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III

The fundamental reason for rejecting the term “consciousness”, or “awareness”, is that, like “sensum”, it involves the notion of “relative existence”. This is brought out very clearly in the account given by Professor Dawes Hicks (l.c., p. 319) of the theory of Meinong. “With the doubtful exception of certain feelings and desires, he lays it down as a characteristic feature of the psychical, in contradistinction to the non-psychical, that it is directed upon something…A physical event can be described in and for itself. Not so a mental event. To speak of an act of awareness simply would be to speak of that which is never met with. Awareness in and for itself has no existence, and, indeed, no meaning; a ‘something’ of which there is awareness is its indispensable correlative.” The natural conclusion would seem to be not that a mental event cannot be described in and for itself, but that it might possibly be described as feeling or desire, and that, however described, it may have the relation “awareness” to something else. Yet we find so realistic a thinker as Professor Alexander declaring that consciousness is the sole quality of mental acts, and denying that the unconscious, i.e., any process which does not know, is ever mental.

That he is really setting up mind as “that whose nature it is to know” is made quite clear in the account which he gives of experience.note He begins, realistically enough, by asserting that “any experience whatever may be analysed into two distinct elements and their relation to one another”. But, he continues: “The two elements which are the terms of the relation are, on the one hand the act of mind or the awareness, and


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on the other the object of which it is aware; the relation between them is that they are together or compresent in the world which is thus so far experienced”. (My italics.) Awareness, then, means both the relation itself and one of the terms.note It is as if we should say that the terms of the relation, paternity, are on the one hand the father or the paternity, and on the other the child of whom he is the father. But the last phrase italicised shows the identity of Professor Alexander's argument with that of Descartes. In each case an account is to be given of knowing or experience, and in each case it is assumed that what is found, by the observer of the experience, to be involved in it is experienced by the person having the experience; e.g., all that I know about your knowing must be known by you in knowing. This is what James calls “the psychologist's fallacy”. Certainly, the two terms are required for the experience, but this does not mean that both are experienced.

If they were, the distinction of -ing and -ed would disappear. Yet Professor Alexander actually uses this distinction to support the view that “the two terms are differently experienced. The one is experienced, that is, is present in the experience, as the act of experiencing, the other as that which is experienced.” In other words, the one knowingly knows, or is known as knowing; the other is known as known. And to complete the parallel with Descartes, we have the statement that “my awareness and my being aware of it are identical”. Now, no doubt, if an experience is experienced or known (though there is no more reason for saying that this must be so, than for saying that a marriage must be married), the knower must be known as knowing and the known as known. But this gives no ground for saying that in any experience the knower knows his own knowing, or that there are two ways of knowing, enjoyment and contemplation, such that the mind “experiences itself differently from [the physical things which are objects to it]. It is itself and refers to them”.note No such identification of the character of a thing and the relation of knowing, or experiencing, is possible. It merely makes “knowing” ambiguous, and resurrects the notion of “that which knows itself”. For mind to be itself is not to know at all; and thus no definite meaning can be found in the terms “enjoyment” and the “quality of consciousness”.

Unless, then, mind can be contemplated by mind and found to have certain qualities, we cannot know minds at all or speak of their knowing. It is precisely the Cartesian type of theory that leads James to argue, since he finds that only one term is experienced (is -ed) in an experience, that consciousness does not exist. But, if so, no satisfactory account of the terms “knower” and “known” can be given; James's theory of intersection would make them interchangeable. It has to be admitted, in fact, that we do observe situations of the sort “A knows B” (whenever, e.g., we take part in a discussion). And this implies that we know A, as well as


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B, as having a distinctive character, and not simply as knowing. Such characters of mind are found whenever we say that anyone is angry or pleased or afraid. It is, of course, argued that these characters are “attitudes” to things, i.e., involve relations; that anger, e.g., is always anger at something. Now anger, or any other feeling, has always an occasion, and a man, in being angry, may know what the occasion of his anger is. But he need not do so; it is admitted that a man may not know “what he is angry at”. To say, in the face of this fact, that he cannot be angry without being angry at something, clearly depends on mere prejudice in favour of a theory of mind as essentially knowing. We have, then, empirical grounds for distinguishing between what a mind is and what it experiences; and we see that it is possible both that a mental process should know without being known and that it should be known without knowing (and, for that matter, that it should neither know nor be known).

This view is supported by the Freudian theory of the “unconscious”. The term seems often to mean processes which are not known, instead of processes which do not know. But what is really meant is that the “object” of the process in question is not known. How, then, can it be said to have an object? It has to be remembered that Freud speaks of unconscious processes as “wishes”. Now a “conscious” wish is for a certain state of affairs or occurrence; that is its “objective”. To complete the theory, then, we have to identify objects with objectives, things known with things sought. This, it seems to me, is what is done by Professor Alexander in his “Foundations and Sketch-plan of a Conational Psychology”.note Thus he treats judgment as simply the theoretical form (i.e., the form in which the reaction does not directly affect the thing known) of will, and will as having as its object the state of affairs it is striving to bring about. “In all practical volition the cognitum is a proposition.” “This proposition states the so-called end of the volition and states that end as attained.…The object in question is not necessarily conceived as future. It is the business of the act of will to secure its future existence. What is as a matter of fact future is thus made actual and present” (pp. 265,6). And Professor Alexander holds (p. 245) that “theoretical and practical conation cannot be divided sharply.”

In terms of a theory of this kind, we may say that an unconscious process has a tendency to bring about some state of affairs but has not done so; and we may be able to find out what it would bring about if it were not obstructed or “repressed” (just as we can find out that a person would do something if he were not prevented), and so to describe it as an “unconscious wish” for that state of affairs. But still this is not its character, and it is important to observe that we can know ourselves or other minds as of a certain emotional constitution, whatever this brings about and knows. It is possible that all mental processes are of the nature of wishes, but in order to specify any one such wish we require to know what it is, as well as what it is for. We may know that a man is in a rage,


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while his rage has not yet found anything on which to vent itself; and a repressed wish, while it does not attain its objective, can be known to exist and to have definite effects on other processes.

The theory of the wish itself indicates that knowing is not an inseparable feature of mental processes, but at the same time it enables us to give an account of knowing which is in accordance with the plurality of these processes and supplies an answer to certain difficulties. According to the realist theory “the known” consists of independent things in space. But, it may be asked, if what I know when I look at a chair is just something out there, which would be the same whether I looked at it or not (as I certainly take for granted in looking at it), how is it that I know that chair and not other things; how is it again that I know certain characters of the chair and not others; when all these things and characters are equally out there? Must not those objects which I “select” be attached to my mind in some special way, which does not affect those equally present things which I do not know? On this basis, Professor Alexander's description of knowledge as “compresence” might be criticised, for, though he means by “compresence” presence in the same motion, it is a fact that we often recognise things to have been present which we did not notice at the time. The answer to the question depends partly on what has been said regarding the “whole nature” of things, i.e., on taking things in propositions or states of affairs, there being distinguishable states of affairs in any situation whatever. In saying that specific features of our minds “select” specific features of our surroundings, we are only saying what can be said of any two things that come into relation. We can point out, for example, that the Earth and Moon move in relation to one another in terms of their masses, and that all other qualities of either can be neglected. If this mutual selection of masses is said to be our abstraction from the total situation, the answer is that no other type of relation could be stated or conceived; that we know things only as having specific characters and as occupying Space and Time. But the selection which we call “knowing” is made more precise if we can say that we pursue states of the things that surround us and they satisfy processes in our minds. It is still being stated in terms of the relations of two complex things, and leaves “subject” and “object” perfectly distinct and independent. And it is precisely in terms of the complexity of knower and known that an account can be given of error, which cannot be done on the “whole nature” theory. It is required that both knower and known should be changeable and should have internal distinctions.

In short, the foundation of the realist position is logical, and if this logic is not impugned, then, whatever the difficulties of any special problem, it must be capable of being worked out in accordance with that logical basis. A theory of “sensa” or of “consciousness” could not be accepted merely because it enabled us to give a simple account of some limited range of facts. It would sooner or later be found to conflict with a logic of propositions; while that logic itself assists us to give a definite theory of the nature of “subjects” and of any particular class of “objects”.

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