You are here

Chapter IV: Mental Space-Time

Memory of objects.

Let us for the sake of clearness begin, not with the memory of ourselves, but the memory of objects, that is to say, of things or events which we have experienced before, and in remembering are aware that we have so experienced them. This is the fully developed kind of memory, to which other acts of so-called memory are only approximations. James writes:1 “The object of memory is only an object imagined in the past (usually very completely imagined there) to which the emotion of belief adheres,” and in substance there is little to add to this statement. I prefer to say the object of memory (what I shall call ‘the memory’ as distinguished from the mental apprehension of it, which is ‘remembering’) is an object imagined or thought of in my past. I say ‘my past,’ for I may believe in the assassination of Julius Caesar as a past event without being able to remember it. The object, then, is before my mind, bearing on its face the mark of pastness, of being earlier than those objects which I call present. In the mind there corresponds to it the act of imagining or conceiving it, and there is in addition the act of remembering it, the consciousness that I have had it before.

The pastness of the object is a datum of experience, directly apprehended. The object is compresent with me as past. The act of remembering is the process whereby this object becomes attached to or appropriated by myself, that is, by my present consciousness of myself which has been already described, in which may be distinguished a subjective and a bodily element unified in the person. The past object is earlier than my present act of mind in remembering, or my equivalent bodily state, whichever may happen to be more predominant in my mind. When the past object is thus appropriated by myself I am aware of it as belonging to me, as mine, as occurring in my past. This is the consciousness that the object is remembered. In precisely the same sense as I am aware of a perceived object when I have before me a sensory experience, I have a memory when I have before me an experience of the past and appropriate it to my personality. The object is then not only past but belongs to a past in which I contemplate myself (that is my body) as having been existent also and related to the object.

No reference to the perceived.

In this as in many other psychological inquiries, error may arise from reading into the experience more than is there. The actual past event as we once perceived it is remembered as the memory of it which has been described. I may not say that in memory I am aware of the memory as referred in thought, or in some other way, to the actual object I once perceived. It is true that I can in reflection, in a sophisticated mood, so speak. But this is not the deliverance of the experience itself called having a memory. For example, I may see a man and remember that I heard his conversation yesterday. Here I have the actual man before me; but my memory of his conversation is not first taken by itself and then referred to him as I heard him yesterday. The memory-object is itself the object, and the only one I have, of the consciousness that I heard him yesterday. So far as I remember that, there is no reference to any former perception of the man, even though he is now also present in perception. The percept of him and the memory of him are two different appearances which in their connection reveal the one thing, the man, whom we now know to be to-day by perceiving, and to have been yesterday by remembrance. Moreover the memory is as much a physical object as the percept. He is physical in so far as, in Mr. Russell's happy phrase, he behaves according to the laws of physics. The remembered man does not speak now, but he is remembered as speaking, or, to vary the example, the memory-object is the physical man cutting physical trees yesterday.

Thus we have not in memory itself any reference to the perceived. The memory itself is the only knowledge we have that there ever was something perceived. But there is a real truth misrepresented by the erroneous statement. Like a single perception, a single memory is incomplete. The particular percept is full of movement towards other aspects of the thing perceived, and the memory in like manner throws out feelers to other memories. These memories through their internal coherence and continuity build up for us our memory of the whole thing of which they are partial representations, and, as in the case just given, may blend in turn with fresh perceptions, or, again, with expectations of the future. It is then that in our unsophisticated experience (as distinct from the sophisticated deliverances of the reflective psychologist or philosopher) we can think of our friend as the same thing compresent with us in more than one memory. Even then we only introduce into our experience of him the element of his having once been perceived, through familiarity with the blending of perceptions with memory-ideas of the same thing.2 For this reason it is that, as has often been observed by psychologists, we learn so much more directly about the nature of Time from expectation of the future than from remembrance of the past. Expectation is precisely like remembering except that the object has the mark of future, that is of later than our present, instead of past or earlier. Now we are practical creatures and look forward to the satisfaction of our needs, and the past interests us only theoretically or, if practically, as a practical guidance for the future. But in expectation the anticipated object is, or very often is, replaced continuously and coherently by the percept, and the expected object may now become a memory. I remember now how the object appeared to me an hour past when I expected it. But whereas the expectation is in the ordinary course succeeded by fulfilment in perception, memory need not be so succeeded and most often is not.

Now it is not the whole thing which we need have before us in memory, but only its appearance altered by the lapse of Time, seen through the haze of Time, as things distant in Space are coloured by their remoteness. The lapse of Time may distort, and when to Time is added the subjective prejudices of the experient the memory of the thing may be highly distorted. But it remains what it declares itself to be when supplemented by similar appearances, nothing but the revelation of the thing through that mist of intervening Time, and the thing itself is only given in the actual memory through the mere reaching out of any experience to other experiences of the like sort.

A memory not a present object.

Thus we avoid the first error of interpreting memory to mean more than it contains. No wonder memory is regarded as so mysterious if it is supposed also to inform us of the perceived past, as if that perceived past could be thought of except through some idea other than the memory. A second error is to suppose that the memory is in some sense present and that it is referred to the past through certain indications of a subjective or personal kind. In one form or another this doctrine is very common. Our ideas come to us in succession it is said, but the succession of ideas is not the idea of their succession. To be distinguished as past or future from the present they must all be present together. “All we immediately know of succession is but an interpretation... of what is really simultaneous or coexistent.”3 Even for James the feeling of the past is a present feeling. How far this is true of the feelings of past, present, and future we shall inquire presently. Of the objects, it is, I venture to think, in flat contradiction to experience which declares the memory to have the mark of the past on its forehead, and the expected that of the future. Not all the subtle and important discovery of temporal signs,4 whereby—places in time are discriminated as local signs discriminate positions in space, avails to explain how objective past or future could be known as past or future were they not already so presented. For whether these temporal signs are drawn from the movement of attention or are bodily experiences with a rhythmical character like the breathing or the heart—beats, they tell us of our person or rather of our body, but they tell us nothing directly of the objects remembered or expected.5 When we have correlated these personal acts of mind with the time—order of physical events we can use them to compute more accurately the dates of external events. They are indirect measures of succession, but not direct apprehensions of it. On the contrary, they are themselves successive and require some other indication of their own time—order. But if they carry their time—record with them, then past and future need not be simultaneous with the present in our apprehension of events.

The truth is that remembering and expecting do occur at the present moment; but we are not entitled, therefore, to declare their objects simultaneous with the present. To be apprehended as a memory in the act of remembering simultaneously with an act of present perception is not to be apprehended as simultaneous with the ‘present’ object. The simple deliverance of experience is that it is apprehended as past. The notion that it must be simultaneous with the present in order to be referred to the past is thus the intrusion of a theory into the actual experience.

The act of remembering.

Remembering has been described as an act whereby a memory is appropriated by the self and recognised as my past object. The features of the act of appropriation are more easily seen in the act of expectation. There the mind reaches out towards the imagined future event, and as the expectation becomes more distinct and intensive the image rises out of isolation and is incorporated with the personality. At first there is an image with a future mark but relatively disconnected from the personal life. Gradually it acquires what James calls intimacy, becomes warm with the personal attachment, is attended by emotion. Think of the expectation of some promotion or the fear of some disaster. Expectation is thus a desire or aversion whose aim is not practical but theoretical; it is satisfied by fuller cognition; and in turn all desire is, on its cognitive side, expectation. If we turn to remembering with this clue we discover the same features. There, also, is an isolated image, the memory with the mark of the past. As we remember, it invades us, comes out of its isolation. If the image is of Caesar's death, which we cannot remember, it may be vivid but it fails to invade our personality and link up with our life. It is not a memory but only an imagination and a conceptual extension of past time into a past century with which we had no personal touch. Let it be the thought of a verse once heard but barely rising and in fragments into our mind. We search for the missing or defective words until they at last spring into view and our aim is achieved and we remember that we heard them once. Thus remembering is a kind of desire, but, unlike expectation, directed backwards.6 It is a retrospective desire; and just as in expectation we find it difficult at times to distinguish the calm contemplation of a future event from the passionate movement to meet it, so in remembering, especially if it does not proceed with ease, we can feel sometimes the passionate effort to drag up the remembered event into clear vision of it. When Odysseus meets his mother in the shades, he asks her the manner of her death, whether it was by disease or the arrows of Artemis. She answers him that it was none of these things, “but longing for you and your counsels, Odysseus, and for your loving—kindness, which robbed me of my sweet life.”7 Substitute in this passage remembering for longing; the tenderness of the passage would in part disappear, but its psychology remains unaltered. Just as expecting is part of the practical effort towards bringing the desired future object before us, so remembering is the speculative desire of reinstating the past or rather of reinstating ourselves in compresence with it, or, as we say, in presence of it. And it brings the past out of the depths in that form in which an event or thing which was really past can be apprehended at a later date. For Time is real and the past is real as past. It is not real as being present; it is now no longer. But it was real, and reveals itself to speculative or theoretical desire in the form of a memory which is made the personal property of the experient.


So far, we have been concerned with memory proper, where the object is an image or thought with a date, however imperfectly the date is apprehended. It is not necessary for our purpose to describe how we come to be aware of the accurate date, which involves conceptual processes, even in dating a past event five minutes ago. This is a question of the measuring of Time. But partly because of the intrinsic importance of the subject and partly for future use we may make certain observations about the time—characters of ideas in experiences which are not proper memory, but are often loosely called so. In every contemplation we enjoy ourselves, as we have seen, in a time—relation with our object. But the object may have no date. It has its internal time—character, as when I call up in my mind a picture of a man running, or even a thing like a landscape where there is no movement but where the spatial extension involves Time in its intrinsic character. In such a case the image, being a time—saturated object, is contemplated as somewhere in Time, but the position of it as a whole in Time is not dated. This distinguishes a mere revival without memory, or a mere fancy, from a memory proper. It belongs to Time but has no particular date. In the next place, there are reproduced mental objects or characters of things which are not even images at all. Such are the ideal supplements which qualify a sensory object and with it constitute a percept. This supplement has again its internal time-character, but it is not an object distinct from the sensory object. A simple example is the perception of a certain group of colours and shapes as a man. The human characters are only elements in the total which are supplied in ideal form. Consequently they share the date of the present sensum, and in this qualified sense the past is contained in the present.8 Lastly, I may have ideas which are apprehended as past, which are parts of a successive experience and are retained in the mind but are not memories proper. For instance, the first words of a sentence which are still in my mind at the end or in the middle of the sentence. It would be a mere misdescription to say that the idea was first present and then referred to the past. It is a past object. But it is not a memory; for, though retained from the past, it is not, like a memory, recovered from the past.

The ‘specious present’ a succession.

Thus an image may either be dated and remembered, or, like Caesar's death or other non-personal event, be dated but not remembered, or it may have no specific date, or having a date it may be merely retained. But further, an object may be in the past and yet not an image at all but a sensum. We are thus led to the so-called ‘specious present.’ Sensory objects, though as a matter of fact they precede the moment of apprehending them by a very small interval, which is not experienced as such but only discovered by reflection and experiment, are in general called present in so far as they are the objects of the present sensing, and this is a mere matter of words, for such objects are the point of reference for earlier or later objects. When I apprehend a sound and a light at the same moment, they are for practical purposes taken as simultaneous though they are not so in fact. But we have mental processes which take place successively where yet the objects are present in sensory form. Such an experience is an example of what is called the ‘specious present,’ because it is not a ‘mathematical’ moment but experienced as a duration. The familiar example is that of the path of the meteor where the whole movement is sensory and the path of light is seen at once. We never sense an instant of time, which is, taken by itself, a concept or implies conception. Our sensible9 experience of Time is primarily that of a duration; and experiment has determined what are the smallest intervals between two stimuli of sound or other kinds which are experienced as durations, and what interval of time filled by intermittent experiences of certain kinds, for example the strokes of a bell, can be held together at once in the mind. The specious present does not mean necessarily a duration which is filled with sensa. It is commonly taken to include also the fringe of past or future objects which have ceased to be sensory, or are not yet so, and approach the state of images, as in the case of a succession of sounds retained together in the mind, for example, in hearing strokes of a metronome, or the words of a connected sentence. Let us confine ourselves to the span of sensory consciousness. In that duration some of the elements though sensory are not only past in the order of the actual occurrence of their stimuli, but are past to an unprejudiced experience of them. Thus though the meteor's path is given to us in a line of light, we are aware of the meteor's movement through that line. Rapid as the movement was we are aware of the meteor's having been at one end before it was at the other. Two reasons may blind us to this truth that the meteor's path is seen as a succession. The first is the fear that the movement would, on this account of the matter, be resolved into a mere series of successive separate positions and its unity be destroyed. The movement is unitary and it is apprehended as such. Undoubtedly, but equally it is apprehended as occurring in a space and occupying a time. How groundless is this fear that a movement so described is a mere succession of separate point-instants, as if these could be discontinuous, is clear enough from the general notion of Space and Time, and will be more fully seen in the next chapter. The other reason for neglecting the successiveness experienced within the duration of the meteor's path is the fact that, owing to persistence of the sensory stimulation in the retina, the line of movement is before the mind as a stretch of space. This arises from the character of our vision. The separate stimuli leave their after-effects along the retina. This does not carry with it, as is hastily assumed, the consequence that the sensory object is seen all of it in the present. On the contrary, not only is this in experience not so, but the spatial path of the meteor seen ‘all at once,’ that is, taken altogether in vision, is the best illustration of the essentially temporal character of Space. The visual arrangements actually enable the path to be dated instead of occurring all at one moment. The sensa earlier than the point of light directly present do not in this case fade away into real images. In the case of a specious present occupied by strokes of a metronome I will not undertake to say whether the preceding strokes are retained as after-sensations or are images. I have not the requisite experimental intimacy with the facts. But if they are ideas they are at least past, and if they are not sensations it is because there may be no apparatus in hearing for retaining past sensations in different places, as is the case with the eye.

Thus the ‘specious present’ is not present at all, but includes within it distinctions of past and present. not depth. We may add of future as well. For the broad present may contain at least dawning ideas of what is to come, and even dawning sensory objects, for in vision anyhow we have, corresponding with after-sensations, ‘before-sensation’ in the process during which a colour sensation is gradually rising to its full intensity or saturation. (‘Anklingen der Empfindung,’ H. Ebbinghaus calls it10). Within this broad duration there is succession experienced as such. It has been compared by James to a saddleback as opposed to the present instant which is a knife edge. But there is no reason in the facts to declare that the present is saddlebacked, except so far as sensory objects are simultaneous and not successive as when we see red and blue at once. In other words we should distinguish the ‘broad’ from the ‘deep’ present. The present always has breadth as including many simultaneous objects. But it has not depth, that is, breadth in time. Its depth is a succession within duration. No doubt ‘the specious present’ is a useful conception if it serves as a reminder that we never sense the present instant or the present object by itself, but that we always apprehend a bit of duration, and as a rough, practical description of the present, as rough as the habitual description of present objects as present when they are really slightly past. But otherwise we are compelled to conclude that what it describes is not a fundamental fact of our time experience, and that rather it misinterprets that experience. It describes merely the interesting and important fact that our minds are able to hold together a certain number of objects without having recourse to memory proper, and in particular that a certain number of sensa occupying time in their occurrence can thus be held together in our minds. The length of the time interval so filled varies with the sensory events which occur in it. If the specious present is understood in a different way it is specious in the other sense of deceiving us. Perhaps it may be compared with that other interesting and important fact of the existence of a threshold of sensation below which amounts of stimulation are not felt. This was interpreted by Fechner to mean that the threshold was in some special sense the zero of sensation. Whereas any sensation whatever may be taken as zero if we make it the beginning of our scale.11

The present has breadth but not depth.

The ‘specious present’ is a comparatively considerable time interval of some seconds. The minimal duration which we apprehend as duration is vastly smaller.12 But if we learn by experience that the first contains succession within its duration we may conclude that the elementary duration is successive too, that in fact there is no duration which is not a duration of succession, though the successive moments in a very small duration may not be and are not distinguishable. Or if this is too much to say, then we must urge at least that succession is not something new and additional to duration, but past, present, and future represent distinctions drawn within duration. There is as much difficulty in conceiving elementary durations succeeding one another within a longer duration as in conceiving any duration to be intrinsically a lapse in time and therefore intrinsically successive. We have yet to see how mathematical or conceptual instants can be real. But that our elementary experience of Time should be extensive and yet admit of succession within it is no more difficult to understand than that a blur of red blood should under the microscope reveal itself as a number of red bodies swimming in a yellow plasma, or that sensations we cannot distinguish from one another may under other conditions be known to be distinct. The conclusion is that our sensibility to succession is not so great as our sensibility to duration. Where both can be apprehended the duration and the succession are seen to be of the same stuff This is true of contemplated or objective Time. In what sense it can be held that Time as we experience it in ourselves is other than a duration which is intrinsically successive passes my understanding.

Enjoyed past and future enjoyed as past and future.

We have been dealing hitherto with the time of objects and have found that the past is in no sense present but is revealed as past. We have now to turn to the much more difficult matter of enjoyed time. It may be said: past physical events are presented as past, but when the past is declared to be somehow present, the reference is to the apprehension of it, as when, for instance, the feeling of the past is called by James a present feeling or the immediate apprehension of a short succession of events a specious present. I do not feel sure that this is what is meant in all cases. But we may use the easier analysis of the experience of past and future objects as a clue to understanding our enjoyments of Time. We shall find that past enjoyments are not experienced in the present but as past, and future ones as future. Let us analyse the experience of remembering a past state or act of mind as distinguished from the past object. I never indeed do remember myself without the object, for without an object a mental state is nothing. Even when I project my personality back into the past or forward into the future, I have before my mind either the external objects about which I was engaged or at the lowest the bodily and contemplated constituents of myself. But I may attend to the self rather than to the object, or in other words it may be the self which predominates in my experience. This most often happens when the past event was highly coloured with emotion, and the emotion is renewed in memory. I remember how elated I felt at a piece of good fortune or how depressed with a misfortune. Even without emotion I can faintly remember how highly invigorated I felt by my first bicycle tour when I was young. But though we do not often attend to our past mental states, we never remember a past object without some consciousness however faint of the past state. I remember hearing my friend's conversation, and do it by an act of imagination which is the renewal (to use a neutral term) of that past. Let us suppose ourselves then to be remembering our past state. There are two elements in the mental condition. First, there is the act of remembering, and secondly, there is the imagination (or thought) of my past self. The mere process of remembering offers no difficulty. The imagined state of my mind is lifted from its relative isolation or indifference into intimate connection with myself, and is appropriated by that self. It is from the beginning continuous with the rest of the mind, for otherwise it would not be the image of a past state of mind, but it is in the act of remembering attached more closely to the present consciousness of my personality. And as it grows into intimacy the remembered state of mind deepens and expands (always of course with the help of the past object), and its emotional colour is more vividly revived until it approaches the character of hallucination and we seem half to be actually repeating the old experience.

This act of remembering is enjoyed as present; it is contemporaneous, for instance, with the sight of the friend whose past conversation his renewed visit puts me in mind of, or I remember him at the same moment as I hear a voice like his. We say I remember now that I heard him say such and such a thing then, or I remember vividly now how much moved I was at reading his letter. I enjoy here the imagination of the past event. Is this enjoyed imagination of my past state of mind enjoyed as past or as present? Now with regard to the object there was comparatively little difficulty in the answer. The object remembered has the mark of the past. But the object is an existent distinct from the mind and contemplated by it. On the other hand, the remembered state of myself is not an object of contemplation, but is only enjoyed. It is itself a mental act which is in the act of remembering welded into the present personality. Once more we must turn without prepossession to the experience itself, and the answer which it gives is that the imagination of myself which I have in remembering myself is not enjoyed as present but as past. Its enjoyment has pastness written upon its face. What we remember is past as much in our own case as in the case of the external event which is remembered. The remembering is present, but both its object and what we may call its mental material (the past act of mind which experienced it) are past. The appeal is to the bare facts. There may be a good meaning to be assigned to the statement that the renewed mental past is present. But it is not so enjoyed by the experient himself. It can only so be described, if at all, from the point of view of the looker-on, who separates the renewal of the past state from the mind of the experient, and cuts it off from its intimacy both with that experient's self and above all with the object. But as so described it is not the remembered state at all. Looking at it from the outside the psychologist may note that something is happening to the patient which is present for the psychologist, but it is not therefore present for the patient, and if the psychologist so misreads it, he is not putting himself inside the patient's mind and is failing of his duty as a psychologist. Or, again, there is a physiological process in the patient's brain which is simultaneous with the patient's present. But it does not follow so evidently that the mental process which ‘accompanies it’ is felt or enjoyed as simultaneous. There may be something present in one sense which is not present in the vital sense of being the patient's present and therefore enjoyed by him as present.

Difference of ‘as present’ and ‘at the present.’

In like manner the expected future event, e.g. that I shall be seeing a friend, is enjoyed not as present but as future. It has the mark of the future on it. The act of expecting it on the other hand is present.

This result appears strange only because of the persistent intrusion into the observation of fact of a theory that all mental process is experienced in the present or as present. Once the facts are accepted as experience supplies them, their interpretation offers no more difficulty than the interpretation of a past object in memory. My enjoyment is a past enjoyment, and it is thus that a being which does not make its own states objects to itself is aware of its past. Precisely so, the past object of memory is the appearance to me of the past thing in the present act of remembering. The past enjoyment, which I have called the material of the act of remembering my past state, is the way in which the actual past of the mind is revealed in the present. But it is not revealed as present. Nor is it revealed in the mind's present, though it forms one part of the total of which another part is the mind's present. Because it forms one part of that total it is imagined to persist into the present. And so it does, but it persists as past. If Time is real, if the past is not a mere invention of the mind, and this is our original hypothesis, the mind at any present moment contains its past as past. Otherwise, to fall back on an argument used ad nauseam in respect of physical Time, there would be no mind at all but a continual re-creation of quite independent and molecular mental states, which is contrary to elementary experience.

Thus a remembered mental state is a past enjoyment, as it is enjoyed after the lapse of time, the machinery for such awareness of the past being the process by which for one reason or another the brain is thrown into a corresponding, or a partially identical state with the actual past state of the brain during the past experience. The past is revived in imagination of my mental state just as it is revived in imagination of a past object. I know my own past only through the enjoyment of it as past.13

Illustration from memory of emotion.

The truth that the renewal in memory of a past state of myself is not merely a fresh excitement of myself in the present may perhaps best be seen in the memory of emotions. It is sometimes thought that there is no such memory, but only memory for the exciting object of the emotion and a new present emotion aroused by this memory. An interesting census was taken by Th. Ribot, the results of which will be found in his Psychology of the Emotions, ch. xi. He concludes to the existence in some cases of an emotional type which does remember emotions. But the question is rather how emotions are remembered? Are they really memories or are they real or actual new emotions which are excited by an image? that is to say, not different from a present emotion. All revived feeling is new feeling, it is said, attached to an ideal object. This seems to be the meaning of the poet Sully Prudhomme, quoted by Ribot, who says, speaking of some past incidents of an emotional character, that he is now a stranger to the feelings he remembers in connection with them; “but as soon as by an effort of recollection I make these memories more precise they cease ipso facto to be memories only, and I am quite surprised to feel the movements of youthful passion and angry jealousy revived in me. And again I am almost inclined to ask myself if every recollection of feeling does not take on the character of an hallucination” (p. 155).

So far as I can trust my own experience I believe we can observe a distinction between a remembered and a present emotion. I remember the feeling of shame felt at a social blunder; and the more vividly I represent the circumstances the more intense the emotional excitement becomes, and the more completely it includes the bodily expression proper to the emotion and invades me. Still all this personal experience is detained in attachment to the past object, and despite the urgency of the feelings I am lost in the past, and the whole experience, object-side and subject-side alike, has the mark of the past. But suddenly I may find myself arrested; I forget the past object and I become aware of the emotion as a present state, in which the object is for the most part the bodily reactions, the flushed face and qualms about the heart. I change from a past enjoyment to a present one. What the difference is I find it hard to say; the pastness of the image seems to draw the feeling after it into the past as well. It may be that the whole difference lies in the compresence with the past object. But the difference is for me palpably there. Thus a new or actual emotion, with its sensorial character, ceases to be a present emotion when it is compresent with a past object; whether it is neurally or mentally slightly different from the emotion roused by a present object or not, it becomes a past enjoyment in this connection. Its actuality no more makes it a present emotion than the sensory character of the beginning of the meteor's path in the sky makes it present, when the real present is the end of the path.

Before pursuing further the ideas suggested by these facts let us note briefly that where there is not memory proper but only retention in the mind, the earlier stages or the mental enjoyment are past and not present, and that the specious present, the present with a depth, is not really a present in enjoyment, and that consequently, to sum the whole matter up, we cannot hold that the experience of the past is a present feeling, whether we speak of the past object or the past state of mind.

What is present in an enjoyment of the past.

We may now ask ourselves what is really present in the strict sense when there is a past enjoyment; what it is which lends colour to the belief that the remembered state of mind is actually present. The answer is that the underlying neural process is present, and that process is partially at least the same whether the act of mind be a perception of a present or a memory of a past object. I do not raise the vexed question whether images occupy the same places in the brain as their corresponding percepts, or different places. If the same, then the same tract of brain may be occupied at one time in the observer's present and at another in his past. If not, yet since a percept already contains elements of an ideal character complicated with the sensory elements, the seat of percept and image is at least partially the same. Moreover, it is quite possible that though image centres may not be the same as sensation centres, yet since they cannot be supposed disconnected, the excitement of ideas may overflow into sensory centres. Thus a revival in imagination partially at any rate occupies the same place as if it were a sensory experience. A present and a past enjoyment may be in the same contemplated or enjoyed space but belong to different enjoyed times, or, to put it otherwise, a tract of brain may be occupied either by a present or a past enjoyment.

The case of remembered emotion illustrates this matter well. Why is it, the question is asked, that we do not confuse an image of a past event with a present event, and yet a remembered emotion is or tends to be hallucinatory? The answer might be suggested that an image becomes hallucinatory only when sensation is involved. Now, normally, sensations require the presence of the actual stimulus from without. Thus, for instance, the imagination of a coloured disk is not usually sensory, for although it may lead to various movements of the eyes or other organs, those movements do not excite colour sensations. But the case is different with the emotional excitement produced by such an object. That excitement issues or tends to issue in the appropriate bodily movements of the emotion, and these movements are felt in the form of actual sensations, organic or kinaesthetic. The bodily resonance which forms so large a part of an emotion is brought into existence by the imagined emotion itself. On the other hand, the movements induced by an idea of a picture do not reinstate in a sensory form the details of the picture, because that is outside the bodily organism; they only give us bodily sensations, not sensations of colour or smell. To have an hallucination of colour, the internal conditions must be the exceptional ones under which an image overflows into the sensory centres.14

It is a familiar fact that to an observer in motion two events may occur at different times at the same place which to an observer at rest occur at different places. Mr. Langevin's instance is. that of dropping stones through the floor of a railway carriage in motion. To the traveller in the carriage two such events will occur at different times but at the same place. To the outside observer at rest the stones will fall at different places. In both cases the space is contemplated. Take now enjoyed and contemplated space. The space I enjoy is that of a part of my body. But my body, say my head, may change its place in the wider contemplated Space to which it belongs, but its parts retain their internal relations as enjoyed, and, as we have seen, mental directions remain unaltered. Thus what is the same place for enjoyment may be in two different places for contemplation.

A similar account applies to the connection of enjoyed and contemplated time. My remembered time is past in enjoyed time. But it occurs in a space which is the same or partially the same for the outside observer, whether the mental process is a present or a past enjoyment. Let us recur to the old case of a conversation remembered at the moment I hear a voice or see a photograph. The physiological process underlying the remembered past is occurring to the observer at the same time as my sight of the photograph. And the enjoyment of the past occupies, at least in part, the same place as if the event were present. To the experient the event is past. To the outsider it might, for all he knows, be either past or present, at least so far as the identical parts of space are concerned. The contemplated present neural event may be either a present or a past enjoyment. Suppose, now, an angel contemplating me. For him my mental process is exposed to his contemplation as well as the neural process, while to me or you it is not. The angel would see the neural process physically synchronous with my present. But the mental event would be seen by him to have the mark of the past, because he could see into my mind as I enjoy it. He would distinguish the past enjoyment from the present enjoyment at the same place, and would see that two events by way of enjoyment might share the same neural process. He would, I suppose, make the distinction of past or present directly in the mental events, and would also, I suppose, see differences in the neural process before him which we might with sufficient knowledge see. When I take the point of view of the angel I can understand how my enjoyed time may return to its old place and partially at least occupy a present contemplated process, whether it is a past or a present enjoyment. If I am right in my account above of the change from an emotion referred to the past to the emotion referred to the present, this is what I actually do experience in such a case.

Thus when a remembered state of mind is declared to be a present feeling, we are, as I said, making a psychological mistake which can be accounted for either because, being an enjoyment, it enters into the total mass of our enjoyment at our present moment; or because the neural process corresponding to it does occur at the present in the neural space as contemplated from outside.

Mental space-time

Whether in the study of past and future objects or in that of past and future states of ourselves, we have thus seen that our consciousness of past and future is direct, and is not the alleged artificial process of first having an experience of the present and then referring it by some method to the past or future. There is no such method given in our experience, and we have therefore no right to assume it just because we start with the fancy that all our experiences must be present. If difficulty is still felt in the unfamiliar notion that we enjoy our past as past and our future as future, the answer must be that in the first place facts, however strange the description of them may be, must be accepted loyally and our theories accommodated to them; secondly, that as to the special explanations suggested above, of how a present neural process may be felt as a past enjoyment, an explanation like this is theoretical and designed to remove a theoretical difficulty. For immediate acquaintance with our past and future tells us nothing about neural processes, and if we confine ourselves to our enjoyment of ourselves, we find that the memory or the expectation of a past or future state is the way in which we enjoy past or future, and that there is no more to be said; just as our memory of the past object is that past object as contemplated now in the act of remembering, and there is no more to be said.

But now that by an appeal to experience we have rid ourselves of the confusions as to our past and future enjoyments which were engendered by a mistaken reading of experience, we can proceed to examine the space and time of the mind in their mutual relations, and we shall see that they do not exist separately but are only elements in the one mental space-time which exhibits to inspection of ourselves the same features, with such qualifications as may be necessary to note, as the Space-Time of the external world, with a part of which it is identical.

Mental space and time in volve each other.

We have in the first place at any moment a mass of enjoyments (that is, experiences of ourselves, or experiencings), part of which is present, part memories or remembered enjoyments, part expected enjoyments with the mark of the future. These enjoyments occupy diverse places in the mental space. Present enjoyments are in different places from past and future ones. The enjoyed space is not full of mental states all occurring at one and the same time, but it is occupied, so far as it is occupied, with mental events of different dates. But, as we have seen, what is now a present enjoyment may at another moment be replaced by a remembered one; and what is now a memory may on another occasion be replaced by a present occupying partially at least the same place; the dates or times being on different occasions differently distributed among the places. Thus enjoyed space is full of time. In the same way enjoyed time is distributed over enjoyed space, and spreads over it so as not to be always in the same space. Thus empirically every point in the space has its date and every date has its point, and there is no mental space without its time nor time without its space. There is one mental space-time. Our mind is spatiotemporal. The easiest way to make ourselves a picture of the situation is to suppose the identification of mental space with the corresponding contemplated neural space completed in details, and to substitute for the enjoyed space, for pictorial purposes, the neural space with which it is identical, that is, to think of specific mental events as occurring in their neural tracts. When we do so, we see mental past, present, and future juxtaposed in this space; or the places of mind succeeding each other in their appropriate times.

Perspectives of mental space-time.

Such a picture of mental space-time at any moment is the perspective we enjoy of it at any moment or from the point of view of that moment. But the picture is not complete. The present enjoyment and the remembered one are enjoyed as juxtaposed. But they are not in bare unrelated juxtaposition. For a remembered past state is in remembering linked up with the present. There is a felt continuity between them. The same thing is more obviously true where there is not memory proper but a past condition is experienced as retained in the mind only, being at the fringe of a total experience, as when we retain in our minds at this moment the lingering remnants of our past condition, in going through some complex experience, as, for example, in watching the phases of an incident which stirs our feelings. That there is this transitional relation of movement from the one element to the other, is shown by the familiar fact that when one member of a series of mental states is repeated in experience the others also are revived in their time-order.

We have thus to make a distinction, which will prove important also in the sequel in another connection,15 between two kinds of process enjoyed in mental space-time, which corresponds to the distinction between ‘substantive’ and ‘transitive’ states. First, we have the process intrinsically belonging to any mental act independently of others, for instance, the process of sensing a colour. No matter what the underlying and corresponding neural movements may be, we have, as was mentioned before, the mental process of the dawning of the sensing to its maximum and the subsequent evanescence. Thus to be aware of any particular sensum is to enjoy a mental movement appropriate to it. But besides this intrinsic movement, there is also the movement from one sensing to another of a different (or to a repetition of the same) sort, as when a colour sensation is succeeded by one of sound. A mental process of one direction (that is compresent with an object of one quality) is linked by a movement of transition, apprehended as such, to a movement with another direction, that is compresent with an object of another quality; or in other words, there is a change in the quality of the experience. Thus while there are two independent lines of advance in the mental space-time corresponding to the two different qualities, there is also a line of advance which connects these two lines, the neural path being, from the purpose which it subsequently serves, known as an association-path (or fibre).

The mental correspondent of Total Space and Time.

Even when two mental events occur simultaneously, as when I hear a voice and touch a hand at the same moment, this is not bare juxtaposition in space, if that word implies accidental or disconnected occurrence. On a subsequent occasion the image of the voice may recall the touch or vice versa. We have here a case of two different perspectives where events contemporaneous in the one perspective become successive in the other. Though the original relation appeared to be purely spatial, the mental events occurring side by side, a later perspective shows it to be also temporal. The two events belong to the same date, or the time was repeated at the two different points at which they occurred. They are connected in the mental space-time. This is our enjoyment of the relation of ‘and,’ corresponding to the contemplated relation of ‘and,’ between the objects. A subsequent experience reveals that the two events are somehow connected in mental space-time by lines of advance. We may bring our awareness of ‘and,’ into coherence with the relation of transition by passing from one object to the other in either order.

Among mental events which are simultaneous are those which belong together as part and parcel of one complex occurrence. Every mental event is spread out in fact. (It has even been suggested that a more intense act of sensing means a greater spatial extension of it.) The best instance is derived from ordinary perceiving. There is the sensory excitement and the ideal qualification of it. These belong together in mental space, but they do not in general occupy the same parts of space; for example, the sight of the marble qualified by the ideal feeling of cold. We have here a mental act with a structure; that is, parts of it are inherently in mental space at the same moment, or the mental instant is repeated in space.

In the same way, as we have seen abundantly in dealing with memory of mental states, we have mental space repeated in time; that is, several events of the same sort occurring at different times but belonging to the same space; that is, we have time coming back to its old place. And we may repeat a remark like one made before in Chapter I. of physical Space-Time, that the repetition of time in space, which is the fact of the broad (not the deep) present, and of space in time, which is the fact of memory, are of the essence of mind as something with a structure and persistence.

We have thus found from simple inspection or our minds, and bringing to bear on the question the most commonplace kind of psychological observation, that space and time in mind are in experienced fact related in the same way as we have seen them to be related in physical Space and Time. Space and time in the mind are indissolubly one. For myself it is easier to be satisfied of this relation between the two, and all the details which enter into it—repetition, variation in the perspective whereby the contemporary becomes successive, and the like—in the case of mind, than in the case of external Space and Time, and to use this result as a clue to interpreting external or physical Space-time. But I have explained already16 why I have not adopted what for me is the more natural order.

We may now approach the more difficult question, in what sense it is possible, as it was in the case of physical Space-Time, to make a selection from all the perspectives which the mind enjoys of its own space-time and treat the whole of mental space as occurring at the present and the whole of mental time as occupying one point of mental space. In the case of physical Space-Time we saw that an all-comprehensive observer whom we ourselves follow in thought could make such a selection, and we arrived thus at the ordinary notions of a Space in which at a given moment some event or other was occupying every point—Space as the framework of Time; and of Time as the framework in which Space occurred, that is of a Time the whole of which streamed through every point of Space. In mental space-time such results are obtainable, but only approximately and with a qualification.

At first sight it might appear that there was no difficulty in taking a present ‘section’ through the whole of our mental space. We have only to identify the neural space, say the brain, with the mental space, and then it would seem that at any instant of our life every point in that space was occupied by some event or other that occurred in our history. But mental space enjoyed in any mental state is not merely neural space, but that neural space which is correlated with the mental action. There may be events going on say in the occipital region which happen there but which are not of that particular sort which is correlated with vision, or, as I shall often express it, which carry vision. Though the whole contemplated space within which mental action takes place may be considered by proper selection from all the moments of its history as occupied by some present event or other contemporary with the present, they will not necessarily be mental events. They may be unconscious.

Sections of mental space-time.

When we consider mental events as such and neural processes only so far as they carry mind, we cannot find a section of mental space-time which is either the whole mental space occupied by contemporary events or the whole mental time streaming through one point. In our own experience it is clear we get no such thing. Our enjoyed space in a moment of experience may on occasion be so limited that it contains neither memory nor expectation but is wholly present. For example, we may be absorbed in perception. We are then entirely present, for the ideal features in perception are, as we have seen, not expectations or memories, but are merely qualifications of the present, which are there indeed as the result of past experience, but have not the mark of the past nor even of the future. But though in such a perspective our mental space is all present, it is not the whole of our mental space, but only a part of it. Or again I may be seeing a man and also remembering something about him. The one place in the mental space which is common to the perception and the memory may belong both to the perception and to the memory. But it does not belong to them both at the same time, and is alternately part of the present perceiving and the past remembering.

This is as far as I can get by actual acquaintance. Even the angelic outsider, though he will go farther, and though we may anticipate him by thought, will not get a complete section. He cannot see the whole of our mental space occupied by the present moment. He can realise that any neural process which at this moment of my mind is for me a memory might have been occupied by a mental event contemporary with my present. But it is not certain that he can find such events. Potentially the places now occupied in my perspective by memories or expectations may be occupied in other perspectives by perceptions of the present date. But the selection is only a possibility and nothing more. In the same way he may think that the place of my present mental act may potentially be the scene of some mental event at every moment of my history. But again this is only a remote possibility.

The reason for this difference between mental space-time and physical Space-Time is that the second is infinite and the first finite. We are finite beings, and part of that finitude is that our neural space performs only specific functions. Hearing does not occur in the occipital, nor vision in the temporal region. But in physical Space-Time the reason why in the summation of perspectives a selection could be made of events filling the whole of Space at one moment, or the whole of Time at one place, is that the quality of the events was indifferent in the infinite whole. In one perspective a point of space is past, but in some other perspective a quite different sort of event might occupy that point in the present, that is at a moment identical with the point, of reference. I see in front of me a point in a tree where a bird alighted a quarter of a second past. But a quarter of a second later, that is at the same moment as my act of seeing the bird, a bud sprouts on the tree at that point. That event is future for me, but for you, the onlooker, it occurs at the same moment as my act of sight, that is, you see them both as contemporary. There is thus always in some perspective or other some event or other at any point of space contemporary with my present. But places in mental space-time are, because of the specific character or the events which happen there, only occupied when there are events of the same sort. Now I am not every moment using my eyes, still less seeing a particular colour, such as red, at every moment of my history. We cannot, therefore, have a section of our whole history in which our whole space is occupied at each moment with some event or other; nor one in which each point is occupied by some event or other through the whole of our time.

Except for this failure to find corresponding artificial sections in mind, the microcosm, to infinite Space-Time, the macrocosm, a failure founded on the finitude of mental space-time, the relations of Space and Time to one another are identical in the two. It is obvious that the exception would apply equally to any limited piece of Space-Time which is occupied by the life of a finite thing, whether that thing is mental or not, provided it has specific qualities.

Mr. Bergson on Time and Space.

In Mr. Bergson's conception of Time or duée which is mental or psychological and is real Time which is the moving spirit of the universe, the past is said to penetrate the present. Upon our analysis of memory there is a very good meaning to be attached to the penetration of the present by the past. It has been illustrated more than once by the qualification of the sensory present of perception by ideal elements which are an inheritance from the past. The past here leaves its traces in the conscious present. Other illustrations are the persistence of past experience in the form of dispositions which affect the present experience; which may favour the emergence of one thought in our minds rather than another, or which may break in on the course of our thoughts and determine them, as for example a latent prejudice against a person. Whether these dispositions are properly psychical in all cases, or may not sometimes be physical traces which can condition and affect what is strictly psychical, we may leave undetermined. But in all these cases the inheritance from the past has the date of that which it conditions and into which it is merged.

Such present deposit in the mind of traces of the past are not, however, peculiar to mind, but are found in physical, to say nothing of organic, bodies. A storm blows and a tree or chimney leans out of the straight. The ground subsides and a tower leans. The storm and the subsidence belong to the past of these bodies, but the past persists in its effects, in the altered inclination, and this inclination is a factor in the response which is made to a fresh shock. Now to the outside observer these present conditions are traces of the past. So, too, the outside observer, knowing that I have seen a man already, may see in my recognition of him as a man that I am experiencing the traces of the past. But I should not myself experience them as past, for there is no true memory in my mind. Per contra, if we endow the tower with a mind and true memory it would perhaps remember the subsidence of the ground which made it sink, but it would remember this event as belonging to its past, and would not be conscious of it merely in the present effects left behind by the past.

But if there is real consciousness of the past, whether in the mere form of a past retained as such or in the form of true memory, the enjoyment of the past has not the mark of the present but of the past. It is only from the outsider's point of view that, as we have seen, it is possible to describe a conscious past as present. Strangely enough Mr. Bergson, whose method is distinguished by its effort to take the inside view of things, fails, as it appears, to distinguish the act of remembering, of appropriation of the past, which is really present, from the remembered past itself.

Now if the remembered past is past, and only in that way have we memory of our past which was once present to us, then penetration by the past can, as it appears to me, have no significance which Space does not also share with Time. It means two things: first, that Time is continuous; and secondly, that each event in time is affected by what went before. These are indeed the same thing from two different points of view. Now, in the first place, the parts of real Space penetrate as much as the parts of Time, and for the excellent reason that every part of Space is animated by Time which drives it on to merge continuously in the rest of Space. Further, if Space were not a penetrating continuum, Time, as we have seen, would be none either. It would be once more a moment which would not know itself to have a past.

Secondly, it is part of the continuity of Time that material events (and pure events as well) have a different meaning because of their preceding events. This is both true and important. But, again, it does not distinguish Time from Space. It confuses the value which elements have in their combination with their intrinsic nature. A man is the same man by himself or in a crowd, but he may be fired by a crowd into doing acts which he would not do alone. A sensation of white is not the same in all respects when it is experienced the second time as the first time; it has become familiar. But the white is the same as before; only it is modified by assimilation; it is qualified by the trace of the past. We no longer have, as before, the bare sensation, but something more complex. So, again, if white and sweet are connected in a continuous whole, the white remains white and the sweet sweet. But the elements have a new value in this combination. The sweet is that of sugar. But equally it is true that a point has a different value as a point on a circle and as a point on a straight line, while it remains the same point. It lies on different lines of advance.

The main result of our discussion has been to show that Time is really laid out in Space, and is intrinsically spatial. The representation of Time as spatial, Mr. Bergson regards as depriving Time of its real character. What he regards as a habit founded upon the weakness of our imagination has now been shown to be vital to the nature of Time. But his antagonism is determined by his belief that the Space in which Time is so spread out is the abstract Space which he believes is the Space of mathematics; and the Time which is thus spatialised is therefore not real Time but only abstract Time. It is impossible to do justice to him without discussing what mathematical Space and Time are; and to this task I shall now proceed.

  • 1.

    Psychology, vol. i. p. 652.

  • 2.

    For the synthesis of many objects or appearances of a thing into a thing see the discussion later, Bk. III. ch. vii. vol. ii., where it will be seen that the unity of a thing which underlies its various appearances, the objects of perception or memory, is the volume of space-time which it occupies. That volume is filled by each of its appearances, and that is why a single percept or a single memory can be the appearance or ‘presentation’ of the thing.

  • 3.

    J. Ward, Psychological Principles (Cambridge, 1918), p. 214; Art. Encycl. Brit. ed. ix. p. 64b.

  • 4.

    J. Ward, Art. Encycl. Brit. p. 64b, Psychol. Princ. pp. 197 ff.

  • 5.

    The same thing is true of the local signs. They tell us directly of our own bodies, but not of the external extension or position, except through correlation and indirectly (see later, Bk. III. ch. vi.).

  • 6.

    See Art. ‘Conational Psychology,’ Brit. J. of Psych, vol. iv., 1911.

  • 7.

    Odyssey, xi. 202–3.

  • 8.

    See later at end of the chapter.

  • 9.

    I use this word for convenience. It does not imply that Time (or Space) is sensed but only that it is apprehended through sense. (For the proper apprehension of Time and Space, see later, Bk. III. ch. vi.)

  • 10.

    See H. Ebbinghaus, Grundzuge der Psychologie, Bd. i. p. 230 (cd. i., Leipzig, 1902).

  • 11.

    On this topic sec the discussion in Ebbinghaus, Bd. i. pp. 507 ff.

  • 12.

    For the data see ch. i. of Psychologie der Zeitauffassung, by V. Benussi (Heidelberg, 1913).

  • 13.

    On the whole question of experience of the past, see a very useful discussion by A. Gallinger, Zur Grundlegungeiner Lehrevonder Erinnerung, Halle, 1914. “To be aware of something at the present is not the same thing as to be aware of it also as present” (p. 92). “In remembering we have a knowledge of past experiences (Erlebnisse), but not a knowledge of the present consciousness of past experiences, nor even of present memory pictures of past experiences” (same page). But I do not claim the writer's support for my general doctrine.

  • 14.

    Though my interest here is not primarily psychological I may stop to raise in a note the question, which is naturally suggested by the above, of the revival of organic and kinaesthetic sensations. I find it very hard myself to get images of them, but others do, and there is no reason why these sensa which are external though personal should have no images. There are real reasons, however, which distinguish these sensations from specific sensations. For their sensibles or sensa are bodily conditions, and the neural process which underlies the sensation, the sensing of them, is also bodily. Whereas, as explained in the text, in the case of colour the sensing has a bodily neurosis which underlies it, but the sensum is outside the body. But a kinaesthetic image leads to a movement which continues the excitement. The movements of reaction produced by the image sustain the image, and do so in a sensory form. The reaction is, in Mr. Baldwin's phrase, a circular one. Hence, like emotions, these representations tend to be hallucinatory, as in my case they generally are. Thinking of moving means really beginning to move. Now it may very well be with these and the organic sensations that though their representations tend to be hallucinations, their associates may give them a pull into the past or future, and in that case they would still deserve to be called images. The same thing applies to organic sensations. Some psychologists declare (and I followed them myself in a paper in Arist. Proceedings, 1909–10) that they do not admit of representation at all. At any rate their behaviour in this respect puts them for purposes of knowledge in a class by themselves. Seeing that our minds are correlated with our bodies, and these are the sensations from our bodies, it is not surprising that they should occupy a peculiar position in the rank of sensations. (The sensa are in fact living conditions which we apprehend directly in our bodies. See later, Bk. III. ch. vi.)

  • 15.

    See the distinction drawn later between the intrinsic and the extrinsic extension of a sensory quality. Bk. III. ch. vi.

  • 16.

    Ch. iii. p. 93.