Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XI.: THE CORRESPONDENCE AS INCREASING IN GENERALITY. - The Principles of Psychology
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CHAPTER XI.: THE CORRESPONDENCE AS INCREASING IN GENERALITY. - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology 
The Principles of Psychology (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855).
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THE CORRESPONDENCE AS INCREASING IN GENERALITY.
§ 150. That the adjustment of inner to outer relations progresses in generality at the same time that it progresses in speciality, will be thought a contradiction. It is however a purely verbal contradiction: the generalities being of quite different orders. The correspondences we meet with in the lower forms of life, are extremely general in the sense that those relations in the environment to which organic relations respond, are everywhere present, and continuously present. During a summer's day, light, heat, and carbonic acid, coexist in all portions of the space surrounding a plant; and the dependent chemical changes within the plant, go on simultaneously in all its leaves, for as many hours as the surrounding elements remain in the same relation. Hence, the correspondence, involving neither any special point in space nor any special moment in time, is of a very general nature. And the like is the case with those inferior types of animal life, to which the environment presents both the disintegrating and the integrable matter in a diffused form. The generalities, however, to which the organism responds more and more the higher it advances, are not those exhibited by the mass of the environing medium; but those exhibited by the individual objects contained in it: and generalities of this kind can become cognizable only as the intelligence is developed. The condition under which alone there can be established in the organism, general relations corresponding to the general relations displayed in common by several different groups of bodies, but not by other groups, is, that it shall have such experiences of various groups of bodies as shall enable it to distinguish among them. Only when there comes to be a multiplication of the classes of separate bodies that give it different experiences, can it possibly possess subjective generalities parallel to those objective generalities which bind together classes superficially unlike.
There are indeed generalities of a certain kind, which diminish in extensiveness as the specialities increase in number—generalities which form the raw material out of which specialities are produced by continual subdivision: the generalities, namely, in virtue of which surrounding objects are distinguished into classes. The growth of an ability displayed in successive orders of inferior organisms, to respond to the distinction between fluid and solid matter; then to the distinctions which respectively mark fluid, inorganic, and organic matters; afterwards to those of fluid, inorganic, vegetable, and animal matters; imply a correspondence to generalities that are step by step less comprehensive. And gradually as these classes become differentiated into smaller divisions, ending finally in species, they severally include fewer examples. These, however, are generalities, which, under their converse aspect, we have considered in the last chapter. For all special correspondences, with the exception of those highest ones which show themselves in the recognition of individual objects and acts, are really the manifestations of general correspondences covering certain groups of cases. The precautionary acts of a barn-door fowl on seeing a hawk hovering above, have no relation to that hawk in particular, but to the class of hawks in general. The correspondence is special, only in the sense of referring to the small class, hawks, instead of to the large class, birds. Even with respect to this order of generalities, however, it may be said, that as the formation of narrower and narrower ones does not involve the abolition of the wider ones which preceded them, but is merely an addition of secondary generalities to primary ones, there is an increase in the number of them, though not an increase in comprehensiveness.
But that advancing generality of correspondence which we have here to contemplate, is one which shows itself in the recognition of constant coexistences and sequences other than those which serve for the establishment of special classes—coexistences and sequences that are common to many classes apparently distinct; and which serve to reunite under fresh categories, things and changes that have come to be regarded as entirely unlike. Instead of being seen in a response to the constant relation between a particular scent, and the colour, size, form, actions, and cries, of the creature possessing it—a relation that is simple, and uniformly presented—it is seen in a response to some such relation as that between bulk and weight, or inanimateness and passivity—a relation which extends beyond class limits, and obtains under great dissimilarity of appearances. Obviously the growth of generalities of this order, must follow a course just the reverse of that followed in the growth of the preceding ones.
To trace up this growth from the lower to the higher forms of life, after the manner pursued in previous chapters, is extremely difficult, if not impossible. For it is in the very nature of this species of correspondence, that it does not manifest itself in any distinct, uncombined forms. The extensions of the correspondence in Space and Time, as well as its increase in Speciality, are experimentally demonstrable; but an internal relation that is parallel to some external relation which is more or less abstract—which is not peculiar to definite classes of things—which has no particular concrete embodiment—cannot be distinctly identified in the conduct. Not in itself giving origin to special acts, but serving simply to modify the acts otherwise originated, it can be discovered only by analysis of these.
The sole method, then, by which the progress of the correspondence in generality can be traced, is, to ascertain the conditions under which alone such a progress becomes possible; and then to show how the processes of evolution already described, necessarily give rise to these conditions. Let us do this.
§ 151. The recognition of a generality of this higher kind, embracing classes superficially dissimilar, implies a power of recognizing attributes as distinguished from the objects possessing them. Before any two fundamental properties that are found together under all varieties of size, form, colour, texture, temperature, motion, &c., can have their constant relation of coexistence responded to by the organism; it requires that the organism shall have an ability severally to identify these properties, as separate from their accidental accompaniments. The formation of simple class generalities, which group together phenomena that greatly resemble each other in all respects, requires no such distinct analysis of attributes. But where the resemblance is confined to some one essential relation common to many cases that in every other respect greatly differ, it is clear that unless the elements of this relation are separately cognizable by the organism, there can be no response to such relation.
Now it may readily be shown that the increase of the correspondence in speciality, must inevitably bring about this analysis of attributes—that there cannot be a continued multiplication of the distinguishable classes, without there being a simultaneous approach to the perception of properties in the abstract. For if, ascending from the lowest creatures by which but few attributes are cognizable, we step by step advance to those capable of being impressed by a greater and greater number of attributes—if, from the ability to distinguish large classes having but two or three attributes in common, we trace up the ability to distinguish the more special classes characterized by four, five, six, seven, &c., attributes in common, finally reaching the ability to distinguish individuals, which, while alike in the numerous attributes characterizing their species, differ only in one or two minor points; it is clear that in proportion as the groups of attributes become increasingly varied and special, there must be a more frequent dissociation of each particular attribute from others. Forms, colours, sizes, sounds, scents, motions, being found in all combinations—these two kinds of animals being alike in everything but colours; those two, similar in colour but different in form and scent; and the others having nothing in common but size—the property A occurring here in company with the properties B, C, D; there with C, F, H; there with E, G, B; and so on with each property to a greater or less extent—it must happen, that by multiplication of experiences, the impressions produced by these properties on the organism, will be gradually disconnected from each other, and rendered just so far independent in the organism as the properties are in the environment. Whence there must eventually arise a power to recognize attributes in themselves, as separate from particular bodies.
It may indeed be shown, that the advance of the correspondence in speciality, itself becomes possible only in proportion to the progress of this analysis. An analogy will best explain this. Suppose that a chemist, having the requisite ability and materials, be required to produce artificially a variety of compound bodies: what is implied in his successful execution of the task? The implication is, that he knows the composition of each of these bodies. But what does knowledge of their composition presuppose? It presupposes that they have been severally resolved into their constituents. It presupposes an acquaintance with the elements of which these and various other compounds consist. And the formation of each of the required compounds, implies that the component elements, having been previously separated from all other combinations, shall be put together in the right proportions. Well, the process of identifying any object as a thing having a special nature, is a synthesis of impressions, corresponding to the synthesis of perceptible properties which the thing displays; and similarly implies a recognition of the separate impressions which correspond with these separate properties. The botanist, who knows a particular flower, not by the fructification alone, in which it is like many others; not by the number of its petals, which is a very usual number; not by their forms, in which they do not differ from these, nor by their colours, in which they do not differ from those; not by the calyx, nor the bracts, nor the leaves, nor the stalk, separately considered; but by all these taken together; obviously effects the identification by a synthesis of attributes. And that which he does in this elaborate and conscious way, is done more or less completely in every case where an object is recognized as of special nature—is done in a degree proportionate to the speciality of the correspondence. Should it be said that this position, taken in connection with the previous one, involves a contradiction—that while the one represents the analysis of attributes as a prerequisite to speciality of correspondence, the other represents the analysis of attributes as resulting from increase of the correspondence in speciality—the reply is, that the two processes progress throughout in mutual dependence, perpetually acting and reacting on each other. Every advance in speciality must presently render the analysis of attributes more precise; and each step in the analysis of attributes renders possible a higher speciality.
Thus, then, we see that the course of evolution described in the previous chapters, is necessarily accompanied by a gradual disentangling of properties from each other; ending finally in an ability to recognize them in the abstract. The like process must later and more slowly take place with relations of sequence, as well as with relations of coexistence. An increasing speciality in the adjustments to mechanical changes, presupposes an increasing decomposition of those changes into their elements—a growing power to distinguish velocity of motion, direction of motion, acceleration and retardation of motion, kind of motion in respect of simplicity or complexity, and so on; and where non-mechanical sequences also come to be responded to, a parallel analysis must accompany a parallel progress in speciality.
The analysis of attributes having been carried to some considerable extent, there arises, and only then arises, a possibility of advance in generality of correspondence. Relations between properties possessed in common by objects of widely different kinds, can begin to be perceived as soon as these properties are separately cognizable. And it needs but a little reflection to see, that a still higher progress in the specialization of the correspondences, ultimately involves this remaining step required for generalization of them. For if, as we have seen, the continual multiplication of special correspondences must result in the gradual dissociation from each other of all variable attributes—beginning with the separation of those most inconstantly connected, and progressing to the separation of those less and less inconstantly connected; and if, when the variable attributes displayed by a group of different classes have been as it were disintegrated in the consciousness of the organism, the remaining attributes that have not been disintegrated must begin to stand out from the rest, as preserving a constant relation amidst all these inconstancies; we see that in the end, there must be established in the organism, a constant relation corresponding to the constant relation between these attributes; and this constitutes the advance in generality we are looking for. Add to which, that as the comparatively constant relations thus first generalized from the experience of but few classes, will, in the majority of cases, be proved by wider experience to be not everywhere constant; and as, by the accumulation of these wider experiences, the same process must be gone through with the comparatively constant relations, as before with the less constant ones, with the result of bringing the still more constant relations into view; the progress must necessarily be from narrow generalizations to wider and wider ones. And this we know, à posteriori, to be the law which the progress conforms to.
§ 152. These explanations will suffice at once to show how it happens, that the increase of the correspondence in generality, is scarcely discernible in any but the higher forms of intelligence. Necessary as it is that there should be a great advance in the speciality of the correspondences, to produce the requisite analysis of attributes; and necessary as yet further advance in specialization is, to bring into view the constantly related attributes as distinguished from the inconstantly related ones; it is only when that very high degree of speciality of correspondence characteristic of superior creatures is reached, that progress in generality of correspondence can begin. Hence the fact, that while the higher mammals undoubtedly display some generalities of correspondence of the least abstract kind, it is only when we come to the human race, that we find this species of adjustment of inner to outer relations, showing any considerable development.
Human progression, however, exhibits to us, under this, as under previous aspects, an immense increase in the harmony between the organism and its environment. Perhaps in no other respect is the increasing correspondence wrought out by civilization, so conspicuous, as in the growth of generalizations, ever more numerous and more comprehensive. The enormous expansion of science which these latter ages have witnessed, mainly consists in the union of many particular facts into general truths, and in the union of many general truths into truths still more general. It is needless to cite illustrations; for the proposition is familiar, and admitted by all. It will be enough simply to point to this great phenomenon as one of the many forms of the evolution we are tracing out.
A mere indication, too, of the extent to which the generalizations of science advance the arts, and through the arts minister to human welfare, will serve to show, that increase of the correspondence in generality, like its other modes of increase, makes possible a greater duration of life. And a like brief reference to the intense concentration of thought, and extreme complexity of conceptions, which these more abstruse generalizations imply, will sufficiently draw attention to the higher degree of life which must accompany this greater length of life.