Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario

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The Principles of Psychology
  William James (1890)




EVERYONE knows the difference between imagining a thing and believing in its existence, between supposing a proposition and acquiescing in its truth. In the case of acquiescence or belief, the object is not only apprehended by the mind, but is held to have reality. Belief is thus the mental state or function of cognizing reality. As used in the following pages,'Belief' will mean every degree of assurance, including the highest possible certainty and conviction.

There are, as we know, two ways of studying every psychic state. First, the way of analysis: What does it consist in? What is its inner nature? Of what sort of mind-stuff is it composed? Second, the way of history: What are its conditions of production, and its connection with other facts?

Into the first way we cannot go very far. In its inner nature, belief or the sense of reality, is a sort of feeling more allied to the emotions than anything else. Mr. Bagehot distinctly calls it the 'emotion' of conviction. I just now spoke of it as acquiescence. It resembles more than anything what in the psychology of volition we know as consent. Consent is recognized by all to be a manifestation of our active nature. It would naturally be described by such terms as 'willingness' or the 'turning of our disposition.' What characterizes both consent and belief is the cessation of theoretic agitation, though the advent of an idea which is inwardly stable, and fills the mind solidly to the exclusion of contradictory ideas. When this is the case, motor effects are apt to follow. Hence the states of [p. 284] consent and belief, characterized by repose on the purely intellectual side, are both intimately connected with subsequent practical activity. This inward stability of the mind's content is as characteristic of disbelief as of belief. But we shall presently see that we never disbelieve anything except for the reason that we believe something else which contradicts the rest thing. [2] Disbelief is thus an incidental complication to belief, and need not be considered by itself.

The true opposite of belief, psychologically considered, are doubt and inquiry, not disbelief. In both these states the content of our mind is in unrest, and the emotion engendered thereby is, like the emotion of belief itself, perfectly distinct, but perfectly indescribable in words. Both sorts of emotion may be pathologically exalted. One of the charms of drunkenness unquestionably lies in the deepening of the sense of reality and truth which is gained therein. In whatever light things may then appear to us, they seem more utterly what they are, more 'utterly utter' than when we are sober. This goes to a fully unutterable extreme in the nitrous oxide intoxication, in which a man s very soul will sweat with conviction, and he be all the while unable to tell what he is convinced of at all. [3] The pathological state opposed to this solidity and deepening has been called the questioning mania (Grübelsucht by the Germans). It is sometimes found as a substantive affection, paroxysmal or chronic, and consists in the inability to rest in any conception, and the need of having it confirmed and explained 'Why do I stand here where I stand ?' 'Why is a glass a glass, a chair a chair' 'How is it that men are only of the size they are? Why not as big as houses,' etc., etc. [4] [p. 285]

There is, it is true, another pathological state which is as far removed from doubt as from belief, and which some may prefer to consider the proper contrary of the latter state of mind. I refer to the feeling that everything is hollow, unreal, dead. I shall speak of this state again upon a later page. The point I wish to notice here is simply that belief and disbelief are but two aspects of one psychic state.

John Mill, reviewing various opinions about belief, comes to the conclusion that no account of it can be given:

What," he says "is the difference to our minds between thinking of a reality and representing to ourselves an imaginary picture? I confess I can see no escape from the opinion that the distinction is ultimate and primordial. There is no more difficulty in holding it to be so than in holding the difference between a sensation and an idea to be primordial. It seems almost another aspect of the same difference. ... I cannot help thinking, therefore, that there is in the remembrance of a real fact, as distinguished from that of a thought, an element which does not consist ... in a difference between the mere ideas which are present to the mind in the two cases. This element, howsoever we define it, constitutes belief, and is the difference between Memory and Imagination. From whatever direction we approach, this difference seems to close our path. When me arrive at it, we seem to have reached, as it were, the central point of our intellectual nature, presupposed and built upon in every attempt we make to explain the more recondite phenomena of our mental being." [5] [p. 286]

If the words of Mill be taken to apply to the mere subjective analysis of belief -- to the question, What does it feel like when we have it? -- they must be held, on the whole, to be correct. Belief, the sense of reality, feels like itself -- that is about as much as we can say.

Prof. Brentano, in an admirable chapter of his Psychologie, expresses this by saying that conception and belief (which he names judgment) are two different fundamental psychic phenomena. What I myself have called (Vol. I, p.276) the 'object' of thought may be comparatively simple, like "Ha! what a pain," or "It-thunders"; or it may becomplex, like " Columbus-discovered-America-in-1492,'' or "There-exists-an-all-wise-Creator-of-the-world" In either case, however, the mere thought of the object may exist as something quite distinct from the belief in its reality. The belief, as Brentano says, presupposes the mere thought:

"Every object comes into consciousness in a twofold way, as simply thought of [vorgestellt] [6] and as admitted [anerkaant] [7] or denied. The relation is analogous to that which is assumed by most philosophers(by Kant no less than by Aristotle) to obtain between mere thought and desire. Nothing is ever desired without being thought of; but the desiring is nevertheless a second quite new and peculiar form of relation to the object, a second quite new way of receiving it into consciousness. No more is anything judged [i.e., believed or disbelieved] [8] which is not thought of too. But we must insist that, so soon as the object of a thought becomes the object of an assenting or rejecting judgment, our consciousness steps into an entirely new relation towards it. It is then twice present in consciousness, as thought of, and as held for real or denied ; just as when desire awakens for it, it is both thought and simultaneously desired." (P. 266.)

The commonplace doctrine of 'judgment' is that it consists in the combination of 'ideas' by a 'copula' into a 'proposition,' which may be of various sorts, as a formative, negative, hypothetical, etc. But who does not see that in a disbelieved or doubted or interrogative or conditional proposition, the ideas are combined in the same identical way in which they are in a proposition which is solidly believed? The way in which the ideas are combined with inner constitution the thoughts object or content. That object is sometimes an articulated whole with relations between its parts, amongst which relations, that of predicate [p. 287] to subject may be one. But when we have got our object with its inner constitution thus defined in a proposition, then the question comes up regarding the object as a whole: 'Is it a real object? is this proposition a true proposition or not?' And in the answer Yes to this question lies that new psychic act which Brentano calls 'judgment,' but which I prefer to call 'belief.'

In every proposition, then, so far as it is believed, questioned, or disbelieved, four elements are to be distinguished, the subject, the predicate, and their relation(of whatever sort it be) -- these form the object of belief -- and finally the psychic attitude in which our mind stands towards the proposition taken as a whole-and this is the belief itself. [9]

Admitting, then, that this attitude is a state of consciousness sui generis, about which nothing more can be said in the way of internal analysis, let us proceed to the second way of studying the subject of belief: Under what circumstances do we think things real? We shall soon see how much matter this gives us to discuss.


Suppose a new-born mind, entirely blank and waiting for experience to begin. Suppose that it begins in the forms of visual impression (whether faint or vivid is immaterial) of a lighted candle against a dark background, and nothing else, so that whilst this image lasts it constitutes the entire universe known to the mind in question. Suppose, moreover (to simplify the hypothesis), that the candle is only imaginary, and that no 'original' of it is recognized by us psychologists outside. Will this hallucinatory candle be believed in, will it have a real existence for the mind?

What possible sense (for that mind) would a suspicion have that the candle was not real? What would doubt or disbelief of it imply? When we, the onlooking psychologists, say the candle is unreal, we mean something quite definite, viz., that there is a world known to us which is [p. 288] real, and to which we perceive that the candle does not belong; it belongs exclusively to that individual mind, has no status anywhere else, etc. It exists, to be sure, in a fashion, for it forms the content of that mind's hallucination; but the hallucination itself, though unquestionably it is a sort of existing fact, has no knowledge of other facts; and since those other facts are the realities par excellence for us, and the only things we believe in, the candle is simply outside of our reality and belief altogether.

By the hypothesis, however, the mind which sees the candle can spin no such considerations as these about it, for of other facts, actual or possible, it has no inkling whatever. That candle is its all, its absolute. Its entire faculty of attention is absorbed by it. It is, it is that; it is there; no other possible candle, or quality of this candle, no other possible place, or possible object in the place, no alternative, in short, suggests itself as even conceivable; so how can the mind help believing the candle real? The supposition that it might possibly not do so is, under the supposed conditions, unintelligible. [10]

This is what Spinonza long ago announced:

"Let us conceive a boy," he said, " imagining to himself a horse, and taking note of nothing else. As this imagination involves the existence of the horse, and the boy has no perception which annuls its resistance, he will necessarily contemplate the horse as present, nor will he be able to doubt of its existence, however little certain of it he maybe. I deny that a man in so far as he imagines [percipit] [11] affirms nothing. For what is it to imagine a winged horse but to affirm that, the horse [that horse, namely] [12] has wings? For if the mind had nothing before it but the winged horse it would contemplate the same as present, would have no cause to doubt of its existence, nor any power of dissenting from its existence, unless the imagination of the winged horse were joined to an idea which contradicted [tollit] [13] its existence."(Ethics, 11, 49, Scholium.)

The sense that anything we think of is unreal can only come, then, when that thing is contradicted by some other [p. 289] thing of which we think. Any object which remains uncontradicted is ipso facto believed and posited as absolute reality.

Now, how comes it that one thing thought of can be contradicted by another? It cannot unless it begins the quarrel by saying something inadmissible about that other. Take the mind with the candle, or the boy with the horse. If either of them say, 'That candle or that horse, even when I don't see it, exists in the outer world,' he pushes into 'the outer world,' an object which may be incompatible with everything which he otherwise knows of that world. If so, he must take his choice of which to hold by, the present perceptions or the other knowledge of the world. If he holds to the other knowledge, the present perceptions are contradicted, so far as their relation to that world goes. Candle and horse, whatever they may be, are not existents in outward space. They are existents, of course; they are mental objects; mental objects have existence as mental objects. But they are situated in their own spaces, the space in which they severally appear, and neither of those spaces is the space in which the realities called 'the outer world' exist.

Take again the horse with wings. If I merely dream of a horse with wings, my horse interferes with nothing else and has not to be contradicted. That horse, its wings, and its place, are all equally real. That horse exists no other-wise than as winged, and is moreover really there, for that place exists no otherwise than as the place of that horse, and claims as yet no connection with the other places of the world. But if with this horse I make an inroad into the world otherwise known, and say, for example, 'That is my old mare Maggie, having grown a pair of wings where she stands in her stall,' the whole case is altered; for now the horse and place are identified with a horse and place otherwise known, and what is known of the latter objects is incompatible with what is perceived with the former. 'Maggie in her stall with wings! Never!' The wings are unreal, then, visionary. I have dreamed a lie about Maggie in her stall.

The reader will recognize in these two cases the two sorts of judgment called in the logic-books existential and [p. 290] attributive respectively. 'The candle exists as an outer reality' is an existential, 'My Maggie has got a pair of wings' is an attributive, proposition; [14] and it follows from what was first said that all propositions, whether attributive or existential, are believed through the very fact of being conceived, unless they clash with other propositions believed at the same time, by alarming that their terms are the same with the terms of these other propositions. A dream-candle has existence, true enough; but not the same existence (existence for itself, namely, or extra mentem meam) which the candles of waking perception have. A dream-horse has wings; but then neither horse nor wings are the same with any horses or wings known to memory. That we call at any moment think of the same thing which at any former moment we thought of is the ultimate law of our intellectual constitution. But when we now think of it incompatibly with our other ways of thinking it, then we must choose which way to stand by, for we cannot continue to think in two contradictory ways at once. The whole distinction of real and unreal, the whole psychology of belief, disbelief, and doubt, is thus grounded on two mental facts -- first, that we are liable to think differently of the same; and second, that when we have done so, we can choose which way of thinking to adhere to and which to disregard.

The subjects adhered to become real subjects, the attributes adhered to real attributes, the existence adhered to real existence; whilst the subjects disregarded become imaginary subjects, the attributes disregarded erroneous [p. 291] it attributes, and the existence disregarded an existence into men's land, in the limbo 'where footless fancies dwell.' The real things are, in Mr. Taine's terminology, the reductives of the things judged unreal.


Habitually and practically we do not count these disregarded things as existents at all. For them V victis is the law in the popular philosophy; they are not even treated as appearances; they are treated as if they were mere waste, equivalent to nothing at all. To the genuinely philosophic mind, however, they still have existence, though not the same existence, as the real things. As objects of fancy, as errors, as occupants of dreamland, etc., they are in their way as indefeasible parts of life, as undeniable features of the Universe, as the realities are in their way. The total world of which the philosophers must take account is thus composed of the realities plus the fancies and illusions.

Two sub-universes, at least, connected by relations which philosophy tries to ascertain! Really there are more than two sub-universes of which we take account, some of us of this one, and others of that. For there are various categories both of illusion and of reality, and alongside of the world of absolute error (i.e., error confined to single individuals) but still within the world of absolute reality (i.e., reality believed by the complete philosopher) there is the world of collective error, there are the worlds of abstract reality, of relative or practical reality, of ideal relations, and there is the supernatural world. The popular mind conceives of all these sub-worlds more or less discontentedly; and when dealing with one of them, forgets for the time being its relations to the rest. The complete philosopher is he who seeks not only to assign to every given object of his thought its right place in one or other of these sub-worlds, but he also seeks to determine the relation of each sub-world to the others in the total world which is.

The most important sub-universes commonly discriminated from each other and recognized by most of us as existing, each with its own special and separate style of existence, are the following: [p. 292]

(1) The world of sense, or of physical 'things' as we instinctively apprehend them, with such qualities as heat, color, and sound, and such 'forces' as life, chemical affinity, gravity, electricity, all existing as such within or on the surface of the things.

(2) The world of science, or of physical things as the learned conceive them, with secondary qualities and 'forces' (in the popular sense) excluded, and nothing real but solids and fluids and their 'laws' (i.e., customs) of motion. [15]

(3) The world of ideal relations, or abstract truths believed or believable by all, and expressed in logical, mathematical, metaphysical, ethical, or aesthetic propositions.

(4) The world of 'idols of the tribe,' illusions or prejudices common to the race. All educated people recognize these as forming one sub-universe. The motion of the sky round the earth, for example, belongs to this world. That motion is not a recognized item of any of the other worlds; but as an 'idol of the tribe' it really exists. For certain philosophers 'matter' exists only as an idol of the tribe. For science, the 'secondary qualities' of matter are but 'idols of the tribe.'

(5) The various supernatural worlds, the Christian heaven and hell, the world of the Hindoo mythology, the world of Swedenborg's visa et nudita, etc. Each of these is a consistent system, with definite relations among its own parts. Neptune's trident, e.g., has no status of reality whatever in the Christian heaven; but within the classic Olympus certain definite things are true of it, whether one believe in the reality of the classic mythology as a whole or not. The various worlds of deliberate fable may be ranked with these worlds of faith -- the world of the Iliad, that of King Lear, of the Pickwick Pacers, etc. [16] [p. 293]

(6) The various worlds of individual opinion, as numerous as men are.

(7) The worlds of sheer madness and vagary, also indefinitely numerous.

Every object we think of gets at last referred to one world or another of this or of some similar list. It settles into our belief as a common-sense object, a scientific object, an abstract object, a mythological object, an object of some one's mistaken conception, or a madman's object; and it reaches this state sometimes immediately, but often only after being hustled and bandied about amongst other objects until it finds some which will tolerate its presence and stand in relations to it which nothing contradicts. The molecules and ether-waves of the scientific world, for example, simply kick the object's warmth and color out, they refuse to have any relations with them. But the world of 'idols of the tribe' stands ready to take them in. Just so the world of classic myth takes up the winged horse; the world of individual hallucination, the vision of the candle; the world of abstract truth, the proposition that justice is kingly, though no actual king be just. The various worlds themselves, however, appear (as aforesaid) to most men's minds in no very definitely conceived relation to each other, and our attention, when it turns to one, is apt to drop the others for the time being out of its account. Propositions concerning the different worlds are made from 'different points of view'; and in this more or less chaotic state the consciousness of most thinkers remains to the end. Each world whilst it is attended to is real after its own fashion; only the reality lapses with the attention.


Each thinker, however, has dominant habits of attention; and these practically elect from among the various worlds some one to be for him the world of ultimate realities. From this world's objects he does not appeal. Whatever [p. 294] positively contradicts them must get into another world or die. The horse, e.g., may have wings to its heart's content, so long as it does not pretend to be the real world's horse -- that horse is absolutely wingless. For most men, as we shall immediately see, the 'things of sense' hold this prerogative position, and are the absolutely real world's nucleus. Other things, to be sure, may be real for this man or for that things of science, abstract moral relations, things of the Christian theology, or what not. But even for the special man, these things are usually real with a less real reality than that of the things of sense. They are taken less seriously; and the very utmost that can be said for anyone's belief in them is that it is as strong as his 'belief in his own senses. [17]

In all this the everlasting partiality of our nature shows itself, our inveterate propensity to choice. For, in the strict and ultimate sense of the word existence, everything which can be thought of at all exists as some sort of object, whether mythical object, individual thinker's object, or object in outer space and for intelligence at large. Errors, fictions, tribal beliefs, are parts of the whole great Universe which God has made, and He must have meant all these things to be in it, each in its respective- place. But for us finite creatures, " 'tis to consider too curiously to consider [p. 295] so." The mere fact of appearing as an object at all is not enough to constitute reality. That may be metaphysical reality, reality for God; but what we need is practical reality, reality for ourselves; and, to have that, an object must not only appear, but it must appear both interesting and important. The worlds whose objects are neither interesting nor important we treat simply negatively, we brand them as unreal.

In the relative sense, then, the sense in which we contrast reality with simple unreality, and in which one thing is said to have more reality than another, and to be more believed, reality means simply relation to our emotional and active life. This is the only sense which the word ever has in the mouths of practical men. In this sense, whatever excites and stimulates our interest is real; whenever an object so appeals to us that we turn to it, accept it, fill our mind with it, or practically take account of it, so far it is real for us, and we believe it. Whenever, on the contrary, we ignore it, fail to consider it or act upon it, despise it, reject it, forget it, so far it is unreal for us and disbelieved Hume's account of the matter was then essentially correct, when he said that belief in anything was simply the having the idea of it in a lively and active manner:

"I say, then, that belief is nothing but a more vivid, lively, forcible, firm, steady conception of an object than the imagination alone is ever able to attain. ... It consists not in the peculiar nature or order of the ideas, but in the manner of their conception and in their feeling to the mind. I confess that it is impossible perfectly to explain this feeling or manner of conception. ... Its true and proper name ... is belief, which is a term that everyone sufficiently understands in common life. And in philosophy we can go no farther than assert that belief is something felt by the mind, which distinguishes the idea of the judgment from the fictions of the imagination. [18] It gives them more weight and influence; makes them appear of greater importance; enforces them in the mind; gives them a superior influence on the passions, and renders them the governing principle in our actions." [19] [p. 296]

Or as Prof. Bain puts it: "In its essential character, belief is a phase of our active nature -- otherwise called the Will." [20]

"The object of belief, then, reality or real existence, in something quite different from all the other predicates which a subject may possess. Those are properties intellectually or sensibly intuited. When we add any one of them to the subject, we increase the intrinsic content of the latter, we enrich its picture in our mind. But adding reality does not enrich the picture in any such inward way; it leaves it inwardly as it finds it, and only fixes it and stamps it in to us.

"The real," as Kant says, "contains no more than the possible. A hundred real dollars do not contain a penny more than a hundred possible dollars. ... By whatever, and by however many, predicates I may think a thing, nothing is added to it if I add that the thing exists.... Whatever, therefore, our concept of an object may contain, we must always step outside of it in order to attribute to it existence." [21]

The 'stepping outside' of it is the establishment either of immediate practical relations between it and ourselves, or of relations between it and other objects with which we have immediate practical relations. Relations of this sort, which are as yet not transcended or superseded by others, are ipso facto real relations, and confer reality upon their objective term. The fons et origo of all reality, whether from [p. 297] the absolute or the practical point of view, is thus subjective, is ourselves. As bare logical thinkers, without emotional reaction, we give reality to whatever objects we think of, for they are really phenomena, or objects of our pausing thought, if nothing more. But, as thinkers with emotional reaction, to give what seems to be a still higher degree of reality to whatever things we select and emphasize and turn to WITH A WILL. These are our living realities; and not only these, but all the other things which are intimately connected with these. Reality, starting from our Ego, thus sheds itself from point to point-first, upon all objects which have an immediate sting of interest for our Ego in them, and next, upon the objects most continuously related with these. It only fails when the connecting thread is lost. A whole system may be real, if it only hang to our Ego by one immediately stinging term. But what contradicts any such stinging term, even though it be another stinging term itself, is either not believed, or only believe drifter settlement of the dispute.

We reach thus the important conclusion that our own reality, that sense of our own, life which we at every moment possess, is the ultimate of ultimates for our belief. 'As sure as I exist!' -- this is our uttermost warrant for the being of all other things. As Descartes made the indubitable reality of the cogito go bail for the reality of all that the cogito involved, so we all of us, feeling our own present reality with absolutely coercive force, ascribe an all but equal degree of reality, first to whatever things we lay hold on with a sense of personal need, and second, to whatever farther things continuously belong with these. "Mein Jetzt und Hier," as Prof. Lipps says, "ist der letzte Angelpunkt für alle Wirklichkeit, also alle Erkenntniss."

The world of living realities as contrasted with unrealities is thus anchored in the Ego, considered as an active and emotional term. [22] That is the hook from which the rest dangles, the absolute support. And as from a painted [p. 298] hook it has been said that one can only hang a painted chain, so conversely, from a real hook only a real chain can properly be hung. Whatever things have intimate and continuous connection with my life are things of whose reality I cannot doubt. Whatever things fail to establish this connection are things which are practically no better for me than if they existed not at all.

In certain forms of melancholic perversion of the sensibilities and reactive powers, nothing touches us intimately, rouses us, or wakens natural feeling. The consequence is the complaint so often heard from melancholic patients, that nothing is believed in by them as it used to be, and that all sense of reality is fled from life. They are sheathed in india-rubber; nothing penetrates to the quick or draws blood, as it were. According to Griesinger, " I see, I hear!" such patients say, 'but the objects do not reach me, it is as if there were a wall between me and the outer world!"

"In such patients there often is an alteration of the cutaneous sensibility, such that things feel indistinct or sometimes rough and woolly. But even were this change always present, it would not completely explain the psychic phenomenon ... which reminds us more of the alteration in our psychic relations to the outer world which advancing age on the one hand, and on the other emotions and passions, may bring about in childhood we feel ourselves to be closer to the world of sensible phenomena, we lire immediately with them and in them; an intimately vital tie binds us and them together. But with the ripening of reflection this tie is loosened, the warmth of our interest cools, things look differently to us, and we act more as foreigners to the outer world, even though we know it a great deal better. Joy and expansive emotions in general draw it nearer to us again. Everything makes a more lively impression, and with the quick immediate return of this warm receptivity for sense-impressions, joy makes us feel young again. In depressing emotions it is the other way. Outer things, whether living or inorganic, suddenly grow cold and foreign to us, and even our favorite objects of interest feel as if they belonged to us no more. Under these circumstances, receiving no longer from anything a lively impression, we cease to turn towards outer things, and the sense of inward loneliness grows upon us. ... Where there is no strong intelligence to control this blasé condition, this psychic coldness and lack of interest, the issue of these states in which all seems so cold and hollow, the heart dried up, the world grown dead and empty, is often suicide or the deeper forms of insanity. [23] [p. 299]


But now we are met by questions of detail. What does this stirring, this exciting power, this interest, consist in, which some objects have? which are those 'intimate relations' with our life which give reality? And what things stand in these relations immediately, and what others are so closely connected with the former that (in Hume's language) we 'carry our disposition' also on to them?

In a simple and direct way these questions cannot be answered at all. The whole history of human thought is but an unfinished attempt to answer them. For what have men been trying to find out, since men were men, but just those things: "Where do our true interests lie -- which relations shall we call the intimate and real ones -- which things shall we call living realities and which not ?" A few psychological points can, however, be made clear.

Any relation to our mind at all, in the absence of a stronger relation, suffices to make an object real. The barest appeal to our attention is enough for that. Revert to the beginning of the chapter, and take the candle entering the vacant mind. The mind was waiting for just some such object to make its spring upon. It makes its spring and the candle is believed. But when the candle appears at the same time with other objects, it must run the gauntlet of their rivalry, and then it becomes a question which of the various candidates for attention shall compel belief. As a rule we believe as much as we can. We would believe everything if we only could. When objects are represented by us quite unsystematically they conflict but little with each other, and the number of them which in this chaotic manner we can believe is limitless. The primitive savage's mind is a jungle in which hallucinations, dreams, superstitions, conceptions, and sensible objects all flourish alongside of each other, unregulated except by the attention turning in this way or in that. The child's mind is the same. It is only as objects become permanent and their relations fixed that [p. 300] discrepancies and contradictions are felt and must be settled in some stable way. As a, rule, the success with which a contradicted object maintains itself in our belief is proportional to several qualities which it must possess. Of these the one which would be put first by most people, because it characterizes objects of sensation, is its --

(1) Coerciveness over attention, or the mere power to possess consciousness: then follow --

(2) Liveliness, or sensible pungency, especially in the way of exciting pleasure or pain;

(3) Stimulating effect upon the will, i.e., capacity to arouse active impulses, the more instinctive the better;

(4) Emotional interest, as object of love, dread, admiration, desire, etc.;

(5) Congruity with certain favorite forms of contemplation -- unity, simplicity, permanence, and the like;

(6) Independence of other causes, and its own causal importance.

These characters run into each other. Coerciveness is the result of liveliness or emotional interest. What is lively and interesting stimulates eo ipso the will; congruity holds of active impulses as well as of contemplative forms; causal independence and importance suit a certain contemplative demand, etc. I will therefore abandon all attempt at a formal treatment, and simply proceed to make remarks in the most convenient order of exposition.

As a, whole, sensations are more lively and are judged more real than conceptions; things met with every hour more real than things seen once; attributes perceived when awake, more real than attributes perceived in a dream. But, owing to the diverse relations contracted by the various objects with each other, the simple rule that the lively and permanent is the real is often enough disguised. A conceived thing may be deemed more real than a certain sensible thing, if it only be intimately related to other sensible things more vivid, permanent, or interesting than the first one. Conceived molecular vibrations, e.g., are by the physicist judged more real than felt warmth, because so intimately related to all those other facts of motion in the [p. 301] world which he has made his special study. Similarly, a rare thing may be deemed more real than a permanent thing if it be more widely related to other permanent things. All the occasional crucial observations of science are examples of this. A rare experience, too, is likely to be judged more real than a permanent one, if it be more interesting and exciting. Such is the sight of Saturn through a telescope; such are the occasional insights and illuminations which upset our habitual ways of thought.

But no mere floating conception, no mere disconnected rarity, ever displaces vivid things or permanent things from our belief. A conception, to prevail, must terminate in the world of orderly sensible experience. A rare phenomenon, to displace frequent ones, must belong with others more frequent still. The history of science is strewn with wrecks and ruins of theory -- essences and principles, fluids and forces -- once fondly clung to, But found to hang together with no facts of sense. And exceptional phenomena solicit our belief in vain until such time as we chance to conceive them as of kinds already admitted to exist. What science means by 'verification' is no more than this, that no object of conception shall be believed which sooner or later has not some permanent and vivid object of sensation for its term. Compare what was said on pages 3-7, above.

Sensible objects are thus either our realities or the tests of our realities. Conceived objects must show sensible effects or else be disbelieved. And the effects, even though reduced to relative unreality when their causes come to view (as heat, which molecular vibrations make unreal), are yet the things on which our knowledge of the causes rests. Strange mutual dependence this, in which the appearance needs the reality in order to exist, but the reality needs the appearance in order to be known!

Sensible vividness or pungency is then tire vital factor in reality when once the conflict between objects, and the connecting of them together in the mind, has begun. No object which neither possesses this vividness in its own right nor is able to borrow it from anything else has a chance of making headway against vivid rivals, or of rousing in us that reaction in which belief consists. On the vivid objects we [p. 302] pin, as the saying is, our faith in all the rest; and our belief returns instinctively even to those of them from which reflection has led it away. Witness the obduracy with which the popular world of colors, sounds, and smells holds its own against that of molecules and vibrations. Let the physicist himself but nod, like Homer, and the world of sense becomes his absolute reality again. [24]

That things originally devoid of this stimulating power should be enabled, by association with other things which have it, to compel our belief as if they had it themselves, is a remarkable psychological fact, which since Hume's time it has been impossible to overlook.

"The vividness of the first conception," he writes," diffuses itself along the relations and is conveyed, as by so many pipes or channels, to every idea that has any communication with the primary one. ...Superstitious people are fond of the relics of saints and holy men, for the same reason that they seek after types and images, in order to enliven their devotion and give them a more intimate and strong conception of those exemplary lives. ... Now, 'tis evident one of the best relics a devotee could procure would be the handiwork of a saint, and if his clothes and furniture are ever to be considered in this light, 'tis because they were once at his disposal, and were moved and affected by him; in which respect they are ... connected with him by a shorter train of consequences than any of those from which we learn the reality of his [p. 303] existence. This phenomenon clearly proves that a present impression, with a relation of causation, may enliven any idea, and consequently produce belief or assent, according to the precedent definition of it. ... It has been remarked among the Mahometans as well as Christians that those pilgrims who have seen Mecca or the Holy Land are ever after more faithful and zealous believers than those who have not had that advantage. A man whose memory presents him with a lively image of the Red Sea and the Desert and Jerusalem and Galilee can never doubt of any miraculous events which are related either by Moses or the Evangelists. The lively idea of the places passes by an easy transition to the facts which are supposed to have been related to them by contiguity, and increases the belief by increasing the vivacity of the conception. The remembrance of those fields and rivers has the same influence as a new argument.... The ceremonies of the Catholic religion may be considered as instances of the same nature. The devotees of that strange superstition usually plead in excuse for the mummeries with which they are upbraided that they feel the good effect of external motions and postures and actions in enlivening their devotion and quickening their fervor, which otherwise would decay, if directed entirely to distant and immaterial objects. We shadow out the objects of our faith, say they, in sensible types and images, and render them more present to us by the immediate presence of these types than it is possible for us to do merely by an intellectual view and contemplation." [25]

Hume's cases are rather trivial; and the things which associated sensible objects make us believe in are supposed by him to be unreal. But all the more manifest for that is the fact of their psychological influence. Who does not 'realize' more the fact of a dead or distant friend's existence, at the moment when a portrait, letter, garment or other material reminder of him is found? The whole notion of him then grows pungent and speaks to us and shakes us, in a manner unknown at other times. In children's minds, fancies and realities live side by side. But however lively their fancies may be, they still gain help from association with reality. The imaginative child identifies its dramatis personæ with some doll or other material object, and this evidently solidifies belief, little as it may resemble what it is held to stand for. A thing not too interesting by its own real qualities generally does the best service here. The most useful doll I ever saw was a large cucumber in the hands of a little Amazonian-Indian [p. 304] girl; she nursed it and washed it and rocked it to sleep in a, hammock, and talked to it all day long -- there was no part in life which the cucumber did not play. Says Mr. Tylor:

"An imaginative child will make a dog do duty for a horse, or a soldier for a shepherd, till at last the objective resemblance almost disappears, and a bit of wood may be dragged about, resembling a ship on the sea or a coach on the road. Here the likeness of the bit of wood to a ship or coach is very slight indeed; but it is a thing, and can be moved about, ... and is an evident assistance to the child in enabling it to arrange and develop its ideas.... Of how much use... may be seen by taking it away, and leaving the child nothing to play with. ...In later years and among highly educated people the mental process which goes on in a child's playing with wooden soldiers and horses, though it never disappears, must be sought for in more complex phenomena. Perhaps nothing in after-life more closely resembles the effect of a doll upon a child than the effect of the illustrations of a tale upon a grown reader. Here the objective resemblance is very indefinite ...yet what reality is given to the scene by a good picture. ... Mr. Back-house one day noticed in Van Diemen's Land a woman arranging several stones that were hat, oval, and about, two inches wide, and marked in various directions with black and red lines. These, he learned, represented absent friends, and one larger than the rest stood for a fat native woman on Flinder's Island, known by the name of Mother Brown. Similar practices are found among far higher races than the ill-fated Tasmanians. Among some North American tribes another who has lost a child keeps its memory ever present to her by filling its cradle with black feathers and quills, and carrying it about with her for a year or more. When she stops anywhere, she sets up the cradle and talks to it as she goes about her work, just as she would have done if the dead body had been still alive within it. Here we have an image; but in Africa we find a rude doll representing the child, kept as a memorial. ... Bastian saw Indian women in Peru who had lost an infant carrying about on their backs a wooden doll to represent it." [26]

To many persons among us, photographs of lost ones seem to be fetishes. They, it is true, resemble; but the fact that the mere materiality of the reminder is almost as important as its resemblance is shown by the popularity a, hundred years ago of the black taffeta 'silhouettes' which are still found among family relies, and of one of which Fichte could write to his affianced: 'Die Farbe fehlt, das Auge feldt, es fehlt der himmlische Ausdruck deiner lieblichen [p. 305] Züge' -- and yet go on worshiping it all the same. The opinion so stoutly professed by many, that language is essential to thought, seems to have this much of truth in it, that all our inward images tend invincibly to attach themselves to something sensible, so as to gain in corporeity and life. Words serve this purpose, gestures serve it, stones, straws, chalk-marks, anything will do. As soon as anyone of these things stands for the idea, the latter seems to be more real. Some persons, the present writer among the number, can hardly lecture without a black-board: the abstract conceptions must be symbolized by letters, squares or circles, and the relations between them by lines. All this symbolism, linguistic, graphic, and dramatic, has other uses too, for it abridges thought and fixes terms. But one of its uses is surely to rouse the believing reaction and give to the ideas a more living reality. As, when we are told a story, and shown the very knife that did the murder, the very ring whose hiding-place the clairvoyant revealed, the whole thing passes from fairy-land to mother-earth, so here we believe all the more, if only we see that 'the bricks are alive to tell the tale.'

So much for the prerogative position of sensations in regard to our belief. But among the sensations themselves all are not deemed equally real. The more practically important ones, the more permanent ones, and the more aesthetically apprehensible ones are selected from the mass, to be believed in most of all; the others are degraded to the position of mere signs and suggestions of these. This fact has already been adverted to in former chapters. [27] The real color of a thing is that one color-sensation which it gives us when most favorably lighted for vision. Soon its real size, its real shape, etc. -- these are but optical sensations selected out of thousands of others, because they have aesthetic characteristics which appeal to our convenience or delight. But I will not repeat what I have already written about this matter, but pass on to our treatment of tactile and muscular sensations, as 'primary [p. 306] qualities,' more real than those 'secondary' qualities which eye and ear and nose reveal. Why do we thus so markedly select the tangible to be the real? Our motives are not far to seek. The tangible qualities are the least fluctuating. When we get them at all we get them the same. The other qualities fluctuate enormously as our relative position to the object changes. Then, more decisive still, the tactile properties are those most intimately connected with our weal or woe. A dagger hurts us only when in contact with our skin, a poison only when we take it into our mouths, and we can only use an object for our advantage when we have it in our muscular control. It is as tangibles, then, that things concern us most; and the other senses, so far as their practical use goes, do but warn us of what tangible things to expect. They are but organs of anticipatory touch, as Berkeley has with perfect clearness explained. [28]

Among all sensations, the most belief-compelling are those productive of pleasure or of pain. Locke expressly makes the pleasure- or pain- giving quality to be the ultimate human criterion of anything's reality. Discussing (with supposed Berkeleyan before Berkeley) the notion that all our perceptions may be but a dream, he says:

" He may please to dream that I make him this answer. I believe he will allow a very manifest difference between dreaming of being in the fire and being actually in it. But yet if he be resolved to appear so skeptical as to maintain that what I call being actually in the fire is nothing but a dream, and that we cannot thereby certainly know that any such thing as fire actually exists without us, I answer that we, certainly finding that pleasure or pain [or emotion of any sort] [29] follows upon the application of certain objects to us, whose existence we perceive, or dream that we perceive by our senses, this certainly is as great as our happiness or misery, beyond which we have no concernment to know or to be. [30] [p. 307]


The quality of arousing emotion, of shaking, moving us or inciting us to action, has as much to do with our belief in an object's reality as the quality of giving pleasure or pain. In Chapter XXIV I shall seek to show that our emotions probably owe their pungent quality to the bodily sensations which they involve. Our tendency to believe in emotionally exciting objects (objects of fear, desire, etc.) is thus explained without resorting to any fundamentally new principle of choice. Speaking generally, the more a conceived object excites us, the more reality it has. The same object excites us differently at different times. Moral and religious truths come 'home' to us far more on some occasions than on others. As Emerson says, "There is a difference between one and another hour of life in their authority and subsequent effect. Our faith comes in moments, ... yet there is a depth in those brief moments which constrains us to ascribe more reality to them than to all other experiences." The 'depth' is partly, no doubt, the insight into wider systems of unified relation, but far more often than that it is the emotional thrill. Thus, to descend to more trivial examples, a man who has no belief in ghosts by daylight will temporarily believe in them when, alone at midnight, he feels his blood curdle at a, mysterious sound or vision, his heart thumping, and his legs impelled to flee. The thought of falling when we walk along a curbs one awakens no emotion of dread; so no sense of reality attaches to it, and we are sure me shall not fall. On a precipice's edge, however, the sickening emotion which the notion of a possible fall engenders makes ns believe in the latter's imminent reality, and quite unfits us to proceed. [p. 308]

The greatest proof that a man is sui compos is his ability to suspend belief in presence of an emotionally exciting idea. To give this power is the highest result of education. In untutored minds the power does not exist. Ever exciting thought in the natural man carries credence with it. To conceive with passion is ipso facto affirm. As Bagehot says:

"The Caliph Omar burnt the Alexandrian Library, saying: 'All books which contain what is not in the Koran are dangerous. All which contain what is in it are useless! ' Probably no one ever had an intenser belief in anything than Omar had in this. Yet it is impossible to imagine it preceded by an argument. His belief in Mahomet, in the Koran, and in the sufficiency of the Koran, probably came to him in spontaneous rushes of emotion; there may have been little vestiges of argument donating here and there, but they did not justify the strength of the emotion, stillness did they create it, and they hardly even excused it. ... Probably, when the subject is thoroughly examined, conviction will be found to be one of the intensest of human emotions, and one most closely connected with the bodily state, ... accompanied or preceded by the sensation that Scott makes his seer describe as the prelude of a prophecy

At length the fatal answer came,
In characters of living flame--
Not spoke in words, nor blazed in scroll,
But borne and branded on my soul.'

A hot hash seems to burn across the brain. Men in these intense states of mind have altered all history, changed for better or worse the creed of myriads, and desolated or redeemed provinces or ages. Nor is this intensity a sign of truth, for it is precisely strongest in those points in which men differ most from each other. John Knox felt it in his anti-Catholicism; Ignatius Loyola in his anti-Protestantism; and both, I suppose, felt it as much as it is possible to feel it." [31]

The reason of the belief is undoubtedly the bodily commotion which the exciting idea sets up. 'Nothing which I can feel like that can be false.' All our religious and supernatural beliefs are of this order. The surest warrant for immortality is the yearning of our bowels for our dear ones; for God, the sinking sense it gives us to imagine no such Providence or help. So of our political or pecuniary hopes and fears, and things and persons dreaded and [p. 309] desired "A grocer has a full creed as to foreign policy, young lady a complete theory of the sacraments, as to which neither has any doubt. ... A girl in a country parsonage will be sure that Paris never can be taken, or that Bismarck is a wretch" -- all because they have either conceived these things at some moment with passion, or associated them with other things which they have conceived with passion.

Renouvier calls this belief of a thing for no other reason than that we conceive it with passion, by the name of mental vertigo. [32] Other objects whisper doubt or disbelief; but the object of passion makes us deaf to all but itself, and we affirm it unhesitatingly. Such objects are the delusions of insanity, which the insane person can tit odd moments steady himself against, but which again return to sweep him off his feet. Such are the revelations of mysticism. Such, particularly, are the sudden beliefs which animate mobs of men when frenzied impulse to action is involved. Whatever be the action in point -- whether the stoning of a prophet, the bailing of a conqueror, the burning of a, witch, the baiting of a heretic or Jew, the starting of a forlorn hope, or the flying from a foe -- the fact that to believe a certain object will cause that action to explode is a sufficient reason for that belief to come. The motor impulse sweeps it unresisting in its train.

The whole history of witchcraft and early medicine is a commentary on the facility with which anything which chances to be conceived is believed the moment the belief chimes in with an emotional mood. 'The cause of sickness?' When a savage asks the cause of anything he means to ask exclusively 'What is to blame?' The theoretic curiosity starts from the practical life's demands. Let some one then accuse a necromancer, suggest a charm or spell which has been cast, and no more 'evidence' is asked for. What evidence is required beyond this intimate sense of the culprit's responsibility, to which our very viscera and limbs reply? [33] [p. 310]

Human credulity in the way of therapeutics has similar psychological roots. If there is anything intolerable (especially to the heart of a woman), it is to do nothing when a [p. 311] loved one is sick or in pain. To do anything is a relief. Accordingly, whatever remedy may be suggested is a spark on inflammable soil. The mind makes its spring towards action on that cue, sends for that remedy, and for a day at least believes the danger past. Blame, dread, and hope are thus the great belief inspiring passions, and cover among them the future, the present, and the past.

These remarks illustrate the earlier heads of the list on page 292. Whichever represented objects give us sensations, especially interesting ones, or incite our motor impulses, or arouse our hate, desire, or fear, are real enough for us. Our requirements in the way of reality terminate in our own acts and emotions, our own pleasures and pains. These are the ultimate fixities from which, as we formerly observed, the whole chain of our beliefs depends, object hanging to object, as the bees, in swarming, hang to each other until, de proche en proche, the supporting branch, the Self, is reached and held.


Now the merely conceived or imagined objects which our mind represents as hanging to the sensations (causing them, etc.), filling the gaps between them, and weaving their interrupted chaos into order are innumerable. Whole systems of them conflict with other systems, and our choice of [p. 312] which system shall carry our belief is governed by principles which are simple enough, however subtle and difficult may be their application to details. The conceived system, to pass for true, must at least include the reality of the sensible objects in it, by explaining them as effects on us, if nothing more. The system which includes the most of them, and definitely explains or pretends to explain the rest of them, will, ceteris paribus, prevail. It is needless to say how far mankind still is from having excogitated such a system. But the various materialisms, idealisms, and hylozoisms show with what industry the attempt is forever made. It is conceivable that several rival theories should equally well include the actual order of our sensations in their scheme, much as the one-fluid and two-fluid theories of electricity formulated all the common electrical phenomena equally well. The sciences are full of these alternatives. Which theory is then to be believed? That theory will be most generally believed which, besides bring us objects able to account satisfactorily for our sensible experience, also offers those which are most interesting, those which apiaeal most urgently to our æsthetic, emotional, and active needs. So here, in the higher intellectual life, the same selection among general conceptions goes on which went on among the sensations themselves. First, a word of their relation to our emotional and active needs -- and here I can do no better than quote from an article published some years ago: [34]

"A philosophy may be unimpeachable in other respects, but either of two defects will be fatal to its universal acceptance. First, its ultimate principle must not be one that essentially baffles and disappoints our dearest desires and most cherished powers. A pessimistic principle like Schopenhauer's incurably vicious Will-substance, or Hartmann's wicked jack-at-all-trades, the Unconscious, will perpetually call forth essays at other philosophies. Incompatibility of the future with their desires and active tendencies is, in fact, to most men a source of more fixed disquietude than uncertainty itself. Witness the attempts to overcome the 'problem of evil,' the 'mystery of pain.' There is no problem of 'good.'

"But a second and worse defect in a philosophy than that of contradicting our active propensities is to give them no Object whatever [p. 313] to press against. A philosophy whose principle is so incommensurate with our most intimate powers as to deny them all relevancy in universal affairs, as to annihilate their motives at one blow, will be even more unpopular than pessimism. Better face the enemy than the eternal Void! This is why materialism will always fail of universal adoption, however well it may fuse things into an atomistic unity, however clearly it may prophesy the future eternity. For materialism denies reality to the objects of almost all the impulses which we most cherish. The real meaning of the impulses, it says, is something which has no emotional interest for us whatever. But what is called extradition is quite as characteristic of our emotions as of our sense. Both point to an object as the cause of the present feeling. What an intensely objective reference lies in fear I In like manner an enraptured man, a dreary-feeling man, are not simply aware of their subjective states; if they were, the force of their feelings would evaporate. Both believe there is outward cause why they should feel as they do: either 'It is a glad world! 'how good is life!' or 'What a loathsome tedium is existence!' Any philosophy which annihilates the validity of the reference by explaining away its objects or translating them into terms of no emotional pertinency leaves the mind with little to care or act for. This is the opposite condition from that of nightmare, but when acutely brought home to consciousness it produces a kindred horror. In nightmare we have motives to act, hut no power: here we have powers, but no motives. A nameless Unheimlichkeit comes over us at the thought of there being nothing eternal in our final purposes, in the objects of those loves and aspirations which are our deepest energies. The monstrously lopsided equation of the universe and its knower, which we postulate as the ideal of cognition, is perfectly paralleled by the no less lopsided equation of the universe and the doer. We demand in it a character for which our emotions and active propensities shall be a match. Small as we are, minute as is the point by which the Cosmos impinges upon each one of us, each one desires to feel that his reaction at that point is congruous with the demands of the vast whole, that balances the latter, so to speak, and is able to do what it expects of him. But as his abilities to 'do' lie wholly in the line of his natural propensities; as he enjoys reaction with such emotions as fortitude, hope, rapture, admiration, earnestness, and the like; and as he very unwillingly reacts with fear, disgust, despair, or doubt, -- a philosophy which should legitimate only emotions of the latter sort would be sure to leave the mind a prey to discontent and craving.

"It is far too little recognized how entirely the intellect is built up of practical interests. The theory of Evolution is beginning to do very good service by its reduction of all mentality to the type of reflex action. Cognition, in this view, is but a fleeting moment, a cross-section at a certain point of what in its totality Is a motor phenomenon. In the lower forms of life no one will pretend that cognition is anything more than a guide to appropriate action. The germinal question concerning [p. 314] things brought for the first time before consciousness is not the theoretic 'What is that?' but the practical 'Who goes there?' or rather, as Horwicz has admirably put it, 'What is to be done?' -- 'Was fang' ich an?' In all our discussions about the intelligence of lower animals the only test we use is that of their activity as if for a purpose. Cognition, in short, is incomplete until discharged in act. And although it is true that the later mental development, which attains its maximum through the hypertrophied cerebrum of man, gives birth to a vast amount of theoretic activity over and above that which is immediately ministerial to practice, Set the earlier claim is only postponed, not effaced, and the active nature asserts its rights to the end.

"If there be any truth at all in this view, it follows that however vaguely a philosopher may define the ultimate universal datum, he cannot be said to leave it unknown to us so long as he in the slightest degree pretends that our emotional or active attitude towards it should be of one sort rather than another. He who says, 'Life is real, life is earnest,' however much he may speak of the fundamental mysteriousness of things, gives a distinct definition to that mysteriousness by ascribing to it the right to claim from us the particular mood called seriousness, which means the unwillingness to live with energy, though energy bring pain. The same is true of him who says that all is vanity. Indefinable as the predicate vanity may be in se, it is clearly enough something which permits anæsthesia, mere escape from suffering, to be our rule of life. There is no more ludicrous incongruity than for agnostics to proclaim with one breath that the substance of things is unknowable, and with the next that the thought of it should inspire us with admiration of its glory, reverence, and a willingness to add our cooperative push in the direction towards which its manifestations seem to be drifting. The unknowable may be unfathomed, but if it make such distinct demands upon our activity, we surely are not ignorant of its essential quality.

"If we survey the held of history and ask what feature all great periods of revival, of expansion of the human mind, display in common, we shall find, I think, simply this: that each and all of them have said to the human being, 'The inmost nature of the reality is congenial to powers which you possess.' In what did the emancipating message of primitive Christianity consist, but in the announcement that God recognizes those weak and tender impulses which pagrtnism had so rudely overlooked. Take repentance: the man who can do nothing rightly can at least repent of his failures. But for paganism this faculty of repentance was a pure supernumerary, a straggler too late for the fair. Christianity took it and made it the one power within us which appealed straight to the heart of God. And after the night of the Middle Ages had so long branded with obloquy even the generous impulses of the flesh, and defined the Reality to be such that only slavish natures could commune with it? in what did the Sursum corda! of the Renaissance lie but in the proclamation that the archetype of verity in things laid claim [p. 315] on the widest activity of our whole æsthetic being? What were Luther's mission and Wesley's but appeals to powers which even the meanest of men might carry with them, faith and self-despair, but which were personal, requiring no priestly intermediation, and which brought their owner face to face with God? What caused the wild-fire influence of Rousseau but the assurance he gave that man's nature was in harmony with the nature of things, if only the paralyzing corruptions of custom would stand from between? How did Kant and Fichte, Goethe and Schiller, inspire their time with cheer, except by saying, 'Use all your powers; that is the only obedience which the universe exacts'? And Carlyle with his gospel of Work, of Fact, of Veracity, how does he move us except by saying that the universe imposes no tasks upon us but such as the most humble can perform? Emerson's creed that everything that ever was or will be is here in the enveloping now; that man has but to obey himself -- ' He who will rest in what he is, is a part of Destiny' -- is in like manner nothing but an exorcism of all scepticism as to the pertinency of one's natural faculties."

In a word, 'Son of Man, stand upon thy feet and I will speak unto thee!' is the only revelation of truth to which the solving epochs have helped the disciple. But that has been enough to satisfy the greater part of his rational need. In se and per se the universal essence has hardly been more defined by any of these formulae than by the agnostics; but the mere assurance that my powers, such as they are, are not irrelevant to it, but pertinent, that it speaks to them and will in some way recognize their reply, that I can be a match for it if I will, and not a footless waif, suffices to make it rational to my feeling in the sense given above. Nothing could be more absurd than to hope for the definitive triumph of any philosophy which should refuse to legitimate, and to legitimate in an emphatic manner, the more powerful of our emotional and practical tendencies. Fatalism, whose solving word in all crises of behavior is 'All striving is vain,' will never reign supreme, for the impulse to take life strivingly is indestructible in the race. Moral creeds which speak to that impulse will be widely successful In spite of Inconsistency, vagueness, and shadowy determination of expectancy. Man needs a rule for his will, and will invent one if one be not given him."

After the emotional and active needs come the intellectual and æsthetic ones. The two great æsthetic principles, of richness and of ease, dominate our intellectual as well as our sensuous life. And, ceteris paribus, no system which should not be rich, simple, and harmonious would have a chance of being chosen for belief, if rich, simple, and harmonious systems were also there. Into the latter we should unhesitatingly settle, with that welcoming attitude of the will [p. 316] in which belief consists. To quote from a remarkable book:

"This law that our consciousness constantly tends to the minimum of complexity and to the maximum of definiteness, is of great importance for all our knowledge. . . . Our own activity of attention will thus determine what we are to know and what we are to believe. If things have more than a certain complexity, not only will our limited powers of attention forbid us to unravel this complexity, but we shall strongly desire to believe the things much simpler than they are. For our thoughts about them will have a constant tendency to become as simple and definite as possible. Put a man into a perfect chaos of phenomena-sounds, sights, feelings -- and if the man continued to exist, and to be rational at all, his attention would doubtless soon find for him a way to make up some kind of rhythmic regularity, which he would impute to the things about him, so as to imagine that he had discovered some laws of sequence in this mad new world. And thus, in every case where we fancy ourselves sure of a simple law of Nature, we must remember that a great deal of the fancied simplicity may be due, in the given case, not to Nature, but to the ineradicable prejudice of our own minds in favor of regularity and simplicity. All our thoughts are determined, in great measure, by this law of least effort, as it is found exemplified in our activity of attention. . . The aim of the whole process seems to be to reach as complete and united a conception of reality as possible, a conception wherein the greatest fulness of data shall be combined with the greatest simplicity of conception. The effort of consciousness seems to be to combine the greatest richness of content with the greatest definiteness of organization." [35]

The richness is got by including all the facts of sense in the scheme; the simplicity, by deducing them out of the smallest possible number of permanent and independent primordial entities: the definite organization, by assimilating these latter to ideal objects between which relations of an inwardly rational sort obtain. That these ideal objects and rational relations are will require a separate chapter to show. [36] Meanwhile, enough has surely been said to justify the assertion made above that no general off hand answer can be given as to which objects mankind shall choose as its realities. The fight is still under way. Our minds are yet chaotic; and at best we make a mixture and [p. 317] a compromise, as we yield to the claim of this interest or that, and follow first one and then another principle in turn. It is undeniably true that materialistic, or so-called 'scientific,' conceptions of the universe have so far gratified the purely intellectual interests more than the mere sentimental conceptions have. But, on the other hand, as already remarked, they leave the emotional and active interests cold. The perfect object of belief would be a God or 'Soul of the World,' represented both optimistically and moralistically (if such a combination could be), and withal so definitely conceived as to show us why our phenomenal experiences should be sent to us by Him in just the very way in which they come. All Science and all History would thus be accounted for in the deepest and simplest fashion. The very room in which I sit, its sensible walls and floor, and the feeling the air and are within it give me, no less than the 'scientific' conceptions which I am urged to frame concerning the mode of existence of all these phenomena when my back is turned, would then all be corroborated, not de-realized, by the ultimate principle of my belief. The World-soul sends me just those phenomena in order that I may react upon them; and among the reactions is the intellectual one of spinning these conceptions. What is beyond the crude experiences is not an alternative to them, but something that means them for me here and now. It is safe to say that, if ever such a system is satisfactorily excogitated, mankind will drop all other systems and cling to that one alone as reel. Meanwhile the other systems coexist with the attempts at that one, and, all being alike fragmentary, each has its little audience and day.

I have now, I trust, shown sufficiently what the psyche-logic sources of the sense of reality are. Certain postulatesare given in our nature; and whatever satisfies those postulates is treated as if real. [37] I might therefore finish the [p. 318] it not that a few additional words will chapter here, were it not that a reset the truth in a still clearer light.


There is hardly a common man who (if consulted) would not say that things come to us in the first instance as ideas; and that if we take them for realities, it is because we add something to them, namely, the predicate of having also 'real existence outside of our thought.' This notion that a higher faculty than the mere having of a conscious content is needed to make us know anything real by its means has pervaded psychology from the earliest times, and is the tradition of Scholasticism, Kantism, and Common-sense. Just as sensations must come as inward affections and then be 'extradited;' as objects of memory must appear at first as presently unrealities, and subsequently be 'projected' backwards as past realities; so conceptions must be entia rationis till a higher faculty uses them as windows to look beyond the ego, into the real extra-mental world; -- so runs the orthodox and popular account.

And there is no question that this is a true account of the way in which many of our later beliefs come to pass. The logical distinction between the bare thought of an object and belief in the object's reality is often a chronological distinction as well. The having and the crediting of and [p. 319] idea do not always coalesce; for often we first suppose and then believe; first play with the notion, frame the hypothesis, and then affirm the existence, of an object of thought. And we are quite conscious of the succession of the two mental acts. But these cases are none of them primitive cases. They only occur in minds long schooled to doubt by the contradictions of experience. The primitive impulse is to affirm immediately the reality of all that is conceived. [38] When we do doubt, however, in what does the subsequent resolution of the doubt consist? It either consists in a purely verbal performance, the coupling of the adjectives 'real' or 'outwardly existing' (as predicates) to the thing originally conceived (as subject); or it consists in the perception in the given case of that for which these adjectives, abstracted from other similar concrete cases, stand. But what these adjectives stand for, we now know well. They stand for certain relations (immediate, or through intermediaries) to ourselves. Whatever concrete objects have hitherto stood in those relations have been for us 'real,' ' outwardly existing.' So that when we now abstractly admit a thing to be 'real' (without perhaps going through any definite percep- [p. 320] tion of its relations), it is as if we said "it belongs in the same world with those other objects." Naturally enough, we have hourly opportunities for this summary process of belief. All remote objects in space or time are believed in this way. When I believe that some prehistoric savage chipped this flint, for example, the reality of the savage and of his act makes no direct appeal either to my sensation, emotion, or volition. What I mean by my belief in it is, imply my dim sense of a continuity between the long dead savage and his doings and the present world of which the hint forms part. It is preeminently a case for applying our doctrine of the 'fringe ' (see Vol. I. p. 258). When I think the savage with one fringe of relationship, I believe in him; when I think him without that fringe, or with another one (e.g., if I should class him with 'scientific vagaries' in general), I disbelieve him. The word 'real' itself is, in short, a fringe.


We shall see in Chapter XXV that will consists in nothing but a manner of attending to certain objects, or consenting to their stable presence before the mind. The objects, in the case of will, are those whose existence depends on our thought, movements of our own body for example, or facts which such movements executed in future may make real. Objects of belief, on the contrary, are those which do not change according as we think regarding them. I want to get up early tomorrow morning; I believe that I got up late yesterday morning; I will that my foreign bookseller in Boston shall procure me a German book and write to him to that effect. I believe that he will make me pay three dollars for it when it comes, etc. Now the important thing to notice is that this difference between the objects of will and belief is entirely immaterial, as far as the relation of the mind to them goes. All that the mind does is in both cases the same; it looks at the object and consents to its existence, espouses it, says 'it shall be my reality.' It turns to it, in short, in the interested active emotional way. The rest is done by nature, which in some cases makes the objects real which we think of in this [p. 321] manner, and in other cases does not. Nature cannot change the past to suit our thinking. She cannot change the stars or the winds; but she does change our bodies to suit our thinking, and through their instrumentality changes much besides; so the great practical distinction between objects which we may will or unwill, and objects which we can merely believe or disbelieve, grows up, and is of course one of the most important distinctions in the world. Its roots, however, do not lie in psychology, but in physiology; as the chapter on Volition will abundantly make plain. Will and belief, in short, meaning a certain relation between objects and the Self, are two names for one and the same PSYCHOLOGICAL phenomenon. All the questions which arise concerning one are questions which arise concerning the other. The causes and conditions of the peculiar relation must be the same in both. The free-will question arises as regards belief. If our wills are indeterminate, so must our beliefs be, etc. The first act of free-will, in short, would naturally be to believe in free-will, etc. In Chapter XXVI, I shall mention this again.

A practical observation may end this chapter. If belief consists in an emotional reaction of the entire man on an object, how can we believe at will? We cannot control our emotions. Truly enough, a man cannot believe at will abruptly. Nature sometimes, and indeed not very infrequently, produces instantaneous conversions for us. She suddenly puts us in an active connection with objects of which she had till then left us cold. " I realize for the first time," we then say, "what that means!" This happens often with moral propositions. We have often heard them; but now they shoot into our lives; they move us; we feel their living force. Such instantaneous beliefs are truly enough not to be achieved by will. But gradually our will can lead us to same results by I very simple method: we need only in cold blood ACT as if the thing in question were real, and keep acting as if it were real, and it infallibly end by growing into such a connection with our life that it will become real. It will become so knit with habit and emotion that our interests in it will be those which characterize belief. [p. 322]

Those to whom God' and 'Duty' are now mere names can make them much more than that, if they make a little sacrifice to them every day. But all this is so well known in moral and religious education that I need say no more. [39]

[1] Reprinted, with additions, from 'Mind' for July

[2] Compare this psychological fact with the corresponding logical truth that all negation rests on covert assertion of something else than the thing denied. (See Bradley's Principles of Logic, bk. r. ch. 3.)

[3] See that very remarkable little work, 'The Anæthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy,' by Benj. P. Blood (Amsterdam, N.Y., 1874).Compare also Mind, vii. 206.

[4] To one whose mind is healthy thoughts come and go unnoticed; with me they have to be faced, thought about in a peculiar fashion, and then disposed of as finished, and this often when I am utterly wearied and would be at peace; but the call is imperative. This goes on to the hindrance of all natural action. If I were told that the staircase was on fire,,d I had only a minute to escape, and the thought arose -- ' Have they sent for fire-engines? Is it probable that the man who has the key is off hand? Is the man a careful sort of person? Will the key be hanging on a peg? Am I thinking rightly? Perhaps they don't lock the depot' -- my foot would be lifted to go down; I should be conscious to excitement that I was losing my chance; but I should be unable to stir until all these absurdities were entertained and disposed of. In the most critical moments of my life, when I ought to have been so engrossed as to leave no room for any secondary thoughts, I have been oppressed by the inability to be at peace, and in the most ordinary circumstances it is all the same. Let me instance the other morning I went to walk. The day was biting cold, but1 was unable to proceed except by jerks. Once I got arrested, my feet in a muddy pool. One foot was lifted to go, knowing that it was not good to be standing in water, but there I was fast, the cause of detention being the discussing with myself the reasons why I should not stand in that pool.'' (T. S. Clouston, Clinical Lectures on Mental Diseases, 1883, p. 43. See also Berger, in Archiv f. Psychiatrie, vi. 217.)"

[5] Note to Jas. Mill's analysis, I

[6] Classics editors note: James' Insertion

[7] Classics editors note: James' Insertion

[8] Classics editors note: James' Insertion

[9] For an excellent account of the history of opinion on this subject see A. Marty, in Vierteljahsch. f. wiss. Phil., vii. 161 ff. (1884).

[10] We saw near the end of Chapter XIX that a candle-image taking exclusive possession of the mind in this way would probably acquire the sensational vividness. But this physiological accident is logically immaterial to the argument in the text, which ought to apply as well to the dimmest sort of mental image as to the brightest sensation.

[11] Classics editors note: James' Insertion

[12] Classics editors note: James' Insertion

[13] Classics editors note: James' Insertion

[14] In both existential and attributive judgments a synthesis is represented. The syllable ex in the word Existence, da in the word Dasein, express it. 'The candle exists' is equivalent to 'The candle is over there.' and the 'over there' means real space, space related to other reals. The proposition amounts to saying: 'The candle is in the same space with other reals.' It affirms of the candle a very concrete predicate -- namely, this relation to other particular concrete things. Their real existence, as we shall later see, resolves itself into their peculiar relation to ourselves. Existence is thus no substantive quality when we predicate it of any object; it is a relation, ultimately terminating in ourselves, and tit the moment when it terminates, becoming a practical relation. But of this more anon. I only wish now to indicate the superficial nature of the distinction between the existential and the attributive proposition.

[15] I define the scientific universe here in the radical mechanical way. Practically, it is oftener thought of in a mongrel way and resembles in more points the popular physical world.

[16] It thus comes about that we can say such things as that Ivanhoe did not really marry Rebecca, as Thackeray falsely makes him do. In that world does not marry Rebecca. The objects within that world are knit together by perfectly definite relations, which can be affirmed or denied. Whilst absorbed in the novel, we turn our backs on all other worlds, and, for the time, the Ivanhoe-world remains our absolute reality. When we wake from the spell, however, we find a still more real world, which reduces Ivanhoe, and all things connected with him, to the fictive status, and relegates them to one of the sub-universes grouped under No. 5.

[17] The world of dreams is our real world whilst we are sleeping, because our attention then lapses from the sensible world. Conversely, when we wake the attention usually lapses from the dream-world and that becomes unreal. But if a dream haunts us and compels our attention during the day it is very apt to remain figuring in our consciousness as a sort of sub-universe alongside of the waking world. Most people have probably had dreams which it is hard to imagine not to have been glimpses into an actually existing region of being, perhaps a corner of the 'spiritual world. 'And dreams have accordingly in all ages been regarded as revelations, and have played a large part in furnishing forth mythologies and creating themes for faith to lay hold upon. The 'larger universe,' here, which helps us to believe both in the dream and in the waking reality which is its immediate reductive, is the total universe, of Nature plus the Super-natural. The dream holds true, namely, in one half of that universe ; the waking perceptions in the other half. Even to-day dream-objects figure among the realities in which some ' psychic-researchers' are seeking to rouse our belief. All our theories, not only those about the supernatural, but our philosophic and scientific theories as well, are like our dreams in rousing such different degrees of belief in different minds.

[18] Distinguishes realities from unrealities. the essential from the rubbishy and neglectable.

[19] Inquiry concerning Hum. Understanding, sec. v. pt. 2 (slightly transposed in my quotation)

[20] Note to Jas. Mill's Analysis, I. 394.

[21] Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Müller, 11, 515-17. Hume also: " When, after the simple conception of anything, we would conceive it as existent, we in reality make no addition to, or alteration of, our first idea. Thus, when we affirm that God is existent, we simply form the idea of such a being as He is represented to us; nor is the existence which we attribute to Him conceived by a particular idea, which we join to His other qualities, and can again separate and distinguish from them. ... The belief of the existence joins no new idea to those which compose the ideas of the object. When I think of God, when I think of Him as existent, and when I believe Him to be existent, my idea of Him neither increases nor diminishes. But as 'tis certain there is a great difference betwixt the simple conception of the existence of an object and the belief of it, and as this difference lies not in the facts or compositions of the idea which we conceive. it follows that it most lie in the manner in which we conceive it." (Treatise of Human Nature. pt. iii. sec. 7.)

[22] I use the notion of the Ego here, as common-sense uses it. Nothing is prejudged as to the results (or absence of results) of ulterior attempts to analyze the notion.

[23] Griesinger, Mental Diseases, 50, 98. The neologism we so often hear, that an experience 'gives us a realizing sense' of the truth of some proposition or other, illustrates the dependence of the sense of reality upon excitement. Only what stirs us is 'realized.'

[24]The way in which sensations are pitted against systematized conceptions, and in which the one or the other then prevails according as the sensations are felt by ourselves or merely known by report, is interestingly illustrated at the present day by the state of public belief about 'spiritualistic' phenomena. There exist numerous narratives of movement without contact on the part of articles of furniture and other material objects, in the presence of certain privileged individuals called mediums. Such movement violates our memories, and the whole system of accepted physical 'science.' Consequently those-who have not seen it either brand the narratives immediately as lies or call the phenomena' illusions' of sense, produced by fraud or due to hallucination. But one who has actually seen such a phenomenon, under what seems to him sufficiently 'test-conditions,' will hold to his sensible experience through thick and thin, even though the whole fabric of 'science' should be rent in twain. That man would be a weak-spirited creature indeed who should allow any-blown generalities about 'the liability of the senses to be deceived' to bully him out of his adhesion to what for him was an indubitable experience of sight. a man may err in this obstinacy, sure enough, in any particular case. But the spirit that animates him is that on which ultimately the very life and health of Science rest.

[25] Treatise of Human Nature, bk. I. pt. III.

[26] Early Hist. of Mankind, p. 108.

[27] C See Vol. I. pp. 285-8; Vol. II. pp. 237 ff.

[28] See Theory of Vision, 59.

[29] Classics editors note: James' Insertion

[30] Essay, bk. rv. chap. 2. 14. In another place: " He that sees a candle burning and hath experimented the force of its flame by putting his finger into it, will little doubt that this is something existing without him, which does him harm and puts him to great pain. ... And if our dreamer pleases to try whether the glowing heat of a glass furnace be barely a wandering imagination in a drowsy man's fancy by putting his hand into it, he may. perhaps, be awakened into a certainty greater than he could wish, that it is something more than bare imagination. So that the evidence is as great as we can desire, being as certain to us as our pleasure or pain, i.e. happiness or misery; beyond which we have no concernment, either of knowledge or being. Such an assurance of the existence of things without us is sufficient to direct us in the attaining the good and avoiding the evil which is caused by them, which is the important concernment we have of being made acquainted with them." (Ibid. bk. iv. chap. 11, 8.)

[31] Bagehot, 'The Emotion of Conviction,' Literary Studies, I. 412-17.

[32] Psychologie Rationnelle, ch. 12.

[33] Two examples out of a thousand:

Reid, Inquiry, ch. ii 9: "I remember, many years ago, a white ox was brought into the country, of so enormous size that people came many miles to see him. There happened, some months after, an uncommon fatality among women in child-bearing. Two such uncommon events, following one another, gave a suspicion of their connection, and occasioned a common opinion among the country people that the white ox was the cause of this fatality."

H. M. Stanley, Through the Dark Continent, ii. 388: "On the third day of our stay at Mowa feeling quite comfortable amongst the people, on account of their friendly bearing, I began to write in my note-book the terms for articles, in order to improve my already copious vocabulary of native words. I had proceeded only a few minutes when I observed a strange commotion amongst the people who had been flocking about me, and presently they ran sway. In a short time we heard war-cries ringing loudly and shrilly over the table-land. Two hours afterwards a long line of warriors were seen descending the table-land and advancing towards our camp. There may have been between five and six hundred of them. We, on the other hand, had made but few preparations except such as would justify us replying to them in the event of the actual commencement of hostilities. But I had made many firm friends among them and I hardly believed that I should be able to avert an open rupture. When they had assembled at about a hundred yards in front of our camp, Safeni and I walked up towards them and sat down midway. Some half-dozen of the Yowa people came near, and the shauri began.,'

" 'What is the matter, my friends?' I asked. 'Why do you come with guns in your hands, in such numbers, as though you were coming to fight? Fight? fight us, your friends! Tut! I this is some great mistake, surely.'

Mundelé' replied one of them. ... 'our people saw you yesterday make marks on some tara-tara [paper] [Classics editors note: James' Insertion]. This is very bad. Our country will waste, our goats will die, our bananas will rot, and our women will dry up. What have we done to you that you should wish to kill us? We have sold you food and we have brought you wine each day. Your people are allowed to wander where they please without trouble. Why is the Mundelé so wicked! We have gathered together to fight you if you do not burn that tara-tara now before our eyes. If you burn it we go away, and shall be your friends as heretofore.'

''I told them to rest there, and left Safeni in their hands as a pledge that I should return. My tent was not fifty yards from the spot, but while going towards it my brain was busy in devising some plan to foil this superstitious madness. My note-book contained a vast number of valuable notes. ... I could not sacrifice it to the childish caprice of savages.9s I was rummaging my book-box, I came across a volume of Shakespeare [Chandos edition] [Classics editors note: James' insertion] much worn and well thumbed, and which was of the same size as my field-book; its cover was similar also, and it might be passed for the field-book, provided that no one remembered its appearance too well. I took it to them. 'Is this the tara-tara, friends, that you wish burned?'

Yes, yes, that is it.'

Well, take it, and burn it. or keep it.'

"M-m. No, no, no. We will not touch it. It is fetish. You must burn it.'

" 'I! Well, let it be so. I will do anything to please my good friends of Mowa.'

"We walked to the nearest fire. I breathed a regretful farewell to my genial companion, which. during my many weary hours of night, had assisted to relieve my mind when oppressed by almost intolerable woes, and then gravely consigned the innocent Shakespeare to the flames, heaping the brush fuel over it with ceremonious care.

''Ah-h,' breathed the poor deluded natives sighing their relief. ...'There is no trouble now.'... End something approaching to a cheer was shouted among them, which terminated the episode of the burning of Shakespeare.

[34] 'Rationality, Activity, and Faith' (Princeton Review, July 1883, pp 64-9).

[35] J. Royce, The Religious Aspect of Philosophy (Boston, 1885). pp. 317-57.

[36] Chapter XXVII

[37] Prof. Royce puts this well in discussing idealism and the reality of an 'external world. " If the history of popular speculation on these topics could be written, how much of cowardice and shuffling would be found in the behavior of the natural mind before the question, 'How dost thou know of an external reality. Instead of simply and plainly answering: 'I mean by the external world in the first place something that I accept know of an external reality or demand, that I posit, postulate actively construct on the basis of sense-data,' the natural man gives us all kinds of vague compromise answers. ...Where shall these endless turnings and twistings have an end? ..... All these lesser motives are appealed to, and the one ultimate motive is neglected. The ultimate motive with the man of every-day life is the will to have an external world. Whatever consciousness contains, reason will persist in spontaneously adding the thought: 'But there shall be something beyond this.'.. The popular assurance of an external world is the fixed determination to make one, now and henceforth." (Religious Aspect of philosophy, p. 304 -- the italics are my own.) This immixture of the will appears most flagrantly in the fact that although external matter is doubted commonly enough, minds external to our own are never doubted. We need them too much, are too essentially social to dispense with them. Semblances of matter may suffice to react upon, but not semblances of communing souls. a psychic solipsism is too hideous a mockery of our wants, and, so far as I know, has never been seriously entertained. -- Chapters ix and x of Prof. Royce's work are on the whole the dearest account of the psychology of belief with which I am acquainted.

[38] ''The leading fact in Belief, according to my view of it, is our Primitive Credulity. We begin by believing everything; whatever is, is true.... The animal born in the morning of a summer day proceeds upon the fact of daylight; assumes the perpetuity of that fact. Whatever it is disposed to do. it does without misgivings. If in the morning it began around of operations continuing for hours, under the full benefit of day-light, it would unhesitatingly begin the same roll and in the evening. Its state of mind is practically one of unbounded confidence; but, as yet, it does not understand what confidence means.

"The pristine assurance is soon met by checks; a disagreeable experience leading to new insight. To be thwarted and opposed is one of our earliest and most frequent pains. It develops the sense of a distinction between free and obstructed impulses; the unconsciousness of an open way is exchanged for consciousness; we are now said properly to believe in what has never been contradicted, as we disbelieve in what has been contradicted. We believe that, after the dawn of day, there is before us a continuance of light; we do not believe that this light is to continue forever.

" Thus, the vital circumstance in belief is never to be contradicted -- never to lose prestige. The number of repetitions counts for little in the process: we are as much convinced after ten as after fifty; we are more convinced by ten unbroken than by fifty for and one against." (Bain : The Emotions and the Will, pp. 511, 512.)

[39] Literature. D Hume : Treatise on Human Nature, part III. vi-x A. Bain: Emotions and Will, chapter on Belief (also pp. 20 ff). J. Sully: Sensation and Intuition, essay iv J. Mill: Analysis of Human Mind Ch. Renouvier : Psychologie Rationnelle, vol. ii. pt. ii; and Esquisse d'une Classification systématique des Doctrines Mind, chapter xi Philosophiques, part vi. J. EI. Newman: The Grammar of assent. J.Venn: Some Characteristics of Belief. V. Brochard: De l'Erreur, part ii chap. vi, ix; and Revue Philosophique, xxvii. 1. E Habier: Psychologie, chap xxi, Appendix. Ollé Laprune: La Certitude Morale (1881). Cf. F. Stout: On Genesis of Cognition of Physical Reality, in 'Mind,' Jan. J Pikler: The Psychology of the Belief in Objective Existence(London, 1890). -- Mill says that we believe present sensations; and makes our belief in all other things a matter of association with these. So far so good; but as he makes no mention of emotional or volitional reaction, Bain rightly charges him with treating belief as a purely intellectual state. For Bain belief is rather an incident of our active life. When a thing is such, to make us act on it, then we believe it, according to Bain. "But how about past things, or remote things, upon which no reaction of ours is possible? And how about belief in things which check action" says Sully; who considers that we believe s thing only when " the idea of it has an inherent tendency to approximate in character and intensity to a sensation." It is obvious that each of these authors emphasizes a true aspect of the question. My own account has sought to be more complete, sensation, association, and active reaction all being acknowledged to be concerned. The most compendious possible formula perhaps would be that out belief and attention are the same fact. For the moment, what we attend to is reality; Attention is a motor reaction; and we are so made that sensations force attention from us. On Belief and Conduct see an article by Leslie Stephen, Fortnightly Review, July 1888.

A set of facts have been recently brought to my attention which I hardly know how to treat, so I say a word about them in this footnote. Refer to a type of experience which has frequently found a place among the 'Yes' answers to the 'Census of Hallucinations,' and which is generally described by those who report it as an 'impression of the presence' of someone near them, although no sense lion either of sight, hearing, or touch is involved From the way in which this experience is spoken of by those who have had it, it would appear to be an extremely definite and positive state of mind, coupled with a belief in the reality of its object quite as strong as any direct sensation ever gives. And yet no sensation seems to be connected with it at all. Sometimes the person whose nearness is thus impressed is a known person, dead or living, sometimes an unknown one. His attitude and situation are often very definitely impressed, and so, sometimes (though not by way of hearing), are words which he wishes to say.

The phenomenon would seem to be due to a pure conception becoming saturated with the sort of stinging urgency which ordinarily only sensations bring. But I cannot yet persuade myself that the urgency in Question consists in concomitant emotional and motor impulses. The ' impression' may come quite suddenly and depart quickly; it may carry no emotional suggestions, and wake no motor consequences beyond those involved in attending to it. Altogether, the matter is somewhat paradoxical, and no conclusion can be come to until more definite data are obtained.

Perhaps the most curious case of the sort which I have received is the following. The subject of the observation, Mr. P., is an exceptionally intelligent witness, though the words of the narrative are his wife's.

"Mr. P. has all his life been the occasional subject of rather singular delusions or impressions of various kinds. If I had belief in the existence of latent or embryo faculties, other than the five senses, I should explain them on that ground. Being totally blind, his other perceptions are abnormally keen and developed, and given the existence of a rudimentary sixth sense, it would be only natural that this also should be more acute in him than in others. One of the most interesting of his experiences in this line was the frequent apparition of a corpse some years ago, which may be worth the attention of your Committee on that subject. At the lime Mr. P. had a music-room in Boston on Beacon Street, where he used to do severe and protracted practice with little interruption. Now, all one season it was a very familiar occurrence with him while in the midst of work to feel a cold draft of air suddenly upon his face, with a prickling sensation at the roots of his hair, when he would turn from the piano, and a figure which he knew to be dead would come sliding under the crack of the door from without, flattening itself to squeeze through and rounding out again to the human form. It was of a middle-aged man, and drew itself along the carpet on hands and knees, but with head thrown back till it reached the sofa, upon which it stretched itself. It remained some moments, but vanished s if Mr. P. spoke or made a decided movement. The most singular point in the occurrence was its frequent repetition. Be might expect it on any day between two and four o'clock, and it came always heralded by the same sudden cold shiver, and was invariably the same figure which went through the same movements. He afterwards traced the whole experience to strong tea. He was in the habit of taking cold tea, which always stimulates him, for lunch, and on giving up this practice whenever saw this or any other apparition again. However, even allowing, as is doubtless true, that the event was a delusion of nerves first fatigued by over work and then excited by this stimulant, there is one point which is still wholly inexplicable and highly interesting to me. Mr. P. has no memory whatever of sight, nor conception of it. It is impossible for him to form any idea of what we mean by light or color, consequently he has no cognizance of any object which does not reach his sense of hearing or of touch, though these are so acute as to give a contrary impression some-times to other people. When he becomes aware of the presence of a person or an object, by means which seem mysterious to outsiders, he can always trace it naturally and legitimately to slight echoes, perceptible only to his keen ears, or to differences in atmospheric pressure, perceptible only to his acute nerves of touch; but with the apparition described, for the only time-in his experience, he was aware of presence, size, and appearance, without the use of either of these mediums. The figure never produced the least sound nor came within a number of feet of his person, yet he knew that it was a man, that it moved, and in what direction, even that it wore a full beard, which, like the thick curly heir, was partially gray; also that it war, dressed in the style of suit known as 'pepper and salt.' These points were all perfectly distinct and invariable each time. If asked how he perceived them, he will answer he cannot tell, he simply knew it. and so strongly and so distinctly that it is impossible to shake the opinion as to the exact details of the man's appearance. It would seem that in this delusion of the senses he really saw, as he has never done in the actual experiences of life, except in the first two years of childhood."

On cross-examining Mr. P., I could not make out that there was anything like visual imagination involved, although he was quite unable to describe in just what terms the false perception was carried on. It seemed to be more like an intensely definite conception than anything else, a conception to which the feeling of present reality was attached, but in no such shape as easily to fail under the heads laid down in my text.