1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Presentation of Self, Self Consciousness, and Conduct - Introduction.

(Part 84)

(K) Presentation of Self, Self Consciousness, and Conduct

Presentation of Self, Self Consciousness, and Conduct - Introduction.

The conception of self we have just seen underlying and to a great extent shaping the rest of our intellectual furniture; on this account it is at once desirable and difficult to analyze it and ascertain the conditions of its development. [83-4] In attempting this we must carefully distinguish between the bare presentation of self and that reference of other presentations to it which is often called specially self-consciousness, "inner sense," or internal perception. Concerning all presentations whatever – that of self no less than the rest – it is possible whatever – that of self no less than the rest – it is possible to reflect, "This presentation is mine; it is my object; I am the subject attending to it." Self, then, is one presentation among others, the result, like them, of the differentiation of the original continuum. But it is obvious that this presentation must be in existence first before other presentations can be related to it. On the other hand, it is only in and by means of such relations that the conception of self is completed. We begin, therefore, with self simply as an object, and end with the conception of that object as the subject or "myself" that knows itself. Self has, in contradistinction from all other presentations, first of all (a) a unique interest and (b) a certain inwardness; (c) it is an individual that (d) persists, (e) is active, and finally (f) knows itself. These several characteristics of self are intimately involved; so far as they appear at all they advance in definiteness from the lowest level of mere sentience to those moments of highest self-consciousness in which conscience approves or condemns volition.


83-4 A large, though certainly diminished, school of thinkers would entirely demur to such a proposal. "This personality," says one, "like all other simple and immediate presentations, is indefinable… it can be analysed into no simpler elements" for it is revealed to us in all the clearness of an original intuition" (Mansel, Metaphysics, p. 182). Such an objection arises from that confusion between psychology and epistemology which we have met already several times before (as, e.g., in the case of space, p. 53, and of unity, p. 79). The fact is that a conception that is logically "simple and immediate," in such wise as to be underivable from others, and therefore indefinable, may be – we might almost say will be – psychologically the result of a long process of development; for the more abstract a concept is, i.e., the more fundamental in epistemological structure, the more thinking there has been to elaborate it. The most complex integrations of experience are needed to furnish the ideas of its ultimate elements. Such ideas when reached have intellectually all the clearness of an original intuition, no doubt; but they are not therefore to be confounded with what is psychologically a simple and immediate presentation. It was in this last sense that idealists like Berkeley and Kant denied any presentation of self as much as skeptics like Hume. Self is psychologically a product of thought, not a datum of sense; hence, while Berkeley called it a "notion" and Kant an "idea of the reason," Hume treated it as a philosophical fictions.

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