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or he must, with Dr. Bain, limit it to living beings. In the
first case he has to make an absolutely incredible assumption
without a scrap of evidence in its favour. In order to do
away with the souls of a few living beings, who do not

^ Principles of Psychology, Vol. I. § 62. ''^ Op. cit, p. 140.



5IO RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.



constitute the one-hundred-millionth part of the mass of the
physical world, he has to assign a mental hfe to every grain
of sand and drop of water on the earth. He has to ascribe
to every molecule of matter in the universe something the
nature of which cannot be imagined, and of the existence of
which neither the experiments of science nor the observation
of mankind has ever discovered the shghtest trace. Such is
the modest demand on our powers of faith made by scientists
— who can, when it suits them, be so exacting in their
demands for proof. Even Tyndall, sympathetic though he be
with such views, is forced to declare :" It is no explanation
to say that objective and subjective are two sides of one and
the same phenomenon. Why should the phenomenon have
two sides ? There are plenty of molecular motions which do
not exhibit this two-sidedness. Does water think or feel
when it rises into frost ferns upon a window-pane ? If not,
why should the molecular motions of the brain be yoked to
this mysterious companion consciousness ?"^i

Should he adopt the second alternative, the defender of
this double-faced theory has to explain the unaccountable
appearance of the subjective aspect where it presents itself
in conscious beings. It is a new phenomenon, differing from
all previously existing phenomena by " a difference that
transcends all other differences." Whence does it come ?
Physicists will not admit creations out of nothing, and neither
will they allow that consciousness is merely a new form of
the material energy of the universe, even were such a trans-
formation conceivable. If material force is transmuted into
mental states, then, unless the law of the conservation of
energy be abandoned, the reverse operation must alsohold,
and mental states must be capable of issuing forth in the
form of physical action. Conscious mental states would thus
be capable of acting upon matter : but this is precisely what
advocates of Monism declare to be impossible. That mental
acts cannot affect material processes is the most fundamental
article of their creed. Accordingly, whichever of the two
necessary alternatives he accepts, the anti-spirituahst finds
himself in an equally unsatisfactory position.^"-^

2. Mental States not Composite.— If we inquire more closely
into the nature of this hypothetical " stuff," out of which
intelligence, emotion, and volition are alleged to be manu-
factured, the absurdity of the doctrine is brought still more
closely home to us. What is this material ? Is it conscious ?

21 Cf. Mallock, Is Life ivorth Living? p. 180.

2- Cf. Herbert, Modern Realism Examined, p. 71. Sects. 7—12
contain some very good criticism of this theory.



MONISTIC THEORIES. 511



Most supporters of the theory, we beheve, would answer, No.
How then is it Uke our mental life ? Does a multiplicity of
unconscious acts constitute an act of conscious intelligence ?
If, on the other hand, we ascribe real but incipient conscious-
ness to the molecules of matter, and if mental life is the
outcome of their combination, it would seem that a mental
existence ought to belong to all material objects with which
experience presents us. Have plants, or their leaves, or the
various parts of the human body minds of their own ? Is a
new steam-tug a thing of joy to itself? What are the
emotions of a deserted coal-mine? Or is it only very s;;/a//
lumps of coal that have minds ? Is the soul of carbon different
in kind from that of nitrogen or oxygen ?

But even were it granted that such allotments of subjective-
aspect were attached to all molecules of matter, they would
not solve the problem. We have already demonstrated the
spirituality of man's intellect and will, and we have shown
the peculiar, indivisible character of supra-sensuous acts,
such as conception, judgment, reasoning, and self-conscious-
ness ; but in doing so we have disproved the double-aspect
theory. The unity of consciousness cannot be an amalgam
of morsels of subjective-aspect essentially dependent on
extended molecules. Simple abstract ideas, judicial acts and
free volitions, cannot be a mere compound of electric shocks
or of unconscious units. They are indivisible acts, and they
must pertain to an indivisible agent other than matter. As
Lotze argues, analogical inferences from the combinations
of physical forces to the fusion of mental states mislead, not
only from the dissimilarity of the two classes of events, but
from inaccuracy in describing the operations of the former.
In nature two abstract ' forces ' or ' motions ' never coalesce
to form a resultant. What really happens is that two bodies,
moving or at rest, produce a motion of a body or bodies. Now
movements or forces existing in this concrete way are not
simple, but divisible into parts seated in the various molecules
of the body. But in thought, especially in the unity of con-
sciousness involved in judgment and self-knowledge, we have
a real concrete, indivisible activity, which accordingly must
pertain, not to an assemblage of separate molecules, but to a
single simple agent.^^ Somewhat similarly James writes :

"The theory of mental units 'compounding with them-
selves,' or ' integrating ' is logically uninteUigible. It leaves
out the essential feature of all the * combinations ' we
actually know. All the combinations which we actually know
are effects wrought by the units said to be combined upon some



23



Cf. Mctaphysic, § 241, and Microcosmns, Bk, II. c. i. §§ 5, 6.



512 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

ENTITY other than themselves. Without this feature of a medium
or vehicle, the notion of combination has no sense. In other
words, no possible number of entities (call them as you like,
whether forces, material particles, or mental elements) can
sum themselves together. Each remains in the sum what it
was ; and the sum itself exists only for a bystander who
happens to overlook the units and to apprehend the sum as
such ; or else it exists in the shape of some other effect on an
entity external to the sum itself. . . . ' A statue is an aggregation
of particles of marble; hut as such it has no unity. For the
spectator it is one ; in itself it is an aggregate ; just as to
the consciousness of an ant crawling over it, it may again
appear a mere aggregate.' (Royce.) . . . Musical sounds do not
combine per se into concords or discords. Concord and
discord are names for their combined effects on that external
medium the ear. Where the elemental units are supposed
to be feelings the case is in no wise altered. Take a hundred
of them, shuffle and pack them as close together as you can
(whatever that may mean), still each remains the same feeling
it always was, shut in its own skin, windowless, ignorant of
what the other feelings are and mean. There would be a
hundred-and-first feeUng there, if when a group or series of
such feelings were set up a consciousness belonging to the group
as such should emerge. And this hundred-and-first feeling
would be a totally new fact; the hundred original feelings
might, by a curious physical law, be a signal for its creation,
when they came together ; but they would have no sub-
stantial identity with it, nor it with them, and one could
never deduce the one from the others, or (in any intelligible
sense) say that they evolved it. Take a sentence of a dozen
words, and take twelve men and tell to each one word. Then
stand the men in a row or jam them in a bunch, and let each
think of his word as intently as he vvill ; nowhere will there
be a consciousness of the whole sentence. We talk of the
' spirit of the age ' and the ' sentiment of the people,' and
hypostatize public ' opinion.' But we know this to be
symbohc speech, and never dream that the ' spirit,' ' senti-
ment,' etc., constitute a consciousness other than and
additional to that of the several individuals whom the words
' age,' or ' people,' or ' public ' denote. The private minds
do not agglomerate into a higher compound mind. This has
always been the invincible contention of the spiritualists
against the associationists in Psychology." ^'^

2i Op. cit. pp. 158—60. The italics and capitals are those of
Professor James himself. His argument here is, it seems to us,
perfectly sound, but, notwithstanding his disclaimer (p. 162), fatal
to his own ihjory. How can " the present section of conscious-



MONISTIC THEORIES. 513

Absurd consequences. — Advocates of psycho-
physical parallelism as well as of all forms of materialism
agree at least in this, that mental states cannot act on
the body. The main object in describing conscious
activity as parallel to, or as an aspect, or phase of a
nervous process, is to emphasize its incapacity for the
production of any physical change. If it be once
admitted that mental agency is really operative ad
extra, that conscious states do really originate bodily
movements, then the one great excellence claimed for
the monistic theories v^ith which we are here engaged is
abandoned. 25 The existence of an efficient energy
distinct from material force is admitted, and the chief
tenet of the spiritualist philosopher is granted. It is
to guard against such a contingency that Bain and
Hoffding insist '' that there is no rupture of nervous
continuity;" and Clifford that "the physical facts go
along by themselves," and "the mental facts go along
by themselves." The admission of a second real
agent capable of interfering with or modifying in the
most infinitesimal degree the course of material events
is absolutely fatal to all monistic anti-spiritualist
systems. But we venture to doubt whether the
astonishing consequences in regard to most of our
beliefs — scientific as well as vulgar — which inevitably
proceed from the denial of mental efficiency have been
adequately realized by these writers.

Mind's efficacy in Evolution. — The theory of Evolution, for
instance, will have to wear a somewhat altered appearance as
a rational explanation of facts, if it be true that conscious
states never influence bodily movement. The doctrine of

ness," the merely " passing thought" act as "bystander" to sum
up the series of long past states into the unity of a Self ? Or if
James chooses the other alternative and says that the present
thought in which I cognize the unity of my past states, is "an
cj^ect on an entity external to the sum itself" (of these states) ; is not
this "entity" after all very like the vulgar common-sense soul
contemptuously discarded because it "explains nothing and
guarantees nothing." On this question see also pp. 47, 48, above.

2' The idealist may maintain the real efficiency of mind, but he
does so by denying the independent reality of matter — with the
disastrous results already indicated, (pp. 113 — 116.)

nil



514 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

natural selection in the animal kingdom is built on the
assumption of serviceablencss of pleasure and pain in the
struggle for life. Herbert Spencer never wearies of expatiat-
ing on the utility of both the agreeable and the disagreeable
qualities of action in the contest for existence. Pleasure and
pain are according to him not merely the foundations of
morality, but the prime agents in the development and
perfecting of all sentient life.^'' Darwin is still more copious
in showing how accidental actions, qualities, and experiences
which afford satisfaction, in consequence of that satisfaction,
emerge triumphant from among innumerable variations, and
thus secure their own preservation. The beautiful colours
and songs of several species of birds, for example, are held
to be the result of long gradual evolution under the constant
action of sexual selection — individuals inheriting richer
attractions more easily securing mates. But what " utility "
or " serviceablencss" can fine colours or pleasant or painful
feelings possess in the struggle for life if they never determine
or modify bodily activity ? If conscious states and cerebral
processes are merely parallel series of events which never act
on each other, how can the preference for agreeable feelings
favour the production of the movements to which the feelings
are attached ? How can pleasure or pain exert a selective
influence in favour of certain kinds of physical action ?

Other Minds non-existent? — Again, if thought never really
influences action, what proof have we that other minds than
our own exist ? We at present infer other minds because we
look on certain actions and expressions of our fellow-men as
effects of certain feelings and volitions akin to our own, and
deem them incapable of happening except in consequence of
such mental states. But according to tiie new theory these
actions are nothing of the sort. They are merely the effects
of previous neural groupings ; and might have taken place
just the same whether the mental states accompanied them
or not. The latter are merely appended inactive " phases,"
or " epiphenomena," which can occasion " no rupture oi
nervous continuity." We may still, perhaps, infer the exist-
ence of other brains, but logically the gestures, words, and



2** " Sentient existence can evolve only on condition that pleasure-
giving acts are life sustaining acts." [Data of Ethics, p. 83.) " During
the evolution of life pleasures and pains have necessarily been the
incentives to, and deterrents from, actions which the conditions of
existence demanded and negatived. . . . The pleasures of sympathy
exceeding its pains lead to an exercise of it which strengthens it,"
(Ilnti. p. 245.)



MONISTIC THEORIES. 515

actions of our neighbours might have been precisely the
same \i consciousness had no existence. 2''

But reflexion discovers consequences still more surprising.
The whole past history of the world, the building of cities,
the invention of machinery, the commerce of nations, the
emigrations of peoples, the rise and fall of civilizations, all
that has been done on this planet by human beings, might
have happened in precisely the same way if there had never
awoke to consciousness a single human mind ! All the pain
and sorrow, all the joy and gladness, all the love and anger
that we suppose to have governed the world's history might
never have been, and that history might have run exactly the
same course ! The neural groupings, the cerebral movements,
which were the true, ultimate, and only causes of the various
actions of human beings, have never once been interrupted,
modified, or interfered with by those " aspects " or " phases "
which constitute the "parallel" series of conscious states,
since the first man appeared on the earth. Given the original
collocation of the material atoms from which the present
cosmos has been evolved, and every event, down to the least
incident of our daily life, was therein rigidly and sufficiently
determined, even though no single act of intelligence or
volition had ever wakened into life ! ^^



-^ " It is admitted that the feelings of others cannot themseh^es
be perceived by any sense ; certain bodily movements only are
perceived, which are supposed to indicate feelings. It is admitted,
further, that these movements proceed with the strictest physical
sequence ; in other words, that in the absence of feelings they would
take place just as they do. It follows that mind leaves no trace of
its presence in the movements by which alone it is revealed. What is
this but to say it is a pure supposition, without a single vestige of
evidence ? The only evidence science can have of anything is that
it is, or effects some change, some movement. Whatever effects no
change, makes no sign in the material world, is to physical science
non-existent." (Herbert, op. cit. p. 113.)

28 This argument is stated with much force by Herbert. {Ibid.
p. 133.) It should be borne in mind that the present argument does not
involve any particular metaphysical theory of causality. Accepting
even Mill's definition of causation as invariable succession, our con-
tention would still retain its force. The defender of the double-
aspect doctrine may of course instinctively attribute minds to other
human bodies, but he has no rational grounds for believing in such
minds ; consequently he cannot maintain mental states to be
constant concomitants or conditions of physical actions. The latter, he
asserts, are unaffected by the former, and so might have occurred
precisely as well without them. If the mind cannot modify or
influence bodily movements, then, clearly, it contributes nothing to



5i6 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

4. Meaningless Terms. — Finally, the entire vocabulary used
in the exposition of the theory, is a veritable museum of non-
sensical and sophistical terms. Hyphens, ambiguous epithets,
and cloudy metaphorical language are profusely employed in
pretended explanations of facts of which no real account is
given. What idea is really conveyed to the mind by such
words as " double-aspect," " mind-stuff," " two-sided cause,"
" subjective and objective sides of the same fact," " undivided
twins," " double-faced unity" ? We know what is meant by
" stuff" when we talk of the materials out of which a table or
a suit of clothes is made, but the word becomes absolutely
unmeaning when spoken of an intellectual idea, like that of
Being, or of the simple cognitive act of self-consciousness.
" Double-aspect " signifies, or ought to signify, two views or
points of viewing what is known to be one and the same
thing; but here we have two sets of facts or things " differing
by a difference that transcends all other differences." Surely,
then, to speak of the unextended mind and the material brain
as " aspects " of the same fact, is merely a childish attempt
to deceive ourselves with half-understood words.

Similarly, the terms, " objective side of a feeling " and
*' subjective side of a nervous current," when intended to be
taken as a philosophical explanation, and not as mere
metaphorical phrases expressive of ignorance, are a perversion
of language. " The expression, ' a two-sided cause,' is one of
those figures of speech which are the crutches of Metaphysics,
and enable halting theories to make progress. We find the
same difficulty in realizing in our mind the conception of a
two-sided cause as we have in realizing a blue-sound or a three-
sided motion." -9 A Cause is defined in Dr. Bain's own Logic,
as " the entire aggregate of conditions or circumstances
requisite to the production of the effect." But if mental
states form part of the aggregate of conditions required to
effect a given movement, then mind is no longer a mere
"aspect" of physical processes: it is a really efficient agent
which occasionally "ruptures the nervous continuity," and
Mr, Bain's doctrine, in company with all other forms of
materialistic monism, at once falls to the ground. If mental
states do not co-operate in the production of physical changes,
then they must not be described as past-causes, or the " side "
of a cause, without self-contradiction.

the wonderful works of civilization, and, so far as these latter are
concerned, might never have been. This is one of those curious
but strictly logical consequences of this theory, which its supporters
do not care to obtrude on public attention.

-9 Cf. M. Guthrie, On Mr. Spencer's Unification o/Knozvlcdge, p. 248.



MONISTIC THEORIES. 517

Monism: Conservation of Energy and Law of
Inertia. — To many minds the most serious attack in
recent years on the spirituahty of the Soul is that based
on the doctrine of the conservation of etiergy. Though
sometimes specially directed agSiinst free-will, the objec-
tion, if valid at all, disproves the possibility of any
influence of mind upon body. Physical energy, defined
as capacity for doing ivork, may be either kinetic, e.g., that
of the flying bullet, or potential, e.g., that of an elevated
weight. Numerous experiments in chemistry and physics
go to show that in the transmutations of energy from
one form to another none is lost or gained ; and the
results have been formulated in the statement : The sum
of the kinetic and potential energies of any isolated system of
bodies remains constant. This conclusion has been still
further generalized in the form of the Law : The sum
total of energy in the universe always remains the same. From
this generalization the positivist psychologist passes to
a further inference, the doctrine of "psychophysical,
parallelism " — mental and bodily changes never affect each
other ; and then by one more logical leap to Monism —
mind and body are mere diverse phenomenal manifesta-
tions of one substratum.

It has also been maintained that this final con-
clusion is confirmed, if not independently proved by
the principle of inertia, Newton's first law of motion:
" Every body continues in its state of rest or uniform
motion in a straight line except in so far as it may be
compelled by impressed forces to change its state."

Harald Hoffding is perhaps the ablest exponent of this
argument, so we shall cite from his Outlines of Psychology.
The italics are ours :

" Materialphenomenaappearin the form of space. . . . This
characteristic distinguishes them from states of consciousness,
yet does not contain anything by which the material is
sharply defined and closed off as a world in tself. Fur we
might conceive these spatial movements as brought about by some-
thing non-spatial. The material world would in that case lie
open to influences from without. But scientific research
makes such a possibility always more inadmissible. It now
applies in all departments the principle that every tnaterial
movement must be explained by another material movement. The



5i8 RATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY.

very first principle (the law of inei'tia) on which natural
science is based, is that the state of a material point (rest or
movement in a straight line) can be altered only through the
influence of another material point ^^^. . . This principle cannot
from its nature admit of rigid proof. It is the fundamental
assumption with which natural science comes into existence.
. . . The like holds true of a more special principle, namely,
of the conservation of matter and energy. Modern chemistry is
based on the assumption confirmed by numerous experiments
that in all changes of matter the sum of the material atoms
remains the same." (pp. 30, 31.) Living beings, Hoffding
assures us, are in no way an exception to this law. The old
notion of a " vital force " governing the growth and reproduc-
tion of the living organism is illusory. " This doctrine is really
only a mythological way of expressing the amazement which
the unique character of organic phenomena excited." (p. 34.)^^
Still less does the mind act upon the body or vice-versa.
"There is no justification for maintaining as a fact that a
bodily process causes a menial process or the reverse. . . . The
supposition that a causal relation may exist between the
mental and the material is contrary to the doctrine of the conserva-
tion of energy, for at the point where the material nerve process
should be converted (sic) into a mental activity a sum of
physical energy would disappear without being made good by
a corresponding sum of physical energy." (p. 55.) " It will be
easily seen that it avails nothing to say that the mind may not
be able to increase the sum of physical energy, but that
it can alter the direction of the applied energy. A physical
movement does not change its direction except under the
influence of a physical force of a certain strength. So that this
subterfuge also of necessity makes the energv of consciousness a
physical energy.'" (p. 56.)"'^ As there is a perfect correspondence

"



Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 52 of 63)