Michael Maher.

Psychology: empirical and rational online

. (page 59 of 63)
Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 59 of 63)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

creation " which Ladd accepts inevitably involves this same
distasteful notion of " ready-madeness." The truth is that
the most rational view and that least exposed to difficulties of
this kind, is that form of the scholastic doctrine which teaches
that in the origin of the new human being the creative action
is exerted according to universal law prescribed by divine
wisdom, in the act and at the instant in which the incipient
vital principle is evoked in the germinating cell.

13 Philosophy of the Mind, pp. 363, 364.



Origin of the First Human Soul— Darwinian
Theory. — The modern doctrine of Evolution ramifies
into a large number of sciences, and its satisfactory
discussion involves a multitude of questions pertaining
to Biology, Geology, Physical Astronomy, Rational
Theology, and Scriptural Theology. The business of
the rational psychologist, fortunately for us, is neither
the Theology nor the Philosophy of the Evolution
hypothesis, as applied to the animal species or even to
the body of man : our official concern is with the Soul.

The Human Soul cannot be the result of the
gradual evolution of a non-spiritual principle. — This
proposition is the logical outcome of the chief doctrines
on which we have insisted throughout the volume.
The argument by which we have established that each
individual rational soul owes its origin to a Divine
creative act, proves a fortiori that the first of such souls
must have thus arisen. Since even the spiritual soul of
a human parent is incapable of itself effecting a spiritual
soul in its offspring, it is evident that the merely sentient
soul of a brute could still less be the cause of such a
result. Again: the human soul, as we have shown,
possesses the spiritual powers of Intellect and Will, and
is therefore itself a spiritual principle, intrinsically
independent of matter ; but such a being could never
arise by mere continuous modifications of a vital energy
intrinsically dependent on matter. Self-consciousness,
Free-will, Conscience, are all facts siii generis which could
never have been produced by the gradual transmutation
of irrational states. In a word, all the proofs by which
we established the spirituality of the higher faculties,
and of the soul itself, demonstrate the existence of
an impassable chasm between it and all non-spiritual
principles, whether of the amoeba or the monkey. The
special intervention of God must, therefore, have been
necessary to introduce into the world this new superior
order of agent — even if He had previously directed the
gradual development of all non-spiritual creatures by
physical laws,



Comparative Psychology.— The aim of a "com-
parative" science is to examine and compare the
varying manifestations of some phenomenon, or group
of phenomena, in different classes of objects. Compam-
five Anatomy thus seeks to ascertain the Hkenesses and
differences exhibited in the structure of different species
of animals. Comparative Philology in the same way
endeavours to trace the history of cognate words by
contrasting the various forms which they have assumed
in different languages. The science of Compavative
Psychology — were anything deserving the name of
science on the subject attamable — would similarly
investigate the nature of mind by comparing its mani-
festations in man and the various species of animals.

Some recent writers seem to expect that immense
benefits will accrue to Psychology by the employment
of this method of comparative study, which has un-
doubtedly done much to illuminate obscure facts in
other branches of knowledge. Now, premising that
in our view Human Psychology, or Psychology proper,
ought to base its doctrines on a careful study and
comparison of the mental phenomena of human beings
of all races, of all ages, and of all stages of intellectual
and moral cultivation ; and, further, admitting that
assistance may be derived, especially in the investiga^
tion of the lower appetitive, emotional, and cognitive
activities from the observation of animal life, we must,
nevertheless, frankly confess our belief that in the science
of the Mind the comparative method will never be
very fruitful in positive results.


Difficulties of Animal Psychology.— It must not
be forgotten that Psychology differs essentially in
character from all these other departments of know-
ledge in which the new method has proved so effective;
and, moreover, the difference is of a kind which tells
directly against the application of that method. In the
other comparative sciences we can directly examine the
specimens selected from different groups ; here we
cannot. Nay, as acute a thinker as Descartes was
found to deny that there are any such specimens in
existence at all. The anatomist can study with as
much ease and security the vertebral column of a fish,
or an elephant, as that of a human body. The philolo-
gist can investigate withfas much confidence the growth
of a word in a foreign 'language as in his own. But
real knowledge of the mental states of the dog or the
bee is utterly impossible to the psychologist. This
difficulty can never be effectually bridged over. Careful
reflexion must convince us that, no matter what pains
and industry be devoted to observation of the actions
of the lower animals, our assurance regarding the
genuine character of their subjective states can never
be more than a remote conjectural opinion.

Knowledge of other Minds. — The existence of any other
human mind than our own, it should be remembered, is
believed not on the strength of direct intuition, but of a
mediate analogical inference. By a process of percep-
tion, which we have described in chapter vii., we come
to know the existence and character of our own body,
and of the material objects which act upon us. Of
prominent interest amongst external things are certain
bodies strikingly similar to our own. In our ov/n case
we find that the impressions of some of the external
agents cause particular mental states within us, which,
in turn, give rise to definite physical actions observable
by our external senses. Noticing the similarity of ante-
cedent and consequent in the case of organisms like our
own, we insert in them an intermediate conscious link
as effect of the former and cause of the latter. The
essential elements in the argument are the similarity of
organisms and the like character of the resulting


actions. Of these latter, language is incalculably the
most important, especially in indicating to us the quality
or nature of the consciousness of these other beings. It
is at once a measure of intellectual development, and
the great medium of intercommunication. Conse-
quently, its absence is, on both grounds, fatal to
scientific inductions regarding the minds of brutes. 1

The value of the other factor in the argument clearly
depends on the degree of likeness subsisting between
the compared organism and our own, especially as
regards the brain and nervous system. We know from
experience that slight modifications in the conditions
of the brain affect gravely the character of human con-
sciousness. But the profound differences which separate
man's brain from that of the nearest allied animal, are
sufficiently insisted on by our adversaries when this
course suits the special question in hand. Accordingly,
if we obey the oft-repeated advice of Herbert Spencer
on other subjects, and freeing ourselves from the
*' crude anthropomorphism of the child and the
savage," impartially estimate the strictly scientific
value of the evidence, we shall be speedily forced to
admit that the grounds for the analogical inference to
the character of the intellectual or emotional states of
the monkey, the dog, or the elephant, are very slender
indeed, whilst our conjectures as to the quality of the
mental activity of insects are utterly worthless.-^

^ "The total absence of language makes our best inferences
but feeble conjectures. ... It is clear that we cannot ascertain
the precise bearing of articulate speech on thought and feeling
until we are capable of directly observing a type of consciousness
in which this instrument is wanting ; and this is a sufficiently
remote possibility. Yet one may roughly infer that the absence
of language implies the lack of many of the familiar properties
of our own conscious life. .• . . Is it not probable that the most
rudimentary idea of self follows by a long interval the degree of
intelligence involved in linguistic capacity ? " (J. Sully, Sensation and
Intuition, pp. 16, 17.)

^ Careful and acute observer of the physical habits of animals
as Darwin was, there is scarcely an author of any importance who
has erred more seriously in theorizing about the nature of the
mental faculties of beasts. Even a psychologist as sympathetio
with evolutionism as Dr. Sully cannot ignore the mistakes of the


Descartes' theory : Animals machines. — Were this fact
realized, the Cartesian doctrine, which appears so strange
and absurd to the unreflecting mind, would probably have
commanded a much larger following than it has ever received.
In Descartes' view, the lower animals are merely machines so
ingeniously constructed that the various impressions always
meet with appropriate responsive movement, although no
conscious state intervenes. The fact that elaborate and
complicated operations such as walking, writing, playing the
piano, handling tools, are often carried on without making
themselves felt, has been urged in favour of this hypothesis.
Moreover, recent experiments on the bodies of animals from
which the brain or head had been removed, go to prove that
complicated movements requiring the co-ordination of several
muscles may sometimes be performed by the organism without
sensation. Nevertheless, we hold the Cartesian theory to be
unsound, and accordingly we proceed to the establishment of
our thesis, that :

At least the higher Animals are endowed with Sentiency. —
(i) Many of the movements, of the cries, and of the expres-
sive acts of brutes are inexplicable in regard to their origina-
tion, direction, continuation, and cessation, as the result of
unconscious forces. Such complicated operations, for instance,
as the search for suitable twigs by the bird in the construc-
tion of her nest, the movements of a terrier at the sound of
his invisible master's voice, the eager way in which the dog
bounds towards him and barks, and the manner in which
beasts of prey capture their victims, completely transcend
the capabilities of merely physically co-ordinated forces.
(2) The ediicability of the lower animals is incompatible with
the purely mechanical theor}'. We can train dogs, horses,
lions, and bears to respond to words or arbitrary signs by

naturalist in this field, (cf. loc. cit.) Romanes begins bis work on
Animal Intelligence (pp. i — 6) with an account of the nature of the
inference by which we attribute consciousness to animals, but
immediately lapses into the vulgar anthropomorphism of the
unreflecting mind, as soon as he proceeds to describe and discuss
the character of brute intelligence. It is interesting to note how
this writer can here, when it suits his object, appeal to "Common
Sense " against the " Sceptic." This sudden reverence for vulgar
prejudice is a little odd. G. H. Lewes' statement, that " tlie
researches of the various eminent writers who have attempted an
Animal Psychology have been further biassed by a secret desire to establish
the identity of animal and human nature " (A Study of Psychology, p. 122),
receives abundant and forcible illustration in both Romanes' works,
as well as in Darwin's chapters on this subject.


definite movements of a complicated character, — an impos-
sible process if they were merely machines. (3) Finally, the
ingenious construction of the various sense-organs, and their
similarity in many of the superior species of brutes with those
possessed by men, confirm the doctrine that brutes are
endowed with a faculty of sensuous apprehension. It would
appear also from such facts as the barking of dogs in their
sleep, the flight of defenceless animals at the sound of an
enemy's voice, and the resort of most brutes to particular
places for food, that they possess some of the internal
sensuous faculties, such as organic memory and imagination.
How far these powers in animals resemble tlie corresponding
faculties in man, we are unable to determine. The most
striking of these internal aptitudes is that directive principle
of action which in common language is called instinct. Its
character, however, will be better understood when we have
distinguished between animal and rational intelligence.

Animals are devoid of Intellect or Reason. — We have (c.xii.)
exhibited at length the nature of this faculty, the essential
characteristic of which consists in the apprehension of the
universal. The ground for our present proposition lies in the
fact that the brute creation do not exhibit various signs which
would inevitably be manifested by sentient beings endowed
with intellectual faculties :

I. Mode of Action. — The lower animals do not show that
individual free variation in method and plan of action, and
that intellectual progress which ought to mark the presence
of personal intelligence. Thus, animals of the same species,
when in similar circumstances, exhibit a striking specific
uniformity in their operations. They all seek their prey,
build their nests, and foster their young in the same way.
Amongst rational beings, on the contrary, we find in every-
thing the signs of individual personality. The ants and bees
in the time of Moses or of Aristotle worked as perfectly as
their descendants of to-day ; and geese and sheep acted not
more awkwardly. There is no evidence that during all the
time brutes have existed upon the earth, they have invented
a single mechanical instrument, lit a fire, or intelligently
transferred a useful piece of information from one generation
to another. The few trivial instances cited here and there
of some animal seizing a club or other rude implement that
fell in its way, only establish the more clearly the enormous
chasm which separates the brute from the rational being.

The certainty possessed by us that animals are incapable
of the most elementary inventive activit}'', is clearly shown by
the fact that, on the discovery of a few rough but similarly


pointed flint stones in Palaeolithic strata, those writers who
manitain the specific identity of animal and human faculties
were the very first to assert that these rude contrivances are
the work, not of an intelligent beast, but of a rational man.
The division which separates the simplest exercises of reason
from the highest forms of animal intelligence, is thus felt to
be impassable. But if any species of animals were endowed
with intellect or reason, they could not have remained all
these ages in the condition in which we find them. Sentient
beings possessed of reason or personal intelHgence would be
certain to make use of their intellect in attending to, compar-
ing, reflecting upon, and reasoning about the various pleasant
or painful impressions by which they were affected. They
would in this way be led to introduce modifications and
improvements into their methods of work, they would invent
tools and try changes to suit their surroundings; and, stimu-
lated by curiosity — the most primitive and useful form of the
desire of knowledge — they would inevitably make intellectual
progress. It is absolutely incredible that beings capable of
universal ideas, or of the simplest acts of generalization and
inference, should have been unable during all these thousands
of years to invent such a rude tool as the stone arrow-head of
the Palaeolithic age. In spite, therefore, of the occasional
performance of apparently ingenious or complicated actions,
we must conclude that the lower animals have not intellect.

2. Rational Language. — No beast yet discovered is capable
of making use of a system of rational signs, whilst all races
and tribes of men are found to be endowed with intelhgent
speech. Both man and brute are capable of expressing feel-
ing ; and some animals, such as the magpie and the parrot,
can be trained to utter articulate sounds : but rational
language, which is radically distinct in kind from these
phenomena, is possessed by man alone. The essence of
rational speech is the expression of thought, the communica-
tion of universal ideas. Thus in the utterance of the pro-
position, " This water is cool," there are involved the
universal ideas of cool, and of water, as well as the most
abstract notion of all, that of being, which is expressed in the
copula. Similarly^the phrases, " Milk hot nice," and " Big
Bow-wow" (horse), of the infant just learning to speak,
presuppose intellectual abstractive operations of a grade
immeasurably beyond that to which the most intelligent
animal has ever attained.^

Whether thoughts be manifested by vocal or visual signs

2 Cf chapter xvi., Mivart, On Truth ; also his Lessons from Nature,
C, iv. ; and Max Miiller, Science of Thought, c. iv.


is unimportant ; but bein,2:s endowed with reason and asso-
ciated together could not remain without inventing some
means of rational interconnnunication. The reflective activity
of intellect combined with the social instinct would inevitably
lead these beings to manifest their ideas to each other, were
such ideas in existence. The cries of one animal, of course,
often serve to awaken the rest of the flock to threatening
danger or prospective enjoyment, but these utterances diff"er
in nature from rational language. They are merely indicative
of concrete experiences, and the whole process is easily
explicable by the well-known action of the laws of associa-
tion. There is no ground for supposing that such sounds
differ in kind from the emotional expressions of man.'* Parrots
have organs capable of uttering all the sounds in the alphabet,
and they can be trained to articulate short phrases with
wonderful distinctness, but this fact shows only the more
conspicuously the absence of real intelligence. No bird has
yet been produced, which combines even the most familiar
words in new ordevs so as to form other intelligible proposi-
tions. The most accomplished parrot is separated from the
child by an immeasurable distance in this respect.^

^ Deeper study of the history of language shows so clearly the
immensity of the chasm between man and brute that students of
Philology are inclined even to exaggerate its importance as com-
pared with the other differentia. Thus, Max Miiller asserts that :
"The one great barrier between man and brute is Language. Man
speaks, and no brute has ever uttered a word. Language is our
Rubicon, and no brute will dare to cross it." {Lectures on the Science
of Language. First Series, p. 340.) Professor Whitney is also very
emphatic at times on this point: "Moreover, man is the sole
possessor of language. It is true that a certain degree of power of
communication ... is exhibited also by some of the lower animals.
. . . But these . . . (acts such as the dog's bark, etc.) . . . are not
only greatly inferior in their degree to human language ; they are
also so radically diverse in kind from it that the same name cannot
justly be applied to both." {Life and Growth of Language, pp. 2, 3.)

^ " Animals and infants that are without language are alike
without reason, the great difference between the animal and infant
being that the infant possesses the healthy germ of speech and
reason, only not yet developed into actual speech and actual reason,
whereas the animal has no such germs or faculties capable of
development in its present state of existence. . . . We cannot allow
them (brutes) a trace of what the Greeks called logos, i.e., reason,
literally, gathering, a word which most rightly and naturally
expresses in Greek both Speech and Reason." (Max Miiller, op. cit.
Second Series, p. 62.) " The animal without Language is as in-
capable of abstraction and of what we specially designate Intellect,
as, without wings, it is incapable of flight." (G. H, Lewes, A Study
of Psychology, p. 123.)


3. Moral Notions. — Again, if the lower animals possess
intellect, they must be moral beings capable of notions of
right and wrong, merit and desert, justice and injustice; and
they must be accountable for their acts. But, in spite of our
anthropomorphic tendencies, the universal judgment of man-
kind has ever refused to attribute morality or responsibility
to beasts. We may, indeed, at times inflict pain on them
in order to attach unpleasant recollections to the performance
of certain actions, and we may apply moral epithets to them
in a metaphorical way, somewhat as the farmer describes a
particular soil or pasture as kind or ungrateful; but a moment's
reflexion will always speedily assure us that we never really
consider the lower animals to be free responsible creatures.
We make a very clear distinction in our mind between the
moral character of the act by which a horse kicks a man to
death, and that by which one man murders another.

4. Absurd consequences. — Finally, if the ingenious opera
tions performed at times by the lower animals are to be
assigned to a personal intelligence similar in kind to that of
man, then, to several species, notably ants and bees,
admittedly very low down in' the scale of life, there must be
attributed intellectual endowments far exceeding those of
man himself, as well as those of the highest animal organisms.
But this is obviously absurd. The true conclusion from these
various considerations is that man's cognitive powers differ
from those of the brute not simply in degree, but in kuid. He
is endowed with a personal intelligence, with a faculty of
forming universal concepts, of reflecting upon himself, of
communicating his thoughts to others, and of apprehending
moral relations. They are utterly incapable of eliciting any
such acts as these. They frequently surpass him in the
range and subtilty of special senses, and still more surprisingly
in the possession of certain mental aptitudes of a complex
but uniform character comprehended under the term Instinct,
but they are separated from him by the boundary which
divides rationality from irrationality.

Instinct. — The various ingenious operations performed by
the lower animals are usually allotted to instinct; but about the
inner nature of this endowment, it seems to us that very little
is yet positively known. The epithet instinctive is frequently
employed in a wide sense to include acquired habits of action,
original dispositions to any form of movement, whether
random or purposive, and also purely reflex actions devoid of
all antecedent or concomitant consciousness. In modern
Psychology there is a tendency to confine the adjective to
conscious acts which are connate or unlearned, complex, and
purposive in character. Strictly speakine. Instinct is not a

Instinct. 587

continuous impulse towards a special mode of action, but an
aptitude by which this impulsive action in response to
particular stimuli is directed or guided.

Scholastic view of Instinct. — Schoolmenclassed this faculty
among the intevnal senses, with the title of Vis ALstimativa.
Conceived according to their view and in harmony with
common usage, Instinct may perhaps be best defined as
a natural aptitude ichich guides animals in the unreflecting per-
formance of complex acts useful fur the preservation of the indi-
vidual or of the species. In the Scholastic system the Vis
Mstimativa is a property of the sentient soul, analogous
though inferior to rational judgment in man. It is of an
organic character, but involves more than the direct response
of the special senses. It does not merely distinguish between
pleasant and painful impressions, but guides the animal in a
series of movements remotely serviceable to its nature. The
lamb, St. Thomas observes, does not flee because the colour
or form of the wolf is disagreeable, and the bird does not
collect twigs for its nest because they are attractive in them-
selves ; but both animals are endowed with a faculty which
under appropriate conditions is excited by these phenomena
to guide them in the execution of an operation ulteriorly
beneficial to their nature. Yet neither has a consciousness

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 59 of 63)