ePub 版


I spoke just now of the reflex act as a decadent form of mental activity. It has been too common an error to regard the simple in life as prior to the complex. We are apt to forget that the most lowly unicellular organism eats, breathes, secretes, excretes, reproduces, and exhibits irritability, contractility, and even apparent choice and ability to learn by experience, whereas in the higher organism such functions are specialised in its different tissues. The vague complex, in other words, precedes the differentiated simple. So it is largely in the life of consciousness. Simple sensations are not the first experiences. The first post-natal or even pre-natal experiences are vague affections of the selfor of what will come in time to constitute the self, as later it becomes differentiated from external situations, and as later external objects come in turn to be differentiated from external situations. At quite an early period many of the infants' experiences, especially the visual, become projected first as situations, then as objects, instead of being, as at first, little more than affections, so to speak, of the self. It is only gradually that from these objects the separate, simple sensations, say of whiteness, softness and sweetness are differentiated. But these sensations, we must remember, are not wholly projected. Red, for example, clearly resides in the object, but pain lies in ourselves, while such sensations as those of temperature and taste occupy a half-way position.

The observations of Head and Gordon Holmes in conditions of thalamo-cortical interference indicate that such projection may be lost in lesions of such sort. A prick may be no longer projected as such but described by the self as a characteristic change in, as an affection of, itself. Indeed under normal conditions the less projected the sensation, the more it approximates to an affective modification of the self. Titchener goes so far as to believe that sensations (hence cognitive states in general) have become evolved out of feelings.

I believe that this power of projection, the ability of the self to regard its own changes of state as something outside itself, is of far greater importance than is generally supposed. It surely culminates in the self looking down not merely on external independent objects, but also on its own other selves who come to be regarded as acting under its jurisdiction. Thus the most consummate actor is said to be he who, though he feels the emotions he portrays, experiences them in such a way that it is as if he were looking down upon another self that actually feels them. Something of the same effect, though doubtless of different causation,

[ocr errors]

is observable in certain dreams, where we dream that we are dreaming, and in that transient, slightly pathological condition known as 'depersonalisation,' common to large numbers of us, wherein the external environment appears for the moment as strange, and we seem to be looking on another instead of on ourself as really experiencing it and acting on it. It occurs still more strikingly, of course, in the more definitely morbid condition of loss of reality. Similar processes may account for that alternation of personalities behind which there is a continuous personality that knows the acts and experiences of the others. The well-known limits of post-hypnotic suggestibility indicate the same preservation of a higher, dominant, however dormant self. The integrity, the intactness of this supreme self may prove, I even suggest, to be the future criterion between so-called psycho-neurotic and psychotic conditions.


While the simple is, so to speak, distilled from the vaguer complex, nevertheless synthesis goes on, as well as analysis; and many instances will easily occur to one where new experiences are dependent on an integration of stimuli or of more primitive experiences. On the one hand, where a reflex is inherited or a habit is acquired, consciousness is useless since the stimulus inevitably releases one and only one reaction. On the other hand, where an instinct appears, consciousness (let us call it 'instinct feeling') is essential, because intelligence can be brought to bear so as to improve by growing experience the imperfect instinctive reaction to the situation. Where emotion enters, the number of alternative conflicting instinctive reactions to a stimulus has become manifold, e.g. in the case of fear-flight, rigidity, flaccid palsy, crying, clinging to the parent, fighting at bay; and their respective instinctive feelings become integrated about a common object on this higher plane to create emotional feeling. Where sentiment enters, a number of alternative conflicting emotional feelings have become integrated about a common idea, and a new sentiment-feeling, e.g. that of love or hate, emerges.

The importance of the integration of such alternative conflicting mental states as the creator of new ones can hardly be over-estimated. Rivers has from the ethnological standpoint attributed new cultures to the clash of immigrant with indigenous ones; and it seems possible that similarly the creations of the inspired genius may be the product of unconscious conflict.

ACT AND POsture.

Let us now consider what we know of the activity of living substance. It exists in two forms: (i) intensive and momentary, and (ii) moderate and prolonged. The contractions of striated muscle illustrate intensive and momentary vital activity; the reactions of heat and cold spots offer another example. There appears to occur a firing off of already-prepared, explosive material, followed fairly rapidly by fatigue. The contractions of unstriated muscle illustrate the more moderate and prolonged form of activity, where tone and long-continued adaptation seem to replace the explosive force and consequent fatigue characteristic of the firstmentioned form. Again, the tone and the posture in striated muscle, both of them moderate, long-continued and relatively indefatigable, illustrate the same form of activity. They involve a directive balance, a delicate nervous coordination, between two opposing muscles, flexor and extensor. The sensations of warmth and coolness depend on a similar mechanism. In contrast to the spot system subserving heat and cold, this diffuse spot-less sensibility involves a close coordination between the mechanisms for warmth and coolness, as is exemplified first in the set state of balance that occurs in the form of 'sensory adaptation,' a kind of stationary posture, as it seems to me, between the opposing mechanisms of warmth and coolness, when the skin is exposed for some time to a warm or a cool environment, and secondly in the action resulting from disturbance of that balance that occurs in the form 'sensory contrast,' when that environment is suddenly replaced, say by a neutral one. Such phenomena as adaptation and contrast do not occur in the spot system; there we have merely sudden, almost ungraded reaction and fatigue.

Thus we come to contrast powerful energetic explosive acts, followed by a loss of material available for the allowance of further acts, on the one hand, and the more moderate, more graded activities, on the other hand, involving reciprocal inhibition and facilitation, and finally yielding a long-continued set or state of adaptation or attitude.

May we not usefully distinguish these two forms throughout mental activity, even up to the highest conscious processes? In other' words, have we not, on the one hand, the momentary, relatively fatigable acts of apprehension, recall, decision-of expression, in general-and on the other the long-continued, relatively persistent sets or attitudes-mental postures, if you like, in which those varying acts take place? On the one side, we have the more mechanical acts, on the other, the more directive

attitudes-though, of course, the acts themselves are far from being devoid of a certain coordination and direction. We recognise thus in mental activity a more mechanical factor and a more directive factor, each involving the expenditure of work; but whereas we have some conceivable idea of the nature of the former, we have none whatever of the nature of the latter.

We might well pause, did time permit, to consider what is the effect of profound morbid changes in attitude on the consciousness of acts. Two obvious and opposite directions of change at once present themselves. At the one extreme, attitude is unusually persistent and unvaried. According to the old dictum, semper idem sentire ac non sentire idem est. At the other, attitude is to all intents and purposes non-existent; the mental acts follow one another over a vast field whose meaning is changing with bewildering speed. So far as consciousness is concerned, have we not here yet another of the illustrations already given in this paper that 'extremes meet'?


All that we can say of any higher mental attitude is that it is closely associated with interest-innate (i.e. immediate) or acquired (i.e. indirect). Hence has arisen the wider notion, extended not only to our higher attitudes but also to our higher acts, that they are dependent on affects, whether the affects partake of those moderate, more continuous forms or attitudes known as interests and moods, or of the more powerful, less lasting forms or acts known as feelings of emotion and of sentiment. Hence, too, has arisen the notion that there is a common fund of mental energy of affective origin, a single libido, which can be drained off now into one, now into another channel of mental and motor activity in such a way that what one channel gains involves a corresponding loss among other channels.

The early neglect of the importance of affects has resulted, I think, in an exaggerated swing of the pendulum to the opposite extreme. It is, I think, ridiculous to suppose that the energy in forming our acts is derived solely from our affects. We may, however, reasonably consider the view that, using the term in its widest sense, our attitudes serve as keys that unlock the energies resident in our acts. It is also ridiculous to suppose that our acts depend for their energy on drainage from one set of channels to another. The modern studies of repression alone suffice to prove that censoring, as the Freudians term it, involves actual work in the imposition of resistance. The mind is not comparable, as

according to McDougall, to a vast sewerage system, in which the active channels drain off energy from those which are ipso facto rendered inactive; inhibition involves as much work as excitation.

The same exaggerated importance of the affective consciousness has led to the attribution of all forgetting, every slip of the tongue, to emotional conflict and inhibition. Surely prolonged laboratory experience in learning large numbers of senseless syllables or in rapidly naming long series of familiar objects suffices to show the extravagance of this view. Deterioration or disorder in cognitive processes is not always dependent on affective factors. We must recognise that the act may suffer through its excessive exercise, as well as through direct inhibition by other acts; at the same time fully admitting that the attitude which suffers mainly through flagging interest or conflicting feeling may also thus influence the act.


That some central factor of 'general intelligence' exists, depending on the functioning of the highest system of mental activities known as the self, there can be little reasonable doubt. But its conception is also commonly bound up with that of localising the various conscious processes, which are not those of general intelligence, in different regions of the brain. For generations past it has been customary to believe in special centres for the various motor, sensory and perceptual activities involved in speech, and to regard them as 'seats of consciousness,' connected with one another and presumably with that highest central centre of the self or ego. It is interesting to find that the recent researches into aphasia by Head have enabled him to produce cogent evidence against such a view.

For my own part, in my Cambridge lectures I was long wont to protest against it by means of the following illustration: If I wanted to travel by rail from Cambridge to King's Cross, it would be essential for me to pass through Hitchin. A block at Hitchin would prevent my arrival at King's Cross. But I should not be justified in confusing Hitchin with King's Cross and in transferring the block at Hitchin to King's Cross. So, too, if a certain occipital area must necessarily function in order that, say, an apple may be perceived as such, I should not be justified in describing that area as a 'visuo-psychic centre,' because I fail to apprehend an apple when that area is disorganised. All that I can legitimately infer is that that occipital area is essential for visual perception, just as Hitchin is essential for me to reach King's Cross direct from Cambridge. Seats of different consciousness must not be thus

« 上一頁繼續 »