1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Continuity of Consciousness

Psychology
(Part 11)




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

Continuity of Consciousness

The inter-objective relations of presentations, on which their second characteristic, that of revivability and associability depends, though of the first importance in themselves, hardly call for examination in a general analysis like the present. But there is one point still more fundamental that we cannot wholly pass by : it is—in part at any rate—what is commonly termed the unity or continuity of consciousness. From the physical standpoint and in ordinary life we can talk of objects that are isolated and independent and in all respects distinct individuals. The screech of the owl, for examples, has physically nothing to do with the brightness of the moon : either may come or go without changing the order of things to which the other belongs. But psychologically, for the individual percipient, they are parts of one whole : special attention to one diminishes the intensity of presentation of the other and the recurrence of the one will afterwards entail the re-presentation of the other also. Not only are they still parts of one whole, but such distinctness as they have at present is the result of a gradual differentiation. It is quite impossible for us now to imagine the effects of years of experience removed, or to picture the character of our infantile presentation before our interests had led us habitually to concentrate attention on some, and to ignore others, where intensity thus diminished as that of the former increased. In place of the many things which we can now see and hear, not merely would there them be a confused presentation of the whole field of vision and of a mass of undistinguished sounds, but even the difference between sights and sounds themselves would b e without its present distinctness. Thus the further we go back the nearer we approach to a total presentation having the character of one general continuum in which differences are latent. There is, then, in psychology, as in biology, what may be called a principle of "progressive differentiation or specialization"; and this, as well as the facts of reproduction and association, forcibly suggests the conception of a certain objective continuum forming the background or basis to the several relatively distinct presentations that are elaborated out of it—be equivalent, in fact, of the unity and continuity of consciousness which has been supposed to supersede the need for a conscious subject.





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