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in the study of the mind. To its adjudication must
bathe first as well as the ultimate appeal in every



12 PSYCHOLOGY.



psychological problem. Mental states can only be
apprehended by each man's own consciousness.
Tlieir reality consists in this apprehension — their
esse is percipi. Therefore the endeavour to decide
as to their nature or origin by information gathered
from any other source is obviously absurd. The
greatest care must, however, be taken to notice
accurately all the aspects of the phenomena pre-
sented to us, and to detect those numerous un-
obtrusive differences in the character of mental
phenomena which ma}' indicate profound divergency
in the nature of their source. The injudicious
observer, impressed by the greater intensity of
sentient states, may thus easily ignore the more
subtle activities of our higher rational life, and so
be led to form a conception of mind from which the
most important features are absent.^

Still, although our mental states are of an
evanescent character, and enjoy but a transitory
existence, it must nevertheless be insisted on that
they are facts as real as any in the universe. A
sensation, an intellectual judgment, or a volition,
possesses as much reality as a nervous current, a
chemical solution, or a transit of Venus ; and whilst
the most thorough-going sceptic cannot question the

^ The truth of this remark is strikingly illustrated in the history
of Mental Philosophy in this country by the manner in which the
relational activity of the mind — its power of apprehending universal
relations — has been ignored or misconceived by the entire sen-
sationalist school from Hartley to Dr Bain. The writings of
Stirling, Green, Bradley, and other thinkers of Hegelian tendencies
have had in recent years the good effect of bringing about the
re-discovery of this intellectual faculty, which occupied such a
prominent position in the psychological system of the leading
scholastic philosophers.



METHOD OF PSYCHOLOGY. 13



existence of states of consciousness, ingenious and
acute thinkers have been found over and over again
to deny us all certainty regarding material objects.
This mode of investigating psychical phenomena by
means of internal observation is called the Subjective
or Introspective Method.

Objective Method. - Introspection must be
supplemented, however, by other lines of research,
if we wish to make our conclusions as trustworthy
and as widely applicable as possible. Appeal to
these additional means of information constitutes
what is called the Objective Method of inquiry, since
they form part of the outside world, and are
apprehended only through the external senses.
But evidence gained in this way is of an essentially
secondary or supplementary value, its chief use
being that of suggestion or corroboration. The
principal forms of objective investigation are the
following :

1. Other minds. — The results of other men's
observations of their own minds as far as these
results can be gathered from oral description, and
compared with the results of our own individual
experience.

2. Language.—Tho, products of the human mind
as embodied in language may afford valuable inform-
ation. Comparative philology and the study of
various literatures are here our chief resources.
Language has been happily styled crystallized or
fossilized thought, and under skilful handling it may
be made to unfold many interesting secrets of past
mental history. Thus the rich and varied vocabulary



14 • PSYCHOLOGY



of the Tagan dialect, which contains over 30,000
words, a vast inherited wealth far beyond the needs
of the present generation, is maintained by Professor
Max Miiller to point to a degradation of that race
from a previous condition of considerable mental
development, rather than to a gradual evolution
from a lower and less intellectual state.- Similarly
the presence in various languages of words con-
noting certain moral ideas may constitute important
testimony in disputed interpretations of conscious-
ness.

3. Hislorical or Genetic Method. — A diligent
study of the human mind as manifested at different
periods of life, and in different grades of civilization,
may throw much light on the laws which govern
the development of the mental faculties, and on the
conditions which have given rise to various customs,
sentiments, and modes of thought. Plistorical
researches into the manners, religions, and social
institutions of different nations may here prove very
fruitful.

4. Animal Psychology, — The study of the
instincts, habits, and other psychical activities of
the lower animals, if undertaken in a sober and
judicious spirit, can be made to yield considerable
assistance in some questions. This sphere of investi-
gation, when grouped with that just mentioned, is

- Cf. "The Savage," Nineteenth Century, January, 1S85, p. 120.
Professor Max Miiller there argues very forcibly, that " the magni-
ficent ruins in the dialects, whether of Fuegians, Mohawks, or
Hottentots, tell us of mental builders whom no one could match at
present." The Tagan language is that spoken by the natives of
Terra del Fuego, the race which Darwin considered to be the lowest
and least developed family of human beings yet found.



METHOD OF PSYCHOLOGY. 15



sometimes rather questionably dignified with the
title of Comparative Psychology. However, the
anthropomorphic tendency in man to project his
own thoughts and sentiments into other beings
renders this scientific instrument peculiarly liable to
abuse. Still subject to proper precautions it may
assist us materially. By means of it we may
advantageously apply the great inductive methods of
difference and residues. The lower animals possess
certain faculties in common with man, but they
are deficient in others, and hence by a diligent
study of their actions we are enabled to distinguish
how much of man's conduct is necessarily due to
different faculties.

5. Physiology. — The science of Physiology is also
a source of valuable mformation. The intimate
nature of the relations between the mind and the
organism, so strongly emphasized in the Aristotelian
and Scholastic Philosophy which conceives the soul
as the form of the body, receives more elucidation
every day with the advance of biological science.
In examining into the operations of sense, the
development of imagination and memory, the forma-
tion of habits, and the transmission of hereditary
tendencies, the advantage of a knowledge of the
physical basis of these phenomena is obvious ; but
as all mental processes, even the most purely
spiritual acts of intellect and volition, are probably
accompanied or conditioned by cerebral changes,
too much labour cannot be devoted to the study of
the constitution, structure, and working of the
organism. At the same time care must b^- taken



i6 PSYCHOLOGY.



to distinf^uish clearly between the two orders of
facts. The mental state and its physiological
accompaniment or condition are separated, as
Professor Tyndall says, by an "impassable chasm."
It is then not sufficient to explicitly admit once or
twice, as most writers of the Sensist school do
admit, that the neural and psychical events arc
divided by a difference which transcends all other
differences, and then to forget, or lead the reader to
forget, the vital character of this difference. The
mental states must be treated and described
throughout in such a way that no confusion
between the two kinds of phenomena is caused to
arise in the student's mind, and he must not be
misled into supposing that a conscious process has
been finally explained when its physical correlate
has been indicated, or when the whole operation has
been described in cloudy physiological language.

6. Pathology : Psychiatry, — Hand in hand with
Physiology goes Pathology, the complementary
science of organic disease ; and the opportunities
presented in the investigations connected with this
branch of knowledge for the observation of mental
activities in an isolated or abnormal condition
will occasionally throw light on obscure questions.
Somnambulism, illusions, hallucinations, and various
forms of insanity exhibit particular mental functions
under exceptional conditions, and not infrequently
suggest or confirm explanations of special mental
operations. Similarly, the study of those deprived
of different senses may advance the scientific analysis
of normal perception and the discovery of how



METHOD OF PSYCHOLOGY. 17



much is due to the various faculties. But here
again judgment is required, and we must be on our
guard against assigning too much weight to irregular
and exceptional cases. The emotional interest
excited by abnormal occurrences may easily lead us
to exaggerate their philosophical importance, and to
forget that after all the proper subject-matter of our
science is the uicns saiia in corpore sano. The reality
of this danger becomes apparent when we find
writers on Psychology founding their theories as to
the nature of the soul, or of its cognitive operations,
not on the observation of the activities of the normal
healthy mind, but on dubious conjectures regarding
some obscure ill-understood forms of mental aberra-
tion that appear perhaps once among a hundred
thousand human beings.

7. Experimental Psychology : Psycho -physics : Psycho-
mctry. — Closely connected with physiological psy-
chology are certain methods of investigation some-
times styled Experimental Psychology, Strictly
speaking, whenever we deliberately exert or cause
another to exert any form of mental activity in order
to observe it we perform *' a psychological experi-
ment." But the term Experimental Psychology is
commonly confined to the more elaborate methods
of modifying mental operations in order to study
them. Various ingenious means have been recently
invented for estimating the power and accuracy of
imagination, memory, and the several senses ; and
numerous "psychological laboratories" have been
erected for carrying on these investigations in
Germany, America, and elsewhere. The terms



i8 PSYCHOLOGY.



psychonietry and psycho -physics are more especially
employed to denote sundry methods employed for
measuring the duration of simple mental processes
and also the relation between the intensity of sensa-
tions and their stimuli. We shall return to this
subject again.

These Methods not new. — We have here
explicitly enumerated the various sources from
which our science draws its materials, but, although
it has only in recent times become customary thus
to classify them in detail, all of them except the
last have been made use of by writers on the philo-
sophy of the mind since the days of Plato and
Aristotle. Some recent authors appear at times to
believe that these methods of inductive inquiry are
a result of modern discovery, and that surprising
advances of an undefined character have been, or in
the immediate future will be, effected by their
means in our knowledge of the nature of the mind.
A comparatively brief study, however, of Aristotle's
great work on the soul, and of his supplementary
treatises on special psychological questions, will
show how fully he appreciated the value of these
extended fields of information.^

Rational Psycholog-y : Method. — The method
pursued in Rational Psychology will be mainly
inferential. From the truths established in the
earlier part of our work as regards the life of the
soul, we shall draw inferences as to its inner consti-

^ M. St. Hilaire has shown clearly how accurate were the vie;vs
of the founder of the Peripatetic school on the use of the inductive
methods in Psychology. (CI. Psychologic d'Aristote, pp. lii. — Ixv.)



METHOD OF PSYCHOLOGY. 19

tution ; from the character of the activity we shall
argue to the nature of the agent, from the degree of
perfection in the effect we shall reason up to that of
the cause.

Attacks on Psychology. — The scope just assigned
to Psychology is objected to by writers of widely diffe-
rent schools in this country, so it may be well to add
a few supplementary remarks in defence of our position.
Opponents we may divide into three classes. Some
deny the possibility of a science either of Rational
or Phenomenal Psychology. Others, admitting the
existence of a genuine science of the phenomena of
the mind, deny the possibility of any real knowledge
regarding the nature or existence of the soul. Others,
again, whilst allowing with this second class the value
of Empirical Psychology, exclude from its treatment
various questions, such as the freedom of the will, and
the origin of intellectual ideas, on the ground that these
are metaphysical or philosophical problems to be treated
of elsewhere. As regards this last view, the divergence
from us may b6 mainly one of method and classification.
Provided these questions are satisfactorily discussed in
some branch of Philosophy, it does not appear vital
what department be selected. We may, however, point
out that Psychology, the philosophy of the mind, seems
to be under more distinct obligations to face these
problems than any other science ; and, in the second
place, as we have already stated, an}^ attempt at
adequate treatment of mental phenomena will inevit-
ably involve some particular philosophical view as to
the nature of our faculties.

The only sufificient answer to writers of the second
class — those who deny the possibility of a rational
science of the soul — is to work out a systematized
body of certain truths regarding its nature, and the
relations subsisting between it and the body. This
we will endeavour to accomplish in the Second Book
of the present volume. That a work claiming to be
a treatise on Psychology ought to make some such



20 PSYCHOLCGY.



attempt seems so manifest that it is difficult to under-
stand why the duty should be so uniformly ignored in
English manuals. ' Locke's influence and the national
distaste for metaphysical argument has had much to do
with it, but probably the authority of the Scotch school
has had still more. For it was to Reid and Stewart
those most interested in a satisfactory exposition of the
evidence bearing on the existence and character of
the human soul naturally looked for a proper vindi-
cation of the subject. Unfortunately, idolatry ^ of
empirical fact and contempt for deductive reasoning
reached a climax in the common-sense school. As a
consequence, the worship of the Baconian method in
its most exaggeratedly vicious form wTOught that evil
in the science of the mind which it would assuredly
have effected, had it been as faithfully followed, in the
study of external nature."^ Thus we find that whilst in
Germany and other Continental countries mental philo-
sophy was approached with a view to the solution of
the most interesting and important problems that can
occupy the human spirit, British psychologists have
been seeking to convert their science into a mere natural
history of psychical phenomena. Any attempt at a
comprehensive treatment of our mental activities is
stigmatized as an illegitimate introduction of philoso-
phical problems, and we have finally reached a stage in
which even such a clearly psychological question as the
freedom of the will is to be rigidly boycotted on the
grounds of its connexion with the discredited science of
metaphysics.

Objections to Introspection. — As regards the
third class of opponents — those who deny the pos-
sibility of a genuine science even of phenomenal
psychology — since they attack the foundations on
which our whole work rests, we will here state and
answer briefly their chief arguments. The leading

"* On the reaction against the pure Baconian doctrine of method
in recent times, see Jevons' Principles of Science, Vol. II. c. xxiii. He
remarks that "its value may be estimated historically by the fact
that it has not been followed by any of the great masters of science."
(p. IM)



METHOD OF PSYCHOLOGY. 21



representatives of this view have been Comte in France,
and Dr. Maudsley at home. Botli teach that Ps^xho-
logy is merely a subsidiary department of Biology, and
that it must be studied exclusively or mainly by objec-
tive methods. Dr. Maudsley states the case against
Psychology at length in the earlier part of his work,
The Physiology of Mind. But in this, as indeed in other
philosophical questions, that vigorous writer does not
appear to hold very clear or consistent opinions even
throughout the course of the same volume.

I. He urges that Psychology, as a distinct inde-
pendent science built up by introspection, is impossible,
for introspection is itself impossible. ** In order to
observe its own action it is necessary that the mind
pause from activity, yet it is the train of activity that is
to be observed." {The Physiology of Mind, p. 17.)

This assertion we must meet by a direct denial,
supported by an appeal to each man's inner experience.
First, as regards the various modes of our sentient life,
sensations, perceptions, appetites, pleasures, and pains,
our only difficulty is to understand how such a state-
ment as that attention to them causes their immediate
annihilation could ever have been penned. Life could be
made happy without much difficulty if our disagreeable
states and experiences would vanish when we turned
to observe them; but unfortunately cold, hunger, thirst,
and disease, the pains of muscular strain, and of tooth-
ache are not such obliging visitors. The activities of
sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, can certainly be
studied both in actual operation on their objects, and
as reproduced in imagination. Secondly, that we can
attend to and examine our higher forms of mental
activity is equally certain. Emotions, desires, per-
ceptions of relations, reasonings can be both con-
comitantly studied in their direct course^ and afterwards

" Mr. Sully, who defends the introspective method, yet seems to
hold that immediate concomitant consideration of present mental
states is impossible, that it is on\y past states we can properly be
said to observe, and that in fact " all introspection is retrospection."
{Illusions, p. igo, and Outlines of Psychology, p. 5.) This tenet is a
necessary deduction from the sensationist theory of mental life, but
the logical position for the disciple of that school is that assumed




22 PSYCHOLOGY.



recalled by memory. This is due equally in either case
to the self-conscious power of the mind, and implies in
us a higher order of mental activity than that involved
in mere sentient affections. Our only proof of this, as
well as of every other psychological fact, must be an
appeal to each man's own consciousness.

2. Again, it is a maxim of *' inductive philosophy
that observation should begin with simple instances,
ascent being made from them step by step through
appropriate generalizations." (Maudsley, p. 19.) More-
over, science being universal, the psychologist should
be able to contemplate a variety of specimens which
exhibit the object of his investigations in its various
stages of development. But introspection presents only
a single subject for examination, and that a most rare
and exceptional one, *' the complex self-consciousness
of an educated white man." Consequently, even were
introspection possible, its deliverances would be
deprived of that feature of universality essential to
every genuine science. To this we may reply in the
first place that, were a number of anatomists limited
each to the study of a single human organism, they
would still be able to frame a collection of results con-
taining a substantial amount of agreement. Secondly,
comparison of observations among psychologists, appeal
to general experience, and the several objective methods
we have described, and which have been in use from



by Dr. Maudsley, and not the halting inconsistent doctrine of
Mr. Sully. To the mind endowed with no activity essentially
higher than that of the sensuous order, both introspection and retro-
spection are equally impossible. But that the human mind is capable
of concomitantly observing its own normal states becomes clear to
any one making the attempt. It is actually the converse of Mr.
Sully's dictum which expresses the truth, " All retrospection involves
present introspection," for, it is the present representation of the
past state which is examined, and only n'liile actually present to the
mind can it be the subject of observation. But if we can attend to
a present state which happens to be an image of a past state, surely
there can be nothing to prevent attention to a state which is not
such a representation. Consequently we can concomitantly study
those mental processes of which we are conscious. In a word, as
Mill urges against Comte, " Whatever we are directly aware of we
can directly observe." (Auguste Comte and Positivism, p. 64.)



METHOD OF PSYCHOLOGY. 23



the very birth of Psychology, completely destroy the
force of the supposed difficulty.

3. A kindred objection is urged against the necessary
limitation of introspective observation to a single ob-
server, " a witness whose evidence can be taken by no
one but himself, and whose veracity, therefore, cannot
be tested. . . . The observed and the observer are one,
and the observer is not likely in such a case to be un-
biassed by the feelings of the observed, and to conform
rigidly to the rules of exact observation." (id.) The
answer to the last objection will apply again in great
part here. Further, (a) the psychologist, like the physio-
logist and every other scientific inquirer, must seek to
lay aside prejudice and to approach his subject in an
impartial spirit, (b) He must, like them, exercise care
and diligence. And (c) he must check his results by
comparison with those of other observers, and by the
study of other minds through the various supplementary
methods.

4. Dr. Maudsley also argues that tlie range of
introspection is very limited. {a) " Consciousness
which does not even tell us that we have a brain is
certainly incompetent to give any account of the
essential material conditions of our mental life." (p. 21.)
(b) Mental life itself, too, is largely beyond the range
of introspection. •' It is a truth which cannot too
distinctly be borne in mind, that consciousness is not
co-extensive with mind." (p. 25.) As regards the first
part of the difficulty it might, perhaps, be not unfairly
retorted against the physiologist that the method of
external observation on which his science is based can
tell us nothing of the mental conditions which pro-
foundly influence many physical processes. Letting
this pass, however, it is sufficient to recall to mind
that conscious states and mental activities are real
facts differing in kind from all physical events, in order
to give them as good claim to form adequate matter
for an independent science as physiology has to be
separated from chemistry or mechanics. Finally, that
the study of the physical conditions of conscious pro-
cesses is a legitimate source of useful supplementary



24 PSYCHOLOGY.



information has been, as we before urged, fully admitted
from the time of Aristotle ; but unfortunately^ owing
to the hitherto extremely backward condition of the
science of Physiology in general, and especially in that
department which deals with physical basis of mental
life, it can afford very little reliable information of any
importance.

5. Dr. Maudsley also argues that the illusions and
hallucinations of the insane seem to them as clear and
evident affirmations of consciousness, as do the intro-
spective observations of the psychologist. Therefore
the latter are untrustworthy. This objection is trivial.
Insanity is, unhappily, a possible contingency among
the investigators both of soul and body, but science
will not be ultimately injured by such casualties.

6. Finall3^ it is urged, as a general proof of the
worthlessness of Subjective Psychology, that " there is
no agreement between those who have acquired the
power of introspection." (id.) This objection is based
on a confusion of two very distinct questions — the
character of the mental states of which psychologists
affirm that they are conscious, and the hypotheses or
explanations which they advance to account for these
states. As regards the former, that there is a very
large amount of general agreement, any one who con-
sults the psychological literature even of schools the
most opposed will discover. On the other hand, wide
and manifold divergence in the theories advanced to
explain the origin and nature of mental life, the history



Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 3 of 63)