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lead to no advantage. The variations presented
in the struggle for existence presented no advan-
tage the * fittest' had practically been reached,
and continued to survive with little change.
Assuming such a relative lull in the development
of mere mechanical form, it is obvious that the
opportunity for those individuals with the most
'educable' brains to defeat their competitors
would arise. No marked improvement in the in-
strument being possible, the reward, the triumph,
the survival would fall to those who possessed
most skill in the use of the instrument. And in
successive generations the bigger and more edu-
cable brains would survive and mate, and thus
bigger and bigger brains would be produced."
This movement the movement in the direction
of the power of drawing inferences in the direc-

1 TJie Kingdom of Man, pp. 22 et seq. Constable & Co., London,


tion of filling up the gap in Instinct that was
seen by Darwin in the action of the casarita
has already gone far. This may be illustrated
in the most interesting manner by the feats of
the Arctic Fox, recorded as follows by Dr.
Romanes ; ^ ** I have previously published the
facts in my lecture before the British Association
in 1879, and therefore shall here quote from it.
Desiring to obtain some Arctic Foxes, Dr. Rae
set various kinds of traps : but as the foxes knew
these traps from previous experience, he was un-
successful. Accordingly he set a trap with which
the foxes in that part of the country were not
acquainted. This consisted of a loaded gun set
upon a stand pointing at the bait. A string
connected the trigger of the gun with the bait,
so that when the fox seized the bait he discharged
the gun, and thus committed suicide. In this
arrangement the gun was separated from the
bait by a distance of about thirty yards, and the
string which connected the trigger with the bait
was concealed throughout nearly its whole distance
in the snow. The gun-trap thus set was successful
in killing one fox, but never in killing a second,
for the foxes afterwards adopted either of two
devices whereby to secure the bait without injuring
themselves. One of them was to bite through the
string at its exposed part near the trigger ; and
the other was to burrow up to the bait through
the snow at right angles to the line of fire, so that,

1 Animal Intelligence^ pp. 429 et seq., by George Romanes, LL.D.,
F.RS. Vol. xli. of International Science Series. Kegan Paul,
Trench & Co., 1882.


although in this way they discharged the gun, they
escaped with perhaps only a pellet or two in the
nose. Now both of these devices exhibited a
wonderful degree of what I think must fairly be
called reasoning."

The conclusion is indisputable.

Fox No. 1 is shot from a distance of thirty
yards. And, although it is not stated as a fact,
we may assume that the occurrence was watched
by Fox No. 2, and that it was unprecedented in
his experience. Nevertheless he is able to draw
several inferences from the facts before him. A.
He infers that the explosion is caused by pulling
the string. B. Thence he infers that, if he severs
the string, he may safely take the bait. C. He
also infers that the only point at which he may
safely gnaw through the string is behind the place
where the explosion appeared, that is, near the
trigger. Fox No. 3 has also watched, and makes
the inference that, if he seizes the bait from below,
he will be out of the line of danger.

This is a clear example of the avoidance of the
** wastefulness " of pure Instinct. Fox No. 2 and
Fox No. 3 survive, not in virtue of any variation
of form, but because they were able to draw infer-
ences from their recent experience.

This brings us definitely to Reason. The animal
survivors from past epochs are those in whom we
can see a new faculty arising to remedy the defect
in Instinct. Just as, near the bottom of the ladder,
the power of inborn instinctive action has been
added to Reflex Power, so the power of rational
action action, that is, which is based upon the


faculty of drawing inferences has been superadded
to Instinct.

The instinctive method of life has been success-
ful in subordinating the Individual to the Race,
but owing to its wastefulness it is being superseded
by another. The method that follows may be a
brilliant gain in every other way, but, if it fails to
enable that which is passing to act on behalf of
that which is permanent, no method, no species, no
race, no civilisation or empire can endure.

Thus, the issue before us is tremendous, for we
now pass on to qonsider the sufficiency of the method
of pure Reason.



Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his Data of Ethics,
chaps, xiii. and xiv., while recognising the defects
of existing human nature, nevertheless looks for-
ward to a time when the survival, in the matter of
parenthood, of those who show the greatest dis-
position to subordinate their own interests to the
interests of the race shall have led to the evolution
of a society in which the individuals will find their
greatest pleasure in that subordination. An im-
proved or perfected human nature is to emerge, in
which this subordination, necessarily instinctive
in character, will be accompanied by a sense of
gratification analogous to that which obtains among
the higher animals when the parent subordinates
himself to the nurture and protection of his young.

It is evident that this view assumes the drift
and tendency of human evolution to be still in the
direction of an ever closer approximation towards
the perfection of the method of Instinct.

This method would become impossibly cum-
brous were it asked to provide an impulse that
would spring into useful action in every emergency,
and with every change of environment. But the
power of drawing inferences provides a short-cut
to a position that, without being cumbrous, is


equally advantageous. It is the appearance of a
new invention, w^orking by a new method.

Mr. Spencer's view ignores the evolutionary
value and ever-increasing power of Reason as
compared with Instinct. It ignores the fact that,
granted a sufficiently long continuance of this
relative rate of growth, a time must come when
their relative positions will be reversed when
Reason will have overtaken Instinct when Reason
will no longer be the slave, subservient to the
gratification of the impulses of Instinct, but will
take precedence as the master, holding those
impulses under control. It ignores the obvious
reflection that an animal thus endowed with un-
controlled power of rational action would presently
make himself the master of the world, and that
the gulf between him, the primarily rational, and
the others, the primarily instinctive, would be so
enormous that the disparity would appear to be
one of kind rather than of degree. If we recognise
that the human being has become the overlord of
creation, we must also recognise that his position
is itself due to the fact that, in him. Reason has at
last attained the overlordship over Instinct.

The immensity of the power that is conferred
by this faculty is seen in the position that man,
pre-eminently the reasoning animal, holds as con-
trasted with the rest of the organic world. Except
in this particular the power of drawing a conclu-
sion from premisses he is the feeblest of all the
more highly organised creatures. His skin is un-
protected, he is atrophied in tooth and claw, and
he is not even possessed of speed in flight. As has


been pointed out in an article in the Spectator, the
syllogism has become his only sword and his only
shield. Yet his magnificent power of drawing
inferences has placed him at the head of the
organic world, and the splendour of his achieve-
ments shines in history.

Nevertheless, if his dependence upon Reason is
thus absolute, if that is to be his only support,
then the method of Reason, unlike the method of
Instinct, should have no inherent flaw else, as
his position is exalted, so also must it be precarious.
His method must, that is, have no racial in-
adequacy, for, in the alternative, all purely rational
civilisations, one after another, are foredoomed to

The shadows of history, not less marked than
its splendours, suggest that there is in the back-
ground the possibility of inherent limitation of
something transient in the value of that method.

We shall use the words "Reason" or "pure
Reason" to connote the power of drawing infer-
ences the logical faculty, untouched by Instinct
from below, and dissociated from the Religious
Motive above it. This may seem wilfully to dis-
regard two obvious objections; firstly, that Reason
does not exist as divorced from Instinct even
among the most civilised men ; and secondly, that
Reason is generally found in conjunction with some
form or other of Religious Motive. We can only
refer the reader to what we have already pointed
out when we compared recorded history to the
resultant in the parallelogram of forces. Our
object is to discover the value of the components.


If recorded history if the world around us is
regarded as a complex of Instinct, Reason, and
Religious Motive, and if our object is to discover
the values of these components, then it is evident
that the proposed distinction is justified.

It will be remembered that, when writing of
Instinct, we pointed out that it was essentially a
property of the Race ; not necessarily acting to the
advantage of the individual animal, but securing
his subordination to the interests of the species.
We saw that the gratification of his impulse was
the lure that led him on : we saw the Race acting
in its own interest by means of these impulses, and
using the Individual as an instrument.

How do these things stand when we compare
the method of Reason the method of humanity
with this, the method of Instinct ?

In the first place, we find that we have not to
deal with a stereotyped inheritance such as Instinct.
The rational being has attained the power of
" looking before and after," and is able to discern
in what direction an "enlightened self-interest"
does in fact lead him during his own lifetime.
The advantage of the power of drawing inferences
is not limited to the Race, as is the advantage of
the foregone conclusions of inborn impulse. The
scope of Reason is wide. It is the Individual him-
self who reviews his circumstances, and who draws
his own inference. The advantage conferred by
Reason stands continuously and inevitably at the
service of him who determines his own course of
action by its means it waits, that is, at the service
of the Individual. Thus pure Reason does not,


per se, subordinate its owner to any considerations
outside his own interest. With the supersession
of Instinct, and the appearance of the new regi7?ie,
the supreme power passes from the Race to the

In the second place, just as the purely reflex
world knows nothing of inborn impulse, and the
purely instinctive world knows nothing of infer-
ence, so it is only in the world of Reason that
the possibility of conduct that is to the ultimate
interest of the Individual appears upon the scene.
Inferential conduct stands in the same relation to
Reason as action springing from impulse stands
to Instinct. Thus it comes about that, just as in
dealing with Instinct we spoke of action springing
from impulse, so now, in dealing with Reason, we
shall have to speak of action springing from the
inferences of the Individual that is, of self-inter-
ested action, or "interest."

Reason, acting in the interest of the Individual,
has modified already, and profoundly, the com-
petitive stress of human life as compared with that
which obtains among animals. We have already
seen (page 16) that, in the world of Instinct,
reproduction outruns the limits of possible suste-
nance, and that multiplication has long ago antici-
pated the whole supply of nourishment. Animal
numbers cannot increase, and yet Instinct, careless
of the fact, still carries on the work of reproduction
at the highest pressure.

Among ourselves, Reason has actually reversed
these conditions. We have no experience of the
desperate efforts whereby life is maintained in the


jungle or in the ocean. The animal is dependent
upon the food that it finds. Man, drawing an
inference from his observation of the processes of
nature, sows the seed and reaps the harvest. His
gift of Reason is the true means whereby he
subdues the jungle and the desert, and discovers
vast areas, fertile and unoccupied, that await his
coming. To him the possible limits of sustenance
outrun reproduction.

Nevertheless, to man also, the two essential
stresses of life remain unaltered. They are per-
manent elements in life, although the severity of
the stress may be relieved. The kaleidoscope of
existence has been turned, and the picture has
changed ; but it is still made up of the same pieces
of glass. The possible supply of food may have
outrun reproduction ; unoccupied areas may await
coming generations ; but in life, as we know it,
the stress still arises from the same two causes
that are operative in the world of Instinct. These
are still, firstly, the competition existing among
those contemporaries to whom the present belongs,
and, secondly, the effort and self-denial required
in the nurture and care of our children, to whom
the future belongs.

Evidently then, the question arises : " How
will Reason, having already thus modified these
permanent stresses, next proceed to deal with
them ? "

The rational manner in which these two stresses
might be relieved has been in the past, and is at
present, the subject of much speculation. When
we survey this speculation broadly, we encounter


two schools of thought. Each school, recognising
the evils that would attend the abolition of one of
these stresses, urges the abolition or modification
of the other, in order that the incidence of the
first might be made more tolerable. But the two
schools are at variance on the question : " Which
is the stress that should be modified, in order to
make the burden of the other more tolerable ? "

One of them, the older school, recognising the
strain upon the Individual that is caused by
competition, urges that it would become more
tolerable if the reproductive activity of the Race
were modified and lessened. The other, the newer
school, recognising the racial evils and dangers
attendant upon a low birthrate, urges the abolition
of the competitive system of life, not only to
secure relief from the stress involved, but also in
order that the provision of future generations may
be less burdensome.

Clearly we have to examine separately the
incidence of these two stresses, and to determine
the purely rational manner of dealing with them.
In each case, as we have already shown, pure
Reason must advance along the lines indicated by
the interest of the Individual, for the supreme
power belongs to him.

We ask therefore, alike with regard to the
stress of competition and the stress of reproduc-
tion : " Whither do his interests lead him ? "

Here it is necessary to guard ourselves against
a verbal confusion that might easily lead to con-
fusion of thought. The term ** Individual " needs
no definition, but the case is otherwise with the


words "Society" and "the Race." These terms
are equally open to connote the sum of existing
individuals ; the, as yet, unborn generations of the
future; or both together. As commonly used,
the terms stand for at least two distinct ideas.

In considering the interest of the individual in
relation to that of unborn generations we shall
have frequent occasion to use the words " Society"
and " Race." It is well, therefore, to define the
precise meaning that will be attached to these
words. We have reserved, and shall reserve, the
word " Society " to express the sum of individuals
co-existing at any given time, and the word " Race "
to express the sum of the, as yet, unborn genera-
tions. This use of these words " Society " and
" Race " will be rigidly adhered to, for the distinc-
tion will be found to be one of capital importance.

It will be noticed that the conception of Society,
in the sense in which we are using the word, is
the offspring of Reason, and unknown amid the
uses of Instinct. In the region of Instinct we find
only the Individual and the Race : even the herd
is an institution of racial utility, while racial ideas
are explicitly shut out from the meaning that we
attach to the word " Society." Thus, with the
advent of Reason, a new idea a new factor
comes before us, to which due place must be
given, and we shall have to consider the inter-
action of the interest of the Individual with the
interest of Society, as well as with the interest
of the Race.

And here a most interesting position is revealed,
for we find that the consideration of the relative



interests of the Individual and Society resolves
itself into the examination of the stress of com-
petition, just as does the consideration of the
relative interests of the Individual and the Race
resolve itself into the examination of the stress of

It is evident that it is in contact with Society
and with Society alone that the Individual
incurs the stress of competition ; the rivalry, that
is, between any given individual and those, his
contemporaries, who compete with him. In a
word, the competitive stress divides the interest of
the Individual, not from that of the Race, but
from that of Society. In the same manner it is
evidently in the matter of reproduction and of
reproduction alone that the Individual and the
Race come into contact with one another. The
other stress, that of competition, does not enter,
for it would be absurd to regard the existing
individual as in a state of competition with
generations that are yet to come. In a word, the
reproductive stress separates the interest of the
Individual, not from that of Society, but from
that of the Race.

The first of the two succeeding chapters (Chap.
IV) will be devoted to the consideration of the
interest of the Individual, so far as social compe-
tition is concerned, and the next (Chap. V ) to the
consideration of the interest of the Individual, so
far as the reproduction of the Race is concerned.
In each case, Reason being at the service of the
Individual, we shall have to answer the questions :
" In what direction will the Individual be carried


by a strictly rational regard for his own interest ?
Can he eliminate these two separate stresses from
his experience in life ? "

After that, in the third succeeding chapter
(Chap. VI), we shall undertake an estimation of
the relative importance of the two conclusions that
we shall have reached, and, in doing so, our
attention will be engaged by finding that this
discussion resolves itself into the consideration of
the relative interests of Society and the Race, and
that we have to decide, to the advantage of the
Individual, between their claims to precedence.


Individual ' ^ Society

We shall then, in the fourth succeeding chapter
(Chap. VII), be in a position to review all the
ground before us, under this, the regime of Reason,
and to ask whether, considering the nature of the
conclusion reached, the method of pure Reason
can be justified. Pure Reason itself will come up
for judgment. If, in the last analysis, the rational
interests of the Individual are not found to be
concurrent w^ith the advantage of the Race ; if,
that is, they are not found to afford a sufficient
basis for a stable civilisation, then we shall begin
to understand the failures recorded in history, and
the vaunted method of pure Reason will stand



Society, thus defined, may be regarded as an
organism with, as it were, the same expectation of
life as the average Individual. In point of duration
in time there is no disparity between them.

How does the fact of this equality affect their
relative interests? Evidently it dominates the
situation. If the interests of both are confined
within the same space of time, if there be no need
to make provision for a future that neither will
see that is, if there is no occasion for present
self-denial then their interests will not be at vari-
ance by any antecedent necessity; they may be
capable of reconciliation, and pure Reason may be
a sufficient guide.

It will be observed that the interest of the Race
is in no way involved herein. We have already
seen that the reconciliation of the interest of the
Individual with that of Society would only require
the abolition of competition. We have, then, to
deal only with the problem of the abolition of
competition, and it is incumbent upon us to do so
from a purely rational point of view, eliminating
all that is either instinctive or disinterested.

What has been hitherto the action of Reason



in dealing with the strife between any given in-
dividual and the society that surrounds him ?

We have already pointed out (pp. 30 et seq.)
that it has been in the direction of modifying and
softening this rivalry, and that it has done so with
such effect that we are able to increase in numbers,
and know little or nothing of the wastefulness and
severity that obtain under Instinct, and make com-
petition there an internecine contest for dear life
itself. Nor do we see any prospect of a return to
this state of things. Are we threatened by any
material appreciation in the value of food ? The
chemical fixation of nitrogen may be accom-
plished. Are we threatened by a failure of fuel ?
We have the prospect of being able to unlock
the boundless stores of intra-atomic energy.

The power of Reason is so great, indeed, that
the prospect before us is one in which we see the
probability of moving yet further away from the
severity of instinctive conditions. Resulting from
the rational faculty, the movement itself is evolu-
tionary in character, and can be stayed only by
a faculty even more commanding than Reason.
Already the competition that we have to consider,
both now and in the prospect before us, is no longer
for the possession of life itself, but for those posses-
sions that seem to make life of value.

Although this immense change has already been
wrought by Reason, nevertheless the interest of
the Individual is still at variance with that of his
fellows, the rivalry of life still continues, and com-
petition is still one of the two great factors of the
stress that is the experience of every one.


But why should Reason rest content with this
modification ? Why should it stop with its work
half done ? Why should it not devote itself to
the complete cessation of the competitive stress,
and to the substitution of a non-competitive system
of life ? Reason, as we have seen, first achieved
its predominance by reducing the limitless waste-
fulness that is inherent in the method of Instinct.
It is in this direction that Reason is still operative,
and the two questions arise : *' Is it to the interest
of the Individual to abolish competition ? " and then,
if that be answered in the affirmative, we have to
ask : " Is it in his power to abolish competition ? Is
Reason competent to secure this end ? "

In answering the first of these questions, we
find the assertion that the elimination of the com-
petitive struggle would be an advantage is met by
dissent, and frequently by a sense of horror. This
feeling is found not only among the successful
the "haves" as opposed to the unsuccessful, the
" have-nots " it is found also among the *' have-
nots " ; it overrides the distinction of class. It
is not, even among the ** haves," primarily a selfish
feeling. On the contrary, as a matter of fact, it
is found especially and essentially among the least
selfish members of the community. It speaks with
power and conviction, and, in its presence, Reason
seems to have lost some of its old-time cogency.
The authority of Reason is not weakened, and yet,
when all is admitted, it does not prevail against
the sentiment of aversion.

We shall find the explanation in the fact that
the present chapter is concerned only with the

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Online LibraryArthur John HubbardThe fate of empires; being an inquiry into the stability of civilisation → online text (page 3 of 14)