[Sidenote: The notion of spirit.]
The external influences to which this body, with its discoursing mind, seemed to be subject were by no means all visible and material. Just as one's own body was moved by passions and thoughts which no one else could see—and this secrecy was a subject for much wonder and self-congratulation—so evidently other things had a spirit within or above them to endow them with wit and power. It was not so much to contain sensation that this spirit was needed (for the body could very well feel) as to contrive plans of action and discharge sudden force into the world on momentous occasions. How deep-drawn, how far-reaching, this spirit might be was not easily determined; but it seemed to have unaccountable ways and to come and go from distant habitations. Things past, for instance, were still open to its inspection; the mind was not credited with constructing a fresh image of the past which might more or less resemble that past; a ray of supernatural light, rather, sometimes could pierce to the past itself and revisit its unchangeable depths. The future, though more rarely, was open to spirit in exactly the same fashion; destiny could on occasion be observed. Things distant and preternatural were similarly seen in dreams. There could be no doubt that all those objects existed; the only question was where they might lie and in what manner they might operate. A vision was a visitation and a dream was a journey. The spirit was a great traveller, and just as it could dart in every direction over both space and time, so it could come thence into a man's presence or even into his body, to take possession of it. Sense and fancy, in a word, had not been distinguished. As to be aware of vision is a great sign of imagination, so to be aware of imagination is a great sign of understanding.
The spirit had other prerogatives, of a more rational sort. The truth, the right were also spirits; for though often invisible and denied by men, they could emerge at times from their invisible lairs to deal some quick blow and vindicate their divinity. The intermittance proper to phenomena is universal and extreme; only the familiar conception of nature, in which the flux becomes continuous, now blinds us in part to that fact. But before the days of scientific thinking only those things which were found unchanged and which seemed to lie passive were conceived to have had in the interval a material existence. More stirring apparitions, instead of being referred to their material constituents and continuous basis in nature, were referred to spirit. We still say, for instance, that war comes on. That phrase would once have been understood literally. War, being something intermittent, must exist somehow unseen in the interval, else it would not return; that rage, so people would have fancied, is therefore a spirit, it is a god. Mars and Ares long survived the phase of thought to which they owed their divinity; and believers had to rely on habit and the witness of antiquity to support their irrational faith. They little thought how absolutely simple and inevitable had been the grammar by which those figures, since grown rhetorical, had been first imposed upon the world.
[Sidenote: The notion of sense.]
Another complication soon came to increase this confusion. When material objects were discovered and it became clear that they had comparatively fixed natures, it also became clear that with the motions of one's body all other things seemed to vary in ways which did not amount to a permanent or real metamorphosis in them; for these things might be found again unchanged. Objects, for instance, seemed to grow smaller when we receded from them, though really, as we discovered by approaching and measuring them anew, they had remained unchanged. These private aspects or views of things were accordingly distinguished from the things themselves, which were lodged in an intelligible sphere, raised above anybody's sensibility and existing independently. The variable aspects were due to the body; they accompanied its variations and depended on its presence and organs. They were conceived vaguely to exist in one's head or, if they were emotional, in one's heart; but anatomy would have had some difficulty in finding them there. They constituted what is properly called the mind—the region of sentience, emotion, and soliloquy.
The mind was the region where those aspects which real things present to the body might live and congregate. So understood, it was avowedly and from the beginning a realm of mere appearance and depended entirely on the body. It should be observed, however, that the limbo of divine and ideal things, which is sometimes also called the mind, is very far from depending obviously on the body and is said to do so only by a late school of psychological sceptics. To primitive apprehension spirit, with its ideal prerogatives, was something magical and oracular. Its prophetic intuitions were far from being more trivial than material appearances. On the contrary those intuitions were momentous and inspiring. Their scope was indefinite and their value incalculable in every sense of the word. The disembodied spirit might well be immortal, since absent and dead things were familiar to it. It was by nature present wherever truth and reality might be found. It was prophetic; the dreams it fell into were full of auguries and secret affinities with things to come. Myth and legend, hatched in its womb, were felt to be divinely inspired, and genius seemed to be the Muses' voice heard in a profound abstraction, when vulgar perception yielded to some kind of clairvoyance having a higher authority than sense. Such a spirit might naturally be expected to pass into another world, since it already dwelt there at intervals, and brought thence its mysterious reports. Its incursions into the physical sphere alone seemed miraculous and sent a thrill of awe through the unaccustomed flesh.
[Sidenote: Competition between the two.]
The ideal element in the world was accordingly regarded at first as something sacred and terrifying. It was no vulgar presence or private product, and though its destiny might be to pass half the time, like Persephone, under ground, it could not really be degraded. The human mind, on the other hand, the region of sentience and illusion, was a familiar affair enough. This familiarity, indeed, for a long time bred contempt and philosophers did not think the personal equation of individuals, or the refraction of things in sense, a very important or edifying subject for study. In time, however, sentience had its revenge. As each man's whole experience is bound to his body no less than is the most trivial optical illusion, the sphere of sense is the transcendental ground or ratio cognoscendi of every other sphere. It suffices, therefore, to make philosophy retrospective and to relax the practical and dogmatic stress under which the intellect operates, for all the discoveries made through experience to collapse into the experience in which they were made. A complete collapse of objects is indeed inconvenient, because it would leave no starting-point for reasoning and no faith in the significance of reason itself; but partial collapses, now in the region of physics, now in that of logic and morals, are very easy and exciting feats for criticism to perform.
Passions when abstracted from their bodily causes and values when removed from their objects will naturally fall into the body's mind, and be allied with appearances. Shrewd people will bethink themselves to attribute almost all the body's acts to some preparatory intention or motive in its mind, and thus attain what they think knowledge of human nature. They will encourage themselves to live among dramatic fictions, as when absorbed in a novel; and having made themselves at home in this upper story of their universe, they will find it amusing to deny that it has a ground floor. The chance of conceiving, by these partial reversals of science, a world composed entirely without troublesome machinery is too tempting not to be taken up, whatever the ulterior risks; and accordingly, when once psychological criticism is put in play, the sphere of sense will be enlarged at the expense of the two rational worlds, the material and the ideal.
[Sidenote: The rise of scepticism.]
Consciousness, thus qualified by all the sensible qualities of things, will exercise an irresistible attraction over the supernatural and ideal realm, so that all the gods, all truths, and all ideals, as they have no place among the sufficing causes of experience, will be identified with decaying sensations. And presently those supposed causes themselves will be retraced and drawn back into the immediate vortex, until the sceptic has packed away nature, with all space and time, into the sphere of sensuous illusion, the distinguishing characteristic of which was that it changed with the changes in the human body. The personal idealists will declare that all body is a part of some body's mind. Thus, by a curious reversion, the progress of reflection has led to hopeless contradictions. Sense, which was discovered by observing the refraction and intermittence to which appearances were subject, in seeming to be quite different from what things were, now tries to subsist when the things it was essentially contrasted with have been abolished. The intellect becomes a Penelope, whose secret pleasure lies in undoing its ostensible work; and science, becoming pensive, loves to relapse into the dumb actuality and nerveless reverie from which it had once extricated a world.
The occasion for this sophistication is worth noting; for if we follow the thread which we have trailed behind us in entering the labyrinth we shall be able at any moment to get out; especially as the omnivorous monster lurking in its depths is altogether harmless. A moral and truly transcendental critique of science, as of common sense, is never out of place, since all such a critique does is to assign to each conception or discovery its place and importance in the Life of Reason. So administered, the critical cathartic will not prove a poison and will not inhibit the cognitive function it was meant to purge. Every belief will subsist that finds an empirical and logical warrant; while that a belief is a belief and not a sensation will not seem a ground for not entertaining it, nor for subordinating it to some gratuitous assurance. But a psychological criticism, if it is not critical of psychology itself, and thinks to substitute a science of absolute sentience for physics and dialectic, would rest on sophistry and end wholly in bewilderment. The subject-matter of an absolute psychology would vanish in its hands, since there is no sentience which is not at once the effect of something physical and the appearance of something ideal. A calculus of feelings, uninterpreted and referred to nothing ulterior, would furnish no alternative system to substitute for the positive sciences it was seeking to dislodge. In fact, those who call ordinary objects unreal do not, on that account, find anything else to think about. Their exorcism does not lay the ghost, and they are limited to addressing it in uncivil language. It was not idly that reason in the beginning excogitated a natural and an ideal world, a labour it might well have avoided if appearance as it stands made a thinkable or a practical universe.
[Footnote B: The term "matter" (which ought before long to reappear in philosophy) has two meanings. In popular science and theology it commonly means a group of things in space, like the atoms of Democritus or the human body and its members. Such matter plainly exists. Its particles are concretions in existence like the planets; and if a given hypothesis describing them turns out to be wrong, it is wrong only because this matter exists so truly and in such discoverable guise that the hypothesis in question may be shown to misrepresent its constitution.
On the other hand, in Aristotle and in literary speech, matter means something good to make other things out of. Here it is a concretion in discourse, a dialectical term; being only an aspect or constituent of every existence, it cannot exist by itself. A state of mind, like everything not purely formal, has matter of this sort in it. Actual love, for instance, differs materially from the mere idea or possibility of love, which is all love would be if the matter or body of it were removed. This matter is what idealists, bent on giving it a grander name, call pure feeling, absolute consciousness, or metaphysical will. These phrases are all used improperly to stand for the existence or presence of things apart from their character, or for the mere strain and dead weight of being. Matter is a far better term to use in the premises, for it suggests the method as well as the fact of brute existence. The surd in experience—its non-ideal element—is not an indifferent vehicle for what it brings, as would be implied by calling it pure feeling or absolute consciousness. Nor is it an act accepting or rejecting objects, as would be implied by calling it will. In truth, the surd conditions not merely the being of objects but their possible quantity, the time and place of their appearance, and their degree of perfection compared with the ideals they suggest. These important factors in whatever exists are covered by the term matter and give it a serious and indispensable role in describing and feeling the world.
Aristotle, it may be added, did not adhere with perfect consistency to the dialectical use of this word. Matter is sometimes used by him for substance or for actual beings having both matter and form. The excuse for this apparent lapse is, of course, that what taken by itself is a piece of formed matter or an individual object may be regarded as mere material for something else which it helps to constitute, as wheat is matter for flour, and flour for bread. Thus the dialectical and non-demonstrative use of the term to indicate one aspect of everything could glide into its vulgar acceptation, to indicate one class of things.]
[Footnote C: It has been suggested—what will not party spirit contrive?—that these variations, called spontaneous by Darwin because not predetermined by heredity, might be spontaneous in a metaphysical sense, free acts with no material basis or cause whatsoever. Being free, these acts might deflect evolution—like Descartes' soul acting on the pineal gland—into wonderful new courses, prevent dissolution, and gradually bring on the kingdom of Heaven, all as the necessary implication of the latest science and the most atheistic philosophy. It may not be needless to observe that if the variations were absolutely free, i.e., intrusions of pure chance, they would tend every which way quite as much as if they were mechanically caused; while if they were kept miraculously in line with some far-off divine event, they would not be free at all, but would be due to metaphysical attraction and a magic destiny prepared in the eternal; and so we should be brought round to Aristotelian physics again.]
[Footnote D: The monads of Leibniz could justly be called minds, because they had a dramatic destiny, and the most complex experience imaginable was the state of but one monad, not an aggregate view or effect of a multitude in fusion. But the recent improvements on that system take the latter turn. Mind-stuff, or the material of mind, is supposed to be contained in large quantities within any known feeling. Mind-stuff, we are given to understand, is diffused in a medium corresponding to apparent space (what else would a real space be?); it forms quantitative aggregates, its transformations or aggregations are mechanically governed, it endures when personal consciousness perishes, it is the substance of bodies and, when duly organised, the potentiality of thought. One might go far for a better description of matter. That any material must be material might have been taken for an axiom; but our idealists, in their eagerness to show that Gefuehl ist Alles, have thought to do honour to feeling by forgetting that it is an expression and wishing to make it a stuff.
There is a further circumstance showing that mind-stuff is but a bashful name for matter. Mind-stuff, like matter, can be only an element in any actual being. To make a thing or a thought out of mind-stuff you have to rely on the system into which that material has fallen; the substantive ingredients, from which an actual being borrows its intensive quality, do not contain its individuating form. This form depends on ideal relations subsisting between the ingredients, relations which are not feelings but can be rendered only by propositions.]
[Sidenote: Mind reading not science.]
If psychology is a science, many things that books of psychology contain should be excluded from it. One is social imagination. Nature, besides having a mechanical form and wearing a garment of sensible qualities, makes a certain inner music in the beholder's mind, inciting him to enter into other bodies and to fancy the new and profound life which he might lead there. Who, as he watched a cat basking in the sun, has not passed into that vigilant eye and felt all the leaps potential in that luxurious torpor? Who has not attributed some little romance to the passer-by? Who has not sometimes exchanged places even with things inanimate, and drawn some new moral experience from following the movement of stars or of daffodils? All this is idle musing or at best poetry; yet our ordinary knowledge of what goes on in men's minds is made of no other stuff. True, we have our own mind to go by, which presumably might be a fair sample of what men's minds are; but unfortunately our notion of ourselves is of all notions the most biassed and idealistic. If we attributed to other men only such obvious reasoning, sound judgment, just preferences, honest passions, and blameless errors as we discover in ourselves, we should take but an insipid and impractical view of mankind.
In fact, we do far better: for what we impute to our fellow-men is suggested by their conduct or by an instant imitation of their gesture and expression. These manifestations, striking us in all their novelty and alien habit, and affecting our interests in all manner of awkward ways, create a notion of our friends' natures which is extremely vivid and seldom extremely flattering.
Such romancing has the cogency proper to dramatic poetry; it is persuasive only over the third person, who has never had, but has always been about to have, the experience in question. Drawn from the potential in one's self, it describes at best the possible in others. The thoughts of men are incredibly evanescent, merely the foam of their labouring natures; and they doubtless vary much more than our trite classifications allow for. This is what makes passions and fashions, religions and philosophies, so hard to conceive when once the trick of them is a little antiquated. Languages are hardly more foreign to one another than are the thoughts uttered in them. We should give men credit for originality at least in their dreams, even if they have little of it to show elsewhere; and as it was discovered but recently that all memories are not furnished with the like material images, but often have no material images whatever, so it may have to be acknowledged that the disparity in men's soliloquies is enormous, and that some races, perhaps, live content without soliloquising at all.
[Sidenote: Experience a reconstruction.]
Nevertheless, in describing what happens, or in enforcing a given view of things, we constantly refer to universal experience as if everybody was agreed about what universal experience is and had personally gathered it all since the days of Adam. In fact, each man has only his own, the remnant saved from his personal acquisitions. On the basis of this his residual endowment, he has to conceive all nature, with whatever experiences may have fallen there to the lot of others. Universal experience is a comfortable fiction, a distinctly ideal construction, and no fund available for any one to draw from; which of course is not to deny that tradition and books, in transmitting materially the work of other generations, tend to assimilate us also to their mind. The result of their labours, in language, learning, and institutions, forms a hothouse in which to force our seedling fancy to a rational growth; but the influence is physical, the environment is material, and its ideal background or significance has to be inferred by us anew, according to our imaginative faculty and habits. Past experience, apart from its monuments, is fled for ever out of mortal reach. It is now a parcel of the motionless ether, of the ineffectual truth about what once was. To know it we must evoke it within ourselves, starting from its inadequate expressions still extant in the world. This reconstruction is highly speculative and, as Spinoza noted, better evidence of what we are than of what other men have been.
[Sidenote: The honest art of education.]
When we appeal to general experience, then, what we really have to deal with is our interlocutor's power of imagining that experience; for the real experience is dead and ascended into heaven, where it can neither answer nor hear. Our agreements or divergences in this region do not touch science; they concern only friendship and unanimity. All our proofs are, as they say in Spain, pure conversation; and as the purpose and best result can be only to kindle intelligence and propagate an ideal art, the method should be Socratic, genial, literary. In these matters, the alternative to imagination is not science but sophistry. We may perhaps entangle our friends in their own words, and force them for the moment to say what they do not mean, and what it is not in their natures to think; but the bent bow will spring back, perhaps somewhat sharply, and we shall get little thanks for our labour. There would be more profit in taking one another frankly by the hand and walking together along the outskirts of real knowledge, pointing to the material facts which we all can see, nature, the monuments, the texts, the actual ways and institutions of men; and in the presence of such a stimulus, with the contagion of a common interest, the plastic mind would respond of itself to the situation, and we should be helping one another to understand whatever lies within the range of our fancy, be it in antiquity or in the human heart. That would be a true education; and while the result could not possibly be a science, not even a science of people's states of mind, it would be a deepening of humanity in ourselves and a wholesome knowledge of our ignorance.
[Sidenote: Arbitrary readings of the mind.]
In what is called psychology this loose, imaginative method is often pursued, although the field covered may be far narrower. Any generic experience of which a writer pretends to give an exact account must be reconstructed ad hoc; it is not the experience that necessitates the description, but the description that recalls the experience, defining it in a novel way. When La Rochefoucauld says, for instance, that there is something about our friend's troubles that secretly pleases us, many circumstances in our own lives, or in other people's, may suddenly recur to us to illustrate that apercu; and we may be tempted to say, There is a truth. But is it a scientific truth? Or is it merely a bit of satire, a ray from a literary flashlight, giving a partial clearness for a moment to certain jumbled memories? If the next day we open a volume of Adam Smith, and read that man is naturally benevolent, that he cannot but enact and share the vicissitudes of his fellow-creatures, and that another man's imminent danger or visible torment will cause in him a distress little inferior to that felt by the unfortunate sufferer, we shall probably think this a truth also, and a more normal and a profounder truth than the other. But is it a law? Is it a scientific discovery that can lead us to definite inferences about what will happen or help us to decompose a single event, accurately and without ambiguity, into its component forces? Not only is such a thing impossible, but the Scotch philosopher's amiable generalities, perhaps largely applicable to himself and to his friends of the eighteenth century, may fail altogether to fit an earlier or a later age; and every new shade of brute born into the world will ground a new "theory of the moral sentiments."
The whole cogency of such psychology, therefore, lies in the ease with which the hearer, on listening to the analysis, recasts something in his own past after that fashion. These endless rival apperceptions regard facts that, until they are referred to their mechanical ground, show no continuity and no precision in their march. The apperception of them, consequently, must be doubly arbitrary and unstable, for there is no method in the subject-matter and there is less in the treatment of it. The views, however, are far from equal in value. Some may be more natural, eloquent, enlightening, than others; they may serve better the essential purpose of reflection, which is to pick out and bring forward continually out of the past what can have a value for the present. The spiritual life in which this value lies is practical in its associations, because it understands and dominates what touches action; yet it is contemplative in essence, since successful action consists in knowing what you are attempting and in attempting what you can find yourself achieving. Plan and performance will alike appeal to imagination and be appreciated through it; so that what trains imagination refines the very stuff that life is made of. Science is instrumental in comparison, since the chief advantage that comes of knowing accurately is to be able, with safety, to imagine freely. But when it is science and accurate knowledge that we pursue, we should not be satisfied with literature.
[Sidenote: Human nature appealed to rather than described.]
When discourse on any subject would be persuasive, it appeals to the interlocutor to think in a certain dynamic fashion, inciting him, not without leading questions, to give shape to his own sentiments. Knowledge of the soul, insight into human nature and experience, are no doubt requisite in such an exercise; yet this insight is in these cases a vehicle only, an instinctive method, while the result aimed at is agreement on some further matter, conviction and enthusiasm, rather than psychological information. Thus if I declare that the storms of winter are not so unkind as benefits forgot, I say something which if true has a certain psychological value, for it could be inferred from that assertion that resentment is generally not proportionate to the injury received but rather to the surprise caused, so that it springs from our own foolishness more than from other people's bad conduct. Yet my observation was not made in the interest of any such inferences: it was made to express an emotion of my own, in hopes of kindling in others a similar emotion. It was a judgment which others were invited to share. There was as little exact science about it as if I had turned it into frank poetry and exclaimed, "Blow, blow, thou winter's wind!" Knowledge of human nature might be drawn even from that apostrophe, and a very fine shade of human feeling is surely expressed in it, as Shakespeare utters it; but to pray or to converse is not for that reason the same thing as to pursue science.
Now it constantly happens in philosophic writing that what is supposed to go on in the human mind is described and appealed to in order to support some observation or illustrate some argument—as continually, for instance, in the older English critics of human nature, or in these very pages. What is offered in such cases is merely an invitation to think after a certain fashion. A way of grasping or interpreting some fact is suggested, with a more or less civil challenge to the reader to resist the suasion of his own experience so evoked and represented. Such a method of appeal may be called psychological, in the sense that it relies for success on the total movement of the reader's life and mind, without forcing a detailed assent through ocular demonstration or pure dialectic; but the psychology of it is a method and a resource rather than a doctrine. The only doctrine aimed at in such philosophy is a general reasonableness, a habit of thinking straight from the elements of experience to its ultimate and stable deliverance. This is what in his way a poet or a novelist would do. Fiction swarms with such sketches of human nature and such renderings of the human mind as a critical philosopher depends upon for his construction. He need not be interested in the pathology of individuals nor even in the natural history of man; his effort is wholly directed toward improving the mind's economy and infusing reason into it as one might religion, not without diligent self-examination and a public confession of sin. The human mind is nobody's mind in particular, and the science of it is necessarily imaginative. No one can pretend in philosophic discussion any more than in poetry that the experience described is more than typical. It is given out not for a literal fact, existing in particular moments or persons, but for an imaginative expression of what nature and life have impressed on the speaker. In so far as others live in the same world they may recognise the experience so expressed by him and adopt his interpretation; but the aptness of his descriptions and analyses will not constitute a science of mental states, but rather—what is a far greater thing—the art of stimulating and consolidating reflection in general.
[Sidenote: Dialectic in psychology.]
There is a second constituent of current psychology which is indeed a science, but not a science of matters of fact—I mean the dialectic of ideas. The character of father, for example, implies a son, and this relation, involved in the ideas both of son and of father, implies further that a transmitted essence or human nature is shared by both. Every idea, if its logical texture is reflected upon, will open out into a curious world constituted by distinguishing the constituents of that idea more clearly and making explicit its implicit structure and relations. When an idea has practical intent and is a desire, its dialectic is even more remarkable. If I love a man I thereby love all those who share whatever makes me love him, and I thereby hate whatever tends to deprive him of this excellence. If it should happen, however, that those who resembled him most in amiability—say by flattering me no less than he did—were precisely his mortal enemies, the logic of my affections would become somewhat involved. I might end either by striving to reconcile the rivals or by discovering that what I loved was not the man at all, but only an office exercised by him in my regard which any one else might also exercise.
These inner lucubrations, however, while they lengthen the moment's vista and deepen present intent, give no indication whatever about the order or distribution of actual feelings. They are out of place in a psychology that means to be an account of what happens in the world. For these dialectical implications do not actually work themselves out. They have no historical or dynamic value. The man that by mistake or courtesy I call a father may really have no son, any more than Herodotus for being the father of history; or having had a son, he may have lost him; or the creature sprung from his loins may be a misshapen idiot, having nothing ideal in common with his parent. Similarly my affection for a friend, having causes much deeper than discourse, may cling to him through all transformations in his qualities and in his attitude toward me; and it may never pass to others for resembling him, nor take, in all its days, a Platonic direction. The impulse on which that dialectic was based may exhaust its physical energy, and all its implications may be nipped in the bud and be condemned for ever to the limbo of things unborn.
[Sidenote: Spinoza on the passions.]
Spinoza's account of the passions is a beautiful example of dialectical psychology, beautiful because it shows so clearly the possibilities and impossibilities in such a method. Spinoza began with self-preservation, which was to be the principle of life and the root of all feelings. The violence done to physics appears in this beginning. Self-preservation, taken strictly, is a principle not illustrated in nature, where everything is in flux, and where habits destructive or dangerous to the body are as conspicuous as protective instincts. Physical mechanism requires reproduction, which implies death, and it admits suicide. Spinoza himself, far too noble a mind to be fixed solely on preserving its own existence, was compelled to give self-preservation an extravagant meaning in order to identify it with "intellectual love of God" or the happy contemplation of that natural law which destroyed all individuals. To find the self-preserving man you must take him after he has ceased to grow and before he has begun to love. Self-preservation, being thus no principle of natural history, the facts or estimations classed under that head need to be referred instead to one of two other principles—either to mechanical equilibrium and habit, or to dialectical consistency in judgment.
Self-preservation might express, perhaps, the values which conceived events acquire in respect to a given attitude of will, to an arrested momentary ideal. The actual state of any animal, his given instincts and tensions, are undoubtedly the point of origin from which all changes and relations are morally estimated; and if this attitude is afterward itself subjected to estimation, that occurs by virtue of its affinity or conflict with the living will of another moment. Valuation is dialectical, not descriptive, nor contemplative of a natural process. It might accordingly be developed by seeing what is implied in the self-preservation, or rather expression, of a will which by that dialectic would discover its ideal scope.
Such a principle, however, could never explain the lapse of that attitude itself. A natural process cannot be governed by the ideal relations which conceived things acquire by being represented in one of its moments. Spinoza, however, let himself wander into this path and made the semblance of an attempt, indeed not very deceptive, to trace the sequence of feelings by their mutual implication. The changes in life were to be explained by what the crystallised posture of life might be at a single instant. The arrow's flight was to be deduced from its instantaneous position. A passion's history was to be the history of what would have been its expression if it had had no history at all.
[Sidenote: A principle of estimation cannot govern events.]
A man suffered by destiny to maintain for ever a single unchanged emotion might indeed think out its multifarious implications much in Spinoza's way. It is in that fashion that parties and sects, when somewhat stable, come to define their affinities and to know their friends and enemies all over the universe of discourse. Suppose, for instance, that I feel some titillation on reading a proposition concerning the contrast between Paul's idea of Peter and Peter's idea of himself, a titillation which is accompanied by the idea of Spinoza, its external cause. Now he who loves an effect must proportionately love its cause, and titillation accompanied by the idea of its external cause is, Spinoza has proved, what men call love. I therefore find that I love Spinoza. Having got so far, I may consider further, referring to another demonstration in the book, that if some one gives Spinoza joy—Hobbes, for instance—my delight in Spinoza's increased perfection, consequent upon his joy and my love of him, accompanied by the idea of Hobbes, its external cause, constitutes love on my part for the redoubtable Hobbes as well. Thus the periphery of my affections may expand indefinitely, till it includes the infinite, the ultimate external cause of all my titillations. But how these interesting discoveries are interrupted before long by a desire for food, or by an indomitable sense that Hobbes and the infinite are things I do not love, is something that my dialectic cannot deduce; for it was the values radiating from a given impulse, the implications of its instant object, that were being explicated, not at all the natural forces that carry a man through that impulse and beyond it to the next phase of his dream, a phase which if it continues the former episode must continue it spontaneously, by grace of mechanical forces.
When dialectic is thus introduced into psychology, an intensive knowledge of the heart is given out for distributive knowledge of events. Such a study, when made by a man of genius, may furnish good spiritual reading, for it will reveal what our passions mean and what sentiments they would lead to if they could remain fixed and dictate all further action. This insight may make us aware of strange inconsistencies in our souls, and seeing how contrary some of our ideals are to others and how horrible, in some cases, would be their ultimate expression, we may be shocked into setting our house in order; and in trying to understand ourselves we may actually develop a self that can be understood. Meantime this inner discipline will not enlighten us about the march of affairs. It will not give us a key to evolution, either in ourselves or in others. Even while we refine our aspirations, the ground they sprang from will be eaten away beneath our feet. Instead of developing yesterday's passion, to-day may breed quite another in its place; and if, having grown old and set in our mental posture, we are incapable of assuming another, and are condemned to carrying on the dialectic of our early visions into a new-born world, to be a schoolmaster's measuring-rod for life's infinite exuberance, we shall find ourselves at once in a foreign country, speaking a language that nobody understands. No destiny is more melancholy than that of the dialectical prophet, who makes more rigid and tyrannous every day a message which every day grows less applicable and less significant.
[Sidenote: Scientific psychology a part of biology.]
That remaining portion of psychology which is a science, and a science of matters of fact, is physiological; it belongs to natural history and constitutes the biology of man. Soul, which was not originally distinguished from life, is there studied in its natural operation in the body and in the world. Psychology then remains what it was in Aristotle's De Anima—an ill-developed branch of natural science, pieced out with literary terms and perhaps enriched by occasional dramatic interpretations. The specifically mental or psychic element consists in the feeling which accompanies bodily states and natural situations. This feeling is discovered and distributed at the same time that bodies and other material objects are defined; for when a man begins to decipher permanent and real things, and to understand that they are merely material, he thereby sets apart, in contrast with such external objects, those images and emotions which can no longer enter into the things' texture. The images and emotions remain, however, attached to those things, for they are refractions of them through bodily organs, or effects of their presence on the will, or passions fixed upon them as their object.
In parts of biology which do not deal with man observers do not hesitate to refer in the same way to the pain, the desire, the intention, which they may occasionally read in an animal's aspect. Darwin, for instance, constantly uses psychical language: his birds love one another's plumage and their aesthetic charms are factors in natural selection. Such little fables do not detract from the scientific value of Darwin's observations, because we see at once what the fables mean. The description keeps close enough to the facts observed for the reader to stop at the latter, rather than at the language in which they are stated. In the natural history of man such interpretation into mental terms, such microscopic romance, is even easier and more legitimate, because language allows people, perhaps before their feelings are long past, to describe them in terms which are understood to refer directly to mental experience. The sign's familiarity, to be sure, often hides in these cases a great vagueness and unseizableness in the facts; yet a beginning in defining distinctly the mental phase of natural situations has been made in those small autobiographies which introspective writers sometimes compose, or which are taken down in hospitals and laboratories from the lips of "subjects." What a man under special conditions may say he feels or thinks adds a constituent phase to his natural history; and were these reports exact and extended enough, it would become possible to enumerate the precise sensations and ideas which accompany every state of body and every social situation.
[Sidenote: Confused attempt to detach the psychic element.]
This advantage, however, is the source of that confusion and sophistry which distinguish the biology of man from the rest of physics. Attention is there arrested at the mental term, in forgetfulness of the situation which gave it warrant, and an invisible world, composed of these imagined experiences, begins to stalk behind nature and may even be thought to exist independently. This metaphysical dream may be said to have two stages: the systematic one, which is called idealism, and an incidental one which pervades ordinary psychology, in so far as mental facts are uprooted from their basis and deprived of their expressive or spiritual character, in order to be made elements in a dynamic scheme. This battle of feelings, whether with atoms or exclusively with their own cohorts, might be called a primitive materialism, rather than an idealism, if idealism were to retain its Platonic sense; for forms and realisations are taken in this system for substantial elements, and are made to figure either as a part or as the whole of the world's matter.
[Sidenote: Differentia of the psychic.]
Phenomena specifically mental certainly exist, since natural phenomena and ideal truths are concentrated and telescoped in apprehension, besides being weighted with an emotion due to their effect on the person who perceives them. This variation, which reality suffers in being reported to perception, turns the report into a mental fact distinguishable from its subject-matter. When the flux is partly understood and the natural world has become a constant presence, the whole flux itself, as it flowed originally, comes to be called a mental flux, because its elements and method are seen to differ from the elements and method embodied in material objects or in ideal truth. The primitive phenomena are now called mental because they all deviate from the realities to be ultimately conceived. To call the immediate mental is therefore correct and inevitable when once the ultimate is in view; but if the immediate were all, to call it mental would be unmeaning.
The visual image of a die, for instance, has at most three faces, none of them quite square; no hired artificer is needed to produce it; it cannot be found anywhere nor shaken in any box; it lasts only for an instant; thereafter it disappears without a trace—unless it flits back unaccountably through the memory—and it leaves no ponderable dust or ashes to attest that it had a substance. The opposite of all this is true of the die itself. But were no material die in existence, the image itself would be material; for, however evanescent, it would occupy space, have geometrical shape, colour, and magic dynamic destinies. Its transformations as it rolled on the idea of a table would be transformations in nature, however unaccountable by any steady law. Such material qualities a mental fact can retain only in the spiritual form of representation. A representation of matter is immaterial, but a material image, when no object exists, is a material fact. If the Absolute, to take an ultimate case, perceived nothing but space and atoms (perceiving itself, if you will, therein), space and atoms would be its whole nature, and it would constitute a perfect materialism. The fact that materialism was true would not of itself constitute an idealism worth distinguishing from its opposite. For a vehicle or locus exists only when it makes some difference to the thing it carries, presenting it in a manner not essential to its own nature.
[Sidenote: Approach to irrelevant sentience.]
The qualification of being by the mental medium may be carried to any length. As the subject-matter recedes the mental datum ceases to have much similarity or inward relevance to what is its cause or its meaning. The report may ultimately become, like pure pain or pleasure, almost wholly blind and irrelevant to any world; yet such emotion is none the less immersed in matter and dependent on natural changes both for its origin and for its function, since a significant pleasure or pain makes comments on the world and involves ideals about what ought to be happening there.
Mental facts synchronise with their basis, for no thought hovers over a dead brain and there is no vision in a dark chamber; but their tenure of life is independent of that of their objects, since thought may be prophetic or reminiscent and is intermittent even when its object enjoys a continuous existence. Mental facts are similar to their objects, since things and images have, intrinsically regarded, the same constitution; but images do not move in the same plane with things and their parts are in no proportionate dynamic relation to the parts of the latter. Thought's place in nature is exiguous, however broad the landscape it represents; it touches the world tangentially only, in some ferment of the brain. It is probably no atom that supports the soul (as Leibnitz imagined), but rather some cloud of atoms shaping or remodelling an organism. Mind in this case would be, in its physical relation to matter, what it feels itself to be in its moral attitude toward the same; a witness to matter's interesting aspects and a realisation of its forms.
[Sidenote: Perception represents things in their practical relation to the body.]
Mental facts, moreover, are highly selective; especially does this appear in respect to the dialectical world, which is in itself infinite, while the sum of human logic and mathematics, though too long for most men's patience, is decidedly brief. If we ask ourselves on what principle this selection and foreshortening of truth takes place in the mind, we may perhaps come upon the real bond and the deepest contrast between mind and its environment. The infinity of formal truth is disregarded in human thought when it is irrelevant to practice and to happiness; the infinity of nature is represented there in violent perspective, centring about the body and its interests. The seat and starting-point of every mental survey is a brief animal life. A mind seems, then, to be a consciousness of the body's interests, expressed in terms of what affects that body, as if in the Babel of nature a man heard only the voices that pronounced his name. A mind is a private view; it is gathered together in proportion as physical sensibility extends its range and makes one stretch of being after another tributary to the animal's life, and in proportion also as this sensibility is integrated, so that every organ in its reaction enlists the resources of every other organ as well. A personal will and intelligence thus arise; and they direct action from within with a force and freedom which are exactly proportionate to the material forces, within and without the body, which the soul has come to represent.
In other words, mind raises to an actual existence that form in material processes which, had the processes remained wholly material, would have had only ideal or imputed being—as the stars would not have been divided into the signs of the Zodiac but for the fanciful eye of astrologers. Automata might arise and be destroyed without any value coming or going; only a form-loving observer could say that anything fortunate or tragic had occurred, as poets might at the budding or withering of a flower. Some of nature's automata, however, love themselves, and comment on the form they achieve or abandon; these constellations of atoms are genuine beasts. Their consciousness and their interest in their own individuality rescues that individuality from the realm of discourse and from having merely imputed limits.
[Sidenote: Mind the existence in which form becomes actual.]
That the basis of mind lies in the body's interests rather than in its atoms may seem a doctrine somewhat too poetical for psychology; yet may not poetry, superposed on material existence and supported by it, be perhaps the key to mind? Such a view hangs well together with the practical and prospective character of consciousness, with its total dependence on the body, its cognitive relevance to the world, and its formal disparity from material being. Mind does not accompany body like a useless and persistent shadow; it is significant and it is intermittent. Much less can it be a link in physiological processes, processes irrelevant to its intent and incompatible with its immaterial essence. Consciousness seems to arise when the body assumes an attitude which, being an attitude, supervenes upon the body's elements and cannot be contained within them. This attitude belongs to the whole body in its significant operation, and the report of this attitude, its expression, requires survey, synthesis, appreciation—things which constitute what we call mentality. This remains, of course, the mentality of that material situation; it is the voice of that particular body in that particular pass. The mind therefore represents its basis, but this basis (being a form of material existence and not matter itself) is neither vainly reduplicated by representation nor used up materially in the process.
Representation is far from idle, since it brings to focus those mechanical unities which otherwise would have existed only potentially and at the option of a roving eye. In evoking consciousness nature makes this delimination real and unambiguous; there are henceforth actual centres and actual interests in the mechanical flux. The flux continues to be mechanical, but the representation of it supervening has created values which, being due to imputation, could not exist without being imputed, while at the same time they could not have been imputed without being attached to one object or event rather than to another. Material dramas are thus made moral and raised to an existence of their own by being expressed in what we call the souls of animals and men; a mind is the entelechy of an organic body.[E] It is a region where form breeds an existence to express it, and destiny becomes important by being felt. Mind adds to being a new and needful witness so soon as the constitution of being gives foothold to apperception of its movement, and offers something in which it is possible to ground an interest.
That Aristotle has not been generally followed in views essentially so natural and pregnant as these is due no doubt to want of thoroughness in conceiving them, not only on the part of his readers but even on his own part; for he treated the soul, which should be on his own theory only an expression and an unmoved mover, as a power and an efficient cause. Analysis had not gone far enough in his day to make evident that all dynamic principles are mechanical and that mechanism can obtain only among objects; but by this time it should no longer seem doubtful that mental facts can have no connection except through their material basis and no mutual relevance except through their objects.
[Sidenote: Attempt at idealistic physics.]
There is indeed a strange half-assumption afloat, a sort of reserved faith which every one seems to respect but nobody utters, to the effect that the mental world has a mechanism of its own, and that ideas intelligently produce and sustain one another. Systematic idealists, to be sure, have generally given a dialectical or moral texture to the cosmos, so that the passage from idea to idea in experience need not be due, in their physics, to any intrinsic or proportionate efficacy in these ideas themselves. The march of experience is not explained at all by such high cosmogonies. They abandon that practical calculation to some science of illusion that has to be tolerated in this provisional life. Their own understanding is of things merely in the gross, because they fall in with some divine plan and produce, unaccountably enough, some interesting harmony. Empirical idealists, on the contrary, in making a metaphysics out of psychology, hardly know what they do. The laws of experience which they refer to are all laws of physics. It is only the "possibilities" of sensation that stand and change according to law; the sensations themselves, if not referred to those permanent possibilities, would be a chaos worse than any dream.
Correct and scrupulous as empiricism may be when it turns its face backward and looks for the seat, the criterion, and the elements of knowledge, it is altogether incoherent and self-inhibited when it looks forward. It can believe in nothing but in what it conceives, if it would rise at all above a stupid immersion in the immediate; yet the relations which attach the moments of feeling together are material relations, implying the whole frame of nature. Psychology can accordingly conceive nothing but the natural world, with its diffuse animation, since this is the only background that the facts suggest or that, in practice, anybody can think of. If empiricism trusted the intellect, and consented to immerse flying experience in experience understood, it would become ordinary science and ordinary common sense. Deprecating this result, for no very obvious reason, it has to balance itself on the thin edge of an unwilling materialism, with a continual protestation that it does not believe in anything that it thinks. It is wholly entangled in the prevalent sophism that a man must renounce a belief when he discovers how he has formed it, and that our ancestors—at least the remoter ones—begin to exist when we discover them.
When Descartes, having composed a mechanical system of the world, was asked by admiring ladies to say something about the passions, what came into his mind was characteristically simple and dialectical. Life, he thought, was a perpetual conflict between reason and the emotions. The soul had its own natural principle to live by, but was diverted from that rational path by the waves of passion that beat against it and sometimes flooded it over. That was all his psychology. Ideal entities in dramatic relations, in a theatre which had to be borrowed, of course, from the other half of the world; because while a material mechanism might be conceived without minds in it, minds in action could not be conceived without a material mechanism—at least a represented one—lying beneath and between. Spinoza made a great improvement in the system by attaching the mind more systematically to the body, and studying the parts which organ and object played in qualifying knowledge; but his conception of mental unities and mental processes remained literary, or at best, as we have seen, dialectical. No shadow of a principle at once psychic and genetic appeared in his philosophy. All mind was still a transcript of material facts or a deepening of moral relations.
[Sidenote: Association not efficient]
The idea of explaining the flow of ideas without reference to bodies appeared, however, in the principle of association. This is the nearest approach that has yet been made to a physics of disembodied mind—something which idealism sadly needs to develop. A terrible incapacity, however, appears at once in the principle of association; for even if we suppose that it could account for the flow of ideas, it does not pretend to supply any basis for sensations. And as the more efficient part of association—association by contiguity—is only a repetition in ideas of the order once present in impressions, the whole question about the march of mental experience goes back to what association does not touch, namely, the origin of sensations. What everybody assumed, of course, was that the order and quality of sensations were due to the body; but their derivation was not studied. Hume ignored it as much as possible, and Berkeley did not sacrifice a great deal when he frankly suggested that the production of sensation must be the direct work of God.
This tendency not to recognise the material conditions of mind showed itself more boldly in the treatment of ideation. We are not plainly aware (in spite of headaches, fatigue, sleep, love, intoxication, and madness) that the course of our thoughts is as directly dependent on the body as is their inception. It was therefore possible, without glaring paradox, to speak as if ideas caused one another. They followed, in recurring, the order they had first had in experience, as when we learn something by heart. Why, a previous verse being given, we should sometimes be unable to repeat the one that had often followed it before, there was no attempt to explain: it sufficed that reverie often seemed to retrace events in their temporal order. Even less dependent on material causes seemed to be the other sort of association, association by similarity. This was a feat for the wit and the poet, to jump from China to Peru, by virtue of some spark of likeness that might flash out between them.
[Sidenote: It describes coincidences.]
Much natural history has been written and studied with the idea of finding curious facts. The demand has not been for constant laws or intelligibility, but for any circumstance that could arrest attention or divert the fancy. In this spirit, doubtless, instances of association were gathered and classified. It was the young ladies' botany of mind. Under association could be gathered a thousand interesting anecdotes, a thousand choice patterns of thought. Talk of the wars, says Hobbes, once led a man to ask what was the value of a Roman penny. But why only once? The wars must have been often mentioned when the delivering up of King Charles did not enter any mind; and when it did, this would not have led any one to think of Judas and the thirty pence, unless he had been a good royalist and a good Christian—and then only by a curious accident. It was not these ideas, then, in their natural capacity that suggested one another; but some medium in which they worked, once in the world, opened those particular avenues between them. Nevertheless, no one cared to observe that each fact had had many others, never recalled, associated with it as closely as those which were remembered. Nor was the matter taken so seriously that one needed to ask how, among all similar things, similarity could decide which should be chosen; nor how among a thousand contiguous facts one rather than another should be recalled for contiguity's sake.
[Sidenote: Understanding is based on instinct and expressed in dialectic.]
The best instance, perhaps, of regular association might be found in language and its meaning; for understanding implies that each word habitually calls up its former associates. Yet in what, psychologically considered, does understanding a word consist? What concomitants does the word "horse" involve in actual sentience? Hardly a clear image such as a man might paint; for the name is not confined to recalling one view of one animal obtained at one moment. Perhaps all that recurs is a vague sense of the environment, in nature and in discourse, in which that object lies. The word "kite" would immediately make a different region warm in the world through which the mind was groping. One would turn in idea to the sky rather than to the ground, and feel suggestions of a more buoyant sort of locomotion.
Understanding has to be described in terms of its potential outcome, since the incandescent process itself, as it exists in transit, will not suffer stable terms to define it. Potentiality is something which each half of reality reproaches the other with; things are potential to feeling because they are not life, and feelings are potential to science because they elude definition. To understand, therefore, is to know what to do and what to say in the sign's presence; and this practical knowledge is far deeper than any echo casually awakened in fancy at the same time. Instinctive recognition has those echoes for the most superficial part of its effect. Because I understand what "horse" means, the word can make me recall some episode in which a horse once figured. This understanding is instinctive and practical and, if the phrase may be pardoned, it is the body that understands. It is the body, namely, that contains the habit and readiness on which understanding hangs; and the sense of understanding, the instant rejection of whatever clashes and makes nonsense in that context, is but a transcript of the body's education. Actual mind is all above board; it is all speculative, vibrant, the fruit and gift of those menial subterranean processes. Some generative processes may be called psychic in that they minister to mind and lend it what little continuity it can boast of; but they are not processes in consciousness. Processes in consciousness are aesthetic or dialectical processes, focussing a form rather than ushering in an existence. Mental activity has a character altogether alien to association: it is spiritual, not mechanical; an entelechy, not a genesis.
[Sidenote: Suggestion a fancy name for automatism,]
For these and other reasons association has fallen into some disrepute; but it is not easy to say what, in absolute psychology, has come to take its place. If we speak of suggestion, a certain dynamic turn seems to be given to the matter; yet in what sense a perception suggests its future development remains a mystery. That a certain ripening and expansion of consciousness goes on in man, not guided by former collocations of ideas, is very true; for we do not fall in love for the first time because this person loved and these ardent emotions have been habitually associated in past experience. And any impassioned discourse, opening at every turn into new vistas, shows the same sort of vegetation. Yet to observe that consciousness is automatic is not to disclose the mechanism by which it evolves. The theory of spontaneous growth offers less explanation of events, if that be possible, than the theory of association. It is perhaps a better description of the facts, since at least it makes no attempt to deduce them from one another.
[Sidenote: and will another.]
If, on the contrary, a relation implied in the burden or will of the moment be invoked, the connection established, so far as it goes, is dialectical. Where a dialectical correspondence is not found, a material cause would have to be appealed to, Such a half-dialectical psychology would be like Schopenhauer's, quite metaphysical. It might be a great improvement on an absolute psychology, because it would restore, even if in mythical terms, a background and meaning to life. The unconscious Absolute Will, the avid Genius of the Species, the all-attracting Platonic Ideas are fabulous; but beneath them it is not hard to divine the forces of nature. This volitional school supplies a good stepping-stone from metaphysics back to scientific psychology. It remains merely to substitute instinct for will, and to explain that instinct—or even will, if the term be thought more consoling—is merely a word covering that operative organisation in the body which controls action, determines affinities, dictates preferences, and sustains ideation.
[Sidenote: Double attachment of mind to nature.]
What scientific psychology has to attempt—for little has been accomplished—may be reduced to this: To develop physiology and anthropology until the mechanism of life becomes clear, at least in its general method, and then to determine, by experiment and by well-sifted testimony, what conscious sublimation each of those material situations attains, if indeed it attains any. There will always remain, no doubt, many a region where the machinery of nature is too fine for us to trace or eludes us by involving agencies that we lack senses to perceive. In these regions where science is denied we shall have to be satisfied with landscape-painting. The more obvious results and superficial harmonies perceived in those regions will receive names and physics will be arrested at natural history. Where these unexplained facts are mental it will not be hard to do more systematically what common sense has done already, and to attach them, as we attach love or patriotism, to the natural crises that subtend them.
This placing of mental facts is made easy by the mental facts themselves, since the connection of mind with nature is double, and even when the derivation of a feeling is obscure we have but to study its meaning, allowing it to tell us what it is interested in, for a roundabout path to lead us safely back to its natural basis. It is superfluous to ask a third person what circumstances produce hunger: hunger will lead you unmistakably enough to its point of origin, and its extreme interest in food will not suffer you long to believe that want of nourishment has nothing to do with its cause. And it is not otherwise with higher emotions and ideas. Nothing but sophistry can put us in doubt about what conscience represents; for conscience does not say, square the circle, extinguish mankind so as to stop its sufferings, or steal so as to benefit your heirs. It says, Thou shalt not kill, and it also says, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt. So that conscience, by its import and incidence, clearly enough declares what it springs from—a social tradition; and what it represents—the interests, real or imaginary, of the community in which you were reared.
Where psychology depends on literature, where both its units and its method are poetical, there can be no talk of science. We may as justly, or as absurdly, speak of the spirit of an age or of a religion as of a man's character or a river's god. Particulars in illustration may have good historic warrant, but the unities superimposed are ideal. Such metaphors may be very useful, for a man may ordinarily be trusted to continue his practices and a river its beneficent or disastrous floods; and since those rhetorical forms have no existence in nature we may continue to frame them as may be most convenient for discourse.
[Sidenote: Is the subject-matter of psychology absolute being?]
When psychology is a science, then, it describes the flying consciousness that accompanies bodily life. It is the science of feeling or absolute appearance, taken exactly as it seems or feels. Does such a psychology, we may be tempted to ask, constitute scientific knowledge of reality? Is it at last the true metaphysics? This question would have to be answered in the negative, yet not without some previous discriminations. There is honesty in the conviction that sentience is a sort of absolute; it is something which certainly exists. The first Cartesian axiom applies to it, and to feel, even doubtfully, that feeling existed would be to posit its existence. The science that describes sentience describes at least a part of existence. Yet this self-grounding of consciousness is a suspicious circumstance: it renders it in one sense the typical reality and in another sense perhaps the sorriest illusion.
[Sidenote: Sentience is representable only in fancy]
"Reality" is an ambiguous term. If we mean by it the immediate, then sentience would be a part if not the whole of reality; for what we mean by sentience or consciousness is the immediate in so far as we contain it, and whatever self-grounded existence there may be elsewhere can be conceived by us only mythically and on that analogy, as if it were an extension or variation of sentience. Psychology would then be knowledge of reality, for even when consciousness contains elaborate thoughts that might be full of illusions, psychology takes them only as so much feeling, and in that capacity they are real enough. At the same time, while our science terminates upon mere feeling, it can neither discover nor describe that feeling except in terms of something quite different; and the only part of psychology that perhaps penetrates to brute sentience is the part that is not scientific. The knowledge that science reaches about absolute states of mind is relative knowledge; these states of mind are approached from without and are defined by their surrounding conditions and by their ideal objects. They are known by being enveloped in processes of which they themselves are not aware. Apart from this setting, the only feeling known is that which is endured. After the fact, or before, or from any other point of vantage, it cannot be directly revealed; at best it may be divined and re-enacted. Even this possible repetition would not constitute knowledge unless the imaginative reproduction were identified with or attributed to some natural fact; so that an adventitious element would always attach to any recognised feeling, to any feeling reported to another mind. It could not be known at all unless something were known about it, so that it might not pass, as otherwise it would, for a mere ingredient of present sentience.
It is precisely by virtue of this adventitious element that the re-enacted feeling takes its place in nature and becomes an object of knowledge. Science furnishes this setting; the jewel—precious or false—must be supplied by imagination. Romance, dramatic myth, is the only instrument for knowing this sort of "reality." A flying moment, if at all understood or underpinned, or if seen in its context, would be not known absolutely as it had been felt, but would be known scientifically and as it lay in nature. But dramatic insight, striving to pierce through the machinery of the world and to attain and repeat what dreams may be going on at its core, is no science; and the very notion that the dreams are internal, that they make the interior or substance of bodies, is a crude materialistic fancy. Body, on the contrary, is the substance or instrument of mind, and has to be looked for beneath it. The mind is itself ethereal and plays about the body as music about a violin, or rather as the sense of a page about the print and paper. To look for it within is not to understand what we are looking for.
Knowledge of the immediate elsewhere is accordingly visionary in its method, and furthermore, if, by a fortunate chance, it be true in fact, it is true only of what in itself is but appearance; for the immediate, while absolutely real in its stress or presence, is indefinitely ignorant and false in its deliverance. It knows itself, but in the worst sense of the word knowledge; for it knows nothing of what is true about it, nothing of its relations and conditions. To pierce to this blind "reality" or psychic flux, which is nothing but flying appearance, we must rely on fortune, or an accidental harmony between imitative fancy in us now and original sentience elsewhere. It is accordingly at least misleading to give the name of "reality" to this appearance, which is entirely lost and inconsequential in its being, without trace of its own status, and consequently approachable or knowable only by divination, as a dream might call to another dream.
[Sidenote: The conditions and objects of sentinence, which are not sentinence, are also real.]
It is preferable to give a more Platonic meaning to the word and to let "reality" designate not what is merely felt diffusely but what is true about those feelings. Then dramatic fancy, psychology of the sympathetic sort, would not be able to reach reality at all. On the other hand scientific psychology, together with all other sciences, would have reality for its object; for it would disclose what really was true about sentient moments, without stopping particularly to sink abstractedly into their inner quality or private semblance. It would approach and describe the immediate as a sentient factor in a natural situation, and show us to what extent that situation was represented in that feeling. This representation, by which the dignity and interest of pure sentience would be measured, might be either pictorial or virtual; that is, a conscious moment might represent the environing world either scientifically, by understanding its structure, or practically, by instinctive readiness to meet it.
[Sidenote: Mind knowable and important in so far as it represents other things.]
What, for instance, is the reality of Napoleon? Is it what a telepathic poet, a complete Browning, might reconstruct? Is it Napoleon's life-long soliloquy? Or to get at the reality should we have to add, as scientific psychology would, the conditions under which he lived, and their relation to his casual feelings? Obviously if Napoleon's thoughts had had no reference to the world we should not be able to recover them; or if by chance such thoughts fell some day to our share, we should attribute them to our own mental luxuriance, without suspecting that they had ever visited another genius. Our knowledge of his life, even where it is imaginative, depends upon scientific knowledge for its projection; and his fame and immortality depend on the degree to which his thoughts, being rooted in the structure of the world and pertinent to it, can be rationally reproduced in others and attributed to him. Napoleon's consciousness might perhaps be more justly identified with the truth or reality of him than could that of most people, because he seems to have been unusually cognisant of his environment and master of the forces at work in it and in himself. He understood his causes and function, and knew that he had arisen, like all the rest of history, and that he stood for the transmissible force and authority of greater things. Such a consciousness can be known in proportion as we, too, possess knowledge, and is worth the pains; something which could not be said of the absolute sentience of Dick or Harry, which has only material being, brute existence, without relevance to anything nor understanding of itself.
The circumstances, open to science, which surround consciousness are thus real attributes of a man by which he is truly known and distinguished. Appearances are the qualities of reality, else realities would be without place, time, character, or interrelation. In knowing that Napoleon was a Corsican, a short man with a fine countenance, we know appearances only; but these appearances are true of the reality. And if the presumable inner appearances, Napoleon's long soliloquy, were separated from the others, those inner appearances would not belong to Napoleon nor have any home in the knowable world. That which physics, with its concomitant psychology, might discover in a man is the sum of what is true about him, seeing that a man is a concretion in existence, the fragment of a world, and not a definition. Appearances define the constituent elements of his reality, which could not be better known than through their means.
[Footnote E: Aristotle called the soul the first entelechy of such a body. This first entelechy is what we should call life, since it is possessed by a man asleep. The French I know but do not use is in its first entelechy; the French I am actually speaking is in its second. Consciousness is therefore the second or actualised entelechy of its body.]
THE NATURE OF INTENT
[Sidenote: Dialectic better than physics.]
Common knowledge passes from memory to history and from history to mechanism; and having reached that point it may stop to look back, not without misgivings, over the course it has traversed, and thus become psychology. These investigations, taken together, constitute physics, or the science of existence. But this is only half of science and on the whole the less interesting and less fundamental half. No existence is of moment to a man, not even his own, unless it touches his will and fulfils or thwarts his intent. Unless he is concerned that existences should be of specific kinds, unless he is interested in form, he can hardly be interested in being. At the very least in terms of pleasure versus pain, light versus darkness, comfort versus terror, the flying moment must be loaded with obloquy or excellence if its passage is not to remain a dead fact, and to sink from the sphere of actuality altogether into that droning limbo of potentialities which we call matter. Being which is indifferent to form is only the material of being. To exist is nothing if you have nothing to do, if there is nothing to choose or to distinguish, or if those things which belong to a chosen form are not gathered into it before your eyes, to express what we call a truth or an excellence.
Existence naturally precedes any idealisation of it which men can contrive (since they, at least, must exist first), yet in the order of values knowledge of existence is subsidiary to knowledge of ideals. If it be true that a good physics is as yet the predominant need in science, and that man is still most troubled by his ignorance of matters of fact, this circumstance marks his illiberal condition. Without knowledge of existence nothing can be done; but nothing is really done until something else is known also, the use or excellence that existence may have. It is a great pity that those finer temperaments that are naturally addressed to the ideal should have turned their energies to producing bad physics, or to preventing others from establishing natural truths; for if physics were established on a firm basis the idealists would for the first time have a free field. They might then recover their proper function of expressing the mind honestly, and disdain the sorry attempt to prolong confusion and to fish in troubled waters.
[Sidenote: Maladjustments to nature render physics conspicuous and unpleasant.]
Perhaps if physical truth had not been so hugely misrepresented in men's faith and conduct, it would not need to be minutely revealed or particularly emphasised. When the conditions surrounding life are not rightly faced by instinct they are inevitably forced upon reflection through painful shocks; and for a long time the new habit thus forced upon men brings to consciousness not so much the movement of consciousness itself as the points at which its movement impinges on the external world and feels checks and frictions. Physics thus becomes inordinately conspicuous (as when philology submerges the love of letters) for lack of a good disposition that should allow us to take physics for granted. Much in nature is delightful to know and to keep in mind, but much also (the whole infinite remainder) is obscure and uninteresting; and were we practically well adjusted to its issue we might gladly absolve ourselves from studying its processes. In a world that in extent and complexity so far outruns human energies, physical knowledge ought to be largely virtual; that is, nature ought to be represented by a suitable attitude toward it, by the attitude which reason would dictate were knowledge complete, and not by explicit ideas.
[Sidenote: Physics should be largely virtual.]
The ancients were happily inspired when they imagined that beyond the gods and the fixed stars the cosmos came to an end, for the empyrean beyond was nothing in particular, nothing to trouble one's self about. Many existences are either out of relation to man altogether or have so infinitesimal an influence on his experience that they may be sufficiently represented there by an atom of star-dust; and it is probable that if, out of pure curiosity, we wished to consider very remote beings and had the means of doing so, we should find the detail of existence in them wholly incommensurable with anything we can conceive. Such beings could be known virtually only, in that we might speak of them in the right key, representing them in appropriate symbols, and might move in their company with the right degree of respectful indifference.
[Sidenote: and dialectic explicit.]
The present situation of science, however, reverses the ideal one. Physics, in so far as it exists, is explicit, and at variance with our acquired attitude toward things; so that we may justly infer, by the shock our little knowledge gives us, that our presumptions and assumptions have been so egregious that more knowledge would give us still greater shocks. Meantime dialectic, or knowledge of ideal things, remains merely virtual. The ideal usually comes before us only in revulsions which we cannot help feeling against some scandalous situation or some intolerable muddle. We have no time or genius left, after our agitated soundings and balings, to think of navigation as a fine art, or to consider freely the sea and sky or the land we are seeking. The proper occupation of the mind is gone, or rather not initiated.
A further bad consequence of this illiberal state is that, among many who have, in spite of the times, adoration in their souls, to adore physics, to worship Being, seems a philosophical religion, whereas, of course, it is the essence of idolatry. The true God is an object of intent, an ideal of excellence and knowledge, not a term belonging to sense or to probable hypothesis or to the prudent management of affairs. After we have squared our accounts with nature and taken sufficient thought for our bodily necessities, the eyes can be lifted for the first time to the eternal. The rest was superstition and the quaking use of a false physics. That appeal to the supernatural which while the danger threatens is but forlorn medicine, after the blow has fallen may turn to sublime wisdom. This wisdom has cast out the fear of material evils, and dreads only that the divine should not come down and be worthily entertained among us. In art, in politics, in that form of religion which is superior, and not inferior, to politics and art, we define and embody intent; and the intent embodied dignifies the work and lends interest to its conditions. So, in science, it is dialectic that makes physics speculative and worthy of a free mind. The baser utilities of material knowledge would leave life itself perfectly vain, if they did not help it to take on an ideal shape. Ideal life, in so far as it constitutes science, is dialectical. It consists in seeing how things hang together perspicuously and how the later phases of any process fill out—as in good music—the tendency and promise of what went before. This derivation may be mathematical or it may be moral; but in either case the data and problem define the result, dialectic being insight into their inherent correspondence.
[Sidenote: Intent is vital and indescribable.]
Intent is one of many evidences that the intellect's essence is practical. Intent is action in the sphere of thought; it corresponds to transition and derivation in the natural world. Analytic psychology is obliged to ignore intent, for it is obliged to regard it merely as a feeling; but while the feeling of intent is a fact like any other, intent itself is an aspiration, a passage, the recognition of an object which not only is not a part of the feeling given but is often incapable of being a feeling or a fact at all. What happened to motion under the Eleatic analysis happens to intent under an anatomising reflection. The parts do not contain the movement of transition which makes them a whole. Moral experience is not expressible in physical categories, because while you may give place and date for every feeling that something is important or is absurd, you cannot so express what these feelings have discovered and have wished to confide to you. The importance and the absurdity have disappeared. Yet it is this pronouncement concerning what things are absurd or important that makes the intent of those judgments. To touch it you have to enter the moral world; that is, you have to bring some sympathetic or hostile judgment to bear on those you are considering and to meet intent, not by noting its existence, but by estimating its value, by collating it with your own intent. If some one says two and two are five, you are no counter-mathematician when you conscientiously put it down that he said so. Your science is not relevant to his intent until you run some risk yourself in that arena and say, No: two and two are four.
[Sidenote: It is analogous to flux in existence]
Feelings and ideas, when plucked and separately considered, do not retain the intent that made them cognitive or living; yet in their native medium they certainly lived and knew. If this ideality or transcendence seems a mystery, it is such only in the sense in which every initial or typical fact is mysterious. Every category would be unthinkable if it were not actually used. The mystery in this instance has, however, all that can best serve to make a mystery homely and amiable. It is supported by a strong analogy to other familiar mysteries. The fact that intellect has intent, and does not constitute or contain what it envisages, is like the fact that time flows, that bodies gravitate, that experience is gathered, or that existence is suspended between being and not being. Propagation in animals is mysterious and familiar in the same fashion. Cognition, too, is an expedient for vanquishing instability. As reproduction circumvents mortality and preserves a semblance of permanence in the midst of change, so intent regards what is not yet, or not here, or what exists no longer. Thus the pulverisation proper to existence is vanquished by thought, which in a moment announces or commemorates other moments, together with the manner of their approach or recession. The mere image of what is absent constitutes no knowledge of it; a dream is not knowledge of a world like it existing elsewhere; it is simply another more fragile world. What renders the image cognitive is the intent that projects it and deputes it to be representative. It is cognitive only in use, when it is the vehicle of an assurance which may be right or wrong, because it takes something ulterior for its standard.
[Sidenote: It expresses natural life.]
We may give intent a somewhat more congenial aspect if we remember that thought comes to animals in proportion to their docility in the world and to their practical competence. The more plastic a being is to experience, so long as he retains vital continuity and a cumulative structure, the more intelligent he becomes. Intelligence is an expression of adaptation, of impressionable and prophetic structure. What wonder, then, that intelligence should speak of the things that inspire it and that lend it its oracular and practical character, namely, of things at that moment absent and merely potential, in other words, of the surrounding world? Mere feeling might suffice to translate into consciousness each particle of protoplasm in its isolation; but to translate the relations of that particle to what is not itself and to express its response to those environing presences, intent and conscious signification are required. Intellect transcends the given and means the absent because life, of which intellect is the fulfilment or entelechy, is itself absorbed from without and radiated outward. As life depends on an equilibrium of material processes which reach far beyond the individual they sustain in being, so intent is a recognition of outlying existences which sustain in being that very sympathy by which they are recognised. Intent and life are more than analogous. If we use the word life in an ideal sense, the two are coincident, for, as Aristotle says, the act proper to intellect is life.[F] The flux is so pervasive, so subtle in its persistency, that even those miracles which suspend it must somehow share its destiny. Intent bridges many a chasm, but only by leaping across. The life that is sustained for years, the political or moral purpose that may bind whole races together, is condemned to be partly a memory and partly a plan and wholly an ideal. Its scope is nothing but the range to which it can continually extend its sympathies and its power of representation. Its moments have nothing in common except their loyalties and a conspiring interest in what is not themselves.