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Intend to consider it, the result is the same. The

object is never wholly identical with the subject, and

the background of feeling must contain a great deal more

than what we at any time can perceive as the self. And I

confess that I scarcely know how to argue this point. To

me the idea that the whole self can be observed in one

perception would be merely chim‘rical. I find, first,

that in the felt background there remains an obscure

residue of internal sensation, which I perhaps at no

time can distinguish as an object. And this felt

background at any moment will almost certainly contain

also elements from outer sensation. On the other hand,

the self, as an object, will at any one time embrace but

a poor extent of detail. It is palpably and

flagrantly much more narrow than the background felt as

self. And in order to exhaust this felt mass (if indeed

exhaustion is possible) we require a series of patient

observations, in none of which will the object be as

full as the subject. To

have the felt self in its totality as an object for

consciousness seems out of the question. And I would

further ask the reader to bear in mind that, where the

self is observed as in opposition to the not-self, this

whole relation is included within that felt background,

against which, on the other hand, the distinction takes


And this suggests an objection. How, I may be asked,

If self-consciousness is no more than you say, do we

take one object as self and another as not-self? Why is

the observed object perceived at all in the character of

self? This is a question, I think, not difficult to

answer, so far at least as is required for our purpose

here. The all-important point is this, that the unity of

feeling never disappears. The mass, at first

undifferentiated, groups itself into objects in relation

to me; and then again further the "me" becomes explicit,

and itself is an object in relation to the background of

feeling. But, none the less, the object not-self is

still a part of the individual soul, and the object self

likewise keeps its place in this felt unity. The

distinctions have supervened upon, but they have not

divided, the original whole; and, if they had done so,

the result would have been mere destruction. Hence, in

self-consciousness, those contents perceived as the self

belong still to the whole individual mass. They, in the

first place, are features in the felt totality; then

again they are elements in that inner group from which

the not-self is distinguished; and finally they become

an object opposed to the internal background.

And these contents exist thus in several forms all at

once. And so, just as the not-self is felt as still

psychically my state, the self, when made an object, is

still felt as individually one with me. Nay, we may

reflect upon this unity of feeling, and may say that the

self, as self and as not-self all in one, is our object.

And this is true if we mean that it is an object for

reflection. But in that reflection once more there is an

actual subject; and that actual subject is a mass of

feeling much fuller than the object; and it is a subject

which in no sense is an object for the reflection. The

feature, of being not-self and self in one self, can

indeed be brought before the present subject, and can be

felt to be its own. The unity of feeling can become an

object for perception and thought, and can also be felt

to belong to the self which is present, and which is the

subject that perceives. But, without entering into

psychological refinements and difficulties, we may be

sure of this main result. The actual subject is never,

in any state of mind, brought before itself as an

object. It has that before it which it feels to be

itself, so far at least as to fall within its own area,

and to be one thing with its felt unity. But the actual

subject never feels that it is all out there in its

object, that there is nothing more left within, and that

the difference has disappeared. And of this we can

surely convince ourselves by observation. The subject in

the end must be felt, and it can never (as it is) be


But, if so, then self-consciousness will not solve

our former difficulties. For these distinctions, of self

and of not-self in one whole, are not presented as the

reality even of my self. They are given as found within

it, but not as exhausting it. But even if the self did,

what it cannot do, and guaranteed this arrangement as

its proper reality, that would still leave us at a loss.

For unless we could think the arrangement so as to be

consistent with itself we could not admit it as

being the truth about reality. It would merely be an

experience, unintelligible or deceptive. And it is an

experience which, we have now seen, has no existence in


(c) We found the self, as mere feeling, gave us no

key to our puzzles, and we have not had more success in

our attempt with self-consciousness. So far as that

transcends mere feeling, it is caught in, and is

dissipated by, the old illusory play. of relations and

qualities. It repeats this illusion, without doubt, at a

higher level than before; the endeavour is more

ambitious, but the result is still the same. For we have

not been taught how to understand diversity in unity.

And though, in my judgment, the further task should now

be superfluous, I will briefly touch upon some other

claims made for the self. The first rests on the

consciousness of personal identity. This may be supposed

to have some bearing on the reality of the self, but to

my mind it appears to be almost irrelevant. Of course

the self, within limits and up to a certain point, is

the same; and I will leave to others the attempt to fix

those limits by a principle. For, in my opinion, there

is none which at bottom is not arbitrary. But what I

fail to perceive is the metaphysical conclusion which

comes from a consciousness of self-sameness. I quite

understand that this fact disproves any doctrine of the

self's mere discreteness. Or, more correctly, it is an

obvious instance against a doctrine which evidently

contradicts itself in principle. The self is not merely

discrete; and therefore (doubtless by some wonderful

alternative) we are carried to a positive result about

its reality. But the facts of the case seem merely to be

thus. As long as there remains in the self a certain

basis of content, ideally the same, so long may the self

recall anything once associated with that basis. And

this identity of content, working by redintegration and

so bringing up the past as the history of one

self--really this is all which we have to build upon.

Now this, of course, shows that self-sameness exists as

a fact, and that hence somehow an identical self must be

real. But then the question is how? The question is

whether we can state the existence and the continuity of

a real self in a way which is intelligible, and which is

not ruined by the difficulties of previous discussions.

Because, otherwise, we may have found an interesting

fact, but most assuredly we have not found a tenable

view about reality. That tenable view, if we got sight

of it, might show us that our fact had been vitally

misapprehended. At all events, so long as we can offer

only a bundle of inconsistencies, it is absurd to try to

believe that these are the true reality. And, if any one

likes to fall back upon a miraculous faculty which he

discovers in memory, the case is not altered. For the

issue is as to the truth either of the message conveyed,

or of our conclusion from that message. And, for myself,

I stand on this. Present your doctrine (whatever it is)

in a form which will bear criticism, and which will

enable me to understand this confused mass of facts

which I encounter on all sides. Do this, and I will

follow you, and I will worship the source of such a true

revelation. But I will not accept nonsense for reality,

though it be vouched for by miracle, or proceed from the

mouth of a psychological monster.

And I am compelled to adopt the same attitude towards

another supposed fact. I refer to the unity in such a

function as, for instance, Comparison. This has been

assumed to be timeless, and to serve as a foundation for

metaphysical views about the self. But I am forced to

reject alike both basis and result, if that result be

offered as a positive view. It is in the first place (as

we have seen in Chapter v.) psychologically untenable to

take any mental fact as free from duration. And, apart

from that, what works in any function must be

something concrete and specially relevant to that

function. In comparison it must be, for instance, a

special basis of identity in the terms to be

compared. A timeless self, acting in a particular

way from its general timeless nature, is to me, in the

first place, a psychological monster. And, in the second

place, if this extraordinary fact did exist, it would