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Grove Karl Gilbert.

John Wesley Powell, a memorial to an American explorer and scholar, comprising articles by Mrs. M. D. Lincoln (Bessie Beach), Grove Karl Gilbert, Marcus Baker, and Paul Carus; online

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thropic evolution as radically distinct. He gives special attention
to the distinction between biotic and anthropic evolution, because
he regards the prevalent theory that they are identical as one of the
most insidious impediments to anthropologic progress. The fol-
lowing extract from the concluding portion of the address includes
some of the fundamental elements of his philosophy :

"It has thus been shown that there are three stages in the
combination of matter and motion, and that each stage is charac-
terised by a clearly distinct method of evolution. These may be
denned as follows :

"First, physical evolution is the result of direct adaptation to
environment, under the law that motion is in the direction of least
resistance.

"Second, biotic evolution is the result of indirect adaptation
to the environment by the survival of the fittest in the struggle for
existence.

"Third, anthropic evolution is the result of the exercise of
human faculties in activities designed to increase happiness, and
through which the environment is adapted to man.

"These may be briefly denominated : evolution by adaptation,
evolution by survival of the fittest, and evolution by endeavor.

"Civilised men have always recognised to some extent the laws
of human evolution, that activities are teleologically developed,
and that happiness is increased thereby. In the early history of
mankind the nature of teleologic endeavor was so strongly im-
pressed upon the mind that the theory was carried far beyond the
truth, so that all biotic function and physical motion were inter-
preted as teleologic activity. When this error was discovered, and
the laws of physical and biotic evolution established, vast realms
of phenomena were found to have been entirely misunderstood and
falsely explained, and teleologic postulates have finally fallen into
disrepute. Men say there is progress in the universe by reason of
the very laws of nature, and we must let them alone. Thus, reac-
tion from the ancient false philosophy of teleology has carried men
beyond the truth, until they have lost faith in all human endeavor;
and they teach the doctrine that man can do nothing for himself,
that he owes what he is to physical and biotic agencies, and that
his interests are committed to powers over which he has no con-
trol.

"Such a philosophy is gradually gaining ground among think-
ers and writers, and should it prevail to such an extent as to con-
trol the actions of mankind, modern civilisation would lapse into a



JOHN WESLEY POWELL. 51

condition no whit superior to that of the millions of India, who for
many centuries have been buried in the metaphysical speculations
of the philosophy of ontology. When a man loses faith in himself,
and worships nature, and subjects himself to the government of
the laws of physical nature, he lapses into stagnation, where mental
and moral miasma is bred. All that makes man superior to the
beast is the result of his own endeavor to secure happiness.

"Man, so far as he is superior to the beast, is the master of
his own destiny, and not the creature of the environment. He
adapts the natural environment to his wants, and thus creates an
environment for himself." 1

The three methods of evolution correspond to a classification
of the sciences in three groups : the sciences of matter, the sciences
of life, and the science of man as a thinking animal. The individ-
ual sciences composing these groups, and their order among them-
selves, are set forth in an address to the American Association for
the Advancement of Science in 1888.

The essays devoted to the amplification of the outline of hu-
man evolution constitute two series. The first series is based upon
the recognition of three stages of progress savagery, barbarism,
and civilisation. One address to the Anthropological Society is
entitled From Savagery to Barbarism (1885); a second is entitled
From Barbarism to Civilisation (1888); a third Evolution in Civil-
ised Man (1887).

"By the division of labor men have become interdependent,
so that every man works for some other man. To the extent that
culture has progressed -beyond the plane occupied by the brute,
man has ceased to work directly for himself and come to work di-
rectly for others and indirectly for himself. He struggles directly
to benefit others, that he may indirectly but ultimately benefit him-
self. This principle of political economy is so thoroughly estab-
lished that it needs no explication here ; but it must be fully ap-
preciated before we can thoroughly understand the vast extent to
which interdependence has been established. For the glasses which
I wear, mines were worked in California, and railroads constructed
across the continent to transport the product of those mines to the
manufactories in the East. For the bits of steel on the bow, mines
were worked in Michigan, smelting-works were erected in Chicago,
manufactories built in New Jersey, and railroads constructed to
transport the material from one point to the other. Merchant-
houses and banking-houses were rendered necessary. Many men

1 Bull. Philosoph. Sac., Washington, Vol. VI., pp. li-lii.



52 JOHN WESLEY POWELL.

were employed in producing and bringing that little instrument to
me. As I sit in my library to read a book, I open the pages with
a paper-cutter, the ivory of which was obtained through the em-
ployment of a tribe of African elephant-hunters. The paper on
which my book is printed was made of the rags saved by the beg-
gars of Italy. A watchman stands on guard in Hoosac Tunnel
that I may some time ride through it in safety. If all the men who
have worked for me, directly and indirectly, for the past ten years,
and who are now scattered through the four quarters of the earth,
were marshaled on the plain outside of the city, organised and
equipped for war, I could march to the proudest capital of the
world and the armies of Europe could not withstand me. I am the
master of all the world. But during all my life I have worked for
other men, and thus I am every man's servant ; so are we all ser-
vants to many masters and masters of many servants. It is thus
that men are gradually becoming organised into one vast body-
politic, every one is striving to serve his fellow-man and all work-
ing for the common welfare. Thus the enmity of man to man is
appeased, and men live and labor for one another; individualism
is transmuted into socialism, egoism into altruism, and man is lifted
above the brute to an immeasurable height. Man inherited the
body, instincts, and passions of the brute; the nature thus inher-
ited has survived in his constitution and is exhibited along all the
course of his history. Injustice, fraud, and cruelty stain the path-
way of culture from the earliest to the latest days. But man has
not risen in culture by reason of his brutal nature. His method of
evolution has not been the same as that of the lower animals ; the
evolution of man has been through the evolution of the humanities,
the evolution of those things which distinguish him from the brute.
The doctrines of evolution which biologists have clearly shown to
apply to animals do not apply to man. Man has evolved because he
has been emancipated from the cruel laws of brutality." 1

In another place he shows that, though competition of plant
with plant and brute with brute is the means of biotic progress,
civilised man does not compete with plant or brute, but destroys
what are hurtful to him and improves what are beneficial. When
man competes with man in the struggle for existence no step in
evolution results.

" Vestiges of brutal competition still exist in the highest civ-
ilisation, but they are called crimes ; and, to prevent this struggle
for existence, penal codes are enacted, prisons are built, and gal-

1 Trans. Anthropological Soc. of Washington, Vol. III., pp. 195-196.



JOHN WESLEY POWELL. 53

lows are erected. Competition in the struggle for existence is the
agency by which progress is secured in plant and animal life, but
competition in the struggle for existence among men is crime most
degrading. Brute struggles with brute for life, and in the aeons of
time this struggle has wrought that marvellous transformation
which we call the evolution of animals; but man struggles with
man for existence, and murder runs riot : no step in human pro-
gress is made.

"That struggle for existence between man and man which we
have considered and called crime is a struggle of one individual
with another. But there is an organised struggle of bodies of men
with bodies of men, which is not characterised as murder, but is
designated as warfare. Here, then, we have man struggling with
man on a large scale, and here it is where some of our modern
writers on evolution discover the natural law of selection, 'the
survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence.' The strongest
army survives in the grand average of the wars of the world.

"When armies are organised in modern civilisation, the very
strongest and best are selected, and the soldiers of the world are
gathered from their homes in the prime of manhood and in lusty
health. If there is one deformed, if there is one maimed, if there
is one weaker of intellect, he is left at home to continue the stock,
while the strong and the courageous are selected to be destroyed-
In organised warfare the processes of natural selection are re-
versed : the fittest to live are killed, the fittest to die are pre.
served ; and in the grand average the weak, physically, mentally,
and morally, are selected to become the propagators of the race." 1

The second series of essays devoted to the subject of hu-
man evolution is based upon the five classes into which human
activities are divided and upon the subdivision of these classes.
The series is incomplete, but so far as it goes it traverses the
ground of the essays of the preceding series, by treating of the evo-
lution of individual activities from their lowest to their highest
stages. The essays will be enumerated under their appropriate
classes without reference to their order of publication, and it will
be convenient to group with them certain papers falling outside the
evolutional series but admitting of the same classification by ac-
tivities.

Within the province of aesthetic arts are two papers. "Esthet-
ology or the Science of Activities Designed to Give Pleasure"
{American Anthropologist, 1899) develops a classification of the

^Science, Vol. XI., p. 113.



54 JOHN WESLEY POWELL.

aesthetic arts and briefly outlines the evolution of each. " Evolu-
tion of Music from Dance to Symphony" (A. A. A. S., 1889) traces
the development of musical art from its origin with dancing by the
successive addition of melody, harmony, and symphony.

In like manner an essay entitled "Technology, or the Science
of Industries " {American Anthropologist, 1899) classifies the indus-
trial arts, or those activities which conduce to welfare ; but the
lines of evolution in this field are only briefly indicated.

Under the head of institutions are to be classed four papers,
"Kinship and the Tribe," "Kinship and the Clan," "Tribal Mar-
riage Law," and "Sociology or the Science of Institutions."

Tribal society is organised on a basis of kinship, but the sys-
tem of kinship differs from that of civilisation. In a tribe the line
between generations is sharply drawn. Within a generation each
man is brother to each other man, and this without reference to
degrees of consanguinity. Such distinctions as we make by the
word cousin are ignored. The generations stand in lineal order,
and each male of one generation is accounted the son of each male
of the preceding generation and the father of each male of the fol-
lowing generation. In this fundamental respect tribal kinship dif-
fers so widely from the kinship system of our community that it is
not easy for us to conceive it; and in other respects it is equally
strange. The three essays referred to describe tribal kinship, dis-
tinguish its two chief varieties, and explain the kinship system of
he clans constituting a tribe, as well as the strange marriage sys-
tems which result from and serve to perpetuate the systems of kin-
ship. (Third Ann. Report Bureau of Ethnology, 1883.)

Here also should be mentioned an address on the "Outlines
of Sociology" (Anthrop. Soc., 1882), in which the State is defined,
its evolution is described, and its regulative functions are classified.

Three works fall under the head of language. The first is an
"Introduction to the Study of Indian Languages" (1880), and is
essentially a code of instructions for the collection of linguistic ma-
terial. A code of instructions to observers is primarily an enumera-
tion of the particulars as to which information is desired, or as to
which it is expected that information can be obtained. These par-
ticulars are the categories of existing generalisations on the subject,
together with those bearing on existing hypothesis. The full code
of instructions for new observation thus embodies the results of all
earlier observation, generalisation, and explanation. The language
of a people, being invented for the communication of their thoughts,
embodies in its vocabulary their arts, their institutions, and their



JOHN WESLEY POWELL. 55

philosophy; and an Indian language cannot be profitably studied
unless the other activities of the tribe either are understood or are
simultaneously studied. And so Powell's Introduction includes
under its modest title a succinct compend of the generalisations of
North American ethnology.

The second work under this head is an essay on the "Evolu-
tion of Language " (First Annual Report Bureau of Ethnology, 1881).
Linguistic progress includes very little addition of new material,
but consists chiefly of internal change. The processes of change
are classed as Combination, or the union of two or more words for
a new purpose, Vocal Mutation, Intonation, and Placement or the
association of sense relations with the relative positions of words in
a sentence. It is shown that the primitive languages differ from
the advanced in their imperfect discrimination of parts of speech,
in their elaborate inflection, and in their lack of general terms. Pro-
gress is through the differentiation of the parts of speech and the
substitution of general terms and separable qualifiers for inflected
words. "Judged by these criteria, the English stands alone in the
highest rank ; but as a written language, in the way in which its
alphabet is used, the English has but just emerged from a barbaric
condition."

The remaining work is an essay on "Philology," which is con-
sidered as "the science of activities designed for expression"
{American Anthropologist, 1900). The activities are classified as
emotional, oral, gestural, written, and logistic languages, logistic
language including notations, like the algebraic and musical, in
which ideas are expressed directly by signs, without the necessary
implication of words. The science of oral language is developed
at some length.

Four addresses and essays were devoted to philosophies, or
the systems of explanation of the phenomena of nature: the "Phi-
losophy of the North American Indians" was read to the American
Geographical Society in 1876, and "Mythologic Philosophy" to a
section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
in 1879. The "Lessons of Folklore" and "Sophiology or the Sci-
ence of Activities Designed to give Instruction " appeared in the
American Anthropologist in 1900 and 1901. The first is chiefly de-
scriptive. The second compares mythic explanations with scien-
tific, discusses the successive stages of mythologic philosophy, and
indicates the dependence on it of ancientism, spiritism, thauma-
turgics, and religion. The third deals with the evolution of phi-
losophies, by pointing out various survivals of primitive explana-



56 JOHN WESLEY POWELL.

tions in various classical and modern systems of philosophy. The
fourth outlines the evolution of philosophies as an introduction to
classification of the ways in which opinions are propagated. Per-
haps a fifth paper should be added to this group, an essay on "The
Evolution of Religion," contributed to The Monist in 1898. The
following extracts are selected from the first and second essays :

"To fully present to you the condition of savagery, as illus-
trated in their philosophy, three obstacles appear. After all the
years I have spent among the Indians in their mountain villages, I
am not certain that I have sufficiently divorced myself from the
thoughts and ways of civilisation to properly appreciate their child-
ish beliefs. The second obstacle subsists in your own knowledge
of the methods and powers of nature, and the ways of civilised so-
ciety; and when I attempt to tell you what an Indian thinks, I fear
you will never fully forget what you know, and thus you will be led
to give too deep a meaning to a savage explanation ; or, on the
Other hand, contrasting an Indian concept with your own, the mani-
fest absurdity will sound to you as an idle tale too simple to de-
serve mention, or too false to deserve credence. The third diffi-
culty lies in the attempt to put savage thoughts into civilised lan-
guage; our words are so full of meaning, carry with them so many
great thoughts and collateral ideas. In English I say 'wind,' and
you think of atmosphere in revolution with the earth, heated at the
tropics and cooled at the poles, and set into great currents that are
diverted from their courses in passing back and forth from tropical
to polar regions ; you think of ten thousand complicating conditions
by which local currents are produced, and the word suggests all
the lore of the Weather Bureau, that great triumph of American
science. But I say neir to a savage, and he thinks of a great mon-
ster, a breathing beast beyond the mountains of the west." *

"There are two grand stages of philosophy, the mythologic
and the scientific. In the first, all phenomena are explained by
analogies derived from subjective human experiences; in the lat-
ter, phenomena are explained as orderly successions of events.

"In sublime egotism man first interprets the cosmos as an ex-
tension of himself; he classifies the phenomena of the outer world
by their analogies with subjective phenomena; his measure of dis-
tance is his own pace, his measure of time his own sleep, for he
says, ' It is a thousand paces to the great rock,' or 'It is a hundred
sleeps to the great feast.* Noises are voices, powers are hands,
movements are made afoot. By subjective examination discover-

1 American Geog. Soc. Journal, Vol. VIII., p. 253.



JOHN WESLEY POWELL. 57

ing in himself will and design, and by inductive reason discovering
will and design in his fellow men and in animals, he extends the
induction to all the cosmos, and there discovers in all things will
and design. All phenomena are supposed to be the acts of some
one and that some one having will and purpose. In mythologic
philosophy the phenomena of the outer physical world are sup-
posed to be the acts of living, willing, designing personages. The
simple are compared with and explained by the complex. In scien-
tific philosophy, phenomena are supposed to be children of ante-
cedent phenomena, and so far as science goes with its explanation
they are thus interpreted. Man with the subjective phenomena
gathered about him is studied from an objective point of view and
the phenomena of subjective life are relegated to the categories
established in the classification of the phenomena of the outer
world ; thus the complex is studied by resolving it into its simple
constituents." 1

"In Shoshoni, the rainbow is a beautiful serpent that abrades
the firmament of ice to give us snow and rain. In Norse, the rain-
bow is the bridge Bifrost spanning the space between heaven and
earth. In the Iliad, the rainbow is the goddess Iris, the messenger
of the King of Olympus. In Hebrew, the rainbow is the witness
to a covenant. In science, the rainbow is an analysis of white light
into its constituent colors by the refraction of raindrops." 2

Powell's own philosophy, to the formulation of which he de-
voted several years, is published in Truth and Error, a volume
which contains also a treatise on psychology. Had his full plan
been carried out, Truth and Error would have been followed by
two other books, the second bearing the title Good and Evil. The
writing of the second book was completed the last effective work
of his life and its chapters were printed as independent essays in
the American Anthropologist. One of them, "The Categories,"
pertains to the field of general philosophy; the others have already
been mentioned as treatises on human activities.

His only writing devoted largely to intellectual methods is an
address to the Biological Society- of Washington at its Darwin
Memorial Meeting in 1882. Three groups of philosophies are here
recognised, the mythologic, the metaphysic, and the scientific. It
is shown that the method of metaphysics is formal logic, while the
method of science consists of induction and hypothesis.

"Now the machine called logic, the tool of the metaphysician,

^American Association Adv. Set., Proc., Vol. XXVIIL, pp. 253-254.
2 American Association Adv. Set'., Proc., Vol. XXVIIL, p. 259.



58 JOHN WESLEY POWELL.

is curiously constructed. Its chief hypothesis is that man was
primitively endowed with fundamental principles as a basis of rea-
soning, and that these principles can be formulated. These funda-
mental principles are supposed to be universal, and to be every-
where accepted by mankind as self-evident propositions of the
highest order, and of the broadest generalisation. These funda-
mental propositions were called major propositions. The machine,
in formal logic, was a verbal juxtaposition of propositions with the
major propositions at the head, followed by the minor propositions,
and from this truth was supposed to flow.

"This formal logic of the Aristotelian epoch has lived from
that period to the period of science. Logic is the instrument of
metaphysics, and metaphysic philosophy, in its multifarious forms,
is the product of logic. But during all that time 2,000 years no
truth has been discovered, no error has been detected, by the use
of the logical machine. Its fundamental assumption is false.

"It has been discovered that man is not endowed with a body
of major propositions. It is found that in the course of the evolu-
tion of mind minor propositions are discovered first, and major
propositions are reached only by the combination of minor propo-
sitions; that always in the search for truth the minor proposition
comes first, and that no major proposition can ever be accepted
until the minor propositions included therein have been demon-
strated.

"The error in the metaphysic philosophy was the assumption
that the great truths were already known by mankind, and that by
the proper use of the logical machine all minor truths could be dis-
covered, and all errors eliminated from philosophy. As metaphysic
methods of reasoning were wrong, metaphysic philosophies were
false; the body of metaphysic philosophy is a phantasmagoria." 1

Two important essays cannot be included under any of the
above classes, as they discuss the material of all. They treat of
the methods to be pursued in anthropologic research and the
methods to be avoided, of the fruitful lines of inquiry and the bar-
ren, of the dangers from the use of superficial observations and of
the dangers from faulty principles of interpretation. They are to
a certain extent the codification of the counsel by which he has
guided the work of his associates in the Bureau of Ethnology, and
they are contained in the Annual Reports of the Bureau. One is
on "Limitations to the Use of Certain Anthropologic Data," the
other on "Activital Similarities."

\Biolog. Soc, Wash., Proc., Vol. I., p. 63.



JOHN WESLEY POWELL. 59

"Here again [in sociology] North America presents a wide
and interesting field to the investigator, for it has within its extent
many distinct governments, and these governments, so far as in-
vestigations have been carried, are found to belong to a type more
primitive than any of the feudalities from which the civilised na-
tions of the earth sprang, as shown by concurrently recorded his-
tory.

"Yet in this history many facts have been discovered suggest-
ing that feudalities themselves had an origin in something more
primitive. In the study of the tribes of the world a multitude of


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Online LibraryGrove Karl GilbertJohn Wesley Powell, a memorial to an American explorer and scholar, comprising articles by Mrs. M. D. Lincoln (Bessie Beach), Grove Karl Gilbert, Marcus Baker, and Paul Carus; → online text (page 6 of 8)