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Talks To Teachers On Psychology; And To Students On Some Of Life's Ideals

by William James


In 1892 I was asked by the Harvard Corporation to give a few public

lectures on psychology to the Cambridge teachers. The talks now printed

form the substance of that course, which has since then been delivered

at various places to various teacher-audiences. I have found by

experience that what my hearers seem least to relish is analytical

technicality, and what they most care for is concrete practical

application. So I have gradually weeded out the former, and left the

latter unreduced; and now, that I have at last written out the lectures,

they contain a minimum of what is deemed 'scientific' in psychology, and

are practical and popular in the extreme.

Some of my colleagues may possibly shake their heads at this; but in

taking my cue from what has seemed to me to be the feeling of the

audiences I believe that I am shaping my book so as to satisfy the more

genuine public need.

Teachers, of course, will miss the minute divisions, subdivisions, and

definitions, the lettered and numbered headings, the variations of type,

and all the other mechanical artifices on which they are accustomed to

prop their minds. But my main desire has been to make them conceive,

and, if possible, reproduce sympathetically in their imagination, the

mental life of their pupil as the sort of active unity which he himself

feels it to be. _He_ doesn't chop himself into distinct processes and

compartments; and it would have frustrated this deeper purpose of my

book to make it look, when printed, like a Baedeker's handbook of travel

or a text-book of arithmetic. So far as books printed like this book

force the fluidity of the facts upon the young teacher's attention, so

far I am sure they tend to do his intellect a service, even though they

may leave unsatisfied a craving (not altogether without its legitimate

grounds) for more nomenclature, head-lines, and subdivisions.

Readers acquainted with my larger books on Psychology will meet much

familiar phraseology. In the chapters on habit and memory I have even

copied several pages verbatim, but I do not know that apology is needed

for such plagiarism as this.

The talks to students, which conclude the volume, were written in

response to invitations to deliver 'addresses' to students at women's

colleges. The first one was to the graduating class of the Boston Normal

School of Gymnastics. Properly, it continues the series of talks to

teachers. The second and the third address belong together, and continue

another line of thought.

I wish I were able to make the second, 'On a Certain Blindness in Human

Beings,' more impressive. It is more than the mere piece of

sentimentalism which it may seem to some readers. It connects itself

with a definite view of the world and of our moral relations to the

same. Those who have done me the honor of reading my volume of

philosophic essays will recognize that I mean the pluralistic or

individualistic philosophy. According to that philosophy, the truth is

too great for any one actual mind, even though that mind be dubbed 'the

Absolute,' to know the whole of it. The facts and worths of life need

many cognizers to take them in. There is no point of view absolutely

public and universal. Private and uncommunicable perceptions always

remain over, and the worst of it is that those who look for them from

the outside never know _where_.

The practical consequence of such a philosophy is the well-known

democratic respect for the sacredness of individuality,--is, at any

rate, the outward tolerance of whatever is not itself intolerant. These

phrases are so familiar that they sound now rather dead in our ears.

Once they had a passionate inner meaning. Such a passionate inner

meaning they may easily acquire again if the pretension of our nation

to inflict its own inner ideals and institutions _vi et armis_ upon

Orientals should meet with a resistance as obdurate as so far it has

been gallant and spirited. Religiously and philosophically, our ancient

national doctrine of live and let live may prove to have a far deeper

meaning than our people now seem to imagine it to possess.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS., March, 1899.




The American educational organization,--What teachers may expect from

psychology,--Teaching methods must agree with psychology, but cannot

be immediately deduced therefrom,--The science of teaching and the

science of war,--The educational uses of psychology defined,--The

teacher's duty toward child-study.


Our mental life is a succession of conscious 'fields,'--They have a

focus and a margin,--This description contrasted with the theory of

'ideas,'--Wundt's conclusions, note.


Mind as pure reason and mind as practical guide,--The latter view the

more fashionable one to-day,--It will be adopted in this work,--Why

so?--The teacher's function is to train pupils to behavior.


Education defined,--Conduct is always its outcome,--Different

national ideals: Germany and England.


No impression without expression,--Verbal reproduction,--Manual

training,--Pupils should know their 'marks'.


The acquired reactions must be preceded by native ones,--Illustration:

teaching child to ask instead of snatching,--Man has more instincts than

other mammals.


Fear and love,--Curiosity,--Imitation,--Emulation,--Forbidden by

Rousseau,--His error,--Ambition, pugnacity, and pride. Soft

pedagogics and the fighting impulse,--Ownership,--Its educational

uses,--Constructiveness,--Manual teaching,--Transitoriness in

instincts,--Their order of succession.


Good and bad habits,--Habit due to plasticity of organic tissues,--The

aim of education is to make useful habits automatic,--Maxims relative to

habit-forming: 1. Strong initiative,--2. No exception,--3. Seize first

opportunity to act,--4. Don't preach,--Darwin and poetry: without

exercise our capacities decay,--The habit of mental and muscular

relaxation,--Fifth maxim, keep the faculty of effort trained,--Sudden

conversions compatible with laws of habit,--Momentous influence of

habits on character.


A case of habit,--The two laws, contiguity and similarity,--The teacher

has to build up useful systems of association,--Habitual associations

determine character,--Indeterminateness of our trains of

association,--We can trace them backward, but not foretell

them,--Interest deflects,--Prepotent parts of the field,--In teaching,

multiply cues.


The child's native interests,--How uninteresting things acquire an

interest,--Rules for the teacher,--'Preparation' of the mind for the

lesson: the pupil must have something to attend with,--All later

interests are borrowed from original ones.


Interest and attention are two aspects of one fact,--Voluntary attention

comes in beats,--Genius and attention,--The subject must change to win

attention,--Mechanical aids,--The physiological process,--The new in

the old is what excites interest,--Interest and effort are

compatible,--Mind-wandering,--Not fatal to mental efficiency.


Due to association,--No recall without a cue,--Memory is due to

brain-plasticity,--Native retentiveness,--Number of associations may

practically be its equivalent,--Retentiveness is a fixed property of the

individual,--Memory _versus_ memories,--Scientific system as help to

memory,--Technical memories,--Cramming,--Elementary memory

unimprovable,--Utility of verbal memorizing,--Measurements of immediate

memory,--They throw little light,--Passion is the important factor in

human efficiency,--Eye-memory, ear-memory, etc.,--The rate of

forgetting, Ebbinghaus's results,--Influence of the unreproducible,--To

remember, one must think and connect.


Education gives a stock of conceptions,--The order of their

acquisition,--Value of verbal material,--Abstractions of different

orders: when are they assimilable,--False conceptions of children.


Often a mystifying idea,--The process defined,--The law of

economy,--Old-fogyism,--How many types of apperception?--New

heads of classification must continually be invented,--Alteration of

the apperceiving mass,--Class names are what we work by,--Few

new fundamental conceptions acquired after twenty-five.


The word defined,--All consciousness tends to action,--Ideo-motor

action,--Inhibition,--The process of deliberation,--Why so few of our

ideas result in acts,--The associationist account of the will,--A

balance of impulses and inhibitions,--The over-impulsive and the

over-obstructed type,--The perfect type,--The balky will,--What

character building consists in,--Right action depends on right

apperception of the case,--Effort of will is effort of attention: the

drunkard's dilemma,--Vital importance of voluntary attention,--Its

amount may be indeterminate,--Affirmation of free-will,--Two types of

inhibition,--Spinoza on inhibition by a higher good,--Conclusion.





       *       *       *       *       *



In the general activity and uprising of ideal interests which every one

with an eye for fact can discern all about us in American life, there is

perhaps no more promising feature than the fermentation which for a

dozen years or more has been going on among the teachers. In whatever

sphere of education their functions may lie, there is to be seen among

them a really inspiring amount of searching of the heart about the

highest concerns of their profession. The renovation of nations begins

always at the top, among the reflective members of the State, and

spreads slowly outward and downward. The teachers of this country, one

may say, have its future in their hands. The earnestness which they at

present show in striving to enlighten and strengthen themselves is an

index of the nation's probabilities of advance in all ideal directions.

The outward organization of education which we have in our United States

is perhaps, on the whole, the best organization that exists in any

country. The State school systems give a diversity and flexibility, an

opportunity for experiment and keenness of competition, nowhere else to

be found on such an important scale. The independence of so many of the

colleges and universities; the give and take of students and instructors

between them all; their emulation, and their happy organic relations to

the lower schools; the traditions of instruction in them, evolved from

the older American recitation-method (and so avoiding on the one hand

the pure lecture-system prevalent in Germany and Scotland, which

considers too little the individual student, and yet not involving the

sacrifice of the instructor to the individual student, which the English

tutorial system would seem too often to entail),--all these things (to

say nothing of that coeducation of the sexes in whose benefits so many

of us heartily believe), all these things, I say, are most happy

features of our scholastic life, and from them the most sanguine

auguries may be drawn.

Having so favorable an organization, all we need is to impregnate it

with geniuses, to get superior men and women working more and more

abundantly in it and for it and at it, and in a generation or two

America may well lead the education of the world. I must say that I look

forward with no little confidence to the day when that shall be an

accomplished fact.

No one has profited more by the fermentation of which I speak, in

pedagogical circles, than we psychologists. The desire of the

schoolteachers for a completer professional training, and their

aspiration toward the 'professional' spirit in their work, have led them

more and more to turn to us for light on fundamental principles. And in

these few hours which we are to spend together you look to me, I am

sure, for information concerning the mind's operations, which may enable

you to labor more easily and effectively in the several schoolrooms over

which you preside.

Far be it from me to disclaim for psychology all title to such hopes.

Psychology ought certainly to give the teacher radical help. And yet I

confess that, acquainted as I am with the height of some of your

expectations, I feel a little anxious lest, at the end of these simple

talks of mine, not a few of you may experience some disappointment at

the net results. In other words, I am not sure that you may not be

indulging fancies that are just a shade exaggerated. That would not be

altogether astonishing, for we have been having something like a 'boom'

in psychology in this country. Laboratories and professorships have been

founded, and reviews established. The air has been full of rumors. The

editors of educational journals and the arrangers of conventions have

had to show themselves enterprising and on a level with the novelties of

the day. Some of the professors have not been unwilling to co-operate,

and I am not sure even that the publishers have been entirely inert.

'The new psychology' has thus become a term to conjure up portentous

ideas withal; and you teachers, docile and receptive and aspiring as

many of you are, have been plunged in an atmosphere of vague talk about

our science, which to a great extent has been more mystifying than

enlightening. Altogether it does seem as if there were a certain

fatality of mystification laid upon the teachers of our day. The matter

of their profession, compact enough in itself, has to be frothed up for

them in journals and institutes, till its outlines often threaten to be

lost in a kind of vast uncertainty. Where the disciples are not

independent and critical-minded enough (and I think that, if you

teachers in the earlier grades have any defect--the slightest touch of a

defect in the world--it is that you are a mite too docile), we are

pretty sure to miss accuracy and balance and measure in those who get a

license to lay down the law to them from above.

As regards this subject of psychology, now, I wish at the very threshold

to do what I can to dispel the mystification. So I say at once that in

my humble opinion there _is_ no 'new psychology' worthy of the name.

There is nothing but the old psychology which began in Locke's time,

plus a little physiology of the brain and senses and theory of

evolution, and a few refinements of introspective detail, for the most

part without adaptation to the teacher's use. It is only the fundamental

conceptions of psychology which are of real value to the teacher; and

they, apart from the aforesaid theory of evolution, are very far from

being new.--I trust that you will see better what I mean by this at the

end of all these talks.

I say moreover that you make a great, a very great mistake, if you think

that psychology, being the science of the mind's laws, is something from

which you can deduce definite programmes and schemes and methods of

instruction for immediate schoolroom use. Psychology is a science, and

teaching is an art; and sciences never generate arts directly out of

themselves. An intermediary inventive mind must make the application, by

using its originality.

The science of logic never made a man reason rightly, and the science of

ethics (if there be such a thing) never made a man behave rightly. The

most such sciences can do is to help us to catch ourselves up and check

ourselves, if we start to reason or to behave wrongly; and to criticise

ourselves more articulately after we have made mistakes. A science only

lays down lines within which the rules of the art must fall, laws which

the follower of the art must not transgress; but what particular thing

he shall positively do within those lines is left exclusively to his own

genius. One genius will do his work well and succeed in one way, while

another succeeds as well quite differently; yet neither will transgress

the lines.

The art of teaching grew up in the schoolroom, out of inventiveness and

sympathetic concrete observation. Even where (as in the case of Herbart)

the advancer of the art was also a psychologist, the pedagogics and the

psychology ran side by side, and the former was not derived in any sense

from the latter. The two were congruent, but neither was subordinate.

And so everywhere the teaching must _agree_ with the psychology, but

need not necessarily be the only kind of teaching that would so agree;

for many diverse methods of teaching may equally well agree with

psychological laws.

To know psychology, therefore, is absolutely no guarantee that we shall

be good teachers. To advance to that result, we must have an additional

endowment altogether, a happy tact and ingenuity to tell us what

definite things to say and do when the pupil is before us. That

ingenuity in meeting and pursuing the pupil, that tact for the concrete

situation, though they are the alpha and omega of the teacher's art, are

things to which psychology cannot help us in the least.

The science of psychology, and whatever science of general pedagogics

may be based on it, are in fact much like the science of war. Nothing is

simpler or more definite than the principles of either. In war, all you

have to do is to work your enemy into a position from which the natural

obstacles prevent him from escaping if he tries to; then to fall on him

in numbers superior to his own, at a moment when you have led him to

think you far away; and so, with a minimum of exposure of your own

troops, to hack his force to pieces, and take the remainder prisoners.

Just so, in teaching, you must simply work your pupil into such a state

of interest in what you are going to teach him that every other object

of attention is banished from his mind; then reveal it to him so

impressively that he will remember the occasion to his dying day; and

finally fill him with devouring curiosity to know what the next steps in

connection with the subject are. The principles being so plain, there

would be nothing but victories for the masters of the science, either on

the battlefield or in the schoolroom, if they did not both have to make

their application to an incalculable quantity in the shape of the mind

of their opponent. The mind of your own enemy, the pupil, is working

away from you as keenly and eagerly as is the mind of the commander on

the other side from the scientific general. Just what the respective

enemies want and think, and what they know and do not know, are as hard

things for the teacher as for the general to find out. Divination and

perception, not psychological pedagogics or theoretic strategy, are the

only helpers here.

But, if the use of psychological principles thus be negative rather than

positive, it does not follow that it may not be a great use, all the

same. It certainly narrows the path for experiments and trials. We know

in advance, if we are psychologists, that certain methods will be wrong,

so our psychology saves us from mistakes. It makes us, moreover, more

clear as to what we are about. We gain confidence in respect to any

method which we are using as soon as we believe that it has theory as

well as practice at its back. Most of all, it fructifies our

independence, and it reanimates our interest, to see our subject at two

different angles,--to get a stereoscopic view, so to speak, of the

youthful organism who is our enemy, and, while handling him with all our

concrete tact and divination, to be able, at the same time, to represent

to ourselves the curious inner elements of his mental machine. Such a

complete knowledge as this of the pupil, at once intuitive and analytic,

is surely the knowledge at which every teacher ought to aim.

Fortunately for you teachers, the elements of the mental machine can be

clearly apprehended, and their workings easily grasped. And, as the most

general elements and workings are just those parts of psychology which

the teacher finds most directly useful, it follows that the amount of

this science which is necessary to all teachers need not be very great.

Those who find themselves loving the subject may go as far as they

please, and become possibly none the worse teachers for the fact, even

though in some of them one might apprehend a little loss of balance from

the tendency observable in all of us to overemphasize certain special

parts of a subject when we are studying it intensely and abstractly. But

for the great majority of you a general view is enough, provided it be a

true one; and such a general view, one may say, might almost be written

on the palm of one's hand.

Least of all need you, merely _as teachers_, deem it part of your duty

to become contributors to psychological science or to make psychological

observations in a methodical or responsible manner. I fear that some of

the enthusiasts for child-study have thrown a certain burden on you in

this way. By all means let child-study go on,--it is refreshing all our

sense of the child's life. There are teachers who take a spontaneous

delight in filling syllabuses, inscribing observations, compiling

statistics, and computing the per cent. Child-study will certainly

enrich their lives. And, if its results, as treated statistically, would

seem on the whole to have but trifling value, yet the anecdotes and

observations of which it in part consist do certainly acquaint us more

intimately with our pupils. Our eyes and ears grow quickened to discern

in the child before us processes similar to those we have read of as

noted in the children,--processes of which we might otherwise have

remained inobservant. But, for Heaven's sake, let the rank and file of

teachers be passive readers if they so prefer, and feel free not to

contribute to the accumulation. Let not the prosecution of it be

preached as an imperative duty or imposed by regulation on those to whom

it proves an exterminating bore, or who in any way whatever miss in

themselves the appropriate vocation for it. I cannot too strongly agree

with my colleague, Professor Münsterberg, when he says that the

teacher's attitude toward the child, being concrete and ethical, is

positively opposed to the psychological observer's, which is abstract

and analytic. Although some of us may conjoin the attitudes

successfully, in most of us they must conflict.

The worst thing that can happen to a good teacher is to get a bad

conscience about her profession because she feels herself hopeless as a

psychologist. Our teachers are overworked already. Every one who adds a

jot or tittle of unnecessary weight to their burden is a foe of

education. A bad conscience increases the weight of every other burden;

yet I know that child-study, and other pieces of psychology as well,

have been productive of bad conscience in many a really innocent

pedagogic breast. I should indeed be glad if this passing word from me

might tend to dispel such a bad conscience, if any of you have it; for

it is certainly one of those fruits of more or less systematic

mystification of which I have already complained. The best teacher may

be the poorest contributor of child-study material, and the best

contributor may be the poorest teacher. No fact is more palpable than


So much for what seems the most reasonable general attitude of the

teacher toward the subject which is to occupy our attention.


I said a few minutes ago that the most general elements and workings of

the mind are all that the teacher absolutely needs to be acquainted with

for his purposes.

Now the _immediate_ fact which psychology, the science of mind, has to

study is also the most general fact. It is the fact that in each of us,

when awake (and often when asleep), _some kind of consciousness is

always going on_. There is a stream, a succession of states, or waves,

or fields (or of whatever you please to call them), of knowledge, of

feeling, of desire, of deliberation, etc., that constantly pass and

repass, and that constitute our inner life. The existence of this stream

is the primal fact, the nature and origin of it form the essential

problem, of our science. So far as we class the states or fields of

consciousness, write down their several natures, analyze their contents

into elements, or trace their habits of succession, we are on the

descriptive or analytic level. So far as we ask where they come from or

why they are just what they are, we are on the explanatory level.

In these talks with you, I shall entirely neglect the questions that

come up on the explanatory level. It must be frankly confessed that in

no fundamental sense do we know where our successive fields of

consciousness come from, or why they have the precise inner constitution

which they do have. They certainly follow or accompany our brain states,

and of course their special forms are determined by our past experiences

and education. But, if we ask just _how_ the brain conditions them, we

have not the remotest inkling of an answer to give; and, if we ask just

how the education moulds the brain, we can speak but in the most

abstract, general, and conjectural terms. On the other hand, if we

should say that they are due to a spiritual being called our Soul, which

reacts on our brain states by these peculiar forms of spiritual energy,

our words would be familiar enough, it is true; but I think you will

agree that they would offer little genuine explanatory meaning. The

truth is that we really _do not know_ the answers to the problems on the

explanatory level, even though in some directions of inquiry there may

be promising speculations to be found. For our present purposes I shall

therefore dismiss them entirely, and turn to mere description. This

state of things was what I had in mind when, a moment ago, I said there

was no 'new psychology' worthy of the name.

_We have thus fields of consciousness_,--that is the first general fact;

and the second general fact is that the concrete fields are always

complex. They contain sensations of our bodies and of the objects around

us, memories of past experiences and thoughts of distant things,

feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, desires and aversions, and

other emotional conditions, together with determinations of the will, in

every variety of permutation and combination.

In most of our concrete states of consciousness all these different

classes of ingredients are found simultaneously present to some degree,

though the relative proportion they bear to one another is very

shifting. One state will seem to be composed of hardly anything but

sensations, another of hardly anything but memories, etc. But around the

sensation, if one consider carefully, there will always be some fringe

of thought or will, and around the memory some margin or penumbra of

emotion or sensation.

In most of our fields of consciousness there is a core of sensation that

is very pronounced. You, for example, now, although you are also

thinking and feeling, are getting through your eyes sensations of my

face and figure, and through your ears sensations of my voice. The

sensations are the _centre_ or _focus_, the thoughts and feelings the

_margin_, of your actually present conscious field.

On the other hand, some object of thought, some distant image, may have

become the focus of your mental attention even while I am

speaking,--your mind, in short, may have wandered from the lecture; and,

in that case, the sensations of my face and voice, although not

absolutely vanishing from your conscious field, may have taken up there

a very faint and marginal place.

Again, to take another sort of variation, some feeling connected with

your own body may have passed from a marginal to a focal place, even

while I speak.

The expressions 'focal object' and 'marginal object,' which we owe to

Mr. Lloyd Morgan, require, I think, no further explanation. The

distinction they embody is a very important one, and they are the first

technical terms which I shall ask you to remember.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the successive mutations of our fields of consciousness, the process

by which one dissolves into another is often very gradual, and all sorts

of inner rearrangements of contents occur. Sometimes the focus remains

but little changed, while the margin alters rapidly. Sometimes the focus

alters, and the margin stays. Sometimes focus and margin change places.

Sometimes, again, abrupt alterations of the whole field occur. There can

seldom be a sharp description. All we know is that, for the most part,

each field has a sort of practical unity for its possessor, and that

from this practical point of view we can class a field with other fields

similar to it, by calling it a state of emotion, of perplexity, of

sensation, of abstract thought, of volition, and the like.

Vague and hazy as such an account of our stream of consciousness may be,

it is at least secure from positive error and free from admixture of

conjecture or hypothesis. An influential school of psychology, seeking

to avoid haziness of outline, has tried to make things appear more exact

and scientific by making the analysis more sharp.

The various fields of consciousness, according to this school, result

from a definite number of perfectly definite elementary mental states,

mechanically associated into a mosaic or chemically combined. According

to some thinkers,--Spencer, for example, or Taine,--these resolve

themselves at last into little elementary psychic particles or atoms of

'mind-stuff,' out of which all the more immediately known mental states

are said to be built up. Locke introduced this theory in a somewhat

vague form. Simple 'ideas' of sensation and reflection, as he called

them, were for him the bricks of which our mental architecture is built

up. If I ever have to refer to this theory again, I shall refer to it as

the theory of 'ideas.' But I shall try to steer clear of it altogether.

Whether it be true or false, it is at any rate only conjectural; and,

for your practical purposes as teachers, the more unpretending

conception of the stream of consciousness, with its total waves or

fields incessantly changing, will amply suffice.[A]

     [A] In the light of some of the expectations that are abroad

     concerning the 'new psychology,' it is instructive to read

     the unusually candid confession of its founder Wundt, after

     his thirty years of laboratory-experience:

     "The service which it [the experimental method] can yield

     consists essentially in perfecting our inner observation, or

     rather, as I believe, in making this really possible, in any

     exact sense. Well, has our experimental self-observation, so

     understood, already accomplished aught of importance? No

     general answer to this question can be given, because in the

     unfinished state of our science, there is, even inside of the

     experimental lines of inquiry, no universally accepted body

     of psychologic doctrine....

     "In such a discord of opinions (comprehensible enough at a

     time of uncertain and groping development), the individual

     inquirer can only tell for what views and insights he himself

     has to thank the newer methods. And if I were asked in what

     for me the worth of experimental observation in psychology

     has consisted, and still consists, I should say that it has

     given me an entirely new idea of the nature and connection of

     our inner processes. I learned in the achievements of the

     sense of sight to apprehend the fact of creative mental

     synthesis.... From my inquiry into time-relations, etc.,... I

     attained an insight into the close union of all those psychic

     functions usually separated by artificial abstractions and

     names, such as ideation, feeling, will; and I saw the

     indivisibility and inner homogeneity, in all its phases, of

     the mental life. The chronometric study of

     association-processes finally showed me that the notion of

     distinct mental 'images' [_reproducirten Vorstellungen_] was

     one of those numerous self-deceptions which are no sooner

     stamped in a verbal term than they forthwith thrust

     non-existent fictions into the place of the reality. I

     learned to understand an 'idea' as a process no less melting

     and fleeting than an act of feeling or of will, and I

     comprehended the older doctrine of association of 'ideas' to

     be no longer tenable.... Besides all this, experimental

     observation yielded much other information about the span of

     consciousness, the rapidity of certain processes, the exact

     numerical value of certain psychophysical data, and the like.

     But I hold all these more special results to be relatively

     insignificant by-products, and by no means the important

     thing."--_Philosophische Studien_, x. 121-124. The whole

     passage should be read. As I interpret it, it amounts to a

     complete espousal of the vaguer conception of the stream of

     thought, and a complete renunciation of the whole business,

     still so industriously carried on in text-books, of chopping

     up 'the mind' into distinct units of composition or function,

     numbering these off, and labelling them by technical names.


I wish now to continue the description of the peculiarities of the

stream of consciousness by asking whether we can in any intelligible way

assign its _functions_.

It has two functions that are obvious: it leads to knowledge, and it

leads to action.

Can we say which of these functions is the more essential?

An old historic divergence of opinion comes in here. Popular belief has

always tended to estimate the worth of a man's mental processes by their

effects upon his practical life. But philosophers have usually cherished

a different view. "Man's supreme glory," they have said, "is to be a

_rational_ being, to know absolute and eternal and universal truth. The

uses of his intellect for practical affairs are therefore subordinate

matters. 'The theoretic life' is his soul's genuine concern." Nothing

can be more different in its results for our personal attitude than to