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An Outline of Genetic Psychology According to the Theory of Inherited Mind

Abstract

One of the great difficulties in effecting a synthesis of experience is the contradiction of the apparently mechanical character of the physical universe on the one hand, and the sense of freedom we associate with life on the other. In our own persons, we are told by medical science, or some of it, we are governed by physiological laws which are mechanical, as distinct from vital, in their nature. The best reconciliation of these with freedom, in the writer's opinion, is the philosophy of Samuel Butler. In studying freedom as experienced by human beings Butler pointed out that a large number of practices which are apparently mechanical are really habits that have become stereotyped, and he drew attention to the fact that human actions can be classified as follows:—

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page 348 note 1 See his The Idea of Memory in Biology.

page 350 note 1 See Macbride , The Idea of Memory in Biology, p. 8.

page 350 note 2 Thomson , Arthur J., The Study of Animal Life, p. 182, quoted by Coe , Nature versus Natural Selection, p. 576.

page 351 note 1 The last three paragraphs are based on Ward, Psychological Principles.

page 351 note 2 As mammals grew larger they could afford to shed their hair, since their surfaces were relatively less in extent in proportion to their bulk.

page 351 note 3 There is an evident relation between length of period of growth and length of life. The cat grows for 1½ years, and lives 8; the dog 2½, and lives 12 or 14; the horse 5, and lives 25 to 30; the camel 8, and lives 40. All the larger animals live about five times their growing period. (Dorsey.)

page 352 note 1 Can you remember the scent of violets in the entire absence of any actual scent? Can you dream a scent?

page 353 note 1 Ward, Psychological Principles.

page 353 note 2 The offspring clings to the mother.

page 354 note 1 Smith Elliot, The Evolution of Man, pp. 25–6;Jones Wood, The Matrix oj the Mind, pp. 146–7. This paragraph, quoted from them, seems to me to contain one of the greatest lessons of history. The power of adapting oneself, of initiative, and of overcoming difficulties is in the long run to be conserved even at the sacrifice of the most successful specialized adaptation to present conditions.

page 354 note 2 Wood Jones, Arboreal Man.

page 354 note 3 Ibid., p. 192 sqq.

page 356 note 1 Dorsey , The Nature of Man, p. 34.

page 356 note 2 Jones Wood, Arboreal Man, p. 205.

page 356 note 3 Macbride , The Idea of Memory in Biology, p. 15.

page 357 note 1 The insects—ants certainly, and probably bees and termites—had developed their extraordinarily complex social life, with its precise division of labour among specially adapted classes of the community, many millions of years before man appeared on the earth. Some insects make, and apparently communicate habitually by, sounds far outside the range of our hearing. Some moths seem to excel in acuteness of smell the hound as much as the hound excels us. Insects must at one period have come near to being the dominant form of life on the globe, and many believe that, if for any reason the human race should dwindle, it would dominate again. Nothing in nature is more terrible than the advance of an army of one of the more savage tribes of what are called Visiting Ants—"miniature wild beasts of incredible voracity and fierceness"—in the path of which no other creature, great or small, can stay and live. By what slow processes, through what indeterminable ages their elaborate social systems were developed and the different classes came to be so highly specialized each for its appropriate work—how they acquired their knowledge of the various industries (dairying, fungus-growing, and the rest) which they practise, or, still more, arrived at the perfection of unanimous action without any word of command or imposed authority (the very ideal of a free democracy), together with complete laboriousness and self-devotion, so that every member of a nest or hive gives its life instantly for the common good—how did all these things come to be? All we can say with certainty is that these creatures, millions of years in advance of man's coming into being, attained a perfection of social organization which in many ways man has not yet approached; and that, having attained it, they have stood absolutely still, incapable, apparently, of any further progress, since, let us say, some time in the Oligocene. It has been observed that this has been the fate not only of one species of ant or bee or wasp or termite, but essentially the same course has been followed by a dozen or more quite different groups of insects. All ants seem to have been originally carnivorous or entomophagus. Some still are; but the transition of many species, in the course of their social development, to a milk and vegetable diet, involving the keeping of aphides and fungus-culture, has a curious similarity to the progression of man from a hunting to a pastoral and agricultural life. Forel quotes Espinas to the effect that ants set us the first example of property-owning, in land as in herds and gardens. (This footnote was put together from a review in The Times Literary Supplement.)Here again we see the vastly important lesson we read above—that the power of adapting oneself, of initiative and of overcoming difficulties, is in the long run to be conserved even at the cost of the most successful adaptation to present circumstances.

page 358 note 1 For the last two paragraphs, Morris , Man and his Ancestor, p. 79 sqq.

page 358 note 2 Sir Richard Paget, Bart., The Nature of Human Speech, and, more recently, Human Speech.

page 358 note 3 Smith Elliot, Evolution of Man, p. 64.

page 358 note 4 Man is less able than lower animals to regrow damaged organs. Prolonged quiescence of cerebral activity renders possible healing and repairing of organs, that may not take place if the being continues “at work.” It is not absurd to suppose that by hypnosis remarkable extension of this healing and repairing power may take place. Both in hypnosis and somnambulism the subconscious mind acts with remarkable precision, which may be interpreted by the theory that all the vital forces being grouped round a single idea without consideration or distraction gives a great power and sureness of action. This is what strikes us as “inhuman” in animals, and, in the hypnotic somnambulistic state referred to, there appears to be a curious regression to animality: the subconscious, deprived of conscious direction, seems to recover for the time the sureness characteristic of “animal instinct.” (Geley , From the Unconscious to the Conscious, pp. 70, 223, 255.)

page 362 note 1 Quoted by Spurrell , Modern Man and his Forerunners, p. 149.

page 363 note 1 Dr. J. Reaney, Lecturer in Hygiene at Furzedown Training College, in a lecture given during “Education Week,” 1929, reported in The Times.

page 364 note 1 Smith Elliot, Evolution of Man, p. 65.

page 364 note 2 Elliot Smith, Human History.

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Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
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