CHAPTER XI. BELIEF.
“Cette recherche peut infiniment contribuer aux progres de l’art de raisonner; elle le peut seule développer jusques dans ses premiers principes. En effet, nous ne découvrirons pas une manière sûre de conduire constamment nos pensées; si nous ne savons pas comment elles se sont formées.” Condillac, Traite des Sensations, p. 460.
IT is not easy to treat of MEMORY, BELIEF, and JUDGMENT, separately. For, in the rude and unskilful manner in which naming has been performed, the states of consciousness, marked by those terms, are not separate and distinct.
Part of that which is named by MEMORY is included under the term BELIEF; and part of that which is named by JUDGMENT, is also included under the name BELIEF. BELIEF, therefore, instead of having a distinct province to itself, encroaches on the provinces both of MEMORY, and JUDGMENT; from which great confusion has arisen.
I take MEMORY first, and JUDGMENT last, from no other principle of arrangement, than facility of exposition; and I have in this way found it convenient to treat of JUDGMENT as a case of BELIEF. (95)
[95 How is it possible to treat of Belief without including in it Memory and Judgment? Memory is a case of belief. In what does Memory differ from Imagination, except in the belief that what it represents did really take place? Judgment, in its popular acceptation, is Belief resulting from deliberate examination, in other words, Belief grounded on evidence: while in its philosophical sense it is coextensive, if not synonymous, with Belief itself. I do not know how it is possible to distinguish a judgment from any other process of the mind, except by its being an act of belief. Ed.]
We begin as usual with the simplest cases. These are, the case of a simple sensation, and the case of a simple idea. When we have a sensation, we BELIEVE that we have it; when we have an idea, we BELIEVE that we have it.
But, to have a sensation, and to believe that we have it, are not distinguishable things. When I say “I have a sensation,” and say, “I believe that I have it,” I do not express two states of consciousness, but one and the same state. A sensation is a feeling; but a feeling, and the belief of it are the same thing. The observation applies equally to ideas. When I say I have the idea of the sun, I express the same thing exactly, as when I say, that I believe I have it. The feeling is one, the names, only, are two. (96) (97)
[96 In the case of a present reality, belief has no place; it can be introduced only by a fiction or a figure. The believing state comes into operation when something thought of is still remote, and attainable by an intermediate exertion. The fact “I see the sun” is full fruition: the fact that I can see the sun by going out of doors affords scope for belief or disbelief. B.]
[97 The difference between Mr. Bain and the author is but in language and classification. It is necessary for the reader of the Analysis to remember, that the author uses the word Belief as the most general term for every species of conviction or assurance; the assurance of what is before our eyes, as well as of that which we only remember or expect; of what we know by direct perception, as well as of what we accept on the evidence of testimony or of reasoning: all this we are convinced or persuaded of; all this, in the author’s language, we believe. Mr. Bain, on the other hand, like Sir William Hamilton and many others, restricts the term to those cases of conviction which are short of direct intuition. Ed.]
It may be alleged that, when I say “I have a sensation,” I express the simple feeling, as derived from the outward sense; but that when I say “I believe I have a sensation,” I express two things, the simple sensation, and the association with it, of that remarkable idea, the idea of myself. The association, however, is the same in both cases. As I never have the sensation of an object, the sight, for example, of a rose, without associating with it, the idea of position, and also that of unity; nor the idea of such an object, without the same association; so I never have a sensation, nor the idea of that sensation, without associating with it, the idea of myself. And in both cases, the associations are of that remarkable class, which we have denominated inseparable. It is not in our power to prevent them. Whensoever the perception of the object exists, the idea of its position is sure to exist along with it; whensoever one of my sensations exists, the idea of myself exists along with it; whensoever one of my ideas exists, the idea of myself is sure to exist along with it.
In the case, then, of a present sensation, and that of a present idea; the sensation, and the belief of the sensation; the idea, and the belief of the idea, are not two things; they are, in each case, one and the same thing; a single thing, with a double name.
The several cases of Belief may be considered under three heads: I., Belief in events, real existences; II., Belief in testimony; and III., Belief in the truth of propositions. We shall consider them in their order; and first, Belief in events, real existences.
I. This is subdivided into three distinct cases: 1, Belief in present events; 2, Belief in past events; 3, Belief in future events.
1 . Belief in present events, again, is divided into two cases: 1, Belief in immediate existences present to my senses; 2, Belief in immediate existences not present to my senses.
Belief in existences present to my senses, includes, for one element, belief in my sensations; and belief in my sensations, as we have just observed, is only another name for having the sensations.
But belief in the external objects, is not simply belief in my present sensations; it is this, and something more. The something more, is now the object of our inquiry. I see, for example, a rose: my sensation is a sensation of sight: that of a certain modification of light; but my belief of the rose is not this; it is this, and much more.
Besides the sensation of colour, I have, for one thing, the belief of a certain distance, at which I see the rose; and that of a certain figure, consisting of leaves disposed in a certain form. I believe that I see this distance and form; in other words, perceive it by the eye, as immediately as I perceive the colour. Now this last part of the process has been explained by various philosophers. There is no dispute, or un certainty, about the matter. All men admit, that this, one of the most remarkable of all cases of belief, is wholly resolvable into association. (98) It is acknowledged, that, by the sense of sight, we receive no sensation but that of a certain modification of light. It is equally proved, that the sensations from which our ideas of distance and figure are derived, are sensations of the muscular actions and touch. How, then, is the Belief generated, that we see extension and figure, as well as colour? After the experience the learner has now had in tracing the rapid combinations of the mind, this presents but little difficulty. He knows, that when we are receiving through the muscles and the touch, the sensations which yield us the idea of extension and figure, we are receiving the sensations of sight at the same time, from the same objects. The sensations of sight, therefore, are associated with the ideas of these tactile and muscular sensations; and associated in the most perfect possible manner; because the conjunction is almost invariable, and of incessant occurrence, during the whole period of life. We are perpetually feeling, and seeing, the same objects, at the same time; so much so, that our lives may be said to consist of those sensations in union; to consist, at least to a far greater degree, of this, than of any one other state of consciousness.
[98 “All men admit.” Certainly not all men; though, at the time when the author wrote, it might be said, with some plausibility, all psychologists. Unfortunately this can no longer be said: Mr. Samuel Bailey has demanded a rehearing of the question, and has pronounced a strong and reasoned opinion on the contrary side; and his example has been followed by several other writers: but without, in my opinion, at all weakening the position which since the publication of Berkeley’s Essay on Vision, had been almost unanimously maintained by philosophers. Ed.]
This intensity of association, we know, produces two effects. One, is to blend the associated feelings so intimately together, that they no longer appear many, but one feeling. The other is, to render the combination inseparable; so that if one of the feelings exist, the others necessarily exist along with it.
The case of association which we are now considering, brings to view another circumstance, of some importance in tracing the effects of this great law of our nature. It is this: that in any associated cluster, the idea of sight is almost always the prevalent part. The visible idea is that which takes the lead, as it were; and serves as the suggesting principle to the rest. So it happens in the combination of the sensations of colour, with those of extension and figure: the visible idea stands foremost; and calls up the rest. It calls them up also with such intensity, that both the remarkable cases of association are exemplified. Whenever we have the sensation of colour, we cannot avoid having the ideas of distance, of extension, and figure, along with it; nor can we avoid having them in such intimate union with the ocular sensation, that they appear to be that sensation itself. This is the whole of what is ever supposed to be in the case. Of no phenomenon of the human mind is the developement more complete or more important. Our belief that we see the shape, and size, and distance of the object we look at, is as perfect as belief in any instance can be. But this belief is nothing more than a case of very close association.
The case of belief by association, any one may illustrate further, for himself, by recollecting some of the commonest cases of optical deception. If we look at a landscape with the naked eye, we believe the several objects before us, the men, the animals, the trees, the houses, the hills, to be at certain distances. If we next look at them through a telescope, they seem as if they were brought near; we have the distinct belief of their proximity, and though a belief immediately corrected by accompanying reflection, it is not only belief, but a belief that we can by no means shake off. We can, after this, invert the telescope, and then we can not help believing, that the nearest objects are re moved to a distance. Now what is it that the telescope performs in these two instances? It modifies in a certain manner the rays of light to the eye. The rays, proceeding from the objects, are so distributed on the eye, as they would be if the distance of the objects was less, or greater. Instantly we have the belief that it is less or greater; because, the sensation of the eye, by means of the glass, is made to resemble that which it receives, when objects are seen at a smaller or greater distance; and each of the sensations calls up that idea of distance which is habitually associated with it.
We have thus far proceeded, with some certainty, in detecting the component parts of that which we call our “belief in the existence of external objects.” We have taken account of the sensation from which is derived the visible idea, of the sensations from which are derived the ideas of position, extension, and figure; and we have explained the intimate combination of those two sets of ideas by association. But these, though the leading sensations and ideas, are not the only ones. There are, besides, the sensations from which we derive the idea of resistance, in all its modifications, from that of air, to that of adamant. There are also sensations which are not common to all objects, but peculiar to some; as smell, peculiar to odorous bodies; taste, to sapid; and sound, to sonorous ones.
Now, though the most remarkable case of the associations among those feelings, is that between colour, and extension and figure, they are all blended by association into one idea; which, though in reality a cluster of ideas, affects us in the same manner as if it were a single idea; an idea, the parts of which we detect by an analysis, which it requires some training to be able to make.
With the colour of the rose, the size and figure of the rose, which are the predominant ideas, I associate the idea of that modification of hardness and softness, which belongs to the rose; its degree of resistance, in short; also its smell, and its taste. These associations have been formed, as other associations are, by repetition. I have had so uniformly the sight, along with the handling, these, along with the smell, and the taste of the rose, that they are always called up together, and in the closest combination.
Now then let us ask, what we mean, when we affirm, that the rose exists. In this meaning are undoubtedly included the above sensations, in a certain order. I see the rose on the garden wall, and I affirm that it exists: that is, along with my present sensation, the sight of the rose, I have the ideas of a certain order of other sensations. These are, first, the idea of distance, that is, the idea of the feelings involved in the act of going to the rose: after this, the idea of the feelings in handling it; then in smelling, then in tasting it; all springing up by association with the sight of the rose. It is said, we believe we should have these sensations. That is, we have the idea of these sensations inseparably united one with the other, and inseparably united with the idea of our selves as having them. That this alone constitutes belief, in the remarkable case of the association of extension and figure with the sensations of sight, has already been seen; that this alone constitutes it, in many other remarkable cases, will be seen as we proceed; and in no case can it be shewn, that any thing more is included in it.
In my belief, then, of the existence of an object, there is included the belief, that, in such and such circumstances, I should have such and such sensations. Is there any thing more? It will be answered immediately, yes: for that, along with belief in my sensations as the effect, there is belief of something as the cause; and that to the cause, not to the effect, the name object is appropriated.
This is a case of Belief, which deserves the greatest possible attention. It is acknowledged, on all hands, that we know nothing of objects; but the sensations we have from them. There is a cause, however, of those sensations, and to that we give the name object: or, rather, there is a cluster of causes, corresponding with the cluster of sensations. Thus, when I see, and handle, and smell, and taste the rose, there is a cause of the sensation red, a cause of the sensation soft, a cause of the sensation round, a cause of the smell, and a cause of the taste; and all these causes are united in the rose. But what is the rose, beside the colour, the form, and so on? Not knowing what it is, but supposing it to be something, we invent a name to stand for it. We call it a substratum. This substratum, when closely examined, is not distinguishable from Cause. It is the cause of the qualities; that is, the cause of the causes of our sensations. The association, then, is this. To each of the sensations we have from a particular object, we annex in our imagination, a cause; and to these several causes we annex a cause, common to all, and mark it with the name substratum.
This curious case of association we now proceed to develop. The word cause, means the antecedent of a I consequent, where the connection is constant. This has been established on such perfect evidence, that it is a received principle of philosophy. More of the evidence of this important principle will appear as we go on. Here we shall take the proposition for granted.
Not only are we, daring the whole period of our lives, witnesses of an incessant train of events; that is, of antecedents and consequents, between which, for the greater part, the order is constant; but these constant conjunctions are, of all things in the world, what we are the most deeply interested in observing; for, on the knowledge of them, all our power of obtaining good and avoiding evil depends. From this, it necessarily follows, that between none of our ideas is the association more intimate and intense, than between antecedent arid consequent, in the order of events. When ever we perceive an event, the mind instantly flies to its antecedent. I hear words in the street; event: some one, of course, is making them; antecedent. My house is broken, and my goods are gone; event: a thief has taken them; antecedent. This is that remarkable case of association, in which the combination is inseparable; a case of so much importance in explaining some of the more mysterious phenomena of thought. Other instances of this remarkable phenomenon, to which we have already had occasion to advert, are, the sight of an object, and the ideas of its distance, its extension, and figure; the idea of colour, and the idea of extension; the idea of an object, and the. idea of position and unity; the idea of one of my sensations, and the idea of myself. In no instance is this inseparable association more perfect, or its con sequences more important, than in that between an event, and its antecedent. We cannot think of the one without thinking of the other. The two ideas are forced upon us at the same time; and by no effort of ours can they be disjoined. So necessarily, from the first moment of experience, are we employed in observing the constant conjunctions of events; and so deeply are we interested, in looking out for, and knowing the constant antecedent of every event, that the association becomes part of our being. The perception, or the idea, of an event, instantly brings up the idea of its constant antecedent; definite and clear, if the antecedent is known; and indefinite and obscure, if it is unknown. Still, the idea of an event, of a change, without the idea of its cause, is impossible. That a cause means, and can mean nothing to the human mind, but constant antecedent, is no longer a point in dispute. (99)
[99 Here again the author takes too sanguine a view of the amount of agreement hitherto attained among metaphysical philosophers. “That a cause means, and can mean, nothing to the human mind but constant antecedent” is so far from being “no longer a point in dispute” that it is denied with vehemence by a large numerical majority of philosophers; and its denial is perhaps the principal badge of one of the two schools which at this, as at most other times, bisect the philosophical world – the intuitional school and the experiential Ed.]
Of this remarkable case of association, that which we call “Our Belief in External Objects” is one of the most remarkable instances. Of the sensations, of sight, of handling, of smell, of taste, which I have from a rose, each is an event; with each of those events, I associate the idea of a constant antecedent, a cause; that cause unknown, but furnished with a name, by which it may be spoken of, namely, quality; the quality of red, the cause of the sensation red; the qualities of consistence, extension and figure, the causes of the sensations of handling; the qualities of smell and taste, the causes of the sensations of smell and taste. Such is one part of the process of association in this case. Another is that by which the ideas of those sensations are so intimately united, as to appear not several ideas, but one idea, the idea of a rose. We have now two steps of association; that of the several sensations into one idea; that of the several sensations each with a separate cause. But we do not stop here; for, as in a train of events, consisting of several links, A, B, C, D, and so on, though C is the antecedent or cause of D, it is itself the consequent or effect of B; and in all cases, when we have found the cause of any particular event, we have still to find out what was the cause of that cause. In this manner, when our habit of association has carried us from our sensations to the causes of them, the same habit carries us still farther.
As each of our sensations must have a cause, to which, as unknown, we give the name quality; so each of those qualities must have a cause. And as the ideas of a number of sensations, concomitant in a certain way, are combined into a single idea; as that of rose, that of apple; the unity, which is thus given to the effects, is of course transferred to the supposed causes, called qualities: they are referred to a common cause. To this supposed cause of supposed causes, we give a name; and that name is the word Substratum.
It is obvious, that there is no reason for stopping at this Substratum; for, as the sensation suggested the quality, the quality the substratum, the substratum as properly leads to another antecedent, another substratum, and so on, from substratum to substratum, without end. These inseparable associations, however, rarely go beyond a single step, hardly ever beyond two. The Barbarian, in accounting for the support of the earth, placed it on the back of a great elephant, and the great elephant on the back of a great tortoise; but neither himself, nor those whom he instructed, were carried by their habits of association any farther. (100)
[100 It is a question worth considering, why that demand for a cause of everything, which has led to the invention of so many fabulous or fictitious causes, so generally stops short at the first step, without going on to imagine a cause of the cause. But this is quite in the ordinary course of human proceedings. It is no more than we should expect, that these frivolous speculations should be subject to the same limitations as reasonable ones. Even in the region of positive facts in the explaining of phenomena by real, not imaginary, causes the first semblance of an explanation generally suffices to satisfy the curiosity which prompts the inquiry. The things men first care to inquire about are those which meet their senses, and among which they live; of these they feel curious as to the origin, and look out for a cause, even if it be but an abstraction. But the cause once found, or imagined, and the familiar fact no longer perplexing them with the feeling of an unsolved enigma, they do not, unless unusually possessed by the speculative spirit, occupy their minds with the unfamiliar antecedent sufficiently to be troubled respecting it with any of the corresponding perplexity. Ed.]
Such appear to be the elements included in our belief of the existence of objects acting on our senses. We have next to unfold the case of belief in the present existence of objects not acting on our senses.
Of this Belief, there are two cases: 1, Belief in the existence of objects, which we have not perceived; 2, Belief in the existence of objects, which we have perceived.
The first of these, is a case of the Belief in testimony; which is to be explained hereafter. What we are to examine at the present moment, then, is, our Belief in the existence of objects, which, though not now present to our senses, have been so at a previous time. Thus, I believe in the present existence of St. Paul’s, which I saw this morning.
In tracing the elements of this Belief, it is obvious in the first place, that in so far as it is founded oil my past sensations, memory is concerned in it. But Memory relates to past events, Belief in which, is to be considered under a following head. This part of the development, therefore, we postpone.
But, beside Memory, what other element is concerned in it? There is evidently an anticipation of the future. In believing that St. Paul’s exists, believe, that whenever I am in the same situation, in which I had perception of it before, I shall have perception of it again. But this Belief in future events, is also a case, which remains to be considered under a subsequent head. This, therefore, is another part of the development, which must be postponed.
I not only believe, that I shall see St. Paul’s, when I am again in St. Paul’s Churchyard; but I believe, I should see it if I were in St. Paul’s Churchyard this instant. This, too, is also a case, of the anticipation of the future from the past, and will come to be considered under the subsequent head already referred to.
Besides these cases, the only one which remains to be considered, is, my Belief that, if any creature whose senses are analogous to my own, is now in St. Paul’s Churchyard, it has the present sensation of that edifice.
My belief in the sensations of other creatures, is wholly derived from my experience of my own sensations. The question is, How it is derived. That it is an inference from similitude, will not be denied. But what is an inference from similitude?
I have no direct knowledge of any feelings but my own. How is it, then, that I proceed?
There are certain things which I consider as marks or signs of sensations in other creatures. The Belief follows the signs, and with a force, not exceeded in my other instance. But the interpretation of signs wholly a case of association, as the extraordinary phenomena of language abundantly testify. (101) And Whenever the association, between the sign and the thing signified, is sufficiently strong to become inseparable, it is belief. Thus, rude and ignorant people, to whom the existence of but one language is known, believe the name by which they have always called an object to belong to it naturally, as much as its shape, its colour, or its smell.* Thus the perceptions of sight, mere signs of distance, magnitude, and figure, are followed by belief of the sight of them. And it is remarked, with philosophical accuracy, by Condillac, that if our constitution had been such, as to give us, instead of a different modification of sight, a different modification of smell, with each variety of distance, extension, and figure, we should have smelt distance, extension and figure, in the same manner as, by the actual conformation of our organs, we see them. Nor can we doubt the truth of the ingenious observation of Diderot, that if we had seen, and heard, and tasted, and smelt, at the ends of our fingers, in the same manner as we feel, we should have believed our mind to be in the fingers, as we now believe it to be in the head.
[101 This is true in by far the greater number of instances. Nevertheless, there are some of the signs of feeling that have an intrinsic efficacy, on very manifest grounds. While the meanings of the smile and the frown could have been reversed, if the association had been the other way, there is an obvious suitability in the harsh stunning tones of the voice to signify anger and to inspire dread, and a like suitability in the gentle tones to convey affection and kindly feeling. We might have contracted the opposing associations, had the facts been so arranged, just as in times of peace, we associate joy with deafening salvos of artillery; and as loud, sharp-pealing laughter serves in the expression of agreeable feeling. But there is a gain of effect when the signs employed are such as to chime in, by intrinsic efficacy, with the associated meanings. On this coincidence depend the refinements of elocution, oratory, and stage display. B.
[The fact here brought to notice by Mr. Bain is, that certain of the natural expressions of emotion have a kind of analogy to the emotions they express, which makes an opening for an instinctive interpretation of them, independently of experience. But if this be so (and there can be little doubt that it is so; the suggestion takes place by resemblance, and there fore still by association. Ed.]]
[* It has been very justly remarked, that if all men had uniformly spoken the same language, in every part of the world, it would be difficult for us not to think [believe] that there is a natural connexion of our ideas, and the words which we use to denote them.” Brown, Lectures, ii. p. 80. 2d ed.]
The process of our Belief in this case, then, is evidently, as follows. Our sensations are inseparably associated with the idea of our bodies. A man cannot think of his body without thinking of it as sensitive. As he cannot think of his own body without thinking of it as sensitive, so he cannot think of another man’s body, which is like it, without thinking of it as sensitive. It is evident that the association of sensitive ness, is more close with certain parts of the complex idea, our bodies, than with other parts; because the association equally follows the idea of horse, of dog, of fowl, and even of fish, and insect: and it will be found, I think, that there is nothing with which it is so peculiarly united as the idea of spontaneous motion. What is the reason we do not believe there is any sensation in the most curiously-organized vegetable; while we uniformly believe there is in the polypus, and the microscopic insect? Nothing whatsoever can be discovered, but a strong association which exists in the one case, and is wanting in the other. And this is one of the most decisive of all experiments to prove the real nature of Belief.
As, then, our belief in the sensations of other creatures is derived wholly from the inseparable association between oar own sensations and the idea of our own bodies, it is apparent that the case in which I believe other creatures to be immediately percipient of objects, of which I believe that I myself should be percipient if I were so situated as they are, resolves itself ultimately into this particular case of my belief in certain conditional sensations of my own. This, again, as we have seen above, resolves itself into that other important law of Belief, which we are shortly to con sider, the anticipation of the future from the past.
2. It comes next in order, that we notice our Belief in past existences; that is, our present belief, that something had a present existence at a previous time.
Much of the development of this case is included in the expositions already afforded. Our present belief, means, for one thing, a present idea; our present belief of an existence, the idea of something existing. Of what associations the idea of something existing consists, we have just ascertained. Our present belief of a past existence, then, consists of our present idea of something existing, and the assignment of it to a previous time.
There are two cases of this assignment; one, in which the thing in question had been the object of our senses; another, in which it had not been the object of our senses.
When the thing, the existence of which we assign to a previous time, had been the object of our senses, and when the time to which we assign it is the time when it had so been the object of our senses, the whole is Memory. In this case, Memory, and Belief, are but two names for the same thing. Memory is, in fact, a case of Belief. Belief is a general word. Memory is one of the species included under it. Memory is the belief of a past existence, as Sensation is the belief of a present existence. When I say, that I remember the burning of Drury-Lane Theatre; the remembering the event, and believing the event, are not distinguish able feelings, they are one and the same feeling, which we have two ways of naming. The associations included in Memory we have already endeavoured to trace. It is a case of that indissoluble connexion of ideas which we have found in the preceding article to constitute belief in present existences. When I remember the burning of Drury-Lane Theatre, what happens? We can mark the following parts of the process. First, the idea of that event is called up by association; in other words, the copies of the sensations I then had, closely combined by association. Next, the idea of the sensations calls up the idea of myself as sentient; and that, so instantly and forcibly, that it is altogether out of my power to separate them. But when the idea of a sensation forces upon me, whether I will or no, the idea of myself as that of which it was the sensation, I remember the sensation. It is in this process that memory consists; and the memory is the Belief. No obscurity rests on any part of this process, except the idea of self, which is reserved for future analysis. The fact, in the mean time, is indisputable; that, when the idea of a sensation, which I have formerly had, is revived in me by association, if it calls up in close association the idea of myself, there is memory; if it does not call up that idea, there is not memory; if it calls up the idea of myself, it calls up the idea of that train of states of consciousness which constitutes the thread of my existence; if it does not call up the idea of myself, it does not call up the idea of that train, but some other idea. A sensation remembered, then, is a sensation placed, by association, as the consequent of one feeling and the antecedent of another, in that train of feelings which constitute the existence of a conscious being. All this will be more evident, when what is included in the notion of Personal Identity is fully evolved.
The case of Belief in past existences which have not been the object of our senses, resolves itself into the belief, either of testimony, or of the uniformity of the laws of nature; both of which will, after a few intervening expositions, be fully explained.
3. The process which we denote by the words, “Belief in future events,” deserves, on account of its importance, to be very carefully considered. That it is a complex process, will very speedily appear. Our endeavour shall be to resolve it into its elements; in doing which, we shall see whether it consists wholly of the elements with which we have now become familiar, or whether it is necessary to admit the existence of something else.
I believe that, to-morrow, the light of day will be spread over England; that the tide will ebb and flow at London-bridge; that men, and houses, and waggons, and carriages, wall be seen in the streets of this metropolis; that ships will sail, and coaches arrive; that shops will be opened for their customers, manufactories for their workmen, and that the Exchange will, at a certain hour, be crowded with merchants. Now, in all this, what is involved?
First of all, in the Belief of any future event, there is, of course, involved the idea of the event. It will be immediately understood, from what has been already adduced, that there can be no Belief in any existence, without an idea of that existence. If I believe in the light of day to-morrow, I must have an idea of it; if I believe in the flux and reflux of the water at London-bridge, I must have ideas of those several objects; and so of all other things.
In the next place; as it has already been shewn, that we cannot call up any idea by willing it; and that none of our ideas comes into existence but by association; the idea which, forms the fundamental part of Belief is produced by association. Ideas and association, then, are necessary parts of belief.
But there can be no idea of the future; because, strictly speaking, the future is a nonentity. Of nothing there can be no idea. It is true we can have an idea of that which never existed, and which we do not suppose ever will exist, as of a centaur; but this is a composition of the ideas of things which have existed. We can conceive a sea of milk, because we have seen a sea, and milk; a mountain of gold, be cause we have seen a mountain, and gold. In the same manner we proceed with what we call the future. The ideas which I have recently enumerated as parts of my belief of to-morrow; the light of day, the throng in the streets, the motion of the tide at London-bridge, are all ideas of the past. The general fact, indeed, is not a matter of dispute. Our idea of the future, and our idea of the past, is the same; with this difference, that it is accompanied with retrospection in the one case, anticipation in the other. What retrospection is, we have already examined. It is Memory. What Anticipation is, we are now to inquire; and to that end it is necessary to recall, distinctly, some important facts which we have already established.
The fundamental law of association is, that when two things have been frequently found together, we never perceive or think of the one without thinking of the other. If the visible idea of a rose occurs to me, the idea of its smell occurs along with it; if the idea of the sound of a drum occurs to me, the visible idea of that instrument occurs along with it.
Of these habitual conjunctions, there is none with which we are more incessantly occupied, from the first moment of our existence to the last, and in which we are more deeply interested, than that of antecedent and consequent. Of course there is none be tween the ideas of which the association is more intimate and intense.
In fact, our whole lives are but a series of changes; that is, of antecedents and consequents. The conjunction, therefore, is incessant; and, of course, the union of the ideas perfectly inseparable. We can no more have the idea of an event without having the ideas of its antecedent and it consequents, than we can have the idea and not have it at the same time. It is utterly impossible for me to have the visible idea of a rose, without the idea of its having grown from the ground, which is its antecedent; it is utterly impossible for me to have the idea of it without the ideas of its consistence, its smell, its gravity, and so on, which are its consequents.
Of the numerous antecedents and consequents, forming the matter of our experience, some are constant, some are not. Of course the strength of the association follows the frequency. The crow is seen flying as frequently from east to west, as from west to east; from north to south, as from south to north; there is, therefore, no association between the flight of the crow and any particular direction. Not so with the motion of a stone let go in the air: that takes one direction constantly. The order of antecedent and consequent is here invariable. The association of the ideas, therefore, is fixed and inseparable. I can no more have the idea of a stone let go in the air, and not have the idea of its dropping to the ground, than I can have the idea of the stone, and not have it, at the same time. (102)
[102 The theory maintained so powerfully and with such high intellectual resources by the author, that Belief is but an in separable association, will be examined at length in a note at the end of the chapter. Meanwhile let it be remarked, that the case of supposed inseparable association given in this passage, requires to be qualified in the statement. We cannot, indeed, think of a stone let go in the air, without having the idea of its falling; but this association is not so strictly in separable as to disable us from having the contrary idea. There are analogies in our experience which enable us without difficulty to form the imagination of a stone suspended in the air. The case appears to be one in which we can conceive both opposites, falling and not falling; the incompatible images not, of course, combining, but alternating in the mind. Which of the two carries belief with it, depends on what is termed Evidence. Ed.]
Where the sequence of two events is merely casual, it passes speedily away from the mind; because it is not associated with the idea of any thing in which we are interested. The things in which we are interested, are the immediate antecedents of our pleasures and pains, and the ideas of them are all inseparably associated with constant conjunctions. The association of the ideas of a constant antecedent and consequent, therefore, has both causes of strength, the interesting nature of the ideas, and the frequency of conjunction, both at their greatest height. It follows, that it should be the most potent and inseparable of all the combinations in the mind of man.
As we are thus incessantly, and thus intensely, occupied with cases of constant conjunction, while cases of casual conjunction pass slightly over the mind, and quickly vanish from our consciousness, every event calls up the idea of a constant antecedent. The association is so strong, that the combination is necessary and irresistible. It often enough, indeed, happens, that we do not know the constant antecedent of an event. But never does it fail to call up the idea of such an antecedent; and so inseparably, that we can as little have and not have the idea of an event, as we can have the idea of it, and not have the idea of an inseparable antecedent along with it. Ignorant, sometimes, of the constant antecedents of such and such events, we find them out by subsequent inquiry. Those cases of successful investigation still further strengthen the association. All that we call good, and all that we call evil, depend so entirely upon those constant conjunctions, that we are necessarily under the strongest stimulus to find them out, and to trace them with greater and greater accuracy. Thus we very often find a constancy of sequence, in which we acquiesce for a while; but after a time discover, that though constant, indeed, it is not immediate; for, that between the event and supposed antecedent, several antecedents intervene. At first we regard the ignition of the gunpowder, as the immediate antecedent of the motion of the ball. Better instructed, we find that a curious process intervenes. The constancy of the sequence is always more certain, the more nearly immediate the antecedent is. And so frequent is our detection of antecedents, more immediate than those which we have just observed, that an association is formed between the idea of every antecedent, and that of another antecedent, as yet unknown, intermediate between it and the consequent which we know. In no sequence do we ever feel satisfied that we have discovered all. We see a spark ignite the gunpowder, we see one billiard-ball impel another. Though we consider these as constant antecedents and consequents, the idea of something intermediate is irresistibly conjoined. To this, though wholly un known, we annex a name, that we may be able to speak of it. The name we have invented for this purpose is POWER. Thus, we conceive that it is not the spark which ignites the gunpowder, but the power of the spark; it is not one billiard-ball that moves the other, but the power of the ball. The Power, in this case, is a supposed consequent of the moving ball, and antecedent of the moved; and so in all other cases.
But the idea of an event does not call up the idea of its constant antecedent in closer and more intense association, than it calls up that of its consequent or consequents. 1 cannot have the idea of water, with out the idea of its mobility, its weight, and other obvious properties. I cannot have the idea of rhubarb, without the idea of its nauseous taste, and other familiar properties. I cannot have the idea of the stroke of a sword upon the head of a man, without the idea of a wound inflicted on his head. I cannot have the idea of my falling from a ship into the middle of the sea, without the idea of my being drowned. I cannot have the idea of my falling from the top of a high tower, without having the idea of my being killed by the fall. If I have the first idea, the second forces itself upon me. The union has in it all that I mark by the word necessity; a sequence, constant, immediate, and inevitable.
This great law of our nature shews to us immediately in what manner our idea of the future is generated. Night has regularly been followed by morning. The idea of night is followed by that of morning; the idea of morning is followed by that of the events of the morning, the gradual increase of light, the occupations of men, the movements of animals and objects, and all their several successions from morning till night. This is the idea of to-morrow; to this succeeds another to-morrow; and an indefinite number of these to-morrows makes up the complex idea of futurity.
But I am told, that we have not only the idea of to-morrow, but the belief of to-morrow; and I am asked what that belief is. I answer, that you have not only the idea of to-morrow, but have it inseparably. It will also appear, that wherever the name belief is applied, there is a case of the indissoluble association of ideas. It will further appear, that, in instances without number, the name belief is applied to a mere case of indissoluble association; and no instance can be adduced in which any thing besides an indissoluble association can be shewn in belief. (103) It would seem to follow from this, with abundant evidence, that the whole of my notion of to-morrow, belief included, is nothing but a case of the inevitable sequence of ideas.
[103 The case that is most thoroughly opposed to the theory of indissoluble association is our belief in the Uniformity of Nature. Our overweening tendency to anticipate the future from the past is shown prior to all association; the first effect of experience is to abridge and modify a strong primitive urgency. There is, no doubt, a certain stage when association co-operates to justify the believing state. After our head long instinct has, by a series of reverses, been humbled and toned down, and after we have discovered that the uniformity, at first imposed by the mind upon everything, applies to some things and not to others, we are confirmed by our experience in the cases where the uniformity prevails; and the intellectual growth of association counts for a small part of the believing impetus. Still, the efficacy of experience is perhaps negative rather than positive; it saves, in certain cases, the primitive force of anticipation from the attacks made upon it in the other cases where it is contradicted by the facts. It does not make belief, it conserves a pre-existing belief. (See Note at the end of the chapter.) B.]
This, however, is a part of our constitution, of so much importance, that it must be scrutinized with more than ordinary minuteness.
Our first assertion was, that in every instance of belief, there is indissoluble association of the ideas. We shall confine our examples, for the present, to that case of belief which is more immediately under our examination; belief in the future. I believe, that if I put my finger in the flame of the candle, I shall feel the pain of burning. I believe, that if a stone is dropped in the air, it will fall to the ground. It is evident that in these cases, the belief consists in uniting two events, the antecedent, and the consequent. There are in it, therefore, two ideas, that of the antecedent, and that of the consequent, and the union of those ideas. The previous illustrations have abundantly shewn us, in what manner the two ideas are united by association, and indissolubly united. These ingredients in the belief are all indisputable. That there is any other cannot be shewn.
Our second assertion was, that cases of indissolube association, admitted by all men to be this, and no thing more, are acknowledged as Belief. The facts (which any one may call to recollection), in proof of this assertion, deserve the greatest attention; they shew the mode of investigating some of the most latent combinations of the human mind.
No fact is more instructive, in this respect, than one, which more than once we have had occasion to make use of; the association of the ideas of distance, extension, and figure, with the sensations of sight. I open my eyes; I see the tables, and chairs, the floor, the door, the walls of my room, and the books ranged upon the walls; some of these things at one distance, some at another; some of one shape and size, some of another. My belief is, that I see all those particulars. Yet the fact is, that I see nothing but certain modifications of light; (104) and that all my belief of seeing the distance, the size, arid figure of those several objects, is nothing but the close and inseparable association of the ideas of other senses. There is no room for even a surmise that there is any thing in this case but the immediate blending of the ideas of one sense with the sensations of another, derived from the constant concomitance of the sensations themselves.
[104 More guardedly –‘I am affected by certain modifications of light.’ The word ‘see’ carries with it too much meaning for the case put. There is also the omission, previously re marked on, to take into account the mental elements due to the movements of the eye visible forms, magnitudes, and movements. B.]
The case of hearing is perfectly analogous, though not so exact. I am in the dark; I hear the voice of one man, and say he is behind me; of another, and say he is before me; of another, he is on my right hand; another, on my left. I hear the sound of a carriage, and say, it is at one distance; the sound of a trumpet, and say, it is at another. In these cases I believe, not only that I hear a sound, but the sound of a man s voice, the sound of a carriage, the sound of a trumpet. Yet no one imagines that my belief is any thing, in these cases, but the close association of the sounds with the ideas of the objects. I believe, not only that I hear the sound of a man’s voice, but that I hear it behind me, or before me; on my right hand, or on my left; at this distance, or at that. The indisputable fact, in the mean time, is, that I hear only a modification of sound, and that the position and distance, which I believe I hear, are nothing but ideas of other senses, closely associated with those modifications of sound. That this state of conscious ness, the result of an immediate irresistible association, is identical with the state which we name belief, is proved by a very remarkable experiment, the deception produced by ventriloquism. A man acquires the art of forming that peculiar modification of sound, which would come from this or that position, different from the position he is in; in other words, the sound which is associated, not with the idea of the position he is in, but that of another position. The sound is heard; the association takes place; we cannot help believing that the sound proceeds from a certain place, though we know, that is, immediately recognize, that it proceeds from another.
We must not be afraid of tediousness, while we adduce instances in superabundance, to prove that in dissoluble association (in one remarkable class of its cases, which, on account of their vast importance, it is found expedient to distinguish by a particular name) is that state of consciousness, to which we have given the name of BELIEF.
We are all of us familiar with that particular feeling, which is produced, when we have turned ourselves round with velocity several times. We BELIEVE that the world is turning round.
The sound of bells, opposed by the wind, appears to be farther off. A person speaking through a trumpet appears to be nearer. Our experience is, that sounds decrease by distance. A sound is decreased by opposition of the wind; the idea of distance is associated; and the association being inseparable, it is belief. A sound is increased by issuing from a trumpet, the idea of proximity is associated, and the association being indissoluble, it is belief.
In passing, on board of ship, another ship at sea, we believe that she has all the motion, we none: though we may be sailing rapidly before the wind, she making hardly any progress against it.
When we have been making a journey in a stage coach, or a voyage in a ship, we believe, for some time after leaving the vehicle, that still we are feeling its motion; more especially just as we are falling asleep.
Nobody doubts, that these, and similar cases of belief, which are very numerous, are all to be resolved into pure association. What the associations are, we leave to be traced by the learner; so many repetitions of the same process, though a useful exercise to him, would be very tedious here.
The Belief which takes place in Dreaming merits great attention in this part of our inquiry. No belief is stronger than that which we experience in dreaming. Our belief of some of the frightful objects, which occur to us, is such, as to extort from us loud cries; and to throw us into such tremors and bodily agitations, as the greatest real dangers would fail in producing. Not less intense is our belief in the pleasurable objects which occur to us in dreams; nor are the agitations which they produce in our bodies much less surprising. Yet there is hardly any difference of opinion about the real nature of the phenomena which occur in dreaming. That our dreams are mere currents of ideas, following one another by association; not controlled, as in our waking hours, by sensations and will; is the substance of every theory of dreaming. The belief, therefore, which occurs in dreaming, is merely a case of association; and hence it follows that nothing more is necessary to account for Belief.
There is not a more decisive instance of the identity of Belief and Association, than the dread of ghosts, felt in the dark, by persons who possess, in its greatest strength, the habitual disbelief of their existence. That dread implies belief, and an uncontrollable belief, we need not stay to prove. When the persons of whom we speak feel the dread of ghosts in the dark, the meaning is, that the idea of ghost is irresistibly called up by the sensation of darkness. There is here, indisputably, a case of indissoluble association; nor can it be shewn that there is anything else. In the dark, when this strong association is produced, there is the belief; not in the dark, when the association is not produced, there is no belief. (105)
[105 The efficacy of association is not correctly explained in this instance. The influence of Terror on belief is unquestionably great; but the operation is more complicated than the description given of it in the text. Terror, in the first place, is a depressing passion, and as such impairs the tone of mind suited to the anticipation of coming good, or in the obverse, increases the tendency to anticipate coming evil. In the next place, it is the state most liable to a morbid fixed idea of evil, calamity, or danger. Thirdly, we have learned in the course of our lives to expect numerous possible calamities; and are maintained in serenity only by seeing clearly a good way before us, so as to be sure that none of these possible evils are approaching. Darkness extinguishes for the time our assuring fore-sight, and thus, by removing a counteractive, leaves us a prey to all the demons of mischief. Fourthly, the emotion of Terror has its corresponding imaginations, into which are taken up with avidity all the suggestions of danger that have ever been made to us, including ghosts, hobgoblins, and other agents of calamity, when we have not natural vigour or express training to set them at nought.
The mere fact communicated to us, on a few occasions, that ghosts appear in the dark, and sometimes perform dreadful deeds, would not by force of association alone produce all that un-nerving effect which children and weak or superstitious persons are liable to when, at night, exposed in a lonely place, or passing a churchyard. B.]
Few men, except those who are accustomed to it, could walk on the ridge of a high house without falling down. Yet the same men could walk with perfect security, on similar footing, placed on the ground. What is the interpretation of this contrariety? Fear, we are told, is that which makes the inexperienced person fall. But fear implies belief. There is nothing, however, in the case, but the intense association of the idea of his falling, with his sight of the position in which he is placed. In some persons this idea is so easily excited, that they cannot look down from even a very moderate height, without feeling giddy, as they call it; that is, without having the apprehension; in other words, the belief, of falling. *
[* The same account, in substance, of some of the last of these phenomena, is given by Dr. Brown; and it may aid the conceptions of the learner, to observe the different modes of exposition used by two different writers.
“There can be no question, that he who travels in the same carriage, with the same external appearances of every kind by which a robber could be tempted or terrified, will be in equal danger of attack, whether he carry with him little of which he can be plundered, or such a booty as would impoverish him if it were lost. But there can be no question also, that though the probabilities of danger be the same, the fear of attack would, in these two cases, be very different; that, in the one case, he would laugh at the ridiculous terror of any one who journeyed with him, and expressed much alarm at the approach of evening; and that, in the other case, his own eye would watch suspiciously every horseman who approached, and would feel a sort of relief when he observed him pass carelessly and quietly along at a considerable distance behind.
“That the fear, as a mere emotion, should be more intense, according to the greatness of the object, might indeed be expected; and if this were all, there would be nothing wonderful in the state of mind which I have now described. But there is not merely a greater intensity of fear, there is, in spite of reflection, a greater belief of probability of attack. There is fear, in short, and fear to which we readily yield, when otherwise all fear would have seemed absurd. The reason of this it will perhaps not be difficult for you to discover, if you remember the explanations formerly given by me, of some analogous phenomena. The loss of what is valuable in itself, is of course a great affliction. The slightest possibility of such an evil makes the evil itself occur to us, as an object of conception, though not at first, perhaps, as an object of what can be termed fear. Its very greatness, however, makes it, when thus conceived, dwell longer in the min; and it cannot dwell long, even as a mere conception, without exciting, by the common influence of suggestion, the different states of mind, associated with the conception of any great evil; of which associate or resulting states, in such circumstances, fear is one of the most constant and prominent. The fear is thus readily excited as an associate feeling; and when the fear has once been excited, as a mere associate feeling, it continues to be still more readily suggested again, at every moment, by the objects that suggested it, and with the perception or conception of which it has recently co-existed. There is a remarkable analogy to this process, in the phenomena of giddiness, to which I have before more than once alluded. Whether the height on which we stand, be elevated only a few feet, or have beneath it a precipitous abyss of a thousand fathoms, our footing, if all other circumstances be the same, is in itself equally sure. Yet though we look down, without any fear, on the gentle slope, in the one case, we shrink back in the other case with painful dismay. The lively conception of the evil which we should suffer in a fall down the dreadful descent, which is very naturally suggested by the mere sight of the precipice, suggests and keeps before us the images of horror in such a fall, and thus indirectly the emotions of fear, that are the natural accompaniments of such images, and that but for those images never would have arisen. We know well, on reflection, that it is a footing of the firmest rock, perhaps, on which we stand, but in spite of reflection, we feel, at least, at every other moment, as if this very rock itself were crumbling or sinking beneath us. In this case, as in the case of the traveller, the liveliness of the mere conception of evil that may be suffered, gives a sort of temporary probability to that which would seem to have little likelihood in itself, and which derives thus from mere imagination all the terror that is falsely embodied by the mind in things that exist around.
“It is not, then, any simple ratio of probabilities which regulates the rise of our hopes and fears, but of these combined with the magnitude or insignificance of the objects.” Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind. Lecture LXV., vol. iii., p. 345347. 2d ed.
Notwithstanding this, the ideas of Dr. Brown were so far from being clear and settled on the subject, that in the same work, Lecture VI., v. i., p. 115, he seems to affirm, that belief cannot be accounted for by association, but must be referred to instinct; though it is necessary to use the word seems, for it is not absolutely certain that he does not by instinct mean association. (Authors Note.)]
From these illustrations, then, it does not appear that the anticipation of the future from the past, contains in it any thing peculiar. So far from standing by itself, a phenomenon sui generis it is included in one of the most general of the laws of the human mind. When Professor Stewart, therefore, and other writers, erect it into an object of wonder, a prodigy, a thing falling within no general rule; and tell us they can refer it to nothing but instinct; which is as much as to say, to nothing at all; the term instinct, in all cases, being a name for nothing but our own ignorance; they only confess their failure in tracing the phenomena of the mind to the grand comprehensive law of association; to the admission of which, in its full extent, they seem to have had a most unaccountable, and a most unphilosophical aversion; as if that simplicity, according to which one law is found included in a higher, and that in a yet higher, till we arrive at a few which seem to include the whole, were not as much to be expected in the world of mind, as in the world of matter. *
[* Locke, at a period subsequent to the publication of his Essay, seems to have become more sensible of the importance of association. These are his words: I think I shall make some other additions to be put into your Latin translation, and particularly concerning the connexion of ideas, which has not, that I know, been hitherto considered, and has, I guess, a greater influence upon our minds, than is usually taken notice of.” Locke, Lett. to Molineux, April 26th, 1695. (Authors Note.)
[When Locke wrote the letter here quoted, he had not yet written the chapter of his Essay which treats of the Association of Ideas. That chapter did not appear in the original edition, but was first inserted in the fourth, published in 1690. The intention, therefore, which he expressed to Molineux, has received its fulfilment; and the passage quoted further on in the text, is part of the addition” which he contemplated. Ed.]]
We have now then explored those states of Consciousness which we call Belief in existences; Belief in present existences; Belief in past existences; and Belief in future existences. We have seen that, in the most simple cases, Belief consists in sensation alone, or ideas alone; in the more complicated cases, in sensation, ideas, and association, combined; and in no case of belief has any other ingredient been found.
In accounting for belief in present objects not acting on the senses, it appeared, that a certain anticipation of the future entered, for so much, into this compound phenomenon; the explanation of which part we were obliged to leave, till the anticipation of the future had undergone investigation. We have now seen that this part, as well as the rest, consists of association. The whole, therefore, of this case of belief, is now resolved into association.
Mr. Locke, whose expositions of any of our mental phenomena are almost always instructive, even when they stop short of being complete, has given the above account of belief precisely, in one remarkable and very extensive class of cases; those in which the belief is unfounded; which he denominates prejudices.
“There is,” he says,* “scarce any one that does not observe something that seems odd to him, and is in itself really extravagant in the opinions, reasonings, and actions, of other men.
[* Essay on the Human Understanding, B. II., Ch. 33.]
“This sort of unreasonableness is usually imputed to education and prejudice; and for the most part truly enough; though that reaches not the bottom of the disease, nor shews distinctly enough whence it rises, or wherein it lies.
“Education is often rightly assigned for the cause; and prejudice is a good general name for the thing itself; but yet, I think, he ought to look a little farther, who would trace this sort of madness to the root it springs from, and so explain it, as to shew whence this flaw has its original in very sober and rational minds, and wherein it consists.”
Mr. Locke affords the explanation, which he thought necessary to be given, and proceeds as follows.
“Some of our ideas have a natural correspondence and connexion one with another. It is the office, and excellence, of our reason, to trace these; and hold them together in that union and correspondence, which is founded in their peculiar beings.
“Besides this, there is another connexion of ideas, wholly owing to chance or custom. Ideas, that in themselves are not at all of kin, come to be so united in some men s minds, that it is very hard to separate them. They always keep in company; and the one no sooner at any time comes into the understanding, but its associate appears with it. And if they are more than two which are thus united, the whole gang, always inseparable, shew themselves together.
“This wrong connexion, in our minds, of ideas in themselves loose and independent of one another, has such an influence, and is of so great force, to set us awry in our actions, as well moral as natural, passions, reasonings, and notions themselves; that perhaps there is not any one thing that deserves more to be looked after.
“The ideas of goblins and sprights have really no more to do with darkness than light. Yet let but a foolish maid inculcate these often in the mind of a child, and raise them there together, possibly he shall never be able to separate them again so long as he lives; but darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined, that he can no more bear the one than the other.
“A man receives a sensible injury from another; thinks on the man and that action over and over; and by ruminating on them strongly, or much in his mind, so cements those two ideas together, that he makes them almost one.”
“When this combination is settled, and while it lasts, it is not in the power of reason to help us and relieve us from the effects of it. Ideas in our minds, when they are there, will operate according to their nature and circumstances. And, here, we see the cause why Time cures certain affections, which reason, though in the right, has not power over, nor is able, against them, to prevail with those who are apt to hearken to it in other cases.”
After adducing various examples, to illustrate the effect of these associations, in producing both vicious affections, and absurd opinions, he thus concludes:
“That which thus captivates our reasons, and leads men blindfold from common sense, will, when examined, be found to be what we are speaking of. Some independent ideas of no alliance to one another, are, by education, custom, and the constant din of their party, so coupled in their minds, that they always appear there together; and they can no more separate them in their thoughts, than if there were but one idea; and they operate as if they were so. This gives sense to jargon, demonstration to absurdity, and consistency to nonsense; and is the foundation of the greatest, I had almost said, of all, the errors in the world.”
Such is Mr. Locke’s account of wrong belief, or error. But wrong belief is belief, no less than right belief. Wrong belief, according to Locke, arises from a bad association of ideas. Right belief, then, arises from a right association of ideas; and this also was evidently Locke s opinion. It is, thus, association, in both cases; only, in the case of wrong belief, the association is between ideas which ought not to be associated; in the case of right belief, it is between ideas which ought to be associated. In the case of right belief, the association is between ideas which, in the language of Locke, “have a natural correspondence and connexion one with another:” in the case of wrong belief, it is between ideas, which “in themselves are not at all of kin, and are joined only by chance or custom.” The ideas of the colour, shape, and smell of the rose; the ideas of the spark falling on the gunpowder, and the explosion, are the sorts of ideas which are understood, by Mr. Locke, as having “a natural correspondence and connexion.” Ideas, such as those of darkness, with those of ghosts; of the miseries suffered at school, with the reading of books, are the kind which he describes as “not of kin, and united in the mind only by chance or custom.” This, put into accurate language, means, that when the ideas are connected in conformity with the connexions of things, the belief is right belief; when the ideas are connected not in conformity with the connexions of things, the belief is wrong belief. The ideas, however, which are connected in conformity with the connexions among things, are connected by custom, as much as those which are connected not in conformity with those connexions. And the custom which unites them in conformity, is by far the most common of the two. It is, in fact, the regular, the ordinary, the standard custom, the other only constitutes the exceptions.
II. We have divided Belief into, 1, Belief in events, real existences; 2, Belief in testimony; 3, Belief in the truth of propositions.
Though this division, suggested by the ordinary forms of language, appeared to me didactically convenient, it is not logically correct. The expression, “Belief in testimony,” is elliptical. When completed, it becomes “Belief in events upon the evidence of testimony.” There are then, in reality, only two kinds of Belief; 1. Belief in events or real existences; and 2. Belief in the truth of Propositions. But Belief in events or real existences has two foundations; 1. our own experience; 2. the testimony of others. The first of these we have examined, the consideration of the second remains.
When we begin, however, to look at the second of these foundations more closely, it soon appears, that it is not in reality distinct from the first. For what is testimony? It is itself an event. When we believe any thing, therefore, in consequence of testimony, we only believe one event in consequence of another. But this is the general account of our belief in events. It is the union of the ideas, of an antecedent, and a consequent, by a strong association. I believe it is one o clock. Why? I have just heard the clock strike. Striking of the clock, antecedent; one o’clock, consequent; the second closely associated with the first. The striking of the clock is in fact a species of testimony. What does it testify? Not one event, but an infinite number of events, of which the term “one o’clock” is the name. At every instant in the course of the day, a number of events are taking place, some known to us, some unknown. The term one o clock, is the name of those which take place at a particular point of the diurnal revolution. I believe in them all upon the testimony of the clock. Why? From experience; every one would directly and truly reply. I have found the events constantly, or at least very regularly, conjoined. From junction of the events, junction of the ideas; in other words, belief.
If proof, only, were wanted, this would suffice. For the purpose, however, of instruction, tuition, training, a more minute developement of this important case of belief seems too useful to be dispensed with, notwithstanding the tediousness which so many repetitions of the same process are too likely to produce.
The watchman calling the hour, is a case of human testimony. That the account of our belief, in this case, is precisely the same as that in the case of the striking of the clock, it is wholly unnecessary to prove. But if our reliance on testimony in one case is pure experience, it may reasonably be inferred that it is so in all.
The forms of expression, which we apply to this case of belief, are very misleading. We say, “we believe a man,” or, “we believe his testimony.” “We attach belief to the man,” or, “to his testimony.” In these expressions, the name belief is applied to the wrong event; to the antecedent, instead of the consequent. What we mean to say is, that we believe the consequent, the thing testified, not the antecedent, the speaking of the words. The words the man uses, are, to us, sensations: belief that he uses the words, is not what is meant by belief in his testimony. The same form of expression is perfectly absurd, when applied to other cases. We never say that we believe the flame of the candle, or we attach belief to the flame of the candle, when we mean to state the belief, that a finger will be burnt if it is put into the flame; we never say we believe the spark, when we mean to express our belief of an explosion when the spark falls upon the gunpowder.
The only question, then, is, in what manner the words of the testifier, the antecedent, come to be so united with the idea of the thing testified, as to constitute belief. And surely there is no difficulty here, either in conceiving, or admitting the process. Words call up ideas by association, solely. There is no natural connexion between them. The manner in which words are applied to events, I know most intimately by my own experience. I am constantly, and, from the first moment I could use them, have constantly been, employing words in exact conformity with events. Cases occur in which I do not, but they are few in comparison with those in which I do. It has been justly remarked, that the greatest of liars speak truth a thousand times for once that they utter falsehood. The connexion between the use of words, and the idea of conformable existence, is, of course, established into one of the strongest associations of the human mind. In other words, belief, in consequence of testimony, is, strictly, a case of association. That we interpret other men’s actions by our own, no one doubts; and that we do so entirely by association has already been proved.
In accounting for belief in past existences where it is not memory, we have found that it is resolvable into belief in testimony, and in the uniformity of the laws of nature; and the explanation of this we postponed till the cases of belief in testimony, and in the uniformity of the laws of nature, should be expounded. A few words will now suffice to connect the explanations formerly given with those which have now been presented.
The two cases, as we have seen, resolve themselves into one; as belief in testimony is but a case of the anticipation of the future from the past; and belief in the uniformity of the laws of nature is but another name for the same thing.
I believe the event called the fire of London, upon testimony. I believe that the stranger who now passes before my window, had a father and mother, was once an infant, then a boy, next a youth, then a man, and that he has been nourished by food from his birth; all this, from my belief in the uniformity of the laws of nature.
After the preceding developments, it is surely un necessary to be minute in the analysis of these in stances. I have had experience, of a constant series of antecedents and consequents, in the life of man; generation, birth, childhood, arid so on; as I have had of pain from putting my finger in the flame. A corresponding association is formed. If the sight of a stranger calls up the idea of his origin and progress to manhood, the ordinary train of antecedents and consequents is called up; nor is it possible for me to prevent it. The association is indissoluble, and is one of the cases classed under the name of Belief.
The explanation is still more simple of my belief in the fire of London. The testimony in this case is of that sort which I have always experienced to be con formable to the event. Between such testimony, and the idea of the event testified, I have, therefore, an indissoluble association. The testimony uniformly calls up the idea of the reality of the event, so closely, that I cannot disjoin them. But the idea, irresistibly forced upon me, of a real event, is Belief. (106)
[106 The belief in Testimony is derived from the primary credulity of the mind, in certain instances left intact under the wear and tear of adverse experience. Hardly any fact of the human mind is better attested than the primitive disposition to receive all testimony with unflinching credence. It never occurs to the child to question any statement made to it, until some positive force on the side of scepticism has been developed. Gradually we find that certain testimonies are inconsistent with fact; we have, therefore, to go through a long education in discriminating the good testimonies from the bad. To the one class, we adhere with the primitive force of conviction that in the other class has been shaken and worn away by the shocks of repeated contradictions. B.]
It is in this way that belief in History is to be explained. It is because I cannot resist the evidence; in other words, because the testimony calls up irresistibly the idea, that I believe in the battle of Marathon, in the existence of the Thirty Tyrants of Athens, in that of Socrates, Plato, and so on.
III. We come now to what we set out with stating as the third case of Belief; but which, as there are in reality but two kinds of belief, is, strictly speaking, the second, I mean Belief in the Truth of Propositions; in other words, verbal truths.
The process by which this Belief is generated, or rather the combination wherein it consists, has, by the writers on Logic, at least those in the Latin and modern languages, been called JUDGMENT. This, however, is a restricted sense. In general, the word Judgment is used with more latitude. Sometimes it is nearly co-extensive with Belief, excluding hardly any but the sudden and momentary cases. We should hardly say, A man judges there are ghosts, who is afraid of them in the dark, but firmly believes his fear is unfounded; or judges the surgeon to be noxious, whom he shudders at the sight of, from re collection of the terrible operation which he under went at his hands. In all cases, however, either of deliberate or well-founded belief, we seem to apply the word judgment without impropriety. I judge that I see the light, that I hear the drum, that my friend speaks the truth, that water is flowing in the Ganges.
All Belief of events, except that of our present sensations, and ideas, consists, as we have seen, in the combination of the ideas of an antecedent and a consequent. The antecedent is sometimes simple, some times compound, being not one event, but various events taken together. These varieties in the antecedent constitute two distinguishable cases of belief. The last of them, that in which the antecedent is complex, is that in which the term judgment is most commonly applied. Again, there are two cases of complex antecedent, one, in which all the events are concordant; another, in which they are not all concordant. It is to this last case that the term judgment is most peculiarly applied. Thus, it is not usual to say, that we judge we shall feel pain if we put a finger in the flame of the candle. But if we saw two armies ready to engage, one of which had considerable superiority, both in numbers and discipline, we should say we judge that it would gain the victory. This case, however, of belief, where the antecedent is complex, will receive additional illustration farther on. We have now to consider the case of Belief in the truth of propositions.
PROPOSITION is a name for that form of words which makes a predication. What Predication is, of what parts it consists, what end it serves, and into how many kinds it is divided, we have already explained. It remains to inquire what is meant by the TRUTH of a Predication, and what state of conscious ness it is which is called the recognition or BELIEF of that truth.
Predication consists essentially in the application of two marks to the same thing. Of this there are two remarkable cases; one, That in which two names of equal extent are applied to the same thing; another, That in which two names, one of less, another of greater extent, are -applied to the same thing. The questions we have to resolve are, What is meant by truth in these cases; and, What is the process, or complex state of consciousness, which is called assent to the proposition, or belief of it.
And, first, as to the case of two names of equal extent, as when we say, Man is a rational animal;” here the two names are, “Man,” and “Rational animal,” exactly equivalent; so that “man” is the name of whatever “rational animal” is the name of; and “rational animal” is the name of whatever “man” is the name of. This coincidence of the names is all that is meant by the truth of the proposition; and my recognition of that coincidence is another name for my belief in its truth.
Now, how is it that I recognise two names as equivalent? About this, there will not be any dispute. I recognise the meaning of names solely by association. I recognise that such a name is of such a meaning, by association. I recognise that another name is of the same signification, by the same means. That I recognise the meaning of the last, whatever it is, by association, cannot be doubted, because it is by this that the meaning of every word is established. There is, however, another fact; that I recognise the meaning in the second case, as the same with the meaning in the first case. What is the process of this recognition? The word “Man” is the mark or name of a certain cluster of ideas. A certain cluster of ideas I know to be what it is, by having it. Having it, and knowing it, are two names for the same thing. Having it, and having it again, is knowing it, and knowing it again; and that is the recognition of its sameness. It is a single name for the two states of consciousness. This, then, is all that is meant by our belief in the truth of a proposition, the terms of which are convertible, or of equal extent.
When of two names, applied to the same thing, one is of less, another of greater extent, the association is more complex; but in that is all the difference. Thus, when I believe the truth of the proposition, “Man is an animal,” the meaning of the name “man” is called up by association, and the meaning of the name “animal” is called up by association. Thus far is certain. But there is something further. I recognise, that “animal” is a name of whatever “man” is a name of, and also of more. In having the meaning of the name “man” called up by association, that is, in having the ideas, I recognise that “man” is a name of James, and John, and Homer, and Socrates, and all the individuals of the class. This is pure association. In having the meaning of the name “animal” called up by association, I recognise that it is a name of James, and John, and all the individuals of the same class, as well as of all the individuals of other classes; and this is all that is meant by my Belief in the truth of the proposition. Man is the name of one cluster of ideas; animal is the name of a cluster, including both this and other clusters. The latter cluster is partly the same with, and partly different from, the former. But having two clusters, and knowing them to be two, is not two things, but one and the same thing; knowing them in the case in which I call them same, and knowing them in the case in which I call them different, is still having them, having them such as they are, and nothing besides. In this second case also, of the belief of a proposition, there is, therefore, nothing but ideas, and association.
We have already shewn, under the head NAMING, when explaining the purpose to which Predication is subservient, that all Predication may be strictly considered as of one kind, the application to the same thing of another name of greater extent; in other words, that Predication by what Logicians call the Difference, Property, or Accident of a thing, may be reduced to Predication by the Genus or Species; but as there is a seeming difference in these latter cases, a short illustration of them will probably be useful.
Thus, suppose I say, “Man is rational,” and that I choose to expound it, without the aid of the word animal, understood; what is there in the case? The word “man,” marks a certain cluster of ideas. “Rational” marks a portion of that cluster. In the cluster marked “man,” the cluster marked “rational” is included. To recognise this, is also called believing the proposition. But to have one cluster of ideas, and know what it is; then another, and know what it is, is merely to have the two clusters. To have a second cluster, part of a first, and to know that it is a part of the first, is the same thing.
The peculiar property of that class of words to which “Rational” belongs, must here be recollected. They are the connotative class. Beside marking something peculiarly, they mark something else in conjunction; and this last, they are said to connote. Thus the word “rational,” beside the part of the cluster, man, which it peculiarly marks, connotes, or marks in conjunction with it, the part included under the word animal.
It will be easy to apply the same explanation to all other cases. I say, the rose is red. Red is a connotative term, distinctively marking the idea of red. The idea of red is part of the cluster I mark by the word rose.
Take a more obscure expression; Fire burns. It is very obvious, that in the cluster of ideas I mark by the word fire, the idea of burning is included. To have the idea, “fire,” therefore, and the idea “burning,” called up by the names standing in predication, is to believe the proposition.
The Predications, “Virtue is lovely,” “Vice is hateful,” and the like, all admit of a similar exposition. In the cluster “virtue,” the idea of loveliness is included; in the cluster “vice,” that of hatefulness is included. Such propositions, therefore, merely say, that what is a part of a thing, is a part of it. The two words call up the two ideas; and to have two ideas, one a part of another, and know that one is part of another, is not two things, but one and the same thing. To have the idea of rose, and the idea of red, and to know that red makes part of rose, is not two things, but one and the same thing.
Little more is necessary to explain this case of Belief in the truth of Propositions. Propositions are formed, either of general names, or particular names, that is, names of individuals. Propositions consisting of general names are by far the most numerous class, and by far the most important. The preceding ex position embraces them all. They are all merely verbal; and the Belief is nothing more than recognition of the coincidence, entire or partial, of two i general names.
The case of Propositions formed of particular names, is different, and yet remains to be explained. “Mr. Brougham made a speech in the House of Commons on such a day.” The Predicate, “making a speech in the House of Commons,” is neither general, so as to include the subject, “Mr. Brougham,” as in a species; nor is the cluster of ideas, marked by the predicate, included in the cluster marked by the subject, as a part in its whole. The proposition marks a case either of experience, or of testimony. If I heard the speech, the proposition is an expression of the Memory of an event; Mr. Brougham, antecedent, and making a speech, consequent; and the Belief of the Proposition, is another name for the Memory of the Event. If I did not hear it, Belief of the proposition, is belief in the testimony of those who say they heard it.
As all propositions relating to individual objects are, after this manner, marks either of other men s testimony, or of our own experience, what belief, in these cases, is, has already been explained.
Propositions relating to individuals may be expressions either of past, or of future events. Belief in past events, upon our own experience, is memory; upon other men s experience, is Belief in testimony; both of them resolved into association. Belief in future events, is the inseparable association of like consequents with like antecedents.
It is not deemed necessary to unfold these associations. It has been already done. It seems enough, if they are indicated here. (107) (108)
[107 The author has treated in different places several questions intimately allied. These are:
1. The essential nature of the state of mind called Belief the mental region whence it springs, or the phenomena that it is to be classed with whether Intellect, Feeling, or Will.
2. The belief in the Past, and the belief in the Future; in what respect they differ from belief in the present. Inseparably implicated with this, if not prior to it and preparatory to it, is the difference between ideas of Memory and ideas of Imagination.
3. The nature of our continuous Mental Life, or Identity; or what is meant by the Permanent Existence of Mind.
The chapters on Memory, and on Belief, and the section on Identity (Chap. XIV.), all treat of these questions, and contain profound original views on them all.
As regards the nature of Belief, he errs (in common with philosophers generally) in calling it a purely intellectual state. The consequence is to mar the explanations of the other points. He displays a remarkably just and penetrating insight into the differences between Memory and Imagination, and between our own self or Personality, and the personality of others; whereby he fully accounts for what is involved in Personal Identity.
To resolve the difficult phenomenon of Belief in Memory, of which the belief in the Permanent Existence of Mind is merely another expression, we must clear up the foundations of the state of Belief in general.
The prevailing error on this subject consists in regarding Belief as mainly a fact of the Intellect, with a certain participation of the feelings. The usual assumption is, that if a thing is conceived in a sufficiently vivid manner, or if two things are strongly associated in the mind, the state of belief is thereby induced.
A better clue to the real character of belief is found in the connexion between faith and works. The practical test applied to a man s belief in a certain matter, is his acting upon it. A capitalist s trust in the soundness of a project, is shown by his investing his money.
In its essential character, Belief is a phase of our active nature, otherwise called the Will. Our tendency to action, under special circumstances, assumes the aspect called belief; as in other circumstances, it takes the form of Desire, and in a third situation, appears as Intention; none of all which are essential to voluntary action in its typical form.
The state of belief or of disbelief is manifested when we are pursuing an Intermediate End. In masticating something sweet, the fruition of the sweetness sustains the energy of the will; there is no case for the believing function properly so called, any more than there is for Desire, Deliberation, or Resolution. In going to a shop to purchase sweets, there is wanting this immediate support of the voluntary energies; the support grows out of an ideal state, the anticipation of the pleasure of sweetness; this state is called Belief. We are said to believe that what we are going to purchase will impart an agreeable sensation. The state is one of degree; we may have a strong belief or a weak belief; the strength having no other measure than the energy of pursuit inspired by it. If we follow the intermediate end with all the avidity shown when we are realizing the full actuality, we have the perfect belief that what we aim at will bring the actuality. If, as often happens, we are less strongly moved than this, our belief is said to be so much weaker. Or, the comparison may be ex pressed in a different form. If two things are connected together as means and end; and, if on attaining the means, we feel as much elated (the end being something good) as if we had attained the end, then our belief is at the maximum; if less so, our belief is less. The promise made to us by one man gives all the satisfaction of the performance; the promise of another man gives a very inferior satisfaction; the comparison measures our comparative trust in the two men.
So far the matter seems plain. The real difficulty lies in assigning the mental origin or seat of the believing attitude. The view to be maintained in this note is, that the state of belief is identical with the activity or active disposition of the system, at the moment, and with reference to the thing believed. Now as there are various sources of activity, so there are various sources of belief. These are: First, Spontaneous Activity, or the mere overflow of energy growing out of the nourishment of the system. Secondly, Voluntary Action, in the strictest signification, or the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, under the stimulus of one or other of those states. Thirdly, the tendency of an Idea to become an Actuality, the degree of which tendency accords with the mental excitement attending the idea. Fourthly, the addition of Habit to all the others. Under every one of these four influences, we are prompted to act, and in the same degree disposed to believe. Not one of the tendencies is any guarantee for the truth of the thing believed; which is a somewhat grave consequence of the theory contended for.
It will now be asked, in what acceptation, or under what circumstances, does mere activity, no matter how arising, constitute, or amount to, the state of belief. There are certain situations where the two states are on the surface the same; the fact of going along a certain road implicates the belief that a certain destination will be reached. Nay, farther, a great amount of natural energy would sustain a vigorous pace, irrespective of the certainty of the goal; while physical feebleness would make one languid, however strong the evidence of the distant good. All this shows that the mental state called believing is of little use without the active power, and that the active power readily simulates the believing state, and makes it seem greater or less than it really is.
Let us now look at the question in another light. Having a natural fund of activity, with or without the addition of proper volitional impulses, we commence moving in a certain direction, no matter what. We are not necessarily urged to move by any prospect of what we are to find. We act some how, because action comes upon us; and we take the consequences. Suppose, however, that we encounter a check, in the form of obstruction or pain: this stops our activity in that direction, but does not prevent it from taking another direction. Now, not only does the actual pain arrest our steps, but also the memory of it (if the circumstances are such as to give it a certain degree of strength) is deterring. We avoid that track in the future. With reference to it there is generated a voluntary activity and determination, containing the whole essence of belief; namely, the avoidance of a certain course, before the point of actual pain. This is, to all intents, belief on the side of prospective harm. Equally important is it to remark, that wherever we have not experienced any positive harm, check, or obstruction, we go on as readily and as energetically as ever. Our natural state of mind, our primitive start is tantamount to full confidence or belief; which is broken in upon, only after hostile experiences; by these, the original condition of implicit confidence is impaired; and in certain directions, a positive anticipation or determining volition and belief of evil is substituted. An animal born on a summer morning, and able to move about from the first, would not anticipate darkness; it would behave exactly as if light were never intermitted. A few days experience makes an in road on this primitive confidence, and modifies it to suit the facts.
Let us add another circumstance to the foregoing example. Instead of the individual moving blindly on, by mere exuberance or spontaneity, let the movement be favoured by bringing pleasure at every step. In this situation, the whole force of the spontaneity at the time, and the whole force of the will (proportioned to the stimulating pleasure), sustain the movements at a more energetic pace; and there is nothing to counter-work them. The mental disposition is now equivalent to the highest confidence; there is no hesitation, no distrust, nothing but exuberant unrestrained activity. Neither scepticism as to the unknown future, nor a demand for assurance that the present condition is to last, is entertained by the mind. The individual does not inquire whether a precipice, or the lair of a devouring beast be on the track. The ignorance is at once bliss and belief.
Here, then, we may discern the original tendency of the mind as regards belief. To have gone a certain way with safety and with fruition, is an ample inducement to continue in that particular path. The situation contains all that is meant by full and unbounded confidence that the future and the distant will be exactly what the present is. The primary impulse of every creature is at the farthest remove from a procedure according to Logic. In the beginning, confidence is at its maximum; the course of education is towards abating, and narrowing it, so as to adapt it to the fact of things. Every check is a lesson, destroying to a certain extent the over-vaulting assurance of the natural mind, and planting a belief in evil, at points where originally flourished only the illimitable belief in good.
There is thus wrapped up, in the active impulses of our nature, a power of credulity leading us habitually to overstep the experience of the present. We believe in the uniformity of nature with a vengeance. We have to be schooled by ad verse encounters, before we are brought within the limits of the real uniformity. Our natural credulity is equally excessive on the side of evil and on the side of good; where we have once suffered we expect always to suffer. In short, whereas to the logician, there is a great gulf between the present and future, the known and the unknown, to the natural man there is not even a break. The early mind laughs the logician’s gulf to scorn. All that science or logic has been able to do is to show that at certain points the assumed uniformity is broken in upon; tractable and docile minds learn to respect these exceptions; but wherever an outlet exists, with no barrier, or express prohibition, not only is that outlet followed, it is followed with all the pristine impetuosity of our active nature. The ordinary logician, over-awed by this force of determination, seldom asserts the principle that the present can by no logical implication contain the future, that a present reality holds in itself no warrant for the unknown past, the distant or the future. The barrier that this principle would interpose to our inferences has been carried by assault; the gordian knot is always cut with the sword.
From the point of view of the logician, a serious difficulty attaches to our belief in the Memory of the Past; the psychologist can refer it to the incontinence of the mind, in moving freely away from the present in any direction, in accounting the step next to be entered upon in the absence of impediment, as secure as the one actually taken.
Let us consider the process first by reverting to the anticipation of the Future. That a state of things now begun will continue indefinitely is what the mind not only assumes but proceeds upon with a vehemence proportioned to its active endowments and dispositions, until admonished to the contrary by the experience of being checked. All instruction, or corroborating information, is dispensed with at the outset: the burden is always laid upon the denier. Of this tendency of the mind the examples are innumerable, and need only to be indicated. In the default of evidence, on one side, and against what ought to be considered evidence on the other side, we believe that, as we feel now, so we shall feel always. And our belief is not simply giving the benefit of any doubt there may be to the opinion we incline to; it is a powerful impulse, counteracted only by a severe and protracted discipline. Also, we believe that our own feelings exactly measure and correspond to the feelings of every one else. Very few are ever brought within the limits of the actual truth on this point; the primitive tendency is not met by a sufficient force of the requisite education.
It is the belief in the future that offers the simplest and clearest example of the mind s tendency to overleap the actual, to see no hard line between the present and the remote. The belief in nature s continuance and uniformity has always been in excess. From the very same tendency springs whatever belief we have of our own continued existence and identity. We make light of the difference between the conceived future and the real present.
Much more subtlety attends the Belief in Memory: the meaning of which is, that, whereas certain ideas recalled by memory are, de facto, ideas, or mental elements of a kind that imagination might furnish, they yet carry with them the belief that they represent what was once actuality, like any sensation of the present moment.
Let us first apply to the case the overweening instinct now fully set forth. To the logician, the past, however recent, is divided by a deep gulf from the present: the idea and the actuality can never be interchanged. It is not so with the mind following its native disposition. I have a present sensation of thirst; in that present consciousness, I have the highest attainable assurance; my action upon it is unhesitating and complete. Let that sensation, however, pass away for one minute, and there remains only the idea which, as a mere idea, by virtue of its recency, may beat its maximum strength. The point now to be explained is, why I believe not merely that I have the idea, which as a fact of present consciousness I am entitled to believe to the utmost, but that the idea was lately a full actuality as much as is my present state of satisfied sensation. The explanation seems to be, that we really make no radical difference between a present and a proximate past; the march of the mind is to and fro, into the past and the future, with the same tendency to act out both, as to act out the present, assuming always the absence of a positive check or break. Such is the inveterate persistence of the natural activity, that the belief in the thirst when present (shown by action in accordance therewith) has a continuing efficacy second only to the belief in a still present state. At the moment of actual thirst, I, in the absence of corrective in influences, (and to some degree in spite of these), would be dis posed to believe that I always was, and always would be thirsty. The satisfaction that has followed reduces that belief to a fraction of its former state; and my utmost licence of assumption would be, (in the absence of contradictory beliefs) that all my past has been one thirst. The fact is, that, in these moments, when I give full licence to the sway of the idea, by voluntarily remitting- attention to my new experience, that idea may swell out into a pitch of mental occupation hardly distinguishable from the real presence; in which case, my past self and my present self are, as it were, one and indivisible; they are freely interchanged; the actual consciousness compounds and contains them both.
Going another step backward, let us consider the state prior to the thirst; say a consciousness of heat and muscular fatigue. What proof have I that these penultimate states were present in continuity of time and in immediate precedence to the thirst, and are not vagaries of imagination, nor drawn from a remote past, accidentally revived? There seems no other evidence than that already given regarding the proximate state. In surrendering our mind to the idea still remaining, and so imparting a momentary quasi-reality to the state, we have an experience possessing the characteristic features of present reality.
Another consideration has to be mentioned. The state of transition from reality to reality is a distinct and unmistakeable experience. The transition from a present sensation of thirst to a present sensation of satisfied thirst is a march of its own kind – unique and explicit. There are in it attendant circumstances, not to be confounded with the transition from a present to a past across a break. The recent and proximate state of thirst has a mode of continuity, a setting in contact with the present, such as did not belong to the thirst of yester day, and still less belongs to the idea of the narrated thirst of another person. No sensation ever comes to us alone, or with out a group of collaterals; and the collaterals of the formerly actual, and of the ideal never an actual, are wholly different. (This point has been well illustrated in the text, Chap. X. on Memory). The peculiar link whereby a present actual passes out of actuality into proximate actuality, when it is barely deprived of existence in the real, is a fact that remains and attaches to everything that has been actual; and the unbroken sequence of these is our past life of actuality, clearly marked out from every aggregate of ideas indiscriminately culled and united in a whole of imagination. This last process has its own distinctive collaterals; it is accompanied by numerous shocks of agreement in difference, under the law of similarity; but we do not confound these or other accompaniments with the gliding movement of the mind over the chronological past. Thus to take the extreme instance. We can assume another person’s mental state (to a certain degree); and yet we do not fuse that with our own identity. There is a broad line of demarcation between each one’s experience that they terra their actual, and the assumption of a second person’s experience, say of thirst, of fear, of curiosity. Our own past has continuity and fusion, in itself, and a peculiar set of circumstantial surroundings; in general, too, it is easy to remember. The other person s experience is received through a machinery of objective signs, laboriously interpreted, and not realized with the collaterals of an experience of our own; it is shorn of all the beams of our own personality, whether in the present or in the recollected past.
The distinction now drawn, (substantially what is exemplified at length in the chapter referred to,) is confirmed by what happens on occasions when memory and imagination are confounded. When a fact is long past, and all but forgotten, the oblivion overtakes the evidentiary collaterals, the marks of continuity that link together what has been one actual state to what has been another actual state. I remember having had the idea or purpose to say or to do something on a certain occasion; but I do not remember whether I actually did or said the thing. The memory of the occasion is incomplete; the links are snapped that connect that idea with my remembered acting at the time referred to; it is not in its place in that authenticated series; and it is not associated with the collateral circumstances that always attend an actual trans action. On the other hand, as is well remarked in the chapter quoted, imagination may simulate remembered reality, when there is wanting the real memory that would people the occasion with authentic circumstances, and when the imagination has been excited and exercised so as to include in its compass the collaterals that go with an experience in the actual. B.]
[108 The analysis of Belief presented in this chapter, brings out the conclusion that all cases of Belief are simply cases of indissoluble association: that there is no generic distinction, but only a difference in the strength of the association, between a case of belief and a case of mere imagination: that to believe a succession or coexistence between two facts is only to have the ideas of the two facts so strongly and closely associated, that we cannot help having the one idea when we have the other.
If this can be proved, it is the greatest of all the triumphs of the Association Psychology. To first appearance, no two things can be more distinct than thinking of two things together, and believing that they are joined together in the outward world. Nevertheless, that the latter state of mind is only an extreme case of the former, is, as we see, the deliberate doctrine of the author of the Analysis; and it has also in its favour the high psychological authority of Mr. Herbert Spencer. Mr. Bain, in the preceding note, as well as in his systematic work, looks at the phenomenon from another side, and pronounces that what constitutes Belief is the power which an idea has obtained over the Will. It is well known and under stood that a mere idea may take such possession of the mind as to exercise an irresistible control over the active faculties, even independently of Volition, and sometimes in opposition to it. This, which Mr. Bain calls the power of a Fixed Idea, is exemplified in the cases of what is called fascination: the impulse which a person looking from a precipice sometimes feels to throw himself down it; and the cases of crimes said to have been committed by persons who abhor them, because that very horror has filled their minds with an intense and irrepressible idea of the act. Since an idea is sometimes able to overpower volition, it is no wonder that an idea should determine volition; as it does whenever we, under the influence of the idea of a pleasure or of a pain, will that which obtains for us the pleasure or averts the pain. In this voluntary action, our conduct is grounded upon a relation between means and an end; (that is, upon a constant conjunction of facts in the way of causation, ultimately resolvable into a case of re semblance and contiguity): in common and unanalytical language, upon certain laws of nature on which we rely. Our reliance is the consequence of an association formed in our minds between the supposed cause and its effect, resulting either from personal experience of their conjunction, from the teachings of other people, or from accidental appearances. Now, according to Mr. Bain, when this association between the means and the end, the end calling up the idea of the means, arrives at the point of giving to the idea thus called up a command over the Will, it constitutes Belief. We believe a thing, when we are ready to act on the faith of it; to face the practical consequences of taking it for granted: and therein lies the distinction between believing two facts to be conjoined, and merely thinking of them together. Thus far Mr. Bain: and with this I fully agree. But something is still wanting to the completeness of the analysis. The theory as stated, distinguishes two antecedents, by a difference not between themselves, but between their consequents. But when the consequents differ, the antecedents cannot be the same. An association of ideas is or is not a Belief, according as it has or has not the power of leading us to voluntary action: this is undeniable: but when there is a difference in the effects there must be a difference in the cause: the association which leads to action must be, in some respect or other, different from that which stops at thought. The question, therefore, raised, and, as they think, resolved, by the author of the Analysis and by Mr. Spencer, still demands an answer. Does the difference between the two cases consist in this, that in the one case the association is dissoluble, in the other it is so much more closely riveted, by repetition, or by the intensity of the associated feelings, as to be no longer dissoluble? This is the question we are compelled to face.
In the first place, then, it may be said If Belief consisted in an indissoluble association, Belief itself would be indissoluble. An opinion once formed could never afterwards be destroyed or changed. This objection is good against the word indissoluble. But those who maintain the theory do not mean by an indissoluble association, one which nothing that can be conceived to happen could possibly dissolve. All our associations of ideas would probably be dissoluble, if experience presented to us the associated facts separate from one another. If we have any associations which are, in practice, indissoluble, it can only be because the conditions of our existence deny to us the experiences which would be capable of dissolving them. What the authur of the Analysis means by indissoluble associations, are those which we cannot, by any mental effort, at present overcome. If two ideas are, at the present time, so closely associated in our minds, that neither any effort of our own, nor anything else which can happen, can enable us now to have the one without its instantly raising up the other, the association is, in the author’s sense of the term, indissoluble. There would be less risk of misunderstanding if we were to discard the word indissoluble, and confine ourselves to the expression which the author employs as its equivalent, inseparable. This I will henceforth do, and we will now enquire whether Belief is nothing but an inseparable association.
ln favour of this supposition there is the striking fact, that an inseparable association very often suffices to command belief. There are innumerable cases of Belief for which no cause can be assigned, except that something has created so strong an association between two ideas that the person cannot separate them in thought. The author has given a large assortment of such cases, and has made them tell with great force in support of his theory. Locke, as the author mentions, had already seen, that this is one of the commonest and most fertile sources of erroneous thought; deserving to be placed high in any enumeration of Fallacies. When two things have long been habitually thought of together, and never apart, until the association between the ideas has become so strong that we have great difficulty, or cannot succeed at all, in separating them, there is a strong tendency to believe that the facts are conjoined in reality; and when the association is closer still, that their conjunction is what is called Necessary. Most of the schools of philosophy, both past and present, are so much under the influence of this tendency, as not only to justify it in principle, but to elect it into a Law of Things. The majority of metaphysicians have maintained, and even now maintain, that there are things which, by the laws of intelligence, cannot be separated in thought, and that these things are not only always united in fact, but united by necessity: and, again, other things, which cannot be united in thought which cannot be thought of together, and that these not only never do, but it is impossible they ever should, coexist in fact. These supposed necessities are the very foundation of the Transcendental schools of metaphysics, of the Common Sense school, and many others which have not received distinctive names. These are facts in human nature and human history very favourable to the supposition that Belief is but an inseparable association, or at all events that an inseparable association suffices to create Belief.
On the contrary side of the question it may be urged, that the inseparable associations which are so often found to generate Beliefs, do not generate them in everybody. Analytical and philosophical minds often escape from them, and resist the tendency to believe in an objective conjunction between facts merely because they are unable to separate the ideas. The author’s typical example of an inseparable association, (and there can be none more suited to the purpose,) is the association between sensations of colour and the tangible magnitudes, figures, and distances, of which they are signs, and which are so completely merged with them into one single impression, that we believe we see distance, extension, and figure, though all we really see is the optical effects which accompany them, all the rest being a rapid interpretation of natural signs. The generality of mankind, no doubt, and all men before they have studied the subject, believe what the author says they do; but a great majority of those who have studied the subject believe otherwise: they believe that a large portion of the facts which we seem to see, we do not really see, but instantaneously infer. Yet the association remains inseparable in these scientific thinkers as in others: the retinal picture suggests to them the real magnitude, in the same irresistible manner as it does to other people. To take another of the author’s examples: when we look at a distant terrestrial object through a telescope, it appears nearer; if we reverse the telescope it appears further off. The signs by which we judge of distance from us, here mislead, because those signs are found in conjunction with real distances widely different from those with which they coexist in our ordinary experience. The association, however, persists, and is irresistible, in one person as much as in another; for every one recognises that the object, thus looked at, seems nearer, or farther off, than we know it to be. But does this ever make any of us, except perhaps an inexperienced child, believe that the object is at the distance at which we seem to see it? The inseparable association, though so persistent and powerful as to create in everybody an optical illusion, creates no delusion, but leaves our belief as conformable to the realities of fact as if no such illusive appearance had presented itself. Cases similar to this are so frequent, that cautious and thoughtful minds, enlightened by experience on the misleading character of inseparable associations, learn to distrust them, and do not, even by a first impulse, believe a connexion in fact because there is one in thought, but wait for evidence.
Following up the same objection, it may be said that if belief is only an inseparable association, belief is a matter of habit and accident, and not of reason. Assuredly an association, however close, between two ideas, is not a sufficient ground of belief; is not evidence that the corresponding facts are united in external nature. The theory seems to annihilate all distinction between the belief of the wise, which is regulated by evidence, and conforms to the real successions and coexistences of the facts of the universe, and the belief of fools, which is mechanically produced by any accidental association that suggests the idea of a succession or coexistence to the mind: a belief aptly characterized by the popular expression, believing a thing because they have taken it into their heads.
Indeed, the author of the Analysis is compelled by his theory to affirm that we actually believe in accordance with the misleading associations which generate what are commonly called illusions of sense. He not only says that we believe we see figure and distance which the great majority of psychologists since Berkeley do not believe; but he says, that in the case of ventriloquy “we cannot help believing” that the sound proceeds from the place, of which the ventriloquist imitates the effect; that the sound of bells opposed by the wind, not only appears farther off, but is believed to come from farther off, although we may know the exact distance from which it comes; that “in passing on board ship, another ship at sea, we believe that she has all the motion, we none:” nay even, that when we have turned ourselves round with velocity several times, “we believe that the world is turning round.” Surely it is more true to say, as people generally do say, “the world seems to us to turn round.” To me these cases appear so many experimental proofs, that the tendency of an inseparable association to generate belief, even when that tendency is fully effectual in creating the irresistible appearance of a state of things that does not really exist, may yet be impotent against reason, that is, against preponderant evidence.
In defence of these paradoxes, let us now consider what the author of the Analysis might say. One thing he would certainly say: that the belief he affirms to exist in these cases of illusion, is but a momentary one; with which the belief entertained at all other times may be at variance. In the case, for instance, of those who, from an early association formed between darkness and ghosts, feel terror in the dark though they have a confirmed disbelief in ghosts, the author’s opinion is that there is a temporary belief, at the moment when the terror is felt. This was also the opinion of Dugald Stewart: and the agreement (by no means a solitary one) between two thinkers of such opposite tendencies, reminds one of the saying “Quand un Français et un Anglais sont d’accord, il faut bien qu’ils aient raison.” Yet the author seems to adopt this notion not from observation of the case, but from an antecedent opinion that “dread implies belief, and an un controllable belief,” which, he says, “we need not stay to prove.” It is to be wished, in this case, that he had stayed to prove it: for it is harder to prove than he thought. The emotion of fear, the physical effect on the nervous system known by that name, may be excited, and I believe often is excited, simply by terrific imaginations. That these imaginations are, even for a moment, mistaken for menacing realities, may be true, but ought not to be assumed without proof. The circumstance most in its favour (one not forgotten by the author) is that in dreams, to which may be added hallucinations, frightful ideas are really mistaken for terrible facts. But dreams are states in which all other sensible ideas are mistaken for outward facts. Yet sensations and ideas are intrinsically different, and it is not the normal state of the human mind to confound the one with the other.
Besides, this supposition of a momentary belief in ghosts breaking in upon and interrupting an habitual and permanent belief that there are no ghosts, jars considerably with the doc trine it is brought to support, that belief is an inseparable association. According to that doctrine, here are two inseparable associations, which yet are so far from exclusively possessing the mind, that they alternate with one another, each Inseparable implying the separation of the other Inseparable. The association of darkness with the absence of ghosts must be anything but inseparable, if there only needs the presence of darkness to revive the contrary association. Yet an association so very much short of inseparable, is accompanied, at least in the absence of darkness, by a full belief. Darkness is in this case associated with two incompatible ideas, the idea of ghosts and that of their absence, but with neither of them in separably, and in consequence the two associations alternately prevail, as the surrounding circumstances favour the one or the other; agreeably to the laws of Compound Association laid down with great perspicuity and reach of thought by Mr. Bain in his systematic treatise.
To the argument, that the inseparable associations which create optical and other illusions, do not, when opposed by reason, generate the false belief, the author’s answer would probably be some such as the following. When the rational thinker succeeds in resisting the belief, he does so by more or less completely overcoming the inseparableness of the association. Associations may be conquered by the formation of counterassociations. Mankind had formerly an inseparable association between sunset and the motion of the sun, and this in separable association compelled them to believe that in the phenomenon of sunset the sun moves and the earth is at rest. But Copernicus, Galileo, and after them, all astronomers, found evidence, that the earth moves and the sun is at rest: in other words, certain experiences, and certain reasonings from those experiences, took place in their minds, the tendency of which was to associate sunset with the ideas of the earth in motion and the sun at rest. This was a counter-association, which could not coexist, at least at the same instant, with the previous association connecting sunset with the sun in motion and the earth at rest. But for a long time the new associating influences could not be powerful enough to get the better of the old association, and change the belief which it implied. A belief which has become habitual, is seldom overcome but by a slow process. However, the experiences and mental processes that tended to form the new association still went on; there was a conflict between the old association and the causes which tended to produce a new one; until, by the long continuance and frequent repetition of those causes, the old association, gradually undermined, ceased to be inseparable, and it became possible to associate the idea of sunset with that of the earth moving and the sun at rest; whereby the previous idea of the sun moving and the earth at rest was excluded for the time, and as the new association grew in strength, was at last thrown out altogether. The argument should go on to say that after a still further prolongation of the new experiences and reasonings, the old association became impossible and the new one inseparable; for, until it became inseparable, there could, according to the theory, be no belief. And this, in truth, does sometimes happen. There are instances in the history of science, even down to the present day, in which something which was once believed to be impossible, and its opposite to be necessary, was first seen to be possible, next to be true, and finally came to be considered as necessarily true, and its opposite (once deemed necessary) as impossible, and even inconceivable; insomuch that it is thought by some that what was reputed an impossibility, might have been known to be a necessity. In such cases, the quality of inseparableness has passed, in those minds at least, from the old association to the new one. But in much the greatest number of cases the change does not proceed so far, and both associations remain equally possible. The case which furnished our last instance is an example. Astronomers, and all educated persons, now associate sunset with motion confined to the earth, and firmly believe this to be what really takes place; but they have not formed this association with such exclusiveness and intensity as to have become unable to associate sunset with motion of the sun. On the contrary, the visible appearance still suggests motion of the sun, and many people, though aware of the truth, Hud that they cannot by any effort make themselves see sunset any otherwise than as the sinking of the sun below the earth. My own experience is different: I find that I can represent the phenomenon to myself in either light; I can, according to the manner in which I direct my thoughts, see sunset either as the earth tilting above the sun, or as the sun dipping below the earth: in the same manner as when a rail way train in motion passes another at rest, we are able, if we prevent our eyes from resting on any third object, to imagine the motion as being either in the one train or in the other. How, then, can it be said that there is an inseparable association of sunset with the one mode of representation, and a consequent inability to associate it with the other? It is associated with both, and the one of the two associations which is nearest to being inseparable is that which belief does not accompany. The difference between different people in the ability to represent to themselves the phenomenon under either aspect, depends rather on the degree of exercise which they have given to their imagination in trying to frame mental pictures conformable to the two hypotheses, than upon those considerations of reason and evidence which yet may determine their belief.
The question still remains, what is there which exists in the hypothesis believed, and does not exist in the hypothesis rejected, when we have associations which enable our imagination to represent the facts agreeably to either hypothesis? In other words, what is Belief?
I think it must be admitted, that when we can represent to ourselves in imagination either of two conflicting suppositions, one of which we believe, and disbelieve the other, neither of the associations can be inseparable; and there must therefore be in the fact of Belief, which exists in only one of the two cases, something for which inseparable association does not account. We seem to have again come up, on a different side, to the difficulty which we felt in the discussion of Memory, in accounting for the distinction between a fact remembered, and the same fact imagined. There is a close parallelism between the two problems. In both, we have the difference between a fact and a representation in imagination; between a sensation, or combination of sensations, and an idea, or combination of ideas. This difference we all accept as an ultimate fact. But the difficulty is this. Let me first state it as it presents itself in the case of Memory. Having in our mind a certain combination of ideas, in a group or a train, accompanying or succeeding one another; what is it which, in one case, makes us recognize this group or train as representing a group or train of the corresponding sensations, remembered as having been actually felt by us, while in another case we are aware that the sensations have never occurred to us in a group or train corresponding to that in which we are now having the ideas? This is the problem of Memory. Let me now state the problem of Belief, when the belief is not a case of memory. Here also we have ideas connected in a certain order in our own mind, which makes us think of a corresponding order among the sensations, and we believe that this similar combination of the sensations is a real fact: i.e., whether we ever felt it or not, we confidently expect that we should feel it under certain given conditions. In Memory, we believe that the realities in Nature, the sensations and combinations of sensations presented to us from without, have occurred to us in an order which agrees with that in which we are representing them to ourselves in thought: in those cases of Belief which are not cases of Memory, we believe, not that they have occurred, but that they would have occurred, or would occur, in that order.
What is it that takes place in us, when we recognize that there is this agreement between the order of our ideas and the order in which we either had or might have had the sensations which correspond to them that the order of the ideas represents a similar order either in our actual sensations, or in those which, under some given circumstances, we should have reason to expect? What, in short, is the difference to our minds between thinking of a reality, and representing to ourselves an imaginary picture? I confess that I can perceive no escape from the opinion that the distinction is ultimate and primordial. There is no more difficulty in holding it to be so, than in holding the difference between a sensation and an idea to be primordial. It seems almost another aspect of the same difference. The author himself says, in the chapter on Memory, that, a sensation and an idea being different, it is to be expected that the remembrance of having had a sensation should be different from the remembrance of having had an idea, and that this is a sufficient explanation of our distinguishing them. If this, then, is an original distinction, why should not the distinction be original between the remembrance of having had a sensation, and the actually having an idea (which is the difference between Memory and Imagination); and between the expectation of having a sensation, and the actually having an idea (which is the difference between Belief and Imagination)? Grant these differences, and there is nothing further to explain in the phenomenon of Belief. For every belief is either the memory of having had a sensation (or other feeling), or the expectation that we should have the sensation or feeling in some given state of circumstances, if that state of circumstances could come to be realized.
That all belief is either Memory or Expectation, will be clearly seen if we run over all the different objects of Belief. The author has already done so, in order to establish his theory; and it is now necessary that we should do the same.
The objects of Belief are enumerated by the author in the following terms: 1. Events, real existences. 2. Testimony. 3. The truth of propositions. He intended this merely as a rough grouping, sufficient for the purpose if it includes every thing: for it is evident that the divisions overlap one another, and it will be seen presently that the last two are but cases of the first. Belief in events he further divides into belief in present events, in past events, and in future events.
Belief in present events he subdivides into belief in immediate existences present to my senses, and belief in immediate existences not present to my senses. We see by this that he recognises no difference, in a metaphysical sense, between existences and events, be cause he regards, with reason, objects as merely the supposed antecedents of events. The distinction, however, requires to be kept up, being no other than the fundamental difference between simultaneousness, and succession or change.
Belief in immediate existences present to my senses, is either belief in my sensations, or belief in external objects. Believing that I feel what I am at this moment feeling, is, as the author says, only another name for having the feeling; with the idea, however, of Myself, associated with it; of which hereafter.
The author goes on to analyse Belief in external objects present to our senses; and he resolves it into a present sensation, united by an irresistible association with the numerous other sensations which we are accustomed to receive in con junction with it. The Object is thus to be understood as a complex idea, compounded of the ideas of various sensations which we have, and of a far greater number of sensations which we should expect to have if certain contingencies were realized. In other words, our idea of an object is an idea of a group of possibilities of sensation, some of which we believe we can realize at pleasure, while the remainder would be realized if certain conditions took place, on which, by the laws of nature, they are dependent. As thus explained, belief in the existence of a physical object, is belief in the occurrence of certain sensations, contingently on certain previous conditions. This is a state of mind closely allied to Expectation of sensations. For though we use the name Expectation only with reference to the future, and even to the probable future our state of mind in respect to what may be future, and even to what might have been future, is of the same general nature, and depends on the same principles, as Expectation. I believe that a certain event will positively happen, because the known conditions which always accompany it in experience have already taken place. I believe that another event will certainly happen if the known conditions which always accompany it take place, and those conditions I can produce when I please. I believe that a third event will happen if its conditions take place, but I must wait for those conditions; I cannot realize them at pleasure, and may never realize them at all. The first of these three cases is positive expectation, the other two are conditional expectation. A fourth case is my belief that the event would have happened at any former time if the conditions had taken place at that time. It is not consonant to usage to call this Expectation, but, considered as a case of belief, there is no essential difference between it and the third case. My belief that I should have heard Cicero had I been present in the Forum, and my belief that I shall hear Mr. Gladstone if I am present in the House of Commons, can nowise be regarded as essentially different phenomena. The one we call Expectation, the other not, but the mental principle operative in both these cases of belief is the same.
The author goes on to say, that the belief that we should have the sensations if certain conditions were realized, that is, if we had certain other sensations, is merely an inseparable association of the two sets of sensations with one another, and their inseparable union with the idea of ourselves as having them. But I confess it seems to me that all this may exist in a case of simple imagination. The author would himself admit that the complex idea of the object, in all its fulness, may be in the mind without belief. What remains is its association with the idea of ourselves as percipients. But this also, I cannot but think, we may have in the case of an imaginary scene, when we by no means believe that any corresponding reality exists. Does the idea of our own personality never enter into the pictures in our imagination? Are we not our selves present in the scenes which we conjure up in our minds? I apprehend we are as constantly present in them, and as conscious of our presence, as we are in contemplating a real prospect. In either case the vivacity of the other impressions eclipses, for the most part, the thought of ourselves as spectators, but not more so in the imaginary, than in the real, spectacle.
It appears to me, then, that to account for belief in external objects, we must postulate Expectation; and since all our expectations, whether positive or contingent, are a consequence of our Memory of the past (as distinguished from a representation in fancy), we must also postulate Memory. The distinction between a mere combination of ideas in thought, and one which recals to us a combination of sensations as actually experienced, always returns on our hands as an ultimate postulate.
The author proceeds to shew how this idea of a mere group of sensations, actual or contingent, becomes knit up with an idea of a permanent Something, lying, as it were, under these sensations, and causing them; this further enlargement of the complex idea taking place through the intimate, or, as he calls it, inseparable association, generated by experience, which makes us unable to imagine any phenomenon as beginning to exist without something anterior to it which causes it. This explanation, seems to me quite correct as far as it goes; but, while it accounts for the difficulty we have in not ascribing our sensations to some cause or other, it does not explain why we accept, as in fact we do, the group itself as the cause. I have endeavoured to clear up this difficulty elsewhere (Examination of Sir William Hamilton s Philosophy), and in preference to going over the ground a second time, I subjoin, at the end of the volume, the chapter containing the explanation. That chapter supplies all that appears to me to be further necessary on the subject of belief in outward objects; which is thus shewn to be a case of Conditional Expectation.
It is unnecessary to follow the author into the minute consideration of Belief in the existence of objects not present since the explanation already given equally applies to them. My belief in the present existence of St. Paul’s is correctly set forth by the author as consisting of the following elements: I believe that I have seen St. Paul’s: I believe that I shall see St. Paul’s, when I am again in St. Paul’s Churchyard: I believe that I should see St. Paul’s, if I were in St. Paul’s Churchyard at this instant. All this, as he justly remarks, is Memory or Expectation. And this, or some part of this, is the whole of what is in any case meant by belief in the real existence of an external object. The author adds, I also believe that if any creature whose senses are analogous to my own, is now in St. Paul’s Churchyard, it has the present sensation of that edifice. But this belief is not necessary to my belief in the continued existence of St. Paul’s. For that, it suffices that I believe I should myself see it. My belief that other creatures would do so, is part of my belief in the real existence of other creatures like myself; which is no more mysterious, than our belief in the real existence of any other objects some of whose properties rest not on direct sensation, but on inference.
Belief in past existences, when those existences have been perceived by ourselves, is Memory. When the past existences are inferred from evidence, the belief of them is not Memory, but a fact of the same nature as Expectation; being a belief that we should have had the sensations if we had been cotemporary with the objects, and had been in the local position necessary for receiving sensible impressions from them.
We now come to the case of Belief in testimony. But testimony is not itself an object of belief. The object of belief is what the testimony asserts. And so in the last of the author’s three cases, that of assent to a proposition. The object of belief, in both these cases, is an assertion. But an assertion is something asserted, and what is asserted must be a fact, similar to some of those of which we have already treated. According to the author, belief in an assertion is belief that two names are both of them names of the same thing: but this we have felt ourselves obliged to discard, as an inadequate explanation of the import of any assertions, except those which are classed as merely verbal. Every assertion concerning Things, whether in concrete or in abstract language, is an assertion that some fact, or group of facts, has been, is, or may be expected to be, found, wherever a certain other fact, or group of facts, is found. Belief in this, is therefore either remembrance that we did have, or expectation that we shall have, or a belief of the same nature with expectation that in some given circumstances we should have, or should have had, direct perception of a particular fact. Belief, therefore, is always a case either of Memory or of Expectation; including under the latter name conditional as well as positive expectation, and the state of mind similar to expectation which affects us in regard to what would have been a subject of expectation, if the conditions of its realization had still been possible.
It may be objected, that we may believe in the real existence of things which are not objects of sense at all. We may. But we cannot believe in the real existence of anything which we do not conceive as capable of acting in some way upon our own or some other being s consciousness; though the state of consciousness it produces may not be called a sensation. The existence of a thing means, to us, merely its capacity of producing an impression of some sort upon some mind, that is, of producing some state of consciousness. The belief, therefore, in its existence, is still a conditional expectation of something which we should, under some supposed circumstances, be capable of feeling.
To resume: Belief, as I conceive, is more than an inseparable association, for inseparable associations do not always generate belief, nor does belief always require, as one of its conditions, an inseparable association: we can believe that to be true which we are capable of conceiving or representing to ourselves as false, and false what we are capable of representing to ourselves as true. The difference between belief and mere imagination, is the difference between recognising something as a reality in nature, and regarding it as a mere thought of our own. This is the difference which presents itself when Memory has to be distinguished from Imagination; and again when Expectation, whether positive or contingent (i.e. whether it be expectation that we shall, or only persuasion that in certain definable circumstances we should, have a certain experience) has to be distinguished from the mere mental conception of that experience.
Let us examine, once more, whether the speculations in the text afford us any means of further analysing this difference.
The difference presents itself in its most elementary form in the distinction between a sensation and an idea. The author admits this distinction to be ultimate and primordial. “A sensation is different from an idea, only because it is felt to be different.” But, after having admitted that these two states or consciousness are distinguishable from each other in and by themselves, he adds, that they are also distinguishable by their accompaniments. “The accompaniments of a sensation are always generically different from those of an idea ..... The accompaniments of a sensation, are all the simultaneous objects of sensation, together with all those which, to a certain extent, both preceded and followed it. The accompaniments of an idea are not the simultaneous objects of sensation, but other ideas; namely, the neighbouring facts, antecedent and consequent, of the mental train.” There can be no doubt that in those individual cases in which ideas and sensations might be confounded, namely, when an idea reaches or approaches the vivacity of a sensation, the indication here pointed out helps to assure us that what we are conscious of is, nevertheless, only an idea. When, for instance, we awake from a dream, and open our eyes to the outward world, what makes us so promptly recognise that this and not the other is the real world, is that we find its phenomena connected in the accustomed order of our objects of sensation. But though this circumstance enables us, in particular instances, to refer our impression more instantaneously to one or the other class, it cannot be by this that we distinguish ideas at first from sensations; for the criterion supposes the distinction to be already made. If we judge a sensation to be a sensation because its accompaniments are other sensations, and an idea to be an idea because its accompaniments are other ideas, we must already be able to distinguish those other sensations from those other ideas.
A similar remark is applicable to a criterion between sensations and ideas, incidentally laid down by Mr. Bain in the First Part of his systematic treatise. “A mere picture or idea remains the same whatever be our bodily position or bodily exertions; the sensation that we call the actual is entirely at the mercy of our movements, shifting in every possible way according to the varieties of action that we go through.” (The Senses and the Intellect, 2nd ed. p. 381.) This test, like the author’s, may serve in cases of momentary doubt; but sensations in general must have been already distinguished from ideas, before we could have hit upon this criterion between them. If we had not already known the difference between a sensation and an idea, we never could have discovered that one of them is “at the mercy of our movements,” and that the other is not.
It being granted that a sensation and an idea are ipso facto distinguishable, the author thinks it no more than natural that “the copy of the sensation should be distinguishable from the revival of the idea, when they are both brought up by association.” But he adds, that there is another distinction be tween the memory of a sensation, and the memory of an idea, and it is this. In all Memory the idea of self forms part of the complex idea; but in the memory of sensation, the self which enters into the remembrance is “the sentient self, that is, seeing and hearing:” in the memory of an idea, it is “not the sentient self, but the conceptive self, self having an idea. But (he adds) myself percipient, and myself imagining, or conceiving, are two very different states of consciousness: of course the ideas of these states of consciousness, or these states revived by association, are very different ideas.”
Concerning the fact there is no dispute. Myself percipient, and myself imagining or conceiving, are different states, because perceiving is a different thing from imagining; and being different states, the remembrance of them is, as might be expected, different. But the question is, in what does the difference between the remembrances consist? The author calls one of them the idea of myself perceiving, and the other the idea of myself imagining, and thinks there is no other difference. But how do the idea of myself having a sensation, and the idea of myself having an idea of that sensation, differ from one another? since in either case an idea of the sensation is all that I am having now. The thought of myself perceiving a thing at a former time, and the thought of myself imagining the thing at that former time, are both at the present moment facts of imagination are now merely ideas. In each case I have an ideal representation of myself, as conscious in a manner very similar in the two cases; though not exactly the same, since in the one case I remember to have been conscious of a sensation, in the other, to have been conscious only of an idea of that sensation: but, in either case, that past consciousness enters only as an idea, into the consciousness I now have by recollection. In what, then, as far as mere ideas are concerned, do my present mental representations of the two cases differ? Will it be said, that the idea of the sensation is one thing, the idea of the idea of the sensation another thing? Or are they both the same idea, namely, the idea of the sensation; and is the element that is present in the one case, but absent in the other, not an idea but something else? A difference there is admitted to be between the remembrance of having had a sensation, and the remembrance of having merely thought of the sensation, Le. had the idea of it: is this difference a difference in the ideas I have in the two cases, or is the idea the same, but accompanied in the one case by something not an idea, which does not exist in the other? for if so, this some thing is a Belief.
I have touched upon this question in a former note, and expressed my inability to recognise, in the idea of an idea, anything but the idea itself; in the thought of a thought, anything but a repetition of the thought. My thought of Falstaff, as far as I can perceive, is not a copy but a repetition of the thought I had of him when I first read Shakespeare: not indeed an exact repetition, because all complex ideas undergo modification by time, some elements fading away, and new ones being added by reverting to the original sources or by subsequent associations; but my first mental image of Falstaff, and my present one, do not differ as the thought of a rose differs from the sight of one; as an idea of sensation differs from the sensation. On this point the author was perhaps of the same opinion, since we find him contrasting the “copy” of the sensation with the “revival” of the idea, as if the latter was a case of simple repetition, the former not. It would have been well if he had made this point a subject of express discussion; for if his opinion upon it was what, from this passage, we may suppose it to have been, it involves a serious difficulty. If (he says) a sensation and an idea “are distinguishable in the having, it is likely that the copy of the sensation should be distinguishable from the revival of the idea.” But the copy of the sensation is the idea; so that, on this shewing, the idea is distinguishable from its own revival, that is, from the same idea when it occurs again. The author’s theory would thus require him to maintain that an idea revived is a specifically different idea, and not the same idea repeated: since otherwise the two states of mind, so far as regards the ideas contained in them, are undistinguishable, and it is necessary to admit the presence in Memory of some other element.
Let us put another case. Instead of Falstaff, suppose a real person whom I have seen: for example General Lafayette. My idea of Lafayette is almost wholly, what my idea of Falstaff is entirely, a creation of thought: only a very small portion of it is derived from my brief experience of seeing and conversing with him. But I have a remembrance of having seen Lafayette, and no remembrance of having seen Falstaff, but only of having thought of him. Is it a sufficient explanation of this difference to say, that I have an idea of myself seeing and hearing Lafayette, and only an idea of myself thinking of Falstaff? But I can form a vivid idea of myself seeing and hearing Falstaff. I can without difficulty imagine myself in the field of Shrewsbury, listening to his characteristic soliloquy over the body of Hotspur; or in the tavern in the midst of his associates, hearing his story of his encounter with the men in buckram. When I recal the scene, I can as little detach it from the idea of myself as present, as I can in the case of most things of which I was really an eye-witness. The spontaneous presence of the idea of Myself in the conception, is always that of myself as percipient. The idea of myself as in a state of mere imagination, only substitutes itself for the other when something reminds me that the scene is merely imaginary.
I cannot help thinking, therefore, that there is in the remembrance of a real fact, as distinguished from that of a thought, an element which does not consist, as the author supposes, in a difference between the mere ideas which are present to the mind in the two cases. This element, howsoever we define it, constitutes Belief, and is the difference between Memory and Imagination. From whatever direction we approach, this difference seems to close our path. When we arrive at it, we seem to have reached, as it were, the central point of our intel lectual nature, presupposed and built upon in every attempt we make to explain the more recondite phenomena of our mental being. Ed.]