Illusions eBook

James Sully
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 358 pages of information about Illusions.

Finally, illusion may enter into that still wider collection of beliefs which make up our ordinary views of life and the world as a whole.  Here there reflect themselves in the plainest manner the accidents of our individual experience and the peculiar errors to which our intellectual and emotional conformation disposes us.  The world is for us what we feel it to be; and we feel it to be the cause of our particular emotional experience.  Just as we have found that our environment helps to determine our idea of self and personal continuity, so, conversely, our inner experience, our remembered or imagined joys and sorrows throw a reflection on the outer world, giving it its degree of worth.  Hence the contradictory, and consequently to some extent at least illusory, views of the optimist and the pessimist, “intuitions” which, I have tried to show elsewhere, are connected with deeply rooted habits of feeling, and are antecedent to all reasoned philosophic systems.

If proof were yet wanted that these wide-embracing beliefs may to some extent be illusory, it would be found in the fact that they can be distinctly coloured by a temporary mood or mental tone.  As I have more than once had occasion to remark, a feeling when present tends to colour all the ideas of the time.  And when out of sorts, moody, and discontented, a man is prone to find a large objective cause of his dissatisfaction in a world out of joint and not moving to his mind.

It is evident that all the permanent beliefs touched on in this chapter must constitute powerful predispositions with respect to any particular act of perception, insight, introspection, or recollection.  In other words, these persistent beliefs, so far as individual or personal, are but another name for those fixed habits of mind which, in the case of each one of us, constitute our intellectual bias, and the source of the error known as personal equation.  And it may be added that, just as these erroneous beliefs existing in the shape of fixed prejudices constitute a bias to new error, so they act as powerful resisting forces in relation to new truth and the correction of error.

In comparing these illusions of belief with those of perception and memory, we cannot fail to notice their greater compass or range, in other words, the greater extent of the region of fact misrepresented.  Even if they are less forcible and irresistible than these errors, they clearly make up for this by the area which they cover.

Another thing to be observed with respect to these comprehensive beliefs is that where, as here, so many co-operant conditions are at work, the whole amount of common objective agreement is greatly reduced.  In other words, individual peculiarities of intellectual conformation, emotional temperament, and experience have a far wider scope for their influence in these beliefs than they have in the case of presentative cognitions.  At the same time, it is noteworthy that error much more rapidly propagates itself here

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Illusions from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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