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PART IV.: SPECIAL SYNTHESIS. - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology 
The Principles of Psychology (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855).
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THE NATURE OF INTELLIGENCE.
§ 168. The two great classes of vital phenomena which Physiology and Psychology respectively embrace, are broadly distinguished in this; that while the one class includes both simultaneous and successive changes, the other includes successive changes only. While the phenomena forming the subject-matter of Physiology, exhibit themselves as an immense number of different series bound up together; those forming the subject-matter of Psychology, exhibit themselves as but a single series. The briefest consideration of the many continuous actions constituting the life of the body at large, suffices to show that they are synchronous—that digestion, circulation, respiration, excretion, secretion, &c., in all their many subdivisions, are going on at one time, in mutual dependence. And the briefest introspection serves to make it clear, that the actions constituting thought, occur, not together, but one after another. Should a rigorous criticism demand qualifications of this statement, they cannot be such as to diminish its general truth. Life being the definite combination of heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and successive, in correspondence with external coexistences and sequences; the two great divisions of life must ever be distinguished as, the one a correspondence that is both simultaneous and successive, and the other a correspondence that is successive only.
At first sight, this may be supposed to constitute an impassable distinction between the two. Such, however, is by no means the fact. Even were the highest psychical life thus absolutely distinguished from physical life, which we shall presently see reason to doubt, it would still be true that psychical life, in its earlier and lower phases, is not thus distinguished; but that the distinction arises, only in the course of that progression by which life in general attains to its more perfect forms. That gradual differentiation and integration, seen alike in the evolution of organic structures, and in the evolution of the correspondence between their actions and those in the environment, is also seen in the separation of that correspondence into its two great orders. At the same time that through it have resulted the various subordinate divisions of the correspondence, through it also, has resulted this fundamental division. Originally, the particular kinds of change forming the germ of psychical life, were, like those out of which physical life arises, both simultaneous and successive; and it is but by slow steps that they have come to be distinguishable as successive only. Let us glance at a few of the facts.
Passing over the creatures moved by cilia, in which the independence of the constituent irritations and motions simultaneously going on, is manifest—passing over the zoophytes, in which each part of the organism is capable, in a greater or less degree, of stimulations and contractions apart from the rest, which may at the same moment be responding to other stimuli—passing over these lowest creatures, in which the absence, or rudimentary character, of the nervous system, forbids anything like community of impressions throughout the mass; let us consider what happens even when the nervous system has attained some development. In the higher Radiata, as, for example, the star-fish, each of the several like divisions of which the body consists, “is connected with a ganglionic centre, that seems to be subservient to the functions of its own division alone, and to have little communication with, or dependence upon, the remainder.”∗ The result is, that the sensory and motor actions going on in each ray of a star-fish, are, in the main, independent of those going on in the others. Such elementary psychical changes as the creature manifests, take place simultaneously in different parts of its body; each part separately responding to the impressions made upon it. And hence the fact, that for a length of time after being divided from each other, the rays severally continue to exhibit their ordinary actions. Though in the Mollusca, there is no such repetition of like parts having similar endowments; yet it is held, that the ganglia distributed through the body, are in great measure independent in their actions, or have these actions but very imperfectly co-ordinated into any general psychical life.∗ In the Articulata, whose structure specially fits them for the experiment, this dispersion of the psychical life may be very clearly shown. “The Mantis religiosa customarily places itself in a curious position, especially when threatened or attacked, resting upon its two posterior pairs of legs, and elevating its thorax with the anterior pair, which are armed with powerful claws: now if the anterior segment of the thorax, with its attached members, be removed, the posterior part of the body will still remain balanced upon the four legs which belong to it, resisting any attempts to overthrow it, recovering its position when disturbed, and performing the same agitated movements of the wings and elytra as when the unmutilated insect is irritated; on the other hand, the detached portion of the thorax, which contains a ganglion, will, when separated from the head, set in motion its long arms, and impress their hooks on the fingers which hold it.—If the head of a Centipede be cut off, whilst it is in motion, the body will continue to move onwards by the action of the legs; and the same will take place in the separate parts, if the body be divided into several distinct portions. ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ If the body be opposed in its progress by an obstacle of not more than half of its own height, it mounts over it, and moves directly onwards, as in its natural state; but if the obstacle be equal to its own height, its progress is arrested, and the cut extremity of the body remains forced up against the opposing substance, the legs still continuing to move.—If, again, the nervous cord of a Centipede be divided in the middle of the trunk, so that the hinder legs are cut off from connection with the cephalia ganglia, they will continue to move, but not in harmony with those of the fore part of the body; being completely paralyzed so far as the animal's controlling power is concerned; though still capable of performing reflex movements by the influence of their own ganglia, which may thus continue to propel the body in opposition to the determinations of the animal itself.”∗ From all which facts we see, that in one of these articulated creatures, the actions which pertain to the psychical division of the life, are in great measure performed independently and simultaneously by the several segments. Just as, in the structure, is provided a separate ganglion to each segment; so, in the function, each segment exhibits a more or less distinct nervous activity. The impression made upon each leg by the surface touched, is conveyed to the special ganglion of that leg, and thence reflected upon a muscle moving in the leg; and only in its power of setting agoing or arresting this automatic action, has the creature's chief nervous centre any participation in the process. So that, even in animals of this comparatively advanced organization, both orders of vital changes are simultaneous and successive: the differentiation of the psychical from the physical life is but slight. Even in the Vertebrata this differentiation is by no means complete. A large part of the actions that appear voluntary, are in a great degree automatic, and may be performed without consciousness. “Infants are sometimes born without any Cerebrum or Cerebellum; and such have existed for several hours or even days, breathing; crying, sucking, and performing various other movements. The Cerebrum and Cerebellum have been experimentally removed from Birds and young Mammalia, thus reducing these beings to a similar condition; and all their vital operations have, nevertheless, been so regularly performed as to enable them to live for weeks, or even months.”† The ordinary experiments on decapitated frogs, clearly show the reflex origin of many muscular actions. “It is certain that, in Birds, the movements of flight may be performed after the removal of the Cerebrum.”∗ Nay, even in the adult human being, there are many actions belonging to the psychical division, which either may or may not enter into the current of consciousness. The motion of the legs is necessarily accompanied with various muscular and tactual changes. These, together with the state of feeling constituting volition, may be distinctly present to consciousness—may be thought of as by a child learning to walk; or they may, as in ordinary walking, be wholly left out of consciousness. The various impressions received by the feet; the various feelings of muscular tension; the various combinations of sensations and contractions by which the equilibrium is maintained; may be all going on while consciousness is entirely absorbed in some interesting train of thought—may form an independent series of changes parallel to those going on in consciousness—may form, as it were, a kind of secondary consciousness, subordinate to the primary one. The processes we perform while eating display a very similar relation. The several acts by which each morsel is selected, cut, prepared, and carried to the mouth, may perhaps be held to enter into the current of our thoughts; though in general, and especially during conversation, they seem next to unconscious. But many of the impressions and motions involved are certainly unconscious. The sensations which the knife-handle gives; the contractions by which it is grasped; and the muscular changes which the arms are every moment undergoing, scarcely ever, if at all, occupy the attention. That is to say:—Out of a great number of psychical actions going on in the organism, only a part are woven into the thread of consciousness; while the others form one or more distinct strands, which, as it were, occasionally inosculate with the thread of consciousness, but do not permanently unite with it. The like is manifestly to a great extent true in speaking and writing. And the reader can, doubtless, call to mind occasions on which some habitually performed process, even of considerable complexity, was performed quite unthinkingly, and while—to use the common phrase—he “did not know what he was about.”
Contemplating, then, these typical facts, it will be manifest that the differentiation by virtue of which the changes constituting psychical life, have become successive only, instead of simultaneous and successive, has arisen by degrees, and has not even now become complete. In the lowest animal types, each part of the organism, while it performs by and for itself all other vital functions, also responds by and for itself to external stimuli; and the psychical changes, or what stand for them, are both simultaneous and successive to almost as great an extent as the physical ones. Gradually as a nervous system makes its appearance, these psychical changes become slightly co-ordinated—have their various strands connected. Gradually as the nervous system becomes more and more integrated, the twisting of these various strands of changes into one thread of changes grows more complete. But to the last their union never becomes entire. The vital actions constituting the subject-matter of Psychology, while distinguished from other vital actions by their tendency to assume the form of a single series, never absolutely attain that form.
§ 169. The gradual rise of this distinction between the psychical and the physical life, will be most clearly understood, if we consider the mode in which it first appears, and the leading stages of its progress.
Throughout the homogeneous tissue of which the lowest creatures consist, there is complete community of actions. Each part does what the other parts do. The several vital processes are going on simultaneously in many places alike. These primordial organisms, if organisms they can be called, exhibit no differentiation of either structure or function. And thus, the two great divisions of life, as well as the various subdivisions of each, are, in the beginning, one.
The first great differentiation established, is that between the inner and outer tissues—the mass, and its limiting membrane—the substance of the body, and its skin. The parts of the originally uniform jelly, are subject to but one marked contrast of conditions—that between contact with each other, and contact with the environment. The external portions are bathed by the surrounding medium: the internal portions are not. And in response to this primary contrast of conditions, there eventually arises a contrast of structure and function. That which is permanently outermost, takes on the modified form of vital action which its circumstances demand: that which is permanently innermost, similarly assumes a more specialized order of activity. And with this differentiation of function there goes on a simultaneous differentiation of structure.
Primarily, the division of labour thus commenced may be considered as physiological only. In virtue of its position, the surface may be regarded as necessarily assuming the duties of absorption—the taking in of water, and nutriment, and oxygen. And when, by the involution of the surface, a stomach comes to be formed, the change may be understood as a further separation of duties, such that nutrition is chiefly confined to one part of the limiting membrane and aeration to another. But the advance is not solely an advance in the physiological division of labour: it is at the same time an advance towards the separation of psychical actions from physical ones; and is even a first step towards bringing the psychical actions into a serial order. As a necessary result of its position, the skin not only permanently assumes the office of taking in the matters by which the processes of integration and disintegration may be maintained, and of excreting the effete products; but it also permanently assumes the office of receiving all those impressions which form the raw material of intelligence. The mechanical and other actions going on in the environment, can be responded to by the organism, only when it is affected by them; and any effect they produce upon it must be proximately experienced by its surface. The skin, then, being the part immediately subject to the various kinds of external stimuli, necessarily becomes the part in which psychical changes are originated. That adjustment of inner to outer relations in which intelligence of all degrees consists, must in every case be initiated by the actions of things upon the outside of the organism. Any consequent movement of the organism entails further actions of things upon its outside. And hence, as contrasted with the contained substance, the skin comes to be more especially concerned in such psychical changes as arise; and more and more definitely so, as the differentiation becomes more complete. But now mark the implication. The changes constituting the physical life, continue, as before, to go on simultaneously throughout the entire mass. Those which foreshadow the psychical life, are, in an increasing degree, localized in its outer surface—belong to the outer surface primarily, and affect some other parts secondarily. Though, as soon as there is any rudiment of a nervous system, impressions received by the skin are followed by specific changes elsewhere; yet, as these specific changes elsewhere, would not have occurred without the impressions on the skin, we must consider these as fundamental. So that, contemplating the facts under their general aspect, we may say that while the physical changes pervade a solid, the psychical ones, or rather those out of which psychical ones arise, tend to be confined to a surface. And as the changes that can be simultaneously going on throughout a solid, are infinitely greater in number than those to which a surface can be subject; it results that, even by this primary differentiation, the incipient psychical life comes to be distinguished from the purely physical life, by the diminished quantity of simultaneous changes that it may include.
At succeeding stages in the progression, further differentiations, having like natures and results, are clearly traceable. At first, this sensitiveness, which forms the basis of the psychical life, is diffused more or less equably over the whole surface; but it presently becomes in some degree concentrated. Though, in general, all parts of the skin remain impressible by touch; yet certain parts, which are by their positions more especially liable to receive tactual impressions, become more highly susceptible than the rest; and in these parts the great majority of the sensorial changes are localized. That is to say, the changes forming the raw material of intelligence, by being in a great measure restricted in the area of their occurrence, have the characteristic of simultaneity still further limited; and the more highly developed the tactual apparatus, the more marked is the limitation.
Still more decisive is this limitation rendered by the development of the special senses. The olfactory and gustatory sensations are localized in smaller tracts than the sensation of touch; and each of these tracts is little, if at all, capable of undergoing more than one change at one time. Visual and aural impressions are receivable only within yet narrower areas; and even the two areas susceptible of each, become functionally one. The ears are simultaneously affected by the same sounds; and in the higher creatures the eyes, being so placed as to converge their axes on the same object, are occupied with almost identical images, and yield to consciousness what seems to be one impression. Nay, even of the sensations occurring within the narrow space of each retina, a further concentration is manifest. The highest sensitiveness of the retina is confined to a very minute spot; and the changes to which that spot is subject, so dominate over the others as greatly to obscure them. If we further call to mind that when the most advanced intelligence is reached, the sensational changes that arise in the nose and the palate are but occasional; and that those proceeding from the eyes and ears are by far the most frequent; it will be seen to what extremely small portions of the organism the changes which form the greater part of the raw material of intelligence, are ultimately confined.
This continued process of differentiation and integration—by which the changes forming the substance of psychical life, are first gradually concentrated upon the surface of the organism; afterwards upon certain regions of that surface; afterwards upon those most specialized parts of it constituting the organs of the higher senses; and in the most perfect of these are even more or less localized in minute centres; will clearly show how the psychical life grows distinct from the physical life, by the increasing tendency of its changes to assume the serial arrangement. We have nothing to do with the progressive development of the nervous system, and the actions that are carried on throughout its mass. All these actions originate in the senses. The internal changes are consequent upon the external ones. And just in proportion as the external ones tend towards the serial form, the consequent internal ones must do the same. Evidently, then, this distinction is involved in the very progress of the sensitive organization.
§ 170. But now, from our present point of view, the matter will be more fully comprehended on observing, that the advance of the correspondence of itself necessitates a growing seriality in the psychical changes; or in other words—that the advance of the correspondence, the development of consciousness, and the increasing tendency towards a linear order in the psychical changes, are different aspects of the same progression.
For how only can the constituent changes involved in any complex correspondence be co-ordinated? Those abilities which an intelligent creature possesses, of recognizing a variety of external objects of different structures, and of adjusting its actions to composite phenomena of many kinds, imply a power of combining many separate impressions. These separate impressions are received by the senses—by different parts of the body. If they go no further than the points at which they are made, they are useless. Or if only some of them are brought into relation with each other, they are useless. That an adjustment may be effected, they must be all brought into relation with each other. But for them all to be brought into relation with each other, implies some centre of communication common to them all. They cannot possibly be co-ordinated without this. This centre of communication common to all the impressions, must be one through which they severally pass; and as they cannot pass through it simultaneously, they must necessarily pass through it in succession. Just in proportion as the external phenomena responded to become greater in number, and more complicated in kind, must the variety and rapidity of the changes to which this common centre of communication is subject, increase—just in this proportion must there result an unbroken series of these changes—just in this proportion must there arise a consciousness.
Hence then it is manifest, that the progress of the correspondence between the organism and its environment, inevitably involves a more and more complete reduction of the sensorial changes to a succession; and by so doing inevitably involves the evolution of a consciousness—a consciousness that becomes higher and higher as the succession becomes more rapid and the correspondence more complete.
§ 171. This doctrine, that mental phenomena constitute a series, is one of very old standing; and one the general truth of which none call in question. As we have seen, however, it requires to be understood in a somewhat qualified sense. Where, as above, the facts are contemplated objectively, it becomes manifest that though the changes constituting intelligence approach more or less nearly to a single succession, they do not absolutely form one—that there are constantly being performed actions of an intelligent kind which are not present to consciousness—and that, through the many gradations between the completely conscious actions and the completely unconscious ones, the psychical changes merge into those which we distinguish as physical, and the boundaries of the series are blurred. When we go on to consider the facts subjectively—when we interrogate consciousness, we still find that though the seriality of the changes becomes yet more clearly manifest, there are nevertheless certain experiences which make us hesitate to assert this seriality in any very rigorous sense.
Thus, the visual impressions which we are every moment receiving, though ordinarily regarded as single states, are yet in reality compound ones; and it becomes a perplexing question whether each of these compound states can, strictly speaking, be a member of a linear series of changes. It is not simply that the various distances, solidities, structures, &c., which appear to be immediately given in each impression, are really known by inference, and severally imply many changes; but it is that the various objects included within the visual field, are simultaneously present to consciousness with various degrees of distinctness—produce what may in some sense be called simultaneous changes in consciousness. Besides the particular thing to which the eyes are directed, many other things are seen more or less clearly; and no lines of demarcation can be drawn between either the degrees of perfection with which they are impressed upon the retina, or those with which they are presented to consciousness. Only one particular point of the object looked at, is perceived with perfect distinctness. Yet it cannot be said that consciousness is wholly occupied with this one point; for the object itself becomes known by the single glance directed to the one point. Obviously the degree of consciousness which we have of things within the visible area, becomes insensibly less as they become more remote from the centre to which the axes of the eyes converge. Obviously there is no particular distance from it at which we can say that consciousness ceases. And thus there would seem to be a great number of nascent consciousnesses, of different intensities, existing at the same moment. Still more manifest will become the difficulty of regarding this visually-produced consciousness as single, when it is remembered that each of these nascent consciousnesses is really the result of a distinct change, or group of changes, in the retina. The immense number of separate sensitive agents of which the retina consists, being severally capable of independent stimulation, it results that when a cluster of images is cast upon them, they are one and all affected in various modes and degrees. They simultaneously undergo a variety of changes, which are more or less distinctly presented to consciousness. Evidently, then, it is only by a certain license that the internal change produced by any visual impression can be called single. It is in reality a multitude of simultaneous changes bound together. The thread of consciousness is made up of an immense number of separate strands; and it is only in the sense that these separate strands are more or less united, that consciousness can be said to consist of a succession of changes.
Nevertheless, the truth of the general doctrine that the psychical life is distinguished from the physical life by presenting successive changes only, instead of successive and simultaneous changes, may be even further shown from the very facts here cited. For though, when subject to a visual impression, we become nascently conscious of many things; yet, there is always some one thing of which we are conscious in a higher degree than the rest. And beyond this, it is observable that when we so direct our attention to any one thing as to perceive it in the true sense of the word—to know it as such or such, we are almost exclusively occupied with that one thing, or some particular part of that one thing. Though the images of other objects are all the while being impressed upon the retina, and are producing changes there; yet these appear to produce extremely little internal effect—are scarcely more than physical changes—do not undergo that co-ordination with others which is required to constitute them psychical changes. And this fact, that in proportion as any object, or part of an object, seen, is distinctly thought of, the other objects within view cease to be thought of, shows very clearly how consciousness becomes more definitely serial as it rises to a higher form. So that, reverting to the metaphor before used, we may say that while the outer strands of changes which constitute the thread of consciousness, are indefinite and loosely adherent, there is always an internal closely-twisted series of changes, forming what we may consider as consciousness proper.
Thus, though a critical examination of the facts, shows that the seriality of psychical changes can be asserted only in a qualified sense, it shows that, if not absolutely so distinguished from physical changes, they are relatively so distinguished; and it shows, that in proportion as the psychical changes assume that more perfect form constituting consciousness proper, they become so distinctly serial, as to originate what we recognize to be a single succession of states. Though these may be physiologically composite, and were once psychologically so; yet, to the extent that they have become consolidated elements of thought, they may rightly be regarded as severally simple.
And here indeed, where the question is considered in relation to the human consciousness only, it is resolvable by the briefest introspection. No controversies respecting the nature of our mental states, can alter our inward perception that consciousness cannot be in two states at one time—that any one state of consciousness necessarily excludes any other. However difficult it may be to say where one state of consciousness ends and another begins—however difficult it may be to say respecting certain states of consciousness, whether they are simple or complex; the fact remains the same, that the states of consciousness are serial. If any state, commonly regarded as one, is asserted to be made up of many states; then, those many occur in succession. If they do not occur in succession, they must occur together; and must so form one state. These are the only alternatives. And whichever be chosen, it remains equally manifest that, subjectively considered, the changes in consciousness constitute a linear series.
§ 172. Concerning the nature of Intelligence, therefore, we reach the conclusion, that it consists of a certain order of changes, which are distinguished from that lower order of changes constituting bodily life, by the peculiarity, that, instead of being both simultaneous and successive, they are successive only. Step by step differentiated from the lower order of changes with which they are originally one; they assume a more completely serial arrangement in proportion as intelligence advances. Though this serial arrangement never becomes in all respects absolute; yet, in the human consciousness, it becomes almost so: and the highest processes of this consciousness are possible on no other condition. The simple fact that every distinct proposition expresses a relation, and that every relation subsists between two terms, of itself proves that distinct thought cannot exist except as a single succession of states. And hence, the seriality of its changes must be regarded as that especial characteristic of intelligence, which approaches to absoluteness as the intelligence approaches to perfection.
A continued series of changes being thus the subject-matter of Psychology, it is the business of Psychology to determine the law of their succession. That they do not occur at random, is manifest. That they follow one another in a particular way, the existence of Intelligence itself testifies. The problem then, is, to explain their order.
THE LAW OF INTELLIGENCE.
§ 173. All Life, whether physical or psychical, being the combination of changes in correspondence with external coexistences and sequences; it results, that if the changes constituting psychical life, or intelligence, occur in succession, the law of their succession must be the law of their correspondence. That particular kind of Life which we distinguish as intelligence, including as it does the various developments of the correspondence in Space, in Time, in Speciality, in Complexity, &c.; it necessarily follows that the changes of which this intelligence consists, must, in their general mode of co-ordination, harmonize with the co-ordination of phenomena in the environment. The life is the correspondence; the progress of the life is the progress of the correspondence; the cessation of the life is the cessation of the correspondence: and hence, if there is one particular department of the life, which, more manifestly than any other, consists in the constant maintenance of the correspondence; the changes which make up this highest department of life, must, more manifestly than any other, display the correspondence. The fundamental condition of vitality, is, that the internal order shall be continually adjusted to the external order. If the internal order is altogether unrelated to the external order, there can be no adaptation between the actions going on in the organism and those going on in its environment: and life becomes impossible. If the relation of the internal order to the external order, is one of but partial adjustment; the adaptation of inner to outer actions is imperfect: and the life is proportionately low and brief. If, between the inner and the outer order, the adjustment is complete; the adaptation is complete: and the life is proportionately high and prolonged. Necessarily, then, the order of the states of consciousness is in correspondence with the order of phenomena in the environment. This is an à priori condition of intelligence.
Clear, however, as it is, that from this à priori condition of intelligence, must result the law of succession of psychical changes, an adequate expression of such law is by no means easy to find. Did the phenomena in the environment form, like the phenomena of consciousness, a succession; there would be no difficulty. The entire fact would be expressed by saying that the internal succession parallels the external succession. But the environment contains a great number of successions of phenomena, going on simultaneously. Further, the environment contains a great variety of phenomena that are not successive at all, but coexistent. Yet again, the environment is unlimited in extent, and the phenomena it contains are not only infinite in number, but insensibly pass into a relative non-existence, as the distance from the organism increases. And yet once more, the environment, relatively considered, is ever varying as the organism moves from place to place in it. How, then, can the succession of psychical changes be in any way formulated? How is it possible to express the law of a single series of internal phenomena, in terms of its correspondence with an infinity of external phenomena, both serial and non-serial, mixed in the most heterogeneous manner, and presented to the moving organism in an endless variety of fortuitous combinations?
Were it not that the inner relations must be in correspondence with the outer ones; and that therefore the order of the states of consciousness must be in some way expressible in terms of the external order; we might almost despair of finding any general law of psychical changes. Even as it is, we may be certain that any such general law cannot apply to extended portions of the series of changes. Dependent as these must in great measure be, upon the heterogeneous combinations of phenomena by which the organism is at any moment environed, and upon the new heterogeneous combinations perpetually disclosed by its movements, they can be no more formulated than the heterogeneous combinations of external phenomena can be formulated. Evidently, therefore, it must be in the constituent changes, and small groups of changes, rather than in the longer concatenations of changes, that we must look for a law.
And this is the indication given by certain still more general considerations. As on each particular link in a chain, depend the succeeding links; so, on each particular change in consciousness, depend all the succeeding changes: and hence the law of the succession of changes, must be really involved in the law of the individual change. If there occurs in consciousness a change from state A to state F, there will follow certain changes F to L, L to D, D to K, &c.; but if the first change had been from A to D, some other series of changes, D to J, J to C, C to N, would have resulted. So that, as the particular combination of subsequent changes is ever dependent upon the change occurring at each moment; and as each of these subsequent changes becomes, when it occurs, the change on which those succeeding it depend; it follows that the law of the individual change is the sole thing to be determined.
Not simply, therefore, as being the only phenomenon in the mental succession which there is any hope of formulating; but as being the phenomenon on which all other phenomena in the mental succession must hinge; the subject of our inquiry must be—the law of the connection between any two successive states of consciousness—the law of the elementary psychical change.
§ 174. Using the expression state of consciousness, in its most extended sense, as meaning the psychical state of any order of creature, and also as meaning any species of psychical state, from the most simple to the most complex; the law of the connection between any two successive states of consciousness, will become manifest on considering the à priori necessity to which it must conform. Each of the two states originally answers to some particular phenomenon external to consciousness. Every external phenomenon exists in certain relations to other phenomena. Hence, a correspondence between the internal order and the external order, implies that the relation between any two states of consciousness, corresponds with the relation between the two external phenomena producing them. How corresponds? The two states of consciousness occur in succession: and all successions are alike in so far as they are simply successions. In what, then, can the correspondence consist? It consists in this; that the persistency of the connection between the two states of consciousness, is proportionate to the persistency of the connection between the phenomena to which they answer. The relations between external phenomena are of all grades, from the absolutely necessary to the purely fortuitous. The relations between the answering states of consciousness must similarly be of all grades, from the absolutely necessary to the purely fortuitous. And as the correspondence becomes more complete, that is—as the intelligence becomes higher, the various grades of the one must be more and more accurately paralleled by those of the other. When any state a occurs, the tendency of some other state d, to follow it, must be strong or weak according to the degree of persistency with which A and D (the objects or attributes that produce a and d) occur together in the environment. If, in the environment, there is a more persistent occurrence of A with B than of A with D; then, the maintenance of the correspondence implies, that when a arises in consciousness, b shall follow rather than d. If there are in the environment a great variety of things in connection with which A occurs; then, when the state of consciousness a, arises, it must be followed by the state of consciousness answering to the thing most generally occurring along with A. These are manifest necessities. If the strengths of the connections between the internal states, are not proportionate to the persistencies of the relations between the answering external phenomena; there must be a failure of the correspondence—the inner order must disagree with the outer order. Psychical life, in common with life in general, being the continuous adjustment of inner to outer relations; and the occurrence of any relation between states of consciousness, being, in itself, nothing else than an exhibition of the fact, that the cohesion of the antecedent and consequent states was greater than the cohesion between the antecedent state and any other state; it follows inevitably, that, to effect the adjustment, the cohesion of the states must vary as the cohesion of the phenomena represented by them. The law of intelligence, therefore, is, that the strength of the tendency which the antecedent of any psychical change has to be followed by its consequent, is proportionate to the persistency of the union between the external things they symbolize.
To say, however, that this is the law of intelligence, is by no means to say that it is conformed to by any intelligence with which we are acquainted. It is the law of intelligence in the abstract; and is conformed to by existing intelligences in degrees more or less imperfect. To the extent that psychical changes fulfil this law, to such extent only do they constitute intelligence; and it is but very incompletely that even the highest orders of psychical changes do this. A due understanding of the matter will, however, be best obtained, by examining the several objections to this general statement which suggest themselves.
§ 175. Beyond doubt, if we contemplate the acts of the animal creation in general, we find endless instances in which the internal order entirely fails to parallel the external order. It is clear that in a moth which flies at the candle-flame, there exists no relation of psychical states answering to the relation between light and heat in the environment. The relation between the odour of a flower and the contained honey, is duly responded to by sequent actions in the moth; as is also the relation between a certain change in the visual field, and the approach of a living body. But there is no internal adjustment by which, after the visual impression produced by a flame, anything analogous to the feeling of a burn is suggested; and hence the creature's death. Again, the birds which, on uninhabited islands, allow explorers to approach close to them, manifestly lack that co-ordination of psychical changes by which the birds of our woods and moors are led to fly the sportsman. Externally, there coexists with particular visible appearances, a destructive activity; but internally, the state of consciousness produced by these visible appearances, is not followed by any state of consciousness representing a destructive activity: and a risk of being killed is the consequence. In the mind of a child, the state produced by the sight of some brightly-coloured berry, does not suggest any state representative of pain, or of the word “poison;” but more probably, some representation of a pleasant taste; and should certain injurious chemical properties coexist with these attractive visible ones, the child's life may be endangered. But in all cases of this kind, in which the order of psychical changes is totally at variance with the order of external phenomena, what is the implication? Do we not speak of them as resulting from lack of sagacity? or as evincing ignorance? And is it not a corollary, that as the non-conformity of the inner to the outer order is want of intelligence, the conformity of the inner to the outer order is that in which intelligence, abstractedly considered, consists?
Yet more manifest will the truth of this conclusion become, if we look at a few instances in which the failure of the correspondence is not total, but partial. In the great majority of cases, the dog that comes on hearing his name called, does so in the expectation of finding his master, or some member of the family; but if, as occasionally happens, his name is called by a stranger, the sequence in his states of consciousness, and his consequent actions, are not adapted to the external facts; or, as we say, he makes a mistake. Among the Australian savages, who, in their natural state, mostly meet with violent deaths, it is the belief that any one who dies without a visible cause has been killed by an unseen enemy; and a stranger who happens to be found near at hand, runs a great risk of being sacrificed as the supposed assassin. Here, though the mental succession very generally agrees with the succession of phenomena in the environment, it by no means uniformly does so. The Laplanders again, finding, as they do, a constant relation between hot weather and the continuance of the sun above the horizon during the night, doubtless have an established connection in thought between these phenomena—a connection which, however completely it may answer to the external connection in that limited part of the environment known to them, does not answer to the ordinary external connection. The earlier chemists, in virtue of a large number of experiences respecting the combinations of acids and bases, came habitually to think of substances that neutralized bases, as substances having sour tastes; but this sequence of the ideas—ability to neutralize a base, and the possession of a sour taste—though very generally in harmony with external relations, is not so in all cases.
What, now, are the terms we use respecting instances like these, in which the inner order does not completely answer to the outer order? We regard them as indicating a low degree of intellect; or as showing a limited experience; or as the results of but a partial enlightenment. And the disappearance of these discrepancies between thoughts and facts, we regard as an advance of intelligence.
It is abundantly clear, then, that to whatever extent the order of psychical changes does not conform to the order of the environing phenomena, to that extent there is a lack of intelligence. And hence it follows, that the law in the fulfilment of which the conformity consists, may properly be called the law of intelligence.
§ 176. The greatest apparent obstacle to the establishment of this law, is that presented by the phenomena of coexistence. In so far as the environment presents motions and changes, there is no difficulty in understanding it to be the law of intelligence, that the strength of the tendency which the antecedent of any psychical change has to be followed by its consequent is proportionate to the persistency of the union between the external things they symbolize. But when the union between the external things they symbolize is not a union of successive phenomena, but a union of simultaneous phenomena—not a union in Time, but a union in Space—not a sequence, but a coexistence; then, it becomes less easy to see how the parallelism between the inner and the outer order can result from the fulfilment of this law. The connection between two states of consciousness occurring in succession, can very well represent the connection between two external phenomena occurring in succession. But if it can do this, it cannot also represent the connection between two external phenomena not occurring in succession. Whence it follows, that in so far as environing coexistences are concerned, the correspondence cannot be effected by any change in consciousness conforming to the alleged law of intelligence.
The reply to this objection is, by implication, contained in a foregoing chapter, on “The Relations of Coexistence and Non-Coexistence.” It is there shown, à posteriori, that the relation of coexistence is known as a doubled sequence—a sequence whose terms follow one another through consciousness in either order, with equal facility and vividness; and it is pointed out that, even à priori, we might conclude, that as consciousness can exist only by a succession of changes, an external no-change can be presented in consciousness only by a change that is immediately reversed—only by a progression that is instantly followed by an equivalent retrogression—only by a duplication in consciousness, made up of a sequence and its inversion. Such being the nature of the relation of coexistence, subjectively considered, the law of intelligence as above formulated, applies to it as fully as to the relation of sequence. If any two phenomena, A and B, habitually coexist in the environment; then, when the phenomenon A is presented to the senses, the induced state of consciousness, a, is immediately succeeded by the state b, representing the phenomenon B. The process of thought does not end here, however: if it did, the external relation would be known as a sequence. But the phenomenon B, in the environment, being as much the antecedent of A as A is of B (neither of them ever being either antecedent or consequent, otherwise than in the order of our experience of them), it results that the state b having been induced, the law involves that it shall be followed by the state a. The state a again induces the state b, and is itself once more re-induced; and so on, as long as the relation remains the object of thought. To render the matter the clearer, let us take a case. If, in the light, the visible outlines and colours of a body are presented, the resulting state of consciousness is instantly followed by the consciousness of something resistant; and conversely, if, in the dark, a body is touched, the resulting state of consciousness is instantly followed by the consciousness of something extended. But in neither case is this all. When the consciousness of resistance has suggested that of extension, the consciousness of extension is not followed by some third consciousness of another kind. Were it so, the object would cease to be thought of. But, as we all know, when the idea of extension has been suggested, that of resistance does not finally disappear; nor when the idea of resistance has been suggested, does that of extension finally disappear. Both continue to be thought of, as it would seem, almost simultaneously. And seeing that the two terms of the relation, extension and resistance, cannot be cognized in absolutely the same state of consciousness; seeing, further, that the persistent consciousness of them cannot be one state of consciousness, which is equivalent to no consciousness; it follows, that the apparently incessant presentation of both, is really a rapid alternation—an alternation so rapid as to produce the effect of continuity: just as the alternating light and darkness to which each part of the retina is subjected while watching a torch whirled round, produce the impression of a circle of fire; or just as the alternations experienced by the ear-drum, when receiving a succession of separate pulses, constitute a uniform sensation of sound. And, indeed, these considerations render it sufficiently clear, that only in virtue of the law of intelligence as above formulated, does the relation of coexistence become cognizable. For this great rapidity with which the two states of consciousness, answering to two coexistent phenomena, continually reproduce each other, itself exemplifies the extreme cohesion of those internal states which correspond to extremely coherent external phenomena. And it is in consequence of this extreme cohesion, and the rapid alternation involved by it, that the two phenomena are presented apparently together, and the idea of coexistence generated.
When it is further remarked, that where, as in most cases, there are not two coexistent phenomena but a group, this same law implies a like cohesion of a number of different states of consciousness, which must similarly produce and reproduce each other in all orders; and when it is remarked that such an irregularly varied presentation and representation of combined properties, is just what we know takes place, the conformity of the facts to the alleged law will be rendered yet more apparent. And even still more apparent will it become on remembering, that whereas such of the states of consciousness as answer to invariably coexistent phenomena, as resistance and extension, continue reproducing each other during the whole perception, forming, as it were, the basis of it; the several other states of consciousness answering to the special qualities of the object—qualities not invariably coexisting with resistance and extension—do not remain thus persistent, but appear, and disappear, and reappear in consciousness, with degrees of frequency varying more or less according to the constancy of the answering qualities.
§ 177. A fact which at first sight may be thought to conflict with the generalization to be established, is, that a great proportion of the changes in consciousness arise after a fashion that is in one sense fortuitous. A succession of noises heard through the open window, traverses consciousness in a totally irregular manner, of which no account can be given beyond describing it. When walking through the streets, the passing people and vehicles produce internal changes of which the succession is indeterminate. Though, on receiving certain visual impressions, there result in the mind the changes constituting the perception of a man; and though, in so far, the order of the changes is determinate; yet, the occurrence of these impressions and the consequent perception, the moment after there had arisen some thought concerning the weather or the last news, is a fact which would appear unconformable to any law of psychical changes. Moreover, it may be objected, that not only are very many of the changes which occur in the state of consciousness from minute to minute, accidental, but that the order of the series of states, even in some of its largest features, is accidental. A mere chance may determine a man to go abroad or remain at home; to commence a new occupation, or continue an old one; to marry, or remain a bachelor; and the character of the whole series of his subsequent states of consciousness may thus be modified. Nor is it only of the changes constituting the human consciousness that this is true: it is more or less true of all grades of psychical changes. No matter what the degree of its intelligence, every creature is subject to impressions between which no internal law of connection can be traced. And hence, to a large part of the successive changes of which intelligence in general consists, the formula above given would seem to be inapplicable.
This difficulty, insurmountable as it looks, will disappear when the formula is interpreted in its most general sense; and it will be perceived that these, in one respect, fortuitous changes, really conform to the law of intelligence. The law is, that the strength of the tendency which the antecedent of any psychical change has to be followed by its consequent, is proportionate to the persistency of the union between the external things they symbolize. Thus far, we have considered this law with more especial reference to those connections in consciousness which correspond to established connections in the environment: we have dealt with it as a generalization of the facts commonly grouped under the head of “association of ideas.” Here, however, the connections in the environment to which the connections in consciousness correspond, are not established connections, but accidental ones. A fortuitous relation in the environment, is paralleled by a fortuitous relation in thought. Two adjacent states of consciousness answer to two phenomena that are adjacent in Space or Time. Thus far the law manifestly applies as before. The internal order conforms to the external order. But how, it may be asked, can the tendency of the antecedent state of consciousness to be followed by the consequent state, be described as proportionate to the persistency of the union between the external things they symbolize? Very properly. Suppose the relation in the environment to be that between a certain individual and some unusual place at which he is met. This relation may either be considered generally, in connection with our average experiences; or specially, as a particular experience. Generally considered, the relation is one whose terms have no persistency of union whatever; seeing that this individual may never have been in that place before, and may never be in it again: and in conformity with this total absence of persistency in the external union, is the total absence of any general tendency for the consciousness of that individual and the consciousness of that place, to follow one another—at any rate before he was met there. Specially considered, the relation is one that actually occurred; and when it occurred, the union between its terms was absolute—there was for the time being an absolutely persistent union between the place and the person—a union that was absolutely persistent in the sense that for the moment it was indissoluble, and its occurrence thenceforth became an unalterable fact: and in conformity with this temporarily absolute coexistence, is the temporarily absolute tendency of the answering states of consciousness to follow one another. As, for the time being, the adjacent coexistence was as absolute as that of extension and resistance; so, for the time being, the cohesion between the two states of consciousness was as absolute as that between the conceptions of extension and resistance. And as, generally, there is no such adjacent coexistence; so, generally, there is no such tendency for the two states of consciousness to occur in juxtaposition. Thus, rightly interpreted, the law applies as fully to the relations presented in any act of perception, even when they are fortuitous, as it does to those relations which an accumulated experience establishes among the ideas.
§ 178. In the succession of psychical changes, there doubtless occur many combinations which are not readily to be accounted for on the hypothesis that the strength of the tendency which the antecedent of any psychical change has to be followed by its consequent, is proportionate to the persistency of the union between the external things they symbolize. Thus, respecting the case last instanced, it may be remarked, that though before a certain person has been met in a certain place, there exists no tendency whatever for the states of consciousness answering to the place and the person to occur together; yet, afterwards, there will often be a very decided tendency for one of the states to call up the other—a tendency so decided that it may show itself on many successive occasions. Whence it would appear, that in such cases, a more persistent relation is established between the states of consciousness than existed between corresponding phenomena. Moreover it is observable, that in many cases, the extremely exceptional character of the external relation, becomes the very cause of tenacity in the internal relation: the more astonishing the event—the more utterly it is at variance with the ordinary course of nature, the stronger becomes the cohesion between the answering states of consciousness. Whence it would appear that in some instances, psychical changes obey a law the very reverse of that enunciated. And again, it may be asked, how, if the law is as alleged, can consciousness ever escape out of certain indissolubly related states when once it gets into them? If, for instance, the necessary relation of coexistence between extension and resistance, is known through the rapid alternation of the states of consciousness answering to them; if these states are as inseparable in the organism as the phenomena in the environment; and if there is no other state so closely coherent to either as each is to the other; why should not the two go on reproducing each other for ever?
Fully to answer these and all like queries, would be to include in this chapter an entire system of psychology; seeing that when all the peculiarities of the succession of psychical changes are explained, everything is explained. Here none but general replies can be given. Of these the first is, that, as already said, the law enunciated is the law of intelligence in the abstract; not the law of our intelligence, or of any intelligence with which we are acquainted. It is the law to which psychical changes tend more and more completely to conform, as the intelligence becomes higher; but which can be perfectly conformed to only by a perfect intelligence. And a little consideration of the anomalies will render it manifest, that many of them imply nothing beyond imperfection in the conformity. But in the great majority of cases, it will, I believe, be found, that what seem to be nonconformities, are really conformities of a complex kind. It must be remembered that the succession of any one state of consciousness after any other, is the result, not of any single tendency, but of a combination of tendencies. As, in the environment, each phenomenon stands related not to one other, but to many others; as the relations in which it stands to these many others are some of them necessary, some very general, some special, some purely fortuitous; it follows that in fulfilment of the law of intelligence, each state of consciousness has connections, more or less close, with many other states—has a number of other states simultaneously tending with various degrees of strength, to arise after it. The consequence is, that the change which actually takes place, is the resultant of many tendencies acting together. The new state of consciousness produced, is produced by a composition of forces. The particular force with which the new state cohered to its antecedent, is aided by the forces with which a group of allied states cohered to it; and by the union of a number of small forces, a tendency may be produced which overcomes some single tendency much stronger than any one or two of them. It is just as with the great physical law of the external world. Simple as is the principle that every atom of matter attracts every other with a force varying inversely as the square of the distance; yet, we see in the still unsolved “problem of three bodies,” how complex becomes the effect when several forces are in action; and how, when a number of bodies are involved, the course that will be pursued by any one of them becomes altogether incalculable. Similarly, though the law of attraction of mental states is simple; yet, when the attractions of a number of mental states are operating at the same moment—some uniting, some conflicting—it becomes next to impossible to determine the specific result. And just as in the ascent of a balloon, we may meet with a phenomenon seemingly quite at variance with the law of gravitation, though really quite in harmony with it; so, there may occur mental changes which, while they appear to be directly opposed to the law of psychical succession, are nevertheless fulfilments of it.
Joining with this general explanation of minor anomalies, the previous interpretations of the law in its leading applications, it can no longer be doubted that the strength of the tendency which the antecedent of any psychical change has to be followed by its consequent, is proportionate to the persistency of the union between the external things they symbolize. This is the à priori necessity: and this is the generalization reached à posteriori. Only in virtue of this law can there be that adjustment of internal to external relations, without which life is impossible: and only on the supposition of such a law can we explain the facts, that relations which are absolute in the environment are absolute in us; that relations which are probable in the environment are probable in us; that relations which are fortuitous in the environment are fortuitous in us. Unquestionably, therefore, this law is the law of intelligence.
THE GROWTH OF INTELLIGENCE.
§ 179. The law enunciated in the foregoing chapter, being the law of Intelligence in the abstract—the law which Intelligence tends more and more completely to fulfil the further it advances, we have next to examine the several modes in which the more complete fulfilment of this law is exhibited; and to inquire whether there is any general cause for an ever-increasing fulfilment of it.
Commencing with some lowly-endowed creature, respecting which it can be scarcely at all said, that the strength of the tendency which the antecedent of any psychical change has to be followed by its consequent, is proportionate to the persistency of the union between the external things they symbolize; we may note three several modes in which the progression shows itself. There is, first—increase in the accuracy with which the inner tendencies are proportioned to the outer persistencies. There is, second—increase in the number of cases, differing as to kind but like as to grade of complexity, in which there are inner tendencies answering to outer persistencies. And there is, third—increase in the complexity of the coherent states of consciousness, answering to coherent complexities in the environment. The organism is placed amidst an infinity of relations of all orders. It begins by imperfectly adjusting its actions to a few of the very simplest of these. To adjust its actions more exactly to these few simplest, is one form of advance. To adjust its actions to more and more of these simplest, is another form of advance. To adjust its actions to successive grades of the more complicated, is yet another form of advance. And to whatever stage it reaches, there are still the same three kinds of progression open to it—a perfecting of the correspondences already achieved; an achievement of other correspondences of the same order; and an achievement of correspondences of a higher order: all of them implying further fulfilment of the law of intelligence.
But now, what are the conditions to these several kinds of progression? Is the genesis of Intelligence explicable on any one general principle applying at once to all these modes of advance? And if so, what is this general principle?
§ 180. As, in the environment, there exist relations of all orders of persistency, from the absolute to the fortuitous; it follows that in an intelligence displaying any high degree of correspondence, there must exist all grades of strength in the connections between states of consciousness. As a high intelligence is only thus possible, it is manifestly a condition of intelligence in general, that the antecedents and consequents of psychical changes shall admit of all degrees of cohesion. And the fundamental question to be determined, is:—How are these various degrees of cohesion adjusted?
Concerning their adjustment, there appear to be but two possible hypotheses, of which all other hypotheses can be but variations. It may on the one hand be asserted, that the strength of the tendency which each particular state of consciousness has to follow any other, is fixed beforehand by a Creator—that there is a pre-established harmony between the inner and outer relations. On the other hand it may be asserted, that the strength of the tendency which each particular state of consciousness has to follow any other, depends upon the frequency with which the two have been connected in experience—that the harmony between the inner and outer relations, arises from the fact, that the outer relations produce the inner relations. Let us briefly examine these two hypotheses.
The first receives an apparent support from the phenomena of reflex action and instinct; as also from those mental phenomena on which are based the doctrine of “forms of thought.” But should these phenomena be otherwise explicable, the hypothesis must be regarded as altogether gratuitous. Of criticisms upon it, the first that may be passed, is, that it has not a single fact to rest upon. These facts that may be cited in its favour, are simply facts which we have not yet found a way to explain; and this alleged explanation of them as due to a pre-established harmony, is simply a disguised mode of shelving them as inexplicable. The theory is much upon a par with that which assigns, as the cause of any unusual phenomenon, “an interposition of Providence;” and the evidence for the one is just as illusive as that for the other. A further criticism is, that even those who lean towards this theory dare not apply it beyond a narrow range of cases. It is only where the connections between psychical states are absolute—as in the so-called forms of thought, and the instinctive actions—that they fall back upon pre-established harmony. But if we assume that the adjustment of inner relations to outer relations, has been in some cases fixed beforehand, we ought in consistency to assume that it has been in all cases fixed beforehand. If, answering to each absolutely persistent connection of phenomena in the environment, there has been provided some absolutely persistent connection between states of consciousness; why, where the outer connection is almost absolutely persistent, and the inner connection proportionately persistent, must we not suppose a special provision here also? why must we not suppose special provisions for all the infinitely varied degrees of persistency? The hypothesis, if adopted at all, should be adopted in full. The consistent adoption of it, however, is declined, for sundry very obvious reasons. It would involve the assertion of a rigorous necessity in all thought and action—an assertion to which those leaning towards this hypothesis, are, more than any others, opposed. It would imply that at birth there is just as great a power of thinking, and of thinking correctly, as at any subsequent period. It would imply that men are equally wise concerning things of which they have had no experience, as concerning things of which they have had experience. It would altogether negative the fact, that those who have had a limited and exceptional experience come to erroneous conclusions. It would altogether negative that advance in enlightenment which characterizes human progression. In short, not only is it entirely without foundation in our positive knowledge of mental phenomena; but it necessitates the rejection of all such positive knowledge of mental phenomena as we have acquired.
While, for the first hypothesis, there is no evidence, for the second the evidence is overwhelming. The multitudinous facts commonly cited to illustrate the doctrine of association of ideas, support it. It is in harmony with the general truth, that from the ignorance of the infant the ascent is by slow steps to the knowledge of the adult. All theories and all methods of education take it for granted—are alike based on the belief that the more frequently states of consciousness are made to follow one another in a certain order, the stronger becomes their tendency to suggest one another in that order. The infinitely various phenomena of habit, are so many illustrations of the same law: and in the common sayings—“Practice makes perfect,” and “Habit is second nature,” we see how long-established and universal is the conviction that such a law exists. We see such a law exemplified in the fact, that men who, from being differently circumstanced, have had different experiences, reach different generalizations; and in the fact that an erroneous connection of ideas will become as firmly established as a correct one, if the external relation to which it answers has been as often repeated. It is in harmony with the familiar truths, that phenomena altogether unrelated in our experience, we have no tendency to think of together; that where a certain phenomenon has within our experience occurred in many relations, we think of it as most likely to recur in the relation in which it has most frequently occurred; that where we have had many agreeing experiences of a certain relation, we come to have a strong belief in that relation; that where a certain relation has been daily experienced throughout our whole lives, with scarcely an exception, it becomes extremely difficult for us to conceive it as otherwise—to break the connection between the states of consciousness representing it; and that where a relation has been perpetually repeated in our experience with absolute uniformity, we are entirely disabled from conceiving the negation of it—it becomes absolutely impossible for us to break the connection between the answering states of consciousness.
The only orders of psychical sequence which do not obviously come within this general law, are those which we class as reflex and instinctive—those which are as well performed on the first occasion as ever afterwards—those which are apparently established antecedent to experience. But there are not wanting facts which indicate that, rightly interpreted, the law covers all these cases too. Though it is manifest that reflex and instinctive sequences are not determined by the experiences of the individual organism manifesting them; yet there still remains the hypothesis that they are determined by the experiences of the race of organisms forming its ancestry, which by infinite repetition in countless successive generations have established these sequences as organic relations: and all the facts that are accessible to us, go to support this hypothesis. Hereditary transmission, displayed alike in all the plants we cultivate, in all the animals we breed, and in the human race, applies not only to physical but to psychical peculiarities. It is not simply that a modified form of constitution produced by new habits of life, is bequeathed to future generations; but it is that the modified nervous tendencies produced by such new habits of life, are also bequeathed: and if the new habits of life become permanent, the tendencies become permanent. This is illustrated in every creature respecting which we have the requisite experience, from man downwards. Though, among the families of a civilized society, the changes of occupation and habit from generation to generation, and the intermarriage of families having different occupations and habits, very greatly confuse the evidence of psychical transmission; yet, it needs but to consider national characters, in which these disturbing causes are averaged, to see distinctly, that mental peculiarities produced by habit become hereditary. We know that there are warlike, peaceful, nomadic, maritime, hunting, commercial races—races that are independent or slavish, active or slothful,—races that display great varieties of disposition; we know that many of these, if not all, have a common origin; and hence there can be no question that these varieties of disposition, which have a more or less evident relation to habits of life, have been gradually induced and established in successive generations, and have become organic. That is to say, the tendencies to certain combinations of psychical changes have become organic. In the domesticated animals, parallel facts are familiar to all. Not only the forms and constitutions, but the habits, of horses, oxen, sheep, pigs, fowls, have become different from what they were in their wild state. In the various breeds of dogs, all of them according to the test of species derived from one stock, the varieties of mental character and faculty permanently established by mode of life, are numerous; and the several tendencies are spontaneously manifested. A young pointer will point at a covey the first time he is taken afield. A retriever brought up abroad, has been remarked to fulfil his duty without instruction. And in such cases the implication is, that there is a bequeathed tendency for the psychical changes to take place in a special way. Even from the conduct of untamed creatures, we may gather some evidence having like implications. The birds of inhabited countries are far more difficult to approach than those of uninhabited ones. And the manifest inference is, that continued experience of human enmity has produced an organic effect upon them—has modified their instincts—has modified the connections among their psychical states.
Thus then, of the two hypotheses, the first is supported by no positive evidence whatever; while the second is supported by all the positive evidence we can obtain. That the inner cohesions of psychical states are pre-adjusted to the outer persistencies of the relations symbolized, is a supposition which, if taken in its full meaning, involves absurdities so many and great that none dare carry it beyond a limited range of cases. That it is the true supposition in so far as this limited range of cases is concerned, no single piece of direct evidence can be given; seeing that only to one present at the creation of an organism is knowledge of pre-adjustment possible. So far as the facts are accessible, the supposition is so utterly untenable that no one entertains it; and so far as it is entertained, the facts are inaccessible and must ever remain so. On the other hand, the supposition that the inner cohesions are adjusted to the outer persistencies by an accumulated experience of those outer persistencies, is in harmony with all our positive knowledge of mental phenomena. It is a supposition that is confirmed by three separate methods of inductive inquiry. By the Method of Agreement; inasmuch as we have countless cases of states of consciousness whose cohesion is found to follow a repeated experience of the related phenomena to which they answer. By the Method of Difference; inasmuch as we have countless cases in which persons in other respects agreeing, differ in the cohesion between certain of these states of consciousness, as much as they have differed in their experiences of the answering phenomena. By the Method of Concomitant Variations; inasmuch as the degree of cohesion between states of consciousness, is found, other things equal, to vary as the number of times which the external relation to which they correspond has been repeated in experience. So conclusive, indeed, is the proof of this experience-hypothesis, that in respect to the great mass of psychical phenomena, no one doubts it. Only in respect to a particular order of psychical phenomena is the adverse hypothesis maintained. And though in so far as reflex actions and instincts are concerned, the experience-hypothesis seems to fail; yet, it is to be remembered that its seeming failure occurs only where the facts fail; and that in so far as the facts are accessible, they point to the conclusion that even automatic psychical connections result from the registration of experiences continued for numberless generations.
Such is the conclusion here adopted. The doctrine that the connections among our ideas are determined by experience, must, in consistency, be extended not only to all the connections established by the accumulated experiences of every individual, but to all those established by the accumulated experiences of every race. The abstract law of Intelligence being, that the strength of the tendency which the antecedent of any psychical change has to be followed by its consequent, is proportionate to the persistency of the union between the external things they symbolize; it becomes the resulting law of all concrete intelligences, that the strength of the tendency for such consequent to follow its antecedent, is, other things equal, proportionate to the number of times it has thus followed in experience. The harmony of the inner tendencies and the outer persistencies, is, in all its complications, explicable on the single principle that the outer persistencies produce the inner tendencies. Let it be granted that when two psychical states have once occurred in immediate succession, there results a certain tendency for the first, when it afterwards recurs, to be followed by the second—a proposition supported by an infinity of evidence; let it be granted that on every subsequent recurrence of this succession, a like effect is produced, and that by the accumulation of these effects the tendency becomes ever stronger—a proposition also supported by an infinity of evidence; let it be granted that this accumulation of effects goes on without limit, so as ultimately to make the tendency, as it must, insuperable—a proposition which is an unavoidable corollary from the previous one, and which is supported by all the facts accessible to us; let this be granted, and the adjustment of inner to outer relations is entirely explicable on the experience-hypothesis. All psychical relations save the absolutely indissoluble, are allowed on every hand to be determined by experience. Their various strengths are admitted by every one to be proportionate to the multiplication of experiences. It is an unavoidable corollary that an infinity of experiences will produce a psychical relation that is absolutely indissoluble. Though such infinity of experiences cannot be received by a single individual, yet it may be received by the countless succession of individuals forming a race. The individuals forming a race, severally transmit the constitutions they receive, with such modifications as their own habits of life produce in them. We have more or less distinct evidence, that induced tendencies in the nervous system, are transmitted along with induced tendencies in the other systems. And if we draw the induction, that the transmission of induced tendencies in the nervous system is a general law, we may conclude that all psychical relations whatever, from the absolutely indissoluble to the fortuitous, are produced by experiences of the corresponding external relations; and are so brought into harmony with them.
Thus interpreting the facts then, the inference is, that the growth of intelligence in general, like its growth in every individual, is dependent on the single law, that when any two psychical states occur in immediate succession, an effect is produced such that if the first subsequently recurs, there is a certain tendency for the second to follow it.
§ 181. From this law, if it be the true one, must be deducible all the phenomena of unfolding intelligence, from its lowest to its highest grades. Let us first observe how far the leading deductions correspond with the leading facts.
If the tendency of psychical states to follow one another results from their having before followed one another; and if each new succession in the same order adds an increment to this tendency; and if repeated successions in this order are consequent upon repeated experiences of the answering external relations; it follows that the psychical relations in any organism, must grow into correspondence with the particular class of environing relations with which it comes most in contact. The environment in general is infinite. The environment of each order of creature is practically more or less limited. And each order of creature has an environment which, besides being limited, is practically more or less special. The law implies then, that the psychical relations displayed by each order of creature, will be those which are most frequently repeated within the range of its experience. And this we know to be the fact.
Contemplating the animal kingdom at large, the first psychical relations established, must be those answering to the most prevalent environing relations of the simplest kind; which is just what we find. The stationary polype with outstretched tentacles, contracts on being touched. Now a creature that is not itself moving, can be touched only by something in motion. And this universal relation between collision and some moving body, is one of the first to be responded to. When a shadow passing across a rudimentary eye, is followed by a movement in the creature possessing that eye, the internal relation between the impression and the motion, corresponds with the relation between a passing opacity and a passing solidity in the environment; and this is one of the most general relations. Various other analogous cases will suggest themselves.
In the progress of life and in the progress of the individual, the adjustment of the inner tendencies to the outer persistencies, must begin with the simple and advance to the more and more complex; seeing that both within and without, the complex relations are made up of the simple ones, and cannot be established before the simple ones have been established. After some persistent relation of A to B in the environment, has, through accumulated experiences, generated a persistent relation between the psychical states a and b; and after some other persistent outer relation of C to D, has similarly generated a persistent inner relation c to d; then, if in the environment there exists any relation between the relations A to B and C to D, it becomes possible for repeated experiences to generate in the organism, a relation between a to b and c to d. But it is manifestly impossible for this to be done until the relations a to b and c to d have been themselves generated. This deduction too, we see to be in complete conformity with the facts, both of individual and of general evolution.
Further, it must follow, that the only thing required for the establishment of a new internal relation answering to a new external one, is, that the organism shall be sufficiently advanced to cognize the two terms of such new relation, and that being thus advanced, it shall be placed in circumstances in which it shall experience this new relation. Here also, there is a manifest harmony between the à priori inference, and the inference from observation. In our domestic animals there are constantly formed new psychical relations answering to such new external relations as have terms sufficiently simple to be cognized. And in human civilization we see the truth illustrated in the progress to wider and wider generalizations.
But the validity of these several corollaries will become more apparent as we proceed. That the phenomena of intelligence are all deducible from the one general truth, that when any two psychical states occur in immediate succession, an effect is produced such that if the first subsequently recurs there is a certain tendency for the second to follow—a tendency to which every repetition of the succession adds a further tendency—will be most clearly seen on tracing out the growth of intelligence under its chief aspects. Let us now pass on to these.
§ 182. Under its simplest and most general form, Reflex Action is the sequence of a single contraction upon a single irritation. A vague manifestation of this sequence marks the dawn of sensitive life. Omitting those which he on the border line of the two kingdoms, animal organisms are broadly distinguished from vegetable organisms by the peculiarity that they move on being touched, or otherwise impressed. Even the almost structureless ones, respond in a more or less decided way to external excitements; and it is mostly in consequence of their response that they are concluded to be alive. But though, in the movements of these lowest creatures, reflex action is foreshadowed, it is only when we ascend to those in which there exists something like a nervo-muscular apparatus, that reflex-action proper is exhibited. In these, the response is effected not through the agency of the one uniform tissue constituting the creature's body, which is at once irritable and contractile; but the irritability is confined to one specialized tissue (nerve), and the contractility to another specialized tissue (muscle); and the two are placed in such relation that the irritation of the one is followed by the contraction of the other. Some impression is made upon the peripheral termination of a nerve; this impression is propagated along the nerve until it reaches a ganglion; there some action is set up which is propagated along another nerve proceeding from the ganglion to a muscle; and thus the stimulus carried through an afferent nerve to some inner centre of communication, is reflected from it through an efferent nerve to the contractile agent. In this simplest form of psychical action, we see a single internal relation adjusted to a single external one. Any one of the many suckers on the arm of a cuttle fish that has been separated from the body, will, under the influence of its own independent ganglion, attach itself to a substance placed in contact with it—the established or organized relation between the tactual and muscular changes in the sucker, is parallel to the uniform relation between resistance and extension in its environment—the inner cohesion of psychical states, is as absolutely persistent as is the outer relation between the attributes. And if we remember that in the daily actions of the creature, this inner relation is perpetually being repeated in response to outer one; we see how the organization of it in the species, answers to the infinitude of such experiences received by the species.
§ 183. Reflex action being the lowest form of psychical life, is, by implication, that which is most nearly related to the physical life—that in which we see the incipient differentiation of the psychical from the physical life. This truth may be discerned from several different points of view.
It was pointed out that, in all probability, the contraction seen in the lowest animal organisms when they are touched, or otherwise stimulated, is the result of an increased vital action which the stimulus produces in the adjacent tissues; and though one of these reflex contractions, as of a cephalopod's sucker, is effected in a different and much more complicated manner, yet the action, generally considered, does not so far differ as to seem properly transferable to a higher category. Mostly, it would be considered as a misuse of words to call it in any sense psychical. And though as belonging to the order of vital changes which, in their higher complications, we dignify as psychical, it may be held necessary to classify it as psychical; yet it must be admitted that in position it is unquestionably transitional.
Again, it is to be remarked that in highly organized creatures, the physical life is itself regulated by reflex action. Those rhythmical movements of the alimentary canal which follow the introduction of food, are of reflex origin; as no doubt, also, are those secreting processes by which, under the same stimulus, the digestive fluids are prepared and poured out. Moreover, the various viscera, performing each its separate function, must have their relative activities adjusted—the several processes in the maintenance of which the physical life consists, must be harmonized; and it is held that the due balancing of them is effected by reflex action. The presumption is, that the changes in the state of each viscus are impressed upon the nerves proceeding to ganglia in the Sympathetic, whence they are reflected to the other viscera; and thus their respective activities are co-ordinated.
In yet another respect may we see a close alliance between the physical life and this nascent psychical life. As was shown in a foregoing chapter, the psychical life is broadly distinguished from the physical life by the peculiarity, that its changes instead of being simultaneous and successive, are successive only; but as was also shown, this peculiarity makes its appearance gradually, and only becomes marked when the psychical life becomes high. Now the reflex actions in which the nascent psychical life is seen, are nearly as much characterized by simultaneity as are the purely physical actions. A great number of these simplest psychical changes, may be going on quite independently in the same organism at the same moment. Each of the many legs of a centipede, under the influence of its own ganglion, goes on receiving impressions and performing motions quite independent of the rest: continuing to do so after the creature has been cut in two. And on watching the wave of movements which progresses from end to end of the series of legs—seen still more clearly in a julus—it will be observed that at any moment each leg is in a different phase of its rhythmical movement; and that thus there are, at the same time, in the same organism, a great number of like changes, each at a separate stage of evolution.
Once more, the proximity of these reflex actions to the physical life, is seen in their unconsciousness. In ourselves, there are constantly going on reflex actions of which we have no immediate knowledge: as those by which the focus of each eye is adjusted to distances, and the closure of the iris to the quantity of light. Other reflex actions of which we can take direct cognizance—as that of breathing—can go on without our thinking of them. And others which are commonly accompanied by sensation—as when the foot is withdrawn from something which tickles it—are found to be most energetically performed, when, from some spinal lesion, sensation has been entirely abolished. Clearly, therefore, in those organisms in which reflex movements alone are seen, they are totally unconscious. The rapid alternations of a millipede's leg or a fly's wing, are as purely automatic as are those of a steam-engine piston; and are doubtless co-ordinated after a generally analogous manner. Just as, in a steam engine, the arrival of the piston at a certain point, itself brings about the opening of a valve serving to admit the steam which will drive the piston in the reverse direction; so, in one of these rhythmically-moving organs, the performance of each motion ends in bringing the organ to a position in which the stimulus to an opposite motion acts upon it.
But though, from all points of view, reflex action is seen to be a species of vital change very little removed from the purely physical changes constituting vegetative life; yet, it may be well to remark, that even in it, we may discern a fulfilment of the primordial conditions to consciousness. At the close of the Special Analysis (§ 100) it was shown, that in the lowest conceivable type of consciousness—that produced by the alternation of two states—there are involved the relations constituting the forms of all thought. And such an alternation of two states as is there supposed, is just that which occurs in the ganglion connected with one of these rhythmically-moving organs.
§ 184. From that lowest kind of reflex action, in which a single impression produces a single contraction, the ascent is by gradual steps to complications in the stimuli and the acts resulting from them. There is no exact line of demarcation between a single contraction and a combination of contractions. Between the excitation of dispersed muscular fibres, and the excitation of fibres aggregated into definite bundles, the transition is clearly insensible. And hence, under the head of reflex action there are classed numerous cases in which a whole group of muscular actions result from one impression. The decapitated frog which leaps when one of its feet is irritated, supplies an extreme illustration. It would, however, be alike needless and out of place to examine the varieties and complications of reflex action; to do which is the task of the physiologist rather than of the psychologist. Here it simply concerns us to note the bearing of the phenomena of reflex action upon the general argument.
We have to observe, in the first place, that these simplest of psychical changes are those corresponding to the external relations which are only one degree more specialized than the relations to which the physical changes correspond. While the processes of the purely vegetative life are in adjustment with those most general relations between nutriment, oxygen, temperature, moisture, light, which pervade the environment at large; these lowest processes of the animal life are in adjustment with the most general relations of the solid bodies contained in the environment: as those between tangibility and solidity, motion and life.
At the same time that there is so near a relation in scope between the physical life and this lowest psychical life, we have to remark, as above, that the two are closely allied in nature; not only as being both unconscious, but as both consisting of changes that are at once simultaneous and successive.
Further, it is to be noticed, that in conformity with the general law of intelligence, we see, in one of these reflex actions, an established connection between two psychical states, answering to an established connection between two external phenomena. Not that the inner tendency is exactly proportioned to the outer persistency. In many cases it is absolute in the organism, though by no means absolute in the environment. And this is just what is to be looked for in these manifestations of nascent intelligence: seeing that the adjustment of the inner tendencies to the outer persistencies, is the law of intelligence in the abstract, and cannot be fulfilled where the intelligence is incipient.
Lastly we have to note the fact, that these indissolubly connected psychical states are found to exist where there are perpetually-repeated experiences of the external relations to which they answer.
§ 185. Using the word, not as the vulgar do to designate all other kinds of intelligence than the human, but restricting it to its proper signification, Instinct may be defined as—compound reflex action. Strictly speaking, no line of demarcation can be drawn between it and simple reflex action, out of which it arises by successive complications. Though the two have been distinguished as sensori-motor and excito-motor, the distinction seems to me to be one that cannot be maintained as in any way definite. Sensation proper implies consciousness; consciousness, as we understand it, can come into existence only when the chief nervous centre becomes the seat of a varied succession of changes of state; and as the sensory ganglia in their lowest forms, are scarcely at all more subject to such succession than are those ganglia producing the unconscious reflex actions, there is no reason to assume that the impressions they receive are known as sensations. Whether certain muscular contractions are produced by the stimulation of an insect's optic nerve, or by the stimulation of a nerve of touch supplying one of its legs, matters not in so far as the psychological meaning of the phenonenon is concerned. In either case, by a purely automatic process, a certain change in the peripheral extremity of a nerve has produced certain motions: the relation is, for aught that appears, as direct in the one case as in the other: and there is no more reason to assume that the visual impression produces consciousness than that the tactual one does. The only scientific distinctions that can here be drawn, are those based upon the degrees of complexity in the stimuli, and in the consequent actions; and these are simply distinctions of degree, and not of kind. In so far as an instinctive action involves the co-ordination of many impressions; and in so far as the chief ganglion consequently undergoes complicated changes; in so far may there be incipient sensations—a dawning consciousness; and in so far an instinctive action may be sensori-motor or consensual. But it is clear that the consciousness is a function of the complexity; and arises only as the complexity increases. The complexity, therefore, is the thing with which we are essentially concerned.
That the validity of this definition of Instinct, as distinguished from the primitive kind of reflex action, may be clearly seen, let us, before going further, take an example. “A fly-catcher,” says Carpenter, “immediately after its exit from the egg, has been known to peck at and capture an insect—an action which requires a very exact appreciation of distance, as well as a power of precisely regulating the muscular movements in accordance with it.” Now this action, which is distinctly proved by the circumstances to be purely automatic, necessarily implies the combination of a number of separate stimuli. The excitation of a certain group of the retinal nerve-fibres must be one; and this excitation must really be in itself a complex one; seeing, that as the same effect is not produced by casting an image of any size upon the retina; and as the different effects that result from the casting of different images on the retina, must result from differences in the number or combination of the nerve-fibres affected; the retinal stimulus must really be a certain combination of stimuli. Another necessary component in the general stimulus, must be that proceeding from the muscles by which the foci of the eyes are adjusted. And yet another component must be that proceeding from the muscles by which the axes of eyes are directed to a special point. Without impressions proceeding from both these sets of muscles, it would be impossible for the head to be guided in the right direction, or for the beak to be closed at the right moment. Thus then, the action implies the excitation of two groups of retinal nerves, two groups of nerves proceeding from the muscles which adjust the foci, and two groups of nerves proceeding from the muscles which move the eyes—implies that all these nerves are excited simultaneously in special ways and degrees; and that the special co-ordination of muscular contractions by which the fly is caught, is the result of this special co-ordination of stimuli. Of such complex co-ordination directly resulting from a complex stimulus, we have abundant illustration in ourselves. All our ordinary movements, though originating in volition, are performed in a mode exactly like that described. When putting out the hand to grasp an object before us, we are wholly unconscious of the particular muscular adjustments required. We see the object, and we desire to lay hold of it; and in response to the desire the arm is put out in a special way. But were the various nervous stimuli involved in the visual impression, absent, the muscles of the arm could not be guided aright. That is to say, the special muscular co-ordination is due to the special co-ordination of sensations received from the eye and its adjusting apparatus—the volition being concerned merely in setting these processes going. The difference between one of these actions of our own, and that of the newly-hatched fly-catcher, consists in this; that whereas, in ourselves, the combined impressions and motions being almost infinitely varied and severally repeated with comparative infrequency, are not born with us, but are developed in the course of our first years, in the fly-catcher, by whose race a special combination is perpetually repeated by every individual throughout life, such combination is ready-organized.
But, returning from this illustrative comparison, and considering by themselves such cases as this of the young fly-catcher, it is unquestionable that the process is one of compound reflex action. While in simple reflex action a single impression is followed by a single contraction; while in the more developed forms of reflex action a single impression is followed by a combination of contractions; in this, that we distinguish as instinct, a combination of impressions produces a combination of contractions: and the higher the instinct the more complex are both the directive and executive co-ordinations. Let us now, however, contemplate the facts in connection with the general laws we are tracing out.
§ 186. Instinct is very obviously further removed from the purely physical life, than is simple reflex action. While simple reflex action is common to the internal visceral processes and to the external processes of animal life; instinct, properly so-called, is not. There are no instincts displayed by the kidneys, the lungs, the liver: they are confined to the actions of the nervo-muscular apparatus, which is the especial agent of the psychical life.
Again, the instinctive actions exhibit much less simultaneity—are in a great degree successive only. The co-ordination of many stimuli into one stimulus, itself involves a diminution of the many separate nervous actions going on simultaneously; and a merging of them into some combined, and therefore serial, process. Whether the various co-ordinated nervous changes which take place when the fly-catcher seizes an insect, are regarded as a series passing through its sensorium in rapid succession, or as consolidated into two successive states of its sensorium, it is equally clear that the changes in its sensorium have a much more decided linear arrangement than the changes going on in all the scattered ganglia of a centipede.
Moreover, it is not improbable that, in its higher forms, instinct is accompanied by some approach to what we understand as consciousness. There cannot be a co-ordination of many stimuli, without some centre of communication through which they are all brought into relation. In the process of bringing them into relation, this centre must be subject to the influence of each—must undergo many changes. And the quick succession of changes in a sentient centre, constitutes the raw material of consciousness. The implication is, therefore, that in proportion as instinct is developed, some kind of consciousness becomes nascent.
Yet further, the instinctive actions are more removed from the purely physical actions in this, that they answer to external phenomena that are more complex and more special. While the purely physical actions respond to those most general relations common to the environment as a whole; while the simple reflex actions respond to some of the most general relations common to the individual objects it contains; these compound reflex actions which we class as instincts, respond to those more involved relations by which certain orders of objects and actions are distinguished from others.
Thus, in the phenomena of instinct, a greater differentiation of the psychical from the physical life is seen; alike in the growing distinction between the vegetative and animal systems; in the increasing seriality of the changes in the animal system; in the consequent rise of incipient consciousness; and in the higher complexity of the outer relations to which inner relations are adjusted: which last is indeed the essence of the advance, to which the others are necessary accompaniments.
§ 187. But now let us consider how, by accumulated experiences, the compound reflex actions may be developed out of the simple ones.
For our example we may fitly take some low aquatic creature endowed with rudimentary eyes. As was before remarked, eyes of this character, sensitive as they are only to the strongest changes in the quantity of light, can be affected by opaque bodies moving in the surrounding water, only when such bodies approach so close as almost to touch the surface. Only then can the transit of such bodies produce a sufficiently marked change to be appreciated by nascent vision. But almost always the bodies that are carried by their motion quite close to the organism, will, by their further motion, be brought in contact with it. The cases in which the movement of an external body is such as to carry it by, almost at a tangent to that part of the organism where the rudimentary eye is placed, so as nearly to touch the surface in passing, but not quite, must be exceptional. Evidently, therefore, in its earliest forms, sight is, as before said, little more than anticipatory touch: visual impressions are habitually followed by tactual ones. But tactual impressions are, in all these creatures, habitually followed by contractions—contractions which, as pointed out in another place (§ 134), are in all probability the necessary effects produced by mechanical disturbance upon the vital activities—contractions which, under like stimuli, are seen even in certain plants, and are so shown to be producible by alterations in the processes of the purely physical life. Result as they may, however, it is beyond question that from the zoophytes upwards, touch and contraction form an habitual sequence; and hence, in creatures in whom the incipient vision amounts to little more than anticipatory touch, there constantly occurs the succession—a visual impression, a tactual impression, a contraction. Now the evolution of a nervous system, is a necessary concomitant of that specialization which originates the senses. Until the general sensitiveness is in some degree localized, the internuncial function of the nervous system, cannot exist: and there can be no such localized sensitiveness without there being something in the shape of nerves. A nascent sense of sight, therefore, implies a nascent nervous communication.∗ And along with a nascent nervous communication we may see the first illustration of the law of developing intelligence. If psychical states (using the term in its widest sense) which constantly follow one another in a certain order, become ever more closely connected in that order, so as eventually to become inseparable; then it must follow that if, in the experience of any race of organisms, a visual impression, a tactual impression, and a contraction, are continually repeated in this succession, the several nervous states produced will become so consolidated that the first cannot be caused without the others necessarily following—the visual impression will be instantly succeeded by a nervous excitation like that which a tactual impression produces; and this by a contraction. Thus there will arise a contraction in anticipation of touch: and when more perfect vision is acquired, there will result those convulsive movements which low organisms display when any large moving object comes into their neighbourhood.
Thus far, however, the phenomena are those of simple reflex action; or rather, reflex action that is incipiently compound. Let us now consider what must result from a further development of vision. Such further development of vision we know from positive evidence takes place under continued exercise. The Bosjesman, ever on the look-out for distant enemies and prey, has eyes very far exceeding those of the European in acuteness; and it is a legitimate inference that, with rudimentary eyes as with developed ones, increased activity will entail increased power. Assuming such increased power, what must be its consequences? The simultaneous consequences must be, that the same bodies will be discerned at a greater distance, and smaller bodies will be discerned when close to. Both of these will produce obscurations that are faint, in comparison with that complete obscuration produced by some large moving body that is about to strike the surface. But from the time when they first become appreciable, such faint obscurations will not, like the extreme ones, be habitually followed by strong tactual impressions and subsequent contractions. If produced by a large object passing at some distance, there will probably be no collision—no tactual impression at all. If produced by a small object close to, the collision that follows will be comparatively slight—so slight as not to induce a violent contraction, but simply sufficient to produce an incipient tension in the muscular apparatus—a tension such as that seen in any creature about to seize upon prey. This is by no means an assumption. It is an established fact, that among animals in general, ourselves included, a sensation or nervous stimulus, which, if slight, simply rouses attention and produces some slight muscular action, will, if it becomes intense, cause convulsive contractions of the muscles in general. It is therefore a deduction from a well-established law of the nervo-muscular system, that a creature possessed of this somewhat improved vision, will, by a partial obscuration of light, have its muscles brought into a state of partial tension—a state fitting them either for the seizure of a small animal, should the partial obscuration be caused by the impending collision of one, or for sudden retreat into a shell or convulsive movements of escape, should the obscuration be increased by the near approach of a larger animal. Thus, even by this simple advance there must necessarily be produced a somewhat greater speciality and complexity in the inner relalations answering to outer relations.
But now let us go a step further. Let us suppose the creature to be one that habitually moves about in the water; and let us suppose a somewhat further development of the faculty of sight—a development consisting in such enlargement of the retina, and such subdivision of it into separate sensitive agents, as shall admit of its different parts being independently affected. In such a creature, the eyes are subject to frequent change of impressions produced by the objects amid which it swims. These impressions fall upon different parts of its retinas, according to the positions of the objects making them. Those on one side of the creature either affect one retina only, or one much more than the other. Those above it have their images cast on the lower parts of the retinas. Those below it, if visible at all, cast images on their upper parts. Of all the impressions thus made, however, few, if any, are directly followed by any tactual impression: the creature's forward movement carries it away from the objects making them. Only when these lateral impressions made by moving objects are very strong—only when they are the impressions produced by larger animals, will there result any excitation of the motor powers. Faint lateral impressions, not being habitually followed by any tactual impressions, will have no effect upon the actions. But now mark that there are certain visual impressions, which, though not strong, are constantly followed by tactual ones; and by tactual ones of a particular kind: those impressions, namely, which are made by small objects in front. When, during its passage through the water, certain parts of the creature's two retinas are simultaneously affected by impressions of moderate strength; it very generally happens, that immediately afterwards, the feelers and head come in contact with some small body serving for food. A visual impression of a special kind, is habitually followed by a tactual impression on the prehensile organs; and, consequently, by all those muscular actions which the presentation of food to the prehensile organs calls forth. In the nature of things, this sequence must continually occur. The excitation of a particular group of retinal nerves; the excitation of the nerves of the prehensile organs; and the excitation of a special set of muscles; must become an established succession. In the creature's experience, these three psychical states are habitually connected; and must, by repetition in countless generations, become so coherent that the special visual impression will directly call forth the muscular actions by which prey is seized. Eventually, the sight of a small object in front, will, of itself, set a-going the various motions requisite for the capture of prey.
Here then, we have one of the simpler forms of instinct, which, under the requisite conditions, must necessarily be established by accumulated experiences. Let it be granted that in all creatures, as in ourselves, the law is and ever has been, that the more frequently psychical states occur in a certain order, the stronger becomes their tendency to cohere in that order, until they at last become inseparable; let it be granted that this tendency is, in however slight a degree, inherited, so that if the experiences remain the same, each successive generation bequeathes a somewhat increased tendency; and it follows, that, in cases like the one described, there must inevitably be established an automatic connection of nervous actions, corresponding to the external relations perpetually experienced. If, from some change in the environment of any species, its members are frequently brought in contact with a new relation; if the organization of the species is so far developed as to be impressible by the terms of the new relation, in close succession; then, an inner relation corresponding to this new outer relation, will gradually be formed; and will in the end become organic. The organized relations previously existing in the species will be further complicated by a superinduced relation. As in the case described, where the simultaneous excitation of two groups of nerve-fibres proceeding from special parts of two retinas is the stimulus, a compound reflex action will arise out of simple ones. An outer relation one stage more complex than before, will be responded to by an inner relation one stage more complex than before. And so on in subsequent stages of progress.
Of course this is not meant as anything more than a rough indication of the mode in which the general principles that have been enunciated, explain the development of instincts. The abstract law of intelligence being, that the strengths of the inner cohesions between psychical states must be proportionate to the persistencies of the outer relations to which they answer; and the development of intelligence into conformity with the law, being, in all cases of which we have positive knowledge, secured by the one simple principle that the outer relations produce the inner relations, and make the inner relations strong in proportion as they are themselves persistent; it was requisite to inquire whether there is reason to think that the intelligence concerning whose genesis we have no positive knowledge, had a like origin. And all that it is above proposed to show, is, that reasoning deductively from the conditions of the case, this same one simple principle appears sufficient to account for the facts—or rather, for a type of them. To trace out the actual development of instincts, in their infinite varieties and complications, must ever remain impossible. The data are inaccessible; and were they accessible, could not be adequately grasped. The foregoing is to be taken merely as an adumbration of the probable mode of development.
§ 188. And now let us consider what must be the ulterior results of this mode of development. Assuming some such process as that above suggested, to be the one by which the instincts in general are evolved; let us inquire what must must be the general characteristics of the evolution regarded in its ensemble; and observe how far they agree with the actual ones.
Without referring back to the argument elaborated in the General Synthesis, it will be clear that the progression from the lower to the higher instincts, is, throughout, a progression towards greater speciality and complexity of correspondence. The simple contraction exhibited by some creature having a rudimentary eye, when an opaque object is suddenly passed before that eye, is a much more general and more simple response than that witnessed in the creature which grasps the prey passing before it. In the first case, the effect is produced whatever the relative position of the object, providing the obscuration be considerable: in the second, it is produced only when the object is just in front. To the outer relation between a moving opacity and a living solid body, is now added a relation of position: and not only a relation of position, but one of magnitude; seeing that the effect is not the same when a large as when a small object is presented. That is to say, the external phenomenon responded to, is a co-ordinated group of relations; and internally, there is a co-ordinated group of changes—not a single impression and a single motion, but at least a pair of impressions and a considerable complication of motions. The correspondence is alike more complex and more special.
Now, that the evolution of intelligence by the multiplication of experiences, must necessarily follow this order, is demonstrable à priori. Were there no other proof, there would be the all-sufficient one, that as, in the environment, the phenomena that are the most complex and the most special are the least frequent, the experiences of them can never be so numerous as are the experiences of the simple and more general phenomena. In the daily life of every organism, the relation between a passing obscuration and a living body, is more general than the relation between one degree of obscuration and danger, or between another degree of obscuration and food; and each of these relations is more general than the relation between a particular size and form of visual impression and a particular class of objects; and this relation is more general than that between a particular size, form, and colour of visual impression, and a certain species of that class; and this again is more general than the joint impressions of form, size, colour, and motions, ma de by a member of such species when adopting a peculiar mode of defence. And as, in ascending from those simple relations exhibited by all bodies in common, the more complex the relations become, the more infrequent is their occurrence; it is an inevitable corollary, that if inner relations are moulded to outer relations by the accumulation of experiences, the simpler must be established before the more complex.
Still more clearly will the necessity of this order of progression be perceived, when it is remembered that, both externally and internally, the complex relations are composed of the simple ones; and must, therefore, come after them. Before there can be the relations presented by matter in motion, there must be those general relations of resistance and extension exhibited by the matter that moves. Before there can exist the relations implied in the action of one body on another, there must first exist the relations implied in the existence of each body. Before there can arise all those involved relations displayed in the movements of a living creature, there must first exist those chemical relations among its elements, and those structural relations among its organs, by which these involved relations are made possible. And manifestly, if the organization of inner relations in correspondence with outer relations, results from a continual registration of experiences, it is similarly impossible that the complex relations should be established before there have been established the simpler relations they involve.
Duly observing that this corollary from the experience-hypothesis is in conformity with the facts, so far as they are accessible to us, let us go on to observe some important inferences that are deducible from it.
§ 189. If, looking at the progress in its general aspect, we see that simple and general relations in the environment must be those most frequently experienced, those first responded to, and those to which the response becomes most decided; if external relations a grade less simple and general are thus rendered appreciable, and by a repeated, though a less frequently repeated, experience, also establish answering internal relations; and if this process goes on slowly extending to relations successively more complex and special, and less frequent; then it must happen, that there will ultimately be established in the organism, a great number and variety of psychical relations having different degrees of coherency. While an infinity of experiences will have rendered the first and simplest of these psychical relations absolutely indissoluble; while experiences, which, if not actually so great in number as the first, have yet been practically infinite in number, may have given indissolubleness to psychical relations that are a degree more complex; while relations, even of several succeeding degrees of complexity, though successively less frequent in experience, may yet have been so frequent as to have become psychically organic; yet it is manifest, that with relations increasingly complex and decreasingly frequent, there must come a point at which the answering psychical relations will no longer be absolutely coherent. That this may be thoroughly understood, let us illustrate it by symbols.
Suppose A and B to represent two attributes of matter in general—say extension and resistance—to the constant relation between which, a responsive relation has been established in the organism. Suppose C and D to be two extremely general attributes of animal matter—say motion and life—to which also there is a responsive internal relation. It is quite comprehensible that experiences of the united group of attributes A, B, C, D, recurring as they do in every creature met with, may eventually establish an answering connection of internal relations that is practically as absolute as the original ones. It is also comprehensible that if the creatures commonly serving for prey are of one size, L, while those found to be enemies are in most cases of another size, M; continued experience may establish different organic responses to the different groups of coexistent attributes, A, B, C, D, L, and A, B, C, D, M. And it is comprehensible, too, that when each of these large classes comes to be distinguishable into sub-classes—say by means of differences of colour—the experiences of the two groups A, B, C, D, L, S, and A, B, C, D, L, T, and of the two groups A, B, C, D, M, P, and A, B, C, D, M, Q, may still be so numerous, that the answering psychical changes are indissolubly united. But clearly, as, in course of further progress, the groups of attributes and relations that are distinguished from each other and separately responded to, become more numerous; as, by successive additions of further distinctive attributes and relations, such groups become more complex; and as each more specific kind of group is, by consequence, less frequently repeated in experience; it follows, of necessity, that the answering psychical changes must become less coherent. Not only must the group of internal states by which the group of external phenomena are symbolized, be less definitely aggregated—or at any rate the more recently added constituents of it—but the entire group, considered as a composite impression, must have a smaller power of producing the special set of actions by which the appropriate adjustment is made. This is an inevitable corollary.
And now observe the implication. If, as the instincts become higher and higher, the various psychical changes of which they are severally composed become less and less definitely co-ordinated; there must come a time when the co-ordination of them will no longer be perfectly regular. If these compound reflex actions, as they grow more compound, also become less decided; it follows that they will eventually become comparatively undecided. The actions will begin to lose their distinctly automatic character. And that which we call instinct will gradually merge into something higher.
Thus, then, we see that the conclusions deducible from the experience-hypothesis, are in harmony with such facts as we possess. We see that the evolution of instincts, as resulting from experience, is quite comprehensible. We see that, if produced by experience, this evolution must proceed from the simple to the complex; which is the indication of positive evidence so far as it is attainable. And we see that by a progression thus wrought out, instinct must in the end insensibly pass into a higher order of psychical action; which is just what we find it to do in the higher animals.
§ 190. That growing complication of the correspondence, which, as we have just seen, necessitates a merging of the automatic actions into the non-automatic actions, at the same time introduces divisions of the process of correspondence into separate phases. While, in its simple form, the adjustment of certain inner to certain outer relations, is one complete and indivisible action; in its complex form, such adjustment is composed of several stages capable of a more or less complete dissociation from each other—capable of independent occurrence; and so, capable of forming fragments of correspondences. Thus, among others, results the order of psychical actions known as Memory. While, in any instinctive act, we see an entire process of bringing internal relations into harmony with external relations; Memory, taken alone, exhibits relations in consciousness which not only do not include any active adjustment of the organism to its environment, but which often have but a comparatively indefinite reference to external relations. Though, without doubt, those successions of ideas which constitute memory, are all representative of some past experiences of the external world; though even our recollections of purely internal events—peculiar emotions we have had, and thoughts that have struck us—may be affiliated upon those impressions from without, which form the raw material of consciousness; yet, as a great part of our remembrances stand for external combinations of phenomena that were purely fortuitous, it is clear that, even considered as fragments of correspondences, they cannot be held to have as marked a harmony with the environment as the parallel parts of automatic actions have. Though each act of recollection is the establishment of an inner relation answering to some outer relation; yet, as that outer relation is very frequently one that existed only for an instant, and will never occur again, the inner relation that is established in the act of recollection, is often one answering to no relation now existing, or that ever will exist; and in that sense is not a correspondence. The correspondence here becomes evanescent.
From this it will probably be inferred, that a satisfactory account of Memory, as viewed from our present stand-point, is by no means easy. Its varied and irregular phenomena seem at first sight to acknowledge no law. The doctrine that all psychical changes are interpretable as incidents of the correspondence between the organism and its environment, appears to be at fault. Besides the fact that part of the psychical changes constituting Memory, have reference to no existing outer relation; there is the further fact, that very many of our associations of ideas have apparently little or nothing to do with effecting an adjustment between inner to outer relations. And more especially difficult will it be thought to trace any connection between Memory and Instinct. But though the position of Memory, in the psychological system here sketched out, may not be at once understood—though many will be inclined, even after some consideration, to regard it as a faculty altogether unrelated to the lower psychical faculties, and one of which the genesis is inexplicable; yet, it needs but to follow out the synthesis thus far carried, to see clearly that Memory must result from that same process of development by which Instinct, becoming more and more complicated, finally merges into the higher forms of psychical action. And I do not know a clearer proof of the general doctrines enunciated, than that they furnish an answer to this seemingly insoluble problem.
Some clue to the right comprehension of the matter, will be gained on considering, that while, on the one hand, Instinct may be regarded as a kind of organized memory; on the other hand, Memory may be regarded as a kind of incipient instinct. The inseparable psychical states exhibited in the automatic actions of a bee building one of its wax cells, answer to outer relations so constantly experienced that they are, as it were, organically remembered. And that cohesion of psychical states implied in any ordinary recollection, is a cohesion which becomes stronger by a repeated succession of such psychical states; and so is capable of approximating more and more to the indissoluble, the automatic, or instinctive cohesions. But, leaving rough suggestions, let us again take up the general argument from the point reached at the close of the last chapter.
§ 191. So long as the psychical changes are completely automatic, there cannot exist any Memory, as we understand it: there cannot exist anything like those irregular psychical changes seen in the association of ideas. The hypothesis itself, implying that the internal relations are organic and antecedent to the experience of the individual, necessarily excludes those internal relations determined by individual experience, which Memory presupposes. But when, as a consequence of advancing complexity and decreasing frequency in the groups of external relations responded to, the answering groups of internal relations become less perfectly organized—when they become so involved as to fail in their automatic regularity; then, what we call Memory becomes nascent. For the elucidation of this, we must again have recourse to symbols.
As before, let A, B, C, D, represent the group of coexistent attributes common to living bodies in general; let e, f, g, stand for the further attributes distinctive of some class of creatures mostly serving for prey; and let h, k, be the peculiar attributes of some species of that class, which, when attacked, defends itself in a particular way; while h, m, are the somewhat similar attributes of another species whose defence amounts to a retaliation worse than the attack. We have, then, two somewhat similar complex groups of coexistent attributes, A, B, C, D, e, f, g, h, k, and A, B, C, D, e, f, g, h, m, which, by the hypothesis, are not very frequently repeated in experience; but which, when they do occur, are attended by different consequences. Of these somewhat similar complex groups, the attributes A, B, C, D, being common to all living creatures, and presented in every experience of them, are responded to by automatically connected internal states; e, f, g, the attributes of creatures serving for prey, being extremely general, have also answering internal states that are automatically connected with the first, and with those motor changes which the presentation of prey calls for; while h, k, and h, m, from their comparatively infrequent recurrence, are represented by internal states that are not organically co-ordinated with their respective groups, or with the motor changes which those groups should produce. Such being the conditions of the case, let us consider what must be the consequences.
In the first place, the mere complication in the groups of impressions serving as stimuli to special actions, may itself be held to imply something like a nascent memory. For as, on the one hand, the nervous centre by which any set of impressions A, B, C, D, e, f, g, h, k, are co-ordinated, cannot receive all these impressions at the same instant; and as, on the other hand, the special actions to be produced, can be produced only by the joint stimulus of all these impressions; it follows that the nervous effects they severally imply, must have a certain small persistency, so that the last may arise before the first fades away.
Not to dwell upon this, however, let us pass on to remark, that in proportion as the states answering to the attributes h, k, and those answering to the h, m, have been unfrequently connected with their respective group of states, and the actions succeeding them; in the same proportion must the nervous changes by which they are themselves produced, and by which they produce subsequent changes, be slow. It is a universal fact respecting the connection of psychical states, that not only does frequent recurrence make them increasingly strong, but it makes the transitions more and more rapid; and conversely, it is a fact of which we have abundant experience, that incipient psychical connections take an appreciable time—a fact well exemplified in the learning of a new language. But the tolerably deliberate succession of psychical states is one of the conditions to Memory. A remembrance is necessarily a state of consciousness which lasts an appreciable time. The nervous states which are gone through instantaneously—as those by which we infer the distances of the objects we look at—do not enter into what we term Memory at all; we are in fact unconscious of them, because they are not states of our consciousness that have any appreciable persistence. Hence, then, the occurrence of these comparatively slow psychical changes, is a step towards the evolution of Memory.
But now observe a further consequence. When either of the groups of attributes A, B, C, D, e, f, g, h, k, or A, B, C, D, e, f, g, h, m, is presented; the set of impressions A, B, C, D, e, f, g, produced in common by both of them, and by all creatures serving for prey, tends to excite the actions by which prey is ordinarily caught. At the same time, the impressions produced by h, k, or h, m, as the case may be, tend in some degree to excite those modified actions which occurred in experience after such impressions. Not only however, by the hypothesis, is the actual excitation of such modified actions uncertain, from the experiences having been insufficiently repeated; but the two tendencies are more or less conflicting. The impression resulting from the attribute h, being common to both groups, tends equally to excite either of the modified sets of actions: in the one case a particular mode of attack; in the other case, running away. And at the same time, the tendencies towards both these modified sets of actions are antagonized by the tendency towards the original mode of action. Hence, from the balance of these various tendencies, it will often happen that no immediate action at all will ensue. The various psychical states involved in each set of motions, will severally become nascent; but will none of them reach that intensity which they would have were the motions performed. In the chief nervous centre there will arise a conflict among the impressions, and by consequence among the motor impulses which those impressions tend to produce; and these motor impulses, being severally supplanted by one another before they pass into actual motor changes, will each of them consist of an incipient or weak form of that nervous state which would have resulted had the motor change actually occurred. But such a succession of states constitutes remembrance of the various motor changes which thus become incipient—constitutes a memory. To remember the colour red, is to have, in a weak degree, that psychical state which the presentation of the colour red produces: to remember a motion just made with the arm, is to feel a repetition, in a faint form, of those internal states which accompanied the motion—is an incipient excitement of all those nerves whose stronger excitement was experienced during the motion. Thus then, the nascent nervous excitements that arise during this conflict of tendencies, are really so many ideas of the motor changes which, if stronger, they would cause—a recollection of such changes. And thus, Memory necessarily comes into existence whenever automatic action is imperfect.
This, however, is not all. It remains to be pointed out that by this process of development, there results in the organism not only a memory of its own movements and modes of action; but also of those complicated combinations of impressions which it receives through the senses. It is not simply that as the external groups of attributes and relations responded to become more and more complex, and by implication more and more infrequent, the answering psychical changes become more loosely connected with each other, and with the motor changes appropriate to them; and that so, the groups of impressions being less automatically coherent, a nascent memory of the component impressions becomes possible; but it is that the same progress which has given the ability to receive the complex impressions required to determine complex actions, has given the further ability to receive complex impressions which do not tend to determine any actions at all. That same evolution of the senses and the nervous system, which has given a capability of distinguishing many different kinds of enemies and prey, by the special combinations of attributes they severally present, has, by implication, given a capability of distinguishing among other things than enemies and prey. The power of co-ordinating the impressions of size, form, colours, motions, which stand for a particular animal, is likewise a power of co-ordinating the various impressions that stand for trees, plants, stones, and all surrounding things. The great majority of these surrounding things, however, have no immediate relation to the actions of the organism—are not habitually followed by any special motor changes; and therefore do not tend to excite motor changes. But while these multiplied and varied impressions produced by lifeless and motionless objects, have no direct connections with the actions, and do not tend automatically to arouse them; they have direct connections with each other, of all degrees of constancy; and, by consequence, have all degrees of the tendency to produce each other. While the absolutely persistent relations among external attributes, are responded to by inseparable relations of psychical states; the others, in all their various grades of persistency, are responded to by psychical states of all degrees of cohesion. It results, therefore, that of the impressions produced by adjacent objects during the movements of the organism, each tends to make nascent certain other impressions with which it has been connected in experience—calls up ideas of such other impressions; that is—causes a remembrance of the attributes previously found in connection with the perceived attributes. As these psychical states have in their turn been connected with others, they tend to arouse such others; and thus there arises that succession of ideas, partly regular, partly irregular, which we call Memory—regular in so far as the connections of external phenomena are regular; and irregular in so far as the groups of those phenomena occur irregularly in the environment.
§ 192. This truth, that Memory comes into existence when the connections among the psychical states cease to be perfectly automatic, is in complete harmony with the obverse truth, illustrated in all our experience, that as fast as the connections of psychical states which we form in Memory, become, by constant repetition, automatic, they cease to be part of Memory. We do not speak of ourselves as remembering those relations which have become organically, or almost organically registered; we remember those relations only of which the registration is not yet absolute. No one remembers that the object at which he is looking has an opposite side; or that a certain modification of the visual impression implies a certain distance; or that a certain motion of the legs will move him forward; or that the thing which he sees moving about is a live animal. It would be thought a misuse of language were any one to ask another whether he remembered that the sun shines, that fire burns, that iron is hard, and that ice is cold. Even the almost fortuitous relations are not spoken of as remembered, when they have become thoroughly familiar. Though, on hearing the voice of some unseen person slightly known to us, we speak of ourselves as recollecting to whom the voice belongs; we do not use the same expression respecting the voices of those living in the same house with us. And similarly, though, when a child, the reader's knowledge of the meanings of these successive words, was at first a memory of the meanings he had heard given to them; yet now, their several meanings are present to him without any such mental process as that which we call remembrance. Perhaps the most marked instance of the gradual lapse of memory into automatic coherence, is that seen in the musician. Originally, he was taught that each mark on the paper was called by a certain name, and implied that a particular note on the piano was to be struck; and during his first lessons, each recurrence of this mark was accompanied with a distinct process of recollecting which key on the piano he must strike. By long-continued practice, however, the series of psychical changes that occur between seeing the mark and striking the appropriate key, have coalesced into one almost automatic change. The visual impression produced by the crotchet or quaver; the consciousness of its position on the lines of the stave, and of its relation to the beginning of the bar; the consciousness of the place of the answering key on the piano; the consciousness of the muscular adjustments required to bring the arm, hand, and finger into the attitude requisite for touching that key; the consciousness of the muscular impulse required to give a blow of the due strength, and of the time during which the muscles must be kept contracted to produce the right length of note—all these states of consciousness which at first arose in a distinct succession, and thus formed so many recollections, ultimately constitute a succession so rapid that the whole of them pass through consciousness in an inappreciable time. As fast as they cease to be distinct states of consciousness—as fast as they, by consequence, cease to be represented in memory; so fast do they become automatic: the two things are two sides of the same thing. And thus it happens that the practised musician can continue to play while conversing with those around—while his memory is occupied with quite other ideas than the meanings of the signs before him.
Now the fact that the psychical states which in ourselves are originally connected by the process we call recollection, become, by continued repetition, connected automatically or instinctively, is manifestly the obverse of the fact, that as, by the complication of the instincts, the groups of connected psychical states grow more involved and are less frequently repeated, they must cease to be perfectly automatic, and memory must commence. Our inductive knowledge of the one fact, confirms our deduction of the other.
§ 193. Memory then, pertains to all that class of psychical states which are in process of being organized. It continues so long as the organizing of them continues; and disappears when the organization of them is complete. In the advance of the correspondence, each more complex class of phenomena which the organism acquires the power of recognizing, is responded to at first irregularly and uncertainly; and there is then a weak remembrance of the relations. By multiplication of experiences, this remembrance becomes stronger, and the response more certain. By further multiplication of experiences, the internal relations are at last automatically organized in correspondence with the external ones; and so, conscious memory passes into unconscious or organic memory. At the same time, a new and still more complex order of experiences is thus rendered appreciable; the relations they present occupy the memory in place of the simpler one; they become gradually organized; and, like the previous ones, are succeeded by others more complex still.
Thus, having in the last chapter seen that Instinct is interpretable on the experience-hypothesis, we now see that the experience-hypothesis explains the nature and genesis of Memory.
§ 194. That the commonly assumed line of demarcation between Reason and Instinct has no existence, is clearly implied not only in the argument of the last few chapters, but also in those more general arguments elaborated in preceding parts of this work. Proving, as the Special Analysis did, that there exists a unity of composition throughout all mental processes, from the most abstract reasoning down to the lowest conceivable type of psychical action—proving, as it did, that the lowest forms of animal life are made possible only by a classification of impressions fundamentally the same as that which constitutes the most elaborate thinking of the civilized man; it involved the conclusion, that our ordinary psychological divisions are simply conventional. The General Synthesis again, by showing that all intelligent action whatever is the establishment of a correspondence between internal changes and external coexistences and sequences; and by showing that this continuous adjustment of inner to outer relations progresses in Space, in Time, in Speciality, in Generality, and in Complexity, through insensible gradations; similarly implied that the highest forms of psychical activity arise little by little out of the lowest, and, scientifically considered, cannot be definitely separated from them. So that not only does the recently enunciated doctrine, that the growth of intelligence is throughout determined by the repetition of experiences, involve the continuity of Reason with Instinct; but this continuity is involved in the previously enunciated doctrines.
Indeed, to all who are not blinded by prejudice, the impossibility of establishing any real division between the two may be clearly demonstrated. If every instinctive action is an adjustment of inner relations to outer relations,—which it is impossible to deny; if every rational action is also an adjustment of inner relations to outer relations,—which it is equally impossible to deny; then, any alleged distinction can have no other basis than some difference in the characters of the relations to which the adjustment is made. It must be that while, in Instinct, the correspondence is between inner and outer relations that are very simple or general; in Reason, the correspondence is between inner and outer relations that are complex, or special, or abstract, or infrequent. But the complexity, speciality, abstractness, and infrequency of relations, are entirely matters of degree: of each there are countless gradations by which its extremes are united. From the coexistence of two attributes, which is responded to by some simple reflex action; up through the groups of three, four, five, six, seven coexistent attributes, responded to by successive grades of instinctive action; we may step by step ascend to such involved groups of coexistent attributes and relations as are exhibited in a living body under a particular state of feeling, or a particular physical disorder. Between relations experienced every moment and relations experienced but once in a life, there are relations that occur with all degrees of frequency. How then can any particular phase of complexity or infrequency be fixed upon as that at which Instinct ends and Reason begins? Will any one be so absurd as to say, that so long as the external phenomenon responded to does not involve more than twenty elements, the response is instinctive; but that if it involves twenty-one the response is rational? Will any one be so absurd as to say, that the response is instinctive where the external phenomenon occurs a dozen times within a given period; but that the response is rational when it occurs but eleven times? Yet such are the absurdities which must be defended by those who contend that Instinct and Reason are fundamentally different.
Thus then we see, that from whatever point of view regarded, the facts imply an insensible transition from the lower forms of psychical action to the higher. That progressive complication of the instincts, which, as we have found, involves a progressive diminution of their purely automatic character, likewise involves a simultaneous commencement of Memory and Reason. But this joint evolution must be more specifically described.
§ 195. When the perfectly automatic adjustments of inner to outer relations pass into the imperfectly automatic—when the progressing correspondence has advanced beyond the simpler and more frequent phenomena, to those which present groups of relations of considerable complexity, and which occur with comparative rareness—when, by consequence, the repetition of experiences has been insufficient to establish an absolute internal cohesion between the sensory changes produced by such groups and the motor changes required to adapt the organism to them—when such motor changes, and the impressions that must accompany them, simply become nascent—then, by the partial excitation of the nervous agents concerned, there is produced an idea of such motor changes and impressions; or, as before explained, a memory of the motor changes before performed under like circumstances and of the impressions that resulted. Did the process end here, there would be no manifestation of rationality. But the process does not end here. For though, as shown in the last chapter, these nascent excitations first occur in cases where, from a confusion of the impression with some allied one, there results a confusion among the motor impulses—a conflict among them, and a supplanting of each by another before it has passed beyond its incipient stage; and though, as a consequence, there arises a certain hesitation, which continues as long as these nascent motor excitations, these ideas of certain actions, go on superseding each other; yet, ultimately, it will in nearly all cases happen, that some one impulse will prevail over the rest. As the various antagonist motor tendencies excited, will scarcely ever be exactly balanced, the strongest of them will at length pass into action; and as this strongest of them must, in the average of cases, be the one that has been the most uniformly and frequently repeated in experience, the action must, in the average of cases, be the one best adapted to the circumstances. But an action thus produced, is nothing else than a rational action. Each of the actions which we call rational, presents three phases exactly answering to those here described:—first, a certain combination of impressions, signifying some combinanation of phenomena to which the organism is to be adjusted; second, the idea of certain actions before performed under like circumstances, which idea is simply a nascent excitation of the nervous agents before concerned in such actions, either as producers of them or as affected by the production of them; and, third, the actions themselves, which are simply the results of the nascent excitation rising into an actual excitation. That this may be clearly understood, let us take an illustration. Suppose I have had repeated experiences of the fact, that a snarling dog will commonly turn tail when a stone is thrown at him; or even when he sees that stooping motion required for picking up a stone. Suppose that I am again attacked by such a dog: what are the resulting psychical processes? The combination of impressions produced on my senses, and the composite state of consciousness to which they give rise, have been several times followed by that series of motor changes required for picking up and throwing a stone, and by those visual changes produced by these actions and by the dog's retreat. But as these psychical states have repeatedly followed one another in experience, they have acquired a certain degree of cohesion—there is a certain tendency for the psychical states produced in me by the snarling dog, to be followed by those other psychical states that have before followed them: that is, there is a nascent excitation of the motor apparatus concerned in the acts of picking up and throwing; there is a nascent excitation of all those sensory nerves which are affected during such acts; and through these, there is such a nascent excitation of the visual nerves as results on seeing a dog run away. In other words, I have the ideas of picking up and throwing a stone, and of seeing a dog run away; for these that we call ideas, are nothing else than weak repetitions of the psychical states caused in us by actual impressions and motions—partial excitements of the same nervous agents. But what happens further? If there is no antagonist impulse—if no other ideas or partial excitations arise; and if the dog's aggressive demonstrations produce on me impressions of adequate vividness; then, these partial excitations pass into complete excitations, and I go through all the previously imagined actions. The nascent motor changes become real motor changes; and the series of processes required for the adjustment of inner to outer relations is completed. This, however, is just the process which, as we see, must necessarily arise whenever, from increasing complexity and decreasing frequency, the automatic adjustment of inner to outer relations becomes at all uncertain or hesitating; and thus it becomes clear, that the actions we call instinctive merge insensibly into the actions we call rational.
If further proof be needed, it is furnished by the converse fact, to which all can testify, that the actions we call rational, are, by long-continued repetition, rendered automatic or instinctive. By implication, this was more or less fully shown in the last chapter, when exemplifying the lapsing of memory into instinct: the two facts are but different aspects of the same fact. But some instances specially exhibiting this second aspect may here be fitly given. Take as one, the actions gone through in such a process as that of shaving, or that of tying a neckerchief. Every man will remember that when, as a youth, he first attempted to guide his fingers in the proper directions by watching the reflections of them in the looking-glass, he was greatly perplexed to move them rightly. The ordinary relations between the visual impressions received from his moving fingers, and the muscular feelings arising from their motions, no longer holding good when he had to deal with the images of his fingers as seen in the glass, he was led to make movements quite different from those he intended; and it was only after setting himself deliberately to watch how the motions and the reflected appearances were related, and then consciously making a certain motion in expectation of a certain appearance, that he slowly mastered the difficulty. By daily practice, however, the impressions and motions have become so well co-ordinated, that he now goes through them while busily thinking of something else; they have more or less completely lapsed from the rational into the automatic. Still more marked is the analogous process that occurs in the practised microscopist. Everything which he places under the object glass, is seen reversed. All adjustments of the stage, and all motions of his dissecting instruments, have to be made in directions exactly opposite to those which the uninitiated eye would dictate. Yet by practice, this reversed manipulation becomes as easy as ordinary manipulation—it becomes as unnecessary for him to take thought how he shall move his hands, in the one case as in the other. The automatic character of habitual actions is clearly proved when they are performed, as they often are, inappropriately. Any one accustomed daily to traverse particular streets on his way to some place of business, will find that, when intending to branch-off elsewhere, he is apt, if engaged in thought, to follow the usual route—often for a long way beyond the point at which he should have diverged: the impressions produced on him by the familiar objects he passes, severally cause him to make the ordinary crossings and turnings. In the case of reading aloud, again, the law is clearly displayed. Originally, the sight of the letters was followed by a thought of the sounds; and the thought of the sounds, by the vocal actions required to make the sounds. But eventually, the connection between the visual impressions and the vocal actions becomes so far automatic, that, as all have observed, it is possible to read aloud sentence after sentence while so fully occupied in thinking of something else, as to be quite unconscious of the words uttered, and the ideas conveyed by them. In fact, it will be found on considering them, that the greater part of our common daily actions—actions every step of which was originally preceded by a consciousness of consequences, and was therefore rational—have, by habit, merged more or less completely into automatic actions. The requisite impressions being made on us, the appropriate movements follow; without memory, reason, or volition, coming into play: the adjustment of inner to outer relations has become instinctive.
Not only, however, is it, that instinctive and rational actions pass insensibly into each other; not only is it that rational action arises out of instinctive action whenever this is imperfectly automatic; but it is, that at the same time there arises that order of reasoning which does not directly lead to action—that reasoning by which the great mass of surrounding coexistences and sequences become known. In proportion as the groups of external attributes and relations responded to, become complex—in proportion, that is, as the several elements of each impression become too numerous to be all consolidated into one psychical state; in the same proportion does there arise both the opportunity and the power of foreseeing or inferring such of the attributes or relations belonging to any group, as are not immediately presented. Pure instinct continues so long as the stimuli responded to are made up of components that are few and constant. While the combined impressions of colour, position, size, and motion, which together stand for an adjacent object that can be seized for prey, are alone receivable, the actions will be purely automatic—these impressions simultaneously received will set agoing the appropriate motions. But as fast as, by the organization of experiences, there arises a power of appreciating impressions of a more composite character—as fast as the complicated relations of form, of mixed colouring, of peculiar motions, and so forth, become cognizable in conjunction with those of the more general ones of colour, position, size, and motion; then, it is clear that the attributes and relations united into a group, not only become too numerous to be all mentally presented at the same instant, but too numerous to be all physically presented at the same instant. For, the same experiences which have slowly rendered these complex groups of attributes cognizable, have also presented them in such various ways, that sometimes one part of a group has been presented to the senses and sometimes another part of it: sometimes these elements of an animal's form and markings have been visible, and sometimes those: each of the experiences, though on the average like previous ones, has presented some attributes which they did not present, and has lacked others which they did present. Hence it results, that by an accumulation of such experiences, each involved aggregation of external phenomena establishes in the organism an answering aggregation of psychical states, which has the peculiarity that it contains more states than were ever produced, or ever can be produced, by any one of these composite impressions. What must happen from this? It must necessarily happen that when, on any future presentation of the external aggregation of phenomena, certain of these aggregated psychical states are directly produced by the impressions made upon the senses, various others of the psychical states that have been aggregated with them—made coherent to them by experience—become nascent: the ideas of one or more unperceived attributes are aroused: the unperceived attributes are inferred. Thus, the same insensible evolution through which instinctive actions pass into rational actions, simultaneously evolves perceptions and rational intuitions out of those complex impressions by which the higher instincts are guided.
Here also, the truth of the doctrine enunciated is confirmed by the established truth of its obverse. As, before, we saw that while, on the one hand, the instinctive actions pass into the rational ones when from increasing complexity and infrequency they become imperfectly automatic, on the other hand the rational actions pass, by constant repetition, into the automatic or instinctive; so here, we may see that while, on the one hand, rational intuitions similarly arise when the groups of attributes and relations cognized become such that the impressions of them cannot be simultaneously co-ordinated, on the other hand, rational intuitions pass, by constant repetition, into instinctive or automatic intuitions. All the psychological phenomena classed under the title of acquired perceptions, exemplify this truth. All the numberless cases in which we seem directly to know the distances, forms, solidities, textures, &c., of the things around us, are cases in which psychical states originally answering to attributes separately perceived, and afterwards connected in thought by rational intuitions, have, by a perpetual repetition, become indissolubly united; and so constitute intuitions that are automatic or instinctive.
Thus, the common notion that there is a line of demarcation between reason and instinct, has no foundation whatever in fact. The transition is insensible; and the phenomena of the transition are explicable upon the experience-hypothesis. The genesis of instinct in its simpler forms; the development of memory and reason out of it; and the consolidation of rational actions and intuitions into instinctive ones; are alike to be accounted for on the single principle, that the cohesion between psychical states is proportionate to the frequency with which the relation between the answering external phenomena has been presented in experience.
§ 196. But will the experience-hypothesis also suffice to explain the evolution of the higher forms of rationality out of the lower? It will. From the reasoning from particulars to particulars—familiarly exhibited by children, by domestic animals, and by the superior mammalia at large—the progress to inductive and deductive reasoning is similarly unbroken, and similarly determined by the accumulation of experiences. And by the accumulation of experiences is also determined the entire advance of human knowledge, from the narrowest generalizations to generalizations successively wider and wider.
Were it not for the prevalent anxiety to establish some positive distinction between animal intelligence and human intelligence, it would scarcely be needful to assign any proof of this. As it is, the truth is so manifest that under most of its aspects no one questions it. Every one will admit, that the infant, while yet occupied in drawing those simplest inferences which by and by become consolidated into acquired perceptions, is exercising no higher degree of rationality than the dog that recognizes his own name, the different members of the household, the hours of meals, and the days of the week. Every one must also admit that the steps by which, in the course of its development, the infant advances from these simplest inferences to those inferences of high complexity which are drawn in adult life, are so gradual that it is impossible to mark out the successive steps: no one can name that day in any human life when the alleged division between special and general conclusions was crossed. And hence, every one is bound to admit, that as the rationality of an infant is no higher than that of a domestic animal, if so high; and as, from the rationality of the infant to that of the man, the progress is through insensible steps; there is also a series of insensible steps through which brute rationality may pass into human rationality. And further, it must be admitted that as the assimilation of experiences of successively increasing complexity, alone suffices for the unfolding of reason in the individual human being; so must it alone suffice for the evolution of reason in general.
Equally conclusive is the argument from the history of civilization, or from the comparison of different existing human races. That there is an immense difference in complexity and abstractness between the reasonings of aboriginal Britons, Saxons, and Scandinavians, and the reasonings of the Bacons and Newtons who have descended from them, is a trite remark. That the Papuan of New Guinea does not, and cannot, draw inferences approaching in complication to those daily drawn by European men of science, is no less a platitude. Yet no one contends that there is any absolute distinction between our faculties and those of our remote ancestors, or between the faculties of the civilized man and those of the savage. Fortunately, there are positive records to show that the advance of the rational faculty towards conceptions of great complication and high generality, has taken place by slow steps—by natural growth. Simple numeration existed before arithmetic; arithmetic before algebra; algebra before the infinitesimal calculus; and the more special forms of the infinitesimal calculus before its more general forms. The law of the scales was known before the general law of the lever was known; the law of the lever was known before the laws of composition and resolution of forces were known; and these were known before the general laws of motion were known. From the ancient doctrine that the curve in which the sun, the moon, and each of the planets, moves, is a circle (a perfectly specific figure); to the doctrine taught by Kepler, that each member of the planetary system describes an ellipse (a much less specific figure); and afterwards to the doctrine taught by Newton, that the curve described by every heavenly body is some conic section (a still less specific figure); the advance in generality, in complexity, in abstractness, is manifest. Numerous like illustrations are furnished by Physics, by Chemistry, by Physiology: all of them showing, in common with the foregoing ones, not only that the advance to wider generalizations has been gradual, but that each more general relation has become known through the experience of relations a degree less general. If then, in the course of human progression, we have positive evidence of an advance from rational cognitions of a low order of generality, to those of a high order of generality, brought about solely by the accumulation of experiences; if the advance thus brought about is as great as that from the highest forms of brute rationality to the lower forms of human rationality—which no one who compares the generalizations of a Hottentot with those of La Place can deny; then, it is a legitimate conclusion, that the accumulation of experiences suffices to account for the evolution of all rationality out of its simplest forms. The attempted distinction between special and general reasoning, cannot be maintained. The generality of inferences is entirely a thing of degree: and unless it be contended that the rational faculty of the cultivated European, is specifically different from that of a savage or a child; it cannot consistently be contended that there is any specific difference between brute reason and human reason.
To render the argument quite conclusive, it needs but to show, by a special synthesis, that the establishment of every generalization, simple or complex, concrete or abstract, is perfectly explicable in conformity with the principle hitherto traced. The general law that the cohesion of psychical states is determined by the frequency with which they have followed one another in experience, affords a satisfactory solution of the highest as of the lowest psychological phenomena; and is indeed the law which can alone furnish anything like a solution of them. When treating of the integration of correspondences, something was done towards showing that the formation of the most extended generalizations does not differ in method from the formation of the simplest cognitions: but here, by pursuing the argument developed in the preceding chapters, this may be more definitely shown.
As a sample generalization, let us take the discovery of the relation subsisting between the development of the nervous system and the degree of intelligence. Originally, no such relation was known to exist. It was known that certain creatures had more sagacity than others; and it was known that some creatures had larger heads than others; and perhaps to a few it was known that the larger heads commonly contained larger masses of soft whitish matter; but no connection was established between these facts. Intelligent creatures were seen to have various other characteristics besides large brains: most of them were four-legged; most of them were covered with fur; most of them had teeth. And creatures having large brains were seen to have other characteristics than that of intelligence: as strength, length of life, viviparousness. Hence, there was at first no reason why degree of intelligence and extent of nervous development, should be thought of in connection. What then was needed to establish a mental connection between them? Nothing but an accumulation of experiences; or, as we say—a multiplying of observations. That the rationale of this, and its conformity to the general law, may be fully understood, let us have recourse to symbols. Let A stand for the known characteristic, intelligence. And let us put X to represent the unknown characteristic on which it is dependent, a developed nervous system. Now A is found along with many varieties of size, form, colour, structure, habit, &c.; and X coexists with this, that, and the other peculiarity, besides intelligence. That is to say, there is an immense number of different groups of attributes variously associated with A and X; and by which the relation of A to X is disguised: or to continue the symbols—there are groups, B C D X L F Z A, P L F A Q N X Y, E D Z R X B A O Y, and so on, in countless combinations. But now—calling to mind the universal law, that the cohesion of psychical states is proportionate to the number of times they have been connected in experience—let us inquire what must result in the minds of those who are continually impressed with groups of attributes, which, differing as they do in other respects, are alike in presenting the relation A to X. As in each of these cases, the relation A to X is constant; as the relation of A to any other attribute, and of X to any other attribute, is not constant; as, consequently, the relation A to X occurs with greater frequency than the relation of A to anything else, or X to anything else; it necessarily follows from the general law, that by a repetition of experiences, the psychical states answering to A and X will become more coherent to each other than to the rest of the states with which they occur—there will eventually arise a tendency for A to call up X, and for X to call up A. That is, A and X will come to be connected in thought as attributes that constantly coexist: there will arise the generalization that the degree of intelligence varies as the development of the nervous system.
Manifestly, the same reasoning holds however complicated the relations, and however greatly obscured. Involved, and abstract, and varied, as may be the class of phenomena to be generalized; if there has already been reached that grade of intelligence required for cognition of the terms of the relation common to this class of phenomena; then, repeated experiences of such phenomena will inevitably establish a generalization of them, in virtue of that same simple law of psychical changes which we have found sufficient to explain the lower phenomena of intelligence.
§ 197. And here seems to be the fittest place for pointing out how the general doctrine that has been developed, supplies a reconciliation between the experience-hypothesis as commonly interpreted, and the antagonist hypothesis of the transcendentalists. Probably the reader will by this time have foreseen the mode of this reconciliation. But to redeem the promise elsewhere made (§ 6), it will be necessary to give a definite exposition of it.
As most who have read thus far will have perceived, both the general argument unfolded in the synthetical divisions of this work, and many of the special arguments by which it has been supported, imply a tacit adhesion to the development hypothesis—the hypothesis that Life in its multitudinous and infinitely-varied embodiments, has arisen out of the lowest and simplest beginnings, by steps as gradual as those which evolve a homogeneous microscopic germ into a complex organism. This tacit adhesion, which the progress of the argument has rendered much more obvious than I anticipated it would become, I do not hesitate to acknowledge. Not, indeed, that I adopt the current edition of the hypothesis. Ever since the recent revival of the controversy of “law versus miracle,” I have not ceased to regret that so unfortunate a statement of the law should have been given—a statement quite irreconcilable with very obvious truths, and one that not only suggests insurmountable objections, but makes over to opponents a vast series of facts which, rightly interpreted, would tell with great force against them. What may be a better statement of the law, this is not the place to inquire. It must suffice to enunciate the belief that Life under all its forms has arisen by a progressive, unbroken evolution; and through the immediate instrumentality of what we call natural causes. That this is an hypothesis, I readily admit. That it may never be anything more, seems probable. That even in its most defensible shape there are serious difficulties in its way, I cheerfully acknowledge: though, considering the extreme complexity of the phenomena; the entire destruction of the earlier part of the evidence; the fragmentary and obscure character of that which remains; and the total lack of information respecting the infinitely-varied and involved causes that have been at work; it would be strange were there not such difficulties. Imperfect as it is, however, the evidence in favour, appears to me greatly to preponderate over the evidence against. Save for those who still adhere to the Hebrew myth, or to the doctrine of special creations derived from it, there is no alternative but this hypothesis or no hypothesis. The neutral state of having no hypothesis, can be completely preserved only so long as the conflicting evidences appear exactly balanced: such a state is one of unstable equilibrium, which can hardly be permanent. For myself, finding that there is no positive evidence of special creations, and that there is some positive evidence of evolution—alike in the history of the human race, in the modifications undergone by all organisms under changed conditions, in the development of every living creature—I adopt the hypothesis until better instructed: and I see the more reason for doing this, in the facts, that it appears to be the unavoidable conclusion pointed to by the foregoing investigations, and that it furnishes a solution of the controversy between the disciples of Locke and those of Kant.
For, joined with this hypothesis, the simple universal law that the cohesion of psychical states is proportionate to the frequency with which they have followed one another in experience, requires but to be supplemented by the law that habitual psychical successions entail some hereditary tendency to such successions, which, under persistent conditions, will become cumulative in generation after generation, to supply an explanation of all psychological phenomena; and, among others, of the so-called “forms of thought.” Just as we saw that the establishment of those compound reflex actions which we call instincts, is comprehensible on the principle that inner relations are, by perpetual repetition, organized into correspondence with outer relations; so, the establishment of those consolidated, those indissoluble, those instinctive mental relations constituting our ideas of Space and Time, is comprehensible on the same principle. If, even to external relations that are frequently experienced in the life of a single organism, answering internal relations are established that become next to automatic—if, in an individual man, a complex combination of psychical changes, as those through which a savage hits a bird with an arrow, become, by constant repetition, so organized as to be performed almost without thought of the various processes of adjustment gone through—and if skill of this kind is so far transmissible, that particular races of men become characterized by particular aptitudes, which are nothing else than incipiently organized psychical connections; then, in virtue of the same law it must follow, that if there are certain relations which are experienced by all organisms whatever—relations which are experienced every instant of their waking lives, relations which are experienced along with every other experience, relations which consist of extremely simple elements, relations which are absolutely constant, absolutely universal—there will be gradually established in the organism, answering relations that are absolutely constant, absolutely universal. Such relations we have in those of Space and Time. Being relations that are experienced in common by all animals, the organization of the answering relations must be cumulative, not in each race of creatures only, but throughout successive races of creatures; and must, therefore, become more consolidated than all others. Being relations experienced in every action of each creature, they must, for this reason too, be responded to by internal relations that are, above all others, indissoluble. And for the yet further reason that they are uniform, invariable, incapable of being absent, or reversed, or abolished, they must be represented by irreversible, indestructible connections of ideas. As the substratum of all other external relations, they must be responded to by conceptions that are the substratum of all other internal relations. Being the constant and infinitely-repeated elements of all thought, they must become the automatic elements of all thought—the elements of thought which it is impossible to get rid of—the “forms of thought.”
Such, as it seems to me, is the only possible reconciliation between the experience-hypothesis and the hypothesis of the transcendentalists: neither of which is tenable by itself. Various insurmountable difficulties presented by the Kantian doctrine, have already been pointed out; and the antagonist doctrine, taken alone, presents difficulties that I conceive to be equally insurmountable. To rest with the unqualified assertion that, antecedent to experience, the mind is a blank, is to ignore the all-essential questions—whence comes the power of organizing experiences? whence arise the different degrees of that power possessed by different races of organisms, and different individuals of the same race? If, at birth, there exists nothing but a passive receptivity of impressions, why should not a horse be as educable as a man? or, should it be said that language makes the difference, then why should not the cat and dog, out of the same household experiences, arrive at equal degrees and kinds of intelligence? Understood in its current form, the experience-hypothesis implies that the presence of a definitely organized nervous system is a circumstance of no moment—a fact not needing to be taken into account! Yet it is the all-important fact—the fact to which, in one sense, the criticisms of Liebnitz and others pointed—the fact without which an assimilation of experiences is utterly inexplicable. The physiologist very well knows, that throughout the animal kingdom in general, the actions are dependent on the nervous structure. He knows that each reflex movement implies the agency of certain nerves and ganglia; that a development of complicated instincts, is accompanied by a complication of the nervous centres and their commissural connections; that in the same creature in different stages, as larva and imago for example, the instincts change as the nervous structure changes; and that as we advance to creatures of high intelligence, a vast increase in the size and complexity of the nervous system takes place. What is the obvious inference? Is it not that the ability to co-ordinate impressions and to perform the appropriate actions, in all cases implies the pre-existence of certain nerves arranged in a certain way? What is the meaning of the human brain? Is it not that its immensely numerous and involved relations of parts, stand for so many established relations among the psychical changes? Every one of the countless connections among the fibres of the cerebral masses, answers to some permanent connection of phenomena in the experiences of the race. Just as the organized arrangement subsisting between the sensory nerves of the nostrils and the motor nerves of the respiratory muscles, not only makes possible a sneeze, but also, in the newly-born infant, implies sneezings to be hereafter performed; so, all the organized arrangements subsisting among the nerves of the cerebrum in the newly-born infant, not only make possible certain combinations of impressions into compound ideas, but also imply that such combinations will hereafter be made—imply that there are answering combinations in the outer world—imply a preparedness to cognize these combinations—imply faculties of comprehending them. It is true that the resulting combinations of psychical changes, do not take place with the same readiness and automatic precision as the simple reflex action instanced—it is true that a certain amount of individual experience seems required to establish them. But while this is partly due to the fact that these combinations are highly involved, extremely varied in their modes of occurrence, made up therefore of psychical relations less completely coherent, and so need some further repetitions to perfect them; it is in a much greater degree due to the fact, that at birth the organization of the brain is incomplete, and does not cease its spontaneous progress for twenty or thirty years afterwards. The defenders of the hypothesis that knowledge wholly results from the experiences of the individual, ignoring as they do that mental evolution which is due to the autogenous development of the nervous system, fall into an error as great as if they were to ascribe all bodily growth to exercise, and none to the innate tendency to assume the adult form. Were the infant born with a mature-sized and completely-constructed brain, their arguments would have some validity. But, as it is, the gradually-increasing intelligence displayed throughout childhood and youth, is in a much greater degree due to the completion of the cerebral organization, than to the individual experiences—a truth clearly proved by the fact, that in adult life there is often found to exist a high endowment of some faculty which, during education, was never brought into play. Doubtless, the individual experiences furnish the concrete materials for all thought; doubtless, the organized and semi-organized arrangements existing among the cerebral nerves, can give no knowledge until there has been a presentation of the external relations to which they correspond; and doubtless, the child's daily observations and reasonings have the effect of facilitating and strengthening those involved nervous connections that are in process of spontaneous evolution: just as its daily gambols aid the growth of its limbs. But this is quite a different thing from saying that its intelligence is wholly produced by its experiences. That is an utterly inadmissible doctrine—a doctrine which makes the presence of a brain meaningless—a doctrine which makes idiotcy unaccountable.
In the sense, then, that there exist in the nervous system certain pre-established relations answering to relations in the environment, there is truth in the doctrine of “forms of thought”—not the truth for which its advocates contend, but a parallel truth. Corresponding to absolute external relations, there are developed in the nervous system absolute internal relations—relations that are developed before birth; that are antecedent to, and independent of, individual experiences; and that are automatically established along with the very first cognitions. And, as here understood, it is not only these fundamental relations which are thus pre-determined; but also hosts of other relations of a more or less constant kind, which are congenitally represented by more or less complete nervous connections. On the other hand, I hold that these pre-established internal relations, though independent of the experiences of the individual, are not independent of experiences in general; but that they have been established by the accumulated experiences of preceding organisms. The corollary from the general argument that has been elaborated, is, that the brain represents an infinitude of experiences received during the evolution of life in general: the most uniform and frequent of which, have been successively bequeathed, principal and interest; and have thus slowly amounted to that high intelligence which lies latent in the brain of the infant—which the infant in the course of its after life exercises and usually strengthens or further complicates—and which, with minute additions, it again bequeaths to future generations. And thus it happens that the European comes to have from twenty to thirty cubic inches more brain than the Papuan. Thus it happens that faculties, as that of music, which scarcely exist in the inferior human races, become congenital in the superior ones. Thus it happens that out of savages unable to count even up to the number of their fingers, and speaking a language containing only nouns and verbs, come at length our Newtons and Shakspeares.
§ 198. The assertion that those psychical states which we class as feelings, are involved with, and inseparable from, those which we class as purely intellectual processes—that they form but another aspect of the mental phenomena already described; is an assertion that will appear untenable. Habitually contemplating the contrast between the cognitive and emotive faculties from a subjective point of view, we conclude that it is a strongly marked contrast; and to say that there is really no line of demarcation between reason, and sentiment or passion, will, by most, be thought a contradiction of direct internal perceptions. Nevertheless, if the general doctrines that have been enunciated are true—if all mental phenomena are incidents of the correspondence between the organism and its environment; and if this correspondence is a thing of degree, which passes insensibly from its lowest to its highest forms; then, we may be certain, à priori, that the Feelings are not, scientifically considered, divisible from other phenomena of consciousness. We may infer that they must arise gradually out of the lower forms of psychical action, by steps such as those leading to the higher forms of psychical action already traced out; and that they must constitute another aspect of these. This is just what we shall find. We shall find that Feeling becomes nascent at the same time that Memory and Reason do. We shall find that as, when more complex and less frequent correspondences come to be effected, the internal actions effecting them become less automatic; as, in ceasing to be automatic, they necessitate a previous representation of the motions about to be performed and the impressions about to be experienced, and thus involve at once both Memory and Reason; so, in this same previous representation, they simultaneously involve the germ of what we call the Feelings. And we shall find, that as, in the beginning, Memory, Reason, and Feeling, are different sides of the same psychical phenomenon; so, though by the continuous differentiation which accompanies development, they become more distinguishable, yet they never cease to stand in this same fundamental relation.
Before proceeding to show this synthetically, it may be well to remark, that even from the ordinary point of view, the impossibility of dissociating the psychical states which we class as intellectual from those which we class as emotional, may be clearly discerned. While we continue to compare such extreme forms of the two as an inference and a fit of anger, we may fancy that they are entirely distinct. But if we compare a variety of modes of consciousness, we shall quickly find some which are clearly both cognitive and emotive. Take, as an example, the state of mind produced by seeing a beautiful statue. Primarily, this is a continuous perception—a co-ordination of the various visual impressions which the statue gives, and a consciousness of what they mean; and this is what we class as a purely intellectual act. But it is impossible to perform this act without a greater or less feeling of pleasure—without some emotion. Should it be said that this emotion results from the many ideas associated with the human form; the rejoinder is, that though these may aid in producing it, it cannot be altogether so accounted for: seeing that we feel a similar pleasure on contemplating a fine building. If it be urged that, even in this case, collateral states of consciousness are induced which suffice to explain the emotion; then, what will be said of the gratification given on looking at a simple curve—an ellipse or parabola? And if, in these instances, there is manifest difficulty in disentangling the cognitive from the emotive; in others, there is an absolute impossibility of doing it. Not only is it, that in the states of consciousness produced by music the two are inseparably united; but it is, that the state of consciousness produced by a single beautiful tone, presents cognition and emotion fused into one. Not only is it, that a combination of colours, as in a landscape, cannot be perceived without pleasure; but it is, that there is pleasure accompanying the perception of even one colour, when of great purity or brilliance. Nay, even a perfectly smooth or soft surface cannot be presented or represented to consciousness without a certain agreeable feeling resulting. In brief;—seeing that in all cases, the materials dealt with in every cognitive process, are either sensations, or the representations of them; and seeing that these sensations, and by implication the representations of them, are always in some degree agreeable or disagreeable; it follows, of necessity, that no act of cognition can be absolutely free from emotion, but that the emotion accompanying it will be strong or weak, according as the materials co-ordinated in the cognition are great or small in quantity or intensity. While, conversely, seeing that every emotion involves the presentation or representation of objects and actions; and seeing that the perceptions, and by implication the recollections, of objects and actions, all imply cognitions; it follows, of necessity, that no emotion can be absolutely free from cognition, but that the quantity of cognition involved in it, will vary according to the complexity of co-ordination subsisting among the elements of the emotion.
But the facts that all cognition implies emotion, and all emotion implies cognition, are most clearly discerned on studying the relation between perception and sensation, which are the simplest forms of the two. As was shown in a previous part of this work (§ 79), while perception and sensation can neither of them exist without the other—while every sensation, to be known as one, must be perceived, and must so be in one respect a perception; and while every perception must be made up of combined sensations, and must so be in one respect sensational—the two differ in this; that whereas in sensation, consciousness is occupied with certain affections of the organism, in perception, consciousness is occupied with the relations subsisting among those affections. In other words;—sensations are the primary undecomposable states of consciousness, while perceptions are those secondary decomposable states consisting of the changes from one primary state to another; and as the continuance of the primary states is inconsistent with the occurrence of changes, it follows that consciousness of the changes is in antagonism with consciousness of the states between which they occur: whence it results, that perception and sensation are, as it were, ever tending to exclude each other, but never succeeding. Indeed, consciousness continues only in virtue of this conflict. Without the primary affections of consciousness, there can be no changes from one primary affection to another: and without changes from one to another, there can be no primary affections; seeing that in the absence of changes consciousness ceases. But, while neither consciousness of the changes, nor of the affections between which they occur, can exist by itself; yet, either may so predominate as completely to subordinate the other. When the changes are very rapid, and the states forming their antecedents and consequents do not last for any appreciable time, consciousness is almost wholly occupied with changes; that is, with the relations among the sensations: the sensations are only so far present as is needful for the establishment of relations among them; and we have that condition of consciousness known as perception. Conversely, when the states forming the antecedents and consequents of the changes, have considerable persistence—when the changes are comparatively slow, or more probably, when the affections of consciousness are not permanently destroyed by the changes, but continually return, and are thus only broken by the changes so far as is needful to maintain consciousness—when therefore, some one state of consciousness by its continuous recurrence, greatly predominates over others; then there arises what we distinguish as a sensation. Now, this is just the relationship which exists throughout between knowing and feeling. Though differing from Sir William Hamilton respecting the interpretation of the antagonism between perception and sensation, I quite agree with him in the doctrine, that the same antagonism holds between cognition and emotion in general. Indeed, our ordinary forms of speech may be quoted in support of such a generalization. The word feeling, which we apply to every species of emotion, primarily expresses sensation; and we use the word perceive, not only in respect to cognitions gained through the senses, but in respect to all orders of cognitions. The differences are simply differences that arise from successive complications. As, out of those simplest perceptions forming the lowest class of cognitions, the higher cognitions result by the compounding of perceptions—by an advance from single relations, to relations of relations, and to relations of relations of relations; so, out of those simplest sensations forming the lowest class of feelings, the higher feelings arise by the compounding of sensations—by an advance from single sensations, to those produced by groups of sensations and the relations among them, and to those produced by groups of such groups. And just as, by the complication of cognitions, the elements involved become too numerous to be all present together, and so become partly representative, and afterwards sometimes wholly representative; so, by the complication of the emotive states of consciousness, the elements involved become too numerous to be all present together, and so become partly representative and afterwards sometimes wholly representative. But these positions call for some elucidation.
It has been from time to time pointed out, and is indeed familiar to all acquainted with the rudiments of the subject, that in the development of intelligence, there is a progressive consolidation of states of consciousness. States of consciousness once separate, become indissociable. Other states that were originally united with difficulty, become so coherent as to follow one another without effort. And thus it results that there arise large aggregations of states, answering to complex external things—animals, men, buildings—which are so fused together as to be practically single; and which thus enable us to recognize such complex external things by the briefest glance. Indeed, that these aggregations should be formed, should become ever more consolidated, should by coalescing with each other produce still larger aggregations, and so on without limit, is an unavoidable corollary from the experience-hypothesis, as interpreted in the foregoing chapters. But one of these compound states of consciousness, by uniting, as it does, a large number of sensations and the relations among them into one state, does not by so doing destroy them. Though subordinated as parts of a whole, they still severally exist as states of consciousness. And being severally in their original forms, feelings, it results that this state which is composed of them is a feeling—a feeling produced by the fusing of a number of minor feelings. Hence results the gratification given to the child by every new object it sees. Hence the pleasure accompanying all kinds of perceptions, so long as they are not carried to the extent of satiety. Not only, however, does this hold with unions of the simple sensations into those groups constituting the perceptions of objects; but it holds with unions of these groups into still larger groups. When such composite states of consciousness as those answering to single complex objects, become sufficiently consolidated; then, if there happen to be within the range of the daily experiences, any constant assemblage of such objects, as those distinguishing a particular locality, there results a consolidation of these composite states into a still larger aggregation of states: the feelings severally constituted by these composite states, are, in their turn, merged into a more complex feeling—a feeling which is produced by being in that locality, and so constitutes a liking for that locality. And then from the union of this complicated state of consciousness with certain other complicated ones, such as those implied in the domestic relations, there results a state of consciousness even still more complicated, which answers to the idea, home; and the feeling constituted by this state of consciousness, we call a love of home. But now let it be remarked, that as fast as these compound states of consciousness in their ascending grades, severally become, by the close combination of their elements, practically single; so fast do they begin to play the same part in the mental processes as single states do. And hence results the fact, that the above described law of antagonism between perception and sensation, holds between cognition and feeling in general. As we saw that the continuance of a sensation is inconsistent with the occurrence of a change, and that hence consciousness of changes, or relations among sensations, is ever at variance with consciousness of the sensations; so, it must happen, that in proportion as a complex consciousness including many sensations and relations, becomes fused into one, its continuance must similarly be at variance with the occurrence of a change to some other such state; that is—must be at variance with the establishment of a relation between the thing causing such composite state, and anything else; that is—must be at variance with cognition. And hence arises the fact which all persons analytically inclined will have remarked, that in proportion as they think about any gratification they are receiving—speculate upon the cause of it, or criticise the object of it—in the same proportion does the gratification cease.
These several expositions having, as I think, pretty clearly shown the inseparableness of the intellectual and emotional elements of mind; having shown that they are but different aspects of the same development, and may so be expected to arise from the same root by the same process; we may now go on to consider the feelings synthetically.
§ 199. So long as the actions are perfectly automatic, feeling does not exist. Of this we have several proofs. We have the proof that in the creatures most markedly exhibiting them, automatic actions go on equally well when the chief nervous centre has been removed. We have the proof that the actions which in ourselves are entirely automatic—which are in no degree subject to voluntary control, are unaccompanied by feeling; as witness the actions of the viscera in their normal state. And we have the further proof that the actions which in ourselves are partly voluntary, partly reflex—as that by which the foot is withdrawn from scalding water—and which, so long as they are accompanied by feeling, are accompanied by will, show a much stronger automatic character when feeling disappears: when, from injury of the sentient nerves, there is an entire loss of sensibility in a limb, the slightest stimulus, as even the touch of a feather, produces reflex movements that are far more vehement than those produced in a limb retaining its sensibility.
This general fact, that automatic action and feeling are antagonistic, will be better understood on observing that feeling necessarily involves a certain continuity of some psychical state. To be conscious of any feeling, is to have the state of consciousness signified by the name of that feeling. But to have a state of consciousness, appreciable as such, implies some duration of that state. In proportion as a state is greatly elongated—in proportion as it occupies consciousness for a long time, in the same proportion does it become a distinct feeling; and in proportion as it is greatly abbreviated—in proportion as it makes a smaller and smaller figure in the chain of states of consciousness, in the same proportion does it lapse out of consciousness, in the same proportion does it cease to be felt. The statement is in fact a truism. To say that a state of consciousness has considerable continuity, is to say that it is a distinct element of consciousness; which is the same thing as being known or felt. To say that it has scarcely any continuity, is to say that it forms a scarcely perceivable element in consciousness; which is the same thing as being scarcely at all known or felt. And to say that it is a state of consciousness having no appreciable length, is to say that it forms no element in consciousness; which is the same thing as saying that it is not known or felt. Should it be needed, confirmation for this view will be found in the ordinary experience that every species of sensation or emotion involves time. Nothing can be tasted or smelt instantaneously. A momentary glance at a fine colour does not suffice to give us the pleasurable sensation produced by such colour, but merely to give us a knowledge of what colour it was. For the beauty of a tone to be appreciated it must have some persistency. And with all the more complex emotions produced by music, or landscape, or poetry, or the arts, it is needful that the things producing them should be dwelt upon. It follows, therefore, that when a set of psychical changes occurs instantaneously, the several psychical states forming the antecedents and consequents of the changes, are not felt; and the further the consolidation of any set of psychical changes is carried, the more complete must be the absence of feeling. Now the completely consolidated sets of changes are the automatic changes. The automatic changes are those whose elements are absolutely coherent—are practically fused into one change: so fused that as soon as one component of the group occurs, the rest instantaneously occur. And thus it results, that while all the psychical actions are perfectly automatic, there is no feeling.
An entire absence of Memory and Reason, then, is accompanied by an entire absence of Feeling. And the same progress which gives origin to Memory and Reason, simultaneously gives origin to Feeling. For what did we find to be the circumstances under which Memory and Reason become nascent? We found that when, in the course of the general evolution of Life, the correspondence has attained to a considerable degree of complexity; when the adjustment of inner to outer relations begins to take in comparatively involved and infrequent groups of outer relations; when, by consequence, the answering groups of inner relations are made up of many elements, some of which are not often repeated in experience; when, therefore, there arise groups of inner relations whose components are imperfectly coherent; when conflicting tendencies among some of the psychical changes arise, and they severally become nascent before certain of them occur; when thus there come to be hesitating and imperfect automatic actions; then, Memory and Reason simultaneously become nascent. The ceasing to be automatic and the becoming rational, are, as we saw, the same thing. We have just seen, however, that when psychical changes are perfectly automatic, they are without feeling. The existence of feeling we have seen to imply psychical states having some persistency—states that do not succeed one another instantaneously. And states that do not succeed one another instantaneously, are the states which result on the cessation of automatic action: the cessation of automatic action is the occurrence in the nervous centres of certain states that are not immediately followed by the appropriate motor changes—states that have some persistency. Thus then, as the psychical changes become too complicated to be perfectly automatic, they become incipiently sensational. Memory, Reason, and Feeling take their rise at the same time. And it is not simply that they all commence as automatic action ceases; but it is that the commencement of them and the cessation of automatic action are one and the same thing—are different aspects of the same progress.
A strong confirmation of this view, parallel to confirmations given in the two preceding chapters, is supplied by the fact, that in ourselves, psychical processes which were once slow, and were then accompanied by feeling, are by much repetition not only rendered automatic, but by the same process are rendered indifferent or feelingless. This is equally the case whether the accompanying feelings are painful or pleasurable. In spelling out its reading-lessons, the child experiences a more or less disagreeable sense of effort; but in the adult, the identification of words is a totally unemotional process. The learning of a new language requires labour that is more or less unpleasant, and the first attempts to speak it soon produce weariness; after due practice, however, it is spoken with entire indifference. And without multiplying illustrations, I may quote the general truth that habit renders easy the actions that once were hard, as showing that this law holds throughout: seeing that by calling actions hard, we mean, to some extent painful; and that becoming easy, is ceasing to be painful. Conversely, in the equally general truth that custom produces satiety—that the keenness of any species of gratification diminishes in proportion as it becomes familiar, we have the law similarly illustrated. So long as the combinations of properties they present are new to it, the commonest objects give pleasure to the infant: but as fast as, by constant repetition, the compound impressions produced become consolidated into perfect cognitions of the objects—become so automatically connected that the briefest glance suffices instantly to bring before the mind all the conjoined attributes and relations—so fast do the objects become indifferent. Throughout childhood, youth, and manhood, the same fact is daily manifested. The often repeated groups of psychical changes become indifferent; and there arises a constant demand for those that have not been experienced, or have been little experienced. And we may even trace the law in the fact, that things to which we have become indifferent re-acquire their attractions after an interval of disuse—that music, friends, home, are enjoyed with increased zest after absence: seeing that as, by daily repetition, any group of psychical changes approximates more and more to the automatic; so, by an entire cessation of the daily repetitions, they begin to lose somewhat of the automatic character they have acquired.
Thus, as we found that not only do Memory and Reason arise when the psychical changes cease to be automatic, but that where they have existed they disappear when, by perpetual repetition, the psychical changes become automatic; so, we find that not only does Feeling arise under the same conditions, but that it ceases under the same conditions.
Let us now, however, consider the genesis of the Feelings somewhat more closely.
§ 200. When, as before explained in describing nascent Memory and Reason, there results from their growing complexity a certain hesitation in the automatic actions—when there come to be cases in which two involved groups of external relations that are much alike, have been followed in experience by different motor changes; and when there consequently arises on the presentation of one of these groups, a conflict among the two sets of motor changes, which severally become nascent but are prevented by their mutual antagonism from at once taking place; then, while one of these nascent sets of motor changes and the impressions habitually accompanying it, constitutes a memory of such motor changes as before performed and impressions as before received, and while it also constitutes a prevision of the action appropriate to the new occasion—a rational foresight of consequences, it further constitutes the desire to perform the action—the impulse prompting to it. To continue the illustration before used:—Suppose the subject of the psychical phenomena we are considering, to have occasional experience of two animals somewhat similar in colour, size, and general contour, one of which serves for prey, and the other of which is a dangerous enemy. The complex impression produced by the enemy, has been followed in experience by injury, by certain defensive actions, perhaps by certain cries, and eventually by flight. That produced by the prey has been followed in experience by the actions of pursuit and attack, by the use of the teeth and claws, by processes of tearing to pieces and swallowing. But these two complex impressions having, as premised, many elements in common, tend, in so far as there is a confusion between them, to arouse either of these two sets of psychical changes; and when one of these animals is seen, each set becomes nascent according as the impression produced varies. At one moment the defensive actions, the cries, and the movements of escape, which have before followed some such impression as that received, tend to arise; and the next moment a change in the position of the animal so alters the impression, as partially to excite the psychical states involved in pursuit, attack, destroying, and devouring. But what is either of these partial excitations? It is nothing else than an impulse, an emotion, a feeling, a desire. To have in a slight degree those psychical states accompanying the reception of wounds, those which express themselves in cries, those which are experienced during flight, is to be in a state of what we call fear. And to have in a slight degree those psychical states involved in the processes of catching, killing, and eating, is to have the desires to catch, kill, and eat. That the propensities to the acts are nothing else than nascent excitations of the psychical states involved in the acts, is clearly proved by the natural language of the propensities. Fear, when strong, expresses itself in cries, in efforts to hide or escape, in palpitations and tremblings; and these are just the manifestations that would accompany an actual experience of the evil feared. The destructive passions are shown in a general tension of the muscular system, in gnashing of the teeth and protrusion of the claws, in dilated eyes and nostrils, in growls; and these are weaker forms of the actions that accompany the killing of prey. To such objective evidences, every one can add subjective ones from his own experience. Every one can testify that the psychical state which we call fear, consists of mental representations of certain painful results; and that the one we call anger, consists of mental representations of the actions and impressions which would occur while inflicting some kind of pain upon another: or, in other words, that these passions are partial excitations of those states involved in the reception or infliction of injury. And so with the passions in general.
Possibly it may be objected, that to describe the nascent group of psychical changes produced by some complex impression, as constituting at the same time a memory of the the psychical changes which had before followed this impression and a desire again to go through those changes, is absurd; seeing that the subject-matter of memory is retrospective, while that of desire is prospective. The reply is, that though, when a high degree of intelligence has been attained to, these nascent changes are accompanied by a consciousness of time past and time future, and so come to have different aspects; yet, at the stage in which automatic action merges into the higher forms of action, no such abstract conception as that of Time can exist, and no such duality of aspect in these groups of nascent psychical changes can arise. And a further reply is, that even in ourselves, any group of nascent psychical changes, however much they may be represented in consciousness as prospective, are nevertheless, at the same time retrospective: seeing that they cannot be represented at all unless they have been previously presented in experience; and the representation of them is the same thing as a memory of them.
§ 201. The progress from the initial forms of feeling to those complicated forms of it seen in human beings, equally harmonizes with the general principles of evolution that have been laid down. Arising, as it does, when the automatic actions, from increasing complexity and decreasing frequency, become hesitating; and consisting, as it then does, of nothing more than the group of sensations received and the nascent motor changes aroused by them; feeling, step by step developes into larger and more varied aggregations of psychical states—sometimes purely impressional, sometimes nascently impressional or ideal; sometimes purely motor, sometimes nascently motor; but very frequently including in one combination, immediate impressions and the ideas of other impressions, with immediate actions and the ideas of other actions. And this formation of larger and more varied aggregations of psychical states, necessarily results from the accumulating cohesions of psychical states that are connected in experience. Just as we saw that the advance from the simplest to the most complex forms of cognition, was explicable on the principle that the outer relations produce the inner relations; so, we shall see that this same principle supplies an explanation of the advance from the simplest to the most complex feelings.
For when the development of Life reaches this repeatedly described stage, in which the automatic actions merge into the actions that are at once conscious, rational, and emotive; what must be the effect of further experiences? The effect must be that if, in connection with a group of impressions and the nascent motor changes resulting from it, there is habitually experienced some other impression or motor change; this will, in process of time, become so coherent to the group, that it too will become nascent where the group becomes nascent, or will render the group nascent if it is itself induced. If, along with the running down and laying hold of certain prey, there has always been experienced a certain scent; then, the presentation of that scent will render nascent the motor changes and impressions that accompany the running down and laying hold of the prey. If the motor changes and impressions that accompany the catching of prey, have been habitually followed by those bitings, and strugglings, and growlings, accompanying the destruction of prey; then, when they are rendered nascent, they will in their turn render nascent the psychical states implied in bitings, strugglings, and growlings. And if these have similarly been followed by those involved in eating; then those involved in eating will also be made nascent. Thus, the simple olfactory sensation will make nascent those numerous and varied states of consciousness that accompany the running down, catching, killing, and eating of prey: the sensations, visual, aural, tactual, olfactory, gustatory, muscular, constantly accompanying the successive phases of these actions, will be all partially aroused at the same time—will be present to consciousness as what we call ideas—will, in their aggregate, constitute the desires to catch, kill, and devour—and will, in conjunction with that olfactory sensation which aroused them all, form the motor impulse which sets going the limbs in pursuit. Evidently the entire genesis of these complex feelings, results from successive complications in the groups of psychical states that are co-ordinated; and is just as much determined by experience, as is the union of any two simple sensations that constantly occur together.
Not only are those emotions which form the immediate stimuli to actions, thus explicable; but the like explanation applies to the emotions that leave the subject of them comparatively passive: as, for instance, the emotion produced by beautiful scenery. The gradually increasing complexity in the groups of sensations and ideas co-ordinated, ends in the coordination of those vast aggregations of them which a grand landscape excites and suggests. The infant taken into the midst of mountains, is totally unaffected by them; but is delighted with the small group of attributes and relations presented in a toy. The child can appreciate, and be pleased with, the more complicated relations of household objects and localities, the garden, the field, and the street. But it is only in youth and mature age, when individual things and small assemblages of them have become familiar and automatically cognizable, that those immense assemblages which landscapes present can be adequately grasped, and the highly aggregated states of consciousness produced by them, experienced. Then, however, the various minor groups of states that have been in earlier days severally produced by trees, by fields, by streams, by cascades, by rocks, by precipices, by mountains, by clouds, are aroused together. Along with the sensations immediately received, there are partially excited the myriads of sensations that have been in times past received from objects such as those presented; further, there are partially excited the various incidental feelings that were experienced on all these countless past occasions; and there are probably also excited certain deeper, but now vague combinations of states, that were organized in the race during barbarous times, when its pleasurable activities were chiefly among the woods and waters. And out of all these excitations, some of them actual, but most of them nascent, is composed the emotion which a fine landscape produces in us.
§ 202. One of the several corollaries following from the foregoing doctrines, is, that other things equal, the emotions are strong in proportion as they include a large number of actual sensations, or nascent sensations, or both. As every one of the elementary states of consciousness aggregated together in the way described, is originally a feeling of some kind or other; as the progressive consolidation of groups of such states, though it tends more and more to abbreviate the elementary states, yet never wholly obliterates them; and as each of the elementary states therefore remains to the last a feeling, however infinitesimal in amount; it follows that the greater the accumulation of such infinitesimal amounts of feeling, the greater must be the sum total of feeling experienced. And this is just what we find to be the fact. Strength of feeling is of two kinds: that which results from intense excitation of few nerves; and that which arises from slight excitation of many nerves. Thus, on the one hand, the tip of a finger cannot be held in boiling water without an unbearable sensation being produced; and, on the other hand, though there is no difficulty in holding the tip of a finger in water above 100° of Fahrenheit, yet an unbearable sensation is produced if the whole body be plunged into water of that temperature: whence it is manifest, that the moderate excitation of all the nerves distributed over the surface of the body, is equivalent in effect to the extreme excitation of a few of them. Again, though a very faint colour cannot be discerned when it extends over a very minute surface; yet, the same colour extended over a great surface is discerned with ease. And that the truth which thus holds with actual sensations, holds also with those nascent sensations which, as aggregated in the form of groups of ideas, constitute the emotions, will be manifest on calling to mind how actions are continually determined by the accumulation of motives; that is, by the accumulation of such nascent excitations.
From this corollary it is a second corollary, that, with a certain qualification to be hereafter made, the further the development is carried the stronger do the emotions become: seeing that as the increasingly complex emotions successively developed, arise by the aggregation of previous groups of actual and nascent sensations into yet larger groups, the resulting totals must become continually larger. As supplying a marked illustration of this truth, I may cite the passion which unites the sexes. This is habitually, but very erroneously, spoken of as though it were a simple feeling; whereas it is in fact the most compound, and therefore the most powerful, of all the feelings. Added to the purely physical elements of it, are first to be noticed those highly complex impressions produced by personal beauty; around which are aggregated a variety of pleasurable ideas, not in themselves amatory, but which have an organized relation to the amatory feeling. With this there is united the complex sentiment which we term affection—a sentiment which, as it can exist between those of the same sex, must be regarded as in itself an independent sentiment; but which assumes its highest activity between lovers. Then there is the sentiment of admiration, respect, or reverence; in itself one of considerable power, and which in this relation becomes in a high degree active. Next there must be added the feeling which phrenologists have named love of approbation. To be preferred above all the world, and that by one admired beyond all others, is to have the love of approbation gratified in a degree passing every previous experience: especially as, to this direct gratification of it, there must be added that reflex gratification of it which results from the preference being witnessed by unconcerned persons. Further, there is the allied emotion of self-esteem. To have succeeded in gaining such attachment from, and sway over, another, is a practical proof of power, of superiority, which cannot fail agreeably to excite the amour propre. Yet again, the proprietary feeling has its share in the general activity: there is the pleasure of possession; the two belong to each other—claim each other as a species of property. Once more, there is involved an extended liberty of action. Towards other persons a restrained behaviour is requisite: round each there is a certain subtle boundary which may not be crossed—an individuality on which none may trespass. But in this case the barriers are thrown down; the freedom of another's individuality is conceded; and thus the love of unrestrained activity is gratified. Finally, there is an exaltation of the sympathies: purely personal pleasures are doubled by being shared with another; and the pleasures of another are added to the purely personal pleasures. Thus, round the physical feeling forming the nucleus of the whole, there are gathered the feelings produced by personal beauty, that constituting simple attachment, those of reverence, of love of approbation, of self-esteem, of property, of love of freedom, of sympathy. All these, each excited in the highest degree, and severally tending to reflect their excitement on each other, form the composite psychical state which we call love. And as each of these feelings is in itself highly complicated, uniting a wide range of states of consciousness, we may say that this passion fuses into one immense aggregation, nearly all the elementary excitations of which we are capable; and that from this results its irresistible power.
But the progressive evolution of emotions of higher complexity and greater power, produces other emotions than those which arise by the simple aggregation of large groups of psychical states into still larger groups; in correspondence with those connections which in the environment unite into still larger groups of phenomena, the large groups of phenomena which occur in habitual coexistence or sequence. There is, at the same time, and as a result of the same cause, an evolution of emotions that are not only more complex, but also more abstract. Of this, the love of property supplies an example. When the intelligence is so far developed that time and locality are in some degree cognizable; and when, by consequence, a portion of food beyond what can be eaten at one time, can, when hunger next makes nascent the psychical states that accompany eating, be remembered as having been left in a particular place; there will, by a repetition of these experiences of a satiated hunger, and a subsequently recurring hunger that prompts a return to the remaining food, be established an organized connection between the consciousness of such remaining food and the various states of consciousness produced by a return to it: and there will thus be constituted an anticipation of a return to it—a tendency to perform all such actions accompanying return to it as are not negatived by the present satiety—a tendency, therefore, to take possession of it. By an analogous process there will be established a tendency to take possession of some habitual place of shelter; and afterwards to take possession of things serving for artificial shelter and for clothing. By a gradual transition, things indirectly connected with personal welfare must come to be included: as, for example, the club used for a weapon; the impressions produced by which will make nascent the various impressions that have accompanied its use, and the conception of further use. And by a carrying of the same process to still higher complications, there will arise a propensity to take possession not only of various weapons and appliances of daily life, but also of the tools and materials required to make such weapons and appliances; afterwards of the materials required to make such tools; and so on to all degrees of remoteness: until the things accumulated for one purpose or other become extremely numerous and varied. But now observe that in proportion as these things become extremely numerous and varied; and in proportion as the acts of acquiring them and preserving them become frequent; there will, in conformity with the general law, be established a great variety of different excitements in connection with the act of taking possession or holding possession: and hence this act will itself become a source of excitement. And as the excitement thus caused, must be more habitual than that caused by any particular order of object; as, further, the special excitements attaching to special objects possessed, must, in virtue of their variety, prevent the excitement of possession from being connected with any one of them in particular; it results that the excitement of possession becomes one of a new kind, holding a great variety of excitements to which it ministers, in an accumulated but vague aggregation. And when, in the course of civilization, money comes to be the representative of value in general—value as abstracted from special objects—we see, in the miser, how the desire of possession in the abstract, may become almost independent of those from which it arose; and may become stronger than any one of them individually.
As still further illustrating the origin and nature of the more abstract emotions, I may instance one still in process of evolution among civilized men; and as yet but very imperfectly developed: I refer to the love of liberty, the sentiment of personal rights. Just the same relation which the love of property bears to the various gratifications it provides for, the love of unrestricted action bears to the gratifications derivable from property and from all other things. As the one secures the material objects directly or indirectly ministering to life, the other secures those non-material conditions without which the material objects can neither be obtained, nor preserved, nor used. While the possession of certain kinds and combinations of matter is a very general pre-requisite to the fulfilment of the desires; a still more general, and indeed universal, pre-requisite, is, that freedom of motion without which it is not only impossible to obtain and use such matter, but is impossible to perform any action whatever. This sentiment of personal rights, answering to certain highly complex relations in which men living in a society stand to each other—being a gratification in the maintenance of such relations with other men as admit of an unrestricted activity—is manifestly far more abstract and more general in its scope than any other. It is manifestly one which could not begin to be organized until mankind grew into definite and permanent social relations. As uniting in one general sentiment, the desire for liberty of person, liberty of acquisition and possession, liberty of movement from place to place, liberty of speech, liberty of trade, and so on, it supposes an extremely extensive aggregation of psychical states. And it manifestly has long been in process of development.
It only remains to add here the qualification, which, as above said, must be made to the assertion that the feelings grow in power as they increase in complexity. For though, other things equal, the power of a feeling is proportionate to the number of elementary states of consciousness united in it; yet, other things are not always equal. Along with greatness of number there may be lowness of intensity. Where, as in the above case, the connexions established in experience are extremely intricate, comparatively infrequent, and very varied, the co-ordination of the states is so weak that they do not render one another nascent with much vividness; and hence, the total effect is in many cases less than that produced by a smaller aggregation more strongly excited. Nevertheless, the slow organization of experiences will, in process of time, compensate for this; and ultimately the sentiment of personal rights will yield to none in strength.
§ 203. After what was said at the close of the last chapter, I need hardly say that this evolution of the feelings, through the progressive aggregation of psychical states that are connected in experience, is to be understood as taking place in countless successive generations. The law of development of the mental activities as regarded under their cognitive aspect, equally applies to them as regarded under their emotional aspect. That gradual organization of forms of thought which we saw must result from the experience of uniform external relations, must be accompanied by the organization of forms of feeling similarly resulting. These, in their more complex phases, differ simply in this, that the aggregations of external attributes and relations to which they answer, are immensely more extensive, far more concrete, and known but empirically. Given a race of organisms placed in habitual contact with any complex set of circumstances, and, if its members are already able to cognize the various minor groups of phenomena composing this set of circumstances, there will slowly be established in them a co-ordination of psychical states corresponding to this set of circumstances. By the accumulation of small increments, arising from the constant experiences of successive generations, the tendency of all the component psychical states to make each other nascent, will become gradually stronger. And when ultimately it becomes organic, it will constitute what we call a sentiment, or propensity, or feeling, having this set of circumstances for its object.
That the experience-hypothesis, as ordinarily understood, is inadequate to account for emotional phenomena, will be sufficiently manifest. If possible, it is even more at fault in respect to the emotions than in respect to the cognitions. The doctrine maintained by some philosophers, that all the desires, all the sentiments, are generated by the experiences of the individual, is so glaringly at variance with hosts of facts, that I cannot but wonder how any one should ever have entertained it. Not to dwell on the multiform passions displayed by the infant, before yet there has been such an amount of experience as could by any possibility suffice for the elaboration of them; I will simply point to the most powerful of all passions—the amatory passion—as one which, when it first occurs, is absolutely antecedent to all relative experience whatever.
§ 204. And here this doctrine of the hereditary transmission of tendencies towards certain complex aggregations of psychical states corresponding to complex aggregations of external phenomena, and the consequent organization of such tendencies in the race, suggests a few remarks on the tenets of the phrenologists.
That an organized tendency towards certain complex aggregations of psychical states, supposes a structural modification of the nervous system—a special set of complex nervous connections whereby the numerous excitations constituting the emotion may be co-ordinated—no one having even a superficial knowledge of Physiology can doubt. As every student of the nervous system knows, the combination of any set of impressions, or motions, or both, implies a ganglion in which the various nerve-fibres concerned are put in connection. To combine the actions of any set of ganglia, implies some ganglion in connection with them all. And so on in ever-ascending stages of complication: the nervous masses concerned, becoming larger in proportion to the complexity of the co-ordinations they have to effect. The induction that the same thing holds throughout, is, I think, irresistible. And if so, it follows that every emotion implies some portion of nervous structure by which its various elements are united—a portion which is large in proportion as these elements are many and varied; and which, in virtue of its co-ordinating function, is more especially the seat of the emotion.
That, in their antagonism to the unscientific reasonings of the phrenologists, the physiologists should have gone to the extent of denying or ignoring any localization of function in the cerebrum, is, perhaps, not to be wondered at: it is in harmony with the course of controversies in general. But no physiologist who calmly considers the question in connection with the general truths of his science, can long resist the conviction that different parts of the cerebrum subserve different kinds of mental action. Localization of function is the law of all organization whatever: separateness of duty is universally accompanied with separateness of structure: and it would be marvellous were an exception to exist in the cerebral hemispheres. Let it be granted that the cerebral hemispheres are the seat of the higher psychical activities; let it be granted that among these higher psychical activities there are distinctions of kind, which, though not definite, are yet practically recognizable; and it cannot be denied, without going in direct opposition to established physiological principles, that these more or less distinct kinds of psychical activity must be carried on in more or less distinct parts of the cerebral hemispheres. To question this, is not only to ignore the truths of physiology as a whole; but especially those of the physiology of the nervous system. It is proved experimentally, that every bundle of nerve-fibres and every ganglion, has a special duty; and that each part of every such bundle and every such ganglion, has a duty still more special. Can it be, then, that in the great hemispherical ganglia alone, this specialization of duty does not hold? If it be urged that there are no marked divisions among the fibres of the cerebrum, I reply—neither are there among those contained in one of the bundles proceeding from the spinal chord to any part of the body; yet each of the fibres in such bundle has a function more or less special; though a function included in that of the bundle considered as a whole. And this is just the kind of specialization which may be presumed to exist in different parts of the cerebrum. Just as there are aggregated together in a sciatic nerve, a great number of nerve-fibres, each of which has a particular office referring to some one part of the leg, but all of which have for their joint duty the management of the leg as a whole; so, in any one region of the cerebrum, each nerve-fibre may be concluded to have some particular office, which, in common with the particular offices of thousands of neighbouring fibres, is merged in some general office which that region of the cerebrum fulfils. Indeed, any other hypothesis seems to me, on the face of it, untenable. Either there is some arrangement, some organization, in the cerebrum, or there is none. If there is no organization, the cerebrum is a chaotic mass of fibres, incapable of performing any orderly action. If there is some organization, it must consist in that same “physiological division of labour” in which all organization consists; and there is no division of labour, physiological or other, of which we have any example, or can form any conception, but what involves the concentration of special kinds of activity in special places.
But to coincide with the doctrine of the phrenologists in its most abstract shape, is by no means to coincide with their concrete embodiments of it. Indeed the crudity of their philosophy is such, as may well make many who to some extent agree with them, refrain from any avowal of their agreement: more especially when they are met by so great an unwillingness to listen to any criticisms on the detailed scheme rashly promulgated as finally settled.
Among other objections to the phrenologists' teachings, it may be noted that they put forth their body of doctrines as in itself a complete system of Psychology. To one who has read thus far, it is needless to point out the absurdity of this position. At best, Phrenology can be but an appendix to Psychology proper; and one of but comparative unimportance, scientifically considered.
Again they are unwarranted in their idea of a precise demarcation of the faculties. Were there anything like that definite distinction in the functions of the different parts of the cerebrum, which is indicated by the lines on their busts, and apparently supposed by them really to exist, there would be some signs of it in the cerebrum itself. In other parts of the nervous system, where there is decisive difference of function, there is decisively marked separation of structure. The only localization which we may presume to exist, and which the necessities of the case imply, is one of a comparatively vague kind—one which does not suppose specific limits, but an insensible shading-off. And this is just the conclusion to which all the preceding investigations point. For as we have seen that even mental faculty, rightly understood, is an internal plexus of nervous relations, corresponding to some plexus of relations among external phenomena that are habitually experienced; and as the different plexuses of external relations, in proportion as they become complicated, also become less definite in their distinctions, so that when we reach those extremely involved, extensive, and variable plexuses of relations to which the higher faculties respond, there comes to be a great overlapping and entanglement of the different plexuses; it follows that the answering internal plexuses must be fused together—it must be as impossible to demarcate the internal nervous aggregations, as it is to demarcate the aggregations of external relations.
Moreover, I conceive that the phrenologists are wrong in assuming that there is something specific and unalterable in the natures of the various faculties. Responding, as these do, to the particular assemblages of phenomena habitually surrounding any race of organisms, they are only so far fixed and specific as these are fixed and specific. A permanent alteration in one of these assemblages, would in time establish a special feeling responding to the modified assemblage. A habit—say of sitting in a particular place in a particular room, and of being uncomfortable elsewhere—is nothing but an incipient feeling answering to that particular group of outer relations; and were all the successors of the person having this habit, to be constantly placed in the same relations, this incipient feeling would become an established one. So little specific are the faculties, that no one of them is quite the same in different persons: they severally differ as the several features differ.
Yet further, the current impression of phrenologists seems to be, that the different portions of the cerebrum in which they locate different faculties, are of themselves competent to produce the manifestations assigned to them. The portion of brain marked “acquisitiveness,” is supposed to be alone concerned in producing the desire of possession. But it is a corollary from the general argument of this chapter, that the desire includes a great number of minor desires elsewhere located. As every more complex aggregation of psychical states, is evolved by the union of minor aggregations previously established—results from the consolidation or co-ordination of these; it follows that that which becomes more especially the seat of this more complex aggregation, or higher feeling, is simply the centre of co-ordination by which all the minor aggregations are brought into relation. Hence, that particular portion of the cerebrum in which a particular faculty is said to be located, must be regarded as an agency by which the various actions going on in other parts of the cerebrum are combined in a particular way.
Saying nothing of the many minor objections that may be made to the phrenological doctrine, in respect of its localizations, and more especially in respect of its very faulty, unanalytical nomenclature of the faculties; it is thus sufficiently clear, that defensible as it is in its fundamental proposition, it is in many other points quite indefensible.
§ 205. It must be obvious to all who have followed the argument thus far, that what we call Will, is but another aspect of that same general process whose other aspects have been delineated in the last three chapters. Not only do Memory, Reason, and Feeling, simultaneously arise as the automatic actions become complex, infrequent, and hesitating; but Will arises at the same time, and is necessitated by the same conditions. As the advance from the simple and indissolubly coherent psychical changes, to the psychical changes that are involved and dissolubly coherent, is in itself the commencement of Memory, Reason, and Feeling; so also is it in itself the commencement of Will. On passing from the compound reflex actions to those actions so highly compounded as to be imperfectly reflex—on passing from the groups of psychical changes that are organically connected, and take place with extreme rapidity, to those groups of psychical changes which are not organically connected, and take place with some deliberation, and therefore consciously; we pass to an order of mental action which is one of Memory, Reason, Feeling, or Will, according to the relation in which we consider it.
This is a conclusion of which we may be certain, even in anticipation of any special synthesis. For, as before said, all modes of consciousness can be nothing else than incidents of the correspondence between the organism and its environment; and as such, must be different sides of, or different phases of, the co-ordinated groups of changes whereby inner relations are adjusted to outer relations. Between the reception of certain impressions and the performance of certain appropriate motions, there is some inward connection. If the inward connection is perfectly organic, the action is of the reflex order, either simple or compound; and none of the phenomena of consciousness proper, exist. If the inward connection is not perfectly organic, then the psychical changes which connect the impressions and motions, are conscious ones; the entire action is a conscious action, and must exhibit all the essential elements of a conscious action: that is—must simultaneously exhibit Memory, Reason, Feeling, and Will; for there can be no conscious adjustment of an inner to an outer relation without all these being involved. But let us consider the matter more nearly.
§ 206. When, as a result of the organization of accumulating experiences, the automatic actions become so involved, so varied in kind, and severally so infrequent, as no longer to be performed with unhesitating precision—when, after the reception of one of the more complex impressions, the appropriate motor changes become nascent, but are prevented from passing into immediate action by the antagonism of certain other nascent motor changes appropriate to some nearly allied impression; there is constituted a state of consciousness which, when it finally issues in action, exhibits what we term volition. Under such conditions, there occurs a conflict between two sets of nascent motor changes; one of which ultimately prevails and passes into a set of actual motor changes. Each set of nascent motor changes arising in the course of this conflict, is a weak form of the state of consciousness which accompanies such motor changes when actually performed—is a representation of such motor changes as before executed under like circumstances—is an idea of such motor changes. We have, therefore, a conflict between certain ideal motor changes which severally tend to become real; and one of which eventually does become real: and this passing of an ideal motor change into a real one, is that which we distinguish as Will. In a voluntary act, considered in its simplest form, apart from the aggregated states of consciousness eventually constituting the greater part of the motive, we can find nothing beyond a mental representation of the act, followed by a performance of it—a rising of that nascent psychical change which constitutes at once the tendency to act and the idea of the act, into the positive psychical change which constitutes the performance of the act, in so far as it is mental. The difference between an involuntary movement of the leg and a voluntary one, is, that whereas the involuntary one takes place without any previous consciousness of the movement to be made, the voluntary one takes place only after it has been represented in consciousness: and as the representation of it is nothing else than a weak form of the psychical state accompanying the real movement, it is nothing else than a nascent excitation of all the nerves concerned, which precedes their actual excitation. Hence the difference is, that whereas, in the case of the involuntary movement, the psychical states accompanying the impression and the action, are so coherent that the one follows the other instantaneously; in the voluntary movement they are so imperfectly coherent, that the psychical state accompanying the action does not follow instantaneously, but slowly—is partially excited before it is fully excited; and so occupies consciousness for an appreciable time before it actually occurs. And thus the cessation of automatic action and the dawn of volition, are one and the same thing.
It is quite true, as incidentally admitted in the preceding paragraph, that as we advance from the earliest and simplest manifestations of Will to the later and more involved ones, the composite state of consciousness by which any act is preceded, includes much beyond the nascent motor changes; and even much beyond the various nascent sensory impressions which must be immediately realized by the act. It further includes an extensive aggregation of nascent sensory impressions such as have before been more or less remotely realized by the act; and which constitute representations of the various consequences of the act. Even when Will is but incipient, there must be some accompaniment of this kind. Along with any two conflicting sets of motor changes produced by an indistinctly cognized impression, there will become nascent the several pleasurable or painful psychical states which have in experience been respectively connected with such motor changes. These are aggregated with the various other psychical states, actual and nascent, which the impression immediately or mediately excites; and so, by increasing the group of psychical states which are severally coherent with the appropriate motor changes, add to the tendency which those motor changes have to take place. Gradually, by that ever-progressing aggregation of psychical states described in the last chapter, these nascent sensory impressions such as have been before more or less remotely realized by the act, come to form by far the greater part of the composite psychical state which precedes the act—constitute the greater part of what we call the desire to perform the act; and so, greatly obscure that original relation between impressions and motions which forms their nucleus. But the general nature of the process remains throughout fundamentally the same as at first. Certain impressions, immediately made upon the senses or afterwards mediately suggested by some other impressions, make nascent certain appropriate motor changes, and certain impressions connected with such changes; these, again, make nascent other changes, and other impressions; and so on to all degrees of remoteness: producing a complicated group of ideal actions and consequences. All of these having, directly or indirectly, some connection in experience with these motor changes, or with some antagonistic ones, tend to produce or prevent the action. An immense number of nascent psychical states are aroused, part of which unite with the original impression in exciting the action, and part of which are aggregated as exciters of some antagonist action; and when eventually, from their greater number or intensity, the first outbalance the others, it is simply that, as an accumulated stimulus, they become sufficiently strong to make the nascent motor changes pass into actual ones.
But that Will comes into existence through the increasing complexity and imperfect coherence of automatic changes, is most clearly seen in the converse fact, that when changes which were once incoherent and voluntary, are very frequently repeated in experience, they become coherent and involuntary. Just as any set of psychical changes originally displaying Memory, Reason, and Feeling, cease to be conscious, rational, and emotional, as fast as by constant repetition they become more closely organized; so do they at the same time cease to be voluntary. Memory, Reason, Feeling, and Will, simultaneously disappear in proportion as, by their habitual recurrence, any psychical changes become automatic. Thus, while the child learning to walk, wills each movement before making it; the adult, when setting out anywhere, does not think of his legs, but of some point towards which he wishes to move; and his successive steps are made with little or no more volition than his successive inspirations. Every one of those vocal imitations made by the child in acquiring its mother tongue, or the man in learning a new language, is voluntarily made; but after many years of practice, conversation is carried on without any thought of the muscular adjustments required to produce each articulation: the motions of the vocal apparatus respond automatically to the trains of ideas. Similarly with writing, and all other familiar processes: the many coordinations by which they were once executed deliberately and voluntarily, have become so coherent and rapid, that they no longer occupy any appreciable space in consciousness; but under the appropriate external or internal stimuli, they follow unthinkingly, involuntarily. Not only is this so with actions daily occurring in the lives of all, but it is so with those peculiar to persons having special habits; and every one from time to time hears of the curious results hence arising: as of the old soldier who lets fall what he is carrying on the word “attention” being shouted behind him. And the same general truth is recognized in the common remark, made of any one who has long persisted in some evil practice, that “he has lost power over himself,” “can no longer control himself:” that is to say, by constant repetition certain psychical changes have more or less passed from the voluntary into the automatic.
§ 207. Long before reaching this point, most readers will have perceived that the doctrines developed in the last two parts of this work, are quite at variance with the current tenets respecting the freedom of the Will. That every one is at liberty to do what he desires to do (supposing there are no external hindrances), all admit; though people of confused conceptions commonly suppose this to be the thing denied. But that every one is at liberty to desire or not to desire, which is the real proposition involved in the dogma of free-will, is negatived as much by the internal perception of every one as by the contents of the preceding chapters. From the universal law that, other things equal, the cohesion of psychical states is proportionate to the frequency with which they have followed one another in experience, it is an inevitable corollary, that all actions whatever must be determined by those psychical connections which experience has generated—either in the life of the individual, or in that general antecedent life whose accumulated results are organized in his constitution.
To go at length into this long-standing controversy respecting the Will, would be alike useless and out of place. I can but briefly indicate what seems to me the nature of the current illusion, as interpreted from the point of view at which we have arrived.
Considered as an internal perception, the illusion appears chiefly to consist in supposing that at each moment the ego is something more than the composite state of consciousness which then exists. A man who, after being subject to an impulse consisting of a group of psychical states positive and nascent, performs a certain action, usually asserts that he determined to perform the action, and performed it under the influence of this impulse: and by speaking of himself as having been something separate from the group of psychical states constituting the impulse, he falls into the error of supposing that it was not the impulse alone which determined the action. But the entire group of psychical states which constituted the antecedent of the action, also constituted himself at that moment—constituted his psychical self, that is, as distinguished from his physical self. It is alike true that he determined the action and that the impulse determined it; seeing that during its existence the impulse constituted his then state of consciousness, that is, himself. Either the ego which is supposed to determine or will the action, is some state of consciousness, simple or composite, or it is not. If it is not some state of consciousness, it is something of which we are unconscious—something, therefore, that is unknown to us—something, therefore, of whose existence we neither have nor can have any evidence—something, therefore, which it is absurd to suppose existing. If the ego is some state of consciousness, then, as it is ever present, it can be at each moment nothing else than the state of consciousness present at that moment. And thus it follows inevitably, that when any impression received from without, makes nascent certain appropriate motor changes and various of the impressions that must accompany and follow them; and when, under the stimulus of this composite psychical state, the nascent motor changes pass in actual motor changes; this composite psychical state which forms the stimulus to the action, is at the same time the ego which is said to will the action. Thus it is natural enough that the subject of such psychical changes should say that he wills the action; seeing that, psychically considered, he is at that moment nothing more than the composite state of consciousness by which the action is excited. But to say that the performance of the action is, therefore, the result of his free-will, is to say that he determines the cohesions of psychical states by which the action is aroused; and as these psychical states constitute himself at that moment, this is to say that these psychical states determine their own cohesions: which is absurd. Their cohesions have been wholly determined by experiences—the greater part of them, constituting what we call his natural character, by the experiences of antecedent organisms; and the rest by his own experiences. The changes which at each moment take place in his consciousness, and, among others, those which he is said to will, are wholly determined by this infinitude of previous experiences; so far, at least, as they are not produced by immediate impressions on the senses.
This subjective illusion, in which the notion of free-will commonly originates, is strengthened by a corresponding objective illusion. The actions of other individuals, lacking as they do that constancy, that uniformity, habitually seen in phenomena known to obey fixed laws, appear to be lawless—appear to be under no necessity of following any particular order; and are so supposed to be determined by the unknown independent something which we call the Will. But, as I need hardly say, this seeming indeterminateness in the mental succession, is an illusion consequent upon the extreme complication of the forces in action. The composition of causes is so intricate, and from moment to moment so varied, that the effects are not calculable. Nevertheless, these effects are really as conformable to law as the simplest reflex actions. The irregularity and apparent freedom is a necessary result of the complexity; and equally arises in the inorganic world under parallel conditions. To amplify an illustration before used:—A body in space, subject to the attraction of a single other body, will move in a direction that can be accurately predicted. If subject to the attraction of two bodies, its course will be but approximately calculable. If subject to the attraction of three bodies, its course can be calculated with still less precision. And if it is surrounded by bodies of all sizes, in all directions, at all distances, its motion will be apparently independent of the influence of any of them; it will move in some indefinable varying line that appears to be self-determined; it will seem to be free. And in the same way, just in proportion as the cohesions of each psychical state to others, become great in number and various in degree, the psychical changes will become incalculable and apparently subject to no law.
To reduce the general question to its simplest form:—Psychical changes either conform to law or they do not. If they do not conform to law, this work, in common with all works on the subject, is sheer nonsense: no science of Psychology is possible. If they do conform to law, there cannot be any such thing as free-will.
§ 208. Respecting this matter I will only further say, that free-will, did it exist, would be entirely at variance with that beneficent necessity displayed in the progressive evolution of the correspondence between the organism and its environment. That gradual advance in the moulding of inner relations to outer relations, which has been delineated in the foregoing pages—that ever-extending adaptation of the cohesions of psychical states to the connections between the answering phenomena, which we have seen to result from the accumulation of experiences, would be arrested, did there exist anything which otherwise determined their cohesions. As it is, we see that the correspondence between the internal changes and the external coexistences and sequences, must become more and more complete. The continuous adjustment of the vital activities to the activities in the environment, must become more accurate and exhaustive. The life must become higher and the happiness greater—must do so because the inner relations are determined by the outer relations. But were the inner relations to any extent determined by some other agency, the harmony at any moment subsisting, and the advance to a higher harmony, would alike be interrupted to a proportionate extent: there would be an arrest of that grand progression which is now bearing Humanity onwards to perfection.
[∗]Carpenter's “Principles of Comparative Physiology.” Fourth edition, p. 654.
[∗]Carpenter's “Principles of Comparative Physiology,” p. 658.
[∗]Carpenter's “Principles of Comparative Physiology,” p. 665.
[†]Ditto, p. 686.
[∗]Carpenter's “Principles of Comparative Physiology,” p. 689.
[∗]How nervous communications are established, both primarily and in all after stages of evolution, it would be going too much out of the way here to inquire. It may, and I think not improbably will, turn out, that they are produced by the very actions which they have to co-ordinate. There is evidence pointing to the inference, that the law in virtue of which all psychical states that occur together tend to cohere, and cohere the more the more they are repeated together, until they become indissoluble—the law in virtue of which many of our own acquired actions become reflex by constant repetition—is the law in virtue of which nervous connections are formed. When a change made in one part of an organism is habitually followed by a change in another; and when the electrical disturbance thus produced in one part, comes to be in constant relation to that in another; the frequent restoration of electrical equilibrium between these two parts, being always effected through the same route, may tend to establish a permanent line of conduction—a nerve. On a future occasion I hope to say something in justification of this hypothesis.