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modern science has rendered untenable the spirituality
of the soul.

Criticism. — Now, in the first place, this historical theory is
utterly false. It is mainly since the rebellion against Scholas-
ticism, inaugurated by Descartes, that this exaggerated
antagonism between soul and body has been advocated by
anti-materialist thinkers. The central idea of the Peripatetic
Psychology, as expounded by every leading writer, from
Albert the Great to Suarez, is the conception of the soul as
substantial form of the body — a view which implies tlie most
intimate union and interdependence between these two co-
efficient principles of man.

Consequently, so far from ignoring or admitting " with
reluctance" the influence of bodily conditions on mental
operations, the greatest emphasis is laid upon the fact, as
any one possessed of an elementary acquaintance with
the writings of St. Thomas or any other scholastic, on the
appetites, imagination, sense-perception, memory, and the
passions, must know. Mediseval philosophers were just as
well aware as our wise men of to-day that age, bodily fatigue,
the processes of digestion, disease, stimulants, and the like,
affect our mental operations ; and in taking these into account
they had to meet by anticipation every difficulty that has or
can be raised from the physiological quarter. Pliysiology ha&
brought to light no facts of essentially novel significance in

^ Bain, Mmd and Body, p, 130 ; cf. ISIaudsley, op. cit. c. ii.



MONISTIC THEORIES. 501



their bearing on this problem. It has, indeed, given us a
better knowledge of the material structure of the brain and
nervous system, and of the occurrence of special processes
there in conjunction with mental states; but the general
principle of interdependence between mind and bod}', illus-
trated in such facts, was forced on the human intellect in its
very earliest attempts at psychological speculation. Moreover,
it ill becomes Cerebral Physiology, which is still in a very
backward state, to dogmatize in this fashion.'-^

In the next place, assuming for the moment that all the
assertions regarding the intimate relations between neural
conditions and mental life were accurately true, and in no
way exaggerated, how would this prove more than an extrinsic
dependence of the soul on the body which it enlivens ? " For,
suppose for an instant that human thought was of such a
nature that it could not exist without sensations, without
images and signs (I do not mean to say that no kind of
thought other than this is possible) ; suppose, I repeat, that
such were the conditions of human thought, is it not evident
that a nervous system would be then required to render
sensation possible, and a nervous centre to render possible
the concentration of sensations, the formation of signs and of
images ? According to that hypothesis, the brain would be
the organ of imagination and of language, without which
there would be no thought for the human mind."^*^ In such a
case — and this is precisely the theory of St. Thomas — what-
ever affects the organ or instrument of the mind will naturall}'
modify mental operations. Now we have shown (c.xiv) how

^ Of the theory of certain scientists, "that all mental pheno-
mena, whatever their varied characteristic shading, have exact
equivalents, as it were, in specific forms of the nerve-commotion of
the living brain," Professor Ladd remarks: " Our first impression
on considering the foregoing way of accounting for mental pheno-
mena is that of a certain surprising audacity. The theory, standing
on a slender basis of real fact, makes a leap into the dark which
carries it centuries in advance of where the light of modern research
is now clearly shining." He shows that even in such comparatively
simple problems as the determination of the physiological con-
ditions of variations in the quantity, quality, and time-rate of
sensation, " almost everything needed for an exact science of the
relations of the molecular changes in the substance of the brain
and the changes in the states of consciousness is lamentably
deficient ; " whilst as regards the neural conditions of spiritual acts,
such as the conviction of the principle of causality, or the idea of
substance, he shows that science must remain in absolute ignorance.
(Cf. Physiological Psychology, pp. 592 — 597.)

^^ Janet, Materialism of the Present Day, p. 134.



502 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

intellect requires as an essential condition the operations of
sense and imagination, and is therefore extrinsically dependent
for its materials on these organic faculties. But, on the other
hand, study of the character of its activity (c. xii.) has also
proved to us that the spiritual power transcends the material
order, and that this power is in its nature essentially and
intrinsically independent of matter. The continuity of the
organic process, if proved, would be accounted for by the
exercise of the imaginative faculty, which the intellect requires
as a condition of its operation. That neither imagination nor
organic memory are, as Bain implies, intellectual activities,
must have been evident frorri the earlier part of this work.

In answer to the sage observation that we never find mind
apart from the body, it is sufficient to reply that concomitance
does not prove identity, and that at all events we often find
body without mind. Whenever we meet with a new group of
properties or effects incapable of being accounted for by
previously known causes, we are bound, according to the
universally recognized canons of physical science, to assume
a new cause for these phenomena. As regards the part of the
difficulty which lays stress on the relations between the
character of the brain as a whole and intellectual ability,
whilst we readily admit that the vastly superior mental
faculties of man would lead us to anticipate in his case a
more perfect instrument than is to be found in the brute
kingdom, it is worthy of notice that science has as yet
completely failed to assign any distinct property of man's
brain by which his intellectual superiority is marked. ^^

11 " Since evidently the absolute weight of the brain cannot be the
measure of intelligence, because if so the elephant and the whale
ought to excel the greatest human genius, therefore refuge has been
taken in greater relative weight. . . . Since again in this respect man
is surpassed by several of the smaller birds {e.g., the titmouse), and
the adult by the child, the multiplicity, complexity, and thickness
of the convolutions on the surface of the brain are to afford the
solution. But since on this principle the ox ought to distinguish
itself by mental capacity, appeal is made to the chemical constitution
of the cerebral substance, and the excellence of man's intellect
attributed to the richress of his brain in phosphorus ; but here again
the superiority of the human cerebrum is disputed by two pro-
verbially stupid animals, the sheep and the goose." (Gutberlet,
Psychologie, p. 255.) On the relative weight, size, etc., of brains,
cf Ladd, op. cit. Pt. II. c. i. ; also Surbled, Le Cerveau, cc. iv. — xii.
The latter writer gives some very interesting statistics on this point.
Thus, the average cubic capacity of Parisian skulls — which are
larger than those of most European nations — is estimated to-day
at about i,559ec, whilst six skulls of "Cave-men," assigned to the



MONISTIC THEORIES. 503



Man not a Conscious Automaton. — All Material-
ists necessaril)^ teach that conscious states can never
condition or determine bodily movements, but Dr. Shad-
ivorth Hodgson was, we believe, the first frankly to
admit the still more incredible consequence that states
of consciousness never condition, determine, or modify
£ach other. " There is real action and reaction between
organs and parts of organs in a nervous system, as well
as between nerve and other parts of the organism and
between nerve and external stimuli ; but there is no real
reaction of consciousness upon nerve, and no real action and
reaction of states of consciousness npon each othev.''^- Again,
^' Process-contents of consciousness do not stand in any
relation of real conditioning to one another. It is not
pleasure or pain^ for instance, which conditions desire or
aversion ; nor is it desire which conditions volition or
reasoning ; but the neural or cerebral actions which condition
the antecedents condition in their continuation the con-
sequents also."^^ To make his meaning quite clear,
Mr. Hodgson takes the example of a man turning aside
to avoid a wheelbarrow. The old-fashioned view is
•*' that the state of consciousness is a really operative
link in the chain of events." This is a delusion. The
true positive explanation is that the physical impression
on the retina determines the nervous processes which
result in the appropriate movement. The mental state
is a mere epiphenonienon. " Throughout the process con-

Pala2olithic period, average i,6o5cc, and a collection of skulls of
ancient Gauls reach i,592cc- This does not seem very favourable
to Evolution. Again, as regards the weight of the brain : Cuvier
used to be triumphantly cited by materialists, as an example of
great intellect, due to a very heavy brain — 1,830 grammes (about
4 lbs.). The average British brain is about 1,400 grammes (3 lbs.).
But in recent times cases of brains exceeding that of Cuvier have
been found combined with very moderate abilities. A still more
surprising fact is that Gambetta, whose mental gifts French mate-
rialists, at all events, will be the last to deny, was possessed of
actually only 1,160 grammes (aj^ lbs.) of cerebral material, an
endowment inferior to that of the lowest tribes of savages. Un-
doubtedly, great intellectual power is, as a rule, accompanied by
a large brain, but there are very serious exceptions to the law.

J2 Cf. The Metaphysic of Experience (189S), Vol. II. p. 283.

13 Op. cit. Vol. I. p. 446.



504 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

sciousness is initiated by and depends on nerve-motion
and not vice versa. . . . (The opposite view) would
involve the assumption that at some point or other of
the process, either consciousness began to act as a real
condition (having previously been a conditionate onl}'),.
or an immaterial agent, which had previously been
dormant, was roused to activity. But neither alterna-
tive is positively conceivable ; neither of them has any
observed facts in its favour. On the other hand, we can
render all the phenomena positively intelligible on the
hypothesis of neural action above set forth. "^^

Dr. Hodgson is the ablest and most consistent exponent
of psychological materialism at the present day ; but his
candid acceptance of the consequences of that theory seems
to us to provide as perfect a reductio ad absiirdtim as we need
desire. Were the avoiding of present visible obstacles the
only operations to be accounted for, the comparatively
simple psychical and physical processes involved mighty
perhaps, as in the case of reflex action, be thus mechanically
explained. But a little reflexion suggests problems which it
will require considerable courage to solve in this fashion.
Thus : When the novelist is thinking out his plot, or the
detective is striving to piece together the fragmentary clues
of a hidden crime, does no idea, feeling, or desire which wakes
up within him exert any influence on his subsequent mental
states ? Do his thoughts never " stand in any relation of real
conditioning to one another ? " When we say that the con-
sciousness of having received a deliberate insult has excited
anger and hatred which generated an implacable desire of
revenge, and that this motive instigated the plotting and com-
mitting of a cunningly contrived murder, is our language
throughout purely mythological ? Is it possible to believe that
the feeling of the insult has itself contributed nothing towards
arousing the hatred, nor this passion towards planning of the
revenge ? Does the apprehension of the premisses of a
syllogism play no real part in eliciting the inference ? If
materialism be true, Dr. Hodgson's conclusion is inevitable;
the neural antecedents and they alone condition the neural
consequents, the incidental phenomena of a conscious state
which happened to accompany the former have no influence
upon the incidental phenomena accompanying the latter.
Unless we accept this conclusion, we are told we must admit
that consciousness is really active or that " an immaterial

1^ Vol. II. pp. 315—318.



MONISTIC THEORIES. 505



agent which had previously been dormant was roused to
activity." We are glad to see the inevitable alternative so
clearly and so candidly stated. The doctrine of an immaterial
soul is surrounded with obscurities and difficulties which it
would be foolish to ignore or to seek to conceal. We
certainly cannot picture a soul by the imagination ; still less
can we imagine Jioii' it acts on the body, or Jww mental acts
and nervous processes influence each other. But it is
indifferent logic to deny the reality of an event because we
cannot imagine the mode of its occurrence ; and the inability
of our imagination to conceive the nature of immaterial
agency is a frail reason, indeed, upon which to reject the
doctrine of a spiritual soul and embrace a system of
materialism that makes such astounding demands upon our
powers of faith.

Monism. — The most serious assault, however,
which at present is being directed against the doctrine
of a spiritual soul and luture life is that of Monism
proper. In its best known forms this metaphysical
h3'pothesis, for it is essentially a metaphysical conception,
has been styled the Double- A sped Theory and the Identity-
hypothesis, because of its maintainmg that mental states
and the concomitant nerve-changes are simply different
" aspects " of one and the same being. It has been
called the Ne7£> Spinozism from its affinity to the meta-
physical theory of the father of Modern Pantheism ;
and it has also been termed the doctrine of Psycho-
physical parallelism from its denial of all interaction
between the psychical and the physical processes which
take place in the living being. This doctrine of
pavallelisvi might, of course, be united with a meta-
physical theory of Dualism, as in the systems of Descartes
and Leibnitz ; indeed, it is to Dualism it naturally
points, but now-a-days it is generally employed in the
interests of Monism for the purpose of describing the
supposed relations of bodily and mental states. Marked
by important differences in the hands of its various
exponents, Monism, in all its forms, adheres to the
cardinal tenet that Mind and Body are not two distinct
realities hut merely two ''aspects,'" ''sides," or " phases" of
one being, and that there is no real interaction betivcen mental
cind bodily states. W. K. Clifford, A. Bain, Herbert



5o6 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

Spencer, Huxley, and among recent psychologisls, Pro-
fessor Hoffding, are among the best known advocates ot
this theory ; so we shall sketch and briefly examine
their views.

The term Mind-stuff was invented by Clifford to
denote the material out of which he asserts that human
minds are formed. According to him there is attached
to every particle of matter in the universe a bit of
rudimentary feeling or intelligence. When the molecules
of matter come together in certain forms and propor-
tions, the attached atoms of mental life fuse into a
complete self-conscious mind.^^ Neither the molecules
of matter, however, nor the appended morsels of mind
can have any influence on the other. At least, this is
Clifford's doctrine at times: "The physical facts go
along by themselves, and the mental facts go along by
themselves. There is a parallelism between them, but
there is no interference of one with the other." ^"^

The only arguments suggested in defence of these
doctrines are the assertions: (i) that Physiology has
established an absolute and complete parallclisni between
psychical and physical facts ; (2) that physics has proved
the impossibility of any mutual interaction between them ;
and (3) lastly, the fact that Clifford's view is essential
to the theory, that all of us, both mind and body, have
been developed out of inferior organic forms and
ultimately out of inorganic matter. Thus in his own
words: "The only thing that we can come to, if we
accept the doctrine of Evolution at all, is that, even in
the very lowest organisms, even in the amoeba w^hich
swims in our own blood, there is something or other

15 .. When molecules are so combined as to form the film on
the under-side of a jelly-fish, the elements of mind-stuff which go
along with them are so combined as to form the faint beginnings of
sentience. When the molecules are so combined as to form the
brain and nervous system of a vertebi-ate, the corresponding
elements of mind-stuff are so combined as to form some kind of
consciousness. . . . When matter takes the complex form of the
living human brain, the corresponding mind-stuff takes the form of
human consciousness, having intelligence and volition." [Lectures
and Essays, 2nd Edit. p. 284 ; also Mind, Vol. III. pp 64, 65.)

^8 Op. cit. p. 262.



MONISTIC THEORIES. 507

inconceivably simple to us, which is of the same nature
with our consciousness, although not of the same com-
plexity, that is to say (for we cannot stop at organic
matter, hnoivins^ as we do that it must have arisen by
continuous physical processes out of inorganic matter),
we are obliged to assume, in order to save continuity in
our belief, that along with every motion of matter,
whether organic or inorganic, there is some fact which
corresponds to the mental fact in ourselves." (Op. cit.
p. 266.)

Defenders of a spiritual philosophy are not necessarily
opposed to Evolution, when that hypothesis is properly
limited and defined : but Clifford's statement that -we
know all living beings " must have arisen by continuous
physical processes out of inorganic matter," is almost
amusing for its audacity. It is, of course, simply the
reverse of the truth. An overwhelming weight of
scientific evidence and authority establishes the fact
that life is never evolved from inorganic matter. Even
scientists as unlikely to be prejudiced against the
doctrine of abiogenesis as Huxley and Tyndall are
forced to confess that evidence of a single case of
spontaneous generation has never yet been adduced.
As regards the other arguments, we may for the present
merely call attention to the truth that even were com-
plete parallelism, in the sense of reciprocal correspond-
ence between every form of mental state and definite
neural processes, fully demonstrated — hopeless though
the prospect of this result be — nothing would have yet
been effected towards the reduction of mental activity
to a mere appendage of such nervous changes. As for
the statement, that science has proved the non-inter-
ference of the two sets of phenomena, it is both false in
itself and in conflict with Clifford's own teaching on
other occasions, and with that of the school to which he
belongs. The majority of that school teach that bodily
processes, at all events, determine changes in our
mental states.

Dr. Bain does not appear to go quite so far as Clifford.
Mental life in man he considers to be a " subjective aspect "
of bodily changes ; but that there are *' subjective aspects"



5o» RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

attached to all movements of every kind of matter he has not
the courage to assert. This position, of course, leaves on
liis hands the awkward difficult}- — why should this very curious
" vSubjective aspect," of which there is no trace in the rest of
the material world, suddenly manifest itself in the case of
those portions of the universe which we call living beings ?
To atone, however, for the deficiency just mentioned, he is
vigorous enough in insisting that mental life is but an
"aspect" or "side" or "face" or "phase" of neural
changes, and that therefore it has no reahty independent of
such changes, and no power of affecting their course. He
strongly objects to the phrase, " Mind and body act upon
each other." There is merely a continuous series of physical
events with inactive subjective "aspects." "We have," he
assures us, "every reason for believing that there is in
company with all our mental processes, an unbroken material
succession. From the ingress of a sensation, to the out-going
responses in action the mental succession is not for an instant
dissevered from a physical succession." ^'' The neural
changes are determined solely by neural antecedents : the
niaterial sequence carries with it the mental sequence, but
cannot in the slighest degree be modified by the latter.
Nevertheless : " The only tenable supposition is, that mental
and physical proceed together as tcndivided twins. When
therefore we speak of a mental cause, a mental agency, we
have always a two-sided cause; the effect produced is not the
effect of mind alone, but of mind in company with body.
That mind should have operated on the body is as much as
to say, that a two-sided phenomenon, one side being bodily,
can influence the body ; it is after all body acting^ upon body.
. . . The line of mental sequence is thus, not mind causing
body, and body causing mind, but mind-body giving birth to
mind-body : a much more intelligible position." ^^

Herbert Spencer seems to hold approximately the same
view as Dr. Bain, though his general system of Evolution
would appear to lead on to Clifford's doctrine of mind-stuff.
Mental states, he allows, cannot be identified with nervous
processes. The two sets of facts are separated by " a
difference which transcends all other differences." All forms
of consciousness are, he teaches, resolvable into elementary
units of feeling akin to electric shocks. These correspond to
pulses of molecular motion transmitted through the sentient
nerves. But the sensation of shock made known through our
inner consciousness can never be analyzed into the physical
movements observable, if at all, by our external senses. These

17 Mind and Body, p. 131. ^^ Op. cit. pp. 131, 132.



MONISTIC THEORIES. 509



are his words : " When the two modes of Being which we
distinguish as subject and object have been severally reduced
to their lowest terms, any further comprehension must be an
assimilation of these lowest terms to one another : and, as
we have already seen, this is negatived by the very distinction
of subject and object, which is itself the consciousness of a
difference transcending all other differences. So far from helping
us to think of them as of one kind, analysis serves but to
render more manifest the impossibility of finding for them a
common concept — a thought under which they can be united.
Let it be granted that all existence distinguished as objective
may be resolved into the existence of units of one kind
(material), . . . and let it be further granted, that all existence
distinguished as subjective is resolvable into units of con-
sciousness, similar in nature to those which we know as
nervous shocks, . . . can we think of the subjective and
objective activities as the same ? Can the oscillation of a
molecule be represented in consciousness side by side with
a nervous shock and the two be recognized as one ? No
effort enables us to assimilate them. That a unit of feeling has
nothing in common witli a unit of motion becomes more than ever
manifest when we bring the two into juxtaposition.''' ^^ In spite,
however, of the incompatible character of physical and
mental processes, Spencer finally concludes that both are
but '' faces " or " aspects " of one and the same substratum :
" Mind (i.e., conscious-states) and nervous action are
subjective and objective faces of the same thing." ^° The
ground for this unification of mental and physical pheno-
mena is the same as that urged by Clifford and Dr. Bain
—the intimate correspondence between the two series. As
to the nature of this one ultimate reality, of which mental and
bodily activities are but diverse aspects, Spencer assures us
that it is unknoivable.

Criticism of Monism. — Each form in which the Double-
Aspect theory has been advocated, stands exposed to number-
less special difficulties, but here we have room to touch only
on a few of the most general objections, which tell universally
against every representation of the doctrine.

I. Dilemma. — The advocate of the new system must accept
either of two alternatives. He must, with Clifford, look upon
this "double-aspectedness" as a universal property of matter;



Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 51 of 63)