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An Inquiry into some Accounts of Children being fostered by Wild Beasts

  • William W. Ireland (a1)

It has been a question for curious speculation since man began to reflect on the origin of knowledge and the nature of his own faculties, what would be the character of a human being growing up without any intercourse with his kind, and having no ideas and no knowledge save those derived by his own unassisted intellect from his observations of the external world. Man's acquired knowledge being evidently the combined product of his own innate capacities, tastes, and sympathies, and the suggestions and customs resulting from his contact with other beings, it is only by a very difficult and somewhat doubtful process of analysis that philosophers have been able to distinguish what is innate and what is acquired; and, as every one knows, great discussions have taken place as to the line of demarcation between those ideas which are the result of education, and those supposed to be of spontaneous growth. The experiment said by Herodotus∗ to have been performed by King Psammitichus is one likely enough to have been made by an eastern prince addicted to those speculations on the origin of ideas which so naturally present themselves to human curiosity. In order, as the priests of Memphis told the great father of history, to decide the important question:—Which was the most ancient of nations?—the king gave two newborn children to a shepherd to educate. They were nursed by goats and separated from all human beings. The first sound they uttered was and this on inquiry being found to be the Phrygian for bread, the Egyptians admitted ever after that the Phrygians were of more antiquity than themselves.

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0368-315X
  • EISSN: 2514-9946
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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An Inquiry into some Accounts of Children being fostered by Wild Beasts

  • William W. Ireland (a1)
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