Truth and Error or the Science of Intellection/Chapter 14

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Truth and Error by John Wesley Powell
Chapter XIV.



We must here recall the distinction between feeling and sensation set forth in a former chapter. Feeling is cognition of effect upon self and gives rise to the emotions, while sensation is the cognition of the external cause of a sense impression and gives rise to intellection.

I feel light as an effect, but I see its cause in the luminant or the reflector. I attend to its effect, if it is too brilliant, or I attend to its cause, if I am interested in the cause. When I attend to the effect, it is a feeling; when I attend to the cause, it is a sense impression. An explosion occurs; the effect upon my ear is painful. If I attend to it I have a feeling, but if I wish to know its cause and attend to it, I have a sensation. Thus feeling and sensation are reciprocal. The more the feeling, the less the sensation; the more the sensation, the less the feeling. This is an old doctrine in a new form. The old doctrine of psychology is this: that feeling and cognition are inversely proportional; as we go on the old statement will be found faulty, and the new statement, that feeling and sensation are reciprocal, will be found correct.

An object impinges upon my organ of taste. If its taste is pleasant or unpleasant and I attend to that as an effect, it is a feeling, but if I attend to the object as a cause, it is a sensation. The organ of taste is in the portal to the metabolic organs. The taste of the object is pleasant or unpleasant, as I perceive by eating. Now, suppose that I am selecting apples for the purpose of putting the sweet in one basket and the sour in another. I am attending now to a property of the object through its effect upon the subject. Its effect upon the subject is emotional, but considered as a property of the object, it is intellectual. It is thus that an organ of feeling is transmuted into an organ of sense which reveals the property of the body.

The feeling of the circulation, which is variable by temperature and thus a feeling of heat, is developed into the sense of touch, and the sense of touch, which reveals the property, performs the vicarious function of revealing the body touched.

The feeling of strain is developed into the sense of stress, and the sense of stress reveals the body producing the stress.

A feeling of vibration occurs when the medium, as water or air, is agitated in such manner as to produce sound. This feeling is especially produced in the self by speech; the origin of speech is the calling of the mate, which call is made by one and heard by the other, and hence heard by both.

Thus the feeling of sound develops into the sense of hearing, which is the sense of causation; for the primordial ego, in the race and in the individual alike, first cognizes causation as speech and distinguishes it from force, for it can cause another to act by speech and it is conscious that it can be caused to act by speech.

The feeling of motion in self results whenever we are conscious of the will to move. Thus the will to move is the cause of the feeling of molar motion itself, and the feeling of motion is developed into the sense of vision by which motion is primordially and naively interpreted as the sense of conception. The feeling of motion is developed into the sense of seeing, for we feel molar motion and feel that that is caused by will, and primitive man naively infers that all molar motion is caused by will; hence he infers that all molar bodies have will.

The senses are vicarious feelings.[1]

I have already defined consciousness in the particle as awareness of self, as a unit, an extension, a speed, and a persistence, for this is the hypothesis upon which I am working. For human psychology it needs not that the theory be extended to the ultimate chemical particle, but the doctrine is demonstrated to the extent that the animate cellular particle is conscious. Now I wish to consider consciousness as awareness of the part which a particle takes as a cause or effect in the production of a judgment.

When a sapid substance impinges upon my organ of taste I am conscious of an effect. When a body touches me I am conscious of an effect. When a sound impinges on my ear I am conscious of an effect. When a body presses upon my muscles I am conscious of an effect, and when a color strikes my eyes I am conscious of an effect. In these cases consciousness in a judgment is awareness of effect on itself, but it is the consciousness of the particle which is transmitted to the cortex.

See how this is developed. Consciousness is awareness of the part which self takes in the production of a judgment, either as a cause or as an effect. Thus I am conscious of the cause when I act upon another, and I am conscious of the effect when another acts upon me, and I am conscious of both cause and effect when I act upon myself, as when I touch my head with my hand. Here there are two pairs of correlates, self and other, together with cause and effect, and we must distinguish an active consciousness from a passive consciousness. I call it an active consciousness when I am conscious of being a cause, and a passive consciousness when I am conscious of experiencing an effect. This distinction must be firmly held.

Consciousness in this stage is awareness of the terms of causation, but they are not immediately related, for cases of active and passive consciousness occur usually at different times and under different circumstances. But there are some occurrences where the active and the passive elements are immediately connected in succession; this happens when I act on myself. In this manner the primitive mind learns of causation as composed of cause and effect, in the order of antecedent and consequent.

When I am conscious of an effect I infer a cause as an external object. When I taste I infer that I taste some other thing or object; when I smell I infer that I smell some external thing; when I am touched I infer that I am touched by some external thing; when I am pressed I infer that I am pressed by some external thing; when I hear I infer that I hear some external thing, and when I see I infer that I see some external thing. This something we call the object, and the mental act we call inference. A consciousness and an inference produce what I call a judgment, but this is an imperfect account of the process; let us know it all.

A sense impression does not constitute a sensation, but a sensation is compounded of sense impressions. Let us say that I have had many sense impressions of different kinds. Now suppose that I have one of taste; how shall I classify it with former sense impressions? Evidently they must be recalled and compared, and I choose one for this purpose. This choosing of a past sense impression and comparing it with a present sense impression and deciding that they are alike, I call a judgment.

These things are necessary to a primitive judgment. First, a sense impression; second, a consciousness of that impression; third, a desire to know its cause; fourth, a choice of a cause; fifth, a consciousness of the concept of that cause; sixth, a comparison of one conscious term with the other; and seventh, a judgment of likeness or of unlikeness. Stated in another manner, the judgment has these elements, a consciousness of a sense impression on the one hand, and a consciousness of another which is chosen, and the two are compared and found to be alike or unlike as the case may be, and a judgment is made. In still another manner a judgment may be defined as the comparison of a present event with a past event in which consciousness is twice involved; in the first an impression causes consciousness; in the second a choice causes consciousness, when the two are compared and a judgment made of likeness or unlikeness, which is identification and discrimination.

Choose a taste and you will recollect a taste; choose an odor and you will recollect an odor; choose a touch and you will recollect a touch; choose a pressure and you will recollect a pressure; choose a sound and you will recollect a sound; choose a color and you will recollect a color.

To choose is to revive in memory, for choice is the cause of the revival which is the effect. You cannot think of all sense impressions or sensations at one time, but choose any one of them and you will recollect that one. Inference, therefore, is guessing or choosing, or in another light it may be called interpreting. We shall hereafter see that this choosing is not random guessing.

The babe tastes milk; tastes it again and makes a judgment that the milk which it tastes now is like the milk which it tasted before; then it tastes vinegar and makes a judgment that it is unlike the previous taste. It continues to taste milk and vinegar and discriminates between the two. Its judgment of likeness is repeated in the case of the milk and repeated in the case of the vinegar and these judgments are consolidated, so that the present judgment of likeness is a judgment of likeness to some of the previous cases and of unlikeness to others. The mind does not recall every example to consciousness and compare them severally with the present one, but it recalls the like in a consolidated or fused group if the judgment is that of likeness. This process of consolidating or fusing judgments I call conception.

It has been said that an inference is not a random guess. The guess is always dictated by something in experience as some collateral circumstance, expectation, or interest. We shall hereafter see that interest is the chief, if not the sole, agency in determining the choice.

But some judgments are not valid. A taste may be subjective, due to some disease of the organ of taste; then the judgment is a fallacy.

Suppose that my skin is diseased, and that I have a feeling which I mistake for a sensation and infer that something touches me; this subjective effect, which I here call a feeling, must be distinguished from a sense impression or it will lead to an erroneous judgment. I may have a feeling in the ear, as when I take an overdose of quinine, and if it is confounded with a sense impression a fallacy is produced. Feelings of this kind are sometimes known as subjective sensations, and they must always be clearly distinguished from sense impressions.

Here we reach a dilemma; a judgment has been formed, but it may be a fallacy or a certitude. How shall we know? Something else is needed; this is verification. In sensation verification is accomplished by repetition. But this is an imperfect method, for in abnormal conditions repeated erroneous judgments may be made. While the method usually serves the purpose, sometimes it fails and a higher verification is dependent upon another faculty of judgment by another sense.

Verification depends upon the ability of a judgment to coalesce with other judgments in concepts; that is, it depends on its conceivability. If a judgment is incongruous with previous judgments it cannot be conceived and is held for confirmation or rejection. The class may at once be discovered and the right concept enlarged, or it may wait until another like judgment is made, when a new concept will be generated.

Primary consciousness is in the end organ, but it is transmitted by fibrous nerves to the ganglion and finally to the cortex; when it comes to the cortex, the individual, or the ego, is conscious of the same impression. Each ganglion in the hierarchy forms a distinct judgment. The cortex certainly forms judgments for itself and combines them with concepts. The action of the cortex must be concomitant with the making of a judgment, and as the judgment must coalesce with the concept, the part of the cortex involved must be structurally modified thereby. Thus it is that a record is made of a judgment when it coalesces with a concept. The record then is physiological, as memory is physiological, and judgment and conception are thus the psychological abstracts of concomitant processes of the brain.

A judgment once formed remains in memory as an effect on the organ of mind; another like judgment revives it, or in more common language, it is recollected. Memory as retention is not a phenomenon of the fifth property called judgment, but of the fourth property called time; but recollection is revival in consciousness and is an intellectual process. To distinguish the fifth property from all the others we may call judgment intellectual and the other properties mechanical. It must be remembered that the judgment cannot exist without the mechanical properties, that is, there can be no judgment without retention or memory. A judgment cannot persist as a pure judgment, for its duration, which is called memory or retention, depends upon the time property of a body which must also have motion, space, and number.

In experimental psychology the mechanical concomitants are the units with which judgments are measured. The science also deals in experiment with the conditions in the object under which judgments are formed. It may be that here it finds its most fruitful field as a co-worker with introspection. Experimentation, physiology, and introspection are the methods of psychology. Alone they fill the world with fallacies; coöperating they give a valid psychology. Introspection has had the field to itself since the days of Aristotle and has filled the world with hallucinations. In these later days science comes with two new methods which, conjoined with the old, give promise of a new and better psychology.

In the compounding of judgments by sensation, if one consciousness is inferred to be like another then the present sense impression recalls that other. Thus the judgment of sensation is the judgment of likeness. A succession of judgments of this kind are consolidated in a concept and every additional sense judgment verifies the past sense judgment. When the present sense impression revives a past like sensation, it usually recalls it as integrated and differentiated. For example, I hear a sound and cognize it as a sound by recalling past sounds in a consolidated group, but in this case it may be a shrill cry. Another sensation of the same character may occur, the two being separated by a longer or a shorter interval; in this case I not only recognize the sound as such but also recall the former cry, so that I not only classify the cry among sounds, but also classify the cry among cries.

Every sense mechanically abstracts the impressions which it receives as distinguished from the impressions received from other senses. The eye abstracts sense impressions of light, the ear abstracts sense impressions of sound, the nose abstracts sense impressions of odor, the mouth abstracts sense impressions of taste, the skin abstracts sense impressions of touch, the muscles abstract sense impressions of force, as stress and strain, etc.

It does not comport with our present purpose to examine, either anatomically or physiologically, the nature of the senses themselves; we are simply trying to find out what a sensation is when we consider it as one of a group of like judgments forming a concept.

We see that the sensations are abstracted in that every sense organ recognizes a single property and that for every organ there is a fundamental property. Then we see that the sense impression coming into one organ is classified as like or unlike; thus the eye recognizes distinctions of light, the ear recognizes distinctions of sound, the nose recognizes distinctions of odor, the mouth recognizes distinctions of flavor, and the touch recognizes distinctions of texture. The muscular sense, or sense of strain, recognizes distinctions of force, and it is thus that sensation is abstraction and classification.

Kind is directly cognized by the sense of taste and odor. The same objects that are cognized by these senses may also be cognized by the other senses, and while they do not give direct deliverances of kind, they give deliverances which become symbols of kind. We cannot taste the kind when we touch the pear, but we can recollect it. We do not taste the pear when we weigh it in the hand, but we may recollect its taste. When standing under the pear-tree we hear the pear fall; we cannot taste it, but we may recollect its taste. When we see the pear upon the tree we do not taste it, but we may recollect its flavor. Thus the primary sense of kind is taste, and the other senses become vicarious senses of taste. We need a term for this faculty and shall use apperception to signify this cognition of different properties by one sense. Like all other terms of psychology, this one has been used in many senses with a tendency to universal meaning, but I shall use apperception to signify the union of judgments of disparate properties discovered by disparate senses. I have used concomitancy and comprehension to signify the union of disparate properties in one particle or body; in the same manner I use apperception to signify the union of judgments of disparate properties in one particle or body. This may be stated in another way. The development of taste is only the development of a cognition of an attribute, but all the five attributes or properties of bodies are concomitant, and though primarily recognized by disparate senses they are finally recognized as concomitants in bodies, and when a body is cognized by one sense it recognizes all of the properties of the body primarily discovered by the other senses. Thus in cognizing the property of a body by taste or smell, we may re-cognize the body itself with all its properties. In this manner one sense becomes vicarious for the others. This faculty we have called apperception.

We may consider a being so lowly that all its judgments are confined within the sphere of good or evil in the objects of the environment as they are related to itself as food. But if its fixed life were developed into a freely moving life, it would be guided in its search for food by an auxiliary sense of kind; this is the sense of smell. The primary sense is the sense of taste, but it has an auxiliary sense by which it discovers the same properties, for odors and flavors are the same, though gathered from the environment by disparate organs.

Verified judgments of sensation are cognitions of kind. Sense impressions of a kind are consolidated; this consolidation comes by experience and produces a concept; thus we have a concept of a particular color as distinguished from sound, or of sound as distinguished from strain, or of strain as distinguished from touch, or of touch as distinguished from taste. Sensation, therefore, produces concepts of kind, and the correlates of likeness and unlikeness are involved. We may define sensation as the cognition of properties as kinds in their effects, and it is a compound of judgments; and a judgment is a combination of a sense impression, a consciousness, a choice, a concept, and a comparison.

Such judgments as we have hitherto considered in this chapter are not the only judgments of kind which are formed by the mind. When a judgment is once formed and recorded in the structure of the brain, it may be recalled as a collateral suggestion of a sense impression, or by the will itself, and when thus recalled it may be compared with other concepts, and other new judgments of kind may thus be produced. The elements of a judgment of this kind are, first, the choice of a past concept; second, the consciousness of it; third, the choice of another concept; fourth, a consciousness of it; fifth, the comparison of one with the other. The products of these five factors will constitute a new judgment. Thus the constitution of the judgment still remains the same, but it begins with a recollection instead of with a sense impression. Thus judgments of kind are presentative and representative. Presentative judgments are inductive; representative judgments are deductive. By presentative judgments we accumulate facts; by representative judgments we generalize them under the law that whatever is true of an object is true of its serial or class identity.

An apple has the taste of an apple, the odor of an apple, the texture of an apple, the pressure of an apple, the sound of an apple when it falls on the ground, and the color of an apple when it is seen. Thus we have five methods of distinguishing an apple from a stone, a bush, or a bird. It will be noticed that I consider taste and smell not as disparate senses to distinguish disparate properties, but as varieties of one sense for the sake of distinguishing the same property. Thus we have five senses for discovering a body as a kind, and when a body is discovered as a kind by one of the senses this discovery may be verified by one or all of the other senses.

First we may verify a judgment of one sense impression by repeating the same impression, and finally we may verify what one sense impression successively affirms by an appeal to another sense. In deductive or representative reasoning the method of verification is at first by congruity of concepts, but when concepts are not congruous they may be referred back to presentative reasoning; this is experimentation. All generalizations or deductive conclusions may be referred back to experimentation for verification.

We may now give a more adequate definition of sensation. Sensation is a process of forming a judgment of number or of kind and of verifying the same. Verification is accomplished by repetition of the sense impression, or by referring the impression made on one sense to the court of another sense. In a case of judgment of number as distinguished from its correlate kind, man has devised a special method of verification known as measurement, which gives rise to the psychologic science of mathematics, which is also defined as the science of quantity. The judgment of number is verified by enumeration or counting.

We have found five classific properties: kind, form, force, causation, and conception, derived from the essentials by incorporation, and that the kind is a relative unit, the form a relative extension, the force a relative speed, the causation a relative persistence and the conception a relative consciousness.

There are no particles which are not found in bodies, and all bodies are composed of particles. The quantitative properties are found when we consider particles. Classific properties are found when we consider bodies. Thus quantitative properties and classific properties are reciprocals, and in each set there are five concomitants. The logician considers classes, the mathematician quantities; they thus view the universe from reciprocal sides; the one classifies, the other computes. Four of the categories are found in inanimate bodies, unless our hypothesis is valid. All five are certainly found hi animate bodies. They all coexist and cannot be dissevered, so that when one is cognized the others are implied, and when they are all considered as kind they are subject to logical reasoning. In order that they may be subject to mathematical reasoning, kind must be resolved into number, form into space, force into motion, causation into time and concept into judgment, and then as properties they can all by substitution be represented by number, and thus computation is possible. It is only in the new science of psycho-physics that judgments are treated mathematically.

We may speak of a body without overtly affirming its properties, but they are implicitly affirmed or posited. The term posit is here used to mean the indirect assertion of something by directly asserting some other thing essential to it and in whose existence it is involved.

The word matter is the name of a collection of particles and every particle is a combination of essentials. The concept of matter has passed through the crucible of human experience and the most thorough and profound scientific investigation. All human knowledge, all scientific research, all ideation, and all logical expression are founded on this concept. To deny the reality of matter is to murder reason.

It may be well to recapitulate what has here been taught concerning substrates.

First, we have shown that the essentials of properties are their substrates severally; unity is the substrate of number, extension is the substrate of space, speed is the substrate of motion, consciousness is the substrate of judgment.

Second, we have shown that the quantitative properties are the substrates of the categoric properties; number is the substrate of kind, space is the substrate of form, motion is the substrate of force, time is the substrate of causation, and judgment is the substrate of conception.

Third, it has been shown that a particle and its essentials are one and the same thing, and that ultimate particles constitute the substrate of bodies. These self-evident propositions make the concept of substrate simple and clear.

The doctrine of bodies and properties herein expounded is simple. When it is compared with the metaphysical discussions of number, space, motion, time, and judgment, and the categories derived from them, which are kind, form, force, causation and conception, it will be a surprise to discover how tomes have been reduced to pages by eliminating fallacies. Censorious persons have sometimes accused the vender of beverages of adding water to wine. Brokers use this dilution of wine as a metaphor and speak of watered stock. It is astonishing how the vintage of science has been watered by the venders of speculation.

When the similar sense impressions come to an organ, relations of likeness are discovered; but when dissimilar sense impressions act upon the same sense their unlikeness appears. In this manner the sense impressions coming to the same organ are classified. Then disparate sense impressions come to disparate organs, as light to the eye, taste to the mouth, etc. The same object may produce disparate sense impressions to disparate organs, so that at one time the object is a color, at another time it is a sound, at another it is an odor, at another it is a pressure, at another it is a touch, and at still another it is a taste. In this manner different manifestations of the same object are brought to the senses and integrated or unified as coming from one object, that is, the self learns that one object may have different manifestations; thus the apple exhibits color, sound, pressure, touch, taste, and odor. In this manner concepts are formed of different manifestations of the same body; thus sensation is the cognition of different properties in one body which is considered as a kind.

The self, having discovered the union of these manifestations in one body or particle, quickly learns that when one property is observed the others may be expected; thus the color becomes the symbol of the apple and it is known by sight, or the sound becomes the symbol of the apple and it is known by sound, the texture becomes the symbol of the apple and it is known by touch, the flavor becomes the symbol of the apple and it is known by taste, the odor becomes the symbol of the apple and it is known by smell. This is the recognition of an object by some one of its properties manifested to a sense and taken as the symbol of the object itself with its other manifestations and known as the cause of a sense impression. As the particle can be designated by naming any one of its essentials, so the body can be named by any one of its properties, and so also it can be recollected by any one of its properties. In perception a form becomes the nucleus of a concept which is recollected when a sense impression recalls it.

The lower animal, desiring to gather food for its offspring, and having the sense of touch as well as taste, could utilize its sense of touch in gathering food by the cognition of its form without resort to the sense of taste and yet it could verify touch by taste.


  1. In this work only such a review of science is intended as is necessary for the development of an epistomology. In order to accomplish this I have attempted to set forth the properties of bodies in their reciprocal aspect as bodies and particles, or as internal and external relations. I have not considered it necessary or appropriate to enter into a minute discussion of the facts and principles of all the sciences severally. For example, the development of the senses from the feelings receives but brief mention. To set forth the ontogeny and philogeny of the senses would require a separate work. In my consideration of the development of the sense of hearing I have followed Frederic S. Lee, more perhaps than any other physiologist, though I have consulted several other authors on the subject. In stating my conclusions I have necessarily refrained from citing authorities, as I do not enter into these subjects except to make broad generalizations. But since this chapter was written I have received an abstract of a paper read by Dr. Lee before the British Association (published in the Report of that Association for 1897), in which I find that he briefly but clearly propounds the doctrine that the feeling of equilibrium is developed into the sense of hearing. I quote the abstract in full.


    By Frederic S. Lee, Ph.D.

    The chief morphological facts upon which the theory of the origin of the ear from the system of the lateral line is based are similarity in structure of the adult organs, in innervation, and in ontogeny. Physiology seems able to present at least circumstantial evidence in favor of this theory. The author has investigated the functions of the ear and the sense-organs of the lateral line in fishes.

    The Ear.—The results may be tabulated as follows:—

    Functions of the Ear.

    I. Dynamical functions in recognition of…


    1. Rotary movements. Cristae acusticae 2. Progressive movements. Maculae acusticae

    II. Statical functions is recognition of…

    3. Position in space. Maculae acusticea

    The above functions are divisions of the general function of equilibration: the sense-organs of the ear deal with the equilibrium of the body under all circumstances, both in movement and at rest.

    In vertebrates above the fishes we must add to the above:

    III. Auditory functions in recognition of …

    4. Vibratory motions. Papilla acustica basilaris.

    Experiments by the author and by Kreidl prove that fishes do not possess the power of audition. Hence the ear in fishes is purely equilibrative in function.

    2. The Lateral Line.—Simple cutting of the lateral nerve or destruction of the lateral organs does not seem to affect equilibrium. But destruction of the organs, combined with removal of the pectoral and pelvic fins, causes marked lack of equilibrium, manifested by uncertain, ill-regulated movements; removal of fins alone has no pronounced effect.

    Central stimulation of the lateral nerve causes the same compensating movements of the fins as does stimulation of the acoustic of the opposite side. These results make it probable that the organs of the lateral line are equilibrative in function, and are employed in the recognition of currents in the water and of movements of the body through the water. The results of Bonnier and of Fuchs are in harmony with this.

    This was probably the primitive function. By the inclosure within the skull of a bit of the lateral line and the differentiation and refinement of its sense-organs, a more perfect organ of appreciation of movement, and hence of equilibrium, was evolved in the ear. Along with the appearance of laud animals a portion of this organ became still more differentiated and refined, and, as the papilla acustica basilaris, acquired the power of appreciating the movements that we call sound. Thus equilibration and audition became associated in the same organ.

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