1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Law of Dichotomy or Duality

(Part 76)

(J) Intellection (cont.)

Law of Dichotomy or Duality

But, though a judgment is always a complex unity, the extent of this complexity seems tat first sight to vary as the form of synthesis varies. Formal logic, as we have seen, by throwing the form of synthesis into the predicate has no difficulty in reducing every judgment to an S is P. But, if we at all regard the matter thought, it is certain, for example, that "It is an explosion" is less complex than "The enemy explodes the mine." The first answers one question; the second answers three. But as regards the more complex judgment both the process of ascertaining the fact the language in which it is expressed show that he three elements concerned in it are not synthesized at once. Suppose we start from the explosion, -- and changes or movements are not only apt to attract attention first, but, when recognized an events and not as abstracts personified, they call for some supplementing beyond themselves – then in this case we may search for the agent at work or for the object affected, but not for both at once. Moreover, if we find either, a complete judgment at once ensues: "The enemy explodes," or "The mine is exploded." The original judgment is really due to a synthesis of these two. But, when the results of former judgments are in this manner taken up into a new judgment, a certain "condensation of thought" ensues. Of this condensation the grammatical structure of language is evidence, though logical manipulation – with great pains – obliterates it. Thus our more complex judgment would take the form – "The enemy is now mine-exploring" or "The mine is enemy-exploded," according as one or other of the simpler judgments was made first. An examination of other cases would in like manner tend to show that intellectual synthesis is always – in itself and apart from implications – a binary synthesis. Wundt, to whom belongs the merit of first explicitly stating this "law of dichotomy or duality" [79-3] as the cardinal principle of discursive thinking, contrasts it with synthesis by mere association. This, as running on continuously, he represents thus -- A¯B¯ C¯D¯ . . . ; the synthesis of thought, on the other hand, he symbolizes by forms such as the following: --


In explanation of this law as a law of intellectual it is hardly sufficient to rest it ultimately on the fact "that in a given moment of time only a single act of apperception is possible." [80-1] This apples to all syntheses alike. The point surely is that the one thing attended to in an intellective act is the synthesis of two things, and of two things only, because, as only one movement of attention is possible at a time, only two things at a time can be synthesized. In that merely associative synthesis by which the memory-continuum is produced attention moves form A to B and thence to C without any relation between A and B being attended to at all, although they must have relations, that of sequence, e.g., at least. The intellective synthesis which follows upon this first resolves the A¯B into its elements, and then, if there be any ground for so doing, re-synthesizes them with a consciousness of what the synthesis means. [80-2]


79-3 Wundt, Logik: eine Untersuchung der Principien der Erkenntniss, i. p. 53 sq.

80-1 Wundt, op. cit., i. p. 58.

80-2 It need not, of course, be maintained that in every act of thought, no matter how abstract, the ideas related have been previously connected by association. But certainly at the outset this is the case, in such wise that all the forms of intellectual synthesis are prefigured in the connexions of the ideational train or its reduplications.

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