The Psychological Standpoint
It is a good omen for the future of philosophy that there is now a disposition to avoid discussion of particular cases in dispute, and to examine instead the fundamental presuppositions and method. This is the sole condition of discussion which shall be fruitful, and not wordbandying. It is the sole way of discovering whatever of fundamental agreement there is between different tendencies of thought, as well as of showing on what grounds the radical differences are based. It is therefore a most auspicious sign that, instead of eagerly clamoring forth our views on various subjects, we are now trying to show why we hold them and why we reject others. It is hardly too much to say that it is only within the past ten years that what is vaguely called Transcendentalism has shown to the English reading world just why it holds what it does, and just what are its objections to the method most characteristically associated with English thinking. Assertion of its results, accompanied with attacks upon the results of Empiricism, and vice versa, we had before; but it is only recently that the grounds, the reasons, the method, have been stated. And no one can deny that the work has been done
(2) well, clearly, conscientiously and thoroughly. English philosophy cannot now be what it would have been, if (to name only one of the writers) the late Prof. Green had not written. And now that the differences and the grounds for them have been so definitely and clearly stated, we are in a condition, I think, to see a fundamental agreement, and that just where the difference has been most insisted upon, viz., in the standpoint. It is the psychological standpoint which is the root of all the difference, as Prof. Green has shown with such admirable lucidity and force. Yet I hope to be able to suggest, if not to show, that after all the psychological standpoint is what both sides have in common. In this present paper, I wish to point out that the defects and contradictions so powerfully urged against the characteristic tendency of British Philosophy are due -- not to its psychological standpoint but -- to its desertion of it. In short, the psychological basis of English philosophy has been its strength : its weakness has been that it has left this basis -- that it has not been psychological enough.
In stating what is the psychological standpoint, care has to be taken that it be not so stated as to prejudge at the outset the whole matter. This can be avoided only by stating it in a very general manner. Let Locke do it. ''I thought that the first step towards satisfying several inquiries the mind of man was very apt to run into was to take a view of our own understandings, examine our own powers, and see to what things they were adapted." This, with the further statement that "Whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks" is an Idea fixed the method of philosophy. We are not to determine the nature of reality or of any object of philosophical inquiry by examining it as it is in itself, but only as it is an element in our knowledge, in our experience, only as it is related to our mind, or is an "idea." As Professor Fraser well puts it, Locke's way of stating the question involves the fundamental assumption of philosophy, that real things as well as imaginary things, whatever their absolute existence may involve, exist for us only through becoming involved in what we mentally experience in the course of our self-conscious lives" ( Berkeley, p. 20). Or, in the ordinary way of putting it, the nature of all objects of philosophical inquiry is to be fixed by finding out what experience says about them. And psychology is the scientific and systematic account of this experience. This and this only do I understand to be essential to the psychological standpoint, and, to avoid misunderstanding from the start, I shall ask the reader not
(3) to think any more into it, and especially to avoid reading into it any assumption regarding its ''individual" and "introspective" character. The further development of the standpoint can come only in the course of the article.
Now that Locke, having stated his method, immediately deserted it will, I suppose, be admitted by all. Instead of determining the nature of objects of experience by an account of our knowledge, he proceeded to explain our knowledge by reference to certain unknowable substances called by the name of matter, making impressions on an unknowable substance, called mind. While, by his method, he should explain the nature of "matter" and of ''mind" -- two ''inquiries the mind of man is very apt to run into" -- from our own understandings, from ''ideas," he actually explains the nature of our ideas, of our consciousness, whether sensitive or reflective, from that whose characteristic, whether mind or matter, is to be not ideas nor consciousness nor in any possible relation thereto, because utterly unknowable. Berkeley, in effect, though not necessarily, as it seems to me, in intention, deserted the method in his reference of ideas to a purely transcendent spirit. Whether or not he conceived it as purely transcendent, yet at all events, he did not show its necessary immanence in our conscious experience. But Hume? Hume, it must be confessed, is generally thought to stand on purely psychological ground. This is asserted as his merit by those who regard the theory of the association of ideas as the basis of all philosophy; it is asserted as his defect by those who look at his skeptical mocking of knowledge as following necessarily from his method. But according to both, he, at least, was consistently psychological. Now the psychological standpoint is this: nothing shall be admitted into philosophy which does not show itself in experience, and its nature, that is, its place in experience, shall be fixed by an account of the process of knowledge -- by Psychology. Hume reversed this. He started with a theory as to the nature of reality and determined experience from that. The only reals for him were certain irrelated sensations and out of these knowledge they become. But if knowledge or experience becomes from them, then they are never known and never can be. If experience originates from them, they never were and never can be elements in experience. Sensations as known or experienced are always related, classified sensations. That which is known as existing only in experience, which has its existence only as an element of knowledge, cannot be the same when transported out of knowledge, and made its origin. A known
(4) sensation has its sole existence as known; and to suppose that it can be regarded as not known, as prior to knowledge, and still be what it is as known, is a logical feat which it is hoped few are capable of. Hume, just as much as Locke, assumes that something exists out of relation to knowledge or consciousness, and that this something is ultimately the only real, and that from it knowledge, consciousness, experience, come to be. If this is not giving up the psychological standpoint, it would be difficult to tell what is. Hume's ''distinct perceptions which are distinct existences,'' and which give rise to knowledge only as they are related to each other, are so many things-in-themselves. They existed prior to knowledge, and therefore are not for or within it.
But it will be objected that all this is a total misapprehension. Hume did not assume them because they were prior to and beyond knowledge. He examined experience and found, as any one does who analyzes it, that it is made up of sensations; that, however complex or immediate it appears to be, on analysis it is always found to be but an aggregate of grouped sensations. Having found this by analysis, it was his business, as it is that of every psychologist, to show how by composition these sensations produce knowledge and experience. To call them things-in-themselves is absurd -- they are the simplest and best-known things in all our experience. Now this answer, natural as it is, and conclusive as it seems, only brings out the radical defect of the procedure. The dependence of our knowledge upon sensations -- or rather that knowledge is nothing but sensations as related to each other -- is not denied. What is denied is the correctness of the procedure which, discovering a certain element in knowledge to be necessary for knowledge, therefore concludes that this element has an existence prior to or apart from knowledge. The alternative is not complex. Either these sensations are the sensations which are known -- sensations which are elements in knowledge -- and then they cannot be employed to account for its origin; or they can be employed to account for its origin, and then are not sensations as they are known. In this case, they must be something of which nothing can he said except that they are not known, are not in consciousness -- that they are things-in-themselves. If, in short, these sensations are not to be made "ontological," they must be sensations known, sensations which are elements in experience; and if they exist only for knowledge, then knowledge is wherever they are, and they cannot account for its origin. The supposed objection rests upon a distinction between sensations as they are known,
(5) and sensations as they exist. And this means simply that existence -- the only real existence -- is not for consciousness, but that consciousness comes about from it; it makes no difference that one calls it sensations, and another the "real existence" of mind or matter. If one is anxious for a thing-in-itself in one's philosophy, this will be no objection. But we who are psychological, who believe in the relativity of knowledge, should we not make a halt before we declare a fundamental disparity between a thing as it is and a thing as it is known -- whether that thing be sensation or what not?
As this point is fundamental, let me dwell upon it a little. All our knowledge originates from sensations. Very good. But what are these sensations? Are they the sensations which we know: the classified related sensations; this smell, or this color? No, these are the results of knowledge. They too presuppose sensations as their origin. What about these original sensations? They existed before knowledge, and knowledge originated and was developed by their grouping themselves together. NOW, waiving the point that knowledge is precisely this grouping together and that therefore to tell us that it originated from grouping sensations is a good deal like telling us that knowledge originated knowledge, that experience is the result of experience. I must inquire again what these sensations are. And I can see but this simple alternative: either they are known, are, from the first, elements in knowledge, and hence cannot be used to account for the origin of knowledge; or they are not, and, what is more to the point, they never can be. As soon as they are known, they cease to be the pure sensation we are after and become an element in experience, of knowledge. The conclusion of the matter is, that sensations which can be used to account for the origin of knowledge or experience, are sensations which cannot be known, are things-in-themselves which are not relative to consciousness. I do not here say that there are not such: I only say that, if there are, we have given up our psychological standpoint and have become ''ontologists'' of the most pronounced character.
But the confusion is deeply rooted, and I cannot hope that I have yet shown that any attempt to show the origin of knowledge or of conscious experience presupposes a division between things as they are for knowledge or experience and as they are in themselves and is therefore non-psychological in character. I shall be told that I am making the whole difficulty for myself; that I persist in taking the standpoint of an adult whose experience is already formed; that I must
(6) become as an infant to enter the true psychological kingdom. If I will only go back to that stage, I shall find a point where knowledge has not yet begun, but where sensations must be supposed to exist. Owing to our different standing, since these sensations have to us been covered with the residues of thousands of others and have become symbolic of them, we cannot tell what these sensations are; though in all probability they are to be conceived in some analogy to nervous shocks. But the truth of our psychological analysis does not depend upon this. The fact that sensations exist before knowledge and that knowledge comes about by their organic registration and integration is undisputed. And I can imagine that I am told that if I would but confine myself to the analysis of given facts, I should find this whole matter perfectly simple -- that the sensations have not the remotest connection with any sort of ''metaphysics" or analogy with things-in-themselves, and that we are all the time on positive scientific ground. I hope so. We are certainly approaching some degree of definiteness in our conception of what constitutes a sensation. But I am afraid that in thus defining the nature of a sensation, in taking it out of the region of vagueness, my objector has taken from it all those qualities which would enable it to serve as the origin of knowledge or of conscious experience. It is no longer a thing-in-itself, but neither is it, I fear, capable of accounting for experience. For, alas, we have to use experience to account for it. An infant, whether I think myself back to my early days or select some other baby, is, I suppose, a known object existing in the world of experience; and his nervous organism and the objects which affect it, these too, I suppose, are known objects which exist for consciousness. Surely it is not a baby thing-in-itself which is affected, nor a world thing-in-itself which calls forth the sensation. It is the known baby and a known world in definite action and reaction upon each other, and this definite relation is precisely a sensation. Yes, we are on positive scientific ground, and for that very reason we are on ground where the origin of knowledge and experience cannot be accounted for. Such a sensation I can easily form some conception of. I can even imagine how such sensations may by their organic registration and integration bring about that knowledge which I may myself possess. But such a sensation is not prior to consciousness or knowledge. It is but an element in the world of conscious experience. Far from being that from which all relations spring, it is itself but one relation -- the relation between an organic body and one acting upon
(7) it. Such a sensation, a sensation which exists only within and for experience, is not one which can be used to account for experience. It is but one element in an organic whole, and can no more account for the whole, than a given digestive act can account for the existence of a living body, although this digestive act and others similar to it may no doubt be shown to be all-important in the formation of a given living body. In short, we have finally arrived at the root of the difficulty. Our objector has been supposing that he could account for the origin of consciousness or knowledge because he could account for the process by which the given knowledge of a given individual came about. But if he accounts for this by something which is not known, which does not exist for consciousness, he is leaving the psychological standpoint to take the ontological; if he accounts for it by a known something, as a sensation produced by the reaction of a nervous organism upon a stimulus, he is accounting for its origin from something which exists only for and within consciousness. Consequently he is not accounting for the origin of consciousness or knowledge as such at all. He is simply accounting for the origin of an individual consciousness, or a specific group of known facts, by reference to the larger group of known facts or universal consciousness. Hence also the historic impotency of all forms of materialism. For either this matter is unknown, is a thing-in-itself, and hence may be called anything else as well as matter; or it is known, and then becomes but one set of the relations which in their completeness constitute mind -- when to account for mind from it is to assume as ultimate reality that which has existence only as substantiated by mind. To the relations of the individual to the universal consciousness, I shall return later. At present, I am concerned only to point out that, if a man comes to the conclusion that all knowledge is relative, that existence means existence for consciousness, he is bound to apply this conclusion to his starting point and to his process. If he does this, he sees that the starting point (in this case, sensations) and the process (in this case, integration of sensations) exist for consciousness also -- in short, that the becoming of consciousness exists for consciousness only, and hence that consciousness can never have become at all. That for which all origin and change exists, can never have originated or changed.
I hope that my objector and myself have now got within sight of each other so that we can see our common ground, and the cause of our difference. We both admit that the
(8) becoming of certain definite forms of knowledge, say Space, Time, Body, External World, etc., etc., may (in ideal, at least, if not yet as matter of actual fact) be accounted for as the product of a series of events. Now he supposes that, because the origin of some or all of our knowledge or conscious experience, knowledge of all particular things and of all general relations, can be thus accounted for, he has thereby accounted for the origin of consciousness or knowledge itself. All I desire to point out is that he is always accounting for their origin within knowledge or conscious experience, and that he cannot take his first step or develop this into the next, cannot have either beginning or process, without presupposing known elements -- the whole sphere of consciousness, in fact. In short, what he has been doing is not to show the origin of consciousness or knowledge, but simply how consciousness or knowledge has differentiated itself into various forms. It is indeed the business of the psychologist to show how (not the ideas of space and time, etc., but) space, time, etc., arise, but since this origin is only within or for consciousness, it is but the showing of how knowledge develops itself; it is but the showing of how consciousness specifies itself into various given forms. He has not been telling us how knowledge became, but how it came to be in a certain way, that is, in a certain set of relations. In making out the origin of any or all particular knowledges (if I may be allowed the word), he is but showing the elements of knowledge. And in doing this, he is performing a twofold task. He is showing on the one hand what place they hold within experience, i.e., he is showing their special adequacy or validity, and on the other he is explicating the nature of consciousness or experience. He is showing that it is not a bare form, but that, since these different elements arise necessarily within it, it is an infinite richness of relations. Let not the psychologist imagine then that he is showing the origin of consciousness, or of experience. There is nothing but themselves from which they can originate. He is but showing what they are, and, since they are, what they always have been.
I hope that it has now been made plain that the polemic against the attempt of the psychologist to account for the origin of conscious experience does not originate in any desire to limit his sphere but simply to call him away from a meaningless and self-contradictory conception of the psychological standpoint to an infinitely fruitful one. The psychological standpoint as it has developed itself is this: all that is, is for consciousness or knowledge. The business
(9) of the psychologist is to give a genetic account of the various elements within this consciousness, and thereby fix their place, determine their validity, and at the same time show definitely what the real and eternal nature of this consciousness is. If we actually believe in experience, let us be in earnest with it, and believe also that if we only ask, instead of assuming at the outset, we shall find what the infinite content of experience is. How experience became we shall never find out, for the reason that experience always is. We shall never account for it by referring it to something else, for "something else" always is only for and in experience. Why it is, we shall never discover, for it is a whole. But how the elements within the whole become we may find out, and thereby account for them by referring them to each other and to the whole, and thereby also discover why they are.
We have now reached positive ground, and, in the remainder of the paper, I wish to consider the relations, within this whole, of various specific elements which have always been "inquiries into which the mind of man was very apt to run," viz.: the relations of Subject and Object, and the relations of Universal and Individual, or Absolute and Finite.
From the psychological standpoint the relation of Subject and Object is one which exists within consciousness. And its nature or meaning must be determined by an examination of consciousness itself. The duty of the psychologist is to show how it arises for consciousness. Put from the positive side, he must point out how consciousness differentiates itself so as to give rise to the existence within, that is for, itself of subject and object. This operation fixes the nature of the two (for they have no nature aside from their relation in consciousness), and at the same time explicates or develops the nature of consciousness itself. In this case, it reveals that consciousness is precisely the unity of subject and object.
Now psychology has never been so false to itself as to utterly forget that this is its task. From Locke downwards we find it dealing with the problems of the origin of space, time, the "ideas" of the external world, of matter, of body, of the Ego, etc., etc. But it has interpreted its results so as to deprive them of all their meaning. It has most successfully avoided seeing the necessary implications of its own pro-
(10) cedure. There are in particular two interpretations by which it has evaded the necessary meaning of its own work.
The first of these I may now deal with shortly, as it is nothing but our old friend x, the thing-in-itself in a new guise. It is Reasoned or Transfigured Realism. It sees clearly enough that everything which we know is relative to our consciousness, and it sees also clearly enough that our consciousness is also relative. All that we can know exists for our consciousness; but when we come to account for our consciousness we find that this too is dependent. It is dependent on a nervous organism; it is dependent upon objects which affect this organism. It is dependent upon a whole series of past events formulated by the doctrine of evolution. But this body, these objects, this series of events, they too exist but for our consciousness. Now there is no ''metaphysics" about all this. It is positive science. Still there is a contradiction. Consciousness at once depends upon objects and events, and these depend upon, or are relative to consciousness. Hence the fact of the case must be this: The nervous organism, the objects, the series of events as known, are relative to our consciousness, but since this itself is dependent, is a product, there is a reality behind the processes, behind our consciousness, which has produced them both. Subject and object as known are relative to consciousness, but there is a larger circle, a real object from which both of them emerge, but which can never be known, since to know is to relate to our consciousness. This is the problem: on one hand, the relativity of all knowledge to our consciousness; on the other, the dependence of our consciousness on something not itself. And this is the solution: a real not related to consciousness, but which has produced both consciousness itself, and the objects which as known are relative to consciousness. Now all that has been said in the first part of this article has gone for naught if it is not seen that such an argument is not a solution of the contradiction, but a statement of it. The problem is to reconcile the undoubted relativity of all existence as known, to consciousness, and the undoubted dependence of our own consciousness. And it ought to be evident that the only way to reconcile the apparent contradiction, to give each its rights without denying the truth of the other, is to think them together. If this is done, it will be seen that the solution is that the consciousness to which all existence is relative is not our consciousness, and that our consciousness is itself relative to consciousness in general. But Reasoned Realism attempts to solve the
(11) problem not by bringing the elements together, but by holding them apart. It does not seek the higher unity which enables each to be seen as indeed true, but it attempts to divide. It attributes one element of the contradiction to our consciousness, and another to a thing-in-itself -- the unknown reality. But this is only an express statement of the contradiction. If all be relative to consciousness, there is no thing-in-itself, just consciousness itself. If there be a thing-in-itself then all is not relative to consciousness. Let a man hold the latter if he will, but let him expressly recognize that thereby he has put himself on ''ontological" ground and adopted an "ontological" method. Psychology he has forever abandoned.
The other evasion is much more subtle and "reasoned." It is a genuine attempt to untie the Gordian knot, as the other was a slashing attempt to cut it with the sword of a thing-in-itself. It is Subjective Idealism. And I wish now to show that Subjective Idealism is not the meaning of the psychological standpoint applied to the relation of subject and object. It is rather a misinterpretation of it based upon the same refusal to think two undoubted facts in their unity, the same attempt to divide the contradiction instead of solving it, which we have seen in the case of attempts to determine the origin of knowledge, and of Transfigured Realism. The position is this: The necessary relation of the world of existences to consciousness is recognized. "There is no possible knowledge of a world except in reference to our minds -- knowledge is a state of mind. The notion of material things is a mental fact. We are incapable even of discussing the existence of an independent material world; the very fact is a contradiction. We can speak only of a world presented to our own minds'' (Bain: The Senses and the Intellect, p. 375). But this being stated, consciousness is now separated into two parts -- one of which is the subject, which is identified with mind, Ego, the Internal; while the other is the object, which is identified with the External, the Non-Ego, Matter. "Mind is definable, in the first instance, by the method of contrast, or as a remainder arising from subtracting the object world from the totality of conscious experience" (Ibid., p. 1). "The totality of our mental life is made up of two kinds of consciousness -- the object consciousness and the subject consciousness. The first is the external world, or Non-Ego; the second is our Ego, or mind proper'' (Ibid., p. 370). Consciousness "includes our object states as well as our subject states. The object and subject are both parts of our being, as I conceive, and
(12) hence we have a subject consciousness, which is in a special sense Mind (the scope of mental science), and an object consciousness in which all other sentient beings participate, and which gives us the extended and material universe" (Ibid., 669). It is, of course, still kept in view (which constitutes the logical superiority of Subjective Idealism over Realism) that "the object consciousness, which we call Externality, is still a mode of self in the most comprehensive sense" (p. 378). "Object experience is still conscious experience, that is Mind" (p. 2). I have quoted at this length because the above passages seem to me an admirable statement of a representative type of Subjective Idealism.
The logic of the process seems to be as follows. It is recognized that all existence with which philosophy or anything else has to do must be known existence -- that is, that all existence is for consciousness. If we examine this consciousness, we shall find it testifying to ''two kinds of consciousness'' one, a series of sensations, emotions, and ideas, etc., the other, objects determined by spatial relations. We have to recognize then two parts in consciousness, a subject part, mind more strictly speaking, and an object part, commonly called the external world or matter. But it must not be forgotten that this after all is a part of my own being, my consciousness. The subject swallows up the object. But this subject, again, ''segregates" itself into "two antithetical halves," into "two parts," the subject and the object. Then again the object vanishes into the subject, and again the subject divides itself. And forever the process is kept up. Now the point I wish to make is that consciousness is here used in two entirely different senses, and that the apparent plausibility of the argument rests upon their confusion. There is consciousness in the broad sense, consciousness which includes subject and object; and there is consciousness in the narrow sense, in which it is equivalent to "mind," "Ego," that is, to the series of conscious states. The whole validity of the argument rests, of course, upon the supposition that ultimately these two are just the same -- that it is the individual consciousness, the "Ego'' which differentiates itself into the "two kinds of consciousness," subject and object. If not, "mind," as well as "matter" -- the series of psychical states or events which constitute the Ego and are "the scope of mental science," as well as that in which all "sentient beings participate" -- is but an element in consciousness. If this be so, Subjective Idealism is abandoned and Absolute Idealism (to which I hardly need say this article has been constantly pointing) is assumed.
(13) The essence of Subjective Idealism is that the subject consciousness or mind, which remains after the ''object world has been subtracted," is that for which after all this object world exists. Were this not so -- were it admitted that this subject, mind, and the object, matter, are both but elements within, and both exist only for, consciousness -- we should be in the sphere of an eternal absolute consciousness, whose partial realization both the individual ''subject" and the "external world" are. And I wish to show that this is the only meaning of the facts of the case; that Subjective Idealism is but the bald statement of a contradiction.
This brief digression is for the purpose of showing that, to Subjective Idealism, the consciousness for which all exists is the consciousness which is called mind, Ego, "my being". The point which I wished to make was that this identification is self-contradictory, although it is absolutely necessary to this form of Idealsim. I shall be brief here in order not to make a simple matter appear complicated. How can consciousness which gives rese to the "two kinds" of consciousness be identified with either of them? How can the consciousness which in its primary aspect exists in time as a series of psychical events or states be the consciousness for which a permanent world of spacially related objects, in which "all sentient beings participate," exists? How can the "mind" which is defined by way of "contrast," which exists after the object world has been "subtracted" be the mind which is the whole, of which subject and object are alike elements? To state that the mind, in the first instance, is but the remainder from the totality of conscious experience "minus the object world, and to state also that that this object world is itself a part of mind." -- what is that but to state in terms a self-contradiction? Unless it be to stat that this way of looking at mind, "in the first instance," is but a partial and unreal way of looking at it, and that mind in truth is the unit of subject and object, one of which cannot be subtracted from the other, because it has absolutely no existence without the other. Is it not a self-contradiction to declare that the "scope of mental science" is subject consciousness or mind, and at the same time to declare that "both subject and object are parts of our being," are but "two kinds" of consciousness? Surely Psychology ought to be the science of our whole being, and of the whole consciousness. But no work can make the contradiction clearer than the mere statement of it. The only possible hypothesis upon which to reconcile the two statements that mind is consciousness with the object world subtracted, and that it
(14) is the whole of our conscious experience, including both subject and object world, is that the term Mind is used in two entirely different senses in the two cases. In the first it must be individual mind, or consciousness, and in the second it must be absolute mind or consciousness, for and in which alone the individual or subject consciousness and the eternal world or object consciousness exist and get their reality.
The root of the whole difficulty is this. It is the business of Psychology to take the whole of conscious experience for its scope. It is its business to determine within this whole what the nature of the subject and object are. Now Subjective Idealism identifies at the outset, as may be seen in the passages quoted, subject with "Mind," "Ego," and object with "Matter," "Non-Ego," "External World," and then goes on to hold that the 'scope' of Psychology is the former only. In short, the psychological standpoint, according to which the nature of subject and object was to be determined from the nature of conscious experience, was abandoned at the outset. It is presumed that we already known what the "subject" is, and Psychology is confined to treatment of that. It is assumed that we know already what the 'object' is, and Psychology is defined by its eliminations. This method, as psychology, has two vices. It is 'ontological,' for it sets up some external test to fix upon the nature of subjective states. It assumes that Psychology instead of being the criterion of all, has some outside criterion from which its own place and subject-matter is detemined, and more specifically, it assumes that the standpoint of Psychology is necessarily individual or subjective. Why should we be told that the scope of Psychology is subject consciousness, and subject consciousness be defined as the totality of conscious experience minus the object world, unless there is presupposed a knowledge of what subject and object are? How different is the method of the true psychological standpoint! It shows how subject and object arise within consciousness, and thereby develops the nature of consciousness. It shows it to be the unity of the subject and object. It shows therefore that there cannot be "two kinds" of consciousness, one subject, the other object, but that all consciousness, whether of "Mind," or of "Matter" is, since consciousness, the unity of subject and object. Consciousness may, and undoubtedly does, have two aspects -- one aspect in which it appears as an individual, and another in which it appears
(15) as an external world over against the individual. But there are not two kinds of consciousness, one which may be subtracted from the whole and leave the other. They are but consciousness in one phase, and how it is that consciousness assumes this phase, has it is that this division into the individual, and the external world arise for consciousness (in short, how consciousness in one stage appears as perception),-- that is precisely the business of Psychology to determine. But it does not determine it by assuming at the outset that the subject is "me," and the object is the world. And if this be not assumed at the outset it certainly will not be reached at the conclusion. The conclusion will show that the distinction of consciousness into the individual and the world is but one form in which the relation of subject and object, which everywhere constitutes consciousness, appears. This brings us definitely to the relation of the individual and universal consciousness.
We have seen that the attempt to account for the origin of knowledge, at bottom, rests on the undoubted fact that the individual consciousness does become, but also that the only way to account for this becoming, without self-contradiction. is by the postulate of a universal consciousness. We have seen again that the truth at the bottom of subjective idealism is the undoubted fact that all existence is relative to our consciousness, but also that the only consistent meaning of this fact is that our consciousness as individual is itself relative to a universal consciousness. And now I am sure that my objector, for some time silent, will meet me with renewed vigor. He will turn one of these arguments against the other and say: "After all, this consciousness for which all exists is your individual consciousness. The universal consciousness itself exists only for it. You may say indeed that this individual consciousness, which has now absorbed the universal again, shows the universal as necessary to its own existence, but this is only to fall into the contradiction which you have already urged against a similar view on the part of Subjective Idealism. Your objection in that case was that consciousness divided into subject consciousness and object consciousness, of which the former immediately absorbed the latter, and again subdivided itself into the subject and object consciousness. You objected that this was the express statement of a contradiction -- the statement that the subject consciousness was and was not the whole of conscious ex-
(16)-perience. It was only as it was asserted to be the whole that any ground was found for subjective idealism; but only as it was regarded as a remainder left over from subtraction of the object world does it correspond to actual experience. Now you have yourself fallen into precisely this contradiction. You do but state that the individual consciousness is and is not the universal consciousness. Only so far as it is not, do you escape subjective idealism; only so far as it is, do you escape the thing-in-itself. If this universal consciousness is not for our individual consciousness, if it is not a part of our conscious experience, it is unknowable, a thing-in-itself. But if it be a part of our individual consciousness, then after all the individual consciousness is the ultimate. By your own argument you have no choice except between the acceptance of an unknowable unrelated reality or of subjective idealism. "
This objection amounts to the following disjunction: Either the universal
consciousness is the individual and we have subjective idealism; or, it is
something beyond the individual consciousness, and
we have a thing-in-itself. Now this dilemma looks somewhat formidable, yet its statement shows that the objector has not yet put himself upon the psychological ground: there is something of the old "ontological" man left in him yet, for it assumes that he has, prior to its determination by Psychology, an adequate idea of what "individual" is and means. If he will take the psychological standpoint, he will see that nature of the individual as well as of the universal must be determined within and through conscious experience. And if this is so, all ground for the disjunction falls away at once. This disjunction rests upon the supposition that the individual and the universal consciousness are something opposed to each other. If one were to assert that the meaning of the individual consciousness is that it is universal, the whole objection loses not only its ground but its meaning; it becomes nonsense. But I am not concerned just at present to state this; I am concerned only to point out that, if one starts with a presupposition regarding the nature of the individual consciousness, one is leaving the psychological standpoint. In forming the parallel between the position attributed to the writer and that of subjective idealism, the supposed objector was building wiser than perhaps he knew. The trouble with the latter view is that it supposes that consciousness may be divided into "two kinds," one subjective, the other objective; that it presupposes, at the start, the nature of subject and object. The fact of the case is that, since
(17) consciousness is the unity of subject and object, there is no purely subjective or purely objective. So here. It is presupposed that there are "two kinds" of consciousness, one individual, the other universal. And the fact will be found to be, I imagine, that consciousness is the unity of the individual and the universal; that there is no purely individual or purely universal. So the disjunction made is meaningless. But however that may be, at all events it leaves the psychological basis, for it assumes that the nature of the individual is already known.
This has been said that it may be borne in mind from the outset that Psychology must determine within consciousness the nature of the individual and the universal consciousness, thereby determining at once their place within experience, and explicating the nature of consciousness itself. And this, stated in plain terms, means simply that, since consciousness does show the origin of individual and universal consciousness within itself, consciousness is therefore both universal and individual. How this is, the present article, of course, does not undertake to say. Its more modest function is simply to point out that it is the business of psychology to show the nature of the individual and the universal and of the relation existing between them. These must not be presupposed, and then imported bodily to determine the nature of psychologic experience. There has now been rendered explicit what was implied concerning the psychological standpoint from the first, viz., that it is a universal standpoint. If the nature of all objects of philosophical inquiry is to be determined from fixing their place within conscious experience. then there is no criterion outside of or beyond or behind just consciousness itself. To adopt the psychological standpoint is to assume that consciousness itself is the only possible absolute. And this is tacitly assumed all the while by subjective idealism. The most obvious objection to subjective idealism is, of course, that it presupposes that, if "mind were to become extinct, the annihilation of matter, space, time would result." And the equally obvious reply of subjective idealism is: ''My conception of the universe even though death may have overtaken all its inhabitants, would not be an independent reality, I should merely take on the object-consciousness of a supposed mind then present" (Bain, p 682). In short, the reality of the external world, though I should imagine all finite minds destroyed, would be that I cannot imagine consciousness destroyed. As soon as I imagine an external world, I imagine a consciousness in relation to which it exists. One may put the objection
(18) from a side which gets added force with every advance of physical science. The simplest physiology teaches that all our sensations originate from bodily states -- that they are conditioned upon a nervous organism. The science of biology teaches that this nervous organism is not ultimate but had its origin; that its origin lies back in indefinite time, and that as it now exists it is a result of an almost infinite series of processes; all these events, through no one knows how much time, having been precedent to your and my mind, and being the condition of their existence. Now is all this an illusion, as it must be, if its only existence is for a consciousness which is ''but a transition from one state to another"? The usual answer to this argument is that it is an ignoratio elenchi: that it has presupposed a consciousness for which these events existed; and that they have no meaning except when stated in terms of consciousness. This answer I have no call to rebut. But it must be pointed out that this is to suppose the individual consciousness capable of transcending itself and assuming a universal standpoint -- a standpoint whence it can see its own becoming, as individual. It is this implication of the universal nature of the individual consciousness which has constituted the strength of English philosophy; it is its lack of explication which has constituted its weakness. Subjective idealism has "admitted of no answer and produced no conviction" because of just this confusion. That which has admitted of no answer is the existence of all for consciousness; that which has produced no conviction is the existence of all for our consciousness as merely individual. English philosophy can assume its rightful position only when it has become fully aware of its own presuppositions; only when it has become conscious of that which constitutes its essential characteristic. It must see that the psychological standpoint is necessarily a universal standpoint and consciousness necessarily the only absolute, before it can go on to develop the nature of consciousness and of experience. It must see that the individual consciousness, the consciousness which is but "transition," but a process of becoming, which, in its primary aspect, has to be defined by way of "contrast," which is but a "part'' of conscious experience, nevertheless is when viewed in its finality, in a perfectly concrete way, the universal consciousness, the consciousness which has never become and which is the totality; and that it is only because the individual consciousness is, in its ultimate reality, the universal consciousness that it affords any basis whatever for philosophy.
The case stands thus: We are to determine the nature of everything, subject and object, individual and universal, as it is found within conscious experience. Conscious experience testifies, in the primary aspect, my individual self is a "transition," is a process of becoming. But it testifies also that this individual self is conscious of the transition, that it knows the process by which it has become. In short, the individual self can take the universal self as its standpoint, and thence know its own origin. In so doing, it knows that it has its origin in processes which exist for the universal self, and that therefore the universal self never has become. Consciousness testifies that consciousness is a result, but that it is the result of consciousness. Consciousness is the self-related. Stated from the positive side, consciousness has shown that it involves within itself a process of becoming, and that this process becomes conscious of itself. This process is the individual consciousness; but since it is conscious of itself, it is consciousness of the universal consciousness. All consciousness, in short, is self-consciousness, and the self is the universal consciousness, for which all process is and which, therefore, always is. The individual consciousness is but the process of realization of the universal consciousness through itself. Looked at as process, as realizing, it is individual consciousness; looked at as produced or realized, as conscious of the process, that is, of itself, it is universal consciousness.
It must not be forgotten that the object of this paper is simply to develop the presuppositions which have always been latent or implicit in the psychological standpoint. What has been said in the way of positive result has been said, therefore, only as it seemed necessary to develop the meaning of the standpoint. It must also be remembered that it is the work of Psychology itself to determine the exact and concrete relations of subject and object, individual and universal, within consciousness. What has been said here, if said only for the development of the standpoint, is therefore exceedingly formal. To some of the more concrete problems I hope to be able to return at another time.