Social and Ethical Interpretations in Mental Development


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The Meanings of Self: the Reality of Self. F. H. BRADLEY. Chaps. IX.-X. of the work 'Appearance and Reality.' London, Swan Sonnenschein & Co; New York, The Macmillan Co., 1893.

Mr. Bradley distinguishes eight meanings of ' Self.' He criticises them all and finds the following outcome. Nowhere is there any content of consciousness which is consistently and always called ' Self.' There is the anthropological self, a cross-section of consciousness, Hume's bundle of present states—which changes, of course. There is the organized self of thought which proceeds upon ever new materials of organization. There is the quasi-permanent self of memory and personal identity: but what is it that is permanent ? There is the sentient self which finds itself subject to the contrasts, fluxes, relativities of feeling, and so on. The actual process of reflection on self is

(558) depicted by Mr. Bradley in an analysis which is wonderfully acute and obviously true ; a landmark, I think, in the history of that enigma, the so-called ' rational subject.' He depicts a perpetual ego-play of content-elements over against one another in their relation of subject and object. At one time a certain arc in the trajectory of consciousness assumes the role of self over against another arc which it takes for its object. Then, at another time, the ego-section slides further around, so to speak. But however long you chase it, it is always part of the trajectory, part of the content—the ego is; and the object is another part. And the unity which contains the whole play, this is the only unity there is. It is a unity of feeling. Always, there is a fundus of feeling. This ego-play I find to be very truly described ; try as one will to reflect on self, he finds a content—that which is at that moment claiming to be the subject—setting itself over against another content and calling it ' me' ; and just as soon as one tries to find out what this subject-content is, he is able in a measure to do so; which means that that content has now taken the place of the object-content, and so is no longer I, but has become me. And all the time there is a ' feeling' of the whole play, and of the background, as itself upholding the I and linking it into some sort of unity with the me.

The same analysis holds, says Bradley, also for the 'active' self—the self of volition and desire. It seems possible to turn upon any element in the self that desires, and desire it to be different; that is, to treat it as a not-self upon which the action of the self desiring is to terminate. This leads to a subtle deduction of the sense of self-activity, which is shown to be due to change in content. For example, the I which desires finds in its object new elements of content fit to be included in the me, and by its expansion to include these elements it sets itself over against its former I-elements, thus converting them into objective me-elements. This expansion and shifting of content-elements through which certain constant I-elements are present—this is felt as self-activity. Even when the elements reached out after as fit for I-elements are not explicit,—i.e., when there is no explicit desire,—even then self-activity is felt. This is due. Bradley thinks, to the implicit presence of these elements already in the original I-content, but in such a way that the entire content as a group is inhibited by the explicit elements. The release of this inhibition is then felt as self-activity.

This deduction, it is clear, is capable of either a Herbartian or a Wundtian construction (see notice of Mackensie's paper below) ; it assumes, with both Herbart and Wundt, conscious self-activity beneath the threshold of explicit desire. With this assumption I do not agree.

(559) There is really no warrant for any such sort of self-activity. Consciousness bears witness, on the contrary, to a very clear aloofness of the I-content from both the members of the change of content taking place in a 'me' which is not the object of desire. Note the case of involuntary attention with its distractions, and the changes wrought in the me content by hypnotic suggestion: these have no feeling of self-activity.[2] Nor has the progress of a purely objective ' train of ideas.' And even in the instance of blind unratified impulse, there is a feeling of 'run-away ' in the machinery, of lack of self-implication, which is due not to the implicit presence of the elements which are explicitly present in desire, but to the weakness of another content which is explicitly desired. This latter content is inhibited and overcome, and the undesired takes place because of the reverse outcome of the same process as that of explicit desire. Mr. Bradley holds the necessity for some content-element ideally held for realization; but, in saying that after all it may be implicit, he seems to give up his analysis for the sake of accounting for a myth. The idea said to be implicit is really a part already of the old felt content; otherwise there is mere change —not activity—in which the felt content maintains itself successfully against the ideal content. Hence the sense of incompleteness, disappointment, relative irresponsibility, in such activities, e.g., as saying ' I will not consent,' and consenting. Put in symbols, there seems to be little difference here between Mr. Bradley's view and mine. But he, in fact, finds self-activity felt towards what is not desired; I rather find activity, largely not that of self, felt toward that which inhibits what is desired. In the concrete cases which psychology actually knows it makes a difference.[3]


This analysis of self-activity—or any other which proceeds upon what Mr. Bradley calls 'the end in the beginning'— shows itself important in relation to the doctrine of imitative development worked out by recent writers. The object of desire, explicit or through habit implicit, is set up for realization. This is what I have called a 'copy for imitation' in my theory, such a copy as an imitative view of volition requires.[4] It seems then that this citadel of actus purus, this fount of originality and unrelated self-determination, is also capable of a natural construction. The pedagogical applications are very important. For 'self-activity' is talked of so freely nowadays as the goal of education — and so it is — that it is well to show that it is after all through imitation that the training process must proceed even in order to make our scholars inventive.

The other chapter of Bradley's —'The Reality of Self'-- proceeds to show that in such a shifting self, constructed out of changing content, we have no right to find reality. It is appearance only. This involves the further doctrines of reality, appearance, change, etc., and is too far-reaching for further notice here.

Mr. Bradley's View of the Self. J. S. MACKENSIE. Mind, N. S. III., July, 1894, pp. 304-335

Mr. Mackensie gives an account of the chapter on the Self of Mr. Bradley's book, and criticises it on the score of certain omissions. He classifies Bradley's meanings of 'self' under four heads—the ' biological,' the 'psychological,' the 'sentient,' and the 'pathological' self—and claims that two other forms of 'self' must be added, called by him the 'epistemological' and the 'ontological' or 'ideal.' The epistemological or transcendental self is the form of the thought-process, the focus at which the variety of experience is brought to unity in thought. It is the Ego of the cogito and is not a matter of content; thus escaping Bradley's reduction of the various selves to particular constructions of content. In psychological terms, I suppose, this self is the function of apperception considered as unifying principle of thought. The other I self' added by Mackensie is the ' ontological' again the formal principle of unity, but now considered as the unity of reality or completed system — the ideal unity of 'the completely intelligible for the completely intelligent.' Both these points are familiar to readers of Caird.

As to the matters of fact involved, I think Mr. Bradley is not well

(561) criticised. The question arises, how does 'form' come to consciousness ? If not as content, we have to say, then not at all. But if not at all, then it must be itself a matter of thought-construction. For how can we say 'experience when thought has the form of unity' except by the use of judgment, which must go back again to conscious-content for its matter ? So the I transcendental ego' becomes either the Kantian noumenon, or reduces itself to the I sentient' self of Bradley, i.e., as I should put it, it is a matter of sentient or felt content over and above the presented content of which it is felt to be the form. In this shape it loses much of its mystery and is amenable to the same natural-history treatment as other facts of consciousness. And the ' ontological ' or ' ideal' self is subject to the same sort of criticism. If there be no real ego discovered in the cogito, apart from the felt form of the cognitum, then we have no basis for an ideal ego discovered in an ideal cogito apart from what we feel the form of the ideal cognitum would be if we were able to apprehend it. Then presupposing absolute reality, the ideal ego will be an absolute sentient ego—an ego which feels its own perfect content.

I do not know whether Mr. Bradley would accept this bald argument to a conclusion near his own. It certainly is much briefer than his. And I am sure that Mr. Mackensie and his master would say "not a word about I reason'—which is a ' higher level' than intellect." But of the points still left in current idealism for Mr. Bradley's probing-knife of psychological analysis, this is the most inviting. I believe that reason is feeling, and its ideals are feeling—the onrush of habit and emotion in their own out-reaching movement beyond the constructions of intellect which they presuppose. This is reason's nature and history. It is Bradley's splendid service to have shown that reality- is as much reality when felt as when judged—possibly more, if the pros and cons of the relation of feeling and thought to each other be duly weighed.

The External World and the Social Consciousness. JOSIAH ROYCE. Philos. Review, III., pp. 513-545, September, 1894.

The thesis maintained by Professor Royce in this interesting paper is this: " Social community is the differentia of our external world. . . A child never gets his belief in our present objective world until he has first got his social consciousness." The arguments presented by the author in support of this view are of two kinds. He first shows that the ordinary so-called tests or criteria of externality are not valid or sufficient, inasmuch as they omit the quality of definiteness.

(562) All things believed to be external are definite in place, dimensions, number, and movement. But what we really mean by definiteness is, when analyzed, communicableness to others ; what I cannot express to my fellow and ratify together with him—that is not external, but internal. The notion of externality therefore proceeds upon the sense of social relationship or community. Apart from the question of proof, attention may be called to Professor Royce's acute note on Renouvier's thesis, ' Whatever is must be determinate,' and to the use he makes of the sense of indefinite movement in after-images quoted from Fleischl. In what is said in this part of the paper we have, I think, a very original and interesting contribution to the theory of externality. It lacks, however, detailed criticism of the criteria usually named, i.e., resistance, regularity, involuntariness, etc., of the external world. I myself. for example, should not feel driven out of my view of the 'coefficient of external reality' [5] earlier worked out, even though the whole account of the social consciousness given by Professor Royce should prove true. This appears in the general point of criticism made below.

In the second part of his paper, the author gives a summary of a theory of the rise of the social consciousness based upon the doctrine of imitation, i.e., a theory with which the present reviewer is in substantial agreement. The essence of the theory is that the child gets his material for the personality-sense from persons around him by imitation. So that his growing sense of self is constantly behind his growing sense of others. This conclusion affords the additional argument that it is through this relationship that the antithesis between self and the external is discovered and the community made possible in which the external world finds its differentia.

The one criticism which I should venture to make upon this paper —as attractive in style as thoughtful in content—is that it neglects the phylogenetic point of view, the considerations from race-history. I think the element of social suggestion may be admitted to the full as Professor Royce argues for it, and yet the conclusion not follow that the child would not get the notion of externality without it. No more should I say that the child would not get a notion of self without the imitative copying of others which we agree in emphasizing so strongly. Would not the hereditary impulses of thought and nervous action give an isolated babe a pretty good apology for an external world and a self ? To say, ' yes, but not the same he now has.' is only to say that the social element is an addition. Certainly it is; but is there no

(563) essential moment in externality which must be either there or not there to a child ?

I think there is: something in the structure of the developed nervous system. The seeing of space itself may carry externality in presented objects : not not-self-ness, of course, but blank, definite, awayness—da-ness, so to speak. It is the property seen in the nervous projection of stimulations to the periphery. Little chickens seem to have a very respectably definite sense of da-ness, and this without comparing notes with one another or with the hen ! Now this sense of projection may be the essence of external existence vs. internal —although the antithesis comes only later and largely by social development—and it may be that the elements even of personal suggestion which the child imitates already have it.[6] Indeed I think it can be shown that they have. It is on this basis that I recognize, in my 'coefficient of external reality,' an element which constitutes this kind of objectivity, and make the 'objective' stage first even in the child's knowledge of other persons.

An interesting speculation would arise if Professor Royce should work out the social criterion in the phylogenetic sphere; by applying it, for example, to the quasi-social community of the different senses together —a test of externality strongly insisted upon sometimes. If so, I should ask him how it has come about that a single sense often so strenuously lies to us about externality, in the face of all sense and social testimony, that we have to lie to ourselves, almost, to keep back our belief in it. If it be because this function, say, of this sense is a part of habitual convention and former beliefs which are themselves guaranteed, then that illustrates what I should say was the case with each organism as a whole with reference to other organisms.


  1. From The Psychological Review, Nov., 1894.
  2. Cf. my volume on Feeling and Will, Chap. XII., 3-6.
  3. With this criticism of Mr. Bradley's view the following remarks made by him in his second edition (p. 607) should be noted, seeing that they show more agreement than I had supposed: " But that I failed to be clear is evident both from Mr. Stout's criticism and from some interesting remarks by Professor Baldwin in the Psychological Review, Vol. I., No. 6. The relation of felt activity to desire, and the possibility of their independence, and of the priority of one to the other, is to my mind a very difficult question ; but I should add that to my mind it is not a very important one. I hope that both Mr. Stout and Professor Baldwin will see from the above that my failure was to some extent one merely of expression, and that our respective divergence is not as great as at first sight it might appear to be. As to the absence of felt self-activity in certain states of mind, I may add that I am wholly and entirely at one with Professor Baldwin." The reader should look up Mr. Bradley's new statement.
  4. See also Royce's paper noticed further on.
  5. Handbook of Psychology, II., Chap. VII., 4, 5.
  6. Cf. the Section on 'Personality Suggestion' in my volume on Mental Development, and Chap. VI., 2, above, where it is pointed out there that there is a period of 'organic' bashfulness in the child's first year—showing a specialized nervous reaction to the presence of persons.

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