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REASON AND CONSCIOUSNESS.
In our author's tenth chapter we at last come upon a consideration of that question which, in our opinion, as we before said,* ought to have been the first one treated of. The question to which Mr. Romanes's whole book is devoted, is the question whether the mind of man could have been developed from the psychical faculties of brutes, or whether it is fundamentally different–different in kind and origin.t In considering this question up to the point at which we have now arrived, he has again and again affirmed | that the intellectual knowledge of self, or “self-consciousness" is the distinctive character of the human mind, and his task is to show that the difference thus admitted to exist is one not of kind but of degree. Almost at his first page § (in describing the scope and purpose of his book), he declares his intention to “examine” that "question of the deepest importance "_"the question whether the mind of man is essentially the same as the mind of the lower animals.” An examination like this is, and must, of course be, an examination into the essential nature of the psychical faculty in man and brute. Yet when he comes at last to apply himself to this fundamental question, he lays down his arms and proclaims his utter inability to attack it. “I am as far as any one can be," he tells us, * “from throwing light upon the intrinsic nature of that the probable genesis of which I am endeavouring to trace"!
* See above, p. 36. # See, e.g., p. 175.
t p. 3, note § p. 3.
But if he can throw no light on "the intrinsic nature” of the “mind of man," how can he pretend to decide whether or not it is “essentially the same” as what he calls “the mind of the lower animals”?
If, as he affirms,†“ the problem of self-consciousness” is one which, however profoundly reflected on, "does not admit of solution,” by what right does he venture to affirm that “self-consciousness” is nothing more than the further developed sensitivity of an ape or of an amaba ?
He seeks to protect himself from the consequences of this confession of inability to attack the one only question of real importance for his cause, as we noted before, I by a profession of Idealism. With respect to such a profession we have a few words to say, and they are not at all intended to apply to Mr. Romanes himself, for we are firmly persuaded that he is honest and sincere. We are, however, no less persuaded that there are others who are not so, but who disingenuously seek to hide their really crass materialism behind a carefully painted Idealistic mask. A solemn profession of Idealism, made with the tongue in the cheek, enables its professors to throw dust in the eyes of anyone who may approach to inspect their proceedings too closely.
* p. 195. † p. 194. See above, p. 37.
Such men are enabled, by assuming the snowy fleece of an Ovine philosophy, to ravage the student flock very much at their own sweet will. It is easy for some materialists to profess Idealism. Let us assume, for argument's sake, that consciousness really is nothing more than the temporary accompaniment of a certain kind of matter under certain conditions. A man fully persuaded of the truth of such a system could none the less affirm : “Consciousness must be more certain about itself than anything else, can only know other things through itself, and may therefore regard itself as the most real of realities, or as the only reality.” He may really hold and, by insinuations, inculcate materialism, while thus making a profession of Idealism all the time.*
In his profession of Idealistic faith Mr. Romanes
* In our work “On Truth” (p. 135) we have called attention to this double-dealing, and the whole second section of the book (pp. 71-141) is devoted to a consideration of Idealism. Some reviews of this section have afforded curious examples of the effects of prejudice and one-sidedness. We have been reproached for ignoring Green, Caird, Wallace, Bradley, and others, as if our contention had not been directed to a question much more fundamental than any with which the various schools of existing Idealists respectively deal. A man who saws through the trunk of a tree just above the root, may be dispensed from the task of lopping its individual branches. We have been absurdly accused of asserting that modern science cannot be accepted by sincere Idealists. What we have contended is that the ultimate analysis and interpretation of the facts of consciousness-our conscious experience-so indubitably affirms the action of efficient causation between bodies which exist independently of all human thought, as to render the fundamental position of every form of Idealism logically untenable. The carelessness or dishonesty of one reviewer has actually gone so far as to represent our definition of true or intellectual perception (given at p. 223) as being that which we have given (at p. 201) as our definition of mere sense perception.
declares * “that in the datum of self-consciousness we each of us possess, not merely our only ultimate knowledge, or that which only is 'real in its own right,' but likewise the mode of existence which alone the human mind is capable of conceiving as existence, and therefore the conditio sine quâ non to the possibility of an external world.”
This is going too far: it is impossible, with reason, to affirm absolutely that the self-consciousness known to us by introspection is the only entity which is "real in its own right.” Neither is it true to say that we cannot conceive of a world without self-consciousness. Of course, being always self-conscious when thinking, we cannot think of a world without consciousness, save by the help of consciousness—in other words, we cannot think without thought. To say this, however, is trivial. Although we cannot think without thought, we can none the less conceive of the absence of self-consciousness from the world, as is shown by the fact that there have been and are thinkers who prosess materialism ; as well as Idealists who, with Hegel, held that God becomes conscious of Himself in man.
We have already referred to a mistake made by Mr. Romanes as to what are the necessary conditions and effects of self-consciousness. This error appears most plainly developed in the present chapter. Therein he most truly observes that it is only in man that we can study the gradual manifestation of consciousness, but it is especially unfortunate that he seems here to identify it with reflex mental action. He says,* “ It will, I suppose, on all hands be admitted that self-consciousness consists in paying the same kind of attention to internal or psychical processes as is habitually paid to external or physical processes-a bringing to bear upon subjective phenomena the same powers of perception as are brought to bear upon the objective.”.
* p. 194. Readers should study Prof. Veitch's excellent work, “Knowing and Being,” recently published.
But this is an utter mistake. If we could not be self-conscious directly, or without holding up a previous mental act and recognizing it, we could never be selfconscious at all. For whatever consciousness we have of an act performed, must itself be either direct or reflex. If it be affirmed to be direct, why should we deem it more difficult to have been directly conscious of the first mental act than of the second ? If it be affirmed to be necessarily reflex, then how can we ever obtain any knowledge of it? If reflex consciousness is absolutely necessary in the first case, it must be so likewise in the second, and so again for the second act, and so on ad infinitum. We must be able to know with consciousness, directly, or we can never consciously know at all!
He says,f next, “Again, I suppose it will be further admitted that in the minds of animals and in the minds of infants there is a world of images standing as signs of outward objects; and that the only reason why these images are not attended to unless called up by the sensuous associations supplied by their corresponding objects, is because the mind is not yet able to leave the ground of such association, so as to * pp. 195, 196.
† p. 196.