We have now determined our standpoint. It is the standpoint of the Agent. We have also determined the logical form of the personal as one in which a positive contains and is constituted by its own negative. A self we have said is a being that exists through self-negation. Our task now is to give to this pure form a progressively more concrete content. For this purpose we ought first to consider the character of sense-perception from the standpoint of the Self as agent. For in some form sense-perception is fundamental to all our experience and constitutes a ‘given’ both for thought and for action. From the standpoint of the ‘Cogito’ which establishes a dualism of mind and body sense perception is a mystery because as sense it is bodily while as perception it is mental. Descartes was clear about this and saw that sense-perception must be excluded from the process of thought. If we presuppose the ‘Cogito’ then knowledge if it is to be truly knowledge must start from concepts and proceed through concepts. But since Locke or at least since Kant it has been recognized that this is impossible. Yet the problem remains so long as the primacy of the theoretical is assumed. Attempts to make sense-perception the basis of knowledge as in some sense it clearly is must either assimilate the material to the mental or absorb the mental in the material.
Theories of sense-perception have always tended to be primarily theories of vision. I am referring of course to philosophical theories. Scientific theories of sense-perception are out of court since they must presuppose the issue that is at question. Indeed they are characteristically self-refuting; because as scientific they assume that in normal sense-perception we apprehend material objects in space and as theories of sense-perception they conclude that we do not but are aware only of the effects of these material objects upon our bodily organs. An inquiry which limits itself to tracing the transformations of energy through the nervous system from a receptor organ to a muscular contraction is debarred from including in the circuit any element of a ‘mental’ character. There is no place in the system for it. The philosophical problem of sense-perception is how we apprehend the existence of such energy transformations in the first place and indeed what ground we have other than an inexplicable natural belief for thinking that they have an independent existence at all. Philosophical theories of perception I have said tend to be theories of visual perception. They assume the primacy of vision: that is to say they take vision as the model of all sensory experience and proceed as though it were certain that a true theory of visual perception will apply mutatis mutandis to all other modes of sense-perception.
Now this concentration of attention on vision has had very important effects upon philosophy in general. From the time of the Greeks and especially through the influence of Plato ‘vision’ has tended to be the model upon which all knowledge is construed. Thought is taken to be an inner vision. Reflection is ‘contemplation’. The basis of science is ‘observation’ and the scientist himself is ‘the observer’. When we talk of the world which we discover in sense-perception as the world which we come to understand by reflective thought we usually mean the world that we see when we use our eyes. This tendency of course is not merely a philosophical convention. It has powerful roots in the de facto importance of vision in practical life. But if we are seeking an adequate theory of sense-perception it is dangerous to give way to such psychological tendencies however natural. The most serious effect of doing so is that visual experience will tend to provide the model for the apperception of the Self as subject. If we construe the Subject as the observer then in knowledge the Self as subject ‘stands over against’ the object which it knows and any activities involved in this knowing must be purely subjective or mental; that is to say they make no difference to or have no causal effect upon the object. The influence of the visual model is very clear in this. In visual perception we do stand over against the object we see; it is set before us and our seeing it has no causal effect upon it. Seeing is prima facie a pure receptivity; to exercise it attentively we withdraw from action altogether. We stop to look. In consequence the visual model tends to instigate a strong contrast between knowing and acting which in abstract theory passes easily into a conceptual dualism.
What concerns us now is not a theory of perception for its own sake but an answer to the question ‘How is it that through sense-perception I am aware of the Other?’ I say ‘the Other’ and not the Object; because the object is the correlative of the subject and we must avoid this when we adopt the standpoint of action. The Self as agent is an existent and its correlative therefore is also in existence. It is this correlative of the Agent-self that I refer to as the Other. In a particular case the Other may be another thing or another organism or another person. In referring to the Other we abstract from these differentiations and attend only to the general characteristic of being an existent other than the existing Self. Our question is therefore ‘How do we come by our awareness of existents other than ourselves?’ From the standpoint of the ‘Cogito’ no answer is possible. The Object as correlative of the Subject carries no implication of existence since the Subject is not itself as subject an existent. The Object is simply whatever I think about when I think. Nor is there any way from thought to existence. No judgement can discriminate between existence and non-existence in the object of thought; for as Kant showed existence is not a predicate. It follows that the only viable type of philosophy from the standpoint of the ‘Cogito’ is idealism; and I must agree with the realist criticism that all idealism is subjective idealism which in turn must reduce to solipsism. But the realist assertion that what is perceived by the senses is not dependent on the mind seems also to be a sheer dogma. At most the realist can assert that what is apprehended in sense-perception is not necessarily dependent on the perceiving of it. The independent existence of the object remains problematical. It is a possibility for which no evidence can be offered.
But from the standpoint of the Agent the case is different. We are not here concerned with sense-perception as a lower limit of thought but as an element in action. The form of action includes knowledge as its negative; for without perception action could not be. It is this that makes it necessary to consider sense-perception afresh and in particular to avoid the assumption that visual perception is primary. For such an assumption suggests that all forms of perception are as vision prima facie seems to be a pure receptivity to impressions.
That this is not so can best be seen by contrasting visual with tactual perception. The fundamental difference is that tactual perception involves physical contact between the organ of sense and the object perceived while vision is incompatible with this. Sight operates only at a distance touch only in contact. But this must be stated otherwise if its full significance is not to be missed. I can only become aware of anything tactually by doing something to it. Tactual perception is necessarily perception in action. To touch anything is to exert pressure upon it however slight and therefore however slightly to modify it. Visual perception on the contrary excludes any operation upon its object and is a perception in passivity.
Now if we ask which of these modes of perception the active or the passive takes priority of the other as the basis of knowledge the answer must be that touch is prior to vision. A man may be born blind and yet grow up to know the world he lives in and to direct his activities by this knowledge. His lack of vision is a great limitation and a serious handicap but it does not take away his capacity for objective knowledge. But is it possible to conceive a human being who never possessed a tactual sense? It is of course possible to imagine this in the sense that it is possible to imagine anything that is compatible with the conditions of intuition. It is possible to imagine a centaur or even to paint a recognizable picture of a centaur; and even to believe in the creature's existence so long as one does not ask questions about its physiology. Indeed when we imagine the existence of a pure subject we are precisely imagining a being possessed of a merely passive intuition of the type of visual perception. But any question about how such a being if he were born into the world without the capacity to feel any pressure upon him could survive; or if he could survive how he could ever know that he was surrounded by a world of things reveals that the situation is unthinkable. The theoretical reason for this is that a purely visual experience would provide no ground for distinguishing in practice between imagining and perceiving. The result would be a practical solipsism.
The core of tactual perception is the experience of resistance. Now resistance is not a sense-datum even if it may perhaps include as part of the experience what may be abstracted as such. It is essentially a practical experience. By this I mean that it presupposes that I am doing something that I am in action and that I am prevented from achieving my intention. If per impossibile I could be totally passive and still conscious I should be totally incapable of experiencing resistance. Resistance therefore is a frustration of the will. The experience occurs only when I am prevented from doing something that I am trying to do. If for example I set about walking straight forward in the dark and collide with a wall I become aware of the wall as an obstacle to my progress. The harder I press forward the stronger the resistance. Yet if I had stopped walking before I reached the obstacle I should never have known that it was there.
Now since my existence in general is my being an agent because the ‘I do’ is the centre of origin of all my experience it follows that my momentary existence is identified for me with what I am doing at the moment. The tactual experience of resistance is the experience of something not myself which prevents me from doing what I am doing. Tactual perception as the experience of resistance is the direct and immediate apprehension of the Other-than-myself. The Other is that which resists my will. Moreover if we limit our experience to the mere experience of resistance alone then we must say that it reveals to us that the Other exists but not at all what it is. The Other appears simply as the negation of the Self as that which limits its existence. It is that which moves against me in the negative direction.
Since we are referring to personal experience we shall expect to find that it includes and is constituted by its own negative. Notice first that I might for instance have chosen as example a man's effort to stand still and upright in the teeth of a gale. In that case the resistance would be his resistance to an active force compelling him to move against his will. He is then aware of himself as that which resists the Other. The fact that we can exemplify the experience of resistance either way shows us that in practical experience Self and Other are correlatives discriminated together by their opposition; and this opposition constitutes the unity of the experience. The Self does not first know itself and determine an objective; and then discover the other in carrying out its intention. The distinction of Self and Other is the awareness of both; and the existence of both is the fact that their opposition is a practical and not a theoretical opposition. For if we posit the primacy of the theoretical the distinction would fall within the Self and be purely logical. Nothing could exhibit this more clearly than Fichte's enunciation of the first principles of the Science of Knowledge. His starting-point is the Ego which is pure activity. The Ego posits itself. This is the thesis. The antithesis follows; Within the Ego the Ego posits the Non-ego. Thus the distinction between Self and Other falls wholly within the unity of the Self. The reason is that the pure act which is the Ego is an act of thought. What Fichte achieves is the formal description of a dream—experience in which I appear to myself as one element in my own dream.
We must notice in the second place another aspect of the experience of resistance. The resistance of the Other is not merely a negation of the act of the Self it is necessary to the possibility of the act and so constitutive of it. For without a resistance no action is possible. To act at all is to act upon something. Consequently the Other is discovered in tactual perception both as the resistance to and the support of action. If I lean with all my weight against a door that has jammed and it suddenly flies open I find that the resistance which I was trying to overcome was the support of my effort to overcome it. Without it I lose control of my action and fall headlong. This ambiguity of the Other as that which sustains all action by resisting it we must put up with for the time being. For we are committed in this first volume to maintaining an egocentric standpoint which will only be overcome when in the second we consider the mutualities of personal relation.
We must distinguish the perception of resistance from tactual discrimination. The latter is a theoretical activity aiming to discover something about the object not to do something to it. When I discover the wall in the dark as an obstacle I may feel my way along it in the hope of finding an opening so that I may continue my progress. This is a theoretical activity which forms an essential part of the accomplishment of a practical activity. Tactual discrimination however may also be part of a purely theoretical activity that is to say of an activity which is undertaken for the sake of knowledge and determined by no practical intention. But whatever the mode of its relation to action it is always active; it is discrimination through action. I can discover nothing about the object tactually except by physical movement and what is so discovered is in its immediacy variations of resistance correlated with variations in movement. The tactual perception of shape size weight hardness surface texture all depend upon the varying of resistance from zero to a maximum which is determined by the amount of energy which I can bring to bear. But such discrimination involves the co-operation of other forms of sensory awareness; in particular the kinaesthetic awareness of the movement of my body. The concepts connected directly with tactual discrimination are those which form the basic concepts for the physicist in his description of the material world—energy and momentum inertia direction and mass. It would seem therefore that physics is concerned with the translation of an apprehension of the world which is largely visual into terms of tactual experience.
Tactual perception is our only means of having a direct and immediate awareness of the Other as existent. Visual experience does not provide this. For vision is not essentially active; it is characteristically passive. In consequence visual perception of existent objects is indirect and mediate. Not all visual experience is perceptual. It requires light as its medium of perception; though we can have visual experience without light in the form of visual images. But even when we are looking at a sunlit landscape a distinction has to be drawn between things and images. Reflections and shadows have to be distinguished from the objects which cast them and denied an independent reality; yet as objects of vision as visual sense-data there is no such distinction. Thus the perception of objects by sight however psychologically immediate is logically mediated. It involves essentially a distinction between appearance and reality. It involves the reference of a sense-datum to an existent which is not visually determined.
The significance of this only appears when we consider visual perception from the standpoint of action. For vision in spite of its negative relation to action functions primarily in action and as a guide to action. From a theoretical standpoint vision is perception at a distance; but from the practical point of view the spatial must give place to a temporal definition. It is anticipatory perception. It enables us to anticipate contact that is to say the resistance of the other; and the distance at which an object is seen is a measure of the time it will take to make contact with it; and so of the movement that must be made before the object can be acted upon. Visual perception is therefore symbolic. The sense-datum is a present experience which represents and refers to a future experience of a tactual order in which alone the Other is given. It must therefore be referred to the Self which has the experience as characterizing him since it has no objective existence in its own right. In other words all visual experience is the formation of an image in the Self: it becomes perceptual by being correctly referred to a future tactual perception in which alone an Other-than-self is apprehended. To perceive by sight is to correlate the occurrence of visual imagery with tactual experience and the capacity to do so has to be learned. Thus the traditional view that images are derived from percepts is so far as vision at least is concerned the reverse of the truth. The capacity to form images is a prior condition of the possibility of visual perception.
That all visual experience is imagery is familiar doctrine though it is usually stated in more general terms. For the assumption that visual experience is the model for all sensory experience leads directly to the generalization that all sensory experience is in its immediacy subjective and that it becomes objective through a judgement which refers it beyond itself. Idealism holds this explicitly realism implicitly and ambiguously. For the realist maintains that what is given in immediate sense-experience is a sense-datum not a physical object; and the ‘existence’ of a sense-datum is a Pickwickian existence. The colour of an object exists just as its shadow exists not in its own right but as a character or property of the existent object. If there is no such object—in a case of hallucination for example—then the colour that is seen is illusory. More important as evidence however is the systematic illusion of perspective which is constitutive for visual perception and not accidental; and also the abrupt transformations of the visual field when the direction of vision is changed. At least these are difficulties for any theory of vision which treats it from the point of view of the Self as subject. From the point of view of action they are essential to the practical function of sight the anticipation of contact. In tactual perception there are strictly speaking no illusions. What are often described as such are illusions of feeling; and indeed it is misleading even to talk of tactual sense-data. Tactual perception is always perception in action. If we abstract from the action we no longer have a perceptual element but a feeling that is an element in the general coenasthesia which is the awareness of our own internal state. A prick for instance in its immediacy is a feeling of pain which is located in my skin. On the basis of past experience I may assume an external cause for it; and on occasion I may be wrong. But in any case I do not refer the pricking feeling to the object which causes it as I do for example with a visual sense-datum.
All visual experience I have said is the production of an image. Visual perception is the reference of an image to the Other. I ought perhaps to justify this generalization of the term ‘image’ since it may seem to blur the accepted distinction between image and percept and so deprive us of the distinction between seeing and imagining. My excuse would be that the first step to be taken is precisely to abolish this distinction in its traditional form. We can then distinguish when necessary different classes of images. The common usage of language does this. A graven image is a physical object; an image in a mirror is still perceived not imagined. Only a ‘mental’ image is not perceived but merely imagined. Since we have rejected the dualism of mind and matter the philosophical distinction between mental and bodily seeing between image and percept is no longer valid for us and what basis there is for it requires reformulation. From the standpoint of the Agent cognition is included in action as the negative aspect of action without which action would not be action but merely happening there would be no acts but only events. We might therefore distinguish as a first approximation between images which are and images which are not referred to the immediate field of action. Now in action the function of visual perception is anticipatory. Consequently the reference of the visual image is its location in space. The components of this location are direction and distance from the position of the Agent. We must therefore distinguish between images which are rightly located and images which are not. The latter are illusory anticipations of contact. It is this difference to which we often refer when we talk of seeing the image of a thing and not the thing itself or more generally when we distinguish in visual experience between appearance and reality. Consider three cases of visual imagery; the image formed when we look at an object; when we look at its reflection in a mirror; and when we reproduce the image with closed eyes. Let us assume a perfect mirror and an observer with perfect visualizing powers. Then these three images quâ images are not merely similar but identical. We call the mirror reflection a mirror-image or a mere appearance or an illusory perception because it is wrongly located; that is because if we go in the direction and to the distance at which we locate it we shall not find ourselves in contact with the object. Yet if we look at the object through a periscope we see the thing itself and not an ‘image’ of it because the visual location of the object both as to direction and distance is practically correct in spite of the double reflection. Even the ‘illusion’ of the single mirror image disappears with practical experience and the driver of a car sees another vehicle approaching from behind by looking at his driving mirror. In the same way the systematic ‘illusions’ of perspective are essential to the functioning of visual perception since they provide the basis for the correct location of the image in depth. Here the mediacy of visual perception is particularly obvious because our apprehension of distance varies so remarkably with changes in atmospheric and other conditions. The capacity to correlate visual with tactual experience has to be learned.
We need not carry this issue farther. It will serve our purpose better if we consider from the new standpoint the phenomena of consciousness in general. The term ‘consciousness’ has followed the term ‘experience’ into the outer darkness to which philosophy banishes words that will not behave themselves. The reason for this is the trouble produced by the dualism inherent in a purely theoretical standpoint. It is time to reinstate them when dualism is overcome. ‘Experience’ is a practical concept referring to whatever is apprehended in action in distinction from what is thought in reflection. ‘Consciousness’ on the other hand is a general term for all sub-rational awareness which may be conceived either as all that remains when we abstract from the rationality of our own awareness or as an actual form of awareness in sub-rational creatures or in rational beings under abnormal conditions. ‘Rational consciousness’ means ‘knowledge’. It is a legitimate term only because knowledge being personal contains and is constituted by its own negation. Since knowledge is the negative aspect of action and action may in consequence be termed ‘rational behaviour’ ‘consciousness’ is properly ‘conscious behaviour’ and as such it is a term which serves to isolate the subject matter of empirical psychology.
We are faced at the outset with a methodological problem. How can we determine theoretically and so represent conceptually the other's consciousness whether the other be another human being or an animal? From the standpoint of the ‘Cogito’ with its dualism of mind and matter the answer is that we cannot. This is indeed the reason why all philosophy which adopts this standpoint reduces logically to solipsism and so refutes itself. But from the standpoint of the ‘I do’ consciousness is the negative aspect of conscious behaviour; that is of a form of behaviour which necessitates consciousness as a ground of its possibility. We know that a cat sees because we see it using its eyes to anticipate contact; just as we know that a man with eyes like our own is blind through observing his failures to anticipate contact by using his eyes. If it is asked how we know that this involves the cat in forming a visual image the answer is is that to anticipate a future contact necessitates a present symbol and if it is visual then the symbol is a visual image. If we are asked how we know that the image the cat forms is identical with the one we form when we see the same object the answer is that we do not. So far as the cat's eye is constructed like our own it is reasonable to assume this; if there are differences of construction it is reasonable to assume a difference in the image. We know that colour-blind people do not form the same images as we do. We know also that they see and that they form visual images of some sort. We know that they are visually conscious.
There is therefore no difficulty arising from our inability to see through any eyes other than our own to be overcome. To think that there is would be like thinking that we cannot understand what someone says to us without knowing whether he uses visual or auditory or no imagery at all in thinking it. What does require to be pointed out in this connexion is something different. The common notion that there is no difficulty in knowing how inorganic bodies move or no special difficulty; that the special difficulty arises when we try to understand the behaviour of conscious organisms is the opposite of the truth. Formally and theoretically there is no special difficulty at all; our knowledge of the Other whatever the Other may be is of the same kind. But in practice we understand any form of behaviour better the closer it is to our own.
All human knowledge is necessarily anthropomorphic for the simple reason that we are human beings. By this I mean that we can only determine the behaviour of the Other through a knowledge of our own. We have already noted that tactual perception distinguishes immediately between Self and Other. Yet in itself as mere experience of resistance it determines neither. It depends as we have seen upon the ‘I do’ which accompanies all my activity. There is however no corresponding ‘The Other does’ which is immediately given. For this reason my knowledge of myself has a priority over my knowledge of the Other. I can understand the Other only by imputing to it a determination of the Self. The Other is given as a resistance to my action; I must therefore characterize the Other as an agent like myself acting against me. In general then the rule for the determination of the activity of the Other is this: I must attribute to the Other if I am to understand it the form of activity that I attribute to myself. My understanding of the behaviour of the Other is always mediated through my understanding of my own. For I have an immediate awareness of my own states and activities and their modifications which I do not have of those of the Other.
This inevitable anthropomorphism is undoubtedly the reason for the animism both of young children and of primitive Man. It may also provide the justification of religious belief. But at this point in the argument we are in no position to say so. The anthropomorphism of which I speak is not necessarily animistic; and it characterizes physical science just as much as religion. We do not necessarily characterize every particular other by crediting it with all the characteristics of the Self particularly with its rational characteristics. Our knowledge is anthropomorphic in the sense that whatever characteristics we attribute to the Other must be included within the full characterization of ourselves. When we distinguish between persons and material things the characteristics we attribute to things are a selection from the characteristics we attribute to a person. All the characteristics of a material object are also characteristics of a person. He is a material object though that is not a complete nor a sufficient characterization. When I say then that our knowledge of the physical world however scientific is anthropomorphic I mean that unless I had fallen downstairs or otherwise lost control of my movements I could not understand what was meant by ‘a body falling freely through space’. We can state this generally. The concept of ‘a person’ is inclusive of the concept of ‘an organism’ as the concept of ‘an organism’ is inclusive of that of ‘a material body’. The included concepts can be derived from the concept of ‘a person’ by abstractions; by excluding from attention those characters which belong to the higher category alone. The empirical ground for these distinctions is found in practical experience. We cannot deal with organisms successfully in the same way that we can with material objects or with persons. The form of their resistance—in opposition or in support—necessitates a difference in our own behaviour. The empirical genesis of the ‘mind’ and ‘matter’ dualism lies in this that having abstracted the concept of a ‘material’ object from the concept of a ‘person’ in this way we then illegitimately form a concept on the negative analogy of ‘the material’ by thinking a unity of what has been excluded. This is the concept of the ‘non-material’ or ‘the mind’ or of ‘consciousness’ as an independently existing entity.
Before distinguishing different levels of consciousness we must rid ourselves of the effects in the psychological field of this dualistic construction. It appears as a hypothesis of psychophysical parallelism. Now there are abnormal experiences for which this is a not inappropriate description. If I fall from a height into the sea I lose control completely of the movement of my body. I cannot act. Yet I am conscious of falling. We might reasonably say in such a case that my consciousness accompanies or runs parallel with the movement of my body without affecting it. But in this precisely consists the abnormality of the experience. Normal experience presents a strong contrast with this since then my consciousness is one of the determinants of my bodily movement. There can be no possible doubt of this. If I lose consciousness while walking I fall down. Not only does what I am doing stop but the form of my observable behaviour alters to that of a material body. Now any factor in a movement the exclusion of which alters the form of the movement is ipso facto a determinant of the movement. When I act therefore my consciousness—my seeing hearing remembering thinking—does not accompany but is integrated with my bodily movements and is a part-determinant of them. The body-mind problem is therefore fictitious. That it exists merely proves that there is an error in our representation of mind or of body or of both. It is however desirable not to use the term ‘cause’ in this connexion. For though causality used to have and still sometimes has a significance which covers all types of determination it is now more familiar in a narrower usage which applies only to the determination of physical movement by other physical movements. Even the behaviour of plants is better described in terms of reaction to stimulus than in terms of cause and effect.
‘Conscious behaviour’ then is an abstraction from ‘action’. The abstraction consists in excluding rationality from the concept of action. The term ‘behaviour’ is strictly an organic concept. Inorganic entities do not behave they merely move. We have good reason to believe that some organisms behave consciously while others do not; but in either case we seek to understand behaviour by considering the movement of an organism as a reaction to stimulus; while we understand inorganic movement as the effect of a cause and action as the realization of an intention. We seek the reason for an action. Thus in seeking to understand human behaviour the psychologist considers it from the organic point of view as reaction to stimulus. He is right in this since the abstraction from rationality is the principle which delimits his field of inquiry and human beings whatever more they may be are organisms. This means of course that psychology cannot give a complete account of human behaviour and if in particular cases the account is complete then the behaviour in question is abnormal; that is it is actually and not merely theoretically dissociated from any rational determination.
These remarks may enable us to understand the assertion which I now proceed to make. Consciousness is primarily motive not cognitive. Whether it is ever cognitive depends on how we define cognition. If by cognition we mean knowledge then consciousness is never cognitive since knowledge depends upon the awareness of a distinction between Self and Other and this is the basis of rational (or irrational) behaviour. We need not settle this issue which must be left to the psychologists; we may proceed instead to explain and exemplify what is meant by ‘motive consciousness’. Let us suppose that we were trying to construct a purely hypothetical account of the evolution of consciousness. We could proceed only by distinguishing a hierarchy of levels within our own human consciousness such that though each level is a conceivably viable form of consciousness by itself every higher level is viable only if it includes the levels below it. Our first question might be this ‘What is the lower limit of consciousness?’ The obvious answer would be that it must consist in a bare capacity to distinguish between comfort and discomfort which is the lowest form of pleasure-pain discrimination. Below this consciousness disappears and we are left with an organism which reacts to stimulus without consciousness. At this point we find that the terms we use become ambiguous. They sometimes do and sometimes do not imply the presence of consciousness. Such terms as ‘sensitiveness’ ‘attraction’ and ‘repulsion’ are applied to magnets and to plants; yet they are also used to indicate modes of consciousness. This indicates simply that around the lower limit of consciousness we are not sure in a particular case whether the reaction to stimulus we observe is a conscious reaction or entirely non-conscious.
What concerns us is that consciousness emerges as a new element in the determination of an organism's reaction to stimulus. It makes possible a form of behaviour which would not be possible in its absence. For our present purpose we need only notice a few points of interest. First the reason for distinguishing between ‘cause-effect’ and ‘stimulus-reaction’ is that the former is included in the latter. If I tread on the cat's tail the effect that I cause is the crushing of the tissues of the tail by the weight of my body. This occasions a feeling of pain in the cat. But the reaction of the cat to the stimulus is with voice and teeth and claws. A reaction could of course occur as the behaviour of an organism without consciousness of any kind; but if pain is occasioned then the pain is an element in the determination of the reaction. In fact the concept of reaction to stimulus is teleological whether consciousness is present or no. To use it is to imply that the movements in question cannot be fully described without reference to an end. Teleological language in this—which is the Aristotelian—sense is descriptive not explanatory. Aristotle we may remember found it adequate to the description of the growth of plants; but not without modification to the description of human action because of the presence of an image of the end.
Secondly consciousness at this level is purely motive. It is occasioned by a stimulus from the environment and is a factor in determining the reaction which if successful is an adaptation of the organism to the environment. It is an awareness but not an awareness of anything; not of the stimulus nor of the reaction nor of the environment. If we call all modes of consciousness of this type ‘feeling’ then we can say that all feeling is motive consciousness and is in no sense cognitive. It is the manner in which an organism is affected by a stimulus. A feeling of pain is simply a painful feeling; and since it is the organism that is ‘affected’ the feeling is a self-awareness which is not an awareness of self. In relation to the environmental stimulus which is not cognized feeling is an element in the reaction the rest of the reaction being a movement of the organism in relation to its environment which may on occasion be a suppression of movement. The feeling is integrated with the movement; so we may describe it as a ‘moving-feeling’ which is not a feeling of movement which would imply a distinguishing of the movement from the feeling. Within the total reaction the feeling functions as the directing or selective element. It selects the direction of the movement without being an awareness of selection. It makes a variation of movement in reaction possible which would not occur without it. It raises the level of reaction from ‘mere movement’ to ‘conscious movement’.
Thirdly: a reaction which is below this level is ‘unconscious’. It is however still a reaction to stimulus and so an adaptation to the environment. It requires teleological description. We must therefore presuppose an unconscious ‘rapport’ between organism and environment which unites them in a practical organic reciprocity. This cannot be a purely causal relation since it involves the use of teleological terms—such as ‘function’ and ‘adaptation’—to describe it. In this sense all consciousness presupposes an ‘unconscious’ which is not a mere negation of consciousness but a negative element within it. Since ‘consciousness’ is an abstraction—a limitation of attention to an element in a reaction which cannot exist by itself—the full statement should be that conscious adaptation to environment presupposes unconscious adaptation.
Fourthly this primary level of conscious behaviour permits of a considerable degree of discrimination within its conscious element which is itself correlated with a range of variation in the reaction to stimulus. The primary formal distinction is between positive and negative feeling which direct movements of attraction and movements of repulsion respectively. There is evidence that negative is prior to positive feeling so that the lowest limit of consciousness is a feeling integrated with a defensive reaction. In our own consciousness it is discriminated as ‘fear’ and is the correlate of the recognition of danger. The positive feelings would then be developed within behaviour by contrast as integrated with and directing movements of positive adaptation. Defence reactions designate the environment as opposing and positive reactions as supporting the life of the organism. As a result consciousness in general is primarily negative and its positive aspects are derivative. The qualitative discriminations of feeling we need not consider in this context.
What does concern us particularly is the distinction between this level of consciousness and a higher one which is characterized by the development of special senses. Since our purpose is not psychological but philosophical we may limit our attention to the critical case which is that of vision. Our question is whether the special senses which belong to a higher level of consciousness differ from feeling in being cognitive rather than motive and if so in what sense. Vision has clearly the highest claim to be in itself cognitive and is therefore sufficient for our purpose. But something must first be said about tactual experience if only because we have already assigned it the primacy in cognition as the awareness of the Other.
All sensory awareness is a phenomenon of contact between organism and environment. If we ignore for our purpose internal stimuli as a special case we may say that this contact takes place at the surface of the organism. Something touches the organism in all awareness but all awareness is not therefore tactual experience. Touch therefore as a special sense is the awareness of contact and therefore of the distinction between Self and Other and all cognition by means of touch is a tactual discrimination which presupposes this. Below this level the awareness produced by contact is a feeling and such awareness is purely motive. We must beware in this context of relying on the physiology of the nervous system as a guide. There are special nerves for pain but not for pleasure but pain and pleasure are both feelings. Touch therefore as a special sense is above the level of subjective consciousness; it is the lower limit of a consciousness of objects.
Vision differs from feeling in that it requires a capacity to produce images. Whereas a feeling of pain is a painful feeling seeing a blue circle is not a circular blue seeing. It is a presentation. But this does not mean that the image is apprehended as an image in distinction from a percept. Nor does it mean that the organism distinguishes between its seeing and what it sees. The reason for the ambiguity of the term ‘sensation’ is that at the level of sensory consciousness there is no distinction between the sensing and what is sensed. What takes its place is the distinction between feeling and sensing. For sense presupposes feeling and is necessarily accompanied by it even if the feeling is not attended to. Feeling is the primary mode in which we are affected by objects and forms the matrix of consciousness within which presentational consciousness is occasioned. That sense is derivative from feeling can I believe be shown though I do not wish to spend time now in submitting the evidence. I shall mention one point in it only. The stimulation of a special sense provides up to a certain maximum of intensity a clearer presentation; beyond this maximum only a feeling of pain. If the stimulus is decreased sufficiently we reach a point where we ‘feel’ rather than ‘sense’ something. It is we say ‘as if’ there were an image though actually there is not. The simplest explanation of this seems to be that a feeling is present which would generate an image if the stimulus were a little stronger; and the character of the feeling as a result of experience enables us to anticipate the image and so functions in the control of behaviour as the image would if it were formed. This may be the basis of what is described as ‘imageless thinking’.
To our main question whether the formation of an image is cognitive the answer must be a negative one. Sense like feeling is in itself purely motive. It is a mode of awareness which enormously increases the possibility of discrimination in the reaction to a stimulus. The range of discrimination in feeling is considerable; but it is very small relatively to the possible discriminations in a visual field. Indeed the possibilities of visual discrimination far exceed the possibilities of muscular discrimination in behaviour. There is an overplus of refinement in visual discrimination beyond what is necessary for the guidance of the most sensitive reaction and in which the organism can take pleasure without being able to employ it practically. This may even result in a kind of reflective activity which has no practical reference; and it is the probable source of dreaming certainly of the immense preponderance of visual elements in dreaming.
Even at its most primitive visual experience is spatial and the intuition of space is primarily visual. We may imagine the most primitive form of vision as a mere capacity to distinguish light and dark. Perhaps the most primitive form of visual organ enables its possessor only to ‘see sparks’ when danger approaches and this experience may activate a defence reaction. Perhaps this primitive vision is what we see when we are in the dark—a vague pattern of light and shade or ‘spots before the eyes’. Such vision is clearly not cognitive but motive. Its matrix we may suppose would be a feeling of fear or something analogous to fear; and as a secondary derivative could produce a feeling of security directing movements of attraction. From that first glimmering of sight to the complicated discriminations of our own visual experience is a very long process of development but it contains nothing new in principle until we reach the point at which the distinction between Self and Other is made. Up to that point visual awareness remains like feeling purely motive. There is no cognition. In this respect sensory experience like feeling is below the level of knowledge. The highest reach of this level of consciousness we might describe as ‘dream’ consciousness. For a dream is a highly discriminated form of consciousness which is not cognitive but merely a reaction to a stimulus. I may dream that I am on a polar expedition and wake to find that it is freezing and the blankets have fallen off the bed. The dream is a reaction to the stimulus; my waking experience is a cognition of the same stimulus. The difference between the two is the difference between motive and cognitive consciousness or between an organic and a personal consciousness; and the personal consciousness in virtue of its form contains the organic consciousness as its negative element within itself.
Below the level of the personal then there is no cognition since knowledge in any sense of the term presupposes the ‘I do’: there is no action but only reaction to stimulus. The functional difference between feeling and sense is that sense enables the reaction to anticipate contact and this is especially true of visual consciousness. By substituting as stimulus light reflected from an object for actual contact with the object it makes possible an anticipatory adaptation on the part of the organism without any cognition of the object.
We may conclude this aspect of our subject with three reflections. Firstly an account of consciousness defined as we have defined it is necessarily behaviouristic. But a behaviouristic psychology is under no need to deny consciousness. The tendency to do so comes from presupposing the mind-matter dualism and endeavouring to get rid of the difficulties which result by suppressing one of the correlates. A behaviourism which does deny consciousness is self-refuting. It proposes to describe organic behaviour by excluding all elements which cannot be observed or inferred from observation. But ‘observing’ and ‘inferring’ cannot be observed; and no theory not even a behaviourist theory is then possible.
Secondly there is no way in theory from an organic consciousness to a personal consciousness involving knowledge and action. No development of motive consciousness can ever amount to cognitive consciousness. The reason for this is that the concept of organic consciousness is constituted by abstraction from personal consciousness by eliminating the personal element of action and knowledge. The only way to reach a personal consciousness therefore is by deliberately passing beyond the limits of our isolate and reintroducing the elements which were excluded. A more inclusive concept cannot be derived from a less inclusive. The organic idea can be derived from the personal but the process cannot be reversed.
Finally since at the organic level sensory experience is no more cognitive than feeling there is no a priori reason—and as we shall see later no empirical reason—why at the personal level feeling should not be as much an element in cognition as sense. For it is a person who knows in acting not his mind or his thought and feeling like sense is a necessary element in any personal consciousness. The psychological analysis of consciousness into cognitive affective and conative aspects is misleading even when a faculty psychology is repudiated and the unity of consciousness is stressed. It is itself the lingering ghost of the faculty psychology and it is high time that it was laid. Consciousness as such has no cognitive element. Only persons know in any proper sense of the term and act with knowledge. And they know and develop their knowledge as much through their capacity for feeling as by using their senses; perhaps even more so since sense depends upon feeling in a manner in which feeling does not depend upon sense.