Page:Reason in Common Sense (1920).djvu/225

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tendency without seeing their form, until the mechanical train of impulsive association, started by the perusal of what precedes or by the accidental emergence of some new idea, lights the fuse and precipitates the phrases. If this happens in the most reflective and deliberate of activities, like this of composition, how much more does it happen in positive action: “The die is cast,” said Caesar, feeling a decision in himself of which he could neither count nor weigh the multitudinous causes; and so says every strong and clear intellect, every well-formed character, seizing at the same moment with comprehensive instinct both its purposes and the means by which they shall be attained. Only the fool, whose will signifies nothing, boasts to have created it himself.

We must not seek the function of thought, then, in any supposed power to discover either ends not suggested by natural impulse or means to the accomplishment of those irrational ends. Attention is utterly powerless to change or create its objects in either respect; it rather registers without surprise—for it expects nothing in particular—and watches eagerly the images bubbling up in the living mind and the processes evolving there. These processes are themselves full of potency and promise; will and reflection are no more inconsequential than any other processes bound by natural links to the rest of the world. Even if an atomic mechanism suffices to mark the concatena-