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CHAPTER TWELVE: REFUTATION-MEMORY AT ONCE A
O MEET THE OBJECTIONS IN THE TWO foregoing chapters, I need do little more than show that the fact of certain often inherited diseases
and developments, whether of youth or old age, being obviously not due to a memory on the part of offspring of like diseases and developments in the parents, does not militate against supposing that embryonic and youthful development generally is due to memory.
This is the main part of the objection; the rest resolves itself into an assertion that there is no evidence in support of instinct and embryonic development being due to memory, and a contention that the necessity of each particular moment in each particular case is sufficient to account for the facts without the introduction of memory.
I will deal with these two last points briefly first. As regards the evidence in support of the theory that instinct and growth are due to a rapid unconscious memory of past experiences and developments in the persons of the ancestors of the living form in which they appear, I must refer my readers to Life and Habit, and to the translation of Professor Hering's lecture given in this volume. I will only repeat here that a chrysalis, we will say, is as much one and the same person with the chrysalis of its preceding generation, as this last is one and the same person with the egg or caterpillar from which it sprang. You cannot deny personal identity between two successive generations without sooner or later denying it during the successive Stages in the single life of what we call one individual; nor can you admit personal identity through the stages of a long and varied life (embryonic and post-natal)
without admitting it to endure through an endless series of generations.
The personal identity of successive generations being admitted, the possibility of the second of two generations remembering what happened to it in the first is obvious. The a priori objection, therefore, is removed, and the question becomes one of fact-does the offspring act as if it remembered?
The answer to this question is not only that it does so act, but that it is not possible to account for either its development or its early instinctive actions upon any other hypothesis than that of its remembering, and remembering exceedingly well.
The only alternative is to declare with Von Hartmann. that a living being may display a vast and varied information concerning all manner of details, and be able to perform most intricate operations, independently of experience and practice. Once admit knowledge independent of experience, and farewell to sober sense and reason from that moment.
Firstly, then, we show that offspring has had every facility for remembering; secondly, that it shows every appearance of having remembered; thirdly, that no other hypothesis except memory can be brought forward, so as to account for the phenomena of instinct and heredity generally, which is not easily reducible to an absurdity. Beyond this we do not care to go, and must allow those to differ from us who require further evidence.
As regards the argument that the necessity of each moment will account for likeness of result, without there being any need for introducing memory, I admit that likeness of consequents is due to likeness of antecedents, and I grant this will hold as good with embryos as with oxygen and hydrogen gas; what will
cover the one will cover the other, for the writs of the laws common to all matter run within the womb as freely as elsewhere; but admitting that there are combinations into which living beings enter with a faculty called memory which has its effects upon their conduct, and admitting that such combinations are from time to time repeated (as we observe in the case of a practised performer playing a piece of music which he has committed to memory), then I maintain that though, indeed, the likeness of one performance to its immediate predecessor is due to likeness of the combinations immediately preceding the two performances, yet memory plays so important a part in both these combinations as to make it a distinguishing feature in them, and therefore proper to be insisted upon. We do not, for example, say that Herr Joachim played such and such a sonata without the music, because he was such and such an arrangement of matter in such and such circumstances, resembling those under which he played without music on some past occasion. This goes without saying; we say only that he played the music by heart or by memory, as he had often played it before.
To the objector that a caterpillar becomes a chrysalis not because it remembers and takes the action taken by its fathers and mothers in due course before it, but because when matter is in such a physical and mental state as to be called caterpillar, it must perforce assume presently such another physical and mental state as to be called chrysalis, and that therefore there is no memory in the case-to this objector I rejoin that the offspring caterpillar would not have become so like the parent as to make the next or chrysalis stage a matter of necessity, unless both parent and offspring had been influenced by something that we usually call memory. For it is this very possession of a common memory
which has guided the offspring into the path taken by, and hence to a virtually same condition with, the parent, and which guided the parent in its turn to a state virtually identical with a corresponding state in the existence of its own parent. To memory, therefore, the most prominent place in the transaction is assigned rightly.
To deny that will guided by memory has anything to do with the development of embryos seems like denying that a desire to obstruct has anything to do with the recent conduct of certain members in the House of Commons. What should we think of one who said that the action of these gentlemen had nothing to do with a desire to embarrass the Government, but was simply the necessary outcome of the chemical and mechanical forces at work, which being such and such, the action which we see is inevitable, and has therefore nothing to do with wilful obstruction? We should answer that there was doubtless a great deal of chemical and mechanical action in the matter; perhaps, for aught we knew or cared, it was all chemical and mechanical; but if so, then a desire to obstruct parliamentary business is involved in certain kinds of chemical and mechanical action, and that the kinds involving this had preceded the recent proceedings of the members in question. If asked to prove this, we can get no further than that such action as has been taken has never yet been seen except as following after and in consequence of a desire to obstruct; that this is our nomenclature, and that we can no more be expected to change it than to change our mother tongue at the bidding of a foreigner.
A little reflection will convince the reader that he will be unable to deny will and memory to the embryo without at the same time denying their existence everywhere, and maintaining that they have no place in the acquisition of a habit, nor indeed in any human action. He
will feel that the actions, and the relation of one action to another which he observes in embryos is such as is never seen except in association with and as a consequence of will and memory. He will therefore say that it is due to will and memory. To say that these are the necessary outcome of certain antecedents is not to destroy them: granted that they are-a man does not cease to be a man when we reflect that he has had a father and mother, neither do will and memory cease to be will and memory on the ground that they cannot come causeless. They are manifest minute by minute to the perception of all people who can keep out of lunatic asylums, and this tribunal, though not infallible, is nevertheless our ultimate court of appeal-the final arbitrator in all disputed cases.
We must remember that there is no action, however original or peculiar, which is not in respect of far the greater number of its details founded upon memory. If a desperate man blows his brains out-an action which he can do once in a lifetime only, and which none of his ancestors can have done before leaving offspring-still nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of the movements necessary to achieve his end consist of habitual movements-movements, that is to say, which were once difficult, but which have been practised and practised by the help of memory until they are now performed automatically. We can no more have an action than a creative effort of the imagination cut off from memory. Ideas and actions seem almost to resemble matter and force in respect of the impossibility of originating or destroying them; nearly all that are, are memories of other ideas and actions, transmitted but not created, disappearing but not perishing.
It appears, then, that when in chapter 10 we supposed the clerk who wanted his dinner to forget on a second