Page:Blackwood's Magazine volume 044.djvu/553

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An Introduction to the Philosophy of Consciousness.


Part V.

Chapter I.

The question of Liberty and Necessity has been more perplexed and impeded in its solution by the confounding of a peculiar and very important distinction, than by all the other mistakes and oversights burdened upon it besides. The distinction to which we allude is one which ought to be constantly kept in mind, and followed out as a clue throughout the whole philosophy of man—the distinction, namely, between one's existence for others, and one's existence for oneself; or, in other words, the distinction between unconscious and conscious existence. This distinction, we remark, is very commonly confounded; that is to say, the separate species of existence specified, instead of being regarded as two, are generally regarded as only one; and the consequence is, that all the subsequent conclusions of psychology are more or less perplexed and vitiated by this radical entanglement, and more particularly is the great question just mentioned involved in obscurity thereby, and, to all appearance, doomed to revolve in the weary rounds of endless and barren speculation. We have already, in various parts of this discussion, endeavoured to establish a complete distinction between these two kinds of being; and now, with a view of throwing some light on the intricate question of Liberty and Necessity, not derived from reasoning, but from immediate fact, we proceed to illustrate and enforce this discrimination more strenuously than ever.

What, then, is our existence for others; and in what respect is it to be taken into account in a scientific estimate of ourselves? A little reflection will explain to us what it is, together with all its actual or possible accompaniments.

It will be admitted that except in man there is no consciousness anywhere throughout the universe. If, therefore, man were deprived of consciousness, the whole universe, and all that dwell therein, would be destitute of that act. Let us suppose, then, that this deprivation actually takes place, and let us ask, What difference would it make in the general aspect and condition of things? As far as the objects of the external universe, animals and so forth, are concerned, it would confessedly make none; for all these are without consciousness at any rate, and therefore cannot be affected by its absence. The stupendous machinery of nature would move round precisely as heretofore. But what difference would the absence of consciousness make in the condition of man? Little or none, we reply, in the eyes of a spectator ab extra. In the eyes of a Being different from man, and who regards him, we shall suppose, from some other sphere, man's ongoings without consciousness would be the same, or nearly the same, as they were with consciousness. Such a Being would occupy precisely the same position towards the unconscious man as the conscious man at present holds towards the unconscious objects of creation; that is to say, man would still exist for this Being, and for him would evolve all his varied phenomena. We are not to suppose that man in this case would be cut off from any of those sources of inspiration which make him a rational, a passionate, a sentient, and an imaginative creature. On the contrary, by reason of the very absence of consciousness, the flood-gates of his being would stand wider than before, and let in upon him stronger and deeper currents of inspiration. He would still be visited by all his manifold sensations, and by all the effects they bring along with them; he would still be the creature of pleasure and of pain; his emotions and desires would be the same as ever, or even more overwhelming; he would still be the inspired slave of all his soft and all his sanguinary passions; for, observe, we are not supposing him deprived of any of these states of being, but only of the consciousness, or reference to self, of them—only of that notion and reality of self which generally accompanies them—a partial cur-