After reading this article you will learn about Mental Chemistry:- 1. Concept of Mental Chemistry 2. Criticism of Mental Chemistry.
Concept of Mental Chemistry:
J. S. Mill introduced ‘mental chemistry’ into Associationism. ‘Mental chemistry’ is the fusion of sensory elements in a new compound which is more than the mere sum of the constituent parts.
J. S. Mill says, When many impressions or ideas are operating in the mind together, there sometimes takes place a process of a similar kind to chemical combination; When impressions have been so often experienced in conjunction, that each of them call up readily and instantaneously the ideas of the whole group, those ideas sometimes melt and coalesce into one another, and appear not as several ideas, but one.
The Complex Idea, formed by the blending together of several simpler ones, should when it really appears simple (that is, when the separate elements are not consciously distinguishable in it), be said to result from, or be generated by the simple ideas, not to consist of them…. The simple ideas generate, rather then they compose the complex ones.
J.S. Mill clings to Associationism in spite, of his doctrine of mental chemistry. But mental chemistry is opposed, in principle, to Associationism. In the products of association the elementary factors persist as their components.
But in the products of chemical combination the elementary factors disappear in order to give rise to their products. But J.S. Mill is not clearly aware that he abandons Associationism when he advocates mental chemistry. He thinks that he modifies and improves upon Associationism. This is shown by his use of the term ‘mental chemistry’.
A chemical compound is not merely ‘generated’ by its components, but ‘consists’ of them, and its weight is equal to their weight. But Stout urges that a new mental process cannot be said to be generated by, and yet consisting of, simple mental processes which coalesce into one another.
J.S. Mill assumed that the ‘generation’ of a new mode of consciousness by prior mental processes must be preceded by an associative grouping of the generating factors.
First, simple sensory elements must be combined by the laws of association; than this associative grouping must generate a new mental process, quite different from the generating psychoses. But neither associative grouping nor generation is self-evident.
Criticism of Mental Chemistry:
J.S. Mill’s account of moral chemistry is fictitious. He holds that the cooperative and coalescing mental conditions entirely disappear in giving rise to something new. This may happen in some cases. But it is not true of all cases, especially of spatial perception, which he applies his principle of mental chemistry.
Spatial perception, visual-tactual, is due to a combination of visual sensations, tactual sensations, of local signs, and kinaesthetic sensations of movements which do not appear in the result.
But contributory factors are discernible in the spatial perception. Magnitude, as perceived by the eye, is colour extended or spread out. In such perception there are always present at least visual and tactual sensations, and generally motor sensations accompanying eye- movements.
The spatial character of the visual and motor sensations is indeed derivative and does not belong to the component sensations themselves.
But it does not float loose from all the factors which contributed to its origin. The visual, tactual and motor-sensations, through interaction with one another, acquire a peculiar modification called spatial character. They do not entirely disappear in the mental product. The doctrine of mental chemistry is the denial that reproduction by association is the only principle controlling mental development.