The result of our inquiry is less alarming than it looks at first sight. Knowledge is valuable for action, and error is chiefly hurtful in so far as it misdirects conduct. Now, in a general way, we do not need to act upon a recollection of single remote events; our conduct is sufficiently shaped by an accurate recollection of single recent events, together with those bundles of recollections of recurring events and sequences of events which constitute our knowledge of ourselves and our common knowledge of the world about us. Nature has done commendably well in endowing us with the means of cultivating our memories up to this point, and we ought not to blame her for not giving us powers which would only very rarely prove of any appreciable practical service to us.
MOMENTARY ILLUSIONS OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.
The account of the apparent ruptures in our personal identity given in this chapter may help us to understand the strange tendency to confuse self with other objects which occasionally appears in waking consciousness and in dreams. These errors may be said generally to be due to the breaking up of the composite image of self into its fragments, and the regarding of certain of these only. Thus, the momentary occurrence of partial illusion in intense sympathy with others, including that imaginative projection of self into inanimate objects, to which reference has already been made, may be said to depend on exclusive attention to the subjective aspect of self, to the total disregard of the objective aspect. In other words, when we thus momentarily “lose ourselves,” or merge our own existence in that of another object, we clearly let drop out of sight the visual representation of our own individual organism. On the other hand, when in dreams we double our personality, or represent to ourselves an external self which becomes the object of visual perception, it is probably because we isolate in imagination the objective aspect of our personality from the other and subjective aspect. It is not at all unlikely that the several confusions of self touched on in this chapter have had something to do with the genesis of the various historical theories of a transformed existence, as, for example, the celebrated doctrine of metempsychosis.
ILLUSIONS OF BELIEF.
Our knowledge is commonly said to consist of two large varieties—Presentative and Representative. Representative knowledge, again, falls into two chief divisions. The first of these is Memory, which, though not primary or original, like presentative knowledge, is still regarded as directly or intuitively certain. The second division consists of all other representative knowledge besides memory, including, among other varieties, our anticipations of the future, our knowledge of others’ past experience, and our general knowledge