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CHAPTER VII.: REASON. - Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology 
The Principles of Psychology (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1855).
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§ 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.