Instinct In Psychology
( Originally Published 1922 )
As can be seen from reference to Chapter II, there is a general recognition that behavior must be interpreted in terms of experience. The mistake, however, is often made of extending the field of experience beyond the experience of the individual to include the experience of the species, or experience acquired in other incarnations, or perhaps it is made to embrace the wisdom of wonderful ancestors, or of God. Closely akin to this mistake is the tendency to regard the behavior of an organism as due to a force or power sup-posed to exist outside of the situation in which it appears or manifests itself.
There is in Modern Psychology a strong desire to get beyond these primitive interpretations. This de-sire is the underlying cause of the present strong tendency toward behaviorism, which seeks to interpret the behavior of an organism frankly in terms of the conditions which give rise to the act, and on the basis of observed behavior to predict future behavior under different conditions. This interpretation of behavior does not concern itself with underlying causes of behavior or with the agencies which connect certain stimuli with certain responses. Indeed, it is the claim of many modern psychologists that speculations regarding the nexus between certain conditions and certain responses may well be abandoned and that a purely factual study of behavior may be attempted without reference to the usually assumed underlying forces. The task that these men have set for themselves is so to correlate behavior with the variable determinants of behavior, and the behavior of one individual with the behavior- of others, that the pre-diction and control of behavior shall become possible.
Naturally, men who have set for themselves this task can have but little patience with the barren speculations regarding the motive forces back of behavior. These men rightly hold that just as we are content to explain the precipitation of a chemical from the solution in terms of the antecedent conditions that brought about the precipitation, so we should be content to ex-plain the behavior of an organism in terms of the antecedent conditions that brought about the response. C. Lloyd Morgan may be regarded as a champion of this position. He has stated the argument so clearly that it seems well to quote him:
"Now when one is dealing not with a crystal which is differentiated within a solution, but with a percept which is differentiated within experience, I conceive that the same limitations should be imposed on scientific treatment. The metaphysician, no doubt, may explain it by reference to an underlying cause, the conscious ego, the agency of self-activity by which it is produced; but the man of science can only explain it by reference to the antecedent and accompanying conditions in relation to the generalizations which have been found to hold good in such cases."
It is this behavioristic interpretation of behavior that furnishes a sure basis for all measurements of intelligence which no speculation regarding the nature of intelligence or of the intelligent principle can shake. It is true that doubt regarding the nature of intelligence, or what it is that makes intelligent behavior possible, may be entertained. There can be no doubt, however, that on the basis of the observed behavior of an individual under certain conditions his behavior under different conditions can with a good deal of assurance be predicted. This prediction is made possible by correlating one act under one set of conditions with other acts under other conditions. On the basis of this correlation an intelligence rating is passed, which no speculation regarding the nature of intelligence can shake; for there is no question regarding the nature of intelligence. It is simply a matter of correlations between activities, and the person passing on the capacity of the subject is not puzzled with questions regarding the nature of the agency in virtue of which the activity takes place.
It is true that examinations of this nature reveal innate differences between different people. One individual when subjected to one situation will respond in one way. Another individual subjected to the same conditions will respond in a different way. This difference may be due to an innate difference or to a difference in training. The true cause must be determined. But this does not involve a discussion regarding the nature of the agency in virtue of which the organism acts intelligently. It merely introduces another variable. As a consequence the prediction of future behavior is not based entirely on the behavior as observed at any one time. It is necessary that the past experiences be taken into consideration. Thus we say, when an individual of a certain age, with a certain mass of experience, acts in a certain way when confronted with a certain situation, he will respond or be able to respond in a certain way when he reaches a certain age. With another individual the prediction would be quite different. As a result of these observations it is predicted that one boy will be able to follow successfully a certain profession, and that the other boy had better choose another. In neither judgment is there raised a question regarding the nature of intelligence. It is frankly behavioristic. On the basis of observed acts future behavior is predicted.
It should be pointed out that one of the values supposed to result from the use of instinct is its aid in making predictions. That is to say, it can be predicted of any human being that he will have certain interests, desires, etc. It is quite easy, however, to overrate this value. This can be seen in the fact that when differences in behavior are pointed out between individuals under the same circumstances, the difference is in many cases regarded as due to differences between the instincts of the individuals in question. Behavior, then, is not interpreted in terms of common characters, and this is the usual way instincts are regarded, but in terms of innate characters which may or may not be the same that they are in other individuals.
The position of those who hold that instinct is a valuable concept for prediction may be reduced to the dilemma: Either instincts are common traits found in all members of a species, or they are not. If they are common, they can throw little light on the wide diversity of behavior relative to any instinct that may be selected. If they are not common, or if they are regarded as varying in strength to such an extent that they can be used to account for differences in behavior, the only way we have of determining the strength of an instinct is by observing the behavior of individuals in various circumstances. After having determined the strength of the instinct in this way we can undoubtedly make predictions. But in this case our predictions are Bally based on our observations of behavior instead of on the assumption of instincts. We are thus once more driven back to our behavioristic attitude.
It is, however, extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain this air of isolation from all speculations regarding the underlying determinants of behavior. We are not content to say that this act results from these conditions. We wish to know "why" the organism responds as it does to the conditions. "Why" do children under certain conditions tease each other? "Why" do men under certain conditions fight? "Why" do they under other conditions flock to the cities? "Why" do they find certain kinds of activities satisfying?
Nor is this question limited to inquiries regarding specific activities. The fact that organisms are active seems to require an explanation. "Why" are organ-isms active? It seems that they should be inert, like rocks and stones. Yet they are intensely active. "Why" or in virtue of what forces do organisms act ? Surely there must be deep underlying causes for this activity, which should be discovered.
We should not be greatly surprised, therefore, that psychologists are unable to maintain their frankly behavioristic attitude, or that this attitude should prove unacceptable to a great number of psychologists. They are driven away from it by the necessity they feel of accounting for "why" an organism responds as it does when confronted with certain conditions, and by the necessity many feel of accounting for the fact that organisms are active. In their efforts to answer these questions they have invoked the use of instinct in three different senses, which are supplementary to each other and which follow each other when the question "why" is repeated. The more often the "why" is raised the further from behaviorism do we get.
It is only a short step from behaviorism to say that the organism acts as it does on account of its structure, or the fact that it is ready to act. We are 'a little further removed when we supplement this explanation of the "why" by saying that the act is due to an impulse inherited as a result of the adaptations of the species. And we are still further removed when we explain the ability of the species to make the adaptation by assuming the existence of certain vital forces. These are the three uses of instinct that are made to supplement behaviorism. How one use follows inevitably from another may be clearly seen through a consideration of these usages beginning with instincts regarded as functional correlatives of structure, then as adaptations of the species, and then as forces in virtue of which the organisms made the adaptations.
The conception of instincts as functional correlatives of structure assumes that with the presence of an organ or of structure in a certain state there is the aptitude and tendency to use it in a certain way. This is the conception that furnishes the basis of Thorn-dike's explanation of pleasure and pain in terms of readiness and unreadiness of neurones to act. This is the position that James vigorously champions.
James furnishes us with a clear illustration of this interpretation of behavior in his explanation of the behavior of the cat with reference to the rat. The cat, we are told, is "so framed that when that particular running thing called a mouse appears in his field of vision he must pursue." Nervous systems, James goes on to say, are bundles of such action patterns which are as fated to respond as the sneezing mechanism when properly excited.
The illustrations James uses to impress upon us the definiteness of instinctive responses are admirably chosen. He is not unmindful, however, of the great variety of conflicting tendencies manifested by the same organism. To account for this he assumes that organisms possess contrary impulses to act on many classes of things, and that many impulses are transient unless properly exercised at the opportune moment.
The admission that the same organism may possess contrary impulses and the illustrations he uses to show that certain instincts are transient cast considerable doubt on the value of the conception of instincts as functional correlatives of structure; for if the same structure may act in opposite and various ways, structure becomes a limiting factor of behavior, but not the determining one. If this is true, it becomes necessary for us to look to factors other than those of structure for the determinants of behavior. The illustrations of transitoriness, which James uses, will make this clear.
A calf, James is informed, when dropped in the wilds of the mountains becomes as wild and as timid as a deer unless caught during the first week after birth. If, however, calves are cared for by man from birth they are very docile and gentle. The same difference is to be found between the behavior of chicks cared for by man from the first and those that are cared for only after they are several days old.
If chicks when first hatched are cared for by man they are very gentle and will follow him about. But if they are hooded for a few days, and unhooded when three or four days old in the presence of a man, they show the greatest terror and run about wildly in the utmost fright.
How can such behavior be interpreted in terms of structure? The structure is presumably the same whether the calf is born in the farmyard or in the wilds of the mountains. Yet the behavior within a week after birth becomes radically different.
The gentleness in one case certainly seems transient. It is this very fact that we find hard to reconcile with the view that instincts are functional correlatives of structure. In one case it is transient; in the other it is permanent; in both cases the structure is presumably the same. Yet if the behavior is due to a definite instinct, regarded as the functional correlative of structure, we cannot escape the conclusion that the radical difference between the behavior of the two calves should demand a corresponding difference between their structures. No one, however, would be willing to defend such a thesis.
No wonder then, in view of the many responses of a contradictory nature the same structure may make, it has been found necessary to supplement the conception of instinct as the functional correlative of structure. Organisms do not respond to certain stimuli as they do merely because they have a certain structure; nor do they find pleasure in the response merely because their nervous systems are in a state of readiness. To understand fully why a certain situation provokes a certain response or emotion, we must know the history of the species.
When we know the history of the species, we then know "why" the structure responds in one way rather than another. It is by knowing that men formerly captured their wives that we can understand the roughness of lovers to-day. It is by knowing that men formerly lived in forest and caves that we understand that children should love to play hide-and-seek. It is by knowing that men had severe competition to overcome in the struggle for existence that we can understand war to-day. It is by knowing that men formerly found it necessary to hunt and kill that we can understand teasing, bullying, and other forms of cruelty that exist today.
Thus explanations in terms of structure are supplemented by the use of instinct regarded as adaptations or habits of the species!
The prevalence of this use of instinct makes it imperative that we examine it closely. In what way can instinct regarded as impulses that arose as a result of past conditions be used as an interpretation of present behavior?
Unless psychology is to abandon its hope of interpreting behavior in terms of causes that are acting here and now, it should be apparent that appeals of the above sort to phylogeny are quite worthless. This may be clearly shown through a simple consideration: Either the behavior in question is the result of similar conditions that aroused it in the ancestors, or it is not. If the behavior is due to the same conditions in both cases, obviously there is no need to make an appeal to phylogeny, since the conditions which excited the behavior in phylogeny may be regarded as amply sufficient to arouse it in ontogeny. That is to say, living organisms react to the same situation in the same way and for the same reason that their ancestors did. Hence, the ancestors' responses may well be neglected.
On the other hand, if the response is aroused by a different situation, or if the behavior is not the same, it is obvious that we cannot explain the present behavior in terms of the different behavior of our ancestry, caused by different stimuli from those that now act on us. If explanations of this sort were allowed, there would be no limit to the range of their application. Soon we would be explaining the fact that men now build sky-scrapers by the fact that their ancestors went hunting!
This may seem absurd. Yet the sublimation here involved is no greater than that assumed by Thorndike in the use he makes of the hunting activities of our ancestors to account for teasing of children to-day. In the one case there is an economic drive common to both; in the other cruelty is involved. But the process of this change is entirely ignored. What are the factors that have brought about such a transformation in a highly qualitative drive like the hunting instinct that it now expresses itself in the teasing of children? In the one case the activity is undertaken to secure food; in the other there is the malicious desire to annoy, or to win recognition, or simply to win notice. Factors which are able to bring about this transformation may with a good deal of confidence be trusted as amply sufficient to account for the behavior without recourse to the ancestors' experience.
As obvious as it should seem that the behavior of living organisms cannot be interpreted in terms of conditions which confronted their ancestors, or in terms of the adaptations of their ancestors, there is the general hope that many seemingly "irrational" responses can be "rationalized" when viewed in the light of the experience of the species. The futility of efforts of this sort, however, should be apparent from the above considerations. If the behavior occurred in phylogeny as "rational" adaptations to certain conditions, these adaptations cannot be used to account for the "irrational" responses to different situations.
On the other hand, if the "irrational" responses did occur in phylogeny, then the same question may be asked regarding their occurrence that are asked regarding the behavior to-day. Nor does it seem reasonable to suppose that we shall find it easier to answer these questions when raised regarding the behavior of organisms that lived in the remote past than when raised regarding the behavior of living organisms. In both cases the hope is to interpret the behavior in the light of the needs and setting of the agent, for we should take it as axiomatic that the only conditions which can be used to interpret the behavior of an organism are the conditions that affect the organism. When once this is realized we shall no longer be burdened with explanations of behavior in terms of impulses acquired by our ancestors.
The worthlessness of explanations in these terms may be shown in another way. If our behavior is to be regarded as due to the adaptations of our ancestry to the conditions that existed in the remote past, how is the behavior of our ancestors tube explained? Was the past a wonderful age which possessed such an efficiency that during it organisms acquired impulses and emotions? And is the present so devoid of efficiency that acting causes can serve only to arouse the contributions of the past? Whence the superior efficiency of the past?
For the wonderful ancestors imagined by primitive man the modern has substituted a period of wonderful efficiency ! Organisms that lived in the remote past are no longer regarded as more wonderful than the living. But they lived in a wonderful age when impulses, emotions, and other characters which come to us as innate were to be acquired.
Unless we are to assume that the past possessed this superior efficiency, there can be no advantage in regarding the behavior of living organisms as due to the adaptations of the species. If our impulses arose as the result of the adaptations of the species, organisms must at one time have acted without them. If organisms in the past could act without them there is no reason to suppose that they are necessary for activity to-day. On the other hand, if instincts resulted from the adaptations of organisms in the past, we should look to the present adaptations of organisms for the existing instincts.
When this is done we are again confronted with the problem of activity. We can no longer explain the activity of living organism by saying they act because their ancestors did; for the activity of ancestors requires an explanation. In virtue of what did organisms act before the present instincts had been evolved? In the effort to answer this question the use of instinct, the third degree removed from the attitude of behaviorism, is invoked. Instincts are no longer regarded as simply adaptations of the species. They are the fundamental forces that underlie all life, and it is due to these forces that organisms are active. This is the conception that McDougall employs when he regards instincts as "differentiations of the Elan Vital" and as "obscure directive forces" that watch over the development of the individual, in order to direct him and the group to certain ends.
There is little need of entering into a discussion of this use of instinct. Vitalism is generally discredited; and rightly so, for granting that the vitalist can point to certain phenomena that cannot be adequately explained by science, in as far as they are explained, they are explained in terms other than those of vitalism, which can serve at most only as a label of our ignorance. One has no difficulty in showing this.
In what way, for instance, can the tortuous course of development found in many species be illuminated by the conception of a vital principle, or Elan Vital, watching over and directing behavior? For example, how can the reversed adaptations of the existing leather-back turtles be accounted for in terms of a vital principle? Formerly these marine animals were land-turtles with a firm bony carapace. Later they became sea-turtles and lost their armature. Still later they returned to land and developed a bony armature quite distinct in design from their former one. Later yet they returned to the sea, lost their armature, and acquired their present leathery covering, on account of which they are known as "leatherbacks." Similar reversed adaptations found to have taken place in the kangaroos present difficulties as great.
Of what use is an Elan Vital in accounting for adaptations of this order? Or what further light than that afforded by mechanical principles can be thrown on the phenomena? Certainly little is added by saying that they are caused by the workings of a vital principle. What we wish is an explanation in terms that will enable us to control and predict the processes. Obviously our control is not helped by the assumption of a vital principle or an "obscure directive power " which directs development according to some internal principle. For whatever takes place may equally well be attributed to the influence of some hidden force.
On the other hand, the relation of the course or end of development to the known factors in the situation invites us to explain the development in terms of known causes; for what does take place, and the end that is reached, bears such a striking correlation to variable factors in the situation that we may well hold that the end is determined by these rather than by a hidden force. As a consequence, it seems that we would do well to neglect the "obscure directive power" or any other vital principle, and look for the determinants of development and adaptations in the factors that are not only known but can be controlled.
The same criticism applies to the force of the Elan Vital in virtue of which it is supposed that organisms act. For it should be remembered that even such a force must be made definite and concrete in actual situations before it can be effective. Whenever we experience a force it is due to a certain structural situation or relation. The equilibrium of certain relations is destroyed, and there are brought into existence forces. We experience no forces other than those brought into existence in this way. Outside of such forces there are no forces to affect us, and these forces bear such a striking correlation to the variable factors in the situation that it becomes futile to view them as "differentiations of the Elan Vital." They are more satisfactorily and profitably accounted for as generated in the situation and as products or aspects of the total situation than as forces giving rise, or de-siring to give rise, to the situation in which they are experienced.
We reach the same conclusion if we try to follow the lead of the "differentiations of the Elan Vital." We may assume that they control and determine development, but we can never tell from this just what the course of development will be. For the lead and control of these "directive powers" are such that they seem always to follow the lead of environmental conditions, and this to such an extent that we are totally in the dark regarding the end the "obscure directive power" has in mind. The ends are many, but whatever end is reached is the end as far as we can tell that the vital principle had in mind. It is for this reason that we find ourselves unable to follow its lead and to know whether it is expressing itself in the develop-mental process, or whether it is being repressed. Hence, it may well be neglected in an account of behavior.
Vitalism in the above form is generally discredited. It survives, however, in a slightly different one. It is no longer held that the development of the individual or species is determined and directed by a farce external to the organism. The guide has been assigned an abode within the cell. The cell is supposed to contain in majestic isolation the determinants of its development development being regarded as deter-mined not by the give-and-take relations the organism sustains to its environment, but by certain physiological units or characters within the cell.
According to this view, development becomes a mere unfolding of what was already determined by the nature of the germ. The conception is essentially vitalistic throughout, for, as Child says,* when we consider the problems connected with the orderly unfolding of innate characters, we realize that something very near akin to a vital principle is necessary to direct the process. Indeed, there is not a great deal of difference between this conception and the more out-and-out forms of vitalism. The same objections apply to both. In one case, no matter what profound changes may be brought about in development they are regarded as due to the guidance of the Vital Principle.
In the other case, no matter what profound changes may occur they are regarded as due to the unfolding of an innate character in the germ. In neither case are we able to prove or disprove the interpretation. Hence, both are subject to the very serious objection of explaining behavior in terms of inscrutables in a way that does not provide us with the means of checking up the interpretation or with the means of controlling or predicting the course of development.
The reversed adaptations of the "leatherbacks" and the equally tortuous course of the evolution of the existing tree kangaroos have been referred to in order to show the impossibility of accounting for the course of evolution in terms of a "directive agency." But these reversed adaptations should serve equally well to make apparent the impossibility of accounting for the development of a species in terms of an internal perfecting tendency or predetermination of the heredity-chromatin. Adaptations of this sort can be made intelligible only by viewing them as a result of the activities called forth by changed conditions. The course of development is to be regarded as determined by the give-and-take relations of the organism to its environment. This is the explanation Osborn advances.
If one finds it hard to regard development in this way and finds it necessary to fall back on the view that what the individual is must have been potentially contained in the germ, he must admit the germs must have contained also a mass of other potentialities, which would have been actualized if conditions had been favorable. He is then faced with the problem of explaining what brought about the actualization of certain potentialities, and with the further problem of explaining what it is that converts potentialities into actualities. In answering these problems he must admit that development is not an unfolding of innate characters, but a process of acquisition or addition; for it must be recognized that potentialities can become actual only by the addition of something. The in-definite and potential can become definite and actual only by additions. Hence, the adult structure can in no sense be regarded as contained in the germ or as due to an unfolding of the germ. Development always implies additions. Hence, at most, the character of the germ can only set limitations to development, but it cannot be rightly regarded as determining the course of development.
The common attempt to root all that the individual becomes or does in the germ has been severely criticised by C. M. Child. Attempts of this sort, he rightly charges, merely change the terms of the problem with-out attempting to solve it. Of what use, he asks, are such theories in accounting for the facts of reproduction and regeneration as discovered by him among the Tubularia, Corymorphia, and the Harenactis? As a result of his observations on the processes of reproduction and regeneration in these organisms, Child reaches the conclusion that the processes and courses of development are largely determined by external conditions. Variations in the external conditions produce variations in the organic forms. Hence, the development that actually takes place is only one of the many possibilities contained in the germ. This he illustrates by reference to the changes in the head development in the Planaria induced by variations in the external conditions. Thus he writes:
"The head of the Planaria will serve to illustrate the point. I have shown that a series of different forms of head occurs in reconstruction, ranging from the normal to the headless condition. These different forms represent various degrees of inhibitions and they result, not only from the inhibitory influences of other parts, but can be produced experimentally by a great variety of conditions. In a lot of similar pieces from animals of similar physiological condition a decrease in head frequency or a shift toward the headless condition can be induced by low temperature, narcotics, carbon dioxide, etc., although in certain cases, as we have seen, the results are complicated by the metabolic relations between the head-forming regions and other parts of the piece. On the other hand, conditions that accelerate metabolism, such as high temperature or increase in motor activity, increase the head frequency or shift it toward the normal end of the series. We cannot believe that differences in temperature or motor activity alter the fundamental "organization" in the head forming regions, but it is a fact that such conditions according to their degree may determine any or all of various kinds of head between the normal and headless extremes.
Other facts regarding development and regeneration could be cited from Child's work to show that the course of these processes is the result of the relations of the organism to its environment. This should not be regarded as an attempt to minimize the importance of heredity, for the conditions that produce one result in one kind of an organism will produce a different result in another. The point that is to be emphasized is that various results can be gotten from the same germ by altering the conditions under which it develops, and that the results bear such a relation to the environmental factors that they had best be interpreted in terms of these factors rather than in terms of determinants placed in the cell in such quantities as to serve to account for whatever development may take place; for since no matter what takes place may be regarded equally well as determined by the germ, obviously no light can be thrown on what does take place by reference merely to the innate character of the germ, or by regarding the adult as contained potentially in the germ.
Such a position may be taken as a denial of the importance of heredity. In reality, however, it is not, though it does serve to correct mistaken ideas regarding the rôle of heredity. The facts connected with heredity and development, when rightly understood, lend the strongest possible support to the thesis that the behavior of an organism is determined by the relation of the organism to the environment, that is, by the selective influence of the environment on the mass of possibilities presented by the organism. A consideration of the facts regarding development and adaptation will make this apparent.
The moment in the life of each of us when the ovum and the spermatazoon united, and thus gave rise to that being whom we call ourselves, was one of infinite importance to us. Then and there we came into existence as a being of definite structure with characteristic responses to presented stimuli. At that moment we were our heredity. Our heredity and our-selves were one.* As human beings we had those characters that are common to human beings at that stage. As offsprings of our parents we combined in one the streams of protoplasm represented by them. In addition to this the particular ovum and spermatazoon which produced us had an individuality of their own, which has exerted a powerful influence in determining our individual traits of character and physiology. At the moment when we and our heredity were one, all our possibilities for action and reaction were, in a sense, fixed. We can never get beyond the limits there set. More than this, it was determined by our heredity that if we develop at all we must develop along somewhat definite lines, with an inevitable expression of characters that were unrevealed in the germ.
It is good that these facts are generally recognized. No doubt in time this knowledge will lead to the production of a race far superior to any that has yet lived. The importance that is being placed on heredity is not misplaced. But our emphasis on this should not cause us to neglect other factors that form as integral a part of the adult as the heredity, nor should we regard the original cell as containing in majestic isolation the determinants of our future. It is true that the initial structure of an organism plays an important part in the subsequent structures and activities, yet it should be borne in mind that the activity of the initial structure is determined in the same way that the activities of all other organic structures are deter-mined. It furnishes no exception to the rule that behavior is determined by the selective influence of environment on the mass of possible acts presented by structures. Placed in one environment, it will respond in one way. Placed in another environment, it will respond in a different way. More important yet, it should be recognized that however it acts, the act permanently affects the organism, and that as a consequence the organism after the first moment is always a product of its initial structure and its past experiences. For this reason it is quite possible that the infant at birth may be abnormal as the result of abnormal factors in its environment as well as on account of an abnormal heredity.
The rôle of the hereditary factors may profitably be regarded in this way: At the first moment, the structure of an organism is its heredity. The organism, in virtue of the fact that it is an organism, is active, but the form of its activity, which is one of the many possible acts it performs, is the result of the stimuli that happen to be presented. Its activities are always reactions. Hence, its behavior is the result of its structure in relation to its environment. Changes in either affect the result.* The organism always faces multiple possibilities of development and activity in the sense that its development would be different were different stimuli presented. To get abnormal development, it is only necessary to introduce abnormal factors in the environment.
The influence of abnormal factors is generally recognized. If abnormal factors are introduced into the environment and an abnormal product results, we do not hesitate to regard the abnormality as due to the abnormal factors in the environment. It is the normal factors in the environment that are not duly recognized. Yet we should remember that the influence of environment is not diminished by reason of the fact that the environment is the normal one. It is in recognition of this that Osborn writes:
"In the course of a normal physicochemical environment, a normal life environment, and of normal selection and competition, an organism will tend more or less closely to reproduce its normal ancestral characters. But a new and abnormal psychochemical intruder, either into the environment, the developing individual, the heredity-chromatin, or the life environment may produce a new and abnormal visible character type. This quadruple nature of the physicochemical energies directed upon each and every character is tetrakinetic in the sense that it represents four complexes of energy; it is tetraplastic in the sense that it moulds the bodily development from four complexes of courses. This law largely underlies what we call variation of types."
It is hard for us to regard development in this way. Our thought is so under the influence of conceptions of the potential that we find it difficult to refrain from regarding the adult as contained in the germ. The complex, we are inclined to hold, must exist in its elements. A concrete case of development will help us to get over our metaphysical difficulties regarding the creation of the new and novel.
The development of wings by aphids, referred to in the last chapter, will serve as an excellent illustration. Morgan has found, it is to be recalled, that when he raises aphids on the heavy salts of magnesia and sugar they become winged. When raised on other substances they remain wingless. The question at once arises: What is the relation of the wings to the heredity of the aphids? Certainly it must be admitted that the germ-cells of aphids are capable, when treated in a certain way, of giving rise to creatures with wings. Indeed, it is quite possible that if the usual diet of aphids had been the salt of magnesia and sugar, we would have regarded the cells as containing definite determinants for wings. Or if it had been the usual thing for some aphids to be so reared, and others differently, it is probable that Mendelian characters in the proper proportion would have been posited in the cells to account for the number of winged and wingless forms. So prone are we to regard development as a mere unfolding.
Such interpretations, however, are seen to be quite inapplicable, for here we have possibilities and capacities of quite different sorts in the same germ-plasm. Which possibility or capacity is realized depends on the environmental conditions. As Morgan says: "Here we have an excellent example of how a given germ-plasm produces one result in a given environment and in another environment a different one without intermediate forms. The change from wingless aphids to winged aphids is far greater than most mutational changes that we know, yet it must involve a different change because the result is reversible, while a mutation having once taken place is relatively irreversible."
In a process of this sort there is no need to regard structures or activities as "preformed" in the original cell. They arise as the result of the development of the organism, and this development, instead of being regarded as the unfolding of innate characters, or as determined by a directive power either in or out side of the germ, is seen to be determined by the action of external factors on the possibilities of development contained in the germ.
In spite of observations of this nature it is difficult for us to regard development in this way. If wings arise, it seems to us that they must have existed in a latent form in the cell. Or if we make a certain response, we seem to think that the response is due to a "preformed bond" existing from the beginning of the career of the individual. Yet the difficulty of understanding how structure, bonds, interests, and impulses arise as a result of the activities seems small when compared with the difficulty of understanding how these could have been "preformed" in the cell. How shall we conceive the existence of bonds, structural determinants, and impulses that become manifest only after a long course of development? Shall we dismiss T. H. Morgan, Physical Basis of Heredity, 210.
With Bonnett these difficulties as simply difficulties of the imagination? And shall we hold with him that the germ contains in miniature the adult, development being simply a process of rendering visible the invisible ?
It is the difficulty of understanding how the new and novel can arise, or how genuine development can take place, that makes it hard for us to get a true conception of the relation of the adult to the germ. It is this difficulty that causes us to read back all that the adult is into the germ. That is to say, when we see what the man is, and recognize that he is connected to the ovum by a continuous process of development, we are apt to read back all that he is into the cell; we neglect the fact that there has been development, that new structures, desires, and emotions have arisen in the course of the development in the shape of positive additions; all of which might have been very different if the development had taken place under different conditions.
If the problem is viewed phylogenetically, it seems absurd to place in the unicellular organism all the forms of life that have appeared. For who will con-tend that the unicellular forms of life from which, perhaps, all other forms have evolved, contained the higher? We recognize that the eye, for example, is a positive addition, which arose in the course of development, and that with it organisms had opened to them a world of new tendencies, activities, and impulses. The same is true regarding the origin of the brain, It began somewhere on the evolutionary course, and with it the psychic life of the organisms possessing it became immeasurably enriched. We have no difficulty, then, in recognizing the creation of the new in the phylogenetic development of the species. We should have no greater difficulty in understanding that in the development of the individual there is also a creation of the new; for the same process takes place in ontogeny that took place in phylogeny, and there is no greater absurdity in reading back all forms of life into unicellular organisms than there is in regarding the adult as contained in any way in the unicellular organism to which he is connected.
We must, therefore, recognize once for all that development is a process of acquisition; that "bonds," impulses, and emotions arise out of definite situations. These are the results of development, rather than development being an outgrowth of certain innate characters. At the most the cell can contain only potentialities, that is to say, various possibilities which may become actualized if properly treated. What actually develops is the result of the environmental conditions and the multitude of reactions and interactions that are inaugurated as a result of the contacts of the organism.
This should be apparent, for it is the nature of the potential to be indefinite and unformed. Its essence is lack of determinateness. In so far as it is determinate it is not potential; it is actual. Yet the emphasis that is put on the potential, when development is discussed, would seem to indicate that it is regarded as a formative principle. The question does not seem to be raised regarding the ability of the indefinite and unformed to act as a determinative and formative factor. This whole usage of potentiality might well be dismissed; for it consists largely in inviting our attention to one aspect or factor, an essential one, no doubt, and in inviting us to ignore all the rest, likewise essential, through telling us that the selected factor contains potentially the organism in question.
This discussion of potentiality and development was rendered necessary in order that we might clear up certain misconceptions regarding the relation of the innate characters of man to the man as we see him, and to culture in general. It should be clear from the foregoing discussion that development is, above all things, a process of real creation of the new and the novel, and that the course of development of an organism is determined by the play of environmental conditions on the potentialities of the organism. The organism constantly acquires. What it acquires must be determined largely by what is given it to acquire. In this process there is little occasion to make use of innate characters or determinants, for these are more of the nature of blank forms which serve equally well to account for whatever occurs than deter-miners of a particular course. The true determiners are the factors that actualize the particular capacities that happened to be actualized rather than others.
With adequate knowledge of the variable factors which affect the organism we should have no great difficulty in recognizing the real determiners of development without the assumption of hypothetical and hidden entities in the cell.
The same sort of determinants are operative in the postnatal career of organisms. The course of development, the interests, emotions, and impulses of the individual are determined in the same way that the development of the embryo was determined. There-fore, instead of looking for the determinants of the adult's career in certain supposedly innate characters, instincts, impulses, or dispositions, we should look for the determinants in the conditions which affect him and make him the particular man he is rather than one of a hundred others.
This view of development and of the relation of the adult to heredity forms the underlying assumption of the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. It is the assumption of this science that mental disorders are the results of the experiences of the individual, rather than to certain innate characters. In making this assumption there is no intention on the part of the psycho-analysts to deny that there are individual differences, for they are well aware that the same objective facts will not give rise to disease in all. What they insist on is that the disease is the result of certain painful experiences. For this to be true it is not necessary that the same objective facts should give rise to disease in all men. Without the painful experience, however, disease would not occur.
It is necessary that psychoanalysts make this assumption, for if mental disorders were the results of innate characters making for degeneracy, there would be little opportunity of relieving the disorder by the introduction of new psychic factors. If, however, mental disorders are due to certain experiences of the patient, they can be relieved by the introduction of new psychic characters or outlooks, which cause the patient to regard the "painful experiences" differently. It is this that the psychoanalyst wishes to do, and his success is largely due to his ability to do this. For, obviously, procedure of this sort would be quite in-effective if the disease were due to innate characters in the heredity-chromatin.
Through the emphasis of the psychoanalyst on the importance of appropriate nurture in bringing on disease, as well as by emphasizing the fact that by with holding it disease can be prevented, psychoanalysts have provided us with a true method of accounting for behavior psychologically, instead of barren speculations regarding capacities and other innate characters which may or may not be actualized. That is to say, admitting that innate differences are to be found between individuals, and recognizing that the same objective facts of experience may affect different individuals differently, the behavior, however, that occurs is in every case the result of actualized capacities, which are actualized only as a result of the experiences of the individual. Hence, what the psychologist should seek to know are the conditions that actualize or that make effective capacities in order that they may explain behavior in these terms rather than in terms of innate characters, which would have remained latent but for the actualizing conditions.
Support for this view of behavior can be found through a consideration of sex behavior. For even sex behavior cannot be regarded as the unfolding or expression of an innate urge seeking a particular mode of expression, as can be abundantly seen from a consideration of sexual aberrations.
For example, it has been found that passenger-pigeons ordinarily will not mate with ring-doves. Yet, if they are hatched by ring-doves, they will not only mate with ring-doves but will actually refuse to mate with pigeons. This difference in behavior can-not be regarded as due to innate differences between the pigeons that mate with pigeons and those that mate with ring-doves. The difference is clearly due to differences in their early experiences, or their psychological development.
This truth may be further illustrated by a consideration of pigeons with reference to sex preferences. For instance, if male pigeons are raised with males only, they, at mating season, are attracted to the males, but they treat them as females. On the other hand, if a male is raised with females only, he will act toward the males at mating season as the females do. Here it is again obvious that innate tendencies throw little light on the behavior; for in these cases we have behavior that is quite different, and yet the innate characters are presumably the same. Nor is light thrown on this behavior by regarding° it as due to the passing away of certain transient instincts and to the awakening of others. Such speculations are quite unnecessary, for the behavior is more intelligibly accounted for in terms of the known and observed experiences of the agents.
Sex aberrations in man may be used to illustrate the same truth. The impressive fact that comes out in a study of the psychology of sex is that normal sex behavior and interest are as much a product of normal and favorable conditions as abnormal and objectionable sex behavior is the result of unfortunate and abnormal sex experiences.
As a result of a shock the sex life of an individual may be permanently colored and rendered pathological. As a result of the absence of proper stimuli the individual may never feel the full strength of the sex urge. As a result of early environment the male may never be able to exercise the full initiative and aggressiveness commonly ascribed to the male. As a result of an unfortunate love affair a person of heterosexual tendencies may become a homosexualist.
To be sure, there must be a favorable soil for these experiences to effect such changes. But the important thing to consider here is that the deviation in the sex behavior from the normal, in the above instances at least, is the result of certain accidental experiences of the individual.
That the sex interest and behavior of an individual should be regarded in this way becomes apparent from a consideration of a certain practice among the Eskimos and the prevelance of homosexualism among the Spartans. It is the custom among the Eskimos to rear effeminate boys with the girls and women.
As a result of their companionship and training they come to possess to such an extent the attitude of women toward men that they are sold as "wives" to wealthy men in the tribe. The prevalence of homosexualism in Sparta likewise was beyond doubt brought about by the social conditions and educational practices in Sparta, rather than by the possession of innate characters that distinguished the Spartans from other peoples.
However much one may be inclined to criticise this interpretation of homosexualism, it is apparent that the various manifestations of sex behavior cannot be regarded as due to different innate tendencies in the organism. It is equally as apparent that what takes place is the result of certain tendencies that are developed in the career of the individual, and that the tendencies and impulses vary with the experiences and psychological development of the individual.
By one determined to regard behavior as an expression of instinct the above facts may be regarded as simply indicating that in one case one instinct is aroused, and that in another case another is aroused. But what a galaxy of opposing instincts there must then be ! What is the nature of their existence? They seem to serve merely as connections between certain stimuli and certain responses. Yet they are regarded as existing apart from these situations. A connection with nothing connected !
There is no wonder, then, that Jung has been led to abandon the conception of a multiplicity of instincts for other than descriptive purposes.* The idea of an instinct being latent he ridicules as similar to the conception of luminosity existing in nuce in iron because when it is heated sufficiently it will glow. For the conception of a multiplicity of instincts he substitutes the conception of an undifferentiated libido, or Ur-Instinct, which manifests itself in all possible ways, and which becomes definite only in the course of the individual's development. But even the libido, he warns us, is nothing real, but simply a convenient concept in terms of which the various interests and energies of the organism may be expressed. t
If this conception, which Jung finds helpful in his work as a psychoanalyist, is a true one, it follows that the psychic energies arise in the course of the development of the individual, and that apart from these there are no psychic forces. Unexpressed energies denote only possibilities that are no more real than the luminosity of a cold piece of iron. Impulses or instincts that are latent are but convenient terms to indicate activities of which the organism is capable.
An analysis of the behavior of calves and chicks as described by James will serve to show the advantage of regarding impulses and tendencies as arising as a result of the psychological development of the organ-ism.
The fact that calves and chicks are gentle if cared for by man from the beginning, and wild if left alone for a few days, it is to be remembered, James interprets as due to an instinct to be gentle which disappears if not stimulated at the proper time, and in its place there arise the opposite tendencies of fear and flight. This assumption of definite instincts can be shown to be quite unnecessary, as an examination of the calf's behavior will show.
At birth the calf possessed, we are told, an instinct to be gentle. This instinct persists if the calf is cared for by man, and the result is the formation of gentle habits. On the other hand, if it is not cared for by man, this instinct dies and in its place there arises the instinct to fear man. If, however, at some future day the calf is caught and by kind treatment is made gentle, we must assume that the instinct to be gentle is born again. In this case the dead is brought to life. Now if dead instincts can be resurrected in this way by a change in environmental conditions, we should be very careful to exhaust the possibilities of accounting for the behavior of an organism in terms of its adaptations before making an appeal to supposedly innate characters or tendencies. For it should seem that the conditions that bring to life a dead instinct may, with a good deal of assurance, be regarded as amply sufficient to account for the behavior in the first place without the assumption of a definite impulse.
The behavior of the calf becomes quite simple when it is interpreted in the light of its own adaptations. There is no need to suppose that the calf at birth possessed a specific tendency to be gentle. All that is necessary is to assume that the calf is an adaptative mechanism, which is affected by its experience. At birth the calf is capable of manifesting fear under proper stimulation. The attention of the farmer, however, does not excite it. It accordingly adjusts itself to the care of the farmer. The habit of dependence is thus instilled in the calf and becomes an integral part of its motivating disposition.
The same process takes place if the calf is born in the wilds of the mountains. The calf at birth has the same capacities and tendencies that it would have had had it been born in the farmyard. If, however, it survives in the wilds of the mountains it must adjust itself as best it can to its environment. This adaptation becomes, like the other, a part of its motivating disposition, and whatever tends to break the habits thus formed arouses in it an emotional disturbance and the impulse of fear.
The process is the same in both cases. The difference in behavior is not due to any structural differences that may be discovered, or to the fading away of instincts. The difference is due to the fact that the psychological development of the calf in one case is different from what it is in the other. In the one case it adapts itself to the attentions of man; in the other it adapts itself to the wilds of the mountains.
The strength of habits and the difficulty of breaking them need not be regarded as lending support to James's thesis. The facts can be accounted for equally well without the assumption of specific instincts which are transient unless exercised. The strength of habits can be accounted for more simply by assuming that the past adaptations of the organism become an integral part of its motivating disposition. Hence, whatever tends to destroy habits arouses an emotional opposition, since it is a part of personality that is being destroyed. Before adaptations have given rise to habits, adjustments of an organism are made without the emotional set which results from the acquisition of impulses and emotions. Thus it is very easy to impress upon the very young a wide variety of emotions and impulses. Subsequent impressions must, however, encounter the emotional set that has been acquired, as well as the purely physical modifications of habits or structure. Hence, the emotional resistance which novel experiences provoke and the difficulty of instilling new habits in one whose character has been formed.
This process takes place in all development. One of the very best illustrations of it is afforded in the ac-count Jennings gives of the development of definite impulses or preferences in the lower organisms. Ac-cording to Jennings, when certain lower organisms are subjected to certain stimuli they tend to respond in all the ways that they can respond until they find a satisfying response. They show no impulse of a definite sort or preference for a particular line of activity. They respond as they are able to respond.
If, however, the stimulus is again presented within a certain interval, the lower organism will tend to respond in the way previously found satisfying. As a result of its past experience there has been born a definite impulse or decided preference for a particular response. And we may imagine that should anything tend to prevent the organism from responding in the favored way, there would be aroused all the emotional opposition a simple organism is capable of.
We need not limit our illustrations, however, to lower animals. Nowhere do we find a better illustration of the fact that impulses and emotions are the products of experience than in the mental development of man. The fact that man has a limited number of emotions should not mislead us. Man is a finite being and his modes of reaction are limited. No doubt, therefore, it is possible to class any emotional response he may make under one of a few heads. But this is quite different from regarding the response as due to an "emotion" under which the particular act or response is classed.
To do so would be to close our eyes to the facts. It is as a result always of very definite situations that emotions are born. They are merely one aspect of our activities determined by the situation in which they occur. Having come into existence in this way, they, like all activities, leave their mark on the individual and influence his future responses. More than the other organisms we have considered, man possesses, in virtue of the plasticity of his structure, the capacity for a great diversity of interests, preferences, or drives. These may be grouped into a few classes, but what drive or emotion man experiences is determined by the conditions to which he has been or is being subjected. In other words, they are products of his psychological development.
The influence, then, of our experience and training is quite similar to the influence of experience on the behavior and preferences of the other organisms that we have considered. It is as a result of our adaptations that we acquire preferences or emotional sets. It thus becomes easy for us to understand that in spite of the great variety of attitudes and moral ideas that may be impressed on us, the ones that are impressed on us deeply color our ideas of morality and are clung to tenaciously. As Boas says: "We cannot remodel, without serious emotional resistance, any of the fundamental lines of thought and action, which are determined by our early education, and which form the subconscious basis of all our activities. This is evinced by the attitude of civilized communities toward religion, politics, art, and the fundamental concepts of science." * It is also true, as he says, that any mode of behavior that does not conform to the customs of the group, that is, to the adaptations and habits that have been impressed on us, arouses within us unpleasant emotions.
When preferences, emotional sets, or drives to con-duct are thus viewed we should have no difficulty in understanding the ineffectiveness of logic to bring about changes in our preferences or to appreciably influence our conduct. Our activities leave their mark on our motivating disposition. These effects cannot be destroyed merely by logic. Like all that exists, they cling to existence tenaciously. Only another activity of a different kind, which generates an opposing preference, can replace them, and even then there is a certain feeling of deprivation as if something has gone out of our lives, as essentially there has. And at times there is a longing for the return of the old and tried, even though the new may have been found more satisfactory, for the new has not yet become as deeply a part of our personality as the old.
It is true that this does not apply to the individual in whom the scientific tradition has become strong. In individuals of this sort there is an experimental attitude, which has itself become a value. This attitude makes for a fairer evaluation of acts. This disposition is no doubt due in a large degree to the value attached to science. "Science" comes to be a name, which causes at once a presumption in favor of what is called "scientific," and the new, if it bears this label, tends to find ready acceptance, since it is thus subsumed under an old value or attitude. There is thus a bond between the new and the old which enables the old to assimilate easily the new.
Our emotional attitudes, therefore, cannot be regarded as expressions of innate characters. They vary with the situations in which the organism has been placed. Given certain situations, the organism will possess certain emotional sets, preferences, or drives. Given other conditions, the same organism would have possessed different drives. These drives should be regarded as genuine acquisitions of the individual. Something more than time was needed to render actual what was already potential in the germ. There have been positive additions, for, as has been pointed out, it is only by these that the potential or the indefinite can become actual and definite.
This process of acquisition is generally admitted in so far as intellectual interests, knowledge, moral ideas, and many desires are concerned. If, for example, we were to arrange on a line the mental content of an adult beginning with instincts, emotions, impulses, dispositions, aesthetic appreciations, moral ideas, knowledge, on up to intellectual interests, there would be agreement that the upper end of the line is determined and acquired in the development of the individual. Yet why should the acquisitions be limited to the upper end? The individual as we see him is constantly making acquisitions as a result of his activities and the situations in which he is placed. The questions naturally arise: At what stage in the individual's career did he begin to make acquisitions? Did he begin only after the instincts and impulses came into existence? And do these latter have an existence irrespective of the experience of the individual?
That many writers would have us except the instincts and impulses from this process of acquisition has already been shown. Not only is this true, but they hold that it is only for the innate impulses and tendencies, or for the instincts, that activities are inaugurated, and that however varied one's activities may be they are simply elaborations of means to achieve instinctive ends. In accordance with this position it is held that the instincts are necessary to provide the motive power necessary for activity.
Hence, instincts and impulses cannot be regarded as acquisitions, for it is only in virtue of these that the organism is active and able to make acquisitions.
The conception of instincts and emotions as innate characters, which determine our activities, is a very arbitrary assumption and one which goes counter to all the facts of development and adaptation we have considered. For it has been shown that the development and activity of an organism are determined by its initial structure, its experience, physiological condition, and the presented stimuli. There is no room in such explanations for instincts regarded as determiners of activity. Instincts are not to be regarded as deter-miners of behavior but simply as names for characterizing certain activities; at the same time it should be recognized that emotions are not determiners but simply accompaniments of activity.
This view of behavior is gaining adherents among educators. On what do the Problem and Project methods rest? Is one concerned in the application of these methods with arousing definite instincts? Far from it. They rest on a purely mechanical assumption of interest. Perplex the mind with problem. Its tension is increased. It must find some outlet. And far from touching some hidden source of energy, the energy is created by the presentation and realization of the problem. The energy that thus comes into existence is used to carry out the various projects. It is the same with all mental energy. Stimuli do not simply unlock stores of energy. Nor is there a store of energy or impulses in the organism seeking to find expression in various outlets. The energy or impulse comes into existence when there is a certain situation in the same way that iron glows when treated in a certain way, or that a certain explosive force comes into existence when the various elements composing nitroglycerine are combined in a certain way and then set off. It would be a mistake to regard the explosive force as existing in the nitrogen, carbon, and other elements. It exists only in the combination, and then only when the combination is treated in a certain way.
When instincts and emotions are so regarded we have no difficulty in understanding that they are acquisitions determined by the experience of the individual. As long as they are regarded, however, as forces manifesting themselves in the activity, difficulty will be experienced in regarding them as acquired, or in accounting for their existence by any means. If we would only recognize that an instinctive response is simply a response determined, like all responses, by the nature of the organism and the stimulus, we would see that there is no class of activities to be separated from other activities as being due to an Instinct. In the same way if we would only recognize that emotions are always connected with definite activities and objects, which have arisen, or have been experienced, in the course of the individual's career, much of the difficulty we have regarding the nature and origin of the emotions would be removed. It is when we look upon emotions as existing apart as innate characters in the organism, which need only to be excited in order for them to reveal themselves, that we experience difficulty in accounting for them. Regarded as the color or tone of activities, their origin becomes clear. We see them arise naturally as a result of the activities of the organism.
Consequently, if as an adult we find ourselves in the possession of certain impulses, we should not regard them as the expression of an instinct which existed prior to the expression of the emotion or impulse; we should regard them rather as products of our past training and of the habits that have been impressed on us. That is to say, what we had to begin with was an organism of a certain structure, which responded in characteristic ways to the stimuli which happened to affect it. The responses at every stage were deter-mined by the structure, physiological condition, experience of the organism, and by the confronting stimuli. The responses which we make may be viewed in two ways. They have a motor aspect and a psychical aspect. The psychical aspect is the way our activity appears to us as conscious and evaluating organisms. They are then what may be called the affections. Some of these affections are pleasant, some are unpleasant. All leave their mark, and as a consequence we come in time to be negatively adapted to the exciting stimuli, or to react to them with a strong emotional set, either of pleasure or pain. Habits, both motor and emotional, are thus formed as a result of activities.
We should let no difficulty regarding the fact of activity prevent us from viewing behavior in this way. Organisms are by nature active. Active organisms are the data with which we deal. What we wish to know are the conditions that bring about particular activities. These we have found to be the variable factors in the environment and in the organism. As for the force that makes activity possible, we may without hesitation state that whatever destroys the equilibrium in the tension between the environment and the organism produces a readjustment or an act. If we should wish to call the response of an organism instinctive, there is no objection. Indeed, this may be of value to call attention to the fact that all members of a species, other things being equal, will tend to respond in the same way to the same stimuli. But we should be careful to understand exactly what is meant, and thus avoid hypostasizing purely descriptive terms into forces manifesting themselves in the activities. If we do not avoid this we may be sure that we shall be puzzled regarding the origin of our hypostasizations.
The universality of acts characterized as instinctive need not be regarded as an objection to this point of view. It is not necessary that an activity be an expression of an innate force in order that it be universal. Under any view of behavior it is natural to suppose that there should be a great number of activities common to all members of the same species, possessing as they do structures so nearly alike and subjected as they are to practically the same needs and conditions of living. If organisms act as they do on account of their structure, physiological condition, experience, and the confronting situation, we should naturally expect great similarity in their behavior.
It was formerly held that the universality of the religious emotions indicated that they were innate. There is felt no longer a need of accounting for their supposed universality in this way. They are seen to be emotions and attitudes that are born as the result of contact with one's fellows. It is for this reason that we can understand that as the contacts change the emotions undergo a constant modification and change. The same is found to be true regarding the moral emotions and ideas. They are born as the result of the experience of the individual. They should not be regarded as less real for not being innate, but the fact that they thus come into existence makes intelligible the profound growth of the moral emotions and the evolution of religions.
If the moral emotions were innate, and time only were necessary for their unfolding, it would be hard to understand their dynamic character and the effect of environment on them. It is because they result from the contacts of the individual and from his activities that they have a dynamic aspect, and constantly reflect the nature of the environment from which they spring. It is because they are acquired, that is, born of the relations of the individual to his environment, that we can understand the great variety of moral emotions within the same race, and understand that the moral ideas of the individual conform very closely to those of the group in which he is reared.
Culture itself is dynamic for the same reason. If our culture were but the unfolding of innate characters, or an expression of them, it would necessarily be static. Yet culture is highly dynamic, and it is dynamic because as a result of the interaction of existing ideas, and of the individual with his environment, new impulses, desires, inspirations, enthusiasms, and motives are born, which express themselves in new cultural outlets. Thus appreciations are born. Thus also ideas of right and wrong, the various sentiments and religious enthusiasms are born.
To recognize this truth one need but make a comparison of the political ideals of Germany in 1914 and her ideals of to-day. Even more illuminating is a comparison of the religious emotions of the Christian and non-Christian Fijian; new experiences have brought into existence new ideals, sentiments, and impulses. It is for this reason that it has been held with a great deal of plausibility that stability of character depends on stability of environment. This is made apparent during every war. In such emergencies the virtues of peace disappear and in their place a world of new and formerly abhorred virtues arise.
It is due to the fact that we are constantly acquiring new emotions, impulses, and dispositions as a result of our activities, or from influences which surround us, that we can understand adaptation. Adaptation is not due to the fact that innate characters are modified in a certain way by the environment. Modification of what innate character arouses in us reverence for the cross? The emotion that attends that reverence is an emotion that is born as the result of social contacts, and is no more a modification of an innate character than water is a modification of oxygen. Oxygen when subjected to certain contacts gives rise to water. Human beings when subjected to certain contacts manifest a reverence for certain objects. Just as in the case of water something is added to oxygen, so in the case of the religious emotions some-thing positive is added, which prevents us from regarding the emotion as simply the actualization of a latent emotion.
There is no need of saying that unless man were capable of being so affected as to give rise to the religious feelings he could not experience them. The same is true regarding all modifications and changes wherever found. Unless the marble were capable of being affected in certain ways, we could not have the beautiful work of art. Unless the materials in the building had been capable of being affected in certain ways, we could not have the house. Unless the acorn were capable of being affected in certain ways, we could not have the oak, and so on. Wherever there is change the various elements that constitute the final product must be capable of being affected so as to give rise to it. But it would be quite absurd to regard the final product as due to the unfolding of any one element. To each constituent there has been an addition.
It is to this that adaptation is due. Activities leave their marks on the motivating dispositions of organ-isms; since, however, activities are largely determined by the environment, the environment exerts a profound influence on the mental make-up of the organism. In fact, its influence becomes an integral part of the organism. Consequently, organisms are necessarily adaptable, since they are in a large degree products of the environment.
Adaptation, then, is not to be regarded as due to modifications of innate characters, or to the fact that certain instincts are finding expression in modified ways. This could not be; for the expression of instincts follows in exact detail the plan laid down by the situations which bring forth the expression. Hence, they "express themselves" in the only way that is possible for them to do, given the determining factors. What is ordinarily taken as the "modified response of an instinct" is really the only response the organism can make under the "modified" conditions. In other words, "modified instincts" are products of "modified activity," instead of forces that "modify" their responses to meet the demands of the situation.
The relation of our interest and attention to past experience shows this. Our interest and attention are determined by our past experience and the needs of the moment largely. It is as the result of what innate character that I now regard the walking-stick as a sign of gentlemanly leisure? or now as a weapon? What innate character determines that I shall revere the cross? what that my neighbor shall abhor it? What innate character determines that one shall regard the work of art as beautiful? and that another shall see in it only immodesty? These perceptions, impulses, or sentiments are not forces or entities that existed prior to the experiences in which they occur. They are not due to modifications of anything. They arise as the characteristics of a certain organism treated in the way necessary to bring about their existence.
If difficulty is experienced in accounting for the existence of the various attitudes and impulses in this way, the question should be asked: In what way can they be accounted for? We are familiar with a number of possible explanations. The explanations based on metempsychosis and impressions from ancestors are no longer prevalent in Western Thought. The most popular attempts with us are to regard the instincts as functional correlatives of structure, or as differentiations of the Elan Vital, or as impulses that are inherited as a result of the adaptations and experience of the species in the course of its development.
Objections to these conceptions have been pointed out. The conception of instincts as functional correlatives is good as far it as goes. But it stops short of adequate recognition of multiple response of the same structure, and in explaining what it is that determines that the structure shall respond in the way it does, when as far as the structure is concerned another response could have taken place equally well. What structure does is to present a number of possibilities for action. It leaves to other factors the rôle of deter-mining which one of the many possible responses shall be made. Explanations in terms of structure then must be supplemented by an account of the experience or psychological development of the individual, the physiological condition of the organism, and the stimuli.
That the part played by structure is a limiting factor rather than a determining one has been indicated by the facts connected with embryonic development, the behavior of lower organisms, calves, chicks, and human beings. It has been shown, that the role of structure is to present a number of possibilities for activity or development. Other factors play the part of determining which possibility shall be realized. It is because we do not give adequate recognition to the rôle of experience that we are inclined to overwork or overemphasize the part played by structure. When once it is recognized that there are no forces impelling us to act other than the forces that are born in our own experience as a result or aspect of our own activities, we will have freed ourselves from the need now so commonly felt of accounting for activity or behavior in terms of factors that are common to all behavior no matter how diverse.
If it is yet insisted that behavior can be interpreted in terms of instincts regarded as functional correlatives of structure, it must be admitted by every one that instincts, even when so regarded, can become definite and effective only as a result of activities that are determined by factors other than those of structure itself. As a consequence, in our explanations of behavior we need to consider only the instincts that have been actualized, or are being actualized, by the conditions to which the individual is subjected. Hence, as far as we are concerned, the only origin of instincts that is of importance is the origin of the effective and definite instincts that come into existence as a result of the responses and activities of the individual. Instinct regarded as functional correlatives of structure need never concern us unless they are made definite and concrete by the experience of the organism.
We reach the same conclusion if we consider the conception of instincts which regards them as differentiations of the Elan Vital, for even vital principles must be made definite and concrete before they can become effective, and there is no possibility of this taking place other than by the effect of known and variable conditions on the undifferentiated Vital Force. The only forces that need concern us, therefore, are those that are experienced, and the ones that are experienced are definitely determined by the conditions in which they appear. Hence, the only forces that can be used in interpreting behavior are the forces that are formed as a result of the individual's experience. Since this is true, we may well neglect all speculations regarding the hidden Elan Vital and account for the impulses and other drives in terms of the relation the organism sustains to the variable factors in its environment.
The conception, however, of the origin of instincts and impulses that is most widely held, and therefore of chief interest, holds that instincts and impulses are acquisitions of the species brought about by its adaptations to past conditions. Accordingly, it is held that the individual comes into existence with a rich psychical disposition as a result of the experience of the race.
This conception places a very arbitrary limitation on the rôle of the individual's experience with no great illumination regarding the determiners of behavior. For under this conception behavior is eventually regarded as determined by the relation of the organism to its environment. The difference is that in this case it is the relation remote ancestors sustained instead of the relation living organisms sustain. Yet there seems no great advantage in making this substitution. It would seem more reasonable to suppose that just as our ancestors' behavior was determined by their relations and by the needs imposed on them, so our behavior is determined. Yet this is not recognized. On the contrary, it is insisted that we act as we do, not because of the conditions which confront us, but because of the conditions which confronted our ancestors.
This arbitrary limitation on the rôle of the individual's experiences would not have been imposed had instincts not been regarded as forces apart from the behavior in which they are experienced. But since we insist on hypostasizing activities into forces to account for the activities, we inevitably incur the liability of accounting for the existence of the forces.
A somewhat similar difficulty was formerly felt regarding the existence of innate ideas. No one could understand how certain ideas arose as a result of the experience of the individual, since the nature of experience itself was dependent on the existence of the ideas. Hence, the numerous hypotheses to account for the existence of innate ideas. These are now discarded, and we no longer experience a difficulty in accounting for our ideas as a result of our experience.
The abandonment of innate ideas has in many cases led to the substitution of other innate characters to account for the nature of experience. Indeed, instincts are not only called on to account for the nature of experience, that is, for the nature of particular activities, but they are even called on to account for the possibility of activity or experience itself. How is it possible for organisms to act? How can they be-come experiential beings? The fact that they act is taken as clear proof that they possess certain innate forces as gifts from wonderful ancestors or from a wonderful age !
The Theory of Recapitulation has had a great deal to do with the transference of the problem regarding the source of our impulses from ontogeny to phylogeny. Yet this theory rightly understood should be an invitation to account for the origin of all impulses and instincts in terms of the development of the individual. For, according to this theory, the individual goes through the same stages of development that the species did in its evolution. Since this is true, we should expect that the factors that determine the development of the individual should give rise to impulses and instincts of the individual in the same way that the factors that determined the course, of phylogeny should have given rise to instincts and impulses in our ancestors. In both cases the desires, impulses, and instincts were brought into existence by the conditions under which the organism lived. We should never, therefore, be content with explanations of behavior in terms of the race's experience. We should always look for the factors that have given rise to the observed behavior within the career of the individual.
It is because we feel a necessity to explain "in virtue of what" an organism acts that we posit within the organism various innate forces, somewhere acquired, which by various manipulations are supposed to ac-count for the behavior as we observe it. This need would disappear if we would only recognize that activity does not need to be accounted for. Activity is the starting-point for science. All we can hope to know is what determines the particular acts or forms of activity. In seeking to learn these it would be well to clear our minds of all expectation of greatly increasing our knowledge of the determinants of behavior by hypostasizing certain activities or responses into forces that are used as explanations of the various activities.
We need to recognize that the activities of an organism are determined by variations in the relation of the organism to its environment. Other than activities so determined there are no activities. When this is recognized we will cease to puzzle ourselves regarding the existence of an agency in virtue of which activity (a mere abstraction when considered apart from particular acts) may take place. We will then feel no need of innate forces, for the forces that are effective are the forces that result from the give-and-take relations of the organism to its environment. These forces are strictly determined by the situations in which they appear, and there are no forces other than these that can serve as explanations of behavior.
It follows, as a necessary consequence of this, that it is futile to attempt to interpret social phenomena as an expression or repression of an instinct. There are repressions the nature of which I shall point out later. But there are no repressions of innate forces, for the only forces that are experienced are the forces that come into existence as a result of the activities of the organism, and these, as we have seen, are strictly determined by the situation in which the activity occurs. It is therefore futile to attempt to evaluate acts as expressions or thwartings of instincts, for one act is as much an expression of an instinct as any other, since an instinct is simply a term to indicate the characteristic responses of an organism. All responses, however, are characteristic, as they are the only responses of which the organism is capable, given the conditions under which they are made.
The Social Philosophy of Instinct:
Introduction - The Social Philosophy Of Instinct
Instinct As A Sanction
Instinct And Culture
Instinct In Psychology
Conclusion Of The Social Philosophy Of Instinct