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clined to believe that the prominence of this experience in traditional accounts of mind is due to the fact that it is characteristically habitual with philosophers. What but bias could have led to the opinion that self-consciousness is typical of mind? Surely nothing could be farther from the truth. If self-consciousness means anything, it means mind functioning in an elaborately complicated way. Now one may test a definition by applying it to complex and derivative forms, but one learns to isolate and identify a genus from a study of its simple forms. It would be consistent with sound procedure, then, to expect to understand mind-knowing-itself, only after one has an elementary knowledge of the general nature of mind and the special function of knowing. Surely in this respect, at least, philosophy has traditionally lacked the sound instinct that has guided science.
But waiving methodological considerations, what is to be said of the cognitive value of my self-consciousness? Suppose me to be as habitually self-conscious as the most confirmed philosopher. Have I on that account an expert knowledge of self? There could not, it seems to me, be a clearer case of the mistaking of habit for insight. Upon examination my self-consciousness resolves itself mainly into familiar images, and familiar phrases containing my name or the first personal pronoun, such as 'I am,' 'I will,' 'I think,' 'I act. But these phrases are perfectly typical of the fixed and stereotyped character that may be acquired by a confused experience, or, indeed, by an experience that is nothing more than the verbal formulation of a problem. And the more fixed and stereotyped such experiences, the more their confusion or emptiness is neglected. This is the true explanation, I think, of what is the normal state of mind in the matter of selfknowledge. Your average man knows himself, “of course,” and grasps eagerly at words and phrases imputing to him an esoteric knowledge of soul; but he can render no intelligible account of it. That he has never attempted; he is secure only when among those as easily satisfied as himself.
Who is so familiar with farming as the farmer? But he despises the innovations of the theorist, because routine has warped, limited, and at the same time intensified his opinions; with the consequence that while no one is more intimately familiar with farming than he, no one, perhaps, is more hopelessly blinded to its real principles. Now it is my lot to be a self-conscious mind. I have practised self-consciousness habitually, and it is certain that no one is so familiar with myself as I. But I have little to show for it all: the articulatory image of my name, the visual image of my social presence, and a few poor phrases. There is a complex state to which I can turn when I will, but it is a page more thumbed than read. And I am lucky if I have not long ago become glibly innocent of my ignorance and joined the ranks of those who deliver confusion with the unction of profundity, and the name of the problem with the pride of mastery. No — so far I cannot see that the royal road to a knowledge of self-activity has led beyond the slough of complacency. Either appeal is made to what everyone “of course” knows, to the mere dogma of familiarity, or stereotyped verbalisms and other confused experiences are solemnly cherished as though the warmth of the philosophical bosom could somehow invest them with life.
$ 6. I am confident that the nature of mental action is discoverable neither by an analysis of mental contents
nor by self-intuition; that it is necessary, in Mental Action as the Feeling short, to abandon the method of self-knowlof Bodily
edge altogether, and substitute that of general Action
observation. But in the interests of thoroughness it is desirable to examine what at first glance appears to afford a reasonable compromise. I refer to the view that construes mental action as a peculiar introspective complex. This view is commonly held by those who reject the last. The intuition of a “Simon-pure activity,” or an “activity
an sich” is rejected on grounds of introspective analysis. But analysis at the same time reveals a characteristic activity process, composed of sensations of bodily exertion and strain, or of feelings of "the tendency, the obstacle, the will, the strain, the triumph, or the passive giving up." James has suggested that this process can be reduced to still smaller proportions. “Whenever my introspective glance succeeds in turning round quickly enough to catch one of these manifestations of spontaneity in the act, all it can ever feel distinctly is some bodily process, for the most part taking place within the head." “ It would follow that our entire feeling of spiritual activity, or what commonly passes by that name, is really a feeling of bodily activities whose exact nature is by most men overlooked.”1
There are several objections to this version of mental action. In the first place, it is evident that the feeling of action belongs to the content of the mind, and therefore cannot be that general action by virtue of which things become content. It is not the correlate of content in general, but only of certain other content such as percepts and ideas. There is need of a kind of mental action that shall account for the presence in mind of this very activitycomplex itself.
Furthermore, there is an evident confusion in regarding the feeling of action as itself action. It is necessary, as the spiritists and transcendentalists have rightly maintained, to suppose some kind of action that shall bring contents together, and give them the peculiar within-mind unity which they possess. A consciousness of a and b is not a consciousness of a and a consciousness of b. And the feeling of action is no more capable of effecting this conjunction than is any other content. A consciousness of “intra-cephalic movements” and the movements of an external body, a unity of consciousness in which these are present together, cannot derive its unity from a consciousness of the one any more than from the consciousness of the other. Both movements must be subtended by some action that operates on them jointly. James is correct in supposing that the experience of bodily action is peculiarly significant. It constitutes a core or nucleus of content that is more constant than the rest. It constitutes a permanent background which persists while the more conspicuous objects in the foreground vary; and is thus an important factor in the sense of personal identity. But it is none the less content, and so prevented from serving as the agency which defines content as such, and gives it its characteristic unity.
* James: Pluralistic Universe, pp. 376, 380; Principles of Psychology, Vol. I, pp. 300, 301-302; cf. below, pp. 354-356.
The true solution of the matter lies near at hand. If instead of defining mental action in terms of the feeling of bodily activities, he had defined it in terms of the bodily action itself, as he sometimes appears to do, these difficulties would have been obviated. But this would have required the abandonment of the introspective method. For those bodily actions which now become most significant are only accidentally, if at all, felt by the conscious agent himself. A sound 'listened to' or 'heard,' is, by virtue of that action, mental content. Several sounds listened to or heard jointly compose a mental unity. But precisely what is the nature of listening or hearing ? He who listens or hears is poorly qualified to say. The way it feels to listen or hear has little if anything to do with the matter. For listening and hearing are operations of the living organism, or specific operations of the nervous system, which lie in the field of general observation. And it is no more necessary to suppose that their nature is revealed to the agent which exercises them, than to suppose that the nature of breathing is revealed to him who breathes.
1 "So far as we are 'persons,' and contrasted and opposed to an 'environment,' movements in our body figure as our activities.” (Pluralistic Universe, p. 379, note.)
III. THE METHOD OF GENERAL OBSERVATION 8 7. While proceeding to treat mind as though, like any other thing, it were open to general observation, I The Alleged
shall at the same time seek to reply to the Impossibility objections which are ordinarily urged against of Observing
such procedure. Most philosophers assume the Contents of Another that it is essentially characteristic of a mind Mind
to be accessible only to itself. This proposition is rarely supported by evidence; it is commonly held to be sufficient to call attention to it. Thus it is asserted that “the essence of a person is not what he is for another, but what he is for himself. It is there that his principium individuationis is to be found -in what he is, when looked at from the inside."1 As another writer expresses it, “That the mind of each human being forms a region inaccessible to all save its possessor, is one of the commonplaces of reflection."'?
These are formulations of an almost universal presupposition. I believe this presupposition, as ill-defined and unreasonable as it is universal, to be the greatest present obstacle to the clear and conclusive definition of mind. There can be no doubt of the propriety of distinguishing 'internal' and 'external' views of the mind, and there can be no doubt of the practical or other circumstantial importance of emphasizing self-knowledge. But I do not believe that such distinction and emphasis lead properly to any generalization such as those which I have quoted; nor do I believe that they contribute fundamentally to the definition of mind.
The notion of the privacy of mental contents rests mainly upon the fallacy of 'exclusive particularity.' It is characteristic of content of mind, such as perceptions and ideas, to belong to individual minds. My idea is mine; and in some sense, then, falls within my mind. From
· H. Rashdall, in Personal Idealism, edited by H. Sturt, p. 383.