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than all—they are, and will be after we have ceased to feel Permanent Possibilities of sensation to other beings than ourselves. Thus our actual sensations and the permanent possibilities of sensation stand out in obtrusive contrast to one another; and when the idea of cause has been acquired and extended by generalization from the parts of our experience to . its aggregate whole, nothing can be more natural, than that the Permanent Possibilities should be classed by us as existences generically distinct from our sensations, but of which our sensations are the effect. '1
Let us now apply this psychological theory to Mind. It is evident that our knowledge of Mind is, like our knowledge of Matter, entirely relative. We do not know what it is, outside of the manifestations of consciousness. We can neither know it, nor imagine it, under any other form than the succession of different states of consciousness. It is none the less true that our notion of Mind, like our notion of Matter, is the notion of something permanent, as opposed to the perpetual flux of states of consciousness which we refer to it. This 'permanent' may be, as regards mind as well as matter, only a possibility. I believe that my mind exists, even when it does not feel, does not think, and has not consciousness of its existence. To what does this reduce itself to believing in a permanent possibility of these conditions. Thus, then, our idea of mind is nothing more than the idea of the series of our actual sensations, and of the infinite possibilities of sensations which shall realize themselves under appropriate conditions.
But, before going further, Mr. Mill, aware that the majority of people hasten to the real or presumed consequences of a doctrine in order to judge it, proposes to examine them. This doctrine is accused, he says, of destroying our belief in the existence of our fellows, in the existence of a supra-sensible world, in God, and in immortality.
1 Mill's Hamilton's Philosophy, p. 137. * An Examination, etc., ch. xii.
On the first point, there is absolutely nothing in this theory which can prevent my thinking that there are other beings like me, whose minds like mine are only a series of sentiments. How am I brought to believe that the beings whom I now see walking about, whom I hear speaking, have sentiments and ideas, that they possess a mind? Evidently it is not by intuition. I go from the signs to the sentiments which they translate. My own experience is the basis of my induction. But this logical process loses nothing of its legitimacy in the hypothesis that neither mind nor matter is anything but a permanent possibility of feeling.
The psychological theory of mind leaves my certainty of the existence of my fellows exactly as it was before ; and so it is as regards the existence of God. Supposing that I consider the Divine Spirit simply as the series of Divine thoughts prolonged during eternity, this would assuredly be to consider the existence of God as real as my own ; this would be to do that which in reality one always does, to infer the Divine nature from the human. Belief in God has, therefore, nothing to gain or lose from the present theory.
So it is in the case of immortality. It is as easy to conceive of a succession of sentiments, a thread of consciousness eternally prolonged, as of a spiritual substance which always continues to exist; and if there are any arguments in proof, they are as capable of application to the one theory as to the other.
Thus these, the extrinsic objections, are disposed of. But the theory which resolves mind into a series of actual sentiments, with a basis of possible sentiments, contains intrinsic difficulties, which it does not appear, says Mr. Mill, that psychological analysis can resolve. In fact the thread of consciousness which constitutes the phenomenal life of the mind is composed not only of present sensations, but also of expectations and of recollections; it is not limited to the present, it embraces the past and the future.
'If therefore, we speak of the mind as a series of feelings, we are obliged to complete the statement by calling it a series of feelings which is aware of itself as past and future; and we are reduced to the alternative of believing that the mind, or ego, is
something different from any series of feelings, or possibilities of them, or of accepting the paradox that something, which ex hypothesi is but a series of feelings, can be aware of itself as a series.'
The truth is, adds Mr. Mill, that here we find ourselves brought face to face with that inexplicable which is necessarily to be encountered when we touch upon ultimate facts. And he thinks that if his method of explaining facts appears to be more incomprehensible than another, it is because it is less accommodated to correct language, and consequently presents occasional contradictions in terms.
'I think by far the wisest thing we can do, is to accept the inexplicable fact, without any theory of how it takes place; and when we are obliged to speak of it in terms which assume a theory, to use them with reservation as to their meaning.'2
This theory of mind and matter, which in certain respects goes beyond purely experimental psychology, appears to have given rise to vehement discussion in England, if we may judge by the great number of books, pamphlets, and articles in newspapers and reviews which Mr. Mill quotes, discusses, and sometimes approves. With that taste for free criticism, and that perfect loyalty which are characteristic of him, he likes to quote his adversaries, to bring certain objections into strong relief, and even to tell us plainly what those are which he regards as insoluble.
We must first note some differences between the psychologic theory of matter and that of mind. Mr. Mill gives the former as complete, but he expressly refuses so to characterize the latter.3
The one would be unreservedly accepted by an idealist, the other is confined to absolute empiricism ; the one touches upon Berkeley, the other upon Hume.
What is there, notwithstanding, in common between the two theories which the author ranges under the same name? There is this : as the one reduces matter to a collection of attributes,
2 Ibid. p. 213.
1 Mill's Hamilton's Philosophy, p. 212. 3 Ibid. Appendix, p. 245.
and the other reduces mind, at least in appearance, to a collection of states of consciousness, it seems that all idea of substance disappears. Now, this theory has a special name, phenomenism. We find it in Hume; let us see if it is to be attributed to Mr. Mill.
The author, who complains of the reception his doctrine has met with from those whose opinions were already formed,' acknowledges that the least unfavourable judgment has been that of the partisans of Berkeley or any other idealist. We do not see, in fact, why they should not accept his theory of matter. For, what does the idealist maintain ? That all the reality of the exterior world is in the mind which knows it; that we do not know anything of matter except that which is told by our sensations and our ideas,--sensation revealing attributes, and idea revealing the order of the attributes, the first being rather ordinary consciousness, and the second scientific consciousness; but that as the whole reduces itself by final analysis to states of consciousness, we may maintain that the reality of matter is in
But this is in no sense to deny the existence of matter ; it is simply to say that we have a relative knowledge of it, and that it is not the possible cause of our sensations and our ideas. But Mr. Mill, as we have already seen, does not maintain anything else.
The debate concentrates itself upon the psychological theory of mind. Here the idealists abandon us, and the difficulty in
We can admit, if necessary, that the exterior world is a collection of phenomena without substratum ; because there still remains a mind which makes its synthesis, and serves as its support. But if the mind be also reduced to a collection of states of consciousness without any substance, we no longer find anything solid to take hold of, either in us, or out of us. Kant saw in our idea of substance a certain way of uniting and aggregating phenomena, proper to the human mind; he did not deny the possible existence of a substratum, of an inaccessible noumenon, a sort of mysterious stuff, on which phenomena are drawn; but here the phenomenism is absolute. In fact, says Mr. Mill, all the philosophers who have closely examined the question have decided that there is no need of substance, except as the support and the bond of phenomena. Let us, then, simply lay aside this
support out of our thought, and suppose that the phenomena remain, and that they form the same groups and the same series, thanks to some other agent, or even without any agent, if this be not an internal law, and we shall arrive, without substance, at the consequences in view of which substance was supposed. The Hindus think that the earth requires to be sustained by an elephant; but the earth sustains itself perfectly in space, without being supported by anything. Descartes supposed a material medium between the sun and the earth, to explain their reciprocal action ; but the law of universal attraction explains it much better than whirlwinds.1
Still, when this first difficulty has been surmounted, there remains another more serious one, and this, Mr. Mill acknowledges, he does not solve. You reduce the ego to a series of states of consciousness, but there is something wanting to unite those states to one another. If you have a necklace of beads, and you remove the string, what remains ? Separate beads, but no longer a necklace. Our author seems to admit that the bond, "the organic union,' which exists between past and present consciousness, in constituting memory also constitutes the ego.
'I hold it to be indubitable,' he says, 'that there is something real in this bond, real as the sensations themselves; and which is not simply a product of the laws of thought without anything which corresponds to it. The precise nature of the process by which we know it is an ample subject for discussion ... I do not attempt to decide upon it. But that original element which has no community of nature with anything answering to our names, and to which we can give no other name than its own without implying some false or unsteady theory, is the ego. As such, I recognise in the myself—in my own mind—a reality different from that real existence as a permanent possibility, which is the only one that I recognise in matter.'
It would be unjust, after having read the preceding, to confound this doctrine with that of Hume. The scepticism of the Scotch philosopher led to such strange conclusions, that with him there is nothing but the inexplicable, and he gets out of it with