Henry Rutgers Marshall.

Instinct and reason; an essay concerning the relation of instinct to reason, with some special study of the nature of religion online

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The writing of this book was first undertaken because I
wished to present the conception of Eeligion, which will be
found below. In attempting to make my argument con-
vincing I have found it necessary to deal with questions
which did not at first appear to relate to the subject I
wished to discuss, and tha study, of Eeligion thus appears as
a subsidiary part of the broader treatment of Instinct and
Eeason ; the reader will readily perceive, however, that it
stiU remains the most important and most interesting
matter considered.

It has long ^ seemed to me evident that activities which
are so universal in man as are those which express our
religious life, cannot fail to be of significance in relation to
our biological development, especially as these activities
have persisted for so many ages in the human race. I
have, therefore, attempted to outline a theory which will
account for the existence of religious activities, and which
will explain their biological import.

In order to present this clearly I have thought it best

1 I find the views here presented in their main outlines in my notes under
date of 1885.


to make a special study of Instinct, to which the second
division of the book is devoted, to show the relation of
religious activities to instinctive activities in general.

This study of Instinct naturally leads to the study of
Impulse in division III., and this turns our thought to a
consideration of the nature of moral standards which we
all acknowledge to be most closely related to religious

In like manner the study of Eeason, while natural in
connection with the study of Instinct, has also its appro-
priateness in connection with the consideration of the nature
of Eeligion.

I have not attempted to enter fully into discussions
concerning the genesis of religious customs and beliefs, a
field which has perhaps been already sufficiently explored ;
I have touched upon such discussions only so far as has
seemed to me necessary in order to bring into clear relief
the facts relating to the function of religion in the develop-
ment of man.

I at first intended to devote a separate division of the
book to a study of the relation of religion to belief; but
this I find unnecessary to the completeness of the argument,
and I have therefore abandoned it for the present at least ;
those who read with care will perceive, I imagine, that if the
doctrines here presented be accepted, such acceptance will
in no way militate against the importance of the beliefs
which are attached to religious expressions.

I have some hope that apart from their relation to
religious problems the considerations concerning Instinct
and Keason may not be without value to the psychologist.


A large proportion of the subjects considered are, however,
of such general interest, and are by common agreement of
such profound importance, that I have attempted to discuss
them, so far as possible, without having recourse to the
technicalities of psychology; such distinctly psychological
discussions as are necessary to the argument I have there-
fore reserved for consideration in separate chapters, which
the reader will easily recognise by their titles.

As science advances individual investigators become less
and less important, and although I have made frequent
references in foot-notes, I nevertheless feel that these are
altogether inadequate as an acknowledgment of my in-
debtedness to those who have taught me. I take advantage
of this opportunity to express my especial obligations to
my friends Dr. C. L. Dana, D. M'^G. Means, Dr. Dickinson
S. Miller, and Dr. Chas. H. Strong for valuable criticism of
special parts of this work given from time to time as it has
progressed ; and to the Editors of Mind for allowing me to
present certain parts of my argument in brief in the form
of articles contributed to that Journal.

New York, 2Ath March 1898.




The Problem





I. The Method
n. Mental and Physical Parallelism



General Definitions




The Nature of Instinct .





The Classification of the Instincts . . .101

I. Instincts of Individualistic Import . . 103

II. Instincts relating to Persistence of Organic

Species . . . . • • 127

III. Instincts relating to Persistence of Social

Groups . . . . . • 139


Of certain Relations between Instinct Groups . .160

I. The Order of the Rise of Instinct Groups . 160

II. The Subordination of Instinct Groups, and of
Instincts within these Groups, in a Definite
Order ...... 179


The Conception of the Social Organism . .182


The Governing Instinct — The Religious Instinct . 194

I. Of the Excessive Tendency to Variation in

Social Aggregates . . . .194

II. Of the Means Nature adopts to repress Ex-
cessive Variation in Social Aggregates . 208




Is Religion Instinctive? . . . . .218


The Function of Religious Expression . . .247


Certain Corroborations . . . . .301

I. Of Conversion . . • • .301

II. Of Phallic Religions .... 309


I. A Summary . ' . • • • • ^^^

II. The Essential Characteristic op Religion • 325

III. A Criticism . • • • . . 333



• 341

The Nature of Impulse . • •




The Hierarchy of Impulses . . . .357

I. The Nature of Moral Codes . . . 357

II. The Relativity of Moral Codes . .379


Conscience and Duty . . . . .385

I, Conscience . . . . .385

II. The Sense of Duty . . . .396

III. Objections and Explanations . . . 399



The Nature of Reason . . . . .413


The Nature of Variation . . . ' .426


I. The Function of Reason . ... 445

II. The Functioning of Reason . . .447

III. Desire — Reasoning — Impulsp:— Will . .453




A Summary ...... 463




I. Of the Relation of Reason to Moral Codes . 471

II. The Relation of Religion to Moral Codes . . 475


The Solution of the Problem .... 495
N I. The Balance between Reason and Instinct . 495

II. The Balance between Reason and the Religious

Instinct . . . . • . 528


Ethics and Hedonism . . • • .531


The Rule of Conduct . . • • .550

INDEX . . . • • • .571




§ 1. All serious thinkers will agree that a special and
characteristic individuality has been given to the thought
of the century now waning as the result of the forcible
presentation of the doctrines of evolution through the
labours of Darwin and his co-workers. No other problems
of an intellectual nature have aroused so intense an interest
in our generation as those brought into prominence in the
course of the elaboration of developmental theories.

Indeed without being accused of self-complacency we
may quite properly assert that if we compare the intellectual
movement to which the discussion of these problems has
led, with other powerful intellectual awakenings in the past,
we are compelled to the conclusion that these doctrines,
which we may justly claim to belong especially to our
time, have shown a quite unique power. This has been
due, I surmise, largely to the fact that the elementary data
upon which modern forms of evolutionary theories are
based, have been quickly brought within the comprehension
of the ordinary thoughtful man: the problems, and the
explanations of them, were stated by Darwin himself with
so little of technicality, and with such avoidance of obscurity,
that the man of general culture with an interest in science.


even though he were not a biological specialist, could not
fail to grasp the trend of the argument, and could scarcely
avoid being impressed by the importance of the main
hypotheses presented for examination.

If the reader will note that much of the attention of
evolutionary thinkers has been given to the study of, and to
the interpretation of the meaning of, the instinctive activities
which we find in ourselves, and which we discover to exist
also in the animate creation around us, I think he will
agree that the most important, as well as the most interest-
ing, of the psychological problems of the day are those that
relate to the nature of instinct, and that deal with the
relation of instinctive activities to those activities which
result from processes of reasoning; the former of which
seem to be in a way forced upon us, the latter to be
thoroughly personal, determined by the very nature of our
own egohood.

When, at the close of the twentieth century, students
shall again write the history of the development of philosophy,
they may tell our descendants that metaphysics gained little
from the thought of this nineteenth century which is just
closing. They may say this, and probably with little danger
of contradiction ; but they will surely find it necessary to add
to their statement the acknowledgment that the thinkers
of this century, whatever were their metaphysical short-
comings, nevertheless did one great service for speculative
thought, in that they left as an heritage to their successors
a truer conception of the nature and of the importance of
instinct than had been handed to them by their philosophic
fathers, and in that they grasped more correctly than their
predecessors had done the true relations that exist between
instinctive and rational activities.

§ 2. Let us consider just for a moment how striking


and fundamental is the change that has appeared in the
current of thought in this particular in these later times.
What we call the modern philosophy of our western civil-
isation, from its very birth with the teaching Descartes, is
seen leading her votaries to attempt to reach some consistent
conception of the universe, and of ourselves existent in it,
and conscious of it ; at the same time it teaches them, as
the scholastic philosophy had taught their fathers before
them, to base their metaphysical structures upon purely
rationalistic foundations, and to trust implicitly the results of
ratiocinative process. There have indeed arisen from time to
time certain philosophic protestants, in some instances men
of great power like Berkeley, Locke, and Hume, who have
drawn attention to the processes involved in the argument,
and as a result have raised questions as to the vahdity of
the argument adopted, and have cast doubt upon the con-
clusions reached. But with the spread of Kantian influence
we find again renewed the attempt to construct a system
which shall enable us to grasp the import of the universe
as a whole, without hesitancy basing the structure upon a
strictly rationalistic foundation. Kant's successors have
followed his leading in this respect with a vigour and per-
sistency at which we marvel.

The revolts that appear from time to time against the
evils to which metaphysical excesses had led, the objections,
for instance, of Hartley, of Priestley, of James Mill, were all
themselves dependent upon assumptions of the supremacy
of Eeason as known in conscious reasoning process.

The contributions of Comte the apostle of Positivism,
and those of John Stuart MiU, and of the lesser lights
among his followers, were altogether rationalistic; and the
weighty influence of these men gave rise to a semi-popular
" positivism" of an aggressively arrogant type, confident in
its reasoned results ; a system which became current during


the lives of these thinkers, and which has not yet altogether
disappeared, although we now see it rapidly losing its hold
upon men.

Thus through all this movement of modern thought we
perceive the influential predominance of rationalistic prin-
ciple; a thorough - going trust in Keason. We, indeed,
occasionally discern marks of rebellions against the sup-
posed dicta of Eeason, as these were understood ; as an
instance of such revolt we may mention the attempts to
emphasise nature's leadings which are to be found in the
works of Eousseau and his contemporaries. We note also
the existence of a continuous and partially effective opposi-
tion to rationalism by the established Christian Church ; an
opposition which seemed exceedingly perverse to the Church's
opponents at the time, which appears extremely reprehensible
to the body of thinkers to-day, but which, I am convinced,
will not seem nearly so ill-timed nor so disgraceful to those
who look back from the standpoint which will be attained
in the future, however much they may deplore, as we all
must do, the form which this opposition took, and the
methods employed to attain its ends.

§ 3. As we survey the movement of thought, however,
although on the whole ultra-rationalistic influences appear
prominent and effective, we are nevertheless able to discern
signs of the working of another and diverse force. We now
realise that during a long period, before this century had
dawned, there had been developing among scientific and
philosophic thinkers a deep conviction that a wider view of
the philosophy of life might be taken than that which limited
it by the bounds of human Eeason as we know it ; this
conviction, indeed, had become so thoroughly grounded that
the life and the work of a Darwin alone were needed to
make the force of the view strikingly efi'ective. The study


of nature had gradually saturated thought with the notion
of a past of which philosophic rationalism told but Httle ;
a notion which seemed to crystalHse instantly into forms
of practical and vital importance upon the utterance of the
master's word.

Consideration of the conceptions directly derived from
the study of this notion call our attention to the fact that
there are mighty voices within us that speak from the dim
past to the more vivid aad engrossing present; and the
importance of this fact has in our day impressed thoughtful
men in the most marked way ; has had with us as notable
an influence as the teaching of Positivism had a few decades

The effect of this manner of thought is evident among
scientists in the curbing of rationalistic confidence. Among
our men of eminence in scientific research we find a distinct
distrust of rationalistic dogma of all kinds, and beyond that
a hesitant modesty in the presentation of hypotheses which
is as characteristic of the best thinkers of our time as in
the last century was personal confidence in the individual's
reasoned results. This spirit indeed is spreading its influ-
ence amongst the masses of intelligent men of the race.
The leaven thus placed in our midst is rapidly leavening the
whole lump. Even with the theologians we find a waning
of that confidence in individual ratiocinative deductions
which has been so powerful since the seventeenth century,
and which then led to such a multiplication of religious sects
amongst all Protestant people.

This doctrine of the past as influencing the present makes
itself felt to-day in every science. The astronomer concerns
himself deeply with problems relating to the genesis of
planetary and stellar systems ; asks us to hsten to discus-
sions concerning details of the ever - fascinating nebular
hypothesis. The geologist leads us to consider, as steps in


the development of the planet on which we live, epochs
which the mind of man finds it difficult to picture; and
teaches us that the geological formations surrounding us
cannot be properly comprehended until we relate our own
era to these aeons of the dim past.

The chemist bids us imagine the conditions that may
have existed in the past when molecular forces were dis-
tributed as they are not to-day : he searches for, and
believes he has found, in the solid earth, the helium which
the spectroscope tells him exists in gaseous form under high
temperature in the sun ; he makes this search because he
imagines that if the molecular vibrations in the sun were
to become the same as they are in the earth to-day, the gas
would become part of the sun's solid groundwork; and
arguing that in the past the conditions of the molecular
vibrations in the earth may have been what they are now in
the sun, he comes to believe that helium will be found in
some solid constituent of the earth.

The biologist specially devotes his time to the considera-
tion of past conditions and manners of growths ; to him
indeed are we indebted for the inspiration which has led to
the formulation of that developmental doctrine which shows
us the necessity of studying the life that has preceded ours
in the dim ages of the past if we are to gain valuable con-
ceptions of our life of the present, and of its trend and
meaning. The sociologist obtains aid of a closely allied
nature from conceptions which biology has given him ; he
gains the notion of a quasi-organic life of wider than indi-
vidual scope, the genesis of which he traces by comparison
with individual development ; a form of life which he con-
ceives to have been born of struggle and of adaptation to
environmental conditions, extending through the ages of
which historical record tells us nothing.

In psychology we see a most notable influence from


this doctrine that the past is working out its ends within
us dwellers in the present. We see this in the emphasis
of devielopmental psychological doctrines ; in studies of
childhood and of progressive growth ; and, in general, in
the use of the " genetic method " which is applied in every
department of the science.

§ 4. It is apparent that in its very nature this influen-
tial trend of thought is likely to draw attention away from
rationalistic dogma, and to reduce our confidence in the
results of one's own personal reasoning. The development
of the historical method, moreover, has emphasised so
clearly the many failures of rationalistic theory in the days
gone by, that thoughtful students have from this source
also learned a lesson of extreme caution, and have become
hesitant in the acceptance of any theories, even though they
are stated in thoroughly approved rationalistic form.

This caution is observable through all lines of scientific
effort. What in the old days would have been designated
as laws are now not thus dignified, but are much more likely
to be considered and discussed as mere working hypotheses.
Our scientists are no longer confident and aggressive
rationalistic positivists, but humbler learners from Nature's
record of the past as that past speaks to them in the
present. They are indeed dependent upon reasoned process
as of old, but they have learned the danger of trusting
implicitly to their own reasoned results, and they make
their steps carefully, and are content to hold their con-
clusions tentatively.

§ 5. It must be clear to the reader, I think, that de-
velopmental and historical study, whHst it leads on the one
hand to an emphasis of the failures of reasoning, enforces
strongly on the other hand the importance of Nature's


teachings. As I have said above, this emphasis is especially
notable and influential in the science of psychology and in
those sciences directly connected with it, and it is from the
standpoint of psychology that I shall discuss the subjects of
our consideration in what follows. I shall endeavour to
indicate the relations that exist between instinctive and
reasoned action, and shall make an attempt to define the
proper relative evaluation of each : for these relations and
evaluations must be finally determined before we can make
those wider generalisations that will enable us to place our
thought in its true relation to the universe.


I. — The Method

§ 1. In the study that is to follow I shall attempt, so
far as may be, to give prominence to objective considera-
tions, referring to subjective experience to be sure but this
in order to corroborate conceptions suggested by observations
from without rather than to gain the basis of these

In the study of reason, which is to a great extent
appreciated by our inner experience while relatively few
clear marks of its expression can be noted, this subordina-
tion of subjective to objective consideration is more difficult
than in the study of instinct, which, on the contrary, is to
a great extent distinguisLed_by clear and definite expression
while in many cases the subjective correspondents of the
expressive activities produce little or no apparent influence
upon the stream of consciousness. In the study of
instinctive expression we indeed find it quite possible to
look upon the facts to a great extent as thoroughly dis-
interested observers, — to take the standpoint which we may
assume would be taken by some spirit endowed with powers
of observation and intellectual consideration and yet
altogether freed from bodily trammels ; or, if the existence
of such a creature be held to be inconceivable, we find it
possible at least to take the same point of view in relation
to all instinctive reactions which we must take in relation


to all those instincts in animals of which in the nature of
the case we can have no experience, e.g. the flying of birds,
the activities especially developed in the fishes inhabiting
deep waters.

One result of the acceptance of this objective point of
view has been the construction of the hypothesis of organic
development generally known as the theory of evolution ;
of this hypothesis I shall make free use in what follows,
adopting often what we have come to call the "genetic
method." Concerning this hypothesis and this method I
must at the start say a few words.

And first I wish to acknowledge that despite its value
this genetic method is a dangerous one for the scientific
worker to use carelessly; it should indeed always be
employed with the utmost caution, for it leads us to deal
with hypothetical conditions of life which existed long
before man appeared on this planet, long before the days
of which any but the most indirect record is available to us.
Indeed the farther back we go in the history of life the less
susceptible of proof are the hypotheses we are led to entertain.

I think on the whole, therefore, we must agree that from
a scientific point of view the genetic argument, however
suggestive it may be, must not be relied upon as final, that
genetic hypotheses must not be entertained as decisive
unless they be corroborated by positive evidence of strength ;
and further that in employing this method we must avoid
the use of all but the best - established postulates of
evolutionary doctrine if our argument is to retain any
scientific flavour ; though of course we may go further if we
acknowledge that we can attribute to our work no more
than speculative values.

Fortunately in the case of the studies we are to under-
take we have to assume few postulates that are not simple
and all but self-evident ; and yet I wish to warn my reader


that SO far as he thinks I deal with unverified hypotheses,
so far must he accept my results as tentative only.

§ 2. I wish furthermore to acknowledge in the beginning
my appreciation of the fact that the general doctrine of
evolution is subject to some limitations, not usually noted,
which distinctly narrow its value from a philosophic point
of view.

We are wont, for instance, to speak glibly of " progress "
as part and parcel of evolutionary doctrine as though we
appreciated clearly the import of the term we use, as
though progress were a perfectly definite objective fact
which could be readily recognised and identified. But this
of course is not true, for progress is a conception of ours
determined by desires and impulses which, as we all realise,

Online LibraryHenry Rutgers MarshallInstinct and reason; an essay concerning the relation of instinct to reason, with some special study of the nature of religion → online text (page 1 of 43)