicious, not ot mere mechanical
memory. That is, he must accustom the child to
exercise remembrance by means of the internal or
rational connexion of ideas rather than by mere conti-
guous association. He must see that the subject-matter
is understood and not merely reproduced hy rote. Further,
he should profit by the teaching of physiology and
psychology: (i) to avoid over-estimating the feeble
powers of the very young ; (2) to allot the period when
the brain is physically in the best condition for the
work of learning by heart ; (3) to exercise the mind in
frequent repetition at short intervals in order to deepen
the first impression before it has faded away.^-

11 Cf. Hamilton, Metaph. ii. pp. 225 — 227.

^2 St. Thomas' rules for the cultivation of memory are a practical
embodiment of the Laws of Suggestion and admirably adapted to the
development of judicious memory. They are thus well summarized
in B. Boedder's Psych. Rat. § 249: — I. {Similarity). Similitudinibus
convenientibus minus consuetis res abstractas tibi declara. II. {Conti-



MENTAL ASSOCIATION. 201



Hisk)rical Sketch. — The phrase, Association of Ideas, has
played such an important part in the history of Enghsh
Philosophy that it appears to us advisable to make a few
additional remarks on the subject. The reality of association
as a principle governing the faculty of recollection is undeni-
able, and has been recognized by philosophers from the time
of Aristotle. In the light, however, of a hypothesis put
forward to account for certain peculiar intellectual states, it
seems to have been first advocated in this country by Hobbes,
and later on with far greater ingenuity by Hume. It is in this
second sense that Associationism has become the central
tenet of the English school of thinkers which has thence
received its title.^^

Mental Association, as the universal condition of memory,
was distinctly expounded and reduced to the three general
laws of similarity, contrast, and propinquity in time, space, or
some extrinsic relation, by Aristotle. In a very erudite
article,!* Hamilton vindicates for the Greek philosopher the
honour of having first discovered and formulated these laws.
We can only afford to cite a few sentences freely translated
by Hamilton, but the whole chapter of the De Memoria et
Reminiscentia dealing with the subject is well worthy of study.
"Reminiscence," says Aristotle, "takes place in virtue ot
that constitution of our mind, whereby each mental movement
(modification) is determined to arise as the sequel of a certain
other. . . . When, therefore, we accomplish an act of remi-
niscence, we pass through a certain series of precursive
movements, until we arrive at a movement on which the one
we are in quest of is habitually consequent. Hence, too, it s
that we hunt through the mental train excogitating what we
seek from (its concomitant in) the present or some other {time),
and from its similar or contrary or coadjacent. Through this
process reminiscence is effected, for the movements {i.e.,
mental modifications) are in these cases sometimes the same,
sometimes at the same time, sometimes parts of the same whole,
so that (starting thus) the subsequent movement is already
more than half accomplished." ^^

St. Thomas, in his Commentaries, developes the doctrine of
Aristotle in a manner which exhibits close study of the nature
of mental association. The ultimate cause of remembrance,

gtiity). Cum ordine dispone quae memoria tenere cupis. III. {Attention).
Sollicite et nun affectu addisce, qua? cupis rememorari. IV. (Repetition).
Quae rememorari tua multum interest ea frequenter meditare. {Sum.
2a 2ae, q. 49. a. i. ad 2.)

^3 On this distinction, cf. " Mental Association," by Croom
Robertson, En eye. Brit.

1" On Reid, note D**. i" On Reid, pp. 899, 900.



202 SENSUOUS LIFE.



he repeats, lies in the native tendency of the mind to
reproduce representations in the order of the original impres-
sions.^*' He then passes on to amphfy Aristotle's treatment
of the mode of reminiscence, and to expound more fully the
general laws governing reproduction. The process of recollec-
tion may advance, he observes, along a time series of events,
from the recent to the most distant, and vice versa ; or starting
from a known object it may be guided by any of the three
indicated relations. At times remembrance is awakened by
force of similarity, as when thinking of Socrates we are
reminded of Plato, who resembled him in wisdom. At other
times the bond of connexion is contrariety, as when the
thought of Hector recalls that of his opponent Achilles.
Finally, the third principle of suggestion is vicinity in space,
or time, or some other form of propinquity. After illustrating
by examples these three general laws, he goes on to indicate
in a much clearer manner than Aristotle their further analysis
and reduction : In all three forms of suggestion the ultimate
ground of reminiscence lies in the connexion of the previous
"movements" of the soul. Association by similarity is due
to identity in mental modification subsisting between the
similar experiences. Contrast is based upon the simultaneity
of the two terms in apprehension. Local propinquity and
other modes of contiguity are merely cases of partial similarity;
impressions produced by adjacent objects overlap, and the
common part in the revived state reproduces its ancient
collateral features.^'' We have thus co-identity in nature and

^^ " Causa autem reminiscendi est ordo motuum, qui relinquuntur
in anima ex prima impressione ejus, quod primo apprehendimus . . .
reminiscentias contingunt per hoc quod unus motus natus est post
alium nobis occurrere." [Ibid.)

^■^ " Hoc autem primum, a quo reminiscens suam inquisitionem
incipit, quandoque quidem est tempus aliquod notum, quandoque res
aliqiia nota. (i) Secundum tempus quidem incipit quandoque a nunc,
id est a prcesenti tempore, procedendo in prseteritum, cujus quaerit,
memoriam. . . . Quandoque vero incipit ab aliquo alio tempore . . .
et procedit descendendo. ... (2) Similiter etiam quandoque remi-
niscitur aliquis incipiens ab aliqua re cujus memoratur, a qua
procedit ad aliam, triplici ratione : {a) Quandoque quidem ratione
similitudinis : sicut quando aliquid aliquis memoratur de Socrate, et
per hoc occurit ei Plato, qui est similis ei in sapientia. {h) Quan-
doque vero ratione contrarietatis; sicut si aliquis memoretur Hectoris, et
per hoc occurrit ei Achilles, [c) Quandoque vero ratione propinquitatis
cujuscunque : sicut cum aliquis est memor patris, ei per hoc occurrit
ei filius. Et eadem ratio est de quacunque alia propinqiiitate, vet
societatis, vel loci, vel temporis ; et propter hoc fit reminiscentia, q^da
motus horiim se invicem conscquuntitr. [a) Quorundam enim prae-
missorum motus sunt idem, sicut prsecipue similium ; {d) quorundam



MENTAL ASSOCIATION. 203



in time, or what Hamilton calls the laws of direct and of
indirect remembrance, laid down by St, Thomas as the two
general principles of association. Accordingly, notwith-
standing the contempt which writers of the Associationist
school have invariably exhibited towards the schoolmen, we
find in these terse remarks of St, Thomas, now over six
hundred years old, a statement and analysis of the Laws of
Association virtually as complete and exhaustive as that given
by any psychologist from Hobbes to Mr. Herbert Spencer.

Of the later scholastics, Vives goes most fully into the
treatment of this subject, and it is scarcely too much to say
that there is no form of association viewed as a condition of
memory which he has not expounded and illustrated,^^

The chief interest, however, in the history of the doctrine
of mental association centres in modern psychology ; and it
is there that we find association advocated not only as a
general condition of reproductive memory, but also as a
philosophic principle adequate to explain the constitution of
numerous important mental states. Locke, in the Essay, in
1685, contributed the phrase Association of Ideas, as the title
of a chapter dealing with peculiarities of character, but did
little more on the subject. Hobbes had previously made
occasional observations on the power of association, but it is
clear from the terms and phrases which he employs, that, in
spite of his vigorously expressed contempt for the schoolmen,
he silently borrowed from them on this topic.

In this country, nevertheless, it was not till Berkeley's
writings appeared (1709 — 13), and still more decidedly in
Hume's Essay on Human Nature (1728), that mental association
was insisted on as a virtually omnipotent principle in the
genesis of knowledge. But on the Continent, already in the
middle of the seventeenth century, Pascal, and after him
Malebranche, had indicated the extensive influence of mental
association ; and even Condillac was as early as Hartley, who

autem simid, scilicet contrarioriim, quia cognito uno contrariorum
simul cognoscitur aliud ; {c) quandoque vero quidam motus habent
partem aliorum, sicut contingit in quibuscunque propinquis, quia in
unoquoque propinquorum consideratur aliquid quod pertinet ad
alterum, et ideo, illud residuum, quod deest apprehensioni, cum sit
parvum, consequitur motum prioris, ut apprehenso prime consequenter
occurrat apprehensioni secundum." (St. Thomas, De Mem. 1. v.)

^^ Cf. Vives, De Anima, Lib. II. c. De Mem. et Rem. We have
not space to quote, but the reader will find a number of passages
cited from him in Hamilton's Notes on Keid, pp. 892, 893, 896, 898,
902, qo8. A very little study even of these extracts will show how
familiar to scholastic philosophers were many of the supposed
discoveries of Hobbes, Hume, and later associationalist writers.



104 SENSUOUS LITE.



is the recognized founder of the Associationahst school in this
country. In his Observations on Man (1748), in connexion with
a theory of neural vibrations, Hartley expounded a system
of mechanical association, in which imagination, memory,
judgment, reasoning, emotions, and passions, are all reduced
to associations of sensations. Later on in the century,
Associationism was advocated by Tucker in the science of
Ethics, and by Alison in the sphere of /Esthetics. Approval
and remorse, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, were all
analyzed into pleasant and painful sensations associated in
experience with certain actions and objects.

At the beginning of the present century James Mill, in
h.\s, Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1829), re-
expounded the doctrines of Hartley and Hume, and may be
styled the second founder of the school. Sensations, and
ideas, which are merely faint reverberations of defunct sensa-
tions, worked up in various ways by force of association, and
especially by that form of suggestion included under the laiv
of indissoluble association, account for the sum-total of our
mental possessions. Sensations or ideas, repeatedly recurring
together or in close succession, and never apart, tend to
combine in such an indissoluble or inseparable manner that one
necessarily or irresistibly suggests the other.^'^ By a species

^^ The terms indissoluble and inseparable are defective even as
expressions of the associationist view. It is not maintained that the
associated states are absolutely inseparable, since a reversal of
previous experience is always possible. The lai;i of irresistible
suggestion, advocated as a better title by Mr. Murray, would be a
less objectionable phrase to indicate the element of truth contained
in the doctrine. The powerful influence of continuous association
is indisputable, and the acquired perceptions of the senses which we
have discussed in an earlier chapter illustrate its action ; but mere
association is utterly unable to account for the unity of the mind,
or for the necessity of mathematical or metaphysical truths. The
phrase, mental chemistry, is also inappropriate and misleading. The
chief forms of mental action to which this name has been applied
are : (a) The asserted subjective creation of an imaginary material
world by the agglutination, solidification, and externalization of
sensations and ideas ; {b) the production of the alleged illusory
necessity pertaining to certain judgments, e.g., mathematical axioms.

(a) Now, subjective feelings do not solidify or crystallize into a
simulated material object. The true process, as we have shown in
chapter vii., is one of growth in the perfection of our knowledge of
real things. Successive sensations reveal new qualities of the object,
and gradually elaborate cognition. The object, vaguely and obscurely
apprehended in the primitive tactual or visual sensation, receives
more complete determination by each subsequent impression.

(b) That necessary judgments cannot be a result of association will
be shown in a future chapter.



MENTAL ASSOCIATION. 205



of *' mental chemistry" the contiguous states fuse or combine,
so as to generate products utterly unlike the constituent
elements. The visual appearances of objects come thus to
suggest irresistibly their distance, and we imagine we see an
object to be hard, soft, hot, cold, rough, or smooth. By this
means are created such universal illusions, as the necessity
of mathematical judgments, the unity of the mind, and the
externality and permanence of a material world.

John Stuart Mill and Dr. Bain develope the same principles,
and enrich their treatment with numerous ingenious illus-
trations. The effect of hostile criticism from various stand-
points has been to modify very considerably the treatment
of Psychology by the more recent representatives of associa-
tionism. Dr. Bain's chief contribution to the resources of
the school was the allotment to the mind of a reservoir of
spontaneous activity continually fed by the accumulation
of superfluous muscular energy. By judicious management
of this new fund, many deficits in the sensist theory of both
the cognitive and volitional departments of mental life could,
it was believed, be made good.

In still greater contrast to the views of James Mill and the
earlier writers of the school, is the exposition of the Associ-
ationist system offered by Mr. Sully in his Outlines of Psycho-
logy. (Cf. cc. ix. X.) The old doctrine of a purely pa.ssive mind,
wherein sensations through a process of agglutination coalesce
into all kinds of intellectual products, is virtually aban cned,
and instead we have ascribed to the mind active powers of
attention, comparison, and judgment. This last act, too, is
not, as with Mr. Bain, the " fact of similarity or dissimi-
larity " — the capability of experiencing like or unlike feelings
— but the intellectual faculty of cognizing this relation of
likeness or unlikeness. These considerable improvements,
which bring the sensist theory of mental life more into
harmony with the results of actual observation, and help to
obviate some of the most telling objections urged against the
unreformed doctrine, are, on the other hand, very dearly
purchased from a logical point of view. It is difficult to see
how the fundamental article of the Sensist school — the tenet
that the mind is nothing more than a cluster or series of
feelings — can be harmonized with the imported doctrine,
which attributes to this "mind" the active power of dis-
criminating, combining, and organizing these states. The
truth is, the best part of Mr. Sully's description of mental
operations belongs to an alien conception of the mind, and
is not easy to reconcile with his general position as a sensist
philosopher. The elder Mill, Condillac, and the other earlier
advocates of Sensism, possessed at least the merit of under-



2o6 SENSUOUS LIFE.



standing and frankly attempting to face the real problem for
their school. Postulating only .those assumptions which were
legitimate to them, they sought to explain how, out of sense
impressions passively received from without, our illusory
belief in a permanent human mind, as well as in a material
world, could be produced. The result was, as is virtually
admitted by their descendants, a miserable caricature of the
observed facts. The modern representative of the school,
while accepting their fundamental doctrine that the mind is
nothing but an aggregate or series of feelings externally
awakened, nevertheless ascribes to this mind inherent activity.
Such a procedure, however, as was felt, I believe, by
the earlier associationists, is incompatible with the essential
principles of their system.



Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 20 of 63)