« AnteriorContinuar »
This investigation is an attempt to ascertain the general principles affecting human conduct. It is undertaken in the hope that results will be attained which will throw light on current ethical problems. The present state of psychology seems to afford sufficient justification for an inquiry of this sort. The psychology of cognition has always obtained more than its relative share of attention, and in recent years the intellectualistic bias has received support and encouragement from the spread of experimental psychology, since cognition lends itself most readily to experimental treatment. This onesided development has profoundly influenced the whole structure of the science. One evidence of its influence is the general tendency towards Presentationism. The best example of this point of view in its extreme form is Professor Münsterberg's earlier position, as stated in Die Willenshandlung. Münsterberg assumes at the outset that the only irreducible mental element is sensation, and that sensation is characterised by quality, intensity, and feeling-tone. Consequently pleasure-pain is simply one property of sensation among others, and will is a mere complex of sensations. The self is necessarily excluded from psychology, since it is not an object which can be presented. Presentationism is not always carried to its logical conclusion in this manner, and usually appears in a modified form. Pleasure-pain is recognised as an element’ of mind co-ordinate with sensation, though will and the self are still looked upon as products of strictly metaphysical speculation. Even when Presentationism is explicitly disavowed, the intellectualistic bias manifests itself in other ways. Those who maintain that the will is an ultimate aspect of mind are apt to identify it with attention; those who assert that the self is a necessary psychological postulate tend to regard it mainly as the subject of knowledge. In either case it is evident that the preoccupation with cognition has brought the intellectual side of human nature into undue prominence.
A tendency towards intellectualism is of course compatible with a recognition of the existence of other aspects of mind in addition to cognition. It may show itself merely in the failure to investigate fully the facts which pertain to the reactive side of mind. At all events, whether intellectualism is responsible for the result or not, these facts have been neglected. The best proof of this assertion is the commonly accepted doctrine that the tendencies to seek pleasure and avoid pain are the only principles of human conduct. The clearest and most unambiguous expression of opinion on this subject comes from Professor Ward: “Whatever be the variety in the sources of pleasure, whatever be the moral or conventional estimate of their worthiness, if a given state of consciousness is pleasant we seek to retain it, if painful to be rid of it. We prefer greater pleasure before less, less pain before greater. This is, in fact, the whole meaning of preference as a psychological term.”] This is the tabula rasa view of mind applied to conation, as every student of Condillac will recognise. The mind has no essential conative character. So far as tendency to reaction is concerned, it is at the beginning 'a sheet of white paper. It must be marked by hedonic experience before action can take place, and its pleasures and pains determine its activity absolutely. The tabula rasa hypothesis has been found inconsistent with the facts of cognition; it can be shown to be at variance with the phenomena of conduct. When we bear in mind the wealth and variety of the facts which a study of human conduct brings to light, we are forced to the conclusion that the human being as such has a very complex character which expresses itself in a multitude of reactions. Human character is so complex that the individual must gradually discover his essential nature by observing the way in which he reacts on different occasions. This would not be the case if his tendencies were purely hedonic.