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Can Unconscious Cerebration be proved?

  • William W. Ireland (a1)
Extract

Unconscious cerebration is regarded as so important a discovery that two well-known scientific men have contended for the priority of its publication, and while some people are anxious to give it fresh applications and illustrations, others proclaim it to the public as a new demonstration of science, accepted by physiologists, and stable enough to uphold new theories founded upon it. After having carefully considered the evidence upon which the theory of unconscious cerebration is supposed to rest, I am disposed to think that the facts, or assumed facts, may be explained in a simpler manner, and that the theory itself is superfluous and unproved. For an exposition of what is understood by unconscious cerebration, and on what grounds it is believed to exist, I have used a work called, “The Principles of Mental Physiology,” by Dr. Carpenter,* the well known physiologist, who claims to have worked out the theory in his own mind, without knowing that any other had preceded him, and whose recognised reputation is a sufficient guarantee that the argument, in his hands, is sure of being well stated. The term itself seems far from being a happy one. Dr. Carpenter tells us that it has been found readily intelligible; he objects to “unconscious reasoning” as a contradiction in terms, and yet his own description seems either to imply unconscious reasoning, or unfelt feeling; and the difficulty of finding an appropriate term for this class of operations, is really owing to the difficulty of conceiving what these operations really are. In fact, to state them clearly, is to render the theory incredible. To call thought cerebration, may show the desire of a writer to assign thought as the product of brain action; but it is neither warranted by true philosophy, nor by the popular and scientific uses of speech. When the liver secretes bile, one does not say that it hepatates; or when a man breathes, we do not say he pulmonates.

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* I have also used Dr. Carpenter's “Principles of Human Physiology.” Fourth Edition, London, 1853.

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2514-9946
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Can Unconscious Cerebration be proved?

  • William W. Ireland (a1)
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