Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/571

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

fails to express the characteristics which distinguish

save in being attention to a special class of objects. First of all, it is noteworthy that both have the same characteristics. Thus, what Hamilton called “the law of limitation” holds of each alike and of either with respect to the other; and it holds too not only of the number of presentations but also of -the intensity. We can be absorbed in action just as much as in perception or thought; also, as already said, movements, unless they are mechanical, inhibit ideas; and vice versa, ideas, other than associated trains, arrest movements. Intoxication, hypnotism or insanity, rest or exhaustion, tell on apperception as well as on innervation. The control of thoughts, equally with the control of movements, requires effort; and as there is a strain peculiar to intently listening or gazing, which is known to have a muscular concomitant, so too there is a strain characteristic of recollection and visualization, which may quite well turn out to be muscular too. When movements have to be associated, the same continuous attention is called for as is found requisite in associating sensory impressions; and, when such associations have become very intimate, dissociation is about equally difficult in both cases.

There is one striking fact that brings to light the essential sameness of apperception and innervation, cited by Wundt for this very purpose. In so-called “ reaction-time” experiments it is found, when the impression to be registered follows on a premonitory signal after a certain brief interval, that then the reaction (registering the impression) is often instantaneous; the reaction-time, in other words, is nil. In such a case the subject is aware not of three separate events, (1) the perception of the impression; (2) the reaction; (3) the perception of this; but the fact of the impression is realized and the registering movement is actualized at once and together' the subject is conscious of one act of attention and one only. Theory of Presentations.

ro. We come now to the exposition of the objects of attention or consciousness, i.e. to what we may call the objective or presentational factor of psychical life. The treatment of this will fall naturally into two divisions. In the first we shall have to deal with its general characteristics and with the fundamental processes which all presentation involves. In View of its general and more or less hypothetical character we may call it the theory of presentation. We can then pass on to the special forms of presentations, known as sensations, percepts, images, &c., and to the special processes to which these forms lead up. This exposition will be simplified if we start with a supposition that will enable us to leave aside, at least for the present, the A, s, ,, ,, p, , o, , difficult question of heredity. We know that in ofapsyeno- the course of each individual's life there is more OEM' or less of progressive differentiation or development. Individual.

Further, it is believed that there has existed a series of sentient individuals beginning with the lowest form of life and advancing continuously up to man. Some traces of the advance already made may be reproduced in the growth of each human being now, but for the most part such traces have been obliterated. What was experience in the past has become instinct in the present. The descendant has no consciousness of his ancestor's failures when performing by “an untaught ability ” what they slowly and perhaps painfully acquired. But, if we are to attempt to follow the genesis of mind from its earliest dawn, it is the primary experience rather than the eventual instinct that we have first of all to keep in view. To this end, then, it is proposed to assume that we are dealing with one individual who has continuously advanced from the beginning of psychical life, and not with a series of individuals of whom all save the first inherited certain capacities from their progenitors. The life-history of such an imaginary individual, that is to say, would correspond with all that was new in the experience of a certain typical series of individuals each of whom advanced a certain stage in mental differentiation. On the other hand. from this history would be omitted that inherited reproduction of the net results, so to say, of ancestral experience, that innate tradition by which alone, under the actual conditions of existence, progress is possible. The process of thus reproducing the old might differ as widely from that of producing the new as electrotyping does from engraving. However, the point is that as psychologists we know nothing directly about it; neither can we distinguish precisely at any link in the chain of life what is old and inherited-original in the sense of Locke and Leibnitz —from what is new or acquired-original in the modern sense. But we are bound as a matter of method to suppose all complexity and differentiation among presentations to have been originated, La. experimentally acquired, at some time or other. So long, then, as we are concerned primarily with the progress of this differentiation we may disregard the fact that it has not actually been, as it were, the product of one hand dealing with one labula Vasa to use Locke's-originally Aristotle's-figure, but of many hands, each of which, starting with a reproduction of what had been wrought on the preceding tabulae, put in more or fewer new touches before devising the whole to a successor who would proceed in like manner.

rr. What is implied in this process of differentiation and what is it that becomes differentiated?-these are the questions to which we must now attend. Psychologists have The Pre-

usually represented mental advance as consisting sentarinufundamentally in the combination and recombine- c°"""""'"° tion of various elementary units, the so-called sensations and primitive movements: in other words, as consisting in a species of “mental chemistry. ” If we are to resort to physical analogies at all-a matter of very doubtful propriety—we shall find in the growth of a seed or an embryo far better illustrations of the unfolding of the contents of consciousness than in the building up of molecules: the process seems much more a segmentation of what is originally continuous than an aggregation of elements at first independent and distinct. Comparing higher minds or stages of mental development with lower-by what means such comparison is possible we need not now consider-we find in the higher conspicuous differences between presentations which in the lower are indistinguishable or absent altogether. The worm is aware only of the difference between light and dark. The steel-worker sees half a dozen tints where others see only a uniform glow. To the child, it is said, all faces are alike; and throughout life we are apt to note the general, the points of resemblance, before the special, the points of difference. But even when most definite, what we call a presentation is still part of a larger whole. It is not separated from other presentations, whether simultaneous or successive, by something which is not of the nature of presentation, as one island is separated from another by the intervening sea, or one note in a melody from the next by an interval of silence. In our search for a theory- of presentations, then, it is from this “ continuity of consciousness ” that we must take our start. Working backwards from this as we find it now, we are led alike by particular facts and general considerations to the conception of a totum objectivum or objective continuum which is gradually differentiated, thereby giving rise to what we call distinct presentations, just as some particular presentation, clear as a whole, as Leibnitz would say, becomes with mental growth a complex of distinguishable parts. Of the very beginning of this continuum we can say nothing; absolute beginnings are beyond the pale of science. Experience advances as this continuum is differentiated, every differentiation being a change of presentation. Hence the commonplace of psychologists-We are only conscious as we are conscious of change. But “ change of consciousness” is too loose an expression

to take the place of the unwieldy phrase differentiation of a presentation-continuum, to which we have been GraduaIDiIdriven.

For not only does the term “consciousness” femntlagon confuse what exactness requires us to keep distinct, an ofPresenactivity and its object, but also the term “change” “'"'"" Continuum.

new presentations from other changes. Differentiation implies that the simple becomes complex or the complex more complex; it implies also that this increased complexity is due to the persistence of former changes; we may even say such persistence is