1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Presentationism

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PRESENTATIONISM (from Lat. prae-esse, praesens, present), a philosophical term used in various senses deriving from the general sense of the term “presentation.” According to G. F. Stout (cf. Manual of Psychology, i. 57), presentations are “whatever constituents or our total experience at any moment directly determine the nature of the object as it is perceived or thought of at that moment.” In Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy, vol. ii., a presentation is “an object in the special form under which it is cognized at any given moment of perceptual or ideational process.” This, the widest definition of the term, due largely to Professor James Ward, thus includes both perceptual and ideational processes. The term has, indeed, been narrowed so as to include ideation, the correlative “representation” being utilized for ideal presentation, but in general the wider use is preferred. When the mind is cognizing an object, the object “presents” itself to the senses or to thought in one of a number of different forms (e.g. a picture is a work of art, a saleable commodity, a representation of a house, &c.). Presentation is thus essentially a cognitive process. Hence the most important use of the term “presentationism,” which is defined by Ward, in Mind, N.S. (1893), ii. 58, as “a doctrine the gist of which is that all the elements of psychical life are primarily and ultimately cognitive elements.” This use takes precedence of two others: (1) that of Hamilton, for presentative as opposed to representative theories of knowledge, and (2) that of some later writers who took it as equivalent to phenomenon (q.v.). Ward traces the doctrine in his sense to Hume, to whom the mind is a “kind of theatre” in which perceptions appear and vanish continually (see Green and Grose edition of the Treatise, i. 534). The main problem is as to whether psychic activity is “presented” or not. Ward holds that it is not presented or presentable save indirectly.

For the problems connected with Presentation and Presentationism see especially the article Psychology and authorities there quoted.