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(Part 88)

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

Self Consciousness

The term "reflexion" or internal perception is applied to that state of mind in which some particular presentation or group of presentation (x or y) is not simply in the field of consciousness but there as consciously related to self, which is also presented at the same time. Self here may symbolized by M, to emphasize the fact that it is in like manner an object in the field of consciousness. The relation of the two is commonly expressed by saying, "This (x or y) is my (M’s) percept, idea, ort volition; I (M) it is that perceive, think, will it." Self-consciousness, in the narrowest sense, as when we say, "I know myself, I am conscious that I am," &c., is but a special though the most important, instance of this internal perception: here held (M) is presented in relation to self (with a difference, M’); the subject itself – at least so we say – is or appears as its own object.

It has been often maintained that the difference between consciousness and reflexion is not a real difference, that to know and to know that you know are "the same thing considered in different aspects." [84-2] But different aspects of the same thing are not the same thing, for psychology at least. Not only is it not the same thing to feel and to know that you feel; but it might even be held to be a different thing still to know that you feel and to know that you know that you feel, -- such being the difference perhaps between ordinary reflexion and psychological introspection. [84-3] The difficulty of apprehending these facts and keeping them distinct seems obviously due to the necessary presence of the earlier along with the later; that is to say, we can never know that we feel without feeling. But the converse need not be true. How distinct the two states are in shown in one way by their notorious incompatibility, the direct consequence of the limitation of attention: whatever we have to do that is not altogether mechanical is ill done unless we lose ourselves in the doing of it. This mutual exclusiveness receives a further explanation from the fact so often used to discredit psychology, viz., that the so-called introspection and indeed all reflecxion are really retrospective. It is now while we are angry or lost in reverie that we take note of such states, but afterwards, or by momentary side glances intercepting the main interest, if this be not too absorbing.

But we require an exacter analysis of the essential fact in this retrospect – the relation of the presentation x or y to that of self or M. What we have to deal with, it will be observed, is, implicitly at least, a judgment. First of all, then , it is noteworthy that we are never prompted to such judgments by every-day occurrences or acts of routine, but only by matters of interest, and, as said, generally when these are over or have ceased to be all-engrossing.

Now in such cases it will be found that some effect of the preceding state of objective absorption persists, like wounds received in battle unnoticed till the fight is over, -- such, e.g., as the weariness of muscular exertion or of long concentration of attention; some pleasurable or painful after-sensation passively experienced, or an emotional wave subsiding but nit yet spent; "the jar of interrupted expectation," or the relief of sudden attainment after arduous striving, making prominent the contrast of contentment and want in that particular; or, finally, the quiet retrospect and mental rumination in which we note what time has wrought upon us and either regret or approve what we were and did. All such presentations are of the class out of which, as we have seen, the presentation of self is built up, and so form in each case the concrete bond connecting the generic image of self with its object. [85-1] In this way and in this respect each is a concrete instance of what we call a state, act, affection, &c., and the judgments in which such relations to the standing presentation of self are recognized are the original and the type of all real predications (comp. p. 81). The opportunities for reflexion are at first few, the materials being as it were thrust upon attention, and the resulting "percepts" are but vague. Bu the time, however, that a clear conception of self has been attained the exigencies of life make it a frequent object of contemplation, and as the abstract of a series of instances of such definite self-consciousness we reach the purely formal notion of a subject or pure ego. For empirical psychology this notion is ultimate; its speculative treatment falls altogether – usually under the heading "rational psychology" – to metaphysics.


84-2 So -- misled possibly by the confusions incident to a special faculty of reflexion, which they controvert -- James Mill, Analysis, i. p. 224 sq. (corrected, however, by both his editors, pp. 227 and 230), and also Hamilton, Lect., i. p. 192.

84-3 It has been though a fatal objection to this view that it implies the possibility of an indefinite regrees; but why should it not? We reach the limit of our experience in reflexion or at most in deliberate introspection, just as in space of three dimensions we reach the limit of our experience in another respect. But there is no absurdity in supposing a consciousness more evolved and explicit than our self-consciousness and advancing on it as it advances on that of the unreflecting brutes.

85-1 They have thus a certain analogy to the presentative element in external perception, the re-presentative elements being furnished by the rest of the generic image of self. But, as this generic image is combined with the primarily sustained by a continuous stream of organic sensations, the analogy is not very exact.

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