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The Normal Mind

Mind, we found, is born in the form of consciousness when the outside
world impresses itself upon the brain-cells by way of the senses. This
consciousness, observation and experiment prove, is first a feeling one,
later a feeling-thinking-willing one. The mind, then, is really the
activity of the brain as it feels, as it thinks, as it wills. We express
this in descriptive terms when we speak of mind as the flow of
consciousness, the sum of all mental associations, conscious and
unconscious. For mind is never a final thing. Looking within at our own
mental processes we find that always our thought is just becoming
something else. We reach a conclusion, but it is not a resting place,
only a starting place for another. My thought was that a moment ago,
but while it was that it was becoming this, and even now it is
becoming something else.

Thinking is mind. Feeling is mind. Willing is mind. But for the sake of
clearness we speak of feeling, thinking, and willing as being functions
of mind. Mind acts by using these powers. But to what end does it act?
What purpose does it serve? For these functions are not the reasons of
being for the mind, even as motion--while the immediate purpose of the
locomotive--is not its chief end. The steam engine may stand in the same
spot while its wheels revolve madly; it may move along the tracks alone,
and accomplish nothing; or it may transport a great train of loaded
cars. Unless it moves to some definite point and carries merchandise or
people there, it is a useless, indeed, a dangerous invention. We find,
in fact, that it functions to the very definite end of taking man and
his chattels to specified places.

And so it is with the mind. If it is thinking and feeling and willing
only for the sake of exercising these mental powers, it might better not
be. But what end do we actually find these functions serving?

Mind, with its powers of thinking, feeling, and willing, gives an
external world of matter; an internal world of thought, and so relates
them to each other as to make them serve man's purposes. Thus these
functions exist for accomplishment.

In the solving of a problem, for instance, the mind thinks, primarily;
in the enjoyment of music it feels, primarily, though its feeling may be
determined by the intellectual verdict on the music; in forcing its
owner to sit at the piano and practice in the face of strong desire to
attend the theater, it wills, primarily. Now one of its functions
predominates; now another. But the whole mind, not a feeling section, or
a thinking section, or a willing section, operates together to produce
action. When I play the piano it calls on all my mind. I think the
music. I feel it. I make my fingers play it. But the thinking, the
feeling, and the willing act together to result in the fingers playing.

The mind, then, is an instrument of achievement. It fulfils its purpose
when it makes matter serve useful ends.

Emotion or feeling is the function of the mind which associates a
sense of pleasure or pain with every thought or act.

Feeling is the affective state of mind. By this we mean that it has the
power to move us. And this emotion primarily does; for our feeling of
pleasure or pain moves us to action, as well as precedes and accompanies
and follows action. The word emotion is usually employed to denote an
acute feeling state, while the word mood denotes a prolonged feeling
condition, i. e., a less acute emotional state. The word feeling,
however, is used to cover both; for in each case the sensational element
manifests itself in a definite physical affect, pleasurable or painful
in some degree.

Thinking is a conscious mental activity exercised to evolve ideas from
perceptions, and to combine and compare these ideas to form judgments.

Intellection, or thinking, might be explained as the mental process
which converts sensation into percepts, groups percepts to form concepts
or ideas, stores away ideas and sensations for future use, and recalls
them when needed--the recalling being memory--and by reason combines,
compares, and associates ideas to form judgments, then compares
judgments to form new judgments. The process of intellect we name by
terms denoting activity, such as intellection, thinking, the stream of
thought, and the latter describes it most truly.

Volition or will is the function of the mind which compels the
expression of thought or feeling in action.

For clarity we might indicate the mind and its functions in the
following diagram:

/ Emotion { Pleasure
{ { Pain }
{ / Eye }
{ { Ear }
{ / Sensation / Nose }
{ { (impression < Mouth }
{ { on mind from Skin }
{ { some organs) { Muscles }
{ { { Viscera }
{ { General sensation }
{ { }
{ { Perception } }
{ { (recognition of > of object }
/ { cause of sensation) } of quality
Mind < Intellect, or / > Mind
the Stream < { Self /
{ of Thought { Organic }
{ { Memory < Inorganic }
{ { { Percept }
{ { { Concept }
{ { }
{ { { Abstract }
{ { Ideation < Concrete }
{ { { Imaginative { Fanciful }
{ { { Constructive }
{ { Reason }
{ Judgment }
Will /

The following terms are ones constantly used in psychology, and are
briefly defined that there may be no haziness in their application.

Sensation is the uninterpreted response of the mind to stimuli brought
by sense organs.

{ hot.
Examples: Feeling of { cold.
{ pain.

Sensation may arouse instinct and cause reflex action, or start a
feeling state, or a train of thought.

Perception is the conscious recognition of the cause of a given

{ fluid--water.
Example: { cold--snow.
{ pain--cut.

Percept is a word often used to denote the mind's immediate image of
the thing perceived.

Percepts are of two kinds: object and quality.

Example: { object, as water.
{ quality, as fluid.

Memory is the mind's faculty of retaining, recognizing, and
reproducing sensations, percepts, and concepts.

Organic memory is the mind's reproduction of past bodily sensations.

Example: I recall the physical sensations of a chill, and live it over
in my mind, so that I can accurately describe how a chill feels to me,
though I can but surmise how one feels to you.

Inorganic memory is the mind's reproduction of its own reactions in
the past.

Example: Myself having a chill, how I acted; what I thought and my
emotions during that chill.

Ideation is the mind's grouping of percepts by the aid of memory, to
form concepts.

Example: I perceive color, form, mouth, eyes, nose, chin, etc. These
percepts I combine as a result of past experience (memory) to form my
concept, face; and the process of combining is ideation.

Concepts are mental representations of things or qualities,
i. e., of object or quality percepts.

We might say that the percept is the mind's immediate image of a thing
or quality, and the concept is the result of the storing up and grouping
and recombining of percepts. Thus a lasting mental picture is secured;
and my idea of horse, for instance, is so clear and definite a thing in
my mind that if I should never again see a particular horse, I should
yet always be able to think accurately of a horse.

Concepts are of two kinds--concrete and abstract.

A concrete concept, or concrete idea (for concept and idea are
interchangeably used), is an idea of a particular object or quality.

Examples: This wine-sap apple (object concept).
This sweet orange (quality concept).

An abstract concept, or abstract idea, is a mental reproduction of a
quality or an object dissociated from any particular setting or
particular experience.

Abstract ideas are of two kinds. We speak of them as abstract object
concepts and as abstract quality concepts. An abstract object
concept we might call a generalized idea, an idea comprehending all
objects having certain things in common.

Example: My idea of animal includes many scores of very different
individual animals, but they all have bodies and heads and extremities.
They all have some kind of digestive apparatus; they breathe, and can

An abstract quality concept is easier to think than to explain. It is
as though the mind in considering a multitude of different objects found
a certain quality common to many of them, and it "abstracted," i. e.,
drew this particular quality, and only this, from them all, and then
imagined it as a something in itself which it calls redness, or
whiteness, or goodness. Thereafter, whenever it finds something like
it anywhere else again it says, "That is like my redness." So I call it
"red." In other words, consciousness thereafter can determine in a newly
discovered object something it knows well merely because that something
corresponds to a representation which experience and memory have already

These comprehensive concepts, or universals, as some psychologists
term them, the mind, having pieced together from experience and memory,
holds as independent realities, not primarily belonging to this or
that, but lending themselves to this or that. For example: My mind
says "white," and sees white in some object. But I see the white only
because my mind has a quality concept, whiteness. This outside object
corresponds to my concept. I recognize the likeness and call it "white."

I speak of goodness, or purity, of benevolence; or of fulness,
emptiness, scantiness. There is no object or quality in the outside
world I can say is goodness, or fulness. But I do see things in the
external world through my ideas of goodness or fulness that correspond
to these ideas. They have some of the qualities the ideas embrace; and
so I point them out and say, "This represents purity; that, impurity";
or, "This is full, that is empty." One satisfies my concept of purity,
while the other does not. One fulfils my concept of fulness; the other
does not. And because we can never point out any one quality in the
outside world and say "This is purity, and all of purity; this is
goodness; or this good plus this good plus this makes all of goodness";
because of this impossibility we speak of these concepts as having
reality somewhere. They are absolutes, universals, abstract quality
concepts--the unfound all of which the things we call pure and good are
but the part.

Apperception is the process of comparing the new with all that is in
the mind, and of classifying it by its likeness to something already

With an abstract idea of an object in mind we very deftly, through the
use of memory and constructive imagination, deduce the whole from the
part recognized as familiar.

Example: In walking through the field, along the bank of the brook, I
glimpse under the low-hanging branches of the weeping willow a
restlessly moving hoof. I see a certain kind of hoof and only that. Or I
hear a lowing sound. And I say "cow." I have not seen a cow, but only a
part which tells me a cow is there; for all the cows I ever saw had
hoofs of that general description, and so it fits into my concept cow,
and into no others. Or I have heard cows, only, give that lowing sound
before. From my perception, then, of hoof or sound I apperceive cow.
Memory relates that hoof or that lowing sound to a certain kind of
animal known in the past; and constructive imagination draws in all the
rest of the picture that belongs with it.

Again, we may apperceive an object or quality from our recognition of
something which in our experience has been associated, under those
particular circumstances, with only that object or quality. I see smoke
on the ocean's far horizon, and I decide instantly, "a steamer." I have
not perceived any steamer, but only something that "goes with it," as it
were. I see the ship with my mind, not with my eyes; for I know that a
cloud of smoke out there always has, in my past experience, represented
just that. I compare the newly appearing stimulus--smoke in that
particular location--with all that is associated with it in my mind,
and classify it with the known. I apperceive "steamer."

In apperception, then, we construct from the known actually perceived by
the senses, the unknown. How does the child realize that the moving
speck on the distant hillside is his father? There is nothing to
indicate it except that it is black and moves in this direction. But
experience tells Johnny that father comes home that way just about this
time. Moreover, it says that father looks so when at that distance. When
Johnny is as sure it is his father as if he could see his face close
beside him he has apperceived him. The speck on the hill is the newly
arriving stimulus. Johnny compares it with what corresponds to it in his
mind's experience and proclaims, as a fact, that he sees his father.

Reason is the mind's comparison and grouping of concepts to form
judgments, and its association of judgments to form new judgments.

Example: My concept man includes the eventual certainty of his death.
My concept mortal means "subject to death." Therefore my judgment is,
"Man is mortal." Reason has compared the concepts and found that the
second includes the first.

Judgment is the mind's decision arrived at through comparing concepts
or other judgments.

Example: Man is mortal is my decision after comparing the concepts
man and mortal and finding that the latter really includes the
former. Judgment at the same time says that "Mortals are men," is not a
true conclusion. For in this case the first concept is not all included
in the second. Mortals are all life that is subject to death.

We may assume personal consciousness even as we recognize an individual
body. Psychology does not deal with any awareness separated from a
person. It knows no central mind of which you partake or I partake, and
which is the same for us both. A universal consciousness would simply
mean one which is the sum of yours and mine and everybody's who lives
today, or who has ever lived. So by personal consciousness the
psychologist means his consciousness, or yours, or mine. But they can
never be the same; for mine is determined by my entire past and by how
things and facts and qualities affect me; and yours, by your past, and
by things and facts and qualities, and by how they affect you.

Personal consciousness is the mind's recognition of self; and as the
self changes with every added experience, so personal consciousness is

Stream of thought is a term James has brought into common usage to
illustrate the fact, already stressed, that thinking, as we know it, is
never static, is never one thing, one percept, one concept, one
judgment; but is a lot of these all together, just beginning to be or
just beginning to change into something else. We never know a concept,
for instance, except as it is a part of our entire consciousness,
related to all the rest; just as we do not know the drop of water in the
brook as it flows with the stream. We can take up one on our
finger-tips, however, and separate it from all the rest. But analyzed in
the laboratory, this drop will contain all the elements that a pint or
gallon or a barrel of the same water contains. The drop is what it is
because the stream has a certain composition. We only have a brook as
drops of rain combine to make it, but we also have only the drops as we
separate them from the steam.

Imagination is the combining by the mind, in a new way, things already

This may be either into fantastic groupings divorced from reality, or
into new, possible, rational groupings not yet experienced. So
imagination is of two kinds, the fantastic and the constructive.
Fantastic imagination, or fantasy, gives us gnomes, fairies, giants, and
flying horses, and all the delights of fairy tales. Constructive
imagination is the basis for invention, for literature, and the arts and

The word thinking, defined early in this chapter, is broadly used to
denote the sum of all the intellectual faculties. Thinking is really the
stream of thought.

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