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whole course of education. Each piece of fresh knowledge
must be thoroughly, consciously incorporated and assimilated
with knowledge already firmly possessed. Mere mechanical
memory is to be reduced to a minimum, whilst "cramming,"
that is, the hurried piling into the mind of disconnected
parcels of information which are not properly digested and
interwoven with cognitions and ideas already thoroughly
comprehended, is to be condemned as most injurious to
mental development.

Readings. — Besides the references given, see also on Attention,
Balmez, op. cit. Bk. IV. §§ 7 — 11 ; Carpenter, o^\ cit. c. iii. ; Ladd
Elements of Physiological Psychology, pp. 534—543.



Reflexion and Self-Consciousness. — Attention
end reflexion have been sometimes contrasted as the
direction of cognitive energy outwards and inwards.
The two terms may thus be conveniently dis-
tinguished for some purposes, but it should be
remembered that they really denote, not separate
powers, but diverse functions of the same intel-
lectual faculty. Reflexion is nothing else than
attention to our own states ; and this operation
constitutes the exercise of self-consciousness. Self-
conscionsness may be defined as the knowledge which
the mind has of its acts as its own.

Grades of Consciousness. — We can discern
different forms which the reference of a state to a Self
assumes in the several stages of mental life. In the
merel}^ sentient existence of the infant or brute animal,
there is no cognition of a self. There is only conscious-
ness of sensations, emotions, and impulses. But these
states are not apprehended as abstract qualities. They
could not be felt as states without a subject or states of
no subject. Animals are pained or pleased, suffer or
are satisfied ; and this can only be because the pain or
pleasure felt is theirs, and is felt by them. The sentient
being is conscious that it is pained ; but it does not in


any way distinguish between the pain as a state and
itself as a subject of that state. It feels the state to be
its own, yet never formally cognizes it as its own.

When, however, we reach the grade of intellectual
life we meet with a distinctly new fact. We find an
agent which not only is, acts, and feels, but which
knows that it is, which is aware that it is the cause of
its acts, and which recognizes that its feelings are its
own, though not itself. But this final stage of self-
knowledge and complete recognition of its own per-
sonality is probably not reached by the child until its
mind has attained a considerable degree of development.

Growth of the cognition of Self. — The infant at
first leads the life of the merely sentient animal. The
topography of even its own organism seems to be onl}^
gradually ascertained. Throughout the first year the
child pinches, bites, and strikes its own body and other
objects indifferently. Sometimes it continues these acts
whilst crying from the pain.^ By the end of the first
year, however, its organism comes to be pretty sharply
distinguished from other objects. As experience extends
and the mental faculties ripen, memory comes into play;
and although the attitude of the child's mind is still
mainly objective, awareness of a Self present in its
various states becomes more and more completely
awakened into life. The material organism is still the
most prominent element in the representation of Self.
Indeed, as it is an essential constituent of the human
person, the body always remains a chief feature in what
we may call the abstract or quasi-objective conception
of our personality. It is the centre of all the child's
pleasures and pains, the source of all its impulses, and
the focus of all impressions. It is, too, the subject and
object of all its sensations of double contact, and the
one enduring figure ever obvious in the field of vision.
When the child, early in the third year, speaks of itself
in the third person, it is probable that the bodily self
is still uppermost in its thought, although a full self-
conscious cognition of its own Ego is often possessed,
whilst the use of impersonal language in regard to

* Cf. Preyer, The Development of the Intellect, pp. 1 89— 206.


itself may be retained, especially when this practice
is encouraged.

Still, the child could never come to know that it is a
Self //'^;;/ the outside by merely elaborating a generalized
conception of its body connected with its past history.
This may be a preparatory or concomitant process; but
the real discovery of every Self must he from ivithin — the
apprehension of the Ego hy itself and in its states. As the
thoughts of pleasures and pains repeated in the past
and expected in the future grow more distinct, the
dissimilarity between these and the permanent abiding
Self comes to be more fully realized. Passing emotions
of fear, anger, vanity, pride, or sympathy, accentuate
the difference. But most probably it is the dawning
sense of power to exert energy or to resist and overcome
rising impulse, and the dim nascent consciousness ot
responsibilit}^ which lead up to the final revelation,
until at last, in some reflective act of memory or choice,
or in some vague effort to understand the oft-heard " I,"
the great truth is manifested to him : the child enters,
as it were, into possession of his personality, and knows
himself as a Self-conscious Being. The Ego does not
create but discovers itself. In Jouffroy's felicitous phrase,
it " breaks its shell," and finds that it is a Personal
Agent with an existence and individuality of its own, standing
henceforward alone in opposition to the universe.-

The developed Mind's consciousness of Itself. —
Once arrived at the stage of formal or complete self-
consciousness — to which the Scholastics chiefly confined
their attention — the mind habitually becomes cognizant
of itself in its acts. Cognition of self is thus not innate,
as some have erroneously maintained. Even during
mature life, in the absence of all particular psychical
operations, there is no apprehension of self. On the
other hand, the mind's cognition of its existence is not

2 J. F. Ferrier insisted with much force upon the leading part
the exercise of free-will plays in the realization of our personality.
{Introd. to the Philos. of Consciousness, Pt. V.) The primitive conception
of Self must be feeble and obscure, but it grows in strength and
distinctness. Jean Paul Richter gives a vivid description of how
" the inner revelation, '/ am /,' like lightning from heaven," flashed
upon him. But such infant psychologists are unhappily rare.


of the nature of an infeyence from its activities — to be
formulated in Descartes' Cogito ergo sum. The true
view was clearly and concisely stated by St. Thomas.
The mind apprehends itself and perceives its existence in its own
acts.^ This perception is of a concrete reality. In
becoming conscious of a mental state, I become aware
of the Self as the cause or subject of the state, and of the
state as a modi^cation of the Self. Such self-conscious
activity may appear either as an implicit concomitant
awareness of self during a mental process ; or it may be
the result of a formal reflective act in which the mind
deliberately turns back on itself. In the former case
the vividness wuth which the self is presented varies
much in different acts. Frequently, when our interest
is keenly excited by some external object, or when we
are under the influence of certain strong emotions, the
notice of Self becomes so faint as practically to dis-
appear, though memory assures us that these acts were
ours. But there are other mental processes in which
we are as certainly cognizant of the Self as of the state.
This is especially the case in active operations, whether
of thought or of will. In a difficult effort of attention,
for instance, I am distinctly aware that the act is mine,
and that it is freely elicited and sustained by me. . It
is, however, in the deliberately reflective acts of self-
consciousness that the cognition of the Self and of the
states as distinct from the Self becomes especially clear,
as is seen in the introspective observation of any mental

Still, the knowledge of the mind immediately pre-
sented in such internal perception is ver}^ limited and
imperfect. The mind thus ascertains directly that it
exists, that it is a unity, that it abides, and that it is
different from its states. But it cannot in this way learn
what is its inner constitution — whether, for instance, it is
material or spiritual. Introspection merely furnishes
the data by diligent study of which, combined with

'■' " Quantum igitur ad actualem cognitionem qua aliquis con-
siderat se in actu animam habere, sic dico quod anima cognoscitur
per actus suos. In hoc enim ahquis percipit se animam habere et
\'ivere, et esse, quod percipit se sentire et intelligere et alia hujus-
modi vitac opera excrcere." {De Vcritatc, q. 10, a. 8.)


reflexion and reasoning upon the facts supplied by
other sciences, we can define and determine the real
nature of the human soul — the chief problem of Rational

Abstract Concept of Self. — After the realization of its
personality has been attained in fully developed self-con-
sciousness, we must still carefully distinguish between the
mind's immediate perception of itself in its operations, and the
abstract quasi-objective notion of his own personality habitually
possessed by every human being. The former is an act of
concrete apprehension, in which I cognize myself as real
cause, or subject of my operations or states. The abstract notion
of my personality, on the other hand, is a conception of a highly
complex character. It is an intellectual abstraction formed
out of the concrete perception of self combined with remem-
bered experiences of my past life. It is commonly viewed by
me in a quasi-objective manner. It includes the self, but
accentuates the states of self. It gathers into itself the
history of my past life — the actions of my childhood, boy-
hood, youth, and later years. Interwoven with them all is
the image of my bodily organism ; and clustering around are
a fringe of recollections of my dispositions, habits, and
character, of my hopes and regrets, of my resolutions and
failures, along with a dim consciousness of my position in
the minds of other " selves."

Under the form of a representation of this composite sort,
bound together by the thread of memory, each of us ordinarily
conceives his complete abiding personality. This idea is
necessarily undergoing constant modification ; and it is in

^ Here again St. Thomas, with his wonted precision, clearly
distinguishes the two questions : " Non per essentiam suam, sed per
actum suum se cognoscit intellectus noster. Et hoc dtipliciter : Uno
quidem viodo particulariter, secundum quod Socrates vel Plato per-
cipit se habere animam intellectivam ex hoc, quod percipit se intel-
ligere. Alio modo in universal!, secundum quod naturam humanae
mentis ex actu intellectus consideramus. . . . Est autem differentia
inter has duas cognitiones. Nam ad primam cognitionem de mente
habendam sufficit ipsa mentis praesentia, quae est principium actus,
ex quo mens percipit seipsam ; et ideo dicitur se cognoscere per
suam praesentiam. Sed ad secundam cognitionem de mente habendam
non sufficit ejus praesentia sed requiritur diligcns et subtilis inquisitio.
Unde et multi naturam animse ignorant ; et multi circa naturam
animae erraverunt. Propter quod Augustinus dicit de tali inqui-
sitione mentis : Non velut absentem se quaerat mens cernere, sed
praesentem se curet discernere, id est, cognoscere differentiam suam
ab aliis rebus, quod est cognoscere quidditatem et naturam suam."
{Sum. I. q. 87. a. i.)


comparing the present form of the representation with the
past, whilst adverting to considerable alterations in my
character, bodily appearance, and the like, that I sometimes
say: "I am completely changed;" "I am quite another
person," though I am, of course, convinced that it is the
same " I " who am changed in accidental qualities. It is
because this complex notion of my personality is an abstrac-
tion from my remembered experiences that a perversion
of imagination and a rupture of memory can sometimes
induce the so-called " illusions or alterations of personality,"
— a subject which will be discussed in Rational Psychology.

Unity, Continuity, Discontinuity of Consciousness. — Fully
developed self-cognition presents to us in its perfect form
what is called the unity of consciousness, but which might
perhaps be more accurately described as the consciousness of
Self as a unitary being. This feature of mental life should be
carefully distinguished from continuity of consciousness, with
which it is not necessarily connected. When viewed in
retrospect our past conscious life, at first sight, seems to
have been one continuous whole without gap or break. And
when we examine recent portions of our waking existence,
we find that there is a real continuity between successive
states. In contrast to the old associationism which dwelt
on the " mental chemistry " by which originally separate
"impressions" were supposed to be fused together, Dr. James
Ward insists much on the truth that consciousness at any
given time is a " presentation continuum " of which the parts
simultaneous or successive are not separated " as one island
is separated from another by the intervening sea, or one note
in a melody from the next by an interval of silence." ''
Although the context of consciousness is constantly altering,
so much abides the same alongside of the changing element,
that there seems to be no break or interruption. Accordingl}-,
consciousness is frequently likened to a stream.

We must, however, not be misled b_v this figurative
language into forgetting that consciousness is not really con-
tinuous. At least once every twenty-four hours there is a
chasm — an interval of something " disparate from con-
sciousness." Our mental life, as a whole, is made up of parts
separated not merely as the notes, but as the successive
tunes of an orchestra by long intervals of silence. It is no
more a continuous stream of consciousness than a year is a
continuous stream of daylight. Further, even in our conscious
life, the most important factor both in its intellectual develop-
ment and in its moral worth lies not in the continuity of

^ "Psychology," Encycl. Brit. p. ^5; of. G. Stout, Manunl of
Psychology, p. 72.


conscious states ; but in that real indivisible unity which binds
the series of processes into an individual self. By this unity
of consciousness we mean the fact that our various mental
states, simultaneous and successive, continuous or discrete,
present and past, like and unlike, are all apprehended as
combined and centred in that one indivisible point which we
call Self. Or, from another point of view, we may describe
it as that unifying activity of intellect which refers all states
to the conscious self. A horse, perhaps even a worm,
resembles man in continuity, but not in unity of consciousness.
On the other hand, were man's conscious activity broken by a
hundred complete gaps each day, provided that the U7ider-
lying unity were preserved, the development of rational Hfe
could proceed as at present. It is this indivisible unity and
not the continuity of consciousness which renders possible
comparison, judgment, reasoning, and recognition of identity
between the present and the past. It is this same unity
which gives a meaning to expectation. This it does too, as
well in the appetitive as in the cognitive sphere of life. My
desires, resolutions, hopes, and fears all have to do with a
future in which this same indivisible / am to be engaged. The
continuity or cessation of consciousness during the inter-
vening period is of httle concern, but the identity of the
present self, who is now conscious with the self of the future
experience, is felt to be of vital interest. The importance of
this distinction between unity and continuity, and the fact
that mental hfe is not merely a stream of consciousness, will
become evident when we examine Professor James's theory
concerning nature of the mind in Book II.

Genesis of other Ideas. — Besides the idea of Self,
there are certain other conceptions of such philo-
sophical importance that at least a brief treatment of
their genesis is desirable here. The chief and the
most disputed of those not already dealt with are
the notions of Substance and Accident, Causality, the
Infinite, Space and Time. We shall have to recur to
the cognition of Substance in Book II., but the nature
of our knowledge of Time, so much discussed at the
present day, we must examine at some length in the
present chapter. For an adequate defence of the trust-
worthiness of all these notions, we must refer the
reader to the volume on Metaphysics belonging to the
present series. The questions of genesis and validity,
though intimately connected, should here as elsewhere


be carefully distinguished. The former more properly
pertain to Empirical Psychology, the latter to Episte-
mology, Metaphysics, or Rational Psychology.

Substance and Accident. — Substance is defined as being
which exists per se, or, that which subsists in itself, whilst
Accident is that ivhich exists in another being, as in a subject of
inhesion. The most fundamental element, therefore, in the
notion of suhstance is subsistence, though it is the fact of
change with the accompanying permanence amid variation that
stimulates the mind to distinguish between substance and
accidents. Both correlative ideas are the product of intel-
lectual experience. Even very early in life I observe things
around me subsisting in themselves, and I am conscious that
I possess real independent existence. Further examination
causes me to notice greater or lesser changes taking place
both in external objects and in myself. As I begin to reflect,
however, I become assured that this change is not annihi-
lation, and that some constituent element must remain the
same amid the variations. Internal consciousness manifests
to me my own substantial sameness amid my transient
mental states, and reflexion on the evidence afforded by my
external senses enables me to perceive the necessity of such
an enduring identity underlying the transitory qualities of
material objects. The reflexion required is not of a very
dehberate or laborious character. It is a spontaneous
activity of the rational mind. The shape and temperature
of the piece of wax in the child's hands, the position and
colour of objects before his eyes vary from moment to
moment, but the substantiality of the object reveals itself to
his intellect. Although the ideas of accident and substance
were first wrought out very slowly, in mature life the appre-
hension of a necessarily enduring element amid the fluctuating
phenomena is so easy and rapid, that it may fairly be described
as an intellectual intuition.

Causality. — The notion of causality is connected with that
of substance, and can be attained only by rational free
beings. Sensuous perception acquaints us with successive
phenomena, but from this source alone we could not derive
the idea of causation any more than that of substantiality.
On the other hand, this concept is not an innate cognition,
nor a subjective form of the mind. It is the result of intellec-
tual experience, and it possesses real extra-mental validity.
We may distinguish several elements or factors which normally
co-operate in the formation of this idea.

(i) In our internal experience we are conscious of change
among our mental states. In some cases of variation the


order of succession seems casual ; or we at least are unaware
of the force which determines the course of our thoughts.
In others we are conscious that ive ourselves control and direct
the current. We fix our attention on particular feelings, we
combine or separate thoughts, we form complex ideas, judg-
ments, and reasonings. In all these processes we apprehend
ourselves as efficient agents, and we immediately cognize the
results as products of our personal energy. Causality is thus
concretely presented to the mind in the most intimate manner
in each individual deliberate act.

(2) This experience alone would be sufficient to originate
the conception of causation, but other factors assist in its
elaboration. Combined internal and external observation is
constantly revealing to us the fact that we control not only
our tJionglits but our movements, that our volitions liberate,
direct, and sustain the outflow of physical energy — that when
we will to move our limbs they are moved in proportion to
the degree and quality of the volitional effort. (3) Our senses
make known to us the action of material objects upon us.
We feel the latter as foreign and acti\'e, ourselves as passive
and recipient. Sensations of pressure and resistance, in a
special manner conduce to make us aware of force or energy
— notions essentially involving the idea of causal efficiency.
(4) Finally, we observe changes perpetually taking place in
the world around us : we notice frequent transitions from not-
being to being of various kinds. As our powers of reflexion
develop the intellect grows to apprehend more and more
clearly that there must be a sufficient reason for the rise of
these new modes of being. Repeated observation assures us
that this reason of the origin of particular forms of reality
must lie in particular antecedents which have been alwavs
followed by these results, and then the intellect cognizes the
changes as the effects of the agency of these antecedents. But
it should be remembered that our notion of causality rests
ultimately, not on the perception of the uniformity of changes
in the external world, but on our own subjective consciousness
of self-activity and our constant immediate experience that
the mind exerts real influence on bodily movement. For the
reader will find later that many modern philosophers, in the
name of this very notion and law of causation, actually deny
to the mind any causal influence whatever over bodily move-
ment, maintaining that only material agents can move

Sensuous perception could never afford the notion of
anything more than succession, which is radically distinct

6 Cf. Balmez, op. cit. Bk. X. §§ 50—53.


from that of causality, efficiency, productiveness, or whatever
we Hke to call it. When an effort of attention combines
two ideas, when one billiard ball moves another, when a
steam hammer flattens out a lump of solid iron, when a blow
on the head knocks a man down, in all these cases there is
something more than, and essentially different from, the
mere sequence of two phenomena: there is effective force —
causal action of an agent endowed with real energy. But our
conception of the reciprocal causal action which obtains
between external beings is analogical, being derived in the
last resort from our immediate cognition of our own causalityJ
The Infinite. — The idea of the Infinite is the idea of the
plenitude of all being, of a Being who contains all perfections
without limit. This notion is in part positive, in part nega-
tive ; and, as a matter of experience, it is conceived by us.
From both internal and external observation we can form the
concept of a limit; and then of limitation in general. We
can also form the idea of negation ; the recognition of the
principle of contradiction, the apprehension of the distinction
between being and non-being involves this conception.
Taking now the ideas of being, of negation, and of limit, we
can combine them so as to form the complex conception,
being without limit, that is, infinite being. The operation is,
therefore, effected by the intellectual activity of reflexion and
abstraction. The natural process will, however, be better
seen by taking a single attribute, for instance, that of power.
We are immediately conscious of effort put forth, and of
power exercised by ourselves. We can conceive this power
vastly increased, its boundaries pushed farther and farther
back. We can imagine an agent capable of whirling round
the earth or the solar system, just as we can swing a piece of

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 37 of 63)