Vygotsky 1930

Mind, Consciousness. the Unconscious

The three words given in the title of our essay – mind, consciousness, the unconscious – not only stand for three central and fundamental psychological issues. They are to a much greater extent methodological issues, i.e., issues about principles of the formation of psychological science itself. This was superbly expressed by Lipps in his well-known definition of the problem of the subconscious which says that the subconscious is not so much a psychological problem but the problem of psychology. Høffding had the same thing in mind when he equated the importance of the introduction of the concept of the unconscious in psychology with [that of the introduction of] the concept of potential physical energy in physics. It is only with the introduction of this concept that psychology becomes possible as an independent science which can combine and coordinate the facts of experience into a certain system which is subject to special regularities. Münsterberg discusses the same question and gives an analogy between the problem of the unconscious in psychology and the problem of the presence of consciousness in animals. He says that

The decision whether one mode of explanation or another is to be applied cannot itself be deduced from the observed facts, but must precede the study of the facts; in other words: the question whether animals have consciousness or not cannot be answered by observation but belongs to epistemological arguments. In the same way here, no fact of abnormal experience can by itself prove that a psychological and not a physiological explanation is needed; it is a philosophical problem which must be settled by principle before the explanation of the special facts begins [Münsterberg et al., 1910, p. 22].

We see that entire systems and psychological currents undergo a completely unique development depending on the way they explain the three words in the title of this essay. It suffices to bear in mind the example of psychoanalysis, which is built on the concept of the unconscious, and to compare it with traditional empirical psychology, which exclusively studies conscious phenomena.

It suffices, further, to bear in mind Pavlov’s objective psychology and the American behaviorists, who totally exclude mental phenomena from the range of their research, and to compare them with the adherents of so-called understanding, or descriptive psychology whose sole task it is to analyze, classify, and describe the phenomena of mental life without any appeal to questions of physiology and behavior. One only has to bear all this in mind to become convinced that the problem of mind, consciousness, and the unconscious is of decisive methodological importance for each psychological system. This problem is fundamental for our science, and its very fate depends on the way it is solved.

For some, psychology completely ceases to exist and is replaced by a genuine physiology of the brain or by reflexology. For others it is transformed into eidetic psychology or into a pure phenomenology of the spirit. Finally, still others seek ways to realize a synthetic psychology. We shall not approach this problem historically or critically. We shall not examine the most important types of understanding of all these problems in their entirety. From the very beginning we confine our task to the examination of the meaning of all three motives in the system of objective scientific psychology.

Until very recently the possibility of psychology as an independent science was made dependent on the recognition of the mind as an independent sphere of being. To this day it is widely thought that the content and subject of psychological science is formed by mental phenomena or processes and that, consequently, psychology as an independent science is only possible on the basis of the idealistic philosophical assumption of the independence and primordial nature of the spirit on an equal footing with matter.

That is the way the majority of the idealistic systems proceed which strive to emancipate psychology from its natural tendency to grow together with natural science, from the “refined materialism” (in the words of Dilthey) which penetrates it from physiology. Recently Spranger, one of the most important contemporary representatives of understanding psychology, or the psychology as a science of the spirit, proposed a requirement which practically implies that psychology must be developed with exclusively psychological methods. For him it is entirely evident that the elaboration of psychology by means of a psychological method necessarily implies the rejection of all sorts of physiological explanations in psychology and the transition to the explanation of mental phenomena by mental ones.

The same idea is at times expressed by physiologists. Thus, in the investigation of mental salivation, Pavlov at first reached the conclusion that a mental act, an ardent desire for food, indisputably formed the stimulation for the salivary nerves. As is well known, henceforth he rejected this view and came to the conclusion that in the study of animal behavior and of mental salivation in particular we must not refer to all sorts of mental acts. Such expressions as “an ardent desire for food,” “the dog remembered,” and “the dog guessed” were strictly banned from his laboratory and a special fine was introduced for those collaborators who during their work resorted to such psychological expressions to explain a certain act of the animal.

According to Pavlov, by referring to mental acts we automatically enter the path of noncausal indeterministic thinking and leave the strict path of natural science. That is why in his opinion the true road toward the solution of the problem of behavior and toward the mastery of behavior lies in a genuine physiology of the brain which can investigate the nervous associations and the associations of reflexes corresponding to them and the other units of behavior exactly as if they were not al all accompanied by any mental phenomena.

Pavlov demonstrated, and in this resides his enormous merit, that one can interpret behavior physiologically without making any attempt to penetrate the inner world of the animal and that this behavior can be explained with scientific exactness, subjected to certain regularities and even be predicted, without any attempt to draw oneself even a vague and remote picture of the animal’s experiences. In other words, Pavlov demonstrated that an objective physiological study of behavior which ignores mental life is in any case possible for the animal, but in principle for people as well.

At the same time Pavlov, subject to the same logic as Spranger, renders to god the things that are god’s and to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s by leaving for physiology the objective and for psychology the subjective approach of behavior. And for Pavlov the psychological and the mental fully coincide. As the entire history of our science demonstrated, this problem is totally insoluble on the philosophical basis on which psychology stood until now. A situation evolved which we may summarize as the result of the entire long historical development of our science.

On the one hand, we see that the possibility of studying the mind is totally denied and ignored, because its study makes us enter the path of noncausal thinking. Indeed, mental life is characterized by breaks, by the absence of a continuous and uninterrupted connection between its elements, by the disappearance and reappearance of these elements. Therefore it is impossible to establish causal relationships between the various elements and as a result it is necessary to refrain from psychology as a natural scientific discipline. Münsterberg says that

In short, even the full conscious mental facts do not really hang together when viewed from a psychological point of view and are thus unfit to explain any results through their causal interplay .... Therefore there is no direct causal connection of the psychologized inner life; therefore there is only an indirect causal explanation of psychical phenomena possible insofar as they can be conceived as accompaniments of physiological processes [Münsterberg et al., 1910, pp. 28/27].

One path thus leads to the total denial of the mind and, consequently, of psychology. There remain two other paths, no less interesting and no less evidently testifying to the blind alley into which our science was led by its historical development.

The first of them is that descriptive psychology that we have already mentioned. It takes the mind for a totally isolated realm of reality in which no material laws are active and which is a pure kingdom of the spirit. In this purely spiritual area no causal relations whatsoever are possible. Here we need to aim at understanding, the clarification of meanings and the establishment of values. Here we may describe, differentiate, classify, and establish structures. Under the name of descriptive psychology, this psychology opposes explanatory psychology and in so doing chases the task of explanation from the area of science.

As a science of the spirit, descriptive psychology is opposed by natural scientific psychology. Thus, here too, psychology is divided into two parts that are mutually disconnected. Totally different methods of knowledge dominate descriptive psychology. Here in establishing empirical laws there can be no question of induction and other methods. Here dominates the analytical, or phenomenological method, the method of the contemplation of essences [Wesensschauung], or intuition which allows us to analyze the direct data of consciousness.

Husserl says that “in the area of consciousness, the difference between phenomenon and being is obliterated.” Here everything apparent is real. Therefore a psychology of this kind reminds us much more of geometry than of a natural science such as physics. It must turn into the mathematics of the spirit of which Dilthey dreamed. Naturally, here the mental is fully equated with the conscious, as intuition presupposes the immediate consciousness of one’s experiences. But there is still another method in psychology which, as Spranger notices, also follows the principle proposed by him – the psychological psychologically – but in the opposite direction. For this current the mental and the conscious are not synonyms. The central concept of this psychology is the unconscious, which permits us to fill the missing gaps of mental life, to establish the absent causal links, to theoretically continue the description of mental phenomena in the same terms, considering that the cause should equal the effect or, in any case, that they must he in one and the same series.

In this way the possibility of psychology as a special science is preserved. But this attempt is highly ambiguous as it involves two essentially heterogeneous tendencies. Spranger is fully justified in saying that

Freud, the main representative of this theory, tacitly proceeds from the same principle as does understanding psychology: in the area of psychology we must proceed purely psychologically, to the extent that this is possible. Premature or accidental excursions into the area of anatomy and physiology may, to be sure, reveal psychophysical connections as facts, but do not contribute to our understanding.

Freud’s attempt resides in the tendency to extend the meaningful connections and dependences of mental phenomena to the area of the unconscious. He assumes that behind the conscious phenomena are unconscious ones that determine them and that may be reconstructed by analyzing their traces and interpreting their manifestations. But the same Spranger reproaches Freud severely and points to a curious theoretical error in his theory. He says that whereas Freud has overcome physiological materialism, a psychological materialism continues to exist: the tacit metaphysical presupposition that the presence of sexual drives is self-evident, whereas all others must be understood on their basis.

And indeed the attempt to create a psychology by means of the concept of the unconscious is an ambiguous attempt. On the one hand, it is related with idealist psychology insofar as it fulfills the ordinance to explain mental phenomena by mental ones. On the other hand, inasmuch as he introduces the idea of the strictest determinism of all mental manifestations and reduces their basis to an organic, biological drive, namely the reproductive instinct, Freud remains on materialistic grounds.

Such are the three paths: the refusal to study the mind (reflexology), the “study” of the mind through the mental (descriptive psychology), and the knowledge of mind through the unconscious (Freud). As you see, we get three entirely different systems of psychology dependent on the way each of them solves the fundamental question about the conception of mind. We have already said that the historical development of our science led this problem into a hopeless blind alley from which there is no way out other than a rejection of the older psychology’s philosophical foundation.

Only a dialectical approach to this problem reveals that an error was made in the very statement of absolutely all problems connected with mind, consciousness, and the unconscious. These problems were always stated falsely and therefore they were insoluble. What is completely insurmountable for metaphysical thinking, namely the deep difference between mental processes and physiological ones and the nonreducibility of the one to the other, is no stumbling block for dialectical thought which is used to consider processes of development as processes which, on the one hand, are uninterrupted and, on the other hand, are accompanied by leaps or the development of new qualities.

Dialectical psychology proceeds first of all from the unity of mental and physiological processes. Because for dialectical psychology mind is not, in the words of Spinoza, something that is situated outside nature or as a kingdom within a kingdom, it is a part of nature itself, directly linked to the functions of the higher organized matter of our brain. As all other nature, it was not created but evolved in a process of development. Its rudimentary forms are present everywhere where the living cell has the capacity to change under the influence of external influences and to react to them.

Somewhere, in some specific stage of animal development, a qualitative change in the development of brain processes took place which, on the one hand, was prepared by the whole preceding course of development but, on the other hand, was a leap in the process of development as it marked the development of a new quality that could not be mechanically reduced to more simple phenomena. When we accept this natural history of mind a second idea also becomes intelligible. This idea is that we must not view mind as [consisting of] special processes which supplementary exist on top of and alongside the brain processes, somewhere above or between them, but as the subjective expression of the same processes, as a special side, a special qualitative characteristic of the higher functions of the brain.

Through abstraction the mental process is artificially separated or torn from the integral psychophysiological process within which it only acquires its meaning and sense. The insolubility of the mental problem for the older psychology resided to a large extent in the fact that because of its idealistic approach the mental was torn from the integral process of which it forms a part. It was ascribed the role of an independent process existing alongside and apart from the physiological processes.

The recognition of the unity of this psychophysiological process, on the contrary, leads us of necessity to a completely new methodological requirement. We must not study separate mental and physiological processes outside their unity, because then they become completely unintelligible. We must study the integral process which is characterized by both a subjective and an objective side at the same time.

However, the acceptance of the unity of the mental and the physical which is expressed, first, in the assumption that mind appeared at a certain stage of development of organic matter and, second, that mental processes form an inseparable part of more complex wholes outside of which they do not exist and thus cannot be studied either, should not lead us to identify the mental and the physical.

Two basic forms of such an identification exist. One of them is characteristic of that current of idealist philosophy which was reflected in the works of Mach and the other is characteristic of mechanistic materialism and the French materialists of the 18th century. In the latter view the mental process is identified with the physiological nervous process and reduced to the latter. As a result, the problem of the mind is totally obliterated, the difference between higher mental behavior and pre-mental forms of adaptation is erased. The indisputable testimony of immediate experience is obliterated and we inevitably end up with an irreconcilable contradiction with absolutely all data of mental experience.

In the other identification, characteristic of Machism, a mental experience, for example a sensation, is identified with the objective object that corresponds with it. As is well known, in Mach’s philosophy this identification leads to the acceptance of the existence of elements in which the objective cannot be distinguished from the subjective.

Dialectical psychology dismisses both the one and the other identification. It does not mix up the mental and physiological processes. It accepts the nonreducible qualitatively unique nature of the mind. But it does claim that psychological processes are one. We thus arrive at the recognition of unique psycho-physiological unitary processes. These represent the higher forms of human behavior, which we suggest calling psychological processes, in contradistinction to mental processes and in analogy with what are called physiological processes.

The question may easily arise: why not refer to the processes that are psycho-physiological by nature, as has already been said, by this double name? It seems to us that the main reason is that by calling these processes psychological we proceed from a purely methodological definition. We refer to processes that are studied by psychology and in this way we emphasize the possibility and necessity of a unitary and integral subject of psychology as a science. Next to it and not coinciding with it can exist the psychophysiological study- psychological physiology or physiological psychology – whose special task it is to establish the links and dependences which exist between the one and the other kind of phenomena.

However, in Russian psychology a fundamental mistake is frequently made. This dialectical formula of the unity but not identity of mental and physiological processes is often understood erroneously. It leads researchers to contrast the mental with the physiological as a result of which the idea arises that dialectical psychology should consist of the purely physiological study of conditional reflexes plus introspective analysis, which are mechanically combined with each other. One cannot imagine anything more anti-dialectical.

Dialectical psychology’s whole uniqueness precisely resides in the attempt to define the subject matter of its study in a completely novel way. This subject matter is the integral process of behavior which is characterized by the fact that it has its mental and its physiological side. [Dialectical] psychology studies it as a unitary and integral process and only in this way tries to find a way out of the blind alley that was created. We remind you here of the warning that Lenin gave in his book “Materialism and empiriocriticism” against the incorrect understanding of this formula. He said that contrasting the mental with the physical is absolutely necessary within the strict confines of the statement of our epistemological goals, but that beyond these confines such a contrast would be a gross mistake.

It is indeed a methodological difficulty of psychology that its viewpoint is a genuinely scientific, ontological one and that here this contrast would be a mistake. Whereas in epistemological analysis we must strictly oppose sensation and object, we must not oppose the mental and physiological processes in psychological analysis.

Let us now from this viewpoint examine the way out of the blind alley that takes shape if we accept these claims. As is well known, to this day two basic problems have been left unsolved by the older psychology: the problem of the biological meaning of the mind and the clarification of the conditions under which brain activity begins to be accompanied by psychological phenomena. Such antipodes as the objectivist Bekhterev and the subjectivist Bühler equally acknowledge that we know nothing of the biological function of mind, but that we cannot assume that nature creates superfluous adaptations and that since mind evolved in the process of evolution it must fulfill some, still for us totally unintelligible, function.

We think that these problems were insoluble because they were stated falsely. It is absurd to first isolate a certain quality from the integral process and then raise the question of the function of this quality as if it existed in itself, fully independently of that integral process of which it forms a quality. It is absurd, for example, to separate the heat from the sun, to ascribe it independent meaning and to ask what meaning this heat may have and what action it can perform.

But until now psychology proceeded in exactly this way. It revealed the mental side of phenomena and then attempted to demonstrate that the mental side of phenomena is entirely unnecessary, that in itself it cannot cause any changes in the activity of the brain. Already in the very statement of this question resides the false presupposition that mental phenomena may act upon brain phenomena. It is absurd to ask whether a given quality can act upon the object of which it forms a quality.

The very presupposition that there can be an interrelation between mental and brain processes presupposes in advance a conception of the mind as a special mechanistic force which according to some can act upon brain processes and according to others may only proceed in parallel with them. Both the theory of parallelism and interaction theory make this false presupposition. Only a monistic view of mind allows us to state the question of the biological meaning of the mind in a completely different way.

We repeat once more: we cannot isolate mind from the processes of which it forms an inalienable part and then ask what is its use, what role does it fulfill in the general process of life. In reality the mental process exists within a complex whole, within the unitary process of behavior, and when we wish to understand the biological function of the mind we must ask about this process as a whole: what function do these forms of behavior fulfill in adaptation? In other words, we must not ask about the biological meaning of mental processes but about the biological meaning of psychological processes, and then the insoluble problem of the mind which on the one hand cannot be an epiphenomenon, a superfluous appendage, and on the other hand cannot move any brain atom for one bit – appears soluble.

As Koffka says, the mental processes point forward and beyond themselves to the complex psychophysiological wholes of which they form a part. This monistic integral viewpoint is to consider the integral phenomenon as a whole and its parts as the organic parts of this whole. Thus, the detection of the significant connection between the parts and the whole, the ability to view the mental process as an organic connection of a more complex integral process – this is dialectical psychology’s basic task.

In this sense, the fundamental debate about the question as to whether mental processes may act upon bodily ones had already been decided by Plekhanov. In all cases where there is talk of the influence of mental processes, such as fright, strong grief, painful experiences, etc. on bodily processes, the facts are mostly related correctly, but their interpretation is incorrect. Of course, in all these cases, it is not the experience itself, the mental act itself (the ardent desire for food as Pavlov said) which acts upon the nerves, but the physiological process that corresponds to this experience and that forms a single whole with it, that leads to the result of which we speak.

In the same sense Severcov talks about mind as the highest form of animal adaptation, essentially having in mind not the mental but the psychological processes in the sense clarified above.

Thus, what is false in the old viewpoint is the idea of a mechanistic action of the mind upon the brain. The older psychologists conceive of it as a second force that exists alongside the brain processes. This brings us to the central point of our whole problem.

As we have already pointed out above, Husserl takes as his point of departure the thesis that in mind the difference between phenomenon and being is obliterated. As soon as we accept this we arrive with logical inevitability at phenomenology, for then it turns out that in the mind there is no difference between what seems and what is. That which seems – the phenomenon – is the real essence. What remains is to establish this essence, to examine it, to subdivide and systematize it, but science in the empirical sense of the word has nothing to do here.

Regarding an analogous problem, Marx said: “... if the form of the manifestation and the essence of things directly coincided all science would be superfluous.” Indeed, if things were directly what they seem no scientific investigation whatsoever would be necessary. We would have to register and count these things but not investigate them. A similar situation is created in psychology when we reject the difference between phenomenon and being. Where being and phenomenon directly coincide science has no place, only phenomenology.

In the old conception of mind it was totally impossible to find a way out of this cul-de-sac. It was absurd to state the question as to whether in mind we also ought to differentiate between phenomenon and being. But when we change the basic viewpoint, when mental processes are replaced by psychological processes, the application of Feuerbach’s viewpoint in psychology becomes possible. He said that in thinking itself the difference between phenomenon and being is not obliterated. In thinking as well we must distinguish thinking and the thinking of thinking.

When we take into consideration that the subject of psychology is the integral psychophysiological process of behavior it becomes fully intelligible that it cannot find full and adequate expression in just the mental part and be interpreted by a special self-perception on top of that. Self-observation gives us practically always the data of self-consciousness which can and inevitably will distort the data of consciousness. The latter, in turn, never fully and directly reveal the properties and tendencies of the whole integral process, of which they form a part. The relations between the data of self-consciousness and consciousness, between the data of consciousness and the process, are identical with the relations between phenomenon and being.

The new psychology firmly claims that neither in the world or mind do phenomenon and being coincide. It may seem to us that we do something for a certain reason, but in actual fact the reason will be another one. Relying on the sense of obvious truth that immediate experience gives us, we may assume that we are provided with free will but here we may severely deceive ourselves. We now come to another central problem of psychology.

The older psychology identified mind and consciousness. Everything mental was perforce also conscious. The psychologists Brentano, Bain, and others, for example, claimed that the very question as to the existence of unconscious mental phenomena was self-contradictory by definition. The first and direct property of the mental is that it is consciously realized by us, that it is experienced, that it is given to us in immediate inner experience and therefore the very expression “the unconscious mind” seemed to the older authors to be as absurd as the expression “a round square” or “dry water.”

Other authors, on the contrary, have for a long time paid attention to three basic points which forced them to introduce the concept of the unconscious in psychology.

The first point was that the awareness of phenomena itself knows several degrees: we experience one thing more consciously and clearly than another. There are things that find themselves almost on the very border of consciousness and that now enter, now leave the field of consciousness. There are dimly felt things, there are experiences that are more or less narrowly connected with the real system of experiences, the dream, for example. That is why they claimed that a phenomenon does not become less mental from the fact that it becomes less conscious. Hence they drew the conclusion that we may allow for unconscious mental phenomena as well.

The second point is that within mental life itself there is a certain competition between different elements, a struggle for entry into the field of consciousness, the suppression of some elements by others, the tendency to resume actions, sometimes to reproduce them in an obsessional way, etc. Herbart, who reduced all mental life to a complex mechanism of ideas, also distinguished inhibited or unconscious ideas which appeared as a result of their suppression from the field of clear consciousness and continued to exist below the threshold of consciousness as a tendency toward representation. Here we already have, on the one hand, an embryonic form of Freud’s theory, according to which the unconscious develops from suppression, and, on the other hand, the theory of Høffding for whom the unconscious corresponds with potential energy in physics.

The third point is the following. Mental life, as has already been said, consists of a series of phenomena that are too fragmentary and thus naturally require the assumption that they continue to exist when we are no longer conscious of them. I saw something, then after some time I remember it and the question is: what happened to the idea of the object before I remembered it? That the brain preserves some dynamic trace of this impression psychologists have never doubted. But does this trace correspond to a potential phenomenon? Many thought it did.

In this connection arises the very complex and grand problem that, until now, the conditions under which the brain processes begin being accompanied by consciousness are unknown to us. As with the biological meaning of the mind, the difficulty of the problem resides in its being falsely stated. We should not ask under which conditions does the nervous process start being accompanied by the mental process, because the nervous processes are not at all accompanied by the mental ones. The mental ones form part of a more complex integral process in which the nervous process participates as its organic part.

Bekhterev, for example, assumed that only when the nervous current that spreads out over the brain stumbles upon an obstacle, encounters a difficulty, will consciousness become operative. In actual fact, we have to state the question otherwise, namely: under what conditions do the complex processes arise that are characterized by the presence of a mental side? We must, then, look for specific conditions for the development of psychological integral processes in the nervous system and behavior as a whole, but not for the development of mental processes within the given nervous processes.

Pavlov comes close to this idea when he compares consciousness to a bright spot which moves over the surface of the cerebral hemisphere according to the optimal nervous excitation.

In the older psychology the problem of the unconscious was stated as follows: the basic question was to accept the unconscious as either mental or physiological. Such authors as Münsterberg, Ribot and others, who saw no possibility of explaining mental phenomena other than physiologically, openly pleaded to view the unconscious as physiological.

Thus, Münsterberg claims that there is not a single feature ascribed to subconscious phenomena which forces us to count them as mental. In his opinion, even when subconscious processes show an apparent goal-orientedness, we have no grounds to ascribe a mental nature to these processes.

He says

not only that the physiological cerebration is well able to produce the “intellectual” result, but the physiological side alone is fit for it, the psychological is utterly unlit [ibid., p. 26].

That is why Münsterberg comes to the general conclusion that the unconscious is a physiological process, that this explanation

gives small foothold for that mystical expansion of the theory which seemed so easily reached from the subconscious mental life. But it is not the least merit of the scientific physiological explanation that it obstructs the path of such pseudophilosophy [ibid., p. 31].

Münsterberg [ibid., p. 32] assumes, however, that we may use the terminology of psychology in the investigation of the unconscious provided “that the psychological word is taken as a short label for the very complex neural physiological processes.” Münsterberg says, in particular, that if he had to write the history of a woman with a dissociated consciousness [Miss Beauchamp] he

should conceive all subconscious processes in physiological conceptions, but [he] should describe them, for clearness and convenience sake ... in the terms of psychological language [ibid., p. .12].

Münsterberg is undoubtedly right about one thing. Such a physiological explanation of the subconscious shuts the doors to mystical theories, while the recognition that the unconscious is mental, on the contrary, often leads, as in the case of Hartmann, to a mystical theory which allows for the existence of a second ego – alongside the conscious personality – which is built according to the same model and which, in essence, forms the resurrection of the old idea of the soul in a new and more confused version.

To make our overview complete and the evaluation of the new solution of the problem sufficiently clear, we have to bear in mind that in the older psychology there is also a third path to explain the problem of the unconscious, namely the path chosen by Freud. We have already pointed out the ambiguity of this path. Freud does not solve the basic and essentially unsolvable question as to whether the unconscious is mental or not. He says that while studying the behavior and experiences of nervous patients he stumbled upon certain gaps, omitted links, forgetfulness which he reconstructed through analysis.

Freud mentions a patient who carried out obsessional actions whose sense eluded her. The analysis revealed the pre-conditions from which these unconscious actions sprang. In the words of Freud, she behaved in precisely the same way as the hypnotized subject to whom Bernheim had suggested opening an umbrella in the hospital ward five minutes after he woke up, and who carried out this suggestion in the waking condition without being able to explain the motive of his act. In such a state of affairs Freud speaks of the existence of unconscious mental processes. Freud is only prepared to renounce his hypothesis about their existence when someone describes these facts in a more concrete scientific way, and until that time he holds fast to this hypothesis and in surprise shrugs his shoulders, dismissing what is said as unintelligible, when someone objects to him that here the unconscious is nothing real in a scientific sense.

It is unclear how something unreal at the same time produces effects of such tangible reality as an obsessional action. We have to look into that, as Freud’s theory belongs to the most complex of all conceptions of the unconscious. As we see, on the one hand, for Freud the unconscious is something real which actually causes the obsessional action and is not just a label or a way of speaking. With this he, as it were, directly objects to Münsterberg’s claim. On the other hand, however, Freud does not clarify the nature of this unconscious.

It seems to us that here Freud creates a certain concept which is difficult to imagine visually but which often exists in theories of physics. An unconscious idea, he says, is “a phenomenal impossibility just as a weightless, frictionless ether is a physical phenomenal impossibility. It is no more and no less unthinkable than the mathematical conception √-l.” In the opinion of the author, it is permissible to use such concepts. We just must clearly understand that we speak of abstract concepts and not of facts.

But this is exactly the weak side of psychoanalysis pointed out by Spranger. On the one hand, the unconscious for Freud is a way to describe certain facts, i.e., a system of conventional concepts; on the other hand, he insists that the unconscious is a fact which exerts such a manifest influence as an obsessional action does. In another book, Freud himself says that he would be happy to replace all these psychological terms by physiological ones, but that contemporary physiology does not provide him with such concepts.

It seems to us that Dale, without mentioning Freud, consistently expresses the same viewpoint when he says that mental connections and acts or phenomena can be explained from mental connections and causes, even if this would mean that order to do so we sometimes must entertain more or less broad hypotheses. For this reason physiological interpretations and analogies can have no more than auxiliary or provisional heuristic meaning for the actual explanatory tasks and hypotheses of psychology. Psychological constructions and hypotheses are no more than the hypothetical continuation of the description of homogeneous phenomena one and the same independent system of reality. Thus, the goals of psychology an independent science and theoretical-epistemological demands require us to fight physiology’s usurpationist attempts and not to get confused by real or apparent gaps and interruptions in the picture of our conscious mental life. These are filled in by the branches or modifications of the mental which are not the object of full, immediate and continuous consciousness, i.e., by the elements of what is called subconscious, dimly conscious, or unconscious.

In dialectical psychology the problem of the unconscious is stated very differently. When the mental was viewed as torn and isolated from the physiological processes, the natural question as to absolutely all phenomena was: is it mental or physiological? In the first case, the problem of the unconscious was solved Pavlov’s manner, in the second in the manner of understanding psychology. Hartmann and Münsterberg stand to the problem of the unconscious as Husserl and Pavlov do to the problem of psychology in general.

For us it is important to pose the question as follows: is the unconscious psychological, can it be viewed with similar phenomena as a certain element in processes of behavior alongside the integral psychological processes that we mentioned above? We have already answered this question beforehand in our examination of the mind. We agreed to view the mind as a compound complex process which is not at all covered by its conscious part, and therefore it seems to us that in psychology it is entirely legitimate to speak about the psychologically conscious or the psychologically unconscious: the unconscious is the potentially conscious.

We would just like to point out how this viewpoint differs from Freud’s viewpoint. As we have already said, for him the concept of the unconscious is, on one hand, a way to describe the facts and, on the other hand, something real that leads to direct actions. But this is the whole problem. We can state the ultimate question as follows: let us assume that the unconscious is mental and has all properties of the mental except for the fact that it is not a conscious experience. But is it really true that a conscious mental phenomenon can directly cause action? For, as we have said above, in an cases where mental phenomena were held responsible for an action, we were dealing with actions that were carried by the whole psychophysiological integral process and not only by its mental side. Thus, the very character of the unconscious, that it exerts influence on conscious processes and behavior, requires that it be recognized as a psychophysiological phenomenon.

Another thing is that for the description of facts we have to use concepts which correspond to the nature of these facts, and the advantage of the dialectical viewpoint on this question is that it claims that the unconscious is neither mental physiological, but psychophysiological, or to be more exact, psychological. The present definition corresponds to the real nature and real properties of the subject itself, as all phenomena of behavior are examined by us in the plane of the integral processes.

Further, we would like to point out that more than once attempts were made to get out of the blind alley in which the older psychology wound up by its inability to solve the fundamental problems connected with mind and consciousness. Stern, for example, attempts to overcome this blind alley by introducing the concept of psychophysical neutral functions and processes, i.e., processes that are neither physical nor mental but lie beyond this distinction.

But, of course, only mental and physical processes really exist and only a conventional construction can be neutral. It is perfectly clear that such a conventional construction will always lead us away from the real subject matter, because this really exists. Only dialectical psychology, by claiming that the subject matter of psychology is not what is psychophysically neutral but the psycho-physiological unitary integral phenomenon that we provisionally call the psychological phenomenon, is capable of indicating the way out.

All attempts similar to Stern’s attempt are significant in the sense that they want to demolish the opinion created by the older psychology that we can draw a sign of equality between the mental and the psychological. They show that the subject matter of psychology is not mental phenomena but something more complex and integral, of which the mental only forms an organic part and which we might call psychological. It is only in the disclosure of the content of this concept that dialectical psychology diverges sharply from all other attempts.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that all positive achievements of both subjective and objective psychology find their genuine realization in this new statement of the problem provided by dialectical psychology.

Let me first point out one aspect: already subjective psychology has detected quite a number of properties of mental phenomena which can only receive their real explanation, their real evaluation, with this new statement of the problem. Thus, the older psychology listed as special distinguishing characteristics of mental phenomena their immediateness, the unique way of knowing them (self-observation), or the more or less intimate link with the person, the “ego,” etc. Brentano proposed the intentional relation to the object as the main feature of mental phenomena. They find themselves in a unique relation with the object which is only characteristic of mental phenomena, i.e., they relate to or represent this object in a unique way.

Leaving aside the feature of immediateness as a purely negative feature, we see that in the new statement of the problem all such properties as the unique representation of the object in the mental phenomenon, the special link of mental phenomena with the person, and the fact that they can be observed or experienced only by the subject are functional characteristics of no small importance of these special psychological processes viewed from their mental side. All these aspects, which for the older psychology were simply dogmas, are vivified and become the subject of investigation in the new psychology.

Let us take another element, from the opposite end of psychology, but demonstrating the same thing with no less clarity. Objective psychology in the person of Watson attempted to approach the problem of the unconscious. This author distinguishes verbalized and unverbalized behavior, pointing out that part of the processes of behavior are accompanied by words from the very beginning. They can be caused or replaced by verbal processes. They are accountable, as Bekhterev said. The other part is nonverbal, not connected with words and therefore not accountable. In his time Freud as well proposed the feature of the connection with words and pointed out that the unconscious is formed by precisely those ideas that are disconnected from words.

Several of Freud’s critics who are inclined to equate the unconscious with the unsocial and the unsocial with the nonverbal also pointed to the intimate link between verbalization and the conscious awareness of processes. Watson, too, sees in verbalization the main distinguishing characteristic of the conscious, he openly states that everything which Freud called unconscious is actually nonverbal. From this statement Watson draws two conclusions that are highly interesting. According to the first one, we cannot remember the earliest childhood events, because they took place when our behavior was not yet verbalized and therefore the earliest part of our life will remain unconscious forever. The second conclusion points to a weak point of psychoanalysis, which is that the physician attempts to influence the unconscious, i.e., unverbalized processes, by means of a conversation, i.e., by means of verbal reactions.

We do not wish to say now that these statements by Watson are absolutely correct or that they should become the point of departure for the analysis of the unconscious. We merely wish to say that the correct core which this link between the unconscious and the unverbalized contains (it has been noticed by other authors as well) can receive its genuine realization and development only on the basis dialectical psychology.