Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

upon the ultimate and absolute reason of things, but after the fashion of physics, which seeks only their secondary and proximate cause.

We may regret that Mr. Bain has not endeavoured to show in detail how his explanation is to replace the ordinary theory of the faculties, and how each of the latter is attached to a particular method of association. The materials for this study being scattered about in his book, I shall endeavour to indicate it in few words. Consciousness is the fundamental mode of intellectual activity. Who says consciousness, says change, succession, series; it consists of an uninterrupted current of ideas, sensations, and desires ; it is therefore the linking together, the association of our internal conditions which constitutes it.

The perception of an exterior object is founded upon associations by contiguity in time and space. It is because we associate the data of our various senses ; that is, of sight, touch, muscular feeling, smell, etc., that we perceive concrete objects, which are exterior. To perceive a house is to associate in a single group the ideas of form, height, solidity, colour, position, distance, etc., by a repetition, and by habit these notions are combined in a whole which is perceived almost instantaneously. Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his Principles of Psychology, calls these associations organic, or organized, and in another place, integrate, because they, so to speak, 'enter one into the other.

That which Mr. Bain calls constructive association is imagination. To imagine is to associate ideas or sentiments previously acquired in order to produce some construction which resembles reality. It is by association that I can imagine the drunkenness produced by opium, or the feudal system of the thirteenth century.

Association, founded no longer upon contiguity, but upon resemblances, explains classification, abstraction, definition, induction, generalization, judgment, reasoning, deduction, analogy ; all these operations reducing themselves to the associating of ideas, which resemble each other, which differ from each other, or which resemble and differ at the same time.

II.

6

Before we enter into a detailed explanation of the various forms of the law of association, let us examine the fundamental properties of intelligence. This prior examination is in reality an analytical study of consciousness.

The word consciousness signifies mental life, with its various energies, in so far as it is distinguished from the purely vital functions, and from the conditions of sleep, torpor, insensibility, etc.' It also indicates that the mind is occupied with itself, instead of being applied to the exterior world ; because those pre-occupations whose objects are external present an anæsthetic character.

The primitive and fundamental attributes of intelligence are consciousness of difference, consciousness of resemblance, and retentiveness, which includes

memory and recollection. 1. The most primitive fact of thought is the sense of difference or discrimination; it consists of seeing that two sensations are different in nature or in intensity. To thoroughly comprehend the thought of the author, we must remark that consciousness is entirely produced by change. So long as the living being has no consciousness, he leads a purely psychological life. If we imagine in any one a single and invariable sensation, there is not yet consciousness. If there are two successive sensations, with a difference of nature between them, still less a simple hiatus between two moments of the same sensation, still less a difference of intensity, then we have a more or less clear consciousness : psychological life is born. It is impossible for us to be conscious without experiencing transitions or changes. There are in us many changes, which are slight, or even nil, so far as pleasure or pain is concerned, but which are important as transi- tions, that is to say, as differences.

Discrimination is the foundation of association by contrast.

2. When intelligence is awakened to life, so as to grasp a difference, what does it do? It retains it. Retentiveness is then the condition which immediately succeeds to the consciousness of

1 This study is to be found in three parts of Mr. Bain's work, vol. i., on The Senses, Introduction ; The Intellect, Introduction ; vol. ii. concluding chapter. 1 Vol. i. p. 10.

difference. It consists of the persistence of mental impressions, after the disappearance of the external agent; we can live a life in ideas, added to our actual life. We can revive sensations and sentiments long past, under the form of ideas. How is that done ? Impressions which have always accompanied each other become as it were inseparable.

Retentiveness is the foundation of memory, almost entirely ; and of association by contiguity.

3. The third fundamental property of mind is agreement, or consciousness of resemblance. An impression which constantly remains without variation, ceases to affect us ; but if it produces another, and that this first impression returns afterwards, then we recognise it, we have consciousness of resemblance. It is owing to this power of recognising the similar in the dissimilar, that what we call general ideas or principles are produced.

Consciousness of resemblance is the foundation of abstraction of reasoning, and association between the similar.

This analytical study of consciousness is, as we see, substantially identical with that of Mr. Herbert Spencer. Let us now observe its consequences.

The fundamental property of intelligence or discrimination implies the law of relativity, which may be thus explained : as a change of impression is an indispensable condition of all consciousness, our mental experience is necessarily double. We can neither know nor feel heat except by a transition from cold to heat. In every feeling there are two opposite conditions; in every act of knowledge there are two things which are known together. No mental impression can be called knowledge, unless it co-exists with some other which is compared with it. These are like the two electricities, or the two poles of a magnet, which cannot exist the one without the other. A simple impression is equivalent to a non-impression. The applications of this law of relativity are numerous and important; it applies itself to the useful arts, to the fine arts, to the communication of science, and 'in metaphysics it combats the doctrine of the absolute.' 1

Mr. Bain, who has very little taste, as we may perceive, for metaphysical excursions, declares that he will not approach the problem of the nature of knowledge, difficult in itself, and obscured by centuries of discussion. The little which he says about it, however, shows that his solution might be brought into relation with that of Mr. Herbert Spencer, who reduces perception to a classification. To feel is not to know; it is erroneous to believe that knowledge can have as much extension as sensation or consciousness. We may say that a child feels all which occurs to him through his eyes or his ears, that he is conscious of it; but to make out of these elements knowledge, choice, classification, and specialization are required. That which we call attention, observation, concentration of mind, must be added to the act of discrimination, in order that knowledge may begin. • The process of knowledge is essentially a process of selection.' The essential elements of knowledge may be thus summarized.

1. To know a thing is to know that it resembles certain others, and differs from certain others.

2. When knowledge is an affirmation, two known things are required, which two must be brought together under a third general property; for example, co-existence or succession.

3. Into these affirmations an active condition, that disposition called belief, must enter.

III.

In approaching the study of the various forms of the law of association, I think it will be useful to summarize them in the following table, which may serve as a guide for the reader :

I. Simple Associations.
1. By contiguity

conjuncts.

successive.
2. By resemblance.
II. Compound Associations.

1. Contiguity.
2. Resemblance.

3. Contiguity and resemblance. III. Constructive Associations.

A primary species of associations has contiguity for its foundation. This mode of mental reproduction may be established after the following fashion :

* Actions, sensations, and sentiments which are produced together, or succeed each other immediately, tend to spring up together, to adhere in such a fashion that when, afterwards, one of them presents itself to the mind, the others are also represented.'

The associated conditions may be either of the same nature (as sounds with sounds, movement with movement, etc.), or of a different nature (as colour with resistance, movement with distance, etc.). The following are examples of both cases.

Association by contiguity plays a great part in our movements, All those which are voluntary present great difficulties during early childhood. Each of them is produced separately and with effort. It is by association that series or aggregates of mechanical motions produce themselves rapidly, Such are all those necessary for writing, playing the piano, knitting, etc. The physiological condition of these associations by contiguity is a fusion of the nervous currents. It is in the cerebral hemispheres that the cohesion of associated acts is produced; two currents of nervous force call two muscles into play, one after the other ; these currents, flowing together to the brain, form a partial fusion, which in time becomes total fusion. What is still more curious than this fusion of real movements, is the fusion of simple ideas of movements. They associate themselves perfectly according to the law of contiguity. ist, What relation is there between the reality and the idea ? The idea is weakened reality; between conceiving a sensation and really perceiving it, there is only a difference of degree. And as sensation has its seat in one position of the organism, as is generally supposed, which is not the brain only, but also the affected nerves,—the idea, or the ideal sensations, must have the same seat. The continuation of an impres

1 It is almost needless to say that the author remains faithful to his complete method, that each group is separately examined, and then in its relations with the others. The study of the Law of Contiguity extends over no less than 130 pages.

« НазадПродовжити »