The significance of complementarity beyond the domain of physics has been discussed in greater detail by Atmanspacher, Römer, & Walach (2002). The complementarity principle is closely related to the concepts of entanglement, superposition, noncommutativity, and the stipulated collapse of the wave-function. In fact, “quantum noncommutativity can be regarded as a mathematical expression of the complementarity principle” (Plotnitsky, 2016).

The idea of complementarity already appears in William James (1890a, p. 206) “Principles of Psychology” in the chapter on “the relations of minds to other things”. Later, in 1927, Niels Bohr introduced complementarity as a fundamental concept in quantum mechanics.

Atmanspacher, H., Filk, T., & Römer, H.. (2009). Complementarity in Bistable Perception. In Recasting Reality (pp. 135–150). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-85198-1_7
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William James - 1890 - Principles of psychology - Chapter 8 - The relations of minds to other things

The Relations Of Minds To Other Things.
Since, for psychology, a mind is an object in a world of other objects, its relation to those other objects must next be surveyed. First of all, to its

Minds, as we know them, are temporary existences. Whether my mind had a being prior to the birth of my body, whether it shall have one after the latter’s decease, are questions to be decided by my general philosophy or theology rather than by what we call ‘scientific facts’ – I leave out the facts of so-called spiritualism, as being still in dispute. Psychology, as a natural science, confines itself to the present life, in which every mind appears yoked to a body through which its manifestations appear. In the present world, then, minds precede, succeed, and coexist with each other in the common receptacle of time, and of their collective relations to the latter nothing more can be said. The life of the individual consciousness in time seems, however, to be an interrupted one, so that the question:

Are we ever wholly unconscious?
becomes one which must be discussed. Sleep, fainting, coma, epilepsy, and other ‘unconscious’ conditions are apt to break in upon and occupy large durations of what we nevertheless consider the mental history of a single man. And, the fact of interruption being admitted, is it not possible that it may exist where we do not suspect it, and even perhaps in an incessant and fine-grained form?

This might happen, and yet the subject himself never know it. We often take ether and have operations performed without a suspicion that our consciousness has suf- [p.200] fered a breach. The two ends join each other smoothly over the gap; and only the sight of our wound assures us that we must have been living through a time which for our immediate consciousness was non-existent. Even in sleep this sometimes happens: We think we have had no nap, and it takes the clock to assure us that we are wrong.[1] We thus may live through a real outward time, a time known by the psychologist who studies us, and yet not feel the time, or infer it from any inward sign. The question is, how often does this happen? Is consciousness really discontinuous, incessantly interrupted and recommencing (from the psychologist’s point of view)? and does it only seem continuous to itself by an illusion analogous to that of the zoetrope? Or is it at most times as continuous outwardly as it inwardly seems?

It must be confessed that we can give no rigorous answer to this question. Cartesians, who hold that the essence of the soul is to think, can of course solve it a priori, and explain the appearance of thoughtless intervals either by lapses in our ordinary memory, or by the sinking of consciousness to a minimal state, in which perhaps all that it feels is a bare existence which leaves no particulars behind to be recalled. If, however, one have no doctrine about the soul or its essence, one is free to take the appearances for what they seem to be, and to admit that the mind, as well as the body, may go to sleep.

Locke was the first prominent champion of this latter view, and the pages in which he attacks the Cartesian belief are as spirited as any in his Essay. “Every drowsy nod shakes their doctrine who teach that their soul is always thinking.” He will not believe that men so easily forget. M. Jouffroy and Sir W. Hamilton, attacking the question in the same empirical way, are led to an opposite conclusion. Their reasons, briefly stated, are these:

[p. 201] In somnambulism, natural or induced, there is often a great display of intellectual activity, followed by complete oblivion of all that has passed.[2]

On being suddenly awakened from a sleep, however profound, we always catch ourselves in the middle of a dream. Common dreams are often remembered for a few minutes after waking, and then irretrievably lost.

Frequently, when awake and absent-minded, we are visited by thoughts and images which the next instant we cannot recall.

Our insensibility to habitual noises, etc., whilst awake, proves that we can neglect to attend to that which we nevertheless feel. Similarly in sleep, we grow inured, and sleep soundly in presence of sensations of sound, cold, contact, etc., which at first prevented our complete repose. We have learned to neglect them whilst asleep as we should whilst awake. The mere sense-impressions are the same when the sleep is deep as when it is light; the difference must lie in a judgment on the part of the apparently slumbering mind that they are not worth noticing.

This discrimination is equally shown by nurses of the sick and mothers of infants, who will sleep through much noise of an irrelevant sort, but waken at the slightest stirring of the patient or the babe. This last fact shows the sense-organ to be pervious for sounds.

Many people have a remarkable faculty of registering when asleep the flight of time. They will habitually wake up at the same minute day after day, or will wake punctually at an unusual hour determined upon overnight. How can this knowledge of the hour (more accurate often than anything the waking consciousness shows) be possible without mental activity during the interval?

Such are what we may call the classical reasons for admitting that the mind is active even when the person afterwards ignores the fact.[3] Of late years, or rather, one may [p. 202] say, of late months, they have been reinforced by a lot of curious observations made on hysterical and hypnotic subjects, which prove the existence of a highly developed consciousness in places where it has hitherto not been suspected at all. These observations throw such a novel light upon human nature that I must give them in some detail. That at least four different and in a certain sense rival observers should agree in the same conclusion justifies us in accepting the conclusion as true.

‘Unconsciousness’ in Hysterics.
One of the most constant symptoms in persons suffering from hysteric disease in its extreme forms consists in alterations of the natural sensibility of various parts and organs of the body. Usually the alteration is in the direction of defect, or anaesthesia. One or both eyes are blind, or color-blind, or there is hemianopsia (blindness to one half the field of view), or the field is contracted. Hearing, taste, smell may similarly disappear, in part or in totality. Still more striking are the cutaneous anaesthesias. The old witch-finders looking for the ‘devil’s seals’ learned well the existence of those insensible patches on the skin of their victims, to which the minute physical examinations of recent medicine have but recently attracted attention again. They may be scattered anywhere, but are very apt to affect one side of the body. Not infrequently they affect an entire lateral half, from head to foot; and the insensible skin of, say, the left side will then be found separated from the naturally sensitive skin of the right by a perfectly sharp line of demarcation down the middle of the front and back. Sometimes, most remarkable of all, the entire skin, hands, feet, face, everything, and the mucous membranes, muscles and joints so far as they can be ex- [p. 203] plored, become completely insensible without the other vital functions becoming gravely disturbed.

These hysterical anaesthesias can be made to disappear more or less completely by various odd processes. It has been recently found that magnets, plates of metal, or the electrodes of a battery, placed against the skin, have this peculiar power. And when one side is relieved in this way, the anaesthesia is often found to have transferred itself to the opposite side, which until then was well. Whether these strange effects of magnets and metals be due to their direct physiological action, or to a prior effect on the patient’s mind (‘expectant attention’ or ‘suggestion’) is still a mooted question. A still better awakener of sensibility is the hypnotic trance, into which many of these patients can be very easily placed, and in which their lost sensibility not infrequently becomes entirely restored. Such returns of sensibility succeed the times of insensibility and alternate with them. But Messrs. Pierre Janet[4] and A. Binet[5] have shown that during the times of anaesthesia, and coexisting with it, sensibility to the anaesthetic parts is also there, in the form of a secondary consciousness entirely cut off from the primary or normal one, but susceptible of being tapped and made to testify to its existence in various odd ways.

Chief amongst these is what M. Janet calls ‘the method of distraction.’ These hysterics are apt to possess a very narrow field of attention, and to be unable to think of more than one thing at a time. When talking with any person they forget everything else. “When Lucie talked directly with any one,” says M. Janet, “she ceased to be able to hear any other person. You may stand behind her, call her by name, shout abuse into her ears, without making her turn round; or place yourself before her, show her objects, touch her, etc., without attracting her notice. When finally she becomes aware of you, she thinks you have just come into the room again, and greets you accordingly. This singular forgetfulness makes her liable to tell all her secrets aloud, unrestrained by the presence of unsuitable auditors.”

[p. 204] Now M. Janet found in several subjects like this that if he came up behind them whilst they were plunged in conversation with a third party, and addressed them in a whisper, telling them to raise their hand or perform other simple acts, they would obey the order given, although their talking intelligence was quite unconscious of receiving it. Leading them from one thing to another, he made them reply by signs to his whispered questions, and finally made them answer in writing, if a pencil were placed in their hand. The primary consciousness meanwhile went on with the conversation, entirely unaware of these performances on the hand’s part. The consciousness which presided over these latter appeared in its turn to be quite as little disturbed by the upper consciousness’s concerns. This proof by automaticwriting, of a secondary consciousness’s existence, is the most cogent and striking one; but a crowd of other facts prove the same thing. If I run through them rapidly, the reader will probably be convinced.

The apparently anaesthetic hand of these subjects, for one thing, will often adapt itself discriminatingly to whatever object may be put into it. With a pencil it will make writing movements; into a pair of scissors it will put its fingers and will open and shut them, etc., etc. The primary consciousness, so to call it, is meanwhile unable to say whether or no anything is in the hand, if the latter be hidden from sight. “I put a pair of eyeglasses into Léonie’s anaesthetic hand, this hand opens it and raises it towards the nose, but half way thither it enters the field of vision of Léonie, who sees it and stops stupefied: ‘Why,’ says she, ‘I have an eyeglass in my left hand!'” M. Binet found a very curious sort of connection between the apparently anaesthetic skin and the mind in some Salpétrière-subjects. Things placed in the hand were not felt, but thought of (apparently in visual terms) and in no wise referred by the subject to their starting point in the hand’s sensation. A key, a knife, placed in the hand occasioned ideas of a key or a knife, but the hand felt nothing. Similarly the subject thought of the number 3, 6, etc., if the hand or finger was bent three or six times by the operator, or if he stroked it three, six, etc., times.

In certain individuals there was found a still odder [p. 205] phenomenon, which reminds one of that curious idiosyncrasy of ‘colored hearing’ of which a few cases have been lately described with great care by foreign writers. These individuals, namely, saw the impression received by the hand, but could not feel it; and the thing seen appeared by no means associated with the hand, but more like an independent vision, which usually interested and surprised the patient. Her hand being hidden by a screen, she was ordered to look at another screen and to tell of any visual image which might project itself thereon. Numbers would then come, corresponding to the number of times the insensible member was raised, touched, etc. Colored lines and figures would come, corresponding to similar ones traced on the palm; the hand itself or its fingers would come when manipulated; and finally objects placed in it would come; but on the hand itself nothing would ever be felt. Of course simulation would not be hard here; but M. Binet disbelieves this (usually very shallow) explanation to be a probable one in cases in question.[6]

The usual way in which doctors measure the delicacy of our touch is by the compass-points. Two points are normally felt as one whenever they are too close together for discrimination; but what is ‘too close’ on one part of the skin may seem very far apart on another. In the middle of the back or on the thigh, less than 3 inches may be too close; on the finger-tip a tenth of an inch is far enough apart. Now, as tested in this way, with the appeal made to the primary consciousness, which talks through the mouth and seems to hold the field alone, a certain person’s skin may be entirely anaesthetic and not feel the compass-points at all; and yet this same skin will prove to have a perfectly normal sensibility if the appeal be made to that other secondary or sub-consciousness, which expresses itself automatically by writing or by movements of the hand. M. Binet, M. Pierre Janet, and M. Jules Janet have all found this. The subject, whenever touched, wonld [sic] signify ‘one [p. 206] point’ or ‘two points,’ as accurately as if she were a normal person. She would signify it only by these movements; and of the movements themselves her primary self would be as unconscious as of the facts they signified, for what the submerged consciousness makes the hand do automatically is unknown to the consciousness which uses the mouth.

Messrs. Bernheim and Pitres have also proved, by observations too complicated to be given in this spot, that the hysterical blindness is no real blindness at all. The eye of an hysteric which is totally blind when the other or seeing eye is shut, will do its share of vision perfectly well when both eyes are open together. But even where both eyes are semi-blind from hysterical disease, the method of automatic writing proves that their perceptions exist, only cut off from communication with the upper consciousness. M. Binet has found the hand of his patients unconsciously writing down words which their eyes were vainly endeavoring to ‘see,’ i.e., to bring to the upper consciousness. Their submerged consciousness was of course seeing them, or the hand could not have written as it did. Colors are similarly perceived by the sub-conscious self, which the hysterically color-blind eyes cannot bring to the normal consciousness. Pricks, burns, and pinches on the anaesthetic skin, all unnoticed by the upper self, are recollected to have been suffered, and complained of, as soon as the under self gets a chance to express itself by the passage of the subject into hypnotic trance.

It must be admitted, therefore, that in certain persons, at least, the total possible consciousness may be split into parts which coexist but mutually ignore each other, and share the objects of knowledge between them. More remarkable still, they are complementary. Give an object to one of the consciousnesses, and by that fact you remove it from the other or others. Barring a certain common fund of information, like the command of language, etc., what the upper self knows the under self is ignorant of, and vice versa. M. Janet has proved this beautifully in his subject Lucie. The following experiment will serve as the type of the rest: In her trance he covered her lap with cards, each bearing a number. He then told her that on [p. 207] waking she should not see any card whose number was a multiple of three. This is the ordinary so-called ‘post-hypnotic suggestion,’ now well known, and for which Lucie was a well-adapted subject. Accordingly, when she was awakened and asked about the papers on her lap, she counted and said she saw those only whose number was not a multiple of 3. To the 12, 18, 9, etc., she was blind. But the hand, when the sub-conscious self was interrogated by the usual method of engrossing the upper self in another conversation, wrote that the only cards in Lucie’s lap were those numbered 12, 18, 9, etc., and on being asked to pick up all the cards which were there, picked up these and let the others lie. Similarly when the sight of certain things was suggested to the sub-conscious Lucie, the normal Lucie suddenly became partially or totally blind. “What is the matter? I can’t see!” the normal personage suddenly cried out in the midst of her conversation, when M. Janet whispered to the secondary personage to make use of her eyes. The anaesthesias, paralyses, contractions and other irregularities from which hysterics suffer seem then to be due to the fact that their secondary personage has enriched itself by robbing the primary one of a function which the latter ought to have retained. The curative indication is evident: get at the secondary personage, by hypnotization or in whatever other way, and make her give up the eye, the skin, the arm, or whatever the affected part may be. The normal self thereupon regains possession, sees, feels, or is able to move again. In this way M. Jules Janet easily cured the well-known subject of the Salpétrière, Wit., of all sorts of afflictions which, until he discovered the secret of her deeper trance, it had been difficult to subdue. “Cessez cette mauvaise plaisanterie,” he said to the secondary self – and the latter obeyed. The way in which the various personages share the stock of possible sensations between them seems to be amusingly illustrated in this young woman. When awake, her skin is insensible everywhere except on a zone about the arm where she habitually wears a gold bracelet. This zone has feeling; but in the deepest trance, when all the rest of her body feels, this particular zone becomes absolutely anaesthetic.

[p. 208] Sometimes the mutual ignorance of the selves leads to incidents which are strange enough. The acts and movements performed by the sub-conscious self are withdrawn from the conscious one, and the subject will do all sorts of incongruous things of which he remains quite unaware. “I order Lucie [by the method of distraction] to make a pied de nez, and her hands go forthwith to the end of her nose. Asked what she is doing, she replies that she is doing nothing, and continues for a long time talking, with no apparent suspicion that her fingers are moving in front of her nose. I make her walk about the room; she continues to speak and believes herself sitting down.”

M. Janet observed similar acts in a man in alcoholic delirium. Whilst the doctor was questioning him, M. J. made him by whispered suggestion walk, sit, kneel, and even lie down on his face on the floor, he all the while believing himself to be standing beside his bed. Such bizarreries sound incredible, until one has seen their like. Long ago, without understanding it, I myself saw a small example of the way in which a person’s knowledge may be shared by the two selves. A young woman who had been writing automatically was sitting with a pencil in her hand, trying to recall at my request the name of a gentleman whom she had once seen. She could only recollect the first syllable. Her hand meanwhile, without her knowledge, wrote down the last two syllables. In a perfectly healthy young man who can write with the planchette, I lately found the hand to be entirely anaesthetic during the writing act; I could prick it severely without the Subject knowing the fact. The writing on the planchette, however, accused me in strong terms of hurting the hand. Pricks on the other (non-writing) hand, meanwhile, which awakened strong protest from the young man’s vocal organs, were denied to exist by the self which made the planchette go.[7]

We get exactly similar results in the so-called post-hypnotic suggestion. It is a familiar fact that certain subjects, when told during a trance to perform an act or to [p. 209] experience an hallucination after waking, will when the time comes, obey the command. How is the command registered? How is its performance so accurately timed? These problems were long a mystery, for the primary personality remembers nothing of the trance or the suggestion, and will often trump up an improvised pretext for yielding to the unaccountable impulse which possesses the man so suddenly and which he cannot resist. Edmund Gurney was the first to discover, by means of automatic writing, that the secondary self is awake, keeping its attention constantly fixed on the command and watching for the signal of its execution. Certain trance-subjects who were also automatic writers, when roused from trance and put to the planchette, – not knowing then what they wrote, and having their upper attention fully engrossed by reading aloud, talking, or solving problems in mental arithmetic, – would inscribe the orders which they had received, together with notes relative to the time elapsed and the time yet to run before the execution.[8] It is therefore to no ‘automatism’ in the mechanical sense that such acts are due: a self presides over them, a split-off, limited and buried, but yet a fully conscious, self. More than this, the buried self often comes to the surface and drives out the other self whilst the acts are performing. In other words, the subject lapses into trance again when the moment arrives for execution, and has no subsequent recollection of the act which he has done. Gurney and Beaunis established this fact, which has since been verified on a large scale; and Gurney also showed that the patient became suggestible again during the brief time of the performance. M. Janet’s observations, in their turn, well illustrate the phenomenon.

“I tell Lucie to keep her arms raised after she shall have awakened. Hardly is she in the normal state, when up go her arms above her head, but she pays no attention to them. She goes, comes, converses, holding her arms high in the air. If asked what her arms are doing, she is surprised at such a question, and says very sincerely: ‘My hands are doing nothing; they are just like yours.’ . . . I com- [p. 210] mand her to weep, and when awake she really sobs, but continues in the midst of her tears to talk of very gay matters. The sobbing over, there remained no trace of this grief, which seemed to have been quite sub-conscious.”

The primary self often has to invent an hallucination by which to mask and hide from its own view the deeds which the other self is enacting. Léonie 3 [9] writes real letters, whilst Léonie 1 believes that she is knitting; or Lucie 3 really comes to the doctor’s office, whilst Lucie 1 believes herself to be at home. This is a sort of delirium. The alphabet, or the series of numbers, when handed over to the attention of the secondary personage may for the time be lost to the normal self. Whilst the hand writes the alphabet, obediently to command, the ‘subject,’ to her great stupefaction, finds herself unable to recall it, etc. Few things are more curious than these relations of mutual exclusion, of which all gradations exist between the several partial consciousnesses.

How far this splitting up of the mind into separate consciousnesses may exist in each one of us is a problem. M. Janet holds that it is only possible where there is abnormal weakness, and consequently a defect of unifying or co-ordinating power. An hysterical woman abandons part of her consciousness because she is too weak nervously to hold it together. The abandoned part meanwhile may solidify into a secondary or sub-conscious self. In a perfectly sound subject, on the other hand, what is dropped out of mind at one moment keeps coming back at the next. The whole fund of experiences and knowledges remains integrated, and no split-off portions of it can get organized stably enough to form subordinate selves. The stability, monotony, and stupidity of these latter is often very striking. The post-hypnotic sub-consciousness seems to think of nothing but the order which it last received; the cataleptic sub-consciousness, of nothing but the last position imprinted on the limb. M. Janet could cause definitely circumscribed reddening and tumefaction of the skin on two of his subjects, [p. 211] by suggesting to them in hypnotism the hallucination of a mustard-poultice of any special shape. “J’ai tout le temps pensé à votre sinapisme,” says the subject, when put back into trance after the suggestion has taken effect. A man N., . . . whom M. Janet operated on at long intervals, was betweenwhiles tampered with by another operator, and when put to sleep again by M. Janet, said he was ‘too far away to receive orders, being in Algiers.’ The other operator, having suggested that hallucination, had forgotten to remove it before waking the subject from his trance, and the poor passive trance-personality had stuck for weeks in the stagnant dream. Léonie’s sub-conscious performances having been illustrated to a caller, by a ‘pied de nez‘ executed with her left hand in the course of conversation, when, a year later, she meets him again, up goes the same hand to her nose again, without Léonie’s normal self suspecting the fact.

All these facts, taken together, form unquestionably the beginning of an inquiry which is destined to throw a new light into the very abysses of our nature. It is for that reason that I have cited them at such length in this early chapter of the book. They prove one thing conclusively, namely, that we must never take a person’s testimony, however sincere, that he has felt nothing, as proof positive that no feeling has been there. It may have been there as part of the consciousness of a ‘secondary personage,’ of whose experiences the primary one whom we are consulting can naturally give no account. In hypnotic subjects (as we shall see in a later chapter) just as it is the easiest thing in the world to paralyze a movement or member by simple suggestion, so it is easy to produce what is called a systematized anaesthesia by word of command. A systematized anaesthesia means an insensibility, not to any one element of things, but to some one concrete thing or class of things. The subject is made blind or deaf to a certain person in the room and to no one else, and thereupon denies that that person is present, or has spoken, etc. M. P. Janet’s Lucie, blind to some of the numbered cards in her lap (p. 207 above), is a case in point. Now when the object is simple, like a red [p. 212] wafer or a black cross, the subject, although he denies that he sees it when he looks straight at it, nevertheless gets a ‘negative after-image’ of it when he looks away again, showing that the optical impression of it has been received. Moreover reflection shows that such a subject must distinguish the object from others like it in order to be blind to it. Make him blind to one person in the room, set all the persons in a row, and tell him to count them. He will count all but that one. But how can he tell which one not to count without recognizing who he is? In like manner, make a stroke on paper or blackboard, and tell him it is not there, and he will see nothing but the clean paper or board. Next (he not looking) surround the original stroke with other strokes exactly like it, and ask him what he sees. He will point out one by one all the new strokes, and omit the original one every time, no matter how numerous the new strokes may be, or in what order they are arranged. Similarly, if the original single stroke to which he is blind be doubled by a prism of some sixteen degrees placed before one of his eyes (both being kept open), he will say that he now sees one stroke, and point in the direction in which the image seen through the prism lies, ignoring still the original stroke.

Obviously, then, he is not blind to the kind of stroke in the least. He is blind only to one individual stroke of that kind in a particular position on the board or paper – that is to a particular complex object; and, paradoxical as it may seem to say so, he must distinguish it with great accuracy from others like it, in order to remain blind to it when the others are brought near. He discriminates it, as a preliminary to not seeing it at all.

Again, when by a prism before one eye a previously invisible line has been made visible to that eye, and the other eye is thereupon closed or screened, its closure makes no difference; the line still remains visible. But if then the prism be removed, the line will disappear even to the eye which a moment ago saw it, and both eyes will revert to their original blind state.

We have, then, to deal in these cases neither with a blindness of the eye itself, nor with a mere failure to notice, but [p. 213] with something much more complex; namely, an active counting out and positive exclusion of certain objects. It is as when one ‘cuts’ an acquaintance, ‘ignores’ a claim, or ‘refuses to be influenced’ by a consideration. But the perceptive activity which works to this result is disconnected from the consciousness which is personal, so to speak, to the subject, and makes of the object concerning which the suggestion is made, its own private possession and prey.[10]

The mother who is asleep to every sound but the stirrings of her babe, evidently has the babe-portion of her auditory sensibility systematically awake. Relatively to that, the rest of her mind is in a state of systematized anaesthesia. That department, split off and disconnected from the sleeping part, can none the less wake the latter up in case of need. So that on the whole the quarrel between Descartes and Locke as to whether the mind ever sleeps is less near to solution than ever. On a priori speculative grounds Locke’s view that thought and feeling may at times wholly disappear seems the more plausible. As glands cease to secrete and muscles to contract, so the brain should sometimes cease to carry currents, and with this minimum of its activity might well coexist a minimum of consciousness. On the other hand, we see how deceptive are appearances, and are forced to admit that a part of consciousness may sever its connections with other parts and yet continue to be. On the whole it is best to abstain from a conclusion. The science of the near future will doubtless answer this question more wisely than we can now.

[p. 214] Let us turn now to consider the

This is the problem known in the history of philosophy as the question of the seat of the soul. It has given rise to much literature, but we must ourselves treat it very briefly. Everything depends on what we conceive the soul to be, an extended or an inextended entity. If the former, it may occupy a seat. If the latter, it may not; though it has been thought that even then it might still have a position. Much hair-splitting has arisen about the possibility of an inextended thing nevertheless being present throughout a certain amount of extension. We must distinguish the kinds of presence. In some manner our consciousness is ‘present’ to everything with which it is in relation. I am cognitively present to Orion whenever I perceive that constellation, but I am not dynamically present there, I work no effects. To my brain, however, I am dynamically present, inasmuch as my thought and feelings seem to react upon the processes thereof. If, then, by the seat of the mind is meant nothing more than the locality with which it stands in immediate dynamic relations, we are certain to be right in saying that its seat is somewhere in the cortex of the brain. Descartes, as is well known, thought that the inextended soul was immediately present to the pineal gland. Others, as Lotze in his earlier days, and W. Volkmann, think its position must be at some point of the structureless matrix of the anatomical brain-elements, at which point they suppose that all nerve-currents may cross and combine. The scholastic doctrine is that the soul is totally present, both in the whole and in each and every part of the body. This mode of presence is said to be due to the soul’s inextended nature and to its simplicity. Two extended entities could only correspond in space with one another, part to part, – but not so does the soul, which has no parts, correspond with the body. Sir Wm. Hamilton and Professor Bowen defend something like this view. I. H. Fichte, Ulrici, and, among American philosophers, Mr. J. E. Walter,[11] maintain the soul to be a space-filling prin- [p. 215] ciple. Fichte calls it the inner body, Ulrici likens it to a fluid of non-molecular composition. These theories remind us of the ‘theosophic’ doctrines of the present day, and carry us back to times when the soul as vehicle of consciousness was not discriminated , as it now is, from the vital principle presiding over the formation of the body. Plato gave head, breast, and abdomen to the immortal reason, the courage, and the appetites, as their seats respectively. Aristotle argues that the heart is the sole seat. Elsewhere we find the blood, the brain, the lungs, the liver the kidneys even, in turn assigned as seat of the whole or part of the soul.[12]

The truth is that if the thinking principle is extended we neither know its form nor its seat; whilst if unextended, it is absurd to speak of its having any space-relations at all. Space-relations we shall see hereafter to be sensible things. The only objects that can have mutual relations of position are objects that are perceived coexisting in the same felt space. A thing not perceived at all, such as the inextended soul must be, cannot coexist with any perceived objects in this way. No lines can be felt stretching from it to the other objects. It can form no terminus to any space-interval. It can therefore in no intelligible sense enjoy position. Its relations cannot be spatial, but must be exclusively cognitive or dynamic, as we have seen. So far as they are dynamic to talk of the soul being ‘present’ is only a figure of speech. Hamilton’s doctrine that the soul is present to the whole body is at any rate false: for cognitively its presence extends far beyond the body, and dynamically it does not extent beyond the brain.[13]

are either relations to other minds, or to material things. The material things are either the mind’s own brain, on the one hand, or anything else, on the other. The relations of a mind to its own brain are of a unique and utterly mysterious sort; we discussed them in the last two chapters, and can add nothing to that account.

The mind’s relations to other objects than the brain are cognitive and emotional relations exclusively, so far as we know. It knows them, and it inwardly welcomes or rejects them, but it has no other dealings with them. When it seems to act upon them, it only does so through the intermediary of its own body, so that not it but the body is what acts on them, and the brain must first act upon the body. The same is true when other things seem to act on it – they only act on its body, and through that on its brain.[14] All that it can do directly is to know other things, misknow or ignore them, and to find that they interest it, in this fashion or in that.

Now the relation of knowing is the most mysterious thing in the world. If we ask how one thing can know another we are led into the heart of Erkenntnisstheorie and metaphysics. The psychologist, for his part, does not consider the matter so curiously as this. Finding a world before him which he cannot but believe that he knows, and setting himself to study his own past thoughts, or someone else’s thoughts, of what he believes to be that same world; he cannot but conclude that those other thoughts know it after their fashion even as he knows it after his. Knowledge becomes for him an ultimate relation that must be admitted, whether it be explained or not, just like difference or resemblance, which no one seeks to explain.

Were our topic Absolute Mind instead of being the concrete minds of individuals dwelling in the natural world, we could not tell whether that Mind had the function of knowing or not, as knowing is commonly understood. We [p. 217] might learn the complexion of its thoughts; but, as we should have no realities outside of it to compare them with, – for if we had, the Mind would not be Absolute, – we could not criticise them, and find them either right or wrong; and we should have to call them simply the thoughts, and not the knowledge, of the Absolute Mind. Finite minds, however, can be judged in a different way, because the psychologist himself can go bail for the independent reality of the objects of which they think. He knows these to exist outside as well as inside the minds in question; he thus knows whether the minds think and know, or only think; and though his knowledge is of course that of a fallible mortal, there is nothing in the conditions that should make it more likely to wrong in this case than in any other.

Now by what tests does the psychologist decide whether the state of mind he is studying is a bit of knowledge, or only a subjective fact not referring to anything outside itself?

He uses the tests we all practically use. If the state of mind resembles his own idea of a certain reality; or if without resembling his idea of it, it seems to imply that reality and refer to it by operating upon it through the bodily organs; or even if it resembles and operates on some other reality that implies, and leads up to, and terminates in, the first one, – in either or all of these cases the psychologist admits that the state of mind takes cognizance, directly or remotely, distinctly or vaguely, truly or falsely, of the reality’s nature and position in the world. If, on the other hand, the mental state under examination neither resembles nor operates on any of the realities known to the psychologist, he calls it a subjective state pure and simple, possessed of no cognitive worth. If, again, it resemble a reality or a set of realities as he knows them, but altogether fail to operate on them or modify their course by producing bodily motions which the psychologist sees, then the psychologist, like all of us, may be in doubt. Let the mental state, for example, occur during the sleep of its subject. Let the latter dream of the death of a certain man, and let the man simultaneously die. Is the dream a mere coincidence, or a veritable cognition of the death? Such puzzling cases are [p. 218] what the Societies for ‘Psychical Research’ are collecting and trying to interpret in the most reasonable way.

If the dream were the only one of the kind the subject ever had in his life, if the context of the death in the dream differed in many particulars from the real death’s context, and if the dream led to no action about the death, unquestionably we should all call it a strange coincidence, and naught besides. But if the death in the dream had a long context, agreeing point for point with every feature that attended the real death; if the subject were constantly having such dreams, all equally perfect, and if on awaking he had a habit of acting immediately as if they were true and so getting ‘the start’ of his more tardily informed neighbors, – we should probably all have to admit that he had some mysterious kind of clairvoyant power, that his dreams in an inscrutable way knew just those realities which they figured, and that the word ‘coincidence’ failed to touch the root of the matter. And whatever doubts any one preserved would completely vanish if it should appear that from the midst of his dream he had the power of interfering with the course of the reality, and making the events in it turn this way or that, according as he dreamed they should. Then at least it would be certain that he and the psychologist were dealing with the same. It is by such tests as these that we are convinced that the waking minds of our fellows and our own minds know the same external world.

The psychologist’s attitude towards cognition will be so important in the sequel that we must not leave it until it is made perfectly clear. It is a thoroughgoing dualism. It supposes two elements, mind knowing and thing known, and treats them as irreducible. Neither gets out of itself or into the other, neither in any way is the other, neither makes the other. They just stand face to face in a common world, and one simply knows, or is known unto, its counterpart. This singular relation is not to be expressed in any lower terms, or translated into any more intelligible name. Some sort of signal must be given by the thing to the mind’s brain, or the knowing will not occur – we find as a matter [p. 219] of fact that the mere existence of a thing outside the brain is not a sufficient cause for our knowing it: it must strike the brain in some way, as well as be there, to be known. But the brain being struck, the knowledge is constituted by a new construction that occurs altogether in the mind. The thing remains the same whether known or not.[15] And when once there, the knowledge may remain there, whatever becomes of the thing.

By the ancients, and by unreflecting people perhaps today, knowledge is explained as the passage of something from without into the mind – the latter, so far, at least, as its sensible affections go, being passive and receptive. But even in mere sense-impression the duplication of the object by an inner construction must take place. Consider, with Professor Bowne, what happens when two people converse together and know each other’s mind.

“No thoughts leave the mind of one and cross into the mind of the other. When we speak of an exchange of thought, even the crudest mind knows that this is a mere figure of speech. . . . To perceive another’s thought, we must construct his thought within ourselves; . . . this thought is our own and is strictly original with us. At the same time we owe it to the other; and if it had not originated with him, it would probably not have originated with us. But what has the other done? . . . This: by an entirely mysterious world-order, the speaker is enabled to produce a series of signs which are totally unlike [the] thought, but which, by virtue of the same mysterious order, act as a series of incitements upon the hearer, so that he constructs within himself the corresponding mental state. The act of the speaker consists in availing himself of the proper incitements. The act of the hearer is immediately only the reaction of the soul against the incitement. . . . All communication between finite minds is of this sort. . . . Probably no reflecting person would deny this conclusion, but when we say that what is thus true of perception of another’s thought is equally true of the perception of the outer world in general, many minds will be disposed to question, and not a few will deny it outright. Yet there is no alternative but to affirm that to perceive the universe we must construct it in thought, and that our knowledge of the universe is but the unfolding of the mind’s inner nature. . . . By describing the mind as a waxen tablet, and things as impressing themselves upon it, we seem to get great insight until we think to ask where this extended tablet is, and how things stamp themselves on it, and how the percep- [p. 220] tive act would be explained even if they did. . . . The immediate antecedents of sensation and perception are a series of nervous changes in the brain. Whatever we know of the outer world is revealed only in and through these nervous changes. But these are totally unlike the objects assumed to exist as their causes. If we might conceive the mind as in the light, and in direct contact with its objects, the imagination at least would be comforted; but when we conceive the mind as coming in contact with the outer world only in the dark chamber of the skull, and then not in contact with the objects perceived, but only with a series of nerve-changes of which, moreover, it knows nothing, it is plain that the object is a long way off. All talk of pictures, impressions, etc., ceases because of the lack of all the conditions to give such figures any meaning. It is not even clear that we shall ever find our way out of the darkness into the world of light and reality again. We begin with complete trust in physics and the senses, and are forthwith led away from the object into a nervous labyrinth, where the object is entirely displaced by a set of nervous changes which are totally unlike anything but themselves. Finally, we land in the dark chamber of the skull. The object has gone completely, and knowledge has not yet appeared. Nervous signs are the raw material of all knowledge of the outer world according to the most decided realism. But in order to pass beyond these signs into a knowledge of the outer world, we must posit an interpreter who shall read back these signs into their objective meaning. But that interpreter, again, must implicitly contain the meaning of the universe within itself; and these signs are really but excitations which cause the soul to unfold what is within itself. Inasmuch as by common consent the soul communicates with the outer world only through these signs, and never comes nearer to the object than such signs can bring it, it follows that the principles of interpretation must be in the mind itself, and that the resulting construction is primarily only an expression of the mind’s own nature. All reaction is of this sort; it expresses the nature of the reacting agent, and knowledge comes under the same head. this [sic] fact makes it necessary for us either to admit a pre-established harmony between the laws and nature of thought and the laws and nature of things, or else to allow that the objects of perception, the universe as it appears, are purely phenomenal, being but the way in which the mind reacts against the ground of its sensations.”[16]

The dualism of Object and Subject and their pre-established harmony are what the psychologist as such must assume, whatever ulterior monistic philosophy he may, as an individual who has the right also to be a metaphysician, have in reserve. I hope that this general point is now [p. 221] made clear, so that we may leave it, and descend to some distinctions of detail.

There are two kinds of knowledge broadly and practically distinguishable: we may call them respectively knowledge of acquaintance and knowledge-about. Most languages express the distinction; thus, g n v n a i , e i d e n a i; noscere, scire; kennen, wissen; connaître, savoir.[17] I am acquainted with many people and things, which I know very little about, except their presence in the places where I have met them. I know the color blue when I see it, and the flavor of a pear when I taste it; I know an inch when I move my finger through it; a second of time, when I feel it pass; an effort of attention when I make it; a difference between two things when I notice it; but about the inner nature of these facts or what makes them what they are, I can say nothing at all. I cannot impart acquaintance with them to any one who has not already made it himself. I cannot describe them, make a blind man guess what blue is like, define to a child a syllogism, or tell a philosopher in just what respect distance is just what it is, and differs from other forms of relation. At most, I can say to my friends, Go to certain places and act in certain ways, and these objects will probably come. All the elementary natures of the world, its highest genera, the simple qualities of matter and mind, together with the kinds of relation that subsist between them, must either not be known at all, or known in this dumb way of acquaintance without knowledge-about. In minds able to speak at all there is, it is true, some knowledge about everything. Things can at least be classed, and the times of their appearance told. But in general, the less we analyze a thing, and the fewer of its relations we perceive, the less we know about it and the more our familiarity with it is of the acquaintance-type. The two kinds of knowledge are, therefore, as the human mind practically exerts them, relative terms. That is, the same thought of a thing may be called knowledge-about it in comparison with a simpler thought, or acquaintance with it in compari- [p. 222] son with a thought of it that is more articulate and explicit still.

The grammatical sentence expresses this. Its ‘subject’ stands for an object of acquaintance which, by the addition of the predicate, is to get something known about it. We may already know a good deal, when we hear the subject named – its name may have rich connotations. But, know we much or little then, we know more still when the sentence is done. We can relapse at will into a mere condition of acquaintance with an object by scattering our attention and staring at it in a vacuous trance-like way. We can ascend to knowledge about it by rallying our wits and proceeding to notice and analyze and think. What we are only acquainted with is only present to our minds; we have it, or the idea of it. But when we know about it, we do more than merely have it; we seem, as we think over its relations, to subject it to a sort of treatment and to operate upon it with our thought. The words feeling and thought give voice to the antithesis. Through feelings we become acquainted with things, but only by our thoughts do we know about them. Feelings are the germ and starting point of cognition, thoughts the developed tree. The minimum of grammatical subject, of objective presence, of reality known about, the mere beginning of knowledge, must be named by the word that says the least. Such a word is the interjection, as lo! there! ecco! voilà! or the article or demonstrative pronoun introducing the sentence, as the, it, that. In Chapter XII we shall see a little deeper into what this distinction, between the mere mental having or feeling of an object and the thinking of it, portends.

The mental states usually distinguished as feelings are the emotions, and the sensations we get from skin, muscle, viscus, eye, ear, nose, and palate. The ‘thoughts,’ as recognized in popular parlance, are the conceptions and judgments. When we treat of these mental states in particular we shall have to say a word about the cognitive function and value of each. It may perhaps be well to notice now that our senses only give us acquaintance with facts of body, and that of the mental states of other persons we only have conceptual knowledge. Of our own past states of mind we take cognizance in a peculiar way. They are ‘objects of memory,’ and appear to us endowed with a sort of warmth and intimacy that makes the perception of them seem more like a process of sensation than like a thought.


Footnotes[1] Messrs. Payton-Spence (Journal of Spec. Phil., X. 338, XIV. 286) and M. M. Garver (Amer. Jour. of Science, 3d series, XX. 189) argue, the one from speculative, the other from experimental grounds, that, the physical condition of consciousness being neural vibration, the consciousness must itself be incessantly interrupted by unconsciousness – about fifty times a second, according to Garver.

[2] That the appearance of mental activity here is real can be proved by suggesting to the ‘hypnotized’ somnambulist that he shall remember when he awakes. He will then often do so.

[3] For more details, cf. Malebranche, Rech. de la Verité, bk. III. chap. I; J. Locke, Essay conc. H. U., book II. ch. I; C. Wolf, Psychol. rationalis, § 59; Sir W. Hamilton, Lectures on Metaph., lecture XVII; J. Bascom, Science of Mind, § 12; Th. Jouffroy, Mélanges Philos., ‘du Sommeil’; H. Holland, Chapters on Mental Physiol., p. 80; B. Brodie, Psychol. Researches, p. 147; E. M. Chesley, Journ. of Spec. Phil., vol. XI. p. 72; Th. Ribot, Maladies de la Personnalité, pp. 8-10; H. Lotze, Metaphysics, § 533.

[4] L’Automatisme Psychologique, Paris, 1889, passim.

[5] See his articles in the Chicago Open Court, for July, August and November, 1889. Also in the Revue Philosophique for 1889 and ’90.

[6] This whole phenomena shows how an idea which remains itself below the threshold of a certain conscious self may occasion associative effects therein. The skin-sensations unfelt by the patient’s primary consciousness awaken nevertheless their usual visual associates therein.

[7] See Proceedings of American Soc. for Psych. Research, vol. I. p. 548.

[8] Proceedings of the (London) Soc. for Psych. Research, May 1887, p. 268 ff.

[9] M. Janet designates by numbers the different personalities which the subject may display.

[10] How to conceive of this state of mind is not easy. It would be much simpler to understand the process, if adding new strokes made the first one visible. There would then be two different objects apperceived as totals, – paper with one stroke, paper with many strokes; and, blind to the former, he would see all that was in the latter, because he would have apperceived it as a different total in the first instance.

A process of this sort occurs sometimes (not always) when the new strokes, instead of being mere repetitions of the original one, are lines which combine with it into a total object, say a human face. The subject of the trance then may regain his sight of the line to which he had previously been blind, by seeing it as part of the face.

[11] Perception of Space and Matter, 1879, part II. chap. 3.

[12] For a very good condensed history of the various opinions, see W. Volkmann von Volkmar, Lehrbuch d. Psychologie, § 16. Anm. Complete references to Sir W. Hamilton are given in J. E. Walter, Perception of Space and Matter, pp. 65-6.

[13] Most contemporary writers ignore the question of the soul’s seat. Lotze is the only one who seems to have been much concerned about it, and his views have varied. Cf. Medicinische Psychol., § 10. Microcosmus, bk. III. ch. 2. Metaphysic, bk. III. ch. 5. Outlines of Psychol., part II. ch. 3. See also G. T. Fechner, Psychophysik, chap. XXXVII.

[14] I purposely ignore ‘clairvoyance’ and action upon distant things by ‘mediums,’ as not yet matters of common consent.

[15] I disregard consequences which may later come to the thing from the fact that it is known. The knowing per se in no wise affects the thing.

[16] B. P. Bowne: Metaphysics, pp. 407-10. Cf. also Lotze: Logik, §§ 308, 326-7.

[17] Cf. John Grote: Exploratio Philosophica, p. 60; H. Helmholtz, Popular Scientific Lectures, London, p. 308-9.