Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV.: OUR PRESENT POSITION. - The Principles of Psychology
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CHAPTER IV.: OUR PRESENT POSITION. - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology 
The Principles of Psychology (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855).
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OUR PRESENT POSITION.
§ 15. Before proceeding it will be desirable to consider the position in which the foregoing General Analysis leaves us.
It was shown at the outset that a datum was needed on which psychological science might rest: it was pointed out that this datum, underlying as it was required to do all our beliefs, must consist in some criterion of a true belief: and this criterion was found to be the invariable existence of the belief, as proved by the inconceivableness of its negation. The conclusion thus reached, however, being entirely abstract, and Psychology requiring for its basis not simply a canon of true belief, but some substantive things believed; we saw it requisite to ascertain which of our cognitions had the highest possible validity. These we found to be the cognitions of an external world; of the primary properties of things; of personal existence: in short, those which make up the Realistic creed—cognitions that far exceed in trustworthiness all those on which antagonistic arguments are based; and immeasurably exceed in trustworthiness the results of those arguments. These primary cognitions, then, we may consider as good against all criticism. True though it is that the datum from which we start is an assumption, a postulate—true though it may be that its absolute validity must ever remain beyond proof; yet, as this is the necessary character of a datum—as in any case that which serves to prove all other things must itself remain unproved—and as no intellectual procedure, not even scepticism itself, is possible on any other condition; we are left utterly without power to stir this fundamental basis. As was lately shown, to question this primordial cognition on which every other cognition mediately or immediately stands, is tantamount to a negation of all knowledge whatever; and even this negation destroys itself at the very moment of its utterance.
The fact, however, now most requiring to be noticed—a fact which, though implied in the last sentence, demands specific statement—is, that this canon of belief, together with the primary intuitions which have its direct warrant, form the foundation not simply of Psychology, but of Science in general—not simply of subjective knowledge, but of knowledge considered as objective. Regarded under its most comprehensive aspect, the science of mind is the counterpart of all other sciences, which are but registered results of mental action: and whether, confining ourselves to the external world, we treat of the truths to be recognized in it; or whether, confining ourselves to the internal world, we treat of the intellectual acts by which such truths are recognized; we are equally compelled to take for our data, the Universal Postulate and its corollaries. As already shown, the axioms of Mathematics and Logic, in common with the infinitude of conclusions built upon them, have no other warrant: and there is no other warrant for either the intuitions of self-conciousness or those logical processes by which Psychology is to be evolved from these intuitions. Here is the common root to the science of mind and the science of nature—the point from which they diverge.
Whence it would seem to follow that the foregoing General Analysis forms a requisite preliminary, not only to any system of subjective knowledge, but to any system of objective knowledge; and in strictness this is true. If a warrant be asked for the assertion that if equals be taken from equals the remainders are equal, Mathematics has none to give. And as, for this and the various other ground truths with which the positive sciences set out, there does exist a warrant—an authority common to them all—it may be contended that this common authority should be assigned at the outset. Still, however, as this authority can be found only by a subjective inquiry, objective science cannot give it; but must wait until it is supplied by Psychology. As, under a last analysis, what we here distinguish as objective and subjective truths must both be classed as in reality subjective; it is clear that their common root must be subjective. Hence in any general scheme of human knowledge, the inquiry concerning ultimate data may properly form, as it here does, the first division of Psychology.
It needs only to be further remarked that the conclusions arrived at in the preceding pages, must not be expected to make any conspicuous appearance in the investigations now to be entered upon. Resulting, as this General Analysis does, in a verification of our primitive cognitions, it simply furnishes us with a valid warrant for those cognitions as hereafter employed. Usually such cognitions, whether of concrete fact or of logical necessity, are assumed as true without any warrant being assigned. Here, however, the assignment of a warrant for them falls within our special subject. But the warrant once having been assigned, these cognitions will be dealt with as usual. Implicitly the Universal Postulate and its corollaries will be appealed to in every step of the following reasonings, as of all reasonings; but explicitly the reference to them will be but occasional.