Samuel Butler.

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This second edition of Luck, or Cunning? is a reprint of the first
edition, dated 1887, but actually published in November, 1886. The
only alterations of any consequence are in the Index, which has been
enlarged by the incorporation of several entries made by the author
in a copy of the book which came into my possession on the death of
his literary executor, Mr. R. A. Streatfeild. I thank Mr. G. W.
Webb, of the University Library, Cambridge, for the care and skill
with which he has made the necessary alterations; it was a
troublesome job because owing to the re-setting, the pagination was
no longer the same.

Luck, or Cunning? is the fourth of Butler's evolution books; it was
followed in 1890 by three articles in The Universal Review entitled
"The Deadlock in Darwinism" (republished in The Humour of Homer),
after which he published no more upon that subject.

In this book, as he says in his Introduction, he insists upon two
main points: (1) the substantial identity between heredity and
memory, and (2) the reintroduction of design into organic
development; and these two points he treats as though they have
something of that physical life with which they are so closely
associated. He was aware that what he had to say was likely to
prove more interesting to future generations than to his immediate
public, "but any book that desires to see out a literary three-score
years and ten must offer something to future generations as well as
to its own." By next year one half of the three-score years and ten
will have passed, and the new generation by their constant enquiries
for the work have already begun to show their appreciation of
Butler's method of treating the subject, and their readiness to
listen to what was addressed to them as well as to their fathers.

March, 1920.


This book, as I have said in my concluding chapter, has turned out
very different from the one I had it in my mind to write when I
began it. It arose out of a conversation with the late Mr. Alfred
Tylor soon after his paper on the growth of trees and protoplasmic
continuity was read before the Linnean Society - that is to say, in
December, 1884 - and I proposed to make the theory concerning the
subdivision of organic life into animal and vegetable, which I have
broached in my concluding chapter, the main feature of the book.
One afternoon, on leaving Mr. Tylor's bedside, much touched at the
deep disappointment he evidently felt at being unable to complete
the work he had begun so ably, it occurred to me that it might be
some pleasure to him if I promised to dedicate my own book to him,
and thus, however unworthy it might be, connect it with his name.
It occurred to me, of course, also that the honour to my own book
would be greater than any it could confer, but the time was not one
for balancing considerations nicely, and when I made my suggestion
to Mr. Tylor on the last occasion that I ever saw him, the manner in
which he received it settled the question. If he had lived I should
no doubt have kept more closely to my plan, and should probably
have been furnished by him with much that would have enriched the
book and made it more worthy of his acceptance; but this was not to

In the course of writing I became more and more convinced that no
progress could be made towards a sounder view of the theory of
descent until people came to understand what the late Mr. Charles
Darwin's theory of natural selection amounted to, and how it was
that it ever came to be propounded. Until the mindless theory of
Charles Darwinian natural selection was finally discredited, and a
mindful theory of evolution was substituted in its place, neither
Mr. Tylor's experiments nor my own theories could stand much chance
of being attended to. I therefore devoted myself mainly, as I had
done in "Evolution Old and New," and in "Unconscious Memory," to
considering whether the view taken by the late Mr. Darwin, or the
one put forward by his three most illustrious predecessors, should
most command our assent.

The deflection from my original purpose was increased by the
appearance, about a year ago, of Mr. Grant Allen's "Charles Darwin,"
which I imagine to have had a very large circulation. So important,
indeed, did I think it not to leave Mr. Allen's statements
unchallenged, that in November last I recast my book completely,
cutting out much that I had written, and practically starting anew.
How far Mr. Tylor would have liked it, or even sanctioned its being
dedicated to him, if he were now living, I cannot, of course, say.
I never heard him speak of the late Mr. Darwin in any but terms of
warm respect, and am by no means sure that he would have been well
pleased at an attempt to connect him with a book so polemical as the
present. On the other hand, a promise made and received as mine
was, cannot be set aside lightly. The understanding was that my
next book was to be dedicated to Mr. Tylor; I have written the best
I could, and indeed never took so much pains with any other; to Mr.
Tylor's memory, therefore, I have most respectfully, and
regretfully, inscribed it.

Desiring that the responsibility for what has been done should rest
with me, I have avoided saying anything about the book while it was
in progress to any of Mr Tylor's family or representatives. They
know nothing, therefore, of its contents, and if they did, would
probably feel with myself very uncertain how far it is right to use
Mr. Tylor's name in connection with it. I can only trust that, on
the whole, they may think I have done most rightly in adhering to
the letter of my promise.

October 15, 1886.


I shall perhaps best promote the acceptance of the two main points
on which I have been insisting for some years past, I mean, the
substantial identity between heredity and memory, and the
reintroduction of design into organic development, by treating them
as if they had something of that physical life with which they are
so closely connected. Ideas are like plants and animals in this
respect also, as in so many others, that they are more fully
understood when their relations to other ideas of their time, and
the history of their development are known and borne in mind. By
development I do not merely mean their growth in the minds of those
who first advanced them, but that larger development which consists
in their subsequent good or evil fortunes - in their reception,
favourable or otherwise, by those to whom they were presented. This
is to an idea what its surroundings are to an organism, and throws
much the same light upon it that knowledge of the conditions under
which an organism lives throws upon the organism itself. I shall,
therefore, begin this new work with a few remarks about its

I am aware that what I may say on this head is likely to prove more
interesting to future students of the literature of descent than to
my immediate public, but any book that desires to see out a literary
three-score years and ten must offer something to future generations
as well as to its own. It is a condition of its survival that it
shall do this, and herein lies one of the author's chief
difficulties. If books only lived as long as men and women, we
should know better how to grow them; as matters stand, however, the
author lives for one or two generations, whom he comes in the end to
understand fairly well, while the book, if reasonable pains have
been taken with it, should live more or less usefully for a dozen.
About the greater number of these generations the author is in the
dark; but come what may, some of them are sure to have arrived at
conclusions diametrically opposed to our own upon every subject
connected with art, science, philosophy, and religion; it is plain,
therefore, that if posterity is to be pleased, it can only be at the
cost of repelling some present readers. Unwilling as I am to do
this, I still hold it the lesser of two evils; I will be as brief,
however, as the interests of the opinions I am supporting will

In "Life and Habit" I contended that heredity was a mode of memory.
I endeavoured to show that all hereditary traits, whether of mind or
body, are inherited in virtue of, and as a manifestation of, the
same power whereby we are able to remember intelligently what we did
half an hour, yesterday, or a twelvemonth since, and this in no
figurative but in a perfectly real sense. If life be compared to an
equation of a hundred unknown quantities, I followed Professor
Hering of Prague in reducing it to one of ninety-nine only, by
showing two of the supposed unknown quantities to be so closely
allied that they should count as one. I maintained that instinct
was inherited memory, and this without admitting more exceptions and
qualifying clauses than arise, as it were, by way of harmonics from
every proposition, and must be neglected if thought and language are
to be possible.

I showed that if the view for which I was contending was taken, many
facts which, though familiar, were still without explanation or
connection with our other ideas, would remain no longer isolated,
but be seen at once as joined with the mainland of our most assured
convictions. Among the things thus brought more comfortably home to
us was the principle underlying longevity. It became apparent why
some living beings should live longer than others, and how any race
must be treated whose longevity it is desired to increase. Hitherto
we had known that an elephant was a long-lived animal and a fly
short-lived, but we could give no reason why the one should live
longer than the other; that is to say, it did not follow in
immediate coherence with, or as intimately associated with, any
familiar principle that an animal which is late in the full
development of its reproductive system will tend to live longer than
one which reproduces early. If the theory of "Life and Habit" be
admitted, the fact of a slow-growing animal being in general longer
lived than a quick developer is seen to be connected with, and to
follow as a matter of course from, the fact of our being able to
remember anything at all, and all the well-known traits of memory,
as observed where we can best take note of them, are perceived to be
reproduced with singular fidelity in the development of an animal
from its embryonic stages to maturity.

Take this view, and the very general sterility of hybrids from being
a CRUX of the theory of descent becomes a stronghold of defence. It
appears as part of the same story as the benefit derived from
judicious, and the mischief from injudicious, crossing; and this, in
its turn, is seen as part of the same story, as the good we get from
change of air and scene when we are overworked. I will not amplify;
but reversion to long-lost, or feral, characteristics, the phenomena
of old age, the fact of the reproductive system being generally the
last to arrive at maturity - few further developments occurring in
any organism after this has been attained - the sterility of many
animals in confinement, the development in both males and females
under certain circumstances of the characteristics of the opposite
sex, the latency of memory, the unconsciousness with which we grow,
and indeed perform all familiar actions, these points, though
hitherto, most of them, so apparently inexplicable that no one even
attempted to explain them, became at once intelligible, if the
contentions of "Life and Habit" were admitted.

Before I had finished writing this book I fell in with Professor
Mivart's "Genesis of Species," and for the first time understood the
distinction between the Lamarckian and Charles-Darwinian systems of
evolution. This had not, so far as I then knew, been as yet made
clear to us by any of our more prominent writers upon the subject of
descent with modification; the distinction was unknown to the
general public, and indeed is only now beginning to be widely
understood. While reading Mr. Mivart's book, however, I became
aware that I was being faced by two facts, each incontrovertible,
but each, if its leading exponents were to be trusted, incompatible
with the other.

On the one hand there was descent; we could not read Mr. Darwin's
books and doubt that all, both animals and plants, were descended
from a common source. On the other, there was design; we could not
read Paley and refuse to admit that design, intelligence, adaptation
of means to ends, must have had a large share in the development of
the life we saw around us; it seemed indisputable that the minds and
bodies of all living beings must have come to be what they are
through a wise ordering and administering of their estates. We
could not, therefore, dispense either with descent or with design,
and yet it seemed impossible to keep both, for those who offered us
descent stuck to it that we could have no design, and those, again,
who spoke so wisely and so well about design would not for a moment
hear of descent with modification.

Each, moreover, had a strong case. Who could reflect upon
rudimentary organs, and grant Paley the kind of design that alone
would content him? And yet who could examine the foot or the eye,
and grant Mr. Darwin his denial of forethought and plan?

For that Mr. Darwin did deny skill and contrivance in connection
with the greatly preponderating part of organic developments cannot
be and is not now disputed. In the first chapter of "Evolution Old
and New" I brought forward passages to show how completely he and
his followers deny design, but will here quote one of the latest of
the many that have appeared to the same effect since "Evolution Old
and New" was published; it is by Mr. Romanes, and runs as follows:-

"It is the VERY ESSENCE of the Darwinian hypothesis that it only
seeks to explain the APPARENTLY purposive variations, or variations
of an adaptive kind." {17a}

The words "apparently purposive" show that those organs in animals
and plants which at first sight seem to have been designed with a
view to the work they have to do - that is to say, with a view to
future function - had not, according to Mr. Darwin, in reality any
connection with, or inception in, effort; effort involves purpose
and design; they had therefore no inception in design, however much
they might present the appearance of being designed; the appearance
was delusive; Mr. Romanes correctly declares it to be "the very
essence" of Mr. Darwin's system to attempt an explanation of these
seemingly purposive variations which shall be compatible with their
having arisen without being in any way connected with intelligence
or design.

As it is indisputable that Mr. Darwin denied design, so neither can
it be doubted that Paley denied descent with modification. What,
then, were the wrong entries in these two sets of accounts, on the
detection and removal of which they would be found to balance as
they ought?

Paley's weakest place, as already implied, is in the matter of
rudimentary organs; the almost universal presence in the higher
organisms of useless, and sometimes even troublesome, organs is
fatal to the kind of design he is trying to uphold; granted that
there is design, still it cannot be so final and far-foreseeing as
he wishes to make it out. Mr. Darwin's weak place, on the other
hand, lies, firstly, in the supposition that because rudimentary
organs imply no purpose now, they could never in time past have done
so - that because they had clearly not been designed with an eye to
all circumstances and all time, they never, therefore, could have
been designed with an eye to any time or any circumstances; and,
secondly, in maintaining that "accidental," "fortuitous,"
"spontaneous" variations could be accumulated at all except under
conditions that have never been fulfilled yet, and never will be; in
other words, his weak place lay in the contention (for it comes to
this) that there can be sustained accumulation of bodily wealth,
more than of wealth of any other kind, unless sustained experience,
watchfulness, and good sense preside over the accumulation. In
"Life and Habit," following Mr. Mivart, and, as I now find, Mr.
Herbert Spencer, I showed (pp. 279-281) how impossible it was for
variations to accumulate unless they were for the most part
underlain by a sustained general principle; but this subject will be
touched upon more fully later on.

The accumulation of accidental variations which owed nothing to mind
either in their inception, or their accumulation, the pitchforking,
in fact, of mind out of the universe, or at any rate its exclusion
from all share worth talking about in the process of organic
development, this was the pill Mr. Darwin had given us to swallow;
but so thickly had he gilded it with descent with modification, that
we did as we were told, swallowed it without a murmur, were lavish
in our expressions of gratitude, and, for some twenty years or so,
through the mouths of our leading biologists, ordered design
peremptorily out of court, if she so much as dared to show herself.
Indeed, we have even given life pensions to some of the most notable
of these biologists, I suppose in order to reward them for having
hoodwinked us so much to our satisfaction.

Happily the old saying, Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque
recurret, still holds true, and the reaction that has been gaining
force for some time will doubtless ere long brush aside the cobwebs
with which those who have a vested interest in Mr. Darwin's
reputation as a philosopher still try to fog our outlook. Professor
Mivart was, as I have said, among the first to awaken us to Mr.
Darwin's denial of design, and to the absurdity involved therein.
He well showed how incredible Mr Darwin's system was found to be, as
soon as it was fully realised, but there he rather left us. He
seemed to say that we must have our descent and our design too, but
he did not show how we were to manage this with rudimentary organs
still staring us in the face. His work rather led up to the clearer
statement of the difficulty than either put it before us in so many
words, or tried to remove it. Nevertheless there can be no doubt
that the "Genesis of Species" gave Natural Selection what will prove
sooner or later to be its death-blow, in spite of the persistence
with which many still declare that it has received no hurt, and the
sixth edition of the" Origin of Species," published in the following
year, bore abundant traces of the fray. Moreover, though Mr. Mivart
gave us no overt aid, he pointed to the source from which help might
come, by expressly saying that his most important objection to Neo-
Darwinism had no force against Lamarck.

To Lamarck, therefore, I naturally turned, and soon saw that the
theory on which I had been insisting in" Life and Habit" was in
reality an easy corollary on his system, though one which he does
not appear to have caught sight of. I saw also that his denial of
design was only, so to speak, skin deep, and that his system was in
reality teleological, inasmuch as, to use Isidore Geoffroy's words,
it makes the organism design itself. In making variations depend on
changed actions, and these, again, on changed views of life,
efforts, and designs, in consequence of changed conditions of life,
he in effect makes effort, intention, will, all of which involve
design (or at any rate which taken together involve it), underlie
progress in organic development. True, he did not know he was a
teleologist, but he was none the less a teleologist for this. He
was an unconscious teleologist, and as such perhaps more absolutely
an upholder of teleology than Paley himself; but this is neither
here nor there; our concern is not with what people think about
themselves, but with what their reasoning makes it evident that they
really hold.

How strange the irony that hides us from ourselves! When Isidore
Geoffroy said that according to Lamarck organisms designed
themselves, {20a} and endorsed this, as to a great extent he did, he
still does not appear to have seen that either he or Lamarck were in
reality reintroducing design into organism; he does not appear to
have seen this more than Lamarck himself had seen it, but, on the
contrary, like Lamarck, remained under the impression that he was
opposing teleology or purposiveness.

Of course in one sense he did oppose it; so do we all, if the word
design be taken to intend a very far-foreseeing of minute details, a
riding out to meet trouble long before it comes, a provision on
academic principles for contingencies that are little likely to
arise. We can see no evidence of any such design as this in nature,
and much everywhere that makes against it. There is no such
improvidence as over providence, and whatever theories we may form
about the origin and development of the universe, we may be sure
that it is not the work of one who is unable to understand how
anything can possibly go right unless he sees to it himself. Nature
works departmentally and by way of leaving details to subordinates.
But though those who see nature thus do indeed deny design of the
prescient-from-all-eternity order, they in no way impugn a method
which is far more in accord with all that we commonly think of as
design. A design which is as incredible as that a ewe should give
birth to a lion becomes of a piece with all that we observe most
frequently if it be regarded rather as an aggregation of many small
steps than as a single large one. This principle is very simple,
but it seems rather difficult to understand. It has taken several
generations before people would admit it as regards organism even
after it was pointed out to them, and those who saw it as regards
organism still failed to understand it as regards design; an
inexorable "Thus far shalt thou go and no farther" barred them from
fruition of the harvest they should have been the first to reap.
The very men who most insisted that specific difference was the
accumulation of differences so minute as to be often hardly, if at
all, perceptible, could not see that the striking and baffling
phenomena of design in connection with organism admitted of exactly
the same solution as the riddle of organic development, and should
be seen not as a result reached per saltum, but as an accumulation
of small steps or leaps in a given direction. It was as though
those who had insisted on the derivation of all forms of the steam-
engine from the common kettle, and who saw that this stands in much
the same relations to the engines, we will say, of the Great Eastern
steamship as the amoeba to man, were to declare that the Great
Eastern engines were not designed at all, on the ground that no one
in the early kettle days had foreseen so great a future development,
and were unable to understand that a piecemeal solvitur ambulando
design is more omnipresent, all-seeing, and all-searching, and hence
more truly in the strictest sense design, than any speculative leap
of fancy, however bold and even at times successful.

From Lamarck I went on to Buffon and Erasmus Darwin - better men both
of them than Lamarck, and treated by him much as he has himself been
treated by those who have come after him - and found that the system
of these three writers, if considered rightly, and if the corollary
that heredity is only a mode of memory were added, would get us out
of our dilemma as regards descent and design, and enable us to keep
both. We could do this by making the design manifested in organism
more like the only design of which we know anything, and therefore
the only design of which we ought to speak - I mean our own.

Our own design is tentative, and neither very far-foreseeing nor
very retrospective; it is a little of both, but much of neither; it
is like a comet with a little light in front of the nucleus and a
good deal more behind it, which ere long, however, fades away into
the darkness; it is of a kind that, though a little wise before the
event, is apt to be much wiser after it, and to profit even by
mischance so long as the disaster is not an overwhelming one;
nevertheless, though it is so interwoven with luck, there is no
doubt about its being design; why, then, should the design which
must have attended organic development be other than this? If the
thing that has been is the thing that also shall be, must not the
thing which is be that which also has been? Was there anything in
the phenomena of organic life to militate against such a view of

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