Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/812

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By G. J. ROMANES, F. R. S.

IF it is true that "the proper study of mankind is man," assuredly the study of nature has never before reached a territory of thought so important in all its aspects as that which in our own generation it is for the first time approaching. After centuries of intellectual conquest in all regions of the phenomenal universe, man has at last begun to find that he may apply in a new and most unexpected manner the adage of antiquity—Know thyself. For he has begun to perceive a strong probability, if not an actual certainty, that his own living nature is identical in kind with the nature of all other life, and that even the most amazing side of this his own nature—nay, the most amazing of all things within the reach of his knowledge—the human mind itself, is but the topmost inflorescence of one mighty growth, whose roots and stem and many branches are sunk in the abyss of planetary time. Therefore, with Prof. Huxley we may say: "The importance of such an inquiry is indeed intuitively manifest. Brought face to face with these blurred copies of himself, the least thoughtful of men is conscious of a certain shock, due perhaps not so much to disgust at the aspect of what looks like an insulting caricature, as to the awaking of a sudden and profound mistrust of time-honored theories and strongly rooted prejudices regarding his own position in nature, and his relations to the wider world of life; while that which remains a dim suspicion for the unthinking, becomes a vast argument, fraught with the deepest consequences, for all who are acquainted with the recent progress of anatomical and physiological sciences."[2]

The problem, then, which in this generation has for the first time been presented to human thought, is the problem of how this thought itself has come to be. A question of the deepest importance to every system of philosophy has been raised by the study of biology; and it is the question whether the mind of man is essentially the same as the mind of the lower animals, or, having had, either wholly or in part, some other mode of origin, is essentially distinct—differing not only in degree but in kind from all other types of psychical being. And forasmuch as upon this great and deeply interesting question opinions are still much divided—even among those most eminent in the walks of science who agree in accepting the principles of evolution as applied to explain the mental constitution of the lower animals—it is evident that the

  1. From "Mental Evolution in Man." By George John Romanes, LL.D., F.R.S. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1889.
  2. "Man's Place in Nature," p. 59.