An Introduction to Comparative Psychology

Chapter 15: Conceptual Thought

C. Lloyd Morgan

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IN foregoing chapters I have endeavoured to show how the step may be taken from sense-experience, in which the transitions from impression to impression are merely sensed as they occur in the margin of the conscious field, to the definite perception of relations, where the transitional relation ships as such become focal to consciousness. We there saw that perception takes its origin in close touch with practical experience. The relation as perceived is between impressions so recent that they have not yet faded from the margin of consciousness. Take, for example, the spatial relation between two adjacent points, They are still in the field of view, and were but just now focal as impressions. That is to say, when the relation between them is perceived, they are still marginally present to consciousness as the points between which the relationship holds good. And the relation is, as we have seen, between the impressions of concrete and particular objects, or between such a concrete impression and an idea.

Now when once relations between concrete impressions or images have been clearly perceived in the course of practical experience, the materials are given for a further mental process. Two particular objects, billiard balls for example, are perceived to be a span asunder. The balls are removed, and pieces of chalk being substituted they too are seen to be a span asunder. All sorts of small objects may be substituted for the chalk, and no matter what the particular objects may be, the space relationship remains unchanged.

(263) The relation persists throughout all changes of the things which exhibit the relationship. And as we begin to realize this, we are able. to think of the relationship of distance, irrespective of the objects which exhibit the relationship to think of it as something that will apply to a great number of particular cases which, in other respects, may show all sorts of differences. The relationship is no longer particular to those two billiard balls or those two pieces of chalk, but applies generally to all sorts of objects which have been, or may be, met with in experience. We neglect all that is variable and focus the attention on the uniform relation in space. We do not merely perceive those two billiard balls to be related in such a way, but we conceive the relationship in its abstract and general form. We have reached a conception, and this conception is not concrete, particular and individual, but abstract, general, and of universal application.

The process of conception involves an extension of that reflection which we have seen to be essential to the process of perception, out of which it arises, It is only when we can look back upon the results of a good deal of experience that the permanence of the relation, amid many modes of its 'manifestation, begets the general conception. In the course of experience we see that this man is like that man, this tree like that tree, this apple like that apple, this coin like that coin, and so on in numberless particular cases, So long as the likeness is particular, we perceive the similarity. But when, in reflection on numerous particular instances, we see that all possess this relationship in common, we reach the conception of similarity. We are no longer considering particular transitions in consciousness, but are reviewing a number of transitions which' have occurred in the course of our experience, and which are seen to have a common character. Suppose that we are looking over a series of coins or other similar objects. As we pass from one impression to another, we sense, or are marginally aware of,

(264) the similarity of each to each. We may then in - make the likeness of any two focal in consciousness and perceive the relation of similarity. We may go further and perceive that the relation of this to that is similar to the relation of that to the other-we may perceive the similarity of the relations. But the relations that we Perceive to be similar are particular relations. Not until the particular fades from view, and the relationship, as common to all the particular instances, becomes focal, do we reach the conception properly so-called.

It will be seen that this process by which conceptions are reached involves abstraction and involves analysis. The power of abstraction has its germ in sense-experience. It is essentially a concentration of attention on the focal element to the neglect of marginal elements in consciousness. When in the primitive life of sense-experience the attention is so rivetted on some focal impression that the margin almost fades out of view altogether, we have the process of abstraction in an incipient phase. For abstraction, to a large extent, is a matter of the relative intensity of the focus and the margin. In perceiving the relation between particular impressions and ideas-between the colour shades of two skeins of wool for example-it is essential that they should be held representatively in the margin of consciousness as the terms between which the relation is perceived to hold good. But when we focus the relationship of similarity in general, and form a conception thereof, we no longer hold any particular terms representatively in the margin of consciousness. We think of the similarity as focal to a marginal field into which any pair of an indefinite number of similar terms may be introduced. Whether we could do so to much purpose, in the absence of a name or some such symbol for the focal idea thus generalized, is a question which is open to discussion. I am inclined to think that we could not. Our conception of similarity is indefinite from its very generality, and the, moment we try and make it clear and

(265) precise to our mind's eye, we make it particular by thinking of air illustrative example. We exemplify the conception by reference to a particular perception. The symbolic name, however, serves, to fix the general conception without particularizing it. It enables us more completely to abstract the focus from the indefinitely variable margin. And all this involves analysis. We are not merely looking back upon our past experience a and reviewing it in memory; we are analysing it, and making a new synthesis out of the results of our analysis. We find in a great number of particular cases, with which reflection presents us; the relation of similarity, and submitting these cases to analysis, we detach the relation from the related terms. But the relation is given in experience as a similarity now of colour, now of musical notes, now of pressures, now of tastes; now of scents, and so forth. Fusing these together, we reach the synthetic general conception of this relation as of universal application, and label it " similarity." And we should not fail to notice that this process of analysis and synthesis, as leading to the conception of relations, is a fully conscious process. No doubt the-mere repetition of particular cases of the perception of similarity would beget a sense of familiarity, a fringe of marginal awareness of repetition. But this, so long as it continues marginal, could not rise into conception. For conception involves a definitely conscious grasp of a synthetic unity as the result of reflective analysis. At the risk of wearisome reiteration, let me again say that in primitive sense-experience we may have a practical awareness of similarity, such awareness being altogether marginal; that when this marginal awareness comes to the focus in early stages of reflection, the similarity between particular impressions may be definitely perceived ; that mere repetition of, and marginal familiarity with, such perceptions will not generate conceptions, which are the definitely focal results of abstraction, analysis, and synthetic generalization.


Let us now pass on to consider the conceptions that we frame of what we term the qualities of objects. I say advisedly " what we term " the qualities of objects, because at the stage of primitive sense-experience the qualities of objects are not yet distinguished. And though, in describing and endeavouring to explain sense-experience, we are forced to use separate words for the qualities that we distinguish, it must be remembered that at this stage of mental development the distinction has not yet been made. For the animal-or let us say, to avoid controversy, for such animals as are still in the stage of sense-experience-- there is no distinction of quality and object; there are merely focal impressions and ideas, set in a subconscious margin. Suppose that a puppy is gaining experience of things which are good to eat. Associations are established between certain visual impressions and certain gustatory impressions. We speak of the puppy as dealing with objects which have the quality or property of edibility, But the "objects" and the "edibility" are our affair, not the puppy's. Or let a child be playing with red and blue marbles, he may sense the similarity of the red marble to the blue marble in the matter of form, and their dissimilarity in the matter of colour. But when once these relations be-in to be perceived, the form and the colour begin to be distinguished. Qualities begin to emerge, and to be dissociated from the continuum of sense-experience. But the qualities as perceived are merely the salient features of certain given impressions ; the dissociation is only incipient. This red rose, as an impression, is distinguished from that yellow rose, and is assimilated to the other red rose. The quality of colour predominates over that of form but the two are still associated together, and associated with the scent which the sight of the rose suggests. For at this stage we are still in close touch with practical experience ; and in practical experience there is no dissociation between colour and form, nor between the scent of a rose and the

(267) rose which is scented. But when reflection deals not merely with the data of experience as they are practically given- in their very presence, so. to speak-but ranging over a wider field, analyses them, abstracts their focal essence, and generalizes the results in conceptual synthesis, then, and not till then, does the quality dissociate itself in thought from the object. The rose, the violet, and the carnation are given in sense-experience as differently scented ; perception comes upon the scene, and the scent relations of the flowers are perceived, still in close association with the other qualities which are presented to consciousness in practical experience; finally, conception analyses the results of experience, isolates a particular quality already predominant in perception, and lays it before us as the named quality of 11 scent." And so pleased are we with the result of our analysis, and with the distinction it has enabled us to draw, that we no longer say that the rose or the carnation is scented, but that the flower has scent ; attributing to the object the " possession " of the quality which we have thus reached as a general conception. I When once such conceptions have been reached, they ,tend to suffuse and modify our whole mental outlook, The case here is analogous to those to which attention has already been drawn. We learnt that, so soon as the perception of relations has entered into the fabric of the mental synthesis, its results become woven through and through the tapestry of consciousness, so far as to constitute an abiding background. And we saw that this suffusion of all our impressions with more or less of a relational tone is what raises them to the level of percepts-the percept being an impression set in a relational background, the relations in which have been at some time or other definitely perceived as such. Similarly, so soon as the general conception has entered into the fabric of our mental synthesis, its results too become woven through and through the tapestry of consciousness, so as to constitute an abiding conceptual back

(268) ground. And just as the impression is through perception raised to the level of the percept, so 'through conception is the percept raised to a higher level and seen to be but a particular exemplification of the universalized concept to be but mark well the social value of the concept. Perception, although it probably took its origin in close 'connection with the need of intercommunication, is nevertheless in the main an individual matter. I perceive the particular relationships of this, that, and the other object with which practical experience brings me into contact. I may describe to you what I perceive, and hear your description of what you have perceived. But it is not till we each of us, you and I, rise above the particular perceptions to general conceptions, that we begin consciously to participate in our common humanity' The percept at best leaves us units with powers of intercommunication; but in the concept- we merge our individuality, to share a common nature.

Note, too, the increasing complexity and the increasing richness of the fabric of the mental tapestry as we proceed from sense-experience to perception, and so to conception. In sense-experience we have impressions and their revived ideas, set in a dim background of a mere awareness of the transitions which take place at this stage of mental development. Association has these impressions and -ideas to deal with, and nought beside. But when relations have been perceived, a new set of ideas is introduced, and association weaves these strands into the more complex tissue of consciousness. And when-relations and the qualities of objects have not only been perceived, but generalized so as to acquire widely extended meaning, these general conceptions' are utilized by association, and the tapestry of consciousness reaches all the wealth and richness which the interlacing of the strands afforded by sense-experience, perception, and conception can give it. And this wealth and complexity concerns not only, I think we may say not chiefly, the focus

(269) of consciousness; it is wrought into the marginal background. When one reaches the climax of a fine play or a great novel, it is not merely the focal impression or idea of the moment that stirs us, but the extraordinary richness and intensity of a state of consciousness embracing representatively a multiplicity of duly subordinated details.

For beings who have reached the conceptual stage then, association deals with a new order of ideas, -- those of general import. And it is now time to revise and restate our definition of the term "idea." We began by defining the impression as that which is rendered focal to consciousness through afferent impulses, and the idea as that which is rendered focal to consciousness through the revival or the representation of such impressions. But when we reach the perception of relations, we have a new order of ideas, -- the ideas of relation ; they are the revivals of those perceptions which, since they were generated in close touch with the related impressions, we termed impressions of relation. And when we rise to conception yet a third order of ideas is reached, -- those of general or universal application. It may be well to distinguish and differentiate these three orders of ideas by writing the word without italics or capitals when the ideas of sense-experience are referred to - by using italics for ideas of or involving particular relations; and by using a capital letter for Ideas in their general sense. Thus I may have an idea of a snake as an object of sense-experience; an idea of its length; and an Idea of its zoological position. The word object is another term that is used with a very wide range of signification. We speak, in the first place, of an object of sense-experience when we say, for instance, that a puppy has an impression Of the object that we call a bone. Secondly, we speak of perceiving an object as related to another object in space. Here the object hitherto merely sensed is perceived in certain of its relations. This is the object as, percept. Thirdly, we speak of an object with

(269) reference to its general purpose, of a clock, for example, as a timepiece. This is the object as concept. And again, we speak of an object in the logical sense as the synthesis of the qualities which we have analytically distinguished. This is the logical object. Thus when, for purposes of logical thought, we define an " object," we enumerate its several qualities in varying relationship to other objects and to ourselves. And though it may be said that the term as employed of sense-experience and of the earlier stages of perception is used, by anticipation, for that which, in the light of conception, is known as an object, -- since an object, it may be said, is only known as such in antithetical relation to the subject, -- still, for reasons that will hereafter appear it is convenient to retain all these uses. With regard to the logical object, -- that is, the synthesis of the qualities which we analytically distinguish,-we may note that there are certain properties or qualities which are essential to the object as a synthetic unity ; these are termed primary or essential qualities. And there are other qualities which are variable or unessential ; these are termed secondary or accidental qualities. Take, for example, such an object as a teaspoon.. There are certain properties or qualities, weight, resistance, and a definite form, in the absence of which the object would not be a teaspoon at all. But it may be hot or cold, silver or plated, fiddle-patterned, scalloped, or plain and still be a teaspoon. These are accidental qualities. Of course, as actually presented, this teaspoon now in my' hand-this object as percept-is hot, made of silver, and scalloped. Nothing can alter that as a fact of experience. But these accidental qualities are not, essential to that general Idea of a teaspoon, which constitutes the logical object.

This digression on the use of terms leads us an to consider the connection of the faculty of conception with words and language. It has been pointed out in previous

(271) chapters that the step from sense-experience to perception, rendered possible by incipient reflection probably bad its origin in the needs of intercommunication. It is impossible to describe a simple visual scene or a common daily occurrence without using terms which stand for the particular relations involved. But the terms, though they primarily express particular relations, stand for any such relations. They are thus generalised, and so far conceptual in their nature. Hence, if it was the need of intercommunication which gave rise to perception, it was also the means of communication which largely facilitated the further process of conception. And we may well believe that perception and conception had their origin in tolerably close association with each other. It is not my purpose to speculate here concerning the origin of language, and how it played its part, vital as that part undoubtedly was, in mental development ; it will be sufficient to indicate the relation of the name or word to the impression, the percept, and the concept. In the first place, the word may be associated by contiguity with an impression, and may therefore serve to revive the corresponding idea. The infant tolerably early gives evidence of the establishment of such associations ; and a clever dog will show by his actions that a considerable number of words call up in his mind the ideas of the impressions with which they have been associated. And these words are not merely associated with revivals of impressions of the special senses, they also serve to suggest activities, The dog lies down, sits up, begs, fetches and " drops it," as he is told. What we may term the first stage of naming, arising out of the indicative stage of intercommunication, is therefore the association of a more or less arbitrary word-sign or symbol with some sort of impression. The second stage is the association of such a symbol with a relation definitely perceived. By this means we express particular characters of the impression, in -relation to other impressions, particu-

(272) -lar qualities of objects in relation to other objects, or to the percipient, particular modes or intensities of the' activities Such associations are considerably later in development in the human infant; but it is exceedingly difficult to determine just when they are formed. The child grows up 'in what we may term an atmosphere of language. At first this environment of language is all mere sound; but associations of particular words with particular 'impressions are soon established, and we then say that the child is beginning to understand what is said to it. It is certainly some little time, but one finds it hard to say how long, before the relational words- begin to have their true significance. If only we could remember these early stages in mental development what a boon it would be to psychology! As it is, we are left to the conjectural interpretation of observed activities. And we find that it is easy to get a response in answer to the suggestion, " Baby, laugh," but difficult to get a different response for " Baby, laugh loud," and -" Baby, laugh softly." The words for, perceptions or their ideas, since they are expressive of relations, are relative to other words, and they serve to define the relationship of impres-. sions and their symbols to other impressions and their symbols. The impression-words are for the most' part nouns and verbs ; the relation-words are adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions. These are all relative to each other. There is not an adjective nor an adverb nor a preposition that does not more or less clearly imply such relations. Many of them go in couples, such as " hard " " soft," " near " " far,$' "swiftly" "slowly," "to" from," "up" "down," "above" "under." But when the relation is not so obvious, when, for example, we say that the grass is "green," even here the relationship is none the less implied; for colour is not perceived at all (though it may be sensed) until its relationship to other colours is grasped. In saying that the grass' is green, as a matter of definite perception, we imply that

(273) it is not red nor brown nor blue, nor any other colour than green.

The third stage of naming is the conceptual stage, and this involves the generalization of that 'which has been acquired in and through perception., And this is not so much the formation of new names for general and abstract relationships,-- though many-general and abstract names are then first given such as " redness," "colour," " distance," 69 opacity," 11 thing," " virtue," and the rest, -- it is not so much, I say, the naming of these general and abstract Ideas, as the raising of all the rest of language from the particular to the. general, and the consequent viewing of all that is named in the light of conception. Common nouns for objects of experience such as "dog," "chair," "tree," "rock," or oft-repeated activities such as 11 to run," " to call," " to touch," are then no longer of only particular application. They stand no longer for simple impressions, no longer even for particular percepts, but they. are henceforth symbolic of concepts. The word " ball " which for the child is suggestive merely of a particular impression or idea, is for the man who lives in a conceptual atmosphere symbolic of this and of much besides, it not merely stands for this particular ball as actually sensed and perceived, but is symbolic of a general concept which is but exemplified in the particular object before us. The name of the general concept thus embraces thousands of particular objects which are, so to say, samples of that which is so named, or exemplifications of the Idea so symbolized.

I said just. now that the words which are associated with impressions are nouns and verbs; but the verb in such connection must be emptied of its predicative value. For predication is beyond the reach of sense-experience. The word " is," or its representative in the verb as predicative, implies the exercise of perception or of conception. It is indeed primarily symbolic of the transition in consciousness

(274) from an impression to some perception or conception which the impression suggests. And it enables us to state in -the form of a proposition the transition which has thus taken. place. Thus it comes to be symbolic of all those transitions in consciousness between focal states which are perceived or conceived to be related. As I look up from my page I see the dog, the rug, the fireplace, and so on. These, as merely successive impressions, are not related, and I can make no affirmation concerning them. But in the light of perception I affirm that the dog is on the rug and in front of the fire. The impressions are brought into connection with each other through the perception of certain spatial relations, and the transitions having a new value given to them, are symbolized in predication. When, in Brazil, I saw coiled on the road before me a brilliant black and red snake, the sequence in consciousness was an impression, clearly defined, forming the nucleus of the concept I symbolize as coral-snake. And I indicated this transition-, by saying to my neighbour, " That is a coral snake," Then followed further transitions in my consciousness which I indicated by adding, " It is terribly poisonous, and has recently cast its skin." The first of these transitions was from the general concept coral-snake to one of the qualities involved in the concept. The second was suggested by a peculiarity in the appearance of the snake. And when my companion asked me why I supposed that it had recently cast its skin, I replied, 11 Because of the exceeding brilliance of the colours of the snake."

That little word " because " introduces us to a group of words which are essentially characteristic of the conceptual phase of mental development. They are symbolic of logical inference and explanation. We may describe events and experiences by the hour, keeping close to the plane of per-, ception (though the words we employ are full of conceptual import), and never have occasion to use one of these words,

(275) such as " hence," " because," "therefore," and the like ; but the moment we seek to explain, the moment we have to answer the question " Why ? " they come into prominence and symbolize a particular way of regarding some of the transitions in consciousness. Let us take the case of the concerning the shedding of the skin by the coral inference snake as an example of such transition, and let us suppose that my companion was one of those worrying people who will get to the bottom of everything. He is not content with the explanation I give him of the transition when I say that I feel sure that the snake has recently cast its skin because the colours are so bright. He asks on what grounds I am so confident in the matter. I reply that I have good reason for confidence because having seen a good many snakes of various kinds it has been my invariable experience that colours so bright, and of that peculiar freshness, are only presented by individuals which have recently exuviated. But still my friend is not satisfied. He inquires whether I have seen many coral snakes which have just shed their skin. I confess that I have never had opportunities of observing snakes of this particular kind. - By what right then, he urges, do you extend to snakes of this kind conclusions you have drawn from observations on other kinds? I remind him that I am not relying on my own observations only, but upon those se of many well- qualified, observers. Granted, says my friend, but by what right do you extend to this particular snake the results of observation on any number of other individuals? Because snakes are all alike in this respect, I reply. But how on earth do you know that? Neither you nor any one else can have examined all snakes that exist and have existed ; and if you had, how can you be sure about the snakes that at the time of the investigation were still unborn? Well, I reply, perhaps a little nettled,- notwithstanding your pretended doubts, I shall continue to assume that all snakes are alike in this respect

(276) until I find that my assumption is incorrect. Very good' but forgive my insistency, why on the grounds of a paltry thousand or two of observations do you propose to assume that all the millions of snakes that are in existence no and shall hereafter be born, are alike in this respect Because, I reply, nature is uniform, and the universal testimony of science proclaims the fact. But suppose you were to find a snake to-morrow that bad just cast its skin, in, the surface of which was dull and blotchy, you would no doubt abandon your assumption of the uniformity of nature., Not a bit of it, I reply, I should feel certain that the poor thing was in ill health or diseased, and that there was goo cause for the anomaly. One more question, says, my friend, You hold, I believe, that all snakes have ribs. Now suppose that in Central Africa there were found a new group snakes, not a single diseased individual, mind you, but a family of snakes with several genera and species, which were quite destitute of ribs, then at least you. would abandon your assumption of the uniformity of nature? Not so, I answer; if they were without ribs, they would not be snakes as at present defined; and if they were proved in all of respects to be true snakes, we should have to alter, our definition of snakes. We used to believe that all, mammals brought forth their young in a fairly advanced state of development, but now we know that the duckbill of Australia lays eggs. We have had to alter our Idea of the mammal, but that does not show that nature is not uniform. . I see, says my friend with a smile, that this a assumption is so deeply rooted in your mind that nothing is likely to shake it. Of course it is, I reply ; it is the condition of all explanation - for it nature be not uniform what is the good of my trying to explain anything, since the explanation will be invalidated by departures from uniformity ? And what is the good of forming a general concept of anything, such as this which I- define as a snake, if its qualities are variable

(277) through the variability of nature? All explanation depends ,on uniformity in that which is to be explained, and uniform in the use of the terms by which it is explained.

I have thus led up to a conception of wide range and generality -that of uniformity-in the light of which certain transitions in consciousness are explained, and have indicated its three-fold applicability. If our terminology be not uniform-if " coral snake " and 11 poisonous " sometimes mean one thing and sometimes another-we cannot express the logical sequence of our thought. If our concepts be not uniform -- if 11 coral snake " sometimes includes the factor poisonous and sometimes does not-our thought will have no logical sequence to express. If nature be not uniform -- if coral snakes are sometimes poisonous and sometimes harmless-our thought and its expression may be logical, but this will not enable us to explain the world in which we live. Uniformity of symbolization (one term one meaning),[1] uniformity of thought (the meaning nowise variable), and uniformity of nature (experience as trustworthy), these form the triple support of the " therefore; " these are the conditions under which alone we can attempt explanations of ourselves or of our surroundings. Of these three, the uniformity of nature is altogether beyond our control. If experience is not trustworthy, that is not our fault. But if we fail to keep the concepts clearly defined and invariable, or if

(277) we use the same term in several different senses, that is the fault not of nature but of our thought, or of our mode of expressing it.

I do not propose to discuss the nature and character of the inferences of formal logic. Those who have a mind to do so can seek further information than they already possess concerning the syllogism, its figures and moods, in some' standard manual of logic. It is more to the point for us to ask what is essential to any valid syllogism. But before giving an answer to this question it may be well to note that it does not describe, and is not intended to describe, the manner, or order of the normal transitions in consciousness with which it is the province of psychology to deal It affords, however, schematic forms by the aid of - which the products of psychological processes may be tested with regard to their reliability-for the purposes of reasoning. And what is essential in any such syllogistic form ? The systematic application of the relevant portion of A systematic scheme of knowledge to the particular case under consideration. The essential feature is, in a word, the system which determines the nature of rational procedure, and is rendered.. clearly explicit through formal logic. It is a two-fold system; for it is the systematic application of systematic knowledge.

Now in ordinary rational procedure, in the absence offormal logic, we have the one system without the other. We have the application of systematic knowledge; but the application is not thrown into the schematic form required red by a system of logic. And it is important that we should fully and clearly grasp that the practical value of conceptual thought lies in its development of a system which shall afford guidance in the concrete situations of our daily life. By a system is meant a generalized plan or scheme which will enable us to deal with new situations more rapidly and more effectually than is possible to sense-experience -alone; and with less of that crude and comparatively aimless trial

(279) and error which is necessary in the absence of rational guidance.

When we rise to the level of conceptual thought we enter into a new mental sphere-that of Ideal Construction. Our entry thereinto is rendered possible by the perception of relations. But perception only extracts the material and moulds the bricks out, of which, by the higher process of conception, the mansion of thought is built. It will repay us to endeavour to reach a clear understanding of the difference between our manner of procedure in those cases in which sense-experience is the only guide, and in those in which sense-experience is supplemented by rational guidance in accordance with some system developed in conceptual thought. In human procedure and conduct both are operative; but in different degrees in different phases of our life and in different situations. And probably sense-experience is never, in highly-educated folk, quite what it would be were they not in other respects rational. Still we can to some extent strip off the garment of our thought, and in some degree realize what would be the nature of our experience without it. And in our observations of the behaviour of others we can often trace the indications which mark the presence or absence of a system.

The difference between systematic procedure and that which is the outcome of sense-experience alone is well exemplified by sonic experiments made on children and reported by Dr Lindley. Children often have occasion to search for some object which they have lost. They rely on trial and error. They look about, here, there, and elsewhere, until they stumble upon it and are satisfied. This mode of planless search has probably been successful in the majority of cases, and is therefore the one which has been endorsed by the lessons of naive experience. The experiments were as follows. A ball was dropped in a grass field, and the children were severally started from a stake

(280) in the middle to look for it. Each in turn would meander about, searching perhaps one corner or another over and over again ; and if the child found the ball after- a very variable., often long time, he did so by happening at last to come within sight of it, say at a distance of five or six feet. That was the way children dealt with the situation, on the basis of their previous experience of the ultimate success of haphazard search. With most adults the search was methodical. They either started from the stake in a spiral, the sweeping lines of which were about ten or twelve feet apart, so that, when the spiral was complete, every part of the field had come within the range of vision; or they quartered the field with a gridiron course, the traverses again being such a distance apart as to afford opportunities of seeing in detail the whole field from one or other of them. Such was the manner in which they rapidly, in four or five minutes, dealt with the situation in the light of an effective plan of systematic search. It presented a simple problem-to devise or apply a scheme by which all, parts of the field should be brought within the range of vision in the least number of steps. And definite reasons could be assigned why the given course was adopted and why it was bound to be successful.

Now where, as in this case, we have the definite application of a systematic plan (in the observations cited the outcome of ideal construction concerning the properties of space to the requirements of a given concrete situation) we have procedure which is in essence rational, 'since- it is based on conceptions of universal validity -whether or not the nature of the application is systematically formulated according to the canons of logic. I have made hundreds of experiments on dogs searching. for a ball or for marked stones which I had thrown for them as already described, and in no case have I obtained evidence of systematic search. I shall, however, in the next chapter consider the

(281) behaviour of animals. At present we are concerned with the characteristics of behaviour which is based on a system. And it may perhaps be urged that in many cases of prompt and successful action there is, at the time, no rational thought, the system being applied to the particular case almost automatically. There is no focussing of the " therefore " or the " because " when the act is performed, though there may be afterwards a rendering explicit of the logical relation, if an explanation of the grounds for so acting be demanded. I take it, however, that this is only so when the application of the systematic product of conceptual thought to the particular case is no longer new, but has become more or less habitual from like applications to similar cases in the past. Then no thought is required. The explicit rationality of the act has lapsed. But this is not so on just those occasions when the initial value of the attainment to system is made manifest-that is to say, on those occasions when past experience is in itself in sufficient for guidance. Then the hitch of unfamiliarity makes itself felt; it gives pause; we must think before we act. We are puzzled for a moment or for a longer period; then the illuminating conception comes to mind, and we say or think " I have it' have what? Is it not the logical connection, whether we put the "therefore" into words or not? Furthermore, is not the fact that even the habitual application can be explained by the rendering explicit of the logical relation-is not this fact evidence that it has been there in earlier examples of the application, though it may since then have lapsed into the background of consciousness ? If it has never been there, the procedure has probably been merely pseudo-rational, performed per haps in imitation of the act of another-at any rate not through the conscious utilization of a conception, as such, with knowledge of its relation to the particular case on which it sheds the light of thought. Such pseudo-rational

(282) action cannot be at once explained by the agent-just because it is pseudo-rational. And thus we come back to the contention that the rendering of an explanation of the grounds of action is evidence that the act has at some time been consciously rational, involving an inference, no matter how habitual its later performance may have become.

There is much difference of opinion as to the proper use of the term "inference." By some it is used alike in the interpretation of (1) the behaviour of the dog which gnaws this bone because he has got satisfaction in sense-experience from gnawing other bones, and (2) the procedure of the man of science, who interpolates a point on a plotted curve and infers from the generalized results of a series of experiments that a further experiment, never before tried, 'will give a result which be accurately forecasts. On the other hand, by others it is employed only in those cases, like the latter of those just given, in which the inference is a conclusion derived from systematized conceptions. There is a like difference of opinion as to the use of the term reason." By some it is used in a broader sense, inclusive of the results which are attained by mental processes which imply no more than sense-experience. By others it is restricted to those cases in which the products of conceptual thought are implied in the process. These differences of opinion mainly depend on the relative stress and emphasis which are laid on continuity or on differentiation in the evolutionary process. Those who lay stress on continuity employ "inference," "reason," and other terms in a broad generic sense to include all phases of a slowly evolving process ; those who insist on differentiation use these terms in a narrower specific sense to mark off the higher from the lower stages attained in the course-of evolution. When the doctrine of evolution was winning its way to acceptance it was natural that its advocates should employ every means at their command to strengthen their position and

(283) to emphasize the continuity underlying diversity of aspect. But now that the position is secure, and continuity is generally admitted, it seems desirable to mark off, by restriction of the range of use of the terms we employ, the stages of differentiation. This may be done by the use of qualifying adjectives or by the limitation of terms.

Now there can be no question that sense-experience alone, without the aid of any higher conceptual process, is a sufficient basis for expectations leading to practical behaviour. And those who insist on using the term " inference," in the wider acceptation, will call them practical inferences, or inferences in the field of sense-experience, or they will call them- immediate as contrasted with mediate inferences. A dog suddenly scents a trail, or spoor, which suggests through association the image of a fox, or which means fox. Sambo, lying on the rug in the hall, sees his master come downstairs in a black coat, watches him put on a tall hat and pick up his gloves, and is content to let him depart; but if he comes down in a slack coat, the dog is on the alert; and when his master puts on a felt hat, Sambo's joy knows no bounds. For him black coat and tall hat has a different meaning from slack coat and felt hat. The latter situation means walk; the former does not. Such immediate inferences, or better, direct expectations, are familiar enough in our own experience, and form the basis of a wide range of animal behaviour.

These differ from the more highly evolved mediate inferences -those to which I think it would be well to restrict the term "inference "-in the absence of any products of conceptual thought mediating between the situation as presented to consciousness and the expectation it begets. It' is true that the body of past experience functions as the premisses to a conclusion; it, is true that in mediate inference the products of conceptual thought are founded on experience. But in the one case the results of experi-

(234) -ence are systematized and universalized; in the other they are not.

To the process of practical or immediate inference, reached through association in sense -e9perience, the term reasoning is applied by many writers, especially those who have been desirous of laying stress on the continuity of evolutionary process. It is sometimes spoken of as reasoning from particulars, sometimes, as by Professor Sully and others, as implicit reasoning. On the other hand, those who lay emphasis on the differentiation of the stages of evolution and development employ the term in a more restricted sense. In this usage reasoning may be described as the process of dealing with a given situation in the light of conceptual thought, accompanied by the knowledge that the conclusion reached is connected with the conceptual premisses by the bond of relationship which we symbolize' in the word "therefore " or " because." It implies a reference to the relevant portion of a system mediating between the situation as presented and the situation as rationally developed. This is the sense in which I use the words "reason" and "-reasoning," reserving the word "intelligence" for the process in virture of which expectations. are begotten in the field of sense-experience, and behaviour follows on immediate "inference." On this view, if we wish to determine whether there is intelligent expectation on the one hand, or rational inference on the other, we must inquire whether the logical relation of premise to conclusion is clearly perceived or not. That being alone is rational, in the more restricted sense of the- term, who, is able to focus the therefore.

The materials on which reason, in this more restricted sense, exercises its function are thickly strewn along the path of our daily experience, and were present for ages before reason came on the scene of mental life to explain them. Sense- experience affords the raw material out of

(285) which all our higher conceptual thought is elaborated. But only in the light of reflection are the relations which are involved perceived and conceived as such. Only in the light of reflection does the logical connection of the sequence of conscious states emerge- into clear view, and does the faculty of reason become manifest. The function of reason is to explain, to disclose, and set forth the relations. And this it may do through the mediation of the syllogism. This schematic arrangement of the propositions, however, I repeat, does not describe and is not intended to describe, the manner or order of transition at the moment of, experience. It may chance to present that order, or it may not. What it does is to place the propositions in convenient sequence for logical exposition and justification.

But when conceptual thought 'has be en reached, when systematic generalizations have taken form in the mind, the significance of a situation, or given presentation, in relation to the system, may arise as rapidly and directly as the meaning of a situation does for sense-experience. Hence come those flashes of insight which are so difficult to explain on any psychology that is based merely on associationism. For associationists they require at least that "mental chemistry" with which Hartley and Mill were forced to supplement their interpretation of mental phenomena. When we have been pondering long over a problem and arranging and rearranging our conceptions, at last, perhaps through some new observation, perhaps by some sidelight thrown on the question, sometimes apparently from no cause that we can assign, there is a sudden illumination of the mental field. A conclusion shoots into the mind and is accompanied by the conviction that -it is valid and may be securely relied on. Thus the hypothesis of natural selection flashed on both Darwin and Dr A. R. Wallace, on reading Malthus. In these cases

(286) we may say that the rational process is implicit, and that the logical relations must be subsequently rendered explicit. For in these cases logic is the afterthought to insight. But we only find these cases of implicit reasoning in minds which are already capable of explicit reasoning. There was no doubt much reasoning of the implicit type in the, life-work of Newton; but we should not employ this phrase for what may have occurred in the mind of his dog Diamond, unless we have independent evidence of the dog's rationality.

We must revert, in' conclusion, to that characteristic of conceptual thought to which allusion has already been made when it was said that its product is Ideal construction ; for this is of the utmost importance to the advance of human knowledge. It is in the light of such Ideal con., that the data of sense-experience, presented in concrete-situations, may be interpreted and dealt with in a methodical and systematic manner. It is influential both on theory and practice, since in all effective human work the two are kept in closest touch with each other, and are constantly interacting. Practical experience presents certain sequences of phenomena; by Ideal construction their, net results are universalized and rendered schematic.But the process does not stop here.New phenomena are met with in practical experience, and the scheme is applied to their elucidation and appealed to for guidance in dealing with them effectively.But, maybe, the scheme does not work quite satisfactorily; in its generalized form it does not comprise this or that outstanding element in the practical situation as further developed through widened experience. So the scheme has to be modified that it may embrace all the known sequences given in a more extended experience.Applied to yet further observations, it enables us to interpret and to deal with them better; but still 'not quite satisfactorily or with complete adequacy. Again, the

(287) schematic form -- the generalizations in conceptual thought -must be so far refashioned in Ideal construction; and so on with constant interplay between an improved scheme and widening experience. At every step of the process the scheme stands for, epitomizes, and gives universal expression to, a wider range of phenomena; at every step it departs more widely from a mere description of any given situation ; and at every step there is a more complete transformation of the experience, as given, for the purposes of human thought and knowledge. Occasionally the limits of modification of the existing scheme are reached, as they were for example in the Ptolemaic interpretation of astronomical phenomena. Then a fresh Ideal construction is required, a transformation of experience on a new plan. The essential feature of conceptual thought lies in the fact that there is such a transformation, and that the system thus-developed enables us to deal with practical situations in a rational manner.

It may be said, however, that such Ideal construction, and the elaboration of a methodical system is the characteristic of conceptual thought at its best and highest. What about the lower stages ? Can we assign an irreducible minimum and say-If this be present we have at least the beginnings of conceptual thought, but if this be absent we have only sense-experience dealing with the practical and concrete situation on a lower plane of mental development ? I reply that wherever there is reached by analysis and synthesis a concept of however low a grade, and this concept throws light on the particular case presented in a situation, we have passed the boundary between sense-experience and conceptual thought. This analysis, which involves abstraction, is the criterion. The concept itself is the system in embyro.


  1. To prevent misconception, let me add that in saying " one term one meaning," I intend it to be understood that, for purposes of exact logical thought, every term must pro hoc be rigidly defined, and must not be used in any other sense than the one so defined. In the general usage of language, the greater number of the words we employ are in themselves indefinite (i.e. centres of divergent association), and become definite only in and through their environment in the context. The life and freedom of language would be lost if all words were bound down by rigid definition. Language would then cease to be organic, and become merely mechanical, as it is, indeed, in purely technical scientific statements, and in the syllogism of formal logic.

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