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



SINCE the unity of consciousness exhibited in the mind's reflex cognition of itself as a real abiding indivisible being plays so important a part in the theses which we have just established concerning the nature of the soul, this seems to be the most appropriate place to examine some of the chief attacks which have been made in modern times upon the doctrine which we defend.

Kant's Theory of the Ego. -- We have already (pp. 267-269) indicated and criticized the nature of Kant's attack on rational psychology -- his attempted distinction between a noumenal and phenomenal Ego, his doctrine that we have no knowledge of the mind as a thing-in-itself, that we are merely aware of the formal unity of consciousness, and that this phenomenal Ego is not a real subject, certainly not a substance subsisting in itself. Here we have space to make but one or two additional observations. The application to the mind's perception of itself of the hypothesis of an illusory subjective formal element in cognition, and the attempt to distinguish the empirical Ego of conscious experience from a supposed unknowable noumenal Ego, are untenable. Even were the Kantian distinction between noumenon and phenomenon valid with respect to objects of the extra-mental world, it is only by misconceiving the character of the knowledge derived from self-consciousness that this distinction can be extended to the mind's cognition of itself or of its states. The external thing, which is different in kind from the mind, is known by the latter through a mental modification which might conceivably mislead as to the nature of its cause. But consciousness affords at all events an immediate knowledge both of my states and of myself in those states. There is no room for appearances or phenomena here; the mind, the object of knowledge, is really immediately present to itself. I do not merely apprehend transitory mental states which I am led to ascribe to an unknown substance or cause. I am conscious that I originate, direct, and inhibit my mental activity. I am immediately cognizant of my own causality -- of my concrete self as energizing or suffering in my thought. Moreover, although I never can have an intuition of a naked "pure Ego" stripped of all particular forms of behaviour, yet by careful repeated internal observation of how the concrete self behaves, combined with rational deduction from evident principles, I can establish certain truths concerning the nature of this self of which I am directly cognizant in the concrete. I can, for instance, prove -- under the sanction of scepticism -- that it must be a real, abiding, indivisible being, not wholly evanescent; that some of its activities cannot have their ultimate source in an extended material thing, and the like. I do not pretend to demonstrate anything, nor do I feel much concern, about any unknowable noumenon which never reveals itself in my consciousness. If there be in existence an inscrutable "transcendental Ego" eternally screened from my ken by this self-asserting "empirical Ego," I confess I feel very little interest either in the nature or the welfare of the former. The only soul about which I care is that which immediately presents itself in its acts, which thinks, wills, remembers, believes, loves, repents, and hopes.{1}

Empiricist Theory. -- The chief assault, however, on the conscious unity of the mind, as a real abiding being, especially in English philosophical literature, is that of Hume and the Associationist school. Moreover, since the doctrine of these writers in a slightly modified form has been recently adopted by Professor James, at least, as an adequate psychological account of the facts, and then converted into a metaphysical basis of operations whence to attack the traditional belief in a substantial spiritual soul, it is incumbent on us to examine these views at some length.

Hume, having reduced all known reality to a succession of transitory feelings, was logically forced to deny the presence of any real abiding mind, persisting the same amid varying states. The idea of a permanent self, he argues, is not derived from any sensuous impression, therefore it is a "fiction" of the imagination; for, on Sensist principles, the only ideas which can pretend to any validity are those derived from impressions: "I venture to affirm of the rest of mankind that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity and are in a perpetual flux and movement. The mind is a kind of theatre where several perceptions successively make their appearance. . . . There is properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor identity in different; whatever natural propension we may have to imagine that simplicity and identity. The comparison of the theatre must not mislead us, they are the successive perceptions only that constitute the mind."{2} Hume is the frankest as well as the ablest representative of sensationalist phenomenism; but Mill, Bain, Ribot, Taine, and the rest of the school accept this conclusion, and are unanimously agreed that the mind is nothing more than a succession of conscious states.

Criticism. -- That this dissolution of the Ego into a procession or series of phenomena constitutes a reductio ad absurdum of Sensism, will, we trust, be evident to the reader who has followed our reasoning in the last chapter. The argument may be summarized in a few words. If the mind were but a succession of evanescent states, judgment, reasoning, self-conscious reflexion would be absolutely impossible. The judicial act requires the indivisible unity of the agent who juxtaposes the terms; reasoning is not possible unless the premisses successively apprehended be combined by one and the same simple energy; and lastly, self-conscious reflexion and rational memory imply the persistence of a real abiding subject which can compare the past state with the present. (See pp. 464-466.)

Mill felt this difficulty. He saw that in rejecting the doctrine that the Ego is something more than a succession of states he was forced to accept "the paradox that something which ex hypothesi is but a series of feelings is aware of itself as a series."{3} He, however, abandons the hopeless attempt to remove the "paradox," naively counselling us that "by far the wisest thing we can do is to accept the fact."

Criticism. -- The term "paradox" is here abused. "Paroxysmal unintelligibility " -- the phrase in which Professor James so energetically describes another theory -- is scarcely too strong for the doctrine that the mind is merely a series of feelings which are aware of themselves as a series. We must not deceive ourselves with words. What is a series? It is a succession of distinct events, or sereral separate events succeeding each other. The terms, a "thread of consciousness," and a "series" of mental states, seem to indicate a unity of some sort to which, loose though it be, the self of the Empiricist Psychology has no claim. The moment we attempt to conceive accurately what is meant by a mere succession of conscious states, we perceive that a conviction of personal identity, and a memory of past actions, as each man's own experience assures him he is possessed of, is absolutely impossible to it.{4} On the other hand, Mill is again wrong in representing his opponents as teaching that "the mind or Ego is something different from any series of feelings or possibilities of them," if by "different" is meant that the Ego is something separate, standing out of all relation to its states. The states are nothing but modifications of the Ego; and the true mind is the subject plus its states; or the subject present in its states. It is "an abiding existence with a series of feelings."{5}

W. James's Theory. -- Though characterizing Mill's treatment of the subject as "the definitive bankruptcy of the associationist description of the consciousness of self,"{6} Professor James advocates the same doctrine in but slightly modified shape. He disapproves of the associationist account, which represents personal identity, as formed "by successive thoughts and feelings in some inscrutable way 'integrating' or gumming themselves together on their own account."{7} Instead he teaches that the Self consists of "a stream of consciousness," in which each "section" knows the previous section, and in it all which went before. He summarily discards the notion of an abiding indivisible substantial soul connecting past states with present, as needless and useless to the Psychologist.{8} For him "The passing Thought is itself the thinker, and psychology need not look beyond." "The I or Self is a Thought at each moment different from the last moment, but appropriative of the latter, together with all the latter, called its own."{9} It is true, that "common sense insists there must be a real proprietor in the case of these selves (successive thoughts), or else their actual accretion in a personal consciousness would never take place. . . . This proprietor is the present, remembering 'judging thought' or the identifying 'section' of the stream. . . . This is what collects and owns some of the facts which it surveys and disowns the rest." To help us to understand how this interesting "appropriation" of the past self or total collection of thoughts by the present Thought is effected in the absence of any real connecting being, he continues: "We can imagine a long succession of herdsmen coming rapidly into possession of the same cattle by transmission of an original title by bequest. May not the 'title' of a collective self be transmitted from one Thought to another in some analogous way? It is a patent fact of consciousness that a transmission like this actually occurs. Each Thought dies away and is replaced by another. The other knows its own predecessor. Each later Thought, knowing and including thus the Thoughts which went before, is the final receptacle -- and appropriating them is the final owner -- of all they contain and own. Each Thought is thus born an owner and dies owned, transmitting whatever it realized as its Self to its later proprietor."{10}

Criticism. -- The suggested emendations on the associationist "gumming" hypothesis are: (1) The likening of conscious life to a "stream" rather than to " a series of states;" (2) the substitution of the statement that "the last section of consciousness cognizes its predecessor, and in that predecessor every previous cognition," instead of the statement that the "series is aware of itself as a series;" (2) the suggested method of "inheritance" or "appropriation" of past selves or states by the present state, instead of their gumming themselves by association.

As regards (1), it may be fairly objected from the standpoint of experience, on which Mr. James himself insists so much, that the representation of conscious life as "a series of states" is, in one important respect, more accurate than the conception of it as a "stream." It is not continuous, but interrupted by periods of unconsciousness. (See p. 366.) This objection is not merely verbal: its force will become more evident as we proceed. But we maintain that actual psychological experience presents to us more than thoughts or states of consciousness, whether as a series or as a stream -- that we have an immediate apprehension of a real self in some thoughts and states which is not those thoughts or states. (See pp. 463, 464.)

(2) The assertion that "the present Thought knows and appropriates its predecessor," is more plausible at first sight than the proposition that "the series knows itself as a series." For a series evidently has not the unity needful to a Knower or an Owner; whilst the Thought possesses the unity of a single act by which an agent may cognize a previous thought. (a) Still, even supposing that the present thought could, without a connecting subject or agent, cognize in some degree its predecessor, it is not true that that predecessor really knew and included all that went before. It can hardly be maintained -- especially by Mr. James, who is so emphatically opposed to the admission of any unconscious state of mind -- that every mental state can really know a vast multitude of things of which it is absolutely unconscious. In what intelligible sense can it be alleged that the section of the " stream" of my consciousness extending back over the last half-minute really contained The Charge of the Six Hundred, which I possibly could now repeat, though I have not recited it for ten years past? Were my present passing Thought the only thinker within me, even if it could apprehend and appropriate all contained "in the pulses of my cognitive consciousness" for the last three months, the Greek and Mathematics I learned in early life would be lost for ever.

(b) But the statement that the mere "present Thought" is the Thinker, the Owner who recognizes identity between the present state of consciousness and its immediate but extinct predecessor is also exposed to all the main difficulties which have proved fatal to Hume and Mill. "Pulses of cognitive consciousness" as like as successive images of a man in a looking-glass might follow one after another in the same brain without one state being able to identify itself with the antecedent state. Whether they succeed each other immediately like passengers in an omnibus, or at intervals like lodgers in the same bed of a hotel, makes no difference. In order that any one "pulsation" be recognized as like or unlike even its immediate predecessor, the two pulsations must be apprehended by one indivisible agent, who abiding the same, cognizes both, and assimilates or dissociates them. The necessity of this permanent subject for even the simplest acts of intellectual judgment has been shown already (p. 465).{11}

(c) The insufficiency of this theory which claims to "find place for all the experiential facts unencumbered by any hypothesis save that of passing states of mind," becomes still clearer when brought face to face with the "experiential fact" of periods of sleep, swooning, epileptic attacks, and the like. When I awoke this morning, the last previous "pulse of my cognitive consciousness" in possession of Mr. James's doctrine had been extinct, dead, and buried for over six hours, yet I speedily became aware that the Thinker who had laboured on the subject was still present and alive within me. It would be interesting to learn by what "verifiable experience" it can be shown that there was, during my sleep, a continuous stream of "judging Thoughts" or "pulsations of cognitive consciousness," each before it died handing over to its successor the contents of Mr. James's hundred pages. This difficulty is still further increased by the phenomena of "double consciousness" to which we shall return.

(3) It is scarcely necessary to criticize the analogy suggested with respect to the "inheritance" or "appropriation" of past "selves" by the present Thought. The reader can easily think out for himself the impossibilities involved. The transmission of "ownership" of a herd of cattle through a succession of herdsmen is possible, because the cattle are permanent objects which exist during the transmission, because they are distinct and separable from their dying owners, and because the ownership in virtue of which a man can legally buy and sell his cows is different in kind from his "ownership" of his own past existence.

(4) Finally to compare the theories of Mill and James: In a psychological analysis of the cognition of our personal identity an account has to be given of two things -- the knowing agent and the object known. Mill's proposition that the knowing agent is "a series of states," James easily shows to be absurd; whilst his own statement that each single act of knowledge is the knowing agent, possesses, as we have observed, a certain superficial plausibility. But when we turn to the account of the object known -- the entire past experience of the agent -- the situation is completely reversed. That the whole collective existence of a person is realized and known by, or rather in the course of, his entire series of conscious states is, it might be urged, "verified by experience." But the doctrine that each "pulse of cognitive consciousness," whether waking or sleeping, appropriates, contains, and possesses the life history of the individual, Mill could fairly retort, is one of those hypotheses which its own author elsewhere describes as "paroxysmal unintelligibilities."

Conclusion. -- After reflecting on these two empiricist theories of personal identity, the reader will probably conclude that the vulgar "common-sense" account of the matter is not to be so summarily disposed of as Professor James implies. That account, which has survived the attacks of many centuries, maintains that the same real, abiding, indivisible being, the "soul" which was the subject of my past experiences, still exists within me; and that owing to the modifications it underwent in those experiences, it possesses the power to reproduce many of them -- not all simultaneously, but in succession -- and to recognize them along with its own identity in successive thoughts.

James's attack on the Soul. -- Having examined the adequacy of the Harvard professor's account of our mental experience, it will now be easier to estimate the worth of his objections against the vulgar "common sense" doctrine. For it must not be forgotten that the force of these difficulties depends mainly on the sufficiency of the rival explanation of the unity of consciousness. The psychologist -- even the scientific psychologist -- must choose some coherent theory of conscious life. The question to be decided is: Which is the most rational interpretation of the facts?

1. In the first place, then, James argues, the hypothesis of a substantial soul is quite unnecessary in Psychology. "It is needless for expressing the actual subjective phenomena of consciousness as they appear. We have formulated them all without its aid by the supposition of a stream of thoughts, each substantially different from the rest, but, cognitive of the rest and appropriative of each other's content. . . . The unity, the identity, the individuality, and the immateriality that appear in the psychic life are thus accounted for as phenomenal and temporal facts exclusively, and with no need of reference to any more simple or substantial agent than the present Thought or 'section' of the stream." (Op. cit. p. 344.)

Assuredly if "the unity, individuality, and identity" of our mental life are all adequately expressed and satisfactorily accounted for by James's theory, the doctrine of a Soul may be dismissed as gratuitous. If concepts, judgments, reasonings, emotions, and recollections can be intelligibly conceived and described without the implication of their inhering in or pertaining to anything more permanent or substantial than themselves, whether material or immaterial, then the psychologist has no need of the hypothesis of a Soul. But we trust we have advanced sufficient reasons to show that this is not the case, and that neither the "unity, individuality, nor identity" of a man's mental life can be conceived or expressed without the implication of some more permanent unitary being within him which is its root and source.

2. Further, he urges, even if a metaphysical hypothesis be needed by the psychologist, that of a substantial spiritual soul is worthless. It affords no help in rendering intelligible anything which needs accounting for. "The bald fact is that when the brain acts, a thought occurs. . . What positive meaning has the Soul when scrutinized, but the ground of the Possibility of thought. . . . And what is the meaning of this ( -- the statement that brain action excites or determines this possibility to actuality) . . . but giving a concrete form to one's belief that the coming of the thought when brain-processes occur, has some sort of ground in the nature of things? If the word Soul be understood merely to express that claim, it is a good word to use. But if it be held to do more, to gratify the claim, -- for instance, to connect rationally the thought which comes, with the (cerebral) processes which occur, and to mediate intelligibly between their two disparate natures, -- then it is an illusory term." It may be used as a provisional term like that of Substance to express the belief that there is more in reality than a mere phenomenon, "more than the bare fact of co-existence of a passing thought with a passing brain-state. But we do not answer the question 'What is that more?' when we say that it is a 'Soul' which the brain-state affects. This kind of more explains nothing." (P. 346.)

To this objection we would reply that the formulation of the problem needing solution, given in the proposition "the bald fact is that when the brain acts, a thought occurs," Ignores the very nodus of the difficulty which the Soul -- or at all events, the Soul viewed as an abiding substantial being -- is invoked to account for. That nodus is the unity of consciousness throughout the whole series of thoughts which go to make up our Psychic existence. The soul is not invented as a sort of plastic medium to explain the connection between a transitory thought and the concomitant brain-change. Belief in a permanent substantial Mind existed long before men knew of the existence of such cerebral processes. It is in order to give a rational account of the connexion of thought with thought, of the past thought which has perished with the present which is living and the future unborn thought; it is to render the consciousness of our persisting identity intelligible that spiritualist philosophers have insisted on the fact of an abiding substantial soul. And the permanence of such a real individual immaterial being as basis of our consciousness, does provide at any rate a coherent account of each man's internal experience. On the other hand, we venture to assert, first, that the notion of thoughts and feelings inhering in nothing is absurd and unthinkable; and secondly, that even were a succession of such psychological monsters possible, they could never constitute that enduring self-conscious personality which each of us calls "I."

Furthermore, we readily admit that the proposition, "Thought is an activity of the Soul," like any other merely verbal statement "explains nothing," unless its terms have been defined or are already understood. But when, after a careful examination of all the relevant data furnished by experience, the Soul is defined by the psychologist as A real being, immaterial and indivisible in its nature, abiding in duration, individual in character, the agent and source of sensation and vital activity as well as of thought and volition, the word Soul is assuredly not an "illusory term" vaguely expressive of the belief that there is more in reality than the mere phenomenon. And when the psychologist has shown that the application of these predicates to the agent and subject of our mental activities is justified and necessitated by the analysis of these activities, he has provided us not with "an explanation which explains nothing," but with the proof of the objective validity of that conception which alone renders "the unity, the identity, the individuality, and the immateriality, that appear in our psychic life" intelligible.

3. The argument for a spiritual soul deduced from the Freedom of the Will, Professor James disposes of in summary fashion. At best "it can only convince those who believe in free-will; and even they will have to admit that spontaneity is just as possible, to say the least, in a temporary spiritual agent like our Thought, as in a permanent one like the supposed Soul." (Ibid. p. 346.)

The first statement is quite true, and the second partially so. The rejection of Free-Will undoubtedly involves the repudiation of one of the chief arguments for the spirituality of the soul; whilst by subverting the notions of personal merit and responsibility as universally accepted, it destroys the principal rational ground for belief in a future life; and deprives of their meaning, as we have seen, many of the chief ethical notions of mankind. Moreover, since presumably God could create and then immediately destroy a spiritual being endowed with free-will, it does not seem impossible that "a temporary spiritual agent" might enjoy "spontaneity." We may also speak of a volition or voluntary election as being "free." Nevertheless the argument from free-will retains all its force. A volition, or an act of choice, is not "an agent," but "the act of an agent," and its own freedom consists in its being freely exerted by that agent. Now, because an action without an agent is unthinkable, spiritualist philosophers may postulate the soul as the cause of the action. Further, the doctrine of Free-will teaches that our consciousness reveals to us something more than "Thoughts" endowed with "spontaneity." It dwells on the reality of deliberation, reflexion, sustained resistance to temptation, on responsibility for past conduct -- and especially on the rationality of remorse. But these experiences -- on some of which James himself elsewhere so admirably insists (see p. 401) -- are just the facts for which there is no room in the theory that makes each passing Thought the "Self." If the Soul of each man be a real individual being persisting throughout life, which has freely acted and formed good or bad habits in the past, there is an intelligible foundation for the moral convictions of mankind. But if "the only verifiable Thinker" be the passing thought, it is somewhat difficult to see the justice of chastising the present "pulsation of consciousness" in the Brockton murderer, for a malevolent "pulsation" long since extinct; nor why the present "pulsation" ought to repent for its wicked predecessor from which it is "substantially different." {12}

4. Fortunately, Professor James has indicated his own metaphysical creed as to the constitution of that something "more" which lies behind our mental states. This helps us better to compare the value of the doctrine of a spiritual substantial soul with other final explanations of the basis of our mental life. "For my own part," he tells us, "I confess that the moment I become metaphysical and try to define the more, I find the notion of some sort of an anima mundi thinking in all of us to be a more promising hypothesis, in spite of all its difficulties, than that of a lot of absolutely individual souls." (Ibid. p. 346.)

Amongst the "difficulties" of this "more promising hypothesis" we would suggest the following: (a) The complete absence of all evidence whatsoever of the existence of such an anima mundi or world-soul. Consciousness assures us of the reality of some sort of anima or mind within ourselves; and, arguing from analogy, we ascribe a similar anima to other organisms like our own. But obviously in the case of the material world the parity totally fails. Nothing more unlike a human brain or a living organism than the physical universe could well be conceived. (b) Again, the notion of such an anima mundi is incoherent in itself and in conflict with all that we actually know of the nature of mind. This anima mundi is vaguely described as a universal consciousness thinking in each one of us. Of a personal consciousness we know something; of a universal or impersonal consciousness which is unaware of itself, or of the various persons whom it may constitute, we can frame no conception. The most essential features of the mind, at least as gathered from experience, are its unity and individualistic character. It reveals itself to us as ens indivisum in se sed divisum ab omni alio -- a being undivided in itself but separated off from all other beings. What kind of a mind or soul then is that which, unconscious of itself, is split up into a number of other selves each unconscious of the rest? (c) The hypothesis which interprets our conscious existence as merely a fragment of a universal mind, would seem to be a formal acceptance of Pantheism. It implies that our individuality is only apparent. It would logically be forced to transfer to this universal soul the responsibility for all our thoughts and volitions. Indeed, in this theory we would seem to have little more reality or personality of our own than the modes of the Divine Substance of Spinoza. But we must not be unjust to Professor James. We feel sure from his other writings that he would repudiate these conclusions. He believes in the freedom of the will; and in his essay on Human Immortality, he seeks to find place for a future life; though we fancy few will be satisfied with the metaphysical speculations by which it is supported.{13}

Double Consciousness. -- Mental pathology, frequently styled Psychiatry, has recently brought into prominence certain abnormal phenomena of memory and self-consciousness, which from their connection with the philosophical problem of personal identity have attracted much interest. In these cases of so-called "double-consciousness" or "altered personality," the unity of psychic life is ruptured and two or more seemingly dissociated mental existences present themselves, sometimes in alternating sections, sometimes -- it is alleged -- simultaneously in the same individual.

The celebrated case of Felida X., methodically observed during several years by Dr. Azam of Bordeaux, will illustrate the general character of the phenomena.{14} Born in 1843, of hysterical tendency, she enjoyed normal health until 1857. During that year she fell into a swoon which lasted only a few minutes; on recovering consciousness, however, her whole character seemed changed. The original Felida is described as serious, of somewhat morose and obstinate disposition, unobservant, and of mediocre abilities, but exceptionally industrious. Felida 2, on the contrary, was gay and boisterous, very sensitive and pliant, idle yet observant, and of seemingly more than average talents. In her secondary state Felida could remember the experiences of her previous life, and otherwise appeared quite normal. After some months in this condition, another attack restored her to her original state. The dulness, sullenness, and habits of work all suddenly returned; but there was complete forgetfulness of every incident which had occurred since her former fit. For over thirty years she has now passed her life in alternate periods of her primary and secondary states. In the "second" condition she retains the memory of both states; but during the "primary" epochs there is complete amnesia respecting the "second." Thus Felida I was quite unaware of even such events as the First Communion of her children and the death of her sister-in-law, which occurred during the "reign" of Felida 2. The "primary" periods are consequently inconvenient and disagreeable to her, and as time has gone on the duration of the "secondary" intervals has come gradually to predominate. They now form her normal condition. Felida has thus been endowed with two consciousnesses, one of which is "split off" from the other. M. Binet's argument runs thus: "Two fundamental elements constitute personality -- memory and character," but in Felida there is a change of character and memory, therefore "Felida is really two moral persons; she has really two Egos." {15}

In hypnotism a similar phenomenon is produced when a "personality" is artificially created by suggesting to the subject that he or she is some other personage. Occasionally the part is remembered and consistently maintained throughout successive hypnoses, although the experiences of the suggested character are, it is alleged, often completely forgotten during the waking state. In fact, the deeper forms of the hypnotic trance constitute such a "secondary" psychic existence "split off" from the main current. Natural or spontaneous somnambulism gives us illustrations of the same phenomenon.

Besides this duality of successive consciousnesses the theory of the Doppel Ich advocated by Max Dessoir and others, insists upon the reality of at least two simultaneous consciousnesses, each held together by its own chain of memories, but "split off" from each other. Various actions usually styled automatic or reflex are maintained to be the outcome of the "secondary consciousness." The power of distractedly following a consecutive train of thought whilst reading aloud, or playing an instrument, or performing other complex operations, the working of the involuntary inspiration of the poet, abnormal "automatic writing," the struggle between reason and appetite, the" higher" and "lower" self, as well as all forms of sub-conscious mental activities have been claimed as evidence of the reality of a genuine current of consciousness "split off" from the main stream and lost to normal memory. It is argued from these various groups of facts that the old philosophic conception of a single unchanging Self in man must be abandoned, that self-consciousness instead of being a unity is really multiple, or at least double in its ultimate constitution, and that our seemingly indivisible personal identity is merely a fusion of diverse factors. As M. Binet urges: "What is capable of division must be made up of parts. If a personality becomes double or triple it is a grouping or resultant of many elements."{16}

Criticism. -- We would first observe that the more remarkable cases like that of Felida are extremely rare, and that theories built on such abnormal and obscure phenomena are necessarily very frail. At the same time we allow that the difficulty is not solved by merely calling such cases "abnormal;" and, whilst admitting the obscurity of the problem, it seems to us that the psychologist is bound to indicate what explanation his principles offer for such facts, when these are duly authenticated. Unfortunately the temptation to make such histories startling by exaggerating their abnormal betrays itself even in "scientific" reports. it is often asserted that all the events of one state are completely forgotten in the other, yet further inquiry discloses that a mass of common experience as knowledge of the meaning of language, familiarity with persons, objects, localities, and the like, are retained in both. On the whole, increased care in observation of these cases goes to connect the most extraordinary with the normal, and also seems to prove that in at least one of the psychic existences portion of the experiences of the other are remembered. This fact alone would prove real identity of the person in both conditions.{17}

2. With respect to the alleged alterations of the "self," we must recall the important distinction between the abstract notion of my personality and the perception of my concrete self already dwelt upon. (P. 365.) We there pointed out that besides the immediate apprehension of self as present in our mental activities, each of us possesses a habitual representation of himself in the of a complex conception elaborated by intellectual abstraction. This idea presents to me a quasi objective view of myself, emphasizing the states, experience, and character by which the total Ego is externally distinguished from other persons rather than the subject as distinguished from these states themselves. This objective concept of self as an individual history is based on memory. Consequently a dislocation of memory will mutilate the conception. If, then, owing to some cerebral malady a considerable section of my past life is lost to remembrance, or if the present vivid pictures of the imagination are confounded with recollections, the habitual representation of my personality will naturally be perverted. This truth is abundantly illustrated in patients subject to "fixed ideas," and in incipient stages of insanity. In such cases the invalid interweaves part of his own history into that of an imaginary character, yet is quite sane on other points, or even realizes the erroneous character of his delusion.

3. Variations in the representation of our personality would thus be mainly occasioned by perturbations of memory; and the mind's power of remembrance depends on the state of the organism. The recurrence, in fact, of a particular set of cerebral conditions may either re-instate or exclude a particular group of recollections. The mental changes observed in Felida and hypnotized subjects may therefore be accounted for as due to alterations in the functioning of the brain occasioned during the transition. Concerning the nature of this change in the brain's action nothing is known. Forty years ago it was conjectured that the two cerebral hemispheres may work independently, and it has been held that the functioning of one side corresponds to the normal Ego, whilst that of the other is correlated with the "secondary" self. This hypothesis has been especially urged with respect to the curious phenomenon of intelligent unconscious "automatic" writing. This rare "gift" has been ascribed to a "subliminal" or sub-conscious Ego; but seems to us to be more scientifically explained as the product of semi-conscious and reflex action. Post-mortem examinations have undoubtedly proved that one half of the brain has sometimes sufficed for normal mental life; and it has also been suggested that other particular areas of the brain may be alternately isolated or inhibited; or that the blood supply is somehow varied, and so sets the nervous mechanism in different gear. Though destitute of proof, these hypotheses have a certain plausibility. Something of the kind probably happens in falling asleep; and the stories of dreams and somnambulistic performances resumed and continued during successive nights, fit in with the same explanation. In fact, several of the chief difficulties of "double-consciousness" have been always familiar to mankind in our dream experience.{18}

4. Changes of character are of various degrees, and often seemingly sudden. They are simply variations in the abiding frame of mind; and are consequently much influenced by bodily conditions. The complete alteration of mental tone by bad news, by a bilious attack, or by a couple of glasses of champagne, are well known. In cases of sudden insanity the change in moral disposition is often extraordinary; and that the alternate set of cerebral conditions which presumably succeed each other in Felida should occasion a different emotional and volitional tone seems natural enough. If then it is the duty of the psychologist to seek to harmonize irregular phenomena with normal facts, these rare specimens of mental life afford no justification for departing from the old universal conception of a single continuous personality in man.

5. Professor James devotes much space to these "mutations" of the Ego, yet overlooks the fact that they are peculiarly fatal, not to his adversaries, but to his own theory that "the present thought is the only thinker," and that seeming identity is sufficiently preserved by each thought "appropriating" and "inheriting" the contents of its predecessor. The difficulties presented to this process of inheritance by such facts as sleep and swooning have been already dwelt upon; but here they are if possible increased. The last conscious thought of, say, Felida 2 has to transmit its gathered experience not to its proximate conscious successor, which is Felida 1, but across seven months of vacuum until on the extinction of Felida the next conscious thought which constitutes Felida 2 is born into existence. If single personality is hard for Mr. James to explain, "double-personality" at least doubles his difficulties.

6. As regards the asserted duality of simultaneous consciousnesses; moralists from St. Paul downward have insisted upou the reality of the struggle between opposing conscious activities within us -- between the "higher" and the "lower" self. The statements that "reason ought to rule in man," that "will can resist appetite," that "man is in great part an automaton," emphasize the two-fold factor in conscious life. Still they do not justify or make intelligible the conception of a "secondary unconscious consciousness" or of a state of consciousness "split off from consciousness." A rivulet detached from the main current of a river remains still a stream of water; but a "thread of consciousness" excluded from consciousness is no longer a "thread of consciousness;" and such phrases if intended to be more than a loose figurative expression are misleading and unjustifiable. The various operations ascribed to this "secondary consciousness" are best accounted for as either faintly conscious activities or reflex and automatic processes of the animated organism.

Readings -- On chapters xxi. xxii., cf. St. Thomas, Sum. I. q. 75. On scope and method, cf. Coconnier, L'Ame humaine, c. i.; Ladd, Philosophy of Mind, cc. i. ii. On substantiality of soul, Rickaby, Metaphysics. pp. 245-260; Balmez, Bk. IX. cc. 11, 12; Kleutgen, op. cit. §§ 791-807. On simplicity and spirituality, Coconnier, ibid. c. iii.; Mercier, Psychologie, Pt. III. Art. 2, sect. x; Farges, Le Cerveau et l'Ame, pp. 57-108. On double-consciousness, Piat, La Personne humaine, cc. 2, 3, Farges, op. cit. pp. 108-136; Ladd, op. cit. c. v.

{1} For some useful criticism of Kant's theory, cf. Balmez, op. cit. book IX. cc. 9-12; and Lotze, Metaphysic. § 244.

{2} Treatise of Human Nature, Part IV. § 6.

{3} Exam. c.xii. ad fin.

{4} As Mr. Courtney urges. "Such a series could never be summed." (Metaphysics of Mill. p. 70.) Similarly Professor Knight." A succession of states of mind has no meaning except in relation to the substrate of self that underlies the succession, giving it coherence, identity, and intelligibility. The states are different, but the self -- whose states they are -- is the same." (Hume, p. 877.)

{5} Cf. M'Cosh's Exam. of Mill, c. v.

{6} Principles, vol. i. p. 359

{7} P. 338.

{8} Pp. 343-347.

{9} P. 401.

{10} Pp. 338, 339.

{11} James admits that his theory "must beg memory." (p. 339.) But this is precisely what it has no right to beg; especially when, as We shall see presently, this psychologist attacks the permanent soul as needless, on the ground that his own theory gives a sufficient account of the facts! The truth is, consistent phenomenism is just as impossible in empirical psychology as it certainly is in physical science.

{12} James's use of the term "verifiable," seems at times to imply that nothing is to be admitted as real by the psychologist which is not apprehended and "verified" by some particular sense. This was Hume's doctrine, and leads to absolute scepticism alike in physics, psychology, and metaphysics.

{13} His view, as expressed in that work, seems to be that there exists throughout the universe, or rather behind the veil of matter, a reservoir of universal consciousness, which trickles or streams through the brain into living beings, somewhat as water through a tap, or light through a half-transparent lens. Each tap, or lens, shapes or colours the incoming flow of thought with its various individualistic peculiarities, "and when finally a brain stops acting altogether, or decays, that special stream of consciousness which it subserved will vanish entirely from this natural world. But the sphere of being that supplied the consciousness would still be intact; and in that more real world with which even whilst here it was continuous, the consciousness might, in ways unknown to us, continue still." (Ibid. pp. 37, 38.) In addition to the difficulties above indicated in regard to the absence of evidence, and the incoherence of the notion of such a universal consciousness, it is sufficient here to repeat Mr. James's complaint against the doctrine of his opponents that "it guarantees no immortality of a sort we care for." It is in the perpetuity of our own personal individual consciousness that each of us is primarily interested, not in that of "the sphere of being" which originally provided the supply.

{14} See Revue Scientifique, May, 1876. Felida's history down to 1887 is also given by Binet, Alterations of Personality (1892), pp. 6 -21. For other cases see also Pierre Janet, L'Automatisme psychologique (Edit. 1899). pp 70-80, 300-350; and James op. cit. pp. 375-400.

{15} Cf Binet, op. cit. p. 80 and p. 20.

{16} Op. cit. pp. 348. 349. Similarly Ribot: "The unity of the Ego is the cohesion of the states of consciousness." (Les Maladies de Personalité, ad fin.)

{17} Cf. Ladd. Philosophy of Mind, pp. 164-168.

{18} Hypotheses of locally separated brain processes -- attractive because easy to the imagination -- seem to us too simple and crude for the facts. The physiological concomitants of all higher mental operations must be extremely complex; those of any total mental mood must be both complex and widely diffused. Organic sensations are important factors in all emotional moods; and these are certainly conditioned by widely diffused neural processes. Further, these alleged multiple "psychic existences" in the same individual invariably overlap and fade into each other. According to Janet, Leonie and Lucie have three "personalities" and Rose "at least four." These assuredly cannot be all isolated and distinct. Consequently they cannot be dependent on nervous functionings in anatomically separate regions of the brain. The established psychological principle that a total frame of mind fosters recollections and feelings related to it by contiguity or congruity inhibiting those not so related may explain much if we conceive these alternating "personalities" as cases of extremely marked "frames of mind" exerting exceptionally despotic selective power. Such abnormally distinct and enduring mental moods would involve sets of neural conditions of unusually distinct character; but we think their mutations are determined by alteration in the quality rather than in the locality of nervous processes, -- that the basis is physiological not anatomical.

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