Page images

The institutions and practices of a people are a product of the mind; and if the early and spontaneous products of mind are everywhere of the same general pattern as the later manifestations, only less developed, refined, and specialized, it may well be that failure to progress equally is not due to essential unlikeness of mind, but to conditions lying outside the mind.

Another test of mental ability which deserves special notice is mechanical ingenuity. Our white preeminence owes much to this faculty, and the lower races are reckoned defective in it. But the lower races do invent, and it is doubtful whether one invention is ever much more difficult than another. On the psychological side, an invention means that the mind sees a roundabout way of reaching an end when it cannot be reached directly. It brings into play the associative memory, and involves the recognition of analogies. There is a certain likeness between the flying back of a bough in one's face and the rebound of a bow, between a serpent's tooth and a poisoned arrow, between floating timber and a raft or boat; and water, steam, and electricity are like a horse in one respect they will all make wheels go around, and do work.

[ocr errors]

Now, the savage had this faculty of seeing analogies and doing things in indirect ways. With the club, knife, and sword he struck more effectively than with the fist; with hooks, traps, nets, and pitfalls he understood how to seize game more surely than with the hands; in the bow and arrow, spear, blow-gun, and spring-trap he devised motion swifter than that of his own body; he protected himself with armor imitated from the hides and scales of animals, and turned their venom back on themselves. That the savage should have originated the inventive process and carried it on systematically is indeed more wonderful than that his civilized successors should continue the process; for every beginning is difficult.

When occupations become specialized and one set of men has continually to do with one and only one set of machinery and forces, the constant play of attention over the limited field naturally results in improvements and the introduction of new principles. Modern inventions are magnificent and seem quite to overshadow the simpler devices of primitive times; but when we consider the precedents, copies, resources, and accumulated knowledge with which the modern investigator works, and, on the other hand, the resourcelessness of primitive man in materials, ideas, and in the inventive habit itself, I confess that the bow and arrow seems to me the most wonderful invention in the world.

Viewing the question from a different angle, we find another argu

ment for the homogeneous character of the human mind in the fact that the patterns of interest of the civilized show no variation from those of the savage. Not only the appetites and vanities remain essentially the same, but, on the side of intellectual interest, the type of mental reaction fixed in the savage by the food quest has come down unaltered to the man of science as well as to the man of the street. In circumventing enemies and capturing game, both the attention and the organic processes worked together in primitive man under great stress and strain. Whenever, indeed, a strain is thrown on the attention, the heart and organs of respiration are put under pressure also in their effort to assist the attention in manipulating the problem; and these organic fluctuations are felt as pleasure and pain. The strains thrown on the attention of primitive man were connected with his struggle for life; and not only in the actual encounter with men and animals did emotion run high, but the memory and anticipation of conflict reinstated the emotional conditions in those periods when he was meditating future conflicts and preparing his bows and arrows, traps and poisons. The problem of invention, the reflective and scientific side of his life, was suffused with interest, because the manufacture of the weapon was, psychologically speaking, a part of the fight.

[ocr errors]

This type of interest, originating in the hunt, remains dominant in the mind down to the present time. Once constructed to take an interest in the hunting problem, it takes an interest in any problem whatever. Not only do hunting and fighting and all competitive games which are of precisely the same psychological pattern as the hunt and fightremain of perennial interest, but all the useful occupations are interesting in just the degree that this pattern is preserved. The man of science works at problems and uses his ingenuity in making an engine in the laboratory in the same way that primitive man used his mind in making a trap. So long as the problem is present, the interest is sustained; and the interest ceases when the problematical is removed. Consequently, all modern occupations of the hunting pattern - scientific investigation, law, medicine, the organization of business, trade speculation, and the arts and crafts are interesting as a game; while those occupations into which the division of labor enters to the degree that the workman is not attempting to control a problem, and in which the same acts are repeated an indefinite number of times, lose interest and become extremely irksome.

This means that the brain acts pleasurably on the principle it was made up to act on in the most primitive times, and the rest is a burden. There has been no brain change, but the social changes have been mo

mentous; and the brain of each new generation is brought into contact with new traditions, inhibitions, copies, obligations, problems, so that the run of attention and content of consciousness are different. Social suggestion works marvels in the manipulation of the mind; but the change is not in the brain as an organ; it is rather in the character of the stimulations thrust on it by society.

The child begins as a savage, and after we have brought to bear all the influence of home, school, and church to socialize him, we speak as though his nature had changed organically, and institute a parallelism between the child and the race, asuming that the child's brain passes in a recapitulatory way through phases of development corresponding to epochs in the history of the race. I have no doubt myself that this theory of recapitulation is largely a misapprehension. A stream of social influence is turned loose on the child; and if the attention to him is incessant and wise, and the copies he has are good and stimulating, he is moulded nearer to the heart's desire. Sometimes he escapes, and becomes a criminal, tramp, sport, or artist; and even if made into an impeccable and model citizen, he periodically breaks away from the network of social habit and goes a-fishing.

The fundamental explanation of the difference in the mental life of two groups is not that the capacity of the brain to do work is different, but that the attention is not in the two cases stimulated and engaged along the same lines. Wherever society furnishes copies and stimulations of a certain kind, a body of knowledge and a technique, practically all its members are able to work on the plan and scale in vogue there, and members of an alien race who become acquainted in a real sense with the system can work under it. But when society does not furnish the stimulations, or when it has preconceptions which tend to inhibit the run of attention in given lines, then the individual shows no intelligence in these lines. This may be illustrated in the fields of scientific and artistic interest. Among the Hebrews a religious inhibition — “thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" was sufficient to prevent anything like the sculpture of the Greeks; and the doctrine of the resurrection of the body in the early Christian Church, and the teaching that man was made in the image of God, formed an almost insuperable obstacle to the study of human anatomy.

The Mohammedan attitude toward scientific interest is represented by the following extracts from a letter from an Oriental official to a Western inquirer, printed by Sir Austen Henry Layard in his "Fresh Discoveries at Nineveh and Researches at Babylon":

My Illustrious Friend and Joy of my Liver :

The thing which you ask of me is both difficult and useless. Although I have passed all my days in this place I have neither counted the houses nor inquired into the number of the inhabitants; and as to what one person loads on his mules and the other stows away in the bottom of his ship, that is no business of mine. But above all, as to the previous history of this city, God only knows the amount of dirt and confusion that the infidels may have eaten before the coming of the sword of Islam. It were unprofitable for us to inquire into it. . . . Listen, O my son! There is no wisdom equal to the belief in God! He created the world, and shall we liken ourselves unto him in seeking to penetrate into the mysteries of his creation? Shall we say, Behold this star spinneth round that star, and this other star with a tail goeth and cometh in so many years? Let it go! He from whose hand it came will guide and direct it. . . . Thou art learned in the things I care not for, and as for that which thou hast seen, I spit upon it. Will much knowledge create thee a double belly, or wilt thou seek paradise with thine eyes? . . .

The meek in spirit,


The Oriental attitude does not argue a lack of brain power, but a prepossession hostile to scientific inquiry. The society represented does not interest its members in what, from the Western standpoint, is knowledge.

The Chinese furnish another example of a people of great natural ability letting their intelligence run to waste from lack of a scientific standpoint. As indicated above, they are not defective in brain weight, and their application to study is long continued and very severe; but their attention is directed to matters which cannot possibly make them wise from the Occidental standpoint. They learn no mathematics and no science, but spend years in copying the poetry of the T'ang Dynasty, in order to learn the Chinese characters, and in the end cannot write the language correctly, because many modern characters are not represented in this ancient poetry. Their attention to Chinese history is great, as befits their reverence for the past; but they do not organize their knowledge, they have no adequate text-books or apparatus for study, and they make no clear distinction between fact and fiction. In general, they learn only rules and no principles, and rely on memory without the aid of reason, with the result that the man who stops studying often forgets everything, and the professional student is amazingly ignorant in the line of his own work:

Multitudes of Chinese scholars know next to nothing about matters directly in the line of their studies, and in regard to which we should consider ignorance positively disgraceful. A venerable teacher remarked to the writer with a charming naïveté that he had never understood the allusions in the Trimetrical Classic (which stands at the very threshold of Chinese study) until at the age of sixty he had an opportunity to read a Universal History prepared by a missionary, in which for the first time Chinese history was made accessible to him.'

'Smith: "Village Life in China," p. 99.

Add to this that the whole of their higher learning, corresponding to our university system, consists in writing essays and always more essays on the Chinese classics, and "it is impossible," as Mr. Smith points out, "not to marvel at the measure of success which has attended the use of such materials in China." But when this people is in possession of the technique of the Western world-a logic, general ideas, and experimentation-we cannot reasonably doubt that they will be able to work the Western system as their cousins, the Japanese, are doing, and perhaps they, too, may better the instruction.

Without attaching too great importance to brain weight or to the confessedly meagre statistics of brain weight of different races, it is interesting to note that the white race, which leads in intelligence, stands in respect to brain weight between the yellow and black races.1

White effectiveness is probably due to a superior technique acting in connection with a superior body of knowledge and sentiment. Of two groups having equal mental endowment, one may outstrip the other by the mere dominance of incident. It is a notorious fact that the course of human history has been largely without prevision or direction. Things have drifted and forces have arisen. Under these conditions an unusual incident the emergence of a great mind or a forcible personality, or the operation of influences as subtle as those which determine fashions in dress may establish social habits and copies which will give a distinct character to the modes of attention and mental life of the group. The most significant fact for Aryan development is the emergence among the Greeks of a number of eminent men who developed logic, the experimental method, and philosophic interest, and fixed in their group the habit of looking behind the incident for the general law. Mediæval attention was diverted from these lines by a religious movement, and the race lost for a time the key to progress and got clean away from the Greek copies; but it found them again and took a fresh start with the revival of Greek learning. It is quite possible to make a fetish of classical learning; but Sir Henry Maine's remark, that nothing moves in the modern world that is not Greek in its origin, is quite just.

The real variable is the individual, not the race. In the beginning perhaps as the result of a mutation or series of mutations-a type of

A report has just reached this country on the brain weight of the Japanese anatomist, Prof. Taguchi, of the Imperial University in Tokio. The weight is 1,920 grams. "In the list of eminent men throughout the world whose brains have been weighed (107 in number) it occupies second place."-" Science," June 10, 1904.

« PreviousContinue »