The Principles of Psychology By William James
Psychology is the Science of Mental Life, both of its phemnomena and of then conditions. The phenomena are such tilings as we call feelings, desires, cognitions, reasonings, decisions, and the like; and, superficially considered, their variety and complexity is such as to leave a chaotic impression on the observer. The most natural and consequently the earliest way of unifying the material was, first, to classify it as well as might be, and, secondly, to affiliate the diverse mental modes thus found, upon a simple entity, the personal Soul, of which they ar e taken to be so many facultative manifestations.
Now, for instance, the Soul manifests its faculty of Memory, now of Reasoning, now of Volition, or again its Imagination or its Appetite. This is the orthodox ‘spiritualistic’ theory of scholasticism and of common-sense. Another and a less obvious way of unifying the chaos is to seek common elements in the divers mental facts rather than a common agent behind them, and to explain them constructively by the various forms of arrangement of these elements, as one explains houses by stones and bricks.
The ‘associationist’ schools of Herbart in Gennany, and of Hume, the Mills and Bain in Britain, have thus constructed a psychology without a soul by taking discrete ‘ideas,’ fault or vivid, and showing how, by their cohesions, repulsions, and foims of succession, such things as reminiscences, perceptions, emotions, volitions, passions, theories, and all the other furnishings of an individual’s mind may be engendered.
The very Self or ego of the individual comes in this way to be viewed no longer as the pre-existing source of the representations, but rather as their last and most complicated fruit.
Now, if we strive rigorously to simplify the phenomena in either of these ways, we soon become aware of inadequacies in our method. Any particular cognition, for example, or recollection, is accounted for on the soul-theory by being refeired to the spiritual faculties of Cognition or of Memory.
These faculties themselves are thought of as absolute properties of the soul; that is, to take die case of memory, no reason is given why we should remember a fact as it happened, except that so to remember it constitutes die essence of our Recollective Power. We may, as spiritualists, try to explain our memory’s failures and blunders by secondary causes. But its successes can invoke no factors save the existence of certain objective tilings to be remembered on die one hand, and of our faculty of memory on the other.
When, for instance, I recall my graduation-day, and drag all its incidents and emotions up from death’s dateless night, no mechanical cause can explain this process, nor can any analysis reduce it to lower terms or make its nature seem other than an ultimate datum, which, whether we rebel or not at its mysteriousness, must simply be taken for granted if we are to psychologize at all.
However die associationist may represent the present ideas as thronging and arranging themselves, still, die spiritualist insists, he lias in die end to admit that something, be it brain, be it ‘ideas,’ be it ‘association,’ knows past time as past, and fills it out with this or that event. And when die spiritualist calls memory an ‘irreducible faculty,’ he says no more than this admission of die associationist already grants.
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