The Scope Of Psychology. Consciousness icon

The Scope Of Psychology. Consciousness


НазваниеThe Scope Of Psychology. Consciousness
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The Scope Of Psychology. Consciousness


If we analyse such processes as those of looking, listening, smelling, or tasting, we find that they involve two distinct and disparate groups of facts. On the one hand, they are modes of consciousness, specific kinds of experience; on the other, they imply occurrences taking place in the bodily organs of sense which do not, as such, enter into the conscious experience of the subject. For instance, a man in looking at an object moves his eyeballs; this involves the existence and operation of a muscular apparatus; but the operation of this muscular apparatus is not, as such, a constituent of his conscious state. It exists for the consciousness of the psychologist or physiologist, who is analysing the visual process; but it does not form part of the act of looking at an object so far as this is an experience of the subject who sees the object. The subjective experience is conditioned by, but it does not contain the muscular process. We may express this by saying that though the muscular process is a psychological fact, in the sense that it is a fact that psychology must take account of, yet it is not a psychical fact, viz., a fact of consciousness. The term psychological is wider than psychical: all psychical facts are psychological facts, but not all psychological facts are psychical facts. A psychical fact must be in some way or other an experience of the subject whose processes the psychologist is investigating.


A psychical fact is a fact of consciousness; but what is consciousness? Properly speaking, definition is impossible. Everybody knows what consciousness is because everybody is conscious. It is not, however, enough simply to say this. Confusion would be sure to arise if we passed the question by in this manner. The difficulty is that consciousness has manifold modes and degrees; and there is always a danger of restricting the term so as to make it apply to certain modes and degrees and not to others. Historically, the word has been used by certain writers for the awareness which we have of ourselves and of our own experiences, as states of the self. Indeed, consciousness has been called an inner sense, and has been regarded as a special function by which we perceive the mind and its processes; just as sight and hearing are outer senses for the perception of material facts. In opposition to all such views, we must state definitely that consciousness includes not only awareness of our own states, but these states themselves, whether we have cognisance of them or not. If a man is angry, that is a state of consciousness, even though he does not know that he is angry. If he does know that he is angry, that is another modification of consciousness, and not the same.


Wherever there is not total unconsciousness in the sense in which we attribute unconsciousness to a table or a log of wood, consciousness in some mode or degree is present. As Professor Baldwin says, it is "the common and necessary form of all mental states; ... it is the point of division between mind and notmind."* To quote Professor Ladd: "What we are when we are awake, as contrasted with what we are when we sink into a profound and perfectly dreamless sleep, . . . that it is to be conscious. What we are less and less, as we sink gradually down into dreamless sleep, or as we swoon slowly away : and what we are more and more, as the noise of the crowd outside tardily arouses us from our afterdinner nap, or as we come out of the midnight darkness of the typhoidfever crisis—" that is consciousness. The becoming conscious and the becoming unconscious are in all their phases and gradations states of consciousness. They are not states of unconsciousness, nor are they transition states between consciousness and unconsciousness. There are no such transition states. The very dimmest and vaguest feeling accompanying the last stage of sinking into dreamless sleep, or the first stage of gradual awakening, is already consciousness. It may become fuller consciousness, but it cannot become consciousness, for it is that to begin with. If, as some suppose, the dreamless sleep itself is accompanied by some dim feeling, this dim feeling is dim consciousness.

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