Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/569

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GENERAL ANALYSIS]
553
PSYCHOLOGY


7. And this has brought us round naturally to the third of the commonly accepted constituents of experience. What is ronation, or rather conalive action? For there are two ques- tions often more or less confused, the question of onation.

motive or spring of action, as it is sometimes called -why is there action at all? and the question of means-how do definite actions come about? The former question relates primarily to the connexion of conation and feeling. It is only the latter question that we now raise. In ordinary voluntary movement we have first of all an idea or re-presentation of the movement, and last of all the actual movement itself-a new presentation which may for the present be described as the filling out of the re-presentation, which thereby attains that intensity, distinctness and embodiment we call reality. How does this change come about? The attempt has often been made to explain it by a reference to the more uniform, and apparently simpler, case of reflex action, including under this term what are called sensori-motor and ideo-motor actions. In all these the movement seems to be the result of a mere transference of intensity from the associated sensation or i<lea that sets on the movement. But when by some chance or mischance the same sensory presentation excites two or more nascent motor changes that conflict, a temporary block is said to occur; and, when at length one of these nascent motor changes finally prevails, then, it is said, “ there is constituted a state of consciousness which displays what we term volition.”1 But this assumption that sensory and motor ideas are associated before volition, and that volition begins where automatic or retiex action ends, is due to that inveterate habit of confounding the psychical and the physical which is the bane of modern psychology. How did these particular sensory and motor presentations ever come to be associated? The only psychological evidence we have of any very intimate Connexion between sensory and motor representations is that furnished by our acquired dexterities, i.e. by such movement as Hartley” styled “ secondarily automatic.” But then all these have been preceded by volition: as Herbert Spencer says, “the child learning to walk wills each movement before making it.” Surely, then, a. psychologist should take this as his typical case and prefer to assume that all automatic actions that come within his ken at all are in this sense secondarily automatic, i.e. to say that either in the experience of the individual or of his ancestors, volition or something analogous to it, preceded habit. But, if we are thus compelled by a sound method to regard sensori-motor actions as degraded or mechanical forms of voluntary actions, instead of regarding voluntary actions as gradually differentiated out of something physical, we have not to ask: What happens when one of two alternative movements is executed? but the more general question: What happens when any movement is made in consequence of feeling? It is obvious that on this view the simplest definitely purposive movement must have been preceded by some movement simpler still. For any distinct movement purposely made presupposes the ideal presentation, before the actual realization, of the movement. But such ideal presentation, being a re-presentation, equally presupposes a previous actual movement of which it is the so-called mental residuum. There is then, it would seem, but one way left, viz. to regard those movements which are immediately expressive of pleasure or pain as primordial, and to regard the so-called voluntary movements as elaborated out of these. The vague and diffusive character of these primitive emotional manifestations is really a point in favour of this position. For such “ diffusion ” is evidence of an underlying continuity of motor presentations parallel to that already discussed in connexion with sensory presentations, a continuity which, in each case, becomes differentiated in the course of experience into comparatively distinct and discrete movements and sensations respectively .3

Compare'Spencer's Principles of Psychology, i. §§ 2I7, 8. 2 D. Hartley, Observations on Man (6th ed., 1834), pp. 66 sqq. 3 It may be well to call to mind here that Alexander Bain also regarded emotional expression as a possible commencement of action, But whereas we can only infer, and that in a very roundabout fashion, that our sensations are not absolutely distinct but are parts of one massive sensation, as it were, we are still liable under the influence of strong emotion directly to experience the corresponding continuity in the case of movement. Such motor continuum we may suppose is the psychical counterpart of that permanent readiness to act, or rather that continual nascent acting, which among the older physiologists was spoken of as “ tonic action.” This “skeletal tone, ” as it is now called, is found to disappear more or less completely from a limb when its sensory nerves are divided. “ In the absence of the usual stream of afferent impulses passing into it, the spinal cord ceases to send forth the influences which maintain the tone.”4 And a like intimate dependence, we have every reason to believe, obtains throughout between sensation and movement. We cannot imagine the beginning of life but only life begun. The simplest picture, then, which We can form of a concrete state of mind is not one in which there are movements before there are any sensations or sensations before there are any movements, but one in which change of sensation is followed by change of movement, the link between the two being a change of feeling. ~

Having thus simplified the question, we may now ask again: How is this change of movement through feeling brought about? The answer, as already hinted, appears to be: Dependence By a change of attention. We learn from such of/tation of observations as psychologists describe under the Feelmg head of fascination, imitation, hypnotism, &c., that the mere concentration of attention upon a movement is-often enough to bring the movement to pass. But, of course, in such cases neither emotion nor volition is necessarily implied; but none the less they show the close Connexion that exists between attention and movement. Everybody, too, must often have observed how the execution of any but mechanical movements arrests attention to thoughts or sensations, and how, vice versa, a striking impression or thought interrupts him in the performance of skilled movements. Let us suppose, then, that we have at any given moment a certain distribution of attention between sensory and motor presentations; a change in that distribution then will mean a change in the intensity of some of all of these. But, in the case of motor presentations, change of intensity means change of movement. Such changes are, however, quite minimal in amount so long as the given presentations are-not conspicuously agreeable or disagreeable. So soon as they are, however, there is evidence of a most intimate connexion between feeling and attention; but it is hardly possible adequately' to exhibit this evidence without first attempting to ascertain the characteristics of the presentations, or groups of presentations, that are respectively pleasurable and painful, and this must occupy us later on.

8. We are now at the end of our analysis, and the results may perhaps be most conveniently summarized by first throwing them into a tabular form and then appending a Primordlal few remarks by way of indicating the main purport F-'wis of of the table. Taking no account of the specific Mind difference between one concrete state of mind and another, and supposing that we are dealing with presentations but only to reject it in favour of his own peculiar doctrine of “ spontaneity, " which, however, is open to the objection that it makes movement precede feeling instead of following it-an objection that would be serious even if the arguments advanced to support his hypothesis were as cogent as only Bain supposed them to be. Against the position maintained above he objects that “ the emotional wave almost invariably afiects a whole group of movements, " and therefore does not furnish the “isolated promptings that are desiderated in the case of the will ” (Mental and flloral Science, p. 323). But to make this objection is to let heredity count for nothing. In fact, wherever a variety of isolated movements is physically possible there also we always find corresponding instincts, “that untaught ability to perform actions, " to use Bain's own language, which a minimum of practice suffices to perfect. But then these suggest gradual ancestral acquisition.

4 Foster, Text-Book of Physiology, § 597.