Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLIV.: FINISHING THE PSYCHOLOGY. 1870—72. Æt. 50—52. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER XLIV.: FINISHING THE PSYCHOLOGY. 1870—72. Æt. 50—52. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 2 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. 2 (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
FINISHING THE PSYCHOLOGY.
With the ending of the first volume of the Psychology and the beginning of the second, a new kind of mental action was commenced. While the first volume, or, to speak strictly, the constructive part of it, is synthetic, the second volume is analytic. The process of taking to pieces our intellectual fabric and the products of its actions, until the ultimate components are reached, had now to be undertaken; and, among other things, it had to be shown that the structure of Mind, as ascertained in this way, corresponds with its structure as ascertained by tracing up its successive stages of development.
Was this change an agreeable one? I think I may say that it was. Not, indeed, intrinsically, but simply as involving another form of intellectual activity. And here, as being relevant to the question whether I liked best the synthetic or the analytic mode of thought, I may say something about my intellectual tendencies in relation to the two. A few years ago I saw it remarked that there appeared to be in me equal proclivities towards analysis and towards synthesis. Up to that time I had supposed myself to be alone in the recognition of this trait.
It is a trait which will, I think, be manifest to anyone who looks into the evidence furnished by my books. While, on the one hand, they betray a great liking for drawing deductions and building them up into a coherent whole; on the other hand, they betray a great liking for examining the premises on which a set of deductions is raised, for the purpose of seeing what assumptions are involved in them, and what are the deeper truths into which such assumptions are resolvable. There is shown an evident dissatisfaction with proximate principles, and a restlessness until ultimate principles have been reached; at the same time that there is shown a desire to see how the most complex phenomena are to be interpreted as workings out of these ultimate principles. It is, I think, to the balance of these two tendencies that the character of the work done is mainly ascribable.
Much scope for further exercise of the analytic faculty was not afforded by Part VI (Special Analysis). But with arrival at Part VII (General Analysis) there came the occasion for expanding and completing the conception first briefly and crudely set forth in the “Universal Postulate,” published in 1853, and further developed in the first edition of the Principles of Psychology in 1855. To this division, and the divisions succeeding it, my limited energies were chiefly devoted during the period covered by this chapter.
Already I have hinted that a great change in the routine of my life followed my election into the Athenæum Club; and what there is to say about it I may as well say here.
My place of abode was, in several ways, desirable in position. Its proximity to Kensington Gardens made more constant than it might else have been, a morning’s walk of half an hour before beginning work. Then when, something like an hour after luncheon, came the walk into Town, my route lay over grass and under trees nearly all the way: through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and the Green Park; so that I could reach the Club without more than a quarter of a mile upon pavement. Once at the Club, a miscellaneous process of killing time commenced. Having already glanced through The Times after breakfast, the news-room did not detain me; save on Saturdays when some of the weekly periodicals, not found in the other rooms, had to be looked at. Commonly some little time was spent in the drawing room in glancing through the contents of the Monthly Magazines and Quarterly Reviews: skipping most articles and dipping into a few. I rarely read one through. Then came the new books, of which the chief were obtained from Mudie for the convenience of members who wished, some to read them and others to see what they were about. I was usually one of the latter class. Biographies, Histories, and the like, I commonly passed over without opening them. Books of travel had an attraction for me; and I glanced through them with an eye to materials for my work. Passages telling me of the institutions, beliefs, characters, usages &c. of the uncivilized, I not unfrequently copied. Of course all works treating on this or the other branch of Science, as well as those which dealt with philosophical questions, special or general, including those on Theology, were looked into. To observe the current of opinion was one motive; and another motive was to make myself acquainted with the criticisms passed on my own views, which I not unfrequently found objects of attack. Novels were temptations to be resisted; for I dare not expend on them the needful amount of reading power. Once in a year, perhaps, I treated myself to one; and then I had to get through it in a dozen or more instalments.
There was a further occupation which filled a considerable space. Playing billiards became “my custom always of the afternoon.” I found it a very desirable way of passing the time: preventing thinking and excluding the temptation to read. Those who confess to billiard-playing commonly make some kind of excuse. Change of occupation is needful, they say; or it is alleged that the game entails a certain amount of beneficial exercise. It must not be supposed that the benefits I have just named are similarly meant as excuses. It suffices for me that I like billiards, and the attainment of the pleasure given I regard as a sufficient motive. I have for a long time deliberately set my face against that asceticism which makes it an offence to do a thing for the pleasure of doing it; and have habitually contended that, so long as no injury is inflicted on others, nor any ulterior injury on self, and so long as the various duties of life have been discharged, the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake is perfectly legitimate and requires no apology. The opposite view is nothing else than a remote sequence of the old devil-worship of the barbarian; who sought to please his god by inflicting pains on himself, and believed his god would be angry if he made himself happy.
Beyond these habitual occupations at the Club there were chattings with my old friends, most of whom were members, and less frequent conversations with friends newly made; for I am slow to make fresh friendships. And then as the evening was approaching there was the walk back to Queen’s Gardens, bringing me there in time for dinner at 7; which was followed by such miscellaneous ways of passing the time without excitement as were available. Thus passed my ordinary days.
The close of 1870, and the first four months of 1871, furnish no incidents calling for mention. Such quotable passages as occur in correspondence concern other persons in ways which make it undesirable to reproduce them: one only excepted, which will come more conveniently in a future chapter. The first letter from which I may here fitly extract, is one dated 11th May.
“It is also pleasant news to me that you are likely to come over shortly. What time in June are you likely to come? I shall probably be away for a fortnight during the latter half of June, but shall be in town during July. . .
About a week ago, I received the French translation of First Principles. It contains an introduction by Dr. Cazelles which is admirably done, and is perfectly fitted to give the uninitiated a general preliminary conception. It is just the thing of which I have long felt the need; and it could not have been better supplied than by a sympathetic Frenchman. A translation of it would be immensely serviceable; but I cannot well have it made here. I have ordered a copy from Paris and will forward it to you as soon as it comes.”
Of the two foregoing paragraphs the first introduces a matter of considerable general interest. At the time it was written I did not know that which I soon afterwards learned—the motive of my American friend in coming over. He was fertile in useful projects; and the project which now occupied his thoughts was one in pursuance of which English, American, French, German, and other authors, who undertook to write works of a certain class, should, by agreement among the publishers in their respective countries, have certain specified rates of profit secured to them in all these countries. I gladly did all that I was able in furtherance of his scheme. One step taken was to give him a letter of introduction which should serve to facilitate his negotiations with authors an publishers over here. This it will be not amiss to quote in full.
“4 July, 1871.
My dear Youmans,
I am desirous to do all that is possible to extend and establish the arrangements you are making with English authors—arrangements which practically amount to international copyright.
Having for the last ten years benefited so greatly by the arrangements you have made with the Appletons on my behalf, which have put me on a footing as good as that of the American author, I have the best possible reasons for thinking that the interests of English authors will be subserved in a very important degree by the success of the negociations which you have come over here to carry out. Various of my scientific friends, who have reaped pecuniary and other advantages from the contracts you have made for them, will, I am sure, coincide in this expression of opinion.
From the conversation I had with Mr. Appleton when he was here recently, it was manifest to me that he was anxious to carry out in his relations with other English authors, the same equitable system from which I, and some others, have gained. And now that he has given you full powers to make engagements in pursuance of this system, I think it very desirable that all should co-operate. Standing so high as the Appletons do, alike in respect to the character of the works they publish and in the extent of their business, it appears to me clear that this system which they are adopting needs only to be known and understood by English authors to be at once accepted by them.
Pray make use of this letter in any way that will further your negociations.
Ever yours sincerely,
The movement thus initiated was one which presently issued in “The International Scientific Series,” of which more anon.
I have said nothing of late concerning my social life in these days, and now that I recur to the topic, I find little to say.
I suppose it has been more from inclination than from principle that I have avoided acquaintanceships and cultivated only friendships. There is in me very little of the besoin de parler; and hence I do not care to talk with those in whom I feel no interest. Having neither professional interests to push, nor daughters to marry, and not caring to show Mrs. Grundy how many people I know, I have had no motive for multiplying social relations. I have thus avoided the weariness of “the social treadmill.” My circle, limited to those whose natures are more or less attractive to me, has ever yielded me pleasure, and brought to me quite as much intercourse as I desired—often too much, in fact.
Of special incidents belonging to social life which dwell in my memory two belong to this year. One of them was a water-party on the anniversary of the marriage of Mr. Leslie Stephen to the younger Miss Thackeray—a party including the elder Miss Thackeray (now Mrs. Ritchie) whose nature, answering to her father’s estimate, sometimes expressed its amiabilities in amusing “verbal fireworks,” as I once heard a lady call them. Some of the Huth family were of the party; and also a son and daughter of Sir William Grove. Thames Ditton was our picnicing place; and taking again to our boats, which carried us to Hampton Court, we there of course went the round of the galleries. Although I do not remember it, I doubtless seized the occasion for uttering heresies concerning Raphael’s cartoons.
As, in foregoing chapters, I have implied sundry tastes and pursuits incongruous with the popular conception of the philosopher, I shall not, I suppose, surprise the reader by indicating another. In October I went down for some pheasant shooting to Wykehurst—an estate in Sussex not long before purchased by Mr. Henry Huth, and on which a few years later he built the palatial mansion now existing there. Save once, at Ardtornish, when I utterly failed in black-cock shooting, I had not taken a gun in hand since I was 18; and now, though I was to my own extreme surprise, and to the surprise of others, very successful, the sport gave me scarcely any pleasure. I preferred hitting to missing, and that was about all. I suppose it was that the battue system, or whatever approaches to it, lacks the chief elements of the sportsman’s pleasure. Essentially this, like the pleasures accompanying many other activities, consists in justified self-estimation. Be it in a feat of strength, or a game of physical or mental skill, or a wit combat, the satisfaction of success is caused by proved adequacy to the occasion. Consciousness of efficiency is an accompaniment of every kind of achievement; and, accompanying life-subserving activities of every kind, has roots ramifying everywhere. Hence whatever implies efficiency becomes a source of pleasure: directly and simply if known to self only, and also indirectly and more complexly if known to others too. In such a sport as cover-shooting with beaters, the efficiency is simply that of hitting a moving mark—divested of all those efficiencies which go along with the successful pursuit of scattered birds in a wild state. Hence, except where there is a love of killing for its own sake, it yields but little pleasure.
In the early months of 1871, suddenly passed away my admired and valued friend Mr. Octavius Smith. Though of good age, he was constitutionally vigorous and might have lived many years but for the results of an accident. He exemplified the truth that where great physical vigour and mental resource yield daily experience of efficiency on all occasions there is apt to be generated an excessive degree of courage. Many years before he had suffered serious damage from incaution hence arising; and now, or rather a few years years previously, an accident to which the same trait led, left a slight invisible injury which obviously originated the malady that proved fatal. Among my friends of the preceding generation his death made a great gap—a gap impossible to be filled up.
The autumn of this year was passed in a miscellaneous way. First came a short salmon-fishing expedition to Inveroran. Thence, when the British Association met about its usual date, I migrated to its place of meeting—Edinburgh. This time the prompting motive was not that of being present during the presidency of one of my friends. The motive was that of aiding Prof. Youmans in his project mentioned above. Sundry steps were taken which conduced to its success. Profs. Huxley and Tyndall and myself were formed into a Committee to decide on books which should be admitted into the series; and whether, with this or that author, an engagement should be made to write one. Sundry members of the Association were canvassed with the view of obtaining promises from them to contribute volumes connected with their special subjects: the purpose being that each of such volumes should be one dealing with some part of a science capable of being cut out from the rest, and within the limits of which there had been recent developments of importance. The consultations and negotiations went on favourably, and by the time that the meeting closed the scheme had taken definite shape and organization.
A house at St. Andrews had been taken by the Huxleys for the Autumn, and this led me to go over to an hotel there for two or three days. Two things only I remember—the one that Huxley and I played together a game of golf, the only game I ever played; the other that, while sitting on the cliff watching some boys bathing, we marvelled over the fact, seeming especially strange when they are no longer disguised by clothes, that human beings should dominate over all other creatures and play the wonderful part they do on the Earth.
On leaving St. Andrews I met, in pursuance of an agreement made at Edinburgh, one whom I have not hitherto named—Dr. Hirst, a special friend of Prof. Tyndall since their early days. Originally engaged on the Ordnance Survey, they left it for the purpose of going together to the University of Marburg; whence, after taking their degrees, they went to Queenwood College as professors; and whence, afterwards, they migrated to London: Tyndall to the Royal Institution, as Faraday’s assistant and presently his successor, and Hirst to University College as Professor of Mathematics; which post he held until he became Deputy Registrar of the University of London, on the way to his ultimate position as the first Director of Studies at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
Our tour into the West Highlands proved in all respects a success. Days were passed at Oban, at Ballachulish, and at Fort William: our stay at this last place being varied by an exploration of Glen Nevis up to its top, where it becomes Swiss-like in character. While at Bannavie a dog-cart took us to Glen Roy, up which we rambled to explore the parallel roads, and to discuss the speculations respecting their origin. On our return south, I remember only the sunny day which gave beauty to our walk along the shore of Loch Linnhe from Ballachulish to Appin. And then there came a junction with our common friends the Busks, who had again taken Aird’s Bay House on Loch Etive.
Two breaks in the routine of my ordinary work occurred soon after I resumed it. One of them was entailed by the scheme of my American friend, and the other by a controversy upon which I had to enter.
Arrangements for the proposed “International Scientific Series” had to be made in France; and I agreed to go with Youmans to Paris for the purpose of helping to establish them. He knew no French, and though my French was scrambling enough, it sufficed to give M. Baillière the needful explanations, and to make it manifest to him that it would be worth his while to become the French publisher for the Series. There was also formed a French Committee of judges, who should decide upon such works as Frenchmen might propose; and various other matters were put in train before he went on to Germany and I returned home.
While still in Paris I entered upon the piece of controversial writing which Fate had just then devolved on me: Youmans volunteering as amanuensis. The Fortnightly Review for November 1871 contained an article by Prof. Huxley entitled “Administrative Nihilism,” in which, criticising a view of mine respecting the limitation of State-functions, he put his objection in the form of a question. I could scarcely avoid giving an answer; for otherwise the implication would apparently have been that the question was unanswerable. Commenced, as above stated, in Paris, and completed after my return to London, my reply appeared in the December number of the Fortnightly, under the title of “Specialized Administration.”
This passage of arms was carried on in a perfectly amicable spirit, and left the relations between us undisturbed.
Before the close of the year came two occurrences of some interest, one of them leading to the other. The first is explained in the following letter to the Principal of St. Andrews.
“20th Novr. 1871.
Dear Dr. Tulloch,
Only on Friday night did I hear, and only on Saturday morning did I see [in the Times] that I had been nominated for the office of Rector of St. Andrews.
I regret that some intimation was not given to me before-hand that such a step was contemplated; because some trouble, and possibly some derangement of plans, might thus have been prevented.
To accept such a post, were I elected to it, would entail on me a loss of time which, though not serious to most, would be serious to me, with my very small amount of working power. My progress with my work, slow enough at the best, is interrupted much more frequently than I like; and I find myself compelled rigorously to negative such interruptions as are not unavoidable. Though, in the position which some of the St. Andrew’s students wish me to occupy, I might be of some little service, yet I think I can render better service by devoting the same amount of energy to executing the task before me.
In conveying to those who have put forward my name the request that they will withdraw it from the list, will you be kind enough also to say that I am much gratified by the sympathetic appreciation implied by the course they have taken.
Very truly yours,