(a) Philosophy and Psychology — We have derived "good" and "bad" from the activity of conscious beings, the fulfilling of their capacity. We cannot give concreteness to these abstract phrases without making an excursion into psychology, the science of behaviour, and particularly of conscious human behaviour. Our concern with the physical sciences was only indirect, but psychology we must consider more closely. As the science of human behaviour, it should throw light on the proper fulfilling of human capacity. We shall examine it, however, from the philosophical point of .view. Psychology is simply one of the sciences, and therefore a field for specialists, like physics or chemistry. Part of the philosopher's task in relation to all sciences is to study respectfully the findings of the specialists, so as to discover the bearing of one science on another; but also he must try to form clear ideas about the fundamental assumptions with which the specialists work, so as to discover if possible what their significance is, not merely for the practical purposes of the particular science but for philosophy.
What then is the philosophical bearing of the vast, incoherent mass of doctrines known as modern psychology? What of permanent value does it tell us of the nature of human personality and its healthy functioning?
(b) Psychological Determinism — The psychologist's aim is to discover principles which will enable him to predict human behaviour and control it, as the chemist predicts and controls the behaviour of atoms. The psychologist wishes to be able to declare that "human beings of a certain type, faced with certain circumstances, will behave in certain manners and can be influenced by certain methods." In fact, he wishes to show that human behaviour is systematically related to certain determinants in human nature and the environment. Only in so far as psychological determinism is true, only in so far as human behaviour is not arbitrary, can the psychologist go about his business at all.
We have seen that all scientists work inductively. From masses of data they construct formulae descriptive of the general pattern of events. With these formulae they predict future events with more or less success. Scientific laws, we have noted, are expected to hold good in the future; but we know no necessity why they should. At any time they may be broken. So far as we are concerned, electrons, if they do behave systematically, do so not because in the nature of things they must, but spontaneously, because they have it in them to behave in certain manners.
Psychological laws are on the same footing as physical laws, though they are much less precise, much less comprehensive, and much less reliable. They are descriptions of ways in which on the whole people of certain types behave in certain circumstances. For instance, in serious danger most people try to escape, unless they have some strong motive for doing otherwise. Owing to the complexity of human behaviour and the sketchiness of psychology, only the simplest and most obvious laws can be relied upon with any confidence; and these are all laws of a biological type, descriptive of the reactions of fear, sex, hunger, and so on. We shall later question whether these laws of primitive behaviour are adequate fur a full and true description of human behaviour in all its modes.
Meanwhile let us note that, even if this is not the case, psychological determinism may still be true. Even if it is necessary to construct special laws for the more developed activities, human behaviour may still be systematic and therefore predictable. On the other hand, it might be found that this was not the case. There may be something absolutely indeterminate and arbitrary in human behaviour. It is at least possible that in some human acts there is a factor which is absolutely novel, something which is, in the fullest sense of the word, creative.
If psychological determinism is true absolutely, human behaviour is in theory predictable throughout. Should this possibility be contemplated with horror? No. In actual life the man whose conduct is recognised to be systematic, predictable, reliable, is valued and praised, not spurned, so long as the determining principles of his conduct are themselves good principles. A deterministic system of psychology which described just how, just with what degree of moral integrity, different kinds of men would behave in different circumstances need not be disheartening, so long as it allowed generous and noble motives to be in some considerable degree actually effective, and not merely disguised resultants of the interaction of primitive impulses.
The only kind of freedom that matters is not freedom for completely irresponsible, arbitrary caprice, but the freedom which consists in self-determination, in contrast with determination by something external to the self, or something within the self but less than the whole self. In the act of falling down a precipice a man is relatively unfree, since the event is almost wholly determined from without. In walking he is relatively free, since the event is largely determined by his own active nature. On the other hand, if, under the impulse of obsessive hate, he walks to commit a murder, contrary to his better judgment; if, in fact, his act is determined by an insistent partial motive, although he knows that it will lead to disaster for his self as a whole, then he is in an important sense less free than if he resisted the temptation. Finally, even in an act of prudence, if its motive is obsessive self-regard in conflict with the considered will to behave socially, a man may be said to be less free than in self-abnegation for an end which he himself recognises as more worthy than self-preservation. In this kind of act he achieves the highest possible degree of freedom. That is, though his act is fully determined, it is determined in accordance with his own fully conscious and fully integrated will. In fact, he himself determines it, acting, of course, in relation to the external world. He himself, no doubt, is a determinate something. He has a certain nature and not some other nature. But in so far as his act was a complete and unrestrained expression of his own nature, he was free, in the only sense that matters; even if, in turn, his nature was in the past determined by influences other than himself which produced him.
(c) "Mental Chemistry"— The analytical method, which proved so useful in the physical sciences, was naturally applied in psychology. In this field, of course, it has proved immensely useful; but it has also been responsible for a good deal of unsound theory.
David Hume, as we have seen, regarded the mind as a stream of "impressions and ideas." Some of the followers of Hume claimed that to understand this stream of consciousness we must analyse it and discover the laws which determine the patterns and sequences of the elements which compose it. They thought in terms of "mental chemistry." Consciousness at any moment was like a very complex and ever-changing chemical compound made up, so to speak, of mental atoms. Further, they believed that one fundamental principle underlay all psychological laws, namely the principle of "mental association." The present experience, they said, tends to recall features of past experience which were associated with this particular kind of experience on past occasions. Thus the visual appearance of an orange as a round, yellow, mottled patch recalls the fragrance and sweetness that were formerly associated with such visual experiences. The psychology based on this principle is called Associationism, and is fundamentally "atomistic." It deals in mental " atoms."
These "mental atoms" are supposed to consist of unit characters of sensation — units of colour, pressure, warmth, sound, and so on, occurring in patterns to form shapes, physical objects, rhythms; and capable of being recalled as images from past experience. Some of the patterns are supposed to be intrinsically pleasant or unpleasant, others acquire pleasantness or unpleasantness in relation to the primitive need of the organism to preserve itself, or to its more sophisticated needs, acquired in a civilised environment.
As we shall see, the theory is open to many serious objections, which are of two main types. The first is that the mind is not "built up" of unitary elements. It is essentially an "organic whole," in which every part is determined by its relation to the rest. The second objection is that the mind is not simply a passive recipient of impressions. It is essentially active, or (if you prefer the word) dynamic; and its experience is largely determined by its activities or its capacities for action. Let us consider the unity of the mind.
(d) The Unity of Experience — The mind, then, is not made up of mental atoms which are distinct and self-complete and unmodified by their relations with the whole of experience. The mind is not built of separate bricks. Experience is not composed of mortared units. It is "seamless." Its parts fade into one another. Moreover, everything in experience qualifies and penetrates everything else. Whatever we experience is experienced in virtue of its difference from other things. A perceived shape, for instance, is a determination within the total visual field. It is what it is in virtue of the background which it is not. Warmth is sensed in contrast with cold, light with darkness. We perceive patterns, which closer attention can analyse into their component parts. We do not build the patterns up out of mental elements. In this connection one of Professor Köh1er's experiments is significant. He confronted a hungry ape with two cards of different shades of grey. Behind the darker card there was food, behind the other nothing. After a few such experiences the ape learned to go straight to the darker card. But one day the light card was removed and a fresh card, darker than the original dark card, was put in its place. In the altered situation, the ape chose the new and very dark card. That is, it was all along reacting, not to a particular shade of grey, but to "darker," as opposed to "lighter." On the atomistic theory it should have continued to respond automatically to the original, medium shade, no matter what other cards were introduced.
We must conceive of the infant's mind not as a "buzzing confusion" (to use William James's phrase), but as a shifting, unsteady experience of very simple patterns against a very vague, unnoticed background. Its mental progress consists of gradually filling out the patterns with detail, by analysing out their features; and in the progressive discovery of fresh patterns in the hitherto unnoticed background. Probably the infant does not even distinguish between the different sensory fields. Its mother is not something which occurs in the field of sight, and in the field of touch, and in the field of sound. She is simply a seen-felt-touched thing.
In this connection we must distinguish between what Bertrand Russell has called the "psychologically primitive" and the "logically primitive." The psychologically primitive is what comes first in the development of the mind, the vague perception of unanalysed physical objects, actually composed of elements from several senses. The logically primitive is the detailed pattern of unitary sense-characters which the expert mind reaches by careful analysis of common-sense perception of physical objects. For the understanding of the physical world, what matters most is the logically primitive. For the understanding of the mind, both are important, in different connections. Even for the understanding of the physical world, it is important to realise that the unitary sensory characters, which the expert discovers by the analysis of perception, are not the absolutely fixed, discrete elements which they were once supposed to be. Every sense-character is intrinsically related to others by contrast. The seemingly atomic structure of experience is not strictly atomic.
Our present concern is the mind, and its unity. We must never lose sight of the fact that the mind, whatever it is, experiences things together. When we see a dog and hear it bark, there is not merely the seeing a dog and the hearing it bark. There is a single experience of "see-hearing." Seeing we hear, and hearing we see. And each factor of the single experience to some extent modifies the other.
The unity of experience is particularly striking in the relation of knowing, feeling, and striving. These were formerly regarded as distinct faculties which might function independently of one another; but every mental event really involves all three of them, or rather has three aspects. It is a case of know-feel-strive, or (in technical language) cognition-affection-conation. Obviously there can be no conscious striving that is not a striving about something known and felt. There can be no feeling (liking or disliking) that is not feeling about something known and striven for or against. There can be no knowing that is not itself an enterprise, an activity, a striving, either to grasp or to avoid something. Moreover, in another way also knowing involves striving. Our knowing, our cognition, is determined not only by the objective world but also by our interests. These direct our attention hither and thither, and actually modify our knowing.
The atomistic or granular theory of experience is faced with a peculiarly striking difficulty in respect of memory. If it is taken seriously it makes memory impossible. According to the theory a particular act of memory is just a system of mental imagery to which is attached a feeling of "pastness." It has also certain relations within a wider system of possible imagery, similarly toned with "pastness," namely" my past experience." But within the terms of the theory it is quite unintelligible that memory should be about actual events which formerly occurred and are now non-existent. For if it is about actual past events, the conscious act of remembering must be something more than a mere present event having no contact with the past. Something or other that was present at the past event must persist now. Such a spanning of past and present the theory does not permit. So far as the theory is concerned, memory must be a gigantic illusion. I may have come into being a few seconds ago equipped with a complete set of bogus memories which have no relation to a real past. If we insist on believing that memory really reports the past we must refrain from describing consciousness in such a way as to make this impossible.
This difficulty over memory is a good example of the limitations of the analytic method. We must distinguish between "aggregates" and "organic wholes." An aggregate is a collection of independent things, such as a heap of stones. An organic whole is a system in which the nature of the parts is determined by their relations with the rest of the system. Animals, minds, and works of art are organic wholes. If you analyse an organic whole into parts and regard the parts as discrete self-complete things, and then explain the whole in terms of them, your explanation will be superficial.
We must now ask whether there is really any truth in the doctrine of Associationism. No doubt in some sense a present experience tends to "recall" similar experiences in the past, and also their associates in the past. But how can this be explained in terms of the theory? If the factors of experience are wholly distinct from one another, how can mere likeness constitute a . between them? Is similarity a sort of magnetism?
If on the other hand we think of experience, not as a patchwork and succession of separate things, but as the complex activity of a single enduring thing, this difficulty is avoided. We should then describe association thus. When the "enduring thing" is stimulated to act in a certain manner (e.g. seeing an orange) in which it has acted on former occasions, it tends to be in some degree aware of the former act and of the whole pattern of activity (e.g. fragrance and taste) in which the former act was a member.
What of this "enduring thing"? If it is to serve the purpose of the explanation, must it be a substance, with changing attributes? Before dealing with this problem let us very briefly consider the observable nature of the individual mind and the ways in which minds differ.
(a) Perception, Memory, Thought — First let us remember the second main criticism of the old Associationist psychology, namely that the mind is not passive but essentially active. We have already seen that cognition (which includes every kind of apprehending) is determined partly by the object cognised and partly by the dynamic nature of the individual. His needs and interests direct and limit his attention. His sense-organs can respond only to a few of the innumerable kinds of stimuli that flood in on him. No sense-organs, for instance, are adapted to "radio" waves, or ultraviolet waves, or supersonics. Only stimuli of those kinds which have proved relevant to biological need are selected by specialised organs.
Another important character of our mental life is that it includes immediate acquaintance with change. Experience is always "going on." It does not consist of a durationless instant of present experience which "clicks" into the past. If it did we should have no perception of change or movement. But we do actually perceive things moving and changing. Our present is therefore a span of time, not a timeless instant. One event fades into the next and gradually ceases to be present.
Next, sense-experience is filled out with vague sensory imagery derived from the past, so as to afford perception of the hosts of three-dimensional physical objects of the world of ordinary life. Past experience can also be recalled as explicit memories with a feeling of "pastness," and more or less precise location in the system of remembered and merely "heard-of" past events.
The most striking difference between human cognition and that of even the most developed sub-human animals is that in man there is a far higher degree of the power of abstraction, of forming general ideas, or (more precisely) of attending to the universal characters that large classes of events or situations have in common, while ignoring the idiosyncrasies of the particular events or situations. Professor Köhler's chimpanzees, as we have remarked, abstracted the character that renders packing-cases climbable. Man goes much farther in abstracting such very general characters as "a million," "justice," "space," "truth." The power of abstraction has been immensely aided by the practice of using verbal symbols, or names, to earmark and signify particular things and, universal characters. Without language, thought could never have passed far beyond the stage reached by the apes. Unfortunately, like all potent instruments, language is dangerous. Symbols may come to lose their meaning, or take on several meanings. Such debased symbols, or pseudo-symbols, which have no objective meaning at all though they are manipulated as though they were genuine symbols, may lead to all manner of superstitions and subtle unconscious confusions of thought.
Men vary greatly in cognitive powers. Some have better sensory equipment than others.- Some can discriminate differences which are too slight for others to detect. In fact, some are more capable of analysis. Some, on the other hand, are better at synthesis. They have, so to speak, wider mental grasp. They can detect the relationship of facts which superficially seem to have no connection with one another. Such powers as these go to make up the complex capacity known as intelligence. Clearly some individuals are more intelligent than others, either in special fields or in every field. Some, for instance, have more "practical intelligence," some more "theoretical intelligence." Some are specially gifted with intelligence in the sphere of personal intercourse. They are peculiarly apt at detecting slight changes of mode in the behaviour of their fellows, and responding appropriately.
These cognitive powers, though they may vary in degree in different individuals, are common in some degree to all. Besides these powers we must allow the possibility of others which the average man lacks, or has only in a negligible degree. There is some evidence that at least a few individuals, perhaps all to some extent, are capable of "telepathy," of direct access to the experience of others, without the mediation of the senses, This conclusion is at least strongly suggested by recent experiments. Still more surprising, experiment has also seemed to support the claim that some are capable of "clairvoyance," of "extra-sensory" perception of physical facts which could not be reached either by the normal channels or by telepathy. Such claims need to be supported by a much greater mass of evidence before they can be accepted as fully established; but in the present state of human knowledge it would be foolish to rule out the possibility of such powers. It is, after all, very probable that our present naively materialistic knowledge touches only the fringe of reality. Supernormal modes of cognition may actually occur amongst us; and they may constitute a fragmentary hint of powers proper to a higher plane of evolution.
(b) Straining Toward Action — We must now consider the individual as a centre of feeling and striving, and we must begin with another criticism of Associationism. Any particular present experience must have an immense number of very diverse associations in the past. What is it that determines which of all these shall actually be recalled? For the hungry man all sorts of experience are apt to be reminiscent of food; all trains of thought lead sooner or later to memories or fantasies of feasting. Yet when he has fed, his attention will wander in other directions. The course of association, and indeed the character of perception itself, are largely determined by the claims of interest or need. After a visit to Switzerland an artist and a geologist will give very different reports of the country. The one will see the mountains mainly as complicated coloured shapes, the other as geological formations.
The individual is essentially dynamic. He is doing things and straining to do other things. Biologically and psychologically he is a system of needs to act in specific manners in response to the state of his own body and the environment. When he is empty, he needs to seek food. When in danger, he needs to escape. When sexually ripe he needs to make love. When thwarted by another living creature he needs to take violent hostile action. And so on. These needs or active behaviour-tendencies or dispositions largely determine his cognition of his world. He is far from a merely passive recipient of external fact.
For psychology, as for biology, the most significant concept is that of the active organism, responding to the stimuli of the environment. The organism must be regarded not simply as a physical thing, but rather as a body-mind, as something to be studied both from the physical and the psychological points of view.
We must be careful not to suppose that a need, or disposition, or behaviour-tendency, is a hidden bit of machinery which compels the organism to behave in a specific way. When we say that a man needs food or tends to eat when he is hungry, we are not expounding an internal necessity; we are merely summarising a host of observations of particular cases .of human behaviour. Even when we attribute some particular behaviour to some hidden need, we are doing no more than describing. If, in the manner of the psycho-analysts, we derive (let us say) a particular vindictive act from repressed father-hate, we are only saying that the act has characters in virtue bf which it must be assigned to a certain class.
Though a need is not to be thought of as a hidden bit of machinery, we must nevertheless think of it as in some sense a disposition (momentary or constant) toward some specific kind of activity, a potentiality of acting in a certain manner in response to a certain kind of situation. On the other hand, we must beware of regarding dispositions as inflexible, unalterable, distinct factors; and the personality as a tissue woven of these harsh fibres. Rather we must think of dispositions as all, in varying degrees, fluid or viscous, as only relatively constant. In fact they are intrinsically related parts within the organic whole of the personality.
The individual's activities are teleological. They are determined by a goal or end, at least in the sense that, when a certain end is attained, the activity ceases. For instance, in flight from danger, the course of activity may vary with circumstances, but when the individual has escaped the danger, by whatever course, flight ceases. We must be careful not to confuse the end which actually causes quiescence and the biological end which an observer is tempted to consider the true end of the activity. Thus the actual end of eating is a filled belly, but the biological end is supposed to be nutrition. Biological ends are those which seem plausible on the theory that all behaviour is directed in the main toward the survival of the individual or the race. The actual end is simply the observed end-state of a series of acts.
(c) Innate and Acquired Need — In many sub-human animals behaviour is mainly an expression of the inherited nature of the individual. It is but slightly modified by experience. Insects perform complex stereotyped actions without having to learn them. If the normal environment is altered, they show only very slight power of readjusting their behaviour. The nest-building of birds is less complex and more adaptable, but clearly it also is mainly innate. In the higher mammals behaviour is much less precise and rigid. It .consists mainly of very general types of activity in response to very general types of situation. They are responses partly to a condition of the external world, partly to a condition of the organism itself. Eating, for instance, involves not only the presence of food but an organic condition. Very roughly the kinds of innate activity may be catalogued as nutrition, escape, defence, attack, sex, parenthood, and gregariousness. All are directed toward some actual end-state, but within limits their course varies with the detail of the environment. In the higher sub-human animals all are modifiable by experience. Through trial and error, or more distinctively intelligent insight, animals can learn modes of behaviour very different from the innate modes.
In man the innate is still more vague and more flexible. Behaviour is modified to a still greater extent by intelligence. Nevertheless, under the influence of the revolt against rationalism, some psychologists have claimed. that the innate factor is all-important for understanding human behaviour. All our actions, they say, are determined in the last analysis by innate dispositions to act in certain manners in response to certain stimuli. Sometimes these innate factors are regarded as mental entities and called instincts; sometimes instinctive action itself is said to be at bottom a case of mere physiological reflex action, like involuntary sneezing, though of course much more complicated. Of the instinct-psychologists one school inclines to emphasise the sexual instinct as by far the most important determinant; another stresses self-regard; another postulates a general instinctive urge which is directed hither or thither according to the environment's impact; while others claim that man's instinctive nature must be analysed into a large number of innate dispositions, such as fear, anger, sex, protectiveness, gregariousness, self-assertion, curiosity, manipulation, vocalisation, and so on.
There can be no doubt that there is an innate basis in all our behaviour, and that it is not unlike that of the higher sub-human animals. But the attempt to describe all human behaviour as simply a subtle expression of instinct is misleading. There is no clear knowledge of the innate factors; and to explain human behaviour in terms of them is to explain the known by the unknown. In man, save when he is acting under stress of violent primitive emotion, the primitive needs are overlaid by such a complex system of acquired needs, or learned habits of action, that they are of little use for explanatory purposes. Almost any concrete action may afford some satisfaction for almost every innate disposition (or reflex mechanism), and can be plausibly accounted for in terms of each of the conflicting theories.
Clearly, then, though we must recognise that at bottom human nature is very much like (say) ape nature, and that in primitive situations man often acts in an almost purely" animal" manner, we must also recognise that in typically human and civilised situations all his behaviour is much more complex, and demands for its interpretation not only concepts derivable from the study of animal behaviour, but also concepts derivable only from human behaviour.
(d) How Behaviour is Modified — The commonest way in which new modes of behaviour are acquired, both in men and animals, is by the process known as "conditioning." When a dog smells food, gastric juice flows into its stomach. If the smell of food is many times accompanied by the sound of a bell, and then finally the bell is sounded without the presentation of food, the gastric juice flows in response to the bell alone. If every time a baby is shown a bowl of gold-fish a pistol is fired behind it, it will in time become terrified by the mere sight of gold-fish. If in men's minds a certain idea is frequently associated with a. certain emotional stimulus, the emotion may come to be felt in relation to the idea itself, quite irrationally. Thus a political policy, even if it is foolish, may come to seem attractive merely by being associated with free drinks and motor rides, or with an adored leader. Reason may then be brought in to justify the attractiveness and prove the policy wise.
The other method by which behaviour is modified in men, and much less frequently in other animals, is the method of intelligence, which we have already examined in the cases of the chimpanzee and Einstein. This is the distinctively human way, though some behaviour of sub-human animals shows rudimentary intelligence, and most human behaviour is almost wholly the product of mere conditioning.
It should be noted that, even when intelligence has worked out a new method of behaviour, the new method may not be adopted. Well-established habit may prove irresistible. On the other hand, if the new behaviour is adopted, intelligence need not come into operation again whenever the behaviour is repeated. A new automatic habit may be formed on the basis of the new behaviour. The chimpanzee, having intelligently solved the problem of the suspended fruit, may come to perform the necessary actions in future without repeating the painful act of intelligent insight. The multiplication table, once learnt in laborious processes of reasoning, may be repeated parrot-wise.
Our daily life consists of an immensely complicated system of habitual actions, intermittently modified by conditioning or by intelligence.. Washing, dressing, catching trains, going about our business, making love, disputing, fearing calamity, longing for success, contemplating our own nature and the world's, these and a thousand other actions are carried out by each of us in the distinctive manner characteristic of his unique personality. All may be regarded as expressions of his innate psycho-physical nature modified by the impact of the world, and in turn helping to form his future nature.
(e) Hierarchy of Activities — One thing at least is clear about human behaviour, namely that some activities are more complex than others. Compare, for instance, a sneeze, a stroke in tennis, the decision to embark on a certain career, life-long devotion to a public cause. Of these cases we may say both that some are experienced by the agent himself as more complex than others, and that some, objectively studied, are observed to involve in fact more complex capacities than others. Thus, to take an extreme case, the intelligent desire to embark on a certain career involves considerable knowledge of society and of one's Own aptitude, whereas a sneeze involves no more than a simple reflex mechanism. Deliberate conscious activities may be said to vary in respect of the "knowing" involved in them, the "feeling" involved in them, and the "striving" and actual "doing" involved in them. These three aspects, as we have seen, are inseparable. There is no "knowing" that is not a "striving," and so on. But for the understanding of a particular bit of behaviour one aspect may be more important than another.
It is arguable, though there is not agreement on the subject, that along with differences of complexity in behaviour there also appear differences of quality. In this view love, for instance, which includes the realising of another person as a centre of conscious activity, and also the self-neglectful cherishing of the other, is not fully accounted for by describing it as a highly complex form of response to stimulus. of the primitive biological order. It seems to involve a kind of apprehension and feeling and striving not reducible to the primitive. Before accepting any account which claimed to describe these higher activities wholly in terms of primitive activities we should have to make certain that the distinctive features of higher activities had not been overlooked or misrepresented.
Very roughly, and without deciding whether the distinctively human activities are "reducible" or "emergent." we may classify the hierarchy of behaviour as follows:
Let us consider a sentiment of love. John, let us suppose, has a sentiment of love for Jane. When Jane is insulted, John responds with anger on her account. When she is in danger he fears for her and seeks to protect her. When she is admired by Jim, he feels per- haps a conflict of joy on her account and jealousy on his own. account; and he tends to act accordingly. Even while he loves her for her own sake as an intrinsic good, he also feels possessively toward her and strives to hold her. When he is in the mood he makes love to her; though if she herself is not in the mood he may refrain. When she flouts him he responds with anger or dejection. And so on. His sentiment of love for her is inevitably balanced by at least a rudimentary and perhaps a full-blown sentiment of hate. For though he genuinely loves her, he also loves himself; and though she is in many ways a source of enrichment to him, she is in some ways a source of frustration. Thus when she is cold or cruel or grasping he may respond either in terms of self-regard and hate or in terms of self-abnegation and love, or both.
Sentiments for other individuals involve the capacity for reacting to persons as persons and not merely as stimuli. In fact, they involve self-consciousness and other consciousness, which in sub-human animals are at most very rudimentary. Self-consciousness begins with the power of attending not merely to external objects but to one's own acts o£ experiencing. This gives rise to a sentiment the object of which is oneself as an experiencing person among other persons, and also to sentiments the objects of which are other persons.
John's complex behaviour toward Jane, then, can best be described as follows. He has (a) a sentiment of self-regard, and a probably less vigorous sentiment of self-contempt, which is also a factor in us all. He has also (b) a sentiment for Jane-herself as an intrinsically good thing, not merely as a source of enrichment or advancement to his own self; and along with this he has a sentiment for her as in some respects a bad thing, not merely as a source of frustration to himself. It is a mistake to suppose that all other-regarding sentiments are "at bottom" self-regarding. Of course, as we have seen, there is a sense in which all behaviour is self-regarding, since it is directed toward the end which the individual himself is seeking. But in a more important sense self-regarding acts are those which are directed toward the fulfilment of "me" as a particular person among others, and other-regarding acts are directed toward the fulfilment of other persons. The second kind of activity cannot be derived from the first. But we must, of course, recognise that self-regard is much more insistent than other-regard; and also that some particular cases of other-regard are at bottom self-regarding, and vice versa.
When self-consciousness and other consciousness first dawn in the life of the child, and presumably also in the early stages of the evolution of the species, even lifeless objects tend at first to be regarded as persons and reacted to with behaviour proper to persons. Thus the child personifies not only its doll put all striking physical objects. The savage personifies not only his fetish but winds, trees, rivers, rocks. Even the civilised adult tends to personify lifeless objects that receive much attention. The shipmaster personifies his vessel, the engineer his machine. We are all in danger of personifying abstract ideas and large groups of individuals. The religious devotee personifies almightiness and love. The patriot personifies the State or the People. These are all cases of misplaced transference of the reaction proper to persons, or at least to conscious beings.
We must distinguish between two very different ways of reacting to persons, one primitive, the other more developed. In the primitive mode, though one recognises the other as a person, as a conscious being, one reacts to him only as a means for fulfilling. one's own needs. In the more developed mode one wills the fulfilment of the other's needs in the same direct manner as one wills one's own fulfilment. Further, as we distinguish between impulsive acts of self-assertion (such as anger) and the established sentiment of self-regard, which may issue in all sorts of action, so also we must distinguish between impulsive affection and established sentiments of other-regard. Impulsive acts of affection occur not only in human beings but also in sub-human animals in relation to mates and offspring. In John's behaviour toward Jane, then, we should distinguish between (a) impulsive acts of self-assertion and affection, and (b) the established sentiments of self-regard and Jane-regard.
It is perhaps worth while to point out that any concrete act may happen to be at once impulsive and an expression of a sentiment; and further that it may express both the self-regarding sentiment and other sentiments. Indeed, so complex and so unified is the human individual that almost the whole of his dynamic nature may express itself in a single act.
Having contrasted genuine other-regard with the primitive reactions toward other individuals, let us now contrast primitive gregariousness with the distinctively human attitude toward society. Roughly We may say that primitive gregariousness, as sometimes seen in herds of cattle, consists in a set of stereotyped responses to stimuli. Isolation from the herd produces reactions of anxiety and the attempt to return to the herd. Danger produces clustering, and some degree of unity of action. Eccentricity in any individual produces hostility on the part of others. On the other hand, the exceptionally powerful and masterful individual is reacted to with submission, and is followed.
Genuine human sociality, on the other hand, is so different from this that any attempt to explain it as "merely" a development of primitive gregariousness is far more misleading than significant. Of course even human sociality is mainly of the primitive type; but civilised and truly human social behaviour does occur, and plays an immensely important part in small groups of individuals in personal contact. In large groups, not cemented by personal contact, it is very much more precarious and rare, but it is at least a potent ideal. Genuinely human sociality is rooted in the distinctively human power of realising other individuals as conscious persons, and willing their needs without ulterior, self-regarding motives. But it is more than a sentiment for particular cherished individuals. It is in fact the deliberate will that all individuals, known and unknown, within the society shall be treated as persons, not merely as manifestations of the herd. The society in question may be of any size, from the family or the city to the nation or the whole human race. But the larger and less coherent the society, the more precarious is the sway of true sociality.
Personality is essentially social. A human being completely isolated from his kind throughout his life would be less than human. Without social intercourse, without stimulation by contact with other individuals, and without cultural heritage, he would be at best a rather quick-witted beast, more probably an imbecile. So intimately do personality and community interpenetrate that we must devote a chapter to the consideration of this problem alone. Meanwhile, several other aspects of the individual's nature must be considered. I will close this section by explaining a phrase which I have already used more than once, namely "creative activity." I use this phrase to refer to any kind of activity which raises the mental life of the individual temporarily or permanently to a new and higher level of development, in respect of sensitivity or of integration. It may be that very many kinds of activities are to some slight extent "creative" in this sense, but I use the word rather to mean those activities which are in the main of this kind. Thus, some education, some art, some intellectual work, some personal intercourse, deserve the adjective "creative."
(f) Conflict and Repression — A man's needs very often conflict with one another. The world being such as it is, the fulfilling of one need often makes the fulfilling of some other need impossible. Conflict may take place either between needs of the same hierarchical rank or between needs of different ranks. Of the first kind would be a conflict between impulsive pugnacity and impulsive fear, or, on a higher level, between love and hate of the same person. On the other hand, in a conflict between, on the one hand, the will to catch a train so as to fulfil an important engagement and, on the other hand, an impulse to have a drink ort the way, the needs:are of different rank. The most dangerous conflicts, on the whole, occur between an end which the individual cherishes as most important or sacred and any primitive and deep-rooted impulse which threatens to violate it. Conflicts of this sort can cause profound discord and cleavage in the personality. For instance, a child's conflicting impulses with regard to its parents may cause permanent disorders in its mind.
Freud, whatever his mistakes, has a great achievement to his credit. He has shown that in such cases of grave conflict the disreputable impulses, intolerable to the dominant personality, may be "repressed" into "the unconscious." That is, needs or cravings which are gravely inconsistent with the ideal of personal virtuousness may be resolutely ignored. The individual may cease to be able to attend to the fact that he has such cravings at all. If consciously he admires and loves his father and "unconsciously" he needs to be rid of him or get the better of him, the disreputable need, though not recognisable, will not cease to be a factor in his nature: It will express itself by distorting his feelings and thoughts not only about his father but about anything which is superficially identifiable with his father or the relation of parenthood. In fact, to use the jargon of psycho-analysis, it will generate "in his unconscious" a "complex" with regard to his father.
A complex may conveniently be regarded as a sentiment the object of which is not valued consciously or disvalued consciously. The object is valued (or disvalued), but it is impossible to attend to the fact. The individual is actually "set" in favour of the object (or against it), but he is not aware of the fact. Nevertheless, because he is set in that direction his conscious activity is to a greater or less extent influenced in that direction; and this influence, from the point of view of conscious ends, is irrational.
Sometimes conflict takes another form. The repressed matter, instead of remaining as a submerged and distorting influence, may capture for a while the stronghold of consciousness. Either the subject's temperament may suddenly and dramatically change. so that to his friends he becomes "almost a different person"; or, still more strikingly, this emotional change may be accompanied by a loss of memory of his whole past career, so that he becomes in a more literal sense a new personality. In this new state he may continue for years. Or he may undergo repeated alternations of personality, or even spawn a number of subordinate personalities.
Such cases are rare, but none the less significant for the understanding of the nature of personality. Far commoner, and seemingly universal, is the distortion of thought and will by repressed needs.
The foregoing account of the hierarchy of human activities was purely descriptive. No attempt was made to find in one particular level the explanatory principles for the understanding of all the levels. Some materialists would have us believe that if we had a complete account. of the atomic structure of the human body we should be able to predict all its actions in terms of physics. The Behaviourists in America, for instance, regard the reflex as the key to the understanding of all behaviour, and the reflect they assume to be reducible to purely physical terms.
Some psychologists, on the other hand, do not believe that such an explanation is possible even in theory. As we have seen, they insist that human behaviour cannot be understood save by means of the concept of purposive or teleological activity; and physics, of course, has no place for teleology. Desire and thought do not fall within the scope of purely physical laws. These psychologists, as we have seen, have attempted to classify what they regard as the basic teleological dispositions or instincts, and they claim that even the most subtle behaviour is in fact simply an expression of primitive instincts acting in much disguised forms. We have already noted that there is not much agreement as to what precisely the basic instinctive dispositions are.
It has therefore been argued by critics of "instinct psychology" that, after all, instinct is not a very useful concept for the understanding of human behaviour. While some seek to reduce instinct to reflex, others seek to show that instinct itself is too mechanical a concept for the explanation of the upper reaches of personality. Some claim that the most significant concept is the sentiment, in the psychological sense. Of course any organism's behaviour is an expression of its own nature in response to the environment; and its nature is in the first moments of its life purely innate. All the same, what is innate in it is simply a capacity for behaving in a certain manner in a certain environment. The organism cannot behave in vacuo. Organism and environment co-operate in behaviour. Further, from the first moment onwards the influence of the environment changes the organism's nature; and the more sensitive and flexible it is, the more it is changed. The more developed the species the more subtly is each individual "keyed into" the environment; the more, that is, does the environment itself affect the organism's constitution, moulding it, and creating in it, or at least evoking in it, new capacities not logically reducible to the laws of the behaviour of a simpler organism in a different environment.
If this view is correct, a man's behaviour is not to be understood in terms of anyone level of behaviour. It is an expression of all his levels, interacting in a complex environment that stimulates them all. The attempt to explain behaviour by purely physical laws or purely physiological laws, or by laws of pure instinct, is doomed to failure. One might almost as well turn the tables and try to explain it all in terms of aspiration toward the divine.
Perhaps we have been unduly dogmatic. Perhaps we should say only that in the present state of knowledge it is not possible to describe human behaviour in terms of anyone level; and that our failure suggests not merely a lack of sufficient data but an insufficiency in our explanatory concepts. Perhaps the key to the problem lies on none of the levels but in some much more general principle which correlates all of them but cannot yet be formulated.
We must remember, too, the possibility that ultimately, although a complete account of physical behaviour may be given in purely physical terms, yet for a real understanding of human nature the purely physical may be too abstract an explanatory principle.
However this may be, all that we can do in our present ignorance is to study each level on its own merits, formulating its special laws, and "reducing" these laws to lower-level laws only when this can be done without falsifying the facts to be explained.
For instance, in explaining the growth of sentiments we may reasonably affirm that in the first instance the object of the sentiment is simply a stimulus to various kinds of instinctive activity. Jane, for instance, is a stimulus to John's sexuality, self-regard, gregariousness, protectiveness, and so on. But as attention is increasingly focussed on the sentiment's object, so that it is realised as a conscious person, a new mode of behaviour is evoked, not describable in terms of the simple concept of instinct. Jane creates in John the capacity for taking Jane herself as an end. Between this new capacity and the lower-level capacity there is constant conflict. And much that passes for higher-level activity is really lower-level activity masquerading. To the unprejudiced mind, however, this makes no difference to the fact that higher-level activity does occur.
It may be objected that all our assertions about the higher reaches of personality are so vague as to be worthless. To this we must reply that inevitably they are vague, since their subject-matter is very complicated, and psychologists have as yet seldom faced it without prejudice. But it is better to make a few significant though confused protests than to be content with an over-simplified theory.
I shall now try to suggest what these "upper reaches" of human personality actually comprise, so far as we can as yet ascertain.
Some claim that telepathy and clairvoyance and pre-vision of the future are high-level powers characteristic of the upper reaches. I am not in a position to judge whether such powers exist or not, though on the whole I incline with much hesitation to believe that in some form or other they do. But I cannot see anything particularly lofty about them.. They may be consequences of high development, but in themselves they are merely strange modes of perceiving events of commonplace order.
On the other hand, it is fairly clear that under the heading of "personal sensibility" we do exercise powers that involve the upper reaches of human nature. The core of the matter, as we have seen, is the realisation of another individual as an active conscious person, and the disinterested willing of his fulfilment. This apprehension opens up a whole new world of perception and of action which is distinctively human, in that the sub-human has no access to it. It is a world known in some slight measure to all of us, though only those who are specially gifted with personal sensibility are at home in it. Literature is largely concerned with it.
We may reasonably suspect that in creative art, and, most obviously in the tragic ecstasy, expression is given to the higher reaches of personality; of course along with most other levels. No satisfactory theory of aesthetics has yet been devised, nor even a satisfactory psychology of artistic activity. Aesthetic experience in its most developed form eludes all descriptive explanation, and affords a sense of novel awakening and lucidity. It is reasonable, therefore, to believe that it entails activity of the "upper reaches." In fact, as was said in the chapter on ethics, aesthetic experience can be most satisfactorily described in terms of the symbolic fulfilment of impulses of every level, sensory-motor, instinctive, personal, social, and probably mystical also.
Intellectual activity itself is, of course, distinctively human. It involves a power .of abstraction which could not be predicted from the psychological study of purely sub-human creatures. But even in its dizziest flights it exercises nothing more than the initial power of abstraction, though, of course, greatly improved. It belongs to the "upper reaches" only if we interpret the phrase to apply to all that is distinctively human, not if it is to exclude all but the powers at the extreme limit of human capacity.
The same should perhaps be said of "personal sensibility" if it were not that this phrase may be taken to cover a wide range of activities from simple apprehension of the other as a discrete conscious individual to much more subtle (and less describable) experiences of the other as in some manner an embodiment of universal powers.
If there is any truth in the concept of the "upper reaches" as consisting of capacities at the highest limit of human development, we should include under it certain experiences and powers which may be called mystical. To say this is not necessarily to accept all the interpretations which mystics give of their experiences. I shall discuss this subject in a later chapter. It is extremely unlikely that any interpretation couched in language derived from normal experience can be true of "upper range" experience. Description must necessarily work by means of conceptual thought, and this was moulded under the influence of normal mundane experience. It may be that the reports of the mystics have all a certain extremely metaphorical truth, at least for those who have some immediate acquaintance with the experience described; but to the rest of the world such descriptions are likely to be wildly misleading.
For my part, and speaking mainly with reference to such traces of seemingly mystical experience as have happened in my own life, I hazard the suggestion that the essence of the experience consists not in discovering new truth but in taking up a new attitude, an attitude which I can only describe as one of delighted or even ecstatic acceptance of the universe.
Our sketch of human nature would be seriously incomplete if we made no reference to the differences between individuals. The more complex an organic species the more scope there is, all else being equal, for differences between its individuals, since there are more respects in which differences can occur. No doubt in gross bodily respects dogs vary more than men, but the mental differences between men are probably far greater and more complicated than any differences between dogs.
Differences between individuals are in part an expression of innate factors, in part the result of differing circumstances. Though the influence of the environment may disguise and even reverse innate characters, these are important determining factors throughout life. In studying the differences of individuals it is difficult and sometimes impossible to decide how much is innate and how much acquired; but for our present purposes we may ignore this problem and; consider merely how people do actually differ.
We may start by distinguishing between differences of degree of development and differences of capacity on the same hierarchical plane. The former may be called "vertical" differences, the latter "horizontal." The distinction, of course, is not fundamental, but merely a convenient method of study. Though accurate measurement is still impossible, we cannot but recognise that some individuals manifest higher general development than others. On the whole they are more sensitive in all directions, and more capable of discriminating slight differences. In all respects they are more intelligent and also more integrated, more capable of acting in relation to their experience as a whole, less distracted by passing impulses which they themselves, in calmer moments, would regard as trivial. The fact that it has proved very difficult to estimate differences of this kind must not blind us to the fact that in daily life we recognise them. In extreme cases they are flagrantly obvious.
Though particular differences of temperament and capacity' are on the whole to be regarded as "horizontal" differences, there are certain capacities which belong distinctively to the higher levels of development, since on the lower levels they may be almost negligible. Of these I will mention, without staying to define them, sensibility to personality, social responsibility, capacity for dealing with human beings, capacity for abstract thought, certain kinds of artistic capacity, and the capacities which with some hesitation I have called mystical.
Of the "horizontal" differences between people much might be said, but space forbids. We may very roughly distinguish differences of special capacity and differences of general temperament. Of special differences we may note that, for example, some have and some have not outstanding musical ability, or mathematical ability, or ability for draughtsmanship, or for the use of words, and so on.
Temperamental differences are much more difficult to distinguish. The old classification of individuals into melancholic, sanguine, choleric, and phlegmatic is probably not so superficial as was recently supposed. Without attempting to discover the essential factors of temperamental difference, we may note at random that some are more sociable, some more solitary, that (quite apart from ability) some have more theoretical and some more practical interests, that some are more interested in human beings and some in lifeless matter, that some are more intuitive and some more ratiocinative, that some are in general more cautious, conservative of their vital resources, while others are more venturesome and spendthrift.
Many attempts have been made to systematise such differences as these. For instance, there is the famous and useful distinction between the introvert and extravert temperaments, the former on the whole meditative, inward looking, seeking mental tidiness or coherence, the latter active, outward looking, seeking constant intercourse with the environment. Another distinction that has been suggested is that of cerebrotonic, viscerotonic, and somatotonic, between those who live mostly in the brain, those who live mostly for the emotional life which is controlled by glands and nerve-ganglia in the viscera, and those who live mostly in the body as a muscular system, and are therefore addicted; to sport and physical exercise.
Here we need not pursue the difficult problem of classifying and explaining temperamental differences. I mention the subject only to suggest that human minds are in fact immensely different from one another, that they are generally quite unconscious of the real nature of their differences, that their intercourse is therefore often extremely jarring and bewildering, that in spite of superficial similarities one type may find it almost impossible to understand and sympathise with another type, and may incline to condemn the other as barbarian or inhuman, while in truth the one is just as human as the other.
In this plight our only hope is to try as far as possible to become aware of our differences, so that we can make allowances for them, seeking so far as possible to enter imaginatively into the other's point of view. For differences should become a source not of enmity but of mutual enrichment.
One question about human personality we have not yet properly faced, and though it seems to some the most important of all questions, I shall only briefly discuss it. Is "the mind" or "the self" simply the stream of experiences that goes on from birth to death, or is there an enduring something, an " ego " or essential mental substance which has the experiences?
There are two main types of theory about the nature of the self. Professor Broad calls one kind "central theories" and the other "non-central theories." In central theories there is a central enduring self to which experience happens. The centre may be conceived either as a unique mental substance (a "metaphysical ego"), or as "the body," or as a central core of enduring experience, including the internal body-sensations. Of these three possibilities I shall speak only of the "ego" theory; since the other two reduce either to the "ego" theory or to some kind of non-central theory. In non-central theories experience is a centreless tissue or flux. The former type may be represented by a wheel with axle and spokes, the latter by a net.
The main arguments for the "ego" theory are: (1) Common sense assumes a centre, and claims that we are literally self-conscious, that we have introspective acquaintance with the "ego." (2) Some unifying principle is needed to provide the ground of the unity or mutual interpenetration of experiences, and particularly the interpenetration of past and present experiences in memory. (3) If, as Realists claim, experiencing is essentially a relation between an experiencer and an experienced, there must be an experiencer, just as there must be an experienced object.
The main arguments for the non-central theories are: (1) We have no introspective acquaintance with the "ego." As Hume long ago said, when we seek to discover the self, we only come upon particular "impressions," or in modern language particular experienced objects, such as sense data of the body. (2) The unity of experience, it is claimed, can be satisfactorily accounted for without a substantial self to do the unifying. Indeed, if the unifying principle is thought of as a substance, it cannot fulfil its purpose. A second principle must be invoked to provide a link between the single, constant substance and its innumerable fleeting experiences. The correct method (we are told) is to describe the unity of the mind as the unity of a system of a special kind, in fact an organic whole, in which the parts are intrinsically related to one another. (3) Experiencing is indeed a relation between an experiencer and an experienced, but it need not be a relation between a unique unanalysable substance and the objects of experience. It might be a relation between a system of events and some fresh event assimilated to the system. Thus, when I perceive a pear, certain sense data are brought into mental relation with the system of mentally related past events which constitute "my mind." In this view successive states of consciousness are not the acts of an enduring substance; they are events having a very special relation to one another. As William James said, each thought is born an owner of preceding thoughts, and dies owned by the following thought.
It is impossible to do justice to either of these' points of view in a short space. I mention them merely to indicate the kind of problems that have to be faced in any attempt to study the nature of the self. My own impulse in this controversy, as in many others, is to "have it both ways." That is, I suspect that both kinds of theory, thoroughly worked out, would arrive at essentially the same conclusion, which would be a theory having some characteristics derived from both the simpler theories. Some indication of the general type of a satisfactory compromise-theory may be found in the following suggestions. It is a mistake to abstract and hypostatise either the unity of the mind or the plurality of its components. The mind is not a single substance "having" mental events. It is entirely analysable into its mental events, even if some of them are "unconscious" or not open to introspection. But on the other hand mental events are not distinct atoms or bricks out of which a mind is built. Each of them is intrinsically related to the rest of the mind. In fact they, no less than the,unique, unifying "ego," are abstractions.
In the light of the tentative findings of this chapter and the chapter on Immortality, we may, I think, draw a rather important conclusion. It is a two-fold conclusion. On the one hand we must not regard the human individual as being in some manner precious merely on account of his individuality; for his individuality is probably not the simple eternal thing that some suppose it to be. On the other hand the human individual is the ground of all that is to be prized, within the limits of our experience. From one point of view the importance of human individuals is apt to be overestimated, and from another point of view underestimated. It is not the individual as such that matters, but the vital, mental, spiritual activity which constitutes him. He matters not because he is himself, but because he is capable of knowing-feeling-willing, and particularly because he is capable in some degree of the most developed kind of knowing-feeling-willing, which can be very roughly summed up by the old words "reason" and "love." Because this is so, the whole aim of society should be to enhance the capacity of individuals for the life of reason and of love.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13