Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIII.: THE CO-ORDINATION OF CORRESPONDENCES. - The Principles of Psychology
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CHAPTER XIII.: THE CO-ORDINATION OF CORRESPONDENCES. - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology 
The Principles of Psychology (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855).
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THE CO-ORDINATION OF CORRESPONDENCES.
§ 158. Fully to comprehend the increase of the correspondence between the organism and its environment, in speciality, in generality, and in complexity; it is requisite to contemplate the phenomena under yet another aspect. We must look at the general conditions by fulfilment of which these more elaborate adjustments of inner to outer relations are made possible. The performance of a compound action in response to a compound impression, implies something more than a susceptibility to each of the several elements constituting the compound impression, and a power to effect each of the several motions constituting the compound action. It implies also, that the constituent sensations and contractions shall be combined after a particular manner—shall be co-ordinated; and the perfection of the correspondence will vary as the perfection of the co-ordination.
Let us take first a simple case; as that of the actions needed for escape from an enemy. Clearly when we ascend from those creatures in which the motion of some conspicuous adjacent object is responded to simply by a few random muscular movements, to those creatures in which the muscular movements are such as to carry the body away from the dangerous object; we have advanced to an adjustment of at least two conjoined relations in the organism, to two conjoined relations in the environment. If we consider the strong visual impression produced by the adjacent moving object, to be the stimulus to activity; then, that the activity may be of the right kind, it is requisite that such particular modification of the impression as depends on the direction of the object in space, should also be recognized, and the activity modified in conformity to it. The impression which indicates dangerousness, and that which indicates position, must together control the motor changes; and the control must consist in so ordering their respective amounts, that the composite result may be a movement of the organism in a particular line. When distance, as well as direction, becomes cognizable; and when the colour and shape of the object can be distinguished, as well as its mass; the stimulus must be composed of a much greater number of elements, united after a special manner: and in proportion as the consequent actions become more rapid, skilful, and varied, must there be a more elaborate and more perfect combination of motor changes. While just as a wrong combination of motor changes involves a fall or other accident; so, a wrong combination of the separate stimuli involves a mistaken perception.
Space need not be occupied in tracing up these simple kinds of co-ordination. It is obvious that throughout the whole series of increasingly heterogeneous impressions comprehended within the limits of immediate perception, including even the recognition of localities by an identification of the various surrounding objects, the component elements of the impressions co-operate after a particular manner; and that, as especially seen in this case of localities, it is only in virtue of a definite relationship among them, that a definite perception is possible. It is equally obvious, that the more and more complex actions by which higher creatures achieve their ends, succeed, only in as far as the muscular contractions implied, are fitly regulated in their order, their amounts, and their modes of conjunction. Both the directive and executive processes can become efficient, only in proportion to the accuracy with which they are co-ordinated.
§ 159. Advancing from these cases in which the directive stimuli, though heterogeneous, are made up of elements that are simultaneously present to the senses, to the cases in which some of their elements are present to the senses and some not; we meet with a co-ordination of a new and higher order. And so likewise where the responding motions, no longer occurring in an inseparable group, are divided by intervals that vary according to circumstances, we see a parallel progress. A creature which, when pursued, flies to its burrow, or towards some distant unseen shelter, supplies us with an instance of the one; while an instance of the other occurs in any process, which, like the building of a nest, is effected by instalments variously interrupted by other procedures. From the stage in which a single past impression unites with many present ones to compose a special stimulus, and in which the action completed at intervals is tolerably homogeneous in character; the progression is gradually towards a union of many past impressions with present ones, and towards a species of action increasingly heterogeneous in its successive instalments, and in the manner of their succession. In the majority of men's daily proceedings, we see the sights, sounds, and muscular sensations, serving for immediate guidance, co-ordinated with recollections of the persons, places, things, events, to which those proceedings refer: and in such an error as that of mistaking the hour at which certain business is to be transacted with certain people at a certain office, we see how a failure arises from an imperfect co-ordination of the various past and present impressions constituting the directive stimulus. Further, in such a series of operations as those by which wheat is sown, weeded, reaped, stacked, thrashed, winnowed, taken to market, and sold; we see sundry widely different groups of actions (each consisting of many minor groups), divided by dissimilar and variable intervals, all adjusted to the achievement of a single end; and success requires that they shall be adjusted in a particular manner. Obviously the elaborateness displayed by these advanced cognitions and actions—in which time past, time present, and time future are alike involved; and which have simultaneous reference to sundry places in space,—is an elaborateness measured by the number of past impressions compounded with present ones. And obviously, throughout the whole of this order of correspondences, the all-essential thing is, neither the multiplicity of the impressions received, nor the complexity of the combination into which they enter, but the definiteness with which that combination is adapted to the combination of external circumstances—the goodness of the co-ordination.
§ 160. A still higher species of co-ordination, growing imperceptibly out of the last, and vaguely seen even in the illustrations just given, involves not simply the union of past with present specialities, but the union of generalities with both. The impression received yesterday, when the barometer stood at “Fair;” together with the impression received to-day, when it stands at “Change;” have to be joined to the generalization that a fall of the mercurial column indicates rain; before any conclusion can be drawn for to-morrow's guidance. In other cases, as in that of a physician prescribing for his patient, several remembered observations of the bygone symptoms; several observations of the existing ones; and several general truths, serving to interpret the changes that have taken place; must all enter into that directive process which terminates in an appropriate course of treatment.
But the most developed form of co-ordination is that exhibited by quantitative science. In this, not only must many specialities be combined with many generalities after a perfectly definite manner; but there must be perfect definiteness in each constituent of the combination. The perceptions by which the data are obtained, must have their elements so exactly co-ordinated, as to give measured results. The laws of dependence must be so cognized, that they can be expressed numerically. And the process by which, out of data and laws, the prevision is finally evolved, must have each step united with preceding and succeeding ones, in a mode that is completely specific. A calculation of the capacity of a vessel which a given horse-power will move at a given speed, involves the general truths,—that the resistance encountered by a body moving through fluid varies in the square of the velocity; that the area opposed to the water varies as the squares of the dimensions of the vessel; that the tonnage varies as the cubes of the dimensions; with sundry others. Particular forces, weights, specific gravities, lengths, breadths, depths, have to be combined with these general truths, each with each; and the results have to be further combined after particular modes. If one of the generalities be applied to the wrong specialities—if the formula for resistance be brought to bear, not in the figures representing sectional area, but on those representing tonnage—if the data be inexact, or the principles be misunderstood, or the calculation be erroneously performed; that is—if there be an imperfect coordination of the various mental acts involved; a false result is reached: there is a failure in the act of cognition: the internal relations are not so adjusted as to match external ones. And here, indeed, is most distinctly shown the nature of this process by which all the more complex adaptations of the organism to its environment are effected. For this quantitative prevision, in the achievement of which the co-ordination of intellectual actions is so conspicuous, is, as we have already seen (§ 148), simply the highest form of correspondence—the correspondence that is the most complete, the most special, the last to make its appearance—the correspondence by which external phenomena are conformed to, not only in kind, but in time, place, amount, duration: and the perfect co-ordination by which this perfect precision of result is effected, is simply the final development of the co-ordination which has, to a greater or less degree, existed throughout. As perfect correspondence implies perfect co-ordination; so, each degree of correspondence implies a parallel degree of co-ordination.
It will further elucidate both this doctrine of co-ordination and the general doctrine of correspondence, if we consider how, for the perfect adjustment of inner to outer relations, there must necessarily exist in the first, elements and changes representing all the elements and changes in the last. The cognitions of exact science are distinguished from inferior cognitions in this; that the mental process involves a symbol answering to every constituent of the phenomenon. Undeveloped life is guided by the associations among some of the superficial attributes of things. Developed life is guided by the relations subsisting among all those fundamental attributes on which the actions of the things depend. There is no invariable connection between a loud sound and an adjacent enemy; and hence, creatures in which one of these serves as an index to the other, are occasionally wrong in the adjustment of their internal relations to external ones. But the connection between linear dimensions and solid content, or between velocity and momentum, is of that constant, or, as we say, necessary nature, that, once known, it affords infallible guidance. For this infallible guidance to be had, however, requires that all the elements of the relation be cognized. Whenever a group of inner relations, a cognition, is completely conformed to a group of outer relations, a phenomenon, by a rational process—whenever there is what we call an understanding of the phenomenon; it is that the genesis of the phenomenon is, in a sense, paralleled by the genesis of the cognition: and that this may be possible, it is requisite that every component of the one process, be represented by some component of the other. The law, that the momentum of a moving body varies as its velocity multiplied into its weight, cannot be known until there exists in the mind, not only the conceptions answering to momentum, velocity, and weight; not only the processes of thought answering to those quantitative phenomena which “varies as” and “multiplied into” indicate; not only the ideas of matter, time, and space, without which velocity and momentum are inconceivable; but the law cannot be known until the states of consciousness symbolizing time and space, are so co-ordinated as to symbolize velocity; the states of consciousness symbolizing velocity and weight, so co-ordinated as to symbolize momentum; and these three again co-ordinated according to those laws of relation implied by “varies as” and “multiplied into.” That is, every attribute of things which the phenomenon involves, must have its internal representative; and the several laws of dependence among these attributes, must be each represented by some constant relation among their representatives. This must be true of all those higher correspondences comprehended under quantitative prevision. Before the effect of any composition of causes in the environment can be exactly responded to, there must take place a parallel composition of changes in the organism—not parallel in the sense that there must be any likeness between the components of the two in complexity or sequence; but parallel in the sense that to every element or relation in the one, there must be an answering element or relation in the other. And this truth will be the more clearly realized on remembering, that if one of the elements or relations pass unrecognized, either from ignorance or mistake; or if there be any error in the reasoning or calculation—any flaw in the co-ordination; the predicted result does not agree with the real result: there is a failure in the correspondence.
These facts, while they afford a still more definite idea of that co-ordination of correspondences by which the more special and complex adjustments of the organism to its environment are effected, can scarcely fail to bring out into a yet clearer light, the general doctrine variously presented in the preceding chapters. That in these highest manifestations of Life which the culture of civilization has slowly produced—these quantitative previsions which alike imply such intense vital action, and so greatly subserve self-preservation by facilitating commerce and the arts—there should be so elaborate and complete a correspondence between the organism and the environment; serves as a crowning illustration of the truths, that life is the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations—the maintenance of a correspondence between them, and that the degree of life varies as the degree of correspondence. The many proofs which have been given that the life and the correspondence advance hand in hand, become doubly conclusive on finding that the two arrive at their climax together.