Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/675

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
653
COMPARATIVE PSYCHOLOGY.

the more experience we have, that we are often at fault as to both. And when we are more free from the thralldom of so-called systems and methods in education, we may learn that the activities of the human mind can not be reduced in all persons to precisely the one plan, like so much clock-work. This may mar somewhat the completeness and beauty of our philosophy of education, but it may also in the end conduce to human progress by providing the greater freedom, and end in insuring an individuality of character which seems to be now rapidly disappearing. Now, if individual men so differ in psychic behavior, how much more is it likely that still greater differences hold for the lower animals! An objection may be based, however, on this to the whole study of comparative psychology. The objection holds to some extent even for human psychology; but, as we infer, similarity of behavior in men to denote similarity of inner processes, so are we justified in the same as regards the lower animals, though it must be conceded somewhat less so. We must always be prepared to admit that there may be psychic paths unknown and possibly unknowable to us in the realm of their inner life. But if we regard man as the outcome of development through lower forms, according to variation with natural selection—in a word, if a man is the final link in a long chain binding the whole animal creation together, we have the greater reason for inferring that comparative psychology and human psychology have common roots. We must, in fact, believe in a mental or psychic evolution as well as in a physical (morphological) one.

It is not inconceivable that special faculties which do not exist in the lower animals have been implanted in man; but the trend of investigation thus far goes to show that at least the germ of every human faculty does exist in some species of animal. Nor does such a view at all derogate from the dignity of superior man, while it links the animal creation together in a way that no other can. It opens up the subject for genuine scientific study; it tends to beget a respect for the lower creation, which, while it fosters modesty in man, also furnishes a foundation for broader sympathy with those lower in the scale. The opposite view may lead to our pitying the brute, but can scarcely yield as good moral fruit. Let but an individual man assume that by virtue of something he possesses he is radically different from his fellows, and what is the result? Your genuine aristocrat (in feeling) is a sad stranger to humanity in general.

But where shall we draw the line? Formerly the line was drawn at reason. It was said the brutes can not reason. Only persons who do not themselves reason about the subject with the facts before them can any longer occupy such a position. The evidence of reasoning power is overwhelming for the upper ranks of animals, and yearly the downward limits are being extended the more the inferior tribes are studied. Perhaps the highest faculty man possesses is that by which he generalizes and forms conceptions of the abstract. That animals