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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/781

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TRAINING FOR CHARACTER.

fortunate if age comes upon one without giving him something better than this simian and parrot-like disposition.

These imitative motions, at first wholly involuntary, are the ones which the will will take hold of to make them its own or to suppress them. Habit, however, renders them indelible. Hence it is never too soon to watch against them. As Preyer well says, everything that could lead its imitative tendency into dangerous ways should be removed from the child. The first duty of education is to look after the surroundings of children, who can not grow up healthy except in a wholesome medium. To comprehend the weakness of the will against imitation re-enforced by habit, we have only to recollect the struggle we have had against the tendency to do what we have been accustomed to do. Usually reason accommodates itself to the situation. Anticipated and led on, it does what is easiest. It seeks, and always finds when it seeks, reasons in favor of inveterate acts, and invents sophisms to justify them.

Voluntary motions are the intentional ones, or those which depend essentially upon conscious thoughts and feelings, representations and emotions. The will appears at a relatively late stage of the general development, when the senses have furnished a rich provision of images and the consciousness of a considerable number of feelings. Not till then can there be at the same time the conception of various possible motions, foresight of what should result, comparison, preference, and choice, or a relatively clear acquiescence in certain acts to the exclusion of others.

There is no sign of will so long as the child performs only unconscious, automatic, reflexive, instinctive, or imitative motions independently of its previously acquired ideas and pre-existing affections. Will begins when a thought properly so called becomes motive in itself, or in the desire accompanying it; when a movement known to be possible is anticipated with its results, and is accomplished intentionally. Not that every detail of the matter is understood, for even adults are not thus acquainted with the inner mechanism of their movements; but it should be represented in advance, preconceived as a whole, and determined originally by the thought of the new that it will introduce into the consciousness of the subject. Observers seem agreed that there can be nothing of this kind before the fourth month. Will appears when the child, for example, associates the thought of an object to be taken with that of making a motion to take it. It is, as it were, revealed to itself when after awkward and fruitless attempts the child meets a sudden success, discovers his power, and gains confidence in himself. From this time on the will gathers force with the number of such associations as they are