Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/684

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

could for it—they have let it alone; they have not corrupted it by their intrigues, nor vulgarized it by their squabbles; and they being what they are, and science being what it is, that is probably the best service they could have rendered it.

 

SOME HUMAN INSTINCTS[1]
By WILLIAM JAMES,

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN HARVARD COLLEGE.

II.

IN a previous article I passed in review a certain number of those instincts which may be considered fundamental in man. In the pages which follow I propose to complete the list. The reader will perhaps remember my main thesis, which is that man, so far from having an unusually small number of instincts, is more richly endowed in this respect than any other mammal; so richly, indeed, that his instincts often block one another's path. This phenomenon, combined with the transitoriness of many of them, and with what I have called the law of inhibition of instincts by habits, sufficiently account for the indeterminateness of man's conduct in presence of the same objective stimuli—an indeterminateness which has usually been supposed incompatible with his possession of any instincts at all.

The last instinct I touched upon was fear. Let me next say a few words about appropriation or acquisitiveness. Once more the reader will remember that an instinct is nothing more than an inborn path of reflex discharge in the nervous centers, such that a certain sort of object falling on the senses awakens an impulse to act in a determinate way. The beginnings of acquisitiveness are seen in the impulse which very young children display to snatch at, or beg for, any object which pleases their attention. Later, when they begin to speak, among the first words they emphasize are "me" and "mine."[2] Their earliest quarrels with each other are about questions of ownership; and parents of twins soon learn that it conduces to a quiet house to buy all presents in impartial duplicate. Of the later evolution of the proprietary instinct I need not speak. Every one knows how difficult a thing it is not to covet whatever pleasing thing we see, and how the sweetness of the thing often is as gall to us so long as it is another's. When

  1. See "The Popular Science Monthly" for June, 1887.
  2. I lately saw a boy of five (who had been told the story of Hector and Achilles) teaching his younger brother, aged three, how to play Hector, while he himself should play Achilles, and chase him round the walls of Troy. Having armed themselves, Achilles advanced, shouting "Where's my Patroklos?" Whereupon the would-be Hector piped up, quite distracted from his rôle, "Where's my Patroklos? I want a Patroklos! I want a Patroklos!"—and broke up the game. Of what kind of a thing a Patroklos might be he had, of course, no notion—enough that his brother had one, for him to claim one too.