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6. LECTURE VI. INTROSPECTION (continued)
(3) CAN WE OBSERVE ANYTHING INTRINSICALLY DIFFERENT FROM SENSATIONS? We come now to our third question concerning introspection. It is commonly thought that by looking within we can observe all sorts of things that are radically different from the constituents of the physical world, e.g. thoughts, beliefs, desires, pleasures, pains and emotions. The difference between mind and matter is increased partly by emphasizing these supposed introspective data, partly by the supposition that matter is composed of atoms or electrons or whatever units physics may at the moment prefer. As against this latter supposition, I contend that the ultimate constituents of matter are not atoms or electrons, but sensations, and other things similar to sensations as regards extent and duration. As against the view that introspection reveals a mental world radically different from sensations, I propose to argue that thoughts, beliefs, desires, pleasures, pains and emotions are all built up out of sensations and images alone, and that there is reason to think that images do not differ from sensations in their intrinsic character. We thus effect a mutual rapprochement of mind and matter, and reduce the ultimate data of introspection (in our second sense) to images alone. On this third view of the meaning of introspection, therefore, our decision is wholly against it.
There remain two points to be considered concerning introspection. The first is as to how far it is trustworthy; the second is as to whether, even granting that it reveals no radically different STUFF from that revealed by what might be called external perception, it may not reveal different RELATIONS, and thus acquire almost as much importance as is traditionally assigned to it.
To begin with the trustworthiness of introspection. It is common among certain schools to regard the knowledge of our own mental processes as incomparably more certain than our knowledge of the "external" world; this view is to be found in the British philosophy which descends from Hume, and is present, somewhat veiled, in Kant and his followers. There seems no reason whatever to accept this view. Our spontaneous, unsophisticated beliefs, whether as to ourselves or as to the outer world, are always extremely rash and very liable to error. The acquisition of caution is equally necessary and equally difficult in both directions. Not only are we often un aware of entertaining a belief or desire which exists in us; we are often actually mistaken. The fallibility of introspection as regards what we desire is made evident by psycho-analysis; its fallibility as to what we know is easily demonstrated. An autobiography, when confronted by a careful editor with documentary evidence, is usually found to be full of obviously inadvertent errors. Any of us confronted by a forgotten letter written some years ago will be astonished to find how much more foolish our opinions were than we had remembered them as being. And as to the analysis of our mental operations--believing, desiring, willing, or what not--introspection unaided gives very little help: it is necessary to construct hypotheses and test them by their consequences, just as we do in physical science. Introspection, therefore, though it is one among our sources of knowledge, is not, in isolation, in any degree more trustworthy than "external" perception.
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