Blackwood's Magazine/Volume 45/Issue 281/An Introduction to the Philosophy of Consciousness (Part 7)
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PHILOSOPHY OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
The argument, in the foregoing part of our discussion (in which we showed that morality is grounded in an antagonism carried on between our nature and our consciousness,) is obviously founded on the assumption that man is born in weakness and depravity. We need hardly, now-a-days, insist on the natural sinfulness of the human heart, which we are told by our own, and by all recorded experience, as well as by a higher authority than that of man, is desperately wicked, and runneth to evil continually. Deplorable as this fact is, deplorably also and profusely has it been lamented. We are not now therefore, going to swell this deluge of lamentations. Instead of doing so, let us rather endeavour to review dispassionately the fact of our naturally depraved condition, in order to ascertain, if possible, the precise bearing which it has on the development and destiny of our species, and at the same time to carry ourselves still deeper into the philosophy of human consciousness.
To do good and sin not, is the great end of man: and, accordingly, we find him at his first creation stored with every provision for well-doing. But that this is his great end can only be admitted with the qualification that it is to do good freely; for every being which is forced to perform its allotted task is a mere tool or machine, whether the work it performs be a work of good or a work of evil. If, therefore, man does good by the compulsion of others, or under the constraining force of his own natural biases, he is but an automaton, and deserves no more credit for his actings than a machine of this kind does; just as he is also an automaton if he be driven into courses of evil by outward forces which he cannot resist, or by the uncontrollable springs of his own natural framework. But man will be admitted, by all right thinkers, to be not a mere automaton. But then, according to the same thinkers, man is a created being; and, therefore, the question comes to be, how can a created being be other than an automaton? Creation implies predeter¬mination, and predetermination implies that all the springs and biases of the created being tend one way (the way predetermined,) and that it has no power of its own to turn them into any other than this one channel, whatever it may be. How, then, is it possible for such a being to do either good or evil freely, or to act otherwise than it was born and predetermined to act? In other words, the great problem to be worked out is, How is man to come to accomplish voluntarily the great end (of doing good—of well-doing) which he originally accomplished under compulsion, or in obedience to the springs of his natural constitution?
We undertake to show that the living demonstration of this great problem is to be found in the actual history of our race;—that the whole circuit of humanity, from the creation of the world until the day when man's final account shall be closed, revolves for no other purpose than to bring human nature to do freely the very same work which it originally performed without freedom;—and that this problem could not possibly have been worked out by any other steps than those actually taken to resolve it. This shall be made apparent, by our showing, that in the actual development of the consciousness of our species, two distinct practical stages or articulations are to be noted:—the first being an act of antagonism put forth by man against his paradisiacal or perfect nature, bringing along with it the Fall—(this is consciousness in its antagonism against good); the second being an act of antagonism put forth by man against his present or fallen nature, issuing in the Redemption of the world through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the restoration of man to the primitive condition of perfection which he had abjured—(this is consciousness in its antagonism against evil). The practical solution of the problem of Human Liberty, will be seen to be given, in the development of these two grand epochs of consciousness.
In the first place, then, let us contemplate man in his paradisiacal state. Here we find him, created perfect by an all-perfect God, and living in the garden of Eden, surrounded by everything that can minister to his comfort and delight. Truly the lines are fallen to him in pleasant places; and, following his natural biases, his whole being runs along these lines in channels of pure happiness and unalloyed good—good nameless, indeed, and inconceivable, because as yet uncontrasted with evil, but therefore, on that very account, all the more perfect and complete. He lies absorbed and entranced in his own happiness and perfection; and no consciousness, be it observed, interferes to break up their blessed monopoly of him. He lives, indeed, under the strictest command that this jarring act be kept aloof. He has no personality; the personality of the paradisiacal man is in the bosom of his Creator.
Now, however enviable this state of things may have been, it is obvious that, so long as it continued, no conceivable advance could be made towards the realization of human liberty. Without a personality—without a self, to which his conduct might be referred, it is plain that man could not possess any real or intelligible freedom. All his doings must, in this case, fall to be refunded back out of him into the great Being who created him, and out of whom they really proceeded: and thus man must be left a mere machine, inspired and actuated throughout by the divine energies.
But, upon the slightest reflection, it is equally obvious that man could not possibly realize his own personality without being guilty of an evil act—an act not referable unto God, a Being out of whom no evil thing can come—an act in which the injunctions of the Creator must be disobeyed and set at naught:—He could not, we say, realize his own personality without sinning; because his personality is realized through the act of consciousness; and the act of consciousness is, as we have all along seen, an act of antagonism put forth against whatsoever state or modification of humanity it comes in contact with. Man's paradisiacal condition, therefore, being one of supreme goodness and perfection, could not but be deteriorated by the presence of consciousness. Consciousness, if it is to come into play here, must be an act of antagonism against this state of perfect holiness—an act displacing it, and breaking up its monopoly, in order to make room for the independent and rebellious "I." In other words, it must be an act curtailing and subverting good, and therefore, of necessity, an evil act. Let us say, then, that this act was really performed—that man thereby realized his own personality: and what do we record in such a statement but the fact of man's first "disobedience" and his Fall?
The realization of the first man's personality being thus identical with his fall, and his fall being brought about by a free act,—an act not out of, but against God; let us now ask how man stands in relation to the great problem, the working out of which we are superintending—Human Liberty. Has the Fall brought along with it the complete realization of his freedom? By no means. He has certainly realized his own personality by becoming conscious of good. He has thus opposed himself to good, and performed an act which he was not forced or predetermined by his Maker to perform. He has thus taken one step towards the attainment of Liberty: one step, and that is all. The paradisiacal man has evolved one epoch in the development of human consciousness; and has thus carried us on one stage in the practical solution of the problem we are speaking of. Being born good and perfect, he has developed the antagonism of consciousness against goodness and perfection; and thus he has emancipated the human race from the causality of goodness and perfection.
But this antagonism against good, though it freed the human race from the causality of holiness, laid it at the same time under the subjection of a new and far bitterer causality—the causality of sin. For the consciousness of good, or, in other words, an act of antagonism against good, is itself but another name for sin or evil: and thus evil is evolved out of the very act in which man becomes conscious of good. And this is the causality under which we, the children of Adam, find ourselves placed. As he was born the child of goodness and of God, so are we, through his act, born children of sin and of the devil.
Therefore the evolution of the second epoch in the practical development of consciousness devolves upon us—the fallen children of humanity. Just as the paradisiacal man advanced us one stage towards liberty, by developing in a free act the antagonism of consciousness against the good under which he was born; so is it incumbent upon us to complete the process by developing the practical antagonism of consciousness against the evil of our natural condition. As Adam, in the first epoch of consciousness, worked himself out of good into evil by a free act, so have we, who live in the second epoch of consciousness, to work ourselves back out of evil into good by another act of the same kind; repeating precisely the same process which he went through, only repeating it in an inverted order. He, being born under the causality of good, transferred himself over by a free act (the antagonism of consciousness against good) to the causality of evil, and thus proved that he was not forced to the performance of good. We, on the other hand, who are born under the causality of evil, have to transfer ourselves back by another free act (the antagonism of consciousness against evil), into the old causality of good; and thus prove that we are not forced to the commission of evil. Adam broke up the first causality—the causality of good; and emancipated our humanity therefrom, in making it thus violate the natural laws and conditions of its birth. But in doing so he laid it under a second and dire causality—the causality of sin; and this is the causality under which we are born. Whenever, therefore, we too have trampled on the laws and conditions of our natural selves; have striven, by an act of resistance against evil, to return into the bosom of good, to replace ourselves under the old causality of holiness, to take up such a position that the influences of Christianity may be enabled to tell upon our hearts; in short, have violated our causality just as Adam violated his; then may the problem of human liberty be said to be practically resolved, for there are no conceivable kinds of causality except those of evil and of good—and both of these shall have then been broken through in the historical development of our species.
And here, let it be observed, that although, in putting forth this act of resistance against evil, we return under the old causality of good, and thus make ourselves obedient to its influences, yet the relation in which we stand towards that causality is very different from the relation in which the first man stood towards it. He had good forced upon him: we have forced ourselves upon it by a voluntary submission; and in this kind of submission true freedom consists; because, in making it, the initiative movement originates in our own wills, in an act of resistance put forth against the evil that encounters us in our natural selves, whichever way we turn; and thus, instead of this kind of causality exercising a strictly causal force upon us, we, properly speaking, are the cause by which it is induced to visit and operate upon us at all. "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force: " that is to say, it does not take them by force—it does not force itself causally upon us. On the contrary, we must force ourselves upon it by our own efforts, and, as it were, wring from an All-merciful God that grace which even He cannot and will not grant, except to our own most earnest importunities.
Would we now look back into the history of our kind, in order to gather instances of that real operation of consciousness which we have been speaking of? Then what was the whole of the enlightened jurisprudence, and all the high philosophy of antiquity, but so many indications of consciousness in its practical antagonism against human depravity? What is justice, that source and concentration of all law? Is it a natural growth or endowment of humanity? Has it, in its first origin, a positive character of its own? No; there is no such thing as natural or born justice among men. Justice is nothing but the consciousness of our own natural injustice, this consciousness being, in its very essence, an act of resistance against the same. Do the promptings of nature teach us to give every man his due? No; the promptings of nature teach us to keep to ourselves all that we can lay our hands upon; therefore it is only by acting against the promptings of nature that we can deal justly towards our fellow-men. But we cannot act against these promptings without being conscious of them, neither can we be conscious of them without acting against them to a greater or a less extent; and thus consciousness, or an act of antagonism put forth against our natural selfishness, lies at the root of the great principle upon which all justice depends—the principle suum cuique tribuendi. Therefore, in every nation of antiquity in which wise and righteous laws prevailed, they prevailed not in consequence of any natural sense or principle of justice among men, but solely in consequence of the act of consciousness, which exposed to them the injustice and selfish passions of their own hearts, and, in the very exposure, got the better of them.
If we look, too, to the highest sects of ancient philosophy, what do we behold but the development of consciousness in its antagonism against evil, and an earnest striving after something better than anything that is born within us? What was the whole theoretical and practical stoicism of antiquity? Was it apathy, in the modern sense of that word, that this high philosophy inculcated? Great philosophers have told us that it was so. But ah! doctrine lamentably inverted, traduced, and misunderstood! The "apathy" of ancient stoicism was no apathy in our sense of the word—it was no inertness—no sluggish insensibility—no avoidance of passion—and no folding of the hands to sleep. But it was the direct reverse of all this. It was, and it inculcated, an eternal war to be waged by the sleepless consciousness of every man against the indestructible demon-passions of his own heart. The ἀπαθεια of stoicism was an energetic acting against passion; and, if our word apathy means this, let us make use of it in characterising that philosophy. But we apprehend that our word apathy signifies an indifference, a passiveness, a listless torpidity of character, which either avoids the presence of the passions, or feels it not; in short, an unconsciousness of passion, a state diametrically opposed to the apathy of stoicism, which consists in the most vital consciousness of the passions, and their consequent subjugation thereby. It has been thought, too, that stoicism aimed at the annihilation of the passions; but it is much truer to say, that it took the strife between them and consciousness, as the focus of its philosophy; it found true manhood concentrated in this strife, and it merely placed true manhood where it found it—for it saw clearly that the only real moral life of humanity is breathed up out of that seething and tempestuous struggle.
The passions are sure to be ever with us. Do what we will,
"They pitch their tents before us as we move,
Our hourly neighbours;"
Therefore, the only question comes to be—are we to yield to them, or are we to give them battle and resist them? And Stoicism is of opinion that we should give them battle. Her voice is all for war; because, in yielding to them, our consciousness, or the act which constitutes our peculiar attribute, and brings along with it our proper and personal existence, is obliterated or curtailed.
The Epicureans sailed upon another tack. The Stoics sought to reproduce good, by first overthrowing evil; the only method, certainly, by which such a reproduction is practicable. They sought to build the Virtues upon the suppression of the Vices, the only foundation which experience tells us is not liable to be swept away. But their opponents in philosophy went more directly to work. They aimed at the same end, the reproduction of good, without, however, adopting the same means of securing it: that is to say, without ever troubling themselves about evil at all. They sought to give birth to Love without having first laid strong bonds upon Hatred. They strove to establish Justice on her throne, without having first deposed and overthrown Injustice. They sought to call forth Charity and Generosity, without having, first of all, beaten down the hydra-heads of Selfishness. In short, they endeavoured to bring forward, in a direct manner, all the amiable qualities (as they were supposed to be) of the human heart, without having gone through the intermediate process of displacing and vanquishing their opposites through the act of consciousness. And the consequence was just what might have been expected. These amiable children of nature, so long as all things went as they wished, were angels; but, in the hour of trial, they became the worst of fiends. Long as the sun shone, their love basked beautiful beneath it, and wore smiles of eternal constancy; but when the storm arose, then Hatred, which had been overlooked by Consciousness, arose also, and the place of Love knew it no more. Justice worked well so long as every one got what he himself wanted. But no sooner were the desires of any man thwarted, than Injustice, which Consciousness had laid no restraint upon, stretched out her hand and snatched the gratification of them; while Justice (to employ Lord Bacon's metaphor) went back into the wilderness, and put forth nothing but the blood-red blossoms of Revenge. Generosity and Charity, so long as they were uncrossed and put to no real sacrifice, played their parts to perfection; but so soon as any unpleasant occasion for their exercise arose, then the selfish passions, of which Consciousness had taken no note, broke loose, and Charity and Generosity were swept away by an avalanche of demons.
Such has invariably been the fate of all those Epicurean attempts to bring forward and cultivate Good as a natural growth of the human heart, instead of first of all endeavouring to realize it as the mere extirpation of evil; and hence we see the necessity of adopting the latter method of procedure. Every attempt to establish or lay hold of good by leaving evil out of our account, by avoiding it, by remaining unconscious of it, by not bringing it home to ourselves, must necessarily be a failure; and, sooner or later, a day of fearful retribution is sure to come—for the passions are real madmen, and consciousness is their only keeper; but man's born amiabilities are but painted masks, which (if consciousness has never occupied its post) are liable to be torn away from the face of his natural corruption, in any dark hour in which the passions may choose to break up from the dungeons of the heart.
The true philosopher is well aware, that the gates of paradise are closed against him for ever upon earth. He does not, therefore, expend himself in a vain endeavour to force them, or to cultivate into a false Eden the fictitious flowers of his own deceitful heart; but he seeks to compensate for this loss, and to restore to himself in some degree the perfected image of his Creator, by sternly laying waste, through consciousness, the wilderness of his own natural desires; for he well knows, that wherever he has extirpated a weed, there, and only there, will God plant a flower, or suffer it to grow. But the epicurean, or false philosopher, makes a direct assault upon the gates of paradise itself. He seeks to return straight into the arms of good, without fighting his way through the strong and innumerable forces of evil. He would reproduce the golden age, without directly confronting and resisting the ages of iron and of brass. By following the footsteps of nature, he imagines that he may be carried back into the paradise from which his forefather was cast forth. But, alas! it is not thus that the happy garden is to be won; for, "at the east of the garden of Eden" hath not God placed "cherubims, and a flaming sword which turns every way, to keep the way of the tree of life"? and, therefore, the epicurean is compelled, at last, to sink down, outside the trenches of paradise, into an inert and dreaming sensualist.
Neither overrating nor underrating the pretensions of philosophy, let us now, as our final task, demonstrate the entire harmony between her and the scheme of Christian revelation. Philosophy has done much for man, but she cannot do everything for him; she cannot convert a struggling act (consciousness in its antagonism against evil); she cannot convert this act into a permanent and glorified substance. She can give the strife; but she cannot give the repose. This Christianity alone can give. But neither can Christianity do everything for man. She, too, demands her prerequisites; she demands a true consciousness on the part of man of the condition in which he stands. In other words, she demands, on man's own part, a perception of his own want or need of her divine support. This support she can give him, but she cannot give him a sense of his own need of it. This philosophy must supply. Here, therefore, Christianity accepts the assistance of philosophy; true though it be, that the latter, even in her highest and most exhaustive flight, only brings man up to the point at which religion spreads her wings, and carries him on to a higher and more transcendent elevation. Her apex is the basis of Christianity. The highest round in the ladder of philosophy is the lowest in the scale of Christian grace. All that true philosophy can do, or professes to do, is merely to pass man through the preparatory discipline of rendering him conscious of evil, that is, of the only thing of which he can be really conscious on this earth; and thus to place him in such a position as may enable the influences of loftier truth, and of more substantial good, to take due effect upon his heart. The discipline of philosophy is essentially destructive—that of Christianity is essentially constructive. The latter busies herself in the positive reproduction of good; but only after philosophy has, to a certain extent, prepared the ground for her, by putting forth the act of consciousness, and by thus executing her own negative task, which consists in the resistance of evil. Christianity re-impresses us with the positive image of God which we had lost through the fall; but philosophy, in the act of consciousness, must first, to a greater or a less extent, have commenced a defacement of the features of the devil stamped upon our natural hearts, before we can take on, in the least degree, the impress of that divine signature.
Such, we do not fear to say, is the preliminary discipline of man, which Christianity demands at the hands of philosophy. But there are people who imagine that the foundation-stone of the whole Christian scheme consists in this; that man can, and must, do nothing for himself. Therefore, let us speak a few words in refutation of this paralysing doctrine.
Do not the Scriptures themselves say, "ask, and it shall be given unto you"? Here, then, we find asking made the condition of our receiving: and hence it is plain that we are not to receive this asking; for supposing that we do receive it, then this can only be because we have complied with the condition annexed to our receiving it; or, in other words, it can only be because we have practised an anterior asking in order to obtain the asking which has been vouchsafed to us. Therefore this asking must ultimately, according to the very first requisitions of Christianity, fall to be considered as our own act; and now, then, we put the question to those who maintain the doctrine just stated—must we not "ask," must not this "asking" be our own deed, and do you call this doing nothing for ourselves? In the same way does not the Gospel say, "seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you," evidently holding forth seeking as the condition of our finding, and knocking as the condition upon which "it shall be opened." And, now, must not this "seeking" and this "knocking" be done by ourselves; and if they must, what becomes of the doctrine that man can do nothing, and must attempt to do nothing, for himself?
This doctrine, that we can do nothing for ourselves, is based upon an evident oversight and confusion of thought in the mind of the espousers of it. "Attempt no toil of your own," say these inert disciplinarians of humanity, "but seek ye the kingdom of heaven in the revealed word of God, and there ye shall find it with all its blessings." True; but these teachers overlook the fact that there are two distinct questions, and two distinct tasks, involved in this precept of "seeking the kingdom of heaven." To some people, the injunction, "seek for it faithfully, and ye shall find it in the Scriptures," may be sufficient. But others, again, (and we believe the generality of men are in this predicament) may require, first of all, to be informed about a very different matter, and may be unable to rest satisfied until they have obtained this information: they may demand, namely, an answer to a new question—but where shall we find the seeking of the kingdom of heaven? Before finding itself, we must know how, and where, and in what way, we are to find the seeking of it; for that is the great secret which eludes and baffles our researches.
The only answer that can be given to these querists is, you must find the seeking of it in yourselves. The Bible reveals to us the kingdom of heaven itself; but philosophy it is that leads us to the discovery of our own search after it. To this discovery philosophy leads us, by teaching us to know ourselves—by teaching us what we really are. And what does philosophy teach us respecting ourselves? Does she teach us that we stand in a harmonious relation towards the universe around us—towards the universe within us—towards the world of our own passions and desires—towards the strength or the weaknesses (be they which they may) of our own flesh and blood? And does she thus show us that the life of man here below is a life of blessedness and repose? No!—on the contrary, she shows us that our very act of consciousness, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, all the natural laws and conditions under which we are born, stand in a relation of diametrical discord towards each other: that we are made up of passions and susceptibilities, every one of which is thwarted and condemned in our very consciousness of it: that "there is a law in our members" (the causal law) "warring against the law in our minds" (the law of will, of freedom, of consciousness); and that the war between these two laws is one which no truce, brought about by human diplomacy, can ever still. For though consciousness may act against evil, yet it can never change the mere resistance of evil into a positive body of good. Consciousness may resist wrath, but it cannot convert this resistance of wrath into a positive peaceful-mindedness. Consciousness may resist hatred, but this act cannot transmute the resistance of hatred into positive and substantial love. Consciousness may resist selfishness, but it cannot convert this resistance of selfishness into a decided and abiding spirit of charity. This conversation cannot be effected by consciousness or by philosophy, it must be effected by the intervention of a higher power—building, however, on the ground-work which consciousness lays in its antagonism against evil; and this is what philosophy herself teaches unto man. She shows him, that so long as our consciousness and our passions merely are in the field, although it is true that our regeneration must commence in their strife, yet that these elements meet together only in a bitter and interminable struggle, and do not embody of themselves any positive issues of good. Thus is he led by the very strife which philosophy reveals to him, tearing his being asunder, to feel the necessity under which he lies of obtaining strength, support, and repose, from a higher source:—thus is he led by philosophy to discover, in the bitter strife between consciousness and his passions, his own importunate seeking of the kingdom of heaven, as the only means through whose intervention his struggling and toilsome acts may be embodied and perpetuated in glorious and triumphant substances—his resistance of hatred changed by Divine grace into Christian love—and all his other resistances of evil (mere negative qualities) transmuted by the power of a celestial alchemy into positive and substantial virtues.
Thus philosophy brings man up to the points which Christianity postulates, as the conditions on which her blessings are to be bestowed. In revealing to man the strife, which, in the very act of consciousness, exists between himself and his whole natural man, philosophy, of course, brings him to entertain the desire that this strife should be composed. But the desire that this strife should be composed, is itself nothing but a seeking of the kingdom of heaven. It is no desire on man's part to give up the fight, to abandon the resistance of evil, but it is a determination to carry this resistance to its uttermost issues, and then, through Divine assistance, to get this resistance embodied in positive and enduring good. Thus philosophy having brought man up to the points so forcibly insisted on by Christianity—having taught him to "knock," to "ask," and to "seek"—having explained the grounds of these prerequisites (which Scripture postulates, but does not explain), she then leaves him in the hands of that more effective discipline, to be carried forward in the career of a brighter and constantly increasing perfectibility.
We will now conclude, by recapitulating very shortly the chief points of our whole discussion.
I. Our first inquiry regarded the method to be adopted, and the proper position to be occupied, when contemplating the phenomena of man, and, out of that contemplation, endeavouring to construct a science of ourselves. The method hitherto employed in psychological research we found to be in the highest degree objectionable. It is this: the fact, or act of consciousness, was regarded as the mere medium through which the phenomena, or "states of mind"—the proper facts of psychology, as they were thought to be—were observed. Thus consciousness was the point which was looked from, and not the point which was looked at. The phenomena looked at were our sensations, passions, emotions, intellectual states, &c., which might certainly have existed without consciousness, although, indeed, they could not have been known except through that act. The phenomenon looked from, although tacitly recognised, was in reality passed over without observation; and thus consciousness, the great fact of humanity, together with all its grounds and consequences, has been altogether overlooked in the study of man, while, in consequence of this oversight, his freedom, will, morality—in short, all his peculiar attributes, have invariably crumbled into pieces whenever he has attempted to handle them scientifically.
We trace this erroneous method, this false position, this neglect of the fact of consciousness, entirely to the attempts of our scientific men to establish a complete analogy between psychological and physical research; and, to follow the error to its fountain-head, we boldly trace it up to a latitude of interpretation given to the fundamental canon of the Baconian philosophy: "Homo, naturæ minister et interpres, de naturæ ordine tantum scit et potest, quantum observaverit, nec amplius scit aut potest."
As far as this great rule is held applicable to the study and science of nature, we admit it to be unexceptionable; but when we find it so extended in its application as to include man indiscriminately with nature, we must pause; and although this extension of its meaning should be shown to be in perfect accordance with the whole spirit of Bacon's writings, we must venture, in the name of philosophy, and backed by a more rigorous observation than that which he or any of his followers contend for, to challenge its validity, venerable and authoritative though it be.
We do not, indeed, assert that this maxim, even when taken in its utmost latitude, contains anything which is absolutely false; but we hope to show that, in its application to the science of man, and as a fundamental rule of psychology, it falls very far short of the whole truth, and is of a very misleading tendency. If it has acted like fanners upon the physical sciences, it has certainly fallen like an extinguisher upon philosophy.
The method laid down in this canon as the only true foundation of science, is the method of observation. The question then comes to be: can this method be properly applied to the phenomena of man, in exactly the same sense as it is applied to the phenomena of nature? The disciples of Lord Bacon tell us that it can, and must, if we would construct a true science of ourselves; but, in opposition to their opinion, we undertake to show, that, in the case of man, circumstances are evolved, which render his observation of his own phenomena of a totally different character from his observation of the phenomena of nature. Let us, then, illustrate the method of observation,—first, in its application to nature; and, secondly, in its application to man.
We will call nature and her phenomena B, and we will call the observer A. Now, it is first to be remarked, that in A there is developed the fact of A's observation of B: but the proper and sole business of A being to observe the phenomena of B, and A's observation of the phenomena of B not being a fact belonging to B, it, of course, does not call for any notice whatsoever from A. It would be altogether irrelevant for A, when observing the phenomena of B, to observe the fact of his own observation of these phenomena. Therefore, in the natural sciences, the fact of A's observation of B is the point looked from, and cannot become the point looked at, without a departure being made from the proper procedure of physics. These sciences, then, are founded entirely on the method of simple observation. Observatio simplex is all that is here practised, and is all that is here necessary; and, whenever it shall have been put forth in its fullest extent, the science of B, or nature, may be considered complete.
Let us now try how the same method of simple or physical observation works in its application to psychology. We will call man and his phenomena A; and, as man is here the observer as well as the observed, we must call the observer A too. Now, it is obvious that in A (man observed) there are plenty of phenomena present—his sensations, "states of mind," &c., and that A (man observing) may construct a sort of science out of these by simply observing them, just as he constructed the natural sciences by observing the phenomena of B. And this is precisely what our ordinary psychologists have done, adhering to the Baconian canon. But the slightest reflection will show us that such a science of man must necessarily be a false one, inasmuch as it leaves out of view one of his most important phenomena. For, as the preceding case of A and B, so now in the case of A and A, there is developed the fact of A's observation of A. But this fact, which in the case of A and B was very properly overlooked, and was merely considered as the point to be looked from, cannot here be legitimately overlooked, but insists most peremptorily upon being made the point to be looked at; for the two A's are not really two, but one and the same; and, therefore, A's observation of the phenomena of A is itself a new phenomenon of A, calling for a new observation. Thus, while physical observation is simple, philosophical or psychological observation is double. It is observatio duplex: the observation of observation, observatio observationis.
Now, we maintain that the disciples of the Baconian school have never recognised this distinction; or rather have never employed any other than the method of single observation, in studying the phenomena of man. They have been too eager to observe every thing, ever to have thought of duly observing the fact of observation itself. This phenomenon, by which everything else was brought under observation, was itself allowed an immunity from observation; and entirely to this laxness or neglect, are, in our opinion, to be attributed all the errors that have vitiated, and all the obstructions that have retarded the science of ourselves.
The distinction which we have just pointed out between these two kinds of observation, the single and the double, the physical and the psychological, is radical and profound. The method to be pursued in studying nature, and the method to be pursued in studying man, can now no longer be regarded as the same. The physical method observes—but the psychological method swings itself higher than this, and observes observation. Thus psychology, or philosophy properly so called, commences precisely at the point where physical science ends. When the phenomena of nature have been observed and classified, the science of nature is ended. But when the phenomena of man, his feelings, intellectual, and other states, have been observed and classified, true psychology has yet to begin:—we have yet to observe our observations of these phenomena,—this fact constituting, in our opinion, the only true and all-comprehensive fact which the science of man has to deal with—and only after it has been taken up and faithfully observed, can philosophy be said to have commenced.
Further, the divergence which, in consequence of this distinction, takes place at their very first step, between psychological and physical science is prodigious. In constructing the physical sciences, man occupies the position of a mere observer. It is true that his observation of the phenomena of nature is an act—and that so far he is an agent as well as an observer,—but as this act belongs to himself, and as he has here no business with any phenomena except those belonging to nature, he cannot legitimately take any notice of this agency. But in constructing a science of himself man occupies more than the position of a mere observer—for his observation of his own phenomena is an act—and as this act belongs to himself whom he is studying, he is bound to notice it; and, moreover, as this act of observation must be performed before it can be observed, man is thus compelled to be an agent before he is an observer; or, in other words, must himself act or create the great phenomenon which he is to observe. This is what he never does in the case of the physical sciences—the phenomena here observed are entirely attributable to nature. Man has nothing to do with their creation. In physics, therefore, man is, as we have said, a mere observer. But in philosophy he has, first of all, to observe his own phenomena: (this he does in the free act of his ordinary consciousness:) he thus creates, by his own agency, a new fact—the fact, namely, of his observation of these phenomena; and then he has to subject this new fact to a new and systematic observation, which may be called the reflective or philosophic consciousness.
The observation of our own natural phenomena, (observatio simplex,) is the act of consciousness: the observation of the observation of our own phenomena, (observatio duplex,) or, in other words, the observation of consciousness, is philosophy. Such are our leading views on the subject of the method of psychology, as contradistinguished from the method of physical science.
II. The act of consciousness, or the fact of our observation of our own natural modifications having been thus pointed out as the great phenomena to be observed in psychology, we next turned our attention to the contents and origin of this act, subdividing our inquiry into three distinct questions: When does consciousness come into manifestation? How does it come into manifestation? and, What are the consequences of its coming into manifestation?
III. In discussing the question, when does consciousness come into manifestation? we found that man is not born conscious; and that therefore consciousness is not a given or ready-made fact of humanity. In looking for some sign of its manifestation, we found that it has come into operation whenever the human being has pronounced the word "I," knowing what this expression means. This word is a highly curious one, and quite an anomaly, inasmuch as its true meaning is utterly incommunicable by one being to another—endow the latter with as high a degree of intelligence as you please. Its origin cannot be explained by imitation or association. Its meaning cannot be taught by any conceivable process; but must be originated absolutely by the being using it. This is not the case with any other form of speech. For instance, if it be asked what is a table? a person may point to one and say, "that is a table." But, if it be asked: what does "I" mean; and if the same person were to point to himself and say—"this is 'I,' "—this would convey quite a wrong meaning, unless the inquirer, before putting the question, had originated within himself the notion "I," for it would lead him to suppose, and to call that other person "I."—This is a strange paradox, but a true one; that a person would be considered mad, unless he applied to himself a particular name, which if any other person were to apply to him, he would be considered mad.
Neither are we to suppose that this word "I" is a generic word, equally applicable to us all, like the word "man; " for, if it were, then we should all be able to call each other "I," just as we can all call each other with propriety "man."
Further, the consideration of this question, by conducting us to inquiries of a higher interest, and of a real significance, enables us to get rid of most or all of the absurd and unsatisfactory speculations connected with that unreal substance which nobody knows any thing about—called "mind." If mind exists at all, it exists as much when man is born as it ever does afterwards,—therefore, in the development of mind, no new form of humanity is evolved. But no man is born "I"; yet, after a time, every man becomes "I." Here, then, is a new form of humanity displayed—and, therefore, the great question is,—what is the genesis of this new form of man?—What are the facts of its origin? How does it come into manifestation? Leave "mind" alone, ye metaphysicians, and answer us that.
IV. It is obvious that the new form of humanity, called "I," is evolved out of the act of consciousness; and this brings us to the second problem of our inquiry: how is the act itself of consciousness evolved? A severe scrutiny of the act of consciousness showed us, that this act, or, in other words, that our observation of our own phenomena, is to a certain extent a displacement or suspension of them; that these phenomena (our sensations, passions, and other modifications) are naturally of a monopolising tendency—that is to say, they tend to keep us unconscious, to engross us with themselves,—while, on the contrary, consciousness or our observation of them, is of a contrary tendency, and operates to render us unsentient, unpassionate, &c. We found, from considering facts, that consciousness on the one hand, and all our natural modifications on the other, existed in an inverse ratio to one another—that wherever the natural modification is plus, the consciousness of it is minus, and vice versa. We thus found that the great law regulating the relationship between the conscious man (the "I") and the natural man was the law of antagonism—and thus consciousness was found to be an act of antagonism; or (in order to render our deduction more distinct) we shall rather say was found to be evolved out of an act of antagonism put forth against the modifications of the natural man.
But out of what is this act of antagonism evolved? What are its grounds? Let us consider what it is put forth against. All man's natural modifications are derivative—and this act is put forth against all these natural modifications—there is not one of them which is not more or less impaired by its presence. It cannot, therefore, be itself derivative, for if it were, it would be an acting against itself, which is absurd. Being, therefore, an act which opposes all that is derivative in man, it cannot be itself derivative, but must be underived—that is, must be an absolutely original, primary, and free act. This act of antagonism, therefore, is an act of freedom,—or, we shall rather say, is evolved out of freedom. Its ground and origin is freedom.
But what are the explanatory grounds of freedom? We have but to ascertain what is the great law of bondage throughout the universe, and, in its opposite, we shall find the law or grounds of freedom. The law of bondage throughout the universe is the law of cause and effect. In the violation, then, of this law, true freedom must consist. In virtue of what, then, do we violate this law of bondage or causality? In virtue of our human will, which refuses to submit to the modifications which it would impose upon us. Human will thus forms the ground of freedom, and deeper than this we cannot sink. We sum up our deduction thus: The "I" is evolved out of the act of consciousness—the act of consciousness is evolved out of an act of antagonism put forth against all the derivative modifications of our being: This act of antagonism is evolved out of freedom; and freedom is evolved out of will; and thus we make will the lowest foundation-stone of humanity.
Thus have we resolved, though we fear very imperfectly, the great problem—How does Consciousness come into operation? the law of antagonism, established by facts, between the natural and the conscious man, being the principle upon which the whole solution rests.
V. In discussing the consequences of the act of consciousness, we endeavoured to show how this act at once displaces our sensations, and, in the vacant room, places the reality called "I," which, but for this active displacement of the sensations, would have had no sort of existence. We showed that the complex phenomenon in which this displacing and placing is embodied, is perception. The "I," therefore, is a consequence of the act of consciousness; and a brighter phase of it is presented when the state which the act of consciousness encounters and displaces is a passion instead of being a sensation. We showed that morality originates in the antagonism here put forth. But we have already expressed ourselves as succinctly and clearly as we are able on these points; and, therefore, we now desist from adding any more touches to this very imperfect Outline of the Philosophy of Human Consciousness.
- Lord Bacon calls revenge a species of wild justice.
- Our leading tenet may be thus contrasted with those of some other systems in a very few words. The sensual or Lockeian School teaches, that man becomes conscious; or "I," in consequence of his sensations, passions, and other modifications; the Platonic and Kantian Schools teach that man becomes "I," not in consequence, but by occasion, of his sensations, passions, &c.: and this is true, but not the whole truth. According to our doctrine, man becomes "I" or a conscious Being, in spite of his sensations, passions, &c. Sensation, &c., exist for the purpose of keeping down consciousness — and consciousness exists for the purpose of keeping down sensation, &c. &c.