The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other Essays

Chapter 10: "Consciousness" and Experience[1]

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EVERY science in its final standpoint and working aims is controlled by conditions lying outside itself-conditions that subsist in the practical life of the time. With no science is this as obviously true as with psychology. Taken without nicety of analysis, no one would deny that psychology is specially occupied with the individual; that it wishes to find out those things that proceed peculiarly from the individual, and the mode of their connection with him. Now, the way in which the individual is conceived, the value that is attributed to him, the things in his make-up that arouse interest, are not due at the outset to psychology. The scientific view regards these matters in a reflected, a borrowed, medium. They are revealed in the light of social life. An autocratic, an aristocratic, a democratic society propound such different estimates of the worth and place of individuality; they procure for the individual as an individual such different sorts of experience;

(243) they aim at arousing such different impulses and at organizing them according to such different purposes, that the psychology arising in each must show a different temper.

In this sense, psychology is a political science. While the professed psychologist, in his conscious procedure, may easily cut his subject-matter loose from these practical ties and references, yet the starting point and goal of his course are none the less socially set. In this conviction I venture to introduce to an audience that could hardly be expected to be interested in the technique of psychology, a technical subject, hoping that the human meaning may yet appear.

There is at present a strong, apparently a growing tendency to conceive of psychology as an account of the consciousness of the individual, considered as something in and by itself ; consciousness, the assumption virtually runs, being of such an order that it may be analyzed, described, and explained in terms of just itself. The statement, as commonly made, is that psychology is an account of consciousness, qua consciousness; and the phrase is supposed to limit psychology to a certain definite sphere of fact that may receive adequate discussion for scientific purposes, without troubling itself with what lies outside. Now if this conception be true, there is no intimate, no important connection of psychology and philosophy at large.

( 244) That philosophy, whose range is comprehensive, whose problems are catholic, should be held down by a discipline whose voice is as partial as its material is limited, is out of the range of intelligent discussion.

But there is another possibility. If the individual of whom psychology treats be, after all, a Social individual, any absolute setting off and apart of a sphere of consciousness as, even for scientific purposes, self-sufficient, is condemned in advance. All such limitation, and all inquiries, descriptions, explanations that go with it, are only preliminary. "Consciousness" is but a symbol, an anatomy whose life is in natural and social operations. To know the symbol, the psychical letter, is important; but its necessity lies not within itself, but in the need of a language for reading the things signified. If this view be correct, we cannot be so sure that psychology is without large philosophic significance. Whatever meaning the individual has for the social life that he both incorporates and animates, that meaning has psychology for philosophy.

This problem is too important and too large to suffer attack in an evening's address. Yet I venture to consider a portion of it, hoping that such things as appear will be useful clues in entering wider territory. We may ask what is the effect upon psychology of considering its material as

(245) something so distinct as to be capable of treatment without involving larger issues. In this inquiry we take as representative some such account of the science as this: Psychology deals with consciousness " as such " in its various modes and processes. It aims at an isolation of each such as will permit accurate description: at statement of its place in the serial order such as will enable us to state the laws by which one calls another into being, or as will give the natural history of its origin, maturing, and dissolution. It is both analytic and synthetic-analytic in that it resolves each state into its constituent elements; synthetic in that it discovers the processes by which these elements combine into complex wholes and series. It leaves alone-it shuts out-questions concerning the validity, the objective import of these modifications: of their value in conveying truth, in effecting goodness, in constituting beauty. For it is just with such questions of worth, of validity, that philosophy has to do.

Some such view as this is held by the great majority of working psychologists to-day. A variety of reasons have conspired to bring about general acceptance. Such a view seems to enroll one in the ranks of the scientific men rather than of the metaphysicians-and there are those who distrust the metaphysicians. Others desire to take problems piecemeal and in detail, avoiding that ex-

(246) cursion into ultimates, into that never-ending panorama of new questions and new possibilities that seems to be the fate of the philosopher. While no temperate mind can do other than sympathize with this view, it is hardly more than an expedient. For, as Mr. James remarks, after disposing of the question of free-will by relegating it to the domain of the metaphysician : "Metaphysics means only an unusually obstinate attempt to think clearly and consistently "-and clearness and consistency are not things to be put off beyond a certain point. When the metaphysician chimes in with this new found modesty of the psychologist, so different from the disposition of Locke and Hume and the Mills, salving his metaphysical conscience with the remark-it hardly possesses the dignity of a conviction-that the partial sciences, just because they are partial, are not expected to be coherent with themselves nor with one another; when the metaphysician, I say, praises the psychologist for sticking to his last, we are reminded that another motive is also at work. There is a half-conscious irony in this abnegation of psychology. It is not the first time that science has assumed the work of Cinderella; and, since Mr. Huxley has happily reminded her, she is not altogether oblivious, in her modesty, of a possible future check to the pride of her haughty sister, and of a certain coronation that shall mark her coming to her own.


But, be the reasons as they may, there is little doubt of the fact. Almost all our working psychologists admit, nay, herald this limitation of their work. I am not presumptuous enough to set myself against this array. I too proclaim myself of those who believe that psychology has to do (at a certain point, that is) with " consciousness as such." But I do not believe that the limitation is final. Quite the contrary: if " consciousness " or " state of consciousness" be given intelligible meaning, I believe that this conception is the open gateway into the fair fields of philosophy. For, note you, the phrase is an ambiguous one. It may mean one thing to the metaphysician who proclaims: Here finally we have psychology recognizing her due metes and bounds, giving bonds to trespass no more. It may mean quite another thing to the psychologist in his work-whatever he may happen to say about it. It may be that the psychologist deals with states of consciousness as the significant, the analyzable and describable form, to which he reduces the things he is studying. Not that they are that existence, but that they are its indications, its clues, in shape for handling by scientific methods. So, for example, does the paleontologist work. Those curiously shaped and marked forms to which he is devoted are not life, nor are they the literal termini of his endeavor; but through them as signs and records

(248) he construes a life. And again, the painter-artist might well say that he is concerned only with colored paints as such. Yet none the less through them as registers and indices, he reveals to us the mysteries of sunny meadow, shady forest, and twilight wave. These are the things-in-themselves of which the oils on his palette are phenomena.

So the preoccupation of the psychologist with states of consciousness may signify that they are the media, the concrete conditions to which he purposely reduces his material, in order, through them, as methodological helps, to get at and understand that which is anything but a state of consciousness. To him, however, who insists upon the fixed and final limitation of psychology, the state of consciousness is not the shape some fact takes from the exigency of investigation; it is literally the full fact itself. It is not an intervening term; it bounds the horizon. Here, then, the issue defines itself. I conceive that states of consciousness (and I hope you will take the phrase broadly enough to cover all the specific data of psychology) have no existence before the psychologist begins to work. He brings them into existence. What we are really after is the process of experience, the way in which it arises and behaves. We want to know its course, its history, its laws. We want to know its various typical forms; how each originates; how it is related to others; the

( 249) part it plays in maintaining an inclusive, expanding, connected course of experience. Our problem as psychologists is to learn its modus operandi, its method.

The paleontologist is again summoned to our aid. In a given district he finds a great number and variety of footprints. From these he goes to work to construct the structure and the life habits of the animals that made them. The tracks exist undoubtedly ; they are there; but yet he deals with them not as final existences but as signs, phenomena in the literal sense. Imagine the hearing that the critic would receive who should inform the paleontologist that he is transcending his field of scientific activity; that his concern is with footprints as such, aiming to describe each, to analyze it into its simplest forms, to compare the different kinds with one another so as to detect common elements, and finally, thereby, to discover the laws of their arrangement in space!

Yet the immediate data are footprints, and footprints only. The paleontologist does in a way do all these things that our imaginary critic is urging upon him. The difference is not that he arbitrarily lugs in other data; that he invents entities and faculties that are not there. The difference is in his standpoint. His interest is in the animals, and the data are treated in whatever way seems likely to serve this interest. So with the psycholo-

( 250) -gist. He is continually and perforce occupied with minute and empirical investigation of special facts-states of consciousness, if you please. But these neither define nor exhaust his scientific problem. They are his footprints, his clues through which he places before himself the life-process he is studying-with the further difference that his footprints are not after all given to him, but are developed by his investigation.[2]

The supposition that these states are somehow existent by themselves and in this existence provide the psychologist with ready-made material is just the supreme case of the " psychological fallacy ": the confusion of experience as it is to the one experiencing with what the psychologist makes out of it with his reflective analysis.

The psychologist begins with certain operations, acts, functions as his data. If these fall out of

( 251) sight in the course of discussion, it is only because having been taken for granted, they remain to control the whole development of the inquiry, and to afford the sterling medium of redemption. Acts such as perceiving, remembering, intending, loving give the points of departure; they alone are concrete experiences. To understand these experiences, under what conditions they arise, and what effects they produce, analysis into states of consciousness occurs. And the modes of consciousness that are figured remain unarranged and unimportant, save as they may be translated back into acts.

To remember is to do something, as much as to shoe a horse, or to cherish a keepsake. To propose, to observe, to be kindly affectioned, are terms of value, of practice, of operation; just as digestion, respiration, locomotion express functions, not observable " objects." But there is an object that may be described: lungs, stomach, leg-muscles, or whatever. Through the structure we present to ourselves the function; it appears laid out before us, spread forth in detail-objectified in a word. The anatomist who devotes himself to this detail may, if lie please (and he probably does please to concentrate his devotion) ignore the function: to discover what is there, to analyze, to measure, to describe, gives him outlet enough. But nevertheless it is the function that fixed the

( 252) point of departure, that prescribed the problem and that set the limits, physical as well as intellectual, of subsequent investigation. Reference to function makes the details discovered other than a jumble of incoherent trivialities. One might as well devote himself to the minute description of a square yard of desert soil were it not for this translation. States of consciousness are the morphology of certain functions.[3] What is true of analysis, of description, is true equally of classification. Knowing, willing, feeling, name states of consciousness not in terms of themselves, but in terms of acts, attitudes, found in experience.[4]


Explanation, even of an "empirical sort" is as impossible as determination of a "state" and its classification, when we rigidly confine ourselves to modifications of consciousness as a self-existent. Sensations are always defined, classified, and explained by reference to conditions which, according to the theory, are extraneous-sense-organs and stimuli. The whole physiological side assumes a ludicrously anomalous aspect on this basis.[5] While experimentation is retained, and even made much of, it is at the cost of logical coherence. To experiment with reference to a bare state of consciousness is a performance of which one cannot imagine the nature, to say nothing of doing it; while to experiment with reference to acts and the conditions of their occurrence is a natural and straightforward undertaking. Such simple processes as association are concretely inexplicable when

(254) we assume states of consciousness as existences by themselves. As recent psychology testifies, we again have to resort to conditions that have no place nor calling on the basis of the theory-the principle of habit, of neural action, or else some connection in the object.[6]

We have only to note that there are two opposing schools in psychology to see in what an unscientific status is the subject. We have only to consider that these two schools are the result of assuming states of consciousness as existences per se to locate the source of the scientific scandal. No matter what the topic, whether memory or association or attention or effort, the same dualisms present themselves, the same necessity of choosing between two schools. One, lost in the distinctions that it has developed, denies the function because it can find objectively presented only states of consciousness. So it abrogates the function, regarding it as a mere aggregate of such states, or as a purely external and factitious re-

( 255) -lation between them. The other school, recognizing that this procedure explains away rather than explains, the values of experience, attempts to even up by declaring that certain functions are themselves immediately given data of consciousness, existing side by side with the " states," but indefinitely transcending them in worth, and apprehended by some higher organ. So against the elementary contents and external associations of the analytic school in psychology, we have the complicated machinery of the intellectualist school, with its pure self-consciousness as a source of ultimate truths, its hierarchy of intuitions, its ready made faculties. To be sure, these " spiritual faculties " are now largely reduced to some one comprehensive form Apperception, or Will, or Attention, or whatever the fashionable term may be. But the principle remains the same; the assumption of a function as a given existent, distinguishable in itself and acting upon other existences-as if the functions digestion and vision were regarded as separate from organic structures, somehow acting upon them from the outside so as to bring cooperation and harmony into them![7] This division into psychological schools is as reasonable as would be one of botanists into rootists and flowerists ; of

(256) those proclaiming the root to be the rudimentary and essential structure, and those asserting that since the function of seed-bearing is the main thing, the flower is really the controlling " synthetic " principle. Both sensationalist and intellectualist suppose that psychology has some special sphere of " reality " or of experience marked off for it within which the data are just lying around, self-existent and ready-made, to be picked up and assorted as pebbles await the visitor on the beach. Both alike fail to recognize that the psychologist first has experience to deal with; the same experience that the zoologist, geologist, chemist, mathematician, and historian deal with, and that what characterizes his specialty is not some data or existences which he may call uniquely his own; but the problem raised-the problem of the course of the acts that constitute experiencing.

Here psychology gets its revenge upon those who would rule it out of possession of important philosophical bearing. As a matter of fact, the larger part of the questions that are being discussed in current epistemology and what is termed metaphysic of logic and ethic arise out of (and are hopelessly compromised by) this original assumption of " consciousness as such "-in other words, are provoked by the exact reason that is given for denying to psychology any essential meaning for epistemology and metaphysic. Such is the

( 257) irony of the situation. The epistemologist's problem is, indeed, usually put as the question of how the subject can so far "transcend" itself as to get valid assurance of the objective world. The very phraseology in which the problem is put reveals the thoroughness of the psychologist's revenge. Just and only because experience has been reduced to " states of consciousness " as independent existences, does the question of self-transcendence have any meaning. The entire epistemological industry is one shall I say it---of a Sisyphean nature. Mutatis mutandis, the same holds of the metaphysic of logic, ethic, and esthetic. In each case, the basic problem has come to be how a mere state of consciousness can be the vehicle of a system of truth, of an objectively valid good, of beauty which is other than agreeable feeling. We may, indeed, excuse the psychologist for not carrying on the special inquiries that are the business of logical, ethical, and esthetical philosophy; but can we excuse ourselves for forcing his results into such a shape as to make philosophic problems so arbitrary that they are soluble only by arbitrarily wrenching scientific facts?

Undoubtedly we are between two fires. In placing upon psychology the responsibility of discovering the method of experience, as a sequence of acts and passions, do we not destroy just that limitation to concrete detail which now constitutes

( 258) it a science? Will not the psychologist be the first to repudiate this attempt to mix him up in matters philosophical? We need only to keep in mind the specific facts involved in the term Course or Process of Experience to avoid this danger. The immediate preoccupation of the psychologist is with very definite and empirical facts-questions like the limits of audition, of the origin of pitch, of the structure and conditions of the musical scale, etc. Just so the immediate affair of the geologist is with particular rock-structures, of the botanist with particular plants, and so on. But through the collection, description, location, classification of rocks the geologist is led to the splendid story of world-forming. The limited, fixed, and separate piece of work is dissolved away in the fluent and dynamic drama of the earth. So, the plant leads with inevitableness to the whole process of life and its evolution.

In form, the botanist still studies the genus, the species, the plant-hardly, indeed, that; rather the special parts, the structural elements, of the plant. In reality, he studies life itself; the structures are the indications, the signature through which he renders transparent the mystery of life growing in the changing world. It was doubtless necessary for the botanist to go through the Linnean period-the period of engagement with rigid detail and fixed classifications; of tear-

(259) -ing apart and piecing together; of throwing all emphasis upon peculiarities of number, size, and appearance of matured structure; of regarding change, growth, and function as external, more or less interesting, attachments to form. Examination of this period is instructive; there is much in contemporary investigation and discussion that is almost unpleasantly reminiscent in its suggestiveness. The psychologist should profit by the intervening history of science. The conception of evolution is not so much an additional law as it is a face-about. The fixed structure, the separate form, the isolated element, is henceforth at best a mere stepping-stone to knowledge of process, and when not at its best, marks the end of comprehension, and betokens failure to grasp the problem.

With the change in standpoint from self-included existence to including process, from structural unit of composition to controlling unity of function, from changeless form to movement in growth, the whole scheme of values is transformed. Faculties are definite directions of development; elements are products that are starting-points for new processes; bare facts are indices of change; static conditions are modes of accomplished adjustment. Not that the concrete, empirical phenomenon loses in worth, much less that unverifiable " metaphysical " entities are impertinently introduced; but that our aim is the discovery of a

(260) process of actions in its adaptations to circumstance. If we apply this evolutionary logic in psychology, where shall we stop? Questions of limits of stimuli in a given sense, say hearing, are in reality questions of temporary arrests, adjustments marking the favorable equilibrium of the whole organism; they connect with the question of the use of sensation in general and auditory sensations in particular for life-habits; of the origin and use of localized and distinguished perception; and this, in turn, involves within itself the whole question of space and time recognition; the significance of the thing-and-quality experience, and so on. And when we are told that the question of the origin of space experience has nothing at all to do with the question of the nature and significance of the space experienced, the statement is simply evidence that the one who makes it is still at the static standpoint; he believes that things, that relations, have existence and significance apart from the particular conditions under which they come into experience, and apart from the special service rendered in those particular conditions.

Of course, I am far from saving that every psychologist must make the whole journey. Each individual may contract, as he pleases, for any section or subsection he prefers; and undoubtedly the well-being of the science is advanced by such divi-

( 261) -sion of labor. But psychology goes over the whole ground from detecting every distinct act of experiencing, to seeing what need calls out the special organ fitted to cope with the situation, and discovering the machinery through which it operates to keep a-going the course of action.

But, I shall be told, the wall that divides psychology from philosophy cannot be so easily treated as non-existent. Psychology is a matter of natural history, even though it may be admitted that it is the natural history of the course of experience. But philosophy is a matter of values; of the criticism and justification of certain validities. One deals, it is said, with genesis, with conditions of temporal origin and transition; the other with analysis, with eternal constitution. I shall have to repeat that just this rigid separation of genesis and analysis seems to me a survival from a pre-evolutionary, a pre-historic age. It indicates not so much an assured barrier between philosophy and psychology as the distance dividing philosophy from all science. For the lesson that mathematicians first learned, that physics and chemistry pondered over, in which the biological disciplines were finally tutored, is that sure and delicate analysis is possible only through the patient study of conditions of origin and development. The method of analysis in mathematics is the method of construction. The experimental method

( 262) is the method of making, of following the history of production; the term " cause " that has (when taken as an existent entity) so hung on the heels of science as to impede its progress, has universal meaning when read as condition of appearance in a process. And, as already intimated, the conception of evolution is no more and no less the discovery of a general law of life than it is the generalization of all scientific method. Everywhere analysis that cannot proceed by examining the successive stages of its subject, from its beginning up to its culmination, that cannot control this examination by discovering the conditions under which successive stages appear, is only preliminary. It may further the invention of proper tools of inquiry, it may help define problems, it may serve to suggest valuable hypotheses. But as science it breathes an air already tainted. There is no way to sort out the results flowing from the subject-matter itself from those introduced by the assumptions and presumptions of our own reflection. 'Not so with natural history when it is worthy of its name. Here the analysis is the unfolding of the existence itself. Its distinctions are not pigeon-holes of our convenience; they are stakes that mark the parting of the ways in the process itself. Its classifications are not a grasp at factors resisting further analysis; they are the patient tracings of the paths pursued. Noth-

(263) -ing is more out of date than to suppose that interest in genesis is interest in reducing higher forms to cruder ones: it is interest in locating the exact and objective conditions under which a given fact appears, and in relation to which accordingly it has its meaning. Nothing is more nave than to suppose that in pursuing " natural history " (term of scorn in which yet resides the dignity of the world-drama) we simply learn something of the temporal conditions under which a given value appears, while its own eternal essential quality remains as opaque as before. Nature knows no such divorce of quality and circumstance. Things come when they are wanted and as they are wanted; their quality is precisely the response they give to the conditions that call for them, while the furtherance they afford to the movement of their whole is their meaning. The severance of analysis and genesis, instead of serving as a ready-made test by which to try out the empirical, temporal events of psychology from the rational abiding constitution of philosophy, is a brand of philosophic dualism: the supposition that values are externally obtruded and statically set in irrelevant rubbish.

There are those who will admit that "states of consciousness" are but the cross-sections of flow of behavior, arrested for inspection, made in order that we may reconstruct experience in its life

( 264) history. Yet in the knowledge of the course and method of our experience, they will hold that we are far from the domain proper of philosophy. Experience, they say, is just the historic achievement of finite individuals; it tells the tale of approach to the treasures of truth, of partial victory, but larger defeat, in laying hold of the treasure. But, they say, reality is not the path to reality, and record of devious wanderings in the path is hardly a safe account of the goal. Psychology, in other words, may tell us something of how we mortals lay hold of the world of things and truths; of how we appropriate and assimilate its contents; and of how we react. It may trace the issues of such approaches and apprehensions upon the course of our own individual destinies. But it cannot wisely ignore nor sanely deny the distinction between these individual strivings and achievements, and the " Reality " that subsists and supports its own structure outside these finite futilities. The processes by which we turn over The Reality into terms of our fragmentary unconcluded, inconclusive experiences are so extrinsic to the Reality itself as to have no revealing power with reference to it. There is the ordo ad universum, the subject of philosophy; there is the ordo ad individuum, the subject of psychology.

Some such assumption as this lies latent, I am convinced, in all forswearings of the kinship of

( 265) psychology and philosophy. Two conceptions hang together. The opinion that psychology is an account only and finally of states of consciousness, and therefore can throw no light upon the objects with which philosophy deals, is twin to the doctrine that the whole conscious life of the individual is not organic to the world. The philosophic basis and scope of this doctrine lie beyond examination here. But even in passing one cannot avoid remarking that the doctrine is almost never consistently held; the doctrine logically carried out leads so directly to intellectual and moral scepticism that the theory usually prefers to work in the dark background as a disposition and temper of thought rather than to make a frank statement of itself. Even in the half-hearted expositions of the process of human experience as something merely annexed to the reality of the .universe, we are brought face to face to the consideration with which we set out the dependence of theories of the individual upon the position at a given time of the individual practical and social. The doctrine of the accidental, futile, transitory significance of the individual's experience as compared with eternal realities; the notion that at best the individual is simply realizing for and in himself what already has fixed completeness in itself is congruous only with a certain intellectual and political scheme and must modify itself as that shifts. When such re-

(266) arrangement comes, our estimate of the nature and importance of psychology will mirror the change.

When man's command of the methods that control action was precarious and disturbed; when the tools that subject the world of things and forces to use and operation were rare and clumsy, it was unavoidable that the individual should submit his perception and purpose blankly to the blank reality beyond. Under such circumstances, external authority must reign; the belief that human experience in itself is approximate, not-intrinsic, is inevitable. Under such circumstances, reference to the individual, to the subject, is a resort only for explaining error, illusion, and uncertainty. The necessity of external control and external redemption of experience reports itself in a low valuation of the self, and of all the factors and phases of experience that spring from the self. That the psychology of medievalism should appear only as a portion of its theology of sin and salvation is as obvious as that the psychology of the Greeks should be a chapter of cosmology.

As against all this, the assertion is ventured that psychology, supplying us with knowledge of the behavior of experience, is a conception of democracy. Its postulate is that since experience fulfils itself in individuals, since it administers itself through their instrumentality, the account of

( 267) the course and method of this achievement is a significant and indispensable affair.

Democracy is possible only because of a change in intellectual conditions. It implies tools for getting at truth in detail, and day by day, as we go along. Only such possession justifies the surrender of fixed, all-embracing principles to which, as universals, all particulars and individuals are subject for valuation and regulation. Without such possession, it is only the courage of the fool that would undertake the venture to which democracy has committed itself-the ordering of life in response to the needs of the moment in accordance with the ascertained truth of the moment. Modern life involves the deification of the here and the now; of the specific, the particular, the unique, that which happens once and has no measure of value save such as it brings with itself. Such deification is monstrous fetishism, unless the deity be there; unless the universal lives, moves, and has its being in experience as individualized.[8] This con-

( 268) viction of the value of the individualized finds its further expression in psychology, which undertakes to show how this individualization proceeds, and in what aspect it presents itself.

Of course, such a conception means something for philosophy as well as for psychology; possibly it involves for philosophy the larger measure of transformation. It involves surrender of any claim on the part of philosophy to be the sole source of some truths and the exclusive guardian of some

( 269) values. It means that philosophy be a method; not an assurance company, nor a knight errant. It means an alignment with science. Philosophy may not be sacrificed to the partial and superficial clamor of that which sometimes officiously and pretentiously exhibits itself as Science. But there is a sense in which philosophy must go to school to the sciences; must have no data save such as it receives at their bands; and be hospitable to no method of inquiry or reflection not akin to those in daily use among the sciences. As long as it claims for itself special territory of fact, or peculiar modes of access to truth, so long must it occupy a dubious position. Yet this claim it has to make until psychology comes to its own. There is something in experience, something in things, which the physical and the biological sciences do not touch; something, moreover, which is not just more experiences or more existences; but without which their materials are inexperienced, unrealized. Such sciences deal only with what might be experienced; with the content of experience, provided and assumed there be experience. It is psychology which tells us how this possible experience loses its barely hypothetical character, and is stamped with categorical unquestioned experiencedness ; how, in a word, it becomes here and now in some uniquely individualized life. Here is the necessary transition of science into philosophy; a passage that carries the verified and solid body of the one into the large and free form of the other.

[NOTE: I have let this paper stand much as written, though now conscious that much more is crowded into it than could properly be presented in one paper. The drift of the ten years from '99 to '09 has made, I venture to believe, for increased clearness in the main positions of the paper: The revival of a naturalistic realism, the denial of the existence of " consciousness," the development of functional and dynamic psychology (accompanied by aversion to interpretation of functions as faculties of a soul-substance)-all of these tendencies are sympathetic with the aim of the paper. There is another reason for letting it stand: the new functional and pragmatic empiricism proffered in this volume has been constantly objected to on the ground that its conceptions of knowledge and verification lead only to subjectivism and solipsism. The paper may indicate that the identification of experience with bare states of consciousness represents the standpoint of the critic, not of the empiricism criticised, and that it is for him, not for me, to fear the subjective implications of such a position. The paper also clearly raises the question as to how far the isolation of "consciousness" from nature and social life, which characterizes the procedure of many psychologists of to-day, is responsible for keeping alive quite unreal problems in philosophy.]


  1. Delivered as a public address before the Philosophic Union of the University of California, with the title " Psychology and Philosophic Method," May, 1899, and published in the University Chronicle for August, 1899. Reprinted, with slight verbal changes, mostly excisions.
  2. This is a fact not without its bearings upon the question of the nature and value of introspection. The objection that introspection "alters" the reality and hence is untrustworthy, most writers dispose of by saying that, after all, it need not alter the reality so very much-not beyond repair and that, moreover, memory assists in restoring the ruins. It would be simpler to admit the fact: that the purpose of introspection is precisely to effect the right sort of alteration. If introspection should give us the original experience again, we should just be living through the experience over again in direct fashion; as psychologists we should not be forwarded one bit. Reflection upon this obvious proposition may bring to light various other matters worthy of note.
  3. Thus to divorce " structure psychology " from " function psychology " is to leave us without possibility of scientific comprehension of function, while it deprives us of all standard of reference in selecting, observing, and explaining the structure.
  4. The following answer may fairly be anticipated: "This is true of the operations cited, but only because complex processes have been selected. Such a term as `knowing' does of course express a function involving a system of intricate references. But, for that very reason, we go back to the sensation which is the genuine type of the `state of consciousness' as such, pure and unadulterate and unsophisticated." The point is large for a footnote, but the following considerations are instructive: (1) The same psychologist will go on to inform us that sensations, as we experience them, are networks of reference-they are perceptual, and more or less conceptual even. From which it would appear that whatever else they are or are not, the sensations, for which self-inclosed existence is claimed, are not states of consciousness. And (2) we are told that these are reached by scientific abstraction in order to account for complex forms. From which it would appear that they are hypothecated as products of interpretation and for purposes of further interpretation. Only the delusion that the more complex forms are just aggregates (instead of being acts, like seeing, hoping, etc.) prevents recognition of the point in question-that the "state of consciousness " is an instrument of inquiry or methodological appliance.
  5. "On the other hand, if what we are trying to get at is just the course and procedure of experiencing, of course any consideration that helps distinguish and make comprehensible that process is thoroughly pertinent.
  6. It may avoid misunderstanding if I anticipate here a subsequent remark: that my point is not in the least that "states of consciousness " require some "synthetic unity" or faculty of substantial mind to effect their association. Quite the contrary; for this theory also admits the "states of consciousness" as existences in themselves also. My contention is that the "state of consciousness " as such is always a methodological product, developed in the course and for the purposes of psychological analysis.
  7. The " functions " are in truth ordinary everyday acts and attitudes: seeing, smelling, talking, listening, remembering, hoping, loving, fearing.
  8. This is perhaps a suitable moment to allude to the absence, in this discussion, of reference to what is sometimes termed rational psychology-the assumption of a separate, substantialized ego, soul, or whatever, existing side by side with particular experiences and "states of consciousness," acting upon them and acted upon by them. In ignoring this and confining myself to the "states of consciousness" theory and the "natural history" theory, I may appear not only to have unduly narrowed the concerns at issue, but to have weakened my own point, as this doctrine seems to offer a special vantage ground whence to defend the close relationship of psychology and philosophy. The " narrowing," if such it be, will have to pass-from limits of time and other matters. But the other point I cannot concede. The independently existing soul restricts and degrades individuality, making of it a separate thing outside of the full flow of things, alien to things experienced and consequently in either mechanical or miraculous relations to them. It is vitiated by just the quality already objected to-that psychology has a separate piece of reality apportioned to it, instead of occupying itself with the manifestation and operation of any and all existences in reference to concrete action. From this point of view, the " states of consciousness" attitude is a much more hopeful and fruitful one. It ignores certain considerations, to be sure; and when it turns its ignoring into denial, it leaves us with curious hieroglyphics. But after all, there is a key; these symbols can be read; they may be translated into terms of the course of experience. When thus translated, selfhood, individuality, is neither wiped out nor set up as a miraculous and foreign entity; it is seen as the unity of reference and function involved in all things when fully experienced-the pivot about which they turn.

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