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of the formal relation of such an act to the end to be attained;
neither may have had any previous personal acquaintance
with that end ; and neither is led to the act by a process of
reasoning. It must not be forgotten, however, that to say a
particular operation is due to instinct or to Vis Mstimativa is
not to explain it ; but merely to distinguish it from certain
activities, and to group it with others the cause of which is
still unknown.

Nature of Instinct. — The essential features of Instinct are
well described in the following passage : " The character
which above all distinguishes instinctive actions from those
that may be called intelligent or rational, is that they are not
the result of imitation and experience ; that they are always
executed in the same manner, and, to all appearance, without
being preceded by the foresight either of their result or of
their utility. Reason supposes a judgment and a choice:
instinct, on the contrary, is a blind impulse which naturally
impels the animal to act in a determinate manner : its effects
may sometimes be modified by experience, but they never
depend on itJ"^ Again: "One of the phenomena fittest to
give a clear idea of what ought to be understood by Instinct
is that which is presented to us b)^ certain insects when they
lay their eggs. Those animals will never see their progeny,

•• Milne-Edwards, Zoologie, § 319. Cfalso p. 213, above.


and can have no acquired notion of what their eggs will
become ; and yet they have the singular habit of placing
beside each of those eggs a supply of elementary matter fit
for nourishmg the larva it will produce, and that even when
that food differs entirely from their own, and when the food
they thus deposit would be useless for themselves. No sort
of reasoning can guide them in doing this, for if they had the
faculty of reason, facts would be wanting them to arrive at
such conclusions, and they must needs act blindly."'' Such
facts, which might be multiplied indefinitely, prove that
animal "intelligence" is different, not in degree, but in kind
from human intellect. Although uniformity is the most
marked characteristic, there is also observable in many
instincts a certain flexibility by which they can be modified,
and adapt themselves within limits to altered circumstances.

The Origin of Instinct, together with the formation of
sense-organs, has ever been one of the most insuperable
difficulties to those who deny the creation of the universe by
an Intelligent Author. Here especially the ingenuity of
evolutionists has been severely taxed to find some plausible
explanation of the phenomena. Two chief views have been
advocated, but each has suffered severe handling from
supporters of the rival hypothesis ; and the probabilities
against either explanation, when carefully thought out, seem
to us so enormous as to render them incredible.

(i) Theory of Natural Selection. — According to Darwin,
the great majority of animal instincts have been formed by
natural selection operating on chance variations in actions and
organs. Those fortuitous acts which proved beneficial to the
agent, giving their authors an advantage in the struggle for
life, tended to be preserved and increased by heredity and
survival of the fittest in each generation. Isolated acts first
casually and of course rarely performed have thus, it is held,
been converted into the wonderfully stable and complex

^ Id. § 327. Cf. Janet's Final Causes, pp. 86, 87. " The young
female wasp (sphex), without maternal experience, will seize
caterpillars or spiders, and stinging them in a certain definite spot,
paralyze and deprive them of all power of motion (and probably
also of sensation), without depriving them of life. She places them
thus paralyzed in her nest with her eggs, so that the grubs, when
hatched, may be able to subsist on a living prey, unable to escape
from or resist their defenceless and all but powerless destroyers.
Now, it is absolutely impossible that the consequences of its action,
can have been intellectually apprehended by the parent wasps
Had she Reason without her natural Instinct she could only learn
to perform such actions through experience." (Mivart, Lessons from
Nature, p. 201.)


tendencies now exhibited in the instincts of insects, lairds,
fish, and mammals.

(2) Theory of "lapsed intelligence."— Herbert Spencer
and others object that such fortuitous beneficial actions could
never, or only in an infinite time, result in the complex system
of co-ordinated movements seen in many instincts. They
themselves maintain that instincts are the outcome not of
accidental movements, but of actions originally performed
consciously to satisfy a need or attain an end. Such intelhgent
actions, by frequent repetition, became automatic or acquired
reflexes, (p. 218.) They were then transmitted by heredity as
organic modifications, being increased and perfected by
practice in successive generations. All the more ingenious
instincts are thus instances of " hereditary habit," " lapsed
intelligence," or " congealed experience " of the race.

Criticism. — (i) Both Darwin and Spencer assume that
habits of action, or modifications of nerve structure, acquired
during the life of the individual, are transmitted by heredity.
This postulate is absolutely essential to the theory of heredi-
tary habit, and scarcely less so to that of natural selection ;
but it has suffered the most damaging attacks in recent years,
especially from Weismann.*^ This eminent biologist maintains
with a great weight of argument that modifications wrought
in the organism during the life of the individual are never
transmitted by heredity. Such accidental changes do not
modify the germ-cells, and so cannot be inherited by the
offspring. He allows, of course, that individual character-
istics are transmitted, and also that the germ-cells undergo
individual variations and may be affected by disease, poison,
nutrition, and the like ; but he holds that they are not affected
by such indirect and superficial influences as the exercise of
particular organs and functions. Consequently, increasing
strength of faculty is not transmitted and accumulated by
• continuous exercise during the history of the race. Other-
wise, he justly contends, the mathematical, musical, and
other special talents seen to be inherited in particular families
ought to manifest themselves growing from generation to
generation, whereas, as a rule, "the high-water mark of
talent lies, not at the end of a series of generations, as it
should do if the results of practice were transmitted, but in
the middle."^ He further subjects to severe criticism the
stories of inherited mutilations, e.g., horn-less cows and tail-
less cats, said to be born of accidentally maimed parents ; and
he shows clearly the utterly unreliable character of the

» See his Essays upon Heredity (English Translation), 1889
especially Essays iii. and viii.
^ Essays on Heredity, p. 96.


evidence in regard to the facts. Finally, he gives the results
of numerous experiments undertaken by himself, which all go
to prove that such organic modifications or mutilations are not
inherited. Thus " among 901 young mice (the entire progeny)
produced by five successive generations of parents whose
tails had been cut off after birth, there was not a single
example of a rudimentary tail or of any other abnormity in
this organ. Exact measurement proved that there was not
even a shght diminution in length." ^^ In fact, though Weis-
mann's own theory of heredity does not appear to have yet
met with wide acceptance, his destructive criticism is deemed
by the most competent biologists to have disproved the
assumption of the transmission of habits or modifications of
the nervous system acquired during the individual life. This
conclusion seems to us absolutely fatal to Spencer's theory,
and so enormously to increase the already sufficiently
numerous probabilities against the Darwinian view as to
make the latter quite incredible when carefully and impar-
tially weighed. ^^

(2) To suppose with the " lapsed intelligence " theory that
the various ingenious operations now done instinctively by
many species of insects and birds, were originally performed
with conscious purpose, is to ascribe to the less evolved
remote progenitors of animals still low down in the scale of
life a supra-human intelligence.

(3) Further : Many of the most important and most
complex instincts are connected with the function of repro-
duction, and several of these instinctive processes in the case

^•^ Op. cit. p. 432.

" The chief arguments urged for the inheritance of experience
are : (a) The rapidity with which the instinct of timidity is said to
be awakened and increased in wild animals on desert islands, in the
second and third generations after they have been invaded by man.
(b) The apparent transmission of the results of training in domesti-
cated animals, e.g., in pointers and sheep-dogs. To this it has been
replied : {a) The alleged facts have not been observed with sufficient
accuracy ; nor is their precise nature clear. The shyness of the
second generation may be simply the result of individual experience
and parental training operating from birth onwards on a hitherto
latent form of a universal animal instinct, {b) The development of
particular faculties and dispositions in domesticated animals is
much more probably due to the artificial selection pursued in crossing
promising breeds, than to the transmission of the organic effects of
training. Thus, if puppies with the longest tails were selected for
breeding purposes and their tails also frequently pulled, a race of
dogs with abnormally long tails would probably be speedily pro-
duced ; and yet the elongation might be due entirely to the process
of selection and not to that of pulhng.


of certain insects, e.g., the nuptial flight of the queen-bee,
and the laying and arranging of their eggs by other insects,
occur only once in the individual life. What then is the
meaning of the saying that such instincts are the result of
habitual experience in past individual lives ? Would it not be
as reasonable to anticipate that a man should unconsciously
draw up his will by reflex action because during many genera-
tions each of his ancestors have performed the operation
once in their lives, or to expect that babies born of Christian
parents should at once exhibit an instinct for baptism, as to
explain the parental operations of a may-fly preparatory to
its decease by acquired habits of its ancestors ? On the
other hand, in what way is the natural selection theory better
off? For according to that view the extremely complex
movements of instinct must be the gradually built-up product
of an enormous number of fortuitously beneficial actions.^^

(4) Again : The peculiar instincts of neuter insects, e.g., of
working bees, which do not reproduce their kind but leave
this oi^ce to another class endowed with quite different
habits, are an additional difficulty to both the " lapsed
intelligence " and Natural Selection theories. This argument
has been so admirably stated in the following paragraph that
I quote it at length : " Neuter insects which do nothing to
propagate their race can do nothing to transmit instinct or
anything else. Yet these neuters do all the work of the com-
munity, and require the most complicated instincts to do it.
To fit them for their object, even their bodily form has often
to be entirely different from that of the males and females ;
and in some species the neuters destined for different branches
of work differ entirely from one another. Thus in one kind of
ant there are working neuters and soldier neuters, with jaws
and instincts extraordinarily diff'erent. Yet these neuters are
the offsprings of males and females, none of whom, and none
of whose ancestors, ever did a stroke of work in their lives.
How can their instinct or its instruments have possibly
been developed by Natural Selection only ? . . . Selection,
Mr. Darwin answers, may be applied not to the individual
only, but to the race, in order to gain the required end. The
good of the race requiring the production of neuters, thus
variously modified in form and instinct, those fertile insects
may alone survive which tend to produce neuters so modified :

12 " An instinct is nothing else than a series of given acts ; a
modification of instinct is, therefore, a particular action which
becomes fortuitously intercalated in this series. How can we
believe that this action, even though it were by chance several times
repeated during life, could be reproduced in the series of actions of
the descendants ? " (Janet, Final Causes, p. 257.)


and thus may natural selection suffice for the production.
The realms of imagination are no doubt infinite, and within
their sphere such ramifications of fortuity are perhaps con-
ceivable ; but have we not reached the bursting strain of
improbability ? That direct descent should develop the
geometrical instinct of the working bee is hard enough to
believe, but here the difficulty is raised to the square. And
even if the improbabilities thus piled up be not overwhelm-
ing, still the explanation so suggested does not avail so
much as to touch the case of slave ants. They exhibit
an instinct beneficial, not to their own race, but to another ; it
can be of no advantage to the tribe from which they are
taken that so many of its members should be dragged away
to bondage, or, at any rate, if it were so, why should that
tribe fight to prevent it, and suffer mutilation and death in
the struggle ? By what possible process can it have been
brought about, that black queens and drones should have
been so selected as to produce neuter insects, which will
make good slaves for red ants, at the same time handing on
to their progeny an instinct that makes them perish in the
attempt to avoid that very service for which they have been
so laboriously prepared ? "^^

(5) Finally, the extreme complexity of the movements
exhibited in many instincts, especially where the exercise of
different members and organs have to be combined and the
actions of numerous independent muscles correlated, are, as
Spencer has recognized, incompatible with origination by
fortuitously and independently varying movements. Frac-
tions or parts of the movement that go to make up many
instinctive operations would be not only useless but harmful
to the author. Yet they could not all have co-operated at the
right time by chance.^"^ Indeed, many instincts would be fatal
to their owners unless they were comparatively perfect. How
they could have arisen by insensible modifications is incon-
ceivable. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that some instincts
originally of a more indefinite character may have been per-
fected, and modification effected in others by natural selection
and environment. But the attempt to explain the origin of all
instincts in this way appears to us doomed to hopeless
failure. Certain writers on this topic seem to imply that a
false theory is better than none, and that since no more plausible
*' scientific " hypothesis is forthcoming than the two criticized

^3 J. Gerard, S.J., Scienceand Scientists, p. 118. (London : Catholic
Truth Society.) The reader will find packed into this little shilling
volume much searching criticism of materialistic evolutionist
theories and "facts."

^* Consider the case of the sphex given in note 7.


we must accept either of them. We confess this docs not
seem to us a very scientific temper of mind.

Animal "Souls." — Tiie investigations which we have now
made into the character of the operations of the animal
"soul," render clear the deductions we are justified in draw-
ing concerning its nature, origin, and destiny. The whole
weight of analogy proves that in the brute, as in man, the
vegetative and sentient principles are identical. This animal
"soul," however, is nut a spiritual substantial principle: it is not
a substantial form intrinsically independent of and separable,
from its material subject. This doctrine follows immediately
from the theses established above. The animal manifests no
spiritual activity. It is not endowed with rational intellect;
consequently, not with free-will. In other words, all the
mental actions exhibited by it are of the lower or sensuous
order, and therefore intrinsically or essentially dependent on
a material organism. We are accordingly led to conclude
that the ultimate principle from which these operations
proceed is itself intrinsically and essentially dependent on
matter. Actio sequitiir esse ; as a being is, so it acts; but all
the mental acts which we are justified in ascribing to animals
are of an organic or sensuous character. Therefore we are
bound to infer that the animal " soul " is essentially depen-
dent on the material organism and inseparable from it. It is,
consequently, incapable of life apart from the body, and it
perishes with the destruction of the latter. On account of
this intrinsic dependence on matter, the souls of animals
were spoken of by the Scholastics indifferently as material and
corporeal. They did not, however, intend by these terms to
imply that the principle of vital activities is a bodily substance
of three dimensions. They simply meant to teach that it
depends absolutely on the material subject which it actuates,
just as the heat depends on the matter of the burning coal,
and the stamped inscription on the wax. They maintained,
moreover, that though not spiritual, the vital principle in
animals must be of a simple nature, inasmuch as the activity
of sentiency which proceeds from it is a simple immanent

The animal soul is thus, in Scholastic language, a sub-
stantial form completely immersed in the subject which it
animates. Accordingly, it does not require a Divine Creative
act to account for its origin in each successive being any
more than a Divine Annihilative volition to eftect its destruc-
tion. It is a result of substantial transformation produced
by generation. An existing vital energy is capable, by its
action, of reproducing or evoking from the potentialities of
matter a new energy akin to itself. But, as at pieseut new



life ever proceeds only from a living agent, so a fortiori in the
beginning the primordial act hy which animal life was first
educed frtm the potentialities of matter must have been that
of a Living Being.



Hypnotism {vttvos, sleep). The interest awakened in recent
years in the subject of Hypnotism, and its connection with
other mental phenomena make it seem desirable that we
should devote what space we can afford to it here.

Historical Sketch. — Towards the end of last century an
Austrian physician named Mesmer professed publicly in Paris
to heal all diseases by " animal magnetism." The treatment
was so called from a " magnetic " power supposed to be
exerted over living beings by certain persons or objects more
than normally saturated with the mysterious influence. The
magnetisation was effected by passes, contact, or fixation of
the eyes, but was often accompanied by ceremonies of a
superstitious and sometimes of an immoral character. In
1714 mesmerism was examined by a commission of the Ro5'al
Society of Medicine of France.. The commissioners decided
against the reality of the alleged magnetic force. They
explained the effects of the magnetization to be due to the
influence of imagination and imitation, and the}' declared the
beneficial results claimed for the new curative treatment to
be more than counterbalanced b}' the dangers, physical and
moral, attendant on its employment. ^ Later on the Holy See
also condemned mesmerism, or rather the superstitious or
immoral use of methods of magnetism included under that
name. For three-quarters of a century the magnetic art had
fallen into general disrepute ; but during the past twenty
years it has again come into prominence under the title of
Hypnotism. The new method of treatment, however, at least
as employed by medical men of standing, is stripped of the
former superstitious and objectionable practices, though
certain grave dangers inevitabl}- remain attached to its use.
To hypnotism thus understood as excluding spiritualism,
occultism, clairvoyance, and the like we confine ourselves
here. Experiences of these latter kinds, whether \iewcd as
preternatural or merely abnormal phenomena, must be dis-

^ Cf. Binet and Fere, Animal Magnetism, pp. i — 30,


cussed individually — especially with respect to the evidence
as to matters of fact in each particular case.

Process of hypnotization. — The subject is requested to
gaze fixedly at some object, such as a button, suspended at a
little distance from his eyes and above his head ; or to stare
into the eyes of the operator ; or to listen to a monotonous
sound such as the ticking of a watch ; or " passes " are made
in front of his face and chest. After a time he often gradually
falls into a drowsy or lethargic condition, hke that preceding or
following on ordinary sleep. This is a milder form of the
hypnosis or hypnotic trance. Dr. Bernheim and the physicians
of the Nancy School ordinarily induce the hypnosis by simple
suggestion of the idea. Thus the patient being seated, the
doctor says, in a quiet, authoritative voice : " Gaze fixedly at
me and think of nothing except of faUing asleep. You feel
your eyelids heavy : you are very drowsy : your eyes grow
more and more fatigued : they wink : your sight is becoming
dimmer and dimmer : your eyes are closing : you cannot open
them! Sleep !"2 If the operation is successful, the subject
passes into the hypnosis, from which he is awakened either by
blowing on his face, by making passes in the opposite direc-
tion, or by an emphatic " Awake ! "

Characteristics of the hypnotic state. — The trance thus
induced may be of any degree of intensity, from a slight feeling
of drowsiness to profound somnambulistic sleep. Different
writers variously classify these states. Charcot's division of
stages into cataleptic, lethargic, and somnavibulistic is the best
known; as it is also the most generally attacked.^ That
adopted by Wundt of drowsiness, light sleep, and deep sleep, are
as convenient as any other ; though the state must not be
identified with normal sleep.* In the lighter forms of the
hypnotic influence the subject is quite aware of what goes on
around him, and can remember the various incidents after-
wards, but he feels perhaps slightly drowsy. The chief
peculiarity of the state is that the subject is in a condition of
rapport or special relation with the hypnotizer, which is shown
by his susceptibility to suggestions from the latter. In the
deeper stages the subject loses connexion more and more
with all other objects save the hypnotizer and the particular
experiences which the latter suggests. When he awakes he
cannot remember, or only very imperfectly, the incidents of
the hypnotic state. Amongst some of the more remarkable
phenomena are the following :

2 H. Bernheim, De la Suggestion et dc ses Applications a la TliMi-
pentique, pp. 2, 3.

^ See A. Moll, Hypnotism, pp. 48 — 52.
* Human and Animal Psycholcgy, p. ^29.


Inhibition of voluntary muscles. — The operator authorita-
tively tells the subject that he cannot pronounce his own
name, or open his eyes, or move his legs ; and immediately
the subject is helplessly paralyzed in regard to these acts,
somewhat as one feels when suffering from nightmare. Or
in a deeper stage the subject is commanded to hold out his
arm, and is next assured that it is impossible to withdraw it.
The arm then assumes a rigid cataleptic condition, and
remains thus extended for a longer period than the subject
could voluntarily sustain it in his normal state.

Illusions and hallucinations. — In a still more profound
stage illusions can be successfully suggested. The hypnotized
person is easily persuaded that a glass of water is tea, wine,
or vinegar, or vice versa. Or, his attention is directed towards
an imaginary cat, bird, or flower which he thereupon perceives
as a real being. Still more curious are the "negative" illu-
sions. The operator asserts emphatically that some parti-
cular member of the company has left the room ; and this
individual thenceforth becomes invisible to the subject,

Online LibraryMichael MaherPsychology: empirical and rational → online text (page 60 of 63)