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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/836

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

I look back upon it, a curious sense of irresponsibility, as if it were not of my doing after all. Such deeds are always those which I seldom do; my everyday virtues and my everyday vices I must admit are mine.

But there is just one thing which I always acknowledge as mine. It is the sense of effort. It matters not whether I employ it in contracting my muscles to the utmost, in fixing attention upon some uninteresting object, in following some distant end in spite of the solicitations of the present, or in overcoming for some moral reason the claims of the greater pleasureā€”this sense of effort I always acknowledge and always must acknowledge as mine.

The word self, then, seems to stand for the most frequently recurrent elements of my inner life, with the consciousness of effort as its very essence and core. But it is evident that we can not, whenever we speak of it, think all these things. To evade that necessity most men probably make use of some vague thought symbol which the word self suggests. Symbols of this sort are known as concepts. They play a great part in our mental life; without them the marvelous achievements of the human mind would never have been. Yet they are so shadowy and evanescent that it is almost impossible to determine their precise constitution, and the more complex and diverse the phenomena they stand for, the greater the difficulty of fixing and describing them. The task is almost as fruitless from the practical point of view as it is vain from the speculative, yet an immense amount of labor and ingenuity has been expended upon it. Most of the work commonly termed metaphysical is based upon the conviction that these shadows are or represent realities apart from the concrete things for which they stand; sundry attributes are ascribed to them, and out of these imaginary attributes the metaphysician tries to construct a science. Most of the difficulties that attach to the notion of a self or ego spring out of this confusion between the symbol and the things symbolized, and I shall therefore say no more of the symbol, but confine myself to the concrete states of consciousness which constitute my thinking self and which alone possess interest for me.

If this analysis of the self be true, it will follow that the consciousness of self can be modified by the addition to or subtraction from my inner life of large masses of stable elements, and this appears to be borne out by the facts.

Extensive changes in the mass of bodily sensation are frequently accompanied by modifications in the sense of self. I can not go into this in detail, but those who care to follow the subject out will find it treated at length by Prof. Ribot in his little monograph. The Diseases of Personality.