Every experience leaves the brain altered. The nerve fibres and the cells have gone into new stages of disposition for certain excitements. This disposition may be slowly lost. In that case the earlier experience cannot be reproduced; we have forgotten it. But as long as the disposition lasts—it is quite indifferent whether we conceive it more in terms of chemical changes or physical variations, as processes in the nerve cells or between the nerve cells—the physiological change alone is responsible for the awakening of the memory idea under favouring associative conditions. Of course, someone might reply: can we not fancy that there remains on the psychical side also a disposition? Each idea which we have experienced may have left a psychical trace which alone may make it possible that the idea may come back to us again. But what is really meant and what is gained by such a hypothesis?
Firstly, do not let us forget that such a proposition could only have one possible end in view, namely, the explanation of the reappearance of memories. But when we discussed the basis of physiological psychology, we convinced ourselves that mental facts as such are not causally connected anyhow. Our real inner life has its internal connections, connections of will and purpose, but as soon as we have taken that great psychological step and look on inner life as merely psychological objects, then the material is connected only through the underlying physiological processes and we can never explain causally the appearance of an idea through the preceding existence of another idea. We may expect one after the other, but we have no insight into the mechanism which makes the second follow after the first. Such insight into necessary connection we find only on the physical side, and we saw that just here lies the starting point for the modern view of physiological psychology. If that holds true for the connections between idea and idea, of course it holds true in the same way for the connection between mental disposition and the corresponding memory. We can understand causally that a chemical disposition in the nerve fibres brings about a chemical excitement in those neurons, but how a mental disposition is to create mental experience we could not understand; and to explain it casually, we should need again a reference to the underlying physiological processes. The hypothesis of mental dispositions would thus be an entirely superfluous addition by which we transcend the real experience without gaining anything for the explanation.
Secondly, if we really needed a mental disposition for each memory picture, in addition to the physiological disposition of the brain cells, can we overlook that exactly the same thing would then be necessary for every perception also? The outer impression produces, perhaps through eye or ear or skin, an excitement of the brain cell and this excitement is accompanied by a sensation; and no one fancies that the appearance of this sensation is dependent upon a special disposition for it on the mental side. No one fancies it, because it is evident that such a hypothesis again would be entirely useless. If every new perception needed such a special mental disposition, we should have to presuppose dispositions for everything which possibly can come into our surroundings. Every smell, every word, every face which comes new to us would need its special ready-made disposition. In other words, our mind would contain the disposition for every possible idea and that would mean that these dispositions would be in no way helps for explanation. If the disposition exists for everything, no one particular thing can be explained by the existence of that disposition. Again, we should have to rely entirely upon the physiological brain excitement for explaining that this word or that word is perceived by our mind. But if the brain excitement alone is sufficient to explain the new perception in the mind, then no reason can be found why the renewed brain excitement would not be sufficient to renew the mental experience. Thus, there is nowhere room for mental dispositions below the level of consciousness.
Thirdly, what could we really mean by such mental dispositions?
A physiological disposition for a physiological action is certainly not the action itself. The finger movement in piano playing finds only a disposition in my brain centers, in case I am trained; the movement itself does not last. But the disposition is at least itself a change in the physical world. The molecules are somehow differently placed, the disposition has thus as much objective existence as the resulting movement. Nothing at all similar can be imagined in the sphere of psychical contents. Such mental dispositions would have to exist entirely outside the world of concrete mental experiences and, if we scrutinize, we soon discover that such theories are only lingering reminiscences of the purposive view of life, and do not fit at all into the causal one. If we take the purposive attitude, then every idea and every will contain indeed all that its meaning involves and everything which we can logically develop out of it is by intention contained in it. All mathematical calculations are then contained in the thought of figures and forms, but they are contained there only by intention, they are logically enclosed; psychologically the consciousness of the figures and forms does not contain any disposition for the development of mathematical systems. We indeed have no right to throw into a psychological subconsciousness all that which is not present but involved by intention in the ideas and volitions of our purposive life.
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