The Meaning of the Psychical from the Point of View of the Functional Psychology[1]

H. Heath Bawden

IN two papers previously read before this Association,[2] I have maintained that the distinction of the psychical and the physical represents simply a functional division of labor in the statement of experience. There is no such distinction, or it is in-operative (which amounts to the same thing), so long as experience flows on smoothly, so long as in the midst of our action we do not 'stop to think.' It is the purpose of the present paper to consider somewhat more closely the meaning of the psychical in relation to that process of tension in experience which we have defined as the condition of consciousness.


With the advance of a science we naturally expect to find a reconstruction of the meaning of its fundamental concepts. This is true in psychology of the concept of the psychical. The most important recent advances in this science are those along the lines of genetic and social psychology. A genetic and functional mode of viewing experience has been taking a more and more prominent place in psychological discussions in the past few years, as contrasted with the analytic and structural, which still is the prevailing standpoint. By this is meant that experience is viewed as a process, with moments or functional phases, rather than as an entity or thing capable of analysis into structural elements or units. The structural analysis of experience is not denied value in its proper place, but, from the standpoint of method, it is shown to be instrumental to this functional view. Cross-sections of the process are taken at different points, and an analysis is made of the elements found in these cross-sections.

( 299) But the section and the analysis are ultimately for the sake of getting more efficient control of the process.

No one has made this clearer than Professor Royce in his critique of the doctrine of conscious elements in his recently published Outlines of Psychology. It is here shown that the element obtained by this analysis (for example, the sensation) is as much an artifact as is the atom in physical science. It is brought into existence as such for the first time in the act of analysis. Hence its only use is one similar to that of the atom in physics. It is a convenient tool in explaining the actual facts of the stream of consciousness. The justification of the whole range of analysis in the structural psychology can be found only in its methodological utility in explaining the concrete process of experience.

We may ask, then, how experience is viewed from the functional standpoint. From this point of view, experience is regarded primarily as a process. This is simply carrying over into psychology the general dynamic standpoint common to all science at the present time. By process here is meant activity, without specifying that it is either physical or psychical. The most fundamental statement that we can make about experience is that it is action. It is as much action when it is conscious as when it is unconscious, but the conditions of conscious action are different from the conditions of unconscious action.

What are the conditions of consciousness ? What are the laws which determine when an act becomes conscious or ceases to be conscious ? These are : the law of tension or obstruction in activity, and the law of habit or facilitation in coördination.

By the law of tension is meant simply this, that consciousness appears only when the process of action is relatively impeded or interrupted. Action is going on all the time, in tropism, reflex, and instinct. But these become consciously performed acts when there arises stress in adjustment, whether the focus of the tension be intra-organic or extra-organic.[3]

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The whole of psychophysics is but an illustration of this law of tension. What is the significance of the determination of thresholds, of the lag of sensation behind stimulus, of the summation of stimuli in order to produce a given sensational effect, of the Weber-Fechner law, unless it is this, —that tension is the condition of consciousness, and that there can be no tension unless there is not only a tendency in the organism in one direction, but also an inhibitory tendency operating with reference to this in the opposite direction? Lag of sensation, or summation of stimuli (which are simply obverse sides of the same fact), represent the limits within which operates that tension which is the condition of consciousness. The Weber-Fechner law marks the working limits of this tension.

But why just this relation, it may be asked? Why this particular law, that sensation increases as the logarithm of the stimulus ? It may be replied that investigation has shown that this ratio is not a constant one for all intensities of stimulus ; the formula holds only for stimulations of moderate intensity. It does not hold for either maximal or minimal ranges of stimulation. Moreover, Heymans has restated the law so that it reads simply that sensations increase in direct proportion to the increase of the stimulus. That is, if we rule out the influence of disturbing or inhibitory stimuli, the Fechner part of the statement of the Iaw is not true, but only the original formulation of Weber, that the increase of sensation is proportional to the increase of intensity of the stimulus. The Fechner formulation holds only of a stimulus operating in the presence of innumerable other stimuli whose inhibitory effect upon the operation of this stimulus is thus roughly expressed.

The tension (and thus the consciousness) lasts as long as the dominance of the relevant stimulus over the competing stimuli.

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It ceases (and consciousness lapses or begins to lapse) as soon as it succumbs to these. This succumbing to these other stimuli is just what we mean by the facilitation of a coordination, the lapsing into an habitual mode of reaction. Differences of reaction-time mean differences in facilitation or habituation of organic circuits (sensorimotor coördinations). This marks the time limits of the tension, as psychophysics marks the limits of intensity and extensity.

The whole study of sensation in modern structural psychology, especially in psychophysics, is really a technical investigation of the nature and limits of this tension. Genetic psychology is a study of the types of experience within which tension arises and of the changes which one type of experience (such as instinct) undergoes in the process of the emergence of consciousness (in impulse), and its transformation into another type of experience (habit). The so-called functional psychology is simply an attempt to relate the results of both these forms of psychological investigation to the process of reconstruction of experience as a whole; it interprets structure in terms of function, and function in terms of the genesis and growth of structure.

Biology and psychology state the same tension, but in terms of different techniques. Both the psychologist and the neurologist state the tension in terms of action ; but they start from such diverse standpoints and their technique and terminology (because of purely historical conditions) are so different, that we have a problem, or think we have a problem, of conflict between them which does not really exist, - the problem of the psychical and the physical, so transparently masqued in the current hypothesis of parallelism.

The relatively tensional phase of action is continuous with the relatively stable phases preceding and succeeding. There is no infringement of the law of conservation of energy. We simply have one name (the term `consciousness' or `psychical') for describing action when it is tensional, and another name (the term' habit ' or ` physical ') when it is relatively stable.[5]

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The distinction is confessedly a practical or teleological one, a distinction which holds for the situation or problem only; but it is no less valid as a distinction because it is relative only to a given type of situation and only under a given set of conditions.

A contribution has recently been made to the understanding of this problem in a paper by Professor George H. Mead, on the "Definition of the Psychical," in the University of Chicago Decennial Contributions to Philosophy and Education, Volume I. According to Professor Mead, my experience, as I am at this moment experiencing it, the actual process of my being my present conscious self, is psychical. My feelings, ideas, volitions, as I now am having them, are psychical. But the moment I reflect upon these experiences as mine, as soon as I make this feeling or idea or volition the subject-matter (the object-matter) of my thought, it ceases as process and becomes con-tent. It may become an ethical, an economic, a political, a scientific content, according to my purpose or interest in studying it. It may become a psychological content, i, e., it may become a datum of the science of psychology. But if we use the term ' psychical' in describing this datum, we must recognize that this use of the term is a very different one from that indicated above. We must distinguish the true psychical of immediate experience from the psychical as an object of psychological retrospection.[6] The true psychical, according to Professor Mead, is the immediate fact of experiencing. Any experience is psychical if, and in so far as, it is not the content of reflection, but at the time being experienced, i. e., is the process of reflection itself. As soon as we turn back upon this experience to analyze it or to reflect upon it in any way, it ceases to be the process of my experience and be-comes a content in my experience, a content treated either as something to be explained (in logical terms, the subject of the judgment) or as the explanation of something else (the predicate of the judgment). In order actually to explain this content or actually to use it in explanation of another content, there must, of course, be a new judgment; the process of experience must be resumed, it must become psychical again. This is the copula of

( 303) the judgment. The psychical is the copula. Thus experience grows out of one content into another content in and through the process — which is the psychical. New social, political, ethical, economic, aesthetic, scientific, philosophic, psychological values or contents are achieved only in and through psychical individuality. The psychical is experience as process, and psychology is the science of the content of experience with the reference to this process of reconstruction made explicit. As Külpe puts it, it is the dependence of facts of experience upon the experiencing process which makes them psychological data.

This thought is worked out from a different point of view by the late Professor Adamson in his Development of Modern Philosophy,[7] "Facts of mind, psychical states . . . can never be directly presented as objects."" When we describe the facts of mind as a series of events in time, we are vainly trying to regard them from the point of view of an outside observer. We are not describing them as they are for the consciousness they compose. There they are not objects of which the subject is aware, but ways in which he is aware. . . . It seems more true to say that the subject is his mental states than that he has them." [8]

Strangely enough, Professor Adamson makes this the basis for rejecting " the conception of psychology as a kind of natural science."[9] The truth would seem to be rather that this is just what furnishes the basis for conceiving psychology as a natural science, since if there can be no science of the psychical as such, psychology must deal with phenomena on the same level with the other natural sciences. We can have a science only of an objective content ; in truth, content as such is by its very nature objective. The peculiarity of psychological science is simply the closeness of the reference of the content to the process from which it is an abstraction.

In psychology we treat one content as the means for getting another content. This involves reference to the mediation of one content by another, i. e., it involves reference to the process

( 304) of the reconstruction of experience. We cannot directly state this process. To state it would be to stop it ; it would convert process into content. The psychological is a good deal like the histological procedure in biology. You have to stop the dynamic life functioning and cut the specimen into thin sections, artificially distorted by hardening reagents and staining fluids, in order to analyze its structure. You have to kill it in order to state it. " Our meddling intellect misshapes the beauteous forms of things. It murders to dissect." Yet we recognize that there is a life process, and we attempt to interpret this structure in terms of its functional importance in carrying on that process.

Ultimately, every content, every datum of science, would have to be stated in terms of every other content, in terms of the data of every other science, before the scientific statement would be complete, and this would involve comparison of the contents in terms of their different degrees of mediation in experience ; that is, it would involve reference to the process of experience, to the psychical. The content of physics or chemistry or biology, as truly as the content of psychology, would have to be brought back to this ultimate test (its availability or serviceability for getting further experience) before it could be said to be scientific-ally (philosophically) complete.

The distinctions between the sciences, in the last analysis, are only divisions of labor, and, thus viewed, we may even agree with a recent writer that " our mental life must be interpreted ultimately in relation to the physical world," that " the ideal psychology is a physiological psychology."[10] This does not mean that psychology reduces to the physiology of the nervous system, as the latter is ordinarily conceived. But it does mean that the data of psychology are as truly objective as those of any other science. Both psychology and physiology are ultimately a study of the reactions of the organism, and both must be brought back to the process of experience before their statements can be made wholly adequate. The difference is that this reference is more implicit and remote in physiology than in psychology. Psychology as a science is but one step removed,

( 305) while physiology is two steps removed, from the process of experience. It is this difference in the remoteness of the reference to the psychical which constitutes the lines of division between the various sciences.

It is only recently that psychology has been generally conceded this place among the natural sciences. The concession has grudgingly been made, and many who by the logic of events have been forced to make the concession are not even yet willing to abide by all its implications. One of these implications is this fact that the data of psychology are as objective as those of any other science. As Professor Baldwin puts it in his latest book,[11] this concession means that the data of psychology are " viewed from the outside ; that is, viewed as a definite set or series of phenomena . . . recognized as ' worth while' as any other facts in nature." “The occurrence of a psychological change in an animal is a fact in the same sense that the animal's process of digestion is." " For science all facts are equal."[12]

But many who would agree with Professor Baldwin on this point do not seem to realize that this necessitates a reconstruction of the very idea of psychology and of the psychical. Of psychology, because it has been supposed that the data of psychology are unique and that psychology on this account is fundamental to all the other sciences, while this view places it along-side of the other natural sciences with no special privileges. Of the psychical, because it has been supposed that psychology deals with the psychical as its datum, while on this view the data of psychology are objective and not subjective, are ' psychological ' and not ' psychic,' to use Professor Baldwin's terms.[13]

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Now what, from this point of view, is the true meaning of the psychical regarded as content and as the datum of psychology ? We are accustomed to think of the psychical as belonging exclusively to the individual. We hear much concerning the impossibility of constructing a psychic series for other minds than our own, that no one can get beyond the pale of his own consciousness, that his own consciousness is the only consciousness of which he has any direct knowledge, and so on.

That there is a fallacy here somewhere has long been suspected, but it is difficult to lay one's finger upon the source of the error. A number of writers have insisted that introspection, strictly speaking, is an impossibility. Its validity has been called in question by such writers as Comte, Lange, and Maudsley. Others insist that all introspection is really retrospection, not introspection at all. But, it will be replied that, even if introspection does reduce to retrospection, we have in the latter an immediate type of experience differing from all other experience. Is this true ?

If there were a perfect mirror at the end of the room in which I am sitting, and I had never tactually explored that end of the room, I should be unable to distinguish (visually) between the actual room and the reflected image of the room in the mirror, Suppose, as Gustav Spiller puts it, " I now shut my eyes, and re-develop the sight of the room. Does this image fundamentally differ from the object and the looking-glass picture ? " " Except for unimportant circumstances, the primary and secondary visual worlds, or the visual worlds of sense and imagination, are one."[14] This certainly is in line with other similar explanations of psychic phenomena in physiological psychology. It is in harmony with the tendency in recent years to explain all images as simply prolonged after-images (more properly called after-sensations).

Now does not this suggest that what we call this unique, inner, immediate, direct, unsharable experience is, after all, arrived at as inferentially as any other experience, that there is no essential

( 307) difference in principle between the so-called external mirror and the internal mirror, that the image in the mirror of memory is not essentially different from the image in the looking-glass? The more will this appear to be true, when we recall the tendency in recent psychology to conceive of memory (Hering) and association (James)- in terms of habit and in terms of physiological traces in the brain. In principle, as a mirror for reflecting objects, the brain does not differ from the silvered square of glass or from the photographic plate.

If, then, memory (retrospection) is essential to any introspection, and the brain (the organ of memory) does not differ essentially from the physical mirror, how do the reflected phenomena in one of these mirrors differ in principle from the reflected phenomena in the other?

Is this, perchance, the real solution of the old puzzle of subjective idealism? Is the distinction between the introspective world (the world of consciousness revealed through memory) and the external world, in the last analysis, simply another illustration of a self-made problem, -a problem arising out of the scientific abstraction of things that in reality (1. e., in concrete experience) are not thus separated? And is this, perhaps, the core of meaning in the insistence by certain recent writers on the fact of 'inter-subjective intercourse' and the essentially social character of consciousness ?

From this point of view there is no mysterious uniqueness about consciousness. A great deal has been written about the unsharability of consciousness. The statement has repeatedly been made that one can never really get into the mental life of another person, that one cannot get at another person's consciousness directly. But this is not in any sense a unique phenomenon in nature, if we take an organic view of the relation of the individual to society. The mere fact that, in the case of human beings, the so-called individuals are separated from one another by a certain distance in space, rather than constitute a colony or so-called compound individual, as in the case of the sponge, does not render it any less true that they really all form one organic whole. Society is an organism in the same

( 308) sense that the human body is an organism. The cell, the individual, and the race, are merely units of different order in the world of living substance."[15] Individuals in human society are most of the time separated physically by inches (Siamese twins), by feet (members of the same family), by miles (friends and acquaintances), by a hemisphere (races on different sides of the globe). The individuals of a sponge are separated only by a cell-wall. In both cases the real biological connection is the reproductive nexus, the germinal substance. What is the fact of a micromillimeter or of a mile ? If you could look at the body with a microscope of sufficient magnifying powers, it would be seen that its molecules are relatively as far apart as the different individuals which make up society. What we call the individual organism is a fragment arbitrarily torn from nature, a part distinguished simply for convenience from the rest of the universe. It is a scientific fiction, an abstraction from the whole. The individual organism, except for practical purposes, does not stop with the cuticle, At what point does the air that is breathed or the food that is eaten cease to be a part of the environment and become a part of the organism ? Any line that you draw, from a scientific point of view, is an arbitrary line, a mere practical working device or make-shift in explanation of the facts (though not on that account any less valuable methodologically).

From this standpoint, the so-called individual simply represents a fragment of the whole universe, or, taking society as the true human individual, the so-called individual man would represent simply a member or organ of this greater (social) organism. Now if an adjustment is being made in the universe, and I hap-pen to be in the focus of that adjustment (and myself, as a part of the whole, coöperating in that adjustment), then, of course, every other part of the universe, every other part of the great human organism (i. e., every other individual in society) will be out of that focus, in the margin somewhere. And if consciousness is simply the process of the universe where and when it is tensional, then it is no marvel that no other part of the universe feels this tension just as I do. I am this tension, this focus of

( 309) adjustment, and, as such, the whole system is represented there ; the focus is the focussing of the entire system of the universe. (This is the infinite background of self-activity about which the idealists speak.) Each particular adjustment has but one point of highest tension (my consciousness), but there can be an infinite number of adjustments in the infinite system of the universe.

Now it is only this highest center of stress and strain that is not shared, and that is saying no more than that a thing is itself and not everything else. In a certain sense, it is true that everything is identical with everything else; but if it were absolutely identical with everything else, there would be just one 'Thing' in the universe ; there would be no 'things.' Identity, so far from being inconsistent with diversity, is just the unity which runs through the diversity of things which make up the universe. To apply this to the question of consciousness, apart from the reservation just made, it simply is not true that another person cannot and does not share in my struggles. In many cases, indeed, where the individual organism seems to be in the focus of the adjustment, the real center of tension is outside. For example, a person is ill. He really may be suffering very little ; the focal point may be in the consciousness of the friends. They suffer for him. If the focal point in that situation is there in the consciousness of those friends, ft is not in the man who is ill, that is all ! There cannot be two tensions unless there are two adjustments, two situations; and in that case, of course, there are two consciousnesses. Suppose that my tension did get over into yours somehow, then they would merge into one tension. If I ever did get a direct knowledge of your consciousness, then it would no longer be your consciousness but mine. This problem of the supposed uniqueness of the introspective consciousness is no greater than the problem of the uniqueness of every leaf and blade of grass in nature. Consciousness is not another realm of reality; it is simply the one world that we know in its process of reconstruction. The individual represents a node or nisus of energies.

Under the influence of the individualistic or introspective psychology, we have become so accustomed to regard consciousness as

( 310) the private possession of the individual, that we have failed fully to appreciate the very obvious fact that consciousness is essentially social in its nature, that there is such a thing as "inter-subjective intercourse," to use Professor Stout's term,[16] Perhaps its very obviousness has retarded insight into its significance, on the principle of what one writer has called the " illusion of the near." Consciousness is no more confined to the individual than is tension. It is focussed in the individual, but just as the so-called individual organism is simply one part of the greater human organism, so what we call individual consciousness is essentially social in character. It is focussed here and there in what we call individuals, but it is the focussing of the whole system,

The child is not introspective ; he may almost be said at first to have no consciousness of his own, as is shown by his extreme suggestibility. So with the hypnotic patient. So with the consciousness of primitive man and of savages. Anthropologists tell us that in early stages of social evolution the individual is still merged in the tribe ; his acts are the expression, not of any individual initiative, but of the tribal consciousness.[17]

But the essentially social character of consciousness can be shown even in terms of our modern highly differentiated and individualistic social life, for, after all, we are more social than we are individualistic. Let us take a concrete case. Here is a saintly mother and her profligate son. The wicked acts of the wayward son may not be focal in his own consciousness (focal morally, that is), but they may be keenly felt, with shame and sorrow, by the devoted mother. Often a person is more sensitive to slander directed against the good name of another person than if directed at himself. Persons who have grown into one

( 311) another's lives in an intimate way frequently become so dependent each upon the other, that neither can long outlive the other. In such cases the psychological center of gravity of each, falls outside of himself; as ft were, and within the life of the other.

It is an historical accident, one might say, that my consciousness is so peculiarly mine. It may be a sign of my limitation. Instead of being a mark of my superiority, it may be rather a sign of my unsociality. The real genius is not only a striking individual moulding his age ; he is likewise a representative man,the product of his age. Extreme individuality or uniqueness we treat as a form of insanity. The perfect type of consciousness towards which the race is moving is one in which the individual will become increasingly more dependent, not less dependent, upon the social whole. One need only mention industrial organizations as illustrations of this tendency. Individuality is coming to be conceived, not as uniqueness, unlikeness, isolation, the possession of unsharable consciousness, but as the ability to bring to a focus the greatest range of social influences. Consciousness is the interaction of persons in society. Con + sciousness originally meant two-persons-knowing-together. Individuals are nodes, so to speak, in the social progress, pivots upon which (social) experience turns, loci into which consciousness converges and whence again it irradiates, finite centers of tension in adaptation whereby and wherein the universe is reconstructed. The psychical individual is the medium or channel in and through which experience is handed on from one member of society to another. Each member of society, from this point of view, is an organ of the social whole for thus transmitting experience. And psychology, from this point of view, " is the attempt to state in detail the machinery of the individual as the instrument and organ through which social action operates."'


From this point of view, it will be instructive to criticize the views of certain writers who have written suggestively on the subject of the psychical and the physical in recent publications.

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The view outlined above is consistent with certain arguments urged by Mr. Morton Prince[18] and by Professor C. A. Strong [19] concerning the relation between brain and consciousness, though not with the panpsychism which they base upon these arguments. The argument of Mr. Prince is as follows : Your brain state is a part of my experience ; it is an object of my perception, not of yours. For you this brain state is consciousness ; for me it is an object or process of change in what I call the material world, i. e., in the objective world of my perception. " In other words, a mental state and these physical changes which are known in the objective world as neural undulations are one and the same thing, but the former is the actuality, the latter a mode by which it is presented to the consciousness of a second person." [20]

This seems to be a true statement of the relation between the psychical and the physical, except that it is difficult to see why the brain process, when thus experienced from within, should be called "the actuality," while the same brain process when viewed by a second person is only "the symbol of it." The focus of a system is no more real than the margin or context; each is essential to give the other its reality ; in truth, each is necessary in order that the other should have any existence at all.

The problem of how a subjective fact comes to be perceived as an objective fact; or how a feeling comes to be presented to us as a vibration" ; i, e., the problem of why the focus of this system appears as a marginal element in some other system, is a problem, to be sure. It is the fundamental problem of why Being is such as it is. But it is no more of a problem here than it is elsewhere. Why what is mental for me is physical for you, is no more of a problem than why the leaf on the tree is different from the blade of grass.

With Dr. Prince's statement that "there is only one process,"[21] and that that process, as process, is "psychical," we may fully agree; but this process has also a content, not only when viewed

( 313) by another person, but when introspectively (retrospectively) viewed by myself. Thus viewed as content, it is physical (it may be social, ethical, economic, psychological, etc.). It is not a different reality when viewed thus as content, any more than the context of a dynamic system is a different system from the focus. Why should we attempt to reduce the context to terms of the focus any more than the reverse? Why, that is, should we seek to reduce the physical to the psychical, as does Dr. Prince ?

Dr, Prince's illustration of the kaleidoscope is admirably adapted to show, not the exclusive reality of the "wonderful variegated mosaic" seen within, but the reality equally of the "little pieces of colored glass thrown higgledy-piggledy together"which are seen from without. The one is as true and as real a view as the other. Why should we attempt to reduce what we see from the outside to terms exclusively of what we see on the inside?

Another interesting phase of the argument presented by Dr. Prince is that embodied in the following supposititious case, which is here modified slightly for the sake of simplification, Let us suppose two persons, by means of some X-ray appliance, to be perceiving each other's brain states. Then, according to the theory propounded by both Dr. Prince and Professor Strong, the reality is the consciousness which each has, The brain state which each perceives is simply a symbol of the reality in the consciousness of the other.

But now suppose, by some device, that one of these persons turns his instrument upon his own brain state. He still, on the theory propounded by these writers, would see only brain state. His own brain state, in this case, would likewise be only a symbol. But a symbol of what? A symbol of his own consciousness, of course. But, by hypothesis, this symbol is a part of his own consciousness,[22] The symbol must then be as real as his consciousness, which, according to Dr. Prince, is the only reality. Reality, then, includes both the psychical and the physical, both the consciousness and the brain state. How, then, can

( 314) consciousness or the psychical be the only reality, i. e., how can pan-psychism be true?

Professor Strong uses the following illustration : Let us sup-pose that some future physiologist finds means "toisolate the brain and keep it artificially alive, and then, connecting his instruments with the stumps of the cerebral nerves, impart to them impulses so like those they have been accustomed to receive from the eye, the ear, and the skin that the brain's possessor . . . will see, hear, and feel like a normal person, and never know what had happened to him."[23] "We have only to suppose, after the laying-bare of the brain-tissue and the application of the hyper-microscope, an arrangement of mirrors to be brought to bear, in such wise as to reflect the light-rays traversing the microscope into the subject's eyes. This happy mortal would then . . . be simultaneously conscious of a feeling and of the accompanying brain event. This suggests a curious deduction. Suppose the feeling happened to be a perception, and the perception that of the very brain event in question ; then mental state and correlated brain-event would apparently for that mind be fused into one,"[24]

This "curious deduction," which Professor Strong rejects, would seem rather to be the true one. He rejects it on the ground that the object of perception always follows and is the effect of the consciousness in which it is a perception. In this case, he maintains that the brain state would be subsequent to the mental state, i. e., to the consciousness of the brain state. But, waiving the question of the validity of psychical causality, and waiving the question of how the content could be temporally subsequent to the process of a perception, is not this an indefensible position even on the basis of his awn theory of consciousness ? He has at considerable length defended the doctrine that "consciousness is correlated, strictly speaking, with a process occupying the entire sensory-motor arc and extending from the sense-organs to the muscles."[25] How, then, in this instance, could one part of the organic circuit, or sensor-motor arc, be

( 315) subsequent to another, if consciousness is correlated only with the whole circuit? How could my brain state, which, in this supposititious case, is the object of my perception, be subsequent to my consciousness of that brain state, if that consciousness is the correlate, not of any part, but only of the whole circuit, -- not only of brain states, but of sense organs and muscles ?

Of course, to have a complete perception of this brain state, it would be just as incumbent upon me to touch this cerebral tissue with the finger or dissecting needle as to see it with the retina and microscope. In this case, the two portions of the organic circuit (brain tissue and finger, let us say) would be immediately adjacent, and the illustration becomes even more suggestive, and the absurdity even more apparent, of supposing that the perceived object (the brain state) could be subsequent in time to the percipient subject.

The psychical and the physical, consciousness and brain state, thus are one, as Professor Strong says, but not in the sense that the brain state reduces to a mode of consciousness, not in the sense of panpsychism. Consciousness and brain state are one reality, but this reality is no more truly expressed in the consciousness than in the brain state, in panpsychism than in panphysicism, There is a difference between consciousness and brain state, but it is not the difference of one being more real than the other. t is the difference between that reality when in a tensional phase and when in a state of relative equilibrium. It is a distinction of function or meaning rather than of structure or existence.

Professor Royce, in his Outlines of Psychology, distinguishes between the physical (or 'public') and the psychical (or 'private') kinds of experience. "Physical facts are . . 'public property,' patent to all properly equipped observers. . . But psychical facts are essentially 'private property,' existent for one alone." " The mental life of each one of us can be directly present, as a series of experienced facts, to one person only."[26] " The fact that other persons cannot directly watch our inner physiological processes, is itself something relatively accidental,

( 316) dependent upon the limitations of the sense organs, or upon the defective instrumental devices, of those who watch us. But the fact that our mental states are incapable of observation by anybody but ourselves seems to be not an accidental, but an essential character of these mental states. Were physiologists better endowed with sense organs and with instruments of exact observation, we can, if we choose, conceive them as, by some now unknown device, coming to watch the very molecules of our brains; but we cannot conceive them, in any possible case, as observing from without our pains or our thoughts in the sense in which physical facts are observable. . . . No microscope could conceivably reveal them. To me alone would these states be known. And I should not see them from without ; I should simply find them, or be aware of them. And what it is to find them, or to be aware of them, I alone can tell myself."[27]

In The World and the Individual, [28] Professor Royce suggests that the difference between the psychical and the physical is simply a difference in time-span, " that we have no right whatever to speak of really unconscious nature, but only of uncommunicative nature, or of nature whose mental processes go on at such different time-rates from ours that we cannot adjust our-selves to a live appreciation of their inward fluency."[29]

It may be pointed out, in the first place, that these two views of the relation between the psychical and the physical, are scarcely consistent. If the difference is simply one of time-span, then the two would seem to belong to a continuous series of phenomena, their difference being one of degree rather than of kind. The problem would here be as to why just this rather than that time-span is accompanied by the particular kind of consciousness which we know in ourselves. A very important point in the dynamic theory would be the determination of the temporal limits of the tension which is the condition of consciousness.

But, according to the view set forth in the Outlines, the difference is one of kind. "Mental life has thus been defined by

( 317) pointing out its contrast with all that is physical."[30] "How shall psychology progress, if, in our various mental lives, no two observers can ever take note of precisely the same facts ? ‘[31] The answer finally is that "psychology is concerned with what is common to many or to all human minds,[32] the position taken being the same as that of Professor Baldwin in his Development and Evolution, when he says that the data of psychology are psychological, not psychic. But, if this is true, then psychology is on no different basis methodologically from. biology or physiology; they are equally objective sciences.

What, then, is the significance of this discussion of the psychical and the physical as 'private' and 'public,' respectively ? The psychical as such is never the datum of psychology. Psychology is "concerned with what is common to many or to all human minds." But the only thing that is common or public is physical, not psychical, Hence, as a science, psychology no more deals with the psychical than does physics or biology. If by the psychical is meant my own private mental states, as Professor Royce insists at some length, then we are forced to one of two conclusions : either there can be no science of psychology (since there can be no science of the individual, of the particular), or the psychical is not the datum of psychology. But neither he nor we would be willing to accept either of these conclusions in this unqualified form. What is the truth in the matter?

The truth lies in seeing that this distinction between 'public' and `private' is a functional, not a fixed one. A psychical fact is no more private than any other fact, except as it is taken as such ; it is its being taken as such that makes it psychical. This Professor Royce has himself well illustrated in his critique of the doctrine of conscious elements already mentioned,[33] where he shows that the element or unit with which psychological analysis operates is not a preexistent conscious state, but is brought into being in. the act of analysis ; the element is only as it is thus constructed. It is a fact only in the sense in which every scientific construct, such as the atom or the electron, is a fact.

( 318)

' Public' and ' private' are relative or functional terms. There is no experience which is absolutely public or absolutely private. To recur to the illustration of the focus and marginal context, there is nothing which is absolutely focus and the rest context ; it is a matter of the interest or purpose of the situation whether the focus be taken as a mathematical point, as a spot, or as a smaller within a larger area. This is more consistent with Professor Royce's statement that the distinction is " only a relative distinction due to the special conditions to which our human knowledge of both these worlds is subject."[34] The implication of this, as well as of much that he says in The World and the Individual, is that for a higher intelligence the psychical and the physical would be seen to be one, but that to our finite minds there are two worlds, an internal and an external, a private and a public, a psychical and a physical.

But it is just the contention of the functional view that these two are, under certain conditions, one in our experience as truly as in the experience of a transcendent intelligence. Psychical and physical are a unity in every act ; the duality is the duality of consciousness, of thought. Of course, the unity of action is not a bare unity ; it is a unity of the differences represented in consciousness. So, on the other hand, the duality or diversity of consciousness is not a bare diversity ; it is a diversity, a duality, set up within the unity of action, and is thus itself a phase of activity.

Like Dr. Prince and Professor Strong, Professor Royce uses the illustration of the brain states. " Were my body as transparent as crystal, or could all my internal physical functions be viewed and studied as easily as one now observes a few small particles eddying in a glass of nearly clear water, my mental states could not even then be seen floating in my brain."[35] But let us suppose, as before, that I turned the instrument upon my own brain, and upon the very brain state concerned in my present state of consciousness. Here it would appear that this brain state is at once ' public' and ' private,' since it is at once a presentation in my consciousness and at the same time a neural state observable

( 319) by another. What, then, here becomes of the distinction between the psychical and the physical ? If it be objected that the brain state as presented in my consciousness is not the consciousness of the brain state, that the content of perception is not the same as the process of perception itself, it may well be asked how a perception of a brain state would, in that case, differ from any other perception. It is just the content which makes one state of consciousness different from another state of consciousness.

The analysis of this supposititious case suggests two important conclusions : first, that consciousness is to be correlated with nothing less than a complete organic circuit, involving the whole context of external nature as truly as the internal mechanism of the nervous system ; second, that the condition of consciousness is a certain tension within this system or organic circuit, and that where this is absent (as in the supposititious case, where the object of the perception, —the brain state, —is itself the organic circuit) the psychical and the physical merge, consciousness vanishes.

That the time-span is an important condition of consciousness is not only probable but demonstrable. Experimental psychology has for one of the chief objects of its investigation the measurement of the temporal limits of the organic tension which finds its expression in consciousness,



  1. Read in part before the American Philosophical Association, Princeton, N. J., December 30, 1903.
  2. Published In the PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW, September, 1902, and May, 1903.
  3. Why there ever should be resistance or obstruction hr action is an ultimate question here as much (and as little) as in physics. The Hegelian doubtless would say that pure spontaneity posits resistance as its own other. The evolutionist is apt to attribute it to the environment. But the scientific psychologist no more asserts that he has accounted for the presence of this element of opposition which polarizes consciousness than the biologist accounts for the principle of variation in evolution or the physicist for the collision of atoms which is one of his fundamental postulates. It may be that tension or opposition is a necessary implication of the idea of activity or process.
  4. " Untersuchungen uber psychische Hemmung," Z. f. Psych. u. Phys. der Sinnes-organe, Bd. xxi, Heft 3, pp. 321-359; Bd. xxvi, Heft 5 u, 6, pp. 305-382. Cf. Stratton, Experimental Psychology and Culture, p. 13.
  5. Professor Ostwald ("The Philosophical Meaning of Energy," International Quarterly, June, 1903) is on the right track in attempting to fuse the ideas of ' psychical' and energy,' but he fails to distinguish the respective functions of these important aspects, the relatively stable and tensional phases of action.
  6. Cf. Professor Baldwin's distinction between the 'psychic' and the 'psycho-logical,' discussed below.
  7. Vol. II, chap, iv, "Psychology and Epistemology," especially pp. 56 f,
  8. Pp., 58-59
  9. P. 60,.
  10. W. T. Marvin, Introduction to Philosophy, p. 176.
  11. Development and Evolution, pp. 4 f.
  12. Whether Professor Baldwin consistently adheres to this point of view in his subsequent statements, is a question which has been discussed by the present writer in a review of the book in the Journal of Comparative Neurology, Vol. xiii, No. 4 (Dec., 1903).
  13. This would seem to be the thought expressed by Professor Royce and by Professor Münsterberg in the distinction between the world of ' appreciation' and the world of ' description.' There is no science of appreciation as such, because it is process and not content. The same thought is expressed also in the common statement of the impossibility of studying the feelings without transforming them. In studying them we make them objects of thought, and thus no longer process but content.
  14. Spiller, The Mind of Man, p. 322.
  15. C. B. Davenport, Psych, .Rev., Nov., 1897, p. 673.
  16. Cf. his Groundwork of Psychology, Chap, xiv.
  17. It may be that consciousness began in this generic way, that, just as the human individual consciousness emerged by slow degrees out of a sort of group consciousness, so the lower forms of consciousness first represented the tensional stress of some Fife problem of the species rather than any specific crisis in the life of any so-called individual organism. And, ultimately, on this principle, mental life would have he-gun in one great cosmic throb of feeling or pulse of cognition. But, of course, all oar ordinary categories break down when we attempt to state the origin of anything. The most that we car do is to analyze our experience as we find it nearest home in our human consciousness, and then extend the explanation as far as possible, on the principle of continuity, to the lower organisms.
  18. Summarized in the Psych. Rev., Nov., 1903, pp. 650-658.
  19. In his book entitled Why the Mind has a Body.
  20. P. 651.
  21. P. 653.
  22. " That which we call the physical brain-process is my consciousness or perception of it."P. 652.
  23. P. 44.
  24. Pp. 339-40.
  25. Pp. 46-47.
  26. P. 2.
  27. Pp. 4-5.
  28. Vol. ii, pp. 211-242.
  29. Ibid., pp. 22-56.
  30. P. 5.
  31. Ibid.
  32. P. 17.
  33. Pp. 97 f.
  34. P. 2, note.
  35. P. 4.

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