The Principles of Psychology - Vol. 1

By William James | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII.
THE RELATIONS OF MINDS TO OTHER THINGS.
SINCE, for psychology, a mind is an object in a world of other objects, its relation to those other objects must next be surveyed. First of all, to its

TIME-RELATIONS.

Minds, as we know them, are temporary existences. Whether my mind had a being prior to the birth of my body, whether it shall have one after the latter's decease, are questions to be decided by my general philosophy or theology rather than by what we call 'scientific facts'--I leave out the facts of so-called spiritualism, as being still in dispute. Psychology, as a natural science, confines itself to the present life, in which every mind appears yoked to a body through which its manifestations appear. In the present world, then, minds precede, succeed, and coexist with each other in the common receptacle of time, and of their collective relations to the latter nothing more can be said. The life of the individual consciousness in time seems, however, to be an interrupted one, so that the question:


Are we ever wholly unconscious?

becomes one which must be discussed. Sleep, fainting, coma, epilepsy, and other 'unconscious' conditions are apt to break in upon and occupy large durations of what we nevertheless consider the mental history of a single man. And, the fact of interruption being admitted, is it not possible that it may exist where we do not suspect it, and even perhaps in an incessant and fine-grained form?

This might happen, and yet the subject himself never know it. We often take ether and have operations performed without a suspicion that our consciousness has suf

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