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Lecture 8 Naturalism and the Value of the Individual Person

Lecture 8
Naturalism and the Value of the Individual Person
THE importance of Personality is depreciated as I have already observed from two very different points of view which may be conveniently designated as those of Naturalism and of Absolute Idealism. We might even speak of them as opposite points of view were it not that we sometimes find them combined in the position of the same thinker. In the present Lecture I shall deal with them apart from one another beginning with what I shall call the Naturalistic depreciation of Personality.

I will preface what I have to say under this head by recalling the confession which in the introductory Lecture of the present course I made of incompetence both in Physiology and in that border region of inquiry which is the subject matter of Psychophysics. This incompetence disqualifies me from treating with that fulness which the difficulty of the matter and its close connexion with our present subject would seem to demand the problem of the relation of Soul and Body. If my discussion of this problem should appear perfunctory it is not from any lack of a due estimate of the intrinsic importance thereof or from blindness to the truth that it is a deeply seated doubt whether notwithstanding all that philosophers and theologians may say the individual Soul is not in fact an accident or adjunct of the Body originating and perishing along with it which is really the principal obstacle in the way of a more general intellectual acceptance of a religious view of the world. I must therefore ask my hearers to believe that I have not in forming my own judgment neglected to take such account of the results of biological research as was possible to me. In the few remarks which I shall make I shall endeavour to confine myself to considerations which so far as I can see are not at the mercy of further investigations yet to be made or already made without my knowledge into the nature and behaviour of our bodies especially in relation to what we may call the psychical aspect of our being.

In the first Lecture of my earlier course I endeavoured to point out the difficulty which Personality must inevitably present to a philosophy which regards Natural Science as the type of genuine knowledge. I had there in view not so much a philosophy such as is now commonly described under the name of Naturalism which takes as its own the point of view characteristic of students of Natural Science; but rather one which like that of Green set out to criticize that point of view as inadequate to account for Natural Science itself. But if we find even such a philosophy as this failing to do justice to the conception of Personality just because it devotes itself principally to an investigation of the presuppositions of Natural Science still more shall we expect to meet with a like deficiency in a way of thinking which does not so much criticize as accept and make its own the identification of the ‘philosophical’ with the ‘scientific’ attitude of mind.
It is characteristic of Science as we have already noted to deal with Universals; the Individual as such must always escape its grasp; for Science the Individual has no interest except as the instance of a Universal. But if the Individual as such eludes the grasp of Science it follows that we may say the same of the Person the Rational Individual. It may however be contended either that Science is not really incapable of grasping the Individual even in the form of the Person since the peculiarities of any individual organism may be traced by scientific research to peculiarities in the structure or development of the ‘germplasm;’ or alternatively that so far as it may be truly said to be incapable of grasping it this is not because the Individual is above but rather because it is below its consideration; since so far as one means by the Individual a mere this there is nothing to say about it except to answer the question ‘this what?’ by an account of the general nature whereof it is an instance. It is true that this second point is perhaps less likely to be made by a representative of the type of thought usually described as Naturalism than by the disciples of a philosophy akin to that whose depreciation of Personality will be discussed in the next Lecture; but it is nevertheless in fact so much to the purpose of Naturalism that it will be appropriate to say something of it in connexion with that way of looking at the world.
It is not I think difficult to see that the kind of explanation of the individual organism which Science sometimes claims to give is only at the most an explanation of the peculiarities of the Individual not of its Individuality. For a germplasm with a precisely similar structure and history would on this showing develop into a precisely similar—but surely not into the same—individual. It is this essential distinction between Similarity and Identity which defies scientific explanation just because this must always be an explanation in terms of characteristics which are or may be common to several individuals.
It is well known that a great philosopher has put forward as a grand principle of metaphysics the ‘identity of indiscernibles.’1 No two real beings so Leibnitz held could be except for difference of position in time or space exactly alike. There must be some intrinsic diversity between them whereby a sufficiently penetrating intelligence could distinguish them one from another. Hence to speak of two things really indiscernible by any mind whatever would be to speak of one and the same thing under two names. I do not now propose to discuss this principle which has much to commend it to anyone who like Leibnitz acknowledges in the universal order the effect of Divine Wisdom and Goodness. But it is certainly not a principle to which Naturalism can consistently appeal. It is by no means evident to any one who does not take as an axiom the Principle of Sufficient Reason in Leibnitz's sense of it namely as the principle of the choice of the best among the possibilities that there can be no two real things exactly alike. Were there such they would indeed be indiscernible but they would not be identical.
If they were really indiscernible they might however although not identical be said to be all one to Science. And this is precisely the view that Aristotle takes of real beings who are individual specimens of the same kind in the sublunary world. These though as regards their matter they are distinct from one another are as regards their specific form indistinguishable from one another so that no universal statement relating to that particular sort of thing can be made concerning one which could not as well be made about another. Thus to Science since it is always concerned only with what can be the subject of such universal statements these individuals are mere instances of the Universal; with their Individuality Science cannot deal not because it is something too high for Science to reach but because it is too low.
We shall find it however convenient to remind ourselves at this point that Aristotle thought otherwise of Individuality in what he regarded as a higher region of the universe than this earth in which our lot is cast.2 The starry heavens are in his view tenanted by individual beings known to us through the immortal lights that are fixed in the spheres whose eternal motion is caused by the desire kindled in them by the excellence of these exalted spirits even as the motion of the whole Universe is caused by its instinctive yearning after the supreme excellence of God. These beings are not regarded as individuals of one species or kind; each of them might rather be said to constitute a species by himself; and since he has never come into being nor will ever pass away there is no need as in this lower world for a multiplication of individuals that are born and die and thus in their continual succession perpetuate the race to which they belong and preserve its special contribution to the wealth of the Whole. The science of Astronomy has thus no need to ignore the distinction between individuals of the same specific nature or kind since none such exists in the ethereal world whereof it treats.
Remote though these ancient speculations may seem from the knowledge which we now possess of the phenomena to which they relate there is still something to learn from them as to the nature of Individuality. It is as true now as in the days of Aristotle that if ever an individual does but repeat a type without variation it will be a mere instance of that type; and it is in no way derogatory to Science to say that it does not concern itself with it except as such an instance. But it is no less true that where the individual not merely happens to be the only one of its kind but recognizes itself or is recognized in its individuality as an unique feature of the Whole by the absence of which that Whole would be impoverished there the incapacity of Science to grasp it except as an instance (though it may chance to be the sole instance) of an Universal does constitute a bar to any claim such as Naturalism makes on behalf of Science to determine the limits of Reality. It is of course another question altogether where we can predicate Individuality in the lower and where in the higher sense; whether indeed there is in fact any individuality which merely repeats a type. Leibnitz with his doctrine of the identity of indiscernibles denies this so far as relates to beings with a genuine unity of their own. So too it is another question whether on the other hand there be any objective significance in the notion of unique value not for this or that conscious being but to use a phrase of Bacon's in ordine ad universum.3 A consistent Naturalism we must note could not admit that there is.
When however it was said that Naturalism depreciates Personality more was meant than that neither Natural Science itself nor a philosophy whose view of the world is determined by the necessary limitations of Natural Science can take account of the Individual whether rational or otherwise except as an instance of some Universal. It was meant also that in regarding Personality such a philosophy must needs regard it from the outside only as a mode of behaviour of certain natural objects and therefore must inevitably see in it a sporadic and evanescent phenomenon the peculiar interest whereof to ourselves who exhibit it cannot blind a sober observer to the small part played by it in the mighty cosmic drama which is unrolled before us by the researches of Natural Science.
But as some of the most thoughtful representatives of Naturalism have acknowledged if we look at the matter from the other side we find the position reversed. The whole ‘choir of heaven and furniture of earth’ (to use the often-quoted phrase of Berkeley4) are known to us only as objects either of our perception by means of the senses or of our thought which infers from the phenomena perceived by our senses unperceived causes of those phenomena and laws according to which these causes produce the effects which we perceive. Nor (it may confidently be affirmed) have the efforts been successful which some have made to show that Perception and Thought to which we owe the knowledge of the world which Natural Science investigates are themselves intelligible as the product of that system of bodies in motion which they apprehend. Perception and Thought whereby we apprehend objects cannot be construed as part of the world of objects which we apprehend by means of them. This has been frequently pointed out and I do not propose now to go over again ground so familiar to all students of this kind of questions.
I am not however contending that the impossibility of explaining the Mind which apprehends the world of objects as an object among others in the world which it apprehends carries with it the possibility of turning the tables upon Naturalism and explaining the world of objects as dependent for its very being on the Mind which apprehends it. On the contrary however we may be led eventually to think of the relation of Mind or Spirit to what we contrast with it as Matter or Nature it seems to me that apprehension always presupposes that what is apprehended is in some sense independent of the act in which it is apprehended even if (as would be generally admitted to be the case for example with a pain such as a toothache) it cannot actually exist apart from being apprehended. It is sufficient for my present purpose at any rate to insist that Mind which apprehends the world of objects cannot be construed as merely a part of the world of objects which it apprehends.
It is indeed for this reason (to cast our thoughts back for a moment to a point discussed in my last Lecture) that the acquaintance which one mind has with another is not to be classed with its apprehension of what is not Mind at all. If we look in our acquaintance with other minds for an apprehension of this sort we shall find only our apprehension of the material vehicles through which the other minds express themselves; and it is this fact which has led some (erroneously as I think) to describe our acquaintance with other minds as due to an ‘inference’ from perceived facts based on an analogy with other facts already known to us as though it were comparable with the framing of those hypotheses to account for perceived phenomena which we make in our investigation of external Nature. We know other minds than our own not through apprehending them as objects but through participation with them in a common activity.
But while Natural Science cannot explain Personality as part of the system which it explores it presupposes it in the sense that we have no experience of Natural Science nor can as I venture to think even conceive of its existence otherwise than as the activity of a personal Mind.
In its exclusive preoccupation with the Universal Natural Science may find the Individual rational or other elude its grasp; and being as it is essentially an apprehension of Objects it can never come face to face with the Subject whose activity itself is. But the capacity of apprehending the general nature of objects even after this abstract fashion is an attribute of that Rationality which differentiates Persons from individual beings of lower rank.
There will always be something paradoxical in the fact that with bodies of so small account in the vast material universe as those of human beings is associated an intelligence to which just because it apprehends this universe in its immensity this same paradox can present itself. We shall find it convenient to describe this paradox in the language of that one among the great historical systems of Philosophy which representatives of Naturalism often find more congenial to their own mood than any other—I mean the system of Spinoza.
According to Spinoza there is but one real Substance which he calls indifferently ‘God’ and ‘Nature;’ and of this one Substance Extension and Thought are attributes and the only two attributes known to us. They never interact with one another nor do they overlap one another. The nature of God or the Universe may be expressed in terms of either. There is what may be called a complete parallelism between them so that there can be nothing in the mind which is not the ‘idea’ or mental counterpart of something bodily or material nor anything in the material world of which there is not a corresponding ‘idea.’
Thus to the whole material system corresponds such an understanding of it as is the goal of the physicist an understanding in which there is no thought of purposes or ‘final causes’ but only of what may be called a mathematical or mechanical necessity. Such an imperfect apprehension of it as anyone of us actually has—and this constitutes his ‘soul’—is primarily a consciousness of that part of the system which is called his ‘body’ and of any other parts only so far as they are in direct or indirect contact with this. All in our ‘souls’ that has reference to our ‘bodies’ as things taken apart from the whole system of material nature (or as Spinoza would say of God under the attribute of Extension) only belongs to them so far as they themselves are similarly taken out of their context in the complete system of thought which he calls ‘the infinite Understanding of God.’ Such are the emotions which correspond to the effort by which a particular body maintains for a while its separate existence; and such again is the sense of acting spontaneously and for purposes of our own which we experience when our movements are immediately due to processes within our bodies the more remote causes of which lie in a region of the material universe which is beyond our ken. This latter sense is of course what is sometimes called the consciousness of the freedom of our wills; but Spinoza does not consider that in discovering this supposed consciousness of freedom to be due merely to the imperfection of our knowledge we need feel ourselves to be robbed of anything truly valuable. There is he thinks a much more precious kind of consciousness of Freedom which comes not from ignorance but from knowledge. For in proportion as a man sees in all that he is and does and suffers a consequence of the eternal and unchangeable nature of the Universe (or as Spinoza would say of God) he is delivered from the bondage in which he must remain at the mercy of vain hopes and fears so long as he thinks of himself as having interests and possibilities of his own apart from the Whole of which he forms a part.5
In this representation of the nature of the Universe great as is the measure of truth in it and attractive as it is in its majestic symmetry and stoical aloofness from absorption in those private desires and ambitions which make up the life of ‘passion's slaves’6 there is yet as I have said one feature which gives rise to suspicion of its adequacy. That my little knowledge of the world is related to the infinite understanding of God as my little body to the infinite extension of Nature may be true enough. But there is nothing to correspond in the world of bodies with the capacity which there is in our minds notwithstanding all their limitations of identifying themselves with the whole of which they are a part so far at least as to recognize their own imperfection and even in the supreme experience of the amor intellectualis Dei of rejoicing in the perfection which in another sense they do not themselves enjoy. We remember how Aristotle whose philosophy was in so many respects similar in temper with Spinoza's was constrained by his recognition of this very capacity in the Soul for Knowledge the claim to which necessarily involves a claim to the apprehension of the Absolute and Eternal to supplement the story of its natural development as the inward expression of its bodily organization by the recognition of a factor the νοῦς of which he could only say that it “comes from without.”7 Not less truly does Spinoza's insistence on the presence of that in our minds whereby as he says “we feel and experience that we are immortal”8 break in upon the parallelism which has made his teaching so congenial to thinkers of a naturalistic bent though perhaps the incongruity is less openly confessed by the modern than by the ancient philosopher.
The existence of this consciousness of the Whole which alone makes any kind of Science possible forbids us to acquiesce in the depreciation of Personality whereof this consciousness is an integral factor when this depreciation is based on taking the world of objects which Natural Science investigates as the true reality and the Mind of which Natural Science is itself an activity as a mere by-product or ‘epiphenomenon’ thereof. But there is left another possibility of depreciating Personality which starts as it were from the other side and sees in it no more than as it were an accident of Knowledge9 notwithstanding that we are acquainted with knowledge only as a personal activity. As Naturalism could be accused of forgetting its own presuppositions so it may be suggested that a view which takes Personality as the ultimate form or as belonging to the ultimate form of Mind forgets to discriminate between what in Mind is the presupposition of its scientific activity and what is itself conditioned by the objects of that activity. It is to the consideration of the depreciation of Personality consequent on this latter way of thinking that we must now turn.
The trend of thought to which I am about to call your attention is one familiar enough to historians of Philosophy. In some respects it may be said that it was more characteristic of ancient than of modern times. For there is more than a merely philological interest in the facts noted in my former course of Lectures respecting the comparatively recent date at which the words ὑπόστασις and Persona came to be employed in the philosophical sense associated by us to-day with the expression ‘Personality.’ Although the statement that the conception of Personality was unknown to the classical philosophy of Greece is often rashly made and without qualifications which would be necessary before one could justly assent to it there is notwithstanding an element and even an important element of truth to be found in it.
When it is asked whether Plato's God for example was in our sense a Personal God or the Immortality of the Soul on which he laid such great stress was in our sense a personal immortality I am far from saying that it is impossible to give a definite answer and to support it by reasons; but I think it is plain that these were not questions which would have seemed to Plato himself so obvious and important as they would to the majority of thoughtful men to-day. Modern philosophers who do not think them important or even regard them as questions which a truly philosophical inquirer would not put would yet not deny them to be at any rate obvious. In respect of Aristotle the various proposed explanations of certain enigmatic expressions in his treatise On the Soul which were thought to deal with the relation of the νοῦς—that is the capacity of apprehending absolute and eternal truth—to the individual personality of those who exhibit this capacity fill an interesting chapter in the history of thought.10 But whatever we take to have been Aristotle's own intention in these expressions we may be certain that he would not have left them so susceptible of diverse interpretation as he did had he shared the preoccupation with the problem of Divine and Human Personality which made it a matter of such moment with his medieval disciples of every school to ascertain the full purport of what it could be maintained that he had taught concerning them.
It is not however my intention on this occasion to explore the history of that type of thought which issues in the view of Personality as belonging to a world which Philosophy can convict of being no more than Appearance and not to the ultimate nature of Spirit. I propose rather to examine it as it exists among our own contemporaries.
In the fifth Lecture of my previous course I called attention to the two different principles upon which we unify our mental life—the rational and the personal. I endeavoured to show how while they differed widely from one another they nevertheless seemed each of them indispensable to the other. On the rational principle there belong together the premisses and the conclusion of a syllogism though the conclusion be drawn by one man from premisses he could only have had from another who yet himself had never drawn from them their legitimate conclusion. On the personal principle there may belong together thoughts which have no rational connexion and are united only by links of association which would be unintelligible to any other person. Yet we should estimate the rank of a personality to a considerable extent if not altogether by the degree in which the succession of thoughts and volitions which make up the personal life is ordered on a rational principle and should hardly allow the name of ‘person’ to anyone whose mind exhibited a complete absence of rational connexion between its contents. And on the other hand we certainly have no knowledge of rational connexion as holding except between thoughts and volitions which make part of some personal life or other.
It is however to be observed that whereas Rationality is plainly a constituent factor in what we call Personality so that there would be no meaning in speaking of a life as personal which was not rational at all the affirmation that Reason is a personal activity may without absurdity be regarded as a merely empirical statement to which nothing warrants us in ascribing necessary and universal validity. The contents of a personal mind it may be said are tested by their conformity with principles of Reason; but the rational connexion—say of the premisses and conclusion of a sound argument—is none the less rational though it be not present to any single personal consciousness.
There have appeared in our own day among English-speaking philosophers two kindred though not identical ways of thinking which have attempted to lay a greater emphasis upon the personal than upon the rational principle of connexion among the contents of our minds and we may find it helpful at this stage to consider how far they have proved successful. We may call them respectively ‘Pragmatism’ and ‘Personal Idealism.’11
In respect of the former I am only concerned at present with its insistence upon the purposiveness of all thought and upon the importance of ascertaining the purpose of the thinker before sitting in judgment upon any expression of thought in words. Though I do not think that the purposiveness of thought has been denied or even really overlooked by any great philosopher yet perhaps it has not always been sufficiently borne in mind that the bald propositions which are taken out of their context to serve as examples in text-books of Logic can no more as they stand be considered adequate expressions of thought than sentences similarly detached to illustrate grammatical rules can be regarded as possessing literary value. Forgetfulness of the other point which I have mentioned as one emphasized by Pragmatism has led to graver misunderstandings; and perhaps nowhere more remarkably than in the instance especially interesting to us here of the interpretation of religious formulas as statements of scientific fact without due attention to the purpose which they are intended to serve by those who frame and those who use them as expressions of certain religious experiences. But while conceding to Pragmatism the truth of its doctrine of the purposiveness of thought and the importance of its warning to take into account a speaker's or writer's purpose before criticizing what he says or writes we are compelled to charge its exponents with confusion between what in the purpose of a speaker or writer is irrelevant and what is relevant to a decision as to the truth or falsehood of his utterances. I have however already in the second Lecture of my present course adverted in another connexion to this confusion and I will not dilate upon it now. I will only observe that in subordinating Reason to Personality on the ground that a personal purpose inspires the logical or scientific activity as it does every other activity of the human spirit Pragmatism omits to notice that only so far as this purpose is directed to the attainment of the truth does it continue to inspire the scientific activity to the end. I may stop counting when I will; but if I go on counting I can only count in one way. My change of purpose interrupts my activity of calculation and substitutes some other; it does not affect the laws of the calculating activity itself.
Personal Idealism is I think no more satisfactory than Pragmatism in its attempt to challenge for Persons a reality which it denies to Things. The very principle upon which the ‘idealism’ of Personal Idealists turns when they maintain that we cannot take the object out of relation to the subject to which in Knowledge we find it related this same principle it abandons when it comes to persons. ‘Persons’ are so it is held independent of things which have no reality except in relation to them; and since persons do not exist like things only in virtue of being perceived or known they are essentially independent of other persons also. Nevertheless it seems extremely difficult to deny that apart from the relations of persons to other persons and to things we should be unable to give any account of what we should call their personal characteristics. This doctrine thus seems to plead a prerogative for persons which cannot easily be admitted. The ultimately independent reality of persons is taken away by the same reasoning as in the view of the Personal Idealists themselves12 takes away the independent reality of things. And in the long run the recognition of the independent reality of persons must lead also to that of the independent reality of things; so that Personal Idealism would appear to be no more than a halfway refuge between a Realism which Personal Idealists are apt to brand as Materialism and an Idealism to which they would deny the name of ‘personal.’ The Absolute Idealism which depreciates Personality as not belonging to the ultimate form of Mind or Spirit will be found to have the advantage in controversy with Personal Idealism of this type which in the case of things has already denied that it belongs to the nature of Knowledge to have an object possessing reality independently of the act whereby it is known.
But not only have certain notable attempts to give to the personal principle of unity in our experience a priority over the rational seemed to end in failure but serious difficulties may be raised about the stability of the personal unity of experience when compared with that of the rational. For about that ultimate systematic unity of Reality which is presupposed not only by every kind of Science but by any use of Reason in the conduct of our life there is no question at all comparable with the question about the ultimate unity of the personal Self which is raised by such phenomena as go by the significant name of ‘multiple personality.’
I indicated already in the first Lecture of this present course that I should not be able altogether to avoid the consideration of these phenomena; but also that I had no competence to offer more than such observations upon the published accounts of them as might occur to one possessing neither a direct acquaintance with particular instances of their occurrence nor a thorough familiarity with the literature to which they have given occasion. With this preliminary caution I give for what they are worth two remarks upon this subject with the grounds for making them.
(1) The expression ‘multiple personality’ is not really a justifiable description of the phenomena in question; which are more fairly and appropriately designated by the phrase which forms the title of Dr. Morton Prince's well-known study of a celebrated case of the kind ‘the dissociation of a personality.’ At the same time it is not to be denied that the other description—if it is as I think it is open to objection as question-begging—is not an unnatural one. For we seem to have in these phenomena an exaggeration or intensification of that marked change of mood and outlook which when occurring in a lesser degree leads a man's friends to say of him that he is become ‘quite another person’ and if we recollect the primary use of the word ‘person’ for a part played in social intercourse it is plain that two so-called ‘personalities’ (such as ‘Miss Beauchamp’ and ‘sally’ in Dr. Morton Prince's narrative) are distinguished by the fact that the social attitude and behaviour of the one were quite different from and even opposed to those of the other. Thus ‘Miss Beauchamp’ was depressed while ‘Sally’ was exuberant; ‘Miss Beauchamp’ shy and retiring ‘Sally’ bold and forward; ‘Miss Beauchamp’ observant of conventionalities ‘Sally’ defiant of them.
We shall find it convenient in examining the relative merits of these two contrasted forms of expression (contrasted though sometimes both alike used by the same writers in the same connexion) ‘multiple personality’ and ‘dissociation of a personality’ to distinguish what may be called an alternation from a coexistence of personalities in one bodily organism. It is not intended to suggest that these two kinds of phenomena may not occur or seem to occur in the case of the same organism; as a matter of fact Dr. Morton Prince's account of the ‘Beauchamp’ case provides an illustration of both.
Where there is only what may be called an alternation of personalities it would be misleading to use language suggesting their coexistence. For if we symbolize the different ‘personalities’—the different systems of emotion interest and conduct exhibited by a certain human organism—as A B C D and the organism which exhibits them as X then when X is A there is no system or (if we are to call it so) ‘personality’ B actually in existence at all; and so no person who actually possesses that ‘personality’ though there is one who potentially possesses it in the same sense as Philip drunk is potentially Philip sober.
But when we have an apparent compresence of two or more ‘personalities’ in one organism we do seem if this is not an illusory appearance to have actually two persons existing where one was before each of whom could claim to be the same person with that one. Here there would seem to be a genuine disruption of personal unity in a sense in which an alternation of so-called ‘personalities’ is not since in such alternation there is only one person concerned at any one time and to use our suggested notation only one person at a time whichever it be XB XC or XD claims to be one and the same person with XA and reciprocally.
I venture however to doubt whether there is really any satisfactory evidence of this compresence of what we may describe as fragmentary personalities using the same organism. In the Beauchamp case ‘Sally’ professed to have been aware of the doings of ‘Miss Beauchamp’ at the time and spoke of herself as though when ‘Miss Beauchamp’ was using the organism common to them both she was herself living a conscious life in a state of unwilling suppression from which she was unable to escape. ‘Miss Beauchamp’ on the other hand pretended to no recollection of the doings of ‘Sally’ of which she appears to have been aware only by hearsay or by inference from their effects just as one might be of the doings of some one else who had as we say impersonated one in one's absence and incurred obligations which one was afterwards expected to discharge. I will confess that Dr. Morton Prince's account has not left me convinced that ‘Sally’ had ever actually been conscious of ‘Miss Beauchamp's’ doings at the time as of the actions of another person than herself. I suspect that we have here only a kind of illusion of the memory. ‘Sally’ really I should conjecture remembered these doings which were indeed her own since she was one person with ‘Miss Beauchamp’ and did not need to learn them from others or infer them from their results. But the sense of alienation from certain of one's own past acts which sometimes may in waking life make a man say: ‘I cannot believe it was myself whom I remember doing this or that’ and which occasionally in dreams gives rise to an illusory sense of distinction from oneself has here I should suppose been exaggerated into a kind of hallucinatory recollection which yet does not recall a state of mind which ever actually existed. I know too well how small is my competence in a matter of this kind to attach more than a very trifling weight to this expression of opinion. I lay no stress upon what is positive in it and only put it forward as an explanation of ‘Sally's’ assertions of compresence with ‘Miss Beauchamp’ which if correct would disable her testimony to an actual disruption of the personal unity such as to present to us at one and the same time two persons claiming on the evidence of memory identity with one and the same person.
It will I hope be clear that what I am doubting is the continuity of two personal consciousnesses with one and the same personal consciousness and not such a dissociation of elements in the same personal consciousness that some while repressed and denied free expression by the dominant will may notwithstanding manifest themselves in bodily motions which the person is not conscious of initiating. For this of course not only happens in the case of ‘automatic writing’ and the like but also very frequently in our everyday experience. I feel sure that no one can deny this who will pay attention to what passes in himself when endeavouring by the concentration of attention upon some particular subject to keep some other out of his mind whether it be from a wish to escape a disagreeable duty or to “crush” in the poet's phrase “a vice of blood Upon the threshold of the mind.”13
(2) The second remark concerning these phenomena of dissociation which I desire to make is this: that the successful treatment of those who exhibit them with a view to reducing again to a unity the personality which has suffered dissociation appears to depend upon the use as a standard and criterion of an ideal of Personality as a rational and moral system of thought and action. In the instance studied in The Dissociation of a Personality Dr. Morton Prince who had not known the lady whom he calls Miss Beauchamp until she had already suffered the shock which resulted in the pathological conditions that led to his being consulted upon her case relates how as a result of his efforts at the reconstitution of the normal personality which had existed before the occurrence of that shock he induced in her a state (distinguished by him as B. IV) which he took at first for the normal personality that he was hoping to restore. In this state she was free alike from the morbid depression of the Miss Beauchamp he had first known (B I) and from the unprincipled extravagance which distinguished the behaviour of ‘Sally’; but on the other hand she lacked the more attractive features of both characters. She had neither the high ideals of the one nor the frank joie de vivre which gave a certain charm to the other. It is noticeable that Dr. Morton Prince was dissatisfied with this issue of his attempt at reconstruction obviously because of its failure to realize the ideal of a harmonious reconciliation of all that was best in the various distinct and mutually disconnected moods—so distinct and disconnected as to challenge for them the title of ‘personalities’—which successively manifested themselves in the physically continuous life of his patient. So much was he dissatisfied that he renewed his hypnotic treatment and did not rest until a somewhat worldly and frivolous character was replaced by one which sufficiently realized the ideal suggested by the fragmentary characters hitherto successively displayed before his observation. This new condition proved to have a stability which none of its predecessors during the period of his acquaintance with the case had possessed; and we are given in the concluding pages of his book to understand that when he wrote them ‘Miss Beauchamp’ remained in this state of mental and moral health free from these abnormal interruptions of the continuity of her spiritual life which have made her so celebrated among psychologists.
We note then that this eminent expert in mental pathology when seeking for a criterion of Personal unity finds it in Reason—and in Reason not only in that narrower sense which abstracts from Morality but in that wider sense familiar alike in the common language of mankind and in the teaching of the greatest philosophers in which Morality is treated as the expression of Reason in practice.14 So far therefore as priority can be asserted for one of the two principles of unity which we are considering over the other we here again seem to find that the claim of the rational principle is stronger than that of the personal; though we must not forget on the other hand that if we only ascribe personality to an individual mind according as it conforms to the rule of Reason this fact in no wise enables us to conceive Reason except as exercised by an individual and in virtue of this exercise of Reason a personal mind.
Before however we pass away from this subject we may profitably take occasion by what has just been said to observe that the dissociation of the personal consciousness which has during recent years been studied in such extreme cases as that described in Dr. Morton Prince's book has in less abnormal instances drawn upon itself in all ages the attention of moralists. I am thinking of course of the phenomena called by the Greeks ἀκρασία; and ἐγκράτεια in which Reason and Inclination the ‘law of the mind’ and the ‘law in the members’ are seen striving one against the other so that a man cannot do the things that he would15 (as he says if he identifies his will with Reason) or prays that his own will may not be done (if he identifies it with inclination). For these phenomena are phenomena of dissociation although they are not exceptional or morbid but constitute a great part of normal human experience.
I will not do more than refer in passing to the question which cannot but occur in this context as to the bearing of our recognition that the existence of ‘dissociation’ is involved in our perception of the moral struggle within ourselves upon our view of the pathological dissociations of which we spoke above. While moral discord plainly does not as a rule lead to pathological dissociation nor susceptibility to the latter go along with any special difficulty in securing the control of conduct by moral principle yet the explanation of marked pathological dissociation in earlier times by diabolical possession (as we may reasonably suppose to be the case for example in such stories as that in the New Testament of the man who gave his name as Legion16) and the prominence of exorcism among the activities of the most primitive period of Christian evangelization indicate a sense of connexion between moral weakness and mental disease which finds some confirmation in the general recognition nowadays of the part that moral and religious influences may play in the cure of the latter.
We may remark also that the temptation to speak of the dissociated elements of consciousness in pathological cases as separate ‘personalities’ is paralleled by the tendency visible in great investigators of man's moral experience such as Plato Aristotle and St. Paul to describe the factors in human nature which are found at odds in the moral struggle in terms that approach personification of them in their separateness; notwithstanding that it is the unity of the personality within which they are mutually opposed which gives its significance to the whole description. It is no less true that a fundamental personal unity is in fact presupposed in the accounts given of ‘pathological dissociation’ even where the word ‘personality’ is applied to each of the dissociated elements.
The point is so germane to these Gifford Lectures that I cannot refrain from touching here upon the possibility which might be suggested that the ascription of Personality to God which is their theme may be in fact merely a further stage of the personification of the parties to the moral struggle within human souls. The person who is the scene of this conflict it may be said identifies himself as we have seen now with one now with another of these parties: the other with which he is not at the moment identifying himself he tends to describe and imagine as another person not himself whether he call it “no more I but sin that dwelleth in me” or on the other hand “not I but the grace of God which was with me.”17 There is a plausibility in this suggestion which is due as always with genuine plausibility to a spice of truth which it contains. The experience of Religion as I have insisted throughout is such that any theology which is to give an adequate account of it must affirm both the transcendence and the immanence of its Object and affirm them in an intimate mutual connexion. But the factor in that experience which testifies to Personality in God is to be sought not in the consciousness of a distinction between the combatants in the moral struggle within us but in the consciousness of obligation which initiates the struggle and in the sense of dependence upon Another than ourselves if the issue of the struggle is to be a victory securing to the higher principle its rightful authority. This is felt all the more strongly when we identify ourselves with that higher principle itself.
But with the recognition of being under obligation and of dependence upon Another and with the interpretation of the experiences which suggest this recognition in terms not merely of relation to Another but of a personal relation to that Other comes a further interpretation of the significance of the moral struggle itself which must inevitably seem to confirm our primitive tendency to personify the parties to it by envisaging the higher principle in it as representative of the Divine Personality to the acknowledgment of which we have been led.
Even this very primitive tendency itself however deserves a careful examination for it expresses a characteristic of the human soul which is of first-rate importance for the understanding of the problems of the moral life. This feature is the claim which each ideal that presents itself to us and our response to which embodies itself in a certain mood (or ‘sentiment’) makes to an undivided allegiance from him who entertains it. I cannot turn aside now to dwell upon this subject; I shall probably most easily suggest to you what is in my mind by reference to a poem of Browning's where the essence of it is put in a very few words. In this poem18 three ladies dispute of the reasons for preferring a lover. One would choose pure thoughts another heroic deeds; the third rather than either “a wretch mere losel in body and soul” so he loved her only. And the Abbé who is umpire decides in favour of the third:
The love which to one and one only has reference
Seems terribly like what perhaps gains God's preference.
Many ideals challenge our allegiance; to none can we when once its appeal has really reached us refuse recognition without committing the greatest of sins by denying that to be good which we know to be so; yet such recognition in any case is inadequate unless it commit us to a self-surrender which would seem to involve a like sin against other ideals. Set out in psychological rather than in ethical terms this situation (with which no writer has more constantly occupied himself than the poet to whom I have just resorted for a vivid expression of it) may be described as the tendency on the part of every ‘sentiment’ or mood to expand itself into what as associating itself with all which falls within the system of one person's psychical life may be called a ‘personality.’ The existence of this tendency explains and gives a significance to the poetic or literary personification of the ‘parts of the soul’ or of the combatants in the moral struggle of which I spoke above. It illustrates also the truth that personality is essentially a principle of unity and that where we are tempted to speak of the abnormal dissociation of elements normally combined as ‘multiple personality’ it is just because the unity of Personality persists even in such dissociation so that each dissociated element in turn claims to possess that unity to the exclusion of the rest.
The final lesson then which we may learn for our present purpose from the phenomena of ‘multiple personality’ and from those more ordinary phenomena of delirium dreaming moral struggle absent-mindedness—which in the light of these are seen to be like them phenomena of dissociation—is that in the life of the human soul there is from the first a principle of unity which is presupposed even where we seem to find the normal consciousness of it replaced by a consciousness not only of distraction but of mutual opposition; but also that this principle does not from the first succeed in reducing all the psychical material (if the phrase may be allowed) within and upon which it operates to a harmonious order in which it will manifestly express throughout in divers ways the identical nature of the whole. The unity of human Personality is thus an achievement although an achievement which would be impossible apart from a principle of unity operative from the very beginning of what can be called personal life at all.
It might at first seem as if this original unity could be no other than the unity of the bodily organism. If it be true that we have no experience of Reason except as a personal activity it is no less true that (if we leave out of account the religious experience of personal intercourse with God which some would assert to be no genuine experience at all) we have no experience of Personality except as expressing itself in and through an animal body. Moreover in such cases of extreme distraction and dissociation as those which are described as exhibiting ‘multiple personality’ it is primarily and in the main because they express themselves through the same bodily organism that we take ‘sally’ for the same person with ‘Miss Beauchamp’ or in another famous American case19 the candy-store keeper A. J. Brown for the same person as the Baptist preacher Ansel Bourne who disappeared from the town of Greene in Rhode Island two months before Brown set up his business at Norristown in Pennsylvania.
Why should we look further afield for an original unity of the person than in the unity of the organism? It is true that it is by no means easy to say what it is that constitutes the unity of the organism itself; but that is not a question upon which we can here enter. We may say however without much fear of contradiction that there is nothing to suggest that a human personality could come into being except in connexion with a single organism. But it does not follow from this that we can identify the unity of the person at any stage at which we can speak of a person at all with the physical unity of the organism. The impossibility of doing this is well put by a thinker20 who holds that “there is no mind without body” and that “mind and body are not an original diversity” but “the dichotomizing of an original unity”—a thinker who thus holds no brief for disembodied spirits or for a ‘creationism’ (to use the old theological expression) which would give to the soul an origin independent of the physical parentage of the body.
“The constituent elements of the mind and the constituent elements of the body” says Professor Wildon Carr “are absolutely heterogeneous and there is no common factor in psychical and physiological process.” “Memory and imagination do not pertain to the continuity of physiological process in the body but to the unity and continuity of conscious experience which we call the personal self.” “My reason for rejecting the simple statement that the brain thinks is that it seems to me untrue in fact. I can imagine that the brain might think and feel and will but what I cannot imagine is how thought and feelings and volitions if they were acts of the brain would form the mind. They would in a certain way hang together and they would have the unity which comes from being owned but could they of themselves form an organic individual system such as the mind is? I find it then impossible to believe that as a fact the brain thinks because I find that as a fact the brain is not the mind.”
These admirably clear remarks describe better than I could do in words of my own the real obstacle which exists to supposing that the unity of the personal self can be satisfactorily explained by reference to the unity of the organism however intimately we may hold the two systems which we call Soul and Body to be connected together.21
But though we shall not find in the phenomena of dissociation reason to dismiss the personal principle of unity in human experience as a mere result of the temporary coalescence of heterogeneous units comparable to the unity of a heap of sand or stones we may certainly find in them some ground for regarding this principle as subordinate and secondary to the rational principle with which I contrasted it; since this latter serves as a standard by which to test the claim of any system of conscious activities to rank as personal while no reciprocal claim can be brought forward on the part of Personality to serve as the standard of what is rational. The attempts of Pragmatism and of Personal Idealism to establish the primacy of the personal principle we have already judged to be unsuccessful; and we have thus so far found nothing with which we have cause to disagree in that comparative depreciation of this principle which is characteristic of thinkers who take their departure from some form of Absolute Idealism.
In the next Lecture I propose to carry further the consideration of this comparative depreciation of Personality by Absolute Idealism.