§4. The Triad in Psychology 2)


374. The line of reasoning which I propose to pursue is peculiar and will need some careful study to estimate the strength of it. I shall review it critically in the last section, but meantime I desire to point out that the step I am about to take, which is analogous to others that will follow, is not so purely of the nature of a guess as might be supposed by persons expert in judging of scientific evidence. We have seen that the ideas of one, two, three, are forced upon us in logic, and really cannot be dispensed with. They meet us not once but at every turn. And we have found reason to think that they are equally important in metaphysics. How is the extraordinary prominence of these conceptions to be explained? Must it not be that they have their origin in the nature of the mind? This is the Kantian form of inference, which has been found so cogent in the hands of that hero of philosophy; and I do not know that modern studies have done anything to discredit it. It is true we no longer regard such a psychological explanation of a conception to be as final as Kant thought. It leaves further questions to be asked; but as far as it goes it seems to be satisfactory. We find the ideas of first, second, third, constant ingredients of our knowledge. It must then either be that they are continually given to us in the presentations of sense, or that it is the peculiar nature of the mind to mix them with our thoughts. Now we certainly cannot think that these ideas are given in sense. First, second, and third are not sensations. They can only be given in sense by things appearing labelled as first, second, and third, and such labels things do not usually bear. They ought therefore to have a psychological origin. A man must be a very uncompromising partisan of the theory of the tabula rasa to deny that the ideas of first, second, and third are due to congenital tendencies of the mind. So far there is nothing in my argument to distinguish it from that of many a Kantian. The noticeable thing is that I do not rest here, but seek to put the conclusion to the test by an independent examination of the facts of psychology, to see whether we can find any traces of the existence of three parts or faculties of the soul or modes of consciousness, which might confirm the result just reached.

375. Now, three departments of the mind have been generally recognized since Kant; they are: Feeling [of pleasure and pain], Knowing, and Willing. The unanimity with which this trisection of the mind has been accepted is, indeed, quite surprising. The division did not have its genesis in the peculiar ideas of Kant. On the contrary, it was borrowed by him from dogmatic philosophers, and his acceptance of it was, as has been well remarked, a concession to dogmatism. It has been allowed even by psychologists to whose general doctrines it seems positively hostile.1)

376. The ordinary doctrine is open to a variety of objections from the very point of view from which it was first delineated. First, desire certainly includes an element of pleasure quite as much as of will. Wishing is not willing; it is a speculative variation of willing mingled with a speculative and anticipatory feeling of pleasure. Desire should therefore be struck out of the definition of the third faculty, leaving it mere volition. But volition without desire is not voluntary; it is mere activity. Consequently, all activity, voluntary or not, should be brought under the third faculty. Thus attention is a kind of activity which is sometimes voluntary and sometimes not so. Second, pleasure and pain can only be recognized as such in a judgment; they are general predicates which are attached to feelings rather than true feelings. But mere passive feeling, which does not act and does not judge, which has all sorts of qualities but does not itself recognize these qualities, because it does not analyze nor compare — this is an element of all consciousness to which a distinct title ought to be given. Third, every phenomenon of our mental life is more or less like cognition. Every emotion, every burst of passion, every exercise of will, is like cognition. But modifications of consciousness which are alike have some element in common. Cognition, therefore, has nothing distinctive and cannot be regarded as a fundamental faculty. If, however, we ask whether there be not an element in cognition which is neither feeling, sense, nor activity, we do find something, the faculty of learning, acquisition, memory and inference, synthesis. Fourth, looking once more at activity, we observe that the only consciousness we have of it is the sense of resistance. We are conscious of hitting or of getting hit, of meeting with a fact. But whether the activity is within or without we know only by secondary signs and not by our original faculty of recognizing fact.

377. It seems, then, that the true categories of consciousness are: first, feeling, the consciousness which can be included with an instant of time, passive consciousness of quality, without recognition or analysis; second, consciousness of an interruption into the field of consciousness, sense of resistance, of an external fact, of another something; third, synthetic consciousness, binding time together, sense of learning, thought.

378. If we accept these [as] the fundamental elementary modes of consciousness, they afford a psychological explanation of the three logical conceptions of quality, relation, and synthesis or mediation. The conception of quality, which is absolutely simple in itself and yet viewed in its relations is seen to be full of variety, would arise whenever feeling or the singular consciousness becomes prominent. The conception of relation comes from the dual consciousness or sense of action and reaction. The conception of mediation springs out of the plural consciousness or sense of learning.

379. . . . We remember it [sensation]; that is to say, we have another cognition which professes to reproduce it; but we know that there is no resemblance between the memory and the sensation, because, in the first place, nothing can resemble an immediate feeling, for resemblance supposes a dismemberment and recomposition which is totally foreign to the immediate, and in the second place, memory is an articulated complex and worked-over product which differs infinitely and immeasurably from feeling. Look at a red surface, and try to feel what the sensation is, and then shut your eyes and remember it. No doubt different persons are different in this respect; to some the experiment will seem to yield an opposite result, but I have convinced myself that there is nothing in my memory that is in the least like the vision of the red. When red is not before my eyes, I do not see it at all. Some people tell me they see it faintly — a most inconvenient kind of memory, which would lead to remembering bright red as pale or dingy. I remember colors with unusual accuracy, because I have had much training in observing them; but my memory does not consist in any vision but in a habit by virtue of which I can recognize a newly presented color as like or unlike one I had seen before. But even if the memory of some persons is of the nature of an hallucination, enough arguments remain to show that immediate consciousness or feeling is absolutely unlike anything else.


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