Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

species for life. If so, the same race of cuckoos may impose upon the same species for generations together. The instinct will even thus remain a very wonderful one,

a but it is not at all inconsistent with the theory put forward by Professor Hering and myself.

*

Returning to the idea of psychical mechanism, he admits that“ it is itself so obscure that we can hardly form any idea concerning it,”1 and then goes on to claim for it that it explains a great many other things. This must have been the passage which Mr. Sully had in view when he very justly wrote that Von Hartmann“ dogmatically closes the field of physical inquiry, and takes refuge in a phantom which explains everything, simply because it is itself incapable of explanation.”

*

a

According to Von Hartmann the unpractised animal manifests its instinct as perfectly as the practised. This is not the case. The young animal exhibits marvellous proficiency, but it gains by experience. I have watched sparrows, which I can hardly doubt to be young ones, spend a whole month in trying to build their nest, and give it up in the end as hopeless. I have watched three such cases this spring in a tree not twenty feet from my own window and on a level with my eye, so that I have been able to see what was going on at all hours of the day. In each case the nest was made well and rapidly up to a certain point, and then got top-heavy and tumbled over, so that little was left on the tree: it was reconstructed and reconstructed over and over again, always with the same result, till at last in all three cases the birds gave up in despair. I believe the older and - Page 110 of this volume. Pages 116-118 of this volume.

[ocr errors]

stronger birds secured the fixed and best sites, driving the

younger birds to the trees, and that the art of building nests in trees is dying out among house-sparrows.

He declares that instinct is not due to organization so much as organization to instinct. The fact is, that neither can claim precedence of or pre-eminence over the other. Instinct and organization are only mind and body, or mind and matter; and these are not two separable things, but one and inseparable, with, as it were, two sides, the one of which is a function of the other. There was never yet either matter without mind, however low, nor mind, however high, without a material body of some sort; there can be no change in one without a corresponding change in the other; neither came before the other; neither can either cease to change or cease to be; for “to be” is to continue changing, so that“ to be ” and “ to change " are one.

*

Whence, he asks, comes the desire to gratify an instine before experience of the pleasure that will ensue on gratification? This is a pertinent question, but it is met by Professor Hering with the answer that this is due to memory-to the continuation in the germ of vibrations that were vibrating in the body of the parent, and which, when stimulated by vibrations of a suitable rhythm, become more and more powerful till they suffice to set the body in visible action. For my own part I only venture to maintain that it is due to memory, that is to say, to an enduring sense on the part of the germ of the action it took when in the person of its ancestors, and of the gratification which ensued thereon. This meets Von Hartmann's whole difficulty.

* 1 Page 110 of this volume.

The glacier is not snow. It is snow packed tight into a small compass, and has thus lost all trace of its original form. How incomplete, however, would be any theory of glacial action which left out of sight the origin of the glacier in snow! Von Hartmann loses sight of the origin of instinctive in deliberative actions because the two classes of action are now in many respects different. His philosophy of the unconscious fails to consider what is the normal process by means of which such common actions as we can watch, and whose history we can follow, have come to be done unconsciously.

He says,!“ How inconceivable is the supposition of a mechanism, etc., etc., how clear and simple, on the other hand, is the view that there is an unconscious purpose constraining the volition of the bird to the use of the fitting means.” Does he mean that there is an actual thing-an unconscious purpose-something outside the bird, as it were a man, which lays hold of the bird and makes it do this or that, as a master makes a servant do his bidding? If so, he again personifies the purpose itself, and must therefore embody it, or be talking in a manner which plain people cannot underStand. If, on the other hand, he means “how simple is the view that the bird acts unconsciously,” this is not more simple than supposing it to act consciously; and what ground has he for supposing that the bird is unconscious? It is as simple, and as much in accordance with the facts, to suppose that the bird feels the air to be colder, and knows that she must warm her eggs if she is to hatch them, as consciously as a mother knows that she must not expose her new-born infant to the cold.

*

* Page 107 of this volume.

a

[ocr errors]

On page 110 of this book we find Von Hartmann saying that if it is once granted that the normal and abnormal manifestations of instinct spring from a single source, then the objection that the modification is due to conscious knowledge will be found to be a suicidal one later on, in so far as it is directed against instinct generally. "I understand him to mean that if we admit instinctive action, and the modifications of that action which more nearly resemble results of reason, to be actions of the same ultimate kind differing in degree only, and if we thus attempt to reduce instinctive action to the prophetic strain arising from old experience, we shall be obliged to admit that the formation of the embryo is ultimately due to reflection-which he seems to think is a reductio ad absurdum of the argument.

Therefore, he concludes, if there is to be only one source, the source must be unconscious, and not conscious. We reply, that we do not see the absurdity of the position which we grant we have been driven to. We hold that the formation of the embryo is ultimately due to reflection and design.

[ocr errors]

a

*

The writer of an article in the Times, ist April 1880, says that servants must be taught their calling before they can practise it; but, in fact, they can only be taught their calling by practising it. So Von Hartmann says animals must feel the pleasure consequent on gratification of an instinct before they can be stimulated to act upon the instinct by a knowledge of the pleasure that will ensue. This sounds logical, but in practice a little performance and a little teaching-a little sense of pleasure and a little connection of that pleasure with this or that practice,-come up simultaneously from something that we cannot see, the two being so small

а

and so much abreast, that we do not know which is first, performance or teaching; and, again, action, or pleasure supposed as coming from the action.

*

comes as near to

[ocr errors]

Geistes-mechanismus

disposition of mind,” or, more shortly,“ disposition,” as so unsatisfactory a word can come to anything. Yet, if we translate it throughout by“ disposition,” we shall see how little we are being told.

We find on page 126 that“ all instinctive actions give us an impression of absolute security and infallibility that “ the will is never weak or hesitating, as it is when inferences are being drawn consciously.” We never," Von Hartmann continues, "find instinct making mistakes.” Passing over the fact that instinct is again personified, the statement is still incorrect. Instinctive actions are certainly, as a general rule, performed with less uncertainty than deliberate ones; this is explicable by the fact that they have been more often practised, and thus reduced more completely to a matter of routine; but nothing is more certain than that animals acting under the guidance of inherited experience or instinct frequently make mistakes which with further practice they correct. Von Hartmann has abundantly admitted that the manner of an instinctive action is often varied in correspondence with variation in external circumstances. It is impossible to see how this does not involve both possibility of error and the connection of instinct with deliberation at one and the same time. The fact is simply this, when an animal finds itself in a like position with that in which it has already often done a certain thing in the persons of its forefathers, it will do this thing well and easily: when it finds the position somewhat, but not unrecognizably, altered

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »