Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/564

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
548
[GENERAL ANALYSIS
PSYCHOLOGY

total of objects to remain the same: the orange would still be round, yellow and fragrant as before. For the physicist whether aware of it or not-has taken up a position which for the present may be described by saying that phenomenon with him means appearance or manifestation, or-as we had better say object, not for a concrete individual, but rather for what Kant called Bewusstsezfn uberhaupl, or, as some render it, the objective consciousness, i.e. for an imaginary subject freed from all the limitations of actual subjects save that of depending on “ sensibility ” for the material of experience. However, this is not all, for, as we shall see presently, the psychologist also-occupies this position; at least if he does not his is not a true science. But, further, the physicist leaves out of sight altogether the facts of attention, feeling, and so forth, all of which actual presentation entails. From the psychological point of view, on the other hand, the removal of the subject removes not only all such facts as attention and feeling, but all presentation or possibility of presentation whatever. Surely, then, to call a certain object, when we abstract from its presentation, a material phenomenon, and to call the actual presentation of this object a mental phenomenon, is a clumsy and confusing way of representing the difference between the two points of view. For the terms “ material ” and “ mental " seem to imply that the two so-called phenomena have nothing in common, whereas the same object is involved in both, while the term “ phenomenon " implies that the point of view is in each case the same, when in truth what is emphasized by the one the other ignores.

2. Paradoxical though it may be, we must then conclude that psychology cannot be defined by reference to a special subject-Siandpolnt matter as such concrete sciences, for example, as 0f Psycho' mineralogy and botany can be; and, since it deals in °g~"° some sort with the whole of experience, it is obviously not an abstract science in any ordinary sense of that term. To be characterized at all, therefore, apart from metaphysical assumptions, it must be characterized by the standpoint from which this experience is viewed. It is by way of expressing this that widely different schools of psychology define it as subjective, all other positive sciences being distinguished as objective. But this seems scarcely more than a first approximation to the truth, and, as we have seen incidentally, is apt to be misleading. The distinction rather is that the standpoint of psychology is what is sometimes termed “ individualistic, ” that of the so-called object-sciences being “ universalis tic, ” both alike being objective in the sense of being true for all, consisting of what Kant would call judgments of experience. For psychology is not a biography in any sense, still less a biography dealing with idiosyncrasies, and in an idiom having an interest and a meaning for one subject only, and incommunicable to any other. Locke, Berkeley and Hume have been severely handled because they regarded the critical investigation of knowledge as a psychological problem, and set to work to study the individual mind simply for the sake of this problem. But none the less their standpoint was the proper one for the science of psychology itself; and, however surely their philosophy was foredoomed to a collapse, there is no denying a steady psychological advance as we pass from Locke to Htune and his modern representatives. By “ idea ” Locke tells us he means “ Whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks ” (ie. is conscious), and having, as it were, shut himself within such a circle of ideas he finds himself powerless to explain his knowledge of a world that is assumed to be independent of it; but he is able to give a very good account of some of these ideas themselves. He cannot justify his belief in the world of things whence certain of his simple ideas “ were conveyed ” any more than Robinson Crusoe could have explored the continents whose products were drifted to his desert island, though he might perhaps survey the island itself well enough. Berkeley accordingly, as Professor Fraser happily puts it, abolished Locke's hypothetical outer circle. Thereby he made the psychological standpoint clearer than ever-hence the truth of Hume's remark, that Berkeley's arguments “ admit of no answer ”; at the same time the epistemological problem was as hopeless as before-hence again the truth of Hume's remark that those arguments “produced no conviction.” Of all the facts with which he deals, the psychologist may truly say that their esse is percipi, inasmuch as all his facts are facts of presentation, are ideas in Locke's sense, or objects which imply a subject. Before we became conscious there was no world for us; should our consciousness cease, the world for us ceases too; had we been born blind, the world would for us have had no colour; if deaf, itwould have had no sounds; if idiotic, it would have had no meaning. Psychology, then, never transcends the limits of the individual. But now, though this Berkeleyan standpoint is the standpoint of psychology, psychology is not pledged to the method employed by Berkeley and by Locke. Psychology may be individualistic without being confined exclusively to the introspective method. There is nothing to hinder the psychologist from employing materials furnished by his observations of other men, of infants, of the lower animals, or of the insane; nothing to hinder him taking counsel with the philologist or even the, physiologist, provided always he can show the psychological bearings of those facts which are not directly psychological. The standpoint of psychology is individualistic; by whatever methods, from whatever sources its facts are ascertained, they must-to have a psychological import-be regarded as having place in, or as being part of, some one's consciousness or experience. In this sense, i.e. as presented to an individual, “ the whole choir of heaven and furniture of earth” may belong to psychology, but otherwise they are psychological nonentities. In defining psychology, however, the propriety of avoiding the terms mind or soul, which it implies, is widely acknowledged; mind because of the disastrous dualism of mind and matter, soul because of its metaphysical associations. Hence F. A. Lange's famous mot: modern psychology is Psychologie ohne Seele. But consciousness, which is the most frequent substitute, is continually confused with self consciousness, and so is apt to involve undue stress on the subjective as opposed to the objective, as well as to emphasize the cognitive as against the conative factors. Experience, it is maintained, is a more fundamental and less ambiguous term. Psychology then is the science of individual experience. The problem of psychology, in dealing with this complex subject matter, is in general-first, to ascertain its ultimate constituents, and, secondly, to determine and explain the laws of their interaction.

General Analysis.

3. In seeking to make a first general analysis of experience, we must start from individual human experience, for this alone is what we immediately know. From this standpoint we must endeavour to determine the “irreducible minimum ” involved, so that our concept may apply to all lower forms of experience as well. Etymologically experience connotes practical acquaintance, efficiency and skill as the result of trial-usually repeated trial-and effort. Many recent writers on comparative psychology propose to make evidence of experience in this sense the criterion of psychical life. The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib, and so would pass muster; but the ant and the bee, who are said to learn nothing, would, in spite of their marvellous instinctive skill, be regarded as mere automata in Descartes's sense. That this criterion is decisive on the positive side will hardly be denied; the question how far it is available negatively we must examine later on. But it will be well first briefly to note some of the implications of this positive criterion: Experience is the process of becoming expert by experiinent. The chief implication, no doubt, is that which in psychological language we express as the duality of subject and object. Looking at this relation as the comparative psychologist has to do, we find that it tallies in the main with the biological relation of organism and environment. The individuality of the organism corresponds to, though it is not necessarily identical with, the psychological subject, while to the environment and its changes corresponds the objective continuum or tolum objectivum as we shall call it. This correspondence further helps us to see still more clearly the error of regarding individual experience as wholly subjective, and at the same time helps us to find some measure of truth in the naive realism of Common Sense. As these points have an important bearing on the connexion of psychology and epistemology, we may attempt to elucidate them more fully.

Though it would be unwarrantable to resolve a thing, as some have done, into a mere meeting-point of relations, yet it is