Зображення сторінки

the final separation of the embryo from the body of the parent. Universal and persistent continuity in nature does not exist. There are distinct interruptions, some of which our senses can perceive, while others are only evident to our intellect through reasoning and mature reflection.

But reason assures us, as we have already pointed out, that if any real distinctions of “kind” exist at all, there must be distinct steps and absolute breaks. For the very essence of a nature or kind, is that it does not admit of “greater” or “less "-of augmentation or diminution. It absolutely “is” or it absolutely “is not.” There is no possibility of any intermediate condition. To assert that there may be a really intermediate condition between death and life, or between absolute nonsensitivity and sensuous existence, or between feeling and thought, is covertly to beg the question and categorically to deny the absolute possibility of any distinctions of kind whatever. Just as the atomist writers, before referred to, assert the existence of real material breaks and differences of kind in what appears to our senses to be one existing material whole, so we assert the existence of real dynamic breaks and differences of kind in what appears to our senses to be one evolving dynamic whole. If any one chooses to assert that stones are living things, accidentally prevented by circumstances from showing forth their latent life, and that all plants are sensitive beings, accidentally hindered from making their sensitivity manifest, we cannot, of course, refute him; but we also cannot but regard him as superstitious and credulous. We need not trouble

ourselves to controvert him, because “quod gratis asseritur gratis negatur," and he has, and can have, nothing but an à priori prejudice to bring forward in support of his assertion.

Because we cannot actually see or feel the origin of an intellectual nature or any other nature, no argument thence arises against such origins, for we have no experience and can know nothing, save by rational inference, of any origin whatever. It may well be that there have been a countless multitude of breaks and distinct origins-one even for every species—hidden beneath a process of evolution that appears to be continuous to our sense perceptions. Reversing, therefore, Mr. Romanes's declaration, we say, “On grounds of analogy we should deem it to be antecedently probable that the process of evolution at its terminal phase (the advent of the rational animal-man) had been interrupted because it is continually interrupted now, and has notably been interrupted at the introduction of life, and again at that of sensitivity.”

Mr. Romanes's second à priori analogical argument reposes on the fact that every human individual goes through “a process of gradual development and evolution, extending from infancy to manhood; and that in this process, which begins at a zero level of mental life and may culminate in genius, there is nowhere and never observable a sudden leap of progress, such as the passage from one order of psychical being to another might reasonably be expected to show. Therefore,” he adds, “it is a matter of observable fact that, whether or not human intelligence differs from animal in kind, it certainly does admit of gradual development from a zero level.”

But, as we have said, this is covertly to affirm the very thing to be proved—that intellect can be gradually developed from a zero level. We altogether deny that it can, though a nature of a certain kind, existing ab initio, may only make its real nature plainly manifest as impediments disappear and needful conditions for its showing itself, become provided. No "order of psychical being” is perceptible by us in itself, but only through its effects; and we know quite well (through persons who, from accident or disease, are temporarily or permanently deprived of speech or even reason) that an "order of psychical being” may be certainly in existence, and nevertheless unable, from accompanying physical conditions, to make that existence manifest; while we also know (through the further education of children already plainly intellectual) that one and the same “order of psychical being" may become better able to manifest its latent power through changes in its environment, e.g., through education. Therefore the indisputable fact that no “sudden leap” in individual human evolution takes place, is an argument that the same intellectual nature has existed from birth, and that it is only changes in environmental agencies and bodily growths-i.e. physical conditionswhich have enabled powers latent from the first, to more and more plainly make themselves manifest. The fact that the psychical difference between the immature and the mature human being is marked by no obvious and conspicuous interval, while the difference between the psychical manifestations of man and brute is marked by an obvious and conspicuous interval, constitutes an à priori argument in favour of the existence of a difference of kind in the second case, and not in the first.

The third à priori argument of our author * is the following one: it is an “undeniable psychological fact” that the human mind, in its individual development, “ascends through a scale of mental faculties which are parallel with those that are permanently presented by the psychological species of the animal kingdom.” Here Mr. Romanes relies upon his own views as expressed by his initial diagram. According to that diagram, an infant of a week old has the memory of a starfish ; at twelve weeks it is comparable in intelligence with a frog, but in a fortnight more has mounted to the mental level of a lobster ; at five months it can “communicate its ideas” as freely as a bee, and in three months more understands words and pictures as well as a bird. All this we regard as quite fanciful and baseless, and really unsustained by any of the arguments adduced either in his previous works or in the present one. We shall, by-and-by, meet with † facts brought forward by Mr. Romanes himself (with respect to his own and other children) which abundantly prove that infants of a few months old, give unmistakable evidence that they possess a really intellectual nature and true abstract ideas.

Man is an animal, f and, therefore, he might be * p. 5. .

† See below, chaps. iv. and v. We cannot in this chapter afford space to consider at length Mr. Romanes's assertions about animals; but we may most briefly advert to the entirely unsatisfactory nature of some of them.

expected to undergo (as he does undergo) an anatomical and sensuous development similar to what we find in those animals, the adult condition of which he most nearly resembles. But even here there is a startling difference. In no known apes are the young nearly so slow in their bodily development as children are, and in no mere animals do the psychical powers shoot forward so wonderfully in advance of bodily evolution as they do in man. These facts we rely upon with confidence as affording another strong à priori probability the exact reverse of that for which Mr. Romanes believes he has found evidence.

The fourth and last à priori argument of our author is drawn from the fact that “the intelligence of the [human] race has been subject to a steady process of gradual development” in the arts and appliances of life. Therefore, he urges, since mental evolution has continued in man since he first appeared, we must deem it probable that it continued before he appeared, and so produced him. But here again the facts seem to us to

Birds are compared for intelligence with infants eight months old ; but how great is the divergence between different birds as to their psychical powers! Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, ants, aphides, ichneumons, etc.) are compared with infants of five months ; but how great, again, is the difference between an entirely sluggish cochineal insect and an ant! Instead of these circumstances tending to prove that there is no difference of kind between man and brute, it might rather indicate that different kinds of animals have a radically different fundamental nature, and that however their bodily form may have been-to our sense perceptionscontinuously evolved from that of antecedent species, the formation of their really essential nature has been due to some discontinuous action parallel with, however inferior in intensity or degree to, that which has formed the essential nature of man himself.

« НазадПродовжити »