Conscience and Evolution

Sandor Ferenczi

Conscience and Evolution

Where do we find bigger secrets, more complex problems, than in psychology? When does man feel more his powerlessness but when he approaches, by the bistoury, the mysteries of psychic world?

Conscience, evolution. Abstracting these concepts it is like to look at a bottomless well. On the surface you glimpse some light, but that depth, where comprehension and wisdom are, is covered forever by an impenetrable darkness.

And nothing more than human soul can be considered susceptible of an "ignorabimus". Every kind of faculty and knowledge presupposes a knowing subject and an object to be known, and the subject never can know himself perfectly.

In this way, the borders of psychology, as a form of study, are in the infinity. But this does not discourage collaborators and heroes of this discipline. The hero, with a stroke of genius, creates new points of view, connecting, in an innovative way, already known data; the scientific collaborator, on the other hand, studies, with infrangible care, life conditions of nerves, he measures brain functions in milliseconds and defines these elementary sensations and sensorial impressions which are the milestones of every psychic activity.

Sensation and sensorial impression. These are the atoms of soul, its final elements, impossible to decompose in smaller particles; both the first glimmer of thought of a new-born child, and the flash of genius, are composed of sensations and sensorial impressions. Here science, levelling everything, makes its compensating stone roll over everything is mental, making equal little ones and big ones.

Conscience is described by Wundt like the tie, the connection of these psychological elements – Zusammenhang der psychischen Gebilde. In other words: the fusion of sensorial, psychic and mental functions in a superior unity. Therefore, one mustn’t associate it to a factor outside, and over, single sensations, thoughts, and functions of will, one mustn’t think of a kind of superior Self, who reasons, feels, and decides autonomously, independent of obligation of logic and necessity. The various psychological functions are like cogwheels, and conscience is nothing more than the whole complex device. The mechanism is the totality of the single parts, but – at the same time – a superior whole.

But this chain does not stop at the borders of the individual. Among related subjects, conscience of class, of nation, of race, and – like maximum unity – conscience of humanity, form. Thought of this maximum conscience is the culture, the civilisation; sensation, sentiment is the love for his fellow creatures; memory is his history. Those, who see in these concepts only metaphors and parallels, make a mistake.

The full text has been published in Italian in Psichiatria e Territorio Vol. VIII Num. 3 (1991) (in the translation of Martina Kiraly). The english version has been traslated by M. Garuglieri

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