The Doctrine of Life: With Some of Its Theological Applications/Consciousness

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The Doctrine of Life: With Some of Its Theological Applications.
Back. William B. Greene. Forward.

I CANNOT conceive of one thing, without, at the same time, conceiving of some other thing; for, in order to conceive the thing as one I must distinguish it from something which it is not. But I cannot conceive of this one thing, and of some other thing which it is not, without, at the same time, conceiving of some third thing, ,which separates them, the one from the other,—else the two would not be two, but one.

For example, at this moment, I have present to my mind, myself; and the subject matter of this chapter, the fact of consciousness. But I have also present to my mind the notion of this fact of consciousness, in which I assert, that the fact of consciousness is the fact of consciousness , and by no means myself. This notion is the third thing which distinguishes between the first two.

I evidently cannot conceive myself without at the same time conceiving something which is not myself; for I always conceive myself as one. In every fact of consciousness (the name given to the perception of one's self in one's own acts) there are, therefore, three elements.

1st. The thinker, or actor, who recognizes himself.

2d. The object, from which he distinguishes himself.

3d. The notion, which is the relation between that object and himself.

In plain words, whenever a man is conscious, he perceives that he is thinking of something; here we have at once the three terms,—himself,—the thought,—the thing thought about. As the only evidence of our own existence is furnished to us by consciousness, we have the same authority for our belief in the existence, distinct from ourselves, of that which is not ourselves, as we have for our belief in our own existence. The evidence in one case is exactly the same as it is in the other. That evidence is the immediate perception found in consciousness.

As we may account for all the phenomena of consciousness, without supposing for it a distinct faculty of the mind, such a supposition would be worse than useless.