Real Philosophy Re-Discovered 6: Samuel Alexander’s “Space, Time, and Deity.” With an Introduction by Z.

1. Introduction, by Z

Samuel Alexander (1859-1938) was an Australian-born British philosopher, and the first Jewish fellow of a college at Cambridge or Oxford–in his case, Lincoln College, Oxford.

Later he held a professorial Chair of philosophy at the “red brick,” politically socialist, or at least left-leaning, religiously tolerant University of Manchester.

I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems very likely that Alexander was also the first Jewish philosopher to hold a professorial Chair in England or Scotland.

Now metaphysics, according to Aristotle, is the philosophical study of the first principles and causes of things and also of the basic kinds of being (aka ontology). And that seems like a plausible starting point for contemporary metaphysics too.

A useful distinction can then be made between three essentially different kinds of metaphysics:

(i) anthropocentric metaphysics, which is grounded on human experience,

(ii) noumenal metaphysics, which is grounded on what transcends human experience, and

(iii) scientific metaphysics, which is grounded on whatever is held to be true by the leading natural and/or formal sciences.

A second useful distinction is between:

(i) aprioristic metaphysics, which takes metaphysical knowledge to be necessary and non-empirically justified, and

(ii) empiricistic metaphysics, which takes metaphysical knowledge to be contingent (even if very general) and empirically justified.

And finally a third useful set of distinctions can be drawn between:

(i) dualistic metaphysics, which on its mental side is non-reductive by way of postulating essentially different and mutually exclusive substances or properties, immaterialist, and anti-mechanist, but on its physical side is reductive, materialist, and mechanistic,

(ii) subjective or absolute idealism, which reduces the physical to the mental, and is immaterialist and anti-mechanistic, but also assumes like dualism that the mental and the physical are essentially different and mutually exclusive,

(iii) reductive materialism, which reduces the mental to the physical, and is materialist and mechanistic, but also assumes like dualism that the mental and the physical are essentially different and mutually exclusive, and

(iv) organicist metaphysics, which is non-reductive, non-materialist, and anti-mechanistic, and rejects the assumption that the mental and the physical are essentially different and mutually exclusive, and in its place posits liberal naturalism, which says that the mental and the physical are co-fundamental in nature and essentially complementary in minded animals.

(NB Non-reductive materialism is an uncomfortable and ultimately incoherent halfway-house between dualism and reductive materialism.)

Alexander’s two-volume, 4-book 1920 magnum opus, Space, Time, and Deity, is a treatise in anthropocentric, aprioristic, organicist metaphysics in books 1-3.

But then it transitions into a noumenal aprioristic organicist metaphysics of deity and God in book 4.

This transition to noumenal theism is, I think, is internally inconsistent.

The “empirical method” (a much more accurate label would have been: “phenomenological method,” and he may well have been following Brentano’s usage in Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, which would make it not only de facto but virtually de jure phenomenological method ) of metaphysics that Alexander spells out in the Introduction, it seems to me, evidentially rules out justification for the noumenal-theist organicist claims he makes in book 4.

In this respect, ST&D closely resembles Whitehead’s Process and Reality, with its noumenal-theist organicist commitments to the existence of microscopic “actual entities,” “eternal objects,” and a non-traditional, non-3O (because non-omniscient and non-omnipotent, although still omnibenevolent) God, aka Creativity.

A remarkably similar Alexander-style, Whitehead-style noumenal-theist organicist metaphysics has also been recently defended by Stuart Kauffman in At Home in the Universe, Investigations, and Humanity in a Creative Universe.

Nevertheless, to be fair, much of what Alexander says in book 4 (and indeed much of what Kauffman says in his books) is also fully consistent with an agnostic organicist metaphysics like the one sketched in Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos.

What is really NOT fair is the very depressing fact that ST&D has been almost completely ignored by professional academic philosophers after the brief Process Philosophy boom in the USA in the 1960s.

So too, Kauffman is almost completely ignored by contemporary professional academic philosophers.

And Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos was widely excoriated and dismissed as a philosophical embarrassment and scandal, to the ideologically significant extent that philosophy graduate students at in The Fortune 500 Philosophy Club are, well, scared shitless to say they have read it carefully or take it seriously.

The sole exception to Alexander’s being consistently cold-shouldered by contemporary professional academic philosophers is his exceptionally important notion of “natural piety,” which gets mentioned in the hyper-specialized emergentist literature.

In that literature, interpreters have differed about whether Alexander’s corresponding conception of the emergence of life and mind in natural systems is merely epistemic (irreducible levels of explanation) or also properly metaphysical (irreducible ontological levels), and whether it’s consistent with non-reductive physicalism + nomological supervenience.

My own view is that Alexander’s conception of emergence is definitely both epistemic and metaphysical, hence he’s an ontological emergentist, but what he says in ST&D and in the very cool essay, “Natural Piety,” unfortunately, somewhat underdetermine what we should think about the non-reductive materialism + nomological supervenience question.

Since Alexander explicitly holds that organismic and mental properties are autonomously causally efficacious, not epiphenomenal, then that cuts against the non-reductive materialism + nomological supervenience interpretation.

But I also think that Alexander needed to say more about precisely how organismic and mental properties are ontologically embedded in complex dynamic systems, and more about precisely what kind of properties they are, in order to determine his clear opposition to the non-reductive materialist interpretation.

In any case, Samuel Alexander is infinitely more than the poster-child of British Emergentism. He’s a seriously good, and even great, metaphysician.

And if APP is right that we’re at the very beginning of the second and decisive wave of the Organicist Revolution in philosophy, then we should all be (re-)reading his work and especially ST&D very closely indeed.

The full text of ST&D, vols. 1-2, can be found online here.

Directly below I’ve excerpted, with some minor editing,

(i)  the Introduction, vol. 1,

(ii)  “The Nature of the Categories,” vol. 1, book 2, ch. 1, and

(iii) “Clue to Quality,” vol. 2, ch. 2.

Samuel Alexander - Philosopher -

2. Samuel Alexander, Space, Time, and Deity

2.1 Introduction

THE title of this book names what is simplest in the universe, and what is, for us, most complex in it. A very large part of the book will be occupied with the mind ; but I shall endeavour to exhibit minds in the order of realities which begins with mere events in space and time and ends with God. No explanation is needed for leaving the notion of deity to the end. However immediately we may be aware of God in the religious sentiment, in philosophy there is no short road to deity. But I propose in this introductory chapter to explain the reasons why I begin with Space and Time and not with mind ; and by a preliminary and provisional description of the relation of mind to its objects, to show how an inquiry into this secondary topic leads on to the more fundamental one.

Philosophy and science

Philosophy, by which I mean metaphysics, differs from the special sciences, not so much in its method as in the nature of the subjects with which it deals. They are of a peculiarly comprehensive kind, and are revealed to the most superficial glance cast at the things or existences in the world. These things fall into groups distinguished from one another by specific characters which some have and others have not. Thus there are material bodies, ranging from ordinary things like stones down to molecules and ions, if these may be called material ; there are living things ; and there are beings with minds. What is the relation of these different orders of existence to one another ? Is there any fundamental nature which they have in common, of which they are specific examples, and what meaning can we attach to such specification ? What is the primary form of being, and how are different orders of being born of it ? In the next place, alongside of the diversity of kind amongst things, there are certain pervasive features, which, if they are not found in all things alike, have at least an extraordinary universality of range. Such are the permanence in change by virtue of which things are described as substances, quantity, spatial and temporal character, causality. Individuality is a pervasive character of things, but so also it would seem that there is nothing individual which has not in it a character recognisable by thought, and known as a universal. Metaphysics is thus an attempt to study these very comprehensive topics, to describe the ultimate nature of existence if it has any, and these pervasive characters of things, or categories. If we may neglect too nice particulars of interpretation we may use the definition of Aristotle, the science of being as such and its essential attributes.

But comprehensiveness within its subject-matter is the very essence of every science. What else does a science do but bring system and connection into the haphazard facts which fall within its view, elevating (to use a phrase of Lotze’s) coincidences into coherences by the discovery of laws, simplifying under conceptions, unifying what is at first multiplicity ? Philosophy does but carry the same enterprise to its furthest limits, and its spirit is one with the spirit of science. Two things attest this community of spirit. The more comprehensive a science becomes the closer it comes to philosophy, so that it may become difficult to say where the science leaves off and philosophy begins. In history the chronicle or newspaper is replaced by the scientific discovery, based in turn on scientific criticism of documents, of the underlying movements in men’s minds. When, going a stage further, the science undertakes to exhibit the growth and change of the conception of the State in universal history, as Hegel did, it may claim to be a philosophy of history, not because it is philosophy but because it is so comprehensive. The highest generalisations in biology, in chemistry and physics are different illustrations of the same thing. Philosophy, if it is well advised, does not count these doctrines as philosophy ; it learns from the sciences what is life or matter or mental action, and its problem with regard to them is to ask how these orders of fact are related to one another and to the fundamental nature of things. But it is just because philosophy is concerned, amongst other matters, with these comprehensive ideas that the sciences at their upper limit border on philosophy.

The other witness to the unity of spirit, which makes philosophy only one though the most comprehensive of the sciences, is the historical truth that the special sciences are, at least in our Western world, outgrowths from philosophy. It is the vaguer, simpler, and more comprehensive problems which excite men’s minds first, when special knowledge is more limited. Gradually specific bodies of facts are separated from the general body of knowledge which is called philosophy. In our own day we are witnessing the separation of psychology from its parent stem.

Common usage corroborates the description that philosophy like science is the habit of seeing things together. A person is said to take things philosophically who sees and feels things in their proper proportion to one another—a habit of conduct which is not always possessed by the professional philosopher. On a certain occasion Boswell had invited Johnson with some others to supper at his lodgings. But, the landlord having proved disagreeable, Boswell was obliged to change the place of meeting from his house to the Mitre, and waited on Johnson to explain the ” serious distress.” ” Consider, Sir,” said Johnson, how insignificant this will appear a twelvemonth hence.”[1] That was a philosophic answer, and Johnson had in practical conduct, though certainly not in speculation, the philosophic mind. So true it is that, as Plato puts it, the metaphysician is a ” synoptical ” man.

The method of philosophy empirical

Since, then, philosophy differs from the sciences nowise in its spirit but only in its boundaries, in dealing with certain comprehensive features of experience which lie outside the purview of the special sciences, its method will be like theirs empirical. It will proceed like them by reflective description and analysis of its special subject-matter. It will like them use hypotheses by which to bring its data into verifiable connection. Its certainty like theirs will extend no further than its efficiency in providing a reasoned exhibition of such system as can be discovered in these data. But the word empirical must not be too closely pressed. It is intended to mean nothing more than the method used in the special sciences. It is a description of method and not of the subject-matter, and is equivalent to experiential. On the contrary, the subject-matter of philosophy is, in a special and more valuable sense of the word, non-empirical. Taking it as self-evident that whatever we know is apprehended in some form of experience, we can distinguish in experienced things, as has been indicated above, the variable from the pervasive characters. I shall call this the distinction of the empirical from the non-empirical or a priori or categorial. These a priori elements of things are, however, experienced just as much as the empirical ones : all alike are parts of the experienced world. Philosophy may therefore be described as the experiential or empirical study of the non-empirical or a priori, and of such questions as arise out of the relation of the empirical to the a priori. It is thus itself one of the sciences delimited from the others by its special subject-matter.

Still less do I mean that an empirical philosophy is in some prerogative manner concerned with sense-experience. The senses have no privilege in experience, but that they are the means by which our minds through our bodies are affected by external objects.

Sensations though integral parts of experience are not the only ones. Thoughts are experienced as much as sensations, and are as vital to experience. It may even appear that there are experiences simpler and of a lower order than sensation itself ; and it may be possible to indicate the precise relation of these various forms of our experience in the economy of things. A philosophy which pursues an empirical method is not necessarily a sensationalistic one. It deals with the actual world, but the parts of it with which it deals empirically are non-empirical parts of that actual world. The contrast of thought and sense is from this point of view irrelevant.

The problem of knowledge

One of the most important problems, some think the most important problem, of philosophy, the problem of knowledge or of experience itself, is dictated at once by the general nature of the task which philosophy undertakes. The most striking classification of finite things is into minds on the one side and external things on the other. The relation between any member of the one group and those of the other is the relation of cognition or, in general, of experience. Mind knows or experiences ; external things are known or experienced. The one is the experiencer, the other the experienced. What is this relation ? Is it singular and unlike any other relation between other groups, between, for instance, any two material things, or between a living and a material thing ? What is implied in the very fact of experience, in virtue of which we know all that we can know ? Some have answered that experience is something unique, and have assigned a privileged position to mind. They have not claimed that privilege in its full extent for the individual minds of you and me, but they have claimed it for mind in some shape or form, whether it be the mind of God, or mind as such, the so-called universal mind. They have been impressed by the inseparability of mind and things within experience. No object, no mind : the mind cannot exercise itself in the void, but only upon some object. That proposition is accepted by all parties. But they have added ; no mind, no object : in the absence of mind there would be not only no experience in the sense that there would be no experiencer, but nothing to be experienced. Not all forms of so-called idealism have been so thoroughgoing as the Berkeleyan. Some have been content to insist that what is experienced is dependent on mind and to treat the experienced objects as appearances of an assumed ulterior reality. Even for Kant the world of empirical reality is a world of ideas, unthinkable therefore apart from mind. In this respect, great as was his advance upon his predecessors, he was of their family ; and the value of his achievement can only properly be realised when his doctrine has been purged of its disproportionate respect for mind and regenerated by that purgation.

Attitude of the empirical method

Now the effect of the empirical method in metaphysics is seriously and persistently to treat finite minds as one among the many forms of finite existence, having no privilege above them except such as it derives from its greater perfection of development. Should inquiry prove that the cognitive relation is unique, improbable as such a result might seem, it would have to be accepted faithfully and harmonised with the remainder of the scheme. But prima facie there is no warrant for the assumption, still less for the dogma that, because all experience implies a mind, that which is experienced owes its being and its qualities to mind. Minds are but the most gifted members known to us in a democracy of things. In respect of being or reality all existences are on an equal footing. They vary in eminence; as in a democracy, where talent has an open career, the most gifted rise to influence and authority. This attitude of mind imposed by the empirical method is and may rightly be called in philosophy the attitude of realism, if a name which has borne so many meanings may be so used. By whatever name the method may be called, it does not deprive mind of its greatness in questioning its pretensions. Rather it leaves these pretensions to be examined in their place ; and there is no rashness in predicting that the real greatness and value of mind is more likely to be established on a firm and permanent basis by a method which allows to other existences than mind an equally real place in the scheme of being.

It follows that for the empirical method the problem of knowledge, the subject-matter of epistemology, is nothing but a chapter, though an important one, in the wider science of metaphysics, and not its indispensable foundation.

Idealism and realism

Let me hasten to add that the contrast of the empirical method with the forms of idealism hinted at above is not in all respects, perhaps not in the gravest respects, valid of the form of idealism which, under the usual name of absolute idealism, has been and is so influential on thinking in this country. That doctrine does indeed maintain that reality is experience and penetrated with mind, lives in a medium of mind, and, whatever it is ultimately, is at any rate spirit. But it would accept with qualifications the empirical principle that minds are existences in a world of existences and alongside of them. One of its tenets is in fact that minds are no more ultimately real than material things. In truth the essence of this creed consists not so much in its idealism as in its faith that the truth is the whole, in comparison with which all finites are incomplete and therefore false. With the omission of the concluding phrase, and therefore false,’ the proposition might be accepted by other doctrines than idealism. At least the grounds of the proposition are quite other than the grounds of ordinary idealism. I have come to believe that the foundation of it as conceived by absolute idealism is erroneous, for reasons which will, I hope, be clear as I proceed. But if I may for a moment touch a personal note I am all the more anxious not to overestimate differences from a school of thought in which 1 was myself bred, and to whose leaders, Mr. Bradley and Mr. Bosanquet, I owe so much of whatever capacity I may have attained, however unable I may have proved myself to see things with their eyes.

As to the terms idealism and realism, I should he heartily glad if we might get rid of them altogether: they have such shifting senses and carry with them so much prejudice. They serve, however, to describe a difference of philosophical method or spirit. If idealism meant only that philosophy is concerned with experience as a whole, it has no exclusive title to be considered the true philosophic method ; for all philosophies are concerned with experience as a whole. The real difference between idealism and realism lies in their starting-point or the spirit of their method. For the one, in some form or other, however much disguised, mind is the measure of things and the starting-point of inquiry. The sting of absolute idealism lies in its assertion that the parts of the world are not ultimately real or true but only the whole is true. For realism, mind has no privileged place except in its perfection. The real issue is between these two spirits of inquiry ; and it is in this sense that the following inquiry is realistic. But no sane philosophy has ever been exclusively the one or the other, and where the modern antithesis has hardly arisen, as with Plato, it is extraordinarily difficult to say under which head the philosophy should be classed.

The study of mind in metaphysics

But though we do not assume in mind any prerogative being or reality which should make other reality in some way dependent for its existence upon mind, it by no means follows that the study of mind may not be of special importance and value for philosophy. The reason is that our minds are so directly open to our own inspection, and we may become by attention so intimate with their working, that what escapes us in the external world may be observed more easily in our own minds. An illustration is found in the notion of causality. After naively describing how the behaviour of the sun towards a piece of wax enables us to collect the idea of a power in the sun to melt the wax, Locke says that this power may be most easily discovered in the operations of our wills, or in the power of our mind over its ideas. Locke’s instinct guided him right. If you wish to discover the nature of causality, look first to your mind. You are conscious of your own power in willing in so far as you experience the continuous transition of an idea of some end into the consciousness of taking the final steps to its attainment ; for example, are aware that you have dismissed a troublesome imagination, or that an idea of some object to be attained by your action has been replaced continuously by an act which ends in the perception of the end as attained ; that experience is the experience of power or activity. You do not, as some suppose (including even Hume in a famous passage which misunderstands the argument), you do not compare your action with a notion of power or activity, and find it to be a case which falls under that designation. It is itself the experience of exerting power. With this analysis in our mind we may ask ourselves whether causality in the physical world is not in turn the continuous transition of one physical event into another. To do so is not to impute minds to physical things, as if the only things which could be active must, on the strength of the experience referred to, be minds. It is merely to verify under obscurer conditions what is manifest in the working of our mind. It is likely therefore that in respect of the other categorial features of things which may be shared by the mind with things, our readiest approach is through the mind, and the help may extend beyond such cases to those questions which arise out of the relations of various grades of existence to one another.

All such inquiry into the operation of mind must be borrowing a page from psychology. But we need not be deterred by the objections of metaphysical purists from gathering material from every relevant source. The problems of metaphysics are anxious enough without allowing ourselves to be disturbed by punctilios.

Alternative courses

There are two ways of procedure which seem open to me to pursue. One is that which I have elsewhere followed hitherto,[2] to begin by examining in detail the relation of mind to its objects, always on the empirical method of analysing that relation in our experience of it ; and to draw from thence what indications are legitimate as to the general nature of things, and of their categorial features. The other way is the one which I propose to follow here : to examine in their order the various categorial features of existence and to exhibit the relation of mind to its objects in its proper place in the system of finite empirical existences. The first way leads ultimately, as will be explained, to this. Only by such an enterprise can the difficulties which present themselves in the problem of knowledge be satisfactorily cleared away.

I propose, however, in the remainder of this introductory chapter briefly to pursue the earlier method and to study the problem of knowledge. I do so partly because it is by that road that I have come myself to consider the larger task, and I cannot help thinking that a man is likely to be more persuasive if he follows the course of his own mental history ; but secondly, and mainly, in order to do something to meet an objection which will inevitably be taken to the other procedure. You are about, it will be said, to examine empirically Space and Time and the various categories of experience. How can you treat these as objects for the mind to examine as it were ab extra, when they are unintelligible except in relation to mind ? Has not Kant declared them to be forms of sensibility or understanding, supplied therefore by mind ? Nay, is not your empirical method based upon a sheer mistake ? For in the first place you are treating the objects of experience as if they could be without mind, and yet maintain they are to be open to the mind’s inspection. And, as if that were not enough, you are including amongst the things to be examined not merely physical objects but minds themselves. You propose to treat the mind both as an instrument of knowledge and as its object. Before you examine the contents of knowledge you must examine knowing itself.

Now it would be a legitimate reply to these remonstrances, that the existence distinct from mind of the various groups of physical things and the existence of minds as one group among the existences of the world, as thus postulated by the empirical method, may be taken as a hypothesis for investigating reality. Without troubling our minds as to how things are related to our minds, or how we are ourselves related to our minds, let us make the assumption mentioned and see what comes of it. This is of the essence of the empirical method as a scientific method. You do not raise these questions in science. You assume the existence of life or matter and you ask what it is. Let us in philosophy make the same assumption and see whether in the end we do not get illumination as to our minds and knowledge.

This is all I need, and on which I fall back in the last resort if the hearer remains unconvinced by my version of the fact of experience itself. But in the first place I should wish to incline him from the beginning to the initial soundness of the hypothesis as expressing the nature of our experience. In the next place, it will, I believe, serve us usefully by suggestion, and in particular it will throw light on the sense in which it can be maintained that our mind is an experience for us alongside of the other existences in the world, though it is experienced differently from them.

Mind and its objects

Any experience whatever may be analysed into two distinct elements and their relation to one another. The two elements which are the terms of the relation are, on the one hand the act of mind or the awareness, and on the other the object of which it is aware [3] ; the relation between them is that they are together or compresent in the world which is thus so far experienced. As an example which presents the least difficulty take the perception of a tree or a table. This situation consists of the act of mind which is the perceiving ; the object which is so much of the thing called tree as is perceived, the aspect of it which is peculiar to that perception, let us say the appearance of the tree under these circumstances of the perception ; and the togetherness or compresence which connects these two distinct existences (the act of mind and the object) into the total situation called the experience. But the two terms are differently experienced. The one is experienced, that is, is present in the experience, as the act of experiencing, the other as that which is experienced. To use Mr. Lloyd Morgan’s happy notation, the one is an -ing, the other an -ed.[4] The act of mind is the experiencing, the appearance, tree, is that upon which it is directed, that of which it is aware. The word of indicates the relation between these two relatively distinct existences. The difference between the two ways in which the terms are experienced is expressed in language by the difference between the cognate and the objective accusative. I am aware of my awareness as I strike a stroke or wave a farewell. My awareness and my being aware of it are identical. I experience the tree as I strike a man or wave a flag.[5] I am my mind and am conscious of the object. Consciousness is another general name for acts of mind, which, in their relation to other existences, are said to be conscious of them as objects of consciousness.

‘Enjoyed’ and ‘contemplated’

For convenience of description I am accustomed to say the mind enjoys itself and contemplates its objects. The act of mind is an enjoyment ; the object is contemplated. If the object is sometimes called a contemplation, that is by the same sort of usage by which a perception’ is used for a perceived object or percept as well as for an act of perceiving. The contemplation of a contemplated object is, of course, the enjoyment which is together with that object or is aware of it. The choice of the word enjoyment or enjoy must be admitted not to be particularly felicitous. It has to include suffering, or any state or process in so far as the mind lives through it. It is undoubtedly at variance with ordinary usage, in which, though we are said indeed to enjoy peace of mind, we are also said to enjoy the things we eat, or, in Wordsworth’s words, a flower enjoys the air it breathes, where I should be obliged to say with the same personification of the flower that it contemplates the air it breathes, but enjoys the breathing. Still less do I use the word in antithesis to understanding, as in another famous passage of the same poet, “contented if he might enjoy the things which others understand.” Both the feeling and the understanding are in my language enjoyed. I should gladly accept a better word if it is offered. What is of importance is the recognition that in any experience the mind enjoys itself and contemplates its object or its object is contemplated, and that these two existences, the act of mind and the object as they are in the experience, are distinct existences united by the relation of compresence. The experience is a piece of the world consisting of these two existences in their togetherness. The one existence, the enjoyed, enjoys itself, or experiences itself as an enjoyment ; the other existence, the contemplated, is experienced by the enjoyed. The enjoyed and the contemplated are together.

Acts of mind and the appearances of things

We have called the two elements united in an experience an act of mind and the appearance of a thing. In strictness they are but an act or event with a mental character and a non-mental object of just such character as it bears upon its face. But it is hard to speak of the perceived table except as being the thing table as it looks from a particular point of view under particular circumstances ; or of the mental act except as an act of the mind.

The anticipatory language was justified, for, in fact, no mental act is ever found by itself in the limited and precisely defined form above described ; and the like is true of the object. A mental act is only a salient and interesting act which stands out in the whole mental condition. At any one moment a special mental act or state is continuously united with other mental acts or states within the one total or unitary condition; e.g. the perceiving of the tree with the sight of adjacent objects, the sensation of the cold air, the feeling of bodily comfort and the like ; not juxtaposed with them, but all of them merely elements which can be discriminated, according to the trend of interest, within the whole mass. Moreover, not only is the mental act continuous with others at the same moment, but each moment of mind is continuous with preceding, remembered, moments and with expected ones. This continuum of mental acts, continuous at each moment, and continuous from moment to moment, is the mind as we experience it. It is in this sense that we have to describe any limited element of mental action as an act of mind. In the same way the object of the mental act does not exist by itself disconnected from other such objects. It is not relevant for our immediate purpose that a single thing is itself but selected from a vast background. What is relevant is that the limited object is found to cohere with other such objects, and this intimately blended continuum is called the thing, the table or tree, which appears partially on various occasions. Even the single percept of the table or tree betrays this continuity of different separate objects with one another. For a percept is only partially presented in sense. Part of it is suggested by what may loosely be called memory. The tree is only seen from one side by actual sight ; its other side is presented only in idea, in virtue of a past sensory experience of that side.

Thus, immediately, or by a union of many experiences, we are aware not merely of a mental act but of a mind to which that act belongs, which we experience in an enjoyed synthesis of many mental acts, a synthesis we do not create but find. In like manner we become aware of a thing as the synthesis of its appearances to mind on different occasions, where again the synthesis must not be supposed to be made by the mind, but to be in the actual objects themselves ; it is made manifest to us in the tendency of the separate appearances to link themselves together. The ultimate basis of this continuity or synthesis we shall examine in the sequel.[6] Meantime, let us observe that once we have realised this unity of mind or of thinghood, we can express the fundamental analysis of experience thus : that in experience things are revealed to mind under various aspects, or in various respects, and that the mind in any experience is compresent with the revelation of the world of things so far forth as it is contained in the experience. The name object may be retained conveniently as a general name for all that is contemplated, whether it be the partial appearance of a thing, or the thing itself.

The object distinct from the mind

Always, however, the object is a distinct existence from the mind which contemplates it, and in that sense independent of the mind. At the same time every object implies a selection from the world of being. The selection may be a passive one ; only those features of the world can be revealed to a mind for which the mind possesses the appropriate capacities. The colour-blind man may be unable to distinguish red and green, the tone-deaf man to distinguish a tone from its octave. In part the selection is determined actively by the interests of the mind. In the one case the objects force themselves upon the mind as a bright light upon an open eye. In the other case the chief determinant in the selection is the direction of a man’s thoughts or feelings, so that, for instance, he will not hear suspicions of a person whom he loves, and forgets the risk of death in the pursuit of duty. This selectiveness of the mind induces the belief that the objects of mind are made by it, so that they would not be except for the mind. But the inference is erroneous. If I stand in a certain position I see only the corner of the table. It is certainly true that I am responsible for seeing only that corner. Yet the corner of the table belongs to the table. It belongs to me only in virtue of my confining myself to that aspect of the table. The shilling in my pocket owes it to me that it is mine, but not that it is a piece of silver. In the same way it is the engine-maker who combines iron and steel upon a certain plan of selection, but the steam-engine only depends on him for this selection and not for its characters or for its existence as a steam-engine. On the contrary, if he is to use it, he must learn its ways and adapt himself to them for fear of disaster.

Object is, in fact, a question-begging word. It implies a subject. A table cannot be an object to my mind unless there is a mind, to which it is an object. It must be selected for contemplation. It cannot be known without a mind to know. But how much does it owe to that mind ? Merely that it is known, but neither its qualities as known nor its existence. We cannot therefore conclude legitimately from the obvious truth that an object would not be perceived without a percipient, that it owes its being and character to that percipient. Berkeley saw the truth that there is no idea to act as middleman between the mind and external things, no veil betwixt the mind and reality. He found the reality therefore in the ideas themselves. The other alternative is not to discard the supposed world of reality behind the ideas but to discard the ideas, regarded as objects dependent on the mind. Either way ideas and reality are one. But for Berkeley reality is ideas. For us ideas are reality. In so far as that reality enters into relation with the mind, it is ideas.

When the prejudice is removed that an object, because it owes its existence as an object to a subject, owes to that subject its qualities of white or green and its existence ; the appeal lies from Berkeley to experience itself. So appealed to, my experience declares the distinct existence of the object as something non-mental. I will not yet say physical, for so much is not implied in every experience, for example the experience of universals or of number, but only where the object is physical.[7] But the distinct existence of my object from my mind is attested by experience itself. This is a truth which a man need only open his eyes to see.

The mind not a contemplated object to itself

I do not underestimate the difficulty of that operation. Some of the difficulties of a minor sort will perhaps be met by the exposition itself. But the first condition of success is to distinguish between the different experiences which the mind has of itself and of the object. Only so can we realise that experience declares mind and things to be fellow members of one world though of unequal rank ; and this was the purpose of our reference to knowledge. To be an experiencer of the experienced is the very fact of co-membership in the same world. We miss this truth only because we regard the mind as contemplating itself. If we do so the acts of mind are placed on the level of external things, become ideas of reflection in the phrase of Locke ; and thus we think of mind as something over and above the continuum of enjoyments, and invent an entity superior both to things and to passing mental states. Such a mind is never experienced and does not enter, therefore, into the view of an empirical metaphysics. Nor is it of any avail to answer that, although not experienced, it must be postulated to account for certain experiences. The empirical method approves such postulation, which is habitual in science. But the unseen entities, atoms or ions which physics, for instance, postulates, or the molecules of the chemist, are all of them conceived on the analogy of something else which is known to experience. The mind, however, which is postulated in our case, is a mere name for something, we know not what, which claims all the advantages of the mind which we do experience, but accepts none of the restrictions of that mind, the most important of which that it shall not go beyond what is found or suggested by experience. Whatever else the evidence entitles us to say of the mind, its connection with mental acts must be as intimate as the connection of any substance with its functions, and it cannot be such as to allow the mind to look on, as it were, from the outside and contemplate its own passing states.

Introspection is not contemplation

The possibility of introspection might seem to falsify this statement. It might be thought that in observing our own minds we were turning our mind upon itself and making itself an object of contemplation. But though looking into one’s mind is sometimes described, with our objectifying tendency, as looking into one’s breast, which is a contemplative act, it is very different. Introspection is in fact merely experiencing our mental state, just as in observation of external things the object is contemplated. The accompanying expression in words is extorted from us, in the one case by the object, in the other case by our own mental condition. Now except in refinement and in purpose there is no difference of kind between the feeling expressed in the ejaculation of disgust and the reflective psychological analysis of that emotion. Replace the interjection Ugh ! by a whole apparatus of elaborated speech ; instead of the vague experience of disgust let us have the elements of the emotion standing out distinct in enjoyment, and we have the full-blown introspection of disgust. The interest which prompts that subtle enjoyment is a late acquisition, when the natural preoccupation with external things has ceased to monopolise our minds. And it is small wonder that we should regard our introspection as turning our minds into objects, seeing how largely the language which expresses our mental state has been elaborated in pursuit of practical interests and in contact with physical objects.

Introspection and extrospection

Moreover, we are sometimes victims of a misapprehension as to what it is that we introspect. I am sometimes said to discover by introspection the images that flit before my fancy or the subject of my thoughts. But the landscape I imagine, or Lorenzo’s villa on the way down from Fiesole that I remember with the enchanting view of Florence from the loggia, are no more discovered to me by introspection than the rowan tree which I perceive in front of my window as I write. These objects are presented to me by imagination or memory or perception, not by introspection, and are the objects not of introspection but of extrospection, if such a word may be used, all alike. What I introspect is the processes of imagining and thinking or remembering or perceiving. Hence it is that introspection is so difficult to the untrained person to perform with any niceness, unless it is the introspection of some complicated and winding process of mind, as when we describe the growth of our feelings, as distinguished from the objects to which those feelings relate,[8] or some of the less simple mental processes such as desire where it is easy to note how the mind is tantalised by straining after a fruition which is still denied. In so simple a situation as mere sensation of green introspection can tell us next to nothing about the actual process of sensing, only its vaguely enjoyed direction.’ The green which is the object sensed, the sensum, is observed by extrospection.

Thus my own mind is never an object to myself in the sense in which the tree or table is. Only, an -ing or an enjoyment may exist in my mind either in a blurred or subtly dissected form. When that condition of subtle dissection arises out of set scientific interest, we are said to practise introspection, and the enjoyment is the existence which is introspected. Such introspection displays the complexities of our mind as careful scientific observation of external things displays their complexities and the relations of their parts or features.

The angel’s view

If I could make my mind an object as well as the tree, I could not regard my mind, which thus takes in its own acts and things in one view, as something which subsists somehow beside the tree. But since I cannot do so, since my mind minds itself in being aware of the tree, what is this but the fact that there is a mind, whose consciousness is self-consciousness, which is together with the tree ? Imagine a being higher than me, something more than mind ; let us call him an angel. For him my consciousness would be an object equally with the tree, and he would see my enjoyment compresent with the tree, much in the same way as I may see a tree compresent with the earth. I should be for him an object of angelic contemplation, and he would have no doubt that different as are the gifts of minds and trees they are co-ordinate in his contemplated world, as external things are in mine. Now I cannot do as an angel and contemplate myself, in so far as I am mind (for, of course, I contemplate my body). But in recognising that in the cognitive relation to the tree, the tree and I are distinct and relatively independent existences compresent with each other, I am, under the limitations imposed on me, anticipating the angel’s vision ‘ (I have to use mental terms for what is higher than mental and different from it). Hence I have sometimes allowed myself playfully to speak of what here I call seriously the empirical method in philosophy as the angelic method. What the angel sees as the compresence of two objects I experience as the compresence of an enjoyed mind and a contemplated non – mental object. And if you fail, as many persons appear to fail to whom I have spoken, to find in your experience the act of experiencing the enjoyment, but find only the object and nothing else ; for instance, if you find the tree but not the enjoyed perceiving of it ; the reason is that you are seeking for the enjoyed as if it were an object contemplated, and naturally can find no perceiving or imagining or thinking which stands to you in the same relation as the tree, no idea of reflection or inner sense comparable with an idea of sensation. All that you then find that can be called your self is your body. On the other hand, seek for the enjoyment as something which you mind or live through, and which you are, and, beginning with acts highest in the scale like willing or desiring, where the enjoyed act is palpable, descend in the scale through constructive imagination to remembering, perceiving, and at last to bare sensing of a sensum, where the enjoying act is least distinct,[9] you will assure yourself of the compresence of the non-mental object with your enjoyed mind.

Experience of togetherness

But a word is needed to explain what has been omittcd till now, how the tact of compresence or togetherness is itself experienced. It means the bare fact, as the angel sees it, that I and the tree are together. That togetherness is the togetherness of an -ing and an -ed ; and this is for the empirical method the fact of their belonging together in their respective characters in the situation. But since the one term is an enjoyment and the other a contemplation, and the relation relates the terms, how, it may be asked, is the togetherness experienced? Is it an -ing or an -ed ? Now from the angel’s point of view I am together with the horse I see and the horse together with me, we are together both. But when we ask how, in the knowing relation, the togetherness is experienced we ask the question from the point of view of the being which has the experience, that is, the mind. Thus the mind in enjoying itself enjoys its togetherness with the horse. It does not contemplate the horse’s togetherness with itself, the mind. When I say I see a horse, the object is not the horse as seen but an object with certain colours and shape. The horse as seen or the seen horse is a description of the horse from the philosopher’s point of view in discussing the matter, not from the point of view of the experient himself. What I see is therefore not a horse which I see to be together with me. But in contemplating the horse, I, the experiencer, am experiencing the fact of my togetherness with the horse. The horse’s togetherness with me is experienced by me as my togetherness with the horse ; which I express by saying I see a horse. If we could suppose the horse to rise to our point of view he would in turn enjoy himself as together with me, that is, with what he apprehends of me ; but this would not be the same experience. It would be the horse’s experience and not mine. In fact, for me to say that I contemplate the horse as together with my enjoyment is merely a linguistic variation, and consequently a repetition, of the statement that I enjoy myself together with the horse. I neither ought to count the relation twice over nor can I in fact do so. I experience the string which unites us only, as it were, from my own end.[10]


Before proceeding further, let us touch lightly on certain points where difficulties are likely to be felt or doubts to be raised.

(i) Mind and body

(i) When in any cognitive experience the mind or its act is said to be compresent with a distinct and independent object which is non-mental, it will not be supposed that the mind is as it were floated off from connection with the body. Nothing is said as to the body because the body does not as such enter into the experience. It is commonly believed on sufficient grounds that when I see a tree there is excitement of the occipital region of the cerebral cortex. But it is certain that I do not experience this cerebral excitement as such when I see the tree, and that when I experience the cerebral excitement I do not see the tree, but think of the excitement. We are describing experience as we have it by direct knowledge or acquaintance, not importing into it what we may know indirectly or, as it is said, by knowledge about’ it. There are indeed experiences of the contemplated body which accompany the enjoyment of vision, such as movement of the eyes or their accommodation. These are added experiences and are not part of the experience of seeing the horse, but are experiences of other objects, located in my body.[11]

(ii) Range of objects

(ii) The analysis of experience is claimed to be true cf any experience. But it is often urged that the distinction of subject and object is a late experience, and is preceded by an experience where the contrast has not yet arisen, an undifferentiated form of ” feeling ” which is below the level of relational experience. We have, it is admitted, only verifiable approximations to such experiences ; if they do exist they would be comparable to a life which was lived within itself, not needing the stimulus of a surrounding world to which it reacts. It may be gravely questioned whether they are rightly described. In some cases the object felt is a mass of bodily states. In other cases, which are more probably the ones hinted at, the apparent absence of an object distinct from the enjoyment arises merely from the vagueness of the object, in which no specific qualities can be detected, no parting of the mass into things with their shapes and colours and smells. Great is the importance in the mental life of the non-mental object which can only be described as “something or other.”

(iii) Fluidity of every experience

(iii) No experience, we have said, ever is isolated or has boundaries which shut it off rigidly from the rest of the world. Rather it is true alike of the enjoyment and of its object that they swim in a surrounding atmosphere or medium. As we turn our eyes, or move our heads, or vary anyhow from one moment to another, the old vague field shifts into a new, and we have the experience of an unending or at least indefinitely shaped and uncircumscribed volume. Every experience has its fringes, or shoots out its corona into some larger whole which encircles it. Some of these surroundings are supplied in memory or imagination, some in present consciousness, and thought with its symbolic process carries us still further beyond. Even the shapes and dates of things are merged into Space and Time as wholes. We have on the side of mind, flashes of light on a dim background of consciousness ; and on the object side, more vivid or interesting particulars rising like peaks out of a continuous range of mountainous country. Thus rather than to say we are definite acts of mind which take cognisance of a definite object, it is truer to say that every object we know is a fragment from an infinite whole, and every act of mind is correspondingly a fragment out of a larger though finite mass.

(iv) Enjoyments forms of attention

(iv) Experience varies from that of “something or other” through all the grades of mental life, sensation, perception, imagination, memory, thought. In each case the -ing and the -ed are distinguishable and the -ed is non-mental, and in some cases patently physical. All these mental phases are different forms of attention with its accompanying pleasure or pain. The act is cognitive not because there is any act of cognition distinct from the attention or interest, but because that interest is directed upon a cognised object. In sensation we can distinguish the sensing from its object, the sensum, which is external to it. In like manner we have on one side the perceiving, imagining, remembering, and on the other the percept, the image, the memory, the thought, the object in every case being attested by experience itself as a non-mental existence. Many difficulties are thus raised which I dare not here discuss for fear of repetition. They will, I trust, be removed or enlightened when the mind appears in its due place in the order of things. The externality and physical nature of sensations is a particularly disputable matter ; for to some they appear to be immediate experiences utterly dependent on mind, though objective in their reference as distinguished from subjective acts like desiring or attention. I will only say that to me every mental act is equally immediate, thinking as much as sensation, and the sensum no less external and non-mental than the thought.

Images not mental

Imagination, however, requires more than a passing mention. It seems in the last degree paradoxical to ascribe to the image of a landscape regained in the memory, and still more of one which has never been seen, an existence, in this case a physical existence, independent of the mind. However objective in character, images appear to be patently psychical, to be mere ideas and in no sense realities. Impressed by the mental character of images, philosophers have construed the rest of experience in their likeness. If an image is the creature of the mind, may not perception be equally so ? Error comes in to reinforce this procedure, for an error or an illusion is demonstrated by its discordance with reality to be a mere idea. This way of thinking has led in the past to the doctrine that the objects of our minds are but copies or representations of real things which we therefore do not know directly. When Berkeley reduced all sensible reality to ideas, representationism received its deathblow, but its influence cannot be said to have been eradicated.

The circumstances are altered when instead of beginning our inquiry into knowledge with images, we begin it, as we deliberately did, with perception, where there is less difficulty in believing ourselves directly in contact with the sensible thing. We can then construe the more difficult cases in the light of perception, passing through the images of memory which are nearer to perception because the memory is of something which was once perceived ; thence to an image of an object once experienced but presented again in imagination without the consciousness that it is familiar from the past ; and thence to the constructions of fancy. In the memory-image of my friend I have before my mind the revelation of my friend just as much as I have a revelation of him when I see him. The first differs from the second only in the absence of the friend from my organs of sight, in his removal from me in time, and further in that, not being limited and constrained by the presence of the thing to my senses, the subsidiary operations of my mind may introduce into the object features which do not belong to the thing. He is revealed to me through the haze of remoteness in Time and Space, and under the distorting influence of myself adding or subtracting or rearranging. As we pass to constructive imagination the element of personal interference increases. The problems raised by the constructive action of the mind, and, in particular, how in imagination or error we can be in compresence of an object which is a revelation of something in the world of reality, must again be deferred to their place.[12] Meantime let us only observe that no action of the mind is possible without its object any more than a plant can breathe without air. In sensory experience compresence with the physical revelation of a physical thing is brought about through the direct operation of the thing upon the senses. In imaging the act of mind is provoked from within, but in the one case as in the other the act of mind is face to face with its appropriate revelation. The very constitution of a perceived object, as already observed, verifies this description. For it is a commonplace that only part of it is sensed, the rest of the object is supplied by the action of the mind itself.

(v) Mental acts vary with the object.

(v) Lastly, the acts of mind are not colourless. They are different with every variation of the object. They vary according as the object is a sensum, a percept, an image, or a thought. Moreover they vary according to the qualities of the object. It is not the same act of mind which apprehends green as apprehends red, still less as apprehends sweet, and my response to a tree differs from my response to a man. Briefly, as the object varies, however minutely, so does the corresponding enjoyment vary however minutely. But this variation in the mind is not a variation of quality. The mind to experience has only the quality of being mind, that is of being conscious. This proposition is almost the same thing as saying that cognition is being in presence of, in compresence with, the cognitum. The so-called ” content ” of the mind is the object which is distinct from it, and is revealed to the mind, but in no other sense in the mind. I call the variation of the mind with its object a variation of direction,’ but must leave the more exact meaning and justification of the description to a later stage.[13]

The cognitive relation not unique

Let us now return from pursuing these hints which are intended to smooth the way for acceptance of the of fundamental proposition to the fundamental proposition itself ; and consider what conclusions of a more general metaphysical nature may be drawn from the character of the fact of cognition ; and, further, what problems it suggests. There is nothing in the compresence between the mind and its objects to distinguish that relation from the compresence between any two objects which it contemplates, like the tree and the grass. To the supposed superior being or angel this would be obvious. We only conceal it from ourselves, as has been explained, because we fancy that the experient is himself contemplated. When we take the deliverance of experience without prepossessions, we realise that our togetherness with our object and the togetherness of two objects are so far forth as togetherness is concerned identical. The difference between the two situations is, precisely as the angel would recognise, to be found not in the nature of the relation, but of the terms related. In the case of two physical objects both terms are physical. In the case of cognition of a physical object, one of the terms, our mind, is a mental or conscious being. When such a conscious being is in a process or act of mind appropriate to a certain object, we are conscious of that object. The little word of is the symbol of the compresence. So far then as the cognitive relation is concerned, it appears not only not to be unique, but to be the simplest of all relations, the mere togetherness of two terms, their belonging together to a world.

Not only is there a togetherness between the enjoyed and the contemplated, which is the same as that between two objects contemplated, but there is togetherness in enjoyment, as when two acts of mind are distinguished by us as enjoyed, whether at the same time (e.g. I see a friend and hear his voice) or in succession. If we indicate objects contemplated by Roman letters, and enjoyments by Greek ones, we have three instances of togetherness which may be indicated thus, AB, aA, and ab.

Transition to problems of Space and Time

At once a problem is raised. The togetherness of physical things is at least, it would seem, a spatial and ‘ temporal relation ; the things or events belong to one Space and to one Time. (It may be observed in passing that togetherness in time or compresence in it includes both simultaneity and succession.) Do mental acts, then, belong together in Space and Time? and is the mind together with its objects in Space and Time? It would be at once admitted that mental acts are related in time, they are either simultaneous or successive, but it would not universally or even commonly be admitted that they are spread out in space. Further, it is clear that the mental act stands in a temporal relation to its object ; whether of simultaneity or succession is not obvious from direct experience. I am aware that my act occurs in time, and the event contemplated also) and the two moments belong at least to one inclusive Time. Does the experience declare that the object and the mind are correspondingly together in Space? The object is contemplated in Space. Even if it is an image, for example of a landscape once seen, not only is it spread out, but also, however vaguely and indefinitely, it is referred to the place to which it belongs in the one Space which we both perceive and imagine.[14] Moreover I seem to enjoy myself as being somewhere in Space, a place which with further experience I assign to somewhere in the region of the contemplated space of my body. Whether these experiences are or are not rightly reported, at any rate the problem of whether mind like physical things is not only in Time but in Space, and of the relation of the space and time contemplated to the time and the problematical space which we enjoy, is pressed upon us for solution.

But the tale of experience is not yet completed. Space and Time are not the only forms of relation or features of things which may make a claim to belong to mind as well as to physical things. All the so-called categories like causality or substance or quantity belong both to the A order and the a order, and where that is possible to the order in which an A and an a are together. Take, for example, causality, which is contemplated as between events in the physical world. It obtains also as between the mind and some physical objects. When I receive a sensation from an external object, I feel myself passive to that object ; I enjoy my sensing as an effect of the sensum, which is its object. This is not a mere postulate made by philosophers for theoretical purposes—that there is an external cause of my perceptions. It is a direct deliverance of experience, and Locke and Berkeley, who insist (particularly Berkeley) on our passivity to sensations in contrast with our activity in imagination, were rendering a fact of experience and not a dogma. I enjoy myself as the effect of an object which acts on my senses, and only in this sense do I contemplate the object as the cause of the effect in me.[15] Moreover, besides causality between things and me, there is causality between my mental acts or processes; as when the thought of my friend leads me by association to remember a reproof, which in the fashion of friends he administered to me. The causal relation, as we have before observed, is, in fact, more easily noticed and analysed as we experience it in ourselves than as we contemplate it outside us.

What is true of causality is true of other categories. We enjoy ourselves as permanent amid our changes, that is, our mind is in its own enjoyment a substance. It enters into relations within itself as well as with external things. Its processes have at least intensity : they have that species of quantity. Whether it may be qualified by all the categories remains to be seen, and is proposed as a problem. At any rate it would seem that some of them belong both to mind and to things, and that these categories, and, if it is true of all of them, that all the categories, are parts of experience which are features alike of the mental and the physical world. If this is to be regarded as a mere coincidence it is a highly interesting one and would correspond to the superior importance attached in some philosophies to these categories. Is it more than a coincidence, dependent on some deeper reason?

Some, at any rate, of the categories bring us back once more to the earlier problem. Causality is, as physical, a relation which can only be described in terms of Space and Time. What is the connection of this category with Space and Time ? Finally, is there any connection between the other categories and Space and Time ? We are thus faced again with the duty of investigating these two things (shall I call them entities or forms of relation or features of reality ?) as fundamental to any metaphysics.


Thus our analysis of the experience of experience itself has led us to two results. It has shown us that minds and external things are co-ordinate members of a world, and it has so far justified the empirical method which proceeds on that assumption. In the next place it has suggested, with the help of additional experiences all intimately connected with that analysis, that Space and Time may be in some peculiar fashion basic to all being. At the same time Space and Time, whatever they may be and whatever may be their relation to one another and to the categories, have been treated as something which can be contemplated and cannot therefore be regarded as dependent on mind, though they may be concerned with the constitution of mind as well as of external things. This is only an extension to them of the empirical method.

I have introduced this long review of mind, which is yet far too short to be convincing, for the reasons which I mentioned before, that it is the natural method of approach and the one I have followed in my own thinking. It may, I trust, have removed any prejudice against the empirical method in metaphysics. If I have failed, I can only beg that my readers will be content to treat the fundamental implications of the method as a hypothesis, a hypothesis of method. That is all that is needed for what is to follow. Let the examination be an empirical examination of the world in its a priori features, and without demonstration of the position taken up by any particular form of realism, let us put aside any postulate as to the nature of knowledge, and let the relation of mind to its objects develop if it can in the course of the inquiry. The outline which I have given of the analysis of knowledge will at least have served the purpose of an explanation of certain terms which may be used henceforth without commentary.

The plan I shall follow is this : I shall begin with an inquiry into Space and Time, designed more particularly to exhibit their relation to one another, and after this into the categories. This will occupy the first two Books. In the third Book I shall seek to treat, so far as this falls to the business of philosophy, the various types of existents, so as to bring out their relations to one another within Space and Time. We shall have to ask, for instance, whether the relation of mind to body is unique or not, and in the same way whether its relation to its objects is unique or not, a question already answered provisionally by reference to the fact of experience itself.

Finally, I shall discuss what can be known as to the nature of deity, consistently with the whole scheme of things which we know, and with the sentiment of worship which is directed to God. In attempting this enterprise I can but regret that I am hampered at many points by want of relevant knowledge, especially mathematical and physical knowledge, but it may well be that an outline which is defective in detail may be correct in its general movement. Whether this is so or not I must leave to the result to determine.


[1] Boswell, Life of Johnson, July 6, 1763, vol. i. p. 422 (Oxford, 1887, ed. G. B. Hill).

[2] See various papers in Proc. Arist. Soc. N.S. vols. viii. to xi. (1908-11); Mind, N.S. vols. xxi.-ii. (1912-13); Proc. British Academy, vol. vi. (‘ The Basis of Realism,’ 1914) ; Brit. Journ. of Psych. iv., 191 1.

[3] The distinctness of these two elements was made clear in Mr. G. E. Moore’s paper on ‘The Refutation of Idealism ‘ in Mind; N.S. vol. xii., 1903.

[4] See his Instinct and Experience (London, 1912).

[5] The distinction is borrowed from some remarks of Mr. Stout, Proc. Arist. Soc. N.S., vol. ix. p. 243. See also vol. viii. p. 254, where the ‘of’ in ‘aware of myself’ is described after him as the ‘of’ of apposition.

[6] Bk. III. ch. vii.

[7] For our apprehension of the minds of others, see later, Bk. III. ch. i. B.

[8] Cp. Browning’s :

“Hardly shall I tell my joys and sorrows,

Hopes and fears, belief and disbelieving ”

These are described introspectively.

“I am mine and yours—the rest be all men’s,

Karshish, Cleon, Norbert, and the fifty.”

These are the objects of extrospection.

[9] I owe this point to Mr. Laird.

[10] See, further, Mind, N.S. vol. xxi., 1912. “On relation, and in particular the cognitive relation,” pp. 319-323.

[11] This subject is discussed in a later chapter, Bk. III. ch. iv. B.

[12] Bk. III. chs. viii. and ix. B.

[13] Bk. III. ch. vi.

[14] On this last difficult point see later, Bk. I. ch. iii. That the image is spatial in itself is enough for my purposes ; it indicates a problem.

[15] See the parallel remarks above on the experience of togetherness (p. 21), and further, Mind, N.S. xxi., 1912, “On relations, etc.,” pp. 323 ff.

2.2 The Nature of the Categories

SPACE-TIME then is in Kantian language an infinite given whole, that is to say, it is experienced as such, where the term experience includes thought as well as sensible experience. Its elements are represented conceptually as point-instants or bare events ; and we have added the hypothesis that other empirical things or existents .are groupings of such events, whirlpools within that ocean, or they are crystals in that matrix. Only whereas a crystal may be separated from its matrix, existents never can ; they remain swimming in the medium of Space-Time. Their very being is continuity ; they are themselves continuously connected groupings of motions, and they are connected through the circumambient Space-Time with other such groupings or complexes. In less metaphorical language, they are complexes of motion differentiated within the one all-containing and all-encompassing system of motion. Primarily, therefore, empirical existents are spatio-temporal and remain so to the end. But with certain groupings of motion, certain spatio-temporal complexes, there are correlated what we call qualities, such as materiality, life, colour, consciousness. What the exact relation is between the quality and its spatio-temporal basis is to be the subject matter of a part of the next Book. We shall have to ask there whether it is fitly to be described as mere correlation or is still more intimate. The brief description contained in the name correlation is sufficient for our present purposes. Finite existents so understood, with their correlated qualities, are the things and events of our ordinary experience, moving about or happening in Space-Time, and endowed with qualities the laws of which it is the office of the special sciences to discover and co-ordinate. So much by way of explanation of our hypothesis as to empirical existence.

Unlike the hypothesis of the Introduction, (that the world of things might be treated as existing in its own right and not dependent on the mind,) which is a hypothesis of method ; it is a hypothesis as to the nature of things, or, in ordinary language, one of substance, not merely of method. In order to avoid the constant use of the long phrase empirical existents, I shall speak simply of existents. These include not only ordinary finites but also point-instants which are the limiting cases at which we arrive in infinite division, and infinites like infinite lines or numbers, which are the limiting cases in the other direction ; and for this reason, in order to include these two classes of existents which involve the notion of infinitude, I speak of existents rather than of finites. But while there will be much to say of point-instants, I shall for the most part disregard infinites till a later stage, and then touch upon them only briefly.[1]

Now amongst the characters of empirical existents there is a clear distinction between those which are variable and those which are pervasive. Some things possess life, others not. Some things are red, others green or yellow ; some are sweet, others sour. Some have colour but no taste. Matter has mass but is not conscious. These characters are what have been called above qualities, and because they vary from thing to thing they may be called empirical characters. But there are other characters which are pervasive and belong in some form to all existents whatever. Such are identity (numerical identity for example), substance, diversity, magnitude, even number. Moreover, not only are these characters of what we commonly call things, but they are characters of all existents whatever, that is to say of everything, where the word thing is equivalent to any finite object of experience. Thus not only is a living thing an extended substance of a certain magnitude and number of parts ; but a life itself, if you consider it, or so far as you can consider it, without direct reference to its body whose life it is, is extended, a substance, and possessed of magnitude, and moreover it is spread out into a multiplicity of parts and therefore contains number. Even mind, now that we have satisfied ourselves of its extended character in its enjoyment of itself, possesses these characters

It is true the pervasive characters also undergo variation according to the empirical circumstances. The wax is always extended, but its particular magnitude and shape change when it is melted. Still, it retains some extension and magnitude and shape in all its empirical transformations. An earthquake may last a long or short time, an illumination may be constant or intermittent. But they are never without temporal character. Such empirical variations of the pervasive characters of things may be called primary qualities in distinction from the secondary qualities, where the phrase covers not only the traditional secondary qualities of matter but qualities like life or consciousness. These qualities may be present in one thing and absent from another, and differ in this respect from the empirical variations of the pervasive characters.

The pervasive characters of existents are what are known from Kant’s usage as the categories of experience, and 1 shall call them, in distinction from the empirical ones or qualities, categorial characters. They may also be called the a priori or non-empirical characters. But the contrast must be taken at its face value as a distinction within the characters of experienced things. It does not imply that a priori or categorial characters, because not empirical, are not experienced. On the contrary, they are the essential and universal constituents of whatever is experienced, and in the wider sense of that term are therefore empirical. It was in this wider sense that philosophy was described as the empirical (or experiential) study of the non-empirical. The word ‘categorial’ is not so much exposed to misunderstanding as non-empirical or in consequence of its history a priori ; and I shall most frequently employ it. At any rate the two classes of characters are distinguished within experience itself.

These categories then are the prerogative characters of things which run through all the rest as the warp on which the others are woven. Or, to vary the metaphor, they are the grey or neutral-coloured canvas on which the bright colours of the universe are embroidered. The primary ‘qualities’ are variations of them in empirical circumstance. The secondary qualities are correlated with complexities in the primary qualities themselves. Life is correlated with physical and chemical movements, themselves reducible to complexities of more elementary movements. Mind is correlated in turn with vital movements of a certain sort. Colour (whether it is partly dependent upon mind or not) corresponds, it is thought, to vibrations in a hypothetical medium, the ether, which hypothetically (and there is reason to think, superfluously) fills all Space. The categories are thus the groundwork of all empirical reality ; what Plato called the highest kinds of beings (megista genm twn ontwn ). According to his latest interpreter, the interest of these highest kinds displaced in his latest writings that of the Forms of sensible things ; and justly. For the Forms for all their eternal nature are, as compared with the categories, empirical—the form of dog in which individual dogs participate or which they imitate, but which trees do not ; the form of tree, or the form of justice, and the like. These are empirical universals. But the categories are not only universals, but, though I do not know if Plato would have said so, are truly universal in the sense that all existents partake of them.

Why the categories are pervasive: not because they are due to mind;

The most remarkable feature of the categories which is disclosed to inspection is that they are common to mind and to physical and generally non-mental things. Consider mind as it is known by direct acquaintance, that is by enjoyment, without the addition of indirect knowledge from any source, whether from reflective experience about mind, or from speculative theory. It has identity, is a substance, exhibits causality, etc. Something has been said of this in the introductory chapter and need not be repeated. What is the meaning of this presence of the categories not only in the contemplated but the enjoyed?

One way of solving this problem is to say that the mind is aware of the categories in its experience of itself, and then imputes them to its objects. Whether this answer has ever been attempted on a thorough-going scale, I do not know. But it has often been attempted in respect of the categories of causality and substance in particular. We find these characters in ourselves, and we interpret things, it is said, in our own likeness and find that the interpretation is successful. Now it is certain that experience of our own minds and experience of external things play upon each other reciprocally, reinforce and elucidate each other. When we have learned in ourselves the continuity, of a decision with its motives, of the issue of a train of thought with its premisses, of the mere unfolding of an idea in its details with the vague and implicit apprehension of the same idea, and particularly the continuity of our performances with our intentions ; we can then look to external things and events to see whether there is not such continuity also there, the same definite order of succession. Or, again, whether in things there is not the like permanence in change that we can so easily detect in our enjoyment of ourselves. We speak then of causality or substance in external things, of physical causality and physical substances ; and having these conceptions we come back to our own minds and ask whether we ourselves are not subject to physical causation, or are not substances in the same sense as external things, and we may thus raise problems which seem to us of great difficulty. Out of this interplay of mind and things it follows that while, on the one hand, we speak of force or power in physical things in language borrowed from our own wills ; on the other hand, psychological terminology, as in such terms as apprehension or comprehension or conception, is largely derived from experience of physical things or of the action of our bodies on physical things.

But the mutual interplay of our experience of mind and things, which is an indisputable fact, is very far from the imputation by the mind of its own characters to external things. One simple consideration is enough to show that we do not merely construe things on the analogy of ourselves. For there must be something in the things which makes the analogy valid, or which gives a handle to the alleged imputation. If all we observe in external events is uniform succession, to impute to one of them a power to produce the other is a fiction, the fiction which Hume set himself to discredit. It may be serviceable anthropomorphism, but it is not science nor philosophy. If there is no power traceable in things, then there is none ; if the number of things is due to our counting, then there is no number in the things. The world then becomes indebted for its pervasive and prerogative characters to mind. Such a result is only satisfactory if the process is carried further, and if every character in things is attributed to mind, otherwise we could not understand how things should offer a reason to us to construe them so. I do not say this result is not true merely because it disagrees with our hypothesis of method, that we may treat mind as merely one of the many things in the universe. Yet at any rate we are bound before accepting it to see whether an explanation is not possible consistent with that hypothesis.

But now if there is something in the things which gives colour to the imputation, if for instance there is something in external things which is identical with the causal or substantial continuity which we find in mind, when we do not take that experience to be more than it really is, the imputation is unnecessary. Things may be numbered because they already contain number, not because they can be counted. On the contrary, they can be counted because they are countable and numerical. All the profit then that we can derive from the interplay of mind and things in becoming aware of the categories is that we may more easily derive from the enjoyed than from the contemplated the nature of the categories ; which categories they share in common. Of this liberty we shall avail ourselves.

but because they are fundamental properties of Space-Time

Are we then to be content with the bare fact that the categories are unlike empirical characters in belonging to all things, and in particular in belonging to minds as well as to external things ? Such a coincidence would be sufficiently remarkable, but it clamours for the discovery of a reason. The reason is that the categories prove upon examination to be fundamental properties or determinations of Space-Time itself, not taken as a whole, but in every portion of it. They belong to all existents because, if our hypothesis is sound, existents are in the end, and in their Simplest terms, differentiations of Space-Time, the complexes of events generated within that matrix. If that hypothesis be sound we should expect to find the pervasive features of things in the characters of their ultimate foundation. Or to put the same thing in another way, when and if it is seen that the categorial characters of things are features of any bit of Space-Time as such, merely so far as it is spatio-temporal, we are forced to the further conclusion that the empirical characters of things, their qualities, are correlated with the empirical groupings in Space-Time, and that things with their qualities are, as our hypothesis supposes, complexes within Space-Time. The categories are, as it were, begotten by Time on Space. It will be our business to exhibit this proposition in some detail with respect to the various categories.

The gist of the formula will perhaps be understood best by meeting in advance a possible misunderstanding, to the danger of which I shall recur more than once as the inquiry proceeds. Spaces or times it will be said have, it is true, magnitude, have identity, have a universal character, have existence. The categories, or at least some of them, are indeed applicable to spaces and times or, if you will, bits of Space-Time. These are instances which fall under these various categories, just as trees and dogs and tables do. But since they are but instances of the categories, the source of these categories must be found elsewhere. Now the clue to the understanding of our thesis is that the categories are not applicable as it were ab extra to spaces and times, but that they are applicable to things (including minds) because they flow from the nature of the space-times which they occupy or which they are. Applicability to space-times has no meaning for the categories, which are the features or determinations of the space-times themselves. I do not wish to anticipate too much, but a single instance may suffice. My mind exists at this moment because it occupies a certain portion of Space-Time, and that bare occupation is existence. Moreover, it is so far universal, that I remain in broad outlines the same mind whether I am here in Glasgow or there in Florence. That transplantation does not affect my identity. Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt.

Kant’s treatment of the Categories

In making this inquiry into the categories I have the good fortune to be able to make use for my own purposes, first, of the great later dialogues of Plato and, next, of Kant’s work in the “Schematism of the Categories” and above all in the “Principles of the Understanding,” the most significant and fruitful chapter of the Critique of Pure Reason. But it would be at once tedious to the reader and an interruption to the argument to indicate in detail where I have been helped by Kant. Indeed it would seem at first sight as if little help were to be derived from him in this matter. For the drawbacks and deficiencies of Kant’s doctrine of knowledge in general and of the categories in particular are obvious enough. The categories are referred, like the forms of Space and Time, to the mind, because it is thought that what Hutchison Stirling called the “empirical instruction” does not contain them already. They are universal and a priori and belong therefore to the understanding, and are sharply separated from sense and its forms. Nevertheless, Kant is far removed from the notion that we manufacture or work up objects of knowledge by means of the categories, still less that we impute these forms to objects. They are for him veritable elements in objective knowledge, though they are the contribution of objective mind and not of the empirical instruction. And of still more importance and value is his effort to supply what he calls a ” proof” of the principles of the understanding. In essentials the ” proof” is this,[2] that objective external experience contains the categories in correspondence with the features which the experience of Time possesses as given in the inner sense,—such as that it has duration, determinate order, permanence, is fuller or less full[3] and the like. Since the form of external experience is Space, it is not so far a cry from this reasoning to the present doctrine, founded not on any pretence of proof or reasoning but on empirical inspection, that the categories are begotten by Time on Space, or are fundamental features of any space-time. For Space and Time are for Kant also forms of the mind, though the categories belong to understanding and they to sense.

Unfortunately the separation of the forms of sense or intuition from those of the understanding, and of both from the empirical instruction, gives to Kant’s analysis an air of artificiality and unresolved miracle, and perhaps it is not to be wondered at that those who have regarded his formal procedure rather than the spirit of it have represented the forms as if they were instruments used in working up knowledge, as planes or chisels are used in carpentering wood. The artificial separation does not arise for us. For the categories are for us expressions of the nature of Space-Time itself, and on the other hand the empirical instruction consists of nothing but complexes of this same space-time stuff: All the elements of things we know are ultimately of the same stuff. But in spite of these difficulties I cannot think that this part of Kant’s doctrine is so innocently inadequate as is often believed. And I am making these remarks not in order to fortify myself by his authority, which 1 certainly could not invoke, but to record a grateful conviction that with or after Plato there is nothing comparable in importance upon this subject with what may be learned from him, even by one who believes that mind which is Kant’s source of categories has nothing whatever to do with the matter, and that mind is only a name for minds which are empirical things like other empirical things, and like them possess categorial characters and for the same reason as other things possess them, that they are all alike empirical complexes of space-time stuff. Leave out from Kant the objective mind with all the dependencies of that conception ; and what he teaches us is mainly sound. It is true that the omission produces a considerable transformation, so considerable that the result would hardly be recognised as related to his doctrine by any affiliation of descent. But it is to be remembered that for a man of Kant’s age the only method open to a philosopher, whether it was Kant or Reid, of indicating that the world of experience contains pervasive features as well as variable ones, was to refer this part of experience to mind in its objective character. Be this as it may, it is not always those who teach us most truth from whom we learn most, but those who best point the way to truth.

There are one or two questions of a general character about the categories which, to avoid repetition, will best be deferred till we have reviewed the categories in detail. For instance, whether at all, and if so in what sense, Space and Time themselves are to be called categories. Categorial they plainly are, and equally plainly Space-Time itself, which is the infinite matrix of all finites, is not a category. Again, it is plain from our description of the relation of empirical quality to Space-Time (that it is correlated with a certain complexity within Space-Time) that if our account be correct quality is not a category, and is no more than a comprehensive name for all the empirical qualities, and does not follow from the characters of Space-Time as such. Even for Kant, who regarded quality as a category, it only anticipates experience in respect of the intensity of the quality. It is in act only another name for the empirical element in things. But to avoid repetition at a later stage or imperfect discussion now, I omit these matters for the present.

We proceed then to describe the categories in order. The reader will bear in mind that they enter as constituent factors or as constitutive characters into every existent, whatever its quality. He needs only, in order to help himself in the abstract (that is elementary) inquiry, to think of empirical things, divest them of their qualitative colouring, and single out the categorial foundations of what the colouring is correlated with. While he may, if he chooses, regard also the embroidery he will be pleased to think only of the canvas.


[1] Bk. IV. ch. i. Some remarks upon point-instants and infinites will be found in ch. ix. of Bk. II. pp. 324. ff.

[2] At least this is one of the lines of thought Kant pursues in his proof.

[3] To which corresponds the category of intensive quantity.

2.3 The Clue to Quality



EMPIRICAL things are complexes of space-time with their qualities; and it is now my duty to attempt to show how the different orders of empirical existence are related to each other, and in particular to explain more precisely the nature of qualities which hitherto have merely been described as being correlative with their underlying motions, the exact nature of this relation having been left over for further consideration. To do this is the second and perhaps the more difficult of the two problems assigned to metaphysics in the Introduction. The first was to describe the fundamental or a priori elements of experience. The second was to explain what empirical existence is and to indicate those relations among empirical existences which arise out of the a priori features of all existence, if any such can be discovered. In making this attempt I am met by a particular difficulty. My principal object is to ask whether minds do not fall into their appropriate place in the scale of empirical existence, and to establish that they do. It would be most convincing if minds were first mentioned in their place at the end of the scale. But this procedure would compel me to use conceptions which would remain difficult until their application to minds was reached. Moreover, the nature of mind and its relation to body is a simpler problem in itself than the relation of lower qualities of existence to their inferior basis ; and for myself it has afforded the clue to the interpretation of the lower levels of existence.

I shall therefore adopt a method of exposition (not of demonstration) which partakes of compromise, and shall preface the inquiry with two problems as to mind, the solution of which can be used as a clue and a means of simplification. The one problem is the relation of mind to the living organism with which, or with a part of which, it is correlated. The other is the relation of minds to one another. I shall then be able to state a hypothesis as to Space-Time and the kinds of empirical existence,—matter, life, mind, to name the most obvious distinctions, —which arise within the one Space-Time.

Identity of mental with its neural process.

Mind is at once the case which most urgently forces on our attention the problem of quality and at the same time offers the readiest means for its solution. For our mind is experienced by us as a set of connected processes which have the character of being mental, possessing “the quality of mentality,” or as I shall most frequently say, the character of consciousness. Whether there is any department of mind, which, remaining mind, may be said to be unconscious, and in what sense this is true, is a question I shall defer for the present. Any one who wishes can substitute for the quality of consciousness the quality of being mind, and can, if he pleases, continue to think of mentality as something less specified than consciousness. A mind, then, is for immediate experience a thing or organisation of processes with this distinctive property of being mind, and, however much interrupted it may be, it is normally linked up by memory in its various forms. Under consciousness I include without further ado those vague and indistinct mental processes on the extreme margin of consciousness which are sometimes described as subconscious, such as, in general, the tone of the organic sensations when we are occupied with external events. Such then is mind as we experience it. But we experience also our bodies, and, moreover, in the organic and motor sensations, such as hunger and breathing and the like, we experience our bodies as alive, while they are also experienced by touch and sight, etc., as being physical things of the order of external things. And, as we have seen in a previous chapter, experience leads us on to connect our mental processes with our body, and in particular with our central nervous system, and more specifically still with a certain part of our brain, and to localise our mental processes in the same places and times [1] as certain neural processes. We thus become aware, partly by experience, partly by reflection, that a process with the distinctive quality of mind or consciousness is in the same place and time with a neural process, that is, with a highly differentiated and complex process of our living body. We are forced, therefore, to go beyond the mere correlation of the mental with these neural processes and to identify them. There is but one process which, being of a specific complexity, has the quality of consciousness ; the term complexity being used to include not merely complexity in structure or constitution of the various motions engaged, but also intensity, and above all unimpeded outlet, that is, connection with the other processes or structures with which the process in question is organised. For failure in intensity may mean failure of an otherwise sufficiently complex process to be conscious, and so may any cause which disconnects it from the rest of the neural processes which in their connection give us mind. Correlation is therefore an inadequate and misleading word to describe the relation of the mental to the corresponding neural process, and is only used provisionally so long as the two are separated from one another. In truth, according to our conception, they are not two but one. That which as experienced from the inside or enjoyed is a conscious process, is as experienced from the outside or contemplated a neural one. When we speak of them separately it is that we consider the same process first in respect of the character which allies it with simpler vital processes, and second in respect of the new quality which emerges at this higher stage of vital complexity. It has then to be accepted as an empirical fact that a neural process of a certain level of development possesses the quality of consciousness and is thereby a mental process ; and, alternately, a mental process is also a vital one of a certain order.

Consciousness something new in life.

Now it is not the character of being vital that gives the mental process its individuality, but its new quality of mentality or consciousness. Let us take as examples of vitality such operations as digestion or breathing or secretion. There is no reason that I know for not reckoning with them physiological reflex action or any neural process not attended with consciousness or mind. But while mental process is also neural, it is not merely neural, and therefore also not merely vital. For, that mind should emerge, there is required a constellation of neural or other vital conditions not found in vital actions which are not mental. To use the word which Mill has made familiar, mind requires, as a fact of experience, a collocation of conditions which constitutes something new. What that collocation is, might be very difficult for any one but a physiologist to say, and perhaps not possible completely for him. I take it that in the main what determines the difference of the psychical from the merely physiological process is its locality in the nervous system, implying as this does the special structure of the living nervous elements in that locality. It may still be open for discussion at what level in the brain-structure consciousness is found, whether it may attend processes in some of the higher ganglia or whether it belongs exclusively to the cerebral cortex, or whether, again, it is not different if it belongs to a lower and a higher level in the cortex itself. But assuming that the conception of localisation of mental functions in specific regions of the brain is physiologically correct,[2] we may safely regard locality of the mental process as what chiefly makes it mental as distinct from merely neural, or what distinguishes the different sorts of mental processes from one another. This is, however, a subsidiary matter for our purposes.

What counts is, that without the specific physiological or vital constellation there is no mind. All less complex vital constellations remain purely vital. Thus not all vital processes are mental. There is not, or not necessarily, to each neurosis a corresponding psychosis. The equivalent proposition is, that while all psychoses are neuroses, the psychoses imply the emergence of a new feature, that of mind. It would follow that mental process may be expressible completely in physiological terms but is not merely physiological but also mental. Its resolution into physiological terms may be infinitely difficult, and even if it can be performed it remains that the statement of these conditions only means mental action because we are already acquainted with the fact of their mentality. To put the matter in different terms : suppose we regard the description of mind as a chapter of physiology ; it would still be the physiology of mental action ; we should still be attending to this kind of physiological constellation because it is the basis of mind, and should be directed to it from psychology. Nor, as we shall see later, could any physiological knowledge of the physiological constellation implied in a mental action enable us to predict that it would have the mental quality.

Mental process is therefore something new, a fresh creation, which, despite the possibility of resolving it into physiological terms, means the presence of so specific a physiological constitution as to separate it from simpler vital processes. I do not mean, to take a particular and interesting case, that the foresight of ends as distinguished from mere vital purposiveness, is not also vital. Every idea of an end to be gained, every thought of a universal, or of a combination to be made executive by some invention, I shall assume to be also a physiological process. I mean that such processes though they may be reduced to the class of vital processes are so distinct from the remainder of the class that they hold a privileged position in it. Precisely in the same way the king is a man and belongs to the same class with his subjects. But he is not one of his subjects. Abt Vogler in Browning’s poem declares of the musician “that out of three sounds he frames not a fourth sound but a star.” Out of certain physiological conditions nature has framed a new quality mind, which is therefore not itself physiological though it lives and moves and has its being in physiological conditions. Hence it is that there can be and is an independent science of psychology, and that the translation of mental processes into their physiological counterparts follows the lead of the more primary description of mind. Mind is thus at once new and old. No physiological constellation explains for us why it should be mind. But at the same time, being thus new, mind is through its physiological character continuous with the neural processes which are not mental. It is not something distinct and broken off from them, but it has its roots or foundations in all the rest of the nervous system. It is in this sense that mind and mental process are vital but not merely vital.

Consciousness not an epiphenomenon

Hence it follows that we are entitled summarily to dismiss the conception that mind is but an inert accompaniment of neural process, a kind of aura which surrounds that process but plays no effective part of its own : the doctrine that mind is an epiphenomenon of nervous process, which nervous process would continue to work equally well if mind were absent. The doctrine is not simply to be rejected because it supposes something to exist in nature which has nothing to do, no purpose to serve, a species of noblesse which depends on the work of its inferiors, but is kept for show and might as well, and undoubtedly would in time be abolished. It is to be rejected because it is false to empirical facts. The mental state is the epiphenomenon of the neural process. But of what neural process ? Of its own neural process. But that process possesses the mental character, and there is no evidence to show that it would possess its specific neural character if it were not also mental. On the contrary, we find that neural processes which are not mental are not of the same neural order as those which are. A neural process does not cease to be mental and remain in all respects the same neural process as before. Even if it remains in the same place, its connection with the rest of the brain is in some way disturbed, and it cannot proceed freely on its course. The neural process which carries thought becomes changed into a different one when it ceases to carry thought. All the available evidence of fact leads to the conclusion that the mental element is essential to the neural process which it is said to accompany by way of embellishment, and is not accidental to it, nor it in turn indifferent to the mental feature. Epiphenomenalism is a mere fallacy of observation.[3]

No parallelism of neural and mental processes.

It is otherwise with the other well-known doctrines of the relation of body and mind. The statement which has been given above is by no means new in principle nor for that matter in its particular form. It is a species of the identity doctrine of mind and body, maintaining that there are not two processes, one neural, the other mental, but one. We shall do well to deal shortly with these other doctrines, not in order to treat the subject with thoroughness but to defend it sufficiently for our objects against the rival conceptions, or at least to exhibit the contrast between it and these conceptions.

The mental process and its neural process are one and the same existence, not two existences. As mental, it is in my language enjoyed by the experient ; as neural it is contemplated by an outsider or may be contemplated in thought by the experient himself. There can therefore be no parallelism between the series of mental and the series of neural or physiological events, such as is postulated by the strict theory of so-called psychophysical parallelism. That theory was devised to give expression to the complete disparity of the merely physiological and the mental, and the reason for it disappears so soon as it is recognised that what corresponds to the mental is not merely physiological but the bearer of a new quality. It solved or evaded the problem by regarding the mental series as entirely independent of the neural and yet in precise correspondence therewith. The difficulties of establishing such precise correspondence in detail may be neglected here, and they are probably not insuperable. But it is evident (as Mr. ‘Ward convincingly pointed out [4]) that an exact correspondence of two completely disconnected series, which do not influence each other, is no more than a restatement of the problem. The only solution it offers is that the problem must be left unsolved. It could therefore at most be accepted for psychological purposes as a compendious statement of the fact that every psychosis has its corresponding neurosis. There still remains the metaphysical question whether the mind whose processes are mental is not a being which interacts with the brain, or whether, as I have urged, the mind is not itself identical with the totality of certain neural processes as they are enjoyed.

But even as a psychological convenience, the theory is without justification and superfluous, and moreover false in what it suggests. Psychology is concerned with a parallelism between the mental series and another series of a different order, the series of physical objects of which the mental processes are aware. One of the drawbacks of the order of exposition I am adopting is that I must take for granted what will only be fully clear hereafter (though it has been formulated provisionally in the Introduction), that the object of the mind in any mental process is something non-mental, which is contemplated, while the mental process is enjoyed. To each non-mental object (and there is no mental process which is without its non-mental object, even if it be only a sensum which is the object of sensing, even if it be only the internal condition of the percipient’s body as in organic sensation) there corresponds a mental process which has the quality of conscious awareness. As the object varies, so does the neural process or the mental process vary. But there is no parallelism of the neural and the mental series of which psychology should take account. They are one. Psychology considers the series from the point of view of the experient or enjoyer ; physiology from the point of view of the onlooker, or, if of the experient himself, not in his character of experiencing the mental process but of reflecting on its basis in neural process.

I can only account for the admission of a metaphysical miracle as a convenient psychological fiction by supposing that mental processes were believed to have not merely the quality of consciousness, but other qualities disguised under the name of “content” which varied with the object. If the sensory object blue or the image of a table is in some way contained in the apprehension of it, doubtless there is an unbridged chasm between the neural process which clearly has no such content’ and the mental process which has. No one has indeed imagined that a mental process was itself blue or tabular. Yet these processes are supposed to be qualified correspondingly, or at least to have before them presentations or ideas which are not themselves merely external or a selection from what is external. The lingering tradition of representationism provides a mental process (hence called a mental state) with a mental object. But once we recognise that mental processes have no character, beyond the quality of being mental, other than such as all processes present, intensity or locality or velocity and the like, that is to say, empirical forms of categorial characters, all reason is removed for supposing the mental process to be a different existent from the neural one. That neural process differs with every difference in the object which stimulates it to activity, or upon which it is directed. The neurosis of green occurs for instance in a different place from that of sweet. The neuroses all possess the vital quality but are different configurations of categorial characters. In like manner the psychoses present, corresponding to the qualities of the object, differences in the process-features of the psychosis ; but there is nothing to indicate the difference of quality of the object but these process-features. The separation of the mental process from the neural one is therefore superfluous, for it is the same process-features which are in the one case enjoyed and in the other contemplated. Ultimately this separation depends upon failing to recognise the distinctness of the mental process from its non-mental object. It is therefore not only superfluous but founded in error.

Causality between mind and brain

If we do not regard the mind as the connected totality of its mental processes and therefore identical with the totality of the physiological processes of which they are the presence in enjoyment, the only alternative is some form of animism ; which conceives the mind as an independent entity which acts upon, or is acted upon by, the brain, or operates through it as the instrument of mind. On our view it still remains true that mind and brain interact if the phrase is properly interpreted. Just as we continue to speak of sunrise and sunset, though it is the earth that revolves, so we may continue to say under a certain proviso that the mind, as in an act of will, acts upon the brain directly and produces indirectly movements of the limbs ; or that a stimulus excites the mind through the brain and sets going a train of thought. The proviso under which such language is permissible is that no brain process shall be understood to cause its corresponding mental process and no mental process its corresponding brain process. Let large letters denote the psychical and small ones the neural series. What we have then in fact is a series, Aa, Bb, Cc, etc., where some of the small letters may have no corresponding large letter at all. Now A does not cause a but is identical with it ; but A being also a may cause the next member of the series b, and if b is equivalent to B, A causes also B. Strictly speaking, the effect of A is B and of a, b. But in so far as A does not exist without a, A also causes b. And where some of the steps in the causal chain as in willing are purely neural, A causes them because it is itself a neural process a. In like manner no sensory neural process a causes the corresponding sensing A, for it actually is that process ; but in so far as it is identical with A it may be said to cause the next psychical event B. In this way we may legitimately say that my determination to strike a man causes the blow of my fist ; or that a piece of yellow makes me think of an orange tree in a garden on the Palatine Hill. Just because mind is also vital it can act on my body, and because some neural results of stimulation are also mental, my brain may act upon my mind. There is therefore causality between the members of the mental series and between those of the physical series, and because of the identity of the mental with its physical correspondent there is causality in the sense defined between members of the two series.


Needless to say, it is not such interaction of mind with brain which is implied in the notion of animism. The mind is there distinct from the neural series. But the reasons which have been thought more recently to compel the adoption of animism have, more particularly in the impressive statement of Mr. McDougall,[5] been coloured by antagonism to the notion of psychophysical parallelism. The argument has also assumed, or seemed to assume, the alternative to animism to be the so-called associationist conception of mind, according to which mind consists of a number of separate events corresponding to separate objects linked together by associative connections. There are sensations or ideas grouped together into wholes by contiguity or similarity. To this correspond on the neural side certain central excitements which are connected by association-fibres. This crude psychology, obsolescent in this country since the article “Psychology” of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, may fairly be regarded now as obsolete. Mental processes are not grouped into wholes by association but are distinguishable processes within a mental continuum. The agglutinative conception of mind is replaced by the organic one. Mind has its structure and constitution as an animal body has. Moreover, as we have seen, the life of mind is essentially one of transition, and substantive processes of mind like perceptions or images are but the more stable processes corresponding to things in the object world which stand out in the stream, while the transitive ones are the vaguer, but still definite processes, which correspond to the relations among the objects. Now, when the notion of psychophysical parallelism is rejected in its natural form and the assumptions of associationism are dismissed, the arguments in favour of animism lose half their persuasiveness. It will be as well to substantiate this proposition by indicating the considerations which on our hypothesis of identity modify these arguments. I am able to be shorter on this subject because much of what I have to say has been already said by Mr. Lloyd Morgan in the concluding chapter of his work on Instinct and Experience.[6]

The argument is that mind has certain specific characters to which there is or even can be no neural counterpart. It is not enough to say that there is no mechanical counterpart, for the neural structure is not mechanical but physiological and has life. Mind is, according to our interpretation of the facts, an “emergent”[7] from life, and life an emergent from a lower physico-chemical level of existence. It may well be that, as some think, life itself implies some independent entity and is indeed only mind in a lower form. But this is a different question, which does not concern us yet. If life is mind, and is a nonphysical entity, arguments derived from the conscious features of mind are at best only corroborative, and it is an inconvenience in these discussions that the two sets of arguments are sometimes combined. Accordingly I may neglect such considerations as the selectiveness of mind which it shares with all vital structures. These considerations really obscure the issue. For even if life is an entity of a different order from existences on the purely physical level, it would still be a question whether mind is not so distinct from life as to claim to be a yet higher order of existence. Let us then confine ourselves at present to mind in its character of a conscious being. The important question is whether it must be conceived as discontinuous with the neural structure or (it the phrase be preferred) the neural mechanism.

(i) The argument from meaning.

“Meaning,” it is said, has no neural counterpart, but the use of meaning is the very life-blood of mind. Now it is important here to distinguish two senses of meaning, because the argument for animism has been used by different writers in the two senses. I may mean in the first place an object, as when I point with my finger to a person and say, I mean you. Meaning here signifies reference to an object, and in this sense every conscious process means or refers to an object other than the mental process itself. All mental action implies the relation of a subject to an object ; and it makes no difference whether the object is a perceived one present to the senses ; or an ideal one like a purpose consciously entertained, such as going to London as entertained in idea or in thought ; or even an imaginary object such as √-1. What neural (or as it is sometimes irrelevantly asked what mechanical) equivalent can there be for this unique relation ? This sense of meaning corresponds to what the logicians call the meaning of a word in extension. On the other hand, meaning may signify what the logician calls intension ; a word is used with a meaning ; a flower may mean for me a person who is fond of it ; “there’s pansies, that’s for thoughts” ; and in general our minds may have a sensory object before them, but what we mean by it is a thought which has no sensory embodiment. In the words, “when I say religion, I mean the religion of the Church of England as by law established,” these two senses of the word meaning seem to be combined, but on the whole it is mainly in the second sense that the word is used.

Now meaning in extension raises a quite different problem from meaning in intension ; and that problem is not the question of the relation of mind to its alleged neural basis. It is the question whether the relation of the conscious subject to an object which transcends it is unique, or whether it is not, as I shall maintain, found wherever two finites are compresent with each other. It is the problem of what is involved in the knowledge of what is not-mental. To be conscious of an object, to mean it, or to refer to it, may turn out in the end to he nothing but the fact that, to take a particular case, a table excites in my mind a conscious process of perceiving it. Accordingly in this sense of meaning, meaning does not belong here but to a later stage of our inquiry. Nor do I think that it would have seemed relevant were not the neural structure taken as alleged to be mechanical. For if it is a vital structure there is surely nothing very farfetched in thinking that the stomata of leaves mean something beyond themselves, the air, to which they are adapted. I may then neglect meaning in the extensive sense for the present….

The other sense of meaning is undoubtedly relevant, and it offers real difficulty. For meaning is a conscious condition of mind. When I use a word, the meaning is in my mind (and of course besides this refers to something not in my mind). What then is meaning ? Any part of a complex whole means for me the rest of the complex. A word, for instance, has been intimately connected with the characters of the things it names, and it means those characters. That is what it is to use a word with a meaning. My perception of the word means my thought of what the word stands for. The sight of the orange means for me the feel of it ; the sight of the marble means its coldness. The knight on the chess-board means the moves which I may make with that piece. The symbol √-1 means its mathematical interpretation. Now what is there in meaning so described which prevents us from believing that the conscious meaning corresponds to or, as I should say, is identical with a certain neural process ? Doubtless if we imagine that our mind is made up of sensations connected together by mere indifferent lines of association, the solution is impossible. But if mental life is mental processes arranged in various complicated patterns, why should not a word set going in my brain, and also in my mind, that pattern of process which we call the meaning ? I have answered the question in anticipation when I pointed to the existence of imageless thought, customs of mind which may also be customs in the neural structure, not mere neural statical dispositions, but those neural exercises of a habit which are identical with the consciousness of a thought without its necessary embodiment in sense. When the exercise of the habit is more specific and detailed we may have the meaning turn into an illustration or concrete embodiment of the meaning, as when the word horse not only makes me think of horse but of the particular foal whose affection I attach to myself in the country by the offer of sugar. And when the marble looks cold the very essence of the condition of my mind is that the sight process is qualified by the ideal touch process, and the transition from the one to the other is in my mind. Even bare association of the orange with Sicily is more than the fact that I think of Sicily when I see an orange. Orange and Sicily are woven into a complex, of comparatively loose texture indeed as compared with the relation of cold to white in the marble, but still a texture in which the transition from the orange to Sicily is felt as a transition, and not as a mere juxtaposition. When I use a word like ‘government,’ a whole complicated neuro-psychical pattern is set going in my mind and brain, which is transitive and elusive, but none the less conscious, and only called transitive because it is wanting in definite detail. I may go on to fill out this transitive outline with the pictures of the coalition ministry. But it is still the elusive complex which stands out as the main occupation of my mind. The figures of the ministers are the fringes of it, not it the fringe of them. Thus mental connections to which correspond neural connections are as much conscious as what they connect, and meaning remains a unitary whole, while it still possesses its neural counterpart.

If meaning is thus neural as well as mental, it follows that a very slight change in an object, or stimulus, may produce an overwhelming difference in the mental response if that change is charged with meaning. The famous telegram argument for animism loses therefore all its force. A telegram “our son is dead” may find the recipient sympathetic but calm. Alter the word ‘our’ to ‘your’, a trifling change in the stimulus, and the recipient may be overcome with grief. On the other hand, change all the words into French, a large change in the stimulus, and the effect on the recipient is the same as when the telegram was in English. The facts present no difficulty in view of the constitution of the recipient’s mind. The little change of a letter makes an enormous change in the meaning of the telegram. But the words mean the same in French as in English. No conclusion in favour of a mind independent of the neural process can be drawn unless we are prepared to say that a spark should physically produce the same effect when it falls on a sheet of iron as when it falls upon a mass of gunpowder, or that a red ball will not cause the same bruise when it hits my body as if it were painted white.

(ii) The argument from fusion

Very different and far weightier are the considerations drawn from the phenomena of so-called fusion, that is to say where two stimuli which would singly produce their corresponding sensations produce, when acting together, a sensation different from either. It is thought that where this occurs there must somewhere in the neural mechanism be compounding of the physical effects : that there can be no compounding of mental states.[8] But in some cases at any rate there is said to be no such physical arrangement forthcoming. The subject is a technical one, and I cannot hope, nor am I fully able, to discuss it as it deserves. I desire only to remove a prejudice. It will be best to take a single case, that of so-called binocular fusion. Let the two eyes look at a disc or spot of light, the one eye through a blue the other through a red glass. Sometimes we see a disc of purple, but sometimes we see alternately either blue alone or red alone, in virtue of retinal competition. The possibility of this competition is taken to mean that the two stimuli are conveyed to different places in the brain and do not compound their effects physically. And yet in spite of this we can see purple on occasion. There is thus an action of the mind in the sensation of purple which has no correspondent in the brain. There is unity in the consciousness without unity in the cerebral neural structure which carries the separate sensations. Many other such facts are described by Mr. McDougall in his chapter on the unity of consciousness, in particular those of ‘binocular flicker.'[9] Mr. Sherrington sums up his account of his experiments on this subject in the striking sentence : ” Pure conjunction in time without necessarily cerebral conjunction in space lies at the root of the solution of the problem of the unity of mind.” [10]

Now I confess that if a mental state is also neural in the sense I have assumed, it is difficult to understand how the mental states corresponding to the two stimuli can affect each other if there is not physical connection between them somewhere. But in the first place inhibition between them, as in competition, seems to require some communication between the neural processes which the stimuli set up. In the next place, though there may be no connection between the sensory centres of the two eyes yet the efferent process from each eye is determined from both, as is indicated by the motor reactions of the two eyes.[11] Mr. McDougall adds that the sensations are localised in the same external place and connects the “identical motor tendencies” of corresponding points with Lotze’s doctrine that “local signature of the visual sensation is bound up with, or is a function of, the motor tendency excited by stimulation of that point.”[12] Whatever value may attach to Lotze’s doctrine, it is at any rate of the greatest importance to note that the sensations in question belong to ( ‘are referred to ‘ or ‘projected to,’ are the ordinary, very questionable, phrases) the same external place. Now as long as there is physical connection somewhere, it is not necessary that the connection should be sensory or cerebral and be a conscious one as it is in the associative connections which were mentioned above. The significance of this will be apparent presently when we come to speak of the unity of consciousness.

Even then, it will be asked, how in the absence of composition of the two processes can there be a fusion of the two colours into a new colour purple ? Must this not at least be attributed to the mind apart from its cerebral instrument ? The question seems to presume the same misconception (or at least the same contradiction of my conception) which, as I have suggested, leads to the notion of a complete separation, of mere parallelism, of the psychical and the neural series. The assumption seems to be that the two mental processes, sensing blue and red, have blue and red for their content’ or are qualified by those colours ; and in that case it is impossible to understand how the mental sensation of purple with its different content could arise in the absence of some new neural process resulting from the separate neural processes of blue and red. No wonder the fusion is then attributed to the mind itself. But if mental process is without quality or content save the quality of consciousness and corresponds to its object blue, or red, or what not, in virtue of its locality or the other spatio-temporal characters mentioned before, a different answer is possible and intelligible without difficulty.

Granted the union somewhere of the neural processes of blue and red, even if the union be only at a common efferent path, we should say that these neural arrangements were the neural arrangements, carrying consciousness, which are correlated with the object purple, and that under these circumstances we were conscious of purple. There is no common sensory centre, let us admit, for the different excitements of the corresponding points in the two eyes. This is the arrangement, neural or mental, for seeing purple, when the purple is seen by both eyes in the same place.[13] There is another neural arrangement, in that case, for seeing purple when both red and blue stimulate the one eye alone. Yet there is no occasion to postulate an interfering soul. The alternatives are not between having a common centre for the two eyes, and assuming something which combines the two sensations into a different one. Both alternatives presuppose subtly that the quality of sensations belongs to the mind and a different one if not produced by external action in a brain centre must be manufactured by the mind. But there is a third alternative.[14] If we distinguish the sensing from the sensum, and hold that the sensum is in the external thing, then all our business is to note the difference in the neural machinery of response (carrying with it the quality not of the sensum but of consciousness) in the binocular instance. The brain centres being through the binocular arrangement affected neurally in the manner appropriate to purple, the mind sees purple. The ” specific synergy,” to use a phrase of Prof. C. Stumpf, is supplied neurally, though not by direct sensory connection, and the mind sees the object to which that specific synergy is the appropriately corresponding neural arrangement. What would need explanation is not so much why the mind sees purple under such conditions, but rather why under certain other conditions it sees only either one or other of the component colours. From this point of view there seems to me to be, in a sense not perhaps the same as his, a profound importance in the sentence I have quoted from Mr. Sherrington above. Two simultaneous processes in the mind, not necessarily connected at the conscious level, may form a single act of consciousness with an object different from that of either of the two mental processes taken singly.

The case of binocular flicker is a different one from the seeing of purple. The physical object is an intermittent illumination. The question is when the mind fails to detect the intermittence ; and it appears that in general the result is the same whether the stimulation is binocular or monocular. From Mr. Sherrington’s experiments it appears that there is a difference when the rate of intermittence is different in the two sets of stimulations ; but here the objective difference of the sensa affects the sensibility for detection of intermittence. In these experiments also the sensations belong to the same place, and this is intimately connected with the common issue of the reaction from the visual centres.

Unity of consciousness

This leads us directly to the problem of the unity of consciousness: how there can be such unity if the neural counterparts of the mental processes are not, as it is fairly clear is not always the case, united by connecting processes at the level of consciousness. This is one of two problems upon which our statement of the facts may perhaps throw light. The other problem is that of rupture of the unity of consciousness in spite of the existence of neural paths at the conscious level. If, as I have suggested, mental process is also neural there is no discontinuity (I mean disconnection) between those neural processes and processes occurring at lower levels of the nervous system or even of the organism taken as a whole. A conscious neural process may consequently be replaced (I purposely use a vague word to cover all cases) by a lower neural process which is not attended by consciousness. Nor is it enough to urge that possibly there may be discontinuity in the neural structure itself, for at the bottom of this neural structure there lies, as at the bottom of all finite existences, the indefeasible continuity of its space-time ; and the problem is but deferred to an earlier stage in the history of things.

Let us consider first the unity of consciousness. The case of fusion just discussed is enough to show that there may be unity of mind though the component processes are not connected at the conscious level. A still more obvious case is the unity of two experiences which do not fuse and are entirely disparate, such as a vision of trees and the touch of the chair on which I sit. These are disconnected experiences, but they are felt to belong to the one mind. Yet their nervous counterparts, though united by no definite neural connection at the conscious level, so long as they are not noticed to occur together, are part of one neural structure and are physically not disconnected at some level or other. Though these are united in time they are also connected somewhere in the neural space. Similarly there are gaps in time as that of dreamless sleep, where there is no consciousness in the ordinary interpretation of that word,[15] but where through some form of memory the interrupted history of our minds is united across the void. Our memory does not fill up this void but unites, to borrow the phrase once more, the broken edges of our mental life on the two sides of the gap. Thus the problem of mental unity assumes a different character. It is not how there can be mental unity without complete physical unification by lines of conscious connection, but how there can be unity in enjoyment when enjoyments are discontinuous though the neural structure as a whole is continuous. There is enough and to spare somewhere in the neural structure, to provide for everything in the mental life. The puzzle arises from the fact that while all psychoses are neuroses not all neuroses are psychoses. Hume, as I have so often pointed out, used the fact that the intermediate stages of a volition are not conscious but purely neural to controvert the notion that causality is a mental experience. We have, in other words, to account not so much for the apparent absence of neural connections as for the presence of mental unity though there are neural connections, but not direct mental ones. The fact of mental unity is beyond dispute. Our minds are normally unitary, and no matter how disconnected our experiences may be they are not experienced as merely juxtaposed to make a unity, but as differentiations of that unity. This is the initial and central fact of our mental life expressed by the somewhat loose phrase that the mind is sensibly or to experience continuous.

Now it is just because the neural structure is (at least relatively) continuous, so that all its parts are physically connected, that there can be unity between divided processes of consciousness, so as to make them belong to one mind. In other words, because conscious processes are parts of a larger whole which is not all of it conscious, in spite of the absence of conscious connections there is still connection.[16] This would be sufficient for our purposes, for it turns the flank of the contrary plea that for want of evidence of conscious connection we must assume an independent mind. Still the problem remains of how to understand the fact of experienced mental unity. Unity of substance, we have seen, means belonging to one contour of space-time. The unity of mind should be the unity of one enjoyed space-time. Yet though the mind is aware of its past stages as connected with the present ones, and though at any moment its various experiences belong to the one enjoyed space of the mind, there are gaps in time and gaps in space as it enjoys them, and we know, moreover, that there are such gaps. There are not gaps, as we have seen, in the physical basis taken as part of a larger neural structure. How then are we aware of these gaps in our enjoyment, and so enjoy our mental unity ?

The answer cannot be given till we come to learn how Space and Time themselves are apprehended. Various experiences palliate the difficulty but do not remove it. Sometimes we can by memory fill up the intervening time, going over the events between now and an hour ago. We cannot always do so, and never for the interval filled by dreamless sleep. Nor if we could, would the intervals of our memories be completely filled. From the reports of others we learn (as Leibniz observes) that we have continued to exist in sleep and can think of ourselves as existing in the interval, because we in turn have observed others to live in sleep, while from their reports they have not been conscious of the interval. Such experiences supplement but do not provide the direct consciousness we have of a mental unity containing gaps which we enjoy, though these gaps in our mental space and time are unfilled by mental events. In the external world two events of different date and place are observed as connected by a stretch of time or space however much foreshortened. These conditions are not presented in enjoyment. We must leave the problem for the present at this point, to resume it later.[17] It is enough to have shown what it really is, and that it offers no support to animism but rather, however difficult of solution, it in fact admits no solution at all unless mind is identical with some physical counterpart and is connected by some physical connections which need not necessarily be themselves mental ones, carrying the mental quality.

Divided consciousness and the unconscious.

The second of these problems, that of divided consciousness and of the unconscious, presents great difficulties to the psychologist and requires expert knowledge of special cases for adequate discussion. All that I can hope to do here, or need to do, is to indicate on what lines a solution might be sought in accordance with the view of identity between the conscious process and its neural correlate ; with the additional principle that such neural counterparts of mental processes are parts of a larger neural structure. The question of divided personality is more manageable than that of the unconscious. Whether the personalities alternate or coexist, it would seem that the normal personality, that is the total consciousness, is dissociated ‘ ; and it is not difficult to suppose that normal lines of connection between processes which are normally continuous, are for some reason barred or broken. In this way groups of mental processes with their neural basis are formed which have no complete connection with one another ; though they may and do in certain cases overlap, each for instance using the common speech apparatus. They are comparable to those systematised groups of mental processes which constitute interests, when in persons of normal condition these interests are exercised almost in independence of each other, the week-day mind and the Sunday mind which in many persons seem to have so little to do with each other. Suppose the separation of these interests to become absolute ; each interest would then constitute a separate personality of a limited kind. So in the body politic there are groups which almost ignore each other, and have different standards of feeling and conduct. Such separate personalities are called by a happy term ‘co-conscious’, for in their case there is no good evidence to doubt that the split-off group really possesses a consciousness of its own, and the one person may treat the other very much as one normal person treats another with whom he has no such bodily alliance. That these co-conscious personalities mean the blocking of normal physical paths of communication (generally no doubt at the conscious level, as where there is actual loss of memory for tracts of a life), but possibly also at lower levels, is indicated by the process of restoration, where that occurs, of the original unity. Such restoration may assume a much more consciously deliberate shape than it probably possesses. Thus in the famous case of Miss Beauchamp and her demon Sally,[18] the ingenious physician persuades the demon to abdicate in favour of the rightful possessor of the body. This act of resignation on the part of the demon, who is by no means a good demon, but selfish and somewhat malignant, probably is only a pictorial representation of the fact that the blocked lines of association belonging to the original personality are becoming permeable once more.[19]

Now where the original unity breaks up into two persons, A and B, and where A, as sometimes occurs, does not happen to be aware of B as a foreign person, A is unconscious of B, but inquiry shows that B is itself a consciousness. A’s unconscious turns out to possess a consciousness of its own. But it by no means follows that we may extend this precedent and assume, where-ever what is unconscious can under certain conditions emerge into consciousness, that therefore the unconscious condition was all the while mental. We are here dealing not necessarily with pathological minds, but with the commonest facts of the normal mind. Thus incidents completely forgotten may at some time swim into memory, but must we assume that these processes were all the while preserved, not indeed as conscious but as an unconscious department of the mental? Dreams, as is now well known, may be an expression of tendencies in the dreamer’s mind which cannot be expressed overtly, but which subsequent analysis of the person’s mind shows to have been there somehow preserved and seeking expression in the person. Evidence of this sort has become so abundant and has been marshalled with so much skill by Dr. Freud that to many it would seem natural to disregard the scientific scruples of those who in the face of such facts still question whether a truly unconscious state is ever mental, is ever, that is to say, more than a neural condition which may under appropriate circumstances lead to a conscious condition, and because this is so, may justly be called psycho-physical without being psychical. The other view leads to the conception of a larger mind of which the conscious mental states are but the appearance, somewhat in the fashion of a thing-in-itself, embodied no doubt in the neural structure, out of whose mysterious depths mental conditions emerge into the light of day. One may be very sensible of the enormous value for pure psychology (for I am not concerned with the therapeutic side of the matter) of Dr. Freud’s discoveries without necessarily pledging oneself to belief in the existence of an unconscious mind.[20]

On the contrary, with the identity interpretation of the relation of mind and neurosis, a mental process may leave its traces in a neural form which is purely physiological. A memory may remain latent as a physiological trace or disposition, awaiting the touch of an appropriate stimulation to take on the full vividness and complexity of a conscious memory. At what level an experience is preserved it may not be easy to say. Possibly at the highest level ; but possibly also a conscious process may be registered in a lower level of the vital structure which subserves the mind. On the view that mental processes are also vital and therefore connected with the rest of the vital nervous structure, this proposition presents no difficulty. Thus we may have neural dispositions at lower levels than the conscious level, which may at any time be completed neurally and so call into play the action of the higher level. They would thus form a permanent undercurrent of the mental life, but would remain purely physiological till called upon to enter into the psychical neural constellation. For this reason they may be termed psycho-physical to indicate their essential continuity with what is psychical, but there is some risk that the expression may be misunderstood to imply the presence of a psychical factor. I prefer to speak of physiological dispositions, which are in themselves not psychical but may emerge into consciousness. Thus it would seem better to distinguish what are strictly mental dispositions, that is conscious plans, from dispositions secondarily acquired, automatic habits, which may remain entirely below the level of consciousness. With this explanation we can understand how a mental, that is a neural process at a certain level, may either become so lacking in intensity or so much disconnected with other processes as no longer to carry with it consciousness or may be replaced by and registered in a subjacent part of the structure ; and at the same time how owing to their continuity with the mental level such purely physiological conditions affect the course of the mental life and on occasion enter into it. Just so, at an even extremer remove from the mental life, the state of the nutrition, though it may not be psychically perceptible, may affect the working of the mind. Instead then of the mythological or at least hypothetical larger mind of which the conscious mind is only a part or an appearance, we should have a very palpable and unhypothetical neural system (itself a part of the whole organism) of which the workings of a particular part correspond to and in fact are consciousness, and any part of which may affect consciousness or may register the traces of past experiences.

Hence, to take an instance or two from a field whose details are matter for the specialist, it does not follow that because analysis after the event discloses the presence of a feeling in a dreamer’s mind which disguised itself in the ” manifest content ” of the dream, that that feeling was present in a mental form. The physiological tendency may have been enough, for example the stirring of some organic process contained within an emotional condition. In psycho-analysis the inhibition is removed which prevented the tendency from coming to the surface in its natural form. It may well happen that ideas, for instance of decorum, set going by the physiological stirring of a tendency reputed immodest, may give a different turn to the tendency. From this point of view the machinery of the “censorship” exercised over the unconscious wish may be only a mythological or pictorial way of representing something very real which is going on in some part of the neural structure, but does not imply that all of it is mental. In the same way in negative hallucinations where a patient is told not to see cards with odd numbers of. pips, though it is evident he must distinguish odd cards from even ones in order to notice only the even ones, it does not follow that he sees the card with odd pips and then suppresses the perception ; the visual stimulus may be suppressed or inhibited by his instructions before it reaches the mental level of development.

It is by no means asserted that, where there is unconsciousness  which can be seen to be conscious under certain conditions, it is really purely physiological. On the contrary, it may be co-conscious. I am only pleading that we must choose between the conscious (which includes subconsciousness in the sense that word sometimes and perhaps most conveniently bears of what is in consciousness but indistinctly separable from the mass of mental experience) and what is not mental at all but purely physiological though it remains continuous with the mental and may affect the mental. The truly unconscious is not mental at all, though continuous with it ; if it is mental it is co-conscious. It is only for the expert to say when there is co-consciousness and when there is not. Accordingly, on the statement here adopted I find myself in agreement with a passage of Dr. Morton Prince,[21] which I will conclude this subject by quoting: “We can say at once that considering the complexity and multiformity of psycho-physiological phenomena, there would seem to be no a priori reason why all subconscious phenomena must be the same in respect of being either co-conscious or unconscious ; some may be the one and some the other. It is plainly a matter of interpretation of the facts and there still exists some difference of opinion.” By unconscious processes the writer means processes which are wholly unconscious, that is, are purely physiological.


Acquired not by analogy, but by direct experience

Another topic which I discuss here, out of its proper place, but for convenience in exposition, is how we come to recognise each other as conscious subjects. In a previous chapter I was at pains to show that our belief in -the intimate connection of mind with brain was founded on direct experience ; though that experience was helped out by reflection, as all our experience is; the issue of such reflection upon experienced data, some of them enjoyed, some contemplated, has been to identify the mental process with a certain constellation of physiological processes. I shall now try to indicate what the experience is on the strength of which we believe in other minds than our own. For without some direct experience of other minds such recognition does not occur. The existence of other minds is commonly regarded as an inference by analogy from the outward behaviour of other persons’ bodies. Their gestures, actions, and speech in various circumstances resemble our own in those circumstances, and we regard them, it is said, as proceeding from a consciousness like our own. Now it is true that when we already have the notion of other minds, we interpret outward behaviour on the analogy of our own experience, and can thus sympathetically enter into their minds in all manners of refined and subtle interpretation. But in the first place the doctrine in question cannot apply from the nature of the case to unreflective animals, such as dogs, who certainly appear in some of their behaviour to recognise other dogs as of the same kind as themselves.

And in the next place it is flatly at variance with the history of our minds. It implies that we begin with a knowledge of ourselves and construe foreign selves in that likeness. Now it is almost a commonplace that the reverse is rather the case, that our reflective consciousness of ourselves arises in and through our consciousness of others. We are led, not of course to the enjoyment of ourselves but to noticing ourselves, through intercourse with others : the knowledge of ourselves and that of others grow up together. Our own individuality stands out for us against a background of other persons. Were we alone in a non -conscious world, we should enjoy ourselves and feel success and disappointment, but we should hardly experience ourselves as individual persons. But what is more important, mere inference by analogy cannot account for our original recognition of other minds. For the idea of a foreign consciousness, unless directly supplied by some experience to that effect, is something to which we have no clue in ourselves. We enjoy our own consciousness and our own consciousness only, and we do not contemplate it, but only our bodies. The idea of a consciousness not our own belonging to the body of some one else would be a sheer invention on our part. How should we invent such a conception of something totally new, if foreign consciousness were not in some manner revealed to us as such ?[22] For it is safe to assert that we never invent in that sense, but only discover, though we may combine the materials we already know in all sorts of new combinations. We have then to search for the experience which assures us not inferentially but directly of other minds.

The experience is of sociality

That experience is a very simple and familiar one, the experience of sociality, and has a double aspect. Our fellow human beings excite in us the social or gregarious instinct, and to feel socially towards another being is to be assured that it is something like ourselves. We do not first apprehend that another being is a mind and then respond to him, whether positively as in affection or negatively as in aversion ; but in our tenderness or dislike we are aware of him as like ourselves. Just as the emotion of fear or the instinct to run away from certain things discovers them to be dangerous, the cognitive apprehension being given to us only in so far as we practise a certain response, so in seeking the company, or avoiding it, of our fellows we are aware of them as like ourselves. But while without the social instinct we should not be led to this apprehension, we do not experience the satisfaction of the instinct of sociality till we have the experience that the creature towards which we act socially reciprocates our action, either by co-operation or rivalry. The emotion of sociality is a double-sided one ; it is a response on our part to the other being, confirmed by a response on his part to us. The double experience is necessary to sociality ; it takes two persons to make friends or two persons to make a quarrel. Without the instinctive response we should seek nothing from the other ; without the co-operation we should not be aware of him in the fullest sense as our fellow.[23]

Instances upon this merely instinctive level are the experiences of parental or filial affection, or sexual love, competition in pursuit of prey, or jealousy. We do not merely feel ourselves performing certain actions towards another but we want him, and in turn we find him playing his part in the joint experience in which we are both concerned. Without this reciprocation, our instinctive action would not have its peculiar flavour. Our social feeling towards him is the divination that he is like ourselves ; his reciprocation confirms it and makes it assurance. Thus we feel tenderly to a child as we should not feel towards a soft warm cushion (the illustration is from W. James). But we do not feel socially towards him, the tenderness has not its distinctive flavour, except for the reciprocation of the child. It is felt more plainly towards an affectionate than towards a cold child, and felt more and differently towards a child than towards a puppy. It may be questioned whether we should feel tenderness to a fly in distress if we had not already acquired tenderness in respect of living creatures which can reciprocate. There is, to take a different example, all the difference between grasping a hand which returns the pressure and grasping an unresponsive piece of flesh in the shape of a hand. It seems to us inhuman and disappoints our expectation of a return, and we wonder whether we are not shaking hands with a fish or a statue. To have the warm human experience we require reciprocation. Again, rivalry for the possession of food is a different experience from appetite for the food; it contains the experience of jealousy or hate. Or again, if the rival is inanimate and cannot participate with us ; when for instance a cigar which I am smoking goes out I may be disappointed, but if it is knocked out of my mouth by a person I am angry. When the dog’s bone rolls away from him he grasps it more firmly ; but if another dog or a man seizes it, he growls. The experience of another man’s trying to get the same thing as yourself is a different experience from mere obstruction or difficulty in obtaining the object, and is the suggestion that he too wants it. It is of course true that when the experience of real rivalry has become familiar the obstructing inanimate agent may also be credited with consciousness ; and the dog may be angry if his bone slips or the man if his cigar goes out, or he may, like Sir Walter Scott, say that a letter which he cannot find has been hidden by the Devil. But he must have experienced rivalry to begin with. Once more, the feeling of love to the opposite sex is not the same when the love is not reciprocated, and accordingly love is different from mere selfish lust though even the mere animal satisfaction implies too complementary action of the other party.[24] A lover may of course feel genuine love when it is not returned, but his expectation or hope is for reciprocation, and his disappointment implies that the person is capable of returning the emotion though he is not the chosen object.

Thus it is because we are social beings and have the social instinct that we become aware of others as like ourselves and the possessors of minds. The animals, like ourselves, are aware of each other as like. But their consciousness of the likeness being without reflection amounts to nothing more than behaving towards each other as if they were what we call alike. Since it is sociality which gives us this assurance, the consciousness of other minds comes to us from our relations to one another and we do not learn so directly from animals that they have minds. Now in this experience that other humans excite our social desires and in turn satisfy them, which gives us the assurance that they also are minds like ourselves, it is not their similarity of behaviour to us which describes the situation into which I and another human enter. Hence the radical mistake of supposing that analogy of behaviour assures us of the existence of other minds. In general the part which the two participants in the social situation play is not the same but different ; the child’s response to the mother is not the same as the mother’s caresses. In some cases, as in struggle for food or fighting for a female, the acts may be in most respects alike.[25] But the likeness of behaviour is not a necessary incident. What is necessary is that the whole situation, of going out on the part of one person, does not exist without participation of both, and consequently the experience of either is incomplete without the response, whether it is by way of help or hindrance, of the other. We become aware in this direct experience of something like ourselves.

The grades of such experience

The primary concerns of life and its appetites, and the simplest occupations of primitive man or the animals supply material for this experience of other minds. Such recognition is in the main instinctive, that is, is upon the instinctive level of life. On the basis of this experience the savage or the child or the animal even, may impute personality or something like it to inanimate things, the doll or stocks and stones or the wind and the sun. This is an act of projection which is perfectly intelligible when the mysterious object, a foreign mind, has been discovered by revelation of it through such experiences as have been described. It is the extension of the notion of a foreign mind to things which behave in some ways like persons or ourselves. But, intelligible as an extension of something already discovered, it is not intelligible as a foundation for the original belief in a foreign mind.

Psychologists have explained for us in detail how our consciousness of others changes, not only in extent but in grade, with our years; how for instance the father is to the child at first hardly more than a vague and unfathomable and arbitrary being, but as the child measures itself against its equals it comes in the end to understand him and to conceive him more precisely as a person like himself. All this too is intelligible as a further incident in the growth of the original fundamental awareness of a mind not our own.

In the reflective growth of the apprehension of the minds of others we are soon beyond those simple situations on the instinctive level with which we have hitherto been dealing. We make ourselves intelligible to one another by speech so that external objects described by one party are brought before the mind of the other. Mutual understanding by speech in reference to objects common to us is the most pervasive experience of reciprocity ; and to this is added the direct description of our own mind to another person. On the speculative side we have co-operation of many minds in the pursuit of knowledge or science. On the practical side we have the combination of wills in conduct, with its judgments of the kinds of action which make common intercourse tolerable and good. Moral judgments and scientific agreement are the highest expressions of the existence of other minds which we experience directly and on this level “acknowledge.”

But although we thus have direct experience of the existence of minds in others, such experience is not knowledge derived either from contemplation of the external or enjoyment of ourselves. We can enjoy only our own mind and not the mind of another. On the other hand we do not contemplate our own mind as if it were an external object, much less the mind of another. Thus I am not aware of B’s mind as I am aware of his body, so that I should be able to inspect it and say what it is. Yet experience assures me that he has a mind. What sort of a mind it is, how the other mind feels in a given situation, I am left to divine sympathetically on the basis largely of analogy with my own. But that a mind is there, is assurance. It is not invented by inference or analogy, but is an act of faith forced on us by a peculiar sort of experience. It is only the details of its nature into which we have to enter symbolically by imagining ourselves in the situation of the other person. It is sufficient for our purposes to have indicated that their existence is revealed to us by experience directly and by what experience it is so revealed.


[1] For the qualifications as to position in Time see vol. i. pp. 130 ff.

[2] Always of course with the proviso alluded to before (Bk. I. ch. iii. vol. i. p. 108), that the localisation of functions in a part of the brain does not mean that only that part of the brain is concerned in subserving the function, but only that it is the part principally so concerned.

[3] Mr. Bosanquet has an admirable sentence (Value and Destiny of the Individual, London, 1913, p. 3) summing up the results of his previous treatment of the subject (Lect. v.) in his preceding volume. ” It seems to me that the fertile point of view lies in taking some neuroses—not all—as only complete in themselves by passing into a degree of psychosis.” See also the rest of the paragraph, which is too long to quote, where it is however taken for granted that the activity of mind is non-spatial.

[4] Naturalism and Agnosticism, Pt. iii. Lect. xi. (vol. ii. 1st ed., London, 1899).

[5] Body and Mind, London, 1911, chs. xix.-xxii.

[6] Instinct and Experience, London, 1912.

[7] I use the word ‘ emergent’ after the example of Mr. Lloyd Morgan. It serves to mark the novelty which mind possesses, while mind still remains equivalent to a certain neural constellation. Consequently, it contrasts with the notion that mind is a mere ‘resultant” of something lower. The word is used by G. H. Lewes (Problems of Life and Mind, vol. ii. p. 422), as Mr. Lloyd Morgan reminds me.

[8] The words of W. James (Psychology, vol. i. p. 158) are ‘self-compounding of mental facts is inadmissible.’

[9] I quote Mr. McDougall’s account of these phenomena or some of them, and his inference from them. “If the retina is stimulated intermittently, the rate of succession of the stimuli may be increased until the subject ceases to perceive any intermittence or flicker of the sensation. This rate of succession is known as flicker-point ; it varies with the intensity of the stimulating light ; but we may take for illustration a case in which flicker-point is reached when the stimulus is repeated twenty times a second. Now if each retina is stimulated intermittently twenty times a second, but in such a way that the stimuli fall alternately on the two retinae, the flicker-point is not changed ; whereas, if the fibres from corresponding points converge to a common centre, flicker-point should be reached when the stimulus falls ten times a second on each retina; for then the centre would still be stimulated twenty times a second” (p. 292). My concern is not with this inference itself but with the further inference to which it leads of the necessity of an intervening soul.

[10] C. S. Sherrington, The Integrative Action of the Nervous System (London, 1911), p. 384.

[11] Sherrington, loc. cit. pp. 384 ff.

[12] W. McDougall, Brain, vol. xxxiii., “On the Relations between Corresponding Points of the Two Retinae”; (p. 380).

[13] There is of course no purple thing present. But neither is there when a disc of red and blue sectors is revolved before the single eye. For the presence of the object when the appropriate nervous arrangement is given, see later, ch. iv. A, p. 85.

[14] This alternative has been suggested in the Introduction, and remains to be justified. (See later, chs. iv. v.)

[15] If there is no really dreamless sleep, and no forgetting, the question disappears.

[16] We have here a particular case of the general question of how a substance may have different affections which are not themselves directly causally connected. Their connection may lie lower down in the intrinsically simultaneous structure of the thing. They appearconsequently to be merely juxtaposed, but they are in the end connected.

[17] (See Bk. II. ch. vi. A, vol. i. pp. 276 ff., and Bk. I. ch. iv. vol. i, 135 ff., on mental juxtaposition.)

[18] Below, ch. vi. pp. 150 f.

[19] Dr. Morton Prince’s famous case, in The Dissociation of a Personality (New York, 1906).

[20] Divided personality then seems to be perfectly explicable on the identity statement. On the other hand, it is difficult to see a reason why, for certain pathological causes, there should be two independent souls controlling parts of one organism, and certainly why in the case of a cure the two souls should become one. How does animism conceive the splitting of a soul or the fusion of two souls ?

[21] See for Mr. Freud’s hypothesis the last chapter of Traumdeutung (Leipzig and Vienna, 5909, ed. 2), esp. p. 380.

[22] The Unconscious (New York, 1914), p. 161.

[23] Compare A. E. Taylor, Elements of Metaphysics (London, 1903), p. 205, for a clear statement of how inadequate the notion of inference by analogy is to account for our having the idea of a foreign self. Bk. III. ch. ii. 3 of his book gives his version of the case. The prior importance of the social instinct was omitted in my account of the matter in Mind, xxii. N.S., 1913, ” Collective willing and truth,” pp. 17 ff., which therefore was open to the objection that the resistance of a table to my pressure was a response to my action. The importance of the other element can be recognised by reflection on the similar problem, which will occupy us later, of how we come to have assurance of the existence of God. There too God stands for something in the Universe which we find responding to our religious sentiment or desire (below, pp. 373 ff.). Mr. Laird (Problems of the Self, London, 1917, p. 25) appears to miss my point when he urges that it is because a human hand behaves differently from a stuffed hand that the doctrine I am contending against explains the difference by another consciousness like our own. The idea of a foreign consciousness would be miraculous if it were not based on a direct experience of it.

[24] Compare as to this the following interesting passage of Shaftesbury, Inquiry concerning Virtue and Merit, Bk. II. pt. 2, p. 128, ed. 1727 : ” The courtesans and even the commonest of women who live by prostitution know very well how necessary it is that every one whom they entertain with their beauty, should believe there are satisfactions reciprocal ; and that pleasures are no less given than received. And were this imagination to be wholly taken away, there would be hardly any of the grosser sort of mankind who would not perceive their remaining pleasure to be of slight estimation.”

[25] The same thing is true in respect of moral judgments. The greater part of our practical action is the same, because the conditions are repeated, but morality recognises that the proper work of each may be different, and it is not identity of conduct which makes morality (the identity is relatively accidental), but the conduct suitable to the position of each person.

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About Z

Z is a 50-something cosmopolitan anarcho-philosopher, and previously was a tenured full professor of philosophy at a public university somewhere in North America, but still managed to escape with his life.