1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Temporal Continuity

(Part 35)

(E) Perception (cont.)

Temporal Continuity

(d) Amidst all the change above described there is one thing comparatively fixed : our own body is both constant as a group and a constant item in every field of groups; and not only so, but it is beyond all other things an object of constant and peculiar interest, inasmuch as our earliest pleasures and pains depend solely upon it and what affects it. The body becomes, in fact, the earliest form of self, the first datum for our later conceptions of permanence and individuality. A continuity like that of self is then transferred to other bodies which resemble our own, so far as our direct experience goes, in passing continuously from place to place and undergoing only partial and gradual changes of form and quality. As we have existed—or, more exactly, as the body has been continuously presented—during the interval between two encounters with some other recognized body, so this is regarded as having continuously existed during its absence from us. However permanent we suppose the conscious subject to be, it is hard to see how, without the continuous presentation to it of such group as the bodily self, we should ever be prompted to resolve the discontinuous presentations of external things into a continuity of existence. It might be said : "Since the second presentation of a particular group would, by the mere workings of psychical laws, coalesce or become identical with the image of the first, this coalescence suffices to ‘generate’ the conception of continued existence." But such assimilation is only the ground of an intellectual identification and furnishes no motive, one way or the other, for resolving two like things into the same thing : between a second presentation of A and the presentation at different times of two A’s there is so far no difference. Real identity no more involves exact similarity involves sameness of things; on the contrary, we are wont to find the same thing alter with time, so that exact similarly after an interval, so far from suggesting one thing, is often the surest proof that there are two concerned. Of such real identity, then, it would seem we must have experience ; and we have it in the continuous presentation of the bodily self ; apart from this it could not be "generated" by association among changing presentations. Other bodies being in the first instance personified, that then is regarded as one thing—from whatever point of view we look at it, whether as part of a larger thing or as itself compounded of such parts—which had one beginning in time. But what is it that has thus a beginning and continues indefinitely? This leads to our last point.

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