Making sense of psyche – ref John Locke

The quote from Locke below describes an idea I have long held.  I did not know till today that John Locke had it 100s of years ago.  It is relevant to me as I work with the psyche, or spirit as he calls it, as the main stuff of my day to day work.  The psyche is, in his words, “abstruse”, and there is no way to talk of it other than through forms that reflect ultimately “sensible ideas” ie idea that relate to things we can experience with our senses. 

Hence we use dramatic terms like Oedipus complex, and geographical terms like depression. Talk of the psyche is form of poetry and metaphor to describe the inner side of action, make sense of action. 

Locke ECHU BOOK III Chapter I Of Words or Language in General:

5. Words ultimately derived from such as signify sensible ideas. It may also lead us a little towards the original of all our notions and knowledge, if we remark how great a dependence our words have on common sensible ideas; and how those which are made use of to stand for actions and notions quite removed from sense, have their rise from thence, and from obvious sensible ideas are transferred to

“I doubt not but, if we could trace them to their sources, we should find, in all languages, the names which stand for things that fall not under our senses to have had their first rise from sensible ideas.”

more abstruse significations, and made to stand for ideas that come not under the cognizance of our senses; v.g. to imagine, apprehend, comprehend, adhere, conceive, instil, disgust, disturbance, tranquillity, &c., are all words taken from the operations of sensible things, and applied to certain modes of thinking. Spirit, in its primary signification, is breath; angel, a messenger: and I doubt not but, if we could trace them to their sources, we should find, in all languages, the names which stand for things that fall not under our senses to have had their first rise from sensible ideas. By which we may give some kind of guess what kind of notions they were, and whence derived, which filled their minds who were the first beginners of languages, and how nature, even in the naming of things, unawares suggested to men the originals and principles of all their knowledge: whilst, to give names that might make known to others any operations they felt in themselves, or any other ideas that came not under their senses, they were fain to borrow words from ordinary known ideas of sensation, by that means to make others the more easily to conceive those operations they experimented in themselves, which made no outward sensible appearances; and then, when they had got known and agreed names to signify those internal operations of their own minds, they were sufficiently furnished to make known by words all their other ideas; since they could consist of nothing but either of outward sensible perceptions, or of the inward operations of their minds about them; we having, as has been proved, no ideas at all, but what originally come either from sensible objects without, or what we feel within ourselves, from the inward workings of our own spirits, of which we are conscious to ourselves within.

Later, Saturday, 14 November 2015

I wrote above: “the inner side of action, make sense of action.”

Locke says: “certain modes of thinking”

Yes psyche, spirit, does relate to certain states of individual consciousness. I’m now realising that a lot of it is about the relational – the “space between” people (or people and things) as well (mostly?). Words like encourage, empathise, appreciate are about interaction. Many of Locke’s examples are relational too: apprehend, comprehend, adhere, instil, disgust. I wrote a post that touches on this space between Psychological Eclecticism and Nothing

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