§ 1. Introductory.—Human consciousness is normally concerned with some object or other. In waking life, we are usually, and perhaps always, perceiving something or thinking about something. Now there are three ways in which our consciousness is related to its object. (1) We have some kind of cognisance of the object; (2) we feel pleased or displeased with it, or otherwise emotionally affected towards it; (3) we experience a tendency in some way to alter or transform it, either by bringing it more fully into consciousness, or the reverse. Thus, we may say that there are three ultimate modes of being conscious of an object: knowing, feeling, and striving; the cognitive attitude, the feeling attitude, and the conative attitude. These three are normally and in all probability always united in the same total state of consciousness. They are not distinct states which succeed each other in time; they are partial constituents of one concrete whole.
§ 2. Cognition.—The word cognition is here used in a very wide sense. It covers all modes and degrees of being aware of or cognisant of an object. The word object must not be taken to mean merely material object, but whatever we can in any way be aware of or cognisant of. The book I see before me on the table is an object to me, inasmuch as I perceive it. The immortality of the soul is also an object to me whenever I think of it. Nothing is an object to me, whenever I use the word nothing and attach a meaning to it; so is a Centaur when I imagine one. To perceive or think at all is to perceive or think of something, and this something, just because it is perceived or thought of, is an object presented to consciousness.
The use of the words presented and presentation requires to be explained. Whenever we perceive or think of an object, the object must have its specific nature by which it is distinguishable from other objects. Now the specific nature of the object as perceived or thought of presupposes a correspondingly specific modification of the individual consciousness which perceives or thinks of it. As the stream of consciousness successively takes cognisance of various objects, it must itself pass through correspondingly varying states. The distinctive nature of the object is apprehended only in so far as the object is qualified by the specific modifications of consciousness which exist in the moment of cognition. This leads up to the definition of the word presentation. "Whatever constituents of our total experience at any moment directly determine the nature of the object as it is perceived or thought of at that moment, belong to the cognitive side of our nature, and are called presentations.
Suppose that what I perceive at a given moment is a sensible quality, such as the colour red. Without having the sensation red I could not perceive the sensible quality red. The sensation of red is therefore a presentation of the sensible quality. Here a difficulty will no doubt occur to the student. Why do we distinguish between the sensation and the sensible quality? Why do we not say that the sensation is itself the object? There is one obvious consideration which makes plain the need for this distinction. I can perceive the sensible quality again and again on different occasions, and identify it as the same. But on each separate occasion I have a separate sensation. The sensations are so many distinct events or occurrences in the history of my individual experience. The sensible quality is not an event in the history of my experience at all. It is an object which may be perceived and identified as the same in many different phases of my lifehistory widely separated in time. The same distinction becomes still more obvious if we take other instances. If I perceive a triangle, my perception is not triangular,—it is not made up of lines and angles. On the other hand, the triangle as it appears to me when I see it is not an occurrence in the history of my individual consciousness; it is a geometrical figure, which is a very different thing. Again, in a moment of time I may think of eternity: it is obvious that the specific modifications of consciousness which exist while I am thinking of eternity, and disappear after I have ceased to think of it, are not themselves eternitv or eternal. Similarly, I may think of nonexistence; this is an actually existing thought; and the specific modes of consciousness which give it its specific nature must actually exist. They cannot therefore be identified with the object of the thought, which is nonexistence.* The object itself can never be identified with the present modifications of the individual thing over twice, we are at least regarding it from two essentially different points of view. In the one case we are regarding it as qualifying the object of which the individual consciousness is cognisant; in the other, we are regarding it as qualifying the stream of individual consciousness itself.
* It may nevertheless be true that in distinguishing between presentation and presented object we are in a sense counting the same thing over twice. Doubtless they form an inseparable unity; but for psychological purposes the distinction must be made. If we are counting the same consciousness by which it is cognised. This holds true even when we are thinking about modifications of our own consciousness. The conscious experience in which we think of another conscious experience is always at least partially distinct from the conscious experience of which we think. "Whenever we try to think of an immediate experience of our own, as such, we can do so only by investing it with attributes and relations which are not themselves immediately experienced at the moment. For example, I may think of a momentary appearance in consciousness as an occurrence in my mental history, an incident in my experience. But neither my experience, as a whole, nor the positions and relations of any part within that whole can be given as a transient phase of individual consciousness. The momentary consciousness is only one link in the series which constitutes my experience."*
Though cognitive consciousness and its object are not to be identified, they are none the less intimately correlated. Differences in the nature of the object as presented presuppose correspondingly differentiated modifications of consciousness. These special modes of subjective experience which define and determine the direction of thought or perception to this or that special object are presentations. "We may say, if we choose, that the object itself is presented, but we must not say that it is a presentation; and when we say that it is presented, it is better to say that it is presented to consciousness, than that it is presented in consciousness. In the perception of a tree the reference to an object is circumscribed and directed by a plexus of visual and other presentations. The object thought of is thereby made determinate. It is a material thing and not a mental occurrence, a tree and not a stone, an oak and not an elm."*
* Analytic Psychology, vol. i, p. 44.