“In such a discord of opinions (comprehensible enough at a time of uncertain and groping development), the individual inquirer can only tell for what views and insights he himself has to thank the newer methods. And if I were asked in what for me the worth of experimental observation in psychology has consisted, and still consists, I should say that it has given me an entirely new idea of the nature and connection of our inner processes. I learned in the achievements of the sense of sight to apprehend the fact of creative mental synthesis.... From my inquiry into time-relations, etc.,... I attained an insight into the close union of all those psychic functions usually separated by artificial abstractions and names, such as ideation, feeling, will; and I saw the indivisibility and inner homogeneity, in all its phases, of the mental life. The chronometric study of association-processes finally showed me that the notion of distinct mental ‘images’ [reproducirten Vorstellungen] was one of those numerous self-deceptions which are no sooner stamped in a verbal term than they forthwith thrust non-existent fictions into the place of the reality. I learned to understand an ‘idea’ as a process no less melting and fleeting than an act of feeling or of will, and I comprehended the older doctrine of association of ‘ideas’ to be no longer tenable.... Besides all this, experimental observation yielded much other information about the span of consciousness, the rapidity of certain processes, the exact numerical value of certain psychophysical data, and the like. But I hold all these more special results to be relatively insignificant by-products, and by no means the important thing.”—Philosophische Studien, x. 121-124. The whole passage should be read. As I interpret it, it amounts to a complete espousal of the vaguer conception of the stream of thought, and a complete renunciation of the whole business, still so industriously carried on in text-books, of chopping up ‘the mind’ into distinct units of composition or function, numbering these off, and labelling them by technical names.
I wish now to continue the description of the peculiarities of the stream of consciousness by asking whether we can in any intelligible way assign its functions.
It has two functions that are obvious: it leads to knowledge, and it leads to action.
Can we say which of these functions is the more essential?