Immagini della pagina

The dawn of this much of intelligence far down in the animal kingdom would not be surprising, for the selection and grasping of food has always involved higher mental power than most of the actions of these lowest animals. Memory goes far down in the animal kingdom. Perhaps, as Professor Haeckel has urged, it is an ultimate mental property of protoplasm. And the memory of past experience would continually tend to modify habit or instinct.

It is unsafe, therefore, to say just where intelligence begins. At a certain point we find dim traces of it; below that we have failed to find them. But that they will not be found, we dare not affirm. In the highest insects instinct predominates, but marks of intelligence are fairly abundant. Ants and wasps modify their habits to suit emergencies which instinct alone could hardly cope with. Bees learn to use grafting wax instead of propolis to stop the chinks in their hives, and soon cease to store up honey in a warm climate.

Our knowledge of vertebrate psychology is not yet sufficient to give a history of the struggle for supremacy between instinct and intelligence, between inherited tendency and the consciousness of the individual. But the outcome is evident; intelligence prevails, instinct wanes. The actions of the young may be purely instinctive; it is better that they should be. But instinct in the adult is more and more modified by intelligence gained by experience. There is perhaps no more characteristic instinct than the habit of nestbuilding in birds. And yet there are numerous instances where the structure and position of nests have been completely changed to suit new circumstances. And the view that this habit is a pure instinct, un

modified by intelligence, has been disproved by Mr. Wallace. But while size of brain, keenness of senseorgans, and length of life may be rightly emphasized as the most important elements in the development of vertebrate intelligence, the importance of the appendages should never be forgotten. Cats seem to have acquired certain accomplishments-opening doors, ringing door-bells, etc.-never attained by the more intelligent dog, mainly because of the greater mobility and better powers of grasping of the forepaws. The elephant has its trunk and the ape its hand. The power of handling and the increased size of the brain aided each other in a common advance.

The teachableness of mammals is also a sign of high intelligence. The young are often taught by the parent, a dim foreshadowing of the human family relation. And we notice this capacity in domestic animals because of its practical value to man. And here, too, we notice the difference between individuals, which fails in instinct. All spiders of the same species build and hunt alike, although differences caused by the moulding influence of intelligence will probably be here discovered. But among individual dogs and horses we find all degrees of intelligence from absolute stupidity to high intelligence. And many mammals are slandered grievously by man. The pig is not stupid, far from it. Still only in man does intelligence reign supreme and clearly show its innate powers. But even in man certain realms, like those of the internal organs, are rarely invaded by consciousness, but are normally left to the control of reflex action. These actions go on better without the interference of consciousness. But other lines of action are relegated as rapidly as

possible to the same control. We learn to walk by a conscious effort to take each step; afterward we take each step automatically, and think only whither we wish to go. We learn by conscious effort to talk and write, to sing, or play the piano. Afterward we frame each letter or note automatically, and think only of the idea and its expression.

So also in our moral and spiritual nature.*

There has been therefore in the successive forms and stages of animal life a clear sequence of dominant nervous actions. The actions of all animals below the annelid are mainly reflex or automatic, unconscious and involuntary. But in insects and lower vertebrates the highest actions at least are instinctive. Conscious

*Mr. James Freeman Clarke has stated this better than I can. "We may state the law thus: 'Any habitual course of conduct changes voluntary actions into automatic or involuntary (i.e., reflex) actions.' By practice man forms habits, and habitual action is automatic action, requiring no exercise of will except at the beginning of the series of acts. The law of association does the rest. As voluntary acts are transformed into automatic, the will is set free to devote itself to higher efforts and larger attainments. After telling the truth a while by an effort, we tell the truth naturally, necessarily, automatically. After giving to good objects for a while from principle, we give as a matter of course. Honesty becomes automatic; self-control becomes automatic. We rule over our spirit, repress ill-temper, keep down bad feelings, first by an effort, afterwards as a matter of course.

ever anew.

"Possibly these virtues really become incarnate in the bodily organization. Possibly goodness is made flesh and becomes consolidate in the fibres of the brain. Vices, beginning in the soul, seem to become at last bodily diseases; why may not virtues follow the same law? If it were not for some such law of accumulation as this, the work of life would have to be begun for. Formation of character would be impossible. We should be incapable of progress, our whole strength being always employed in battling with our first enemies, learning evermore anew our earliest lessons, But by our present constitution he who has taken one step can take another, and life may become a perpetual advance from good to better. And the highest graces of all-Faith, Hope, and Love-obey the same law." See James Freeman Clarke, Every-Day Religion, p. 122.

ness plays a continually more important part. Still the actions are controlled by hereditary tendency far more than by the will of the individual. But in man instinct has been almost entirely replaced by conscious, voluntary, intelligent action. And yet in man, as rapidly as possible, actions which at first require conscious effort become, through repetition and habit, reflex and automatic. All our conscious effort and the energy of the will, being no longer required for these oft-repeated actions, are set free for higher attainments. The territory which had to be conquered by hard battles has become an integral part of the realm. It now hardly requires even a garrison, but has become a source of supplies for a new advance and march of conquest.

But all this time we have been talking about action and have not given a thought to the will. And we have spoken as if conscious perception and intelligence directly controlled will and action. But this is of course incorrect. Will is practically power of choice. You ask me whether I prefer this or that, and I answer perhaps that I do not care. Until I "care" I shall never choose. The perception must arouse some feeling, if it is to result in choice. I see a diamond in the road and think it is merely a piece of glass. I do not stop. But as I am passing on, I remember that there was a remarkable brilliancy in its flash. It must have been, after all, a gem. My feelings are aroused. How

proud I shall feel to wear it.

Or how much money I can get for it. Or how glad the owner will be when it is returned to her. I turn back and search eagerly. Perception is necessary, but it is only the first step. The perception must excite some feeling, if choice or exertion of the will is to follow. This is a truism.

Now reflex action takes place independently of consciousness or will. Instinctive action may be voluntary, but it is, after all, not so much the result of individual purpose as of hereditary tendency. Is there then no will in the animal until it has become intelligent? I think there has been a sort of voluntary action all the time. Even the amoeba selects or chooses, if I may use the word, its food among the sand grains. And the will is stimulated to act by the appetite. Hunger is the first teacher. And how did appetite develop? Why does the animal hunger for just the food suited to its digestion and needs? We do not know. And the reproductive appetite soon follows. One of these results from the condition of the digestive, the other from that of the reproductive, cells or protoplasm. These appetites are due to some condition in a part of the organism and can be felt. They are in a sense not of the mind but of the body. And the response to them on the part of the mind is in some respects almost comparable to reflex action. But the mode of the response is, to a certain extent at least, within the control of consciousness. They train and spur the will as pure reflex action never could. But the will is as yet hardly more than the expression of these appetites. It expresses not so much its own decision as that of the stomach. It is the body's slave and mouthpiece. And once again it is best and safest for the animal that it should be so.

And these appetites are at first comparatively feeble. There is but little muscle or nerve and but little food is required. But these continually strengthen and spur the will harder and more frequently. And the will stirs up the weary and flagging muscles. The

« IndietroContinua »