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How to Define

MS (R) 645. Each of the 26 pages is numbered in the upper left corner, and the date and time are given there, along with “DEFINITION 3rd DRAUGHT.” Composition began on Dec 22, 1909, and ended on Jan. 12, 1910, with several gaps in time along the way, although the text is continuous. Most of it was previously published in Ketner 1998, 328-336.)


Three studies are needlessly and very unhappily confounded: Phaneroscopy (as I call it, or Phenomenology), Logic, and Psychology Proper. One of the three is a Science, though youthful and immature; that is Psychology Proper. One is an Embrio-science; so I rate Logic, because it still lacks that considerable body of well-drilled workers pursuing methods acknowledged by all, taking advantage of one another's discoveries to push research still on and on, and turning out new discoveries at a healthy rate; all of which I take to be essential to a developed science. The third is Phaneroscopy, still in the condition of a science-egg, hardly any details of it being as yet distinguishable, though enough to assure the student of it that, under the fostering care that it is sure to enjoy, if the human culture continues long, it surely will in the future become a strong and beneficient science.

By Psychology Proper I mean the Empirical Science of the workings and growths of Minds and their relations to the animal or other organisms in which Psychical phenomena can be detected. In short, it is a sort of Physiology of the Soul. By Logic I mean the study of the distinction between Truth and Falsity, and the theory of how to attain the former together with all that the investigator of that theory must make it his business to probe. It comes, in my opinion, in the present state of science, to a study of the general nature of Signs and the leading kinds of Signs. By Phaneroscopy I mean the study of whatever consciousness puts into one's Immediate and Complete possession, or in other words, the study of whatever one becomes directly aware of in itself. For such Direct objects of Consciousness I venture to coin the term “Prebits.” Some may think this word would idly cumber the dictionary in the unlikely contingency of its ever coming into use. They will regard it as a superfluous synonym of “appearances,” or “phenomena,” “data,” etc., etc. I admit that “datum” might do. But then many other things are called “data”; as for the word “phenomenon,” I think that is better reserved to express those more special meanings to which it is usually restricted; as, for example, to denote any fact that consists in the uniformity with which something peculiar and perceptible to the senses (without or with instrumental aid) will result from the fulfillment of certain definite conditions, especially if it can be repeated indefinitely. Thus, the fact that small bits of paper or anything else that is light enough will be attracted to a rod of shellac, glass, vulcanite, etc. provided this has just before been briskly rubbed upon a soft surface of suitable material with a harder backing is one single phenomenon, while the fact that a rod of steel or of one of a few other substances will attract small filings or other bits of iron, as magnetite, etc. is a different single phenomenon. By a “Prebit” I do not mean anything of that nature, but a single Object of immediate consciousness, though usually indefinitely denoted. As for the word “Appearance,” it would be stretched in an inconvenient and quite unexpected way if it would be applied to some of the objects I call Prebits. Before he has read many pages the Reader will come upon an example that will bring the truth of this home to him. In the above Definition of “Prebit,” the adjective “Immediate” is not to be understood in a Properly Psychological sense, as if it were intended to exclude the case of my becoming aware of a Prebit in consequence of becoming aware of another thing, whether Prebit or not; but what I do mean is that once I do become aware of the Prebit, I am aware not merely before of a Sign Substitute for it, or any sort of proxy, vicar, attorney, succedaneum, dummy, or representative of it, but am put facie ad faciem before the very Prebit itself.

The importance of distinguishing between the three studies is due in the first place to the diversity of their general aims. Phaneroscopy asks what are the possibilities of consciousness. Psychology endeavours to make known the positive facts of the workings of the mind. Logic inquires into the theory [of] what must follow in hypothetical cases.

In the Second place, the methods of the three inquiries are as divergent as their aims. In Phaneroscopy there is little reasoning. Its questions are only settled by the finest of keen observations. Logic on the other hand involves no more observation than does Pure Mathematics itself, that is to say only the observation of our own diagrams. It is a science of reasoning and subtle distinctions. Psychology Proper again uses all the methods and involves all the difficulties of all the other Empirical Sciences.

For the purposes of the present essay, however, the most urgent reason for distinguishing these studies from one another, and more especially the two that are most apt to be confounded,—Phaneroscopy and Psychology Proper,—is that, on the one hand, Logic must be founded on the results of Phaneroscopy, so that the Phaneroscopist has no right to appeal to the science of logic; while on the other hand, Psychology Proper, more than any other study, excepting only metaphysics, depends for its support upon the science of Logic, in consequence of which the Logician is forbidden to appeal for support to Psychology Proper. Moreover, Psychology Proper, thus mediately rests on Phaneroscopy and can furnish no support to the latter. Still less can it question the latter's results, which would be not more nor less than sawing off the bough on which it is astride.


This part begins in the middle of page 6, and part of it appears to be crossed out with an X; but the whole text of the page is given here for the sake of continuity.

I have often heard psychologists speak with contempt, pity, or disdain of that division of the functions of the mind or (“Parts of the Soul”) into Feeling, Volition, and Thought, which has recommended itself to so many and many thinkers, since Kant gave it his sanction. For my part I cannot believe that an Idea of that sort that has recommended itself to so great a variety of powerful minds to express a truth, should have no ingredient whatever of Truth in it; and it seems to my own self-observation that Feelings, Volitions, and Thoughts are Prebits, that there are in truth in those three Prebits three utterly different Phaneroscopic elements that appear as so many kinds of Awareness, and no more, that are severally contained in those three kinds of Prebits mentioned. Beginning with Feeling, in order to show what qualifications I have for describing it, I may mention that for more than twenty years, from before 1865 to after 1885, I was almost daily training myself to recognize and analyze by immediate consciousness the different elements and respects of difference of colors, odours, flavours, and other sensations. I also paid a good deal of attention to phonetics. I desire not to exaggerate the degree of success which I attained. It was considerable, yet by no means extraordinary. In regard to each sense, I have met a number of persons whose powers surpassed my own, though my powers of distinction and recognition were much above the average. For instance, though I am so far from being a musician that if I attempt to sing a tune I make my auditors laugh. They tell me I skip from one octave to another; I nevertheless have no difficulty in picking out three or four harmonics in a note struck on a piano-forte. Perhaps everybody can do the same: I do not know. I also seem to have a somewhat unusual faculty of catching the accent of a foreign tongue. For example, I once desired to remain for a fortnight or so in a certain rural vicinity, and inquiring who thereabouts took boarders was informed that a French farmer and his wife not far away received a few in summer. It was then autumn, but their being French recommended their table to me, and so I went toward their house. As I strolled along the husband overtook me. He was evidently a Belgian but he said his wife was a Parisian and no doubt would be glad to take me in. I went and was presented and we were on the point of closing the agreement when I happened to speak of myself as an American. Instantly her manner changed; she raised various objections, and at last said flatly she would not take me. I persisted without being able for a long time to penetrate her objection, until finally I took the husband aside and asked him what the real objection was.

“Why, you see,” he said, “she distrusts you because of your sailing under false colors. ”

“What do you mean,” I asked.

“Why do you pretend to be an American?”

“Why! Because I am.”

“Oh come! You know that isn't so.”

“What do you think?”

“Well, I might take your word, but my wife says it is nonsense. He is a Parisian. No American ever spoke like him.”

This seemed to me as sincere a tribute to my French as I could easily find.

As to Feeling, by which I mean Qualities of Sensation and other Passions, I remark that most persons, David Hume, for example, reckon as one kind of ingredient of it a certain Prebit which seems to me to form no part of Feeling. I mean the Vividness of a Feeling. For Feeling is a Quality and though it certainly has two Quantities connected with it, its total intensity and the relative intensity of its leading ingredient, both being Quantities of Quality, I do not recognize Vividness as the Quantity of any Quality or predicate at all, but simply as a non-relative or non-predicative Quantity. Now what is non-predicative Quantity that is a Prebit? It is a force. On the other hand, Quality is entirely Passive, and is no force. Vividness, therefore, is no part or essential attribute of a Feeling: it is something of an utterly different nature. I have doubted whether I was not led into an error in saying this by a psychological action. I have asked myself whether Vividness is not Intensity of Feeling to which a psychological correction or allowance has subconsciously been applied. But this theory distinctly does not fit the facts. For such allowances are always insufficient when they are very large. A dime, for example, may seem to be of the same size at a distance of ten inches and of three feet. But it certainly looks smaller thirty feet or a hundred feet away. To an eye not accustomed to recognize what it sees, snow in ordinary shade and snow in the light of bright clouds may be supposed to look equally white, although in fact, the former is deep violet blue and the latter bright yellow. But let the case be sufficiently exaggerated by contrasting snow almost in darkness with snow in the glare of a very blazing noon, and any eye will see the difference of color once it is pointed out. Now it makes no difference at all how dim my memory of a certain stick of sealing wax is. If I recollect its color at all, I remember it correctly as a brilliant vermillion or as a dull one.

Hume, then, gave evidence of his being but a poor psychological observer when he based his Philosophy, in considerable part, on a confusion of Vividness with the Objective Intensity of Sensation. An experimental research of my own has convinced me that Vividness is no element of a Sense-Quality. It is the pervasive Reaction from the waking-up force of the Vivid Experience. It therefore neither is, nor is an ingredient of, any Feeling-Quality whatever. It is a pure sense of Force and not an ingredient of the peculiar characteristic of Feeling. It is something else admixed to that; and in order to cognize the peculiar characteristic of Feeling we must get rid of this admixture,—this adulteration,—by an operation of Discrimination.

You will, I suppose,—and I hope,—inquire what I mean by Discrimination, thus showing yourself to be a reader who cares for precision of Thought. In the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for 1867 May 14, in my article entitled “On a New List of Categories,” you will find that I have explained that there are three Modes of separability of elements of a Thought-Object, which I called, Precision (a corruption of speech for which I now substitute “Prescission”), Dissociation, and Discrimination. Let there be two elements of an Object of Thought, A and B. If I can imagine A to be present without B, I say I can Dissociate A from B; and I can then generally Dissociate B from A, too. If I can definitely suppose A to be present without any supposition at all about the presence or absence of B (and, of course, without self-contradiction), I say that I can Prescind A from B, and that I can Abstract B from A. If I can suppose one of the two to be equally present or absent in two cases, while in the other respect the cases differ, I say that I can Discriminate each from the other.

I quite acknowledge that this bit of analysis of forty-odd years ago now sadly needs an overhauling; but in the mean time it will serve our turn for the present juncture. I cannot imagine a Feeling-Quality without some degree of Vividness, however small, in the Experience I so imagine; but I can imagine the Vividness to vary while the Quality itself remains quite unchanged. If I experience a Quality, say a certain rose color, having previously dreamed of a perfect match to it (which will render the experience more vivid), and some years after call up a reminiscence of that experience, the three Feelings may be closely alike as to the Quality of the red,—its luminosity, its chroma (or saturation), and its hue,—but they will surely differ widely, almost enormously, in their Vividness. But now if I think of the color of the rose, as it would be if nobody were looking at it, or dreaming or recollecting it, that Thought will not attribute much or little Vividness to it but only a Capacity for every degree of Vividness. That pure Quality, in its hue, its chroma, and its luminosity, or Feeling minus Vividness, will be an example of the characteristic ingredient of the mode of Awareness that we call Feeling. I will call it Feeling-Quality. It is a Prebit-category.

A feeling is the only true Ding an sich. Everything else is relative, and has its Being in something else. But the color of Vermillion is just what it is without reference to blue or green. It is what it is, and there is nothing that can describe it but itself. Everything (as it seems, at least) has its own flavor, Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw, Rudder Grange, The Autocrat, Bach, Chopin, all have Qualities absolutely their own. Every lapse of time in one's life whether it be a lifetime, a season, a waking day, a quarter of an hour, ten seconds, a fraction of a second, makes as a whole an impression of a quality absolutely simple and entirely without ingredients, and peculiar to itself. But the universality of these statements may be delusive. I have no right to say more than that so it seems. It is true that if two qualities or more be compared, their similarities will be felt. But since everything seems to have its Feeling-Quality, so has the comparison; and those similarities are the Qualities of the comparison, not of the Feeling compared. For the Feeling-Quality resides in itself. In saying this I am not conveying information, nor setting up a doctrine to be approved or rejected: I am only explaining what I mean by a Feeling-Quality. It is that which is immediately sensible as absolutely simple and sui generis in every whole to which my feeling is directed; and you have only to feel in order to know what I mean.

But Feeling-Quality cannot be known in a state of purity. For in itself it does not exist, but only may be. Existence is conferred upon it by so much Vividness as it has; and Vividness is an example of the Second kind of Awareness, which we find in Volition. However, it is with Volition as we found it to be with Feeling: I mean that its characteristic essence is only Experience mixed with something else. That something else in the case of Volition is Purpose. We never do exert our Wills without Purpose. Yet the characteristic of Volition is Volition sans Purpose: it is just brute exertion, which I call Molition. Molition is a Mode of Awareness entirely different from Feeling. One does not Feel it at all, as anybody can convince himself by repetitions of the simplest experiments. For example, hold a dumbbell out at arm's length and tell yourself at the outset not to do anything whatever with that arm,—neither pulling it up nor putting it down,—until you give yourself the word. After a while gravity will catch the arm in such a state that it will take a little step down, which is not surprising, since gravity is pulling at it unceasingly, while the state of the arm is not one of ceaseless inertia. But what is a little surprising is that after each of these little descents the arm springs up a little, although you did not tell it to. For you, I am supposing, have given the arm no orders of any kind since you told it not to move until you gave the word. It comes up with what appears like an elastic rebound. All this time, you have made no exertion whatever. You have been perfectly quiet, but you have felt a certain pain. Now that you are about to give the mental word for your arm to come down, be on the alert to see whether you have any Feeling of that giving of the word. Now, actually give the word, and the arm comes down so instantly that you cannot tell which reached your brain first, the report that your order had been received, or the report that the arm was falling. You even suspect the latter report came first. But the significant circumstance is that there was nothing like a Feeling connected with giving the mental word. You were aware of doing so, as quite distinct from being aware of purposing to do so; but there was not a trace of Feeling now of your willing the arm should drop. You may vary the experiment in a hundred ways, but such will always be the result. In saying this, I am supposing that you are expert in performing these experiments. You may lay your hand, palm upon a table with a kilo upon it or whatever weight will be sufficient to make you quite aware of the effort of lifting it by bending your elbow, without the effort being so great as sensibly to prevent your noticing any Feelings. It will be well to have your hand so cold that there is hardly any feeling in it. It will also be well for your arm to be unclothed. Let your hand lie quiet and gather all your attention. When this is accomplished, and while your attention is at its best (for it will have its pretty rapid ebbs and flows), or just coming to its best, hold your breath, so as the better to hold your attention, give the word (mentally) for the weight to be lifted, and watch for anything like Feeling,—that is, for anything as much of the nature of color, or odour, or the sense of beauty or sublimity, as these Feelings are like one another. Of course you will have what is called “kinesthetic sensation,” but to my power of discrimination that sort of consciousness has no trace of Feeling in it, though there will be skin sensations from which you must abstract your attention. I expect that such experimentation, repeated and verified until you find no more room for doubt, will bring you to the same conviction to which it has brought me. But, of course, if your mind is of the wordy sort, and you think that reading about an experiment, or imagining it, or performing a slouchy imitation is just as good as a sincere course of earnest and candid experimentation, you had better consult a book, or toss a penny in order to decide upon your verdict. Even if you do go through the experimentation and come to my Belief, it will be well to remember that you and I may both be in the wrong, and to hold yourself, as I shall myself, open to conviction upon this delicate question.

But in the meantime I can only go upon my own experiment-formed conviction, mistaken though it may be. Having reached a result that seems to me indubitable, my own practice is to let that department of my mind lie fallow for a year or more, and then to review my former reasoning and endeavour to find flaws in it by prying into every corner of my argument that seems to be the least suspicious, as well as by pursuing, if I can, an entirely different inquiry or fresh inquisition from a different point of view, and this process I repeat at least once more, but oftener several times.

There are several drawbacks to this method. I must confess that it has fostered in me an exaggerated self-distrust; so that I have several times abandoned perfect demonstrations, moved by unsound objections, sometimes put forth by others, but oftener by myself. It has also caused me to be blamed unjustly in two ways. Some of my friends lament my unproductiveness,—a complaint due to my diffidence. But I think that considering how many more ideas and theories are yearly put forward in my line than anyone could satisfactorily appraise, it ought to be regarded as a merit that I do not ask a hearing until I have something pretty thoroughly well-considered to say. On the other hand, that class of persons who think the highest merit a book or memoir or theory can possess is that of not occasioning the slightest surprise in any mind look upon me as a lover of original opinions, as such. If they were to come to know me better, they might learn to think me ultra-conservative. I am, for example, an old-fashioned christian, a believer in the efficacy of prayer, an opponent of female suffrage and of universal male suffrage, in favor of letting business-methods develope without the interference of law, a disbeliever in democracy, etc. etc. The newness of no theory is a recommendation of it to me, and no theory that I have ever put forward was novel to my own mind. On the contrary in so far as a belief's being widespread and familiar goes to show it to be instinctive, I regard its being so as very strong reason indeed for holding it to be approximately true. At the same time, I must confess that I do not hold this opinion, or any other broad philosophical opinion, on authority alone; and that is just my point of difference with the good souls who admire as such writings put forth to support commonplace opinions. They argue from authority pure and simple, as a habit of life. In order to judge of the merits of this habit, to which so many passionately cling, I have carefully and calmly studied the history of science; and I must say that my friends the haters of novelty do not figure in that history in a way to compel my assent to their method.

Although I have endeavoured above to give a preliminary description of that Element which I discern, or think I discern in all Feelings, and although I have been careful to add that no reader can interpret my description unless he experiments for himself upon watching his Feelings and comparing them with other Modes of Awareness, yet I feel sure that a few words more are needed from me in order that my Idea may be rightly conveyed to the Reader.

Without doubt, some will make the following objection to my doctrine: “You say,” some readers will object, “that every Feeling-Quality is perfectly simple, or, at least, irresoluble (for we do not see that you can have any right to say more than that, and that it is also, in itself, sui generis). That being the case, it certainly follows that no true Feeling-Qualities can resemble each other in any respect. But this is plainly impossible; for such resemblance would consist in their both partaking of a common ingredient. It is impossible that so obvious a difficulty should have escaped you. Please say, then, how you hold that you escape it?”

To this very pertinent question, I reply by first pointing out that multitudes of pairs of Feeling-Qualities are so much alike that they are distinguished with difficulty. Such, for example, are orange-colour bordering upon red and a scarlet verging toward yellow; or a turquoise blue and a very bluish green, or a cool violet and a very violet blue. These phenomena are indisputable; and psycho­physically they are due to the mixtures of the same excitations in different proportions. But my experiments and ponderings have led me to believe, whether rightly or wrongly, that the resemblances do not reside in the separate Feelings compared, but in secondary Feelings excited by comparing two Primary Feelings, and in the interpretation of these secondary Feelings in Judgments, whose Awareness is of an utterly different kind from Feeling, and is only confounded with Feeling because it is, so to speak, of so transparent a kind that the secondary Feeling behind it is more perceptible than the Awareness of the Judgment, itself. But whether one thinks me right or wrong in my notions of the Phaneroscopy of Feeling, I cannot conceive that anybody should think that all the infinite varieties of Feeling (no one of which occurs twice), have any Quality-ingredient in common, that there is, for example, any Feeling in common excited by the sight of Mont Blanc from the Hotel des Bergues, in its early evening flush, and the taste of a strong old-fashioned Gin cocktail made with Hagerty's! At any rate, such is not my opinion. But I think that the general reminiscence of Feeling has a character, as far as possible from being a Feeling-Quality, which distinguishes it sharply from the other Modes of Awareness of which I shall speak. This character is of the nature of a Concept of a highly Abstract kind, and purely Phaneroscopic, that is, relating to the Awareness as Awareness simply. Namely, I think that all Feeling is distinguished by its Unity in the sense of Simplicity, and by its being of what Quale it is in Itself purely; and though I use two clauses to describe this character, I do not conceive it as two characters but as One only. In other words there is only One thing present in Feeling; it has but one Aspect. The other Modes of Awareness we shall find to have essentially two or more Aspects presenting themselves together, though one may be accented by the Interpreter more than the other. Look at a vermillion object, both highly luminous and tremendously chromatic. View it in juxtaposition with its complementary greenish blue; and ask yourself whether that vermillion Quality consists in the slightest degree in opposition to its complementary. You will say, “No indeed! Its Quality is utterly regardless of the other, although the contrast may impart a certain violence to it. But violence is not a Feeling-Quality. You can judge better of the correctness or error of my observations after we

The manuscript ends here; possibly the sentence is concluded elsewhere …