Popular Science Monthly/Volume 6/February 1875/Animals Not Automata
|ANIMALS NOT AUTOMATA.|
THE doctrine of necessity has been ably advocated by many acute philosophers, and is to-day, in various forms, including fatalism, the accepted creed of a large portion of mankind. A doctrine thus supported, and so immediately bearing upon our actions and our powers, cannot but be worthy of serious attention.
Prof. Huxley, approaching it on the material side, in the true spirit of philosophical inquiry, trustingly following wherever truth seemed to him to lead, and regardless of the apprehended consequences of attacking dominant creeds and opinions, has pushed this doctrine to its legitimate logical consequences, in the conclusion that all animals, man included, are but "conscious automata," moved and directed in their movements by extrinsic forces.
With him, I believe that all progress in knowledge is beneficial; I deprecate no enterprise in experiment, nor any boldness in speculation, if we are duly cautious in accepting and applying its results. The revelations of intelligent and honest inquiry always merit respectful and careful consideration, but are not properly exempt from scrutiny.
Although I have perhaps deviated as far on one side of the current opinions as Prof. Huxley has on the other, I cannot claim any credit for fearlessness of the consequences—my only apprehension in that respect being, that any arguments I may present, unrelieved by interesting experiments, will not excite sufficient interest to provoke either commendation or censure.
I think, however, I may properly say that, viewing the problem on the spiritual side, and carefully excluding popular prepossessions and theological dogmas, I have carried the opposite doctrine of "freedom" to its legitimate logical consequences in the conclusion that every being that wills is a creative first cause, having, in virtue of its attributes of knowledge, feeling, and volition, a power of itself to begin action. That the object of every volition or effort is to make the future different from what it otherwise would be, and hence, that every such being is an independent, self-active power in the universe, freely doing its part and coöperating with all other active intelligences in creating the future, which is always the composite result of the action of all such intelligences: that even an oyster, though it have no other power than that of moving its shell, may, so far, create the future and make it different from what it otherwise would be; and further, that as every intelligent being will conform its action to the conditions under, or upon, which it is to act, the action of each, in changing the conditions, may affect the action of any or of all others, and the action of the lowest may, in this way, influence that of the highest.
We both, however, admit knowledge and feeling, and recognize consciousness, or the phenomena of knowing, in man and other animals. In discussing questions so fundamental, this must be largely relied upon for the foundation and support of the argument on either side, and I will briefly state my views in regard to its authority.
Mind, as manifested in man and in brutes, I regard as entirely made up of a capacity for knowledge, a susceptibility to feeling, and a faculty of effort (will); this last being the only power we possess; and if it—the effort of intelligent being—is not the only power known to us, it is at least that power, of the existence of which we have the most direct and reliable evidence. The recipient and receptacle of all our knowledge, whatever its source, is consciousness. Our conscious perceptions and feelings (including emotions) are the foundation of all knowledge, and all belief; but the consciousness of one man, of itself, avails nothing against another having a different consciousness and a different belief. Belief is not a matter of will or of choice, but each must believe in conformity to his own consciousness, and retain his existing belief till his consciousness is in some way changed. The denial of this involves a contradiction, and we may assume, as a corollary to it, that it is not only reasonable, but a necessity, that we believe things to be as they appear to be, till we recognize a sufficient reason for believing that the appearances are deceptive. The testimony of consciousness is not equally reliable as to all subjects. In some cases it is conclusive, in others far from it. In regard to our internal perceptions, sensations, and emotions, our consciousness is conclusive evidence that we have them, and that they are what consciousness represents them to be. The consciousness of the sensation of pain is the pain itself; and the consciousness of perceiving that the whole is greater than its part is, itself, the perception of that fact, and there can be no question as to my actually having the sensation of pain, or as to my having the perception of the inequality. But the consciousness is not conclusive as to the conformity of the perception with the existing fact, nor as to any inference which I may draw from the sensation. One may have as full and decided perception of what is not, as of what is; and the liability to erroneous inferences from our sensations is a matter of daily experience.
Even a universal belief, founded on entire uniformity in the perceptions, or in the inferences from our sensations, is not conclusive. If it were, no error in such belief could ever be corrected. If, for instance, the belief that the sun daily revolved around the earth was once universal—and universal belief is regarded as conclusive—the present belief never could have been substituted. Still, to assume things to be as they appear to be, till a sufficient reason is given to the contrary, is a necessary condition to our progress in science and philosophy. If this proposition is denied, then all Prof. Huxley's array of facts and arguments may be fairly met by saying, "True, these things appear to be as you say, but, then, this appearing is no reason for supposing that they really are so." There would be an end to at least all physical investigations.
Instinct is, perhaps, a more important element in this discussion than Prof. Huxley has suggested—the various and vague notions in regard to it which obtain both in the popular and philosophical mind do much to confuse the consideration of voluntary and mechanical action.
Prof. Huxley assumes that instinctive action is mechanical. He says: "When we talk of the lower animals being provided with instinct, and not with reason, what we really mean is that, although they are sensitive, and although they are conscious, yet they act mechanically, and that their different states of consciousness, their sensations, their thoughts (if they have any), their volitions (if they have any), are the products and consequences of their mechanical arrangements. I must confess that this popular view is, to my mind, the only one which can be scientifically adopted."
There is much and high authority for the doctrine that instinctive actions are mechanical, but I believe it is very generally rejected by those who have observed the actions of animals without any knowledge of subtile theories to account for them. "What," incredulously exclaimed one of my grandchildren, on hearing of "Prof. Huxley's statement," "what sort of a mechanism is it that carries the wild-geese from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico every fall, and brings them back every spring?" This seems to me a fair illustration of the prevailing notions, indicating that Prof. Huxley is mistaken in assuming that the "popular view" favors the mechanical theory. I am aware that the "popular view" cannot be urged against special inquirers, whose object often is to correct prevailing errors, as well as to extend the limits of our knowledge; but misapprehension of the popular view may give a wrong direction to their efforts and make them unavailing.
No mechanical contrivance, no mechanism furnishes any power, but is only a means of applying power; and, even if the term mechanical embraces all the phenomena of matter in motion, we still have the question as to whether the mechanism or the matter moves by its own power, or is moved by the effort of some intelligent being.
He who views the perfect crystal as the direct creation of an intelligent designing power, and he who sees in it only the orderly effect of natural forces, will alike class it with the mechanical; so, too, both would speak of the celestial mechanism.
In investigating the laws of Nature, the one is observing and generalizing the uniform mode of God's voluntary action, the other is finding the necessary consequences of the action of material forces. Each attributes any phenomena which he cannot class with any of his generalizations to some inscrutable exercise of power—the one to intelligent effort, the other to unintelligent material movements; so that, in the mechanical, we have still the question as to the two forms of power—intelligence in effort, and matter in motion; and, as between these, admitting the existence of both, it seems most reasonable to attribute instinctive action, the action of a conscious, and hence intelligent being to the former, rather than to the latter. Instinctive action is not mechanical, even in the most extended sense of the term, but must be referred to the power of the being itself, and not to extrinsic power of any kind. Every voluntary effort is put forth to gratify a want, to make the future in some respect different from what, but for the effort, it would be. To do this, always requires that the effort, or series of efforts, should be adapted to the specific object, and that, in any series of them, each one should be in the appropriate consecutive order There must be a mode, or plan of action. This plan is either a part of our knowledge, or is formed by means of it.
In all our actions, whether instinctive, rational, or habitual, we thus apply our knowledge to direct our efforts to the end desired, and there, is not in the actions themselves, nor in their immediate antecedents, any difference whatever. In all of them it is but an effort suggested by the want, and directed to a given end by means of our knowledge. The difference is not in the action, nor in the knowledge, nor in the application of the knowledge, but one step farther back—in the manner in which we became possessed of the knowledge we apply. In a rational action we, by a preliminary effort, obtain this knowledge—we make the requisite plan. In the instinctive action this knowledge is innate; the plan is ready formed in the mind, requiring no premeditation, no deliberation to determine the mode of action. In the rational actions we acquire the knowledge of these plans for ourselves, and it is the preliminary effort to determine what to do, and how to do it—to find the mode of action—that tasks our intellectual abilities. But, when we have once formed the plan, and acted upon it often enough to remember its successive steps, so that we can repeat them in action by rote without any reference to the rationale, it becomes a plan ready formed in the mind, and the acting upon it becomes habitual. The instinctive and habitual actions, then, are precisely alike in this, that both are in conformity to a plan ready formed in the mind, requiring no effort to form them for the occasion, and differ only in this, that in the instinctive we found the plan ready formed, while in the habitual we originally formed it by our own effort. If, after the latter plans had become fixed in our memory, we should forget that we had originally acquired them by our own effort, we would know no difference between the instinctive and habitual action.
The popular consciousness of this similarity is expressed in the common adage that habit is second nature. If this view, which seems to me to account for all the peculiarities of instinctive action, is correct, instinct is not a distinct faculty, capacity, property, or quality, of being, which may be compared with or substituted for reason, but has relation only to the mode in which the knowledge by which we determine some of our actions was originally obtained. Whether the innate knowledge of modes and plans is by transmission, or otherwise, does not affect the theory. It is sufficient that they are thus ready formed in the being without effort of its own.
All intelligent actions, except perhaps those which are merely imitative, must in the first instance be either instinctive or rational, the habitual coming later through the transformation of the others by repetition and memory; the instinctive, however, not being materially changed thereby.
But the foundation of all our actions must be instinctive, there being no possible way in which we could ever learn that effort is the means of using either our muscular or mental powers.
In regard to the rational actions, I see no distinction in kind, but only in degree, between those of man and the lower animals. Descending in the scale of intelligence, we may, and probably will, reach a grade of beings which do not invent or form plans to meet new occasions for action, and the efforts of such must be wholly instinctive; but I have seen both dogs and horses draw inferences, and work out ingenious plans of action, adapted to conditions so unusual and so improbable to them, as to preclude the assumption that they had been specially provided by Nature, through hereditary transmission, or otherwise, with the knowledge of the plan suited to the occasion.
Prof. Huxley asserts that matter is a cause, a power not only in what is generally regarded as its own sphere, but that it also produces all mental phenomena. At the same time, while admitting the consciousness—the intelligence—of man and brutes, he denies to them the faculty of will, thus virtually denying to them any power.
He thus raises the question as to the power of matter, and also as to that of intelligent beings; at least of beings of no higher grade than man. It is not very clear whether or not he denies all intelligent power. In saying he has with him "Père Malebranche, who saw all things in God," he seems to recognize a supreme power; but then this power in his system might logically be but a deification of material forces, ignoring intelligent activity.
Against attributing power to matter, we may urge that its existence as a distinct entity has never been proved, and is seriously questioned. To assume that so important a quality inheres, and especially to assume that it inheres only in something, the existence of which is doubtful, when it may, with equal reason, be attributed to something, the existence of which is admitted, would be a grave philosophical and logical mistake.
Prof. Huxley admits the existence of intelligent (conscious) beings, but perhaps does not admit that power may, with equal reason, be attributed to them, nor perhaps that there is any reasonable doubt as to the existence of matter as a distinct entity; leaving these two questions open to discussion. In regard to the latter, he will probably admit that there is no decisive proof, and that the existence of matter is only an inference from the sensations which we attribute to its agency. But all the phenomena of these sensations are as well accounted for on the hypothesis that they are directly produced in our minds by some intelligent power as that they are the effects of matter.
If the material universe is regarded as the work of an intelligent Creator, working with design to produce a certain effect, then, upon either hypothesis, it is the expression of a conception of this Creator, existing as thought and imagery in his mind before he gave it palpable, tangible existence in ours, and the only question between the two modes is, whether, in making it palpable to us, he transfers this thought and imagery directly to our minds, or first paints, moulds, or carves them in a distinct material substance. The external universe would not, in the first of these modes, be any the less real. The sensations, which are all that under either hypothesis concern us, or that we know any thing about, would be the same in both cases. But we can no more impute power to such imagery than to an image in a mirror, and under this hypothesis material sensation would have no existence.
One consideration favoring the ideal theory is, that, under it, creation becomes more conceivable to us. We can, any of us, conceive or imagine a landscape, and vary its features at will. This is an incipient creation which, if we could impress it upon the mind of another, would be to him an external creation—to his vision as thoroughly material as the fields, and streams, and trees, he now looks out upon; and, if from any cause it should become fixed in the mind of him that conceived it, so that he could not change it at will, it would become to him an external reality. And this sometimes happens in abnormal conditions of the mind. In order to thus create what, at least to the visual sense, would be an external material creation, the only addition, then, which is required to the powers which we habitually exercise is that of impressing our conceptions upon others. With this addition we could create and give palpable existence to a universe, varying more or less from that now palpable to us. And this power of impressing our conceptions on others we are none of us wholly devoid of. Sculptors, painters, architects, and more especially poets, have it in marked degree.
We, however, find no rudiment of force in these incipient creations of our own, and, hence, they furnish us with no logical ground for attributing it to similar and more perfect creations of a Superior Intelligence. That these creations of our own are mostly evanescent, and those to which, with great labor, we give a persistent reality are very limited and imperfect, does not disprove the position that creation is more conceivable to us upon the ideal hypothesis than upon the material. The ideal hypothesis is also commended by the consideration that man, having, in a finite degree, all the other powers usually attributed to the Supreme Intelligence, lacks, under the material theory, the power of creating matter. Corresponding to His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, man has finite power and finite knowledge, and can make all the objects of his knowledge present, which is equivalent to a finite presence, limited, like our other attributes, to the sphere of our knowledge. This hypothesis, then, rounds out our ideas of creative intelligence, relieving us of the anomaly of the creation of matter as a distinct entity, for which, having in ourselves no conscious rudiment of a power to accomplish, we cannot conceive the possibility.
I may further observe that, if I am right in supposing that the only difference between our own incipient creations, of a landscape for instance, and the external scenery which we perceive, is that we can change the former at will, while the latter is fixed, it shows how narrow is the space that divides the creative powers of man from those of the Supreme Intelligence, and that the difference is mainly, if not entirely, in degree, and not in kind. This gives warrant to the logic, and shows how short the steps by which we attribute all creations and all changes, which we regard as beyond our own power and beyond that of other embodied intelligences known to us, to a superior intelligence, with the same powers which we possess and use to create and change, increased, I will not say infinitely, but to a degree corresponding to the effects which we see and ascribe to them.
If the existence of matter be admitted, it may still be urged that, being unintelligent, it can have no causative power, and can produce no change, for all changes in matter must be, by its motion, massive or atomic, and matter cannot move itself.
Even if it could be imbued with motive power, it could have no inducement, no tendency, to move in one direction rather than another; and a tendency which is equal in all directions is no tendency in any direction. If all matter were at this moment quiescent, even the materialists will not assert that it could of itself begin to move.
It may, however, be urged that both the arguments thus drawn from the difficulty of conceiving the creation of matter, and the necessity of motion to its causal power, may be met by the hypothesis that matter was not created, but has existed through a past eternity, and that its original condition was that of motion, and that there is no more difficulty in conceiving this than in conceiving that intelligence, with its activities, has had no beginning.
But, granting that matter has always existed, and originally had motion, and consequent power, still, if the tendency is to expend and exhaust this power in producing effects, by collision or otherwise, or, admitting the conservation of force, if its tendency is to become merely potential, then the force which it originally had, in virtue of being in motion, must, in the infinite period of its existence, have been either wholly exhausted or reduced to an infinitesimal, requiring the intervention of some active power to again give it any practical force.
But whether matter, supposing it to exist, can of itself, by means of its motion, be an independent power or force, still depends on another question, viz., Is the tendency of a body in motion, when the power which put it in motion is withdrawn, to continue to move, or to stop? In other words, is the application of extrinsic power required to keep it in motion, or is such application required to stop it? Having no power to move itself when once at rest, it could have no power to act, but could only be acted upon, and, if it has inertia, it would be a means of exhausting other force.
If when once in motion its tendency is to continue in motion, then it could be used as an instrument by which intelligent power, putting it in motion, could extend the effects of its own action in time and space.
If the tendency is to stop, then it could have no power or force, in virtue of being in motion, and could not even be a means of extending the effects of the action of other powers.
I have heretofore confessed my inability to solve this question as to the tendency of a moving body to continue its motion, or to stop when the motive power is withdrawn. I have not, perhaps, been able even to disentangle it from the empirical meshes in which it has become involved, and which, in my view, do not and cannot furnish any clew to its solution; but, until this point is settled, I do not see how matter, though in motion, can properly be regarded as a force, or even as a conserver of force imparted to it by some other power.
If matter in motion is power, then all its effects must be such as take place of necessity, it having no power to select or vary them, and, whatever the course of such effects, it cannot change. If, for instance, the moving body is approaching another body, then, as two bodies cannot occupy the same space, some effect must of necessity result from the collision; and all the effects of unintelligent cause or force must be from some like necessity. In this case the material hypothesis has an advantage, there being no apparent connection of necessity between an intelligent effort and its sequences. This, however, as matter cannot put itself in motion, nor, perhaps, even continue any motion imparted to it, may only make it an instrument of other power, and not a power itself.
Some of the considerations in favor of the existence of intelligent power have already incidentally arisen in connection with the question of the existence of material force, and others pertain to that of the will, to which we will now turn.
The question which Prof. Huxley raises is not merely, Does man will freely? but, Does he will at all? If he recognizes any volition in us, it is a volition in which we have no agency, but of which we are only conscious.
Between the two questions, of willing freely or not willing at all, there is perhaps little of practical importance; for, if our actions are controlled by some extrinsic power or force, it is not important whether this control is exerted directly on or in the action, or indirectly through controlled will. It might, perhaps, even be properly urged that, philosophically as well as popularly, a willing which is not free is a willing which is not willing, and this would identify the two questions.
Prof. Huxley, from divers physical experiments, comes to the conclusion that animals, including man, do not will, but that the effort-phenomena, of which we are conscious, are only a series, or the effect of a series, of mechanical changes of matter, over which we have no control. He admits that we have knowledge and feeling, and there is no difficulty in conceiving that these may exist without will, though the existence of either feeling or will without knowledge is impossible.
To most persons the actual making of an effort, or willing, seems to be as fully attested by their consciousness as a sensation is; and there is high philosophical authority for putting it in that category, in regard to which the consciousness is positively and of necessity conclusive. It seems to me, however, that there is room for a distinction between the consciousness of effort, and the effort itself. If the changes, which seem to us to be the consequences of our effort put forth with a preconception of these changes, and for the purpose of producing them, are really caused by some extrinsic power or force acting through us, it is quite conceivable that such a power, especially if intelligent, may impress us with the emotion of making an effort when we make none, though I see no reason why such a circuitous mode of action should be adopted. But, though the consciousness of making an effort is not conclusive as to the actual making, still, as it is of internal phenomena, it is evidence of a higher order than that which consciousness of a sensation gives as to the existence or character of the external phenomena.
The senses through which the external is presented may not act perfectly; and this, as compared with the consciousness of internal phenomena, makes an additional risk of error similar to that which arises from seeing an object through glass or in the reflection of a mirror, instead of directly without any intervening medium.
Those, then, who set up physical phenomena against our conscious ness of effort, labor under the disadvantage of impeaching the accuracy of the testimony by other testimony which is less reliable than that which they impeach.
Prof. Huxley admits that men and other animals know and feel. The existence, then, of that for which power by effort is claimed as an attribute, with these prerequisites to its exercise, is admitted.
On the other hand, any belief in matter or in its motion is but an inference from our sensations which, as we have seen, is not a necessary or conclusive inference; and hence we have no reliable evidence of the existence of matter, nor of the attributes which, if it exists, are essential to its having power.
In the first case, we know the existence of the active agent; its feeling, subjecting it to want; and its knowledge, enabling it to adopt a mode of gratifying its want, which are all the elements which are requisite to the exercise of a power by effort, and though we have no conclusive proof that it actually makes the effort, the testimony in regard to this, for reasons already stated, is more reliable than the inferences from our sensations, that matter exists, and that it moves, and that one portion impinges on another portion, all of which are essential to material causation. In the first case, the existence of the agent, with all the prerequisites to the exercise of power, is known. In the latter, not a single one of them is known. This shows that the material phenomena which Prof. Huxley presents are not, in this case, sufficient to rebut the testimony of consciousness that we do will—do make effort, and thereby produce change.
The further question, Do we ourselves determine our efforts? is identical with that of our freedom in willing, which I do not propose here to discuss, but will remark that it is not probable, perhaps it is not conceivable, that any unintelligent agent should create the whole system of wants, knowledge, and the application of knowledge involved in an effort, as just stated, and impress the whole as illusions on the mind of the actor; nor yet, that any blind force should direct the effort in exact conformity to the wishes and the preconceptions of the manner and the effect which are in the thoughts of him who has the emotion of making an effort, and which the unintelligent power, or agent, of course cannot know. Only an intelligent agent could know this; and, if the conforming of the effort to this want, knowledge, and preconception of the effect, must he referred to some intelligent being, it seems most reasonable to refer it to that which directly feels its own want, knows its own perceptions of the mode of gratifying the want, and its preconceptions of the effect to be produced, to all which the effort is to be conformed, and which, at the same time, is conscious of making the effort, and of thus conforming and directing it by its own knowledge. Between the sensation of making the effort, and the antecedent and subsequent knowledge of the subject of this sensation, there is a harmony which it seems hardly conceivable should be produced by any power not having this particular knowledge, and much less by a power incapable of knowing any thing.
As germane to the whole question of intelligent and material power, I will suggest that it would be unphilosophical to assume the existence of two primary powers, when one is sufficient to account for all the phenomena, and that as it seems hardly conceivable that matter should create intelligence with its phenomena—that what does not know should create a power to know—while, as already shown, it is quite conceivable that intelligence should create all that we know of matter and its phenomena, the hypothesis of power in matter should, on this ground, be discarded.
Let us now look at the very curious and interesting experiments upon which Prof. Huxley relies for his conclusion that animals, including man, are "conscious automata." He says that, if, when a man is so paralyzed that he is wholly unable to move his limbs, and has no sensation in them, "you tickle the soles of his feet with a feather, the limbs will be drawn up just as vigorously, perhaps a little more vigorously, than when he was in full possession of the consciousness of what happened to him." He also states that, in the case of a frog similarly paralyzed, the result of irritating the skin of the foot is the same: in both cases the foot being drawn from the source of irritation. This certainly bears a very close resemblance to the voluntary action of an intelligent being, conscious of the irritation, and seeking relief from it by its own efforts. Prof. Huxley, however, positively asserts that the animal could not feel or will, and this being so; he seems to be justified, by common usage, in calling the action "mechanical." But, as I have already suggested, this term is applied to material phenomena, whether they are results of matter in motion, or of the uniform modes of God's action.
Other experiments still more remarkable are presented. He says: "Take this creature (the same frog), which certainly cannot, feel, and touch the skin of the side of its body with a little acetic acid, which, in a frog that could feel, would give rise to great pain. In this case there can be no pain.... Nevertheless, the frog lifts up the limb on the same side, and applies the foot to rubbing off the acetic acid; and what is still more remarkable, if you hold down the limb, so that the frog cannot use it, he will, by-and-by, take the limb of the other side and turn it across the body, and use it for the same rubbing process."
This goes a step further, requiring a more complicated mechanism to direct the force, when it fails to move one foot, to the movement of the other. In still another case, he says: "Suppose the foremost two-thirds of the brain taken away, the frog is then absolutely devoid of any spontaneity; it will remain forever where you leave it; it will not stir, unless it is touched; . . . but, . . . if you throw it in the water, it begins to swim—swims just as well as the perfect frog does; . . . and the only way we can account for this is, that the impression made on the sensory nerves of the skin of the frog by the contact of the water conveys to the central nervous apparatus a stimulus which sets going a certain machinery by which all the muscles of swimming are brought into play in due order of succession. Moreover, if the frog be stimulated, be touched by some irritating body, although we are quite certain it cannot feel, it jumps or walks as well as the complete frog can do."
Most persons, I presume, have seen men and other animals made so torpid by injury or disease, that they would show little sign of vitality, and great indisposition to make any effort, but that they still moved when pricked with a pin has been generally regarded as evidence that they still felt; and the movements they would make to avoid danger, or escape pain, have been thought to be conclusive that they were not "absolutely devoid of any spontaneity."
It is not uncommon for a man, who, in ordinary circumstances seemed wholly unable to move his limbs, under great or sudden excitement, as the approach of fire or sudden apprehension of drowning, to make vigorous and successful muscular efforts.
The common observer, then, would infer from the foregoing experiments that Prof. Huxley was not justified in inferring, from the fact of mutilation, that the frog was "absolutely devoid of any spontaneity," and that "we are quite certain it cannot feel." If the facts stated do not prove that the frog still feels, still wills, and still has knowledge to direct its efforts to get rid of the irritation, it seems difficult to devise any mode of proof that a being ever feels, knows, or wills. Prof. Huxley admits that we do feel and know, but infers from these experiments that we do not will. If his theory of them is correct, they seem to afford little ground for this distinction.
Prof. Huxley, in still another case, says of a frog deprived of the most anterior portion of the brain, that "it will sit forever in the same spot. It sees nothing, it hears nothing," yet placed on the hand would, on the turning of the hand, make all the movements necessary to prevent its falling off, and that "these movements are performed with the utmost steadiness and precision, and you may vary the position of your hand, and the frog, so long as you are reasonably slow in your movements, will work backward and forward like a clock." Referring to this experiment, Prof. Huxley afterward says: "If the frog were a philosopher he might reason thus: 'I feel myself uncomfortable and slipping, and, feeling myself uncomfortable, I put my legs out to save myself, knowing that I shall tumble if I do not put them farther. I put them farther still, and my volition brings about all these beautiful adjustments which result in my sitting safely!' But, if the frog so reasoned, he would be entirely mistaken, for the frog does the thing just as well when he has no reason, no sensation, no possibility of thought of any kind. The only conclusion, then, at which there seems any good ground for arriving is, that animals are machines, but that they are conscious machines." And he afterward says: "Undoubtedly, I do hold that the view I have taken of the relations between the physical and mental faculties of brutes applies in its fullness and entirety to man." Of this last experiment Prof. Huxley further says: "And what is still more wonderful is, that if you put the frog on a table, and put a book between him and the light, and give him a little jog behind, he will jump (take a long jump, very possibly), but he won't jump against the book, he will jump to the right or to the left, but he will get out of the way, showing that, although he is absolutely insensible to ordinary impressions of light, there is still something which passes through the sensory nerve, acts upon the machinery of his nervous system, and causes it to adapt itself to the proper action." This is certainly very wonderful, and becomes even more so when taken in connection with the next case—that of a man who had been shot in the head, and who, Prof. Huxley says, "is in a condition absolutely parallel to that of the frog," but afterward says, "very nearly" in the same condition, and also says, "he has only one sense organ in a state of activity, namely, that of touch, which is exceedingly delicate." Yet of this man, thus described as virtually in the same condition as the frog, except that he has a very delicate sense of touch, we are told that, "if an obstacle is put in his way, he knocks against it, feels it, and goes to one side; if you push him in any direction, he goes straight on until something stops him."
It is certainly very remarkable that the frog, with no sense at all, avoids leaping against the obstruction, while the man, with a delicate sense of touch, and other conditions parallel or very nearly the same as the frog, knocks against it. It must be a very curious mechanism which can make such discrimination in the effects of its action.
Let us examine the case of the frog a little further. Prof. Huxley ascribes its leaping obliquely and not directly forward to "a something which passes through the sensory nerve, acts upon the machinery of his nervous system, and causes it to adapt itself to the proper action," and this "although he is absolutely insensible to ordinary impressions of light." Does Prof. Huxley mean that this "something" passes through the book, and thus reaches the sensory nerve, and that, but for the intervening book, it would not pass that way? Under some circumstances, it might be that a conductor would facilitate the passage of a "something" which would not pass through the air, but in this case there is the difficulty of getting this "something" to the book, and then of sending it forward through the air. The only alternative seems to be to suppose that when there was no intervening book, a "something" passed to the frog which was necessary to cause it to jump directly forward, the passage of which the book prevented. Neither of these hypotheses seems satisfactory, even if no objection is made to the unknown "something."
To those skilled in scientific investigation it may not appear important, but I apprehend that many, like myself, not familiar with its modes, will regret that the experiment in this case was not pushed somewhat further. To find, for instance, what would be the effect when the obstruction extended equally to the right and to the left? What if it extended indefinitely both ways? And what, when it made an entire circle around the frog in the centre; and what if in different positions other than the centre.
But, even admitting, in all the cases, all that Prof. Huxley claims as ascertained facts, what does it all amount to further than that he has brought to light some additional phenomena which, like the movements of the material universe and the pulsations of the heart, must be referred to some inscrutable agency? He who believes only in intelligent power refers them, with all else that he does not effect by his own efforts, and which he regards as beyond the power of any known embodied intelligence, to a Superior Intelligence, acting through the instrumentality of matter or otherwise; while he who believes only in material causation attributes them to the influence of matter, in some form or some mode of its movement differing from those forms and modes which are familiar to him. Nor is it material how many steps there may be between the power applied and the effect. If there are three or thirty ivory balls in a right line, and the first of them is put in motion causing each one successively to impinge on the next, the final effect of motion in the last is caused by the power applied to the first. We may by our own efforts put the alleged power of matter in action, or may thus act through the uniform modes of God's action.
In voluntary muscular movement the intermediate effect of a flow of blood to the contracting muscle has long been known; now, the propagation of molecular movement is ascertained. That we are not conscious of the movement of the molecules indicates (though far from conclusively) that we do not ourselves move them, but this does not indicate that the muscular movement is not the result of our own effort working through other agencies. That he who throws the stone which kills a bird does not know what curve the stone will describe, nor by what power its motion is continued after it leaves his hand, does not show that he is not the cause of the killing.
If the knowledge of the intermediate changes is a necessary condition to the exercise of the power which produces the final result, what becomes of the hypothesis of causation by material movements, or forces, which know nothing? In regard to the special phenomena in hand, it would seem that no power less facile, or less variable and adjustable in its application than that of intelligent effort, could be adequate; and that no blind power or force, the effects of which must of necessity be uniform, could, from the same conditions, produce such diverse effects as those attributed to the man and the frog.
Considering the clear line of demarcation which there is between those cases of change for which we are conscious of making effort and those for which we are not, I do not see how the discovery of any number of cases of the latter discredits the testimony of consciousness as to the former. All this exhibition of material phenomena, then, really weighs very little on either side of the question as to the existence of intelligent or material causality; and this little, I think, may be fairly claimed on the side of the intelligent.
There is another criterion which, as Prof. Huxley, in applying a somewhat analogous test, has very appropriately said, "though it could not be used in dealing with questions which are susceptible of demonstration, is well worthy of consideration in a case like the present." I cannot demonstrate, but I have great faith in the proposition that all progress in truth will increase the happiness and conduce to the elevation of man. I also have some faith in the converse of this proposition—that whatever tends to diminish our happiness and degrade our position will be found to be not true.
In this case, by adopting Prof. Huxley's views, we should be deprived of all the dignity of conscious power, and with it of all the cheering and elevating influences of the performance of duty; for that which has no power can have no duties. Instead of companionship with a Superior Intelligence, communicating his thoughts to us in the grandeur and beauty of the material universe—the poetic imagery, of which it is the pure and perfect type and in his yet higher and more immediate manifestations in the soul, we should be doomed to an inglorious fellowship with insensate matter, and subjected to its blind forces. That sublime power—that grandeur of effort by which the gifted logician, with resistless demonstration, permeates and illuminates realms which it tasks the imagination to traverse; and that yet more God-like power by which the poet commands light to be, and light breaks through chaos upon his beautiful creations, would no more awaken our admiration, or incite us to lofty effort. We should be degraded from the high and responsible position of independent powers in the universe—co-workers with God in creating the future—to a condition of mere machines and instruments operated by "stimuli" and "molecules;" and, though still with knowledge and sensibility to know and feel our degraded position—"so abject! yet alive"—with no power to apply our knowledge in effort to extricate, and to elevate ourselves. We might still have the knowledge of good and evil; but, having no power to foster the one, or to resist the other, this knowledge, with all its inestimable consequences—all the aspirations which it awakens, and all the incentives to noble deeds which it, in combination with effort, alone makes possible—would be lost. And with it, we might almost say, there would again be no death, for all mutation now being but changes in the indestructible atoms of matter, by means of its motion, also indestructible and eternal, there would be little left to die, as there would again be little left to live for. For all this, I see no compensation in the doctrines now so clearly and frankly presented.