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174. Matter homogeneous, or heterogeneous with common pro- 

perties? i 

175. Limitation of the problem 2 

17*5. Descartes and Spino/a on Consciousness and Extension . 4 

177. Schilling and Ilcgel ; problems attempted by the latter . 8 

178. Kant does not connect his views of Matter and of Space . 9 
170. Why Kant explained Mailer by Foicc 12 

180. * Force ' involves relation between things . . . i? 

181. ' Force ' as a property of one element a figuie of speech . 16 
12. Kant rightly implies activity on the part of Things, not 

meie sequence according to Law . . . . .21 

183. Kant's two forces a mere analysis of the position of a thing . 23 

184. Still a mechanical system offerees essential, and several may 

attach to each element . . . . . . .26 

185. Force can only act a distance . . . . . . 2S 

186. Idea of 'communication' of Motion 31 

187. Space no self-evident hindrance to action . . . .34 



188. Pritna fade grounds in favour of Atomism . . . 3$ 

189. Lucretius, difleiences in the Atoms 41 

1HO. Consequences of the Unity of an extended Atom . . -43 

191. Notion of unexteiided Atoms Herbai t . . . -47 

1 92. Herbart's view modified -the Atoms not independent of each 

other 50 


PAG re 

193. Is Matter homogeneous or of several kinds? . . -53 

194. Homogeneous Matter not proved by constancy of Mass . 56 

195. Connexion of the elements with each other in a systematic 

unity 58 

196. Plurality in space of identical elements merely phenomenal . 60 

197. Self- multiplication of Atomic centres conceivable . . 63 



198. The square of the distance, difficulties in the radiation of 

Force .......... 66 

199. No mechanical deduction of a primary Force . . 70 

200. Alleged infinite attraction at no distance .... 70 

201. Herbart's view of the ' Satisfaction ' of Force, not conclusive 72 

202. Philosophy desires one primary law of action ... 76 

203. Affinity would naturally correspond to the Distance itself . 77 

204. Attempt to account for Square of Distance .... So 

205. Can Force depend on motions of acting elements? . . 82 

206. Does Force require time to take effect at a distance? . . 83 

207. Causation and Time Reciprocal action .... 86 

208. Idealism admits no special Laws as absolute ... 88 

209. Conservation of Mass ........ 89 

210. Constancy of the Sum of Motions ..... 91 

211. Absorption of Cause in Effect ...... 94 

212. Not self-evident that there can be no gain in physical action 94 

213. Equality and Equivalence distinguished . . . .98 

214. Equivalence docs not justify reduction to one process . . 101 

215. * Compensation ' in interaction of Body and Soul . . . 102 

216. The Principle of Parsimony 104 


217. Deductions of the forms of reality impossible . . .109 

218. Possibility of explaining natural processes in detail on the 

view of subjective Space 1 1 1 

219. Success the test of the methods of physical science . .114 

220. Mechanism the action of combined elements according to 

general laws 115 

221. Mechanism as a distinct mode of natural activity a fiction . 118 



222. The planetary system, light and sound . . . .122 

223. Electricity and Chemistry should not be sharply opposed to 

Mechanism 124 

224. Motives for forming the conception of a Vital Force . .128 

225. Vital Force could not be one for all Organisms . . .130 

226. Difference between organic and inorganic substances proves 

nothing about Vital Force 131 

227. A ' Life-principle ' would have to operate mechanically . 132 

228. Mechanical aspect of Organisms . .... 135 
220. Mechanical view indispensable but not exhaustive . .137 

230. Purpose implies a subject God, the soul . . . .138 

231. Von Baer on purpose in * Nature ' ..... 141 

232. Unity of world determines all modes of action . . . 144 

233. The mechanical order need not exclude progress . . .145 

234. Is there a fixed number of Natural Kinds ? .... 150 

235. Criticism of the question ' Is real existence finite or infinite?' 151 

236. Development of the Cosmos only its general principles a 

question for Metaphysic . . . . . 157 

237. Actual development of life a question for Natural History 158 
Conclusion. ......... 160 

P s y c h o To g y . 



Introductory. Rational and Empirical Psychology . .163 

238. Reasons for the belief in a 'Soul.' I. Freedom is no reason 165 

239. 2. Mental and physical processes disparate . . . 166 

240. Disparateness no proof of separate psychical substance . 168 

241. 3. Unity of Consciousness . . . . . . .169 

242. Unity of the conscious Subject 171 

243. The subject in what sense called ' substance* . . .173 

244. Kant on the Substantiality of the Soul . . . .176 

245. What the Soul is; and the question of its immortality . . 180 

246. Origin of the Soul may be gradual 182 

247. Ideas of psychical and psycho-physical mechanism .186 

248. Interaction between Body and Soul 187 

249. Idea of a bond between Body and Soul .... 190 

250. The Soul not a resultant of physical actions . . .191 



251. Meaning of explaining the Soul as a peculiar form of com- 

bination between elements 194 

252. Consciousness and Motion in Fechner's ' Psycho-Physik ' . 195 



253. The physical stimulus of sensation 199 

254. The physiological stimulus of sensation . . . .201 

255. The conscious sensation ....... 204 

256. Adequate and inadequate stimuli of sense .... 205 

257. The connexion of various classes of sensation . . . 207 

258. Weber's Law 210 

259. Hypotheses as to the reason of Weber's Law . . .212 

260. The so-called chemistry of ideas 214 

261 . The disappearance of ideas from consciousness. The checking 

of ideas 217 

262. The strength of ideas 219 

263. Dim ideas 221 

264. The more interesting ideas conquer 223 

265. Association of ideas 226 

266. Ilerbart's theory respecting the reproduction of a successive 

series of ideas 228 



267. Simple ideas and their relations 232 

268. The necessary distinction between them .... 233 

269. Psycho-physical attempts to explain ideas of relation . . 234 

270. Herbart's theory of the psychical mechanism . . . 237 

271. The truer view respecting simple ideas and ideas of relation 

expressed in Ilerbartian language 240 

272. The referring activity as producing universal conceptions . 241 

273. Attention as an activity of reference 242 

274. Attention and the ' interest ' possessed by ideas . . . 244 



275. The subjectivity of our perception of Space .... 247 

276. How is the perception of spatial relations possible ? . . 248 


277. Distinctions depending on Space cannot be preserved as such 

in the Soul 251 

278. A clue needed for the arrangement of impressions by the Soul 253 
270. The * extra-impression' as a clue or ' local sign* . . . 254 

280. Does the local sign ' arise in the same nerve-fibre as the 

main impression ? . . . . . . . 256 

281. ' Local signs ' must be not merely different but comparable . 259 

282. ' Local signs ' must be conscious sensations . . . .260 
283-7. On the local signs connected with visual sensations . 263-276 
288-0. Local signs connected with the sense of touch . . 276-280 

290. How these feelings are associated with movement . . 280 



291. The 'scat' of the Soul 283 

292. The Soul not omnipresent within the body .... 284 

293. No reason to suppose that it has an action graduated ac- 

cording to distance . . . . . . .285 

294. No suitable place can be found for it on the hypothesis that 

it acts by contact only 287 

295. It must act directly and independently of Space, but only at 

certain necessary points 288 

296. Which these points are is determined from time to time by 

the activities which go on in them 291 

297. Our ignorance of the special functions of the central nervous 

organs i .... 293 

298. Ideas of a 'Sensorium commttne* and ' Motor ium commune* 295 

299. The organ of language ....... 297 

300. How the soul initiates action 299 

301. Reproduction of the right concomitant feeling . . . 300 

302. Application of this view to the organ of language . . 303 

303. Phrenology 304 

304. The connexion of Consciousness with bodily states . . 306 

305. Does memory depend on physical traces left in the brain ? . 310 

306. Loss of memory ......... 313 

307. Existence of the soul during unconsciousness . . . 315 
Conclusion 318 

INDEX 321 


The theoretical construction of Materiality. 

174. THE elements of Real Existence have hitherto been 
spoken of only in so far as regards the positions occupied by 
them in Space and the changes in those positions ; as regards 
the form and nature of that which takes up and changes its 
positions, we have been silent. This latter question, which 
at the point we have now reached we shall be called on to 
consider, is usually stated as the theoretical construction of 
Matter. If I were to give this name to the following in- 
vestigations, it could only be with the reservation that I 
understand the philosophical problem which is commonly 
Designated by it in a changed sense. For this Matter, the 
construction of which is required, is not a ready-made fact 
open to observation. Real Existence as known to us in 
Space consists merely of an indefinite number of indi- 
vidual objects variously distinguished by inherent differences 
in their sensible qualities. At the same time, however, we 
learn by observation and comparison of these objects to 
perceive a number of common properties in which they all, 
to a greater or less extent, participate. They are all alike 
extended in space; all alike show a certain tendency to 
maintain their positions against any attempt to change them; 
they all oppose a certain vis inertiae to any efforts to move 
them. These common properties of things, which are con- 
sistent also with the most manifold differences, may be 
classed together under the generic name Materiality, and 
Matter would then be a general term standing for anything 
which participated, to whatever extent, in the above-men- 



tioned modes of behaviour. The problem of philosophy 
would be to determine what is the subject of which these 
are the attributes, and under what conditions there arise in 
their successive grades the forms of existence and of action 
which we comprehend under the name of ' Materiality.' 

A general consideration of these questions must have re- 
gard to two possible modes of answering them. Conceivably 
the Real Existence which appears to us under forms of 
action so homogeneous, may be not merely of like, but of 
quite identical nature throughout, and may owe the differ- 
ences which characterise it to subsequent accessory con- 
ditions. But it is equally conceivable, that Beings originally 
distinct, and such as cannot be comprehended in the totality 
of their nature under any one notion, should yet be bound 
by the plan of the world, in which they arc all included, to 
express their own inmost and heterogeneous Being, where 
they come into mutual relations, in a language of common 
currency, i.e. by means of the properties of matter. 

175. I shall not now attempt to determine, whether the 
present age with its more extended knowledge of nature has 
discovered grounds decisively favouring the first of these 
suppositions what is certain is, that the ancients, who first 
propounded this view, proceeded on no such sufficient 
grounds. The conception of an attribute admitting of 
being applied to things differing from each other, they 
hastily transformed into the conception of -a real identical 
subject underlying the varieties of phenomena. This 
example has unfortunately been very generally followed by 
Philosophy in subsequent times, and the days are still quite 
recent when the most strenuous attempts were made to con- 
struct this universal substratum, though even if it had been 
shown to exist, it would have been most difficult, if not 
altogether impossible, to deduce from it the different material 
bodies to the explanation of which it was supposed to be 
necessary. In any case, this universal matter could not 
have been adequately determined by reference to those pre- 


dicates which constitute its materiality. For, all of tl.em, 
extension, reaction, vis inertiae, denote merely the manner 
or mode in which a thing behaves or is related. They do 
not in any way touch the nature of that to which these 
changes of behaviour are attributed. 

There are two ways in which it may be attempted to get 
the better of this difficulty. As we are under no obligation 
to lay claim to universal knowledge, so it may simply be 
granted, that Matter is a real determinate thing, but known 
to us and intelligible only in respect of its behaviour. This 
is roughly the point of view which is adopted by Physical 
Science. Science distinguishes that which is extended and 
operative in space from the empty environment in which it 
appears. But it leaves the original nature of this substratum 
undefined, or ascribes to it only such general characteristics 
as are forced upon it by the analysis of individual objects. 
By so doing, Science gives up the attempt to construct a 
theory of a universal matter, preferring rather to examine 
into the nature of phenomena singly, whilst assuming the 
existence of a common basis underlying them. On the 
other method, if we attempt to deduce the general properties 
of matter from the nature of the real thing of which they 
are predicates, we are met by a well-known difficulty. We 
convinced ourselves, when treating of ontology, that to look 
for the essence of a thing in a fixed quality and then to re- 
present the modes of its activity as consequences derivative 
from this, was a method which could never be successful 1 . 
We saw, that all those forms of insight which seemed to 
explain the inner nature of things were only possible because 
they were nothing but forms of vision, appearances such as 
a consciousness may present to itself. What lay at the 
bottom of such perceptions, in external reality, always con- 
verted itself into some kind of activity or process or mode 
of relation. And however strong may be the impulse to 
attribute these living processes to some subject, we had to 
1 (Cp. Bk. I. Chap. 2, 22.] 


give up the attempt to explain the marvellous fact of active 
being, by representing its activity as the mere predicate of 
an inactive subject. Similarly, in the present case, it would 
be labour mis-spent to attempt to describe the reality under- 
lying the forms of material existence previous to and in- 
dependent of these its manifestations. There does however 
still remain something to be done, viz. to determine the place 
which this inaccessible substratum occupies in the sum-total 
of existence. At any rate we must be clear as to whether 
we mean to regard it as something absolutely original and 
specific, standing in no connexion with other forms of 
reality, or as itself, no less than its properties, an intelligible 
part of the order of the universe. The attempt to explain 
the origin of matter mechanically is now regarded as im- 
possible ; no theory of a universal matter can show how the 
existence of matter first became possible and then actual. 
All that can be done is to indicate the manner of its exist- 
ence and its place in the order of the world. Not until the 
nature of matter had been thus explained, and so could be 
taken for granted, could the attempt be renewed to derive 
individual phenomena by mechanical laws from the universal 
fact of matter. 

178. There has never been a dearth of such attempts ; I 
shall content myself with a brief mention of only a few; 
confining myself to those which stand in the closest relation 
to existing opinions on the same subject. According to 
Descartes, extension and consciousness constituted together 
the two ultimate facts of perception, both being equally 
clear and neither admitting of being merged in the other. 
Having made this discovery, Descartes proceeded with a 
light heart to treat also the res extensa and the res cogitans 
as equally simple and clear. He considered that these were 
the two original elements of the world, and he maintained 
that they had no further community of nature than such as 
followed from their having both sprung from the will of the 
creator, and being involved in a relation of cause and effect, 

Chap. V.] SPINOZA. 5 

which the same will had established. Doubtless, an advance 
was made upon this view by Spinoza, in so far as he con- 
ceived of conscious life and material existence not merely as 
springing from the arbitrary will of the creator, but as two 
parallel lines of development, into which, by reason of its 
two essential attributes, the one absolute substance separated 
itself. At any rate, it was established that the material 
world does not proceed from any principle peculiar to itself, 
and of undemonstrable origin : the Reality underlying the 
forms and relations of matter in space is the same as the 
Reality, which in the intelligible world assumes the form of 

But I cannot convince myself that Spinoza got further 
than this point towards a solution of the questions now 
before us. Though insisting on the necessary concatenation 
of all things, even to the extent of denying every kind of 
freedom, he hindered the development of his view, by in- 
troducing barren logical conceptions of relation, the meta- 
physical value of which remained obscure. A logical 
expression may often be found for the content of a con- 
ception by enumerating a number of attributes co-ordinated 
in it. All that this really means is that every such deter- 
mination a is imposed upon the single object in question 
by the given condition/, with the same immediate necessity 
with which in another case the determination b would follow 
upon the occurrence of </. But we cannot tell in what con- 
sists the unity of a substance, which apart from all such 
conditions exhibits two original disparate sets of attributes, 
leaving it open as to whether these are eternal forms of 
Being (essentia\ and as such help to constitute the nature 
of the substance, or whether we are to understand by them 
merely two modes in which the nature of this substance is 
apprehended by us. The fact that in respect to the infinite 
substance every influence of external conditions must be 
denied, makes it all the more necessary that the inner rela- 
tions which are contained in its essential unity, issuing as 


they do in such very different modes of manifestation, 
should be explained and harmonised. The striking pecu- 
liarity of the circumstance that Thought and Extension 
should be the attributes thus colligated, is not explained 
away, it is only hidden from view by the suggestion that 
besides these attributes, there are an infinite number of 
others, which though inaccessible to our knowledge are yet 
co-ordinated together in the nature of the absolute after the 
same incomprehensible fashion. 

Again, every individual existence in the material world 
may be logically subsumed under the universal attribute 
which is called by the not very appropriate name extension, 
as species or subspecies ; but, in the merely formal concep- 
tion of absolute substance, there is nothing whatever to 
determine why out of the infinitude of possible modifica- 
tions of the absolute substance which are logically conceiv- 
able, one should exist in reality and another should not or, 
supposing it to be held that in the infinite unexplored 
totality of existence all these numberless possibilities as a 
matter of fact are realised, there must still be some reason 
why the events in the limits of our own experience take 
place in the order in which they do and not in another. 
Those two attributes of the infinite substance would, if left 
to themselves, be able to develope merely the system of all 
possible consequences derivable from them ; but such is not 
the reality which we find before us ; in order to arrive at 
that we need either a plurality of underived existences, or a 
simple plan capable of being the reason why of the possible 
consequences of those principles some occur often, others 
but rarely, and in all such infinitely various combinations. 

Once more, it is true that no modification of the one 
attribute can be derived out of a modification of the other, 
and therefore thought cannot be derived from extension nor 
extension from thought. But the logical impossibility of 
deriving one from the other analytically cannot invalidate 
the possibility of their synthetic combination in actual 


reality, except on a view which treats logical subordination 
as if it were the same with dependence in fact, and confuses 
a condition with a cause. The necessary admission that in 
Being there are elements which cohere and mutually affect 
each other, though in thought they are incommensurable, 
cannot be replaced by the wearisome repetition of the 
assertion, * ordo et connexio rerum idem est atque ordo et 
connexio idearum.' Whatever reference this proposition 
may be supposed to have, whether to the parallelism of the 
forms of Being in the totality of the world, or to the com- 
bination of physical and psychical functions in the life of 
each individual, as long as consciousness and extension 
have admittedly no common term, there can be no common 
term between the order and connexion of their respective 
modifications. Their alleged identity can only be under- 
stood in the restricted sense that always and in every case 
the modification b of the attribute B corresponds with the 
modification a of the attribute A, and that the change of a 
into a is followed always by a corresponding change of b into 
/3. But there is no proof that the correspondence which is 
exhibited as a matter of fact between a - and b # rests on 
any identity of nature ; or, in other words, that the transition 
between two modifications of the one attribute is or expresses 
or repeats the same thing in a different form as the corre- 
sponding transition in the other. I cannot, therefore, dis- 
cover that Spinoza has advanced the explanation of the 
material world in its relation to the spiritual. Instead of a 
metaphysical theory, what he gives is scarcely more than a 
logical classification. According to this, material and 
spiritual existences may be ranked under two disparate 
categories, which, both as real determinations in the nature 
of the absolute, and in all that is produced from it, are, not 
indeed by any inner necessity, but always as a matter of 
fact, combined. It is quite possible that we may not be 
able to make any advance worth speaking of beyond this 
point \ but, in that case, we must admit that we have arrived 


at a result which is worth almost nothing, and we shall not 
feel bound to make any profession of enthusiasm on account 
of such a trifling addition to our knowledge. 

177. I shall touch only briefly on the kindred speculations 
which our own idealist philosophy has developed more 
recently. Schelling contented himself at first, as Spinoza 
had done, with the recognition of that Law of Polarity, 
which as a fact constrains the absolute to develope itself 
under the twofold form of Ideality and Reality. He 
interested himself more, however, in showing the constant 
presence of these two elements in every phenomenon, and 
explained the manifold differences of things as arising from 
the preponderance of one or other of them. But it soon 
became evident (as would have appeared even more clearly 
if his demonstration had been successful) that he intended 
to regard this duality not as a mere fact, but as a necessary 
process of differentiation involved in the original nature of 
the Absolute. At a later period, he was dominated, as was 
Hegel, by the thought of a development within which the 
material world appears as an anticipation of the higher life 
of the Spirit. Of this development Hegel believed himself 
to have discovered the law. 

It would be impossible, without going to extreme length, 
to give a representation of the governing purpose of HegePs 
account, which should be at once faithful to the original, 
and at the same time adapted to our present habits of 
thought. I shall confine myself, therefore, to attempting to 
show that he has confused two classes of questions which 
ought to be kept distinct. After satisfying oneself that the 
purpose of the world is the realisation of some one all-com- 
prehensive idea, and after being further assured that the 
arrangement of the forms of existence and activity in a fixed 
system is required as a means to this realisation, one may 
proceed to ask, what is the place of matter in such a system ? 
what necessary and peculiar function is served by it ? It 
would then be natural to speak first of matter in its most 


universal form, i. c. materiality as such ; and we mighfc hope 
to find that the same inner process of development, follow- 
ing which the original idea of matter breaks itself up into 
certain definite postulates of existence, necessitated by the 
correspondence of the idea with the whole sphere of reality, 
would be followed in like manner by the concrete forms 
which different objects assume in filling in the common out- 
line, and that these would be similarly developed. No one 
now believes in the pleasant dream that this project is realis- 
able, still less that it has been realised. Still, there is nothing 
unintelligible in the notion itself. What troubles us is the 
obscurity of the connexion between this project and the 
second of the problems I alluded to, that of showing how 
the postulates dictated by the Idea are satisfied both in 
existence as a whole, and in the complex course of actual 
events in particular. As regards the former point, it may 
be sufficient to bear in mind that the self-developing idea is 
no mere system of conceivable possibilities of thought, but 
itself living reality. The same reflexion cannot, however, 
as often it is wrongly made to do, serve the place of a system 
of mechanics, determining in reference to each concrete 
existence in Space and Time why precisely here and now 
this rather than some other manifestation of the idea should 
necessarily be realised. 

178. More in accordance with the scientific views at 
present held is the teaching of Kant. I can remember how 
a few decades ago the student used to hear it said that of 
all Kant's epoch-making works the deepest were those which 
treated of the Metaphysical basis of Natural Science. 
While admitting the worth of what Kant has written on this 
subject, I cannot value it quite so highly. I lament, in the 
first place, the gap which separates the results of these 
speculations from those of the Critique of the Reason. The 
ideal nature of space which is asserted in the Critique is 
here left almost out of account ; the construction of matter 
is attempted exclusively from the ordinary point of view, 


according to which there is a real extension, and there must 
be activities adapted to fill it. I lament no less what has 
previously been observed by Hegel, viz. that there should 
remain such uncertainty as to the subject to which the 
activities thus manifesting themselves in Space, and so con- 
stituting matter, are to be attributed. That this subject is 
what moves in Space, and that it is the reality which under- 
lies our sensations, these seem to be the only determinations 
of it which are not derived from what the properties of 
matter show themselves to be by their subsequent effects. 
Who or what this is that is thus movable or real remains 
unexplained. Taking into consideration the fact that Kant 
used to speak of things in themselves in the plural, it seerns 
probable that his thoughts on this subject did not pass 
beyond the conception of an indefinite multiplicity of real 
elements, an obvious hypothesis, which was likely to re- 
commend itself to him for the purposes of Physical Science. 
This view is confirmed by his mode of deriving the differ- 
ences of individual existences from combinations of the 
two 1 primary forces in varying degrees of intensity, which is 
his invariable explanation of matter as a phenomenon. 
Now these differences of combination would have nothing 
to stand upon if they are not based on specific differences 
of nature in the real elements which they combine. Al- 
though, therefore, it is not explicitly laid down that the Real 
elements are originally distinct, still this interpretation is 
quite as little excluded, and it may be admitted that what 
Kant is endeavouring to explain is not a universal matter, 
but rather the universal form of materiality, together with 
the special manifestations which are developed within this 
form in consequence of the characteristic nature of the 
Reality which the form contains. But, supposing this to be 
admitted, we should still be at a loss to explain how this 
real existence is related to Space, in which it thus makes its 
appearance. If we refer back to the Critique of the Reason, 
1 [I. e. attraction and repulsion.] 

Chap. V.] KINDS OF MA TTER. 1 1 

we find one thing settled, but only in the negative. True 
Being can neither be itself extended, nor can the relations 
in which it is expressed be other than purely intelligible 
ones. The problem would then have been to show how the 
elements of Real existence are able to present themselves 
to our consciousness 1 in which alone space is contained 
in such a way that they not merely take up definite positions, 
but also have the appearance of being extended in Space, 
Kant never really handled this question. The forces of 
attraction and repulsion which he mentions can only be 
understood on the supposition of certain definite points 
from which they are put in operation by the ultimate ele- 
ments. Moreover, if Space which is continuous is to be 
continuously filled with matter, differing indeed in degrees 
of density, but still such that no smallest particle of it can 
be absolutely driven out of Space even by the greatest 
pressure, and if matter is to an unlimited extent divisible 
into parts which still remain matter, there seems to be 
nothing left for our imagination but to conceive of extension 
in Space and impenetrability as original and fixed charac- 
teristics of the real substratum, which thus becomes the 
basis of further enquiry. But in that case, what we should 
have would be neither a universal matter nor the universal 
form of materiality. The latter would be merely assumed 
as the common characteristic in real elements otherwise 
diverse, in order that it might serve as a basis for investiga- 
tion into the relations subsisting between different material 
existences. This result would not be very unlike that which 
is soon reached by the ordinary reflexion upon Nature. 
Different kinds of unknown elements are assumed, which 
owing to causes also unknown we come upon, each of them 
in numerous specimens, at different points in Space. At 
these different points each fills a certain volume with its 
presence; their presence is manifested by the changes of 
position which they originate, and by the resistance which 
1 [' Anschauung.'] 


they offer to any attempts coming from without to remove 
them from their occupancy or to lessen its extent. In other 
words, we think that there are many different kinds of 
matter which are distinguished for us by the different co- 
efficients which we are compelled to assign in each of them 
to the action of certain forces or inherent tendencies 
common to them all. 

179. The application of this conception of force in order 
to explain the fundamental qualities of matter has always 
been regarded as the most valuable advance of Kant's 
Philosophy of Nature, though to some it has seemed to go 
further than experience would warrant. Kant himself does 
not appear to me to have allowed the motive clearly enough 
to emerge which led him to this view, though there can be 
no doubt as to what it was, and we may trace it thus. He 
mentions 1 Lambert's account of Solidity as a necessary 
property of all material existence. According to Lambert, 
it follows from the very conception of Reality, or, in other 
words, it is a consequence of the Law of Contradiction, 
that the mere fact of the presence of a thing in Space makes 
it impossible that any other thing should occupy the same 
position at the same time. Against this it was contended 
by Kant that the I^aw of Contradiction could not by itself 
keep back any part of matter from approaching and making 
its way into a position already occupied by some other part. 
This objection is not quite fair. We should not expect the 
physical impossibility referred to to be produced by the 
Principle of Contradiction, but only in accordance with that 
principle and by the fact of solidity which for practical 
purposes, we assume as an attribute of Real Existence. 
And why should we not make this assumption if there is 
nothing at variance with it in experience ? It is no sufficient 
reason against doing so to urge, as Kant does in the course 
of his c Proof of this ' Precept No. i ' of his * Dynamic, 1 

1 [Kant. Metaphysische Anfangsgriinde der Naturwiss. Dynamik. 
Lehrsatz I. Anmerkung. (Werke ed. Rosenkranz. 5. 344.)] 


that to make way into a position is a motion and that in 
order for there to be a decrease or cessation of motion there 
must be a motion proceeding from an opposite quarter, or 
rather a something which can produce such a motion, a 
motive force. For the view of atomism according to which 
the smallest particles of matter are possessed of solidity, 
though it would admit that motion makes its way up to the 
surface of a body, would not admit that it makes its way 
into the body ; yet, according to this view, the effects of the 
impact communicated would not vanish without producing 
an effect at the surface of the solid matter, but would be 
distributed from one atom to another, or to several atoms, 
and so become imperceptible. Whatever difficulties may 
attend the explanation of the phenomena by this method, 
at any rate a closer investigation than has been entered on 
by Kant would have been required in order to exhibit 

Again, what Kant adds in his note is not to me convinc- 
ing. He admits that in constructing a conception it is 
allowable to assume any datum to start with, e.g. solidity, 
without attempting to explain what the datum itself is. 
This, however, he says, gives us no right to affirm that the 
hypothesis is altogether incapable of being explained by 
mathematics. It seems to him that such a view would only 
hinder us in the attempt to penetrate to the first principles 
of science. But supposing we were willing to go so far 
with Kant as to assume the force of expansion, to which he 
gives precedence, would this be more than a datum, which 
could be used certainly to explain subsequent manifesta- 
tions, but was itself taken for granted and would not admit 
of being deduced from the nature of real existence as such ? 
The point at which a man will declare himself satisfied in 
this matter really depends in each case on his individual 
taste. There could be no real necessity to follow Kant in 
assuming something more than solidity as a fact pure and 
simple, unless it could be shown that solidity itself is either 


impossible or inadequate. Now the question whether it is 
impossible must for the present be left out of account ; in- 
adequate, however, it certainly is. The fact that no visible 
body is of unvarying extension, but all are susceptible of 
compression r expansion, would, it is true, apart from 
Kant's assumption of a continuous plenum in space, form 
no immediate disproof of the solidity in question, though 
this obviously implies the allegation of unvarying volume. 
The atomic theory, postulating empty spaces between its 
solid elements, would have a different explanation for the 
varying size of substances. But all the phenomena of 
elasticity, in which bodies resume their former shapes so 
soon as the external agencies which determined them to 
change have ceased to operate, prove beyond question that 
there must lie in the very nature of real existence conditions 
capable of producing states of Being which as yet are not. 
The form and extension, consequently, which an object of 
sensible perception assumes, cannot attach to it as an 
original and fixed property, but are rather a varying state of 
its existence, determined by inner conditions inherent in its 
Being. Sometimes, the object is permitted to appear in its 
true form, sometimes it is hindered from doing so ; in the 
latter case, however, i.e. where the inner states of Being are 
prevented from giving themselves expression, they make 
known their existence by the resistance which they offer to 
the adverse influences. These inner determinations may 
be spoken of as forces^ in order to distinguish them from 
properties. It will then be seen not to be enough to ascribe 
solidity, as a property, though it were only to the smallest 
particles of matter. The atoms themselves must have 
certain moving forces attaching to them, in order to make 
the ever-changing volume even of composite bodies in- 

Thus we may say provisionally that Kant regarded as 
fundamental in this problem of Science that principle which 
we cannot dispense with even though we prefer the other 


principle; but which may very well help to explain that 
other principle. This solid matter was not a fact open to 
observation ; it was not so even as applied to the smallest 
particles ; it was an hypothesis. Hence, it could be denied, 
and every occupation of space not merely by large visible 
bodies, but by their smallest elements, could be regarded 
as a perpetually changing state produced by the force of 
expansion, according as its action was free or impeded. 
Stated in a few words the case stands thus. If every 
material existence, remaining always indivisible, occupied 
the same space at one time as at another, solidity might be 
predicated of it as an original quality which it must not be 
attempted further to explain. But, now, inasmuch as 
extension, though a character indelebilis, is not a character 
invariabilis of matter, the extension which a thing has at 
any moment is the result of conditions which though present 
at that moment may vary at other moments ; one of these 
conditions lies in matter itself, and offers a resistance, 
though not an insuperable one, to those which come from 

180. I wish to dwell for a moment longer on the differ- 
ence to which I have referred between a fixed quality and 
a force. We have been long convinced that what we 
ordinarily call properties of things are really only modes 
which they assume, or manifestations which become known 
to us as the result of their interaction. Things do not have 
colour except as seen by us, and at the moment when in 
combination with waves of light they stimulate the eye. 
They are not hard, except in relation to the hand which 
attempts to move or pierce them. As a matter of fact, then, 
we should be at a loss to point to an indubitable instance of 
what we mean by a quality of a thing. All we can say is, 
that we are clear ourselves as to what we mean. By a 
quality is meant that which a thing is for itself and inde- 
pendently of any of its relations to other things. Hence, 
in order to exist, a quality neither requires these other 


things, nor is interfered with by them. A force, on the 
other hand, is not, like a quality, something belonging to 
things as such. In order, therefore, for a thing to be what 
it is, we do not attribute to it any force of being ; though 
we do speak of its having a force of self-conservation, in 
opposition to certain conditions which we assume to be 
capable of changing it. Our conception of a force, there- 
fore, involves the thought that the character of a thing is 
neither unchanging, nor yet on the other hand determinable 
to an unlimited extent from without. Rather, it implies 
that when the two things meet, they both undergo a real 
change, the change of the one depending on the nature of 
the other, but each at the same time by its own nature for- 
bidding a change without limits or one which would amount 
to a surrender of its essential Being. If qualities attach to 
things in their isolation, forces can only belong to them in 
consideration of their relation to each other; they are, in 
fact, conditions which enable one thing to affect another 
and to place itself to it in different relations. It is in this 
sense that Kant speaks of the forces which fill space ; they 
belong to the separate parts of matter, and are brought into 
activity by these parts in their mutual relations ; their appro- 
priate effects they either succeed in producing, or else show 
to be present by the resistance which they offer to other 
forces tending to hinder them. Here, however, it may be 
objected that Kant did not confine himself to the exposition 
of this process, but that taking this for granted as a uni- 
versally presupposed fact, he imported into the discussion 
considerations of quite a different order, attaching to the 
term 'Force/ which he selected. I do not believe that 
Kant himself is liable to the charge here made against him ; 
but the popular view of nature which was suggested by his 
doctrines, has given rise to a number of false opinions, and 
these therefore we shall now proceed to examine more at 
181. It is no doubt most useful to be able to express the 


import of an intricate relation between several connected 
points, by means of a single word ; at the same time, there 
is danger in doing this. After the word has been called 
into existence, not only are we able to combine it with other 
words, but we are led to suppose that every such grammatical 
combination has something real corresponding with it in 
fact. Thus, we speak first of all of force, and then of the 
force of matter. The use of the genitive in this instance, 
implying as it does that matter is possessed of force, or, that 
force is exercised by matter, has suggested these interminable 
questions concerning the nature of force as such, and its 
relation to matter of which it is a function. Such questions 
cannot be easily answered at once, when stated in this form. 
To understand, however, the applications of which this con- 
ception of force admits, we have only to observe the ordinary 
usage of Physical Science. Physics makes no mention of 
Force in itself, but only of its effects, i.e. of the changes to 
which it gives rise, or which it hinders. It is moreover 
against the Law of Persistence that an element should of 
itself modify its own states; the impulse to change must 
come from some other element. Thus, an element a is not 
possessed of a force/ until a second element b is presented 
to it on which it may take effect. The force is really pro- 
duced in a by the relation to b ; and it changes to q or r if 
either the nature of the second element or the relation of a 
to it is changed. Now, observation shows that there is 
nothing impossible in the attempt to determine the nature 
of the elements, the relations in which they may stand to 
each other, and the changes which they undergo in conse- 
quence of these relations. We can understand how, when 
elements containing specific amounts of generic properties 
enter into specific forms of some general relation, there are 
general effects which follow and vary proportionally accord- 
ing to definite laws. The proposition, a is possessed of the 
force /, when all that it implies is fully stated, in the first 
instance merely conveys the assurance that whenever a is 



brought into a specific relation m with a given element b, 
changes of state will be experienced both by a and by b 
which will go together to form the new occurrence, of fixed 
character and amount, n. Having arrived at this result we 
may then go on to speak of this fixed determinate force in 
another way, as if, i.e. it were present in a in an ineffective and 
indeterminate form, its definite effect being supposed to 
depend on subsequent conditioning circumstances, e.g. the 
nature of the elements b or c which come into contact with 
0, the peculiarity of the relation m or n into which a is 
brought, the presence or absence of some third circumstance. 
To all these causes the actual realisation of the result IT or K 
might be ascribed. Even this mode of statement, however, 
expresses no more than a presumption as to what will neces- 
sarily happen in a given supposed case. It follows in 
accordance with the general law which connects the changes 
of things with one another, that the circumstances being 
such as they are, no other result could have happened. 
Each of the elements, in virtue of its own nature, contributes 
to this result, and it is an allowable mode of statement first 
of all to represent them as containing severally and indi- 
vidually all the required conditions, and then to rectify the 
error of such an assumption by adding that the force poten- 
tially inherent in each element cannot become active until 
the element enters into some specially determined relation. 
As a matter of fact, it is this special relation which gives 
rise to the force. If we desire a definition of force, we may 
say that it is that quantitatively and qualitatively determined 
result, which may or must ensue, whenever any one element 
enters into a specific relation with any other. It is only for 
convenience of speech that this future result, which under 
given conditions we are justified in expecting, is antedated 
as a property already present though inoperative in the 
element. This being understood, there can be no harm in 
thus speaking of a force as being asleep and awaiting the 
moment of its awakenment, according as the conditions, 


which together with the specific nature of the element 
constitute all that is necessary to produce the result, are 
present or absent. We shall perhaps make .the matter 
clearer, if we adduce other instances besides those of 
physical forces with which we are more immediately con- 
cerned. Thus, it is the same conception of force which we 
have in view, when we speak of the powers of the mind, the 
revenue-yielding power of a country, or the purchasing 
power of money. In this last case, no one seriously 
believes that the current coin contains some latent property 
which gives it its value. The possibility of obtaining a 
given quantity of goods in exchange for so much money 
depends on highly complex relations which men enter into 
for purposes of traffic ; and the value of the money changes 
not owing to any change in the substance of the metal, but 
to a change in some one of the conditions by which the 
value of the money is for the time being determined. There 
would be no power of purchase in money if there were no 
market in which to exchange it. Similarly we are quite 
justified in speaking of the Power of Judgment as a property 
of mind. When we make an assertion in regard to any 
given matter before us, which is what properly constitutes 
a judgment, it is certainly our intellectual nature that is 
called into exercise ; at the same time, however, it would be 
nonsense to speak of a power of judgment, which belonged 
to us before we came to make use of it, or one which was 
constantly being exercised without reference to any distinct 
object-matter. It is impossible to say more than that we 
are constituted by nature in such a way that the mind, 
when it is acted upon by impressions from without, not 
only receives the impressions singly, but reacts upon them 
in that way of comparison of their different contents which 
we call judgment. It is only at the moment when it is 
exercised that the Power of Judgment is living and pre- 
sent, and this applies not only to the reality of the activity, 
but also to its nature and content; these likewise being 

c 2 


dependent on the conditions which bring them into existence 
for the time being. We may say the same as regards the 
conception of force which obtains in Mechanics. Thus 
when we speak of centrifugal force, we do not mean that 
this force is possessed by Bodies as such, when they are at 
rest. We at once see that we are speaking of effects which 
may or must take place when bodies are rotating or being 
swung round. If we distinguish from these forces certain 
others, such viz. as the attraction which bodies exercise 
upon each other, and call the latter primary forces inherent 
in the bodies as such, all that we mean is that the conditions 
under which such forces arise are extremely simple and 
always fulfilled. In order for two elements to be drawn to 
each other by the force of attraction, all that is required 
is that they should exist at the same time in the same world 
of space. This one condition, however, is indispensable ; it 
would have no meaning to say that an clement gravitated, 
if there were no second element to determine the direction 
of its motion. 

We shall not, therefore, attempt to determine what actual 
relation subsists between forces and the bodies which are 
their substrata, believing as we do that the problem itself 
results from a misunderstanding. No such relation exists in 
the sense that a force can in any way be separated from the 
body which we call its substratum. Its name ' force ' is 
only a substantive-name employed to express a proposition, 
the sense of which is, that certain consequences follow upon 
certain conditions. What it signifies is neither a thing, nor 
any existing property of a thing, nor again is it a means of 
which a thing could avail itself in order to produce any 
given result. It merely affirms the certainty that a given 
result will happen in a given case, supposing all the necessary 
conditions to be complied with. Nor can we ourselves 
attach any meaning to those hastily-conceived maxims, 
which are popularly held to express the truth on this subject, 
such e.g. as that there can be no force without matter ; and, 


no matter without force. These equally stale propositions 
merely add a small grain of truth to the old error in a more 
perverted form. It is rather true that there is no force 
inherent in any matter, and no matter which by itself has 
or brings with it any kind of force. Every force attaches 
to some specific relation between at least two elements. 
On the other hand no opinion is here expressed with regard 
to the question as to whether it is possible for two elements 
thus to be brought in relation without some force being 
engendered. It is dangerous to attempt to lay down propo- 
sitions by the way with regard to matters of fact, merely for 
the sake of making a verbal antithesis. 

182. If these considerations are regarded as conclusive, 
the term force will be understood, not indeed in the sense 
in which it is sometimes used, viz. as a Law according 
to which things take place, but as an assertion in regard to 
each single case to which the term is applied that we have 
in that case an instance of the operation of the Law. Thus 
understood, the term will not suggest any metaphysical ex- 
planation as to why the particular facts must fall under the 
general Law. 

It is this sense which Physical science is content to adopt 
when making use of the term. For the practical aim of 
science, that of connecting events in such a way as will 
enable us on the basis of present facts to predict the Future 
or unriddle the Past, it is found amply sufficient to know 
the general law of the succession of phenomena and by 
inserting the special modifications of its conditions which 
occasion prescribes to determine the nature of the result. 
Science can afford to be indifferent as to the inner connexion 
by which results are made to follow antecedents. It cannot 
be maintained that this was all that Kant intended to be 
understood by his conception of force. He everywhere 
speaks as if he meant to explain extension not as a simple 
consequence of the existence of matter, but rather as due to 
the action of a force. This is a very different conception of 


force from that according to which it is regarded simply as 
the connexion of phenomena in accordance with Law. 
Clearly he means by Force something which is active in the 
strict sense of the word, something which, he believes, will 
produce real changes of state ; whereas, the counter-theory, 
confining itself within narrower limits, asserts only that they 
follow each other in orderly succession. The popular view 
of nature which based itself on Kant's doctrine imported 
into the idea of physical force all those associations which 
are suggested by reflexion on our own conscious activity. 
In order for this doctrine not to seem to be at variance with 
the observed facts of the outer world, it had to be toned 
down, and, in spite of the manifold contradictions which the 
idea involved, the activity was regarded as Will or Impulse 
unconscious of itself. These latter-day developments of 
Kant's view I shall for the present leave to take care of 
themselves. It will, however, be understood after what 
I have urged in the ontological portion of my work as 
regards the relation of cause and effect, that this view which 
has been made to bear so heavily on Kant, is one in which 
I fully agree with him I agree with him in the general 
recognition of an inner process and activity, in virtue of 
which things are able to be that which, according to the 
frequent expression of Physicists, it alone belongs to them 
of right to be, viz. interconnected points serving as the basis 
of ever-varying combinations, centres from which forces 
proceed and to which they return, points of intersection 
at which different converging processes meet and cross each 
other in fixed succession. I do not regret that Kant should 
have refused to put this view on one side. I regret rather 
that he should not have brought us to closer quarters with 
it. The general position for which I have already con- 
tended does not require to be further elaborated in reference 
to this special case of Physical causation. An element 
a cannot produce the effect / merely because there is 
a general law /, which prescribes that when a stands in the 


relation m to , the result / shall follow. No doubt this 
result does follow in the given case, i.e. we who are the 
spectators see and know that it does so. But, in order for 
the change itself to take place, in order for a to give birth 
to an activity under these new conditions which it did not 
previously produce, it must undergo an experience through 
being placed in the relation m which otherwise it would not 
have undergone, and, similarly, the effect / could never 
be brought home to b, merely because the relation ;;/ existed 
between b and a. The existence of the relation m must 
have been felt by b before it could have been acted on. 
Hence, the results which arise in each case are not con- 
sequences of mere relations which subsist between a and b. 
These relations, as we call them, are really inner states of 
Being, which things experience as the result of their mutual 
activity. It is not to be expected that this theory of an un- 
ceasing activity of the inner life of things will be of much 
real assistance in the explanation of each separate fact 
of nature. It is a supposition, however, which it is neces- 
sary for us to entertain if we are to cease to regard the 
world from a point of view, which however useful it may be 
for practical purposes is full of inconceivabilities, the view, 
viz. that the elements of existence are without individuality 
.and without life, endowed with reality merely because a net- 
work of relations is established between them by the agency 
of general laws. The usefulness of this latter point of view, 
if considered merely as a half statement of the truth, I shall 
not dispute, whilst at the same time I shall point out how 
far it is applicable and justifiable, and when and where it is 
necessary to recur to what actually takes place in the nature 
of things. 

183. Out of the multitude of opinions which offer them- 
selves for consideration at this point I shall make mention, 
first, of Kant's view, according to which there are two forces 
necessary to every material existence, the force of attrac- 
tion, by which things are made to cohere, and the force of 


repulsion by which they are expanded; the two together 
forming a standing element in the countless attempts at 
explanation which have been made since Kant's time. I 
must confess myself that I do not feel much interest in these 
two forces. When the point is raised as to how it can be 
that a given matter has definitely fixed limits of extension, 
it is easy to see that there must be some reason why it is 
what it is neither more nor less i.e. there must be an 
attraction of the parts, which if it were allowed to work 
alone would reduce the extension to nil, and there must 
also be repulsion, which similarly, if it were the only prin- 
ciple at work, would make the extension infinite. This is 
simply a logical analysis which might be applied to the con- 
ception of any real existence which has a definite magnitude 
in space. The enquiry does not become metaphysical until 
it deals with two further questions ; how, that is, these two 
mutually opposed forces are possible, both attaching as they 
do to the same subject ; and what that is which produces 
and maintains them in such varying proportions as are re- 
quired in order to give rise to the manifold differences of 
material things in point of extension? 

The first of these two questions has been made a subject 
of investigation by Physics. It was considered that to as- 
cribe to matter two equally original opposed forces would 
involve a contradiction in terms. The attempt was therefore 
made to assign the two forces to different subjects. The 
mutual attraction of the parts proceeded from the ponderable 
elements, the repulsion was regarded as confined to particles 
of imponderable ether ; and thirdly, an interchange of ac- 
tivities between the two classes of elements was admitted, in 
order to explain those varying states of equilibrium between 
attraction and repulsion which the facts required. Whether 
this last result was secured by the hypotheses is for our 
present purpose indifferent. It may be admitted that the 
reasoning is logically sound, though the conclusion is only 
necessary, if, in compliance with the usage of language, both 


forces are conceived as original and essential attributes of 
the subjects to which they attach. How the whole matter 
may be regarded from a different point of view, for which 
the course of my argument will already have prepared the 
way, I shall now proceed gradually to unfold, ignoring pro- 
visionally arguments derived from the alleged ideality of 
space. Even if we adopted the ordinary view of the nature 
of space, it would not really become any less difficult to 
explain, why the mutual relation between two elements, be- 
longing to the same world, should be one of absolute 
repulsion, when this fact would seem rather to show that 
the world to which they belonged was not the same ; nor 
would it be less wonderful that two other elements, both of 
them, similarly, supposed to belong to one and the same 
world of extended matter, should be drawn towards each 
other by such an absolute force of attraction, as that if there 
were no counteracting principle, the whole possibility of 
their extension would be annihilated. Once grant that the 
world is a single whole, and not a mere confused aggregate 
of existences, and it will follow that its component elements 
cannot be governed by any abstract principles of attraction 
or repulsion, driving them continually out of or into one 
another, but must aim at the conservation of the whole 
order, which, in accordance with the intention of the whole, 
assigns to each one of them its place at each moment of 
time. The force which proceeds from the collective mass 
of the elements, is one which determines the position of 
those elements and which, while it seems to reside in each 
individual element, really sets itself against any deviation 
from the law imposed on all. It sets limits to the nearness 
or remoteness of objects as regards each other, appearing in 
the one case as the force of repulsion, in the other, as that 
of attraction ; in both cases acting as a corrective wherever 
there is a tendency in the object to oppose the requirements 
of the whole. I wish to see the order of our thoughts on 
this subject reversed. We are accustomed to regard the 


position of a thing as the result of certain forces acting upon 
it. The first consideration, as I think, on the contrary, is 
precisely the position which a thing occupies, as determined 
by its nature and character, in the world-system, and the 
first and only function which a thing as an individual has to 
perform, seems to me to be to retain this position; while 
attraction and repulsion we may represent to ourselves as 
the two elements into which this self-conservation of things 
admits logically of being analysed. In reality however what 
happens is that the self-conservation assumes one or other 
of these forms according as the needs of the moment give 
occasion to it. We must postpone the consideration of the 
question, as to what takes place in the inner nature of 
things when the place in which they find themselves at any 
given moment is out of harmony with the place marked out 
for them. As a phenomenon in space, the tendency to re- 
turn to an equilibrium must necessarily appear in its simplest 
form, either as the approximation or as the separation of 
two elements. Hence it is possible to refer all physical 
processes to motive forces consisting of attraction or repul- 
sion. But it is not the case that on all other occasions 
things are empty of content, and that these forces attach to 
them merely for the time being. Rather, like the gestures 
of living beings, the forces are merely the outward expres- 
sion of what is going on within. 

184. Thus far, no doubt, the statement of our views has 
conveyed the impression that we regarded the world like a 
picture having fixed outlines, within which every single 
point invariably occupies the same position and clings to it 
with equal tenacity. Such a picture would be little in 
accordance with the facts. We have long known that the 
world is never at rest and that the picture which it presents 
is for ever changing. Yet, the whole case is not stated even 
when we have grasped this truth. Admitting that the 
picture of reality is what it is at any given moment in virtue 
of its essential connexion with the arrangement that pre- 


vailed the moment before and that which is to prevail the 
moment after, the forces emanating from the different 
points of space must still derive their power to act on each 
separate occasion from the law which pervades the whole. 
The connexion between the whole and the part is peculiar 
to each case, and is very different from a mere instance 
of the operation of law in general, such as is known to us 
by observation and makes it possible to us to apprehend 
the process of the world as the result of innumerable 
individual forces working by invariable rules. I have, how- 
ever, already 1 endeavoured to show that this plan or idea 
cannot be made real in this off-hand way of itself and 
without means; rather indeed that it presupposes uniformity 
of action on the part of the elements, so that under like 
conditions like consequences flow from them, quite inde- 
pendently of the place which each occupies in the universal 
plan. Hence, even assuming that the world is ceaselessly 
in a state of flux, our view that the permanent tendency 
of each thing is to maintain the place which belongs to it in 
the system of the universe, and that this is what gives to it 
its force, does not exclude the opposite or physical view 
according to which the course of events in the world is 
explained as due to varying combinations of constant forces. 
I may add that the supposition of a number of forces 
attaching to the same elements at the same time, but acting 

in different directions, does not seem to me to be liable to 
any of the objections which are commonly urged against it. 
No doubt, it would be unintelligible as applied to two 
elements working in isolation, but it is not so as applied to 
elements between which a connexion has been established 
owing to their belonging to one and the same world. We 
may learn to comprehend this by the experience of our own 
lives. Our actions are conditioned by many different 
systems of motives, which operate on us at the same time. 
The satisfaction of our physical wants may e.g. be incon- 



sistent with the social good. What family-affection requires 
of us may conflict with our duty as citizens, and within this 
last sphere we find ourselves parts of many different institu- 
tions whose claims it is not always easy to harmonise. A 
like interpretation must be given of the world in which we 
live. When we speak of a systematic connexion between 
things, we do not mean a single uniform classification in 
which we could find any given member by following out 
one principle of division. Rather, there are many cross- 
purposes at work, each of which requires that the elements 
should be distributed exclusively with reference to its own 
satisfaction. Each element may be stationed at the inter- 
secting point of several different tendencies which unite and 
divide the world. As long, therefore, as two elements are 
considered as belonging to such a world, there is no reason 
why their mutual activities should not be regarded as the 
result of a plurality of forces acting simultaneously, and 
differing entirely in the effects they produce in response to 
each change in the circumstances of the environment; 
owing to the different points of view under which they 
bring the same set of circumstances, and to the consequent 
variety of the reactions set up. 

185. There still remains to be considered the question as 
to whether it is allowable to speak of forces which take 
effect from a distance, or whether those are not right who 
regard the possibility of a thing's acting where it is not as 
inconceivable. I cannot help adding to the two conflicting 
views which are held on this question, a third one of my 
own. It seems to me that motion can only be an effect 
of forces acting at a distance ; to speak of action when the 
elements are in close contact, I regard as a contradiction. 
Let us suppose two spherical bodies of equal diameter and 
density to be placed so as exactly to contain each other. 
If, then, the nature of the materials of which the bodies are 
composed is such as to admit of their reciprocal action, and 
if we are to disregard all possibility of effects taking place 


at a distance, it will follow that every point a of the one 
body will produce an effect on the point b of the other body, 
with which it coincides. Now, I do not dispute that the 
two elements may be affected in a very real way by reason 
of this coincidence at the same geometrical point But, 
whether the effects thus produced are such as to intensify or 
such as to diminish the condition in which the elements 
find themselves, i.e. whether they tend to attraction or 
repulsion, in no case can these inner occurrences result in 
motion, a and b being already stationed at the same point 
of space cannot by any attraction be brought nearer ; nor 
could any force of mutual repulsion, however actively 
manifested in other ways, avail to part them asunder, there 
being no reason why the initial movement tending to 
separate them should take any one direction rather than 

Nor need we confine ourselves to bodies perfectly co- 
incident in extension. No matter what form the two 
bodies assume, they would never be able to affect each 
other's motions, if there were no distance intervening 
between them; for those parts of the two bodies which 
were coincident would admit only of being affected internally 
by their mutual action, and thus there would be no external 
motion. It makes no difference as regards this conclusion, 
that effects are spoken of as taking place between contiguous 
bodies, and that the ambiguity to which this mathematical 
conception so easily lends itself, is made to yield a per- 
plexing solution of a difficulty which is one of fact. If we 
confine ourselves to the case in which the two bodies are 
spheres, their volumes can only meet at one point. Now, 
we must be sure that what we have in view is a real contact 
of the bodies in question, and we must banish from our 
minds all thought of there being any distance, even an 
infinitesimal one, intervening between them. As long as 
we have any such idea we have in principle admitted the 
action of force at a distance, though without any reason 


restricting the distance to an infinitesimally small one ; a 
conception which, besides other difficulties, it is, to say the 
least, not easy to explain on physical principles. It is 
equally inadmissible to substitute for a point of contact an 
infinitely small surface, or, supposing the contact to be 
between flat surfaces, to imagine that the layers which are 
in contact and which thus produce the effect, can have any, 
even the smallest conceivable degree of thickness. It must 
be taken as settled that the bodies which are in contact 
have their boundaries common or coincident, in the first 
case, in a point without extension, in the second, in a surface 
without thickness. Whatever way we may try to turn these 
ideas, the fact will always remain, that real elements which 
occupy the same position in Space will exercise no effect as 
regards the production of motion, and such effect as does 
take place will spring only from those parts of the bodies 
which are really separated from each other by intervals of 
Space. As for a contact which does not involve either 
separation or coincidence at the same point in Space, the 
idea is intelligible enough as applied to the whole volume 
of each of the two bodies brought into contact, but it has no 
meaning as applied to a possible interaction of single points 
such as we have been here considering. 

This same observation holds good as regards the attempt 
to substitute, instead of forces operating between different 
elements, a reflexive power of expansion or contraction, in 
virtue of which a thing assigns to itself a greater or less 
space of its own accord. If the ' thing ' here spoken of is 
understood as a material existence extended and divisible, 
this power of self-extension belonging to the whole must in 
every case be capable of being finally referred to the 
reciprocal repulsion of the parts, these being already dis- 
tinguished in Space. If, on the other hand, the thing is 
held to be endowed with this power in consequence of a 
real metaphysical unity prior to its multiplication in Space, 
we shall then have to face another enquiry, which is for the 


most part overlooked in these attempts to construct a theory 
of matter, viz. this, How did this reality first get form and 
extension in Space that form and extension which are 
always presupposed, in order that forces of the kind 
mentioned above may be furnished with points to which 
to attach themselves ? This question we propose to con- 
sider in the next chapter. 

186. All that the above demonstration proves is that 
mere contact of elements cannot produce motion, if, 
however, it should be found to be equally inconceivable 
that effects should take place at a distance, we shall be 
compelled to deny that motion is a result of force in any 
shape whatever, and our task will then be limited to the 
attempt to conceive of physical effects as taking place 
owing to the supply of motion already in existence being 
perpetuated. But it soon appears that the expression, 
communication or distribution of motion, though enabling 
us to picture to ourselves results which are constantly 
passing before our eyes, does not give any tenable con- 
ception of the process to which the results in question are 
due. Take, e. g. the familiar instance of the effects of 
impact on inelastic bodies. Suppose b to be a body in 
motion and a a body at rest, then, when b strikes against #, 
we say that it communicates to it a certain part of its own 
motion, and this, no doubt, is an extremely convenient way 
of signalising the new fact which has taken place, in conse- 
quence of the two bodies having been brought together. 
We cannot, however, seriously suppose that the motion 
produced the result by changing its place. If we may 
repeat what has before been said 1 , it is for ever impossible 
to conceive that a state q> by which a real thing b is affected, 
should loose itself from , and pa'ss over to a ; yet this is 
such a case ; before the motion could transfer itself from 
the limits of b to 0, it would have to traverse,. no matter in 
how short a time, a certain space intermediate between the 
. l [ 56.1 


two, and during this time it would be a state which was the 
state of nothing. The absurdity of this notion is here even 
further increased by the fact that it is only by a free use of 
language that we are able to speak of motion as a state at 
all. Motion, in fact, is not a quality permanently attaching 
to anything ; it is an occurrence merely, or a change which 
the thing moved undergoes. Hence, the very conception 
oT a motion, which is itself set in motion in order to pass 
from one thing to another, is ipso facto impossible. But 
/what should we have gained, supposing that this incon- 
ceivability were a fact? If the motion has passed over 
to a, it is now where a is, but that would not make it a 
state of a, nor would it explain why it should ever move a. 
Inasmuch as it was possible for the motion to become 
detached from , either wholly or in part, why should it not 
continue on its course according to the same law of Per- 
sistence which it followed whilst on the way from b to a ? 
Why should it not leave a at rest, and again become a 
motion belonging to no one as before, and so on ad in- 
finitum ? It results, therefore, that this theory fails to give 
any reason for the motion of the body which receives the 
impulse, and it gives only an obscure reason for the de- 
creased motion of the body from which the impulse 
proceeds. Of course, it will be argued that both these 
facts are due to the impenetrable nature of bodies, which 
makes it impossible for one of them to find a passage for 
itself through the space occupied by the other. But this 
impossibility taken by itself rather suggests a dilemma than 
furnishes us with a solution of it. 

If two bodies cannot both occupy the same position in 
Space, and if nevertheless it is this at which one of them 
aims, the question arises as to how these two conflicting 
propositions are to be reconciled. How they are reconciled 
as a matter of fact we see before us; we see motion 
originated in the one case, and a corresponding decrease 
of motion in the other. But we cannot suppose that this 


happy solution comes to pass of its own accord because 
it is an ingenious idea; it must rather be the necessary 
consequence of what the bodies are in themselves, and of 
what they pass through at the time. If, further, we bear 
in mind that in order adequately to estimate the result, 
account must be taken of the mass of the two bodies, we 
shall be led back to the conclusion that this impenetrability, 
which the communication of motion requires, is an effect 
produced by the conflicting tendencies of various forces, 
which thus give rise to motions in opposite directions, 
so that bodies at rest are supplied with motion which 
before they were without, whilst the bodies set in motion 
lose some of their velocity owing to the resistance of the 
bodies at rest. But it is impossible to represent such a 
repulsion as arising when the bodies are in contact, and not 
before. For, if at the point of contact there is no inter- 
penetration of the two surfaces, the contact instead of being 
a real one becomes a mere geometrical relation; it can have 
no influence on the bodies themselves, but only on the 
limits by which they are bounded. If, however, we suppose 
that the bodies do interpenetrate each other at the point of 
contact, it will follow from our previous conclusions that the 
forces proceeding from the two bodies can only affect each 
other's motions at those points which are still separated by 
an interval of space. Nor can it be said that the motion q, 
which is communicated to a body at rest a by a body in 
motion ^, determines what would otherwise be undeter- 
mined, viz. the direction of the two bodies at the moment 
of their divergence. For, from the mere fact that the 
mutual repulsion takes place at the moment that the body , 
whilst tending in the direction q, comes into immediate 
contact with 0, it could only be argued, in opposition to all 
experience, that b would pass through a in its former 
direction q with accelerated speed, whilst a would begin 
to move in the direction q. It seems to me, therefore, 
that under these circumstances we cannot but conclude 



that even the communication of motion is an effect de- 
pendent on the action of moving forces, and that, in this 
case as in all others, forces can only produce motion when 
the bodies are removed from each other, while, contrariwise, 
they are powerless to produce it when the bodies are in 

187. All this reasoning would be to no purpose, if there 
was really any insuperable difficulty in conceiving of forces 
as taking effect at a distance. But I must say for myself 
that it quite passes my comprehension to understand on 
what grounds it can be maintained to be the most self- 
evident of facts that a thing can only act where it is. What, 
we may ask, is the meaning of the assertion, a is at the 
point a? Can there ever be any other evidence or mani- 
festation of a thing's Being, than by means of the effects 
which are transmitted from a to the point /, where we 
ourselves are ? Of course, it will be instantly objected : 
c No doubt, the effects of a and the directions which these 
follow in the course of their transmission to us, are the only 
sources of the knowledge which justifies us in concluding 
that a is at the point ; the fact itself, however, is inde- 
pendent of the means by which we come to know it.' But 
what conception can be formed of this fact itself, if we 
abstract all the effects which the given form of existence a 
emits from the point , where it is stationed? Is the 
existence of a in general a conception which has anything 
definite corresponding with it ? and how can the limitation 
of a to the point a be understood, if it does not give rise to 
any effects at that point distinguishing that point from all 
other similar points of Space, where a is not present ? It is 
an illusion to believe that the mere being at a certain place 
can give a thing any determinate character, and that it 
acquires subsequently to this the capacity to produce the 
effects which seem to be diffused around that point. We 
ought rather to say, on the contrary : Because, in the dis- 
position and systematic arrangement of the world as a whole, 


and in the world of Space which is its counterpart, a is a 
meeting point for relations of the most various kinds, and 
acts upon the other elements as these relations prescribe, 
for this reason and for no other, it has its fixed place 
amongst them ; or more correctly it is this which justifies 
us in making use of the common forms of speech, a is at 
the point a and acts from thence. 

This, however, will form the subject of further investiga- 
tions. Putting this question as to the relation between real 
existence and Space for the present aside, we shall make 
use of a very simple idea to expose the fallacy of the 
doctrine here referred to. Let us suppose that at the com- 
mencement of their existence things were stationed each at 
some one point of Space, e. g. a and : what reason would 
there be why the interval a /3 between them should prevent 
them from mutually affecting each other? 'It is obvious 
and self-evident that it would do so;' it will be replied, 
' the body set in motion does not feel the impulse to move, 
until the impelling body reaches it. There can be no sense 
of vision until the nerves have been touched by the moving 
particles of the ether. That which is incapable of trans- 
mission has no effect, and is for us as if it had no existence.' 
These instances, however, may be met by others. The 
stone falls without requiring first to be impelled ; an electric 
repulsion takes place to all appearance quite independently 
of any connecting medium. If anyone wishes to refer these 
phenomena to the communication of motion already in 
existence, he may do so ; but he will be appealing not to 
observed facts, but to his own hypotheses; he will be 
employing without any just reason the particular form which 
one class of effects assumes, as if it were the universal form 
which must necessarily be assumed by all other effects. 
And yet even these hypotheses, which aim at the avoidance 
of all distant effects in the case of large bodies, cannot help 
interposing Spaces between the infinitesimal particles of the 
media which are held to explain the transmission of the 

D 2 


impulse. There could be no presumption in favour of the 
above interpretation unless it could be shown that contact 
in Space was as obviously a condition favourable to the 
action of force, as separation in Space is maintained to be 
unfavourable to it. But this is not true with regard to 
contact in Space. For, it cannot be concluded that any- 
thing must of necessity happen from the mere fact that two 
elements touch at the same limit, or are stationed at the 
same point of Space ; nothing can come of the contact of 
the elements if they are not fitted by Nature mutually to 
affect each other, and when this condition is wanting, 
spatial contact cannot produce it. As for the assertion that 
elements which have this capacity to affect each other, 
require contact in Space in order to make its exercise 
possible, it rests on that arbitrary selection of instances 
mentioned above; with those in whom it has become a 
cherished prejudice it is ineradicable, but it is not in itself 
necessary, nor capable of being shown by the evidence of 
undoubted facts to hold good universally. We ourselves, it 
is true, are not endowed with any capacity for producing 
effects at a distance. The objects on which we attempt to 
bring our activity to bear, we, no doubt, set in motion by 
means of a continuous succession of intermediate effects, 
which serve to bring us and them together. But this is not 
enough to make us conclude that two elements, between 
which there is an interval of Space, belong, as it were, to 
two different worlds separated by a gulf which nothing can 
bridge over. We are compelled, in order to understand 
their subsequent effects, to conceive of them both as subject 
to the same laws; a fact which we are accustomed to 
consider as self-evident, without enquiring into the pre- 
suppositions which it involves. This fact obliges us to 
regard, without exception, all things throughout Space as 
interconnected parts of one world, and as united together 
by a bond of sympathy to which separation in Space acts as 
no hindrance. It is only because the elements of the world 


are not all of the same kind, and, instead of being simply 
co-ordinated, are related in the most various ways, that this 
unfailing sympathetic rapport, by means of which all things 
act on each other at a distance, is not in all cases equally 
apparent, but differs in degree of intensity, and is in some 
cases widely diffused, in others contracts itself within 
narrow and scarcely perceptible limits. 


The Simple Elements of Matter. 

THE confused notions which the different theoretical 
constructions showed to exist in regard to the true nature 
of Matter, led us in the first place to examine into the con- 
ception of the forces, the operation of which gives rise to 
the changing qualities of material things. There remains 
now to be considered the question as to the form in which 
the real thing, from which these forces themselves emanate, 
takes up its position in Space. The subject to which we 
shall be introduced by this question is the antithesis 
between atomism and the theory of a continuous extension 
in Space. 

188. What appears to be the evidence of immediate per- 
ception on this point must not be misrepresented at starting 
by a slovenly mode of statement. Of a single continuously 
extended Matter it tells us nothing ; all that it presents to 
us is a vast variety of different material objects which for the 
most part are separated from each other by clearly defined 
limits and are but rarely blended and confused together. 
This multiplicity of things is all that can be affirmed at 
starting many, however, even of these things the naked eye 
at once perceives to be composed of parts existing side by 
side, but differing in kind. Others, which appear to be 
extended in Space with unbroken continuity, are seen by 


means of the microscope to fall asunder into a distinguish- 
able variety of divergent elements. It is not proved by 
this, but it is made probable, that the apparent continuity 
of the rest merely conceals a juxtaposition of discrete 
elements. But, what is proved for everyone who has eyes 
to see is, that substances composed of atoms may produce 
on the senses the impression of perfect continuity of 
extension. The frequently-urged objection, that a com* 
bination of discrete parts would never account for the 
coherent surface and the solid interior structure of material 
bodies, does not really require any metaphysical refutation. 
The sharp edge of a knife, when placed beneath a microscope, 
appears to be notched like a saw, and the surface, which 
feels quite smooth, becomes a region of mountains. Spots 
of colour again, even if seen only from a short distance, take 
the form of a continuous line. These recognised facts are 
a sufficient proof that the nature of our sensible organs 
makes consciousness of what intervenes between successive 
vivid impressions impossible for us, when the intervals are 
either empty of all content, or such that they only faintly 
affect us. Though, therefore, the appearance of continuous 
extension, no doubt, may correspond with a real fact, it 
arises none the less certainly and inevitably from a suf- 
ficiently close approximation of discrete parts. Now, what 
induces us to adopt this last hypothesis in explanation of 
the whole is this, that even substances which seem to be 
continuous admit of being divided, to an apparently un- 
limited extent. For, as the parts which spring from this 
division retain unimpaired the same material qualities 
which belonged to the undivided whole, it would seem that 
they cannot owe their origin sunply to the division of this 
whole; but that they existed before it, and formed it by 
their combination. Later on, I shall give reasons for sus- 
pecting the soundness of this conclusion ; but, at first sight, 
it is convincing enough, and in all ages it has given rise to 
attempts to exhibit the parts of Matter as elements whose 


metaphysical unity of nature expressed itself in terms of 
Space as indivisibility. 

I shall offer some remarks not intended to be historically 
exhaustive on the forms of Atomism which thus arose. 
Two points I shall mention here in advance. First, let it 
be remembered that this hypothesis of a multitude of inter- 
connected points admitting of changeable and precisely 
determinable relations and interactions, is the only practical 
means of satisfactorily explaining the extremely complex 
phenomena for which an explanation is sought ; and that in 
contrast with this explanation, the bare general supposition 
of the uniformity of Matter, not less than the special one of 
its continuity in Space, has never led to any fruitful solution 
of the facts given in experience. To prove this would be 
only to repeat what has been so clearly and convincingly 
stated by Fechner (cp. his 'Doctrine of Atoms'). Taking 
it then for granted that the real world of nature is presented 
to us primarily under the form of an infinite number of 
discrete centres of activity, I shall confine myself merely to 
a metaphysical investigation into the nature of these centres. 
This is a question which Physics is not practically called 
upon to decide, nor is her certainty about it at all equal to 
the ingenuity with which she avails herself of the advantages 
which the hypothesis offers to her Again, I am entirely at 
one with Fechner in regard to his second conclusion. I 
believe with him that the atomic view of the Physical world 
is peculiarly adapted to satisfy the aesthetic needs of the 
mind. For what we long to see exhibited everywhere and 
in the smallest particulars, is precisely this, organization, 
symmetric and harmonious relations, order visible through- 
out the whole, and a clear view of the possible transitions 
from one definite form into another. The demonstration 
of this point I likewise do not repeat. I wish only to say 
that I have never been able to comprehend the reason of 
that tendency, which for a long time past our German 
Philosophy has shown, to look down upon atomic theories 

Chap. VI.] LUCRETIUS. 41 

as of an inferior and superficial character ; whilst the theory 
of a continuous matter was opposed to them as quite incon- 
trovertibly a truth of a higher kind. If there were proofs 
at hand to establish the necessity of this latter conclusion, 
they should have been set forth in a more convincing form 
than they have yet received. There is, however, really 
nothing to admire in the theory of continuity, either when 
considered in itself, or in regard to the results which have 
been derived from it. It seems as if a mystical power of 
attraction had been given to it merely owing to the mathe- 
matical difficulties in which the whole conception is in- 

189. The following are the chief characteristics of general 
interest which distinguished the atomism of antiquity, as 
represented by Lucretius. Theoretic knowledge of the 
changes of things would be impossible for us, if we were 
restricted to observation of the co-existence of qualities, and 
the modes of their succession ; there being no fixed 
standard, by which to estimate their relationship, opposition, 
and quantitative difference. We cannot be in a position to 
deduce from such conditions any conclusion of real value, 
unless we are able to exhibit the states which succeed each 
other as comparable forms of a homogeneous existence and 
occurrence, or unless, at any rate, we can show how effects 
disparate in themselves can yet be annexed to comparable 
relations of comparable elements. The conviction that this 
was what had to be shown, led by steps of reasoning which 
can easily be supplied to the attempt to refer the varieties 
of sensible phenomena to differences of shape, size, com- 
bination, and motion, in certain absolutely homogeneous 
and unchangeable elements. The working out of the theory 
in detail was extremely defective and rudimentary. It was 
not so much that it was left unexplained how the sensible 
appearances which attach to these mathematical groupings 
can arise out of them, but the impossible assertion was made 
that the sensible qualities are nothing but these very mathe- 


matical determinations themselves. Setting aside, however, 
these imperfections, the general conception of Atomism is 
one of the few Philosophical Speculations of antiquity which 
have hands and feet belonging to them, and which, there- 
fore, live on and lead to ever fresh results, whilst other 
theories, with perhaps more head, find a place now only in 
the History of Ideas. The hard and fast line of distinction 
that was drawn between the complete identity of the several 
parts of Being, as opposed to the varied diversity of their re- 
lations, excluded all original differences from the ultimate 
elements themselves ; these latter, however, if they had been 
so completely identical, could never have served as a basis 
for the manifold appearances which spring out of them ; 
they had, therefore, at any rate to be assumed to differ in 
size and shape. 

But this admission was no sooner made than it was seen 
to be inconsistent with the uniform oneness of all existing 
things. Hence, these differences were held to obtain 
merely as facts, which in the order of nature as it now exists 
cannot be reversed, but which are not in themselves 
original, having come into Being only at the commence- 
ment of the present age of the world's history. At any rate, 
I think I h#ve shown that Lucretius distinguishes between 
the multiform atoms, which are the unchanging causes of 
the present order of phenomena in the world, and those in- 
finitesimal and essentially uniform particles, from the com- 
bination of which the atoms are themselves ultimately 
formed. He supposes that there are different ages of the 
world, during each of which the combination of the atoms 
for the time being is dissolved by the stream of change. 
It is only the combination of the atoms which is dissolved ; 
the atoms themselves do not change, but are combined 
afresh. At the end, however, of each age the atoms like- 
wise are reduced back to their homogeneous first elements, 
and these latter being again united so as to form new atoms, 
are what constitute the material substances out of which are 


met the demands for the phenomena of the next succeed- 
ing age. We see here a recognition of the metaphysical 
difficulty mentioned above, though not a solution of it ; it 
still remains that the form which the atoms are to assume is 
determined by an arbitrary cause. 

The further elaboration of the system presents little that 
can interest us. The common nature of what is real, which 
was declared to be the true substantive existence contained 
in all the countless atoms, might, one would have thought, 
have suggested the hypothesis of an inner relation existing 
between them, and from this might have been developed 
the conception of forces by which they mutually affect each 
other ; forces, which would assume different modes of opera- 
tion, according as the ultimate component particles of the 
atoms were differently combined. But no use was made of 
this thought. The communication of motion by impact 
remained as the sole form in which things affect each other ; 
and the resistance which they oppose to the falling asunder 
of their parts was no less inadequately explained than the 
invincible tendency of the ultimate elements to combine in 
the form of an atom. 

190. Passing over the various forms which Atomism 
assumed after it had been revived by Physical Science, I 
shall mention only the last of them. As long as extension 
and shape were ascribed to the atoms, no matter whether 
all were supposed to be the same in these respects, or, some 
to be different from others, it could not but appear that a 
question was being solved in reference to the larger bodies 
by the assumption of the smaller ones which was left un- 
solved as regarded those smaller ones. It was impossible 
to go on for ever deriving each atom from atoms still smaller ; 
some point of space must at last be reached which is con- 
tinuously filled by the Real thing. But here a doubt 
suggested itself. How can the continuous substratum be 
indivisible, if the space which it occupies is infinitely 
divisible ? That a portion of space should be held intact 


against all attempts to encroach upon it, would seem to be 
conceivable only as the combined effect of activities pro- 
ceeding from points external to each other, and prescribing 
to each its fixed position in relation to the rest. Such 
active points, however, would inevitably come again to be 
regarded as so many discrete elements, from which the 
whole is formed only by aggregation. It seems to me that 
the regression into infinity which would thus result, could 
not be escaped from by any appeal to the metaphysical 
unity of the essence which forms the real content of an 
atom, and which preserves it from the division of its appear- 
ance in Space. This distinction between the real essence 
and its appearance in Space would be a meaningless rhe- 
torical phrase if it did not suggest questions far deeper than 
any of those with which atomism is concerned and quite 
indifferent to it. 

Atomism considers extended and tangible matter as 
reality pure and simple, not as a mode in which Reality 
manifests itself, and which requires a process of intermedia- 
tion to connect it with Reality. Now it is most difficult for 
many reasons to apply to this extended Real thing the con- 
ception of unity. I do not mean to maintain that the 
question is at once decided by the fact that in order for a 
form of matter to remain unaffected by all external forces, 
it would have to be credited with a simply unlimited power 
of resistance, such as would be very little in harmony with 
the first principles of our knowledge of mechanics. I do 
not say this ; for in the last resort there would be nothing 
to prevent us from conceiving of the atoms as elastic ; and 
then each atom would really undergo a change of form pro- 
portioned to the force acting upon it ; only that there would 
be an accompanying reaction, sufficient to restore to the 
atom its original outline, and preserve it from disintegration. 
No doubt, in a sense it is true that the atom would require 
to have an unlimited power of cohesion in order to admit of 
this process. But there is nothing in it inconsistent with 


what we know about mechanics in other respects. The 
force inherent in an atom would not be indifferent to 
all external influences ; rather, it would react with a de- 
gree of intensity precisely corresponding with the original 

But another requisition must be complied with if the 
metaphysical unity of an extended real thing is to make 
itself felt as an actual fact and not be a mere name. 
Essential unity of nature cannot contain parts, which are 
affected by experiences peculiar to themselves, and not 
shared by the rest. Every impression by which the point a 
of any such unity A is affected, must at once be a state or 
impression of the whole A, without any process of inter- 
communication being required, to transmit the impression 
from a to , or to the other points contained in the volume. 
At all events, if the parts of A are so different that what 
each experiences has to be transmitted to the rest, I fail to 
see in what would consist its essential unity, or how, since 
a system of discrete elements would necessarily proceed in 
precisely the same way, there can be any difference between 
the two. Before proceeding further, I must guard these 
statements against a possible misunderstanding. I cannot 
find that there is anything incompatible between the essential 
unity of A and the existence at the same time of different 
modes of its Being a#y, which are necessitated by different 
influences acting upon A simultaneously : I only wish to 
maintain that both a and /3 are equally states of the whole 
A, and therefore that they are neither of them produced by 
influences which merely affect themselves, but are both 
modified by the fact of their contemporaneous existence in 
the same essential unity. Let us suppose a and /3 to be 
motive stimuli affecting two points a and b in the same 
atom. The result would not be two separate movements of 
these two points, which at some later period merged in a 
common result ; but in the point 0, which was the part 
affected by a, the whole Real thing would be present in the 


same complete fulness as in the point , which is affected 
by ft. The immediate effects of both impulses would be 
felt equally at both points, and the resultant p would be but 
one motion which would at once lay hold of the whole ex- 
tended substance. Further, since every change requires for 
its occurrence a certain space of time, and according to the 
law of Persistence, leaves a trace of itself behind, it is quite 
intelligible that a primary stimulus o should not till after 
some interval show itself as the condition of the next 
stimulus ft \ and that a new impression of the kind a should 
make itself felt in modifying the states connected with it 
before it modifies those that are connected with |3. When 
this happens, we are accustomed to say : l only one side of 
the whole Being of the thing was affected; the other re- 
mained untouched.' But by the use of this figure derived 
from Space, we express most inappropriately our better and 
truer meaning. At each moment, the whole essential Being 
is both acting and being acted upon ; only it belongs to the 
nature of this indivisible unity that the several activities 
which external conditions elicit from it should, as they 
succeed each other, exhibit the most various degrees of 
mutual dependence, and should be some more and some 
less closely associated together. 

Let us apply these legitimate ideas to the case before us. 
What we should be entitled to say would be, not that the 
atom A responds so immediately to the stimulus a by pro- 
ducing the result a that there is absolutely no intervening 
interval of time, but rather that the reaction in it does 
always follow upon the stimulus, at however infinitesimally 
small an interval of time ; so that what takes place here too 
is that A is first affected on its receptive side, and only after- 
wards and in consequence of this on its side of reaction. 
This imagined splitting up of the substance into parts has 
nothing in common with the false notion of there being in 
fact any such separation between them, as would be the 
case, if we meant that an impression a produced upon an 


atom is confined to a point a, from which point it does not 
pass on to the remaining points b and c, until after some 
lapse of time. In such a case, there would, as I have 
before remarked, be nothing left to distinguish the pre- 
tended unity of this A from the communication of effects 
which takes place in every assemblage of discrete and inde- 
pendent elements when brought into active contact. If we 
are serious in supposing this unity to exist, we must assert 
that every motion communicated to a point a in an atom, is 
also literally a motion of the point a 1 at the other end of a 
diameter of -the atom. The motion, consequently, would 
have to be transmitted all along the intervening line a a 1 in 
absolutely no time at all ; and the ordinary rule according 
to which the intensity of a force varies with its distance, 
would have in this case to be suspended; the effect pro- 
duced upon the remoter point a 1 must be as strong as that 
produced upon a. These consequences which, as it appears 
to me, are inevitable, cannot be reconciled with the ordinary 
principles of Mechanics. But if they are to be avoided, 
either the unity of the atom or its extension must be 
given up. 

191. Physical theories in favour of the latter of these two 
alternatives have assumed a variety of forms. Though they 
have not been expressly based on the above-mentioned 
arguments, which have led me to infer that extension is not 
a predicate of a simple or single substance, but the appear- 
ance assumed by many different elements when combined, 
they have originated in a general feeling that the very thing 
which it was intended to explain in composite bodies by 
means of the atoms, could not be consistently assumed as 
already existing in the atoms. The extension of the simple 
elements was not a fact given in experience ; nor was there 
any necessity for assuming it. All that was required was, 
certain points in space, from which forces of attraction and 
repulsion could operate with a certain intensity. The un- 
extended atoms, as the vehicles of these forces, served quite 


as well to explain phenomena, as they would have done on 
the almost inconceivable hypothesis of their extension. 
Hence, since all that was needed was a working hypothesis, 
it became the custom for Physicists to describe the atoms 
simply as centres, to and from which Forces and Operations 
are transmitted, leaving it unexplained how these real points 
are distinguished from the empty points of space which they 
fill. This omission may easily be supplied. A real thing 
could never by being extended in space produce an effect 
which it was not in virtue of its nature capable of producing 
when in relation with the other thing in question. At most, 
the space which it occupies could only prescribe the sphere 
of operation, within which capacities due not to extension 
but to the inherent nature of what the thing is, are exercised. 
If, further, it is impossible to conceive of motion as pro- 
duced under conditions of actual contact and if distance is 
necessary to the operation of force, actual reality becomes 
independent of extension in space, and the elements, though 
they have indeed positions in space, are without either 
volume or shape. 

This point of view grew up not merely as a conclusion 
arrived at by Physics ; it is an ancient possession of Philo- 
sophy. Herbart refers back to Leibnitz; for myself, I 

prefer his own definite exposition to the doctrines of his 
forerunner, which can only be arrived at by a somewhat 
dubious interpretation. Herbart's ontology starts from the 
assumption of countless simple substances without parts or 
extension, which form the elements of the world. His 
construction of matter could, therefore, only lead to 
Atomism : and, he tells us quite clearly what are the 
original subjects from which the activities formative of 
matter proceed, and as to which we found Kant's explana- 
tion unsatisfactory. Herbart distinguishes his own theory 
from the theories of the Physicists, by calling it ' Qualitative 
Atomism.' He gives it this name, not only to show that 
his simple substances owing to their qualitative differences 


are endowed with distinct concrete natures, and not merely 
substantiated abstractions of a single homogeneous reality ; 
he uses the term in a far more important signification than 
this to imply that from the inner experiences to which these 
differences of nature give rise, all those Forces and Laws of 
relation are derived, which the common modes of speaking 
and thinking in Physical Science represent, without any 
further attempt at explanation, as predicates inherently 
attaching to the ultimate elements. Being, as I am, quite 
at one with Herbart in regard to this general conception, 
I regret that owing to a certain ontological doctrine, which 
I do not myself share with him, he should have been de- 
prived of the fruits of these conclusions in constructing his 
theory of matter. 

The entire independence which he ascribed to each of 
the essential elements prevented him from holding the 
doctrine of a pervading connexion, in virtue of which the 
states by which one is affected become the immediate con- 
dition for what is experienced by the rest. Another of his 
assumptions, the origin of which I am ignorant of, led him 
to regard contact in space as the only cause capable of 
disturbing the mutual indifference of the elements and 
forcing them into active relationship. As, on this view, it 
was impossible for the essential elements to act on each 
other from a distance, Herbart became involved in the 
hopeless attempt to show how points unextended, though 
real, are brought into contact in order that they may act 
upon each other, but yet not absolutely into contact, in 
order that their combined effects may endow a multiplicity 
with an extension which attaches to no single one of its 
component parts. It is a view which requires to be changed 
only in a single point, though this no doubt is a vital one. 
The simple elements of reality, on which the constitution of 
the world primarily depends, must be regarded as con- 
ditioned, not independent, and therefore as in unceasing 
relation to each other. By making forces which act at a 



distance emanate from the simple elements, elements not 
empty but of a definite internal character, we can frame an 
intelligible picture of the forms of matter, as systems of real 
unextended points, limited in space, and endowed with 
forces of cohesion and resistance in very various degrees. 

192. Now, at this point we might stop, if it were not for 
another assumption which these theories commonly contain, 
that viz. of an actually extended space, in which the real 
elements take up their positions. The contrary conviction, 
in support of which I have contended, compels me to intro- 
duce some further modifications into the view which I have 
first stated in order to arrive gradually at the idea which I 
wish ultimately to establish. I continue for the present to 
make the assumption of an indefinite number of individual 
existences ; an assumption from which the explanation of 
the variety of phenomena must always make its first start. 
Not much need be added to what has been already said as 
to the general relation of these existences to space. These 
simple elements, having as such no connexion with space, 
stand to each other in a vast variety of relations, which only 
for our modes of apprehension assume the forms of position 
and distance in space. It is for Psychology to supplement 
the suggestions which have been already made by telling us 
how this mode of apprehension is originated ; here, we are 
only concerned with the ideas which we must form of the 
nature of Real existence, in order to make intelligible the 
particular mode in which it presents itself to our subjective 

In the first place, then, to repeat what I have already 
mentioned, it is requisite that we should reverse one of our 
ordinary ways of thinking. When a certain element a is in 
a certain position a, we think of this fact as if it was some- 
thing in itself, as if it was in virtue of this that the element 
had the power to produce effects on other things in certain 
definite ways. But, according to all the results at which we 
have so far arrived, we ought contrariwise to say : That the 


element a ' is in the position a, ; can only mean for it, that it 
has received so many and such impressions from all the 
other elements which belong to the same world to which it 
belongs, that, if we regard the whole mass of existing facts 
of that world under the form of space no place except a 
corresponds to that which is assigned to a in the universal 
order. Hence, the position which an element occupies 
must always be regarded by us as the result of the forces 
that determine it, and in so determining it are in a state of 
equilibrium. This conclusion the Science of Mechanics 
only half admits. It admits, no doubt, that during every 
moment that an element remains at rest, the forces working 
upon it must be in a state of equilibrium. But the con- 
ception still remains possible that an element might occupy 
a position in space without any action of force whatever, 
and that forces arising subsequently might find it there and 
act upon it. 

Further, I have abundantly shown that by this system- 
atised arrangement of unextended points, which I believe 
to be what constitutes the world as a whole, I understand 
not the order of a rigid classification, but an order which, 
incessant as is the movement of things, and manifold and 
various as are the forms which the sum of conditions at 
each moment assumes, maintains throughout a continuous 
and unchanging purpose. The position, therefore, which 
an element assumes, when it appears in space, does not 
simply indicate the place which it occupies from all eternity 
in a classification of the world's contents, but, rather, the 
place which, at that moment, was the only point at which 
the changing conditions to which it is subject came to a 
changeable equilibrium. It would be too simple an ex- 
planation of what takes place, to suppose that when two 
elements a and b make their appearance at two points of 
space in close proximity, a and , they have been accredited 
to these positions owing to the special sympathy of their 
natures or the intimacy of their interaction. Rather they 



may have been quite indifferent to each other, and yet have 
been forced into this juxtaposition, simply because the 
demands made by all the rest of the elements and their 
motions can find no better satisfaction than in the mo- 
mentary proximity of these two elements, though it may not 
answer to any vital connexion between the elements them- 
selves. Reflexion upon this constant motion of the world 
will cause us to modify our previous view, or, at all events, 
to define it more accurately. The position a of an element 
0, though always no doubt it expresses the balance of the 
several forces* for the time being affecting <z, may also at the 
same time be the expression of an unavoidable want of 
equilibrium between the present state of a, and that state to 
which its nature gives it a claim in the totality of existence ; 
an expression, therefore, of a discordant Tension, which 
remains until, in the course of events, the causes which 
occasioned it again disappear. 

I make these remarks, in order to give an idea of the 
complex kinds of relations which here present themselves, 
and in order to remove the impression that there is any 
correspondence between the appearance of the world in 
space at any given moment and an intelligible order of 
things, in which the position of each element would corre- 
spond with the conception which permanently represents 
its nature. But I hasten to add that this reference to a 
disproportion of states, in the above-mentioned sense, must 
not be mixed up with any secondary associations of * that 
which is out of place,' or * which contradicts the purpose of 
the whole/ Whether anything of this kind ever happens, 
whether, i. e. there is anything in the world's course which 
can be compared with discords in a musical progression, we 
shall not here enquire. The disproportion of which we 
have been speaking is primarily nothing but the impulse to 
a change of state which arises in the course of events, and 
which tends to or accomplishes the transition to new posi- 
tions according as it is impeded or unimpeded. Turning 


now from these general considerations, we will apply our- 
selves to the solution of certain special questions, which 
acquire from our present point of view either the whole of 
their significance or a different significance from that which 
is commonly assigned to them. 

193. Let us start as before from the supposition of a 
given plurality of active elements ; remembering at the same 
time how frequently it happens, as has been proved by 
experiments, that apparently different properties are really 
only the result of different combinations of a single homo- 
geneous substance. The question will, then, obviously be, 
must we, in order to explain the facts, assume the existence 
of a multiplicity of originally distinct materials ? or, shall 
we explain even the characteristic differences between the 
chemical Elements as mere modifications of a single homo- 
geneous matter? The eagerness which is now shown in 
favour of the attempt to explain away these differences 
seems to me to be based to some extent on a false principle 
of method. For practical purposes Science is, of course, 
always interested in reducing the number of independent 
principles upon which to base its explanations, and in 
making calculable the course of events by subordinating the 
complex derivative premisses to a few primary ones. But 
not less certain is it that Science cannot desire any more 
complete unity than actually exists, and until the point is 
decided by experience, a unity which remains still unknown 
must not be presupposed as certainly existing except in 
cases in which without it a contradiction would be intro- 
duced into the nature of the subject-matter. 

Now, our idea of Nature implies three things, (i) A 
system of universal laws, which determine the sequence 
of cause and consequence. (2) A multitude of concrete 
points to which these laws may attach and so find their 
application. (3) Lastly, a purpose to realise which these 
actual existences are combined together. Every theory of 
Science admits the two first of these postulates ; the last is, 


no doubt, the subject of conflicting opinions. But wherever 
the thought of a purpose in nature is cherished, it stands to 
reason that there can be but one, and that all seemingly 
independent tendencies must be really subordinate to this 
unity and appear as moments in its Being. Not less 
necessary is the unity of the supreme laws which govern 
the connexion of events. These consist not so much in the 
rules to which various forces variously conform, as in the 
universal truths of mathematics, to which any self-consistent 
world, even though it were quite otherwise constituted than 
the existing one, would always have to submit throughout its 
whole extent alike. It is impossible to conceive an order 
of nature, unless it can be determined according to the same 
rules of measurement in every instance what results may be 
deduced from the presence of active elements in given pro- 
portions, and from their reciprocal interactions in calculable 
degrees of intensity. On the other hand, the actual exist- 
ence, which has to furnish these laws with cases in which 
they will apply, has to fulfil no requirement but the primary 
one of being manifold. Nor is there the slightest reason 
why a theory which takes no exception to the doctrine of an 
original plurality of homogeneous atoms should regard with 
suspicion the hypotheses of original differences of quality. 
No further likeness of nature need be attributed to the 
atoms than such as is required to enable them to combine 
together in the same order of things. It must be possible 
in so far as they affect each other by way of interaction, to 
exhibit their natures as combining in definite degrees of 
intensity certain universal modes of activity. But there 
appears to me to be no necessity for regarding the group of 
specific coefficients which these general modes of action 
are found to take in any particular element, as attached to 
a substance of like nature throughout, or, more strictly, as 
attached to what is merely the substantiated abstraction of 
reality. The group may equally well be regarded as the 
expression of a specific quality, so far as such expression is 


allowed by the mutual intercourse of the various forms of 

Practically the importance of the difference between these 
two views would consist in this, that the latter would alto- 
gether exclude the possibility of one chemical element 
passing into another, whilst, according to the former view, 
this would be at any rate conceivable." It would indeed be 
more than conceivable. It would rather be inexplicable 
that throughout the endless process of combination, dis- 
solution and transformation to which the parts of matter are 
subject, no element should ever lose its identity or merge 
its own individuality in that of some other. If the essential 
character of each element depends merely on a peculiar 
arrangement of homogeneous particles, it may be conjectured 
that the same course of events which gave birth to one 
of the forms thus composed, might again produce the con- 
ditions which would lead to its being either dissolved or 
transformed into some other shape. But if it was meant 
that it could be shown that there are certain forms of com- 
bination which having once originated can never by any 

possible conjunction of forces be dissolved, it would still be 
open to ask, Why at any rate there is not, through a further 
composition of the simpler structures, a constant increase in 
the number of these irrevocable combinations ? Finally, if 
it is to be regarded as an eternal fact that these com- 
binations are all alike indestructible and at the same time 
incapable of further development, it would be difficult to 
say in what would consist the difference between this view 
and that which assumes an original difference between the 
elements. As regards the practical explanation of nature 
there would be no difference between the two ideas; it 
would be a difference merely of theoretical view. The 
probability of all reality being homogeneous in essence, 
unless confirmed by future experience, could only be main- 
tained upon considerations of a different and more indirect 


194. To this class of considerations belong the views 
commonly held in regard to the mass of matter, its con- 
stancy, and its influence in determining the character of 
different kinds of effects. It is now quite superfluous to 
recur to what was once a mistake of frequent occurrence in 
philosophy, by pointing out that the idea of mass is not 
exclusively associated with that of weight and heaviness ; 
but, that, as applied to the reciprocal action of any two 
material bodies, the term expresses the intensity of the force 
which each contributes to the common result. Let us 
suppose that we have formed two bodies from m and M 
numbers of units of the same matter, and have observed 
their behaviour to a third body c in regard to a certain effect 
of the kind /. If having observed this, we then find that 
two other bodies, both demonstrably formed from the same 
material, behave in the same way towards c as the two first 
in respect of the same effect/, we rightly conclude that they 
also contain ;;/ and \i number of units of the same matter. 
Suppose, however, these two latter bodies exhibited diver- 
gent properties, so that their consisting of the same matter 
was open to doubt, and yet that, in regard to /, they were 
affected towards c precisely as those two substances had been 
which we had ourselves formed from a demonstrably common 
matter, it would no doubt be a natural and obvious conjec- 
ture that their behaviour was also due to the presence of m 

and ft units of a homogeneous substance, though this like- 
ness was hidden in their case by secondary differences of 
quality. At the same time, this conjecture would go beyond 
the facts. All that the facts teach is that in respect of the 
effect /, the two bodies in question are equivalent to m 
and P units of the before-mentioned matter ; not that 
they actually consist 0/"them. There is nothing to prevent 
them from being in all other respects different in original 
quality from each other, and from c, and yet being capable 
of a special interaction of the kind f between them and c^ 
in which their contribution to the common result admits of 


a numerical expression ;;/ and /*, as identical or comparable 
with that of the two bodies first considered. If now, assum- 
ing them to have the above specific quality, we proceed to 
consider their interaction with a fresh body d resulting in a 
different kind of effect <?, we shall not be justified in assum- 
ing that the proportion in which they contribute to this 
result is the same, viz. m \ /i, as that in which they con- 
tribute to produce/. Rather, it is conceivable that in their 
new relation to d, bringing into play as it would new forces, 
they would be like where they had before been unlike, and 
unlike where they had been like ; or, in a worcf, that in 
regard to the effect g y they would assume the quantities m^ 
and /ij, different from the previous quantities m and p. In 
point of fact, at any rate at first sight, this is how the 
several effects /, q, r, produced by the reciprocal action of 
the bodies in question, are related, and it is never certain 
that a which in regard to / is greater in quantity than 6, 
will still remain so in regard to q. 

Whether these differences can be intelligibly explained 
on the hypothesis of a homogeneous matter, as secondary 
effects due to different modes of combination, must here be 
left undecided. Owing to the extreme variety of the phe- 
nomena to be taken into account, such a conclusion could 
only be established, if at all, in the distant future. On the 
other hand, it is of course always possible to express each 

of the new quantitative determinations that arise, e. g. m l 
and /^, by means of the old ones, i. e. by k m and * /u, and 
so by assigning for each kind of special effect a specific co- 
efficient to bring the fiction of a homogeneous mass into 
harmony with the given facts. In a metaphysical point of 
view this would decide nothing. The possible qualitative 
difference between the parts of matter is as little made to 
disappear by this reduction, as corn and meat cease to be 
two different things after their value has been expressed in 
the common term of money. The doctrine then which I am 
maintaining is not open to any general objection on these 


grounds, though it cannot be applied to explain the parti- 
cular facts. It, at any rate, does not oblige us to think of 
the different elements as differing without any principle. 
Belonging as they would to one and the same world, their 
qualities would be mutually related members of a single 
interconnected system, within which they would be com- 
bined in different directions, in different senses, and with 
various degrees of intimacy. Stationed at the meeting- 
point of many opposing tendencies, an element might on 
one of its sides display a greater degree of force than its 
neighbour, on another an equal degree, whilst on a third 
side its force might be less ; and, if we knew the purpose of 
the whole system, which we do not know, we should be able 
to deduce from the mass which an element exhibited in the 
production of the effect /, the specific coefficients which 
belong to it for the actions </, r, civic., and to exhibit those 
coefficients as a scries of mutually dependent functions. 

195. I have made these observations, still proceeding on 
the assumption that a plurality of individual elements is 
what forms the ultimate constituents of the world. We 
shall sec, however, that they have equal force, if viewed in 
connexion with a result established by our ontological in- 
vestigations, according to which these multitudinous ele- 
ments are but modifications of one and the same Being 1 . 
To hold this latter opinion, seems at first to be equivalent 
to repeating the very view against which we have been con- 
tending. It appears as if we could have no real interest in 
establishing the fact of difference amongst the elements, if 
this is not to be regarded as ultimate and irremovable. But 
the doctrine here maintained is essentially distinguished 
from the doctrine of Physics. I understand by this abso- 
lute Being, not a Real existence infinite in quantity and of 
like nature throughout, which has no other inherent capacity 
than that of falling into countless homogeneous parts, and 
which only is in a secondary sense, by means of the various 
1 fCp. Chapters vi. and vii. of Book I.] 


possible combinations of those parts, the ground of a diver- 
sity existing in the content of the world. I conceive it 
rather as a living idea, the import of which, inaccessible in 
its essence to any quantitative measurement, is no mere 
homogeneous aggregate of ideas, but a self-articulated whole 
of variously interwoven parts ; each one of these parts, as 
well as the several elements which compose it, acquiring a 
determinate quantity according to its value and position in 
the whole. 

Let us give an illustration. If this idea could be ex- 
pressed in terms of our thought, it could only be so by 
means of a number of propositions which would be towards 
one another in those extremely various modes of depend- 
ence in which the different parts of a scientific system are 
connected together. But these propositions would be mean- 
ingless, if they were not again composed of words words 
of which the meanings while different and unchangeably 
fixed, are still not immeasurably different, but so precisely 
determined in relation to each other that they admit of 
being joined together in very various syntactical combina- 
tions, to serve as vehicles by which the Idea is articulated 
into its parts. With these words I compare the elementary 
materials of nature. In themselves they are nothing ; they 

are merely forms of a common principle underlying the 
world, a principle, however, which maintains them as con- 
stantly uniform activities, so that in every case in \jhich they 
occur and enter into mutual relations they observe the same 
laws of behaviour. But, although thus involved from all 
eternity in a network of relations, they still remain different 
as regards each other, and incapable of being referred to 
mere division and re-combination of a uniform substratum. 
The mathematical mode of regarding the question which 
favours this latter view, and which has very extensive rights 
in the treatment of nature, is still not the only way of con- 
ceiving its unity, nor does it penetrate to the ultimate 
ground of things. Merely, within the limits of our observa- 


tion, this mathematical connexion of things, secondary 
though it is, presents itself first. That whole world of 
quantitative and numerical determinations is itself based on 
an order of things, the synthetic connexions of which we 
could never have arrived at by any logical analysis. We 
have called this order * systematic,' and now we may replace 
this imperfect expression by another, that of the * aesthetic ' 
unity of purpose in the world, which, as in some work of 
art, combines with convincing justice things which in their 
isolation would seem incoherent and scarcely to stand in 
any relation to one another at all. Or, lastly, we might 
prefer to use the term 'dialectical unity,' in memory of a 
late phase of our German Philosophy, which was thoroughly 
alive to the truth of this doctrine, but failed, as it seems to 
me, because it believed itself able to apply to details of fact 
principles which can only in a rough way prescribe a general 
direction to our thoughts. 

190. This transformation of our views introduces us to a 
further question, which to Physical Atomism appears to be 
no question at all. It is assumed that a countless number 
of individual atoms fill the world. Now, be they the same 
or be they different in kind, whence comes their plurality? 

If they are regarded as starting-points to be assumed, beyond 
which we cannot go in thought, no doubt their dispersion 
throughout space can also be included in the number of 
facts to be taken for granted, which we must recognise 
without attempting to explain. But, to us, who have con- 
ceived every qualitatively distinct element as one of a 
connected series of acts emanating from the supreme prin- 
ciple of the universe, it is necessarily perplexing to find that 
the instances in which each clement occurs are scattered 
over a countless number of different points in space. Nor 
is this an enigma merely from our point of view. We can, 
no doubt, by an act of thought easily represent to ourselves 
the same content a a thousand times over, and we can dis- 
tinguish the thousand creations of our imagination, by 


localising them at different points of space, or by enume- 
rating them according to the different moments of time 
when they first suggested themselves to us. But how, 
strictly speaking, can it be conceived that, in actual fact, 
the same a occurs several times over ? Must not the mere 
fact that there are several, make it necessary that a should 
be in one case something different from what it is in an- 
other, though it ought in every case to be the same? What 
constitutes the objective difference between them, which 
makes a truth of fact of the logical assumption that they are 
so many like instances of a general notion or a common 
nature ? We remember what a stumbling-block this ques- 
tion was to Leibnitz. It seemed to him to be impossible 
that two things should actually occur, unless their duality 
was based on a difference of nature between them. He 
would not even allow that two leaves of a tree could be 
exactly alike. This difficulty scarcely attracts any attention 
now. I must say, however, that it seems to me to have 
been somewhat too hastily passed over by those who have 
followed in the footsteps of Kant. What Thought could 
not achieve, was held to be made possible by spatial per- 
ception. It was in and through space that it was clearly 
shown how things could be at once like and manifold ; they 

might differ in position, but be perfectly identical in the 
nature which occupies the position. 

Certainly, this is clear enough ; but I cannot see in this 
clearness a solution of the difficulty. All that it does is to 
bring the problem itself vividly before us; but for this 
phenomenon, indeed, the difficulty would scarcely have 
been suggested. Now, if science admitted to an unlimited 
extent the possibility of things acting upon each other at a 
distance, it might no doubt be granted that one atom is 
never subject to precisely the same sum of external in- 
fluences as another. And, if it were further granted that 
the atoms experience changes of inner state corresponding 
with these external influences, it would follow that an atom 


a would be in some way different at each moment of its 
existence from a second and otherwise similar atom, since 
its internal states at any moment are not an extraneous ap- 
pendage to its nature, but an actual constituent of what it is 
at that moment. But this mode of statement would still 
involve the latent supposition, that though the states by 
which an atom is affected change, yet through all this 
change the atom itself remains as a constant quantity, which 
would have maintained itself in its position even if there had 
been no forces acting on it, and which only becomes dis- 
tinguished from other atoms of the same kind as itself 
owing to external influences which might not have been 

operative. Thus we are brought back to the question, 
What does it really mean that an element occupies a point 
in space? and how can it be that in virtue of its position it 
is distinguished from other elements, seeing that all points 
of space, both in themselves and in their effects on the 
elements, are precisely alike ? I have tried to give an 
answer to this question. Its very terms are meaningless 
from the point of view which regards space as something 
actually existing by reference to which things are deter- 
mined. Things do not first find themselves in certain 
positions, and then become enabled to take effect, but it is 
the kind and degree of the effects which they already exer- 
cise upon each other that makes them occupy those positions 
for the perceptive consciousness, which seem to us to be 
those which originally belong to them. 

This answer, however, does not at once remove our pre- 
sent difficulty. In order to find a reason why these quali- 
tatively-distinguished elements should assume the form of a 
scattered multitude of individual atoms, it seems as if we 
should be compelled to suppose that in the intelligible 
world, which reflects itself in space, that action or thought 
which we designated as the nature of an element, must re- 
peat itself as often as its phenomenon. Is such a repetition 
less unaccountable than the easy hypothesis of a plurality of 


atoms with which Physics is content ? I feel myself able to 
answer in the affirmative. It is merely owing to the effect 
of constant association with the forms of space, that when 
we come to represent to ourselves these t repeated ' actions, 
we conceive them as falling into a number of disconnected 
groups separated from one another by empty intervals just 
as the parts of space are separated by their lines of distance. 
There is really no such relation between them. Just as in 
our own inner experience the self-same principle or the same 
conception recurs in the most various connexions, and exer- 
cises a limiting or determining influence of many different 
kinds on any other of our thoughts with which it happens to 
be associated, just so the idea, which determines the quali- 
tative nature of an element of matter, serves in the order of 
the universe as a point of intersection for the different ten- 
dencies which make that universe into a connected whole ; 
connected, as I must again insist, not merely as a rigidly 
classified system, but as an eternally progressive history. 
We are, therefore, not called upon, nor are we interested to 
maintain that there are distinct special existences corre- 
sponding in number with the functions which the same idea 
must fulfil when thus associated with others in these various 
combinations. The number of scattered atoms is merely 
the number of the separate appearances which an element 
assumes to our perception of space owing to the manifold 
relations in which it is involved with other elements. 

197. The extremely paradoxical nature of this conclusion 
shall not prevent me from mentioning also a certain corol- 
lary which follows from it. We have now arrived at a point 
of view from which the atomic theory can no longer satisfy 
us, not even after that transformation of its fundamental 
idea, to which it seemed not to be disinclined. So long as 
the unextended points, from and to which forces proceed, 
points which have indeed positions in space but no volume, 
were conceived as having, not less than the extended atoms 
had previously been conceived as having, an obstinately 


indestructible nature, there could of course be no mention 
of a further division into parts ; since that which was to be 
divided was, as its very name implied, indivisible. This 
mode of representation no longer holds good. If the single 
real idea which determines the nature of a qualitative ele- 
ment necessarily manifests itself under a number of distinct 
forms, and if there is no limit to the multiplication of the 
relations which it may assume towards other ideas, why 
should it be specially attached to just those points in space 
where it happens to be active at any given moment ? Why 
should not the positions which it may occupy also admit of 
being multiplied indefinitely, seeing that none of the mani- 
festations of the element have any other claim to a separate 
existence except such as depends on the mandate of the 
whole order which assigns to them this and no other 
position ? 

Not that I have any desire to return to the notion of a 
continuously extended, infinitely divisible matter, nor to 
that other notion, according to which the real atom, at least 
in its spatial phenomenon, is quite continuous in the sense 
that it is equally present at every point within its own narrow 
volume. I would rather not in any way depart from the 
results of Atomism most recently arrived at, according to 
which an atom is conceived as developing its activity from 
a geometric point. But I can see no reason for regarding 
the amount of force which is thus diffused a force which 
is now no longer in any sense an indestructible metaphysical 
unity as eternally attached to this one point. Rather, it 
would admit of partition in space, just as it is itself only a 
partial manifestation of a single identical function of the 
whole. In proportion as new combinations of phenomena 
were required to exist by the course of the world, each 
centre of activities would have the power of breaking itself 
up into several centres, which would then assume different 
positions in space according as the new conditions to which 
they were subject prescribed. These conditions may be 


very different. Their effect may be not merely to compel 
the new centres of activity to combine with atoms belonging 
to other elements, but also to cause an increase in the 
volume of any particular atom by forcing its constituent 
elements to expand and fall asunder. There would thus 
come to be differences in the density of the atoms. Owing 
to this constant process of inner dissolution, new points of 
departure for effects would be multiplied, and there would 
arise the appearances which were formerly believed to be 
only capable of being explained on the hypothesis of a con- 
tinuous and real extension in space, and which are only 
accounted for at the cost of a permanent improbability by 
those who believe, with ordinary atomism, that all things 
are ultimately analysable into real existence and empty 
space. In this way we should be brought to the idea of an 
infinite dynamic divisibility of unextended atoms, an idea 
which, it is to be hoped, will seem less frightful than the 
barbarous name by which, in order to distinguish it from 
the traditional theories, I believe that it may most briefly be 
described. It will no doubt have been taken for granted 
that the degree of intensity, or, to put it shortly, the mass 
of each of the parts will be diminished, while the sum of 
these masses remains the same. I have nothing to say 
against this addition, but the principle on which it is made 
will require further discussion in our next chapter. 


The Laws of the Activities of Things. 

OF the inner movements of things we know nothing. 
Still less do we know what are the constant modes of 
co-operation which the order of the Universe requires them 
to assume. Hence, experience alone can discover to us 
the motive forces into which the course of natural events 
can be analysed and the law according to which each of 
these several forces may be conceived as taking effect. 
But a sufficiently careful and comprehensive observation 
has long since established certain general results, which 
deserve, by way of supplement at any rate, to receive an 
interpretation in connexion with metaphysical views, and 
which suggest the question whether they are really nothing 
but the expression of what has been observed to take place, 
and not rather of necessities of thought to which experience 
has directed our attention only subsequently. I shall 
attempt to investigate this point, though well-knowing 
beforehand that my labours are not likely to produce any 
considerable result. They will serve merely to draw atten- 
tion to the ambiguity of those speculations, philosophical 
no less than scientific, which will never cease to be directed 
to this unpromising subject. 

198. In the first place, it is universally admitted that the 
intensity of the effects which a force produces at a distance, 
is dependent on the interval between the elements between 


which it operates. And to this conclusion the doctrine 
which is here maintained must also lead, though it remains 
to be seen later by what steps. If the positions of things 
in space are merely expressions of the forces which are 
already acting upon them, a fortiori every impulse to further 
activity will depend upon these interactions between the 
elements and on the distances in which those interactions 
manifest themselves. This merely general characterisation 
is not, however, enough to determine precisely the nature 
of the connexion between forces and the distances of 
elements. But the other assumption, which is asserted 
with almost as much assurance as the last, viz. that the 
intensity of the effect is in an inverse ratio to the distance, 
has nothing to recommend it if we exclude the familiar 
instances furnished by experience, except the inadmissible 
idea that space acts as an obstacle which cannot be over- 
come except by a partial sacrifice of force. 

Other preconceived notions combine with this one to 
produce an impression that this decrease of force is a fixed 
law, holding good in all cases in which forces act at a 
distance. That a force, emanating from a certain starting- 
point, diffuses itself through space, is not merely our mode 
of expressing the fact that its effects differ in degree at 
different distances. Unfortunately, we believe ourselves to 
be describing not only a fact but an actual process by which 
the necessity of this difference is explained. As the force 
is transmitted to larger and larger spherical shells it seems as 
if its tenuity must increase in the same ratio as the area 
which it occupies, the ratio of the square of the distance from 
its starting-point. This coincidence of a simple geometric 
relation with a general law which we see illustrated in the 
effects produced at a distance by gravitation and by electric 
and magnetic agencies, is too tempting not to invite often- 
repeated attempts to establish the closest connexion between 
them. None of the assumptions, however, which are re- 
quired as links in the connexion can be admitted. A force 


cannot be supposed to proceed from a point c, without at 
once being regarded as an independent fluid medium. 
That its tenuity should increase with its increasing exten- 
sion, would no doubt not be altogether inconceivable. But 
still we should have to discover to what the motion of the 
fluid was due. This could only ultimately arise from a new 
force, a force of repulsion, exerted upon the fluid by the thing 
present at c. We should have also to show what becomes 
of the force thus diffused, if it meets with no object on which 
to take effect, and further from what source the constant 
supply of force at c is derived. These questions cannot 
be evaded by supposing that the force does not diffuse 
itself around ^, but is, as it were, a permanent atmosphere 
already diffused around it. To deny the fact of the move- 
ment of radiation, would be to take away the only justifica- 
tion for the principle that the density decreases with increase 
of distance, whilst it would contribute nothing towards the 
explanation of the effect eventually produced. Let us, 
then, suppose that a given force whilst proceeding from ^, 
meets in the point / with an object which it is to act on. 
How is this action possible ? and how can the force impart 
to the body motion in any particular direction? All that 
could be concluded from the arrival of the force at/, would 
be that it was now present at that point not, that a body 
situated at that point must, owing to the action of the force, 
be set in motion. But, even granting that it were thus set 
in motion, what direction could the motion take? The 
motion as such could stand in no relation to the point c\ 
for, if the activity of the force is made to depend on this 
process of its diffusion, it follows that it only acts at p just 
as far as it is there ; it makes no difference whether it was 
there always or whence it came there. Supposing it then 
to coincide exactly at / with some real element, it could 
not impart any motion to that element, for there would be 
no reason why it should prefer one direction to another 1 . 
1 [Cp- 


If, on the other hand, we suppose that at the first moment 
of its beginning to exercise its activity, the force is sepa- 
rated from the element by ever so small an interval, 
we are making action at a slight distance serve as an 
explanation of action at any and every distance, though 
we cannot bring the former under any definite law, and 
must therefore fail in the attempt to deduce the law of 
the latter. 

Even if these difficulties could be got rid of, it would 
still remain a question whether the resulting motion will 
take the direction c /, or the opposite one / c. For 
this process of radiation would be just the same for an 
attractive and for a repulsive force. Each smallest par- 
ticle of the fluid would, in such a case, still have to 
exert attraction or repulsion upon whatever it might meet 
with at the point to which it had come, as a property 
peculiar to itself and not admitting of further explanation. 
But, if that were so, there would be no longer any occasion 
for confining these effects to the parts of the force which 
come before f in the line c p \ the parts on the other side of 
/, which lay in the course of this line when produced, or 
which had come there, would exercise an influence on the 
element at /, of the same kind though in a contrary 
direction. The ensuing motion would then be the result of 
these different impulses ; at any rate it could not correspond 
with the simple law which it was hoped could be deduced 
from it. Finally, the attempt may be made to get rid of 
these difficulties, by supposing that the radiating force 
imparts its own motion to the element which it lights upon, 
and determines by its own direction that which the element 
in its turn is to take. Putting aside, however, that this is a 
transition from one idea, that of a force acting at a distance, 
to another, the idea of communication of already existing 
motion, all that would be explained by this method would 
be the centrifugal effects of repulsion ; every case of attrac- 
tion would require a centripetal pressure, such as has, 


indeed, often been assumed, but has not hitherto had any 
intelligible explanation given of it. 

199. On these grounds I not only hold that these at 
tempted deductions have failed to establish their own 
special conclusions, but the spirit in which they have been 
undertaken seems to me to be inconsistent with itself. Of 
course, many of the occurrences which take place in the 
world are of a compound character, and arise from me- 
chanical combination of others. It is possible that gravita- 
tion and other similar phenomena which seem to us to be 
the expressions of the simplest primary forces, may really 
be compound results produced by forces still more simple. 
An elaboration of experience so advanced as to show this 
to be the case would really have succeeded in furnishing us 
with a genetic theory of the Law of Gravitation. If, on the 
other hand, these and all effects of a like kind are regarded 
as the expression of simple and primary forces, we must not 
attempt, as is done by these theories, to give a mechanical 
explanation of their origin, by referring them to a diffusion 
and attenuation of force. The only proof that can be 
expected of these elementary processes and their Laws is 
the speculative one, that they have a necessary place in the 
rational order of things. The Ratio legis might be given, 
but not the machinery by which it is carried into effect. The 
treatment, then, of this problem belongs, without doubt, to 
Philosophy, nor do I complain that there should have been 
such innumerable attempts to solve it, though unfortunately 
I know of none that has been successful. I do not therefore 
continue my own investigation with any hope of arriving at a 
result that can be final, but merely in order to bring out more 
clearly some of the distinctive features of my general view. 

200. Owing to the doctrine which I have already ex- 
pounded in regard to the nature of forces, I do not feel 
touched by an objection which Physicists have urged against 
the absolute validity of the Law of Gravitation, an objection 
which, if it held good, would render untenable the whole of 


this doctrine which speculation so obstinately attempts to 
deduce a priori \ where the distance = o, the attracting 
force must according to this law, it is said, be infinite. I 
will not now stop to enquire whether this result is altogether 
inadmissible. It would be open for those who maintain 
the ordinary hypothesis of a continuously extended matter 
to urge that contact takes place only between points, lines, 
or surfaces without thickness, and consequently that the 
masses whose distance = o, must in every case themselves 
= o also. If the hypothesis of unextended atoms conceived 
as points be preferred, we should certainly have to ascribe 
to them an infinite power of resisting separation, in case 
they had once got united in the same point by attraction. 
But all that would be necessary would be to take care that 
such a case never arose. It would be easy indeed so to 
alter the formula of the law, that in case of all observable 
distances, even the smallest, it should correspond as nearly 
as possible with the results of observation, while in the case 
of vanishing distances it should still not imply the infinity 
of the force of attraction. But, I think we can achieve the 
same end, without introducing a modification of the law such 
as would be purely arbitrary and incapable of ever being 
proved. All the several forces which Physics is led by ex- 
perience to assume, stand in our view merely for the various 
components into which the single power of inter-action in- 
herent in the nature of things admits of being analysed. It 
is not therefore at all surprising that a law which expresses 
with perfect precision the operation of one out of this num- 
ber of components should nevertheless yield infinite degrees 
of intensity or other inapplicable values if the component is 
supposed to continue its operation isolated and uncon- 
trolled. These cases of isolated action are precisely those 
which are never met with ; they express merely what would 
occur under certain imagined conditions, but what under 
existing conditions, never does occur. Hence it is not 
necessary to modify the formula of the well-known law of 


gravitation, considered as simply claiming to indicate the 
variations of the attractive action ; in this sense the formula 
may be perfectly precise; only the limiting case never 
occurs for which alone it would yield such problematical 
values. In proportion as the elements which are attracted 
approach each other more nearly the tendency to repulsion 
will be found to grow even more rapidly, and if any one of 
the proposed modifications of the law could be shown to 
hold good in actual experience it would not be a more 
correct expression of the attraction taken by itself so much 
as of the total effect in which attraction and repulsion are 
already united. Moreover, it is easy to see that without 
this supposition this partial law expressing mere attraction 
would yield results which would be not so much inconceiv- 
able as merely inapplicable in our view of nature. Let us 
suppose two elements a and b between which there is 
attraction but never repulsion, to approach the point c from 
opposite sides. They would then at the moment of meeting 
have not only an infinite attraction g 9 but also infinite 
though opposite velocities + v. Now as the velocity last 
reached, v, has arisen by the summation of all the accelera- 
tions which have been increasing infinitely up to the value 
g, we cannot but regard the infinite quantity v as greater 
than the infinite quantity g. Hence, if there were no 
repulsion, g could not prevent the two elements from 
passing with opposite velocities through each other's midst 
and thus distance would be restored between them and the 
amount of their attraction would become finite again. 

201. A special objection to the received views has been 
urged by Herbart. He will not himself admit the operation 
of forces at a distance ; but for those who do admit it, he 
holds that the only legitimate assumption is this, that the 
intensity of each force is diminished in proportion as it is 
satisfied by the attainment of its result. That a repulsion, 
therefore, should decrease with the distance which it has 
produced, requires no explanation. On the other hand, 


the force of attraction, which becomes always more intense 
in proportion as it has drawn its object nearer, remains a 
paradox for him. This objection is plausible enough if the 
object is to explain the observed effects of the law by 
reference to its inner meaning ; but I cannot think that the 
particular psychological analogy, to which it owes its con- 
clusivencss, will admit of this general application. I entirely 
agree with Herbart that there are inner processes in 
things, from which the forces moving them arc derived, 
and I will concede to him that in both the cases which are 
here brought together psychical endeavour and physical 
motion the impulse to what is done lies in a difference 
between a thing's actual state of being and some other state, 
which, if it could be realised, would be more in correspon- 
dence with its nature. But I dispute the conclusion which 
is so hastily drawn from these premisses. Herbart shows 
himself in this matter to be influenced by his main concep- 
tion, according to which each changing state of a thing is a 
disturbance of its original nature, so that the only manifes- 
tation of activity which can fairly be attributed to real 
existence, is that of self-conservation or recurrence to the 
status quo ante. In that case, no doubt, supposing M to 
be this permanently fixed aim, and q the state which is a 
departure from it, the result to be achieved at each instant 
would correspond to this difference Mq. Strictly speak- 
ing, it does not at once follow from this, that the intensity 
of the force which exerts itself to recover the former state, 
must vary directly as the amount of divergence represented 
by ^, and inversely as the result already obtained. All 
that would be measured by Mq is the extent of what is 
required in order to attain the given end. But there would 
be nothing to prevent the force from continuing to operate 
with unvarying intensity until this difference had been made 
to disappear, just as a labourer in filling up a pit does not 
at first work more rapidly and afterwards with less energy, 
because the space to be heaped in was at the beginning 


larger and has since become smaller, but he works through- 
out at the same pace. 

Even, however, admitting this assumption, insufficiently 
proved as it is, I doubt the relevancy of the analogy which 
would make the occurrence of a physical effect correspond 
with the satisfaction of psychical impulse. If, taking an 
imaginary case, we compare a supposed quantity M 9 of 
which we have an idea, with a smaller given quantity </, no 
doubt we know that Mq expresses the amount which 
must be added to q, in order to make it=-fl/. In this case, 
M, though not present before us in external reality, was as 
adequately represented by its idea as q was, and the 
estimation of the difference between them was thus made 
possible. If, however, we experienced a state q, and this 
were merely a manner or mode of our consciousness, some 
form perhaps of feeling, this feeling would not be able by 
itself to produce in our minds the idea of the absent M. 
Knowledge of the character and extent of the difference 
between q and M could only arise if we had had a real 
experience of M as well, and it were to enter into our 
consciousness in the form of a feeling or the remembrance 
of a feeling similar in kind to q. Although, therefore, the 
disturbed state of our feelings may depend upon the 
difference Mq, yet this difference only exists primarily for 
the comparing mind of an onlooker ; it is not a real element 
in the experience of the being who is affected by the state 
q, at any rate not unless there is some remembrance of the 
state M. It cannot therefore be the obvious standard by 
which such a being, with a sort of preference for what is 
reasonable and just, determines the intensity of the effort 
which it has to make. However far, then, we may go in 
assimilating the inner states of things to processes of mind, 
so long as we do not believe that the physical operations of 
things are regulated like acts of our own by rules drawn 
from experience, as long as we believe rather that there is a 
necessity imposed on them to come to pass as they do, the 


difference between an actual and a better state of things 
cannot be the determining reason by which Physical effects 
are regulated. 

On the other hand, there is no reason, we at least can 
see none, why the order of the universe which prescribes to 
all things their nature and mode of working, should not 
have attached to q a blind and unpurposed activity, which 
was as a matter of fact measured by the difference Mq, 
though the individual thing which was affected by the 
difference was itself unconscious of it. But, as there is 
nothing to hinder this supposition, so there is nothing to 
make it necessary; it remains a possible though but an 
arbitrary assumption that the course of things is nothing 
but a constant effort to attain to an equilibrium and to 
reproduce a state M which can only be effected by getting 
rid of their present state. There is equally nothing to 
prevent us from admitting the claims, though not the 
exclusive claims, of the opposite view, according to which 
the attainment of a state q means a change in the condition 
of things, which tends to reproduce itself in a more em- 
phatic and intensified form. That other theory, the watch- 
word of which is ' disturbance,' has thought only of pain \ 
and then it seems quite natural that the self-conservative 
activity directed to the removal of pain, should decrease in 
proportion as it succeeds. It has taken no account of 
pleasure, which just as naturally creates a stimulus to the 
intensification of the state which was desired and is pleasant. 
For it is not true, except in those cases in which the source 
of enjoyment lies partly in the body, that pleasure is dulled 
with satisfaction. The body, no doubt, is forbidden by the 
habits of its action from contributing to the intensification 
of feeling, and interrupts it by weariness and satiety. It 
will not, however, be maintained that the pursuit of know- 
ledge and its results, or the aspiration after beauty and 
goodness, is lessened by approximation to the ideal. 

But we will leave these analogies, which decide nothing. 


The general conclusion to which we come is this : there is 
a blind tendency in each thing, owing to its place in the all- 
embracing order of the world, whenever it is in any given 
state </, to produce an effect. The character and extent of 
this effect are not regulated by any law inherent in the 
nature of substance or force, and binding things without 
regard to the purport of this universal order. It is this 
order and this alone, which, in accordance with its own 
aims, connects reason and consequent, and it is as able to 
determine that the force of reaction should increase with 
the attainment of results, as that it should diminish in 
proportion as they arc attained. 

202. It is easy to see the consequences that follow from 
this conviction. As we do not know the idea which is 
endeavouring to realise itself in the world, it is from 
experience only, as I have before remarked, that we can 
derive our knowledge of the recurrent operations of things 
according to general laws. We cannot, therefore, take it 
amiss that Physics, following the lead of observation, should 
assign to the different forces, the assumption of which is 
found to be necessary, laws of action of the most various 
kinds. These Laws Physics regards merely as expressions 
of the facts, without attempting any metaphysical inter- 
pretation of them, and every idea of this kind, serving to 
clear up a group of interconnected phenomena, and enabling 
us to infer the future from the present, deserves respect, as 
an enlargement of our knowledge. Philosophy is altogether 
in the wrong, when she depreciates results obtained in this 
way, merely because they do not penetrate to the ultimate 
truth ; but she is certainly within her right, when, starting 
from her own point of view, she attempts to supply the 
interpretation which is still lacking to those results. What- 
ever may be thought of space and of existence in space, if 
once the intensity of interaction between two elements is 
made to depend on the distance separating them, and just 
so far as it is made to depend only on this, it seems to be 


impossible that different forces could be determined by this 
cause to act in different ways ; the same distance, it would 
seem, could only make itself felt by the elements and 
determine all their reciprocal effects in the same way. It 
is this which has prepossessed philosophers in favour of the 
view that the different modes of action which Physics 
assumes, when it makes different forces dependent on 
different powers of the distance, cannot have a primary 
right of existence, but that there must be one fundamental 
law for the relation of action to distance, and the deviations 
from it which experience compels us to admit must be due 
merely to the complexity of the circumstances. By an 
easily understood transition, this fundamental law then 
came to be identified with the Law of Gravitation, this 
being a Law which is obeyed by many familiar effects, 
differing from each other and occurring under apparently 
very simple circumstances. I cannot myself share this 
prepossession, except with great reservations. It is neces- 
sary first of all that a certain asumption from which all such 
attempted explanations start, should be clearly stated. 
That assumption is made by thinkers, by whom perhaps in 
their ultimate essence all things are mysteriously merged in 
the unity of an infinite substance and a single creative plan, 
when they afterwards leave out of sight the continuous 
operation of this single principle, and explain the whole 
course of the world merely from the permanent qualities 
and the changing relations of individual existences, and the 
consequences which, by common logic, seem to follow 
from these two premisses. 

203. Upon this assumption we are not justified, accord- 
ing to all that has preceded, in regarding the interval of 
distance itself as that which determines the amount of force 
exercised between two elements, a and b. This is due only 
to the inner states of the elements which correspond to the 
distances between them. Every mode of treating the 
question must admit so much as this. Even if we adopt 


the ordinary view of space as objectively existing, the 
distance of things will still only be distance between them ; 
the distance and its measure is, therefore, a reality prima 
facie only for an observer who is able to represent to himself 
the space which must be traversed in order to pass from a 
to b. If a and b are to be guided by it in what they do, it 
must be possible for them and not for an observer only to 
take note that the distance between them is in one case d 
and in another case d ; thus in order to act they must first 
be acted upon by the very same condition which is to regu- 
late their activity. This would lead us supposing the 
merely phenomenal character of space to be assumed to 
the conclusion, that every actual distance between a and b 
is nothing but the manifestation in space of the sum of the 
effects which they experience at the moment from one 
another and from the whole, and which are also the cause 
of their effect upon us. The universal order is, however, 
neither according to our view, nor according to the ordinary 
view, a rigidly classified system, such that each element 
persistently occupies the place which corresponds with its 
conception. Such a system no doubt exists, but its parts 
which are in a constant state of chaotic flux, are every 
moment falling into relative positions which do not corre- 
spond to the permanent affinities of their natures. 

We know what this means in terms of ordinary spatial 
perception ; it is not the elements which are by their nature 
most fitted for active intercourse which are always the 
nearest neighbours ; the action of some third or fourth 
element may separate those which are coherent, or bring to- 
gether those which are indifferent. It is indeed impossible 
to give a picture of what things undergo or experience in 
their inner nature when they enter into those changing 
intelligible relations with which we are familiar in spatial 
perception as distances of greater or less extent. As objects 
of such perception, i.e. as distances, these relations seem to 
us obviously to imply a greater or less amount of estrange- 


ment or of sympathy in the things, and upon this the 
degree of their reciprocal action is naturally supposed to 
depend. Yet our previous investigations have shown that 
we cannot account for the manner and degree in which 
things act upon each other from the mere fact of their being 
outside one another ; it is only from what they get or ex- 
perience from this fact, or from the way in which it connects 
them, that we can do so. We cannot, therefore, say that 
the distance between things itself exercises an influence on 
the intensity of their force ; it is merely the mode in which 
the greater or less degree of their metaphysical affinity is 
manifested to us, varying as this does with the different 
combinations into which they are brought by the course of 
events. Throughout this process the things remain what 
they are, and continue to act upon each other conformably 
to their natures. At the same time, the different degrees to 
which they are temporarily displaced from their position in 
the system, cannot but have some influence on their be- 
haviour; a change in the closeness of their metaphysical 
affinity involves a corresponding change in the amount i of 
the intensity p with which they stimulate those mutual 
actions for which their nature has fitted them. If these 
very abstract considerations have so far inspired any con- 
fidence, we now stand before a conclusion which seems 
certain, and before an alternative which we are quite unable 
to decide. No reason can be anywhere discovered why 
this metaphysical affinity should correspond to any but the 
first power of the distance, which is the distance itself. On 
the other hand, after what has been said above, it seems 
quite as possible that the effect of this affinity should vary 
directly as that it should vary inversely, with the distance. 
The two formulae 

i = pd and / = * 

would be the only formulae in which this point of view could 
result, and they would be of equal validity. 


204. In making use of these expressions, I wish it to be 
borne in mind that as I understand them they have not the 
same meaning as any of those quantities to which the 
ordinary mechanical view of Physics leads us. We do not 
use i to designate any kind or degree of outward perform- 
ance, but merely the intensity of the stimulus with which, 
in virtue of the relation at the time being subsisting between 
two elements, one of them excites and is excited by the 
other to any or all of those possible forms of reciprocal 
activity which spring from their affinity, their difference, or 
generally their respective places in the system. As regards 
what follows from the stimulus a fresh and specific deter- 
mination is required to decide whether it is to be attrac- 
tion or repulsion, and yet another to decide its amount. 
The first requirement, however, may perhaps be assumed 
to be already fulfilled by the coefficient /. For though 
we have hitherto spoken of this merely as a quantity, 
it is dependent on the nature of the interacting elements, 
and therefore, strictly speaking, could only be a concrete 
number. On the other hand, as regards the amount of 
the initial motion, 1 can see no reason why it should 
not be considered as simply proportionate to the stimulus /, 
which is its motive cause. I shall not, therefore, make 
any further comparison between the formula / = pd, which 
would indicate a sort of metaphysical elasticity, and what 
we meet with under the same name, though generally 
under highly complicated conditions, in the sphere of 
Physics. As regards the second formula, I do not see 
how the desired result, viz. dependence upon the square 
of the distance, could be shown necessarily to follow 
from it. 

I will however mention the assumption which would 
have to be made in order to bring this law into ultimate 
harmony with the other or metaphysical view. I can- 
not esteem as of any value for such a purpose the 
appeal to the reciprocity of all effects, which some distin- 


guished authorities have introduced into the discussion. If 

* -f is the intensity with which one element is attracted 

by another and at the same time tends of itself towards it, 
I cannot see any reason for supposing the result to equal 
the product of the two activities \ like every other resultant, 
it would be the sum of them ; it is only the intensity of the 
effect, not the function of the distance upon which it de- 
pends, that would be affected. Perhaps, however, it will be 
urged, that the effect of a force depends not merely on what 
the force intends to do, but also on how much it is able to 
do, i. e. in the case before us, not merely on the amount of 
mutual excitation, but also on the conditions which promote 
or check the satisfaction of the demands. To put the 
matter shortly and clearly ; the distance d between a and b 
indicates a degree of estrangement between them, and their 
willingness to act upon each other is therefore inversely 
proportional to that distance. But, the weaker will is not 
only weaker, but has opposed to it the greater obstacle, in 
the shape of the greater distance which weakened it. The 
active force, therefore, which can be exerted, is found by 
multiplying the effort by the reciprocal of the resistance to 
be overcome ; and accordingly is inversely proportional to 
the square of the distance. Such a mode of expression 
could indeed only serve to indicate briefly the essence of 
the idea ; in real truth, the distance d even if it were a really 
extended space between a and <, could not be regarded as 
an obstacle to the effect. According to the view which we 
have maintained, it could not actively condition the in- 
cipient process, except in so far as it was represented within 
the elements a and b by means of that hidden state of 
excitation which we found ourselves obliged to assume in 
all cases. But perhaps it is precisely to this inner state of 
things that an argument of this kind may seem to be most 
rigorously applicable. It may perhaps seem incredible that 
when two elements a and b are separated by the distances d 



or 8, they should in both cases alike, though not excited to 
action to the same degree, yet in spite of this difference 
aim at producing one and the same effect. It may be 
thought that the object of their effort as well as its integrity 
would vary, and vary proportionately to the degree of their 
excitation. The amount of the actual external result would 
then be found by multiplying / into a quantity proportional 
to /', and would thus vary inversely with the square of the 

I shall not attempt to decide whether there is anything of 
value in this suggestion : I wish only to point out that this 
new way of characterising an intended result, as one which 
increases in proportion to the stimulus, is just one which 
cannot be decisively established, if nothing is assumed but 
individual elements with their natures and the relations sub- 
sisting between them. There is no universal Metaphysic of 
Mechanics, capable of showing that every time any two 
existences combine in a relation, they must have so com- 
bined. Whenever any such relation occurs, it is a matter 
of fact, which, from a Metaphysical point of view, can only 
be regarded as an effect of the all-embracing M, i.e. the 
idea of the whole. It must be this idea which is present 
and active in all individual elements, assigning to each its 
mode of manifestation in relation to the rest, which other- 
wise would not flow necessarily from the mere conception 
and the nature of the elements. But, as we do not know the 
content of this idea, we cannot affirm positively that it im- 
poses a necessity on things to assume these forms and no 
others; and hence, the whole attempt to establish the 
existence of a single, original, and only legitimate law for 
the operations of all forces is entirely fruitless. 

205. Nothing is left to us, but to accept with thanks the 
empirical rules which enable Physics to express, in con- 
formity with observation, the effects actually produced by 
the several forces on each occasion of their activity. Philo- 
sophy should not turn away from assumptions, unless they 


are inherently absurd, and those made by Physics are 
seldom that. Thus, no one has ever attempted to explain 
an increase or diminution in the intensity of force as de- 
pending on mere Time ; where observation seemed to con- 
firm such a view, the Time was in every instance occupied 
by actual occurrences, each of which contained in itself the 
efficient cause of that which was to follow ; these processes, 
then, and not the mere lapse of Time, must have deter- 
mined the varying intensity of forces. On the other hand, 
there is no reason on philosophical grounds to deny that the 
amount of force which results from the interaction of two 
elements, depends to some extent also on their motions. 
For according to our view motion is not merely a change of 
external relations, which takes no effect on the things them- 
selves ; as those relations depend on inward states of the 
things, so the rapidity with which they change them is also 
an inward experience, and one which at every moment may 
help to determine their subsequent behaviour. Besides the 
degree of intensity which a force would have, corresponding 
with the distance at the moment between the two elements 
from which it proceeds, there would thus be a positive or 
negative increase of the force, dependent on the rapidity 
with which the elements travel through the space which they 
at present occupy. But it is not expedient to continue the 
discussion on this point ; for while the hypothesis has been 
employed by Physicists only with extreme reserve, in regard 
to the interaction of electric currents, a case in which it 
seemed to be required, there would be no limits to its 
application when treated, as we should have to treat it, as a 
general principle. Once admitted, the dependence of force 
upon velocity of motion, and upon its successive accelera- 
tions, would apparently have to be regarded as a universal 
characteristic of physical action. 

2O6. Connected with this question is the other one : Do 
forces, in order to take effect, require Time ? Stated in this 
form, indeed, as it occasionally is, the question is ambiguous. 

G 2 


It is a universally admitted truth that, every effect, in its 
final result, is formed by the successive and continuous 
addition of infinitesimal parts which go on accumulating 
from zero up to the final amount. In this sense succession, 
in other words, expenditure of Time, is a characteristic of 
every effect, and this is what distinguishes an effect from a 
mere consequence, which holds good simultaneously with 
its condition. Vain, however, would it be as we saw in 
our investigation of Time to seek to go further than this, 
and to discover the inscrutable process by means of which 
succession of events in Time comes to pass at all. The 
question we are considering was proposed on the assump- 
tion of the diffusion of force in Space. Supposing it were 
possible to instance a moment of Time in which a previously 
non-existent force came into Being, would all the various 
effects which it was calculated to produce in different places, 
both near and remote, be at once realised? Or, would a 
certain interval of Time be required, just as it is in the case 
of Light, which transmits itself to different objects rapidly, 
but not instantaneously, and must first come into contact 
with them before it can be reflected by them. 

It is not necessary to embellish the question by intro- 
ducing conditions which make any decision impossible. 
There is no need to imagine either the sudden appearance 

out of nothing of some new body in the world, or the dis- 
appearance of one already existing, and then to enquire, 
whether the addition of gravity, as in the first case (the new 
body being likewise supposed subject to the law of gravi- 
tation), or the subtraction of gravity, as in the second, would 
make itself felt by distant stars immediately, or not till after 
a measurable interval? The action of force in its be- 
ginnings may be illustrated by examples nearer to hand. 
Each smallest increase in the velocity of two elements, 
which are working upon each other whether by attraction 
or repulsion at a distance, by the very fact that the ele- 
ments are brought nearer to or are parted from each other, 


brings about an increase of attraction or repulsion, in other 
words, a new force, though no new vehicle of it. Similarly, 
the electrical actions of bodies, depending as they do upon 
a condition which is not always present, furnish an example 
of a beginning of force in Time. It makes no difference 
that this condition itself does not come into existence at 
once and with a permanent intensity, but only by degrees ; 
at any rate, a moment can be assigned for every one of its 
degrees before which it did not exist, and from which its 
effect must begin. Having regard to such cases the ques- 
tion that has been raised can only be answered in the 
negative; there could be no possibility of an affirmative 
answer, except on that supposition of a diffusion of force 
which we found to be impossible 1 . But even on that sup- 
position, it is the passage through space which, strictly 
speaking, would have to be regarded as the first work of 
the diffused force ; the work done upon its arrival at the 
distant object would be only second and subsequent, for its 
presence as force would not be felt by the object until it had 
come into the necessary contact with it. It must not how- 
ever be supposed that after the force has come into Being, 
a blank space of time / is required to pass before the motion 
begins to be transmitted ; nor again, that after the force has 
reached its object, and so secured its control over it, it 

should require a similar space of Time /, in order to take 
effect. If this space of Time /were really blank, everything 
would remain at the end of it as it was at the beginning, and 
the effect might just as well be expected to occur at the end 
of some other space of Time =n t\ if, on the other hand, any 
positive change in the phenomena takes place during this time, 
this change is a link, by means of which C, the imperfectly 
realised condition of the result /J is completed and perfected : 
that part of C, however, which was already present has, at 
the moment of its coming to be, immediately produced that 
corresponding part of F which it was adequate to produce. 
1 [C P . 198.] 


207. It will be objected that real events are, as I stated 
above, not related to each other in the same way as con- 
ditions to their consequences, because the result in the 
former case always follows the cause which produces it; 
but for this succession, events would be transformed into a 
system of cotemporaneous parts, which would differ only in 
the different degrees of their dependence upon the first of 
the scries : C and F, therefore, though it is true there could 
be no blank interval of Time between them, would always 
come into contact in the order C F, not in the order F C. 
This true remark again suggests an enigma, the insolubility 
of which we have already admitted. For succession in time 
could never arise from these contacts which occupy no time, 
however often repeated, between members which follow out 
of one another ; we should still have merely a systematic 
order if C and /'Mid not each fill a certain extent of time of 
its own; if they did, then, it seems, /''would have to wait 
till C had completed its interval of time. But even this is 
not a way out of the difficulty. Suppose C and /"both to 
consist of a series of parts following each other in unbroken 
succession, e.g. c^ c^, ^,/,,^,/r Are we then lo suppose 
that the occurrence of F is conditional on the completion of 
the group C? that it cannot, i.e. commence, until r 3 is reached, 
and that nothing of the nature offtakes place until this 
term is realised? There are facts enough which seem to 
confirm this view, and indicate that the result Pis attached 
to a specific determination of C. A closer examination will, 
nevertheless, not fail to show that the force C, all the time 
that it seemed to be increasing in amount without producing 
any effect, was really already occupied with the removal of 
hindrances which stood in the way of the occurrence of any- 
thing of the nature of F. When, at last, the amount r s is 
reached, this removal is completed, and from this point its 
first positive and visible effect commences, though not ab- 
solutely its first effect. As regards this effect, again, we do 
not believe that a finite amount of it, f lt arises suddenly so 


soon as C is ended. Rather, each smallest addition which 
is made to B, involves a correspondingly small addition to 
F\ but between these two occurrences there is no blank 
interval of Time ; f n corresponds to c n immediately. But 
the assumption we have made as regards C itself involves 
the same difficulty. If C remains unchanged during the 
whole space of Time /, which it is supposed to fill, there is 
no better reason why F should follow at the close of that 
time than at its commencement. If however we assume, as 
was assumed, that C traverses the series ^ c ti c^ then, as the 
order of the series is supposed to be fixed, each term must 
be the condition of the succeeding one, and as in the pre- 
vious case, if they are to form a succession in time, two 
adjacent terms can neither have any blank interval of time 
between them, nor can they be simultaneous. 

The conclusion to which this points is clear. The whole 
nature of Becoming is unknown to us, and we cannot re- 
construct the origin of it in theory. In this quite general 
sense, it is true to say that every operative condition and 
every force draws its consequences and its effects after it. 
But in order to do this, it is not so much the case that they 
need a lapse of time, as that they are this lapse of time 
itself; only because they are themselves in a process of 
becoming can they convey that same process to their con- 
sequences. But there is no measurable interval of Time 
between the condition c n and its true and immediate result 
/; there is nothing but the enigmatical fact of their contact, 
a fact which cannot be ignored any more than it can be 

If we now leave these general considerations, and return 
to the subject which first suggested them, that of forces 
acting at a distance, it must follow from the doctrine which 
has been stated, that, at the same moment that the force 
which is active in the element/ passes from c, 2 into <: 3 , there 
will be a similar transition in the element q, no matter how 
remote it may be, from f 2 to / 3 , provided that c and /are 


causally connected through that inner sympathetic affinity 
upon which all action depends. Moreover, just as c 2 in the 
element/ can only change into c 9 continuously, that is, by 
passing through all the intermediate values, in exactly the 
same way in the element ^,/ 2 will pass by succession into/ 3 . 
But the idea that a lapse of Time is required in order that/ 
should transmit its force to q at all, is barred, among other 
considerations, by that of the reciprocal action of the two 
elements, which is universally admitted to be a necessary 
assumption. No force could be diffused from/ towards q> 
nor could any force even originate in /, unless it were 
awakened and solicited in / by q\ on the other hand, q 
could not produce this excitation, unless it was invited by/. 
No action, therefore, could ever take place between/ and ^, 
if it were required that a force should first proceed from / to 
q ; for the only thing which could excite this force to set out 
from / would be the stimulus of another force starting from 
q j and this stimulus it would never have, because q would 
be waiting for an invitation from /. This connexion of 
mutual affinity between the elements, the source of their 
action upon each other, does not at one time or another 
come into existence through a diffusion of forces in space ; it 
always exists, thus rendering it possible that changes of state 
experienced by one element should involve corresponding 
changes in another. 

208. Owing to the boundless complexity of the manifold 
conditions which meet in the course of nature, we cannot 
expect to be able to explain every event directly from the 
joint action of the forces which combine to produce it. 
Hence, the desire has often been felt to discover certain 
customary rules by which, at any rate, the course of the 
natural world is regulated. It was hoped that in cases 
where knowledge of the special connexions between things 
is wanting, we might thus be enabled to establish equations 
expressive of general conditions with which the results, 
however unknown may be the manner in which they are 


brought about, must certainly correspond. Experience 
itself also leads us to the same ideas, whether, as some be- 
lieve, it is from this source that they are derived exclusively, 
or that they are preconceptions which experience merely 
confirms, and which, as it then seems, we must have arrived 
at independently. 

Opinions are divided between these two alternatives. 
The Realistic view inclines to treat general principles of this 
kind either as designations of mere matters of fact, which 
might have occurred differently, or else their universality is 
explained by what is called their self-evident truth, though 
its opposite is not regarded as strictly inconceivable. On 
the other hand, the Idealist view, which is that which we 
here adopt, can recognise no supreme law except the one 
unchanging purpose underlying the multiplicity of pheno- 
mena, and seeking for its realisation in them. At the same 
time, the Idealist, being unable to express the nature of this 
purpose, or the laws to which it requires that things should 
conform, cannot regard these universal principles, in so far 
as they are borne out by experience, as more than habits of 
nature on a great scale, valid within the circle of our obser- 
vation, but not infallible as regards the far larger sphere of 
reality which lies beyond the limits of Time and Space to 
which our investigations are confined. Hence, instead of 
establishing any positive truths, the duty which lies before 
me is the less grateful one of calling in question the un- 
limited validity of principles, the limited validity of which is 
one of the most important and unfailing aids to scientific 

209. One of the simplest of these truths appears to be 
the invariability and the conservation of mass. Though not 
especially, or, at any. rate, not invariably confirmed by the 
appearances of every-day life, this doctrine receives such 
universal support from the systematic view of science, that 
it would be superfluous to adduce any detailed arguments 
for its certainty. But now that it has been fully established, 


I cannot see in it any necessity of thought the late discovery 
of which need cause surprise. It may indeed be self-evident 
for a theory which regards the world as composed of indi- 
vidual and mutually independent atoms. Out of the ab- 
solute void, which would be all that would lie between these 
atoms, obviously no new real existence could arise; the 
principle that out of nothing comes nothing, would hold 
good absolutely. But this point of view we have been com- 
pelled to abandon. In order to conceive reciprocal action, 
without which no course of nature is intelligible, we were 
led to regard the individual elements, not as self-conditioned, 
but as depending for the beginning, continuance, and end 
of their existence on the determination of the one Being, 
from which their nature and capacities of action are derived. 
Now, it is certainly a tempting conclusion, but it is no 
necessity of thought, to go on to suppose that this one 
Being at least is a sum of reality which cannot be in- 
creased or diminished, and which changes only the forms 

of its manifestation. And we ourselves inclined above to 
this idea, when we admitted it to be natural that each 
individual qualitatively-distinguished element, i. e. each 
activity of the one existence, when conformably with the 
plan of the world it splits itself up into various elements, 
should have a diminished intensity in each of the parts 
so arising. 

But all this world of quantitative determinations has no 
significance outside that complexity of things and processes 
which the one and only true reality creates to express itself. 
It is only their meaning and function, and the value which 
they thus acquire, that give to the individual elements and 
forces the particular magnitudes they possess and exhibit in 
comparison with others. But what lies beneath them all, is 
not a quantity which is eternally bound to the same limits, 
and can only represent the same sum in different ways, how- 
ever variously divided. On the contrary, there is no reason 
why, if it is required by the Idea which has to be realised, 


one period of the world should not need the efficient ele- 
ments to be more, and another less, and why in the former 
case each part of the whole should not also exert itself with 
a greater degree of force on the rest. The history of Nature 
would then resemble a musical melody of varying strength 
of tone, the swellings and varyings of which do not spring 
from nothing, nor yet from one another, but each in its 
place results from the requirement of the whole. I do not 
mean to affirm that this actually is what takes place in 
Nature. Quite conceivably it may be part of the hidden 
purpose of the supreme Idea, that all its requirements should 
depend for their realisation on a fixed sum of real elements, 
and that the production of variety should be restricted to 
different adaptations of the same material. Still less ought 
we to be surprised if the course of Nature, so far as we can 
observe it, shows this to be practically the case. For, as far 
as we can see with clearness, we find Nature moving in a 
cycle, which makes it certain that forms once in existence 
will maintain themselves in existence. The only phenomena 
which suggest a progress wholly new, a progress which would 
go nearest to proving that the materials as well as the results 
are changed, are those which come from an antiquity so 
remote as to preclude exact investigation. It would, there- 
fore, be mere folly to call in question the principle of the 
conservation of mass, so long as we confine our view to the 
world of accessible facts, and to what we may call the retail 
dealings of the physical elements in it. But it is the busi- 
ness of Philosophy to be constantly reminding us how 
limited is that section of the universe which is open to our 
observation, and that the whole which comprehends it is a 
reality, though not one which we can make an object of 
positive knowledge. 

210. Similarly, the attempt has been made to conceive of 
the sum of motions in the world as a constant quantity. The 
general state of knowledge at the time when this idea was 
first entertained, did not admit of its being substantiated or 


even rendered probable by evidence derived from experi- 
ence. For, as long as the effects which things exercise 
upon each other were explained as due merely to communi- 
cated motion, the conclusion could not be evaded that 
contrary velocities of elements tending in opposite directions 
would neutralise each other either wholly or in part, and 
consequently that motion disappeared from the world with- 
out any compensation. And ordinary experience seemed 
to confirm this conclusion by an abundance of examples, 
which no one knew how to explain in any other way. On 
the other hand, it was seen that living Beings were centres 
from which fresh motions were initiated at every instant, 
which could not but be taken for really new beginnings. 
So that neither was there anything in experience which was 
inconsistent with the indefinite multiplication of motions. 
Nor, finally, did experience suggest at all that this increase 
and diminution must balance each other, so as to maintain 
a constant sum of motion. Such a conception originates in 
an hypothesis as to the general character of the course of 
nature. Such an hypothesis was furnished by the idea of a 
system, having no object but the maintenance of itself, and 
furnished with fixed resources* to this end : one of these 
means was the sum of motion, as it once for all exists, which 
in the economy of nature might not be spent, but only dif- 
ferently dispensed. 

Recent physical speculations tend to revert to this same 
idea. So many apparently fixed qualities and conditions 
of things have been already demonstrated to be a cease- 
less process, that it may be doubted whether there is 
such a thing as Rest at all, except in the indivisible 
moments of reversal in the minute oscillations with which 
all things are vibrating. Philosophy can have no motive 
for objecting to the assumption of such eternal motion 
as a matter of fact ; it is a mere prejudice to infer, that 
because from our point of view an element must be first 
supposed at rest in order that the results of varying motions 


which condition it may be understood, this quiescence 
must have been prior in reality, and that the impulse to 
motion is an addition for which it has to wait. At the same 
time, it is only as a fact, and not in any other light, that we 
can regard this perpetual motion. It implies, not merely 
that motions already in existence may be communicated, 
but also that fresh motions must be produced in cases 
where two motions are opposite, and their communication 
could only result in the neutralisation of both. This 
elasticity of things, without which it would be impossible for 
them to counteract the self-annihilation of motion, is only 
conceivable if there are inner states of their being capable 
of developing the forces from which motions spring. It is 
possible, though not probable, that effects produced at 
a distance against which there exists an unfounded pre- 
judice are conveyed in this way by means of motions 
transmitted from point to point of some connecting medium. 
But, even in that case, not only the conception of force, 
but also in a special sense that of force producing effects at 
a distance, is still indispensable, in order to explain each 
one of those countless communications of motion, the 
sum of which is usually held to compose the effects of 
force at measurable distances. If, however, force alone 
gives a sufficient reason for expecting that the motion 
will be replaced, which mere communication would permit 
to be lost in its antagonism, it cannot be supposed that 
force itself is the constant quantity which is in request; 
its intensity varies with the distance, though this is itself 
determined by force. The constant element in the course 
of Nature can only be an inner connexion between the 
circumstances which give rise to the operation of forces, 
a general law governing all combinations and connected 
successions of effects. It was thus that that most compre- 
hensive principle, the one which dominates our whole 
estimate of physical processes, that of the Conservation 
of Force, first suggested itself, in respect to which I proceed 


now, though only so far as the connexion of my views 
requires, to offer the following considerations. 

211. The simple principle, that out of nothing comes 
nothing, requires to be more precisely defined by the 
addition that even from something no result can follow, 
so long as that something, the event B, is only the condition 
or occasion of what is to take place, and remains just the 
same after the consequence ^has been produced as before. 
On the contrary, B must be sacrificed, either wholly or 
in part, in order to produce F. This is the difference 
so constantly referred to between a causal nexus of events 
and the merely formal connexion of conditions and con- 
sequences. Our ontological discussions proved to us that, 
in the simplest case of causation, at least two factors, 
a and b\ must enter into a relation e, and that the result 
which takes place consists in this, that a becomes changed 
into a, b into /3, c into y. Every effect, therefore, is the 
effect of two elements acting upon each other, neither of 
which can inflict upon the other a change in its condition, 
without paying a definite price for it by a corresponding 
change in its own. If a wishes by acting at a distance, 
whether in the way of attraction or of repulsion, to change 
the place of b, it can only do so by displacing itself in 
the opposite direction to a corresponding distance. There 
is no reason for excepting any single operation of nature 
from this general law ; it holds good even in those cases ot 
communicated motion when the process cannot be observed 
in all its details. It is not possible for a motion of one 
element, after imparting a certain velocity to a second, 
to persist unchanged in the first, ready to produce the same 
result again, and so increase its effect to infinity ; its in- 
fluence is exhausted in proportion to the degree in which it 
has been exerted. 

212. Certain corollaries, of different degrees of certitude, 
arise out of this general conclusion. If we assume that the 
course of nature includes occurrences differing in kind from 


each other, and not admitting of being represented as mere 
quantitative or formal modifications of a single homogeneous 
process, we shall not be justified in asserting that every 
occurrence, A, calls into existence every other, C, or admits 
of immediate application to its production. It would be 
quite conceivable that there was no way from A to C except 
through the medium of a third, B, A and C remaining 
unsympathetic to each other. If therefore it cannot be 
said that there is necessarily any reciprocal action between 
every A and every C, it is equally clear on the other 
hand that if such a relation does take place, a specific 
amount of A must be sacrificed in order to produce a 
specific amount of C. Nor is it logically necessary, or self- 
evident, that every connected succession of two occurrences 
A and C must be convertible. No doubt, whatever is lost 
to A in the process of producing C, testifies to an effect of 
C upon A ; but this effect is merely to impede A, and 
it is not a matter of course that every C which is able to do 
away with an A should therefore be able to call into 
existence an A which does not exist. That none the less it 
seems natural to us that this should be so, is due to the 
assumption which unconsciously we make to ourselves, that 
the economy of nature has no other object than self-con- 
servation. In a process which implied progress, the order 
of events might easily be so determined as that A should 
lead to C, but that there should be no way back from 
Cto A. 

It cannot therefore be asserted a priori, and as a self- 
evident truth, that all the processes in Nature must be 
mutually convertible backwards and forwards; how far 
this convertibility extends can only be learned by experi- 
ence. But, even in those cases in which it holds good, 
it is still by no means certain that the same amount c of 
C, which was produced by the amount a of A, and which 
therefore caused a to disappear, would now reproduce 
exactly the same amount, a, as was spent in its own pro- 


duction. That could not be unless it had been previously 
proved that there is in Nature no tendency towards pro- 
gress ; if there is progress, there can be nothing to make 
it impossible that each stage in a series of occurrences, 
a c, c a v #! c^ c^ a z , should contain the condition of an 
advance in the next stage. This assertion is at variance 
with ordinary ideas ; as, however, I do not intend to 
apply it to explain the actual details of the course of 
Nature, I shall merely repeat by way of justification what 
has previously been suggested, viz. that the nature of 
being and process is not limited by any premundane 
system of mechanics, but that it is the very import of 
this process which determines all the quantities in which 
the elements make themselves felt, and the consequences 
which their relations entail. 

Finally, if, proceeding on the assumption of the unlimited 
convertibility of mutually productive activities, we suppose 
that a and b enter into a varying relation c, the sum of 
the effects which one is able to exercise on the other will be, 
within certain determinate values of c^ a constant quantity. 
As each intermediate amount of c is reached, the capacity for 
action continues as regards that part of the possible total 
amount which it has not yet produced ; on the other hand, it 
has lost so much of its force as was required to produce 
the result thus far achieved; this loss can only be made 
good by restoring the elements to their original state, that 
is, by doing away with the results already obtained. If we 
call this capacity for future action potential energy *, in con- 
trast with kinetic energy 2 which is active at the moment, the 
sum of these two forces, when the two elements are related 
as above, forms a constant quantity. 

In the same way a sum of money M, so long as it remains 

unspent in our possession, has a purchasing power, and 

loses this power in proportion to the purchased goods 

which it acquires. Its original purchasing power can only 

1 [Spannkraft.] a [Lebendige Kraft.] 


be restored and applied to other objects by re-selling the 
goods. This example throws light upon the difficulties 
raised above. It would be impossible for us to know 
a priori that the potential force which the possession of 
the money would imply, could put us in possession of 
other objects by being itself got rid of; this exchange- 
ability depends, in fact, on highly complex relations of 
human society. Nor should we be any more justified in 
taking for granted that the goods, G, by being similarly 
got rid of, would put us again in possession of the money; 
and as a matter of fact, this convertibility, which in like 
manner presupposes the connexion of human wants, has 
its limits; for it is well known that by buying goods 
and selling them again, we are equally likely to gain and to 
lose. It is not the case, then, that in the conversion of 
trade every quantity reproduces the same quantity as that by 
which it was produced. It is of course obvious, and need 
not be urged as an objection, that this result is due to con- 
flicting circumstances, and to the influence which the 
nature of human business has in determining the relation of 
M to G ; it is to these dealings of men with each other, 
not to any essential peculiarity of M and G, that the fact of 
their standing in any relation is due. But this is the very 
point which I would urge against the over-confident pro- 
cedure of natural science. It does not appear to me self- 
evident that a perfectly adequate ground can be found for 
the mutual relations of the elements of Nature either, 
merely by considering their fixed characters M and G ; 
here, too, their exchangeable value may depend partly on 
some larger commerce of the world. At the same time, 
I have no doubt as to the practical truth of the principle of 
the Conservation of Force, within the limits of our ex- 
perience. Merely in the interests of Metaphysic I felt com- 
pelled to speak of these difficulties, and I wish now to make 
mention also of some accessory notions which have formed 
round this general principle. 



213. We are often told with enthusiasm how it has at last 
been shown that all the various processes of the natural 
world are produced by a single indestructible force never 
varying in its intensity, and that nothing changes except 
the form in which the ceaseless transformations of this force 
are presented. It is especially the important correspondence 
between mechanical work and heat, which, by a somewhat 
hasty generalisation, has given rise to this idea of a transition 
of forces into one another, and of a universal primitive force 
to which they are all subordinate. The satisfaction thus 
given to that feeling which compels us to comprehend the 
infinite multiplicity of things and events under some single 
principle, seems to me to be illusory. Lichtenberg once 
contrasted the early ages of the world, when mankind 
was equally ready to believe in God and in ghosts, with 
the present age, which denies both ; he feared compensa- 
tion in a future when all that would be believed in would 
be the ghosts. Something like this seems to have happened 
in the case before us. For after all we are only doing 
honour to a ghost, when we dream of an absolutely nameless 
primitive force, which, formless in itself, and consisting 

of nothing but an unnamed number of constant amount, 

assumes, as a trifling addition that needs no explanation, the 
changing names under which it is manifested. If, however, 
we reflect upon and realise the fact that this original force 
never exists in this naked and nameless shape, but is 
continually passing from one to another of the forms 
which it assumes, we are again admitting that what really 
gives to each phenomenon its character is the concrete 
nature of that which embodies the quantum of force, either 
wholly or partly, for the time being. The same reflexion 
would show that what makes the succession of changing 
phenomena possible, is a unity of meaning which pervades 
and connects all those concrete forms of being with one 
another. Finally, it would appear that the persistence 
of quantity through all this play of forces is only a mode in 


which the already existent reality manifests itself, and 
cannot be the source from which that reality with all its 
various forms originally springs. 

The latter view, which would reverse the true order and 
mistake the shadow for the substance, scarcely needs any 
further refutation ; more serious are the objections which may 
be raised against the general assertion which we admitted 
above, that the conservation of the same sum of force is as a 
matter of fact the rule of experience. In as far as we can 
reduce two physical processes A and C to comparable primary 
occurrences consisting in comparable velocities v of com- 
parable masses *, so far it may be shown that C which is 
produced by A, contains precisely the same amount of energy 
which A y by producing it, has lost. Where, however, the two 
elements do not admit of this exact comparison, and we have 
before us merely the fact that the specific amount a of A pro- 
duces the specific amount c of C, and, it may be, vice versa, 
it is an essentially arbitrary course to conclude that c and a 
contain the same amount of energy, merely distributed in 
each case in a different form. All that can be said is, that 
a and c are equivalent ', not that they are equal. It is possibly 

a just expectation that all the various processes of external 
nature will admit of being ultimately referred to variously 
combined motions of infinitesimal elements, and as regards 
these particular processes, the arbitrary interpretation referred 
to might be defended on this ground ; but the general con- 
ception which underlies the principle of the conservation of 
Force must without doubt apply to one case in which no 
such expectation can be entertained ; I allude to the inter- 
connexion of physical and psychical processes. 

Whatever effect is produced on the organs of sense by an 
outward irritation /, whether it is simply received, or trans- 
mitted, or diffused, or changed, there must always be left 
over from the physical process a residuum /, to which 
the psychical process of the sensation s will succeed im- 
mediately; nor can we doubt that the strength of the 


sensation will change with the changes in the strength of 
i. Again, no matter what constitutes an act of will W, 
or how it may act upon other states of consciousness, 
or be limited by them, there must be ultimately a part of it 
/, from which the first motion,/ of the body and all its 
consequences take their rise, and in this case we do not 
doubt, any more than in the other, that the extent of the 
physical effect is determined by the varying intensity of w. 
Now according to all ordinary views of what happens in 
such cases, the mere fact that there is an i or w, con- 
sidered as an opportunity or occasion, is not enough to 
entail the existence of s or/ In order that the reaction 
may vary with the varying amount of the stimulus, the 
stimulus must be perceptible by that which it affects, in 
other words, must produce in it a change of state of definite 
amount. In the two cases before us, as in all others, it will 
be found that no effect can take place, i. e. neither that of 
the last physical movement upon the sensitive subject, nor 
that of the last mental excitation upon the first nerve-element 
which it acts upon, without a corresponding loss ; here, too, 
the productive energy is consumed, in whole or in part, 
in bringing about the result. But never will it be possible 
to refer / and s, or w and/ physical and psychical pro- 
cesses, to a common standard ; the members of each of the 
two groups may be compared with each other, but the unit 
of measurement in the one has nothing in common with 
that in the other. Granting, then, that here is compensation 
for physical energy by psychical or for psychical by physical, 
still in such a case as this there ceases to be any meaning 
in saying that one and the same quantity of action or work 
is maintained throughout ; all that is open to us is, to speak 
of an equivalence of two activities, such that a specific amount 
s p. of the one, measured by the unit /u, corresponds to a 
specific amount f m of the other, measured by the unit m. 
No one, however, can say whether these two activities are 
equal in quantity, nor which of them is the greater. 

Chap. VII.] A SINGLE FORCE. 101 

214. These considerations suggest certain others. In the 
first place, we may attempt to generalise from what has been 
discovered as regards these processes ; in all cases, we may 
say, the simplest fact, the fact which first meets us in 
experience, is this relation of equivalence between two 
processes or forces. We do not first discover that two forces 
are equal and like 1 , and therefore produce equal and 
like 1 effects ; but what we do first is to observe that they 
balance each other, or, that under the like circumstances 
they produce the like motions. From this equivalence 
which has been found to obtain between them in certain 
special cases we infer their quantitative equality \ at the 
same time we assume for the elements to which the 
forces in question belong, the qualitative identity which 
enables us to apply to them the same standard of measure- 
ment. I have no motive for entering here into all the 
indirect reasons and proofs which show in what a number of 
physical processes this assumption holds good ; I would 
refer especially to the idea of homogeneous mass and of 
its conservation understood as it has been above. Confining 
myself to the metaphysical aspect of the question, I wish 
merely to point out that the principle of the conservation 
of Force, or, as I prefer now to say, the equivalence of 
different effects, does not impose on us any obligation to 
reduce all processes in Nature to the single class of material 
motion. So far as the principle applies to this latter class 
it is only a special instance of that more general corre- 
spondence, existing between heterogeneous things as well, 
which we express by this wider term of ' Equivalence.' Far, 
therefore, from being a monotonous transmission of the 
same unchanging process, it might be that the course of 
nature is for ever producing unlike by unlike ; though the 
equivalence which the sovereign purpose of the world 
has established between these several disparate activities, 
would make the ' incidental view ' practicable and fruitful, 
1 [ Gleich,' cp. note on 19.] 


according to which we reduce the concrete varieties of 
phenomena to mere quantitative values of a single, abstract, 
uniform principle, just as we determine the value of the 
most different things by the same artificial standard of 

I know well how stubbornly this view will be contested. 
The very analogy we have used will appear defective ; the 
prices of things, it will be said, only admit of comparison 
because the things all serve more or less to satisfy human 
wants which themselves admit of comparison; and this 
implies that the effects of the things on us, and ultimately 
therefore that which is the source of those effects, must be 
homogeneous. I on my side am not less stubborn in 
the defence of my own view. I do not deny that in so far 
as different things have like effects upon us, we are able by 
means of an artifice to ignore their specific differences for 
the time being, and to regard them as differing only quanti- 
tatively; but the things themselves are not therefore like 
because they admit of this justifiable fiction. Even if all 
qualitative differences are pronounced to be mere appear- 
ances, yet the difference of this appearance still remains, and 
belongs no less to the sum-total of reality; the utmost, there- 
fore, that we can do will be to exhibit the external world as 
a mechanism of homogeneous parts which produces in us 
these appearances; but by no process of Mathematics 
or Mechanics would it be possible to deduce analytically 
concrete magnitudes from abstract ones, or magnitudes 
of different denomination from magnitudes of the same 
denomination. The process of the world is no mere com- 
bination of identical elements, but a synthesis of elements 
differing in quality and only connected by unity of plan. 

216. But are we really correct in what we have laid down 
with regard to physical and psychical processes ? Is it true 
that in this case also, the activity which occasions the result 
must necessarily be sacrificed in the process ? Long before 
the principle of the Conservation of Force had excited 


its present interest, I had pointed to this conclusion ; but it 
is not self-evident except upon the assumption which we 
adopted above, viz. that isolated elements can only be 
influenced by one another if they are capable of acting 
upon one another, and that no one element will adapt itself 
to another without requiring compensation for its amen- 
ability. But, it may be said, if all the elements, a and , 
must be regarded as moments of the one Jlfwith no in- 
dependence of their own, why should not the change of 
a into a suffice to give the signal, which is simply followed by 
the change of b into /3, according to the theory of Occa- 
sionalism ? Why should any special effort be required in 
order to bring about an affinity between the elements 
which already exists ? Still it is clear that if what this 
theory demands is conceded it cannot apply exclusively 
to the interaction of physical and psychical processes as 
an exceptional case. The same consideration would apply 
also to all that takes place between the elements of the 
external world. Even the atoms would find in M a constant 
bond of union, and what was experienced by one atom 
would be the simultaneous signal for changes in another, 
which would follow like premisses from their conclusion, 
without involving any self-sacrifice on the part of the first. 
If, however, we find that this sacrifice does as a matter 
of fact take place, as it certainly does in the external world, 
though it can scarcely be proved by experience in the case 
of physical and psychical processes, all that remains to us is 
to suppose that this fact too, is a constituent element in the 
purpose which finds or ought to find expression in the 
real world ; at the same time, we must not represent it as 
a condition imposed by some inscrutable necessity, without 
which the world as it is would not be possible. My only 
object in making this remark was to repeat, that if all 
conditions continued to exist simultaneously with their 
consequences (which is what would follow from the prin- 
ciples of Occasionalism), the world would appear again as a 


merely systematic whole, from which all change was absent. 
If, however, Becoming, the alternation between Being and 
not Being, is the very characteristic of the real world, 
it appears to me that the absorption of the cause in the 
effect is quite as necessary to that world as persistence 
is necessary to the conception of motion. For those signals 
which we spoke of could themselves have no signals for 
their occurrence except in the succession of effects ; they 
would be produced by one set of effects, they must dis- 
appear again in producing another. 

216. Amongst the general habits described as character- 
istic of the course of Nature, it is common to hear 
Principles of Parsimony mentioned. The conception is a 
very vague one, and even in the principle of least action 
the way in which it has been formulated is not without 
ambiguity. What it signifies is only clear in cases where 
there is some end in view which admits of being equally 
realised by different means, each however involving a 
different amount of expenditure. But the standard by 
which this amount is estimated is still dependent on 
circumstances, which make in one case the saving of Time, 
in another that of distance, in another that of material, the 

more important, or cause us to prefer an habitual method 
to the trouble of learning a new one. In order, therefore, 
to settle with any certainty the question as to the procedure 
which involves the least expenditure of means, a statement 
of the direction in which economy is most valuable must be 
included in the original definition of the end. 

This alone is enough to show what ambiguities are 
likely to be involved when this conception is transferred to 
the operations of Nature. Assuming that Nature follows 
certain ends, we do not know what these are, nor can we 
determine what direction her parsimony must take. The 
one thing which we should perhaps assert would be this, 
that nature is not sparing in matter or in force, in Time, in 
distance, or in velocity, all of which cost her nothing, but 


that she is sparing in principles. It is this kind of parsi- 
mony which we do in fact believe to exist in Nature, 
especially in the organic world; by variations of a few 
original types, by countless modifications of a single organ 
the variety of organic beings, we believe, is produced, and 
their different wants supplied. Here Nature seems to us, 
if it may be permitted to our short-sighted wisdom to say 
so, to be wasteful of material and Time, and to reach many 
of her ends by long circuitous routes which it would have 
been possible, by departing from her habitual and typical 
course, to have shortened. These ideas do not hold good 
of mechanics, since mechanical laws apply, not to any 
particular type of effect, but to any and every type. We 
know that, within certain limits, the various elements in a 
mechanical effect are convertible ; thus increase of velocity 
may make up for decrease of mass, and increase of Time 
for decrease of force. There cannot therefore be an 
economy in all elements at once for the attainment of a 
given end e\ we must look for the least expenditure in that 
combination of all the different elements which amounts to 
less than any other combination equally possible under the 


But this gives rise to a fresh ambiguity. If we look at 
the matter fairly, it appears that e, which we just now 
described as the end or aim, is nothing more than the 
particular occurrence <?, and it need not be said that the 
modes of activity which led to this result must have been 
exactly adequate to produce it. But, under the special 
circumstances in the given case, the modes of activity were 
at the same time the only possible ones which could give 
rise to e. For in order to follow a given path, it is not 
enough that it presents no obstacles, there must also be a 
positive impulse to follow it. It is therefore quite idle to 
excogitate different methods by which, theoretically, the 
end e might have been arrived at ; that would require that 
he should analyse precisely the starting-point A from which 


the effect is supposed to proceed, and then, after consider- 
ing all the several possibilities contained in A y that we 
should be able to determine that in this particular case the 
other methods were still equally possible. But this we 
shall never succeed in doing, for it involves a contradiction; 
it is true that the other methods may be, even in this 
particular case, all equally free from impediment, but there 
could not be positive inducements to follow them all 
equally; otherwise what would eventually take place would 
be, not <?, but J, the resultant of all these different induce- 
ments. If therefore we find on comparison that the method 
m by which the result e is actually reached, is the shortest 
of many conceivable methods, what makes the possibility 
actual reality is not that this method has been chosen out 
of many others equally possible ; rather we should say that 
m was in this case the only possible method, because any 
other direct method M, which might have led to the same 
result, lacked the conditions for carrying them into effect ; 
in a different case, where these conditions were present, the 
result E would be different and the shortest way to it would 
be M. We must not therefore speak of parsimony in the 
sense of an act of choice, the exercise of which is merely a 
peculiar habit, not a causal necessity, of nature. The 
utmost that we could venture to assert is, that the Laws of 
Nature are so devised that the shortest way to any given 
result is in every case a necessary result of the laws them- 

Yet even this statement would be no better than am- 
biguous. For the new truth which it seems to contain, and 
which makes it appear more self-evident than the preceding 
one, is similarly dependent on our arbitrary determination 
to regard as an end what is really only a result. It is true 
that according to the known law of reflexion a ray of light 
transmitted from the point a and reflected by the surface S, 
takes the shortest way to a point b which lies in the line of 
its reflexion, or again that according to the known law o( 


refraction, if refracted by an intervening body, it takes the 
shortest way to a point b in the line of its exit from the 
refracting medium. But by whose command did the ray 
proceed from a precisely towards this point b and no other ? 
That it arrives at this point is not to be wondered at, since 
it lies in the line of direction which the laws above 
mentioned prescribe to light ; but for this very reason the 
ray is not transmitted to any of the other innumerable 
points f, which lie outside that direction, and which might 
yet deserve to be illuminated no less than b. If we 
conceive the attainment of the point b as a sort of end 
which in some way or other reacts upon the means to its 
attainment, the shortest way would have been for the ray 
at once to change its direction at a and traverse the straight 
line a b \ this, however, was forbidden by the general laws 
to which it is subject, and the ray was compelled to follow 
a course not absolutely the shortest, but only the shortest 
conditionally upon the necessity of its reflexion. If, again, 
by an equally arbitrary assumption, we suppose a point c as 
that which has to be illuminated, those same laws of 
reflexion now appear in the light of hindrances which do 
not allow of the attainment of the end except by a longer 
way, not perhaps until the ray has been several times 
reflected upon many different surfaces. Hence, the only 
thing quite certain is this. In passing from any fully 
determined point A to the consequence E which flows 
from it, Nature makes no circuits to which she is not 
compelled but always takes the way which under the given 
conditions is the only possible but therefore also the 
necessary one. The parsimony of Nature consists in the 
fact that groundless prodigality is a mechanical impossi- 

Something more, however, remains. We can conceive 
laws of reflexion, e. g. which would require that each of the 
points on which a ray of light is to touch, though lying in 
the line of its projection, should yet be reached by a longer 


way than that by which they are reached as a matter of 
fact. That reflexion, once assuming its necessity, takes 
place according to the known law of nature in the shortest 
possible geometrical line, this and other like considerations 
may confirm the opinion above expressed, that the concrete 
laws of Nature are so constituted that it is a necessary 
characteristic of their operation to effect their results at the 
smallest cost. It will not, however, be doubted that the 
law of reflexion in question is itself a mechanically necessary 
consequence of the motion of light, not a codicil subse- 
quently imposed upon that motion by Nature from free 
choice and preference for parsimony. All that we come to 
finally, therefore, is the quite general conclusion, which is 
also perfectly obvious, that the order of Nature does not 
rest on a disconnected heap of isolated ordinances. There 
is contained in the fundamental properties of reality, taken 
together with the necessary truths of Mathematics, a won- 
derful rationality which at countless different points gives 
the impression of an elaborately concerted plan and fixed 
aims. That even the most axiomatic principles serve a 
purpose, is due not to any property implanted in them, as 
in some strange soil, after they have come into being, 
but rather in these axiomatic principles themselves there 
is a deep and peculiar adaptation to purpose, which might 
well furnish an attractive subject for further enquiry. 


The forms of the Course of Nature. 

217. I GAVE to this second book the name ' Cosmology,' 
intending to show that it would be devoted to the consider- 
ation only of those general forms and modes of behaviour, 
which enable us to represent to ourselves how manifold 
phenomena are connected together so as to form an ordered 
universe ; it remained for the facts themselves to determine 
with which amongst the various possible formations the 
outlines thus sketched should be filled in, and these facts 
which are what constitute reality in the full sense, it was 

proposed, therefore, to leave to Natural Philosophy. Yet 
after all, how easy it is to invent well-founded titles for 
sciences of the future. If only it were as easy to discover 
the facts which would fill up their framework ! But indeed 
we have not been able to establish much, even as regards 
those general tendencies of Nature, in spite of their seeming 
to be so near to the region of necessary truth. We found 

that they too were really dependent on the plan which is 
working itself out in the world. Still less shall we be able to 
show as long as we are in ignorance of that plan, that 
concrete processes and products, which can depend on 
nothing but it, are elements and stages in a systematic 
development. Such a hope was once entertained by Ideal- 
ism ; light and weight, magnetism and electricity, chemical 
processes and organic life were all made to appear as 
necessary phases in the evolution of the Absolute, the 
innermost motive of whose working was supposed to be 
known; not only so, but bold attempts were made to 


represent the varieties of plants and animals as following 
each other in a regular succession, and where a link was 
missing, to deduce it from the presupposed order of deve- 
lopment, explaining the previous oversight of it as an 
accident. I see no reason for repeating the criticism that 
history has passed upon these attempts. It was a delusion 
to suppose that the forms of reality, while still inaccessible 
to observation, could be deduced from a single fundamental 
principle : all that could be done with such a principle was 
to reduce to it the material already given by experience, with 
its attendant residuum of peculiarity which cannot be 
explained but must be simply accepted as a fact. It did 
not of course follow that the interpretation of given facts 
which these theories had to offer were ' wrong throughout, 
and they gave rise to many fruitful suggestions which 
subsequent science has thankfully followed, though they 
had to be put in a new light before it could utilise them. 
At the same time, there is one direction in which even the 
scientific views now prevalent require to be on their guard 
against the continuance of a similar illusion. 

The later exponents of those Idealist doctrines lived, like 
ourselves, under the influence of the cosmographical views 
which recent scientific enquiry had developed; far from 
participating in the fanatic notions of antiquity, according 
to which the earth was the centre of the Universe, and all 
things besides were merely subsidiary to it, they admitted 
the Copernican discoveries, and realised that they and all 
the exercise of their observation were fixed at an eccentric 
point in the small planetary system. Yet in spite of this 
they persuaded themselves that the spiritual development of 
their absolute was confined to the shores of the Mediter- 
ranean, and that its plastic force in the physical world was 
exhausted in producing the forms of plants and animals, 
neither of which, as they knew, could exist except upon the 
earth's surface. Now it is certainly an idle and profitless task 
to attempt really to imagine what the forms of existence and 


life might have been, had the circumstances been wholly 
different ; all such attempts result in mere clumsy redupli- 
cations of the forms of existence which experience presents 
to us. The just general conviction that Spiritual Life, the 
ultimate end of Nature, does not stand or fall with the 
earthly means which it uses for its realisation, cannot call to 
its aid any creative imagination capable of actually picturing 
another life of which we have had no experience. But, 
however mistaken may be the attempts which are made in 
this direction, the general conviction which inspires them 
will always remain valuable ; supposing physical science to 
be justified in assuming that certain physical processes pre- 
vail without variation over the whole universe, it would still 
be premature to assert a universal uniformity, which ex- 
cluded any idea of forces peculiar in character and un- 
exampled on the earth. So much the less ground is there 
for placing the concrete forms of reality, which no man can 
number, on the same footing with conceptions which, under 
the head of cosmology, we endeavoured to form of the uni- 
versal rules of action to which Nature conforms. The 
former, therefore, I leave to be dealt with by natural philo- 
sophy, and renounce the prevailing fashion of relieving the 
dryness of Metaphysical discussion by picturesque illustra- 
tions selected from the experimental sciences. 

218. It might, however, be truly objected, that though it 
may be impossible to deduce the concrete forms of nature, 
the reduction of them to the universal laws mentioned above 
is just one of the duties of metaphysic. I admit this duty, 
and only regret that it is one which no one can fulfil, not at 
least to the extent which the objection would require. The 
two points in which we seemed to run most counter to the 
ordinary view are, firstly, that of the phenomenal character 
of Space, secondly, that of the inner activity of Things, to 
which, instead of to external changes of relation between 
fixed elements, we ascribe the origin of events. Now, I 
have not neglected to insist in general terms on the necessity 


of starting from these inner states in order to explain even 
the possibility of that causative force which external circum- 
stances appear to exercise. A more minute investigation of 
them, however, seemed to be forbidden, by the admitted 
impossibility of knowing them ; and this would be the same 
even if more use were made than has yet been done of the 
hypothesis that their nature is spiritual. But this practical 
inapplicability does not impair the value of an idea which 
we found to be necessary, and to which no objection can be 
found either in itself or in the facts of experience. With 
respect to the Phenomenality of Space, I have argued at 
equal length and with a minuteness which has probably 
seemed tedious, that the appearance both of Space itself and 
of the changes which take place in it, is to be referred to 
real events which do not take place in Space, and I reserve 
for the Psychology what remains to be said by way of 
supplement to this ; but, in this case also, it seems to me 
quite unfair to require my view to be worked out in detail. 
Such a requisition, if it applied to the particular perceptions 
of every-day life, would be as extravagant as the demand not 
merely to see what takes place before us, but at the same 
time to know the physical causes which make all that we 
see present itself to sight just as it does ; only that here 

what we should ask to see through would be not physical 
causes but the supersensuous relations which the elements 
assume in the universal plan, and to which their appearance 
in Space is due. 

Perhaps, however, no more is required than that in the 
case of the various main groups of natural processes, the 
hypotheses which had been constructed to explain them on 
the supposition of the reality of Space, should now give 
place to others equally capable of explaining the facts, on 
the understanding that true being does not exist in Space. 
If this is what is meant, I think the demand will in the 
future certainly be complied with, but at present this is im- 
possible, or, if approximately possible, is not to be regarded 


as a slight addition to what has been already done. In 
order to make such a translation of physics into metaphysics 
possible we should require first of alt to have the whole text 
which is to be transkted, incontrovertibly fixed and settled. 
Nothing can be further than this is from being the case at 
present. As things stand now, every hypothesis which is 
used in explanation of the several branches of natural phe- 
nomena, is compelled, in order not to ignore any peculi- 
arities of the object in question, to assume a plurality of 
original facts, which, though they may not be mutually in- 
consistent, exist only side by side, and are not derivable the 
one from the other. Still more untrustworthy is our know- 
ledge of the border-lands in which these various spheres of 
natural phenomena meet. What use then would it be to 
show what would be a difficult task in itself that these 
hypotheses can be replaced in all points, with equally fruit- 
ful results, by a view which substituted for the supposed 
objects and motions in Space, determinate supersensuous 
relations and excitations in the inner elements of true 
being? We should still have no other way of determining 
these internal states than that by which physics discovered 
the corresponding external ones : we should have to assume 

them as primary facts, which the phenomena in question 
required for their explanation. But Metaphysic, if once she 
set herself to this task, would have to do more than this ; 
she must be in a position to show that all these necessarily 
assumed individual facts are at the same time the logical 
consequences of those inner states, and that the nature and 
character of true being justifies the attribution of those states 
to it. As long as this, which is again in fact a kind of 
deduction of reality, is impossible for us, there can be little 
good and small hope of reward in the attempt to reduce 
sensible facts to supersensible ones. Leaving therefore any 
such attempt for another occasion, I will merely add a few 
general observations on the relation of speculation to the 
ordinary methods of experimental science. 



219. Man must make the best of what he has, and not 
decline valuable knowledge merely because it does not at 
once offer him the whole truth which he wishes to know. 
In every science there will always be a considerable gap 
between the most general points of view from which we 
should wish to regard the given objects, and the actual 
knowledge which we can possibly acquire about them ; and 
this gap proves nothing either against the Tightness of those 
ultimate points of view or against the value of the methods 
by which we succeed in investigating particular facts. We 
must beware of that doctrinairism, which will allow no con- 
clusion to be valid, unless it is reached by the method of a 
logical parade-ground, reminding us of Moliere's physician, 
who only demanded of his patient, ' qu'il mourut dans les 
formes.' In respect to applied Logic it must be granted that 
there is some truth in the cynical remark of the Emperor 
Vespasian. Every method is praiseworthy which leads to a 
sure result ; even the most monstrous hypothesis, if it really 
enables us to connect the facts together and to explain their 
mutual dependence, is better than the neatest and trimmest 
theory, from which nothing follows. Holding these views, 
I can have no sympathy with the often repeated attempts of 
philosophers to show that the fundamental ideas of Physical 
Science are inadequate, disconnected, and frequently incon- 
sistent. Without attempting to determine how much there 
is of justice or injustice in this indictment, I readily admit 

that it is in the main true ; but I am not so much struck by 
these defects, as filled with sincere and unmixed admiration 
at the manifold variety of consistent and reliable results, 
which, with such imperfect means at her disposal, science 
has established by unwearied observation and by brilliancy 
of invention. 

I hope and believe, also, that if science continues to work 
with the same conscientiousness, many truths, which now ap- 
pear only in necessary juxtaposition, and many others which 
are seemingly opposed, will enter into a nearer and better rela- 


tion, as different results of one and the same original pro- 
cess ; in fact that, as at the end of a long and complicated 
reckoning, a simple total will be left over, which the philo- 
sophy of the future will be able to apply to the satisfaction 
of its own special wants. This much to be desired result, 
however, can only be obtained in the first instance by means 
of clearly outlined hypotheses, framed so as to meet the 
observed facts, and modified and transformed so as to keep 
pace with each fresh discovery : it matters not that the ex- 
pression which our suppositions assume in this intermediate 
stage of discovery is imperfect in form ; the wished for 
simplicity and clearness of statement can belong only to the 
finished result. No other method can be substituted for 
this ; not that of Positivism, which bids us be content with 
general formulae for the observed connexion of facts without 
introducing ideas about the inner connexion of things, 
advice which at first sight commends itself, but which is 
entirely fruitless in practice: not 'a lofty philosophic intui- 
tion which only a great poetic genius could delude men 
into regarding as an actual means to the discovery of truth ; 
not any speculative deduction, which hears only part of the 
evidence before rushing to its conclusion. These leave us 
where we were : Moses may stand on the mountain of 
speculation and pray that the laws of thought may be faith- 
fully observed ; but facts can only be brought into subjec- 
tion by what Joshua is doing in the valley. After this con- 

fession, my present object can only be to analyse those 
conceptions by the help of which philosophy distinguishes 
the wealth of natural processes into groups, seeing in each 
group either the operation of a specific principle, or a par- 
ticular application of general principles, and regarding them 
at the same time as contributing in different ways to the 
realisation of the all-embracing plan of Nature. 

220. The word mechanism, which has so many meanings, 
is used by modern schools of thought to describe sometimes 
a particular mode of action, sometimes a class of effects 

I 2 


produced by this action : in either case, the mechanical 
aspect of Nature is spoken of in terms of marked disparage- 
ment, as compared with another and different aspect, to 
which it is deemed inferior. What the word means is 
more easily learned from the customary use of language than 
from the conflicting definitions of the schools. All modern 
nations speak of the mechanism of government, of taxation, 
of business of any kind. Evidently, what is signified by it 
is, the organization of means either with a view to realising 
a particular end, or to being prepared for carrying out 
different but kindred objects. We do not, however, speak 
of a mechanism of politics ; we expect political ends to be 
effected by an art of statesmanship, and this we should 
blame, if we saw it working by mechanical rules. This 
distinction in the use of the term clearly expresses the 
limitation that the mechanical organization of means is only 
calculated for general conditions, common to a number of 
kindred problems, and meets the requirements in question 
by working according to general laws. 

Now, it is impossible to conform to a law in a merely 
general way ; every application of the law must give rise to 
a determinate result depending on a determinate condition, 
whereas the law in its general expression makes the de- 
pendence only general. It seems, therefore, up to a certain 
point to be part of the very essence and conception of a 
mechanism to take account of the differences in the par- 
ticular instances to which it applies. In the first place, the 
laws themselves which it obeys require that its effects shall 
be proportionate to the given circumstances ; next, the 
circumstances themselves, their peculiar nature, resistance, 
and reaction, modify the action and combination of the 
forces which it sets in motion also according to fixed laws 
and so enable it to produce the designed effect even 
under unforeseen conditions. The technical industry of 
the present day furnishes many examples of this self-regula- 
tion of machinery ; but whatever advances it may make in 


manysidedness and delicacy, it never escapes the limita- 
tions which popular language, as we saw, imposes upon the 
capabilities of mechanism. It is the ingenuity of the in- 
ventor to which alone the handiness of the machine is due ; it 
is his calculation, his comparison of the end with the means 
and the hindrances to its realisation, which has enabled him 
so to combine the forces of Nature, that they must now lead 
of themselves to the desired result according to universal 
laws of their own which are independent of him. His 
penetration may have enabled him to see disturbing causes 
in advance and to meet them by a combination of the 
means at his disposal so that the disturbances themselves 
liberate the reacting forces which are to compensate them ; 
even disturbing causes which he has not foreseen may by 
good luck be neutralised by the internal adaptation and 
power of self-adjustment of a machine. But all these 
favourable results have their limits. If they occur, they are 
the necessary consequences according to universal law of 
the joint action of the machine and its circumstances; if 
they fail to occur, the machine is destroyed ; the power of 
resisting the conditions has not been given it from without, 
by the genius of its inventor or by a lucky chance, and it is 
incapable of generating such a power of itself. 

Here lies the difference of statesmanship and every other 
practical art from what is mechanical. Every art, following 
as it does ends which cannot be realised of themselves, is 
confined to the use of means which it cannot make but can 
only find ; it cannot compel any one of these means to 
produce effects which are impossible or extraneous to its 
nature \ it can only combine together the means at its dis- 
posal in such a way that it will be compelled by the universal 
laws of their action to produce necessarily and inevitably 
the desired result. Every higher form of activity, conse- 
quently, which we are inclined to assume in Nature, even 
the most perfectly unrestrained freedom must, if it would be 
operative in the world, take just that mechanical form which 


is supposed at first to be inconsistent with its nature. The 
only privilege that distinguishes it, is the power of varying 
according to its aims the combination of the several me- 
chanical elements, and of taking first one and then another 
part of the mechanism for its base of operations, thus 
making each part yield its own results. But its capabilities 
come to an end as soon as its object is one which cannot 
be produced by any combination of mechanical operations, 
or as soon as it can no longer bring about that particular 
combination which would have the result in question. 

221. As regards the special meaning attached to the term 
'mechanism 7 in their explanation of natural phenomena, 
philosophers undoubtedly understood by it primarily a 
peculiar mode of activity, the range of which was still un- 
determined. But it was distinctly believed, at the same 
time, that there was a certain special class of natural pro- 
ducts, which was subject to the single and undisputed sway 
of the mechanical principle. I cannot subscribe to either 
of these two theories, except with essential reservations. 
Mechanism could only be defined in the sense in which it 
is employed in current language. Always determined by 
the given circumstances and general laws which lie behind 
it, never by the nature of an end which lies before it, it was 
contrasted (I shall return to this contrast later) as a concate- 
nation of blind and irrevocable forces with those organic 
activities which seemed to follow ends with a certain freedom 
though they were also liable to fail in their attainment. 
But even within the limits of what was called the inorganic 
world, mechanism was opposed and deemed inferior to 
chemism. While in the chemical sphere, owing to the 
elective affinities of the elements, the specific qualities of 
bodies were continually destroying old forms and properties 
and creating new ones, thus co-operating decisively in 
determining the course of events, mechanical action was 
depreciated as a mere external process, which never gives a 
hearing to the distinctive nature of things, deals with them 


all as mere commensurable mass-values, and therefore pro- 
duces no other effects but various combinations, separa- 
tions, movements, and arrangements of inwardly invariable 

But Philosophy ought never to have believed in the 
reality of a mode of activity which it regarded in this light. 
A man or an official might be reproached for executing 
general laws and regulations without regard to exceptional 
cases, which deserve special consideration and forbearance. 
Such action, which we blame as mechanical, only succeeds 
because the combined force of human society deprives the 
ill-treated exceptions of the power of resisting. But things 
are not hindered from defending themselves by any such 
considerations, nor can there be anything in nature to pre- 
vent them from asserting their special peculiarities in the 
production of each effect, to the precise extent to which, if 
we may speak of them as human beings, they have an 
interest in so doing. It will be objected, however, that it is 
not meant to conceive of this mechanical agency, after the 
analogy of the inflexible official, as an authority of nature 
imposing itself autocratically upon things from without; 
what is meant is merely a process which is indeed developed 
from the interaction of things themselves, but which derives 
its character from the very fact that the things have no 
interests of their own, that they have not reached the point 
of letting their individuality be seen and heard, but are 
content to behave as samples of homogeneous mass ; so far 
as this indifference of things extends, so far does mechanism 
extend. But even when stated in this improved form, the 
doctrine is not tenable unless either a physical process can 
be pointed out which takes place without being in any way 
influenced by the distinctive idiosyncrasies of things, or it 
can be shown that results in the final form of which such 
influences though really operative seem to have vanished, 
are to be considered as preconceived elements in the plan 
of Nature. All attempts to establish the first case are from 


our point of view based on a wrong foundation. After 
having maintained that a change of outer relations is only 
possible as a consequence of mutual solicitations in the 
inner nature of things, we can only regard a mechanism 
which combines things in mutual action without taking 
account of this inner nature and its co-operation, as an 
abstraction of Science, not as a reality. Science, no doubt, 
has need of this abstraction. Whatever distinctive differ- 
ences there may be between things, at any rate the contri- 
butions which they make to the production of a single event 
must admit of being expressed in values of comparable 
action. In order to be able to estimate their effects, we must 
refer the laws which govern them to certain ideally simple 
instances, zero values or maxima^ of their effective differ- 
ences, and then, after calculating our result upon this basis, 
subjoin such modifications as the concomitant conditions of 
the given case require. 

It is in this way that we arrive at the indispensable con- 
ceptions of mechanics ; the conception of a rigid immutable 
atom, from which every qualitative change is excluded ; the 
conception of an absolutely fixed body, from which we have 
eliminated any alteration of form and all other effects of 
composition ; at the principle, lastly, which may serve to 
express in the shortest form what we mean by mechanism, 
the principle that, if several forces act together upon the 
same object, no one of them has any effect on the tendency 
to action of the rest, but each continues to operate as if the 
rest were not present, and it is only these several and singly 
calculable effects which combine to form a resultant. Now 
none of these conceptions expresses anything which we can 
regard as occurring in actual fact, not even the principle 
last named. But supposing that this principle were not 
valid and indeed the limits within which it holds good can- 
not be fixed a priori supposing that the tendency to act 
of a force were altered by its relation to other forces working 
simultaneously, we should still require to make use of the 


principle, for we could not estimate the nature of the altera- 
tion, unless we first knew what the action would be un- 
altered ; for even though it does not occur in its unaltered 
form, it would still help to condition the variation which 
does occur. So far, however, as the principle does hold 
good, it merely allows us to measure results when they take 
place, it does not tell us how they take place : it is not the 
case that the forces have been indifferent and taken no 
account of one another : the truth rather is that they, or the 
inner movement of things which correspond to them, have 
taken this account of each other, only it happened that the 
resolution at which they arrived in this particular case was 
to the effect that each should maintain its former tendency 
to act, just as in another case it might have been that this 
tendency should be changed. From this it appears that 
these very processes which, as far as the form of their result 
goes, exhibit all the characteristics of mechanism, are not 
produced mechanically in this sense at all, and the whole 
conception of mechanism as a distinct type of action, based 
on the mutual indifference of things, must be banished 
entirely from the philosophical view of Nature. 

Nor does it receive more than a semblance of support 
from observation. Even in cases of impact, to which most 
of the so-called mechanical processes are reducible, there 
are produced along with the imparted translatory motion 
permanent or elastically neutralised changes in the form of 
the body impinged upon, besides inner vibrations which 
make themselves known as Sound or Heat. The number 
of these secondary effects, and the completeness with which 
the translatory motion is imparted, depends in every case 
on the inner interactions which hold together the ultimate 
elements of the bodies, depends, i. e. on forces which have 
their origin in the heart of things, and which differ from 
each other according as things themselves differ in quality. 
These inner effects we are accustomed, and for purposes of 
science obliged, to regard as secondary, and as disturbances 


of the theoretically perfect instance ; but in taking account 
of them as corrections to be added to the result which strict 
rules would give us, we are really correcting our own 
abstract conception of a pure mechanism, which, as such, 
has no real existence in Nature. 

222. As this is the case with regard to the first of the 
two alternatives 1 proposed, it remains that the Philosophy 
of Nature can only undertake the second. Looking only 
at the ultimate form in which processes result, it would be 
possible to arrange the facts of Nature in groups according 
as the qualitative nature of things, which is a constant factor 
in each process, was more or less apparent in the results. 
And this is naturally the course which Idealism would have 
followed, had it been consistent with itself. Its object 
being to point out phenomena in which as a series the ends 
of Nature were successively realised, it might have entirely 
disregarded the question how all these phenomena are pro- 
duced, and have considered them solely from the point of 
view of their significance, when once in existence. All the 
misunderstandings which have arisen between Idealism and 
the Physical Sciences, have been occasioned by this error 
of confounding interpretations of the ideal significance of 
phenomena with explanations of the causes which have led 
to their existence. Imposing on ourselves, then, this re- 
striction, we might seek, in the first place, for a department 
of processes where there seemed to be no trace at any point 

of the constant silent influence of the qualitative differences 
of things; or where, in case the elements producing the 
result were homogeneous, there was no sign of the perpetual 
return of the process into, and its reproduction out of, the 
inner nature of things. It would be in such a group of 
activities that we should have to look for the semblance of a 
perfect mechanism. 

In the small events which every day pass before us in 

1 [The treatment of ' Mechanism * a as a mode of Action, as a kind 
of Effect, v. Sect. 220 init.] 


changing succession, in the motions which partly at our 
instance, partly owing to causes which remained unobserved, 
bodies communicate to each other we do not find this 
mechanical action exemplified. In these cases, though 
varying in distinctness, those secondary effects are never 
wholly absent, in which the diversity of the co-operating 
elements manifests itself. We find what we are looking for 
only in the process of gravitation, or, more properly, in the 
revolutions in closed curves, which result from the attraction 
of the heavenly bodies and an original tangential motion. 
Attraction itself cannot be considered as an external 
appendage to the constituent elements of the planets : as 
these elements are different, the degree of attraction would 
have to vary to suit the nature of each part. But the 
different distribution in different planets of elements varying 
in the degrees of their reciprocal action, determines what 
we call the mass of the planets; and so after having in- 
cluded in the conception of this unchanging mass every- 
thing which related to the qualitative nature of the elements, 
we find ourselves able to calculate the subsequent motions 
of the heavenly bodies without assuming anything beyond 
their original velocities and directions, and the general law of 
the variation of force with distance ; and without being 
obliged to recur again to the inner nature of the elements, 
though it is from this that the whole result springs. It was 
this great spectacle of the universe maintaining itself per- 
petually the same, that claimed the attention of Philosophy, 
which saw in it the first stage of the self-development of 
thought in Nature, the exhibition of the universal order, 
which remains undisturbed by any inner movements of 
the particular. 

Next and in contrast to Gravitation or Matter, which was 
strangely identified with it, was placed Light, or rather 
(since a name was wanted which would include not only 
Light but also Sound) those undulatory processes, by means 
of which impulses diffuse themselves on all sides, without 


any considerable translatory motion. It was not altogether 
without reason that in these phenomena of Nature an 
analogy was found % to Mind; for it is through them, no 
doubt, that things convey to each other their fluctuating 
inner experiences, each as it were reflecting itself in the 
other ; so that a communication between them is established, 
similar to that which exists between the knowing subject 
and its object. It was owing to a misconception that 
speculative Philosophy refused to allow these processes to 
be classed under mechanism and treated mechanically. The 
equal diffusion of light compels us, no doubt, to explain 
the force with which each particle of ether communicates 
motion to the adjoining particle, as due to inner experiences 
arising from their constant and sympathetic relationship : 
but as it also leads us to assume that the ether consists of 
none but homogeneous elements, the further progress of 
this occurrence of transmission admits of being treated in 
precisely the same way as the motions of the heavenly 
bodies. It is only when these undulations come into con- 
tact with material bodies, i.e. when they are reflected, 
refracted, dispersed, that the quality of particular bodies 
makes itself felt in effects, which necessitate a number of 
new truths derived from experience and serving as starting- 
points for analytical deductions. I have no intention of 
discussing in this place the validity of those fruitful 
hypotheses, on the basis of which optics has raised her 
imposing edifice ; nor do I wish to replace them by others. 
I wished merely to justify to some extent the older specu- 
lation in its view, that these phenomena exhibit a new, 
characteristic, and important form of Nature's activity, a 
form in which the influences of the specific qualities of 
things are not indeed quite neutralised, but do not appear 
to dominate the whole process : the general form, in fact, 
of a still inoperative affinity between diverse and changing 

223. A different impression was produced by the 


phenomena of electricity and chemistry. Philosophy here 
encountered the doctrine of the two electric fluids, which 
had already been fully developed by Physics, and was thus 
confirmed in regarding this as the first case in which the 
qualitative opposition of things appears as really determining 
the course of events. The further development of this 
branch of Physics will certainly not be able to dispense with 
the special presuppositions, which have been framed in 
consequence of this view. There seems at any rate no 
prospect at present of explaining that peculiar notion of 
absorption or neutralisation, in which forces, once in full 
activity, evanesce without leaving any trace of themselves, 
as due to a mere opposition of motions, similar to the 
absorption of Light by interference. Such an explanation 
would still leave the question, what is the principle on 
which these conflicting motions are distributed amongst the 
bodies, from which the electric appearances are elicited? 
And this question could hardly be answered without rein- 
stating though perhaps in a different form and connexion 
the conception of a polar opposition of a qualitative kind. 
But this also does not concern us here : it is sufficient that 
electric phenomena, whatever may be their origin, in the 
form of their manifestation express precisely this idea of an 
opposition inherent in the nature of things. 

This influence of the specific nature of agents was be- 
lieved to be much more distinctly apparent in the case 
of chemical phenomena, which had likewise been already 
connected by Physics with electricity. The idea that in 
chemical as opposed to so-called mechanical action, the 
individual nature of things for the first time awoke, co- 
operated, and underwent inner transformations, was not, 
strictly speaking, supported by observation. Striking changes 
were frequently seen to take place in the sensible qualities 
of things, in consequence of mere changes in their com- 
position. Hence it was possible to suppose that other 
changes, the origin of which was not similarly open to 


experimental proof, might also be due to differences not 
directly perceptible in the arrangement of the ultimate 
particles and their resulting interactions. But the chemical 
process, according to that view of it which was favoured 
by Philosophy, was that, out of a and , a third new and 
simple product c resulted, in which both a and b are 
merged, though by reversing the process, they may again 
be produced out of it. This view, which obviously implies 
a constant and complete interpenctration of the active 
chemical elements, expressed the idea of which the pheno- 
mena of chemism furnished sensible illustration. As a 
Physical theory it remained barren, because it failed to ex- 
plain how similar combinations of elements can give rise to 
permanently different products, as also because it left out of 
account the manifold analogies between combinations of 
essentially distinct elements. 

To this view, there succeeded an exclusively atomic con- 
ception of chemistry. The elements a and b were supposed 
to subsist unchanged in the result c, and the properties 
above-mentioned were accounted for by the different posi- 
tions which the various samples of a and b may assume in 
the product c of their combination. I do not understand 
why the pictures which we often see of the structure of 
such chemical combinations should be accompanied by the 
warning that they are not to be understood literally. If 
they are only symbols, they at once lead to a metaphysical 
view, according to which we should speak, not of positions 
in Space, but of intelligible relations of varying intensity 
between the actions of the absolute, which present them- 
selves to us singly as chemical elements. If we shrink from 
making use of these certainly impracticable notions, of 
which I have spoken previously, and make up our minds to 
follow the ordinary view of the reality of Space, it seems to 
follow that either these graphic representations must be 
understood quite literally, or that they have no intelligible 
meaning at all. It is not, however, my purpose to describe 


the consequences which the atomic view of chemistry has 
had in general, and especially of late the hypothesis of 
Avogadro, in itself an entirely improbable one. I would only 
call attention to the fact that after all that can be said, our 
knowledge is limited on the one hand to the elements 
which enter into composition, on the other to the actual 
and probable typical forms which the composition finally 
assumes ; the process by which the combination takes place, 
i.e. the true chemical process, still escapes us. Our con- 
ceptions of it cannot be made to fit with the rest of our 
mechanical notions, unless we admit as new data both the 
original difference between the elements, not reducible to 
physical modifications of a common matter, and the special 
elective affinities of these elements, which determine their 
general capacities of combination and the proportions in 
which they will permanently combine. 

Even then one phenomenon, still remains dark, that 
which gave to chemistry its old name * Scheidekunst ' (art 
of division), the analysis of the combinations. Let us 
suppose that between all the elements, a b c . . . 0, the only 
affinity that exists is that of attraction in varying degrees of 
intensity. In that case if there is no new condition intro- 
duced, any reciprocal action between the two pairs a b and 
c d can only lead to their amalgamation a b c d, never to 
their fresh distribution into a c and b d. And even if the 
affinities between a and c> b and d, be ever so much closer 
than those between a and b, c and d, there cannot be any 
separation of the elements : the most that can happen is 
this, that an external force, if it were brought to bear upon 
the whole combination a b c d which would be the neces- 
sary result of mere forces of attraction would detach a from 
b or c from d more easily than a from <r, or b from a. Any 
repulsion, therefore, must come from elsewhere than the 
results of attraction ; and as there is no evidence of direct 
repulsion between the single elements it can only be looked 
for in the circumstances which accompany the chemical 


process, or, as is probable, actually constitute it. These 
may consist in motions which disconnect the elements, or in 
the affinity of the elements to the different electricities, the 
polar antagonism of which may require them to move in 
these particular ways. 

But however that may be, my only purpose was to show 
that Philosophy was right in ascribing to the qualitative 
differences of things a decisive influence in the sphere of 
chemistry, wrong in denying any such influence in that 
of mechanics : and that therefore though the opposition be- 
tween these processes of nature is not without some reason 
in it, it is practically impossible to draw a sharp line of dis- 
tinction between them, such as would separate their spheres, 
and assign to them two different principles of action. 

224. But all this has now scarcely more than a historical 
interest; the relation of forces to organic activities is still 
the subject of conflicting opinions. In an essay on ' Life 
and Vital Energy/ which forms the introduction to Rudolph 
Wagner's Hand-Dictionary of Physiology, I defended, six- 
and-thirty years ago, the claim of the mechanical view to a 
place in the science of Physiology, a claim which was at 
that time still much disputed. Scientific taste has now to 
some extent changed ; at present, not merely all the 
practical investigations of Physiology, but to a great extent 
also the formulation of its theories are dominated by the 
mechanical spirit ; those who are opposed to it, repeat the 
old objections, for the most part in the old form. If, 
though weary of going back to these matters, I proceed now 
to recapitulate shortly the conclusions which were developed 
in the above-mentioned essay, and subsequently in the 
'General Physiology of Corporeal Life' (Leipsic, 1851), it 
is chiefly for the sake of a remark which has been often 
overlooked, at the end of the essay, and which is to the 
effect that it necessarily contained only the one half of the 
principles which a complete biological theory implied. The 
other half would have touched on the question, how the 

Chap. VIII.] VITAL FORCE. 129 

mechanical treatment of vital phenomena, necessitated by 
the facts, harmonises with those requirements of an opposite 
kind, which the primary instincts of philosophy will never 
cease to make, as in times past. For this dispute is, in fact, 
an old one. I should have been able to go back to 
Aristotle, whose substantial forms ' extended the dominion 
of the activity of Thought far beyond living things, to which 
in the modern controversy it is confined, while already in 
antiquity the Aristotelian view was elaborately opposed by 
the Epicurean physics, which denied the activity of thought 
no less unrestrictedly. The question did not, however, 
become one of pressing importance, until, with the deve- 
lopment of modern science, a definite formulation had been 
given to the group of ideas, the application of which to 
explain life meets with so much opposition. Putting aside 
the more ethical, aesthetic, and religious grounds for this 
aversion, which it is not necessary here to examine, the 
theoretical motive which has prompted it has always been 
the same. The scanty knowledge which we possess of the 
formative influences active throughout the rest of nature, 
did not seem sufficient to explain the complex and yet fixed 
forms of organic life ; their germs at any rate, it was 
thought, must have an independent origin, even if in their 

subsequent development they were subject to the Universal 
Laws of Nature. But further, the peculiar phenomena of 
growth, nutrition, and propagation, the general fact of the 
interdependence of continuously active functions, and that 
of self-preservation in presence of repeated disturbances, all 
this seemed to demand the continued presence and opera- 
tion of that higher principle, to which had been attributed at 
first only the initial formation of the germ. Finally, the 
undefined but overpowering general impression of pervading 
adaptation, witnessed to the presence of an end which 
guided organic nature, rather than to a past which blindly 
compelled it. The conception of a vital force was the first 
form in which these ideas were united. 



225. As long, however, as this expression was merely 
thrown out in a general way, it could not serve to solve the 
difficulty, but only to indicate its existence. It was not 
allowable to follow the example of Treviranus, and explain 
everything from the byssus to the palm, from the infusorium 
to the monster of the sea, as living by Vital Force : the 
difference between the palm and the byssus had also to be 
taken account of ; every species of living things required its 
own special vital force, and every individual of the species 
needed its own share or its particular sample of the force. 
The general name Vital Force indicated, therefore, merely 
a formal characteristic, which could attach to many different 
real principles yet to be discovered. It was besides an im- 
proper use to make of the term force, which had been 
applied by Physics in quite a different sense ; the appro- 
priate word was impulse (Trieb). For when the general 
characteristic in question had to be described, the contrast 
was obvious. Every physical force always produces under 
the same conditions the same effects, under different con- 
ditions, different effects; it is always conditioned by a 
general law, irrespectively of the ensuing result ; everything 

that under given circumstances the force can effect, it must 
necessarily effect, nor can any part of the effect be kept 
back, nor any addition be made to it which would not have 
been inevitable under the existing circumstances. To 
Impulse, on the other hand, we ascribe the power of 
changing its manner of operation, not indeed without 
regard to existing circumstances, but with regard at the 
same time to a result which does not yet exist ; a power of 
leaving undone much that it might do, and of beginning 
something new instead which it is not bound by the given 
conditions to do at all. It had to be admitted, however, 
that the vital impulse never produces anything in a vacuum, 
but only works with the materials supplied to it by nature ; 
and thus arose the ordinary view of vital force as a power, 
which, though dependent in a general sense upon material 


conditions, is superior to the physical and chemical laws of 
matter, and gives rise to phenomena which those laws will 
not explain. 

220. I must take permission to refer to the above- 
mentioned essay for many details, which here I can only 
lightly touch on, but could not altogether omit without 
leaving constantly recurring fallacies only half-refuted. We 
are continually being told that no application of the im- 
proved means which we now have at our command will 
enable us to manufacture artificially a product which even 
remotely resembles a living organism. The fact must 
simply be granted. Neither cellulose nor albumen, nor any 
other of the tissue-forming substances of organic bodies can 
be produced by chemical art, although the distinction be- 
tween the ternary and quaternary combinations of organic 
life and the binary combinations of inorganic nature, which 
was once so much insisted on, has. long since lost its mean- 
ing : nor are we any longer under the delusion that these 
combinations last only so long as the vital force lasts, a 
delusion which any thoughtful student might have been 
disabused of from the first, if he had only thought of the 
wood of the table, at which he was writing, or of the pens 
and paper. Still, it is true that in none of our artificial 
productions is there any such connected series of chemical 
transformations, form-modifications and functions as could 
be compared with the growth, nourishment, and propagation 
of an organic Being : even the recently observed formation 
of cells out of inorganic substances, though worthy of all 
consideration, is not likely to prove the starting-point for 
new discoveries in this direction. But all that this proves 
is that in the present course of Nature, Life is a system of 
processes self-maintaining and self-propagating, and that out- 
side its sphere there is no combination of materials, such as 
would make the development of such phenomena possible. 
Nothing is thus decided as to the conditions under which 
this play of forces is sustained after it has begun, and yet 

K 2 


these must first be known before it can be determined what 
requirements a theory as to the first origin of Life has to 
meet. But neither the question concerning the origin of 
the whole organic world, nor the consideration whether in 
the future it may not be possible to add to it by artificial 
means, must be allowed to confuse the discussion here. 
The only point to be considered is, whether the vital force 
which organic beings as a matter of fact exercise in de- 
veloping themselves and resisting external injury, requires 
us to assume a principle of action, which is strange to 
the inorganic world ; and whether that other vital force, 
which such a principle of action is assumed to be, is 
conceivable in itself, and adequate to explain the given 

227. We shall require, in the first place, for the sake of 
clearness, to be definitely informed as to the nature of the 
subject, to which the activities included under the name of 
vital force are supposed to belong. There has been no lack 
of theories which endeavoured to meet this question fairly. 
Some have spoken of a universal substance of Life, which 
they found either in a ponderable matter, or in electricity, 
or some other unknown member of the more refined family 
of ether. Others regarded the soul as the master-builder 
and controller of the body, assuming at the same time that 
plants had souls, which was, to say the least, not a fact of 
observation. I will only mention briefly the common defect 

in all these theories. It is impossible to deduce difference 
from a single homogeneous principle, unless we have a group 
of minor premisses to show why the one principle should 
necessarily develop a at one point, b or c at another. As 
has already been said, we should always have to assume as 
many different material bases of life as there are different 
kinds of living things ; or else it would have to be shown to 
what subsequently arising causes it was due that such dif- 
ferent forms as an oak tree and a whale could be produced 
out of the one substance. In the latter case the develop- 


ment of Life would be at once brought again under the 
general conception of a mechanism. For mechanism in the 
widest sense of the term may be said to include every case 
in which effects are produced by the reciprocal action of 
different elements, of whatever kind, working in accordance 
with universal Laws; and such conformity to law would 
have to be assumed by all these theories ; they could never 
leave it open to doubt that, under the influence of an 
accessory condition a, the single principle of life would take 
shape in the product a rather than in b. 

But metaphysic has no interest in maintaining the claims 
of the mechanical principle, except in this very general 
sense; nor, on the other hand, will physics be so narrow- 
minded as to insist that it is precisely from these materials 
and forces which we now know, and according to the exact 
analogy of inorganic processes, that we are to conceive of 
the phenomena of organic Life. 'All that physics claims, is, 
that whatever kinds of matter, force, or energy remain yet to 
be discovered, must all fall within the compass of her in- 
vestigations, must all be connected together according to 
Universal Laws. Further, however, experience did not at 
all show that the choice between these accessory conditions 
was so unrestricted. It is not the case that every organic 
kind requires as the basis of its existence peculiar kinds of 
matter which it places at the disposal of the one vital force. 
The most different products of Nature are all constructed 

from the same storehouse of material elements, which are 
found on the surface of the earth. Hence, however peculiar 
the principle of Life may be in itself, it can never have been 
free from interaction with that same matter which we know 
to be also controlled by physical laws of its own. The 
principle might issue what commands it pleased, but could 
only carry them out (supposing the materials in question 
not to obey them spontaneously) by exerting those forces 
to which the matter is naturally amenable. We know that 
in all cases the contribution which is made by the several 


co-operating factors, to a result in the final form, may be of 
the most different amounts. Thus it may be that the form 
which Life is to assume in any given case is already traced 
by anticipation in some specific kind of substance ; but the 
actual existence of this life is always the result of mechanical 
causes, in which the original substance would be only prima 
inter pares, contributing just so much to the result as can 
arise according to general laws from its coming into contact 
with the other factors. But that that is actually the case, at 
any rate in the sense that there are certain kinds of matter 
specially privileged in this respect, could not in any way be 
proved ; the natural conclusion which the facts suggest is, 
that the phenomena of Life arise out of a special combination 
of material elements, no one of which has any claim to be 
called exclusively, or, in the degree suggested above, pre- 
eminently, the principle of life. The very fact which has 
been taken to imply a special vital principle, the fact that 
Life is only maintained by successive self-propagation, ought 
rather to lead to the conclusion that the germ of its develop- 
ment can only be found in a certain peculiar combination of 
material elements, which maintains and reproduces itself in 
unbroken continuity. It is, therefore, quite a matter of in- 
difference, whether we shall ever succeed in giving a name 
to the general form, or in exhibiting in detail the develop- 
ment, of such a material combination in which life is 
implicit ; the point is, that the supposition of a single Real 
principle of Life is both impossible in itself and quite barren 
of results, whilst on the other hand, the only thing which 
the mechanical view leaves unexplained is the ultimate 
origin of Life. I will reserve what I have to say on the Soul 
till later ; as it neither creates the body out of nothing, nor 
out of itself, it can have no special dignity as regards the 
construction of the body (whatever other dignities it may 
have) except that of being prima inter pares; it must work 
jointly with the material elements which are supplied to it. 
The conception of mechanical action, however, is wide 


enough to include that of a co-operation, according to uni- 
versal laws, between spiritual activities and conditions of 

228. It is the way of mankind to meet a theory not by 
direct refutation, but by expressing general dislike and 
pointing out the defects in the working out of it, and to 
magnify striking though unessential differences until they 
seem to be impassable gulfs. I should certainly never of 
my own motion speak of the living body as a machine, thus 
nullifying the distinction between the poverty of even our 
most ingenious inventions and the mighty works of Nature ; 
but those who are so morbidly anxious to leave out of ac- 
count in their consideration of life all those operations 
which they can stigmatise as mechanical, need to be re- 
minded that the living body and not inorganic Nature 
furnishes the models of the simple machines, which our art 
has imitated ; the pattern of pincers is to be found only in 
the jaws of animals ; that of the lever in their limbs which 
are capable of movement. Nowhere else are there instances 
of motions produced in articular surfaces by cords such as 
the muscles are, and of their guidance by ligaments in de- 
finite directions : it is the living body alone which utilises 
the production of a vacuum and the consequent inhalation 
of atmospheric fluids, the pressure of containing walls 1 upon 
their contents, and the valves which prescribe the direction 
of the resulting motion. How little does all this resemble 
that mysterious power of immediate agency which is most 
eagerly claimed for the vital force ! 

The exaggerated pictures of the superiority of living 
machines to artificial ones do not rest on any better found- 
ation. The comparison of an organism to a self-winding 
clock altogether ignores the drooping plant which can find 
no substitute for water, if water will not come to it, and the 
hungry animal which is indeed able to seek its own food, 
but yet dies of want if none is found. Irritability, or the 
1 [Of the heart and blood vessels.] 


power of responding to impressions, is said to be a dis- 
tinguishing characteristic of organisms ; when a given stimu- 
lus is applied to them, they are supposed to react in ways 
which are not explicable from the nature of the stimulus ; 
at the same time, it has been assumed that in mechanical 
action the cause and effect are precisely equal and similar, 
though not even in the simple communication of motion is 
this really the case, while organic life has been contrasted 
with it on the ground of a supposed peculiarity which is in 
fact the universal form of all causative activity. For it is 
never the case that an impression is received by an element 
ready made, merely to be passed on in the same form; each 
element always modifies by its own nature the effect of the 
impulse experienced. In a connected system of elements, 
the effects which will follow a stimulus will be more various 
and striking in proportion as the intermediate mechanism is 
more complex, which conducts the impression from point to 
point and changes it in the process. The same must be said 
of the power of recovery from injury which is supposed to 
belong peculiarly to organisms, and to prove clearly a con- 
tinuous adaptivity superior to anything mechanical. But if 
it were really the case that this force of resistance raised 
organic Beings out of the sphere of physical and chemical 
necessity, why was it ever limited ? If once it had become 
independent of mechanical influences there was no task 
which it need fail in accomplishing. But the numberless 
cases of incurable disease indicate plainly enough its limits. 
No doubt, when once its combinations of elements and forces 
have been fully matured the body is so well furnished for its 
purpose that even considerable changes in its environment 
produce reactions in it which avert or remove the disturbing 
influences which threaten or have begun to act upon it. 
But as in every mechanical product, there are limits to this 
power of self-preservation. There is no such power, where 
the body has not been blest at starting with these particular 
provisions, nor do we ever see the want supplied by the 


subsequent creation of fresh means ; we much more often 
see the means already at its- disposal forced into a reaction, 
which under the special conditions of the moment can only 
lead to further dissolution. 

229. I shall not continue this polemic further, having 
devoted sufficient attention to it before. I simply adhere 
now to the decision which I then expressed. In order to 
explain the connexion of vital phenomena, a mechanical 
method of treatment is absolutely necessary; Life must be 
derived, not from some peculiar principle of action, but 
from a peculiar mode of utilising the principles which govern 
the whole Physical world. From this point of view, an 
organic body will appear as a systematic combination of 
elements, which, precisely because they are arranged 
together in this form, will be able by conforming to fixed 
laws in their reciprocal action, and by the help of external 
nature, to pass through successive stages of development, 
and within certain limits to preserve the regularity of its 
course against chance disturbances. This makes me the 
more sorry that Physiologists should regard this view, which 
embodies the necessary regulative principle of all their 
investigations, as being also the last word upon the subject, 
and should exclude every idea which is not required for 
their immediate purposes, from all share in the formation of 
their ultimate conclusions. But they will never remove 
from the mind of any unprejudiced person the overwhelm- 
ing impression that the forms of organic life serve an end ; 
nor will men ever be persuaded that this marvellous fact 
does not call for explanation by a special cause. I know 
full well that as a thesis it may be maintained that every 
result which presupposes mechanical agency presupposes 
nothing more than this. Nor is this new ; long ago Lucre- 
tius declared that animals were not provided with knees in 
order to walk, but that it was because the blind course of 
things had formed knees, that they were able to walk. It 
is easy to say this, and it may be that it sounds particularly 


well when expressed in Latin verse ; but it is impossible to 
believe it; there is no more tedious product of narrow 
caprice than such philosophy of the schools. Yet it is 
unfortunately true that the conviction of a higher power 
working for an end, and shaping life with a view to it, has 
too often intruded itself rashly and confusingly into the 
treatment of special questions ; and this explains the un- 
willingness of conscientious enquirers to recognise what to 
them must seem a barren hypothesis. It cannot, however, 
be ignored that many of our contemporaries are animated 
by a profound hatred of everything that goes by the name 
of Spirit, and that, if a principle were submitted to them 
which seemed to bear traces of this, even though it was not 
opposed to any postulate of science, they would, none the 
less, turn away from it in indignation to enjoy their feast of 
ashes, and delighted to feel that they were products of a 
thoroughly blind and irrational necessity. Such self-confi- 
dence it is impossible to reason with ; we can only consider 
the difficulties which stand in the way of the acceptance of 
the opposite view. 

230. We must not stop short at those general accounts 
of the matter, which merely represent a higher power in any 
indefinable relation of superiority to mechanical laws with- 
out making the obedience of those laws intelligible; in 
speaking of this, as of all other forms of rational activity 
directed to an end, the first thing to do is to give a name to 
the subject from which the action is supposed to proceed. 
Now we certainly cannot speak of ' ends' with any clearness, 
except as existing in a living and willing mind, in the form 
of ideas of something to be realised in the future. Hence 
it was natural to look for this highest wisdom in God ; and 
not less natural was the desire to bring again into an 
intelligible relation the unlimited freedom of action involved 
in the conception of the divine essence, and the fixed 
course of Nature which seems to bear no traces of that 
freedom. Thus arises the theory upon which sooner or 


later Philosophy ventures, the theory that the world was 
created by God and then left to itself, and that it now 
pursues its course simply according to the unchangeable 
laws originally impressed upon it. I will not urge the 
objection that this view provides only a limited satisfaction 
to our feelings ; in its scientific aspect it is unintelligible to 
me. I do not understand what is meant by the picture of 
God withdrawing from the world that He has created, and 
leaving it to follow its own course. That is intelligible in a 
human artificer, who leaves his work when it is finished 
and trusts for its maintenance to Universal Laws of Nature, 
laws which he did not make himself, and which not he, 
but another for him, maintains in operation. But in the 
case of God I cannot conceive what this cunningly-contrived 
creation of a self-sustaining order of Nature could be ; nor 
do I see what distinction there , can be between this view 
and the view that God at each moment wills the same 
order, and preserves it by this very identity of will. The 
immanence of God in the course of Nature could not, 
therefore, be escaped from by this theory ; if Nature follows 
mechanical laws, it is the Divine action itself, which, as we 
are accustomed to say, obeys those laws, but which really at 
each moment creates them. For they could not have 
existed prior to God as a code to which He accommodated 
Himself; they can only be the expression to us of the 
mode in which He works. 

This unavoidable conclusion will not be at once nor 
willingly admitted: however much the world may be 
primarily dependent on God, the desire will be felt, that it 
should contain secondary centres of intelligent activity as 
well, not entirely determined in their effects by the me- 
chanical system of things, but themselves supplying to that 
system new motives for developed activity. It was this 
wish which was expressed by StahPs theory of the soul, 
when he spoke of it as moulding the body to its own ends. 
This theory was in so far correct that it conceived of the 


soul as a living and real Being, capable of acting and being 
acted upon with effect : but it missed its mark, because the 
formation of the body, in its most essential and irreversible 
features, is concluded at a time when the soul may perhaps 
have some dream of its future aim, but certainly cannot as 
yet have knowledge enough of the external world to be 
able to adapt the body to the conditions which life in that 
world imposes. Thus the advantages which the soul might 
seem to derive from its consciousness and power of taking 
thought for the proper development of the organism, are all 
lost ; and the only power of adaptation which it remains to 
ascribe to it is an unconscious one. Though this concep- 
tion is very frequently misapplied, it does not seem impossible 
to attach to it a definite meaning. All along, we have 
considered things as distinguished from each other by 
manifold differences : and although we cannot fully realise 
to ourselves what constitutes the essential character of any 
single thing, there is nothing to prevent us from assuming 
a certain difference of rank between them, such that when 
two things were subjected to the same external conditions, 
the one would manifest its nature in simple and uni- 
form reactions, the other in complex and multiform ones ; 
and these latter reactions might be such that each gave rise 
to some entirely new capacity in the thing, or that they all 
united to form a single development directed to a definite 
end. In that case, we shall possess in the soul a real 
principle at once active in the pursuit of ends and yet 
unconscious, such as would not be at variance with me- 
chanical laws ; for none of the possibilities that lie latent in 
-the soul would be realised, except through stimuli acting 
upon it according to fixed laws, and eliciting its develop- 
ment step by step. 

Clearly, however, in this case, the soul will no longer 
imply anything peculiar or characteristic ; once get rid of 
consciousness, and it becomes a mere element of reality 
.like other elements ; and that superiority of nature, which 


made it so pregnant a centre of manifold forms of life, 
might equally well be ascribed to any other element 
(making allowance for differences of degree) even though 
it possessed none of the characteristic properties of the soul. 
The question as to the true origin of the soul, leads to the 
same conclusion. If it is conceived as eternally pre-existent 
and prior to the Body, it must still be confined within the 
limits of the course of Nature ; what then is it, and where ? 
For to suppose that it suddenly becomes a part of Nature 
without having previously been so, is virtually to assign it 
an origin. If then it is always a part of Nature, we cannot 
help regarding it as one among other natural elements; 
and as there is no reason for supposing the other elements 
inferior, we must ascribe to them too, and in a word to all 
elements whatever, the same inner capacity for organic 
development. And here it seems as if we were once again 
brought back to the unfruitful idea of a common material 
basis of life. For the manifold forms which these elements 
assume, would depend on the different modes in which 
they were combined by the course of Nature ; hence, the 
form which is actually realised at any given moment, must 
be either the result of mere mechanical agenciesthough 
these may be of a higher type than any with which we are 
familiar in Physico-Chemical processes or else, supposing 
that traces of an independent activity still remain, the soul, 
which concentrates the different active elements upon this 
particular development, must come into existence afresh at 
the moment that they unite ; and the question then arises, 
Whence does it come ? 

231. This difficulty of finding a real subject, capable of 
formative activity for an end, has led to attempts to dispense 
with a subject altogether ; it was thought that the generic 
Idea or Type would be sufficient to account for such 
activity. Aristotle set the example with the unfortunate 
but often repeated remark, that in living things the whole 
precedes the parts, elsewhere, the parts precede the whole. 


This saying, no doubt, gives utterance to the mysterious 
impression which organic life produces; unluckily, it has 
been regarded as a solution of the mystery. And yet 
what truth can be more simple than this, that Ideas are 
never anything else but Thoughts, in which the thinker 
gathers up the peculiar nature of an already existing phe- 
nomenon ; or of one which he knows will necessarily exist in 
the future as soon as the data exist which are required to 
produce it ? It may be allowed that Reality is so consti- 
tuted, that from our point of view it is always exhibited in 
subordination to certain Ideas, general notions, or Types ; 
and we may accordingly go on to say that these Ideas hold 
good in reality and dominate it; but their dominion is 
only like that of all legislative authorities, whose commands 
would remain unobserved if there were no executive organs 
to carry them out. Never, therefore, in Organic Life is the 
whole before the parts, in the sense that it is before all 
parts ; it only has existence in so far as an already formed 
combination of parts guarantees that existence in the future 
as a necessary result of the germ here present, and not of 
the germ only, but also of favourable external circumstances 
acting upon it. Anyone who is not satisfied with this 
development of the whole from the parts, and desires to 
reverse the relation, will be required to show who the 
representative of the generic Idea is, who stands outside 
the parts and gives to the Idea, which in itself is merely 
potential, a real power in the real world. It must be 
shown where these Ideas reside, before they initiate a 
development, and how they find their way thence to the 
place where they are attracted to an exercise of their 

Quite recently, an attempt of a different kind has been 
made by K. E. von Baer. We could have wished that this 
deservedly popular investigator had succeeded in making 
out his point to satisfaction ; I cannot, however, persuade 
myself that his proposal to conceive of Nature as striving 


towards an end, really carries us any farther. If all that it 
means is, that the different forces, which are active in the 
construction of organisms, converge in different directions 
towards a common result, this fact has never been doubted ; 
nor, considered merely as fact, is it the subject of the 
present controversy. The question at issue is rather this ; 
is the cause which determines this combined action to be 
found merely in the course of things after they have once 
been set in motion ? i. e. does the convergence occur when 
there is this motion to produce it, and not occur when there 
is no such motion ? or is there anywhere a power not 
subject to this constraint of antecedent conditions, which, 
on its way to the attainment of an end, brings together 
things which but for it would exist apart ? Naturally, it is 
this latter view which is preferred here. Yet it is not clear, 
how this supposed tendency to an end would differ from 
that which might be ascribed, e.g. to falling stones, which, 
while converging from all quarters of the globe towards its 
centre, move merely in obedience to a universal law. It is 
the presence of purpose alone which could constitute that 
difference, converting the mere end of a process into an aim, 
and motion to that end into an impulse. Such a purpose 
Baer's theory accepts, and yet by banishing consciousness, 
which is presupposed by it, at the same time rejects. 
Finally, to whom is this tendency in the direction of an end 
to be ascribed ? It would not suit the character of the in- 
dividual elements, which, varying as they do in capability, 
tending now to one end, now to another, need some power 
outside themselves to inform them upon what point they 
have to converge in any given case ; and it is, in fact, from 
Nature that such a tendency is supposed to proceed. But, 
where is this Nature? It is allowable in ordinary discourse, 
no doubt, to use this term in such a merely general sense ; 
but in the particular cases in which the designation of 
Nature as an efficient cause is intended to decide in its 
favour the choice between it and other agents, there should 


be some more accurate determination of the conception of 
it, as well as of the metaphysical relation in which, as a 
whole, it stands to its subordinate parts. We propose now 
to supplement the theory in this point, and thus to bring 
our investigations to a close. 

232. The grounds which have led me to my final con- 
clusion have been expounded at such length throughout my 
entire work, that what I shall now add with regard to this 
much debated question will be only a short corollary. Men 
have created for themselves a false gulf, which it has then 
seemed impossible to bridge over. It is not with any 
special reference to the opposition which has to be recon- 
ciled between living Beings and inanimate Matter, but on 
much farther-reaching and more general grounds that I have 
all along maintained the inconceivableness of a world, 
in which a multitude of independent elements are supposed 
to have been brought together subsequently to their origin, 
and forced into common action by Universal Laws. The 
very fact that laws could hold good in the same way of 
different elements, showed that the elements could not 
be what they pleased. Though not directly homogeneous, 
they must be members in a system, within which measurable 
advances in different directions lead from one member 
to another ; on this condition only could they and their 
states be subsumed under the general Laws, as instances 
of their application. But the validity of general Laws, 
so established, was not enough to explain the possibility 
of their application in particular cases ; in order that they 
should necessitate one event at one time and place, another 
at another, the changing state of the world as a whole 
had to be reflected at each moment in those elements, 
which are working together for a common result. It would 
be idle, however, to suppose that the elements, being 
originally separate, required the mediation of some 'tran- 
seunt' agency which should convey to them the general 
condition of the world and stimulate them to further 


activity : rather, what is experienced by one element must 
become immediately a new state of another. Hence we 
saw that every action that takes place necessarily presup- 
poses a permanent and universal relation of sympathy 
between things, which binds them together in constant 
union, and which itself is only conceivable on the supposi- 
tion, that what seems to us at first a number of independent 
centres of energy, is, in essence, one throughout. It is not, 
therefore, to bring about any specially privileged and 
exalted result, that the assistance of the infinite Being M, 
which we have represented as the ground of all existence, is 
required ; every effect produced by one element on another, 
even the most insignificant, is due to the indwelling vitality 
of this One Being, and equally requires its constant co- 
operation. If there is a class of processes in Nature, which, 
under the name of mechanical, -we contrast as blind and 
purposeless with others in which the formative activity 
of the One Being seems to stand out clearly, the contrast is 
certainly not based on the fact that effects of the former 
kind are left to be governed by a peculiar principle of their 
own, whilst only in the latter does the one universal cause 
attempt after some incomprehensible fashion to subdue this 
alien force. In both cases alike the effects proceed solely 
from the eternal One itself ; and the difference lies in what 
it enjoined in each case, in the one case, the invariable con- 
nexion of actions according to universal laws which con- 
stitute the basis of all particular conditions, in the other, 
their development into the variety of those particulars. 
But, instead of repeating this line of thought in its generality, 
I shall endeavour to show how it applies to the special 
question now before us. 

233. The germ of an organic growth is not developed in 
empty Space, in other words, not in a world of its own 
which has no connexion with the whole of Things. Wherever 
the plastic materials are present, there the absolute One is 
likewise present ; not as an idea that may be conceived, not 



as an inoperative class-type, not as a command passing 
between the elements of a group, or a wish without them, or 
an ideal above them ; but as a real and potent essence 
present in the innermost life of each element. Nor is it, 
like divisible Matter, distributed among them in different 
proportions. It manifests itself in each one in its totality, 
as the unity that embraces and determines them all, and in 
virtue of the consistent coherence of its entire plan, assigns 
to each of these dependent elements those activities which 
ensure the convergence of their operation to a definite end. 
But the Absolute is no magician ; it does not produce 
Things in appropriate places out of a sheer vacuum, merely 
because they correspond to the import of its plan. All 
particular cases of its operation are based on a system of 
management according to law, adapted to its operation as a 
whole. But I must repeat : it is not here as it is with man, 
who cannot do otherwise ; rather this conformity with 
general principles is itself a part of what is designed to 
exist. Hence it is, that each stage in the development 
of organic Life seems to arise step by step out of the 
reactions which are made necessary for the combined 
elements by their persistent nature ; nor is there anywhere 
an exception to the dependence of Life on mechanical 

At the same time, we are never justified in speaking of a 
merely mechanical development of Life, as if there were 
nothing behind it. There is something behind, viz. the 
combining movement of the absolute, the true activity that 
assumes this phenomenal form. We may even admit that 
it apparently breaks through the limits ordinarily assigned 
to mechanical action. I have before mentioned, and I now 
repeat, that the principle of mutual indifference, which 
Mechanics has laid down in respect to forces working 
concurrently, is, if strictly taken, by no means justified as a 
universal law. It should rather be laid down as true 
universally that an element a when it is acted upon by the 


determining circumstance /, has, by this very fact, become 
something different, an a which = a p , and that a new force 
q will not exercise the same kind of effect on this modified 
element, which it would have exerted on it if unmodified ; 
that the final result, therefore, will not be a pq , or a( p+q ) but, 
a r . But this r could never be obtained analytically out of 
any mere logical or mathematical combination of/ and q \ 
it would be a synthetic accession to those two conditions, 
and thus not deducible except from the import of the entire 
course of things. This is expressed, according to ordinary 
views, thus the combination of several elements in a 
simultaneous action may be followed by effects, which are 
not mere consequences of the single effects produced by the 
reactions between every pair of them. That which we now 
wrongly regard as the universal and obvious rule, viz. that 
effects should be summed up in a' collective result without 
reciprocally influencing each other, would be only one 
special case of the general characteristic just mentioned. 
I shall not now enquire whether and in what direction 
Biological science will find itself compelled to recognise the 
possibility of this modification of effects ; we must, however, 
leave a place for it in our own theory. Its admission would 
not in any way invalidate our conception of the mechanical 
order, but only extend it further. For it would be our 
first position even with regard to these new grounds of 
determination, which intrude upon the course of events, 
that neither did they arise without a reason, but according 
to rules, though rules which are more difficult for our 
apprehension to grasp. But at the same time we should 
escape from regarding Life as a mere after-effect of a Power, 
which having formed the mechanism, had left it to run 
its course. The Power would rather continue to manifest 
its living presence and constant activity, as operative in the 
phenomena of Life. 

What direction our thoughts might have to take beyond 
this point, I am not now called on to decide. There is 

L 2 


nothing more to be added, which could be urged with 
absolute certainty of conviction against those who regard 
the whole sum of the effects produced by this ultimate 
agency, not less than the inner activities whence they 
proceed, as still but mere facts of Nature, a tendency 
which the course of things has followed from all eternity ; 
but which includes no element resembling what we under- 
stand by intention, choice, or consciousness of a purpose. 
Our view, it must be admitted, is no such very great advance 
upon the mechanical explanation of Nature, from which 
a refuge was sought. The development of the world would 
on it be no less a necessary concatenation of cause and 
effect; excluding all free initiation of new occurrences. 
Only the most extreme externalism would be avoided. The 
mechanism would not consist, at starting, of an unalterably 
fixed complement of forces, which would only suffice to 
effect changes of the position of existing elements. The 
mechanism would itself produce at certain definite points 
those new agencies which would be the proximate principles 
governing organised groups of connected phenomena. For 
my own part, I cherish no antipathy to the opposite view, 
which insists that this whole world of forces, silently arrayed 
against each other, is animated by the inner life of all 
its elements and by a consciousness which is that of an all- 
embracing spirit. I shall not even shrink from attempting, 
in the proper place, to show that there is a real Freedom 
which can give rise to truly new departures, such as even 
this latter Jbelief does not necessarily involve. But such 
a demonstration would transcend the limits of Metaphysic. 
It would lead us to consider a mysterious problem, which 
our discussions down to this point have bordered upon. 
I have already expressed the opinion that we must not 
merely credit things with a persistent impulse to self- 
preservation ; but are justified in assuming (as an hypothesis, 
and in order to explain the phenomena) an impulse to 
the improvement of their state. Now, if this hypothesis 


is conceivable in regard to the individual elements, it 
becomes almost necessary when we no longer speak of them 
as individuals, but conceive of them, both in their nature 
and in their actions, as manifestations of a single and 
all-embracing supreme cause whose mandates they execute, 
I should at the same time most unquestionably admit that 
this assumed tendency towards improvement, though it may 
be the ultimate ratio legis from which all special laws of action 
of things are derived, could never furnish us (since we can- 
not define this * improvement ') with anything more than the 
final light and colour of our view of the world ; it could 
never serve as a principle from which those laws could be 
deduced. But here, the same question which we asked 
concerning the vital energy, suggests itself once more If 
this endeavour after improvement is a fact, why does it not 
everywhere achieve its end ? Whence come all the hurts 
and hindrances by which the course of Nature, as it is, 
so often prevents from being fully satisfied the impulses 
which it nevertheless excites ? The conflict of forces in 
Nature, like the existence of evil in the moral world, is 
an enigma, the solution of which would require perfect 
knowledge of the ultimate plan of the world. Metaphysic 
does not pretend to know what this plan is \ nor does 
she even assert that it is a plan that rules the course 
of events ; for this would be inseparable from the idea of the 
purpose of a conscious being. But, if it limits itself to the 
belief, that existence has its cause in a single real principle, 
whatever its concrete nature may be, no considerations 
concerning these ultimate enigmas can affect the certainty 
of such conclusions. For, I wish here most distinctly 
to assert, that though I am old-fashioned enough not to 
be indifferent to the religious interests which are involved in 
these problems, the views for which I have been contending 
rest on a purely scientific basis, quite without reference 
to Religion. No course of things, whether harmonious 
or discordant, seems to me conceivable, except on the 


supposition of this unity, which alone makes possible the 
reciprocal action of individual existences. The disturbing 
effects which things exercise upon each other witness to 
this unity, not less clearly than the joint action of forces 
with a view to a common end. 

234. Similarly, the limits within which metaphysical 
enquiry is confined compel us to exclude from its sphere 
the much debated question as to whether the conception of 
a kind has really that objective validity in the organic 
world which we ordinarily ascribe to it. It will not be 
supposed that we are going to fall back into thinking that 
the type of a kind is a real self-subsistent principle, which 
makes its influence felt in the world by its own inherent 
force. The only question is docs the disposition of things 
as a whole require that the forms of combination which the 
forces active throughout the world assume in the production 
of Beings capable of existence and growth, should be 
limited to a certain fixed number ? or, on the other hand, 
may there not be innumerable forces intermediate between 
these types, and partaking in different degrees of their 
permanence and power of self-preservation, while the types 
only represent points of maximum stability? We must 
leave this question to be decided by the sober evidence of 
Natural History. Philosophy will do well to regard every 
attempt at an a priori solution of it as a baseless assump- 
tion. The bias of our minds in this case is determined by 
our own preconceived unverifiable opinions regarding the 
course of the world as a whole. Suppose, however, we 
assume that not merely self-conservation, but also Progress 
is a characteristic of the world as a whole, yet, even then, it 
would be conceivable that in the age of the world's history 
in which we now live, and of which we cannot see the 
limits, the forms of Life established by Nature might be 
incapable of addition, just as the quantities of those 
permanent elements which Nature uses in order to con- 
struct her products, are incapable of addition. According 


to this view, any forms in which things combined, owing 
to the influence of circumstances other than the forms 
determined by Nature, would have only a passing reality, 
and would be subsequently dissolved owing to the influence 
of the same circumstances which had produced them. On 
the other hand, nothing hinders us from introducing the 
alleged development within the limits of the epoch which 
we can observe, and regarding it as possible that new 
forms may come into Being and old forms pass away, 
and that what went before may gradually be transformed 
into what follows. The present aspect of the discussion 
on this subject forms part of a larger and more general 
question, the question, as to whether the world is finite 
or infinite. 

235. It is needless to discuss at length the question 
as to whether the succession of events in time is finite 
or infinite. We cannot represent to ourselves in thought, 
either the origin of reality out of nothing, or its disappear- 
ance into nothing, and no one has ever attempted to take 
up this position without assuming, as existent in the No- 
thing, an originating principle or agency, and ascribing to it 
previous to its creative act a fixed existence of its own 
which has had no beginning in Time. Hence, whatever 
difficulties may be involved in the attempt to conceive of 
the course of events in Time as without beginning or end, 
the idea itself is inevitable. Nor need we occupy ourselves 
at any greater length with the question as to the limits of 
the world in Space. If Space is to pass for a real existence, 
the only difficulty is in the infinity of Space itself, which in 
that case is the infinity of something real. I leave this 
assumption, therefore, to be dealt with by those who are 
interested in maintaining it. On the other hand, it does 
not at all follow, even if Space is infinite, that the world 
need occupy the whole of it, as long as the content of 
that world admits of the predicate 'finite.' It would be 
quite sufficient to say with Herbart that Space sets no limits 


or conditions to the world, but that it occupies just so much 
room in Space as it requires for its movements, and that 
thus its boundaries are perpetually shifting. My own view 
of the matter is almost to the same effect. Every change in 
the true reactions of real elements must find room within 
the infinity of our Space-perception for its phenomenal 
manifestation as space, position, and motion. But there 
is nothing to compel the real existences to fill up at every 
moment all the empty places which our Space-percep- 
tion holds in readiness for impressions that may require 

The question therefore resolves itself into this, whether 
the sum of real existence in the world is limited or unlimited, 
a question in reference to which we follow alternately two 
opposite impulses. On the one hand, the idea of infinity 
gratifies us just because we cannot exhaust it in thought, by 
enabling us to marvel at the immensity of the universe, 
of which we then readily acknowledge that we are but 
a part ; though, at the same time, by making it impossible 
for us to comprehend the world as a unity or whole, this 
infinity perplexes us. On the other hand, by conceiving 
of the world as finite, we are indeed enabled easily to grasp 
it as a whole ; but it vexes us to think that a hindrance 
to its being greater than it is should have been imposed 
from without. This last supposition, at any rate, is plainly 
absurd. The world of reality is the sole source from which, 
in the minds that form a part of it, the notion of these 
countless unrealised possibilities springs. Hence arises the 
false idea that the Real world is limited and conditioned by 
what it does not produce, though it is the Real world 
alone that does produce this empty imagination in our 
minds. And this misconception has then absolutely no 
limits. What would be the use of assuming an infinity 
of real elements, if each one of them was finite? Surely it 
would be still better that each element should be infinite. 
Yet even then we should still have only an infinite number 


of infinite elements. Why not, in order to get rid of all 
limitation, assume the existence of an infinite number of 
worlds, both of infinite magnitude themselves, and com- 
posed of elements whose magnitude was infinite ? There is 
therefore prima facie no objection to the finite character of 
real existence whereas, the character of infinity is opposed 
by Physics, not merely as inexhaustible by thought, but 
also as involving certain special mechanical difficulties. 
The unlimited distribution of matter would make impossible 
a common centre of gravity. No one point would have 
any better claim to be regarded as such than the rest. 
But what is our motive in looking for a centre of gravity ? 
and what exactly do we mean by it ? The supposition 
could not be entertained, unless it were regarded as self- 
evident that the same laws of reciprocal action which obtain 
between the particles of matter in 'our planet, and which we 
call Laws of Gravitation, obtain also throughout the whole 
range of existence. I well know how little precedent there 
is for doubting this fact. It is, indeed, ordinarily taken for 
granted without the slightest misgiving. And yet, in the 
absence of positive proof derived from observation, it can 
only be a bold argument from analogy. It seems to me by 
no means a self-evident fact, that all the real elements which 
are contained in the infinity of space, including even those 
which are stationed at the furthest points, are held together 
according to a single law by the uniting force of gravity, 
just as if they were mere samples of the mass to which 
it applies, and without individuality of their own. The Law 
of Gravitation is only known to apply to the bodies of our 
own planetary system. Besides this, there is only the con- 
jecture, which may be a true one, that certain of the binary 
stars are kept in their courses by a similar mutual attraction, 
the law of which we do not as yet know. But that the same 
influence by which one system of material elements is made 
to cohere, extends as a matter of course to every other 
coherent system in the Universe of Space ; this is by no 


means such an established and irrefutable truth as is, 
e. g. the uniform diffusion of the undulations of light through 
all Space. 

'For a reason which has already been several times 
touched upon, I am forced to proceed at this point by 
a different path from that which is ordinarily followed in 
the physical Sciences. If I really thought that the number 
of the real elements, or of the systems which are formed 
from such elements, was infinite, then, though I should 
certainly not regard them as having no connexion with 
each other, I should just as certainly not imagine that 
the relation subsisting between them was so monotonously 
uniform that they should be treated as mere samples of 
homogeneous mass endowed everywhere with the same 
force, so as to raise the question of their common centre 
of gravity. In each of these several systems the inner 
relation of the parts might be essentially peculiar, depending 
on the plan which governed its structure. Similarly, the 
several systems might be united by different kinds of rela- 
tions into the one universal plan. Not that, in insisting on 
this point, I have any wish to maintain that Real existence 
is infinite, any more than I wish to maintain that it is finite. 
I have no sympathy with the point of view from which this 
question thus conceived seems to be one of real importance. 
I have more than once expressed my conviction that every- 
thing is subject to mechanical Laws ; but I have at the 

same time asserted the essentially subordinate character 
of these Laws, when considered with reference to the 
Universe as a whole. I do not know if my expressions 
have been understood in the sense in which they were 
intended. Certainly they were not meant to imply that 
previous to the creation of the world there existed a fixed 
sum of real elements, along with a code of absolute me- 
chanical Laws, and that an organizing power then entered 
on the scene, and had to make the best of these resources. 
I have throughout taken as my starting-point the living 


nature of the real existence, that unity whose ess 
can only be expressed, if we are to attempt to real 
to our intelligence, as the import of a thought. Out c 
import there arose (what was not prior to it) the fundam 
system of most general laws, as a condition which Re 
imposes on itself and its whole action. But just bea 
dependent on this import, the system possessed a wealth v 
meaning and power of accommodation, adequate to provide 
not merely for the uniformity of processes which never 
vary, but also for the manifold variety of activities which are 
required by the animating idea of the Whole. I should 
be the last to deny the necessity and value of the other 
point of view which, as represented by modern mechanics, 
conducts calculations based on the abstract conceptions 
of Mass and its constancy : Force, and the conservation 
of Force, the inertia and invariability of the elements. 
Not only do we owe to this method the greater part of 
our present knowledge of Nature, but we may also safely 
assume it as a guide throughout the whole range of our 
possible observation. At the same time, I should be the 
last to ascribe to these notions, being as they are abstrac- 
tions out of the fraction of the world's course which is 
accessible to us, that metaphysical certainty which would 
fit them to serve as a key to the solution of questions 
which are such as to transcend all experience of this, 

What I have now to say in regard to the question of 
infinity has been already indicated in several passages 
of my work. If the reality of the world is to be found in a 
thought which fulfils itself in every moment, the question as 
to the finite or infinite character of this thought is as 
meaningless as the question as to whether a motion is sweet 
or sour. As regards, however, the different and ever- 
changing related points, by means of which the thought 
realises itself, we would remark, in the first place, that their 
number is not absolutely finite or infinite. It is not, indeed,. 


xed quantity at all. It is, at each moment, precisely 
the realisation of the thought demands and its living 
ity produces. This heterodox assertion I have already 
ured on, thereby placing myself in opposition to the 
ma of the constancy of Mass. Supposing we fancied that 
had a standard in terms of which the sum of real exist- 
ence at any given moment of its history = m^ it might very 
ivell at the next moment be found to = p. In the 
same way as the world might take up just so much space as 
t should require at any given moment, so the Idea which 
mimates it would create for itself just so many elements 
is are needed in order to accomplish its development. 
Not as if there had been some material substance present 
rom all eternity, which was afterwards merely differently 
distributed according as the Idea might require, nor yet as 
f the Idea created new elements out of nothing. These 
lew creations would spring from the Idea itself, which is the 
:ause of all things. Enough, however, has been said on 
:his point. It would be hopeless to attempt to bring these 
;houghts home to anyone who was convinced that a fixed 
quantity of matter had been ordained to exist from all 
eternity. Whether, at any given moment, the number of 
:he real and active elements is unlimited, or whether there 
ire certain fixed limits within which the numbers vary, 
t confess myself unable to say. The question itself involves 
:onfusion, until we have fixed on the unit the number 
3f whose recurrences is sought. It could have absolutely 
10 meaning for those who have admitted the infinite 
divisibility of matter. It would be intelligible only, if it 
arere held to apply to individual atoms or to separate 
md distinct groups of elements, as, e.g. the number of 
.he stars. Here I will only say quite shortly that I am 
:ontent to assume that the number of material existences 
s limited, provided it is understood that this number 
must suffice to enable them to carry out the behests of 
the Idea, and that if this same condition is fulfilled, I am 


equally content to conceive of their number as infinite. 
In this latter case, the impossibility of reckoning their 
number would be due merely to a defect in us. It would 
not be a fault on their side, or inconsistent with their 

236. The progress of observation has led us to the 
conviction that the formation of the earth's crust took place 
gradually, and that organic life could not have existed 
throughout the stages of this process in its present state. 
This imposes on us the necessity of attempting to show 
how the forms of life at present existing were developed out 
of earlier and simpler ones. In the heat of the controversy 
on this subject, care should have been taken not to confuse 
two questions which ought to be separated. Only one 
of them belongs to Metaphysic, that, viz. as to the determin- 
ing principles which have been active throughout the course 
of this development. I feel all the less inducement to- 
make any addition to the rapidly increasing literature which 
the discussion of this question has called forth, inasmuch 
as, before this controversy had begun to rage, I endeavoured 
to bring together whatever seemed to admit of being said, 
with any claim to respect, in favour of explaining all cases 
of adaptation as due to a fortuitous concourse of accidents, 
a view which has a recognised place in the History of 
Philosophy. In the second chapter of the fourth book of 
the Microcosmus, I treated expressly of this derivation of 
the Cosmos from Chaos, and I cannot convince myself 
that the more recent arguments from the same point of 
view add anything of importance to those well-known ones 
of former times which are there mentioned. I content 
myself with referring to what I then said in regard to 
the details of the question. My conviction on the matter 
as a whole needs not again to be stated here. The con- 
troversy will become milder with time ; at least this will be 
so, in so far as it is conducted in the interests of Science 
and not from a feeling of invincible repugnance to every 


Idea which is suspected of favouring the cause of Religion. 
An improvement in this respect is already to some extent 
visible. Those who pray too much are destined, says 
the proverb, to pray themselves through heaven and to keep 
geese on the other side. A better fate has befallen those 
who, out of a conscientious regard for the interests of 
Science, have felt themselves compelled to derive Organic 
Life from blind chance and purposeless matter. They 
have invested their original principles with so much reason 
and power of internal development, that nothing but the 
caprice of their terminology which keeps to the names of 
Matter, Mechanism, and Accident, for what other people 
call Spirit, Life, and Providence, seems to prevent them from 
relapsing into notions which they have before strenuously 

237. On the other hand, as regards the second question 
to be distinguished, that, viz. as to the actual development 
of Organic Life, this is purely a matter of Natural History. 
Philosophy is not concerned to dispute or to deny any re- 
sults of observation on this subject, which are based on 
sufficient evidence. Not even Religion should presume to 
prescribe to God the course which the world's development 
must have followed subsequently to its creation. However 
strange the path may have been, we might be sure that its 
strangeness could not remove it from His control. Con- 
sidering that the human body requires to be kept alive each 
day by absorbing into itself nourishment derived from com- 
mon natural substances, there can be no reason in claiming 
for it a manner of origin so exceedingly distinguished. And 
with regard to the whole matter we would say that man 
esteems himself according to what he is, and not according 
to that whence he arose. It is enough for us to feel that we 
are now not apes. It is of no consequence to us that our 
remote and unremembered ancestors should have belonged 
to this inferior grade of life. The only painful conclusion 
would be that we were destined to turn into apes again, and 


it was likely to happen soon. It seems to me, therefore, 
that from the point of view of Philosophy these scientific 
movements may be regarded with the most perfect indiffer- 
ence. Each result, so soon as it had ceased to be a favourite 
conjecture and had been established by convincing proof, 
would be welcomed as a real addition to knowledge. The 
very remarkable facts of Natural History accumulated by 
the unwearied research of Darwin, might be provisionally 
welcomed by Philosophy with the warmest satisfaction, 
whilst, on the other hand, the pretentious and mistaken 
theories based on those facts might be not less completely 
disregarded. All that Philosophy herself can contribute to- 
wards the solution of these questions is, to warn us against 
making unfounded assumptions, which, whilst they are 
themselves to some extent of philosophical origin, rob 
Science of its fairness. Whatever may have been the state 
of the earth's surface, which first occasioned the production 
of organic life, it cannot but be improbable that the required 
conditions should only have been present at a single point ; 
equally improbable, considering the diversity of the terres- 
trial elements which were subjected on the whole to uniform 
influences, that organic germs of the same kind only should 
have been generated at all points ; and finally, it is extremely 
improbable that this productive period should have lasted 
only long enough for the occurrence of an instantaneous 
creative act, instead of being so protracted that the con- 
ditions, slowly altering while it still lasted, might superadd 
fresh creations to the earlier ones instead of merely develop- 
ing their further phases. Nor is there any difficulty in 
imagining that these various organic beings, though pro- 
duced at different times and on different spots of the earth, 
would still present numberless analogies of structure. The 
equation which contained the conditions of the union of 
elements so as to be capable of life would restrict all possible 
solutions within determinate limits. Hence, according to 
what is at any rate the most probable supposition, Organic 


Life is derived from an original multiplicity of simple types 
having a capacity for development. 

Here we break off. We cannot pursue further the at- 
tempts which are now being made to arrive at an explana- 
tion of the first beginnings and the final destiny of things. 
Our knowledge of the present state of the globe and of the 
forces that act upon it, does enable us to form an idea, im- 
perfect indeed, but not contemptible, with regard to its fate 
in the future ; and it is of importance for Science to con- 
sider to what end the processes which we now see in 
operation would lead, supposing them to continue un- 
checked and to follow the same laws. From this point of 
view, we are able to appreciate those ingenious calculations 
which draw conclusions as to the final state of the world 
from our experimental knowledge of the economy of heat. 
They are, however, nothing more than the indispensable 
computations which draw out this portion of our physical 
knowledge into its results. For this purpose we are obliged 
to assume the continuance of the conditions which are oper- 
ative at present. Whether this hypothesis will be verified, 
or whether the end towards which things now seem to 
point, will not sooner or later be shown by fresh discoveries 
in a new light, no one can decide. At the same time, how- 
ever, the fate which most attempts to forecast the future by 
means of statistics have hitherto met, has been of the latter 
kind. Hence, we must be on our guard against crediting 
as a prophetic announcement with regard to the future, 
conclusions which follow, no doubt, necessarily on the 
arbitrary assumption that the given conditions are the only 
ones to be taken into account. Still less do we intend to 
busy ourselves with the fancies of those who relate to us, 
just as if they had been themselves present, how things were 
first produced ; how, e. g. the inorganic elements of the 
earth's crust found themselves united in the form of crystals 
capable of imbibition, and in systems endowed with life and 


growth; or, again, how the atmosphere of the primitive 
world settled upon the earth in the shape of protoplasm, 
and there struck roots of the most various kinds. This 
insatiable desire to get beyond the general principles which 
still admit of being applied to the investigation of these 
problems, and actually to conjecture those special circum- 
stances which are simply inaccessible to our knowledge, 
may, by way of palliation, be considered to be characteristic 
of that historical sense by which the present age is dis- 
tinguished, thus contrasting favourably with former ages, 
when, owing to their speculative bias, men sought for truth 
not in matters of fact but in ideas that had no reality in 
Space and Time. Yet I do not know in what the worth of 
history would consist, if facts were in truth only described 
as having occurred in this or that place, without any attempt 
being made to pass beyond the facts and their succession, 
and to lay bare the nerves which govern the connected 
order of things always and everywhere. But for this pur- 
pose history must above all things be true. Every fact of 
the Past which can be demonstrated by certain proof we 
shall esteem as a real and valuable addition to our know- 
ledge. On the other hand, those rash anticipations of 
knowledge, entertaining at first, but wearisome in their 
recurrence, have nothing to do with this laudable ' histori- 
cal sense,' but spring from the dangerous inclination to 
anecdote simply for its own sake. It is thus that our own 
generation, maintaining its opposition to Philosophy, en- 
deavours to console itself for its want of clearness in respect 
to general principles by a vivid exercise of the sensuous 
imagination. If we come upon pile-dwellings in some for- 
gotten swamp, we piously gather together the insignificant 
remains of a dreary Past, supposing that by contemplating 
them we shall grow wiser and learn that which a glance into 
the affairs of everyday life would teach us with less trouble. 
Compared with such objects as these how small a chance of 
notice have the Philosophical ideas, which represent the 



efforts of long ages to obtain a clearer insight into eternal 
truth. If only these ideas could be stuffed ! Then it might 
be possible that beside a fine specimen of the Platonic idea* 
and a well-preserved Aristotelian entelechy even the more 
modest fancies which in these pages I have devoted to 
speedy oblivion, might attract the attention of a holiday 




The Metaphysical Conception of the Soul. 

THE old Metaphysic of the Schools reckoned among its 
problems the construction of a Rational Psychology. This 
name was not meant to imply that the science in question 
could dispense with such a knowledge of its object as should 
agree with experience ; the design was merely to bring the 
general modes of procedure which were observed in that 
object into connexion with metaphysical convictions as to 
the possibility of all being and happening. I will not ask 
here how much or how little the science accomplished ; but 
I accept the end it set before itself as a limit for my own 
discussions. There is at present a strong inclination to- 
wards the empirical investigation of psychical phenomena, 
in all their manifold complexity, and I am not opposing 
this inclination when I confess some want of confidence in 
the trustworthiness of its results. Speaking generally no 
great doubt can be felt as to the nature of those associations 
of impressions, by means of which the whole of our sensuous 
view of things as well as the riches of our mental culture are 
in the last resort acquired ; but the ingenious attempts which 
have been made to demonstrate the way in which particular 
portions of this total sum actually came into our possession, 

M 2 


have not the same certainty. Often, instead of being 
founded on empirical evidence, they are merely descriptions 
of the modes in which we can without any great difficulty 
imagine the material in question to have originated ; some- 
times they are accounts of processes of the possibility of 
which we persuade ourselves only because we use as self- 
evident means of explanation mental habits which it is really 
our first business to explain. It is not my purpose, how- 
ever, to lessen the deserved sympathy which these valuable 
efforts have won ; but this book must come to an end some- 
where, and therefore they are excluded from it ; and my 
wish here is simply to overcome, for a moment at least, the 
disfavour which any metaphysical treatment of these sub- 
jects is apt to encounter. 

When we say that we adopt an empirical stand-point we 
must mean more than that we wish to stand still at this 
point ; we really intend it to be no more than the starting- 
place from which we may appropriate the field of experience 
around us. Now, considered as such a point of departure, 
the knowledge of those facts which are furnished by experi- 
ence is indispensable to every psychology alike ; and even 
those attempts which have been especially stigmatised as 
transcendent, are in the end simply interpretations of the 
material supplied by observation. The divergence of 
opinion does not really begin till we ask by what method 
we are to appropriate in the form of theory that which, from 
the empirical position, we all see with the same eyes. In 
speaking of the physical investigation of nature I pointed 
out how slight and how arduous its progress would be if it 
confined itself to bare observation and refused to connect 
the given facts by ftaming hypotheses respecting that nature 
of things which cannot be observed. And I may now 
appeal for confirmation to the excellent attempts which 
have been made in psychology to reach, at least at one 
point, the beginnings of an exact science the point I refer 
to is the question how the strength of a sensation is related 


to that of its external stimulus. For these attempts have at 
once become involved in a mass of theoretical and specu- 
lative problems, to the settlement of which a future ex- 
perience may perhaps contribute much but which it will 
certainly never completely solve. If then we are compelled 
to use as a basis some hypothesis respecting the connexion 
of physical and psychical phenomena, why are we to take 
the first hypothesis that comes to hand ? Why not go back 
to the most general ideas that we necessarily form respect- 
ing all being and action, and so attempt to define the limits 
within which we can frame suppositions, sometimes trust- 
worthy and at other times at all events probable? But, 
further, even supposing it were possible, in the investigation 
of this special subject, to find a point of departure which 
should be productive of results and yet should imply no 
fixed pre-judgment as to the nature of the subject, a diffi- 
culty would still remain: for though this freedom from 
pre-suppositions would be possible for this ^ particular in- 
vestigation, it would still be unacceptable to us as men. 
We may be warned to abstain from discussing questions 
which do not seem to be soluble by the special methods of 
a particular science ; but the warning will never deter the 
human race from returning to these riddles ; for a consis- 
tent opinion about them is not less important and indis- 
pensable to it than are those explanations of observed facts 
which in this field can never be more than fragmentary. I 
shall therefore attempt to extend these metaphysical con- 
siderations to the sphere of Psychology, and so to bring 
them to a conclusion. For the elaboration of many par- 
ticular points I may refer to the corresponding sections of 
the Mikrokosmus; here I wish to bring together the es- 
sential points treated in the Medicinische Psychologic, (Leip- 
zig) 1852), which I shall not reissue, and to show the 
metaphysical connexion which in those two works could 
not be sufficiently brought out. 
238. Let us leave out of sight, to begin with, anything 


which the earlier part of this enquiry might offer by way of 
foundation for what is to follow. If we do this, we shall 
have to confess that mental life is given us, as a fact of 
observation, only in constant connexion with bodily life. 
Accordingly the supposition at once suggests itself that this 
mental life is nothing but a product of the physical organi- 
zation, the growth of which it is observed to accompany. 
Yet such a view has never been more than a doctrine of 
scientific schools. We meet with the word ' soul ' in the 
languages of all civilised peoples ; and this proves that the 
imagination of man must have had reasons of weight for its 
supposition that there is an existence of some special nature 
underlying the phenomena of the inner life as their subject 
or cause. It is, I think, possible to reduce these reasons to 
three, of very different value. The first I will refer to, the 
appeal to the freedom which is said to characterise mental 
life, and is distinguished from the necessity of nature, has 
no weight. It is a conviction with which we begin our 
enquiry and to which we hold, that all events in external 
nature form an uninterrupted series of causal connexion 
according to universal laws ; but this necessity is not a fact 
of observation. There remain always vast tracts of nature, 
the inner connexion of which is simply unknown to us and 
which can therefore furnish no empirical verification of that 
presupposition. But, when we come to mental life, not even 
those for whom freedom is in itself a possible conception 

can regard it as the universal characteristic of that life. 
They can demand it only at one definite point, viz. the 
resolutions of the will. Everything else, the whole course 
of ideas, emotions, and efforts, is not only, in the souls of 
animals and men alike, manifestly subject to a connexion 
according to universal laws, but the denial of that connexion 
would at once destroy the possibility of any psychological 
enquiry; since it, like every other enquiry, can be directed 
to nothing but the discovery of conditions universally valid, 
239. The second reason which led to the conception of 


the soul was the entire incomparability of all inner processes 
sensations, ideas, emotions, and desires with spatial 
motion, figure, position, and energy ; that is, with those 
states which we believe we observe in matter, or which we 
can suppose it to experience if we see in it only what the 
physical view of nature gives it out to be. It is a very long 
time since philosophy recognised this incomparability, and 
it needed no new discovery or confirmation. It has escaped 
no one except those who, out of their prejudice in favour 
of a desired conclusion, have not been afraid of the logical 
error by which two different things are held to be of the 
same kind simply because as a matter of fact they are con- 
nected with one another. We may imagine a quantity of 
movements of material elements, and we may attribute to 
them whatever degree of complexity we choose; but we 
shall never reach a given moment at which we can say, 
Now it is obvious that this sum of movements can remain 
movements no longer but must pass into sweetness, bright- 
ness, or sound. The only obvious change we could ever 
anticipate from them would be into a fresh set of move- 
ments. We shall never succeed in analytically deducing 
the feeling from the nature of its physical excitant ; we can 
only connect the two synthetically ; and the physical event 
does not become a condition of the rise of the feeling until 
the sum of motions in which it consists meets with a subject 
which in its own nature has the peculiar capacity of pro- 
ducing feeling from itself. In this fact a limit is at once 
placed to all physiological and psychological enquiry. It is 
utterly fruitless to attempt to show how a physical nervous 
process gradually transforms itself (as we are told) into 
sensation or any other mental occurrence. There remains 
only the different but extremely important task of discover- 
ing what psychical event o and what physical stimulus a 
are as a matter of fact universally connected in the order of 
nature, and of finding the law by which a undergoes a 
definite change and becomes ft when a by a change equally 


definite (but definable only by a physical standard and not 
a psychical one) becomes b. This is a point at which the 
professedly empirical method and the metaphysical change 
their rdles. The former, in pursuing the dream of an 
identity of physical and psychical processes, leaves the field 
of experience far behind it and does battle with our most 
immediate certainty that they are not identical : the latter, 
when it refrains from describing an event which cannot 
occur at all, is not denying the connexion between the two 
series of events ; but it limits itself to a more useful enquiry, 
it investigates the laws according to which the results of 
that connexion change, and it forbears to ask questions, 
which to begin with at any rate cannot be answered, 
regarding the mode in which that connexion is in all cases 
brought about. 

240. On the other hand we must beware of drawing con- 
clusions too definite from this incomparability of physical 
and psychical processes. All that follows unavoidably from 
it is that we should reserve for each of these two groups its 
own special ground of explanation ; but it would be going 
too far to assert that the two principles, which we must thus 
separate, necessarily belong to two different sorts of sub- 
stances. There is nothing to be said at starting against the 
other supposition, according to which every element of 
reality unites in itself the two primitive qualities, from one 
of which mental life may arise, while the other contains the 
condition of a phenomenal appearance as matter. On this 
view, instead of having, on the one side, souls destitute of 
all physical activity and, on the other, absolutely self-less 
elements of matter, we might suppose that the latter, like 
the former, possess in various grades an inner life, though a 
life which we cannot observe nor even guess at, so long as 
it has no forms of expression intelligible to us. And with 
regard to the cause which would unite these two attributes 
in what exists, this theory would be as much within its 
right in refusing to discuss it as ours was in simply appealing 


to the fact of a connexion between two series of incompar- 
able processes. It seems to me that every mode of thought, 
which calls itself Materialism, ultimately rests on this 
supposition, or on a little reflexion must be led to it ; the 
matter from which such modes of thought would deduce 
mental phenomena, is privately conceived by them as 
something much better than it looks from outside. So it 
comes about that it can be held a fair problem, to deduce 
the mental life of an organism from the reactions of the 
psychical movements of the corporeal elements in the 
same sense in which its bodily life arises as a resultant from 
the confluence of the physical forces of those elements. 
And if we were confined to the external observation of a 
psychical life not our own, I do not know of anything per- 
fectly decisive that could be alleged against this supposition. 
But, according ta it, every psychical manifestation would 
be merely the final outcome of a number of components 
destitute of any centre : whereas our inner experience offers 
us the fact of a unity of consciousness. Here then is the 
third and the unassailable ground, on which the conviction 
of the independence of the soul can securely rest. The 
nature of this position I proceed to explain. 

241. It has been required of any theory which starts 
without pre-suppositions and from the basis of experience, 

that in the beginning it should speak only of sensations or 
ideas, without mentioning the soul to which, it is said, we 
hasten without justification to ascribe them. I should 
maintain, on the contrary, that such a mode of setting out 
involves a wilful departure from that which is actually given 
in experience. A mere sensation without a subject is no- 
where to be met with as a faot. It is impossible to speak 
of a bare movement without thinking of the mass whose 
movement it is ; and it is just as impossible to conceive a 
sensation existing without the accompanying idea of that 
which has it, or, rather, of that which feels it ; for this also 
is included in the given fact of experience, that the relation 


of the feeling subject to its feeling, whatever its other cha- 
racteristics may be, is in any case something different from 
the relation of the moved element to its movement. It is 
thus, and thus only, that the sensation is a given fact ; and 
we have no right to abstract from its relation to its subject 
because this relation is puzzling, and because we wish to 
obtain a starting-point which looks more convenient but is 
utterly unwarranted by experience. In saying this I do not 
intend to repeat the frequent but exaggerated assertion, that 
in every single act of feeling or thinking there is an express 
consciousness which regards the sensation or idea simply as 
states of a self ; on the contrary, everyone is familiar with 
that absorption in the content of a sensuous perception, 
which often makes us entirely forget our personality in view 
of it. But then the very fact that we can become aware 
that this was the case, presupposes that we afterwards 
retrieve what we omitted at first, viz. the recognition that 
the perception was in us, as our state. But, further, there 
are other facts which place in a clearer light what in the 
case of single sensations might remain doubtful. Any 
comparison of two ideas, which ends 'by our finding their 
contents like or unlike, presupposes the absolutely indi- 
visible unity of that which compares them : it must be one 
and the same thing which first forms the idea of a, then 
that of , and which at the same time is conscious of the 
nature and extent of the difference between them. Then 
again the various acts of comparing ideas and referring 
them to one another are themselves in turn reciprocally 
related ; and this relation brings a new activity of com- 
parison to consciousness. And so our whole inner world 
of thoughts is built up ; not as a mere collection of mani- 
fold ideas existing with or after one another, but as a world 
in which these individual members are held together and 
arranged by the relating activity of this single pervading 
principle. This then is what we mean by the unity of con- 
sciousness ; and it is this that we regard as the sufficient 


ground for assuming an indivisible soul As compared 
with the thousand activities of this unity involved in every 
act by which two ideas are referred to each other, it is 
a matter of indifference whether at every moment that 
particular act of relation is explicitly performed by which 
these inner states are apprehended in their true character, 
as states of this active unity. Although this reflexion is 
possible, we can think of many conditions which frequently 
prevent it taking place. But that it can take place at all 
proves to us the unity of the active subject which per- 
forms it. 

242. Further discussion is, however, needed, in order to 
show the necessity of our conclusion and to explain its 
meaning. First, as to its necessity : even if we admit the 
unity of consciousness, why are we bound to trace it back 
to a particular indivisible subject ? why should it not re- 
semble a motion which results from the co-operation of 
many components ; seeing that this resultant, like the unity 
of consciousness, appears perfectly simple and gives no 
indication of the multiplicity of elements from which it 
arose ? I answer : such an idea seems possible only be- 
cause we state the mechanical law, to which we appeal, in 
slovenly short-hand. We must not say, ' From two motions 
there comes a third simple motion :' the full formula is, 
When two different impulses act simultaneously on one and 
the same material point, they coalesce at this point into a 
third simple motion of this point ; they would not do so if 
they met with different elements, nor would the resultant 
have any significance if it were not a motion of that very 
same element in which they met. If we wish then to make 
an analogous construction of consciousness, it is indispens- 
able that we should mention the subject whose states we 
have to combine. Thus if a, b, c, . . . z are the elements 
of a living organism, each of them may have at once a 
physical and a psychical nature and each of them may be 
capable of acting in accordance with its two natures \ bujt 


the fact still remains that these actions cannot stream out 
into the void and be states of nobody, but must always 
consist of states which one element produces in other 
elements. Supposing this reciprocal action took place 
equally among them all, then the impressions received and 
imparted would be equalised, and the end of the process 
would be that each one of the elements would reach the 
same final state Z, the resultant of all the single impulses. 
If then Z were a consciousness, this consciousness would 
be present as many times as there were homogeneous 
elements : but it would never happen that outside, side by 
side with, or between these elements a new subject could 
be formed, privileged to be the personified common spirit 
of the society of interacting units. Doubtless, however, 
the homogeneity we have assumed will not be found to 
exist ; the constituents of the organism will differ from one 
another; they will be conjoined in accordance with their 
nature, and will have different positions, more or less 
favourable to the spread of their interactions; and at what- 
ever moment we suppose the course of these interactions to 
be finished, the result will probably be that the different 
elements will have reached different final states A, B, . . . Z, 
depending on the degree of liveliness with which each 
element has received the influences of the others, and on 
the measure in which it has succeeded or failed in con- 
centrating those influences in itself. In this case it becomes 
still more impossible than before to say which of all this 
array of resultant consciousnesses is the object of our 
search, the soul of the organism : but in this case as in the 
former, it is certain that there cannot arise, outside of and 
beyond all these elements, a new subject which in its own 
consciousness should bring together and compare their 
states, as we who are investigating can compare them in the 
linity of our consciousness. 

Our only remaining resource would be to fall back on the 
idea of Leibnitz and to say that although the countless 


monads which compose the living creature are essentially 
homogeneous, there is nevertheless among them a frima 
inter pares^ a central monad, which in virtue partly of its 
superiority in quality and partly of its favourable position 
between the rest, is capable of the intensest mental life and 
able to over-master all the others. This central monad 
would be what we call our soul, the subject of our one 
consciousness; the others, though they too have psychical 
movements of their own, would be for our direct inward 
experience as inaccessible as the inner life of one person 
in a human society is for that of any other. Thus the end 
at which this attempted construction would arrive would not 
be that it set out to reach. It too would have to recognise 
the absolutely indivisible unity of that which is to support 
our inward life : and, instead of the hope of showing this 
unity to be the resultant of many co-operating elements, 
there would remain the more moderate assumption that 
these many elements stand to the one being in manifold 
relations of interaction. Such a view has no longer any 
special peculiarity, beyond, first, the idea that all elements 
of the body have a soul-life, although this soul-life has not 
much significance for ours; and secondly, (though this 
applies only to the hypothesis I am describing, and not 
to Leibnitz) the doubtful advantage of being able to attribute 
to the one element which is the soul not only psychical 
predicates but the predicates of an element which is opera- 
tive after the fashion of matter. 

243. I said that the meaning of the unity of consciousness, 
as well as the necessity of assuming it, needed some further 
explanation. My remarks on this meaning ought to be 
saved by their connexion with the rest of a metaphysical 
work like the present from the misunderstanding with which 
my previous accounts of the subject have met. The con- 
clusion we have now reached is usually expressed by saying 
that the soul is an indivisible and simple substance ; and I 
have used this formula in all innocence, as an intelligible 


hame. How it can be misunderstood I have learned from 
the way in which my esteemed friend Fechner in his 
Atomenlehre characterises my view in opposition to his own. 
It was natural to him as an investigator of Nature, and 
probably his intimacy with the most eminent representatives 
of the Herbartian philosophy made it still more natural, to 
understand by substance a physical atom or one of the 
simple real ' existences ' of that school. But I had given no 
special occasion for this misunderstanding : on the contrary 
I had put forward the proposition which was censured and 
therefore could not have escaped notice ; ' It is not through 
a substance that things have being, but they have being 
when they are able to produce the appearance of a sub- 
stance present in them.' I have discussed this point at 
sufficient length in the Ontology, and have now only to 
show its consequences for our present question. When 
from the given fact of the unity of consciousness I passed 
on to call the subject of this knowledge existence or sub- 
stance, I could not possibly intend by doing so to draw 
a conclusion which should deduce from its premisses 
something not contained in them but really new. For my 
only definition of the idea of substance was this, that it 
signifies everything which possesses the power of producing 
and experiencing effects, in so far as it possesses that 
power. Accordingly this expression was simply a title given 
to a thing in virtue of its having performed something; 
it was not and could not be meant to signify the ground, 
the means or the cause which would render that perform- 
ance intelligible. Was substance to be one or many ? It 
would have been too absurd to suppose this power of 
producing and experiencing effects in general to have 
its ground in one universal substance, and then to 
expect that a grain of this substance, buried in each 
individual thing, would quicken this general capacity into 
the particular ways of producing and experiencing effects 
which distinguish that thing from all other things. On the 


other hand the supposition that each thing, instead of being 
carved out of the matter of the universal substance, is 
a substance on its own account would have at once led us 
back to our starting-point, and we should have recognised 
the name substance to be, what it really is, simply the 
general formal designation of every way of producing and 
experiencing effects, but not the real condition on which in 
each particular case the possibility of doing so and the 
particular way of doing so depends. I was therefore very 
far from sharing the view of those who place the soul in the 
mid-current of events as one hard and indissoluble atom by 
the side of others or as an indestructible real existence, and 
who fancied that its substantiality, so understood, offered 
a foundation from which the rest of its phenomena could 
be deduced. The fact of the unity of consciousness is 
eo ipso at once the fact of the existence of a substance : we 
do not need by a process of reasoning to conclude from the 
former to the latter as the condition of its existence, 
a fallacious process of reasoning which seeks in an ex- 
traneous and superior substance supposed to be known 
beforehand, the source from which the soul and each 
particular thing would acquire the capacity of figuring as 
the unity and centre of manifold actions and affections. 

The reason why, in spite of this, I thought it worth 
while to designate the soul as substance or real exist- 
ence, I shall mention hereafter when I come to oppose 
the pluralistic view suggested by Fechner: my point was 
not so much the substantiality as the unity of the soul, 
and I wished to emphasize the idea that it is only an 
indivisible unity which can produce or experience effects 
at all, and that these words cannot be applied in strict- 
ness to any multiplicity, an idea which I attempted to 
bring out more clearly in the Mikrokosmus, (i. p. xyS 1 ). 
But, relying on the fact that the imagination is accustomed 
to connect this idea of unity with the name ' substance ' 
*[E.Tr. 1.159.] 


or 'real existence/ I considered that these two expres- 
sions, even in that meaning of them which I have described 
and repudiated, might still, when once the true account 
of the matter had been given, be used as serviceable 
abbreviations of it. 

244. It is natural at this point to think of Kant's 
treatment of that Paralogism of the pure Reason which 
seeks to establish the substantiality of the soul. We may 
sum up his criticism thus : It is a fact that we appear 
in our thoughts as the constant subject of our states, but 
it does not follow from this fact that the soul is a constant 
substance; for even the former unity is in the end only 
our subjective way of looking at things, and there are 
many things which in themselves may be quite different 
from what they must needs seem to us to be. This last 
idea is certainly incontrovertible, but it does not affect 
the point which constitutes the nerve of our argument. 
I repeat once more, we do not believe in the unity of 
the soul because it appears as unity, but simply because 
it is able to appear or manifest itself in some way, what- 
ever that may be. The mere fact that, conceiving itself as 
a subject, it connects itself with any predicate, proves to 
us the unity of that which asserts this connexion ; and, 
supposing the soul appeared to itself as a multiplicity, 
we should on the same grounds conclude that it was 
certainly mistaken if it took itself really to be what it 
appeared. Every judgment, whatever it may assert, testi- 
fies by the mere fact that it is pronounced at all, to the 
indivisible unity of the subject which utters it. 

But, I am well aware, I shall still -be reproached with 
having neglected the fine and subtle distinction which Kant 
draws between the subject of our inward experience and 
the unity of the Soul considered as a thing in itself; he 
admits the unity of the former, but prohibits any conclusion 
to that of the latter. It is a difficult task, and one in which 
I have no interest, to dissect Kant's final ideas in this 


section of the Critique of Reason 1 ; I shall content myself 
with explaining clearly the difference between my view 
and that which I conjecture to be his. Kant is without 
doubt right when he is opposing that traditional argument 
for the substantiality of the soul, the object of which was to 
make that quality, when it had been inferred, a medius 
terminus for fresh consequences, as, for instance, that of 
immortality ; but he was mistaken when he looked on this 
inference as a further goal which it is our misfortune that 
we are unable to attain. In the very prohibition he utters 
against a conclusion from the unity of the subject to that of 
the substance, he admits that this conclusion would have an 
important bearing, if only it could be drawn ; and all that 
seems to him to be wanting is the links of argument which 
might justify us in bringing the soul under this fruitful con- 
ception of substance and all the consequences it legitimately 
involves. That Kant cannot free himself from this idea, is 
shown by a foot-note 1 which in the first edition of the 
Critique is appended to the doctrine of the Paralogisms. It 
runs as follows : ' An elastic sphere which collides with 
another in a direct line, communicates to it its whole motion 
and, therefore, (if we regard nothing but their positions in 
space) its whole state. Now if, on the analogy of such bodies, 
we suppose substances, one of which imparted to the other 
ideas together with the consciousness of them, we can ima- 
gine a whole series of these substances, of which the first 
would impart its state, together with the consciousness of that 
state, to the second, the second would impart its own state, 
together with that of the preceding substance, to the third, 
and this again would communicate to another, not only its 
own state with the consciousness of it, but also the states of 
all its predecessors and the consciousness of them. Thus the 
states of all the substances which had undergone changes, to- 
gether with the consciousness of these states, would be trans- 
ferred to the last substance : and in consequence this last 

1 [Kritik d. r. V. p. 290-2, Rosenkranz' ed.] 


substance would be conscious of all these states as its own, 
and yet, in spite of this, it would not have been the same per- 
son in all these states. 7 In this way, according to Kant, the 
identity of the consciousness of ourselves in different times 
would be possible even without the numerical unity of the soul. 
The various assumptions, which are made at starting 
in this note, are so strange that a criticism of their admissi- 
bility would be unbearably prolix : one can only say of 
them, Certainly, if it were so, it would be so. But if 
the communication of a completed state together with the 
consciousness of it is possible, why should we not go further 
and make an approach to the actual state of affairs by 
assuming that, over and above this, the fact of this com- 
munication will be an object of consciousness for the soul 
receiving it ? In that case the process would resemble 
the propagation of culture by tradition and instruction. It 
is in this way, at least, that the busy soul collects by 
industry the thoughts of its predecessors; but then it is 
at the same time conscious that the thoughts it receives are 
not its own, but what it has received. And fortunately 
there is another point at which the comparison fails; for 
the original possessor does not lose his thoughts by com- 
municating them. All this, however, matters nothing : but 
what is the meaning of the conclusion, 'and yet there 
has not been the same person in all these states'? The 
fact is the very reverse ; it was not the same sphere that 
served an abode for the personality ; but the person is one, 
in the same sense in which it is possible for any substance 
capable of development to be one, although at the begin- 
ning of its history it is naturally poorer in recollected 
experiences than it afterwards becomes : and what Kant 
maintains is nothing but a strange transmigration of the 
soul, in which the personality, while it grows in content, 
passes from one substratum to another. I will not dwell 
longer on the oddities of this unfortunate comparison ; but 
it shows and this is its only serious interest that there 


seemed to Kant to be some meaning in the idea, that 
beneath the concrete nature or content of anything there 
lies in the intelligible world a thing in itself, destitute of 
content, but serving as a means of consolidating the reality 
of the concrete thing, or useful to it in some other way, 
I know not what ; and that it makes some difference to the 
unity of consciousness, whether its substratum consists 
of the first, or second, or third of these things in them- 
selves, whether it is always the same one, or whether it 
is many of them in succession ; and this although there 
were even less difference between them than there is 
between those elastic spheres, the positions of which in 
space at least gives a reason for supposing that there 
is more than one of them. Nor was this at all the object 
which the Paralogism criticised sought to reach. No one 
who wished the doctrine of immortality to be assured, 
could concern himself with anything but that continuity of 
his consciousness which he desired not to lose ; he would 
be heartily indifferent to the question whether the thing 
in itself which was to be the substratum of that continuance 
occupied in the series the position n or (n -f i). 

I come back then to the point, that the identity of the 
subject of inward experience is all that we require. So far 
as, and so long as, the soul knows itself as this identical 
subject, it is, and is named, simply for that reason, sub- 
stance. But the attempt to find its capacity of thus knowing 
itself in the numerical unity of another underlying substance 
is not a process of reasoning which merely fails to reach 
an admissible aim ; it has no aim at all. That which is 
not only conceived by others as unity in multiplicity, but 
knows and makes itself good as such, is, simply on that 
account, the truest and most indivisible unity there can be. 
But in Kant's mind, so at least it seems to me, the prejudice 
is constantly recurring, that a thing may in a certain peculiar 
sense be unity, and that this is metaphysically a much 
prouder achievement than merely to make itself good as 

N 2 


jnity, since this last capacity may perhaps also belong to 
;hat which is not really or numerically one. 

245. A further question now becomes inevitable. On 
ivhat does this living unity of self-consciousness rest ? Or, 
to put the problem in its customary and shorter form, what 
is the soul, and how are we to decide respecting its destiny, 
if our decision can no longer be drawn from the claims 
ivhich might be advanced in favour of every substance 
is such, according to its traditional conception? Here 
igain I need only answer by recalling the preliminary 
:onvictions to which our ontology has led us. We know 
;hat when we ask ' what ' anything is, we commonly mean 
by this word two different things; firstly, that which dis- 
tinguishes it from other things, and, secondly, that which 
makes it a thing, like other things. The error which it was 
our object to avoid lay in the belief that, corresponding to 
these two constituents of our conception, there exist in 
reality two elements capable of entering into an actual 
relation to each other. But we found our most serious 
obstacle in the habit of adding to these two constituents of 
our idea a third, which though foreign to them is supposed 
to guarantee their connexion : this third constituent is that 
empty ' matter ' of existence on which the content of things 
is supposed to depend. To anyone who is disposed to 
agree with me in these ontological conclusions, it must 
seem utterly inconceivable that we should ask for the c what ' 
of a thing, and yet look for the answer in anything except 
that which this thing is and does; for that we should 
enquire as to its * being, 1 and yet seek this anywhere except 
in its activity. And in the same way here it must seem 
equally unintelligible that we should suppose we do not 
know the soul, because, although we know all its acts, 
we are unluckily ignorant of the elastic sphere to which, 
according to Kant's comparison, the nature manifested 
in these acts is attached ; or that instead of seeking the 
living reality of the soul in its production of ideas, emotions, 


and efforts, we should look for it in a nameless ' being,' 
from which these concrete forms of action could not flow, 
but in which, after some manner never to be explained, 
they are supposed to participate. But I have already 
disposed of these generalities, and will not return to them. 
Every soul is what it shows itself to be, unity whose life is 
in definite ideas, feelings, and efforts. This is its real 
nature : and if it were alone in the world, it would be idle 
to ask how this reality is possible, since we have long ago 
decided that the question how things are made is not 
admissible. It is only the fact that the soul is involved in 
a larger world, and meets with various fortunes there, that 
makes it necessary to seek within this whole the conditions 
on which its existence, and the origin or preservation of 
that existence, depends. Within this sphere the soul shows 
itself to be to a certain extent an independent centre of 
actions and re-actions; and in so far as it does so, and 
so long as it does so, it has a claim to the title of substance : 
but we can never draw from the empty idea of substance a 
necessary conclusion to the position which the soul occupies 
in the world, as though its modes of action had their ground 
and justification in that idea. 

It will be obvious against what view this remark is 
directed. A pluralism which considers the order of the 
world derivable from a number of elements, perfectly inde- 
pendent of one another, and subject only to a supple- 
mentary connexion through laws, naturally includes in its 
idea of the original nature of these elements indestructi- 
bility and immutability. Unless then the soul is to be 
connected with the juxtapositions of these stable atoms as a 
perishable side-effect, the only resource of this view is to in- 
clude it among the number of such eternal existences. Thus 
the soul can rely upon its rights as a pre-mundane substance, 
and rest assured that in no changes of the world, whatever 
they may be, can either an origin or an end be ascribed to it. 

The fact that this reasoning leads to a double result 


is, on the face of it, inconvenient. We might be glad 
to accept its guarantee for immortality, although no great 
satisfaction is given to our desires by a mere continuity the 
nature of which remains undecided ; but the other conclu- 
sion which is forced on us at the same time, the infinite 
pre-existence of the soul before the earthly life we know, 
remains, like the immortality of the souls of all animals, 
strange and improbable. Our monistic view has long since 
renounced all these ideas. The order of the world, the 
existence of all things and their capacity for action, it has 
placed wholly and without reserve in the hands of the 
one infinite existence, on which alone the possibility of 
all interactions was found to rest; and it has nowhere 
recognised a prior world of ideal necessity, from which 
things might derive a claim to any other lot than that which 
the meaning of the whole has given them in order that they 
may serve it. Our first and foremost result is therefore 
this : the question of the immortality of the soul does not 
belong to Metaphysic. We have no other principle for 
deciding it beyond this general idealistic conviction ; that 
every created thing will continue, if and so long as its con- 
tinuance belongs to the meaning of the world ; that every- 
thing will pass away which had its authorised place only in 
a transitory phase of the world's course. That this principle 
admits of no further application in human hands hardly 
needs to be mentioned. We certainly do not know the 
merits which may give to one existence a claim to eternity, 
nor the defects which deny it to others. 

246. We cannot pass quite so quickly over the question 
of the origin or genesis of the soul. How it can be brought 
about, or how the creative power of the absolute begins to 
bring it about, that an existence is produced which not only 
in accordance with universal laws produces and experiences 
effects and alterations in its connexion with others, but also 
in its ideas, emotions, and efforts, separates itself from the 
common foundation of all things, and becomes to a certain 


extent an independent centre, this question we shall no 
more attempt to answer than we have others like it. Our 
business is not to make the world, but to understand the 
inner connexion of the world that is realised already; and 
it was this problem that forced us to lay down our limiting 
idea of the absolute and its inner creation of countless finite 
beings. This idea we found it necessary to regard as the 
conception of an ultimate fact ; and we cannot explain the 
possibility of the fact by using the images of processes which 
themselves spring from it in a way we cannot explain. But 
when the life of the soul does arise, it arises before our eyes 
in constant conjunction with the physical development of 
the organism : and thus questions are suggested as to the 
reciprocal relations of two series of events which, as we have 
already remarked, cannot be compared, and which therefore 
might seem inaccessible to one another. Where, we may 
be asked, does the soul arise, and in what way does it come 
into this body which is just beginning to be, and which was 
destined for it; since we are forbidden to regard it as a 
collateral effect of the physical forces, and as having its 
natural birthplace in this very body? The question may 
seem natural, and yet it is only an imagination accustomed 
to strange images which can ask it. We are not to picture 
the absolute placed in some remote region of extended 
space, and separated from the world of its creations, so that 
its influence has to retraverse a distance and make a journey 
in order to reach things; for its indivisible unity, omni- 
present at every point, would fill this space as well as 
others. Still less ought we, who hold this space to be a 
mere phenomenon, to imagine a cleft between finite beings 
and the common foundation of all things, a cleft which 
would need to be bridged by miraculous wanderings. 
Wherever in apparent space an organic germ has been 
formed, at that very spot, and not removed from it, the 
absolute is also present. Nor, I must once more repeat, 
is it simply this class of facts which compels us to assume 


such an action of the absolute. We may regard the process 
by which things that possess a life and soul are formed as 
something unusual and superior ; but the presence of the 
absolute which makes this process possible is no less the 
basis necessarily implied in the most insignificant interaction 
of any two atoms. Nor again do we think of its presence 
as a mere uniform breath which penetrates all places and 
this particular spot among them, like that subtle, formless, 
and homogeneous ether from which many strange theories 
expect the vivification of matter into the most various forms : 
but the absolute is indivisibly present with the whole inner 
wealth of its nature in this particular spot, and, in obedience 
to those laws of its action which it has itself laid down, 
necessarily makes additions to the simple conjunctions 
of those elements which are themselves only its own con- 
tinuous actions, simple additions where the conjunctions 
are simple, additions of greater magnitude and value where 
they are more complicated. Everywhere it draws only the 
consequences, which at every point of the whole belong to 
the premisses it has previously realised at that point. It is 
thus that it gives to every organism its fitting soul ; and it is 
therefore needless to devise a way or make provision for the 
correct choice which should ensure to every animal germ 
the soul which answers to its kind. Again, so long as the 
soul was regarded as indivisible substance, it could only be 
supposed to enter the body at a single instant and in its 
entirety : whereas, if we renounce these ideas of an external 
conjunction, we need no longer wish to fix the moment at 
which the soul enters into a development which at first is 
supposed to produce only physical actions. 

We have all along regarded the interaction of the absolute 
with all the elements of the world as eternal and incessant. 
It is present just as continuously in the first development 
of the germ; and in the same way there is nothing to 
prevent us from looking at the formation of the soul as an 
extended process in time, a process in which the absolute 


gradually gives a further form to its creation. Doubtless 
we shall never be able to picture this process to ourselves; 
but at any rate there is no force in the possible objection 
that such a gradual development contradicts the unity of the 
soul. For we are speaking, not of a composition of pieces 
already present in separation, but of the successive trans- 
formations of something established at the beginning of the 
process. And if this again should seem to contradict the 
idea of one unchangeable substance, I recur to my previous 
assertion ; it is not because the soul is substance and unity 
that it asserts itself as such, but it is substance and unity, as 
soon as, and in so far as, it asserts itself as such ; and if it 
does this gradually in a greater degree, and with a growing 
significance, I should not hesitate to distinguish in its 
substantiality, and in the intensity of its unity, countless 
different grades which it traverses by degrees when first 
it is being formed, and the last and highest of which it may 
perhaps be incapable of reaching during the whole of its 
terrestrial and super-terrestrial existence. 

And now, after our picture has been thus altered, 
collecting its various traits, I may return to an earlier 
statement : if anyone were in a position to observe the 
first development of the soul, just as with the microscope 
we can observe the physical development of the germ, the 
result would infallibly be that everything would look to him 
exactly as materialism believes it actually to take place. 
As the structure progressively differentiated itself, he would 
see appearing, not all at once, but by degrees, the faint and 
gradually multiplying traces of psychical activity; but 
nowhere would he meet with the sudden irruption of a 
power, which seemed foreign to the play of the elements 
active before his eyes : he would see the whole condition 
of things which has been thought to justify the view that 
all psychical life is a side-effect of the physical process of 
formation. This condition of things we admit; and the 
view based on it we reject. All the single manifestations 


which could thus be observed might no doubt be regarded 
as products of the interaction of the physical elements ; but 
the unity of consciousness, to which at a later time our 
inward experience testifies, cannot, in the absence of a 
subject, be the mere result of the activities 'of a number 
of elements, and just as little can this subject be created by 
those activities. Nor again is it out of nothing that the 
soul is made or created by the absolute ; but to satisfy the 
imagination we may say it is from itself, from its own real 
nature that the absolute pfojects the soul, and so adds to 
'its one activity, the course of nature, that other which, in 
the ruling plan of the absolute, is its natural completion. 

247, I know well that our metaphysical enquiries are 
-constantly and jealously watched by certain side-thoughts 
of our own ; and here they raise the question whether we 
are not in the interests of the intellect laying down positions 
which will afterwards prove fatal to the requirements of the 
emotional side of our nature. In subjecting the origin 
of psychical life to the dominion of law, are we not once 
more reducing the whole course of the world to that 
necessary evolution of a mere nature in which no place 
remains for any free beginning and, therefore, none for any 
guiding providence ? I admit that there is ground for such 
doubts, but not that it is my duty to meet them here. If 
the need that is expressed in them is a justifiable one, still 
it is only where its justification is successful that we can 
attempt to satisfy it without cancelling what we have pre- 
viously found to be necessary for the theoretic intelligibility 
of the world. So long then as psychical life is realised in 
countless instances after the same universal patterns, and 
so long as the same processes are repeated countless times 
in every single soul, we cannot refuse to admit a connexion 
which follows universal laws and which here, as elsewhere, 
shows like results following on like conditions, and the 
same changes in the former following on the same changes 
in the latter. We may put aside the question whether this 


connexion is all that the reality of things conceals or 
includes : whatever may be necessary to complete it, it 
cannot itself be denied. 

There are two directions, therefore, in which a mechanical 
point of view may extend its claim over these subjects. It 
has been attempted long since in the case of the inward life 
of the soul, and the conception of a psychical mechanism 
is no longer unfamiliar to us : I have met with less sympathy 
for that other idea of a physico-psychical mechanism, the 
object of which was to base the commerce between soul 
and body on a series of thoughts similar to those which we 
apply to the interaction of physical elements. Accepting 
with gratitude the pleasanter name 'psycho-physical mechan- 
ism/ which by Fechner's ingenious attempts has been 
introduced into science, I will once more attempt to defend 
those outlines of my theory which I sketched in the 
Medicinische Psychologic (1852). According to some views 
my proposal is impossible ; and according to others it is 
superfluous. The essence of it lay in the attempt to regard 
the soul as an existence possessing unity, and the body as a 
number of other inter-connected existences, and to regard the 
two as the two sides, neither identical nor disconnected, from 
the interaction of which mental life proceeds, that life being 

in posse based on the proper nature of the soul, but stirred 
to actual existence by the influences of the external world. 

248. I need not be prolix in opposing those whotadduce 
the incomparability of things psychical and material as an 
objection against the possibility of any interaction between 
them. Admitting this incomparability, it would still be an 
unfounded prejudice to suppose that only like can act on 
like, and a mistake to imagine that the case of an inter- 
action of soul and body is an exceptional one, and that we 
are here to find inexplicable what in any action of matter 
upon matter we understand. It is only the false idea that 
an action or effect 1 is a complete state, transferable from 
1 [Cf. 57. 


one substrate to the other, which misleads us into demanding 
that any two things which are to influence one another 
should be homogeneous : for, if that idea were correct, it 
would of course follow that , to which the effect passes, 
and a, from which it issues, must be sufficiently similar to 
give it admittance in the same way. But, as a matter of 
fact, the form of any effect proceeds from the nature of that 
on which the external cause acts, and is not determined 
exclusively by the latter ; and no species of conditions can 
be adduced, the presence of which is indispensable to enable 
one thing a to excite another thing b so to manifest its 
own nature. To our sensuous imagination, it is true, no 
interaction but that of similar elements (similar at least in 
their external appearance) presents itself as a connected 
image ; but it is only our sensuous imagination that seeks 
to retain for every case of action the homogeneous character 
which it fancies it understands to be an essential condition 
in this particular case. And this is just where it deceives 
itself. I have frequently pointed out how often we suppose 
ourselves to understand something, when our senses are 
simply occupied with a variegated and unbroken series of 
phenomena. So long as we are merely looking at the 
outside of a machine we do not imagine that we com- 
prehend it : but when it is opened and we see how all its 
parts fit into one another, and how at last it brings out a 
result utterly unlike the impulse first imparted, we think 
that we understand its action perfectly. And it really is 
clear to us, in so far as the explanation of a complicated 
process means its reduction to a concatenation of very 
simple actions which we have made up our minds to con- 
sider intelligible ; but the action which takes place between 
each pair of the simplest links of the chain remains just as 
incomprehensible as before, and equally incomprehensible 
whether those links are like one another or not. The 
working of every machine yet known rests on the fact that 
certain parts of it are solid and that these parts communicate 


their motions ; but how the elements manage to bind one 
another into an unchanging shape, and how they can 
transmit motions and this is what is essential in the process 
of the action of matter upon matter remains invisible, and 
the similarity of the parts concerned in the action adds 
nothing to its intelligibility. When then we speak of an 
action taking place between the soul and material elements, 
all that we miss is the perception of that external scenery 
which may make the influence of matter on matter more 
familiar to us, but cannot explain it. We shall never see 
the last atom of the nerve impinging on the soul, or the 
soul upon it ; but equally in the case of two visible spheres 
the impact is not the intelligible cause of the communication 
of motion ; it is nothing but the form in which we can 
perceive something happening which we do not com- 

The mistake is to desire to discover indispensable con- 
ditions of all action ; and we are only repeating this mistake 
in another form when we declare the immaterial soul, as 
devoid of mass, incapable of acting mechanically on a dense 
material mass, or conceive it as an invulnerable shadow, 
inaccessible to the attacks of the corporeal world. We 
might without hesitation take an opposite point of view, and 
speak of the soul as a definite mass at every moment when 
it produces an effect measurable by the movement of a cor- 
poreal mass. And in doing so we should be taking none 
of its immateriality from it ; for with bodies also it is not 
the case that they are first masses and then and therefore 
produce effects or act ; but according to the degree of their 
effects they are called masses of a certain magnitude. -The 
soul again is no less capable of receiving effects through the 
stimulus of material elements than they are from one an- 
other, although it does not stand face to face with them in 
an equally perceptible shape ; for as between those elements 
themselves shape and movement, impact and pressure, 
determine nothing but the external appearance behind 


which, and the scene on which, the imperceptible process 
of action goes on. 

And, lastly, in our present metaphysical discussion we 
need not have entered on these objections at all. We have 
given up that simple and thorough division of reality, which 
places matter on one side and the mind on the other, con- 
fident and full of faith in regard to the former, timid and 
doubtful about the latter. Everything we supposed our- 
selves to know of matter as an obvious and independent 
existence, has long since been dissolved in the conviction 
that matter itself, together with the space, by filling which it 
seemed most convincingly to prove its ^peculiar nature, is 
nothing but an appearance for our perception, and that this 
appearance arises from the reciprocal effects which exist- 
ences, in themselves super-sensuous, produce on one 
another and, consequently, also upon the soul. There 
may, therefore, be some other way in which the soul is 
separated from these existences ; but it is not parted from 
them by the gulf of that incomparability which is supposed 
to be a bar to all interaction. 

249. So long as we believe this gulf to exist, we naturally 
try to bridge it, and therefore raise the pointless question 
respecting the bond which holds body and soul together. 
What is the use of a bond except to hold together things 
which, being perfectly indifferent to each other and destitute 
of all interaction, threaten to fall asunder ? And how is a 
bond to do its work except through the connexion of its 
own parts, a connexion which one cannot suppose to be in 
its turn effected by new bonds between these parts, but 
which must rest in the end on their own interactions ? 
And if in this instance it is clear that the binding force of 
the bond consists simply in the interactions which flow from 
the inner relations of its parts to one another, why should 
the case be different between the body and soul ? Their 
union consists in the fact that they can and must act on one 
Another, and no external bond which embraced them both 


could supply the place of this capacity and necessity, unless 
its inclusion of them were already based on their own 
natures. Besides, how poverty-stricken is the idea of this 
single bond, which in our parsimony we fancy will suffice 
us ! Even supposing it to exist, where are we to find the 
positive ground of the nature and form of those actions or 
effects which, as a matter of fact, take place ? The reason 
for their existence cannot be found by another appeal to the 
indifferent bond ; it would have to be sought in the peculiar 
natures of the things connected. Whatever number of 
different interactions body and soul can effect in virtue of 
the relation of their natures, so many bonds are there which 
unite them and hold them together : but to look for the one 
nameless bond which should take the place of all these, is 
vain, absurd, and wearisome. Even if we understand it to 
be merely a conditio sine qua non for the exercise of capa- 
cities based on something else, we still must refuse to admit 
it ; for the body and soul were never separated from one 
another like two bodies which cannot act on one another 
chemically until they are brought together. One word, 
lastly, on the sarcasm which reproaches us with forming the 
personality of man by adding two ingredients together. It 
is just this addition that is made by the one external bond ; 
and what we want is not it but the multiplicity of a complex 
double and united life. But in spite of this unity we do not 
look for man's personality in body and soul alike, but in the 
soul alone. We seek in the body only the echo or appear- 
ance of its action ; for the body is and remains for the soul 
a part of the external world, though that part which it can 
most directly rule and to whose influence it is most im- 
mediately susceptible. 

250. There is another question on which I wish to touch, 
and these remarks at once suggest it. If the interaction of 
body and soul is an easy matter, why not go a step further, 
instead of still maintaining a separation into two interacting 
sides? At how many points have we come close to an 


opposite view ! We did not regard the soul as something 
steadfast in itself from eternity, something which enters as 
an indissoluble substance into the machinery of the body's 
formation ; we admitted that they arise together. Even the 
supposition that the soul arises gradually according as the 
bodily organization approaches its completion, did not seem 
to us impossible. What is there now to hinder the con- 
fession that it is simply a consequence of this physical 
concatenation of atoms ? And if on the other side it is 
conceded that, so long as we abide by the customary 
physical ideas, we cannot deduce the origin of a psychical 
process from the co-operation of material atoms, why need 
we hold to those ideas ? Why not adopt that wider view, 
which holds that if a number of elements meet together, 
then, according as the number of the connected parts and 
the multiplicity of their relations increase, perfectly new 
effects or actions may be connected with those meeting 
elements, effects which do not follow on the interaction of 
two atoms alone, and which therefore we never can discover, 
so long as we try to find the conclusions of such complicated 
premisses by merely adding together the interactions of 
each pair of them? 

In answering this question I must first go back to an 
earlier statement. Even supposing we could unreservedly 
approve of these ideas, still the only purpose we could put 
them to would be to deduce from them what is given us in 
experience ; that must not be put aside as a matter for 
doubt, on the ground that our presuppositions are not found 
to lead to it. Now what is connected with these associations 
of many elements is not merely psychical states, phenomena, 
events, or whatever we like to call them. For each of these 
results inexorably demands a subject, whose state or stimu- 
lation it is ; and psychical life, so far as it is a given object 
of inward experience, includes for us the fact of a unity of 
this subject, to which the events we have spoken of are or 
can be referred as something that befalls it. I will not re- 


peat my demonstration that the analogy of the formation of 
physical resultants can never lead us to this unity, unless we 
take beforehand as a fixed point the unity of the subject in 
which a variety of elements is to combine : I will only add 
that the ideas I have been mentioning offer no new expedient 
which could lead us beyond that deduction of resultants. 
Since so much that is new has to arise from the combination 
of the atoms, it seems to me that we should have to make 
up our minds to the final step, and maintain that from a 
certain definite form of this combination there also arises, 
as a new existence, that one subject, that very soul which 
collects in itself the states previously scattered among the 
subjects of the individual atoms. But the mere admission 
that psychical unity springs from physical multiplicity is no 
merit in the theory; it simply states the supposed fact, and 
so gives expression to a very familiar problem, but it offers 
us no further explanation of it. On the other hand, the 
expression employed is scarcely peculiar to the view in 
question ; for the psychical unity of which it speaks is simply 
what we mean by the word substance. It is under this title 
then, as substance, that the soul would become the founda- 
tion on which our account of the rest of its life would be 
based ; for by nothing short of this should we have complied 
with the postulates which experience imposes on our at- 
tempts at explanation. And at this point I should take 
leave to pursue the same point of view still further. Ac- 
cording to it, it is possible that a certain state of things 
may be the real ground of a consequence which we cannot 
analytically deduce from it but can only conjoin to it as 
something new; but if this is so, it is possible that the soul, 
once arisen, may go its own way and unfold activities which 
have their sufficient ground in it alone (when once it has 
come into being), and not in the least in those other facts 
which led to its creation. There would remain therefore 
not a shadow of necessity for the proposal to connect with 
every activity of the soul as its producing condition a corre- 


194 THE CONCEPTION OF TffE SOUL. [Bookrlll. 

spending activity of the body, and we should simply come 
back to that psycho-physical mechanism which allows each 
side a sphere of interaction, but at the same time accords 
to each a field for an activity of its own in which the other 
has no constant share. 

251. I have still something to add to our hypothesis. 
' When the elements /, q, r . ., are combined in the form F 
an effect or action Z is conjoined with them, which does 
not follow from the single effects of the elements when 
taken in pairs : ' this is a pleasing expression, and one that 
satisfies the imagination. But who has conjoined the effect 
with them ? Or, not to insist unfairly on the words, how 
are we to conceive the fact that a law holds good for the 
various elements/, q, r. ., which determines the effect Z for 
their form of combination F1 How are we to conceive 
this other fact, that those elements take notice that at a 
given moment this F is present, i. e. that a case has arisen 
for the application of the law which was not present the 
moment before ? Or lastly, if we recollect that that form 
of combination signifies nothing but an affection of those 
elements already present in them, in consequence of which 
they are no longer/, ^, r . ., but TT, *, p . ., still the question 
would remain, how did this change in the state of each 
become noticeable by every other, so that they could all 
conspire to produce the further action Z? I have already 
raised these questions more than once, and the necessary 
answer to them has seemed to be that the course of the 
world is not comprehensible by a pluralism which starts 
with an original multiplicity of elements reciprocally indif- 
ferent, and hopes afterwards through the mere behest of 
laws to force them to take notice of each other. Apart 
from the unity of the encompassing Reality which is all 
things at once and which determines their being and nature, 
it is impossible to conceive the arising of any action at a 
given place and time, whether that action be one of those 
the content of which we believe to be deducible from the 


given circumstances, or one of those which can only be re- 
garded as a new addition to them. I repeat this here in 
order to defend the hypothesis of the preceding paragraph. 
For I should certainly never set anyone the task, out of ten 
elements to make an eleventh arise equally real with them. 
It is not from them that, on this hypothesis, the substance 
of the soul would spring ; nor would it arise above them, 
between them, or by the side of them, out of nothing. It 
would be a new creation, produced by the one encompassing 
being from its own nature as the supplement of its physical 
activity there and then operating. 

252.. To a certain extent no doubt I should be merely 
disputing about words, if I insisted on these statements 

still further in opposition to Fechner, considering that his 
works testify so fully to his enthusiasm for a unity of all 
things which should be at once ideal and effective. Yet it 
would not be altogether a verbal quarrel ; I am anxious to 
take this opportunity of declaring against a point of view 
which may be at any rate surmised from the expressions he 

has chosen. After what I have said I need not repeat that, 

in my eyes, nothing is gained in the way of clearness by the 
invention of the name 'psycho-physical occurrence,' or 
* psycho-physical process.' I admit that the expression may 
have a meaning when applied to a single element, in which, 
as I said before, we conceive physical and psychical stimu- 
lations to exist together. But when it is used to explain 
that life of the soul, which is supposed to develope itself 
from the co-operation of a system of elements, it seems to 
me to be attractive only because of its indistinctness. 
Where we find it difficult to define the connexion between 
two members of a relation which must be kept apart and 
distinct, we all feel some weakness for ideas which represent 
the two as an original unity and thereby dismiss the object 
of our enquiry from the world. In the present case I can 
find no clear account of the definite single subject to which 
each single instance of this process is ascribed, and no 

o 2 


statement of the manner in which these actions or effects 
work into each other and form a composite whole. What 
is more important, however, to me is the difference between 
the lights in which we view what is perhaps the same set of 
ideas. I allude to the general remarks at the end of the 
second volume of Fechner's Elemente der Psychophysik (p. 
515). In this passage I find that he observes upon and 
supplies though in a peculiar form, what I looked for in 
vain in other statements of the pluralistic hypothesis. I do 
not doubt at all that, for those who are accustomed to the 
terminology, the waves and principal waves of the psycho- 
physical activity, like its sinking or its rising over certain 
thresholds, are something more than short and pictorial 
designations of actual facts in the life of the soul ; that they 
are signs which, through their capacity of taking a mathe- 
matical form, may lead to more definite formulations of 
reciprocal relations of those facts. But I cannot help feel- 
ing that in these descriptions of what happens the real con- 
dition of its happening is also looked for; or, if this is a 
misunderstanding, that at any rate there is much provoca- 
tion for it. For if no idea of this kind had had a hand in 
the matter, many of the explanations that are given would 
be in reality nothing but elegant transcriptions of familiar 
thoughts into this sign-language, transcriptions which do not 
directly advance the enquiry : and the reader will not sup- 
pose that he has gained anything by them unless he is 
allowed to take these images for the discovery of something 
hitherto unknown, of the instrumentation, so to speak, on 
which the realisation of the psychical processes rests. 

One of the last sentences of this celebrated book (p. 546) 
may explain what it is I object to. The substrate of what 
is psychical, we are told, is something diffused through the 
whole world and connected into a system by universal 
forces; the quantity of consciousness depends simply on 
the quantity, and not on the quality of the psycho-physical 
.motion ; and this quality should rather be connected only 

Chap. I.] CASES OF A FORMULA. 197 

with the quality of the phenomena of consciousness. Thus 
every motion, whatever its form and whatever its substrate, 
would, on reaching a certain specified value, contribute 
something to consciousness, whether that consciousness be 
our own or that of another person or a general conscious- 
ness ; and every particular form of motion i.e. every par- 
ticular collocation and series of velocity-components would 
carry with it its appropriate psychical phenomenon of the 
appropriate form, so soon as the components entering into 
that form all exceed a certain quantitative value. 

' In this way we dispense with the magical charm, the 
qualitas occulta, which is supposed to qualify for psychical 
effects only this or that exceptional form of motion. 7 
' What is unconscious and what is conscious in the world 
will represent merely two cases of the same formula, which 
is the standard at once of their relation and of their tran- 
sition into one another. 1 

I maintain nothing respecting the meaning intended in 
these words : I maintain only that they may easily be 
understood, or misunderstood, to recommend a view, the 
admissibility of which I certainly contest. However much 
we may bring the phenomena of two different series of 
events under one and the same forrnula and I do not 
deny that it is possible to do so still all that the formula 
in any case does is to describe the phenomena after they 
are actually there ; it is not the reason why they are actually 
there. If all the hopes here expressed of the psycho-physical 
calculus were fulfilled, we should nevertheless still be unable 
to dispense with that qualitas occulta> which brings, not to 
an exceptional kind of motion, but to every motion the 
capacity for an activity which does not lie in the motion 
itself. I may be told that what I miss is already included 
in the character of the motion as psycho-physical '\ and indeed 
it is not so much the meaning of these sentences that I wish 
to object to as the manner in which it is expressed. Still 
there appears everywhere as something first and foremost a 


universal mechanism, which of itself is supposed to produce 
this result, that, in relation to certain forms of motion, there 
arises, as their natural and necessary consequence and as 
the consequence of nothing beside them, a mental activity; 
for even the general formula which is to include conscious 
and unconscious as two cases, must obviously, as the common 
element of which they are cases, mean not the mere abstract 
formula, but always in the last resort that which is itself 
unconscious, namely, motion. The beautiful thoughts in 
which Fechner contradicts this interpretation will be put 
aside by most of his readers as excusable day-dreams ; but 
there are many who will make use of his expressions in 
order to shelter under a great name their favourite doctrine 
of the generatio aequivoca of everything rational from that 
which is devoid of reason. 


Sensations and the Course of Ideas. 

253. OUR mental life is aroused anew at every moment 
by sensations which the external world excites. But the 
things without us become the cause of our sensation not 
through their mere existence, but only through effects 
which they produce in us; through motions, in which 
either they themselves approach the surface of our body 
until they touch it, or which they from their own fixed 
position communicate to some medium, and which this 
medium in turn propagates from atom to atom up to that 
surface. And therefore, though language describes things 
as objects which we see and hear, we must not allow these 
transitive expressions to suggest the idea that our senses, or 
our soul by means of them, exercise some activity which 
goes out to seek for the external objects and brings them 
to perception. Our attitude is at first one of simple waiting ; 
and although when we strain our eyes and ears in listening 
or watching we may seem to feel in those organs something 
of such an outgoing activity, what we really feel is not this 
but a different activity, one by which we place them in 
a state of the utmost sensitiveness for the impressions we 

Now it is self-evident that sensations, which we have 
at one time and not at another, can only arise from the 
alteration of a previous state, and therefore only through 
some motion which brings about this alteration. The old 
idea therefore that the mere assumption of a specific sub- 


stance or caloric was sufficient to account for our feeling 
of heat was, apart from all other objections, intrinsically 
false : for this caloric, even if it were present, could not, in 
the absence of any motion, produce either the sensation 
of heat or those other effects which would prove that it 
itself was present. But that is one objection which I fear 
will be raised against the doctrine that all our sensations and 
perceptions depend on motions of the things which are to be 
their objects. From an ontological point of view I regarded 
a certain sympathetic rapport as the ultimate ground of 
every possible interaction. But, I may be asked, if this 
idea is sound, why should not things exist for one another 
apart from any physical intermediation ; and why should 
not we perceive things immediately, without having to wait 
for the impact of their propagated motion on us? That 
sympathy, I answer, the name of which was borrowed from 
a dubious quarter, was not such a community of all things 
as is destitute of order and degree. On the contrary, we 
found that the elements of the whole stood to one another 
in relations varying widely in their closeness or distance 3 
and it was to these elements we ascribed an immediate 
sympathy which needs no artificial means for its production. 
The degree of this closeness or distance determines for any 
two elements the number of intermediates necessary for 
their interaction ; necessary, not because the laws of a pre- 
mundane system of mechanics would render the interaction 
impossible in the absence of these intermediates, but because, 
in their absence, it would be in contradiction with the 
degree and nature of the relation on which it is founded, 
and with that meaning of the whole which again is the 
foundation of whatever mechanical laws hold good in the 
world. Thus in our view, the motions in question, the 
physical stimuli of the senses, are not the instrumental 
conditions, which place all things for the first time in rela- 
tions to one another and to us, but expressions of that 
existing and irremovable network of conditions which the 


meaning of the world has established between the states of 
those things. We know that in any chain, along which 
an action or effect is propagated, there is necessarily pre- 
supposed in the last resort a wholly immediate action 
between each link and that which lies next to it. The fan- 
tastic idea which extends this direct reciprocal influence to 
anything and everything, and would accordingly place the 
soul in a communion, free from all physical intermediation, 
with distant objects, cannot therefore be theoretically proved 
impossible. But inability to controvert a point of view 
lies a long way from belief in its validity. Considering that 
the whole of the known and waking life of the soul is based 
throughout upon that physical intermediation, we can only 
answer asserted experiences of an interruption of this con- 
nexion by the most decided disbelief, and these experiences 
could call for attention only if occasioning causes could 
be assigned, adequate to produce such remarkable excep- 
tions in the course of nature. 

254. On their arrival in the body the external stimuli 
meet with the system of nerve-fibres prepared for their 
reception. The change which they set up in these nerve- 
fibres becomes the internal sense-stimulus, which is the 
more immediate cause of our sensation. We leave it to 
physiology to ascertain exactly what takes place in this 
nervous process. The answer to that question could have 
a value for psychology only if it were so complete as to 
enable us to deduce from the various modifications of the 
process the corresponding modifications of the sensation 
and to express the relation in a universal law : whereas the 
mere subordination of the nervous process under a specific 
conception is only of importance for the question whether 
we have to consider it as a mere physical process or whether 
it is itself something psychical. The latter view is frequently 
met with. The sensation is said to be formed already 
in the nerve, and to be transferred by it to consciousness. 
If this assumption is to have any clearness it must name the 


definite subject to which it ascribes the act of sensation ; 
for sensations which nobody has cannot be realities. Now 
this subject of sensation could not be found in the whole 
nerve, as such, which is an aggregate of unnumbered parts : 
it is only each single atom, however many of them we 
suppose to be strung together in the whole nerve, that could 
be, by itself, a feeling thing. But to this difficulty must be 
added a familiar fact. The external sense-stimulus does 
not become the cause of a sensation in us, unless the nerve 
remains uninterrupted throughout its whole course, from its 
peripheral point of stimulus up to the central portions of the 
nervous system. If its continuity is broken by a cut, the 
influence of the external stimulus on consciousness is re- 
moved. Whether the idea, to which this fact naturally 
gives rise, is correct or not, the idea that the soul has its 
seat in a particular spot to which the incoming impression 
must be directed, or in what other way we are to explain 
the truth that this integrity of the nerve-fibre is an indis- 
pensable condition of our sensation, we need not here 
discuss. In any case there is a propagation of the stimula- 
tion in the nerve itself, and all its parts cannot be at once 
in the state of sensation pre-supposed. But it is impossible 
that one and the same sample of sensation can be handed 
on from one atom of the nerve to another like a packet ; all 

that can happen is that each single element of the nerve 
becomes, in virtue of its own state, a stimulus to the next 
to produce the same state in itself. Now that this excitation 
is not produced by a direct sympathy, is proved by that 
interruption to its propagation which results from any 
mechanical breach of continuity. Such a sympathy would 
pass undisturbed across the point of section, and would 
feel no effects from changes in physical relations of which 
it would be from its very nature independent. 

We are therefore compelled to introduce a physical 
connecting link for the effect we have presupposed. Through 
the external sense-stimulus there is produced in the first 


nerve-element the physical state r and, in consequence, in 
the same element the state of sensation s. By this change 
the first element is compelled to awake in the second, its 
neighbour, the same state r and, in consequence, the sensa- 
tion s. Thus, through the physical impact of one element 
on another there would be propagated at the same time the 
creation of the corresponding sensation. But where would 
this end ? Wherever and however this chain of atoms with 
their internal excitations may at last connect itself with the 
soul, the sensation of the soul, our sensation, would arise out 
of the soul itself simply through the influence of the last 
r with which the last nerve-atom stimulates it, in precisely 
the same way in which this sensation was produced in link 
after link of the chain. Whatever service then can be 
rendered by the nerve in aid of the production of our 
sensation, it can render just as well by transmitting a merely 
physical change, as if each of its atoms experienced the 
same psychical state which is to arise in us at the end 
of the whole process. A piece of news which passes in the 
form of a letter from hand to hand along a series of 
messengers, reaches the recipient no more securely and is 
no better understood by him if each of the intermediates 
knows and feels it. Doubtless we shall never be able to 
portray the action of that final r on the nature of the soul ; 

but we cannot do so any the more by adding to the physical 
process r the sensation j. This s in its turn could only 

occasion the production of our sensation S in some per- 
fectly indemonstrable way ; it could not itself pass over into 
us. On the other hand the propagation in the nerve 
of a physical process r up to this mysterious moment, 
is something which the fact of experience alluded to 
compels us to assume. It is sufficient, therefore, to regard 
the nervous process as a propagation of something, taking 
place in space and time in a definite direction and with 
a definite velocity; the precise nature of that which is 
propagated concerns us but little, and, since these are the 


tmly forms of its propagation which are of importance, it may 
be described as merely physical. 

255* The conscious sensation itself, the red or blue that 
we see, the sound that we hear, is the third and last link in 
this series of occurrences, and it is familiar to us. We know 
that this content of sensation admits of no comparison 
either with the external sense-stimulus or with the nervous 
processes. There is nothing in the redness of red, the blue- 
ness of blue, or the sound of the heard tone, which suggests 
a larger or smaller number of vibrations of a medium ; yet 
science has indirectly discovered such vibrations to be the 
occasion of these sensations. In the same way they give us 
no information respecting that which directly occasions them, 
the process which goes on in the optic or auditory nerve at 
the moment when these sensations are produced in us; 
they are consequences, not copies, of their stimuli. Thus 
they are internal phenomena in the soul, and in this sense 
of the words the doctrine of the subjectivity of all sensations 
has long been the property of philosophy and required 
no acquaintance with the functions of the nerves. 

There is another sense of the words, according to which 
the sensations are held to be merely internal phenomena, 
and the external world to be neither resonant nor silent, 
neither bright nor dark, but to possess only mathematical 
predicates of number and magnitude, of motions and their 
complications ; and in this sense of the words the doctrine 
was. in antiquity an insufficiently proved inference, and 
it remains so for the physiology of the present day. None 
of the proofs which are commonly appealed to in support of 
it, can close every way of escape to the opposite view. 
Anyone who wishes to maintain that things themselves 
remain red or sweet, will affirm, as we do, that it is not 
through their being that they can appear to us as they are, 
but only through effects which, in accordance with their 
nature, they prdduce on us. These effects or actions, which 
proceed from them and are sense-stimuli to us, are no doubt 


only motions and themselves neither red nor sweet; but 
what is there to prevent our supposing that, by acting 
through our nerves, they make that same redness or sweet- 
ness arise, as our sensation, in our souls, which also attaches 
as a quality to the things themselves? Such a process 
would be no more wonderful than the performances of the 
telephone, which receives waves of sound, propagates them 
in a form of motion quite different, and in the end conducts 
them to the ear retransformed into waves of sound. Any- 
thing which deprives things of the medium through which 
their excitations could reach us ; anything again which has 
beforehand imparted to the medium motions which prevent 
the passage of those excitations, would of course either 
hinder things from appearing to us at all or would make 
them appear with other qualities, and so would lead us 
to suppose that none of these qualities belong to things 
themselves at all. 

There are no individual proofs by which these assertions 
could be controverted ; and yet the doctrine of the mere 
subjectivity of the qualities of sensation is certainly sound. 
Their own nature makes it impossible for us really so to 
represent them to ourselves as qualities of things, as we 
profess to do. There is no meaning in speaking of a bright- 
ness seen by nobody at all, of the sound of a tone which no 
one hears, of a sweetness which no one tastes : they are all 
as impossible as a toothache which nobody has got. There 
is only one place in which what is meant by these words 
can possibly exist, the consciousness of a feeling being; 
and there is only one way in which it can exist, the way of 
being felt by that being. Without doubt then, things are 
red only so far as they appear to us ; in itself a thing could 
only have a particular look if it could look at itself. 

266. According to a theorem of the doctrine of specific 
energies, every nerve, by whatever stimulus excited, invari- 
ably calls forth sensations of one and the same kind, the. 
.special sensations of its own sense; and it makes no differ- 


ence whether the stimulus is one appropriate to the nerve 
or not. If this were a fact, its physical reason would not be 
hard to imagine. Let us take a composite system of parts. 
External stimuli, so long as they are not so violent as to 
destroy the internal connexions of this system, will cause 
a motion followed by an effort to return to equilibrium; 
and these will take place in forms which essentially depend 
on the structure of the system, which in that case remains 
unchanged. So with the nerve ; disturbances of a certain 
magnitude would injure it; but to less violent stimuli it 
would always respond with the same reactions, and these 
reactions would depend on its peculiar structure. But then, 
if these reactions are to be different in the case of every 
single nerve, the structure of the various nerves must 
be different ; and this variety of structure we do not find in 
the nerves themselves, though we may perhaps look for it 
in the central portions to which they lead. 

But in any case the facts themselves are generalised in 
this theorem to an extent which actual observation does 
not justify. We know nothing of waves of sound which 
produce in the eye a sensation of light, nor of waves of 
light which produce tones in the ear. The main support of 
the hypothesis lies in the sensations of light which fre- 
quently arise in the eye from impact or pressure, as well as 
from electrical stimulation. But there are other considera- 
tions which compel us to assume in the media of the eye 
the presence of the same ether which serves for the diffusion 
of the light outside ; and accordingly, when in consequence 
of impact the ponderable elements of the tense eyeball fall 
into oscillation, we can scarcely help supposing that they 
impart this oscillation at the same time to the ether. Thus 
the same objective motion of light which commonly, as an 
adequate stimulus, comes from without, may be excited in 
the eye by this oscillation of the eyeball, and a similar 
motion might be excited by electric currents ; such motion 
not being sufficient to cast any observable rays outwards, 


but strong enough to stimulate the nerve to produce a sen- 
sation of light. Again, in the case of the inadequate stimuli 
which actually do create a sensation of sound, the question 
is prudently avoided whether they may not do so by 
accidentally exciting such vibrations as form the natural 
stimulus of the auditory nerves. The excitation of taste by 
electricity certainly depends on the adequate stimulus, the 
chemical processes which are here set up ; the notion that 
it can also be produced by laceration of the tongue seems 
to have been an illusion, and it will be useless for insipid 
dishes to look for help in this quarter : and as to the 
remaining sensations, we do not know at all what the 
adequate form of the stimuli is which actually must reach 
the nerves in order to produce them. 

We may leave it therefore to physiology to decide 
whether the real meaning of the present widely-spread 
doctrine of the division of labour is not rather this ; that 
every nerve is excited to its function only by its own 
adequate stimulus, and that other stimuli either leave it 
unaffected or else interfere with it,, but that at the same time 
there are stimuli of various kinds which, along with their 
own effects, frequently produce the adequate stimuli as 
side-results. The only interest psychology has in the 
question lies in opposing the fondness for a mysterious 
psychical activity which, on the authority of the facts I have 
mentioned, is attributed to the nerves and not to the soul, 
to which it really belongs. To speak of a substance of the 
sense of sight, and to say that this -substance converts every 
possible motion that reaches it into a sensation of light, 
is not to describe facts, but to use a piece of physiological 
metaphysic ; of which I am not sure that it is at all more 
elegant than the metaphysic of philosophy. 

257. However complete the separation may be between 
sensations and the stimuli which occasion them, these two 
series of occurrences are, as a matter of fact, connected, and 
we shall not suppose that this connexion of fact is destitute 


of any principle. We shall always find ourselves presuppos- 
ing that like groups of sensations correspond to like groups 
of stimuli, and different groups of the one to different 
groups of the other; that the difference of these classes 
of sensation is proportional to the difference which exists 
between the classes of stimuli ; that wherever the stimuli of 
a given group are arranged in a progressive series or, in 
their progress, reach marked points of eminence, the corre- 
sponding sensations are arranged in a similar series and 
accordingly reproduce both the progress and the points 
of eminence ; that, lastly, in the unity of the soul its various 
kinds of sensation not only are together as a fact, but in 
their meaning are coherent according to some rule, though 
that rule may not be expressible in mathematical terms. 

But of an empirical confirmation of this presupposition we 
find but faint traces. Not only is it impossible to say why- 
waves of ether must necessarily be felt as light ; but, even 
if this fact were given as a starting-point, no theory, however 
much it emphasized the unity of the soul, could prove that 
this same soul must in consistency perceive waves of sound 
as tones, and other affections as taste or smell. So far as we 
can see, that unity produces, from a nature of its own 
which is quite unknown to us, the various classes of sensa- 
tion, each for itself and apart from the others; and, even 
after we have come to know them, all that we can connect 
with their impressions are vague and fantastic ideas respect- 
ing the organization of a universal realm of sensations. 
Again, when we come to the individual groups, the only 
one which confirms our supposition is the group of sounds. 
Here the increase in the height of a tone corresponds to an 
increase in the number of waves within a given unit of time. 
The ascending scale, which is just as clearly an ascent as is 
the increase in the number of waves and yet is quite unlike 
that increase, repeats in its own specific form the progress in 
the series of stimuli. Wherever this series attains, through 
the doubling of a previous number of waves, a marked im- 


port, there the sensation follows with the marked impression 
of the octave of the key-note, and thus again in its own 
particular way represents sensuously the likeness and differ- 
ence of the two series. On the other hand the colours, 
though their prismatic order rests on a similar increase in 
the number of waves, give no one who is unprejudiced 
the impression of a similar progress ; and the reason of this 
possibly lies in the peculiar nature of the nervous process 
which intervenes between the stimulus and sensation, and 
which we cannot take into consideration because we do not 
know it. In the cases of the remaining senses we have no 
exact knowledge of the nature of their stimuli, nor have 
we succeeded in discerning any fixed relations between their 
individual sensations. We do not possess even names for 
the various smells, except such as describe them by their 
origin or their incidental effects ; and among the multitude 
of tastes the only ones that can be distinguished as well- 
defined are the four forms of acid, alkaline, sweet, and 
bitter. Hypothetical theories carry us no further. In the 
case of sight and hearing alone we know that each sensation 
rests on the total effect of a very large number of successive 
impulses, and changes with the alterations of this number 
within the given unit of time ; whether the single impact of 
a wave of light or sound would be observable by our senses, 
and if so in what way, is utterly unknown to us. Still we 
can generalise this fact with some probability. Perhaps 
it is true of all our sensations that they rest not on a con- 
stant and indiscriminate stream of excitation, but on the 
number of alternations of excitation and non-excitation 
included in a certain time ; the nature of the process, which 
thus in the form of oscillation stimulates the soul, might be 
a matter of less importance, and the same perhaps for 
all the nerves. But then again this supposition makes it no 
easier to connect the various kinds of sensation with one 
another in a progressive series; and we have further to 
admit the possibility that our human senses do not include 



the whole range of sensible existence, and that other living 
beings may have other forms of sensation unknown to us and 
answering to processes which entirely escape our perception. 
268. There is at any rate one point at which the modern 
psycho-physical investigations have resulted in the begin- 
nings of an exact knowledge regarding the relation between 
sensation and stimulus. The commonest observation of 
a brightening light or a rising sound shows us that our 
senses can detect very slight alterations in the strength of an 
impression. But we never reach a moment at which, 
judging merely by the direct impression, we could say that 
one brightness was twice or thrice as strong, or one sound 
half as strong, as another. In consequence of this inability 
to reduce to numerical equivalents the more and less which 
we perceive, it is impossible for us to place a series of values 
of stimuli side by side with the values of the corresponding 
sensations, and so to formulate a universal law according to 
which the intensity of the latter would depend on the 
strength of the former. There is however one judgment we 
can pronounce, if not with absolute yet with sufficient 
certainty, viz. that there is or is not an observable difference 
between two sensations. To this point accordingly were 
directed those experiments, the object of which was to 
discover, first of all, what amount of increase a stimulus 
requires in order that the sensation which belongs to it 
as increased may begin to distinguish itself from the sensa- 
tion of its previous strength ; or, again, to discover the limit 
of slightness down to which the difference between two 
strengths of the stimulus can be diminished without remov- 
ing the possibility of the sensations being distinguished. 
With regard to the moderate stimuli which are strong 
enough to excite a distinct sensation, and yet do not 
approach the point at which their intensity disturbs the 
function of the nerve, Fechner and many others since, 
following E. H. Weber's example, have made a very large 
number of experiments; and these experiments lead with 

Chap. II.] WEBER'S LAW. 211 

sufficient unanimity to the result that that difference between 
any two stimuli which makes it possible to distinguish 
the corresponding sensations from one another, is not 
a constant quantity, but, in the case of each class of sensa- 
tions, amounts to a definite fraction of the intensity already 
possessed by that one of the two stimuli from which we 
start. We are not interested in following the various mathe- 
matical formulations of Weber's Law, or the corrections 
which its application has appeared to render necessary; 
we may ascribe the latter to the influence of the particular 
circumstances which, as in the case of most natural laws, 
prevent the phenomena from answering precisely to a law 
which in itself is valid. 

The experiments themselves give no further result than 
that described above; they do not tell us in what way 
the difference between the stimuli makes it possible for 
us to distinguish the resulting sensations whether it is 
by producing a difference of strength between these sen- 
sations, or whether we are aided by qualitative changes 
set up in the content of the sensation and dependent on the 
difference of the stimuli. Nothing but our direct impression 
can decide this point, and it certainly does not seem to me 
that this impression speaks quite clearly in favour of the 
first alternative. A concentrated solution of an acid does 
not simply give us the same taste in a stronger form which 
a more diluted one gives us in a weaker form ; it also tastes 
different. Two degrees of heat, though they rest on differ- 
ences of intensity in the same stimulus, are felt as 
different sensations and not merely as different degrees 
of strength in the same sensation. If this is .not so 
clear in the case of slight differences, the fact is all the 
clearer that our direct impression makes us speak of heat 
and cold as two positive opposites, and does not lead us 
to recognise in them mere differences of degree. Lastly, 
no one who experiments on degrees of brightness by means 
of shadows compared with the ground on which they are 

p 2 


thrown, feels sure that he is merely comparing differences 
of intensity in the same sensation ; the shadow is not only 
a less degree of illumination, but it looks different from 
the brighter ground black if it is on a white ground. 

I do not wish to lay any great stress on these doubts; 
still they would have to be removed before we could follow 
with entire security the theory which deduces from the 
experiments I have alluded to a law respecting the strength 
belonging to the sensation, and its dependence on the 
strength of the stimuli. Supposing them removed, we 
should then regard the transition from the point at which 
two sensations are indistinguishable to that at which their 
difference is just observable, as an increase, the same in 
amount in all cases, in the strength of the first of the two, 
and so the law in question would take this form : Where 
the intensity of a sensation increases by equal differences, 
that is, in arithmetical progression, it implies in the strength 
of the stimulus an increase in geometrical progression. 
Thus the activity of sensation would be one of those 
activities which it becomes increasingly difficult to heighten 
as the degree of liveliness already attained increases. 

259. Our present result, according to which the sensation 
does not follow the growing strength of the stimulus at 
an equal speed, would not, if taken by itself, present any 
extraordinary problem. But none of the theories which 
have been formed on this point explain why the continuous 
curve of growth in the strength of the stimulus is not 
continuously followed by the slower augmentation in the 
strength of the sensation, why, on the contrary, there re- 
mains an interval throughout which the stimulus strengthens 
without showing any result, until at last, on its reaching 
a final degree of strength, it produces an observable differ- 
ence in the sensation. This difficulty, I think, is most 
easily met by the physiological view which attempts to 
explain it by reference to the mode in which the nerves 
are excited. It is a problem soluble in mechanics, so 


to construct a system of material parts that a force which 
impels continuously is nevertheless prevented by internal 
hindrances from exerting its influence except intermittently 
at certain moments. Following this analogy we should have 
to suppose a structure of the nerve of such a kind that, 
given a certain attained degree of excitation, a definite 
concentration and heightening of that excitation is necessary 
before such a motion of the nerve can be produced as will 
afford a stimulus to the rise of a new sensation ; thus the 
sensation would increase in intensity proportionally to these 
intermittent excitations. On the other hand, we do not in 
the least know how and where such an arrangement is to be 
presumed in the nervous system. There is less probability 
to my mind in the second hypothesis, according to which 
the nervous excitation increases proportionally to the 
stimulus and continuously. This hypothesis has to look 
to the nature of sensation itself for the reason both of 
the slower rate and of the want of continuity in its increase ; 
there is nothing in the mere idea of sensation which could 
with any probability be supposed to take the place of the 
machinery which must, ex hypothesi^ be absent. Nor'is the 
solution offered by the third view more convincing. The 
sensation, it tells us, increases in strength proportionally 
to the stimulus and the nervous process, but perception 
brings the actually increased intensity of the sensation to 
consciousness in a different relation and discontinuously. 
The separation of these two processes, the sensation and 
the perception of what is felt, we shall be able to justify 
later on; but we certainly shall not be able to find in 
the nature of a perceiving activity, as such, any reason for 
its not perceiving something. If the idea could be made 
plausible, that the act of distinguishing two impressions an 
act which is always at the same time an act of comparison 
is guided not by single differences between them, but by 
their geometrical relation, still the only deduction we could 
draw from this idea would be that, given two pairs of im- 


pressions, this act would find an equally great difference 
between the members of each pair, supposing that in both 
cases these members stood to one another in the same 
ratio. But I do not know why that act should fail to dis- 
tinguish at all those which did not stand in that ratio. 

260. No method has yet been discovered of experi- 
mentally determining the consequences which result from 
simultaneous impressions on different senses; it is even 
doubtful what goes on when the same sense is excited in 
several ways at once. We are accustomed to the notion of 
a mechanism of ideas ; but the attempt to go further and 
to oppose to it the notion of a chemistry of ideas, can 
be met only with the utmost distrust. As long as two 
external stimuli a and b are producing effects in the same 
nerve-element, there must ensue, in this physical sphere, 
the formation of that resultant c which the conjunction of 
all the mechanical conditions renders possible and therefore 
necessary. To this resultant c> which alone reaches the 
soul as an exciting motive, corresponds the simple sensation 
7 ; and this y is not the resultant of the two sensations 
a and /3 which the two stimuli, if taken separately, would 
have produced, but appears instead of them, since they are 
unable to arise. If, on the other hand, we suppose that 
a and b y either because they are transmitted in different 
nerve- elements, or because they do not form one indis- 
tinguishable resultant within the nerve, have actually pro- 
duced the two sensations a and ft the result will be that 
the contents of the two sensations do not blend in con- 
sciousness into a third simple sensation, but remain apart 
and form the necessary pre-requisite of every higher activity 
of mind in the way of comparison and judgment. 

At the same time I must allow that there are objections 
to this last view. For though the theoretical assertion that 
the soul is compelled by its own oneness to attempt to fuse 
all its internal states into an intensive unity, could decide 
nothing so long as our inward experience offered no 


example of such a result, it is on the other hand indubitable 
that the simultaneous assault of a variety of different stimuli 
on different senses, or even on the same sense, puts us into 
a state of confused general feeling in which we are certainly 
not conscious of clearly distinguishing the different impres- 
sions. Still it does not follow that in such a case we have 
a positive perception of an actual unity of the contents 
of our ideas, arising from their mixture ; our state of mind 
seems to me rather to consist in (i) the consciousness of 
our inability to separate what has really remained diverse, 
and (2) in the general feeling of the disturbance produced 
in the economy of our body by the simultaneous assault 
of the stimuli. As to the first point, I recur to that dis- 
tinction of sensation and perception, to which we found 
the psycho-physical theory obliged to appeal. The act 
of distinguishing two sensations is never a simple sensation ; 
it is an act of referring and comparing, which may supervene 
on those sensations, but need not always do so. Where it 
is prevented, the result is not that the sensations melt into 
one another, but simply that the act of distinguishing them 
is absent ; and this again certainly not so far that the fact 
of the difference remains entirely unperceived, but only 
so far as to prevent us from determining the amount of the 
difference, and from apprehending other relations between 
the different impressions. Anyone who is annoyed at one 
and the same time by glowing heat, dazzling light, deafening 
noise, and an offensive smell, will certainly not fuse these 
disparate sensations into a single one with a single content 
which could be sensuously perceived ; they remain for him 
in separation, and he merely finds it impossible to be con- 
scious of one of them apart from the others. But, further, 
he will have a feeling of discomfort what I mentioned 
above as the second constituent of his whole state. For 
every stimulus which produces in consciousness a definite 
content of sensation, is also a definite degree of disturbance 
and therefore makes a call upon the forces of the nerves ; 


and the sum of these little changes, which in their character 
as disturbances are not so diverse as the contents of con- 
sciousness they give rise to, produce the general feeling 
which, added to the inability to distinguish, deludes us into 
the belief in an actual absence of diversity in our sensations. 
It is only in some such way as this, again, that I can 
imagine that state which is sometimes described as the 
beginning of our whole education, a state which in itself 
is supposed to be simple, and to be afterwards divided into 
different sensations by an activity of separation. No activity 
of separation in the world could establish differences where 
no real diversity existed ; for it would have nothing to guide 
it to the places where it was to establish them, or to indicate 
the width it was to give them. A separation can only 
proceed from a mixture of impressions which continue to be 
diverse, and then only if, owing to favourable circumstances, 
the single constituents of the mixture are, one after the 
other, raised above the rest by an access of strength, so as 
to facilitate comparison and the apprehension of the width 
of the individual differences : if ideas of the single im- 
pressions have once been acquired, it may then be possible 
to dissociate them even in the unfavourable case of such 
a mixture as that described above. In this way it might 
perhaps happen that many apparently simple sensations may 
be dissociated into several sensations of the same kind ; for 
example, in a colour we might separate the other colours 
which formed its constituents, or in a tone the partial tones 
of which we were unconscious at first, or in tastes and smells 
the elementary sensations which were combined in a variety 
of different ways and of which at present we have no know- 
ledge. Thus within these narrow limits a real chemistry 
of sensations, combining different elements into a new 
quality of sensation, is not inconceivable. But after all our 
experience up to the present time it remains uncertain 
whether this intermingling into new resultants has not in all 
cases already taken place among the physical excitations 


in the nerve or in the central portions of the nervous 

From these premises again, a conclusion might be drawn 
respecting those sensations which attach to others in the 
way of contrast, and do not need a particular external 
stimulus. I do not think they can be considered reactions 
of the soul unoccasioned by anything physical. It might be 
possible to take that view of the false estimates of magnitude 
which make a sudden silence ensuing on deafening noise, 
or a darkness ensuing on dazzling light, appear extra- 
ordinarily deep; for these are not sensations, but com- 
parisons. And yet even in these cases the probable cause 
of the judgment is the distance between the degrees of 
excitation in the nerve, a distance just as great as that 
between the sensations. But a colour ft cannot attach to 
another a by way of contrast or complement through a mere 
reaction of the soul. Even if we imagine in the soul a dis- 
turbance which seeks a compensating adjustment, the aim 
of that search can be no more than an opposite Non-a, the 
whereabouts of which is unknown. That it is ft and nothing 
but ft which gives the desired satisfaction we know only 
from experience ; to seek the reason of the fact in a com- 
parison of the two impressions a and ft, is to seek it in 
something far from self-evident; it must lie in the way 
in which the nerve acts, and this activity of the nerve must 
attach the excitation which leads to ft to the excitation 
which produces a, in the character of an effort to attain 

261. Neither observation nor theory have so far thrown 
any light upon the interval which intervenes between the 
occurrence of a sensation and its disappearance from con- 
sciousness. If we say that it gradually diminishes in 
strength until at last it reaches zero or disappears below the 
threshold of consciousness, we merely describe what we 
think we can imagine to be going on ; no one can observe 
the process, since the attention necessary for observing it 


makes it impossible. Whether this hypothetical view has a 
sufficient theoretical justification, is doubtful. Beside the 
presupposition that a diminution of the activity of repre- 
sentation, from its strength at a given moment down to its 
disappearance, must be continuous, the physical law of per- 
sistence is called in, in order to make the undiminished 
continuance of the sensation appear as the natural course 
of events, and its disappearance from consciousness as the 
problem to be explained. This last idea is not free from 
difficulty. A material atom undergoes no internal change 
during its motion, at least according to the ordinary view 
of that motion, and its state in any new place q is exactly 
what it was in its former place/ ; it follows therefore that it 
itself contains nothing which would at any point resist a 
further motion, and that the cause of the change or the 
checking of this motion must come from outside. The soul, 
on the other hand, when it feels a, falls into an internal 
state differing from its state when it feels ft : if we consider 
it capable of reacting against stimuli at all, we must admit 
that there may lie in its own nature the permanent motive 
which stirs it to oppose every one-sided manifestation of its 
capacity that may be forced on it, and therefore stirs it also 
to eliminate the state of sensation forced on it by the external 
stimulus. If indeed it were able completely to annul what 
has occurred, it would be wholly impassive and therefore 
incapable of interaction ; but might not its opposing effort 
be strong enough to repress the sensation into a condition 
of permanent unconsciousness? 

If we leave this question, which cannot be decided, we 
may seek the causes of hindrance or checking partly in the 
new impressions which arrive from outside, partly in those 
far less familiar ones which are constantly being brought to 
the soul by the changing states of the body. The first of 
these, the struggle of ideas with one another, served as the 
foundation of Herbart's theory of the internal mechanism of 
the soul-life. I put aside at present the doubts which are 


suggested by the metaphysical basis of this theory ; the un- 
changeability of a soul which yet experiences changing 
internal states ; its effort to fuse them all into a unity, and 
the shipwreck of this effort on the differences of the ideas ; 
the assumption, lastly, that the soul finds a satisfaction in 
at least lessening the strength of the parties whose opposi- 
tion it has to tolerate. We accept simply as a hypothesis 
what Herbart offers us as the foundation of his theory, the 
hypothesis that ideas check one another according to the 
degree of their strength and of their opposition; and we 
utilise his just rejection of figurative m-jdes of speech. 
Consciousness, as he tells us, is not a spa. e in which ideas 
appear side by side. Even if it were a space, still the ideas 
are not extended things which require a definite place to 
exist in, rigid bodies which are incapable of condensation, 
and therefore push one another from this narrow stage. 
Nor, lastly, is there any original repulsion of ideas against 
ideas ; it is only the unity of the soul in which they attempt 
to exist at the same time, that turns their mere difference 
into a struggle. The question now is, Does our internal 
observation confirm these hypotheses? 

262. We have in thought to separate two things which 
never appear apart in the real world ; the content to which 
the activity of representation or sensation is directed, and 
this activity itself which makes the content something repre- 
sented or felt : to both of these we might attempt to apply 
the conceptions (a) of opposition and () of variable strength. 
(a) Now I cannot find anything given in internal observation 
which testifies to a checking of ideas according to the degree 
in which their contents are opposed. Doubtless we hold a 
simultaneous sensation of opposite contents through the 
same nerve-element to be impossible ; but I do not know 
that the idea of the positive and of affirmation exercises any 
special repulsion against the idea of the negative and of 
negation; on the contrary, every possible comparison of 
opposites implies that the two members of the comparison 


do not check one another. If, on the other hand, we apply 
the opposition to the representing activity, it is doubtless 
self-evident that two of its acts which are opposed in respect 
of their action will cancel one another ; but this proposition, 
if self-evident, is also fruitless, for we have no right whatever 
to presuppose that the ideas of two opposite contents rest 
on an opposition of the representing activities in respect of 
their mode of action. Thus we do not know where in such 
action we are to find oppositions which are to have a me- 
chanical value. 

(U) The conception of a variable strength of ideas suggests 
similar doubts. In the case of the sensations of an actually 
operating sense-stimulus, it did not seem worth while to 
draw the distinction I have just used ; the hearing of a 
louder noise, or the seeing of a brighter light, is always at 
the same time a greater activity, excitation, or affection ; 
and it is not possible to hear loud thunder as loud and yet 
to hear it weakly, or to feel a brighter light to be brighter 
and yet to feel it less strongly than a dimmer light. But 
the case may well be different with our ideas ; by which 
name I understand, in accordance with usage, the image in 
memory of an absent impression, as opposed to the sensa- 
tion of the present impression. The difference between the 
two is clear enough. The remembered light does not shine 
as the seen light does ; the remembered tones do not sound 
as heard tones do, although they reproduce in their succes- 
sion the most delicate relations of a melody; the idea of 
the intensest pain does not hurt, and is nothing compared 
to the least real injury. I will not enquire whether this 
difference is due to the fact that an idea, as a remembrance 
having its origin in the soul only, is not accompanied by 
any bodily excitation, whereas such an excitation accom- 
panies every sensation and is the cause of its beginning and 
continuance ; or whether that view is correct which, in spite 
of its not receiving much support from the direct impression 
of internal experience, assumes that in sensation and idea 


alike there is always a physical nervous excitation, and that 
the difference in the two cases is only one of degree. 

Now whatever we remember we can certainly represent in 
idea in all the degrees of which its content is capable ; but 
it is not so clear that the representing activity directed to 
this content can itself experience the same changes in mag- 
nitude. We cannot represent more or represent less to 
ourselves one tone of a given height and strength, or one 
shade of a colour ; the attempt to do so really introduces a 
change in the content, and we are representing a stronger or 
weaker tone, a brighter or duller colour, instead of merely 
representing more or representing less the same tone and 
the same colour. Nor does internal observation give us any 
more justification for regarding this activity of representa- 
tion, like the activity of sensation, as proportional to the 
content to which it is directed. The idea of the stronger 
does not call for or cause any stronger excitation or greater 
effort than the idea of the weaker. The images of memory 
resemble shadows, which do not differ in weight like the 
bodies that cast them. Thus it appears so far as if the con- 
ception of a variable strength, when applied to our ideas, 
may hold good of their content, but not of the psychical 
activity, to which the mechanical theory at starting certainly 
intended it also to apply. 

263. To this it may be objected that the capacity of being 
heightened, possessed by the representing activity, cannot be 
disclosed by a trial made on purpose. Such an experiment, 
it may be said, naturally brings before us the maximum 
attainable by that activity in reference to the content chosen, 
and does not bring to our notice the lower degrees to which 
it sinks, and through which it passes on its way to extinction. 
It cannot be denied, we may be told, that the distinction of 
clearer and dimmer ideas signifies something which really 
exists in consciousness and which confirms our belief that 
the activity has various grades although we cannot directly 
observe them. To this objection I should give the following 


answer. I cannot convince myself that internal obser- 
vation testifies without more ado to the reality of dim ideas 
in this sense of the word. If the image of a composite 
object in our memory is dim, the reason is not that the 
image is present, with all its parts in their order, and that 
consciousness sheds only a weak light over the whole. The 
reason is that there are gaps in the image ; some of its parts 
are entirely absent ; and, above all, the exact way in which 
those parts that are present are connected, is usually not 
before the mind, and is replaced by the mere thought that 
there was some connexion or other between them ; and the 
wideness of the limits within which we find this or that 
connexion equally probable, without being able to come to 
a decision, determines the degree of dimness we ascribe to 
the image. Let us take as an example the taste of a rare 
fruit. We either have a complete idea of this taste, or we 
have none at all : and the only reason why we suppose that 
we really have a dim idea of it is this ; we know from other 
sources that fruits have a taste, and the other characters 
which are present to our memory and which tell us the 
species of the fruit, move us to think only of that particular 
class of tastes which belongs to this species ; the number of 
the tastes which lie between these limits and between which 
we hesitate, determines again the degree of the obscurity of 
the idea, which we suppose ourselves to possess though we 
are really only looking for it. 

To take another example ; we try for a long time to re- 
member a name, and then, when one is suggested to us, we 
at once recognise it to be the right one. But this does not 
prove that we had an obscure idea of the right one, and now 
recognise it as the right one by comparing it with the name 
that is uttered. For on what is this recognition to rest? 
The name that is uttered might be wrong ; so that, before 
we could proceed, we should have to show that the obscure 
idea with which that name was found to be identical, is the 
same idea we are trying to find. Now this idea we are 


trying to find is distinguished from others for which we are 
not looking, by its connexions with remembrances of some 
qualities or other in the object whose name it is or whose 
content it signifies ; for we cannot try to find the name of 
something, unless this something can be distinguished from 
other things which we do not mean. When, then, the right 
name is uttered, the sound of it fits these other remem- 
brances of the object without trouble or resistance, and in 
its turn calls them up anew or extends them ; and this is 
the reason why it seems to us the right one ; whereas any 
wrong one that is uttered would be foreign to the other 
ideas that come to meet it. And supposing that the word 
we wanted to remember were one we did not understand, 
still there must be some memory or other even of it re- 
maining behind, with which the uttered word must agree ; 
whether it be the number of syllables, or the quality of the 
vowels, or some prominent consonant, or merely the cir- 
cumstances in which we heard it, or the momentary general 
feeling with which its sound was once connected. In none 
of these cases therefore have we an obscure idea ; we are 
merely looking for the idea which we have not got at all, 
and helping ourselves in the way I have mentioned. But 
no idea that we really have, whether simple or complex, can 
be heightened in the strength with which it is represented ; 
and the complex idea only seems to be so, so long as it is 
imperfect. No one who thinks of all those ideas of parts 
which together form the idea .of the Triangle, and also of 
the way in which they are really connected, can further 
strengthen his activity of representing this complete content. 
If the geometrician seems superior to the beginner in this 
point, it is not because he represents this content more, but 
because he represents more than this content, viz. the innu- 
merable relations which are conjoined with this figure in 
connected knowledge. 

264. I am not rejecting what we all regard as a correct 
interpretation of the facts, the assumption, I mean, that 


ideas push one another out of consciousness, and change 
one another into permanent unconscious states of the soul. 
For these states we retain a name which is really self- 
contradictory, unconscious ideas, in order to indicate that 
they arose from ideas and are capable, under certain cir- 
cumstances, of being re-transformed into ideas. But all 
that this assumption actually says is that the ideas have 
exercised a certain power against one another, and that 
some of them have come off victorious over the rest ; it 
does not follow as something self-evident, though we natur- 
ally infer it, that they must have owed their power to a 
degree of strength which belongs to them as such. In fact 
we had no means of measuring this strength of theirs at all 
before the struggle took place ; we only attribute it to them 
by reasoning backwards after we have seen the issue of the 
struggle. And further, the victory does not always fall to 
that side which in itself is the stronger ; favourable circum- 
stances may give it to the weaker. Since then this assump- 
tion of a variable strength is found to apply not to the 
activity of representing but only to the content of the ideas 
represented : and since on the other hand, if we follow 
experience, we cannot maintain that the idea of the stronger 
content always overcomes that of the weaker, but meet with 
numberless cases of the opposite event, the result is that 
we must look for the source of the power exerted in some- 
thing that attaches to the representing activity and is in its 
nature capable of degrees of intensity. 

I may say at once that this power rests neither on any 
strength in the activity itself nor on that of the content 
represented, but on the amount of our interest in the latter. 
If we could observe the first stirrings of a soul still destitute 
of experience, we should certainly find that that sensation 1 
which, in its total effect, is the greater agitation of the soul 

1 ['Sinnliche Empfindung ' translated merely ' sensation/ to avoid the 
use of 'sensation of sense, and 'feeling* which has been reserved for 
< Gefuhl.'] 


and therefore the stronger in respect of its content, over- 
comes the others which, measured by the same standard, 
are the weaker. But in the developed life, which alone we 
can observe, the strength of the sensation is of far less 
moment than that which, in the connexion of our memo- 
ries, intentions, and expectations, it means, indicates, or 
foretells. Many external stimuli, therefore, are unregarded 
by us, if the strong sensations which they would natu- 
rally produce have no relation to the momentary course 
of our thoughts. Very slight stimuli attract our atten- 
tion if they are intimately connected with these thoughts. 
And this is still more the case with our mere remem- 
brances which are unsupported by any present bodily 

This interest of our ideas, which constitutes their power, 
has a constant element and a variable one. I cannot sup- 
pose that any sensuous impression could be originally 
entirely indifferent to us. Each, it seems to me, as being 
an alteration of our existing state, must create an element 
of pleasure or pain ; the former, if it occasions an exercise 
of possible functions within the limits in which this exercise 
answers to the conditions of the well-being and continuance 
of the whole ; the latter, if it sets up changes which in their 
form or magnitude contradict those conditions. The gene- 
ral economy of the vital functions may be assumed to be 
nearly constant ; and therefore, when the impression is 
repeated at later periods, the same element of emotion will 
always attach to it, just as the same kind of light-waves, 
repeated thousands of times in succession, always calls forth 
the same sensation of colour. But this fixed component of 
the interest is far outweighed by the variable one which an 
impression acquires in the course of our life through its 
various connexions with others, connexions which enable it 
to recall these others in memory. One impression, which 
in itself is accompanied by an insignificant constant element 
of emotion, may, if it is connected with a second, the ac- 



companying emotion of which is strong, excite a more lively 
interest than a third impression, the feeling of pleasure or 
pain attached to which comes between the two. But this 
interest of an impression changes not only with the number 
of those with which it is connected and with the constant 
emotion attaching to them, but also with our momentary 
state of feeling at the time when it occurs. And for this 
state of feeling the total content of the impression has more 
or less value, according to the closeness or distance of its 
relationship to that which is moving our feeling at the 
moment. If in the case of the representing activity as such 
it was difficult to point out different degrees of strength, it 
seems not less self-evident that all emotions, on the other 
hand, have various degrees of intensity. The force of ideas 
therefore seems to me to rest on their concatenation with 
emotions ; and if I spoke of their strength I should use the 
word merely to express the fact that they are victorious 
over others, and the understanding that their victory occurs 
in this way and in no other. 

265. Respecting the connexion of ideas, a point to which 
these remarks have already led us, we have little to recall. 
We know that, on the renewal of an idea a, another idea 
b which we have had before may return to consciousness 
without requiring any separate external reason for its re- 
appearance. This fact, which alone can be directly ob- 
served, we interpret as a reproduction of the idea b by 
the idea a, without meaning by our use of the word to give 
any account of the process through which a succeeds in 
recalling b. But then from this fact we infer that, even 
in the time during which both a and b had vanished from 
consciousness, there must have been a closer connexion 
between them than is given alike to them and to all other 
ideas by the fact that they belong to one and the same soul. 
This specific connexion we call the association of the ideas 
a and , a name again which denotes a necessary pre- 
supposition but gives no explanation of the exact nature 


of this connexion, i. e. of that which distinguishes it from 
the more remote connexion obtaining between all the 
states of one subject. Any attempt to find such an explana- 
tion would be fruitless : but there is another question, 
which ought to be answered, viz. What are the universal 
rules according to which this inexplicable junction of ideas 
takes place ? It is customary to distinguish four kinds 
of association. Two of them I hold to be fictions of 
the brain, and the other two I reduce to one. The former 
consist in the assertions that similar or like ideas on the 
one hand, and on the other hand opposite ideas are pre- 
eminently associated ; and to these assertions I find nothing 
in internal observation to correspond. I do not know, 
at least, that the idea of one tone usually recalls all other 
tones to memory, or the idea of one colour all other 
colours ; or again, that the idea of brightness suggests that 
of darkness, or the sensation of heat the remembrance 
of cold. Where anything of this kind seems to occur, 
it is plainly due to different causes from the simple associa- 
tion of these ideas as such. If we are calculating, and 
at a given moment are engaged in comparing quantities 
and referring them to one another, there is a special 
reason why the idea of the plus we affirm should make 
us think of the minus we reject. In the night we who are 
busied with plans for the future have abundance of reasons 
for thinking of the day we long for : and so on in many 
cases not worth counting up. The third and fourth classes 
are composed of the associations of those impressions 
which are perceived either at the same time as parts 
of a simultaneous whole, or one directly after another 
as parts of a successive whole; and their existence is 
testified to in a variety of ways at every moment of our 
daily life, the connected guidance of which rests wholly on 
them. But the separation of these processes into two 
classes seems to me needless. Not because the apprehen- 
sion even of a spatial whole takes place, as is supposed, 

Q 2 


through a successive movement of the glance which tra- 
verses its outlines : I shall have later on to mention the 
reason why this movement is necessary in order to make 
reproduction secure ; but it is none the less indubitable 
that the momentary illumination of an electric spark makes 
it possible to perceive objects and gives us images of them 
in memory. What is of more importance is that in 
temporal and spatial apprehension it is just the absence 
of observable connecting links between a and b which joins 
these two together so closely and in so pre-eminent a degree, 
that we give the name of association to their conjunction 
alone, although there must be some conjunction between 
a and c, b and d, as well. I shall return to this point 
immediately ; but, before going further, I will merely point 
out how superfluous it is to distinguish from the indirect 
reproduction of one idea b by another a the case so far 
considered the direct recalling of the same a by a. We 
should know nothing whatever of this fact, the reproduction 
of a former a by the present a, if the two were simply 
present, with no distinction between them, at the same 
time. To know the present a as repetition of the former 
a, we must be able to distinguish the two ; and we do 
this because not only does the repeated a bring with 
it the former one which is its precise counterpart, but 
this former one also brings with it the ideas c d which 
are associated with it but not with the present a, and 
thereby testifies that it has been an object of our per- 
ception on some former occasion but under different 

206. Respecting the great ease with which a successive 
series of ideas is reproduced in the order of their succession, 
a fact which it would be superfluous to illustrate, an 
attractive theory has been developed by Herbart. Let us 
suppose that the external impressions ABC... follow one 
another in time, and that the first of them awakens the idea 
A\ on its appearance in consciousness, which is never 


empty, this idea A will at once sustain a check from 
the contents already present in consciousness ; and, owing 
to this check, its strength will have been reduced to a at 
the moment when the new idea B is aroused. The only 
association formed therefore will be between a and B the 
association a B and there will be no association A B in 
consciousness at all/ The combination aB, again, sustains 
the same check, and will be weakened to the degree a b at 
the moment when C makes its impression C: the associa- 
tion that arises will be a b C, and no other will arise. Again, 
when D acts, it finds ub C checked into a/3<r: it is this 
therefore, and only this, that connects itself with D. If 
now the series of external impressions, or that of their 
ideas, is repeated, A will not call up all the rest forth- 
with, nor will it call them up with the same degree of 
liveliness, for it never was in actual fact connected with 
them : not until it itself has sunk to the strength 0, will 
it reawaken B with which alone it was associated; nor 
until a B in its turn has sunk to a b y will it reproduce C '; 
and in this way the series is repeated in memory in its 
original order. 

The advantages of this view are not indissolubly con- 
nected with the conception, which we were unable to 
accept, of a variable strength of our ideas. Associations 
are not formed between those impressions alone which 
we hold apart as separate ideas^ each having its distinct 
content; but every idea connects itself also with the 
momentary tone G which characterizes our universal vital 
feeling^ or the general feeling of our whole state, at the 
instant when the idea appears ; and, as many experiences 
testify, the recurrence of the general feeling G reproduces 
with no less liveliness the ideas which were formerly con- 
nected with it. But, again, the arrival of a new idea A 
changes this feeling G into g l : then the second idea 
B connects itself with this association Ag and in its turn 
changes g l into g 2 : with this new association, and with 


it alone, is connected C ; and in this way the succession 
of these &&& becomes the clue by help of which the repro- 
duction of the ideas, in their turn, arranges itself; G must 
be changed again into^ before .# can be again produced by 
the association gB. 

In the next chapter I shall mention other considerations 
which recommend this point of view to us; I content 
myself here with the remark that it promises to be of use 
when we come to consider the reproduction of the com- 
ponent parts of a spatial image by one another. If we 
assume that the perception of the spatial image ABCD 
is brought about by the eye traversing this whole succes- 
sively and repeatedly in various directions ABCD> ACDB J 
ADCB) . . . , the question will still remain, how does it 
come about that a later consciousness understands the 
various series, arising from these voluntarily chosen direc- 
tions, to be merely various subjective apprehensions of the 
single objective order A BCD'} If this understanding is to 
be attained, it will be necessary that, at every step we choose 
to take within A . . . Z>, the position of each element re- 
latively to its neighbour should be indicated by a definite 
general feeling g arising in the course of this movement ; 
and this feeling must be of such a kind that the various ^'s, 
which arise in the different directions of the movement from 
part to part, when compared and adjusted, give as their 
result these fixed actual positions of the single ideas in the 
total order A B CD. How we are to conceive this process 
more in detail, I shall show later on. 

I close here these brief remarks on the forces which are 
active in the course of our ideas. I have not noticed 
the more general share taken in it by the body. Highly 
significant as that share is, I should seek it in a different 
direction from the present one. There are no physical 
analogies either for associations or for reproductions ; and 
although it is asserted that they too are merely products 
of co-operating nervous currents, those who make this 


assertion have not yet been able to show, even in a general 
way, what we should require to have shown, how these 
processes can be mechanically construed at all. But this 
again is a point to which we shall have to return at a later 


On the Mental Act of Relation 1 .' 

267. IF we glance at a number of coins laid side by 
side in no particular order, each of them produces its image 
in the eye, and each image produces the corresponding 
idea. And yet it often happens that, when we look away, 
we cannot tell how many coins we have seen. That, never- 
theless, we have seen each and all of them, and, therefore, 
that their images have been conscious ideas, we know from 
the fact that sometimes we succeed in counting them over in 
memory, without needing to have the external impression 
repeated. This and countless similar experiences convince 
us that we have some ground for distinguishing between 
feeling and the perception of what is felt 2 ; but at the same 
time they show that we must not press this distinction 
further than the statement that the consciousness of the 
relations existing between various single sensations (among 
which relations we reckon here the sum formed by the 
sensations when united) is not given simply by the existence 
of these relations considered as a fact. So far we have con- 
sidered only single ideas, and the ways in which they either 
exist simultaneously in consciousness and act on each 
other, or else successively replace one another; but there 
exists in us not only this variety of ideas, and this change of 

1 [ Von dem beziehenden VorstelUn' Cp. sect. 80, end. There is 
no English verb for * to put in relation ; ' to ' refer* has been used where 
a verb seemed indispensable.] 

3 [In this sentence Empfindung, elsewhere translated ' sensation ' to 
distinguish it from Gefuhl, which is translated 'feeling/ * emotion 1 
(see 266), is rendered * feeling, 1 because we have no verb in English 
corresponding to the substantive sensation.'] 


ideas, but also an idea of this variety and of this change. 
Nor is it merely in thought that we have to distinguish 
that apprehension of existing relations which arises from an 
act of reference and comparison from the mere sensation of 
the individual members of the relation \ experience shows 
us that the two are separable in reality, and justifies us in 
subordinating the conscious sensation and representation 
of individual contents to the referring or relating act of 
representation, and in considering the latter to be a higher 
activity, higher in that definite sense of the word according 
to which the higher necessarily presupposes the lower but 
does not in its own nature necessarily proceed from the 
lower. Just as the external sense-stimuli serve to excite the 
soul to produce simple sensations, so the relations which 
have arisen between the many ideas, whether simultaneous 
or successive, thus produced, serve the soul as a new internal 
stimulus stirring it to exercise this new reacting activity. 

268. The possibility of all reference and comparison 
rests on the continuance in an unchanged form both of 
the members which are to be referred to one another, and 
of the difference between them. When once two impres- 
sions a and b have arisen, as the ideas 'red' and 'blue,' 
they do not mix with one another, disappear, and so form 
the third idea c, the idea 'violet.' If they did so, we 
should have a change of simple ideas without the possi- 
bility of a comparison between them. This comparison is 
itself possible only if one and the same activity at once 
holds a and b together and holds them apart, but yet, in 
passing from a to b or from b to a, is conscious of the 
change caused in its state by these transitions : and it is in 
this way that the new third idea y arises, the idea of a 
definite degree of qualitative likeness 1 and unlikeness in 
a and b. 

Again : if we see at the same time a stronger light a and 
a weaker light b of the same colour, what happens is not 

1 [Aehnlichkeit.] 


that there arises, in place of both, the idea c of a light 
whose strength is the sum of the intensities of the two. 
If that idea did arise, it would mean that the material to 
which the comparison has to be directed had disappeared. 
The comparison is made only because one and the same 
activity, passing between a and , is conscious of the 
alteration in its state sustained in the passage ; and it is in 
this way that the idea y arises, the idea of a definite 
quantitative difference. 

Lastly : given the impressions a and a, that which arises 
from them is not a third impression = 2 a; but the activity, 
passing as before between the still separated impressions, 
is conscious of having sustained no alteration in the 
passage : and in this way would arise the new idea 7, the 
idea of identity^. 

We are justified in regarding all these different instances 
of y as ideas of a higher or second order. They are not 
to be put on a line with the ideas from the comparison of 
which they arose. The simple idea of red or blue, as it 
hovers before us, does not suggest to us any activity of our 
own which has contributed to its existence ; but, in return 
for this loss, it gives us a directly perceptible content. 
The ideas y, on the contrary, have no content at all of 
their own which can be perceived by itself. They are 
therefore never represented in the strict sense of the word, 
as the simple idea is ; never represented, that is, so that 
they stand before us now as resting perceptible images. 
They can be represented only through the simultaneous 
reproduction of some examples or other of a and , and 
through the repetition of the mental movement from which 
they arose. 

269. I may look for the objection that this description 

of the way in which the relating activity proceeds is strange 

and incapable of being clearly construed. I admit the 

objection, but I see no reproach in it. It is possible that 

1 [Gleichheit.] 


better expressions may be found, to signify what I mean : 
my immediate object is to indicate what happens at least 
with such clearness that every one may verify its reality in 
his own internal observation. It is quite true that, to those 
who start from the circle of ideas common in physical 
mechanics, there must be something strange in the concep- 
tion of an activity, or (it is the same thing) of an active 
being, which not only experiences two states a and b at 
the same time without fusing them into a resultant, but 
which passes from one to the other and so acquires the 
idea of a third state y, produced by this very transition. 
Still this process is a fact ; and the reproach of failure in 
the attempt to imagine how it arises after the analogies of 
physical mechanics, falls only upon the mistaken desire of 
construing the perfectly unique sphere of mental life after a 
pattern foreign to it. That desire I hold to be the most 
mischievous of the prejudices which threaten the progress 
of psychology; and at this point, which seems to me one of 
the greatest importance, I once more expressly separate 
myself from views which are meeting now with wide-spread 
assent : first (a), from the attempts to construe the life of the 
soul materialistically, psycho-physically, or physiologically, 
without regard to its specific peculiarities; and, secondly 
(/3), from a view which must always be mentioned with 
respect, that view of the psychical mechanism, by which 
Herbart rendered, up to a certain critical point, great 
services to science. 

As to the first point (a), these attempts either persistently 
pass over the problem whence that unity of consciousness 
comes, which is testified to by the most trivial exercise of 
the activity of representation in comparison; or they 
deceive us by the apparent ease with which single formulas, 
believed to have been discovered for single psychical 
events, gives rise in their combination to new formulas, in 
which even the desired unity is supposed to be attained. 
But this whole superstructure of oscillations upon oscilla- 


tions, of embracing waves upon partial waves, this discovery 
of unities in the shape of points of intersection for different 
curves, all this leads to pleasing wood-cuts, but not to an 
understanding of the processes they illustrate. Mathe- 
matical formulas in themselves determine nothing but 
quantitative relations, between the related points which 
have been brought into those formulas by means of uni- 
versal designations. Such formulas, therefore, subsume 
the definite real elements or processes, to which they are 
applied, under a universal rule; and no doubt these 
elements or processes may really fall under the rule in 
respect of those properties in virtue of which they were 
subsumed under it. But the universal rule in its formal 
expression no longer reminds us of the special nature of 
the object to which it is applied ; and thus, partly owing to 
the different values given to the quantities contained in it, 
partly through its combination with other formulas, a 
number of consequences can be drawn from it, respecting 
which it remains entirely doubtful whether they mean 
anything whatever when they are applied to the definite 
object in question ; or, if they do mean anything, what the 
actual processes and agencies are which in the real thing 
lead to an occurrence corresponding to the result of the 
calculation. The first of these two cases I will not discuss 
further, though examples of it might be adduced. If we 
have begun by calling the conditions under which an effect 
appears, a threshold, we must, of course, have something 
that either passes over it or fails to reach it; and then 
these portraits of the deductions drawn from a metaphor 
easily pass for self-evident facts. If in a calculation, in 
which x signifies the liveliness of a sensation, we come to a 
negative x, we consider ourselves justified in speaking of 
negative sensations too. There are various ways of making 
mythology : at present the mathematical turn of imagination 
seems to take the lead. Respecting the second case I 
shall meet with a readier assent. Formulas do not produce 


events ; they copy them after real causes have created 
them, and they copy only individual aspects of them. No 
coincidence of formulas, therefore, can ever prove that the 
events which meet or fuse in them, also fuse as a matter of 
course in the real thing without the help of any particular 
cause to bring about this union. If this cause, without 
which the event is metaphysically unintelligible, could be 
included in the calculation, and that in such a way that 
every peculiarity of its procedure found a precise mathe- 
matical expression, then, and only then, would these 
quantities be rightly denominated, and only then could the 
calculus securely predict from their universal relations the 
further consequences which may be drawn. 

27O. In opposition to Herbart, again (j3), I must repeat 
the doubts I expressed long ago in my Streitschriften 
(I, Leipzig, 1857). When Herbart calls that which goes 
on in the simple real being when it is together with others,, 
its self-preservation, he raises hopes that in his general 
view the specific conception of activity will get its rights ;, 
a conception which we shall always believe to signify 
something special and something really to be found in the 
world, although we find it quite impossible to define what 
we mean by it, when we oppose it to a mere occurrence, in 
any way approaching to a mechanical construction. Did 
we deceive ourselves in this view of Herbart's intention ? 
Ought we to have taken self-preservation for an active form 
of speech describing a mere occurrence, which, without 
anything being done by anybody, simply ends, as a matter 
of fact, with the result that something continues in 
preservation, the non-preservation of which we should 
rather have looked for as the probable end of the occur- 
rence ? 

The further course of the Herbartian psychology would 
confirm this interpretation. For, according to this psycho- 
logy, if the soul was ever active at all, it never was active 
but once It asserted itself against the stimuli which came 


from without, by producing the simple sensations : but 
from that point it became passive, and allows its internal 
states to dominate its whole life without interference. 
Everything further that happens in it, the formation of its 
conceptions, the development of its various faculties, the 
settlement of the principles on which it acts, are all me- 
chanical results which, when once these primary self-preserva- 
tions have been aroused, follow from their reactions ; and the 
soul, the arena on which all this takes place, never shows 
itself volcanic and irritable enough to interfere by new 
reactions with the play of its states and to give them such 
new directions as do not follow analytically from them 
according to the universal laws of their reciprocal actions. 

But the limitation of the soul's activity to these scanty 
beginnings was neither theoretically necessary at starting, 
nor is it recommended by its results. It was due to 
Herbart's quarrel with an earlier psychology, with the 
assumption of a number of original faculties which, doubt- 
less to the detriment of science, were then considered to 
contain everything necessary to the production of results, 
whose causes are in reality formed only by degrees and 
ought to have been made the object of explanation. Here 
lie Herbart's unquestionable merits, and I need not repeat 
that I fully recognise them. But they lie side by side with 
that which I regret to have to call his error. The mere 
plurality of these faculties, even the view of them as mere 
adjacent facts the real connexion of which remained 
unintelligible, could not, taken alone, justify Herbart in 
going so far the other way as to base the development of 
the mind upon a single kind of process and the conse- 
quences flowing from it. For he himself both knew and 
said that the simple sensations from which he started are 
just as independent of one another as were the faculties he 
rejected ; that we cannot conceive any reason why a soul 
that feels ether-waves as colours must, in consistency, 
perceive air-waves as sounds; that therefore the soul 


has just the same number of primal faculties irreducible to 
one another as of single sensations different from one 
another. He did not on that account surrender the unity 
of the soul, or doubt that in it this multiplicity is bound 
together by some connexion, albeit that connexion entirely 
escapes us. Now if this one nature of the soul can produce 
simultaneously, or, so to speak, on the same level of its 
action, such manifold expressions of its essence, why should 
it not in the same way produce manifold expressions suc- 
cessively at different periods of its development? Why 
should not its own internal states, through their increasing 
multiplicity, win from it new reactions, for which in their 
simpler forms they gave no occasion ? There is certainly 
nothing impossible in the idea of a constantly renewed 
reaction, in which that whole essence of the soul that is 
always present casts new germs of development into the 
machinery of its internal states ; and a view that rejects 
this source of aid could have proved it to be superfluous 
only by its own complete success. That I do not find this 
view everywhere thus successful, I shall have to mention 
again ; here I will refer to three points. 

First, the deduction of the perception of Space. I have 
already spoken of its impossibility and will not refer to it 
again at length. We must content ourselves with regarding 
this perception as a new and peculiar form of apprehension, 
which, proceeding from the essence of the soul, attaches, as 
a reaction of the kind just described, to a definite manifold 
of impressions, but does not of itself issue from that mani- 
fold. The second point is attention : I shall have to 
mention it directly in the course of the present discussion. 
Thirdly, in the case of any act of reference or comparison, 
Herbart's psychology seems to me to take no account of the 
eye which perceives the relations obtaining between the 
single ideas ; the consciousness of the investigator which 
has performed this task of perception everywhere takes the 
place of the consciousness investigated, which is required 


to perform it. It is of no avail to answer that it is implied 
in the very notion of the soul as something that represents, 
that it perceives everything that exists and occurs in it, and 
therefore that it perceives the relations in which its single 
ideas stand to one another : the need of a deduction of the 
perception of space is by itself sufficient to disarm this re- 
joinder. For Herbart agrees that the impressions which 
muster in the simple essence of the soul, are together in the 
soul in a non-spatial way. A consciousness which as a 
matter of course perceived their reciprocal relations, could 
only apprehend them as they are, as non-spatial. But this 
is not what happens : consciousness changes them and re- 
produces in perceptions of something side by side in space 
what in themselves are only together with one another in a 
non-spatial way. Here then the perception is at the same 
time a new creation of the form in which it takes place : 
but even in those cases where there is nothing novel in the 
reaction to surprise us, the perception of relations is no 
mere mirroring of their existence, but at the least the new 
creation of the very idea of them. 

271. Expressed in Herbart's terminology, my view would 
take the following form. The soul is stimulated by the 
external sense-stimuli s 19 as stimuli of the first order : and 
in consequence it forms the simple 1 sensations which we 
know, and to which perhaps the simplest feelings of 
sensuous pleasure and pain ought to be added as creations 
which arise with equal readiness. But the various relations 
(whether of simultaneous multiplicity or of temporal suc- 
cession) which exists between the sensations or the images 
they have left in the memory, do not simply exist, they form 
for the soul new stimuli s 2 , stimuli of a second order, and the 
soul responds to them by new reactions. These reactions 
differ according to the difference of their stimuli, and can- 
not be explained from these secondary stimuli themselves, 
but only from the still unexhausted nature of the soul, 
1 f'Einfachen sinnlichen Empfindungen/ v. note on p. 224.] 


which they stir to an expression of itself for which there was 
previously no motive. Among these reactions we count 
the perception of Space, which holds a certain simultaneous 
manifold together; the time-ideas of a change, which are 
not given *by the mere fact of temporal change ; lastly, not 
only these ideas 1 of the kind y, which measure theoretically 
the existing relations between different contents, but also 
among other things, the feelings of pleasure and pain which 
are connected with these relations. Obviously, on this 
view, any condition of feeling or any series of referring 
activities, directed in the way of comparison or judgment to 
different contents of given ideas, may become in its turn a 
new stimulus to the soul, an -object of a still higher reflexion ; 
but it would be mere trifling to reckon up reactions of a 
third and fourth order, unless a detailed psychology, for 
which this is no place, had succeeded in pointing out 
distinctly in internal observation the processes which would 
justify us in assuming this ascending scale of orders. And 
for the purposes of metaphysic such a course would bring 
us no further than we are brought already by the recogni- 
tion, once for all, that the soul is in no case a mere arena 
for the contentions of its internal states, but the living soil, 
which, in each instantaneous creation that it brings into 
being, has produced at the same time new conditions for 
the generation of still higher forms. 

272. There is only one point, therefore, with regard to 
which I will continue these remarks. Those ideas 1 y, the 
origin of which I touched on above, were, so far as they 
were then considered, in themselves no more than definite 
single ideas of a quantitative or qualitative difference, or of 
a single case of identity. It is only when we suppose this 
same referring activity of knowledge to be applied to many 
repeated cases of a similar kind, that we understand how 
the general ideas of quantity and quality arise in the same 
way. As to the origin of universal conceptions generally, 
1 [v. 268.] 



we are sometimes told that they arise from our uniting many 
single examples : those parts of the examples which are like 
one another are accumulated, those which are opposed 
cancel one another, those which are dissimilar dim one 
another. But this mechanical mode of origination pre- 
supposes that the individual ideas, in balancing one another 
so as to produce the universal, have disappeared and been 
lost ; and the contrary is the fact. They continue to exist ; 
and it is not out of them that the universal is produced, but 
side by side with them : it could not be felt at all as uni- 
versal, as something that is true of them among others, if 
they had vanished and simply left it behind as their produc- 
tion. The structure of the different kinds of universal con- 
ception is very complex, and it is the business of Logic to 
analyse it. Psychology can do no more than base their 
origin on a more or less intricate exercise of the referring 
activity through which we apprehend the different relations 
of the constituents which have to be united in them. The 
idea produced by this group of activities is not of the same 
kind as those ideas, which, as the direct result of external 
impressions, represent a perceptible fixed content ; it is a 
conception, and the apparently simple name which language 
gives to it is never more than the expression of a rule which 
we require ourselves to follow in connecting with each other 
points of relation which are themselves conceived as uni- 
versal. We can fulfil this requirement 1 only if we allow 
our imagination to represent some individual example or 
other, which answers to this rule, while at the same time we 
join to our perception of this individual the consideration 
that many other examples, and not this one only or ex- 
clusively, can with equal justice be used as the perceptible 
symbol of that which cannot in itself be perceived. 

273. The fact of attention still remains to be mentioned. 
It was depicted by psychologies of an earlier date as a 
inoveable light which the mind directs on to the impressions 
1 [On the nature of Universal Ideas, cp. Logic, sect. 339.] 

Chap. III.] A TTENTION. 243 

it receives, either with the view of bringing them for the 
first time to consciousness, or else in order to draw the 
impressions already present in consciousness from their 
obscurity. The first of these alternatives is impossible ; for 
the supposed light could not search in consciousness for 
something which is not there : the second at least leaves 
the obscurity in which the ideas are supposed (without any 
reason being given for it) to find themselves, very obscure. 
The necessary complement of this view would lie in the 
perception that the direction of this moveable light cannot 
be accidental, but must depend on fixed conditions, and 
that therefore it must naturally be the ideas themselves that 
attract attention to themselves. But I think the view I am 
speaking of was right in regarding attention as an- activity 
exercised by the soul and having the ideas for its objects, 
and not as a property of which the ideas are the subjects. 
The latter notion was the one preferred by Herbart. Ac- 
cording to him, when we say that we have directed our 
attention to the idea /, what has really happened is merely 
that , through an increase in its own strength, has raised 
itself in consciousness above the rest of the ideas. But, 
even were the conception of a variable strength free from 
difficulty in its application to ideas, the task which we 
expect attention to perform would still remain inexplicable. 
What we seek to attain by means of it is not an equally 
increasing intensity of the represented content, just as it is, 
but a growth in its clearness ; and this rests in all cases on 
the perception of the relations which obtain between its 
individual constituents. Even when attention is directed 
to a perfectly simple impression, the sole use of exerting it 
lies in the discovery of relations ; it could achieve nothing, 
and a mere gazing at the object, even if it were heightened to 
infinity, would be utterly fruitless, if there were nothing in 
the object or around it to compare and bring into relation. 
If we wish to tune a string exactly, we compare its sound 
with the sound of another which, serves as a pattern,, and 



try to make sure whether the two agree or differ ; or else 
we take the sound of the string by itself and compare it at 
different moments of its duration, so as to see that it re- 
mains the same and does not waver between different 
pitches. We shall assuredly find no case in which attention 
consists in anything but this referring activity ; and, on the 
other hand, there are moments when we cannot collect our- 
selves, when we are wholly occupied by a strong impression, 
which yet does not become distinct because the excessive 
force of the stimulation hinders the exercise of this construc- 
tive act of comparison. So closely is the distinctness of a 
content connected with this activity that, even after the eye 
has repeatedly traversed the outlines of a sensuous image, 
we use a new expedient to secure the image in our memory : 
we translate its impression into a description, in which, 
through the aid of the developed forms of language, the 
internal relations of the image are subsumed under the con- 
ceptions of position, direction, connexion, and movement 
(all of them conceptions of relation), and which prescribes 
a rule enabling us to re-create the content of the impression 
through successive acts of representation or thought. 

274. The interest which the idea a possesses at a given 
moment, has two factors, the stable value of the idea for 
emotion, and the variable significance which this value 
possesses for our total state at the particular time. And 
this interest is the condition which on the one hand awakes 
attention and enchains it, and on the other hand diverts 
and distracts it. The latter case occurs when the associated 
ideas , c, which a reproduces, exceed a in momentary 
interest ; then it is that the course of our thoughts moves 
in those strange leaps, which we know so well, which we 
understand in their general conditions, but the direction of 
which we can seldom follow in any particular instance. It 
is however in this fact, that the idea a is, to a greater or less 
extent, able through % its associations to attract and bring 
back our attention to itself, that the greater or smaller force 


consists which it exerts on the course of our ideas ; and 
further, it is in this that there lies the measure of strength 
which we are accustomed to ascribe to the idea as an in- 
herent quality. If a has merely served as a point of transi- 
tion to the more rapid awakening of other ideas , c, neither 
of which reconduct us to a, we regard a as an idea that was 
weak, or that only raised itself slightly above the threshold 
of consciousness ; and alas ! by this figure of speech we too 
often suppose ourselves to have described the real condition 
on which the slight influence of the idea depends. But it 
is not at the moment when a is passing through conscious- 
ness that we rate it as clear or obscure, strong or weak ; it 
is only at a later time, and when other occasions reproduce it 
and convince us that it must have been in consciousness at 
a former moment, that it appears to us as an idea that was 
weak ; and it appears so, because we do not remember any 
referring act of attention which at that time, by analysing 
its content, made it strong, or which, by pursuing its rela- 
tions to other ideas, assigned it a determinate position in 
the connexion of our inner life. Lastly it is obvious, 
according to our general view, not only that every activity 
of attention that has been put forth may become an object 
to a higher consciousness, but also that there need not be 
any such reflexion on what has been done. The oftener we 
have made like relations between a number of points of 
reference the object of acts of comparison and reference, 
the more is there connected with the new example, in the 
manner of a fixed association, the idea of the universal 
relation under which its relations are to be subsumed. 
When impressions first occur, we are often unable to 
connect and judge them without consciously considering 
how we are to use our ideas in order to do so ; but, when 
the impressions are repeated, these acts of connexion and 
judgment frequently take place without any such considera- 
tions being necessary : and so we are easily deceived into 
thinking that in these cases there was really no operation to 


be performed, and that the mere existence of the relations 
between the single impressions makes the perception of 
those relations a matter of course. 

My object in devoting this chapter entirely to the refer- 
ring activity was to emphasize its decisive importance. I 
may remind the reader that it is really this activity whose 
delicacy is directly measured by the psycho-physical experi- 
ments respecting our capacity for distinguishing impressions, 
and that all assertions as to the strength of sensations, are, 
in so far as they rest on these experiments, theoretical 
deductions drawn from this immediate result of observa- 


The Formation of our Ideas of Space. 

275. THE concluding remarks of the last chapter may 
serve to introduce the discussion which is to follow on the 
psychological genesis of our ideas of space and the localisa- 
tion of the impressions of sense. In this discussion I must 
use the freedom claimed by every one who holds, as I do, 
that our perception of space is merely subjective. In con- 
sistency no doubt we should have to consider our own body, 
as well as the organs of sense by means of which it takes 
possession of the external world, to be nothing but appear- 
ances in ourselves ; to be, that is, the ordered expression of 
a different non-spatial order, obtaining between those super- 
sensuous real elements, which the all-embracing meaning of 
the world has made into a system of direct immediate links 
of connexion between our soul and the other constituents 
of the world. It is not impossible to make this point of 
view clear to oneself in a general way, and to see that the 
questions, now to be dealt with, respecting our sensuous 
commerce with the outer world, might be expressed in the 
language of that view; but to carry it out in detail would 
lead to a prolixity as intolerable as it would be needless. 
Needless, for this reason, that, if the perception of space is 
once for all fixed by the nature of our mind as our mode of 
apprehension, this perception has a rightful existence for us, 
and we can hardly propose to look down upon that which 
has the power of shedding clearness and vividness upon re- 
lations which can be perceived by us only in this way and 
not in the form they actually possess* It is enough to have 


assured ourselves at a single point in metaphysic that spa- 
tiality is only our form of apprehension, perhaps also a form 
belonging to every being that has a mind. After it has 
been shown in a general way how the true intelligible rela- 
tions of things admit of an ordered manifestation within this 
form, we may again merely in a general way, subsume this 
special instance of those relations, the structure of our own 
body, under that general demonstration ; but in the further 
course of our enquiry we shall everywhere substitute for the 
conception of the system of intelligible links of connexion 
between ourselves and the world that spatial image of our 
body which, unlike the conception, can be perceived. Ac- 
cordingly, we presuppose here the ordinary view; for us, as 
for it, the world is extended around us in space ; we and 
the things in it have determinate places in it ; the actions or 
effects of those things on us are propagated in determinate 
directions up to the surface of our body, and, passing some- 
how to the soul, produce in its perception a spatial image ; 
the component parts of which have the same reciprocal 
positions either exactly the same or within definite limits 
the same as the external things by which they, as sensa- 
tions, were produced. 

276. Owing to the directness of the impression we receive 
from the external world, it seems as though the spatial per- 
ception of that world came to us without any trouble on 
our part, as though we need only open our eyes to take 
possession of the whole glory of the world as it is. Yet, as 
we know, and as many experiences at once remind us, it is 
not by merely existing that things are objects of our per- 
ception, but solely through their effects upon us. Their 
spatial relations, no less than others, come to our knowledge 
not by the mere fact of their existence, but only through a 
co-ordination of their effects upon us, a co-ordination which 
corresponds to the relative position of the points from which 
those effects proceeded. And, conversely, the possibility 
of correctly concluding from the impression these effects 


produce on us to the spatial relations of their causes, de- 
pends on the extent to which those effects preserve their 
original co-ordination in being propagated up to the point 
at which they impress us. 

But here begin the misunderstandings which obscure the 
way before us. Our bodily organs offer an extended sur- 
face, on the various points of which these impressions may 
be grouped in positions similar to those held by the points 
in the outer world, from which they came-. It is therefore 
possible for an image to be produced which has the same 
aspect as the object whose image it is ; and this possibility 
has often seemed enough to make all further questions 
superfluous. But in fact it has only doubled the problem. 
If it was not clear how we perceived the object itself, it is 
no more clear how we perceive its image ; and the fact that 
one resembles the other makes matters no plainer. So long 
as this image consists simply in a number of excitations of 
nervous points arranged in a figure corresponding to the 
figure of an external object, it is no more than a copy, 
brought nearer to us or diminished, of that which may be 
the object of a future perception, but it does not give us any 
better rationale of the process through which that thing be- 
comes the object of perception. 

The question how this fact of nerve-excitation becomes 
an object of knowledge for the soul at once gives rise to 
divergent views. We may imagine the soul to be imme- 
diately present in the eye : there, as though it were a 
touching hand, with its thousand nerve-points it apprehends 
the individual coloured points exactly in the position they 
actually have in the eye ; and to many this view seems to 
make everything clear. They forget that it would be just 
as difficult to show how the feelings of touch which the 
hand receives justify us in referring the various points 
apprehended to definite positions in space: before they 
could do so we should have to presuppose that each posi- 
tion of the hand in space was already an object of that 


perception which was precisely what we were trying to ex- 
plain ; then, no doubt, it would be certain that every point 
of colour lies at that spot in space where the hand appre- 
hends it. Others appeal to the physiological fact that 
stimulations of the nerves are conducted to the brain by 
isolated fibres, which may be supposed to lie (where they 
end in the central portions) in the same order in which they 
begin in the organ of sense. Thus, it is said, each impres- 
sion will be conducted by itself and free from intermixture 
with others, and all the impressions will retain, in being 
conducted, the same geometrical relations of position which 
they possessed in that organ. All that this idea accom- 
plishes, again, is to bring the copy, which has taken the 
place of the distant external thing, rather nearer to the spot 
where we suppose the mysterious transition of the physical 
excitation into a knowledge of that excitation to take place. 
But how does this come about? How does the soul 
come to know that at this moment there is a stimulation of 
three central nervous points, which lie in a straight line or 
at the corners of a triangle ? It is not enough that that 
which happens in these points should have differences in its 
quality, and produce on the soul an effect corresponding to 
those differences : but it would also be necessary that the 
spatial relation of the stimulating points should not only 
exist, but should also produce an effect on the soul and so 
be observed by it. Perhaps' at this point we might conceive 
of the soul itself, or of its consciousness, as an extended 
space, into which the excitations of the nerves might be 
continued in their original order and direction : and then 
the whole solution of the riddle would consist in a mere 
transition. But, even if we supposed the many impressions 
to have thus really appeared in the soul in exactly that shape 
in which they came from the external objects, still this fact 
would not be the perception of this fact. Even if we re- 
garded each of these excitations not simply as the condition 
of a future sensation, but as a present state of the soul, a 


conscious sensation, yet, in spite of this, the perception of 
the relations between them would remain to be accomplished 
by a referring consciousness, which in the unity of its activity 
excludes the spatial distinctions holding between its objects. 
When we perceive the points a, b, c, in this order side by 
side, our consciousness sets a to the left and c to the right 
of b : but the idea of #, through which we thus represent a, 
does not lie to the left, nor the idea of c to the right, of the 
idea of b ; the idea itself has not these predicates, it only 
gives them to the points of which it is the idea. And, con- 
versely, if we still suppose consciousness to be a space, and 
further that the idea of a lies in it to the left of the idea of 
#, this fact would still not be the same thing with the know- 
ledge of it; the question would always repeat itself, How 
does the extended soul succeed in distinguishing these two 
points of its own essence, which at a given moment are the 
places where that essence is stimulated ; and by what means 
does it obtain a view of the spatial line or distance which 
separates the two from one another ? The connecting, re- 
ferring, and comparing consciousness, which could perform 
this task, could never be anything but an activity which is 
unextended, intensive and a unity even if the substantive 
being to which we ascribed this activity were extended. In 
the end the impressions would have to pass into this non- 
spatial consciousness; and therefore we gain nothing for 
the explanation of the perception of space by interposing 
this supposition, a supposition which in any case is im- 
possible for us to accept. 

277. Let us return then to the other idea, that of a super- 
sensuous being, characterised only by the nature of its 
activity. Now it is doubtless incorrect to think of the soul 
under the image of a point, for, if a thing is non-spatial, its 
negation of extension ought not to be expressed in terms of 
space ; still the comparison may be admitted here where we 
only wish to draw conclusions from that negation. This 
premised, it is obvious that all those geometrical relations 


which exist among the sense-stimuli and among the nervous 
excitations they occasion must completely disappear in the 
moment when they pass over into the soul : for in its point 
of unity there is no room for their expansion. Up to this 
point the single impressions may be conducted by isolated 
nerve-fibres which preserve the special nature of each im- 
pression ; even in the central portions of the nervous system 
similar separations may still exist, although we do not know 
that they do so ; but in the end, at the transition to con- 
sciousness, all walls of partition must disappear. In the 
unity of consciousness these spatial divisions no more exist 
than the rays of light which fall from various points on a 
converging lens continue to exist side by side in the focal 
points at which they intersect. In the case of the rays 
indeed the motion with which they came together makes it 
possible for them to diverge again, beyond the focal points, 
in a similar geometrical relation; in the present case, on 
the other hand, the required continuation of the process 
consists not in a re-expansion of the impressions into a real 
space, but in the production of an idea the idea of a space 
and of the position of the impressions in that space. This 
perception cannot be delivered to us ready-made. The 
single impressions exist together in the soul in a completely 
non-spatial way and are distinguished simply by their quali- 
tative content, just as the simultaneous notes of a chord are 
heard apart from one another, and yet not side by side with 
one another, in space. From this non-spatial material the 
soul has to re-create entirely afresh the spatial image that 
has disappeared ; and in order to do this it must be able to 
assign to each single impression the position it is to take up 
in this image relatively to the rest and side by side with 
them. Presupposing then, what we do not think need be 
further explained, that for unknown reasons the soul can 
and must apprehend in spatial forms what comes to it as a 
number of non-spatial impressions, some clue will be needed, 
by the help of which it may find for each impression the 


place it must take, in order that the image that is to arise in 
idea may be like the spatial figure that has disappeared. 

278. We may illustrate this requirement in a very simple 
way. Let us suppose that a collection has to be arranged 
in some new place in exactly the same order that it has 
at present. There is no need to keep this order intact 
during the transport; we do whatever is most convenient 
for the purposes of transport, and when it is finished we 
arrange the several pieces of the collection by following the 
numbers pasted on them. Just such a token of its former 
spatial position must be possessed by each impression, 
and retained throughout the time when that impression, 
together with all the rest, was present in a non-spatial way 
in the unity of the soul. Where then does this token come 
from ? It cannot be the point in external space from which 
the sense-stimulus starts, that gives to it this witness of 
its origin. A blue ray of light may come from above or 
from below, from the right or from the left, but it tells 
us nothing of all this ; it itself is the same in all cases. 
It is not until these similar stimuli come in contact with our 
bodies that they are distinguished, and then they are 
distinguished according to the different points at which they 
meet the extended surface of our organs of sense. This 
accordingly may be the spot at which the token I am 
describing has its origin, a token which is given along with 
the stimulus in consequence of the effects produced by it at 
this spot, and which in the case of each single stimulus 
is distinct and different from that given along with any 
other stimulus. 

And now that fact regains its importance, which we could 
not admit as a short-hand solution of these problems ; the 
isolation of the conducting nerve-fibres. I cannot help 
remarking in passing that physiology is mistaken when 
it finds the exclusive object of the structure of the nervous 
system in the unmixed conduction of individual excitations. 
In the optic nerve we find this structure devoted to that 


purpose ; but the olfactory nerve, which possesses it no less, 
shows very little capacity for arousing such a multiplicity of 
separate sensations as would correspond with the number of 
its individual fibres. Nor is it only in the nerves that 
we meet with these elongated unramified fibres; we find 
them in the muscles also^ and yet the isolated excitation of 
a single fibre certainly cannot be the object here, where the 
simultaneous and like stimulation of many fibres is required 
for the attainment of any useful result. Thus we must sup- 
pose, I think, that the wide diffusion of this structure 
of the fibres has a more general explanation. Perhaps 
their forms were the only ones possible to the forces which 
shape an organic form, and a foundation for greater effects 
may have been producible only through adding together 
such elementary organs. Perhaps again the physical pro- 
cesses, on which the activities of life rest, are necessarily 
connected, within narrow limits, with the fineness of the 
fibre, and could not take place in masses of a thickness 
discernible to the naked eye. But however this may be, 
however this structure came into being, when once it 
is present, it can< without doubt be used for the purpose 
of separating the impressions of sense. Each single fibre, 
at the spot where it receives the stimulus, can attach to 
it the extra-impression described, and can transmit it to 
consciousness, stamped with this character, and preserved 
by the isolation of the fibre from mixture with other physical 

279. A further assumption is necessary before we can 
make use of this process to explain the localization of 
impressions. We must suppose that similar stimuli give 
rise in each nerve-fibre to a special extra-impression, an 
extra-impression which is different in the case of every 
single fibre, and which connects itself, in the manner of an 
association, with that main impression which depends on 
the quality of the stimulus, connects itself, therefore, in 
such a way that neither of .the two impressions, the main 


one and the extra one, interferes with the peculiar nature 
and tone of the other. It must be confessed that we have 
no anatomical knowledge of a diversity in the single nerve- 
fibres so manifold as this assumption requires. But this 
diversity may consist not only in properties which escape 
all the expedients our external observation can employ, but 
in the very spatial position of the fibre ; we might suppose, 
that is, firstly, that in a number of fibres lying side by side 
interactions take place which produce different states of 
susceptibility in the fibres lying at different spots in this 
system; and, secondly, it is no less possible that the 
excitations of each fibre may acquire a particular tone from 
the effect produced on it by occurrences in the surrounding 
tissues. But this question of detail, again, we must leave 
undiscussed ; what is certain is that no other view of the 
matter can dispense with an assumption similar to that for 
which we have suggested an explanation. In order to know 
whether a push we felt when our eyes were shut came 
against our hand or our foot, it is necessary that, the two 
pushes being in other respects of equal measurement, 
the total impression should be different in the two cases. 
In such a case it is of no use to appeal to associations, and 
to say that on a former occasion the impression of the push 
was connected with a, simultaneous visual perception of 
the place that received it, and that now when the push 
is repeated it reproduces this perception. For in the course 
of life we unfortunately so often receive pushes on all parts 
of the body, that the impression in question will have 
associated itself almost indiscriminately with the images 
of all of them : it will be impossible, therefore, in the case 
of a repetition to decide to which of these parts the impres- 
sion is to be referred, unless in this new case the impression 
itself once more tells us to which of them we are to refer it : 
it is necessary, in other words, that the impression now 
recurring should be provided with a clear token of its 
present origin. Let A B C, then, stand for three diverse 


stimuli, pqr for three different spots in an organ of sense, 
TT ic p for three specific extra-impressions, which those spots 
connect with the main sensations occasioned by ABC: 
then the difference between these connected local signs * p 
will be the clue by means of which the sensations falling 
upon/ qr can be localised in separate places in our percep- 
tion of space. The associations ArrAicAp will signify three 
similar impressions which have fallen on the different spots 
pqrtf. the organ of sense, and which are prevented by this 
very difference in their local signs from being fused into one 
sensation, a fusion which could not have been prevented 
if the three A's had been perfectly identical 1 ; since, where 
no distinctions exist, no activity of consciousness can make 
them. The associations ATT B* Cp, on the other hand, will 
signify three dissimilar impressions which affect those three 
different spots in the organ at the same time ; these impres- 
sions, owing to their qualitative difference, need nothing 
further to prevent their fusion into one sensation, and all 
that TTjcp give them is their spatial arrangement. Lastly, 
AKJ&*CK would be the same three dissimilar stimuli, acting 
on one and the same spot q in the organ of sense, and 
therefore, as we seem obliged to suppose, appearing succes- 
sively at the same point in our perception of space. 

280. I have no desire to conceal the difficulties which 
arise when these considerations are pursued further. As 
long as we abstain from considering the differences between 
the organs of sense, and only try to fix in a general way the 
requirements we have to satisfy, it is possible to form many 
different views respecting the nature and genesis of local 
signs. The simplest would be one I have mentioned in 
passing, that the extra-process destined to accompany the 
main impression takes place directly, and at first as a 
physical excitation, in the same nerve-fibre which is affected 
by an external stimulus. In that case it would depend on 
the form of excitation which was found to be the general 

1 [I. e. if Air, A*, A/> had been simply A, A, A or Air, Air, Air.] 


mode of activity in the nerves, whether it could permit 
the simultaneous conduction, without intermixture, of two 
different processes : and even if we found that this was not 
possible in the case of two excitations of the same kind, 
still it might be so when one of the two processes was 
the extra-excitation which accompanies the main move- 
ment issuing from the stimulus, but is not of the same kind 
with it. However, the whole supposition of a double 
conduction fails to attain its object. For it involves the 
tacit presupposition that two processes, which, without being 
otherwise connected, proceed along the same nerve-fibre, 
thereby acquire a permanent association : and this pre- 
supposition rests in the end on a mode of thought which 
we were unable to accept, on the notion, I mean, that the 
mere fact of the excitations existing side by side in space is 
sufficient to give rise to the idea of their intrinsic connexion. 
On a former occasion I compared consciousness, by way of 
figure, to a single vessel ; and the various excitations, which 
were conducted to this vessel and flowed into it through 
different pipes, were supposed at last to meet in it and mix 
indiscriminately together. We need not keep to this 
figure ; but however we like to picture the transition into 
consciousness, the mere fact that A and ?r, B and <c, 
C and p were together in space, will give conscious- 
ness no token that it is to connect them exactly in 
this way instead of joining A to K, B to p, and C 

Accordingly, the other supposition seems to me more 
natural than this of a double conduction, the supposition 
that the main impression and the extra-excitation really give 
rise in each fibre to one total state, which is conducted as a 
total state and occasions nothing but one total sensation. If 
this sensation remained by itself alone, we should feel no 
occasion to distinguish different elements in it, any more than 
violet, if we knew nothing but it, would suggest to us to sepa- 
rate red and blue from one another in it. But many different 



stimuli are in process of time connected with one and the 
same extra-process ; and it may be that the comparison of 
these cases would arouse an activity of separation which 
would analyse the total impressions into their component 
parts, but which would at the same time learn to refer the 
local sign, thus separated, in' each case to that qualitative 
impression from which it was parted in thought and in 
thought alone. It is possible to find instances in which 
this actually occurs. The effect produced by a tone must 
be apprehended as an excitation which is at first one and 
total, in the sense above described : but not only does the 
comparison of many successive tones enable us to distin- 
guish the quality from the height of each, but further, when 
we hear several tones at once, we are able to attach each 
quality to the height of the note from which it was thus 
separated. The artificiality of this point of view may make 
us distrust it, but we shall not find it easy to escape this 
artificiality by taking another road. 

Let us put aside altogether, what is quite unessential, the 
image of the soul as a point at which all the impressions 
conducted to it discharge themselves. Let us suppose, 
what we shall afterwards find confirmed, that the soul 
perceives the physical nervous processes directly at the spot 
where they reach the final form in which they are destined 
to be objects of its perception. Still there remains the 
question we would so gladly avoid : supposing the soul has 
apprehended many impressions in this way, either at the 
same time or one after the other, it can analyse each of 
them into the components described above; what deter- 
mines it then not to allow these components to fall asunder 
but to hold them together in a way corresponding to the 
connexion from which it has previously disjoined them? 
We see, then, that the artificiality lies in the fact itself, or 
in that view of the fact which alone remains open to us 
now, in the enigmatical nature of associations generally. 
I reminded 1 the reader in a former passage that in using this 


name we are merely designating a fact we are obliged to 
assume, without being able to give any account of the 
means by which it is brought about. And now it seems to 
me that the source of the doubts that beset us here is that 
we cannot persuade ourselves to renounce our search for 
a mechanism which would bring about this connexion of 
states after the analogy of physical processes. Such a 
construction we shall certainly never find. On the other 
hand, if we are tempted to regard associations as a peculi- 
arity of the psychical activity, to which there is no analogy 
elsewhere, we are held back by the undoubted fact that we 
do not yet possess any intelligible general point of view 
which would exhibit the ratio legis in every case, and which 
would explain not only the connexion at this point but its 
absence at that point : instead of this we are forced in each 
particular case to make assumptions which appear artificial 
because they are always constructed ad hoc. I believe then 
that the hypothesis I have been speaking of here, that of 
the origin of the local sign in the stimulated nerve itself, 
might be maintained ; but, later on, I shall substitute for 
it another hypothesis, according to which the extra- 
production of the local sign is less direct : and my reason is 
not that the second hypothesis is free from the difficulties 
of the first, but that it offers other advantages. At present 
we will proceed for a moment with our general remarks. 

281. If the local signs ?r K p merely differ generally in 
quality, it is true that they would suffice to prevent three 
perfectly similar stimuli from coalescing, and to make them 
appear as three instances of the same felt content. But the 
only result would be an impulse to hold the sensations 
apart in a general way; there would be nothing to lead us 
on to give to the sensations thus produced a definite local- 
isation in space. It is this that is left unnoticed by those 
who regard the isolated conduction of three impressions by 
three fibres as a sufficient reason, taken by itself, for their 
being perceived as spatially separate. Even if (in the 


absence of the extra local signs) this isolation were a 
sufficient condition of the three impressions being distin- 
guished as three, yet the question whether they were to be 
represented at the corners of a triangle or in a straight line, 
could only be decided by a soul which already possessed 
that capacity of localisation which we are trying to under- 
stand. In this case the soul would stand, as it were with a 
second and inner vision, before the open key-board of the 
central nerve-terminations, would see them lying ready side 
by side, and doubtless would very easily refer the arriving 
excitations to the places occupied by those keys on which 
they produce some observable motion. If this is impossible, 
as it is, just as little would it be possible for the local signs 
given along with sensations to produce a real localisation of 
the sensations, if these local signs simply differed without 
being also comparable. If they are to lead to this localisa- 
tion they must necessarily be members of series or of a 
system of series, in each of which there must be some 
general characteristic in common, but within its limits a 
difference, measurable in some way, of every individual 
from every other. If 

* = 7T + A, p = 7T-f 2 A, Or K = p A, 

then, but only then, can these signs be the reason why a 
perception, which can and must apprehend these arith- 
metical differences in some spatial way or other, should 
place B* nowhere but in the middle between An and Cp. 
And if more than one series of this kind is involved, so 
that the general character of the local signs in the one is 
qualitatively distinguished from that of the other, still even 
in the transition from series to series this alteration of 
quality must somehow proceed by measurable differences ; 
otherwise we should not know how great, in terms of space, 
is the declination of some of the impressions from the 
straight line which is the shape others are to take in the 
282. This postulate is closely connected with the settle- 


ment of another question. Wherever the local signs may 
arise, there is no doubt that, to start with, they are physical 
excitations which arise, on occasion of the stimulus, in the 
stimulated spot, this spot having an individuality or special 
nature of its own. We have gone on to assume as self-evident, 
that they then produce sensations, states of consciousness, 
just as the main impressions do which they accompany; and 
that, from a comparison of the associations which have thus 
arisen, a referring activity decides what relative position 
each impression is to take among the rest. Now is this 
necessary? Or does it suffice to regard TT * p simply as 
physical processes which do not themselves appear in 
consciousness, and merely determine the direction in which 
consciousness guides each impression to its place in the 
perceived space ? Now, supposing we adopt the second of 
these alternatives, the difficulty remains that it will be just 
as necessary for the unconscious faculty of localisation as it 
was for the conscious, that the local signs should stand in 
the reciprocal relations we have indicated; otherwise this 
faculty will have nothing to determine it to the definite 
directions spoken of. This will at any rate be necessary if 
we are to hold in this case to that general rationality of the 
phenomena which alone gives any interest to attempts to 
explain them : for of course it is possible to take a purely 
fatalistic view, and to say, It simply is the fact that, if the 
spot / is stimulated the ensuing sensation must take the 
place x, and if the spot q is stimulated the ensuing sensation 
must take the place y\ and there is no rule or reason why 
the existence of one of these relations should involve that 
of the other. On this assumption any further hypotheses 
as to the nature of the local signs would be superfluous : 
but then on this assumption all investigation would be 
superfluous, for there would be nothing to investigate. If 
however that general rationality of phenomena is admitted, 
then I find no sufficient clearness in the theory that our 
determination of place in perception is conducted uncon- 


sciously. For this reason : according to the theory there is 
something which determines the position to be given to 
each single impression in the space perceived. This some- 
thing, this ground of determination, must remain conjoined 
with this single impression and with it alone (for it holds 
good of it and of no other impression). It cannot be 
merely a prior process determining the future localisation ; 
it must be a permanent definite mark attached to that idea 
whose localisation it is to further. And, since the idea 
now appears in consciousness, it is difficult to imagine how 
the grounds of determination can leave such an after-effect 
attached to the idea, as would operate in consciousness and 
yet not appear in that same consciousness. 

Here again there lie more general difficulties which 
interrupt our course. It is, once more, because we are 
accustomed to observe the external world, that we naturally 
separate any occurrence produced by causes into a preceding 
impression on the one side, and a subsequent reaction on 
the other. In a chain of processes, in which each link is 
the sufficient reason only of the next, we may make this 
distinction between the first link a and the last link z ; but it 
is useless to interpose between the next neighbours a and b 
another impression, which it is supposed that a must have 
already made before it can call forth b as a reaction. We 
are separating what is really a unity, the occurrence which 
is at once reception of an impression and reaction against 
it ; and it is this false separation which in the present case 
makes it seem natural that the external stimulus should first 
produce in the soul an impression which is not yet con- 
sciousness, and that the conscious sensation should after- 
wards follow on this impression as a reaction. But it is 
easy to see that this interposition can be carried on ad 
infinitum. On such a view, the activity of sensation, in its 
turn, could not react in consequence of the unconscious 
impression till it had been stimulated by it if, that is, the 
impression had produced in it a second unconscious state : 


and it would be only to this second stimulation that the 
activity of sensation would respond with its conscious 
manifestation. On this point I accept Herbart's opinion : 
a conscious idea is directly an act of self-preservation 
against a disturbance. This disturbance does not first 
appear apart, and then call forth the idea as a reaction. 
The disturbance only threatens, its threat is only effective, 
it itself only exists in so far as it asserts itself in the idea 
itself which, but for it, would not have existed. But I will 
not pursue these doubts. They cannot be definitely set at 
rest. We have assuredly no right to interpose some mere 
lifeless impression between two adjacent links of a causal 
connexion: but still it remains undecided whether, as a 
matter of fact, the physical excitation in the nerve, and the 
psychical process of sensation, do form such adjacent links 
of a chain. It is not necessary that the sufficient ground 
for the arousal of a sensation or idea should consist in the 
connecting link of an unconscious state of the soul ; but it 
is possible that it may consist in this. Accordingly I do 
not put forward my view as anything more than the hypo- 
thesis that I prefer. It may be stated thus : if the physical 
processes if * p are the local signs directly used by a 
referring activity when it determines the position of the 
sensations in the perceived space, they are so used not as 
physical processes, not through the instrumentality of 
unconscious impressions aroused by them in the soul, but 
in the shape of conscious sensations resulting from them. 
I shall return to the objections which stand in the way of 
this supposition, and consider them in detail. 

283. These then are the general postulates to which the 
local signs have to conform. And it is these postulates 
alone that I regard as a necessary metaphysical foundation 
for our spatial perceptions. Shortly expressed, they come 
to the one requirement, that all the spatial relations of the 
stimuli acting on us should be replaced by a system of 
graduated qualitative tokens. In adding some instances in 


fuller detail I am quite aware of the many abiding diffi- 
culties which could only be removed by an accurate consi- 
deration of all the experience that is available to us, or that 
may become so. Nothing but experience can disclose to 
us the means by which the local signs we require are really 
produced ; and I do not think this production takes place 
in the same way in the case of the two senses which have 
to be considered. 

In the first case, that of sight, the first of the suppositions 
mentioned appeared to me improbable, I mean the suppo- 
sition that the local signs arise directly in the spot stimulated. 
Even supposing that the same kind of light Z, falling on 
various points of the retina, produced sensations of colour 
somewhat differing from each other, C in the point/, and c 
in q y still there will always be another kind of light /, which 
occasions in q that same sensation C which L excites in /. 
Accordingly it cannot be this difference of quality in the 
impression that gives the reason for referring that impression 
to a definite spot/ or q. On the other hand, there seemed 
to me to be a real importance in the fact that, from the 
yellow spot on the retina for our purposes let us say, from 
the central point E of the retina where the sensitiveness 
is greatest, there is a gradual diminution of irritability in all 
directions, until at the edges of the hemispherical distribu- 
tion of the nerves this irritability entirely disappears. This 
fact, again, taken by itself is not sufficient for our purpose : 
for a weak stimulation of a spot lying near the point E 
would necessarily have the same effect as a stronger stimu- 
lation of a spot at a greater distance from E. But if a 
stimulus in the way of light falls on one of these side-spots 
p, it also makes the eye turn to such an extent and in such 
a direction that the ray meets, instead of /, the point of 
clearest vision E. This direction of the glance, as it is 
commonly called, is accompanied by no idea of the end it 
actually serves, or of the means by which it is brought about. 
It must therefore be regarded, at any rate originally, not as 


an intentional act, but as an automatic movement, a 
physical effect due to the stimulus and unknown to the 
soul. Accordingly the following hypothesis seemed to be 
admissible : in the central organs the single fibres of the 
optic nerve are mechanically connected with the motor 
nerves of the muscles of the eye in such a way that the 
stimulation of each of the former is followed by a definite 
excitation of the latter, from which it results that the eye is 
turned in a particular way. How this mechanical con- 
nexion of the sensory and motor nerves is effected, is a 
question which does not touch our present object ; and the 
settlement of it may be left to Physiology, which has to raise 
the same question in regard to many other reflex motions. 

284. The motions just described would satisfy the re- 
quirements to be fulfilled by the local signs. If p is the 
point stimulated, / E would be the arc which has to be 
traversed in order that the point of clearest vision E may 
be stimulated instead of / ; if q is stimulated, the corre- 
sponding curve is q E ; these motions will be different in 
every case, but the difference between them will be merely 
one of magnitude and direction. But then, on my hypo- 
thesis, it was not these motions themselves, but the sensa- 
tions excited by them, which were to be directly used as 
the signs n * p of the spots f q r. Now a movement, in 
occurring, occasions a sensation or feeling of our present 
state, which is different from the feeling of the non-occur- 
rence of the movement : and we even when at rest distin- 
guish the momentary position of our limbs, produced by 
former movements, from that position which is not now 
present: these are facts which need no proof, however 
simple or however complicated may be the conditions 
which give rise to these feelings. But a further assumption 
is necessarily involved. We must suppose that the percep- 
tible differences of the feelings in question correspond in 
their turn to the slightest differences of those movements 
which the eye needs in order to turn its glance from one 


point of the field of vision to its next neighbours : and this 
hypothesis may arouse graver doubts. These doubts, 
however, really apply, I think, only to a point which is ot 
no decisive importance here. No doubt, as a matter of 
fact, we notice those minimal movements, which the glance 
has to make in passing from one point of the field of vision 
to the next point, and from that again to the next ; but to 
our immediate feeling they seem merely a greater or smaller 
alteration of our state, a greater or smaller degree of a 
change which does not alter its character. We cannot 
here, any more than in the case of our other sensations, 
reduce the magnitude of these steps to comparable arith- 
metical values, so as to judge that one of them is double or 
half as great as another. The reason why this becomes 
possible is that the movements described bring a number 
of distinguishable points one after another to the spot of 
clearest vision, and the images of these points, instead of at 
once disappearing again, remain for sensation side by side 
with one another: and it is only the number of these 
distinguishable points which enables us to interpret the 
differences in our feelings of movement as expressive of 
equal or unequal spaces traversed, or of definite differences 
between these spaces. Thus if the eye were shut or did 
not see, it would doubtless be aware, from the immediate 
feeling of movement, that the curve/ E is smaller than the 
curve q E (which it would describe if it continued the same 
movement), and that q E is smaller than r E ; but these 
feelings would not enable it to determine the co-ordinates 
of that point x in the field of vision which would meet its 
glance if it were opened or began to see. It is only the 
series of images which pass before the seeing eye while it 
moves, and which remain side by side for some time so 
that they can be compared, that enable us to give an 
accurate quantitative interpretation to the different sections 
of a series of feelings of movement. If we follow with our 
eyes from beginning to end a line of one colour drawn 


before us, doubtless we are conscious of a continuous and 
homogeneous movement of the glance ; but suppose there 
is a stroke drawn across the line near the beginning, mark- 
ing off a small part of it, we cannot guess how many more 
fractions of the same size the rest of the line will contain : 
it is only by marking them off that we can tell their number 
and be sure that they are equal. How is it again that we 
learn this last fact, the equality of the distinguished parts ? 
Is it by keeping the head fixed and turning the eye in such 
a way that these parts of the line, from a to z, are brought 
one after the other into the direction of clearest vision? 
And do we then judge that the movements b c, c d, d e, up 
to yz, in each of which the eye starts from a different 
position, and which really would not be equally great, are 
equally great, and therefore that the parts a b, b c . . . y z 
are also equal? We cannot ascertain their equality in this 
way. Any attempt to do so accurately is really made thus : 
in looking at the starting-point a, , c of each line ab^bc^cd 
we place the eye so that the direction of its glance forms in 
every case the same angle with the direction of the piece to 
be judged, e. g. a right angle : the movements which the 
eye has then to make in order to go from a to b, b to c^ 
y to z, are not only equal in magnitude (supposing the lines 
to be equal), but they are identical, since the position from 
which they start is in each case the same, and the position 
in which they end is in each case the same. If, on the 
other hand, the lines are unequal, one of the movements 
is readily felt in a general and inexact way to be smaller or 
greater than another, since the position of the eye, at any 
rate at starting, is the same in each case. 

Thus, as with all sensations, our original capacity of 
estimating impressions quantitatively would (apart from the 
results of practice) rest on the possibility of generally recog- 
nising what is exactly like as like, and what is different as 
different. And I do not think that for our purposes any 
more delicate sensibility is required. I do not mean that 


the two local signs TT = / E and p = r E 1 would enable the 
soul forthwith to set the two sensations A and B connected 
with them at definite points in a circular field of vision : it 
suffices that these signs secure to the impressions their 
positions in relation to one another ; that, for example, they 
make it necessary to set B between A and C and nowhere 
else. With these explanations as to details, I think we may 
hold to the theory that the feelings of movement IT * p are 
the direct local signs oY the sensations. But each of these 
feelings themselves is at bottom a series of momentary 
feelings of position answering to the various places traversed 
by the eye in its movement. In order to keep the signs as 
simple as possible I merely mention this here, and shall use 
TT to indicate the whole series of the successive sensations 
*& n i9 ff 2 > which follow each other as the eye turns 
along the curve/ E. 

285. The further application of these ideas will be as 
follows. If we assume that the first impression of light 
felt in our lives affected the lateral spot /, it will follow 
that there succeeded an actual movement / JS, and that, 
during this movement, there took place the series ?r of 
successive feelings of the position of the eye. If the same 
impression is repeated, the same movement will ensue ; 
and the fact that an identical stimulation has occurred 
in the past will make no difference to the present one. 
But the case will be otherwise if at the moment of their 
second stimulation another stimulus affects the spot ^, and 
solicits, with a force equal to that of the first stimulus, 
a movement of the eye directly opposite to that which 
is required by p. The result here will be that the eye 
remains at rest : but at the same time the two impulses to 
movement, which in their effects cancel one another, will 
not on that account be a mere zero ; as excitations of the 
nerves they will remain, just as the force of gravity in two 

1 [The letters on the right hand stand now not for the movements 
themselves but for the feelings answering to them.] 


masses remains, although those masses counterbalance one 
another in the scales and therefore do not move them. 
The operation of that force consists in the bending of the 
beam and in the pressure exerted on the point of suspen- 
sion. And I see no reason why, in the case before us, the 
two excitations, which are prevented from producing an 
effect in the way of movement, should not still be repre- 
sented in the soul by two definite feelings, so that the 
equipoise of opposed forces would be something different 
from the repose due to the mere absence of excitation. 

No doubt, if this is so, we must once more reform our 
idea of IT or *. So far we have regarded them as feelings 
which arise from the movement set up ; thus they will not 
occur unless the movements do. But I do not doubt that 
the stimulation of the spot/, apart from the actual move- 
ment connected with it, can arouse a feeling by its mere 
existence and occurrence, and that by means of this feeling 
the presence of a thwarted impulse may be indicated to 
consciousness and so distinguished from the mere absence 
of the impulse. This feeling we should now regard as the 
first link ?T O in that series IT =/-", which is produced 
during the movement p E, and of which each link ir m will 
now stand for a momentary feeling of position and also for 
the momentary remnant of a thwarted impulse to move- 
ment. Now, taken by itself, TT O will be simply a feeling, 

a way in which we are affected, and it will not of itself 
point to its causes or its possible effects. But then in that 
first experience the whole further series TT connected itself 
with the first link ; this series is associated with TT O and, on 
the repetition of TT O , it also will be reproduced. Accordingly, 
though there is no movement of the eye, there arises the 
recollection of something, greater or smaller, which must be 
accomplished if the stimuli at / or ^, which arouse only 
a weak sensation, are to arouse sensations of the highest 
degree of strength and clearness. This is what happens at 
first ; but if the soul has learnt that the movements of the 


eye, reported by its feelings, are movements, are, that is, 
alterations of the relation in which the organ of sensation 
stands to a number of what may be treated as fixed 
simultaneous objects ; and if finally the soul both can and 
must apprehend the differences between such relations 
in a spatial form, in this case the idea of that something 
to be accomplished will be transformed into the idea of 
a greater or smaller spatial distance between the impressions 
falling on/ and q and that middle point of the perceived 
space which corresponds to the point E in the eye. If, 
lastly, we add that to each of the many stimuli which at one 
and the same time excite the spots pqr . . . of the retina, 
there is now conjoined the corresponding series TT K p of re- 
produced feelings, the result will be that owing to move- 
ments once performed and now remembered, the eye, even 
when at rest, will be able to assign to each impression 
its position among the rest. 

288. I should be very prejudiced if I felt no alarm at the 
artificiality of these ideas. But my intention was not 

to recommend the hypothesis at all costs, but honestly 
to recount all the presuppositions it involves ; and, further, 
I do not know that it is possible to reach the end we aim 
at in any simpler way, or that the artificiality lies anywhere 
but in the facts themselves. The fact itself is strange 
enough and it cannot be got rid of that we can see an 
unnumbered mass of different-coloured points at once, and 
can distinguish them. It must be possible, therefore, that 
what we require should be effected : it must be possible for 
a large number of impressions to be in consciousness 
without mingling together ; there must be in each of them 
something, some * reason,' which makes it appear now at 
one point in space, and now at another point ; and these 
various * reasons ' again, which are present simultaneously, 
must operate without intermixture, each of them in ex- 
clusive relation to the definite impression it belongs to. 
In other words, the same complicated relations which 


we assume between the feelings of movement, must exist 
between any other possible elements which we might 
substitute for those feelings. The only question, therefore, 
is whether internal experience witnesses to the truth of 
our hypothesis, or whether any other source of knowledge 
opposes to it objections which are insuperable. 

As to the first point, of course, I cannot tell whether 
others find in themselves what I find in myself. If I ask 
what meaning an impersonal knowledge (if the phrase may 
be used) would attach to the words 'two elements/ and g 
are at a distance from one another,' I can imagine an 
answer by means of the idea of a universal space in which 
I myself have no fixed position. But for my sensuous 
perception of the seen points / and ^, the only possible 
meaning of the statement that these points are at a dis- 
tance from each other is that a certain definite amount 
of movement is necessary if I am to direct my glance 
from the one to the other; the different positions of the 
single points are felt by me simply and solely as so 
many solicitations to movement. But then I can base 
nothing on this experience. My individual disposition 
cannot be communicated. I cannot therefore contradict 
those who tell me that they observe nothing of these 
feelings of movements, however much I may be convinced 
that they deceive themselves and, though they really have 
the feelings, do not recognise them for what they are. 
I must content myself therefore with pointing out to them 
that, in my view, the spatial perception of the world is 
not something suddenly given us by nature as soon as 
we open our eyes, but is the result of successive experience 
and habituation ; only this habituation goes on at a time in 
our lives of which we have no distinct recollection. The 
skill of the piano-player, once acquired, seems to us a natural 
gift that costs no trouble; he glances at the notes, and 
complicated movements of the hand immediately follow : 
in this case we know what a laborious process he has 


gone through, and with what difficulty practice has set up 
these associations of ideas with one another and with 
the movements we see, mere links of connexion which 
no longer show themselves in the consciousness of the 
practised artist. Exactly the same thing may happen 
in the case under discussion ; and there need be no distinct 
recollection in consciousness of the actual movements 
through which we once learnt to localise our sensations. 
But, it will be answered, this may be a probable account 
of the slow development of a child, and as a matter of fact 
we see that its eyes turn towards any light that is brighter 
than usual: to an animal on the other hand the spatial 
knowledge of the world comes with so little trouble that we 
cannot in its case believe in such a prolonged process 
of learning. To this I reply that in reality we do not at all 
know what it is that an animal sees directly it is born, nor 
what sort of perception of space it has. In order merely to 
account in general for the early use it makes of its limbs we 
have to assume a number of mechanical reflex movements. 

It is therefore conceivable that the unhesitating way in 
which it makes for an object lying in the direction of its 
glance may really rest merely on a reflex movement set up 
by the stimulus ; and the fact that many of its other earliest 
movements are unsuccessful would then go to show that it, 
like man, only gradually acquires an 'ordered knowledge of 
that remaining part of the spatial world which lies outside 
the direction of its glance. Again, the small amount of 
experience we possess respecting the rise of an optical idea 
of space in persons born blind and afterwards operated on, 
will not suffice to decide the question. In all cases the 
patient has already learnt, through touch and movement, 
to find his way in the spatial world. Doubtless the ideas 
of space thus developed may be very unlike the space that 
manifests itself to a man who can see : for a touch can 
apprehend only a few points at once, and can only approach 
distant objects by means of considerable movements ; and 


therefore the space of the blind man may be not so much 
what we mean by space, as an artificial system of con- 
ceptions of movement, time and effort : and, as a matter of 
fact, the few reports we possess tell us of the astonishment 
with which the blind man, after a successful operation, 
learns what the appearance of space or the spatial world is. 
Still, in spite of such differences, we cannot tell to what 
extent this previous practice may assist the formation of 
the visual perception which ensues : in any case it cannot 
be analogous to the first formation of all ideas of space ; 
and finally, there is even a difficulty in discovering what it 
really is that is seen at first, since the patient who is just 
beginning to see, cannot express his first experience in the 
language of sight. 

287. There are many questions which psychological 
optics would have to settle respecting the further develop- 
ment of the spatial ideas : but it is not the business of 
metaphysic to discuss them. I will only briefly remark 
that there is no foundation for any of those views which 
ascribe to the soul an original tendency to project its 
impressions outwards, and that in one particular way and 
in no other ; all this has to be learnt through the combina- 
tion of experiences. How it is actually learnt piece by 
piece we cannot discover ; how it may be learnt, it is easy 
to understand in a general way; but there are particular 
points in the process which cannot at present be understood 
at all. What we have accounted for so far is nothing more 
than the arrangement of the points in the field of vision, 
the internal drawing of the total image ; but this image 
itself as a whole has as yet no place and no position, for 
the perception of the total space, in which its place and 
position are to be, is still entirely wanting. The move- 
ments of the eye as it opens, shuts, and turns, make 
the seen image appear, disappear, and change. We there- 
fore naturally associate this image with the eye in such a way 
that we conceive it as lying in any case in front of us to 



use the later language of the developed perception of 
space : what is behind us an expression which at this 
stage has really no meaning does not exist at all, and has 
no more to do with space than the general feeling we have 
in the hand or foot has to do with clearness or dimness. 
And so it would remain, if we could not move our bodies 
and could only turn our eyes to a very slight extent. 
But as soon as we have learnt to turn on our axis and 
to refer the consequent feelings of movement to their 
true cause, the movement, we discover that our first field of 
vision a b <r, instead of suddenly disappearing altogether, 
passes successively into b c d, c d e . . . xy z, y z a, zab, and 
a b c. The unbroken series of images which returns into 

itself awakes in us the idea of a complete circular space 
with no gaps in it ; and this idea, by the help of similar 
movements of the eye in other directions, soon passes into 
the ordinary perception of the spherical space that sur- 
rounds us on all sides. 

At the same time, this idea could neither arise nor attain 
any clearness unless the idea of the third spatial dimension, 
that of depth, were being simultaneously formed. In its 
own nature the soul has certainly no impulse to project its 
visual impressions outwards; it does not yet know this 
'outside;' and in any case it could not project anything 
merely generally outwards, it could only project impressions 
into a definite distance ; and that definite distance it has as 
yet no means of determining. Just as little is it possible, 
as has been supposed, for the soul to represent its impres- 
sions as lying directly on the eye; for this again means 
simply the negation of distance, and distance must be 
known if it is to be negated. The simple fact is really that 
the impressions are there, and are seen, but they have 
no assignable position in the third spatial direction, for this 
is still unknown. That there is such a third direction, 
we learn only from experience; and we learn it most 
easily from our finding ourselves moving through the 

Chap. IV.] ERECT VISION. 275 

images we see, and from the fact that, in consequence 
of this movement, the single images undergo various dis- 
placements, some of them being hidden, and others which 
were hidden coming into view. And this greatly increases 
the difficulty of applying the general idea we have thus 
acquired, in estimating the degree of distance in any 
particular case; a problem which we leave to physiology 
and the special psychology of sense-perception. 

Lastly, I will touch very briefly on one vexed question ; 
why do we see objects upright, although the image of 
them on the retina is upside down ? We must remember 
that we do not observe the image on our eye with a second 
eye, which further could compare its own position with 

the position of the object. There is nothing before us 
but the image itself; all the geometrical relations of the 
picture on the retina utterly disappear as it passes into 
consciousness; and, in the same way, the fact that as 
a whole it has a certain position in the eye does not in 
the least prejudge the question how it is to appear later 
in a spatial perception gained through some further means. 
We are absolutely dependent on this other perception. If 
there were only a seen space, we could give no answer 
at all to the question what is above and what is beneath 
in that space. These expressions have a meaning only 
if we presuppose another idea of space, an idea for 
which these two directions are not merely generally op- 
posed to one another, but are uninterchangeably different. 
When we have this idea, and not till then, we can say that 
that in the visual world is ' above,' the image of which we find 
or have to seek in the fixed direction towards the ' above ' 
of the other space. It is our muscular feeling or general 
sense which (even when unaided by the sense of sight) 
instructs us respecting the position of our body, that gives 
us the other perception of space. For, the body being in 
its usual upright position, the downward direction means 
the direction of weight, and when we oppose our forces to 


it the result is a number of feelings of effort ; and by these 
feelings the downward direction in this other, non-visual, 
perception of space is uniformly and uninterchangeably 
distinguished from the upward. Consequently, if a and b 
are places in the field of vision, b appears to us as beneath 
# , when the sight or touch of b is attained through a move- 
ment which, in the language of the muscular sense, is 
a downward movement ; or when (our body being upright) 
the image of b always enters the field of vision along with 
the images of the lower parts of our body, and never along 
with those of the upper. This last requirement is satisfied 
by what is commonly called the reversed position of the 
image on the retina, since the imaging surface of the eye 
lies behind the centre of rotation ; and it would equally 
be satisfied by an upright position of the image, if that 
image arose in front of the centre of motion and on the 
anterior convex surface of the eye. Thus there is a contra- 
diction between the reports of the eyes and of the muscular 
sense when we use an inverting telescope which gives an 
upright position to the image on the retina. In such a case, 
even if we have no other visual image to compare with the 
telescopic one, we at once notice an opposition to the reports 
of the muscular sense : we feel that in order to reach the 
tops of the trees we see, we should have to move our 
hand in a direction which, for that sense, is downward. 

288. I have still to mention that localisation of im- 
pressions which we obtain through the sense of touch. 
Here again the basis of our view is given by JS. H. Webe^s 

attempts to fix experimentally the conditions under which 
we can distinguish two impressions on the skin, which are 
qualitatively alike but locally different. The skin is lightly 
touched with the two blunted points of a pair of compasses : 
and the experiments showed that the extent to which the 
two points have to be separated in order to be distinguished 
as two, is very different at different parts of the body. For 
the finger-ends, the edges of the lips, the tip of the tongue, 


a distance of half a line suffices : while at many parts of the 
arm, leg, and back, one of twenty lines is necessary. An 
explanation seemed to be offered at once by the structure 
of the nerve-fibres. The sensory nerve-fibre, though isolated 
and unramified during its conduction, separates at its 
peripheral end into a number of short branches, and so 
distributes itself over a small space of the skin for the pur- 
pose of receiving stimuli from without. It was thought, 
then, that all the excitations which affect one of these nerve- 
ends simultaneously would, through the unity of the fibre 
which has to conduct them further, be destined to form one 
resultant, and to be incapable of being distinguished from 
one another. If, again, these excitations occurred one after 
the other, they might be distinguished in their qualitative 
character, but would give no ground for local distinctions. 
On the other hand it was supposed, if two impressions fell 
on two different nerve-spaces, this alone would not make it 
possible to distinguish them as two : this possibility arising 
only if, between the two stimulated spaces, there lay one or 
more of such spaces which remained unstimulated. This 
last supposition is in any case inadmissible ; for at every 
moment there are a great many unstimulated nerve-fibres ; 
if any particular ones among them are to be used for the 
purpose of distinguishing two impressions a and &, there 
must be something in them which shows that they lie 
between the two stimulated nerve-spaces; and this pre- 
supposes the possibility of accomplishing what has to be 
explained, the localisation of the sensations. 

In other respects too the point of view described fails to 
give a sufficient basis for this localisation. Nor was this 
exactly its purpose : it was intended only to explain why 
two impressions can sometimes be distinguished and some- 
times not. But even in this point I found myself unable to 
accept it. Two points of the compasses which when they 
touch the skin simultaneously give only one impression, 
often leave two distinguishable impressions when they are 


laid against the skin in turn ; and their two impressions 
appear as locally distinct, though no accurate estimate of 
the distance can be given ; moreover, within one radius of 
sensation the onward movement of a point can be dis- 
tinguished from its continued pressure on the same spot. 
Lastly, the conduction of the excitations by the same or by 
different nerve-fibres did not seem to me to decide anything ; 
the partitions of the fibres are not continued into conscious- 
ness, and there all the impressions must in the end come 
together, qualitatively distinguishable, if they were different, 
and indistinguishable if they were not. But neither for the 
like impressions nor for the unlike did the theory assign any 
ground of local separation, still less any clue by means of 
which each of them might have its own place given to it. 

280. Thus I found myself obliged in this case, no less 
than in that of the impressions of sight, to look for local 
signs, abiding certificates of local origin ; these local signs 
would be attached, in the form of qualitatively distinguish- 
able extra-impressions TT, *, p, to all excitations A, B, C, 
according to the particular spots /, #, r of the skin which 
they affect. Let us suppose that a stimulus, strictly limited 
in its local extent say the prick of a needle affects the 
spot /. Owing to the connexion between different parts of 
the skin it is impossible that the operation of this stimulus 

should be confined to a point destitute of any extension : 
whatever alteration it produces directly at the point of 
contact will produce in the neighbourhood of that point a 
number of little stretchings, pressings, and displacements. 
Now, though there is a general uniformity in the structure 
of the skin, it is by no means exactly alike at all parts of the 
body. The epidermis is thicker at one place, finer at 
another ; when the skin is attached to the points of bones 
it is stretched, at other places the extent of its possible dis- 
placement is greater. It differs again not less widely 
according to the nature of its substratum : it is not the 
same when spread over a cushion of fat as when it is 


stretched over bones, flesh, or cavities. Lastly, at different 
places in the body these various situations may pass into 
one another either suddenly or slowly. We may therefore 
perhaps assume that at any point / in the body the wave it 
of little extra-agitations, called forth by the stimulation of 
that point, will differ from any other wave K which accom- 
panies the stimulation of a spot q. But these extra-excita- 
tions would avail us nothing if they simply occurred without 
becoming objects of our perception ; and this last requisite 
will depend on the distribution of the nerve-fibres. Let us 
suppose a case. Within the field of distribution of one and 
the same fibre, let p q r be the single ends of that fibre : 
then the local sign TT of the spot / will consist in the sensa- 
tions of those extra-impressions which the direct stimulation 
of / calls up in its neighbourhood, and the conduction of 
which to consciousness is secured by the nerve-terminations 
q and r that receive them. Now if the structure of the skin 
within this field of distribution were perfectly uniform, the 
nerve-fibre which unites p q r would reach precisely the 
same final state whichever of these terminations were the 
place directly stimulated : the impressions could not be 
distinguished, whether they were simultaneous or successive. 
But if the structure of the skin varies within this field, the 
stimulation of/ will produce different extra-excitations in 
q and r from those which the same stimulation of q will 
produce in p and r. Accordingly, if one and the same im- 
pression A affects different places in succession, the uniting 
fibre will bring this impression to consciousness in company 
with different local signs TT K p and we shall have a motive 
for the separation of three sensations, although as yet no 
motive for a definite localisation of them. If the impressions 
are simultaneous, the uniting fibre may either conduct them 
side by side without intermixture, or it may be only capable 
of conducting a single resultant of their influences : which of 
these alternatives is correct is a question we cannot discuss. 
Let us now return to the other idea. Let/ q r stand for 


three different nerve-fibres ; but let the stimulus A act on a 
spot of the tissue where there is no nerve-termination : then 
the effect produced must distribute itself until it finds a 
nerve-termination on which it can discharge itself. Now if 
in the whole field of p q r the structure of the skin was uni- 
form, I should say that it matters nothing whether it is one 
or two of these fibres that receive the like impressions, 
which would be accompanied by like local signs ; for in no 
Case could the impressions be distinguished, and the only 
use of the multiplicity of the fibres would be the general 
one of securing the entrance of the stimuli into the nervous 
system ; for there can be no doubt that the excitation of 
the tissue could not propagate itself to any very consider- 
able distance. On the other hand, if the texture and state 
of the skin within this whole field varies rapidly, the different 
local signs which arise at point after point would be useless 
unless there are a great number of closely congregated 
nerve-terminations, each of which can receive the wave of 
excitation of a small circuit, before that wave has lost its 
characteristic peculiarity by meeting with others which 
began at different places and spread over the same field. 
It seems to me that these suppositions answer to the results 
of observation. On the back and trunk there are long 
stretches where the structure of the skin is uniform, and 
here impressions can only be distinguished when they are 
separated by wide distances. In the case of the arm and 
leg, the power of distinction is duller when the stimuli 
follow another in the direction of the longitudinal axis of 
those limbs the direction of the underlying muscles ; it is 
sharper when the stimuli are arranged round the limb, in 
which case the skin is supported alternately and in different 
ways by the swell of the muscles and the spaces that inter- 
vene between them. 

290. The name local signs, in its proper sense, cannot 
be given to these extra-excitations themselves, but only to 
the sensations they occasion. Now it strikes us at once 


that there is one of our postulates which those sensations 
altogether fail to satisfy. It is true that they differ in 
quality, while at the same time they admit of resemblances ; 
for example, if we touch any part of the skin that is 
stretched above a bone, whether it be the forehead, the 
knee-cap, or the heel, feelings are distinctly aroused which 
have a common tone. But these feelings are not quantita- 
tively rateable members of a series or system of series. 
They cannot therefore serve directly to fix the locality of 
their causes ; and, besides, what we require in this case is 
not the localisation of the sensations within an absolute 
space, but within that variable surface of the body, to the 
various points of which they are to be referred. We must 

have learnt the shape of this surface beforehand, and have 
discovered through observation to what point p in it that 
impression A belongs, which is characterised by the local 
sign TT : until this is done we cannot refer a second stimulus 
B TT to the same point in the surface of the body. This 
can be done easily enough if we can use our eyes ; but how 
is it to be accomplished by the blind man, who, beyond 
these feelings, has nothing to help him except movement ? 
Without doubt the help that movement gives him is of 
decisive importance ; but how it is possible to use this help 
is not so easy to understand as is often supposed. While 
the movement is going on, we have of course a certain 
definite feeling which accompanies it ; but then this feeling 
is in itself nothing but a manner in which we are affected ; 
it itself does not tell us we have to guess that it is caused 
by a movement of the limbs. This discovery, again, is easy 
when we can use our eyes, and so notice that our hand is 
changing its place while we are experiencing the muscular 
feeling ; but the blind man has to make out in some other 
way that the alteration of his general feeling is not a mere 
change of his internal state, but depends on the variable 
relation into which he or his bodily organs enter towards a 
series of permanent external objects. 

202 fUKMATlUJN Utf UUK 1D&AS U* 

Now it seems to me that the condition which makes such 
a knowledge as this attainable, consists in this, that the 
skin, like the eye, has a number of sensitive and moveable 
points. If an organ of touch in the shape of an antenna 
possessed in its tip the sole point at which the skin of the 
whole body was sensitive ; and if its capacities were strictly 
limited at every moment to the power of bringing one 
single object-point A to perception, the result would be 
that, when a movement of this organ led from A to B, the 
perception of A would altogether disappear and the wholly 
new perception of B would take its place. No doubt while 
this was going on a muscular feeling x would have been 
experienced ; but how could it occur to us to interpret that 
feeling as the effect of a spatial movement ? However often 
we passed from A to B and from B to A, and experienced 
the feelings + #, we should never discover what those feel- 
ings really signified ; this transition would remain a perfectly 
mysterious process, of which all we knew would be that it 
transformed our idea A into B. On the other hand, if the 
hand, like the eye, can feel the three impressions A B C at 
once ; if this image of pressure changes during the move- 
ment by regular stages into B C I>, C D E\ and if by a 
movement in the opposite direction we can again reach the 

parts that have disappeared, or grasp them with one hand 
while the other moves away from them, these facts must 
certainly tend to suggest the idea that the muscular feelings 
which accompany the succession of sensations arise from a 
variable relation of ourselves towards independent objects 
that is, from movement. As soon as this is discovered, it is 

possible in a way which I need not further describe for 
the limitless variety of combination between the sensations 
of that part of the body which touches, and the not less 
sensitive part which is touched, to conduct us to a know- 
ledge of the surface of our body, and to the localisation and 
arrangement of our single sensations in that surface. 


The Physical basis of Mental Activity. 

IN passing on to consider the forms in which soul and 
body act on one another, I must observe that there are a 
number of special questions for the answers to which there 

is not as yet any sufficient foundation ; and of these I do 
not consider it my duty to treat. All that can be considered 
proper to this metaphysical discussion are the fundamental 
conceptions used by various theories in interpreting the 
facts. We may leave out of sight an infinity of so-called 
experiences, all of which are not by any means equally well 
attested, and which alter every day with the progress of 
observation. They will gradually define the object of some 
future theory, but, so far at least, they do not contribute to 

the criticism of these metaphysical foundations. 

291. It has been said that the soul is the same thing 
ideally that the body is really; or that the two are the 
different sides of a single whole. Such wide expressions 
will not give us what we want. When once we have dis- 
tinguished body and soul as two parties between which 

manifold interactions take place, we need ideas more 
definite and more capable of being pictured, in order to 
conceive the processes through which these reciprocal in- 
fluences make themselves felt. And among the questions 
which require a clear and unambiguous answer is that con- 
cerning the spatial relations of the soul the question, to 
adopt the current phraseology, of the seat of the soul. There 
was a time when some philosophers looked down with pity 


on the maladroitness supposed to be involved in the very 
asking of this question. Nevertheless, unprejudiced persons 
will always raise it afresh ; and therefore it must be answered 
and not ignored. I might attempt to answer it at once, by 
connecting it with the preceding discussions ; but I prefer 
to leave them out of sight, and to repeat the considerations 
by which on other occasions I have attempted to indicate 
my view. Let us take, then, the various ideas which are 
really intelligible to us respecting the spatial relations of 
anything capable of action, and which we are in the habit of 
applying to them, and ask which of them answers to the 
special case of the human soul. 

292. To be in a place means simply and solely to exert 
action from that place and to experience the actions or 
effects that reach that place : if we put these two powers 
out of sight, it is impossible to attach any meaning to the 
assertion that a thing is at this place/ and is not at that other 
place q, where, as at/, it neither exerts nor experiences any 
action. Now it is possible to conceive an existence standing 
in a direct, and at the same time an identical, relation of 
interaction with all the other elements of the world. There 
is one case in which this is a current idea ; it expresses what 
we mean by the omnipresence of God. No element of the 
world needs to travel a long road, or to call in the help of 
other things in order to bring its own state to the presence 
and knowledge of God; nor have the divine influences to 
make a journey in order to reach distant things : the inter- 
action here is perfectly direct. But then it is also one and 
the same in all cases, and has not different degrees ; at any 
rate there is no measure of distance, according to which the 
interaction is necessarily stronger or weaker; the only 
reason why its work may be greater in one case than in 
another is that the meaning of things, or of what goes on in 
things, gives a reason for an interaction of greater weight in 
one instance and of less weight in another. In this alone 
consists our conception of omnipresence; the infinite 


spatial extension which forms the theatre of that omni- 
presence we are far from ascribing to God as an attribute 
of His nature ; and on the other hand we see no contradic- 
tion between the plurality of the points at which His activity 
manifests itself, and the perfect unity of His nature. 

Now the attempt has often been made to ascribe this 
omnipresence to the soul, within the limits, that is, of the 
body in which it resides : and the cause of this mistaken 
idea is most commonly to be found in the aesthetic im- 
pression which makes it seem as though the whole of the 
body were penetrated by a psychical life, and every part of 
it were the immediate seat of sensation and a direct organ 
of the will. But there are some simple physiological facts 
which show us that this beautiful semblance of omnipresence 
is the result of a number of intermediating agencies ; that 
the soul knows nothing of the stimuli that reach the body, 
and loses its power of setting up movements the moment 
the continuity of the conducting nerve is broken ; that there- 
fore the space within which body and soul act directly on 
one another is limited, and must be found somewhere, 
though we cannot yet define its limits, within the central 
portions to which all impressions are conducted, and from 

which all impulses to voluntary movements start. We may 
refuse to believe this ; we may answer that a natural feeling 
tells us all that the soul feels directly in the touching hand, 
and that this natural feeling cannot be created by such 
intervening agencies. But the objection will not help us. 
There are certain peculiar double feelings of contact which 
arise when we touch an object with an instrument held in 
the hand ; but we do not consider ourselves justified in con- 
cluding from this that the soul can occasionally prolong its 
activity to the end of a stick or a probe. And yet we fancy 
that we have a direct feeling at that point of their contact 
with a foreign body. 

298. The natural sciences have familiarised us with the 
idea of another interaction, which . is direct, but also 


graduated. This is our notion of the attractive and re- 
pellent fundamental forces of masses. These forces need 
no intermediation; they send their action to infinite dis- 
tances, whether the space traversed by that action is full 
or empty ; but the intensity of the action diminishes with 
the increase of the distance. If we applied this notion 
to the present case, we should conceive of the seat of 
the soul as a point, or at least as a limited district of the 
brain, on which the interactions of the soul with the 
surrounding parts would be at the maximum of intensity, 
while the further they left it behind the more they would 
diminish in strength, although actually extending to infinity. 
But a sober observation finds no witness to this outward 
activity. The slightest intervening space that separates 
things from our senses makes them simply non-existent to 
us, except where there are verifiable processes through 
which we act on things indirectly, and they on us, and which 
therefore help us over this spatial interval. Any amount of 
freedom being permitted in suppositions of this kind, the 
assumption might be suggested that the force of the soul 
diminishes in the ratio of a very high power of the distance ; 
in this case it might exert no observable influence upon the 
lengths of nerve which extend even a slight distance from 
its mysterious seat. All that is certain is that, however 
close to the root of the nerve a breach of its continuity may 
be, the outgoing force of the soul is never able to produce 
on the other side of this breach the effects which it 
commonly produces in the nerve. But, be this as it may, 
to assume that there is a fixed limit whether the surface 
of the body, or the smaller zone within which the roots 
of the nerves lie at which the outgoing force ceases to 
operate, is simply equivalent to a surrender of this whole 
point of view. There is nothing in one spherical surface 
of empty space that can make it, rather than any other 
such surface, the limit at which an activity ceases to diffuse 
itself. If there is any such limit, the reason of its existence 

Chap.V.] SEAT OF THE SOUL. 287 

must lie in the fact that the force does not stream outward 
aimlessly through empty space, but that there are other 
real conditions on which its activity and the absence of 
its activity depend. 

294. But it is not worth while to pursue any further 
this idea of limited action at a distance. There is a more 
decided view, which has always been preferred to it, and to 
which many natural processes bear witness. According to 
this view, action never takes place except in contact, and 
therefore we must assume one single seat of the soul, fixed 
or variable, in the form of a point ; and apart from other 
reasons a local habitation of this kind appeared most suited 
to that which is immaterial and a unity. Yet this idea was 
at once found to involve a crowd of difficulties. Let us 
first suppose the seat of the soul to be, not changeable 
but fixed. In this case we must assume either that all the 
nerve-fibres join at this point of intersection, or else that 
there is a formless space whether parenchyma or cavity 
into which all nervous excitations discharge themselves, and 
are able to reach the soul which resides at some point of 
this space. But as to the point of intersection, anatomy, 
instead of discovering it, has simply made its existence 
incredible ; and as little is it possible to discover a formless 
space, having edges where all the nerve-fibres terminate, 
and offering a field within which the excitations of these 
fibres can spread until they reach the soul. It might 
possibly be the case that the soul needs no such primary 
assembly of all the primitive fibres, but stands in direct 
interaction with a few of them, which would be, as it were, 
the delegates of the rest: but, so far, we know of no 
anatomical fact which makes this probable. Secondly, 
then, we may suppose that the place where the soul resides 
is not fixed but moveable. This idea leads us back to the 
notion of limited action at a distance. At any given moment 
the soul would have to be at the particular spot, where 
an excitation is arriving an excitation which cannot 


become a sensation unless the soul is there; and if it is 
to be at this spot, it must have been already acted upon 
from this spot and so induced to move to it. Finally, 
if the soul is to impart an impulse to the root of a motor 
nerve, it must move to the spot from which it can exert 
this impulse : but as the motor nerve is not yet active 
it cannot solicit the soul to move to this spot, and therefore 
the soul must itself choose its line of movement and follow 
it : and this implies a knowledge of locality which no one 
will admit. 

But is all this really necessary ? Is it really necessary to 
assume any one of these alternatives ? either that the 
activity of the soul penetrates indiscriminately the whole 
body or that it penetrates, again indiscriminately but with 
decreasing intensity, space simply as space ; or finally that 
the soul is confined to one point and acts only in contact ? 
The root of all these difficulties seems to be a confusion in 
our idea of the nature of an acting force and of the relation 
of this force to space. And there is no lack of other 
examples which will enable us to arrive at a more correct 

295. Any force arises between two elements out of 
a relation of their qualitative natures ; a relation which 
makes an interaction necessary for them, but only for them 
and their like. It is altogether a mistake to regard a force 
as a hunger for action, spreading itself throughout a space 
and seizing indiscriminately on everything it finds in that 
space. We should do better to think of the magnetic 
force, which within the provinces over which it extends 
operates on no bodies but those which can be magnetised, 
and remains indifferent to those with which, though 
they lie within the same space, it has no elective affinity. 
Or we may think of the chemical reagents which, when 
poured into a fluid, pass without acting by the substances 
which are indifferent to them, while they supplement 
those with which their chemical nature makes it necessary 


for them to join. These examples prove nothing, and 
the idea they are meant to illustrate is intelligible with- 
out them, but they enable us to picture it. It is not 
their spatial position that compels the elements to act 
on one another or makes such interaction impossible ; 
but it is their own natures and the relations between 
them that make some elements indifferent to each other 
and impel others to a vigorous copartnership. If we 
apply this general idea to the present case, our first 
assertion must be this : wherever the soul may have its 
local habitation (for it may be still held that we must 
assume that it has such a habitation), the extension of 
its activity will not be determined by its position there : 
this position will not confine the soul to an inter- 
action with those nerve-elements which surround and 
touch that habitation : nor will its activity start from 
this centre, and, like a physical force acting in distans, 
extend with a decreasing intensity to all the elements 
which are grouped at an increasing distance around that 
centre. On the contrary, wherever there are elements 
with which the nature of the soul enables and compels 
it to interact, there it will be present and active ; wherever 
there is no such summons to action, there it will not be 
or will appear not to be. 

Now doubtless it is pleasant to the imagination to 
represent the elements that stand in this sympathetic 
relation to the soul as in spatial proximity to one another, 
and, where this is possible, to picture a small extended 
province of the brain, best of all, a single point, where 
they are all assembled. But there is no necessity in 
real earnest for this hypothesis. We have reached the 
conviction that spatial positions and spatial distances are 
not in themselves conditions of the exercise or non-exercise 
of forces, and that they form such conditions only because 
they themselves are the manifestation of forces 1 which 
1 [Cp. 1 16 and 203.] 



are already active and determine the continuance and 
progress of the action. We have seen that to be in a place 
means nothing but to exert action and to be affected by 
action in that place, and that the sufficient grounds of 
this action and affection lie nowhere but in the intelligible 
relations of existences in themselves non-spatial. With 
this conviction of this insight we can now take up again, in 
a better defined shape, the idea of that omnipresence 
of the soul in the body which, as we explained in dealing 
with it, we could not help rejecting. The soul stands 
in that direct interaction which has no gradation, not with 
the whole of the world nor yet with the whole of the 
body, but with a limited number of elements ; those 
elements, namely, which are assigned in the order of 
things as the most direct links of communication in the 
commerce of the soul with the rest of the world. On 
the other hand there is nothing against the supposition 
that these elements, on account of other objects which 
they have to serve, are distributed in space ; and that there 
are a number of separate points in the brain which form 
so many seats of the soul. Each of these would be of 
equal value with the rest ; at each of them the soul would 
be present, with equal completeness, but not therefore 
without any distinction; rather we might suppose that 
at each of them the soul exercises one of those diverse 
activities which ought never to have been compressed into 
the formless idea of merely a single outgoing force. In 
using the current conception of omnipresence we refused to 
attribute to God, as a predicate of His nature, the infinite 
cubic extension which His activity fills ; and we could 
see no danger to the unity of His nature in the infinite 
number of distinct points which form the theatre of that 
activity: and there is just as little conflict between the 
unity of the soul and the multiplicity of its spatial habita- 
tions. Each of them is simply an expression, in the 
language of our spatial perception, for one of the manifold 


relations in which the soul as taking part in the intelligible 
connexion of things is at one and the same time involved. 
Our imagination naturally and unavoidably symbolises 
this unity, no less than the variety, in a spatial way. We 
shall therefore be inclined to oppose to these many places 
a single one which is really and truly the seat of the 
soul. Perhaps it will be the fixed geometrical central 
point of all the rest ; perhaps it will be a variable central 
point, and then we must conceive it to be determined 
not geometrically but dynamically as the joint result of 
the spatial co-ordinates of the distinct places on the one 
hand and the intensities of the psychical activities going on 
in them at the given time on the other. Such ideas do 
no harm and they act as supports to our perception : but 
they have no objective meaning; for the point arrived 
at by such a calculation as the above, would not express 
a real fixed position of the soul in that point at the given 
moment, nor would it give us grounds for determining 
anything whatever as to the behaviour of the soul in the 
next succeeding moment. 

296. But our view has to meet an objection coming 
from another side, and will therefore have to undergo 
another and a final revision. Observation discloses no 
such differences among the elements of the brain as would 
give some few points in it the exclusive privilege of forming 
the seat of the soul. And yet we have to suppose the 
existence of such a special qualification. For if we were 
to widen our idea into the supposition that the soul can 
stand in the direct relation of interaction, above described, 
with all the constituent parts of the brain, the laboriously 
intricate structure we find in it would become wholly 
unintelligible. But is it necessary, is it even possible, to 
suppose that a real existence A stands once for all in the 
relation of interaction with other real existences B and C y 
simply because B\sB and C is C, while it stands in no such 
relation with D and , just because they are D and E? 


In the first place, what is it that makes B to be B and 
C to be C but this : that under different conditions (these 
conditions forming a series) B experiences the states 
#1 #2 3 . . . , and not y l y 2 y 3 . . . , whereas under the same 
conditions C experiences the latter states and never the 
former ? And, in the second place, we have to suppose 
that at one time an interaction takes place between A and 
B) and at another time does not take place ; and yet what 
would this interaction mean, if A and B were simply A and 
B) and if A did not undergo certain variable states c^ or 
a. 2 , which formed signals to B to realise forthwith 0, or # 2 , 
and no other of the states possible to it ? Without doubt, 
then, our conception was still incomplete, when we sought 
to place the soul S in a direct and ungraduated connexion 
of interaction with different nerve-elements BCD, con- 
sidered simply as such. Things cannot stimulate one 
another in respect of their unchanging natures ; they can 
only be stimulated in respect of what goes on in them, and 
that reciprocally. Accordingly it is the events ft y 5 which 

occur in B CD that, in virtue of their occurrence, make 
these points and no other points the seats or localities 
of a direct interaction with the soul. 

Starting from this point of view, then, we should be 
led in consistency to the following metaphysical conception 
of the significance of the central organs. The interlacing of 
the nerve-fibres serves two ends. First, it has to act upon 
the excitations which arrive from without through the 
organs of sense, so to connect, separate, and arrange 
them, that as the result there arise those final states 
0yd, which now for the first time, and in their present 
shape, are in a condition to be brought to the knowledge 
of the soul, or by which alone it is capable of being 
stimulated. The second function is the converse of this. 
The excitations which come from the inner nature of 
the soul, have to be transformed into physical occurrences 
in such an order and arrangement, that their centrifugal 


action on the moveable members of the body will allow 
of an influence, answering to a conceived end, on the 
shape of the external world. At the point where these 
duties are fulfilled, lies a seat of the active soul, the 
locality of one of the different functions, in the connected 
whole of which its life consists. In an earlier passage 
I spoke of this point of view as one of the hypotheses 
which might be framed in accordance with the facts 
to be explained : it will now be seen that it is only the 
continuation of our ontological views. We have left far 
behind us the theory which conceived the world as based 
on a number of elements, beings, or atoms, which simply 
'are* and form a primary fact, and between which we 
then suppose actions to take place, the s nature and occur- 
rence of these actions being thus of necessity grounded 
in something external to the fixed existence of the primal 
elements. We found that there is nothing in the fullest 
sense actual but the one reality which is in eternal motion, 
and in the development of which any member of the 
whole is connected with any other only in accordance 
with the meaning of the whole, and stands in no such 
connexion where the meaning of the whole does not 
warrant it. It is only this connexion of events that gives to 
single stable conjunctions of these manifold occurrences 
the appearance in our eyes of beings with an independent 
existence ; in reality these conjunctions are only the meet- 
ing points, or crossing points, of in-going and out-going 
actions, which the significance of the course of events 
keeps in being, and they form actual beings or existences 
only when, like the soul, they do not simply appear to 
others as such centres, but really make themselves such 
centres by opposing themselves, in consciousness and 
action, to the external world. 

297. From the preceding account of the functions of 
the central nervous organs we might conclude that their 
only business is to bring about the commerce of the soul 


with the external world ; the internal activity of the mind 
would seem not to need their co-operation. Taken as 
a whole, I do not disclaim this inference, though it must be 
limited in essential respects ; rather I regret that no further 
explanation is possible regarding those other operations, 
in which it is agreed on all hands that the help of the 
body is needed. There are a very large number of cases 
in which unfortunately we are not simply unable to point 
out the means which would render the required service, 
but we do not even know exactly what services are required. 
And I mean this admission to apply not only to my own 
view, but to many others which would be very unwilling 
to make a like confession. We studied the retina of the 
eye, and the nerve-terminations found in it : dioptrics re- 
vealed to us the passage of the rays of light, and their 
point of meeting on the nerve-terminations : What more 
did we want? Were we not in complete possession of 
all the conditions (so far as they can be fulfilled in the eye) 
implied in the occurrence of visual perception ? And yet 
further investigation has discovered new layers of a strange 
structure in the retina, of the use of which we know 
nothing, and which yet can scarcely be useless. It is certain 

then that we made a mistake in supposing our knowledge to 
be complete, when we cannot tell the function of what 
is afterwards discovered: and yet even now we cannot 
guess what part it was we overlooked in the work the eye 
has to perform. Now in the case of the brain we are 
equally at a loss : it is not merely that in the greater part of 
its structure we find everywhere arrangements of the most 
remarkable kind, and yet cannot tell their purpose : but 
even where experience has disclosed to us with sufficient 
certainty the existence of relations between psychical 
functions and particular parts of the brain, we cannot 
get further than this very general result : no one can specify 
the exact physical function their elements have to perform 
in order that this or that definite expression of psychical 


activity may be possible. Thus we talk in a highly per- 
functory way of organs of this or that mental faculty, 
without knowing very well what there is to prevent the soul 
from manifesting itself without this organ, what intelligible 
properties there are which enable this organ to supply 
the conditions lacking to the soul, and lastly in what way 
the soul is enabled to make use of this organ as its 
instrument. This last idea indeed, the idea of an instru- 
ment, is the most unsuitable of all that could possibly 
be applied to the case. We may call the limbs of the 
body instruments : for though we do not know how they 
follow out our ideas, we are at any rate able consciously 
to connect the movements, which we do not understand 
in detail, so that they form the means of carrying out 
an intention. But when we are told that man cannot 
think with a frozen brain, it is only the obliging preposition 
* with ' that gives these words the appearance of meaning 
something; for it seems to indicate that we are able 
to understand how gloriously thought goes to work with an 
unfrozen brain as its instrument. If for the preposition we 
substitute the conditional sentence which forms its real 
meaning, l if the brain is frozen, man cannot think/ the 

words remind us only of what is perfectly familiar, the many 
conditions on which life in general and therefore every 
mental activity depends, but they tell us absolutely nothing 
of the nature of the service which these conditions render 
to the realisation of these activities. Nothing can help us 
over this state of ignorance, but the multiplication of exact 
observations : all that remains for us to do here is to touch 
on the few general ideas which we should wish not to be 
neglected when the new knowledge we hope for comes to be 

298. The older psychology used to speak of a sensorium 
commune : but it was not able to point it out, and the motive 
for assuming its existence was probably only an indefinite 
desire for a place where all sensations could be collected 


into a common consciousness. It may be that in this 
matter we are in the position described in the last section : 
perhaps there really is some function we have overlooked, 
which is necessary to this end, and has to be performed by 
the physical organs. But all that is certain is that we do not 
know of any such function. So long, therefore, as we cannot 
point to definite processes of modification, to which all im- 
pressions must submit before they can become objects of 
consciousness, we have no ground at all for supposing such 
a place of assembly for these impressions. 

Modern physiology has sometimes spoken of a motorium 
commune, and supposed it to be found in the cerebellum. 
But the movements of the body show the utmost degree of 
variety; and their classification under the head of movements 
connects them no more closely with one another than with 
other functions of the mind to which they are conjoined in 
the economy of our life. We may suppose that the manifold 
excitations of the muscles, which each species of animal 
needs for its characteristic kind of locomotion, and for the 
preservation of its equilibrium in different positions of the 
body, are really dependent on a central organ, which 
compels them to occur in company, and grouped in a way 
that answers this special purpose. But I know no reason 
why we should make the same centre a condition of all the 
other movements, which are excited for other purposes and 
by other occasions in the various limbs of the body. Thus 
the idea of this general motory organ, again, seems to me to 
owe its origin to a logical division of the psychical activities, 
and not to a consideration of the connexion in which these 
activities have to stand in supporting each other for the 
purposes of life. It is much more likely that sensory and 
motor nerves are combined with one another in various 
ways, so as to form central points for whole complexes 
of exertions dependent on one another. Even the motorium 
to which we ascribed the preservation of the equilibrium, 
would be unable to perform its task unless it received at 


every instant an impression of the threatening position 
which it has to counteract by a compensating movement. 
And even if it is possible for this movement to be carried 
out in a perfectly mechanical way, and without the par- 
ticipation of the soul, it is, in the ordinary course of events, 
it the same time an object of our perception. It seems to 
me probable, therefore, that this organ, too, consists in a 
systematic connexion of sensory and motor fibres ; although 
the former do not always communicate their excitations to 
Consciousness, but sometimes simply produce a movement 
by transferring their excitation to motor fibres. Now among 
the organs which I should suppose to be formed in this way, 
I should place first an organ of the perception of space : and 
I am completely satisfied, although utterly unable to prove 
it, that in all the higher kinds of animals this organ, 
dedicated in each case to a function which appears every- 
where the same, forms a considerable part of the brain. If 
the hypotheses I have ventured respecting the local signs 
of the sensations of sight be correct, the function of this 
organ would be to connect the optical impressions with 
the motor impulses of the eye. But how this function can 
be performed, and in what form the efficient connexion 

of the sensory and motor nerves is established, these are 
questions on which I will offer no conjecture. 

299. In the second division of the functions of the 
central organs those functions which consist in the physi- 
cal working out of the internal impulses of the soul there 
is one process with respect to which the observations of the 
most recent times seem to have led to a secure result. It 
has been proved with sufficient certainty that an organ of 
language is to be found at a particular spot in the large 
hemispheres of the human brain. In order to understand 
the office of this organ, let us glance at the different modes 
in which our movements in general arise. I put aside the 
purposeless twitchings which occur in particular muscles, 
owing to internal irritations for the most part unknown to 


us: but even with respect to the movements which we 
produce at will in accordance with our intentions, we must 
confess that we do not understand how they take place. 
We do not know by nature either the structure of the 
limbs which gives the movement its form, or the position of 
the muscles and nerves which carry it into execution. 
Even if we did, there would remain a further question as to 
which we are still in darkness, and which science also is 
not at present able to answer : what is it exactly that we 
have to do, if we are to give to the nerve that first impulse 
which produces in all this preparatory mechanism the 
desired state of activity? It takes the newly-born animal 
but a short time to acquire that control over its limbs which 
characterises the genus to which it belongs ; and this fact 
compels us to assume, not merely a succession of chance 
experiences which gradually teach the animal that its limbs 
can be used, but also internal impulses which call these 
experiences into being. On the one hand, the external 
stimuli, by transferring their excitations to motor nerves, 

will at once call forth connected groups of movements 
combined in conformity with their common end ; on the 
other hand, the central apparatus, on which this combina- 
tion depends, may be stimulated to activity from within by 
variable states of the body. The sensory excitation then 
will produce in consciousness a sensation of the stimulus, 

and at the same time the movement that occurs will pro- 
duce in consciousness the sensation of its occurrence, and 
the perception of its result; and in this way the soul, 
playing at present the part of a mere spectator, will have 
acquired the different elements of an association which it 
can reproduce at a later time with a view to its own ends. 
The soul cannot always produce of itself the efficient 
primary state that would recreate the movement: some- 
times this movement demands, for its repetition, the com- 
plete reproduction of the corporeal stimulus from which it 
sprang originally as a true reflex movement. For example, 


up to a certain point one can imitate coughing and sneez- 
ing at will, but one cannot bring about an actual sneezing 
or vomiting without a fresh operation of their physical 
excitants. Even the movements which depend on states 
of emotion are only to a slight extent conjoined to the 
renewal of the mere ideas of a pain or pleasure; they 
depend on the renewal of the pain and pleasure themselves. 
I refer to the familiar facts of bodily expression and 
gesture an endowment due to nature, and not to our 
invention involuntary manifestations of its internal psy- 
chical states, which the soul simply witnesses without 
willing them, and, for the most part, without being able to 
hinder them. 

300. But what is the starting-point which the soul must 
produce in order that the motor mechanism may execute 
exactly that movement which at the given instant answers 
to the psychical intention ? I speak simply of a starting- 
point, because we certainly cannot suppose that the soul 
exerts an independent and conscious control over the 

details of the process, and metes out to the particular 
nerve-fibres, which must be called into action in the given 
case, those precise quantities of excitation which will secure 
the direction and strength of the desired movement. In 
place of thus generating homogeneous impulses, and merely 
giving them different directions in different instances, it has 

to produce for different movements A and B qualitatively 
different internal states a and ; and these, instead of 
being guided by it, seek and find their way for themselves, 
simply because they are themselves and no other states. 
Let a and b be two different motor central points, of which 
a connects into a whole the single excitations necessary to 
A, and b those necessary to B \ then a will find its efficient 
response only in a, ft only in , while to other nerves they 
will remain indifferent. If, again, both movements A and 
B depend on the same central point, only that they depend 
on different degrees of its excitation, then the strength of 


a and will determine also the strength of this excitation. 
If, lastly, one movement requires the simultaneous activity 
of both organs, then the internal state y, which is to set up 
that activity, must contain the two components a and ft 
and these two components will determine the share taken 
by a and b in the joint-result they have to produce. This 
view of the origin of movement corresponds but little to 
ordinary notions; it leads us back to the often-repeated 
idea, that the ultimate ground or reason of every action or 
effect lies in the fact that the two elements which stand in 
this relation of interaction exist for one another directly 
that they stand, if the word may be used, in a direct 
sympathetic rapport, which makes each receptive to the 
moods of the other. There may be many intermediating 
processes producing the conditions on which this rapport 
depends, or removing the hindrances to it, but they are all 
mere preparations for the action ; the action itself, which 
comes when they are finished, cannot be explained in its 
turn by a similar machinery, between every pair of whose 
parts this immediate sympathy would again be necessary. 
Our theory presents difficulties to the imagination only if 
we take in literal earnest the expression in which the 
internal state a or ft is described as finding its way to a or 
b. The internal state has not really any way to traverse ; 
for the soul in which it arises is not placed at some distant 
spot in space, from whence it has to send out its influence 
in search of the organs that are to serve it. The soul, 
without its unity being on that account endangered, is 
itself everywhere present where, in the connexion of all 
things, its own states have attached to them the consequent 
states of other elements. 

301. When the soul then reproduces within itself these 
starting-points, they proceed, without any further inter- 
ference or knowledge on its part, and in obedience to a 
mechanism which was not invented by us and remains 
concealed from us, to produce as a final result the actual 


movement. We now naturally ask the further question in 
what precisely do these starting-points consist? A very 
close approach has already been made to our view when it 
is asserted that, if the movement is to become actual, we 
must will, not the movement itself, but the end of it, and 
that then the movement will take place of itself. But the 
question is, What is this willing of the end ? The imitative 
movements with which the devout spectator accompanies 
the actions of the fencer or skittle-player, or by which an 
unskilful narrator tries to portray the objects he speaks of, 
might convince us that, in the absence of hindrances, the 
mere idea of a movement passes of itself into the actual 
movement. And if we take this point of view, we may 
really leave the influence of the will out of account. For 
whatever else it may consist in, and whatever positive 
contribution, over and above the mere absence of resistance, 
it may make to our movements, still its function in refer- 
ence to a given movement #, distinguished from another b, 
will consist essentially in this, that it favours the definite 
ground or reason a or ft which leads to the one or the other 
of these movements ; and the nature of this starting-point 
or ground is precisely the question we were concerned 
with. On the other hand, I certainly do not think we 
need look for this starting-point in the idea, at any rate not 
in the visual ideas of the movement ; although innumerable 
little acts of our daily life are directly conjoined, without 
any consideration or resolution of the will, to the ideas 
arising in us of a possible and desirable movement ; and 
though they even seem to be conjoined, without the inter- 
mediation of an idea at all, to the mere perception of the 
object with which the act may deal. Taken by itself the 
visual idea would signify nothing more than the somewhat 
abstract fact that a moveable limb is at this moment at the 
spot / in space, and at the next moment at the spot q ; but 
it would contain none of the concrete interest for us which 
is given to this fact by the circumstance that we are the 


cause of the visual idea and that our limbs are the object, 
whose spatial positions are in question. Thus the starting- 
point or state, which the soul has to reproduce in itself in 
order that, conversely, the actual movement may be con- 
joined to that state is not, I conceive, the idea of the 
movement, but rather the feeling which we experience 
during the execution of the movement and in consequence 
of its execution. It is common in physiology now to speak 
of feelings of innervation, but I should not choose that 
name to describe what I mean. The case is not, I think, 
that there is an act, consisting in an influencing of the 
nerve, and directed now here and now there, but in other 
respects always of the same nature ; and that this act is on 
the one hand what we feel, and on the other hand what 
according to the direction given to it produces this move- 
ment a or that movement b. The case is rather that this 
feeling itself, its mere unhindered existence, constitutes 
that internal condition of the soul which effects an innerva- 
tion proceeding from it and affecting in all cases a particular 
complex of nerves. There are some very simple facts of 
experience which seem to me to confirm this view. A 
beginner finds it difficult to hit a certain musical note or a 
given uttered sound, and then there is this special difficulty 
that the necessary movements are not completely visible ; 
but we also find that any other movement which is at all 
complicated, continues, even though it be fully measured 
by the eye, to be difficult to us until we have once suc- 
ceeded in it. Then we know how we must feel if we wish 
to repeat it, and that feeling TT, or, to state the matter as 
we did in the case of the local signs, that first link TT O in the 
series of momentary muscular feelings which followed one 
another during the actual movement, has to be reproduced 
if the movement is to be repeated ; and we consider the 
movement to be successful, and to answer our intention, 
if the repeated series n is identical with the series we 


302. If, taking these results as our presuppositions, v. 
now return to the organ of language, our account will be a 
follows : the idea of that which we wish to designate awakes 
the idea of the sound of its name, and this idea awakes 
the idea of the muscular feeling n which is necessary to the 
utterance of the name ; and to this last idea is conjoined 
the movements of the organs of speech. But here we come 
to a standstill ; we cannot determine what contributions 
the organ has to make to this end. Since the feeling TT arose 
from the physical excitations experienced by the muscles 
when first the movement was executed, it seems a tenable 
hypothesis that the reawakening of this feeling in the soul 
must produce (to begin with) a general state of physical 
excitation in the organ, and that this state then, in con- 
formity with the structure and internal states of the organ, 
divides into the various components which give their 
particular impulses to the executing nerves and muscles. 
The morbid phenomena produced by an injury to the 
organ, as well as many simple phenomena of daily life 
those of passion, intoxication, and others show that this 
chain of processes may be interrupted at various points ; 
there may be a correct image of the object, though the idea 
of sound united with it is false ; or the latter may be still 
distinct to us, but we are annoyed to find that the spoken 
word does not correspond with it. But these disturbances 
again give us no exact information respecting the function 
of the organ in its healthy state. It is easy to talk of 
telegraphic conductions and perverted connexions of them, 
but this is nothing but a way of picturing the observed 
facts ; and images are useless unless one can confront every 
single line of them with the real process which corresponds to 
them point for point. The other movements of the body 
are subject to similar disturbances ; but these I must leave 
to the pathological works in which interesting descriptions 
of them may be found. Whatever anatomical basis is given 
to that feeling which instructs us respecting the position, 


the movement, and the amount of exertion of our limbs, 
he fact remains that, wherever this feeling is diminished or 
disappears, we find it difficult or impossible to execute 
movements, the idea of which is none the less present to 
consciousness, as the idea of a task to be accomplished. 

303. Phrenology has attempted to connect with corporeal 
bases the activities commonly ascribed to the higher faculties 
of the mind. We cannot say that the observations on 
which this attempt rests have no significance ; but phreno- 
logy should have confined its efforts to talents whose nature 
is unambiguous, such as can scarcely conceal themselves 
where they really exist, and never can be simulated where 
they do not. It was of little use to speak offhand of 
peculiarities of disposition and character, respecting which 
our knowledge of mankind is easily deceived, and which, 
where they are actually present, may owe their existence to 
the co-operation of very various influences of life and 
education. If this limitation were observed, an accurate 
comparison might then give us, not indeed an explanatory 
theory, but trustworthy information establishing a connexion 
between particular facts of bodily and of mental develop- 
ment. These facts would then have to be interpreted ; and 
we cannot tell what the result of a conscientious attempt 
to interpret them would be. But at any rate it is quite 
impossible to put any faith in the cherished notion that 
every one of the capacities and inclinations enumerated 
in the phrenological plans has a local subdivision of the 
brain assigned to it as its particular organ : for each of these 
peculiarities, considered psychologically, is the final outcome 
of the co-operation of a number of more general psychical 
functions, and any one of them is distinguished from any 
other by the different proportions in which the manifesta- 
tions of these more general activities co-operate. It is only 
in the case of these general activities that phrenology can 
hope to discover a dependence on the structure of the brain 
or skull ; and even this hope depends on the very doubtful 

Chap. V.] BOD1L Y I NFL UENCES. 305 

assumption that fundamental faculties, whose business is a 
constant and close interaction, would find their needs 
answered by a localisation of their organs at different spatial 

But I pass from these questions, for no one can decide 
them ; I may hold it to be in general a natural assumption 
that, supposing a material mass to be necessary to the 
manifestation of a mental function, that manifestation will 
be more intense according to the size of the mass ; but for 
the higher mental life I believe much more importance is 
to be attached to the quantity, multiplicity, 'and intensity 
of the stimuli afforded by the body to the excitation of an 
activity, which in its innermost nature or work seems neither 
to need nor to be accessible to any further physical help. 
But the contributions which the bodily organisation thus 
makes to the vivacity and colouring of the psychical life, 
need not consist exclusively in structural relations of the 
brain. They may come from all parts of the body; from 
those delicate mechanical and chemical differences of 
texture which are not less real because we imperfectly 
describe them as contrasts between tense and lax fibres; 
from the architecture of the whole which allows to one 
organ a more extensive and to another a less extensive 
development. For all these peculiarities of the solid parts 
give a special stamp to the play of the functions and the 
mixture of the fluids, and in this way they are continually 
bringing to consciousness a large quantity of small stimuli, 
the total effect of which is that dominating tone or general 
feeling, under whose influence the labour of the mental 
forces is always carried on. A part of these bodily in- 
fluences we know by the name of the temperaments, which 
need not be described here, and the definite assignment of 
which to physical bases has never yet been achieved. As 
peculiar forms taken by our internal states, in accordance 
with which the excitability of our ideas, emotions, and 
efforts, is greater or smaller, one-sided or many-sided, 



passing or continuous, and their changes are slower or 
more rapid, the temperaments condition in the most 
extensive way the whole course of mental development. 
And although the body does not by the physical forces 
of its masses directly create the faculties of the soul, it 
forms in this indirect manner one of the powers which 
control their exercise. 

304. We in no way share the view which conceives the 
activities of the soul materialistically as an effect of its 
bodily organs, and, as a matter of fact, every attempt 
hitherto made to connect its higher functions with given 
substrates has proved fruitless : yet there are many facts 
which require us to consider the general dependence of 
consciousness on states of the body. The name conscious- 
ness cannot now be withdrawn from use; but it has this 
inconvenience, that it seems to represent as an independent 
existence something which is really only possible in in- 
separable union with those variable states which we 
conceive as occurrences happening to it. We all know 
that consciousness 1 , or being conscious, means only being 

conscious in oneself of something; the idea of conscious- 
ness is incomplete if we omit from it either the subject, or 
the something which this subject knows or is conscious of. 
But in handling special questions we often forget this, and 
lapse into various fancies ; sometimes we imagine a bodily 
organ, which prepares consciousness in general for the use 
of a soul which is to employ it, in application to a content 
that may come into it ; sometimes we dream of a special 
faculty of the soul itself which produces the same curious 
result ; or at any rate we figure consciousness itself as the 
natural and constant state of the mind a state which is 
not, properly speaking, unreal and inoperative even when it 
is completely prevented from appearing. In opposition to 
these ideas we are ready to admit that it is only in the 

1 [The German word das Bcwusstsein, which we translate 'con- 
sciousness,' means literally ' conscious-being/ or ' the being conscious. 1 ] 


moment of a sensation that consciousness exists as that 
activity of the soul which directs itself to the content felt ; 
and that it forms a continuous state only in so far as the 
multiplicity of simultaneous or successive exertions of this 
activity does itself, as before described 1 , form the object or 
exciting cause of a new act of representation an act by 
which we form an idea of this multiplicity. Accordingly 
we should agree that a soul which never experienced a first 
stimulus from without, would never, as we say, awake to 
consciousness : but the question remains whether, when 
once the play of this internal activity has been started, it 
can carry on an independent existence, or whether it remains 
as dependent on bodily causes for its continuance as it was 
for its excitation. 

Now the states of unconsciousness offered to observation 
by natural sleep, swooning, diseases, and injuries of the 
central organs, have made the conclusion seem probable to 
many minds that nothing but the constant continuance 
of physical processes contains productive conditions of 
consciousness. By this we need not understand that the 

activity, in which consciousness at every moment of its 
actual presence consists, is the private and peculiar product 
of a bodily organ ; the functions of this organ may be no 
more than stimuli which, but for the particular nature of 
the soul, would be unable to win from it an activity which 
is possible to it alone : yet, even so, this activity will still be 
the production of the organ, so long as its exercise has for 
its indispensable cause the excitation of that organ. Now 
on a previous occasion 2 1 thought it necessary to remind 
my readers that the cessation of an activity previously in a 
state of exercise can, generally speaking, be explained in 
either of two ways ; it may be that the productive conditions 
of its appearance are absent, or, again, that there is a 
hindering force which opposes its exercise. None of the 

1 [Sect. 271.] 
8 [S 

9 [See Lotze's Medicinische Psychologic (Leipsic, 1852), 388 if.] 

X 2 


phenomena mentioned above seemed to me to preclude, the 
second of these ideas. When a sudden fright interrupts 
consciousness, the physical impression made on the senses 
by the fact that causes terror may be perfectly harmless, 
and the reason of our disquietude lies in the interpretation 
which our judgment puts on the perception : in this case we 
can sec no reason why this psychical movement should not 
be the direct cause which makes the soul incapable of a 
continuance of its consciousness, no reason for the supposi- 
tion that the bodily fainting, which can have its cause only 
in itself, must intervene and produce, as a secondary effect, 
the loss of mental activity. When disease slowly clouds 
over the consciousness, this final result is commonly pre- 
ceded by a series of feelings of discomfort in which we can 
see the beginning of the check that is going on, just as in 
health trifling depressions of mind make a continuance 
of mental activity distressing though not impossible. But 
it is not, we may generally say, necessary that the influences 
which check consciousness should at the beginning of their 
hindering action be themselves an object of our conscious- 
ness. We must remember that of that which is going on in 
our nerves and of the mode of their influence on the soul 
we experience nothing : it is only the final result of these 
processes, the sensation, or the feeling of pleasure and pain, 
that appears in consciousness ; and, when it does appear, it 
tells us nothing of the mode in which it was brought about. 
In the same way then, when bodily excitations, instead 
of producing consciousness, check it, it is possible for their 
action to remain unnoticed until unconsciousness suddenly 
supervenes. Injuries of the brain, lastly, can hardly be 
defined with any probability as the clean disappearance 
of an organ and the excitation dependent on it ; they will 
probably always include positive changes in the organs 
that remain, and in the activity of those organs, and from 
these organs they will develope forces that check con- 


These were the general remarks on which I formerly 
relied ; but at bottom they only had a significance in 
opposition to the view which took consciousness to be the 
direct product of the work of a bodily organ, and they have 
not much to say against the other view which conceives 
activities, in their own nature mental, to be evoked anew in 
every moment by the constant excitation of the nerves, and 
to be capable of continuance in this way alone. Many 
facts, which have been more accurately observed in late 
years, favour this idea. We know that animals can be sent 
to sleep, if a compulsion, lasting some little time but causing 
no pain, deprives them of all movement, and if at the same 
time all external sense-stimuli are shut out, and so any new 
sensation prevented: it follows that the internal changes 
conditioned by the transformation of substances by tissue- 
change, and by nutrition, are not sufficient to preserve in 
them the waking state which preceded the experiment. 
It is not quite safe to argue from brutes to men ; but in any 
case it is certain enough that men too fall asleep from 
ennui, and quite lately a remarkable case of prolonged 
anaesthesia (Dr. Strumpell, Deutsches Arch. f. Klin. Med. 
XXII) has proved mat in the case of men also the same 
experimental conditions that were applied to animals can 
rapidly produce sleep. Nevertheless it remains doubtful 
whether all these facts tell us anything new, or whether they 
only present, no doubt in highly remarkable circumstances, 
what we knew before. With regard to the animals success- 
fully experimented on, we do not know whether there is any 
impulse in them tending to extend the course of their ideas 
in any considerable degree beyond the contents of their 
sensuous perception ; in the case of ennui, we know that for 
the moment this impulse is absent, while the sensations 
of the special senses are not absent, and it is only the lack 
of interest in them that removes the stimulus to follow up 
what is perceived with an attention that would find relations 
in it. Thus we seem to have found nothing but what needs 


no explanation : where the external and internal impulses 
which stir the soul to activity are absent, this activity is 
absent, and the lack of it may form the point of departure 
for that further depression of nervous irritability by which 
at last sleep is distinguished from waking. 

3O5. Before I attempt to give some final view on this 
subject, I have still to mention that alternation of conscious- 
ness and unconsciousness which is presented to us in the 
forgetting of ideas and their recollection. Everyone knows 
the views which regard memory and recollection as possible 
only by means of a corporeal basis ; according to this view 
some physical trace of every perception must have remained 
in the brain, a trace which, it would be admitted, would 
gradually disappear altogether if no occasion for its renewal 
occurred. It would be unjust to require a closer descrip- 
tion of these abiding impressions; but a consideration of 
the precise requirements they must fulfil does not, as it 
seems to me, reveal the advantages which this hypothesis 
is thought to possess when compared with a theory which 

regards these processes as merely psychical. I raise no 

objection to the idea that the simultaneous stimuli travers- 
ing the brain in extraordinary numbers, leave behind them 
an equal number of traces which do not intermix : that for 
a moment, at least, these traces can remain unintermixed is 
proved by the fact that they help us to form an equally 
large number of separate perceptions ; but this very fact at 
the same time proves that the unity of the psychical subject 
holding these perceptions together in its consciousness, is, 
no less than the brain, capable of a simultaneous multiplicity 
of states which remain apart from one another. This, how- 
ever, was the very point respecting which these theories at 
starting expressed mistrust : a material system, consisting of 
a large number of parts, seemed to them better adapted to 
the purpose of receiving and preserving a number of im- 
pressions than the indivisible unity of an immaterial 
substance. But the theory does not get rid of the necessity 


of ascribing these capacities to such a substance, as well as 
to i'he brain; unless indeed we are prepared to return to 
the old mistake of confusing a multiplicity of impressions 
distributed in the brain with the perception of this multi- 
plicity. As we proceed, the duties demanded alike of brain 
and soul are multiplied at the same rate for both. If we 
approach an object, there is only one point of it that 
which our glance continuously fixes that throws its image 
constantly on one and the same element of the retina ; all 
the other points, as the apparent size of the object increases 
with our approach to it, make their impression from moment 
to moment on fresh spots in the nerve. Thus, if this one 
object is to be perceived, countless images must be re- 
presented within a short time, and that in such a manner 
that every part a of the object leaves traces in countless 
elements/ q r ... of the brain, while each of these elements 
again receives such traces impressed upon it by all the parts 
a be.... An intermixture of these latter images would be of 
no service to the act of representing the object ; each single 
material atom will in its turn have to preserve countless im- 
pressions without intermixture the very same task which 
this theory refused to entrust to the unity of the soul and 
on both sides the functions to be performed multiply im- 
measurably when, instead of one object, there are many to 
be perceived. 

But the important point was not this preservation itself, 
but the service it can render to memory when only a part 
a b of a composite image is given by a new perception, and 
the parts c d e which belong to it have to be supplied. If 
we suppose that the new impression a b now affects the 
same nerve-elements p and q which it affected before, it is 
conceivable that the trace of it still remaining may be some- 
how called to life again in those elements ; but how does it 
come about that and q renew in other nerve-elements, 
r and s, the traces of the impressions c and d which formerly 
affected them these impressions c and d being precisely 


those which united with a and b will form the image that 
has to be recollected? It may be answered that the 
psychological view of the matter equally demands that a 
peculiar connexion should be established between those 
impressions which occur simultaneously, or, if successively, 
with no intervening link : that the very same solidarity 
obtains between the abiding remnants of the nerve-excita- 
tions j that, if time be conceived as a line of abscissa's those 
of equal abscissa form such an associated group. And this 
stratified deposition of the impressions, supposing it ad- 
mitted, might indeed explain why their reproduction would 
take the direction from a b only to c d, and not to any/ q 
belonging to another stratum ; but the mechanical possibility 
of the process itself which takes this direction would remain 
in obscurity. For we cannot misuse the metaphor to such 
an extent as to regard the simultaneous states of all the 
nerve elements as a connected stratum, the continuity of 
which produces the result that a vibration of one point sets 
all the rest vibrating in those forms in which they formerly 
vibrated in this stratum, and not in those forms in which 
they vibrated in other strata. It could be nothing but the 
nature of the impressions a and b that in its turn revives the 

others c and d which are connected with them : and since 
there is no reason why a by itself or b by itself should re- 
produce c or d any more than many other impressions, it 
can be nothing but the concurrent existence of a and b that 
limits the selection to those impressions that really belong 
to them. This implies not only that the single nerve-ele- 
ments in which a and b are revivified, interact on each 
other, so that the fact of the concurrent existence of those 
two impressions is transformed into an efficient resultant, 
by which the reawakening of c and dean be brought about ; 
but, over and above this, those nerve-elements which are 
now to contribute c and d 9 can only add this definite con- 
tribution to the whole, if the fact of the previous simultaneity 
of their impressions c and d with a and b has left behind in 


them, too, a permanent disposition to answer this and no 
other solicitation with this and no other response. 

I will not pursue the investigation further. Its final out- 
come seems to me clear : the hypothesis must transfer to 
every single nerve-atom precisely the same capacity of an 
ordered association and reproduction of all successive states 
which the psychological view claims for the soul. How 
these two occurrences (this association and reproduction) 
come about we have confessed that we do not know; but 
it is utterly vain to hope that a physical construction can 
enable us to understand them without presupposing that 
the same enigmatical process is repeated in every element 
of matter. 

3O0. These considerations would all be useless, if inter- 
ruption of memory occasioned by bodily suffering admitted 
of no explanation whatever in consonance with our yiews. 
Unfortunately I cannot maintain that what I have been 
saying makes such a satisfactory explanation possible ; but 
this does not seem to me to diminish the impossibility 
of those other views which localise particular groups of ideas 
or particular remembrances off-hand at definite places in 
the central organs. All that we can, properly speaking, be 

said to observe is not an absence of memory, but merely 
the incapacity to reproduce ideas, which, according to the 
ordinary view, may nevertheless still be present as un- 
conscious ideas, only that the associations are wanting, by 
help of which they might be restored to consciousness. 
This account, apart from a further definition, would do no 
more than explain the total forgetting of ideas of which 
there is nothing whatever to remind us; whereas in the 
cases of morbid interruption of memory, the sensuous per- 
ceptions frequently go on unhindered, and bring with them 
a quantity of impressions, associated in manifold ways with 
the forgotten ideas : and yet the restoration of these ideas 
to memory does not take place. 
There is only one supposition that I can suggest, and I 


am not sure myself whether it does not push to exaggeration 
a conception which in itself is valid. Ideas are connected 
not only with one another, but also in the closest way with 
the general feeling g of our total state at the moment of 
their origin. If g changes into y, and it is impossible to us 
to experience g again, the way is barred which might lead 
our memory back to the ideas connected with g\ in whatever 
numbers single ideas among these may be reproduced by 
new perceptions, still the common bond is absent, which 
connected them together as our states, and thus made those 
contents of theirs, which in themselves were reciprocally 
indifferent, capable of reciprocal re-excitation. It is in this 
way that I should attempt to interpret the facts that, when 
we have recovered from severe illness, we do not remember 
what we experienced while it lasted, or while, before its 
outbreak, our general feeling was already changed ; that, 
when we are free from the paroxysm of fever, we do not 
remember sets of ideas which accompany it, and that in 
particular cases these sets of ideas are carried on when the 
next paroxysm occurs, owing to the return of the morbid 
general feeling : that unusual depression sometimes brings 
long-forgotten things to remembrance, while in other cases 
of the same kind things familiar to us affect us so little that 
they seem like something new, unknown, and unconnected 
with the whole of our life. It is far harder to apply this 
explanation to those defects of memory that occur with 
regard to a certain definite subject-matter of our ideas; 
e. g. the forgetting of proper names, of a series of scientific 
conceptions, of a foreign language. But here again what 
other course is open to us than to refer these cases, so far 
as they are confirmed by observations, to similar causes ? 
It is impossible to conceive of the activities which are here 
impeded as assigned to different organs ; they could only be 
assigned to different ways of working on the part of the 
organs : we should have to come back to a general depression 
of the organs, preventing them from executing a group of 


functions, which, though they belong to one another, do not 
disclose even such a similarity of physical work as would 
correspond to their intellectual connexion, and would make 
it a matter of course that they should all be interrupted 
together. In that case there would be no greater impossi- 
bility in the further supposition, that this physical depression 
has for its consequence a mental general feeling, different 
from and superseding that which ordinarily accompanies 
these mental operations. For that which moves and forms 
connexions in us is not abstract truths : the course of our 
thoughts is always a course of our states, and every particular 
form of our intellectual activity gives us the feeling of a 
peculiar mental posture, which reacts again on the bodily 
general feeling. If a change originally set up in this latter 
feeling makes its mental echo impossible, the mental 
activities will be checked in their turn by the conflict of the 
tone of feeling which they find in existence with that which 
should normally accompany them. 

3O7. Efforts to assign to the soul a sphere in which its 
activity should be independent of the body, commonly 
proceed from the desire to secure its substantiality, and 
thereby its endless continuance ; though in reality the 
certainty with which we can infer the latter from the 
former is strictly proportionate to the energy with which at 
starting we have chosen to identify the two. No such 
motives have guided our present investigation : indeed what 
use would there be in securing to the soul all the rights 
of substance, if the exercise of these rights is not equally 
unrestrained ? But no theories can change the facts. 
Whether we see in the central organs the creative causes 
of mental activity, or only, on occasion, the causes which 
impede it, in either case the facts remain, that a state of 
perpetual wakefulness is impossible to us; that the ex- 
haustion of the body brings with it the total cessation of 
mental life ; that, conversely, this life, in some way, whatever 
that way may be, consumes the forces of the body ; that 


diseases and injuries of the brain either cripple particular 
faculties, or sink us in a complete mental night. When, 
then, we joined in the efforts alluded to, it was not with the 
hope of finding in the intrinsic substantiality of the soul any 
warrant for an independence of which so little does as a fact 
exist ; but in the certainty that, even if exact observation 
should prove the activity of the soul to be still more closely 
bound up, than it is now proved to be, with the body and 
its agitations, still this dependence could in no way alter the 
essence of our conviction ; and that essential conviction is 
that a world of atoms, and movements of atoms, can never 
develope from itself a trace of mental life ; that it forms, on 
the contrary, nothing more than a system of occasions, 
which win from another and a unique basis the manifesta- 
tion of an activity possible to that basis alone. 

But even this expression of our view must after all be 
once more modified. We found it impossible to conceive 
the world as built up out of a disconnected multiplicity 
of real elements of matter : just as little, on the other side, 

have we considered the individual souls on which this 
system of occasions acts, to be indestructible existences ; 
both they and these occasions meant to us simply actions 
of the one genuine being or existence, only that they are 
gifted with the strange capacity, which no knowledge can 
further explain, of feeling and knowing themselves as active 
centres of a life which goes out from them. Only because 
they do this, only in so far as they do this, did we give them 
the name of existences or substances. Still we have so 
named them ; and now the question arises whether it would 
not but for the exigencies of imagination be better to 
avoid even that name and the inferences into which it will 
never cease to seduce men. Beginning by speaking of the 
souls as existences, we go on to speak of their states, and 
we even venture to talk of such states as betray nothing 
whatever of the essential nature of that to which we ascribe 
them. Thus we have not scrupled, any more than any 


psychology has so far scrupled, to use the supposition of 
unconscious ideas, or of unconscious states, which ideas 
have left behind, and which become ideas again. Is it 
really necessary that they should so be left behind, and can 
we gather any intelligible notion from these words unless 
we take refuge, as men always naturally and inevitably have 
done, in the crassest metaphors of impressions that have 
altered a spatial shape, or of movements that are not con- 
ceivable except in space ? There was nothing to compel 'as 
to these suppositions but the observed fact that previous 
ideas return into consciousness : but is there no other way 
in which that which once was can be the determining 
ground of that which will be, except by continuing to be 
instead of passing away? And if the soul in a perfectly 
dreamless sleep thinks, feels, and wills nothing, is the soul 
then at all, and what is it 1 ? How often has the answer 
been given, that //"this could ever happen, the soul would 
have no being ! Why have we not had the courage to say 
that, as often as this happens, the soul is not ? I )oubtless, 

if the soul were alone in the world, it would be impossible 
to understand an alternation of its existence and non- 
existence : but why should not its life be a melody with 
pauses, while the primal eternal source still acts, of which 
the existence and activity of the soul are a single deed, and 
from which that existence and activity arose? From it 
again the soul would once more arise, and its new existence 
would be the consistent continuation of the old, so soon as 
those pauses are gone by, during which the conditions of its 
reappearance were being produced by other deeds of the 
same primal being. 

1 [Compare Medicinische Psychologie, 123.] 



I have ventured on these final hints because I wished to 
give a last and a full statement of that requirement which I 
believe we must lay on ourselves, the total renunciation of 
our desire to answer metaphysical questions by the way of 
mathematico-mechanical construction. There can be no 
need for me to express yet again the complete respect I feel 
for the physical sciences, for their developed method and 
their intellectual force ; the efforts of Metaphysic cannot in 
any way compare with their brilliant results. But it has 
sometimes befallen the investigation of Nature itself, that, 
at points which for long it thought itself warranted in using 
as the simplest foundations of its theories, it has discovered 
a whole world, new and never surmised, of internal formation 
and movement ; and in this world it has at the same time 
discovered the explanation of occurrences, which had pre- 
viously been connected, in a bare and external way, with 
these seemingly simple points of departure. It is a like 
discovery that Metaphysic has always sought, only the 
distance which separated its goal from anything that can 
become the object of direct observation was still greater. 
It sought the reasons or causes on which the fact depends, 
that we are able to pursue with confidence throughout the 
whole realm they govern the fundamental conceptions of the 
natural sciences, and which at the same time would deter- 
mine the limits of this realm. It is a true saying that God 
has ordered all things by measure and number, but what he 
ordered was not measures and numbers themselves, but 
that which deserved or required to possess them. It was 
not a meaningless and inessential reality, whose only 
purpose would have been to support mathematical relations, 
and to supply some sort of denomination 1 for abstract 
numbers : but the meaning of the world is what comes 
first ; it is not simply something which subjected itself to 
1 [Cp. 314, end.] 


the order established ; rather from it alone comes the need 
of that order and the form in which it is realised. All those 
laws which can be designated by the common name of 
mathematical mechanics, whatever that name includes of 
eternal and self-evident truths, and of laws which as a 
matter of fact are everywhere valid, all these exist, not on 
their own authority, nor as a baseless destiny to which 
reality is compelled to bow. They are (to use such language 
as men can) only the first consequences which, in the 
pursuit of its end, the living and active meaning of the 
world has laid at the foundation of all particular realities 
as a command embracing them all. We do not know this 
meaning in all its fulness, and therefore we cannot deduce 
from it what we can only attempt, in one universal con- 
viction, to retrace to it. But even the effort to do this 
forces upon us a chain of ideas so far-reaching that I gladly 
confess the imperfections which, without doubt, can be laid 
to the charge of this attempt of mine. When, now several 
decades since, I ventured on a still more imperfect attempt, 
I closed it with the dictum that the true beginning of 
Metaphysic lies in Ethics. I admit that the expression is 
not exact ; but I still feel certain of being on the right 
track, when I seek in that which should be the ground 
of that which w. What seems unacceptable in this view it 
will perhaps be possible to justify in another connexion : 
now, after I have already perhaps too long claimed the 
attention of my reader, I close my essay without any feeling 
of infallibility, with the wish that I may not everywhere 
have been in error, and, for the rest, with the Oriental 
proverbGod knows better. 


' Absolute motion,' 370 ff. 

' Accidental views ' (Herbart), 


Action (at a distance), ii. 28. 
Albumen, ii. 131. 
'Allgemeine Physiologic des kb'r- 

per lichen Lebens' (Author's), 

ii. 128. 

Anaesthesia, ii. 309. 
Antinomies (Kantian"), 240 ff., 

321 ff. 
Aristotle, 24, 74, 78, 106, ii. 129, 


Articular surfaces, ii. 135. 
Association of Ideas, ii. 226. 
Atomism, ii. 38. 
Attention, ii. 239, 242. 
Attraction, ii. 23, 67, 70. 
Avogadro, ii. 127. 

Baer (K. E. von), ii. 142. 
Binary combinations, ii. 131. 
Brain, injuries of, ii. 308. 

Categories, 24. 

* Causa transiensj 135. 

Cause (opp. 'Reason'), 126. 

Cause (and effect), 138. 

Cellulose, ii. 131. 

' Cessante Causa ,' 367. 

Checking of Ideas by Ideas, ii. 219, 


Chemistry, ii. 127. 
Comparison, conditions of, ii. 232. 
Conceptions (universal), ii. 242. 
Consequent, 108 ff. 
Conservation (of Mass), ii. 89. 

(of Force), ii. 93 ff. 
Constancy (of Mass), ii. 56. 

(of the sum of motions), ii. 91. 
Contact, 132 ff. 

Content (' Inhalt'\ 23 note. 

Continuity, Law of, 357. 
Contradiction, Law of, ii. 12. 
Cosmology, 27. 

Darwin, ii. 159. 

Depth, Idea of, ii. 274. 

Descartes, 268, ii. 4. 

1 Deutsches Archivfiir Klin. Med? 

quoted, ii. 309. 
Dialectic method, 21. 
Difference (quantitative) Idea of, 

ii. 234. 

' Dim 'Ideas, ii. 221, cp. 244-5. 
Disappearance of Sensations, ii. 


Distance (and force), ii. 67, 81. 
Distinction, of points by Touch, 

ii. 276. 

Drobisch, 279. 
s, 1 06. 

Effect (and Cause), 138. 

Electricity, ii. 125. 

* Elemente der Psychophysik ' 

(Fechner), ii. 196. 
Emotions (and the Interest of 

Ideas), ii. 224. 
evtpytia, 1 06. 
Epicurean Physics, ii. 129. 
Equality, note, 62. 
Equality of Cause and Effect, 138. 
Equivalence, ii. 56, IOT. 
Euclidean Geometry, 275. 
Experience, 3. 
Extra-impressions, or Local Signs, 

ii. 255- 
Eye, how we estimate movement 

of, ii. 265. 

Fechner, 'Atomenlehre? ii. 40, 1 74. 
'Elemente der Psychophysik J 
ii. 196 ff., 187. 



Fechner and Weber, ii. 210. 
Feeling (' Gefuhl 1 }, in the repro- 
duction of Ideas, ii. 229. 

in initiation of action, ii. 302. 

and Memory, ii. 314. 
Fichte, 221. 

Force, ii. 15. 

(and Distanced, ii. 67. 

(and Time}, ii. 83. 

(a single), ii. 101. 

(vital), ii. 129. 

Formulae, for consciousness, ii. 

Freedom, 206, 293. 

Generic Idea, ii. 141. 
Geometry, 275, 293. 
Geulinx, 157. 
Gravitation, ii. 70, 275. 
' Grund; 126. 

Hegel, 173, 204, 270 ff., ii. 10. 
Helmholtz, 293 ff. 
Heraclitus, 106, 112, 157. 
Herbart, 47 ff., 57, 69-72, 132, 

180, ii. 48, 72, 151, 219, 235, 

0XJ7, 79. 

Idea ( Ftfrj/*///*^'), usage defined, 
ii. 220. 

(universal), ii. 234, 242. 
Idealism, 95, 211 ff. 
Identity, 62 note, 63. 

Law of, 104. 

Idea of, ii. 234. 
Impulse ('Trieb '), ii. 130. 
Infinite divisibility, 244. 
Infinity (of world in space), 241. 
* Innervation,' ii. 302. 
'Interest* of Ideas, ii. 224, 244. 
Irritability, ii. 135. 

Kant, 24, 268 ff., 315, 321, ii. 9 ff., 
61, 244. 

(Trans. Aesth. quoted}, 238. 
Kinds, ii. 150. 

Lambert, ii. 12. 

Law, 5 ff. 

Leibnitz, 150 ff., 183, ii. 48, 61. 

Lichtenberg, ii. 98. 

' Life and Vital Energy ' (Essay by 

Author), ii. 128. 
Life, a Principle of, ii. 133 
Like, 62 note. 
Likeness, idea of, ii. 233. 
Local Signs, ii. 255. 

in Vision, ii. 264. 

in Touch, ii. 276. 
Logic (Author's), 187, 367. 
Lucretius, ii. 41, 137. 

Machines, ii. 135. 

Mass, ii. 56, 89. 

Mechanism, ii. 115. 

* Medicinische Psychologic ' (Au- 
thor's), ii. 165, 187, 307. 

Memory, alleged physical basis of, 
ii. 310. 

Interruptions of, ii. 313. 
vA\ ov t 83. 
Metaphysic, 2, 8. 

' Mikrokosnms ' (Author's), 228, 

ii. 157. l6 5> 175- 
Monads, 183. 
Monism, 217. 

Motions (the sum of), ii. 91. 
' Motorium Commune? ii. 295. 
Muscular sense, ii. 275. 
Mythology, mathematical, ii. 236. 

Natural Kinds, ii. 150. 
Nature, our idea of, ii. 53, 138. 
Nerve-fibres, Isolation of, ii. 250, 


Nervous organs, central, ii. 293. 
Necessity, 206. 

Objective, cp. 23 note. 

Occasional causes, 129. 

Occasionalism, 147. 

Ontology, 27. 

Opposite ideas, association of, a 

fiction, ii. 227. 
Organ of Space-perception, ii. 297 

Language, ii. 297. 
Organic Life, ii. 158. 

Organs, special in Brain, ii. 295. 
oto ov, 85. 

Pain, see Pleasure. 



Parallel lines, 291, 297. 
Parallelogram of Motions, 386 ff. 
* Parmenides ' (of Plato), 174. 
Parsimony (Principle of), ii. 104. 
Perception of Space, 377 ff., ii. 240. 
Persistence, law of, 363. 
Phrenology, ii. 304. 
Plato, i, 79, 95, quoted 174. 
Pleasure, affects course of Ideas, 

ii. 225. 

Pluralism, 217. 
Poisson, quoted, 384, 386. 
< Position 1 (^P.odcrSetzung^, 

_ 42 

note, 83. 
Predicates in Plato, 95. 
1 Pre-established Harmony, 1 1 50. 
Psychical Mechanism, ii. 235. 
Psychology, 18, 27, ii. 163, (Iler- 

bart's) 237. 
Psycho-Physical Mechanism, ii. 

' Qualitative Atomism/ ii. 48. 
Qualities, Hcrbart's * simple Quali- 

ties/ 57 ff. 
Quality, ii. 15. 
Quaternary Combinations, ii. 131. 

Radiation (of force\ ii. 67 ff. 
Ratio (sujjiciens}, 115. 
Rational Psychology, ii. 163. 
Reactions of the soul, grades of, 

ii. 241. 

Realism, 95, 217. 
Reason (and Consequent), io8ff. 
Reason (opp. Cause), 126. 
Reflex motion of Eye, ii. 264. 
Relation, or Reference, an act of 

mind, ii. 232, and note. 
Relativity, 374. 
Reproduction of Ideas in order, 

ii. 228. 

Repulsion, ii. 23, 67. 
' Res cogitansj ii. 4. 
* Res extensa! ii. 4. 
Riemann, quoted, 311-2. 

Satisfaction, of force (Herbart), 

ii. 72. 
Schelling, 206, 268, ii. 8. 

Self -maintenance (Herbart), of 
things, 69-71. 

of soul, ii. 237. 
Sensation, 32-3. 

* Sensorium Commune? ii. 295. 

Similars, association of, ii. 227. 

Socrates, 174. 

Solidity (Lambert), ii. 12. 

Sophists, 95. 

Soul, the Seat of, ii. 283. 

Interrupted existence of, ii. 317. 
Spatial image, reproduction of, 

ii. 230. 
Space- perception, 377, ii. 240. 

of blind, ii. 272. 

organ of, ii. 297. 
Specific energies, ii. 205. 
Spinoza, 120, 267, ii. 5. 
Square of distance, ii. 67, 80. 
Stahl, ii. 139. 

Stimuli of Sense, ii. 199 ff. 
Stream of Time, 316. 
'Streitschriften* (Author's^, quoted, 

ii. 237. 

Strength of Ideas, ii. 2 20, 244. 
Striimpell, Dr. (quoted^, ii. 309. 
Subjectivity of Sensation, ii. 204. 
Substance, 100. 
' Substantial Forms/ ii. 1 29. 
Substantiality of Soul, ii. 315. 
Successive Synthesis, 324. 
Sufficient Reason, 107. 

Ternary Combinations, ii. 131. 
Thing i^for use of 'Ding* and 
'Sache/v.23 note], 23, 75, 222. 
rl ?jv cftou, 78. 
Time, Idea of, ii. 240. 
rd TI 4<m, 78. 

Touch, localisation by, ii. 276. 
Transeunt action, 114 ff. 
'Transient* (Causa), 135. 
Treviranus, ii. 130. 
Triangle (sum of its angles), 291. 
Type, ii. 141. 

'Unconscious' Ideas, ii. 224. 
Unconsciousness, ii. 307. 
Unity of the soul, ii. 192. 
Universal conceptions, ii. 242. 

3 2 4 


'Up' and 'Down,' relative to 

Gravity, ii. 275. 
'Ursache? 126. 

Vision, erect, ii. 275. 

Vital Force, ii. 129. 

1 Vocation of Man ' (Fichte), 221. 

Von Baer, ii. 142. 

1 Vorstellung* (idea), denned, ii. 


W-gner (Rudolph, Hand-Diction- 
ary of Physiology), ii. 128. 

Weber's Law, ii. 210. 

Weber on Localisation by sense of 

Touch, ii. 276. 
Weisse, 206, 271. 
Whole, parts of same associated, 

ii. 227. 


Yellow spot of Retina, ii. 263. 

Zeno, 174,385- 

'Zusammen' (in Herbart), 132.