ND   Jacques Maritain Center : Psychology / by Michael Maher, S.J.

PSYCHOLOGY. BOOK I.
EMPIRICAL OR PHENOMENAL PSYCHOLOGY.

PART II. -- RATIONAL LIFE.

CHAPTER XII.

INTELLECT AND SENSE.

Erroneous Views. -- Hitherto we have been treating mainly, though not exclusively, of the sensuous faculties of the mind; we now pass on to the investigation of its higher activities, and we at once find ourselves in conflict with a number of philosophical sects, ancient and modern, variously described as Sensationists, Associationists, Materialists, Phenomenists, Positivists, Empiricists, Evolutionists, who differing among themselves on many points agree in the primary dogma that all knowledge is ultimately reducible to sensation. According to them the mind possesses no faculty of an essentially supra-sensuous order. All our most abstract ideas, as well as our most elaborate processes of reasoning, are but sensations reproduced, aggregated, blended, and refined in various ways.

Terms explained. -- These several names emphasize special characteristics which are, however, all consequences of the chief doctrine. The word sensationalism, and its cognates, mark the attempted analysis of all cognition into sensation. Materialism points to the fact that on the sensist hypothesis we can know nothing but matter, and that there is no ground for supposing the human mind to be anything more than a function or a phase of an organized material substance. Phenomenism calls attention to the circumstance that by sense alone, and consequently according to the sensational theory of knowledge, we can never know anything but phenomena -- the sensuous appearances of things. This is the fundamental tenet of Positivism. We must cease from all aspirations after Metaphysics or knowledge of ultimate realities and confine our efforts to positive science -- that is the ascertainment of laws observable in phenomena. Empiricism (empeiria, experience) accentuates the assumption of this school that all our mental possessions are a product of purely sensuous experience. The stress laid by its leading representatives in this country on the principle of mental association has caused them to be styled the Associationalist school. All psychologists who assume the Evolutionist hypothesis to apply to the human mind without qualification or reserve, as e.g. James and Mark Baldwin, even if they differ in some points from the older sensationists, are practically at one with them here.

Intellect essentially different from Sense. -- In direct opposition to this theory we maintain that the mind is endowed with two classes of faculties of essentially distinct grades. Over and above Sensibility it possesses the power of Rational or Spiritual Activity. The term Intellect, with the adjective Intellectual, was formerly retained exclusively to denote the cognitive faculty of the higher order. The word Rational also designated the higher cognitive operations of the mind, but it frequently expressed all forms of spiritual activity, as in the phrases Rational Will and Rational Emotions. The term Reason is used sometimes to signify the total aggregate of spiritual powers possessed by man,{1} sometimes to mean simply the intellectual power of understanding, and sometimes to express the particular exercise of the understanding involved in the process of ratiocination, or reasoning. Reasoning and Understanding do not, however, pertain to different faculties. The former is but a series of applications, a continuous exercise of the latter. The Rational Appetite or Will is itself a consequence of the same power, so we must look upon Intellect as the most fundamental of the higher faculties of the soul. The words Intellect and Intellectual we intend to retain exclusively for this superior grade of mental life, and we shall thus avoid the lamentable confusion caused by the modern use of these terms as signifying all kinds of cognition, whether sensuous or rational.

So far, however, we have merely asserted a difference in kind between Sense and Intellect; it is now our duty to prove our doctrine. By affirming the existence of a faculty specifically distinct from that of sense, we mean to hold that the mind possesses the power of performing operations beyond the scope of sense. We maintain that many of its acts and products are distinct in kind from all modes of sensibility and all forms of sensuous action whether simple or complex; and that no sensation, whatever stages of evolution or transformation it may pass through, can ever develope into thought. We have already investigated at length the sentient life of the soul, and to it we have allotted the five external senses, internal sensibility, imagination, sensuous memory, and sensitive appetite. The superiority of the spiritual life over these sensuous activities will be established by careful study of the nature and formal object of its operations.

Proof of doctrine. -- Intellect we may define broadly as the faculty of thought. Under thought we include attention, judgment, refiexion, self-consciousness, the formation of concepts, and the processes of reasoning. These modes of activity all exhibit a distinctly suprasensuous element; and in order to bring out the difference between intellect and sense, we shall say a few words on each of these operations. We shall begin with some observations on attention as the most convenient introduction to the study of intellectual activity in general, although the strictly supra-sensuous character of Intellect is more clearly presented in some of the other functions, especially in that of conception. We shall however undertake a fuller investigation of attention in a future chapter.

Attention. -- By attention is here meant the special direction of the higher cognitive energy of the mind towards something present to it; or in scholastic language applicatio cogitationis ad objectum. The word is sometimes used in a vague sense to signify the fact of being more or less vividly conscious of the action of any stimulus; but in its strict signification it implies a secondary act, an interior reaction of a higher kind superadded to the primitive mental state. When from a condition of passive sensibility to impressions we change to that of active attention, there comes into play a distinctly new factor. In the former state the mind was wholly excited and awakened from without, in the latter it presents a contribution from the resources of its own energy. In this exercise of attention an additional agency which reacts on the existing impressions is evoked into life, and aspects and relations implicit in the orginal impressions are apprehended in a new manner. The mind grasps and elevates into the region of clear consciousness hitherto unnoticed connexions which lie beyond the sphere of sense. It fixes upon properties and attributes and holds them steadily up for separate consideration, while the uninteresting qualities are for the time ignored.

This complementary phase of attention by which the neglected features are ignored is called by modern writers abstraction. It is the necessary counterpart of the former. By the very act of concentrating our mental energy on certain aspects of an object we turn away from others. Both the positive and the negative side of the activity manifest its difference from sense. Thus, suppose an orange has been lying on the table before me. I have for some time been conscious of its presence, but I have not specially directed my attention towards it. Now, however, some circumstance or other, a thought originating within the mind or a movement without, awakens the intellect, and immediately the object has a new reality for me. I advert to the shape of the fruit, and, abstracting from its remaining properties, I notice its likeness to other objects described as spherical. Again my attention centres on its colour, and I compare, its similarity in this respect with other things present or absent. In like manner I may think of its weight, its probable taste or smell, and compare it under any of these respects with other fruits, neglecting for the time all the rest of its attributes, or I may consider the object as a unity, a whole, a thing distinct from other beings. Further, whilst attending to one attribute apart I am fully aware of the existence of others in the concrete object present to my mind. I am quite conscious that the separation is purely mental, and that the object of my thought does not exist in this ideal and abstract manner in itself, or a parte rei. Now in all these operations something more is implied than sensation. A sensation can neither attend to itself nor consciously abstract from particular attributes, and it can still less apprehend relations between itself and its fellows.

Comparison and Judgment. -- But when exercised in explicitly comparative and judicial acts, the suprasensuous nature of attention is even more clearly manifested. We fix upon a certain attribute of two or more objects, and comparing the objects pronounce them to be alike or unlike in this feature. This judgment is evidently distinct from the sensation or image of either object, though it presupposes sensations or images of both. It implies, in fact, a mental act distinct from the related impressions by which the relation subsisting between them is apprehended in an abstract manner. To affirm that the taste of a certain claret is like that of sour milk, or that the earth resembles an orange, there is required in addition to the pair of compared ideas a superior force which holds them together in consciousness, and discerns the relation of similarity between them. Neither the mere co-existence, nor still less the successive occurrence of two impressions, could ever result in the perception of a relation between them, unless there be a third distinct activity of a higher kind to which both are present, and which is capable of apprehending the common feature.{2} A change in our feelings or sensuous consciousness is possible, and as a matter of fact, often takes place without the act of intellectual attention which gives rise to the judgment. For the consistent sensationalist, who necessarily dissolves the mind into a series of conscious states devoid of all real unity, not only is the conviction of personal identity throughout our life a hallucination, but even the simplest act of comparison effected between two successive ideas is a sheer impossibility.

Necessary Judgments. -- Among judgments in general, which exemplify the activity of a higher power than sense, there are a special class commonly spoken of as necessary judgments, which demonstrate with peculiar cogency the working of intellect. The mind affirms as necessarily and universally true, that "two things which are equal to a third must be equal to each other," that "nothing can begin to exist without a cause," that "we ought never to do evil," that "two straight lines can never enclose a space," that "three and two must always make five," and so on of a variety of other necessary propositions. A careful examination of judicial acts of this kind will manifest that they express truths of a different nature from that contained in the assertion or denial of the existence or occurrence of a particular concrete fact. These truths hold necessarily and universally. They are moreover objectively valid: they are independent of my perceiving them. Their contradictory is absolutely unthinkable. It is not merely that I cannot conceive -- in the sense of being able to imagine -- the opposite. It is not that I am under a powerful persuasion, an irresistible belief on the point. It is not that one idea inevitably suggests the other. There is something distinctly over and above all this.

The blind man cannot conceive colour. A few centuries since most people would have fonnd it hard to believe that people could live at the other side of the earth without tumbling off. On the other hand, a man's name, or his voice, irresistibly revives the representation of his face; and the appearance of fire inevitably awakens the expectation of heat. Yet in the former cases the mind after careful reflexion does not pronounce the existence of an absolute impossibility, nor does it assert in the latter a necessary connexion. We cannot affirm them to be impossible or necessary, because the intellect does not clearly apprehend any such impossibility or necessity. But it is completely different in the class of the judgments we have indicated above. The moral law must hold for all intelligence; the principle of causality and the axioms of mathematics, must be necessarily and everywhere true. Now this necessity cannot be apprehended by sense. The sensuous impression is always of the individual, the contingent, the mutable. It informs us that a particular fact exists, not that a universal truth holds. Snow may perhaps be black, ground glass may be wholesome and nutritious, and a number of the laws of physical nature may be changed every twelve months in distant stellar regions; but the truths of arithmetic and geometry, the principle of causality, and the moral law are as immutable there as with us. This immutability is distinctly realized by the mind, and such realization is certainly not explicable by mere sense.

Universal and Abstract Concepts. -- It is, however, in the formation of abstract and universal concepts, which prescind from the particular determinations of space and time, and thus completely transcend the scope of sense that the spiritual activity of the Intellect is best manifested.{3} Abstract and universal concepts we assuredly possess. They are the necessary materials of science. Judgments, whether contingent or necessary, presuppose them. Without them general knowledge would be impossible; consequently we must be endowed with some power capable of forming such ideas. But in the sensationist catalogue of faculties no such power is to be found. Ergo, that inventory is incomplete.

By no one has the inability of the imagination to form universal notions and concepts been better shown than by the writers of the sensationalist school itself. Berkeley in a well-known passage clearly states the nominalist argument declaring that whatever we imagine must have some definite size, colour, shape, and the rest. Therefore it is concluded we cannot form any truly abstract or universal concept.{4} The legitimate inference, however, is something very different -- to wit, that the sensist assumption regarding the nature of mental life is false. Since de facto we do possess these abstract and universal ideas, and since the sensationist view of the mind cannot account for them, that conception of the mind must be wrong. There is some faculty omitted from its list.

To establish the existence of these intellectual Concepts or Ideas and their difference from sensuous Images we can only indicate the marks by which they are distinguished, and then appeal to each man's internal experience. The concept represents the nature or essence, e.g., of man or triangle, in an abstract condition, ignoring or prescinding all accidental individualizing conditions. The image, on the contrary, reproduces the object clothed with these concrete determinations. The concept is universal (unum in pluribus), capable of representing with equal perfection all objects of the class -- because it includes only the essential attributes contained in the definition of the object. The image, whether it be distinct or obscure, can truly picture only one individual object of some particular colour, shape, size, and the rest. The concept since it merely includes the essential attributes is something fixed, immutable, necessary. If changed in the least element its nature would be destroyed. For the same reason it is said to be eternal: not of course as a positively existing being, but negatively as an intrinsic possibility. It abstracts from all time, and there never was an instant when it was impossible. The image, on the other hand, is unstable, fluctuating with respect to many of its component elements, and contingent. Blurred representations of this kind have been styled "generic" images, but they are in no true sense universal. They are merely individual pictures of an indistinct or obscure character. That these distinctions are real, will become clear to each one who carefully examines his own consciousness. When we employ the terms man, triangle, cow, iron, virtue, we mean something. These expressions have a connotation, a meaning which is more or less perfectly apprehended by the mind. Now that connotation as thus grasped in a mental act is the general concept.

There commonly accompanies the use of these words a sensuous image, picturing some individual specimen, or a group or series of specimens; but it is neither about these individual examples, nor about the oral sound that our judgments are enunciated. When we say, "The cow is a ruminant," "The whale is a mammal," "The sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to two right angles," "Truth is a virtue," we speak not of the particular phantasm in the imagination, whether it be definite or hazy, and still less of the vocal word. We do not mean this triangle, whale, or cow, but every triangle, every whale, and every cow. Whilst the fancy pictures an individual the intellect thinks the universal, and this thought is the general notion or concept. The statement of certain nominalists that we have nothing in our mind but a particular image made to stand for any individual of the class practically concedes the whole case, whilst slurring over the concession in the phrase which we have italicized. The intellectual operation by which the essential features in the particular specimen are apprehended and conceived as standing for "any individual" of the class is precisely what constitutes the universal conception. Exactly herein lies the abstraction and generalization productive of the intentio universalitatis -- the universal significance of the general notion. The higher faculty seizes on the essential attributes forming the common nature of the class, and our consciousness of this common nature as separately realizable in each member of the class is the universal idea.

It was long ago justly insisted on by Plato, and before him by Parmenides, that mere sense could never afford general knowledge, and that without universal concepts science is impossible. Pure and mixed mathematics no less than chemistry and biology logically lose their rigorous precision and universality as well as their objective validity if the reality of general conceptions be denied. The penetrating mind of Hume, the acutest thinker of the sensist school, clearly saw this, and accepted the conclusion that even the mathematical sciences can only afford approximate truth.{5} The existence of universal ideas or concepts we must thus consider as established.

Reflexion and Self-consciousness. -- Lastly, the act of reflecting upon our own conscious states is essentially beyond the sphere of sense. We find that we can observe and study our own sensations, emotions, and thoughts. We can compare them with previous states, we can recognize them as our own; and we can apprehend the perfect identity of the subject of these states with the being who is now reflecting on them, the agent who struggles against a temptation, and the agent who knows that he is observing his own struggle. Every step of our work so far has involved the reflexive study of our own states, and consequently the exercise of an intellectual power. To analyze, describe, and classify mental phenomena an activity distinct from and superior to sense is required, and it is only hecause we are endowed with such a supra-sensuous faculty that we can recognize ourselves as something more than our transient states. The teaching of the sensist school from Hume to Mill is logical at least on this point. They fully admit that if their assumption is true, if the only cognitive faculty possessed by the mind is sensuous in character, then it follows that the mind must be conceived as nothing more than sensations and possibilities of sensations.

Intellect a spiritual faculty. -- These various forms of mental activity, attention, abstraction, the perception of relations, comparison, judgment, the formation of universal and abstract conceptions, the intuition of the necessary character of certain judgments, and reflexive observation of our own states, demonstrate the existence in the mind of a higher cognitive faculty than that of sensuous knowledge. This superior aptitude of the soul is what the scholastic philosophers styled the intellect; and they described it as a spiritual or non-organic faculty in opposition to sense, which they affirmed to be organic, corporeal, or material. By these latter epithets, however, they did not mean to imply that sensuous life is similar in kind to the forces or properties of matter, or to the physiological functions of the organism. They merely intended to teach that all sensuous states have for their proper objects material phenomena, and are exerted by means of a bodily organ. External and internal sensibility, imagination, and sensuous memory are all essentially or intrinsically dependent on the organism. Thus sensations of touch, or phantasms of colour, are possible only to a soul that informs a body, and can only be elicited by modification of an animated system of nerves. It is, therefore, legitimate to say that the eye sees, and the ear hears, or better, that the soul sees and hears by means of these instruments. On the other hand, by describing the activity of intellect as spiritual or non-organic, the scholastics implied that it is a function of the mind alone; that unlike sentiency it is not exerted by means of any organ.

Unity of Consciousness. -- It seems to us incontestible that when properly understood this is the true doctrine. It is false to say that the brain thinks, or even that the mind thinks by means of the brain, although we may allow the phrase that it sees by the instrumentality of the eye or hears by that of the ear.{6} To establish this it is only necessary to revert to the points already considered. First, as regards self-consciousness, the subject of this activity must be of a spiritual or incorporeal nature. For in such an operation there is realized a species of perfect identity between agent and patient which is utterly incompatible with any form of action that pertains to a corporeal organ. Thus, I find that I can not only think or reason about some event, but I, the being who thinks, can reflect on this thinking; and, moreover, I can apprehend myself who am reflecting, and who know myself as reflecting, to be absolutely identical with the being who thinks and reasons about the given event. But, evidently, such an operation cannot be effected by a faculty exerted by means of a material organ. One part of matter may act upon another, it may attract or repel it, it may be "reflected" or doubled back upon it: but the same atom can never act upon, or reflect upon itself. The action of a material atom must always have for its object something other than itself. This indivisible unity of consciousness, exhibited in the act of knowing myself, is therefore possible only to a spiritual agent, a faculty that does not operate by means of a material organ.

Apprehension of the abstract and universal. -- Again, the characteristic notes of the organic or sensuous state consist in its representing a concrete material phenomenon, and in its being aroused by the impression of the object on the organ. The intellectual act, on the contrary, whether it manifests itself in the shape of the universal concept, of attention to abstract relations, or in the apprehension of necessity, does not represent an actual concrete fact, and is not evoked by the action of a material stimulus. The formal object of sense is the concrete individual: that of intellect is the abstract and universal. An organic faculty can only respond to definite corporeal impressions, and can only represent individual concrete objects. But universal ideas, abstract intellectual relations, and the necessity of axiomatic truths do not possess actual concrete existence, and so cannot produce an impression on any organ. Yet consciousness assures us that they are apprehended by us; consequently, it must be by some supra-organic or spiritual faculty. We have thus proved the existence of a supra-sensuous or spiritual form of life in the cognitive region of the mind: later on, when dealing with Free-will, we shall establish in the sphere of appetency a similar truth.

Intellect mediately dependent on the brain. -- In asserting that the intellect is a spiritual faculty, we do not of course imply that it is in no way dependent on the organism, any more than in maintaining the freedom of the will we suppose this latter faculty to be uninfluenced by sensitive appetite. It is indisputable that exhaustion of brain power accompanies the work of thinking; but the fact that the exercise of imagination or of external sense forms a conditio sine qua non of intellectual activity, accounts for such consumption of cerebral energy. Although intellect is a spiritual faculty of the mind, it presupposes, so long as the soul informs the body, the stimulation of the organic faculty of sense. This was expressed in the language of the schools by saying that intellectual activity depends extrinsically or per accidens on the organic faculties. The universal concept, the intellectual judgment, the act of reflexion, are not, like sensation, the results of the stimulation of a sense-organ, but products of purely spiritual action. The inferior mode of mental life is awakened by the irritation of sentient nerves, the superior activity is due to a higher reaction from the unexhausted nature of the mind itself; and the ground for this reaction lies in the fact that the same indivisible soul is the root of both orders of faculties. Intellectual cognition always involves self-action the part of the mind, but the conditions of such self-action are posited by Impressions in the inferior recipient faculties. The nature of the process will be more fully described in chapter xv.

Balmez and Lotze on Sensationism. -- The doctrine expounded in the present chapter is of such vital importance, yet so completely unfamiliar to the student whose reading has been confined to the current psychological text-books of this country, that we deem it well worth while, for the better enforcement of our teaching, to cite a few passages from foreign philosophers of note. We shall select for our purpose Balmez, the brilliant and original Spanish metaphysician of the first half of last century, and Lotze, the ablest recent representative of the combined Hegelian and Herbartian schools, who in addition holds high rank in physiological Science.

In Chapter ii., Book iv., of his Fundamental Philosophy, Balmez examines the sensational psychology of Condillac, and his criticism of that author applies with equal justice to the entire empirical school of this country from Hume and Hartley to Bain and Sully. In the conception of the mind held in common by all these writers sense is the sole parent and source of all knowledge. There is no rational activity essentially distinct from, and superior to, that of sense. The formation of concepts, the operations of comparison and judgment, and the application of thought in the act of attention, are merely sensations coalescing or conflicting in a fainter or more vivid stage. Balmez' observations on the system of the original parent of French sensism will, consequently, be very much to the point. After a brief account of Condillac's hypothetical statue, which, at first endowed with a single mode of sensibility, gradually developes higher forms of mental power, the Spanish philosopher lays bare the deficiencies of the sensist doctrine:

Attention. -- "Condillac calls capacity of feeling, when applied to an impression, attention. So if there be but one sensation there can be but one attention. If various sensations succeeding each other leave some trace in the memory of the statue, the attention will, when a new sensation is presented, be divided between the present and the past. The attention directed at one and the same time to two sensations becomes comparison. Similarities and differences are perceived by comparison, and this perception is a judgment. All this is done with sensations alone; therefore attention, memory, comparison, and judgment are nothing but sensations transformed. In appearance nothing clearer, more simple, or more ingenuous; in reality nothing more confused or false. First of all, this definition of attention is not exact. The capacity of feeling, by the very fact of being in exercise, is applied to the impression. It dues not feel when the sensitive faculty is not in exercise, and this is not in exercise except when applied to the impression. Consequently attention would be nothing but the act of feeling; all sensation would be attention, and all attention sensation; a meaning which no one ever yet gave to these words. Attention is the application of the mind to something; and this application supposes the exercise of an activity concentrated upon its object. Properly speaking, when the mind holds itself entirely passive it is not attentive; and with respect to sensations, it is attentive when by a reflex act we know that we feel. Without this cognition there can he no attention, but only sensation more or less active, according to the degree in which it affects our sensibility. If Condillac means to call the more vivid sensation attention, the word is improperly used; for it ordinarily happens that they who feel with the greatest vividness are precisely those who are distinguished for their want of attention. Sensation is the affection of a passive faculty; attention is the exercise of an activity."

Judgment. -- The difference between a sensation of more or less vivacity and the intellectual act of attention is here clearly exhibited, but the distinction between sense and thought is made still more evident, when the Spanish philosopher passes on to Comparison and Judgment: "Is the perception of the difference of the smell of the rose and that of the pink a sensation? If we answer that it is not, we infer that the judgment is not the sensation transformed; for it is uot cven a sensation. If we arc told that it is one sensation, we then observe that if it be either that of the rose or that of the pink, it follows that with one of these sensations we shall have comparative perception, which is absurd. If we are answered that it is both together, we must either interpret this expression rigorously, and then we shall have a sensation which will at once be that of the pink and that of the rose, the one remaining distinct from the other, so as to satisfy the conditions of comparison; or we must interpret it so as to mean that the two sensations are united; in which case we gain nothing, for the difficulty will be to show how co-existence produces comparison, and judgment, or the perception of the difference. The sensation of the pink is only that of the pink, and that of the rose only that of the rose. The instant you attempt to compare them you suppose in the mind an act by which it perceives the difference; and if you attribute to it anything more than pure sensation you add a faculty distinct from sensation, namely, that of comparing sensations, and appreciating their similarities and differences. This comparison, this intellectual force, which calls the two extremes into a common arena without confounding them, discovers the points in which they are alike or unlike each other, and, as it were, comes in and decides between them, is distinct from the sensation; it is the effect of an activity of a different order, and its development must depend on sensations as exciting causes, as a condition sine qua non; but this is all it has to do with sensations themselves; it is essentially distinct from then:, and cannot be confounded with them without destroying the idea of comparison, and rendering it impossible. No judgment is possible without the ideas of identity or similarity, and these ideas are not sensations. Sensations are particular facts which never leave their own sphere, nor can be applied from one thing to another. The ideas of similarity and identity have something in common applicable to many facts. . . Nor can memory, properly so called, of sensations be explained by themselves; and here again Condillac is wrong. The statue may recollect to-day the sensation of the smell of the rose which it received yesterday, and this recollection may exist in two ways: first, by the internal reproduction of the sensation without any external cause, or relation to time past, and consequently without any relation to the prior existence of a similar sensation; and then this recollection is not for the statue a recollection properly so called, but only a sensation more or less vivid; secondly, by an internal reproduction with relation to the existence of the same or another similar sensation at a preceding time, in which Recollection essentially consists; and here there is something more than sensation -- here are the ideas of succession, time, priority, and identity or similarity, all distinct or separable from sensations. Two entirely distinct sensations may be referred to the same time in memory, and then the time will be identical and the sensations distinct. The sensation may exist without any recollection of the time it before existed, or even without any recollection of having ever existed, consequently sensation involves no relation to time."{7}

Lotze. -- We shall now turn to the German philosopher. In one of the best pieces of Psychology which he has written -- the chapter on the "Mental Act of Relation,"{8} Lotze remarks: "The view which regards Attention as an activity exercised by the soul and having ideas (i.e., sense-impressions, images, &c.) for its objects, and not a property of which the ideas are subjects, was right. The latter notion was the one preferred by Herbart (and by the sensist school). According to him (and them), when we say that we have directed our attention to the idea b, what has really happened is merely that b, through an increase of its own strength, has raised itself in consciousness above the rest of the ideas. But even were the conception of a variable strength free from difficulty in its application to ideas, the task which we expect attention to perform would still remain inexplicable. What we seek to attain by attention is not an equally increasing intensity of the represented content just as it is, but a growth in its clearness; and this rests in all cases on the perception of relations which obtain between its individual constituents. Even when Attention is directed to a perfectly simple impression, the sole use in exerting it lies in the discovery of relations. . . . If we wish to tune a string exactly, we compare its sound with the sound of another which serves as a pattern, and try to make sure whether the two agree or differ. . . . On the other hand, there are moments when we cannot collect ourselves, when we are wholly occupied by a strong impression, which yet does not become distinct, because the excessive force of the stimulation hinders the exercise of the constructive act of comparison."{9}

In an earlier part of the same chapter he establishes still more clearly the supra-sensuous nature of Attention, as manifested in comparison and judgment: "The consciousness of the relations existing between various single sensations (among which we reckon here the sum formed by the sensations when united) is not given simply by the existence of these relations considered simply as a fact. So far we have considered only single ideas, and the ways in which they either exist simultaneously in consciousness, or else successively replace one another; but there exists not only in us this variety of ideas and this change of ideas, but also an idea of this variety and change. Nor is it merely in thought that we ought to distinguish the apprehension of existing relations which arises from an act of reference and comparison, from the mere sensation of the individual members of the relation; experience shows that the two are separable in reality, and justifies us in subordinating the conscious sensation and representation of individual contents to the referring or relating act of representation, and in considering the latter to be a higher activity, -- higher in that definite sense of the word according to which the higher necessarily presupposes the lower, but does not in its own nature necessarily proceed from the lower. Just as the external sense-stimuli serve to excite the soul to produce simple sensations, so the relations which have arisen between the many ideas, whether simultaneous or successive, thus produced, serve the soul as a new internal stimulus stirring it to exercise this new reacting activity.{10} When two ideas, a and b, have arisen as the ideas 'red' and 'blue,' they do not mix with one another, disappear, and so form the third idea, c, of 'violet.' If they did so we should have a change of simple ideas without the possibility of a comparison between them. This comparison is itself possible only if one and the same activity at once holds a and b together and holds them apart, but yet, in passing from a to b, is conscious of the change caused in its state by these transitions, and it is in this way that the new idea (concept), y, arises, the idea of a definite degree of qualitative likeness or unlikeness in a and b.

"Again: if we see at the same time a stronger light, a, and a weaker light, b, of the same colour, what happens is not that there arises in place of both the idea, c, of a light whose strength is the sum of the intensities of the two. If that did arise it would mean that the material to which the comparison has to be directed had disappeared. The comparison is made only because one and the same activity, passing between a and b, is conscious of the alteration in its state sustained in the passage; and it is in this way that the idea y arises, the idea of a definite quantitative difference. Lastly: given the impressions a and a, that which arises from them is not a third impression =2a; but the activity, passing as before between the still separated impressions, is conscious of having sustained no alteration in the passage: and in this way would arise the new idea y of identity. We are justified in regarding all these different instances of y as ideas (concepts) of a higher or second order. They are not to be put on a line with the ideas (images) from the comparison of which they arose." ( 268.)

Again: "My immediate object is to indicate what happens at least with such clearness that every one may verify its reality in his own internal observation. It is quite true that, to those who start from the circle of ideas common in physical mechanics, there must be something strange in the conception of an activity, or (it is the same thing) of an active being, which not only experiences two states a and b at the same time without fusing them into a resultant, but which passes from one to the other and acquires the idea of a third state y produced by this very transition. Still this process is a fact; and the reproach of failure in the attempt to imagine how it arises after the analogies of physical mechanics, falls only upon the mistaken desire of construing the perfectly senique sphere of mental life after a pattern foreign to it. That desire I hold to be the most mischievous which threatens the progress of Psychology." ( 269.)

The Controversy concerning Universals. -- Different views as to the nature of sensuous and intellectual cognition gave rise to the great philosophical disputes as to the existence, origin, and validity of General Concepts. These problems ramify into Logic and Metaphysics as well as into Psychology. The two former sciences are mainly concerned with determining the objective counterpart of such ideas; the last with their subjective reality and their origin. The solidarity of these distinct questions, and the mutual interdependence of the particular solutions advanced in regard to each, are, however, only one more proof of the impossibility of isolating psychology from philosophy. Modern writers often express surprise at the intense interest these discussions once aroused. But the reason is obvious to any one who understands their real significance. They are of vital importance to epistemology, or the theory of knowledge, and consequently to every system of Metaphysics and Theology.

Extreme Realism. -- One school, represented by Plato in ancient Greece, taught that universals (unum in pluribus) existed formally as universals outside of the mind; that corresponding to every general idea, such as genus, species, triangle, animal, man, truth, &c., there exists somewhere beyond this world of changing phenomena, a reality which is formally and actually abstract and universal -- universalia separata. This doctrine was refuted by Aristotle and rejected by St. Thomas and the vast majority of the schoolmen. But a kindred theory, maintaining that universals exist really in things -- formally as universals -- antecedent to and independent of our minds, was advocated by William of Champeaux (died 1121), and by a few other scholastic philosophers. In this view, numerically one and the same essence is common to all the individuals of a species -- the humanity of Peter is identical with that of Paul. This form of exaggerated realism was seen to lead inevitably to Pantheism; and so it soon fell into disrepute. It has not been explicitly defended by any school for some centuries past, yet certain forms of modern German idealism have very close affinity to it.

Nominalism. -- At the extreme opposite pole of philosophical thought is Nominalism, the logical outcome of sensationism. For it the only universality lies in the word. Outside of the mind there exists nothing but singular concrete objects. Groups of these resemble each other in certain qualities, and we ticket them with a common name. They are apprehended in individual sense-impressions and represented by individual pictures of the imagination. These latter vary in distinctness, but whether clear or obscure, vague or definite, fluctuating or comparatively stable, each such image at any given time is capable of representing but one object. It is necessarily singular; the word or common name alone is universal in that it impartially stands for any member of the class. This theory -- that universals exist neither in material things nor in the mind, that they are mere words, flatus vocis -- formulated in the eleventh century by Roscellinus has been the common doctrine of sensationist psychologists, from Hobbes to Bain and Sully.

Conceptualism. -- In opposition to Nominalism, Conceptualism maintains that the mind has the power of forming genuinely universal concepts; that is, ideas capable of truly representing every member of a given class. The Conceptualist agrees with the Nominalist in denying the existence of any form of universality outside of the mind; but on the other hand he teaches that the mind has the power to construct truly universal notions, quite distinct from the images of the imagination; and in proof of the existence of such universal notions, he employs most of those arguments which we ourselves adduce, although he does not follow some of them out to their legitimate consequences. Conceptualism has varied much in the hands of different writers, from Abelard (1079-1142) to Kant and Lotze, and from these to more recent representatives like Mr. Stout and Dr. J. Ward; but they all agree in rejecting that mechanical view of the mind which lies at the basis of sensism and nominalism, and which conceives all cognition as the product of the automatic composition and conflict, agglutination and counteraction of sensuous impressions, and they ascribe to the mind, under one form or another, an inherently active power of co-ordinating and combining individual sense impressions by means of these universal notions which it constructs. For our own part, whilst we gladly acknowledge the good work which Conceptualism has done by its criticism of both Nominalism and Ultra-Realism, we must insist on its deficiency in failing to recognize in rerum natura real objective foundation for our universal ideas. The a priori element in knowledge is exaggerated. The universal concept is, in most of these systems, conceived as a too purely subjective creation of the mind -- a mental abstraction devoid of a true foundation in external reality. All knowledge becomes in their view essentially relative and limited to our own mental states.

Moderate Realism. -- There remains the doctrine of Moderate Realism, taught in ancient times by Aristotle, and In the middle ages by St. Thomas and the vast majority of the schoolmen. This theory is generally ignored by modern writers, who almost invariably represent the Scholastic Philosophers as adhering en masse to the extravagant realism of Plato or of William of Champeaux. Yet the well-known fact that Aristotle ruled supreme in the schools from the twelfth to the sixteenth century ought to have preserved even those who never read a scholastic work from so egregious an error. Moderate Realism holds with Conceptualism against Nominalism that not only the common name of the members of a class is universal, but that there are truly universal concepts, not mere sensuous images or phantasms, whether of a singular or confused generic type. Secondly, it teaches against both Conceptualism and Nominalism that there is a real objective foundation for this universal concept, in the perfectly similar natures of the members of the same class. The essence, the constituent features, the nature, type, or ideal plan, of man, triangle, silver, is repeated and contained equally in each concrete sample of the class, however much these may accidentally differ. It is, of course, numerically different, and individualized by particular determinations in each instance. But considered in the abstract apart from these individual determinations it might equally well he realized in any member of the class. The essence is thus said to he potentially universal, and the concept of such an essence can be employed to represent truly all the possible members of the class. It is upon the perfect similarity of natures in all the members of a class thus grasped in a universal concept that the objective validity of science rests. General notions are therefore not purelv mental figments; they are intellectual constructions, but reposing on objective foundations in the real order of thiugs. Moderate Realism accordingly agrees with Nominalism and Conceptualism in condemning the extravagant realism which maintained the existence of universals formally as universals outside of the mind. Universal ideas are abstractions, but still they have a genuine basis in reality, and it is for this reason that mathematics and the other sciences have real validity. Such is the doctrine of Moderate Realism advocated by Aristotle and St. Thomas,{11} the only theory, we believe, at once in harmony with introspection and capable of affording an adequate groundwork for mathematics and the other sciences.

It is so satisfactory to find our teaching confirmed by such a prominent and thorough-going sensationalist as G. H. Lewes, that we shall cite him at length. We do this all the more gladly as he acknowledges that the nominalist view of Mill and Bain would render mathematical science indistinguishable from a series of worthless propositions deduced from a collection of artificial definitions and arbitrary postulates: "To the geometer the circle is not a round figure visible by his eye, but a figure visible by his mind in which all the radii from the centre are absolidely equal; it is not this particular circle, it is the ideal circle."{12} Again: "The objects of mathematical study are reals in the same degree as that in which the objects of any other science are reals. Although they are abstractions, we must not suppose them to be imaginary, if by imaginary be meant unreal, not objective. They are intelligibles of sensibles; abstractions which have their concretes in real objects. The line and the surface exist, and have real properties, just as the planet, the crystal, and the animal exist and have real properties. It is often said, 'The point without length or breadth, the line without breadth, and the surface without thickness are imaginary; they are fictions, no such things exist in reality.' This is true, but misleading. These things are fictions, but they have a real existence, though not in the insulation of ideal form, for no idea exists out of the mind. These abstractions are the limits of concretes. Every time we look on a pool of water we see a surface without thickness, every time we look on a particoloured surface we see a line without breadth as the limit of each colour. Both surface and line as mathematically defined are unimaginable, for we cannot form images of them, cannot picture them detached; but that which is unpicturable may be conceivable, and the abstraction which is impossible to perception and imagination is easy to conception. It is thus that sensibles are raised to intelligibles, and the constructions of science -- conceptions -- take the place of perceptions. But the hold on reality is not loosened by this process. When we consider solely the direction of a line we are dealing with a fact of Nature, just as we are dealing with a fact of Nature when we perform the abstraction of considering the movement of a body irrespective of any other relations. . . . Not only is it misleading to call the objects of Mathematics imaginary, it is also incorrect to call them generalizations. They are abstractions of intuitions. Any particular line we draw has breadth, any particular circle is imperfect; consequently generalized lines and circles (scil., by imagination = generic images) must have breadth and imperfection. Whereas the line or circle which we intuit mathematically is an abstraction from which breadth or imperfection has dropped, and the figures we intuit are these figures under the form of the limit.' (Id. 420.)

The student will find further information on this question in our historical sketch in the next chapter.

Readings. -- on the essential difference between Intellect and Sense, cf. St. Thomas, De Anima, Lib. III. 1. 7; Contra Gentiles, Lib. II. c. 66; Boedder, Psych. Rat. §§ 106-112; Mivart, On Truth, c. xv. Balmez, Fundamental Principles, Bk. IV.; Kleutgen, Phil. d. Vorzeit, §§ 33-39. The universal concept is admirably treated both by Abbé Piat, L'Idée, pp. 50-64; 180-220; and by Père Peillaube Théorie des Concepts, cc. 2, 3; see also Logic (present series), cc. 7, 8. Green's Introduction to Hume's Treatise on Human Nature contains an able examination of Sensism. See also "Idea" and" Intellect," by the Author, in the American Catholic Encyclopedia.


{1} In this general sense the possession of reason is said to separate man from the brute. Kant means by Reason (Vernunft) the power of immediately apprehending truth by intuition, whilst Understanding (Verstand) is for him the source of the generalizations of thought. Such a usage is still, however, contrary to ordinary language in this country. The verb to reason and the participle reasoning show that this term denotes not the contemplative, but the discursive activity of the intellect. First truths are apprehended by the understanding.

{2} "A feeling qualified by a relation of resemblance to other feelings is a different thing from an idea of that relation, different with all the difference, which Hume ignores, between feeling and thought, between consciousness and self-consciousness." (Cf. Green, Introduction to Hume's Treatise on Human Nature, § 213.), The confounding of the sensuous capacity of experiencing like or unlike impressions with the intellectual power of recognizing their likeness or unlikeness was formerly a universal characteristic of the sensationist psychologists of this country.

{3} "Differt sensus ab intellectu et ratione quia intellectus vel ratio est universalium, quae sunt ubique et semper; sensus autem est singularium." (St. Thomas, De sensu et sensato, l. I.)

{4} "Whether others have this wonderful faculty of abstracting their ideas, they best can tell; for myself I find I have a faculty of imagining or representing to myself the ideas of those particular things I have perceived, and of variously compounding and dividing them. I can imagine a man with two heads, or the upper parts of a man joined to the body of a horse. I can consider the hand, the eye, the nose, each by itself abstracted and separated from the rest of the body. But, then, whatever hand or eye I imagine, it must have some peculiar shape and colour. Likewise the idea of man that I frame to myself, must be either of a white, or a black, or a tawny, a straight or a crooked, a tall or a low, or a middle-sized man." (Principles of Human Knowledge.) The passage is directed against a confused paragraph in Locke's Essay. Bk. IV. c. vii. § 9. Berkeley confounds the phantasm of the imagination with the intellectual concept. We cannot form an abstract or universal phantasm; but the intellect most certainly does apprehend universal ideas, which abstract from varying accidental qualities. The ethical thesis, "Man is responsible for his acts," or any other such general scientific proposition, involves a notion equally applicable to the straight or crooked, black, or white.

{5} "When geometry decides anything concerning the proportions of quantity, we ought not to look for the utmost precision and exactness. None of its proofs extend so far. It takes the dimensions and proportions of figures justly, but roughly, and with some liberty. Its errors are never considerable, nor would it err at all did it not aspire to such absolute perfection." (Cf. Treatise on Human Nature, p. 350; also §§ 273, 274.) Mill and later disciples of the school, whose scientific faith is stronger than their regard for consistency, try to give mathematics a more respectable appearance. On the value of that attempt, cf. Jevons, Contemp. Review, Dec. 1877; Ueberweg's Logic, § 529, and Appendix, § 15 and Courtney's Metaphysics of Mill, c. viii.

{6} "When organs of understanding or of reason, instruments of judging and thinking are spoken of, we confess that we have no idea either what end such theories can serve, or what advantage there could be for the higher intellectual life in all this apparatus of instruments. None of these relating energies (rational activities) from whose inexhaustibly varied repetition all our knowledge is derived can be in the smallest degree promoted by the co-operation of corporeal force." Cf. Lotze, Microcosmus (English Trans.), p. 323.

{7} Fundamental Philosophy, Vol. II. §§ 7-13.

{8} Metaphysics, Bk. III.

{9} § 273.

{10} Lotze's doctrine here is in strikingly close affinity to the scholastic teaching on intellectual activity. Cf. also Microcosmus, Bk. II. c. iv. § I. The italics throughout are our own.

{11} "Unitas sive communitas naturae humanae non est secundum rem, sed solum secundum considerationem." (St. Thomas Sum. Theol. I. q. 39, a. 3.) "Universalia secundum quod sunt universalia non sunt nisi in anima. Ipsae autem naturae, quibus accidit intentio universalitatis sunt in rebus." (St. Thomas, De Anima, lib. ii. lect. 12.) "Ipsa natura cui accidit vel intelligi, vel abstrahi, vel intentio universalitatis non est nisi in singularibus. Sed hoc ipsum quod est intelligi vel abstrahi vel intentio universalitatis, est in intellectu. . . . Humanitas quae intelligitur non est nisi in hoc vel illo homine; sed quod humanitas apprehendatur sine individualibus conditionibus, quod est ipsam abstrahi,' ad quod sequitur intenijo universalitatis, accidit humanitati secundum quod percipitur ab intellectu." (Sum. Theol. I. q. 85, a. 2, ad 2.) "Humanitas enim est aliquid in re, non tamen ibi habet rationem universalis quum non sit extra animam aliqua humanitas multis communis; sed secundum quod accipitur in intellectu, adjungitur ei per operarionem intellectus intentio secundum quam dicitur species." (Id. I. Dist. 19, a. 5, ad 1.)

{12} Problems of Life and Mind, Vol. I. p. 344.

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