Review of Analytic Psychology by G.F. Stout

James Rowland Angell

In giving us the substantial and valuable contribution to psycho-logical literature which these volumes contain, Mr. Stout has achieved a result which is daily becoming more difficult and more worthy of praise. Even those who most distrust the method he employs will readily admit the vigor and skill with which his task has in the main been carried out. Entertaining the work can scarcely be called — at least, in the more frivolous sense of the word. In sober and strenu-

( 533) -ous mood has it been conceived, and, virtue or vice as it may be, there is from cover to cover no wayward adjective, no indecorous simile, to jar upon the sedate atmosphere of philosophic dignity. But instructive it surely is, and written in a fine solid style, whose only fault is a tendency to become monotonous and somewhat vague. One needs an occasional beacon sentence standing out from the dead level of excellence to warn him whither he goes.

The ‘new psychologist' will shudder to learn that Mr. Stout, although according generous appreciation to the merit and justification of other methods and points of view, nevertheless braves oblivion and allies himself frankly with the procedure of such men as Hobbes, Locke, Herbart, and their more recent disciples. Our author had intended, he tells us, to write his book from the genetic standpoint, but found it necessary, in order to avoid hopeless confusion, to pre-cede such an undertaking with an analytic investigation of the fully developed mind. The present work constitutes this preliminary analysis, which will be followed later by its genetic sequel. We can-not fairly prejudge the success of the whole by this earlier portion, but Mr. Stout's plan seems to rest upon a conception of the relation of the analytic and genetic methods in psychology, which, if not actually erroneous, appears to the reviewer at least unfortunate and likely to prove misleading.

For the sake of convenience, such a severance of these forms of investigation as Mr. Stout proposes may be defensible ; but the two are in no sense antithetic, nor yet merely supplementary to one another. At bottom they are really one and the same, for the genetic procedure is simply the more adequate and truthful type of analysis. It is the only type of analysis which can hope to reveal in its genuine living reality the facts of a vital growing mind. This is not to obliterate all distinction between the methods. It is simply to insist that, so far as your analytic treatment is valid and accurate, it differs from the expressly genetic investigation chiefly in the emphasis laid upon a definite reference to the course of development -- a reference of confessedly less significance for some psychological processes than for others. In point of fact, however, almost all our author's analyses are of the vital dynamic type, which manifests most unmistakably its kinship with the avowedly genetic descriptions.

In the opening sentence of his introductory chapter, Mr. Stout defines psychology as " the positive science of mental process," and proceeds at once to an extended discussion of the various means of obtaining psychological data and the validity of the several hypothe-

( 534) -ses available for its interpretation.[1] The doctrine of psychical dispositions is adopted as affording the best explanation for the persistence of the effects of past experience. Physiological hypotheses come in for a searching and rather depreciatory criticism, which leaves one ill prepared for the constant reference to them in which Mr. Stout afterward indulges.

Following the lead of Brentano, our author abandons the tripartite classification of mental functions as being founded on merely negative considerations, and takes as his principle of division the mode in which consciousness refers to its object. But, whereas Brentano designates presentation, judgment, desire, and aversion as the fundamental forms, Mr. Stout regards volition, grief, enjoyment, etc., as equally basal and elementary. Chapter II, on the Analysis of Presentations, contains a careful examination of the conditions and limits under which such analysis actually proceeds. The positive outcome of the discussion leaves us with the conclusion that what we obtain by our analysis cannot be considered as identical with the presentation analyzed, but simply as an adequate symbol of this. " Each analytic distinction should correspond to an undistinguished difference in the original experience."

In the next two chapters, on the Apprehension of Form and Implicit Apprehension, we meet the first practical application of this conception of analysis, and the result is not wholly reassuring. The justification for beginning here, rather than elsewhere, appears to be found in the fact that the apprehension of form is a matter of vital significance for the processes of association and apperception, which are to be examined later on ; but the first of the chapters, notwithstanding the importance of its subject-matter, impresses one as generally vague, save where it deals with obvious commonplace. Our recognition of the meaning of words forms the text for an excellent discussion of the implicit apprehension of a whole, whose complexity of structure we fail to notice. A number of reasons are cited in this connection to prove that imagery does not necessarily accompany the understanding of words. There is doubtless a restricted sense in which this contention can be successfully maintained, but what Mr. Stout may have in mind when he goes on to defend his doctrine of " imageless thought " passes comprehension. Mr. Stout owes it to the psychological public to give a fuller descrip-

( 535) -tion of his imageless thought. Obviously, it is not a wholly tractable possession, for he gets into trouble with it in his chapter on Apperception, where, despite his contention that apperception is of the very essence of thought, he says that an apperceptive process always has the point of contact between what is apperceived and the apperceiving system in mental or perceptual imagery.

The distinction of judging or believing from simple apprehension is next discussed, judging being considered after Bosanquet's manner as "yes-no consciousness." After a critical survey of the various doctrines bearing on this problem, the conclusion is reached that the distinction is only relative and not absolute, for there is no thought without some kind and degree of judgment. Sentience, simple apprehension, and belief, are the three fundamental forms of cognitive process, and all are present as integral factors in every complete cognitive act. The last chapter in this section of the book deals with feeling and conation. Every mental attitude partaking of the nature of volition is asserted to possess two fundamentally distinct modes of reference to an object : first, pleasure or its contrary, and, second, desire or aversion. Conation and feeling are thus essentially distinct. This last sentence, in connection with the previous analysis of cognitive activities, suggests the query whether, after all, Mr. Stout has practically gained much upon the advocates of the tripartite classification of conscious processes. Voluntary action is described as the mental state which emerges when a process of conflict ceases because it has worked itself out to a definite conclusion.

The next section of the book is entitled Mental Processes, and the first three chapters constitute beyond all question the most striking and notable portion of the whole work. Indeed, it may fairly be said that the rest of the book is but a systematic development and application of the principle here advocated. Opinion will vary, as it always does, as to whether Mr. Stout has made out his case, but his defence of the concept of mental activity and his exposition of the process of attention, will take rank at once with the best and most valuable of contemporary writing. He has seen the emptiness of the concept of absolute passivity and its utter inapplicability to psychological processes. The total psychosis can never be a state of complete inaction. To be mentally active is to be mentally alive, to be awake. The facile action of reverie is not inaction, and between the most intense activity and the most obvious apparent passivity, as in recovery from fainting, there is no abrupt break. The very fact that an experience enters my consciousness shows that I am in some

( 536) degree active. Such, put very briefly and inadequately, are the conclusions which he draws from his keen and exhaustive examination of the concept of activity.

Attention and inattention are synonymous with noetic and anoetic experience, — expressions which he attempts to rejuvenate by constant use. We attend so far as our psychical activity directly produces, maintains, or develops such contents as have any objective reference. The essential nature of attention consists in a definite attitude toward objects. Every process of attention tends to bring about its own cessation, and corresponds in large measure to the actions by which disturbed equilibrium is restored. Muscular adjustments and vaso-motor changes are not determinants of attention, but simply tools with which attention works. The relation of pleasure-pain experiences to attention is not one of cause and effect. The coincidence is due to the fact that interest is but attention itself in its hedonic aspect. Pleasure-pain conditions determine movement merely in such measure as they control attention, and for this they have significance only as one among other factors. With the greater portion of this doctrine I am heartily in sympathy, and the form in which it is presented strikes me as admirable ; but I am at a loss to surmise exactly what Mr. Stout means when he asserts further that a content, once it is in consciousness, can in no defensible sense be said to be acted on by attention, whereas before it gets into consciousness it does not exist. On this basis, attention seems dedicated to the enjoyment of an eternity of elegant leisure. It cannot exercise itself upon nothing, and all else is forbidden.

The chapter on Retentiveness, Habit, etc., contains relatively little of moment, save for the careful criticism of Bain's doctrines of association, a polemic conceived in a mood essentially identical with Bradley's attack on the same stronghold.

The second volume opens with a chapter on Noetic Synthesis, by which is meant such a combination of presentational elements as is involved in their reference to a single object. This is the source from which arise the psychic units we call percepts, ideas, concepts, etc. Noetic synthesis furnishes the systematic unity of the human mind which association fails to account for. In so far as each step in a train of thought is determined by the last idea which has occurred, so far association rules. When, however, the emergence of any idea depends, not on the last idea, but on the central topic of thought, then noetic synthesis controls. Needless to say, the position occupied is that of Apperception as against Association; but it differs

( 537) from Wundt's doctrine in having assignable terms between which it takes place and in possessing a definite physiological counterpart. This latter is furnished by the conception of higher and lower centres. On the whole, this chapter is exceedingly able and luminous, although it contains one doctrine, which will at least require fuller explication before it can pass muster, i.e., that revived impressions are them-selves impressions and not ideas, while ideas are not faint revivals of impressions.

The following chapter on Relative Suggestion continues the assault on the associationists. Relative suggestion proves to be only another name for constructive reproduction of the teleological type, and by its aid are explained, among other things, all the finer perceptual adjustments. Despite its truthfulness and accuracy, in view of what has already been discussed, the considerations here advanced are needlessly prolix.

All the preceding description of cognitive conditions requires to be interpreted with reference to the presence of conation, and a chapter is accordingly devoted to this topic. All mental process is as such conation, although, as a matter of fact, conation tends to differentiate itself into theoretical and practical channels. "Cognitive synthesis is merely the way in which active tendencies define and differentiate themselves."Conation has its physiological correlate, as was noticed in connection with attention, in a tendency toward the recovery of relative stability in the neural system.

The process of apperception, which is next considered in detail, is, we are told, substantially coincident with attention. " A presentation acquires a certain 'significance for thought by connecting itself with some mental preformation, as this has been organized in the course of previous experience," and the process here involved is apperception. Apperception applies especially to the relation of the new to the old, so far as the old is thereby modified. The larger part of the chapter, which constitutes the most masterly treatment of the subject in English, is given over to a minute examination of the conditions determining the growth of apperceptive systems. Competition and conflict appear to be the most significant factors, and the dominant system becomes so merely by virtue of its better and more complete organization.

The best point in the chapter on Comparison and Conception is the emphasis on the distinction between the generic image and the rudimentary concept. Though the generic image is not the original of the concept, it is none the less, when once the conceptual attitude

( 538) is developed, a very convenient representative. The transition from the percept to the concept is not a passage from the particular to the universal. In perception the two are indistinguishably blended; the universal consists in the fact that the particular is recognized. In conception the universal is thought of as such. Implicit in the one case, it is explicit in the other. These considerations are closely allied with those of the following chapter on Thought and Language. Language is regarded as a movement of fixation akin to muscular adjustments. Words detain or fix the cumulative effects of experience, and thus give us the two main functions of language, i.e., as a medium of communication and an instrument of thought. Thus, in learning to understand others, the child learns to understand himself. Passing on to the more distinctly logical and grammatical aspects of language, Mr. Stout asserts that the subject-predicate relation is purely psychological, having primarily nothing whatever to do with the relation of agent to action. The predicate is the whole discourse through which the subject gains definition. These and other similar doctrines, however true they may be, are laid down with a degree of dogmatism not wholly warranted by the evidence adduced in their support. Gesture language, as well as spoken language, is conceptual, because it fixates mental systems. In this point he takes open issue with Romanes.

The early portions of the chapter on Belief and Imagination are given over to a discussion of Bain's view, with the conclusion that, while Bain's account is correct as applying to analysis of the conditions under which belief arises, still belief is not a mode of conation, but a unique form in which consciousness refers to an object. Desire plays an important part in belief, both negatively and positively. To imagine is to think of an object without believing, disbelieving, or doubting its. existence, — an undertaking before which the plain man may well pause. The concluding portions of the chapter treat imagination as play and its significance for conduct. One misses from the book a systematic investigation of imagery as such, and the present chapter does nothing to fill the gap.

The concluding chapter on Pleasure and Pain gives us something very like Herbartianism. Put in a word, the doctrine appears to be this : pleasure and pain are the correlatives of free and impeded activity. Progress towards attainment is pleasure. When the end is reached the tendency toward it ceases, and with it the pleasure. Disturbance of equilibrium as such is not painful, — otherwise all consciousness would be pain; nor is mere equilibrium pleasure, — other

( 539) -wise the only pleasure would be found in unconsciousness. Purely neutral states do not exist, and Mr. Stout frankly admits that for the pain of toothache he must introduce a physiological explanation. Like every other theory as yet advanced, he cannot afford an equally telling account for the distinctly intellectual affective experiences and those of a more immediately sensory character. This he freely concedes, and takes refuge in such consolation as is to be found in the reflection that all theories suffer from this complaint, aside from which his own procedure seems to him to produce most harmony among the facts.

It is apparent from the foregoing that I regard Mr. Stout's work as of quite unequal merit in its handling of the various problems with which it deals. Apart from the brilliant treatment of mental activity, the strongest point of the book lies in its substantial thoroughness and maturity of treatment, and just here occurs also its most flagrant shortcoming, for there is unquestionably a tendency to lapse now and again into an over-refinement of analysis, verging perilously upon the ' elaboration of the obvious.' Space permitting, I should be glad to examine the interesting and consistent attempt which is made to aid in the establishment of a definite terminology. All things considered, Mr. Stout may rest assured that his volumes will find appreciative readers and will live. An index adds materially to the value of the book, which is excellently printed and wretchedly bound.



  1. Throughout the following brief synopsis, I have attempted to employ Mr. Stout's own words as far as possible, even where my transpositions render it impossible to use quotation marks.

Valid HTML 4.01 Strict Valid CSS2