Development and Purpose: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Evolution

By L. T. Hobhouse | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE STRUCTURE OF MIND

(1) Consciousness and its content.

What we know of mind together with what we know of the world in general is derived in the last resort from the sum of that which comes before our consciousness. We experience, we think, we desire, we purpose. In all these cases we are or may be conscious, and in all there is in ordinary phrase some object with which we are concerned. The phrase is not free from' difficulties. It carries associations which are ambiguous and even contradictory. Thus on the one hand it appears as a relative term, implying a subject on which it depends. If there is an object of sight, of hearing, of thought or purpose, there must, it may be said, be a subject which sees, hears, thinks or purposes it. On the other hand, by a contrary turn of association, the object, it may be held, is just that which is independent of any subjective element and in using it we may seem to be assuming a theory of external reality. But as here employed the term is to convey neither meaning. The object is something which we see, hear, think of or purpose, but by calling it an object we do not imply that its existence depends on one of these acts. Nor again do we imply the contrary. All that we do maintain is that the act of consciousness has an object. We feel, see, think or purpose something. The former terms are grouped together as acts or modes of consciousness. The 'something' is the object of consciousness. The statement however implies that we can know that we think, feel, etc., which is as much as to say that the mode of consciousness, the act of enter-

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