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An admirable statement of the aims of the Library of Philosophy
was provided by the first editor, the late Professor J. H.
Muirhead, in his description of the original programme printed in
Erdmann's History of Philosophy under the date 1890. This was
slightly modified in subsequent volumes to take the form of the
following statement:

"The Muirhead Library of Philosophy was designed as a
contribution to the History of Modern Philosophy under the heads:
first of Different Schools of Thought--Sensationalist, Realist,
Idealist, Intuitivist; secondly of different
Subjects--Psychology, Ethics, Aesthetics, Political Philosophy,
Theology. While much had been done in England in tracing the
course of evolution in nature, history, economics, morals and
religion, little had been done in tracing the development of
thought on these subjects. Yet 'the evolution of opinion is part
of the whole evolution'.

"By the co-operation of different writers in carrying out this
plan it was hoped that a thoroughness and completeness of
treatment, otherwise unattainable, might be secured. It was
believed also that from writers mainly British and American
fuller consideration of English Philosophy than it had hitherto
received might be looked for. In the earlier series of books
containing, among others, Bosanquet's "History of Aesthetic,"
Pfleiderer's "Rational Theology since Kant," Albee's "History of
English Utilitarianism," Bonar's "Philosophy and Political
Economy," Brett's "History of Psychology," Ritchie's "Natural
Rights," these objects were to a large extent effected.

"In the meantime original work of a high order was being produced
both in England and America by such writers as Bradley, Stout,
Bertrand Russell, Baldwin, Urban, Montague, and others, and a new
interest in foreign works, German, French and Italian, which had
either become classical or were attracting public attention, had
developed. The scope of the Library thus became extended into
something more international, and it is entering on the fifth
decade of its existence in the hope that it may contribute to
that mutual understanding between countries which is so pressing
a need of the present time."

The need which Professor Muirhead stressed is no less pressing
to-day, and few will deny that philosophy has much to do with
enabling us to meet it, although no one, least of all Muirhead
himself, would regard that as the sole, or even the main, object
of philosophy. As Professor Muirhead continues to lend the
distinction of his name to the Library of Philosophy it seemed
not inappropriate to allow him to recall us to these aims in his
own words. The emphasis on the history of thought also seemed to
me very timely; and the number of important works promised for
the Library in the very near future augur well for the continued
fulfilment, in this and other ways, of the expectations of the
original editor.

H. D. Lewis


This book has grown out of an attempt to harmonize two different
tendencies, one in psychology, the other in physics, with both of
which I find myself in sympathy, although at first sight they
might seem inconsistent. On the one hand, many psychologists,
especially those of the behaviourist school, tend to adopt what
is essentially a materialistic position, as a matter of method if
not of metaphysics. They make psychology increasingly dependent
on physiology and external observation, and tend to think of
matter as something much more solid and indubitable than mind.
Meanwhile the physicists, especially Einstein and other exponents
of the theory of relativity, have been making "matter" less and
less material. Their world consists of "events," from which
"matter" is derived by a logical construction. Whoever reads, for
example, Professor Eddington's "Space, Time and Gravitation"
(Cambridge University Press, 1920), will see that an
old-fashioned materialism can receive no support from modern
physics. I think that what has permanent value in the outlook of
the behaviourists is the feeling that physics is the most
fundamental science at present in existence. But this position
cannot be called materialistic, if, as seems to be the case,
physics does not assume the existence of matter.

The view that seems to me to reconcile the materialistic tendency
of psychology with the anti-materialistic tendency of physics is
the view of William James and the American new realists,
according to which the "stuff" of the world is neither mental nor
material, but a "neutral stuff," out of which both are
constructed. I have endeavoured in this work to develop this view
in some detail as regards the phenomena with which psychology is

My thanks are due to Professor John B. Watson and to Dr. T. P.
Nunn for reading my MSS. at an early stage and helping me with
many valuable suggestions; also to Mr. A. Wohlgemuth for much
very useful information as regards important literature. I have
also to acknowledge the help of the editor of this Library of
Philosophy, Professor Muirhead, for several suggestions by which
I have profited.

The work has been given in the form of lectures both in London
and Peking, and one lecture, that on Desire, has been published
in the Athenaeum.

There are a few allusions to China in this book, all of which
were written before I had been in China, and are not intended to
be taken by the reader as geographically accurate. I have used
"China" merely as a synonym for "a distant country," when I
wanted illustrations of unfamiliar things.

Peking, January 1921.


I. Recent Criticisms of "Consciousness" II. Instinct and Habit
III. Desire and Feeling IV. Influence of Past History on Present
Occurrences in Living Organisms V. Psychological and
Physical Causal Laws VI. Introspection VII. The Definition of
Perception VIII.Sensations and Images IX. Memory X. Words and
Meaning XI. General Ideas and Thought XII. Belief XIII.Truth and
Falsehood XIV. Emotions and Will XV. Characteristics of Mental



There are certain occurrences which we are in the habit of
calling "mental." Among these we may take as typical BELIEVING
and DESIRING. The exact definition of the word "mental" will, I
hope, emerge as the lectures proceed; for the present, I shall
mean by it whatever occurrences would commonly be called mental.

I wish in these lectures to analyse as fully as I can what it is
that really takes place when we, e.g. believe or desire. In this
first lecture I shall be concerned to refute a theory which is
widely held, and which I formerly held myself: the theory that
the essence of everything mental is a certain quite peculiar
something called "consciousness," conceived either as a relation
to objects, or as a pervading quality of psychical phenomena.

The reasons which I shall give against this theory will be mainly
derived from previous authors. There are two sorts of reasons,
which will divide my lecture into two parts

(1) Direct reasons, derived from analysis and its difficulties;

(2) Indirect reasons, derived from observation of animals
(comparative psychology) and of the insane and hysterical

Few things are more firmly established in popular philosophy than
the distinction between mind and matter. Those who are not
professional metaphysicians are willing to confess that they do
not know what mind actually is, or how matter is constituted; but
they remain convinced that there is an impassable gulf between
the two, and that both belong to what actually exists in the
world. Philosophers, on the other hand, have maintained often
that matter is a mere fiction imagined by mind, and sometimes
that mind is a mere property of a certain kind of matter. Those
who maintain that mind is the reality and matter an evil dream
are called "idealists"--a word which has a different meaning in
philosophy from that which it bears in ordinary life. Those who
argue that matter is the reality and mind a mere property of
protoplasm are called "materialists." They have been rare among
philosophers, but common, at certain periods, among men of
science. Idealists, materialists, and ordinary mortals have been
in agreement on one point: that they knew sufficiently what they
meant by the words "mind" and "matter" to be able to conduct
their debate intelligently. Yet it was just in this point, as to
which they were at one, that they seem to me to have been all
alike in error.

The stuff of which the world of our experience is composed is, in
my belief, neither mind nor matter, but something more primitive
than either. Both mind and matter seem to be composite, and the
stuff of which they are compounded lies in a sense between the
two, in a sense above them both, like a common ancestor. As
regards matter, I have set forth my reasons for this view on
former occasions,* and I shall not now repeat them. But the
question of mind is more difficult, and it is this question that
I propose to discuss in these lectures. A great deal of what I
shall have to say is not original; indeed, much recent work, in
various fields, has tended to show the necessity of such theories
as those which I shall be advocating. Accordingly in this first
lecture I shall try to give a brief description of the systems of
ideas within which our investigation is to be carried on.

* "Our Knowledge of the External World" (Allen & Unwin), Chapters
III and IV. Also "Mysticism and Logic," Essays VII and VIII.

If there is one thing that may be said, in the popular
estimation, to characterize mind, that one thing is
"consciousness." We say that we are "conscious" of what we see
and hear, of what we remember, and of our own thoughts and
feelings. Most of us believe that tables and chairs are not
"conscious." We think that when we sit in a chair, we are aware
of sitting in it, but it is not aware of being sat in. It cannot
for a moment be doubted that we are right in believing that there
is SOME difference between us and the chair in this respect: so
much may be taken as fact, and as a datum for our inquiry. But as
soon as we try to say what exactly the difference is, we become
involved in perplexities. Is "consciousness" ultimate and simple,
something to be merely accepted and contemplated? Or is it
something complex, perhaps consisting in our way of behaving in
the presence of objects, or, alternatively, in the existence in
us of things called "ideas," having a certain relation to
objects, though different from them, and only symbolically
representative of them? Such questions are not easy to answer;
but until they are answered we cannot profess to know what we
mean by saying that we are possessed of "consciousness."

Before considering modern theories, let us look first at
consciousness from the standpoint of conventional psychology,
since this embodies views which naturally occur when we begin to
reflect upon the subject. For this purpose, let us as a
preliminary consider different ways of being conscious.

First, there is the way of PERCEPTION. We "perceive" tables and
chairs, horses and dogs, our friends, traffic passing in the
street--in short, anything which we recognize through the senses.
I leave on one side for the present the question whether pure
sensation is to be regarded as a form of consciousness: what I am
speaking of now is perception, where, according to conventional
psychology, we go beyond the sensation to the "thing" which it
represents. When you hear a donkey bray, you not only hear a
noise, but realize that it comes from a donkey. When you see a
table, you not only see a coloured surface, but realize that it
is hard. The addition of these elements that go beyond crude
sensation is said to constitute perception. We shall have more to
say about this at a later stage. For the moment, I am merely
concerned to note that perception of objects is one of the most
obvious examples of what is called "consciousness." We are
"conscious" of anything that we perceive.

We may take next the way of MEMORY. If I set to work to recall
what I did this morning, that is a form of consciousness
different from perception, since it is concerned with the past.
There are various problems as to how we can be conscious now of
what no longer exists. These will be dealt with incidentally when
we come to the analysis of memory.

From memory it is an easy step to what are called "ideas"--not in
the Platonic sense, but in that of Locke, Berkeley and Hume, in
which they are opposed to "impressions." You may be conscious of
a friend either by seeing him or by "thinking" of him; and by
"thought" you can be conscious of objects which cannot be seen,
such as the human race, or physiology. "Thought" in the narrower
sense is that form of consciousness which consists in "ideas" as
opposed to impressions or mere memories.

We may end our preliminary catalogue with BELIEF, by which I mean
that way of being conscious which may be either true or false. We
say that a man is "conscious of looking a fool," by which we mean
that he believes he looks a fool, and is not mistaken in this
belief. This is a different form of consciousness from any of the
earlier ones. It is the form which gives "knowledge" in the
strict sense, and also error. It is, at least apparently, more
complex than our previous forms of consciousness; though we shall
find that they are not so separable from it as they might appear
to be.

Besides ways of being conscious there are other things that would
ordinarily be called "mental," such as desire and pleasure and
pain. These raise problems of their own, which we shall reach in
Lecture III. But the hardest problems are those that arise
concerning ways of being "conscious." These ways, taken together,
are called the "cognitive" elements in mind, and it is these that
will occupy us most during the following lectures.

There is one element which SEEMS obviously in common among the
different ways of being conscious, and that is, that they are all
directed to OBJECTS. We are conscious "of" something. The
consciousness, it seems, is one thing, and that of which we are
conscious is another thing. Unless we are to acquiesce in the
view that we can never be conscious of anything outside our own
minds, we must say that the object of consciousness need not be
mental, though the consciousness must be. (I am speaking within
the circle of conventional doctrines, not expressing my own
beliefs.) This direction towards an object is commonly regarded
as typical of every form of cognition, and sometimes of mental
life altogether. We may distinguish two different tendencies in
traditional psychology. There are those who take mental phenomena
naively, just as they would physical phenomena. This school of
psychologists tends not to emphasize the object. On the other
hand, there are those whose primary interest is in the apparent
fact that we have KNOWLEDGE, that there is a world surrounding us
of which we are aware. These men are interested in the mind
because of its relation to the world, because knowledge, if it is
a fact, is a very mysterious one. Their interest in psychology is
naturally centred in the relation of consciousness to its object,
a problem which, properly, belongs rather to theory of knowledge.
We may take as one of the best and most typical representatives
of this school the Austrian psychologist Brentano, whose
"Psychology from the Empirical Standpoint,"* though published in
1874, is still influential and was the starting-point of a great
deal of interesting work. He says (p. 115):

* "Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte," vol. i, 1874. (The
second volume was never published.)

"Every psychical phenomenon is characterized by what the
scholastics of the Middle Ages called the intentional (also the
mental) inexistence of an object, and what we, although with not
quite unambiguous expressions, would call relation to a content,
direction towards an object (which is not here to be understood
as a reality), or immanent objectivity. Each contains something
in itself as an object, though not each in the same way. In
presentation something is presented, in judgment something is
acknowledged or rejected, in love something is loved, in hatred
hated, in desire desired, and so on.

"This intentional inexistence is exclusively peculiar to
psychical phenomena. No physical phenomenon shows anything
similar. And so we can define psychical phenomena by saying that
they are phenomena which intentionally contain an object in

The view here expressed, that relation to an object is an
ultimate irreducible characteristic of mental phenomena, is one
which I shall be concerned to combat. Like Brentano, I am
interested in psychology, not so much for its own sake, as for
the light that it may throw on the problem of knowledge. Until
very lately I believed, as he did, that mental phenomena have
essential reference to objects, except possibly in the case of
pleasure and pain. Now I no longer believe this, even in the case
of knowledge. I shall try to make my reasons for this rejection
clear as we proceed. It must be evident at first glance that the
analysis of knowledge is rendered more difficult by the
rejection; but the apparent simplicity of Brentano's view of
knowledge will be found, if I am not mistaken, incapable of
maintaining itself either against an analytic scrutiny or against
a host of facts in psycho-analysis and animal psychology. I do
not wish to minimize the problems. I will merely observe, in
mitigation of our prospective labours, that thinking, however it
is to be analysed, is in itself a delightful occupation, and that
there is no enemy to thinking so deadly as a false simplicity.
Travelling, whether in the mental or the physical world, is a
joy, and it is good to know that, in the mental world at least,
there are vast countries still very imperfectly explored.

The view expressed by Brentano has been held very generally, and
developed by many writers. Among these we may take as an example
his Austrian successor Meinong.* According to him there are three
elements involved in the thought of an object. These three he
calls the act, the content and the object. The act is the same in
any two cases of the same kind of consciousness; for instance, if
I think of Smith or think of Brown, the act of thinking, in
itself, is exactly similar on both occasions. But the content of
my thought, the particular event that is happening in my mind, is
different when I think of Smith and when I think of Brown. The
content, Meinong argues, must not be confounded with the object,
since the content must exist in my mind at the moment when I have
the thought, whereas the object need not do so. The object may be
something past or future; it may be physical, not mental; it may
be something abstract, like equality for example; it may be
something imaginary, like a golden mountain; or it may even be
something self-contradictory, like a round square. But in all
these cases, so he contends, the content exists when the thought
exists, and is what distinguishes it, as an occurrence, from
other thoughts.

* See, e.g. his article: "Ueber Gegenstande hoherer Ordnung und
deren Verhaltniss zur inneren Wahrnehmung," "Zeitschrift fur
Psychologie and Physiologie der Sinnesorgane," vol. xxi, pp.
182-272 (1899), especially pp. 185-8.

To make this theory concrete, let us suppose that you are
thinking of St. Paul's. Then, according to Meinong, we have to
distinguish three elements which are necessarily combined in
constituting the one thought. First, there is the act of
thinking, which would be just the same whatever you were thinking
about. Then there is what makes the character of the thought as
contrasted with other thoughts; this is the content. And finally
there is St. Paul's, which is the object of your thought. There
must be a difference between the content of a thought and what it
is about, since the thought is here and now, whereas what it is
about may not be; hence it is clear that the thought is not
identical with St. Paul's. This seems to show that we must
distinguish between content and object. But if Meinong is right,
there can be no thought without an object: the connection of the
two is essential. The object might exist without the thought, but
not the thought without the object: the three elements of act,
content and object are all required to constitute the one single
occurrence called "thinking of St. Paul's."

The above analysis of a thought, though I believe it to be
mistaken, is very useful as affording a schema in terms of which
other theories can be stated. In the remainder of the present
lecture I shall state in outline the view which I advocate, and
show how various other views out of which mine has grown result
from modifications of the threefold analysis into act, content
and object.

The first criticism I have to make is that the ACT seems
unnecessary and fictitious. The occurrence of the content of a
thought constitutes the occurrence of the thought. Empirically, I
cannot discover anything corresponding to the supposed act; and
theoretically I cannot see that it is indispensable. We say: "_I_
think so-and-so," and this word "I" suggests that thinking is the
act of a person. Meinong's "act" is the ghost of the subject, or
what once was the full-blooded soul. It is supposed that thoughts
cannot just come and go, but need a person to think them. Now, of
course it is true that thoughts can be collected into bundles, so
that one bundle is my thoughts, another is your thoughts, and a
third is the thoughts of Mr. Jones. But I think the person is not
an ingredient in the single thought: he is rather constituted by
relations of the thoughts to each other and to the body. This is
a large question, which need not, in its entirety, concern us at
present. All that I am concerned with for the moment is that the
grammatical forms "I think," "you think," and "Mr. Jones thinks,"
are misleading if regarded as indicating an analysis of a single
thought. It would be better to say "it thinks in me," like "it
rains here"; or better still, "there is a thought in me." This is
simply on the ground that what Meinong calls the act in thinking
is not empirically discoverable, or logically deducible from what
we can observe.

The next point of criticism concerns the relation of content and
object. The reference of thoughts to objects is not, I believe,
the simple direct essential thing that Brentano and Meinong
represent it as being. It seems to me to be derivative, and to
consist largely in BELIEFS: beliefs that what constitutes the
thought is connected with various other elements which together
make up the object. You have, say, an image of St. Paul's, or
merely the word "St. Paul's" in your head. You believe, however
vaguely and dimly, that this is connected with what you would see
if you went to St. Paul's, or what you would feel if you touched
its walls; it is further connected with what other people see and
feel, with services and the Dean and Chapter and Sir Christopher
Wren. These things are not mere thoughts of yours, but your
thought stands in a relation to them of which you are more or
less aware. The awareness of this relation is a further thought,
and constitutes your feeling that the original thought had an
"object." But in pure imagination you can get very similar
thoughts without these accompanying beliefs; and in this case
your thoughts do not have objects or seem to have them. Thus in
such instances you have content without object. On the other
hand, in seeing or hearing it would be less misleading to say
that you have object without content, since what you see or hear
is actually part of the physical world, though not matter in the
sense of physics. Thus the whole question of the relation of
mental occurrences to objects grows very complicated, and cannot
be settled by regarding reference to objects as of the essence of
thoughts. All the above remarks are merely preliminary, and will
be expanded later.

Speaking in popular and unphilosophical terms, we may say that
the content of a thought is supposed to be something in your head
when you think the thought, while the object is usually something
in the outer world. It is held that knowledge of the outer world
is constituted by the relation to the object, while the fact that
knowledge is different from what it knows is due to the fact that
knowledge comes by way of contents. We can begin to state the
difference between realism and idealism in terms of this
opposition of contents and objects. Speaking quite roughly and
approximately, we may say that idealism tends to suppress the
object, while realism tends to suppress the content. Idealism,
accordingly, says that nothing can be known except thoughts, and
all the reality that we know is mental; while realism maintains
that we know objects directly, in sensation certainly, and
perhaps also in memory and thought. Idealism does not say that
nothing can be known beyond the present thought, but it maintains
that the context of vague belief, which we spoke of in connection
with the thought of St. Paul's, only takes you to other thoughts,
never to anything radically different from thoughts. The
difficulty of this view is in regard to sensation, where it seems
as if we came into direct contact with the outer world. But the
Berkeleian way of meeting this difficulty is so familiar that I
need not enlarge upon it now. I shall return to it in a later
lecture, and will only observe, for the present, that there seem
to me no valid grounds for regarding what we see and hear as not
part of the physical world.

Realists, on the other hand, as a rule, suppress the content, and
maintain that a thought consists either of act and object alone,
or of object alone. I have been in the past a realist, and I
remain a realist as regards sensation, but not as regards memory
or thought. I will try to explain what seem to me to be the
reasons for and against various kinds of realism.

Modern idealism professes to be by no means confined to the
present thought or the present thinker in regard to its
knowledge; indeed, it contends that the world is so organic, so
dove-tailed, that from any one portion the whole can be inferred,
as the complete skeleton of an extinct animal can be inferred
from one bone. But the logic by which this supposed organic
nature of the world is nominally demonstrated appears to
realists, as it does to me, to be faulty. They argue that, if we
cannot know the physical world directly, we cannot really know
any thing outside our own minds: the rest of the world may be
merely our dream. This is a dreary view, and they there fore seek
ways of escaping from it. Accordingly they maintain that in
knowledge we are in direct contact with objects, which may be,
and usually are, outside our own minds. No doubt they are
prompted to this view, in the first place, by bias, namely, by
the desire to think that they can know of the existence of a
world outside themselves. But we have to consider, not what led
them to desire the view, but whether their arguments for it are

There are two different kinds of realism, according as we make a
thought consist of act and object, or of object alone. Their
difficulties are different, but neither seems tenable all
through. Take, for the sake of definiteness, the remembering of a
past event. The remembering occurs now, and is therefore
necessarily not identical with the past event. So long as we
retain the act, this need cause no difficulty. The act of
remembering occurs now, and has on this view a certain essential
relation to the past event which it remembers. There is no
LOGICAL objection to this theory, but there is the objection,
which we spoke of earlier, that the act seems mythical, and is
not to be found by observation. If, on the other hand, we try to
constitute memory without the act, we are driven to a content,
since we must have something that happens NOW, as opposed to the
event which happened in the past. Thus, when we reject the act,
which I think we must, we are driven to a theory of memory which
is more akin to idealism. These arguments, however, do not apply
to sensation. It is especially sensation, I think, which is
considered by those realists who retain only the object.* Their
views, which are chiefly held in America, are in large measure
derived from William James, and before going further it will be
well to consider the revolutionary doctrine which he advocated. I
believe this doctrine contains important new truth, and what I
shall have to say will be in a considerable measure inspired by

* This is explicitly the case with Mach's "Analysis of
Sensations," a book of fundamental importance in the present
connection. (Translation of fifth German edition, Open Court Co.,
1914. First German edition, 1886.)

William James's view was first set forth in an essay called "Does
'consciousness' exist?"* In this essay he explains how what used
to be the soul has gradually been refined down to the
"transcendental ego," which, he says, "attenuates itself to a
thoroughly ghostly condition, being only a name for the fact that
the 'content' of experience IS KNOWN. It loses personal form and
activity--these passing over to the content--and becomes a bare
Bewusstheit or Bewusstsein uberhaupt, of which in its own right
absolutely nothing can be said. I believe (he continues) that
'consciousness,' when once it has evaporated to this estate of
pure diaphaneity, is on the point of disappearing altogether. It
is the name of a nonentity, and has no right to a place among
first principles. Those who still cling to it are clinging to a
mere echo, the faint rumour left behind by the disappearing
'soul' upon the air of philosophy"(p. 2).

* "Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods,"
vol. i, 1904. Reprinted in "Essays in Radical Empiricism"
(Longmans, Green & Co., 1912), pp. 1-38, to which references in
what follows refer.

He explains that this is no sudden change in his opinions. "For
twenty years past," he says, "I have mistrusted 'consciousness'
as an entity; for seven or eight years past I have suggested its
non-existence to my students, and tried to give them its
pragmatic equivalent in realities of experience. It seems to me
that the hour is ripe for it to be openly and universally
discarded"(p. 3).

His next concern is to explain away the air of paradox, for James
was never wilfully paradoxical. "Undeniably," he says,
"'thoughts' do exist." "I mean only to deny that the word stands
for an entity, but to insist most emphatically that it does stand
for a function. There is, I mean, no aboriginal stuff or quality
of being, contrasted with that of which material objects are
made, out of which our thoughts of them are made; but there is a
function in experience which thoughts perform, and for the
performance of which this quality of being is invoked. That
function is KNOWING"(pp. 3-4).

James's view is that the raw material out of which the world is
built up is not of two sorts, one matter and the other mind, but
that it is arranged in different patterns by its inter-relations,
and that some arrangements may be called mental, while others may
be called physical.

"My thesis is," he says, "that if we start with the supposition
that there is only one primal stuff or material in the world, a
stuff of which everything is composed, and if we call that stuff
'pure experience,' then knowing can easily be explained as a
particular sort of relation towards one another into which
portions of pure experience may enter. The relation itself is a
part of pure experience; one of its 'terms' becomes the subject
or bearer of the knowledge, the knower, the other becomes the
object known"(p. 4).

After mentioning the duality of subject and object, which is
supposed to constitute consciousness, he proceeds in italics:

He illustrates his meaning by the analogy of paint as it appears
in a paint-shop and as it appears in a picture: in the one case
it is just "saleable matter," while in the other it "performs a
spiritual function. Just so, I maintain (he continues), does a
given undivided portion of experience, taken in one context of
associates, play the part of a knower, of a state of mind, of
'consciousness'; while in a different context the same undivided
bit of experience plays the part of a thing known, of an
objective 'content.' In a word, in one group it figures as a
thought, in another group as a thing"(pp. 9-10).

He does not believe in the supposed immediate certainty of
thought. "Let the case be what it may in others," he says, "I am
as confident as I am of anything that, in myself, the stream of
thinking (which I recognize emphatically as a phenomenon) is only
a careless name for what, when scrutinized, reveals itself to
consist chiefly of the stream of my breathing. The 'I think'
which Kant said must be able to accompany all my objects, is the
'I breathe' which actually does accompany them"(pp. 36-37).

The same view of "consciousness" is set forth in the succeeding
essay, "A World of Pure Experience" (ib., pp. 39-91). The use of
the phrase "pure experience" in both essays points to a lingering
influence of idealism. "Experience," like "consciousness," must
be a product, not part of the primary stuff of the world. It must
be possible, if James is right in his main contentions, that
roughly the same stuff, differently arranged, would not give rise
to anything that could be called "experience." This word has been
dropped by the American realists, among whom we may mention
specially Professor R. B. Perry of Harvard and Mr. Edwin B. Holt.
The interests of this school are in general philosophy and the
philosophy of the sciences, rather than in psychology; they have
derived a strong impulsion from James, but have more interest
than he had in logic and mathematics and the abstract part of
philosophy. They speak of "neutral" entities as the stuff out of
which both mind and matter are constructed. Thus Holt says: "If
the terms and propositions of logic must be substantialized, they
are all strictly of one substance, for which perhaps the least
dangerous name is neutral- stuff. The relation of neutral-stuff
to matter and mind we shall have presently to consider at
considerable length." *

* "The Concept of Consciousness" (Geo. Allen & Co., 1914), p. 52.

My own belief--for which the reasons will appear in subsequent
lectures--is that James is right in rejecting consciousness as an
entity, and that the American realists are partly right, though
not wholly, in considering that both mind and matter are composed
of a neutral-stuff which, in isolation, is neither mental nor
material. I should admit this view as regards sensations: what is
heard or seen belongs equally to psychology and to physics. But I
should say that images belong only to the mental world, while
those occurrences (if any) which do not form part of any
"experience" belong only to the physical world. There are, it
seems to me, prima facie different kinds of causal laws, one
belonging to physics and the other to psychology. The law of
gravitation, for example, is a physical law, while the law of
association is a psychological law. Sensations are subject to
both kinds of laws, and are therefore truly "neutral" in Holt's
sense. But entities subject only to physical laws, or only to
psychological laws, are not neutral, and may be called
respectively purely material and purely mental. Even those,
however, which are purely mental will not have that intrinsic
reference to objects which Brentano assigns to them and which
constitutes the essence of "consciousness" as ordinarily
understood. But it is now time to pass on to other modern
tendencies, also hostile to "consciousness."

There is a psychological school called "Behaviourists," of whom
the protagonist is Professor John B. Watson,* formerly of the
Johns Hopkins University. To them also, on the whole, belongs
Professor John Dewey, who, with James and Dr. Schiller, was one
of the three founders of pragmatism. The view of the
"behaviourists" is that nothing can be known except by external
observation. They deny altogether that there is a separate source
of knowledge called "introspection," by which we can know things
about ourselves which we could never observe in others. They do
not by any means deny that all sorts of things MAY go on in our
minds: they only say that such things, if they occur, are not
susceptible of scientific observation, and do not therefore
concern psychology as a science. Psychology as a science, they
say, is only concerned with BEHAVIOUR, i.e. with what we DO; this
alone, they contend, can be accurately observed. Whether we think
meanwhile, they tell us, cannot be known; in their observation of
the behaviour of human beings, they have not so far found any
evidence of thought. True, we talk a great deal, and imagine that
in so doing we are showing that we can think; but behaviourists
say that the talk they have to listen to can be explained without
supposing that people think. Where you might expect a chapter on
"thought processes" you come instead upon a chapter on "The
Language Habit." It is humiliating to find how terribly adequate
this hypothesis turns out to be.

* See especially his "Behavior: an Introduction to Comparative
Psychology," New York, 1914.

Behaviourism has not, however, sprung from observing the folly of
men. It is the wisdom of animals that has suggested the view. It
has always been a common topic of popular discussion whether
animals "think." On this topic people are prepared to take sides
without having the vaguest idea what they mean by "thinking."
Those who desired to investigate such questions were led to
observe the behaviour of animals, in the hope that their
behaviour would throw some light on their mental faculties. At
first sight, it might seem that this is so. People say that a dog
"knows" its name because it comes when it is called, and that it
"remembers" its master, because it looks sad in his absence, but
wags its tail and barks when he returns. That the dog behaves in
this way is matter of observation, but that it "knows" or
"remembers" anything is an inference, and in fact a very doubtful
one. The more such inferences are examined, the more precarious
they are seen to be. Hence the study of animal behaviour has been
gradually led to abandon all attempt at mental interpretation.
And it can hardly be doubted that, in many cases of complicated
behaviour very well adapted to its ends, there can be no
prevision of those ends. The first time a bird builds a nest, we
can hardly suppose it knows that there will be eggs to be laid in
it, or that it will sit on the eggs, or that they will hatch into
young birds. It does what it does at each stage because instinct
gives it an impulse to do just that, not because it foresees and
desires the result of its actions.*

* An interesting discussion of the question whether instinctive
actions, when first performed, involve any prevision, however
vague, will be found in Lloyd Morgan's "Instinct and Experience"
(Methuen, 1912), chap. ii.

Careful observers of animals, being anxious to avoid precarious
inferences, have gradually discovered more and more how to give
an account of the actions of animals without assuming what we
call "consciousness." It has seemed to the behaviourists that
similar methods can be applied to human behaviour, without
assuming anything not open to external observation. Let us give a
crude illustration, too crude for the authors in question, but
capable of affording a rough insight into their meaning. Suppose
two children in a school, both of whom are asked "What is six
times nine?" One says fifty-four, the other says fifty-six. The
one, we say, "knows" what six times nine is, the other does not.
But all that we can observe is a certain language-habit. The one
child has acquired the habit of saying "six times nine is
fifty-four"; the other has not. There is no more need of
"thought" in this than there is when a horse turns into his
accustomed stable; there are merely more numerous and complicated
habits. There is obviously an observable fact called "knowing"
such-and-such a thing; examinations are experiments for
discovering such facts. But all that is observed or discovered is
a certain set of habits in the use of words. The thoughts (if
any) in the mind of the examinee are of no interest to the
examiner; nor has the examiner any reason to suppose even the
most successful examinee capable of even the smallest amount of

Thus what is called "knowing," in the sense in which we can
ascertain what other people "know," is a phenomenon exemplified
in their physical behaviour, including spoken and written words.
There is no reason--so Watson argues--to suppose that their
knowledge IS anything beyond the habits shown in this behaviour:
the inference that other people have something nonphysical called
"mind" or "thought" is therefore unwarranted.

So far, there is nothing particularly repugnant to our prejudices
in the conclusions of the behaviourists. We are all willing to
admit that other people are thoughtless. But when it comes to
ourselves, we feel convinced that we can actually perceive our
own thinking. "Cogito, ergo sum" would be regarded by most people
as having a true premiss. This, however, the behaviourist denies.
He maintains that our knowledge of ourselves is no different in
kind from our knowledge of other people. We may see MORE, because
our own body is easier to observe than that of other people; but
we do not see anything radically unlike what we see of others.
Introspection, as a separate source of knowledge, is entirely
denied by psychologists of this school. I shall discuss this
question at length in a later lecture; for the present I will
only observe that it is by no means simple, and that, though I
believe the behaviourists somewhat overstate their case, yet
there is an important element of truth in their contention, since
the things which we can discover by introspection do not seem to
differ in any very fundamental way from the things which we
discover by external observation.

So far, we have been principally concerned with knowing. But it
might well be maintained that desiring is what is really most
characteristic of mind. Human beings are constantly engaged in
achieving some end they feel pleasure in success and pain in
failure. In a purely material world, it may be said, there would
be no opposition of pleasant and unpleasant, good and bad, what
is desired and what is feared. A man's acts are governed by
purposes. He decides, let us suppose, to go to a certain place,
whereupon he proceeds to the station, takes his ticket and enters
the train. If the usual route is blocked by an accident, he goes
by some other route. All that he does is determined--or so it
seems--by the end he has in view, by what lies in front of him,
rather than by what lies behind. With dead matter, this is not
the case. A stone at the top of a hill may start rolling, but it
shows no pertinacity in trying to get to the bottom. Any ledge or
obstacle will stop it, and it will exhibit no signs of discontent
if this happens. It is not attracted by the pleasantness of the
valley, as a sheep or cow might be, but propelled by the
steepness of the hill at the place where it is. In all this we
have characteristic differences between the behaviour of animals
and the behaviour of matter as studied by physics.

Desire, like knowledge, is, of course, in one sense an observable
phenomenon. An elephant will eat a bun, but not a mutton chop; a
duck will go into the water, but a hen will not. But when we
think of our own. desires, most people believe that we can know
them by an immediate self-knowledge which does not depend upon
observation of our actions. Yet if this were the case, it would
be odd that people are so often mistaken as to what they desire.
It is matter of common observation that "so-and-so does not know
his own motives," or that "A is envious of B and malicious about
him, but quite unconscious of being so." Such people are called
self-deceivers, and are supposed to have had to go through some
more or less elaborate process of concealing from themselves what
would otherwise have been obvious. I believe that this is an
entire mistake. I believe that the discovery of our own motives
can only be made by the same process by which we discover other
people's, namely, the process of observing our actions and
inferring the desire which could prompt them. A desire is
"conscious" when we have told ourselves that we have it. A hungry
man may say to himself: "Oh, I do want my lunch." Then his desire
is "conscious." But it only differs from an "unconscious" desire
by the presence of appropriate words, which is by no means a
fundamental difference.

The belief that a motive is normally conscious makes it easier to
be mistaken as to our own motives than as to other people's. When
some desire that we should be ashamed of is attributed to us, we
notice that we have never had it consciously, in the sense of
saying to ourselves, "I wish that would happen." We therefore
look for some other interpretation of our actions, and regard our
friends as very unjust when they refuse to be convinced by our
repudiation of what we hold to be a calumny. Moral considerations
greatly increase the difficulty of clear thinking in this matter.
It is commonly argued that people are not to blame for
unconscious motives, but only for conscious ones. In order,
therefore, to be wholly virtuous it is only necessary to repeat
virtuous formulas. We say: "I desire to be kind to my friends,
honourable in business, philanthropic towards the poor,
public-spirited in politics." So long as we refuse to allow
ourselves, even in the watches of the night, to avow any contrary
desires, we may be bullies at home, shady in the City, skinflints
in paying wages and profiteers in dealing with the public; yet,
if only conscious motives are to count in moral valuation, we
shall remain model characters. This is an agreeable doctrine, and
it is not surprising that men are un willing to abandon it. But
moral considerations are the worst enemies of the scientific
spirit and we must dismiss them from our minds if we wish to
arrive at truth.

I believe--as I shall try to prove in a later lecture -that
desire, like force in mechanics, is of the nature of a convenient
fiction for describing shortly certain laws of behaviour. A
hungry animal is restless until it finds food; then it becomes
quiescent. The thing which will bring a restless condition to an
end is said to be what is desired. But only experience can show
what will have this sedative effect, and it is easy to make
mistakes. We feel dissatisfaction, and think that such and-such a
thing would remove it; but in thinking this, we are theorizing,
not observing a patent fact. Our theorizing is often mistaken,
and when it is mistaken there is a difference between what we
think we desire and what in fact will bring satisfaction. This is
such a common phenomenon that any theory of desire which fails to
account for it must be wrong.

What have been called "unconscious" desires have been brought
very much to the fore in recent years by psycho-analysis.
Psycho-analysis, as every one knows, is primarily a method of
understanding hysteria and certain forms of insanity*; but it has
been found that there is much in the lives of ordinary men and
women which bears a humiliating resemblance to the delusions of
the insane. The connection of dreams, irrational beliefs and
foolish actions with unconscious wishes has been brought to
light, though with some exaggeration, by Freud and Jung and their
followers. As regards the nature of these unconscious wishes, it
seems to me--though as a layman I speak with diffidence--that
many psycho-analysts are unduly narrow; no doubt the wishes they
emphasize exist, but others, e.g. for honour and power, are
equally operative and equally liable to concealment. This,
however, does not affect the value of their general theories from
the point of view of theoretic psychology, and it is from this
point of view that their results are important for the analysis
of mind.

* There is a wide field of "unconscious" phenomena which does not
depend upon psycho-analytic theories. Such occurrences as
automatic writing lead Dr. Morton Prince to say: "As I view this
question of the subconscious, far too much weight is given to the
point of awareness or not awareness of our conscious processes.
As a matter of fact, we find entirely identical phenomena, that
is, identical in every respect but one-that of awareness in which
sometimes we are aware of these conscious phenomena and sometimes
not"(p. 87 of "Subconscious Phenomena," by various authors,
Rebman). Dr. Morton Price conceives that there may be
"consciousness" without "awareness." But this is a difficult
view, and one which makes some definition of "consciousness"
imperative. For nay part, I cannot see how to separate
consciousness from awareness.

What, I think, is clearly established, is that a man's actions
and beliefs may be wholly dominated by a desire of which he is
quite unconscious, and which he indignantly repudiates when it is
suggested to him. Such a desire is generally, in morbid cases, of
a sort which the patient would consider wicked; if he had to
admit that he had the desire, he would loathe himself. Yet it is
so strong that it must force an outlet for itself; hence it
becomes necessary to entertain whole systems of false beliefs in
order to hide the nature of what is desired. The resulting
delusions in very many cases disappear if the hysteric or lunatic
can be made to face the facts about himself. The consequence of
this is that the treatment of many forms of insanity has grown
more psychological and less physiological than it used to be.
Instead of looking for a physical defect in the brain, those who
treat delusions look for the repressed desire which has found
this contorted mode of expression. For those who do not wish to
plunge into the somewhat repulsive and often rather wild theories
of psychoanalytic pioneers, it will be worth while to read a
little book by Dr. Bernard Hart on "The Psychology of Insanity."*
On this question of the mental as opposed to the physiological
study of the causes of insanity, Dr. Hart says:

* Cambridge, 1912; 2nd edition, 1914. The following references
are to the second edition.

"The psychological conception [of insanity] is based on the view
that mental processes can be directly studied without any
reference to the accompanying changes which are presumed to take
place in the brain, and that insanity may therefore be properly
attacked from the standpoint of psychology"(p. 9).

This illustrates a point which I am anxious to make clear from
the outset. Any attempt to classify modern views, such as I
propose to advocate, from the old standpoint of materialism and
idealism, is only misleading. In certain respects, the views
which I shall be setting forth approximate to materialism; in
certain others, they approximate to its opposite. On this
question of the study of delusions, the practical effect of the
modern theories, as Dr. Hart points out, is emancipation from the
materialist method. On the other hand, as he also points out (pp.
38-9), imbecility and dementia still have to be considered
physiologically, as caused by defects in the brain. There is no
inconsistency in this If, as we maintain, mind and matter are
neither of them the actual stuff of reality, but different
convenient groupings of an underlying material, then, clearly,
the question whether, in regard to a given phenomenon, we are to
seek a physical or a mental cause, is merely one to be decided by
trial. Metaphysicians have argued endlessly as to the interaction
of mind and matter. The followers of Descartes held that mind and
matter are so different as to make any action of the one on the
other impossible. When I will to move my arm, they said, it is
not my will that operates on my arm, but God, who, by His
omnipotence, moves my arm whenever I want it moved. The modern
doctrine of psychophysical parallelism is not appreciably
different from this theory of the Cartesian school.
Psycho-physical parallelism is the theory that mental and
physical events each have causes in their own sphere, but run on
side by side owing to the fact that every state of the brain
coexists with a definite state of the mind, and vice versa. This
view of the reciprocal causal independence of mind and matter has
no basis except in metaphysical theory.* For us, there is no
necessity to make any such assumption, which is very difficult to
harmonize with obvious facts. I receive a letter inviting me to
dinner: the letter is a physical fact, but my apprehension of its
meaning is mental. Here we have an effect of matter on mind. In
consequence of my apprehension of the meaning of the letter, I go
to the right place at the right time; here we have an effect of
mind on matter. I shall try to persuade you, in the course of
these lectures, that matter is not so material and mind not so
mental as is generally supposed. When we are speaking of matter,
it will seem as if we were inclining to idealism; when we are
speaking of mind, it will seem as if we were inclining to
materialism. Neither is the truth. Our world is to be constructed
out of what the American realists call "neutral" entities, which
have neither the hardness and indestructibility of matter, nor
the reference to objects which is supposed to characterize mind.

* It would seem, however, that Dr. Hart accepts this theory as 8
methodological precept. See his contribution to "Subconscious
Phenomena" (quoted above), especially pp. 121-2.

There is, it is true, one objection which might be felt, not
indeed to the action of matter on mind, but to the action of mind
on matter. The laws of physics, it may be urged, are apparently
adequate to explain everything that happens to matter, even when
it is matter in a man's brain. This, however, is only a
hypothesis, not an established theory. There is no cogent
empirical reason for supposing that the laws determining the
motions of living bodies are exactly the same as those that apply
to dead matter. Sometimes, of course, they are clearly the same.
When a man falls from a precipice or slips on a piece of orange
peel, his body behaves as if it were devoid of life. These are
the occasions that make Bergson laugh. But when a man's bodily
movements are what we call "voluntary," they are, at any rate
prima facie, very different in their laws from the movements of
what is devoid of life. I do not wish to say dogmatically that
the difference is irreducible; I think it highly probable that it
is not. I say only that the study of the behaviour of living
bodies, in the present state of our knowledge, is distinct from
physics. The study of gases was originally quite distinct from
that of rigid bodies, and would never have advanced to its
present state if it had not been independently pursued. Nowadays
both the gas and the rigid body are manufactured out of a more
primitive and universal kind of matter. In like manner, as a
question of methodology, the laws of living bodies are to be
studied, in the first place, without any undue haste to
subordinate them to the laws of physics. Boyle's law and the rest
had to be discovered before the kinetic theory of gases became
possible. But in psychology we are hardly yet at the stage of
Boyle's law. Meanwhile we need not be held up by the bogey of the
universal rigid exactness of physics. This is, as yet, a mere
hypothesis, to be tested empirically without any preconceptions.
It may be true, or it may not. So far, that is all we can say.

Returning from this digression to our main topic, namely, the
criticism of "consciousness," we observe that Freud and his
followers, though they have demonstrated beyond dispute the
immense importance of "unconscious" desires in determining our
actions and beliefs, have not attempted the task of telling us
what an "unconscious" desire actually is, and have thus invested
their doctrine with an air of mystery and mythology which forms a
large part of its popular attractiveness. They speak always as
though it were more normal for a desire to be conscious, and as
though a positive cause had to be assigned for its being
unconscious. Thus "the unconscious" becomes a sort of underground
prisoner, living in a dungeon, breaking in at long intervals upon
our daylight respectability with dark groans and maledictions and
strange atavistic lusts. The ordinary reader, almost inevitably,
thinks of this underground person as another consciousness,
prevented by what Freud calls the "censor" from making his voice
heard in company, except on rare and dreadful occasions when he
shouts so loud that every one hears him and there is a scandal.
Most of us like the idea that we could be desperately wicked if
only we let ourselves go. For this reason, the Freudian
"unconscious" has been a consolation to many quiet and
well-behaved persons.

I do not think the truth is quite so picturesque as this. I
believe an "unconscious" desire is merely a causal law of our
behaviour,* namely, that we remain restlessly active until a
certain state of affairs is realized, when we achieve temporary
equilibrium If we know beforehand what this state of affairs is,
our desire is conscious; if not, unconscious. The unconscious
desire is not something actually existing, but merely a tendency
to a certain behaviour; it has exactly the same status as a force
in dynamics. The unconscious desire is in no way mysterious; it
is the natural primitive form of desire, from which the other has
developed through our habit of observing and theorizing (often
wrongly). It is not necessary to suppose, as Freud seems to do,
that every unconscious wish was once conscious, and was then, in
his terminology, "repressed" because we disapproved of it. On the
contrary, we shall suppose that, although Freudian "repression"
undoubtedly occurs and is important, it is not the usual reason
for unconsciousness of our wishes. The usual reason is merely
that wishes are all, to begin with, unconscious, and only become
known when they are actively noticed. Usually, from laziness,
people do not notice, but accept the theory of human nature which
they find current, and attribute to themselves whatever wishes
this theory would lead them to expect. We used to be full of
virtuous wishes, but since Freud our wishes have become, in the
words of the Prophet Jeremiah, "deceitful above all things and
desperately wicked." Both these views, in most of those who have
held them, are the product of theory rather than observation, for
observation requires effort, whereas repeating phrases does not.

* Cf. Hart, "The Psychology of Insanity," p. 19.

The interpretation of unconscious wishes which I have been
advocating has been set forth briefly by Professor John B. Watson
in an article called "The Psychology of Wish Fulfilment," which
appeared in "The Scientific Monthly" in November, 1916. Two
quotations will serve to show his point of view:

"The Freudians (he says) have made more or less of a
'metaphysical entity' out of the censor. They suppose that when
wishes are repressed they are repressed into the 'unconscious,'
and that this mysterious censor stands at the trapdoor lying
between the conscious and the unconscious. Many of us do not
believe in a world of the unconscious (a few of us even have
grave doubts about the usefulness of the term consciousness),
hence we try to explain censorship along ordinary biological
lines. We believe that one group of habits can 'down' another
group of habits--or instincts. In this case our ordinary system
of habits--those which we call expressive of our 'real selves'--
inhibit or quench (keep inactive or partially inactive) those
habits and instinctive tendencies which belong largely in the
past"(p. 483).

Again, after speaking of the frustration of some impulses which
is involved in acquiring the habits of a civilized adult, he

"It is among these frustrated impulses that I would find the
biological basis of the unfulfilled wish. Such 'wishes' need
never have been 'conscious,' and NEED NEVER HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED
this that there is no particular reason for applying the term
'wish' to such tendencies"(p. 485).

One of the merits of the general analysis of mind which we shall
be concerned with in the following lectures is that it removes
the atmosphere of mystery from the phenomena brought to light by
the psycho-analysts. Mystery is delightful, but unscientific,
since it depends upon ignorance. Man has developed out of the
animals, and there is no serious gap between him and the amoeba.
Something closely analogous to knowledge and desire, as regards
its effects on behaviour, exists among animals, even where what
we call "consciousness" is hard to believe in; something equally
analogous exists in ourselves in cases where no trace of
"consciousness" can be found. It is therefore natural to suppose
that, what ever may be the correct definition of "consciousness,"
"consciousness" is not the essence of life or mind. In the
following lectures, accordingly, this term will disappear until
we have dealt with words, when it will re-emerge as mainly a
trivial and unimportant outcome of linguistic habits.


In attempting to understand the elements out of which mental
phenomena are compounded, it is of the greatest importance to
remember that from the protozoa to man there is nowhere a very
wide gap either in structure or in behaviour. From this fact it
is a highly probable inference that there is also nowhere a very
wide mental gap. It is, of course, POSSIBLE that there may be, at
certain stages in evolution, elements which are entirely new from
the standpoint of analysis, though in their nascent form they
have little influence on behaviour and no very marked
correlatives in structure. But the hypothesis of continuity in
mental development is clearly preferable if no psychological
facts make it impossible. We shall find, if I am not mistaken,
that there are no facts which refute the hypothesis of mental
continuity, and that, on the other hand, this hypothesis affords
a useful test of suggested theories as to the nature of mind.

The hypothesis of mental continuity throughout organic evolution
may be used in two different ways. On the one hand, it may be
held that we have more knowledge of our own minds than those of
animals, and that we should use this knowledge to infer the
existence of something similar to our own mental processes in
animals and even in plants. On the other hand, it may be held
that animals and plants present simpler phenomena, more easily
analysed than those of human minds; on this ground it may be
urged that explanations which are adequate in the case of animals
ought not to be lightly rejected in the case of man. The
practical effects of these two views are diametrically opposite:
the first leads us to level up animal intelligence with what we
believe ourselves to know about our own intelligence, while the
second leads us to attempt a levelling down of our own
intelligence to something not too remote from what we can observe
in animals. It is therefore important to consider the relative
justification of the two ways of applying the principle of

It is clear that the question turns upon another, namely, which
can we know best, the psychology of animals or that of human
beings? If we can know most about animals, we shall use this
knowledge as a basis for inference about human beings; if we can
know most about human beings, we shall adopt the opposite
procedure. And the question whether we can know most about the
psychology of human beings or about that of animals turns upon
yet another, namely: Is introspection or external observation the
surer method in psychology? This is a question which I propose to
discuss at length in Lecture VI; I shall therefore content myself
now with a statement of the conclusions to be arrived at.

We know a great many things concerning ourselves which we cannot
know nearly so directly concerning animals or even other people.
We know when we have a toothache, what we are thinking of, what
dreams we have when we are asleep, and a host of other
occurrences which we only know about others when they tell us of
them, or otherwise make them inferable by their behaviour. Thus,
so far as knowledge of detached facts is concerned, the advantage
is on the side of self-knowledge as against external observation.

But when we come to the analysis and scientific understanding of
the facts, the advantages on the side of self-knowledge become
far less clear. We know, for example, that we have desires and
beliefs, but we do not know what constitutes a desire or a
belief. The phenomena are so familiar that it is difficult to
realize how little we really know about them. We see in animals,
and to a lesser extent in plants, behaviour more or less similar
to that which, in us, is prompted by desires and beliefs, and we
find that, as we descend in the scale of evolution, behaviour
becomes simpler, more easily reducible to rule, more
scientifically analysable and predictable. And just because we
are not misled by familiarity we find it easier to be cautious in
interpreting behaviour when we are dealing with phenomena remote
from those of our own minds: Moreover, introspection, as
psychoanalysis has demonstrated, is extraordinarily fallible even
in cases where we feel a high degree of certainty. The net result
seems to be that, though self-knowledge has a definite and
important contribution to make to psychology, it is exceedingly
misleading unless it is constantly checked and controlled by the
test of external observation, and by the theories which such
observation suggests when applied to animal behaviour. On the
whole, therefore, there is probably more to be learnt about human
psychology from animals than about animal psychology from human
beings; but this conclusion is one of degree, and must not be
pressed beyond a point.

It is only bodily phenomena that can be directly observed in
animals, or even, strictly speaking, in other human beings. We
can observe such things as their movements, their physiological
processes, and the sounds they emit. Such things as desires and
beliefs, which seem obvious to introspection, are not visible
directly to external observation. Accordingly, if we begin our
study of psychology by external observation, we must not begin by
assuming such things as desires and beliefs, but only such things
as external observation can reveal, which will be characteristics
of the movements and physiological processes of animals. Some
animals, for example, always run away from light and hide
themselves in dark places. If you pick up a mossy stone which is
lightly embedded in the earth, you will see a number of small
animals scuttling away from the unwonted daylight and seeking
again the darkness of which you have deprived them. Such animals
are sensitive to light, in the sense that their movements are
affected by it; but it would be rash to infer that they have
sensations in any way analogous to our sensations of sight. Such
inferences, which go beyond the observable facts, are to be
avoided with the utmost care.

It is customary to divide human movements into three classes,
voluntary, reflex and mechanical. We may illustrate the
distinction by a quotation from William James ("Psychology," i,

"If I hear the conductor calling 'all aboard' as I enter the
depot, my heart first stops, then palpitates, and my legs respond
to the air-waves falling on my tympanum by quickening their
movements. If I stumble as I run, the sensation of falling
provokes a movement of the hands towards the direction of the
fall, the effect of which is to shield the body from too sudden a
shock. If a cinder enter my eye, its lids close forcibly and a
copious flow of tears tends to wash it out.

"These three responses to a sensational stimulus differ, however,
in many respects. The closure of the eye and the lachrymation are
quite involuntary, and so is the disturbance of the heart. Such
involuntary responses we know as 'reflex' acts. The motion of the
arms to break the shock of falling may also be called reflex,
since it occurs too quickly to be deliberately intended. Whether
it be instinctive or whether it result from the pedestrian
education of childhood may be doubtful; it is, at any rate, less
automatic than the previous acts, for a man might by conscious
effort learn to perform it more skilfully, or even to suppress it
altogether. Actions of this kind, with which instinct and
volition enter upon equal terms, have been called 'semi-reflex.'
The act of running towards the train, on the other hand, has no
instinctive element about it. It is purely the result of
education, and is preceded by a consciousness of the purpose to
be attained and a distinct mandate of the will. It is a
'voluntary act.' Thus the animal's reflex and voluntary
performances shade into each other gradually, being connected by
acts which may often occur automatically, but may also be
modified by conscious intelligence.

"An outside observer, unable to perceive the accompanying
consciousness, might be wholly at a loss to discriminate between
the automatic acts and those which volition escorted. But if the
criterion of mind's existence be the choice of the proper means
for the attainment of a supposed end, all the acts alike seem to
be inspired by intelligence, for APPROPRIATENESS characterizes
them all alike. "

There is one movement, among those that James mentions at first,
which is not subsequently classified, namely, the stumbling. This
is the kind of movement which may be called "mechanical"; it is
evidently of a different kind from either reflex or voluntary
movements, and more akin to the movements of dead matter. We may
define a movement of an animal's body as "mechanical" when it
proceeds as if only dead matter were involved. For example, if
you fall over a cliff, you move under the influence of
gravitation, and your centre of gravity describes just as correct
a parabola as if you were already dead. Mechanical movements have
not the characteristic of appropriateness, unless by accident, as
when a drunken man falls into a waterbutt and is sobered. But
reflex and voluntary movements are not ALWAYS appropriate, unless
in some very recondite sense. A moth flying into a lamp is not
acting sensibly; no more is a man who is in such a hurry to get
his ticket that he cannot remember the name of his destination.
Appropriateness is a complicated and merely approximate idea, and
for the present we shall do well to dismiss it from our thoughts.

As James states, there is no difference, from the point of view
of the outside observer, between voluntary and reflex movements.
The physiologist can discover that both depend upon the nervous
system, and he may find that the movements which we call
voluntary depend upon higher centres in the brain than those that
are reflex. But he cannot discover anything as to the presence or
absence of "will" or "consciousness," for these things can only
be seen from within, if at all. For the present, we wish to place
ourselves resolutely in the position of outside observers; we
will therefore ignore the distinction between voluntary and
reflex movements. We will call the two together "vital"
movements. We may then distinguish "vital" from mechanical
movements by the fact that vital movements depend for their
causation upon the special properties of the nervous system,
while mechanical movements depend only upon the properties which
animal bodies share with matter in general.

There is need for some care if the distinction between mechanical
and vital movements is to be made precise. It is quite likely
that, if we knew more about animal bodies, we could deduce all
their movements from the laws of chemistry and physics. It is
already fairly easy to see how chemistry reduces to physics, i.e.
how the differences between different chemical elements can be
accounted for by differences of physical structure, the
constituents of the structure being electrons which are exactly
alike in all kinds of matter. We only know in part how to reduce
physiology to chemistry, but we know enough to make it likely
that the reduction is possible. If we suppose it effected, what
would become of the difference between vital and mechanical

Some analogies will make the difference clear. A shock to a mass
of dynamite produces quite different effects from an equal shock
to a mass of steel: in the one case there is a vast explosion,
while in the other case there is hardly any noticeable
disturbance. Similarly, you may sometimes find on a mountain-side
a large rock poised so delicately that a touch will set it
crashing down into the valley, while the rocks all round are so
firm that only a considerable force can dislodge them What is
analogous in these two cases is the existence of a great store of
energy in unstable equilibrium ready to burst into violent motion
by the addition of a very slight disturbance. Similarly, it
requires only a very slight expenditure of energy to send a
post-card with the words "All is discovered; fly!" but the effect
in generating kinetic energy is said to be amazing. A human body,
like a mass of dynamite, contains a store of energy in unstable
equilibrium, ready to be directed in this direction or that by a
disturbance which is physically very small, such as a spoken
word. In all such cases the reduction of behaviour to physical
laws can only be effected by entering into great minuteness; so
long as we confine ourselves to the observation of comparatively
large masses, the way in which the equilibrium will be upset
cannot be determined. Physicists distinguish between macroscopic
and microscopic equations: the former determine the visible
movements of bodies of ordinary size, the latter the minute
occurrences in the smallest parts. It is only the microscopic
equations that are supposed to be the same for all sorts of
matter. The macroscopic equations result from a process of
averaging out, and may be different in different cases. So, in
our instance, the laws of macroscopic phenomena are different for
mechanical and vital movements, though the laws of microscopic
phenomena may be the same.

We may say, speaking somewhat roughly, that a stimulus applied to
the nervous system, like a spark to dynamite, is able to take
advantage of the stored energy in unstable equilibrium, and thus
to produce movements out of proportion to the proximate cause.
Movements produced in this way are vital movements, while
mechanical movements are those in which the stored energy of a
living body is not involved. Similarly dynamite may be exploded,
thereby displaying its characteristic properties, or may (with
due precautions) be carted about like any other mineral. The
explosion is analogous to vital movements, the carting about to
mechanical movements.

Mechanical movements are of no interest to the psychologist, and
it has only been necessary to define them in order to be able to
exclude them. When a psychologist studies behaviour, it is only
vital movements that concern him. We shall, therefore, proceed to
ignore mechanical movements, and study only the properties of the

The next point is to distinguish between movements that are
instinctive and movements that are acquired by experience. This
distinction also is to some extent one of degree. Professor Lloyd
Morgan gives the following definition of "instinctive behaviour":

"That which is, on its first occurrence, independent of prior
experience; which tends to the well-being of the individual and
the preservation of the race; which is similarly performed by all
members of the same more or less restricted group of animals; and
which may be subject to subsequent modification under the
guidance of experience." *

* "Instinct and Experience" (Methuen, 1912) p. 5.

This definition is framed for the purposes of biology, and is in
some respects unsuited to the needs of psychology. Though perhaps
unavoidable, allusion to "the same more or less restricted group
of animals" makes it impossible to judge what is instinctive in
the behaviour of an isolated individual. Moreover, "the
well-being of the individual and the preservation of the race" is
only a usual characteristic, not a universal one, of the sort of
movements that, from our point of view, are to be called
instinctive; instances of harmful instincts will be given
shortly. The essential point of the definition, from our point of
view, is that an instinctive movement is in dependent of prior

We may say that an "instinctive" movement is a vital movement
performed by an animal the first time that it finds itself in a
novel situation; or, more correctly, one which it would perform
if the situation were novel.* The instincts of an animal are
different at different periods of its growth, and this fact may
cause changes of behaviour which are not due to learning. The
maturing and seasonal fluctuation of the sex-instinct affords a
good illustration. When the sex-instinct first matures, the
behaviour of an animal in the presence of a mate is different
from its previous behaviour in similar circumstances, but is not
learnt, since it is just the same if the animal has never
previously been in the presence of a mate.

* Though this can only be decided by comparison with other
members of the species, and thus exposes us to the need of
comparison which we thought an objection to Professor Lloyd
Morgan's definition.

On the other hand, a movement is "learnt," or embodies a "habit,"
if it is due to previous experience of similar situations, and is
not what it would be if the animal had had no such experience.

There are various complications which blur the sharpness of this
distinction in practice. To begin with, many instincts mature
gradually, and while they are immature an animal may act in a
fumbling manner which is very difficult to distinguish from
learning. James ("Psychology," ii, 407) maintains that children
walk by instinct, and that the awkwardness of their first
attempts is only due to the fact that the instinct has not yet
ripened. He hopes that "some scientific widower, left alone with
his offspring at the critical moment, may ere long test this
suggestion on the living subject." However this may be, he quotes
evidence to show that "birds do not LEARN to fly," but fly by
instinct when they reach the appropriate age (ib., p. 406). In
the second place, instinct often gives only a rough outline of
the sort of thing to do, in which case learning is necessary in
order to acquire certainty and precision in action. In the third
place, even in the clearest cases of acquired habit, such as
speaking, some instinct is required to set in motion the process
of learning. In the case of speaking, the chief instinct involved
is commonly supposed to be that of imitation, but this may be
questioned. (See Thorndike's "Animal Intelligence," p. 253 ff.)

In spite of these qualifications, the broad distinction between
instinct and habit is undeniable. To take extreme cases, every
animal at birth can take food by instinct, before it has had
opportunity to learn; on the other hand, no one can ride a
bicycle by instinct, though, after learning, the necessary
movements become just as automatic as if they were instinctive.

The process of learning, which consists in the acquisition of
habits, has been much studied in various animals.* For example:
you put a hungry animal, say a cat, in a cage which has a door
that can be opened by lifting a latch; outside the cage you put
food. The cat at first dashes all round the cage, making frantic
efforts to force a way out. At last, by accident, the latch is
lifted. and the cat pounces on the food. Next day you repeat the
experiment, and you find that the cat gets out much more quickly
than the first time, although it still makes some random
movements. The third day it gets out still more quickly, and
before long it goes straight to the latch and lifts it at once.
Or you make a model of the Hampton Court maze, and put a rat in
the middle, assaulted by the smell of food on the outside. The
rat starts running down the passages, and is constantly stopped
by blind alleys, but at last, by persistent attempts, it gets
out. You repeat this experiment day after day; you measure the
time taken by the rat in reaching the food; you find that the
time rapidly diminishes, and that after a while the rat ceases to
make any wrong turnings. It is by essentially similar processes
that we learn speaking, writing, mathematics, or the government
of an empire.

* The scientific study of this subject may almost be said to
begin with Thorndike's "Animal Intelligence" (Macmillan, 1911).

Professor Watson ("Behavior," pp. 262-3) has an ingenious theory
as to the way in which habit arises out of random movements. I
think there is a reason why his theory cannot be regarded as
alone sufficient, but it seems not unlikely that it is partly
correct. Suppose, for the sake of simplicity, that there are just
ten random movements which may be made by the animal--say, ten
paths down which it may go--and that only one of these leads to
food, or whatever else represents success in the case in
question. Then the successful movement always occurs during the
animal's attempts, whereas each of the others, on the average,
occurs in only half the attempts. Thus the tendency to repeat a
previous performance (which is easily explicable without the
intervention of "consciousness") leads to a greater emphasis on
the successful movement than on any other, and in time causes it
alone to be performed. The objection to this view, if taken as
the sole explanation, is that on improvement ought to set in till
after the SECOND trial, whereas experiment shows that already at
the second attempt the animal does better than the first time.
Something further is, therefore, required to account for the
genesis of habit from random movements; but I see no reason to
suppose that what is further required involves "consciousness."

Mr. Thorndike (op. cit., p. 244) formulates two "provisional laws
of acquired behaviour or learning," as follows:

"The Law of Effect is that: Of several responses made to the same
situation, those which are accompanied or closely followed by
satisfaction to the animal will, other things being equal, be
more firmly connected with the situation, so that, when it
recurs, they will be more likely to recur; those which are
accompanied or closely followed by discomfort to the animal will,
other things being equal, have their connections with that
situation weakened, so that, when it recurs, they will be less
likely to occur. The greater the satisfaction or discomfort, the
greater the strengthening or weakening of the bond.

"The Law of Exercise is that: Any response to a situation will,
other things being equal, be more strongly connected with the
situation in proportion to the number of times it has been
connected with that situation and to the average vigour and
duration of the connections."

With the explanation to be presently given of the meaning of
"satisfaction" and "discomfort," there seems every reason to
accept these two laws.

What is true of animals, as regards instinct and habit, is
equally true of men. But the higher we rise in the evolutionary
scale, broadly speaking, the greater becomes the power of
learning, and the fewer are the occasions when pure instinct is
exhibited unmodified in adult life. This applies with great force
to man, so much so that some have thought instinct less important
in the life of man than in that of animals. This, however, would
be a mistake. Learning is only possible when instinct supplies
the driving-force. The animals in cages, which gradually learn to
get out, perform random movements at first, which are purely
instinctive. But for these random movements, they would never
acquire the experience which afterwards enables them to produce
the right movement. (This is partly questioned by Hobhouse*--
wrongly, I think.) Similarly, children learning to talk make all
sorts of sounds, until one day the right sound comes by accident.
It is clear that the original making of random sounds, without
which speech would never be learnt, is instinctive. I think we
may say the same of all the habits and aptitudes that we acquire
in all of them there has been present throughout some instinctive
activity, prompting at first rather inefficient movements, but
supplying the driving force while more and more effective methods
are being acquired. A cat which is hungry smells fish, and goes
to the larder. This is a thoroughly efficient method when there
is fish in the larder, and it is often successfully practised by
children. But in later life it is found that merely going to the
larder does not cause fish to be there; after a series of random
movements it is found that this result is to be caused by going
to the City in the morning and coming back in the evening. No one
would have guessed a priori that this movement of a middle-aged
man's body would cause fish to come out of the sea into his
larder, but experience shows that it does, and the middle-aged
man therefore continues to go to the City, just as the cat in the
cage continues to lift the latch when it has once found it. Of
course, in actual fact, human learning is rendered easier, though
psychologically more complex, through language; but at bottom
language does not alter the essential character of learning, or
of the part played by instinct in promoting learning. Language,
however, is a subject upon which I do not wish to speak until a
later lecture.

* "Mind in Evolution" (Macmillan, 1915), pp. 236-237.

The popular conception of instinct errs by imagining it to be
infallible and preternaturally wise, as well as incapable of
modification. This is a complete delusion. Instinct, as a rule,
is very rough and ready, able to achieve its result under
ordinary circumstances, but easily misled by anything unusual.
Chicks follow their mother by instinct, but when they are quite
young they will follow with equal readiness any moving object
remotely resembling their mother, or even a human being (James,
"Psychology," ii, 396). Bergson, quoting Fabre, has made play
with the supposed extraordinary accuracy of the solitary wasp
Ammophila, which lays its eggs in a caterpillar. On this subject
I will quote from Drever's "Instinct in Man," p. 92:

"According to Fabre's observations, which Bergson accepts, the
Ammophila stings its prey EXACTLY and UNERRINGLY in EACH of the
nervous centres. The result is that the caterpillar is paralyzed,
but not immediately killed, the advantage of this being that the
larva cannot be injured by any movement of the caterpillar, upon
which the egg is deposited, and is provided with fresh meat when
the time comes.

"Now Dr. and Mrs. Peckham have shown that the sting of the wasp
is NOT UNERRING, as Fabre alleges, that the number of stings is
NOT CONSTANT, that sometimes the caterpillar is NOT PARALYZED,
and sometimes it is KILLED OUTRIGHT, and that THE DIFFERENT
which is not injured by slight movements of the caterpillar, nor
by consuming food decomposed rather than fresh caterpillar."

This illustrates how love of the marvellous may mislead even so
careful an observer as Fabre and so eminent a philosopher as

In the same chapter of Dr. Drever's book there are some
interesting examples of the mistakes made by instinct. I will
quote one as a sample:

"The larva of the Lomechusa beetle eats the young of the ants, in
whose nest it is reared. Nevertheless, the ants tend the
Lomechusa larvae with the same care they bestow on their own
young. Not only so, but they apparently discover that the methods
of feeding, which suit their own larvae, would prove fatal to the
guests, and accordingly they change their whole system of
nursing" (loc. cit., p. 106).

Semon ("Die Mneme," pp. 207-9) gives a good illustration of an
instinct growing wiser through experience. He relates how hunters
attract stags by imitating the sounds of other members of their
species, male or female, but find that the older a stag becomes
the more difficult it is to deceive him, and the more accurate
the imitation has to be. The literature of instinct is vast, and
illustrations might be multiplied indefinitely. The main points
as regards instinct, which need to be emphasized as against the
popular conceptions of it, are:

(1) That instinct requires no prevision of the biological end
which it serves;

(2) That instinct is only adapted to achieve this end in the
usual circumstances of the animal in question, and has no more
precision than is necessary for success AS A RULE;

(3) That processes initiated by instinct often come to be
performed better after experience;

(4) That instinct supplies the impulses to experimental movements
which are required for the process of learning;

(5) That instincts in their nascent stages are easily modifiable,
and capable of being attached to various sorts of objects.

All the above characteristics of instinct can be established by
purely external observation, except the fact that instinct does
not require prevision. This, though not strictly capable of being
PROVED by observation, is irresistibly suggested by the most
obvious phenomena. Who can believe, for example, that a new-born
baby is aware of the necessity of food for preserving life? Or
that insects, in laying eggs, are concerned for the preservation
of their species? The essence of instinct, one might say, is that
it provides a mechanism for acting without foresight in a manner
which is usually advantageous biologically. It is partly for this
reason that it is so important to understand the fundamental
position of instinct in prompting both animal and human


Desire is a subject upon which, if I am not mistaken, true views
can only be arrived at by an almost complete reversal of the
ordinary unreflecting opinion. It is natural to regard desire as
in its essence an attitude towards something which is imagined,
not actual; this something is called the END or OBJECT of the
desire, and is said to be the PURPOSE of any action resulting
from the desire. We think of the content of the desire as being
just like the content of a belief, while the attitude taken up
towards the content is different. According to this theory, when
we say: "I hope it will rain," or "I expect it will rain," we
express, in the first case, a desire, and in the second, a
belief, with an identical content, namely, the image of rain. It
would be easy to say that, just as belief is one kind of feeling
in relation to this content, so desire is another kind. According
to this view, what comes first in desire is something imagined,
with a specific feeling related to it, namely, that specific
feeling which we call "desiring" it. The discomfort associated
with unsatisfied desire, and the actions which aim at satisfying
desire, are, in this view, both of them effects of the desire. I
think it is fair to say that this is a view against which common
sense would not rebel; nevertheless, I believe it to be radically
mistaken. It cannot be refuted logically, but various facts can
be adduced which make it gradually less simple and plausible,
until at last it turns out to be easier to abandon it wholly and
look at the matter in a totally different way.

The first set of facts to be adduced against the common sense
view of desire are those studied by psycho-analysis. In all human
beings, but most markedly in those suffering from hysteria and
certain forms of insanity, we find what are called "unconscious"
desires, which are commonly regarded as showing self-deception.
Most psycho-analysts pay little attention to the analysis of
desire, being interested in discovering by observation what it is
that people desire, rather than in discovering what actually
constitutes desire. I think the strangeness of what they report
would be greatly diminished if it were expressed in the language
of a behaviourist theory of desire, rather than in the language
of every-day beliefs. The general description of the sort of
phenomena that bear on our present question is as follows: A
person states that his desires are so-and-so, and that it is
these desires that inspire his actions; but the outside observer
perceives that his actions are such as to realize quite different
ends from those which he avows, and that these different ends are
such as he might be expected to desire. Generally they are less
virtuous than his professed desires, and are therefore less
agreeable to profess than these are. It is accordingly supposed
that they really exist as desires for ends, but in a subconscious
part of the mind, which the patient refuses to admit into
consciousness for fear of having to think ill of himself. There
are no doubt many cases to which such a supposition is applicable
without obvious artificiality. But the deeper the Freudians delve
into the underground regions of instinct, the further they travel
from anything resembling conscious desire, and the less possible
it becomes to believe that only positive self-deception conceals
from us that we really wish for things which are abhorrent to our
explicit life.

In the cases in question we have a conflict between the outside
observer and the patient's consciousness. The whole tendency of
psycho-analysis is to trust the outside observer rather than the
testimony of introspection. I believe this tendency to be
entirely right, but to demand a re-statement of what constitutes
desire, exhibiting it as a causal law of our actions, not as
something actually existing in our minds.

But let us first get a clearer statement of the essential
characteristic of the phenomena.

A person, we find, states that he desires a certain end A, and
that he is acting with a view to achieving it. We observe,
however, that his actions are such as are likely to achieve a
quite different end B, and that B is the sort of end that often
seems to be aimed at by animals and savages, though civilized
people are supposed to have discarded it. We sometimes find also
a whole set of false beliefs, of such a kind as to persuade the
patient that his actions are really a means to A, when in fact
they are a means to B. For example, we have an impulse to inflict
pain upon those whom we hate; we therefore believe that they are
wicked, and that punishment will reform them. This belief enables
us to act upon the impulse to inflict pain, while believing that
we are acting upon the desire to lead sinners to repentance. It
is for this reason that the criminal law has been in all ages
more severe than it would have been if the impulse to ameliorate
the criminal had been what really inspired it. It seems simple to
explain such a state of affairs as due to "self-deception," but
this explanation is often mythical. Most people, in thinking
about punishment, have had no more need to hide their vindictive
impulses from themselves than they have had to hide the
exponential theorem. Our impulses are not patent to a casual
observation, but are only to be discovered by a scientific study
of our actions, in the course of which we must regard ourselves
as objectively as we should the motions of the planets or the
chemical reactions of a new element.

The study of animals reinforces this conclusion, and is in many
ways the best preparation for the analysis of desire. In animals
we are not troubled by the disturbing influence of ethical
considerations. In dealing with human beings, we are perpetually
distracted by being told that such-and-such a view is gloomy or
cynical or pessimistic: ages of human conceit have built up such
a vast myth as to our wisdom and virtue that any intrusion of the
mere scientific desire to know the facts is instantly resented by
those who cling to comfortable illusions. But no one cares
whether animals are virtuous or not, and no one is under the
delusion that they are rational. Moreover, we do not expect them
to be so "conscious," and are prepared to admit that their
instincts prompt useful actions without any prevision of the ends
which they achieve. For all these reasons, there is much in the
analysis of mind which is more easily discovered by the study of
animals than by the observation of human beings.

We all think that, by watching the behaviour of animals, we can
discover more or less what they desire. If this is the case--and
I fully agree that it is--desire must be capable of being
exhibited in actions, for it is only the actions of animals that
we can observe. They MAY have minds in which all sorts of things
take place, but we can know nothing about their minds except by
means of inferences from their actions; and the more such
inferences are examined, the more dubious they appear. It would
seem, therefore, that actions alone must be the test of the
desires of animals. From this it is an easy step to the
conclusion that an animal's desire is nothing but a
characteristic of a certain series of actions, namely, those
which would be commonly regarded as inspired by the desire in
question. And when it has been shown that this view affords a
satisfactory account of animal desires, it is not difficult to
see that the same explanation is applicable to the desires of
human beings.

We judge easily from the behaviour of an animal of a familiar
kind whether it is hungry or thirsty, or pleased or displeased,
or inquisitive or terrified. The verification of our judgment, so
far as verification is possible, must be derived from the
immediately succeeding actions of the animal. Most people would
say that they infer first something about the animal's state of
mind--whether it is hungry or thirsty and so on--and thence
derive their expectations as to its subsequent conduct. But this
detour through the animal's supposed mind is wholly unnecessary.
We can say simply: The animal's behaviour during the last minute
has had those characteristics which distinguish what is called
"hunger," and it is likely that its actions during the next
minute will be similar in this respect, unless it finds food, or
is interrupted by a stronger impulse, such as fear. An animal
which is hungry is restless, it goes to the places where food is
often to be found, it sniffs with its nose or peers with its eyes
or otherwise increases the sensitiveness of its sense-organs; as
soon as it is near enough to food for its sense-organs to be
affected, it goes to it with all speed and proceeds to eat; after
which, if the quantity of food has been sufficient, its whole
demeanour changes it may very likely lie down and go to sleep.
These things and others like them are observable phenomena
distinguishing a hungry animal from one which is not hungry. The
characteristic mark by which we recognize a series of actions
which display hunger is not the animal's mental state, which we
cannot observe, but something in its bodily behaviour; it is this
observable trait in the bodily behaviour that I am proposing to
call "hunger," not some possibly mythical and certainly
unknowable ingredient of the animal's mind.

Generalizing what occurs in the case of hunger, we may say that
what we call a desire in an animal is always displayed in a cycle
of actions having certain fairly well marked characteristics.
There is first a state of activity, consisting, with
qualifications to be mentioned presently, of movements likely to
have a certain result; these movements, unless interrupted,
continue until the result is achieved, after which there is
usually a period of comparative quiescence. A cycle of actions of
this sort has marks by which it is broadly distinguished from the
motions of dead matter. The most notable of these marks are--(1)
the appropriateness of the actions for the realization of a
certain result; (2) the continuance of action until that result
has been achieved. Neither of these can be pressed beyond a
point. Either may be (a) to some extent present in dead matter,
and (b) to a considerable extent absent in animals, while
vegetable are intermediate, and display only a much fainter form
of the behaviour which leads us to attribute desire to animals.
(a) One might say rivers "desire" the sea water, roughly
speaking, remains in restless motion until it reaches either the
sea or a place from which it cannot issue without going uphill,
and therefore we might say that this is what it wishes while it
is flowing. We do not say so, because we can account for the
behaviour of water by the laws of physics; and if we knew more
about animals, we might equally cease to attribute desires to
them, since we might find physical and chemical reactions
sufficient to account for their behaviour. (b) Many of the
movements of animals do not exhibit the characteristics of the
cycles which seem to embody desire. There are first of all the
movements which are "mechanical," such as slipping and falling,
where ordinary physical forces operate upon the animal's body
almost as if it were dead matter. An animal which falls over a
cliff may make a number of desperate struggles while it is in the
air, but its centre of gravity will move exactly as it would if
the animal were dead. In this case, if the animal is killed at
the end of the fall, we have, at first sight, just the
characteristics of a cycle of actions embodying desire, namely,
restless movement until the ground is reached, and then
quiescence. Nevertheless, we feel no temptation to say that the
animal desired what occurred, partly because of the obviously
mechanical nature of the whole occurrence, partly because, when
an animal survives a fall, it tends not to repeat the experience.

There may be other reasons also, but of them I do not wish to
speak yet. Besides mechanical movements, there are interrupted
movements, as when a bird, on its way to eat your best peas, is
frightened away by the boy whom you are employing for that
purpose. If interruptions are frequent and completion of cycles
rare, the characteristics by which cycles are observed may become
so blurred as to be almost unrecognizable. The result of these
various considerations is that the differences between animals
and dead matter, when we confine ourselves to external
unscientific observation of integral behaviour, are a matter of
degree and not very precise. It is for this reason that it has
always been possible for fanciful people to maintain that even
stocks and stones have some vague kind of soul. The evidence that
animals have souls is so very shaky that, if it is assumed to be
conclusive, one might just as well go a step further and extend
the argument by analogy to all matter. Nevertheless, in spite of
vagueness and doubtful cases, the existence of cycles in the
behaviour of animals is a broad characteristic by which they are
prima facie distinguished from ordinary matter; and I think it is
this characteristic which leads us to attribute desires to
animals, since it makes their behaviour resemble what we do when
(as we say) we are acting from desire.

I shall adopt the following definitions for describing the
behaviour of animals:

A "behaviour-cycle" is a series of voluntary or reflex movements
of an animal, tending to cause a certain result, and continuing
until that result is caused, unless they are interrupted by
death, accident, or some new behaviour-cycle. (Here "accident"
may be defined as the intervention of purely physical laws
causing mechanical movements.)

The "purpose" of a behaviour-cycle is the result which brings it
to an end, normally by a condition of temporary
quiescence-provided there is no interruption.

An animal is said to "desire" the purpose of a behaviour cycle
while the behaviour-cycle is in progress.

I believe these definitions to be adequate also to human purposes
and desires, but for the present I am only occupied with animals
and with what can be learnt by external observation. I am very
anxious that no ideas should be attached to the words "purpose"
and "desire" beyond those involved in the above definitions.

We have not so far considered what is the nature of the initial
stimulus to a behaviour-cycle. Yet it is here that the usual view
of desire seems on the strongest ground. The hungry animal goes
on making movements until it gets food; it seems natural,
therefore, to suppose that the idea of food is present throughout
the process, and that the thought of the end to be achieved sets
the whole process in motion. Such a view, however, is obviously
untenable in many cases, especially where instinct is concerned.
Take, for example, reproduction and the rearing of the young.
Birds mate, build a nest, lay eggs in it, sit on the eggs, feed
the young birds, and care for them until they are fully grown. It
is totally impossible to suppose that this series of actions,
which constitutes one behaviour-cycle, is inspired by any
prevision of the end, at any rate the first time it is
performed.* We must suppose that the stimulus to the performance
of each act is an impulsion from behind, not an attraction from
the future. The bird does what it does, at each stage, because it
has an impulse to that particular action, not because it
perceives that the whole cycle of actions will contribute to the
preservation of the species. The same considerations apply to
other instincts. A hungry animal feels restless, and is led by
instinctive impulses to perform the movements which give it
nourishment; but the act of seeking food is not sufficient
evidence from which to conclude that the animal has the thought
of food in its "mind."

* For evidence as to birds' nests, cf. Semon, "Die Mneme," pp.
209, 210.

Coming now to human beings, and to what we know about our own
actions, it seems clear that what, with us, sets a
behaviour-cycle in motion is some sensation of the sort which we
call disagreeable. Take the case of hunger: we have first an
uncomfortable feeling inside, producing a disinclination to sit
still, a sensitiveness to savoury smells, and an attraction
towards any food that there may be in our neighbourhood. At any
moment during this process we may become aware that we are
hungry, in the sense of saying to ourselves, "I am hungry"; but
we may have been acting with reference to food for some time
before this moment. While we are talking or reading, we may eat
in complete unconsciousness; but we perform the actions of eating
just as we should if we were conscious, and they cease when our
hunger is appeased. What we call "consciousness" seems to be a
mere spectator of the process; even when it issues orders, they
are usually, like those of a wise parent, just such as would have
been obeyed even if they had not been given. This view may seem
at first exaggerated, but the more our so-called volitions and
their causes are examined, the more it is forced upon us. The
part played by words in all this is complicated, and a potent
source of confusions; I shall return to it later. For the
present, I am still concerned with primitive desire, as it exists
in man, but in the form in which man shows his affinity to his
animal ancestors.

Conscious desire is made up partly of what is essential to
desire, partly of beliefs as to what we want. It is important to
be clear as to the part which does not consist of beliefs.

The primitive non-cognitive element in desire seems to be a push,
not a pull, an impulsion away from the actual, rather than an
attraction towards the ideal. Certain sensations and other mental
occurrences have a property which we call discomfort; these cause
such bodily movements as are likely to lead to their cessation.
When the discomfort ceases, or even when it appreciably
diminishes, we have sensations possessing a property which we
call PLEASURE. Pleasurable sensations either stimulate no action
at all, or at most stimulate such action as is likely to prolong
them. I shall return shortly to the consideration of what
discomfort and pleasure are in themselves; for the present, it is
their connection with action and desire that concerns us.
Abandoning momentarily the standpoint of behaviourism, we may
presume that hungry animals experience sensations involving
discomfort, and stimulating such movements as seem likely to
bring them to the food which is outside the cages. When they have
reached the food and eaten it, their discomfort ceases and their
sensations become pleasurable. It SEEMS, mistakenly, as if the
animals had had this situation in mind throughout, when in fact
they have been continually pushed by discomfort. And when an

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