Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX.: THE CORRESPONDENCE AS EXTENDING IN TIME. - The Principles of Psychology
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CHAPTER IX.: THE CORRESPONDENCE AS EXTENDING IN TIME. - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology 
The Principles of Psychology (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855).
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THE CORRESPONDENCE AS EXTENDING IN TIME.
§ 140. It was pointed out some pages back (§ 130), that while, in those humblest protophyta and protozoa in which the cell-wall is continuously bathed with all the needful elements, there is no manifest adjustment of internal changes to changes in the environment, the higher plants pass through cycles of states in correspondence with the cycles of the seasons. Whether this should be regarded as a progress towards correspondence in Time, is somewhat doubtful. On the one hand, it may be said, that as, in a tree, the periods of budding, blossoming, ripening the fruit, and dropping the leaves, are adapted to successive external conditions, the inner sequences are conformed to the outer ones. On the other hand, it may be argued that this is but an incidental result of the perpetual adaptation of the internal actions to external coexistences (temperature, light, moisture), which, by passing through a series of variations, involve a parallel series of variations in the plant. It may be argued that the putting forth of leaves has reference simply to the then existing concurrence of certain environing influences, and has no direct reference to the subsequent nutrition of the fruit; that a succession of environing influences produce a succession of adjusted processes in the plant, and that the production of fruit is simply a cumulative result of these; that the true nature of these vegetative changes is seen in the fact, that a tree will blossom in the autumn if the temperature be sufficiently high; and that thus, plant life exhibits no true correspondence to sequences in the environment, but only to coexistences in it. Definitely to decide between these views is not easy; though on the whole the last one seems the more philosophical. But at any rate, this species of correspondence in Time, if such it be, is of an indirect and vague kind compared with that properly so called.
Setting aside this debateable case of the constitutional changes which all organisms undergo in response to the seasons, and turning to those more definite cases which animal life in particular displays; it is to be observed that in creatures not endowed with sensibility, as well as in those possessing no other sense than that of touch, the sole external relations with which internal relations can be put in correspondence, are relations of coexistence. It is only when there comes to be some amount of smell, sight, or hearing, that sequences in the environment can be met by adjusted sequences in the organism. The relation between the tangibility of an adjacent body, and some coexistent property possessed by it, is the only one to which, in a zoophyte, the organic relation between irritation and contraction answers. Time is no more involved in the correspondence than Space. But when relations among things or attributes that are in any degree removed from the organism, become cognizable—when, for example, there exists incipient vision, and obstruction of light is habitually followed by a touch from the obstructing body; then, an organic response to an external relation of sequence becomes possible; then, it becomes competent to the organism to move in anticipation of motion in an external body. Two phenomena in the environment, the one immediately succeeding the other, can produce two phenomena in the organism in like succession. And thus, an extension of the correspondence in Time, begins simultaneously with its extension in Space.
Or to present the proposition under another aspect:—As the simplest sequences, and those first cognized, are mechanical sequences; as mechanical sequences involve change of position; as change of position involves progress through Space; it follows, that only when there comes to be some degree of space-penetrating faculty, can there be any adaptation in the organism to changes of position in adjacent objects—any adjustment to external sequences—any correspondence in Time. After the ability to respond to the touch of surrounding bodies, the next advance is the ability to respond to that motion of them which precedes touch; and as motion involves both Time and Space, the first extension of the correspondence in Time is necessarily coeval with its first extension in Space.
§ 141. Throughout the successive stages in the development of the perceptions, these two orders of correspondence must progress together with more or less regularity. In proportion as the distance at which a moving object is cognizable, increases, the greater becomes the duration of the external sequence, or chain of sequences, to which the internal actions may be adjusted. Other things equal, the more remote any body in the environment, the longer must be the period before it can act on the organism or the organism on it; that is—the more extended must be the time between those outer antecedents and consequents with which the inner antecedents and consequents are put in correspondence. The inner and outer sequences exhibited in the pursuit of a heron by a hawk, are longer than those exhibited in the pursuit of a fish by a heron; and are so chiefly because the vision of a heron is more extensive than that of a fish. And without giving cases, it will be manifest, that by smell and hearing also, in proportion as they are acute, the correspondences are simultaneously extended in duration and distance. Not that there is a constant ratio between these forms of advancing correspondence. The connection between them is variously modified by circumstances. The special character of the environment, the particular powers of the organism in respect of locomotion, as well as other conditions, greatly affect it. All that can be established, is, that the two kinds of extension are connate; and that, in so far as mechanical phenomena are concerned, they display throughout a general interdependence.
§ 142. This limitation—“in so far as mechanical phenomena are concerned”—serves to introduce the fact, that, in respect to other orders of phenomena, the progress of the correspondence in Time, has little or nothing to do with its progress in Space. Did all changes involve perceptible motion—were alteration of position a necessary accompaniment of every alteration, the two would be uniformly related. But as there are hosts of changes, chemical, thermal, electric, vital, which involve no appreciable mechanical change—as there are numberless changes of state which occur without change of place; it results, that in the growth of internal adjustments to these, there is an extension of the correspondence in Time, separate from, and additional to, that which arises from its extension in Space.
This species of correspondence in Time, is of a much higher order than that which is displayed in respect to most mechanical sequences—is in fact a far more extended correspondence. For the greater part of those mechanical sequences in surrounding bodies, by which any organism is affected, are incalculably more rapid than the non-mechanical sequences occurring in them. The motions of enemies or of prey, even when sluggish, are readily appreciable: a few seconds only, at most, is needed to bring about a manifest change. But the decay of a dead animal, the ripening of fruit, the drying-up of a pool, the hatching of an egg, require periods incomparably longer. Sequences of the latter order occupy a hundred, a thousand, a million times the periods required for those of the former; and the ability of the organism to adjust itself to them, implies a proportionably great extension of the correspondence in Time.
Hence the fact, that throughout all the lower orders of creation, it is only to coexistences and mechanical sequences in the environment that the actions of the organism respond. Hence the fact, that it is only when we come to creatures of a comparatively high degree of intelligence, that we meet with any inner changes in adaptation to outer changes of a non-mechanical kind. For we must not class as coming under this secondary species of correspondence in Time, those acts of the inferior animals which are adjusted to the daily and annual modifications of the environment. These, like the parallel phenomena seen in plants, are most likely nothing but the cumulative results of successive adaptations of the organism to successive coexistences in the environment. It is anatomically demonstrable, that the pairing and nidification of birds in the spring, is preceded by constitutional changes, in all probability produced by more food and higher temperature. And it is a rational inference, that the whole series of processes implied in the rearing of a brood, are severally gone through, not with any recognition of consequences, but solely under the stimulus of the conditions immediately present from hour to hour, and day to day.
The earliest examples of the higher kind of correspondence in Time, must be looked for in cases where the period between antecedent and consequent is but a few hours. Birds that fly from inland to the sea-side to feed when the tide is out, and cattle that return to the farmyard at milking-time, supply instances. Even in these cases, however, it must be observed, that there is not a purely intelligent adjustment of the inner to the outer sequences; for creatures long accustomed to eat or be milked at definite intervals, necessarily come to have an adapted recurrence of constitutional states, and it is the sensations accompanying these states, which form the proximate stimuli to their acts. Nevertheless, we must not wholly exclude these instances from the category of advancing correspondence in Time: but must recognize them as imperfect and transitional forms of it, through which only the higher forms can be reached. For if we consider under what conditions only, a sequence in the organism can be adjusted to some lengthened sequence in the environment—some sequence occupying hours or days—it becomes manifest that there must exist in the organism, a means of recognizing duration. Unless the organism is capable of being differently affected by periods of different lengths, its actions cannot be made to fit slow external actions. Now, when we pass from those mechanical sequences in which the motion of the external body itself serves the organism as a measure of duration, to those non-mechanical sequences which not only afford no measure, but last incomparably longer, it is obvious that the only measure of duration available, must be that arising from the periodic sensations of the organism itself. Hence the fact, that these first examples of the higher order of correspondences in Time, are examples in which an internal periodicity agrees with an external periodicity. And hence the fact, that in the cases next above these—cases showing some foresight of future events, such as is exhibited by a dog hiding a bone in anticipation of the time when he will be again hungry—there is a distinct reference to this same recurrence of organic states.
§ 143. The circumstance that there is so wide a gap between ordinary mechanical sequences and most non-mechanical sequences, in respect of the periods they occupy; joined with the circumstance that to effect a correspondence between internal sequences and lengthened external sequences, implies some mode of estimating time; serve at once to explain how it happens, that only when we reach an advanced phase of intelligence, does this higher species of correspondence in Time begin to exhibit a marked extension. It is not until we arrive at the human race that the slow vital, chemical, thermal changes undergone by objects in the environment, are met by adapted changes in the organism. Not that the transition is sudden. There is evidence that in the first stages of human progress, the method of estimating epochs does not differ in nature from that employed by the more intelligent animals. There are still historical traces of the fact, that originally, mankind adjusted their actions to the longer sequences in the environment, just as Australians and Bushmen do now, by observing their coincidence with the migrations of birds, the floodings of rivers, the flowerings of plants. And it is obvious that the savages, who, after the ripening of a certain berry, travel to the sea-shore, knowing that they will then find a particular shell-fish in season, are guided by much the same process as the dog, who, when he sees the cloth laid for dinner goes to the window to watch for his master. But when it comes to be noticed that these phenomena of the seasons coincide with recurring phenomena in the heavens—when, as was the case with the aboriginal Hottentots, periods come to be recognized partly by astronomical, and partly by terrestrial changes; then, for the first time, we see making its appearance, a means whereby the correspondence in Time may be indefinitely extended. The periodicity of the sun's daily movements, and the monthly phases of the moon, having once been observed; and some small power of counting having been reached; it suddenly becomes possible to recognize the intervals between antecedents and consequents that are long apart, and to adjust the actions to them. Multitudes of external sequences whose lengths do not agree with those internal cycles produced by alternating light and darkness, nor with those that result in recurring appetites, and which, from having no organic periods answering to them, cannot be responded to by the organism, may be discerned and conformed to when there arises this ability of numbering days and lunations. Given a unit of Time, and a faculty of registering the units, and it becomes possible for the internal actions to be adjusted to those endless non-mechanical actions going on externally, which, though the least conspicuous, are often the most potent in their effects on the organism.
This higher order of correspondence in Time, which, for the reasons assigned, is impossible to creatures of inferior type; which is but vaguely discernible in the higher animals; and which is definitely exhibited only when we arrive at the human race; has made marked progress in the course of civilization. Among the lowest tribes of men, who are without habitations, and who wander from place to place as the varying supplies of wild animals, roots, and insects, dictate, a year is the longest period to which the conduct is adapted. Hardly yet worthy to be defined as creatures “looking before and after,” they show by their utter improvidence and their apparent incapacity to realize future consequences, that it is only to the conspicuous and often-recurring phenomena of the seasons, that their actions respond. But in the succeeding stages of progress, we see, in the building of huts, the breeding and accumulation of cattle, and the storing of commodities, that longer sequences are recognized and measures taken to meet them. And gradually as we advance to higher social states, men show, by planting trees that will not bear fruit for a generation; by the elaborate educations they give their children; by building houses that will last for centuries; by insuring their lives; by all those strugglings for future wealth or fame, which now mainly occupy the educated classes; that in them, internal antecedents and consequents are habitually adjusted to external ones that are extremely long in their intervals. More especially, however, is this extension of the correspondence in Time, displayed in the progress of science. Beginning with a recognition of the sequences of day and night, men next advanced to those monthly ones exhibited by the moon; next to the sun's annual cycle; next to the cycle of the moon's eclipses; afterwards to the periods of the superior planets; while modern astronomy determines the vast interval after which the earth's axis will again point to the same place in the heavens; and the scarcely conceivable epoch in which planetary perturbations repeat themselves.
And here it is to be remarked that in the case of these slow sequences, whose durations exceed in length the lives of individual men, the correspondence is effected by the agency of many men whose actions are co-ordinated. The astronomer who calculates the orbit of a comet of brief period, and who, after the lapse of certain years, months, and days, turns his telescope to that region of the heavens in which the expected body shortly makes its appearance, exhibits in himself, the entire correspondence between an internal series of changes and an external one. But where centuries intervene between the prediction and the fulfilment, we see that by the help of language, the proceedings of several successive men are united into one long sequence, displaying the same adjustment to an external sequence as though it had occurred in a single individual living throughout the whole interval. Perhaps nothing tends so strongly to suggest the conception of an embodied Humanity, as this fact that Humanity in general, can respond to environing changes which are far too slow to be responded to by its component individuals.
§ 144. The extension of the correspondence in Time, like its extension in Space, both involves an increase in the amount of life, and renders possible a greater continuity of life. Each advance in the recognition of more and more elongated sequences, is an adjustment of a new set of internal relations to a new set of external relations—implies an additional series of vital actions—implies therefore an increase in the number and heterogeneity of the combined changes which constitute life. And at the same time, the adjustment of the organism to these successively longer sequences, is itself an avoidance of those dangers, or a seizing of those advantages, which such longer sequences present; and is consequently a process of self-preservation. Not only, as we have seen, do the ascending grades of brute life illustrate this; but it is illustrated by human progression. All the above instanced cases in which the more civilized races recognize slower changes, and provide for more remote results, than the comparatively hand-to-mouth-living savage does, are obviously cases in which a greater number of contingencies are met, and a greater duration of life secured: while, in the meeting of this greater number of contingencies, a higher degree of vital activity is necessarily displayed. And it may even be argued with some plausibility, that the like is true, not only with respect to those shorter processes of causation which science discloses to us, but with respect also to the scarcely conceivable periods involved in the larger generalizations of astronomy and geology. For little as the recognition of these modifies human actions directly; yet indirectly, by throwing light upon the history and nature of the universe, and so influencing men's theories of creation and humanity, it ultimately produces a powerful effect upon the conduct of the race.