Chapter 12: The Forms and Functions of Reasoning
James Rowland Angell
Judgment and Reasoning.-- From the illustration with which we set out in the last chapter in our first rough analysis of reasoning, we observed that the solution of the problem with which we were hypothetically engaged involved a series of judgments. We therefore turned aside to examine more closely into the nature of judgment; and we have discovered that this is an analytic-synthetic process, in which concepts are employed and elaborated. As the great majority of our important concepts have a linguistic basis, it goes with out saying that reasoning makes almost constant use of language. It now remains to survey somewhat more fully the manner in which our judgments are combined to form the various types of reasoning. We proposed as a provisional definition of reasoning, at the beginning of the last chapter, the phrase " purposive thinking," meaning by this to designate any thought process in which we were thinking toward some end, attempting to overcome some difficulty, or solve some problem. If we turn to certain familiar instances of this sort of thing in every-day life, we shall at once obtain an impress] On of the fashion in which we make use of our judging activities
Practical Reasoning.-- Suppose that we are about to make a long journey which necessitates a choice from among a number of possible routes. This is a case of the genuinely problematic kind. It requires reflection, a weighing of pros and cons, and the giving of a final decision in favour of one or another of the several alternatives. In such a case the pro-
(236)-cedure of most of us is after this order. We think of one route as being picturesque and wholly novel, but also as being expensive. We think of another as less interesting, but also as less expensive. A third is, we discover, the most expedi. tious, but also the most costly of the three. We find ourselves confronted, then, with the necessity of choosing with regard to the relative merits of cheapness, beauty, and speed. We proceed to consider these points in the light of all our inter. ests, and the decision more or less makes itself. We find, for instance, that we must, under the circumstances, select the cheapest route.
Now, this process is evidently made up of a number of judgments, in which we have employed various conceptions of the routes and the consequences connected with their choice. Obviously, also, we have made constant use of the machinery of association by means of which the various connected ideas have called one another into the mind. Our conclusion is seemingly the outcome of a series of judgments, whose number may be wholly indeterminate, and whose order is far from systematic. Nevertheless, the process results in a solution of the problem, the conclusion is essentially a reasoned one, and the operation is altogether typical of the fashion in which we actually deal with the practical problems of common experience.
When we look at the successive steps a little more closely, we see that such judgments brought into the foreground some aspect of the general problem which assisted us in viewing the situation in its entirety. Thus, the idea of cost as less by one route than by the others proved in our final estimate to be of fundamental significance. But we could not isolate this element of the problem and conceive it aright until we had compared the routes with one another, and considered all the expenses involved in each. Only then were we in a position to assert which route was cheapest. This crucial judgment issued immediately from our comparison of the several
(237) routes with one another, but the process of comparison was itself an indispensable step in reaching our final choice. We considered speed in a similar manner, and found that all the routes were satisfactory enough in this particular.
Finally, the consideration of beauty and the pleasure of the journey is canvassed in like manner, and we find from the ideas which come into our minds that one route is markedly preferable. This factor of beauty remains, then, to settle accounts with the item of economy. The ultimate decision involves our taking stock of our financial status, past, present, and future, and the issue is settled on the basis of the story told by this set of facts. Each step in the process has been relatively simple, and entirely intelligible. We have allowed certain ideas, which we have abstracted in our mode of conceiving the problem, to take up by association other ideas related to them in ways which bear upon the case in hand; and from the judgments which we pass upon the meanings of these ideas our choice is made and our volition determined. Our effectiveness as practical reasoners (or theoretical reasoners, either, for that matter) will depend then, first, upon the skill with which we succeed in conceiving the problem correctly, and second, upon the speed and accuracy with which this conception suggests to our reasoning processes the recall of the special ideas appropriate to the case at hand.
The whole series of judgments employed could finally be reduced to two or three (or possibly to one), which, as the outcome of our tentative weighing of now this claim and now that, have proved to be finally significant. In a sense the judgments have all been connected and related. They have all arisen in response to our persistent dwelling upon the problem before us. But a few of them depend upon one another in an even more intimate way, and these are the permanently significant ones. For example: " Two routes cost more than $1000; 1 cannot afford to pay more than $800; 1 must therefore patronize the third route."
(238) Value of Association by Similarity.-- In so far as reasoning involves associative processes, it is clear that association by similarity will be of highest importance, especially in the more abstruse forms of thinking. The more complex types of problem with which we have to cope often require for their successful solution the application of facts and principles which have no connection with the matter in hand, save some fragile bond of similarity. The detection of these delicate links Of relation is an achievement which characterises in high degree only the most remarkable minds, the geniuses. The rest of us find, to be sure, that we outstrip the brutes enormously in our capacity to employ this form of associative nexus. But the great revoluntionary achievements in human reason have to wait upon the man and the hour, and when they are compassed they generally reveal a marvellous manifestation of the capacity for discerning similarity. Newton's formulation of the law of gravity may serve to illustrate the point.
Reasoning and the Syllogism.-- Now, to many persons the process of selecting a route for a journey will seem a misleading illustration of reasoning, because it will not appear to be sufficiently abstruse, nor sufficiently orderly and inevitable. It will represent what they may prefer to call ] practical thinking," as we have done, although we have not meant by the use of the term to deny to the process the essential character of reasoning. We shall be told that when we really reason we perform such mental deeds as the following syllogism exhibits:
All men are mortal;
Socrates is a man,
Socrates is mortal.
Here we are assured we have Dew facts attained by reason, here is perfect order and symmetry, instead of miscellaneous groping for correct conclusions, which may, or may not, be attained. Here are judgments arrayed in serried ranks, each
(239) supported by its neighbour, and the final judgment an irrefutable consequence of its companions, from which our thinking set out.
In response to this suggestion we have only to inquire whether or no our original thinking really goes on in this way, or whether this example illustrates the arrangement of which certain of our thought processes are susceptible after they have been pruned of excrescences. Our own view about this question is doubtless indicated by the mode in which we have approached it. There can be no doubt that the celebrated syllogism which we have just proposed reveals an extremely fundamental fact about the relations of certain of our judgments to one another. That the syllogism also represents the actual mode in which we commonly reach conclusions is altogether another proposition, and one to which assent certainly cannot be given. The question here at issue is purely one of fact, and each one must determine for himself whether in his reasoning processes he finds himself proceeding in the syllogistic manner.
When we examine our thinking, with this question in mind, most of us find that neither as regards the order of the several steps, nor as regards their number, does our common reasoning comply with the pattern of the syllogism. In instances like that of our illustration we should rarely have any recourse to the second proposition, or the minor premise, as logicians call it, even provided we found it necessary to consider the truth of the conclusion. Moreover, it would as a rule be only in case we found it necessary to verify the truth of the concluding proposition that we should revert to either of the other propositions; and then the order of our thought would be-first, the conclusion; second, the major premise. So that neither order nor number of judgments is as the syllogism with which we started requires.
As a device for exhibiting the source of our confidence in the truth of the conclusion, the syllogism undoubtedly
(240) possesses a value; for it makes explicit and clear in the fewest possible words the fundamentally important relations among the ideas involved. It is, however, as a method of exposition, demonstration, and proof, rather than as a type of actual constructive thinking, that it gets its chief significance. Nevertheless, it possesses one characteristic which is peculiar to many reflective processes, and to this we must briefly refer.
Deduction.-- The major premise " all men are mortal " -- contains an assertion of a general principle which we have observed that we may use as a principle of verification for such an assertion as that of the conclusion-" Socrates is mortal." Now, general principles play essentially the same role in our thinking as do the general ideas which we discussed in the chapter on conception. They summarise, just as concepts do, large masses of human experience, and in our purposive thinking we repeatedly have occasion to employ them. We might call them complex concepts.
These general principles represent the counterparts in our conscious operations of the principle of habit in our motor coordinations. Just in so far as we regard them as really stable and well established, we use them almost reflexly in our thinking, and apply them without more ado to the determination of conclusions about such facts as they may concern. Thus, having assured ourselves that a certain act is really stealing, we instantly class it as despicable and wrong; having learned that a substance of peculiar appearance is wood, we are immediately prepared to find that it will burn; if we hear of the discovery of a new planet, we assume without question that it will possess an elliptical orbit. These reactions consist in applying to appropriate things the habitual accompaniments of specific objects, or events, in the form of general ideas, or principles, concerning similar objects and events. Such a process lends perspective to the special subject to which the principle is applied, by bringing it into overt connection with the experience to which it may be most immedi-
(241)-ately germane, while it enriches and fortifies the general principle itself by adding to its scope a new and definite instance. It demands no argument, beyond the mention of the facts just described, to demonstrate that we make a constant use of general principles in some such fashion as this.
The problem is at once suggested by the foregoing discussion of deduction, as to how we obtain the general principles therein at issue. This brings us to the complementary process which logicians designate induction.
Induction. -- According to the familiar accounts of it induction is the operation by means of which we come to generalise upon individual events. For example, having observed numbers of specific instances of the phenomenon, we come to the conclusion that all paper is combustible. In a similar way we come to assert that all mammals have lungs, that masses attract one another, etc., etc.
Criticism of Induction.-- Now, logicians have argued at great length upon the question whether we really succeed by inductive inference in going beyond the particular facts which have actually been examined. They have also considered at great length the criterion, or warrant, upon which inductive principles proceed, supposing that they ever do transcend the facts from which they set out. Sometimes it has been maintained, for example, that the inductive generalisation, "All men are mortal," which is based upon our examination of a finite number of cases of human mortality, obtains its ultimate significance for knowledge simply by virtue of the assumed uniformity of nature. What has happened a number of times will always happen under like conditions, is the meaning of this view. Or, stated more rigidly, whatever has happened under given conditions will always happen under the same conditions. Many other views of the matter have been defended, but we can hardly enter upon them. Suffice it for our purposes to observe that whatever may be the final merit and reliability of inductive inferences,
(242) we do in our actual thinking make constant use of such generalisations, and on the whole with practical success.
Indeed, after our account of habit and association and our account of the formation and development of concepts, we should be ill-prepared for any other conclusion. Having found a certain characteristic common to a large number of events, it could not well be otherwise than that we should be predisposed by the principle of habit to connect this character with all other events which we judged to be of like kind. This would tend to occur on the level of mere trains of associative ideas, as in revery, where it might, however, often escape attention; it would also come out clearly in the recognition of points in common among such occurrences as we found our selves obliged to reason about in the course of overcoming difficulties, whether practical or theoretical. Thus, in revery our thoughts might run upon the planet-, and as the ideas of them passed through our minds we should probably think of them all as spherical, and yet this common property might escape our definite notice. In reasoning, however, we should often find it indispensable to emphasise common qualities of this kind. So, for instance, in attempting to predict weather conditions we should speedily find it necessary to proceed on the generalisation that all low barometric phenomena were indicative of storm formation. The same exigencies, there fore, which lead us to form general ideas, also lead us to that special type of idea which we more often call a general principle, and express in a proposition.
Deduction and Induction Compared. -- In comparing deduction and induction it is often said that induction necessarily precedes deduction, because we obviously cannot apply our general principles until we possess them, and it is by means of induction that we obtain them. It is also said that in deduction our thought proceeds from the more general to the less general, from the universal to the particular; whereas in induction the order of procedure is reversed. There is an ele
(243)-ment of truth in both assertions, but this form of expressing it is certainly misleading.
The truth in the first contention consists in the fact that all general principles are based upon particular experiences. But this does not mean that inductive processes occur first, and then at a later step deduction appears. Both kinds of process go on together, as we shall see in a moment. Indeed, strictly speaking, they are in the last analysis simply two phases of one and the same process. The truth in the second assertion resides in the fact that some portions of our thinking proceed under relatively more habitual forms than others. The deductive process represents the application of a mental habit, or principle, to a practical case, under just such conditions as we have already described. The inductive process represents more distinctly the formation of these habits of thought. In both cases, however, so far as concerns the progress of the successive thoughts, we always find that the advance is from particular to particular. Moreover, the advance is not so much an advance from the particular idea x to the independent and particular y, now shown to be related in some way to x, as it is a development of the idea x, hitherto undifferentiated in this special fashion, into the idea x containing a y relation. Thus, the generalisation about low barometric conditions and storm formation is not a mental process in which two wholly disconnected ideas are brought together. It is simply a process in which the hitherto unspecified experience " low-barometer-storm-formation " is resolved into its fuller significance for practical use. Similarly, in subsequent deductive operations with this principle, i. e., all low barometric conditions indicate storms imminent, we proceed from the particular idea "low barometer," to the particular idea " storm forming." However convenient, therefore, it may at times prove to speak of passing from the general to the particular, and vice versa, we must remember that in our actual thought processes we always
(244) juxtapose particulars; or more precisely, we deal with discriminable features of a single mental particular. Of course it will be understood from our study of the development of concepts that these particulars are under this treatment modified incessantly, both by expansion and contraction.
We have seen from time to time throughout our work that each mental process which we have examined contains some old features and some new features,. that it reflects the principle of habit and the principle of fresh adjustment to novel conditions. Induction and deduction are further illustrations of this same fact. Just as in perception we observed the new element in the sensory stimulus, and the old element in the reaction by a modified cortex, so we have seen that induction represents that function of our purposive thinking in which the new adjustment is uppermost; whereas deduction represents more conspicuously the application of acquired habits. If the parallel is really genuine, we should expect to find, as we have at each previous step, that the two attributes of novelty and familiarity in the elements employed are never entirely dissevered from one another, and so we should expect to find substantial warrant for our remarks a few lines above, that induction and deduction are but phases of a common process. That they are actually conjoined in this way does not mean that they always are met with in a condition of perfect balance. It may much more naturally be expected that sometimes one and sometimes the other will present itself as more immediately important and more properly conspicuous. We have seen an analogous case in the instance of memory when compared with some kinds of perception. In the one case the obvious emphasis falls upon the new, in the other upon the old. So it is in reality with the relation between deduction and induction.
In reaching the induction, " all low barometer == storm formation," we may suppose a number of instances to have been examined before the generalisation is made. Now, the
(245) intelligent apprehension of the terms concerned in the judgments, that is, low barometer and storms, evidently involves a reference back to past experience, to past factors of knowledge, which is, as we have seen, the essential feature of deduction. Moreover, the actual procedure by which we assure ourselves of the tenability of such an induction consists in comparing mentally each new instance with previous similar instances. In this operation the old experiences practically occupy the place of general principles, under which we array the new case. So that the deductive characteristics are evidently present in an unmistakable way in inductive forms of reasoning.
Conversely, when we apply a general principle, or infer that a special consequence will follow an event, because of the general class to which it belongs, we inevitably avail ourselves of inductive methods, in so far as we label the new fact. When we predict a storm because we observe a fall in the barometer we are in reality dealing with a new specific instance, which we generalise in an essential inductive way. We may call it a case of deduction, because we have already convinced ourselves of the invariability of the connection between the storm phenomena and the particular barometric conditions. Nevertheless, the actual mental process by means of which we make the prediction is quite as truly characterised by induction. We may feel reasonably confident, therefore, that the reasoning processes do not constitute any exception to the rule which we have previously enunciated, that all cognitive menval operations involve both old and new factors.
Reasoning and Purposive Thinking.-- It ought now to be fairly clear that the precise significance which we attach to the term reasoning is largely a matter of arbitrary terminology. Undoubtedly some of our purposive thinking takes a highly abstract and systematised form. Undoubtedly, also, most of it goes on in a much more concrete, miscellaneous,
(246) hit-and-miss fashion. But it is essentially impossible to draw any sharp line marking off the more orderly and exact procedure from the more promiscuous form; and as the presence of a dominating purpose, plan, or interest seems to control the ideational processes in both cases, it has seemed the simpler and more natural thing to call all purposive thinking reasoning. We are then entirely able to recognise stages of abstraction and complexity in the execution of such thinking without any sacrifice of regard for the facts.
General Function of Reasoning.-- In reasoning, with its employment of concepts in judgments, we meet with the most highly evolved of all the psychical devices for assisting the adaptive activities of the organism and this notion of its general significance is so familiar that it requires no detailed justification. Certain features of its practical operation may, however, profitably be described, especially in connection with our general notion of the relation between conscious and neuro-muscular processes.
In the original sensory stimulations of early infant life we have seen that there is a general overflow of the nervous energy into miscellaneous motor channels, occasioning heterogeneous and uncoordinated movements of various parts of the body. We have also traced in outline the process of the development by means of which the motor escapement becomes confined to certain limited and definite channels, and thus succeeds in establishing coordinated habitual movements. We have seen that these coordinations become more and more elaborate as growth proceeds, and we have noted that in this development the psychical processes which we have analysed as perception, imagination, and memory play an amazingly important part. Now, so far as we mean to cover by the term reasoning all purposive thinking, it is clear that these various mental operations just referred to can only contribute in a significant way to the modification of motor reactions in the measure in which they enter into processes of reasoning.
(247) It must be remembered again, that our purposive thinking is sometimes very rudimentary, simple, and abrupt; and at other times highly complicated, prolonged, and abstract. In reasoning we really find brought together and focalised all the important characteristics of the various mental modes which we have thus far studied.
This may be shown in the case of memory, as an illustration, but it is no truer to the facts here than it would be in the case of perception or imagination. If memory operated so as to bring into our consciousness ideas of our past experiences, but without any special reference to some present need, it would possess a certain intellectual interest comparable with that of a geyser, or other irregular natural phenomenon. But it would be an almost wholly useless adornment of our mental life. It is because memory enables us to recall experiences when we need to bring to bear upon some present perplexity the significance of our past experience that it assists us in getting ahead in the world. It is, in short, the part which it plays in purposive thinking which gives it its value. Moreover, this significance of the past experience is a thing which concretely brings with it tendencies to certain modes of action. It is not a mere reinstatement of ideas with which we are dealing in such a case. It is a reinstatement of ideas connected with which are certain quasi-habitual actions. For example, we come back to a city which we have not visited for a number of years, and go in search of a friend. We finally reach the street upon which his dwelling stands, but to our surprise we are at once in doubt whether to turn to the right or to the left. We think a moment and succeed in recalling his house number. A moment's inspection of the street numbers suffices to determine our action, and we immediately turn in the correct direction. The memory image, in connection with our perceptual process, instantly resulted in a movement in the appropriate direction.
Similarly, though not always so obviously, with perceptual
(248) activities. If I am engaged in writing, what I perceive (my hand, the words, etc.) is certainly in part determined by my mental operations at the moment. Not only so, but my perceiving of the pen and paper are processes directly contributory to the expression of my purposes in my writing. The perception is taken up into the purposive thinking of the moment; or, expressing, the facts more accurately, it is itself an integral part of the onward movement of my general purposive thought activities. I cannot execute efficiently that type of purposes which gets expression in writing -without the assistance of the perceptual act. Always somewhere imbedded in the general matrix of our conduct, whether lying near the surface or deeply hidden in the recesses of our inner consciousness, we come upon purposes, plans, intentions, which explain our whereabouts and our action; and upon these basal factors rest our particular perceptions, as well as our other mental acts.
Neural Counterpart of Reasoning.-- In a diagrammatic manner, but only in such manner, we can indicate the general neural counterpart of our purposive thinking., whether in its simpler, or in its more elaborate forms. In the case of our more distinctly habitual coordinations we long since observed how with a minimum of conscious accompaniments a sensory stimulus may make its way in the form of neural excitation from a sense organ directly through the (lower ?) centres to appropriate muscular groups. This case is illustrated in the movement of the hand to throw the latch of a familiar door. In the case of stimulations which require a conscious reaction, whether simple or complex, the motor discharge is postponed, sometimes only for an instant, sometimes indefinitely. A typical instance which brings out the more important features of cases where persistent perplexities are involved is the following:
A man sleeping in a strange building is awakened by an alarm of fire. He hastily rises, throws on some clothing, and
(249) starts for the stairway. Up to this point the course of the successive neural events has been--auditory stimulus, memory activity, motor response with habitual coordinations, involved in dressing and running toward the remembered stairway. He finds the stairway already filled with smoke. Escape in this way is cut off and he turns back. Again sensory stimulus-- this time partly visual, partly olfactory and auditory and motor response of the habitual variety. His next thought is of a fire-escape, but none is to be discovered. He tries other rooms, but also without success. In these movements we have successive expressions of sensory stimuli, with memory intermediaries suggesting fire-escapes, each group of stimulations discharging into movements carrying him from place to place. Terror has rapidly been overcoming him, and his motions become violent and ill-controlled. Suddenly it occurs to him to make a rope of the bed-clothing. Before he can complete this the fire has made such progress that on looking from the windows he sees he cannot pass through the flames and live. His terror now turns to complete panic, his excitement bursts over into aimless rushing, about, and he is on the point of hurling himself from the window when he comes upon another stairway, bounds to the roof, and finally escapes to another building.
In this case we have essentially all the stages of practical reasoning process involved. We have a problem, or a difficulty, reported in the form of a stimulus, which cannot be dealt with in a purely habitual, non-conscious fashion. The first effort to meet this obstacle consists in cortical excitations of relevant memory processes, and the expression of these in the forms of acquired coordinated movements. In many instances the first or second effort would, of course, have achieved success and cut short the remainder of the process. In some more distinctly intellectual forms of problem the memory process would not necessarily express its bearings in the form of actual movements executed at the moment. But
(250) the excitation of the cortical activities is of precisely the same kind, and has precisely the same significance, as in the hypothetical case we are considering. Whenever the coordinations employed at the summons of the memory process, in the way we have described, prove inadequate to meet the difficulties in hand, there is always this same progress from one reaction to another, until patience, or the available store of one's experience, has been exhausted.
If the problem constitutes an insignificant stimulus, one or two failures to solve it may result in the abandonment of the effort in favour of some more pressing interest which enlists our more vivid feeling. But when, as in the case of our illustration, the significance of the problem is compelling, we meet, after the failure of all the reactions suggested by memory and executed by habitual coordinations, the remarkable phenomenon we last described. The stimuli apparently continue gathering power, which can no longer be drained off in coherent motor responses, and presently we see very much what we observed with babies, i. e., the breaking over of the neural excitement into almost every motor channel. This diffusion in the case of infants is wholly uncoordinated, whereas with the adult it is coordinated in a measure, but incoherently, and with reference to no single purpose. Nevertheless, such mal-coordinations, which at least serve to bring the organism into new conditions, are sometimes, as in our illustrative case, successful in providing escape from difficulties. Animals make large use of such violent and random movements whenever they are confronted by strange and terrifying conditions. If, after memory has done its work, there still be need for other forms of reaction, this sort of general motor explosion is really all that there is left to fall back upon. Our supposititious man might have thrown himself out of the window, as many others have done under the intellectually stupefying effects of extreme fear, but even so, the neural process would have been highly similar to that
(251) which we have described, and it represents the consequences of a practical breakdown in the coordinated movements suggested by memory as competent to meet the case at hand. The neural process in the more abstruse forms of reasoning is probably quite like that which we have now described, save as regards the delicacy and infrequency of the associative links by means of which we pass from idea to idea in our effort to overcome mental difficulties. Sensory discrimination, intellectual abstraction, memory processes, judgments of comparison, habitual coordinations -- in varying degree and in shifting combinations these factors are present in all types of reasoning, from the most concrete and simple to the most complicated and abstract.
Genesis of Reason in Human Beings.-- The precise moment at which a child passes out of the stage of mere perceptual thinking and succeeds in creating concepts detached from particular events is not one that we can exactly determine, nor is it important that we should do so. It certainly comes in a rudimentary way with the voluntary control of his muscles, and it grows rapidly as soon as he gets control of language. In general, it may be said that its appearance is largely dependent upon the demands which the child's environment makes upon him. So long as he is a mere vegetable, fed and watered at definite intervals, conceptual thinking is of no great consequence. As he comes to attain more complex social relations, and as be finds himself surrounded with increasingly complex situations to deal with, conceptual thinking, with its classifying, simplifying characteristics, becomes essential to effective adaptation. Moreover, when such thinking does appear, we know that the child is beginning the evolution of that special part of his mental life which marks him off most definitely from the higher brutes.
The Reasoning of Animals.-- We gain an interesting sidelight upon the reasoning processes of human beings, and especially upon the development of reasoning in children, by
(252) observing certain of the mental operations of animals. Two extreme views have been popularly entertained concerning the reasoning powers of animals. One of them is represented by the disposition to apostrophise man as the sole possessor of reason, the lord of creation, ruling over creatures of blind instinct. The other view has found expression in marvelling at the astounding intellectual feats of occasional domestic animals, or at the shrewdness and cunning of their brethren of the wild. Both kinds of animals have been forthwith accredited with the possession of reasoning powers of no mean pretensions. Of recent years rapid advances have been made in the scientific observation of animals, and it seems probable that at no remote day we may possess a fairly accurate impression of the scope and nature of their psychical lives. Meantime we must speak somewhat conservatively and tentatively.
Many of the acts of animals which have enlisted the most unbounded admiration are undoubtedly purely instinctive. And not only so, but it seems probable that many of these instincts are unconscious and just as truly reflex as the most uncontrollable of human reflexes, such as the patellar. Thus, the remarkable actions of ants, whose astonishing system of cooperative government has furnished so many fine rhetorical figures, are apparently due to reflex reactions, to stimulations chiefly of an olfactory kind, to which they are probably obedient in much the same fashion as are the iron filings to the magnet which they seek.
Many acts of animals, which are at least effective expressions of mind, seem upon close examination to consist simply in associating certain acts with certain objects or situations. The original associating of the correct elements may have come about more or less accidentally, and is certainly often the result of many random trials. Thus, a young rat, in attempting to get into a box containing cheese, the entrance to which requires his digging away an amount of sawdust at
(253) one particular spot, will often scamper many times around and over the box before starting to dig. If after digging and finding the correct spot he be removed and the sawdust replaced, the same sort of operation generally goes on as did at first, only now he succeeds much more rapidly than before. After a few trials he goes almost instantly to the correct spot, makes few or no useless movements, and promptly gets his reward.
In cases of this kind we see an animal endowed with a large number of motor impulses, which enable him by virtue of his sheer restlessness to achieve his original success in getting food. Little by little the association between the food and the efficacious impulse becomes ingrained, all the others fall out, and to the observer, who is innocent of the previous stages of the process, his act appears highly intelligent. As the creature grows older an interesting change comes over his performances. If he be given a problem to solve similar to the one we have just described, he begins in a much calmer and more circumspect way than does his younger protégé. His first success may consequently be less quickly achieved. But in subsequent trials he becomes much more rapidly proficient, and one or two trials may be all that he requires to attain practical perfection in the act. In the mature rat the memory process is evidently much more active and reliable.
Reasoning processes of this kind -- if one wishes so to label them -- are much in evidence in little children. The small boy, striving to repair his toy, turns it this way and that, hammers it, and pulls it about. Sometimes success unexpectedly crowns his labours, and he may then be able to bring about the desired result again. He has a general wish to set his toy aright, much as the rat has his ambition in the matter of the cheese. Neither of them has any clear recognition of the means appropriate to the end, but both of them, by trying one move after another, finally come upon the correct com-
(254)-bination, after which memory often enables them to repeat the achievement. In the light of our present knowledge it seems probable that the great mass of seemingly intelligent acts which animals perform, apart from instinctive acts, are of this variety, and therefore involve nothing more elaborate than the association of certain types of situation, with certain motor impulses.
Just bow far such acts may at times involve the perception of coherent relations in the manner characteristic of adult human intelligence, it is essentially impossible to say. One of the vigorously controverted points about animal intelligence comes to light here. Do animals form concepts of any kind? If they do not, they evidently cannot execute the intellectual processes peculiar to the more abstruse forms of human reasoning. Do animals ever employ association of similars in their psychical operations? If not, again we must deny to them one of the most significant features of human thinking. Do their gestures and attitudes, by means of which they seem to communicate with one another, ever rise to the level of real language, furnishing a social medium for definitely recognised meanings? On these points competent observers are not at present altogether agreed. It seems, however, probable that animals rarely, if ever, achieve the distinct separation of ideas and perceptions which human beings attain; and that they do not, therefore, employ the concept in the form in which developed language permits the human to do. The acts of certain of the apes, however, and occasional performances of some of the higher mammals, indicate a very considerable degree of original and intelligent reaction to sensory stimulations. The animal consciousness is probably much more exclusively and continuously monopolised by mere awareness of bodily conditions than the human consciousness, and much more rarely invaded in any definite manner by independent images of past experience. Meantime, we have to remember that the nervous system of
(255) the higher animals seems to afford all the necessary basis for the appearance and development of the simpler forms of rational consciousness, and the only difference in these processes, as compared with those of man, of which we can speak dogmatically and with entire confidence, is the difference in complexity and elaboration.