Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/606

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way language when it already exists, is instrumental in the development as distinct from the communication of thought. But first of all, what in general is thinking, of which language is the instrument?

In entering upon this inquiry we are really passing one of the hardest and fastest lines of the old psychology-that between sense and understanding. So long as it was the fashion to assume a multiplicity of faculties the need was less Distinction g°""°°" d felt for a clear exposition of their connexion. A man U°':;'f “” had senses and intellect much as he had eyes and ears; sgndmg the heterogeneity in the one case was no more puzzling than in the other. But for psychologists who do not cut the knot in this fashion it is confessedly a hard matter to explain the relation of the two. The contrast of receptivity and activity hardly avails, for all presentation involves activity and essentially the same activity, that of attention. Nor can we well maintain that the presentations attended to differ in kind, albeit such a view has been held from Plato downwards. Nihil est 'in intellect guod non fuerit prius in sensu: the blind and deaf are necessarily without some concepts that we possess. If pure being is pure nothing, pure thought is equally empty. Thought consists of a certain elaboration of sensory and motor presentations and has no content apart from these. We cannot even say that the forms of this elaboration are psychologically a priori; on the contrary, what is epistemologically the most fundamental is the last to be psychologically realized. This is not only true as a fact; it is also true of necessity, in so far as the formation of more concrete concepts is an essential preliminary to the formation of others more abstract-those most abstract, like the Kantian categories, &c., being thus the last of all to be thought out or understood. And though this formative work is substantially voluntary, yet, if we enter upon it, the form at each step is determined by the so-called matter, and not by us; in this respect “ the spontaneity of thought " is not really freer than the receptivity of sense! It is sometimes said that thought is synthetic, and this is true; but imagination is synthetic also; and the processes which yield the ideational train are the only processes at work in intellectual synthesis. Moreover, it would be arbitrary to say at what point the mere generic image ceases and the true concept begins-so continuous are the two. No wonder, therefore, that English psychology has been prone to regard thought as only a special kind of perception-perceiving the agreement or disagreement of ideas—and the ideas themselves as mainly the products of association. Yet this is much like confounding observation with experiment or invention-the act of a cave-man in betaking himself to a drifting tree with that of Noah in building himself an ark. In reverie, and even in understanding the communications of others, we are comparatively passive spectators of ideational movements, non-voluntarily determined. But in thinking or “ intellect ion, " as it has been conveniently termed, there is always a search for something more or less vaguely conceived, for a clue which will be known when it occurs by seeming to satisfy certain conditions. Thinking may be broadly described a s solving a problem-finding an AX that is B. In so doing we start from a comparatively fixed central idea or intuition and work along the several diverging lines of ideas associated with it-hence far the aptest and in fact the oldest description of thought is that it is discursive. Emotional excitement -and at the outset the natural man does not think much in cold blood-quickens the How of ideas: what seems relevant is at once contemplated more closely, while what seems irrelevant awakens little interest and receives little attention. At first the control acquired is but very imperfect; the actual course of thought of even a disciplined mind falls far short of the clearness, distinctness, and coherence of the logician's ideal. Familiar associations are apt to hurry attention away from the proper topic, so that thought herd of individuals mankind would have a natural history as other animals have; but personality can only emerge out of intercourse with persons, and of such intercourse language is the means. But important as is this addition of a transparent and responsive, world of minds to the dead opaqueness of external things, the development of our psychological individual still remains a purely individual development. The only new point is-and it is of the highest importance to keep it in sight-that the materials of this development no longer consist exclusively of presentations elaborated b a single mind in accordance with psychical laws. Nevertheless that combination of individual experiences which converts subjective idiosyncrasy and isolation into the objectivity and solidarity of Universal Mind only affects the individual in accordance with psychical laws, and we have no need therefore to overstep our proper domain in studying the advance from the non-rational phase to the phase of reason.

1 Locke, so often misrepresented, expressed this truth according to his lights in the following: “ The earth will not appear painted with flowers nor the fields covered with verdure whenever we have a mind to it .... ]ust thus is it with our understanding: all that is voluntary in our knowledge is the employing or withholding any of our faculties from this or that sort of objects and a more or less accurate survey of them " (Essay, iv. 13, 2).

becomes not only discursive but wandering; in place of concepts of fixed and crystalline completeness, such as logic describes, we may find a congeries of ideas but imperfectly compacted into one generic idea, subject to continual transformation and implicating much that is irrelevant and confusing.

Thus, while it is possible for thought to begin without language, just as arts may begin without tools, yet language enables us to carry the same process enormously farther. In the first place it gives us an increased command of Th°"ght and even such comparatively concrete generic images as can be formed without it. The name of a thing or action becomes, for one who knows the name, as much an objective mark or attribute as-any quality whatever can be. The form and colour of what we call an “ orange ” are perhaps even more intimately combined with the sound and utterance of this word than with the taste and fragance which we regard as strictly essential to the thing. But, whereas its essential attributes often evade us, we can always command its nominal attribute, in so far as this depends upon movements of articulation. ' By uttering the name (or hearing it uttered) we have secured to us, in a greater or less degree, that superior vividness and definiteness that pertain to images reinstated by impressions: our idea. approximates to the fixity and independence of a percept (cf. § 21 above). With young children and uncultured minds-who, by the way, not uncommonly “ think aloud "the gain in this respect is probably more striking than those not confined to their mother-tongue or those used to an analytical handling of language at all realize.” When things are thus made ours by receiving names from us and we can freely manipulate them in idea, it becomes easier mentally to bring together facts that logically belong together, and so to classify and generalize. For names set us free from the cumbersome tangibility and particularity of perception, which is confined to just what is presented here and now. But as ideas increase in generality they diminish in definiteness and unity; they not only become less pictorial and more schematic, but they become vague and unsteady as well, because formed from a number of concrete images only related as regards one or two constituents, and not assimilated as the several images of the same thing may be. The mental picture answering to the word “horse ” has, so to say, body enough to remain a steady object when under attention from time to time; but that answering to the word “ animal” is perhaps scarcely twice alike. The relations of things could thus never be readily recalled or steadily controlled if the names of those relations, which as words always remain concrete, did not give us a definite hold upon them-make them comprehensible. Once these “ airy nothings ” have aname, we reap again the advantages a concrete constituent affords: by its means that which is relevant becomes more closely associated, and that which is irrelevant-abstracted from-falls off. When what answers to the logical connotation or meaning of a concept is in this way linked with the name, it is no longer necessary that such “ matter or content” should be distinctly present in consciousness. It takes time for an image to raise its associates above the threshold; and, when all are there, there is more demand upon attention in proportion. There is thus a manifest economy in what Leibnitz happily styled “ symbolic, ” in contrast to “ intuitive ” thinking. Our power of efficient attention is limited, and with words for counters we can, as Leibnitz remarks, readily perform operations involving very complex presentations, and wait till these operations are concluded before realizing and spreading out the net result in sterling coin.

But this simile must not mislead us. In actual thinking there never is any complete separation between the symbol and the ideas symbolized: the movements of the one are never entirely suspended till those of the Thoughmud other are complete. “Thus, ” says Hume, “if,

instead of saying, that in war the weaker have always recourse Language.


2 Ruskin, in his Fors clavigera, relates that the sight of the word “ crocodile " used to frighten him when a child so much that he could not feeldat ease again till he had turned over the page on which it occurre