Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

The North American review (Volume 139) online

. (page 15 of 60)
Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 15 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

other words, I shall assume it as established that the principles
of evolution have been shown to apply to the phenomena of
mind as we find them presented in the lower animals ; so that
throughout the whole range of the animal kingdom, with the
exception of man, we have satisfactory evidence of these phe
nomena having all been due to processes of a natural and con
tinuous development, the causation of which is now in a large
measure ascertained.

Starting, then, from this position, I desire to render a brief
epitome of the leading points in another work on which I am
now engaged, and which is concerned with the attempt to prove,
first, the fact of " mental evolution in man," and, secondly, the
principles which, in this case, as in the case of the lower animals,
have probably been concerned in the process. And here, I think,
it is not too much to say that we have a problem which is not
merely the most interesting of those that have fallen within the
scope of my own work, but perhaps the most interesting that
has ever been submitted to the contemplation of our race. If it
is true that " the proper study of mankind is man," assuredly
the study of nature has never before reached a territory of
thought so important in all its aspects as that which, in our own
generation, it is now for the first time approaching. After



centuries of intellectual conquest in all regions of the phenomenal
universe, man has at last begun to find that he may apply in
a new and most unexpected manner the adage of antiquity,
"Know thyself." For he has begun to perceive a strong proba
bility, if not an actual certainty, that his own living nature is
identical in kind with the nature of all other life, and that even
the most amazing side of that nature nay, the most amazing
of all things within the reach of his knowledge the human
mind itself, is but the topmost inflorescence of one mighty
growth, whose roots and stem and many branches are sunk in
the abyss of planetary time.

The problem, therefore, which in this generation has now,
for the first time, been presented to human thought, is the prob
lem of how this thought itself has come to be. A question of
the deepest importance to every system of philosophy has been
raised by the study of biology, and it is the question whether
the mind of man is essentially the same as the mind of the lower
animals, or, having had, either wholly or in part, some other
mode of origin, is essentially distinct, differing not only in
degree, but in kind, from all other types of physical existence.
Now, seeing that upon this great and deeply interesting question
opinions are now much divided, even among those most eminent
in the walks of science who agree in accepting the principles of
evolution as applied to explain the corporeal constitution of man
and the mental constitution of the lower animals, it is evident
that the question must be a large one. How large it is, and into
what matters of intricacy it leads, I need not here wait to show.
I merely wish to observe that it is impossible to do it justice
within the limits of a single article, and therefore that in this
brief reswmS of my own investigations concerning it, I shall avoid
all side issues and matters of technical detail.

First, then, let us consider the question on purely d priori
ground. In accordance with our original assumption, the proc
ess of organic and of mental evolution has been continuous
throughout the whole region of life and of mind, with the one
exception of the mind of man. On grounds of a very large
analogy, therefore, we should deem it antecedently improbable
that the process of evolution, elsewhere so uniform and ubiqui
tous, should be interrupted at its terminal phase ; and I think
that, looking to the very large extent of the analogy, this ante
cedent presumption is really so considerable that it could only


be fairly counterbalanced by some very cogent and unmistakable
facts, snowing a difference between animal and human psychol
ogy so distinctive as to render it in the nature of the case
virtually impossible that one could ever have graduated into the
other. This I posit as the first consideration.

Next, still restricting ourselves to the a priori aspect of the
matter, it is unquestionable that human psychology in the case
of every individual human being presents to actual observation a
process of gradual development, or evolution, extending from
infancy to manhood ; and that in this process, which begins at
a zero level of mental life and may culminate in genius, there is
nowhere and never observable a sudden leap of progress, such
as the passage of one order of psychical being into another dis
tinct in kind might reasonably be expected to show. Therefore,
it is a matter of observable fact that, whether or not human in
telligence differs from animal in kind, it certainly admits of
gradual development from a zero level ; and to this we must add
that, so long as it is passing through the lower phases -of that
development, it assuredly ascends through a scale of mental
faculties which are pari passu identical with those that are per
manently presented by the psychological species of the animal
kingdom. These facts, which I present as a second considera
tion, tend still further, and I think most strongly, to increase
the force of the antecedent presumption against the process of
evolution having been discontinuous in the region of mind.

Again, it is likewise a matter of actual observation that in
the history of our race, as recorded in documents, traditions,
antiquarian remains, and flint implements, the intelligence of
the race has been subject to a steady process of gradual devel
opment a general fact which admits of any amount of special
corroboration by comparing the psychology of existing savages,
where the process of evolution in the past has not been so rapid
or has in part been arrested, with that of civilized man. This
is the last consideration that I shall adduce of the d, priori kind,
and its force consists in the fact of its proving that if the proc
ess of mental evolution was interrupted between the anthropoid
apes and primitive man, it must again have recommenced with
primitive man, and since then have continued as uninterruptedly
in the human species as it previously did in the animal species.
This, to say the least, upon the face of the indisputable facts,
or from a merely antecedent point of view, appears to me a


highly improbable supposition. At all events, it certainly is not
the kind of supposition which men of science are disposed to
regard with favor elsewhere ; for a long and arduous experience
has taught men of science that the most helpful kind of sup
position which they can bring with them into their investigations
of nature is that kind of supposition which recognizes in nature
the principle of continuity.

Taking, then, all these a priori considerations together, they
must, in my opinion, be fairly held to make out a very strong
prima facie case in favor of the view that there has been no in
terruption of the developmental process in the course of psycho
logical history, but that the mind of man, like the mind of
animals, and, indeed, like everything else in organic nature,
has been evolved. For these considerations show, not only
that on analogical grounds any such interruption must be held
as in itself improbable ; but, also, that the human mind unques
tionably admits of having been slowly evolved from the zero
level, seeing that in every individual case, and during many past
millenniums in the history of our species, the human mind actu
ally does and has undergone the process in question.

In order to overthrow so immense a presumption as is thus
erected on a priori grounds, the psychologist must fairly be
called upon to supply some very powerful considerations of an
d posteriori kind, tending to show that there is something in the
constitution of the human mind which renders it impossible, or,
at all events, exceedingly difficult, to imagine that it can have a
genetic relation to mind of lower orders. I shall, therefore, now
proceed to consider, as impartially as I can, the arguments which
have been adduced on this side of the question.

The theory that animals are unconscious machines need not
detain us, for no one at the present day is likely to defend it.
Again, the distinction between human and brute psychology,
which has always been taken, more or less, for granted, viz.,
that the one is rational and the other not, may similarly be set
aside, if we understand by " rational" merely the power of
drawing inferences from observations. That there is no distinc
tion of this kind to be made between men and animals I hold to
be abundantly proved by the numberless instances of the dis
play of rationality by brutes, rationality, I mean in the only
strict and accurate sense of the term just explained. Of course
the faculty of drawing inferences from observations is immensely



more developed in man than it is in any brute, but with this
point we are not now concerned.

Again, the theological distinction between the man and the
brute may be passed over, seeing that it rests upon a dogma
with reference to which scientific inquiry has no point of legiti
mate contact. Whether or not the conscious part of man differs
from the conscious part of brutes in being immortal, and whether
or not the " spirit w of the one differs from the "soul" of the other
in any particulars of kind, dogma itself must hold that science
has no voice in determining. For, from the nature of the case,
any information of a positive kind relating to these matters
can only be expected to come by way of a revelation $ and, there
fore, however widely science and dogma may differ on other
points, they are at least agreed upon this one : if man has a
" spirit " which differs thus from the " animal soul," Christianity
and Philosophy alike proclaim that only by a Gospel could the
fact of this " life and immortality be brought to light." *

Aristotle and Buffon held that brutes differ from man in
having no power -of mental apprehension. This dictum appears
to me unquestionably opposed to all the facts of observation,
and may be sufficiently met by the remark of Jureau de la
Malle : " Si les animaux n'etaient pas susceptibles d'apprendre
des moyens de se conserver, les especes se seraient aneanties."

Locke maintained, and he has been followed by many
writers both in psychology and general literature, that the
mind of the brute differs essentially from that of the man
in not being able to form abstract ideas. Now, it must be
observed that Locke here restricts the term abstraction to
that higher manifestation of the faculty which consists in
thinking about an abstraction as an abstraction. I cannot
find that he denies to animals the power which they unquestion
ably possess of forming general ideas of qualities as apart from
any particular objects in which the qualities may inhere. A
dog, for instance, like a young child, has a general idea of hot
and cold, good-for-eating and bad-for-eating, etc., although we
have no evidence to show that he ever thinks about this idea as
an idea, or sets the idea itself before his mind as an object of
contemplation. To me, therefore, it appears that Locke, when

* I neglect to consider the view of Bishop Butler, and of others who have
followed him, that animals may have an immortal principle as well as men,
for this view serves to identify, and not to separate, the two orders of mind.
VOL. CXXXIX. NO. 333. 11


properly understood, has here hit the nail upon the head. The
one great distinction, and indeed the only one which can "be
shown to obtain between the two orders of mind in question,
consists in the power which the human mind displays, not
merely of forming abstract ideas of qualities as apart from
particular objects, but of thinking about these abstractions
afterward as abstractions. This is the initial or basal dis
tinction. But, narrow at first as the space included between
two lines of rail at their point of divergence, we have here the
beginning of a difference which is destined to end at the oppo
site poles of mind. For, by a continuous advance along the
same line of development, the human mind (we may see the
process exemplified in the psychogenesis of every child) is
enabled to think about abstractions of its own making, which
are more and more remote from the sensuous perceptions of
concrete objects j it can unite these abstractions into an endless
variety of ideal combinations; these, in turn, may become
elaborated into ideal constructions of a more and more complex
character ; and so on, till we arrive at the full powers of intro
spective thought, of which we are each one of us directly

This, then, I take to be the only distinction that can be
shown to obtain between the two orders of mind. How is it to
be accounted for? How are we evolutionists to explain the
fact that man alone of animals appears to present the power of
representative thought, and thus to surpass the brute creation
in the mental part of his being, as far as the mind of a Newton
surpasses that of an infant about two years old

I may take it for granted that all the emotional and intel
lectual ingredients of animal psychology are identical with those
of human, so far as they go. In other words, it is only an addi
tional or superadded growth, prodigious though it be, with
which we are at present concerned. Now, the late George
Henry Lewes has shown with much lucidity that in animals, as
in ourselves, there is what he happily terms a " logic of feel
ings." That is to say, by constant converse with the circum
stances of our life, we acquire a logic, or grouping according to
laws, of the presentative processes of the mind, no less than of
the representative ; the former processes being those which are
concerned in perception, and the latter those which are concerned
in reflection or thought. Thus, for instance, to feel cold, and to


think of feeling cold, are two very different acts of mind j yet
the categories of mental life to which they severally belong are
alike under the sway of a " logic." And similarly with animals.
Whether or not they are able in any measure to reflect, or think
about their own thoughts, there is no question that they are
able to adapt their actions to circumstances, or that, like our
selves, they have a logic of feelings.

The logic of signs, at any rate in its higher development,
has exclusive reference to the representative faculties, and is
first evoked by those exigencies of life which render necessary
or desirable the communication of ideas. The more numerous,
abstract, and compound the ideas become, the more necessity
there is for a corresponding development of the sign-system,
whereby alone they admit of being expressed. But this is not
all. For, on the other hand, each advance in the development
of a sign-system, although primarily evoked for the purpose of
communicating ideas already present, afterward reacts upon
the structure of indeation in which it arose, in such wise as to
advance this structure one further stage in its development.
And so, by continuous action and reaction, the logic of thought
and the logic of signs mutually assist each other's development.

Take, for instance, the case of spoken language, which is the
system of signs most generally in use among all the races of
mankind. A very little reflection is enough to show of how
immense a service are verbal signs as instruments of thought.
By giving to an abstract idea a name, we are able, as it were,
mentally to handle it, to compound it with other symbolical
abstractions of the same kind, and so on till we arrive at verbal
symbols of more and more complex qualities, as well as of con
ception further and further removed from immediate perception.
"Words are thus like the steps of a ladder, by the help of which
we climb into higher and higher regions of abstraction ; they
are also like coins or bank-notes, into which we manage to con
dense a large amount of that value which we term meaning;
or, to use a still closer analogy, they are like the symbols em
ployed by the mathematician, which may contain in an easily
manipulated form the results of a long calculation, no part of
which could have been conducted but for the use of other
symbols of the same kind. So that, to put the matter briefly,
we may say with Max Muller, that the growth of thought
and language is coral-like 5 each generation of living thoughts


secretes around itself the staple forms of words, which in turn
serve as the basis for a further generation of thoughts.

Thus it seems to me and I am not aware that any writer
of note has ever ventured to question the view that, given
the faculty of speech, in however rudimentary a degree, and we
have given the germ of that difference between the mind of
man and the mind of brutes, which may proceed, under suit
able conditions as to social requirements, etc., to develop into
any conceivable degree of divergent excellence. The only ques
tion, therefore, with which as evolutionists we are here con
fronted is, Why has man alone of animals been gifted with the
logos ?

To answer this question we must first consider in what the
essence of the logos consists. Analysis shows that it consists
in the power of predication, or of making a proposition, which
is the expression of the power of forming a judgment. Thus
far, men of all schools of thought are in agreement, even Mr.
Mivart conceding that " if the brute could think ' is/ man and
brute would be brothers." I conceive, then, that the only ques
tion before us is to explain the possible evolution of the power
of predication.

Let it first be remembered that speech in all its forms is
nothing more than a highly elaborated system of signs, and
that, where adequate intelligence is already present, proposi
tions admit of being made with quite as much distinctness and
quite as much rationality by any other comparably elaborated
system of signs, as is the case, for instance, with the gesture-
language of deaf-mutes or of the American Indians. Next let it
be remembered that the germ of the sign-making faculty occurs
among animals, at least as far down in the scale as the ants,
and that in all the higher vertebrata it is capable of develop
ment up to a very considerable level. Pointer dogs make
gesture signs, the meaning of which they well understand j
terriers will " beg " for food ; cats will pull at one's dress to
lead one to their kittens in trouble; and a hundred other
instances might be given. It is true that in none of these
instances have we any evidence of predication, properly so
called. But we have the germ of it. And when we have an
animal sufficiently intelligent intentionally to translate its logic
of feelings into a logic of signs for the purpose of communica
tion, we have an animal which, in effect, is making a proposi-


tion, although it may not know or think about the proposition
as a proposition. When a cat or a dog pulls one's dress to lead
one to the kittens or puppies in need of assistance, the animal
is behaving in the same manner as a deaf-mute might behave
when invoking assistance for a friend. That is to say, the
animal is translating the logic of feelings into the logic of
signs, and, so far as this particular action is concerned, it is
psychologically indistinguishable from that which is performed
by the deaf-mute $ for, under the circumstances supposed, the
deaf-mute does not wait to formulate any definite proposition
even in his own mind; his only feeling is, "Come, come,' 7 and
this is directly translated into a gesture sign.

Now, if among animals we thus have, as it were, the proto
plasm of the sign-making faculty, it does not seem to me so very
hard to understand how it might, under suitable conditions, be
come organized into the faculty of predication. The quadru-
mana habitually employ vocal signs as well as gestures whereby
to express their emotions, and the comparatively simple logic of
their feelings. Let us, then, try to imagine an anthropoid ape
somewhat more intelligent than the remarkable chimpanzee
which has recently been brought to the Zoological Gardens of
London, and which in respect of intelligence, as well as hairless-
ness and carnivorous habits, is perhaps the most human-like of
these animals hitherto observed.* It does not seem to me very
difficult to imagine that such an animal should extend the vocal
signs which it habitually employed in the expression of its emo
tions to the conventional naming of a few familiar objects, such
as food, child, etc. This, indeed, is no more than we find to be
the case with a much less intelligent animal, viz., the parrot,
which in many cases certainly uses vocal signs as names, whether
these vocal signs are words the meaning of which it has been
taught, sounds imitative of those made by the objects named, or,
as is sometimes the case, wholly arbitrary, such as a peculiar
squeak to signify a nut. "Whether this nominative stage of

*The carnivorous habits of this animal, which is a new variety, are
most interesting. It is surmised that in its wild state it must live upon birds,
but in the Zoological Gardens it is found to show a marked preference for
cooked meat over raw. It dines off broiled mutton chops, the bones of which
it picks with its fingers and teeth, being afterward careful to clean its hands.
It mixes a little straw with the mutton as we mix vegetables, and after
dinner takes a dessert of fruits.


language in the ape was first reached by articulation, or, as is
more probable, by vocal sounds of other kinds, and gestures, is
immaterial. In either case the advance of intelligence which
would thus have been secured, would in time have reacted upon
the sign-making faculty, and so have led to an extension of the
vocabulary, both as to sounds and gestures. Sooner or later the
vocal signs, assisted by gestures, and even leading to a gradual
advance of intelligence, would have become conventional, and
so, in the presence of suitable anatomical conditions, articu
late. The next step would have been the conventional naming
of familiar qualities, such as sweet, bitter, and so on. This, be
it observed, does not imply any very great advance upon the
naming of objects by vocal or gesture signs 5 but yet it brings us
to the very borders of predication. For if once the name of an
object and the name of a quality belonging to that object are
used in apposition, the copula is latent in thought, and only
requires a further advance of intelligence itself to become an
object of thought.

Such, I believe, were the steps by which the faculty of predi
cation was reached, and the bridge between the brute and the
man constructed. Once this bridge was formed, all subsequent
generations of intellect were free to roam over the hitherto un
occupied regions of possibility thus opened up ; conscience,
religion, sense of beauty, and all or any other product of the
higher intelligence of man being but the natural result of the
conditions which, in converse with its environment, that intelli
gence has itself created.



IF our peril is the centralization of power, it has been enhanced
by two opinions delivered in the Supreme Court of the United
States. By one, the Government may create whatever money it
may require to maintain itself in power. By the other, if the
Government unlawfully take the property of the citizen, he has
no legal means for its recovery.

In the case of Juilliard vs. Greenman, the majority of the
court held that Congress has the power to make the treasury
notes of the United States a lawful tender in the payment of
private debts, i. e., legal money of the country. The court
relies on the citations it makes from the opinion of the Supreme
Court, delivered by Chief-Justice Marshall, in the case of Mc-
Culloch vs. Maryland (4 W. 316). That case did not relate to the
power of Congress to make money, but it brought into considera
tion the enumerated and incidental powers of Congress ; and the
rules relating to them established then have never been ques
tioned since, and have always been relied upon by the opponents
of paper money.

The incidental powers are only means for executing the
enumerated powers : they inhere in them, and are conveyed with

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 15 of 60)