Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/474

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cal activity are presently, as a 'habit' is formed, relegated to lower centers. And the realization of this tendency is accompanied by lapse or loss of consciousness. We learn to walk, to swim, to bicycle, to typewrite, to play a musical instrument, with conscious pains and effort. Later, if we practise enough, we do these things 'automatically,' unconsciously. We may typewrite correctly while our attention is wholly directed upon the meaning of our paragraph; we may play a musical composition correctly while we are engaged in an absorbing conversation. The original impulsive or selective or volitional action has become automatic. We can, of course, bring its terms back to consciousness; we can stop and 'think' that we are typewriting or playing the piano or bicycling; but if we do this, the movements become hesitating and may be seriously deranged. If the natural tendency takes its course, we finally reach a form of movement which (except that we know its course of development) is not distinguishable from the physiological reflex.

Here is a bit of positive and unmistakable evidence. It is possible, in the life history of the individual, for conscious movements to pass -over into unconscious. Not only is it possible: it is a regular occurrence. From the biological point of view, it is eminently useful; the simplification of response to stimulus, its relegation to lower nervous centers leaves the organism free for further adaptations. Is there not some ground, then, for generalizing the facts, and saying that, probably, all unconscious movements have developed from conscious? This is what Wundt has done, in his statement that 'the reflexes are voluntary actions that have become mechanical.[1] Only, his terminology is at fault, for the antithesis of the voluntary is not the mechanical (all actions, biologically regarded, are mechanical), but the unconscious action; and the antithesis of the reflex is not the voluntary but the complex, coordinated action. So difficult is it, even when one's thought is scientifically clean, to avoid the language of 'common sense'!

I think that the reader who has recognized the weakness of the opposing theory will take great comfort in this piece of undisputed fact, and will be willing to generalize it farther than the logical canons warrant. To myself, brought up in the faith that mind developed somehow and appeared somewhere after the birth of life, and always unsuccessful in my attempts to reconcile this faith with reason, Wundt's counter-statement came as a real illumination. Nevertheless, as it stands, it is nothing more than an argument from analogy; we argue from the individual to the race. Is there no evidence from the race itself?

  1. W. Wundt, Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie, ii., 1893, 591. Cf. the historical discussion, 591-593, and Philos. Stud., i., 1883, 354 ff.; also J. Ward, art. Psychology, Encycl. Brit., 9th ed., 43, col. a.