Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXVI.: RESULTS. - The Principles of Psychology
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CHAPTER XXVI.: RESULTS. - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology 
The Principles of Psychology (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855).
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§ 102. Among the general truths to be gathered from the foregoing chapters, considered in their ensemble, one of the most significant, is, that there exists a unity of composition throughout all the phenomena of intelligence. We saw at the outset, that the most complex processes of reasoning are resolvable into intuitions of likeness and unlikeness between terms more or less involved. We saw that under various modes, forms, complications and degrees of perfection, these intuitions are traceable not only throughout every species of reasoning, but throughout every species of perception; forming in all cases the general substance of the cognition, whatever its particular modifications. And we have recently seen, both analytically and synthetically, that these intuitions are foreshadowed in the very first steps of an incipient consciousness—that the very earliest and simplest experiences are those which furnish the raw material of these intuitions.
Standing even alone, this consistency in its particular results and their subordination to one general result, supply strong confirmation of the analysis; both as a whole, and in its several parts. But it will be seen to supply yet stronger confirmation, if we reflect that it is inferable, even à priori, that analysis must disclose some such universal law. For if there are, as there must be, certain conditions under which alone consciousness can exist, those conditions must be common to all forms, modes, and degrees of consciousness. They must be disclosed along with the initial phenomena of consciousness; and must underlie each of the more complex phenomena built out of these initial phenomena. In other words:—there must be some form of thought, exhibited alike in the very lowest and the very highest manifestations of intelligence—a form which must therefore be traceable in a nascent consciousness. Hence, when we find, as we do, that simultaneously with the first changes by which consciousness begins, there are of necessity given, data for the relations of likeness and unlikeness—that these relations form but another side of the very changes which constitute consciousness; we may conclude that these relations must be the foundation of our entire intelligence. And this being the conclusion reached at every successive stage of an analysis pursued quite independently of any such à priori consideration, there cannot be a doubt that the conclusion is correct.
The various divisions, therefore, which we ordinarily make among our mental operations, and which psychologists have mostly sought to explain and establish, as marking out distinct faculties, have merely a superficial truth. They are to be understood as indicating modifications of detail which distinguish phenomena that are essentially similar—modifications which do but mask that fundamental unity of composition possessed by all cognitions whatever.
§ 103. Contemplating the facts from another point of view, we may see that not only the form of thought, but the process of thought, is the same throughout. Not only is it that the mode in which the elements of a compound quantitative argument are dealt with by the mind, is essentially similar to the mode in which the elements of every other human thought are dealt with; but it is, that the impressions received by inferior intelligences, even down to the very lowest, are dealt with after a like fashion.
We saw that all reasoning is definable as the classification of relations. We saw that the perception of an object, is possible only by the classing of a present group of attributes and relations with a past group. We saw that the constituents of any complex perception, must be severally classed with previously known constituents of the same order, before the perception in its totality can arise. And we saw that not even the simplest attribute or relation can be known, until there exist others with which it can be ranged; seeing that the knowing it, is the thinking of it as one with certain others—the classing it with those others. Nay, the relation of unlikeness itself, is cognizable only as like previously experienced relations of unlikeness—is incognizable unless there exist other relations with which it may be classed. But as above hinted, this law applies not to human thought alone: it applies to all processes of intelligence whatever; using the word in its most extended sense. The life of the lowest sentient being is made possible only by an organic classification of impressions. The condition on which every creature exists, is, that it shall act in special ways under special stimuli—that contact with nutritive matter shall modify its actions in a manner different from that in which contact with innutritive matter modifies them—that one impression shall lead it to attack, another to hide, and so on. Manifestly, if there is an entire absence of adaptation between its acts and surrounding circumstances, it must quickly cease to live. And if it exhibits any adaptation, it can do so only in virtue of the fact, that certain impressions made upon it call forth one kind of action, while others call forth another kind. There must exist in the organism some means whereby these impressions are distinguished as such or such, or are classified—some organic registry of external differences and similarities. Not, of course, that there is any consciousness of external differences and similarities; but that there is, in the organism, an innate capability of acting thus, or thus, according to the nature of the stimulus; and that in so far, the organism has a power of appreciating differences and similarities—a power of automatic classification.
Hence it becomes clear that the law is the same throughout. When regarded under its fundamental aspect, not only is the highest reasoning seen to be one with all the lower forms of human thought; but it is seen to come under the same generalization with instinct and reflex action, even in their simplest manifestations. The universal process of intelligence is the assimilation of impressions. And the differences displayed in the ascending grades of intelligence are consequent solely upon the increasing complexity of the impressions assimilated.
§ 104. A yet further change in our stand-point, will introduce us to a still more complete view of mental phenomena—will in fact disclose an exhaustive definition of them, whether considered separately or in their totality.
We have seen that the condition on which only consciousness can begin to exist, is the occurrence of a change of state; and that this change of state necessarily generates the terms of a relation of unlikeness. We have seen that not simply does consciousness become nascent only by virtue of a change—by the occurrence of a state unlike the previous state; but that consciousness can continue only so long as changes continue—only so long as relations of unlikeness are being established. Hence then, consciousness can neither arise nor be maintained without the occurrence of differences in its state. It must be ever passing from some one state into a different state. In other words—there must be a continuous differentiation of its states.
But we have also seen that the states of consciousness successively arising, can become elements of thought, only by being known as like certain before-experienced states. If no note be taken of the different states as they occur—if they pass through consciousness simply as images pass over a mirror; there can be no intelligence, however long the process be continued. Intelligence can arise only by the organization, by the arrangement, by the classification of these states. If they are severally taken note of, it can only be as more or less like certain previous ones. They are thinkable only as such or such; that is, as like such or such before-experienced states. The act of knowing them is impossible except by classing them with others of the same nature—assimilating them to those others. Hence then, in being known, each state must become one with certain previous states—must be integrated with those previous states. Each successive act of knowing must be an act of integrating. That is to say, there must be a continuous integration of states of consciousness.
These, then, are the two antagonist processes by which consciousness subsists—the centrifugal and centripetal actions by which its balance is maintained. That there may be the material for thought, consciousness must every moment have its state differentiated. And for the new state hence resulting to become a thought, it must be integrated with before-experienced states. This perpetual alternation is the characteristic of all consciousness from the very lowest to the very highest. It is distinctly typified in that oscillation between two states, constituting the simplest conceivable form of consciousness; and it is illustrated in the most complex thinkings of the advanced man of science.
Nor is it only in every passing process of thought that this law is displayed: it is traceable also in the general progress of thought. These minor differentiations and integrations that are going on from moment to moment, result in those greater differentiations and integrations which constitute mental development. Every case in which an advancing intelligence distinguishes between objects, or phenomena, or laws, that were previously confounded together as of like kind, implies a differentiation of states of consciousness. And every case in which such advancing intelligence recognizes, as of the same essential nature, objects, or phenomena, or laws, that were previously thought distinct, implies an integration of states of consciousness.
Under its most general aspect therefore, all mental action whatever is definable as the continuous differentiation and integration of states of consciousness.
§ 105. The only further fact of importance here needing to be pointed out, is, the harmony which subsists between this final result and that reached by a kindred science. The widest truth disclosed by the inquiries of physiologists, is parallel to the one at which we have just arrived.
As there are two antagonist processes by which consciousness is maintained, so there are two antagonist processes by which bodily life is maintained: and the same two antagonist processes are common to both. By the action of oxygen every tissue is being differentiated; and every tissue is integrating the materials supplied by the blood. No function can be performed without the differentiation of the tissue performing it; and no tissue is enabled to perform its function save by the integration of nutriment. In the balance of these two actions the organic life consists. By each new integration, an organ is fitted for being again differentiated: each new differentiation enables the organ again to integrate. And as with the psychical life, so with the physical—the stopping of either process is the stopping of both.
Moreover the parallel equally holds under the second aspect. Not only does this law apply to the vital processes going on throughout the body from moment to moment; it also applies to organic progress in general. Commencing, as every organism does, as a uniform mass of matter, every step in its evolution consists in the differentiation and integration of parts. On contemplating the phenomena of organization in general, as exhibited throughout creation, it will be seen that the integration of elements which perform the same function, goes on pari passu with the differentiation of elements which perform unlike functions. That advance from homogeneity to heterogeneity, in which all organization consists, is wholly effected by this duplex action.
Thus, in two senses, there is a continuous differentiation and integration of tissues; as, in two senses, there is a continuous differentiation and integration of states of consciousness.
When it is remembered that the laws of structure and function must necessarily harmonize; and that the structure and functions of the nervous system must conform to the laws of structure and function in general; it will be seen that the parallelism here roughly indicated, is such as might be expected to hold. It will be seen that the ultimate generalizations of Psychology and Physiology, must be, as they here appear, different sides of the same primordial truth. It will be seen that they are both expressions of the same fundamental principle of Life.