Popular Science Monthly/Volume 31/September 1887/Some Human Instincts II
|SOME HUMAN INSTINCTS|
By WILLIAM JAMES,
PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN HARVARD COLLEGE.
IN a previous article I passed in review a certain number of those instincts which may be considered fundamental in man. In the pages which follow I propose to complete the list. The reader will perhaps remember my main thesis, which is that man, so far from having an unusually small number of instincts, is more richly endowed in this respect than any other mammal; so richly, indeed, that his instincts often block one another's path. This phenomenon, combined with the transitoriness of many of them, and with what I have called the law of inhibition of instincts by habits, sufficiently account for the indeterminateness of man's conduct in presence of the same objective stimuli—an indeterminateness which has usually been supposed incompatible with his possession of any instincts at all.
The last instinct I touched upon was fear. Let me next say a few words about appropriation or acquisitiveness. Once more the reader will remember that an instinct is nothing more than an inborn path of reflex discharge in the nervous centers, such that a certain sort of object falling on the senses awakens an impulse to act in a determinate way. The beginnings of acquisitiveness are seen in the impulse which very young children display to snatch at, or beg for, any object which pleases their attention. Later, when they begin to speak, among the first words they emphasize are "me" and "mine." Their earliest quarrels with each other are about questions of ownership; and parents of twins soon learn that it conduces to a quiet house to buy all presents in impartial duplicate. Of the later evolution of the proprietary instinct I need not speak. Every one knows how difficult a thing it is not to covet whatever pleasing thing we see, and how the sweetness of the thing often is as gall to us so long as it is another's. When another is in possession, the impulse to appropriate the thing often turns into the impulse to harm him—what is called envy, or jealousy, ensues. In civilized life the impulse to own is usually checked by a variety of considerations, and only passes over into action under cicumstances legitimated by habit and common consent, an additional example of the way in which one instinctive tendency may be inhibited by others. A variety of the proprietary instinct is the impulse to form collections of the same sort of thing. It differs much in individuals, and shows in a striking way how instinct and habit interact. For, although a collection of any given thing—like postage-stamps—need not be begun by any given person, yet the chances are that if accidentally it be begun by a person with the collecting instinct, it will probably be continued. The chief interest of the objects, in the collector's eyes, is that they are a collection, and that they are his. Rivalry, to be sure, inflames this, as it does every other passion, yet the objects of a collector's mania need not be necessarily such as are generally in demand. Boys will collect anything that they see another boy collect, from pieces of chalk and peach-pits up to books and photographs. Out of a hundred students whom I questioned, only four or five had never collected anything. In "The Nation" for September 3, 1886, Professor G. S. Hall gives some account of a statistical research on Boston school-boys, by Miss Wiltse, from which it appears that only nineteen out of two hundred and twenty-nine had made no collections.
The associationist psychology denies that there is any blind primitive instinct to appropriate, and would explain all acquisitiveness, in the first instance, as a desire to secure the "pleasures" which the objects possessed may yield; and, secondly, as the association of the idea of pleasantness with the holding of the thing, even though the pleasure originally got by it was only gained through its expense or destruction. Thus the miser is shown to us as one who has transferred to the gold by which he may buy the goods of this life all the emotions which the goods themselves would yield; and who thereafter loves the gold for its own sake, preferring the means of pleasure to the pleasure itself. There can be little doubt that much of this analysis a broader view of the facts would have dispelled. "The miser" is an abstraction. There are all kinds of misers. The common sort, the excessively niggardly man, simply exhibits the psychological law that the potential has often a far greater influence over our mind than the actual. A man will not marry now, because to do so puts an end to his indefinite potentialities of choice of a partner. He prefers the latter. He will not use open fires or wear his good clothes, because the day may come when he will have to use the furnace or dress in a worn-out coat, "and then where will he be?" For him, better the actual evil than the fear of it; and so it is with the common lot of misers. Better to live poor now, with the power of living rich, than to live rich at the risk of losing the power. These men value their gold, not for its own sake, but for its powers. Demonetize it, and see how quickly they will get rid of it! The associationist theory is, as regards them, entirely at fault.
With other misers there combines itself with this preference of the power over the act the far more instinctive element of the simple collecting propensity. Every one collects money, and when a man of petty ways is smitten with the collecting mania for this object he necessarily becomes a miser. Here again the associationist psychology is wholly at fault. The hoarding instinct prevails widely among animals as well as among men. Professor Silliman has thus described one of the hoards of the California wood-rat, made in an empty stove of an unoccupied house: "I found the outside to be composed entirely of spikes, all laid with symmetry, so as to present the points of the nails outward. In the center of this mass was the nest, composed of finely-divided fibers of hemp-packing. Interlaced with the spikes were the following: about two dozen knives, forks, and spoons; all the butcher's knives, three in number; a large carving-knife, fork, and steel; several large plugs of tobacco, ... an old purse containing some silver, matches, and tobacco; nearly all the small tools from the tool-closets, with several large augers, ... all of which must have been transported some distance, as they were originally stored in different parts of the house. ... The outside casing of a silver watch was disposed of in one part of the pile, the glass of the same watch in another, and the works in still another."
In every lunatic asylum we find the collecting instinct developing itself in an equally absurd way. Certain patients will spend all their time picking pins from the floor and hoarding them. Others collect bits of thread, buttons, or rags, and prize them exceedingly. Now, the "miser" par excellence of the popular imagination and of melodrama, the monster of squalor and misanthropy, is simply one of these mentally deranged persons. His intellect may in many matters be clear, but his instincts, especially that of ownership, are insane, and their insanity has no more to do with the association of ideas than with the precession of the equinoxes. As a matter of fact his hoarding usually is directed to money; but it also includes almost anything besides. Lately in a Massachusetts town there died a miser who principally hoarded newspapers. These had ended by so filling all the rooms of his good-sized house from floor to ceiling that his living space was restricted to a few narrow channels between them. Even as I write, the morning paper gives an account of the emptying of a miser's den in Boston by the City Board of Health."What the owner hoarded is thus described: "He gathered old newspapers, wrapping-paper, incapacitated umbrellas, canes, pieces of common wire, cast-off clothing, empty barrels, pieces of iron, old bones, battered tin-ware, fractured pots, and bushels of such miscellany as is to be found only at the city 'dump.' The empty barrels were filled, shelves were filled, every hole and corner was filled, and in order to make more storage-room, 'the hermit' covered his store-room with a network of ropes, and hung the ropes as full as they could hold of his curious collections. There was nothing one could think of that wasn't in that room. As a wood-sawyer, the old man had never thrown away a saw-blade or a wood-buck. The bucks were rheumatic and couldn't stand up, and the saw-blades were worn down to almost nothing in the middle. Some had been actually worn in two, but the ends were carefully saved and stored away. As a coal-heaver, the old man had never cast off a worn-out basket, and there were dozens of the remains of the old things, patched up with canvas and rope-yarns, in the store-room. There were at least two dozen old hats, fur, cloth, silk, and straw," etc. Of course there may be a great many "associations of ideas" in the miser's mind about the things he hoards. He is a thinking being, and must associate; but, without an entirely blind impulse in this direction behind all the ideas, such practical results could never be reached.
Kleptomania, as it is called, is an uncontrollable impulse to appropriate, occurring in persons whose "associations of ideas" would naturally all be of a counteracting sort. Kleptomaniacs often promptly restore, or permit to be restored, what they have taken; so the impulse need not be to keep, but only to take. But elsewhere hoarding complicates the result. A gentleman, with whose case I am acquainted, was discovered, after his death, to have a hoard in his barn of all sorts of articles, mainly of a trumpery sort, but including pieces of silver which he had stolen from his own dining-room, and utensils which he had stolen from his own kitchen, and for which he had afterward bought substitutes with his own money.
Constructiveness is as genuine and irresistible an instinct in man as in the bee or the beaver. Whatever things are plastic to his hands, those things he must remodel into shapes of his own, and the result of the remodeling, however useless it may be, gives him more pleasure than the original thing. The mania of young children for breaking and pulling apart whatever is given them, is more often the expression of a rudimentary constructive impulse than of a destructive one. "Blocks" are the playthings of which they are least apt to tire. Clothes, weapons, tools, habitations, and works of art are the result of the discoveries to which the plastic instinct leads, each individual starting where his forerunners left off, and tradition preserving all that once is gained. Clothing, where not necessitated by cold, is nothing but a sort of attempt to remodel the human body itself—an attempt still better shown in the various tattooings, tooth-filings, searings, and other mutilations that are practiced by savage tribes. As for habitation, there can be no doubt that the instinct to seek a sheltered nook, open only on one side, into which he may retire and be safe, is in man quite as specific as the instinct of birds to build a nest. It is not necessarily in the shape of a shelter from wet and cold that the need comes before him, but he feels less exposed and more at home when not altogether uninclosed, than when lying all abroad. Of course the utilitarian origin of this instinct is obvious. But to stick to bare facts at present and not to trace origins, we must admit that this instinct now exists, and probably always has existed, since man was man. Habits of the most complicated kind are reared upon it. But even in the midst of these habits we see the blind instinct cropping out; as, for example, in the fact that we feign a shelter within a shelter, by backing up beds in rooms with their heads against the wall, and never lying in them the other way—just as dogs prefer to get under or upon some piece of furniture to sleep, instead of lying in the middle of the room. The first habitations were caves and leafy grottoes, bettered by the hands; and we see children to-day, when playing in wild places, take the greatest delight in discovering and appropriating such retreats and "playing house" there.
Play.—The impulse to play in special ways is certainly instinctive. A boy can no more help running after another boy who runs provokingly near him, than a kitten can help running after a rolling ball. A child trying to get into its own hand some object which it sees another child pick up, and the latter trying to get away with the prize, are just as much slaves of an automatic prompting as are two chickens or fishes, of which one has taken a big morsel into its mouth and decamps with it, while the other darts after in pursuit. All simple active games are attempts to gain the excitement yielded by certain primitive instincts, through feigning that the occasions for their exercise are there. They involve imitation, hunting, fighting, rivalry, acquisitiveness, and construction, combined in various ways; their special rules are habits, discovered by accident, selected by intelligence, and propagated by tradition; but unless they were founded in automatic impulses, games would lose most of their zest. The sexes differ somewhat in their play-impulses. As Schneider says: "The little boy imitates soldiers, models clay into an oven, builds houses, makes a wagon out of chairs, rides on horseback upon a stick, drives nails with the hammer, harnesses his brethren and comrades together and plays the stage-driver, or lets himself be captured as a wild horse by some one else. The girl, on the contrary, plays with her doll, washes and dresses it, strokes it, clasps and kisses it, puts it to bed and tucks it in, sings it a cradle-song, or speaks with it as if it were a living being. ... This fact that a sexual difference exists in the play-impulse, that a boy gets more pleasure from a horse and rider and a soldier than from a doll, while with the girl the opposite is the case, is proof that an hereditary connection exists between the perception of certain things (horse, doll, etc.), and the feeling of pleasure, as well as between this latter and the impulse to play."
There is another sort of human play, into which higher æsthetic feelings enter. I refer to that love of festivities, ceremonies, ordeals, etc., which seems to be universal in our species. The lowest savages have their dances, more or less formally conducted. The various religions have their solemn rites and exercises, and civic power symbolizes its grandeur by processions and celebrations of divers sorts. We have our operas and parties and masquerades. An element common to all these ceremonial games, as they may be called, is the excitement of concerted action as one of an organized crowd. The same acts, performed with a crowd, seem to mean vastly more than when performed alone. A walk with the people on a holiday afternoon, an excursion to drink beer or coffee at a popular "resort," or an ordinary ball-room, are examples of this. Not only are we amused at seeing so many strangers, but there is a distinct stimulation at feeling our share in their collective life. The perception of them is the stimulus, and the reaction upon it is our tendency to join them and do what they are doing, and our unwillingness to be the first to leave off and go home alone. This seems a primitive element in our nature, as it is difficult to trace any association of ideas that could lead up to it; although, once granting it to exist, it is very easy to see what its uses to a tribe might be in facilitating prompt and vigorous collective action. The formation of armies, and the undertaking of military expeditions would be among its fruits. In the ceremonial games, it is but the impulsive starting-point. What particular things the crowd then shall do, depends for the most part on the initiative of individuals, fixed by imitation and habit, and continued by tradition. The co-operation of other aesthetic pleasures with games, ceremonial or other, has a great deal to do with the selection of such as shall become stereotyped and habitual. The peculiar form of excitement called by Professor Bain the emotion of pursuit, the pleasure of a crescendo, is the soul of many common games. The immense extent of the play-activities in human life is too obvious to be more than mentioned.
that attention may be followed by approach and exploration by nostril, lips, or touch. Curiosity and fear form a couple of antagonistic emotions liable to be awakened by the same outward thing, and manifestly both useful to their possessor. The spectacle of their alternation is often amusing enough, as in the timid approaches and scared wheelings which sheep or cattle will make in the presence of some new object they are investigating. I have seen alligators in the water act in precisely the same way toward a man seated on the beach in front of them—gradually drawing near as long as he kept still, frantically careering back as soon as he made a movement. Inasmuch as new objects may always be advantageous, it is better that an animal should not absolutely fear them. But, inasmuch as they may also possibly be harmful, it is better that he should not be quite indifferent to them either, but on the whole remaining on the qui vive, ascertain as much about them, and what they may be likely to bring forth, as he can, before settling down to rest in their presence. Some such susceptibility for being excited and irritated by the mere novelty, as such, of any movable feature of the environment must form the instinctive basis of all human curiosity; though, of course, the superstructure absorbs contributions from so many other factors of the emotional life that the original root may be hard to find. "With what is called scientific curiosity, and with metaphysical wonder, the practical instinctive root has probably nothing to do. The stimuli here are not objects, but ways of conceiving objects, and the emotions and actions they give rise to are to be classed, with many other æsthetic manifestations, sensitive and motor, as incidental features of our mental life. The philosophic brain responds to an inconsistency or a gap in its knowledge, just as the musical brain responds to a discord in what it hears. At certain ages the sensitiveness to particular gaps and the pleasure of resolving particular puzzles reach their maximum, and then it is that stores of knowledge are easiest and most naturally laid in. But these effects may have had nothing to do with the uses for which the brain was originally given; and it is probably only within a few centuries, since religious beliefs and economic applications of science have played a prominent part in the conflicts of one race with another, that they may have helped to "select" for survival a particular type of brain. I shall have to consider this matter of incidental and supernumerary faculties in another place..—Already pretty low down among vertebrates we find that any object may excite attention, provided it be only novel, and
Sociability and Shyness.—As a gregarious animal, man is excited both by the absence and by the presence of his kind. To be alone is one of the greatest of evils for him. Solitary confinement is by many regarded as a mode of torture too cruel and unnatural for civilized countries to adopt. To one long pent up on a desert island, the sight of a human footprint or a human form in the distance would be the most tumultuously exciting of experiences. In morbid states of mind, one of the commonest symptoms is the fear of being alone. This fear may be assuaged by the presence of a little child, or even of a baby. In a case of hydrophobia known to the writer, the patient insisted on keeping his room crowded with neighbors all the while, so intense was his fear of solitude. In a gregarious animal, the perception that he is alone excites him to vigorous activity. Mr. Galton thus describes the behavior of the South African cattle whom he had such good opportunities for observing: "Although the ox has little affection for, or interest in, his fellows, he can not endure even a momentary separation from his herd. If he be separated from it by stratagem or force, he exhibits every sign of mental agony; he strives with all his might to get back again, and when he succeeds he plunges into its middle to bathe his whole body with the comfort of closest companionship."
Man is also excited by the presence of his kind. The bizarre actions of dogs meeting strange dogs are not altogether without a parallel in our own constitution. "We can not meet strangers without a certain tension, or talk to them exactly as to our familiars. This is particularly the case if the stranger be an important personage. It may then happen that we not only shrink from meeting his eye, but actually can not collect our wits or do ourselves any sort of justice in his presence. "This odd state of mind," says Darwin, "is chiefly recognized by the face reddening, by the eyes being averted or cast down, and by awkward, nervous movements of the body. ... Shyness seems to depend on sensitiveness to the opinion, whether good or bad, of others, more especially with respect to external appearance. Strangers neither know nor care anything about our conduct or character, but they may, and often do, criticise our appearance. ... The consciousness of anything peculiar, or even new, in the dress, or any slight blemish on the person, and more especially on the face points which are likely to attract the attention of strangers makes the shy intolerably shy. On the other hand, in those cases in which conduct, and not personal appearance, is concerned, we are much more apt to be shy, in the presence of acquaintances whose judgment we in some degree value, than in that of strangers. ... Some persons, however, are so sensitive, that the mere act of speaking to almost any one is sufficient to rouse their self-consciousness, and a slight blush is the result. Disapprobation ... causes shyness and blushing much more readily than does approbation. ... Persons who are exceedingly shy are rarely shy in the presence of those with whom they are quite familiar, and of whose good opinion and sympathy they are quite assured; for instance, a girl in presence of her mother. ... Shyness ... is closely related to fear; yet it is distinct from fear in the ordinary sense. A shy man dreads the notice of strangers, but can hardly be said to be afraid of them; he may be as bold as a hero in battle, and yet have no self-confidence about trifles in the presence of strangers. Almost every one is extremely nervous when first addressing a public assembly, and most men remain so through their lives." As Mr. Darwin observes, a real dread of definite consequences may enter into this "stage-fright" and complicate the shyness. Even so our shyness before an important personage may be complicated by what Professor Bam calls "servile terror," based on representation of definite dangers if we fail to please. But both stage-fright and servile terror may exist with the most indefinite apprehensions of danger, and, in fact, when our reason tells us there is no occasion for alarm. We must, therefore, admit a certain amount of purely instinctive perturbation and constraint, due to the consciousness that we have become objects for other people's eyes. Mr. Darwin goes on to say: "Shyness comes on at a very early age. In one of my own children, two years and three months old, I saw a trace of what certainly appeared to be shyness directed toward myself, after an absence from home of only a week." Every parent has noticed the same sort of thing. Considering the despotic powers of rulers in savage tribes, respect and awe must, from time immemorial, have been emotions excited by certain individuals; and stage-fright, servile terror, and shyness, must have had as copious opportunities for exercise as at the present time. Whether these impulses could ever have been useful, and selected for usefulness, is a question which, it would seem, can only be answered in the negative. Apparently they are pure hindrances, like fainting at sight of blood or disease, sea-sickness, a dizzy head on high places, and certain squeamishnesses of æsthetic taste. They are incidental emotions, in spite of which we get along. But they seem to play an important part in the production of two other propensities, about the instinctive character of which a good deal of controversy has prevailed. I refer to cleanliness and modesty, to which we must proceed, but not before we have said a word about another impulse closely allied to shyness. I mean—
Secretiveness, which, although often due to intelligent calculation and the dread of betraying our interests in some more or less definitely foreseen way, is quite as often a blind propensity, serving no useful purpose, and is so stubborn and ineradicable a part of the character as fully to deserve a place among the instincts. Its natural stimuli are unfamiliar human beings, especially those whom we respect. Its reactions are the arrest of whatever we are saying or doing when such strangers draw nigh, coupled often with the pretense that we were not saying or doing that thing, but possibly something different. Often there is added to this a disposition to mendacity when asked to give an account of ourselves. With many persons the first impulse, when the door-bell rings or a visitor is suddenly announced, is to scuttle out of the room, so as not to be "caught." When a person at whom we have been looking becomes aware of us, our immediate impulse may be to look the other way, and pretend we have not seen him. Many friends have confessed to me that this is a frequent phenomenon with them in meeting acquaintances in the street, especially unfamiliar ones. The bow is a secondary correction of the primary feint that we do not see the other person. Probably most readers will recognize in themselves, at least, the start, the nascent disposition, on many occasions, to act in each and all of these several ways. That the "start" is neutralized by second thought proves it to come from a deeper region than thought. There is unquestionably a native impulse in every one to conceal love-affairs, and the acquired impulse to conceal pecuniary affairs seems in many to be almost equally strong. It is to be noted that even where a given habit of concealment is reflective and deliberate, its motive is far less often definite prudence than a vague aversion to have one's sanctity invaded and one's personal concerns fingered and turned over by other people. Thus, some persons will never leave anything with their name written on it, where others may pick it up—even in the woods, an old envelope must not be thrown on the ground. Many cut all the leaves of a book of which they may be reading a single chapter, so that no one shall know which one they have singled out, and all this with no definite notion of harm. The impulse to conceal is more apt to be provoked by superiors than by equals or inferiors. How differently do boys talk together when their parents are not by! Servants see more of their masters' characters than masters of servants'. Where we conceal from our equals and familiars, there is probably always a definite element of prudential prevision involved. Collective secrecy, mystery, enters into the emotional interest of many games, and is one of the elements of the importance men attach to freemasonries of various sorts, being delightful apart from any end.
Cleanliness.—Seeing how very filthy savages and exceptional individuals among civilized people may be, philosophers have doubted whether any genuine instinct of cleanliness exists, and whether education and habit be not responsible for whatever amount of it is found. Were it an instinct, its stimulus would be dirt, and its characteristic reaction the shrinking from contact therewith, and the cleaning of it away after contact had occurred. Now, if some animals are cleanly, men may be so, and there can be no doubt that some kinds of matter are natively repugnant, both to sight, touch, and smell—excrementitious and putrid things, blood, pus, entrails, and diseased tissues, for example. It is true that the shrinking from contact with these things may be inhibited very easily, as by a medical education; and it is equally true that the impulse to clean them away may be inhibited by so slight an obstacle as the thought of the coldness of the ablution, or the necessity of getting up to perform it. It is also true that an impulse to cleanliness, habitually checked, will become obsolete fast enough. But none of these facts prove the impulse never to have been there. It seems to be there in all cases; and then to be particularly amenable to outside influences, the child having his own degree of squeamishness about what he shall touch or eat, and later being either hardened or made more fastidious still by the habits he is forced to acquire and the examples among which he lives.
Examples get their hold on him in this way, that a particularly evil-smelling or catarrhal or lousy comrade is rather offensive to him, and that he sees the odiousness in another of an amount of dirt to which he would have no spontaneous objection if it were on his own skin. That we dislike in others things which we tolerate in ourselves is a law of our æsthetic nature about which there can be no doubt. But as soon as generalization and reflection step in, this judging of others leads to a new way of regarding ourselves. "Who taught you politeness? The impolite," is, I believe, a Chinese proverb. The concept, "dirty fellow," which we have formed, becomes one under which we personally shrink from being classed; and so we "wash up," and set ourselves right, at moments when our social self-consciousness is awakened, in a manner toward which no strictly instinctive native prompting exists. But the standard of cleanliness attained in this way is not likely to go beyond the mutual tolerance for one another of the members of the tribe, and hence may comport a good deal of actual filth.
may forever afterward inhibit any impulse to be modest toward them. This would account for a great deal of actual immodesty, even if an original modest impulse were there. On the other hand, the modest impulse, if it do exist, must be admitted to have a singularly ill-defined sphere of influence, both as regards the presences that call it forth, and as regards the acts to which it leads. Ethnology shows it to have very little backbone of its own, and to follow easily fashion and example. Still, it is hard to see the ubiquity of some sort of tribute to shame, however perverted—as where female modesty consists in covering the face alone, or immodesty in appearing before strangers unpainted—and to believe it to have no impulsive root whatever. Now, what may the impulsive root be? I believe that, for one thing, it is shyness, the feeling of dread that unfamiliar persons, as explained above, may inspire us withal. Such persons are the original stimuli to our modesty. But the actions of modesty are quite different from the actions of shyness. They consist of the restraint of certain bodily functions, and of the covering of certain parts; and why do such particular actions necessarily ensue? That there may be in the human animal, as such, a "blind" and immediate automatic impulse to such restraints and coverings in respect-inspiring presences, is a possibility difficult of actual disproof. But it seems more likely, from the facts, that the actions of modesty are suggested to us in a roundabout way; and that, even more than those of cleanliness, they arise from the application in the second instance to ourselves of judgments primarily passed upon our mates. It is not easy to believe that, even among the nakedest savages, an unusual degree of cynicism and indecency in an individual should not beget a certain degree of contempt, and cheapen him in his neighbor's eyes. Human nature is sufficiently homogeneous for us to be sure that everywhere reserve must inspire some respect, and that persons who suffer every liberty are persons whom others disregard. "Not to be like such people," then, would be one of the first resolutions suggested by social self-consciousness to a child of nature just emerging from the unreflective state. And the resolution would probably acquire effective pungency for the first time when the social self-consciousness was sharpened into a real fit of shyness by some person being present whom it was important not to disgust or displease. Public opinion would of course go on to build its positive precepts upon this germ; and, through a variety of examples and experiences, the ritual of modesty would grow, until it reached the New England pitch of sensitiveness and range, making us say stomach instead of belly, limb instead of leg, retire instead of go to bed, and forbidding us to call a female dog by name., Shame.—Whether there be an instinctive impulse to hide certain parts of the body and certain acts, is perhaps even more open to doubt than whether there be an instinct of cleanliness. Anthropologists have denied it, and in the utter shamelessness of infancy and of many savage tribes, have seemed to find a good basis for their views. It must, however, be remembered that infancy proves nothing, and that, as far as sexual modesty goes, the sexual impulse itself works directly against it at times of excitement, and with reference to certain people; and that habits of immodesty contracted with those people,
At bottom this amounts to the admission that, though in some shape or other a natural and inevitable feature of human life, modesty need not necessarily be an instinct in the pure and simple excito-motor sense of the term.
Love.—Of all propensities, the sexual impulses bear on their face the most obvious signs of being instinctive, in the sense of blind, automatic, and untaught. The teleology they contain is often at variance with the wishes of the individuals concerned; and the actions are performed for no assignable reason but because Nature urges just that way. Here, if ever, then, we ought to find those characters of fatality, infallibility, and uniformity, which, we are told, make of actions done from instinct a class so utterly apart. But is this so? The facts are just the reverse: the sexual instinct is particularly liable to be checked and modified by slight differences in the individual stimulus, by the inward condition of the agent himself, by habits once acquired, and by the antagonism of contrary impulses operating on the mind. One of these is the ordinary shyness recently described; another is what might be called the anti-sexual instinct, the instinct of personal isolation, the actual repulsiveness to us of the idea of intimate contact with most of the persons we meet, especially those of our own sex. Thus it comes about that this strongest passion of all, so far from being the most "irresistible," may, on the contrary, be the hardest one to give rein to, and that individuals in whom the inhibiting influences are potent may pass through life and never find an occasion to have it gratified. There could be no better proof of the truth of that proposition with which we began our study of the instinctive life in man, that irregularity of behavior may come as well from the possession of too many instincts as from the lack of any at all.
The instinct of personal isolation, of which we have spoken, exists more strongly in men with respect to one another, and more strongly in women with respect to men. In women it is called coyness, and has to be positively overcome by a process of wooing before the sexual instinct inhibits it and takes its place. As Darwin has shown in his book on the "Descent of Man and Sexual Selection," it has played a vital part in the amelioration of all higher animal types, and is to a great degree responsible for whatever degree of chastity the human race may show. It illustrates strikingly, however, the law of the inhibition of instincts by habits—for, once broken through with a given person, it is not apt to assert itself again; and habitually broken through, as by prostitutes, with various persons, it may altogether decay. Habit also fixes it in us toward certain individuals: nothing is so particularly displeasing as the notion of close personal contact with those with whom we have long known in a respectful and distant way. The fondness of the ancients and of modern Orientals for forms of unnatural vice, of which the notion affects us with horror, is probably a mere case of the way in which this instinct may be inhibited by habit. We can hardly suppose that the ancients had by gift of Nature a propensity of which we are devoid, and were all victims of what is now a pathological aberration limited to individuals. It is more probable that with them the anti-sexual impulse toward a certain class of objects was inhibited early in life by habits formed under the influence of example; and that then a kind of sexual appetite, of which very likely most men possess the germinal possibility, developed itself in an unrestricted way. That the development of it in an abnormal way may check its development in the normal way, seems to be a wellascertained medical fact. And that the direction of the sexual instinct toward one individual tends to inhibit its application to other individuals, is a law, upon which, though it suffers many exceptions, the whole régime of monogamy is based. These details are a little unpleasant to discuss, but they show so beautifully the correctness of the general principles in the light of which our review has been made, that it was impossible to pass them over unremarked.
Jealousy is unquestionably instinctive.
Parental Love is an instinct stronger in woman than in man, at least in the early childhood of its object. I need do little more than quote Schneider's lively description of it as it exists in her:
" As soon as a wife becomes a mother her whole thought and feeling, her whole being, is altered. Until then she had only thought of her own well-being, of the satisfaction of her vanity; the whole world appeared made only for her; everything that went on about her was only noticed so far as it had personal reference to herself; she asked of every one that he should appear interested in her, pay her the requisite attention, and as far as possible fulfill her wishes. Now, however, the center of the world is no longer herself, but her child. She does not think of her own hunger, she must first be sure that the child is fed. It is nothing to her that she herself is tired and needs rest, so long as she sees that the child's sleep is disturbed; the moment it stirs she awakes, though far stronger noises fail to arouse her now. She, who formerly could not bear the slightest carelessness of dress, and touched everything with gloves, allows herself to be soiled by the infant, and does not shrink from seizing its clouts with her naked hands. Now, she has the greatest patience with the ugly, piping cry-baby" (Schreihals), "whereas until now every discordant sound, every slightly unpleasant noise, made her nervous. Every limb of the still hideous little being appears to her beautiful, every movement fills her with delight. She has, in one word, transferred her entire egoism to the child, and lives only in it. Thus, at least, it is in all unspoiled, naturally-bred mothers, who, alas! seem to be growing rarer; and thus it is with all the higher animal-mothers. The maternal joys of a cat, for example, are not to be disguised. With an expression of infinite comfort she stretches out her fore-legs to offer her teats to her children, and moves her tail with delight when the little hungry mouths tug and suck. ...
"But not merely the contact, the mere look of the offspring affords endless delight, not only because the mother thinks that the child will some day grow great and handsome and bring her many joys, but because she has received from Nature an instinctive love for her children. She does not herself know why she is so happy, and why the look of the child and the care of it are so agreeable, any more than the young man can give an account of why he loves a maiden, and is so happy when she is near. Few mothers, in caring for their child, think of the proper purpose of maternal love for the preservation of the species. Such a thought may arise in the father's mind; seldom in that of the mother. The latter feels only ... that it is an everlasting delight to hold the being which she has brought forth protectingly in her arms, to dress it, to wash it, to rock it to sleep, or to still its hunger."
So far the worthy Schneider, to whose words may be added this remark, that the passionate devotion of a mother—ill herself, perhaps—to a sick or dying child, is perhaps the most simply beautiful moral spectacle that human life affords. Contemning every danger, triumphing over every difficulty, outlasting all fatigue, woman's love is here invincibly superior to anything that man can show.
These are the most prominent of the tendencies which are worthy of being called instinctive in the human species. It will be observed that no other mammal, not even the monkey, shows so large an array. In a perfectly-rounded development, every one of these instincts would start a habit toward certain objects and inhibit a habit toward certain others. Usually this is the case; but, in the one-sided development of civilized life, it happens that the timely age goes by in a sort of starvation of objects, and the individual then grows up with gaps in his psychic constitution which future experiences can never fill. Compare the accomplished gentleman with the poor artisan or tradesman of a city: during the adolescence of the former, objects appropriate to his growing interests, bodily and mental, were offered as fast as the interests awoke, and, as a consequence, he is armed and equipped at every angle to meet the world. Sport came to the rescue and completed his education where real things were lacking. He has tasted of the essence of every side of human life, being sailor, hunter, athlete, scholar, fighter, talker, dandy, man of affairs, etc., all in one. Over the city poor boy's youth no such golden opportunities were hung, and in his manhood no desires for most of them exist. Fortunate it is for him if gaps are the only anomalies his instinctive life presents; perversions are too often the fruit of his unnatural bringing up.
- See "The Popular Science Monthly" for June, 1887.
- I lately saw a boy of five (who had been told the story of Hector and Achilles) teaching his younger brother, aged three, how to play Hector, while he himself should play Achilles, and chase him round the walls of Troy. Having armed themselves, Achilles advanced, shouting "Where's my Patroklos?" Whereupon the would-be Hector piped up, quite distracted from his rôle, "Where's my Patroklos? I want a Patroklos! I want a Patroklos!"—and broke up the game. Of what kind of a thing a Patroklos might be he had, of course, no notion—enough that his brother had one, for him to claim one too.
- Quoted in Lindsay, "Mind in Lower Animals," vol. ii, p. 151.
- Cf. Flint, "Mind," vol. i, pp. 330-333; Sully, ibid., p. 567. Most people probably have the impulse to keep bits of useless finery, old tools, pieces of once useful apparatus, etc; but it is normally either inhibited at the outset by reflection, or, if yielded to, the objects soon grow displeasing and are thrown away.
- "Der Menschliche Wille," p. 205.
- Professor Lazarus ("Die Reize des Spieles," Berlin, 1883, p. 44) denies that we have an instinct to play, and says the root of the matter is the aversion to remain unoccupied, which substitutes a sham occupation when no real one is ready. No doubt this is true; but why the particular forms of sham occupation? The elements of all bodily games and of ceremonial games are given by direct excito-motor stimulations—just as when puppies chase one another and swallows have a parliament.
- "Inquiries into Human Faculty," p. 72.
- "Expression of the Emotions," New York, 1873, p. 330.
- "The certainty that we are well.dressed," some lady has said, "gives us a peace of heart to which that yielded by the consolations of religion is as nothing."
- Thackeray, in his exquisite "Roundabout Paper," "On a Chalk-Mark on the Door," says: "You get truth habitually from equals only; so, my good Mr. Holyshade, don't talk to me about the habitual candor of the young Etonian of high birth, or I have my own opinion of your candor or discernment when you do. No. Tom Bowling is the soul of honor, and has been true to Black-eyed Syousan since the last time they parted at Wapping Old Stairs; but do you suppose Tom is perfectly frank, familiar, and above-board in his conversation with Admiral Nelson, K. C. B.? There are secrets, prevarications, fibs, if you will, between Tom and the admiral—between your crew (of servants) and their captain. I know I hire a worthy, clean, agreeable, and conscientious male or female hypocrite at so many guineas a year to do so and so for me. Were he other than hypocrite, I would send him about his business."
- The insane symptom called "mysophobia," or dread of foulness, which leads a patient to wash his hands perhaps a hundred times a day, hardly seems explicable without supposing a primitive impulse to clean one's self of which it is, as it were, the convulsive exaggeration.
- "We often find modesty coming in only in the presence of foreigners, especially of clothed Europeans. Only before these do the Indian women in Brazil cover themselves with their girdle, only before these do the women on Timor conceal their bosom. In Australia we find the same thing happening." (Th. Waitz, "Anthropologie der Naturvölker," vol. i, p. 358). The author gives bibliographical references, which I omit.
- To most of us it is even unpleasant to sit down in a chair still warm from occupancy by another person's body. To many hand-shaking is disagreeable.
- Some will, of course, find the list too large, others too small. With the boundaries of instinct fading off into reflex action below, and acquired habit or suggested activity above, it is likely that there will always be controversy about just what to include under the class-name. Shall we add the propensity to walk along a curbstone, or any other narrow path, to the list of instincts? Shall we subtract secretiveness, as due to shyness or to fear? Who knows? Meanwhile our physiological method has this inestimable advantage, that such questions of limit have neither theoretical nor practical importance. The facts once noted, it matters little how they are named. Most authors give a shorter list than that in the text. The phrenologists add adhesiveness, inhabitiveness, love of approbation, etc., etc., to their list of "sentiments," which in the main agree with our list of instincts. Fortlage, in his "System der Psychologie," classes among the Triebe all the vegetative physiological functions. Santlus ("Zur Psychologie der Menschlichen Triebe," Leipsic, 1864) says there are at bottom but three instincts, that of "Being," that of "Function," and that of "Life." The "Instinct of Being" he subdivides into animal, embracing the activities of all the senses; and psychical, embracing the acts of the intellect and of the "transempiric consciousness." The "Instinct of Function" he divides into sexual, inclinational (friendship, attachment, honor); and moral (religion, philanthropy, faith, truth, moral freedom, etc.). The "Instinct of Life" embraces conservation (nutrition, motion); sociability (imitation, juridical and ethical arrangements); and personal interest (love of independence and freedom, acquisitiveness, self-defense). Such a muddled list as this shows how great are the advantages of the physiological analysis we have used.