Activity Of Consciousness

Naturalism takes refuge in the doctrine of association, when it does not

attain anything with its first claims, and applies this theory in such a

way that it seems possible from this standpoint to interpret mental

processes as having an approximate resemblance to mechanically and

mathematically calculable phenomena. As in physics the molecules and

atoms, so here the smallest mental elements, the simplest units of feeling

> are sought for, and from their relations of attraction and repulsion,

their groupings and movements, it is supposed that the whole mental world

may be constructed up to its highest contents, will, ideals, and

development of character. But even the analogy, the model which is

followed, and the fact that a model is followed at all, show that this

method is uncritical and not unprejudiced. What reason is there for

regarding occurrences in the realm of physics as a norm for the

psychical? Why should one not rather start from the peculiar and very

striking differences between the two, from the primary and fundamental

fact, not indeed capable of explanation, but all the more worthy of

attention on that account, that there is an absolute difference between

physical occurrences and mental behaviour, between physical and mental

causality? These most primitive and simplest mental elements which are

supposed to float and have their being within the mind as in a kind of

spiritual ether are not atoms at all, but deeds, actions, performances.

The laws of the association of ideas are not the laws of a mental

chemistry, but laws of mental behaviour; very fixed and reliable laws, but

still having to do with modes of behaviour. Their separating and uniting,

their relations to one another, their grouping into unities, their

"syntheses," are not automatic permutations and combinations, but express

the activity of a thinking intelligence. Not even the simplest actual

synthesis comes about of itself, as psychologists have shown by a neat


horizontal lines a and b, the same lengths as the widths of the

squares below them. Caption: a and b only associated. Squares of a

and b in juxtaposition.]

length as the width of the square below it. Caption: a and b really

synthetised to c. Square of a + b as a true unity = c2.]

Given that, through some association, the image of the line a calls up

that of the line b, and both are associatively ranged together, we have

still not made the real synthesis a + b = c. For to think of a and

b side by side is not the same thing as thinking of c, as we shall

readily see if we square them. The squares of a and b thought of

beside one another, that is, a2 and b2, are something quite different

from the square of the really synthetised a and b, which is (a +

b)2 = a2 + 2ab + b2, or c 2. This requires quite a new view, a

spontaneous synthesis, which is an action and not a mere experience.