Popular Science Monthly/Volume 8/January 1876/The Comparative Psychology of Man
|THE COMPARATIVE PSYCHOLOGY OF MAN.|
By HERBERT SPENCER.
WHILE discussing with two members of the Anthropological Institute the work to be undertaken by its psychological section, I made certain suggestions which they requested me to put in writing. When reminded, some months after, of the promise I had made to do this. I failed to recall the particular suggestions referred to; but, in the endeavor to remember them, I was led to glance over the whole subject of comparative human psychology. Hence resulted the following paper:
That making a general survey is useful as a preliminary to deliberate study, either of a whole or of any part, scarcely needs showing. Vagueness of thought accompanies the wandering about in a region without known bounds or landmarks. Attention devoted to some portion of a subject, in ignorance of its connection with the rest, leads to untrue conceptions. The whole cannot be rightly conceived without some knowledge of the parts; and no part can be rightly conceived out of relation to the whole.
To map out the comparative psychology of man must also conduce to the more methodic carrying on of inquiries. In this, as in other things, division of labor will facilitate progress; and, that there may be division of labor, the work itself must be systematically divided.
We may conveniently separate the entire subject into three main divisions, arranged in the order of increasing specialty.
The first division will treat of the degrees of mental evolution of different human types, generally considered: taking account of both the mass of mental manifestation and the complexity of mental manifestation. This division will include the relations of these characters to physical characters—the bodily mass and structure, and the cerebral mass and structure. It will also include inquiries concerning the time taken in completing mental evolution, and the time during which adult mental power lasts; as well as certain most general traits of mental action, such as the greater or less persistence of emotions and of intellectual processes. The connection between the general mental type and the general social type should also be here dealt with.
In the second division may be conveniently placed apart, inquiries concerning the relative mental natures of the sexes in each race. Under it will come such questions as these: What differences of mental mass and mental complexity, if any, existing between males and females, are common to all races? Do such differences vary in degree, or in kind, or in both? Are there reasons for thinking that they are liable to change by increase or decrease? What relations do they bear in each case to the habits of life, the domestic arrangements, and the social arrangements? This division should also include in its scope the sentiments of the sexes toward one another, considered as varying quantitatively and qualitatively; as well as their respective sentiments toward offspring, similarly varying.
For the third division of inquiries may be reserved the more special mental traits distinguishing different types of men. One class of such specialties results from differences of proportion among faculties possessed in common; and another class results from the presence in some races of faculties that are almost or quite absent from others. Each difference in each of these groups, when established by comparison, has to be studied in connection with the stage of mental evolution reached, and has to be studied in connection with the habits of life and the social development, regarding it as related to these both as cause and consequence.
Such being the outlines of these several divisions, let us now consider in detail the subdivisions contained within each.
I.—Under the head of general mental evolution we may begin with the trait of—
1. Mental Mass.—Daily experiences show us that human beings differ in volume of mental manifestation. Some there are whose intelligence, high though it may be, produces little impression on those around; while there are some who, when uttering even commonplaces, do it so as to affect listeners in a disproportionate degree. Comparison of two such makes it manifest that, generally, the difference is due to the natural language of the emotions. Behind the intellectual quickness of the one there is not felt any power of character; while the other betrays a momentum capable of bearing down opposition—a potentiality of emotion that has something formidable about it. Obviously the varieties of mankind differ much in respect of this trait. Apart from kind of feeling, they are unlike in amount of feeling. The dominant races overrun the inferior races mainly in virtue of the greater quantity of energy in which this greater mental mass shows itself. Hence a series of inquiries, of which these are some: (a.) What is the relation between mental mass and bodily mass? Manifestly, the small races are deficient in it. But it also appears that races much upon a par in size—as, for instance, an Englishman and a Damara—differ considerably in mental mass, (b.) What is its relation to mass of brain? and, bearing in mind the general law that, in the same species, size of brain increases with size of body (though not in the same proportion), how far can we connect the extra mental mass of the higher races with an extra mass of brain beyond that which is proper to their greater bodily mass? (c.) What relation, if any, is there between mental mass and the physiological state expressed in vigor of circulation and richness of blood, as severally determined by mode of life and general nutrition? (d.) What are the relations of this trait to the social state, as predatory or industrial, nomadic or agricultural?
2. Mental Complexity.—How races differ in respect of the more or less involved structures of their minds will best be understood, on recalling that unlikeness between the juvenile mind and the adult mind among ourselves which so well typifies the unlikeness between the minds of savage and civilized. In the child we see absorption in special facts. Generalities even of a low order are scarcely recognized; and there is no recognition of high generalities. We see interest in individuals, in personal adventures, in domestic affairs; but no interest in political or social matters. We see vanity about clothes and small achievements; but little sense of justice: witness the forcible appropriation of one another's toys. While there have come into play many of the simpler mental powers, there has not yet been reached that complication of mind which results from the addition of powers evolved out of these simpler ones. Kindred differences of complexity exist between the minds of lower and higher races; and comparisons should be made to ascertain their kinds and amounts. Here, too, there may be a subdivision of the inquiries: (a.) What is the relation between mental complexity and mental mass? Do not the two habitually vary together? (b.) What is the relation to the social state, as more or less complex?—that is to say. Do not mental complexity and social complexity act and react on each other?
3. Rate of Mental Development.—In conformity with the biological law, that the higher the organisms the longer they take to evolve, members of the inferior human races may be expected to complete their mental evolution sooner than members of the superior races; and we have evidence that they do this. Travelers from all regions comment, now on the great precocity of children among savage and semi-civilized peoples, and now on the early arrest of their mental progress. Though we scarcely need more proofs that this general contrast exists, there remains to be asked the question, whether it is consistently maintained throughout all orders of races, from the lowest to the highest—whether, say, the Australian differs in this respect from the Hindoo, as much as the Hindoo does from the European. Of secondary inquiries coming under this sub-head may be named several: (a.) Is this more rapid evolution and earlier arrest always unequally shown by the two sexes; or, in other words, are there in lower types proportional differences in rate and degree of development, such as higher types show us? (b.) Is there in many cases, as there appears to be in some cases, a traceable relation between the period of arrest and the period of puberty? (c.) Is mental decay earlier in proportion as mental evolution is rapid? (d.) Can we in other respects assert that, where the type is low, the entire cycle of mental changes between birth and death—ascending, uniform, descending—comes within a shorter interval?
4. Relative Plasticity.—Is there any relation between the degree of mental modifiability which remains in adult life, and the character of the mental evolution in respect of mass, complexity, and rapidity? The animal kingdom at large yields us reasons for associating an inferior and more rapidly-completed mental type with a relatively automatic nature. Lowly-organized creatures, guided almost entirely by reflex actions, are in but small degrees changeable by individual experiences. As the nervous structure complicates, its actions become less rigorously confined within preëstablished limits; and, as we approach the highest creatures, individual experiences take larger and larger shares in moulding the conduct: there is an increasing ability to take in new impressions and to profit by the acquisitions. Inferior and superior human races are contrasted in this respect. Many travelers comment on the unchangeable habits of savages. The semi-civilized nations of the East, past and present, were, or are, characterized by a greater rigidity of custom than characterizes the more civilized nations of the West. The histories of the most civilized nations show us that in their earlier times the modifiability of ideas and habits was less than it is at present. And, if we contrast classes or individuals around us, we see that the most developed in mind are the most plastic. To inquiries respecting this trait of comparative plasticity, in its relations to precocity and early completion of mental development, may be fitly added inquiries respecting its relations to the social state, which it helps to determine, and which reacts upon it.
5. Variability.—To say of a mental nature that its actions are extremely inconstant, and at the same time to say that it is a relatively unchangeable nature, apparently implies a contradiction. When, however, the inconstancy is understood as referring to the manifestations which follow one another from minute to minute, and the unchangeableness to the average manifestations, extending over long periods, the apparent contradiction disappears; and it becomes comprehensible that the two traits may, and ordinarily do, coexist. An infant, quickly weary with each kind of perception, wanting ever a new object, which it soon abandons for something else, and alternating a score times a day between smiles and tears, shows us a very small persistence in each kind of mental action: all its states, intellectual and emotional, are transient. Yet, at the same time, its mind cannot be easily changed in character. True, it changes spontaneously in due course; but it long remains incapable of receiving ideas or emotions beyond those of simple orders. The child exhibits less rapid variations, intellectual and emotional, while its educability is greater. Inferior human races show us this combination, great rigidity of general character, with great irregularity in its passing manifestations. Speaking broadly, while they resist permanent modification they lack intellectual persistence, and they lack emotional persistence. Of various low types we read that they cannot keep the attention fixed beyond a few minutes on any thing requiring thought even of a simple kind. Similarly with their feelings: these are less enduring than those of civilized men. There are, however, qualifications to be made in this statement; and comparisons are needed to ascertain how far these qualifications go. The savage shows great persistence in the action of the lower intellectual faculties. He is untiring in minute observation. He is untiring, also, in that kind of perceptive activity which accompanies the making of his weapons and ornaments: often persevering for immense periods in carving stones, etc. Emotionally, too, he shows persistence not only in the motives prompting these small industries, but also in certain of his passions—especially in that of revenge. Hence, in studying the degrees of mental variability shown us in the daily lives of the different races, we must ask how far variability characterizes the whole mind, and how far it holds only of parts of the mind.
6. Impulsiveness.—This trait is closely allied with the last: unenduring emotions are emotions which sway the conduct now this way and now that, without any consistency. The trait of impulsiveness may, however, be fitly dealt with separately, because it has other implications than mere lack of persistence. Comparisons of the lower human races with the higher appear generally to show that, along with brevity of the passions, there goes violence. The sudden gusts of feeling which men of inferior types display are excessive in degree as they are short in duration; and there is probably a connection between these two traits: intensity sooner producing exhaustion. Observing that the passions of childhood illustrate this connection, let us turn to certain interesting questions concerning the decrease of impulsiveness which accompanies advance in evolution. The nervous processes of an impulsive being are less remote from reflex actions than are those of an unimpulsive being. In reflex actions we see a simple stimulus passing suddenly into movement: little or no control being exercised by other parts of the nervous system. As we ascend to higher actions, guided by more and more complicated combinations of stimuli, there is not the same instantaneous discharge in simple motions; but there is a comparatively deliberate and more variable adjustment of compound motions, duly restrained and proportioned. It is thus with the passions and sentiments in the less developed natures and in the more developed natures. Where there is but little emotional complexity, an emotion, when excited by some occurrence, explodes in action before the other emotions have been called into play; and each of these, from time to time, does the like. But the more complex emotional structure is one in which these simpler emotions are so coördinated that they do not act independently. Before excitement of any one has had time to cause action, some excitement has been communicated to others—often antagonistic ones—and the conduct becomes modified in adjustment to the combined dictates. Hence results a decreased impulsiveness, and also a greater persistence. The conduct pursued, being prompted by several emotions coöperating in degrees which do not exhaust them, acquires a greater continuity; and while spasmodic force becomes less conspicuous, there is an increase in the total energy.
Examining the facts from this point of view, there are sundry questions of interest to be put respecting the different races of men: (a.) To what other traits than degree of mental evolution is impulsiveness related? Apart from difference in elevation of type, the New-World races seem to be less impulsive than the Old-World races. Is this due to constitutional apathy? Can there be traced (other things equal) a relation between physical vivacity and mental impulsiveness? (b.) What connection is there between this trait and the social state? Clearly a very explosive nature—such as that of the Bushman—is unfit for social union; and, commonly, social union, when by any means established, checks impulsiveness. (c.) What respective shares in checking impulsiveness are taken by the feelings which the social state fosters—such as the fear of surrounding individuals, the instinct of sociality, the desire to accumulate property, the sympathetic feelings, the sentiment of justice? These, which require a social environment for their development, all of them involve imaginations of consequences more or less distant; and thus imply checks upon the promptings of the simpler passions. Hence arise the questions—In what order, in what degrees, and in what combinations do they come into play?
7. One further general inquiry of a different kind may be added: What effect is produced on mental nature by mixture of races? There is reason for believing that, throughout the animal kingdom, the union of varieties that have become widely divergent is physically injurious; while the union of slightly-divergent varieties is physically beneficial. Does the like hold with the mental nature? Some facts seem to show that mixture of human races extremely unlike produces a worthless type of mind—a mind fitted neither for the kind of life led by the higher of the two races, nor for that led by the lower—a mind out of adjustment to all conditions of life. Contrariwise, we find that peoples of the same stock, slightly differentiated by lives carried on in unlike circumstances for many generations, produce by mixture a mental type having certain superiorities. In his work on "The Huguenots," Mr. Smiles points out how. large a number of distinguished men among us have descended from Flemish and French refugees; and M. Alphonse de Candolle, in his "Histoire des Sciences et des Savants depuis deux Siècles," shows that the descendants of French refugees in Switzerland have produced an unusually great proportion of scientific men. Though, in part, this result may be ascribed to the original natures of such refugees, who must have had that independence which is a chief factor in originality, yet it is probably in part due to mixture of races. For thinking this, we have evidence which is not open to two interpretations. Prof. Morley draws attention to the fact that, during seven hundred years of our early history, "the best genius of England sprang up on the line of country in which Celts and Anglo-Saxons came together." In like manner, Mr. Galton, in his "English Men of Science," shows that in recent days these have mostly come from an inland region, running generally from north to south, which we may reasonably presume contains more mixed blood than do the regions east and west of it. Such a result seems probable a priori. Two natures respectively adapted to slightly unlike sets of social conditions may be expected by their union to produce a nature somewhat more plastic than either—a nature more impressible by the new circumstances of advancing social life, and therefore more likely to originate new ideas and display modified sentiments. The comparative psychology of man may, then, fitly include the mental effects of mixture; and among derivative inquiries we may ask. How far the conquest of race by race has been instrumental in advancing civilization by aiding mixture, as well as in other ways?
II.—The second of the three leading divisions named at the outset is less extensive. Still, concerning the relative mental natures of the sexes in each race, questions of much interest and importance may be raised:
1. Degree of Difference between the Sexes.—It is an established fact that, physically considered, the contrast between males and females is not equally great in all types of mankind. The bearded races, for instance, show us a greater unlikeness between the two than do the beardless races. Among South American tribes, men and women have a greater general resemblance in form, etc., than is usual elsewhere. The question, then, suggests itself, Do the mental natures of the sexes differ in a constant or in a variable degree? The difference is unlikely to be a constant one; and, looking for variation, we may ask what is its amount, and under what conditions does it occur?
2. Difference in Mass and in Complexity.—The comparisons between the sexes, of course, admit of subdivisions parallel to those made in comparisons between the races. Relative mental mass and relative mental complexity have chiefly to be observed. Assuming that the great inequality in the cost of reproduction to the two sexes is the cause of unlikeness in mental mass, as in physical mass, this difference may be studied in connection with reproductive differences presented by the various races, in respect of the ages at which reproduction commences, and the period over which it lasts. An allied inquiry may be joined with this; namely, how far the mental developments of the two sexes are affected by their relative habits in respect to food and physical exertion? In many of the lower races, the women, treated with great brutality, are physically very inferior to the men; excess of labor and defect of nutrition being apparently the combined causes. Is any arrest of mental development simultaneously caused?
3. Variation of the Differences.—If the unlikeness, physical and mental, of the sexes is not constant, then, supposing all races have diverged from one original stock, it follows that there must have been transmission of accumulated differences to those of the same sex in posterity. If, for instance, the prehistoric type of man was beardless, then the production of a bearded variety implies that within that variety the males continued to transmit an increasing amount of beard to descendants of the same sex. This limitation of heredity by sex, shown us in multitudinous ways throughout the animal kingdom, probably applies to the cerebral structures as much as to other structures. Hence the question, Do not the mental natures of the sexes in alien types of man diverge in unlike ways and degrees?
4. Causes of the Differences.—Is any relation to be traced between this variable difference and the variable parts the sexes play in the business of life? Assuming the cumulative effects of habit on function and structure, as well as the limitation of heredity by sex, it is to be expected that, if in any society the activities of one sex, generation after generation, differ from those of the other, there will arise sexual adaptations of mind. Some instances in illustration may be named. Among the Africans of Loango and other districts, as also among some of the Indian Hill-tribes, the men and women are strongly contrasted as respectively inert and energetic: the industry of the women having apparently become so natural to them that no coercion is needed. Of course, such facts suggest an extensive series of questions. Limitation of heredity by sex may account both for those sexual differences of mind which distinguish men and women in all races and for those which distinguish them in each race, or each society. An interesting subordinate inquiry may be, how far such mental differences are inverted in cases where there is inversion of social and domestic relations; as among those Khasi Hill-tribes whose women have so far the upper hand that they turn off their husbands in a summary way if they displease them.
5. Mental Modifiability in the Two Sexes.—Along with comparisons of races in respect to mental plasticity may go parallel comparisons of the sexes in each race. Is it true always, as it appears to be generally true, that women are less modifiable than men? The relative conservatism of women—their greater adhesion to established ideas and. practices—is manifest in many civilized and semi-civilized societies. Is it so among the uncivilized? A curious instance of greater adhesion to custom by women than by men is given by Dalton, as occurring among the Juangs, one of the lowest wild tribes of Bengal. Until recently the only dress of both sexes was something less than that which the Hebrew legend gives to Adam and Eve. Years ago the men were led to adopt a cloth bandage round the loins, in place of the bunch of leaves; but the women adhere to the aboriginal habit: a conservatism shown where it might have been least expected.
6. The Sexual Sentiment.—Results of value may be looked for from comparisons of races made to determine the amounts and characters of the higher feelings to which the relation of the sexes gives rise. The lowest varieties of mankind have but small endowments of these feelings. Among varieties of higher types, such as the Malayo-Polynesians, these feelings seem considerably developed: the Dyaks, for instance, sometimes display them in great strength. Speaking generally, they appear to become stronger with the advance of civilization. Several subordinate inquiries may be named: (a.) How far is development of the sexual sentiment dependent upon intellectual advance—upon growth of imaginative power? (b.) How far is it related to emotional advance; and especially to evolution of those emotions which originate from sympathy? What are its relations to polyandry and polygyny? (c.) Does it not tend toward, and is it not fostered, by, monogamy? (d.) What connection has it with maintenance of the family bond, and the consequent better rearing of children?
III.—Under the third head, to which we may now pass, come the more special traits of the different races:
1. Imitativeness.—One of the characteristics in which the lower types of men show us a smaller departure from reflex action than do the higher types is, their strong tendency to mimic the motions and sounds made by others—an almost involuntary habit which travelers find it difficult to check. This meaningless repetition, which seems to imply that the idea of an observed action cannot be framed in the mind of the observer without tending forthwith to discharge itself in the action conceived (and every ideal action is a nascent form of the consciousness accompanying performance of such action), evidently diverges but little from the automatic; and decrease of it is to be expected along with increase of self-regulating power. This trait of automatic mimicry is evidently allied with that less automatic mimicry which shows itself in greater persistence of customs. For customs adopted by each generation from the last, without thought or inquiry, imply a tendency to imitate which overmasters critical and skeptical tendencies: so maintaining habits for which no reason can be given. The decrease of this irrational mimicry, strongest in the lowest savage and feeblest in the highest of the civilized, should be studied along with the successively higher stages of social life, as being at once an aid and a hindrance to civilization; an aid in so far as it gives that fixity to the social organization without which a society cannot survive; a hindrance in so far as it offers resistance to changes of social organization that have become desirable.
2. Incuriosity.—Projecting our own natures into the circumstances of the savage, we imagine ourselves as marveling greatly on first seeing the products and appliances of civilized life. But we err in supposing that the savage has feelings such as we should have in his place. Want of rational curiosity respecting these incomprehensible novelties is a trait remarked of the lowest races wherever found; and the partially-civilized races are distinguished from them as exhibiting rational curiosity. The relation of this trait to the intellectual nature, to the emotional nature, and to the social state, should be studied.
3. Quality of Thought.—Under this vague head may be placed many sets of inquiries, each of them extensive: (a.) The degree of generality of the ideas; (b.) The degree of abstractness of the ideas; (c.) The degree of definiteness of the ideas; (d.) The degree of coherence of the ideas; (e.) The extent to which there have been developed such notions as those of class, of cause, of uniformity, of law, of truth. Many conceptions, which have become so familiar to us that we assume them to be the common property of all minds, are no more possessed by the lowest savages than they are by our own children; and comparisons of types should be so made as to elucidate the processes by which such conceptions are reached. The development under each head has to be observed: (a.) Independently in its successive stages; (b.) In connection with the coöperative intellectual conceptions; (c.) In connection with the progress of language, of the arts, and of social organization. Already linguistic phenomena have been used in aid of such inquiries; and more systematic use of them should be made. Not only the number of general words, and the, number of abstract words, in a people's vocabulary should be taken as evidence, but also their degrees of generality and abstractness; for there are generalities of the first, second, third, etc., orders and abstractions similarly ascending in degree. Blue is an abstraction referring to one class of impressions derived from visible objects; color is a higher abstraction, referring to many such classes of visual impressions; property is a still higher abstraction, referring to classes of impressions received not through the eyes alone, but through other sense-organs. If generalities and abstractions were arranged in the order of their extensiveness and in their grades, tests would be obtained which, applied to the vocabularies of the uncivilized, would yield definite evidence of the intellectual stages reached.
4. Peculiar Aptitudes.—To such specialties of intelligence as mark different degrees of evolution have to be added the minor ones related to modes of life: the kinds and degrees of faculty which have become organized in adaptation to daily habits—skill in the use of weapons, powers of tracking, quick discrimination of individual objects. And under this head may fitly come inquiries concerning some race-peculiarities of the æsthetic class, not at present explicable. While the remains from the Dordogne caves show us that their inhabitants, low as we must suppose them to have been, could represent animals, both by drawing and carving, with some degree of fidelity, there are existing races, probably higher in other respects, who seem scarcely capable of recognizing pictorial representations. Similarly with the musical faculty. Almost or quite wanting in some inferior races, we find it in other races, not of high grade, developed to an unexpected degree. instance the negroes, some of whom are so innately musical that, as I have been told by a missionary among them, the children in native schools, when taught European psalm-tunes, spontaneously sing seconds to them. Whether any causes can be discovered for race-peculiarities of this kind is a question of interest.
5. Specialties of Emotional Nature.—These are worthy of careful study, as being intimately related to social phenomena—to the possibility of social progress, and to the nature of the social structure. Of those to be chiefly noted there are—(a.) Gregariousness or sociality—a trait in the strength of which races differ widely: some, as the Mantras, being almost indifferent to social intercourse; others being unable to dispense with it. Obviously the degree of the desire for the presence of fellow-men affects greatly the formation of social groups, and consequently underlies social progress. (b.) Intolerance of restraint. Men of some inferior types, as the Mapuché, are ungovernable; while those of other types, no higher in grade, not only submit to restraint, but admire the persons exercising it. These contrasted traits have to be observed in connection with social evolution; to the early stages of which they are respectively antagonistic and favorable, (c.) The desire for praise is a trait which, common to all races, high and low, varies considerably in degree. There are quite inferior races, as some of those in the Pacific States, whose members sacrifice without stint to gain the applause which lavish generosity brings; while, elsewhere, applause is sought with less eagerness. Notice should be taken of the connection between this love of approbation and the social restraints, since it plays an important part in the maintenance of them, (d.) The acquisitive propensity. This, too, is a trait the various degrees of which, and the relations of which to the social state, have to be especially noted. The desire for property grows along with the possibility of gratifying it; and this, extremely small among the lowest men, increases as social goes on. With the advance from tribal property to family property and individual property, the notion of private right of possession gains definiteness, and the love of acquisition strengthens. Each step toward an orderly social state makes larger accumulations possible, and the pleasures achievable by them more sure; while the resulting encouragement to accumulate leads to increase of capital and further progress. This action and reaction of the sentiment and the social state, should be in every case observed.
6. The Altruistic Sentiments.—Coming last, these are also highest. The evolution of them in the course of civilization shows us very clearly the reciprocal influences of the social unit and the social organism. On the one hand, there can be no sympathy, nor any of the sentiments which sympathy generates, unless there are fellow-beings around. On the other hand, maintenance of union with fellow-beings depends in part on the presence of sympathy, and the resulting restraints on conduct. Gregariousness or sociality favors the growth of sympathy; increased sympathy conduces to closer sociality and a more stable social state; and so, continuously, each increment of the one makes possible a further increment of the other. Comparisons of the altruistic sentiments resulting from sympathy, as exhibited in different types of men and different social states, may be conveniently arranged under three heads: (a.) Pity, which should be observed as displayed toward offspring, toward the sick and aged, and toward enemies, (b.) Generosity (duly discriminated from the love of display) as shown in giving; as shown in the relinquishment of pleasures for the sake of others; as shown by active efforts on others' behalf. The manifestations of this sentiment, too, are to be noted in respect of their range—whether they are limited to relatives; whether they extend only to those of the same society; whether they extend to those of other societies; and they are also to be noted in connection with the degree of providence—whether they result from sudden impulses obeyed without counting the cost, or go along with a clear foresight of the future sacrifices entailed, (c.) Justice. This most abstract of the altruistic sentiments is to be considered under aspects like those just named, as well as under many other aspects—how far it is shown in regard to the lives of others; how far in regard to their property, and how far in regard to their various minor claims. And the comparisons of men in respect of this highest sentiment should, beyond all others, be carried on along with observations on the accompanying social state, which it largely determines—the form and actions of government; the character of the laws; the relations of classes.
Such, stated as briefly as consists with clearness, are the leading divisions and subdivisions under which the Comparative Psychology of Man may be arranged. In going rapidly over so wide a field, I have doubtless overlooked much that should be included. Doubtless, too, various of the inquiries named will branch out into subordinate inquiries well worth pursuing. Even as it is, however, the programme is extensive enough to occupy numerous investigators who may with advantage take separate divisions.
Though, after occupying themselves with primitive arts and products, anthropologists have devoted their attention mainly to the physical characters of the human races, it must, I think, be admitted that the study of these yields in importance to the study of their psychical characters. The general conclusions to which the first set of inquiries may lead cannot so much affect our views respecting the highest classes of phenomena as can the general conclusions to which the second set may lead. A true theory of the human mind vitally concerns us; and systematic comparisons of human minds, differing in their kinds and grades, will help us in forming a true theory. Knowledge of the reciprocal relations between the characters of men and the characters of the societies they form must influence profoundly our ideas of political arrangements. When the interdependence of individual nature and social structure is understood, our conceptions of the changes now taking place, and hereafter to take place, will be rectified. A comprehension of mental development as a process of adaptation to social conditions, which are continually remoulding the mind, and are again remoulded by it, will conduce to a salutary consciousness of the remoter effects produced by institutions upon character, and will check the grave mischiefs which ignorant legislation now causes. Lastly, a right theory of mental evolution as exhibited by humanity at large, giving a key, as it does, to the evolution of the individual mind, must help to rationalize our perverse methods of education, and so to raise intellectual power and moral nature.
- Read before the London Anthropological Institute.