Convex and concave: conceptual boundaries in psychology, now and then (but mainly then).
University of Exeter
Victorian Literature and Culture
Cambridge University Press
My title is derived from G. H. Lewes's psychological magnum opus Problems of Life and Mind (1874–79). Lewes's image is a metaphor for the relation of mind to brain, or more generally of the mind to the nervous system: “every mental phenomenon has its corresponding neural phenomenon (the two being as convex and concave surfaces of the same sphere, distinguishable yet identical)” (Problems: First Series 1: 112). His point is that, though the two entities can be analytically distinguished, they are as necessarily linked as the two surfaces of a bending plane. Like the recto and verso of a sheet of paper, or signifier and signified in the linguistic sign, one can make an interpretative separation of the two, but not an ontological one. It is a characteristically deft metaphor by Lewes to express a notoriously vexed relationship, not only in Victorian psychology but also in modern thinking today.
Article from special issue on Victorian boundaries. Reproduced with permission of the publisher. © 2004 Cambridge University Press.
32 (2): pp 449-462