Copyright
Michael Maher.

Psychology: empirical and rational online

. (page 50 of 63)
Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 50 of 63)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


memory will mutilate the conception. If, then, owing
to some cerebral malady a considerable section of my
past life is lost to remembrance, or if the present vivid
pictures of the imagination are confounded with recol-
lections, the habitual representation of my personality
will naturally be perverted. This truth is abundantly
illustrated in patients subject to "fixed ideas," and in
incipient stages of insanity. In such cases the invalid
interweaves part of his own history into that of an
imaginary character, yet is quite sane on other points,
or even realizes the erroneous character of his delusion.

3. Variations in the representation of our personality would
thus be mainly occasioned by perturbations of memory ; and
the mind's power of remembrance depends on the state of the
organism. The recurrence, in fact, of a particular set of
cerebral conditions may either re-instate or exclude a par-
ticular group of recollections. The mental changes observed
in Feiida and hypnotized subjects may therefore be accounted
for as due to alterations in the functioning of the brain
occasioned during the transition. Concerning the nature of
this change in the brain's action nothing is known. Forty
years ago it was conjectured that the two cerebral hemi-
spheres may work independently, and it has been held that
the functioning of one side corresponds to the normal Ego,
whilst that of the other is correlated with the " secondary "
self. This hypothesis has been especially urged with respect
to the curious phenomenon of intelligent unconscious " auto-
matic " writing. This rare " gift " has been ascribed to a
" subliminal " or sub-conscious Ego ; but seems to us to be
more scientifically explained as the product of semi-conscious
and reflex action. Post-mortem examinations have undoubt-
edly proved that one half of the brain has sometimes sufficed
for normal mental life ; and it has also been suggested that
other particular areas of the brain may be alternately isolated
or inhibited ; or that the blood supply is somehow varied, and
so sets the nervous mechanism in different gear. Though



FALSE THEORIES OF THE EGO. 491



destitute of proof, these hypotheses have a certain plausibiUty.
Something of the kind probably happens in falHng asleep ;
and the stories of dreams and somnambulistic performances
resumed and continued during successive nights, fit in with
the same explanation. In fact, several of the chief difficulties
of "double-consciousness" have been always familiar to
mankind in our dream experienced^

4. Changes of character are of various degrees, and often
seemingly sudden. They are simply variations in the abiding
frame of mind ; and are consequently much influenced by
bodily conditions. The complete alteration of mental tone
by bad news, by a bilious attack, or by a couple of glasses of
champagne, are well known. In cases of sudden insanity the
change in moral disposition is often extraordinary ; and that
the alternate set of cerebral conditions which presumably
succeed each other in FeUda should occasion a different
emotional and volitional tone seems natural enough. If then
it is the duty of the psychologist to seek to harmonize irregular
phenomena with normal facts, these rare specimens of mental
Hfe afford no justification for departing from the old universal
conception of a single continuous personality in man.

5. Professor James devotes much space to these " muta-
tions " of the Ego, yet overlooks the fact that they are
peculiarly fatal, not to his adversaries, but to his own theory
that "the present thought is the only thinker," and that

18 Hypotheses of locally separated brain processes— attractive
because easy to the imagination — seem to us too simple and crude
for the facts. The physiological concomitants of all higher mental
operations must be extremely complex; those of any total mental
mood must be both complex and widely diffused. Organic sensations
are important factors in all emotional moods ; and these are certainly
conditioned by widely diffused neural processes. Further, these
alleged multiple "psychic existences" in the same individual in-
variably overlap and fade into each other. According to Janet,
Leonie and Lucie have three "personalities" and Rose "at least
four." These assuredly cannot be all isolated and distinct. Conse-
quently they cannot be dependent on nervous functionings in
anatomically separate regions of the brain. The established psycho-
logical principle that a total frame of viiiid fosters recollections and
feelings related to it by contiguity or congniity inhibiting those not so
related may explain much if we conceive these alternating " person-
alities " as cases of extremely marked "frames of mind" exerting
exceptionally despotic selective power. Such abnormally distinct
and enduring mental moods would involve sets of neural conditions
of unusually distinct character ; but we think their mutations are
determined by alteration in the quality rather than in the locality of
nervous processes, — that the basis is physiological not anatomical.



492 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.



seeming identity is sufficiently preserved by each thought
" appropriating"'' and "inheriting" the contents of its pre-
decessor. The difficulties presented to this process of
inheritance by such facts as sleep and swooning have been
already dwelt upon ; but here they are if possible increased.
The last conscious thought of, say, Felida 2 has to transmit
its gathered experience not to its proximate conscious
successor, which is Felida i, but across seven months of
vacuum until on the extinction of Felida i the next conscious
thought which constitutes FeHda 2 is born into existence. If
single personality is hard for Mr. James to explain, " double-
personality " at least doubles his difficulties.

6. As regards the asserted duality of simultaneous conscious-
nesses ; morahsts from St. Paul downward have insisted upon
the reality of the struggle between opposing conscious
activities within us — between the " higher " and the " lower "
self. The statements that " reason ought to rule in man,"
that " will can resist appetite," that " man is in great part an
automaton," emphasize the two-fold factor in conscious life.
Still they do not justify or make intelligible the conception of
a " secondary unconscious consciousness " or of a state of
consciousness " split off from consciousness." A rivulet
detached from the main current of a river remains still a
stream of water ; but a " thread of consciousness" excluded
from consciousness is no longer a "thread of conscious-
ness ; " a.nd such phrases if intended to be more than
a loose figurative expression are misleading and unjusti-
fiable. The various operations ascribed to this " secondary
consciousness " are best accounted for as either faintly
conscious activities or reflex and automatic processes of the
animated organism.

Readings.— On chapters xxi. xxii., cf. St. Thomas, Sim. i. q. 75.
On scope and method, cf. Coconnier, L'Anie hiimaine, c. i. ; Ladd,
Philosophy of Mind, cc. i. ii. On substantiality of soul, Rickaby,
Metaphysics, pp. 245—260; Balmez, Bk. IX. cc. 11, 12; Kleutgen,
op. cit. §§ 791 — 807. On simplicity and spirituality, Coconnier,
ibid. c. iii. ; Mercier, Psychologic, Pt. III. Art. 2, sect, i ; Farges,
Le Cerveau et VAme, pp. 57 — 108. On double-consciousness, Piat,
La Personne humaine, cc. 2, 3, Farges, op. cit. pp. luS — 136; Ladd,
op. cit. c. v.



CHAPTER XXIII.

MONISTIC THEORIES.

Dualism and Monism. — Psychological theories
concerning the nature of man and the relations of
body and mind are classed as Dualistic and Monistic.
Dualism teaches that Mind and Body are two really
distinct principles; whilst Monism maintains that
both mental and corporeal phenomena are merely
different manifestations of what is really one and
the same Reality. According to the character of the
opposition and mutual independence ascribed to the
two principles by different thinkers of the former
school, we have Ultra-Dualism and Moderate
Duahsm. To the previous class belong Plato and
Descartes; to the latter Aristotle and the leading
Scholastics. As both forms of dualism agree in
teaching the spirituality of the soul, we shall defer
further comparison of them for the present.

Monism. — Of Monistic theories there are three
chief types: Monistic Spintitalism ox Idealism; Materialism;
and a third doctrine which has been variously described
as the Double-aspect Theory, the Identity -Hypothesis, the
New Spinozism, and also simply Monism, There is rooted
in the intellectual nature of man a craving for the
unification of knowledge, for the reduction of facts and
truths to the fewest and most general principles. And
we ourselves maintain that the only truly satisfactory
account of the Universe as a whole is Monistic — that



494



RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.



philosophical system which derives the multiplicity of
the world from a single indivisible spiritual principle,
God. But the present question is not the origin of the
Universe, but the inney constitution of the individual
human being ; and the attempts to ignore the essentially
disparate character of mind and matter, and to reduce
either to the other, or to identify them both in some
inconceivable tertium quid seem to us among the most
lamentable perversions of a rational instinct which the
history of philosophy has to show.

Spiritualist Monism or Idealism.— This theory
overcomes all difficulties as to the relations between
body and mind or the possibility of inter-action between
them by boldly denying the reality of any material
substance existing in itself without the mind. It holds
that our consciousness of mental states is immediate and
primary, whilst our assurance as to the reality of matter
is at best mediate and secondary. It insists on the fact
that our notions of substance, cause, energy, and the like,
are all in the first place derived from the consciousness
of our own mental activities, and that in the final
analysis we can never know anything about the nature
of matter except what is given in our psychical states.
It assumes that matter could not act upon mind ; and
finally concludes that the most philosophical course is
to deny all extra-mental reality to matter, and to look
upon the seemingly independent material world as an
illusory creation or emanation of mind itself. But the
Monist does not stop here. In his desire for unity he
does not merely deny real being to matter, he asserts
that all minds are in realit}^ one — all individual conscious
existences being but w^avelets surging on the one
ocean of Universal Consciousness.

Criticism. — As opposed to the Materialist tlie
Idealist seems to us impregnable. Our reasons for the
rejection of Idealism, which are not available by the
Materialist, we have already stated (pp. loo, 113 — 117) ;
so we can merely refer the reader back to them
here. Against the Monistic aspect of the theory, which
denies the real plurality of minds, we would urge in
addition : (i) The complete absence of proof — nay, of



MONISTIC THEORIES. 495



the possibility oi proof. (2) Its direct conflict with our
immediate internal experience. My own individuality,
my real oneness, the complete insulation, the thorough
exclusiveness of my personality are the best attested
and the most fundamental convictions of my life. If I
admit the existence of other men in any form, I must
accept their testimony to the same experience in their
own case. To reject this clear evidence of universal
experience for the sake of some obscure a priori postulate
of unity is irrational. (3) It is inconsistent with freedom
and responsibility. If all finite minds are but phases
or moments of the Absolute Spirit, possessing no
substantial reality of their own, it seems impossible that
such finite spirits can be guilty or the Infinite Spirit
innocent of sin. Some idealistic monists — Lotze, for
instance, if we do not misunderstand him — believe they
can adopt Monism yet evade these consequences. Such
a course seems to us impossible. It is only by changing
the meaning of words and inconsistently allowing real
plurahty of beings that they can reconcile their systems
with the ethical convictions of mankind.

Materialism.— Conveniently assuming that experi-
ence establishes the existence of the brain as a
permanent extended substance, but affords no evidence
respecting the abiding reality of the mind, the materialist
seeks to show that the cerebral substance is the sole
and ultimate cause or ground of all our conscious states.
Consciousness, he teaches, is a property of matter,
or the resultant of sundry properties of material
elements combined in a complex manner. The pro-
gress of physiological science proves, he alleges, more
and more clearly every day the dependence of intel-
lectual processes on neural functions. Moreover, it
is impossible to imagine how conscious states can act
upon matter or cause bodily movements ; whilst the
doctrine of the conservation of energy and the law of inertia
are incompatible with the view that the mind is an
immaterial being exerting a real agency in the niaterial
universe. Such is the general argument of materialism ;
but it will conduce to clearness, if we examine its chief
tenets in detail.



496 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.



Thought is not a Secretion of the Brain. — In expositions of
the coarser forms of materialism such assertions as the follow-
ing have been boldly put forth: " Lrt pensee est une secretion
du cerveau:' (Cabanis.) " There subsists the same relation
between thought and the brain, as between bile and the
liver." (Vogt.) Moleschott describes thought as " a motion
in matter," and also as a "phosphorescence" of the brain.i
Other philosophers of like metaphysical acumen have been
found to proclaim the existence of the soul to be disproved,
because anatomy has not revealed it — the "dissecting knife "
having never yet laid it bare.

Writers of this calibre scarcely deserve serious refutation.
To speak of thought as a "secretion" or "movement" of
cerebral matter is to talk deliberate nonsense. Thought is
essentially unextended. The idea of virtue, the judgment that
two and two must equal four, the emotion of admiration, are
by their nature devoid of all spatial relations. The various
secretive organs effect movements and material products. Their
operations occupy space; and the resulting substance is
possessed of resistance, weight, and other material properties.
The process and the product can be apprehended by the
external senses ; and they continue to exist when un-
perceived. Conscious states are the exact reverse in all
these features. The microscope has never detected them.
They cannot be weighed, measured, or bottled, \yhen not
perceived they are non-existent; their only esse is percipi.
Even Herbert Spencer is forced to admit, "That a feeling
has nothing in common with a unit of motion becomes more
than ever manifest when we bring them into juxtaposition." ^
Tyndall acknowledged the same truth in a paragraph often
cited: "The passage from the physics of the brain to the
corresponding facts of consciousness is unthinkable. Granted
that a definite thought and a definite molecular action in the
brain occur simultaneously, we do not possess the intellectual
organ, nor apparently any rudiments of the organ, which
would enable us to pass by a process of reasoning from one
to the other. They appear together, but we do not know
why. Were our minds and senses so expanded as to enable
us to see and feel the very molecules of the brain, were
we capable of following all their motions, all their groupings
and electric discharges, if such there be, and were we
intimately acquainted with the corresponding states of

1 For an account of modern German Materialism, cf. Janet,
Materialism of the Present Day, c. i. ; also Margerie, Philosophie Con-
temporaine, pp. 191 — 226.

'' Principles of Psychology, Vol. I. § 62.



MONISTIC THEORIES. 497



thought and feeHiig, we should be as far as ever from the
sohition of the problem — ' How are these physical processes
connected with the facts of consciousness ? ' The chasm
between the two classes remains still intellectually impas-
sable." ^

Thought is a not a Function of the Brain. — In a scarcely less
crude way consciousness is sometimes described as a. function
of the brain: "There is every reason to believe that conscious-
ness is a function of nervous matter, when that matter has
attained a certain degree of organization, just as we know the
other actions to which the nervous system ministers, such
as reflex action, and the like, to be." * " Thought is as much
a function of matter as motion is." ^ The use of the term
"function," however, does not better the materiahst's position
with any reader not contented with payment in obscure words.
What is a " function of matter " ? The only " functions " of
matter of which physical science is cognizant consist of
movements or changes in matter. Now, thought, as we have
just pointed out, is nothing of this sort. If we employ this
word at all, we must speak of intellectual activity as a function
of something utterly opposed in nature to all known subjects
of material force. When mental processes are at work,
movements indeed take place in the nervous substance of
the cerebrum, and it is accordingly true that the brain
"functions" and expends energy whilst we think. But
neither this functioning nor the energy expended constitutes
thought. As Tyndfll says, the "chasm" between the two
classes of facts still remains " intellectually impassable."

Thought is not a Resultant of material forces. — Biichner,
by comparing the organism with the steam-engine, seeks to
prove that mental life is merely the result of the complexity
and variety of the material forces and properties at work in
the former. "Thought, spirit, soul, are not material, not a
substance, but the effect of the conjoined action of many
materials endowed with forces or qualities. . . . In the same
manner as the steam-engine produces motion, so does the
organic comphcation of force-endowed materials produce in
the animal body effects so interwoven as to become a unit,
which is then by us called spirit, soul, thought. The sum

3 Address to the British Association at Norwich. Professor Huxley
has, in one of his better moments, endorsed this doctrine. (Cf.
" INIr. Darwin and his critics," Contcmp. Rev. Nov. 1871.) But the
passage tells equally against the "function" view of the ne.\t
objection, advocated at times by Mr. Huxley himself.

■* Prof. ll\i\\ey,Cont£mp. Rev. Nov. 1871.

^ Huxley, Macmillan's Magazine, J^.Iay, 1S70.

GG



49S NATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

of these effects is nothing material ; it can be perceived by
our senses as Uttle as any other simple force, such as magnet-
ism, electricity, etc., merely by its manifestations.'"^

This is a fair example of the random methods of reasoning
employed by materialists. What is the resultant of the
aggregate of forces accumulated in the steam-engine ? It is
nothing more nor less than movements of portions of matter,
all perceptible by the external senses. If the engine drags a
train, we may speak of the motion of the latter as being a
single effect, but the occurrence has only a moral or meta-
phorical unity. It is really a series of events, a vast
assemblage of parts of matter moving other parts. When
we turn to the living organism, we find, indeed, a similar set
of movements and displacements of matter, but we find also
in addition to these physical occurrences, and differing from
them, as Mr. Spencer says, " by a difference transcending all
other differences," the very phenomenon to be explained,
" spirit, soul, thought." Granting, then, for the sake of argu-
ment, similarity between the material forces collected in the
steam-engine and in the human body, at most the legitimate
inference would be that the various movements and organic
changes observable in the body were the outcom.e of its
material energy ; but there is not a shadow of a reason for
attributing the distinctly new phenomenon of consciousness
to that energy. In the final sentence another piece of con-
fused and inconsistent thinking is introduced. Thought is
there likened to the *^ simple forces, magnetism and electricity."
But the only known manifestations of electricity and magnet-
ism consist in the production of movement. Consciousness,
however, is revealed in a different way. Of the nature of
electricity or magnetism as a simple force we know nothing.
The word is merely an abstract term to denote the unknown
cause of a certain species of movements coming under
external observation. On the other hand, of mental states
we have immediate internal experience; and that experience
discloses conscious life as centred in one single being, in a
peculiar indivisible unity utterly repugnant to the composite
nature of a material subject.^



♦* Kraft iind Stojf (Trans.), pp. 135, 136.

'' " Fifty million molecules, even when they are highly complex
and unstable phosphorized compounds, gyrating in the most
wonderful fashion with inconceivable rapidity, certainly do not
constitute one thing. They do not, then, by molecular constitution
and activities, constitute a physical basis conceivable as a represen-
tative or correlate of one thing." (Ladd, Phys. Psychology, p. 595.)



/



MONISTIC THEORIES. 499

Unknown Properties of Matter.— Against the

spirituality of the principle of thought, it was objected
by Locke that matter has a great variety of wonderful
and unlike properties, that our knowledge of these is
still very limited, and, consequently, that we are not
justified in asserting that matter could not be the
subject of intellectual activity. He also says this state-
ment is derogatory to the Divine power, implying that
God Himself could not endow matter with the faculty
of thought. We most readily admit our knowledge of
matter to be still very inadequate ; and we allow that
matter possesses many unlike qualities. But it is not
from mere dissimilarity in character subsisting between
mental and material phenomena — although this dis-
similarity " transcends all other differences" — that we
infer a distinct principle. It is from the absolute
contrariety in nature which sets them in opposition.
In spite of the imperfect condition of our acquaintance
with matter, we can affirm with absolute certainty that
some new properties, e.g., self-motion, can never be dis-
covered in it. It is, too, no reflexion on the power of
God to say that He cannot effect a metaphysical im-
possibility, such as the endowment of an extended
substance with the indivisible spiritual activity of self-
consciousness would be.

Dependence of Mind on Body. — The spirituality
of the soul, it is said, is disproved by the absolute
dependence of mental life on bodily conditions — a
dependence more effectively established by Physiology
and Pathology each succeeding year. We find, it is
asserted, that intellectual abihty varies in proportion to
the size of the brain, its weight, the complexity of its
convolutions, and the intensity of its phosphorescent
activity. Mental powers develop concomitantly with
the growth of the brain, and similarly deteriorate with
its decay or disease : " The doctrine of two substances,
a material united with an immaterial, . . . which has
prevailed from the time of Thomas Aquinas to the
present day, is now in course of being modified at the
instance of modern Physiology. The dependence of
purel}^ intellectual operations such as nicinory upon



k



500 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

material processes has been reluctantly admitted by the
partisans of an immaterial principle, an admission in-
compatible with the isolation of the intellect in Aristotle
and Aquinas. . . . Of the mind apart from the body we
have no direct experience and absolutely no knowledge.
... In the second place, we have every reason to
believe that there is in company with all our mental
processes an nnhvoken material succession.'"^ This argu-
ment in behalf of Materialism gains much of its weight
with many minds from the belief that those who
formerly defended the spirituality of the soul conceived
it as an independent entity standing out of all relations
to the body. The allusion to St. Thomas in the passage
just quoted is an expression of this belief. Recent
advances in physiological knowledge, it is imagined,
have disproved this supposed mutual isolation of the
two substances, consequently the inference is that



Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 50 of 63)