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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/302

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

cerning our surroundings, which we utilize for our teleological needs, although in nature external to us there is no sound at all. Similarly all our other senses report to us circumstances and conditions, but always the report is unlike the external reality. Our sensations are symbols merely, not images. They are, however, bionomically sufficient because they are constant. They are useful not because they copy the external reality or represent it, but because, being constant results of external causes, they enable consciousness to prophesy or foresee the results of the reactions of the organism, and to maintain and improve the continual adjustment to the external reality.

The metaphysicians have for centuries debated whether there is any external objective reality. Is it too much to say that the biological study of consciousness settles the debate in favor of the view that the objective world is real?

Consciousness is not only screened from the objective world from which it receives all its sensations, but also equally from immediate knowledge of the body through which it acts. As I write this sentence I utilize vaso-motor nerves, regulating the cerebral blood currents, and other nerves which make my hand muscles contract and relax, but of all this physiological work my consciousness knows nothing though it commands the work to be done. The contents of consciousness are as unlike what is borne out from it as they are unlike what is borne in to it.

The peculiar untruthfulness to the objective which consciousness exhibits in what it gets and gives would be perplexing were it not that we have learned to recognize in consciousness a device to secure better adjustment to external reality. For this service the system of symbols is successful, and we have no ground for supposing that the service would be better if consciousness possessed direct images or copies instead of symbols of the objective world.

Our sensory and motor[1] organs are the servants of consciousness; its messengers or scouts; its agents or laborers; and the nervous system is its administrative office. A large part of our anatomical characteristics exists for the purpose of increasing the resources of consciousness, so that it may do its bionomic function with greater efficiency. Our eyes, ears, taste, etc., are valuable, because they supply consciousness with data; our nerves, muscles, bones, etc., are valuable, because they enable consciousness to effect the needed reactions.

Let us now turn our attention to the problem of consciousness in animals. The comparative method has an importance in biology which it has in no other science, for life exists in many forms which we commonly call species. Species, as I once heard it stated, differ from one


  1. And other organs in efferent relations to consciousness.