18 JULY 1874, Page 17


WR have given some of the reasons why we cannot agree with Dr. Carpenter in identifying so nearly as he does the physiological con- ditions of thought with the mental changes with which they are associated. Granting that the connection is close,—aa indeed it is between the lower and the higher phases of force throughout the whole world of physical and vital phenomena,—we believe it to be clear that there is something in every mental law, however 'automatic' in the only sense in which that word applies to the world of mind, for which no merely cerebral law can be made a substitute,—in short, that the most which 'unconscious cerebra- tion' can explain, is the accurate repetition of some deeply- grooved physical habit hardly distinguishable in kind, though it may be in degree, from the almost involuntary habit which a good rider soon acquires of so swaying his body as to throw him- self forward as the horse rises to the leap, and backwards as it de- scends. We do not believe so far in the correlation of forces,' as to find any true physiological equivalent for a law of conscious- ness,—such an equivalent as would imply that the brain is com- petent to achieve without consciousness any really intellectual process. While heartily agreeing with Dr. Carpenter that the critical question of psychology is the independence and freedom of the will, we go beyond him in holding that this element of freedom enters, though in a comparatively tacit manner, which it is not always easy to recognise, even into the so-called automatic

laws of thought and feeling. I must think,' I cannot but think,' are assertions of the attempt to think otherwise and of the incapacity to do so, in other words, are assertions incon- ceivable without an act of consciousness, and impossible as results of mere 'cerebration.'

But what Dr. Carpenter tells us on the physiology of the automatic elements in thought and fancy and imagination, and their relation to the voluntary elements, is most valuable. He begins by drawing a most important distinction between auto- matic and voluntary attention,—the attention in which the mind is rivetted, often against its will, in what deeply interests it, and the attention which is the result of an act of voluntary energy, often in antagonism to the current of vagrant interests which would carry the mind elsewhere. We believe that in all sane minds, even that attention which we think we cannot withhold, is not wholly automatic. We can at least conceive an attempt to withhold it, and it is the conceivability of that attempt which makes the act one of tension towards' a subject, — i.e., of attention,'—and not simply of possession by it. But, never- theless, the distinction between the automatic and voluntary kinds of attention is fundamental ; the attention which is rivetted by playing on the involuntary interests of the mind, and the attention which is given by an act of voluntary energy, differ in this, that, in the former, volition is in abeyance, is only conscious of a possible revolt, while in the latter the will is in full strain, is measuring itself against the distractions by which it is beset. Indeed, Dr. Carpenter believes this act of voluntary attention to be, if we understand him rightly, the sole root and stem of what is ordinarily called volition. He thinks the only way in which the will really asserts itself is by withdrawing attention from one set of objects and concentrating it upon others, of which the effect is to make the latter of more importance in the mind, to draw to that portion of the cerebrum by which the corresponding nerves of action are fed a fuller supply of blood, and so at last, when the time for action comes, to concentrate a much larger discharge of nervous force than would otherwise be at their disposal on the channels of effort related to the thoughts thus cherished. For example, Dr. Carpenter would say that the difference between a revengeful and a forgiving man was this,—that a vindictive man constantly attended to the subject of the injuries he had received, and dwelt on all the circumstances of aggravation and irritation, till at last his brain was charged with a supply of 'nervous force only available for the purpose of revenge ; while the other, on the contrary, would dwell constantly on the considerations attenuating the offence, and making it probable that he himself would have given equal or greater offence under the same circumstances, till at last his brain would become charged with a supply of nervous force available only for the purpose of magnanimity and genuine forgiveness. In this way, Dr. Carpenter makes the power of

* Principles of Mental Physiology. with their Application to The Training and Disci- pline of the Mind, and the Study of its Morbid Conditions. By William B. Carpenter, M.D., LLD., F.R.S., Sc. London : Henry S. King and Co.

directing the mind to one rather than another class of ideas the radical act of volition, and explains what is usually called volition as arising out of this through the tendency which dwelling upon thoughts has, to make them more important and more potent sources of nervous force,—volition taking credit in the end for all the nervous force which has gradually accrued to particular trains of thought through the process of fostering them. We believe that this is, in the main, a true account of the rationale of volition. Whether it exhausts it, we are not so sure. We cannot satisfy ouhelves that this is the sole rationale of volition, though we are sure it is one, and a most important one. Whether when a man strongly desires, say, to return a. blow, and wills positively not to do it, it is a complete account of what he does to say that he turns his attention from the idea of returning the blow to the course he intends to take,—though that, no doubt, is a most important part of what happens,—we are very doubtful. We suspect that volition has a direct relation to action, as well as the indirect one through the act of intellec- tual attention ; but we will not attempt to justify our impression, as we are more anxious to show what Dr. Carpenter has effected. on this side, than to enter into a discussion with him on a minor point.

We think there is a vast deal of force in the physiological argument which Dr. Carpenter adduces for believing that the will is not a mere name for the resultant of all our involuntary tendencies,—which is what the necessarian philosophers hold it to be,—but a completely distinct and unique function of the mind :—

"Now that the Will is something essentially different from thee general resultant of the automatic activity of the Mind, appears to the writer to be proved, not merely by the evidence of our own conscious- ness of the possession of a self-determining power cChap. I.), but by observation of the striking contrasts which are continually presented. in abnormal states of Mind, between the automatic activity and the power of volitional controL For, in the first place, it is the special attribute of all nervine stimulants,' such as Alcohol, Opium, and Elachisch, as well as of those morbid poisons which induce Delirium, to exalt the automatic activity of the Mind, while diminishing the power of volitional control ; and this not only relatively, but absolutely. A most instructive example of this general fact is furnished by the description given by Dr. Moreau of his own experience in regard to the Ilachisch (§ 537); and the 'Confessions of an English Opium-eater' exhibit the same characteristic phenomena (§ 542). Moreover, the continual 1180 of these stimulants has a manifest tendency to produce a permanent weakening of the Volitional power (§ 543), which often shows itself hereditarily even where the offspring have not themselves given way to the habit (§ 299 a). We have seen that the whole mental life of Coleridge was one of singular automatic activity (§ 231), whilst there was a no less marked deficiency in the power of volitional self-direc- tion; and there can be little doubt that this deficiency, probably con- stitutional in the first instance, was aggravated by the habitual use of the nervine stimulants which augmented the automatic activity of hie Psychical nature."

And he illustrates this part of his view thus powerfully from the- case of De Quincey, the great English opium-eater :—

" The almost complete paralysis of Will produced by the prolonged; abuse of Opium, has been graphically described by the same powerful writer.. From the studies which he had formerly pursued with the greatest interest, be shrank with a sense of powerless and infantine feebleness, that gave him an anguish the greater from remembering the time when he grappled with them to his own hourly delight; and. an unfinished work to which he had dedicated the blossoms and fruits of his powerful intellect, seemed nothing better than a memorial of hopes defeated, of baffled efforts, of materials uselessly accumulated, ofi foundations laid that were never to support a superstructure. In this- state of volitional but not intellectual debility, he had for amusement turned his attention to Political Economy, for the study of which his. previous training had eminently fitted him; and after detecting the fallacies of many of the doctrines then current, he found in the treatise of Mr. Ricardo that which satisfied his intellectual hunger, and gave him a pleasure and activity he had not known for years. Thinking that some important truths had escaped even 'the inevitable eye' of Mr. Ricardo, he made great progress in what he designed to be an 'In- troduction to all future systems of Political Economy ;' arrangements. were made for printing and publishing the work, and it was oven twice advertised. But he had a preface to write, and a dedication, which he wished to make a splendid one, to Mr. Ricardo; and he found himself quite unable to accomplish this, so that the arrangements were counter- manded and the work laid on the shelf. 'I have thus,' be continues, described and illustrated my intellectual torpor, in terms that apply,. more or less, to every part of the four years during which I was under the Circean spells of opium. But for misery and suffering, I might, indeed, be said to have existed in a dormant state. I seldom could prevail on myself to write a letter ; an answer of a few words, to any that I received, was the utmost that I could accomplish; and often that not until the letter had lain weeks, or even months, on my writing- table. Without the aid of M. all records of bills paid, or to be paid, must have perished : and my whole domestic economy, whatever became of Political Economy, must have gone into irretrievable confusion. I shall not afterwards allude to this part of the cane: it is one, however, which the opium-eater will find, in the end, as oppressive and torment- ing as any other, from the sense of incapacity and feebleness, from the direct embarrassments incident to the neglect or procrastination of each day's appropriate duties, and from the remorse which must often ex- asperate the stings of these evils to a reflective and conscientious mind. The opium-eater loses none of his moral sensibilities or aspirations : he wishes and longs, as earnestly as ever, to realise -what he believes possible, and feels to be exacted by duty ; but his intellectual appre- hension of what is possible infinitely outruns his power, not of execution only, but of power to attempt. He lies under the weight of incubus and nightmare : he lies in sight of all that he would fain perform, just as a man forcibly confined to his bed by the mortal languor of a relaxing disease, who is compelled to witness injury or outrage offered to some object of his tenderest love :—he curses the spells which chain him down from motion :—he would lay down his life if he might but get up and walk ; but he is powerless as an infant, and cannot even attempt to rise."—( Op. cif., pp. 136-138.) The argument is very simple. If ' will ' is nothing but the resultant of all the forces acting on character, then we might fairly assume that the same sorts of stimulants which make the involun- tary impressions and desires stronger, would make the will, which is, in that case, the mere equivalent of the involuntary impressions

and desires taken together, stronger too, whereas the kind of

stimulants which makes these stronger snake what we 'will' definitely weaker. It is clear, then, that what varies inversely with the strength of our involuntary impressions and desires, can- not be identical in kind and source with them. By the neces- sanian theory a man who controls his desires only means a man one or more of whose wise desires are stronger than all his unwise ones

put together. But if that be the true meaning, then anydrug the ten- dency of which is to stimulate all our desires, would stimulate the wise desires as much as the unwise. Be Quincey tells us deli- berately in thispassage that so it is :—" The opium-eater losesnone of his moral sensibilities or aspirations. He wishes and longs as earnestly as ever to realise what he believes possible, and feels to be exacted b_y duty." Very well, then, if 'will' means only moral desire,' with the intensification of this moral desire should come an intensification of will, instead of, as in Be Quineey's case, a complete paralysis of it. We confess this posi-

tion of Dr. Carpenter's seems to us a very strong one. ' Will ' must mean something capable of varying inversely with desire, if experiences like those of -the hachisch and opium-eater be ad- mitted in evidence. And the elaborate study given us in this very valuable volume of all the morbid pathology and psychology of

mental and moral disease, amply sustains Dr. Carpenter's evidence

that moral effort is a thing sui generis, and absolutely distinct in kind and origin from the involuntary attractions or repulsions acting on the mind

We have now dealt with the two main views elaborated in this valuable book, from the first of which, together with the inferences which Dr. Carpenter draws as to the sources of our knowledge of necessary truth, we mainly dissent, but with the latter of which we cordially agree. Let us add that nothing we have said, or in any limited space could say, would give an adequate conception -of the valuable and curious collection of facts bearing on morbid mental conditions, the learned physiological exposition, -and the treasure-house of useful hints for mental training, which make this large and yet very amusing as well as instructive book an encycloptedia of well-classified and often very startling psychological experiences.