| Home - Robert M. Young | What's New | Search | Feedback | Contact Us |
Robert M. Young Home Page
Index of writings by Robert M. Young
Email Robert M. Young
Process Press
Science as Culture
Free Associations
Kleinian Studies
Human Relations, Authority and Justice

Mind, Brain and Adaptation in the Nineteenth Century: Cerebral Localization and Its Biological Context from Gall to Ferrier

by

Robert M. Young

 

[ Contents | Preface | Introduction | Chapter: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | Bibliography ]

5

HERBERT SPENCER: PHRENOLOGY, EVOLUTIONARY ASSOCIATIONISM, AND CEREBRAL LOCALIZATION

It is very satisfactory to see how you and Bain, each in his own way, have succeeded in affiliating the conscious operations of the mind to the primary unconscious organic actions of the nerves, thus filling up the most serious lacuna and removing the chief difficulty in the association psychology.

John Stuart Mill, 1864.

To Spencer is certainly due the immense credit of having been the first to see in evolution an absolutely universal principle.

Add this sleuth-hound scent for what he was after, and his untiring pertinacity, to his priority in perceiving the one great truth, and you fully justify the popular estimate of him as one of the world's geniuses, in spite of the fact that the 'temperament' of genius, so called, seems to have been so lacking in him.

William James, 1904.

That the philosophical system of Spencer is an object of derision is one of the few points on which all philosophers seem now to agree.

Charles Singer, 1959.

Early Phrenological Work and Social Statics

Bain represented the culmination of classical associationism and brought it into relation with sensory-motor physiology. Herbert Spencer's Principles of Psychology was published in the same year that Bain's Senses and the Intellect appeared (1855), yet the two works belong to different generations. Where Bain had enriched the association psychology with a new interest in motion and provided it with an important alliance with experimental neurophysiology, Spencer gave it a whole new basis in evolutionary biology. It was Spencer's psychology of evolutionary associationism and the conception of cerebral localization which he united with it, that Hughlings Jackson applied to the nervous system. The views of Jackson and Bain then provided the psychophysiological theory which David Ferrier developed experimentally after the localized electrical excitability of the cerebral cortex was demonstrated in 1870. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that the work of Jackson and Ferrier can be deduced from the theories of Bain and Spencer. Jackson's clinical work and Ferrier's experiments were acknowledged applications of the conceptions of Bain and Spencer. An historical study of the development of concepts of cerebral localization and its biological context should therefore pay close attention to the sources of these conceptions as a necessary prerequisite to an appreciation of their use in the clinic and laboratory.

Spencer's intellectual development shows the relations among associationism, phrenology, sensory-motor psychophysiology, cerebral localization, and the new basis for psychology in the theory of evolution. All of these approaches came together in his early writings, providing a unique opportunity to review previous work and to lay the foundations for the work of Jackson and Ferrier. A close study of this period will also afford an opportunity to indicate further developments of the conception of psychology as a biological science which were raised in connection with Gall and were significantly advanced by Spencer. These developments will be indicated, although in the present study they will not be pursued in detail beyond Spencer.

The connection between Gall's biological view of psychology and Spencer's is not merely conceptual. Like Bain, Spencer derived his initial interest in psychology from phrenology.[1] His biographer reports that 'His letters show that he approached the study of mental functions through the avenue of phrenology, his conclusions being reached, as he is more than once careful to mention, not theoretically only, but by observation'.[2] In his Autobiography, Spencer says,

Between 1820 and 1830, phrenology had been drawing attention; and there came over to England, about 1830 or after, Gall's disciple, Spurzheim, who went about the country diffusing knowledge of the system. Derby was among the towns he visited. Being then perhaps 11, or perhaps 12, I attended his lectures: having, however, to overcome a considerable repugnance to contemplating the row of grinning skulls he had in front of him. Of course at that age faith was stronger than scepticism. Accepting uncritically the statements made, I became a believer, and for many years remained one.[3]

In 1842, when he was twenty-two, Spencer had his head 'read' by a reputable phrenologist, Mr J. Q. Rumball. Firmness, Self-Esteem, and Conscientiousness were the largest prominences, and Mr Rumball commented that 'Such a head as this ought to be in the Church'.[4] The full delineation and commentary are worth studying, as they are,

1 I am indebted to articles by Jefferson (1960, pp. 35-44) and Denton (1921) for the initial impulse to look into the following matters on Spencer.

2 Spencer, 1908, p. 40.

3 Spencer, 1904, 1, 200.

4 Ibid., 1, 201.

 

152

on the whole, unexceptionable. However, one friend ventured the suggestion that 'he might have arrived at the same conclusion without feeling your head at all'.[l] Spencer was not moved by his friend's scepticism, 'Papers yield evidence that at that time my faith in phrenology was unshaken.'[2]

Between 1842 and 1846, his interest in phrenology was very active indeed. He wrote memoranda on the faculties of Veneration, Self-Esteem, and Love of Approbation, and made a design for an ideal head.[3] He wrote to a friend in 1843, 'At present I am engaged in writing an article for The Phrenological Journal upon the new theory of Benevolence and Imitation, which we have talked over together'.[4] By this time Spencer's scepticism about phrenology was beginning to manifest itself. The heretical article, advocated a new view of the functions of the organs, and it was rejected by Combe.[5] However, it was accepted by a new periodical, The Zoist, founded by Dr John Elliotson for the propagation of mesmerism.[6] 'Phreno-mesmerism[7] was at that time the name of one class of the manifestations; and, by implication, Phrenology was recognized as an associated topic. Hence, in part, I suppose, the reason why Dr Eliotson [sic] accepted this essay of mine.’[8] The article was published in The Zoist of January, 1844. Two other heterodox articles advocating relocation of Amativeness from the cerebellum to the adjacent cerebrum and suggesting that the 'ultimate function' of the organ of Wonder was 'the revival of all intellectual impressions' or 'Revivisence' appeared in the July and October numbers.[9]

Spencer says of this period,

Partially dissentient though I was concerning special phrenological doctrines, I continued an adherent of the general doctrine: not having, at that time,

1 Spencer, 1904, I, 202.

2 Ibid., 1, 203.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., I, 225.

5 This rebuff was later used by phrenologists to explain Spencer's subsequent hostility to their views, e.g. Hollander, n.d., I, 459. The members of the British Phrenological Society were still sensitive about Spencer in the 1960s.

6 Elliotson had been President of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society, Lecturer at St Thomas' Hospital and Professor at the University of London. He introduced the stethoscope into London. He was a famous surgeon. However, his espousal of painless operations by mesmerism ended his academic career. Phrenologists were grateful for the new ally and especially for the aura of martyrdom which hung around him. The standard translation of Gall was dedicated to him. He founded the London Phrenological Society and lectured extensively on phrenology. (Hollander, n.d., 1, 342, 354, 357, etc.) Cf. Spencer, 1904, I, 227, 246-7; Wallace, 1901, p. 180; Boring, 1950, pp. 119-23.

7 This was the aspect of phrenology that had converted A. R. Wallace. See above, pp. 44-5

8 Spencer, 1904, I, 227.

9 Ibid., I, 246-7.

 

153

entered on those lines of psychological inquiry which led me eventually to conclude that, though the statements of phrenologists might contain adumbrations of truths, they did not express the truths themselves.[1]

His active interest in phrenology can be traced as far as 1846, when he set out to improve on phrenological technology.

My interest in phrenology still continued; and thought, occasionally expended upon it, raised dissatisfaction with the ordinary mode of collecting data. Examinations of heads carried on merely by simple inspection and tactual exploration seemed to me extremely unsatisfactory. The outcome of my dissatisfaction was the devising of a method for obtaining, by graphic delineations, mechanically made, exact measurements, instead of the inexact ones obtained through the unaided senses.[2]

A description and drawings of the 'cephalograph' which he designed are appended to his Autobiography.[3] He intended to publish its description in The Zoist, but a trial model had been badly made. He did not pursue the matter then, and when he returned to it, he says, 'I had become sceptical about current phrenological views, and no longer felt prompted to employ a better instrument-maker'.[4]

Spencer began reading in preparation for his first book, Social Statics (1851) in 1846, and between then and 1848, he abandoned his career as a railway engineer and decided to earn a living as a writer. Social Statics sought to relate his views on the proper sphere of government with general moral principles[5]; his attempts to argue a consistent laissez-faire view of society were based on a biological theory of the structure of human communities, in which social bodies were made analogous to the somatic organization of men and other organisms. The argument of the book can be briefly given in context with its relevance to the development of Spencer's views on psychology and physiology.

It was written as an attack on Benthamism[6] — retaining the utilitarian standard of value but rejecting the active role of the state in attaining the greatest happiness for the greatest number. State regulation and legislation are seen as interference with Spencer's 'First Principle': 'Every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.’[7] Men would eventually come to do

1 Spencer, 1904, 1, 228.

2 Ibid., I, 297.

3 Ibid., 1, 540-3.

4 Ibid., I, 540.

5 Spencer, 1908, p. 55.

6 Characteristically, Spencer had not read Bentham's works; see Spencer, 1908, pp. 418, 538.

7 Spencer, 1851, p. 103.

 

154

naturally what is best, even though a lengthy struggle would be necessary. His position, which provided the rationale for the individualist and ultra-conservative ideology of 'Social Darwinism',[1] leads him to oppose such things as poor laws, state-supported education, sanitary supervision, protection of the ignorant from medical quacks, tariffs, state banking, and government postal systems. He opposes anything which he feels would interfere with the free exercise of all of men's faculties. The duty of the state is to protect equal freedom but never to interfere with it. He claims that 'beyond its function of protector against external and internal enemies, the State has no function: and . . . when it assumes any other function it becomes an aggressor instead of a protector'.[2]

His argument is based on a distinctly phrenological view of man. The faculties are heterodox, but they are phrenological faculties none the less. Consistent with the optimism added to Gall's views by Spurzheim and Combe, they are extremely modifiable: 'The universal law of life is, that the exercise or gratification of faculties strengthens them; whilst, on the contrary, the curbing or inflicting pain upon them, entails a diminution of their power.'[3] Each faculty grows by exercise and dwindles from disuse.[4] Happiness results from 'the fulfilment of their functions by the respective faculties'.[5]

His conception of psychological phenomena departs radically from that of the Utilitarians. He accepts the pleasure-pain principle but not the normative psychology with which it had been traditionally linked by the associationists. James Mill had elaborated Hartley's psychology to serve as a rational basis for the legislative, economic, and social programme of the Philosophic Radicals. The psychological view which he developed implied that a common human nature led to a 'natural identity of interests' of the individuals in society. Pleasure and pains could be scientifically determined and made part of a 'felicific calculus'. From these calculations of a scientific psychology, a legislative programme could be devised which created an 'artificial identification of interests'[6] by means of the rewards and punishments which the state dispensed. These two aspects of the Utilitarian programme are contradictory; and Spencer's Social Statics was a symptom of this major weakness. Spencer argues that if there is a common meeting ground of the interests of individuals in society, it will manifest itself without

1 See Hofstadter, 1955, especially Chapter 2.

2 Spencer, 1904, I, 362.

3 Spencer, 1851, p. 80.

4 Ibid., p. 466.

5 Ibid. Cf. pp. 75-89.

6 Halévy, 1952, p. 514. See Part III Chapters 3 and 4, especially pp. 485-514; Burrow, 1966, chs. 1-4, 6.

 

155

the artificial sanctions of rewards and punishments by the state. Moreover, he claims that the belief that such sanctions can be effective is based on an erroneous conception of human nature. Reasoning abstractly about the 'greatest happiness' only makes sense when talking about the ideal man. Attempts at defining such a state are nonsensical where real men are concerned. 'It is not then to be wondered at, if Paleys and Benthams make vain attempts at a definition.'[l]

The source of his objection is a phrenological view of individual differences based on a faculty psychology.

Man..... consists of a congeries of faculties, qualifying him for surrounding conditions. Each of these faculties, if normally developed, yields to him, when exercised, a gratification constituting part of his happiness; whilst, in the act of exercising it, some deed is done subserving the wants of the man as a whole, and affording to the other faculties the opportunity of performing in turn their respective functions, and of producing every one its peculiar pleasure: so that, when healthily balanced, each subserves all, and all subserve each.[2]

Complete happiness is the result of the exercise of all the faculties,

in the ratio of their several developments; and an ideal arrangement of circumstances calculated to secure this constitutes the standard of 'greatest happiness'; but the minds of no two individuals contain the same combination of elements. Duplicate men are not to be found. There is in each a different balance of desires. Therefore the conditions adapted for the highest enjoyment of one, would not perfectly compass the same end for any other. And consequently the notion of happiness must vary with the disposition and character; that is, must vary indefinitely.[3]

State action cannot take account of the myriad subtle differences among individuals. It can only do harm to the happy, self-sufficient man or prevent a man who has not achieved this state from doing so.[4] 'To do anything for him by some artificial agency, is to supersede certain of his powers-is to leave them unexercised, and therefore to diminish his happiness.'[5]

Turning from individual psychology to social relations, Spencer proposes two reasons why men will act for the good of others without needing the artificial restraints of state action. The first is the existence of the faculty of the 'Moral Sense'. In his argument for such a faculty,

1 Spencer, 1851, p. 5. Cf. Albee, new ed. 1962.

2 Spencer, 1851, p. 280.

3 Ibid., p. 5. Spencer's opposition to belief in the constancy of human nature is spelled out, pp. 32-8.

4 Ibid., pp. 281-2.

5 Ibid., pp. 280-1.

 

156

Spencer reveals the detailed influence of phrenology on his psychological thinking. Phrenological faculty psychology and craniology are not mentioned explicitly, and he makes no acknowledgement of the interests which had dominated his writing activity a few years earlier. However, in attempting to uphold the Moral Sense doctrine in opposition to Bentham's condemnation of the principle,[1] Spencer uses a phrenological view of the nature of man, which he believes unequivocally establishes the existence of a Moral Sense. He also tries to show that the Utilitarians fall back on the moral sense for the foundation of their own doctrine.[2] His phrenological argument is that nature does not leave the fulfilment of important needs to chance or to the care of the intellect. 'Answering to each of the actions which it is requisite for us to perform, we find in ourselves some prompter called a desire; and the more essential the action, the more powerful is the impulse to its performance, and the more intense the gratification derived therefrom.’[3] This is obviously true of 'creature needs' such as food, sleep, and the continuance of the race. He argues that it is also true of our social lives, where analogous impulses exist leading to love of praise and the sentiment of friendship. His argument for the moral sense is derived by analogy from these provisions of nature.

May we not then reasonably expect to find a like instrumentality employed in impelling us to that line of conduct, in the due observance of which consists what we call morality? All must admit that we are guided to our bodily welfare by instincts; that from instincts also, spring those domestic relationships by which other important objects are compassed-and that similar agencies are in many cases used to secure our indirect benefit, by regulating social behaviour. Seeing, therefore, that whenever we can readily trace our actions to their origin, we find them produced after this manner, it is, to say the least of it, highly probable that the same mental mechanism is employed in all cases-that as the all-important requirements of our being are fulfilled at the solicitations of desire, so also are the less essential ones-that upright conduct in each being necessary to the happiness of all, there exists in us an impulse towards such conduct; or, in other words, that we possess a 'Moral Sense', the duty of which is to dictate rectitude in our transactions with each other; which receives gratification from honest and fair dealing; and which gives birth to the sentiment of justice.[4]

The existence of an innate instinct or faculty of moral sense had been claimed by Hutcheson and the Scottish faculty psychologists but rejected by Gay, Hartley, Paley, James Mill, and Bentham, who argued that all

1 Spencer, 1851, p. 28.

2 Ibid., p. 23.

3 Ibid., p. 19.

4 Ibid., pp. 19-20.

 

157

moral feelings were the result of experience, association, and reasoning. The Utilitarian view held that moral judgements should be derived from calculations based on the utility of actions in leading to the greatest happiness for the greatest number and that they should be enforced by the dispensation of rewards and punishments by those in authority. Gall believed that there was an innate faculty which suited men for living in society, which he called 'Moral Sense, Sentiment of Justice and Injustice' (and, variously, 'Goodness', 'Benevolence', and 'Compassion').[1] Gall was cautious in his argument about this faculty. He had discovered it by his usual method of correlating a large cranial prominence with extreme benevolence in three individuals with identical cranial prominences. He inferred that these were manifestations of an exaggerated degree of activity of the 'organ of benevolence'.[2] He felt that he had made an insufficient number of observations to enable him to determine the 'fundamental original destination' of the organ and so, as he expressed it, 'resorted to reasoning’[3] He concluded 'that goodness or benevolence is only a gradation of the moral sense',[4] which had as its primitive destination to 'dispose man to conduct himself in a manner conformed to the maintenance of social order'.[5] He was not prepared to acknowledge a separate, fundamental quality of conscience and viewed it as an 'affection of the moral sense or of benevolence'.[6] Spurzheim departed from Gall's view and argued for separate faculties of 'Goodness' (Gall's 'Benevolence') and of 'Conscientiousness' or 'Justice'.[7] Combe credits Spurzheim with the discovery of Conscientiousness,[8] but his own account is much fuller. He identifies the phrenological faculty with the Moral Sense doctrine of Cudworth, Hutcheson, Reid, Stewart, and Brown. Combe held that phrenology could settle the issue by providing observations demonstrating 'That a power or faculty exists, the object of which is to produce the sentiment of justice or the feeling of duty and obligation, independently of selfishness, hope of reward, fear of punishment, or any extrinsic motive'.[9] It is the source of feelings of right and wrong.[10]

There is no obvious direct textual link between the details of any of these phrenological formulations and Spencer's. Rather, his argument adopts the form of the phrenological position while the resulting conception of the moral sense is put in the service of his own social theory. Spencer makes the phrenologists' identification between natural needs,

1 Gall, 1835, V, 156-200.

2 Ibid., V, 156-7.

3 Ibid., V, 167.

4 Ibid., V, 173.

5 Ibid., V, 167.

6 Ibid., V, 182.

7 Spurzheim, 1815, pp. 337-8, 346-52.

8 Combie, 4th ed., 1836 I, 352.

9 Ibid., I, 355.

10 Combe, 2nd ed., 1825, p. 78.

 

158

instincts, and faculties, and in illustrating his argument mentions ten of the faculties which are characteristic of phrenology, e.g. parental affection,[l] geometric sense (sense of number),[2] and mechanical sense.[3] He reaches the conclusion that the Utilitarian psychology is inadequate as an account of men's propensities and that the Utilitarian morality can only fail in its attempts at calculation of right and wrong in terms of expediency and by means of reasoning about the greatest good for the greatest number. Instead, one should study the innate propensities of individuals and the environmental conditions to which they answer in order to arrive at a true science of 'Moral Physiology'.[4] The existence of the moral sense insures that the social behaviour which the Utilitarians would legislate for the public good will occur naturally if only the state does not interfere with its ill-conceived artifices.

Spencer's second reason why men will act for the good of others without the need for state action involves his view of the organismic relation between society and its members. Public interests and private ones are essentially in unison, and men have only to realize this. Spencer believes that they will if left alone to discover it.

When, after observing the reactions entailed by breaches of equity, the citizen contemplates the relation in which he stands to the body politic-when he learns that it has a species of life, and conforms to the same laws of growth, organization, and sensibility that a being does-when he finds that one vitality circulates through it and him, and that whilst social health, in a measure depends upon the fulfilment of some function in which he takes part, his happiness depends upon the normal action of every organ in the social body-when he duly understands this, he must see that his own welfare and all men's welfare are inseparable. He must see that whatever

1 Spencer, 1851, p. 21.

2 Ibid., p. 29.

3 Ibid., p. 30.

4 Spencer, 1851, p. 58. The phrenological work which corresponds most closely to Spencer's position is George Combe's Essay on the Constitution of Man and Its Relations to External Objects (1827). I have seen no evidence that Spencer read it, but over seventy thousand copies of the work were sold by 1838 (Temkin, 1947, p. 309; Cf. pp. 310-12). Combe considers the relations between faculties and environmental conditions more explicitly than Gall had. His view lies somewhere between a radical separation of man from nature and the consistent naturalistic approach to man which came in the wake of the theory of evolution. Man's relation to natural laws was that he could choose to act in harmony with them or not. The relevant analogy is his relations with civil and moral laws, and the argument is conducted in terms of ‘infringement' and 'obedience'. These bring rewards or punishments, and happiness or evil befall man in the measure that he obeys or disobeys the laws for which he has been fitted (Combe, 1827, pp. 6, 7, 39, 46). Combe recast phrenological principles in the light of natural theology, and his book should be read with Paley's earlier work and later Bridgewater Treatises of Chalmers and Kidd in mind. Combe is said to have complained that Chalmers' On the Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man (1833) adopted the principles of his Essay without referring to it (Temkin, 1947 p.312). However, it is more likely that they had a common debt to Paley and the tradition of natural theology.

 

159

produces a diseased state in one part of the community, must inevitably inflict injury upon all other parts. He must see that his own life can become what it should be, only as fast as society becomes what it should be. In short, he must become impressed with the salutary truth, that no one can be perfectly free till all are free; no one can be perfectly moral till all are moral; no one can be perfectly happy till all are happy.[1]

In spelling out the details of this remarkably optimistic conception, Spencer presents the view of organs and functions which he later argued was all that he retained from phrenology, and on which he based his view of cerebral localization.

A FUNCTION to each organ, and each organ to its own function, is the law of all organization. To do its work well, an apparatus must possess special fitness for that work; and this will amount to unfitness for any other work. The lungs cannot digest, the heart cannot respire, the stomach cannot propel blood. Each muscle and each gland must have its own particular nerve. There is not a fibre in the body but what has a channel to bring it food, a channel to take its food away, an agency for causing it to assimilate nutriment, an agency for stimulating it to perform its peculiar duty, and a mechanism to take away effete matter; not one of which can be dispensed with. Between creatures of the lowest type, and creatures of the highest, we similarly find the essential difference to be, that in the one the vital actions are carried on by a few simple agents, whilst in the other the vital actions are severally decomposed into their component parts, and each of these parts has an agent to itself.[2]

Reasoning by analogy from this physiological principle, Spencer argues an organismic view of economic and social relationships. He does this by means of a view of life borrowed from Coleridge, and examples taken from zoology. Life, says Coleridge, consists in the progressive realization of a 'tendency to individuation'.[3] Spencer gives examples in the animal kingdom to support the thesis that 'By greater individuality of parts-by greater distinctness in the nature and functions of these, are all creatures possessing high vitality distinguished from inferior ones'.[4] Tissues are progressively individuated into separate organs adapted to separate ends.[5] The nervous system is a notable example, and as it becomes progressively individuated, other systems (such as the muscular, respiratory, and circulatory systems) are simultaneously forming separate parts with special functions.[6]

Higher organisms have greater powers and are more self-sufficient and more individual. In man the individuation is most complete, and

1 Spencer, 1851, pp. 455-6.

2 Ibid., p. 274.

3 Ibid., p. 436.

4 Ibid., p. 438.

5 Ibid., pp. 438-9.

6 Ibid., p. 439.

 

160

it is best manifested in the progressive evolution of his ability to recognize the moral law of equal freedom.[1] Yet this individuation requires mutual dependence in society.[2]

Just that kind of individuality will be acquired which finds in the most highly-organized community the fittest sphere for its manifestation-which finds in each social arrangement a condition answering to some faculty in itself-which could not, in fact, expand at all, if otherwise circumstanced. The ultimate man will be one whose private requirements coincide with public ones. He will be that manner of man, who, in spontaneously fulfilling his own nature, incidentally performs the functions of a social unit; and yet is only enabled so to fulfil his own nature, by all others doing the like.[3]

The identity of personal and social interests leads Spencer to view society in organismic terms.

We commonly enough compare a nation to a living organism. We speak of 'the body politic', of the functions of its several parts, of its growth, and of its diseases, as though it were a creature. But we usually employ these expressions as metaphors, little suspecting how close is the analogy, and how far it will bear carrying out. So completely, however, is a society organized upon the same system as an individual being, that we may almost say there is something more than analogy between them.[4]

The historical development of society from its lowest to its highest stages again exemplifies the close analogy to animal organization. 'In the one extreme there are but few functions, and many similar agents to each function: in the other, there are many functions, and few similar agents to each function.'[5] There is an ever-increasing division of labour as a result of the increasing subdivision of functions and separation of their agents.[6]

There are two justifications for considering these passages from Social Statics in such detail. The first is to demonstrate the influence of phrenological thinking on this seminal work of Spencer's. The faculty psychology which he uses in conducting his arguments and the belief that different functions are served by different organs throughout nature came naturally to a formerly ardent student of phrenological faculties and their organs. The second justification lies in the relations of the above passages with his subsequent biological and psychological views. For present purposes the passages must be lifted from their context and their use in his social theory ignored.[7] Their importance

1 Spencer, 1851, p. 440.

2 Ibid., p. 441

3 Ibid., p. 442.

4 Ibid., p. 448.

5 Ibid., p. 451.

6 Ibid., p. 453.

7 He remained loyal to the organism-society analogy, repeated it in the Principles of Biology (1864, I, 160, 163 ff) and defended it (1908, pp. 570-1). Cf. Albee, 1962, for an analysis of Spencer's ethical theories in Social Statics and his later writings.

 

161

to his later thinking is pointed out in two notes to the revised edition in which he comments on the arguments quoted above:

Until now (1890) that [sic] I am re-reading Social Statics for the purpose of making this abridgement, the above paragraph had remained for these 40 years unremembered. It must have been written in 1849; and it shows that at that date I had entered on the line of thought which, pursued in after years, led to the general law of evolutional[1]

In the generalizations contained in the two above paragraphs, and in the recognition of their parallelism, may be seen the first step towards the general doctrine of Evolution. Dating back as they do to i850, they show that this first step was taken earlier than I supposed.[2]

Spencer's general theory of evolution and the biological, evolutionary basis of his psychology grew out of the arguments for specialization of functions which he elaborated in the context of his phrenological interests. He later freed his evolutionary psychology from phrenology, and the belief in cerebral localization (which was all that he retained from his earlier allegiance), was based on the general theory of evolution. However, it should be noted that this new basis for a remnant of his phrenological interests had itself grown out of the theory it replaced. In what follows an attempt will be made to trace in detail the development of Spencer's biological view of psychology, its evolutionary basis, and its associationist form.

The development of Spencer's views subsequent to the writing of Social Statics involves three closely intertwined themes. The first is the abandonment of the faculty of psychology of phrenology in favour of associationism. The second is a change in the foundations of his organfunction view.

He added this to other analogies borrowed from embryology and development to elaborate his general theory of evolution. The novel features of his psychology arise from the union of the concepts of association and evolution and lead to a conception of psychology as a biological science of adaptation. Third, when he returns to the consideration of phrenology, almost as an afterthought in his Principles of Psychology, he retains only two aspects of the theory which formerly held his intellectual loyalty. Certain of the phrenological faculties are present in shadow form as the names for complex emotions, but these are no longer fundamental faculties. They are the synthetic products

1 Spencer, 1892, p. 120, commenting on the passage quoted in part from Spencer, 1851, p. 274. See above, p. 159.

2 Spencer, 1892, p. 266, commenting on the passage quoted in part from Spencer, 1851, pp. 451-3. See above, p. 160.

 

162

of associated individual and racial experiences. The theory of cerebral localization is retained as a corollary of the general theory of evolution from homogeneity to heterogeneity and of the resulting physiological division of labour.

Spencer's Interest in Psychology: From Faculties to the Association of Ideas

Before the publication of Social Statics, Spencer's writings were primarily concerned with engineering topics, education, and government. Shortly after the appearance of his book, he met George Henry Lewes (Spring, 1850). They walked home together discussing the 'development question' (evolution), and Spencer defended the mechanism of inheritance of functional adaptations against the view of the Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.[1]

Their friendship and their many long walks together had important results, including the renewal of Lewes' interest in science and his liaison with George Eliot, to whom Spencer introduced Lewes.[2]

'One result of my friendship with Lewes was that I read some of his books.' A novel did not impress Spencer either way. 'A more important result, however, was that I read his Biographical History of Philosophy, then existing in its original four-volume form. . . . Up to that time questions in philosophy had not attracted my attention.' He had ignored a copy of Locke's Essay on his father's shelf and rejected Kant's Critique of Pure Reason after reading a few pages in 1844.[3]

It is also true that though, so far as I can remember, I had read no books on either philosophy or psychology, I had gathered in conversations or by references, some conceptions of the general questions at issue. And it is no less true that I had myself, to some extent, speculated upon psychological problems-chiefly in connexion with phrenology. . . . Still, I had not, up to 1851, made the phenomena of mind a subject of deliberate study.[4]

I doubt not that the reading of Lewes's book, while it made me acquainted with the general course of philosophical thought, and with the doctrines which throughout the ages have been the subjects of dispute, gave me an increased interest in psychology, and an interest, not before manifest, in philosophy at large; at the same time that it served, probably, to give more coherence to my own thoughts, previously but loose. No more definite effect, however, at that time resulted, because there had not occurred to me any thought serving as a principle of organization.[5]

1 Spencer, 1908, p. 541.

2 Gross, n.d., p. 259.

3 Spencer, 1904, I, 378-9.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., I, 379.

 

163

Just as the reading of Lyell's refutation of Lamarck turned Spencer towards belief in inheritance of acquired characteristics,[l] the reading of Lewes' positivist polemics seems to have turned him towards metaphysics. He wrote to his father in September 1851, that he was absorbed in the subject.[2] Between the autumn of 1851 and the beginning of 1852, Spencer decided to write a book on psychology.[3] He wrote to his father in March, 'I shall shortly begin to read up in preparation for my "Introduction to Psychology".' This was envisaged as the preliminary to a larger work and was to contain its general principles.[4] Within two weeks, he wrote 'I am just beginning to read Mill's Logic. This is my first step towards preparing for my "Introduction to Psychology" which I mean to begin vigorously by and by.'[5] Spencer does not specify the other sources of his psychological development. However, the reading of Mill's Logic[6] and his subsequent writings give ample evidence of the direction his thinking took.

A direct result of his reading of Mill was the formulation of what he considered to be a unifying concept for his psychology. In reflecting on Mill's objections to Whewell, he was led to the formulation of 'The Universal Postulate'.[7] This was Spencer's ultimate criterion of belief: the thesis that 'in the last resort we must accept as true a proposition of which the negation is inconceivable'.[8] First begun in October, 1852, and published as an essay a year later, this conception was expanded into Part I of his Principles of Psychology.[9] Although the connection between this part of his work and the rest is very tenuous indeed, it seems to have had the psychological effect of spurring him on.

Thus it appears that the general interest in mental phenomena..... which I..... inferred was increased by reading Lewes's Biographical History of Philosophy in the autumn of 1851, quickly under that stimulus, began to have results. It was there remarked, that some original conception in relation to the subject was needed to give me the requisite spur; and this requirement was, it seems, fulfilled much sooner than I supposed.[10]

1 See below, pp. 167, 172, 186-90.

2 Spencer, 1908, p. 67.

3 Spencer, 1904, I, 391.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid

6 The book was a gift from George Eliot. Spencer, 1908, p. 418.

7 Ibid., p. 544; Spencer, 1904, 1, 416.

8 Spencer, I904, 1, 472.

9 The article engendered a prolonged controversy with Mill which is not relevant here. However, from the viewpoint of strictly psychological issues Mill was quite right to apologize for this part of Spencer's Principles as 'the very essence of the a priori philosophy' while giving the remainder of the work a qualified recommendation. (Mill, 1867, p. 99.) Mill's opinions changed somewhat toward a more favourable view of Spencer's psychology, though not toward the first part. (Spencer, 1908, pp. 114-5. Cf. Packe, 1954, pp. 431-4; Mill, 1872, p. 557.)

10 Spencer, 1904, 1, 392.

 

164

Mill's conception of psychology[l] was firmly opposed to the possibility of deriving a science of character from direct observation of complex behaviour.[2] Nor could it be deduced from physiology. The true 'Laws of Mind' were to be found by introspective observation and experiments on actual 'mental successions' and were based on the principle of association.[3] 'The subject, then, of Psychology is the uniformities of succession, the laws, whether ultimate or derivative, according to which one mental state succeeds another-is caused by, or at least is caused to follow, another.’[4]

In the edition of Mill's Logic which Spencer read, the major authorities cited are James Mill and (to a lesser extent) Hartley, though Bain is given precedence in later editions, and Spencer himself is mentioned.[5] The science of character which Mill proposed was to be called Ethology.

The laws of the formation of character are, in short, derivative laws, resulting from the general laws of mind, and are to be obtained by deducing them from those general laws by supposing any given set of circumstances, and then considering what, according to the laws of mind, will be the influence of those circumstances on the formation of character.[6]

In other words, Ethology, the deductive science, is a system of corollaries from Psychology, the experimental science.[7]

Mill's approach was opposed to phrenology by implication, and he was also explicitly opposed to it in his writings and activities. He closes his discussion of the relations between psychology and physiology by saying,

The latest discoveries in cerebral physiology appear to have proved that any such connection which may exist [between mental peculiarities and any varieties cognisable by our senses in the structure of the cerebral and nervous apparatus] is of a radically different character from that contended for by Gall and his followers, and that whatever may hereafter be found to be the true theory of the subject, phrenology at least is untenable.[8]

When William Carpenter published an extensive review of a phrenological work which was scrupulously fair but highly critical of phrenology, Mill wrote to him

I should have been truly vexed not to have heard immediately of such a valuable contribution to science as your paper. I have read it once with great care, but I must read it a second time before I can have completely incorporated it with my system of thought. I have long thought that you

1 Mill, 1872, pp. 552-71.

2 Ibid., pp. 552-4.

3 Ibid., pp. 555-6.

4 Ibid., p. 557.

5 Ibid., pp. 557,558.

6 Ibid., p. 567.

7 Ibid., p. 569.

8 Ibid., pp. 561-2.

 

165

were the person who would set to rights the pretensions of present and the possibilities of future phrenology; but I did not venture to hope that I should see, so soon, anything approaching in completeness and conclusiveness to this.[1]

Finally, it has been mentioned that Mill is supposed to have convinced Bain to write his critical examination of phrenology as a possible science of character.[2]

The most important concomitant of Spencer's reading of Lewes and Mill is the change that occurred in his psychological views. Whether or not Spencer's change in allegiance can be directly attributed to the reading of Mill's work must remain, for the present, an open question.[3] What is clear is that Spencer's renewed interest in psychology took a form radically different from his earlier phrenological work. He turned from the faculty formulation of phrenology to a belief in associationism. This change can be chronicled with the aid of a remarkable document.

There was another essay written in Spencer's phrenological period. The same letter that mentions the article later rejected by Combe refers to an essay on 'The Force of Expression', which was duly rejected by Tait's Magazine. 'It was not without merit; for, ten years after, it was, with improvements, published in the Westminster Review, under the title of "The Philosophy of Style".’[4] Spencer revised and developed the original essay during the early autumn of 1852.[5] The result provides an excellent picture of his views in transition.

The aim of the essay was 'to explain the general cause of force in expression'.[6] Its relevance to the development of his psychological views results from the fact that he attempts an explanation in terms of the effect of various stylistic constructions on the mind of the reader. For present purposes the details of his arguments about style are incidental, but the language in which he writes is quite revealing. The essay has a single point, with positive and negative aspects. His positive view is that economy and vividness of verbal expression and arrangement promote ease of understanding; the converse is that there is a danger of fatiguing the reader which must be avoided by suitable variation and balance of verbal constructions. These aspects are illustrated by numerous examples. Were this all, the essay would be most uninteresting to the historian of science.

1 Carpenter, 1888, p. 55. Cf. below, pp. 212-14.

2 Haldane, 1912, 1, 79-80. I have seen no support for this claim in primary sources.

3 Spencer's MSS in the British Museum should be carefully examined with this question in mind. A brief inspection has not provided any help on Spencer's debt to Mill. Spencer was not generous in acknowledging his intellectual debts.

4 Spencer, 1904, 1, 225.

5 Ibid., I, 405.

6 Ibid.

 

166

However, there is a point at which the language of his argument changes abruptly to the faculty psychology of phrenology. It may even be possible to specify the last sentence that underwent revision, since the following one contains the first mention of faculties, and the whole of the remainder of the essay is expressed in terms of faculties and groups of faculties, their exercise and exhaustion.[1] The negative expression of Spencer's thesis is 'that the sensitiveness of the faculties must be husbanded'.[2] The emotions he refers to are those of reverence, approbation, beauty. The different effects of words is 'dependent on the different states of our faculties'.[3]

The language in which he makes the positive point is that of the association psychology. Force of expression is achieved by means of the greatest economy of mental 'energy', 'effort', 'power', or 'attention'. The mental law governing the effects of forms of expression is that of association. The mental contents to which he refers are images, ideas, and their respective elements. The mental functions involved are attention, imagination, memory, and concentration. Until near the end of the positive statement of his thesis the language is uniformly associationist.[4]

All Spencer's subsequent writings employ the language and assumptions of associationist psychology.

There is one further point to be made about this remarkable snapshot of a mind in transition. It is not the case that the last portion of 'The Philosophy of Style' was left untouched, for the closing paragraph reveals another manifestation of the development of Spencer's psychology: the first extension of his concept of evolution to superorganic phenomena.[5] In order to appreciate the significance of the union of association psychology and his theory of evolution it will be necessary to look further into the development of his view of evolution. For the

1 The point of transition occurs at Spencer, 1901, II, 360. The last sentence in associationist language refers to 'mental energy' and 'strain on the attention'. The next sentence contains the first mention of 'perceptive faculties'.

2 Ibid., II, 364.

3 Ibid. The subsequent development of Spencer's views is reflected in the fact that, in commenting on this essay in his Autobiography, he uses neither the language of association psychology nor that of phrenological faculties. His review of the thesis of the article is given in terms of nervous energy and the sensibility of nervous structures. (Spencer, 1904, I, 405-6.)

4 The MS of this essay which Spencer deposited in the British Museum neither supports nor detracts from my reading. In particular, it shows no break at the point where the language changes to that of faculty psychology (MS., p. 113), and faculty language does not appear to have been deleted or replaced in the earlier portions of the MS. Since the last sentence contains reference to a view which he did not hold until 1851, one may conclude that it was probably a recopy of the revised version.

5 Spencer, 1901, II, 366-7.

 

167

present one should note the union of the old phrenological psychology with the new faith in associationism and an embryonic form of his concept of evolution in the revision of this essay from his phrenological period.

The Development of Spencer's General Theory of Evolution

Spencer claimed that a belief in evolution had been latent in him since boyhood. He held that the view was implicit in the habit which his father had encouraged of seeking natural causes of phenomena. This entailed a disbelief in miracles, and therefore a relinquishment of the creed of special creation. This process was occurring during his early manhood. It was rather far-fetched for Spencer to claim retrospectively that the inevitable corollary of belief in the universality of natural causation was a belief in evolution, since this corollary had escaped so many scientists and philosophers for centuries.[1]

The first explicit convictions on evolution came from reading Lyell's Principles of Geology when he was twenty. The argument against Lamarck in Lyell's work led Spencer to a partial acceptance of both the transmutation of species and the mechanism of inheritance of acquired characters.[2] His belief in evolution never wavered, though the particular way he expressed and applied it underwent considerable development.

It has already been noted that Spencer later saw the remarks on progressive specialization of function in animals and in societies, which appeared in Social Statics, as 'the earliest foreshadowing of the general doctrine of Evolution'.[3] The examples used in that work were largely drawn from T. Rymer Jones' A General Outline of the Animal Kingdom. What he took from Jones was the idea of progression from simple creatures, where the duties of all structures are performed by one tissue, to more complex organisms where separate organs are adapted to separate end.[4] Spencer had drawn from this the analogy of increasing subdivision of functions in the development of society.[5] However, in both cases the concept of development used in this work 'involving as it did the idea of function along with the idea of structure,...... was limited to organic phenomena'.[6]

Spencer encountered two phrases in the next two years which consolidated his concept of evolution and freed it from this limitation.

1 Spencer, 1904, II, 6-7.

2 Spencer, 1904, I, 176-7. Spencer, 1904, II, 6-7.

3 Spencer, 1908, p. 541.

4 Spencer, 1851, pp. 436-40. Cf. pp. 274-.5.

5 Ibid., pp. 451-3.

6 Spencer, 1904, II, 9.

 

168

The first of these came from 'a little book just published by Milne-Edwards' which Spencer and Lewes took with them on one of their excursions in 1851:' 'the physiological division of labour'. This succinct expression had the effect of sharpening the views of development he put forth in Social Statics.[2]

The second phrase was discovered in W. M. Carpenter's Principles of Physiology (1851), which Spencer was reviewing: von Baer's formula that 'the development of every organism is a change from homogeneity to heterogencity'.[3] Though von Baer limited the concept to the development of individual organisms, it was felt by Spencer to provide a general formulation which could be applied to evolution beyond the organic world. The first extension of the general concept of evolution crept into the end of the essay on 'The Philosophy of Style'. He says that a perfect composition will 'answer to the description of all highlyorganized products both of man and nature. It will be, not a series of like parts simply placed in juxtaposition, but one whole made up of unlike parts that are mutually dependent'. On the adjoining page it is suggested that progress in style 'must produce increasing heterogeneity in our modes of expression'.[4]

1 Spencer, 1908, p. 542. Henri Milne-Edwards (1800-85) was a noted French zoologist and a pupil of Cuvier. He worked mainly on invertebrate comparative anatomy. See Nordenskiöld, 1928, p. 425. Spencer does not mention the title of the work he read, but it was probably Outlines of Anatomy and Physiology (1850) or possibly Introduction à la zoologie générale (1851). The work and the principle of the division of labour are considered, along with Milne-Edwards' career, in Russell, 1916, pp. 195-200. Milne-Edwards believed in a sort of descent theory but rejected any explanation in terms of natural causes (Ibid., pp. 244-5).

2 Spencer, 1904, II, 166; Cf. Spencer, 1864, I, 160 and Spencer, 1908, pp. 570-1.

3 Spencer, 1904, II, 8-9. Karl Ernst von Baer (1792-1876), a German zoologist, was the most distinguished and influential of the early nineteenth-century embryologists. His work was the culmination of previous embryology and 'the point of departure of all that was to follow'. It was he who converted embryology from philosophic speculation to a laboratory science. His embryological law of development of special heterogeneous structures from general homogeneous ones played an important, if confusing, part in the history of evolutionary theory, and Carpenter's exposition of his work was at the centre of the issue. Both Darwin and Spencer twisted von Baer's work for their own evolutionary purposes. In fact, he was opposed to organic evolution 'root and branch' and devoted his last years to an attempt at destroying Darwin's work by removing the embryological supports which Darwin considered crucial. Darwin's use of von Baer's work to support recapitulation was diametrically opposed to the latter's conclusions. This story is exhaustively told in two excellent essays in Glass, et al., 1959; Oppenheimer, Jane. An Embryological Enigma in the Origin of Species (pp. 292-322), from which the above evaluation is taken, and Lovejoy, Arthur O., 'Recent Criticism of the Darwinian Theory of Recapitulation: Its Grounds and Its Initiator (pp. 438-58). Lovejoy notes the similarity of von Baer's formulation in embryology to Spencer's doctrine of the evolution of the universe, but he is unaware of the direct link. He remarks, however, that Spencer's use of the formula was 'essentially different from and opposed to the ideas of his German predecessor'. (Ibid., p. 447.) Cf. Nordenskiöld, 1928, pp. 363-6, etc.: Russell, 1916, Chapter IX, etc.

4 Spencer, 1901, II, 366-7. Spencer, 1904, I, 406; Spencer, 1904, II, 9.

 

169

He had explicitly declared for organic evolution several months before (March, 1852) in an essay on 'The Development Hypothesis',[1] where it was argued that evolution of species is a much less implausible hypothesis than special creation, and the persistence of the latter view was attributed to ignorance and prejudice. He does not claim that actual changes of species can be demonstrated or the modifying influences identified, but argues that analogies to such processes are all around us, for example, continuous series can be drawn between distinct geometrical shapes and the development of a man from a single cell.[2]

After writing 'The Development Hypothesis', 'the evolutionary interpretation of things in general became habitual'.[3] It was applied in various forms in essays written in 1853-4, and these applications led naturally to his treatment of psychology where it became the central concept of his Principles.

The Writing of the Principles of Psychology in Terms of Evolutionary Adaptation and Correspondence

The simplest description of the Principles of Psychology is that it united the association psychology with the theory of evolution. However, it was not evolution itself but the view which Spencer took of the development of mind which 'originated the book and gave its most distinctive character'.[4] His expositor put the point more clearly than Spencer: 'Two fundamental ideas rule the psychology of Mr Herbert Spencer: that of the continuity of psychological phenomena; that of the intimate relation between the being and its medium. These two points virtually contain his doctrine.’[5] No psychologists except Gall and his followers had so emphatically made the connection of mind with life, and the adaptation of the mental functions to the environment, central to their views. Certainly no one in the associationist tradition had gone so far in substituting a biological approach for the traditional epistemological one. In fact, there is evidence that Spencer's phrenological interests played an important part in his conception of psychology as a biological science of adaptation.

Adaptation was a major issue in Social Statics, and Spencer's conception of it was derived directly from phrenology. In attacking the general formulation of the Utilitarians, he criticized its failure to take account

1 Spencer, 1901, 1, 1-7.

2 This essay and the Principles of Psychology were recognized by Darwin as legitimate anticipations of his own view. (Darwin, 6th ed., 1928 p. 13.) He refers to 'your excellent essay on Development' in a letter to Spencer. (Spencer, 1908, p. 98.) Cf. below pp. 188-92.

3 Spencer, 1908, p. 544.

4 Ibid., p. 546.

5 Ribot, 1873, p. 158.

 

170

of individual and racial differences. 'Adaptation of constitution to conditions' was the cause of all physical and mental differences among men.[1] The goal of his social theory was the attainment of 'congruity between the faculties and their spheres of action'.[2] This leads to fulfilment, gratification, and genuine happiness.[3] As long as the state does not interfere and try to create an artificial identity of interests based on an erroneous belief in a uniform human nature, 'this nonadaptation of an organism to its conditions is ever being rectified; and modification of one or both, continues until the adaptation is complete'.[4]

These views were at two removes from Gall. The popular phrenologists who had influenced Spencer, especially Spurzheim and Combe, had abandoned Gall's belief in fixed mental endowment and held that the faculties could be considerably altered by exercise. Spencer's meliorism went still further to a belief in the inevitability of progress:

Organs, faculties, powers, capacities, or whatever else we call them, grow by use and diminish from disuse, [and] it is inferred that they will continue to do so. And if this inference is unquestionable, then is the one above deduced from it-that humanity must in the end become completely adapted to its conditions-unquestionable also. Progress, therefore, is not an accident, but a necessity.[5]

This remarkable belief was the conclusion to his argument that all maladaptation and imperfection would disappear if only the excesses or defects of faculties could be allowed to correct themselves by natural intercourse with the appropriate conditions of existence.[6]

Spencer alluded to these views in reviewing the development of his psychology.

An early-impressed belief in the increase of faculty by exercise in the individual, and the subsequently accepted idea of adaptation as a universal principle of bodily life, now took, when contemplating the phenomena of mind, an appropriately modified form.[7]

This modification was formulated in 1853, as he was accumulating memoranda and preparing to begin the book.[8] He had arrived at a definition of life as 'the co-ordination of actions'. In applying this to psychology it

1 Spencer, 1851, p. 61.

2 Ibid., p. 59.

3 Ibid., pp. 466-7.

4 Ibid., pp. 59-60.

5 Ibid., p. 65; cf. Young, 1969, pp. 134-7, 141.

6 Ibid., p. 64. Cf. pp. 457, 460-1.

7 Spencer, 1904, II, 11

8 Spencer, 1908, p. 74.

 

171

required to be supplemented by recognition of the relations borne by such co-ordinated actions to connected actions in the environment. There at once followed the idea that the growth of a correspondence between inner and outer actions had to be traced up from the beginning; so as to show the way in which Mind gradually evolves out of Life. This was, I think, the thought which originated the book and gave its most distinctive character; but evidently, the tendency to regard all things as evolved, which had been growing more pronounced, gave another special interest to the undertaking.[1]

Thus, when Spencer began writing the Principles in August ' 1854, it was Part III, the 'General Synthesis, that he wrote first.[2] 'Progressive adaptation became increasing adjustment of inner subjective relations to outer objective relations-increasing correspondence between the two.’[3] The adaptive view is unified with evolution from homogeneity to heterogeneity.

Previous association psychologists had been concerned with the connections among mental phenomena. Natural scientists had concentrated on the connections between external phenomena. The epistemological bias of the Lockean tradition connected these two domains in terms of a knowing mind and its objects. The aim of Spencer's psychology was neither the connections among internal phenomena nor among external phenomena nor within knowledge itself.

Hence, then, as in all cases we may consider the external phenomena as simply in relation, and the internal phenomena also as simply in relation; the broadest and most complete definition of life will be-The continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations.[4]

.........not only does the definition, as thus expressed, comprehend all those activities, bodily and mental, which constitute our ordinary idea of life; but it also comprehends, both those processes of growth by which the organism is brought into general fitness for those activities, and those after-processes of adaptation by which it is specially fitted to its special activities.[5]

Mental phenomena are defined within this context as 'incidents of the correspondence between the organism and its environment'.[6]

The correspondence between life and its circumstances is treated in successive chapters as 'direct and homogeneous', as 'direct but heterogeneous', as extending in space and time, as increasing in speciality, generality, and complexity, as coordinated and as integrated.

1 Spencer, 1908, pp. 545-6.

2 Ibid., p. 546. Cf. Spencer, 1904, 1, 460-1.

3 Spencer, 1904, II, 11.

4 Spencer, 1855, p. 374

5 Ibid., p. 375

6 Ibid., p. 584.

 

172

The degree of life varies with the degree of correspondence. Bodily and mental life are but species of life in general. Mind 'emerges out of bodily life and becomes distinguished from it, in proportion as these several traits of the correspondence become more marked'.[1]

In adhering to the principle of continuity (perhaps more completely and consistently than any previous writer except Leibniz), Spencer was bound to apply his evolutionary view to the various categories of physiological and psychological manifestations. He held that no truly valid demarcations could exist among simple irritations, reflexes, their compounding into instincts, the beginning of conscious life, and the highest manifestations of intelligence-memory, reason, sentiment, and will. Memory, for example, is dawning instinct, and instinct is organized memory.[2]

Spencer's Evolutionary Associationism as an Advance on Gall and on Traditional Sensationalism

The foregoing story of Spencer's development provides the necessary foundation for understanding both the implications of his psychology for the associationist tradition, and its bearing on some of the issues raised by Gall. Spencer's concept of mental evolution was at once an integration of his view of adaptation with that of development from homogeneity to heterogeneity, and an expression of his adherence to the association psychology. It has been noted that the reading of Lyell had turned Spencer toward a Lamarckian view of evolution. In 'The Development Hypothesis' the only mention of a mechanism is the statement that animals and plants, when placed in new conditions, undergo changes fitting them for their new environment. In successive generations these changes continue 'until, ultimately, the new conditions become the natural ones'.[3] In reviewing his application of this view to psychological phenomena, Spencer says,

The familiar doctrine of association here undergoes a great extension; for it is held that not only in the individual do ideas become connected when in experience the things producing them have repeatedly occurred together, but that such results of repeated occurrences accumulate in successions of individuals: the effects of associations are supposed to be transmitted as modifications of the nervous system.[4]

1 Spencer, 1904, I, 470.

2 Ribot, 1873, pp. 149, 189. For a very clear exposition of Spencer see Ibid., pp. 124-93.

3 Spencer, 1901, I, 3.

4 Spencer, 1904, I, 470.

 

173

In the light of Spencer's development this extension presents itself as the natural next step. Its simplicity is deceptive. In fact, the application of evolution to psychology has consequences which are yet to be fully exploited, but the present analysis must be confined to its effects on psychological issues in the mid-nineteenth century. Spencer provided an evolutionary theory which mediated between the conflicting claims of Gall's psychology and the Lockean tradition of sensation-association.

The choice for Locke in explaining the origin of knowledge was between innate ideas and sensationalism. He opted equivocally for the latter, and Condillac unequivocally made the choice for a tabula rasa view of mind. The attempt to build a psychology on this epistemological thesis had been faced with serious limitations which centred around a vehement objection to any endowment that suggested that mental phenomena were innate. Evolutionary associationism was incompatible with a simple tabula rasa view of mind.

To rest with the unqualified assertion that, antecedent to experience, the mind is a blank, is to ignore the all-essential questions-whence comes the power of organizing experiences? whence arise the different degrees of that power possessed by different races of organisms, and different individuals of the same race? If, at birth, there exists nothing but a passive receptivity of impressions, why should not a horse be as educable as a man? Or, should it be said that language makes the difference, then why should not the cat and dog, out of the same household experiences, arrive at equal degrees and kinds of intelligence? Understood in its current form, the experience-hypothesis implies that the presence of a definitely organized nervous system is a circumstance of no moment-a fact not needing to be taken into account! Yet it is the all-important fact-the fact . . . without which an assimilation of experiences is utterly inexplicable.[1]

These are the same objections that Gall made to sensationalism: it could not explain individual and species differences, and it ignored the fundamental importance of the biological endowment of varying brain structures. In fact, Lewes credited Gall with settling the issue with which Spencer is concerned.

Gall may be said to have definitively settled the dispute between the partisans of innate ideas and the partisans of Sensationalism, by establishing the connate tendencies, both affective and intellectual, which belong to the organic structure of man . . . all the fundamental tendencies are connate, and can no more be created by precept and education than they can be abolished by denunciation and punishment.[2]

1 Spencer, 1855, pp. 580-1.

2 Lewes, 1857, p. 633. The edition of Lewes' book which Spencer read did not include the chapter on Gall. It was added in the second edition, which is quoted here. Cf. Young, 1966. p. 39 (fn. 77).

 

174

Although Spencer echoed Gall's objections and his emphasis on biological endowment and adaptation, he could accept neither the view of nature nor the faculty psychology on which Gall's arguments were based. Gall saw organic life in terms of the static chain of being. The cerebral endowments of species were part of an eternally fixed order of nature, and he believed that the organs were added in a stepwise fashion. The endowments of individuals were also given at birth, and the role left for experience was very meagre indeed. In his extreme reaction to the sensationalists in the name of biological endowment, Gall had moved dangerously close to a belief in innate ideas. In pursuing their epistemological interests the sensationalists had clearly committed biological absurdities. Similarly, Gall had pursued his biological and social interests faithfully and incidentally had talked philosophical nonsense. Much of the reaction to his psychology was the result of the supposed relation of faculties to innate ideas. In his zeal to show the continuity of human behaviour with that of animals he had collapsed the distinction between instincts and the most complex manifestations of human intelligence. Thus, the laws of various pure and applied sciences were supposed to be innately given as instincts in animals with striking talents and in human geniuses.[1] The charge against Gall that he adhered to belief in innate ideas was therefore not without foundation.

Others had noted the relations between biologically endowed instincts and innate ideas. For example, Johannes Mueller says, 'The expression of Cuvier with reference to instinct is very correct. He says, that animals in their acts of instinct are impelled by an innate idea,- as it were, by a dream'.[2] In sharing this view Mueller argued, 'That innate ideas may exist, cannot in the slightest degree be denied: it is, indeed, a fact. All the ideas of animals, which are induced by instinct, are innate and immediate; something presented to the mind, a desire to attain which is at the same time given. The new-born lamb and foal have such innate ideas, which lead them to follow their mother and suck the teats'.[3] However, he was not prepared to extend this equation to man. To the question, 'Is it not in some measure the same with the intellectual ideas of man?’[4] he replied with an emphatic denial and reverted to the arguments of the sensationalists. The general intellectual ideas of man result solely from 'the mutual reaction of allied perceptions amongst themselves'.[5] He believed in fixed endowment where

1 Gall, 1835, V, 48, 51, 65-6, 82-3.

2 Mueller, 1842, p. 947.

3 Ibid., p. 1347.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., p. 1348. Cf. pp. 948-9.

 

175

animals were concerned, and in sensationalism in human intelligence.

In addressing himself to this extremely confused set of explanations and assumptions, Spencer had first to answer the argument of special creation in the name of evolution, and then to mediate the conflicting claims of the sensationalists and those who employed the concept of instinct. His first attack was on the special creation hypothesis on which Gall had based his objections to the sensationalists. Gall had argued the innate endowment of a pre-established harmony between a faculty and its proper objects in the environment. Speaking of this adjustment of psychical cohesions to relations among objects in the environment, Spencer says,

Concerning their adjustment, there appear to be but two possible hypotheses, of which all other hypotheses can be but variations. It may on the one hand be asserted, that the strength of the tendency which each particular state of consciousness has to follow any other, is fixed beforehand by a Creator-that there is a pre-established harmony between the inner and outer relations. On the other hand it may be asserted, that the strength of the tendency which each particular state of consciousness has to follow any other, depends upon the frequency with which the two have been connected in experience-that the harmony between the inner and outer relations, arises from the fact, that the outer relations produce the inner relations.[1]

Spencer believed that there was no real evidence to support the special creation hypothesis. Speaking, though not directly, to Gall's view, he says,

That the inner cohesions of psychical states are pre-adjusted to the outer persistencies of the relations symbolized, is a supposition which, if taken in its full meaning, involves absurdities so many and great that none dare carry it beyond a limited range of cases.[2]

On the other hand, the supposition that the inner cohesions are adjusted to the outer persistencies by an accumulated experience of those outer persistencies, is in harmony with all our positive knowledge of mental phenomena.[3]

The evidence commonly cited to illustrate the doctrine of the association of ideas made the evidence for the 'experience hypothesis' overwhelming.[4]

However, he also took account of the fact that the major barriers to the rejection of special creation were the phenomena of reflex action,

1 Spencer, 1855, p. 523.

2 Ibid., pp. 527-8.

3 Ibid., p. 528.

4 Ibid., pp. 525-6.

 

176

instinct, and the 'forms of thought' in man. ‘But should these phenomena be otherwise explicable, the hypothesis must be regarded as altogether gratuitous.’[1] Since Spencer's answer is the same for all three of these sets of phenomena-evolution and association-the present discussion will centre on the one which was historically most troublesome.

The concept of instinct had been the traditional enemy of both evolution and associationism. It had been cited as conclusive evidence of special creation and design.[2] Gall held this view. Indeed, animal instinct was chosen as the topic of one of the eight Bridgewater Treatises in which natural theologians defended design by showing God's handiwork throughout creation.[3] Conversely, Darwin's Origin, published four years after Spencer's Principles, contained a chapter devoted to an attempt to explain how instincts could evolve by natural selection. He considered this issue one of the most formidable objections to his theory.[4] The antagonism between the association psychology and explanations in terms of instincts goes back to the inception of the school. The founding of the psychology of association occurred in the Rev. John Gay's assertion of the possibility of deducing the moral sense and all our passions from the pleasure-pain principle and association.[5] Gay's dissertation was written in explicit opposition to Hutcheson's claim that moral sentiments and disinterested affections are innately given to the mind as instincts.[6] Gay's answer to Hutcheson was:

Our approbation of Morality, and all Affections whatsoever, are finally resolvable into Reason pointing out private Happiness, and are conversant only about things apprehended to be means tending to this end; and that whenever this end is not perceived, they are to be accounted for from the Association of Ideas, and may properly enough be call'd Habits.[7]

Although Hutcheson's view may not in itself have been 'a-kin to the Doctrine of Innate Ideas, yet I think it relishes too much of that of Occult Qualities'. [8] Gay goes on to argue that 'as some Men have imagin'd Innate Ideas, because forgetting how they came by them; so others have set up almost as many distinct Instincts as there are acquired Principles of acting'.[9] The psychological aspect of Hartley's associationism is an elaboration of this opposition to explanation in terms of instinct.[10]

1 Spencer, 1855, pp. 523-4.

2 Baldwin, 1913, II, 87-8.

3 Kirby, 1835. Cf. Gillispie, 1959, pp. 209-16, 244-5.

4 Darwin, reprinted, 1950, Chapter VII, especially pp. 207-8.

5 Gay, 2nd ed., 1732. Cf. Halévy, 1952, pp. 7-9; Albee, 1962, pp. 78-90

6 Gay, 1732, p. xxxi.

7 Ibid., p. xxxii.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid., p. liii.

10 Hartley, 1749; Halévy, 1952, pp. 7-9; Macintosh, 1860, p. 380; Willey, 1962, pp. 134-7.

 

177

Five years later (1754) Condillac argued from his extreme sensationalism to the position that instincts were acquired habits which an individual derived from sensations and had ceased to reflect about. This explanation left no way of accounting for the identity of instincts within species and their marked differences between species. It is not surprising therefore to find that the judgement made on eighteenth century associationism was that, 'All attempts to explain instinct by this principle have hitherto been unavailing'.[l] The aim had been to explain them away.

After attention was explicitly turned to the comparative study of instincts within evolutionary psychology, Romanes judged the major nineteenth-century associationists prior to Spencer as follows: 'Mill, from ignoring the broad facts of heredity in the region of psychology, may be said to deserve no hearing on the subject of instinct; and the same, though in a lesser degree, is to be remarked of Bain.’[2] It is with Spencer that Romanes begins the serious debate on instinct and opposes Spencer's view in favour of Darwin's.[3] J. S. Mill had granted the existence of instincts and admitted that the association psychology could not explain them.

No mode has been suggested, even by way of hypothesis, in which these [human and animal instincts] can receive any satisfactory, or even plausible, explanation from psychological causes alone; and there is great reason to think that they have as positive, and even as direct and immediate, a connexion with physical conditions of the brain and nerves as any of our mere sensations have.[4]

Nevertheless, both he and Bain persisted in the belief that moral feelings or the moral sense were acquired by each individual during his lifetime. Darwin was hesitant about quarrelling with Mill but claimed that 'it can hardly be disputed that the social feelings are instinctive or innate in the lower animals; and why should they not be so in man? . . . The ignoring of all transmitted mental qualities will, as it seems to me, be hereafter judged as a most serious blemish in the works of Mr Mill'.[5] Of Bain's view, he said, 'On the general theory of evolution this is at least extremely improbable'.[6] Spencer wrote to Mill that the evolutionary theory could account for an innate moral sense.

I believe that the experiences of utility organized and consolidated through all past generations of the human race, have been producing corresponding nervous modifications, which, by continued transmission and accumulation,

1 Macintosh, 1860, p. 379.

2 Romanes, 1883, p. 256.

3 Ibid., pp. 256-62.

4 Mill, 1872, p. 561.

5 Darwin, 2nd ed., 1874, p. 98.

6 Ibid.

 

178

have become in us certain faculties of moral intuition-certain emotions responding to right and wrong conduct, which have no apparent basis in the individual experience of utility.[1]

The innate moral sense that Spencer had argued in Social Statics was thus retained, but its basis was changed from endowment in the form of a phrenological faculty to endowment in the form of accumulated species experience.

Where instinctual phenomena had effectively opposed the separate positions of evolution and associationism, Spencer believed that they could be explained by the unified view of evolutionary associationism. 'The doctrine that the connections among our ideas are determined by experience, must, in consistency, be extended not only to all the connections established by the accumulated experiences of every individual but to all those established by the accumulated experiences of every race.’[2] Given this general principle, all the phenomena of life and mind can be explained in terms of the experience hypothesis.[3] The application of this view to reflex and instinct disposes of their opposition to associationism and the basis of this objection in the belief in preestablished harmony.

Though it is manifest that reflex and instinctive sequences are not determined by the experiences of the individual organism manifesting them; yet there still remains the hypothesis that they are determined by the experiences of the race of organisms forming its ancestry, which by infinite repetition in countless successive generations have established these sequences as organic relations: and all the facts that are accessible to us, go to support this hypothesis. Hereditary transmission, displayed alike in all the plants we cultivate, in all the animals we breed, and in the human race, applies not only to physical but to psychical peculiarities.[4]

By replacing the tabula rasa of the individual with that of the race, Spencer was able to retain the basic position of sensationalism while recognizing the inherited biological endowments in the nervous system, and avoiding the risk of the rationalist belief in innate ideas. The term 'innate' thereby lost its Cartesian terrors for the empiricist. Baldwin puts the position succinctly by saying that he replaced 'Condillac's individual human statue by a racial animal colossus, so to speak'.,[5] And, most important for the present purposes, he gave the statue an

1 Quoted in Bain, 1875, p. 722. Bain has provided a very useful history of pre-evolutionary views on the moral faculty (1875, pp. 448-751).

2 Spencer, 1855, p. 529.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., p. 526.

5 Baldwin, 1913, II, 84.

 

179

evolving nervous system and thus avoided the other rationalist fallacy of referring mental endowments solely to an immaterial mind.

The reduction of all distinction between instinct and the highest intellectual operation of the human mind which Gall felt was required by his biological, anti-sensationalist view could be abandoned when it became appreciated that the higher operations could evolve out of simple reflexes and instincts, and that the primitive could co-exist with the more advanced. Finally, the analytic principle and the genetic method which had been the central thesis of the Lockean tradition (and its main contributions to philosophy, psychology, and science) were retained and extended to a much wider domain. Gall had found it necessary to fall short of a rigorous application of the principle of continuity in order to give some reality to the faculties which he felt to be the important variables in behaviour. Spencer made it possible to retain a consistent application of continuity in the evolution of relatively stable functions, while still granting their reality and efficacy for the individual. Psychology was freed from the static adaptations of Gall's innate faculties and the more general application of the pre-established harmony of the special creation view. All of this was achieved by the comparatively simple expedients of (1) placing the principle of continuity on a temporal basis for the race; (2) extending the principles of the psychology of sensation and association to include the dynamic interactions between an organism and its environment; (3) stabilizing the results of these interactions in the nervous systems of various species.

Having provided himself with a uniform explanatory principle, Spencer applied it to the evolution of mind from the contraction of a sensitive polyp on irritation, and through the development of specialized tissues-nerves for irritation and muscles for movement. The simple reflex is the transitional point of nervous differentiation from the merely physical.[1] Instincts are complex reflexes whereby a combination of impressions produces a combination of contractions.[2] This increasing complexity involves such phenomena as the recognition of prey or a predator, and the activities necessary for capture or flight.[3] Still more complex correspondences lose their indivisibility, become dissociated, and occur independently. The impression is freed from both the immediate presence of the stimulus and the requirement for immediate response.[4] This is the dawn of conscious memory. Reason is but one

1 Spencer, 1855, pp. 533-8.

2 Ibid., p. 542.

3 Ibid., pp. 539-53.

4 Ibid., pp. 555-63.

 

180

more step in the developing complexity of relations of inner to outer-a further part of the insensible evolution. Both memory and reasoned action tend to lapse into automatism.[1] As a last step, the 'forms of thought', the last bastion of the rationalist position, are absorbed into the sensationalist explanation. Space, time, causation, and so on, became explicable.

Finally, on rising up to human faculties, regarded as organized results of this intercourse between the organism and the environment, there was reached the conclusion that the so-called forms of thought are the outcome of the process of perpetually adjusting inner relations to outer relations; fixed relations in the environment producing fixed relations in the mind. And so came a reconciliation of the a priori view with the experiential view.[2]

In addressing himself to the issue which had exercised epistemologists at least since Plato, and which is one of the thorniest questions of modern philosophy, Spencer implicitly asserts that such questions must henceforth be seen as psychological and therefore as biological. The answer which Spencer gave to the old question of the origin of ideas came not from metaphysics but from heredity. At this point the development of psychology from a branch of speculative metaphysics to a biological science is, in principle, complete. However, it will become abundantly clear that what was conceived in principle in 1855 has yet to be thoroughly applied in practice.

Implications of Evolutionary Associationism for Traditional Issues

Associationists had always been opposed to faculty psychology, but before their view had been joined to evolution they could offer no convincing alternative. For example, Bain merely asserted that the principle of association of ideas was adequate to supersede and explain all the phenomena formerly attributed to the faculties of the Lockean tradition.[3] In dealing with the phrenological faculties in On the Study of Character, he argued that these were not fundamental, that they could be reduced to one of the classes of his own theory, and that these, in turn, could be explained by the laws of association and the pleasure-pain principle. But he had no convincing explanation for the enduring features of mental experience and behaviour. Spencer could provide an explanation of the development of the various modes of manifestation of intelligence and grant their relative stability in the species without making them distinct mental agents. His evolutionary associationism freed him from the usual procedure of starting at birth with a

1 Spencer, 1855, pp. 568-9.

2 Spencer, 1908, p. 547.

3 Bain, 1868, p. 693.

 

181

tabula rasa and explaining the development of the complex phenomena of instinct, emotion, and intellectual functions on the basis of individual experience alone.

Spencer grants that there are valid differences among the various 'modes of intelligence known as Instinct, Memory, Reason, Feeling, Will, and the rest'.[l] However, in their true nature they are only phases of correspondence, and their genesis is by insensible degrees. He considers the faculties and emotions neither fundamental nor distinct nor part of a fixed endowment. 'Intelligence has neither distinct grades, nor is constituted of faculties that are truly independent; but that its highest phenomena are the effects of a complication that has arisen by insensible steps out of the simplest elements.' There are no valid demarcations. Classifications of faculties

can be but superficially true. Instinct, Reason, Perception, Conception, Memory, Imagination, Feeling, Will, etc., etc., can be nothing more than either conventional groupings of the correspondences; or subordinate divisions among the various operations which are instrumental in effecting the correspondences. However widely contrasted they may seem, these various forms of intelligence cannot be anything else than either particular modes in which the adjustment of inner to outer relations is achieved; or particular parts of the process of adjustments.[2]

The phrenological faculties retained none of their independent status as mental agents in Spencer's psychology. After his conversion to associationism they were retained only as the names of the emotions.[3] The emotions are not included in the analytic chapters of the Principles of Psychology. Indeed, the whole analytic half of the work is singularly uninteresting for present purposes. The 'General Analysis' consists of an expanded version of his defence of realism and his criterion of belief-the Universal Postulate. The 'Special Analysis' is old-style epistemological psychology-analysis of the forms of reasoning, perceptions of external objects, space, time, motion, and so on, and various mental relations. The aim of this part of his work is the traditional analysis of complex mental phenomena into their elements, explaining their cohesions by means of the laws of association.[4] The interest which the work holds for the modern reader is confined to those parts in which the old-style associationism is recast in an evolutionary framework.

1 Spencer, 1855, pp. 486-7.

2 Ibid., p. 486.

3 Ibid., pp. 601-2; Spencer, 1901, 1, 251.

4 This part is summarized in Spencer, 1904, I, 471.

 

182

The treatment which Spencer gives to the emotions in the Principles of Psychology is but one more application of his evolutionary associationism to the synthesis of complex mental phenomena.

The progress from the initial forms of feeling to those complicated forms of it seen in human beings, equally harmonizes with the general principles of evolution that have been laid down. Arising, as it does, when the automatic actions, from increasing complexity and decreasing frequency, become hesitating; and consisting, as it then does, of nothing more than the group of sensations received and the nascent motor changes aroused by them; feeling, step by step developes [sic] into larger and more varied aggregations of psychical states-sometimes purely impressional, sometimes nascently impressional or ideal; sometimes purely motor, sometimes nascently motor; but very frequently including in one combination, immediate impressions and the ideas of other impressions, with immediate actions and the ideas of other actions. And this formation of larger and more varied aggregations of psychical states, necessarily results from the accumulating cohesions of psychical states that are connected in experience. Just as we saw that the advance from the simplest to the most complex forms of cognition, was explicable on the principle that the outer relations produce the inner relations; so, we shall see that this same principle supplies an explanation of the advance from the simplest to the most complex feelings.[1]

Prior to Spencer-or, more generally, prior to the theory of evolution -the associationists had been no more successful in explaining emotions than they had been with instincts. This was admitted by J. S. Mill in his review of 'Bain's Psychology': 'It is certain that the attempts of the Association psychologists to resolve the emotions by association, have been on the whole the least successful part of their efforts.’[2] This judgement was repeated by their expositor, Ribot.[3] Bain's psychology -the culmination of pure associationism-did not contain a general analysis of the emotions. Although successive editions of Bain's work included results of the new evolutionary studies of Spencer and Darwin, these are 'added on', and the new thinking did not vitally affect his essentially pre-evolutionary view.[4] Evolutionary associationism could acknowledge the stability of the emotions in a species, which had been the strength and danger of Gall's faculty psychology, while retaining their experiential origins-the strength and weakness of associationism.

That the experience-hypothesis, as ordinarily understood, is inadequate to account for emotional phenomena, will be sufficiently manifest. If possible, it is even more at fault in respect to the emotions than in respect to the cognitions. The doctrine maintained by some philosophers, that all the

 

1 Spencer, 1855, pp. .597-8.

2 Mill. 1867, p. 132.

3 Ribot, 1873, p. 327.

4 Cf. Warren, 1921, pp. 115, 118-20.

 

183

desires, all the sentiments, are generated by the experiences of the individual, is so glaringly at variance with hosts of facts, that I cannot but wonder how any one should ever have entertained it. Not to dwell on the multiform passions displayed by the infant, before yet there has been such an amount of experience as could by any possibility suffice for the elaboration of them; I will simply point to the most powerful of all passions-the amatory passion-as one which, when it first occurs, is absolutely antecedent to all relative experience whatever.[l]

Attempts at explanation of complex emotions as developments wholly within the life of an individual are absurd. The alternative to explanation of the origin of emotions within the life of the individual is the view that their evolution takes place through countless generations.

By the accumulation of small increments, arising from the constant experiences of successive generations, the tendency of all the component psychical states to make each other nascent, will become gradually stronger. And when ultimately it becomes organic, it will constitute what we call a sentiment, or propensity, or feeling, having this set of circumstances for its object.[2]

Spencer had little more than this to say about emotions in the Principles of Psychology. Fortunately, he wrote a critical review of Bain's The Emotions and the Will, in which he provides a very incisive comment on the limitations of pre-evolutionary associationism, and spells out the implications of the new context for future investigations. The remarkable thing about the review is how clearly he saw the meaning of evolution for associationism at a time (1860) when evolution was just attaining the centre of intellectual discourse. The first systematic observations in evolutionary psychology were still over twenty years away. One should recall, though, that by 1860 he had been writing on evolutionary psychology for almost ten years.

Spencer clearly understood one of Bain's two principal contributions, as well as his major limitation.

The facts brought to light by anatomists and physiologists during the last fifty years, are at length being used towards the interpretation of this highest class of biological phenomena; and already there is promise of a great advance. The work of Mr. Alexander Bain..... may be regarded as especially characteristic of the transition.[3]

On the other hand, Spencer betrays no hint that he grasped either Bain's theory of activity or its significance. Given his reading habits

1 Spencer, 1855, p. 606.

2 Ibid.

3 Spencer, 1901, I, 242.

 

184

it is even doubtful if he read the relevant parts of Bain's book.[1] His criticism of Bain's concept of volition has as its text a single sentence from the first paragraph of the book.[2] Consequently, Spencer is silent on the aspect of Bain's work which later evolutionary and functional psychologists would use to complement the tendency toward passivity in Spencer's concept of adaptation.

Spencer also recognizes Bain's place in the development of psychology from a speculative and deductive branch of metaphysics to that of a biological science.

Until recently, mental science has been pursued much as physical science was pursued by the ancients; not by drawing conclusions from observations and experiments, but by drawing them from arbitrary a priori assumptions. This course, long since abandoned in the one case with immense advantage, is gradually being abandoned in the other; and the treatment of Psychology as a division of natural history, shows that the abandonment will soon be complete.[3]

Bain's work aimed to provide a 'natural history of the mind'.[4] As such 'we believe it to be the best yet produced'.[5] 'Of its kind it is the most scientific in conception, the most catholic in spirit, and the most complete in execution.'[6] However, the natural history method as used by Bain is not enough, and his work is therefore essentially transitional.[7]

Bain's classification of the emotions was derived from the expressions and feelings displayed in the adult.

Thus, then, Mr. Bain's grouping is throughout determined by the most manifest attributes-those objectively displayed in the natural languages of the emotions, and in the social phenomena that result from them, and those subjectively displayed in the aspects the emotions assume in an analytical consciousness. And the question is-Can they be correctly grouped after this method? We think not.[8]

We think that Mr. Bain, in confining himself to an account of the emotions as they exist in the adult civilized man, has neglected those classes of facts out of which the science of the matter must chiefly be built.[9]

The complete natural-history-method involves ultimate analysis, aided by development; and Mr. Bain, in not basing his classification of the emotions on characters reached through these aids, has fallen short of the conception with which he set out.[10]

In brief, he has written a Descriptive Psychology, which does not appeal to Comparative Psychology and Analytical Psychology for its leading ideas.

1 Spencer, 1908, pp. 417-19.

2 Spencer, 1901, I, 258-9.

3 Ibid., I, 243.

4 Ibid., I, 242.

5 Ibid., I, 264.

6 Ibid., I, 243.

7 Ibid., I, 244.

8 Ibid., I, 247.

9 Ibid., I, 257.

10 Ibid., 1, 249.

 

185

And in doing this, he has omitted much that should be included in a natural history of the mind; while to that part of the subject with which he has dealt, he has given a necessarily imperfect organization.[1]

Spencer argues that comparative and developmental psychology can supply the studies which Bain's work lacked. Four types of investigation must precede and guide the traditional associationist analysis:

1. 'Study the evolution of the emotions up through the various grades of the animal kingdom . . . and how they are severally related to the conditions of life.'

2. Compare the emotions in lower and higher human races.

3. 'In the third place, we may observe the order in which the emotions unfold during the progress from infancy to maturity.'

4. Comparing the results 'displayed in the ascending grades of the animal kingdom, in the advance of the civilized races, and in individual history', we should seek harmony and general truths.[2]

It is only after the above studies have been made that one can attempt the analysis of complex adult human emotions into their elements. Such analysis must be guided by comparative and developmental information.[3]

Spencer's approach to the analysis of the emotions provides a very significant advance on the previous work of the associationist tradition. By insisting that comparative and developmental studies must precede and guide the application of the genetic method to the emotions as experienced subjectively, he challenged a fundamental assumption of those psychologists who believed that philosophical and introspective analyses were adequate methods. The assumption was that the actual development of emotions, indeed of all psychological phenomena, conforms to the categories and sequences according to which we can interpret them introspectively. Spencer insisted that biological studies must precede introspective analysis and thus raised the issue of whether the analytic classification conforms to a natural classification, whether psychologists' accounts of the synthesis of complex psychological phenomena are accurate reflections of their actual synthesis in evolution and in individual experience. The study of psychological phenomena is thereby transferred from plausible verbal analysis of the complex to the simple (like James Mill's), or verbal syntheses of everyday psychological life from simple elements (like Condillac's). Speculative and verbal analyses are replaced by biological observations and (later)

1 Spencer, 1901, 1, 257.

2 Ibid., 1, 250-1.

3 Ibid., 1, 251-2.

 

186

experiment. Once again, Spencer's arguments echo Gall's objections to the sensationalists while his answers depart from Gall's innately given static faculties and supply an alternative within the associationist tradition by uniting it with evolution.

It must be recognized, that in spite of his biological viewpoint, Spencer did not transcend the classificatory scheme of the association psychology. He offered a more plausible explanation of the genesis of psychological functions than his predecessors, but he retained their classification of those functions. He showed that explanation in terms of faculties was fallacious, and this was an advance on Gall. However, he failed to derive, or even advocate, the set of biological functions which Gall had sought, for which the evolutionary theory provided a sound basis. Evolutionary associationism thus failed to provide an integrated, biological psychology, and its objective descendant, behaviourism, has done no better. Instinct, Reason, Perception, Conception, Memory, Imagination, and so on, remain the topics or chapter headings in contemporary psychological works. One approach -modern ethology-offers hope of finally transcending the categories of medieval psychology and providing a nomenclature that fulfils the promise of evolutionary psychology by means of naturalistic observation followed by controlled experiments.

The Mechanism of Evolution

Spencer's criticism of accounts by traditional associationists closes with his explanation of how new emotions are evolved. This discussion raises an issue which has been deliberately ignored throughout the present study: Spencer's belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. His theory will first be given and then considered in its historical context.

The mechanism which he adopted was avowedly 'Lamarckian'. Acquired habits are passed from generation to generation until they become fixed in the nervous system. 'Every one of the countless connections among the fibres of the cerebral masses, answers to some permanent connection of phenomena in the experiences of the race.'[l] What the individual feels as homogeneous emotions undecomposable into specific experiences, are in fact 'the organized results of certain daily-repeated combinations of mental states' and consist of 'aggregated and consolidated groups of those simpler feelings which habitually occur together in experiences

1 Spencer, 1855, p. 581.

2 Spencer, 1901, I, 254; Cf. 256.

 

187

Spencer spells out this view in some detail, and since his exposition considers the question which most troubles the modern reader, it will be given in full.

When, in the circumstances of any race, some one kind of action or set of actions, sensation or set of sensations, is usually followed, or accompanied, by various other sets of actions or sensations, and so entails a large mass of pleasurable or painful states of consciousness; these, by frequent repetition, become so connected together that the initial action or sensation brings the ideas of all the rest crowding into consciousness: producing, in some degree, the pleasures or pains that have before been felt in reality. And when this relation, besides being frequently repeated in the individual, occurs in successive generations, all the many nervous actions involved tend to grow organically connected. They become incipiently reflex; and, on the occurrence of the appropriate stimulus, the whole nervous apparatus which in past generations was brought into activity by this stimulus, becomes nascently excited. Even while yet there have been no individual experiences, a vague feeling of pleasure or pain is produced; constituting what we may call the body of the emotion. And when the experiences of past generations come to be repeated in the individual, the emotion gains both strength and definiteness; and is accompanied by the appropriate specific ideas.[1]

In the next paragraph he considers and rejects the mechanism of natural selection. The example he considers is that of birds, on a formerly undiscovered island, whose behaviour evolves from an initial lack of fear of man to innate dread.

Now unless this change be ascribed to the killing-off of the less fearful, and the preservation and multiplication of the more fearful, which, considering the comparatively small number killed by man, is an inadequate cause; it must be ascribed to accumulated experiences; and each experience must be held to have a share in producing it. We must conclude that in each bird which escapes with injuries inflicted by man, or is alarmed by the outcries of other members of the flock (gregarious creatures of any intelligence being necessarily more or less sympathetic), there is established an association of ideas between the human aspect and the pains, direct and indirect, suffered from human agency.[2]

He goes on to infer that the emotion is a memory of these pains. In the course of generations, the nervous system is modified by these experiences, and thus young birds fly away at the sight of man as a result of a partial excitement of the nerves previously excited in their ancestors and the consequent painful consciousness. 'The vague painful consciousness thus arising, constitutes emotion proper.’[3]

1 Spencer, 1901, I, 254-5.

2 Ibid., 1, 255.

3 Ibid., I, 256.

 

188

Later, Spencer slightly modified his belief that natural selection was an 'inadequate cause'. He added the following note to the 1870 edition of the Principles of Psychology:

Had Mr. Darwin's Origin of Species been published before I wrote this paragraph, I should, no doubt, have so qualified my words as to recognize selection,' or artificial, as a factor. At the time the first edition was written the only factor I recognized was the inheritance of functionally-produced changes; but Mr. Darwin's work made it clear to me that there is another factor of importance in mental evolution as in bodily evolution. While holding that throughout all higher stages of mental development the supreme factor has been the effect of habit, I believe that in producing the lowest instincts natural selection has been the chief, if not the sole, factor.[l]

Spencer defended this position in the face of growing objections in the last quarter of the century, and reiterated it as late as 1899.[2]

Flugel points out that Spencer's belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics 'contributed not a little to the general decline of interest in his work'.[3] It should be remembered, however, that this judgement did not begin to become operative until well after the period under consideration here (until after Weismann distinguished somatic changes from the stability of the transmitted 'germ-plasm' in 1885), and that Darwin himself laid increasing emphasis on use-inheritance in his writings after 1859. In fact it was Spencer who pointed this out in a careful analysis of Darwin's later writings. 'The Factors of Organic Evolution' (1886).[4] Darwin had no reason to quarrel with Spencer's view and altered the brief but crucial passage on man in the Origin to include a highly complimentary reference to Spencer. The first edition says, 'In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that

1 Spencer, 1908, p. 565.

2 Ibid., p. 547. See also various articles by Spencer on the formula of evolution, mental evolution, inheritance of acquired characteristics, Weismannism, heredity, and so on, written between 1871 and 1898 and listed in his bibliography. (Spencer, 1908, pp. 581-6.) Most of these are reprinted in the second edition of Principles of Biology (1898-9), Various Fragments (1900), and Facts and Comments (1902). For an excellent discussion of the contemporary debate, see Romanes (1892, pp. 253-7; 1916, pp. 64-8, and passim). Spencer makes a greater concession to natural selection in his Autobiography: 'The Origin of Species made it clear to me that I was wrong; and that the larger part of the facts cannot be due to any such cause' [as 'the inheritance of functionally-produced modifications']. (Spencer, I 904, II, 50.)

3 Flugel, 1951, p. 119.

4 Spencer, 1901, I, 389-466. Cf. Romanes, 1916, pp. 2-12. Spencer reiterates his Lamarckian psychological views in the Preface to a pamphlet version of this essay (1887, pp. iii-iv) which is omitted from the Essays. (See Young, 1967). It was on the basis of their belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics (even though by means of nervous arrangements) that both Darwin and Spencer were accused of reverting to belief in 'innate ideas'. (Höffding, 1909, p. 451 ; Meynert, enlisting support from Weismann, 1885, pp. viii, 274).

 

189

of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation. Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.'[l] Darwin had not read Spencer's Principles of Psychology when he wrote this. In later editions of the Origin (6th edition, 1872), Darwin altered these sentences to read, 'Psychology will be securely based on the foundation already well laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer'.[2] Darwin's private opinion of Spencer underwent very wide fluctuations, from extreme admiration of him as perhaps England's greatest philosopher, and feelings of inferiority, to personal dislike and even contempt for his speculative bent.[3]

One further judgement should be given to help obviate the current reaction to Spencer's views on the mechanism of evolution. Speaking of the period 1851-58, T. H. Huxley said,

The only person known to me whose knowledge and capacity compelled respect, and who was, at the same time, a thoroughgoing evolutionist, was Mr. Herbert Spencer, whose acquaintance I made, I think, in 1852, and then entered into the bonds of a friendship which, I am happy to think, has known no interruption. Many and prolonged were the battles we fought on this topic. But even my friend's rare dialectic skill and copiousness of apt illustration could not drive me from my agnostic position.[4]

The point of this discussion of Lamarckianism is that what is now seen as a totally erroneous view of the mechanism of evolution was one of those immensely fruitful errors in the history of science which the historian would be mistaken to criticize. Like phrenology, it must be judged in the light of its heuristic value. There is little point in considering in detail the work generated by the general theory of evolution throughout biology: the whole basis of the science was transformed. This occurred despite the gropings, hesitations, and partial recantations of its early exponents. The same may be said for evolutionary psychology. The concept of psychology as a biological science based on the evolutionary theory was completely reorienting the science in the half-century following the first statements of Spencer and Darwin. When the mechanism of evolution became more clearly understood, it could find its rightful place within the general approach. Use-inheritance gave way to random mutation and natural selection. But the evolutionary basis of concepts which had defeated the associationists such as

1 Darwin, 1950, pp. 413-I4.

2 Darwin, 1928, pp. 461-2.

3 See various remarks in Darwin, edited Francis Darwin, 3rd ed., 1887; Darwin, edited Francis Darwin, 1903; Darwin, edited Barlow, 1958; especially Darwin 1958, pp. 108-9.

4 Darwin, 1887, II, 188.

 

190

reflex, instinct, and emotion had been established in the meantime, even though the precise mode of their transmission is still not at all clearly understood. Although Spencer was wrong about the mechanism of evolution, modern views support his main theme: the adaptations of living things to their surroundings are evoked by problems posed by their environments.[1] That they are evoked by natural selection of random genetic mutations was not the main issue in converting psychology to a biological science of adaptation.

Therefore, Spencer's erroneous mechanism for evolution has been deliberately and properly ignored in discussing his work, because it is irrelevant to the historical development of the concepts with which the present discussion is concerned.

 

The Influence of Spencer

Two changes have been emphasized as extremely important in the nineteenth-century development of psychology away from its position as a branch of epistemology. The first is its conception as a biological science; the second is its close relations with neurophysiology. It was argued above that Gall played an important role in establishing both approaches at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Spencer and Gall shared these two major premises about psychology, and there is much evidence to suggest that Spencer arrived at them during the period of his early phrenological allegiance. Spencer also shared with Gall the stylistic and personal traits of pomposity, conceit, and long-windedness, as well as the fate of being reviled and ridiculed by the subsequent generations which were most indebted to him. Finally, they both influenced others more through important general principles and approaches than by specific empirical findings. In Gall's case the findings were erroneous and in Spencer's nonexistent. Both advocated studies which they did not successfully conduct themselves.

Spencer's position in the last half of the nineteenth century was that he shared with Darwin the establishment of psychology on a biological, evolutionary foundation and with Bain the close alliance of associationism with sensory-motor psychophysiology.

Darwin pioneered studies in comparative and genetic psychology in the chapter on 'Instinct' in the Origin (I859), Chapters III and IV of the Descent of Man (1871), The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), 'A Biographical Sketch of an Infant' (1877), various

1 See Wallace and Srb, 1961, pp. 104-5, and passim.

 

191

shorter papers,[l] and the extensive materials on instinct which he made available to Romanes and which appeared in Mental Evolution in Animals (1883). Although an adequate account of Darwin's psychological work remains to be written, there have been a number of studies dealing with aspects of his overwhelming importance in the development of psychology as a branch of evolutionary biology in the three separable areas of comparative psychology, functional psychology, and the study of the nervous system.[2]

While Darwin was primarily responsible for the general climate of evolutionary thinking and provided many detailed observations, he was somewhat naïve in his approach to psychology, and could not provide the language with which to express the implications of his own work. It is in this area between the general climate and the specific findings that Spencer is the major figure. Spencer was applying evolutionary principles to psychological phenomena for years before Darwin published the Origin. The attention of Darwin's circle was turned to man's body rather than his mind for twelve more years until the Descent of Man appeared.[3] It was Spencer who provided the first, and the most thorough, conception of adaptive, evolutionary psychology. His work was more seminal than directly contributory. He argued for a consistent application of empiricism but was characteristic of the parent tradition of associationism in not actually employing the empirical method. He advocated comparative and developmental studies but conducted none. He conceived psychology as the study of the adaptation of organisms to their environments, but failed to free himself completely from the epistemological bias of associationism, being concerned with the origin of ideas, the forms of thought, and a correspondence theory of truth.

One measure of Spencer's significance, therefore, is through his influence on major figures in three aspects of the new biological psychology: George J. Romanes in animal and comparative psychology, William James in functional psychology, and John Hughlings Jackson in sensory-motor psychophysiology.

G. J. Romanes wrote the first modern animal psychology based on

1 See Darwin, 1887, III, 368-9.

2 On comparative psychology, see Warden, 1927; Hilgard, 1960; Boring, 1950; Brett, 1953; Murphy, 1949; Young, 1967a. On functional psychology, see Baldwin, 1905, 1913; Angell, 1907, 1909; Young, 1966, pp. 26-28. On nervous system, see Magoun, 1960, 1961. The research of Howard Gruber of Rutgers University promises to shed considerable light on Darwin's psychological work.

3 Huxley, 1863; Lyell, 1863. Cf. Greene, new ed.' 1961, ch. 10.

 

192

the evolutionary theory and employing the empirical method.[1] He set out to trace the main outlines for mental evolution, as Darwin had done for bodily evolution. In his first volume, Animal Intelligence (1882) his purpose is to lay the foundations in comparative psychology for an understanding of mental evolution. He starts from Darwin and Spencer. 'With the exception of Mr Darwin's admirable chapters on the mental powers and moral sense, and Mr Spencer's great work on the Principles of Psychology, there has hitherto been no earnest attempt at tracing the principles which have been probably concerned in the genesis of Mind.’[2] The second volume of Romanes' work is concerned with mental evolution proper and finally takes the position that was still equivocal in Bain and Spencer.

I am in no wise concerned with 'the transition from the object known to the knowing subject', and therefore I am in no wise concerned with any of the philosophical theories which have been propounded upon this matter. . . . I cannot too strongly impress upon the memory of those who from previous reading are able to appreciate the importance of the distinction, that I thus intend everywhere to remain within the borders of psychology, and nowhere to trespass upon the grounds of philosophy.[3]

Darwin provided the main inspiration and many of the data for these volumes and made his extensive notes on instinct available to Romanes. The second major source in Mental Evolution in Animals (1883) is Spencer, who provides the starting point of the discussion on instinct as well as the psychological framework of evolutionary associationism which Romanes adopts.

Comparative psychology developed from these beginnings to a more rigorous formulation by C. Lloyd Morgan, who drew heavily on Romanes' work and was his literary executor. Morgan improved on Romanes' rather uncritical anecdotal method and anthropomorphism.[4] The next developments in animal psychology involve support for Morgan's methods by Jacques Loeb, who put forward the existence of ‘associative memory' as the point in the scale of beings where animal life becomes conscious.[5] The introduction of the puzzle-box method into comparative psychology by E. L. Thorndike in 1898 was the point at which objective experimental methods were introduced into psychology, and prepared the way for its absorption into behaviourism.[6]

Behaviourism and modern learning theory may seem remote from

1 Boring, 1950, pp. 473-4.

2 Romanes, 1882, p. vi.

3 Romanes, 1883, p. 11.

4 Morgan, 1890-91.

5 Loeb, 1901.

6 On these developments see Warden, 1927; Boring, 1950, pp. 472-6, 497-8; Carr, 1927; Young, 1967a, pp. 125-6.

 

193

evolutionary associationism to the modern reader. It may be useful to recall that the units of the conditioned reflex are new terms for the basic concepts of sensory-motor psychophysiology. The extreme complexity of current discussions and the sophisticated methods and techniques of work in modern learning theory must not be allowed to obscure its conceptual basis. John Dewey noted as early as i896, that the use of the reflex concept in psychology was an admission that the sensory-motor view was basic to nerve structure and function, as well as to experience and behaviour.[1] It is clear that, although most studies of conditioning and learning depend on the evolutionary theory for their relevance to human psychology, the evolutionary aspect of the discipline has been largely ignored. However, the continued influence of associationism on this tradition has recently been reviewed with results which bear on one's appreciation of Bain and Spencer.

In a chapter entitled 'Modern Concepts of Association', Murphy begins by echoing Guthrie's belief that association is the only theory of learning that has ever been proposed.[2] He reviews the work of the behaviourists and learning theorists and shows that the central point of their work has been the principle of association placed in the objective context of the reflex paradigm. Stimulus-response psychology and the various schools of conditioning and learning theory have added a great deal to the old domain: the experimental method, various control procedures, quantification, and a behaviourist emphasis on the periphery of the organism. That is, they have made the study of association an objective science whose data are in the external world of objects and behaviour. New concepts such as 'operant' have been elaborated from Thorndike's restatement of Bain's early law of effect. However, the central conception has remained associationist. This unites Pavlov, Watson, Skinner, and a host of lesser figures. Reflecting on the century since Bain brought associationism into relation with physiology and Spencer with evolution, Murphy concludes,

If one had to summarize the main trend as it now exists in the middle of the century, it would almost certainly have to be to the effect that despite huge and continuous protests of strong and active personalities, the conceptions of Spencer and Bain a hundred years ago remain dominant.

. . . An enormous amount of sophistication has gone into experimental and quantitative refinement of the theory of association; but the framework set up by the associationists remains.[3]

1 Dewey, 1896, p. 357.

2 The theory of innate ideas seems to have dropped from the memory of at least one eminent scientific psychologist by 1937. See above, p. 120.

3 Murphy, 1949, p. 283.

 

194

Spencer's role as a major source of James' founding of functional psychology cannot be demonstrated in detail here. Once again, however, Darwin provided the general issue and influence, while Spencer supplied its psychological embodiment, and Bain the specific theory of activity which was developed in the writings of early pragmatists and was expressed in William James' Principles of Psychology (1890). Among the sources for this work, Spencer played the double role of being its major one for the adaptive, evolutionary view and-through Hughlings Jackson and Ferrier-for the specific sensory-motor psychophysiology of its early chapters. James grew increasingly critical of Spencer's vagueness on matters of general evolution, but he had nothing but praise for the fact that Spencer stressed its universality.[1] 'To Spencer is certainly due the immense credit of having been the first to see in evolution an absolutely universal principle.'[2] James' biographer reports that 'the writings of Spencer furnished the most important part of his early philosophical pablum'.[3] He read the First Principles between 1860 and 1862, and its initial influence was very stimulating.[4] James used Spencer's Principles of Psychology as the text for his first course in physiological psychology at Harvard (1876-77), and his first original publication was a commentary on Spencer.[5] His course on the philosophy of evolution used Spencer's First Principles as a text beginning in 1880 and as late as 1897.[6] It should be stressed that James was very critical of Spencer's detailed formulations. However, Spencer's aims and the topics he discussed were just those which most interested James. As his own thought developed he retained these interests while rejecting many of Spencer's answers and reacting strongly against his intellectual muddiness and pretensions toward explaining everything.[7]

The influence of Spencer's Principles of Psychology on James' work of the same title written thirty-five years later is clear from the following remarks in James' introductory chapter.

On the whole, few recent formulas have done more real service of a rough sort in psychology than the Spencerian one that the essence of mental life and of bodily life are one, namely, 'the adjustment of inner to outer relations'. Such a formula is vagueness incarnate; but because it takes into account the fact that minds inhabit environments which act on them and on which they in turn react; because, in short, it takes mind in the midst of all its concrete relations, it is immensely more fertile than the old-fashioned

1 Perry, 1935, I, pp. 474-5.

2 James, 1924, p. 124.

3 Perry, 1935, I, 474.

4 Ibid., I, 474.

5 Ibid., I, 478.

6 Ibid., 1, 482.

7 Perry, 1935, I, 484; James, 1924, pp. 128-39.

 

195

‘rational psychology', which treated the soul as a detached existent, sufficient unto itself, and assumed to consider only its nature and properties.[1]

James' final evaluation of Spencer was harsh, but he continued to admire his psychological work:

My impression is that, of the systematic treatises, the 'Psychology' will rank as the most original. Spencer broke new ground here in insisting that, since mind in its environment have evolved together, they must be studied together. He gave to the study of mind in isolation a definitive quietus, and that certainly is a great thing to have achieved. To be sure he overdid the matter, as usual, and left no room for any mental structure at all, except that which passively resulted from the storage of impressions received from the outer world in the order of their frequency by fathers and transmitted to their sons. The belief that whatever is acquired by sires is inherited by sons, and the ignoring of purely inner variations, are weak points; but to have brought in the environment as vital was a master stroke.[2]

Functional psychology was born of a union of this formulation and a more active view of adaptation, which James drew from Bain.

The work of Bain and Spencer eliminated the credibility of a simple labula rasa psychology. Bain's careful study of the role of muscular motion in learning undermined the persistent belief in passive sensationalism, while Spencer's evolutionary view revealed the absurdity of a psychology which confines itself to individual experience. Almost exactly a century after Condillac's statue provided the basis of a plausible explanation of learning,[3] psychologists could point to this 'thought experiment' as the opposite of a fruitful hypothesis. Bain and Spencer showed convincingly that organisms feel, know, and act as they do, by virtue of what they have inherited as a result of the vicissitudes of their species, and by virtue of what they have already done.

Bain and Spencer dominate the union of associationism with biology. Bain brought about its integration with sensory-motor physiology. Spencer reinforced this and based the new sensory-motor psychophysiology on an evolutionary foundation. Magoun has convincingly argued that to their contemporaries and early successors, Spencer's ideas of the evolution of the brain and its functions were fully as

1 James, 1890, I, 6. Cf. Perry, 1935, I, 476-8, 489-90. For a fuller consideration of the sources of James' Principles, see Perry, 1935, II, Chapters LII-LVI, especially LV.

2 James, 1924, pp. 139-40.

3 Condillac had tried to prove the sensationalist thesis by adding the senses, one by one, to a marble statue, and argued that the result accounted for all psychological phenomena. See Condillac, 1930; above, p. 15.

 

196

significant and influential as Darwin’s, if not more so, in the development of concepts of evolution of the brain and behaviour.[1] This aspect of Spencer’s work will be pursued through its influence on Hughlings Jackson, and its union with other evidence for cerebral localization in the writings of Ferrier to provide an experimental sensory-motor psychophysiology based on the assumption of cerebral localizations.[2]

1 Magoun, 1960, p. 204; 1961, p. 16; see also Wiener, 1949.

2 There are three further aspect of Spencer’s influence which should be mentioned (1) Spencer’s social theory and its influence on Social Darwinism has been explored by Hofstadter.(2) His role in the foundation of modern sociology along with Auguste Comte, who also began his work as a student of Phrenology and remained loyal to Gall, deserves a full study. See Greene (1959); Burrow (1966), ch. 6. In addition to his seminal influence in functional psychology, Spencer’s influence on Durkheim and others was of fundamental importance in the development of functionalism in sociology and social anthropology. (3) His theory of psychophysical parallelism, through Jackson’s ‘Law of Concomitance’, provided the form of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and provided the position which Freud held in the mind-body problem from his first work (on Aphasia, 1891) to his last (Outline of Psychoanalysis, 1940). This aspect of relations among Spencer, Jackson, and Freud should be pursued as part of a more general study of the central role psychophysical parallelism has played in the history of neurology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis.


The Human Nature Review
© Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

US -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.com logo

UK -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.co.uk logo

 | Human Nature | Books and Reviews | The Human Nature Daily Review | Search |