Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/471

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
461
THE SEARCH FOR THE SOUL

only no evidence of its existence, but it is a useless conception, its place being adequately supplied by the passing thought or feeling. "Souls," he says, "have worn out both themselves and their welcome."[1]

It would seem, therefore, to the initiate in contemporary psychology that the soul concept is obsolete or at the best obsolescent.

To the more careful student, however, this conclusion turns out to be rather hasty. Further study leads him to a series of interesting discoveries which shake his faith in his first impression. His first trouble may come when he opens Professor Eucken's recent book, "The Problem of Human Life," and reads on page 551, "Man's soul is a fact. Who can deny it? It is indeed the fundamental fact which must take precedence of all others." As he reads further in continental thought, he finds that the evanescence of the word "soul" from contemporary psychology is a phenomenon belonging largely to England and America alone. The Germans freely use the word Seele. His second discovery is that, while radical empiricists are carefully explaining that psychology is a natural science and as such has only to do with facts and the only facts are the passing thoughts, feelings and volitions, this attitude is only a measure of extreme caution on the part of a science which has suffered much in the past from its unhappy entanglements with metaphysics and theology and he finds that philosophers, biologists, sociologists and even these same empirical psychologists in their philosophical moods have very little hesitation in positing some theory of the soul to explain facts thrust upon them in their several fields of investigation.

His third discovery is that the psychology of the day has not so much dispensed with the soul concept as substituted merely another word for it, that word being "consciousness." He finds indeed that "consciousness" is very much in vogue. The word stares at him from every page of the text-books which studiously avoid the "soul" and the "mind." Current psychological journals abound in articles examining into the nature of consciousness, extolling its psychological, sociological and even cosmic significance. We are indeed confronted with the following interesting situation: While on the one hand, the soul has lapsed from psychological science and the psychologist is busily engaged in studying processes and behavior, on the other hand there never was a time in the history of science when from every quarter came so many assurances that consciousness is a biologic, psychologic, social and cosmic factor of the most profound importance.

Our inquiring student, therefore, will naturally ask how the concept of consciousness differs from the old concept of the soul, whether the new one is better than the old, and, if so, whether, after all, the loss of the soul is serious if something better has come to take its place.

If we turn to the standard text-books of psychology, we find that

  1. James, "A Pluralistic Universe," p. 210.