Source Book For Social Origins
Comment on Part II: Mental Life and Education
The first three selections in Part II may be accepted as sound standpoint for the interpretation of savage mind, and they also contain standpoint for the interpretation of the succeeding parts of the volume.
The selections from Spencer contain a view of savage mind which has become popular and widespread, largely through his exposition of it, but which is very erroneous. The two selections should be read in the light of the papers by Boas and Dewey. It will then be seen that the cases presented by Spencer can be used as material for the confutation of his own views. It should also be observed that Spencer constantly assumes that the mind of the child is modified by the experiences and practices of its parents, whereas the weight of opinion at present inclines to the view that nothing of this kind happens. The characters of body and mind acquired by the parent after birth are probably not inherited by the child. Afire must look for the improvement of a race, (1) in congenital variations, resulting in an improvement of the stock (and this seems to be of relatively slight importance), and (2) in an improvement in cultural conditions, affording the mind more truth and a richer assortment of material to begin with and to work on.
The papers on Australian initiation ceremonies and food regulations would have been appropriately placed in Part VII, since they deal with control. But they are introduced at this point to show the ingenuity of the savage mind in working out a social control. The edu-
( 317) -cational system of the savage was designed to secure the solidarity of the group, not to convey a body of exact knowledge. The formal instruction was mainly moral; the occupational practice was picked up informally. The food regulations of the Australians are a striking example of the thoroughness with which the moral instruction was imparted. These papers also suggest that when the control becomes very rigid, so rigid that all the acts of the individual are predetermined for hint, the power of change becomes enfeebled and the society is in danger of becoming stationary.
The language, and the number, time, and space concepts and systems of the savage form very important materials for the interpretation of his mental life. The single paper of Howitt on Australian messengers and message-sticks which I have been able to introduce should be supplemented by reading indicated in the bibliography of this part.
The paper on the development of the occupations is used here because the occupations represent the modes in which the mind expresses itself, and specialization of occupation, more than anything else, is the mode of developing consciousness. Boas' paper on the myth touches the question of the parallel development of ideas in different geographical areas, as compared with the spread of ideas from one area to another.
I have taken advantage of the fact that this part of the volume deals with the mind to include in the following bibliography some important general psychological titles, and I have further included some titles on animal mind and behavior.