1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Logical Bias in Psychology

(Part 73)

(J) Intellection (cont.)

Logical Bias in Psychology

But, if we agree that it is through acts of judgment which successively resolve composite presentations into elements that concepts first arise, it is still very necessary to inquire more carefully what these elements are. On the one side we have seen logicians comparing them to so many letters, and on the other psychologists enumerating the several sensible properties of gold or wax – their colour, weight, texture, &c., -- as instances of such elements. In this way formal logic and sensationalist psychology have been but blind leader of the blind. Language, which has enabled thought to advance to the level at which reflexion about thought can begin, is now an obstacle in the way of a thorough analysis of it. A child or savage would speak only of "red" and "hot," but we of "redness" and "heat." They would probably say, "Swallows come when the days are lengthening and snipe when they are shortening" ; we say, "Swallows are spring and snipe are winter migrants." "Sunlight is the cause of vegetation." In short, there is a tendency to resolve all concepts into substantive concepts; and the reason of this is not far to seek. Whether the subject or starting-point of our discursive thinking be actually what we perceive as a thing, or whether it be a quality, an action, an effectuation (i.e., a transitive action), a concrete spatial or temporal relation, or finally, a resemblance or differences in these or in other respects, it becomes by the very fact of being the central object of thought pro tanto a unity, and all that can be affirmed concerning it may so far be regarded as its property or attribute. It is, as we have seen, the characteristic of every completed concept to be a fixed and independent whole, as it were, crystallized out of the still-fluent matrix of ideas. Moreover, the earliest objects of thought and the earliest concepts must naturally be those of the things that live and move about us: hence, then – to seek no deeper reason for the present – this natural tendency, which language by providing distinct names powerfully seconds, to reify or personify not only things but every element and relation of things which we can single out, or, in other words, to concrete our abstracts. [78-1] It is when things have reached this stage that logic begins. But ordinary, so-called formal, logic, which intends to concern itself not with thinking but only with the most general structure of thought, is debarred from recognizing any difference between concepts that does not affect their relations as terms in a proposition. As a consequence it drifts inevitably into that compartmental logic or logic of extension which knows nothing of categories or predicables, but only of the one relation of while and part qualitatively considered. It thus pushes this reduction to a common denomination to the utmost: its terms, grammatically regarded, are always names and symbolize classes or compartments of things. From this point of view all disparity among concepts, save that of contradictory exclusion, and all connexion, save that of partial coincidence, are at an end.

Of a piece with this are the logical formula for a simple judgment, C is Y, and the corresponding definitions of judgment as the comparison of two concepts and recognition of their agreement or disagreement. [78-2] In certainly is possible to represent every judgment as a comparison, although the term is strictly adequate to only one kind and is often a very artificial description of what actually happens. But for a logic mainly concerned with inference – i.e., with explicating what is implicated in any given statements concerning classes – these is nothing more to be done but to ascertain agreements or disagreements; and the existence of these, if not necessarily, is at least most evidently represented by spatial relations. The resolution of all concepts into class concepts and that of all judgments into comparisons thus go together. On this view if a concept is complex it can only be so as a class combination; and, if the mode of its synthesis could be taken account of at all, this could only be by treating it as an element in the combination like the rest: iron is a substance, &c., virtue a quality, &c., distance a relation, &c., and so on. There is much of directly psychological interest in this thoroughgoing reduction of thought to a form which makes its consistency and logical concatenation conspicuously evident. But of the so-called matter of thought it tells us nothing. And, as said there are many forms in that matter of at least equal moment, both for psychology and for epistemology; these formal logic has tended to keep out of sight,

It has generally been under the bias of such a formal or computational logic that psychologists, and especially English psychologists, have entered upon the study of mind. They have brought with them an analytic scheme which affords a ready place for sensations ort "simple ideas" as the elements of thought, but none for any differences in the combinations of these elements. Sensations being in their very nature concrete, all generality becomes an affair of names; and, as Sigwart has acutely remarked, sensationalism and nominalism always go together. History would have borne him our if he had added that a purely formal logic tends in like manner to be nominalistic (see LOGIC, vol. xvi. p. 791).


[78-1] ) See Wundt, Logik, p. 107 sq., where this process is happily styled "die kategoriale Verschiebung der Begriffe."

[78-2] Comp. Hamilton: "To judge (kritein [Gk.], judicare [Lat.]) is to recognize the relation of congruence or of confliction in which two concepts, two individual things, or a concept and an individual, compared together, stand to each other" (Lectures on Logic, i. p. 225).

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