Michael Maher.

Psychology: empirical and rational online

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of the term in a manner which fatally vitiates his reasoning.
Frequency of association may beget in the mind an incapacity
to separate two states of consciousness, and long continued
experience or absence of experience may make something
inconceivable in the sense of (a) or {b), which is not so in that
of (c). In affirming that two things, each equal to a third,
must always and everywhere equal each other, that 2-1-3 =
4-1- 1, or, that whatever begins to exist must have a cause, we
enounce a judgment the reversal of which is not merely
inconceivable through an incapacity of the mind : it is
positively perceived to be absolutely impossible. On the other
hand, it was always easy to imagine men at the opposite side
of the earth, but unfamiliarity with the notion of its rotundity,
or of change in the direction of gravitation, rendered the
suggestion very difficult, though not impossible, to believe.

(2) To the assertion that the " peculiar feeling of necessity "
which marks these axioms is just what would be produced by
association, we reply that it is not a matter of subjective


feeling at all, but an intelligent insight of objective necessity.
In my present mental and bodily constitution I am necessarily
pained by extreme heat or cold. I am forced to feel certain
tastes as agreeable or the opposite ; and I cannot imagine
sensations afforded by a different set of faculties from those
with which man is endowed. But reflexion tells me that this
necessity or incapacity is subjective. The facts might be
reversed. On the other hand, in contemplating the proposi-
tion that two things which are each equal to a third must be
equal to each other, I am conscious not merely that I must
believe this truth, like any contingent experience, but also
that it must objectively and necessarily be so; that it can
never be reversed.

(3) Again, many of these necessary truths are perceived
to be such too early in life and too rapidly to be ex-
plained by accumulated experience. Mill was driven illogically
to abandon the doctrine that it is by real experience of
external nature we are gradually convinced that two straight
lines cannot inclose a space, and to adopt the intuitional
theory that by reflexion on the ideas of straight lines we
can form that judgment. His attempted justification was
that the clearness with which the imagination can depict
geometrical figures rivals that of actual experience ; but this
certainly does not hold for many arithmetical and algebraical

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 29 of 63)