Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/143

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
137
INSTINCT.

of regarding mind as independent of bodily organization. Hence it is, that while familiar with the idea of physical peculiarities passing by inheritance from one generation to another, they find it difficult to conceive how anything so impalpable as fear at the sight of a bee should be transmitted in the same way. Obviously, this difficulty is not consistent with a thorough belief in the intimate and invariable dependence of all kinds of mental facts on nervous organization. Let us, if possible, make this clear. The facts of mind that make up the stream of an individual life differ from material things in this important respect, that whereas the latter can be stored up, volitions, thoughts, and feelings, as such, cannot. Facts of consciousness cannot be thought of as packed away like books in a library. They have to be forever produced, created, one after another; and when gone they are out of existence. Whatever associations may be formed among these, must depend for their permanence on the corresponding impress given to the nervous organism; and why should not this, which is purely physical, be subject to the law of heredity? Look at a friend as he lies in unconscious sleep. His sovereigns are in his pocket, but where is his stock of ideas? Where is all that he has learned from experience? You have simply a living machine; but such a machine that it can wake and exhibit all the phenomena of what we call a well-informed and cultivated mind. Suppose, now, that while you stand by, another organism, the same in every particle and fiber, is by some mysterious process formed direct from its elements. Outwardly you cannot tell the one from the other; but wake them and how will it be? Even then, will not the one being recognize you, and then be as completely and indistinguishably your friend as the other? Will not the newly created man, by virtue of his identical material organization, possess the mind and character, the knowledge and feelings, the past, in a word, the personal identity of the other? I have made this extreme supposition in order that no doubt may be entertained as to the shape in which I hold the doctrine that for every fact of mind there is a corresponding fact of matter, and that, given the material fact, whether produced by repeated experiences in the life history of the individual, or inherited from parents, the corresponding mental fact will be the same. If this view be admitted, there can be no difficulty in conceiving how entrance into life on the part of the animals may be a waking up in a world with which they are, in greater or less degree, already acquainted! Instinct, looked at from its physical side, may be conceived to be, like memory, a turning on of the 'nerve currents' on already established tracks: for no reason, we presume, can be suggested why those modifications of brain matter that, enduring from hour to hour and from day to day, render acquisition possible, should not, like any other physical peculiarity, be transmitted from parent to offspring. That they are so transmitted is all but proved by