1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Presentation

(Part 8)

(B) General Analysis of Mind. Its Ultimate Constituents. (cont.)


We may now try to ascertain what is meant by cognition as an essential element in this life, or, more exactly, what we are to understand by the term presentation. It was an important step on onwards for psychology when Locke introduced that "new way of ideas" which Stillingfleet found alternately so amusing and so dangerous. By idea Locke tells us he meant true appearances in men’s minds, or "whatever is the immediate object of perception, thought, or understanding"; and it was so far a retrograde step when Hume restricted the term to certain only of these appearances or objects, or rather to these appearances or objects in a certain state, viz., as reproduced ideas or images. And indeed, the history of psychology seems to show that its most important advances have been made by those who have kept closely to this way of ideas ; the establishment of the laws of association and their many fruitful applications and the whole Herbartian psychology may suffice as instances (see HERBART). The truth is that the use of such a term is itself a mark of an important generalization, one which helps to free us from the mythology and verbiage of the "faculty-psychologists." All that variety of mental facts which we speak of as sensations, perceptions, images, intuitions, concepts, notions, have two characteristics in common :— (1) they admit of being more or less attended to, and (2) can be reproduced and associated together. It is he re proposed to use the term presentation to connote such a mental fact, and as the best English equivalent for what Locke meant by idea and what Kant and Herbart called a Vorstellung.

A presentation has then a twofold relation, —first, directly to the subject, and secondly, to other presentations. By the first is meant the fact that the presentation is attended to, thaat the subject is more or less conscious of it : it is "in his mind" or presented. As presented to a subject a presentation might with advantage be called an object, or perhaps a psychical object, to distinguish it from what are called objects apart from presentation, i.e., conceived as independent of any particular subject. Locke, as we have seen, did so call it; still, to avoid possible confusion, it may turn out best to dispense with the frequent use of object in this sense. But on one account, at least, it is desirable not to lose sight altogether of this which is after all the sticker as well as the older signification of object, namely, because it enables us to express definitely, without implicating any ontological theory, what we have so far seen reason to think is the fundamental fact in psychology. Instead of depending mainly on that vague and treacherous word "consciousness," or committing ourselves to the position that ideas are modifications of a certain mental substance and identical with the subject to which they are presented, we may leave all this on one side, and say that ideas are objects, and the relation of objects to subjects—that whereby the one is object and that other subject—is presentation. And it is because only objects sustain this relation that they may be spoken of simply as presentations.

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