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of consciousness. For when two variables are so dependent upon one another in the changes they undergo in accordance with fixed laws that a change in either involves simultaneous and corresponding change in the other, the one is called a function of the other.
This, then, by no means implies that the two variables above-named-matter and consciousness-stand in the relation of cause and effect, antecedent and consequence, to one another. For on this subject we know nothing. The materialist regards consciousness as a product or result of matter, while the idealist holds matter to be a result of consciousness, and a third maintains that matter and spirit are identical; with all this the physiologist, as such, has nothing whatever to do; his sole concern is with the fact that matter and consciousness are functions one of the other.
By the help of this hypothesis of the functional interdependence of matter and spirit, modern physiology is enabled to bring the phenomena of consciousness within the domain of her investigations without leaving the terra firma of scientific methods. The physiologist, as physicist, can follow the ray of light and the wave of sound or heat till they reach the organ of sense. He can
. watch them entering upon the ends of the nerves, and finding their way to the cells of the brain by means of the series of undulations or vibrations which they establish in the nerve filaments. Here, however, he loses all trace of them. On the other hand, still looking with the eyes of a pure physicist, he sees sound waves of speech issue from the mouth of a speaker; he observes the motion of his own limbs, and finds how this is conditional upon muscular contractions occasioned by the motor nerves, and how these nerves are in their turn excited by the cells of the central organ. But here again his knowledge comes to an end. True, he sees
indications of the bridge which is to carry him from excitation of the sensory to that of the motor nerves in the labyrinth of intricately interwoven nerve cells, but he knows nothing of the inconceivably complex process which is introduced at this stage. Here the physiologist will change his standpoint; what matter will not reveal to his inquiry, he will find in the mirror, as it were, of consciousness; by way of a reflection, indeed, only, but a reflection, nevertheless, which stands in intimate relation to the object of his inquiry. When at this point he observes how one idea gives rise to another, how closely idea is connected with sensation and sensation with will, and how thought, again, and feeling are inseparable from one another, he will be compelled to suppose corresponding successions of material processes, which generate and are closely connected with one another, and which attend the whole machinery of conscious life, according to the law of the functional interdependence of matter and consciousness.
After this explanation I shall venture to regard under a single aspect a great series of phenomena which apparently have nothing to do with one another, and which belong partly to the conscious and partly to the unconscious life of organized beings. I shall regard them as the outcome of one and the same primary force of organized matter-namely, its memory or power of reproduction.
The word “ memory” is often understood as though it meant nothing more than our faculty of intentionally reproducing ideas or series of ideas. But when the figures and events of bygone days rise up again unbidden in our minds, is not this also an act of recollection or memory? We have a perfect right to extend our
conception of memory so as to make it embrace involuntary reproductions of sensations, ideas, perceptions, and efforts; but we find on having done so, that we have so far enlarged her boundaries that she proves to be an ultimate and original power, the source, and at the same time the unifying bond, of our whole conscious life.
We know that when an impression, or a series of impressions, has been made upon our senses for a long time, and always in the same way, it may come to impress itself in such a manner upon the so-called sense-memory that hours afterwards, and though a hundred other things have occupied our attention meanwhile, it will yet return suddenly to our consciousness with all the force and freshness of the original sensation. A whole group of sensations is sometimes reproduced in its due sequence as regards time and space, with so much reality that it illudes us, as though things were actually present which have long ceased to be so. We have here a striking proof of the fact that after both conscious sensation and perception have been extinguished, their material vestiges yet remain in our nervous system by way of a change in its molecular or atomic disposition, that enables the nerve substance to reproduce all physical processes of the original sensation, and with these the corresponding psychical processes of sensation and perception.
Every hour the phenomena of sense-memory are present with each one of us, but in a less degree than this. We are all at times aware of a host of more or less faded recollections of earlier impressions, which we either summon intentionally or which come upon us involuntarily. Visions of absent people come and go before us as faint and fleeting shadows, and the notes See quotation from Bonnet, p. 59 of this volume.
of long-forgotten melodies float around us, not actually heard,
but yet perceptible. Some things and occurrences, especially if they have happened to us only once and hurriedly, will be reproducible by the memory in respect only of a few conspicuous qualities; in other cases those details alone will recur to us which we have met with elsewhere, and for the reception of which the brain is, so to speak, attuned. These last recollections find themselves in fuller accord with our consciousness, and enter upon it more easily and energetically; hence also their aptitude for reproduction is enhanced; so that what is common to many things, and is therefore felt and perceived with exceptional frequency, becomes reproduced so easily that eventually the actual presence of the corresponding external stimuli is no longer necessary, and it will recur on the vibrations set up by faint stimuli from within." Sensations arising in this way from within, as, for example, an idea of whiteness, are not, indeed, perceived with the full freshness of those raised by the actual
presence of white light without us, but they are of the same kind; they are feeble repetitions of one and the same material brain process-of one and the same
Professor Hering is not clear here. Vibrations (if I understand his theory rightly) should not be set up by faint stimuli from within. Whence and what are these stimuli? The vibrations within are already existing, and it is they which are the stimuli to action. On having been once set up, they either continue in sufficient force to maintain a&tion, or they die down, and become too weak to cause further action, and perhaps even to be perceived within the mind, until they receive an accession of vibration from without. The only “ stimulus from within ” that should be able to generate action is that which may follow when a vibration already established in the body runs into another similar vibration already so established. On this consciousness, and even action, might be supposed to follow without the presence of an external Stimulus.
conscious sensation. Thus the idea of whiteness arises in our mind as a faint, almost extinct, sensation.
In this way those qualities which are common to many things become separated, as it were, in our memory from the objects with which they were originally associated, and attain an independent existence in our consciousness as ideas and conceptions, and thus the whole rich superstructure of our ideas and conceptions is built up from materials supplied by memory.
On examining more closely, we see plainly that memory is a faculty not only of our conscious states, but also, and much more so, of our unconscious ones. I was conscious of this or that yesterday, and am again conscious of it to-day. Where has it been meanwhile? It does not remain continuously within my consciousness, nevertheless it returns after having quitted it. Our ideas tread but for a moment upon the stage of consciousness, and then go back again behind the scenes, to make way for others in their place. As the player is only a king when he is on the stage, so they too exist as ideas so long only as they are recognized. How do they live when they are off the stage? For we know that they are living somewhere; give them their cue and they reappear immediately. They do not exist continuously as ideas; what is continuous is the special disposition of nerve substance in virtue of which this substance gives out to-day the same sound which it gave yesterday if it is rightly struck. Countless reproductions of organic processes of our brain connect
· This expression seems hardly applicable to the overtaking of an internal by an external vibration, but it is not inconsistent with it. Here, however, as frequently elsewhere, I doubt how far Professor Hering has fully realized his conception, beyond being, like myself, convinced that the phenomena of memory and of heredity have a common source.