The Subject of Consciousness
© C.O. Evans

Chapter 5

The Experiential Self - 5.2.5
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2. The Problems the Theory Solves

[5] I would now like to suggest that it is helpful to interpret James's notion of appropriation in the light of the standpoint I have just described. It is possible for T to appropriate E because E is experienced as 'over against' T. If it were not, there would be nothing independent of T which it could appropriate. I further want to suggest that the so-called appropriation is nothing over and above the relation between unprojected consciousness and object of attention that I have variously described as 'appearing to', 'standing over against' and 'standing-apart-from'. In other words when experiences are individuated as objects of attention, their being individuated is nothing else than their being 'put forth' in such a way that they are describable as 'standing over against' the subject. If we look at appropriation in this light we see that there is no need to look for some special Thought to do the appropriating: the appropriating is done by unprojected consciousness no matter what elements compose it at the time. We are spared having to postulate a special element for the purpose, and an element, moreover, for which introspective evidence could well be lacking.

It seems to me, therefore, that James's notion of the Thought as appropriator should be viewed as his attempt to feel his way toward the distinction I have made between unprojected consciousness and object of attention. Since Ayer explored none of the implications of the logical difference between T and E, he missed the most promising side of James's theory. But this is only half the picture. Just as significant for its implications for my theory is James's further view that the experiences appropriated by T are not so much attached to T as to certain kinaesthetic sensations. Speaking of our awareness of T he says:

It may feel its own immediate existence . . . but nothing can be known about it till it be dead and gone. Its appropriations are therefore less to itself than to the most intimately felt part of its present Object, the body, and the central adjustments, which accompany the act of thinking, in the head. These are the real nucleus of our personal identity, and it is their actual existence, realized as a solid present fact, which makes us say "as sure as I exist, those past facts were part of myself." They are the kernel to which the

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represented parts of the Self are assimilated, accreted, and knit on; and even were Thought entirely unconscious of itself in the act of thinking, these "warm" parts of its present object would be a firm basis on which the consciousness of personal identity would rest.' 132

When James says that the E's appropriated by T are appropriated 'less to itself than to the most intimately felt part' of the body, he seems to be suggesting that the appropriation is by the Thought but to the above mentioned bodily sensations. It is striking how close James comes here to saying that the E's are appropriated by unprojected consciousness, especially when it is remembered that unprojected consciousness necessarily has background kinaesthetic sensations among its elements. We see too that at this point there is not all that difference between James's theory and the somatic field theory, for that theory too depends heavily on those elements of the somatic field that constitute the most intimately felt parts of the body.

It is a striking fact therefore that both James and Jones turn to kinaesthetic sensation, and give it a crucial role to play in their characterization of the self. It is more especially interesting that in the case of James the bodily adjustments he has in mind are clearly due to the subject's paying attention to his experiences. This is made abundantly clear in his chapter on attention, in The Principles of Psychology. James could hardly have come closer to my theory without missing it than he does at this point. But once again it must be remarked that no matter how central a role both Jones and James accord to these kinaesthetic elements of unprojected consciousness, they can give no explanation of why they are so central. They are unable to show that these kinaesthetic sensations are a precondition of the appropriation of experiences by their being 'put forth' as objects of attention. Their theories are forced to treat as inexplicable matters of fact factors that on mine have been given a logical explanation.

A final observation about this side of James's theory will dot the i's and cross the t's. Because James lacks the notion of unprojected consciousness, he is forced to classify 'the part of the innermost Self which is most vividly felt' as part of the empirical self or the self as object. He does this in spite of the fact that he describes this innermost Self as 'consisting for the most part of a collection of

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cephalic movements or "adjustments" which, for want of attention and reflection, usually fail to be perceived and classed as what they are.' 133 Had James not missed the implications of his description concerning the logical character of these elements which do not receive attention, he would have had no need to invent a subject to appropriate E's. He would have had no need for his Thought. I have the support of Ayer himself over this point. He says, 'There is, therefore, no necessity for distinguishing between the "I" and the "me" However the concept of the self is to be analysed, there is no reason why the self which acquires the concept should not be identical with the self which satisfies it.' 134

Commenting on James's view that minute kinaesthetic adjustments in the head are 'the real nucleus of our personal identity' Ayer says that it would seem that it was wrong of him to reproach James with failing to consider that personal identity might be defined in terms of the identity of the body. His answer is that James does not appeal to bodily identity because for him the body is a construct out of experience and as a result the move would be circular. However, Ayer sees it as a weakness in James's theory that he cannot make use of bodily identity in the definition of personal identity, and his supplementation of James's theory essentially consists in his making provision for such bodily identity by showing why 'appropriation' by itself is insufficient, and by showing how the connection with bodily identity is to be effected.

My belief is that James's instinct was right here, and Ayer's is wrong. That is to say, James's theory is superior to Ayer's emendation of it precisely because his does not rely on bodily identity. My grounds for saying this is that James's theory is in this respect true to the self-approach, and Ayer's emendation of it is a result of his conflation of the self-approach and the persons-approach. In short, James offers us a definition of the self as it is to the self, and from that standpoint no question arises of the subject having to identify which subject he is. Ayer, on the other hand, is concerned with the problem of identifying other selves, and from that standpoint we might wish to maintain that series of experiences that are not held together by the relation of appropriation, or by any other relation (i.e. membership of a self-contained series), may yet be the experiences of one and the same person. Qua subject, experiences

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which are not appropriated are nothing to it, and it is meaningless to attach such experiences to it.

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Footnotes

132. James, The Principles of Psychology, Vol. I, p. 341.
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133. James, The Principles of Psychology, Vol. I, p. 305.
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134. Ayer, The Origins of Pragmatism, pp. 252-3.
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